Temporary Sanity

Loretta (Cher) sits down with her father (Vincent Gardenia) in the 1987 movie Moonstruck and announces she just became engaged. Her father is less than enthused and asks, “Where’s the ring?” She holds forth her hand, and on it is her fiancé’s pinky ring, which he gave her instead because he forgot to purchase an engagement ring. “That’s it? It looks stupid! It’s a man’s ring!” he shouts.

“It’s temporary!” she shouts back.

“Everything is temporary,” he roars back. “That doesn’t excuse anything!”

Everything is temporary.

I mulled those words over many times since I first heard them in that movie. First, I began to challenge the idea. Certainly there are some things that are permanent. I thought of rocks, bridges and skyscrapers, how stable and strong they are--and then I thought of the hurricanes, earthquakes and tidal waves that turn them into rubble in a matter of seconds.

I thought about love ever-lasting, like the elderly couples you see walking and holding hands in the mall, but, of course, that too expires with their passing.

I considered how we work to upgrade our station in life with promotions, better houses and nicer cars--all temporary. Championship teams are-fleeting. There is all the hoopla after the big game, but by the time next season arrives, they have to prove it all over again.

The Stronger Of The Sexes

If everything is considered temporary--that leaves me feeling a bit empty. What’s worth investing time in, if the result is a moving target for the sharpshooter of inevitable “temporariness?” I want to establish something permanent. It’s just the guy in me, you know? Men and women compete to put their initials in the “wet concrete slab” of life. Women have the ability to bring life from their bodies. Although man’s contribution to this process is critical, it is seemingly effortless as opposed to the woman’s. It is she who carries and nurtures an entire human being within her to later reveal a real person who joins the human race. Although the actual production is temporary, her results are the closest thing to permanent we may find on earth. A mother is a giver of life. Men have no such equal power or opportunity, so they try to find other ways to be revered and place their signature on the edifice of time through buildings, books, awards, historical accomplishments--but it is not available. Not like that. There is a price for women’s dominance in this area and ability to create permanence, however. Having a baby hurts!

This leads to the first inevitable truth. Since the eventual pain of birthing a child is imminent from the moment a woman learns she is pregnant, she handles this news with grace and style, knowing that at the end of this road she will be doing something equivalent to sucking a watermelon through a garden hose, and for nine months she never freaks out and/or loses it. A good case can be made for positioning the female side of the mankind equation as the stronger of the two. This statement does not appear “temporary.” While there are some men who would endure this with equal bravado, I am afraid the majority of my knuckle-dragging brethren would be looking into pain meds and other sub-contracting management options long before the first contraction.

Comparing Notes

Yet, to be fair and balanced, men appear to be more willing to commit resources to solve a problem and fearlessly make a big-impact decision, while women tend to want to talk it out for a longer period and consider all potential hazards. Both are admirable approaches, but each is almost designed to drive the other crazy, so the battle of the stronger sex remains unresolved. That said, it can then be fairly stated that all of us--male and female--spend considerable time running away from what we know is true, but do not want to face. None of us get through the day without one or two juicy rationalizations. As evidence, ask each half of a failed marriage what happened, and one side will elaborate on communications shutting down, problems with money, etc. The other side may likely put all those in the same jar and say, “It didn’t work out.”

Voice Of Reality

And knowing when it isn’t working out, knowing that such a revelation is simply an inoffensive fact, is something spoken by that little voice inside.

We all have that little voice inside. It is not the one that rationalizes. This is the one that tells the unabashed truth. It’s the one we try to talk into other perceptions, but even when heavily veiled in our trumped-up reasoning, we can’t deny the pointed bluntness of the opinion within the veil.

It’s the one that answers “the question,” unlike all others when it is posed. “Do I look fat in this?” The little voice says, “Heck, yeah! It’s like you need your own ZIP code!” Outwardly, we say something like, “No, just more shapely!”

It has no pity, the little voice. It is cold. It is resistant to the needy look, the stuttered, shaky tone of one about to cry. It is not light and spirit-like in my mind. No, rather it is wearing a 1930s-era newspaperman’s hat and chomping on an unlit cigar. It is almost angry, but closer to merely grumpy. It doesn’t want you to waste time running a number on yourself. It insists you get on with the next decision by shoving the last one aside. But like a loyal pup, it waits for your return with its muddy feet up on your desk, and it smiles gruffly as you face it again with another request for the truth. And in that moment it simply asks, “If you already know the answer, why not just say it?” And you nod and smile and suppress again the bare-naked truth that the little voice has identified.

So let’s add up the collateral damage:

· Everything is temporary.

· Dominant physical and mental strength of the sexes can be challenged at every turn.

· We rationalize and lie to ourselves all day long.

· When we finally do open up and attempt to speak the truth, the best we can do is some wimpy back-door lie.

Yikes, we are a mental mess of anguish and perceptions and conduct, aren’t we?

Truth Be Told

But take comfort, my friends. This array of rubber-walled emotions leads us to one thing that the little voice sings out, and it is more than temporary; it is simply the truth, whether we like it or not.

As in:

· Is the team good enough to win the championship? No.

· Does she love you enough to make the marriage work? No.

· Is there a likelihood I’ll recover from this bad period in my life? Yes.

See, the little voice compensates for the temporary state of being by insisting that you see things for what they are, and makes sure you deal with them honestly so you can get on with life. So, although the truth can be grim, we must welcome it and know that it goes “head to head” with the temporary, but often unbearable lightness of being.

Once the truth is presented, understood, and accepted--it brings along its best friend that operates as the coping mechanism for all of it. That little number is better known as hope:

· Is the team good enough to win the championship? No, but we’re going to give it all we have.

· Does she love you enough to make the marriage work? No, but if we can do what’s right for the kids, maybe we’ll find each other again and start over.

· Is there a likelihood I’ll recover from this bad period in my life? Yes, you’ve seen hard times before and always got through them. This too shall pass. After all, everything is temporary.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He can be reached via e-mail rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com