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Erica K

Erica K
New Jersey, USA
September 26
I have a new blog: Grew up in Jackson Heights, New York, but now live in Jersey. Married and the proud owner (servant?) of 4 cats, including a little blind guy named Quincy. Jobs have included: English teacher in U.S. and abroad, cabaret performer and member of a NYC sketch comedy troupe; now a legal secretary and freelance writer. Other jobs: canvasser for NYPIRG/cannery worker in Naknek, Alaska (a fisherman told me it was "the ugliest part of Alaska")/dog kennel cleaner/member of the swine and poultry crew on a California farm. "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." Samuel Beckett


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APRIL 29, 2012 8:32PM

Is That All There Is?

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“Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends,
then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze
and have a ball
If that’s all there is.”

                Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller

I had an existentialist crisis at the Shoprite today.  I thought I’d be clever and go grocery shopping at noon, before my Sunday visit with Mom, but it was a terrible mistake.  Usually I shop after the visit, at around 5:00 p.m. and it’s less crowded, almost bearable.  Like Linnnn and many other OSers, I assume, I do not enjoy the act of procuring groceries.  Maybe my inner hunter-gatherer was manifesting itself and longed for the days when humans didn’t go to the gym to sweat.  Every day involved physical struggles, hardships and simple, hard-won rewards that most of us cannot conceive of.

Weekends are the worst time at Shoprite.  I used to go on weekday evenings after work; earlier in the week was best.  Consumers were much mellower, almost devil-may-care. 

Noon on Sundays at Shoprite is sheer hell.  Carts weaving in and out and around me, an elderly man in a khaki jacket shoved me from behind, a middle-aged woman shoved me from in front, a large 20-something woman with her angry-faced infant in the shopping cart passed me in the kosher food aisle.  The baby’s face metamorphosed into a devil with fangs.  I felt like Natalie Portman in Black Swan, utterly paranoid.  I wanted to sprout wings and fly far, far away.  What had I done to deserve this?

At a certain point, I felt I had left my body and was hovering near the phosphorescent lights, peering down upon the rushing, angry masses  of suburbia, pushing and shoving for that last box of Rice-a-Roni on sale or the Ragu Pasta Sauce for $1.99.  I hated them all.  My hands started to shake and grow clammy, I broke into a cold sweat; my heart palpitated.  Why hadn't I brought that bottle of Klonopin?  I wondered, why do I live in suburbia?  I never wanted to, never wanted to work a full-time office job, especially not as a legal secretary.  Hell, I got a “D” in typing class in high school.  The best thing about mastering typing, however, was being able to write faster, but that’s another story.

I made it home, and my husband Lorin had a glass of coke waiting for me and unloaded the car.  I sat in the backyard with my cats and ate a sandwich and drank the coke: I needed blood sugar, and I needed to chill.

“At least in Astoria and Washington Heights, you know if they hate you,” I said.  “Here, they smile at you but then they talk about you behind your back.”

I guess I wasn’t meant for the suburbs.  I’m feeling in a rut, like my life is at a standstill.  Maybe it’s turning 50 last September that broke me.  I AM A BABY BOOMER (a tween?)!  I DESERVE TO DIE, according to Robert Crook, so why am I complaining?  I am hyper-critical of everything I have done and have not done.  I have regrets, but I am moving forward.  I’m meeting with my director/writer/acting coach friend in less than 2 weeks to resume work on my one-woman show.  I will return to performing, my old love.

But today I am feeling pointless, not knowing why I am here on planet earth, what difference I am making to the world at large.  Do I have any real value?  I am not where I expected to be at this age.  In my 20s, I was an activist, ready and eager to change the world.  In my 30s, I still felt sassy and cool.  In my 40s, I started to wonder if all I was was my mother’s unwitting savior.  Now, I feel adrift at sea.  I long for something new, exciting, to transport me and awaken me, but ultimately, I know that must come from within.  Musings for a Sunday evening.  Tomorrow will surely be a brighter day.

Peggy Lee sums my feelings up best in her signature song:

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I've learned that at the least expected, downest time something so life changing happens, that I stopped think like you do, Erica. It may be an outdated adage, but so much rises before the sun (rough translation of a Turkish proverb). Never give up or doubt. You do have much to contribute.
Oh no! I'm so sorry you're in such a state of mind! I'm glad you had the sandwich and Coke and cats around..and I hope the full effect of that kicks in soon.

If it doesn't, I know when I had my last completely huge existential crisis, I decided to start a few new projects. Nothing big or overwhelming, but things I've always wanted to do (one of them was starting my blog on OS). Some have been successful and rewarding, others, not so much. But I got so involved in them and they opened a new sort of corridor that was within me that I had never explored...if that makes sense.

So maybe a new project?

Best of luck to you, whatever you choose, and I hope this existential crisis ends as soon as possible.
Fusun, I know you are right. I actually felt like I was going a bit bonkers in the grocery store, it was scary.

Alysa, Thank you for the kind words. yes, the new project, my show, will help, but sometimes I don't know why I'm here.
Sometimes all there is means something more. I think we are here to find it.
Honestly, if you didn't hate grocery shopping in suburbia on the weekend I would be more worried about you. Something tells me you never get the cold sweats at the farmer's market. There's a reason: Suburbia is cold. It lacks soul. It does, however, usually have more affordable housing. What can you do?
I hope you are feeling better.
Erica, remember this? Hope you're feeling better. You've made the world a better place in so many ways!

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
With Peggy Lee in the background, I'm loving her voice and the wonderful lyric... you're hardly pointless so do your one woman show and "have a ball."
I feel this way at times too but my solution isn't going to help you. I go to the grocery store to feel better. I LOVE the grocery store, the more crowded the better. Something about all the food and all the people makes me come alive and feel worthwhile. It's always been this way, for as long as I can remember. Weird, huh?
Hell, what do I know? I just like the way you ask the question. I like the way she does, too.
I'm loving Fusun's "... so much rises before the sun."

Loving this post too, Erica. Thanks.
"I felt like Natalie Portman in Black Swan, utterly paranoid. I wanted to sprout wings and fly far, far away. What had I done to deserve this?"

Hell, when you can write like this, who needs to shop? Why aren't we all feeeelthy rich?
Judging from your bio you are all about doing different things - mixing it up a little. Go for the one-woman show! And what does Robert Crook know anyway?
What Fusun said. Beautiful piece, Erica. R
Im so glad to hear someone else had a melt down in the supermarket. I have had some doozies. I hate to shop. Best now to go to little markets with a farmer influence and skip the mega stores. Some stores are going with the subdued lighting decor. I like that. You will be fine. You are fine.
First of all, great title. The song, itself is what we all need to hear from time to time. Secondly, Sunday noon shopping is a universally hated something. Thirdly, this post made me want to hug you and laugh at the same time...we have ALL HAD THESE DAYS!! Gorgeous, and full of sighs....
Mary, exactly. That is part of the human condition, to want and to seek more.

Onislandtime, exactly. Suburbia is a soul-less wasteland. Thank you for the kind words.

Thanks, Margie. Invictus is a favorite.

Jmac, wasn't Peggy the best? Nobody could swing like her.

Margaret, that is funny. As I said, I don't mind the grocery store when it isn't crowded.
Brass and Kim, thank you.

Zuma, I forced myself to watch "Black Swan" Friday night on cable, knowing it was going to upset me. Natalie Portman was superb, but the message was very disturbing. As a former anorexic and studier of ballet, it disturbed me even more. You're right, why aren't we all rich?

Grif, yeah, what does he know?

Thanks, Thoth.

Zanelle, the big grocery stores and other monolithic stores have a way of dehumanizing the individual down to a purchasing, soul-less machine.
Brazen, thanks for your comments. Makes me feel less alone.
I thought Peggy Lee wrote that and sang it. Heard that song years and years ago and boy how it spoke to me even in my sassy teens or twenties.
Oh no! not the Kosher aisle. Glad the baby didn't bang you over the head with an overpriced bottle of Gefilte fish. Rice A Roni on sale makes US ALL lose it.
Unwitting saviors have a special place in heaven, I'm hoping.
You've made my life better with just you, and now this post, for what that's worth. That and a quarter won't get you a coffee, in short.
Yay for Lorin for having coca cola(don't want to say coke) ready!
fernsy, thank you. You've made my life better too. xo
Keep at it Erica - you have so much to contribute and we are all better for reading your words - it sucks to feel so lonely in a crowd
Thank you, Lamm Chops. People like you at OS help keep me going.
We do a lot of our shopping at the local coop, where I am a working member. They are expanding, building a new store across the parking lot with affordable housing on the top floors, and we have contributed money to member loan drives to make that project happen. It makes all the difference in the world - shopping becomes part of being part of a community. We get other supplies at the local supermarket - stuff like cat food, TP - and shopping there only works for me on the quiet days... Good luck with your return to performing - I look forward to reading about it.
As someone turning 50 this year and with a similar dislike of the 'burbs -- we're here for hopefully only a few years -- I can sure relate to some of your frustrations. That Peggy Lee song makes increasing sense to me as the years pass. Break out the booze, indeed.

In happier news, that's great that you're returning to performing with a one woman show. Hopefully you'll be telling us more about it here on OS.
Sarah, great idea, but not sure we have food co-ops in these environs.

VA, the suburbs are a veritable wasteland, a dead zone. Thanks, will post as things start to coalesce.
When I make the mistake of being in the Kroger Store on Sunday afternoon I amuse myself by sometimes asking those who jostle me and go through the express lane with a full basket if they remembered to attend church that morning. So far, no one has punched me.

All my life I've been taken by that Peggy Lee song; it became popular when I was a teenager. As I enter what is in some respects my second adolescence, I am assured that there is so much more.
John, what a wonderful idea!
I like the idea of a second adolescence. I think I'll work on that myself. Thanks so much for stopping by and brightening my day.