I am no an expert on other ethnicities, but from the earliest days of my Jewish upbringing, I can recall ominous warnings concerning the issue of sanity.
I am considerably less than fluent in Yiddish – although it is an observable fact that when Jewish people get older, they will start spouting Yiddish, even though they did not speak Yiddish before, or had any idea they knew any.
Here comes some now. Torn from my past, some Yiddish-voiced pronouncements on the imminent possibility of going nuts.
“Du machst meer meshugah!” (“You’re making me crazy!”)
“M’ken meshugah veren!” (“A person could go crazy from that!”)
“Du bist meshugah?!?” (“Are you out of your mind?!?”)
Sure, there were warnings about breaking your neck. Or “Stop making that face – Do you want it to stay that way?” But by far, the Jewish greatest worry stemmed from the dark and dangerous outland of mental stability.
This sensitivity has unquestionably infiltrated my delicate psyche. More than anything, I do not want to be crazy. No, that’s wrong. More than anything, I do not want to appear crazy.
I don’t actually mind being crazy. Especially if it gets me shipped off to some idyllic “Rest Home”, where the residents wear slippers all the time, you have your own room, and the “grounds” are expansive and green, like John Beresford Tipton’s estate in The Millionaire. (I am told, however, that they don’t have those places anymore, and the places they do have, you don’t want to go.)
It is with this apprehension in mind – maybe not at the top of my mind but always hovering on the periphery – that I leave my home, on my way for my regular “Wednesday Walk” to Groundwork, where I pick up some coffee and walk back.
Already I have done something questionable. At this spa I go to in Mexico, I once attended a lecture conducted by a woman who billed herself “The Memory Doctor.” One of her helpful tips was, when leaving the house, always check for your keys before you close the front door. I just closed the front door, and then checked for my keys – “B” before “A”, rather than “A” before “B.” Fortunately, I had them, though I could easily not have. I need to focus on that sequence. Keys – then door. Got it!
I step down the stairs, and head south down the street. I have proceeded maybe ten paces, when I sense an awareness that something is amiss.
As I’m walking, I look down at the shorts I have slipped on for the excursion. And I immediately realize
That my shorts are on inside out.
The inseams are showing. And the pocket linings are flopping around like Hassidic earlocks.
I could be wrong about this – and I am not above giving myself a “pass” in these matters – but I personally do not categorize putting your pants on inside out as “crazy.” Careless. Distracted. “Abnormal” from a statistical standpoint, as I “normally” – meaning over ninety-seven percent of the time – put my pants on the way they are meant to be put on. If the situation I am currently in is “abnormal” – and it is – then I, by definition, am not.
There is nobody on the street so, so far, it’s “No harm – no foul.”
I have two options to consider. Do I leave my shorts the way they are and continue contentedly on my walk? Or do I turn around, go back to the house, and flip my shorts around to the appropriate side?
At this point, I can hear readers going,
“Are you kidding me?”
Let me assure you that the question of whether to not care and continue my walk with my pants on inside out is most definitely off the table.
The question is, however,…
How would one evaluate a person who gave that particular option a single moment of positive consideration?
Or “borderline”, depending on how long they thought about it, and perhaps, how many steps they took down the street before they turned around and went back?
It’s a tricky call, don’t you think?
The fact that I went back is hardly a check mark in my favor. What “normal” person wouldn’t have? What concerns me – though I am not quite ready to consign myself to the “Loony Bin” just yet – is how long it took me to make up my mind.
I mean, for a moment, I actually thought about going on.
Happily, I returned home, and I made the necessary adjustment.
But even thinking about not doing that?
I don’t know, it may be my Jewish conditioning at play, but, to me at that point, I was the proverbial eyeblink away
From being totally meshugah.