Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fishing for Sanity in the Sea of Madness

I have a soft spot in my heart (not to be mistaken for the one atop my over sized casaba melon of a head) for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. For reasons that are purely selfish - such as it ensures that I pay attention to an event to which I would otherwise likely pay none given how historically awful my Alma mater is at hoops - just about every year for the past decade and a half I have organized a March Madness pool. I have come as close to triumphing in any pool I have ever put together as a #16 seed David has of winning its first round game against a top-seeded Goliath, which is to say not very ("But keep mailing in your postcards and your flat smiting stones, Folks, for you never can tell!"). In spite of my utter failings as a prognosticator I not only organize a pool annually, I participate in it - blissfully donating my $20.00 entry fee to the winner.

This year I have an even more heartfelt appreciation for the madness of March than I have in past years. For this year - as Sunday night I sent one and all the obligatory "Pool Rules" e-mail that kicked off this year's festivities - I did so from home. I literally sat on the floor of the den in my house and sent out the e-mail but, as important, the e-mail originated from Home, figuratively speaking. Last year at this time I was very much adrift but I at least thought for the first time in what seemed like forever I was paddling in a particular direction. I had left my professional home for what seemed to be an excellent opportunity (and likely has proven to be just that for someone who bears scant little resemblance to me) and was something bitterly disappointing. I spent longer than I should have wallowing greatly in self-pity, which essentially paralyzed me. I knew neither where the escape hatch was nor how to get from where I was to where it was located.

A week or so before the start of last year's NCAA Tournament - with no plan to organize a pool because it seemed as if it would be too much damn work and it also seemed to be a part of my life that I love that I had little interest in sharing with my new co-workers for no reason other than I feared that enabling them to participate in it would require that Box of Tools in Beantown to stick their collective noses under the tent flap as well. Being that they proved to be a fairly unrelenting assortment of d**chebags with whom to deal professionally, there was little chance that I was going to tolerate their bullshit in a life activity I had always enjoyed. Cessation of the activity appeared to be the only option.

Then something extraordinary occurred. The gentleman who (at least as of this time last year) piloted the M Squared Mother Ship graced us with his presence here in NJ as part of his annual tour of the Empire. I believe in the M Squared Orbit that the New Jersey office is the equivalent of one of the territorial outposts of the Roman Empire - a necessary evil to keep the barbarians away from the gates of Rome but not anyplace where the cool kids would be caught dead hanging out. As we all sat together at lunch, I listened as he and my partner regaled one another and the Jersey staff with tales of the firm's illustrious history and even more brightly illuminated future. About forty-seven seconds into the love fest I realized that I gave not a damn about what they were talking about and that I would sooner sit and jab a salad fork into my brain stem for shits and giggles than I would apologize for not caring at all about the future of which they spoke. It was at that moment that I ratified in my own mind the horrific error of my ways but also realized that doing nothing about it was surely killing me and would continue to do so. Action was the only option.

A day or two later, fueled by some predictably sagacious fraternal advice I began the process of picking up the pieces of my life. Whether I stopped feeling sorry for myself altogether or simply turned my whining wheel down a notch is for others to assess I suppose - although I would vote for the latter irrespective of however much I wish I could say it had been the former. Relationships that had long been important to me but that had taken some bruises and some lacerations on my journey north on Parsippany Road I set about to repairing. And I did so in the hope that I could get just a bit of my mojo back. And that I would get back to the point where I would not hate the sound of my alarm clock's ring in the morning's wee small hours. And that I would not fear the setting of the sun on a Sunday night for no reason other than the realization of how large Monday morning's specter loomed.

Last year's March Madness pool ended for me as every year's March Madness pool ends for me - with me terrifically far away from first place. And I suspect that this year will likely play out the same way with the only suspense from this point forward being the identity of the person to whom I shall turn over the winnings on the first Tuesday of April. But last year's Madness proved to be a bit more special than the editions that had come before it.

Sometimes, it is a long way back from where you are. And you make your way home whenever you can. I did. First chance I got.


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