Tuesday, September 6, 2011


I am sure most of us are familiar with the term, “je ne sais quoi.”  My knowledge of French doesn’t extend much beyond “merci” but I completely understand what one may be trying to convey when I hear, “It just has a certain je ne sais quoi.”

While I understand the point whenever I hear the phrase, quite frankly, I don’t know what the words mean.  After a consultation with google translate, literally (and ironically), the phrase means, “I don’t know what.”  Conceptually, at least in my world, it captures that “I can’t quite put my finger on it,” feeling.  Many heads are nodding in agreement.  It has a nice ring and is very melodious.  It just sounds happy. 

Think about it, though.  While it may sound happy, the real message is one of utter frustration.
Je ne sais quoi sounds like a close relative of a chemobrain word drop except, with the former, the word was never there.  In CB word drop, I had the word, lost the word, retrieved the word (on a very lucky day), substituted a pretty damn close word (on a good day), found a less than satisfactory word (on most days), OR, just threw my arms up in frustration (on the days when my brain couldn’t take any more).

If the frustration overtook me, I might actually walk away from a conversation whereby anyone who may have witnessed such an episode might begin thinking, “Je ne sais quoi the hell that was all about?!!”  They might see the back of my head and they may even add their own visual of one of those cartoon bubbles.  Inside the word bubble?  "What a DOPE."  

Rather than frustration that surrounds IDK (text talk for I Don’t Know), what I really need is sprezzatura.  I LOVE that word.  I love the way it sounds, I love the way it feels when I say it and most of all, I LOVE its essence.

Sprezzatura is an Italian word pronounced, Sprett Sa TOOOR a.  Try not to say “sprett” …..I don’t quite know how to explain this, but let the “R” float in the background in that first syllable.  It’s a fun word.  It also rings and sings.  Its meaning?  It is an ability to hide conscious effort and appear to accomplish difficult actions with casual nonchalance.

Sprezzatura is the epitome of being cool.  As 2011 begins the process of winding down, “cool” is a very uncool word.  Not very sprezzatura-ish.  What is the new way of saying “cool” in the second decade of the 2000’s?  Rad(ical) is old.  Hip?  Again, not feelin’ it.  Dope?  That may work.  It can be a dual purpose word.  It can reside in any portion of my life:  BC:EF:AD.  Dope as in, “I am a damn dope,” because of all of the CB stupidity.  Or, “THAT is dope!” as in: Ain’t Nothin’ Cooler.

Sprezzatura was Ronald Reagan’s response when asked during a debate if he felt he was too old to be president at 73 years of age.  I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."  No one laughed harder than his opponent (Walter Mondale, I'll save you the google detour).  It was Mohammed Ali floating like a butterfly into boxing greatness.  It is the oxymoronic advice to “Act Naturally” even if you happen to be in the middle of shit storm of epic proportions. 

Most people use the moments leading up to the stroke of midnight on December 31 as their time to reflect.  Today is my day of reflection.  Today is the official beginning of the new year in the world according to AM.  Summer ends the first Monday in September regardless of what the calendar says about the autumnal equinox.  

I am emerging from what has likely been the most challenging year of my life.  It’s been a decade of challenges that began in the weeks leading up to September 11, it’s been a half decade of challenges that began in the weeks leading up to a surgery that would forever alter my body leaving me physically self conscious and it’s been of year of challenges that completely annihilated any, all and every trace of self confidence and at times had me on the brink, cowering in fear.  One day I may be brave enough to bare all.  I'm not quite there yet, but the past twelve months?  In the hands of Orson Welles, definitely "Rosebud" material.  (Truthfully, War of the Worlds might be a more suitable title..... but I was going for the dramatic effect.... Rosebud?  Far more dramatic...)  

The year is now behind me.  I’ve come far.  And I have far to go.  I’m on a great journey (as I was most recently reminded by a new friend).  Writing has helped, meeting many new people has helped, seeing the places where this blog has been read fulfills me in ways I can’t begin to describe.  So, if you happen to be in the Ukraine or New Zealand or India or any of the other places Google claims to have sent my blog, I thank you.

I have officially exited The Shit Storm and entered into The New Normal.  OH-FICIALLY.  I am looking forward with the anticipation of a wide eyed child on Christmas morning.  I am eager to believe I am going to make a difference in some small way.  No matter what may be lurking around a corner, I am going to heed the words of Rudyard Kipling.  I am going to live with an eye towards sprezzatura because for me, that whole concept has, how shall I say, a certain, je ne sais quoi.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

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