March 29, 2019

caught ungressing

I know the right word is "regress" but I prefer the term "anti-progress", as both noun and verb.  Or maybe "un-progress".  Shorten it to "ungress".  I am mastering the art of ungressing.

I'm supposed to be doing self-care and solving problems and finding third paths, all of those things that represent making progress in one's life, getting a little closer to the elusive goal of having one's shit more or less together.  And invariably, the harder I try, the more I ungress.

Case in point:

I was suffering from Every Little Thing Bothers Me During Lunch at work, and P.J. found me a miracle.  It's White Noise & Co., which you should visit and sample, and then you should send the guy some money because he has put a stunning amount of work into this project and recouped next to zilch for his efforts.  I was skeptical, but see that little link on the right that says "Speech Blocker"?  Click it and put in your ear buds and turn your computer's volume up to, say, medium.  I use sixty.

Get some people five feet away from you to have a conversation.  Then tell them no, really, you need to have a conversation so you can test this out and prove it doesn't work.  Then look over with a supremely annoyed I'm-waiting look and realize that for the past minute, they've been having a shouting match about which of the Olsen twins had the more rebellious adolescence.  Goggle because not only could you not understand what they were saying, you couldn't even tell there were voices at all.

Now, at work, I wear my ear buds during lunch with the speech blocker playing and no one who asks me questions or comments on how good my lunch smells or reads news stories aloud can penetrate my psychological solitude.

Except that it hasn't solved my problem, because it works so well that now I'm extremely self-conscious when I'm chewing my food.  The sounds are magnified.  Think water dripping in a cave.  I keep taking a bite of lunch and then pulling out my ear buds in paranoia.

What chewing sounds like with the ear buds out:  "(chew, chew, chew, swallow)"

What chewing sounds like with the ear buds in:  "(SLURP-a-SMACKY-SMACK GURGLE SQUEAK SQUISH)"

So now I can't use the white noise while I'm actually eating and I still have to listen to the things I was trying to escape in the first place, and I become even more irritated.


Other case in point:

I need to be more assertive and draw boundaries.  It's a long-standing issue.  And today, in the bathroom, I took a chance and did What Would Gumby Do? and drew one.  Someone I know followed me into the bathroom and started talking to me about their computer problem - after we'd both entered a stall.

I spoke up.  I really did!  Progress for Lille.  I said, "I'm really sorry, but [nervous laugh] it makes me uncomfortable to talk about work stuff in the bathroom.  Can we meet out in the hallway in a minute?"  There was a not-at-all-brief-enough pause, and then, "Sure."

And then came the ungress, because then we both did the things we needed to do, and found ourselves at the sinks, washing our hands, refusing to look at each other or speak or even breathe loudly, and the silence was more awkward than that time your uncle brought his swear-happy parrot to your grandmother's funeral.

We went out the same door and then do you know what happened?  She walked away.  I had deeply offended her and she didn't want to discuss anything.  Now I have to avoid her for the rest of my life, which means I have to wear a black trench coat anytime I want to visit the ladies'.  Then someone else will see the trench coat and decide I must be either a perv or a liberal spy, because Fox News said so, and rumors will go around, and I'll never be able to leave my cubicle and I'll have to dig a hole outside behind the dumpsters and relieve myself there instead.

But that means having a private bathroom, which is progress.

Did I accidentally do the right thing?

March 27, 2019

what remains

What remains of me is an altered self.  Subtly altered.

Two years ago today, I tried to die and failed.  I was salvaged.  If I was a table, they would call me distressed, vintage, shabby chic.  If I was a car, they would have said I just had a small dent, just a few scratches.  They would have marveled at how a car could have come away from a major crash so close to unscathed.


I'm not unscathed.

Some things are less bearable.  I can't detect a survival instinct, something that would make me want to struggle to get oxygen if I were underwater, something that would make my life flash before my eyes in a dire moment.  It might be there, but I can't sense it any longer.  In its place is a low-grade hum, a quiet knowledge that there is unfinished business that will stay unfinished.

Depression takes me straight to the bottom now, and ideation comes walking in freely, like it owns the place, even when lithium is on duty as the bouncer.  I am tethered to life but fighting ideation is exhausting.  It leaves dents and scratches.

I have a number line in my head that is shaped like a paperclip, and I used to be able to see down the length of it to eighty and ninety, the probable age I will reach, if my life is statistically average.  There's fog there now.  I don't see a future any longer, but I know that fog clears when you reach it and I may only be able to see a short distance ahead, for years and years, at any given time.

Some things are more bearable.  

I have lost some kindness.  This morning, I realized that we left our deck light on overnight.  It's faulty because I'm the one who installed it and I am not an electrician, and it alternates between ten seconds on, ten seconds off.  It's quite bright.  It occurred to me, as I made my coffee and packed my lunch at 5:30 a.m., that it must annoy the fuck out of the neighbors who built their house practically in our back yard.  And this thought pleased me.  I wondered vaguely how much it would add to the electric bill if we left it on every night, on purpose.  An LED bulb would take care of that.  A cool-colored one, the kind that mimics xenon headlights.

The Kid doesn't remember what today is, that it's an anniversary.  The wound I administered didn't fester, and it healed as well as that kind of wound possibly could.  My guilt is somewhat mitigated.

I've become far more introverted and far less interested in the world.  It takes too much energy to live and there isn't any left over.  Self-centered doesn't even begin.

My brain uses itself against me; my memory, my objects of great love, my anger, my sensory recall, and even my writing are at times turned into weapons.

I'm a salvage vehicle with a sullied title.  I'm scratch-and-dent furniture.

And I am loved.  Loved.  Loved anyway.  Distressed and loved.

It's incomprehensible that others now see me as priceless.  But these days, people make top-dollar furniture out of salvaged wood, the remnants of tobacco barns and century-old decaying structures.  They call it reclaimed.  Their expert hands give life to what remains.

March 25, 2019

moobs and pillows

We have a habit of pretending to consider our dining options while driving to The Lodge, but we invariably end up in the drive-thru at the Wendy's on our exit.  The fries would get cold otherwise, you see, even though we don't order fries.  This is the same Wendy's where The Kid swore he wasn't killing prostitutes in GTA5 and where he loudly asked who the fuck puts mayonnaise on their hot dogs, always when the window was open.


The Wendy's employees who overheard him gave us a Look at the time, but so what?  We've never seen them again and likely never will.

There's a problem, though.

It seems there is a dedicated, hard-working, committed teenage girl working the drive-thru now.  She's helped us the last three times we've ordered.  I like her.  Her smile is genuine, and when I say, "Thank you," she doesn't say, "My pleasure!"

I was that girl.  I worked at Wendy's for four years, beginning the day I turned fifteen.  And the drive-thru became my preferred shift, with the satisfaction that came from kinetic mastery of writing, making a soda, using a foot pedal and talking through the speaker, all at once.  My smile was the real thing, too.  I loved dealing with the people who pulled up.

Mostly.

There was the time the gross guy with the hairy chest and moobs in a white wife-beater pulled up in a convertible and wouldn't let go of the $10 bill when I tried to take it.  I simply shut the window and walked off and told my manager, Dale, a burly mustache-having guy from Michigan.  He walked over and opened the sliding window and asked if there was a problem.  There was, of course, no problem.

That's the most memorable one.  I know I saw other things, but I can't recall them.

The teenage girl who has helped us at Wendy's, though, is going to remember this past Friday night.

We got some very awesome pillow cases as a Christmas gift last year, two that say FUCK FUCK FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK, or something to that effect, and one that says, I'M NOT ALWAYS A BITCH - JUST KIDDING - GO FUCK YOURSELF.

We love them.

And because while riding in our van, Molly becomes a thirty-five-pound lap dog with very pointy claws who wants to bond with P.J. on a molecular level and watch the world from the front passenger seat, P.J. grabbed one of the pillows as we were leaving to use as protection for her poor upper thighs.  Molly lay on that instead.

Words-side up, of course.

I don't have Photoshop and even if I did, I would suck at using it, so this is an approximation of what was seen in our van from the vantage point of the Wendy's drive-thru:




March 24, 2019

now i love you

And David Wyatt loves Terry Pratchett something fierce, given the level of detail, right down to the Curry Gardens bag and Albert's fried slice and the little sprig of flowers in a vase that Susan picked for Death as a little girl.

Also, this thing was a right bitch.  But twinged and made me miss Chester, because all 1,000 pieces are there.  He always ate, on average, four pieces.

"NO, YOU CAN'T RIDE A CAT. WHO EVER HEARD
OF THE DEATH OF RATS RIDING A CAT?
THE DEATH OF RATS WOULD RIDE SOME KIND OF DOG."

March 22, 2019

wherein all wholesome herb-y people receive an apology

Yes, it looks like spinach.
But only a tiny apology.  Much of what is pushed out there by natural, alternative, and/or homeopathic remedy advocates is so much runny puddle water.  And that goes one hundred percent against all of my beliefs and assertions that we're nothing more than big, walking balls of chemicals that can be thus be chemically manipulated.  Did I say I'm above self-contradiction?  I don't remember ever saying that.

Maybe it's the way they get so cult-y about it all.  It's popped up in CBD oil marketing, for instance ... I've had two different people corner me and evangelize CBD oil and I felt like I was being asked to sign up for a multi-level marketing scheme.  I know CBD is actually proving to be legit, and I'm even willing to try it once you don't have to take out a second mortgage to get it, but as soon as someone starts touting something as being "superior to scientists' Western medicine", I get off the bus and turn around and give the bus driver the bird.  Go play your tambourines and drink your Kool-Aid somewhere else, freaky converts.  Like Chapel Hill.  You'd like it there.*

So it was with a jaunty spirit of hoop-jumping that I tried L-theanine a few months ago, which yielded the single side effect of Amazon getting some money from me; and subsequently Sensoril, which is derived from ashawaganda**, an Indian ginseng-y herb thingie.  The Monk gave me printouts for both of these and asked me to try them, and because the little stack of papers was sufficiently thick, I had to take it seriously or else return and say, "I still feel bad and I didn't take any of your suggestions but here I am complaining anyway, like somebody who tries a recipe but changes all of the ingredients and then bitches about it not turning out very good."  At least this way, I could hold my head high next month and announce that his suggestions were rubbish and he needs to go back to Monk School, or wherever it was that he learned psychiatry.

Remember the person who was about to become one of those silhouettes on the wall that they have at shooting ranges, with lots of shuriken sticking out at various angles?  I started the Sensoril on Saturday, and a few days later, when I encountered the person, everything annoying was dialed back to an acceptable level of tolerability.  Maybe even a little bit better than that.  It's like I can know the person is doing something unforgivably, fingernails-on-chalkboard nerve-wracking, but only on an intellectual level, without feeling cortisol release into my bloodstream, without that metallic taste that comes from all the stress hormones.

It is, for me, truly an I Don't Give A Shit Pill.  I'd call it "ID-GAS" but that sounds like "anti-gas" and if I were overheard talking about it to someone, that would be embarrassing.

Seriously, how miraculous is it that I've discovered an I Don't Give A Shit pill?  It's like a goose-excreted solid gold egg landed on my foot.

And it's an herb.  It's a god-damned over-the-counter, Amazon-delivered*** ginseng extract.

Do I have to carry a tambourine now?  I've got one.  It came in the Melissa & Doug set that The Kid got when he was two years old from some benighted, well-meaning neighbor who thought he needed cymbals.  It's kind of small and somehow has survived thirteen years without having a hole punched through it by my fist.


*I like Chapel Hill, too.

**Dear Google:  "Washstand" for "ashawaganda" wasn't too bad.  I'll give you credit for that one.  You're making progress!  Gold star sticker.

***I am aware Amazon does not actually have a counter.

March 20, 2019

a time to whimper

Why?  Why won't you
come to my house?
The number is probably higher, but I've counted four distinct involuntary, quite audible whimpers that I've let slip this week.  They've come out on their own, in that space where a person isn't supposed to say anything at all.

I just went through our local Chick-Fil-A drive-thru, on a mission to obtain a gift card for a co-worker, and I accidentally let loose with a "thank you" instead of something crafted for the sole purpose of preventing them from saying, "My pleasure!" 

"Thank you," I said, and narrowly managed to not slap my hand over my mouth.  "My pleasure!" she sang.

I whimpered.

She looked at me with an odd expression that incorporated the unaltered toothy smile with curiosity.  She might have wondered if I was whimpering because of her or because I suddenly got appendicitis.

Five minutes later, on my way back to work, I whimpered in a socially acceptable way (alone in the car) when I was passed by a Thomas' English Muffin truck.  A whole truck of them.  Bastard.

I whimpered this past Saturday, on my way to pick The Kid up from play rehearsal.  The Sound of Music is coming along nicely getting there.  En route to the school, I whimpered in pain.  My depression this weekend was cruel and clawing and incredibly intense, almost as intense as my gratitude for its slow, steady lifting.  It hurt that much.  I whimpered, and cowered from its massiveness.  I am afraid of feeling like that again.  It reduced me to raw fear.

I whimpered again an hour later, in the school auditorium, while I was hanging out and pretending to be okay and listening to the VonTrapp children singing what I will euphemistically refer to as "harmony".  At the end of "Climb Every Mountain", The Kid later told me, he turned to a friend backstage and simply said, "My mom is going to kill them."  My ear for music is not my friend.  I whimpered several times during that chord set of sounds, tense in my chair, gripping the arms without realizing I was white-knuckled and breathing heavily.

I suppose that with the equinox has come Whimper Week for me.  My brain is under assault from multiple directions and it's speaking out without my input, in league with my larynx.  It's going to embarrass the shit out of me soon.  I can feel it.  Maybe I can cough right afterward and pretend like it was all part of the same moment, and say I just choked on my own saliva, which would be marginally less awkward.

Happy spring equinox/Whimper Week, y'all.

March 19, 2019

good evening, john anderton

Go to Hell, Alexa.
The break room on the first floor of my building has two Pepsi machines in it, one dispensing cans and the other, bottles.  Across the bottom of one of the machines, it reads, "Thank You For Choosing Pepsi".  Because we have a choice, I always think when I walk past it, and mentally snort, which is a trick I've learned.

I have a business administration degree, which P.J. always conflates with marketing, even though I only had two marketing classes and I stuck my fingers in my ears and sang "la la la" during both of them.  I did read the books, though, and came away disgusted.

That was in 2001, back when baby formula companies would send me canisters of free DHA-enhanced powder every two years, just in case I was a typical American middle-class mother driving a Hyundai wagon.  Now our society doesn't give a rat's about slogans and postal mail distribution lists and retail clustering.  It has the Internet.

I got an e-mail this morning advertising Gorilla ladders.  I bought a ladder about a year ago and I think they assume I must need another one.  Am I weird for keeping a ladder for longer than a year?  Do ladders go out of style?  Are they disposable?  Why, in short, would Gorilla advertise more ladders to a ladder customer?

The issue of how they got my e-mail address is cast aside.  Information collecting algorithms are the brain child of a shrewd, evil genius.  Remember that scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise, playing a normal person, walks into a mall?  It's like that now, but without the blatancy.

We also have cookies and tracking.  Marketing is, after all, the Dark Side.

Advertising algorithms, unlike info-combers, are the brain child of a demented marketing executive hooked on meth.  My favorite is the perpetual ad for "local men in my area".  Something out there is doing a shit job of casing my demographic profile.  Also, the men in the picture never change, meaning that it wants me to believe that these men, who apparently have not been able to get a date for at least seven years, are irresistibly desirable.

Amazon toys with me on Facebook.  I'll never understand where the assertion that I need an electric unicycle originated.  Breastfeeding-friendly dress ads are another mystery.  The rest of the items that appear in Amazon's suggested purchases and "daily deals" (which never are) can be pinpointed to some statement I've made in a status update, a comment, or even elsewhere, in a Google search or an e-mail to my wife.  I complained in an e-mail about seeing a mouse in our home, and that evening, nestled among the Trevor Noah clips and deliciously rude memes posted by my favorite people, Amazon presented me with tons of products aimed at cats.

Target is no better.  I love them both, but if Amazon and Target were in a relationship with me, it would be Single White Female without the red hair and boiler room scene.

They're listening.  Always listening.

Ask this techie girl why she won't have any "smart" technology (e.g. Alexa) in her house.  Not even electrical outlets controlled by a phone.  Oh, hell no.

March 17, 2019

lopper

I will FUCK YOU UP
with little jaws of death.
About four years ago, P.J. and I were at Home Depot, shopping for grill-y things, when my eyes lighted upon a battery-powered lopper.  The name reminded me of floppy-eared rabbits, but that didn't matter, because at the time I had had no idea such a thing existed and I desired it with a terrible desire.

P.J. and I don't fit the stereotype of dykes who buy each other power tools as birthday gifts; we're all rose-gold earrings and hygge and send-her-off-for-a-massage.  But there was a light in my eyes as I unboxed the lopper and embraced its destructive powers.

I charged the battery and then four years went by and I never once used it.  This is the Tao of power tools.

Until yesterday.  There is a dead tree that I've spent two years trying to compel back to life, and it has stubbornly refused to return from the dead.  I decided recently that I needed to end this one-sided relationship.  It wasn't healthy.

And then there are the three crape myrtle trees down by the street, hanging untidily over the patch of our property that isn't mud and needs to be mowed in warmer weather.  There used to be six, but in December of 2017, a school bus tire caught the silt-mud in the adjacent field with a wayward tire, the driver coping with pea-soup fog, and the bus slid fast and crashed into our yard, taking three of the crape myrtles with it and narrowly missing the venerable magnolia that would have induced casualties instead of one bruised forehead and a sensational story to tell at the middle school.

I was grateful for the free tree removal.  I told the town council that if they'd come get the stumps out, fix the mud ruts and sew some grass seed, no harm, no foul.  We're not litigious and we loathed those trees and what some might have considered "property damage and emotional distress" was to us a pleasing favor.

The branches of the remaining three droop with heavy blossoms or a second season of buds throughout the summer, harboring a thousand small spiders that love to build their thin-stranded webs between the irregular gaps.  When I need to mow and we can't reach the lawn guy, I use my electric mower, but I first have to perform my ninja-style removal dance of imaginary spider webs using a walking stick, and this crazed ritual is only for my psychological benefit because it never, ever gets rid of all the webs.  Mowing equals face-webs.

For the past five weeks, I've intended to go take down those branches, and the insultingly deceased tree, with the lopper.  Spring is here and the spiders will arrive soon.  Trees are blooming.  Temperatures are warming.  Every passing day has carried the risk of losing the spider reprieve of winter.

And for the past five weeks, the haze of deepening depression has prevented me from caring enough to rear up and do it.

Yesterday, as I opened the back door to tell the dogs to stop barking because it was seven in the morning - get your stupid asses inside the house - oi! I'm talking to you - okay now I'm rattling the biccie jar - here you come, I noticed a single spinneret across the door frame, placed there by some overachiever spider as a warning.

An hour later, I put on gardening gloves and popped the freshly charged battery (which was hell to locate in our tempest of a garage) into the lopper, and hefted its solid weight.  I'd just dealt with a flooded laundry room (again) and that had thrown gasoline on my smoldering pain and anger and, in short, I was ready to fuck up some shit.

The trunk of the demised tree was warm butter to the lopper.

The thrill of power gave me the strength to haul the tree to our growing pile of storm-felled branches.  I turned and looked downhill at the crape myrtles, and walked Clint Eastwood-style to the base of the first one.  I cut off every branch I could reach, not the least bit mindful of aesthetic considerations.  Die, die, die.  And you:  Die.  Fuck you:  Die.

Propelled by momentum, I went after the magnolia, which might have been a mistake because now it looks ridiculous and I never mow under it anyway because I like the English ivy entwined around its base.  It's going to take me eight trips to haul those branches up the hill, but I couldn't help myself.  It was like having a long arm with a chainsaw for a hand.   Who could resist?  The neighbors are lucky I didn't keep going and murder all of their saplings.

********

Jesus, this post is boring.  I can't believe you made it this far.  Who wants to read that much detail about someone trimming tree branches?  It must be Sunday and you're killing time.  I'll help you by telling you that my bottle of Sensoril arrived from Amazon yesterday and I've just taken my second capsule.  It's a derivative from some Indian ginseng leaf that The Monk recommended I take as a supplement to the lithium.  I'm not experiencing any ideation this morning, so that may mean that this thing carries a wicked placebo effect, but I'll take a placebo effect in the place of deep darkness.  I'll take an herb.  I'll take anything.

March 15, 2019

dabbling in hay

I feel like I'm skirting the edge of something dangerous here.  Like trying acid once, or thrill-roller-blading around the edge of an active volcano, just for shits.  This could go bad, and quickly.

I trust my therapist.  That alone should be enough to shake the earth.  I trust him so much that I'm willing to try positive thinking to combat something that is plaguing my life.

Somebody I spend a significant amount of time with is working my last nerve.  No, it isn't P.J.  She couldn't work my nerves like this if she tried.  (Okay, that isn't true, but the effort made would be staggering and would probably need to involve bagpipes and yellow mustard and really bad soprano soloists.)

I suspect that most of this development has to do with my own movement on the spectrum toward significant introversion, which has resulted in that cycle where I pull away and the other person makes aggressive attempts to keep me from pulling away, unwelcome overtures, which makes me pull away even more and become cold and unfriendly and coals-heaped-on-head silent.  It's become so awful that all of the tiny things that I used to be able to filter out now twang on my brain strings.  Stupid, trivial things. 

I swear to Dog, if positive thinking moves me one mere inch toward falling into the Louise Hay volcano ... I don't know how to finish that threat.  Maybe I shouldn't threaten at all.  Maybe I should beg for an intervention.  Watch for the signs.  I'll start painting outdoors and wearing gauzy yellow and orange and surrounding myself with Himalayan salt lamps so their ion fields will conduct energy.

Wait.  Shit.  I already have a salt lamp and also a salt lamp night light, which I fucking love, but only because they look cool, okay?  Glad we clarified that.

Where were we?  Right.  Positive thinking, specifically in the form of gratitude.  Gumby thinks that if I combat a negative thought with an intentionally positive one, no matter how hokey, it might help me stop circling the drain and make things at least bearable.  Bearable is good.  Moving back toward having some sort of filter in place would be ten thousand times better.  I'll take anything.  That's why I'm willing to do this, to find things I can be grateful for and state them out loud mentally.

(I wonder what would happen if I just said them out loud.  That would be most interesting.)


Here is an example of a positive thought I made myself think today:

Thing That Happened:  Notification went off for person on cell phone.  It is loud.  It is the same stupid ringtone that sounds like a piano and lasts a billion years and person refuses to turn down volume and it feels like water torture.

Thing I Thought:  I am thankful that it is not a Mynah bird ringtone, or, worse, an owl.


I'm not going to excel at this, am I?

I also realized today that I am terrified that the person will brace me about this, all hurt and wanting to clear the gravy-thick air, and I don't have an answer prepared, a glib, well-rehearsed deflection guaranteed to avert conflict.  Right now, I'm poised to sit with my mouth open, unable to answer for fear of unloading a litany of grievances like a Tyvek duffel bag full of shuriken.  I can't find the words.  Any writing prowess deserts me in the face of incurable honesty and the fear of confrontation.  Confrontation is almost as terrifying as suddenly being unable to wield my best weapon, my only weapon, my writing, my words.

My only hope is in combating negativity.  It might help.  I am grateful for that.

March 13, 2019

earth

Sometimes, depression doesn't want to talk about itself. 

Sometimes, it wants to get lost in a book, even a mediocre book, or busy itself working in the yard, with sticks and earth and simple things, the grey-brown soil the same muddy shade as the chest-weight.

March 9, 2019

my puzzler is sore

To whom it may concern

(and you know who you are):

I hate you

I hate you

I

hate

you

so

much

and I will keep hating you

until

I finish this

1,000-piece puzzle that

you

gave

me

and then

I will love you again.


March 6, 2019

today's bonus post

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE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Kthx.


delay in detonation

Some clouds dissipate.
I think this blog is not helping my snit-riddled insistence on saying something one time, thoroughly and well, and then refusing to repeat myself because it's not efficient to do so.  That kind of isn't okay in therapy, but has that ever stopped me in the past?  No.

"So did you send that letter to your mother?" Therapist Gumby asked.

"You didn't read the blog," I accused, clearly entitled to chunks of his free time.

"I did!" he said.  "When did you ... which one was it?  I missed something."

I pointed at his laptop.  "Spring Street.  Read it," I commanded.  Then I brought out my phone and said, "I'll re-read it, too, and then we can use that as a launching point."

This we did.

Why am I considered a difficult client?  Why imperious?  This confuses me.

"Well?" he asked.

"I think the bad bits are being suppressed in my brain somewhere.  Thinking about how hurt my mother must be, about causing someone pain.  The disapproval.  What I've done.  I'm vaguely aware of all that, but the mushroom cloud hasn't arrived.  I'm sure it will.  My brain just hasn't detonated the bomb yet."

"Maybe it won't be a ton of bricks.  Maybe only a half-ton?  Or dropped one at a time?"

"Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.  But I am feeling all the good parts.  I don't have to fake it any more.  I don't have to make up bullshit, or dread ... dread a lot of things.  The absence of dread is palpable.  I'm rather enjoying it.  That, too, is a bit muted, though," I said.  "And this is one of those stupid situations in life where you have to make an important decision and only after you make it does someone hand you the envelope, and you get to find out if it was the right one or not."

He smirked.  "Don't you love those?"

"Pfffft.  Fortunately, I won this one.  Even with everything else muted, I know with certainty that this was the right thing."

And who knows?  Maybe the bomb will be faulty and nothing will go off at all.  Or maybe, maybe, it will explode in fire and hot winds and penetrating radiation, and I'll survive it anyway, because I'm just that incorrigibly stubborn.  Try me.

March 4, 2019

momogoats

I am, at last check, devoid of a chatty elementary school-aged daughter - or son - and therefore, I had not heard of Momo before this past Saturday morning.  A friend gave an online shout-out asking just what the fuck is up with this thing, whether it's legit, and whether there is any real cause for worry.  I shrugged it off as irrelevant to my life.

Two hours later, P.J. read me an article in the New York Times about Momo and the baseless froth that has been whipped up by concerned parents relying on word-of-mouth evidence of danger, often fourth- or fifth-hand.  The Momo Scare phenomenon is legitimate, but only because frightened mothers have made it so, a self-fulfilling prophecy that is encouraging kids toward saying the image popped up for them when they were watching a YouTube video, while they were playing Minecraft, while they were chatting on WhatsApp.  A kid is popular for a day if she herself supposedly saw it the night before, and her friends' mothers post on Facebook that night, and others share the post as proof that something lurks, waiting to claim their children and push them to self-harm and suicide.  The parents have opened with irony a floodgate of interest, and major news media outlets have since picked up on the story and taken it very, very seriously.

I sent the NYT article to two friends, both of whom had just heard about this and had already begun freaking out.  John Herman's calm explanation got there just in time.

To be fair, Momo is a creepy-ass image, a Tim Burton character with hyperthyroidism.  I dislike the description of "mesmerizing" unless it's the way a train wreck is mesmerizing.  P.J. says she looks like the love child of Shelley Duvall and Michael Jackson.  Spot-on.




My own Momo story ended that same evening, when P.J. and The Kid and I watched The Sound of Music (re-mastered edition, now with hyper-azure blue eyes) and the yodeling goatherd puppet show scene began.  Those goats are Momo.  I don't care what anyone says about a Japanese statue.  Kids have been exposed to Momo since 1965 in those goat puppets.  We all three scream-laughed ourselves sick and clutched our stomachs, pointing at the screen.




The Momo Scare reminds me of kids on the sides of milk cartons, and the debunked "study" stating vaccines cause autism, and the circulation of urban legends.  I hear Gaston in Beauty and the Beast:  "The Beast will come for your children!  He'll make off with them in the night!"  That was all it took. Women drew their children close in to their skirts.

Snopes has been online since 1994, embarking on its mission of debunking myths since roughly the same time dial-up Internet became available, since the time when BBS participation was still a thing, since Americans began seeing commercials for AOL on television.  I can't imagine a more uphill battle than promulgating factual information in an effort to combat the tendency of humans to buy into the tribal mindset.

When I was twenty, I received a rare phone call from my mother.  I hadn't realized she had my number, honestly, but she was agitated and earnest.  "Your sister works at the police station, you know, and they got a fax today warning them about something you need to know about.  There are these gangs, you see, driving around with their headlights off at night, and they're initiating new members, so the lights are off on purpose, and if you flash your high beams at them, the new member has to shoot you to be initiated into the gang.  So whatever you do, don't flash your high beams at any cars."

"Mom, that isn't true.  It's something called an urban legend.  It's been around for a while."  I struggled to keep patience evident in my voice.

"I'm glad you know so much, but this was at the police station.  I think they know more than you do, Lille," was her chilly retort.

She never would let me check bubble gum machines, arcade games, or pay phones for leftover quarters, in case my finger got pricked and I suddenly got AIDS.  I've still never had a candy apple.  That lady down the street who made them for trick-or-treating children could have been a murderer.

I just have to wonder whether a K-Mart cashier would have reported anything suspicious to a manager, like the purchase of eleven large packs of razor blades by an elderly widow who may have had to occasionally pluck but certainly didn't shave.

I did not voice this question aloud.  I chose to be content with a pail full of Pal bubble gum and Dum-Dum pops.  And I didn't have a screen outside of our old television set, but already I lived in a world where sinister forces were waiting to pop up at any moment, around ever corner, to kidnap, harm, kill.  The tribe of mothers knew more than we did.

March 2, 2019

the wild virus

I knew I had arrived when no fewer than six people sent me the link to Thomas Benjamin Wild, Esq.'s performance video of "I've No More Fucks To Give":



The first came with a message - "Don't listen where anyone can hear you, just FYI."

The second, third, fourth, and sixth came with a message - "I just saw this and immediately thought of you!!!!!!!!1"

The fifth was hand-delivered on a phone in my office cubicle, also with the message, "I just saw this and immediately thought of you."

I fucking love what this says about people's perception of me, and about the people with whom I've managed to surround myself.

My son's grandmother gave me a t-shirt recently that says "I Run On Coffee, Chaos, and Cuss Words" and I love what that says, too.

So I've poked around a bit and it appears that this video, which went viral but is now in its post-viral T-cell-battered decline, promulgated Tom into unexpected Billboard and Amazon and Spotify territory, and I hope it's given him and his brilliant uke and banjo, together with his cast of collaborators, an opportunity to produce a second album.  I'll concede that I may be behind the times in this regard.

I'm also a bit miffed that he's in the vicinity of three-thousand miles away, i.e., Bedford, and thus not likely to be touring any local coffee shops here in, say, the next three decades.  I'm feeling this as a major loss.  Perhaps he'll visit nursing homes when he makes it across the pond.  I'll tap along with my cane.

(Does anyone else listen to this song over and over in their car?  Asking for a friend.)

March 1, 2019

wherein karma gets the banana

It took less than forty-eight hours.  That is some seriously commendable swiftness.  It puts the windy, whooshy sound in the word itself.  Swiifffffffffft.

Karma could apply for a job at Jimmy John's.  Freaky fast.  It could deliver Amazon packages in New York City.  It could play that level of Ms. Pac-Man where the power pellets don't even turn the ghost monsters blue any more, and Karma would always get the banana and would never, ever get killed.

Right, so ... *counts on fingers* ... exactly forty-five hours and twenty-six minutes after my sending my mother the e-mail discontinuing communication between us, Karma was all *screechy tire sound* right outside, and the phone rang.  It was The Kid.

Some parents hear their teenager say, "I'm pregnant."  Some hear, "I'm doing drugs."  Some hear, "I did a hit-and-run last night but I put the car in reverse and ran over the guy again to be sure before I sped off."  This is all a natural part of parenthood.

Nothing could have prepared me for that phone call.  "Hey, I'm just calling to tell you something really good.  My dance teachers recommended me to the drama teacher because they were short on male leads, and so now I'm going to have a male lead role in The Sound of Music because I can waltz and speak German.  I'm going to be the Nazi soldier who waltzes.  I think he's important.  It's in April and there will three performances!"

My brain glossed over the bit about which play and I said, "So you're going to sing and say lines and dance on stage in front of an auditorium full of people."

He said, "Yeah!"

We hung up because his bus arrived.  Then it pounced on me.

Oh, sweet blithering Christ, no.

No.

Not The Sound of Music.

I started to breathe heavily.  My palms became sweaty.

The Sound of Music is the pimiento cheese of musicals.  It's the vomit-y residue of 1965.  The songs burrow into your head like Guinea worms.  They are exposing teenagers to this.  No one is calling the CDC.  No one is telling Child Protective Services.

I must remember to thank his teachers.

Not only do I have to sacrifice every afternoon (and some Saturdays) in March to rehearsal transportation ... I have to attend dress rehearsals and three performances of this ... this ... thing in April.

I called his father.  "And you're going to be sitting beside me for every single performance, motherfucker, because I am NOT suffering alone," I said sweetly, because we enjoy an excellent co-parenting relationship.

Sometimes I'm accused of over-reacting.

This is my recompense.  It is the means, karmically speaking, by which I earn my freedom.  Harsh, but I can make it through this.  I can pay my dues.  I have the header graphic from Steam Me Up, Kid to help me.  I can close my eyes and see this any time I need.


As for the music ... I've been through some bad times, though none as bad as this experience is likely to prove.  I've been awakened every morning for a year by the same Morrissey song playing on my college roommate's boom box.  I've sat politely through Schoenberg.  I've heard "Muskrat Love".  I ... I can do this.

I think I can.

I think I can.

*********

OI!  FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO THINK THE SOUND OF MUSIC IS NOT THE PIMIENTO CHEESE OF MUSICALS: 

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett vehemently disagree with you.  And they're always right.

From Good Omens, a discussion between an angel and a demon, both of whom are three sheets to the wind:

“I mean, d'you know what eternity is? There's this big mountain, see, a mile high, at the end of the universe, and once every thousand years there's this little bird--"

"What little bird?" said Aziraphale suspiciously.

"This little bird I'm talking about. And every thousand years --"

"The same bird every thousand years?"

Crowley hesitated. "Yeah," he said.

"Bloody ancient bird, then."

"Okay. And every thousand years this bird flies --"

"-- limps --"

"-- flies all the way to this mountain and sharpens its beak --"

"Hold on. You can't do that. Between here and the end of the universe there's loads of --" The angel waved a hand expansively, if a little unsteadily. "Loads of bugger-all, dear boy."

"But it gets there anyway," Crowley persevered.

"How?"

"It doesn't matter!"

"It could use a space ship," said the angel.

Crowley subsided a bit. "Yeah," he said. "If you like. Anyway, this bird --"

"Only it is the end of the universe we're talking about," said Aziraphale. "So it'd have to be one of those space ships where your descendants are the ones who get out at the other end. You have to tell your descendants, you say, When you get to the Mountain, you've got to --" He hesitated. "What have they got to do?"

"Sharpen its beak on the mountain," said Crowley. "And then it flies back --"

" --in the space ship --"

"And after a thousand years it goes and does it all again," said Crowley quickly.

There was a moment of drunken silence.

"Seems a lot of effort just to sharpen a beak," mused Aziraphale.

"Listen," said Crowley urgently, "the point is that when the bird has worn the mountain down to nothing, right, then --"

Aziraphale opened his mouth. Crowley just knew he was going to make some point about the relative hardness of birds' beaks and granite mountains, and plunged on quickly.

"-- then you still won't have finished watching The Sound of Music."

Aziraphale froze ... A look of pain crossed the angel's suddenly very serious face.

**********

See?  I told you.