Thursday, July 27, 2006

guy on the street

Various self helpers have lots useless and ridiculous things to say about the fear of failure, like "what part of you wants to fail?" or "what's the payoff for failing?"

My personal favorite, however, goes something like this:

"You're not really afraid of failing. You're afraid of succeeding" (Waggles eyebrows)

Thanks, genius!

If we stay focused on the Zen Imbecile challenge, however, we can see that I can kick this fear right in the ass, and hard. This fear is going down.

Or actually up. Really high.

(because of how hard I will kick it in its ass, see)

I don't even need to open up a can of whoopass on this fear, I can just crack the tab thingy so it hisses a little and this fear will scitter off behind the TV.

The fear of failure is the easiest fear of all for me, Zen Imbecile, to beat with my awesome idiotic powers!

Watch and learn ...

If your greatest fear reflects your greatest desire and your greatest fear is to fail, then your greatest desire is ...


(the suspense is palpable)


to suceed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you. You're welcome. God bless you, everyone. Hail mary, etc etc.


Shit, wait a minute.

I got that all wrong, didn't I? Ryan didn't say that Freud said that our greatest fears were the opposite of our greatest desires. He said they were actually our greatest desires. Hmmm.

So maybe those boneheads are right and if we're afraid of failing, it is because we're actually afraid of succeeding?? Or maybe Freud is the bonehead?

I used to be afraid of failure myself as a matter of fact. When you feel that way, you have a hard time believing that it is possible to not be afraid of it. I mean ... make note, boneheads ... who wants to fail?? Who wants to feel the dissappointment and shame that goes along with getting it wrong? Sometimes it is easier to kick back in your easy chair or sofa or the floor in front of your TV (this is where I did it) and fantasize about success than it is to try anything and risk screwing it up.

Plus it all happens alot faster that way. In your head, you can go from poverty-stricken yahoo to fabulous wo/man-about-town in about half a minute in a montage scored by John Williams.

You're on a street and a guy spots you in distance. He grabs your arm. You jerk away. He says "Please! This is important. I believe in you!!" You find yourself in a cab with him, then in a limousine, then at a series of parties and personal appearances. You gesture meaningfully and the room explodes into applause. Your name is in lights, in print, in HTML. The scene closes with you at a podium, holding an honorary degree and taking questions from the audience, blinking at the stage lights and bursts of flash bulbs.

All while you're relaxing in the comfort of your own living room. Kinda like watching a movie but better because it's you!

But when it is time to take a real step toward what you want, the same guy on the street in your head bumps into you and doesn't apologize. Or elbows his friend and whispers something that makes the friend laugh but the guy just glares at you and curls his lip ever so slightly.

So maybe you go do this thing, this real step toward what you want, but you do it with your shoulders up around your ears or your head ducked ever so slightly as if you're saying "I know this is kinda stupid and it probably won't even work but ... "

Or maybe you think to yourself, "I'm not ready yet." and you go back home again.

And then you let the guy on the street in your head and his friend beat you with tree branches for being such a chicken.

Have I completely lost track of my point?

Does anybody actually want to fail? No. In this case, Freud's theory is utter crap, methinks.

But does anybody want to not try? Absolutely. If you try, you have to face reality which is completely unpredictable.

But if you don't try, you only have to face the all the guys on the streets in your head and they will do whatever you want them to.

(I have more inane ranting to do on this subject. Tune in next week. Thank you, clare jane for the inspiration; your Zen Imbecile Challenge Winner's Circle certificate will arrive in the mail shortly.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

well, duh!

I hate to break this to you right after the birth of your second child Marcus, but you're gay.

Now to interpret your fear ....

(stop scowling, I'm just fucking with you!)

Scorpions wander alone in the desert jabbing their stingers at baby mice and spiders. Or they get into your house and hide in dark places like your shoes or the crotch of your pants and when you put them on, they sting the shit out of you ...

Ah! OK. As a writer, you need solitude to jab at the baby mice and spiders in your brain. You also need dangerous adventures to write about. And you see your home life as a threat to that, but you also see yourself and your need for solitude as a threat to your home life. Hmmm???

Mandy, I'll get to the fear of death in general in a later post.

Anonymous, one of your greatest desires is to be the best possible mix of child and adult. Your fear of being thought of as stupid or pretentious is a fear that you are too much of a child (ie stupid) or too much of an adult (ie pretentious)

Chadwick, the tornado thing is too easy. You're a tornado. Your mind, heart, and spirit are all whirling frenzies of information, energy, and passion which are fun as shit but scare the crap out of you at the same time.

Disfigured/lost baby is harder. Maybe the Zens would say that baby is a reflection of you and you're afraid of losing yourself (because disfigurement is a form of loss of self because you are no longer recognizable). And of course all of that is just your natural desire to join the ego-less void.

You're probably thinking, "No. I'm really worried about my baby."

To which I say, "I know, dood. I'm just messing around!! I don't know what the hell I'm talking about!"

And last but not least ... Gosh, Matt, I'm flattered!

caveat emptor

Zen Imbecile is not a psychoanalyst, a psychologist, or a psychotherapist. She is merely an imbecile, full of psychobabble.

Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of imbeciles.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

scowls, slaps her chest, and barks "Let's go, bitches!"

Take the Zen Imbecile challenge! It is fun, easy, and risk-free!

I have no interest in punching you, despite what the subject line might suggest. But let's pretend like I've slapped you with a virtual glove and challenged you to a duel.

Ryan says, "Freud said that our biggest fears were just our unconscious desires. Freud is so full of shit." This is the duel, the Zen Imbecile challenge: the struggle between fear and desire.

Send me your biggest fear and I'll tell you how it reflects your greatest desire. I do not believe that there's a one-to-one correlation but I do believe that our fears are the key to the thing we want most.

So let's go!


Friday, July 21, 2006

ch ch chain, chain of fools

It took about ten visits to Chili's over the course of my thirteenth year before I realized that my life was not going to become the neverending party depicted in their TV commercials. That was a disappointment.

It didn't help any that I'd finally discovered that Chili's was not a unique and beautiful flower in the restaurant prairie, that there were a zillion of them dotting the plains and they were identical in a way no naturally-made flower could be. Before too long, the scales fell away from my eyes and I found myself hemmed in on all sides by leering, carnivorous seedlings all birthed from a few ovules - Bennigan's! Friday's! La Madeleine! Le Peep! They were all so cute and fun and their commercials promised me the social life I'd been longing for and it was all a big fat lie.

Every day a new deceiver revealed itself - the slick menu, the shiny sign, the uniformity of the uniforms, the silly ad copy on the tables, the standardize greetings, the manufactured kitsch. They didn't just want me to eat their food, they wanted me to assimilate. "Resistance is futile." they whispered under their climate-controlled breezes.

I don't know what life is like for your average thirteen year old. I hear that every one is miserable, anxious, and depressed and that every one is in a life or death struggle to create an identity separate from their parents and more aligned with their peers. Having grown up in Stepford (ie Plano), Texas, I wasn't as focused on separating from my parents as from nearly everyone and every thing that was within 15 feet of me. I was surrounded by, drowning in, buried under homogeneity, and the tonnage mounted higher with each passing day.

When I was really little, Plano was where we went to play soccer. It was mostly long stretches of blank, green plain crisscrossed by creeks and the thatch of trees that followed them. We'd play a game of soccer and then we'd eat either at the Feedbag or at a pizza place whose name I cannot remember. By the time I left home for college, most of those soccer fields had become parking lots and the chain-filled strip malls clinging to them.

You can make a hundred arguments in favor of chains and a hundred against. At college, far away from Plano, the arguments against chains came at me regularly - loss of local control, local economy, local color. The snob factor plays a role in these arguments also - chains are "low class," "mediocre quality," and "highly uninteresting." There are broader political, economic, and environmental implications to consider when evaluating the concept of chains.

But I don't really care about any of that crap.

For me, stepping into a chain of any kind is like stepping into an alternate universe. Or better yet, you find yourself in one bubble of a series along the wormholes that connect the Chain universe, completely separate from the space time continuum. It is true! The evidence is damning!!! They all look the same on the inside. They have exactly the same stuff! You're bound to meet people from Poughkeepsie or Branson or Indianapolis in a chain. Have you noticed that there are never clocks on the walls!?!

Think about that for a second. Hmmm? Hmmm? Yeah, mm hmm. Told ya.

Your personal identity gets stripped away inside a chain too. You have been reduced to row in a demographic chart. I used to babysit the kids of the VP of marketing for a big soda company. So confident was he of his department's research that he stocked his garage with sodas just for me without bothering to ask which I liked.

There are those who say that identity is a construct. That this feeling we have of separateness from others is an invention of our ego and that we are all part of one greater being. The universe is not made up of individuals leading their separate lives but of threads in a fabric so complex that we're connected to everybody and to God in ways that we cannot possibly fathom.

Which means that the inventors of chains are spiritual geniuses.

But I'd still rather buy local.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

how to stay cool in a handbasket to hell

Sorry friends, as eager as I am to continue the discussion on dying of embarrassment while doing what you want to which somehow means forcing yourself to write every morning ...

... there's a bigger fish to fry.

The world is a mess, is it not? Hunger, strife, war, terrorism, pollution, extremism, ignorance, hatred, disease, slavery, torture, materialism, totalitarianism, political corruption, ethnic cleansing - and that's just in the US ;) - can make the world seem like it is spiraling out of control.

That's the fish I want to fry. It's a doozie.

So I'm scaling it, gutting it, and rolling it around in some cornmeal. I'm greasing up the pan and setting it down on the fire ...

oh ... oh dear ... oh my ...

... a hint from the chef for future reference:

Large, water-logged globes water aren't well-suited to pan frying.

Try it with a fat juicy tomato if you don't believe me. It is an exercise in frustration. You put it down on the hot pan and you have to roll it over every three minutes because only about one square centimeter at a time makes contact with the pan. And after awhile it starts to get really hot so you either burn your fingers while trying to hold it in place - because of course it is round so it isn't just going to lie still when you roll it on its side - or you come up with some kind of makeshift tomato clamp with whatever long handled utensils happen to be within arms reach.

This is a handy, if rather long-winded, metaphor, isn't it? Because as some of you already know, we can't take on the whole world at once. It is physically impossible.

It is also emotionally impossible. Thinking about all the depressing things in the world at once is pretty much guaranteed to cause any sense of social responsibility (latent or otherwise) within us to crumple itself up and roll under the TV stand.

But the world is a mess! you say. It's a mess! It is an utter mess!! The threats against us are manifold and we're incapable of responding adequately to any of them! We're doomed! DOOMED!

I could go on at length about how that's true, we are doomed, we all going to die someday and because technology can push that off into the unforeseeable future, our natural death instinct has gone completely haywire and ... but that's a rant for another day.

Instead, consider this ...

If the Zens are right and the world is actually just a big mirror that reflects you back to yourself, then the way to fry this big, blue, exceptionally messy marble of a fish of ours is to find and/or make peace and happiness within yourself.

That sounds completely idiotic, doesn't it?

Well ...

What the hell else are you going to do?


If your sense of social responsibility is cowering under the TV stand and you can't coax it out, why not make peace and happiness within what's left of your self?

If everybody on the planet could manage that, maybe alot of this shit would blow over.

If that doesn't work for you, pick one semi-manageable spot on this large, waterlogged globe, batter it up, and get that pan on the fire, pronto.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

choose life

I nearly died of embarrassment today. This morning, actually. No I am not using this expression to make a point. I did do something really stupid in front of a number of people.

I lost my keys. I lost my keys and I had to call 1) someone to give me a ride to the dealership to get new car keys 2) the dealership to find out how to get new keys 3) someone to give me a copy of the key of his girlfirend's apartment for whom I am housesitting. 4) the roommate of someone #3 to get the keys because #3 is out of town right now.

Plus I had to explain to all of my new co-workers why I was frantically throwing stuff around in various and sundry cubicle areas. And I had to go back to two different offices in other parts of the building to see if I left them there.

And after all the hullabaloo, I stopped in my office one last time to look around where there on the back of random chair in the room was my jacket which I forgot I had worn because it turned out to be such a beautiful day. And of course, there in the pocket of my jacket were my happy jingling keys.

Which, of course, dictated that I re-call someone #1 to cancel my ride and someone #4 to cancel arrangements for getting a copy of the key. I blew off the rest of them.

So now you know how I nearly died today. But of course, I didn't die. I didn't even come close. I know, I know, it is only an expression right? But think about what happens when we "just about die" from embarrassment.

Your friend tells your crush that you've lusted after him or her for ages. You get drunk, make an ass of yourself, and the next day it all comes flooding back to you. You forget to bring the presentation materials. You cc All on an email when it was supposed to go to one person on the list. You trip in front of a room full of people. At bowling, mid-swing, the ball slips off your fingers, does a flip behind you and lands at your heels. You're caught in flagrante delicto -- jacking off, breaking your diet, reading People magazine.

What happens?

Everything stops. You hear nothing but a dull roar of blood in your ears. You are not breathing, you are not seeing, you are not speaking or if you are it makes no sense whatsoever. You are hot and cold. You are lost. You are scrambling, drowning, clawing at the coffin door.


It might only last for a second. Eventually the light of life suffuses you again. Breathe, senses restart and you go on. Or it might last a lifetime. You might rather die than have to face those people or that thing again. You might die a little every time you remember. Frozen in your tracks, in your thoughts, senseless, lost.

Or it might not happen at all. You can choose not to almost die. I didn't actually almost die this morning. Not literally. Not figuratively. Sorry, I lied. I was just using that expression to make a point.

I chose a long, long time ago that things like this are not worth fretting over ... once I came to accept the idea that I am a spacecadet and will periodically lose or misplace important things in front of other people. And more importantly, even if I do, who cares what someone else thinks of it or me.

That's the odd thing about dying of embarrassment. You are dying for someone else. It is different from dying of shame or guilt because that is about a moral or ethical question. That is usually about real harm, psychic or physical, that you cause someone else.

But embarrassment? Do we really have to die of embarrassment? Next time it starts to happen, think it over for a second. Take a deep breath first. Death is not all it is cracked up to be. Choose life, my friend.

Monday, July 17, 2006

love me, love me, say that you'll love me

Sometimes the idea of writing absolutely horrifies me. Especially writing something that somebody will read but even, even something that nobody will ever read. I pry my fingers open, place a pen within them, and bend them around it. I guide my hand to the paper and crank it up and down and around on the page.

It would rather rise up and stab me in the forehead but thankfully I have complete control of it at least from the elbow down. Even now, typing on the computer, they (my hands, that is) let me write because they get some sort of visceral pleasure from clattering away on the keyboard but don't really give a shit about what's coming out the other side of their morning exercise. So as long as I keep them on the keyboard, they more or less do what I ask. But if I stop for more than a few seconds I'm screwed.

I've been thinking alot about my job lately (duh) and not all of it has been bad. Some realizations I've come to recently include:

1) Because I make plenty of money, any artistic endeavors I take on do not have to be motivated by the need to earn a living. This gives me a freedom that I can't imagine otherwise. I must admit that even though I don't spend alot of money I really really like making alot of it so I don't have to think too hard about where it'll come from. My job allows me to do this. I used to be constantly on the lookout for something to do in my free time that would also make me money and be a creative outlet but I found that I could never really enjoy any of it because, in my mind, I was constantly skipping down the roads of success or failure instead of actually doing what I set out to do.

2) My job is not in the least taxing so I have plenty of extra energy to expend on creative endeavors. Hurrah! ... I don't do it. Unless making big meals counts as a creative endeavor.
But I know I have the energy for it.

The whole point of this exercise is to get me to write every morning and nothing more. Despite the fact that this exercise is not motivated by potential success or the need for money I have already turned it into that. I want to be read! I want to be laughed at (or with, I think)! I want to be recommended! I want to be referenced!

What does that mean? It means that after awhile I find it difficult to put my fingers on the keyboard because I want to make something you'll like. And not even for the sake of money. Simply for the sake of personal gratification and ego.

Stupid ego.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

it is a jungle in here

Job job job of the jungle
Strong as it can be
Job job job of the jungle
Watch out for that tree!

Am I the only person here who rewrites the lyrics to stupid songs so that they apply to my life? Don't ask me how jungles, strength, or trees apply to my job - I have no idea.

But if you do ask I'll make something up and then you'll really think I'm an ijit.

Here's another self-helpism that makes me want to strangle someone (namely whoever says it to me). When you've got a problem of some sort and it is driving you nuts and you can't figure out what's gone wrong or what to do about it so you keep checking with people and talking through all the details and hoping someone can provide you with some insight about it and absolutely nothing anybody says provides any kind of enlightment or relief from your suffering and then some jackass says ... "What part of you wants that to happen?"

What!? What did you say??? Wants it to happen? Are you insane? Do you want to get knocked upside the head? Wants it to happen? What's wrong with you?

It is actually a variation on "Wherever you go, there you are" insofar as they mean "This is your fault." If it is something that happens repeatedly, people (especially therapists) ask you "What is the pay off for you?"

Pay off? Fuck off.

But when we're paying someone $100/hr to ask these questions, we sometimes feel the need to give them a moment's consideration.

Sooooo ... what is the payoff for:

* working at a job that makes you miserable?
* volunteering for an organization that is run by people who drive you nuts and won't listen to you?
* having a significant other who is a cheater?
* spending alot of time with people who don't seem to like you very much?
* ______________________

Some of the above are recent or ongoing problems of mine. Some are old hat. Some I have answers for; I know what the payoff is or was.

And for some, I've racked my brain ... I've burned it with hot coals, stuck bamboo shoots under its fingernails, removed its teeth with pliers, water boarded it, sleep deprived it (definitely sleep deprived it), left it in solitary confinement, forced it to listen to The Eagles for 24 hours straight while sitting in a stress position, and nothing. It is still not talking.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out what the pay off is.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

you do what you want to

Oh the hatred we feel! The hatred and disgust! The burning shame and the choking back of bile when we look in the mirror after a long weekend where we ... got nothing done! All this free time! And look what we've done with it!? We squandered it on videos and alcohol when we could've been (writing, reading, going to art museums, feeding starving children, calling our mothers, marching in protests, saving baby animals).

We think, "If only I could quit my job, I'd ...

* write a novel or screenplay
* make an important documentary film
* be a real humanitarian
* build my own house
* sail the seven seas
* become a kung fu master"

Guess what? I know a ton of people. A few of them have actually done some of these things.

Guess how many had to quit their jobs to do them?

Almost none.

Guess what else? I have quit various jobs multiple times with the full intention of doing one or more of these things. Guess how many I have done?


(well, if Mexico were a sea I could claim to have sailed one sea)

I'm not telling you this because I believe that quitting your job is incompatible with achievement. I'm telling you this because I believe that having a job is not incompatible with achievement.

John Trimble, a beloved English professor at UT, once told me something that made me want to knock him down and stomp on him.

He said "You do what you want to."

It seems innocuous enough, doesn't it? Not a stomp-worthy statement. Unless ...

... you're like I was, watching an average of six hours of TV a day.

I wanted to be a writer and a filmmaker but instead I watched TV. I sat immobilized in front of the TV for six hours or more everyday, either despising myself and thinking about all the things I could be doing instead OR, better yet, fantasizing about achievements yet to come.

And then John Trimble goes and says this to me.

I didn't actually pursue this conversation with him but in my mind it would've gone something like this:

Me (wincing): Are you saying I want to watch TV for six hours a day?

JT (shocked): Is that what you do!?!

Me: No! Three. Maybe four sometimes when I'm really tired.

JT (still shocked): Jesus!

Me: But nevermind about that. I want to be a writer, not a TV watcher.

JT: Well, do you write?

Me: (silent)

JT: Do you?

Me: ... for class ...

JT: (silent)

And that's when I knock him down and stomp on him.

The other thing I'd do ... this is dreadfully embarrassing to admit ... is indulge in paranoid fantasies about my then-boyfriend and his drugged out, oversexed, thieving, crazed friends. The guy was a cheater and emotionally abusive, but in my mind he was a rake and sadist on par with the infamous Marquis. And his friends! Well, supposedly one of his friends actually did steal cars and run them across the Mexican border full of cocaine and another friend had herpes and slept with a different woman every night. This same guy was also really into WWF, so much so that he started dressing like Nature Boy.

In other words, I didn't have to stretch my imagination too far to turn them into nightmares.

It took me years - ten of them, actually - to realize that I was writing ... just in my head.

Monday, July 10, 2006

the first time ain't the greatest, but neither is the second or the fifth

Now would be a bad time for this to happen, but I regularly fantasize about being laid off. I fantasize about chaos in general but particularly about some deus ex machina that forces me to look for other work.

I've been "let go" three times in my life. The first time, I was 14 years old and I worked at a popcorn store about a mile away from home. Do you remember popcorn stores; do you know about them? Imagine a candy store and then fill all the bins with different colored/flavored popcorn.

They let me close. Alone. I was 14.

I used to dance to Raspberry Beret while mopping .... "I was working part time at a five and dime. My boss was Mr. McGee." My boss was Mr. McCabe. He had two really fat kids who liked to get "yogrit" - as they called it - from the shop two doors down. One evening, he showed up around close, without the kids, and said "We have to let you go for budgetary reasons." The yogurt craze had supplanted the flavored popcorn fad and business was drying up fast. I nodded, grabbed my purse, and walked around back to cry.

About five years ago, I was laid off as a contractor. No package. Crap! This was during the Time of Great Sorrow (see the bottom half of the post). That sucked.

And about a year ago, something similar happened. I thought "Now's my chance to make a change! The hand of God (or Mammon, I guess) has intervened to lead me in a new direction!" For a month I worked on this and put together a fabulous show (if I do say so myself), but when that was over, another month passed before any job opportunities presented themselves so I panicked and took the first tech writing job I was offered. Six months later my current job presented itself and looked appealing so I snagged it.

So here I am, dreaming of chaos again.

Friday, July 07, 2006

chaos theory

Do you ever fantasize about chaos? By chaos, I mean something in between how we think of it (frenzied and random) and how scientists think of it (this) .

Do you sometimes imagine your life as a series of dominoes and you focus on the types of events could bring them all down in succession? In the scientific version chaos, this is known as the butterfly effect.

There are butterflies in my theory too but they're usually in your stomach.

Let's say your boss sends you an email that says "We need to talk." You think about all the things you've done wrong in the past few months - you gave that one lady the wrong drink or you didn't file that report on time or you've been dealing with some personal drama over email half the day. So you're about to get fired, right? You follow the disaster to its natural conclusion and suddenly, in your mind, you're in rags, muttering to yourself and pushing a shopping cart full of empty plastic bags.

A weird bump appears on the knuckle of your middle finger and your active imagination immediately sends you to a hospice bed, begging for a fatal dose of morphine.

You forget someone's birthday so surely you're about to be completely alone and friendless.

In the split-second version, let's say you step out onto the street and a car speeds past inches from your body. While you sigh (or curse) and cross the street nonchalantly, the you inside your head gets dragged under the car and smeared over three blocks of asphalt.

OK "fantasize" might be the wrong word.

"Envision" or "obsess over" probably work better. You anticipate the worst. You steel yourself to tragedy. Your bloodstream pulses with adrenaline. Your jaw clenches. You feel almost all the pain of this terrible event, even though nothing has actually happened. It's kind of torturous. Our muscles contract; our heads ache; we feel sick or dizzy or both; we can't concentrate on anything but this imaginary event.

Why do we do this?

(Some of you probably think: "I don't do this." I don't believe you.)

I've heard some people say - I have said myself, in fact - that if we prepare ourselves for the worst then we feel something akin to bliss when it ain't that. I've also heard people say that thinking this way works like an reverse curse. In other words, if you think of it in advance, it couldn't possibly happen.

Those ideas are all well and good but they are just excuses not explanations. The real reason we play these games with ourselves?

Deep down inside we're still cavemen.

How much time has passed since homo sapien first appeared on earth? 130,000 years ago. In evolutionary terms, that's not very long when you consider that the human lineage first diverged from chimpanzees five million years ago. The first human beings had to struggle daily for survival in the face of predators, food shortages, disease, bad weather, and even their own neighbors. They had to be on guard and prepared for anything at any time. Their internal emergency response system had to be first class and always in a state of readiness if they were going to survive.

Consider that 2000 years ago, most of our ancestors were nomads, savages, or slaves. One thousand years ago, we might've been serfs. Five hundred years ago, most of us were still living in poverty and even the rich had no santitation, no real treatment for infectious disease, no decent medical care at all - a broken limb could mean permanent disability or even death. One hundred years ago, we were subsistence farmers or factory workers laboring in terrible conditions. We lived in polluted cities or exposed to the elements and many of us still didn't have access to quality medical care or good santitation.

But within the last 100 years, an unprecedented number of us in the developed world have gained access to sanitation, safe working conditions, consistent food sources, decent medical care, better protection from inclement weather, and so on.

In other words, the internal emergency response system that evolution provided us with 130,000 years ago came in handy pretty regularly up until about 100 years ago. We're designed to be on alert at all times.

Now, even if we don't imagine the worst possible outcomes, Hollywood and the news do it for us. We collect terror and tragedy. It used to haunt us. Now we hunt for it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

thanks, shithead

According to astrologer Rob Brezny, the world is conspiring to shower us with blessings. I've heard other people claim that the universe is designed with our happiness in mind.

Does this warrant a swift kick in the crotch? Maybe.

Disregarding all the obviously miserable and tormented people in the world, I can look directly at my own unhappiness as evidence that these people are full of shit, right?


I mean ... well ... I know it's an absurd statement and everything but ... hmmm ...

How do I put this so I don't sound like a callous asshole? It's just that ... I can't speak for all the obviously miserable and tormented people in the world, but ... well ...

Sometimes things happen and ...

Sometimes, something happens and it seems like the end of the world ... I'm not talking about the obviously miserable people; I don't know what it is like for them. I'm just mildly wretched.

But sometimes, things don't work out the way you planned them, but the outcome is exactly what you wanted. Or after something crappy happens, you get enough distance from it or enough time passes and you can see that things worked out exactly the way you needed them to.

A few examples from my mildly wretched life ...

First how things work out even when they don't work out the way you planned: I got sent to Rome for work several years back. A friend of mine lived there for six months and she told me about a Iranian guy called Sammy who ran a pizza joint across the street from her apartment. Sammy was a very friendly guy who took her out and showed her the town without making any passes at her (very rare in Rome). She told me how to find his pizza place.

The instructions involved getting off at the Spagna (The Spanish Steps) metro stop but I spaced out and missed it so I had to get off at Barberini instead and walk back. At the top of the Spanish Steps, I was accosted by an extremely rude artist who wanted so desperately to sketch my portrait that he cursed me when I finally walked away from his easel. Then I got lost trying to find my friend's old street and was about to give up when a little man who looked like Bob Hoskins approached me at a street light and asked me something in Italian. I said "No parla Italiano." and he popped up in a bright little Cockney "Do you speak English, then?" Good lord, was it Bob Hoskins?

No. Just a guy who wanted directions to the Spanish steps. I pointed randomly behind me because I had no idea how to tell him where I'd come from. He sort of hinted that I should walk back with him and I said "No, I'm sorry but I'm looking for a friend of a friend." He asked more questions, but before I could finish my story, he'd cut me off with "Sammy? An Egyptian chap?? He's moved shops. I'll take you right to him."

(Yes, you're right, he was obviously lying about not knowing about how to get the Spanish Steps; he seemed to know Rome and its residents like the back of his hand.)

In short, if I hadn't missed the metro stop, been harassed by an angry artist, and gotten lost, I would've never bumped into Psuedo Bob Hoskins and therefore would've never found Sammy.

Next, how things work out even when it seems like your world is falling apart:

(believe it or not this story is shorter than the first)

(actually it is going to be really short; either I don't know you well enough or you already know everything anyways)

In 2000, I suddenly found myself alone for the first time in twelve years with a mortage I couldn't afford to pay and no job anyways. Most friends scattered to the four winds. One loved one was diagnosed with cancer and another died the day after Christmas.

One close friend did something pretty awful that started this downward spiral and imploded my life. For a full two years, I was pretty close to really wretched and I hated her. But while I suffered, I also started to rebuild my life practically from scratch.

Now, I couldn't imagine a life much better than the one I've got, and, frankly, I have her (and a few other shitheads) to thank for starting me on the path that got me here.

Is the universe designed with my happiness in mind? Is the world conspiring to shower me with blessings? I don't know but right now I'm pretty fucking happy.

Except for the whole job thing.

But I have to say ... reflecting on these two lovely twists of fate gives me pause ... what's going to happen next that could only happen thanks to this job? And how good will it ultimately be?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

a big bowl of hubby

If you EVER hear me say that someone "needs to learn how to be happy being alone" feel free to punch me in the head. In fact, don't just feel free to do it. Just do it. Punch me in the head. I deserve it.

If I ever say that again, I'm a total a-hole and I deserve to be punched in the head.

You see, I used to think of myself as someone who had learned "how to be happy being alone." From 2000 to the middle of 2004 I was alone. I dated off and on, mostly random jerks and none for longer than a few months. I did a lot on my own. Movies, shows, swimming holes, bike rides, dinners (fancy or otherwise). Bought myself flowers. Took myself dancing or picnicking or both. Got me drunk and took advantage. Went to parties and left early. Walked slowly to the Dobie. Sat in coffee shops for four hours reading or writing. Napped under trees. Sang myself songs. Went to Mexico.

But today, I stand corrected. Yes indeedy. Cor-rect-ed.

Even back then, sometimes I'd have a need that I couldn't satisfy. It often came as an urge to turn on the TV and dissappear into it for awhile. Thankfully I didn't have one or I might've given in. Other times I'd just really want a big bowl of ice cream or some chocolate or a Krispy Kreme donut or an entire package of macaroni and cheese. After multiple experiments with these materials, I discovered that none really satisfied my craving.

So I started to think of this feeling that fell somewhere in between wanting to dissappear into the TV and wanting to stuff myself full of comfort food as wanting a big bowl of nothing. Sweet, delicious, nutritious nothing. Light and fluffy but filling nothing.

The ache, the chasm in my throat, in my chest needed to be filled but I didn't have anything to fill it with it. So I'd go on a long walk or a bike ride or I'd meditate and eventually it would go away. I hadn't felt that way in a long time.

(At least not at home. At work, I feel it all the time. If you ever hear me say "I want cake" or "I want some manna from heaven" that's my socially acceptable (?) way of saying "I want a big bowl of nothing.")

But the feeling has returned recently and it takes no brainiac to figure out why. My husband has been working 14 to 18 hour days for the last two weeks. For the first week he came home for dinner but in the second week his schedule tightened so that we didn't see each other at all for five days straight.

At first, I was kinda glad to have the house completely to myself for awhile. And then that gap in my chest opened up. Before I knew it some tectonic plates shifted in my heart and it was a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon. The me that was happy being alone was on one side basking in the sunlight and the rest of me was trying cower in the shade of a leafless scrub brush. And then an ant mistook the happy me for a grain of sugar and carried that me off to the queen.

In other words, I forgot how to be happy being alone.

Later it dawned on me that it took two full years to learn how to be happy alone and that it took a lot of hard work. After almost two years of being with my husband, I think I can cut myself two weeks worth of slack.

Plus ... this is the really good part ...

The Zen Buddhists (and a bunch of other religions actually) say that the world is just a big mirror that reflects you back to yourself. And that every body and every thing in your life that you have strong feelings about (love or hate) is also a mirror to your own self. So, according to them, if my husband is everything that is good and beautiful and musical and hilarious in the world then somehow I am also everything good, beautiful, musical, and hilarious. And I carry that beauty and happiness around with me everywhere I go. Even when he's not around.


If you (I mean, you. Yes. You. Right there) have ever been in love ... if you have ever seen perfect happiness in another person or even an animal or an idea or a work of art, they say that is in you too. Right now and always.

You probably don't believe me and that's OK. I believe me and since you're a reflection of me, you believe me too. Ha ha!

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day

Oh yeah! Duh!!!

Those things I'd been bitching about (like separation of powers and habeas corpus) weren't just goofs that the framers of the Constitution threw in just for the fun of it, any more than the bill of rights was.

Can you imagine ... Ben Franklin takes a bong hit and says "Hey I got an idea: freedom of religion." And Thomas Jefferson "Dude. Excellent."

Nope. In fact, all that stuff in there got there because a real live guy was screwing people over in this land of ours and they were sick of it. So they made this list of stuff that guy was doing wrong and said "Hey man, this shit is outta control. Screw it and screw you. We're outta here."

That's an abridged version of the Declaration of Independence.

NPR broadcasts a recording of their reporters reading the real thing every year on the 4th and every year I cry when they play it.

Here are a few excerpts that have hit me hard lately:

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury

Later they wrote the Constitution specifically keep other real live guys from doing the same thing that other guy did.

In other words, my kvetching isn't about fear of a slippery slope or a slipnslide or even a soapy sidewalk.

That shit really happened. And some smart dudes in wigs designed a system of government that is supposed to keep it from happening again.

It's all there, folks, in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These are not just pieces of parchment or historical documents. Right there in black and beige is how we define tyranny and everything we need to run a government that protects us from it.

Monday, July 03, 2006


In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I've done this sort of thing before.I don't mean "write a blog" although I have done that also. I kept a travel blog for eight of the 18 months of blissful unemployment during which I scoped out a goodly portion of Mexico.

Instead I mean that I have test run the concept of "Wherever you go, blah blah blah" to see if it helped at all with certain problems I'd been wrangling with.

But before I explain that, consider:

When you examine this statement closely, it is completely retarded. "Wherever you go, there you are." Duh. Where else would you be?

Then again, if you consider the way people use it against it you, it is completely irritating. As I said before, they use it to blame you for all your problems. People also use it to tell you that moving or long trips are bad ideas because you can't get away from your problems; you bring them with you. In other words, your problems are all your fault and you bring them with you "wherever you go" so you might as well stay put and deal with them where you are.

If you think about that too much, you might never go another trip or vacation again and that's just plain stupid.

I went on an eight-month trip to Mexico and it changed my life. Or, if you buy into this idea of "wherever you go, there you are" (WYG, for short) you can restate this as "I went on a trip to Mexico and I changed my life."

In fact, during that time in Mexico and during the rest of my 18-month stint as a layabout (and honestly the full year prior to the trip), WYG was often foremost in my thoughts. To some degree, the trip was a test run of this concept.

At home, I was stressed, anxious, and lonely. I kept dating addicts and cheaters. Some friendships felt hollow and confusing. Hypochrondria and insomnia plagued me.

Guess what? All of this followed me to Mexico. In fact, some of it, like hypochrondria, intensified in Mexico. A developing country is a great place to get freaked out about every tiny scratch or bug bite. The stress, anxiety, and loneliness also intensified, natch. And everything else was just there. The addicts and cheaters. The uncomfortable friendships. Even the insomnia, which I had assumed was a symptom of stressful work life, came and went in the same basic cycle it always had.

So here's the big, burning question:

How does remembering that "wherever you go, there you are" help? What kind of assistance or consolation can it provide when you finally realize that you can't ever get away from your problems? That, in some sense, you're doomed - DOOMED, I tell you - to suffer through them?

I found an answer in Mexico. You accept them and you deal with them. When you encounter a problem, instead of screeching "eek!" and running away, you stare at it. You examine its every facet in minute detail. You turn it over as if it were a stone in the mud to see what's crawling around on its underside. Sometimes you find vibrant life and extraordinary beauty there. But even when you find something more akin to a scorpion, you don't turn away.

That's it.

You don't turn away and you don't try to crush it. You just watch in fascination as it does its thing. Eventually you realize, if I leave it be, it won't sting me.

But all that is neither here nor there at the moment. I went to Mexico and I came back happier and healthier. I still suffer from insomnia but alot of my anxiety went away. The tendency to fall for shitheads also went away. My relationships with other people feel 300 trillion times better than they did before I went.

What didn't go away was the one thing I couldn't take with me. My job problem. So now I'm ready to turn that rock over and see what's underneath.