Yesterday was one of those days when all you want in the whole world is for it to be over and for you to be home.
Yesterday was also one of those days that when you GET home, within five minutes the cat has escaped, you’ve smashed a giant thick glass of ice water on the tile floor scattering glittering shards for acres, and you manage to dunk your ear buds into the water in the new serving, inexplicably and immediately.
Today, is one of those days where you try to stop as many of those events from repeating as you can.
Today you buy a plastic reusable jungle cup with a lid.
Because with so few things in this world you can contain, if you start with your water, you’re two-thirds of the way there.
I do not lose things. Ever. Few things on this planet send me into the red faster than having to spend perfectly good time searching for things. To buoy this need, I have developed elaborate placement and protocol strategies for all items. If you see me shaking my right arm like I have a tick 17 times a day, it’s because my phone lives in my right uniform shoulder pocket. A tiny shake makes sure it’s there.
And half of the chicken dance is fun.
You see what it says on that key? “Smart.” NO IT ISN’T.
This is the only key to my car as I don’t know, I bought it that way and surely no one knows where extra keys come from. Where are its key friends? Funny you should ask! He was separated (NOT PROTOCOL) and left that way (WARNING) and after I moved my car last night, well, all systems broke loose. He went rogue.
I spent 45 minutes of my morning tearing the house apart, emptying hampers, slamming doors, and cursing before getting a ride to work from a Great Expectations-style benefactor.
I do not. Lose things.
And THEN. Ryan comes home and looks for three, possibly four minutes and I get this photo in my Inbox. Yeah. I’d looked there. Seventy or 80 times.
The universe is particularly traitorous today.
If you believe in fairies, you’re supposed to clap your hands, so say the classics as told to us through Disney VHS (and I’m unaware if there’s another method.)
On this episode of Meet Things My Brain Cannot Do (PREVIOUSLY ON MTMBCD: Assign any meaning but a random shape to a number, tell left from right in any real sense) my brain won’t believe things. Or rather, it believes everything.
(See? ARE THEY sitting amongst the stylish piano, or are they figments as the mist and general insanity of their thigh bracelets and poses would have you assume?)
Originally I assigned this quirk your garden variety OCD. No, not the “I like my house clean it’s the 2011s everyone has it” OCDs, but the “I check things in groups of fives”…we’ll say rituals. That makes it sound somehow spiritual.
Oven knobs. Padlocks. Door locks. MIC OFFS. I check. And recheck. I check the things that matter. Including, yes. “Am I wearing pants?” That one goes, “boots, pants, top, topknot, [I think the Army calls it a “cover” but that is not nearly poetic enough for this dance] purse.”
I touch my pants. To make sure. I’m wearing them.
It’s not either crazy! Watch.
I don’t check because I’m compelled to. I check because my imagination is as strong as reality. Okay, that does sound crazy. It’s just that I can imagine events to the exact level of reality. Did I turn off the stove? I can imagine not doing it just as clearly. I have to have a physical sensation before I can believe it actually happened. So I touch my pants. I hold my keys in my hand and squeeze them as I leave the house so I have the metal touching skin that lets me know I have them.
And yes, part of this mental spasm is surely that I live so much in my head, writing and scheming and imagining things a million leagues deep, that I have to outsource the actual mundane thinking to my body.
I don’t hear voices I think are true, and I don’t wash my hands more than the sign on the mirror recommends, I just have to clap my hands to believe I have my keys and fairies with me. It’s sparkly skepticism.
And I’m okay with that.
There’s a difference between beauty and magic. Both have the ability to entrance; an ethereal seduction. Both transport and trap you within their fantasy.
But beauty is of this world. It’s tangible. You create something beautiful. You work at it, hold it in your hands, appreciate it. It’s wood and stone and fire.
And here, logic and reality bump Venns; an empty sliver in the middle where instinct lives with truth.
Magic is summoned to try to fill that void, that sliver. There is nothing secure about it; tiptoes are required. It’s candy floss and dandelion fluff.
You can want to believe in both, want both to be real. But beauty is acknowledged; put in the world for all to see. Magic is kept secret, eyed only by the beholder.
And however compelling the spell, how beautiful it seems, it can never really be true. Magic lives only in fairy tales.
One of the boldest ideas Richard introduced to me, once upon a time when it was necessary to hear it, went a little something like this.
His version was the “Friend Bank.” The idea is simple — in order for someone’s Friend Account be in good standing there ought to be a history of deposits before they make a withdrawal.
Of course the math is flexible — but in any kind of relationship, if you extend that line of credit again and again, if you forgive debts over and over without any sort of return, the only thing you’re investing in is resentment.
But we allow it. We become the clearinghouse of dramas, the one who gets canceled on, the one who worries about not being a good friend, a good girlfriend. We allow it because we’re pleasers, because we don’t want to disappoint, because we love the idea of that person in our lives.
Every bill eventually comes due.
Even then, we worry about the response, as if ours doesn’t matter. “Yes, but do you like her?” “Well…” “Yes, but does he ever call you?” “Well…”
That’s the only balance sheet you need.
And once you allow yourself that moment of clarity, that moment of realizing you’re happier without the burden of that inequality, once you allow that moment of release…
To borrow against a tiny bit of Janis, the relief of freedom can make you feel very rich indeed.
For every “lash” there is a harumph in the equal and opposite back direction. Take a controversial event with an easy to follow, uncomplicated plot, and sides will be taken. From sides, breed opinions. And what is a status update without an opinion?
Something icky happens and the whole world knows about it, jokes are inevitable. Humor lives in shared experiences. And some people don’t like that very much.
“How can people joke about this?!?!?!?!” “It makes me weep for humanity that people can find humor in something so awful!!!!!1!!!”
Yeah, well. Explore that weep a tiny bit. Perhaps we meme so we don’t cry out loud. Not to get all Daria about it, but it’s a Sick, Sad World. And yes, you can debate whether we actually have it worse now, but where humans exist, so do the darkest recesses of imagination, shock-and-awe topping what has come before until someone ships his kid off in a giant balloon. Or worse. Way, way worse.
Like it or not, these are our fellow humans. We all walk among those who would commit atrocity. And when it happens? What are you supposed to do, really. As a method of survival in a hopeless situation, a method of preserving the psyche, it’s not new. Yes, it gets Facebooked, and Twerted, and blogged with stunning reach and speed, but it’s all just plain ol’ gallows humor. And I’m pretty sure a gallows isn’t digital, let alone analog even.
We do it. We joke about stuff to survive the awful. I’m not kidding.
Freud slips in this bit about Galgenhumor:
The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure.
So it would seem, when someone gets huffy in the face of what appears flippant, offended by the joke, perhaps it’s the jokester who actually feels the true gravity of the situation.
And maybe it is funny — because if we’ve learned anything from the Comedy and Tragedy masks, if you’re not laughing, there’s really only one alternative.
Last night, when the fire alarm went off at 9:30 p.m., I’d been sound asleep for two hours. When I shuffled outside like Blanche Devereaux in the opening credits of Golden Girls, complete with sleep mask, of course the disbelief — “Were you asleep already?”
Yes. My relationship to time is surreal at mildest.
I get up at 3 a.m. Every morning. I figure this means I LIVE here, but I EXIST in a different timezone altogether. Echo, to be exact. If Italy is in Bravo during Daylight Saving (hissssss) and if you figure 0300 is regular people’s 0600…
I hear it’s beautiful in Kazakhstan. Wish I was here.
To add to my clock melting all over the joint, I’m a time whisperer. Try me sometime. Ask me what time it is. No matter how long it’s been since I saw a clock, I can nail it within seven minutes. It’s a gift nobody cares about in the least.
It also means that I have an artistic relationship with the time piece on my microwave. It’s never right, and I never notice.
Enter Art vs. Science vs. Microwave.
“I can fix this. I will Google the manuals of 12 different brands and I will figure this out.”
“This is entirely impressive effort, but oh yeah. It’s a Multistar. Not… one of the dozen you sent.”
“Can you hang a clock over it? Even that would be better.”
“Oh! Wait. Figured it out. I think it’s two of the buttons on the leftish side. But…eh. I don’t remember which. That means it will be fun all over again next time the alarm goes off and cuts the power.”
Because tell Dalí this: You can’t tell what time it is in a sleep mask, anyway.
REO Speedwagon would have to rethink their whole shebang these days. “Heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who…” As someone who once was the co-proprietor of the Black Cat Detective Agency circa 1988, and who received as many condolence messages to Columbo’s passing as his own family, I am always on the case. Encyclopedia Brown, Harriet, these are my people. REO, your methods of investigation are lazy and haphazard.
But nowadays? The stuff you used to have to sleuth out, to piece together, to slap down your quarter on the gas can for, is delivered — whether you want it to be, or not.
The trick isn’t in the discovery, it’s in how NOT to discover. Keeping yourself away from information anymore requires effort. My Super Bowl bet every year is not who’s going to win, it’s who can go the longest without finding out who won. It’s HARD.
In the Ye Olden Days of And Lo! There Was a Speedwagon! you did have to rely on he-saids, and “Hey, I wonder what you-know-who is up to these days?” You’d have to dig. Ask around. Now, it’s delivered. Life stories, live news feeds.
The question is, is it better to know? Is any information ultimately better than not knowing? Is ignorance really still bliss, or just a blatant misspelling of “denial?”
Do you want to know — or not?
Within the Great American Justice Docu-drama Columbo, lie answers: both to murder most foul, and life most similar.
Take for example, the Tour de Bochco-written episode from Season 2, “Étude in Black.” In it, the dark and dashing music man has an affair he’d like to cover up. Through a series of “My car’s in the shop,” “Of course not darling, I love yous,” and tedious mens’ accessories, he bashes his side bird over the head with an ashtray.
Now then. Anyone with an Associate’s in “One More Thing” knows he’ll be caught. A careful moment of consideration brings those haphazard details blazing. Not available when he said he’d be; over-compensating attention; an inexplicable temper aimed at wifey Blythe Danner when it was really inner turmoil that was rocking him.
It doesn’t add up. None of it. From any angle.
But you know what they say about perception — it makes an ass out of you, me, and assumption. Because in perception, there’s a very deliberate choice. You choose what you want to see. In dark, dashing music man’s story, there are holes. Huge ones. Neither Columbo nor Blythe believe what they’re told. But Columbo wants the truth to show itself — and Blythe wants the truth to be what she’ll allow herself to see.
Of course in the end, Music Man’s symphony of lies ends in a crash, undone in the end, by a single flower, a fussy detail of fashion, a trail of petals to the truth.
You can be a Columbo, or you can be a Blythe. Believe what you see, or see what you believe. Only one of them can be true.
And we learn in this lesson of life most foul: a carnation left behind ain’t the same as a man bringing you flowers.
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen a sun set, how many times you’ve seen an ending, how well you think you know what it should look like…
…there will be those that don’t fit. That don’t match. That confuse you by wearing a costume of same with nothing but different underneath.
And in the end, no sun sets as it should, and no bye is really ever good.