Security Blanket

I hadn’t thought of this in years. When I was young, I had what I called a security blanket. It was flannel. Cozy. I couldn’t sleep without it.

I kept it to an embarrassingly old age. Into my early teens. I also watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood to an embarrassingly old age. Comfort and security was hard to come by in my household. In fact, the inmates were pretty much running the asylum. So I clung to my security blanket until it was a ripped up rag.

Then one day my mother threw it out. And I fished it right back out of the trash. I’ve always thought it was extremely arrogant and insensitive of parents to rip comfort objects out of the arms of a child. The world is harsh enough as it is without that foolishness. Rest assured that most children will learn that the world is cruel soon enough without you providing a demonstration.

I never really got rid of that blanket. It just sort of disintegrated one day. By then I had outgrown it anyway. I was just clinging to it to prove that there was something in this life over which I had control. Ah, well. So ends a delusion.

Now, after 13 years of working graveyard shifts, I’ve gotten in the habit of having something covering my eyes when I sleep. I still do this even though I now have the luxury of sleeping in the darkness again, and have done so for many years. I was positioning that cover just so last night when I thought of that security blanket.

Perhaps I never really gave it up after all. I just replaced it with something else.

Security Blanket

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A Wicked Sense

When I was young, I used to delight in friends who had wicked senses of humor. I liked to hear them poke fun at others, or be capable of the kind of snappy, sarcastic retorts that have always eluded me. It was fun to sit with them on a mountain of mockery and quietly witness these friends cutting down all comers. It felt powerfully entertaining.

I wasn’t mature enough to realize that their behavior was just mean. I didn’t realize that what I thought of as a rapier wit and a superior intelligence was actually a lot of misplaced anger and the hallmark of being a bully. I also didn’t understand that by being a silent and amused witness, I was being a bully, too, or at the very least, propping one up.

If it’s any comfort, though, I did draw the line at physical bullying. Even I had the sense to know that was intolerable. Physical intimidation is so blatantly wrong that even my clueless young mind couldn’t overlook it.

And I learned my lesson about the sarcasm the hard way. Because there’s one thing you are bound to find out sooner or later: If you have a “friend” who is cruel to everyone but you, even if it is tinged with humor, eventually their wrath will turn in your direction as well. Count on it. I guarantee it.

Now I get that words can hurt as much as physical assault. And I know that if I stand by and do nothing while it’s happening, then I’m complicit. Now, I can’t abide bullies in any form. Now, I surround myself with respectful, loving people. But it took me a minute to get there, to my everlasting shame.


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Neurological Methane

I seem to have been thrown into a wood chipper of insults the week before I wrote this. At various times I was called unprofessional, lazy, cruel, ignorant, and a liar. These pronouncements were made by people who clearly know me not at all.

I’d also been informed that my apparent past cruelty has generated a very long, narcissistic, bitter, self-indulgent poem in which the author beats himself up for being ugly, a loser, and the stuff of nightmares, rather than the all-American boy of my dreams; dreams that anyone who bothered to scratch the surface would know are of a kind that I never have had and never will have. I’ve never sought perfection. What would I do with it?

I’m not that shallow, and those types of insults are not in my nature. That, and it would take a special kind of person to be that lowly and beneath contempt so as to merit some iron-clad, lifetime-guaranteed seal of disapproval from me. From a purely statistical standpoint, most of us, this person included, are average. (So sorry to disappoint you out of your exaggeration.) That’s not an insult, it’s just a fact.

I’m average. You’re average. The average person is, well… average. If you think you stand out that much, you think way too highly (or lowly) of yourself.

But this is a person who wears his wounds on his chest like badges of honor, a man in his 50’s who still blames the shit we all go through in high school for his current misfortunes. It saddens me, but no one can heal him. He can only heal himself. And to do that, he must first fall out of love with the cruel, cruel world in which he seems to take a perverse pleasure in dwelling.

Ah, but if the world is cruel, you don’t have to try, do you? Failure is pretty much guaranteed. No need for higher education or taking risks or making an extra effort that way! You need not stick your neck out at all. Whew. What a relief!

Why do we give the negative so much extra weight? We all do it. These things ferment in our brains, producing gasses that seem to alter our judgment and perspective in the most toxic of ways. Neurological methane.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ve been tossed into the insult blender for a reason. It’s an opportunity for growth. But I’m not gonna lie. It smarts. And it stinks. But then growth isn’t always pretty.

This much I know: I’ve wasted entirely too much time trying to reconcile my knowledge of the person that I am with the opinions that I’ve been tarred and feathered with this week. Why do I let them clog my pores when I’ve received so many more compliments than insults in my lifetime?

You can give someone a million compliments, support them financially and emotionally, do everything you can to broaden their horizons, and yet all that is forgotten based on some remark that you can’t remember or even imagine having said. That’s the remark that generates a poem. (Or, let’s face it, a blog post.)

Insults are somehow more emotionally dense. They are the virtual fruitcake of words. I get it. I really do. That’s why it’s so important to be kind to one another.

The more you chew on these insults, the more altered your truth becomes, until nothing good can be celebrated or remembered. What a waste. I’m not going to live my life eating that fetid stew, no matter how filling it is.

I choose pragmatism, and therefore, joy.

Thanks, Angiportus, for coming up with the title for this post!

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Drunken Karaoke

I don’t drink, myself. And I’ve written about the havoc alcoholics can wreak. It’s actually one of my most popular posts.

But I don’t begrudge you your right to partake. Unless you get mean when you overdo it. There’s nothing worse than a mean drunk. If drinking lowers your inhibitions, and that was the only thing standing between you and being violent or destructive or cruel, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. I have zero tolerance for that.

People frequently use drinking as an excuse. “I was drunk. I’d never do that, normally.”

Well, I don’t think alcohol invades your body and turns you into someone else. I think it strips you down to your bare essence. Drinking lowers your mask. It’s kind of sad when what’s underneath isn’t pretty. (That, and nobody held your nose and poured the vodka down your throat. You chose to drink, so you need to take responsibility for your actions.)

I must admit that I do find happy drunks kind of amusing, within reason. I know some who like to have a party once a week in which everyone gets drunk and sings karaoke. They don’t drive. They don’t mean anybody any harm. They appear to be relatively functional the rest of the week. It’s funny, unless you live next door and are trying to sleep.

I know others who get all romantic when those inhibitions take a hike. Not that they can follow through, but at least it’s positive energy. That counts for something.

But when all is said and done, you need to make very sure your behavior isn’t negatively impacting others before you indulge. If you aren’t capable of doing that, then you should take a good, hard look at your life. Because it’s not only about how much fun you have, it’s about the legacy you leave behind.

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Hey! Look what I wrote!

Do You Know What Your Problem Is?

Tell me: when a conversation starts that way, is there any chance of it going well? And can a person who is that tactless and cruel really think that he or she has all the answers? It beggars the imagination.

The way I see it, we are all like icebergs. Only the very tip of who we are is on view. There is a whole lot beneath the surface. Anyone who is looking at just the visible parts of you and then passing judgment is not dealing with a full deck.

Honestly, isn’t it hard enough to solve your own problems without attempting to tackle the problems of the rest of the world? I mean, criminy sakes, get focused. If you actually have the gall to talk like that to people, then you clearly have a lot of interior work to do.

The next time I’m asked that question, I hope I have the presence of mind to say, “Here’s my problem: I have been putting up with people who think they could live my life more effectively than I do.”



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Nature Doesn’t Clash

I have a friend who is an artist, and when choosing his color palette for any given creation, he looks to nature for inspiration. He’ll take a leaf or a flower petal, for example, and put it under a microscope, and then use the colors he sees there. I think that’s a brilliant idea.

If you want the ultimate arbiter of good taste, nature is it. First of all, it’s been around a heck of a lot longer than we have. It knows how to play the game. It doesn’t like short-term trends. I can’t think of even one example of a natural thing that irritates my sensibilities. I definitely can’t say that about humans on an average day. (Nature wouldn’t be caught dead in sandals with knee socks.)

Nature also doesn’t wage war, shut down the government for selfish reasons, or pollute itself in the name of greed. It sees no need for firearms. If anyone were to support health care for all, it would be nature.

While nature can seem arbitrarily cruel, it definitely looks at the big picture and the long term. These are qualities that modern man seems to lack, to our everlasting peril. The more we ignore nature’s warnings, the more we will suffer. Nature is patient. Nature will win. The question is, will we be around to see it?

Painted Hills Oregon
Painted Hills, Oregon

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Pick on Someone Your Own Size

Of all the collateral damage caused by our Grand Poobah, I have to say I feel the most sorry for Barron Trump. If he’s not being criticized about being sleepy at 3 in the morning, he’s being called “Poor Little Rich Boy” or being accused of mental health issues.

Childhood is hard enough without being bullied by the internet trolls and the comedians of this world. We all have scars from the cruelties we experienced growing up, but there’s absolutely no excuse for this. Give the kid a break. There are some lines that no one should ever cross.

Barron Trump did not ask for any of this. He didn’t choose his parents or the paths they decided to take in life. He had absolutely no say in the matter. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be him. He will never experience the luxury of a normal life. His father is fair game, but he isn’t.

Satire is fine. Criticism is often necessary. Opinions have a right to be expressed. You don’t have to agree with me. I don’t have to agree with you. But direct your slings and arrows at the adults of this world. Pick on someone your own size.

Say what you will, but at the end of the day, this is just a 10 year old boy. And he’s a 10 year old boy who gets to look forward to experiencing puberty under public scrutiny. Can you imagine?


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Adult Bullies

The psychiatric community does not like to place the label of psychopath on children. I suppose that is understandable, because there’s no known cure for psychopathy, and if you get that diagnosis wrong, you could drastically damage that child’s life. No one wants to give up on a child. But the theory is that one percent of the population is psychopathic, and the current thinking appears to be that this is not a trait that you suddenly acquire one day like a new pair of shoes. You are born with it. So it stands to reason that one percent of all children are psychopathic as well.

Most psychopaths do not turn into violent serial killers. Many of them are quite successful in business and relatively functional members of society. A lot of that has to do with their upbringing. Put a psychopathic child in a warped and abusive family, and you might get a murderer. But put him or her in a healthy, loving environment, and chances are you’ll get someone who can at least pass as being a normal person much of the time.

When children behave badly, it’s their parents who are usually blamed, or lack of education, or inadequate role models. The assumption is that their behavior can change if these factors are altered. But when an adult is violent or cruel, those excuses, as far as I’m concerned, only go so far. Adults, you see, should know better.

I’ve known my fair share of despicable adults. Many of them have had horrible childhoods. But after a certain point, one ought to be able to put on one’s big boy pants and take responsibility for one’s actions. If you are incapable of doing that, then there’s a good chance you have psychopathic tendencies.

I’ve known people who were 65 years old and were still bullies. They delighted in making life a living hell for those around them. They were cruel, hostile, aggressive, and completely devoid of compassion. If you’ve functioned like that for decades, that’s not some mere character flaw, that’s a lifestyle.

Speaking from painful experience, people like that are not going to change, and your best defense against them is to avoid contact as much as possible. Woe betide you if you have to work with this type of individual. If your human resources department thinks that these negative traits can be reversed with some sort of communications or anger management training, they will be sadly mistaken. If they don’t have the courage to cut these people out of the company like a cancerous tumor, then your only hope, unfortunately, is to try and outlast them with your sanity intact, or move on.

Yes, I know, it should be
Yes, I know, it should be “than”, not “then”. I didn’t make the meme.

Attack of the Lizard People

If you read anything about psychopathy or watch documentaries on the subject, you quickly learn that contrary to popular belief, most of them are not serial killers. In fact, they comprise about 1 percent of the population. They walk among us.

According to the article “Psychopaths: how can you spot one?” by Tom Chivers in The Telegraph, the common traits of a psychopath are:

“Glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions, a tendency to boredom, a parasitic lifestyle, a lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, lack of behavioural control, behavioural problems in early life, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole), multiple marriages, and promiscuous sexual behaviour.”

In the past I’ve been taken in by people that have many of these traits. Just read any of my blog entries about Andy Johnson or My Friend the Psychopath and you’ll see what I mean. I have to admit that I really do tend to have a hard time accepting the fact that people can take genuine delight in ruining someone’s life, or that they can know right from wrong and yet not care. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of them until they prove me wrong, and by that point it’s often too late. The damage has been done.

So to help me be a little more self-protective, I now think of psychopaths as human lizards. And they’re not just the cute little lizards you might find in your back yard sunning themselves on the garden wall. They have no emotions. They are predatory and highly focused on getting what they want.

They are the Komodo dragons of lizards. They’ll eat you if given half the chance. And most importantly, they are never going to change. Their brains are just not wired normally. Once you start looking at them through that lens, it’s much easier to avoid their manipulations.

I got to observe one of these people close up many, many, many years ago. I worked with a guy who gave me the creeps. I could never quite figure out why. I just knew I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side. Maybe it was the smug look he’d get on his face when he thought no one was watching. Like he was a fox among the chickens. Thank goodness he never focused on me. He was too busy ruining the lives of his family.

His wife had a baby boy and named it after him. Let’s call the kid John Doe Junior for the purposes of this story. Right after he was born, John Senior came home and told his wife that not only was he having an affair, but the woman was pregnant. The next day he brought home a trailer, put it in the back yard, and had the pregnant girlfriend move in. When she had the child, it was a boy. And what did he name the kid? John Doe Junior. Who does all that? A cold, unfeeling lizard who does not care who he hurts.

Psychopaths can be your friends, family members, neighbors or bosses. You could even be married to one. It’s important to be aware of how they operate so you can avoid being the person that they choose to operate on. Beware of the lizard people.


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Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

When I meet a man who doesn’t take himself too seriously, I’m invariably attracted to him. A man who can laugh at himself is confident and full of joy. He also is capable of making any situation fun. He has a healthy perspective about what’s important in life, and doesn’t hesitate to adhere to those priorities. He’s in touch with his feelings and doesn’t feel awkward when he expresses them. A man like that is a delight to be around.

Many years ago I had a boyfriend who thought he was like that, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. He made fun of himself in the cruel and bitter way he learned from his family. Instead of being fun to be around, it made people uncomfortable because everyone tended to feel sorry for him when he did it. You couldn’t even play monopoly with the guy because he invariably sucked the life out of the game with his self-directed insults, which he was convinced were funny. His low self-esteem tended to wilt everyone’s enthusiasm.

Men who can be playful are a pleasure. Men who think life is a cruel joke are a pain.

I’ll leave you with a recent photo of Sir Patrick Stewart, a man who could eat crackers in my bed any time.