I have this recurring dream during periods of high stress in my life. I feel this painful, pressurized lump somewhere on my body, often on a shoulder, hip, or behind my ear. I try to squeeze it to no avail. Messing with it hurts, but I have to get it out of there. I pick at it. I scratch it. No luck whatsoever.
Then one day, I’m clawing away at it without much hope of success, and, pop! Suddenly it bursts through the skin. It’s still attached, still intact, but at least it’s outside my body, so the pressure is reduced. Even so, I want it gone. So I take a deep breath, brace myself, and cut it out. It detaches with a sickening, watery, ripping squelch. But it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as I anticipated. What was I so worried about?
Now I’m holding it in my hand. It’s warm. It’s actually kind of pretty, now that I’m free of it. It’s a perfect sphere. The most perfect one I’ve ever seen. It’s shiny and white, like a pearl. (That is, if a pearl were the size of a golf ball.)
I’m kind of in love with this thing, because I realize that it’s all my problems, beautifully encapsulated. I can control it. I can handle it. Best of all, I can get rid of it. So I do.
I always wake up smiling after that dream. I often go to sleep wishing that I’ll have it. I take comfort from the fact that it exists somewhere deep inside me.
I got about 4 hours of sleep last night, and the commute to work this morning was even more of a nightmare than usual. On the way, I discovered that my radio somehow got rid of my preprogramming for KNKX, and since I don’t know their position on the dial by heart, I missed their weekly broadcast of BirdNote, which is something I always look forward to. And I’m falling behind on my blog and feeling particularly uninspired. And I’m getting a pimple on my chin.
At times like these, there’s this little voice inside my head that tends to give me a reality check. I call her Third World Barb. Here’s what she had to say today:
“What? Is that all you got, girl? I’m starving, struggling, sweating, and do not have a safe place to call home. Thanks to Trump, there’s no asylum for me. I have no hope of an education or a decent job. I consider myself lucky when I have access to indoor plumbing and eat more than once a day. I hear gun shots outside my window every night, and women screaming, when the sounds of my own screams don’t block them out. My life expectancy is probably half of yours. I have never known stability. It’s hard to hear you whine about someone peeing in your Post Toasties when every minute of my life is about the desperate pursuit of food, clothing, and shelter.”
You’d think that being a life coach would be the perfect job for me. If you’ve read this blog with any frequency at all, you can see that I’m chock full of advice. I can figure out how to solve every problem on earth except my own.
What I seem to lack is the ability to persuade people to take my advice. Nobody listens. This is where my life coaching skills fall flat.
Because of this, I’m getting much better at only proffering ideas when asked. If someone comes to me with a problem, I am thrilled to put my thoughts out there, but more and more I’m learning that most things are best left to the ring master of the circus in question.
When someone does share a dilemma with me, and I give my advice, it comes as a profound shock to me that they think there’s any pressure applied from my end. Take it or leave it. I’m too used to being ignored to be overly upset when I am, in fact, ignored. It’s expected, actually.
So while the whole Life Coach idea has its appeal, I think I better just stick to my day job, and keep my suggestions within the confines of this blog.
I think it will come as no surprise to anyone that stuff happens. People make mistakes. Sometimes things go wrong.
What I can’t abide is what often happens next. Like flies to a rotting corpse, it seems like people swarm around, in search of someone to blame. I didn’t do it. You did it.
I don’t know if that instinct springs from a desperate need to save your own behind, or if humans are more into Schadenfreude (the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others) than we’d care to admit. I hope it isn’t the latter. I’d hate to think we as a species get off on seeing others thrown under the bus. But I have to admit that I’ve witnessed such behavior more than once.
I implore all authority figures the world over to stop asking whose fault things are, and instead, focus on how something happened, and how that thing can be prevented from happening in the future. Then the situation will improve.
If you focus on blame, people will naturally put more emphasis on covering things up. Serious problems will be swept under the rug. It’s only natural that the average person wants to be self-protective. In that atmosphere, things worsen.
Encourage new ideas. Allow people to think outside the box. Make the atmosphere safe to do this, and people become problem solvers.
Unless you are infallible, it’s really absurd to criticize those of us who commit human errors. Learn from these things and move on, rather than create an atmosphere of hostility and tension.
The only time blame is appropriate is when destruction is intentional.
It is so easy for me to look at other people’s lives from the outside and figure out what they should do to solve their problems. It seems so obvious. Unfortunately, people rarely take my advice. It’s really annoying.
But they shouldn’t. Because if I were so good at this stuff, I’d have all my own problems solved, wouldn’t I? I’d be all enlightened.
The fact is, I don’t really have a clue most of the time. Like the vast majority of homo sapiens stumbling around on this planet, the sapiens part should be taken with a grain of salt. I pretty much make it up as I go along. It’s all very random.
Sometimes I think our dogs are more clued in than we are. They know what they want, and they make a point of letting us know what that is. They always get a full night’s sleep. They’ve figured out a way to survive without having to work. And they express every single ounce of love that they feel, without hesitating or expecting anything in return.
So don’t listen to me. Listen to my dogs. At least that’s what I would do if I were you.
At the risk of sounding ultra-conservative (heaven forefend), I really don’t get it when people are incapable of staying out of trouble. I mean, I understand making mistakes, believe me. I’ve screwed up a time or two. But when you do it over and over and over again, and can practically hear Dr. Phil whispering in your ear, “How’s that workin’ for you?” You really have to wonder.
Is it about bad choices? Because I’ve managed to choose not to break the law my whole life long. It’s not always easy. I’d love to grab that brand new suede jacket and run like the wind, but I choose not to. Sure, I’d like a little instant gratification every now and then, but the first time you tried to play with a candle flame as a child, you should have learned that actions have consequences.
Is it about feeling like you have no choices at all? I can relate to that, too. I’ve lived in a tent. I’m 53 years old and I’ve only just now managed to scratch and claw myself to the very murky, sketchy bottom of the middle class. And I know darned well I’ll never be able to retire. Things are stacked against the 98%. It sucks. But at least I can look myself in the mirror.
You see, I never had much. But I knew I had integrity, and that no one could ever steal that from me. I could, however, give it away. I chose not to. Because it was all I had.
I guess what it all boils down to is what’s most important to you. Possessions? Control over others? Or your own self-worth? Maybe think about that before robbing your next liquor store. Because that money isn’t going to stay with you. Neither will the drugs. In the end, all you have is you.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the movie “Pleasantville”, I highly recommend it. A boy from the 1990’s is obsessed with a sitcom from the 1950’s called Pleasantville. It’s your typical show of that era, showing a world that never actually existed, in black and white, where the mother wears pearls and high heels to do housework, the father gives sage advice and is highly respected, and the children are well mannered and, well… pleasant. But when 1990’s boy suddenly finds himself in Pleasantville, he starts to realize that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I seem to be living in Pleasantville since I recently bought my house. It’s in an isolated little valley where all the neighbors know each other, and everything feels safe and clean and drama-free. Everyone has a dog. I’m even on a first name basis with the mailman and the local convenience store clerk. It’s this oasis of calm, with each of us in our very own cute little houses.
At a time when the wider world seems ever more chaotic and scary, I love going home to my little valley. It’s like taking off shoes that are two sizes too small. Finally, a chance to wiggle my toes.
I love living in this fantasy land, and I’m going to do my best to maintain it for as long as I can. Are cracks forming in the façade? Well, yes. A few people in the neighborhood drink probably more than is warranted in certain situations. But so far, they’re happy when they drink, and I like them, and it’s really none of my business. One neighbor is passively aggressively critical of my benign neglect of my yard. Oh well. And I can’t get a decent cell phone signal to save my life.
But you know, in the overall scheme of things, those are problems I can live with. I love my little neighborhood. Just don’t expect me to wear high heels while I do housework. In fact, wouldn’t even count on me doing housework on a schedule that makes sense to anyone other than myself.