Wildly Inappropriate

Once, I met an employee who worked in another department, and learned she had just had a baby. I congratulated her, as one does. I barely knew her, and doubted I’d have the opportunity to know her better. We traveled in very different circles. This was a random encounter, and I sort of figured that was that.

Later that day, I received an e-mail from her entitled “baby pictures”. I thought that was sweet, that she wanted to show me her baby. So I clicked on the e-mail.

And I let out this shriek that I’m sure made all my coworkers jump out of their skins.

Because what she sent me was pictures of her in the process of giving birth. And by that I mean close ups of all her most hairy private places, with a gooey, bloody baby’s head trying to burst therefrom. It was like a scene from Alien. That image is imprinted on my brain, despite all efforts on my part to exorcise it. Why? Just… why?

Believe me when I tell you that this is a vision that I would never voluntarily see. At the very least it should have come with a warning label. I am not interested in gazing at the nexus of any mammal, clothed or unclothed if I’m honest, and certainly not when it’s in the midst of doing… that. And most especially when it’s someone I’ve only just met.

I mean, seriously, who sends pictures like that? Who takes pictures like that? “Yes, dear, that’s your mother, in the most pain she’s ever been in in her entire life, and look! There’s your mushy little head!”

Every once in a while, someone will do something that’s so wildly inappropriate that I’m rendered speechless. Do they just not care at all about societal norms, or do they enjoy the shock value? Are they completely detached from reality, or are they testing the waters to see what they can get away with? Who knows.

And no, I can’t remember what I said to that woman. I can’t even remember what most of her looks like. Sorry. I just had to vent.

Shocked.

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Sweet Relief

Unless you have no pulse at all, you are carrying stress within you, even as you read this. We all do. It’s part of modern life. It comes from a feeling of being overwhelmed, and thinking that you can’t cope with a situation.

According to Wikipedia, that font of all human knowledge, stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, and mental illnesses such as depression. So needless to say, stress is bad for you.

What I find particularly scary is how easily I fool myself into thinking I’ve gotten used to a certain level of anxiety. It’s as if I am coping simply because I’ve come to expect that I will have to wade through some crap, and that’s just the cost of doing business.

That doesn’t mean the stress, with all its toxic side effects, has disappeared. It just means that I’ve resigned myself to it. That’s problematic, because it also means that I’m no longer trying to do anything to relieve that stress. I’ve concluded that there’s no solution, so I just bathe in it, regardless of the pollution this brings into my world. After a while, I seem to forget it’s happening.

But every once in a while, some fortuitous thing occurs that removes a stressor from my life. That happened just this month. And the change within me has been profound. I started off by feeling slightly sick from the sheer release. Then I felt as though 500 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. Freedom! Sweet relief.

And then there was the inevitable shock that I had been carrying that weight for so long without even realizing it. (Actually, I knew of about 50 pounds of it, but not the full 500.) It makes me wonder what other burdens I’m carrying. No wonder I’m so tired much of the time.

I think I need to work on being more aware of what my body is trying to tell me. I need to address issues whenever possible, even though I hate confrontation. I need to stop walking around with my head in the clouds and take better care of me.

In the meantime, I’m going to go do a happy dance to celebrate my newfound freedom. Woot!

Happy Dance

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Try Not to Let Go

I was sitting cross-legged on my friend’s bed. Cozy. With popcorn and gossip and a mountain view. We hadn’t done this since college. I’d missed it.

“How did she die?” I asked. “I never knew for sure.”

My friend paused for a long time. Then she said, “Everybody had the flu that winter. I mean, even I got it…”

Suddenly my ears started ringing. It was hard for me to hear. And my vision did that telescope-y thing. She appeared to slide away from me. The bed seemed like a football field, its quilt stretching on to infinity.

Why was I getting shock-y all of a sudden? This death was not news to me. Our former college crew leader was only in her 40’s at the time. I had been sad about it for years. But I guess I hadn’t allowed myself to dwell upon the depth of the tragedy. I don’t think I realized how senseless and preventable it had been.

“You weren’t there that last year. She was so depressed. Her divorce was vicious, and her daughter had moved in with her ex-husband. I would find her crying. In her office. In the bathroom. In her car. I think she just gave up. And that flu was kind of all she needed.”

I stared at the quilt pattern until all the colors blurred together. “This isn’t the 1800’s. Forty-year-olds shouldn’t die of the flu. Not in this day and age. I guess you really can die of a broken heart.”

“Yeah,” she said.

I reached out. For the popcorn.

Reaching

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Sand Dunes in Oregon

Fortunately, I’ve had very few “almost drove off the road” moments in my life. One time I was cruising along in Florida and a really big (as in, larger than the palm of my hand) hairy spider ran across my windshield. On the inside. In my efforts to kill it before it killed me, I missed a telephone pole by mere inches. So the little b@&t@*d almost succeeded.

Another time I was vacationing in New Mexico, and I came around this curve just outside of Santa Fe. And there was this field of llamas. Llamas. Seriously. I had never seen a llama outside of a zoo in my entire life, and now, suddenly, unexpectedly, there were dozens of them, staring at me as I swerved. I bet they get that a lot.

And then just last week I was vacationing on the Oregon coast, and for some reason I hadn’t done my homework. Usually when I take a vacation, I read the guidebooks beforehand. I have a well thought out plan. I know what to expect. I do this because there’s nothing more irritating, in my opinion, than coming home from a trip and then discovering that there was something really, really cool I could have seen or done if only I had been paying attention.

But for this trip I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants. I have no idea why, aside from the fact that I seem to have lost all control of any sense of organization I once possessed. But it was kind of liberating.

So on this particular day I was driving along the coast, stopping here and there at overlooks and state parks. I had spent hours gazing at lighthouses and a variety of configurations of waves crashing against rocks. Each view was more spectacular than the last.

Then all of a sudden I found myself in sand dune country. This probably will come as no surprise to people on the west coast, but for the rest of us, the last thing you’re expecting on an Oregon vacation is to be reminded of the movie Lawrence of Arabia. And yet there it was. One dune even threatened to engulf the highway. I felt as if I’d accidentally driven through a wormhole and come out on another planet.

Come to think of it, “almost drove off the road” moments like these are priceless and unforgettable. I just hope that the word “almost” is never left out.

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Touch

One of the many ways we explore the world is with our hands. Before buying an item of clothing, it’s not unusual to touch it first to see how it will feel against one’s skin. On the darkest of nights we extend our hands in front of us in order to avoid bumping into things. We probably run our hands though our hair a hundred times a day. (Go ahead. You know you want to.)

But touch can also be reciprocal. There’s nothing quite as disconcerting as discovering that the touch you are giving is not the touch the other person is receiving. That’s happened to me several times in life. I once reached out to pat a friend’s shoulder in an attempt to comfort her, and she recoiled and said, “Don’t touch me!” Another time I went to hold someone’s hand, a thing I’d done with this person dozens of times before, but on this day he was just not in the headspace to do so. Another friend enjoyed being touched, but had been beaten so often as a child that you had to make sure he saw it coming or he’d flinch.

And then there are those times when you touch something expecting a certain sensation and you get another one entirely, as when you think something will be cool and it burns you. Electric shocks are like the anti-touch, as is being stung. Injuries to the hand can feel like a reproof.

Is there a word for that instant of giving a touch and then receiving something back? That moment of exchange, when you are either accepted or rejected, hurt or comforted? If there isn’t, there ought to be. That thing, that transition, that interchange is what allows us to thrive as living creatures. Without it we wither and die.

Touch
[Image credit: freegreatpicture.net]

Why Are We Shocked?

As more and more women come forward with rape allegations, it’s becoming increasingly impossible to maintain any warm and fuzzy feelings for Bill Cosby, America’s favorite dad. There’s nothing worse than having an icon fall from grace, but there you have it. It happens all the time. Not only are none of us perfect, but quite a few of us are, frankly, despicable.

And Mr. Cosby certainly isn’t helping his case by showing not only an utter lack of remorse, but a litigious response to the scandal. But that shouldn’t shock us, either. This is a pattern that most scumbags follow until the pressure becomes too great. That’s why I never take remorse seriously. It’s rarely a natural and sincere reaction.

And then you have the Honey Boo Boo scandal. There is a reason I never watched that slow motion train wreck of a show. But to hear the allegations that her mother is dating the man who sexually abused this child’s older sister makes me sick. But again, why are we shocked? A certain percentage of mothers are horrible. They put their own misplaced desire for love ahead of the welfare of their children every single time. It has been forever thus.

We’d like to think that the human race is civilized. No one wants to believe that the veil between us and violence is wispy thin. We want to maintain that illusion of morality and decency. But rape and abuse happen. As a matter of fact, I haven’t known a single female who hasn’t been abused, either physically, sexually or emotionally, at least once. The actual chaos in which we live is obvious if we only care to acknowledge it.

On some level, we all know that. And yet no matter how often we see human beings behave deplorably, we can’t quite seem to get used to it. I kind of wish we would, though. As sad as it would be if the entire world became more cynical, I think we would be more apt to take appropriate action if our utter shock did not dull the edge of our outrage.

falling

[Image credit: jakkijelene.com]

Major Scandal… Once Upon a Time

Several decades ago, before I was a bridgetender and was still an office drone, there was a major scandal at my place of work. It seems that the director of personnel was found in the supply closet with a secretary from another department. And both were married. Gasp!

Aside from the fact that the head of the personnel department, of all people, ought to know that there are certain plates on which one should not place one’s pickle, this got messy on a whole lot of other levels too. First of all, it could be perceived (although I honestly don’t think it was the case in this instance), that the secretary was attempting to garner a leg up, so to speak, on any promotions that might be in the offing. Second, this particular secretary had a very violent, aggressive husband, and no one was looking forward to seeing him come through the door, loaded for bear. Our geriatric security guard would not have been able to handle that.

After about three days in which this was the sole topic of conversation at the water cooler, the director of personnel resigned. He was trying to save the secretary’s job, but she was a bit of a hot head, and walked out in protest. One minute they were there (albeit in the supply closet), and the next minute, poof! Gone. No goodbyes, nothing.

This kind of made me sad. These were both very good workers and nice people. Why they chose to act so stupidly, unethically, and inappropriately is beyond me. But today’s scandals eventually turn into tomorrow’s vague memories. People have very short attention spans. It’s funny how importance is also impermanent.

scandal

Perspective.