I Sure Could Use a Mashed Potato Mystery

Are you suffering from news fatigue? Me too.

I wrote this humorous blog post about Jackson, Mississippi before they had their horrific water crisis, which isn’t going away anytime soon. They need our help. If you are able to do so, please read this article for some ways to support them. Thank you. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/how-to-help-people-in-jackson-mississippi-right-now/ar-AA11kcDP

Are you suffering from news fatigue? Me too. Worrying about the death of our planet, the death of democracy, the death of kindness, and the death of civility takes energy. Unfortunately, my reserves of energy are at an all-time low these days. Nothin’ left in the tank.

Worry, in moderation, can be useful. It promotes action. It thrusts you into problem solving mode. And that’s fantastic when that action produces positive results.

The problem, as far as I’m concerned, is that we have so much more access to information these days that it’s easy to feel that there are just too many problems, and whatever effort you put into a problem doesn’t budge the solution needle one iota. As a result, the type of worry you find yourself embroiled in is not the action kind. It’s the helpless, staring-into-the-abyss kind. And indulging in such worry is pointless.

I do believe we all need to remain vigilant regarding current events, lest the bad guys win more than they already have. I understand the importance of staying informed, but it’s been a long decade. We’re tired.

I think we could all use a distraction. Not in the form of an “opiate of the masses”, mind you. That seems too eternal. And not in the form of a person shouting, “Look! Squirrel!” and then stealing your credit card. That would be unsatisfying, to say the least. We just need something to briefly and harmlessly take our minds off the Sturm und Drang of our current reality. We need the information equivalent of an amuse-bouche.

We need a feel-good piece with just enough meat on the bone to be satisfying. We need a non-threatening whodunnit to try to solve. We need an opportunity laugh at the quirkiness of humanity. We need, in short, a mashed potato mystery.

Back in April, 2019, in Jackson, Mississippi, someone was leaving random bowls of mashed potatoes in people’s mailboxes, on their cars, on their porches. This confusing, intriguing, and mildly creepy story took the internet by storm for, oh, about 6 days. Newscasters were joking about doing the mashed potato, and then the cameras would switch to the weatherman, who was getting quite a chuckle from the whole situation.

My search engine found at least 20 articles on the subject, but this one seems to be the source document. These articles were all saying practically the same thing, and quoting the exact same quotes, so I’d say this is a story written by one reporter and then shared or stolen by various news outlets throughout the country.

Everyone wanted to know who this mysterious purveyor of mashed potatoes was, and what their motivation might be. Fortunately, no one seems to have eaten these mystery spuds, because lord knows what might have been in them. For the most part, people found it gross, yet funny. They didn’t involve the authorities.

And that, unfortunately, was where it all ended. I’m sure if anyone had found the culprit, that would have hit the news, too. The perpetrator did not leave a manifesto, so we have no clue as to his, her, or their motivation. And that bugs me.

But it also gives me license to come up with my own theory about the message that was sent to Jackson, Mississippi on that fateful day. And here’s what I came up with:

O, ye people of Jackson! Gaze upon these vessels of pulped spuds and take heart! For I shall give sustenance to all those who are hungry and imprudent, if they but follow me! But take heed, for this nourishment comes with a helping of insight, to wit: distractions are plentiful for those who wish to shun the vexing realities of their irksome routines. Yet distractions of a carb-ish nature, if indulged in frequently, can lead to obesity of the mind, body and spirit. Mayhap ‘twould better serve you to sup on a balanced diet of both reality and fantasy, fact and fiction, for optimum mental health. Blessed be.

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Lovegry

The most contradictory emotion on earth.

There is a certain kind of anger that can only be brought out of you by a loved one. It’s that blinding rage born of pure terror when they are doing something risky or idiotic. “What do you MEAN, you’ve joined a cult and are giving out free hugs in the midst of a pandemic?!”

I have a name for that worried fury, that impotent rage, that helpless frustration that makes your ears ring and everything around you turn white. I call it being “lovegry”. If you didn’t love that person so much, you wouldn’t be bothered with these strong feelings. You’d simply shake your head at this relative stranger and say, “what a fool.”

I’ve only been lovegry a handful of times in my life. Mainly because I don’t have children of my own. And, mostly, the people I love are relatively reasonable.

But, oh, when that feeling washes over me, it’s a very confusing and contradictory moment. Because I want to kill that person with my bare hands. Because they’re doing something dangerous. Because I want to save them. I suspect it’s like hugging a child who has run away, but also shouting, “Don’t you EVER do that to me again!”

If you’re ever feeling lovegry, congratulations. You’re human. Just try not to kill anyone until the mood passes.

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The Ultimate Zero Sum Equation

Time marches on.

It’s rather interesting, when you think about it, how much time we waste worrying about how much time we’re wasting. I mean, what a waste! That time would be much better spent being wasted in some other way.

Time marches on. Life is the ultimate zero sum equation. You can expend all the energy you want in trying to be efficient, trying not to waste time, working, planning, plotting, organizing, or watching cat videos on Youtube, but in the end, time is going to pass regardless. It can’t be stopped. We’re all going to get older and eventually die.

Am I suggesting that we should just give up and give in to those cat videos? On the contrary, I think the way we spend our time is important. If we focus on giving joy to others, and trying to make the world a better place, and doing the things that we love the most, then it will have been time well spent.

But stop beating yourself up over it all. Just be in the moment. Just live.

Because you can’t control time. You can’t “spend it” or “save it”. You can only experience it. So make it the best experience that you possibly can, and stop stressing out over it all.

time marches on

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Let Reality Be Beautiful

Things are good. Almost too good. So good, in fact, that sometimes I panic. That annoying little voice in my head whispers, “This is too good to be true. It can’t be real. You’re overlooking something. Or all the great people around you will finally see you for the inherently flawed individual that you are and disappear. Or a meteor is about to crush you dead. Or something. Because you can’t have the good things.”

If a pep talk like that doesn’t send me into a panic attack, surely it will cause me to dive headlong into a pint of Häagen-Dazs. Neither outcome is optimal to my health. But if I get to choose (“You never get to choose.”) (“Shut up, annoying little voice!”) I’ll take the ice cream.

I was talking about this to my dear friend Anju, whose blog I highly recommend. Of everyone I know, Anju is one of the ones I’d be most likely to consider an authority on this subject, because from what I can tell, she leads an amazing life. She takes risks. She sits down at the world’s table and she feasts of life like a fat kid in an ice cream parlor. No apologies. No prisoners. Her life isn’t always a bed of roses, but it is uniquely and undoubtedly hers. I admire her. I’d love to be her.

After listening to me grouse, she simply said, “Let reality be beautiful.”

Wow. If that doesn’t strike a chord in you, then you are tone deaf.

And you know, why the hell not? If things are good, then I should enjoy them. I need to live in the now, because the now, right now, is awesome!

I may not have any control over the meteors heading my way, but I certainly don’t have to poop all over my own party. I deserve as much beautiful reality as the next person. And so do you, dear reader.

Thanks Anju!

1474639153_Haagen-Dazs_Ice_Cream_Photo11

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First World Problems

Have you ever tried to find a last-minute dog sitter for a holiday weekend? Especially when you have a dog with a history of chewing on people? It’s no picnic, believe me. I asked 8 different sitters, and had no luck whatsoever. Come on. I just want a romantic weekend with my new boyfriend! Waaaaaah!

In times of great stress, that very boyfriend likes to remind me that the situation in question is a very First World problem to have. (See, that’s why I respect him so much. He’s pretty darned deep. And he’s great at calming me down.)

He has a point. Perspective is a wonderful thing. Relatively speaking I have very little to worry about. There have been no drive-by shootings in my neighborhood. I know I will eat today. It’s a safe bet that I won’t freeze to death. No armies will invade my city. I will very likely live my entire life without hearing an air raid siren. I’m safe. I’m secure. I’m healthy. I have options.

It’s those people who lack perspective who tend to succumb to road rage. They’re the mass shooters, the wife beaters, the conspiracy theorists, the Fox news viewers of the world. They are the ones who whip up mass hysteria about situations that don’t even exist.

I just need to remind myself that this is no time to panic. I’ll be fine. My dog will be fine. My romantic weekend will be fine. And if this is the worst thing that’s happening in my life, then I’m one fortunate blogger, indeed.

Perspective

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What Keeps Me Up at Night

Yeah, I’ve done that mind-grind thing where I keep worrying about something and try in vain to come up with a solution. I have done my fair share of stressing out over finances, jobs, relationships, and conversations that I’m dreading. I’ve even stayed up to care for sick people and pets.

But you know what really keeps me up at night? Excitement. I spend a lot of time tossing and turning and smiling at the possibilities. I can rarely sleep just before a trip to someplace I’ve never been, for example. I can just imagine what it will be like. I also thrill to new experiences, new connections, and the opportunity to learn.

Many is the night I’ve spent staring at the ceiling, knowing that I’m about to receive the gift of newness. That’s my favorite gift of all. It doesn’t take up space in your tool shed. You don’t have to dust it. It’s usually not tangible. But you’ll be able to revel in its memory for the rest of your life.

There is nothing quite like the first time you do something, see something or realize something. Beginnings are awesome. Change is wonderful just as often as it is dreadful. The anticipation of something can be every bit as amazing as the thing itself.

Anticipation is what robs me of my sleep!

Excitement (July 2011)

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When Things Fall Into Place

For me, there is nothing quite as satisfying as those brief, random moments when the chaos that usually swirls about me suddenly becomes a comprehensible, stable, solid whole. Maybe it’s because I’m a worrier and a planner, but that “All’s Right with the World” feeling often eludes me. That makes it all the more precious when it does stop by for a short visit.

For example, during this whole home buying and moving process, I’ve had a to-do list that’s 12 pages long. I’ve often woken up in the middle of the night, thinking of something important to add to it. If I don’t sit up, turn on the light and write that thing down, I’ll lie awake and go over it in my mind for hours. I’ve taken to leaving my to-do list on my night stand. If you want to see me absolutely wig out (and trust me, you don’t), just hide that list.

My stress level spikes around those to-do items that require me to rely on other people. Is it a West Coast thing? No one around here seems to be the least bit dependable. That drives me up a wall. If my friends need me, or I’ve made a professional obligation, you can count on me to follow through. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it, unless I’m dying. How hard is that? Apparently it’s pretty freakin’ hard if you are anywhere near the Pacific Ocean. Go figure.

But every now and again, all the puzzle pieces seem to fall into place. People show up on time and do what you so desperately need them to do. And maybe a little extra. “Oh, you’re trying to get rid of a washing machine? I’ll be happy to take it off your hands, too!” “Need some extra money? Well, here’s some overtime!” “Sure! I’m available to clean your carpet on the only possible day you have available for me to clean your carpet!”

I love that feeling of weight being lifted off my shoulders. At times like those, I can breathe. I never realize I’m holding my breath, but apparently I do it quite a bit. But then, all of a sudden, whoosh! Oxygen to the system! It rarely lasts long, and those moments are always unexpected, but I’ll take ‘em!

weight-of-the-world-america

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Plan “Be”

I can’t remember where I read about this concept, but it appeals to me greatly. Just be. Live in the now. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. Pure bliss.

It’s not as easy as it looks, though. For example, I’m in the midst of planning my vacations for the year. Obviously, that’s future stuff. And I came across my diary from high school, and have been reading it. Past stuff.

Much of this blog is about past experience or future dreams. And I’m a little stressed because I’ve been sick as a dog for the past few days, so I don’t have as many future blog entries waiting in the queue as I usually do.

Past, Future…see how many times I’ve bounced from one to the other in just the PAST few paragraphs? Why is it so hard to stay in the present? Do we not value it as much?

In truth, the present is the only thing that is real. The way we remember the past changes over time, and we view it through our own biased lens. As for the future, it may not come about. You could be hit by a bus tomorrow.

Heaven knows that the way I had my life plotted out in my high school diary certainly never came to be. Sometimes I look in the mirror and say to myself, “How the hell did you get here?” Sometimes that’s an angry question. Other times it’s infused with gratitude and awe.

But there I go again, reflecting on the past. I’ll have to work on that. Sometime in the future…

past future

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Ennui with Aplomb

Oprah Winfrey loves bread. (I can’t get that commercial out of my head.) I love words. Two of my favorites appear in the title.

I suspect 2017 will be the year of ennui for me. The current political climate has left me feeling listless and dissatisfied. It’s as though I’ve been trapped under something heavy. Please send pizza.

But rather than lie around gazing at my navel, I intend to do so in style (hence the aplomb)! I vow this year to take more baths, take more naps, and when the weather is nice, I plan to spend a great deal of time in the back yard, gazing up at the pine trees. I hope to read a lot to stay informed and write in protest a lot and eat a lot of delicious things.

Above all, I hope to not work up enough energy for excessive worry. I mean, seriously, what’s the point? Hell is going to break loose without any help from me. As long as you send the pizza, I’m good.

ennui

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Poor Beaker

I was discussing the Muppets with a friend, and we settled on the subject of Beaker. My friend said that no one needs his tummy rubbed more than that guy. I never really thought about it, but it’s so true. Beaker is the epitome of stress. I’d further posit that he needs to get laid. I’ve never seen anyone so tightly coiled in my life.

I think we all should chip in and send Beaker on a spiritual retreat/spa experience. He needs a massage. He needs gentle yoga, meditation, and a deep cleansing facial. He needs to soak in a hot tub. Get that man a mantra. Something other than meemeemeemomo.

I find the Beakers of this world very hard to be around. The tension just rolls off them in waves. Feeling all that unnecessary negative energy in the air gets my nerves jangling.

In truth, worry gets you nowhere. If you stop worrying, what changes? Absolutely nothing, except you’re healthier, happier, and the people around you stop heading for the nearest exit.

So if you run into a Beaker, give him a hug. Tell him everything’s going to be all right. Just breathe.

Beaker