humor

Detours

jamie-street-368704-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

There was a road closed on my route to work this morning, about 40 minutes into my 50 minute drive to the office. There was a detour sign that pointed into a circuitous suburban development. Well, the detour turned out not to be a detour. Instead, I cruised past dozens of little boxes for about 5 minutes and ended up right back where I had entered the neighborhood. I’ve noticed that well-executed detours are rare as hell. One of many possible metaphors between driving and life.

And, the thing is, I don’t know any other way to get to my office. I’ve worked there 6 months and I don’t know any other way to get there. One road is closed and the office might as well be in outer space. So I put on the GPS, head out of the burbs, back on the highway, to the interstate, GPS is rerouting every step of the way telling me to turn around and go back toward the road closure. I have to keep driving away from my destination to persuade Google Maps that there is no other option but to find an alternate route. (If you are aware of a better way accomplish this than driving away, please feel free to leave a comment). Frustrated as hell, I put on my most soothing music, the soundtrack to the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Once More with Feeling.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 8.56.07 PM

It’s bumper to bumper, but it’s okay because I’m singing along to Anya telling Xander his eyes are beady. And I see the billboard that says: Real Christians love their enemies.

I am not a Christian, so that was my first reaction—“Don’t tell me what to believe, Billboard!” But I really can’t argue with the sentiment. In Practicing Peace in Times of War, Pema Chodron writes,

To the degree that each of us is dedicated to wanting there to be peace in the world, then we have to take responsibility when our own hearts and minds harden and close. We have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid, to find the soft spot and play with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s the true practice of peace.

My godfather gave me that book when it came out back in 2006, and it’s full of really challenging little gems like that one that continue to badger me despite my cynical efforts not to engage emotionally with my enemies. Today, on my detour, I was thinking about my loathed boss when I saw that billboard. And I thought to myself, “No, not today. That dude’s a dick. I cannot and will not love him. I refuse. We can’t keep forgiving these people, they’ll just keep walking all over us.” And I did not give it another thought.

I went for a jog tonight after work—my third jog in about a year, and I’m still a smoker so it just about killed me. The moon must be full tonight, or very near. It was still light outside and the moon was out, brilliantly round and sharp and white. Like a true millennial, I tried to take a picture of it with my phone, even though I know that taking a picture of the moon with your phone is, at our current stage of handheld technological advancement, futile.

2018-02-28_17-46-00_407

#nofilter

Despite how this photo looks, I’m here to tell you that moon was beautiful. It made me think that whenever I don’t like a photo of myself, I should remember the moon. Ours is a beauty so bright and aloof, it’s difficult to capture.

I’m really not sure why—although I’m sure it was partly due to the endorphins my central nervous system was pumping to the receptors in my brain to dampen the pain signals being simultaneously telegraphed to my lungs and limbs—but I felt real softness toward my douchebag boss at that moment. Maybe something about perspective and how even the most beautiful things look pointless and blurry under the wrong circumstances? It was definitely not the result of the responsibility-taking and courage that Chodron urges. But I still think it’s worth paying attention to the moments when your heart does soften even momentarily, even involuntarily, towards a loathed enemy.

 

 

 

 

The Free Association Scrambled Egg Solution!

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 8.47.41 PM

Meme by the author; Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

Dread going to work? Money problems keeping you awake at night? Turning to booze and junk food to ease the “barely there” knowledge of your own mortality? Here’s a fun exercise to tamp down the existential dread of daily life!

PROBLEM:

If you’re like me, some days your brain feels like scrambled eggs. Oddly colored, unappetizing—eggs run into cheese run into butter, each indiscernible from the next, and mushy.

SOLUTION:

If you’re like me, sometimes lists help. And not the get-organized, To Do kind of lists. My day is full of those, as I’m sure yours is, and they only seem to make my egg-brains more scrambled. That’s why free association lists are the best kind. Here is my list of words that, when I paused for a moment, I found swinging on the braches in my head:

Inspired

Haunted

Tense

Insecure

Apologetic

Simpering

jared-rice-388266-unsplash

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

 

WHAT NOW?!?

Well, maybe that was cathartic enough in itself. Make your list, pat yourself on the back (go on, do it!), and turn on the TV (that seductive siren of sedating solace, O Holy, Soporific Sanctuary!)

 

OR!

 

Distract your brain by letting it chew on itself, like an anxious dog licking its own tail raw!

BRAIN CHEWING ON ITSELF, Example:

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 9.02.29 PM

Photo: Alphonse Mucha, 1902, Courtesy of the Dhawan Collection

 

INSPIRED – This seems like a weird word to be bopping around my brain chambers today. It’s such a hopeful, idealistic word. When did I last feel inspired? Maybe at an art museum recently, seeing IRL posters by Alphonse Mucha.

It inspired me to pine for a tattoo I can’t afford (anka.tattoo)

Feeling inspired is something I long for, something that, when I look right at it, I see is mostly missing from my daily life. The more I think about it, the more I feel like I don’t even know what the word means. To me it seems to imply action, production. Perhaps this is why this word was so quickly followed by…

 

 

HAUNTED – Again, I had no idea this word was on my mind. It feels like a counterpoint to Inspired. Routine, boredom, repetition, isolation, all rattling around this human body and mind that seem built to experience life and be inspired. I guess I can see how that might make one feel haunted.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 9.20.33 PM

A deliciously histrionic Barry Dennen as Pontius Pilate, Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

The list seems to degenerate from there into adjectives to describe my feelings about my job. Always good to be reminded that anxiety about my job isn’t just intruding on my unconscious every night in my dreams, but also in my subconscious waking mind, always right below the surface.

The Free Association Scrambled Egg Solution! Patent Pending.