Archive for October, 2014

Giving Up the Ghost

October 30, 2014

Considering the fact that Halloween is right around the corner, I figured I’d dedicate this post to those things that haunt us. Haunting means different things to different people: it can mean everything from ethereal to spooky, but the one sure bet with any haunting is that it lingers in our minds. We cannot shake it off.

 

Who haunts your thoughts?

 

Now, the phrase “giving up the ghost” mostly refers to physical death, but today, I want to explore other types of death. It is my contention that there are things far worse than physical expiration—I realize that this is controversial and perhaps sounds like an odd thing to say—but it’s what I believe. For instance, I have no desire to live to be 112—all my friends would be dead, so where’s the fun in that? But there are other types of deaths we all have experienced and moved on from: the death of our childhood, the death of our innocence, the death of a loved one, the death of an illness or injury, the death of a bad relationship. These experiences are deaths, too. Personally, I have no desire to return to being 14 years old—what about you? So, while there is a certain loss that accompanies any death, there is also a promise of a better future.

 

The problem is that many of us struggle with replaying certain memories, good or bad, repeatedly in our heads. These are the things that haunt us. It’s good to remember–if we didn’t, we’d probably have Alzheimer’s—but there’s a difference between remembering something and obsessively holding onto it. For instance, do you know anyone who believes that their best days were back in high school and they just can’t get over it? Sort of sad; life has a whole lot more to offer than what they experienced at 17. Find joy in the now! But, what’s worse are the negative experiences that we sink our teeth into and play out repeatedly. These hauntings are the worst sort of nightmares.

 

Using examples from my life (and I have many from which to choose), I think of two people who could not, would not, and absolutely refused to move on from the end of a relationship. They dedicated nearly every waking moment to reliving their anger, unhappiness, or feelings of betrayal about this episode in their lives—and this went on for DECADES. They would not give up this ghost, voluntarily chaining themselves to it, a la the Ghost of Christmas Past. Trust me when I say it was terrifying to witness.

 

What ghost do you cling to?

 

I struggle with aspects of this myself. Over the years, I’ve learned to manage it better, but there remain times when I revert to my old ways, tap into old feelings of disappointment or anger about stuff that has no current value to my life. I think with huge regret and wistfulness about what might have been. I think about suitable pay back for harm caused. But the difference today is that I don’t want to be haunted or chained down or allow such toxins to run poison through my bloodstream. So, I stop. I refocus on something I am looking forward to, someone who makes me happy now. I have worked hard at liberating myself from these spooky spectres.

 

What about you? Where do you stand on such matters? What do you do to release these burdens? A re-booter appreciates that the death of such things is a favor. Let them fly away…

Doves at sunset

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Realizing We’ve Been Used

October 28, 2014

I don’t know if this is the case where you are, but here in Washington, jockeying for a good position in the hierarchy infiltrates into every arena of life—including preschool. Now, while it’s true I don’t have kids, the very idea of three year olds having to compete for a spot where they can learn their letters and numbers gives me the willies. Of course, it’s not the children who are competing, it’s the parents.

 

With school admissions rituals approximating a pas de deux of the Court of Louis XIV, it’s standard procedure to require letters of reference from other, already admitted families. That age old saying, “it’s not what you know or who you know,” comes to mind. Really? They’re sweet little three year olds, not gladiators.

 

At any rate, a friend was sharing with me that she was recently invited to a party hosted by one of the “cool moms” in her child’s class. Surprised by the invitation because, usually, cool moms only hang out with other cool moms—you know, the ones who wear white pants and brightly colored tunics—my friend emphatically stated that she was not part of this crowd. She wasn’t sure why she was invited, but decided they were just being friendly. Not so.

 

A few days later, she received an odd email from an aspiring school mom who said that the hostess had assured her my friend would write a letter of reference. No asking, no hesitant, half embarrassed request, no leaning on the hail fellow, well met strategy. Just a simple declarative that my friend would write this letter. “That was the only reason I was invited,” she explained. When I asked her if she would comply with the pushy request, my friend said that despite barely knowing this person, she felt she had no choice. Being labeled a bitch/pariah by the cool mom’s group is a sure fire route to hell.

 

It’s awful to feel used, isn’t it? It makes you feel sort of…dirty.

 

While the scenario I depicted above may not be part of your daily life, we’ve all stumbled into situations where people had secret, ulterior motives in what they wanted from us. Can you think of a time when you felt used? Where the only thing you were “good for” was a service you could render someone else? What did you do?

 

Despite the fact that Dear Abby & Co. say that no one can use you without your permission, it’s a lot easier said than done. Real world repercussions for not going along with something minor (and by minor I mean clear cut, first world problems such as these) can be heavy and long lasting. However, as a re-booter, I have developed a strategy that, while not fail safe, does help me sidestep a lot of these situations–either that, or nobody wants my help, ever.

 

I have developed a fairly keen sense of judging who might possibly be someone, uh, prone to sand bagging others for their own, selfish purposes. As you know, I spend inordinate amounts of time observing those around me and watching what they do. As a result, I’ve developed a pretty accurate intuition about some stuff. I know how to linger on the edges and drift quickly away if I sense an agenda I dislike. Because I make myself so inconsequential and uninteresting, they rarely bother to approach me. But that’s just me.

 

What about you? What strategies have you developed to side step awkward requests—situations where you want to say no, but doing so would be impolitic. How has your ability to handle such scenarios evolved? Can you get away with a flat out no? Do you re-frame the request as part of a giant game that, one way or another, we all join in? Do you keep a running tally of how many people owe you and when you intend to collect?

 

What do you do?

 French court

The Beauty of a Time Limited Engagement

October 23, 2014

In days of yore, whenever I started a job, I felt tremendous pressure to dazzle and impress. It was my goal to ensure that my boss felt glad they hired me because I was so grateful to have been given a chance. Well, times have changed. Call me old or cynical or worn out or simply a lot more self-evaluating, but the me who is me now, sees things quite differently. I’m there to do a job—I’ll do it to the best of my ability, but these days I have a more “get in, get out, get on my way” attitude.

 

For me, working as a temp, being given work assignments that many a monkey could manage, brings with it a certain freedom. While it’s true that I sometimes miss the thrill of being part of the hurried, self-important masses hustling along L Street, this excitement has been replaced with a steady confidence and realization that most of those whooshing past are no more fulfilled sitting in their cubicles than I am in mine. They don’t have it any better. They may have more money and job security, but they’re subject to the exact same sort of office bullshit that I suffered all those years ago.

 

What I enjoy best about a temp job is that nobody is looking to me for anything extra. They don’t expect I bring any particular talents to the table, there is no silent disapproval when I get up to go to lunch, I pass by their cubicles unnoticed. They have absolutely no inkling of my prodigious capabilities—and I like it that way. I don’t have to shoulder the burden of their expectations.

 

When I was a senior in high school, I landed a job working as a counter girl at a high end delicatessen near the Washington Cathedral–this was back in the eighties when things like tarragon chicken salad were cutting edge. I worked after school and all day Saturdays. By the end of the year, the owners had me paying the kitchen staff, which says a lot about how much they trusted me. Not only was I proud of myself for procuring this job and earning my own money, I learned some valuable lessons about how people treat you when you’re on the other side of the counter.

 

The customers of this store, Fete Accomplie, were mostly people who lived in the neighborhood or the parents of children attending nearby schools. My coworker was a gay, aging opera singer named Jim who told me he had moved to DC from Indiana to follow his lover (who was married)—quite a lot of information for a seventeen year old innocent in those days. Jim used to mortify me by singing opera in the kitchen while we had customers. Whenever a handsome man entered the store and then departed, Jim would chase him down the sidewalk with a free loaf of bread, proclaiming, “I’m gonna make that man my husband!” He eventually got canned for drinking too much of the cooking wine.

 

What or who are you chasing down the street, desperate to entice?

 

As colorful as my time with Jim was, what really struck with me was how differently I was treated when identified as the counter girl. There were none of the polite inquiries or small talk. Instead, what I got was a lot of abrupt orders and dismissive head turns. Today, I’d know what this was about, but back then it took me by surprise. Jerks are jerks in many situations, and if it’s their goal to diminish another, then that’s how they’re going to behave. But if I hadn’t experienced this, I would never have realized that not all people take this attitude. In fact, I discovered that most people are actually perfectly decent—if perfunctory—when interacting with “staff.”

 

What does any of this have to do with working as a temp? You ask an excellent question.

 

I no longer feel I have to prove myself. I no longer feel that I have been bestowed this enormous gift to walk the halls of their offices, sorting their journals alphabetically. As a re-booter, I no longer take it personally when they look right through me. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m not looking to them for validation.

 

This sort of freedom is priceless.

 

What about you? Are you still seeking the approval of others? How self-evaluating are you?

Accepting Our Limitations in the Lives of Others

October 21, 2014

A short time ago, I was bemoaning to a friend about a situation involving someone close to me (well, to be honest, there’s more than just one) that feels intractable. As someone who considers herself quite capable in many, many arenas, I get enormous satisfaction from devising a strategy and solving a problem. So, to run up against a brick wall where nothing seems to work, I begin to fret, feel frustrated, and throw up my hands in helplessness.

 

Sound familiar?

 

After I departed, my friend called and shared with me the following. “It may sound dumb,” she began, “but reminding myself of this helped me: you can’t fix this problem. They’re going to do what they’re going to do, no matter what. You can’t fix it.” I assured my friend this was not dumb and I appreciated the reminder. I can’t fix it.

 

It’s terrible to feel powerless isn’t it?

 

From our perspective, we can see problems hovering on the horizon, like a menacing weather front generated by someone else’s insistence on pursuing a particular course despite changes in circumstances or capabilities. Ranging from denial about getting older or defiance about being young, the variety of instances where a refusal to heed or consider admonitions is infinite. For those of us on the sidelines, it is an awful feeling to watch as the locomotive bears down and no matter how fervently we wish to rescue our dear one, they have tied themselves firmly to the rails.

 

I don’t intend to present myself as a Cassandra of sorts—it’s not that we are infallible in our prognostications—and I respect a person’s free will, but the point of today’s post is the agony we experience when we see Person X heading down a path fraught with difficulty or loss.

 

I can’t fix it. I can’t fix it.

 

Re-booters understand that there are significant limits to our abilities to influence or help anyone outside of ourselves. But intellectual understanding is a far cry from emotional acceptance. It’s distressing and humbling to watch powerlessly as our child takes up with a bad crowd or a friend gets cancer or a sibling faces ruin from an addiction. We can’t protect our loved ones from the inevitable rough truths of the world—as much as we wish we could. Our rough truth is that we can’t rescue people from themselves, even if what happens hurt us, too. We can’t change what happens to others and we may wind up as collateral damage, to boot.

 

At times like these, I remind myself that suffering is part of their life journey, too, part of some lesson they need to learn. You may or may not agree with this perspective, but it helps me try to make sense of things I can’t understand. It feels so paltry to linger on the sidelines, simply loving these people from afar— praying for their protection–but this may be as much as we can conjure from our bag of tricks. Being ok with this, learning to make peace with the limitations of our intercessory powers is a key component of re-booting.

Giving Ourselves Permission to Enjoy

October 16, 2014

Maybe it’s our overriding perception of duty, loyalty, or an exaggerated sense of gravity about our Very Serious Lives, but granting ourselves permission to enjoy being alone and away from our families can feel like treason. I am here to tell you it’s not. In fact, next time you find yourself blissfully at home alone, I want you to revel in it. Savor every fleeting minute, because such short lived Edens provide a booster shot to our sanity.

 

Here’s what I do when such treasured moments present themselves: I don my most comfortable (and ratty) clothes, turn on the radio, and wander onto the deck to soak in a little sunshine and fresh air—a refreshing beverage may or may not be involved. There’s very little that surpasses the indecent bliss such wanderings provide. And, to all you worrywarts out there, no, enjoying such moments does not mean you don’t love your family or that it’s a short step from this to a meth addiction or being arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior. Honestly, the hand wringing I have seen related to enjoying such escapist pleasures, well, there are some of you who could compete with the dour denizens the Massachusetts Bay Colony!

 

Re-booting is hard, heavy work—especially when you do so within the context of work and family life. I would also add that modeling for your children the philosophies that they are not the epicenter of everything and that you can be happy alone gives them permission, later in life, to do something similar. By nature, Americans are a free thinking lot—so think more freely about yourself! It’s ok to be glad they’re gone. You don’t need to exist in an ant colony to be a good person.

 

Of course, not everyone feels this way—we forget that what we like or what we would do does not apply equally to others. This is an enormous blindspot. Not everyone likes spending time alone. Some people (and I am related to some) crave companionship ALL THE TIME. To me, there couldn’t be a greater hell on earth; I can’t imagine anything I’d like less than being surrounded by others 24/7. Ugh. Maybe that’s why I take an indecent amount of pleasure in having the house to myself.

 

So, no matter what form it takes for you, I encourage you to indulge in your guilt free escapist fantasy. It’s ill advised to position yourself as so necessary to your world that everything would screech to a halt should you be, uh, elsewhere. Foregoing time alone because you perceive yourself as indispensible is a fallacy and a disservice.

 

I have addressed this same topic in past posts, but I’ll say it again because it’s too easily forgotten. When you restore your batteries, you increase your capacity to give to those you love and you model for them what it looks like to take care of yourself. It’s as simple as that. A re-booter recognizes that taking the time to enjoy our own company is not a betrayal. You owe it to yourself. Now get those ratty clothes on and have at it.

 

How to De-stress from Distress—No Easy Answers

October 14, 2014

For most of my life, I have had a highly complex and not entirely nurturing relationship with my father. I say this recognizing that we all have emotional blind spots so huge you could drive a truck through them, but all the therapy and common sense in the world doesn’t make it any easier when someone you love says unkind things to or about you. No relationship is entirely smooth sailing and we all have to commit to riding out the rough patches, but there comes a time when one has to wonder whether maintaining that emotional connection is worth it and, simultaneously, being prepared to accept the messy consequences that inevitably follow from choosing to cut ties.

 

Last night, I overheard my dad chattering away on the phone, as is his wont to do. In response to some question that had to do with me, he groaned and recited an entire soliloquy as to how perplexing and inept my job search efforts have been, concluding with his theory that I may never work again—another example of females who sit around, doing nothing. Now, while I know that he loves to be dramatic in his delivery, I am confident that he was speaking his truth. I also know my dad loves me dearly. Growing up under such schizophrenic circumstances was confusing and difficult and took me years to realize was not normal.

 

Hearing him say these things about me hurt my feelings a lot. But, in addition to that, his words only prompted me to berate myself. It’s true, I have been less than stellar these past several months in my job search—I struggle against profound discouragement and a visceral revulsion to returning to work in an office. Maybe one feeling feeds the other. But my first reaction after hearing him was to pile on more hurt on myself. And I know a lot about therapeutic coping mechanisms!

 

What comes up for you when you reflect back on a time when someone close to you said something unfair and unkind?

 

It would be useless and counterproductive for me to say anything to him. He can’t hear it, won’t hear it, lacks the tools to process it, and absolutely, positively will not change. That’s my truth. One friend coached me along the lines of cutting emotional ties—for sanity’s sake—and also to move out. Both acts hold a lot of appeal for me, but waaaay easier said than done. Especially when I factor in my very real concerns about a variety of factors related to finances, judgment, and aging. Also, I ask myself, how important is it that he says unkind things? How much power will I give him?

 

On top of all this, I have spent the past three years working hard at trying to rebuild my relationship with my dad. I want to do right by him, but when he does things like this, it makes it that much harder. I can tough out a lot of situations—including this—but I was taken aback by how much his words hurt. I give them too much credence, I suppose, but what he said hit at the heart of my own doubts about myself.

 

Have you ever experienced anything similar?

 

This little episode seems to me to strike at the heart of re-booting. Moving beyond people, relationships, or situations that we held dear but, for whatever reason, are no longer functioning is a key component of mature adulthood. I don’t want to be one of those people who just cuts others off forever (although it has happened) but what is a relationship worth if you are simply there in body and not in spirit? What if the halfway measure won’t resolve matters, subjecting you to additional hurt?

 

At this point, I’m not willing to walk away. I’m already pre-dispositioned to beat myself up for all the things I haven’t managed (just like he said). In most respects, I’ve already forgiven him for being this way—he mostly can’t help it. I wrestle with how many excuses am I making for myself versus wanting to preserve what little I have left of pride at this disappointing moment in my life. I wish I knew a way out that was better, that could apply a salve to my wounded confidence, and that could make for a more satisfying relationship between us.

 

Sorry for the heavy post.

Reuniting with our Past: Dreaming of Another Life

October 9, 2014

The wistful beauty of Autumn is that it’s all about shedding the past.

It’s a breezy, sunny October afternoon here in Washington; Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, is making her presence known in a most delightful manner. Basking in the glow of the first red leaves in the still-warm sunshine, I sigh contentedly, grateful for these simple pleasures, but I recognize how easy it would be for me to disregard such things as unimportant, scowling at the breeze as a harbinger of another brutal winter.

 

Where do you fall on the spectrum of negativity these days?

 

When I fantasize about the lives of others, images of happy crowds lingering along the sidelines of children’s sporting events pop into my mind or scenes of increasing party chatter where guests mingle freely, swapping jokes and gossipy tidbits. Alas, neither of these is my reality. Even as a re-booter who knows what we see is not always aligned with reality, I still get tripped up.

 

I continually struggle against the impression that everyone else is living their life with zest! and oomph! and a whole lotta zaza, while I drift suspended in a translucent bubble, watching, but rarely intersecting, with the world. It’s an extremely odd feeling. On occasion, I chastise myself for framing my life in such dire terms—after all, it’s up to me to get out there and join the scrum, so maybe I’m just lazy or ill-suited to interaction. But on many occasions, I’m grateful that I have this haven of quiet that surrounds me. It’s this same refuge that enables me to watch and ponder all of you as you go about your busy and productive days. Often times, I torture myself with questions such as, “Am I wasting my time or not? What the hell do I think I’m doing with my life?”

 

Ring any bells?

 

Perhaps I am fretting more about such matters because, in a few weeks, I am going to travel 1200 miles to attend my college reunion. I loved going to college. I loved everything about it—I am lucky enough to have known some brilliant, talented, and amazing people. But all these years later, we’ve parted ways and what makes me hesitate is whether they’ll have mellowed and be welcoming of my current, deeply flawed self or if they’ll revert to the thoughtless but funny cruelties of yesteryear. To be honest, it won’t be so easy for me to witness the busy and constructive lives they’ve built for themselves (happiness, tbd) while I remain mired in this transition. It’s hard to hold your head up high when you feel laid low.

 

Still, my desire to revisit and reconnect is sufficiently great that I’ve opted to go. I don’t know how I’ll answer the awkward questions, ignore raised eyebrows, move past inevitable comparisons, or mourn paths not taken, but I remind myself that everyone has experienced heartache and disappointment, so chances are they’ll be somewhat sympathetic to mine. Reunions of any sort can be fraught, but they also promise great joy. That’s why people go.

 

What was the last reunion you had? It can be with anyone—your sibling, a former lover, a friend who dumped you and wants to reconnect, an army buddy. How did you feel when you saw them? What was it like to reconnect? Were you reminded of how happy you are to be in a different place now or do you regret the misunderstandings or circumstances that led to your parting ways? When they see you, do they recognize the person from long ago or welcome the person you’ve become? And is there room for them in your life today?

Kids in leaves

 

The Butterfly Effect: Countering the Chaos of Washington

October 7, 2014

Once upon a time, proud citizens might have considered this town to be the brain trust of the nation. Not anymore. Instead, we are confounded by an agglomeration of arrogant, self-serving, and deeply political creatures who we have elected to “guide” and represent us. The belief that Washington could uphold this sacred trust might have been reasonable if we existed in a deterministic system—one where citizens could expect methodical and well considered policies coming out of Capitol Hill. Alas, this is not the case. Instead, our reality is a cadre of elected leaders so preoccupied with satisfying their own interests that our entire system of government drifts closer to the model of a random, nonlinear system where realistic predictions of legislative or executive branch behavior no longer are possible.

A fitting analogy might be the serpentine system of roads that ring the city. If you were to hop into, say, your reliable (and safe) Chevy Caprice to find your way downtown from somewhere out in Virginia, the first thing you’d discover is that whatever road signs you pass dissemble and confuse. Forced to use alarmingly short left hand merge lanes while evading enraged and harassed commuters, you, poor schmo, don’t realize that the signs fail to specify that if you take this exit, the road only runs south for miles, so good luck reversing course and making your way back towards DC. Such manifestations of poor planning and bureaucratic fumbling serve as evidence of a greater problem in our nation’s capital. As one beleaguered driver wryly observed, “The only way out is to get better at recovering from your mistakes and memorizing secret routes.” In other words, there is absolutely no predicting what you will get or where you will go when you find yourself aiming for the Capitol City.

 

Before we continue, a brief science tutorial is necessary:

  1. The mathematical field of study known as Chaos theory examines the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions; this is done in an effort to predict future behavior of the same system. Chaos theory has widespread applications ranging from physics to economics to meteorology and happens to mesh nicely with today’s screed.
  2. Related to chaos theory is a phenomenon known as the Butterfly Effect—you may have heard of it. Basically what the butterfly effect posits is that even a very small, single shift in an initial set of conditions for a deterministic, nonlinear system can create a significantly different end result.
  3. A nonlinear system is one in which output is not directly proportional to input. In other words, A + A does NOT equal 2A in a nonlinear system.

Those with actual scientific knowledge would be able to explain the above much more coherently than I, so proceed with caution.

 

And now, back to our regularly scheduled entertainment:

A nonlinear system is what our politics has become—we cannot accurately predict a final outcome because there are so many butterflies that can impact the ultimate result. This grotesque distortion of the legislative process threatens to up end much of society because nobody can guess with any certainty what is coming out of Washington and how it will impact our lives.

 

Examples of this are manifold. Think legislative language “tweaks” by lobbyists, highly questionable vote jockeying by politicians, or “exceptions to policy” as erratically granted by the White House such as what’s happened with the Affordable Care Act. The Administration declares that the economy is in a “recovery,” except despite their glossy charts touting upticks in x, y, or z measures, anecdotal evidence shows that long term, widespread unemployment remains rampant. How about the opposing avowals regarding the existence of a strategy to the ISIS threat? Considering the chaos coming out of the White House Briefing Room on a regular basis, why would we now have confidence in their assurances as to an effective ebola containment policy? I’m not a paranoid for saying these things and my issues extend far beyond any single administration or branch of government—my objections apply equally to what I’m seeing occur in organized religion, higher education, and the misleading images spit out by Hollywood. As citizens, we’re told one thing and operate accordingly, only to have the rug pulled out from beneath our feet or exceptions to the rules granted to the special, favored few. Images of a naked Emperor or Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole directly apply to you and me as we go about the bumbling business of living our lives. Things in Washington make no sense.

 

For instance, let’s talk building entrances. The National Academy of Sciences has a gorgeous building on Constitution Avenue, replete with carved bronze doors a la Ghiberti and a sculpture of Albert Einstein. It is a magnificent entryway for the repository of some of our nation’s most important breakthroughs. Similarly, the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill which houses offices for our Congressional representatives has giant staircases that were constructed as part of this monument to the glorious legislative process. Except, you can’t enter the NAS building through the bronze doors any more than you can enter the Rayburn Building using these staircases! Fundamental elements that were designed to be beautiful and functional no longer function.

 

What’s wrong with this picture?

 

I don’t understand why the general public is now prohibited from availing ourselves of dedicated public entrances allegedly due to “security concerns” but it’s fine for “them” to use these same areas for their own, much more worthy purposes. If security is an overriding concern, how is it possible that a mad man can sprint past 5 levels of Secret Service, making his way into the White House without so much as a shot being fired at the intruder? To me, this disparity is symptomatic of the crazy, nonlinear system in which we find ourselves. We ignore red lines in Syria but we’re sending “advisers” back to Iraq. Where is the consistency? Where is the rational decision making? What’s going on?

 

Despite herculean efforts, even a society as robust and dynamic as ours cannot thrive when subject to the chaos resulting from the self serving whims of political leadership such as the one that runs back and forth between K Street, Capitol Hill, and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. My rant circles back to the Butterfly Effect—we (“the little people”) can influence the outcome by holding these people accountable (you and I may disagree about which people, but that’s ok, that’s what democracy is about—personally, I’d be happy to throw the whole lot out), by thinking critically, by not blindly believing what we are told, by asking ourselves what are they not telling us, what questions haven’t been asked—because the trust factor of “trust and verify” has been so abused that it no longer applies.

Butterfly image

 

 

The Joys of Transient Obduracy

October 2, 2014

It would’ve made him so happy if only I’d said yes. Instead, I chose to torture him, reveling in his frustration, impotent to do anything to change my mind. It pleased me to watch him squirm as I politely rejected his entreaties to move my Honda back into the safety of our driveway. Yes, dear reader, my father is obsessed with keeping my car off the street.

 

I’m not sure how long he has had this fixation, but images of wildly careening vehicles sideswiping the cars of those in his care has seized my dad’s imagination. To my knowledge, there has never been an instance of Violence Against Vehicles in our suburban domicile, but perhaps this is due to his vigilance—no doubt, he sees it that way. I confess that his extreme concern takes me by surprise, and it would’ve been so easy for me to have acquiesced—I have done so in times prior—but last night, I drew the line. I would not move my car from its tantalizing spot.

 

The secret glee I felt at this transgression is the point of today’s post. When was the last time you did something solely to assert your free will in defiance of another? How good did it feel?

 

I understand that my refusal was silly and achieved nothing but making my poor old father flummoxed, but so what? Within each of us dwells a three year old, just waiting for an opportunity to manifest. I believe so strongly in this premise that I often call upon it when deciding how to entice others, regardless of the circumstances. What would a three year old want, I ask myself; it’s a highly effective strategy, honed over years of practice. But back to the parked car consternation: I was the one taking all the “risk” of leaving my car vulnerable to urban marauders; truth be told, I don’t perceive a threat at all. This doesn’t excuse my decision to torture the poor fellow, but I did it because doing so gave me pleasure. Visceral pleasure.

 

Of course, fully realized re-booters need not resort to such antics because they sit calmly on their throne, content and confident in their power to effect change when needed. Not me. I’m not there yet. I may spend a certain amount of time reading stuff like the mythic realms of The Odyssey or the history of migrations of various immigrant groups, etc but when it comes right down to it, I can be as stubborn and illogical as the next guy. I will not eat green eggs and ham.

 

People break the rules all the time. The thrill one feels when flouting convention is not to be underestimated; disobedience infuses us with a powerful type of energy. Such actions don’t always go well, of course, but to defy the established order of things (even if that order exists for useful purposes) reminds us of our own power—and it is this same wellspring which enables us to re-boot. This is not a small point. As adults with responsibilities, expectations, and goals to meet, we can easily forget that we retain the capacity to do things our way and not according to the dictates of others, simply because we want to. At times, such personal reminders may evidence themselves in silly forms of insistence, but the underlying motivation—to remember that we exist as independent and emboldened individuals—requires a dose of oxygen every now and then to remain vital. So, whether it’s parking your car in a “dangerous” spot, wearing an outfit your spouse disapproves of, or something else entirely, it’s a small cost for a large payout to your psyche. Defiance has a place in any re-booter’s roster…

Mule

 


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