Portal People: Appreciating the Glint of Beauty in the Madness

I don’t know about you, but weird things happen to me all the time. Whenever I least expect it, people say or do really strange things when I’m around. A friend’s brother diagnosed my condition as follows: “She’s a portal person,” he explained. “Something about her opens the door to the bizarro world.” It’s not that odd occurrences don’t happen to lots of people, it’s more than that. To be a portal person, you need to witness the strangeness and relish the intrinsic beauty of the madcap. Far too often, bizarre things happen and people simply shrug them off—not me. My antennae are always waving in the wind; I instantly sense the undercurrent of poetry in the inexplicable. Perhaps it’s because I’m a storyteller at heart that I’m this way; I savor these extraordinary instances and immediately want to share what I see with appreciative others. Are you a portal person, too?

Alas, not everyone is.

To be a portal person, you need to be alert to the unexpected and oriented to mine it for the glints of humor buried beneath the bizarre. It’s humor that often opens the door to greater insight or understanding. Inherent in the definition of a portal person is the baseline belief that the universe is a funny place with the human psyche an unknowable and existential mystery. What does this portal business have to do with re-booting, you ask? It’s all about making unexpected connections and illogical leaps.

I’ll give you an example. A few months ago, I received a letter from the wife of one of my father’s classmates. I hardly know this person and haven’t seen her in years. Her letter begins as follows, “Dear Chrisanna, I am writing to tell you how sorry I am that I wrote you that terrible letter.” Apparently, this person enjoys groveling because this is at least the third (if not the fourth) such apology I have received about this offense of which I have no recollection whatsoever. While intended to be a gesture of good will, the writer goes on to wax poetic about what a “magical” person I am before she proceeds to make a number of intrusive, presumptuous, and insulting comments about my life and what I might do to improve things. (And, she’s not alone in volunteering that I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s so, so sad.) CLEARLY, I NEED A LOT OF HELP! Now, I think I’m on safe ground when I say that most people who receive such a letter would mutter a few choice words before trashing it (which is what I did with letters 1,2, and 3), but this letter I will keep. This letter creates an impression so far astray from what its writer intended that it makes me laugh! My concerned correspondent has gotten everything so wrong about who I am that I take pleasure in reading it. I will never risk getting a big head, thanks to a letter such as this. NEVER. (And, just for perverse fun, one can only imagine what she left out!?!)

Kathy's letter 

Why is this relevant to you?

Good question! My answer is this: we can find inspiration or answers from the most unlikely of sources. For me, one of the things this letter made crystal clear is that I’m actually pretty happy with much of my life—even though, to her, it appears to be sort of sad and pathetic. Her opinion is irrelevant, but my realization that maybe things aren’t so bad is highly useful! This, my friends, is an example of an unexpected connection.

Examples of illogical leaps are harder to make persuasive because they are, in fact, illogical—but I’ll give it a shot. Recently, a friend shared with me some excerpts from a book a friend of hers published. (The fact that it was one of the unconditionally most atrocious examples of bad erotica I have ever read is just a bonus!) Trust me when I tell you that there is nothing erotic about the images or words spread out on those pages. Here is where the illogical leap comes in: I admire this person’s unmitigated boldness and indifference to the consequences–not only to publish this thing at all, but to publish it under her real name and dedicate it to her husband and her mother. In fact, although I’ve been playing around with this idea for awhile now, I was sufficiently inspired by the author’s boldness that I decided to publish my own book (not erotic, sorry, not this time. Nor will it be dedicated to my mother.) I figured, if this person can be so brazenly confident about putting their work out into the world, WHY NOT ME?

Now, is there anything about my decision based on the above that seems logical to you?

Didn’t think so.

The fact of the matter is, all sorts of odd interactions can inspire us to take steps we’ve been afraid to take. Heck, half the things other people do make zero sense to me, anyway, so why not add my own spicy madness into the mix? The trick is to pay attention to what those around you are doingwhat comes up for you when you see someone making a choice that confounds you? Is there anything about their motivation or fearlessness that ignites a spark of wistfulness? The problem with having good sense and being measured in our assessments is that we can overthink stuff. We trip over our own feet trying to make good decisions. Because the truth of the matter is, so what if we bomb? I mean is it really so serious that this ignorant, well intentioned woman sent me an insulting letter? Is it so awful that somebody wrote a really, really, really bad piece of porn and put it out there for the world to see? How about for you? What if you make a complete jackass of yourself doing something embarrassing? Is that the end of the world? (FYI, the answer is NO. Hell, I just saw Tony Weiner back on tv being interviewed about what Hillary Clinton should do in terms of marketing herself for president. Seriously???) If they can recover, so can YOU.

Tony Weiner


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