Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reflections on the Weather

I took my coffee onto the back patio yesterday morning to watch for birds. Little drops of rain touched down on the concrete and the glass tabletop and the birdbath and, of course, on my head. There wasn’t enough to drive me inside.

By the time I was ready to leave for the office, the rain had increased so that I had to search for my raincoat. I never found it. Later, I learned that my wife has been taking it to work to keep warm.

When I finally stepped out the front door, water was surging down the gutter and pushing up into the driveway. We live on the slope of a hill, so whenever there is any rain to speak of, a river appears in front of my house. The rain itself was coming down in heavy drops, and I squirreled some paperwork beneath my sweater so I wouldn’t end up with a soggy mess.

There was even lightning and thunder yesterday. We don’t usually get that during our winter storms, but there it was. The thunder was sharp and angry, but the lightning was mostly hidden in the clouds, just the occasional flash.

Rain is relatively rare around here, and we get most of it during the late fall and winter. We needed this rain, even though the downpour was short, because not much has fallen this season. I know the natives I planted a few months ago will love the rain, too. Within a week or two, I’ll see new growth.

Though a little rain came down last night, the storm has largely disappeared, leaving an even gray sky.

I’m happy; I’m satisfied.

Beauty Limps

"Perfection is no more a requisite to art than to heroes. Fridigaires are perfect. Beauty limps. My frigidaire has had to be replaced." (Ned Rorem, 1967)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Of Tusks and Men

If you are readily grossed out, you may want to stop reading now.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I have a private restroom in my office, and today I discovered, on the wall above the toilet, a giant nose hair. I know it was a nose hair, because it was mine. The obvious question is, how the hell did it get there? I don’t normally wipe my nose on the wall.

I’m using this odd incident to let you know a little more about who I am, to give you a deeper glimpse into my intimate being. You see, I have enormous nose hairs. My first wife used to call them tusks. If I don’t trim them regularly, I walk around poking people in their eyes and knocking cans off the grocery store shelves.

My nose hairs are so long and thick that when engineers were fixing up this bridge, they purchased several dozen hairs from me in order to make the support cables.

So, I guess, the wonder of it all is not how the hair became stuck to the restroom wall, but how it is that the wall did not crumble to the ground beneath the massive weight.

Aren't you glad I shared? Maybe tomorrow I’ll discuss my armpits.

And My Own Soul, Too

"What a chimera then is [humanity]! What a novelty! What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth; depository of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error; the pride and refuse of the universe!" (Blaise Pascal, 1670)

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Real Nightmare

Those of you who have read the beginning of my story know something about my first marriage and why it ended. You also know I feel a certain amount of guilt about it all.

A day or two before Christmas I was in bed, struggling to sleep. As often happens during those hours, I thought about some of the crap for which I am responsible. A particular horror is the memory of my son’s reaction when his mother and I told him we would be divorced.

He was in kindergarten at the time, and we were sitting at the dinner table. We told him we would no longer be married, and his mom and dad would live in separate houses. His immediate reaction was to close his eyes and shake his head “no.” He leaned back in his chair and tilted his head toward the ceiling, eyes still closed.

We told him that we both loved him, that we would both take care of him, and that none of this was his fault. I have no idea whether or not he even heard that part.

That is the single most terrible memory I have, and that night, right before Christmas, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I thought about the fact that my son can never again know his world is whole. He spends every Christmas day--his entire life, really--in two different places. He is either with his mom or his dad, and almost never both. There is absolutely nothing I can ever do to change that, and, in fact, I am the primary cause.

I felt more self-loathing and depression than I have in a long time. It had an effect on my spirit that lasted for days. It isn’t something that I can tell my wife, though, because she immediately fears that I am missing my first wife. The marriage is over; I don’t miss it. What I miss is my son’s security and contentment in knowing that his world is complete.

I hate the feeling that comes with imagining and reliving my son’s anguish, but I have only myself to blame.

I Have a Dream

Actually, I had a dream. I was cooking the most amazing garlic shrimp on a barbecue, but they kept slipping through the grill and into the fire. I didn’t get to eat a single one!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Spammin' in the Free World

As I was deleting a piece of spam, I caught the first two lines. “We have good news and bad news for you. Which one do you want to hear first?”

I always choose the bad news. I want the bad news first simply to reduce the anxiety of the unknown. I prefer to get the bad stuff out of the way first so I can relax and enjoy the good. My assumption is that most people would also choose to hear the bad news first.

Whenever I get the bad news, and it isn't very bad at all, I get a secret thrill. I have escaped. By the same token, however, whenever the good news isn't that great, I am let down. It is a similar feeling to biting down into a cheesecake that looks great, but tastes like crap. Or when the preview for a film is hilarious, but the movie itself stinks.

Later I wondered: perhaps I am an exception. How do I know what others would choose simply based upon my own inner logic?

What would you choose to hear first? And what does that reveal about you?

All that from spam.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Let the New Year Psychotherapy Begin

I am not one to make resolutions for the New Year. I do, however, use the turning of the year to examine myself and my life. This year, it is clear there is one behavior--perhaps a personality trait--I should modify. I have been pondering over this issue for the last several months, and it’s time to act.

My problem is that I shy away from confrontation. It isn’t all types of confrontation, and I haven’t yet defined the problem area, but there are times I back off when I should act. Usually, this backing away occurs with people for whom I am a supervisor, with my spouse, or with my kids, though my reluctance is not strictly limited to that group.

One issue may be that I want people to like me. When I was younger, I was very shy, so that may be a factor. Certainly, none of the people involved could hurt me or damage my life, so it isn’t a fear of retaliation.

I want to know why there is this feeling in me that causes me to back away from confrontation. I don’t mind if others confront me. I think I’m pretty good about receiving criticism, and determining what is valid and what isn’t. I even enjoy bickering and arguing about little things (usually with my brother and father; my wife hates it).

But I often let problems continue for too long simply because I won’t speak up. For example, I had been noticing that my secretary was not performing very well, particularly because she had been making a lot of personal telephone calls. I am her supervisor, and it is my job to address the issue. I had the most difficult time getting myself to confront her about her performance.

At the moment, I don’t know any other way to work on this issue other than to try to be aware of my feelings and where they’re coming from, and then to force myself to do what needs to be done. I hope that the more I act decisively, the more I will train myself to act that way the next time.

You think they have an exercise machine for this sort of thing?