My dog has been sleeping around. I can't say I blame him. In fact, he wandered off Thursday morning, and I haven't seen him since. Last night I got an email saying he was having a good time. I don't think he wrote it, though.
A calendar view of the last few years would show a semi-automatic splatter pattern of life events, often leaving me with an image of whoever is on the cosmic trigger sporting smeared clown makeup. Good, bad and otherwise, the moments that define a life have been holding the door for one another, the redshift of one blending into the the blueshift of the next so that a crack in my skull would leak its uniformly purple ambient light.
(Max's favorite color is purple. That cannot be an accident.)
I have settled into two primary coping behaviors. First, I take a lot of pictures. Most days require a second look. Second, I triage and cross my fingers. I've been picking a handful of things, focusing on them, hoping the rest don't flat line by the time I get back around to them. I run hard for a few months, then sequester myself for a long weekend to do my best to catch up on all the things I have ignored, thus far not uncovering anything fatal or criminal (knock wood).
While the dog's basic bio inputs and outputs have been met, a lingering point of stress and regret has been that he has not had the attention a border collie demands and deserves. An earthbound floppy frisbee is a sad and unnatural sight.
Flat paint and kids work together roughly as well as Sarah Palin and Perez Hilton on a blind date. Trust me. I tried (at least the paint/kids part). Each glimpse revealed some new stain or scratch or minor impressionistic masterpiece bringing wedgies of frustration that I had never replaced the thin dusting of pale yellow chalk my corner-cutting builder had left on the walls as the last check cleared.
As the kids steadily worked their unique take on wainscoting the halls, that fucking paint became the sole object of misdirected and mounting stresses. A rational person would have simply repainted the walls, but that's not where I was at the time. That cheap paint refactored itself into a bright line in my mind, the boundary of what I could handle on my own, the exact point where I needed someone else -- God only knows who -- to come in and fix it. I resented and fumed about those walls because it was safer than resenting the whole house, because that might force me to consider how I was feeling about the whole set of broader duties and responsibilities that was overwhelming me. I was a real peach.
A new batch of fun soon made my event horizon again glow purple, illuminating the likelihood that I would soon be free of that paint, those walls, the house, swapping one batch of overwhelming for another. Somewhat ironically, the logistics of getting out forced me to finally break down and paint those walls. But now the task had become an assertive act of reclaiming some manner of control in my life, no longer a concession to the responsibilities I had not been able to live up to. As such, I embraced it. I took a week off and went scorched-earth on the various Lowe's paint chip stands. I started painting.
Early mornings slid into late nights for days on end, draining and refilling an iPod battery. Hours passed anonymously on a step-ladder edging the ceiling, lying on my side surgically painting trim, wielding a roller Daniel-san style, patiently up and down, up and down. Annoying holes and nicks were filled and sanded pleasingly smooth. The angry splatter of stains and markers and crayons gave way to rich monotones. Chalky flat was buried beneath washable eggshells and satins. That carpal tunnel week became a meditation on textures and drips, edges and corners. Somewhere in all those moments of tactile contact, of constant attention, one of them was the inflection point where my relationship with those walls, that house, flipped from resentment to pride.
Several, though not too many moments later, I made the never-since-doubted decision that I was not leaving the house.
If business books included dragons, aliens, wizards -- or at least a lot more shit blowing up -- I am sure I would be running a company by now. (Business books, by the way, are the plankton of the literature food chain -- a couple cave trolls couldn't hurt.) But beyond the tickling of the reptilian brain, good fantasy and sci-fi is a wonderful vehicle for morality tales.
The Harry Potter books do a masterful job of laying bare the evolution of of Voldemort's evil, weaving a slow, deliberate path from a popular but troubled Tom Riddle to a splintered and murderous soul. His unique intellect and talents build his belief that he is an exception to common sense and civility, fomenting an ever-uglier view of those not like him (the basely named mudbloods and muggles). Disrespect hardens into resentment, and resentment descends into a denial that those not like him are worthy even of the basics of human dignity, leaving them fair game for horrific acts. Rowling carefully exposes the twisted logic of the racist through a story compelling to teen minds -- minds working in fits and starts to construct their own views of character. Plus, the monsters are cool as hell and lots of shit gets blown up.
Where racism insinuates itself in Rowling's fantasy, lust for power subtly corrupts Anakin into Vader in Lucas' universe. The outlandish extremes of sci-fi provides stark relief to expose the details of how racism and narcissism can invade intelligent but troubled minds, how untreated disrespect hardens into resentment, and how, by then, you are on the fast track to the center of all that is evil across multiple universes.
Clear Connecticut weekends fill our cul-de-sac with kids -- and now teens -- aimlessly pursuing impulses, loosely overseen by us older folks tending our yards. Short of adding a small flock of sheep to the mix, the scene could not be better for an obsessive border collie trolling for someone to kick a ball or toss a frisbee. Jax's play time has been crowdsourced all his life, but lately, on my kid-free days, he has been taking his more serious canine duties on the road, cleaning the scraps from underneath other kitchen tables, barking at other doorbells, and diligently guarding the feet of other kids' beds. He has even headed to work with some of the kinder neighborfolks during the day. All in, it is a great set up as he has lost weight, perfected his frisbee technique and still takes his full shift here when the kids are on my watch.
The other day, Jax' new sugar-momma offered to take him to the vet as she had an appointment for her biological pet. Wincing as I admitted how long it had been since I had taken him in, I thanked her for her kindness. When she further suggested that I get his blood tested for Lyme disease, I winced again at my recent neglect of his required regimine of Frontline and powders and sprays. When you live mere miles from Lyme, CT, this is pretty damn important.
Turns out Jax has Lyme disease. He'll be fine after the antibiotics work their alchemy. But I'm an ass.
While I am fairly confident that I am not yet on the short list to take my turn as the Source of All Evil, the comic book exaggeration of how resentment eats away at judgment and character does strike the fleeting wonder whether The Empire ever thought of building a Death Star from composite beams and vinyl siding.
The twisted cosmic clown is either tiring or popping in another clip, but whatever the reason, purple haze seems to be resolving into more discreet reds and blues. With a little more time to reflect, I see resentments I am not proud of and judgments influenced by them. I neglected and resented those walls because I (wrongly) felt that the burden of fixing them was something that had been put on me, done to me -- a normally (over)rational guy twisting resentments into misplaced anger.
Some shrink might even look at me and my dog and make an absurd claim that I hadn't gotten him to the vet because that was the sort of thing someone else used to do, an extra task now thrown on an already overburdened me, something I could triage out because it would be somehow less my fault if something went wrong. I mean, I could see how someone else might think that. I, of course, never could. That would make me an ass.
While I don't think I am on the verge of storming the Jedi Temple quite yet, I do need to get some things in order. My guess is that the list of things I most should be doing right now is precisely the same as the list of the things I least want to do. I mean, just a hunch...
But for now, I need to fire up the iPod and get a couple chores done, including a popping a couple antibiotics into a hot dog and tossing it to a dog who just lazily strolled back in, frisbee in his mouth, pissed off that I am still typing.
Actual shortcuts often appear to be detours
10 hours ago