The End of Good Times

Upon reading the title of this week’s post, one might be under the impression that the subject matter is regarding the cancellation of the hit 1970s sitcom, Good Times. The series finale of Good Times was, in itself, a good time, because everyone lived happily ever after. Like… every single character had some pretty awesome closure on their respective arcs. I don’t recall all of the details, but I remember Keith gets to go play for the Chicago Bears, so there aren’t many good times that could top that one. Continuing his arc would be pointless (until 25 years later, when television ratings started to truly rely on how badly someone once-famous spiraled out of control after achieving fame).

Also, Willona and Thelma found out they get to stay neighbors, so that was also a pretty good time that would be tough to beat. Perhaps not for James.

Alas, this isn’t about the show. It’s about something people don’t usually talk about openly: The Happiness Hangover (I would love to take credit for that term, but I only just learned it, while researching this phenomenon). Think about a time in your life, when you were having the best time, and everything was perfect in your world, and nothing stressful or worrisome was taking up rent space in your head or your heart, and things just seemed to be exactly how you would want them to be forever… but then when it ends, you feel like you’re standing at the end of a long road, and there’s no clear way to go. The happiness of the experience is still fresh and vivid, but the experience itself is over. You wish it wasn’t over, because that means you’re back to the way things actually are.

Maybe you just graduated high school, and you’ll be parting ways with your friends, and you’re finally taking that step into adulthood, bound for work or for college, and you can’t help feeling that it’s the end of something, (note: it’s the beginning. Buckle the fuck up). Or you just came back from the most relaxing and fun-filled vacation you’ve ever had, and now you have to get back to The Grind, and you find yourself bored with the things that used to be a part of your everyday machine. The feeling is the same. You want to ride the high, or keep smiling and laughing with people, or keep pushing yourself to discover who you are, or keep seeing more of the world, or whatever it is that is keeping your dopamine flowing. When it stops, we feel a chemical dump that sends our spirit crashing down, and ordinary life seems bleak.

I talk about this, because my son has recently felt this for the first time. He has never been very popular or made friends easily. Even when he did have a “circle” of friends, they were a small circle. Like, not even a circle. More like a line segment. He’s always been an avid reader, and he looks like the stereotypical “nerd,” so people don’t approach him, and he’s never had success in approaching others, so he’s content to just be alone. He always sits alone at lunch, and nobody has ever tried to sit with him. It’s a mystery to me. Besides being intelligent, funny, considerate, and clever, he’s also interested in a wide variety of things, and could hold a conversation with any person of any age. He holds doors for people, and opens my car door for me EVERY time, even when it’s not exactly helpful. The sentiment is there, because it just occurs naturally to him, to be a good person. But he’s not very outgoing, so he generally goes unnoticed.

He was in his high school musical recently, and played a major part. He was incredibly funny, delivered his lines comically, and sang his heart out! He had a great time for the months they worked their asses off, and became friends with everyone in the group, finally showing how much fun he can be to hang out with. As a Sophomore, he is experiencing a sadness over the fact that the people he hit it off with most from the musical, are Seniors. They’re all friends with each other, and they all hang out after school, and they all have clubs and activities together, and they all have classes together, and they’ll all leave everyone behind together. Now that the musical is over, those students have no inclination to socialize with my son. He hasn’t felt that feeling of being left behind before, and it’s not tasting very good the first time.

We feel a sense of sadness when the rug is ripped out from under us like that, and though the feeling eventually wears off… and even though there will always be more good times… they will also end. Life is just a chain of good times, with painful idling between the links (I’m not calling them bad times. You call them that.) If we didn’t have that “down time” we most certainly would not appreciate the moments of happiness as much, so it’s necessary to feel that crash at the end, to keep us grounded to reality. Isn’t it fucked up that we can’t go flying away with the notion that any high can last forever? Some religions see life as suffering; to live is to suffer, and we die, and then we live again to suffer until we die, and it goes on, in a cycle called Samsara. This is what I think life would be, if we didn’t have this balance. 

Let me explain.

Opponent Process Theory tells us that when we experience a strong emotion, the opposite feeling is bound to follow. So when we go to a concert, or visit loved ones, or receive praise, our brain will try to counter the dopamine release (produced by the brain, during the good time) by swinging you back into balance with some mundane shit. That’s why life can seem gloomy and rather boring, after you’ve experienced something that causes your brain to release the drugs of pleasure. In my son’s case, he experienced months of happiness, culminating in high praise from his peers and his audience. When that was over, and he was no longer performing, he felt like there was no excitement to be had. The drugs from his brain had worn off. Going to school, reading, playing video games, and other ordinary daily activities brought him back down to homeostasis, and while his “normal self” is incredibly fun to be around, he doesn’t feel the same happiness that he did when he was being accepted by his peers. It’s a simple pleasure, but it’s something that was meaningful to him, and seemingly not very meaningful to anyone on the other side of the equation. Opponent Process Theory tells him that he’s going to feel accepted and appreciated by peers, only to go back to being ignored and alone. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

So now that we know good times are a fleeting luxury, what can we do to ease the pain of the crash? Have more good times, and try to limit the time in between, just in case? I wonder how good that could be for you? Is it possible to overdose on your own transmission of dopamine? Or worse: do we just not take the chance, by limiting ourselves to how much happiness we experience? I speak from experience, when I say this: THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER. But it made me really think about it. Why has nobody ever talked about this around me before? This is the shit they need to be teaching in school, because it sucks to not know.

The other night, Sonny had a chorus concert, and it was the 4th time I’ve seen him sing in public. I still cried like a baby. I love seeing him be so involved and dedicated and versatile and confident in what he does, and his good times often reflect as good times for me, too. So when he crashes, I crash too; his attachments are to the people he does extra-curriculars with, and my attachment is to him. If I have to see him be sad or lonely, it stops being a good time for me. He is still on the high of the praise he received for his singing the other night, and it happens to coincide with the beginning of his next endeavor in theater, so there may be some minimizing of “downtime” happening there. If that’s how he manages it, I can only hope he doesn’t burn himself out. I’ve been told, “by always looking forward to the next thing, you’re wishing your life away.” I wonder if any of that’s true?

-jg

Opening My Fourth Eye

WARNING: this post talks about my b-hole, otherwise known as the a-hole. You know, the one that is (slightly) less-sexualized than its close neighbor, the vagina. Read at your own risk, but be warned that this post contains educational statements.

Nothing says “quit taking shit for granted” quite like having a rectal cancer scare. Every day, we hear about all varieties of cancer, and unless we’re a total sociopath, we sympathize with the person that has the cancer, and we think about people we know (or knew) with cancer, and it stirs up a lot of conversation about what could happen during treatment, after treatment, or in the absence of treatment.

It also gets people talking about what led to the cancer. There’s medical history evaluation, lifestyle questions, and a whole lot of being honest about what your regular habits may include. In my case, they wanted to know all the good stuff: how often I take a shit, what it looks like, how much pressure I use to wipe (and how much time I spend wiping) afterward, what kind of underwear I wear, whether or not I have anal sex, and if I’ve ever had hemorrhoids before. Not exactly First Date Questions, but that doctor definitely got to third base within 15 minutes of meeting me. Would the butthole be third base? I feel like it is.

Actually, I feel like I slid ass-first into home plate, and the catcher was waiting there for me with a red hot poker, because I had a rather invasive surgery that has changed me forever. I don’t even like baseball anymore because of these analogies. I don’t even like the word analogies because it just looks like something I don’t want to deal with. Anal oh-jeez.

I have spent the past 4 days on my couch, agonizing over what my brother-in-law Dave likes to call: The Second Butthole. Born out of necessity, this misery was coded as “elective surgery” on my chart. I suppose you could elect to suffer for the rest of your life, if you want to be technical about it. I figured 3 years was long enough, so I had a choice to make: throw my pride to the wind and start mooning my doctor without hesitation, or keep suffering like it’s not a problem. Let me tell you, IT WAS A PROBLEM. I’ve never been shy, but it takes a certain kind of suffering to get to that place where you’re talking openly about your shit within the first 5 minutes of meeting someone.

I didn’t have any problems with my digestive or intestinal systems, necessarily; my gut worked just fine. There aren’t many foods I can’t tolerate. The problem was with the “back door” not opening, due to a large mass that kept reopening and re-scarring, reopening and re-scarring, causing blood-clotting, as well as hardened, thick tissue formation. I tested for (and took medication for) all types of intestinal worms, despite never having them. I tried creams and ointments and special diets and all kinds of bathroom hygiene etiquette. The symptoms were unrelenting. The constantly healing wounds were also constantly itchy, in addition to the enlarged pulsating veins that were being compressed by the thickening scar tissue.  It was a nightmare. There wasn’t one minute of the day when I wasn’t thinking about it.

So I got the elective surgery. Hopefully my insurance covers it, though, at this point I don’t really care. I have a dime-sized hole next to my actual b-hole, and it can’t be stitched or closed in any way, because that promotes bacterial growth. It wasn’t packed with gauze or dressing. Because of the nature of my problem, I had to have tissue biopsy done as well, which means I also have a bunch of random “snips” that were left open as well, in and around my rectum.

IN and around it. IN IT. There are open wounds inside of my rectum. Who the fuck in their right mind would elect to get that kind of surgery, if it wasn’t necessary?! That shit isn’t exactly fun. I got my surgery last Friday, and I’m only JUST well enough to lay here on my side and type this now. It’s fuckin Tuesday. If I could have elected to just somehow live through an unwelcome mass growing ever more disruptive inside my asshole, believe me, I would.  Turns out… not that easy. Even now that the major player was removed, I still don’t know the status of the pathology, so I suppose I feel a little better?

Okay, I took a couple of days off, to wallow in my pain and suffering (because that’s what I do) and now it’s Thursday. The pathology came back NEGATIVE FOR CANCER (best news I’ve gotten in years) which is wonderful for my overall health. The downside is, my recovery is not going well. I still feel like I’m clenching in a razor blade that acts like it wants to come out, but is really just messing with me. I’ve been doing all the post-op care as instructed, but when it rains, it pours. Or as the French say: “Jamais deux, sans trois,” which means “Never two without three.” In my case, it means “you’re fucked.”

Have you ever compounded a blood pressure medication with lidocaine, and applied it to your bootyhole? Guess who has to… yep, me. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but I certainly know now! Anal fissures are another fun thing to have, post-op. Did you know about those? (Read this, for info) Did you also know you can get muscle spasms in your butthole, that actually slow down your healing? Well now you do, and you can just take my word for it, that IT’S WORSE THAN YOU’RE THINKING. That’s the reason for the blood pressure medication, explained. It’s almost as if not being able to poop, pee, eat, sleep, sit, stand, walk, or drive, just wasn’t enough. My body in my late 30’s, ladies and gentlemen. That shit doesn’t even have to make sense, for me to suffer from it.

Listen to me: don’t take your body for granted. Don’t just eat whatever you are able to survive through. Just because you can eat a ghost chile pepper without dying, doesn’t mean your body isn’t going to hate it. I don’t understand these people, who think it’s some kind of accomplishment to stand in front of a crowd of people, with a mile-long snot dripping out of their nose, tears pouring out of their beet-red eyes, their lips burning with the heat of a thousand suns, unable to taste anything but pain for the next week, knowing they’ll be shitting out red fire. Congratulations? Your body hates you. You’re just not listening to it, when it tells you how unhappy it is. Trust me, I’ve been having plenty of conversation with my body lately, and all it wants to say is “I tried to fuckin tell  you,” with its arms crossed.

If I’ve learned anything from this whole ordeal, it’s that there are good doctors out there. Ones that make you feel completely comfortable with winking in their face from the back end. Ones that explain to you what is going on, and reassure you that butt surgery is not on everyone’s bucket list. Ones that don’t make you feel like you’re being a pain in the ass; you just have pain in the ass. I don’t know what encouraged this doctor to go into Proctology, but I’m glad he did. Nobody has ever cared about my b-hole as much as he has; apparently not even me. From now on, I’m going to treat my body like a temple, because you never know when you’re going to have to just stop eating potatoes and pasta and cheese and meat out of nowhere, and THEN what are you going to do? Just sit there and watch your family eat all that stuff, while you eat nothing?! Don’t be that person. You’re not invincible. Don’t be an asshole.

TAKEAWAY MESSAGE: If you’re having rectal issues, get them checked out ASAP. Mine could have been treated much more simply, if I had not waited. Don’t be embarrassed. I just tell myself “This doctor has seen some nasty buttholes, so mine is probably like the Sistine Chapel.” Don’t let your rectal issues go untreated, because they could turn into surgery you didn’t even know you were getting (and subsequently ruin your entire Christmas vacation trip back home). What starts off as a simple biopsy, could leave you with a second butthole: one which you can’t use at all, other than to test how much pain you can endure without dying, or how much your significant other loves you, because they have to apply the medicine. Do yourself a favor, and get over your ego, and have the butt exam. Just do it. I’m telling you, you don’t want to give up your precious scroll time on the toilet, to be replaced by awkward squatting and screaming and crying.

Love thy butthole.

-jg

MisterRogersMamaRu

When I was younger, my siblings and I used to watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I say “younger” instead of “a kid” because I watched the show well into my adulthood. Though Fred Rogers has passed, one thing I’ve never been able to get over, is the spelling of the title.

I mean, possession would be indicated by the “apostrophe before the s” at the end of any singular noun (or proper noun). So wouldn’t Mister Rogers, the singular man whose neighborhood we’re visiting, be the host of Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood? It’s not like there is more than one man named Mister Roger, and they’re both living in the neighborhood and hosting the show. That’s what the title leads me to believe, and I don’t know if I like it, because I feel like that is what that means, and I’m missing out on an entire other Mister Roger! I would like to double my fucking pleasure, please. If I’m watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, I’d better be looking at two dudes. At least.

An important thing I learned from watching Mister, is that every one of us has something that nobody else has: ourselves. I forgot to spoiler alert you about your mind being blown. He says, “there’s only one person in the whole world like you… and I like you just the way you are” which is also kind of weird, because it sounds like he’s telling me that there’s someone in the world like me. Is he telling them that he likes them just the way I am? Who is it? Are they old? Are they a baby? Are they a dog? Those are really the only three choices.

I took that idea of there only being one Me in the world, and I ran away with it. I used to do the most outrageous shit to get a reaction from people. I did dances, I wrote songs, I mastered different voices and impressions, I created characters, and on top of being my own biggest fan, I was extremely loud (voted Biggest Mouth and Class Clown in my senior class, thanks). If there is only one of me in the world, the world has long since gotten their money’s worth. I’ve forced friendship on people who didn’t really like me, because of the fact that I was so loud, but I thought I was funny, so they must have thought I was funny too. I used to talk to my friends’ parents like they were my friends, even though they probably thought I was too young to be saying some of the shit I was saying to them, but it didn’t matter because it didn’t feel wrong to me. I was just being myself. And I wasn’t sorry about it, because nobody told me to stop.

As much as I learned from Misterogers, I have to give credit where credit is due, and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race for ten years has taught me more about being myself, than Fred Rogers ever could. It taught me that I could not only be myself, but that I also shouldn’t feel bad about my lack of giving a shit what anyone thinks about it. Everyone has their darkness, and everyone has their suffering, and we all deal with it in our own way, and we all just try to do the best we can, until we die. I never heard that on PBS. And I probably could have used that wisdom in my teens, because the ’90s were brutal, and being a feminist back then was not very popular, especially in Bumblefuck, Maine. Wanna know who didn’t like me? Pretty much everyone, at some point. But I won them over with my humor and lack of shame, and then they had no choice but to hear me when I wasn’t being funny (but still loud), at least for a little while, until they could get out of earshot. And I wasn’t sorry about that, either.

The difference between what I learned from Mister Rogers, and what I learned from watching RuPaul, is how it pertains to me. I found Mister Rogers to be informative on how to be a good person, but I never felt like it was realistic to my world, because when I turned from the TV to the window, I was sadly disappointed in the disparity. People weren’t good, and they weren’t nice, and the sun wasn’t always shining, and things didn’t always work out in the end, and there wasn’t always a lesson to be learned, and nobody helped anybody that day, and everyone returned home with a frown. It wasn’t the same, so why should I try to be that nice person? RuPaul and the queens on the show are open and honest about ugly struggles, and have seen that people aren’t always kind, and the sun never shines on some people. It doesn’t set the expectation that everyone is doing good deeds and being selfless to make the world a better place, because the world is not like that. It can be made up to look pretty and sweet, but underneath, it’s really a hairy man with a dick.

I don’t love everything about myself, but that’s mostly because I hate feeling the physical pain that comes with being out of shape and almost old. The fact that I have stretch marks, cellulite, uneven boobs, body hair, a lazy eye, E.T. fingers, and hobbit feet… doesn’t bother me one bit. I will gladly take those things, because they’re just little things. I don’t apologize for being myself, even still. I realize not everyone is going to like me, but it’s important to remember that not everyone is going to be liked by me, either. They’re just doing their own thing, and trying as best as they can until they die. I’m a blip on their radar, if they want me to be.

I don’t even think my big mouth is my biggest drawback, to be honest with you. I’d say my lack of follow-through and ambition is probably the worst thing about me, besides the fact that I’m always right. Kidding about that ambition thing. I’m totally ambitious, just not in the way that everyone else is.

Don’t apologize for being yourself. No matter what it is, even if someone can rattle off 20 things they hate about you, so what? Fuck it. You’re you, you’re gonna be you when that person is a distant memory, and nobody else is going to be you, so you might as well fuckin just do that shit to the fullest. My kids have asked me for good comebacks for when people are putting them down, and I always tell them “Fuck off” works for me, because it literally does not matter what someone else thinks of you. It’s what you think of yourself, and how you want to represent your time on this planet.

“There’s only one person in the whole world like you… DON’T… fuck it up!”

-jg

The Feverish Brain

Flu season is upon us, and in New England, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a reminder to “get your flu vaccine FOR FREE!” What they don’t tell you on the sign, is that the medicine you’ll have to buy when you do get sick (and you will) is definitely not free.

I’ve never been the type of person to get sick, and managed to get through most of my childhood and adolescence without throwing up at all. Iron stomach, diesel immune system, and a colon that could beat up your dad. I was as healthy as a malnutritioned middle child who was good at absolutely nothing could be. No sports to keep me fit, and my dad didn’t exactly stress the importance of getting your heart rate up, much less any real physical activity to speak of*, so I developed very little muscle tone. However, my brain was always sharp, and I could probably successfully run away from most people if I had to. What is “healthy” anyway?

*My dad, like most dads in the 1980s, was pretty big on the whole martial arts craze that came along to make every man in the Western world feel like he could do anything! He considered his interest in this subject to be the extent of his exercise, and forced us into it briefly as well. So in that way, I guess you could say that he did encourage us to be somewhat active, until his car accident gave way to a pill addiction (which he was able to overcome with the help of cannabis) and he stopped being able to force us into his dreams of being a black belt.

As an adult, when I get sick, I feel like the world is ending. I never had to deal with such pain and suffering, growing up (I guess jumping off the roof of a burnt house, into a pile of dried horse shit isn’t without its benefits) and it took me by surprise that I wasn’t dying the first time I got pneumonia. I stayed up all night, because I thought I was going to stop breathing in my sleep.

I didn’t die, by the way. I’m still here. And I still get sick, and it still sucks. That’s why I am so empathetic to others, when they’re sick: because I know what it feels like, and it’s not always obvious to the outside world that you feel like a walking zombie. When I’m sick, I don’t want to be expected to do a fuckin thing. I just want someone to say “Aw man, why don’t you sit down, so you can fixate on how shitty you feel, and I’ll make dinner.” Matt is really good for this. The kids try to ask me what they can do for me, but that just ends up looking like this:

Sonny: “Mom, what can I do for you?”
Me: “Nothing, just hang out and be good.”
Dot: “Can I get you anything?”
Me: “No, I just want to lay here.”
Sonny: “Well do you want a cold rag?”
Me: “No, I just want to lay here.”
Dot: “Do you want an ibuprofen?”
Me: “I took one already. I just want to relax, please, thank you, you don’t have to do anything for me.”
Sonny: “Want us to turn the TV down?”
Me: “No, it’s not bothering me.”
Dot: “Do you want me to make dinner?”
Me: “NO! Please don’t, I can’t even think about that right now.”
Peter Jennings Sonny: “Does your head hurt?”
Me: “Yes.”
Dot: “Have you been coughing?”
Me: “I have been up all night, coughing, with a fever, and haven’t slept in days.”
Sonny: “Do you think you have a cold?”

And that’s how I relax, when I’m sick. The sickest part of the whole thing, is that both of them were sick with separate illnesses the week before, and I fuckin got both of them. I think they saved up every question they weren’t able to ask when they were sick, and piled them on all at once. I’m no stranger to fever thoughts myself. I had a fever for almost 5 days last week, and I not only had some strange thoughts, but I apparently committed a few of them to a Google search.

“Can a human live off just broth alone?” – the answer is no. Depending on what your broth is made of, that is. If it’s made with proteins and stuff, I’m sure you could probably be alright, but I don’t think that’s the kind of broth I was drinking.

“Is lava the same temperature as my face?” – again, the answer is no. Turns out, lava is anywhere from 1,100- 1,600F, and hot snot averages around 102F. I’ve sat in hot tubs that were 115F, and that’s not that much hotter than what was stuffing up my entire face. There was steam coming off that water. Might as well be lava, when it’s that close to my brain.

“Can I overdose on Ricolas?” – this would be difficult. The closest you’d probably come to overdosing on any cough drop, would be severe nausea, caused by too much menthol. I always thought minty shit was supposed to alleviate nausea, but that wasn’t even close to being my problem.

“Nobody cares that I’m sick” – I stand by this statement.

“How can you poop if you can’t eat?” – oh, believe me… you can poop. It’s just not going to be food. Not gonna be food, because you didn’t eat, and you didn’t eat because your face was full of lava. And if you can’t even eat a baked potato, you need to get used to pooping out broth.

“Flu vs Cold” – I think I’m going to wait until I finish medical school, to lend my expertise on this one. From what the internet tells me (the internet is a doctor) there is minimal difference between the two, other than the fact that one comes complete with the Triumvirate of Suffering: fever/chills/headache. Remember when I said nausea wasn’t my problem? The Triumvirate of Suffering was the star of that show.

“Can a cold last forever?” – besides the fact that I didn’t have a cold this time, I would have to say that, historically, 100% of the time, my colds have not lasted forever. Could be a fluke.

“My pee is too cloudy” – lack of fluids, probably caused by too much broth and not enough water. Luckily, it wasn’t indicative of a bladder infection – or worse, kidney stones – because that may have very well sent me over the edge. When I’m sick, I have very little energy to do anything other than whine and complain, so driving myself to the doctor, and subsequently the pharmacy for antibiotics, wasn’t happening.

“Is it today, or yesterday?” – this was something I typed into my phone’s search function, so I didn’t get an answer. Is there an answer? I don’t think so.

Having a fever can also affect your judgment, such as your concept of time. I showed up to pick up my daughter from school, and ended up crying in the car, because I was 15 minutes early. I legitimately wondered – aloud – why she wasn’t coming outside.  When my son had a last minute practice, I could have jumped out the window of my car. That didn’t happen, mostly because I couldn’t move.

The worst part about being sick, at least this time, was the idea that I couldn’t sleep, which meant the sickness was going to either get stronger, or at least maintain its stronghold on me. When I tried to sleep, the lava mucus in my face threatened me with brain boil (just an FYI, brain boil isn’t real, unless you were in the Vesuvius disaster). If you can’t sleep, and your face is on fire, you don’t necessarily wake up with hope that things are improving. Maybe you do, but I think you’re lying. Waking up with a fever and headache, then wrapping yourself in a blanket and cranking up the heat because you’re freezing, only to immediately realize you’re roasting… not a great morning routine. Especially when you know that you’re probably going to drag those symptoms around with you all day, and they’ll be accompanying you to bed.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, being sick is fuckin stupid. It kept me from writing, and made me feel like a turd for not being able to power through it. I would like to be one of those humans whose will is stronger when they’re sick, simply because they want to be the one behind the fight, and claim the recovery as their victory. Instead, I rag on myself until every ounce of self esteem has been flushed from my body, like three days’ worth of chicken broth. When I do feel better, it’s because the universe has finally decided it’s fucked with me enough for now, and it lets me go free so I can run home to my mommy to nurse my wounds… until next time it gets bored and decides my suffering is entertaining. Who would’ve known that sickness was my weakness?!

Now that I’m feeling better, I can get back to my life of no irrational fear or unreasonable judgment. It’s gonna be great.

-jg

Did Someone Just Fuckin’ Say “Christmas”???

It’s only October.

But it’s late October, which means a few things in this consumerist society in which we’re drowning. The first, is the Party City enema everyone is forced to endure on television. I don’t watch much television, but Hulu shows enough commercials to offset any lost time we may have experienced otherwise. Thank you, Corporate America! It’s virtually impossible to miss the fact that it is, indeed, Halloween, but that doesn’t stop us from putting up our own decorations, even if our neighborkids are just going to rip them down and destroy them anyway. We’ll probably make our own costumes, like we always do in my family because we’re cheap, because we just love the idea of being someone else, for just a few hours. It’s an escape no other holiday can offer. In my opinion, costumes should be heavily marketed all year round, but that’s not this blog post. It’s another one.

You may have also noticed that it’s prime season for pepperings-in of holiday commercials. While still few in numbers, there is no denying that these earlybird companies are merely the first to dip their toes into the icy cold water of the dreaded SHOPPING SEASON. That means more commercials, more catalogs, more magazine ads, more store displays, more articles about the “big toy of the season” that you’ll definitely have to pre-order, because just the very mention of something potentially becoming popular, is enough to make everybody want it. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, really; it’s only popular because consumers were afraid it would become too popular, and so they take “precautionary” measures, and those precautions result in what we call A Clusterfuck.

Since I’ve been cognizant of the phenomenon of holiday product pushing, I’ve always noticed the stark absence of commercials for clothing, other than Macy’s or Kohl’s, and those ones are fuckin strange. The ads show a group of people usually laughing, and they’re bopping around or moving in some unnatural way for hanging out, and literally nobody is saying anything. Everyone is just laughing and smiling. What was that shoot like? Was it… like this….?

Director: “Hey, put these pants on, and get in there and laugh.”
Actor: “At what?”
Director: “I don’t know, just laugh. You’re having a great time wearing that sweater and scarf and super tight pants.”
Actor: “That’s not funny, though. What am I laughing at?”
Director: “Think of something funny. It’s method acting.”
Actor: *shrug* “Okay.”
Director: “Pick up that giant red ball, too, and throw it at her.”
Actress: “Me?!”
Actor: “You want me to throw the ball at her?”
Director: “Yeah, it’s fun. It’s what people do in scarfs and jeans. Make sure you get that kid laughing too.”

I’ve seen some good old fashioned snowball fights on commercials for clothing, too. Mostly for outdoor clothing, but some featured people without coats -but with scarfs and earmuffs and gloves- throwing snowballs at each other. I don’t know.

The majority of holiday ads are geared toward children and teens. You know why. It’s because they’re the ones who are doing all the watching; watching TV, streaming Hulu, or they’re checked into YouTube to watch some idiot watching something else. They’re getting their daily dose of commercials, and they’re going to know exactly what they want for the holidays, because it’s not just the adults who lose their minds over the next Tickle Me Elmo, it’s the young ones too. They know what The Big Ticket is, and if they don’t see it for themselves on TV, they’ll hear all about it, and you bet your ass they’re going to let you know. And then, the deal is fuckin sealed for you, because if you don’t get that thing, you didn’t do enough. Doesn’t matter what else you get them. If it’s not that particular thing, you get to hear about how you should have pre-ordered it, and you’ll learn the names of 16 other kids who did get it, and you realize holiday consumerism is a scam, and watch your hard earned money just sit there on the floor, because it’s not The Big Ticket.

And then they play with something they already owned. Is that in the holiday ads? Where the kid just says fuckit, and starts playing with the Legos he was playing with the night before? Or where they get mad that they can’t have candy canes or bell-shaped chocolates for breakfast? Where are those ads? I remember one time, my dad put dry Lucky Charms in my stocking, just to get me to eat cereal instead of candy. I ate the marshmallows, and left the rest. Holiday Loopholes.

Speaking of loopholes, there needs to be one for relatives, because physics has forbidden me from being in two places at once. I’ve used up all of my freebies with the universe, so now I can only be in one place at one time, and that essentially guarantees that someone is going to be feeling like the asshole (spoiler: it’ll be me). I have to tell somebody no, or at the very least, reschedule for a time that is convenient. You know what isn’t convenient? Having to tell someone that they are the person you chose to reschedule. Friggin holidays… creating unrealistic expectations and incredibly realistic arguments since too-long-ago.

I don’t know if you know this or not, but there’s a holiday we celebrate here in the United States, and it’s called Thanksgiving. It’s a bullshit holiday by its very existence, but it’s cloaked in an air of “appreciation” so people aren’t allowed to talk shit about it. You have to be thankful. Don’t be a dick. That’s for the other 364 days of the year. Surely, you can spare one day of your year to not be so greedy, because that’s what Thanksgiving is about!

NO IT ISN’T.

In the United States, Thanksgiving is a food holiday that we use as an excuse to eat more than we normally do, and we pretend to be nicer than we really are. There are not usually gifts involved, but like Christmas or Chanuka, there is a fair amount of prep work that must be done, in order to successfully drive you insane execute the holiday. There is usually a big-ass turkey as the star of the meal, unless you’re a vegetarian, or you have a weird bird thing. I don’t know what people eat, if they’re not having turkey. I could eat turkey every day for the rest of my life, and be alright about it. Aside from that, you gotta have potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and pie. That’s the big four, as far as I’m concerned, and I would need nothing else on my plate, to make it a good night. But for most people, that’s just the appetizer.

I used to run a Biggest Loser competition at my old job, and when Thanksgiving came around, I had to tune everyone out, because even someone who is trying to lose weight will still glorify the horrific extent of consumption that happens on this holiday. It’s almost a necessity to over-indulge. Americans are convinced that this day just doesn’t count, and their bodies won’t pay for the random day of odd dieting that could easily equal 3 days’ worth of caloric, sodium, and fat intake. The fact is, if you give a day a special name, Americans will find a way to incorporate food into it, even if we’re unhealthy. It’s what we do. It’s why we are the way we are. If you try to figure it out, you will get lost (make sure to bring some snacks, in case you get hungry along the way).

I’ve seen some Thanksgiving dinners that were ridiculous. My sister and mom are notorious for doing way too fuckin much. 3 turkeys, AND ribs, AND roasts and stuff. And that doesn’t even include the milliondy-four sides they have prepared. You’d think they were going on vacation, and wanted to cook up everything in their house before they left. Nope, just cramming enough food for 50 people into 10 people. Because it’s a celebration! It’s weird how far we have come, from celebrating our hard work paying off in a plentiful harvest, to spending $500 on a meal that normally costs you $40 to make. Happy Thanksgiving.

The funniest thing on Thanksgiving, I think, is the sheer number of hours we spend watching the Christmas commercials. You think you’re watching football, or the Macy’s parade, but you’re just being violated by the grubby intentions of corporate America. They know you’re watching. They can practically smell the food on your breath. They know the kids can see, and if they aren’t in the room, that’s okay, because the toy ads play just a little bit louder than the show you’re watching. The second that one kid hears the annoyingly sugary voice of a woman excitedly telling you about a tiny plastic dog that just shit out some puppies, the stampede is imminent. They need the toy, but they also need to see the commercial for the toy. Right after that, while you’re still reeling from the sound of screams, it’s the commercial that tells you what your wife wants for jewelry. They know your wife can see, and if she isn’t in the room, that’s okay, because the jewelry ads play on EVERY FUCKING STATION.

Let me tell you something about jewelry ads: they’re funny as hell. The only commercial funnier than jewelry ads (and As Seen On TV ads) is a food commercial. Sidetracking for a second… What kind of reality exists, where someone takes a bite or a drink, and they close their eyes and breathe in deeply so their shoulders shrug up toward their ears, and they smile, so you know they’re thoroughly enjoying what they just consumed? Seriously. It’s lunch meat. It’s coffee. It’s a pasta dish. It’s a damn chocolate that is gonna send you to heaven, apparently. I have never eaten anything like that, in my entire life, and I love food more than I love some of my siblings. But jewelry ads are so fake, they make the food orgasm scenes look like Shakespeare in the park.

“This Christmas, show her you mean forever. Get her the Eternal Sweetheart Wife In Love diamond set from Shitz’s.”

Let me stop you there. I like the fact that they’re encouraging people to show love, instead of just saying it with dumb old words (who does that anymore?) but this is a pretty expensive way to say it. Diamonds? I’d much rather have $400 in nachos, or massages, or shoes, or cookware, or books, or paint, or scrap wood. In fact, don’t even spend that much money on me, unless it’s in car repairs or vacation details. Diamonds have no purpose, and still, they’re constantly pushed on couples, as a means to prove how strong their love is. Why not just get her the 100% steel set instead? That shit is strong. Not even jet fuel can melt it.

Christmas is the time for buying a car. If you have been putting off buying a new Lexus, now is the time. If you have perfect credit, come down and get the best deals, so we can work on your credit score. Get $1,000 off a $45,000 car, with no money down, and 0% APR. There’s no better time to surprise your spouse with a major expense, without discussing it with them first, financially. Hurry in to your Lexus dealer, before all of the cars are gone… because that’s something that ever happens. When this sale ends, it ends, until our New Year’s sale, and then our Presidents’ Day sale, and then the St. Patrick’s Day sale, and the Easter Sale, which is right before the Spring Clearance! See your Lexus dealer TODAY, and get a large red bow at no extra cost! The large red bow indicates that it’s a gift, even though the payments will be a joint expense, and you’ll probably also drive or ride in it. It’s a gift for them, which you’ll be able to successfully hide until Christmas morning, because they’ll never look in the garage. No garage? That’s okay, we will drive the car up into the driveway for you, when you’re ready to present it to your spouse (as a gift, for your spouse) and then sneak away stealthily on foot, back to the dealership on Christmas day! We have nothing to do, trust me, it always works out this way. It’s the Christmas miracle.

It would be funny to see holiday commercials change with the season, to reflect how tired we are of the ads by mid-December. The guy has the sweater on, and he’s making the Angry Dad Face at the kid, who has half of his clothes off, and the pants have grape juice and cheesy fingerprints on them, and the dog is working on the turkey, on top of the table, while the woman is drinking a glass of wine and running away. There’s half-written Christmas cards on the floor, without stamps on them. A toddler is pulling a Santa costume out of Dad’s bottom drawer. Nana is snapping the Christmas records in half. The director might tell them: “I don’t give two fucks, I just want this nightmare to end,” and they’ll all be motivated by that.

I’m not ready for the holidays yet. I can dig Halloween, because I love candy, and free candy is always good (well, maybe not always, don’t listen to me, Kids). I don’t want to think about Thanksgiving, and I certainly don’t want to think about Christmas yet. There are so many things that have to happen between now and then, and if I start thinking about the holidays, the other things will just become unimportant bumps in the road, and I don’t want that. I want to enjoy each day, and experience each bump for what it is. We are always so obsessed with time going by, that we’re forever reminding ourselves of what’s to come, instead of just living it when it gets here. When it finally does arrive, we are too busy thinking about what’s next, to fully appreciate what is happening. Let the days go by, but don’t forget to live them. Make something special out of each day. Just like Mr. Rogers said for you to do. I’m copying him, is what I’m trying to say.

It’s only October. Let it be.

-jg

I Was Almost Vinced.

Last week, I learned the meaning of the word “vincible” in more ways than one. Obviously, I looked it up in the dictionary, and wasn’t surprised to see it there. It literally means the opposite of “invincible,” which we all know, means you can’t be vinced.

I also learned the definition the hard way, by getting into a car accident. It’s worth mentioning that everyone survived, so, this isn’t that kind of invincibility (or vincibility, as it were) story, you can relax. It’s more about realizing that you’re human.

As of the day I am writing this, it has been a week since the crash, and I have experienced a metamorphic transformation of sorts, in those seven days. Nobody ever expects an accident, and when you get into one, it happens so fast, that you can easily get lost in the true events of what you’re experiencing. You ask “How did that happen?!” which is a fair question to ask, unless you were doing something risky and it just caught up with you. In that case, be your own detective.

Not only do you wonder how it happened, you can actually block out the details of what happened. One minute, you’re driving, and the very next moment, you’re spun around in a ditch on the other side of the road. If you were rear-ended, it can be extremely unclear, and you’re left with unanswered questions because the other driver probably isn’t going to want to incriminate themselves for the sake of your peace of mind. Sometimes, they’re an old couple, who you run over to check on, and they’re grouchy fuckin dicks to you. Or, it’s a redneck who wasn’t paying attention while driving way-too-fast mph on a back road in the winter, and they tell the insurance company that it was your fault. Or, sometimes it’s an extortionist who wants to make a quick buck on an insurance payout, and isn’t afraid to lay low for awhile to prove how useless injured they are. In any case, even if they’re nice, they aren’t worried about you, as much as they’re worried about themselves. But feel free to call them for an interview, if you think you’ll be able to figure some shit out. I wasn’t so lucky.

This was my second accident with my son in the car, and I’m grateful beyond all that is powerful in the universe, that he was not hurt in either one. This one was a bit less intense, but he was a champ throughout the whole thing, and has been ever since. The thing I haven’t been able to shake, is the feeling that, if we had collided one second sooner, my son could have been killed. I don’t know what I would do without him in my life, but if something happened to him because of my inability to protect him, I would struggle with being able to recover and cope. Again, I am so thankful that he is okay, and that he isn’t also caught up in this line of morbid thought that I can’t seem to get out of.

Another thing I have been struggling with, is the fear that everyone is going to come out of nowhere and hit me. I can’t check both ways enough times before pulling into the street or turning a corner. I can’t slow down enough, or allow enough space between myself and other vehicles. I know it’s normal to feel this paranoia after a crash, but I feel like it’s becoming ingrained in me. I am always a cautious and attentive driver; I never text and drive, I don’t look at my phone at all, I watch my mirrors and blind spots, and I minimize my interactions with other features in the car. I have impeccable reaction time, and have always been able to work around the poor planning and neglectful habits other drivers. I do well with rotaries, highway traffic, crazy drivers, construction, darkness, inclement weather, and distractions from my passengers. I can drive for long distances without falling asleep, and even though I’m a terrible navigator, I can follow direction. So, being in the mindset that I need to be even safer than that or we’re all going to die, is so unhealthy. Matt says the more I think about it, the more distracted I’ll be. I do know this already.

Perhaps the oddest piece of this puzzle, is that, no matter how hard I try to relive the crash, I cannot figure out where those old people came from. They weren’t there, and then they were. They were not there, and appeared in the same space as me, at the same time, and my car fell apart, while theirs was virtually untouched. Not a scratch on it. And not only that, but neither of them were hurt even a little, and they didn’t call their insurance company, or talk to mine. Didn’t even give their names. Which leads me to the conclusion that they weren’t real.

Maybe I’m just trying to compensate for my momentary lapse of perfection on the road, but I have been so confused about their existence, that I can think of no logical explanation to account for their involvement in the accident. There was nobody on that road with me, in any direction, and it was broad daylight, bright sunshine, no distractions. I didn’t just imagine this; my son is also perplexed by the fact that they literally came out of nowhere. This is some Unsolved Mysteries shit, at the highest level. Someone needs to open an X-File, not an insurance claim!

When your car becomes worthless, it’s what they call a Total Loss, which means your car has sustained more damage than it could ever be sold for again. I think mine was already at that point, prior to the accident, but if someone thinks they want to give me the Kelley price for it, then I’ll take it. It certainly helps, when you have no idea how you’re going to get around all of a sudden. If you’ve ever been one of those people who doesn’t have multiple working vehicles, ATVs, boats, snowmobiles, and motorcycles in their garage, you know the struggle. In my area, everyone has 450 trucks and cars in their yard, but you can’t borrow one for a few days, because that person needs those cars to sit there, in case all of their other vehicles somehow mysteriously stop working at one time. You figure your own shit out, but don’t forget… they’re there for you if you need anything. Just ask.

Since the accident, I have driven over 400 miles, and I may as well be walking on eggshells. The anxiety I feel over the responsibility to keep my family safe has been great. Not great, as in good. Great, as in MASSIVE. I have a brand new car, and every sound is making me obsess over whatever the worst case scenario could be. I hate that feeling. I feel like I already live my life that way, ruled by irrational fears, due to traumatizing experiences in the past. (I am aware of what PTSD is, thanks) I just want to be able to shut out those thoughts, so I can be happy and enjoy life while it’s going well.

But the dilemma is, if I relax, I might miss something or neglect to act somehow. I know I’m vincible now, and that I have to rely on more than just my instinct; I have to be mindful in every second. How can I just sit back and enjoy life, when I am responsible for so much? I don’t have the “working” job, I have the job where everyone’s well-being rests in your hands. They eat, because you shop for food, cook the meal, and feed them. They go to school and work, because you take them and pick them up. The bills are paid, because you call the company when there’s a problem, and when there isn’t, you are making sure that things remain problem-free. The laundry is done, because you took care of it between other tasks. The appointments are scheduled around each other, however plentiful they may be, because you pay attention to the packed schedule, and ask what everyone is doing, or needs. Teachers and counselors stay informed, because you keep them in the loop. Unspoken issues get attention, because you notice that something isn’t right, and you dig. It’s not a paid job, but it takes from you. You end up being the one who pays, because the worry and responsibility of being a parent at home is a lot to bear.

That is, if you love and care about your family. I don’t know, some people don’t. Some people let all of the responsibility rest on the child(ren). Some parents don’t even like to be considered a parent. They want to be the Best Friend. In my opinion, a Best Friend would offer to do my dishes once in awhile, or clean up their shit around the house. Might be why I don’t have a best friend (just kiddin, Matt!)

I’ve learned about the fragility of life, and how easy it would be to just stop living, if we don’t take the time to care and consider. Even when you think nothing is happening, even when you think you’re not in danger, even when you think you’ve taken every precaution… it’s important to realize that we are not invincible, and that we are constantly surrounded by circumstances that we don’t even notice. Circumstances that can change your life greatly (great, as in massive). Even the most cognizant of people can miss something, and everything can be taken away in that instant.

But don’t forget to relax.

-jg

p.s. nothing heavy next week, I promise! I will come back swinging, whatever that means in the writing world.

 

“Why Now?” revisited

*EDIT: apparently I’m going to lose some readers with this one.

Earlier this week, my son was talking to me about the accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. This is a current story in the news, so naturally, his “Social Studies” (for a lack of better description) class talked about it. I’m glad they’re talking about it. They should be talking about it more classes than just that. But I’ll take what I can get for now.

One of the things he asked me, was “Doesn’t it make it less believable, that she came forward so long after it happened?”

Of course, we already know how I feel about this, but in case you don’t, I have linked it below, as this week’s post. I find it important to repost it, because it’s clear that there are people who truly don’t realize what others go through, particularly when it comes to sexual abuse/assault survivors. It isn’t just my 15 year-old son, who is lucky to have a mother that encourages he pull apart the patriarchal traits that have been sewn into the youth of this generation. It’s not just right wing misogynists. It’s not just the wife beaters. There are some really good people- some of whom may be closer to you than you think – who just don’t know the answer to the question:

“Why didn’t they come forward sooner?”

(click link above to jump to article.)

-jg