“And now for something completely different”
I find myself tempering my indifference when I hear the Millennials’ around me singing the praises of alleged comedians like Will Ferrell or Carlos Mencia. They just don’t strike me as being all that funny. Goofy? Yes. But funny? I think not. And right about then, I think back and remember what Monty Python meant for me at around the same age. People my age (now) didn’t get the troupe’s humor (then). “Bring out your dead.”
The skits’ punch line came when the supposed corpse lifted his head, “But I’m not dead yet”. With that as his cue, the purveyor of dead bodies would whack the new customer on the head and finish the job. Who doesn’t smile at that?
“Bring out your dead.”
And the point behind the absurd British humor? Why disease prevention, of course. Even the forward thinking Medievals had figured out it wasn’t good for business to have a bunch of rotting corpses laying around. Bring them out. Get rid of them. Time to go.
The essay I planned for this week had to do with building mistakes that are funny only insofar as they are real, really mind boggling. The past week’s journey had me yearning for ‘funny stuff’…I was feeling the need for something to make me laugh (or at least smile). No sooner said than done, I found it.
Pictures. Lots of them. Bridges that didn’t meet in the middle; exit doors with no fire escapes on the other side; picture windows looking out on the blank wall of a building next door. Ah, the joys of city life. But as is often the case, just when I thought I knew where I was headed, the week took me in another direction. So let’s get back to the corpses.
Depression returned for a guest appearance this week and is often the case with this silent killer, I did not see it coming. It’s been a long time since the word ‘suicide’ had even occurred to me, even in passing. It just doesn’t happen anymore. It’s gone.
But I’ll give Depression credit. She is sneaky. Me thinking I had banished her versus Depression being something to be managed is what she wants. She knows me. She will wait for me like I’m some kind of little bunny rabbit. She bides her time.
I don’t think her timing, coinciding with me being another week deeper into my 8-week smoking cessation program was happenstance. Last week, my coach had asked me what I thought about declaring a quit-date…something I could commit to on the calendar hanging on our fridge. My first thought was, ‘Already? There’s so much going on at work, home and everywhere else. I’ve got so much demanding my attention…so many problems’. But that’s the thing about addiction (AKA the Beast). There’s always something going on. Not unlike car trouble, it’s never convenient, by design. That’s how they persist as habits that live in your house and don’t pay rent. That’s why a quit-date is part of the planning process in a formal program. So I agreed to think about it. The day passed. And another day. Before I knew it, I was obsessing to the point of being consumed by the thought of a quit-date. And of course, there was more. There is always more. In my case, the ‘more’ was the added joy of a parallel sound track that went something like:
‘So you’re going to quit. Again. How sweet. You’re such a loser. You thought that last time and what happened with that? And the time before that. What happened there? Oh that’s right. You FAILED. You’re always failing. You are such a hypocrite. You’re the only one you’re fooling? What’s the point? Really?’
And as if on some kind of chemically induced cue, every short coming I have ever had took formation and began marching in an endless column in front of me. ‘Remember when…or the time that you…or how about that solemn promise you made to…’ The evidence for the Prosecution was terribly compelling. Conviction by a thousand cuts? Indeed. And from a medical perspective, it was chemically induced. My brain chemistry has factually been altered by all the bad stuff in each cigarette. ‘Really Dan, a quit-date? What’s the point?’
So instead of embracing the conversation like I know to do, what did I do?
I tried to outrun it. I worked harder at the office. I made sure I was walking 10,000 steps nearly every day. I started staying up later to spend time with Rick, but I wasn’t really there. And then, refused to compromise with myself on my get-up time. I started skipping meals. Intellectually, I knew better. But emotionally and without even consciously deciding to do so, I had joined in my own slow march back to the larger prison I had left long ago (or so I thought). The less of me there was, the more I fretted over what I was going to do, what still remained to be done and why had I made that bone-headed mistake… again. The longer it went on, the heavier my sense of responsibility to home, work and finances became. Tired, hungry and feeling alone (by my own hand), what did I do? “Oh, I know. Let me light up and calm down. I’ve earned it.” And guess what? My addiction to smokes did not disappoint. Those little white sticks have always been there for me no matter how tough things got. ‘There, there. You feel better now? Why would you want to give me up?’
Smoke deep in my lungs. Exhale. There. What a good ‘friend’.
“Bring out your dead.”
The flip-side of the same bad penny was Rick. He had his own plate load of challenges facing him as well – and where was I? He began to ask for my attention on an increasingly frequent path, but was I listening? Yes, but not really. Odd how I know, to the bottom of my heart, I would lay down my life for him but yet in my own moments of self-absorbed concern about a quit-date, I never asked him what he was thinking about or what he was going to do. I either talked about what I could do to help him solve his problems or I went the other direction: “Gotta go. Overslept. We’ll talk about this later.” I’m reminded of Harry Chapin (thank you Ms. Kate), “…the new job’s a hassle and the kids got the flu, but it’s sure been nice talking to you…”
So in my quest to shoulder ‘everything’, my threshold for irritability sank lower and lower. Bad limbo all the way around. It only took a few days before I heard myself sniping back in the efficient and nasty ways only available to you after you’ve been with someone a long time. I knew where all his hot buttons were and rather than listen to him trying to get my attention, I’d pull back the cover and hit another button. No wasted motion. It wasn’t me. But it was. “Bother me with your trivial bull $)(!+ will you…I’ll show you a thing or two.” And with that, my Passive Aggressive store was open for business.
“Bring out your dead.”
‘Wish I was’. There it is again. ‘What did you say?’ I asked Myself?
‘You heard me.’
In that moment of deafening absence, I could feel my heart bumping in the middle of my chest. Every crack in the sidewalk was telegraphed up through the bottoms of my shoes. I heard the back-up horn of a trash truck in the alley and felt a breeze on the back of my neck.
‘What did you say?’
Being reduced to not having the energy to do anything else, I opened up to my Better Half. I started talking to him about what I was feeling. I actually found the courage to use the world ‘depression’. I acknowledge I was feeling overwhelmed and didn’t know if I could solve it all.
Instead of saying something, he showed me something. He didn’t try solve my angst like I was doing with him. He asked me to think about all of it in its components, not the whole weight of it. Itemizing each concern, they began to shrink. We didn’t need to talk long before I remember that I knew how to do this.
“Why are you doing this to yourself. If you want to quit, quit. I’m not ready, but I’ll support you in it if that’s your decision. And the rest of it? It’ll be fine. We’ll get through it. Why do you think everything is up to you. Nobody appointed you god. So what’s it going to be?”
He was right. The longer I’d let the steady self-generated drum beat ‘half-empty’ go on, the lesser I had felt and the more opportunity for other lessers to jump on for a free ride over the edge. I owed myself the better. And with that, Beast was out of tricks. I’d had it. I knew this dance.
I have already won this fight of life over death…several times. In the blink of an eye, I was done. I had my quit-date. I didn’t want to die and I wasn’t the sum of my shortcomings. Rather, I was the total of my victory over them. I knew what to do. I had to get rid of all the bad thoughts and self-incrimination. They were dead. There was no place for them.
“Bring out your dead.”
And I did. I walked each of those self-defeating thought patterns out to the curb. I am not stupid. And though they protest that they aren’t dead yet, they really are. They are the rot in old patterns that don’t serve any purpose in my head other than serving as a characters in a cautionary tale. Do you think my can of RAID is worried about who will win when the roaches regroup in an effort to reclaim our kitchen?
When I got home that night, I scrawled a big X on the calendar hanging on the fridge for just such a purpose. I apologized to the Love of my Life and thanked him for his patience in getting me back to myself. I bought him dinner and threw away the secret lighter I’d hidden in my briefcase.
It’s tomorrow. Today is the day. And tomorrow, I get a chance to do it all over again…a new way. Before the sun came up this morning, I was sitting in my focus spot doing my breathing and just letting the thoughts wander through as they do. The urge to light up elbowed its way to the front of the line. ‘Light me. Savor this peaceful moment before your day starts’. My better Self smiled at the effort and asked me what I wanted to do? I smiled back and whispered, “Time to bring out my dead”.
“But I’m not dead yet”
Yes. Yes, you are. Now that’s funny. I wish nothing less for you this week.
And now, for something else that’s completely different:
Workers at a Memphis window-washing company dress up as superheroes while cleaning the windows at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
I saw this picture earlier this week. Thought I’d pass it along as well as a link to a cool blogger I hadn’t visited before. Her name is Mikaela, and she founded The Daily Saint. “The site is intended to restore our faith in humanity through a community of shared photos and stories of people behaving decently…” Nicely done, Mikaela…and thanks to the window washers in Memphis.
Not alone in their efforts, Batman, Wolverine, Spider-Man and Iron Man returned not just to clean the atrium windows at Akron Children’s Hospital –
Life means more when we remember those who no longer live. Here’s a link to the list of those who perished during the disaster. They may be gone from us, but their work is ours and it is not done.
Visit the site for more: http://www.katrinamemorials.com/all_names.asp
Hurricane Katrina anniversary: Gulf Coast remembers, looks ahead
(CNN) “The morning began with remembrance and prayer. From New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama, there were somber ceremonies marking the day 10 years ago when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast…
State and local officials gathered in New Orleans at a memorial for victims of Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people and damaged many more lives. Almost 100 unclaimed or unidentified victims are interred at the memorial site on Canal Street, CNN affiliate WDSU reported.
Dignitaries laid a wreath in the shape of a fleur-de-lis at the memorial. While it was a time for mourning for those who died, New Orleans’ mayor praised the resiliency of those who remained in the city after the storm. “Nothing is going to hold the people of the city back. … Because New Orleans will be unbowed and unbroken,” Mitch Landrieu said. “We have risen again, and we will rise again, and we will go forward.”
By Steve Almasy, CNN – Updated 9:08 PM ET, Sat August 29, 2015
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00n7sf5; Bring Out Your Dead: http://montypython.wikia.com/wiki/Dead_collector; Galley Bathroom: http://www.viralnova.com/31-building-fails-gallery/; Outpost in your head quote: http://blog.yogisanonymous.com/2015/06/01/take-down-your-inner-critic/; The dead being brought out – Monty Python: http://myriverside.sd43.bc.ca/christianh-2013/2014/03/05/4-aspects-of-life-back-then/; PASSAGES: Katrina – http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/29/us/katrina-anniversary/
Closing Cartoon. An amazing cartoonist, Jeff Victor has worked for nearly everyone. You should really check him out at: http://jeffvictor.blogspot.com/ More than enough there to make you smile…and I needed it. Thanks Jeff.
If you are looking to quit, check out the American Lung Association: http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/how-to-quit/freedom-from-smoking/
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