Forgive me, this is a hard post to write and I’d like to do justice to both the joys and the sorrows in their turn. It is a post about discoveries and magical thinking–the good and the bad involved in both. This is about a book–and a boy who will probably never read it. I would separate them, but the two things are inextricably linked for me. It would be like dividing the sun from the moon.
Be warned, as it is written on ancient maps past the edge of the known world: Here be dragons!
I’ve been living an absolute nightmare. For TWO WHOLE DAYS!!!
But finally, after a weekend of anxiety-drenched trauma, I am back to tell the tale. It’s mercifully short, but not, I think, an insignificant one to any who has experienced the horror. Mary Shelley only dreamt of such nightmares as this!
TRIGGER WARNING: The following people might want to avoid this particular post: those with delicate constitutions, the humor-impaired, vegans who didn’t reading the title. You might find this a tad offensive. Actually, anyone with any sense of taste whatsoever might want to give it a pass. It’s that bad. If you choose to consume my unfiltered thoughts, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
For the past week I have been making bizarre requests from friends, neighbors (one of whom questioned why I needed an ax and should she be worried, the other who handed me one with no questions) and completely perplexed, but nice strangers.
I’ve traveled for supplies, stumps, wings and more, keeping safe-distance practices during our unusual interactions, all in pursuit of a life beyond the ordinary.
It always starts with a small idea…and then it steamrolls into a massive production. GISH keeps me hopping for days on end until, suddenly, it’s all over and all that is left are the memories.
And the photos.
Let me share them with you now. (Brace yourselves, if you’ve never experienced unbridled GISH, perhaps you’d best be near the fainting couch or have your salts handy?)
Afraid to rock a precariously tiny boat on very troubled seas.
A friend recently suggested I “Woman up” or, in essence, to stop being a coward.
So here goes:
I am truly terrified of COVID-19. Everything I’ve read convinces me this is a plague of biblical proportions. And that’s saying something coming from an agnostic!
But even more than a highly contagious disease, I am afraid to lose friendships because of COVID-19. So afraid, that I have not asked people to wear masks when I’m in close proximity. Even though I have worn mine in my yard…while by myself…while weeding.
I desperately cling to friendships, even when the cling-ee isn’t that keen on tolerating the stranglehold I have on them. I have lost friendships before. I will likely lose friendships again. Possibly over this. And I truly hate the thought.
I have been a coward; and I’m going to try very hard to stop. But even contemplating telling my friends my position, I’m feeling a welling, choking sensation I haven’t felt for years.
TIME TRAVEL SEGUE–NO, NOT THAT KIND OF SEGUE—ABACK TO THE PAST KIND:
I had a job once at a place we’ll aptly refer to as “DeepHell University.” It was in the fundraising department. I had a very challenging boss who, in her defense, had a very weird secretary. Me. I was the secretary.
(TRUE CONFESSION: I accidentally read a highly personal email from one of her friends when the I.T. guys accidentally linked my new email to my boss’s mail system–and I read it…and replied to it…at length…because I literally did not understand what the internet was and how it differed from emails.) This happened the very first day I worked there, but the boss forgave me. Kind of.
We managed a rocky half-year of an increasingly challenging relationship. This boss made me nervous. Like cat-on-a-hot-plate-in-a-room-full-of-rabid-pit-bulls, nervous. I took everything she said as criticism or complaints. I felt stupid, clumsy, and unsuited to the job. Everything I heard sounded like blame and hostility. I became so nervous I would plot a course around the entire department in hopes of avoiding seeing her. (Her office was right next to me, but around a corner.) It got so bad, I started doing a thing. A thing I did NOT know I was doing. I started holding my breath. I passed out several times before finally wising up and seeking professional help. I’m lucky I didn’t give myself permanent brain damage via concussion or oxygen deprivation. I have never been so grateful to be fired from a job in my life.
BACK TO THE FUTURE…MEANING THE CURRENT OR PRESENT DAY:
So, if you see me, and I keep a six foot distance from you while you are unmasked, do not be surprised and try not to take offense. Please understand, I am not judging anyone. I am not trying to make any kind of political statement. I’m just trying to make the best choice I can in a very bad time in our world.
I’m supposed to see family tomorrow. They prefer to go maskless. (Apparently they didn’t have the same fantasies about becoming Zorro I did as a child.) I really want to see them but I’m also a ticking time bomb of terror–albeit one with a love of alliteration. It tears my heart in two when I’m faced with this dilemma. I don’t want to be considered a nagging worrywart. And yet, if the wart fits…
So I’m asking them to move the get together into the backyard. And crossing my fingers that I am not dropped from future invitations of this kind–especially seeing as I organized this one. But my family has forgiven flakier behavior than this. [More on this topic in another blog post. I’ve confessed enough for one day. It’s best to spread the crazy out a little bit at a time.]
I’d like to think someday we’ll be safer and these extreme measures won’t be necessary. But that future isn’t here yet. (I’m feeling an overwhelming need to throw in another Back to the Future reference, but I’m coming up blank. You’ll just have to picture me driving a Deloreann and wearing a white, fright wig.)
And for those of you too young to get that reference, here’s a YouTube clip. (Proving I am slightly more technologically capable than my younger self.)
Back to The Future Present Tense–Plague Edition
Do you hate me now?
If you knew that, by catching COVID-19 there is no one who can watch my son, would that make a difference? Any sign of even a cold nowadays, and I lose all the help that comes into my home throughout the week. Help that keeps me from going bat-guano crazy. If I really caught COVID, I would be on my own, struggling to take care of a special needs child and afraid to ask anyone to help because I just couldn’t risk exposing somebody else to the disease.
So I will wear a mask. I will try to stay a six foot distance away. And I will not hold my breath waiting for others to understand. I am scared. For all of us!
In parting, I ask you, my viewing audience:
What would you do if you had to choose between friends…and safety?
What would you choose?
…a question that tempts me to include the following:
I was complimented recently on my writing, it came via someone with a tenuous Facebook connection. It’s the first time anyone who wasn’t a friend or blood relative (and therefore obligated to like my writing or at least lie to me and say they do) told me they found my writing funny. (But funny in a good way.)
It made me feel, just for a nano-second, what it must be like when famous people get recognized. It was awesome and I thanked him…and then felt like a total fraud because I haven’t given two thoughts to my blog in months!
I sometimes wonder why I do the things I do. I definitely look at the world that way. This week has been a mixture of both wonder and awe, terror and despair. The bigotry and hatred revealed with each new episode of violence has scarred our nation and clouded my spirits. As a humor blogger, I struggle to find the balance between tasteful observation and knee slapstickery. I hope this manages to reach that slippery peak.
I am reminded of a morality fable I heard once (which apparently it turns out is a fabrication, but you can find out about that at the link for Two Wolves.)
It goes something like this:
The Two Wolves
A grandfather was talking to his grandson:
Grandfather: “There are two wolves inside you. One is evil–always fighting, angry, and hurting others. The other wolf is good–caring, honest, and kind. They are fighting a battle inside you every day.”
Grandson: “Who will win, Grandfather?”
Grandfather: “The one you feed.”
I’ve heard this before, but not as the link above tells it. And never knowing that the wolves were described in terms of Black and White.
(Official Sidebar: You can just guess which is the ‘bad’ wolf. The internet is helpful in peeling layers of meaning behind the over-simplified and trite.)
When I watch the world burn and can do nothing about it, I am anxious. I feel the compulsion to do something and, conversely, nothing at all. I am torn between two wolves: outrage and apathy. Why does this keep happening? Why can’t things change for the better instead of the worse. Maybe it just depends on where you want to focus. Which wolf you choose to feed.
Before the world went to hell in a hand basket, I signed up for another round of GISH. So, as the horrible week’s events unfolded, I wondered whether participating in a fun-fun charitable activity was, perhaps, a selfish and clueless overindulgence and a slap in the face to everyone who struggles and suffers in the world. In particular, was it kind of like dancing at a funeral–morally repugnant and questionable behavior that should get me unfriended/shunned? (That said, I invite dancing at my funeral. Joke telling. Maybe a clown? I think you will need to find excuses for joy when a light such as myself leaves the world.)
So, given a choice between morbidly watching the world burn or dancing…I think you can guess what I chose.
BUT FIRST…I did something moral and uplifting.
I watched a terribly earnest live stream discussion about race relations; a topic that has not impacted my very-white life much before but maybe it should:
As a result of listening to a panel of experienced activist, I tried my best to…
DO THE HUNT
(while being conscious of injustice in the world burning around me)
The first item was my most successful–probably because I had energy and my son to help add flair–and height–to the performance.
Item 20. The Summer Olympics got canceled, but that doesn’t keep a focused athlete like you down. Show us your entry in the Socially-Distanced Games.
I was trying to synchronize our toilet paper rolls mid-air. (The last image was the winning shot, but I loved all the pictures taken with the help of my son’s ABA aide. He is unnamed for his privacy, but shout out to a very patience guy.)
Item #___ (Oops, didn’t copy this one) Take a time lapse recording of yourself sculpting a monument out of a playdough and smashing it, or something edible and eating it.
As usual, I missed the part where you had to sculpt AND eat at the same time. And I froze my sculpted spuds so I could recreate a Winged Victory feast.
In a fourteen second recap, you can watch me munch on my icy statue:
You’ll note my rather spacy behavior increases the later the event runs. (As does my very blue eye shadow.) I only managed 4 hours of sleep and I would pay for it later! Oh, would I pay!
But before that bill comes due…there are more GISH-y items to fulfill.
Item 37. Create a Fundraising page for your team, and get family, friends, and others to donate. (Highly abbreviated description)
This was one of the serious but important items, as GISH is intended as a fund-raiser as well as a fun-raising time. We joined the GISH sponsored Racial Justice and Equality Fundraiser to support the NAACP. Which I have never done before this weekend. We didn’t make the 10 donor minimum required, but we did raise $230. And that isn’t bad for a 24-hour time period! I would thank everyone personally, but most people gave anonymously. So, to all you all, you know who you are, thank-you! You give me hope.
Which leads to my biggest and most embarrassing endeavor.
Item 32. In the style of Eurovision: write and perform an original, uplifting song of hope using instruments of your own creation.
I had no idea what Eurovision was before I picked this challenge. I watched about an hour of eye-popping performances and did my best to replicate their…um…energy. I opted not to dress as a minion of hell only due to time constraints and a lack of lycra.
(Warning, this ‘song’ is both painfully earnest and shatteringly bad. I recorded it at four in the morning because I couldn’t sleep thinking about it. Might I recommend a tall glass of alcohol–or maybe shot glasses. You can take a swig whenever I say “Hope,” Peace,” or “Justice.” I had NO alcohol beforehand, more’s the pity.)
Like red wine, you may never get the stain of those lyrics out!
In case you couldn’t understand my exhausted 4:00 a.m. warbling, here are the lyrics–which I slaved over, so stop laughing, damn you!
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And here’s what you can do.
Listen for an answer In their cries of pain If you can’t feel, then you can’t heal I’ll tell you once again.
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace and Justice Here’s what you can do.
Pain pushes back Against unreal attacks You can’t see the future If you’re always looking back.
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace, and Justice Here’s what you can do.
Consider possibilities In what the other person sees. Don’t debate or interrogate Dialogue is a two-way gate
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace, and Justice Here’s what you can do.
Change happens in uncomfortable spaces Who’s gonna win these human races? The only hope we have for peace Is just…us.
We need Hope, Peace and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace and Justice You know what you can do.
Wow. I’m sure that’s going to win lots of awards, but before you are quick to condemn my words, know this, I borrowed them from the speakers of the aforementioned “Racial Inequality and Injustice” live stream. A lot more qualified people than me recommend that, instead of hiding behind our white privilege, we use it to make things a little more fair out there.
I am not good with conflict; I actively avoid it whenever possible. But, (*heaves a huge, uncomfortable sigh*), apparently that is part of the problem. A lot of good, earnest people have stood back and let the angry, hyperbolic, asshats speak for us all. Perhaps the bigots and racists just need to be told that they are bigots and racists. Is it possible they don’t know?
Oh, I’m sorry. *Gets down off soap box*
Now, back to GISH!
I loved the idea of this next item, but my execution was more along the lines of after Marie Antoinette meets the guillotine–a bit choppy.
31. GISH keeps you so busy, you need to clone yourself to get the List done! Create a single image compositing at least 3 iterations of yourself working to completing a GISH mini hunt Item
After finishing almost all of my assigned tasks…and abandoning one…I decided to use all my many years watching forensic programming to try my hand at carving up a human being…
Now that I have your attention. I give you…a tasty lesson in anatomy:
Item #: ???? Sorry, I threw this thing together as a last-minute project and did not copy the verbiage. But, I think you can guess what they asked for.
Here’s a few staged photos with the body.
The hardest part was figuring out how to dispose of the body! (If I ever become a spree killer, we will know the moment I started down that path.)
I always enter GISH with high enthusiasm and end up crawling across the finish line, one arm outstretched, to get the last thing in before collapsing.
The One Last Thing:
Item 13: Celebrate the gift of virtual travel by creating a internationally recognized building or monument out of Amazon boxes.
My biggest challenge was I HAD NO AMAZON BOXES. None. I put them in out for recycling last week. LIKE AN IDIOT!
So that was GISH, slam bam, thank you ma’am until 3:00 O’clock p.m. (our time)….and then they added an extra hour! Unheard of! But my kid knew he was getting a trip to KFC after GISH was done and he was having none of this, “But, son, can mommy play one more hour?” nonsense!
Honestly, my kid was so fantastic, it was unbelievable. I had help with him for only two hours and then rest of the time, he was good…until…
IT’S PAYBACK TIME
I was absolutely fried waiting for bedtime to roll around. That’s my excuse for not noticing how odd the kid was being about staying in the basement.
I try to drag him up at 9:00 pm but give in and let him get a little more time downstairs…
10:00pm rolls around and he’s apparently drawn a line in the sand over what he wants–and he wants to sleep in the basement. Which is a no-no because it has no egress.
He refuses to come upstairs. I refuse to let him stay there.
Cue Krakatoa explosion.
My kid melts down like he’s a glacier under global warming. He vents. He fumes. He hits and bites himself. He tosses a giant bin of books like he’s a member of an ultra conservative cult that loathes reading. He breaks my heart. Every time.
I spend the next TWO HOURS calming him down and figuring out he’s got gas! We finally crawl into bed after midnight. I sleep like the proverbial dead. The next day, the kid wakes up happy like yesterday never happened and asking for bacon! Kids.
So, if any of you were feeling a bit judgy about my decision to employ humor, art and theatrical creativity to survive this week, now you know, I experienced the riots in my own special way. And for me, they never end. They can come at any time. And I just have to stand by and wait for the fires to burn down before putting my kid back together again. It’s a co-dependent, Humpty Dumpty kind of relationship, but it works. Mostly.
Stay strong my beloveds. It’s a cruel world and you don’t want the wrong wolf to win!
_______________ You Made It Through Bonus_________________