Today is Thanksgiving; the day dedicated to saying “thank you” by eating so much you have to go lie down. Every year your mom makes you read the Ann Landers “Thankful” poem. You feel like a 5th grader wearing a paper Pilgrim hat (more on that later). Then, everyone is forced to go around the table and awkwardly say what they’re thankful for. You get irrationally nervous and cannot think of a single thing that’s appropriate for Aunt Maybelle to hear. But there really is a lot to be thankful for and we rarely stop to appreciate it together, so this day is significant.
This year I discovered what gratitude really means, what it means to really give thanks. I’m sure most of us, when asked if we’re grateful, would say “Sure, yeah, totally, of course.” But, I bet all the candied yams in the world that’s not really true. I can admit that I wasn’t truly grateful until this year. I didn’t know what it really meant. It took challenging myself for 30 days to consciously work on it to finally feel gratitude. What I felt was overwhelming.
I learned that being grateful is not an action, it’s a feeling. I picture it — and actually feel it — like water ripples that I send out. I imagine the ripples reaching people around me and washing over them, letting them in on the secret.
It takes practice to really feel grateful, but I can attest that once you feel it, you will know what I’m talking about. It’s the most beautiful feeling, the fullest vibration, the most spiritual experience I’ve ever had. Feeling gratitude for me is like becoming a kid again where I experience moments of pure happiness, awe, and excitement. I always wished that as an adult I could experience what my birthday felt like as a child where my face pretty much exploded with how special and rad it all was. Gratitude lets me feel that radness again.
So today, when you’re sitting around a table with friends or family or whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to pause a moment. Take stock of your life, your health, your past, your air, your water, your everything. Try to feel it, how much you have. Do this alone so your mom doesn’t ask you to share all your thankfuls with Aunt Maybelle. Put aside the Ann Landers cheesiness of giving thanks and really give thanks. There is so much to be thankful for, so give yourself that moment and really look around.
I will end today with this gem:
That’s me being a festive little prairie girl on the left. Sugar and spice and everything nice, for sure. I believe that’s my turkey chandelier hanging above us too (dope!). Special shout-out to my siblings: tssk tssk to my brother wearing a hoodie (not a feather in sight), and to my sister clearly not into pilgrim fashion at all…
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Today is more than the feast, the tryptophan, or the football. There is so much to be grateful for, so share that today. Because giving thanks is something you give — to yourself, to those around you, and to the world.
When the plastic margarita cup hit the floor on purpose, we knew we had probably gone too far. My husband and I were in Cabo for a wedding when travel stress led to not enough fajitas which led to margarita brain which then led to my husband jumping in the pool with my camera. All of this led to the biggest and most beautiful fight we’ve ever had.
The specifics of the fight aren’t important because there really was no need for this fight. Neither of us were that angry about the camera faux pas, and it could have been resolved with one sentence from both of us. But neither of us said that sentence, we let it escalate and that is important. What happened the next morning is what is really important.
I got up at sunrise, my spinning head making sleep impossible, and went for a walk on the beach. I was spinning because I couldn’t understand why the fight happened at all. As a chronic self-explorer, I wondered what I did to make it escalate and I wondered what we could do to not fight like that again (for more on my self-exploratory ways in marriage, see Mirror, Mirror On the Wall).
I sat on the shore as the sun rose and took this picture. It reminded me of our fight: a crash against an unexpected obstacle.
I went back to our hotel room to talk to my husband, to hear what he thought about the whole ordeal. He was waiting for me with the same confused eyes I had. What happened last night? How did we go there? Why is the floor so sticky?
I almost started laughing, the fight was that unnecessary, but I didn’t. Every fight deserves respect and is something to learn from, not only about your partner but more importantly about yourself. Fights are like sudden eruptions of really honest communication; all the deep, dormant, masked emotions slowly build under pressure and spew out for attention. When the volcano explodes, it’s important to sift through the rubble.
For those in relationships — particularly the ultra-committed, in it for the long haul ones like marriages — you know fights come with the territory. They happen and they always will, no matter how compatible and in love you are. I think it would be weirder if you didn’t fight. I would wonder who’s holding what in and when is it going to end with a margarita crashing on the floor.
My mom, a very wise woman, taught me long ago that it is important to be good at fighting. What she meant was that it isn’t important to win fights, but it is important to fight well, to fight with respect, with an open mind. That is what my husband and I are learning to do. It’s immensely challenging because fighting well requires you to put your ego aside at the very moment your ego gets called out. Nothing gets resolved when your ego is in charge because the ego just wants to win. You have to demand that your ego backs down and the ego doesn’t like to do that. But that’s when you tell your ego who’s boss…
That morning, we walked on the beach for an hour and scrutinized last night’s Eyjafjallajökull — Iceland’s famous volcano that messed up plans for days, causing the need to reroute millions of passengers. This is exactly what happened to us — we erupted and had to reroute ourselves.
We identified what made it progress from an argument to a fight. There is a big difference in vocabulary and it matters. A “fight” typically means physical aggression and use of weaponry while “argument” means differing points and verbal disagreements. While the only thing that was physically hurt was a plastic cup, it was still a fight. It was a fight because we threw words at each other and the sole purpose of those words was to hurt the other. Those were our weapons. So we declared that morning that we want to argue, we don’t want to fight.
We established ground rules to help prevent our arguments from escalating to fights. Things like: no yelling, no cussing, no slamming of margarita cups. These are our triggers. We agreed to moments of silence and found we should do more moments of silence when arguing. You can hear a lot in a little silence. Silences are like pressing the pause button; you can rewind and see things from a different angle. Silence helps you cool your magma chamber, think about what s/he said, and determine what you really have to say.
That’s as far as we got that day in Cabo, but it was revolutionary. We still argue from time to time (’cause he’s a boy and I’m a girl) and I’m still learning how to not drop the F-bomb (’cause he’s an Aries and I’m an Aries). But since the margarita fight, each argument is calmer. They end easier, without escalation, and always give rise to eye-opening discussions. We want to prevent hotspots from forming and use what we’ve learned to not throw molten rock at each other. Because in the end, it’s our choice whether we fight or whether we argue.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Nobody likes when Eyjafjallajökull spews liquid hot mmmagma. But it happens and the key is to reroute, find calmer air, and keep the margarita in the cup.
I’m pretty sure I can communicate with animals and one night while visiting my parents, I came across two cats in a kitchen stand-off. The air felt like a gas stove had been left on; anything could have ignited it. As a result, movements were slow and movements were calculated.
The two cats were seated stiffly on the counter with tails clearly fluffier than normal, signifying the presence of an imminent threat. Low growls rolled like thunderstorms between them, as if each cat was saying “Make the first move, you pussy.” I quickly calculated that it was up to me, and me alone, to mediate this cold war. I knew because of my animal communication skills that I could fix this; it was my duty. I was like the United Nations called to action. Suit me up. Sergeant. These cats were on the brink of very serious escalation and I couldn’t let them spiral to the nuclear option. Not on my watch.
Let me describe the warring parties:
Sally, aka “Ding Dong”:
Defending her home territory and weighing in at ten incredibly flabby lbs. is Sally. She is a black calico and the runt of her litter, but now she’s nine years old and completely in love with my dad. Her nickname is Ding Dong because sometimes you wonder if anyone’s home at all. Here are photos that capture Sally:
The photo on the left is typical sweet, petite Sally while the photo in the center shows Sally’s preferred sleeping position. The photo on the right with Luigi (our more regal cat) shows Sally in the background gazing with embarrassing devotion at my dad. Here is a close-up of that shot because it’s just so ridiculous:Oh Sally Ding Dong….
Sally enjoys meowing at the attic for hours until my parents take down the ladder for her to climb up. She also enjoys sitting by the faucet for hours waiting for fresh spring water to appear. Sally has never gone past the mailbox, often miscalculates jump distances, and has a muscle tone I describe as “sea cucumber-like”. Regardless of this, she is ruthless. Sally is a serial killer and leaves regurgitated evidence of her massacres as a reminder to all: this is Sally’s house.
Tibet, aka “Miss Buffet”:
The visiting invader from the Bay Area, the “de-clawed? no problem!” Tibet. She is my brother/sister-in-law’s cat and her nickname is Miss Buffet since her trips to my parents’ house inevitably involve vomit due to her inability to control her eating in the “All You Can Eat (Cat Food) Buffet”. Tibet is incapable of understanding consequences. It makes no sense how bold she is — she doesn’t have claws, yet she is utterly fearless. As a visitor, she is the territorial intruder, but she struts past Ivan, our 100-lb. German Shepherd (R.I.P. Big Boy) and Luigi, our 17-lb. cat who can only be compared to a majestic jaguar (shown irritated in the photo with Sally above). Here are photos that capture Tibet’s “whatevs” attitude:
Look how chillaxed she is. Mowin’ on a catnip “pick-me-up,” rockin’ the Santa look, and yawnin’ like you’re boring her. She embodies the self-confidence we all strive for, but it comes with a lack of social awareness where she doesn’t see she’s in danger or being rude by not following the pecking order (inadvertent shout out to The Pecking Orders!).
Back to the cold war. It was clear that both kitties were just looking to feel accepted, respected, and seen by the other… the cause of most wars, right? Sally wanted Tibet to respect her home and her status as head wife. Tibet wanted Sally to welcome her as a family member. I decided it was my job to show them this since I am way wiser. First I had to establish rapport…
Starting with Sally, I pet her small head and said nice things like she has a really great rainbow of colors and I like when she timidly touches people with her paws. To Tibet I said I admire her courage and although her meows sometimes last too long, I like that she expresses herself. Both cats relaxed, gave me their trust, and a temporary ceasefire was reached.
Now that we had a suspension of aggression, I moved the negotiations forward. I went back and forth between them, now gently telling each cat what they could do to help diffuse the situation.
“Sally, you could be a little more welcoming to Tibet. She’s our guest and yes, sometimes a little intrusive and noisy, but she’s family.”
“Tibetsy, Sally feels you don’t respect her and her home. Have a little more consideration and be more courteous to your hosts.”
The cats listened. They protested at first with sullen meows to defend their actions, but I pushed on. Soon enough, I saw Tibet steal a glance at Sally and I knew we were ready to proceed to the next phase.
I took a deep breath, sent calm waves through the kitchen, and pulled out the big guns: I pet both cats at the same time. They immediately froze as if they could feel each other through my hands. They were rigid and Siberian. I continued talking, now addressing both Sally and Tibet as if we were all in a conversation. I soothed and they slowly relaxed. The meows started again but now they were playful. The cats defrosted, their tails unfluffed, and they even made eye contact.
The final phase was risky, but I knew it would work. I poured two bowls of crunchies and set them side-by-side. Tibet and Sally didn’t even hesitate and happily ate within swatting distance of the other. The war was over! I was proud of myself, and of Sally and Tibet. I knew I had the way to find peace and was proud of my mediation. I left them so I could do research on how to join the United Nations. The world needed my skills.
An hour later, I went to the kitchen and my heart sank. There was Sally and Tibet seated in the same spots as before. Low growls, tails fluffy, back on “imminent threat” alert status. I had accomplished nothing. We did not have peace. They were still on the brink of a terrible war and there was nothing I could do.
I saw in that instant that I did them a disservice by trying to fight their war for them. I saw that this wasn’t a war at all. This was just Tibet finding her place and I couldn’t force her into a place, she had to find one on her own. She had to find it with Sally. I could tell them over and over again what they should do, but nothing would resolve this struggle until they both stood up for themselves, until they decided where they fit. Real growth happens when you fight your own battles.
The next morning I woke to find Tibet engaged in another stand-off, this time with Luigi, the black panther of all panthers. Oh Tibet, you naive daredevil you, will you ever learn? I knew that as long as I tried to save her, the answer was no. This was her conflict, not mine. Luigi was going to crush her, but that was OK. That’s what cat fights are for. I didn’t intervene this time, I left them to figure it out for themselves.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Sometimes being saved doesn’t mean you were saved at all. Being left to fight your own battles is when you learn to save yourself. That’s when who you are really shows up.
Also, cats are the rulers of the internet. All hail to your rulers.
Two weeks ago, I was doing the usual: indifferently placing large volumes of political ads into the recycling bin. As I tossed these lovely brochures, I suddenly felt sorry for them. I thought about all the people that spent time creating them; there were volunteers, meetings, arguments, expense reports. But here, at what should be the climax of the ads’ purpose, the sole reason for their creation, the targeted voter did not read them. I barely even glanced at them as I threw them into the recycling.
I walked away but I kept thinking about the ads. I wondered if I was wrong. I wondered if they had anything to say. How can I conclude they are trash if I never read them? A few hours later, when I couldn’t take the curiosity anymore, I went dumpster diving. I grabbed the ads out of the trash, saving them from futile doom. I was going to read them, damn it. All of them. From that day through Election Day.
This is how I ended up an enormous pile of garbage…
As of today, six days from Election Day, I have received 61 political ads in the mail. 61 in two weeks, which averages out to five per mail day and the vast majority of these are repeats of the same two or three messages. We still have five mail days to go. Oh what bounties will my mailman bring?!
Did I read them, you ask? Oh yes, I read them. I read all over them. I tried really hard to learn from the ads but what I learned most of all was that my initial conclusion was correct: they should be placed unread into the recycling bin. I learned that none of the messages are 100% truth. They are all just weak conclusions drawn from traits/events/statements purposely taken out of context. I also learned that although there are words, charts, and bolded phrases all over them, the ads are almost entirely empty. They pretty much say nothing at all.
The campaign strategy is clear (I’m sure there are dissertations written about its effectiveness), and the strategy is quite effective. Here it is:
State your message as often as possible. Make modest changes to the language so that it appears to be new material. Say it clearly and say it obsessively, so the reader has no choice but to memorize it.
Martha Stewart it up with shiny paper, fancy font, obscure citations, and reeeeeally stretch the statistics.
The reader will subconsciously commit the ghost of the message to memory. Once the message is memorized, it will begin to seem like truth to the reader, and then the strategy is complete.
It’s true. Once you hear something enough, once it’s engrained into your memory, it’s hard not to see it as reality. Basic human psychology, folks. They do it because it works. Still, I find going after our automatic memory response is lazy and unfair; we can’t help but absorb the messages. After all, we are only cavegirls, grooorgh!
The challenge for campaign strategists is how to capture our highly limited attention spans. It is precisely our limited attention that is the entire reason for the simplify and robo-repeat strategy. It makes perfect sense. I know I’m not the only one that indifferently places the ads into the recycling bin, so they have to somehow get my attention in the few seconds they have with me. So they use catchy language, quick summaries, and leading images to tell their story in seconds. There is no other way to reach us.
The leading images are one of my favorite parts of the ads. Here is a small sample of the alarmist languages and images used:
I particularly enjoy the unflattering photos of opponents, which are usually depictions of them mid-sentence. I mean, which one of the below photos do you think came from her opponent?
The message I get is loud and clear: that girl be cray-cray, tryin’ to steal all my money, uh uh.
In general, the ads are incredibly predictable in their storytelling and I find them to be insulting to our intelligence. I can always guess the moral of the story, which is always: “Candidate X wants to murder your mom and imprison all the kittens!” The ads also ask a lot of questions with really obvious answers. For example, I found myself thinking the following:
Sure, I like children being safe.
No, I don’t like giving all my money away.
Yes, I DO like my freedom.
No, I don’t want to ruin all hope for a decent future!
Of COURSE I don’t want ISIS/Ebola making us all die!!
Don’t you DARE question my patriotism! GOD BLESS AH-MERICA!!!!
I think it is how shamelessly full of holes the arguments in the ads are that irked me the most. They are mostly illogical conditional formulas like, if A is B and B is C, then C is an America hater! After each ad I thought, “Well, that sounds like a bunch of horsesh*t…” Not a single one felt genuine. Not one of the 61 ads gave me a better impression of who the candidate really was or what the proposition really meant. Each one left me needing to decode the statements on my own time through outside research.
The weird thing is we all know there is no truth in political ads; it is discussed publicly, but still the strategy of robo-repeat continues and we continue to fall for it. The weirder thing is this strategy only exists because we created it. Very few of us are actually involved in the political process. VERY few. How many of us actually do outside research? How many of us sit down and thoroughly read the pros and cons to propositions? Who among us actually does background research on judges or school superintendents? Go ahead, raise your hands…
The real moral of the story is that we have no one to blame for this garbage strategy but ourselves. At the end of the day, we created this reality. We created it by only giving the political process — the privilege of being able to vote — the few seconds between picking up the ads and throwing them away. I think we’ve forgotten that voting is when we get to influence, it DOES matter. It should be our most involved part, the most important part, not all our wanking that follows later. So, as long as we are indifferent to the privilege of voting, those we elect will yell weird, empty stuff at us on their way to the trash (recycling bin).
Things They Forgot to Mention:
As long as we aren’t really interested in elections, we can expect to be given an enormous pile of garbage every other November. Double entendre intended.
I heard a report on NPR that said cereal consumption is on a decline and has been since 1996. The reason was particularly special: we are eating less cereal because it takes too much time. Instead we opt for alternatives like fast-food breakfast sandwiches or Go-Gurt® (for when you’re on the go with yogurt, Go-Gurt®!). Here is a quote from the report I found regrettably true:
This exhausting ritual — pouring cereal into the bowl, pouring milk into the bowl, eating it — takes too much time.
The report goes on to say that since cereal requires using a bowl and a spoon that you have to clean, it has become too much work. In other words: cereal is too time consuming and we don’t have that time to consume it. I would guess that eating cereal, including the dish washing, is a five minute task so this means we don’t have those five minutes anymore. Why not? Where did those five minutes go?
I am guilty of this. I admit now in front of the world wide web that for years I ate my cereal while driving to work since I did not “have the time” to eat at home. Yes, I ate cereal while driving a vehicle…on a freeway. Don’t worry, I drove with my knee so I could eat my cereal while gazing out the window at the Pacific Ocean. It was a win-win, minus the whole danger thing.
I have been thinking about being busy for a while. No matter what I’m doing, I’m busy and have been for years. We all have been. The default answer to the question: “How are you?” is always: “Well, I’ve been busy…” That’s what we all say. Listen for it and you’ll hear it everywhere, you’ll hear it coming from you. The conversation will go from there, both parties secretly comparing levels of busy.
We are all always busy, but the question I ask is: why are we so busy? Why is that our preferred mode? Why do we work so hard to keep it that way? Why do we think running from place to place without time to eat cereal means that we’ve made it?
In U.S. culture, being busy is something to be proud of, a symbol of success. If you aren’t busy you aren’t accomplishing. So we rush through our lives and abbreviate everything, even our experiences, into soundbites. We don’t linger anymore, we don’t savor. Our lives become as peripheral as a status post, outlines of real experience. But we can point to it, check it off of a list, and therefore we think it counts.
Slow is a dirty word. It’s a word for lazy, slacker, for being somebody who gives up.
He’s right. If someone, when asked “how are you?”, actually said they hadn’t been up to much, had free time, and sat on grassy knolls a lot, that wouldn’t go over well. That person would be seen as wasting their time and ultimately their life. Multi-tasking, resume building, a full calendar; that makes a well-lived life.
Honoré thinks our obsession with busy lies in how our culture defines time as “a finite resource…always draining away, you either use it or lose it.” If we have that outlook on time, it makes sense that we race against something that is disappearing on us. Every minute is one and done, so we cram in as much as we can and call it carpe diem.
I argue we stop carpe-ing that diem, at least in the way we carpe today. I argue we do things that can’t be summed up because the entirety of sitting on a grassy knoll can’t be a soundbite. Unless you manage to phrase it how they did in this hilarious/super deep moment from the movie, I ♥ Huckabees:
Doing nothing can mean doing everything. How very New Age of me.
I think if we daydream, if we do nothing, if we do whatever makes our minds quiet, then we can really live our lives. In a study on the resting brain, neuroscientists found “when we are resting, the brain is anything but idle and…downtime is essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill a code of ethics.” Take that to your boss when you request a vacation.
Obviously there is a line between being slow and being lazy, but I’m not talking about lazy. I’m talking about the opposite of lazy. I think wasting time can be described as going through your day without being fully aware of what is happening around and in you. Your time is wasted by focusing only on to-do lists and juggling acts, forgetting that it’s a beautiful day and it’s beautiful you’re even alive. The fact is if we don’t have time for something, it means we value other things more than it. I think about that in my life, the things I choose to not do and what I replace them with. I wonder if the tradeoff is worth it…
I’m thinking about giving up being busy. I could find a different answer to the question: “How are you?” I want to describe my life with more detail. I also want to live with more detail. I want to highlight things other than how busy I am because that doesn’t describe me. I’m going to sit on a grassy knoll, eat a bowl of cereal, and tell you all about it.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve carpe-d my diem. Something as simple as having time for cereal can carpe much better.
I am not good with saran wrap. I know I’m supposed to capitalize saran wrap, but I do not care to give it the respect of a proper noun. There is nothing proper about it. I also know that I should call it by the generic phrase “plastic wrap”, but I just can’t. It is saran wrap to me and saran wrap sucks. I can’t control it, I don’t understand it, and I don’t trust it. How can I control something I can’t see?! Nope, saran wrap is no good.
Cutting it is a challenge for me. One section always refuses to sever and instead stretches, resulting in an irritating salt water taffy scenario. I know about applying pressure while cutting. I know about the nifty side tab thing that is supposed to facilitate in the roll out. I know all the tricks, and yet cutting saran wrap continues to suck for me.
When I do manage to cut a piece, the situation unravels from there. The saran wrap will fold in on itself, most likely as a means of self-defense, making it impossible to recreate a flat and useful structure. Or worse, the saran wrap starts to attack. It wraps itself around my hand like a boa constrictor, cutting off air and rendering my fingers inoperable. I end up balling up my failure in a tantrum and starting over.
A few months ago, I started taking pictures of my ongoing war and here is a sampling of my strife:
Things They Forgot to Mention:
I may win the battle, but saran wrap always wins the war.
One time I went to Costa Rica with some girlfriends. We arrived late in the capital, San Jose, but were excited to be out of the U.S., so Emily, Ellen and I did not go to sleep. We went out to grab a late night snack and some tequila (items not necessarily listed in order of importance).
We wandered our way into a maze of local establishments, soon finding a restaurant that could almost literally be defined as a hole in the wall. Inside, two locals were eating good looking things and these good looking things told us to come in.
There was no menu so we ordered our food by pointing at what the two other people were eating and adding the words “más queso”(“more cheese”). Sitting on the counter was a large vat of something that looked like pickled cabbage. Emily is our foodiest friend and she felt this cabbage would compliment our mystery meal perfectly. She piled a healthy portion onto our communal plate and we all gave a thumbs up. This was our first mistake. I remember seeing the locals as she did this. There was fear, hesitation, and silence. But we ignored them, and this was our second mistake.
We sat at a table facing the street, whispering that it was unsettling and possibly rude how much everyone was staring at us. We chalked it up to being super sexy and moved on.
Emily created the first bite. It was a fabulous bite that included a large ratio of the cabbage concoction. I did the same and we placed it in our mouths. The fire hit Emily first and I knew I was in trouble when I saw her eyes. She wasn’t looking at me, she was somewhere else. Then the fire hit me and I went somewhere else too. The place I went was a bad, bad place.
The cabbage was not cabbage, it was thinly sliced, light green, massively hot peppers. As gringas, we should not have eaten even one sliver, but Emily and I had eaten what only professionals should attempt. This is what the locals thought about telling us but did not.
The spice was on a level that I feel should be illegal without written consent and an educational video. The heat is hard to describe but it was on the level of demons. It was like my tongue had been replaced by a burning coal that clawed down my throat. The demon was a grow-er as well as a show-er, and as it matured, my face and entire body turned vivid red. I wanted to rip out my tongue and call it a day. I considered knocking myself unconscious rather than deal with these repercussions.
Emily, who is typically more intelligent than me, leapt into action. She stood up, banged her fist on the table, and screamed “LECHE!!!”(“MILK!!!”) through the tiny restaurant. Like, loudly. We were battling demons and everyone, including Ellen, started laughing at us. They were laughing us, you guys. Then Emily and I began to laugh.
Emily and I were served a glass of room temperature milk — the only glass of thick, room temperature milk I’ve ever desired — and we desperately chugged it down. The minutes crept along and we fought for survival. We were animal, we were instinct, we did what we had to do. I had an ineffective hand fan thing going and Emily was gasping. When we could speak, we could only say: “Oh my God…holy sh*t…that is sofa-king hot…oh my GOD…I’m going to die…”. Soon we stopped speaking because the burn had evolved and any air entering or leaving our oral cavities now felt very bad indeed. Emily stepped outside to dry heave for a while and I went into catatonic meditation. Emily remembers a big full moon shining down on her as she writhed. I only remember red.
The whole ordeal lasted about ten minutes, but those were some loooong minutes. When we were capable of conversation again, the locals explained what we had eaten and used the phrases “muy malo”(“very bad”) and “muy caliente”(“very hot”) a lot. Yeah, no sh*t Sherlocks, very much muy malo.
I don’t think I need to describe the exorcising of the demons the next day. The below image adequately portrays the experience:
Pain, after all, is relative mis amigos. But, the madness found in the comment section of a news story is a topic for another post.
In the end, I can confidently state that when eating a mystery meal that makes locals give questionable glances, I will NOT take a bite until someone else has completed one first. I can also confidently state that I will NEVER eat from a vat of cabbage again. Fool me once, shame on you, cabbage; fool me twice, shame on me, cabbage.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
If the locals look concerned for your safety, YOU should be concerned for your safety because they know that demons can hide in cabbage.
I recently had to deal with a very strong personality. When I say “deal with,” I mean I had to confront an aggressive man with a peacock complex and questionable respect for women and get him to do something he did not want to do.
This man, Jim, was doing work on our backyard and he was large in every way: height, presence, voice volume. He filled your space, stole your authority, and everything went his way. His words were fast and forceful, leaving you with nothing to say except: “Sounds good, Jim.” We found ourselves agreeing to contract changes that we should not agree to and then we found ourselves with a problem.
I have to mention what irked me most about Jim was that he called me “sweetie.” I hated him calling me that, it was condescending and it filled me with a useless rage. Not to mention, Jim calling me sweetie made me feel like a sweetie, like a silly little girl who did not need to be taken seriously. It was his way of subtly putting me in my place and it was annoyingly effective.
I knew our confrontation was coming for 24 hours, so I marinated WAY too long in the anticipation. I practiced what I was going to say, I bounced ideas off my husband, I imagined push-back scenarios. The only thing this marinating accomplished was that I became more and more nervous, which made me more and more insecure. I let it saturate me and I came out all soggy dog. What a lousy foundation from which to confront Jim. I felt like such a sweetie.
Then on my drive home to meet Jim something interesting happened. I started thinking about energy and how because his energy was more overt, mine was diluted. I realized this only happened because I allowed him to dilute me, I allowed him be stronger than me, I gave him my permission. A simple sentence came into my head and shifted everything. The sentence was: “You are not stronger than me, Jim.” It was utterly true. He wasn’t more powerful, he just acted like it. I wasn’t a sweetie, I just acted like it.
For the rest of my drive, each time I said that sentence, I believed it more completely. I became calm and certain, and now looked forward to our confrontation.
This time when Jim walked in the door I felt taller than him. This time when he called me sweetie it did not dilute me. This time I was the bigger presence. Using advanced ESP, I sent him my sentence: “You are not stronger than me, Jim.” I let him and his voice volume talk at me for a bit, filling the space with blah blah blah. I smiled as he talked, I was cooler than a stoned Snoop Dogg, y’all. When he was satisfied with the blah blah blah, I said: “Jim, let’s go take a walk.” I saw him visibly taken aback, he stumbled over some words and followed me outside.
We walked through the backyard and I pointed out the issues we had with his work. I presented him with two options to fix them, and instantly he agreed to one. I was not bitchy, I was not pushy, but I was not a sweetie. I was stronger than Jim and he knew it. It was that simple to confront him.
Jim left agreeing to a lower bill and doing more work for free, and we were not enemies. But, he did not call me sweetie as he left, he used my name.
I found there was difference between Jim’s strength and mine. His was aggressive, contrived, and turbulent. Mine was serene, steady, and gentle. I didn’t have to resort to aggression to tame his aggression, I just had to be a strong me.
I wonder now about all the times in my life that I played small, that I played the sweetie because that’s where I thought I belonged. How many Jims have overtalked me and dictated what happens to me? I always thought that since I wasn’t a combative person, that equated to me being weaker. But that’s not true at all. Strength is a personal choice and you choose its form, so choose one that fits. Sometimes strength is a calm, kind approach. And sometimes sweeties are the strongest.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
When Jim comes to your door, channel Snoop D-O-double-G and know that he is only stronger when you allow him to be.
Just settling back in from a trip to Alaska. I learned many things including: there is nothing bluer than an iceberg; bears are delightfully pigeon-toed; and even though you believe with all your soul that you will work while on vacation, you won’t. And you shouldn’t because the purpose of vacation is to dip yourself in new places and come back so fresh and so clean-clean. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. So, bear with me (pun intended) while I get my bearings (another pun! nice!). New, real post will come next week.
In the meantime, a little taste of Alaska:
I mean, seriously Alaska? You think this a joke, Alaska? Calm down with all the beauty, Alaska…
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Vacation is for vacationing. In other words: no work, all play.
When I was 23, I spent a year at the Biosphere 2 Center outside Tucson, Arizona getting my masters. The Biosphere is a huge greenhouse meant to simulate the Earth, think Pauly Shore in 1996‘s Biodome. For cliff notes of our year there, just watch the first 25 seconds of this excerpt from the film. I advise you to not watch more than that though, as it may cause brain damage:
Yup, it was pretty much exactly like that. Life at the Biosphere deserves a story all its own, but that’s for another day. Today I would like to discuss one particular person from that year. Her name, as it came to be, was Javalina Girl.
Throughout the summer, groups of high school students stayed at the Biosphere for a month to do science things. In one of these groups was a pretty, petite, loner girl with pigtails and a stuffed animal backpack. She carried a notebook in which she scribbled aggressively. By this time, us grad school students had already morphed into weird desert people, so we were intrigued by this girl. We heard rumors about her and we sought them out. We heard she had uncivilized breakdowns. We heard she threw herself out of a moving van. We heard she stole her housemate’s ice cream. We were very intrigued indeed.
This girl would wander off alone into the remote desert surrounding the Biosphere. She would carry her notebook and be gone for hours, oblivious to the panic her wandering caused the program counselors. It was on one of these walks that she came across the javalina.
For those that don’t know, javalinas are boar-like animals found in Arizona. They can be vicious with inch-long canines, and roam in territorial packs at night. Here are some photos I stole from the internet:
We had all come across javalinas at some point and quickly learned to show them respect.
Lucky for her, the girl came across a recently dead one and this is how she became Javalina Girl. No one knows what thoughts went through her wild mind, but something convinced her to drag that sizable javalina over a mile back to her group house. Once at the house, she proceeded to construct an outdoor cage for the carcass. (This is where it gets a little graphic, so ladies, cover your eyes.) Javalina Girl then took a small knife from her communal kitchen, carefully removed all of the javalina’s skin, and returned the knife to the utensil drawer.
Naturally, one of her housemates was a little freaked out by this, so the counselors were called to intervene. They found Javalina Girl with the javalina, which was now fully skinned and enclosed in the chicken-wire chamber. She was wearing her usual pigtails and stuffed animal backpack. They asked her what she was doing and she explained she was conducting an experiment to see how long it took for a corpse to decompose, and the chicken-wire was to protect it from large scavengers. She was going to record the observations in her notebook.
The counselors were stumped by this one. Technically, Javalina Girl had done nothing wrong. All she had done was take the initiative to create something her fellow students could learn from and “enjoy.” As scientists themselves, the counselors felt maybe they should encourage independent scientific experiments. But then again, there was bloody carcass in the front yard and they just could not let her get away with this behavior. Just like that, Javalina Girl was sent home.
One thing the counselors were particularly confused by was where the javalina’s skin went. Javalina Girl reported she threw it out, but they never found a trace. A week or so later, us grad students began to notice the sweet smell of death in our classroom — you can see where this is going. The odor started as faint, almost pleasant whiffs, but it matured into the overwhelming perfume of rot. Maintenance came to find the source, and they found — drum roll, please — the javalina’s skin. The skin, along with a few bones, was sealed in a cardboard box hidden in our classroom closet. Javalina Girl’s name was handwritten on the box.
Needless to say, we were obsessed and dissected all we knew of Javalina Girl. We constructed a cage around her made of assumptions and talked about her like she belonged in an institution. We all agreed she had many screws loose. The skin and bones, however, we could not come to consensus on. It could be explained by multiple theories: (1) a mean gift because she hated our guts, (2) a nice gift because we were kindred explorers, or (3) left temporarily to get later for further analysis.
We never found out and we never heard of Javalina Girl again. We talked about her all the time though, and I even dressed up as her for Halloween. To this day, she remains one of my favorite stories to tell. Something about Javalina Girl shook me up.
I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t think Javalina Girl belonged in an institution at all. I think she belonged in the desert. I like to believe she was a brilliant, artistic mind. I believe she was just curious about what happens in life…and in death. She was a thinker, a pioneer, a lone wolf who wandered the desert. She was also possibly batshit crazy but that isn’t always a bad thing. Many of the biggest minds in history could have been called batshit crazy too and I think Javalina Girl walked among giants.
I hope I find her one day, to see who she turned into. I hope her spark hasn’t been snuffed out by how she’s supposed to go about life. I hope she still wanders and carries a notebook. I will tell her that she changed my perception of batshit crazy and she taught me that being divergent can be preferred. I know now that we all have some Javalina Girl in us and we should let it glow through. Maybe not through a bloody carcass, but you know what I mean.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Not all who are crazy belong in an institution, because many times crazy is an asset and possibly a compliment.
(To the Biospherians, if you know of corrections/missing facts from this story, let me know in the comments below)