Saturday, March 16, 2013

Send in the Locusts

Why haven't I posted in a few days? Well, I can't offer much excuse, aside from a dizzying procession of Biblical plagues.

First, my block's Internet and cable dried up for 24 hours (a latter-day plague, if ever I heard of one), which meant a full night trying to sleep with an enormo Verizon truck wheezing loudly in my driveway.

The next morning a power company truck exploded in front of my house, spraying a fine mist of hydraulic oil all over my property. Within hours, men in hazmat suits were vacuuming up my plants, grass, and topsoil into a convoy of beastly blue trucks which were screaming like the sandworms in Dune.

That's when the coughing started. And the tingly lips and fingers that are my usual symptoms around strong chemical smells.

The next morning, friends came over to help me rebuild my porch. The wood had been rotting at an alarming rate, threatening to make the whole thing slide down a hill. Being non-musicians, they're accustomed to starting work at 7:30am. Whereas I'm, uh, not. So I spent 9 hours shlepping timber on five hours sleep.

In the midst of construction, it began to snow - odd, given that the temperature was well above freezing. We gradually realized those weren't snowflakes, it was tons of hovering white ash. I don't know where it came from, but it was gone after a couple of hours.

After working a full day out in the toxic waste zone, my lips tingled as if I'd just eaten a very spicy Thai curry. As always, I consulted my friend, Pierre, who knows everything, and he informed me that I might be at risk of anaphylatic shock (I'm holding onto some Loratidine just in case).

So, yeah, I'm living in interesting times!

I once wrote:
I come from an "oh, shit!" family. I was taught from a young age that even the most petty of life's travails warrants an eruption of embittered pique. It's a means of expressing bitterness at the ongoing pattern of cosmic persecution of which these misplaced car keys or that stubbed toe was the latest in a long series of examples. Given that few turns in life fulfill our expectations, the "oh, shit!" reflex can grow to eventually poison one's entire existence.

Here's the antidote. In place of the exclamation, swap in this question: "If this is the worst thing that happens today, would that mean it's been a good day?"

In several years, I have yet to answer "no", though a few legitimately bad things have occurred in that time. That's because while human beings irritate easily at minutiae, we are remarkably resilient in the larger picture. And the act of stepping back to a wider view forces us to react to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune from our oceans of resilience rather than our thin puddles of irritability.
My perfect record of no "no" replies still remains unbroken. It's not a matter of "positive thinking" or sunny pablum re: "The Gift of Life" (I find the whole life thing fairly overrated, actually). It's just that I've learned to limit the stories I tell myself. I no longer plug mishaps into my narrative of woe. And without that, it's all just stuff happening. "Bad" is an arbitrary label, and one of the secrets of human existence is discovering that we assign our own labels, and that that process can be discarded.

As I wrote here, everyone detests the situation of missing a highway exit and finding that the next one's 25 miles ahead. But, when you really think about it, what's so horrific about driving? If driving's so bad, why do we pine so strongly for green lights?

It helps that this week I also discovered what may be the best grandma-style, humble-steamtable-joint-hidden-in-a-deli type Mexican in the Tristate area.

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