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For reasons she can't remember, the woman has a framed photograph of a teddy bear on her desk.
Sometimes a young girl comes by, possibly while visiting her parents, and asks to see the photograph. She holds it and admires it for a few minutes, then skips away.
After some searching, the woman found the exact bear in the photograph and presented it to the girl.
"Here you go, honey, it's for you to keep!" she said.
The girl squirmed and looked at the ground.
"No, no, thank you, I just liked the picture..."
The girl stopped visiting after that.
A while ago I decided to stop making mistakes, but it turns out that was the biggest mistake of all.
The only way you can stop making mistakes is to only do things that are completely safe, but then you don't learn anything, and you don't, to use a word in a sense that I don't like, "grow," and it's only much later when you find that, developmentally, you are not where you want to be, that you begin to regret those extremely comfortable years.
Saying "I'm too old to start now," is also a mistake, but one to avoid.
In the year 2525, time travel is invented, and one month later the first time travel reality show debuts.
My Best Decision
is the best example of this genre. A group of historians follows a person from the past through life and identifies the best decision that person ever made, then the audience follows the reaction to and consequences of that decision.
Look for me in season two. In the minutes and hours following my best ever decision, laugh as I batter my head with my fists and shout "What was I thinking? Why am I such a stupid jerk?"
Karen is a new co-worker. Her husband is from this area, and he recently convinced her to move here from somewhere near Chicago, where she was born.
We've sort of bonded over the fact that neither of us really likes it or feels comfortable here.
Her husband's friends, who've never gone anywhere, said "bring her home, back out here" despite her protests that she preferred the city, and he eventually won.
If Karen really and truly opened up to me, I suspect she would say that she resents being treated like a crate. That's my reading of the situation, anyway.
Your job is to follow me around and remind me that it isn't necessary to be perfect. Just find a good rhythm, say, every five minutes, and repeat it.
Then roughly once an hour, I'll need you to go into a bit more detail and say it isn't true that I've dug myself into an inescapable doom-hole with my mistakes and there's no point in trying anymore. I'll need you to say that it's more of a ditch anyway, and I can step out and start over whenever I want.
You get weekends off, and please don't abandon me.
I observe the spider's gait. She moves across the table at a steady pace. Her steps make no vibration or sound as one leg lifts higher than it seems it should need to, and the other seven grimble along in a compelling and coordinated way (I had to make up that word, grimble, because the motion is so foreign to me).
The spider is brown with black... 'stripes' is not the word, it's not quite a pattern, not quite at the level of a 'dapple' or a 'mottle'... I don't have a real or imaginary word for the spider's coloration.
I found it a helpful realization that I sort of resent the institution of marriage for denying me deep connections with like-minded people who happen to be married.
As in, unspoken, "Do you want to have a nine-hour conversation to continue the really meaningful lunch conversation we've just had?" is wordlessly precluded by,
"Sorry, I need to get back to my husband/wife, who maybe does not understand that deep connections are independent of romantic-slash-physical-slash-sexual attraction, so we have to limit our interactions to pleasantries accentuated by intense but brief moments of profound resonance."
Yes, hello, Animal Desk, I'm in danger of being stung by a bee.
Yes ma'am, can you identify the bee?
We're looking at the bee book now -- David says it's a Tawny Honey-Fiend, but I say it's an Eastern Bumbler... (*
*)... No, look
, David, look at the
, it's all
like in the picture.
Remain calm, ma'am. Can you describe the bee's attitude?
The bee, yes, he's been circling us threateningly for ten minutes. (*
, David, the bee does
think I'm a beautiful flower,
just accept that we need Animal Desk's help.
I had assumed that with access to a smart-phone, I would take selfies all through the day and night. That was until I actually got to see myself in a selfie, and I
did not like
what I saw.
My exact words were, "Wow, what a monster I am..."
Now I understand why selfies are a young person's game. I look best in a dimly-lit room from about six feet away, so I'm going to start carrying a six-foot-long photo-stick that I will use to gently poke potential photographers out into that more appropriate range.
I wonder if I should become a bartender. The idea of being an intuitive therapist, but with booze, is tremendously appealing.
Someone slumps at the bar and stares up at me while I'm drying a glass.
"That bad, huh?" I say.
The person nods. Drawing on my encyclopedic knowledge of ingredients and their effects, I craft a cocktail that allows my patron to begin to process the events of a long day.
I know that's not how it goes, really. It's just obnoxious people who don't like to tip and you go home emotionally exhausted and sticky with lime juice.
Wherever you live, you are probably not too far away from an undeveloped, uninhabited, wooded area. If you can get about a mile into this wild zone, you will quickly realize that you are a stranger in a different world.
It is not an altogether good feeling. You are only about 75% safe here, compared to the 90-99% margin of safety you enjoy in your human settlement. The hungry eyes of the robin, the deer, the squirrel, and creatures more menacing yet (beware the formidable forest goose!) follow you as you stumble along the paved and well-marked path.
Musical Chairs is the worst game.
It is a situation of artificial scarcity, and an explicit endorsement to shove and bite and step over the sprawled bodies of your defeated classmates to get yourself to safety.
Well done, Jimmy, you've won the day.
But when it comes time to cut birds out of construction paper, Jimmy, and when you run out of glue, will your classmates, still nursing their bruises, get in line to share theirs with you? Will the glorious memory of your claiming the final remaining chair be enough to stick the googly eye on your bird, Jimmy?
Yeah, Animal Desk, uh... it's about my cat?
Go ahead, sir.
Well, he's run up a tree and he won't come down. I didn't think cats did that outside the movies.
It's fairly common, sir. Does your cat appear to be in distress?
Distress? Uh, no... he's just sitting on a branch, staring down at me.
I see. Can you describe your relationship with the cat?
The relationship, uh... I would describe it as 'tense'. He's really my wife's cat, you see, from before we were married. I think he sees me as an interloper, but I'm
I've only been kicked out of a public place once (so far).
Years ago, my friend had loaned me Neil Gaiman's
, one of his favorite books, and I hadn't liked it at all. We were about four beers into our discussion, when I suddenly remembered the thoroughly-described coin tricks.
," I yelled, slamming the table, "what was up with those coin tricks? Pages and pages and
A waitress tried to shush me, and I held my hands out to plead for understanding. "But...
!" I shouted. I would not be silenced.
Today at work I overheard an IT employee assisting a man who was just learning about the concept of passwords for the first time.
"So I can pick any word I want?" the man asked.
"Yes, but it has to have upper- and lower-case letters, along with at least one number or special character," said the IT guy.
The man was unfamiliar with all of those of those concepts, so the IT employee explained them each in turn. The especially lengthy "special characters" section was a master class in patience, customer service, and answering the same question five times.
The feeling of not needing to do anything or be anywhere is always nice, but in the summer it becomes
, and chasing that feeling becomes my primary goal.
I achieve it by refusing to over-commit myself, and sometimes by not committing myself to anything at all. I hate a summer schedule or summer appointments or any kind of summer structure.
On warm evenings the sun seems to hang forever just below the trees, and I loaf in the supermarket or sit on the front step or walk around on the sidewalk and admire the color of the sky.
REAL TALK ABOUT POTASSIUM
I don't know whether you keep track of your nutrient intake, but I have decided to try it lately. With the advent of the computer age, it is easy to do. Mostly I am eating a healthy and sufficient diet, except in the field of potassium.
How does one get enough? By my calculation, I would need to eat more than 100 bananas a day to reach 4,700 mg.
FDA, I am not an elephant. FDA, stop potassium-shaming me. If I want my limbs to go numb and fall off, that is my business.
I have a friend who likes to travel. When she gets the urge, she quits whatever job she happens to be doing, takes all of her money, and she travels. She stays in places for several months at a time and really gets to know them and the people who live there. Eventually she runs out of money, so she gets another job and begins saving again.
This lifestyle appeals to me tremendously, but I'm sure I'm not capable of it. Even just thinking about it now, the internalized voices of my parents are yelling at me for being irresponsible.
I have a female friend who often complains that she is "fat," and not that it matters, but she is not.
In the past, I would just point at her, as if she had never seen herself in the mirror, and say "Look at yourself! You are not!"
That was before I learned that for women, 'fat' is not necessarily a measurable biostatistic so much as a feeling of unattractiveness, among other things.
I stopped trying to change her mind and started pointing out her good qualities, but she didn't like that, either, so now I just listen and nod.
I decided to try the new (and apparently now socially acceptable?) thing, which is enthusiastically hating an entire group based on my non-membership in that group.
Since I'm recovering from a cold, I'm going to try it with viruses, so here goes.
Hey! Viruses! Yeah!
Are you even alive? Don't you need to be able to reproduce without the aid of a host cell to meet the definition? Yeah, you heard what I said!
I feel big and important now. I feel like a member of a powerful group; namely, the non-viruses. I feel my group is best.
It's interesting to observe your own reaction to being emotionally hurt, if you can get some distance between your ego and whatever has hurt you.
I know some people tend to lash out or lock themselves away, but I find that my own reaction is to assume that whatever went wrong is my fault, and to run it over again and again in my mind, looking for evidence that my own stupidity or selfishness are to blame. I am extremely good at this step, and I always find more than enough. An enthusiastic round of misguided self-improvement will follow.
When I was younger, things only beeped in an emergency. The smoke detector beeped, the car beeped when you needed to check the engine, etc...
Then someone decided everything should beep, to grab our fragmented attention. My new toaster beeps, as if the
sound of the toast popping up isn't enough. I hadn't though to ask the saleswoman "this toaster doesn't...
, does it?" but I wish I had.
Now something in the building is beeping. My brain is warning me of danger, but I am trying to ignore it. I am trying to stay cool about beeping.
I feel that yesterday's entry really shows how poorly I am aging. I was documenting the quieter days when things didn't beep as much for the younger generation. I expect they will be grateful when beeping goes out of fashion and maybe we move towards
for less urgent notifications.
If a member of the y.g. would like to interview me for a school paper, I am available. I never fought in a war, but I can tell rambling stories about the cola wars, which I did live through, and which did impact my life, by jim, by jim...
You are all invited, of course, to my Independence Day celebration. Someone from the health department will be here to teach us about perchlorate, a chemical in fireworks (among other things) that makes its way into our water and eventually our bodies. Perchlorate testing kits will be provided. Boom!
To add a sizzle to your holiday, salted carrot slices and tap water will be served.
To cap off the evening, my friend Mikey will teach us to whistle the famous piccolo solo from
The Stars and Stripes Forever
while we watch the fireworks we can no longer enjoy on TV.
I guard my alone time jealously, as a dragon guards his gold. Sometimes I fly out to burninate peasants or hang out with other dragons, but often I need to curl up in my cave and I growl and breathe fire at anyone who encroaches upon my treasure -- my quiet, idle, solitary time.
Just as a dragon doesn't spend his gold, I don't spend my time doing anything constructive. I just roll around in it and enjoy it. That is what makes me a monster. I could be doing something good for others, but I am selfishly hoarding my treasure.
Yes, Animal Desk, I need your help urgently. I'm being harassed by a fierce magpie when I ride my bicycle.
A... magpie? Are you Australian?
Ma'am, Animal Desk is not trained to assist Australians. You want Animal Bureau, our sister organization based in Brisbane.
I've been trying them all week, but the line is busy! Can't you help?
I shouldn't be surprised that the line is busy, considering the fauna you've got going on down there. My only suggestion is to try drawing fake eyes onto your bicycle helmet and see if that deters the magpie.
If one of your important values is "making people happy," before long you'll run into the problem that your efforts might accidentally make people
happy than they were before your intervention.
Today in the cafeteria line, a man I had never seen or met before decided to pay for my lunch. He told the cashier to add my food to his bill, accepted my thanks, and walked away.
This act of kindness left me feeling slightly guilty. I don't deserve a free lunch. How can I repay him? I spent the rest of the day in a confused funk.
When I was in Toronto last month, I came upon a sidewalk dance party sponsored by a candy company. People dressed in bright colors poured out a van, set up some speakers, and started dancing, encouraging everyone who passed by to join them. They handed out small envelopes of candy to participants.
I was hurrying to a conference, but I paused for a moment and bounced around with the others to the happy music.
It was a marketing stunt, yes, but it was also a wonderfully weird event, and exactly the sort of spontaneous nonsense my life is currently lacking.
It's foolish to think you can make anyone change, but we still try it. I am just starting to get used to the feeling of having tried and failed to convince someone to change, realizing it's never going to happen, and finally accepting this fact.
Maybe the acceptance phase is the end, and it will make everyone happier. Or maybe it's just part of a cycle, and eventually I'll get inspired to try it again, or maybe something new will come next. In fact, I don't know
, so why do I think I'm qualified to try to change anyone?
When I get back to my apartment after a vacation, I set my bags down in the hallway, and I make sure to let whoever I was visiting know that I arrived home safely.
I usually eat something after the long drive.
Then I sit on my couch and notice how quiet it is. I feel sorry that I came back to this dark, empty room, and I wonder when I can leave again, and who I can visit next.
I get a strange kind of ache in the area between my heart and stomach, which does eventually go away.
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