A few months back I’m pretty sure I cracked a tooth, or to be more specific I’m pretty sure I re-cracked a tooth that I had fixed about a decade ago. It only caused minimal and occasional discomfort and could be easily ignored. We seem, currently, to have slowly worked our way past discomfort and are edging into the legitimate pain category. I’m going to go ahead and blame the sudden appearance of cold weather since it appears to be introduction of cold air that’s set off the sensation of someone occasionally jamming a teeny tiny ice pick into my jaw.
This, of course, is where my problem starts. You see it’s not so much that I’m afraid of the dentist, per se. The one’s I’ve met seem like decent enough human beings and individually are not a fear-educing bunch. I am, however, entirely and completely in favor of avoiding pain for as long as possible. This, unfortunately, has now caused me a dilemma. At some point in the near future this untreated tooth is going to start being more than an occasional discomfort. That may be weeks or months from now. An appointment at my local dentist is a guarantee of pain and a sure and certain time. It’s one of the few occasions in life where I generally prefer the unknown future to the known.
Yes, I know this is a ridiculous approach towards dental health. Yes, I know I should have had it taken care of months ago. Yes, I know it’s utterly out of character for a guy who thrives on adding things to a list and getting them knocked off as quickly as possible. I’m unpredictable like that.
I also know that the last three times I’ve walked into a dentist’s office for anything more than a cleaning I’ve walked out chewing on a couple of thousand dollars worth of bills to pay. Pain in the mouth. Pain in the wallet. Completely ridiculous or not, there’s no doubt in my own head why my approach to “modern, painless” dentistry is so often avoidance.
1. “Being robbed by the rich.” Based on what I see popping up from time to time on social media I should be furious because the money I’m supposed to have has apparently been stolen by the uber-wealthy. A quick look at this month’s bank statement will show without a doubt that I’m not one of them. Somehow I don’t feel like I’ve been the victim of theft, though. I started saving when I got my first job, made some good trades, and got lucky on more than one occasion. I’ve managed to stash a little back for the proverbial rainy day and for the far off day when I’m neither willing nor able to work any longer. Because there isn’t as much there as I’d like isn’t an indication that it was stolen from me so much as it’s an indication that I need to do a better job saving. There’s a vocal little group out there who apparently think the “rich” have snuck into my account and walked away with a bag of cash. Truth be told, I’m far more worried about long term inflation and the devaluation of the dollar than I am the “Wall Street Banksters” raiding me for pocket change.
2. Low grade crud. I’ve been suffering from some kind of low grade crud for weeks now. Some days are worse than others, but mostly it presents as a stuffy nose, occasional cough, and sore throat that sort of comes and goes of its own accord. It’s annoying, but not to the level of being worth having anyone check it out. Whatever’s in there coming and going needs to just go because it has more than worn out its welcome.
3. “Islamophobia.” Rest assured when I use the phrase Islamic terrorist I know exactly what I mean. I mean a terrorist who is either motivated by their Islamic faith or one who is using it as a justification for barbaric actions. Despite what some busybody old bat standing near me in line last weekend thinks, it’s not an indication that I am “Islamophobic.” I most assuredly don’t fear Islam or any other religion for that matter. I use Islamic terrorist to denote an asshat or asshats who claim to use one of the world’s great religions as justification for everything from petty crime, to mass murder, to acts of war. Rest assured, just as soon as a Methodist or Catholic shoots up Mad Magazine because Jesus told them to I’ll be among the first in line condemning them for it. I don’t blame a whole faith for the actions of a few, but I damned well do blame that faith when they don’t rise up in one voice to condemn those splinter elements who are pirating the name of their God for a decidedly ungodly purpose.
1. Purpose. I don’t think everyone needs to go around all day every day at 1000 miles an hour with their hair on fire, but I do think we would all be better served if people would at least drive with a sense of purpose; as if getting from their point of departure to their destination was actually important to them in some way. Instead, what I find most every afternoon is a mass of people wandering the highways and byways as if they haven’t a clue where they are, how they got there, or what they’re supposed to be doing. Even if we can all agree to move with purpose between the hours of 4:30 and 7:00 PM, I truly believe the world would be a better and more harmonious place.
2. Flashing Lights. While I’m on the topic of roads and transportation, this might be a good opportunity to give everyone a refresher on flashing traffic lights at an intersection and what they mean to you. Red, almost universally means stop yes, even when it’s flashing. Unless Mr. Williams taught me the wrong skills lo those many years ago in drivers ed, yellow flashers hanging above the intersection mean proceed with caution. It should be noted here that it is not an alternative method of telling drivers to stop. Sitting in your car at a flashing yellow light yelling at me while I’m sitting at a flashing red makes you look like an asshat or maybe more like an ignorant skank. Possibly both.
3. Doubt. I like to ponder. Having the time to sit and think has always been important to me. Unfortunately I also have a tendency to spend an inordinate amount of time dwelling on slights both real and imagined. I’ve been afflicted with that particular problem since I was a kid. Although I’ve learned plenty of coping skills to keep those rough edges from showing too much, I still feel it acutely. I hate how even a momentary doubt can seep in and color every other thought and decision for days on end. I hate that I sometimes take counsel of my fears despite all my best efforts to the contrary. It’s without question the one element of my personality that I’d most like to change.
So, because it’s the thing that’s preoccupied the bulk of this long weekend, it seems that I can’t quite get my mind off the impending availability of Retribution. We’re in that interminable stretch where the retail giants are doing their thing. I have absolutely no control over how that process works itself out… and since a writer, at least an independent, has absolute control over every other step of the process, I’m finding this moment of “letting go” an absolute agony.
I’m not lunatic enough to think this little offering of mine is going to sell a million copies or really change the world in any appreciable way. It’s one small story out of hundreds (thousands?) that gets self published online every day of the year. The only difference is that this one is mine. That doesn’t make a lick of difference to the world, of course, but it makes all the difference in the world to me. That’s not surprising since this story has been living completely in my head for the last six months. I never really thought of myself as the “creative type,” at least until I sat down at the keyboard and realized creativity isn’t just paint on canvas or chisels and stone. I’ve heard that kind of self-discovery is a good thing.
For the first time so far in 2014 I’m sitting here without an active project in front of me demanding time and attention. Being “done” is a good feeling. It’s a happy place. It’s fulfilling in a way that’s rather hard to articulate. It’s also full of a gut wrenching fear that about whether what you’ve done is good enough; whether it’s going to pass muster with the dozen or so family and friends who you might be able to convince to give it a read.
So there’s your Sunday morning sample of what it’s like being inside my head. When you add that to the daily requirements of dealing with an unrelenting tide of stupid people, I’d say it leaves little doubt about why I end every day completely exhausted.
I want to make one thing clear up front. What I’m about to say isn’t political. There are plainly idiots on both sides of the issue and I have no wish to associate with either flavor of crackpot. With that said, here’s the deal as simply and plainly as I can lay it out for you.
I am an armed American citizen. I’ve lived in a home where firearms were present since the 20th of June 1978 and I’ve personally owned, maintained, and used a variety handguns, rifles, and shotguns. In 34 years I’ve never used any of those firearms to kill anything more threatening than a paper target or the occasional marauding watermelon. You see, I was taught to respect firearms long before I was old enough to really understand the incredible power they have to destroy. I was taught how and when to use them, on the range, in the woods, and in my own defense. I was never taught to fear a firearm any more than I was taught to fear a hammer, saw, or other tool.
Sitting on its own in a dresser drawer or propped in a corner behind the door, I’ve never known a firearm to discharge itself. The only time I’ve ever seen a round leave the barrel is when a living, breathing person pulled the trigger. The weapon itself didn’t have any intent, evil or otherwise. The bullet simply went where the barrel was pointed when the gun was fired. That’s all a long way of saying that if you’re looking for someone to blame when it comes to violent acts that involve a firearm, start with the person who pointed it at another human being and pulled the trigger.
Blaming the gun is pretty much like saying it’s the bat rather than the player who hits the home run. Just how far out of the park would the ball go if there wasn’t a player swinging that bat? Take away the visceral, emotional reaction that so many have when it comes to having a reasoned, logical discussion about firearms and I find we’re really talking about bad people performing heinous acts. The fact that a gun, or a knife, or a rock, or a thermonuclear bomb was involved becomes secondary at best. To mix my metaphors even further, it’s the criminal who commits the crime, not the car that he drove to reach the crime scene. Sure, you could make that argument, but it makes about as much sense as 2+2 = Ardvark.
Every time I get the brilliant idea to take a brief respite from writing, something happens that nudges me back here. Some of that is just my nature as an e-attention whore and the rest is that writing things down tends to help my give my thoughts a little bit of structure. So instead of a Christmas hiatus, here we are again.
Since I’m now working on day three of this headache, I think it’s fair to finally have to start giving it some serious consideration. The good news is that the initial period of feeling like someone shattered the back of my skull with a baseball bat is over. The bad news is that the searing pain has given way to an apparently semi-permanent dull ache running from behind my left eye around my head and down my neck. Loading up on aspirin dulls it a bit and the doc was nice enough to give me a prescription for Oxy to use if the worst of it comes back. Still, though that doesn’t tell me much about where it came from in the first place. In the absence of actual answers, I’m all in favor of better living through chemistry.
Doc seemed happy enough that there was no neurological issues yesterday, but the MRI should give us a read on whether something is lurking around waiting for the opportunity to strike. I suppose aneurysm is a possibility, but then again the MRIs are a great excuse to jack up the bill too so every one wins. Except the guy who didn’t realize he was claustrophobic until they jammed him into the machine. The brain is a marvelous thing… My abject fear of dropping dead from a blood vesel exploding in my head apparently overrides my newly discovered abject fear of confined spaces. Even fear is a matter of priorities, I guess.
So until I hear otherwise this morning, I’ll be sitting here with my OCD running through all the possibilities that Google can come up with. If I come at it logically I know if there were any critical issues, they’d have me strapped hospital bed right now. Being a pessimist, though, my tendency to plan for the worst isn’t particularly helpful this morning. Getting my answers on someone else’s schedule just isn’t working for me.
Those members of the workforce in a certain age bracket will remember the vaguely chemical smell of the still warm purple inked pages that use to define the phrase “homework assignment.” I can say with relative certainty that the $35,000 copier you are currently trying to crank start is not a “ditto machine” no matter what you say.
And since we’re in the general area of on the topic of printing, you don’t really have to stand there and manually insert the “funny” legal sized paper, while asking someone else to hit the print button on your computer. There’s a whole tray of it already there in the machine for you. If you really want to be fancy, you could even click the little checkbox on the print settings popup and print “duplex” copies rather than standing there and trying to print front and back manually.
Look, this is the sort of thing that might be fun to watch the first time, but after that, it’s hard to watch the same fail happening over, and over, and over… and over. You’re going to have to take my word on this, but learning how to use the big scary copier, is going to be good for you in the long run. Face your fear and do it anyway!
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of previously de-published blogs appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.
I’m not generally given to bouts of fear, but sometimes, lying in bed, late at night, I think some moments of trepidation are unavoidable – a product of a brain churning through a 100 different scenarios each more unpleasant than the last. Perhaps that’s the curse of the educated class; that we know the things we know and are thereby unable to live lives of oblivious happiness.
There are hundreds of possible “bad things” that one can reasonably fear. There are the perennial favorites: war, famine, plague, pestilence, dogs and cats living together. Then there are the more personal fears. Is tonight the night the “big one” is going to hit the New Madrid Fault? Is Uncle Sam going to open his doors on March 5th? And what could I have done to be better prepared? While those are quite real possibilities, that’s not the one that wakes me up at night.
The one that gets me every time is the fleeting notion that this 30-day hiring freeze could easily be extended through the end of the fiscal year – or beyond. Even more vexing is the thought that I’d then be sidelined here in Memphis indefinitely. It’s not an unreasonable thought. Should Congress pass a Continuing Resolution at or less than the funding level during FY10, I fear it’s altogether possible that the human resource managers at echelons above reality could decide that hiring and transfers are not currently in the best interest of the government due to the costs involved and in an effort to attrit the workforce into its desired size and composition. That would mean another six months marking time awash in a rising tide of disinterest and discontent.
To have gotten so close only to be turned away now would be a hammer fall. Even my self-confidence has its limits.