Adjust the Mask

I love convenience store people and gas station people and the person in line in front of me. I love the meter reader and the mail lady and the man who came to empty the septic tank. What sound relationships I have formed with these strangers! How fresh my mask is, how centered, how taut, in brief banter with a bank teller.

Any longer and sometimes the mask slides down under one ear but I don’t notice. Sometimes in my compartmentalized world I forget that my true confessions do not have clearance. I divulge too much, forgetting that beige is the color of acceptance, and neglecting to seal emotional efflux and stick to the script. When will I learn that people don’t find my negativity as refreshing as I would in them? Once again I have failed to measure my words but let them fly unfettered into self-reproach. One of these days I’m going to ditch this mask. But for now I straighten it and make a note to replace the elastic band.

Thanks to Be Kind Rewrite for the prompt ‘Adjust the Mask’
Inspiration Monday

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Don’t Self-Help, Just Help

Self-help books should come with disclaimers: Western civilization only. Restrictions may apply. May be illegal in some countries. Not responsible for maiming or death caused by applying exercises in this book. Self-help books promote the assumption that anyone can be happy and successful if they just believe it enough. If you really believe that, you don’t need a book.

First, you need to be born in a free country. And even then it takes a lot more than belief. Circumstances must be considered and compromises must be made, no matter what they tell you in the book. Throw health, intellect, insight, environment, ability, and a huge amount of luck into the mix too. So what about the millions of people trapped in unimaginable circumstances all over the world, especially women? Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India, the Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Haiti…the list goes on and on. Clearly these books are not meant for them. Maybe those women are just being too negative. Maybe they’re not taking action. Maybe they need to work on forgiveness. Be thankful you’re not getting your nose and ears cut off for running away from the men you were sold to, acid thrown in your face for disobeying your abusive family, poisoned for trying to learn to read, or raped on a daily basis.

Unfulfilled Americans spend over $11 billion each year on self-help books, products, services, speakers, and seminars—a testament in itself to the argument that they’re not working. Many people, after buying one, become disillusioned and try another, and then another. Someone’s getting rich, but it isn’t you. If you want to be happy, you’re going to have to dump some of those meddlesome human traits, like compassion. This compassion crap will just make you sad or angry, and you’ll lose your focus on personal perfection.

It’s not all about you. Stop trying to make your self more successful and start trying to make your world a better place. Be polite but stand up for yourself and those weaker than you. Not everybody is going to like you—embrace it. Sometimes pain, anger, or distress is what you’re supposed to feel. Try to get over bad stuff and move on. Try to get through the day. Consider yourself one lucky bastard to be here.

And if you feel the need to rant, go for it.

What do you think?

Artifacts of Madness

I come with a lot of baggage but it ain’t Louis Vuitton. It’s not even the kind with the little wheels. I schlep it around kicking and screaming.

COVERS OF WOMEN’S magazines at the checkout counter:  Drop 2 dress sizes in one week!  Next line:  Chocolate cupcakes to die for! Look inside and see the Ask the Doctor section. I have a large mass growing on the side of my neck. What should I do? Here’s a suggestion—why don’t you go get a big pair of shears and cut it off?

THE NEIGHBORS I have the restraining order against had their water shut off the other day. You can always tell a shut-off compared to a meter reading. Readings are done methodically by street. Shut-offs require the serviceman to wrestle with wrenches and rusted knobs. Next thing I see cop cars racing down the street. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what happened—the serviceman called the cops because the homeowners came out and harassed him. Maybe threatened him, who knows. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen to some poor schmuck trying to do his job. They need to start hiring tough guys, like repo-men, to shut off deadbeats’ water.

SERIAL LIKERS: I will never click on your blog. I have disabled ‘likes’ from my posts but there is no way to disable them from the reader feeds. But your robo-likes will no longer show up on my blog. Here’s an idea: why don’t you try writing something? I’ve clicked on a few serial likers’ blogs and found hundreds of comments on their About pages. I thought, wow, they must be good. But this is what you see:

Thank you for liking my post!
Thank you for liking my post! I’ll be back!
Thank you for liking my post! You rock!
Thank you for liking my post! I’m following you now!
etc., etc., blah blah blah

Please go do your part to keep Facebook shallow.

RECENTLY AN ACQUAINTANCE told me I need to kiss more ass if I want to be successful. He said it was part of the job. Sorry but I can’t do that. He said, fine, but are you happy? Uh, like kissing ass is going to make me happy?

Every now and then I put an ad in the paper advertising my housecleaning service. And every time, I dread answering calls because the cheapest people in the U.S. live in Arizona. They’re used to cut-rate labor and have no clue what a really clean house is, performed by an ethical person. I think of each cleaning job as a work of art that I sign my name to. Last week I placed a completely different kind of ad entitled Not Like Other Housecleaners. This time I wrote what my requirements are, and included a minimum price. I can only do one house per day. It was a little snippy but I’m sick to death of retired people following me around like I’m going to steal something,  interrupting me, asking me are you almost done? and forcing me to listen to CNN. It’s oppressive and I can’t do it anymore. Well damned if I haven’t been getting calls all week from really nice working people. I don’t have to fear returning calls, they already read the ad. I don’t know what the moral of this story is—maybe don’t kiss ass, it’s not worth your self-respect.

A bathroom I was asked to clean. I passed. I have cleaned for people who treated me like scum—lucky for them, I don’t name names. I did laundry for a local couple who were very nasty to me. If I showed the pictures of their laundry (which I had to pick up with rubber gloves and a stick), you would get sick. But not as sick as I.

A keyboard at a jobsite.

What I find on my front lawn in the morning. Gosh, I’m so glad they switched to Bud Light. Even f*cking a**holes need to watch their waistlines!

A neighbor’s yard.

A friend’s garage.

You don’t have to have doors or hoods on your cars here.

Only in B*sb**. 

This newspaper, from a very liberal city we visited in the Pacific Northwest, tossed around the word ‘anarchy’ like it’s The Big Solution. A tidy, anti-gun city  with mowed lawns, no litter, no smoking, and thousands of conformist students all with the same unkempt look, all on their phones. How do they know what anarchy is? They should come down here to the border to see it in actual use. First thing they’d do if someone threatened them is call the cops. Then they’d run back home to their mamas.

Look at the bottom line on the bus. Religion OR reality? I don’t get it. Are they saying people need to make a choice, pick one or the other? What kind of message is that?

A Smokin’ Cover Letter

lividia.lapsus@chronic.com
8/20/12  4:20 p.m.

Dear Mr. DeStickler,

I am writhing to applify for the poofreader position you have adversitized in Obscure Jobs Monthly. I overstand you seek a detailed person—I pay acension to many details and would be happy to provoke you with a list. The requireships for this deployment and my commandeering use of linguage are a perfect match.

Let me be a blunt. I am very dispendable and pried myself on being resluts-oriented. I am self-deficient and dipsomatic with a divisive backgrowned in fending misteaks. I aslo have execrable communicable skills, deadication, and always finish what I star

My bong-term experience in the wirting world has taught me how impotent it is to be articular in educationable pubications.

I look to forwarding an intervention with you soon.

Sincerably yours,

Lividia Lapsus

____________________________________________________

lividia.lapsus@chronic.com
8/20/12  4:25 p.m.

Dear Mr. DeStickler,

I just relized I flailed to detach my resume. I am currently quality control manger at a despinrady in Arizona. I mean dinspedary, no that’s not right…depinsnary? Wait, dispensary. See how I checked the spelling? Dude please. I need a new job.

Thank you in advants for your consinderation.

Lividia

The Bane of a Traveling Companion

Nothing brings out the savage in generally easygoing people like being cooped up in a tiny car/motel room together for a week. On a recent road trip with J, we lurched between arguing and not speaking at all, highlighted by a full-on brawl at 1 a.m. in a rest stop off a California highway that resulted in me refusing to get back in the car.

Money
The biggest issue, as always. The cash we brought lasted a total of two days and the rest of the trip was financed with a credit card. Two fill-ups a day at $4 a gallon equals about $90. A day. Just for gas. Add that to one type-A and one type-B personality, just for fun.

handy clothes-hanging area in motel room

Motels
We sought the cheapest, sometimes sneaking the dog in. Our last stop was out of weary desperation in a crowded city. First thing I do is check the bathroom—the toilet water was level with the top of the bowl. A few flushes confirmed a considerable clog. J went to report to front desk. They actually said, do you want a plunger? Another motel had a broken air conditioner (fan worked but no compressor kicked in) and when we told the manager he helpfully clarified: Work fine! Look, hot air outside, cool inside! Why do people want to be in the service industry? And why, why, why, can’t they install a few clothes hooks, especially in bathrooms?

Showers
We’re all built basically the same—head, torso, legs, feet. So how the hell does the languid descent of water droplets from some lame shower three feet above my head reach anyone’s anatomy? What am I, a gymnast? I want a bath, or at least some kind of unit on a hose you can take down. I gave up after a few nights. I just don’t get the whole American shower obsession. The water is going in the wrong direction.

Food
I generally don’t eat much, and lifestyle stress, lack of money, and cleaning houses keeps my weight stable. J decides to go on a junk food binge. It’s impossible to resist when two feet away. I not only gained weight and got stomach cramps, but the steady input of oil and fat combined with long-distance driving acted as an irrigation system that germinated, then ripened a bumper crop of zits. And not just on my face. I don’t want to talk about it.

Peeing
I gotta pee. I drink a lot of fluids and it’s my biological heritage to quickly process and release, passed down from my mother. I hate restrooms, they’re usually disgusting and women are pigs. I’d rather go on the side of the road, and seven years in Arizona has emboldened me even further than when I lived in wooded areas back east. I’m happy with a cactus for a screen, or even a tumbleweed, if nothing else the open car door is enough. I stopped caring long ago if someone sees me peeing. When I have to go, I have to go. When I’m traveling by myself, it’s never an issue. I am armed for god’s sake and you’d have to be an idiot to not see someone coming toward you. But traveling with a man, all of a sudden it’s “someone will see you.” Stop the fracking car, now.

Temperature
When traveling alone, dealing with my broken personal thermostat from hot flashes isn’t a big deal. Open the window, shut the window. Turn on AC, turn off AC. But this brings out the berserker in a man. Guess I can’t blame him.

Sex
What is it about crappy motel rooms that makes men want to have sex? Here I am calculating with dread the next minimum payment on the Visa, they’re having some sort of tailgate party in the parking lot, the AC doesn’t work, the dog refuses to eat, I’m bloated as a dead jellyfish, haven’t shaved my legs in days, and I have a painful lesion in my mouth from the disgusting amount of potato chips I’ve been stuffing in. His snoring has kept me awake for the past three nights and we’re close to a combat situation. I’m about as sexy as a coldsore. So back off, buddy.

TV
For the millionth time I wonder how anyone can stand TV. There may be no microwave, fridge, working air conditioner, or bathtub in these shabby rooms, but the damn TV works fine, doesn’t it? TV is agony. We brought a laptop but the volume’s not loud enough and the wifi connections are so bad you spend most of the time drifting in and out of service. The lightbulb is too dim to read by. All I want to do is sleep but that would be too easy.

Radio
Disc jockeys should have their vocal cords cut.

The best trips I’ve ever taken were by myself. I love to talk to strangers. After five minutes you can walk away. You?

Cosmic Effluvium

I met Planchette in a pasture where we were both staring at goats—he was hoping for some new kidskin gloves, I just wanted to snap a few photos. He claimed we met by coincidence but I realize now how random encounters are much more certain to occur when one person is stalked. Next thing I know we’re speaking in tongues and he was laying hands on me. Much was made of his expertise in touch therapy, but he was your basic medium. Planchette put the sham in shamanic healing and taught me the true meaning of mentalism.

I experienced a vision of life reincarnated but it turned out I just needed stronger glasses. His approach to our relationship was holistic—he wanted comprehensive possession. I made the mistake of mocking his new-age views so he insisted I submit to past-life regression—now I’m channeling a two-year-old. He promised we’d transmigrate to an oracle of divine relocation but instead I landed in a near-death experience.  His audible frequencies usually put me in a somnambulistic trance and teleported me to a higher unconsciousness, and he was always mad that I didn’t return his telepathic voice mails. Sometimes I’d turn ghostly white and start scrying.

Planchette boasted he was certified with the Countrywide Collusion of Simulated Psychics. We’d often hand out coupons for free dream interpretation via text messaging, then direct them to his website where he sold shamanic healing kits. The kits included tiny drums, rattles, his new CD The Dronings of Our Ancestors, some mild stimulants, and a package of Kleenex, all assembled in a handy carrying case for the paranormal price of $189.95.

It’s true he had a hypnotic effect on me but thank goodness I was fine once the narcotics wore off. I intuited I was in the gateway, maybe even the vestibule, of a psychic disturbance so I sat down to engage in some automatic writing, but what came out bent my pen. Next time I feel the need for an astral projection I think I’ll just stay home.

Submerged

We don’t wake up in the morning expecting bad things to happen. Though the realist knows they often do, we don’t plan or anticipate them—if we did we wouldn’t be able to go on. We don’t expect to have a tornado flatten our home, answer our door to a home invader, be maimed in a car wreck, or go see a movie and get shot. Fate affects us all every day in spite of our best intentions—we need only glance at the headlines to have our hearts broken in ways we couldn’t have imagined, with only a shred of luck standing between us and them.

My dog Jasmine was my best friend, co-pilot, and provider of unconditional love. She began her life as a sato, a slang term for the thousands of street dogs hanging on to life in cities and beaches in Puerto Rico. Similar situations exist in many beautiful tourist destinations as well as run-of-the-mill hell holes all over the world, where animals have little value and are poisoned, abused, starved, and sick with parasites and a host of other diseases. But like all animals, they have a strong will to survive. Volunteer organizations do exist, fueled by people who, through meager donations and their own passion, try to make a difference.

I know Jasmine’s life wasn’t important in the grand scheme. But the day we found this pup in a feed store in Connecticut, rescued by an angel who asked for a $100 donation, I knew fate had found me. A lot of dogs have passed through my life but none compared to Jasmine. Her untamed streak only made our bond stronger. She was snippy, growly, had food issues, and would never back down from another dog no matter how outsized. But she was fiercely loyal to me and never left my side during our many long walks together. These traits passed down through generations of her semi-wild heritage only made me love her more.

Yesterday was a normal day, I did a cleaning job and drove home in an intense monsoon thunderstorm. Thunder was about the only element that Jasmine feared, it sometimes provoked her to do unpredictable things even after 11 years. I don’t know how the fight with one of my other dogs started, I was only there to break it up. Breaking up a dog fight is hard when the dogs are determined. But I did, there was no blood, and the dogs settled down. I fed them and tried to anesthetize with a movie. Around midnight I noticed Jasmine seemed lethargic. It happens—the heat, the storm, the fight. I called her to come to bed with me and she was slow to rise. I lay down on the floor with her and held and soothed her. She ignored both me and her bedtime cookie. I got in bed and tried to fall asleep, a nightly ritual of self-torment. I drifted but heard nails dragging on the floor. It was now about 2 am. I sprang out of bed and found Jasmine on her side panting, her belly rising and falling with each breath. I should have picked her up and put her in my bed but didn’t want to move her. I lay with her on the floor but had a sick feeling…I would take her to the vet in the morning. Exhausted, I got back in bed and faded fitfully in and out of consciousness. I was shocked awake at 4 am by a bad dream as is my custom. I flew out of bed to check on Jasmine. She was dead.

I howled in agony and ran to wake Jimmy up. He wrapped her in a blanket and I kept vigil. At exactly 9 am when the vet opened we brought her body in to be cremated and returned. They said that dogs can have heart attacks and strokes just like humans. I honestly do not know what happened.

I have much to be grateful for. Eleven years and a quick death from a condition  she only had to suffer for hours instead of months.

With the horrors of the world in furious abundance, I am not asking for sympathy for the loss of a mere dog, an insignificant creature whose presence meant the world to me—but only me. Those of you whose hearts are held fast by the love of a dog or cat will understand.