How Bad Can It Kill Me?

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on December 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’ve been holed up in the house for about three days. Today I opened the bedroom curtains for the first time. It was sunny outside. I think that I know what sent me into this latest deep depression. I’ll tell a little about it later. I’ve been having some face-to-face with a friend who has dealt with this kind of uncontrollable emotional paralysis in her own life. It’s comforting to have someone to talk to that understands from first hand experience.

However, I’m not here to blab on about distress. I’m in the mood for a bit of humour. Let’s see if I can pull it off. It’s time to laugh a bit.

A week or so I was talking to someone about something difficult I had to accomplish and I was trying to make it sound light-hearted. I had intended to say, “How bad can it hurt me?” It came out, somewhat more ominously, “How bad can it kill me?” I took a mental note of that and proceeded to bore my friend with the details of my plan to conquer this horrible thing which was an everyday problem for many people, but made me feel as if I were a passenger on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. When his eyes glassed over I relented. Later, I began to think about my Freudian slip.

I certainly don’t recommend fooling around with fate and getting yourself in such a pickle as the one in which I’m presently fermenting. Nobody is stupid enough to bring such things upon himself. Nevertheless, I must admit that there is an upside. Regardless if it is true or not, there is a certain freedom in feeling  that I have nothing to lose. Of course, I know that it is not true, but knowing is not feeling,  knowing is not accepting.  I have many things going for me. I’m healthy, if putting on a little too much weight. I’m reasonably sane and able to take care of myself day by day, though my bed only occasionally gets made. I have a job which I can still perform well enough for the time being and I’ll improve as I get better. I have a nice house to live in, though I do rattle around in it like a cracked marble. I have friends to annoy. All in all, I’m likely better off than maybe eighty percent of the population of the planet.

I admit that I can’t do a post without images. I’m sure that this stems from the fear that what I’m writing is so abominably rotten that nobody could possibly read it without becoming nauseous. If I throw in a few pictures, it might possibly be seen as a redeeming value. Here is the rather unusual sight of three Solitary Corals (Fungia fugites)  cuddled up together:

Let me get back to what is passing for a train of thought tonight. As I was saying, perceiving a current state of life as being unsustainable over the long run and being not so nihilistic as to believe that there is no hope that it might get better is the starting point. So, it’s pretty bad, but it could get better. Now add that what has happened is the worst thing possible that could have happened. Yes, it could have happened in a worse way, but there is nothing on the list that could possibly top it. And the list is exhaustive. Okay, throw into the equation that even if more bad things pop up, they can’t make me much worse than I am now. My money all disappears – hey, money is not security. What good is it doing me now? I lose my job – well, that would be tough, but it would just force me into a change. The list goes on.

Nothing that I can think of really threatens me. This seems to create some kind of weird super-power. Call me Sticks-and-Stones-Can-Break-My-Bones-But-Nothing-Can-Really-Hurt-Me-Man. No, that’s too long a name for a super-hero.

Ah, now I remember what set off my hiding-under-the-covers period – the second coffin-building incident in less than two weeks. I won’t go into the details. It suffices to say that it was another time of grieving:

It does strike me that I look terribly angry in that shot. I was going for “resigned”. It came out much differently. By the time I came into the office to discover that it needed to be built, a friend had already been recruited, so at least neither of us had to face the job alone. I am getting rather good at knocking together a coffin. I don’t plan to take it up professionally, but one never knows.

Feeling this freedom of relative invulnerability, however, it not a safe thing. It can make one reckless. I find myself thinking outrageous thoughts about what I might conceivably do. I fantasise. I make astonishingly stupid plans. I catch myself dreaming of selling everything and scuttling off to Bali or Rio and living off my photography and writing. Then I’m brought up short by the realisation that I’ve found no way to live off it yet and the fact that I might starve trying to is not  an improvement on the present situation. Not a bit.

No, I’m better off now staying here and doing what I was sent here to do. That’s where my security lies now. In some ways that’s a hard pill to swallow, but that is only because I’m not exactly ecstatic about life at the moment.

This horrible thing, looking for all the world like “The Small Intestine from Outer Space” is a Prickly Sea Cucumber:

It’s not a great picture of one. Possibly you can see the hideous frilly arms that wave around engulfing whatever seems edible. I’ll have to try feeding a banana to one.

Yes, fantasies sustain me these days. I’ve always been an exceptionally good daydreamer. Walter Mitty has nothing on me. I’ve dreamed up several schemes lately, none of which have proved, upon the most cursory consideration, to be remotely feasible. Most of the difficulty lies in where,  I might go. Except for Papua New Guinea and the USA, any place I might choose to go would present considerable difficulty. You must have permanent residency to work in almost any country worth living in. That is a high hurdle.

I had a passing fancy for Costa Rica until I began to look at the residency problem. I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to jump through all of the hoops. The same goes for Canada, which I would like to be able to think of as my final “home” when I’m so broken down that I need to crawl into a hole and wait for the end. I’d probably have to do it as an illegal immigrant. Wouldn’t that be an interesting way to end up? I’d have to start a new journal and make it anonymous.

I met a friend at the Madang Lodge and Restaurant last Friday evening for some light conversation. I noticed that the big storyboard on the back wall had been decorated for the Christmas season:

I got this storyboard along with four others about the same size while on a trip to the Sepik River quite a few years ago. They were among the largest I have seen. I don’t know how much they would be worth now – probably quite a bit, as they are very hard to come by now. I have two of them about the same size hanging in my house.

Much of the future is too fuzzy for me to think about with any clarity. I wish I had something like this:

Yeah, a big brain – that’s the ticket. I need a huge Platygyra lamellina.

Then again, I probably spend far too much time pondering the future. When I consider that, I feel silly, but I’ve always been that way. Yeah, a thinker about the future and silly. I admit to both. It’s painfully obvious that the future is the thing over which I have the least control. How delusional it was to believe otherwise. It was all planned out . . .

Look what all that planning got me. Best simply to plan to brush one’s teeth in the morning. If that works out, then begin to plan what to have for lunch. Anything beyond that is getting risky.

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Birthdays, Books, Bananas, Coffins

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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A friend of thirty years appeared to me yesterday morning at the office to be more than usually tired and glum. He’s carrying a load that would break my back. I heard him mention that he needed to get to the workshop to build a coffin. It was his second coffin making experience in the last few days. It suddenly occurred to me, as the murky haze shrouding me in self-pity cleared for a moment, that coffin building, let alone serial coffin building, is not something one should have to do alone. I coaxed him to let me drive down the the workshop with him to lend a hand.

It was a thought provoking experience. As we measured, sawed and hammered the coffin a boy who had suffered measles as a young child now lay dead from a type of meningitis which occurs eight to ten years after a measles infection. Sometimes it’s good to have something to do with your hands as dangerous thoughts run demon-like through your brain.

Death. We tread lightly around the subject. We seldom discuss it unless the prospect sticks its ugly head up out of the pit and says, “Boo!” A father considers the possibility when a child is ill with measles. It’s a killer and a maimer here. The son defies the odds and survives, seemingly healthy and strong. Years later the son sickens and dies as the time-delay fuse on the landmine burns through. A husband and wife quietly and with careful logic, keeping it at arm’s length, discuss the ever so remote possibility as if it were the most unlikely thing in the world. Suddenly the subject becomes less academic. The psychic earthquake topples all of the complex edifices. They show themselves finally as facades. How we trust life!

In the meantime, someone somewhere is nailing a coffin together.

Outside the workshop a banana tree was busting its guts to make bananas:

It’s got to be one of the stranger flowers on the planet. This orb holds a great number of very strange things – pathways leading to indeterminate destinations, doorways to alternate universes.

Here are the usual suspects present at Blueblood last Sunday where we celebrated several birthdays and one anniversary. Any excuse for a party:

We were desperately short of eating utensils. I ate with my fingers. Someone, who shall not be named, but is sitting at the far left of the picture, forgot to bring the cutlery.

Hmm . . . I seem to be rambling this evening. I’m between major dirges. This will be a tiptoe through the garden of fitful discontent.

Though I am sleeping much better now, I may as well get used to the idea that I’m never, barring a serious concussion, going to have a long, uninterrupted snooze again. Early life sleep patterns go awry in maturity. Onset of sleep becomes more haphazard and difficult to achieve. Interruptions are more frequent and the return to sleep is delayed, sometimes impossible. I’m trying to minimise as much as possible my intake of sleep aids, because they have some very undesirable side effects.

One thing which I’ve relied upon for years is a not-so-good book. I always keep my glasses where I can reach them without moving too much. The book is just under them. If I read through slitted eyes and try very hard not to go to sleep, I’ll usually doze off. Then the light interferes with slumber and my glasses are all cattywampus and hurting my ears. So, I wake up again. What do I see? Those who suffer insomnia will probably recognise this sight:

Yes, that’s your hand somehow still clutching the book loosely while the pages flap lazily in time with your breathing. It’s decision making time, eh? Rouse enough to remove the spectacles and turn the light off or find your place again (if it really matters) and try again. Sometimes it seems a very difficult decision.

We trip lightly through a world where most everything seems to stay in its proper place and things usually appear to work more or less as they should. We’re not seriously threatened by regular tragedies and life can go on for decades with little bother or fuss. There are usually no huge injustices or overly troubling developments to rattle our cages enough to enrage or frighten us. It strikes me that this orderliness makes us very innocent and vulnerable. We’re ill prepared for adversity:

The world can grow suddenly very dark and scary. Everything takes on a dual aspect of terrible familiarity while simultaneously being strange, out of kilter. This is the alternate universe idea of which I spoke. It is as if one accidentally takes a wrong turn, stepping through some odd black door and finds oneself in a world in which everything known is instantly transformed into a twisted version of itself. Up is down. Right is left. Right is wrong.  Look around for the back side of that odd little door. You can’t find it. It has disappeared – vanished in a puff of pixy dust. As it is so succinctly stated in The Eagles’ Hotel California,  “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

Here’s me the Birthday Boy, perilously close to sixty-seven years young. That’s some kind of weird flower. It clashes with my very nice twenty-five year old silk shirt:

It’s a self-portrait. I call that a smile these days.

I had a very nice semi-surprise party at Monty and Meri Armstrong’s home. Meri had very sweetly asked me what I wanted to do about my birthday. Frankly, I’d been dreading it, along with Christmas. I not-so-subtly told her that I really didn’t want to be bothering with it, but if someone decided to do something about it I wouldn’t object. How clever is that? It’s about as nuanced as a ball-peen hammer wrapped in velvet. Meri was very gracious and within a day or two I had a mysterious invitation to “dinner” on Saturday night. I was not disappointed.

Meri’s cheesecake was the star of the evening:

Since it was an intimate gathering of friends there was plenty of this magnificent bit of culinary prestidigitation for all. The blackish stuff is some kind of delicious berry, the name of which I can’t recall.

So, for the upteenth time I’ve gotten through a rough patch by the simple device of allowing my friends to drag me along. They suffer the thorn pricks and stone bruises along with me. They pick me up when I stumble, patch me up when I’m bleeding and leaking salty tears.

I’m a very wealthy man. You can’t count my fortune. Numbers don’t go that high.

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