The Wrong Way (June 5, 2012)

Wrong Way



True confession: I am not the most useful person. I hate to cook and have never excelled at it anyway. Please don’t ask me to fix or assemble anything. It’s like I have hands made of stone. I ride my bike upwards of 75 miles a week but do you think I can master filling the tires with air (Hey! The process involves an adapter!)? Mother Earth help me if I ever find myself stranded with a flat.

When my sister and I were younger, she used to amuse herself by asking me to draw. One time she chose an elephant as the subject, and as I have no trouble making an ass of myself, I obliged. I wish I had a .jpeg of the finished product. My elephant was illustrated from the head-on perspective and Jenny held onto to the artwork so she could refer to it throughout the day while bursting into tears of laughter. I had unironically constructed a rendering of IHOP’s Funny Face Pancake.

My friend Rob, a former Navy rescue swimmer and certified RKC Level 2 trainer says that when the breakdown of society arrives and we’re all living in trees (Rob is also a well-informed and detailed conspiracy theorist) I will have to sleep my way to survival, else I will be dead in 15 minutes. I think there is a compliment about my looks in there somewhere so I’ll take it.

One thing at which I excel, however, is hard, tireless work. And I’m not always certain this is an asset but I am possessed of a stubbornness that rivals that of Tyco Brahe, the 16th century Danish noblemen and astronomer. Brahe died of a bladder infection 11 days after refusing to get up and urinate during the middle of a long banquet in Prague. He felt it would have been a breach of etiquette. This totally sounds like something I would say.

The refusal to back down in the face of adversity is alternately a blessing and a curse. While it parents a survival instinct that has enabled me to process and move beyond vicious life blows, it also begets a tendency to ignore loud, blaring sirens in my head that try to stop me from moving in the wrong direction, figuratively and literally. The “head down and brace for the worst” approach can lead one to misinterpret the difference between necessary persistence and time wasting, bullheaded exhaustion.

I have been contemplating the blinders long worn as a method of getting through the day. It’s like a weird sort of empowered learned helplessness. Assuming that a given set of circumstances is inalterable, I have performed miraculous feats of fortitude bordering on masochism in order to prove that I can’t be destroyed. It’s at once pathological and a condition which instills a perverse form of pride.

The thing is though. It’s that downside, the part where I fritter away months or years enmeshed in predicaments from which normal people might sensibly extricate themselves, that plagues my waking nights. It’s a pattern I am trying to tackle. Recent decisions made in support of pursuing a healthier me have brought pain to others, but hopefully it’s of the quick sharp paper cut kind, the variety forgotten in 24 hours. Because I am trying to recognize that long, drawn-out Puritanical fortitude won’t earn me or anyone I care about anything but lost time in a short life.


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