No Year’s Resolutions 2019

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

New Year’s morning, my wife roused me from a dream to tell me it was time to help set up the dining room for Osechi (Osechi Ryori:  Japanese traditional New Year’s Day food).

I mention the dream because it has stuck with me—or, rather, a portion of it has stuck with me—since then. A particular image from that dream has entered my thoughts multiple times daily since then—whether because I’m hanging onto it or struggling to forget it.  The image involves me surveying the damage from a shart (shart: what happens, as the saying goes, when one gambles on a fart and loses; a combination of sh*t and fart).

I don’t recall much of anything that happened in the dream before the shart occurred. But I do recall that I was wearing blue underwear and the aftermath was very much like a runny version of the gravy from almond chicken (almond chicken: a staple of American Chinese restaurant menus, where breaded, boneless, fried chicken is covered in a light brown American-style gravy –flour and fat— full of chopped almonds).

baby-new-year

Just what am I looking at?  And what does it mean?

I haven’t looked up any of the elements of the dream in any dream dictionaries, online or otherwise – not the blue, not the almonds, not the shart, not any of it.  So, if you’re into dream analysis and have a clear understanding of what these elements add up to – well, I probably don’t want to know. Keep it to yourself.

Perhaps this image has stuck with me because most dreams I (and I would guess most other people) have that involve, what I will call “bathroom stuff” are usually tied to bathroom functions that never come to fruition.  For example, a dream where one is running around looking for a place to pee, only to have each option for relief somehow thwarted.  One eventually wakes up and realizes that the dream was trying to push one to wake up and go take a piss in a completely ‘normal’, non-thwarted, perfectly relieving fashion.  I do not recall any of these previous dreams resulting in actually finding ‘release’ while in the dream, much less, having a ‘release’ with unintended consequences.

I’m happy to report that, in this particular instance, there was no corresponding pushing or expulsion activity married to the dream.  That is, despite a flash of anxiety on waking, there was no indication the dream had come true.

I bring all this up, in part, because for several years now, initially starting in an annual series of posts on Facebook, and later moving to my blog (and a few connected social media sites), I put out New Year’s resolutions.  These started out as lighthearted, silly jokes, usually concluding with one ‘positive’, ‘real’, but vague, resolution.  For instance, I would have three resolutions that suggested I was going to do spectacularly impossible things (establish the ultimate matrix for determining whether a ‘Men’s Rights’ Internet account or website is a parody account or actually intended to be serious);or completely bland, totally achievable goals, (resolving to actually trim my toenails regularly). Those would be followed by one resolution involving haircare, which would be followed by one that said I would live joyfully or some such sh*t.

Then, at the end of the year, I would write up a ‘year end review’, where I tracked my success in meeting the resolutions (silly and not-so), before I moved on to a new set.

In the process of doing the review of my 2-18 resolutions, I realized that maybe a bit too much seriousness had crept in, too much silliness leaked out. It had, at least to me, a darker tone about it than previous years.  Then again, in spite of numerous good things in 2018, the whole year had a darker tone to it.

2018 was a year of numerous things going to hell, and me struggling to reel them back in— none of which I will share here now.  All in all, things turned out okay, but not without a lingering, nasty aftertaste…or several different lingering, nasty aftertastes.

2018 also had some great moments of joy—specific moments of laughter and happiness I can vividly recall, also none of which I will share here now.

This far into 2019, it would be a bit strange to be making resolutions anyway, unless maybe I was claiming they were tied to a little procrastinating around the Lunar New Year. But, still, I’m abandoning the idea of resolutions, at least for 2019.  And I’m trying to learn to accept that much of life is way beyond my control, and that I’ll be okay…or I won’t…and that not being okay will probably be okay as well.

I tried to attach some meaning to the dream of the shart – that it was advising me not too push things too hard or they would become messy – or perhaps to push hard because even if the outcome was messy, it would still be fine—I’d wake up to a fantastic meal with some of the people I loved most, or a disgusting mess in my pants that really wouldn’t be that difficult to clean up.

At any rate, the (forced) meanings kept coming back to how I should or shouldn’t force things, how forcing things would turn out either good or bad.  And then it got all meta – about how I keep starting posts, only to abandon them because they seem too forced –and therefore too bland, like almond chicken –or too sloppy, poorly planned, and offensive, like a shart.

The whole concept of intentions –push to get a reaction, or hold back to make the right, polite points, merely led to almost every writing effort over the last year turning into either a dull essay, or a mean-spirited rant – with those efforts usually being abandoned to steer clear of that dullness, or to unload that spite on somebody in some pointless, online argument that added up to nothing beyond the sound of clacking keys and the fury of unanswered tantrums.  For the most part, the posts just didn’t get finished, or if the writing was more or less completed, did not get put out into the world…much like I’ve been struggling over the whole idea of posting a shart-centered missive, ostensibly connected to New Year’s resolutions.

Ultimately, I realize I’m attempting to assign meaning to this dream because 1) it occurred on the first day of the year; 2) I was woken out of the dream at the point of a particularly striking and unpleasant visual unlike anything I recalled from any previous dreams; and 3) I’m struggling with just how much energy and effort I can and ‘should’ be devoting to writing, especially pieces that feel obligatory/how much energy I can and ‘should’ be devoting to engaging in patterned behaviors in general/how much energy I can and ‘should’ be devoting to breaking old patterns of behavior.

Maybe it all just comes down to the message that I should sh*t or get on the pot…and sh*t…or get off the pot. At least don’t sh*t my pants unintentionally?

Or perhaps push it. Push it real good.  But with intention.  Although I’m pretty sure that wasn’t initially related to scatological…uh…actions.  But then again…

I know it’s gotta mean something about making sure you know what you intend to accomplish, or that you are making reasonable efforts to make sure you have some kind of control over the outcome of your actions, or…?

Anyway, Happy (belated?) (Lunar?) New Year!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

2018 Year in Review

by

JCS Bach, LMHC

father time, yo!Ok, time (well, a little late, but still time) for the obligatory review of last year’s resolutions and the pass/fail ratings.

  1. Finish the damn downstairs: Definite fail.  I made some progress, in the same kind of way that sitting up in bed is progress toward walking from Seattle to London.  Ok, maybe it was a little better than that…some framing happened.  And I moved a light fixture (yes, it’s fully functioning).  So that was good.  At this rate, only about 38 more years to completion.
  2. Every Day is Halloween: Pass!  Well, pass in the way that the horrible sh*t in your life drives you to do something to distract you from all that horrible sh*t.  I got started early with Halloween decorations (early June(?)) and knocked out a lot of new decorations that I’d been thinking about for years.  You can see the earlier posts.  I also actually came up with the perfect use for a big, old canvas and some other cast-off materials I have.  Unfortunately, once I figured out what I wanted to do, it got more and more ambitious, and I ultimately had to bail.  It will be done in time for Halloween 2019.  That’s not a resolution. That’s a promise.
  3.   Read/Write—don’t watch/scroll. Pass/Fail? Hmmmm…I did a lot of reading…but plenty was of the scrolling variety.  I read some excellent books, but didn’t really keep up the idea of bailing on pointless Internet foolishness in favor of reading enlightening books. As for the writing…well, you can scroll back just a smidge and see the sum total of the writing I did this year…well, not ALL of the writing I did this year, but about 80% of the writing I actually finished this year…well, the writing that extended beyond stupid Internet arguments.  I did have a record number of my Internet arguments shut down by moderators. I like to think that was (mostly) because the people I was arguing with started calling me names, but moderators don’t tend to explain themselves once they shut something down.
  4. No more hair resolutions. Well, if I can make it through my next post without resolving anything about my hair (assuming I’m going to do a post about my 2019 resolutions), I’m in business with this one.  Stay tuned. I’m sure the suspense is killing you.
  5. Be better to those closer. I’m a little conflicted on my success with this one.  I guess it needs some clarifying definitions—which I’m not going to supply right now.  Things got rough on a pretty constant basis. Plenty of my friends/family/colleagues of one stripe or another got into some major life changes/deep sh*t that took up a lot of my time, energy, and, in some cases, cash.  A lot of those occurrences also drained a lot of my patience—patience I could no longer spare on those who are peripheral and antagonistic. So, with that I give a hearty, ‘Much love and/or go f*ck yourself!’  If I’ve been at all close to my target with this resolution (and you actually know me) you know where on that spectrum you lie. For the rest of you, consider yourself square in the middle—and please consider that a good thing.

Happy more-or-less New Year, you beautiful sods!

Happy Birthday to Me: Camp Pooparazzi

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

Mos Eisley Spaceport: You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy…or a more kickass birthday present for an 11-year-old!

After a week at camp...Mos Eisley Spaceport Cantina, where the droids wait outside.

After a week at camp…Mos Eisley Spaceport Cantina, where the droids wait outside.

There’s probably a photo somewhere of this Mos Eisley Cantina playset (and, yes, nerds, that is a blue Snaggletooth figure in there) with me posed proudly behind it. I was going to joke that my mom took the picture of the playset without me because she got tired of waiting for me to get out of the bathroom. You see, I had been at Outdoor School for the previous week and was emptying my bowels of a week’s worth—well, five-ish days worth—of camp food, over the course of several emergency trips to the bathroom.

TMI? Well wait, there’s more.

Anyway, I was going to joke about my absence from the picture, but the truth is, my mom was really cool about letting me stage a scene with my new toy and take a picture of it. Keep in mind that this was back in the days of film rolls, which were a bit spendy to buy and to print, and with no guarantee that the pictures were going to turn out. You couldn’t just delete the file and take another. No, you snapped those precious pictures carefully, over the space of however long it took to complete a roll of 20 or so pictures, then popped the roll out of the camera, took it to the store and waited days for the lab to process them. The stamp on the back of the photo shows that it didn’t get developed until April of the following year.  And, as you can see, I didn’t quite get the focus right.

Don’t get me wrong. The story of the excessive time in the bathroom is true. As I said, it was the week of Outdoor School at Camp Yamhill—meaning I had been away from home on my actual birthday, which fell on a Thursday that year. They brought us home on Friday.

Outdoor School was ostensibly to get 6th graders out into the wild to learn about the miracles of nature all around us—although I can’t remember a single part of the curriculum, aside from a lesson on erosion.  The lesson was memorable to me for what we didn’t learn, or, perhaps for how we didn’t learn it.  the camp counselor took us out on a hike, stopped along the trail by a fairly steep embankment that rose up and away from us, and then emptied some water out of a cup onto the embankment. The small group I was with had no idea what the counselor was getting at by showing us this.  And he got really annoyed when one of our group asked if he could show us again—because the counselor had already emptied all the water out of the smallish drinking cup he’d carried all the way out to this point on the trail.

Being something of a teacher’s-pet-type, I really wanted to be able to answer the counselor’s questions. But also being of a perfectionistic bent, I didn’t want to offer up mere guesses that may have been wrong. I finally said something, in response to him asking me a direct question. That led to him asking me follow-up questions. But I just didn’t know the answers. I hadn’t read up on erosion prior to the hike, and wasn’t particularly familiar with the concerns involved. Ultimately, exasperated at our lack of inquisitiveness and inability to follow the lesson as he presented it, the counselor just told us the answers we would need to fill out the worksheet on erosion that we had brought along in our camp folders.

To be sure, I have scads of memories of the week—just not about the stuff we were sent out there to learn.

For instance, there was the terrifying moment when, during dinner one night, they announced the birthday girls and boys for the week. Those few of us were supposed to go up to the front of the dining hall and stand there while the rest of the campers sang “Happy Birthday.”

I froze, despite the heat of a deep blush rising in my face.

Painfully shy, even around most of my own classmates, we were at camp with sixth graders from multiple schools—people I had never met before, and would experience only for a few short days, and in a largely cursory manner. My tablemates urged me to go bask in the attention. One of the female counselors came around in an effort to weed out the birthday campers. But the counselor from my own cabin, who went by the name “Lightning”—a name I had previously associated with a horse from Nebraska—quietly waved her away and shot a look at my tablemates, with the message to leave me be. I was immensely grateful in that moment—until a sense of regret crept in at my deliberate avoidance of what was supposed to be a fun and kind gesture by the camp organizers.

But there were plenty of things I dove right into.  We made “hobo stoves”—unthinkably unsafe tin-snipped coffee cans, with cardboard tightly rolled into tuna cans and set ablaze—to cook hamburger patties.

There were the camp crafts, and camp games—and, hey trendsetters with more energy than me, if there aren’t already adult Capture the Flag leagues, somebody needs to get on that.

And then there was Alan—a camper from another school who landed in the same cabin I was assigned—the mighty brown pelicans (all the cabins were named after endangered species)—and who almost immediately got into an argument with one of my classmates. That escalated into a physical fight by Tuesday, which resulted in a cabin-transfer for Alan. The loyalty of sixth-grade boys being what it is, I, of course, painted Alan as the villain in the situation. But regardless of my perceived need to choose sides, it was alarming and confusing for me to see two complete strangers develop such an immediate and intense animosity for one another, over essentially nothing, and hang onto it with such energy.

There were the camp sing-alongs including the camp theme song, which, as far as I remember, consisted solely of repeating “Camp Yamhill” over and over again at varied rhythms and pitches.

In perhaps the ultimate shot at provoking horrible embarrassment in the campers, each cabin group had to take turns performing skits on different days. We, the brown pelicans, did a skit so profound and accomplished that I can’t remember a single thing about it—aside from various cabin members arguing about the details of the skit until the absolute last minute—details still undecided as we took the stage in a swirl of hushed, urgent, and contradictory orders given by multiple self-appointed artistic directors. ‘Thank God,’ I thought, ‘we are not being graded on this.’

And there were the campfires each night—where I frequently caught myself staring through the darkness at one or the other of two crushes, there faces illuminated by the yellow-orange light of the fire, as acoustic-guitar-toting counselors led us in songs. I’m guessing we sang classic rowboat songs, like “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” and rounds of “Row Row Row Your Boat.” But the song we sang at camp that stuck with me most as I reached the landmark of wisdom that is age 11, was Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game.” A counselor or two would sing the various verses, campers joining in on the chorus:

“And the seasons they go round and round

And the painted ponies go up and down

We’re captive on the carousel of time

We can’t return we can only look

Behind from where we came

And go round and round and round

In the circle game”

…which would be a lovely and poignant place to end this post if I didn’t feel obligated to point out that, not actually knowing the title of the song, or the correct words, for years I sang that last line as “The circle again” as well as substituting “captured” for “captive.”

Also, I still haven’t explained that bathroom situation.

So, on the first day of camp, shortly after arriving and heading up the hill to get settled in our assigned cabins, I walked across the open space to the communal bathroom. Multiple other boys were cycling in and out. I procured a stall and began to relieve myself. A sudden commotion interrupted the peace of my flow, as an eruption of shouting, laughing, and the banging and slamming of the (lockless) door rocked the stall adjacent to mine.

From the various yells, I quickly discerned that a classmate—the occupant of the next stall over—was now the subject of a sneak-attack photo.  The horror!  Captured on film in the act of pooping!

At that very moment, already wary of having to use public restrooms as a general rule, and arguably allergic to the very thought of actually sitting on a public toilet, my sphincter closed itself off to business for the remainder of the week, lest any other bathroom paparazzi (pooparazzi?) turn up.

Now, the human body can do some amazing things, especially when prompted by fear. I have no recollection of feeling any ill effects over my defecation-avoidance scheme. It’s possible I may have made my way to the toilets once or twice during low-traffic times. Being a teacher’s-pet-type generally meant an absence of suspicion when requesting to use the bathroom.

Still, I was way off of any regular routine I may have had, so much so that by the time I made it back home, despite my tremendous joy and excitement at receiving the Mos Eisley Cantina playset, what may have been the best gift that year–well, for at least a few hours–was immediate access to a full bathroom, complete with a locked door, as my sphincter re-opened for business with an hours-long, albeit sporadic, inventory liquidation.

Ahh…memories.