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!

 

 

 

 

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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!

The Horror of the Straws –or– Reduce, Chew, Reuse, Recycle

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

It was a hot day in late spring when Tim (probably not his real name) came jogging up behind me, slowed his pace to match my walk, and invited himself over to my house.

Tim’s request was unusual for plenty of reasons. For one thing, I didn’t really know him at all. He was in a different fifth-grade class than me and we’d barely spoken to each other outside of, maybe, a game or two of four-square or wall-ball at recess.

His family had arrived in town sometime after the start of the school year, and would be gone before the next school year was out.

He offered no explanation for his sudden interest in my companionship. I had no particular plans, nothing I had to do until dinnertime, or after, depending on which job was mine that night—setting or clearing the table, or washing the dishes. Still, I didn’t know how my mom would react to me brining home a classmate I had never spoken of, without having gone through the usual dance of informal invitations and phone calls between parents—the kind of parental back and forth that would eventually drop off either by dint of establishing an ongoing familiarity with the friend, or by the friendship falling away completely.

So, by way of trying to avoid any awkwardness at home, I asked Tim if maybe he should go home first and ask his mom. He answered only that it was fine with his mom, implying that it should be just fine with my mom, as well. He provided no tangible clues as to his home life. Had he already asked his mother before he left home in the morning? Was his mother out working? Did she just let him roam free? Was he avoiding someone or some situation at home—or wherever it was that he was actually supposed to be?

Tim’s self-invitation felt like an imposition. And yet, I didn’t want to be rude or leave a classmate hanging if he really was in need.

But I was in uncharted waters. I had never just brought someone home before, unannounced, without asking permission.

My mom’s reaction was one of curiosity more than anything. ‘Why are you bringing home some kid I’ve never heard of?’ may have been the direct question she wanted to put to me. But after the introductions, she took a similar approach to mine: “Does your mother know you’re here?” and “Do you need to call your parents and let them know where you are?”

Tim denied any such need, and the notion that his mother might be at all concerned.

There may have been further pressing, or boundaries set, like my mom asking for Tim’s home phone number so she could make a call, or insisting that he call home, or maybe saying we had an hour to play before x, y, and/or z needed to happen, necessitating Tim’s exit.

Whatever the case, and whether or not there was ever any go-ahead from Tim’s parents, he was sticking around for at least a little while.

I went forward with my just-home-from-school routine—turning on the TV for some cartoons, and heading to the kitchen for a snack. The default snack for years was two Graham crackers and a Daffy Duck glass full of chocolate milk—made with Hershey’s Instant chocolate powder. Sometimes, I’d really mix things up and add peanut butter to the crackers, but usually I would just dunk the bare Graham crackers in the chocolate milk.

After school snack, or frightening faux pas?

After school snack, or frightening faux pas?

Tim accepted when I offered him the same.

But then, with crackers and glasses in hand, we crossed the kitchen to the silverware drawer. I set my glass down, slid open the drawer, and…

There they were…to the side of the silverware tray…the straws.

Something's definitely not right here.

Something’s definitely not right here.

Now, the entire time I was growing up, I don’t think my mother ever paid for a package of drinking straws. It was just a wasteful expense as far as she was concerned. After all, straws are basically unnecessary for drinking, except in some very limited circumstances—like being ill and having difficulty sitting up to take a drink. Besides, restaurants give them away for free.

These were not ideas I ever remember my mother speaking. I have a vague sense that she told us if we really wanted drinking straws, we could keep the straws we got from restaurants, and wash and reuse them. That’s what we did, afterall. It seemed reasonable enough to me. After all, this was the era of the original Krazy Straw—people washed and re-used those all the time.

Saving and re-using straws was a more daunting task than one might think, though. We very rarely went out to restaurants—only for some birthdays and other special occasions, or when Grandpa decided to treat us all to Friday Night Fish at the Chuckwagon buffet. And aside from a cross-country car trip in the summer of 1977, fast food was mostly kept out of our diet. So, no steady supply of straws was to be had.

On the day that Tim invited himself over, the supply of straws had become quite decrepit. And, well, a big part of that is because I tended to chew on them as I drank my chocolate milk and watched my cartoons. Still, until they were cracked and unusable, we would wash them and send them back to the drawer.

Covering up my crimes of mastication would take some quick thinking. So I did what anybody would do in that situation—I blamed my little brother for the chewed straws–‘Some of the straws are messed up.  My little brother chews on them sometimes.’

Crisis averted. Or so I thought.

But as I sought out two reasonably functional straws, Tim shrieked, “You share straws?!?”

I can still clearly picture the look of terror and disgust on Tim’s face. If you can imagine what Leave-it-to-Beaver-era Jerry Mathers would look like if I’d just handed him a straw and a live guinea pig, picked up my own straw and guinea pig and said, “Here, this is really good—just go like this” and then jammed the straw through the guinea pig’s eye socket and started sucking out the contents of its skull as it squealed, writhed, and died—that’s roughly what Tim looked like in that moment—eyes bulging in fright, ample, freckled cheeks twitching around a scowling mouth.

Well, you're getting there, Jerry. But we need more terror, more disgust!

Well, you’re getting there, Jerry. But we need more terror, more disgust!

I can’t remember anything that took place beyond that. I’m sure there was a moment or two of profound awkwardness.  And then I’m guessing we went to the living room where Tim drank his chocolate milk without a straw. I probably passed on the straw, too, since I’d just learned it how monstrously disturbing it was to drink through a previously-used straw.

Tim and I probably eventually went up to the room I shared with two brothers, and picked over the toys. We may have gone out to shoot baskets in the driveway, or sat at the game table in the living room drawing pictures. Whatever the case, Tim’s sharp reaction to the straws numbed me to any other occurrences for the rest of his time there.

My mom’s only comment on Tim’s shock at the used straws was a deadpan, “They’ve been washed.” But, again, I don’t remember if this happened in the moment of Tim’s freak-out, or if it happened later, as I was describing his reaction to her (and undoubtedly questioning if there was something terribly wrong with us).

At school the next day, Tim tried to call me out for reusing straws, as I passed him and a few of his friends on recess. Tim’s attempted insult—roughly, ‘Hey, I went to his house, and you know what? He shares straws with his brothers’–failed to land. The other kids did not react. Perhaps Tim just didn’t paint a particularly effective picture of the insanity involved. Or perhaps they were all so dumbfounded, they couldn’t think of a proper response to demonstrate their disgust. I walked on.

I suppose I should have held on to the non-reaction of the other kids as the takeaway in all this. But memories have a way of forming around the moment of impact and maximum anxiety, not the moment when that anxiety should have evaporated. Although, at the time, given the extreme nature of Tim’s reaction, I was convinced that the lack of reaction from the others was a silent acknowledgment that, yes, I was a damnable freak.

And perhaps I am a damnable freak—but certainly not because of anything I’ve ever done with a straw…or at least not for anything I ever did with a straw while I was in elementary school.