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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New Year’s Resolutions, 2018

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

Gettin’ down to it a few days into the New Year:

  1. Finish the damn downstairs. At least for the time being, I’m back on a four tens schedule (four days a week, ten hours a day), which leaves me three days off. For the last year, that’s not been the case (was working 5 8s in the evenings), and I’ve had difficulty getting any sizeable chunks of time I could devote to working on finishing renovations we started downstairs years ago when my MIL was planning to move in with us. Way back when, we put together a bedroom down there (walled off a room and framed in a closet, among other things). Then, when the MIL decided not to travel half a world away to torment herself and us, the remainder of the project lost its urgency. Numerous other things made the project less important, like the kid becoming an adult, and the assumption that she would move out. But now, it would be nice to have a clean, open space, with a really nice TV and toys, so I need to make this happen, if for no other reason than to keep one of the dogs from pooping down there amongst the rubble.
  2. Every Day is Halloween. Stealing the idea from a Ministry song, but it works, nonetheless. I do a big Halloween display each year, but mostly dedicate only a few weeks in October to making it all happen. Funny thing is, making the new decorations is one of the most fun times I have. So, I want to make sure I’m working on new decorations (and repairing old decorations) throughout the year, especially during the summer when I can be out in the workshop with an open door, and free-flowing air, rather than in the colder months when I have to run a heater, and frequently have to wander away to avoid succumbing to excessive dust and toxic fumes.New Year Martini baby
  3. Read/Write—don’t watch/scroll. Okay, in the course of writing this post, I’ve gone on Facebook twice, in part because they sent me notifications, but also because it’s become habit to bounce onto the Internet every 27 seconds, just because. In the past month (or less) I did a little experiment about picking up a book every time I’m tempted to log on or turn on the TV, and I’ve read a fair amount more than I’d become accustomed to (I mean, books, not Internet articles). Not sure how I’m going to work this one, since I keep breaking my personal promises to only go online for a short stint, but I think I can pay a little more attention and do a little more book reading than post-scanning.
  4. No more hair resolutions. Ok, I’ve had my fun with the hair jokes. But now that my hair is thinning for real, and…well…the joke is played out, this is the last hair-based resolution I’ll make (unless I can think of some more amusing ones in future).
  5. Be better to those closer. I talk a lot of sh*t at the people who are closest to me (the ones who live with me or interact with me out of friendship or family ties), while engaging a saintly amount of patience towards those who are more tenuously connected to me. This is not to say that I should abandon the patience I exercise toward those who are already the beneficiaries of my kindness, but that I should just plain be kinder to everybody…be it my immediate family, my extended family, my pets, my friends (who, I guess, are part of my extended family). You always hate the ones you love, or some such…

Happy New Year, Lovelies!!

2017 Resolutions, Year in Review

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

I usually get this annual exercise out of the way on New Year’s Eve or before, but hey, you can’t properly review an entire year until it’s over, right? And besides, I didn’t get my New Year’s Resolutions posted until about two weeks into 2017 anyway. So, here we go. Last years resolutions and how well I did with them…

Father time

My first goal was to “Use real bookmarks, ffs.” I said I was starting with a “totally doable” goal, and this proved to be something I (mostly) stuck with. Occasionally, on starting a book, I would still grab the nearest scrap of paper, but that was usually only until I got up from where I was reading and went to find another one. I even bought a nifty magnetized bookmark while on vacation in Hawaii, and located most of my other favorite bookmarks. Currently, I have five different books going at varying degrees of involvement, and they all have honest-to-God bookmarks in them. I wasn’t going to comment about the sixth book I’m about halfway through, that M decided to read as well, and how she lost my place in that book and so I just took the bookmark out since I wasn’t going to get the book back for a long time anyway, but I guess I did.

My second goal was to “Be in the world…at least a little more.” It’s hard to judge this one all that clearly. Part of the reason I was planning on this was because I had moved off of an overnight schedule. So, simply by default and being more available, I got at least a little more time in with friends, and had somewhat regular forays out into the world. By dint of working during days (well, afternoons and evenings) I interacted with more people on a regular basis, and wasn’t constantly struggling to be awake during the day. I did take trips to the aforementioned Hawaii, and to California. I met a few new people, some of whom I actually see socially from time to time, and reconnected with some people I’d fallen out of touch with. Still, I went through the summer without getting out on a kayak, which I kept pestering M about, or without biking, which M kept pestering me about. And, because our days off didn’t sync up too well with when we had the energy to do things, M and I spent a lot of our time together watching movies and TV, or shopping, or just sitting in the same room reading or goofing off on the Internet. So, I’ll pronounce my progress on this one, “good enough.”

Goal three was to “Be in the world…like, beyond the personal.” The basic idea here was that I wanted to engage in more community involvement, beyond just making monetary donations to causes. Abject failure on this one. In part, I blame working in the evenings Sunday through Thursday. Not that it’s impossible to engage in community activities on Fridays and Saturdays, but a whole lot of organizations hold their meetings at other times, and, being that this was the first time in years that I was working an 8-hour/five-day-a-week schedule, I got a bit selfish with the two days I wasn’t obligated to be at work, and never quite worked out a sleep schedule that gave me much time, except late at night.

Because I have always included a hair-based goal, resolution four was to “Go full Bob’s Big Boy with the hair.” I got close a few times, because of laziness around getting a haircut, but never really committed. But, because I enjoyed it so much, I’m going to re-post the image that accompanied that resolution last year. You’re welcome.

don-bob-gor-hair

Finally, resolution five was to “Write more, write often, write regularly—or alternately—Less wasting time on social media…more clogging up my small corner of social media (as well as writing for reasons beyond social media).” I made a few stabs at this, but never really got it going, even to the point where midway through the year I made an amended resolution to try and get two posts done each week. That didn’t happen. There were entire months (including December, and I don’t want to check which others) where I didn’t do a single post, or really write a lick of anything, aside from documentation that’s required as a regular part of my job (and which I am barred from ever putting on social media by legal and ethical constraints). I spent (and continue to spend) an insane amount of time just scrolling through things on Facebook, and occasionally Twitter, and a few other sites. Still trying to figure out a good plan for cutting back. But, given my ongoing need for escapism, I’m not going to expect much on this front.

Anyway, 2017 is behind us. I don’t know that I’m ever happy to say a whole year has passed, even the ones that were particularly painful and/or stupid. But there you have it. 2018 resolutions to come shortly.

 

Happy Halloween! The New Decorations: 2016

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

We’re breaking records for October rain here in this part of the world–as well as having just generally rotten weather–so much so that I kept blowing off putting up the decorations.  I still haven’t gotten the lights set out–the big LED lamps that illuminate the whole Halloween display.  I’ll get to that as soon as I’m done posting this…and well before I dry out from having just gone out to hang the new decorations.  (Yep, taking it down to the wire, despite Halloween and tricks and treats falling on a school night plagued by terrible weather).

Both of the new pieces are based on drawings the kid did many years ago, when she was about five.  Of course, there are modifications.  I’d post images of the source material, but I didn’t ask her permission for that.  Maybe later.

deca-hand

What is it?!?  Isn’t it obvious?

So, the ten-armed creature here (which was a twelve-armed creature in its original form) is a random monster from the days when the kid would sit around drawing picture after picture, or very involved pictures with numerous characters.  So far as I know, it has no name, and isn’t any particular kind of beast.  I always envisioned it as floating about, or perhaps ‘swimming’ through the air.  At any rate, it was made to hang from our plum tree.  It’s about six-and-a-half feet tall.  And, in case you’re wondering, yes, cutting something like that out of a single piece of 4′ x 8′ plywood is rather time-consuming.

new-witch

With an actual, aged broom…y’know, for realism!

The witch here was taken from my favorite material object in the entire world…a construction paper haunted house that the kid made all those years ago, with numerous drawings of monsters glued to the outside.  Her witch was standing, not flying on a broom.  And I added the gym socks.  But I think I retained the spirit of the original pretty well.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Passing on Tradition: Easter Edition

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

Being the son of a pastor, and having been raised religiously, you might think Easter would have a pronounced level of importance in my consciousness. But it doesn’t really register with me. Growing up, I was fascinated by the Good Friday church service—the overall tone of fear and denial, lapses of faith, betrayal, brutality, and sacrifice. Exiting the church in silence into a darkened spring night.

Easter service, in contrast, felt more like an obligation and an aggravation. Crowded with people who didn’t regularly attend church, those who showed up only to get ‘the good stuff’—just like at Christmas—it felt something like the story of the ‘Little Red Hen’ minus the justice of it all—which I suppose is the point of all that ‘grace’ business.

The idea of a resurrection was appealing to me, I suppose. But I like my resurrection stories with a bigger helping of horror and revenge.  (There’s that grace getting in the way again). And maybe the idea of an empty tomb as the big symbol of hope was just a little unnerving to me.

In my adult life, I don’t think I’ve been to a single Easter church service. I’ve occasionally made it to Christmas Eve (nighttime) services. Maybe if I thought ahead about Easter at all, I would take in a Good Friday service.

I do remember the fun of Easter weekends as a child—a quick (indoor) Easter egg hunt, getting a basket of candy. We, of course, dyed the eggs on Saturday, which I enjoyed. But perhaps being unable to eat eggs, the art project angle, followed by the hiding-and-seeking, was all I was ever going to get out of that. The church service was a sort of drawn-out block of time before a gathering of extended family members—with ham (or pink pig meat, as it came to be known in a family joke based on my younger brother’s objection to ham’s color reminding him of the actual animal we were eating).  And in another aside, my mother apparently makes amazing deviled eggs–something I’ll never experience unless allergy-defeating technology makes a huge leap forward.

All of this background is by way of observing my current lack of (meaningful) observation of the Easter holiday.

This morning, I treated my wife, M, to an indoor Easter egg hunt—a few plastic eggs stuffed with gifts. But that had more to do with a particular 7/$27 clearance sale that coincided with the holiday, than with anything else.

The aftermath of a half-assed Easter observation

The aftermath of a half-assed Easter observation

The kid is off with her boyfriend, not observing the holiday in their own way.

And despite efforts—mostly aimed at all that business about creating fun memories for one’s children—to engage with the Easter holiday, we (M, the kid, and I) never really got any solid tradition going.

There were years when we colored eggs, sometimes with other family friends and their children—which inevitably involved me running out to a store on Saturday afternoon to get eggs, vinegar, and dye, as I hadn’t given it any thought beforehand.

There was a stretch of years where Easter involved me hiding plastic eggs, each containing a numbered clue, pointing the kid toward a fabulous gift—a basketball hoop, a rubber raft…something related to spring and getting outside and having fun.

There were years—or maybe just one year—when the kid went off with family friends to their big, extended-family gathering, out somewhere where I could not go due to work or school, and to which M did not want to go without me.

There was a year where we tried doing the public, child-centered, not-really-religious observation. When I asked the kid about Easter memories, she described it as that “Easter event at some community space we went to where they trapped a bunch of kids in a room with a bunch of plastic eggs with prizes,” and where one of the children who’d gone along with us “was scared shitless of the guy in the Easter Bunny costume.” For whatever reason, I found it rather amusing that the kid took pains to spell out “the guy in the Easter Bunny costume” rather than just saying “the Easter Bunny.”

There was a year when we were invited to a family celebration, which consisted of us arriving to a very short period of pre-dinner conversation, the serving of the meal, then dessert, then everyone being asked to leave so that there would be no further disruption in the family routine. Sure, there’s something to be said for stability, but if a holiday isn’t an excuse for an extended routine-disruption, what is?  Okay, to be fair, there were added complications that I won’t get into right now.  But, still, it felt like the least celebratory celebration in the history of Easter.

I sometimes have regrets that M and I were not more consistent in our own routines where (some) holidays and traditions are concerned. The kid simply has no solid foundation for an Easter tradition—or even a solid conviction about not celebrating the holiday. Perhaps that’s not so unusual as I think it is—a thought that is based on my own upbringing, and my vague sense of what many other people do to mark the holiday each year.

On some level, I suppose my concern about how we’ve celebrated, or not celebrated, Easter over the years boils down to a question of what kind of memories I’ve provided for the kid, or perhaps, what kind of memories she has formed around the holiday, based on the cicumstances we provided. Most of that is probably concern based around the knowledge that my own mother established a remarkably stable environment for our family, despite some major challenges—a level of stability I’ve never come close to achieving through the various moves, shifts in careers, and tenuous connections with friends and family.

But in the end, I suppose the kid has a sense of humor about it all. My feelings of urgency or importance to the holiday—feelings that are definitely muted and muddled—came out of the sense of importance assigned to the holiday in my upbringing. My feelings that I should be doing more about Easter are, ultimately, tied to a sense that my family did more for me around the holiday (and about religion and tradition in general), and that I should pick that up and go with it.

Still, what I grew up with was “normal” to me, and I wasn’t able, or willing, to maintain it. What the kid grew up with is something she has to define for herself, and which she can decide to expand on, or abandon. As much as we may like to think that such celebrations are universal in action and understanding, obligation and satisfaction, we’re all bringing our own baggage, and taking away what we will.

Happy Easter.