Tuesday, February 23, 2010

a PSA for the HSP among us.

Well, there's this -- note that on the self-test, I checked all but 2. (Over 14 = "off the charts.)

The Highly Sensitive Person

And then there's my Enneagram result. You can take those tests any number of places; I like Similar Minds. As I've known for years, I am an utterly rabid 5. Here, from the Enneagram Institute, is but a taste:

Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation. At their Best: visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.

* Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable
* Basic Desire: To be capable and competent

Key Motivations: Want to possess knowledge, to understand the environment, to have everything figured out as a way of defending the self from threats from the environment.

Examples: Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Georgia O'Keefe, Stanley Kubrick, John Lennon, Lily Tomlin, Gary Larson, Laurie Anderson, Merce Cunningham, Meredith Monk, James Joyce, Björk, Susan Sontag, Emily Dickinson, Agatha Christie, Ursula K. LeGuin, Jane Goodall, Glenn Gould, John Cage, Bobby Fischer, Tim Burton, David Lynch, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Trent Reznor, Friedrich Nietzsche, Vincent Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, Jodie Foster, and "Fox Mulder" (X Files).

Behind Fives’ relentless pursuit of knowledge are deep insecurities about their ability to function successfully in the world. Fives feel that they do not have an ability to do things as well as others. But rather than engage directly with activities that might bolster their confidence, Fives “take a step back” into their minds where they feel more capable. Their belief is that from the safety of their minds they will eventually figure out how to do things — and one day rejoin the world

Call this a plea for understanding. 'Cause that's what it is.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

a place for your stuff.

One of the few benefits of being unattached and broke is that trading residences, one for another, is relatively easy. At least it is if you're willing to part with your stuff.

My dad was a HUGE George Carlin fan. We talked about going to his show when he came through St. Louis, it came and went without us making it, and I still regret that. But in addition to the famous "7 words you can't say on television" (which routine, let it be noted, he first performed in Milwaukee, at the epic 11-day drunkathon that is Summerfest), George in his later years worked up an entire routine about having a place for your stuff.

Actually this is just a place for my stuff, ya know? That's all, a little place for my stuff. That's all I want, that's all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table, everybody's got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that's your stuff, that'll be his stuff over there. That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time.

A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you're saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff!

Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. Did you ever notice when you go to somebody else's house, you never quite feel a hundred percent at home? You know why? No room for your stuff. Somebody else's stuff is all over the place! And if you stay overnight, unexpectedly, they give you a little bedroom to sleep in. Bedroom they haven't used in about eleven years. Someone died in it, eleven years ago. And they haven't moved any of his stuff! Right next to the bed there's usually a dresser or a bureau of some kind, and there's NO ROOM for your stuff on it. Somebody else's shit is on the dresser.

Have you noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff? God! And you say, "Get that shit offa there and let me put my stuff down!"

Sometimes you leave your house to go on vacation. And you gotta take some of your stuff with you. Gotta take about two big suitcases full of stuff, when you go on vacation. You gotta take a smaller version of your house. It's the second version of your stuff. And you're gonna fly all the way to Honolulu. Gonna go across the continent, across half an ocean to Honolulu. You get down to the hotel room in Honolulu and you open up your suitcase and you put away all your stuff. "Here's a place here, put a little bit of stuff there, put some stuff here, put some stuff--you put your stuff there, I'll put some stuff--here's another place for stuff, look at this, I'll put some stuff here..." And even though you're far away from home, you start to get used to it, you start to feel okay, because after all, you do have some of your stuff with you. That's when your friend calls up from Maui, and says, "Hey, why don'tchya come over to Maui for the weekend and spend a couple of nights over here."

Oh, no! Now what do I pack? Right, you've gotta pack an even SMALLER version of your stuff. The third version of your house. Just enough stuff to take to Maui for a coupla days. You get over to Maui--I mean you're really getting extended now, when you think about it. You got stuff ALL the way back on the mainland, you got stuff on another island, you got stuff on this island. I mean, supply lines are getting longer and harder to maintain. You get over to your friend's house on Maui and he gives you a little place to sleep, a little bed right next to his windowsill or something. You put some of your stuff up there. You put your stuff up there. You got your Visine, you got your nail clippers, and you put everything up. It takes about an hour and a half, but after a while you finally feel okay, say, "All right, I got my nail clippers, I must be okay." That's when your friend says, "Aaaaay, I think tonight we'll go over the other side of the island, visit a pal of mine and maybe stay over."

Aww, no. NOW what do you pack? Right--you gotta pack an even SMALLER version of your stuff. The fourth version of your house. Only the stuff you know you're gonna need. Money, keys, comb, wallet, lighter, hanky, pen, smokes, rubber and change. Well, only the stuff you HOPE you're gonna need.

I have moved 4 times in the past 4 years. Each time I have gotten rid of more and more "stuff." Because really? That's all it is. The amount of "stuff" you actually need is pretty tiny, as Carlin points out.

I have hauled endless bags of clothes to Savers and Goodwill. I have sold or donated the larger part of a formerly significant bear collection. I am a familiar face at the library (where you get to take stuff BACK, so it doesn't clutter up YOUR space) and at the Paperback Book Palace (where they pay me for a particular sort of stuff that I can trade in). Really, I'm down to a few important-to-me books, a bed, a computer, an absolutely minimal amount of furniture, my Watergate "co-conspirator" autographs, and about a million pictures of the kid. (What's more important than that? :-)

The rest of it? It's just "stuff." I'm not even that big of an eco-freak treehugger, either. I'm just tired of lugging around "stuff." As Kaufman and Hart so pithily noted, you can't take it with you, anyway.

Bode Miller's dad

I haven't watched too much of the Olympics, because honestly? Despite where I live, winter sports pretty much just don't do it for me. However, in the process of unpacking tonight and getting stuff arranged in the new digs, I happened to catch the last little bit of whatever ski race Bode Miller won gold in.

You may or may not recall that Bode's shooting his mouth off prior to the last Olympics got him in a fair bit of trouble. On that basis alone, I feel a kinship. ;-) And while I'm always happy to see someone finally fulfill a dream -- particularly one that's been deferred largely through their own fault (hmmm, I know a bit about that one too), I really couldn't care less about skiing. What got me in the little snippet I happened to look up at the TV and see was Dad's reaction to seeing his boy pull it off: He grinned from ear to ear and then buried his face in his hands and lost it.

I feel ya, Mr. Miller.

It undoubtedly will come as a surprise to some that I have enough of a heart to be driven to tears. ;-) But I actually burst into heaving, messy, noisy, shoulder-shaking sobs in the middle of a frickin' BAR when I got to see, up close and personal, my boy do what he loves and what he does best and succeed beyond all imagining. It is a truly indescribable experience. It was really cool to see someone else get to have it.

As for the athletes -- I am the least patriotic person you will ever meet, but at the medal ceremonies, I always imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes. The whole "wave it high, wave it proud, I did it for America" thing affects me not a whit, but I do spend the whole time wondering how it must feel to stand there and think to yourself, "Damn. I. DID. IT." And then do they immediately wonder, "OK, now what?" Because the only thing that keeps me going most days is knowing that, while I've achieved pretty much what I wanted to in life, I haven't achieved it to the degree I want to. When you have no farther up the ladder to go, where do you go?

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

--Langston Hughes

Sunday, February 7, 2010

childhood's end

It's that time of year for that most commercial of fake holidays, you know, and the indoctrination starts early.

While the cheap boxes of chocolate and the soon-to-expire fleurs are flying out of the Bullseye, it's the kids' Valentines that get me. Puppies and kitties are still popular designs, of course, and these days most of the cards come with candy attached, instead of the kid having to find some tape and do it him- or herself. But it's certainly brought back memories....

....like making a "mailbox" out of a shoebox and decorating it with construction paper hearts and a generous amount of Elmer's Glue (which, back in the day, decidedly did NOT come in glitter varieties -- had to do that yourself too) ....

.... or taking class time to actually make Valentines (for the longest time, I held on to the one Terry Anderson made me in 5th grade that said "To a nice gril") ....

.... or sitting at the dining room table, going through the school directory, making sure you didn't miss anybody in your class.

I don't recall any meltdowns because someone got left out, but it was probably me and I'm probably repressing it, if there were any. ;-) I do vividly remember missing the entirety of my 1st grade Christmas party because I had to go to the nurse's office and take my stupid antiseizure meds, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway. All this longwindedness about a stupid fake holiday was meant to lead into other things we could do as kids that have long been forgotten. Here's one: Do you remember how to skip? No? Could you jump rope if your life depended on it? No? Me neither, to both of those. Yet I was pretty good at both of them when I was 5 (too, too many decades ago).

What other skills did you used to have that you can't imagine anymore?