Friday, April 08, 2005

No One Else.

A brief Primer on what it is to make life decisions, through the muddied eyes of Craig.

I think we can all agree that LIFE is the ultimate cause of DEATH, can’t we? Even the safest of safe lives will end. Why? Because they were alive to begin with. That being the basis for further analysis, one can say that all the possible activities afforded to us during our lifetimes will have varying effects on the SPEED at which we meet our final dismissal. So, all activities, absolutely, further one toward death, at varying speeds. Jogging every morning is safer than drinking a pint of turpentine. But drinking a pint of turpentine is safer than landmine hopscotch. And jogging in the morning is not as safe as swimming in the morning (no traffic, less wear-and-tear on the joints, blah-blah-blah). But swimming in shark infested waters with an ankle cut would probably lead to a faster death than the pint of turpentine. It really depends.

No activity will STOP death. Nothing.

The point is, all activities can be measured by their addition/subtraction to your velocity as you hurtle towards death. NOT smoking saves you from what? Death? Nope. Sure, you’ll avoid some yellowing of the teeth, or burns on your floorboards. But death still has your card. Will aerobic exercise derail the grim reaper train? Nope. You’re going to die anyway. Maybe later, maybe sooner. You have no idea. All activities, or the exclusion of activities, can only adjust your ETA. That being my point, the question that comes to me is whether or not you should bother too much with such details. Isn’t it really more of a question of preference rather than a question of absolute truth? If YOU feel that something is taking away from your quality of life, then you remove it. If YOU feel like your life is missing something, then you start looking for it. Some things you remove might be good for you. Some things you find will turn out worse for you. You never can tell at the onset, for most things anyhow.

Somewhere in the middle of these processes is your life, for better or for worse. One can only hope to live, and to die, by their own terms. And if that includes cigarettes, jogging three times a week, head spins, professional wrestling, diversification techniques of the Indian bond market, broccoli, single malt scotch, and lots of pixie sticks… well then, who is honestly, truly, justly qualified to argue against it?

No one else.

Me: So why would you want to do heroin? I mean, that shit will run your life, ruin your family, and then leave you as a wasted shell of a human to die in a puddle of your own wrecked misery.

Addict: Well, if I told you that I had a pill you could take, which would make you feel more accomplished than you ever will be, happier than a person ever could be, and more fulfilled than you could ever work to be, would you try it to see?

Me: Sure, why not?

Addict: Of course you would. Everyone’s looking for something.

Me: So, you’re saying heroin is like that?

Addict: Yes. It is.

Me: Well, if it is so wonderful and great, why are you trying to stop?

Addict: Because this shit won’t kill me fast enough.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Should it Really Come to That? Ever?

I have reacquainted myself with a daily habit which I was previously proud of eradicating. The dreadful mid-workday-smoke. I label it dreadful because of the company one usually keeps when taking a smoke break at work. Typically, the cast of characters who huddle together once an hour while working usually do so because they take deep issue with their job, and in many cases, life as a whole. They’re usually pissed off about so-and-so, about how smart they are in comparison, and about how they really deserve more from their position (as a crap metaphor for their feelings on their forlorn life).

After a couple of weeks on the job, I decided that this crew was pure poison for me. I already have a shady attitude toward corporate slave labor, and I didn’t need their seething to fortify my already-impressive dismissal of the work week as a brilliant waste of my time. I needed the health insurance, the regularly scheduled paycheck, and some hardened structure to apply to my daily life. I needed those things too badly to allow that disenchanted group of nay-saying tobacco hounds the opportunity to feed my pre-subscription of being wholly against working for ‘the man’. So I decided to skip out on the day-shift smoking ritual altogether.

Every now and again, when under specific and heavy (personal/work) stress, I would wander out to a secluded patio area somewhere for a quick smoke. Maybe once every two months, and only on days with particularly good weather. I would use that time to walk around, make calls on my cell, or get something out of my truck. Those moments were rare, and they were always spur-of-the-moment. I never scheduled those breaks, and I don’t remember any of them occurring on consecutive days.

But today, and yesterday, I have gone out for a post-lunch cig. No particular reason. Just because. It isn’t like I have no work to do. Quite the opposite. I’m busier than that one-armed drummer for Def Leopard. I’m workin’ it like I care and shit.

It got me to thinking. My entire life has been all about LIVING. That is to say, I have always been completely immersed in what it means to be ALIVE. Which, I still believe, is the proper way to spend my time while here. I have good reason to have spent so much effort on the subject. I was born dead, saved by whatever modern medicine was available to the miracle workers in that Houston hospital of the 70’s. Which makes my time here an abomination of Darwinian principles. Which is totally cool by me. On top of that, I spent four years of my life, convinced that I would not survive to see my 21st birthday. Those who know me will probably remember my almost neurotic fixation on that. I still hold that my belief was well-founded in enough misfires and narrow escapes.

I have felt fortunate to be around ever since. My (mis)adventures, (mis)ventures, and efforts have always had a ‘fuck it’ sort of bend, and that I can attribute to my feelings about being allowed to live. My ‘gulp-it’ attitude toward experiences and my tendency to be a bit manic in my consumption.

All of that is fine and good for now, but is there a point where the tables turn? Is there a point where a rational person ceases to consider how they are going to LIVE, and feels compelled to turn their thoughts to how they are going to DIE? Not that I am anywhere near that point in my life. But the question did beg itself to me, as I sat outside in the brilliant noon-ish sunlight, puffing on my Parliament. Is there such a moment? Did my grandfather, one day just start questioning his daily activities NOT based on whether or not he was enjoying them, but rather whether or not those activities would kill him in the near future? Is there a point where a regular bungee jumper stops looking at their pastime as a means of fun, and instead as more of a risk for quick death? My knee-jerk is ‘yes, a rational mind would have to eventually ask itself such questions. After all, the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long (thank you Tyrell Corp.)’. And I really want to follow my knee-jerk on that one.

But then again, isn’t the overall consideration of one’s life in terms of potential death… pretty much spell out: ‘dead anyway’? I mean, to consider every act as a potential slippery slope toward ultimate dismissal seems so… lifeless.

Apologies for the repeated ellipses. I love them so.

So I turned my thoughts back to life. Tonight is me and my lady. After work is a Car Bombed happy hour with darts. This afternoon is this writing. Right now is this cigarette.

Right now is this cigarette. I’ll deal with death when it is in my face, fire-lit and smoking like a black-lung teepee.

Damn you Blade Runner!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I Will Burn that Fucker if I Have to.

Problems. Issues. Tribulations. Opportunities (for growth or what? who came up with that crap?). Whatever the label, they are what they are: the friction and flat tires along the road of life. Or something equally cheesy sounding.

We all have to push through it. Curve balls and all. And we all have our own little ways of overcoming our obstacles. Testicular cancer, allergies, that asshole bus driver who keeps skipping your stop, heroin addiction, misfiled IRS returns, mullets, and fears of being eaten alive by rabid bears. It’s all there, it’s always there, and we’re always finding ways to cope. Standard ways involve the location/construction of some sort of vent. That vent may be:

Finger Pointing: THEY are doing this to me!
Artistic Expression: I’ll paint this situation out of me.
Poorly Devised Action: Iraq has me all confused, so I’ll just bomb that bitch.
The Coping Bender: Emotional problems? Fuck it, get obliterated.
Get Litigious: Money problems? Sue the innocent to make things right.

This is a woefully incomplete list of coping methods, but you get the picture. None of them actually solve a damn thing. Vents are a stop-gap measure. They are designed, specifically, to skirt the real issue in favor of a diversion. We’re all well aware that the only honest way to solve an issue is to define it, entirely, and then bust your ass to work up a solution set (complete with alternate plans). One of my favorite professors from University once told me:

Craig, there is only one true cure for anxiety, and that’s action.

At the time, I ignored the HUGE gap within his advice. While very helpful, that little motto ignores the difficulty in defining what it is that is causing the anxiety to begin with. It assumes that an individual only has ONE source of potential stress.

One source? Who the fuck is that lucky bastard? Whose life is so goddamned simple that they can easily point to one single snag?

I mean, shit. Seriously, what a load.

Problems travel in packs. Not that they literally roll together, but the human mind can do some impressive ignoring of mounting issues, up until a trigger gets pulled. Then the queued problems form a thunderhead and shit-storm down on their victim like so many dark horsemen. That’s the nature of the things.

And that’s when anxiety busts into your psyche like a bull in a china shop, mixing up the issues and wiping a nasty petroleum jelly haze over everything, making it virtually impossible to separate yourself from it all. Once that happens, my professors advice just sounds like a worthless cliché. Sure, action would be nice. It would be greeeeeaaaat. But the confused queue of issues needs to be reorganized first. (Perhaps that is what he meant by ‘action’?) You have to be able to build a priority set before you can begin to tackle anything with ‘action’.

A re-set, if you will. Re-boot. Screw it, call it what it is: a throw-the-hands-up-and-say-what-the-fuck?-moment.

Then, you’ll need something to knock out that mental log-jam, cemented with rampant anxiety. You’ll need to prep for true problem solving with a good ‘pre-cope’, as I like to call it.

Well, sometimes the best way to pre-cope is raw anger. Break some shit. Go on a tear. Go ape-shit and set something important on fire. That’s when you know you’ve hit rock-bottom. That’s when you can honestly say to yourself:

Self, there is no lower point to which I can possibly sink. Here lies the bottom of us. The subterranean subconscious lives here, and we’re looking to settle a score. There is no where to go but up. Up and out of this shit hole.

Now I’m not recommending that anyone literally destroy anything. Believe you: me, that will just lead to an altogether new and (possibly worse) problem set. This destruction should occur neatly, and only within the confines of your mind. Your brain is already at DEFCON 5, so fuck it. Torch that motherfucker. Burn your petty little anxiety to the ground, rendering it incapable of skewing the issues which brought it to your doorstep in the first place. Don’t let the anxiety become a problem in itself, because it is certainly NOT a problem on its own. It is a byproduct, a symptom, an evil little monkey which chatters away while riding the shoulder of the 800 pound gorilla who is piggy-backing your confused ass. Punching that monkey in the face will be the most difficult part of this whole process. The punch is the flame. The flame is your intent.

So: Burn. It. Down.

Then sort through the ashes. The real issues will remain. What truly matters to you will still be there, even after the mental apocalypse. If you have any capabilities whatsoever to wrangle your own thoughts, then this will be the easy part. After you’ve managed to beat your own problems out of their state of complete chaos, then they can be properly prioritized and dealt with accordingly. Some will continue on in the background, as they may not be readily solvable. Others will get immediate attention to get them out of the way. And the ones in the pack which are truly causing the majority of the mental hold-up will be pulled apart. Lessons will be learned, documented, and implemented. Progress will be made as a result. And the tougher the burn: the stronger the lesson and the better the progress. I’ve lived this to be true, and I often times have to remind myself of that fact.

These words are what it looks like when I burn it down. When I have decided to re-queue the wild issues of my time here. The feral issues of my mind. Of my current life. To distill it down to what it is that I am actually after, and what about me stands between. I hope for clarity. I hope for re-construction. I hope for progress.