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Lost in Tulgey Wood

"I warn you, if you bore me, I shall take my revenge." J.R.R. Tolkein

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Location: Canton, Ohio, United States

The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure --Mikhail Baryshnikov

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tough Love Smackdown

I recently gave a good friend of mine a heaping helping of tough love. It was delivered electronically, so it was honed to the point and edited. I'm afraid I might have been too tough. I also think I shouldn't throw stones. The advice I gave him was advice, I realized, that I would also be wise to follow. We are in different situations, but the advice applied to both of us. Here it is in summary as the original disappeared in the cybervapor:

You have a family that requires you to be a stable presence. They know you as a person who is this way...what happens when you suddenly become a person who is that way? You are already an oddball, why push their tolerance to the breaking point? Stay the course and try to figure out how to make what you have work for you.

My intent with the message is, we are no longer in the Age of Seekers. We have entered into the Age of Commitment. We are in a box that is "tough and unyeilding." Can we just galavant away in search of greener pastures? Not anymore, I agued. We've made our choices, some paths are now and forever unavailable. We must look at our box and really get to know it well. We should know what it looks like. We should know every crack or crease. We should learn how to repair it if it breaks. We should figure out how to work with and within our box.

Yes, maybe, eventually, we can abandon this box. But not without first researching the options and holding focus groups with loved ones. I'm whimsical by nature. I'm surprised he didn't laugh in my face when I gave him this advice. How dare I? Well, Alice, I'm looking in the mirror right now, shivering with the knowledge that this advice I sagely passed along applies to me just as much, if not more.

So here I stand chastened and full of humility. I regret that I was too harsh. I don't regret the message, though. Sometimes, dammit, we have to speak up and say things that aren't nice, aren't overtly supportive. I said what I said because sometimes I get angry when I sense that someone is about to do something harmful to themselves. I'm angry at myself too, and ashamed.

I hope I haven't damaged the friendship. I delivered this message from my heart, through my head, by means of my sharp tongue. I've talked to him since and he doesn't seemed to have missed a step. But we've just been cordial and had short conversations. We are both wanderers and I had an urge to tug his reins to keep him in line. I'm now letting go of his reins and picking up mine.
Hopefully, we remain on course and discover that the rewards are worth it. I believe they will be.


Blogger Big Orange said...

Hmmm... reminds me of that line Sean Connery says in "Rising Sun" when the oriental woman says a friend of hers has always said one should leave the cage door open, so the bird can return.

"He sounds like an asshole." Says Connery's character, and later in the film we find out that it was HE who had originally said the cage quote. Many different levels of interpretation... Maybe you're friends the asshole, not you. (maybe you should run "asshole" through the Dream Dictionary to see what it says! Ha! Now *I'm* being an asshole!! This is catching! What would Derrida say? [hmmm... mebbe I needs me a tug on MY rains, too...])

ANYHOODLE, if'n you're afeared this is one o' them "mote from his eye, beam in yours" thingies, I don't thunk you've gotta worry none; I know this person of whom you speak, and I think I can say with perfect aplomb that there ent no hard feelies.

MEANWHILE, though, it must be said in zir defense that the concept of BOXES both have and don't have their places. Boxes are good for storing things and keeping other stuff at bay so one isn't contaminated. However, in a world where we're being told to "think outside of the box", there's validity to THAT, too-- if there is no variation in thought, then stagnation arises....

then again, if you have a very LARGE box-- perhaps one with many compartments or baffles inside ("hey bartender, gimmie an entendre and make it a double") then to fully explore one's box before crawling out and finding another is good advice

6:49 PM  
Blogger Otter Moonpath said...

"When you go in search of honey, you must expect to be stung by bees."

---Michael Kundra

6:58 AM  
Blogger Flannery Alden said...

Re: Boxes

I'm not suggesting that this person not think about things outside his/her box. Ponder the outter-boxiness ad infinitum. I just think this person struggles with "fight or flight" and flight is always the most appealing choice. I know it's usually my preference.

Besides, leaping from box to box is something one does when one is younger, unnattached. When there are dependents, it's much more dangerous to make that leap; it does more damage.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Otter Moonpath said...

TOM: "You know it don't take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?"

[As if in answer, the father's grinning photograph lights up.]

---Tennessee Williams
"The Glass Menagerie, Scene 4

>:-} >:-} >:-} >:-} >:-} >:-}

11:58 AM  
Blogger Big Orange said...

I believe in lookin' outside yer box and pondering it's outer-boxiness. When one feels the grass is greener, one should pop one's head out, gopher style, and look ay-round lest ya' get tunnel-blindness. The following quote springs to mind, though:

"One must get up, one must go to breakfast, one must talk with Mother, go to school, do one’s lessons—and, in all this, try not to appear too much of a fool. But if all the while one was also trying to extract the full deliciousness of another and quite separate existence, one which could not easily (if at all) be spoken of—how was one to manage? How was one to explain? Would it be safe to explain? Would it be absurd? Would it merely mean that he would get into some kind of obscure trouble?"

---Conrad Aiken
“Silent Snow, Secret Snow”

12:02 PM  
Blogger Flannery Alden said...

Oh, who are we kidding? You and I both have a fascination with escape. We are escape artists. Reality sucks. It's boring. We participate in "real life" but we have secrets.

We both want to be rock star-philosophers and not being able to chase our fancy, cramps our style. But, hey, what are families for, right? (I kid).

What I'm trying to communicate here is a Big Idea. What if there was nothing else for you forever? Nothing new spiritually, physically, mentally, chemically ever again. What if you were stuck with what you have forever. What would you do? Would you look around and scorn everything for its familiarity? Would you weep for lost opportunity? Would you blame those around you for making you give all that up?

Or would you start with one small corner and get to know it fully. Then move on to the next thing. You'd be surprised, I think, by how satisfying scrutiny can be. Besides, by not seeking, you would be free to focus. Focus on what you have, what's right in front of you, instead of focusing on the horizon.

I say this like I know what I'm talking about. Well, I do, a little bit. I've started trying to dig deeper. I'm trying to make the mundane novel again. I'm trying to keep myself focused on what I have. For me, it's a matter of survival. In order for me to survive mentally, I have to choose to stay put for the moment.

My long term happiness, though counts on forward progress. But if I take the time to scan my surroundings, question my family for thier ideas, listen to them and find out what their needs are, and then look for a box that will be comfy for all of us, I think I can leave the box without doing any long term damage.

The apples of my eye are counting on me to keep my shit together. I've flaked out at least twice this year. I know I give Doc agita when I do this. I'm trying to train him to stop me when I start acting like Houdini. I don't want to do this, but sometimes the urge to run is so strong, strong enough that I'd be willing to chuck everything in the dustbin and start from scratch.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: we're birds of a feather, baby, and I know what you're going through. I see your point. But now is the time for methodical, strategical, plotting. In the question of fight or flight we must fight, or at least stand tall in the face of obstacles and try to use our vast brain power to figure out how to conquer the beast rather than flee it.

I don't know what put us at this stage. There used to be rites of passage. High School graduation meant you were off to college for higher learning and exploring, completion if higher learning meant that you were now qualified. Qualified for what, we theater/classics majors asked. The next step: a marriage or two.

Then babies. Maybe that's the step. There is no way to slip away from babies. Once you have babies, you stay put, or you ought to try to anyway. These little ones depend on routine, stability. They are counting on us to keep it together. My skeedaddling days are over. I am interested in bringing up smart, strong individuals who will contribute to making the world a better place.

I realize this is a white, middle class attitdue, but that's who I am afterall. Even though I tried not to be, I am. I am embracing my whiteness; my middle-classedness. I plan on throwing cocktail parties, joining the PTA, bitching about taxes, maintaining traditions, creating new ones. And if my circumstances aren't ideal and exciting, I'll be OK with that. Afterall, I have this blog, right? I do have a forum where I can be the rock star-philosopher I've always wanted to become. It's just going to take me a lot longer than I expected. Instant gratification is overrated.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Big Orange said...

Well sprach! you ever seen that Gallager schtick where he has a small boat anchor with a diaper on it? he goes, "so our friends say, 'wanna go out for dinner? There's a new restaurant down the street!' and we say, 'sure...! Oh, but--'" [throws out anchor-- WHIZZZ! ::KLUNK!!::] "we have a baby..."

it's taken on such an identity of it's own that when friends call (esp. friends w/o children) they don't ask how the kids are doing, they ask "hows them whizz-klunks doin'??"

Now, of course, mind that I have the x-perience OF running away on at least 3 occasions: from PA to NC, from NC back to OH and from OH down to FLA. The thing about runnin' away is that sometimes it WORKS. It's a damned lot of work, but SOMETIMES when you leap right off that cliff, sometimes you don't land on the jagged rocks below, sometimes your fall is broken by Marshmallow Fluff (or at least the canopy of a tree-- you may be scratched but not dead). THAT'S what makes running away so powerful.

Oh, and as for the situation that YOU'RE corn-siderin' runnin' away from, if'n I unnerstand it correctly, sometimes running away is worth considderin' if what you have facing you is 40 more years or drudgery. I don't know about you, but *I* have only one life, and I don't much wanna spend my life in the salt mines...

3:29 PM  
Blogger Flannery Alden said...

It is a choice, isn't it. Do you stay in the salt mines and focus on what you can enjoy or do you leap from the cliff and pray that no one gets hurt?

I believe that that slim possiblity that you won't get smashed to bits is how the devil tempts you. It's a gamble, for sure. Maybe, it gets better for you, maybe not. But when you're including a passle of kids and a spouse, your odds suddenly worsen. You are no longer playing bacarat, you're playing roulette; the house is going to win a majority of the time.

Whenever I have tried to rage against the machine this past year, it hasn't worked. Fortunately, I have not been able to fly the coop, even if I wanted to. I've tried to spin the wheel, take my chances. But I've always come up a loser.

A wise, old Observer once said, "to keep trying the same thing and expecting different results is madness." So, I'm trying something new. I just thought you might like to try it too, seeing as how we are in the same boat.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Flannery Alden said...

Also, I believe in calculated risks. I have several plans laid down; contingencies after contingencies. So, for the time being, since I can't scamper off to greener pastures, I'm trying to find a way to elbow through the crowds standing in my way and find the safest path for me and my peeps to take. And, most importantly, I keep wisdom around me. My parents, my Doc, Madame E, you (yes, you), Terry and others. I also listen to the great wise one, Kenny Rogers. I keep his words (well, Don Schlitz's words)close at all times:

On a warm summer's evenin' on a train bound for nowhere,
I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin' out the window at the darkness
'Til boredom overtook us, and he began to speak.

He said, "Son, I've made a life out of readin' people's faces,
And knowin' what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.
And if you don't mind my sayin', I can see you're out of aces.
For a taste of your whiskey I'll give you some advice."

So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light.
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression.
Said, "If you're gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Ev'ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
'Cause ev'ry hand's a winner and ev'ry hand's a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep."

And when he'd finished speakin', he turned back towards the window,
Crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even.
But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

And that, my friend, is good advice.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Big Orange said...

Well, for decades people DID work in the salt mines, quite literally. They wore themselves out at backbreaking, spirit-deadening work in the hopes that their children will somehow rise above their situation. Of course, they were so damned worn out that they didn't have TIME to enjoy their children, so there's that, too.

In my case I think we've been more or less FORCED to jump off that cliff, and we've landed in the briars w/a few broken bones here n' there, but not dead; certainly not dead. We could've stayed and faced the wolves, but as there was a CHANCE we'd survive the jump (and not at ALL survive facing the wolves) we jumped. Made it damned hard on EVERYONE, not just me, cuz them kiddies fell thru the air and into the canopy too, but it worked, damn if it didn't work.

Now, mind, in MY case it was "jump or die" with the possibility that jumpin' might be death, too, so I don't recommend jumpin' w/o some serious contemplation first.

Of course, there IS a certain thrill that comes from deciding to step off the cliff and see what happens next. We fell all the way to Florida, and landed on our feet. Should you be thinkin' of THAT sort of jump, we've got a spare bedroom! :)

5:21 PM  
Blogger Flannery Alden said...

Yes, but now you are contemplating jumping for the sake of jumping. I'm just saying that if you have the opportunity to look before you leap, you should.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Big Orange said...

YOU ain't gonna get the last word, missy!

An' no, I 'twasn't jumpin fo' the sake o' jumpin: I 'twas first gonna' take a careful, researched peek over da' top o' my box and THEN possibly jump... Either that, or see if there was a place where parts of my box and parts of other boxes could fit 2-gethah (had the blog of which we sprach gone on any longer than 1 mere post, you would've noted that) I'm still contemplating doing that, but I've made a deep oath not to discuss-a-fy that with anyone else for fear of causing big fits far and whee (not necess. 'tween the two o' US, tho). To say more, however, would be to break the oath not to talk about it, so I stop here.

8:30 AM  

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