Enough Violence

I don’t feel able. Not at the moment.

I don’t feel able to write. To eat. To do anything. To move from this couch. Even to smile.

It took the wind out of my sails to look at the number of Twitter “Followers” I have.

95

As if my value as a living being can be defined by my number of “Followers,” the tidiness of my home, size of my bank account, or the shape of my ass. And it strikes me that if I am feeling defined by those numbers and categories, then I must be defining you by those things, too.

Comparison.

J.Krishnamurti asked, “Isn’t comparison a form of violence?”

It kills you. It just kills you. Or me, anyway. It kills me. Crushes me. Crushes my ideas of being or doing something great. Or even something good. Or even just doing.

Yes, I say. Yes. Most definitely. Comparison is violence. Against the self and against others. It cuts. Burns. Obliterates. It decimates, with it’s judgment.

Whose is better? Who has more? Who’s been doing it longer? Who was paid more?

I feel lost in blankness. And it follows me.

Not good enough. Not fast enough. Not young enough. Not beautiful enough. Not tidy enough. Not clever enough.

Just plain not enough.

Not enough.

I have typed it eight times now. Enough. And now nine. It looks strange. “Enough.” The word has mutated in my vision to become a meaningless sequence of characters. Six shapes arranged just so. Making a word I have used many times in my thoughts, and aloud, to describe myself. And to describe others.

E — N — O — U — G — H

Could it be that the lack of meaning that happens when we say, write, or type a word over and over and over reflects the lack of meaning a word can actually and truly convey about someone? About me? Or you?

Really.

How can someone be not “enough”?
Enough for whom? Enough for what? And who determines enoughness?

Just as the word “enough,” repeated so many times becomes a muddy alphabetic mixup, so the concept of “enough,” becomes a meaningless mashup of comparison. Of violence. Against myself. And against others.

If I am here, and I am here, typing this, thinking this, then what about me is not enough?

And if you are here, breathing, seeing, reading, then what about you could possibly be not enough.

I say, I am enough. I say you are enough. We are enough.

Enough said.

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30 Things I Learned from Running A Business for 11 Years

  1. I’m really good at it customer service. And I hate it.Girl Thinking
  2. Excellent customer service can be a foundation of a profitable business.
  3. The definition of excellent customer service is not cut in stone.
  4. “Cunt” can be a deal breaker. But sometimes it can be a deal maker.
  5. Customers are not your friends.
  6. People don’t always know what they want. Even when they think and act like they do.
  7. People can be very convincing about things they are sure of. Even when it turns out they are clueless.
  8. Most customers have no idea how much you know, assume you know everything, and are happy to lord it over you when they find out you don’t.
  9. Taking the blame and apologizing doesn’t mean people will forgive you. And it has nothing to do with whether they’ll stop reminding you about how you fucked up. Even if you only took the blame to calm them down.
  10. People can lie while they look unblinking into your eyes.
  11. Sometimes people don’t know they are lying.
  12. People are most comfortable lying when you do it for them.
  13. For some, saving pennies is most important about a transaction. Often these are the financially wealthiest. Which may explain a lot.
  14. Whiskey is of great value in calming anxious customers.
  15. People love free things. Magnets, pens, mugs, bottles of maple syrup. Most will resist paying even 10 percent more for your service as they pocket that free thing.
  16. It’s a rare customer who gives a monetary tip when tipping is not an industry standard. Not one of our customers ever tipped more than ten percent.
  17. When you offer someone the chance to pay you what they want instead of the regular price, be prepared to be screwed.
  18. Time is money. And most people don’t value your time as much as they value theirs.
  19. Family members are among the most demanding customers. They will expect 24/7 access to you. And will feel entitled to ask many many questions.
  20. Some family members are happy to pay. If you have the sense to charge them.
  21. Don’t do business with family. Even if you love them it is more trouble than it’s worth.
  22. If you own your own business, most customers assume you are rich.
  23. Only use 100% recycled paper and other ecologically-conscious products for your own reasons. Not as a selling point. Most customers could not care less.
  24. Learn how to turn off a bad mood. Or use it to your advantage.
  25. Parking difficulties with neighboring businesses can ruin a perfectly good day.
  26. Find vendors and business support people you love. Do what you can to support them.
  27. Generosity with vendors and business support people usually pays off. Not with customers.
  28. I’ll do a lot to avoid conflict. Sometimes to my detriment.
  29. Don’t avoid conflict if it’s to your detriment.
  30. You can only avoid the truth for so long. And then it will bite you. The longer you avoid it, the harder it will bite.

Until Recently I Thought

Until recently, I thought I was the only person who ever did a, “Mom’s Got A New HairDoo Freakout.”

Thing is, I didn’t recognize her.Beehive - 1

Not that I wouldn’t have recognized my own mom.

I mean, it wasn’t her, it’s not just that I didn’t recognize her.

It’s that with the change in her hair, all pushed up onto the top of her head, she had slipped into a part of her self that was simply unfamiliar to me; a part I’d never met. I remember she was wearing a light-colored, patterned, sleeveless sundress hemmed just below the knee. It must have been early summer as she looked light and breezy. It didn’t matter how summery and sweet she may have looked. This wasn’t my mom and she wasn’t fooling anyone with her costume and fashionable hair.

Had I been introduced to her independently of her being my mother, I might have thought her stunning in her new hairstyle; it was in the vicinity of 1965 and beehives were “in.” But as she was my mother, and she was in a non-mother get-up, I deemed her “stranger,” and, thus, ugly.

 

Change has always been tough for me.

If, as I think Pema Chodron writes, our root fears are pain, abandonment, and death, where does the fear of change fit in? Or does it fit into all three? The anticipated, possible pain of the unfamiliar or new, the abandonment of what was counted on, and the death of what was known. All three roots involve change if only from the status quo.

It’s that the new hair treatment endued her with another of her potential personalities, one of her other Selves.

 

We all have them, potential personalities, other Selves.

 

Some of them we may never get, or take, the chance to try on and walk around in.

Some we may live most of our life inside of.

Some we may have the good fortune to let go of after experimenting with them.

And some we may live through miserably, unable or unwilling to peel off and discard.

 

When I saw her, I burst into tears, afraid and stunned, frozen. I didn’t understand. I was five, or two, or seven, and I didn’t understand. I had gone to school that morning only to come home to this very different person. My mother had gone; had left me. My familiar mother had escaped into, or been inhabited by this “other,” mother, a person I no longer knew.
I sobbed. And the shell of my mother, with her bare, brown arms and teased and piled hair, bent down to comfort me, and it was fake. My skin burned with her touch, my ears rejected the comforting cooing noises she made. And now it was she who did not understand, did not realizejust as she had slid into one of her other Selves, I had vanished as well.

I Have Considered

I have considered suicide many times. Only once was it so close that I knew something had to be done.  I Have Considered - 2

I’ve often asked my friends what they think: Is suicide cowardly or brave?

I have gotten varying responses. Once, seemingly without a thought, an old high school friend snapped, “selfish.” I have thought a lot about that.

I used to think it was the bravest thing to do — to take yourself out. I thought that only those with real GUTS could be so bold as to risk missing out on something really great that might happen if they stuck around through the terrible parts. In my opinion it was the brave who saw the shit and took care of it courageously by getting out of the way. In this way too, I thought, suicide was almost a considerate gesture. If you don’t want to be here, get out of the way and let those who want to be here, take the reigns. Suicide makes room for the cowards to live if they wanted to do such a miserable thing, was how I sussed it.

 

In this mode of thought, I used to silently curse my mother for being so incredibly selfish as to have brought me into a world in which I would encounter pain and suffering; hell, in which I continue to encounter pain. What was the point of having children except self-serving satisfaction or sadism? These, I thought, were not valid reasons for conceiving, carrying, and bearing a child. In silent ways, by hardening to her emotionally, by pushing her away with cruel words, I took out my resentful wrath on my mother… not sperm-carrying Dad. I suppose my unanalysed thought was that she was in my life so much more than he, it just had to be all her doing.

My attitude about suicide changed, though.

It was instantaneous.

 

In my now memory, I recall sitting in twilight on my bed in New York City having taken the second or third dose of a prescribed, mild anti-depressant. And I felt bad. I felt terrible. I had been in a depression for at least a year. My ability to do was highly impaired. I was morbid and morose and unable to consistently rouse inside myself desire, satisfaction, contentment, or peace.

 

A day or two previously, in a severe build up of frustration, rage, disappointment, disillusionment, and sadness, I had gone to a jilting boyfriend’s house and beaten the living shit out of him while he willingly reciprocated. But that’s another story; a story that keeps me on the edge of my breath when I tell it. But it is a long story and only relevant here as background.

 

Beating up my boyfriend was my most blatant acting out which is what pushed the shrink over the edge and motivated him to prescribe for me the antidepressant I had recently swallowed before sitting on the bed contemplating suicide. At dusk, facing south sometime in the winter in my mother’s apartment on the eleventh floor, I stared at the window.

 

I contemplated, wondered, and seriously considered. I felt myself preparing.

 

And when the squirmy and barely see-able, mirage-like self-observation, which had slithered without my knowing into my thoughts, whispered to me suddenly, I awoke. I, or part of the I that is me, was planning to jump out the window while my mother and her friends were in the other room, laughing and talking softly about some distant fluffy nothing.

 

I suffered in a manner in a way that seems impossible to describe now, or ever. If one has not felt the crippling self-pity, self-hate, worthlessness, inner bruising, and desperation of depression, one has not felt it. At that time, in my middle of my twenties, I had no idea what it felt like to bear a child, have my legs sawed off, or pilot a plane. And until I felt those things, like depression, I could not not know them.

 

Yes, certainly. Depression, and other things, can be detailed, but it never seems sufficient. Never really captures it. Or maybe it does.

I don’t know….

 

Somehow, sitting plainly on that bed, looking south, I gave myself over to the thoughts completely; let them have me. I let my panicked thoughts’ grip on me finish their gripping… allowed them to settle in and make themselves at home…  and then, surprisingly, they let go.

 

That moment burned into my memory as the turning point of my recovery. And that moment, when I felt myself prepare to do what I had deemed “courageous,” is where I mark the start of my obliteration of suicide as a viable option for me in times of trouble.

 

My depression lifted; slowly, gradually. It seemed interminable. After the window incident, it was a year before I felt consistency in my ability to tolerate living. And a year or two or three after that even, until I felt myself cope better and more reliably. The shrink diagnosed a lifelong, chronic depression that would require vigilance and hard work to stay ahead of. He had taken note of it; said it resurfaced especially before and during menstruation.

 

I am terrified of paralyzing myself with depression again. I watch it like a hawk; don’t invite it in, and take preventative measures. I call friends, visit family, write about it, cry, read a book of inspiration, fly into a rage, or zone out on the computer or with the television.

 

I don’t know if, like the shrink said, this depression is a long-term situation or if it is what makes me Me. If it is long-term and chronic, then each time I experience and extract myself from the oncoming minivan of depression, it is practice for the next, potential dive down into the muck. Sliding into depression, working it through, and scrambling out is what I must do to  be readier for the next round. And if it is simply an acute, short-term pitch into the black, and isn’t my nature or my personality, or my fate, then maybe all the practice I’ve had with depression can be chalked up to the joyous adventure of my life as a human.

I Am Not Perfect

I am not perfect.  sesame

I am not remotely close to perfect.

But if you look at my behavior, and my lack of behavior, my inaction, you will know that I am motivated by a wanting to be perfect.

I know, I know.

Perfection is unattainable. I realize that.

That does not stop me from wanting it. Always. Even though I know I can never have it.

I wake up with the thought that, “Today I will do all the things I said I will. I will exercise, meditate, clean the house, call my dad, take the car to the mechanic, finish the knitting, call my sister, call my son, go to the grocery store, transfer the money, do my writing, read at least a page or two in the seventeen books I’ve started… or is it the seventy hundred thousand books I’ve started?

And after all that, I will go to bed early.

I will go to bed early.

Right.

In my dreams.

So, I wake up with that thought; those thoughts. They tumble out of the corners of my not-having-slept-enough brain before I have risen from the bed. They crowd out the beautiful light pouring in through the window. They crowd out the sweet good-bye kiss I get from my amazing man. They crowd out the amusement I might get from watching my son pour excessive amounts of cayenne on all the Indian food he cooked up.

They crowd out EVERYTHING in my present.

My present is gone.

And gone and gone and gone and gone… 

every time I allow the thoughts unbridled ravaging of my just-waking mind.

The present vanishes and I become locked in how it’s too much, I can’t possibly, what was I thinking, how do other people…, I’ll never be able to… and on and on, until I am only alive in my future and past…

I am no longer here.

I have, myself, vanished.

And the day speeds away without me.

Come nightfall, I panic mildly that there is so much to do before bed that I should’ve done by now, and I begin to spin. 

I enumerate silently, and sometimes on paper so as to force myself to see what I’ve done, all the things I haven’t done. And sometimes, all the things I have done…

 

A bad dog, nose shoved down into the puddle of urine, the list of things I haven’t yet done, to discipline, punish, and get revenge… “Bad dog! Bad! Dog!” 

Tail between my legs, I attempt dinner-making. Standing before the open fridge, I see nothing except what I haven’t done yet. I see things that will need to be chopped, heated, flipped, seasoned, and served, and I feel the pinch of time. I’m frozen with agitation.

If agitation can be frozen.

Instead of cooking, I slam the fridge door, and butter a piece of bread. Frozen.

Frozen and not even Here.

Frozen.

And not. Even. HERE.

To get back, I close my eyes for a moment and breathe in and breathe out. I bite the bread, taste the oily soft sweet butter melt on my tongue, feel the rough grainy bread crumble in my mouth, mix with my saliva. 

I swallow, feeling my throat tighten and loosen to squeeze the food down into my stomach so it’s precious nourishment can spread into and through me. I lower my eyes to see the bread in my hand; the hand with the small bandage on it’s thumb. I gently crush the bread and feel the spongy softness. A sesame seed pops away and sails to the floor. I stoop to pick it up, a single sesame seed, and pop it in my mouth. 

What flavor! The tiny little football-shaped speck. 

And, for now, I’m back.

 

Ant.

ANT

I’d just had a great shit, was feeling good and preparing to stand and flush, when I saw a carpenter ant on the floor near the base of the toilet.

Averaging about a half-inch long, carpenter ants are black, usually larger than sugar ants or red ants and, in my experience, don’t bite as often as any other ant.

While carpenter ants find their favorite food outdoors in the form of “honeydew,” a substance found on certain plants, they seem quite adept at finding their other necessities, water, nursery space and the like, indoors or out. When the clan needs a new home, more food, or water,  “scouts,” the ants charged with this quest must leave the colony in their search, for the good of the tribe.

Many times in the past twenty years living in this house, as Winter has softened to become Spring, and Spring has heated up to become Summer, I have spied “scouts,” moving swiftly on counters, meandering behind table legs, climbing across a bathroom floor, or sneaking behind the sink’s backboard. In their tireless work, the “scouts” busily follow their cousins’ scent-track or start their own, they adjust a back leg, take an infinitesmal sip of water from on a tiny blob of water, or do other sorts of ant-related activities. Their segmented, curvaceous, shiny, black rice-grain-with-legs bodies zip around searching for victuals or nursery space.

Sometimes, when I’ve felt warm-hearted and have the time, I have carried the errant creatures beyond the walls of this house myself. Pinched carefully between thumb and forefinger or held loosely in my fist, I have flung them gracefully from my second-story window, from the breezeway door, or from the downstairs bathroom window into the great beyond. Our house is surrounded by evergreen trees and bushes, and sits at the edge of the woods, so the ants I’ve tossed over the years have more than likely landed on the branch of a bush or tree or on the side of the house where they quickly return through some mysterious entryway someplace.

Most often, though, I have dropped the invaders into our kitchen compost, flushed them down the toilet or down the drain, and, on very, very rare instances, have even stepped on them, smashing their petite, crunchy bodies an ant paste shmear.

But killing them, hell, killing anything, has not been my preference.

My preference has always been that the ants would get it together and just leave; promptly, peacefully, and of their own volition, I would like them to voluntarily pack up and move to where they belong: not in my house.

I have, quite truthfully, had conversations with my crunchy friends one-on-one as well as in groups, stressing to them that the trees, plants, bushes, grass, and logs are really their rightful home. I have asked them kindly, to leave.  I have told them plainly, I don’t want to kill them or, like I said before, anyone. There is enough space for all of us here on the earth, but I don’t want them in my house. I’ve told them I do my best to stay out of their homes, too, but sometimes that has been tough for me and it’s probably best left to another essay.

Meanwhile, in the story at hand…

…it was just as I turned to flush the toilet, not yet standing, but still rising from the throne that I spotted the “scout” ant ambling around my bathroom floor. I acted quickly, before fully thinking things through and snatched up the ant, who we’ll call Elroy going forward, and tossed him almost thoughtlessly into the shit and toilet paper-filled bowl whose contents had begun swirling in the direction of the pipes leading to our septic tank.

Thoughts of my many ant assassinations bubbled up in my mind. All my ant murder memories filtered into my thoughts, piling on fast and quick, one right after the other, each one supporting the one thing: I was an antocidist and needed to make right my most recent wrong move.

I watched myself bend over, reach out my arm and its corresponding hand, extend the fingers of said hand. And then, quick as lightning, I saw my own thumb and forefinger make a pincer-like motion as they swiftly plucked out a confused-looking, wet-toilet-paper-plastered Elroy; an ant wet-t-shirt contest winner. I carefully peeled the sodden toilet paper from him which seemed to inspire Elroy to return to his more familiar quick, ant-style movement. I matched his speed, and cupped my hands around him.

I walked briskly, holding Elroy loosely but trapped in my hollowed fist. With my spare, left hand, I lifted the window and thrust my right arm, the one with the hand holding the  squirming ant in it, out the window, splaying my fingers open as I did. And Elroy took flight.

In the bathroom behind me, the flushing toilet gurgled, signalling the end of the flushing cycle. I wished Elroy the best as I closed the window.

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