Wednesday, October 30, 2019

My Beautiful Future Lumbago

Part 30 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

After this whole month, I can’t honestly say my self-esteem has arisen to new glory, nor can I say I’m still that green blob of long ago in the first fits of arising. But that’s life, fits and starts. You’re sitting there innocently and --zap-- a nerve end twitches. Ever get that? Just as suddenly a single solitary nerve twitches and perhaps it means your hand jerks slightly. It’s those times, always so unexpected, that gives me the realization that, yes, I am a creature of unconscious impulses.

Unconscious, that is, to what I typically see as my consciousness; I’m aware (and happy) that there’s a vast unconsciousness beyond and above, and ultimately ungovernable by the individual mind. I'm not happy when it happens to others, necessarily, because it can be dangerous. So, I guess I’ve said too much already. They’ll be here to get me in the next ten minutes. I’ll have to type fast.

I’m on the way out today, though, anyway. This is the last part of this groundbreaking series. That explains my easy pace along the various paths of life, with my tote of clothes, toothbrush, etc., and my suitcase of a few books for the journey. Whatever self-esteem issues compelled me to bare my soul, and on occasion my fangs, have been smoothed over or overcome, and now it’s a new day. And, yes, I may be in the pits of despair tomorrow, but if I am, I need only believe, I made it through this month, now very much refreshed, it's not impossible that I might make it through the cursed future.

It’s notable, though, that my path is leading me not toward my home, my place of predictable comfort, but toward the green horizon toward a green sky along a green-tinted path. Green is good, right? Trees being green in season, yes, that’s good. And grass. But tinting everything? That’s sickening, right? Maybe I’ve got an infection! This feels like something like the onset of lumbago, preceded as it is by fragile self-esteem issues. Then you rally a little, then you start seeing green. The green green grass of lumbago. You picture yourself … that way. Until, yes, yes, now I remember, the lumbago locks on like this, digs in, the lumbago starts making merry with its lumbago henchmen, till all is overwhelmed!

I'm uncomfortable. Now I'm comfortable. I'm drifting. My path is a hundred feet wide, being just a cow-path minutes ago. This is lumbago. Did I mention this is lumbago? The lumbago's talking.

Lumbago, yes, master. Rest little man in the field, lumbago, dream, it's so warm in this field, but still with a cooling breeze. Lumbago. Put your bag down, little man, you won’t be needing a bag. Lumbago … you’re becoming sleepy. Rest, sweet rest here in the beautiful lumbago … there’s no one to hinder you, no one to bother here, no one, just you and me. Creeping lumbago, mothering lumbago, hardening lumbago, power-giving lumbago, wonder-working power, your arms and eyelids are heavy, lumbago heavy. You’ve found the joy, lumbago. Let it go, lum ba go, go lum baba life limb lumb ages ago a’goo go goo a’lum a’lum a’lum merry meet


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Father Time, Unstable Moron

Part 29 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

I suppose I really should have good self-esteem, and, who knows, maybe I do. It could've been like a month-long headache. One month you have a headache, next month you don’t. I keep hearing about chemical imbalances and how they change your moods. My presumption is you have your basic self all the time, what it is. Then the fineries -- like tinsel on a Christmas tree or frost on a pumpkin -- change day by day. You’re up, down, you're moody, euphoric, you're lost, you're found, etc.

As time goes on, you experience so many variations that you’re not always focused on it in the heat of the moment. And when you realize it, it hits you like something terribly wrong. If the problem's self-esteem, maybe you could just go back and see what you’ve accomplished, nicely presented, and maybe there wouldn’t be these downers of fragile self-esteem. Everything would present itself a part of the continuum, not merely brief moments with their constantly changing qualities.

What if I could recall what it was like to be a baby, getting my milk as a kid and being patted on the back to burp, my Mom saying, “Good job,” and me saying “Goo goo ga ga.” She thinks it’s baby talk, but really it’s my limited vocabulary and I'm trying to say, “Tell Dad when the computer revolution gets here to found Google. You’ll be rich.” I don’t tell too many people that I actually have some time-traveling experiences, the beauty of which is that very few people believe me!

I’m not going to say I tried to save any dead presidents back in the day. Since obviously I failed. And the Vietnam War, I came that close to preventing it, but they cranked the damned thing up anyway. The most interesting one was to leave 2008 and come ahead to 2017 and copy everything off my blog, then head back to 2008 and start posting it sequentially. It saved me having to write it. I still can’t figure out how that happened, except it was extremely easy.

I’ve really only been doing it live the last couple years, not that I’m not lazy, but I’m trying to stave off Alzheimers. A guy named Alzheimers, who thinks I’m copying his stuff. This part is true, someone’s been checking my blog for where it may have been plagiarized from and the real answer's time travel. Other than that, the only plagiarism I do is from the auto-correct for particular words.

One other time travel thing. I caught wind of it that in 2030 I win the Medal of Freedom. Being modest, I went ahead to 2029 and took my name out of the running. In addition to modesty, just to be frank, I don’t want that kind of respectability; it’d ruin my street cred, which I acquired by saying “Yo” to the right guys.

My self-esteem has been rising lately, after starting the month pretty fragile. I have a lot of people to thank for that, but I haven’t taken names. And those of you who’ve introduced yourself to me (saying “Attaboy” and “Way to go” and “Thank you for your service”) I heard so much of that I got a big head and forgot you already.

It did mean a lot to me. But, clicking my fingers, “Easy come, easy go, daddy-o.” Time to shove off.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Self-Esteem & Teamwork

Part 28 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

Toward the end of my life as I am now -- hitting the golden years is already a dim memory in my rear-view mirror -- I’m getting to that place where family members are writing down my fleeting memories of the old days. (One of my precious memories is how we used to buy TVs, by going to the store and exchanging money for one.) Along with that I’ve also got the Midas touch when it comes to vast scraps of knowledge on all subjects, even arcane stuff like the way monkeys interact and socialize. Which takes a little longer to summarize.

But it’s not really such a big deal. Anyone could do it. If you’ve seen monkeys at all, cartoons, movies, you know what they do. Some of them drag their knuckles, or they have a lot of fur or a little fur, they scratch their heads like they’re perplexed, and they swing from tree to tree, with lots of arm strength if you factor in those arms are lifting the weight of their whole body. And so forth

According to what I heard, additionally, God created man by making them go through a kind of trial as monkeys first. It was brief in terms of cosmic history, something like a few hundred million years. As far as I can tell, it flew by because it was completely done by the time I was born. All these species of things, they spent all that time being born and dying with breeding in between. And absolutely nobody was keeping track of it. Which might be how we should live now. They let things happen as they needed to happen and no one gave it the least little attentioin. It was the best way to evolve then, and it still would be now if we only had the sense to ignore it. We frankly wouldn’t be missing much. If we're able to catch up on eons of time, we could completely ignore it again and catch up in millions of years, no problem.

I hate to lose that point, so let me put a finer point on it. If you have the good sense to ignore life for eons, think how much more interesting it’d be when you finally dug in. Monkeys were happy with that system. They started out as whatever, evolved into fish, and from there crawled on land and eventually starting monkeying around. There wasn’t one complaint in the bunch. There wasn’t one fish bitching about it, “I never liked that side of the family,” etc.

So in part that’s why I’m not too worried if this trio of monkeys gets eaten by the alligator. But if they get away that’d be fine too. They’d live to be eaten another day, same difference. The first monkey’s thinking, If I can shake these two I’ll be fine. The second’s thinking, If we can shake the guy behind me, we’ll be fine. The third monkey’s self-esteem has diminished substantially since the alligator’s got him by the tail. Tailbone connected to the hip bone, hip bone connected to everything else. Bye bye world!

My self-esteem is more fragile than that. But fortunately we’re people and are able to change people in and out quickly. Like a football game, some guy’s smeared on the field like a gooey paste, obliterated. Put a little cornmeal on it, vacuum him up, and you’re ready to go again. But look, I’m on my own here. At least the monkey and athlete had the promise of his buddies forgetting him immediately once they’re safe. If only I had that luxury, I’d be content.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Self-Esteem vs. Cosmic Battles

Part 27 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

I got an important badge the other day. I hope you don’t think I’m bragging, but if I don’t toot my own horn no one else is going to. And even you, my favorite reader, probably won’t be too impressed. I ran it by my Facebook friends, who celebrate with exultation every milestone anyone has -- a guy I know collected his eighth stamp the other day -- but my “big news” was a dud.

The milestone is  -- and I want to drive home this point if for no other reason than the sake of my fragile self-esteem -- I watched my 200th YouTube video on the mysteries of outer space. That’s a lot of watching. And learning, whew! The learning’s been crazy. I’ve had to transfer several years of other memories from my brain to an auxiliary desktop brain just to make room. And some of those memories were childhood stuff, everything from the ABCs to what my parents looked like, so if I lose that … I better not lose that.

So far, though, so good. Outer space is a big deal for me. It’s vast. There’s no known end in sight. It’s fascinating. But it’s also a little stifling, especially the distances. Talk about fragile self-esteem. I’m top dog in the world as it is, our own little world. But there’s no limits to the vastness of space. And even now somewhere in that vastness there’s the cosmic equivalent of a punch press punching and pressing out baby planets. They spring into existence and in the first five seconds they go from the size of a seed to the size of the earth! Which would be like you being born, then a second later fully grown! Or even bigger.

As for me now, the scales I’m dealing with day to day are a lot more incremental. Say I’m reading a book. It doesn’t just explode into my mind already read. I have to read it syllable by syllable, “Chapter One.” Then I think, Wonder how many chapters there are. I see there’s 50 or 60 and get tired. I lie down and take a nap, then everyday I'm thinking I should get back to that book, but there’s always something else I need to do. Finally, I forget the book altogether. My room’s in a jumble. A year later I pick it up and realize I forgot what Chapter 1 was all about, so I about have to read it over.

The sad conclusion to that, then, and I’m extremely humble for admitting it, is outer space is a lot smarter than me. It’s also a lot meaner, or more accurately it’s quite the rough and tumble place out there. Seemingly infinite space, billions of galaxies, stars, planets. But none so far has been discovered that’s entirely like Earth. Making us extremely lucky we picked the one we're on! That should do something to your self-esteem, and, hey, in a way it bolsters me a bit. I don’t remember the whole situation, but obviously I did one thing right in choosing to be born in the one place we know sustains life!

As time goes on, however, we’re still not in the clear. Because there’s a lot of collisions in space. You can find videos on the end of life as we know it. Meteors, whatever. A new Ice Age is coming perhaps, a world of Ice Age creatures replacing us, big sloths, ungulates, the works! Plus comets smashing into everything and black holes gobbling us. There’s always that danger. Being at the mercy of things like that, like we are, our self-esteem doesn’t stand a chance.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

My Personal Cheerleader


Part 26 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

With the strong emblem of self-esteem on my side (yesterday) and my self-esteem growing at a rapid pace, I want to consolidate my gains. Because if you haven’t got self-esteem, it’s hard to get. And once you get it you know the difference; you don’t want to lose it immediately. Any and all encouragement -- mostly of an inner origin -- is welcome and also does you an amazing amount of good.

You can consider your own best cheerleader! That’s certainly what I think anyway, the way it works. No one else knows your depths or heights. You alone know it, and need to get in there and stoke the fires, hold the fort, open things or keep things on lock-down, it all depends. Having some internal cheerleaders, imagined or with the faces, and more lasciviously, the great bodies of cheerleaders you’ve known in the past, helps greatly. (Except for Cindy Lou, my own memory of cheerleaders is vague and unusable, so I'm always thinking of a one-member squad.)

In terms of self-esteem, having it or losing it, things like Cindy Lou can be a good crutch, useful as that for a while but in the long run just another hindrance. The more quickly you veer from concrete cheerleaders into conceptual replacements, the better. I like masked images myself, because I might get tired of Cindy Lou's face. But like those old time African masks that tribal leaders used to wear, it's always interesting. Say your head is yea wide, yea tall, the average head size. The masks I’m recalling are about four times bigger than the head. And shaped more or less like a shield. Huge eyes, painted features, orangeish, brownish, maybe some yellow thatch design, and may as well throw in a small goatee on the point below the chin.

The whole communal scene would be good for me, which in my experience is best viewed in its stereotypical form. Scenes beyond the stereotype have too many moving parts to keep conjuring actual scenes on the fly, plus you’re worrying, “Is it stereotype? Is it not stereotype?” And obviously you’ve created for yourself a whole new raft of problems. This is true for all of life. Stick to the stereotype and you can’t go too far wrong. Stereotypes were set in place for a reason, because on the average they’re true. And we’re not looking for particulars, we’re not looking for lifelike portraits, we’re not looking for something to bolster some imaginary person’s ego. We’re looking for the life-giving assistance we need for our own self-esteem.

Fragile self-esteem has its own worries, there’s no dispute about that. Bring in, then, the stereotype, use it however you need to to raise your self-esteem. It could even be -- and this is advanced stuff, beware -- that ultimately you will pile all these help aids into a bit imaginary pile and make a soaring bonfire of it, standing back and out of the way so as not to get burnt yourself. When that moment comes for, be bold, be courageous and do it. Just, please, don’t do it prematurely. Because I’ve seen a lot of people live to regret it. “All my African masks (or whatever) are gone up in smoke and now I’m lost!” Be bold, yes, but also beware!

This post is dedicated to Cindy Lou, who married a real jerk.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Kicking Doubt, Taking Names

Part 25 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

I was so touched by the Parable of the Giraffe -- it’s a giraffe whose qualities and spirit reminded me of an allegory -- that I couldn’t stop thinking of it. And I don't usually like gory stuff. This time I focused my mind on it, basically involuntarily, to the point I was feeling ill. I can never quite manage to turn my mind off, then it goes into Code Red, all circuits overloading, and I either have to suffer it or search the house for knock-out drops.

Anyway, none of that unpleasantness today -- I’m not an addict, I can stop any time -- the giraffe touched me for good. And gave me at long last the courage to consult with a particular organization whose focus is on Self-Esteem. One big reason I like it is they feature the eagle prominently in their literature, one of my favorite birds. Consider the eagle, if you will. It’s so majestic that entire countries adopt it as their symbol! The eagle’s got it going on. With its magnificent size and strength, it can raid every other bird’s nest and make off with the goods and no one can stop it!

This is true. When you’ve messed with an eagle the first time, you’ve messed with an eagle the last time. Because it’s going to be on you like a ton of bricks. And that’ll be the last time you mess with an eagle, not to put too fine a point on it. I myself, for all my other failings, have strictly avoided messing with eagles. Other kids messed with them and were pecked to death. But I was raised right, hearing, “You don’t wanna be pecked to death do you?” It seemed like the answer about had to be no, so that’s what I learned to say.

Anyway, the organization, the way I picture it, has several dozen buildings full of counselors, guides, secretaries, spokespeople, accountants, and guys who travel the country bucking up guys with fragile self-esteem when they’re down. The main thing about them, I fear, is that they’ve got it down to such a science that if you don’t immediately respond to their demands to have self-esteem they’ll drop you. And even if you’ve paid the membership fees faithfully, they can still neglect you if you’re too demanding. Fortunately I always know how to moderate myself so I’m not too demanding. But the huge unknown in doing that is you don’t know objectively how demanding everyone else is. So there’s no definite target to hit. You could be minimally demanding and still be relatively very demanding. Then they drop you.

But that worry's for another day. Today we’re celebrating their fine work -- helping to buck us up in our self-esteem to the extent that we need it, within reason. And it's really to the organization’s benefit to be somewhat generous, because we could all quit en masse and jump in the river, getting what we and they deserve. Then where would they be? But since it’s all so obscure -- one member never knowing what the other members are doing -- they're aware we can’t organize in an effective way. Actually it's in the fine print that we shouldn't even try.

But I’m happy. As long as these unknown counselors are “Kicking Doubt & Taking Names” it’s good enough for me!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Giraffes Have Self-Esteem

Part 24 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

Everyone likes animals. That’s easy to understand. You get a dog, a cat, and you’re responsible. Every dog I get start right in step by step on the protocol with veterinarians (thank you for your service) of spaying or neutering them. One, I don’t want a bunch of puppies on my hands. Two, I don’t want my couch humped raw.

Of course taking care of these commonplace animals is a lifetime commitment -- sometimes sentence -- but nature has blessed us by speeding up their metabolism to the extent that by the time they’re 7 or 8-years-old they’re senior citizens, verging on death. How it is with giraffes, of course I don’t know, and hope I never have to know. You figure, though, they’re large, they’ve got a neck like a smokestack, they chew their food, then later in another zip code it’s undergoing digestion, there could be all kinds of things different about them from the run-of-the-mill house pet.

Fortunately we have circuses, carnivals, and zoos to take care of the ones in captivity. Then there’s raw brutal nature -- out on the glens -- for the ones lucky enough to have the world at their feet. I’m sympathetic to all the issues surrounding animals. If there’s no good reason to own a giraffe (and other animals), you shouldn’t. Let them roam the veldt as nature intended, frolicking, leaping place to place above the 6-foot-tall grass, and eating from the highest tree. That’s the purpose of the neck, reaching food. It’s not for slower eating.

If for a moment we could see the tables turned -- like in Planet of the Apes -- and we people were captive and the animals were our masters, we’d say, “Please, set me and my wife free to roam the forests, the veldt, and we’ll never come around bothering you in your thatch cages. I’m kind of cooped up right now, in a tiny house, feeling a bit stifled, when I could be out there foraging and living off the land. The big problem would be our fellow man, robbing us blind and leaving us to die. We’d need guns, then they’d be going off, disturbing everyone’s sleep. And we’d never luck out to have some overlord other-species to come in and straighten things out.

I have to think, though, that we’ve done it wrong. We’ve made a mess of things. And maybe that’s a good reason to have our self-esteem deflated, because we’ve abused it. Hunting and gathering wasn’t too terrible, within limits, but taking crazy dominion over all things, that’s obviously bad. If we feel a little depressed about it, so be it. I’m so down about it, in fact -- my self-esteem’s been fragile for years -- it’d be nature’s perfect justice to come in and kick us all to death and take over. May that happen in the next 10 minutes or less. Amen.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Grandpa's Dip & Thrust

 Part 23 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

For my lack of self-esteem, and it being so fragile, I've round up a few culprits. It’s mostly a generational thing, so I’m pinning the blame today mostly on Grandpa.

Talk about high self-esteem, Grandpa was the kind of guy who could tell others to kiss his bootie, then stand there and expect them literally to do it. His strong self-esteem led to all kinds of social situations where he was the No. 1 man. With even the mayor -- a man of definite pride -- taking the backseat whenever Grandpa was near, bowing, scraping, the whole self-immolation deal.

So it wasn’t any big deal that Grandpa, when other men of his generation were dead, dying, or hoping to die, was out on the town, breaking hearts and still able to teach women a thing or two. (There was about a two-year period when Grandma was sick, so she had no clue.) He had all the strength. Which, whether it’s right or wrong, it happened. I’d say he played his cards right, that’s the only explanation for his dominant ego and utter persistence at being a man of personal strength.

Those were the days of Men and Worms. You were one or the other, with most being Worms. But not him! His nights on the town were legendary. He still gets the credit for originating the (still on display at dance museums) Dip & Thrust. Look at it this way, he sired five children. That’s a lot of quality dipping and thrusting. It’s certainly more than we see in the modern world, where if you ever see anything but a Worm you go home, drop to your knees, and thank the Good Lord.

But our problem in the modern world is fragile self-esteem, so it’s not just me. Yes, a lot of the blame goes to previous generations not recycling it when they had the chance. But to the extent that having it today is still possible -- obviously -- we ourselves are to blame for not horning in and claiming our fair share. We’re weak. But we still have responsibility for it. Are we putting our self-esteem away and allowing it to survive? Or are we using it up? Do we ride it hard and put it away wet?

Whatever problems I have, small or great -- and essentially they’re monumental problems -- I still have hopes. If I keep my eye on the nightclubs, keep my eye on the ladies, and maybe come up with something even one-third as good as the Dip & Thrust, I might yet make something of myself. Until that happens, though, sadly, you'll mostly hear me say, "Woe is me,” while keeping a stiff upper lip. At least I had relatives that had it going on, and that’s more than most guys can say.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

I'm Not At All Good Looking

Part 22 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

I hope this doesn’t come as any big surprise, but the Number One cause of fragile self-esteem -- referring of course to the standard Richter’s Scale of Self-Esteem, Man, Beast, or Plant -- is your appearance. What do you look like, ape or man?

Appearance can take in a whole bunch of things, gender, country of origin, economics, personality type, etc. Personality type is one of the more interesting categories, because some personalities are proudly slovenly, set in their ways, inert. Because even if you're your own worst critic, there are things you can't see. If you look in a mirror -- I'm convinced of this -- you're not really seeing what others see. I'm in my 60s but look 26-ish in the mirror, to me.

In reality, though, a guy can look like an old-fashioned city dump in pants, or, if it’s a woman, can resemble the same city dump in a girdle so tight it’s constricting her blood-flow and given her very tight veins. Anyone with an overly pale appearance, it's generally a matter of shy, very demure, veins. You see one, you want to be careful. Don’t buy her an ice cream sundae because the first bite she’ll pop! And speaking of Pop, he's got diabetes real bad and can’t have ice cream, but that doesn’t stop him from sneaking it, resulting again in tragedy, his blood sugar so wildly out of whack he sweats through his clothes and ruins the couch. And maybe dies. Either way, the couch is hauled out.

So “appearance” is a catch-all category. If it “appears” to fit, throw it in, the more the merrier, "ya ha, I'm so proud, I'm the merry prankster!" There’s a lot of people who like to work with data. (Which may not be especially relevant, my first spoken word as a baby was Data and Mama.) Although now with the couch ruined, and Data maybe dead, maybe not, depending on if someone called 911, it likely doesn’t matter. I’d run in myself and check but I’m on a deadline with this article. And I’m weighing every word, consulting the dictionary, seeking sentences online that I can copy without detection, common stuff, like “It’s a nice day where I live,” who’s going to know? It sounds like something I might say so it's good enough!

Anyway, appearances. Did you know this? I used to be a consultant for a church. With me so far? The church had a TV ministry, and one of their doctrines had to do with the blessing of God manifesting itself in prosperity, always bettering your best, receiving and having material things, more and more, greater and greater luxuries, swag, being the envy of the world. And they knew the truth, that any of the riff raff coming in with despicably bad clothes needed to be dealt with. We mostly sat them in the last rows, then say 10 minutes in, we’d rotate them out and bring in a new bunch. Each bunch would get donuts and juice, then go through the door to the “jacuzzi,” which was actually an exit that locked behind them. That church had high self-esteem, and I’m sure you’d agree they deserved their stellar reputation.

All that is kind of amusing, I know -- which I might reprise if I ever do the theme “Getting Away with Anything” -- but today we’re worried about self-esteem. And whether Richter had it on his scale or we merely go by common sense, appearance is the number one thing. If you overhear someone say you’re not at all good-looking, it’s 50/50, maybe you are purely ugly, but more likely it’s a mixture of your physical appearance including your clothes. And even a monster looks halfway decent in a nice suit and tie.

I'm sure you get the point.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Self-Esteem Thru The Ages

Part 21 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

That’s an interesting summary of a life poorly lived in terms of self-esteem, “That was a lie then, it’s a lie now.” When you're old, you may as well be honest. Frames it in one nasty little package, in perfect focus. Like Veni Vidi Vici, “I came, I saw, I itched.” And itching's good if it’s incidental, but bad if it’s constant since it only breaks the skin and makes you bleed, leading to infection.

Either one of those would be fitting for my final words, with the itching being not as bad in the fall when it’s easier to stay dry. So itching’s one problem, and fragile self-esteem’s another. And for self-esteem it doesn’t matter if it's summer, winter, whatever, it gets you down and keeps you down, whether you’re 3 or 303. The downside for me being, I haven’t even cracked 100 yet, so if I go through two more centuries of this crap, I'm not sure I'll make it.

Yet, as much as I admit the problem -- unlike some people, I didn’t ask to be born -- I refuse to do anything else about it. I wake up and if it’s there I go back to sleep. Which has an interesting side effect, the passing of time of course, but additionally the things that accrue, it’s mad. I didn’t open my birthday presents from my teen years till I woke up sometime around 24. Which meant I had a lot of catching up to do on model airplanes and cars. I still have some in unopened condition but their value's lower because of minor scuffing on the cellophane.

Then self-esteem also got mixed in with too much grieving. You wake from a coma and half your family’s dead; it affects you. I woke up in time for Christmas one year and was surprised how much room there was around the table. I can only say now, Don’t make that same mistake. On the bright side there was a lot more room around the table, elbow room, yes. But a downer was the food was reduced proportionately so the portions were the same or even less.

Then I had to catch up with emotional stuff, which was painful. “Did Grandpa have any last words for me?” I hung on their reply, figuring it’d be something tender, some last piece of advice for me, a lesson I’d never forget. His last words were indistinct gurgling, plus a cry for his childhood coon-hunting dog Jedekiah to come, “Yip, Jed!” I remember the old story from years before, how Jed got in with a skunk and got the skunk's spray. So Grandpa put out a coat and bar of soap for him and left. And Jed -- faithful Jed -- was there the next day waiting, good as new, having meticulously bathed overnight in a nearby creek.

O the things I missed! And part of me wishes it’d never happened. But once again there’s the bright side. My self-esteem was so fragile -- with the consistency of a fried cracker, easy to break and crumbling everywhere -- I couldn’t have stood it. If you have self-esteem like that, the absolute pits, sleeping or a coma's the best thing for you.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Unworthy Of Castles

Part 20 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

Every journey to a beautiful castle on the mountaintop is nearly endless. Like your birthday when you’re 10, it's a million years to get there, then it’s over in a flash. Except the castle remains, of course, not being a mirage nor a shimmering bit of sunlight on the highway.

Because someone planned it and got the finances together -- usually gold doubloons from pirate’s treasure buried and discovered -- and plotted it out, putting it on yonder hill. And so it was, leaving the rest of us to see it from afar, hoping to attain its heights, and once we have, to maintain our place at the master’s table, eating well everyday and hoping to escape too much notice so we’re not thrown out, or worse, for the master to turn out to be a crazy guy who throws spears and in one massive heave pins us to the dining room wall.

Every bit of property I attain is seems like it's something to pin me down, at least weigh me down. However necessary it is at the time. And the more there is is not always the merrier. Which I always know but never fully realize until I’m choking or drowning in excess. When it comes to actual castles, I'm sure I'd be happier if someone else owned them. Then I could merely see it from afar, figure it’s a forgettable tourist attraction and worry that if I visited I'd get sucked in at the gift shop and buying snow globes of it for all the kids, and eventually regretting the whole thing, as I regret everything I ever do. I even regret admitting things.

So how about this for counterculture: Down with castles! They’re either decrepit, infested with vampires and carefully hidden cemeteries (sheltered), or they’re so lavish that you choke on it, with either an eccentric master on site or a rich absentee owner who can’t be bothered, off screwing people in some other way.

The whole thought of a castle fills me with revulsion. My self-esteem, whatever I’ve managed to cobble together on some random day, falls away. First, I’m not worthy to have it, and even if they found some way of giving it to me, I’d also be far from worthy. My spirits, already flagging, would sink when I saw the many tasks a responsible master would be required to do. Bringing in expensive workers, most of whom could not be automatically trusted, to patch up this, patch up that, all the while robbing you blind with overcharges and stealing you blind, pilfering everything from the silver spoons to the stately grandfather’s clock.

As a shimmering vision, a castle on a hill in the sunlight, if it disappears quickly as a vision suggested by the fog, is a beautiful thing. You consider it and wonder if anyone else saw it. “I’m pretty special for catching a glimpse of that! Not even my phone could’ve registered it in a selfie!” High self-esteem. But you see an actual persisting castle -- and picture to yourself its sinking foundation, the whole thing an insurance nightmare -- I shake my head and say "No, thanks." One, my self-esteem is artificially inflated so I’m smart enough to avoid the attachment. But it crashes again -- usually fragile -- when I realize, I’m not turning it away, really, because it was never offered me. You'd have to be the toast of the town to get an offer like that!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Frigid Last Resort

Part 19 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

Now there’s a cold sight! An ice castle in a cold place surrounded by ice. The flag fluttering in the frigid wind means a bad windchill. If you’re not already frozen to a crisp you soon will be. The horizon is barely in view, but what we see promises little relief except for the questionable shelter of this lonely outpost. Called “Last Resort,” with the unwelcome words that No One’s Home despite the lights being left on. The rest of the text gives a helpful point of policy, then chilly command, while in the end turning suddenly gracious, with a wish that the visitor might stay warm.

That gracious wish first strikes me in a most unpleasant way. Of course the rest is easy to understand; it’s cold, it’s arctic, there's no one home; but it's called a Last Resort. How a place could be a Last Resort with the policy of being closed daily and an admonition to "Go Away", it doesn’t make sense. Yes, we want to stay warm, but under these circumstances, ice and freezing winds, blustery enough to at least ruffle flags, how can we? Closed Daily and being ordered to leave means we will be incapable of staying warm, more likely than not.

Some of the issues, however, resolve themselves, when we remind ourselves that someone suffers with fragile self-esteem. And therefore we can begin to picture this arctic scene less as a literal closed refuge on the frozen tundra, which would be inhumane and criminal, and more as an aspect of my own personal problems. It's hitting me even now. Comparisons in artwork, often in cases like this, mean that one’s condition is comparable to a lonely frigid outpost, not that one oneself suffers with a cold outlook, let alone frigidity. Which is indeed the case, just reminding myself of my purposes here. I was about to sue the North or South Pole, only to discover the problem turned out to be my own!

Where does self-esteem come from and where does it go? Greater minds have explored these issues. However, I don’t know any -- and it could be their much needed therapeutic expertise is locked behind a paywall, because, face it, those with the most expertise feel they need to make money off it. Yes, of course, they started out idealistic, receiving grants, public assistance, and were helped along by well-meaning friends and experts not expecting a thing in return except the natural reward of raising a generation of compassionate helpers. Who now are essentially extorting their corrupt thirty pieces of silver from those who suffer, then standing by clinking it in their pockets while we’re marched to our death, assuming fragile self-esteem ever leads to death.

We would have some questions, pleas for help, were the information more readily available, without having to take out a subscription, blood money. I mean look at me: I give, give, and give some more. Do I regret not getting money? Of course I do. I could always use more money. But my good nature says, Just give away the information. The life you save is worth more than my ability to pay my bills, eat, feed the dog, etc.

Most of your problems with self-esteem are easily cured. Try taking a nap, watch a fun old movie, take an inventory of your talents and abilities. Chances are they’re far beyond what you believe you have. Sometimes self-esteem will be great, sometimes fragile. Just don’t settle on fragile but stimulate your mind, remain open to the goodness of life, and it's most likely what you’ll see most of the time. Which never did me any good, but you could be the exception.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Bad! Bad! Down On Myself

Part 18 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

Yikes! I’m getting the finger of life pointing at me, not pointing randomly around the room, calling out other people. It means business, definitely targeting me in particular and pointing with something very clearly on its mind. And here I am in the grip of fragile self-esteem.

My look, then, in shocked surprise, is one of recognition of what is happening as well alarm. Those creases on my forehead are a worried reaction showing the seriousness of my situation. I am clearly not a happy camper, not feeling happy-go-lucky, in fact, happiness shall elude me till I'm on solid group and feeling safer, a terrible predicament.

Yes, I’m wondering, “Why me?” I haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve been a nice person. I held the elevator for a lady the other day. She wanted floor 4 so I pushed 4 for her. But there could have been other times, like searching for a parking place when I wasn’t exactly hoping others would find a space before me. I'd take the first space if my crippled mother was waiting. That's how she raised me. But consider this: There was in fact someone leaving a space, another guy was going to make a left turn into it, and I had a straight shot to get in it first. But I didn’t do it. So how about some points for me on that? (I was afraid he'd spit on me in the elevator.)

Here we could recognize in these situations both judgment and goodness, that I “finally” got it together and shouldn't be the high priest of being down on myself. It's harder than it sounds. Even considering it as I have in the last couple weeks, I’m getting down on myself more. I'm thankful for everything that isn’t dire but I’m still grumbling under my breath.

I could go along like this for a long time, making these determinations on the fly that THIS means this and THAT means that. Then at the end of the day figuring how the day stacked up as a totality. If only there could be a Self-Esteem General Headquarters, where all of us have sensors on our bodies, feeding real time data into the machine and getting a read-out. My forehead even now is sweating. I’m a little worried that all this prying into the mysterious issues of life -- what I deserve, what I don’t deserve -- might be a mistake.

How to go back and resume my former happy-go-lucky demeanor, casting aside the real time analyses, eludes me. I need a computer at the very least I can talk to. But anytime I type my symptoms into today’s computers, I get the same pointers each time. Like I type in “finally get it together” and I get a dictionary definition, “to begin to function in a skillful or effective way.”

This is really a psychological judgment day, without the ceremony. No high priest vestments, no darkness and gloom and harsh spotlight, no crowds passing through to the light of day with me standing alone in the darkness. I'd hate it but it'd be dramatic.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Uncle Alfalfa Feels Better

Part 17 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

Seeing myself in a crowd of people, indistinguishable from a bunch of idiots, really was the last straw for my withering self esteem. They say nighttime, our dreams, the interplay of hormones and zygotes, then zygotes taking on unicorns, the next thing you know you're either waking up a loser in the freak show or with a new, better, exciting and above-average breakthrough.

It happened to me. I actually felt it coming on me just before falling asleep. My toes were tingling, the hair on my legs stiffened, there was some unpleasant backfiring in the privates region, my stomach churned (in a good way), and my lungs -- this was scary -- only worked every other breath. One side breathed, then the other. That’s when I realized this was a genuine breakthrough and not just my physical form giving up the ghost. I opened my mouth like a werewolf and my eyes were on fire. I knew I would either wake up on the warpath or happily ever after.

I got up, paced the floor for an hour, put on my yellow tweed suit, and literally thrust my arm through the wall. I muttered to myself what I love saying to my enemies when I spray machine gun fire in their general direction: “That could’ve been your head...” Then I spit, took out my chaw and worked on a new plug. (If you haven’t chewed tobacco lately, for a plug nickel you can still get a nickel’s worth of plug, which isn’t as much as you could get in the Old West but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. For that you need ragweed.)

In one strange last straw moment I felt, indeed, this was the last straw. And did precisely what the moment called for, ramming my meaty fist through the slender wall, which, again, could’ve been your head. I wasn't discriminating. Anyway, the hole opened on tiny room I didn’t know about, which was the cubbie-hole where the house used to have a telephone. I reached in and first latched on to a mouse, which I promptly pulled out and dropped. Then I felt around, a nasty scatter of mouse poop, finally pulling out a small sheet of paper from an old notepad.

Shaking more mouse poop off, I held the notepad in the light and read an ancient note: “Uncle Alfalfa feels better.” This couldn’t have been more helpful to me if it'd been the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln's own notes. Because I am an uncle and my childhood nickname for about two weeks was Alfalfa, which I spurned at the time. See my excitement here? The lesson I took from it was, Just as Uncle Alfalfa felt better in the past, so could an Uncle once known as Alfalfa (2 weeks, maybe a week) feel better in the present day! Wow. Celebrate with me.

This stunning discovery was just the breakthrough I needed to reinvigorate my fragile self-esteem!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Lost In The Crowd

Part 16 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

Most people couldn’t pick me out in a crowd. Woe is me. Among the most frequent guesses, looking at the picture, is that I’m the guy in red, but that’s not right. My eye also goes to the guy in red. In fact, I’ve looked at the guy in red so many times over the years that I’ve lost track of the others. I could’ve been him, but of course I wasn’t. I'm just another nameless face in the crowd. Which, on thinking about it, isn’t so bad. There’s no particular judgment I have to face. No one can say I’m not smiling, not a happy person, not personable. Which usually I am, all that if not more.

But who cares? I don’t care either. Although I do like seeing pictures of strangers. I find them on Facebook; everyday I see more strangers. Each making their comments, liking things, arguing politics, spouting off, rabble-rousing, taking their place in the argument, staking their ground, carrying on on matters of principle, giving a witty answer, which sometimes I like, usually think, yes, that’d be among the top five witty remarks I’d expect to see! How terrible it must be at Facebook HQs looking at a dispute. Getting involved would give me a migraine. Work it out yourselves, stupid!

Nothing zaps my self-esteem faster than being one of many. Because the vanity of the whole thing at that point is overwhelming and obvious. I’d be better off deleting accounts and sitting with a stack of books -- ancient poetry, philosophy, etc. -- and reading. Think of those old guys with the flowing beard, sitting by candlelight in a tall chair with a slanted table before them, lost in their own thoughts. With their thoughts having very little to do with everyone else. If there’s a billion people, divide the days of the year, Everyday it’s millions of people’s very special birthday, have a happy birthday, may all your hopes and dreams come true. Maybe get lucky tonight.

The only way to have and keep your self-esteem (for what it’s worth) is to exclude the masses and do things no one else is doing, which of course you never know. My day has a lot of necessary stuff, taking the dog out repeatedly, eating, doing dishes, checking the mail, making sure the bills are paid, fending off thieves, avoiding doctors, turning away romantic offers, watching for police. Speaking of the police -- this has me thinking -- two officers were at my place just yesterday. I peeked out the window but didn’t see anyone and didn’t see any cars. So I had to just open the door and there they were! They were looking for someone who used to live here. In the Big City every address used to have suspicious characters living there before. They took my word for it that I wasn’t him, but I was thinking I might’ve been arrested!

The guy used to live here and he's getting more attention than me, thankfully. Dozens of people used to live here, maybe a hundred. The Big City has ‘em coming and going all the time. Plus people living in boxes, under metal cowlings, bridges, etc. What do the police do? What do they want? Whatever it is, there's millions and billions of people they can stay occupied with, leaving me alone 99.999% of the time. Only yesterday, there I was, face to face. Thankfully not doing anything illegal. Except my dog may be behind on her registration, maybe, I’m not admitting anything...

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

An Appliance Factory

Part 15 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

It's painful to remember one of my early jobs, actually for a major manufacturing company, appliances. A long time ago someone invented the appliance, it caught on with the public, and naturally then they had to make them. And as far as I know they're still being produced to this very day. Along with the group activities meant for company pride and solidarity. Heave ho!

Yes, there was more to the factory that just assembly lines, warehouses, and stacks of parts. There were these team-working exercises -- varying in description -- that have stayed with me all these years. I bet I think of them every month or so. I'll be burning a little incense, the lights are dimmed or I have a candle, my hands are on my lap, my eyes closed, with a chunk of rope at the ready to tug on and maybe smack the wall. That alone refreshes my mind, I'm renewed, restored, rejuvenated and retired, since I usually fall asleep pretty quickly.

But we couldn't fall asleep on the job, because we always wanted our line or division to carry the day, and we won our share of gold stars. Which, if you won enough, you got a free cup of delicious, soothing coffee, so it was a big deal. It's been decades and I can still picture all these ropes being pulled around the company. The signal, a blast horn, sounded, like in a maritime harbor! The floor tilted and everyone clung to the rope, tugging with all our might, sometimes jerking the thing, which them was done in rhythm like in rowing (but pulling the rope) stroke, stroke, stroke, so satisfying the teamwork.

You can imagine the value. The teamwork took us out of our individual mind to a more exalted group mind, away from our own personal euphoria to something bigger than ourselves, a sense of exaltation, that all things were possible! We, each individual and the team as a whole, were bigger than we physically were. Each one, whether it was the tough guys up front or us weaklings down below, received something of beauty in the experience. Stroke, stroke, stroke!

Then there was a strange pause, a kind of hush all over the world, as we realized the team had achieved a climactic moment, the crest of the wave. We were urged on -- mentally not audibly -- and we pulled with all our might to put the team over the finish line and get our well-deserved cup of delicious coffee. They tilted the floor back in place and we went back to our work -- weakened physically but with an internal mental strength -- and achieved our quota of appliances boxed, shipped, purchased, and installed all around the country that very night.

Did it do any good for my self-esteem? I can’t say it didn’t, but it was brief. I'm average, not huge. It’s good to relieve pressure once in a while, ask anyone. But whether this kind of activity is good for a factory -- I know a lot of guys had a hard time looking their fellow guys in the eye for a while after. It’s like there’s a strange mental block, like we felt ashamed. And it's really not hard to churn out appliances without the group activities. Plus, I knew some of the foremen were embarrassed to force us to degrade ourselves like that.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Punished, Going Down


Part 14 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

That's me in mid-air slipping on a banana peel and falling. In a situation like that of dangerous circumstances and terrible consequences, bananas and gravity are your worst enemies. Of course it's also proverbial, meant to illustrate aspects of the experiences of people with fragile self-esteem.

But the connection with bananas/falling and having fragile self-esteem is only a thing of art. Because there’s no one-to-one discernible physical relation between the two. A person with great self-esteem -- never down on him- or herself in the slightest -- can also accidentally slip on banana peels. But their feelings on fragile self-esteem would not come to mind unless it’d be like this, “As a person with great self-esteem, I see no connection between any of that and slipping on a banana peel. It could happen to anyone, a person like me at the top of my game psychologically speaking or even an unfortunate dragged-down schlub with fragile self-esteem. It could in fact happen to me more frequently because, unlike the schlub, I'm not always looking down.”

Those are good thoughts, but when I go down, my first thought is always, “Yes, one more thing to add to all my other gripes. This had to happen to me, a damned persistent curse always working itself out, adding to my misery because misery is always a constant with someone with fragile self-esteem. Within a second or two my body is going to meet the floor, and there’s no way I’m going to escape it without feeling pain. Pain is a certainty. I may break something, although I hope I don’t. Let me get this punishment over with and perhaps I'll learn a lesson from it.” CRASH.

Another great point to make is it’s always something, again true for those not being punished as well as those of us who are. For someone like me, though, it means a lot more than for those who are completely innocent. The innocent slip and fall and may be embarrassed -- how I’d love to settle for mere embarrassment! -- but the rest of us feel and even know there’s something out to get us. Whatever our crime was it doesn’t matter. A punishment like this doesn’t really help. Or perhaps it does, in the sense that it’s one thing after another. Were I not being punished, I’d surely think of myself as more innocent than I am. But this judicious punishment -- one more punishment in a non-ending string of punishments -- keeps me dragging along at a particular pace and lets me know the trouble has not passed.

It’s interesting how these punishments are lined up, not in an obvious way but only discernible when the trap is sprung and experienced as if on a strict schedule. Going along with that, it’s also interesting that I don’t get, say, 10 punishments at once. It might be tripping over a board, my dog running into traffic, or a sack of dog poop catching fire on my lawn. One at a time. It’s never all three at once, an interesting aspect of punishments.

Well, here’s my response: I could much more easily shake my sense of doom and overcome my sense of fragile self-esteem if I saw a clearer, more blessed path in front of me than this drip drip drip of the negative. What a nightmare! And I genuinely like bananas, don't get me wrong.

Anyway, I thought all of that in mid-air. And my thoughts even went on for several more pages, mercifully excluded here, before I hit the floor. Which really hurt and was embarrassing. Several people were nearby. Also some snickering kids.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Ugly Or Fairly Not So Bad

Part 13 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

I haven’t yet attempted a definition of self-esteem, since the obvious assumption is we already know what it is. Simple. The whole thing makes me groan because defining things is one of the hardest things to get right. But it's always easier to attain if you at least give it a shot, with a quick disclaimer that it might not be airtight, wholly accurate, or satisfactory to all. The last point is obvious, because you couldn’t please everyone with mother’s milk, let alone definitions. But, crap, no one's going to do it for me...

Self-esteem is the subjective estimation of yourself, your personal sense of quality or lack thereof. For the extremes in the literature see I’m Shit by Sad N. Lonely and The Best A Man Can Get by Ray Zoar Blade. Both Lonely and Blade clearly take opposite paths. And as far as I'm concerned Blade just shaves the surface in his outlook while Lonely’s in a class by himself, meticulously accurate and exhaustive in his torment, which resonates with me as seen in each of my own torturous blog posts. But while I lean toward Lonely’s point of view, sharing his withdrawn/desiccated vibe, I’m still completely interested in Blade’s cutting style, actually to the point of adoration, yet suspecting it’s a boasting cover, giving us finally in the end two men with the same experience. Lonely as a wannabe, Blade a neverwas.

But, obviously, self-esteem is a thing you don’t have to read about or have expertise in to have real live-wire, exposed-nerve experiences with. For your life is exposed. You touch here, you’re shocked then swept up as a cinder. You touch there and you've bought the farm, depending if you’re at an auction sale or on your deathbed. For self-esteem is a combination of things, the good, the bad, the worse, the worse yet, the ultimate worse, then we're in negative territory. It can kill you, which potentially brings pain, suffering, shock, misery, heartbreak, despondency, torment and even braggadocio (cf. Lonely and Blade, et al. Reportedly, Sad N. Lonely howls at the moon even on nights when it's not out.)

My own problems with fragile self-esteem (and this is what you paid $100 to hear) were well known throughout my childhood. A quick review of my school pictures shows a child with his head down and eyes averted year after year. I was down, as we now know, but back then they blamed it on two things, being shy and very afraid someone in the immediately vicinity was going to steal my shoes. Well, shoes is now something I can take or leave. Yes, I was shy, and I was afraid. But I went through eight pairs of shoes in one week, so you tell me. Then factor in everything that every bashful, self-loathing person goes through; it all contributes to fragile self-esteem.

My illustration above, lifted without attribution from a scholarly periodical -- screw ‘em! -- shows the extremes of fragile self-esteem, one's beloved periodically seen as a wraith, a monster, terrible, and sickening, but then just as quickly can be seen as fairly not so bad and even kind of cute. How these things happen, we chalk it up to the strange extremes of self-esteem, alas, all wrapped up in one not-so-tidy fragile package.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Barely Worthy Of Lincoln

Part 12 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

I’ve mentioned here a number of times my closeness in spirit, temperament, and really in every other way, to Abraham Lincoln. In this age of claiming one’s spirit animals -- some pick their car, their dog, unicorns, the spirit of Liberace, or famous gangsters -- a long time ago I picked Lincoln. And against a lot of advice -- even my own family imploring me, “Pick Grandpa!” My siblings said pick Dad, Mom, even my pet rabbit Shed. On a larger scale I could've pick a teacher, or an animal outside the family, the lizard family, even Bigfoot!

But I've always liked inspirational heroes, astronauts, athletes, and Abraham Lincoln. Especially Lincoln. Because they drilled it into our heads when we were in school, “Lincoln’s great, Lincoln’s fantastic, there’s no one like Lincoln, Lincoln’s tops, Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincoln, the Great Railsplitter. Anytime we had to come up with any inspirational snippet of advice, “Be good to others” or “Wipe your shoes before stepping on the rug,” they likened it to something equally kind, gentle, and wise that Lincoln said. Lincoln was the Prince of Pith, always on the mark, the ready, set, and go of pithy stuff, memorable stuff, none of which I can think of now that you put me on the spot.

Let me look up something in “Famous Quotes of Lincoln," a cheap paperback I had rebound in leather. "My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.” Lincoln said that. Meaning he and I have a lot in common, because I don’t read much either. Or how about this: “America will never be destroyed from the outside…” That’s good, because America’s where I live and I don't want it destroyed outside. Then there’s “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Ouch, this one’s kind of painful. I’m a vulnerable guy, very antsy, with extremely fragile self-esteem; right now I'm having the Code Blue of Fragile Self-Esteem.” I can't even pretend it's good. Yet if my Spirit Animal doesn’t see a problem with it, who am I to quibble? It's not good to be so low. Lincoln didn't say that, of course, because he's tall.

My biggest thing about Lincoln is just to keep him in my thoughts. And try to be worthy and responsible as a nice guy with such a great Spirit Animal tagging along behind me, trying to keep up. If he could just open doors for me, tell me when traffic’s coming so I didn't have to look both ways before crossing, and generally look out for my usually disastrous finances, all would be good.

But am I worthy of Lincoln, a guy with self-esteem so often in the pits? That's a good question, because Lincoln's a busy man. He’s got a lot to do. I could come up with excuses for him all day, and how do I know that’s not him as my internal voice being his own worst critic? What if Lincoln turns out to be the president with fragile self-esteem -- hard to believe? But I wouldn’t doubt it. Because why would guys like me be so drawn to him? Interesting stuff. If you don’t like it, please leave. But if you want to fawn over me like Honest Abe does, be my guest.

Friday, October 11, 2019

I'm Into Negative Lifelines


Part 11 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

So far I’ve clearly expressed the truth that my self-esteem is fragile and getting worse. The way it feels inside is … lots of jitters. I'm anxious all the time, ducking down so no one notices me, retreating to the back of the room, preferably the coat closet or somewhere to escape the staring eyes of others, always tempted to leave early or not show up at all.

Plus, I'm terrified someone might call attention to me, as in, “What was that strange thing you said the other day about ___?” Everyone turns to hear me, they’re smiling a bit, I break out in a sweat, I stumble out a few words before trembling like a snare drum, then end up throwing my apron over my head and running screaming from the room. The biggest thing I wonder about is why I'm wearing an apron.

I think I need a working buddy system, like on game shows where I get some lifelines before I'm completely booted out. Of course the problem with that is social settings aren’t game shows, which everyone knows is a game and they’re rooting for you. This is real life, and -- not to get too anxious -- you can’t really pause social settings to claim a lifeline without blowing yourself out of the water. Instant guilt.

So whatever lifelines I have need to be spent more surreptitiously. Like if I'm meeting someone, the conversation is extremely awkward -- my fears sabotage me as the rule, not the exception. I squint my eyes at a friend and that means, “I want to use a lifeline, meet me in the kitchen.” Where he chastises me for using a lifeline in the first five minutes. Then says, “You’re as good as anyone, stop worrying about wasting the world’s resources, you didn’t ask to be born.”

The friend adds, “If you’re paying attention to the conversation and not just your own insecurities, you’ll notice that the things others are saying aren’t exactly pearls of wisdom, but basic observations, ‘It’s hot at work,' 'The movie was bad,' and 'No, it’s not too hot in here.'" Even though I'm sweating through my underwear and telling myself I shouldn't feel sorry to be alive.

Anyway, I used up my last lifeline, all very regrettable. Then I was on the verge of making a scene and my friend saw my anxiety. I truly am a worm, so he accompanied me to the kitchen again:

“You’re now in negative lifelines, dude, this can’t go on. If you’re not happy, leave. If your self-esteem is that far in the toilet, you should probably avoid coming to parties. Yes, it’s going to look awkward if you get your coat from the bedroom already. What you should do is leave, then come back the next day and say you forgot it."

That’s pretty good advice, and imagine that, a bonus lifeline came through right when I needed it. I’m lucky like that.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Friends--Criminal Or Innocent


Part 10 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

Everyone likes to have a friend. It’s great for your self-esteem. There are of course some very antisocial people with something wrong with them, perhaps their wiring or some mental lapse became a habit, whatever, who would be the exception. Those of us who do like having friends know what they mean to us, fellow feelings, moral support, and someone to talk to. Other friends we have are more or less incidental, folks we know at the fringe, those who do particular things for us but we don’t see them often, like the guy who fixes our tires if we (rarely) are involved in a police chase and run over spike strips.

And everyone likes having the things that go into friendship. First, let me say, this again excludes those who are antisocial in various ways, whether they don’t like having friends period, or they have friends but aren’t eager to confide in them the various problems they may be facing, choosing rather to maintain their privacy and sweep the problems, or at least any discussion of them, under the rug, carefully concealing the fact that they are likely guilty of those problems and a lot worse, if we only knew. As for myself, it’s not an aspect of friendship that I really depend on, because I try to avoid all trouble, particularly of a criminal nature -- because police chases and replacing tires becomes expensive -- and anything else I may or may not do I keep to myself.

So we’ve learned so far that having friends is an unambiguous blessing and essential to one and all, depending on how the terms are defined. It is a blessing for those who choose to have friends and are not antisocial. And it’s also a blessing for those who choose not to have friends and are antisocial up the yin yang, because it gives them a distinctive to boast of, identifying them, setting them apart, that they are so dainty and special, at least in their own foolish world of worthless fantasy.

As for me, no, I have nothing to sweep under the rug. Never have, never will, and those times when I have had something to sweep under the rug, the way I do it, and the means of getting it done, to the extent that I maintain power over the circumstances -- I have been caught or ensnared in various nets over the years, police chases, pit maneuvers, poison darts, etc., thwarting my intentions -- I take my opportunities and make the most of them. Not only do I want the more obvious facts to be hidden, but anything and everything that might constitute a trail, even of crumbs, leading again to a complete exposure, everything naked to the light of day, perhaps including myself -- a bad feeling -- and whoever it is riding with me. Let me just say now, and I raise my hand to heaven on this point, I have no idea how she found her way into my bed, then on to the interstate. We were not actually friends, it was just a mutual quickie.

But let’s also posit for the sake of argument that there is guilt, I suppose a casual acquaintance with someone -- perhaps a friend -- might come in hand, to help me get a good deal on new tires, or if the problem is evidence and a place to bury it, to conceal whatever is too big (or smelly and decomposing) to be buried later. Certainly we’ll wait for the city pickup and dispose of the sheets, triple-bagged, unmarked, and set those on the curb about three blocks away.

Whatever we may have sacrificed, and it’s been substantial so far, we hope we can recoup, enhancing and lifting our self-esteem, which to this point has been fragile.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Art Therapy Didn't Work

Part 9 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

It was probably ten years ago that I had the idea of doing art to help my mental outlook, which at the time was also a brief and challenging episode of fragile self-esteem (seven years) that dogged me like a hellhound on my trail. I was jittery, my hands shook, my body succumbed to the cold sweats, I was very irritable with family, friends, loved ones, and even strangers. Even the friendly guy who came around for the cancer drive, I about bit his head off: “Sir, take your book of receipts and talking points on the latest miraculous breakthroughs and leave my stoop. I told you once I can’t give, I told you twice I can’t give, and now I’m telling you nicely for the last time, I won’t give, I simply can’t, sir!” I physically seized him by the scruff of the neck and his pants and flung him to the other side of the road.

Later, trying to help myself recover, I went to an art store and bought a couple small canvases with the wooden slats built in and a box of oil paints. I really expected to dig in and enjoy myself in this new-for-me field, becoming an artist and painting the masterpieces that are typical with amateur painters. What happened next, though, wasn’t what I'd hoped for at all. Instead of painting, then running out and buying new canvases, always bigger and better canvases, I never painted a single stroke. The paints were left unopened. I couldn’t think of anything to paint, I’m not a good painter and drew a blank, and a couple years ago when I moved to The Big City I gave all the paints and canvases to Goodwill.

Recently, then, my fragile self-esteem again took that familiar journey -- it started like a nagging then persistent itch, then transformed into a blank pain which over a period of scant days became a gnawing pain. Once that happened, then, it was busy at the molecular level folding in on itself, reaching out and feeling for new boundaries to surmount, working on me 24-hours a day, taking all the time and opportunity it needed to go rogue. One day it hit me; I looked in the bathroom mirror and was wrapped in the self-esteem equivalent of tentacles, reaching out, curling back, and twisting at random. I swatted at them like swatting flies, but they only swatted back, cowing me.

So it was a south-of-the-border standoff. Making me think again of art and painting. With the brainchild idea that maybe this time the message of the tentacles -- the vision -- was, “Get out there and waste a few canvases. There’s companies just dying to make and sell canvases. With factories geared up for it in league with paint factories. You’re probably a good painter if you specialize in abstracts, no one can really criticize them.

This time, though, I didn't just stay home but went to a studio, thinking the peer pressure might really motivate me. But the time I got there my fragile self-esteem had entered a more viral stage of fragility. The good news is no canvases were harmed; they were all released back into the wild. The bad news is I don’t know what all the other stages of fragile self-esteem might reveal, negatively speaking.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Man Down!

Part 8 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

If you’ve ever been down on your luck to the point of someone calling an ambulance for you, you know that’s a particularly perilous moment in your life. You’re wondering, What happened? And struggling to get or regain the full context of your situation, because frankly you may have forgotten where you are and even who you are in the excitement. Once you’ve blacked out, you can't be sure if an hour has passed or just a few seconds. Maybe even 50 years! It’s scary stuff.

But say you’ve come to and a hero's helping you, a guy who called for help, and he's now feeling up your heart, discerning your heartbeat as best he can -- thumpa thumpa thumpa -- which goes on, thankfully, whether you’re awake or asleep. Something very serious must have occurred. You were on the street, not at home, not in the sanctity of your own place. You could've been injured if you were blindfolded and bound on a three-day drunk. Something serious happened -- maybe drinking drinks you weren't accustomed to ordering -- but you’re blank out on precisely what.

I’m trying to think back over my life, if I’ve ever nearly passed away in public. Particularly from self-esteem-related issues. Nothing’s coming to me. Absolutely nothing. Nada. Wait, there was the time I showed up at the junior high prom in Hush Puppy shoes, having had to walk the distance between home and the school in the pouring rain. My sloshing about on the dance floor elicited such murmuring and laughter that, yes, I nearly did pass away, hitting my head solidly on the mascot’s picture in the middle of the gym. In the haze I imagined them crying out, “Boy down!” They took me to the ER, where I was either brought back to life or woke up. Regardless, I had to admit the whole sordid affair, that I was a victim of wet shoes. Honestly, my self-esteem never recovered.

Wow, now that I’m thinking of it, nearly everything I did -- regardless of what shoes I wore, or pants or suspenders or underwear too small or car I borrowed or girl I walked home usually ended with the ambulance and yet another ding to my self-esteem, admittedly already fragile. You go through that enough and people expect it. With a history like that, always on the downward path, people gave wide berth to me, thinking I had a contagious disease that they wanted to avoid. I tried to dance, tried to cut in, and sometimes girls went into a swoon and also needed the ambulance. Which carried near tragic results for me when I also swooned and had to wait for professional care, who were already fed up with me.

My dad was fed up as well, because you only get a certain amount of trips in the ambulance before the charges skyrocket. He had to work two jobs just for the dances I went to. Then guys who saw my weakness attacked me from the dark bushes for laughs and I might find myself sprawled out in the road, run over or worse. What’s worse than that? Remember the rabid dog epidemic of 1977? You would've thought some of my so-called friends would’ve helped, but they used the argument, “Dogs gotta eat too.” Sprawled out like that really makes you think. Mostly very negative stuff. In fact, all negative stuff.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Weakness In Numbers

 Part 7 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

The troubles we have are a tremendous weight. But if we start looking around, it can help. Being something of a shrimp myself, and having that affecting my self-esteem, there were a couple of choices how to face it. There was the obvious “Hang out with other shrimps” choice, since it’s true there’s power in numbers. And I guess I did take some comfort there. In a club of shrimps a few years back they voted me “Most Likely to Recede” a few times, just a thing we passed around because we didn’t want anyone feeling bad by not winning once in a while.

But after a while you realize it’s a big world -- like a classroom globe but larger -- and you’re only holding yourself back if you hang out with just shrimps to the neglect of the rest. You need to branch out beyond that one community. Maybe you go 50 miles from home. One time I was 200 miles from home and, God as my witness, I stayed there a few days. And the people! I bet I saw a hundred people, each one larger than the last! All these people, you find shrimps and big people kind of mesh together, no big deal.

Since then I've been on a lot more trips and have seen people in such magnificent numbers it boggles the mind. With signs reading, “Now Entering Africa,” “Now Entering Asia,” “Now Entering Des Moines,” “Now Entering Texas,” and so forth. It’d be fun to be a frequent traveler and have your picture taken by all these wondrous signs. And it's also good to see the signs at the outskirts of little towns, “Population: 565,” etc. None of these places specify if they’re big folks, important folks, flakes, shrimps, people of high self-esteem or of low...

It gives hope to all of us, although there’s a lot of people who’d have no appreciation of it, given that they already have hope. But for the rest of us, anything that moves us a step or two closer to feeling we’re all right with the world is a precious enhancing of what we started with. When my friend The Big Man lifted me up and showed me a world stretching well past the wooden fence, that was an eye opener. Then all my trips took place, where shrimps of all colors and nationalities and languages were revealed, along with big folks, tall, wide, each one beautiful in her or his own right, I about lost my lunch. “You mean to tell me?!” Yes, they did!

The only difference now is I’m again a little “under the weather” when it comes to self-esteem. The Big Man’s been away for a few years. He went to Wisconsin supposedly to get his car out of hock and I haven’t heard from him since. Wisconsin! What would it be like to go to Wisconsin? It must be great, since he went there and we haven’t heard from him OR his car this whole time.

I suppose he might've gone to Wisconsin to get away from me. That's probably what happened. Tired of shrimps, I bet he is.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Look On The Bright Side

Part 6 of 30
My Fragile Self-Esteem

It’s been a great day. I checked my pulse, it’s still there. Looked around, the eyes are still working. Thought a few things, brain’s sputtering like normal. Went to the bathroom, the usual weak stream. But I have an excuse. I keep seeing spiders in my bathroom but I’m very reluctant to mess with them. To a certain extent I leave them alone, figuring they’re doing some ecological good even if it isn't obvious. But they do freak out my once strong stream. And I’ve checked other vital signs, vitality’s in place.

Plus, every day is potentially great and usually is in fact. Even if you’ve got the huge thumb of life and existence on you, as long as it’s not squishing you to death, you can convinced yourself it’s a great day. Also, of course, I’ve had the dog out a few times today. She’s having a great day. But it suddenly hits her that she has to go, so she comes and makes noises to me indicating that fact. “OK, I’m just finishing up this blog, give me exactly 28 seconds and we’ll go out.” I’m happy she understands that, because she certainly appears to.

The only thing not so great -- and I’m very tired of it -- is my fragile self-esteem. If I had three wishes all three wishes would be to shake this feeling of dread, queasiness, and this great sense of heaviness in that one very vulnerable aspect of life. My usual confidence is dangling by a string, the ship of state has run aground, and my well being is well in abeyance.

A huge thumb could be holding a guy down, though, for multiple reasons, some bad to the person but some good. For the bad, that side of the equation my biggest suspicion is some aspect of existence has me right where it wants me, nefariously. All avenues of escape are blocked. They’re monitoring the situation in this scheme of things to stifle and stymie, and basically put the old kibosh on my options. Say I want the option of high self-esteem, [buzzer] Sorry, your request is denied, please try again. But there could be a good side to it as well. Sometimes in health you lose an ability temporarily, like a broken leg, and an attempt to walk on it might be actual walking but it can’t be sustained. So being sidelined is positive.

But I still feel like I could easily overcome fragile self-esteem. Me. Usually bubbly, effervescent as an antacid. I've never heard an antacid take no for an answer. You drop it in the water and it fizzes everytime, promising, “These bubbles of deliverance are your savior. This is my word, my bond, my promised relief is already in sight!”

Thank goodness... Anytime now...