Extremely Bad Advice: Booger Bandit

Dear SJ:

My partner has recently developed a disgusting habit, what do I do?

My partner lately has been picking his nose and eating his boogers and whenever I see him do it out of the corner of my eye I want to throw up. We’ve been together over 5 years and it’s something he’s only started doing recently. I’ve been too grossed out and honestly kind of shocked to say anything about it, what should I do/how should I talk to him about it?

— Can’t Remove the Mental Image

Portrait of a boy picking his nose

Dear Mental,

Is this really a problem? How infantile has our society gotten where adults don’t even have the wherewithal to engage in a reasonable conversation with someone they’re apparently sharing your life with?

How hard is this? “Hey, Jack, I saw you pick your nose and eat it the other day. Are you eight? Knock that shit off! At least, when I’m around. And if you do it before you get near me, please have the decency to give the ol’ Listerine bottle a once-over before you toss my salad.”

Good lord. It’s like we’ve created a whole community of seven-year-olds in thirty-year-old bodies with jobs and responsibilities and shit. If I were in charge, first thing I’d do is institute a “Breeding License” test. We start with a simple operation on every boy and girl beginning at about age seven. Then, in order to get your license, you must first demonstrate that you can perform such simple societally-beneficial functions like self-management and having a reasonable conversation with another human being before you could get your tubes un-tied.

Maybe that way we’d give ourselves a bit of time to grow the fuck up and realize that conflict, especially emotional confrontation, is not a catastrophe to be avoided at all costs. In fact, those smaller, seemingly unimportant conversations are actually like an emotional vaccine, strengthening our systems for the harder work that we’ll have to do in the future.

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These Five Little Words Launched Me Into My Mid-Life Crisis

note – this was originally published on the Trailhead Conference blog, which has since gone bye-bye. I subsequently published it on an also-bye-bye Medium.com page (link for teh googlez).

May, 2014. Interior, downtown Indianapolis branch of a large national bank. One personal banker seated across from me in a standard bank chair. One person, me, seated in my standard bank chair, listening to her speak.

The personal banker was, at best 26 years old. She had no clue what was happening in my life. She had no idea what had been transpiring the last six months, or the last six years. And because of that ignorance, what she said next devastated me.

She put her hands together, index fingers and thumbs touching, as if she were about to play a quick rhythm on a small drum. “So,” she said, and as she started to separate her hands (like Moses parting a bowl of soup), the next five words destroyed my life as I knew it and launched me full-blown into my “mid-life crisis”.

I have stated for the record my opinion that the term mid-life crisis is inappropriate, but since it’s still a fairly common term I’m going to continue to use it here. Plus we have the pejorative expectation that if you’re going through your mid-life crisis, that this is some kind of failure of your character. That you are somehow weak because you can’t stand up to the demands of life, and you’re seeking an easy way out.

Well, let me tell you, my mid-life crisis was certainly not a failure of my character. I don’t think anyone who saw me go through that would have said I was weak. That I had failed. That I had given up and was looking for a shortcut or a way out.

No, what happened to me was, essentially, a combination of multiple storms all hitting within a six-month period. And, to be honest, only one of those could be considered my fault.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Your mid-life crisis happens to you, it does not happen because of you. Most often this is a period of searching, of introspection, of exploration, and usually they’re set off by some inciting incident. Mine lasted about two years, kicked off by four different major events all coming together in a pretty short time frame.

Within six months: my car died on the highway; my faith died in the pew; my career died in the cubicle; and my marriage died in a nursing home. I only noticed this was happening, though, when that personal banker spoke five short, simple words.

But…

Before I tell you what those words were…

Allow me to back up a little. I think it’s important you know some of what was going on at the time.

In the fall of 2013 I was 36 years old.

I’d been married for 14 years, and my wife and I had four children. I had a stable job at an insurance company, a reasonable group of friends at church, and some neighbors who knew a bit of what we were going through.

One cold Thursday evening in November, on the way home from work, I was driving down I-70 out of Indianapolis. My 1999 Toyota Corolla was flowing along like normal when, all of a sudden, it wasn’t. I managed to avoid getting squished by the passing 18-wheelers and get it off to the side of the road, and then to a gas station, through a clever system of keeping my foot on the accelerator just enough to keep the engine on, but not so much that I sped up and needed to hit the brakes, because every time I did that it stalled out again.

Five hours later, after a tow truck wait and a phone call to my mother-in-law to ask for an emergency run to take care of my kids, I got home with my never-to-run-again vehicle. For some guys, this could be the thing that starts them questioning, “Hey, what’s going on here?”

One of them might take a few days, decide that the repair would be worth more than the car, and just junk it. When he comes back from the dealership with an impractical new sports car, all the neighbors look at him funny. Classic symptom of the mid-life crisis, and the associated judgment, because all they see is indulgence.

What he was thinking, though, could have been just about anything. From “I’ve never had something that’s just for me” to “It’s my last chance before I have to get another minivan,” his thoughts could have been anywhere. Too bad we often judge those who are in the middle of this so quickly.

For me, it wasn’t that momentous on its own. But a flood was building, a silent accumulation of nature’s power that soon I would be unable to ignore. The car, though, was just the start. Strike one.

A couple of months later, around February of 2014,

I realized I wasn’t enjoying my work any longer. Sure, I was productive, as I needed to be. But I was also spending excessive amounts of time browsing the internet at work, doing side projects that made it “look” like I was working, and just getting the minimum done. I guess, since everyone essentially knew my home situation, they gave me some slack.

Yet as I looked to the future, I could see that my heart just wasn’t in it. I couldn’t imagine pushing spreadsheets and databases for the next 30 years. It wasn’t in me to just keep doing a job for that long, and then retire to say, “Now what?”

It would be another year before I actually quit, but that intervening time I was actually dead in the office, just walking around and doing enough to not get fired. Strike two.

A few weeks after that, all of my spiritual questions began to come to a head. I’d been dealing with these issues for nearly a year, ever since God made a promise that did not come true, and I finally could not accept the absolutism, the short-sightedness, the irrationality, and the hypocrisy of my church any longer.

It’s not like there were any big scandals. (Those are often inciting incidents in and of themselves.) It was just that I started to see that for many of the congregants, their professed faith and their actions did not jive.

I saw countless instances of prayer for “a miracle” healing for someone who, frankly, would have been better off dead. And if, as they said they believed, that the home of the soul was in Heaven, why in Hell would they be striving so hard to keep such a soul imprisoned in this sinful, cursed, pained body? It didn’t make sense. That, and dozens of other questions and concerns came together to make me finally say, “You know, I don’t know whether there really is a God or not.”

When I could finally call myself an agnostic, that signified the death of my faith.

Strike three.

Unfortunately, I was so oblivious to it all that I didn’t yet see the writing on the wall. I ignored the incredible tidal wave of change looming, and I continued to push on harder and harder in the things I was doing, to make it seem like I was “okay”.

Finally, in May of 2014, the dam burst.

That young, naïve personal banker put her hands together and spread them apart. “So,” she said, and that was all right. Nothing wrong with that. “If you’re separating your finances…”

And the bell tolled for my marriage.

One more flashback may be in order.

In March of 2013, my wife was admitted to a rehabilitation facility, in order to supplement the stem cell treatment she’d recently received in India. She was having neurological degeneration, causing balance problems, emotional problems, and keeping her from caring for herself. We had spent two months in India for the treatment, and had been home for a month with little progress. The thought was, go live in the rehab facility and get help daily, to get back on track.

Eight months later, without any progress to show for the time, it was necessary to have her admitted to Medicaid, so we didn’t have to exhaust my financial resources to pay for her care.

After admission, the State of Indiana gives you 6 months to get the Medicaid recipient’s name off of all the accounts. Which I did, leading to me in a Bank of America office downtown Indianapolis. I explained the situation, and what I was doing, and how I needed new accounts that were just me and not joint accounts any longer. She said, “So, if you’re separating your finances-” and I didn’t hear a word after that.

I didn’t cry, then, but that was the moment that I lost my marriage. It was at that point that I realized we were separated. As much as I’d tried to fight it, as much as I’d denied the fact that we hadn’t had any kind of relationship for over a year, my marriage was done. We were separated, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and, now, financially. My marriage had died in that nursing home, and I had only just realized it while sitting in a bank.

Strike four.

Four momentous, life-changing, potentially tragic events 

that, yeah, reasonably would make one stand up and ask, “What in the world am I doing here? What does this mean for me? Where do I go? How do I move forward, when everything that I used to know just keeps changing on me?”

With all of those things coming at me, who’s to say that I was weak? That I was a poor judge of character? That I was at fault for any of that? Perhaps you can perhaps blame the religion thing on me. Maybe I didn’t have enough faith. But isn’t that just a demonstration of actual faith, that it’s not something imparted upon a soul, but it is an actual article of belief, that you choose to believe or not? And if I was finding more information that contradicted my original belief, do I not owe it to myself to at least consider that maybe my beliefs are wrong, and that I would do well to reconsider?

So… that’s how I came to my mid-life crisis. My journey out from that bottom took about two years. Lots of introspection. Lots of crying in the car, questioning and yelling and singing silly songs because I just didn’t know what else to do. Lots of long walks by myself, talking to myself, talking to the voices in my head, talking to the geese on the side of the path. Did those things make me weak? Did those things make me a bad person?

No.

And they are not for any other person who’s going through similar, or even very different, circumstances. There’s a real good reason why, even without major inciting incidents, that a mid-life crisis happens to good people, even if your car is still running and your faith is still flowing and your job is still reasonable and your marriage is still intact.

For the rest of us? Those who had some big “F you” from the universe that kicked us out of our comfort zones? We know better. We know we were actually doing a lot. We know we were sometimes doing much, much more than those who looked down their noses at us for being weak or self-indulgent. We know that we knew better than they did just what, exactly, was going on inside our own heads. And our results afterwards showed.

Experience. Transformation. Growth. We did these things and we came out of our mid-life crises set up for great things in the future.

It turns out this post was not about my mid-life crisis at all.

I’ve said that mine was all four of those things falling apart all at once, but, really, it’s probably more the two years that came after that were the crisis itself. Those events were just instigators.

And the straw that broke the camel’s back was, after all, really simple. Just 5 little words: “If you’re separating your finances.”

Be careful with your words, friends. You never know when they’ll have the power to change lives.

I don’t have space here for a full discussion of all that went on in my head (and in my house) over those subsequent months, but I probably will write about that in the future. For now, though, I just have a couple of take-aways.

For someone going through it right now: Keep going. You are the only one who knows everything that’s going on. And, yeah, it probably feels like you’re inadequate to the task, and that you are an impostor, and that you really just wish everyone else would shut up about it and let you get on with your life. You’re right. They should. But they’re probably not going to, so you’ll just continue on faking it, hoping to outlast the crisis as it blows itself out. You can do it.

And for those who are watching someone go through it, whether that be a family member, friend, or co-worker: Cut them a little slack, please. Let’s not pretend like you have any clue what’s going on inside that head, or inside their house, or inside their church, or inside their body. Let’s also stop with the hollow attempts at encouragements like “I can’t imagine what you’re going through! You must be so strong!” You’re right, you can’t imagine it. And I, while I’m in it, don’t feel that strong. I mostly feel like a fake, and if I really let down my guard and showed you the terrible thoughts inside my head, I imagine you’d run away screaming.

So let’s stop with the empty gestures, huh? Just be real, and give people some space and time to explore. You might not like where they’re going, but, hey, you don’t have to live their lives.

Extremely Bad Advice – Grieving Dog-Dad

Dear SJ: What can I get my grieving father?

My dad is a veteran and a goofball who is not very in touch with his emotions. Our childhood dog passed today, and I want to send my dad something to show him some love. He often feels guilty for showing emotions and despite that, he is clearly heart broken about our dog passing today. He could barely tell me. Our dog was the best companion to our family the last 16 years and she really helped my dad as an emotional support dog, especially when he was struggling with PTSD. He lives far away, so I want to send him something to show him some love. Any ideas?? He’s not really a flower guy and I don’t think anything overly sentimental would be right either.

— Long-Distance Mourner

Broken with grief man dog owner is grieving sitting on a bench with the lovely pet collar and deep weeping about animal loss. Home pets relatives and love concept.

Dear Long-Distance,

Okay, clearly, this is a little out of my league. I know, I know, shocker that SJ would admit he’s not quite up to snuff! 

But, yeah, every once in a while even a blind pig finds an acorn. See, this seems to be out of my usual realm of expertise because it’s clearly not about you. You’re not trying to manipulate your father into loving you again, or it’s not one of those situations where he’s been moping around the house for three months because Fluffy died and the dishes are piling up and the toilet’s dirty and you just want him to get off his ass already and contribute again.

Those situations are right up my alley because, generally, the problem is not the problem. It’s a symptom of something deeper, and just manifests as emotional distance or laziness. If those were the case, I’d blame the dog’s death, rather than laziness or your father’s drinking problem or your own whoreishness that’s instilling a negative reputation upon the whole family.

But here, the dog has left the building and that is the problem. You want to know what to do? Let’s start with what to don’t instead.

Don’t tell him that “It’s okay, she’s in a better place now.” That’s just ridiculous, facetious, and doesn’t do anything for his feelings.

Don’t tell him not to feel sad. We don’t choose our emotions. They’re an evolutionarily-crafted signal about the environments in which we find ourselves. We can’t decide not to feel something. We can only decide how to act.

Don’t tell him to “Get over it.” Even if this funk or fugue lasts months, that’s not doing anything for him. You think he doesn’t want to just get over it? Fuck! That’s exactly what he’s been hoping for!

read the rest on Patreon

To get what you want, you have to stop wanting

You don’t get what you “want”. You get what you work for.

Magic lamp from the story of Aladdin with Genie appearing in blue smoke concept for wishing, luck and magic

A friend once said, “It’s not real unless it’s on the calendar.” 

For a long time, I “wanted” to do stand-up comedy. I would see the people on Comedy Central or late-night TV, and laugh, and think, “Hey, I’ve got some good jokes. I bet I could get a laugh or two.”

But then, I’d never do anything about it.

For years, I “wanted” to write good stories. But did I? Nope. Oh, sure, I wrote stories, but did I make them good? Did I get critiques? Did I revise and refine? Did I study the craft of plot, and characterization, and setting?

Nah, I just wrote whatever came out, and called it “good enough”.

For a long time, I didn’t really “want” to be an actuary. But I passed exams, participated in ethics trainings, completed monthly deliverables, cashed my paychecks, etc.

I was a hell of a lot more actuary than I was stand-up comic or writer.

So what’s the difference? It’s all in what you’re willing to work for.

See, when you “want” to be successful, or when you “want” to go to Italy, or when you “want” to someday do stand-up comedy, you’ve already achieved the goal. Your brain calls the “wanting” good enough and doesn’t worry about following through.

Mindset and deadlines give you something to work for.

With the stand-up comedy thing, I didn’t really have a deadline. Until I heard that there was an open mic at a bar on a night I was already planning to be at. So I put it on the calendar – I said, “I’m going to be at that open mic and I’m going to try my jokes!”

When it became I will instead of I want, it was real, and then it actually happened. I told a few jokes, got a few laughs, and I’ve done it a handful of times since.

The big difference was, there was something on the calendar. There was a real, concrete date with real, concrete expectations. And there was a change in how I talked to myself.

When it was Someday I want to do open mic, my brain did its standard shortcut thing and decided that I’d already achieved the goal. 

When it was Next Wednesday, I will be on that stage, my brain couldn’t ignore the reality staring it in the face. While my subconscious produced tons of doubts and fears that were trying to get me out of being vulnerable, my conscious mind said “You don’t have control in this situation,” and did the thing anyway.

The thing is, you never get anywhere by wanting something. You can only make change by doing something.

Lots of people want to be a world traveler. Or in a healthy relationship. Or a successful CEO. But they don’t actually do the things that would get them to that place. Again, I think it’s because when we think of ourselves as wanting things, our brains assume that wanting is the end goal and don’t see a need for more effort.

Instead, what if you thought in terms of “I’m becoming a…”?

I’m becoming a world traveler. My next trip is to Italy in the summer. Wouldn’t that constantly remind your brain that you’ve got to book the ticket, get the passport, buy the new luggage, save for the plane trip, and hit the gym?

I’m becoming a stand-up comic. I’m searching for open mic nights within an hour from me. Wouldn’t this demonstrate just how much opportunity there is, give you incentive to talk to the others after the show, and actually do something with that Twitter handle you registered years ago?

I’m becoming a newscaster. Wouldn’t this lead you to practice in front of your mirror nights and weekends, write and rewrite your copy, and make the LinkedIn connections you need in order to get the entry-level producing job that leads to the field reporting job that leads to the weekend desk job which leads to the 6 PM anchor position?

Nobody every got where they wanted to go just by wanting to go there. They actually worked for it. That’s the big difference.

Me? I don’t “want” to be a successful author. I am, however, becoming one.

So, stop wanting. Start becoming.

Extremely Bad Advice: Pretty Little Thing

Dear SJ:

I have been blessed with a gorgeous 4-year-old daughter who is (even more importantly) smart, funny and kind, but I have an issue. Every time we go anywhere or meet someone new, the person feels the need to comment on her beauty. We receive comments like, “Just wait till she’s older. Boys will be all over her!” This happens not only with older distant relatives and my in-laws, but also random people at the grocery store.

I understand they are trying to pay a compliment, but I find it disturbing that they are thinking about my little girl in this way. I’m tired of it, but I’m not sure of the appropriate response when people make these comments.

— Protective Mom

smart girl thinking, green chalkboard background

Dear Over-protective,

Let me get this straight. People are complimenting your daughter, and you’re upset? What is it about this world do you not get? In case you haven’t noticed, pretty people have the most advantage of all. Forget white privilege, male privilege, Ivy-League privilege. Sexy privilege tops all those in terms of the opportunities it offers a person.

The world is very shallow. Pretty people get more job offers, bigger raises, more sex, and more free shit when they don’t actually need that free shit. I mean, have you ever seen an ugly newscaster? Or a 3 on the main stage at Madison Square Garden? No, no you haven’t. And you’re not likely to, either. “A face for radio” isn’t just a funny joke. Sex sells, and it will continue to dominate the minds and wallets (because it dominates the genitalia) of this world for a long time to come…

See the rest of the reply.

Extremely Bad Advice: Anxiety problems

Hey friends! Your friendly resident ass back again. Just wanted you to know that I’ve launched a new blog on Patreon! This one will stay up for the SEO and for longer works, and act as a funnel to the Extremely Bad Advice blog itself.

I’ll still post here to drive additional traffic, so if you want to read and be entertained, by all means. Here’s one that is now live over there, and will be for at least a week after launch.

Dear SJ:  I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time, this is my first time writing. I have to admit, I’ve been having major anxiety for the past few years and only recently found a therapist I like. Sometimes he is very helpful. He helps me through some rough patches, but, to be honest, he’s not that professional. Sometimes he’ll go off on tangents, talking about topics I’m not interested in or that don’t really affect me. It’s frustrating. We’re supposed to be there to talk about my issues, not his problems. When this happens, how can I get him back on track quickly? If something doesn’t change soon, I’m going to have to stop seeing him. I need help for my anxiety and he’s not doing that.

— Seeking Real Change in Raleigh

Adhd.

Dear Seeking, I’m so glad you wrote. 

This is bound to be one of my best columns, if I do say so myself, because, believe it or not, I am uniquely qualified to give you advice in this area. You see, I happen to know, for a fact, that anxiety is not real, you’re just making it up. I know this because you state that this “therapist” sometimes helps, but you and I know that the only person who’s really doing anything for you is you.

First of all, if this guy really were getting you results, he would be consistently doing it, not only occasionally. “Sometimes”? That’s not enough. Teeter-totters don’t only sometimes go up on one end when you push down on the other. Gravity doesn’t only sometimes work. And by the same token, if a therapist actually worked to help with your anxiety, it wouldn’t only be sometimes. The fact that you sometimes feel better after talking with him, and sometimes not, is more likely just due to random fluctuation than any kind of cause-and-effect.

And second of all, let’s be honest, anxiety isn’t even real.


See the rest of the story here. And be well! I’ll catch you on the flippity flop.

Writing Practice 11/26/2019

Stories of Your Life, page 119: It’ll be when you first learn to walk…

It’ll be when you first learn to walk. Your drunken-baby steps, uncertain and wobbly, that lead you only a few inches away from the safety of the couch at first, then further and further as you gain skill, confidence, strength.

Or – maybe – it will be when you first ride a bike. That proud-parent-even-prouder-child experience, when you go zooming off down the street faster and more sure than I could ever be for you right now.

Or – maybe – it will be when you have your first sleepover party, that time when I will for the first time be unable to sneak in your room at night and just watch, just check, just to make sure, once more, that you are, in fact, still breathing and are, in parallel fact, still my little daughter.

certainly it won’t be as late as when you get glasses. That’s going to be in about fifth or sixth grade, if family history is any indication. You’ll be what – eleven? Twelve? So grown up, and yet so vulnerable still.

I won’t even conceive that it could be as late as your braces, those fences inside your lips holding back your “true” development, but, at the same time, driving you to a more secure, more happy, more healthy body image. I must admit – I never went through that phase. The one bright spot in my DNA, I guess, so I don’t know how to relate to that. I’ll just have to listen then while you hate having braces and hate the rubber bands and hate flossing and hate the checkups and hate everything about it, just smile and nod, smile and nod.

Perhaps it would be foolish of me to think it would be at your first date. Or when you’re driving to your job. Or when you’re moving in to the dorm, or moving out, or when you finally come back to tell me the fabulous news. Or when you’ve finally gotten that sweet little bundle of joy of your own, when you feel “complete”, whenever that is down the road, whenever you’re able to give me advice on finances, or memory, or organization.

I could be forgiven for hoping it will last that long. But I know it won’t. Someday, it will come, that I will realize you are no longer my “little girl”. And then I will probably cry. Laugh, too, and give you a hug, but, yes, without a doubt, I will cry.

Until that day, though, I will savor these moments. I will cradle you here in the crook of my arm. I will feel the solid weight of your head against my bicep. I will stroke your tiny fingers, one at a time. Then all at a time, with my huge fingers, my giant hand, my overwhelming love. I will bask in this wonderful feeling, and together we shall march, arm in arm, into the future, as one. Let’s go, my dearest daughter.

Let’s go.

Writing Practice – 3/30/2019

How do I get rid of my hiccups?

Easy ways (easy as in historically don’t cost a lot) – hold your breath, drink a glass of water, have someone else scare you. Not only are they easy, they’re usually not effective.

Non-traditional ways – I could either eliminate the hiccups, or I could try to eliminate myself noticing them. So – maybe I cut out my eardrums. Then I don’t hear myself hiccuping, and it’s not a problem any more.

Maybe instead, I stop hiccuping every three or four seconds, and I train myself to just do this constantly. Breathe in – hiccup – breathe out – breathe in – hiccup – breathe out. Forever. Then I don’t “have the hiccups”, then I’m just a different person. And since I don’t have the hiccups anymore, it’s not a big deal.

Or, I could hypnotize myself not to notice them. “Hey, you’ve got the hiccups!” Really? I never noticed.

Those I would call “moderate” solutions. Now, for the hard ones.

Let’s go right to the source. the problem is something within my body, so to eliminate the hiccups I can download (upload?) my mind to a computer and eliminate the need for a physical body anyway. Some scientists predict that it’s like 20% likely that all of this is already a simulation anyway, so we’d just be accessing a process that’s already in place. Maybe not so difficult after all.

But probably my most extreme method, yet one much more practical than the computer, because it’s already available, is I should just cut out my vocal cords. One quick snip of my throat – I bet I could get a cheap, yet qualified, doctor to do that for me down in Cancun, or maybe over in Delhi. I have had experiences in both of those places that tell me, sure, they probably know what they’re doing. And at this cheap a price, it’s practically stealing!

So – what will it be? Option A – hold your breath? Option B – hypnosis? Or option C- drastic surgery?

Let’s see – I’m leaning towards option C, for a couple of reasons.

One, I know it will work. It’s kind of hard to hiccup, with this little mouth / throat flap spamming all over when you no longer have a flap. Impossible, really.

Second, it’s permanent. If I go the “hold my breath” route, what’s to stop my body from sabotaging me again next week? Or even in an hour or two?

Finally, I like how it’s an overkill situation. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, isn’t that the advice? Same thing applies here – go all out, make sure it happens, leave no witnesses, tell whatever story you want to afterwards.

Deal!

Extremely Bad Advice – Losing A Limb, Gaining A Life

Okay, I’m stealing this one from Reddit. Apparently these people don’t know I’m available, or they wouldn’t be wasting their time with piddling “it’ll get better, just wait” pablum.

Hi Reddit, So as the title says, my Step-Dad, whom I’m very close to, had an accident at home on the weekend. We have all been left quite traumatised by the events. He was cutting thru mortar to remove limestone blocks, and the blade got stuck and kicked back, into his lower arm.

It severed his artery and he was bleeding out. My mum was at home but couldn’t hear him yelling (very big house). He shoved his other fist into his wound and walked to their door. He couldn’t take his hand out to open door or bang on door, so he banged on it with his head. When that failed he walked down to the driveway because, as he explained, he was bleeding out and all he could think was he was going to die alone and didn’t say goodbye to anyone.

He lay on the driveway yelling for help and luckily a neighbour drove past and saw him. Other people came and got my mum. There was a nurse there too, thank God. Ambulance was called and my mum called me, screaming to get my step-sisters and I to him because he was losing too much blood. I was with 1 of my sisters at the time and 6 of our kids. The kids (between 5 and 10 years of age) saw the fallout of that, us crying and panicking etc. They seem to be ok.

He got to hospital where they gave him ketamine to knock him out. Surgery followed to reattach his arm and nerves etc and he is currently undergoing more surgery right now. They say he lost so much muscle, he may never regain feeling. He can move his fingers though. He is a very physical man, a builder by trade, and is always building and fixing things. This will destroy him. He is 63 years old and now needs years of rehab.

My mum and Step-Dad have enough savings to survive for a few years. My mum works too. It was his left arm affected and he is right-handed, small mercies. We are all deeply affected by nearly losing him. He does so much for everyone and the thought that he nearly died alone is awful. My mum has major guilt about not hearing him. I know we are blessed he is still with us, but the trauma in that moment is still lingering.

What can we do now to make his life/their lives easier?

**

Okay, sounds like a bad situation. First part of my answer is, don’t listen to my advice. It’s extremely bad. Nobody should listen to this advice. Got that, those of you reading at home? Don’t listen to this advice! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Second part, of three, is that you’re going to have to put some money out of your pocket for a few months. At least until your dad gets moderate use of his hand back. Let me explain.

Judging by your use of the word “mum” and misspelling of “neighbor” as “neighbour”, I conclude that you are located somewhere in England. This means your procedures and operations and therapy will be covered by the National Health Service. I have two thoughts on that.

One, you will get what you need, but not all of what you need. Oh, you’ll get the surgeries and the physical therapy and the emotional counseling and all that, but that’s only half the picture. My other mind tells me that since your father is now hideously deformed, much is going to change between him and your mum. Due to not only the physical change, but her feeling like she must be “delicate” with him while he recovers, and that she feels she must care for him during his convalescence, she will no longer find him sexually attractive. Instead, she will see him as a “project”, a work to be completed, and she will therefore pull away physically out of fear of hurting him, as well as due to the time constraints and the stress.

At the same time, he will begin to feel like less of a man, less of a provider, hell, less of a human being, because he can no longer do the things he had previously done. This will drain his libido and lead to a downward spiral in which he does not improve because he doesn’t see any benefit to it, and because his wife, your mum, is acting aloof and “strange” to him.

This cycle will continue to build, albeit beneath the surface, because nobody wants to admit their true feelings about the situation, until it blows up into a destructive case of anger and, paradoxically, depression, driving your mum into the arms of Trevor down the street, because at least he listens! When the truth comes out, the downfall continues: your step-dad feels even more humiliated, incompetent, impotent, deformed, and unworthy.

His depression deepens and eventually their split becomes permanent, and he’s on the dole while your mum and Trevor are snogging nightly, bemoaning the fact that if they’d just admitted their feelings years ago, they could be on the beaches in the south of France these days, taking it easy. Meanwhile your step-dad spirals downward into a whiskey-fueled haze combined with a fanatical obsession over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s neckties. Now, nobody wants that; but you can avoid it by the following actions, and here’s where the money comes in, because the NHS doesn’t cover “emotional support concubines”:

Once a week, you hire a hooker to hit on your step-dad. [You’re in England, so, small mercies, this isn’t so frowned upon as here in the U.S. Good for you guys.] Prepare her, and pay her to be ready for, giving your father a handjob, though encourage her to allow him to stop her whenever he wishes. This will make him feel attractive, make him feel worthy, and, if he goes through with it, give him the sexual satisfaction neither he nor your mum is prepared to provide during his recovery. He’s busy thinking about staying alive, not about getting off, and she’s thinking about keeping him alive, not about getting him off. But this way, he still feels like a man, and he has options: accept the hooker’s advances and get his rocks off (lessening the stress), or reject her and have a great story to tell your mum in order to solidify their relationship.

This will probably need to last about eighteen months. After that time, his therapy will be done, and they’ll have figured out their “new normal”, which will likely include some kind of cosplay, generally around the “Captain Hook” theme. They’ll be good to go, although you won’t want to ask them for any stories after their anniversary nights out on the town. Good news is you can stop the hooker. Or you can give her my number and pre-pay for a little long-distance “talk therapy”, if you get my drift. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

I mentioned that there were three parts to my answer. That was the second. The third is this, and while you may think that part 2 was bad, just wait.

I advise you to convince your step-dad to amputate his arm, preferably as quickly as possible. The physical and mental trauma and struggle he’ll have to go through over the next handful of years to overcome his disfigurement and disablement is just not going to be worth it. Prosthetics are fantastic these days! He’ll actually be vastly more functional in a dramatically shorter time frame if he replaces, rather than “saving”, his arm and rehab from there. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to pull the old switcheroo as he self-deludes more and more into the idea that he’ll be better off with half his original hand.

But, in reality, his “healing” will be a much, much longer process if he has to view daily reminders of how much he’s lost, and how insufficient his “recovery” will ever be.

Now, how do you convince him to do it? Well, you probably won’t. Which is where you’ll have to take matters into your own hand. Literally. Go back out to his driveway and find that angle-grinder or whatever it was, and finish the job. Use a torniquet (I bet that’s how you’d spell it) tied off at the elbow so he doesn’t bleed out, but just throw that leftover hunk to the stray dogs in the street and apply to the NHS for a prosthetic. The trauma will be over much quicker, and your step-dad will, in the end, thank you once he realizes you’ve actually shortened his grieving period and given him a far superior solution to having something that looks like, and is about as useful as, beef jerky dangling from his elbow.

Cheers!

I Believe…

Writing Practice 1/24/2019: I believe…

I believe in the kingdom come. I believe U2 was at its best in the eighties, before they got successful band syndrome. It’s okay, it happens to all of those people who get “successful”. They now have less reason to pursue their artistry and craft than they did when they were broke and absolutely needed to pursue it at all coasts, in order to eat. That kind of pressure that kind of process weeds out those who don’t believe in their message as much; it keeps them from getting complacent, until, eventually, there is so much abundance around them that thye forget the passions that drove them to and through those situations and spaces.

I believe that diamonds are not all girls’ best friends. Oh, sure. Sometimes they are an individual girl’s best friend, because they represent something larger in society, they represent wealth, and with wealth comes status, and with status comes privilege, and princessship, and servants to supply your every demand, and all that Jazz which, apparently, everyone wants.

I believe that their are footprints on the moon. Though that’s not much of a “believe” as an acceptance of fact. There really are footprints there, and pictures to prove it. I guess the belief is that I believe the pictures are not changed, faked, doctored in any way.

I believe that is the way of the world – that this, too, this process of free writing and rewriting and changing your mind halfway through is what gets us there. We are on a journey. The farthest journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, is the old adage. But it doesn’t stop there. It continues. It continues as you move forward, keep going, second step, third, fourth, fifth, tenth, twentieth, thirtieth, and suddenly (well, not suddenly, gradually, we’re not wearing Seven League Boots here) you’ve gone a mile. And after a time, two.

The value comes in going mile five hundred and one, when you’re tired and cold, and bored, and staying someplace warm, with a soft bed and a fireplace and some good company to tell you jokes in the evening as you sit, communal, gathered around the fire and smoking a pipe and enjoying the atmosphere and the community and the “feel” of the place; if you, too, become successful in that moment you will forget your journey, you will stop and stay, you will just be there, you will not finish.

__You will not end well.

____You will not overcome.

So the win, the completion, the culmination of the thousand mile journey is tho the easy part of the first step. and it is not the easy part of the last ten, twenty, eighty-seven miles. You conquer that journey when you are in the middle, faced with a decision.

–Stay?

—-Or go?

How you answer determines your fate. Choose wisely. For each future has consequence.