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The black hole between okay and fantastic

rick_match_421526450_95b92311d8_o.jpg I quit smoking about 20 years ago.

(Go ahead, applaud. I'll wait.)

Thing is, while my 2-pack-a-day habit wasn't doing me any favors, neither was it impeding my life in any major way. You X- and Y-ers might not know this, but back in '87, you could still smoke most places, like...indoors. In your hospital room!

Plus lots of other people smoked, too, so you had your pick of people to date and hang out with and drink with who were also smokers. And, save the bronchitis I'd had a couple of bouts of in years past, smoking hadn't really affected my health yet. I looked fine, was in reasonably good shape, and since a pack still cost under twenty bucks, smoking barely made a dent in my hefty, ad-hole salary.

Still, I'd come of age after the surgeon general's thumbs-down, so I knew I'd have to quit at some point. I was switching jobs and figured it was as good a time as any: start at the new place with new habits. So I quit right before I started.

And then I farted for a month.

No, that's imprecise, I sat in a methane miasma of my own making for a month. Or longer. In a cubicle, that's a "room" with no ceiling, people, surrounded by brand-new co-workers who had no idea I did not always smell like a dead rat the horse shat out. I sat, head pounding from withdrawal, chasing my farts with matches as I wrote jingles and taglines and blurbs, grinding my teeth, chain-sucking Halls Menth-O-Lyptus tablets.

And that was while I was at work.

Every minute of every day for the first three weeks was a living hell. I had a mantra, one that worked so well, I wound up using it again several times during bad breakups:

If I can make it a minute, I can make it an hour If I can make in an hour, I can make it a day If I can make it a day, I can make it a week If I can make it a week, I can make it a month If I can make it month, I can make it forever

The basic point is, my life went from being...well, if not perfect, then pretty good, to a whole lot better. In between, however, was another story. In between, there was the Big Nasty. A great big stinky sodden mess of upheaval that there was no way past but straight through. And I get why we give up there: really, I do.

I reorganized my apartment around the end of last year. And because I am on the non-robust side, any serious reorganizing requires me to empty all critical bits of furniture of all their contents. And because my apartment is also on the robust side, this means that for a time, everything ends up in a gigundous heap in the middle of the apartment. Only it's not the middle: it's the whole freaking place, one big shitheap of all my crappy, earthly possessions, lying inert in a mass like we just had a 7.2 on the Richter scale.

Also, I timed this really, really perfectly back in December, which is to say, right when it gets dark. So it's dark, and it's cold, and it's the end of the year, and I'm lying in the middle of a shitheap. And this grand vision I had for the total reorganization and streamlining of my life is not only not working out, but the mess and the darkness have conspired to show me that I am, in fact, an idjit, that my furniture will only fit into ONE configuration, that change IS impossible and I am both an ass AND a boob for daring to think otherwise.

So I sat in the midst of the rubble and I cried a little. And then I started hauling around furniture anyway. And wouldn't you know that by gum, those old sticks would go together differently and I did get everything put away and when I was done, it was not only not just okay, it was fantastic. Fantastic!!!

Why bring this up now? Because I'm in a hole. It is maybe not so black and deep as Fartville or The Night My Furniture Almost Ate Me. But it is dark and it is vast. It is the great, not-so-great unknown I must cross to get from "okay" to "fantastic." Okay was okay, too, really it was. I've had a good life. But life can be fantastic, and I don't mean from a swimmin'-pools, movie-stars perspective. I mean the full living of your actual life: being there, doing that thing you do 100%, whether or not it earns you a thin dime. Fulfilling your purpose. You can do a lot of it from the land of okay, but eventually, you gotta go. And that is a scary gulf.

So if you cross...when you cross...stay aware. Reach out for a Halls or a hand or a good, sturdy, safety match, as appropriate. Know it won't be the miasma forever. Know that even if you can't see them, there are millions of people crossing their own impassible swamps.

Know that it's okay to cling to the shore for awhile, but also know that once you strike out, there's no going back.

You'll be okay. You'll be more than okay. You'll be different.

You'll be fantastic.



UPDATE: There's a pingback below, but for those of you who don't click on comments (and hence, might miss it), Amateur Manifesto has a wonderful post up about her own, current experience with the Black Hole. Strongly recommended.

Image by cheekybikerboy via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

RIP, YMDB; hello, redundancy

Woodruff-Paskal I know nothing lasts forever. I also know I'm overly attached to things. But a list of movies? Who thought I'd have to back up a list of my 20 favorite movies?!?

  1. If goes under? I lose my links. AKA I'm screwed.
  2. If gmail goes down? I lose my email backup. (I've got it all locally, but I'm perched on the edge of a rusty scimitar, AKA, I'm screwed.)
  3. If DreamHost goes down? I lose this whole blog, past the last time I backed it up (note to self: find that plug-in that backs up automagically) (and for good measure, back up when you're done with this).

Before I go on, please know that I actually do have a keen sense of perspective when it comes to "stuff", based in no small part to, well, I can't even bring it up in a post this frivolous. You'll just have to trust me, my friend: between my travels abroad and my travels, period, I have an acute understanding not only of the fundamental impermanence of life, but of priorities in general.

Still, we cling to what we cling to, idiotic or not. And today, I'm clinging to movies. I had a list of them on a site called YMDB, which I won't even link to, because it redirects to IMDB, which needs more traffic like I need more holiday fat around my middle, and it Summed Me Up in Movies, and it was a link between me and my beloved Neilochka, and now it's gone.

Worse, occasionally, when I'd be hard up for a good video rental, I'd hop on YMDB and find a similar list. You know, like how you people who don't yet know is the devil sometimes use it for other recommendations on crap you might be interested in. Who doesn't want a nice page filled with crap they might be interested in!?! No one, I say!

So to hell with it. I'm putting my new and improved list of fave flickage right here. If anyone has any ideas on other stuff I might want to see, let me know. I gave up TV, remember? I need distraction!

Some disclaimers before I give up the list itself:

  • This list was cobbled together from dim, dim memory and a MySpace list, so, you know, it's likely to change
  • Drastic change
  • This list is in no particular order (although I really, really love The Third Man)
  • My criteria have more to do with desirability of repeat viewing than inherent greatness, which is to don't even start about Showgirls, people
  • That's it, but bulleted lists look better in odd numbers

Now, without further ado, the list itself:

  1. The Third Man
  2. The Godfather
  3. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
  4. Showgirls
  5. All About Eve
  6. Jackie Brown
  7. Brazil
  8. Nashville
  9. Caddyshack
  10. Ed Wood
  11. Fat City
  12. Le Rayon Vert (aka Summer, in U.S. release)
  13. Johnny Guitar
  14. Saturday Night Fever
  15. The Gay Divorcée
  16. Sunset Boulevard
  17. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
  18. Play Misty for Me
  19. Vertigo
  20. Singin' in the Rain

As I said, list subject to change. Like me...

xxx c

Image by bryanF via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license