Showing posts from July, 2011

The Last Resort... and Second Chances

Words can have multiple meanings, and sometimes, the differences are subtle. Take “exhaustion”. We hear the word, and tend to picture a body utterly worn out by some sort of grueling physical activity, such as that of a workman who pounds nails into roof shingles for a living, after spending eight hours in the blazing July sun, or maybe a triathlete at the end of his/her race. Exhaustion doesn’t manifest itself solely in the physical sense, though. Emotional exhaustion--that hollowed-out feeling which follows a period of intense grieving, for instance--can leave the body feeling just as fatigued as physical activity, and the same is true for mental exhaustion--such as when a person has thought long and hard about every aspect of a seemingly-insurmountable problem, in the fruitless search for a solution. Any one of them--or a combination thereof--can lead to burn-out, that state of being completely fed up--with a job, a relationship, a situation... or with life itself. A dangerous thing,…

The Wolf and His Elf

Fairy tales--and those who enjoy them--fall into two distinct camps. There are the frothy, don’t-worry-because-nothing-too-terrible-could-ever-possibly-happen stories, with their shiny-happy people and dreamy, feel-good endings. A bit of harmless frippery, if you will; pleasant but predictable, they’re perfect for Pollyannas and anyone in need of a few warm fuzzies.  And then there are those tales which avoid all light like the plague, opting instead to hurtle straight into the darkness. Here we find the ugly, wicked, and terrifying, with their nightmare-on-acid settings and less-than-peachy-keen endings. Unsurprisingly, it is these latter--the moody, atmospheric stories--which really resonate with me. (Well, what did you expect? One look at my über-furry boycat, and it’s obvious he’s over-qualified to provide all the warm fuzzies I’ll ever need. ;)) To say I was excited to hear about a new, modern-day fairy tale coming down the pike, then, would be something of an understatement. (The f…

The Stolen Life

What are we, if not the sum total of our memories? Whether for good or bad, everything we’ve done, seen, and experienced to this point has had a hand in shaping who we are. It’s not just the “juicy” bits that matter, either, such as how our recollections of those historic “firsts” (first kiss, first time going to a funeral, first time having sex, first time getting really drunk, first time falling in love, etc.) may have affected our future actions. Rather, it’s the memories of all the mundane stuff--our everyday interactions with others, the patterns and routines we take for granted--which play the biggest role in filling in the details, making us “us”. But what would happen if we didn’t have that built-in store of experiential memories, of things big and small accomplished and lessons learned, guiding us? How would the absence of things remembered affect how we see ourselves... and what havoc would it play with our sense of reality, and sanity?  These are the questions asked in S.J. Wa…

Affairs, Brawls, & Crimes... This Ain't Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

What do any of us really know about our neighbors... or more to the point, what do we think we know about them? This is a question I’ve had (alarming) reason to consider recently, and the answer, I fear, is that we don’t know very much, at all. It wasn’t always like this; in the past, people tended to stay in one place longer, which gave them more opportunity (and reason) to get to know their neighbors better. That's all changed over the last half-century, though; we’re constantly on the move, and the bulk of our communications occur electronically. All those getting-to-know-you cliches (which I'm only familiar with from Classic TV) like summer block parties, visits from Welcome Wagon ladies bearing casseroles and cakes, and cozy afternoon coffee klatsches are now just quaint relics of a bygone era. As for borrowing a cup of sugar (a couple of eggs, milk, whatever) from the near-total stranger down the hall (or across the street)? Not only is that a totally foreign concept to u…

Some Secrets are Better Left Unknown

Belonging... that sense of security we get from being included in something. We always have a need for it and, whether the end goal is being allowed to hang with the “cool kids”, getting to spend time with that dream guy or girl, or gaining admission to a prestigious club, our reasons for desiring it are much the same: we’ll be better/happier/more successful than we are now, if only we can manage to fit in. If we can belong. Not every group requires that sort of overt acceptance. Take, for instance, family. There’s seldom any shortage of angst or aggro among relatives, but those problems typically stem from issues other than any question of belonging. Whether we like it or not, sharing space on a family tree means we’re automatically part of the group.  To someone who’s adopted, though, the situation isn’t quite so cut and dried, because familial belonging involves more than just so many years of common experiences or time spent living under the same roof. The question of identity goes …