Obsessions about OCD

Contact with Blood.

I was about twelve years old and in sixth grade at prison block number two, otherwise known as the local intermediate school. The building was square, nearly windowless, and soulless. It was the annual round of sex education, when school teachers round up the children and talk about one of the great mysteries of life as if it were little more than a mathematical formula. Of course, this is how they talk about everything. I remember dozing through classes on, of all things, Gothic architecture.

We had just switched rooms and gone back to our normal class schedule. I sat down at my desk in the room that was painted with somniferous combinations of baby blue and beige. The florescent lights heightened the devastating effect of the color.

And there it was on the board, under a list of ways to contract HIV, which in those days was more often carelessly called AIDS: Contact with Blood. It was written in white chalk, but in my mind it screamed red. Hints of Wozzeck. Das Wasser ist Blut!

I had always been a worrier. One or two doctors diagnosed me with something like excessive fears. My mother thought I had obsessive-compulsive disorder, but she could never convince a shrink of this. At different times different worries dominated my life, and on that day in the early nineties, I developed a new obsession: Blood. And AIDS.

From that moment on, every citing of blood or a blood product like a scab set me into panic mode. If someone got a bloody nose in gym class and it dripped somewhere, I was afraid. And the red stones in the terrazzo floor of the school gave me a great deal of anxiety. Is it a stone? Is it a spot of blood? I seem to recall staring straight down as I made my way through the hall so that I could avoid any possible spots of blood, which made for a scene not unlike Melvin Udall (played by Jack Nicholson) avoiding cracks in the sidewalk in the movie As Good as it Gets.

Finger food like cheeseburgers and pizza could make lunch a nightmare. I would eat these things with a fork and knife, quite content to deal with the curious looks of my classmates. It was a small price to pay if it kept my nerves a little bit calmer. But this is important: I wasn’t just warding off anxiety. I thought that I was in real danger, that blood could somehow get onto my hands, into my food, and into me. This was completely consuming; it was how I spent the majority of my days.

Pretty soon I had developed a whole system to deal with measuring the risk of infection from any blood that I had sighted. I asked one of the duly appointed sex ed teachers how long the HIV virus can live outside the body. He surmised fifteen minutes or so, which, like a true obsessive-compulsive, I formulated into a hard and fast rule.  (A recent Google search I conducted suggests that HIV, like any virus, is a parasite and cannot survive long without a host, but that the exact time varies with different circumstances.)

I also developed rules out of whole cloth. I have to back up a bit to explain this, though. In school, we would sit at our desks with our backpacks next to our chairs. One of my concerns was that a spot of blood, say, on the floor, could track from my shoe to my backpack to other places. In dealing with this, I developed the notion that blood, or germs contained in blood, could not “track” anywhere beyond the third surface.  Floor, shoe, backpack: anything beyond this was safe according to my way of thinking.

Other areas of concern were less clear. I was unsure, for instance, if the mixture of water and dried blood might reinvigorate any dangerous germs. I worried about this a lot when I practiced the trumpet, wondering if the condensation from the “spit valve” could be a factor in this. This is, of course, beyond absurd, but to someone who doesn’t have all the necessary information and is afraid to share his obsessions with anyone else, these things happen. It meant that at times I was afraid to practice my music, which was, I think, more painful than I realized at the time. There were also times when I was afraid even to reach into a freezer to get something. If I had been obsessing about AIDS, I would be concerned that germs could get from me into the freezer, where they could be preserved for future attack against some unwitting victim.

This was in the days before the internet, and I suspect that at the time one would have to have access to some pretty recent scientific studies to have gotten enough information to dispel these kinds of worries. The only alternative was talking to someone about my obsessions, which I was too embarrassed to do.

You might guess that this was time-consuming, and you would be right. I spent most of my class time obsessing about this, not paying attention to the teacher. Yet, I managed, for the most part, to get acceptable grades. The trouble is that the anxiety from all this created depression, and the depression created more anxiety, which caused more obsession. It was a vicious circle. The absence of windows in the school did not help, especially in the Winter, when I would get essentially no exposure to daylight. I’m pretty sure I had and still have Seasonal Affective Disorder—something that we didn’t discover until a few years later.

Eventually I became convinced that I had AIDS. One year my father decided to take the Christmas tree down on New Year’s Day. This is a good week before Christmas (i.e. the twelve days) actually ends, but this is how upstate Pennsylvanians think, so the tree came down. I wanted it to stay up. There’s something about the color in Christmas decorations that lessens the harshness of Winter, and now it was gone. I snuck away to the attic to cry. I was absolutely convinced that this would be my last Christmas, that I would be dead by the next year.

I feel the need to pause here and mention something. My parents are not responsible for this. They were seeing signs of depression and doing what they could, but about these specific obsessions I told no one. I was locked up like Fort Knox, afraid to share this with anyone. There is a difference between what you believe and what you know. I believed the thrust of all these obsessions, yet somewhere in my mind I knew it was all a bunch of crap—enough to be too embarrassed to get help. But the beliefs held sway. We’re funny things, we humans.

Back to being convinced of my own impending doom. This apprehension eventually shifted the focus of my obsessions from contracting disease to spreading it. This was a whole new ball game, and I don’t mean to sound self-righteous when I say that it was actually more frightening than my obsessions about my becoming sick.

Interestingly, I was never and have never been much of a compulsive. Besides washing my hands excessively, OCD has mostly manifested itself in my head and not in ritual. I could analyze until I was paralyzed. Some days I would lock myself in the bathroom so that I had a quiet place to think—to obsess, really. Inside my mind was constant chatter that was hard to keep track of. Sometimes I kept checklists to make this job easier. The sheer brainpower that I expended on this astounds me, and I wonder what opportunities I wasted by diverting so much energy into these useless ruminations.

I’m reminded of a scene from the movie A Beautiful Mind, which is about Nobel prize-winning schizophrenic Dr. John Nash. As the movie tells the story, he thought that there were messages embedded in newspaper articles, and he was looking for them. The movie depicts a frantic chatter in his mind as he sorts all this out. I have never been schizophrenic, but I can identify with that chatter. Noise, noise, noise. It’s enough to make you want to scream.

The most disconcerting factor in having lived through this is the complete uncertainty about where reality ends and the craziness begins. I have decided, after much reflection, that insanity is essentially a loss of perspective, and I think in my case OCD was a latching on to one or two ideas to the exclusion of others, which created a warped sense of reality and a gigantic mountain of anxiety to go with it. “There is no maniac who is not a monomaniac,” said G.K. Chesterton. I think he’s right.

But imagine the frustration. You know you’re not quite in touch with reality, but you can’t get back there, and because you know you’re being ridiculous, you’re afraid to tell anyone about what occupies your mind. So the suffering continues, untreated.

I have never told anyone about this particular set of obsessions. If you’re reading this you’re one of the first to know. Why am I writing about it now, a good twenty years later? About a month or two ago, something happened—I’m not even sure what anymore—that re-triggered a similar obsessive episode.  I saw blood somewhere, and it triggered all the old reactions. Those who’ve taken CPR courses talk about an interesting thing that happens: Years go by, they think they’ve forgotten it, and then one day they’re next to someone who goes down with a heart attack, and it all comes back to them in an instant. That’s what it felt like to me with these obsessions: There I was, totally blindsided, but nonetheless remembering my whole system and nomenclature for dealing with these kinds of things.

This has not been the only relapse, but something about it felt more severe than usual. I don’t know why. The scariest part, though, was not the idea that any germs might actually pose a risk to my health. Instead, there was a thought that sent shivers down my back: “Oh God, I hope I don’t end up like I was in middle school.”

I am happy to say that the worst is over, and that things are under control, but for the day or two when I wasn’t sure, I was genuinely frightened. My OCD has gotten more manageable with age, as I have learned how to keep things in perspective and see the big picture. Experience has also taught me not to worry so much. After doomsday scenarios fail to materialize so many times, you relax a little bit. (Knocks wood.)

I would never dare to tell anyone else how to solve their own problems, so what I have to say here applies only to me: Having tried it in my college years, I am not particularly fond of medication to treat this disorder. In my experience the medication turned off not only the bad parts of my psyche but many of the beneficial parts as well. I felt disconnected, unable to experience any emotion except a hazy indifference. It has been far better for me to work through the underlying causes and behaviors. Dr. Elio Frattaroli, in his book, Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain, offers the thesis that OCD is misdirected anger. I honestly can’t find any evidence against that, and generally speaking the more upset I am about certain things in my life, the more out of control the disorder is.

Many of my obsessions have revolved around life and death, as my present-day dull hypochondria attests. When I was child I was terribly afraid of death, but from my position now, still a good distance below the crest of the infamous “hill,” I can see that a lot of things in life are worse than death. I have come to the realization that something is going to get me eventually, and without becoming careless, I have relaxed a little bit. That much has done more for me than any kind of therapy could do.

I have learned, slowly, how to divert my mental energies into useful tasks. Part of my problem in childhood, I think, was that I was subjected to an enforced boredom. This improved when I got to high school and there were more activities available to me that an actual human would want to do. Moreover, my interest in philosophy, which bloomed many years later, might have usurped much of the energy I once put into worrying. There is great comfort and delight in reading some of the greatest minds in history as they struggle with the ultimate questions about life and yet come up short. A lot of people think this a waste of time; maybe I’m somehow perversely in an advantageous position to see how it is anything but a waste of time.

Along with this rambling personal story I suppose I have some useful things to say about OCD, but I have hesitated to comment on it publicly, and even much in my private life, because of the way I’m afraid people will react to it. I couldn’t care less if people think I’m strange. They already think that, and judging by the behavior of most of them I consider it to be a compliment. The real reason I hesitate is that many people jump to conclusions, as if being obsessive-compulsive is like being blonde. A blonde is always blonde, unless hair dye is used. But an obsessive-compulsive is not always employing the techniques of OCD to tackle the problems of life. I mentioned earlier my being disconcerted by the tendency of OCD to confuse the sufferer, to make reality hard to discern. However, in most areas, especially work, I can be ruthlessly realistic. I can make good decisions, raise worthy objections, and offer good suggestions. I’m also very good at sizing people up. But some people, seeing a certain obsessive tendency in my personality, discount most of what I say because of that. “Oh you know how heeee is,” I can hear them saying. Some have dared to intimate this to my face.

I often wonder, too, if people think that obsessive-compulsives are cold-hearted eggheads. They are lost in their own little world, after all. I have dealt with numerous misunderstandings because of withdrawal. People have been hurt by this. I am sorry. But they should know that I have been hurt more.  I really do have feelings, but often they have been bottled up in this strange methodology that can make me extremely quiet.  A friend of mine has a list of favorite quotations on Facebook, as many do. The first one on his list is, “You have shy/asshole confusion.” I can identify with the sentiments that would prompt someone to say that.

I’m tempted to say that many obsessive-compulsives have suffered far more than I have, but maybe that’s a hasty conclusion. We’re all very inventive in what we worry about. Judith L. Rapoport, in her fantastic book, The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing, relates the story that many with this disorder look at the compulsions of others and say, “Why would anyone do that???” So I suppose the point is that the suffering is different for each of us, and there probably isn’t much point in trying to quantify it. I will say that I feel lucky that I have never really been house-bound by this disease, a fate that many others haven’t been able to escape.

Living or being with an obsessive-compulsive can be a maddening experience, especially if they like to worry aloud. You probably just want them to shut up. My advice is this: Don’t let them go on all night, but listen to them, and let them know that you are listening. I can tell you that nothing infuriates me more than feeling like I’m talking to a wall, especially when I’m feeling anxious. At the same time, I appreciate it when someone says, “Alright, we have gone over this enough now, and we have decided such and such.”  I value that, because it helps me to get a grip on the real nature of whatever it is that’s bothering me. It rescues me from deep within the forest of anxiety.

I am not entirely over my OCD, but at this point in my life I feel like I can truly live. In the Winter I take plenty of Vitamin D, and I’m even working on being awake for more of the daylight hours. As I get older, too, I feel like my personality gets younger. There is a picture of me at the age of six, on Christmas Eve in front of the tree, in which I am wearing a bony, dour, humorless expression. I could have passed for a Methodist minister. I was, in the words of my grandmother, “a little adult.” I am now working on being a big kid, and I have to admit that this wards off the kinds of insanity to which I am prone. (Can we admit that all of us except the most incredible people have their own kind of madness? Anger, lust, drunkenness, workaholism, anxiety, puritanism, politics. The list is endless.)

In the meantime, I will gladly borrow some useful skills from my struggles with OCD: the ability to concentrate on small things for long periods of time, the willingness to follow an idea to its logical, if absurd, conclusion, and the sensitivity to know when I’m tied up in knots over an insoluble problem, which is most useful. There is great freedom and joy in knowing what you can’t know, and that opens the possibilities for love.

Five Simple Ways to Lift Your Spirits

This weekend we returned to Standard Time—or, as I like to call it, Darkness Savings Time. This is usually a week where I can feel kind of meh, but I have made efforts to get on an earlier schedule, which helps, not to mention a daily dose of Vitamin D. I have some other simple actions that I often take to get myself out of a funk. I thought I’d share them with you. It’s good to keep a list like this handy, so that when the doldrums come you’re not sitting around waiting for the flash of inspiration that never comes. So, here are five simple things you can do to pull yourself out of a funk.

1. Get a hair cut, or shave.  I don’t shave every day; instead, I keep my beard and the hair on my head at about the same length. Believe it or not, I use clippers without any guard. Sometimes I let this go a little too long, and then on a day when I’m feeling run down, I look in the mirror and notice that I look like a wooly mammoth, which is unbecoming of anyone professing to belong to the human race. I get out my clippers, my jaw line becomes discernible once again, and usually I’m in a better mood. Total time investment: maybe ten minutes.

Those who are recently shorn often look and feel younger, thinner, and more vigorous than their bushy counterparts. What’s more, I find it to be a better solution than dressing up, which can be uncomfortable. No matter how skinny I get, there is always a point on my hip bones where the trousers and the belt start to dig in, so taking care of my hair—one of the remaining unhappy elements of the human body that evolution has yet to take care of—is often a better solution to get me feeling better about myself again.

2. Clean your house.  I came home from work yesterday, took one look at the clutter that I allowed to build up over the past few weeks, and heaved a sigh of disgust. Sometimes life gets crazy and our homes become, more or less, a kind of pit stop. We throw things here and there until the clutter mounts up to poetic proportions. This makes our living spaces unlivable, so that when we are there we don’t have the hideaway from the rest of the world that we need. As with any overwhelming task, it helps to break it down. Focus on one area that you really need to use with a sense of peace. Need to get some reading or writing done? Concentrate on your den or office. Wish you could cook a big meal for friends? Focus on the kitchen and dining room.

I actually have a studio apartment, which changes the game completely, but makes the matter much more crucial. There is no such thing as picking up a mess and simply moving it to another room—one of my favorite techniques of yore. My problem du jour is the clothing pile from Hell.  Of course, instead of addressing this yesterday, I took a nap. I needed it. And no one sees my apartment anyway. But when it is clean, I actually get a sense of comfort from being there.

3. Take a long walk. I was tempted to make running an option here, since, as I have discussed before, its benefits are manifold, but walks have their own specific up-sides. I am thinking, in particular, of their ability to reveal heretofore unseen corners of the world to the observer.  The Fall is a really good time for this. Take the opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures that nature offers, like John Adams did in the last episode of the HBO series about him. Yesterday I was walking along Pine St. in Philadelphia when I found a tree whose leaves had turned to colors of yellow and red so that it looked like the whole thing was ablaze. Against the evergreen shutters of the nearest house, it was a gorgeous site. I should have taken a picture.

These are the kinds of things you see on a walk that you often don’t see on the drive home from work, either because you’re tired or you have to pee or whatever. I have discovered new restaurants this way, too. One important thing: Walk slow. This is not exercise; it is not a task. It is leisure, and that’s ok. Not every important thing in life has to do with making money or taking care of your family. Your own self is important too. So, leave the house, and don’t tell anyone where you’re going.

4. Call an old friend. Forget social media. Pick up the telephone, or get on Skype, and listen to the sound of an old friend’s voice. Tell him your problems, your plans, your fears, your frustrations.  We only have so many true friends in life, and these days we tend to be spread out all over the place. There are people that I don’t speak to for months or years at a time, but when we get going again, it’s like we never missed a beat. Those kinds of friendships are great, and necessary.

It’s easy to get distracted by the people around us, but often these are not our friends but rather people who want something from us and are massaging us in an effort to get it. It’s good to be nice to acquaintances, but it’s important to know that they are not our friends. Stick to your most reliable five friends, and don’t be afraid to call them when you need to. If they are good friends, they will tell you when you are full of crap, when you are lying to yourself, when you aren’t being realistic, and when you are not giving yourself enough credit.

I remember getting ready for a recital a few years ago and complaining to a friend that it wasn’t going well, that I had no business playing in public, that I should do something else for a living, etc. With each finished beer my autobiographical commentary got worse. Then the recital came. He pulled me aside afterwards and said, “Now listen, everything you said was absolutely untrue.” I needed to hear this, and coming from someone who studied with one of the world’s best percussionists, it was encouraging. I needed to hear that. Stay in touch with these people, because chances are that many people in your immediate vicinity are mere operators.

5. Sing. Music in general is beneficial, even just listening to it. Better than simply listening is actively listening, and better than actively listening is actively making. When I was a kid, I would play the piano for hours after coming home from the windowless prison block that was labelled an intermediate school. Singing in particular is most beneficial because it forces your body to use more oxygen, which gets your brain fired up. I have dragged myself to my voice lesson, thinking that I was too busy, tired, sick—whatever—to go through with this. But on those days I usually leave completely refreshed.

You could sing anything, really—maybe a song by Johnny Cash or Ray Charles. I actually recommend art songs, and before you think this is too snotty for you, hear me (or read me) out. Many of these songs have melodies that anyone can identify with, along with texts that are as sagacious as the Psalms and not half as gory. They speak mainly of love and death—which is to say, of life. Many of them are translated into English. I’ll bet you can find many of them at imslp.org. Look for recordings on YouTube.  I recommend music by Faure, Schubert, Brahms, and Grieg, just for starters. There’s a lot out there.

So you’re not a real singer? Good! Remember the words of H.L. Mencken: Anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Excellence certainly has its place, but so does recreation. And you just might surprise yourself. You might be better than you realize.  Just don’t try Liebestod the first week.

Well, there you have it, a little arsenal of weapons with which to fight the principalities and powers of gloomdom. More tools to use in the discipline of rejoicing. All the best to you.

The miracle that is the free market

I spent the early part of this evening running some errands.

First I had to pick up my car from the shop. It needed a few minor (thankfully!) repairs. I got to the shop while the mechanics were still finishing up. While we were waiting, the owner was chatting me up about some musical questions. He’s working on buying a particular instrument for someone who needs it and wanted my help. I’m afraid to say that I was a bit out of my depth in this particular case, though I promised to follow up.

When we finished talking business, we kept batting the breeze nonetheless. My mechanic is an old school Philadelphian—hard working, honest, direct, and as good-hearted as they come. He’s the kind of guy that looks you in the eye the whole time he’s talking to you. I instinctively trust him. The mechanic finished up the car, we finished chatting, I paid a very reasonable charge for the work, and we all bid each other a Merry Christmas, and that was that.

Car fixed. Now what’s for dinner? After mulling over some options I decided to go right back to the hoagie shop where I had eaten lunch. While the workers—both of them immigrants—worked on my sandwich, we chatted about tonight’s biggest, brightest full moon of the year.

Now before I go any further I want to assure you that, while I’m an introvert, I’m no loner, and I have plenty of friends. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all. But nevertheless a thought struck me about my various vesperal visitations. What characterizes my relationship with these several proprietors? It is frankly, as if we are all buddies. This is the miracle of capitalism.

The free market gets a lot of bad press these days, but this is the result of a careless conflation of crime with free exchange. Corrupt business leaders getting in bed with government deserve to be called out (though one could certainly argue that this is not representative of a truly free market). Wal-Mart customers stampeding a janitor to death justly rouse disgust. But in its essence, the free market is a system of voluntary exchanges. The voluntary aspect of this makes each party responsible for himself and dependent upon the others. Each person is there because he wants to be, and this, coupled with the obvious desire to succeed, helps to build relationships.

This is not true in any other economic system. Surely it is not true in feudalism, nor is it true in socialism, which micromanages economies right down to who works in which job. Voluntary exchange would not even exist on an anarcho-communist paradise island, since everyone would be forced to pool resources.

The free market is the sole guarantor of voluntary exchange. It liberates us, so that we are no longer slaves, but free men—no longer slaves, but friends.

Clearly, I would make a bad businessman

One of the worst things you can do for your blog traffic is to disappear for the better part of a month. That’s what I just did. Long story short, work was busy: I spent at least a week preparing for what ended up being a fool’s errand. Then I got a last minute gig to put together a Gregorian chant schola at the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. Last week, therefore, more closely resembled Christmas or Eastertide for me. I am presently on a self-imposed three day vacation and trying not to do anything but the most minimal tasks.

In any case, while I’ve been pre-occupied, the rank and file of the USA scored a major victory when the $700 billion bailout went down to ignominious defeat yesterday–which was, of all days, Ludwig von Mises’ birthday. The question remains as to whether or not the plutocrats will try this again, starting instead in the Senate.

In short, there is much to write about, and I hope to catch you up on all my most irreverent and iconoclastic political thoughts in the next few days.

The Ice Cream Diet: An Update

A few weeks ago I explained my new diet, which involved, among running and other things, eating ice cream. After I lost ten pounds, though, I hit a plateau, and the result of this is that ice cream is only part of my day roughly twice a week. I am now running up to 4.5 miles a day and have lost 15.5 pounds. Not bad considering I only started at the beginning of August.

I have been very well-behaved, but at the price of my social life: I have been avoiding places which are not friendly to the waist line, which includes all restaurants and bars–the loci of the great majority of my socializing. I’m really feeling like I need a drink, though. I’m tired of living in a “cave,” as it were. Maybe I’ll run out for one tonight.

Miscellany…

…lest you think I crawled in a hole and died…

Speaking of dying in holes, late Saturday night I noticed a strange sound that I couldn’t quite locate. I thought perhaps it was the wind, then I thought maybe it was my refrigerator trying to run unsuccessfully. Finally, I located the sound between the walls of my apartment. An animal. Perfect.

The first thing you do in such a situation, of course, is to Google. This usually brings up the worst-scenario results first, so I got to read a lot about the malodorous effects of decaying flesh on the domestic environment. Sounds like this is going to be lots of fun.

The next morning, the sound was gone, and so also, I hoped, my uninvited hotel guest. Never mind: Sunday night it was back, so I made a point yesterday of calling the guy in charge of upkeep, and he surmised that my new friend is a squirrel who has found a way in and a way out. He bases this on past experience with this building. I hope he’s right; then I won’t have to worry about carcasses on the other side of dry wall.

This situation has yet to be resolved. I will be sure to fill you in on all the details.

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Last night I dropped by the taxpayer-funded library (hey, I know, none of us is completely consistent, right???) and picked up Murray N. Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty. If you don’t know about Murray Rothbard, you should try to get to know as much about him as you can, ASAP. Go to mises.org.

Meanwhile, here’s a taste:

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Something big is going down tomorrow at the National Press Club. Ron Paul has indicated that he intends to make a “major announcement.” [Update:  I'm being advised presently by a contact in Washington that this is being overblown and that it is "nothing."] No one is really sure what that means, but at this point, it appears as though most or even all of the third party candidates for president will be there. Many are dreaming the impossible dream that Paul will spearhead some kind of “unity” (anti-establishment) ticket, but I’m not sure how well election laws would allow for that.

One thing is certain: if the third parties, particularly the right-wing ones, find a way to pool their resources, they’ll be sued all the way to the moon by the JackSss McCain campaign, which would surely suffer from the busting of the two-party monopoly.

Only time will tell on this, but imagine if the third parties are successful at something as modest as getting into the prime time TV debates. Think of what this could do for the political discourse in this country. I can just hear it now, McBama wastes time talking about tax policy, and then someone like Barr or Baldwin jumps in and talks about the depredations of the Federal Reserve.

September blues

I’m going to take a few minutes’ break from “shakedown mode,” as one reader of this blog has called it, to talk about ho-hum stuff.  If ramblings aren’t your thing, you may wish to skip this one.

I have two jobs, both part-time.  In the summer, they slack off considerably.  (Don’t worry, I’m not a public school teacher.)  The days after Labor Day are when the piper has to be paid, and my time has to be budgeted in completely different fashion, and I am not a good transition person at all.  Currently I feel like someone has turned me upside down and shaken me all over the place.  (Yesterday, I made not one, but two trips to Suburbia–enough to last me for a month, I might add.)  In some ways, it makes the steady 9-5 routine look like it’s easier to manage.

Nevertheless, it makes me wonder:  how in the world do people do it?  Perhaps this begs the question:  are people doing too much?  And finally:  why do people have to work so much?  (Many 9-5 jobs go well over the standard 40-hour limit, as well all know.)  Perhaps it’s because the Federal Reserve has crippled our spending power.  (Everyone likes to blame private employers for paying salaries that are too low; perhaps the problem is that the government has perverted the currency.)  But add to the standard job demands six soccer games a week, band practice, the church knitting club, etc., and it’s a wonder that today’s parents aren’t all in an asylum.  I get tired just watching some people.

I have to wonder about many of these people:  are they alive?  Have you looked into the eyes of many of these people?  Work is necessary (along with post Labor Day transitions), but is misery?

In any case, it’s September, the worst month of the year besides February.  And as icing on the cake, my city is experiencing the yuckiest weather since mid-June.  I can’t wait for October, when I will have found my stride, and when I can light a cigar, put on a hat, and take a stroll across the crunchy leaves.

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