I imagine some readers have wondered too: so much change, so much drama, once day comedy, the next day power politics. It’s a mess, right?
To some extent, sure, it’s a mess. It’s building I show you. I ask for your comments while it’s still under construction, and you folks have been wonderfully patient and kind about it. You deserve an explanation. Heck, I deserve an explanation. What the heck are you up to, Greg? What’s the deal?
I’ve considered that very question lately, off and on in the midst of so much business and stress, far worse than usual lately, as it turns out. Heavy work stress, far worse than average, except perhaps for a teaching hospital in July. No, still far worse than expected. Then add two doses of extra-stressful serious family health crisis stress, totally unexpected. It was perfect: perfect timing, that is, to maximize my acute stress. I held it all together, I did everything necessary. I got by. Just that, no more: the last straw loomed in my mind. A crazy job, no weekends off, wife admitted to hospital, dad diagnosed with cancer, suddenly a single dad: BAM! BAM! BAM BAM BAM! As I sometimes do, I wrote to cope, to keep my head above water, to keep up the good fight, to distract myself from my worries, to survive, to heal. It worked! It helps, better than any diary could, because of you.
That’s all come and gone, like any other hurricane. I’ve had a few days off now, and I’ve been cleaning up, recuperating, putting it all in perspective. Both family health crises have passed: wife discharged, dad’s cancer a diagnostic mistake. No harm done except for the cortisol, the adrenaline, the sleep loss, all that toxic fight or flight. That inner electric heat persists but it’s cooling slowly, and the scent of overheated insulation has passed. So it goes. Life.
I’ve learned a few new things lately:
- Acute stress isn’t just a problem or crisis. It’s also a lesson. It forces you to find ways to get by, to shave away all the fluff, nonsense, and wasted energy. It forces you to find strength that wasn’t there: to build it, right now, to build it, focus it, and put it all to best use. You find shortcuts, loopholes, efficiencies, answers to questions you never bothered to answer before, ways to erase minor annoyances forever. Better, easier ways to get the same tasks done. Better, sharper judgement as to which tasks to choose now, which to do maybe later, which to dump outright. Stress is toxic, sure, but it can also force you to grow. Especially when Failure. Is. Not. An. Option. It’s not! That’s when fight or flight shows its true colors, its survival value. It offers more than cutting or running: far more.
- Not a new lesson, not for me anyway, but it matters today: you can learn important things anywhere, from anyone, if you’re alert enough to notice, disciplined enough to find the time, smart enough to distill useful lessons from life’s ugly random crude oil. Most people live on autopilot most of the time: they miss all the great wealth life offers them, all the inspiration, the lessons, the little joys and wonders, all of it. They live like zombies, stumbling around. Maybe that’s why zombies are so popular today: maybe people identify with such a mindless, toxic slog through life, envious of the humans: the people who still remember how to live. Perhaps.
- Today’s example: As I sat today on the couch like a slug, typing away on my laptop, I watched the Daily Show on Comedy Central. My wife turned it on before she left for work: I’m rarely a turn-on-the-TV guy these days but I watch, some of it anyway. For TV “news”, I have headphones and loud music…. but back to my lesson of the day. There was a Daily Show tribute today: hours and hours of shows, clips, shows about clips… Jon Stewart has achieved Seinfeld-level success: a sixteen year run and he decided to leave, no one else. What’s John’s lesson to Greg today? Here it is, folks: “Snap out of it, Greg, stop acting like an idiot. You don’t need to choose comic or serious. Do both. I did, right?” That he did. He hit that one out of the park, over an over for sixteen years.
- I make no claim to such aspirations. I’m not even pursuing this gig full-time! Still, I can learn form such a worthy example. Jon Stewart arguably created the most trusted news source on television for a decade. It might even have been the most balanced, as he skewered everyone in sight, and the most accurate, as he kept the satire rather obvious. In any case, the Daily Show has been a crucial asset to all Americans who need political motivation and information. That amounts to most American adults today. It’s also been very, very funny. We need that! We need it in such bitterly discouraging times. America talks and acts like a nation preparing for another Civil War. Compare 1850s news and politics with those today, then tell me I’m wrong. We desperately need hope and joy, the will to make it right, the strength not to give up. The Daily Show has offered us all that.
- That’s what I want to offer: that kind of magic, my ownweak version in any case. I want to combine the comic and the serious into something else, something hopefully greater than its parts. Judging from the early Daily Shows I just watched, it took John and friends some years to figure it all out, and they had a staff and budget. I’ll give myself plenty of time for the learning curve.
- I ask you to do the same, gentle reader. Stick around: show me the same kindness and patience you have so far. I promise, if you do, we’ll have some good times together. We’ll learn some things. We might even change the world.