Monday, January 04, 2016

Under Ice

Under Ice

I have to admit that I'm not one of those people who believe that you can fix every flaw or solve every problem in life. Some problems are pretty resilient and seem to stick to you like those wads of chewing gum stuck under one of the tables in the bus station cafeteria. Sure you can probably take a decent bread knife and scrape away one or two globs of that spit and wax mixture, but by next week, when you come back for another order of the Friday Fish and Chips Special, you're sure to find fresh gobs of Juicy Fruit or Bubblicious crowding into the open spaces.

Life is not a hell of a lot different from the underside of that melamine table. We hide the worst in us like wads of gum somewhere under that cheerful disguise we offer the world to see, and we act surprised when some spastic fart of our own limitations surfaces at the most inopportune times. Who hasn’t had a moment of caustic jealousy, a flare of childish anger, or a sour unsportsmanlike curse pop out of nowhere? Even worse, when that dark side of your personality does reappear, it is often more destructive and disgusting than ever before.

I think there must be a law of physics stating that everything that goes away inevitably comes back, because our personal issues, even those which we believe we have resolved once and for all, always seem to return into our lives. Most of us manage to deal with this fact, as long as our quirky defects of character remain on the underside of the table. No one wants that dark-half of our self trolling around in the open for all the world to see. After all, as the old saying goes, "Out of sight is out of mind."

We’re really just walking, talking icebergs. We hide so much of who we really are under the surface of our too-cool exterior. We crave acceptance, love, and companionship, and so we dare not risk upsetting others. We quickly learn to make compromises, to “keep the peace.” We learn the trick of treading softly across a layer of thin ice over the deepest part of the lake and pray that some bloodcurdling beast from the innermost part of us doesn’t come roaring up through a chink in the crystal floor and mess everything up ... again.

It’s a mystery to me how so many people actually do master the art of tiptoeing and skirting around the zig and zag of cracks in the ice fields of life. They perfect the art of avoidance, the art of self-denial, and force themselves to live a life walking on that thin veneer of frozen water, like Jesus wearing a parka or like one of those very cool penguins in that movie, Happy Feet. Everything is happy, happy, happy.

Just ask them, “Are you happy?” Of course they are. Very happy.

Ask them, “Any problems?” Of course not. Not a problem in the world. Perfectly content.

But, in all honesty, there is a problem. Sooner or later, there is always a problem — a problem with money, with alcohol, with drugs, with sex, with a missing button, with almost anything imaginable. It’s just not there at the moment. It’s in Biloxi or Bakersfield, Spokane or Sioux City, Venice or Versailles. It’s already at the bus station and buying a one-way ticket to that frozen lake where the beast lies dormant. And oh yeah, just in case you haven’t guessed, that thing it’s carrying is definitely an ice pick.

Oh, I know. Some of you are saying, “Don’t be so damn pessimistic. Look again, and see if that glass isn’t half full. See if you can’t see the good in people.”

Well, I certainly don’t wish to see anything bad in anyone, but I accept that bad things happen in life. For whatever reason, people make mistakes and wrong choices. For whatever reason, people fall into unsavoury habits and suffer through pain the rest of their lives. People you know and love screw up. You screw up. I screw up. We all screw up. So what? I say, let the beast out. Let the worst take centre stage. I’d rather it be out there huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf it is than have it disguised in the nightgown of Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother and waiting to eat me for brunch.

The point is that it’s important to accept that there are some sticky things under the table of every person's character and some gummed up defects in every person's life that no one will likely ever change. Again, so what? This is not a moral issue. This is not about feeling good or bad about who we are or how we live. The best we can do is to know that we have flaws and accept that those we meet in life will have flaws as well.

Yes, it’s imperfect. Yes, it’s a conundrum. But who could possibly want it any other way?



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