Saturday, May 8, 2010

Particle Board

About a dozen years ago my friend Nancy and I decided to have lunch once a month. We work together at the University, have similar perspectives, and we figured this way we could solve the problems of the world each month, allowing them to accrue in the intervals so that we may address them at our following rendezvous.

As it turns out, our monthly lunches occur about three times a year. I have several such periodic appointments with colleagues. Don Margotta--the best person I know at Northeastern--and I last had our at-least-once-a-semester coffee during the first term of the Bush administration. At least it was W; not his dad.

After we remedy lingering university problems that require our attention and action, Nancy and I typically turn to movies and books, registering our critical opinion and making recommendations. Last month Nancy suggested I read, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, subtitled "What I learned while editing my life"

Typically, we have very similar interests. Something recommended is nine times out of ten a guarantee that the other will find it worth a viewing/reading. But I did not like this book. I read it, but found the author to be a bit of a belly-acher. He was kind of stuck in life, trying to get out of his rut, hobbled by this and that, and having trouble finding a route. I can commiserate with that, but there seemed to be too much time spent dwelling on wrong turns or bad luck.

At one point the author describes the loss of love. He is in a hotel room, and fears that the pain of the loss will surface. He writes "They don't have an emergency room for the kind of pain that is about to happen to me....then another thought came that said I would be living the rest of my life alone because I was unlovable."

I thought that was melodramatic. All but the blessed have been hurt at one time or another by the loss of love. Maybe it was just that this section came on the heels of similar descriptions of pain, but I had trouble empathizing with him.

Then about a week ago I was at the Shopper's Cafe--the place I typically visit to do my research about sports fanatics--and was watching the Celtics with a crowd of zealots. As is typical of me and maybe most of us, thoughts were coursing through my head, zigging and zagging without any discernible direction. Thinking of one thing, then zooming in another direction when another rocketing notion enters the highway. Yesterday I was thinking that if we humans--or at least speaking for myself, I--had a GPS system in my head that was intended to provide direction for the colliding thoughts that pell-mell enter my consciousness, the typically passive voice of the GPS computer would eventually wheeze in exasperation. "Look buster. I give up. I have no idea where you're going." (You could not find a computer in the world to do such navigation at 3 in the morning).

It was during one of these helter skelter cognitive rush hours in the Shopper's Cafe--amidst the groaning about the Celtics demise--when several thoughts collided. Multi-thought collision at the intersection of rejection and fear and failure.

In short time it went away. And it had nothing to do with Pierce finally hitting a couple of jump shots. The gridlock at that confluence of notions was cleared away and I was fine. But for that moment I returned to that author's depiction of pain and felt that irrational(if ephemeral) sense of loss and despair and I knew how fragile can be the particle board of our foundation. There is no emergency room for the kind of pain when those floorboards give way.

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