Decompress

Decompress: (v) to relax; unwind

When I was nine years old, a friend of mine jammed his finger.

It hurt.

No doubt about that.

But over the next week, through the urging of his mother, the jammed finger went from being a painful incident to a potentially lethal trauma.

Every day when I saw him, he had a new angle on how a jammed finger could lead to some sort of bizarre complication, culminating in a contorted death.

Honestly, I started avoiding him, waiting for his finger to heal, so that he could become normal again.

That has been my inclination with the human race.

Since most people think they have a jammed finger, they are prepared to exaggerate their wounds to make themselves feel more endangered.

Therefore I hate the word “decompress.”

I hear it all the time: “I am under so much pressure that I must get someplace and decompress.”

Really?

I guess I have a different definition for “pressure.”

To me, pressure is when you realize you’re going to die.

And even then, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion.

Everything short of death is problematic—and by problematic, I mean solvable.

I am just completely flummoxed as to why we think our lives are more intriguing when we express levels of breathless desperation.

Why is it more enticing to say, “I don’t think I’m going to make it,” than “I’ve had a bad week.”

Why must we think the world is going to end simply because we can’t find our favorite jar of pickles?

How in the hell important do we think we are?

For the record:

I do not need to decompress.

I do not require escaping somewhere to spend even more time musing over my plight.

I need to expand.

I must be around people who also have problems, and together, we can develop the good cheer of realizing that there doesn’t seem to be anything life has come up with that can destroy us.

If we reach that point, we gain a certain lightness of spirit—an irrepressible joy that makes us love ourselves and valuable to those around us.

Don’t decompress.

Just don’t get yourself in a position where you take things too seriously.

In life there are no dramas—there are just comedies, and sometimes we don’t get the joke.

 

Crap

Crap: (n) excrement, or used to reference refuse, rubbish, or junk

 I already spent the money.

I know that’s not smart.

But when you’re poor, you have to make arrangements—then hope those plans don’t fall apart.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I had a gig. It was a big gig. At least for me. There was going to be some decent money involved.

I will tell you of a certainty, the only way to ever become an artist is to insist on using your art until it pays for you.

In the meantime, your creditors, your landlord and anyone you find yourself indebted to may question the intelligence of your persistence, and sometimes even dishonor the quality of your talent.

But I felt confident—confident enough to pay my bills before I got the check.

It was a two-day gig, and a conference, where I might be able to make further contacts for other engagements in the future.

On the first night, everything went along just swimmingly. The audience was laughing, clapping, appreciating both song and speech. I was feeling so good that I made a joke. I can’t remember all the details of the setup, but the punchline was, “Get this crap outta here!”

Everyone laughed. I thought I was on safe turf.

But later that night I received a call at my motel, telling me I was being canceled because the audience had children in it, and I had offended everyone by saying “crap.” I was contrite—I disavowed the deeds of my tongue—but it didn’t make any difference.

Move ahead in time.

I don’t know exactly when things changed. I suppose there are some people who still find the word “crap” inappropriate, but it would not be unusual to hear it spoken in the church foyer, and even possibly the pulpit.

Now we are fussing about the word “shit.”

It’s amazing how we can come to agreement on what crap and shit are, while being totally self-righteous on declaring it crap or shit.

I have a meter I run in my mind. It’s very simple.

For instance:

If the Ten Commandments are how God will judge me…

Or:

If you have to be skinny and a perfect weight…

One of the possibilities I consider is:

If you’re not supposed to use any colloquial or profane language…

Crap.

I’m in a shitload of trouble.

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Coroner

Coroner: (n) one who investigates deaths

Then there’s the joke.

“I went to the morgue to see the body. I asked the receptionist where I might find the corpse. She pointed to her right and replied, ‘Just around the coroner.’”

(I didn’t say it was a funny joke.)

But when you talk about things like the coroner, you have to use some humor. A little tongue-in-cheek is helpful.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I have personally dealt with an actual coroner only once in my life. My son, who had been involved in a hit-and-run accident six years earlier, which had left him in a vegetative state, suddenly developed pneumonia and died in about a four-hour period.

We were in the state of Oregon, and according to their statues, anybody who dies that quickly has to be observed by a coroner and have an autopsy.

I probably should have looked up “coroner” and found out what was involved with the profession, but there was no Internet at that time and my encyclopedias were packed away back home, two thousand miles away. So I entered into the whole situation very ignorant.

He was a nice enough fellow—just creepy enough to fulfill the parameters of the occupation. I was emotionally disturbed from the death of my son, so I began to yammer without much awareness, trying to explain to the gentleman some of the extent of my loss. In doing so, I offered a very child-like request. “Please be gentle with him. He’s been through a lot.”

I remember the look on the chap’s face—a combination of tenderness, surprise, confusion and mercy. For after all, he had already done the autopsy and chopped my young son into many pieces.

Fortunately, I didn’t think of that in the moment. I was granted a blessed ignorance, and a bit of grace, by a man who had to deal with death every day and realized that I would not benefit from any further understanding of his plight.


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Co-pilot

Co-pilot: (n) a pilot who is second in command of an aircraft.

It used to be a very, very popular bumper sticker: “God is my co-pilot.”

Years passed.

Somebody decided that God was not a co-pilot, but rather, the pilot. The joke became, “If God is your co-pilot, then you’re in the wrong seat.”funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
Ha, ha, ha.

It seems like a rather innocent exchange—a meaningless disagreement, but at the root is probably one of the greater problems facing individuals who want to believe in a Creator yet have not found a common-sense way of discovering exactly what role this Divinity should play.

Is God flying the plane, and I’m along for the ride?

Am I privy to the flight plan?

Am I granted free will until He decides I’m not?

Is He in charge of the journey, but I get to pick whether we’re having fish or chicken for the in-flight meal?

Or am I behind the steering, and God is standing nearby, enjoying the trip?

I don’t really think it’s either one. I don’t think God’s in my plane at all.

I think He’s waiting for me at the next airport, to give me a lift—so I don’t have to take an Uber.


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Blink

Blink: (v) to shut and open the eyes quickly.

Dictionary B

“Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!”

The standard comedic line to describe a tiny town with only one stoplight. By now, the joke has been worn out, but obviously, the inner-office memo has not reached every outpost.

It’s amazing: a practice which is essential to our well-being and extremely frequent–that of blinking–is considered to be a sign of weakness, lack of attention or cowardice.

“Don’t blink!”

“Don’t be the first to blink!”

So I would like to step in and say, “I blink.”

Yes, there are things that shock me.

I do not want to become so worldly and road-weary that I pretend that my cynicism has freed me from the instinct to blink.

I do blink:

  • I’m still appalled at lying.
  • I find pornography to be a safari into a human zoo.
  • Hearing profanity in public makes me wince along with my blink.

I’m not a prude, but I’m not proud of exaggerating my level of tolerance.

I like gentleness, I like kindness and I blink when I see people abuse each other or curse at one another because the traffic light turned green and no one moved.

I think to be alive, caring and willing to embrace humankind, the natural blinking that the eyes perform numerous times in a minute … should also be duplicated in our souls.

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Bale

Bale (n): a bundle of hayDictionary B

I think she liked me.

I know I liked her.

I don’t know how much I liked her. When you’re a teenager you’re so anxious to have romantic encounters that you’re willing to consider many obtuse options. It is amazing who looks good to you by Thursday afternoon at school when you really want to go out on a date for the weekend.

All summer long, I had been driving around town with this girl as we tried to conjure various adventures, while experimenting with conversation, learning how to communicate with someone of the opposite sex.

One day I told her I wanted to go out to a nearby farm and see my friend, Jack, who was working there baling hay. He chose this occupation in order to get in shape for the upcoming football season.

I knew she had a small crush on Jack, but I was not aware of the full extent of her hidden affections. When we arrived at the barn and Jack appeared in the doorway of the upper loft, shirtless, holding a pitchfork, with perspiration streaming down his pectorals, she lost it.

He looked like an image from a John Steinbeck novel, perfectly framed, with a sweaty, well-chiseled body. I peered down at my own well-nourished middle as she practically drooled, staring at the sight before her.

I thought to myself, this was not a good move, to come and see Jack.

We spent the rest of the day driving around, talking about how handsome Jack was and discussing how I should help her make connection with him.

I felt completely left out.

Rather than being the pursuer of budding romance, I was cast into the role of matchmaker.

I explained that I had planned to work on the farm this year, but discovered that I had hay fever.

She squinted, concern in her eyes, and said, “Hay fever?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Whenever I think about working in the hay fields, I break out into a sweat of great anxiety and fear.”

I thought it was particularly funny.

She didn’t even fathom my joke, but instead stared out the window … obviously conjuring images of a topless Jack. 

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April Fool’s Day

dictionary with letter A

April Fool’s Day (n): April 1st, a day on which people play tricks on each other.

Most of the time, April Fool’s day is fun, filled with practical jokes ranging from the sublime to even the macabre.

I remember once convincing my seven-year-old son that I had to go off to war against Poland, because the people of that country had refused to send us our alloted Polish sausage, and it was a time to stand up for our rights and demands for processed meat.

But there was a time in my life when I pulled an April Fool’s prank which backfired seriously, because what I thought was obviously comically bizarre was accepted as true, and had to be played out.

It was about two years after my father had passed on. I was continually trying to cheer my mother up with various antics and projects. (About six months after my dad’s crossing over, I took my mother bowling, agsint her strong objections, only to discover when we got there that she had never been bowling before, and rather than being a joyous release of tension, it became an arduous task of painful instruction and embarrassments, ranging from trying to get bowling shoes on her feet to retrieving a ball she had rolled down the alley which only made it halfway.)

So I should have been aware that April Fool’s jokes involving one’s mother were not always destined for success.

There was a restaurant near our town called Kahiki. It was known to be very expensive and a posh center for those of affluence.

Thinking that it was obvious that I would be unable to afford such a dining experience, I jokingly told my mother I would take her to Kahiki that night for dinner. I walked out of the house giggling to myself, figuring that she would decipher that the whole thing was a joke when she realized it was April 1st.

About three o’clock that afternoon, my little brother came running to the door of my apartment, and told me that our mutual mother was in the process of putting on her best Sunday dress and was even wearing makeup and fixing her hair. She had intoned to the little fellow that she was so moved and so looking forward to “a night at the Kahiki.”

Somehow or another, arriving at her home and screaming “April Fool’s!” did not seem appropriate.

I spent the next two hours driving around town borrowing money from people who had told me they would never lend me money ever again, to secure the funds to take her to this lavish eatery.

Arriving at 6:30 that evening, a bit out of breath and pulling on my suit coat, there was my mother, sitting and waiting for me with her purse in her lap, tears in her eyes, so grateful for her son’s generosity.

I took her to the restaurant. We had a lovely evening. And I spent the next two months being bugged by my friends to get the payback for the cash.

I learned something very valuable: April Fool’s Day jokes always need to be very, very obvious.

 

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Aloud

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Aloud: (adv.) audibly, not silently

Seems like a simple enough word. But really, it may be at the center of true maturity and sanity.

When should we be silent? And when should we speak out–aloud?

There’s a standing joke in the human race: “Did I actually say that out loud?”

Especially with so many people finding themselves needing to apologize for things they have shared in a moment of candor, which they desperately regret as they are threatened with the loss of their occupation or reputation.

What should be aloud? What should be shouted from the housetop, whispered in the bedroom, or swallowed along with our pride?

Honestly, I’m working on that, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. If it’s the truth and it makes people stronger, go aloud.

You notice, I didn’t just say “the truth.” There are truths that the world is not ready to hear just yet.

2. If it pops into your mind and encourages someone, even if it seems silly, go aloud.

There is no such thing as a foolish sentiment. There is such a thing as regretting not sharing.

3. If it can be spoken aloud, challenged and you as a person can grow through the experience with new knowledge, then by all means do so.

But remember, when you go aloud, be prepared to be silenced by wisdom.

4. If it’s going to save somebody from disaster, take the chance and go aloud.

I do not think it’s polite to remain silent when someone’s about to fall off the cliff, just so you won’t startle their sensibility.

Yes, it’s an art form–when to be silent and when to go aloud.

But you can certainly be noisier if you have a spirit …  which can be quieted by reason.