As a human I’m qualified to point out something ridiculous we do: get terribly worked up waiting for something to happen. Sure, using tools was a great achievement, and mourning the dead was another big day, but at some point we went straight off the rails and let ourselves invent fantasies about what might, what is, and what has happened. I just don’t see a cheetah pacing around muttering about how that stupid wildebeest must have gotten lost and probably isn’t even fat enough to eat anyways.
As a real estate agent, I’m on the receiving end of a thousand conspiracy theories. It’s a fascinating insight into a client’s mind. And the theories—creative as they are—are always always always wrong.
I’ve been told by buyers that the seller is getting divorced (they aren’t). I’ve been told by sellers that the buyers lost their jobs (they haven’t). I’ve been told by buyers and sellers that the other side is going bankrupt (they’re not). I’ve been told by buyers that sellers have rigged a dishwasher to appear to work until five minutes after we close (just…no). These are total strangers working up complex scenarios with personality and plot and I’ll be darned if I haven’t just about had my fill of fiction.
We have this ridiculous thing called free will. Free will. We choose to live our lives the way we do and other people choose to live theirs and our paradigms are as unique and specific as a gd snowflake. Except snowflakes are usually a little more, well, balanced. Oh I know, we watch Sherlock Holmes and think we can anticipate fifteen steps ahead of our adversary but our adversaries completely imaginary. I promise, that obnoxious checkout clerk who always smashes your eggs? They have no idea what you look like and just smash everybody’s eggs.
Our lives are just not that interesting. And neither are the lives of anybody else we’re interacting with. So let it go. The other side of any situation will do or say whatever they please, guided only by their own life experience and hopefully a shred of moral fiber. And they’re going to do all that whether we figure it out ahead of time or not. And considering the infinite and chaotic number of possibilities, you’re astoundingly lucky to dream up a theory in the same time zone as the actual situation, much less the same ballpark.
So let it go. Seriously.
Think of all the free time you’ll have now that you’re not imagining scenarios! You could knit sweaters for every nephew, dog, and penguin in the US. You could brew a thousand batches of beer then drink it all and brew a thousand more. You could map out the universe or walk every square mile of your hemisphere.
Or better yet, use that imagination and write the Great American Novel. I can’t wait to read it.
About every six months I take leave of my senses and decide to reorganize my kitchen. I pull everything out of every cupboard so I can see the space it takes up. I play music, open a beer, and get excited about finding a smarter way to store all the things. And 9 hours later none of the things have found a home, and I am crying and drunk in another room because I just can’t face hefting the heavy food processor with its 700 parts into every single cabinet one by one only to find it won’t fit. AGAIN. Blame the beer. Blame my OCD. Blame my total lack of spatial cognizance. Maybe I just didn’t play enough Tetris.
The goal is to reverse the tide of clutter that creeps its way on top of things. Stand mixer on the counter. Cookbooks on the hutch. Case of wine on the table…well, you get the point. Even if some reshuffling is necessary when you need to use something, everything really needs a home inside a cabinet. Unless you live in a magazine your kitchen will never look that attractive with all your stuff just laying around, no matter how artfully. Also here in the real world things that sit out all the time risk getting dusty and if I so much as think about frying an egg a fog of atomized grease rolls over them.
That idiot stand mixer is back in the corner of the counter because it’s too tall and too heavy; either it lives there or gets demoted to a doorstop. Vegetables are exempt as well; I will forget they’re in a cabinet until the potato shoots start popping tiles up. I also have some bags of chips out, partly because it’s nice to have them accessible but mostly because I can’t find anywhere else to put them and believe me, I tried. I’m also banking a little bit on always having at least one dirty pan in the sink. Because if every pan in this house were clean at the same time hell will have frozen totally over and then we will just have to store that last pan in the oven. My food scale, which I use because I still have no earthly clue how much pasta is a serving, is such a strange shape that it had 7 or 8 foster spots before I found it a good home…somewhere. But other than all of that, my counters, table, and hutch are clear.
So now the kitchen is done until the compulsion strikes again in the spring or until I can’t find the salad spinner, whichever comes first. Thanksgiving may be an interesting meal. Here you go everybody, I had to cut the turkey into 9 pieces and roast each one in a menagerie of soup pots and pyrex because a few months ago I found some absolutely brilliant place to store the roasting pan.
Fall in Park City is brief. Unpredictable. We have a dozen hot days and then one morning it’s freezing and we can’t remember how the furnace works. Next we have six or eight cold days and then it hits 85 and we all get sunburnt. Dressing ourselves is a struggle. On the first day of fall we ceremoniously parade out our fleece jackets and our knit sweaters, giddy about the soups and stews we’re going to make. And by that afternoon it’s so hot we wish we hadn’t boxed up the golf clothes and the last thing our damp hands want to touch is that godawful fleece.
Autumn snowstorms erupt out of nowhere. The morning starts out innocent enough, with just a bit of a charge on the air. Lunchtime is warm and we all linger on outdoor patios, drinking our beers and white wines and eating salads. By the afternoon, however, the sky is dark. Vengeful. And by morning there is a dusting of white on the mountain tops and a feeling of panic sets in as we all wonder where in the world our windshield scrapers got off to.
The first snow brings out the contrast in the fall colors. The aspens turn brilliant gold except for a special few spots on the hilltops where the soil is just so and instead they turn as red as any maple. If you’re very lucky you can find red scrub oak and yellow aspens at the same time, dotted around the dark green pine trees. The elk and deer, coyotes and lap dogs start to lose their dark summer tones. We wear oranges, and browns, and deep dark reds, and hope to make time in our busy schedules to head to the mountains and see the leaves. We know. We all know. The leaves will fall. It may take another month and we have plenty of time, or it may happen tomorrow and we’re out of luck. The foliage is not something that we can count on for long. The foliage…is a metaphor.
And it’s not even an interesting one or one that presents any kind of epiphany when we recognize it. It’s an absurdly obvious testament to the delicacy of a season. The months keep walking, the years keep running, and we decide what to slow down to see as the world turns. But there is always Something else we could be doing. Something Very Important. And when that Thing is done there is another Important Thing to see to. And before you know it you’ve done Many Important Things but everything and everyone around you suddenly looks old. All the leaves have fallen. Fall has come and gone you weren’t watching.
The Things can live without you. Go for a drive. Hold hands with someone. Press your nose into your dog’s head. Stand outside with arms stretched wide, with the sun on your face and breeze in your hair. Pay attention.
Because someday none of the Things will matter at all and you’ll wish you’d spent more time looking at the leaves.
I love social media. I love creating content. I love the unwritten rules that you only pick up on when you’ve been around a while. I use hashtags on Twitter as ironic commentary since only #brands use them seriously. I save certain photos to post on Instagram because they don’t particularly have a point, but the lighting might be good. And I always write two different versions of a joke because Facebook is a fickle mistress. But for all of this, I do wonder what what has happened to my brain and more specifically, my attention span.
Rather than presenting posts in the order they were created, platforms now present posts that Skynet thinks you’d like to see most based on your past behavior, which is a smooth-talking avenue for delivering targeted advertising. As such, I’ve become a curmudgeon. On Facebook I willfully refuse to interact with posts, and rather than just scrolling past, I take the time to click “hide this post.” Hide that post. Hide those posts too. So now my algorithm is pretty much just exciting cars and Bon Appetit articles, which has vastly improved my experience. Twitter is one of the few with an intact timeline, and it used to be loads of fun and a great avenue for storytellers but lately it’s all apocalyptic warnings of the upcoming election and “how to stock your food storage” articles, which falls under the same category.
I’ve read—in short bursts—that because of this constant exposure, we can’t concentrate for more than a tweet, 140 characters, which you can read in about 2 seconds. Human beings, with the largest brains and the greatest capacity for creative thought of any creature on Earth now have the attention spans of goldfish. I find that once I’ve checked the timelines of all my platforms, I’m going back and looking at the first one over again to see what I’ve missed while I was checking the others. And we wonder why we all seem so on edge and antsy all the time. We’re constantly at the ready for the next quick thing to react to.
To combat this I’m reading a thing called a “book.” Do I remember books? Those paper things I used to burn through, cover to cover, everything I could get my hands on, hundreds of tweets long. Books. Except this time they’re digital and readable on the little black monolith that fits in my pocket and runs my life because let’s not go crazy with that cold turkey business. So far, so good. Now, when I’ve made the first social media loop, instead of going back I just open my book and read a few pages. One congruent story, in one voice, with a singular cadence and no images but the dusty stick figures my lazy, out-of-shape imagination can shake out.
And decidedly ad-free.