God Bless The Other Shoe

This morning I was standing in my kitchen wondering why it is I feel so miserable when it looks like things might be bad and so invigorated when they actually are truly bad.

Provided I have at least one last trick up my sleeve, I love disaster.

When I was in elementary school there was a timed, 100 question multiplication quiz that every student had to take every day, over and over until they got something like 90% of the questions correct. We were going into algebra and needed very badly to have at least the basic multiplication tables down pat. Seeing as how I (to this day) have absolutely no concept of what numbers mean or how they work together I was stuck taking the test until I memorized all 100 answers. The problem was, every question on every test was a random generation of one through twelve multiplied with another random generation of the same. So every test was different. To this day any multiplication I can regurgitate is because of that test, and the supreme effort I spent memorizing every combination of multiples from 1×1 to 12×12. Despite this, I still could not pass the test. It got to the point where I was one of two people who still had to take it, and it was looking like the other girl was about to leave me in her dust. This is when our science teacher took the timer, stood in front of my desk and bent over me at the waist. My homeroom teacher must have said something to him because he told her to “watch this.” Within the time limit my test was done, and I think I eeked by with exactly 90 right answers, or whatever number needed to be correct. “Marina works best under pressure” he told her, handing her the timer.

I don’t know if this is really how this happened, how many other kids were in that last test group, or even if the day he stood over me with the timer is actually the day that I passed the test. But I do remember it being the first time somebody articulated my need to feel the hot breath of danger on my neck in order to get anything done.

In the ensuing years, I have also learned to be really organized, to plan ahead and schedule everything as much as I can. Out of necessity, I can operate in normal circumstances in addition to critical ones. But everyday life will always be my second language. When the shit hits the fan, I’m back on the homeplate. And it’s wonderful.

Because chaos is the only place I really feel comfortable, I used to chase it. I’d hold out doing important things until the last minute because they didn’t feel possible or thrilling enough before then. I’d find the messiest person in the room and stand as close to them as possible. I’d make things my business that clearly weren’t because they were more exciting than what I had going on.

Now, I treat chaos like some of my alcoholic friends treat pain medicine. I strictly avoid it, but I do get kind of excited when terrible things happen because it’s not my fault if the chaos comes to me. Right? I was so good for so long. I went to a good school, I got a safe degree and a respectable job. I kept my head down and I did everything I was supposed to do I even made a concerted effort to make my shoes match my dress. I bought a bunch of stupid middle class shit I didn’t need, and I vied for infinitesimal changes to my job description and project allotment. I didn’t start shit, I didn’t do anything crazy, and I tried always to live by my principals and be helpful.

It didn’t work. I got laid off, no one else wants to hire me, and moreover I don’t want to be hired by anybody else. I take great joy in dismantling everything I worked so hard to build. Mostly, because it failed me. But also because I do my best thinking in freefall. I want to lose this stuff. All these little idiot trinkets I bought to make myself feel better about how I was wasting my precious days living someone else’s life, working for someone else’s vision. Especially after their vision turned out to be kind of a shitty one.

Show me the person who doesn’t take a perverse joy in their life falling apart, and I’ll show you a person who has never known the thrill of cliff diving, exreme sports, scary movies, or taking the first punch at the biggest kid at school. The secret to resilience is 50% getting up again no matter what, 50% unholy love of destruction. I’m glad my life is falling apart. I was so unhappy. Now, at least, there’s room for something else. Another ambitious tower I can tear down by the foundations when it too betrays me.

No Jake and Jessica poll this Friday. I assure you, I have every intention of keeping them around, but Ben’s mom is in town this weekend, and I’ll be too busy hanging out with her to write an entire story.