Rant 67 January 2013: Apocalypse Now

The end of the world has come and gone.

I can’t remember what I was doing that day; maybe the dentist, or sorting my sock drawer, or something. (This is a lie, of course. My sock drawer is about as organized as a post-colonial banana republic’s government files.)

I feel a little badly about that. Like maybe I should have given the apocalypse some more attention.

To be fair, a lot of other people were showing up at the apocalypse’s party so I didn’t think it would miss me; I had already clicked “Decline” to the apocalypse’s Facebook invite and posted a jaunty noncommittal note: Hey apocalypse! I believe in science so I can’t make it! Let’s never get together! ūüôā Luv ya babe xoxo K.

Nevertheless, the tongue-in-cheek-but-hedging-our-bets-anyway tone of the general discourse suggested a larger cultural preoccupation with finding The Big Explanation.

Have you ever looked for The Big Explanation? You know, the thing that will make it all work?

The diet that will never leave you hungry or dissatisfied? (And certainly never contemplating making a cookie-prosciutto-peanut butter sandwich if the alternative is to be left alone with your thoughts, gazing into the void on a Saturday afternoon?)

The “fat-blasting” workout regime that promises¬†METABOLIC DESTRUCXXXION?

Especially when combined with things like RIPPED FREAK, GRENADE THERMO DETONATOR, MAN-SCORCH, DYMA-BURN, MELTDOWN, XYIENCE XELERATE, MUSCLEOLOGY LIPOBURN, AMPHETALEAN, RIPPED ADRENALINE, PANTHERA PHARMA DIAMOND FIRE X7 (Panthera — wasn’t that a guy in Thundercats?); ANADROX (pump and burn, says this one) or XAT-7? Those are all real names. Google them. (LIPOFLUSH kind of scares me — wasn’t that what Olestra did? You know, the delicately named “anal leakage” fake fat?)

The adventure race that is so HARDCORE EXXXTREME that it involves a cattle prod, naked skydiving, a habanero enema, something involving “duct tape tap dancing”, and being locked in a cage with Ted Nugent — and that’s the warmup?

The grammatical reason why all these things and sports supplements have ridiculous names and Xs in them?

And perhaps most importantly:

The place where you — yes, you! lumpy, quotidian, funny-pelvis-alignment, PMSing you! — belong?

Because isn’t that really what it’s all about?

The gender warrior and great pioneer Kate Bornstein once told me (YES KATE FUCKING BORNSTEIN TALKED TO ME HOLY SHIT HOW AWESOME IS THAT WHO WANTS MY AUTOGRAPH!!?) that identity is really about two things:

  • being (who are you?)
  • belonging (where do you fit in?)

The funny and sad thing about humanity in the 21st century is that we’re all convinced we’re unusual or special. It’s one of the most common logical fallacies. For instance, the vast majority of people think they are “better than average” drivers.

And right now, there are shrinks’ offices full of sobbing people who are explaining through snotty tears that they “don’t really fit in anywhere”.

Well, news flash: Unless you are one of those douchebros who popped out of the womb with your sunglasses resting atop the backwards-turned brim of your baseball hat, whose hypocephalic cerebral cortex has never entertained even a random electrical fart of abstract self-critical consciousness, you’ve probably thought you “don’t really fit in anywhere”.

And nobody cares about your dreams. (Bear with me. This isn’t as mean as it sounds.) In fact, I¬†thought about calling this Rant of the Month “Nobody Cares About Your Dreams”. NCAYD is a little catchphrase that dates back decades.

One of my friends, who is now a Harvard-educated history professor, was a precocious, imaginative little child. Every night, much like Ralph Wiggum (“Sleep! That’s where I’m a Viking!”), my friend would drift off into an exciting land of Nod, full of elaborate narratives and exuberant, fantastical characters. Every morning, he would wake up and regale his mother with long, Greek-epic-type explanations and analyses of the previous night’s events.

One day, his probably busy/rushed/exasperated-with-4-kids mother finally blurted, somewhere in the middle of a 20-minute exegesis, “Rob! Nobody cares about your dreams!”

And thus, a childhood trauma plus notable catchphrase was born. (Along with “A company hymn?” and “How’d they get the monkey to be so mean?”, which will, for now, be left unexplained as your enigmatic Moment of Zen.)

Nobody cares about your dreams.

I like this.

On the one hand, of course you could argue that this is an insensitive declaration of the world’s general lack of concern for your tenderhearted feelings and innermost aspirations. And you’d probably be right.

But on the other hand — which is the interpretation to which I subscribe — it means that Big Daddy In The Sky isn’t watching you. You’re free. You don’t have to justify or explain yourself to anyone.

All that shit you worry about? Nobody cares. The spot of mustard on your shirt? Nobody cares. Your abs? Your WOD time? Whether you were “good” or “bad” at dinner? Seriously, nobody fucking cares.

I used to have this weird belief that when I died, the most embarrassing moments of my life would be replayed to me, like a Film O’ Shame. You know, things like picking your nose while sitting on the toilet, reading Flowers In The Attic. Or when my childhood BFF blabbed to the bass clarinetist whom I sat next to at band camp (YES BAND CAMP), and upon whom I had a mild crush, that I’d told her he made gross ffffff sounds with the spit valve, thus crushing the crush forevermore. That sort of thing.

It all seemed to MATTER SO VERY VERY MUCH. Like, enough that an omnipotent, universe-creating God would make the time to fire up the ol’ E-Zy Cam and take notes. 6th May 1979. Took a break from causing all galactic chemical chain reactions and celestial bodies to orbit in order to record this gem: Krista farts into red velour shorts while roller skating. Ha ha ha, I can’t wait to see her face when I show her this one!

Later, as an adult, I translated this imagined Watcher (kinda pervy, if you really think about it, BTW) into introjects that constantly observed my performance and body, like a ticker tape of snarky TV producers.

Uh oh, bad squat day. That’s gonna cost us a few thousand viewers and a shitload of credibility.

Hey, those chunky quads are testing poorly with our 18-24-aged females. Could you lose some of that? 

Look, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but that’s a seriously giant zit. The Noxema sponsors are complaining.

Especially fierce reproaches, of course, were reserved for areas that seemed to define my “status” as a “fitness and nutrition expert” (oh har dee har har har). No, really, pause to appreciate the insanity of this.

SCENE: Boise, Idaho. A gang of women watch a flickering computer screen breathlessly.

DONNA: Wait! She’s coming on now! [collective gasp]

SUSAN: Is that…

NANCY: I think it is!

SUSAN: Holy crap! Krista just totally stunk up that deadlift!

JILL: And look! There’s a muffin top over her leggings when she bends over! What a fat piece of shit!

[All the women scream in unison.]

SALLY: Oh God! What a fraud! I believed in her! 

CARLA: I bet she’s at least 19, 20% bodyfat. Maybe even 20.5. I can’t see any shoulder striations, and you know what that means, amirite? [makes oinking noises]

RACHEL: I knew it. I always told you guys that Krista was a joke.

I can’t decide what’s worse, the bizarrely ludicrous narcissism of thinking that anyone on the internet actually gave a shit, or all the mental real estate that was scorched and burned because of years of these parasitic idiotic thoughts.

Now, here’s a funny irony. Which is that people actually¬†do care about your dreams. Just not the ones you think.

Most of us have at least one person in our lives who might, in fact, be interested in our most meaningful experiences and desires. That person may even have generously, silently, indulgently tolerated your whiny self-criticism and self-excoriation with a sense of quiet puzzlement.

Because perhaps to this person — your BFF, your mom, your partner, your kid, the homeless person for whom you buy a coffee every day, hell maybe just your dog — you are a wondrous and magical creature. And all that shit you worry and fret and self-flagellate about don’t matter. Not to them. They either don’t see it or don’t care.

They think you are beautiful when you wear a red scarf. They like the smell of your hair. They think your goofy-shaped feet are adorable. They may have a vague idea of what a WOD is but they aren’t quite sure what 13:25 means, and anyway they’re more focused on telling you this hilarious thing Chad said that they totally know you’ll find funny so they saved up the story to tell you because they were thinking about you and your smile, as they often do.

They are the ones who care about your real dreams. The ones like “I want to help people” and “I want to make a difference” and “I want my life to have purpose”.

They are the ones who really hear you. Years later they say to you Remember when you told me that ___? and you think Holy shit, you were paying attention?

And they are the ones you’d call if the world were ending, just to hear their voice (or perhaps their bark) one last time.

Shame researcher Brene Brown has a fun little exercise. Cut a piece of paper so that it’s 2 inches by 2 inches. Yes. Very small.

On that paper, write down the names of those people (or the dog) that are truly, deeply important to you. The people who see and accept you as YOU. Completely. Fully. In all your flawed nose-picking splendour. It’s a short list, of course. Print teeny tiny.

That paper now contains the only people whose opinions are worth jack shit to you. When in doubt, refer to it.

Today, perhaps review your end-of-the-world plan. Who would you call? Who would you want to huddle next to, sharing the last foil blanket on earth as the meteors rained down hellfire?

More importantly, if you lost everything in the apocalypse, how might you end up freer? What would be in the boxes that would be jettisoned? What imaginary authority figure or judge would catch fire and be destroyed?

What bullshit could YOU throw out in 2013 to free up some mental health, and why?

Post below and let us know.