Of all the issues I have to deal with, and believe me I have more issues than National Geographic, the most pernicious and debilitating is what I affectionately refer to as “The Tape.” That’s the short name. It’s full name is The Grievous Recitation and Replay of Misery, Misfortune, Doom and Failure Inside My Head. So, see, it’s much easier to just say “The Tape.”
The Tape consists of basically everything bad that I’ve ever said or done AND everything bad that has ever happened to me as far back as I have memory. I realize some of you will read that and think it impossible, but ask people who know me and they can assure you I am quite capable of remembering all that and more. What many people wrongly believe to be a superior intellect on my part is actually just an above average memory. It’s not photographic or eidetic like Dr. Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds, but it’s been a true blessing to me in my academic career . . . and a blackened curse on my emotional life.
The Tape functions like so, all my bad memories are stacked like cord wood inside my brain. One really old one is me falling into the man eating rose bush outside Aunt Mary’s back door. One minute I was standing on the top step waiting on her to open the door and the next I was bum over teakettle in a rose bush that could have made an admirable crown of thorns for an Easter Passion Play. Another one — a seriously horrible one — is of me feeding one of our bulldogs when Rusty, a fat little waddling beagle puppy stuck his nose in the food dish and Lady snatched him up and tore his throat out right before my four year old eyes. My fault because I knew better than to let any beagles near the bullys and I should have been paying attention. I never knew what happened to Lady. Daddy told Mama he gave her away, but Mama always believed he took her out and shot her.
Tons of episodes just like those, or worse, all stack up in my memory just as crystal clear as if it were yesterday. I’ve got all the usual biggie baddie things: Daddy leaving, reading the divorce papers, every death of every pet, every friend who moved away, every time I was bullied or embarrassed in elementary school . . . the usual. I’ve got some HUGE ones like breaking up with the first girl I ever loved and ever made love to just because I thought I was getting “cool enough” to “play the field” only to find out just how stupid that move was within only a few weeks. Then I have senior year high school which seemed to be one train-wreck after another from January til graduation, including finding out the aforementioned girl was pregnant and it wasn’t mine.
Every stupid thing I’ve ever done, every time I made Mama cry by hurting her feelings, Every girl’s heart I ever broke along with every girl who ever broke my heart . . . and I had six engagements counting Budge, all of it is sitting on those brain cell reel to reels waiting along with my hearing before the Greenville County School Board that ended my teaching career in Greenville County AND the nice, terse “we don’t have room for you next year” email that effectively ended my teaching career once and for all. The current reigning champion is listening and watching Mama rasp out her last breath and not being able to do anything about it but weep and howl.
It’s all sitting up there waiting for the right time.
The right time is usually a stressful period or a bout of depression, but truly anything can trigger it and when it’s triggered, something in my brain hits “Play” and we’re off on a trip down memory lane only this one is the Poop Colored Road instead of the Yellow Brick one. Once it starts, it’s a doozy of a ride. Bad memory after bad memory followed up with mistake after mistake flash through my head in an unbroken, dizzying swirl of negative emotion complete with voice over narration by people who hate my guts with a passion. Sometimes, I get lucky and it’s just a two minute teaser trailer; usually, it’s a double feature of Gone with the Wind and Ben-Hur; however, every so often, and it’s been much more often since Mama died, that tape will settle in for a genuine combination Sundance, Cannes and Telluride jumbo festival of woe. Those bouts are the killers. They damn near shut me down because one can only take so much.
Historically, only two things have been successful at derailing a lengthy Tape run — obscene amounts of very good (or very bad, brain’s not picky) alcoholic beverages OR some nifty and not always legally obtained pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, both those solutions closed to me. Budge will put up with a lot of my wild hairs, but me being drunk is not one of them — she’s heard a few too many stories from people who REALLY needed to keep their mouths shut. So now, all I can do is white knuckle it through with some wimpy anti-anxiety meds and poor attempts at sleeping, which brings it’s own bag ‘o fun in the form of trippin’ nightmares.
That’s how The Tape works and it’s a bitch and a half, let me tell you.
Now, before anyone gets the genius idea to make an asinine comment, think about this: if I had a dime for every time some well meaning person without an obnoxious tape in his or her head has said, “Well when those thoughts come, you just need to push them aside and think of something pleasant,” I could make Warren Buffett look like a beggar. Similarly, if I had just a nickle for every well-meaning, super spiritual fellow Christian who has told me, “If you just pray about it, it’ll all go away and be fine,” I would have a fortune making Bill Gates look like chump change.
Before you quickly judge my inability to conquer this tape once and for all as some form of attention seeking or self pity, try this little experiment. Picture a purple pig riding a unicycle in a pink tutu playing “It’s a Small World After All” on a ukelele. Focus that in your mind. Experience that imaginary pig . . . now, forget about it. I command you to think of ANYTHING but purple pigs, unicycles, ukeleles or pink tutus. If a violet porker slips through your mind just for a second, you lose. Forget the pig! Hurry up! It’s only a memory. Why can’t you forget it and move on?
Harder than it seems it should be, isn’t it? That’s an imaginary thought exercise. Try REAL events that resulted in REAL negative consequences, sometimes physical scars, and always emotional scars and pair them with a mind that doesn’t seem to have a “Delete” function and see what you can do. In short, it’s not like I WANT TO THINK ALL THESE THOUGHTS!! I am not a masochist. I don’t enjoy misery or pain, so if it was as easy as “just thinking of something pleasant” don’t you think I’d have done it already? Do you not realize how many times I’ve tried in over 30 years?
No, you don’t realize it because you’re still thinking about the pig!
Anywho, love y’all and keep those feet clean.
when the tape doesn’t stop, maybe you can do what I do. I start telling the people I know, that I love them, in my head, I love you Cindy, I love you Tony, I love you Juliet, I love you Mom. I love you Dad, I love you Abigail, (niece) and go through nieces and nephews and friends…. over and over again if I have to. Also there is a trauma technique that counselors use on survivors, after air plane crashes and natural disasters or military operations. When the thought starts coming up, look sideways, it distracts your brain for a moment
What an interesting post. Well, it sounds like you have a healthy sense of humor. And you did have a teaching career, that’s more than some folks. I am intrigued and will need to read more. Is this for real or an elaborate fiction? Perhaps a little of both. I sense a kindred spirit. And what’s this marvelous foot motif you’ve got going? Interesting. Occasionally, I will spot a pretty young woman barefoot in a grocery store and it’s always lovely. The cool tile floor is intoxicating to her. Well, you apparently know what I mean. Anyhow, this is a hoot. I am genuinely glad to know you here in the blogosphere.