Blow Pop or Blowhard?

goblinI really love Dean Koontz novels.  In 1985’s Twilight Eyes, main character Slim MacKenzie uses psychic powers to hunt monsters that mimic humans.  The monsters (goblins) feed on human suffering.  When Slim sees them gathering in large numbers, he knows that they have engineered something tragic to happen – like a ferris wheel failing, killing or injuring all aboard and around it.   Okay, so maybe the book isn’t realistic; but, when I read it, I thought how appropriate that concept of goblins masquerading as humans was.  They may look like a duck, walk and quack like a duck, but, honey, they ain’t no duck!

Now, think about that for a minute.  I’ve talked about emotional vampires before – those people who just suck the very will to live out of your bones.   These are not “glass half-empty” people: they are “someone stole half my water” people.  They never have anything positive to say and mock anyone who tries to improve themselves.  You know who they are.  You are thinking of them right now.  Now, think about those people you know who are slyly negative.  They spread rumors, create friction and start conflict just to watch others deal with the uproar. They appear to be supportive, but point out every pit-fall, every time, just so you can be “realistic.” Uh-huh.  Him.  Her. Yep, they’re goblins.

They destroy, not build.  We have to guard against their destructiveness, against their efforts to turn our spirits into shadows.  More than that, we have to guard against their efforts to turn us into them. It is so easy to respond to their venom with venom of our own – and from time to time may be necessary – but, when we allow it to become a habit, we begin to lose our reflections in the mirror.

As an agent for American Eagle, I took all kinds of abuse.  I had things thrown at me, was belittled and literally called everything but a child of God.  One nasty passenger could just ruin my attitude – and for the whole day, if I let them.  One night, a stranger reminded me that for every horrible, blowhard passenger, there were hundreds of great ones.

Way back when Moses was in short pants, American Eagle pilots overnighting in Columbus, MS, stayed in a hotel that had a charity box selling Blow-Pops at the front desk. I regularly asked the guys to bring me one, but those cheapskates busy pilots never did. One evening, I was working my normal closing shift when the phone rang. The caller wanted to know if the flight from Nashville was on time. As it happened, the captain, whom I was dating, had just called in-range to say that they would be on the ground in 15 to 20 minutes. I had previously given him a hard time about sweetly requested that he bring me Charms Blow-Pops; so, when he called in, I asked if he had candy for me. “Nope,” said he. “Then you’d better be here in 15,” said I. Now, for whatever reason (youth, vanity, stupidity, whatever) I related the gist of this conversation to this unknown caller, hung up the phone and promptly forgot the whole thing. The flight arrived; passengers deplaned; bags unloaded; aircraft cleaned and put to bed. Just before walking out the door, I stopped by the ticket counter to make certain that I had secured everything. Lying on top of one of the printers, was a Charms Blow-Pop. The only person who would have left that there was the caller whose name I didn’t know and whom, to my knowledge, I never met. That stranger made my evening and gave me a lesson far more valuable than the 25 cent lollipop.

Every day, we encounter great people with the occasional goblin thrown in.  The temptation is there; but, ultimately, our responses are up to us.  What do we choose to be: builder or destroyer? sprite or goblin? Blow Pop or blow-hard?

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Taking Out the Head Trash

Head trash. The mental landfill between our ears.

It creeps into the salesman’s mind after a blown presentation. It attacks the dieter after a prohibited cupcake disappears. It assails the recovering nicotine addict after puffs from the contraband cigarette. It torments the struggling alcoholic after the forbidden cocktail.

Is it real or is it the bogeyman? I happen to think that the veracity of Head Trash lies somewhere between the objective truth of Sean Connery being the most attractive man ever (a truth any idiot can see) and the subjective truth that red poppies are prettier than roses. Regardless of its accuracy, Head Trash can and does (on a daily basis) make failures of the most talented and the brightest individuals.  Which leads me to this: the question isn’t whether or not it’s real.  The question is: what do we do about it?

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When I was little, I was convinced that sharp shooters from Gunsmoke were in the top of my closet.  (No. Seriously.) I was so sure they were there, I couldn’t sleep if the closet doors were open.  My mother insisted that there were no snipers in my closet; but, clearly, she just wasn’t looking in the right places.  I could plainly see them; so, I was angry with her for dismissing my fear.

When my own son was little, he had a similar monster infestation.  Remembering the Gunsmoke tormentors, each night, I sprayed water around the edges of the room, driving the monsters into a Japanese letter box which was secured with a brass fish lock (the very best monster containers, don’t you know). With the box of monsters out of the room, the sleeping Ginger Prince was safe for another night.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed my Japanese letter box; so, I no longer have it available for my own monster disposal.  The brass fish isn’t around to contain those spirits who say that I can’t do something, that I’m not good enough, that I’m less than, unattractive, unable to do anything right, whatever lies the beasts are selling on any given day.  I have to put on my big girl pants and deal with them myself.  To do that effectively, I must do these things:

  • Acknowledge that they are there and look at them closely. Closing my eyes left the snipers in the closet; however, turning on the light clearly and quickly showed no danger.
  • Disassemble them to find the flaws. When I internally hear, “You can’t do anything right.” I make a list of actual accomplishments: performing a back flip off a diving board, overcoming a paralyzing fear of horses, baking good brownies. I don’t have to be perfect.  I just have to be good enough for the context.
  • Pluck them out.  Do not allow those negative thoughts to take root.  Deal with them.  Relentlessly. Mercilessly.  See them as the destructive forces that they are and rout them daily, constantly.  This is a battle for spirit, mind, body and success.  I must fight like it is.  Fight for friends. And (this is a big one) limit my time with those who would destroy me.  Emotional vampires have no place in my life. Friendship doesn’t help them and destroys me. It’s a lose-lose.
  • Finally, I develop a game plan.  If sales meetings leave me feeling down, I have to review them with a coworker to find out why. A helpful colleague can suggest how to handle the situation better next time. When I craved cigarettes, I avoided coffee shops and bars. I don’t go to bakeries when I’m hungry. A game plan helps me win the battles before I face them the next time.

To be a successful parent, sober person, non-smoker (or  non-smoking smoker like me), professional, student, dieter, athlete, or insert your own noun here we must clear out our minds, making room for positive things, good thoughts, good people and good experiences. To do that, we must first take out the Head Trash.