BeesBall

baseball2
"We love who we love."

If you want to experience the human condition, watch sports. It hardly matters which one. Baseball works best for me because I naively presume to understand the game, but soccer or football or golf will suffice. Each relies upon the fan believing that they know something about the game, though the numbers strongly suggest that they could not possibly know very much. The baseball fan up in the cheap seats wearing the porkpie hat and holding a kraut-smothered dog in one hand and a frosty Iron City in the other, could hardly be expected to grasp the statistical swirl they witness. They, like me, focus upon probably irrelevant elements, fully expecting that they can predict what might happen next. That home run hitter, coming up to the plate, brings with him the strong statistical probability that he will return to the dugout deeply disappointed, but the fan sees the opportunity to pull ahead in a lurch.

I guess it does't matter how many times the fan's expectations end up being disappointed. Enough homers happen to encourage that hope essential to encourage any supporter to hope yet again.

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MondayMorning

MondayMorning
"I remain an apprentice in this life …"

Somebody wiped the slate clean overnight. Whatever had backed up and accumulated over the last week simply disappeared. By the end of this week, another clog will have appeared, detritus remaining from the fresh aspirations coloring this sunrise and the few to follow. For one moment, I feel as though I've caught up. I leave The Villa refreshed. On the drive down to the lab, The Muse muses over the clog before her. Everything coming due at exactly the same time. No time in reserve for her upcoming week. It's spent before it's lent.

I've got my circuit. Gas up the car. Stop at the hardware store for parts to fix The Muse's leaky toilet. Pick up that special roast the coffee shop agreed to make up for me.

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MidLife

MidLife
"A degree of difference, persisted over time and distance, results in a lot of difference …"

By the middle of summer I start to catch on that this season ain't gonna quite turn out the way I'd envisioned it. This recognition should come as no real surprise because 'not turning out as expected' might simply be the nature of things as they've always been and therefore most probably always will be. I still plan ahead, anticipating some facility never before in evidence. I stop near the middle, taking stock of my progress to always find it wanting in some material way. I have even shown myself capable of chewing on myself for failing to achieve whatever it was I'd earlier convinced myself that I would have achieved by now. It all seems such a ridiculous swirl.

I'm not very goal-oriented. I do not now nor have I ever maintained a bucket list. I hold my aspirations rather loosely.

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KnowingBetter

knowingbetter
"Acceptance speaks loudest of all."

What better demonstrates cluelessness than KnowingBetter? I suspect that it's not the knowing that contributes to the sense of cluelessness but the bettering. KnowingBetter seems to set up a sort of competition, a one-up, which easily sours any encounter. The intended betterment encourages a kind of resentment from the one being bettered at, or from the one being battered by the attempted betterment, for no one actually achieves the objective of demonstrating that they KnowBetter. They achieve at best a tentative nomination for inclusion in the Asshole Hall Of Infamy instead, for turning what might have been a collegial sharing of knowledge into a pissing contest.

I've noticed that I feel smarter when in the presence of a genuinely smart person.

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Lieberry

lieberry1
"It's become the Go space on the seemingly otherwise completely built out Monopoly® board …"

When Ben Franklin first proposed the creation of the US Postal Service, the now-humbled post office, he envisioned a strategy for instilling the presence of the federal government in every town and hamlet in what until then had been a divided collection of colonies. The postmaster would be the duly selected representative of that far distant machine which remained otherwise invisible to the average citizen. Over the past thirty years, successive attempts to manage our postal service as though it was the business its founders never intended have left it no better off than any under-inventoried K-mart awaiting closure. What once carried a grave sense of place and authority now holds all the ambience of an ill-maintained men's room. It's still a go-to starting place to receive a raft of government services, but one feels as though you really need to squint hard and use both hands pulling those services to the surface.

As one after another government service has been slight-sized, many needs now go begging.

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Pre-living

Preliving
"The Plan Says rarely qualifies as a good excuse."

I've spent most of my working life so far anticipating futures. I advanced in my career to the point where I was sought after as a teacher of the dark art of projecting useful shadows on far walls. I eventually realized that I paid for every moment I spent planning for any future by forfeiting my present; my presence. I became an acknowledged expert at pre-living life, but remained a rather rank amateur at actually living it.

I believe that I understand that no existence could hope to be complete without balancing some mix of presence and absence, whether that absence be spent in review or anticipation. Obsessing over the past seems somehow equivalent to obsessing about any future,

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CluelessLove

LoveClueless
"I only know it when I feel it."

Many seem to conflate love and like. I'd love to tell you why, but I don't know why. I think, perhaps, I'd really rather like to tell you, but the common idiom insists that I oversell my motivation by insisting that I'd love to tell you. I would if I could but I can't. Perhaps such conflations originate in our inability to properly define the term love. Love fails the noun test—it's clearly neither person, place, nor thing—though everyone uses it as a noun. It seems to be a terribly personal emotion without a specific universal referent. Ask what it's like and you'll receive a flood of profound banality in return. Some say that God is love, which, by The Commutative Law Of Is, means that love is also God. Go figure.

Fall in love and lose your mind, though losing your mind has never been shown to be a clear path to God.

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Democracy

Democracy
"It's messy here, but human."

Democracy seems as if it might be a terrific way to govern the clueless. After centuries of spotty results presuming divine rights and absolute authorities of kings, popes, and potentates, The Founders chiseled out a radical alternative: Hows about we ask The People what they want and focus the government on achieving that? Version 1.0 seems rather crude to our eyes, a couple of centuries and change after the founding of this republic. Version 2.0 seemed better, at least more promising, though some of the new promises faced steep opposition by foot-and knuckle-draggers who struggled with the realities of equal justice for all. They'd apparently become accustomed to unequal justice, where their thumbs weighed more on those revered blind scales of justice.

We're eyes wide open now, I think, ever more closely scrutinizing our intentions against our delivery. We inevitably fall short, though finding that we're still falling short seems a perfectly normal and expected outcome for the avowedly clueless.

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TheFonderHeart

absence3
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

I think of myself as a great proponent of folk wisdoms. They tend to be tricky, though, with unexpected nuance lurking behind what everyone automatically takes for granted by the five thousandth time they've heard it. Absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder, doesn't it? But this chestnut applies to more than separated lovers. I've noticed that the very best moment in the life cycle of any project tends to happen around the very start of the effort, when the outcome still seems glowy and perfect, before the accumulated disappointments and compromises have had their way with the originating big, bright idea. Before emerging knowledge had grounded the balloon. Nearer the end, familiarity tends to have bred considerable contempt, and by then even the early champions would drive a stake through the effort's heart, given half a chance.

TheFonderHeart might prove to be a tell, an indicator of considerable cluelessness.

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AbsentEye

Eyeballs
" …the long-banished philosopher, our long-lost best friend."

About a decade ago, while browsing in The Library of Congress, I happened upon a field of study I'd not previously encountered, The Philosophy of Science. I ordered up a pile of books on the subject to my study desk and over the following weeks, read through several of them. Since Descartes, the philosopher, once one of the principals of scientific enquiry, had been more or less banished from the laboratory in favor of more physically-oriented observers. The practice of I Think, Therefore I Am might be better characterized by the phrase I See, Therefore I Am. The philosopher might bring unseeable into the conversation, muddying otherwise clear inquiry. Heck, the philosopher might rail on about the nature of 'is-ness' itself, seemingly endlessly questioning the very base of observation as the principle tool of enquiry. Objective assessment nudged out the subjective.

I over-simplify, for living, breathing, thinking, actively observing people populated the ranks of science, and so the philosophical never fell too far beneath the surface, like one of those public secrets needing no confirmation or commentary.

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TooMuch

TMInformation
" … either overwhelmed by Too Much Information or underwhelmed by far too little."

Cluelessness carries a paradox. Too little information cannot always be resolved by simply providing more, like water resolves thirst or food, hunger. Too Much Information can induce cluelessness every bit as vacuous as too little. The detailed specification might leave the fabricator overwhelmed. On the other hand, mere rumor probably won't suffice as meaningful instruction, either. The more anal systems analyst might insist upon producing essentially executable pseudo-code while the more cavalier coder prefers to iteratively refactor, no sweet spot seems to exist in the middle of this eternal muddle.

The Bible opts for analogy and metaphor, seeking to induce rather than instruct, but then many insist upon interpreting as if they were not interpreting at all, sticking to the literal meanings as if those weren't interpretations, then blaming the resulting tangles on heresy and worse.

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TheGreatMystery

TheGreatMystery
"Some desires seem best served by being denied their denouement."

Pagans, philosophers, scientists, and poets have been diligently considering TheGreatMystery at least since the beginning of recorded history, and probably much longer. While great progress seems to have been made, our inability to report that we're even close to solving TheGreatMystery might say most about the nature of that mystery. TheGreatMystery persists, perhaps more amused by our machinations than informed by them. Competing theories seem to simply thicken the plot.

I greatly admire the Jewish Talmudic tradition, where sacred texts are endlessly studied and discussed with the intention of gaining greater insight but without the expectation that TheGreatMystery encoded there might ever be resolved.

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Deception

sleepingdogs
"If I deceive myself, and I do, how inhuman would it be to exclude you from my grand Deception?"

I consider myself a fundamentally honest person, perhaps because my many false pretenses have migrated into spaces I rarely ever think about anymore. I doubt that even I know the truth about myself now, if I ever did. I question what utility complete authenticity might buy me. I am not quite what I appear to be. Confessing just how deceptive my appearances might be seems to offer little utility for anyone. I'm not sitting on a murder most foul, committed in passionate insanity, but where should I draw the line? As a somewhat public persona, I studied the arts of clever projection. I understand that appearances matter and that people tend to judge harshly when their unconscious expectations get disappointed. For appearances' sake, I deceive, and quite deliberately.

Some forms of cluelessness seem absolutely benign, unlikely to wound anyone involved.

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Telling

telling
"My elementary school teachers unwittingly taught me that Nobody Can Tell Nobody Nuthin' …"

I hold the firm conviction that nobody can tell nobody nuthin'. In this case, the double negative works both ways, and I fully intend it to carry the apparently contradictory message. Part of the phrase insists that nobody can tell anyone else anything. The other, that one cannot ever fail to communicate something when trying to tell another something. Pundits persist, though, trying to convince the dedicatedly disbelieving. I believe that they fall into a shallow cognitive trap when thinking that they might hold the power to clue in others. Though their words are unlikely to be interpreted in any way they anticipate, so thick the membrane protecting people from unexpected information, they (we!) persist.

Our elementary school teachers might have taught us something, demonstrating a curious superpower whenever they'd call on us to respond to their trick question with a simple response while the whole danged class watched.

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EmotionalIntelligence

emotionalintelligence
"Our spontaneity IS our superpower."

I decided to write about Cluelessness because I'm not that bright, myself. I often feel stumped enough to conclude that I might justifiably claim that I'm not quite bright enough to qualify as not that bright. The Muse insists that I complicate my life by over-thinking it. I can appear aloof and dismissive even when I try to appear engaged and inclusive. I read others poorly, which means, in my experience, I read others about as well as they read me. Being a cypher to myself, being misread by someone else fails to very deeply disturb me. I figure that some things aren't really meant to be read.

I've delved into several self-assessment instruments, managing to keep a straight face through most of my delving.

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Unlearning

unlearn
"Memes do not manufacture memories but convictions."

Given the difficulties learning brings, I do not wonder why I seem to hold tenaciously to whatever I've managed to absorb. Letting go and letting something new come in feels like an exercise in unflushing a troublesome toilet. Once that shit's sorted and gone, I won't ever want to reexamine it. My attitude stems not from sloth but prudence. If learning's risky, unlearning might well raise merely risky to some obscene exponent of itself. I've seen what I've seen and cannot blithely ever unsee it. My initial impression, which sunk deeply into bedrock, does not seem to simply wash away with a light bleach solution. I've got what I've got.

Advertisers rely upon this understandable reticence to engage in unlearning. They project memorable impressions which they know you won't be able to easily, if ever, shake.

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AffordingToKnow

t_logo_291_black
" … I work diligently to stay within budget …"

I warily read my Times each morning, choosing what to expose myself to, and, perhaps more importantly, carefully, mindfully, avoiding what I do not feel I can "Afford To Know", to use my friend David Thompson's descriptive term. I suspect that we're each selective when subjecting ourselves to potentially disruptive information, the news that might well be "fit to print," as The Times touts, but somehow nonetheless, too personally costly to actually read. Go ahead and accuse me of overly-carefully tending to my cocoon. Dirty Harry insisted that a man has to know his limits, and while I can't exactly describe where my limits lie, I carry deep notions about what sort of company they keep.

Whole areas of subject matter, in this way, fall outside my range of interest.

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TheHunt

TheHunt
"… leaving the possibility for great delight to emerge
from an otherwise completely pedestrian activity."

Every Saturday morning, The Muse and I go on TheHunt. We explain that we head out to restock the larder, but we're actually on The Hunt. Nobody could reasonably label this activity shopping because, while we maintain an indistinct list of aspired-tos, we have little idea if we might find those or where we might find them. We do have a route, an old and largely reliable route, culminating at a supermarket, which serves as the source of last appeal, where what we were not fortunate enough to find might be approximated. TheHunt exists because we don't actually know or, perhaps more accurately, we refuse to accept good enough as good enough.

We know some who religiously head for Costco because they can reliably acquire their heart's desire.

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StudiedCluelessness

positivefeedback
" … defensiveness, too, eventually becomes an exclusively positive feedback loop,
an a priori universal, StudiedCluelessness."

Maintaining some cluelessnesses requires focused study. Given the proliferation of contradictory information floating around, defending any perspective against discouraging intrusions seems an inevitably hopeless undertaking. We live and we learn. Learning unavoidably entails reconfiguring earlier convictions to construct ever fresher understandings, some of which might well later prove misguided. We live and learn just how full of shit we used to be. Some, though, seem relatively invulnerable to the vagaries of the learning cycle, sticking by earlier guns as if they represented inviolable truth in spite of the presence of heavy conflicting evidence.

If your livelihood depends upon swallowing bullshit, you'll likely swallow bullshit. You might not appreciate the mouthfeel, but you will be forgiven for at least pretending that you savor it.

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HighSummer

HighSummer
"Gilded clouds greet each sunrise and surrender every evening."

Lupin blossoms creep up the small hill out back, starting at the bottom in late June. By mid-July, they've moved into the backyard. Yarrow stretches out of the garden bed. The damned deer have been gnawing off the rhubarb leaves again. Conifers finished their pollen throwing to settle into being background again. Rabbits wander freely. A gang of turkey vultures wheels overhead searching for untimely death. Grasses recently greening from the ground up have set this year's seed and begun their browning from the top down. I set my sprinklers in pre-dawn darkness before the breeze kicks in.

Windows stay wide open day and night. We chase the few flies that enter through the screen door we cannot seem to remember to close behind us.

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Jam

Choke-Point
"I might settle into this fresh reality, but probably not."

The Muse and I call a narrow convergence home. Several busy roads merge into a single six-lane vulnerable to all the usual vagaries. I often choose to take one of the two most prominent two-lane alternatives rather than try to drive my camel through that needle's eye, though sometimes, even the back routes close down. A surprise Spring snowstorm can shut down the whole shebang, leaving us stranded along the way. Clogs are common, flow disruptions expected, except when they aren't. It seems to be the nature of traffic jams that they only occur when least expected and therefore least prepared for. We can't live in a constant state of readiness, and the demon traffic gods understand this, waiting for peak inattention to strike.

A seemingly small slowdown.

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StewPidity

stupid1
"What if authenticity was the coin of this realm …?"

I hold beliefs that make no logical sense. I have no clear sense of what constitutes logical sense. I am easily confused. I can't tell you how anything works. I'm often surprised. I make mistakes multiple times each day. I cannot seem to write legibly. I cannot sort laundry in a way that satisfies The Muse, who holds a laundry sorting algorithm which she cannot coherently explain. I have relatives who believe that the earth is no more than a few thousand years old. I do not 'know' how to write, type, or read, though I write, type, and read every day. I once scored well on an IQ test without knowing for sure what most of the correct answers were. I can only barely pass a driver's license test, but I fancy myself to be a good driver.

I'm always with stupid. I am an extremely mobile universal stupidity machine.

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Figuring

figuring
"They count on fingers unimaginable to me and perhaps unimaginable to them as well."

I consider myself to be a counting-on-my-fingers type guy. This self-image supported most all of my pursuits until about fifth grade. Long division won't yield to finger power. Neither will most of the most troubling difficulties (aka "problems") I encounter in this life. What smug scientists label 'higher level' thinking seems necessary to crack more advanced mathematics and most other truly troublesome questions. Two plus two almost never equals four anymore. Neither does seven minus three. I seem to need to stumble into some alternate strategy besides counting on my fingers to successfully unwind even the most seemingly pedestrian problem these days.

I suspect that simply classifying myself as a counting on my fingers type guy nudges me about halfway toward resolution, though.

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Salvation

save
"I'm more of a browser, myself."

At thirteen, I agreed to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I had no idea at the time what that agreement entailed or, indeed, what it might mean. Even today, a lifetime later, I still can't grok what it means. I had not been a hellion in my youth and carried no deep regrets or vile misdemeanors into my teen-aged years. Indeed, I've rather naturally not strayed too awfully far into the venial as an adult, never really attracted to the low life. I don't have to try too terribly hard to behave decently. Not that I'd ever consider holding myself up as any sort of exemplar, but I'm an indifferent sinner if, indeed, I really qualify as a sinner at all. Not that I'm a saint, either. I can carry murder in my heart for careless drivers, heartless landlords, and the more studiedly clueless, though I can't really see myself carrying out the crime.

I imagine Personal Lord and Savior to be a kind of superhuman personal shopper sort of role.

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Wind

wind
"Curtains turn frantic whenever someone slides open the door again."

The wind in "Sou' Dakoda" is nobody's friend and everyone's near constant companion. The Muse insists that it doesn't so much blow as suck, nothing standing in its way from Northern Saskatchewan, Western Wyoming, or the Gulf of Freaking Mexico. It rarely sucks west. A still day hardly ever visits and never comes anywhere near to wearing out its welcome when it does, leaving with the familiar groaning weather vane in the night. The ground's usually firmly enough tacked down to prevent blinding dust, but a fine gritty film seeps in around every window's trim. The porch feels like sandpaper underfoot. Wind turbines spin effortlessly, endlessly.

The Schooner nudges along, goosed or rudely shoved aside. Verges ripple like shimmering grease as the sidewind screams through the grasses there.

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Howdish

howdish
" …a simple flexing finger might welcome even a stranger home."

Section roads checkerboard the state of "Sou' Dakoda." East River—that is, east of the Missouri—where the land lies essentially flat, section roads seem to run in an expansive one mile grid; every mile, another section road appears. Most are gravel and provide access to cropland and farmsteads. They're numbered according to their distance from the state's borders. This morning, I'm writing near the intersection of 139th Street and 412th Avenue. It's not uncommon to find section roads numbered in 1/2 increments. This whole state, however lonely it might seem, has been thoroughly surveyed and settled.

The dust reappeared yesterday.

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CellAbrasion

cellabrasion
"Nobody can credibly critique another's celebration."

Nobody can credibly critique another's celebration. Each to their own. Some only find satisfaction with a big brass band; others, a quiet beer. Cheer's in the ear of the one who's cheering, never the one's who's jeering. Your hip-hop sounds like noise to me. So much the worse for me. Holidays bring the need for genuine tolerance. Some just seem to need to celebrate by disrupting their neighbor's tranquility. Accusing someone of making war on Christmas only further fuels the presumed conflict into perhaps a genuine one.

Some say the world will end with a firecracker, others, with an ice chest overfilled with beer.

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Monumental


monument
" …traces of their passage still remain."

As we neared Watertown, The Muse started musing about her grandmother's heritage. Her mom's mother's birth family had lived in and around Watertown for a few decades around the turn of the last century, and since we were in the area and running early, she proposed that we exit from the eighty mile per hour rat race route and toodle over to see what we could find while she reconstructed some history. That side of her family were what was then derisively referred to as bohunks, Sudaten German Catholics displaced from Germany following religious wars a couple of hundred years before. They'd immigrated in through Baltimore then migrated inland to central Minnesota before settling into what was then Dakota Territory, before statehood. We don't know exactly what these people did for a living, but it's a good bet that they were laborers. Most migrants into this area at the time worked at least part time for the railroads who had recruited laborers by the thousands from their home countries.

The South Dakota countryside on the third of July easily passes for an extended park stretching further than any eye can see.

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ChurchLeague

churchleague
" …the sort of ball Jesus would play."

Over root beer floats at the Dairy Queen after the game, I asked why they did this, this being ChurchLeague slow pitch softball. "Why wouldn't you?", was the response. Never having belonged to any church in my entire adult life, the idea had never occurred to me. My team sport of choice has always been solo yard work, being the extreme introvert and homebody that I am. I have trouble meeting up with myself, so the idea that a dozen folks might manage to converge at the same place at the same time throughout an early summer season to play a series of weeknight and weekend games baffles me. In theory, it seems possible, but in practice, impractical, but in this small midwestern city, impracticality seems little encumbrance to actually pulling off such an unlikely anything.

My brother-in-law and I had just watched a double-header, home team losing both games. The play seemed baseball-ish, varying only in degree from the baseball I'm accustomed to. The balls are day glow yellow

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BackHome

stillhere
"It gathers each of us, native born and adopted along the way, into her wide-spread skirts …"

The prairie hasn't read the memo yet. It still thinks it's Spring though Summer's nearly two weeks on. Eight inches of rain in the last week has left the corn tall and deep green with muddy feet. Wildflowers smear expanses of prairie grass coming into full fuzzy head now. The thermostat hasn't found its upper reaches and we run with the sun roof and side windows wide open, more ambient than we had any reason to expect. We both seem born to this place. The Muse because she was born to here, me, I suppose, because some of my forebears homesteaded just south of here. The Muse is headed BackHome.

In our part of this culture we say that we "go BackHome." Most of our generation moved away somewhere. The prior generation was no different.

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Denial

denial
"I'll be gone until I'm not gone anymore."

Denial is the first stage of vacation. The few days leading up to departure swell with stiff-arming tactics. The list of preparatory must-dos grows as one thing, then another blunts apparent progress. By the morning before, I face a numbing blank wall of possibilities I feel certain might hang us up for at least a day. By the night before, that list reduced to a final one or two, I resign myself to the high likelihood that we might even leave on time.

I figure the unknown blunts me. It slows me down, disabling whatever others experience as excitement at the prospect.

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