Monday, June 30, 2014

the testicle story

The only personality test I've ever taken (the enneagram) taught me that the biggest lie I believe about myself is that while there may be such a thing as unconditional love in the world, there isn't enough for me. I'm not sure how I came to believe this, but a side effect in my daily life is that I've spent a lot of time trying to adapt myself to what I believe other people want from me.

One of the main reasons I write this blog, for example, is so that you'll like me.

Another weird side effect is that when good things do come my way, I often have a hard time accepting and enjoying them. So whereas somebody might look at me and note the progress I've made as an artist in the past few years and think, "Wow, that guy's goin' places. He must be SO happy," the truth is that even when things are going really, really well for me, I'm pretty much always fighting the tendency to focus instead on what I don't have.

It's like that testicle story I like to tell. 

Actually, I have five True Testicle Stories that I like to tell. They are:
  1. The story of the erotic dancer with the four-testicle dog.
  2. The story of the man who met his wife-to-be when she (as the on-site first aid attendant) was forced to cradle his nearly-severed testicles in her hands after an industrial accident.
  3. The story of the testicles-in-a-jar.
  4. The story of the apple pie and the confusion over the words "test results." 
  5. The story of the treeplanting day that went way too well. 
They're great stories, and perhaps one day I'll tell you all of them. But today's story is the last one: True Testicle Story Number Five. 

The summer of 2001 was my last summer as a full-time piecework treeplanter, before I became a foreman. I was working for a company called NATA, and one morning I found myself in the dinner line next to one of the owners of the company, who I will call Tough Ardell (as opposed to Nerdy Ardell, his brother - the other half of the unofficial acronym). For some reason, Tough Ardell reminded me of Ron Howard. He was tall and cool and charismatic. So naturally, I wanted him to like me.

As we stood there holding our trays, Tough Ardell turned to me and said, "So, Josh... how's everything going for you this season?"

That seemed as good an invitation for a monologue as any, so I set my tray down and said, "Well, I'll tell ya. Everything is great. The land is great. The tree prices are great. I've got great friends out here. The food is fantastic. Heck, even the weather's been great. Which is precisely what I'm so worried about."

"Huh?" said Tough Ardell.

"Well, I just get suspicious, you know. I mean, with all these great things happening, I just think to myself, 'Self,' I think, 'Something awful's just bound to be sneaking up on you right now, to wreck all of this fun.' "

He laughed (a little uncomfortably), and I went on.

"So when I get like that," I said, "When I get to feeling like that I say to myself, 'Self,' I say, 'You are NOT gonna let that happen. You are NOT gonna let some tragedy sneak up on you.' So instead, I just ball my hand up into a fist..."

I balled my hand up into a fist

"I reach my fist up into the sky..."

I reached my fist up into the sky

"And I PUNCH myself in the balls."

And at this point in the story, yes, I punched myself in the testicles. Hard. Harder, in fact, than I thought it was possible to punch yourself anywhere, let alone the family jewels. I mean, isn't there some sort of self-preservative instinct that's supposed to protect you from that?

There wasn't, though.

It hurt really, really bad, and I fell to the floor, writhing in pain. Tough Ardell, of course, nearly urinated all over himself with laughter. As did everyone else in the eating tent.

My last two days of that planting season, I put in five hundred dollars worth of trees a day, making a thousand bucks in two days.

A herculean feat? Yes.
The one for which I'll be remembered? No. Of course not.

I'll forever be remembered as the guy who punched himself in the nuts.

Because there were zero lengths I would not go to to get someone to like me. Because I really didn't like myself. And because I really did believe, somewhere deep down, that if things were going well for me, it was only because the hammer was about to fall.

Life is hard, though. And I think you need to be able to enjoy the good things. It's those joys, really, that can carry you through the harder times that will inevitably come.

I spent some time this evening counting my blessings, and I got to eight before it occurred to me that the list was just going to keep on going, and I should stop moping around over the trifling little fact that nobody's seen fit to pay me a bajillion dollars for a screenplay, or buy a bajillion copies of my Short Story Collection.

My life is great.
It is chock-full of love.
My life is exploding with love.

Love is in the frickin' air, I tell ya, so let's all grab life by the cojones, rejoice, and be glad in it.

- - -

If you loved this thing that I have written, please feel free to do me a solid and share it on your social internets (there's a panel of buttons down below). Oh, and you could always buy one of my story-books, if you feel like being extra awesome.

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