The summer I was sixteen I worked at a state fairgrounds. It was odds and ends work ranging from shoveling cow manure, to mowing grass, preparing stalls... basically any and all work leading up to the state fair scheduled at the end of August. It wasn't exactly hard work, but the summer heat took its toll and wore you down through the day.
One particular day near the middle of August, the guy I worked with decided it was time to knock off for the day. We were out of eye sight from the boss's office and were ahead of schedule, so he drove our electric golf cart down toward the jockey quarters and rooked us a couple of beers while he bullshitted with some guys he knew. Off to one side was an older guy, probably in his late sixties, but looking closer to ninety, with a small folding table set up in front of him. He had three playing cards folded into small tents and a wrinkled ten dollar bill on the table. He showed one of the cards, the King of Spades, to the thirty-something jockey standing in front of him.
His hands began to move, switching the cards round and round, back and forth, until they were little more than a blur.
The jockey picked a card - incorrectly - and the ten dollar bill changed hands.
Another ten spot lost.
In the blazing August sun, I sat and watched, getting buzzed from a bottle of Stroh's beer, as the jockey lost sixty bucks before walking away from the table in disgust. The old man folded the cash and put it in the sweat stained front pocket of his shirt. He grinned at me and nodded, then folded his table and left, no doubt to find a cold drink in someplace dark and air conditioned.
It was a game no one could win.
I've come to believe that's what emotions are... a game of three card monte. Just when you think you know where things are, you realize no matter how much you might believe or how much you may want to, you'll never know where they are.
It's a fool's game.
A few months back, my business partner and I were talking about emotions and how different people react to them. Show too little and you come off as an Ice Queen or an asshole. Show too much... well, show too much and you're allowing your emotions to control you. The ol' tail wagging the dog syndrome.
I don't remember for sure, (Goethe maybe?) but there's a quote that goes: "Anger is a momentary emotion. So control it, or it will control you."
Anger's not the only momentary emotion.
It's like everything else I guess. Balance is not only important, it's a necessity. Too much of a good thing can be bad and all that.
I've been told before - and I agree with it - I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Some days I wish I had a Tide stain stick to get rid of them, but for the most part, I'm okay with it because people pretty much know where I stand. Oh, there are always compromises in relationships, don't get me wrong. You have to give and take in order to take and give. But I've never been the one to put on a happy face just for shits and giggles. If I'm happy, you'll know it. If not, well, you'll know that too.
Something I've never been particularly good at is packing things away mentally. It's no surprise where and how I exorcize my demons and it's always interesting to see how my mind interprets my life on the page. Most times, I don't realize what they're representing until much later.
But I suppose I have to learn how to pack things away a bit... for what's left of my own sanity. I think I've come to understand when you do that, you can always unpack them later if you need to. Look them over, maybe wax nostalgic about them, and decide all over again what to do pack them away again or keep them out for a while to see what happens.
But finding the decision itself...
That's a fool's game like three card monte. It's a game you cannot win.
But it damn sure doesn't keep us from trying again and again.
... next up: The Pink Elephant Part II: Tending Gardens
and I promise it won't take nearly as long to update this time...