A joke used insultingly toward a person who is whining about something stupid like a tummy ache.
Whiner: Ow! Damn it to Hell, this paper cut hurts!
Other guy: Boo Hoo, let me dial WHINE-1-1 and call you a wambulance.
I’ve nothing to whine about these days, but that doesn’t stop me—at least from whining on paper. Coleman stock suffers in silence, sometimes at our health’s expense. What’s going on inside is another story. A good bit of the time, I’m an interior crybaby, preoccupied with spiritual tummy aches and paper cuts. As a fifty-one-year-old with the constitution of the Pillsbury Doughboy and a rickshaw full of neuroses, I guess my chances of changing are zilch. This being the case, I’ll share my latest snivel.
In previous posts I’ve speculated about my wobbly psyche being tasered by PTSD and adrenal fatigue. Whatever’s going on, I’ve noticed a bothersome sensation that reminds me of something cars used to do. Back when people actually changed their own oil, dumped STP into their gas tanks, and considered themselves qualified to look under their hoods, my throttle occasionally got stuck open, probably because I neglected my vehicles. The cure for the resulting racing engine was spraying the carburetor with carb cleaner. At least that’s how I remember it.
My personal throttle is frozen open these days. My motor’s revving at full testosterone rage even when I’m sitting at a red light. In the past I’d have moved directly on to a panic attack, but now I sit behind the wheel, breathe, and smile at my stupid throttle. It’s more of a drag than anything else. I’m not going to lie; when it goes on too long, I hit it with pharmaceutical STP, Xanax, which gets things unstuck.
Here’s another way to describe the feeling: I’m a kid’s pull toy. Some brat with a snot mustache has ahold of the string attached to my chest—a kid who’s snuck a few of his old man’s 5-hour ENERGY Shots and can’t stop dragging me across the hardwood floors of home while yodeling and barking.
What to do? I already pray and nap as much as a human should. In truth, my need for midday oblivion is often related to my stuck throttle, my off-the-hook little snot. If I lie or sit still anymore, I’ll be mistaken for a mound of clay. And I’m not about to get hooked on Xanax or up my Zoloft dosage. The former is a idiotic black hole; the latter would render me the emotional equivalent of 98% fat-free hamburger. Blah! I’ve got to find another way.
Abba Agathon is said to have had a practice that might help me. Many sources, including Desert Wisdom by Yushi Nomura, report that for three years, the sage “carried a pebble around in his mouth until he learned to be silent.” Fortunately, I’ve made enough progress in shutting up that holding a stone in my puckered lips isn’t necessary, but the ancient abba gives me an idea.
A ring on my pinkie, that’s the ticket. I’ll wear a heavy peace sign ring until I learn to remove the pull toy string from my chest, to ease down my throttle—to slow down! Racing for years from one crisis to the next, my head and heart always hear, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” As I stumble through middle age, health and gladness depend on finding a new way of being.
A new way: just as Abba Agathon held a pebble in his lips, I’ll keep peace on my finger—a ring. “Receive this day’s grace,” it will remind me. “Breathe in slowly the new air of blessing. Don’t rush off to phantom disasters.”
Can I learn a new way of being in three years? Here’s hoping a hippie ring will be my teacher. I pray my siestas will be more celebration than survival. And I mean to mothball my wambulance.