Posts Tagged ‘Distraction’

The Roar, The Smell, The Feel, and the Flavor of the Greasepaint…

The natural woman is a beauty.  So, is the beautiful woman a natural?  Sometimes she is.  The girl who knows herself to be pretty might let go of the crutches of enhancements once in awhile, or not use them at all.  And the unassuming one without pretentiousness that leaves it alone can be wonderfully alluring, and not even know it.  But the painted woman, exotically so or not, can also be attractive.  When tastefully applied, certain shades and highlights can attract in a fascinating way, even perhaps be temptingly erotic.  Leave it rare or medium-rare, and not overdone.  Remember:  Overdone is not necessarily well done.

In fact, the incorrectly done can look clownish, obviously exaggerated, and even plastic when seen up close.  Some ladies mark and draw all over themselves as if to be seen across an arena from the back of a chorus line, but up close take on an almost ghoulish appearance rather than girlish–untouchable, almost dirty, glaringly advertising that a deception is afoot.  All the obvious accouterment gives it away.  If your mascara has big lumps in it, a man might think you got your face too close to a bucket of roofing tar.  In that case, he might want to hire you to help him work, but not necessarily want to dance with you.

Oh, by the way, don’t overdo the artificial aromas, either.  Teenagers, lacking the experience of years of proper practice, mingle in herds as if they are all trying to out-smell each other assuming it to be of some benefit.  At that age, to be irresistible to a boy is not nearly as difficult as some young ladies presume it to be.  To be sure, a lot of the perfumes and colognes available and sold everywhere from salons, department stores, and even service stations, are rather offensive smelling to men, unless it has motor or gun oil in it.

By saying men might find your store-bought fragrance to be unpleasant, I let a cat out of the bag that might otherwise suffocate.  It’s an amazing truth well hidden behind an avalanche of advertisements.  And the lie sells by the ounce.  The industry does not want you to be aware at all that what you’re buying costs a thousand bucks a gallon.  Most of the time, you’d get better mileage with about twenty-five cents worth of soap and water.  To bathe might be nice, but natural pheromones override fraudulent ones almost every time.

But don’t worry about it.  Once you’ve gotten their attention, they will put up with the odor of it even if you sprayed it on with a fire hose.  If it is a disagreeably odor-some distraction to them at first, be certain men are tough, and will charge full steam ahead as if going into battle given half the chance, or even the hint of any chance at all of a victorious outcome.  A good rule of thumb is the more you pay for a perfume, the less the man will care for it.  But other women will be jealous of you if they get a whiff, which, if you’re being honest with yourself, may be why you have it on in the first place.

I remember a young age when the boys were having to learn how to use their voices as hormones began to erode their ability to sing soprano.  During that time, the girls in my school peer group began to experiment with base makeups, eye shadows, and lipsticks.  It seemed customary to not paint the entire wall, but to abruptly stop at the chin-line so as not to get it on the collars of their blouses.  But I was willing to let them get it on mine, if I’m recalling correctly.  Yes, I was, and a bit curious about the taste of that lip gloss as well.  At that age, the game seemed to be to transfer all the paint from her face to mine, and wear it home almost as if it were a trophy, even though the prize won was only a kiss and the hint of a possible future promise.

One night I came in having spent the absolute best part of the evening in pleasant company.  As soon as I walked in the door, my father said:

“My God, son!  Don’t you carry a handkerchief?  Wipe your face before your mother sees you.  And learn to launder your own shirts from now on so I won’t have to see her cry.  Mercy!”

In theater, makeup is a part of the illusion, sometimes exaggerated to allege youth, or to confess age.  From any proper aesthetic distance, without makeup, the audience might just see washed out and almost shapeless faces in the bright lights, with features of any definition remain unnoticed.  Up close, the illusion doesn’t work.  And once the colors are known to be artificially applied, the illusion is broken, and all who see know that what is in the package is covered by more wrapping than required to make it pretty.  Other than that, it’s just ceremonial war paint, so be mindful of that as you head out the door to do battle.

I began performing as Mark Twain almost forty years ago at this writing, portraying him as a man in his seventies.  Back then, I needed the crutch of lots of makeup to be convincing.  Today I still spend hours in the makeup room, but not to put on much makeup, now.  No, I need the extra time just to fasten the buttons on the vest of the costume, as over the decades it seems to have shrunk tremendously around the waist.

So, to paint or not to paint?  Ladies, that is up to you.  But be ye not deceived about the benefits of it.  Please accept that you do it to declare something you might subconsciously feel necessary to compete with the other girls–not so much to outshine them at attracting the boys, but to declare rank.  If you even for one wild minute presume the boys will not be attracted to you sexually without a thick coat of mud on your face, you will be mistaken.

Want to make sure to be attractive to a man when standing close enough to see each other’s face?  Just make eye contact, and hold that gaze a bit.  And just as you break the stare and look down as if to blush, smile at him.  He will read your direct attention as an inspection, and read your smile as a clear sign of him passing it.  All men are vane in that way.  And if you court that vanity and if he likes you at all (and trust me he does), after that you can then drag him about by the nose if you wish.  You’ll not need to spend a penny at the makeup counter, trust me on this, as well.

One more thing:  Don’t play dumb.  The best thing that conveys, if there is any benefit to it at all is, you might be easily persuaded to make hapless decisions, or even stupid ones.  And if you think that is what the boy is looking for, go out and find another boy.  They’re around.  A new one is born about very twenty seconds–that’s more than four thousand of ’em a day.  Just be careful you’re not the one birthing a disproportionate number of them all by yourself with no one wanting to stay around to help.  But that’s another story entirely, isn’t it?


The Six Minute Speech and The Science Project

Distractions equal interruptions.  The weight of anything that interrupts you is measured by the time you allow it.  The impact of it is not dependent on you even noticing that it has occurred at all.

Now and then, I’ll get intensely focused for a relatively short period of time–sometimes mere seconds; sometimes minutes, sometimes hours (all being the same to me), on something I might be curious about.  If I’m with a group of other people when this happens, I’ve gotten used to the idea that the group in general will not show the least bit of interest in whatever has caught my attention.  It will have been shrugged off by the rest of them as some unworthy distraction, and that I would want to spend any time at all looking at it, is seen as a delay and a nuisance at best, and at worst, exemplary of one of my many debilitating character flaws.

My life cannot be defined honestly to have been short-changed due to any lack of time, as I’ve had the same clock everyone else has; my days are defined by twenty-four hours just as are yours.  Though knowledgeable that methods exist, I’ve never in the slightest way that others would notice, mastered any part of the process people call “time management”.  My approach would be similar to trying to manage a hornet’s nest by throwing rocks at it.

I am aware of how others seem to divide the hours of a day into precise and recognizable subsets.  Some folks have the whole day divided into efficient fifteen minute units with specific and exact elements called “action steps”.  At no time do they go sit on the porch to smoke their pipe and stare off into the horizon.  It would be difficult for them, and since I’m one of the few blessed with a talent for such acrobatics, I try not to make fun of them over their perplexities about being clumsy in that department.  After all, my mother raised me to be a gentleman with some manners about the feelings of other people.

At a young age, in spite of all the distractions you can imagine would be going on, I learned the alphabet.  Though I was not the first to do it, nor was I singularly the only one successful with that endeavor, not only did I learn to say it out loud, but could sing it, and stay on key to the very end of the thing, repeating for as long and as often as the applause would allow.  I also picked up and devoured a few things being served on the multiplication table.

But I never did learn everything, particularly avoiding things expected of me, and even required of me.  A few things that were easy for me seemed harder for others.  And some things others picked up effortlessly seemed out of my reach altogether.  That bothered me.  I used to scratch my head and wonder why some things were so easy for me to memorize while others around me struggled with it, and how other things that should be easy to learn would drift away in a fog.  More than once I was perplexed when certain I understood exactly what a teacher was talking about, but couldn’t for the life of me, prove it on a test.

The Six Minute Speech:

Once as a college freshman, I was assigned to prepare, and give a six minute speech in class.  When it was my turn, I talked easily non-stop–for eighteen minutes.  What some might not understand would be how I seemed completely unaware of the overrun. I’m sure other students were curious as how I could not notice the professor in the back of the room who was waving his arms, jumping up and down, pointing at his watch, and at one point almost stood on his head.  I just thought he was demonstrating some highly animated enthusiasm for my oratory.

Other than that notion, which would soon prove to be unfounded, none of his obvious efforts to get my attention to the time seemed to affect me at all.  He held me back at the end of the class to show me his grade book.  I was reminded that I was to be graded that day on a six minute speech.  He said I gave three separate six minute speeches crammed together nonstop, all of which were terrible.  And that since I delivered three speeches instead of just one, thus taking up irreplaceable classroom time, I should in all fairness have three grades accordingly.

Then as he looked down and pointed at the book, I could see by my name very clearly, the images of three capital F’s glaring back at me.  An old ghost came into my head once more.  That spirit always shows up at such moments to numb me, because it knows I’m about to feel overwhelmed a bit, and in need of numbing.  This numbness, when it overtakes me, never seems to extract any recognizable appreciation from anyone else who might be trying to communicate with me at the time.

The professor kept talking.  He said I could do better than that, and would do better if I had “any hope of passing” his class.  He said other things, too, but they blended in with the chronicles in my mind already playing.  His words would mingle with other words already recorded on that same loop that began back as far as I can remember.  Bits and pieces of the voices of every teacher or instructor I’ve ever had for more than a single day was on it, and some more frantic than others.

Over the years, variations on the same tune were repeated, and always played back with reverb and echo effects with each new track.  It played in my head in stereo, or even quadraphonics, I don’t know.  But when it plays, it’s very loud, and almost everything else real and present becomes obscured and fuzzy.  Interestingly enough, the same thing that causes it in the first place is also the very thing that gives me temporary relief from it.

Once in a while, which for me is almost constantly, I can become happily distracted by some passing butterfly, or a group of ants devouring a grasshopper.  But even so, the haunting loop in my head won’t go away, not entirely.  Do you ever dream?  Do you ever hear a song in your dreams?  Imagine it playing over and over and over, with lyrics such as:

“Still not finished…haven’t even started…where’s your list…you know better than that…not living up to your potential…certainly capable of…I know you hear me…why you aren’t listening…same old pattern…inexcusable…I thought we agreed…we expected…I expected…how can you ever expect…what in the world was…who do you now expect…when are you ever…can do…must do…now, now, now…how could you not…you were supposed…you were supposed…you were supposed…”  

I do start things; lots of them.  Some are quite extraordinarily formidable, and flattering to my abilities and intellect.  Some, but by no means all, have the highest of noble intentions.  But whether or not I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, I’m seldom organized enough to come back to them at any later time to finish what I’d started.  Decades roll by, and none of the unfinished projects go away, nor do they come to the forefront to be executed.  I’ve begged many of them to be hanged, or step in front of a firing squad.

The peripheral arena from almost every point of view I take, is filled with them, and all of them are rambunctious and often noisy.  It’s not just that I get distracted away from projects, I get distracted BY those same projects, as they stand there glaring at me just inches, which might as well be miles, out of my reach.

The escape is to block them all momentarily by intensely taking interest in a new thing.  And even as I do, I’m aware that whatever it was that was just a few moments earlier was so important to me will slip by, and possibly disappear altogether for a bit, only to crop up at some other inconvenient moment to embarrass me.

The Science Project:

Nearing the end of the sixth grade, I had started on a science project.  By starting, that means I’d thought about it, though perhaps little else.  The teacher’s name was Mrs. Scott.  And in fairness to her, she had given us plenty of time, and had reminded us often, to do it.  The due date came.  By the ripe old age of eleven, I was well practiced in the art of renegotiating deadlines.  It would become the cornerstone of a most interesting curiosity I was constructing called the rest of my life.  The last day of school came, and I still had no project to turn in.

I went to Mrs. Scott, who stared at me for a moment without smiling.  During that moment, the recording in my head began to play, but the volume turned down quickly as she finally spoke, and smiled at me.  Though I was not aware of it at the time, that precious moment was some very significant reinforcement to the concept forming inside my very soul about the power of a smile.  Smiles became a most valuable commodity, and a currency I could use often to get almost everything I really wanted.  Additionally, it could serve as bail money, too, and got me out of a few things I didn’t want.

She said she wouldn’t hold me back, and that I’d be allowed to go on to the next grade level.  But that I still owed her the project.  I was to complete it over the summer and bring it by her house.  I went there almost every Saturday that summer, and mowed her lawn.  Each time, she asked about the project, and each time, I told her I was not finished with it yet.  That was the truth.  In fact I’d still not even started it other than think about it.

She said mowing the lawn didn’t get me out of anything, and to allow for that would be a dishonesty on both our parts.  She wouldn’t be bribed in that way, and refused to be guilty of tempting me to sell my soul by allowing me to offer it as a bribe.  So, she paid me two dollars for the yard work, and by doing so, launched the career of an enterprising entrepreneur.  I mowed a lot of lawns that summer, and never missed an appointment with Mrs. Scott.  It was also a time when my father found it a good idea to teach me about the care and feeding of a lawnmower.  But in the back of his mind, he knew quite well that without his own due diligence, the machine would likely starve to death, or be crippled.

I continued in that employment throughout junior high school even after taking on a paper route.  I mowed many lawns, and had many customers come and go for various reasons.  But Mrs. Scott stayed with my service, And I took care of her yard each summer for the next four years.

Each time right before handing me two dollars, we discussed the science project, and that I was still in debt until it was completed.  She also reminded me often, that with all the extra time I’d been allowed, the project would be expected to be quite wonderful, possibly even getting nominated for The Nobel Prize, or something.  And it better be an eye popper if I were to expect a passing grade at this late date.

Of course, anything less than passing would require that I resign from high school, not really having been worthy to be there in the first place, and return to the sixth grade where I would no doubt spend the rest of my tardy and delinquent life.  People often say the most stressful job in the world would be that of The President of the United States.  But none of them ever had Mrs. Scott for a science teacher, nor did any of them have to mow her lawn faced with the reminder of an overdue assignment.  Maybe the world would be a better place if one of them had, I don’t know.

Even after I stopped mowing lawns, I’d still run into her on occasion, and she would always smile.  She would also always remind me the debt was still real, and still not forgiven.  What happens to the time?  Decades passed.  I went to college, a tour of duty in service, got married, started a family, spent a short time in graduate school with my head in a cloud, and raised three sons.  Somehow the science project was pushed to the back burner, then off the stove, then into some deep dark corner where it probably froze to death.

Recently I learned that Mrs. Scott had passed away.  I was saddened by that news.  Few people have ever been nicer to me than she was.  Now I have a debt I can never repay.  By all standards of most religions, Mrs. Scott would be in Heaven now, and I’ll not be allowed in due to my real grade point average being so low.  A minister tried to tell me forgiveness for almost any wrong I could imagine was a gift available to me from the very Deity himself.  I told the minister I was not concerned about the Deity so much as I don’t think I could face Mrs. Scott.  The minister said if Mrs. Scott was there, she would certainly forgive me.  I told the minister he didn’t know Mrs. Scott.

Even if she did forgive me, there would have to be some penalty.  That would be only fair.  I remember one teacher who would accept work turned in after the deadline, but took off ten points for each calendar day it was late.  If Mrs. Scott took off only one point, and that for only each week it was late, by now I’d still have to give up every credential I’ve ever had, including my Social Security number and my birth certificate.

I asked the minister to describe Heaven a little bit.  I’d heard the term “Green Pastures”,  and asked him to tell me if grass really grew there.  His eyes lit up.  With some enthusiasm, he told of lusciously green and perfect lawns that would go on and on and on all through beautiful meadows and valleys for as far as the eye could see.  That was it.  I told him under the circumstances that I would surely be expected to spend eternity mowing it, so I might as well go to Hell.  It is often discouraging to see a man of the cloth give up so quickly and cry like that.

Trying to find humor in some situations is easier than others, and the converse is also true.  What makes us want to verbalize it can be a distraction sometimes, not just to ourselves, but to others.  When some curiosity to me seems to need sharing, I might hold it up to the light at more than one angle attempting to show it to others that may have found no fascination in it in the first place.  Not that I mind all that much, but some of you might not care to have such a thing pointed out about your behavior.  It might make you nervous, and therefore not at your best.

It’s perhaps difficult to fathom why a man who’s brain is restricted to an environment that can be surrounded loosely with just a size small hat would want to spend so much time in a world of his thinking.  But consider for a moment some things you might care to do that not everyone around you will wish to join in.  Quite often what challenges and excites us might seem to be a lot more fun than it would to those who would just take it for granted. When Forrest Gump decided to not be held back by his leg braces anymore, he discovered he could run.

During some interesting conversations with people well studied in behavior and psychology, some of the things described here might be attributed to Attention Deficit Disorder.  But that, as it is generally defined, is a rather subjective description and highly so.  It is not, at least at the point of this writing, a specific disease that can be clinically isolated and diagnosed with any scientific accuracy.

And other labels also lack the certainty of any final authority.  While some observations may lead to conclusions with some validity within the framework of how they are to be used, some of what is described symptomatically to be associated with ADD are also traits seen in other profiles that observe behavior.  The Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator that closely mirrors some of it is ENTP (extravert, intuitive, thinking, perceiving).  Using social style profiles, the Analytical Expressive matches well.  I’ve had these labels used to describe me on more than one occasion.

It was pointed out also, that I probably grew up as a right brain dominant in a left brain dominant world.  But how much value should we place on these handles and labels?  They are, after all, just tools to use for understanding, unless we reduce them to just a function used in judging.

And maybe we overemphasize how we use them in reference to ourselves.  When we do, they can become more of an excuse than a reason for things done in ways that differ from the expectations of others.  I am Reminded of Abraham Maslow’s caution that if the only tool we have is a hammer, we will tend to view all our problems as nails.

Maybe that’s it.  If I pick up three or four different kinds of hammers, the point would still be to identify only things that resemble nails, wouldn’t it?  Maybe Mrs. Scott did forgive me, after all.  Come to think of it, that happened the last day of the sixth grade when she smiled at me.  Maybe for a little while, she actually thought I might finish the project, but she was already on to other lessons.

Perhaps one lesson was to learn when and how to let go of things when they are no longer important, and to never allow something you know is not important to cause a hurt to somebody else, especially a child.  It’s a part of learning how to forgive others.  She obviously did, if we think about it, let me off the hook.

Perhaps another lesson was to cause me to be aware of and conscious of promises made and debts owed.  And, to think about consequences.  If that was the case, Mrs Scott was relentless, but very patient.  Integrity in that manner was important to my father and both of my grandfathers, not by just things said to me, but by the way they treated others.  So in a way, Mrs. Scott was reinforcing those principles, but in no punitive way.  She was still teaching.

The hard part sometimes, is learning how to forgive ourselves, especially when “forgiveness” isn’t really necessary.  I think some of my teachers saw me as a creative child.  I’ve since learned, that with the proper medication, we might’ve put a stop to that.

So you can say, “Van you never earned your graduation from grammar school; it was a gift.”  But isn’t education by the efforts of someone else always a gift?  Isn’t that what good teachers do, even if you’ve paid them?  I’m not saying the gift has to be allowing people to not do their work.  And I’m certainly not suggesting that higher degrees be conferred out of mere kindness to those who do not complete their thesis.  No, that isn’t the point I wish to make at all.

Looking back on it all now, I’m sure Mrs. Scott was well aware that I had grasped what she was trying to teach in the class that year, and additionally well beyond the lesson that would be learned by doing that final project.  She was on to teaching something else.  She was on to still helping me grow, even though I was outside the authority of her classroom.  She was loving me in a way that so many good teachers love their students every day, and in places all over the world.  But she just kept on doing it after the formalities of regimentation had ended.  It kind of reminds me of something I read in a book”

“Loving is an action.  It is the act of participating in the growth and development of someone other than yourself, spiritual or otherwise.” ~ M. Scott Peck, MD

That I was allowed to finish high school and college, and attend a little bit of graduate school was because of many wonderful gifts from a number of teachers.  I’ll not try to name them all here, as some are still living, and I’d not wish to embarrass them in that way.  Besides, the fact that I ever got any kind of a degree at all probably still weighs heavily upon their consciences enough as it is.