Nuts

I've known a lot of nuts in my life. What's the polite term? "Mentally ill"? "Emotionally disturbed"? "Has issues"? Nah, nuts. That's the catch-all word for malfunctions between the ears. You're probably nuts, and I'm absolutely nuts.

When I open up and tell someone something I've been through, describe my honest feelings about something personal, the likely response is, "You should see a therapist." Maybe that's why I don't often open up and describe my honest feelings, but today I'll open up:

• I've had about three genuine friends in my life, and two of them are dead.

• I talk to myself, a lot, sometimes saying very cruel things — about you, though, not about me.

• I eat too much, probably because I'm trying to fill an emotional emptiness inside.

• I'd rather be alone than in almost any social situation you could imagine.

• I kinda like disco music.

That's just the beginning of my nuttiness, of course; the list goes on and on. Stifle any advice, though. I've embraced my inner nut, and I'm doing OK.

And I'm not the only nut. We are legion. Any time anyone opens up about what they're going through or describes their honest feelings, it's clear to me that they're cashews and almonds:

• "I purge after every meal."

• "I haven't had a good night's sleep in years."

• "Most days I break down and cry, and I'm not sure why."

• "I count to 1,000 when I'm washing my hands."

• "I actually like my job."

… and more and more, all direct quotes from people I've known — and liked, and still like — but people who are nuts. Everyone I respect is nuts, at least a little, maybe a lot. Also, everyone I despise.

Is there anyone on Earth who's not insane or going there? Anyone? Bueller? Is my perspective skewed because I'm nuts, so I tend to notice the other nuts? Are you one of the nuts, like me and everyone I know? Or am I just nuts?

And what about those lucky few people who apparently have no issues, those friggin' bastards who seem to be comfortable, composed, and at ease in any situation? If we got to know any of those not-nuts a little better, you know they'd reveal themselves as nuts, too.

Someone who’s limping, or someone who’s massively overweight, you can see their situation at a glance. We can't see other people's mental or psychological injuries, though, so there's a tendency to assume they're doing just fine. In truth, of course, all of us walk with a limp.

All of us are nuts, but it's obvious that some people are nuttier than others. Someone who mutters about lizards ruling the universe is nuttier than me or maybe you, and should have access to either help or institutionalization. Someone who endorses simpleminded hoaxes and rejects plain facts shouldn't be President of the United States, with quick access to the nuclear launch codes.

The root of the problem, I believe, is that most people can't or won't acknowledge that they're nuts. Tell them they're nuts and they'll argue. Me, I don't argue, I agree. Sure, I'm nuts and so are you. Why not say it out loud?

Yeah, I'm serious about this. Self-improvement and world-improvement both begin by accepting that nuttiness is universal, and within all of us. The problem can't be addressed if it can't be acknowledged, so don't deny it, confess it. Shout it! You might learn to live with your nuttiness (that's my choice), or you might try to reduce your nuttiness (and I'm rooting for you), but it's nuts to pretend you're not nuts. That way lies madness.


Getting Your Act Together

In my teens I thought I'd have my act together by my 20s, and in my 20s I thought I'd have my act together by my 30s, and so on. Now I'm 62, and I've never had my act together. I'm not in the process of getting my act together. I'll never have my act together.

Maybe you're working on some aspect of your personality, thinking that in a few months, or maybe a few years, you'll get the knack of it and you'll be a better person. If you're working on improving yourself, I'm rooting for you — absolutely, I'm the fat guy shaking his pom-poms, sis-boom-bah, baby! More likely, though, you're planning to improve yourself, or thinking about planning to improve yourself. Which means, most likely, you're never going to be that better person that you wish you were. Sorry.

I'm not calling you out, nor anyone else, except myself. I'm facing facts, but just for me.

When I was young, I read several self-help books, thinking they might help address my known or unknown character flaws. How to Win Friends and Influence People won me neither friends nor influence. I'm OK, You're OK convinced me that neither of us is OK. The Power of Positive Thinking downright angered me. I suppose any well-written self-help book has a couple of pages of worthwhile advice, but none of those books or several others improved my life by more than a smidgen.

Have you ever heard a baseball MVP say, "I was a plump couch potato, until I read The Power of Intention, by Wayne Dyer?" Ever heard a Nobel laureate say that his greatest inspiration was Awaken the Giant Within, by Anthony Robbins? Nope, you haven't heard that, and you won't.

"You can be anything you want to be!" That's what well-meaning parents and teachers told us when we were young, and there's a sliver of truth to it. If you want to be a basketball star, though, you'd better be on that trajectory by age ten or twelve. If you want to be a doctor, you need to have your act together by high school. If you want to be President of the United States, give up, you're way too late to start the work that might make it actually happen.

Giving up is good. That's my advice, speaking as a man who gave up a long time ago. Never got my shit together and never will, but I'll be leaving it all behind when I go, so it doesn't matter. If I'm not the man I always wanted to be, well, I'm the man I am, and I like him. If most of my dreams remain dreams, then I cheerfully fart on my dreams. In not too many years I'll be shuffling off this mortal coil, but that won't matter much either. I yawn at my mortality.

Here's what matters: Did you love someone, and did someone love you? Did you have some fun, share some laughs, and help a few people along the way? Did you make the world an ever-so-slightly, infinitesimally better place? If you can answer these questions yes, please shake your own hand in congratulations. You're a success. Continue that success for as long as you can, and don't worry too much about getting your act together.

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