Rendered Fat Content


John F. Peto: Lights of Other Days (1906)
" … something I'd never anticipated appearing …"

I realized mid-afternoon yesterday that my head had stopped screaming. As if a gale had ceased, I first noticed the glaring absence, the disarming silence. I took this change to mean that I had popped through to the OtherSide, that I might have weaned myself off both nicotine and the drug that was supposed to help wean me off it, the second challenge the greater of the two. That drug had hijacked my brain. It screamed in response, producing a distracting background sound almost dominating the foreground as well. It was, as passages go, more tedious than difficult. I came to appreciate how The Gods staged this one, though, recalling the drug so no fallback prescription could be filled, so the addiction could not continue beyond the reach of that final half dose. I first felt betrayed, then cheated, before finally feeling blessed that fate had left me no recourse. If it was left entirely up to me, I doubt that I would ever change anything. Oh, I'd talk big but eventually backslide in secret, thickening my story and widening the gap between my public and my secret selves. Sometimes, though, circumstances align such that some genuine change slips through my defenses. I never know how to behave then, after finding myself standing on some OtherSide.

I recognize that I serve as my very own best personal change prevention specialist.
I have proven capable of continuing out-dated status quos through multiple superficial shifts. I have initiated huge changes and ended up with pretty much what I started with, like when I stopped smoking cigars and started dipping snuff. The result was just a different source satisfying the same habit, just rearranged deck chairs, no course change, ice burgs still dead ahead. Perhaps this change will prove different. I'll have to wait to see about this. Now, with evidence of this change just emerging, it's too soon to tell if a change has occurred. When might I know? Later. Maybe.

I noticed back when I managed projects, that done tended to be a slippery one to define. Early on, near the start of an effort, nobody could articulate how they'd determine that the anticipated change had been made, or everybody described it differently. This weakened our targets, since we tended to not share an entirely clear understanding of our purpose, of our end result. This proved to be a mixed blessing, providing ample latitude for making needed changes while also reinforcing mis-understandings. We'd startle awake to notice that we'd somehow drifted off course. As we neared completion, criteria became clearer. The net result seemed to be significantly less than we'd initially expected. It was as if because we couldn't describe what we were really doing, we mostly stayed the same. Even afterward, most projects struggled to appreciate the potential attained and the possibilities foregone. We mostly couldn't speak about it.

It's difficult, probably impossible, to authoritatively speak about any future. We lack necessary context to speak about what we have not yet, could not have yet, immersed ourselves within. This massive refurbishing effort flies remarkably blind. I sense that we're behind but know that I cannot know precisely where we are relative to completion. We're moving in the direction of forward. I wonder where its OtherSide might be and how our home life might seem once we're there. Will I even sense completion or will it sneak up and surprise me? I suspect that it will first appear as a glaring absence, a missing annoyance. Perhaps I'll notice that it's no longer gritty underfoot or that we have windows rather than snapping plastic over those glaring holes in the walls. It might be something small, something I'd never anticipated appearing, like a stillness instead of screaming between my ears.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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