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Francisco de Goya y Lucientes: Witches Sabbath (1797-1798)
As losers have long been known to sing, "Look away, look away, look away, Dixieland."

Before SettlingInto can commence, it's considered traditional if not strictly essential for prospective settlers to first survive some sort of ordeal. The old, overdone trial by fire holds little popularity in a modern world seemingly ruled by microwaves, but some humiliating experience, some sort of Unsettling, seems necessary to set a proper context for eventually SettlingInto. Our Unsettling has been manifesting in most of the usual ways, which is to say we've been showing off what we tend to do when we don't really know what in the heck to do, on steroids. What usually tend to be no more than small surface imperfections seem amplified under Unsettling conditions. I swear, The Muse can lose anything she lays her mitts on, Sharpies and tape gun most prominently, though only very rarely permanently. To lose the last Sharpie in the universe while in the midst of a genuine packing frenzy might seem like high comedy to any distant observer, but personally experiencing it feels like the lowest form of tragedy known to man. Likewise, without the tape gun, everything, and I mean every DAMNED thing, just stops working. A certain fruitless frenzy replaces forward momentum. Forward momentum becomes the whole purpose for living whenever attempting to get through any Unsettling.

I might overstate my case in favor of not losing the tape gun, since tape guns only ever work at best sporadically.
They seem to almost work some of the time. That they work at all seems unlikely, yet we employ them in what I've come to call Tape Wars because they beat throwing stones at each other. You see, tape guns tend to jam, which is to say that the only way one can definitively determine when one is working comes when they're not working and the operator finds himself wrestling with another tangle of tape rather than finishing taping a box with some sort of flourish. They work about as well as the old M-16 used to work back during the Vietnam War, by which I mean they work just fine in theory and only tend to fail under even the slightest duress in practice. Still, I know of no viable alternative and under the long-revered Beggars Can't Be Choosers Rule, I would not be caught dead without one when packing, which explains the frantic searching whenever ours disappears.

It appears that the tape gun itself might at times hide itself, like yesterday, when The Muse asked me where I'd left it. I remembered having taken it off the bed, where The Muse had lost it, but could not recall where I'd left it. I, good husband to the increasingly bitter end, checked my usual places, but came up empty. This result surprised me because I tend to lose it in only a few choice places, and each had turned up dry. I remarked that it seemed to be lost in the way that it tends to get lost when The Muse loses it, and she almost lost it. A careful search near where she had been packing, found it cleverly disguised beneath something she'd stopped just short of actually packing. I'm uncertain, but I think perhaps the tape gun had sought respite from the Tape Wars and just chosen to hide itself. We soon put an end to those shenanigans.

An under-appreciated yet still essential part of Unsettling involves disrupting the flow that any combatant … er, participant … might be experiencing in any moment, because one just cannot engage as a combatant while blissing in some flow state. You might think that some activity as pedestrian as packing might lack the proper mien to induce anything like a genuine flow state, but if you thought that, you'd be wrong. Flow offers one of the few known reliable escapes from the tedium of revisiting every damned thing you've ever owned and boxing it, so I cannot overstate the utter necessity of inducing it if one expects to emerge sane from any Unsettling. Spouses excel at disrupting their other's flow states, but then so do chatty workmen and even, occasionally, a concerned neighbor. Just asking how you're doing can force someone focused to have to remove their ear bud, utter the universal signal that their flow's been disrupted—a particularly tense form of the familiar, "Huh?"—which then only asks for more disruption as the originating question gets repeated with a little vinegar sprinkled over it. Interaction completed—"No, I do not know where you left the tape gun"—one can then fumble with their iPhone to restart the audio book at the point of disruption, a move complicated by the vinyl gloves obscuring a fingerprint, if one can even remember then what they were doing before the intrusion. Silent oaths never intended to cross anyone's lips are mumbled into the ether in humbled acknowledgement.

Researchers suggest that most who experience Unsettling somehow manage to survive this ordeal, though some relationships have been known to change forever afterward. Full recovery seems unlikely, but this sense seems to have always been more of a symptom than evidence of any actual infection. The whole period might easily be classified as pedestrian fiction and under no reason ever be mistaken for evidence of anything truly serious. Light hearts recover more quickly that do the more deeply brooding. Holding even a small grudge has been know to kill the begrudged, so be careful! We cannot know when full recovery might happen, but it seems likely that the most intense exchanges will be soon forgotten. As losers have long been known to sing, sometimes seemingly even gleefully, "Look away, look away, look away, Dixieland."

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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