Monday, August 12, 2013

Life on Banana Peels

I go through life with two fresh banana peels affixed to the bottoms of my feet, and once I begin to slip, my brain goes into total, instant lockdown. I do not merely fall, I plunge into an abyss of confusion, frustration, and self-loathing for my ineptitude. The slightest mistake or frustration can instantly send me spiraling out of control, both mentally and emotionally.

They say that to fear you are going insane is proof you are not, since the the truly insane never would entertain the thought. Well, I'm not sure I totally agree. I am constantly doing things which sincerely make me question my own sanity.

While catching my flight from Newark to Chicago after returning from Europe last month, I was surprised to learn I had to pay to check my luggage—something I had never before had to do in my entire life. Apparently I'd simply never flown an airline which charged—and I've certainly not had to do so on international flights. Flustered by this unexpected baggage charge, I reached for my billfold. I have two credit cards; a debit and a credit. Since my mind had already slammed shut I was incapable of remembering that since I never carry my billfold while in Europe, I'd put my debit card in a spare neck pouch in my suitcase, and my credit card inside my camera case, which I always carried with me. I could not, to save my soul, remember what I had done with either one of them, and I didn't have enough cash in my billfold to cover the charge.

Utter, instant, all-consuming panic.

I asked for my suitcase back, stepped out of line, laid it on the floor out of the way of other bag-checking customers, and opened it there in the middle of the busy airport. I then proceeded to rummage through every item in it, the space in my head where my brain should have been filled only with icy panic. I finally found my debit card, which they rather reluctantly accepted, taking pity on a doddering old man. I of course felt and looked like a fool. Forcing myself to calm down, I resigned myself to calling my bank immediately on returning to Chicago to report my credit card lost.

Finally at the boarding gate, I took my camera out of the carrying case, which had been strapped to my arm the entire time, to get a picture of a beautiful young man, and....

This morning I was looking for a cover illustration for one of my books. I went to the file in which I am always very careful to keep all my book covers as soon as I receive them. It was not there. It was not on my website where “new” covers are always posted as soon as I get them. It was not in any one of the dozen or so places I might logically be able to find it. Once again, I free-fell into the abyss.The unanswered and unanswerable question of why in hell it wasn't where I fully expected it to be or in any of the other places I'd looked subsequently, and what I could possibly, possibly, have done with it? I finally found it, though I cannot tell you where or how, since I do not know.

My inability to instantly deal with the totally unexpected can, I'm sure, be traced back to the fact that I am sincerely convinced my basic emotional development stopped somewhere considerably before my teens. Every sudden, unexpected challenge is to me a deer-in-the-headlights moment: a mixture of surprise, shock, and incomprehension. I have never been able to acknowledge that things refuse to go as I want and fully expect them to go. Any deviation from my expectations truly creates mental and emotional havoc.

When I sit down to write, I don't have to worry about there being banana peels on my feet, because if I encounter an unexpected situation in the course of writing, I have the luxury of being able to take as much time as necessary to correct it, and the reader, unlike an airport full of people, is none the wiser for my ineptitude.

And I know I am far from the only human who goes through life on banana peels, but I'm probably one of the few willing to talk about it, and do so in hopes it might offer some solace to others who think they are the only ones.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

Like you, I'm a planner. I try to foresee any and all problems that could potentially arise during an excursion. I even go so far as to make detailed cheat sheets by time, date, location and any important notes. Okay, it's anal, but it's helped.

Regarding your folders for book covers and such, do you by chance use DropBox? It allows you to store things on a remote server and access them anywhere in the world provided you have an internet connection and can sign in.

The reason I bring it up is that I save a good many folders on there that are clearly marked and very easy to find. You might like the way you can organize it. =) Just a thought.