I just finished reading Jenny Larson‘s book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. (Yes, I’m late to the party, as she already has another book coming out.) She makes a living out of airing her slightly-left-of-sane thoughts to total strangers, which in addition to being hilarious are strangely reassuring. I don’t know how many times I thought “My brain does that too!”
So I decided to take a break from my usual, boring, just-stick-to-the-events style of journaling and pull back the curtain on what actually goes on inside my head.
1. I’ve the had the word “dinosaur” stuck in my head for OVER A YEAR.
It’s not unusual for me to have a word stuck in my head, much like most people get songs stuck in their head. But whereas I usually only sing the chorus from Take On Me on repeat for a few days tops, these words like to stick around a bit longer. As in months longer.
They used to be pretty cool words. In second grade, it was “precipitation”, and in sophomore year of high school it was “incorrigible”.
But two years ago, it the was the word “potato”. I’d walk around muttering it in a stream under my breath (potatopotatopotatopotato) and when people’d ask me a question I didn’t immediately know the answer to, I’d instinctively respond with “Potato.”
And now? Frickin dinosaur. I take this as evidence that I’m getting stupider.
So what does it actually mean to have a word stuck in your head?
It means that it’s one of the first words I think in the morning and the last before falling asleep and during all the hours in between. Lately, there’s even this little ditty that plays over and over in my mind called “Dinosaur Pigeon”. Those are the entirety of the lyrics – I assume it’s my subconscious’s commentary on the relationship between dinosaurs and modern-day birds.
It means that when I’m on the computer, if my mind wanders for even a second my fingers will automatically type the word. I don’t even want to know how often it appears in my search history, and there have been times I’ve almost sent an email to my boss with a line like, “I’ve checked in the fix to dinosaur”.
It means that I get a huge rush if I spot the opportunity to use the word in normal conversation, but instead of being casual about it I end up sounding like an over-excited four year old.
Friend: Hey, have you seen the new Jurassic World movie?
Me: The one with the dinosaurs? Yes! I love dinosaurs! I love Chris Pratt! I really liked when that one dinosaur ate the other dinosaur. What’s your favorite type of dinosaur?
Early on, I thought if I exposed myself to dinosaurs the word would go away. This led to a pit stop at the Cabazon Dinosaurs on the way back from a Joshua Tree visit. Maybe its museum could teach me more about these extinct beings. I was so wonderfully wrong.
First, the scale of the dinosaurs was all off. In real life, you couldn’t actually walk up a staircase inside a T-Rex and stand comfortably in its skull.
Second, the museum placards were full of creationist theories about dinosaurs living among humans. I present to you one of their exhibits, featuring a knight fighting a chimpanzee that’s riding a dinosaur:
Looking back now, I wonder if the creator of this place was in the same boat as me and was simply trying to pour all the dinosaurs out of his head and into the real world. If my experience is any indication, it didn’t help.
Oh man, I just got to type the word dinosaur so many times that I’m feeling really satisfied right now. I should do this more often (cut to me in a padded room with the word dinosaur scrawled repeatedly in blood on all the walls).
2. I carry a tiny gnome everywhere I go.
I anthropomorphize everything. A couple of weeks ago, when my boss was out of town we covered his office with googly eyes as a friendly prank, not anticipating what a horrible mess the sticky residue would create.
As a result, we had thousands of googly eyes left over and slapped them all over the place: phones, monitors, etc. And I have realized that the mere act of putting eyes on an object makes it so relateable that I will hold mental conversations with office supplies. I assume this is just general human nature.
Here’s a picture of my office window:
You can see the googly eyes on Plant, Stabby-Brain, and Football. They are all really close buddies and Football never gives Stabby-Brain a concussion. My pet balloonicorn, Baron Nipplebutt XVII, is bit of an aloof figure, being a minor nobleman who must hold himself above the common rabble. However, in his heart-of-hearts he longs to join the other inflatables upon the field, hence his longing gaze.
Now, direct your attention to are the two eyes placed on either side of the baron’s baby-bottle-shaped bottom. That right there is where I went too far. Those beady little eyes stared out from their piggish and condescending butt-face and bored into the back of my head as I worked until I tore them off in a fit of terror-rage.
What I’m building up to here in a really roundabout way is the one thing I’ve imprinted imaginary personalities on most of all: Mr. Bumblepoppy.
I got him as a Christmas gift ten years ago. An inside joke with friends led to me being gifted a lot of gnomes, but he was the first and became my travelling companion. I liked the way he fit into the palm of my hand and how he straddled the cute/creepy border (after his paint rubbed off, it just became full-on creepy). He was my good luck charm and I’d imagine him imbued with a spirit – not like an actual old man ghost, more like a gentle elemental garden spirit with a penchant for mischief.
I got so used to his presence that I would act somewhat… erratic when he wasn’t around. It got to the point where my mom suggested I seek help, since I was in high school and treating a gnome like a toddler’s security blanket.
One time, on a marching band trip to Disneyland, I accidentally left him on a ride and had to ask a cast member to retrieve him. My patient friends watched me pace and wring my hands as I tried to convince myself that the “Happiest Place on Earth” wasn’t the worst place to lose my dear inanimate buddy. Hopefully the seven dwarves would accept him instead of being racist pricks. Finally, the door opened and the cast member’s arm emerged with Bumblepoppy staring blankly out from his grasp. What a beautiful sight.
I’m more lax about having him close by, but the thought of losing him still makes me break out in a sweat. Just right now? I had to shove my hand in my purse and grope around until I felt his little gnome body. I wish I were joking.
3. I have perfected the art of laugh-crying.
In college there was a short period of time where I’d cry all the time for no reason. This is not the crazy part, it’s pretty standard coming-of-age behavior that might be classified as a mild depression. Despite taking Intro to Psych (which as everyone knows makes me an expert on all mental disorders), I’m not actually a psychiatrist so I wouldn’t know.
Anyway, I’d be sitting there alone in my room with tears silently rolling down my face while I wondered, “Why am I crying? I’m not even sad.” And then it would dawn on me that I’d much rather be laughing. So what I’d do is simply pretend that I was trying to hold in a laugh, like someone had cracked a hilarious joke in church.
It’d start as a twitch at the corners of the mouth. My lips would fold in to try to keep a straight face, which of course made me want to laugh more. Some frenzied giggles would escape and finally my mouth would split open in a maniacal clown grin and I’d double over guffawing with tears still shooting out of my eyes.
I was like a misprogrammed robot trying to emulate the extremes of human emotions while being completely detached from the meaning behind them. I’m so grateful that my roommate never walked in on me in this state. And if you did and backed slowly out of the room without me noticing, then I am so sorry.
Fortunately, I know I am not alone in this because I found this lovely woman who posts videos of herself laughing on the internet:
4. If I don’t poke that balloon with my nose before the song on the radio changes, something bad will happen.
This one’s pretty simple. I like to think I only have the C in OCD, but maybe it’s a little worse than that. I get weird compulsions all the time, all of them rather harmless.
I’ll be walking along and brain will whisper, “Go stand in that bush.” If I try to ignore it, it gets more insistent: “Go stand in that bush RIGHT NOW or something bad will happen”. It never clarifies what that bad thing will be. This part of brain doesn’t seem to have the imagination for that.
If I’m alone or in the company of understanding friends, I’ll just give in for instant relief. But some situations require a little more tact. Here are some real-world examples.
In a business meeting:
Brain: “Squawk like a bird. Dooooo it. If you don’t, I’m going to throw in that shoulder tic that will make you involuntarily spout gibberish anyway. And something bad will happen.”
Solution: Make a peeping noise and cover it up with a cough.
In a restaurant:
Brain: “Throw the tater tot. Yup, that one there. Pick it up and throw it as hard as you can across the room.”
Solution: Pocket the tater tot and hurl it across the parking lot after the meal.
See? Total self-control.
5. I torture small animals for fun.
JUST KIDDING. I actually have the opposite problem – I literally can’t hurt a fly. I remember this time I was standing in the shower when I found a drowning mosquito. Now, mosquitoes are my all-time least favorite animal, so this presented a moral dilemma. On the one hand, if I rescued it, it might later feed on my blood and then I would be itchy. Also, they are the animal kingdom’s number one killer of humans. On the other hand, I couldn’t just stand there and watch it slowly drown and die alone. I saved the mosquito.
This extends to other unpopular critters, too. My home is a sanctuary for spiders. There are four of them living in the corner next to my toilet right now. They’ve set up little individual hammocks and sometimes hang out in a little circle on the wall. I have to rescue sink and tub spiders on a daily basis, but at least I have companionship. (Sometimes, brain will even whisper “They’re my only friends.” I really hope this is not true.)
And before you start thinking I’m a nice person, I do eat dairy and occasionally even meat so I’m really just a terrible hypocrite with no moral resolve.
Again, this is not the crazy part – I genuinely love all living things, even if some of them are a little alarming (humans most of all). However, I am irrationally creeped out by any group of creatures in large enough quantity to be classified as a swarm. If it were 500 spiders in my bathroom, I would be squirming with discomfort, but I would have the same reaction if it were 500 puppies. This is why I don’t do well in crowds, and why I would panic during a visit to bunny island in Japan.
Or this lady’s apartment.
Wow, it is surprisingly difficult to stop at 5. But it turns out this stream-of-consciousness style is incredibly wordy and confusing and if I don’t stop myself I’m afraid my this entire post might dissolve into a endless stream of dinosaurdinosaurdinosaurdinosau….