Pass Go, Collect $200: the Paradox of the Radical or, Where the Grills Are

May 31, 2007, 1:29 pm

One of my most popular (ever) posts was on academic debt, unless you count all that negative attention I got from the Southern Cult of Balls (and Sticks): the debt piece got linked everywhere, and it had responses so numerous and interesting that I did a follow-up that also got linked elsewhere. One of my next most popular posts, only a week ago, was on publishing your first book: that has made the rounds big time, and comments keep dribbling in, days later, when everyone knows you get almost all your comments in the first 24 hours after a post.

Clearly I am on to something. What do these posts have in common? In different ways, they address the barriers to success, and the anxiety about whether those barriers are — or are not — surmountable.

So before I attack my Writing Work today, I would like to let you know a few things I have noticed about my own life that I would call Signs of Success, or the Paradox of the Radical. When you see them as charcteristics of your life you can begin to relinquish anxiety about certain kinds of defeat, and begin to to focus on the things not in your control (like unexpected debilitating illness, terrorism, the national debt and approaching senility). I have written them out in a meme titled:


You find yourself re-scheduling your shrink appointment to keep an appointment with the dentist. Both visits are paid for by insurance.

You do not reschedule the shrink appointment for Friday, because you must be home all day waiting for the gas grill to be delivered by Home Depot.

You are paying Home Depot $75 to assemble and deliver the grill because it seems like too much trouble to return the truck the salesman offered to rent you for $20.

You buy a shredder at Staples because you are the kind of person whose identity could usefully be stolen.

You think taking a series at the local university theater for next season, without using your credit card, is within next month’s budget. You also imagine that this might be a nice way to meet gay people in your new community. As opposed to hanging out in a lesbian bar, where things do not get interesting until long after you want to go to bed.

You buy a three-hundred dollar cell phone rather than renewing your contract with the free phone because you are annoyed by dropped calls.

You pay the bills when they arrive, rather than at the end of the month when your paycheck magically appears.

You have a paycheck that comes all summer when you do not go to work.

You use the dry cleaner that is more expensive because it is right next to the highway entrance and because you would rather spend the money than take the time to make a special trip and because you don’t want to iron your own shirts anymore and because you have to wear ironed shirts because you have to go to meetings and look Respectable.

You find yourself sitting on the back porch, as the sun sets and the Confederacy goes down in flames, grasping a bottle of Absolut in your fist, shaking it at the Divine Presence, and shouting “As God is my Witness, I’ll never drink Smirnoff again!”

You could have an equally knowledgeable conversation with Martha Stewart about granite vs. Corion, as you could have with Allan Brinkley about the rise and fall of liberalism.

You tell your shrink about the gas grill and he says, “Welcome to the bourgeoisie.”

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