Deodorant is not sold to my liking.

Today I went to Rite Aid to pick up a refill on my psychiatric goofballs, and also to get some more deodorant. Sounds simple enough. Getting the psychiatrist-authorized Pfizer candy was no problem, but getting the deodorant was another matter. Allow me to explain.

In days long past, you would go to the drug store and buy deodorant. There were maybe a few different brands, and the ones that decided to get really fancy might have two or three varieties to choose from. But other than that, the one brand was that company’s product, where deodorant was concerned. After all, why have more than two? Was something wrong with one of them? Was the extra-strength iteration necessary because the regular/original one didn’t actually do anything? And if that was the case, why not discontinue the shitty one that didn’t do anything and just make the maximum-strength one the one product that was sold? Why not make 10 that much louder instead of making it go to 11?

I went to the shelves where all the deodorant was and found the Old Spice products, and I’m not exagerrating when I say there were at least 20 different iterations of Old Spice deodorant. I should have taken a photo, since I can’t really remember any of them, but suffice to say that we are long past the days of just “regular” and “extra strength.” Each variety of Old Spice had a subcategory of what product line it was (mine was called “Swagger,” all written in what appear to be pirate letters) and beneath that whether it was deodorant, anti-perspirant deodorant (one of which made some claim to the effect that it fucking totes destroys sweat, will decapitate sweat and impale the head on a stake outside the city limits and wear its skin as a dress while its widow and children weep in agony), on and on and on, and so forth.

Of course my immediate response was one of panic, followed by a very exasperated thought that they should also just make a “classic” or “regular” version for crabby pricks like me. I eventually made my decision, based entirely on the fact that the Old Spice deodorant subcategory “Swagger” in its extra-strength iteration was being sold at a discounted rate if you bought two. Actually, you had no choice but to buy two, since they were packaged that way, like conjoined twins mutated by their manufacturer for maximum unit-shifting. Luckily for me, the customer care representative (otherwise known as a “cashier”) had a coupon and applied it to my purchase, thereby saving me a dollar, and my Rite Aid experience was bolstered further when the UPC code on my Rite Aid card was scanned, thereby saving me another two dollars on my overall purchase.

Then I came home.

Don’t take it personally.

One of the areas in life in which I am the most lacking in skills is in Not Taking It Personally.

For as long as I can remember, I have always taken everything personally, even things that were very clearly not about me and had nothing to do with me. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become an expert at appearing as though nothing bothers me, and I’ve gotten great at not immediately reacting in the moment, in terms of what the people around me are able to see. My wife Asia knows that’s bullshit, and I know it’s just a matter of time before my son Roman figures it out too. But for pretty much everyone else I’ve interacted with in the last 15 years or so, I’ve become an expert at not reacting and not betraying the way something affects me emotionally.

A lot of this has to do with how I come across professionally. In the workplace it’s always been very important to me to be regarded as an anchor, as someone who doesn’t get flustered, as someone who is on top of it and who can be relied upon. I’ve been able to meet deadlines and provide the things that I’ve been hired to provide, so it’s not all just an illusion that I’ve manufactured to draw a paycheck — I am able to do these things. But it’s motivated in a large part by not wanting to be seen as an anxious, overly emotional wreck who’s going to break down at a moment’s notice, and I think there’s also just not wanting to be seen as a fraud. In everything that I’ve done I’ve always had a fear of being viewed as a phony and an interloper, and even when I legitimately accomplish things that nobody can dispute and that are as real and ironclad as it gets, I only view them as momentary distractions from the inevitable realization that everyone is going to make that I’m completely full of shit. I don’t believe I’m full of shit, I just think everyone else will see it that way, and a lot of what I’ve done professionally has felt to me like something to shield myself with, to protect me from the accusation that I’m full of shit.

I think nothing is more real to me than the fear that someone is mad at me for dropping the ball, somehow. I’m currently in the middle of a very long back-and-forth with someone who I haven’t spoken to in years whose last interaction with me was pretty fucked up. I’m not going to go into it, but it was this person’s fuckup, not mine, and it would be completely reasonable of me not to respond to any of the messages I’ve received. However, one of the things being conveyed in the messages is that this person is mad at me for a wrong that he/she is convinced I committed, and even though I know I did nothing it’s very distracting and will probably continue to be distracting until it’s resolved. The thing is, it can never be resolved. This person wants a professional favor from me, and the one sop that I could provide would be in the form of this favor. Then I would have this person momentarily not mad at me any more, but I would be consumed with the possibility of that going away and things going back to the way they are now. I have people in my life right now in a somewhat arm’s-length capacity who are only there because we had it out once, ages ago, and even though we made up, I still don’t want them to be mad at me, and still find myself behaving in ways that, if I’m being honest, are really just about remaining in their favor.

It’s a threat I hold over my own head. I know intellectually and in reality that this is all a manufactured mirage on my part and these individuals are not engaged in this folly with me in any way. They’re going about their lives, as they have for years, in no way aware that I’m even thinking this way about them, but it still consumes and drains me. It’s probably some sort of narcissistic impulse on my part, since you would have to be pretty self-absorbed to think that there are dozens of people out there who you haven’t seen in years whose days are consumed with an unresolved grudge against you that they’re keeping warm in their pocket until your guard is down, at which point they will serve you the cold dish of revenge that they have waited for this moment to thrust in your direction. I mean, come on. It’s ludicrous. I have nobody in my life who I’m obsessed with in that way, and never have. But I’ve had many, many instances where my concern that someone I was close with once is now no longer fond of me, and it drains me and drains me, with no end in sight. I have never figured out what to do with this or how to stop it.

Now playing: “Red Headed Stranger” by Willie Nelson

I will never forget the first time I heard this album. I was at Jill Wechsler​ and Debbie Tobias​’ apartment in 1998 (if memory serves), and Jill played it for me.Then she played “On the Beach” by Neil Young. Those are two of my all-time favorite albums now, and I discovered them on the same night.

When I listen to this (and this goes for “On the Beach” too), I find it incredibly comforting, but not in a yacht rock or easy listening sense. It just makes me feel like the noise in my head has stopped.

Willie Nelson has a bunch of other albums that I love, but I just don’t have the connection to them that I have to this one. It’s the one I find I always put on, despite the fact that I have 32 other albums of his, according to my Amazon Music Cloud Library. But this is the one I keep coming back to.

Speaking of which, I keep coming back to this album too.