Help you help you

Mental Health
Vanessa Bootstrap, uncredentialed therapist, had such great popular success with her book Smile Your Way out of Depression that the next year, she came out with a thematic sequel: Stare at This Book Until You Become Literate


Curtains for the windows to the soul

Mental Health
Here is a boy whose eyes really do display the contents of his soul. It's not just an expression; if you meet his gaze, you will see, refracted as though through thousand-faceted diamonds, what he has experienced and what it meant to him, what he wants most in life and what he fears, the people who matter most to him and why. 
He will feel you seeing this, in some impossible-to-describe way, and he has learned, after much hard experience, that he cannot participate in the otherwise universal human experience of inner privacy. He knows that you, and everyone who has looked into his eyes, know him perfectly, as well as he knows himself, while he cannot have the same glance into anyone else. This is not fair to him, but he also knows that it is not fair to others. To know another completely is a dreadful burden to bear.
By the age of fifteen, he will have carefully carried out his plan to make it look like an accident when the high school chem lab's acid destroys those windows to his soul. He will be certain that it was the right decision.


As long as you look at it just right

Mental Health
"So you're telling me not to ask your competitors about you. Or listen to former employees."
___"Well, yeah. They're obviously biased against us, so why would you want to do that? That's not going to be accurate."
"And you're saying I definitely shouldn't read your online reviews."
___"Those internet reviewers are probably just bitter because they didn't, you know, interact with our organization the right way."
"Hmm. But I can read your own organization's reports and histories, right? If I want to know more about it?"
___"Well...we really recommend against it. It can be, uh, difficult to understand what it really meant. It's easy to get the wrong idea about us if you're not careful." 
"I see." 
___"So...ready to sign up?"


The real value of imagination

Mental Health
The forces of imagination and creativity save my life on a routine basis, but I swear it's not in a platitudinous or clickbaity way. 
I do not, as I dreamed I might when I was a kid, make my living by creating with words, music, ink, human taxidermy, etc. Whether or not I live a richer inner life amidst fantastic mental creations is a matter up for debate; if I do have such a place, it sure seems that my roommates there keep changing the locks without telling me, and it's getting harder to find windows to climb in through. After I take care of the mundane tasks of daily life, I'm often too exhausted to even think about working on extracurricular projects. My adolescent self would be pretty disappointed with the current state of affairs. 
And that's why I say that imagination and creativity save my life. I try to be a realist, which leads me to believe there's pretty conclusive evidence to strongly suggest (if not outright prove) that most things most of the time are mostly terrible. Still, I plod through existence. I schlep. I trudge. And I can honestly say that I owe that forward movement, however torturous or half-hearted it can be, to the ability to imagine something worth experiencing an hour, a day, a month, or a year from now. Or, for that matter, to look at the terribly sad and ugly world around me and see it through a different lens, not contradicting or ignoring the real horrors but noticing the good or even seeing how to repurpose the bad into something livable. 
I'm going to try to sum this up and be done, here: It doesn't matter if a kid grows up to be an actuary, an artist, or an assassin. To be a living human being day in and day out, in spite of the observable realities, creativity and imagination are some of the best survival tools you could ask for.


Prepared for life

Mental Health
Being a living human being is never easy. To cope with the difficulty, Gary spent weeks and months compiling complex lists and decision trees, and made sure to run through them repeatedly until they were automatic and totally reliable. This was how he would live his life, how he would survive the conditions in which he found himself.
The system worked fantastically until about the time Gary turned twelve, when he and his family moved to a different state, his parents began to work at home, the family dog ran away, and he began to experience puberty. At each major change, he told himself he would just need to develop a modified routine. Before long, working on the routines was itself the only consistent routine, and Gary was perpetually behind on his reaction to every aspect of his life as a human being. 


The kind of person who does that

Mental Health
Some words cannot be unsaid. When she told him that, if he were a cough drop, he would be the lemon-flavored kind, he knew that things would never be the same between them. He knew he wasn't consistently a grapefruit, but he put a lot of effort into at least being at orange's level.


Metamorphosis? More like "meh"-tamorphosis

Mental Health
As Greg Sampson awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found that he had been transformed into a monstrous beetle. He remained motionless for several hours after discovering this fact, but it was not due to the nature of his new body; this was simply his usual habit every morning.
No one else in the house discovered the terrible change until that evening, when his mother descended to the basement and uneasily knocked at his bedroom door several times, at first asking if he would like to join her and his step-father for dinner, and then growing increasingly concerned not to hear the usual grunt of assent from Greg. Greg, who was mightily irked that his new insectile legs couldn't operate a touchscreen, was watching Netflix on his desktop computer, and tried to respond to his mother's through-the-door questioning in the usual way but found that only a threatening hiss would emerge from his new vocal physiology. 
His mother evidently couldn't hear the hiss, and opened the door with eyes at first averted and then, when no cries of "Geez, mom!" came, dared to look around the room. This is when she saw what had become of her son.


Unfavorable sensory input

Mental Health
It was one of those mornings you could taste and smell.
At some point overnight, the coming day must have gone prematurely stale. There was a sharp tang of decay, mingled with some looming, cloying sweetness, an aftertaste of dissipating dreams. Something metallic, perhaps a premonition of blood. I had not yet at this point even dared to open my eyes.


Coming to an understanding

Mental Health
Ruthermoor Brurford found himself in a serious bind. If no one ever came to truly know him as his deep, innermost self, he would by definition die alone. But he truly believed that his essential self ran a high risk of being so unbearable as to repulse anyone who put in the effort to really comprehend it. So by demanding the effort of another and putting forth the corresponding effort of his own, he would ensure the fact of his dying alone in addition to sparking no small resentment in the hypothetical other party.
After years of paralytic rumination, Ruthermoor decided to buy a houseplant. After hearing weeks of the intimate details of the workings of his mind, the little shrub opted to shrivel up and die, confirming the worst of Ruthermoor's suspicions. 


The bonds of friendship

Mental Health
"We were brought together by random circumstances, I know, but I want you guys to know that you are my best friends."
"Well, OK, you have a point, Carl. The whole thing with the traps and the unmarked van may have been a teensy bit premeditated on my part. But it sure was random for you all, right?"


Be boundless

Mental Health
Now that his own poor decisions (of which indecision was one of the poorest) had led to his untimely death, Norbert found that he actually was fairly free; he could walk through walls, or float, or float through walls, if the mood struck him. He was very disappointed, however, to discover that all ghosts had to attend mandatory thrice-weekly meetings of the local chapter of the Incorporeal League, on penalty of loss of afterlife.


Academic progress

Mental Health
In my travels, I met a man who presented me with strong evidence to suggest that he knew, as he claimed, 99.8% of everything. We walked in the same direction for many days, and after I had asked him the hardest questions I knew (to test him) and the hardest questions I wanted to know (because I then believed him), I asked him what he wanted most. I half-expected he would give some lame answer such as, 'That's part of the .2% I don't know,' but was relieved to find that this was not his answer. Instead, he stopped walking and fixed me with a steady gaze. 
"Freaking magnets, man. How do they work?" 


On the shoulders of giants

Mental Health
Most of the country was furious when the tax law was amended to require from each person a percentage of what they should be earning (according to a very complex algorithm's interpretation of staggeringly immense amounts of data on each citizen). But Geremiah [sic] Gluesnif was delighted, as he had stumbled into a high-powered defense attorney position through no merits of his own and was considered by the IRS's system to owe no tax whatsoever on the grounds that he really couldn't have been expected to achieve anything in life.


Some kind of accomplishment

Mental Health
To be fair to her, Geraldine's conversation style had a very particular internal logic that made perfect sense to her and which she in fact cultivated with extreme care for its own sake, hoping, naturally, that someone would recognize her accomplishments and the reasons behind them, but resigned to the strong possibility that no one ever would. 
To be fair to everyone else, Geraldine's way of speaking was opaque and flowed a bit like long-expired molasses. 



Mental Health

"Scientific Progress Goes 'Meh'" 

 The team of scientists waited in position for the first official human testing of their long-awaited Apathy-Inducing Pulse. The animal trials had gone well and hopes were high in the room. The subjects at the other end of the hall, standing each on a red X, were a selection of passionate volunteers; among their number were a pair of opposing sports fans, three extremely enthusiastic evangelists of different faiths, and a well-known infomercial host who wanted to get into the minds of his most intractably apathetic viewers so as to learn how to sell even to them.
 The countdown completed, and the Apathy-Inducing Pulse emitted from the room's apparatus, a soft but basso profundo hum that seemed to propagate through the thick concrete walls and floors, and the chest cavities of all the room's occupants, as much as through the air.
 The team of scientists would have been ecstatic to see how effective their invention was. The sports fans had stopped trash talking in mid-sentence. Two of the religious enthusiasts' mouths hung open but no more scripture citations emerged, while the third, whose posture had been one of silent prayer, slowly slackened to a neutral stance. The infomercial host displayed approximately zero of his usual manic energy.
 The scientists would have been ecstatic, that is, had one of their junior technicians not jostled, just that morning, the shielding that was meant to protect them from the Apathy-Inducing Pulse's effects, which jostling clearly merited a closer examination of the shielding but which the technician had been too naturally apathetic to bother with.
 So everyone, test subjects and scientists alike, shuffled on their feet or sat or stretched out on the floor to stare at the ceiling. No one moved to turn off the device; they couldn't bring themselves to care one way or another whether the pulse continued or stopped. 
 A custodian entered after several hours, when the room was supposed to be empty, and immediately lost track of why he ever would have wanted to mop these floors. They all remained until morning, and were then joined by several eager (until they came through the door, that is) interns. By this time, many of them were dimly wishing there were snacks and a TV to watch, but without nearly enough volition to get up and look. The phone rang. No snacks came. The phone kept ringing.


Floating heads need love too, part 2

Mental Health
This caravan of spindly-legged elephants bears a wealth of chocolates in unheard-of flavors and shapes. They are stilting their way across a desert melted into glass. They¹ are valentines for you, my love.
¹ (Meaning the chocolates, not the elephants. The elephants are rentals, and I have to have them back tomorrow or the fees are going to be absurd).


Floating heads need love too

Mental Health
"I've dreamed of this moment for so long. It's hard to believe you're really here, that this is really happening."
-"Perhaps I am only surreally here. Would it matter to you?" 


To be a Lobsterman in love, part 2

Yesterday I remembered that Valentine's Day is a thing!
So I made some Valentines. And here are some more.

Feel free to share these with those you love. Just don't forget to tell them where they can find more love (that's right: at crustaceansingles.com. Seriously, though, please do send people here. Send help. And snacks.) 

Mental Health
So, uh, hey. Sorry if I startled you, just now, jumping out of the bushes like that. I was just thinking: we've been on quite a few dates now. I mean, I hope you agree that me standing just a few places behind you in lines, or watching you get a haircut through the window counts as a date. Anyway. I was wondering if maybe you wanted to meet my parents. I'm going to both of their maximum security prisons this weekend, and they can't wait to finally get to know you.


To be a Lobsterman in love

I just remembered that Valentine's Day is a thing!

Don't worry, though. I got you covered. There's more on the way, too.
Feel free to share these with those you love. Just don't forget to tell them where they can find more love (that's right: at crustaceansingles.com. Seriously, though, please do send people here. Send help. And snacks.) 

Mental Health
Roses are not necessarily red,
We actually named an entire color after violets, so who's calling them blue? 
And this is not necessarily a declaration of love,
Except who am I kidding? I'm super into you. 



The Floating Head of Salvador Dalí presents:

Guest art by Barrett Bodine, illustrator and co-author of The Brothers Poorley
Also with: Strange Tales by Ian Poorley

Oh, and here's some Mental Health
Hi. I'm Ian, and I'm a non-writer.
[Everyone in chorus: Hi, Ian!]
I've been clean for just a couple of weeks, now, for about the hundredth time. I have plenty of practice with the beginning part by now...you know, writing a little every day at first, starting to feel some confidence again, and then...just, well, I don't know what happens. I guess something comes up, or I just tell myself how nice it would be to have just a little break, like somehow I've earned it,  like as though it were the kind of thing that even can be earned.
[A few knowing, rueful chuckles come from the audience.]
It's just now occurring to me, standing up here and running my mouth, that that's got to be a big part of it. Of the addiction, I mean. It's like, fundamentally disconnected, somehow, in my head. The idea that of course I want the results, I want to have written the ideas, stories, and all that...but that I still, after so many attempts and failures, have not as yet convinced myself that staying clean through daily writing is a part of that.
Or really, since that wasn't quite what I meant, that writing every day is really its own one-day-at-a-time reward and not a punishment at all, which is what my diseased, non-writer will wants me to believe. My broken worldview has it backwards; it tells me that the process is a punishment and that the real punishment, "taking a break", is the reward. 
And somehow, somewhere in my past I let that take root and become this sense of entitlement, believing I'm a writer just because I've written some alright stuff before, or just because I tell myself I could write if I quote-unquote felt like it. But the truth is, I'm a non-writer in recovery. Every day I manage to create something is a little miracle, and I don't care how cheesy that sounds. 
Anyway, thanks for listening to me ramble on. Who knows if I would be here today without your support, but I'm glad I don't have to know. Alright, that's it from me. Thanks.


Doing what needs to be done

Mental Health
Dr. Vandertramp had once been unsure of the life of evil he felt called to. He was young, then, and concerned with ethical living, albeit in a very pragmatic way. The epiphany that had led to him accepting his true nature and his deeply-felt purpose as a human being had been this: there will always be someone who will do evil. If they're defeated, another will rise to take their place. So why shouldn't it be Dr. Vandertramp in that position, knowing that he could fight off all usurpers and do evil right?


Switching it up

Mental Health
"It's crime and PUNishment!"
"Do you get it? PUNishment...because..." 
"I did. I got it. Now could you please just end this?" 


Can't fool me!

Mental Health
"The thing you said made me feel bad, so I don't think it's true and I don't think you're a nice person."
The firefighter sighed and raised the megaphone to her mouth. "Sir, you probably feel bad because you're inhaling a lot of smoke. Your house is on fire and you need to come to the window and go down the ladder with me now."
But the homeowner knew in his heart that he was a good person and a smart person and the kind of person who would never accidentally leave the stove on and drop a handtowel onto the burner. That just wasn't in character for him.


The persistence of problems

Mental Health
The soul collections agency was devious; Franz had to give them that much. They went so far as to hire an old friend of his from school to invite him (Franz) to lunch, merely as a pretext for serving him with the legally binding paperwork which, once confirmed to be received (and not lost in the mail or whatever other technical excuse a debtor might use), constituted a fairly ironclad case for the collections agency to move forward in spite of the strenuously debtor-favoring laws in place.
The agent introduced himself in front of the table at the crowded café (where people tended to avoid awkward confrontations and presented less of a flight risk) and informed Franz of his debt.
"That's ridiculous," Franz said. "I sold my soul to the devil, not to your company. My only business is with Satan and his minions, which pardon me for saying so, but I can hardly imagine the enemy of all truth and light retaining your services."
Collections agents of all kinds have a thick skin, and this one noticed the insult less than he would have noticed a gnat's dropping. He smiled as he always did when he got to give this speech. "Ah, but you are mistaken, sir. The devil routinely sells off bad debts, where collection of a particular soul is difficult or unlikely to succeed for any number of reasons, to agencies like my own. We have a right to collect your soul for goods and/or services tendered by Satan and documented in full, and we will not give up so easily as the prince of hell."
Franz was too dumbstruck to move or speak. The collections agent made a final remark before parting: "Be apprised, also, sir, that we charge a hefty, not to mention...unpleasant...rate of interest. There are worse things to lose than one's soul, believe it or not." 


Not technically deceptive

Mental Health
"Your Honor, the prosecution claims that the free offer of a slice of pizza came with hidden conditions not revealed to the prospective customer. I argue that the ensuing trap triggered by picking up the slice of pizza in question was not a part of the transaction at all and therefore my client is innocent of deceptive business practices."
"Not a part of the transaction?"
"That's correct, your Honor. It could have been a prank, or an accident." 


Trivially true

Mental Health
"In conclusion, class, everything is terrible and sad and if you don't think it is, you either just haven't learned all the facts yet or you haven't thought about it hard enough. Test is tomorrow, see you there unless we're all mercifully wiped out by an enormous comet or ultravirulent disease before then."
"Will that last part be on the test?"
The professor stared forward for a long time. The lines of the face seemed to harden. Finally the professor spoke: "When you think about it, it is the test. Yes. Good luck, everyone." And left. 


The secret life of books

Mental Health
The sad fact of it is that many books have crippling self esteem issues, extreme separation anxiety when they aren't being read, and definitely form strong opinions about the humans who interact with them. Chances are, most of them don't like you. I thought you'd want to know.


Boundary-breaking art

Mental Health
Undaunted by the poor reception of his half-finished-lunch-as-art-installation, Joel began to experiment with multi-sensory pieces of visuo-olfactory art, subjecting his roommates and their shared fridge to the series "Very Old Leftovers #1-18", several versions of "Dirty Sink Still Life", and "What Was This Even Before It Became A Ball Of Every Color And Texture Of Mold Known To Humankind?". Leonard had named that one on the same day he punched a sizable hole in the wall, for entirely unrelated reasons, and which Joel was too impressed to ask about the artistic motivations behind.


The continuum of success

Mental Health
Joel submitted his half-eaten lunch as his art project (titled We Eat And Are Not Filled, by J. Alfurd W., 2016, mixed media) as a move of desperation after several weeks of forgetfulness and/or purposeful procrastination. Still, in the days between the submission and the reception of the final grade, he began to wonder with entirely uninformed excitement whether the piece might not actually be considered a groundbreaking work...a triumph, even.
It got a C+, with the teacher's comment reading:
Ham and cheese sucks. PB+J 4EVA.  
Also, the arrangement of the parts was uninspired and 'mixed media' is plural. For example, if you had only glued glitter onto it, you'd have had two types of media and gotten a B-.