Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Author Archives: David Thomas Peacock

You’re Only Real Option

When the shit hits the fan – you have to make it happen with whatever resources you’ve got. By “It” I mean whatever needs to be done. Sure, you can complain about it, and if that makes you feel better, knock yourself out.

But complaining in the middle of a shitstorm isn’t going to get the job done.

However – and this is a key point I didn’t fully understand until late in life – whatever deficit in resources was encountered when dealing with said shitstorm must eventually be addressed and dealt with.

For the longest time, I thought just getting the job done was enough. But it isn’t – because if you keep delivering without the proper resources, nothing will ever change.

You’ve got to follow through and try to fix whatever is broken, and for me, this is the hardest part.

Being good in a crisis is natural for me – following up and making changes to the system is hard.

My Mother

Just writing these words creeps me out, but here we go…

My mother was crazy as hell. I’m not talking about “she’s so crazy, ha ha,” no, I’m talking crazy that would send you running for your life. The kind of crazy that would confuse and panic grown men.

I remember one time when my wife was first “getting to know her,” and she was old and weak and already debilitated by early onset Alzheimer’s. She kind of “went off” and scared the living fuck out of her. My wife had never grown up with violence so it was really unsettling, I’m not quite sure but there might have been some tears involved – it was a long time ago. I tried to laugh it off because she was old and weak, but I could see my new wife look at me and I immediately saw the thought cross her mind “what kind of a person grows up in this and comes out normal?” The answer of course is that children don’t get to pick their parents, and to survive they’ll make up a narrative that includes them being loved, and that their parents are “good,” even when neither one is true.

The confusing and unsettling thing was, she could also be funny as hell, someone you really wanted to be around. Unfortunately for you, she could flip on a dime – one minute she’d love you, the next minute she’d want to kill you – and I don’t mean figuratively. I could tell when she was getting dangerous when her eyes would start bouncing back and forth horizontally in her eye sockets like her brain was short-circuiting (I later learned that this was called nystagmus). I couldn’t ever let my friends come to my house because I never knew what she’d do next.

She broke my heart and terrified me at the same time, which can be hard to process when you’re a little kid. The beatings were the least of my problems, the psychological abuse was way worse. The weird thing was, at the time I thought it all was the most normal thing in the world, because it was all I had ever known. Unfortunately, the older she got, she more dangerously crazy she became. When I was a young teenager, I reached the point where I couldn’t take it anymore.

I had to get out.

I’ve always been ashamed of all this, but as I got older I realized it was no ones fault – it’s just the way it was. I could never escape it, so I had to learn to accept and make peace with it. Plenty of other people went through childhoods that were cripplingly traumatic, I’m just grateful I got through it and came out alive. My sister didn’t.

Whether or not your past completely defines who you are as an adult is up to you. You can spend a lifetime trying to undo the damage inflicted on you as a child, and that’s OK. Nobody ever said that life was easy, and if they did they were lying.

It’s just part of who I am – although it was pretty fucking bleak, there were positive things I got out of it as well. I know how to handle myself in violently unstable situations, so there’s that.

Flow

Being in the zone.”

Most people experience this at some point in their lives, even if they’re not artists. But for artists this is the state from which all the best work springs, yet it seems so mysterious and fragile. Fear is probably the biggest killer of this state of mind, but fear of what?

It could be anything: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of sucking, fear of being great but not being able to maintain greatness, fear of alienating others, fear of being ostracized. You get the picture. FEAR.

Steven Pressfield has written some great books on the subject, but the essence of how to achieve flow is about as simple as you can get. Obviously, first you have to have a burning desire to do something, but assuming you have that, the real secret is actually the title of one of Steven’s books.

Do the work.

In other words, just fucking do it. Every day.

You won’t always achieve flow, but it will only come if you give it a chance to appear by actually working. I am experiencing this now because I’ve started writing fiction, and it’s weird. Some days are definitely better than others, but I find if I just give myself time to do it, and actually start writing, shit happens.

I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating because it’s so obvious and freeing if you’re trying to create. The greatest and most productive artists, the ones who created massive bodies of work, would all be the first to acknowledge a dirty little secret. It’s not all great. In fact, some of it isn’t even that good. But because they just keep creating, day in and day out, their work ethic gives their greatness an opportunity to show up.

Think of Frank Zappa, Woody Allen, Andy Warhol, Ray Johnson, Miles Davis, Picasso, George Carlin, Prince, and Duke Ellington. These people just never stopped, they just kept compulsively creating, giving their genius a chance to emerge fully realized at times, because they kept creating without fear.

The flow is where the fun is.

Prepare To Be Disturbed

None of these “people” exist – they are all images generated from scratch by artificial intelligence. They utilize a specific type of AI called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANS), something I talked about in an earlier post.

For more unsettling examples, please feel free to visit “This Person Doesn’t Exist.” Try not let any of these avatars haunt your dreams (or nightmares).

I’m afraid we’ve left the uncanny valley – next stop unknown.

Here’s A Thought (Part 3)

Maybe the real goal is to live each moment appreciating how fucking magical it is just to be alive. ‘Cuz if you’re alive you get to read “To Kill A Mockingbird,” or watch “Chinatown,” or listen to Miles Davis, or go to a museum, or help someone else, or spend time with people or animals you love.

Goals, dreams, accomplishments and disappointments all take on a different hue if this is your default. Just waking up and starting your day is a little miracle in itself. I’m not sure we really need anything else to make life fulfilling.

So take a deep breath and try to experience the world through this prism of gratitude.

Don’t wait until it’s over to appreciate it.

We All Just Need A Little Human Connection

It doesn’t even have to be a big deal; could be as simple as just smiling and saying hello. That might be just enough to help that other person get through their day.

Seriously.

Just acknowledge the existence and value of another human being and pay attention to what happens.

You might be surprised.

Toasted

Nothing to see here folks – my brain feels like cotton candy. Too much input for any meaningful output. Temporary system overload, but nothing a good nights rest won’t clear up.

Hasta la vista y beunos noches. Te veo mañana.

George Carlin On Creativity

Let’s talk about your material. Do jokes and premises just come to you, or do you actively sit and try to think of funny things?

It comes to me. Part of my leaving the media on all day is a way of…my mind has trained itself to have a very sensitive system of radar about certain words, expressions, topics, and areas of discussion that come up. There are things that interest me more than others, and then there are things that jump out. There’s one thing I learned about the mind as a young man, when I quit school. I read a book – half of it, anyway – called Psycho-Cybernetics. The author said that the brain is a goal-seeking and problem-solving machine, and if you put into it the parameters of what it is you need or want or expect, and you feed it, it will do a lot of work without you even noticing. Because the brain does that. It forms neural networks. There are areas in your brain that communicate with one another because of a need they perceive that they have – if you have trained yourself passively or actively, which I have – to look for certain kinds of things to say, and certain kinds of things to compare. Because a lot of comedy is comparing – the things that are cultural or social or language-oriented, or just plain silly. My brain got used to the fact that that made it feel good – that I liked finding those things. So the brain does networking on its own where those connections get made, and pretty soon there’s an automatic process going on all the time that leaves out a lot of unimportant or less interesting areas, and concentrates on areas it has trained itself to passively look for. Because it knows that when it finds one of them, you’re going to feel good! Oh, boy, I found another one! Let’s go back to work and find some more of these for him. What I do is, I collect my notes. I have about 1,300 separate files in my computer – they change from week to week, because I combine or expand files – and they are 44 years worth of collecting thoughts, notions, ideas, pieces of data, and material. Anything I think might have promise for my writing sometime in the future goes on a piece of paper, and that becomes a stack of papers, and that gets a topic title. The scientist is at work with the little artist – he’s got a scientist buddy – and this guy’s indexing things and figuring out categories, and that stuff goes in the computer. And every time you see it, touch it, look at it, or think of it, it gets deeper in the brain, the network gets deeper, and at some point, it gets to be a telling mass that says to you, “OK. Take a look at this now. This is gonna be funny. You got enough data, take a look at this.” So I’m drawn to something and start writing about it, and then you really start writing, and that’s when the real ideas pounce out, and new ideas, and new thoughts and images, and then bing, ba-bam ba-boom, that’s the creative part.

From an interview with Larry Getlin

Cardiac Arrest (Part 1)

One of the bitter pills you must learn to swallow when you become an ER nurse is this rather ugly and depressing realization: a successful resuscitation is not the same thing as a good outcome. What I mean is this: you can restart the heart, but if the brain has been deprived of oxygen for too long, what you end up with is brain death. In other words, now you’ve restarted the heart, but there’s no one home.

When someone comes into the ER in cardiac arrest, they are wheeled in by EMS with CPR (chest compressions) in progress. The EMS responders are usually in teams of two – and one of them has to drive. Performing effective CPR is hard – very hard – for even a strong and fit individual. So that’s the first issue. The second issue is that the amount of time this individual has been “down” with no pulse is usually a rough estimate at best. That means we don’t really know how long their brain has been deprived of oxygen.

So we often end up resuscitating someone only to find out later that they were brain dead. It’s heartbreaking and disheartening when this happens, because it makes you realize that what you thought was a “successful” resuscitation wasn’t really successful at all. Unless the patient or family allows organ donation, in which case the outcome can still be positive.

I have been fortunate to have taken part in some codes that had a good outcome, and one that was actually borderline miraculous.

More on that later.

But this post is in memory if of two particular patients we resuscitated recently only to later find out they were brain dead. One was a child.

Life can be cruel. You have to focus on the greater good, act to the best of your ability with good intent, and be kind to yourself.

Tomorrow is another day.

The Dentist

Oh, I was afraid all right – I’m talking white-knuckle fear, the kind where you’re gripping the arm supports on the dentists chair so hard they might break off. This was me for the longest time…

I remember that somewhat panicky feeling of inhaling the nitrous oxide like Frank Booth in Blue Velvet – greedily inhaling as deeply as possible, holding it in like a bong hit, then breathing out through my mouth for fear of wasting any precious gas building up in my mask, ready to be inhaled again, repeating the whole process, praying for a state as close to unconscious as I could get.

Mind you, this was after a full round of Novocaine injections in my mouth. Did I mention hypnotherapy? Or the free use of Benzos in a desperate attempt just to get me calm enough to actually keep my appointment?

Well, I don’t know if it was the disciplined application of self-hypnosis (taught to me by a wonderful hypnotherapist), or the years of meditation, but I am happy to say that I no longer need any of this stuff (except for the nitrous). At the age of 62, I now have almost perfectly straight teeth (thank you Invisalign), and my body no longer mounts a full blown fight or flight response at the mere thought of the dentist.

After a disastrous period of neglect in my teens and 20’s, it now looks like I might die with my own teeth – and they actually look pretty good! (at least the parts you see when I smile). I really have my wonderful dentist of the last 33 years to thank for this – although it was rough getting here, I’m grateful for what I’ve got, which turns out to be not so bad at all.

The take away? Parents, don’t torture your children by saving money on the Novocaine in their first cavities. It’s hard to believe anyone would actually do this, but I’m unfortunately here to testify that it happens.

It’s hard to erase childhood traumas. I’ve been through a lot worse, but this particular one had some really nasty consequences.

In my case perseverance, grit, and time saw me through and ultimately allowed me to (more or less) conquer my fear.

Don’t ever give up.

11 Madison Park

We were looking at the world with open eyes, searching for inspiration wherever we could, that we could bring back and apply to our art.

Will Guidara, on creating 11 Madison Park

Fun Medical Fact (Part 1)

Let’s say you have a patient who had an emergency craniotomy. The most common reason for doing this is to relieve intracranial pressure, either from swelling secondary to trauma or from a cerebral hemorrhage.

Of course having a craniotomy necessitates removing part of the skull – after the swelling goes down, the missing piece of the skull is reattached. This is surprisingly common in emergency medicine, but raises the question “Where do you store the bone flap from your cranium while you’re waiting for the swelling to subside?”

Subcutaneously in your abdomen of course! It’s the perfect storage space for your own biological tissue. When you need to suture it back in, it can’t be lost or contaminated – ‘cuz the patient provides mobile, sterile storage for their own missing body part!

Good To Remember

“Unless a leader is actually teaching you something you didn’t know or expanding your worldview and moral outlook, you are being used.”

Arther C. Brooks

Social Dilemma

When is it useful to argue personal beliefs on social issues in public? I would argue never.

Here’s what I’ve learned: it is highly unlikely (read: near impossible) to change someone else’s mind. Psychologists have long recognized a phenomenon that plays out like this: two people begin discussing their beliefs about some polarizing topic, e.g, immigration. The more passionately each side makes their case, the more the party with an opposing viewpoint digs in their heels. So instead of thoughtfully examining both sides of the issue, each party instead leaves even more convinced that they are right, and as a result are now even less likely to change their views.

So what to do? It’s fucking exhausting engaging in this kind of discourse when you realize nothing is going to change, indeed, you might even be making things worse.

I’ve decided that at 62, having already skirted death twice in my 50s, I’m done with this shit. Life’s too short to waste it on a fool’s game.

Unless someone is about to die, I’m keeping my mouth shut. I’ve got more important shit to do.

Really?

Beware the clever person who argues with false equivalency.

Game over before it even starts.

Moments Of Perfection

Search for your own examples of perfection and use these to set the bar by which to measure your own work.

Important note: You are never going to meet that standard, and that’s ok. This isn’t a competition.

These examples of perfection show you what is possible.

The point is to shoot for transcendence.