The Ant Bully

Yeah, I know. It’s been a while. Three months to be exact (YIKES). I never expected that to happen, but it has been a weird few months in both a good and a bad way. The good is that unlike last year, socializing has become a thing again, which has been great. But it has left me wanting for more, and my patience, which has always been a strong point, is wearing thin.

Unexpectedly, my life has become quite mundane, other than the socializing part. These last few months have evolved around work, the house, medical shit, and a death in the family whose aftermath has yet to play out and will in all likelihood leave long lasting scars and animosity.

The ironic thing is that even though this year has been night and day compared to last summer, it has been harder to navigate. Perhaps it is because the circus (That was a slip because I meant to write virus) is still with us. There are actually several cases in our town, which I had not heard of in a long time, and even though Connecticut is one of the healthiest states as far as vaccinations and the virus is concerned, the rates are at their highest levels in a long time. I am sick and tired of the fact this country can’t get its shit together and agree on an approach that rids us of this scourge. What’s worse is that I don’t see it changing any time soon, given the selfishness of our population and the politicization of the issue. It’s depressing to think how much longer we will sink into this morass, and I am not looking forward to what the winter has in store.

The primary casualty of these eighteen months has been motivation. I expected novel number two to be mostly done by now, but I haven’t sat in front of the keyboard to type one word of it in months. Everytime I have had an idea for a post, it disappeared like fart in the wind when it came time to actually write about it.

I’ve had three weeks off this summer with not much to show for it, other than some stuff around the house. All you need to know about how mundane life has become is one obsession that I have become consumed with. It has galvanized my focus and, at times, turned me into a raving lunatic, unleashing murderous thoughts of violence, creulty and extermination.

What has created this toxic brew? Ants!

We’ve had ants before, but they were manageble. Most of the time, they were outside and you could see the swarms. But when they strayed into the house, a dose of boric acid and sugar around the perimiter of the foundation would do the trick.

We moved into this house in October 2019 and last year had occasional ants in the kitchen. But they were managable. I don’t know what happened this year though. We have gotten a ton of rain this summer (wish my west coast friends could have had half of what we had) so maybe this is flushing them out. Traps aren’t working one bit.

Instead of seeing one or two stray ants occasionally trek across the light maple floors, you see one or two at different parts of the house at different times of the day. Every single day! If you drop a crumb or something sweet or oily on the floor, they swarm in bunches. These are the little bastards too (thankfully), so when you see a dark cluster surrounding something on the floor you know there are a lot of them. It got so bad that when we woke up yesterday, they were actually crawling up the cabinets into the pantry, up the cabinets where some of the dishes are and the door where the kitchen garbage is. They were invading on multiple fronts and it felt like we were under seige! A dark, malevolent spirit consumed me, and I wanted to inflict hellfire and eternal suffering on these unwelcome intruders.

Instead of fireboming the place, cooler heads prevailed, which meant a thorough inspection and cleaning of the panty to see what was luring them, which is exactly what I want to be doing before breakfast. It turned out that a box of Cheeze-Its was the culprit, as I discovered two ants crawling up the side of the box and decided to explore what was inside. How they got in the box and the closed bag inside it is beyond me, but there were at least a couple of dozen in there and it pissed me off for the rest of the entire day and night. Needless to say, that box of crackers was tossed.

And we just aren’t finding them in the kitchen, although that is where the bulk of them hide. They are in the bathroom, the hallways and bedrooms. It is as if they have found the mother lode somewhere and keep sending out the soldier ants to forage.

It isn’t as if we’ve done nothing to remedy this, but nothing has worked. We have deployed traps in and out of the house, sprayed where we believe the bulk of them are with everything but boric acid (which has become hard to find for some reason) on more than one occasion, but the problem has been getting worse.

I have truly come to hate, and I mean REALLY hate, these little motherfuckers and wish I could somehow nuke them all into oblivion. Admittedly, this is a control issue more than anything else. Things are bad enough dealing with the pandemic and its fallout, and it feels like we have no ability to control or influence our external environment. It is too much to ask to feel safe, unviolated and in control of the environment at home? While I would not categorize this as an infestation, it is certainly a problem that seems to be getting worse instead of better.

I have become a neat freak, which is definitely not me. Everytime the I see something fall on the floor, it has to be vacummed or mopped. Everytime something is prepared on the counter, the counter needs to be wiped down. Dishes immediately into the dishwasher, not the sink. I am consumed with finding an answer because this can not stand!

Maybe this is the kick in the ass I need. It certainly has my undivided attention and has gotten me to post something for the first time in a long time. I know the winter will bring a period of solace, but we need to somehow find and kill the nest otherwise next year will become another year of discontent, and something more toxic will have to be employed.

Then maybe the peace and tranquility that has been so elusive for so long will being to settle in. In the meantine, I will have to be satisfied with finding them on the floor, pinching them onto my index finger, and slowly crush/pulverize them between the index finger and thumb. Hopefully their screams reach their colony and they learn not to fuck with me anymore.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

The Illusion of Control

Control

I was watching something on television the other day. I don’t remember the name of the program, which tells you how memorable it was, but there was one segment that briefly caught my attention. Its premise concerned what we can do to exert more control in our lives, which implied that people have more control over their lives than they think.

What a crock of shit!

Seriously, what can we control? I mean, really control, as in wanting things to fall a certain way and being able to engineer the outcome we want, whenever we want.

We can’t control how other people act, what they do, or what they think of us. We can’t control events that impact our lives. We can’t control our health (I’ll explain later).  Many people have careers that choose them rather than the other way around.

I’m sure I could add to this list if I spent more time thinking about it, but my belief is the theory that we are masters of our destiny is an illusion. As I read these words I find myself asking “when have you become so cynical? That isn’t you.” My response is that I’m not being cynical, just realistic.

First of all, don’t confuse control with influence. We can certainly influence, or try to influence, all of the previously mentioned items, and sometimes we get lucky. But to consistently exert influence on events to such an extent that they turn out the way we desire? I think not.

The only thing we control in our jobs is whether to accept a job offer, and when it is time to quit and move on. We can certainly try to make ourselves indispensable by excelling at things like showing up on time, getting along with your peers, and the quality of our output.  But we can’t control layoffs, our customers, or the economy that influences many corporate decisions. We also can’t control the decisions made by the folks higher in the corporate food chain that make our work lives easier or harder.

Controlling people? Good luck with that! Hell, we can’t even control our kids. Maybe when they are younger and worship (or fear) us, but they eventually stand their ground, tune us out, and want to make decisions on their own, regardless of whether we think they are good/smart or bad/dumb. They blaze their own path, and if we are lucky, they will seek our counsel and actually consider what we have to say.

You can’t control what people think about you, or whether they like you. I’ve met people that I didn’t care for, and it wasn’t because of something they did or how they treated me. We simply didn’t mesh, through no fault of theirs. And even though I consider myself an extremely likable guy, it would be na├»ve to think everyone I come into contact with feels the same.

And bosses? Well, I had one boss in particular that treated me like shit for reasons unknown, and it didn’t matter how well or poorly I performed or what my immediate supervisor thought. He just took a dislike to me, and took pleasure in putting me under his thumb and tightening the screws whenever he could. I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough, but it took three years of hell before that happened. I’m sure everyone has a story or two like that.

Our health? Well, we can control what we put into our bodies, and how much sleep and exercise we get. That might give us better odds at staying healthy, but that’s about it. Look at me, for example. I’ve eaten well, never abused my body or had any addictions, have been in good shape and exercised regularly for a good part of my life. So why did I get MS, especially when there isn’t any family history?

To further illustrate, I’ve known people who didn’t smoke or drink and did all the right things, but still developed cancer or heart disease. Conversely I’ve known people who smoked like a chimney and lived to a ripe old age.

And as far as controlling the progression of my MS is concerned? Well, I’m taking all the recommended meds, vitamins and all the prescribed treatments, but is any of that really making a difference? K believes it has helped confine the progression and slow its pace, and maybe she’s correct. But the fact is that in ten short years I’ve gone from an active, able bodied guy to someone who has a hard time walking or staying upright. What are the next ten years going to look like? Is any of that going to prevent a date with the wheelchair at some point in time? I think not.

We certainly can’t control our elected representatives. The illusion of control through the ballot box exists, but in most cases the incumbent, supported by their lobbyists and sycophants, prevail. In my mind, these aren’t elections. They’re auctions.

What we do have control over is very simple. How we treat friends, family and people in general is at the top of a short list. So is deciding if we conduct our lives with honesty and integrity. We control whether we treat everyone in our orbit with kindness, empathy and genuineness. We control whether the decisions we make are based on what we believe is right, or if we take the easy, expedient path. We control whether we approach life with a glass half-full or half-empty point of view.

We all have regrets in life, but if we are true to ourselves, judgement and remorse won’t accompany them. Ultimately, the one thing we control from our attitudes and actions is how we feel about ourselves, the lives we have lived, and the people we have touched.

And isn’t that what really matters?