Xylophones, Spirals and Other Krazy Words

You know those times when you have an idea and you think it’s either the dumbest thing on earth or a stroke of pure genius? Well, I have those moments pretty frequently. Usually the whole notion turns out to be trash, but on rare occasions, I find that I may be on to something.

For example, the other day I told my best friend that I wanted to institute a keyword. It would be a word that only she and I know, and it would serve as a signal to her that I was in trouble. Not just ordinary, car-broke-down-on-the-side-of-the-road trouble. Real danger. The kind where my mood sinks to a level from which I am not sure I can return.

I call this “the downward spiral”.

I’ve gone through it only a handful of times in my life, and it has been a long while since I’ve even worried about its return. But lately, the fear has been there, in the back of my mind, not even a part of my true conscious thoughts, but more a nagging whisper of, “Hey remember me? I’m out here. Just sayin’”. It is easy to ignore, though. After all, I fight the battle against negative thoughts every day, almost constantly. During the good times, I walk away with overwhelming victory, but sometimes, I merely squeak by, thinking, a win is a win.

Mostly, I believe in the premise that having given a name to “the downward spiral”, I have claimed power over it. Similar to the quote by Sun Tzu from The Art of War:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

In this case, I know the enemy all too well. I have battled it and won, but the fact that I had to engage at all means I had briefly succumbed and had to fight my way back. That is an important distinction. We can know our enemy by studying it and cleverly gathering information from afar. Or the enemy captures us, subjects us to its tactics of torture and manipulation, and we learn the hard way how to combat it.

Either way, we seem to have an instinctual desire to overcome, or at least gather the knowledge to mount a decent offense.

So, that’s how I came up with the idea of the keyword. I have a tendency to refuse help. And more than that, I usually don’t even get as far as letting anyone know I need it. I think it’s a coping mechanism, like if I don’t admit I need help, then things aren’t really that bad. But what if they really are that bad? And coupled with the fact that I’m awful at expressing myself to people, that is a recipe for disaster.

Then it came to me. What if I were to come up with a word, just one single word, and by saying or writing or texting that word, someone would know?

Brilliant right? Not really.

It’s actually kind of dumb, especially since I just got through explaining how inept I am at seeking aid. The keyword amounts to the same thing, and if I am reluctant to come out and tell even my closest friend that I am in crisis, there’s very little chance masking it in the form of a fancy cry for help would work.

Then what is the point? Where is the brilliance?

Hang on, it’s coming…

You see, by agreeing with my friend that the word ‘xylophone’ is a signal “the downward spiral” is winning, I will never have to use it.


OK, let me explain.

I’m afraid of falling into a severe depression and of being unable to pull out of it. I know myself well enough to be sure I won’t ask for help. Instead, I’ll sink deeper and deeper, slipping further and further into a withdrawn state. But I’ll be sneaky about it. Not only will I avoid telling anyone, I’ll go one step more and hide it, pretending to be fine and dandy in the public eye. Pretty scary. But there’s a bright side. I know my enemy – “the downward spiral”, and I can recognize the signs that it is about to attack. That’s where the ‘xylphone’ comes in.

The mere existence of the word will cause me to be on alert. I will constantly be evaluating my situation.

“Should I say xylophone? Or should I wait?”

“Are things bad enough for xylophone? Or can I handle it?”

“Oh, hello, ‘downward spiral’. Be careful or I’ll use xylophone.”

“Don’t make me go all xylophone on you!”

You get the picture.

Is it brilliant? Probably not.

Will it work? I haven’t tried.

But the fact still remains, the more I think about it, the more I understand myself.

Maybe it’s krazy, but I think Sun Tzu would approve.


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