Dear Dr. Archer,
I thought you may like this unpublished story I penned recently that ties into your neat new book, 'Better Than Normal', which I'm just about finished reading. Peace,
'Grass Cutting Stories tied to Holistic Mental Health and Forrest Gump'
It's that time of the year when you usually have to face the weekly chore of cutting the grass - very likely having to be nagged by someone you know to spur you on with fulfilling your environmentally aesthetic-oriented duties. Otherwise, with the very effective new 311 reporting system in the parish, you will have to pay for slacking up one way or another - either from your spouse and/or in what you get taken out of your paycheck for a fine!
Despite the anticipation woes I usually express to my wife or co-workers about dreading to cut the grass, I think I'm really like Forrest Gump and actually look forward to doing that. Besides my household yard duties, which easily get transferred to our sons, I help cut the lawn at a very big lot where I do some volunteer work; it certainly helps to have a riding mower at the latter!
About a month ago, when we were going through a dry spell and a torturous heat wave, most of us could put off this yard work for two weeks or more. Nowadays, when it seems like the rain comes daily - and even in the mornings at times - it is hard to schedule grass cutting around work obligations and even the weatherman's encouragement on such work not being done till dusk time, in order to reduce the chances of high ozone levels in the atmosphere.
I can't believe all of the lawn mowers and weed cutters that I have found being thrown away over the years. Most of the time, very little needed to be done to make these used devices work. Most of the times, a spark plug may need to be changed, the air filter cleaned or changed or the fuel lines, which tend to get brittle and break, just need replacing.
I couldn't believe it when a hardly used self-propelled lawn mower only needed gas in it! Looking at grass cutting and weed-whacking as an extension of your personality might be a stretch, but I can see how it applies to me, since I do have some Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) tendencies.
But as was noted in a recent book I've started reading, 'Better Than Normal', written by Lake Charles psychiatrist, Dr. Dale Archer, and reviewed by the Advocate, "How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional." We all have some basic tendencies associated with our personalities, so we're bound to fall somewhere on a continuum of traits for normal behavior on a bell curve.
How many times have I spent more time "manicuring" my lawn to look well cut instead of other things with a higher priority I should devote time to? I really like using the "feather light" weed whackers, which make it so easy to take care of the edging and clearing around hard to get places.
My wife would prefer me to get one of those edgers to really put a nice straight trench between the grass and the sidewalk, but I am too lazy to do that! I finally learned to cut the grass better with the chute, so as to not make as much cut grass get out onto the street.
One of my biggest peeves is when I see people intentionally air blow their cut grass onto the street which to me is a form of littering, not to mention clogging up the drainage gutters. I can't believe it when I see teams of contracted lawn maintenance company staff directing cut grass out into the streets.
I've never gotten one of those air blowers, as I just use the lawn mower to shoot the cut grass back onto the lawn or - heaven forbid - I still use a broom at times! Maybe my emphasis on getting the lawn in such "tip-top" shape is also a part of the histrionic trait that I also have a tendency to - is that because I want to draw attention to my lawn, my maintenance thereof or approval from neighbors?
I find myself almost compulsively pulling up those unsightly sporadic "bull grass" seedlings on the lawn in some areas that make a relatively still-short lawn look like it needs to be cut! An occasional use of "Round-up" like products also help to keep things in check at times.
I've even found a way of putting off fully cutting the grass, since most of it has sections with a full St. Augustine type of lawn that sends out many healthy feeder lines and keeps bull weeds from spreading much at all. Usually, the few sections of mainly weedy grass that are on one side of our property and separated by our driveway can be cut in-between full cuttings, so as to keep our lawn looking good, in conjunction with some neighbors' lawns that have just been cut.
So as I supposedly dream of not having to cut grass in the afterlife, I'm reminded of a famous saying in my field: "Neurotics build castles in the sky; psychotics live in them, and psychiatrists (and even social workers - added by me!) collect the rent! And I, like Forrest Gump, am a jogger who gets those endorphins going per my OCD weekly runs and can also say with him, "My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates - or cutting the grass; you never know what you're gonna get!
Keith John Paul Horcasitas, LCSW, MHA
Thanks for the shout out for my book, 'Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional' and sharing your story. The need to either a) have a well manicured lawn or b) wish for drought or cold weather so mowing is not necessary, is probably in some way appropriate as a metaphor for life. It was an entertaining read. Take care.
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