Friday, December 4, 2009

The Earl List

"My Name is Earl," we hardly knew ye.

I was not all that sorry to see this show go, it really lost it's way toward the end. Jason Lee probably wasn't all that upset either... he could finally get a decent hair cut and shave. But the central premise of the show, at least in it's early days, always fascinated me.

The Earl list.

People Earl felt he had wronged in his life, and now he needed to make amends with, he wrote down and carried with him wherever he went. He wasn't always successful in righting his wrongs, but I always felt the redemption was in the attempt, not in the result. Earl, with all his flaws, was much, much braver than I.

I hate being self aware. I really, really hate it. I examine my life from so many angles, so often, that I sometimes actually immobilize myself. I practically rehearse every sentence I utter, I edit and re-edit what I write. And if I do make a mistake, or do something I later consider petty, it will haunt me for years. Decades, even.

The prime example... in my third grade class, there was a kid who smelled. I mean, he really had an odor. He was just plain dirty, and he wore the same clothes all the time. The poor kid probably had a rotten home life, and was neglected by his family, almost to the point of criminality. I say "probably" because I never found out. This kid was quiet, polite, friendly, and genuinely just a nice kid... but he smelled, and I did my best to stay away from him. And my best friend at the time and I, in a early bout of my creativity, composed the following song, based on the tune of a band-aid commercial those of you my age will remember..."I am stuck on Lysol, because ***** is stuck on me." In my third grade class, this song caught on like the Marcarena.

I am 41 years old, and that song still haunts me in the middle of the night sometimes. And yes, I remember his name... and I am not going to do him the disservice of mentioning it here.

He is the first person on my Earl list.

My Earl list is so long, I wouldn't know where to begin to work through it. And, in some cases, I probably shouldn't try. I mean, who wants some guy that was mean, or petty, or angry, or cowardly, to show up and bother them so HE can feel better about himself... especially if it was something they had forgotten, and could have lived a wonderfully full life with out revisiting?

But I have that damn over achieving conscience thing, so here for the world, is a sampling of my Earl list... with hopes that maybe putting this out on the web might just take a bit of it off my soul.

I am truly sorry about my friends who's wedding I missed. But, worst of all, I didn't even return the reply card. Their wonderful day was also the day of another person's wedding, who they didn't like. But I felt the obligation of old friendship to attend the other wedding. The simple fact is, I was too cowardly to actually explain this to them at the time. I lost 2 great friends, simply never speaking to them again.

I miss my cousin terribly. She was the closest thing I had to a sister for a big chunk of my childhood. I wish I had been been assertive enough to stay in touch when her parents split, and she stayed with the one who wasn't my blood relative. Coward again.

I am very sorry to have lost touch with some old, but very good friends, several of them on purpose. Some I was angry with for reasons that I realize were so unimportant. Many of them probably never even realized I was angry at all, because I never actually, well, TOLD THEM I was angry. And I was bitterly disappointed that they couldn't figure out on their own what they did to me... even if the transgression was only in my own warped (hey, that sounds like a great blog title) mind.

There are many more people on my Earl list. My one hope is that in this crazy, mixed up world we have no alternative but to live in, being on this list of mine somehow helps their karma or luck or fate or whatever. That the fact that somebody cares enough about them to try to never repeat the mistakes made with them again somehow tips the universe a little in their favor. Even if they don't remember who I am or give me a passing thought.

This is magical thinking, I know. I don't have that strong an effect on the world. But that hope helps me, just a little, to sleep at night.

And if you have an Earl list, and are reading this, please... don't let it grow. Try in small ways to shrink it. For me, if not yourself... let me have a little redemption by convincing you to take away a little of your own pain.

And if you don't have an Earl list, and can get through life without anything approaching my level of self examination...I just plain envy the hell out of you.

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