Finding truth and light (and maybe something else) in the attic

Chris Erskine has gone from glum to a gloomier place – the attic

Don't you hate it when you're in a perfectly lousy mood and something good comes along to completely ruin it?

I'll admit to being a little glum lately, bummed by the melancholy of Christmas trees on the curb, or those phony-baloney gym ads that try to paint January as such a wonderful opportunity for personal renewal.

Puritans still, Americans live January as if seeking some sort of forgiveness for having fun. I don't think fun needs to be forgiven. I think fun needs to be embraced.

As do our perfectly lousy moods, to which we're all entitled once in a while — a sweet, rejuvenating grumpiness.

I snapped at the kids the other day over all the toast crumbs in the margarine. When I opened it to make eggs, the margarine was so littered with crumbs it looked like someone had laced it with cinnamon.

The kids, of course, denied ever going near the margarine, as they stood before me licking margarine from their thumbs.

They're psychopaths, all of them. But they're my psychopaths. Another reason to feel both blessed and a little grumpy.

I snapped at Posh too, when the very first thing out of her mouth one morning was that "the thing in the attic" — the rat or raccoon, the pony or the poltergeist — was back, and could I puuuuuuleeeeeeeease do something — set a trap, hire an exorcist, whatever it might take to rid us of the nightly stirrings, which were affecting her delicate cerebral dance between wakefulness and rest. (That her older kids drunk-text her at all hours doesn't help. HI MOM. JUST SAW CHANNING TATUM. YUM!!!!)

I reminded her that our house would be the last desperate hope of some poor wayward critter, and if something found its way into the attic, the scent of the awful takeout food the inmates reheat at 1 in the morning would soon drive the poor creature away, as well as the audio of "The Bachelor," a show they treat like liturgy. The way shut-ins watch Jimmy Swaggart, that's how my wife and daughters worship "The Bachelor."

"Back to the landfill," the creature would say before scramming.

Stunningly, Posh was unconvinced and insisted I do something about the creature/poltergeist in the attic, and after that maybe fix the mailbox that got knocked over by the winter winds. After that, paint the boy's bedroom, which hasn't been painted in, like, months.

"Months?" she sneers.

"1,268 months," I answer.

And that's how I ended up living in the attic.

So far, I like it up here. Suits my mood. Fits my annual embrace of that sweet, rejuvenating January grumpiness.

Besides, an attic seems an apt metaphor for the male mind ... dusky, mysterious, difficult to reach.

No sign of the critter yet. All we had in the cupboard was Trader Joe's almond butter, a healthful alternative to the peanut butter usually used for traps. You can't set a trap and expect success when you've baited it with something you would never eat yourself.

I don't think I'll be in the attic long, just till the biggest holiday of the year rolls around again (the Super Bowl). I warned the kids that, if they hear creaking from above, that it's probably just my knees, or maybe I was doing one sit-up to work my core muscle, a thin filament that runs from my torso to the back of my tongue.

Speaking of grumpiness, one of my buddies confessed over drinks that he had been seeing a "life coach." It was a whispery admission, as if he were announcing being audited or snorting away the mortgage money.

At first I was bummed, because I thought I was my buddy's life coach.

Who better to lift your spirits — unless I happen to be in a lousy mood that day, which, as I say, is something to be embraced, not shunned.

But when I come down from the attic, I think I might visit a life coach too. I mean, it beats joining a gym, or painting the boy's bedroom or fixing the stupid mailbox, which the postman keeps stuffing with post-holiday bills even as it lies prone at the end of the driveway.

During a meditative moment in the attic, I came up with "Erskine's Law," which posits that the longer you put off unpleasant things, the less likely they are to happen; whereas if you jump on something unpleasant right away, it has almost a 100% certainty of happening.

So here I sit, crafting laws and avoiding life's traps. That alone lifts my spirits.

Next week: Seeing a life coach.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter: @erskinetimes

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