05 April 2013

The Inner Struggle

Dave Navarro. Photo by the noh8campaing.
All the problems of the world can be credited to one single emotion: fear. It's what motivates us to hate things or avoid things. It dictates our actions, often wrong actions. But the thing is, fear is honest. It may be misinformed, but it's honest. We trust our fear, and rightly so. It can save our lives. But we do wrong when we let it control us and limit us.

The only thing in the world that can stop fear in its tracks is love. Every good thing we do is generated from it. That's where we get our empathy, our compassion, our charity. Love is what runs into a burning building even though it might kill us. Love beats fear down if you have enough of it.

There is an old story, usually cited as a Native American parable of sorts, that says each of us has two wolves inside us. We have the bad wolf that kills and terrorizes, and the good wolf that protects its brothers and loves its pack. And these wolves are always in battle with each other. Which one wins? The one you feed.

Too many people are feeding the bad wolf. They feed it with political arguments, religious  arguments. They feed it by focusing on the few differences we have instead of the many sames we have. They feed their fear until all they can think of is hating people, and ultimately it drives them to do wrong and unfair things.

Feed your love. And stop looking at that wolf in other people that gives you fear. Their wolf may be your brother and you don't even know it.

Dang, it's been a while.

I can't believe it has been more than two years since I made a post. How have you lived without me?

Well, I've been busy. I lot of stuff has happened in the past two years. I got divorced, so that was a pretty big deal. But it's OK, apart from the being poor and working at a crappy job part of it. Maybe that will get better soon too.

I've been in love with someone, but that's never going to work out. He can't make up his mind about stuff. And I thought women were supposed to be the indecisive ones? Regardless, I enjoyed it while it lasted. And honestly, I don't know if I could have made it through the last year without it, so I have no regrets.

My son is doing well, mostly. He's pretty lazy, so that's a problem, but he has a good heart and a great imagination and a strong sense of fairness and honor.

Where does this all leave me? I could be in worse shape. But I'm at a strange place in life and not exactly sure what my next step is. I left a long marriage and a reasonably secure identity, and then realized that identity had been false for almost the whole time. I've spent a lot of years doing what other people expect out of me and trying to live up to this or that standard, and now that I'm free to do whatever I want...I have no idea where to start. So it's a new adventure. Maybe I'm not too old yet to get somewhere.

05 March 2011

Dream Big

A few days ago I had the chance to talk to a woman who is being treated for cancer. The good news is that they found it early, her treatments are going well, and she is expected to fully recover. But even so, you can't help thinking about death when you talk to someone like that. The idea that your life will end one day, whether slowly or suddenly, and that will be all she wrote. There are no do-overs.

Marcus Aurelius said that a man should not fear death. Rather he should fear never having lived. And Mark Twain said that it isn't the things you've done that you will regret most at your life's end. It's the things you didn't do. What do they mean? They mean you should get off your ass and do something.

I'm 41. If I were dying right now, I could look back on my life and think that, overall, it was a decent life. I have a wonderful, loving son, and that's enough to call it a decent life in spite of anything else. But apart from him, I don't have much to show for it. I've spent a lifetime not living or following my dreams. And I can blame no one but myself.

I have figured out that, no matter what your dreams are and no matter how small they may seem, somebody is going to dissuade you. Somebody is going to say that it's stupid or can't be done, or that you'd be better off doing this other thing than what you really want. And if I could give my son one parting piece of advice on my deathbed, it would be to ignore that bullshit and do what you want. Anyone who really cares about you will help you reach your dreams, not stand in your way. Get rid of the people who do. Make your plan and follow through. If you find out for yourself that it can't be done, so be it. But don't take someone else's word for it. Just create a new plan and go to work on that one.

And don't wait until you are 41 to do it.

21 August 2010

Throw Me A Rope

It's bad to wake up one day and realize you are a fuck-up. It's worse when you wake up to this feeling often and still can't break the cycle.

Yeah, yeah. I've had Depression. Yes, it's bad. If you've never experienced it, I'll try to describe it. Imagine a normally functioning human being with friends, hobbies, interests. This person has good personality traits and bad personality traits, like everyone else in the world. They have goals and dreams. They care about things. They have some passion. They have successes to celebrate and disappointments to overcome. They are just like anyone else.

When you add Depression you get...a normally (barely) functioning human being with friends, hobbies, interests. This person has good personality traits and bad personality traits, like everyone else in the world. They have goals and dreams. They care about (no) things. They have some (no) passion. They have successes to celebrate and disappointments to overcome. They are just like anyone else (who sucks at life).

So, yeah. I'll cut myself some slack for dealing with that. But what now? Once it seems you are almost out of the black hole you recognize that you have a dearth of social skills. You don't know how to deal with real people anymore. You've lost whatever social talents you may have once had. You no longer have good work habits. Your ability to plan and strategize is gone. All those social muscles have atrophied. This makes you feel somewhat helpless, quite frightened of the world, and kinda worthless. It's pretty easy to slip back down in the black hole unless you can find a rope.

But in short, you're a fuck-up. Even if you do find a rope. It's going to take some work to stop being like that. Where to start? I'm just throwing myself into the fire, going to school. The black hole is telling me that it's a huge mistake and that I will only screw it up. The tiny little voice of hope in my head is saying otherwise, but it's hard to hear that voice some days when all you can see around you is everything you screw up.

I mean, look at this blog post. Writing is the only talent I ever had, and this effort is a piece of shit.

30 December 2009

I Got Your Paradigm Shift Right Here

More than a year ago I wrote about those annoying buzzwords and cool phrases in this very blog. Time to revisit the subject.

I was chatting with a pal recently:

"...and it's like a total paradigm shift..." he said.
"Wait, did you just say--"
"I know..."
"Did you just say 'paradigm shift,' because if you did we can't be friends now."
"I know. I'm sorry, you just pick up these corporate buzzwords at work and they get ingrained."

To his credit, he swears he never used the phrase "thinking outside the box," so I'll just put this incident behind us.

As a sports fan, there are a ton of words and phrases that get under my skin after a while. For example, even though I'm a Browns fan and love the kid, I'm sick of hearing Josh Cribbs described as "a beast." Every time a player in the NFL makes a good play, somebody calls him a beast. It doesn't matter what the play was or how big the guy is or what position he plays, he's a beast. Let's look at the word for a moment. A beast is simply an animal. As humans we are all, indeed, beasts. It's a generic term. A bull elephant is a beast, but so is a field mouse. Now, Shaun Rogers, at 6'4" and 350 may indeed be a "beast" the way ESPN likes to use the word. The comparison makes some sense, particularly given the fact that his position as nose tackle requires him to pound people into the ground. Cribbs is 6'1" and 215, which, believe it or not, puts him at the smaller end of the scale in terms of NFL players. His job on the field requires him to be elusive, graceful, fast. He's not the same kind of "beast" Rogers is. So why insist on the word, ad nauseam? In terms of beasts, it would be much more evocative to call Rogers a rhino and call Cribbs a cheetah.

Another thing that goes straight up my ass these days is "on so many levels." Usually something is described as being "wrong" on so many levels, much like the repeated use of this phrase. What levels are these, exactly? And how many levels could there possibly be? Using the word "levels" suggests a hierarchy of wrongness. It's wrong on level one, but maybe not wrong on level five. Or perhaps it suggests categories of wrongness. Why not just wrong in many ways or for many reasons? Or how about just flat-out wrong, and be done with it?

It is lazy thinking, writing and speaking that causes people to latch onto these words and phrases. The English language is full of words, some simple and some more complex. They are all good and useful for describing anything. The goal of communication is understanding. You use the phrase "paradigm shift" to sound smarter and more elite. Simply adopting a new way of thinking, which is the same thing, doesn't quite have the same snap, does it?  You call a guy a beast because you're too lazy to reach into your bag of adjectives and really find a way to describe his play. Not to mention that it's really cool. And why are you wrong on so many levels? I suppose so you can sound like a teenage twit.

OK, I'm done being a hardass. I know we can't help it. Once popular culture becomes saturated with one of these annoying and largely nondescriptive descriptors, we find them popping up in our writing and speech without even thinking about it. I just ask us to rebel against it.

14 December 2009

The Most Perfect Bra In The World

It's a rare thing for me to use my  blog as a product endorsement, but since nobody reads it anyway, here goes. I have found the most perfect bra in the world.

If you have big boobs, finding a bra that fits is nearly impossible. I have tried every brand in every price range. Many of them will work, but they don't fit. There is a certain way bras are suppose to fit you. For example, the wires are supposed to fit flat against your breastbone. I have never had a bra fit that way, ever. Until now. And not only that, but it's an underwire bra I can wear all day and it doesn't poke. Sometimes I even forget I have it on. I own two and I am about to own two more. But I was lucky. When I went back to order again, my size was sold out.  In fact, most of the sizes were sold out. I searched for an hour until I found a website that had them in stock. I'm not the only busty girl who has discovered this miracle of an undergarment.

It is made by Goddess and is the Keira Banded Satin Underwire, No. 6090. It comes in three colors: Fawn, Chocolate and Violet. Good luck finding one. When you do, you will praise my name.

02 December 2009

At The Dentist's Office

10 a.m. this morning. It's cold. I've been given four shots on the upper right, and it feels like my eyeball is numb. I'm sleepy and my mouth is full of something plastic that is gouging into my lower jaw which has not been numbed, cotton balls and an enormous clamp of some kind. And hands.

Heath the Dentist: "You ready?"
Me: "Uh huh."
(drilling commences, sound of suction hose. "Fat Bottom Girls" starts playing on the radio station)
Dental assistant Bonita: "Oh, I hate this song. It's just awful. There's no need of it."
Heath: "What is it?"
Bonita: "'Fat Bottom Girls.' I know my bottom is fat. I don't need somebody to sing about it. It's not nice."
Heath: "Fat Bottom...is that what he's saying?"
Bonita: "Yes!"
Heath: "Sounds to me like he likes it." (grinding) "You OK?"
Me: "Uh huh."
Bonita: "Like he likes it? Then why would he call it fat?"
Heath: "How do I know? But that's what he said. Fat Bottom Girls make the rocket world go round."
Me: "Wockin."
Heath: "Rockin world. He likes 'em big-boned, Bonita. There's you a man."
Bonita: "I don't need a man. You saw Tiger Woods' wife is beating him with a golf club for runnin' around."
Heath: "You don't know that. He had a car wreck and that's that."
Bonita: "Right. She oughta beat him."
Heath: "What if it was her doing it? Should he beat her?"
Bonita: "....No. Nobody should beat anybody, but I don't blame her."
Me: "Unghh.."
Heath: "You feel that?"
Me: "Mmhmm."
Heath: "Dang, I done gave you four shots!" (injects more novocaine) "I guess you'll learn to floss better, right?"
Me: "Uh huh."
Heath: "You don't know what happened until he says what happened, and you're just gossiping. You don't even know."
Bonita: "It's not gossip if it's true."
Heath: "Yes it is! If it ain't any of your business and it tears somebody down, it's gossip. Don't matter if it's true or not."
Bonita: "Where does it say that in the Bible?"
Heath: "You have to read it in the Bible to know it's true? You ain't ever had people talk about your family?"
Bonita: "My family is talked about enough."
Heath: "Do you like it?"
Bonita: "No."
Heath: "Well too bad I guess. It ain't in the Bible, so you just have to suffer. I need some suction and some composite."
Bonita: "Tell him. Everybody knows what he was doing. It's not gossip if everybody knows."
Me: "Uh-uh. Lee ee ow uh ih."
Heath: "Hear that? Leave her out of it. Some of us don't gossip like you, Aunt B."
Bonita: "I hate when you call me Aunt B. She only said that because your hands are in her mouth. Maybe they have one of those open marriage."
Heath: "Like that swinger's club in Texas. I saw that on TV. If I made 37 million I'd just say, 'Honey, this is how it is and if you don't like it you can leave,' right, Dawn?"
Me: "Hmm. Duh see gehda had a oywhen den too?"
Heath: "I reckon if she wants one."
Me: {shrugs} "Oh ay den."
Bonita: "I saw that on TV too! There was this show, and this couple and they had another girl living with them in the house. Just as happy. I hollered for David to come in and see it. I said, 'Would you look at this trash.'"
Heath: "Two women in the house? I can't stand one most of the time."
Bonita: "Oh he liked it, the husband did. She did too 'cause her door swung both ways."
Heath: "Oh she liked the girl too, huh? Well that's good then. I guess we oughta be glad they're happy. Bite down. That feel ok?"
Me: "Eh."
Bonita: "What? It's the same thing as...well, maybe it's not. I don't even know what you call that."
Me: (Thinking, "It's called polyamory, but there is not a chance in hell i can say that.")
Heath: "I call it none of my business. We're done. I want Chinese for lunch."

14 November 2009

Living Purple

I bought purple sheets this week. Usually I go for the highest thread count cotton sheets I can afford, but this time I went unconventional. I found a sale on sheets made of stretch jersey knit. T-shirt material. There was heather gray, beige, brown, white, sage green...and purple. I found it hard to look at the other colors with the purple beckoning. It was an obvious  choice.

As fate would have it, someone pointed out a well-known poem to me that also has a purple theme.

by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

That is a great poem. Don't you love old people whose ties to convention break? You know that switch that says, "stop that," or that filter that says, "don't say that." When they've reached a certain age with certain life experience and just say, "Fuck it." You wish you could be like them and not care what the neighbors think. You wish you didn't have to create some acceptable facade for work or for church or for the PTA. But alas, you're tied to convention because you have to raise good kids and have a good job and be respectable and have some sort of status in your social group. The smart people disable that switch and throw out that filter before they get old. They already wear purple.They go to Paris with money they should invest in stock. The live freely and think freely.

I don't suggest that convention doesn't have its place. Manners are important. Following the rules is usually a good idea. Obeying the law ensures rights and safety. I just suggest that worrying over whether or not the neighbors will like your pink yard flamingos is less important than nearly anything. And let them gossip about why you weren't in church or why you don't sell the school fundraiser junk.

I talk big, but I'm afraid I actually still care a bit too much. Tonight though, on my purple sheets and with my bedside table adorned with roses I bought for myself, I will think about how I can let it go and get free. I'm almost 40. The time has come.

17 October 2009

We Interrupt This Blog With A Call From My Son

I have custom ringtones for a few people in my mobile phone. Scooter's ringtone is the Transformers theme. He's into Transformers, big time. If I get a call from my son it is usually about one of three things: He saw a really cool Transformer, he wants to to to Walmart to get a Transformer, he wants to know what is for supper.

Today he's out with my father for their Saturday Go-to-Breakfast/Go-to-Walmart excursion. Sometimes they go to a movie. They do this every Saturday. This means every Saturday I get calls from Scooter.

[Ringtone blares: "Transformers! More than meets the eye! Transformers! Robots in disguise!"]
"Hey, Mother?"
"I just  saw a Cliff Jumper! You know what it is? It's red! It's a repaint of Bumblebee. It's usually just a repaint of Bumblebee, but it's a Cliff Jumper! It's freakin' awesome!"
"That's great, Son."
"I love you, Mother." 

I  know a lot about Transformers these days. More than I want to know. But he likes them, and there are certainly worse things he could be enthusiastic about. Like girls. I'll take a 12-year-old toy geek over a 12-year-old horndog any day.

["Transformers! More than meets the eye! Transfor–"]
"Hey, Mother?"
"I talked to Jenny. She didn't get me that Scorponok. She wasn't shopping for Christmas. She just found it in the socks at T.J.Maxx and wanted to know if I had one."
"That means I can get the cool red and black repaint Scorponok! Hurrah!"
"If that's what you like, Son."
"Hey, Mother? Thank you for getting me Swerve."
"You're welcome."
"I love you, Mother."

Arguably, he's spoiled. Between me and my parents, he gets most of what he wants in terms of Transformers. But in his defense, he doesn't ask for much else. He isn't into brand clothing (yet), he isn't constantly asking for a PS3 or a Wii or some hundred-dollar new video game. He's never once suggested that what we really need is a 15-foot plasma screen TV. And admittedly, I love to get him the damn things. He gets so excited! It doesn't matter if I like them or not. My pleasure is hearing him talk about them. I do worry about myself though. I've lately started to think Optimus Prime is kinda hot. You know, for a giant alien robot.

["Transformers! More than meets–"]
"Hey, Mother?"
"Do you have stuff to make spaghetti for supper?"
"Yes! I love you, Mother."

Love you too, Scooter.

Everything You Thought Is Wrong, But That's OK

Who can be certain in this life? We get fed a bunch of nonsense as children and then slowly watch all those beliefs get torn down as the years go by. Ideas like lifelong friendship, blood being thicker than water, good triumphing over evil, true love never dying...horseshit. Sure, sometimes it works out like that, but the reality is that you get burned a lot by banking on those ideas. It's enough to make you cynical if you let it. You just need to develop a more pragmatic view of things. Don't expect so much of people. Don't expect too much of yourself. We humans may be the "paragon of animals," as Shakespeare suggested, but don't get caught up in the paragon part of that phrase and forget the animals part.

1. Friends come and go. Friends are transient. The likelihood of lifelong friendship between two people is rare. The likelihood of lifelong friendship between more than two people is nearly impossible. This is just my opinion, but it's an informed opinion. I've seen friendships destroyed over things like jobs or politics. I know that your best friend will screw your wife under the least bit of opportunity or provocation. I know that your best friend will abandon you for somebody "cooler," even when you're grown up and think you are beyond that kind of shallowness. Your friendship might even end due to something less traumatic, like a move that puts distance between you until the friendship becomes more like an acquaintanceship. It happens. I used to lament this kind of thing, not just if one of my friendships was broken, but even when I saw someone else's friendship suffer. Now I see it differently. Friendship is like your favorite television series. It may have a long run, but in time it will probably get canceled. If you're lucky you'll get repeats of the best episodes now and then, and you can always remember those episodes fondly. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't give friendship your all just because it might not last forever. Of course you should. Then if it breaks or fades you'll be in good practice to be somebody else's friend for a while.

2. There is a fine line between love and hate. This is what you get with families. You are born into a family and almost forced to develop love bonds with them due to blood. It's automatic. But the intense love and familiarity that comes with blood relationships breeds opportunity for enmity. The worst fights and most painful estrangements you will see are between siblings. Usually it's money. Property, inheritance. It brings out the worst in people. And because they know you so well, they know best how to hurt you. Maybe that's why the poorest families seem to be the closest. That is, until you have two brothers in love with the same woman. Your family is your family, but figure out that they are no better or worse than anyone else in the world just because they share your DNA.

3. True love is as fragile and breakable as a china cup. An interesting fact about a china cup is that you can turn it upside down on the floor, stand on the base of it and it will hold the weight of an average person without breaking. It's that strong and amazing. But you can tap it carelessly with a teaspoon and break it into a million pieces. It's that tender. And that's how love is. Usually it will endure the heaviest burdens with ease. I think this is because we have a plan for those things. We realize those huge burdens are often beyond our control, and even imagine ahead of time what to do if one of these burdens falls upon us. But it's those everyday knocks that do us in. That little chip. That hairline crack that goes unrepaired. The careless misuse of love until it is barely holding together is its undoing. One day, it will no longer hold the tea and it will shatter. Yes, yes, some people enjoy a lifetime of use from their china cup, and that's great and beautiful. But most people are careless with their teaspoons. The good thing is, you only have to break one to learn your lesson most of the time.

4. The ultimate myth common to  all these situations and relationship is the idea that good triumphs over evil. It does sometimes, but you can't count on it. Good gets screwed a lot. I think I have figured out why. The assholes of the world spend a lifetime working the system to their own advantage. They bend the rules until they nearly break, they subvert the system, they burn both ends of the candle, they leave somebody else holding the bag. They get very skilled at it. It's a constant mental exercise. Meanwhile, those of us who try to do good are usually doing what seems most natural. We don't think about it. So the evil people of the world run on cleverness and the good people of the world run on instinct and emotion. Clever usually wins. If you want to even the odds you have to get smart, and the other side is already smarter than you are. They've had more practice. But it's OK. You know you're right to do the right things. Just heal up and move on. And get smarter.