Nobody Told Me

Monday, March 12, 2018

I'm in my 50's now.

When I was in my 30's, I couldn't even conceive of being "middle-aged," in spite of the warnings provided to me by older friends and relatives regarding weight gain, wrinkles, gravity, superfluous hair, memory loss, etc., ad naseum.

And yet, here I am, in my fifties, and all of those physical outcomes are happening to me. I have bags under the circles under the wrinkles under my eyes. I struggle with my weight all the time. Various body parts are losing their battle with gravity in alarming ways, and I can't remember shit. All of that is irksome, of course, and mildly horrifying in the "I'm still 30 in my mind, what the hell is going on here?" kind of way. But the physical deterioration of my body is far from the worst thing about getting older.

Nobody told me the absolute shittiest thing about getting older would be burying those I love.

First it was my dad, who died when I was 26. Last year I realized he's been gone more than half my life, which freaks me out a little. He died when he was 55, only 2+ years away from my current age, which freaks me out more.

Then my Gram Winky, followed by one of my Aunties, then the Smart Man's Grandma and one of his Aunties. All of these were hard enough, but then we lost our Moe-Moe, which stopped my heart and my world, and introduced a level of fragility to my well-being that I'll never get over.

Then we lost the Smart Man's mother, which was devastating for entirely different reasons, and then last year, my beloved Auntie Kris, both from the scourge that is cancer.

All of this sucks, and there have been times when we've been so overwhelmed with grief that we can't help asking the universe to give us a fucking break, already.

And then yesterday, I found out that we had lost a friend and colleague whom I've known for over twenty years. Over the years, we helped each other through some rough patches, both personally and professionally. He was funny, smart, generous to a fault, and loved his kids more than anything. I'll miss him in this world, and my heart is breaking for his kids, one of whom is a minor, and the other who is barely into adulthood.

And he was my age, a member of my cohort. And he died of natural causes, a cardiovascular event.

So now I'm not only burying my older relatives (which, while painful, is still the natural order of things), and my daughter (which is as far from the "natural order of things" as you can get), but also my friends and peers.

Even though I have no choice, this change in my status is something that I'm not really emotionally prepared to accept. Perhaps it's the the fact that I have to face my own mortality. Perhaps it's the fact that every time someone I care for dies, I lose a little piece of my heart, and I don't know how much more I can afford to lose. Perhaps it's just that the last ten years we've had more than our fair share of grief, and I'm just tired.

And honestly, even if someone had told me about the accelerating pain of burying the people I love, I don't know how I would have prepared myself. In my mind I'm still in my 30's, and my emotions just don't understand how the hell all these people keep leaving the world when I'm still here.

Getting older blows.

Random Thoughts and Words to Live By, Part 24

Friday, March 2, 2018

If someone claims their First Amendment rights are being abrogated by a corporation, then I must assume that all of their arguments are equally specious and I can confidently disregard them.

The Great Social Media Experiment

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I've been on hiatus since December 18th.

Not just from Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men, but from Facebook, Twitter, my RSS feed, pretty much everything on-line with the exception of e:mail, SMS, my reading apps, and Google.

And aside from a mild itchiness of habit for the first week or two, I've been surprised at how little I've missed it. So here are the pros and cons of my two month experiment:

Pros
  1. Reduced the "noise" in my life.
  2. I feel more present in my life. 
  3. I feel more generally focused.
  4. I'm angry or upset a lot less.
  5. The time suck is gone.
  6. I read more. A LOT more. 
  7. I'm no longer exposed to people who will say the most hateful shit imaginable in order to make some sort of point against me in an on-line disagreement. 
 Cons
  1. I'm missing news from my friends and family.
  2. I'm not staying abreast of the news, which I consider my civic duty.
  3. I've had some interesting things to share or write about the last two months, and no where to put them. 

The Verdict

Obviously there are far more "pros" to giving up social media than there are "cons." But they bear similar weight within my own value system. The "pros" relate to my mental health and sense of balance, but the "cons" relate to my duty to people I care about and to myself.

What I've decided is that I need to find a balance between both. I want to spend some time on Facebook and such, but not much. I want to spend some time reading the news, but only once a day, and from only reputable sources (rather than links through FB, blog entries, etc.). To help with my peace of mind, I need to MAKE time to engage in meditation, as advised by Sister Stacey and the 10% Happier folks.

I'm going to try and reintegrate some of these things into my daily life. I'll be hiding, unfriending, or outright blocking people with reckless abandon (see pros #1, #4 and #7). I'll be limiting my FB time by not reinstalling the app on my phone (see pro #5). And if if social media starts infiltrating my new serenity with its redunkulousness, polarization, nasty-ass people, and lying liers of lies, I'm fully prepared to force it out the airlock with few regrets.

So I'll see you on Facebook or Twitter. Occasionally. In short doses. 

My Reasons for Gratitude, 2017

Monday, January 1, 2018

1. I got the opportunity to serve as the President of the Douglas County Libraries Board of Trustees. Having a meaningful service project is very important to me, and this position allowed me to continue to exercise my leadership muscles.

2. Sister Stacey and Brother J.R. moved back to Colorado this year after a four year hiatus to New York City for professional reasons. They're always in my heart, but now they're in my house, too, and my cup runneth over.

3. We lost my Auntie to cancer in May. I am so grateful to have had her in my life for over 50 years. My Auntie was one of the best people I've ever known, and her loss pains me every day. But I was able to tell her what she's meant to me before she passed, and her presence changed my life, and me, in ways that are only for the good.

4. I was able to spend time this year with the Smart Man's father and stepmom. It was shortly after we lost Auntie Kris, and their presence was a soothing anodyne to a stressful and grief-stricken time.

5. This year my garden began to take shape in the way I want. I still have a number of projects to do, as well the interminable wait for things to reach their full growth, but I'm on my way.

6. I mentor two young women who live in different states, and this year I was given the opportunity to be the mentor they deserve.

7. The Smart Man and I checked off another baseball park from the list this year. We want to visit them all, but some years we don't get to it due to other commitments or emergent disasters.

8. For the first time since we lost Moe, I was able to participate in activism related to suicide prevention by joining the Maureen's Marchers team in the annual "Out of the Darkness Walk" to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. There was a time when I thought I would never be capable of doing this, and I'm grateful to have reached a point in my grief journey where I can do work that may help other families who have been touched by this tragedy, even if I did cry through most of it.

9. I decided to join the Rotary this year. While being part of the Library Board is satisfying and speaks directly to my heart, I'm also interested in service projects that aren't so political in nature. It's tough to find an opportunity to serve without having to deal with petty people and their petty egos, and I hope I have found that opportunity with Rotary.

10. I had a very good year financially, which allowed us to make significant progress on some of our financial goals. Money doesn't buy happiness, but it sure gives you the freedom to make choices that can lead you there, and I'm fully aware of how much of our good fortune can be attributed to luck and privilege. 

Holiday Break

Monday, December 18, 2017
I know I just came back from hiatus, but I need to take a break from social media, y’all.

Between the news, polarizing content, and getting myself wrapped around the axle, I have found that I’m less than present in my daily life.

I need to take a break, and practice being present. I need to read more. I need to watch less TV. I need to start excercising with some discipline. I need to start eating healthy food. I need to start practicing some disciplined self-care.

And social media and our terrible world are interfering with all these things, the things I need to do to for my own benefit and for the benefit of the people around me.

See you all after the holidays. Maybe.

It's Lady Gaga's world - I just live in it

Friday, December 15, 2017

On Tuesday evening, I went to see Lady Gaga live at the Pepsi Center with three of my nearest and dearest.

This was the best concert I've ever been to. And that's saying a lot, because the Pepsi Center is probably my least favorite music venue in the Denver metro area, the show started an hour and fifteen minutes late, which bugs the crap out of me, and it was very loud, in spite of removing my hearing aid for the duration.

So why was Lady Gaga's the best show evah?

Because she is a consummate show-woman.


Because she made six costume changes.


Because in spite of the altitude and her constant dancing, her breath control, musical phrasing and pitch were spot on. 


Because she's authentic in her creative expression.


Because she takes her craft seriously, and clearly works her ass off to ensure she has the stamina and physical strength to put on an amazing show, every time she takes the stage.

 

And because she appears to be a genuinely decent human being, who values kindness, individuality, equality, and self-determination.

Totally worth the money. Totally.

________

I also found out Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate seat at the show, so, you know - BONUS.

Lessons from Uncle Joe

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sistah Stacey, Brother JR, and me went to see Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday, December 2nd at the Paramount Theater here in Denver.

As most people know, VP Biden lost his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015. This is the second time tragedy had struck his family, as he lost his wife and one of his children in an automobile accident when they were a young family. So this is a man who knows what it's like to bury your child. Twice. This is also a man whose biggest scandal is that he doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut. Like, ever. And this is a man who's spent his entire adult life in service to our nation.

And his comments gave some things to think about.

1. Make sure you remember and stick to your "home base." He explained that this baseball analogy was something Beau used to say to him. In this case, "home base" is where you live, what you value, who you are. No matter what happens in your life, no matter where you find yourself, remember your home base, and you'll stay true.

Sometimes it's very easy - especially for people in power - to forget their moral center and the reasons they chose the path they did. Staying close to Home Base is good advice at any time.

2. Civil behavior and personal relationships go a long way in reaching compromise. He was speaking specifically about political compromise in this case, but the tenant could easily apply to all aspects of life. He spoke about how it's very difficult in today's political climate for legislators to come up with laws that have a chance of getting bi-partisan support because members of the House and Senate don't actually know each other anymore. They don't socialize, they don't share ideas, they know nothing about each other that wasn't fed to them via opposition research. And it's also tough to get others to see your concerns and point of view if you don't take the time to be civil.

I've been thinking a lot about this one in the last couple years, and I'm still struggling. The fact of the matter is whether I agree with Republicans or not, these people are still Americans. They still have an equal say in how our country should prioritize our spending, manage our foreign affairs, and which laws are appropriate and Constitutional. It's a logical fallacy to assume that ALL Republicans EVERYWHERE are nefarious Simon Legrees, determined to stick it to the poor, the LGBTQ community, and people of color for their own benefit.

And yet...much of the Republican platform is immoral, unconscionable, unfair, racist, sexist, homophobic. How do I reconcile the platform with the individual? I know and am quite fond of a number of conservatives/Republicans, and I know them to be kind and generous people. And yet they support politicians who execute what I consider to be an incredibly disgusting platform. Do they bear any culpability for the end result of their political activities? Or do I simply chalk it up to political differences?

I've been struggling with this since the campaign started for the 2016 election, and I still don't have a productive, defensible answer I can live with. What I do know is that making sweeping judgements and generalizations about a group of people and then labeling those assumptions with personal insults, pejoratives, and stereotyping does not help. I myself have been guilty of this (although I've never gone so far as to call Republicans/conservatives "Nazis," because there are real Nazis out there and someone with whom I disagree doesn't deserve to be lumped in with those miscreants), and I bear culpability from a liberal perspective. Since I'm extremely unlikely to give you or your argument/opinion any credence if you refer to me and mine as "Libtards," then I need to clean up my own act, as well.

3. Don't assign motives. This is the one that's been most on my mind since Uncle Joe's talk. His contention is that when you assign motives to another without knowing what's really going on, you miss an opportunity to find common ground and there's a pretty good chance you're going to be wrong in any case.

The example he gave was an incident where he heard Jessie Helms arguing with another Senator about the ADA. Mr. Helms, who already held a number of views on race that Senator Biden found deplorable, was contending that business owners and the state should not have to bear the burden of installing ramps, ensuring their spaces accommodated the disabled, and retrofitting other infrastructure. Joe thought that such a position was still more evidence that Helms didn't give a good goddamn about the least among us, had no redeeming social value, etc. He later came to find out that Helms and his wife had adopted a severely disabled young man from the local orphanage. This is typically not the act of someone who doesn't give a crap about the disabled.

It's easy, I think, to assume that those who disagree with us are motivated by ill-intent, especially in such a polarized climate. Taking an example from my own writing, I don't actually know why Senator Cory Gardner chose to vote for the GOP tax bill. I know that his net worth is not very high and so he needs donations to his campaign in order to get reelected. I know that his voting history places him squarely in the "rank and file" GOP establishment. I know he's using a disproved economic model to justify his "yes" vote. I know he's failed to address bipartisan findings on the long-term financial impact of the bill for lower income Coloradans and the national debt.

Does that give me enough data to speculate about his motivations? Yes. Yes, it does. Do I actually know why he voted yes? No. I don't. And if I assume that my speculation is fact, then the door is closed for him to convince me, as a constituent, that some of his other ideas might have value. If I assume he's the GOP's butt-monkey, then any effort he makes to preserve Colorado's natural resources (for example) will fall on deaf ears.

So it behooves me to try and keep an open mind. I may still end up voting against him in 2020 and donating money to his opponent in an effort to get him out of office, but at least I won't be engaging in sloppy thinking when deciding how to vote in the primaries, the general election, and how I want to donate my money.
________

Any reading or listening that I do that increases my ability to think critically and with nuance is of value as far as I'm concerned. Vice President Biden's talk did that, and it was money and time well-spent.

Also? He confirmed all those Biden/Obama memes are TRUE, which made me laugh and laugh and laugh.