Making My Worry Work for Me

I guess I’ve just been in this sort of mood lately to ruminate on and dispense advice nobody asked me for.

I try not to complain. And by that I do mean in general, I’m not much of a complainer. It’s a habit that has some merit, but also means I wind up enduring a lot of stuff that I might not have to, otherwise. Let me explain.

It isn’t born from a spineless attitude, some sort of head-hung-low, “Okay, whatever you say, sorry,” disposition. As a little kid, I grew up in a house that saw more than its fair share of shouting and violence, and through life – like we all do at times, I imagine – have been surrounded by people with short fuses. And the takeaway, thank God, wasn’t that “shouting is totally the way to assert yourself and get things done so people know you’re not a push-over,” but that anger is ugly, more often than not. Really ugly. And if nothing else, I’m a creature of vanity, so I want everything to do with charm and nothing to do with ugliness.

That said, I have had two times in recent memory (meaning probably a dozen years) that I’ve shouted while beside myself. Once was while playing Settlers of Catan and Micah skyrocketed ahead to seven Victory Points and so I built my road up to try and close the gap a little bit for the rest of us but then Alan blocked me because “You got longest road last time” and even when I diverted he did it again even though the ONLY resources I was sitting on were Lumber and Brick so what the hell else was I gonna do, but he still felt super justified despite the fact that Micah had more than the three of us COMBINED, like are you kidding me with that f*cking STUPID lack of tactical awarene-……

Anyway, and the second time was at a doctor smugly refusing to help a loved one.

I’d say both were equally justified.

Patience is a virtue, and it’s one that all too uncommon these days, it seems; and so it’s one that I strive for with my utmost. I feel like with patience comes integrity, comes dignity, and comes a certain amount of peace. Not that it’s easy, at all. In fact, paired with a relatively undying sense of optimism, it can be pretty exhausting. It’s tiring to know that against whatever the odds may be, I’ll still hope; and even when those hopes have been dashed time and time again, know that beneath it all my core head will still insist that there’s a way for whatever it is I’m hoping for to work, and I’ll endure it quietly throughout the process.

I’ve blown a few gaskets, but still together, mostly.

And on the whole, I do find that honey wins more than vinegar. Gratitude wins out over attitude. Resilience beats out rage. Patience trumps pettiness.

But it is not easy, though some that know me have told me it seems that way.

Harkening back to the aforementioned vanity, yeah, when I’m told that I’m always such a cool cucumber, I lean into it because it feels sexy, but I’m human as hell, which means I still plague myself with nightmares of what could go wrong. All the time. I imagine those things I don’t want to have happen: people or pets dying, running out of money, losing a place to live, on and on and on. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (if you haven’t heard of it, check it out) defines the form they often strike me as Nighthawks. I can have a peaceful, happy day, and as soon as my head is on the pillow at night, I think of how one day I’ll have to eulogize my mother, or might outlive my partner and bear the burden of dying alone, or wrestle with my own mortality if I ever get cancer and just hope I’m loved enough that people will miss me…

You get it.

But what I try to do, since those things sound way too ‘woe is me,’ is think past them and, well, game plan, essentially. A recent example…

The topic of moving out of state has come up a lot recently. If you haven’t heard, California is expensive as balls, which makes prospect-building here rather low. With those talks, there are certain familial concerns that have to be taken into account before we could move anywhere, and my brain ran the Worst Case Scenario simulation, like this:
Theoretically, the strain of those familial obligations could be too much to bear for my partner and I, leaving us feeling anchored and without options and whereupon it’s ultimately what kills our relationship, and they breaks things off with me. Say that, a month or so after that, the family member in question passes away of health complications, leaving me with another set of pieces to pick up alone. Cherry on top would be that said partner hears of this and is so taken with grief and moreover guilt they take their own life. In a span of weeks, my life is turned upside down and my life loses two of its cornerstones.

It was a rough day.

But, mental/emotional nightmare that all that imagining was, I didn’t let it stop there. Much as it twisted my stomach and hollowed my heart, I made like an amateur improv artist and “Yes, and’d” the thought. If all that were to happen, take a few minutes to sit in how that felt. For a little while, look out at the scenery as if that was the world I knew at present. In a sense, pretend or fake myself into thinking that was the case I had to contend with…what would I do? How would I behave, what would that change about me? What prospects would I be left with, what options would I have then?

I was forced to admit it would probably change a few things about me – my personality, my tolerance for certain things, what I would choose to do with myself. But there was a certain amount of comfort that came from three things. Firstly, that was damn-near a worst of all worst case scenarios, and in a very facsimile-style sense, I’d lived through it; like I’d had a practice run of living in it. Secondly, when my car had issues later that day, it was no big deal at all. In fact, mentally putting yourself through the worst your anxiety can conjure makes small potatoes out of a lot of other problems.

Lastly- well’p, I’ve mentioned before a few times here that I’m a UFC fan. And any fellow combat sports fans on here would probably know the name Nick Diaz if I said it. I found a quote of his that actually sums up my third point a bit better than I would put it:

“Other people are always- you know they wanna think about the positive, don’t think
about the negative. And I believe that thinking about the negative is kinda- you know
a way of cancelling out all these possibilities one by one. Cause the odds are I’m
not gonna guess what’s gonna happen, but if I can guess every scenario gone wrong,
then um, you know, maybe, I can change the outcome.”
-Nick Diaz

It’s sort of that age-old bit of work advice: Don’t mention problems if you see them, mention problems and solutions. If you see a busted pipe and go, “Huh, that’s a busted-ass pipe,” that hasn’t really done much. Actually, it hasn’t done sh*t. But if you see a busted pipe, find someone, and say, “Hey, this pipe is busted. Should we turn off the water, do you know where the valve is?” Or, “Do you know who could replace this thing?” then you’re already a billion lightyears ahead of the first example.

My point is simply that if you play the “What if?” mind games that WE ALL DO, but let it stop there, that’s when it hurts you. WE ALL run the “What if X bad thing happened?” – some more than others, absolutely – and f*ck me, make no mistakes that it is not easy at all, but gee golly I’ve found it helpful.

Dunno. If nothing else, the next time you get hit with the Worry Hammer, try pressing forward a little bit. It ain’t painless, but it beats the hell out of building a world in your head of things that want to go badly for you and giving yourself no options.

Best of luck, all.

Why You Should Tip Big

I once heard somebody say, “Everyone needs to work a season of retail during the holidays so they know not to be disrespectful,” and I respectfully say, “F*ck that.”

Not because I don’t think people need better manners on the whole, mind. In fact, most definitely the opposite – all too common nowadays is it for people to feel insanely entitled – I just really don’t want to work a season of retail. Rather, I don’t want to work any retail, if I can help it, precisely for the above reason.

But that’s one of two occupations that experience a ton of entitled crap from a largely unforgiving public. The other, of course, being restaurant staff. (And yes, yes, before we go any farther, clearly there are other jobs that have to endure this too, but let’s focus here for today.) From complaints, to demands, to unreasonable privilege-seeking, Martha who grooms dogs or Bruce that manages a car lot seem to suddenly find a gem-crusted crown atop their domes the moment someone shows them to a booth at an Applebee’s.

And even setting those cultural, societal, (dumb) norms aside for the moment, working for damn-near free/”grovel wages” would be reason enough for the title. So yes, tip big if you find yourself able.

I tip between 20%-30% on average regardless of the bill for a number of reasons that will soon make painfully clear that those figures are in no way some sort of ‘humble brag.’ The first being that I can never remember what’s proper: Is it 15%? 18%? Is that with gratuity, or without? Was there a gratuity this time? I don’t want to leave 15% when 18% is the norm, and now that person thinks I’m stiffing, them or making a negative comment about their help, or something. So, if for other reason than laziness, err on the side of a touch more than a touch less.

Another shade to that reason too, actually, is embarrassment. Not at my powers of retention regarding customs, but at…hmm, expectation? Let me put it this way, if it’s Valentine’s Day and your classmate (pretend for a moment we’re in grade school, it makes the mental exercise work) gives you a Valentine’s Day card that states simply “Will you be my Valentine?” is that a sincere gesture, or just witnessing the fulfillment of a perceived obligation? Right? So if you’re given that card, it doesn’t say anything special and isn’t really even for you, it was just done out of tradition, but now you have to thank them or you’re the turd; but if you aren’t given a card, oof, well now you’ve been snubbed. Ouch.

But if you get a card from a classmate that goes a little above a beyond…? Oooo, that’s kind of sweet. That card has some hand-drawn glitter art? Got a little chocolate that comes with it? A personalized note? Oh, lawd, well now it’s kind of touching.

I don’t see how tipping is really all that different in form from the above situation with Valentine’s Day cards. It’s a win-win, too. If the service was great, the bonus tip sends the message, “Hey, you there, for real, thanks for taking care of me today.” And even if the service was awful and the person was kind of a butthole about the whole thing, you leave with the satisfaction that that person is probably going, “Aw, jeez. Well now don’t I feel like a rube…”

Moral victory secured.

But really, even all of that is just because I enjoy crafting a torturously long wind-up to my real point. And what I really draw from when I press this, is the following experience.

There was a time I went out to lunch with a friend (shocking, I know – I have FRIENDS), and I covered the bill. My memory’s a little fuzzy on who it was with, I don’t quite remember where we went, what we ate, or even clearly how many years ago this was, but I do very clearly remember what happened as we were leaving. I left a pretty sizable tip for all the above reasons (maybe closer to 30-35% this time; I was doing alright), and did so in cash just because it was what I had on me. As we were walking to the door, the fellow who’d served us ran interception and asked me if I’d made a mistake. Honestly perplexed, I just raised an eyebrow, smiled, and said, “No. No mistake, that’s yours.”

Now, there were no tears. No heart-pouring tales of hard times. But there was an indescribable look in his eyes that I didn’t know at the time I would one day understand intimately well. On the surface, he was just really grateful, and a bit surprised, so I took it that way. It was nice. Put a pep in my step, and I got to be That Guy (the good kind, not the bad kind) to somebody that day.

Fast forward a few years to Fall 2019, life’s gotten pretty hard. I’d left my job somewhat ambitiously only to wind up pouring most of myself and my worldly goods into a family emergency (Don’t regret it, do it again in a heartbeat only smarter), dropped classes I’d promised myself I’d finish that semester, had maxed out credit cards, and had $1.63 in my checking account…

It was rough.

I had a job lined up, but it didn’t start for another week. So I was taking a walk to a local deli, and I was going to put that last dollar and sixty-three cents to work (technically, I also had a paper dollar and two quarters in my pocket, as there’s a debit card minimum set above $1.63 at most places) on a cheap roll and a mini cup of salad dressing, which I knew to be a $1.25 in total. I get to the counter, and I guess prices had gone up, because the register rings me in at $1.89.

I stare at the numbers. My stomach drops out, anxiety and embarrassment prickle my scalp in turns, and I start muttering to myself about how it’s okay, I’ll just put the cup of dressing back. The fellow behind the counter waves it off after a moment with a smile. “You’re in here all the time,” he jokes. “Let me cover this one.” He presses a button on the machine and the balance goes to $0.00. I don’t know precisely how I must have looked to him, but in that moment it occurred to me with a painful lucidity that I must be giving him the same stare that waiter had given me years back. I choked out the same, whispered “Thank you.”

I barely made it to the door before I was bawling my eyes out.

So there you have it. You never know where someone’s at, and there’s no risk in being kind. Not just nice, but kind. Really, it’s a “There but for the grace of God go I” type of tale, a reminder to be kind in all those ways that can help even if you aren’t around to see it and it costs you next to nothing, because you could very well at some point wind up desperately grateful to be on the receiving end of a token like that.

Throw in that extra two bucks, Money Bags. You could make someone’s day, or leave an impact so deep and meaningful someone will preach about it online years later.

Ciao, everybody.

A Quick Rant: Unicorns are Badass

Hey-o. It’s that time again.

I’ve been (thankfully) busy of late, which has also sort of rekindled this dry lil’ well…hmm, mixing those two bits of metaphorical speech is kind of contradictory.

…anyway!

Yeah, I’ve been finding myself more and more over the past couple of days thinking, “Oo! That thought might be one for the blog,” and then jotting it down. So the next couple of days will be seeing some of those, but I figure we’ll loosen up with the easy one: Unicorns are kind of badass.

There’s a beloved coffee shop in town – we all have one that’s our go-to – and this one is particularly special due to their decor. They’re very outwardly LGBTQ+ friendly, meaning rainbows and sparkles EVERYWHERE. Their mascot, for lack of a better term, is a bright silvery unicorn. And that places brings about so much comfort and productivity, a real writers’ haven, that it inspired the very deep thought: God, unicorns are pretty badass!

To the point where, now as an adult, I’m really at a loss as to why they ever were considered as “sissy horses,” or a symbol for little girls meant in a pejorative way. They’re a freakin’ stallion with a freakin’ horn on their head. You’re talking about a strong, magical, terrifyingly intelligent equine with a weapon on it’s face. What, it’s cool for rhinos and dragons to have horns on their faces, but give one to a horse and suddenly it’s nansy-pansy. Get the f*ck out of here. If we’re riding into battle, I’m taking a unicorn (or a centaur – probably a better conversationalist) any damn day. There’s no lack of stories placing unicorns as lieutenants in fantasy armies, incredibly valued for their blood, horn, mane, or overall wish-granting abilities, and thankfully more and more stories where they gore an mf’er with that fancy piece they’re sporting (thank you Cabin in the Woods). They were one of my favorite Clans in Legend of the Five Rings (like, two of you will get that reference, maybe) and now I can understand why. This has all seriously absorbed me, too, to the point where I’m considering decor for my office space, just so I can start those conversations. “Evan, why the unicorns?” “Intruder, why NOT unicorns?”

Anyway. Been fun, but I’ve beleaguered the point to hell and back and now I gotta be off for a day of manual labor.

Catch you again soon!

What Would you do with the Lottery? (You’re Wrong)

Hey everyone, and sorry – the title’s a mite too aggressive, but you can never be too careful.

Let me explain.

You know when you’re going through your daily life, and all of a sudden you’re struck all over again by something that got your irritated years ago? Something that really chive’d your spuds, ground your gears, got your goat, years ago? Well I had one of those moments the other day.

I was working in an optics factory at the time, and I had a coworker who regularly followed the lottery. Not one of those “If you just follow the numbers, man” types, just kept a healthy eye on it. Well, as I remember it, the Super Lotto Jackpot (if that’s what it’s called) was at some truly ridiculous sum. If you hit all the numbers, the winner would be given something like 500 million dollars, either in the form of a 350 million dollar one-time payout, or basically $300,000 every month for the rest of your life.

Three hundred thousand dollars, every month, until you died.

Naturally, the question roamed around work: What would you do with it if you won? And some of the answers I heard infuriated me. “Oh, you know,” they began. “I’d keep my day job, of course. I’d make sure that plenty of it went into savings, and I’d use the rest to take care of my needs and live comfortably. Maybe a small house.” Even now, years later, I can feel my pulse quickening at how stupid that is.

Do you-

Can you even-

Does it settle on you how much money $300,000 is? Much less, that much every MONTH. That’s $10,000 A DAY. For most of us, that’s more money than we’d know what to do with. “Keep my day job-” Listen lady/dude/you, fu** your day job. Your day job doesn’t matter anymore. Literally, whatever you were doing, it doesn’t outweigh the net good you can now do with these boatloads of cash. It would be the most actual waste of time. Your day job is now hiring the right people to make sure this money gets spent properly. Set yourself up, set your family up, then you know what you start doing? Start solving sh**.

Homelessness in your area? Not anymore there isn’t.

Local schools having issues with budget constraints? Thing of the past.

People with crippling medical debt? Be gone, foul financial demon.

Your main concern now is living a loooooong healthy life and putting together a network of qualified, trustworthy individuals who will make sure the funds hit their mark and achieve the most good. With that much money, there is no such thing as a savings account for you to squirrel away to; and if you did you’re a villain who will wind up in Dante’s Fourth Level of Hell (Avarice). In a single month, you make more than the FDIC will insure.

Maybe it’s the fact that it is so unfathomable that made my friends give such dumb answers, but it just struck me as sublimely poor reasoning. “I’d buy a yacht.” “I’d buy a private jet.” Sure, you do you, boo; but I say forget the luxury industry. They have plenty of Old Money twits to keep them in business. Be the hero the world needs. Buy whatever kind of house you want, pre-pay your life and your grandchildren’s lives, then fix the world.

In other news, I have another book out!

Well, one that I helped contribute to. Proper ownership goes to Jessica Augustsson, as she’s the editor. And due credit to her, as she was a joy to work with. So, if you’re feeling like a tale featuring a quirky future kid getting tangled up in the misadventures of time travel, check it out on Amazon, and look up my piece, “30,000 B.C.” [Here, if you’re in the UK, chaps.]

I’d be much obliged.

Stay frosty, remember ya beautiful, and I’ll see you around.

Path of Paine

Wow, hi guys!

Can I lead up at the top that I appreciate you? Whoever you are, though I don’t know your name, your voice, your favorite food, or whether you prefer high-five’s or fist-bumps – I think you’re pretty great.

Out in California, right now we’re all collectively preparing for fire season. Mostly that means expecting power outages, preparing (at least mentally) go-bags we can quickly pack or grab in the event of an evacuation, and taking stock of what things are important enough to warrant inventory space and which might need to be committed to flames (worse case scenario, obviously).

Most of us have an idea of what we’d bring, and what that does is highlight what matters to us. It also usually highlights how many things of ours are…just things. And when that happens, it leads to a deeper appreciation for what we have. This could lead into a never-ending rant about how Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and how I think it suffers the incredible irony of being severely underappreciated whilst getting crushed under the stampeding boots of Christmas shoppers- BUT we’ll leave that for another day.

In a largely roundabout way, what I mean to center on is that it’s a common thing for most go-bags to include a small stack of a person’s favorite books. Now, while fiction is my first love, and my treasured collection of Witcher novels would need to be pried out of my cold, dead hands, another that would need to come with me is Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason.”

Enormously controversial in its day, I’m sure it could still be seen that way nowadays. In short, Paine describes it simply as his thoughts on religion. No wonder why then, in the mid-eighteenth century, the book landed him in some pretty hot water (and, actually, totally in jail). The second half of the book was written from prison, and it’s essentially his dissection of the Bible and the reasons why, in his view, it’s complete cockamamie nonsense.

I don’t love it for its second half. I love it for the first half.

The first sixty-eight pages (of my edition, anyway) are Paine outlining his own personal form of Deism – deism being a viewpoint that sees the universe as having a supreme, creating intelligence, but one that is separate from and does not intervene in the material world (Creation).

And while I want to, I’m not going to quote anything here – because I insist you read it yourself (found easily enough as a pdf right here —> Here!); and if you do, scroll down to pages thirty-three and thirty-four to get a taste of the root of his outlook.

In brief, he doesn’t see God necessarily as being a big bald-headed man in the clouds with a big floofy beard. Whatever name you want to give the force greater than understanding, more universal and common but as mysterious as consciousness itself, doesn’t matter so much.

But what is important is that the worship is in seeing. It’s in listening. In feeling. In smelling. In tasting. Taking in the world around us, trying to comprehend it, but above that – appreciating it.

Not to get too ‘woo-woo’ on us, but do you ever take a moment to recognize that you exist?

Just the fact that you, the awareness behind the eyes, inside the body, and behind the thoughts of whoever you are – are real. For no discernible point or purpose, from a mysterious some-say-unknowable origin, as a cosmic phenomenon…you exist. AND you’re able to contemplate that fact. Cogito, ergo sum, after all.

Worship is in appreciating what’s in front of you. What’s in you. What’s happened, or all the unknowable things that will happen. All of the heart-breakingly beautiful shapes and creatures on the planet, or those things our astronomers have shown us out in the cosmos.

It’s such a warping thought to know it’s so large that to even try comprehending the full breadth of it is unimaginable from the start.

Anyway, I’m feeling lost in the weeds now. We’re FULL rant. But…gah, things to think about right?

TL;DR – I appreciate you, things are awesome, good to think on that sometimes, woo-woo.

See you guys next time.

Be a Part of a Secret History

Had a thought that just occurred to me.

Do you remember in History class, or Social Studies, or whatever it was called where you went, and in the lessons you might be told, “People of this time thought ‘X’,” or “Members of this culture believed ‘Y’,” right?

I took a college course called ‘History of God,’ as well as a number of other religious studies curriculum, and one thing I will love my professor for forever was a distinction he drew: no matter what time period or culture you’re talking about, it’s not 100% true of all its members. Which is to say, it’s inaccurate to assume ALL people of a given time, given movement, or given culture can be attributed a given attitude or belief.

Many of us are familiar with the popular myths of the Egyptians, Greeks, Babylonians, Norse cultures, so on and so forth, but you can’t declare that those beliefs were held by all members of that time. Did many believe a stroke or seizure was a person being struck by an arrow of Apollo? Maybe, but were also many who heard that and thought, “Eh, I doubt that?” Yeah, totally. Were there Norse folk who thought the clouds in the sky were the brains of a frost giant? On record, yes. But might there have been those who saw the rain and quietly disputed that explanation? Of course.

Now, this is going to be a rough segue, but bear with me.

Was there a massive outcry following the finale of Game of Thrones, calling it garbage, full of ‘bad writing,’ and character abandonment? Yes. Are there also millions of us who acknowledge some of its flaws, enjoyed it massively regardless, and hold a lot of the outcry to be a bandwagon bit o’ bitching but just didn’t feel like shouting about that. Yes, God, and please remember that.

Was ‘The Last of Us’ a fantastic video game experience, whose sequel has fallen under fire with an enormous amount of controversy and outrage? Yes. Are there those of us who recognize the work, skill, creativity, and direction that went into it and are wondering why there’s so much hate? You bet your butt.

The sad thing is that the outrage is the louder voice, and so will be the one that’s heard and remembered. But, there’s an opportunity in that.

Imagining the future, where the archeologists and historians of tomorrow will look back on the records of today, they’ll see and know the hordes of angry fans, they’ll hear the desperate braying of upset followers, and recognize those things as the attitudes of the time…

But the astute among them will know there was another side of that time. A secret society of those of us who knew the true worth of those creations, whose job was to quietly safeguard the integrity of those arts, to hold them and keep them through the turmoil and the chaos until a time when they no longer need hide; and that they may fall into the hands of truly worthy, respectful recipients.

I literally stood by a window looking out at the sky while rehearsing that block. It brought me peace, breath, and probably an undue sense of importance; and I hope it can bring you the same.

Go in peace, brothers and sisters.

This is the way.

Watch the Time go By

Life is funny.

One minute, you’re writing a poem for your crush in the fourth grade, and the next, you’re thinking back on the decade since you last saw them, quietly browsing through their life on Facebook, wishing them well.

One minute, you’re a ten-year-old kid opening their bright blue lunchbox on the first day of fifth grade, and the next, you looking at that same, now-gray and weathered lunchbox while you’re twenty-six, emptying the pantry to move your mother out of her home.

One minute, you’re just a bunch of teenagers. Pot smoke, skateboard bruises, burgers, and savory high school politics, and the next, you’ve just come home from work, maybe you have plans with your colleagues maybe you don’t, and you’re reminiscing on those times you hadn’t thought would end.

Maybe you think of the cousin you’ve grown up with. Think of the man or woman they’ve become, then think back to the child you grew up alongside and realize that somewhere in the middle one became the other.

Somewhere in all those memories is the splendor of watching a huge web roll out (because “unfurl” would sound a bit pretentious here) like a gigantic road map of lives, seeing where the kids we knew somehow became the adults we know (or don’t, anymore).

“It is possible to make no mistakes and still lose. This is not a weakness. This is life.” – Captain Picard

Moments like this, where we zoom out for a second, realize we’re twenty-six now, and we get to see how far we’ve come and how far we still get to go (if we play our cards right).

We knew kids…that became adults and then died.

We knew kids that didn’t make it that far.

We’ve probably seen friends accomplish really cool things.

And known others that have spun out.

Maybe we’ve fallen away from people who we were really close to.

But then again, met new people we’re glad to know now.

Nihil nove sub sole – “There is nothing new under the Sun.”

None of this is meant to be some epiphany or great revelation, some wisdom I’ve found that I’m sharing to waiting ears. This has all been figured out before and gets figured out all the time. It’s more like a moment in a reaaally good meal – just taking a second to savor what you’ve got. It’s a way to harness the good times, to get more out of them. We tell ourselves to do it all the time with struggles. “When times get hard, just think about how strong you’ll be on the other side.” Same thinking here. If you don’t take a moment here and there to examine the life you’ve had and the one you’ve got, how can you ever be sure of what’s important?

Pain sucks, but it’s part of the human experience, and thus can be a pleasure.

Loss sucks, but its memory can be used to make warmth.

Regret sucks hard, but its lesson is a real straight road to wisdom and experience.

A long time ago, a farmer would walk to a far away well for water. He had a yoke on his back which held a bucket at either end. He would fill the buckets and carry the water home. Well, after the years, one bucket became weathered and cracked, unable to hold water with its leak. “I’m sorry,” said the bucket. “I’m old now and cannot work like I used to.”
“Not to worry,” replied the farmer. “When next we gather water, look to your side of the path.”
When next the farmer gathered water, the bucket saw that its side of the path was covered in fresh flowers, watered from its own leak.
“I planted seeds,” the farmer explained. “You see, as we grow older and acquire new qualities, they may all be turned to good advantage.”

Love hard, take care of yourselves.

In My Own Bed Tonight”

What’s crack-a-lackin’?

I just remembered something that I wanted to share, and it’s cool because the reason it came to mind is that I used it just a short while ago. What “it” is, is advice I gave myself when I was about eight. And I know that sounds self-aggrandizing and lame to say – because it is, no doubt – but believe me when I say it’s worthwhile (as verified by…well…me…hang in there!).

The advice itself is best served, like any superhero or do-gooder, with an origin story:

I’m an eight-year-old little boy going to K-Mart with his mom. We were probably there because I’d just gotten out of school and she needed to grab some things for the house before taking us home. I, obviously, was there to scout Yu-Gi-Oh cards and other toys, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that while we were there, I got lost.

No biggy, it’s just a department store, but I was a kid. I was a kid and we’d just moved to California, which meant I didn’t really have any friends or neighbors I could hope to bump into. One minute I’m looking at Transformers, the next I realize I don’t know where mom is.

The panic starts to settle on me, the anxiety tickles my scalp with its pins and its needles.

I’ll never know what brought it on, but right as my chin is beginning to tremble, a thought dawns on me: “It’s alright, because tonight, I’m going to be asleep in my own bed.”

The relief came almost instantly. I went from lost in a city of strangers to temporarily inconvenienced while I looked for someone.

It’s taken me eighteen-or-so years since then for the full weight of that to fully take root, and even still, I’m not sure I have all of it, but: “Whatever is the problem now, it’s alright, because later is going to be different.”

There are versions of that thought all over: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.” –everybody (but specifically found John Lennon being quoted this time)

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I fully realize that not every problem can be set aside so easily as with this little mental trick. If a family member is in critical condition after a heart attack or something, just saying, “It’s alright, because tomorrow’s a new day” won’t alleviate the worry on its own (and it won’t solve shit).

But I’ve used this perspective so many times for similar issues (to getting lost, not the heart attack, though we’ll get to that). Lost in San Francisco at night because I can’t find the car? I’ll make it home eventually and this will all be a story for later. In a fight with a friend? Life finds a way to sort itself out one way or another? Driving during a dangerous storm? Keep focused, and you’ll be feeling the sheets soon enough. Just having a shitty day at work? Ride it out, and that cotton will feel even better for getting through it.

In a rut just with life in general? That will require work, probably lots of it. But those restful nights will be critical, and after enough effort, life will change in a much more colorful, flavorful, storied way.

So the next time you’re in an uncomfortable situation, it’s worthwhile to look ahead knowing there’s something on the other side of it.

Anyway, that’s my two cents.

#twopennies

Insanity isn’t What I Thought it Was

Sup everybody.

(Hmmm…word of warning up top: this one is a little heavy. I was going through some of my random files and found the following. It was deep into a really tough life event (about a year ago), and is basically a diary entry from then. I’m mostly putting it on here as…well, going on whim, really; but also in case it resonates with anyone. I’m going to omit some names, given the nature of the thing, but otherwise, it’s just something I sat down and typed out as the feelings arose. Anyway, consider yourself informed [sounds less dramatic than “warned,” and we’re trying to have fun here- well, not today, exactly, but just in general and you get what I- oh God, okay, onto the thing]).

I think I might be going insane.

It’s been about seven months since mom went to the hospital, and about that long since we first heard the word “dementia” as it relates to her. Since then, it’s been neurology visit after neurology visit, insurance call after insurance call, email after email with hospital management – everybody either not knowing what to do or trying to get rid of us.

I just woke up from the same nightmare, three times in the same night, and bawled my eyes out.

I cried for an hour.

In it, mom died, the bank wanted to take her house, [landlady] said she couldn’t keep me as a tenant, and nobody was around – Mandy, [uncle], [aunt], [cousin], [in-law], [in-law], [aunt], [Pierre], even city workers from the damned coroner’s office – absolutely nobody.

There were people, but no one I knew and no one who was willing to help.

I was utterly alone.

And I woke up feeling that way, thinking that way.

Mandy came to bed when I called and lie there, consoling me. I told her the voice in my head kept telling me that the dream was right, that no one would miss me if I was gone. She told me that I was loved and listed people who felt that way.

In the nightmare, though, that was just the thing. Nobody was around, nobody cared. And all the people who would love me…the feeling just didn’t go that far. Nightmares have always been that way: I need to run, I’m slow; I need to punch, I hit light as a feather; I need love, the most someone can feel towards me is casually like me.

It was a world where love towards me just didn’t exist.

Every name she gave, the voice found a way to tell me why that wasn’t true. (Except when she said “Jeremy”. Weirdly, the voice said “Yeah, I guess him, actually”.)

She told me that I was family, and that her family was mine too, that I needed to let go of this feeling that I’d be so easily abandoned. She gave [a sibling] as an example of how persevering her family was with troubles.

Again, the voice piped up and told me that that was different. [A sibling] is family by blood, it said. Of course they won’t abandon him, it continued, he’s a son and brother by blood – you, though…?

“Even marriage,” it said, “is different.”

It seems true for everyone else, I tried telling it.

“For them, yeah. But for you…?”

I went from crying to laughing into her chest and shoulder. And I’m not sure why. I think it was because I could see how crazy this all looked and sounded, and the laughing didn’t help but kept going anyway.

When we had to put Ferdinand (our cat) down a couple of years ago, it was the reminder of how harsh but sure a teacher experience can be – or rather, just is.

I stood in the bathroom and she brought me a glass of water and a hug. After she left, I swirled the water around and drank it. And I think I know why people prefer the burn of whiskey or scotch in moments like that, like in the movies.

I’m starting to wonder when people describe voices in their head, whether they mean actually hearing someone speaking to them inside their head or if it’s impulses or thoughts that just don’t sound like what they’d usually think to themselves. Foreign ideas and concepts that feel like invaders.

Because this voice was fully the latter.

But boy it was convincing. And I think that’s because it sounds like I’m talking to myself, telling myself things. But it still sounds like a voice that’s not mine.

So I’m starting to think that’s what insanity is. It may not just be a sudden crack into mad raving, but soft touches like this, a voice that tells your low worth, how easily you’ll be forgotten, and that if you confide this in anyone, that gives them power over you and they might use it just for fun, because they know they have it now.

The more I woke up, though, the quieter the voice got – which isn’t really a super sign in and of itself. You shouldn’t be afraid of sleep, afraid of whatever-this-is waiting for you when you’re tired. But as I woke up, another voice spoke up that told the first to shut the fuck up.

It told me that I’m not the only who gets like this, and I believe that.

Which is both comforting and kind of scary, isn’t it? I don’t want the people around me to wake up crying and then cackle about it, and to have that be something normal.

But se la vie.

Which is what the voice said next. “That’s part of the human experience, baby. Learn to love it. Happiness, anger, thrill, depression – they’re all in the same basket.”

It didn’t say the parts past “baby”, but I know it’s what it meant.

While I was crying into Mandy’s shoulder, I told her something. Something very true that I don’t think I’ve told anyone – even myself.

I’m afraid of dying alone.

Not “dying while single” or “dying and not being in a relationship” or even “dying with nobody around at that particular moment” even though they’re all definitely true.

I’m scared (ironically to death) of dying and nobody caring.

Then my team of mental coaches – Deadpool, Kevin Hart, and Kratos – ganged up and beat up the voice in a cartoon dust cloud.

And I’ve been pretty optimistic and comfortable in my skin since.

Also, because I think I learned something.

When I was a kid, I thought going crazy was scary, but maybe a little fun. I thought you’d get used to seeing people that weren’t there or hearing voices no one spoke and you could just make it a fun new world view.

But I think insanity’s a little softer than that and a LOT more intimate.

We’re all a little bit insane.

Or at least part of me hopes so.

A Different Look at Optimists II

(It’s a re-post, on account of being busy. Sorry + Thanks for being you!)

To start off, I hate it when people behave like ultra pessimists and respond to accusations of being such by saying, “I’m not a pessimist (bro), I’m just a realist.”

Translated, that says, “I’m totally not being a whiny b-hole (bro), I just see things the way they really are because I’m hype and in-tune n’ shit.”

See how goofy it sounds when clarified?

It’s the same lazy route people take when they fancy themselves a sophisticated critic when all they do is harsh on whatever the subject matter is. It doesn’t make you all high-brow, insightful, or point to a delicate taste when nothing pleases you, it’s lazy. L-A-Z-Y, lazy. Criticism is a dissection, a surgical breakdown and analysis of what you were presented with followed by feedback on what elicited responses from you in positive and negative ways. It’s not just being hard-headed.

It
grapes my nuts
chives my spuds
grinds my gears
gets my goat so badly because it takes no effort whatsoever to not see the good in things. It’s so easy to look at a situation and see why it sucks or how it could suck. Armchair anthropologists/psychologists will tell you it’s a primal rooting in our brains to see, seek out, and guard against the negative. So of course it’s easy, it’s natural.

You know what isn’t easy?

Being an optimist.

And trust me, this isn’t a boo-hoo on behalf of optimists. We have it pretty good always seeing some kind of benefit or path to success in grimy situations. What I am saying about it, is that it’s exhausting.

And not in a day-to-day sense, necessarily. But it seems to be an undeniable fact of adult life that things get pretty shitty sometimes (also natural, as armchair sociologists would have it).

We fall into ruts. We run up against walls. We lose traction. Time to time we just zig when we ought to have zagged, and Boom! — life problem.

THAT is where being an optimist is goddamn exhausting. (And that’s a little different from having a spirit to persevere, but we’ll get to that in a second.) Because especially if one is an optimist by nature while thing after thing in our life explodes or crumbles around us, the part of our brain that makes us shitty gamblers takes over: “It’s okay,” says The Brain, “this next thing we try will be the one that works out,” or, “Nope, it’s fine. It’s this next thing that will be what works.” So on and so forth.

You lose your job and you set up three interviews at new places of work. The first two totally bomb and don’t call you back, and while you’re thinking, “it’s okay, this next one is the one that works,” your car breaks down. “It’s okay,” say Brain again, “we’ll just take the bus.” And so you take the bus to your third interview, but you get sick the night before and mugged as you step off the bus. “It’s okay,” Brian pipes up once more, “at least we’ll have a new job to help us with our car soon.” Meanwhile, you make it to your third interview, and it turns out the interviewer is racist or something – boom – rejected immediately. And your phone’s battery died, so you can’t Uber home and have to walk instead.

“It’s okay,” whispers Brain. “In a few years, you’ll be able to look back on this as one hell of a chapter in your life.”

Even those points where you’ve been knocked down, picked yourself up and dusted yourself off, only to see your efforts fail and get knocked down again, and repeated that process dozens of times with only minor, scattered successes…

…it can leave you feeling really trapped to know that come morning, after a night’s sleep, you’ll be back to telling yourself that it’s this next effort that will break through.

It’s dancing on the line of delusion, battling – almost secretly – with this inner question of whether or not you should cut your losses because this is a vain effort, but knowing your habit is going to keep the cycle going anyway.

This isn’t to speak on those who’ve fallen into a dark place and need help to climb back out. Having a spirit that perseveres is hard for everyone. And I guess that’s my point here, really. Times get difficult for everyone (and if they don’t for you, either congratu-fuckin’-lations, or re-examine what you get up to, because you’re a liar and/or it’s probably boring and unremarkable).

My point at the end of it all with how it regards optimism, I suppose, is that just because a happy face and strong spirit are at the front of it doesn’t somehow magically erase the struggle. It’s difficult emotionally loading up each new effort, sure that “this is the one,” then watching it fail, and trying to convince yourself you aren’t delusional when you do it again because giving up just feels icky.

Not trying to change anyone’s mind or “spread enlightenment,” really; but cool if it happens.

Anyhow, peace y’all.