Category Archives: Life

Short Thought 196 (liquor bottles)

When I find a bottle, typically a liquor or beer bottle, tossed on the ground somewhere, and I’m in the general vicinity of a trash can or on my way home, I’ll pick it up and carry it with me to throw away or put in recycling. I want to squash the opportunity for some asshole to come along and smash it, putting bike and car tires at risk as well as pets and children who don’t know better than to avoid broken glass.

Here’s the thing though. I carry any such bottle very deliberately. First, I’ll empty out whatever contents might still be in it and then I typically hold it upside down and away from my body so as to project: This isn’t MY bottle, no sirree, in case anyone is wondering. Just a good citizen here, not a person strolling down the street chugging on a 32oz Colt 45 in the middle of the day.

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I can’t explain it (away)

So. I notice things. I draw connections. Sometimes they are hard to miss. For some time now, often enough to be noteworthy, when I am alone and  have a bad thought about somebody, something bad promptly happens to me. I will think or say to myself, “Such and so is a selfish loudmouth” and immediately I accidentally break something of mine or knock over a plant. It’s weird. And it’s irritating!

For example, yesterday I had a specific bad thought about someone and no sooner than I did I knocked the last piece of my homemade cranberry/walnut bread that I was having for breakfast onto the floor, honey-side down. I knew I hadn’t cleaned the floor where it landed (behind a chair) in the last few days so there was no saving it.

This is a recent, perhaps for the last year or two, phenomenon. I think I would have noticed if it had been happening earlier in my life. Do know that I tend toward a skeptical, analytical nature, so I consider other ways of looking at this. Perhaps I am simply having bad thoughts about other people more often so it’s just a matter of chance that bad things sometimes happen to me in tandem, after all it’s not as if bad things don’t happen also for no apparent reason. Lord knows I’ve been breaking mirrors and stubbing my toe or running into corners all my life (same as I figure most people do). But I don’t think there’s been an increase in my bad-thought-thinking and if there is, it’s not a big one. I mean it’s not like most of my life I only had sunny thoughts about other people and only recently began having negative ones. Um, no.

Maybe, I considered, at some level (unconsciously?) I believe that having bad thoughts about other people is wrong and I should change it. But that doesn’t really seem true because I am resistant to these “reproaches” and have started to argue back out loud. I have a surly thought about someone, something bad of a fairly minor nature happens to me (I break a glass or accidentally whack my head on a cabinet door, something like that), and then I argue. “Well, it’s true” I sometimes say to the empty room. I’m sticking to my guns, such and so is probably a sociopath. Then, nothing.


This also happened recently. In late summer/early Fall I couldn’t find my edger, which is a long-handled, manual garden tool. I knew a woman of my acquaintance had given it to me (I garden so it was not an unusual thing for someone to give me). I hunted everywhere, multiple times. I even told someone else I was looking for it. I don’t have a lot of stuff, nor do I a lot of storage space. It couldn’t get lost. I looked over a period of days. I could visualize it, exactly where I kept it. Where was my edger? I couldn’t have given it away, I was certain I wouldn’t have done that. It really bothered me. I am pretty organized; I know where my stuff is.

Roughly two or so weeks later, the woman who I was sure had given me the edger offered me an edger. My mind was blown. This was not a second edger, it was THE edger. Evidently, I did not have one. I said nothing to her about being convinced she’d already given me one; she’s a very matter-of-fact person, not given to any kind of whimsical, mystical, or otherworldly thinking. Had I told her I had a premonition about her giving me an edger she likely would have suggested my mind was slipping, not that I’d had any sort of extrasensory experience.

I’ve had little stuff along these lines happen throughout my life, but this one was stronger. I could see the edger, knew where I kept it – before it existed. I didn’t think I had it, I knew it. It’s somewhat bothersome because I put such strong stock in what I know and believe is true. And convinced as I was, I was wrong. I was sure of something which hadn’t yet occurred.

And what an odd, mundane thing to have a premonition about…An edger?!?

Bed

I spent the last three days in bed. And not in the good way either. Ahem.

So I got to thinking. Most of us, I imagine, are conceived in a bed. I’m certain I was. None of that kinky stuff for my parents, no ma’am. Most of us are born in a bed. Bed is where we go to hide, to rest, to recover. Exquisite, transcendent moments take place in a bed. When we are sick we go to bed and our world becomes very small for that time.  Sometimes we feel either we will die in that bed or we will get better and go on ( sometimes that is even the case). We can be happy in bed, sad in bed, frightened in bed, anxious in bed, exuberant in bed. Bed can be our enemy or our friend. We can hope morning never comes or feel that it can’t come soon enough. We can share our bed and wish we didn’t or not share our bed and wish we did. We can have company in our bed and think it’s the best thing in the world or climb into our bed alone and think that’s the best thing in the world. We can get into bed and think & think & think or tumble into bed and not have a thought or care in the world. And in the end, many of us, I again imagine, will die in a bed, our own or not. There’s a certain cohesiveness to it all.

A Dog Tale (of woe)

I was walking a park trail, one that gets lots of use by bikers, walkers and joggers, when I saw a young guy jogging toward me with a dog on a thick chain leash at his side. I was keeping an eye on the dog since it was closest to me and you just never know when a dog might suddenly lunge for a bite (of me). Instead of seeing that, I saw that the dog’s back left foot was injured as he gamely tried to run along beside his master. The two had passed me when I turned and called out, “Your dog is limping!” I saw then that the young man had thick head phones on (oh great) so I picked up my volume, “HELLO? Your dog is hurt!” The guy stopped and looked at me and I began pantomiming the injury. At the exact moment the guy stopped running, his dog promptly keeled over on the ground. (Apparently, given half a chance to quit galloping, the dog took it as he clearly had no more gas left in him.) There may have been a language barrier but the young man, having removed his headphones, definitely understood what I was telling him.

In addition to laying on the ground, the dog now began wheezing loudly. I was several yards from the two,  on my way somewhere, so I did not close the distance between us. “He’s hurt!” I said just to re-emphasize the point. I turned back in the direction I was going but as I did so I continued to look behind me, and heard the guy encouraging his dog to get up! I had no cell phone and figured he was more likely to be carrying one – or could stop another walker for assistance if not – so I continued on my way. There wasn’t anything more I could do here.

 

NOTE: I won’t be able to respond to comments immediately but this is no reflection on my appreciation of them!

How to be happy

Here in mid-life I have come to believe that happiness* comes from having passions that are their own reward. Acceptance, accolades, and good hard cash money for doing what you are passionate about are all nice but they are not a given and counting on them to result when you really don’t control if any or all will come is not a prudent plan.

The passions needn’t always be the same ones over the course of a lifetime. In fact, sometimes the things we love when we’re young are things that we can’t do later in life.  Or maybe later in life something strikes your fancy that would have left you cold when you were younger. The people I see who are most unhappy are the ones who don’t have passions that fire them up and engage them. The people who have good reason to get out of bed in the morning are the happiest. Even if nobody else cares about those reasons but those individuals. 

These passions are harmless by definition; that is they can’t hurt the individual or anybody else. Being passionate about drinking a bottle of wine daily does not count. Being passionate about screwing other people out of their money does not count. And so on.

You’ll notice I’m not saying anything about love or relationships with other people bringing about happiness. It isn’t that I’m discounting them (hardly) so much as I believe they alone are not enough and you can actually overburden your relationships when you try to get everything from them. Also – your passions are something under your control. They feed you independent of your relationships with other people.

 

*If you don’t like the word “happiness” (one which I generally don’t use because I think it’s a transient state, one of many), feel free to insert contentment, peace of mind, or satisfaction.

 

 

NOTE: I’m having internet issues and may not see or respond to your comments right away. But it doesn’t mean I don’t like ’em!

(Too) close to home

The neighbors live in chaos. I grew up in chaos.

I’ve had two years to think about this. A lot.

In a way, that adage about not ever really getting away from your past is true. You don’t. It shows up in other people, in other situations. This time I’m a witness. No – that’s not right to say “this time.” The FIRST time I was a witness too. Not a participant.

(I see grown children who continue their parents’ legacy all the time; participating in the chaos they learned on the home front. That is, they never rejected it in the first place. It was normal and it stayed normal. That was never me. I rejected it very young.)

I am the kind of person who has to find meaning in my experiences. I am compelled. In the neighbors I see what I rejected as toxic in my own family a long time ago. Oh, it’s not exactly the same and the differences initially kept me from seeing the parallels. But – people who live in chaos, who thrive on drama, who have shitty coping skills – they’re more or less the same. The specific details are usually interchangeable and not all that significant.

It might be all well and good to just say “So what, go ahead and live like that, who cares; just stay in your four walls and ‘kill’ each other.” But it doesn’t work that way does it? Other people, bystanders, invariably get dragged in, by choice and not. Other people are affected. Toxicity has tentacles.

Also, people who live in chaos recruit new cast members for their ongoing dramas because old ones get burnt out or move on, and besides, a big dramatic production can always use more players and audience members. And again, even if they don’t actively recruit, the mess such people make is not tidy and contained in those metaphorical four walls. It seeps out and contaminates whatever it touches.

People choose drama and chaos to fill emptiness in their lives. It keeps them busy. It keeps them from thinking too much, from real reflection and introspection. Nothing like a good scene, a knock-down-drag-out fight, shallow distractions, an addictive habit or three, or constantly “helping” somebody else with their “problems” to keep a person busy, no? It’s so transparent to me now.

I wholesally reject everything about this. Decency can trump toxicity. It has too. Decency springs of a better place, it has deeper roots. I chose a long time ago to live in decency not in chaos. It is a choice. It’s one I made with my own original family and it’s one that I continue to make throughout my life.

People whose lives are filled with meaningful pursuits and positive activities to occupy their waking hours are not attracted to and do not thrive on toxic chaos. That is the challenge isn’t it? For everybody. Everybody who gives a damn about how they conduct their lives.

Watching the wheels turn, literally

I’m an unlikely fan, albeit a very casual one, of skateboarding. I’ve never been on a skateboard nor do I have any desire to be. But of the few people I follow on Facebook, Shaun White is one. He’s an obvious choice and frankly, I’m not sure I can name any other famous skateboarder other than Tony Hawk (I think that’s his name). I follow Shaun because he amazes the hell out of me; to stay so dominant for so long is quite a feat with so many youngin’s nipping at his wheels. He snowboards too. The funny thing about him is he kind of presents like a typical Californian – this is a guy who played “air guitar” on the podium one year while the National Anthem was being played at the Olympics – and yet he is clearly so driven and skilled. He posts unbelievable photos of himself in action – how is a human being doing that?! – and is funny and charismatic as well in his comments. (He also is the “Zelig” of the sports world; he seems to be everywhere and know everyone. I would not be surprised to see him in a photo op with the pope, doing “rabbit ears” over the man’s head.)

Back in high school I liked a guy who skateboarded. The skateboard was incidental. I just mention it because that’s really my only personal acquaintance with skateboarding in general. I don’t even remember watching him skateboard. I did know he was a member of the skateboarding club at school but I couldn’t even tell you what the guys in the club actually did. Did have they have competitions? Merely get together and try to learn new tricks? I couldn’t say. The main reason I remember that at all is because there was a photo in the high school yearbook of the club, where they were all holding their skateboards and one of the guys (not the guy I liked) was giving the finger to the camera (while smiling of course). I knew who that guy was and I’m sure it was deliberate. How the picture was allowed to be printed in the yearbook I don’t know. Here we go. It’s not the clearest but still.

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Tasteful no?

My community built a skateboard park ten years ago. It’s a nice looking spread with a “low bowl” and a “deep bowl.” It attracts an assortment of people including little kids, tough looking guys, and even adults. They held a fancy skateboarding exhibition way back when it opened and I went. There were talented guys plus there was free pizza. That part I remember well. I’ve mentioned this before but I once read that if a cat jumps up on a counter and finds food by happenstance, it’ll jump up on the counter a hundred more times on the off-chance it finds food again. I can appreciate this. Although it’s ten years on, I remember getting free pizza.

The park stays in my mind for another event too. I don’t remember this event as well but it was another kind of exhibition and I stopped by. A woman I knew showed up and sat with me while we watched. Then a guy I also knew sat down on the other side of me. Although they may have previously exchanged a word that day, I introduced them properly. Well, next thing you know, they are kind of having a conversation “over” me; like he was asking her questions and such. It wasn’t quite like I wasn’t there but if I’d gotten up and left I don’t think anybody would have minded. I mention this because afterward they started dating and in time got married. The funny thing was I wasn’t match-making (not that I matchmake ever) and wouldn’t have put the two together. So what do I know?!

So this past weekend the park had an anniversary exhibition and free pizza was advertised yet again. Yay! I would have wanted to go anyway but a little extra incentive can’t hurt right? It was billed as a two hour event but apparently most of the show took place in the first hour so I didn’t see too much when I showed up at the second hour. The event wasn’t well attended and there was a lot of pizza so I got lunch out of it. It was delicious – I make my own pizza and very rarely eat any other because frankly mine is damned good and healthy to boot – but this was a novelty. I was so content. The weather was fine; I had food to eat and skateboarders to watch. Just the relaxation I needed.

I don’t watch football, basketball, or baseball but I sure like watching skateboarders. The wheels make an appealing whirring sound too which I’m not I sure I realized/or remembered. (Whereas the sound of kids slamming their boards up and down in a parking lot and bouncing off curbs – which they do here despite the park in spitting distance – is irritating.) Enjoying the skaters at the exhibition I was thinking how much of the sport is in the knees; lordy they must take such a pounding.

A woman passed by me with her young granddaughter who was asking about the skaters and how you could get like that. The grandmother responded, “Practice, practice, practice.” I didn’t say it out loud but I thought, “Or you can eat pizza and watch.”