Moments.

Moments.

Though I am reluctant to compare my early morning to the prison yard in the movie The Shawshank Redemption… I felt a little like Andy Dufresne
as Paul Potts’ “Nella Fantasia” blasted at high volume with a haunting echo in the empty warehouse. “Duettino Sull’aria” had its place in the movie. All those trapped souls paused long enough to appreciate the melody. As did I, today of all days. If you’ve never looked at the translation for Nella Fantasia, today would be a good day to do so. It is a wistful and optimistic call for another type of world.

This one is pretty damn good most of the time. Why do we always ask for more?

I woke up this morning, almost embryonic -and warm. I’m not one to sit in melancholy. Standing there completely alone in the concrete and steel expanse, I let it wash across me. October 5th, another day and another opportunity.

Moments.

Not everyone is here to experience them. I remember because I need to be reminded.

Love, X
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Two Years And Another Life

Something I wrote two years ago: “I don’t look for exoneration, though I want it. There is no one in this world who can be both aware of my actions and the reasons for them except for me. Since I don’t pardon myself, I expect no less from others.” -X

I’m nudging up on the two-year mark of my brother’s death, and the ensuring bell ring/vision in my head. I’m eyeless to some of the underlying nonsense going on in my head. I’m more convinced than ever that had everything not happened in the unlikely sequence it did that I would likely be dead. Weight loss was just one component of it. Two years out, my explanation is the same: I don’t get credit for it. Something broke, and the vision I’d seen of myself would be the end result. It made me rigidly hyper-focused.

I still tell people, “Don’t give me credit for doing it. I should never have let myself go to that extent. It’s like a meth addiction; no one should embark on such a journey. It’s good that I stopped overeating, but terrible I let it go so far.”

I fluctuate around the mid-160s for my weight. I feel lighter than air at 150-155 lbs. That weight requires devout adherence to a healthier diet.

The trick isn’t losing weight. It’s figuring out what works long-term. It’s relatively easy to commit to weight loss for a few months. It’s quite another to develop a different relationship with food. Food is the in-law that sleeps in your bedroom.

Food Satan is always on duty, attempting to pounce on you. When you’re tired. When you want that sublime sensation of buttery smoothness. Or salty starch. At 11 p.m. when you really should be horizontal and not sticking your head inside the fridge.

Delicious food is ubiquitous and calls our name from the other room wearing a negligee.

It pains me to see people struggle with their weight.

I’ve watched many people make a list of ‘the reasons’ they can’t lose weight, even if they desperately want to. It’s eye-opening and mostly rationalizations. Heck, isn’t almost everything we tell ourselves?

When I lost almost all my weight, I added no additional exercise. It was immediately apparent that I was consuming an awful lot more calories than I was burning. My life was already active because of my job. Because of that, I focused all my enthusiasm on eating differently while avoiding going hungry. Being hungry is a sign that you won’t be able to maintain any successes you might experience. Generally speaking, you must eat and eat often.

I’m at the two-year mark. I’m grateful for those two years, even as I’ve had other struggles.

Primarily online, I catch hell for the simplicity with which I explain the weight loss problem. There are exceptions for some people; most of us eat too many calories versus what we burn. There is no escaping the math of it. People berate me by making specious arguments about the complexities of healthy diets. It’s not complicated at all! Less sugar, less fat, fewer processed foods, more fruits and vegetables, smaller portions, and different choices. You don’t need to be 100% militant, but you do need to be 100% vigilant about your choices. Enjoy the allegedly ‘terrible’ foods from time to time, or otherwise, you’ll go bonkers. Especially if you sit and watch your friends and family eat an entire basket of buttery breadsticks or an entire large pizza.

I do enjoy the endless arguments online about the ‘best’ way, goofy supplements, energy drinks, and the myriad ways you can be made to part with your money. Whatever you choose, you must do it for the rest of your life. Find what works. It’s not a sprint. It’s a french fry-scented marathon.

I recently looked into the beer-and-sausage guy. He does a weird diet once a year, every year. He always loses weight because his caloric intake is less. His bloodwork also improves in tandem – no matter WHAT he is eating.

It’s not a comforting idea to know that we can probably only eat 1600-3000 calories daily. If your limit is 2500, a sugary soda contains about 150, which is 1/16th of your average limit. A 2 oz. Snickers bar is 280 calories, well over 10% of your intake limit.

The simplest way to say it: most overweight people eat too many calories.

I don’t blame them. Food is amazingly delicious and brings happiness.

Fresh french fries or pizza? Oh my god. You won’t find a bigger aficionado of some types of potato chips than me. Chips and salsa? Yes, please. Two baskets if you’ve got them.

It wasn’t hard for me to practice “Choose your hard” when I started.

My vision, or whatever it was, took control.

Afterward? Remembering that food choices now bring unwanted results or continued success depends on how strong the siren voice of negligee-clad food is.

As Fat Bastard eloquently quipped, “Get in my belly!”

X
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401k Bet

Obviously, I’m not a sports fan.

I’m writing as my dubious alter ego, Middle-Aged Superhero. That adds credibility to my following prediction.

But living where I do in Fayetteville, avoiding the enthusiasm and clog of those who are fans is impossible.

Arkansas is going to win the game today against Alabama.

By 10 points.

Don’t bother calling me crazy.

That’s like telling a can of peanuts that it’s nutty.

I’ll probably miss the game, given that I’ll have to fly off and solve an emergent emergency.

If any of y’all are betting people, go ahead and liquidate your 401k and bet big against Alabama. We’re all going to work until we’re eighty anyway, so there’s no real risk.

You’re welcome.

X
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Teacup Reminder

It’s just a cup hanging there. It’s one of the last few that Jackie gave me.

It can be filled with delicious bitter coffee or a small serving of wine. Or it could be a reminder of how much time I spend here, a huge chunk of my life.

It will probably fade into the periphery of my vision and observation. That’s the problem with so many of our keepsakes and possessions.

I’ve left these cups in a variety of places. To mark my temporary presence, to take a picture and remember.

I’ll run out of teacups. But I won’t forget Jackie or the moments the tea cups mark. Most people think they have an infinite number of teacups and moments.

X
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Not The Usual Story

Not The Usual Story

Earlier, I watched as a crew dangerously and hilariously attempted to connect the electrical panel of the newly-constructed house next door to a utility pole. I heard a heated conversation yesterday in which one electrician patiently attempted to explain why they should not do it the easy way. That guy was obviously voted down. They used our apartment parking lot to stage the melee. Since they didn’t trim or remove any of the already dangerous overhanging trees from the property, it was foolhardy at best. (It’s a waste even to connect it there. With the first high winds, that house is going to lose power as the limbs snap off. I should know – I’ve picked up a literal ton of the limbs that have fallen there as they crash down. I feel a bit sorry for whoever buys the house with all those weak and damaged trees towering over it.)

Even though I should not let Güino roam so much, I let him periodically downstairs for short increments. I don’t want anything to happen to him. He’s 14 1/2 years old now. So, I pity him and let him roam a bit. I accept the risk of his possible demise by various causes. He’s insanely happy exploring. The cacophony of the trucks, crashing tree limbs, and the cursing of the workers scared him. I went out to retrieve him and couldn’t find him. The worse scenario filled my brain: he ran away to escape the noise, possibly forever. I waited ten minutes and went back around the area: no Güino. After a few more minutes, I found him sitting behind the loudest and largest truck with the canopy lift. Regardless of the workers, I crouched under the truck on its pedestal supports and managed to get him. One of the workers told me to move away. I was very polite and said, “Given that you’re on private property, undertaking a foolish means of connecting a power supply, I think I will go wherever I might please, sir. If you have a problem with that, keep it to yourself.” He didn’t reply.

When I went out and about, I discovered that I had sent my most prized possession (“the” nail) to the wrong address. It was my mistake. I knew that the address didn’t look like the current one, but I trusted the master list on which I keep everything. The nail might be lost forever. Either way, I had released it back into the universe. I told my sister I was confident it wasn’t lost forever, even though I can’t explain why I believe it.

I was in a weird enough head space anyway, and my anxiety had flared. Between the nail, the cat, and personal thoughts intruding on me, I was already a bit out of sorts.

When I was backing out of a parking spot at Walmart, I waited for a split second for a woman to my right to enter her vehicle and shut the door. I continued to back out, and I heard a weird shout. A man resembling a cowboy stood a couple of feet away from my car, looking very angry. Evidently, he had stepped out between the cars parked the opposite way. I’m assuming the huge red truck with a million accessories was his. I stopped and exited the car as he began his tirade. I didn’t even put my hands up, even though I was certain he would hit me. As he grunted and cursed, I took a step toward him. My eyes teared up, and he saw it. Something recoiled inside him. I saw it in real-time. He shook his head and walked away quickly. Make of that whatever you want to. I didn’t tear up because I was scared; quite the opposite. No matter how stupid this is going to sound, I think I wanted him to hit me.

A friend wrote and told me about the shooting in central Arkansas. I had a conversation about that sort of thing happening in the workplace this morning. One of my co-workers who has another job worked with someone who killed and dismembered his girlfriend. I’d say allegedly, but his track record of anger is well-known.

We all need a hefty dose of hugs and peace.

This is true every day.

Güino is safe. I’ve left the door open, and he’s exited and entered twice more, both times to get a few pets.

I’m safe but not sane.

I’ll keep an eye on the electrical lines as they spark and fail sooner rather than later.

Let’s keep an eye out for people who spark and fail, too.

But let’s also remember how much life has to offer.

Love, X
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Behavior Prevails

Online therapy isn’t as satisfying as in-person therapy.

But cognitive therapy from a practical focus is amazingly effective for me.

One of the things I loved about in-person therapy was having the things I’d said or written repeated back to me.

It’s a stunning thing to SEE my own rationalizations exposed and repeated. It’s part of the reason I softened toward my dad. To recognize a small part of him inside of me was not a welcome realization. This kind of insight takes a while to accept, much less deal with.

There’s a huge difference when you’re talking or writing to someone who has dealt with hundreds of people and has heard every rationalization under the sun. Unlike friends and family, they experience your version of truth for what it is.

Mostly bullsh!t.

I can recap and summarize the difference quickly: I know an awful lot about human psychology and have learned a book of insights and lessons, yet, my biggest failing is not applying them to my life.

If you focus on behavior and set aside your thoughts and words, everything gets distilled to its essence.

It reminds me of one of my favorite examples. If a person never tells anyone that he or she is Christian yet lives a love-and-compassion-filled life, observers can see that your worldview is in action through your behavior. Because lovingkindness is the essence of what Jesus taught. One of my biggest problems with evangelicals is their certainty and rigidity – and focus on dogma and judgment. Live the example. That applies to me, too, in case you think my hypocrisy is something I don’t see in myself.

Likewise, if you are a loving and insightful human being, people over time should easily find that behavior consistently and clearly evidenced in your life. The things you do will be reflected in your daily life and mirror what’s in your head and heart.

When these things are not reflected? That disparity signals a problem with either your self-perception or a significant failure of behavior. If you know your motivations and what you value, the best practical approach is to examine your behavior critically.

If you are what you do, then when you don’t, you aren’t.

If you want to be satisfied or happy, you must work to remove behaviors that interfere. Happiness isn’t a realization; it’s a constant process of doing the hard work of choosing to spend your time and life finding a way to live the way that you know you want to be.

When you are closer to the sunset than the sunrise as you age, everything just looks different.

Otherwise, it is all talk, smoke without fire, and pretense.

Ugh.

But also, yeah!

Love, X
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¿ Suspicious ?

I went to the UPS store to mail a package.

Someone in line mentioned that the unmanned vehicle technology place was on the side of the same building.

I walked around and stopped just for a micro-second to look at the door sign, imagining what kind of company it was. I was about 15 feet away from the steps and the aforementioned door.

A man walked up behind me and asked, “Who are you? You look suspicious.’

With a very serious and consterned look on my face, I replied, “Yes, I am very suspicious of everybody.”

“No, I meant that you look suspicious.” He said, confused.

“Yes, That’s what I just said.”

I managed to look even more serious.

“You are acting suspicious,” he clarified.

“Because I’m reading and we are both in Arkansas?”

At this point, I smiled.

“What’s your name?” Humor obviously had not visited this fine fellow in quite a while.

“X,” I answered, pointing at my work badge. I knew he thought I was lying.

Because I could see that this guy was a male Karen, I said, “I am so sorry about your lunch,” as I walked away.

I didn’t look back and didn’t start laughing until I got back around the side of the building.

X

You Want Personal? A Rusty Nail Is All I Need 2.0

Before reading this post, you should read the original post from 2014, at least on this website.:

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My favorite cousin and a friend conspired to make me this etch-a-sketch rendition of my grandparent’s porch. It was a beautiful and creative piece of work, one which I loved. Such personalized gifts are rare indeed in this life.

It was destroyed in a fit of anger. Not by me, of course. That I would dare to write about it might trigger a couple of people. It’s my tarnished truth to share.

The strange thing is this: I’m different than most people. A memory of a thing is just as precious as the ‘thing’ itself. The destruction of this beautiful gift only amplified the memory. That someone let anger gain so much control of them is unfortunate; they were possessed by the demon of a lesser god. I didn’t feel anger when I saw that someone had destroyed it. I felt only disappointment. It’s a reminder that anger is relative and that its justification is a sign of a larger problem. No matter what someone has done, it is very hard for me to imagine letting myself destroy something so personal and precious to spite another person. Or let someone else do so. Even if I deserved it or – or even if they do. Anger is the worst filter for reason. It justifies everything in its wake. It is one of the slippery slopes of life. I watched as my parents and a few other family members allowed that to consume them.

Regardless, the loss of this reminded me that everything is transitory. We don’t really own anything, no matter how many decades we clutch them close. It will also be lost, destroyed, or left behind when we depart this world.

All of it.

No eternal monuments can or ever will be erected because the Earth itself is limited by the laws of physics.

I still have the picture of the shadow box and etch-a-sketch.

Until recently, after a couple of near losses, I still had the rusty nail. It grew to become my most prized keepsake and possession.

Now, I have a picture of it.

I have passed it along to someone who might appreciate the depth of my giving it away. I placed it inside a collectible silver cigarette case, one which was salvaged and saved from the wreckage and the remains of another life. A cigarette case in itself has meaning to the person who is receiving the nail.

I did the same with my hand-transcribed copy of Ecclesiastes and a couple of other of my remaining treasures.

I don’t plan on departing soon. That itself is part of the lesson. I will one day, perhaps tomorrow. All the things that I find to be precious will be treasured no more. None of my precious things were valuable per se. Their worth only exists because I see it and experience it.

I’m passing along the rusty nail to my sister Marsha. She’s had a rough life. Even if she doesn’t treasure the nail and its anchor into my memory the same way that I did and do, I will release it into the world for it to find new appreciation or not.

I have this picture of the nail, one I will treasure. It’s not the nail. But the nail itself wasn’t the experience I shared when grandpa and my uncles put the porch swing up.

I hope she understands that it truly represents everything in myself that I find to be worthy.

Grandpa was an incredibly hard man when he was younger. I didn’t know him when he was full of piss and vinegar. And alcohol and violence.

It’s just a nail.

It will soon be in the hands of my sister Marsha.

I’m just a man.

But everything is so much more than the simple sum of us.

I don’t want to preach the idea of minimalism and appreciation for moments and people and fail to live it.

It’s all an illusion. Things are not us.

We need each other more than we will ever need a house filled with gadgets and keepsakes.

Love, X

P.S. My wife who died, Deanne, years ago while I was working one Saturday, she decided to clean. Though the nail was in a special box, she threw it away. I had to empty the dumpster for an entire apartment complex to find it. That too became part of the long story of “the nail.”

Random Saturday

Random Saturday

I stood on the landing outcrop. Light rain started about 6:15. It felt like a gift to just let it softly pelt me. Rain has been a distant stranger lately. It’s odd because some Septembers have been torrential.

Earlier, I mistook a visitor to be one of my neighbors. We exchanged pleasantries from opposite corners. I gave him the rest of a bottle of vodka. I already knew he had stayed up at night playing the role of reveler. He is very young, so burning the middle night oil is a requirement for him. It takes a long time to discover that almost everything that happens after 9 p.m. is probably not as meaningful as it seems. Perhaps I sound old saying that. I am old. But I have luckily not forgotten how stupid most of us were when we were younger. When misadventure was mistaken as a sign that we were living life to the fullest.

The picture of the teacup is from my recent jaunt and stay in Compton. Arkansas, not California. Sometimes I sign the inside of one of the teacups from my dear departed friend Jackie – and then hang it in plain sight. Erika signed this one with me. I dared the tall grass, chiggers, and hidden snakes to put it in a tree on the perimeter of the wilderness. I love imagining people finding them accidentally. Surely there are others like me who get lost in wondering about what led to it being placed there. I’ve left so many artifacts in Northwest Arkansas, some in the most unlikely places. A lot of them have been right under the noses of the people I know. Such secrets make me happy.

Did you know that smart televisions use about 18W of power? That’s about two LED light bulbs left on 24/7. It’s not a significant amount, but most people don’t even think about energy consumption for items plugged in yet turned off. Remember when grandma would unplug EVERYTHING because of “the electricity!”

For newer houses or remodels, I can’t believe electricians aren’t installing whole-house surge protectors. They reduce almost all chances of a surge damaging your electronics. I’ve yet to see a homeowner have it explained to him or her and have them say, “No, I don’t want that.” If I were using a rural power grid, it’s the best little bit of money you’ll ever spend. And might save your life, too. I’m surprised that many people don’t know that all power strips don’t offer surge protection. There’s a huge difference in the distinction. Another misconception: most people’s houses do nothing to stop lightning strikes from frying everything (Even really expensive surge protectors you bought at Best Buy). Whole house surge protection going through your main line is about the only way to avoid that sort of catastrophe. Really. It’s true.

Although people think it’s a boring subject, I’d like to mention water heaters, which use a huge chunk of your energy budget. First, most people have their water heaters set too high. Second, when you get a new unit, you should always buy a hybrid heat pump water heater. They pay for themselves in two to three years. They are incredibly efficient and will save you a LOT of money compared to a traditional one. Third, for the love of god, please install moisture-sensitive alarms near your water heater. (And fridge, too, if it has a water line.) Since I’m throwing out random facts, the average shower uses 2 gallons a minute. If you have a luxury bathroom, it might be twice that. Your dishwasher uses between 4 and 6 gallons of water. Larger tank water heaters are more “convenient,” of course, but most of the cost of your water heater is lost efficiency, as it must maintain a set temperature in the tank even when you’re not using it. Tankless and on-demand water heating systems are the best if you don’t have a large family or all six of your siblings living with you “temporarily” for five years while they “figure things out.”

By the way, it’s good to brag that your fridge or washer/dryer is twenty years old. Really, it is. What you don’t realize is that old appliance is drastically more expensive to use than their modern counterparts. Replacing the old one would have paid for itself in a few short years. The energy consumption of a new fridge versus one twenty years old is staggering. You might be saving something from going into the landfill, that’s true, but your carbon footprint is amazingly bigger due to the old appliance’s inefficiency.

I still get a lot of flack for being mostly oblivious to gas prices. I just don’t notice. I have to have gas, so the price is irrelevant. It’s made me much happier than most of the people I know. If money is tight, I would drive less – rather than obsess over getting the cheapest gas. I know someone who drove 11 miles in each direction to save twenty-five cents a gallon. (Excluding the fact that you wait in line and spend thirty minutes of your life going there and back. Time is not replaceable.) I calculated that it cost them $4.05 to drive. They retorted, “Aha! That’s less than I saved!” To which I replied (expecting that answer), “Aha! It costs an average of thirty-five cents a mile for the wear-and-tear and maintenance of your vehicle, doofus. Even if you don’t maintain your car properly, let’s say it’s fifteen cents a mile. You spent MORE driving to SAVE than you saved. It’s math, not your feelings.”

Confession: I am not a money genius. I waste it like nobody’s business. I acknowledge my stupidity, though – and try not to defend it.

Clever joke: hand someone a pair of work boots. They will undoubtedly say, “What are these for?” Just laugh and don’t explain the obvious comeback line to them. Just shake your head disapprovingly.
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i jumped from the bed as i always do

not caring, not looking, not even for a shoe

i remember when my body was a weight

as if i’m not it and it’s not me

i don’t worry about how i look

i’ve done what i can

every other man in the world can worry

not me, not ever, never again

i will take what i have

my battery was once low, my spirit unproud

now it’s me, ridiculous perhaps

it seems like arrogance though it’s not

its acceptance for the cards i’ve drawn

and the hand i’ve played with them

i hear the sand trickling down the glass

so it’s me, it’s you

we both better get off our ass

acceptance is cheaper than fixing what ain’t broken

choose your path, now that i’ve spoken

so many of you are beautiful

some inside, some out

yet you let temporary worry

fill you with doubt

Love, X
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Already The Past

Already The Past

The headline is I have covid. None of my symptoms have been unmanageable. I, of course, have had every available shot. Not counting the tranquilizer darts at work, the ones they hit me with when I’m overactive. I would like to say I’ve been taking it easy. But that’s not the case. One of my memories on social media this morning is of me standing in the mirror, taking a picture of my huge scar a year ago. One of my principal complaints, other than being alive still, was that I couldn’t take long walks because of the surgery. Unfortunately, my scar has faded. I don’t ever imagine that I’ll forget the anxiety of waiting for my bowels to start working again. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced it.

I woke up this morning around 1:00 and decided that today would be the day for an ultra-long walk. It’s been glorious. With no plan in mind, I set out walking, having decided I would walk until I couldn’t anymore. Even if that required an Uber to get back. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. The days are blazing hot, but the mornings are always filled with a light breeze and the dead quiet of early morning Fayetteville. This city is an entirely different place once all the bustle dies down.

Yesterday morning during a decently long walk, two young people came into my sphere. Against my better judgment, I intervened right on the street on Sycamore. A domestic dispute and a baby were involved. I bluffed the young man involved. He seemed to listen to me. But I thought about them on and off the rest of the day. Lord, to be that young again when everything seems to be a life-or-death situation!

After a few miles, I crested the interstate. I stopped only for a minute to watch the scattered vehicles pass under me. It’s a little bit zen to do that at 3:00 in the morning. That was a handful of miles back, and it already seems like yesterday.

I walked along the road that leads to Mount Comfort, remembering the scarcity of that stretch just a few short years ago. At the outset of the walk, I listened to music, but after a couple of dozen songs, I pulled off my headphones and let the night sounds be my melody.

Recently I got the great news that perhaps my dead cousin Jimmy might have a daughter he never knew about. The possibility makes me happy. Both for the daughter in question and the memory of Jimmy. He would have been over the moon to find out he had a daughter. I can’t help but overlap the memories in my mind, remembering the feeling of finding out I had a sister I never knew about for 45 years. It’s just biology, of course. Family is mostly who we choose. I would love to have all the people who died sit with me in a room with food, coffee, and probably a few shots of whiskey. I shared my massive family tree with the potential daughter. I try to imagine what it would be like to go online and see a full history of a family you never knew you had. Just like I try to imagine my cousin Jimmy laughing in that special way he did when something tickled the crap out of him.

I can almost hear it here in the darkness.

The long straight stretch of Deane Street was deceptive. After crossing under the interstate and traversing the 90° turn, I could see the lights far ahead of me at Garland, and they seemed to be closer than they were. It’s a beautiful stretch of road in the darkness. The small lazy crescent moon, the aura of city lights along the cusps of the horizon, and the ear-shattering chirp of September insects. It’s somewhere around 1.5 miles along that straight stretch. That surprised me. Distance, like memory, is deceptive.

I think I will remember this morning for years to come. I hope it won’t be my last ultra-long walk. But I don’t take my stamina for granted anymore. All of us stand as witnesses to people being surprised by the mechanics of their bodies failing.

Regardless, I will have the memory. And that’s what life is mostly about, stripped away of the exciting intervals.

My cat Güino was unimpressed by my long walk. He demanded cat juice upon my return and then seemed to judge me for being absent for several hours.

Love, X
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