Category Archives: Biographical

What Is Too Thin?

This post is personal. Please forgive me if my tone is harsh; it’s not my intention. Like I always do, I write vaguely at times, use a word or adopt a tone carelessly. Read this with the idea that you’re getting to know me better. If you read it looking for errors or a fight, you’ll of course find motive.

I woke up this morning to find myself weighing 146.9 lbs. I was shocked. I knew my day yesterday had been intense. I walked over 40,000 steps and managed to do 2,500 pushups. Not to mention an insane amount of physical work during the day, too. I’ve always imagined 165-168 as the control setpoint, with 170ish as the upper limit.

I am a little amused that anyone would lecture me by saying, “You’ve lost too much weight.” From my perspective, it is a great compliment. Losing 35% of who you were makes for interesting stories.

I’m sorry you don’t see my weight as normal. That’s a problem.

Not for me. You. 🙂

My cousin is concerned, and rightly so, because she recognizes how easy it is to let a goal turn to obsessive madness. I’m not anorexic or suffering from an eating disorder. There are days when I burn as many calories as an athlete. Work alone is so intensely physical that I look back over the last 16 years and wonder how I managed to be obese so many times. My cousin has earned the right to be the chiding voice in my ear. Her voice is in my head, reminding me to eat a wider variety and more calorie-rich foods in the process.

It was in part due to my cousin that I started doing pushups on June 1st. If you’d told me that I’d do 2,500 in a day 13 weeks later, I would have said, “You’re crazy!” But I did learn an invaluable lesson: there is no upper limit to how many I can do. At the outset, I had to be careful of my right shoulder. Work is intense and taxing. The pushups have largely eliminated the pain. I’m going to do my best to limit myself to 500 a day for a while. Yesterday will be in my head for years, though, because I surprised myself. That can’t be taken away from me when my body finally gets old and surrenders.

In October of last year, I had an epiphany. I saw myself as thin. Explaining the certainty of it doesn’t translate well when I talk about it. While my goal shifted increasingly downward as my vision became a reality, I didn’t plan on going past 170 in my wildest fantasy. While other parts of my life exploded, whatever happened to my head in October didn’t fade. As the months passed, I was amused that people attributed my success to willpower. It wasn’t that. It was clarity and stubbornness. Looking down at the scale and seeing “155” is a fantastic feeling. 146.9 is a bit disconcerting. I’m working on that without succumbing to many bad eating choices: Doritos, thick pizza, cheese, 54 pieces of chocolate, that sort of thing. I eat “unhealthy” food at times. (I hate labeling food as healthy or unhealthy; it’s volume and frequency that are the culprits.)

There are a couple of precursors to my “moment.” In February of last year, I started the process of losing weight, in part due to Covid. Stress took its toll, and I regained most of the weight I lost. Not all of it, thank god. At some point, I replaced the relatively new stove in the house with a bigger, better one to be able to more easily cook batches of healthy food. That drive to finally kick the fat bucket was brewing inside me. I know that reeks of an excuse. In October, my brother Mike died. Thereafter, I thought I had Covid and felt like I was dying. That morning is when the light bulb went off with an explosion in my head.

I often think about what would have happened to me had I not lost the weight. Would I have experienced a health issue? Or died? I know that losing weight during the long stretch of the Covid run saved my bacon on countless days. It let me stop feeling my knees hurt and my back. The converse of that is whether or not the rest of my life would have blown up had I stayed obese. It’s a real question for me. How much did my massive weight loss and attitude change have to do with my marriage imploding? There’s no question that staying so fat was going to cost me a part of my mobility – and perhaps forever. Being so overweight takes away a bit of so many corners of a person’s life. It’s because we gain incrementally and in ways we don’t notice. From there, we realize, “I’m fat. Oh my god.” We choose the hard that we’ve learned rather than embracing the hard of making positive choices.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced it, the feeling of eating healthy and making endless good choices is sublime. It’s a self-reinforcing mandate. This is true for any personal goal.

Today was the lowest weight I’ve hit. I got close Monday night after foolishly running five miles. Upon returning, I had to drink a gallon of water and then attempt to sleep. I think I dreamed about a running river, and that made me nervous for reasons that should be obvious.

For weeks, I’ve been in the low 150s. This week has been a barrage of work, running, walking, and pushups.

I get a lot of compliments. Questions. And some criticism. Some people are waiting for me to balloon back up. When I started, I repeatedly objected with, “Let’s see in a year.” The year is coming fast upon me in October.

One morning, the wife of a friend passed me in the hallway. “You look amazing, X!” We both laughed. Yesterday, someone said, “If you lose any more, you’ll dry up and blow away. You look great.” She lost a lot of weight herself for health reasons not too long ago. There’s rarely a day that passes where someone doesn’t notice that I’m thin. Today, a security guard who resembles me was standing by the elevator and saw that it was ME standing there. He thought I was someone he didn’t know. “You need to tell me your secret and how to do it.” He patted his stomach. “I’ll call you,” he said. He’s going to be disappointed when I tell him the big secret is to choose healthier food and to listen to what his body actually needs. “Keep your mouth closed” is a terrible name for a diet book.

On a recent morning, someone asked me in all seriousness, “How did you do it? You’re not sick, are you? Or did you have the surgery for weight?” I told her that it was simply eating well and that I didn’t have a secret. I told her about my friend Tammy, who managed to do what I did and that she was also about my age- and that if she could, I had nothing except excuses. I indeed started doing pushups on June 1st. But I had already hit 150 by the time I started.

“Just don’t lose any more weight, X.” My coworker meant it in kindness.

I have a couple of people in my life who resent that I lost the weight. It’s a bit bizarre to me, even now. I made it clear when I started that I was a bystander to my transformation. While I did adopt a diet that I experimented with, a big part of what happened was as if it happened to someone else while I observed it. All I can is that obsessively following a system yields results.

I’ve tried to avoid being too evangelical about weight loss. Some people do have medical issues that make it impossible or difficult. For those who’ve been less than enthusiastic about what I’ve done, I attribute it to that odd human proclivity toward pettiness. Watching someone do it renders many objections that it is difficult or impossible to be completely moot. With enough motivation to move from ‘wanting to’ toward ‘making it a reality,’ most people can do it. Anyone who decides that it is a ‘must’ will find a way. Or try. I remember a cartoon from years ago. A man was sitting on the pavement, having stopped halfway through the race. He said, “It’s too much. I can’t run 26 miles.” The next panel showed a man with prosthetic legs racing past. The people with the “sitting on the pavement” mentality often don’t appreciate it when people go racing by, ignoring objections. I used to find myself being that type of person, too.

It’s tough to be around someone who steps into a new motivation. Though I never intended my weight loss to be an insult to anyone else, it did happen. This sort of journey inevitably changes a person. A success in one arena drives them into others. Of course, the person is going to change. Sometimes fundamentally, especially as behaviors become habits and a new way of life. A common complaint in relationships is “You’ve changed.” A trite but true rebuttal to that is, “And you haven’t.” We’re not meant to be static. If you’re in a relationship and one of you will transform themselves, my word of advice is to have frank conversations about it – and go to a counselor if you see that it’s becoming a wedge.

One critic insisted that people were constantly saying how ill I looked. That I am too skinny. Relentlessly adamant. They quoted the anonymous “they” to me. When I’m ready to hire a consultant about my choices, I’ll let them know immediately. IF such people care for me, they will find a way to communicate it to me. Since they didn’t, I have to attribute what ‘they’ allegedly said to a polite conversation with my critics. There’s no crime in honestly talking to someone about their weight if you care about them. The bigger sin is not to do so.

So, of course, despite having the tools to show otherwise, I visited a nutritionist. She said, “Oh baloney!” She agreed that some of it is attributable to the fact that I was obese for so many years and that the change was abrupt and substantial. She looked at my pictures at 252 and 232 and then as I am now. “You’re great, X. If you do add muscle, your BMI will seem off. But it won’t mean you’ve become unhealthy. You have to balance your body against more than a simple BMI. If someone still incorrectly tells you that you are underweight, send them to me. I’d be shocked if they don’t realize how overweight most people tend to be now.”

If I continue to be as active as I am now, muscle mass will increase, resulting in a higher weight without the associated fat content.
I chose 168 as my set point. My job is very physical, and I’ve kept my leisure time activity rate higher than average, too, without going to a gym. I’ve channeled my anxiety into exercise. As the counselor I saw told me, short-term measures are warranted; if they become long-term measures, you’ll have to figure out that, too.

I lost a lot of weight that year, as part of an intense 3-way weight loss bet.

Most of us don’t have a realistic idea of how much we should weigh, nor how many calories we should eat on an average day. I look back at my pictures and shake my head. I missed out on a lot by being so overweight. I can’t get that time back, so it’s on to the next goal of ensuring my habits remain permanent – without risking developing a food issue. They are rare in men who are 54 years old. Food is too damn good and calls me by name like everyone else.

The majority of people around me don’t think, “Ugh, he’s TOO thin and looks terrible.” They think, “X looks normal.” So, if you’re in the minority who feel like I’m too thin, get online or talk to your doctor.

Or get a hobby.

The consensus is overwhelming: I’m at a normal weight, with a buffer of loss and gain comfortably on both sides.

This is how I’m supposed to look, so get over it and be enthusiastic for anyone who can do it. If you love me, of course, you should step in and tell me I’ve got my head up my ass if I continue to lose weight.

To be clear, I’m not talking about my face; whether that’s normal is up for the monkeys to decide.

My weight, though? I’m good. It’s not just my body saying so. It’s science.

In time, people will see this as the new normal. It looks normal, but it feels fantastic to be able to move with agility, walk for miles, do pushups, and run even if I stupidly decide to do so.

There’s always the danger of forgetting the lessons I learned.

One of those lessons is to stop letting critical people get inside my head. They can make fun of my brooches all they want. Just not my weight.

And if I get off track or fail, I proved to myself that my objections and excuses about why I couldn’t do it were all dumb. And that I could do it again. We all fail until we don’t.

No matter who you are, you can do something today. That’s enough, no matter how small. Tomorrow, a little more. The law of increments seldom disappoints.

If you see someone finally get past their excuses? Take the time to applaud. We need it. We’ll return the favor when you succeed.

PS For my cousin: I don’t plan to stay quite this thin. I love you. Please keep an eye on me, though.

Love, x

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Extras…

In Cancun…

Of Burned Food, Shadows, And Gratitude

Y’all signed up for this, so in deference to Ron White, who quipped (paraphrasing), “I know I have the right to remain silent, just not the ability.”

It’s a great thing that I love burned food. I made homemade pizzas (though you wouldn’t like the way I do…). I set Alexa for ten minutes. That’s what I thought I said. Because I mumble worse than a child who got caught pilfering cookies, I evidently said “twenty minutes.” The smoke alarm didn’t go off. I bought one of those new-fangled kinds that gauges the luxury of the residence. Mine evidently thinks I’ll be better off if the place turns to cinders. Though it’s a ‘smart’ device with built-in wifi, it calls 7-11 instead of 911. That’s a joke. I think it’s a joke. Flavor Flav once said, “9-1-1 is a joke in your town.” To that, I’d reply, “Yeah, until you need it.” And all of us eventually do.

Saturday, despite having great conversations with three lovely souls, I found myself doing projects to fill the quiet: colorful ones designed to invade both the interior and exterior of my old apartment. I keep hoping I’ll fill it with enough brightness to drown out the shadows. Don’t get me wrong; I’m so grateful for having my health and sanity. The latter is currently on hiatus.

One of the people I talked to told me that she found herself busy with projects when she was in my situation, filling time with movement and results. She said she could see through the tightly-slitted blinds of my writing that I was experiencing the all-too-human sensation of loneliness, and doubly so given my nature.

It’s not that I’m always alone, far from it. The universes watches me closely, though, and quite often waits to throw a shawl over my enthusiasm precisely when I’m not expecting it.

I got a call yesterday that was both gratifying and emotional; as with such calls, it took me time to process it and look at it from a different perspective. It’s all in my head, of course. That’s how we experience reality, isn’t it? In our own way, cherry-picking the parts that reinforce what we’re thinking. It varies by mood, day, and person. None of us share the same reality because the voice in our head is the overriding narrative that sometimes drowns out the positive things in our lives. Or at least dims it just long enough to doubt ourselves. I envy people whose narrative is overwhelmingly one of gratitude and acceptance. What a superpower they have. Imagine if Superman walked around convincing everyone that they’re worthy. He wouldn’t need to jump tall buildings.

This is all normal – or so I’m told.

Because I’m lucky enough to have seen behind the curtains of people’s lives, I know that normal is just a word in the dictionary. One of the most normal people I know thinks it’s a great idea to shower about once a week. He doesn’t smell bad, so I’m not sure what alchemy or process he uses to “save water and time” by not showering.

It’s the universe’s perverse sense of humor that catches me off guard. No matter how good my morning or day has been, there is always a risk of unexpectedly getting smacked in the head. Sometimes, it brings joy. Sometimes, confusion. The morning gave me a bit of joy seeing the neighborhood, running without stopping, buying something for a project to help someone else out, and talking to great people.

Lord, though, the shadows.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m on happiness auto-pilot. It’s why I tell a couple of my friends that I understand all too well how our minds lay traps for us and that I understand their coping mechanisms. Short-term coping mechanisms are essential. So many of us make them inescapable habits, ones which shut off the rational parts of our lives.

I took a diamond painting of my cat Guino, the one who owns the house I used to live in – and I painted it vivid red. I changed something of the old and made it my own.

I made a runner of felt-backed tiles and put them on the deck outside my apartment. They don’t serve a purpose, except to add color and juxtapose themselves against the faded boards of the landing. I’m sure my pixie Larkma will appreciate the ornate sidewalk of the tiles. (And it tickles me that people will read the last sentence and wonder what in the hell I’m talking about.)

The burned pizzas were delicious. I didn’t plan to burn them but then wonder why I didn’t do it on purpose. No one is here to ask me what in blazes I’m doing in the kitchen.

Notes:
*To the FedEx guy who got excited when I explained how easy it is to change his name, I hope you do. You’re forty and it is ridiculous to not choose a name you’ll love.

*To the bicyclist who went by earlier, wearing bright pink ankle shoes and a hat that looked like it was a spray-painted magician’s hat, more power to you, sir.

*To the neighbor who thinks no one sees that you sometimes hold the leash and let the dog walk onto the landing to pee, you’re wrong. One day soon, as a joke, I’m going to sneak over there and hang a urinal on the railing, and mark it “For Canine Use Only.” This idea pleases me.

*The best pizza recipe in the world: however you want it. I’m constantly preaching that all food is subjective. All of us eat stuff that would make a college freshman retch into his tiny decorative beer box, the one he uses temporarily, albeit for an entire year, as a bathroom trash can. I humbly ask everyone to stop arguing from the perspective that there is a right choice about food choices. Live and let eat, even if you have to wear a blindfold and a clothespin on your nose. Also, both of these devices might make walking around this world more palatable at times.

*The breeze this morning is sublime and filled with humidity from the rain. It’s scented with foliage and the unmistakable aroma of someone’s massive cannabis habit. I’m not sure that sentiment would work well in an Emerson poem. But it works well for a Fayetteville, Arkansas moment.

*A few of my neighbors borrowed a large screen tv to watch the Razorback game. I’m not a fan. I’m a fan of large TVs, but not college football. They are still happy this morning, being able to celebrate their team winning. I would be a hateful bastard to dampen that enthusiasm. I smile, nod, and say, “…and they won by a huge margin.” That’s the extent of my game facts for yesterday. That’s enough, though.

*I never thought about “Hype Man” being a part of several people’s Wikipedia biography pages. I can’t any college that offers a major in “Hype.” I’m irritated about this oversight.

*People sometimes tell me to cool it and stop writing so many dumb jokes and to shut my brain off for a day. The last time I tried that, the City of Fayetteville offered me a job on the Urban Planning Commission based on qualifications.

*I’d plant more ideas in your head, except I definitely don’t want to get in there and water them.

Love, X

It’s All Around Us

There are so many beautiful houses near my apartment. I especially admire the ones packed with a variety of plants and foliage and a little bit of carelessness regarding the lawn. It’s easy to lose track of time wandering the streets, especially when I’m not attentive to how the byways interconnect. Streets with names like Elm, Poplar, Baker, Erstan, and Green Acres. One of the things about running is that I don’t have enough time to appreciate the gentle breeze, the wall of scents emanating from some of the yards, or give the inhabitants of some of these houses time enough to see me and greet me. If I’m walking, I take a moment to tell them how beautiful their yards are. One of the truths of life is that people forget the beauty around them; they go environmentally blind. I’ve noted the addresses a few times and sent them an anonymous postcard to let them know that the time, money, and effort are observable and appreciated. I don’t know if ironic is the right word. Still, it always occurs to me that most of the beauty in a yard tends to be enjoyed and observed by passersby rather than the owners.

There’s a metaphor there, one you should remember as you look at yourself in the mirror or wonder if you’ve added any value to people’s lives. The tentacles of who we are tend to be vast, though invisible. I continue to learn that we seldom know or recognize when people appreciate us. It is common for me to consider how ridiculous it is that we don’t take the time to be vulnerable.

The passenger train is running a little late as I finish my run. The blare of the horn is deafening. Oddly though, even as I wince a little, it is comforting. I wave with a little bit too much enthusiasm at the passengers; they watch me, I observe them. Several return my wave.

I’ve been using the dryer timer cycle as a bell to start my run a few times lately. It limits my burst of energy. I use the law of increments to my advantage. I can’t promise to run miles each day. But I can harness the enthusiasm that sometimes grips me and commit myself to do what I can now, today. Now that I’ve cooled off a little, I’ll return to my apartment. But I have snapshots in my head of this morning’s breeze, the walkers and the runners, and of the beautiful yards.

P.S. I found the flower art in the middle of the road. Whatever was connected to it is gone. I’m assuming it fell from a passing vehicle. I wonder what was attached at the top.

I’m reluctant to share it, but someone wrote and gave me one of the best compliments ever:

“X.
What are you DOING?
Sometimes I don’t quite get what you’re writing about, but I always feel what you’re saying.
I wonder what it is you’re supposed to be doing.
Whatever it is, I wish you’d figure it out and channel your interests.
It would be amazing.
Write a wanderer post this weekend if you can.
Signed, A Lurker”

Love, X

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The Curtain

Because it’s my life to tell, I could tell some stories that would make you wonder if I’d lost my mind. Though I’ve shared so much of what most wouldn’t, especially on my blog, I’ve tempered my urge to be open against the strains of privacy with which so many people shield themselves.

Most of them have the same common thread: we all have a similar composition no matter how people present themselves.

Careers, family aspirations, doubt. All of it succumbs to the same basic need for appreciation and understanding.

Standing in a kitchen, holding someone.

Waiting in a parking lot, even as the rain quickens and drenches.

The gut-wrenching hurt of loneliness, anger, or misunderstanding.

Looking at the doctor across the desk, holding one’s breath, judging the content of one’s life in the interval between test and certainty.

The litany of thoughts, desires, and jokes people tell in private but fear the knowledge that others might see and hear – and judge.

I’ve peeked behind so many curtains in this last year!

All of them are from the same fabric.

We superficially seem to be vastly different; I know better.

I see your secrets.

I know your secrets.

I am your secrets.

Love, X

Take The Photo

I remember before phones were ubiquitous, and cameras were a burden some of us willingly carried to capture moments.

“I love pictures but hate photography” is one of my quotes.

I used to take guerilla photos constantly, knowing at least one would be salvageable.

This first one is from May 2007, in Omaha, Nebraska. We shared a delicious Italian supper at an Italian restaurant. Though I didn’t realize it, I have a picture of the entrance! It was Lo Sole Mio Ristorante Italiano. I’d forgotten I took a quick snapshot, also grabbing a picture of my brother-in-law Joe in doing so.

Kim, in the lead, is looking down and smiling. My brother-in-law Steve is next to her. Behind him, my deceased wife, Deanne. She died four months later, unexpectedly, ten years my junior —her brother Steve, six years later. For all I know, everyone in this picture, even the innocent bystanders walking behind them, are dead. On a long enough timeline, this will be true for every single image you own.

I love this picture. Steve and Deanne gave me the one-finger salute independently and simultaneously. I laughed and laughed when I saw it. I apologized to the bystanders, telling them that some of us were from Arkansas.

Joe and Deanne had a bitter exchange of words afterward. I don’t remember why. I hope Joe doesn’t either because no matter what words they shared, they loved each other. I have a picture that captures the irritation.

I have better pictures of Deanne from that day. But the one of her getting into Steve’s gargantuan truck captures her perfectly in an unguarded moment.

Now that I’m living in my own The After, I think about Deanne more. She was ten years younger than me. Loudly and aggressively vivacious.

Were she here, she would absolutely holler at me to stop wasting time on ‘what ifs’ and wishes. She’s been gone fourteen years.

She would quote “The Green Mile” and tell me, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Don’t stop taking pictures, even if people give you the finger.

One day, you might be sitting and reminiscing. And that picture might give you a breath of life.

When the sun begins to sit on the horizon, we are all memories.

Love, X

Intentions

“When consequences come knocking, intentions ring hollow.” – X

Each of us has a personal narrative in our heads, one in which events seem linear and inevitable. We impose meaning and logic on the process of our lives. The truth is often that we are fooling ourselves. Examining our decisions and what we’ve done, it is obvious that we must conclude that we’re likely clueless about what pulls our levers.

I’m 54 and found myself shocked and surprised by some of the things I didn’t know about myself. I’m fortunate, even though I broke things getting to some of the conclusions. A lot of people around me didn’t survive the discovery process of seeing just how badly (or well) they could do things. Even as I grimace in recognition of some of the consequences I’ve caused, I try to remind myself that at least I’m alive long enough to do them. Getting older usually brings that pang of “What was I thinking?” while also shouting “You can’t change the past.” I think that’s why most of us go deaf when we get older. We’ve heard it all before and often at high volume.

An example of a harsh reminder? These fourteen $1 bills, each signifying a year that I was around for Xmas after my wife Deanne died – and when my ex-wife found me again. Talk about the long game! The first year, I saved a dollar bill and told my ex-wife, “Each year, we’ll sign another one, along with the year.” The first yuletide, it was a lonely dollar hanging like a wreath. By last year, it was fourteen. Honestly, even though it was my creative idea, I think it was sublimely fabulous.

That’s how you build a life – one little increment at a time, errors and right choices mixed unequally.

And then, consequences.

I took the dollar wreath with me when I jettisoned into another life. It’s a poignant reminder to find ways to celebrate life, in small ways and large. The last year proved to me that it is possible to be successful and a failure simultaneously. My intentions to find a better way to finish my life also led me to stumble into an alternate timeline, one I hadn’t anticipated. Against the backdrop of what could have been, it is a jab. But it is also an admission that I’m sometimes stupid and incapable.

It’s a little ironic that money, dollar bills, were what I chose to mark the passage of shared time. Money is the illusion that powers so much of what we do, even though we all know that everything that lights us up is intangible and invisible.

Though I’m not sure why I wrote this post, I know someone will find value in the idea. Odds are that someone reading this has a surprising year ahead of them, one they couldn’t predict. They’ll think that they have a handle on their choices.

Life will of course notice them and roll a boulder down the hill for them to remind them that most of this isn’t predictable. If you’re lucky, you will find value in the breaking. That’s your only choice, anyway. Things ARE going to break in a long arc of surprises. Most of us are lucky enough to not have it all break consecutively; we have time between to consider and reassess.

Though I claim not to believe in karma, I also tip each time I buy lottery tickets. It’s brought me a lot of stories and surprises, so in that sense, it has already paid off. It’s a pain to hoard this wreath and it’s also a pain to let it go. But I am a minimalist and know that all these things will soon enough be left behind by me. In an optimistic nod to the universe, I’m going to put these dollars back into circulation by buying lottery tickets. If I win, my promise still stands: I will use almost all the money to surprise other people. And if I don’t win, I am left with the optimism that I could have. It tickles me to think that these dollars will be in circulation, traveling in potentially infinite directions.

Intentions do matter, but we live with consequences.

Don’t read this post and forget that, at its heart, it is optimistic. I don’t understand people who can’t hold the disparate ideas of joy and wistful loss in their hearts, entwined like twin siblings.

I’m writing this after a blissful night of sleep, something that wasn’t always easy for me. And, in theory, I could be a millionaire. 🙂

It’s about 4 a.m. so I have to answer the call of the wanderer. Maybe you’ll see me out on the streets, in the unlikely event you’re wandering, too?

Love, X

The First Saturday

I couldn’t bring myself to occupy either of the two bedrooms in my apartment. Being both weird and practical, I put the bedroom furniture in the living room. It says “living” right in the name of the room, right? “I might regret this later,” I thought, but simultaneously realized that such a thought might well be universally applied to anyone’s entire life. For anyone who doesn’t know, I sleep with a comforter – no sheet. And even though it causes consternation in the heads of my uptight ( 🙂 ) friends, I will not be ‘making’ my bed daily. Part of the reason for that is that my comforter is for a long twin bed rather than for my pillow-top queen, so even if I wanted to ‘make’ the bed, the comforter won’t cover more than 50% of it anyway. Note: another advantage of using smaller or narrower comforters is that they are much easier to keep clean and don’t overload the washing machine.

You can see my new backward clock in the upper right of the picture, marking its time contrarily and much too quickly. The two young movers who helped me yesterday were tickled by the backward clock, as well as some of my crazy art – and especially my hybrid Jesus/Zach Galifianakis picture.

My apartment has a great view of the busy street about fifty yards away. Beyond that, the traffic light and the railroad tracks. The building I’m in is a large “L,” and I’m in the inside upper corner of the nexus. I put my desk right in front of the large window. It’s too much sun but the view connects me to the world – and I need that right now.

Gregg is a busy street. Though I love the sound of a train, I will have to give the railroad a grace period, one in which I grow accustomed to the blare of the horn as it traverses this side of Fayetteville. The excursion trains run through on their assigned schedule. If I’m outside or walking, I can’t resist waving to the passengers. Truth be told, I’m gregarious with the neighbors, too, and for many of them, they are not accustomed to someone being so friendly.

I already put a hanging crystal outside, as well as a solar lantern I had painted. But no matter how I decorate this new place, I promised myself that I would stop thinking about my environment so critically. I’ve always lived inside my head in a way that others don’t seem to. Minimalists are supposed to appreciate the opportunity to acknowledge how transient all ‘this’ is and live accordingly. This is an older apartment building and it shows. The same can be said for me, even though I managed to rejuvenate my life and health a bit over the last year.

Starting over with very little has once again put my head into that space where I’d like to be aware of everything I add back into my life. Every single thing occupies space, requires care and cleaning, and makes our lives less portable.

I’m sitting in the office chair now, looking out the windows, listening to both birds and traffic. I am humbled that I made it to this point.

Love, X

The Allegedly Iffy

The Allegedly Iffy

I’m out walking through the allegedly iffy stretch of town. The moon is beautiful and a little iridescent against the horizon, before the sunrise. I can feel the heat of the day waiting to blanket everything. But it cannot bake away the beauty of the morning before the sunrise. Last Saturday morning,  I ignored the lightning and the rain and walked anyway. It turned out to be an extraordinary walk.

My path was different this morning. New things to see, places to find, and streets to mentally catalog. Walking these places touches them into my memory in a way that driving never will. Though there is nothing magical on these streets, I know that I will probably remember this morning. I have been continually surprised by the equidistant nexus of places I can reach in thirty minutes. Because of the campus and the number of people living over here, the ebb and flow of activity never ceases even if it’s difficult to sometimes spot.

My first conversation and interaction happened as I made my first left turn. A very physically fit man was walking a mastiff on the opposite side of the street. He would have to be fit to corral that large dog. Even the leash or rope he was holding looked to be over an inch thick. In his hand he had a travel mug of coffee. He lifted it and said, “This is the most beautiful part of the day.” I agreed and laughed. He told me to have a great Saturday. As I told him the same, it occurred to me that expectations often wildly contradict reality. Sometimes, they render everything with a sheen of mystery; others, with an ache.

Almost everyone waved or saluted me as we passed. Even the Latinos up on the crane against the large expensive building they were working on. So much of the architecture over here is distinctively beautiful viewed without people or complete light to interfere with it. I think all the people trying to enjoy life late at night with crowded spectacle are missing out.

But what do I know? I’m just a dude, walking. I couldn’t have reached the glass and steel of this architecture without traversing the allegedly iffy.

I think that is my metaphor for today. One day, looking back, I hope to discover that the same metaphor will encompass my recent past. If your yesterday wasn’t what you wanted or needed, shake it off and call it your allegedly iffy. It’s damn hard to appreciate the good times without a kick in the teeth every once in awhile. I’d prefer to evade the kick, but if we could vote, trauma would never touch us.

The sun is crowding the top of the horizon now. Although I’m in the deep shadow of this stretch of the trail, slivers of the sun pierce the canopy, like verdant curtains swept open inside one’s living room.

Stolen Thunder

I stood under the canopy watching the lightning streaks. I held a cup of delicious dark bitter coffee in my hand, my first cup of the day. I was already drenched, so it didn’t matter whether I was protected from the rain or not. There aren’t a lot of instances when you have the premonition that you might easily recall the moment later. The place was mundane – but they all are, really. I took a little bit of delight and traced it in my memory. A few seconds after the next big streak of lightning, a huge boom echoed and somewhere in the distance someone gave a little shout and said, “Let’s go in!” Apparently, not everyone takes delight in drinking their coffee during a torrential downpour. There is no accounting for taste, is there?

Nearby, the traffic light seemed more vibrant in the dense rain and early morning light. The rain and thunder had attempted to veto my walk. I ignored the imposition and set out anyway. Who knows how many more times I’ll have the opportunity to watch the world duck and run simply because it’s raining. For that matter, or watching people pay $8 for a dessert disguised as coffee.

Despite the intense dark of the sky, I stole a long walk from this morning. During the first part of my walk, I stayed urban; for the second part I abandoned all concern about the weather and rain. Being somewhere new affords a different pleasure and I don’t need to be somewhere exotic to feel alive. (A truth I should learned more distinctly when I was younger.) I could share several pictures, ones I grabbed each time I took my phone out of the ziplock bag I had tucked into my pocket. But these would not be shared memories, and often that makes all the difference. It is why we feel a little empty looking at other people’s vacation photos, especially when the people we love are not in them.It is our presence and our memories that add value to a place or a vista.

So I’ll use my words to futilely attempt a description: I walk alone on this wide expanse of trail.To one side, the angry creek roars. The sky intermittently opens up and drenches me but fails to touch my enthusiasm. The birds carry on their business, and I watch a hawk on the edge of the farm and rows of test corn, probably searching for mice. It feels like I could walk forever, and possibly without encountering other people. The thunder is my applause. Somewhere out here with me there must be a touch of the ordinary. But I don’t see it.

Red is for stop
green is for go
Add this small thing
To the list of things
I do not need to know
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PS Lest you think everything is rainbows and butterflies… toward the presumptive end of my walk, I watched a bitter domestic fight in one of the single story apartments dotting my return. The woman stood outside screaming obscenities and threats as someone inside through her belongings out onto the wet sidewalk. Though she doesn’t know it, her life is both ending and beginning. Worse still, because of my life experience I can mentally chart out the rest of her life. As several of the neighbors stood outside in the light rain to watch the drama, I couldn’t help but think about how needless it all was. Needless and probably inescapable.

How strange to consider how enjoyable of a morning I had just walking, one of the simplest things in the world – while the woman in question probably was having the worst morning she’s had in years.

I’m going to go back to my regular morning, and if I’m lucky, like all of us, I might experience another touch of the divine. And another cup of coffee, one without the kiss of rain.

Love, X
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A Personal Update

This is a personal post, so scroll past if you’re not interested in learning new and terrible things about me. I’m always one for transparency, even when it’s complicated. Especially when it’s difficult. I’ve not been silent out of apprehension or shame. I always feel free to tell my own story – because I own it. Being compassionate, I also realize that other people don’t want a rock dropped on their heads simply because their story overlaps with mine. I’ve waited to say anything specific out of deference to the other people involved. It’s my story now, though.

I’m getting divorced. Because people need to assign blame or frame such things in their heads, you can place the responsibility for the divorce directly on me. Of course, there’s more to the story – but it would be wrong for me to evade the finger pointed at me. Adding explanatory caveats would be equivalent to ruining an apology by offering excuses. Those who know me well know the story. When my marriage faltered, I turned my attention to another woman. While I did not consummate the relationship, I fell in love with her. That’s entirely on me. Not that anyone is entitled to know the details. But I’m not so stupid as to think that people don’t know. It’s human nature, and whispers travel faster and more loudly than headlines.

For the lurkers who are tempted to write something snarky, go ahead, but please take a moment to be creative in your attempt. I don’t mind contempt or passive-aggressive tomfoolery so long as it’s both authentic and distinctive. I can get run-of-the-mill snideness from several sources. Chance are your two cents won’t affect me. I’ve already paid the price for my choices; a few words can’t possibly inflame anything medieval lurking in my heart.

In so many ways, I failed and succeeded simultaneously over the last year. I hurt people who shouldn’t have been. I realize that my intentions are meaningless and irrelevant when compared to the consequences of my choices. I’ll try to take the successes and amplify them. Whether I’ll learn anything from my adventures and misadventures is always the critical question.

My wife is keeping the house. Evidently, homes and property should remain in the hands of responsible people. I’m not sure where I will end up. I much prefer having a roommate, but so far, that has been a bust. You wouldn’t know it, but I’m not nearly as crazy in person as you might think. (Admittedly, though, there is a disproportionate likelihood of tomfoolery.) If I move from Springdale, I’ll miss it terribly. I’ve grown to know it very well, especially during the pandemic. Barring something surprising, I will probably get an apartment in Fayetteville that’s too expensive for me, primarily because of work – and probably without a roommate or someone I know. I’d rather not live alone, even if doing so might be beneficial to me somehow. I’ve somehow managed to stay in the same job for 16 years without one of my co-workers murdering me. To be clear, I’m pretty sure there have been discussions, but luckily, no assassin has been hired, at least not that I know of.

As tough as things have been, I’m glad I had counseling. I was lucky. I put the pin back in before I made my life worse, as well as learning how to sleep again. Counseling didn’t fix all of my problems, of course, but it might have saved me.

My story isn’t particularly original and certainly not so during the pandemic.

There’s no need to react or comment if you don’t want to or don’t quite know ‘how’ to do so. This isn’t something you see on social media very frequently. It’s certainly something that happens all the time, though. By posting this, I’m removing the taboo of openly talking about it.

Love, X