Category Archives: Family

Personal Post, So Be Advised

Personal Post
I’m the opposite of private across the board. I have a blog and a TikTok. I also write things for others because I don’t know how to turn off the spigot that runs in my mind.

One of the things that drive me bonkers is the misconception that people have about me. No one can call me a hypocrite because I always say it first. Whether it was having an emotional affair while I was married, having herpes, or admitting how susceptible I am to the alcoholism problem that infects many in my family. As you can see, I don’t keep those things private. A couple of people have been shocked that they’ve seen me with a cigarette. It’s about the stupidest thing for me to do, even though I foolishly use it as a substitute for anxiety treatments. I’d rather people know who I am, even if those things are hard to say openly.

I try to be as transparent as possible. A few months ago, I realized how idiotic I was being by getting away from that. Secrets infect a person worse than a virus. Because you can’t be open and yourself if you’re protecting a version of yourself.

But one of the vortexes I got stuck in is the privacy versus secrecy issue that plagues many lives and relationships. If you have a partner, don’t keep things in your life or on your phone that would be hurtful to the people you love. That it’s wrong to do or say anything that you wouldn’t want your partner ever to see or hear literally goes without saying. If you’ve gotten away from that? It’s never too late to wake up and be grateful that you found someone who loves you.

It’s important not to get weighed down by your past because everyone can renew at any point in their life. It doesn’t erase the past. I’m still accountable for those mistakes.

Recently, I was accused of being controlling. If wanting the best for someone is controlling, I’m definitely guilty. I worked hard to be the person I should be. At the same time, history and imagery beyond my control infected my head. So, I have to pay for my mistakes again.

I slept about an hour last night. I can do quite well on five a night. Because of that, I let my coworkers down by calling in this morning and failing to go to work. I love my job for many reasons and don’t want to lose it. It’s been a sustaining thread in my life for 18 years.

I’m 56. All I want is to be loved and have someone in my corner. We can both know each other’s demons, shake our heads at our idiocy, and move on. If you go to my TikTok and read through the innumerable videos I’ve made, you will get the idea that I do have a grasp of what makes people happy with themselves and their relationships. That ideal infects me. I’ve also helped several people in a counseling group. I tell them what I did wrong openly and share all the things I’ve learned in therapy. Obviously, I still don’t practice them well. Anyone who knows me can see it. At some point soon, I’m going to give Al-Anon a try because I need it.

But above and behind all this? Secrecy is the worst. And now, you’ve learned more things about me that you wouldn’t expect to see on social media.

I included a picture of me that Erika took before I performed the marriage of my deceased wife’s niece. It was one of the happiest days I’ve had in my life, even though one moment filled my eyes with tears and reminded me of the people I’ve lost. I had people I loved around me on Saturday. Trusting me to fumble performing the wedding, but also sharing their special day with me.

Love, X

A Delicate Post and Request

This is a delicate post, one written with the intention of reminding people that there are subtleties to traditions that others might not consider.

When we lose someone, we lose a part of ourselves. Most of us foolishly think we’re prepared. We’re not, of course. It’s a visceral punch that permeates our bodies and takes occupancy of our minds.

Those around us feel the same loss in a different, diffused way depending on their connection. I don’t need words unless that’s what you have to offer. I’d prefer a silent hug just to acknowledge that you care. Even carefully spoken words, ones drowning in heartfelt emotion, can evoke an unintended meaning. I’ve been guilty of it, even when it was the last thing on my mind. When someone loses a loved one, their filter is either wide open or often warped. Words and actions can take on meanings that no one intended. Even gentle, loved-filled words.

One of the traditions of the past is that friends and loved ones send flowers. They add beauty and are a physical manifestation of the fact that their thoughts are with us.

For some, such plants and flowers can be a burden. Each of them requires attention, effort, and longevity. Because they are hallmarks of a loved one’s passing, it’s difficult to disregard their care. When you do make the choice to send flowers, please understand that not everyone is equipped to give these plants the care and honor that is intended. Those left behind are already dealing with grief and likely a long list of to-dos involving the logistics of someone passing.

Speaking from my point of view, I love nothing more than to hear stories and see pictures of whoever passed. If you have pictures of someone I loved who died, please share them. If you have stories, tell them. It allows us to see our person in a different light and through different eyes.

All of us have organizations that we support. Whether it’s organ donation, animal care, homeless causes, or cancer treatment, the money spent on flowers could do tremendous good out there in the world. This in no way negates the love or thought that sending flowers might. For me, I’d rather you share pictures, hugs, and stories and spend the money on something meaningful. If sending flowers is a sign of adoration and respect, then certainly sharing pieces of someone’s life is equally, if not more, an indicator. And, because it’s me, if you want to show love and caring, give the money to an organization (or even a person or family) who could benefit.

I apologize to the floral industry for my viewpoint. Sending flowers is a tradition cemented in the past. I’m not speaking for everyone! But I do know a couple of people I love who were burdened by the reception and care of flowers after they lost someone. If someone requests donations in lieu of flowers, please understand that they are expressing their wishes. Don’t hesitate to send flowers if that’s what is in your heart. But also don’t hesitate to do something different if you know the person would rather you do, especially if those flowers require time and care that the grieving person might not have.

As for everyone else, if you don’t have a will, a living trust, and a way for those left behind to take care of you and your belongings upon your death, please take care of those things. Despite what we think, life surprises all of us at inopportune moments. For any of us, this could be the last day we walk the earth. Part of our responsibility as adults is ensuring that the people we leave behind don’t suffer as a result of our lack of thought and planning. Adding avoidable suffering to someone grieving isn’t a loving act.

Love, X

A Gift Passed On

Marsha, I sent you Grandpa’s shaving cup and razor for several reasons. Like so many touchstones, it’s just a cup and a razor. But it’s also personal and practical, something to connect me to a past that I romanticize with abandon. If Heaven had to be chosen from moments on this Earth, I might very well choose a summer in the early 70s with Grandma and Grandpa. Being poor wasn’t something I thought about then. It taught me that all the possessions in the world can’t replace the feeling of being loved, even if in a way that isn’t soft and fuzzy.

Bonnie trusted me with the shaving kit a few years ago. I wouldn’t have sent it to you a few years ago. You weren’t ready. And I know my saying so won’t hurt your feelings or open old wounds. I didn’t send it to you because it holds no value for me. As one of the last remaining sentimental things I own, the opposite is true. Everything is temporary, even the people and things we cherish. I don’t love the cup less than I once did. But I also don’t want to hoard and clutch something closely that might touch you in the same way it did me.

Each time I picked up, it was easier for me to flash back 50 years and almost smell Grandpa’s aftershave. He was a simple man, at least by the time I came around. Nostalgia sometimes cripples me when I get into memory mode, trying to recapture details or moments. But even if I don’t get the details right, nothing can rob me of the feeling I had when I was around him. Whether we were watching Kung Fu on the little black and white tv, sitting on the porch swing daring the yellow jackets to approach, or while I was splayed out on the floor with my play pretties while he watched baseball…I didn’t appreciate until I was much older that while Grandpa was no hugger, he gave me more affection than my parents did for the first part of my life. He didn’t raise his voice to me, nor his hands. If I needed to learn that a razor blade was sharp, he’d gruffly tell me to be careful – but didn’t tell me not to touch it. He let me swing an ax that was beyond my capability, bought me nails to drive needlessly into everything in sight, and handed me a sliver of his cannonball chewing tobacco, letting me decide whether I liked it. He poured me coffee when I was four, let me stand beside him when the tornado weather approached and told me to stand still so that we could watch for an unseen animal in the cotton fields. He taught me that four-legged animals were rarely as dangerous as those of us walking around on two. He tried to tell me stories of the war, of riding the trains like a hobo, and many others; Grandma would shout at him to stop. I remember hardly any of those stories, but I can still feel the Monroe County sun on our legs and smell the creosote of the porch steps baking.

I am hoping the feeble power of words that I possess can give you a glimpse of how much it meant for me for Bonnie to send me Grandpa’s shaving kit. The cup is a mercurial, mystical object. It looks like an ordinary thing. But that’s the magic of memory, love, and longing. We imprint onto things that remind of us of the people we loved and who loved us.

May it serve you well or in moments where you get distracted by life’s events that aren’t really important. Or when you feel yourself tempted by old habits. Grandpa was afflicted with many of the same torments that made your life difficult. But he ended up toward the end of his life living a simple, uncomplicated life devoid of the temptations that discolored his adult life. That’s something to be appreciated. If you end up with nothing, yet have a life with even a single person who loves you, it’s a good life.

Love, X

“You Light Up My Life” A Jimmy Story

You Light Up My Life

I wanted to share one of the stories with Brianna about her dad Jimmy.

Jimmy was spoiled beyond belief. As an older cousin, I benefited immeasurably from this. He had all the toys, games, and add-ons that can make a childhood full of play. Because my immediate family was so poor, I’d never get the chance to experience those things if it weren’t for Jimmy and my Aunt Ardith and Uncle Buck. But I’m not exaggerating when I tell stories about Jimmy’s legendary spoiledness.

Uncle Buck was an accomplished musician. He had the chance to ‘be’ someone in the music field but chose to do it as a side gig and hobby instead of pursuing it. He gave Jimmy record players and an endless supply of 45s and LPs. Some of these I remember well because Jimmy played them until you couldn’t help but to have the songs burned into your ears. Stories like the one I’m recounting take on an unlikely meaning when you consider that Jimmy dived deeply into Pantera and his beloved group Metallica as soon hair began to grow on his face. Rock and heavy metal gave him a voice like nothing else had before. The year Jethro Tull won the grammy over Metallica, I wondered if Jimmy might go off the deep end permanently. “Effing Jethro Tull!” he said at least two million times in the next month. “Bands with flutes are NOT rock music!”

Whether it was “Devil Goes Down to Georgia” or other songs, none of my memories eclipse 1977’s “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone. Jimmy was about seven when the song premiered. He thought the song was the best he’d ever heard – and that Debby Boone was an angel. For those who don’t know, this song was EVERYWHERE and #1 for ten weeks. Jimmy played that record so many times that I wondered if it would ever fade into the background. Jimmy had the song memorized in five plays. He played it twelve million more times just to be certain. When Jethro Tull won the Grammy years later, I reminded him that “You Light Up My Life” had a flute in it. He got pissed off, but then in typical Jimmy fashion, he laughed. “You’re right! Damn it, you’re right!” He added the phrase, “Damn flutes!” to his repertoire of mumblings for a while.

When I hear “You Light Up My Life,” which is a rare thing now, I can’t explain how odd it is to think of Jimmy, Metallica, and Jethro Tull in the same thought. Jimmy’s been gone now for slightly less than ten years. 1977 is forty-six years ago.

So, Brianna, if you want a moment to connect with Jimmy, take a minute and look up “You Light Up My Life” and think of Jimmy standing in his living room with the song playing. He’d sway and badly sing the lyrics over and over. He was happy in those moments. Later, Metallica supplanted Debby Boone. Every once in a while through the years, I’d tease him and say, “Well, they are no Debby Boone, Jimmy!”

As for Jimmy, I hope those damn flutes are playing somewhere. With Metallica’s drums and shredded guitars accompanying them.

Jimmy’s hairstyles followed those of Metallica. The picture looked nothing like him for the last half of his life. But it’s tucked away in my collection to remind me.

I hope this story connects you to Jimmy.

Love, X

An Uneasy Observation

The TikTok I made about this interested me.

The original post from the wife I mentioned, it garnered the usual amount of teeth-gnashing; mainly from those who got irritated about the therapist’s quote:

“…your phone is YOU… the stuff you interact with…the words you share…your pictures…and most people keep that hidden for a reason…and it usually has nothing to do with privacy…it’s about controlling whether people know the real you.” (“Even your partner,” it should have said.)

Reading that smacks you in the face with the truth. It’s like if your browsing history were published in the newspaper or if a list of all the people you’ve texted, DMed, or interacted with were published for the world to see. Our phones are a great reflection of the totality of us, especially when juxtaposed with our relationships.

As Dave Worthen preaches: “You share your bodies, you brush your teeth together, you have children, you spend most of your lives connected, but lord help you if someone wants to share your phone, even with the best of intentions.”

I’m not saying I have all the answers, but reading and hearing all the commentary about this anecdote really gave me further insight into just how big of a problem this is for most of the modern world. Our ancestors didn’t have to worry about this: most behaviors were direct and observable, and privacy/secrecy were not issues ideal partners had to confront.

Love, X

Five Minutes/55 Years

Recently, I made a megamix of Rocky theme songs. Though I am not great at it, I made one remix that is impossible to remain immobile while it’s playing. The “Five Minute” rule works great when I’m not feeling it. Because it’s certainly true that motivation follows action rather than the converse. People wait for the urge, motivation, or willpower. It’s the opposite. As soon as the thought hits your noggin, you get up and do whatever it is you were about to put off. Or worse, say aloud, “I need to do so-and-so.” One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was: “DON’T tell me what you’re going to do. Live it. Show me.”

Most of the time, if you practice doing, telling yourself you’ll spend just five minutes on a task cures your procrastination enough to keep going once you start. That’s true with so many things in life.

The Five Minute rule aligns seamlessly with my Law of Increments. If you do a little consistently throughout the day and days, before long, you will amass much effort – and probably consequences.

I know Rocky is old school. One of the reasons it did so well is because Sylvester Stallone (whose real name is Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone) was a nobody with a story about overcoming odds. He was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay.

Late in my 9th-grade year, I got pissed off at myself one early spring afternoon and decided to go running. I figured if the violence in the house hadn’t killed me, I could risk a heart attack. We lived on the downside of a hill in Tontitown near 4K farms. To say that I regretted starting that day is an understatement. I ran a mile. My shorts were ragged, and my shoes weren’t running shoes. Poor aptly describes my predicament. But I put it all aside and just ran. I did it every day, no matter the weather and how sore I was. After a while, I was shocked to discover that the exhilaration of barely being able to breathe was an absolute high. At the end of it, I knew I’d have a hill to run down. Over time, I found myself sprinting a half-mile before the incline. I added more and more distance until one day, it occurred to me that even distance wasn’t an issue. Years later, I wondered what it was that first day propelled me to stop yammering in my head about what I needed to do – and just do it.

My brother forced me to do pullups and lift weights in the horrid dirt floor cellar on the bottom level of the trailer we rented. He usually punctuated the necessity of compliance by punching me in the upper arm with enough force to numb it. Months later, I turned the tables on him when he told me I had to do at least a dozen pull-ups. I said, “After you, my lady, after which I will.” He struggled and finished. I jumped up on the bar and did thirty. “How many CAN you do?” The look on his face was hard to read. “I don’t know. I don’t count. Pullups aren’t a normal thing I do in the real world.” My brother Mike was ridiculously stronger than me. I didn’t like weights. But if I wasn’t practicing my French Horn or reading amongst the trees, it was safe to hide somewhere, anywhere, rather than inside, where the violence would erupt. I’d do anything to have my brother Mike around so I could duck, weave, and throw punches at HIM.

Later, I realized that when I didn’t have motivation, I would listen to a couple of the songs from Rocky and Rocky 3 in my head. “Eye of The Tiger” played ad nauseam everywhere back then. You couldn’t go to church without expecting to hear it being played in lieu of old hymns. That song always gave me the energy to beat my immobility inertia.

All these decades later, some of the music still motivates me. I loathe many of the songs on the soundtracks. Anything by that crack-voiced Frank Stallone, for example. The new remixes incorporate more of the wall of brass sound that the main theme personifies. It’s just raw power demanding that I stay focused.

Through the years, I discovered that almost all obstacles were a figment of my imagination. Could I do 1,000 pushups a day? No, but I could do 1,500. That’s a bit excessive, I know. I stopped doing quite so many a few days before my emergency surgery about sixteen months ago. Could I run a mile in under six minutes at age 55? Yes. Can I run as fast as my childhood best friend Mike? Hell, no. I still have mud in my nostrils from years ago when I tried to keep pace with him. (I decided he might be Superman.) Could I walk twenty a day if I want to? Yes.

I’ve failed at so many things. So please don’t read all this as a litany of humblebrags. I’m self-aware enough to understand that I wasted a lot of my time and energy. I am proud to be a Spanish bilingual and to be a liberal as an adult. Not just politically but across the spectrum relating to people.

The gist of it is that if we are focused enough to ask ourselves what our goals are, we probably can get there. If we want to. Regardless of most of the obstacles. Everyone has their obstacles. And yes, I do recognize my own privilege by writing all this. So many people have no opportunities or advantages. Mine were massive on both sides of the scale. I’m not so stupid as not to realize that despite the harsh hand I started out with, things are good.

I wish my life had a wall of horns blasting at key moments. It would drown out the complaining and haters, for one thing. It would help to get out of bed, too, not that I have that problem. I’m lucky enough to wake up rattling the rafters most days.

From “Eye Of The Tiger” to “Pancreas Of The Platypus” might be an ideal title for a book to describe my outlook on life.

PS That dust all over my vest is from rolling around on the floor with my cat. I can beat him wrestling any day.

Love, X