Category Archives: Behavior

Thoughts, Bittersweet And Kind

Thoughts, Bittersweet And Kind

When people move away from a relationship or marriage, they become revisionists. It’s a natural human reaction. Because I don’t want hypocrisy lightning to strike me, I will be the first to admit I’ve done it too. When things go sour, we overwrite the good moments, and the sense of wrong and failure fill our heads. Most of us don’t go into relationships will ill intentions. There are exceptions; some people don’t see behind the masks of those they are with until later. It’s not their fault. Love drives us. We all pretty much want the same things. How we traverse the minefields of our own vanities and life determines how successful our relationships might be. When it ends, we’re left with a raw fringe that often transposes into a filter that overwrites all the positive things we experienced.

I haven’t written a tremendous amount about my marriage. In part, it is because I saw no need to inflame emotions or trespass across the boundary of where my right of expression would infringe upon her life.

As time passes, she’s told me more than once that she thought I was there for so long because it was an easy life. Such a comment is an indictment of what we actually shared. There was a lot of love there for most of the marriage. The end was a bitter pie, that’s true. Since I’m the one who added a lot of the bitter, it is my pie to eat.

When we first got together, I was trying to recover from the sudden and unexpected death of my wife. She was ten years younger than me. Her death was a stop sign in my life. The brutal truth is that had she not died, my life would have continued along that trajectory, probably forever. That’s not how life works though. It’s a series of blows, each of which we either confront or bury.

I made the decision to live life. The risk of me not doing so might have been my demise. “Get busy living or get busy dying” was certainly in my head. It wasn’t going to be easy no matter what choices I made.

One of the reasons the accusation of staying in the marriage because it was “easy” bothers me is that anyone who knows me knows that I am not money-driven. That’s both a defect and an advantage. I feel rich in a lot of ways no matter what roof is over my head or what car I drive. Growing up, I lost a lot. Houses burned, tornadoes came, and violent parents made physical comfort an impossibility. Security is never in the things that envelop me. There is no doubt that my conscious decision to ignore ambition has cost me in some ways. That same lack of ambition also provided insurance, flexibility, and more free time to fill in life’s spaces with ordinary moments. We live most of our lives in those spaces rather than in the grand ones that most people prominently use to illustrate their lives.

Before the divorce, I signed over the house to my ex-wife. I did it for a lot of reasons. I could have insisted that we divest everything and sell it. Had I done so, I would have had 40-50K in my pocket when I left. As it was, I left with $5000. Someone motivated by money would have never walked away from that money. She would have needed to move and start over exactly as I did. It didn’t matter who was at fault; that’s just the way it works. I don’t know many people who’ve willingly given up such a big chunk in order to let their ex have peace and security.

It bothers me that the love I had and the gift I gave her by letting her keep the house are now being characterized as untrue. But I understand.

I sit as the villain in her head. If that helps her have a good life again, I can accept it. During the last few months, I stayed as a roommate. Luckily, I was going to counseling. I learned to sleep and I learned that I didn’t need nearly as much sleep as I had been getting before something in my head snapped. Over time, the anxiety I wasn’t addressing built to a point where I had to either succumb or deal with it. I waited too long to get a handle on it. That was arrogance on my part. There’s no other word for it.

I learned some lessons, some of them unflattering about myself. But one of the lessons I learned is that no matter what your intentions, if you don’t express the hard things in your mind when they come up, they fester and burn you from the inside out. It is so easy to walk through each day, letting the details and routine gloss over the things that need to be said. And done. It’s obvious that I didn’t really learn some of the lessons deeply because I repeated the same pattern by swallowing my truths a few times, ignored the little voice inside my head saying “No,” or stopped striving for the demand of a normal kind of affection.

When I had my emergency surgery, it was my ex-wife who came to the emergency room and stayed with me until my surgery started. She got to witness me violently throwing up and yelling in surprise pain each time a spasm of internal tearing got the better of me. She got her karma that night! But despite that, she was there. And that’s not nothing.

I don’t want to ever come across as someone who doesn’t appreciate that or the good years we had.

I also don’t want to be the kind of person who feels like I’m ‘too much.’ I’ve learned that my ‘too much’ is exactly what some people want. And that is true for all of you, too. I was surprised to find that the things that give me connection are these: writing, a buttload of laughter, and the ability to sit in a chair, intertwined, with nothing but the comfort of someone who sees me as me. I’ll get there, in part because of the long past that lies behind me, including all the stupid things I’ve done and the times I let my arrogance or inattention to what matters lead me astray. I don’t want to be right. I want to be happy.

If you have a happy marriage or relationship, please whisper its truth in gratitude or prayer. Don’t let the valleys overshadow the inevitable peaks. And if your relationship ends, try to avoid the pitfall of painting everything as sinister or dark. We’re all complicated people and so often we find ourselves at the end of a road without a clear idea of how we got so far astray. We started in love.

As the noted philosophers of VanHalen said: “If love’s got you down, love can lift you right back up. Get up and make it work.”

Love, X
.

P.S. Wherever I end up, there is going to be a swing. Without playfulness, the seriousness of what we experience would drown us.

A Redacted Life

I made a painted 6″ X 24″ porcelain floor tile. I love the word “redacted!” When I use it, I get to circumspectly communicate the unsaid. Whether it is snarky, serious, or a feeling.

You can fill the blank with whatever you think life is and what makes it worthwhile. Some of the answers y’all might provide are ones that might surprise the people around you.

I wish you’d be comfortable enough to share the unshared, say the unsaid, and live the unlived. The path we’re on tends to narrow as we get older until we find ourselves inching along, if at all.

Time is short.

Love, X

Josefina Fruitcake

Note: this is a different kind of post. It’s not for everyone. Literally. Wink.

We rely on human nature to protect us. We prefer to think that people are like us. Kind, compassionate and reasonable, behaving as we would. When that fails, we turn to the law to mitigate the behavior of those who are not like us. The law has many shortcomings. Its bureaucracy is flawed with delay and a disregard for the victims asking for remedy and comfort. We created a complex system to protect victims and those wrongfully accused.

Its existence does not preclude a return to the chaos of personal justice that preceded it.

The same clever code words used to avoid the consequences of actions? Those exact words can be turned and used in the same sinister way.

If someone asks for peace of mind and safety, it’s their right. Because I’m familiar with toxic and twisted psychology, I know that there’s something wrong with some people’s brain chemistry. That defect doesn’t disconnect them from the commensurate responsibility of behaving in such a way that they don’t inflict further emotional trauma on someone who’s insisted that they have the fundamental right of peace and the pursuit of happiness.

Those it’s rare, some people don’t honor other people’s right to be free and happy in their lives. Some are simply irredeemable.

We all have an instinctive urge toward fairness.

In The Green Mile, Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb leans in to the villain Percy Whitmore: “…you mind me now. We’ll also see you beaten within an inch of your life. We know people too. Are you so foolish, you don’t realize that?” Percy had been so confident of his connections and deviousness to protect him, not realizing his cohort of fellow guards subscribed to a higher level of fairness and justice. On their plane of justice, people like Percy are given leeway until they have to face the consequences of their actions. If the Percys of the world don’t listen, they face the same fate as the dog that bit the little boy earlier in the book and movie.

It’s not personal. If the equation requires that the side abusing others be minimized, so be it.

Thinking that the legal system is the only remedy to protect others? That’s foolish.

I’m liberal and kind-hearted. But I have an iron rod of my dad inside me. That rod is premised on the old school belief that if you’ve given someone leeway to stop and they don’t heed the warning, then the precepts of Southern Justice come into play. It is no sin to defend yourself or someone else.

Unlike so many other people, I’ve seen behavior turn from trivial to violent. Many people underestimate its probability. I don’t. That’s why I hypocritically subscribe to the belief that it’s better to act precipitously at times without regard to the potential consequences that might befall me simply because I subscribe to a different sort of justice.

I honor the laws to the best of my ability.

My greatest allegiance is to fairness and justice. That allegiance plays by a different set of rules, especially when the intent of laws is being perverted or subjugated by someone who has demonstrated that he or she feels empowered to victimize others.

If you’ve already violated someone and still persist in harassing, intimidating, or making that person feel unsafe, the long arm of the law will get you. There’s a longer arm at play here, one with compunction to compel you to see the light.

There’s time to reconsider the error of your ways.

Please take the route that ensures that everyone is safe.

Otherwise, you are as unnecessary and unpleasant as a fruitcake without liquor.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

X

Play Safely If You Can

I want everyone to be safe.

The truth is that even if you’re double-vaccinated and have the booster, it’s likely that you will get a version of Covid.

Having all your shots will almost certainly keep you out of the hospital or worse. Of course, I’ve had every available shot.

My other truth is that my biggest risk and exposure has been where I work – and that’s been true during the course of the pandemic. It doesn’t scare me, precisely because I’ve seen people do everything right and still get Covid. I did everything right physically for a year and yet my body still slapped me confusingly and I found myself in surgery.

I tested again yesterday. As far as I know, I’ve tested more than anyone else in my personal circle. It’s important to me to know that if I have it, that I hide in a closet for a few days. I’m around unvaccinated people and the burden of giving them something that is essentially a mortality lottery ticket is a higher price than I’m willing to pay. I wish everyone would get all the shots, but that is no longer a reasonable expectation.

Be safe and be loved. Squeeze in some laughter in there, too, if you can.

I’m going to go out in a bit and reconnect with old friends.

While I’m doing it, the awesome t-shirt a fascinating new neighbor gave to me this week says everything that needs to be said: play.

Love, X
.

Lemons And Sunshine

May be an image of tree, sky, nature and road

A few minutes ago I was walking the trail by the hospital for a few minutes. As the spur I walked merged into the main trail, a man walked up with his cell phone held close to his left ear. I said, “Good morning!” and smiled.

To my surprise, he venomously replied, “It’s past noon!”

I flicked my wrist and looked at my Fitbit. It was 12:01.

Without missing a beat I retorted, “Have you been eating lemons?”

He stopped and said, “What do you mean by that?”

Because I am me, I answered, “You seem awful bitter. Are you okay? Do you need to talk? I have a couple of minutes.”

“No,” he said, and he kept walking.

A little further ahead, alongside the perimeter of the apartments that abut the trail, he stopped at one of the long black benches. I walked up towards him.

He turned towards me and said, “The lemon question was pretty good.”

I sat down on the end of the bench. He soon followed.

And he did talk and told me what was bothering him. After 3 or 4 minutes, I told him to wait there and I had something for him. I walked back to my car and got an old pair of headphones and walked back towards him. I half-expected him to be gone. But he was still there. I handed them the headphones and told him that if he needed a ride I would be glad to give him one.

He thanked me twice. I reached out and shook his hand. He actually smiled.

I used the simple human superpower of humor and listening to turn the lemons in his head into something else.

I’ll let him walk away for a minute before I snapped the picture.

The bright sun above me somehow seemed to shine brighter.

Love, X

Flawed Confidence

If you behave as if you believe you’re confident, even when you’re not, most other people believe it too. And if you wear clown shoes and talk like you’re crazy, people question you a whole lot less.

Most of the great people I know also hate something about themselves. It’s perplexing. Why is it we can see the exceptional in others but so seldom in ourselves?

As for flaws, it is impossible for you to be certain that someone else won’t find them to be endearing or fascinating. Unless your flaw is personality-driven, as when you practice hatchet-throwing in my direction.

So, stop looking at yourself that way.

If you’re not going to change it, revel in it. You’re living life for yourself, so that other people can see you for who are.

PS It is really hard to get to know a facade. Breathe fire if you can, flaws and all.

Love, X
.

For You

My favorite belt is older than a forgotten box of toenails. I’ve added 16″ of extra holes to it and cut it off twice. I have had a new one hanging in my closet for the day when I would be ready. Much to my shock, I had to drill eight extra inches of holes in it for it to fit properly. For any of you who are waiting for the new year to start your New Year’s resolutions, I hope you will take this tired old failure’s words of advice: you can do it without the gym, without upending your life, or feeling like a failure on your bad days. All it takes is a clear vision of what you want in life. You can pay the price and you can do it incrementally. With the right mindset, you’ll get little victories that add up. You will also have days where you feel like nothing is going right. If you start the journey and feel yourself waning, reach out to me. One of my superpowers is that I am a motivator. Love yourself and find a way to give yourself the opportunities to be who you want to be. If you’re already happy with who you are: be weird and let the fire breathe from your mouth so that people will know who you are.

Love, X

A Mixed Message (A Wild Variety Of Me)

“Life is like looking for your phone. Most of the time, it’s in your hand.”

Today’s brooch was made from a very old badge my manager discovered last week. I wrote “252” on it. That’s how much I weighed in the picture. I’m 105 lbs. lighter now. The part that continues to remind me is the new people who come into my life. They didn’t know me as fat. A couple of them had to be convinced. That’s a strange, wonderful thought. None of them have inaccurate misconceptions of me, either, so they look at me as if I’m just X. That’s wonderful, too. It reminds me of decades ago when I changed my name; it allowed me to easily identify those who loved me for who I was without regard to my name. Not a day passes that my name doesn’t bring a question, a laugh, or a story. Having a ridiculous name saves me the trouble of needing to tell people I’m probably eccentric. (Whether I look like a professional bowler or curler is up to you to decide.)
*
^

“I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know”
“You Say,” Lauren Daigle

All of you who can feel God’s love are fortunate. I mean that without snark. All love is housed in one’s heart. Believing that you’re loved in any form is something to strive for.

*
^

Because of my blog, people find me and read the ridiculously long and circuitous path of my life I’ve left there. It’s told higgledy-piggledy, with huge omissions and P.S.-sidepaths; it’s just the way I like it. It is both consoling and astonishing when someone discovers it and finds something worthwhile in it or me. When you commit things to writing and especially publicly, there is no return to privacy or withdrawal. It’s both faith and lunacy. As direct as I’ve been, there are hundreds of stories that I haven’t shared, mostly because of the overlap in other people’s lives. A lot of my joy and anguish are difficult to share for that reason. It’s not that I don’t want to. I’d prefer to spill it out. I can’t imagine that I’ve experienced much that a lot of other people haven’t – that’s the joy of peeking behind curtains in life.
*
^

“State your truth” is such a vulnerable thing to do. Or say. I’ve become so open about it that I’ve forgotten that people need camouflage. We are all so similar in our vexations and pleasures. Knowing this at 54 is almost a superpower. But I do revel when I am able to witness someone letting the wall down and just sharing, even if it astonishes them as they do so. Sunlight and revelation bring peace. So many people are carrying secrets or thoughts of a different way to live. They don’t see the options until they see no way to continue.

“Buried emotions are always buried alive,” someone smart told me once.
*
^

“Some people are empaths. I’m a telepath; people want me as far from them as possible.” – X
*
^

“Hey X, do you smoke marijuana?”

“No, I prefer the natural flavor.”

That one took him a minute to understand.
*
^

I think I’ll forego a regular walk or run today and see if I can run 100 floors of stairs. That seems fair, doesn’t it? My heartbeat objects. Maybe it knows the inventory of my allotted steps in life? Either way, my heart owes me a debt for liberating it from the sheath of excess that I put on it for two decades. And I owe it an apology. I’m lucky I didn’t give up, even as I constantly failed. Until I didn’t. It’s not the path that matters so much; it’s where you end up.
*
^
To a specific friend, if you read this post, a phlebotomist I met at my doctor’s appointment LOVED your catchphrase: “Nothing tastes as good as this feels.” His eyes went wide and then he laughed. “Exactly!” he said. “I’m going to steal that without question. It’s perfect.” He’s a bodyweight fitness nut and looks like a flattened barrel in his upper torso. He wanted to know my story and secrets – and I shared both your phrase and The Blue Dress Project’s catchphrase, “Choose Your Hard.” He couldn’t believe my transformation and I told him that between the bell going off in my head and seeing people like you do it with a lot more obstacles than me, that I knew I was supposed to succeed. He understood, having done it himself. Don’t be surprised if it ends up on social media.
*
^
The man who taught me one-on-one how to end an altercation quickly (and violently, if necessary) recommended a browser-based productivity timer. It works crazily well. I can set it for 5-minute increments. When the alarm of my choosing sounds, it’s time to do another interval of weights and/or stairs. Because I do most of my writing sitting at the computer, it’s a great way to create thoughtless and repetitive chunks of exercise. Because of the law of increments, I can artificially get a lot of movement each hour instead of relying on my motivation. The cat hates it though, especially if he’s perched on my lap as I type.
*
^
The Lexapro is working very well. So is therapy. And time passing. As the curtains of other people’s lives continue to open to me, I realize that my problems are real – but inconsequential compared to the complexities that other people are living. It’s great that some parts of my life are a motivation to people. It’s also okay that some parts should serve as a warning. None of us are pristine or untouched by trauma, loss, indecision, doubt, or wanting.
*
^
My “Ask” project is working well for me. It’s failed consistently, but that failure is changing me. I can feel it and observe it as it works its way into my nature. Some of the ongoing “No” has hurt me in a way that surprised and upset me. But I’ve kept asking, feeling the wave of “No” click a meter in my head. I don’t know where the true fulcrum of some of it lies; I’ll trust my instincts when it does. Once the meter has run to zero, we have to accept the truth of whatever we’ve been asking.

Ask
Ask for what you want or desire.
If you don’t, it is a certainty you’ll never get it.
Ask of life and ask of people.
The answer, though bitter or not what you sought…
It’s at least the truth.
Everything starts from there
Ask
*
^
I walk past the place where the deceased are kept until they are retrieved for their funerals and remembrance. I walk past a lot. I’m surrounded during the day. By love, concern, fear, hundreds of individual stories unfold. How odd it is that such finality and drama barely pierces people’s consciousness. I know we have to protect ourselves or otherwise be flooded. Sometimes, though, we need to remember the hourglass sifting sand invisibly behind us. It’s a valuable motivator to know that your day is not a promise. It’s a gift, one which many of us waste on triviality.
*
^
Somewhere In Time

I had another life, a Lowenstein of my own.
She walks the planet, fulfilled, and not alone.
The lesson is that everyone has a tightly drawn curtain.
When they fling it open, there is beauty and assertion.
To see someone from within their own head is a joy.
It’s agony when the curtain closes again, a closure that can destroy.
Every nuance and experience in life will change us,
if not derange us.
There is no return to the before.
There is only the after and absence,
paired with infinite reenactments.
Time does not cure us; it erodes us.
To know that somewhere in time,
that your life did not branch away from you,
is a breathtaking comfort and inner chime.

Out there, somewhere in time.
*
^

I know this is an unusual post.

And that’s okay.

Love, X

Me By Default

One of my favorite things was my Die Hard ventilation shaft Xmas ornament, one I made. It even had a hole in the back of the fake ‘shaft’ to illuminate John McClane’s outstretched lighter as he crawled through. Because one of my neighbors is a Die Hard fan, I walked over and gave it to him. His face lit up. Even more in the Christmas spirit, as much as he was surprised and happy, he said, “Oh man, my mom LOVES Bruce Willis.” Without hesitation, I said, “Give it to her then and pay it forward. We can’t stand between Bruce Willis and your mom’s infatuation.” My neighbor’s son celebrated his first birthday yesterday. I’d already given him the decorated and painted ornamental box I made, for when his son is old enough to put his special things inside. I love imagining some future day when someone sees something I made and thinks about the randomness of strangers. And I think all the time about much I misjudged those neighbors when I was first around them. I like to be surprised and reminded that appearances can be so deceiving.

In my personal life, I am struggling so hard with another variant of “Choose your hard.” I’m stuck at the nexus of a decision that it is intolerably emotional. My therapist told me once to imagine that if I had died instead of surviving my emergency surgery. And from that vantage point, how hard would such a decision seem from there? She’s right. Have you heard this saying: “If you’re okay with something you shouldn’t be okay with, you’re not okay.” Experience tells me that it’s true but wisdom tells me that I’m weak. Such self-knowledge is not something that warms me.

Yesterday, I gave everything I had to try to run a mile in under six minutes. I didn’t quite make it; I missed by six seconds. Though I failed and for the last half of the mile I was sure I was going to make it, I look at six seconds and know it’s a stupidly small amount. P.S. My heart was trip hammering so hard I could s-e-e it beating through my shirt like a drum.

One of the advantages of living upstairs is well… the stairs. Between sets of exercises, I can go out and do ten floors at a time. It doesn’t take any time at all to accumulate a LOT of floors and stairs. I like to watch the law of increments add up. My goal is to do at least 50 flights of stairs by 9 a.m.

One of my favorite people recently compared me to another person and described us both as obsessive-compulsive about goals. She’s not wrong at all. This Fitbit accentuates it because I can see it in real-time.

Do y’all know what “you by default” means? It’s used by some interviewers now and it helps you figure out where not only you are in your journey, but also to measure other people in your life.

You By Default

A lot of people haven’t heard this line of thinking regarding behavior, usually involving exercise and sometimes healthier eating. It was powerful the first time it was explained to me by someone who walks the walk.

If exercise takes a lot of effort – or adds procrastination or stress to your routine – it’s not you by default. It’s something you’re doing rather than what you simply do. If you miss a day or several, it isn’t important in the scheme of things. You’ll go back naturally to it and without stressing that you might not ever return. All of us have weird and surprising enthusiasm and commitment cycles in every aspect of our life. Exercise. Diet. Love. Irritability. Dark chocolate.

If you need willpower and constant self-talk to avoid eating chips at 10 p.m. or fast food twice a day, it’s not you by default.

“You by default” becomes your natural process, one that doesn’t require a lot of cognition or secondary support to maintain. You’re active because you are an active person. You eat healthier because you are a healthier eater. You behave kindly, well, because you ARE kind. You’ve internalized natural or learned behaviors. It is possible.

You show love and lovingkindness because it’s “you by default.”

Find a way to become whatever goal or attribute you want in your life. It’s now a part of you, never to be stripped away or requiring intangible willpower. It is a type of discipline turned to automatic.

Whatever it is that you want to do or become, practice. Even if you don’t know the vocabulary to describe it. If you can overcome the natural reluctance slope that allows new behavior to become permanent, you will find that you can do this in other areas of your life, too. You will have shifted your default.

It’s also interesting from an interpersonal point of view. If people haven’t shifted their internal values, their behavior isn’t their default. They’ll revert almost every time and abandon their attempts to change. It’s not impossible, but it is a rarity.

Love, X

You’ll Get There!

Odd that we expect life to be linear, one foot in front of the other, with a clear view of how to live our lives. Everything is circuitous, convoluted, and seen imperfectly.

With goals, we forget that one day or three doesn’t derail us or our commitment.

Science teaches us that we all fight a reluctance curve with results.

Wisdom teaches us to be patient with the ridiculous setbacks we’re all going to encounter.

You can drive around the roundabout 247 times if you need to.

It’s the final turn, the one that gets you where you need to be, that matters. Our path and past are still a part of our story, but it is where we end up that gives us our measure.

Love, X