Category Archives: Mental Health

Personal Post

This is a post about my past, much of it written long ago. Not to dwell on it, but to expunge it from my head. I am not in this place mentally anymore. I’m actively choosing a reset and finding happiness.

Because the thunderstorm was about to commence, she decided to bring inside the two plastic oval feeders that jutted off the balcony. Instead of placing them on the floor, she put them on the stove. She was drinking, of course, a ritual that started as soon as she came home from work. A routine might have given her sanity, but it erased her ability to live a normal life. Many mornings, she woke up very early and started drinking. “It’s just beer,” she’d say, drinking all day and night.

Much later, I got tired and wanted to lay down. She was in her energetic yet lethargic music mode, cycling through a good yet repetitive list of music from her past. She often spent hours blasting music at high volume. While I loved and enjoyed much of the music, she irritatedly refused to let me pick music almost all the time. She would withdraw into herself as I sat there next to her immobile and waiting for her to engage me. Much less give me affection or attention. She often danced to highly sexualized dances while she listened to music that way. If I tried to touch her or respond appropriately, she would push me away and say, “beep beep.” Later I deliberately practiced asking. The answer was no every time I tried.

At some point, I felt her lay down next to me. As she stumbled up out of the bed, I opened my eyes and for some reason had a little trouble breathing. Light filtered through from wall plugins and light in the bedroom or kitchen. I couldn’t clear my eyes because everything looked cloudy. As she entered the kitchen I heard a strange piercing scream. I literally jumped from the bed, coughing a little. I ran into the kitchen to see her standing in front of the stove. Thick smoke and flames for shooting up from its surface. She grabbed the burning and molten plastic bird feeders as both the feeders and the contents burned. She flung the contents into the sink, onto the floor, and around her. Although I couldn’t understand what was going on, I knew she might be burning herself as she grabbed the molten plastic feeders. I intervened as best as I could and tried to determine if she was burned or injured.

The apartment was filled with thick smoke but luckily the fire had not progressed. The burners were ruined from melted plastic and it smelled pungent from the burning plastic and birdseed.

I looked into the sink. She was so confused that she had confused the round bird feeder with a skillet and had cracked an egg or two into it to cook the egg. And then lay down next to me as the feeder began to burn.

She began to wail and cry in frustration and anger. I tried to calm her but she was wild with confused embarrassment. She laid on the floor half-naked, her robe barely covering her. She screamed and cried in bursts. I was scared for both of us and I wasn’t sure how far down the mental rabbit hole she might go. I have pictures of the mess and it evokes a lot of mixed feelings.

I spent an hour cleaning even as I tried to calm her down and console her.

I finally got her to lay down. The next morning, I changed out her burners with mine. And then went about the long process of cleaning.

Because she stayed in bed really late, hours past her normal waking time, a friend of hers had reached out to me asking if she was okay. I did the best I could to explain away everything and say that she was okay. I chose my words carefully. One of the things that had always stuck between us was that she insisted that our relationship be kept secret from her male friend. It was a huge red flag and I tried communicating repeatedly about it. It’s not her fault – it’s mine. Had I to do it over again, I would have said, “No” at the outset. Despite what she says in her narrative, I carefully navigated the line to let her friend know she was okay but had experienced a brutal night.

I don’t know how to characterize her mental state when she got up. But you can imagine… I had hoped it would be ‘the’ event to get her to stop drinking.

That was also the day she decided to do multiple hits of psychedelic mushrooms.

I was still confused and upset, and also nervous because of what had happened the night before.

Though she had promised me she would have no one else around when she did drugs, the allegedly concerned friend came over without invitation, another thing that she told him he couldn’t do. They proceeded to sit on the floor and cuddle and kiss while I was in the room, repeatedly telling each other how much they loved each other and what their friendship meant. She was deep into her mushroom hallucinations. It did not look like friendly cuddling though. At one point he lay on top of her as she lay on the floor. I had to tell her twice to close her robe because she was exposed.

As a result of the hours of laying on the floor, she had bruises all over her body.

Not only had I survived a near-miss with possible death due to the fire, but I had to witness what I consider to be a nervous breakdown exacerbated by alcohol and mushrooms. Adding insult to injury, I had to witness her being very inappropriate with a so-called friend. She and that friend had previous interactions, as well as interactions with his ex-wife. And although she had friendzoned him, it was obvious that he always wanted her and loved her. You can imagine that internal conflict inside me. Because the intimacy between her and I had come to a standstill, the hurt was amplified. I’d communicated my longing and needs multiple times, each time rebuffed. To see her behave that way with someone who obviously wanted her was beyond indescribable. She definitely did not cuddle with me like that, or tell me she loved me in that way. I tried to interact with her, but she pushed me away and made several hurtful comments ridiculing me. The friend also provided her with a mushroom supply.

Coming out of that confusing night and drug-filled day, the same friend reached out to me. I know that he already knew that she and I were together. Anyone would. Only she believed he didn’t really know. She on the other hand had insisted for months that our relationship be kept a secret from him. No matter how I explained the pain that caused me, she violently insisted. I asked her more than once to just tell him and sort the consequences. This confused me too because she too had been in a previous relationship where the other person was ashamed of her and demanded that she be kept a secret from his life. That evening, because the friend was hinting, I told him that of course, I had been with her all night.

The next day and for days later, even though I had been there for her and cleaned up the incredible mess, she was most focused on the fact that I had allegedly ruptured her demand that I do not say anything about our relationship to her friend. The friend’s possible reaction dwarfed being in a relationship with me.

She couldn’t understand that I had not planned it or the incredible circumstance she had put me under the night of the fire or the entire day with the mushrooms.

Much later, too late, I decided I could not tolerate her secrecy anymore and told her I’d had enough. All the months of me being communicative and honest and open with her had not worked. I should have said no to it all from the very beginning because all the red flags and warning signs were there. Secrecy is always a problem. And that kind of friendship with someone who wants you in that way was always an ongoing problem. It too was exacerbated by the fact that they were drinking buddies and his presence made it impossible for me to be around her when she wasn’t drinking. And it robbed me of conversations that we should have had together. It’s not her fault. It’s mine. I ignored my instincts and boundaries because I loved her and feared losing her and the loneliness that would ensue. I did have multiple conversations with her, trying to explain the hurt that she was causing by refusing to see it from my point of view. It’s okay to have friends, but not ones who spend their fantasy life imagining being with the person you love.

When she stopped drinking entirely, I think she understood the gravity of that night and what she put me through the next day.

I will never forget it.

Part of any relationship is the negotiation of boundaries between both people. I have learned the hard way. It is perfectly okay to have friends, but it is equally true that there has to be a discussion and acknowledgment when it’s not working. And to me the principal ingredient is secrecy. If the interactions are transparent and nothing is kept from the other, it’s healthy. I experienced something before myself that was similar. For 90% of the time, it was just friendly. If the relationship is working and there is physical intimacy between you and your partner those sorts of things almost never cause a major rift. But when one person is not being listened to and not getting what they need out of the relationship, the danger increases tenfold. Not getting the attention you want inevitably leads you to look for it elsewhere.

After the birdseed night, she wouldn’t let me be around him, and she continued to have him over and drink with him. I wasn’t allowed or invited. Anything above board and open would be okay, but to be excluded knowing how I felt was a red flag that I should not have ignored. Whether she sees it that way or not, she was more concerned about his feelings than mine.

My therapist had me write down a bunch of my stories and to see how they looked written out. Had they happened to another person, obviously I would have said that I was being disrespected and to get away until she changed her behavior.

People who knew me asked me why I was dormant some days, with both my blog and social media. I wrote three dozen entries, not with the intent of disparagement. Rather, to get my thoughts on paper and look at them like a third person. It’s a story of constantly asking for attention and affection. And yes, intimacy. Drinking was the third person between us. Her friend was the fourth.

The good thing that came out of it is that I flat out told her I was done explaining sharing my life with anyone I wanted to. And then I wasn’t going to explain or defend her insistence on secrecy.

Having a secret relationship is not privacy. Telling the other person he or she can’t talk to people about the ‘us’ should have been a deal-breaker for me early on. Factoring in that I couldn’t even be around him, much less have our relationship known to him, or discussed after he already knew, seems toxic to me now. She had stopped interacting on social media with me, too, and never publicly acknowledged me. Due to covid and her tendency to be a hermit, drink, and follow a hellacious sleep routine, we did not go out once as a couple.

That night she sat on the couch next to me and texted a previous interest nude pictures of herself, ones I had never seen, that about killed me. She angrily defended it until she stopped drinking. The person receiving the texts is one I had warned her about, and a person who everybody believed that the two of them had an affair. He is married. She also behaved inappropriately with him at work, something that really bewildered me, given how she angrily pretended she barely knew me under the same circumstances. She would die of shock if she knew that everybody knew that she had behaved that way with him. She drunkenly insisted that it didn’t mean anything and that it wasn’t sexual, even though they were beautiful nude pictures of her when she was younger and the language they were using was extremely graphic. She said they were pictures of her before so they couldn’t possibly be sexual. I had the same visceral reaction, in part because she was not being intimate with me for several weeks at that time. It is difficult to reconcile being physically starved while watching the person you want to be with be flirtatious most verbally and physically with other people, much less sexting while you are sitting right next to her and being ignored.

That she had shared stories of being with people she worked with reminded me that words and actions must align. Secrecy should have been my biggest red flag.

I asked her to let me see all those pictures four times. She said she would but never did. When she was angry with me, she insisted that she was going to text me all of them. She didn’t.

She also told me that there was a website out there that a few people had access to, pictures of her when she was younger and very sexual. I never got to see that either, even as other men out in the world had access to them. I can’t believe I tolerated that or that she thought such a repository of pictures and excluding me would be anything other than deeply hurtful. I’m not complaining that the pictures existed. I’m complaining that I wasn’t allowed to see them.

There is no shame in me admitting that her sexuality was explosive from the very beginning. It’s true that it was always while she was drinking. But I had never experienced anything like that. She told me crazy stories of her sexual past. She opened me up to new things. I of course did not begrudge her the past. My arrogance shielded me from realizing that I was just another person in the pattern, one with feelings who was about to learn what it feels like to be slowly starved of those things. And she did starve me. Both for what I call routine affection and physical intimacy. It was a terrible affliction to be in the best shape of my life and to want someone like that and be unable to express it.

I insisted she stopped drinking. And I also asked for more intimacy. She stopped drinking but couldn’t provide the hugs, the kind words, or her hands on me. I hated to give up asking. As it turns out I never got to be with her once when she wasn’t drinking. So I don’t know if her wild sexuality is really a part of her or a residual symptom of something else. I do know that she reeled me in with that wild sexuality. And then turned it off. She wouldn’t hear any compromises, no matter how serious or heartfelt they were on my part. I have a feeling she’s done this before. No one wants a relationship without physicality.

People become more uninhibited when they drink, but just like hypnosis, they don’t do or say things they don’t want to. They just become uninhibited about doing so.

Weeks after she stopped drinking, I found her friend has indeed come over and brought alcohol. She had some. It’s hard to believe that anyone who cared about her would expose her to drinking again. It’s not that he is a bad person – it’s his right to behave as he sees fit. He wasn’t the problem, not in the relationship sense. But to an extent he needs her to be the person she was before, for a variety of reasons. She maintains contact with people who bring discord and needless stress to her life, one that she needs to leave behind to be happy and satisfied.

When I wrote on social media about HSV2, she was not happy. I didn’t name or her or point fingers. I did it because I don’t like secrecy.

My part of the story is mine to tell, even if I do so without naming people or hurting them needlessly.

I tried to show her the normal attention of someone who appreciates her and life. Most of my efforts were treated as intrusions while she drank.

Our biggest problem other than her drinking was that she could not see that I was not exaggerating my need for love and affection. I was made to feel crazy and “extra” for wanting it. I wanted her to be happy and to have a normal relationship. She’s getting older. The old patterns won’t serve her anymore. I couldn’t continue having a life bereft of what most people would consider basic affection and intimacy.

I know this is a rambling, weird post. I’m tired of it mocking me in my draft file.

A Scattered Personal Post

It is wrong to try to change someone. Except…

The exception is when you care for them, and you can see that the arc they are on ends in self-destruction or living a lesser life. By way of admission, I have ignored advice that was spot on in my life. My favorite cousin gave me the best advice of my life at one point. Because of my arrogance, I thought I could somehow overcome the looming consequences of my ignorance. Of course, I was wrong. If I had suffered from addiction, I probably would have still ignored the advice. People often ask me how I avoided the tendency to addiction. My answer is a combination of sheer luck and avoidance. It’s what helped me finally understand my parents a little more and stop being judgmental to the extreme I once did about my sister. They were completely wrong for their choices but were also equally trapped. Once I recognized the congruency to my own life, it managed to humble me slightly.

I had an ongoing battle with my brother Mike with his addiction. It ruined his life and ultimately ended it years ahead of what might have been. Even if he had survived, he was not himself or living the life at his fingertips. It cost him a truncated career and the loving embrace of people around him. It contaminated my relationship with him, and I didn’t realize how bad it was until the demon he suffered from became inconquerable. His death had more of an effect on me than I thought. More vanity of my part to believe otherwise.

I’m sure each of you has a friend or family member who equally suffers. Those who suffer often possess fantastic intelligence and artfully or brutally hide their secrets. It’s why I wrote the Bystanders Prayer a few months ago. Those in the grips of these issues don’t see the life that could be. That’s how addiction works. Or choices we don’t want to face. It doesn’t have to be an addiction; any unhealthy pattern of behavior will suffice. I have a few of my own, so I’m not casting stones without getting a few bounced off my own face.

Those who are capable enough or lucky enough to achieve escape velocity from their past decisions are among the most fortunate people in the world.

Those who escape find that other people were waiting for them to be someone else, the person they could be absent from the internal turmoil, often self-imposed.

It means they have access to a full life. A life full of people and friends. The world is meant to be experienced fully. If you have a friend or family member who needs to hear the screaming gong of change, ring it with a hammer of sufficient size. Doing nothing will undoubtedly end the way you think it will. Hammering the gong might cause a lot of temporary pain, and it might even cost you your relationship with those you care for. They’ll be gone one day anyway if that is their choice.

Only the spoon knows what stirs in the pot – as with any situation. Because of the private nature of most struggles, a lot of what is hidden fails to see the light of day. Personally, I couldn’t begin to explain the craziness I’ve witnessed in life or faithfully explain my irrational reaction to it. No matter what happens, I’m supposed to be in control of my response. That definitely hasn’t been true.

Emotion clouds cognition.

I have asked people to change. Whether it’s to stop drinking, being angry, or even accepting affection reciprocally. I’ve had both failure and success.

I want everyone to have a clear mind and the opportunity to be happy or satisfied.

If they are in my life, I’ve realized that there is a weird undefinable line between boundaries and asking someone to change.

Boundaries require you to hold fast to your expectations no matter what happens. That is tough, especially when you need love and attention.

When I was younger, I had to detach from some of my family because I couldn’t keep my sanity otherwise. Literally. They wouldn’t change. With the exception of my sister, everyone who suffered addiction in my immediate family met their demise still suffering with it. That’s a terrible track record.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve also found myself seeing that not everyone experiences love and togetherness the same way. Asking for someone to mirror me might be too much for some. Is it wrong for me to ask? No. There is no obligation to conform to my idea of a good life.

Me asking someone to give me what I want or need isn’t a demand to change. It reflects me communicating that I’m not getting what I want. That’s how it is supposed to work. It flames out quite often, too, though, because people are complicated and come with a suitcase rack of luggage that has nothing to do with you. People praise communication as if it is the cure. It’s not. It’s necessary, though, no matter the consequences. All you can do is speak your truth and surrender to the idea that other people will respond however their life makes them.

I can’t imagine a life without enthusiasm and without someone who wants one hand on their shoulder – and hopefully one wrapped around their back, too. It’s something that many don’t openly discuss. Most of us want a warm heart to greet us and hands that magnetize us. Don’t we seem to wander through a mile of weeds to get there?

Because I’ve gone to therapy, I know all the jargon for my attachment style. It’s helped me recognize some of the stupid sh!t I do as stupid sh!t. It’s not translated well into rational behavior, though.

But I did see the folly of chasing what I wanted. When you’re running and chasing, you don’t see the scenery. As you come to a stop, you look around and wonder how you got there. The fight in you evaporates.

If you’re not getting what you want out of life, at some point you have to decide to face the certainty of more of the same or the possibility of something different. That uncertainty comprises a lot of our lives and keeps us running in place. There will be pain on either side of your choice.

Choose your hard, right?

By surrendering and chasing no more? The thing I wanted?

It rang my doorbell. Metaphorically, of course.

And I answered.

There are no guarantees. Only instinct and experience. Optimism is a rare commodity that must be actively replenished. I’m capable. As I quoted last week, the person in the selfie you take is most often your own worst enemy. What are the things or people that make you most likely to be happy? What is holding you back from reaching toward that life?

I’ll need another hammer or two alongside my head to keep me on course. I feel like I have a cousin who is already searching Amazon to buy the perfect hammer.

Meanwhile, I have to answer the door.

I definitely hear the doorbell calling me. There’s a smile and hands on the other side.

Love, X
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Don’t Write A Long Post On Monday Morning

My “Ask” project both failed and succeeded. The truth of it is that you can’t control another person’s response – only your own. I wrote that it’s never wrong to ask; the bigger sin is to have an ‘ask’ and remain silent.

“Silence is the gravedigger for enthusiasm, love, humor, and happiness.” – X

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

PS I do mourn the failure.
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I woke up at 11:30, safe and happy. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I think multiple things kept me awake, one of which was the unusual trip I took to LR to see my sister Carolyn. Her house was built in 1939 and updated before she bought it. It’s a beautiful house, one she’s made comfortable and homey. Like many people, I think she doesn’t see it for what it is. It’s truly something to be proud of, like her life. Although I don’t have a clue how she juggles knowing so many people. She could run for state senate based on the number of friends and acquaintances she keeps up with. Though she will kill me for saying so, she’s fiercely single. But she needs a lot of hugs, preferably from someone really cute and financially capable. Don’t tell her I said so, though.
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The Target Rule For Women: If you love Target, you can never be truly happy with a man who hates it.
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I got out of bed instead of laying there. My cat Güino did his part, nuzzling me and demanding more treats. So I made him a concoction of juice from cat food paste. He doesn’t eat the actual meaty part. He likes to just lap up the mess I make by compressing extra water into the paste. I’d mock him but I eat some weird things too. We all do. Last week, I made the mistake of making sardine juice. Güino loved it. One afternoon as I sat in the office chair, I turned to watch him hurl a stream of sardine juice across my newly-washed comforter. I could see a look of satisfied amusement on his face as he finished. I’m sure of it. The smell reminded me of a late-night bowling alley after hot-dog and free beer hour. Bed Bath & Beyond does NOT make any candles scented this way.
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The Reg Flag Maintenance Rule For Women: if your man spends more than five minutes on his hair, he’s going to be ridiculously high maintenance about all the things that matter to you or annoy you, too.
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I still do a few hundred pushups a day, without going crazy like I once did. My cousin was right; doing them made my life more manageable and better. Over the last few months, a couple of people have been energized by my advice to start doing them, too, especially when they realize that they can spend a couple of minutes a few times a day exercising and avoid the hassle of driving or being at the gym – if they choose. When I got my hair cut the last time, a younger barber was fascinated and I sold him on trying them for six weeks. One of the things I explained to him was that he could start with “female” pushups if he needed to. (I also convinced him that he could do ten pushups at a time, multiple times a day. Before long, he’d be doing sets of 25-50, if he wished to, and even between clients.) Male pushups do work more of the lower body, but if upper body fatigue is reached by doing the allegedly easier “female” pushups, they are extremely effective to build upper body strength. It’s a myth that they aren’t great for your physical well-being, much like the mistaken belief that walking isn’t an amazing way to stay in shape. So many people think we have to run, do a lot of cardio, or stress our bodies needlessly to be in shape. “Female” pushups and walking aren’t as flashy as their counterparts but they do result in transformational physical effects if you make them a habit. Any small applied change to behavior becomes a habit. The Law of Increments prevails.
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“To a dog, all food is dog food.” To which I’d add, in the same way, if a person won’t remove their personal filter from what they see in life, circumstances will never change. “All is yellow to a jaundiced eye,” though not my quote, is apt.
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Profile Picture Rule: if the person doesn’t have a visible and updated profile picture, swipe away if you’re looking for a reliable partner to date. It is the minimum level of honesty and telegraphs their ability to be open. Argue all you want; those people have infinite time and access to both phone and their accounts.
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One of the pitfalls of social media is that people don’t use it to expound on the spectrum of their experiences. You see a thirsty photo or one of a big moment and conclude it’s an honest representation of their life. You know from experience it’s probably not. I continue to learn it’s definitely not. It’s both a comfort and a curse, as perverse as that might sound reading it.
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I went out on the landing around 1 a.m. Güino accompanied me, of course. My solar lanterns had charged well yesterday for the first day of spring but only one still held a dim charge. I heard a strident voice clearly. The person was upset and ranting. I made a cup of strong coffee and knocked on the apartment door. The voice went silent. To my surprise, the door opened. “Here’s a good cup of coffee. Do you need to talk and have someone listen?” The person was astonished and said, “Thanks for the coffee. I’m sorry you could hear me. I didn’t know.” I waited a couple of seconds before saying, “I’m sorry y’all are struggling. It can be better if you want it to.” The person nodded. “Reset it if you can,” I said. “I hope your night goes better.” There’s no moral here. But I do hope they read the inscription on the cup I designed and had made: “Choose your hard.” It’s hard to change but it’s equally hard to continue navigating waters that always capsize your boat. I hope I get the coffee cup back. It’s one of my favorites.
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Yesterday, I was delighted to discover that my internet provider had decided to put the previous tenant’s $500 delinquent bill on MY account. You can imagine the creative phone call(s) and comments I made. It seemed to be a disservice to not respond with humor and sarcasm. The person who lived in my apartment before me not only trashed the apartment but succeeded in ruining her credit. The mistake to my bill was supposedly fixed but I do wonder at the imperfect process that allowed it to happen in the first place. To say something positive along with my negative, I was shocked and delighted to see that I somehow qualified for a $30 monthly credit on my internet bill. I had zero expectations I would be able to.
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During my trip to central Arkansas, I got a ding to my windshield as I exited Conway. When I got in my car yesterday afternoon, the ding had spread to a 4″ crack. I was going to epoxy it today; now I’ll have to hope a window service can drill it out enough to repair without needing a new windshield. I guess that’s what I get for making cracks all the time; it was inevitable that one appear in my window. I get dings all the time driving through central Arkansas. I should probably refrain from driving through so many ditches. That’s where all the interesting stuff is, though.
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The two and a half hours of sleep I managed before midnight will have to suffice for this day. I shouldn’t complain. So many people suffer worse. I’ve been lucky and I can’t forget it. That is the worst kind of entitlement, that of failing to see blessings.
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“If it is important enough to you, you will find a way. If it is not, you will find an excuse.” Not my quote but resoundingly true.
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It’s going to rain hard later today, which is great. I cleaned more of the parking lot and landings yesterday – by hand, no less, wrenching up detritus and trash that the landlords failed to clean from last fall. A couple of weeks ago, I cleaned up 23 bags of leaves and trash. The rain will do its magic and cleanse the remaining residue. If it isn’t chilly, I’m going to stand out in the rain like a lunatic this afternoon and get drenched. My hope is that it will do its metaphorical work on me, too, taking away the residue of self-doubt and discomfort in my life.
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Words of unexpected encouragement from a while back:

“You’re not too much. You’ve just dealt with others who don’t have the capacity for you. Somewhere, that ‘extra’ that you give is exactly what will fill someone with happiness. Really, you’re going to reduce yourself? How’s that for a slap in the face, X?”

I decided to post it because recently, I explained the 10% Rule to someone who was unfamiliar with it.

We focus our attention on perceived defects about ourselves. But what if instead of trying to change those things, we embraced them and actively sought out people who think those alleged defects are enhancements?

Instead of fighting our nature, find someone who looks at us with a little bit of fire and awe? No hair? Big nose? Odd hands? Love handles? Weird feet? So what. The world is an awfully big place filled with a variety of people.

All of us would be so much happier if we could swing for the fences for someone who appreciates us with our defects.

“Defects become invisible where enthusiasm resides.” – X
Its counterpart is this: “Faults are thick where love is thin.”

A sense of humor is the number one key for me. Followed by wit and a quick smile. That wit and quick smile telegraph so much about a person to the world. Things are going to happen – but such an outlook glides past the obstacles without getting stuck. Because I’m a comforter, I want comfort when I’m stressed – and I want to freely give the same. It’s impossible to be myself when someone else isn’t reciprocal during the tough times.

The other thing? Enthusiasm for my presence and the ability to express it with their hands and heart.

I know, the lightning of hypocrisy may very well strike me. That’s okay. I’m mortal in the worst way. I fought a losing battle with wanting attention until I realized I didn’t want to fight for it anymore. It was the worst kind of agony trying to put it into practice.

When I was 20, gray hair set in. About that time, I adopted a short, almost military-style haircut. For convenience. My hair is one of the least important things about me. Now that some of my hair is permanently gone, I don’t chase getting it back or hiding the salt and pepper. Far from it. It’s like me new scar running up my abdomen. I own it and as perverse as it sounds, I’m glad in some ways that it happened.

Now that I lost weight, my sternum is odd. It was one of the first things that emerged from beneath my fat. I used to lie in bed and touch it, both surprised and tickled. As the rest of my body caught up, it tickles me that my sternum has that ‘jut’ in it. Below it, I have a weird connection from the surgery that obscures my stomach muscles. I’ll never get rid of it without surgery. But I would never want to. I don’t care if the whole world sees it.

For some, I am too much, too needy, too something.

The 10% rule continues to tell me that I need only one person to find me to not be “too much.”
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Love, X

Morning

The moon, large and luminous on one horizon, the fireball of the sun cresting on the other. The bridge and the big river below me. Large flocks of v-shaped formations of birds making their way across above me. Because I was playing radio lottery, Wheel In The Sky came on. I absorbed the lyrics in a way that I never had before; the song hasn’t changed, but I have, another mercurial soul looking out on the world. I will be 55 soon. That is an incredible accumulation of thoughts, moments, and love. All the mistakes I’ve made, the stupid thoughtless comments that have escaped my lips, they lay behind me, even as I realize that a cycle of new ones undoubtedly are coalescing to surprise me. Even though the interstate is a lifeless place for many people, it is a conduit connecting weigh stations in life. I am taking advantage of that, measuring and trying to renew my ability to find a way to have a good life and appreciate that everyone else orbiting with me is struggling to do the same. The interstate is indeed a metaphor. We look at it as a necessary means to an end, and often forget that large swaths of our lives are sometimes squandered because we don’t appreciate that most of our life can be missed as we try to get to the next big moment. The biggest moments are inside of us. Ones of appreciation and hopeful wonder. And yes, sometimes discomfort and unfulfilled desire.

Love, X

A Gazebo Moment

He sat at the wooden gazebo, staring out at the world outside its confines. The seventy-degree weather and the bright sun all but negated the possibility of any more winter. It filled his heart with a simple pleasure.

A few of his big moments happened inside the gazebo. He’d found out his brother had died, and he’d made two momentous decisions sitting in the gazebo. One was born of false optimism, and the other emerged from a “get-busy-living-or-get-busy-dying” moment. Some days, the latter still echoed in his head, the realization that so much hinges on an invisible fulcrum of thoughts. The alchemy and uncertainty both delighted and provoked nervousness in him.

As happens with some places, moments become embedded in them. One’s presence takes on a weight that was previously absent. When he needed to objectively consider a problem or opportunity in life, he often waited until he could sit in the gazebo and twirl the nuances in his mind. He learned that the right decision could still cause failure or distress; equally valid was that the wrong decision often yields surprises that lead to positive outcomes. Everyone taking a hard look at their lives surely must agree that some unexpected obstacles produce the sweetest fruit.

He sat for several minutes, silent and immobile to any observer. The gentle afternoon breeze accented the growing shadows falling inside the structure around him and over him. Though his eyes noted passers-by as they finished their respective days, the movement and transitions didn’t enter his thoughts. It was life’s static.

He thought about someone he once knew well and some of their most ridiculous moments. Her consternation with him colliding with her matter-of-fact demeanor, his weirdness punctuating all their encounters. He didn’t realize until much later that she thought fondly of him. Over the years, he failed to fully take advantage of the moments they could have shared as she grew older and frailer. He found out the day before that she’d passed away, never again to smile at his foolishness. Another small door of life had closed. It wasn’t regret per se that hit him; it was more akin to a feeling that life accelerated imperceptibly while he looked away from the more significant meaning and got distracted by mundane concerns. There would always be more pressing matters, details, or distractions. Time and people, however, would continue to decrease in supply.

He stood up and stretched his legs. The minutes in the gazebo already yielded the answer his mind required. Everything has a cost: time, money, or energy. Wasting enthusiasm or energy helps no one.

He’d go forth and find an enthusiastic smile.

Such a smile is one of the underappreciated gold standards of life. One directed at you? It is priceless and elusive. We fear that when people know us, they will recoil with annoyance.

The ‘he’ in the story is me, the proud owner of an unexpected life.

Love, X
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Dear Eric:

The optimistic part of me hopes that justice has already been served to you on a hot plate.

One of your cases probably already unfolded this morning. I of course hope that the victim in that case is soberly acknowledging that some measure of appropriate response finally transpired.

The realistic part of me, the one who has read and heard so many stories about you, dampens my expectations.

Relying on the criminal justice system to protect people is at best foolish. It is an eternal after ~the~fact endeavor.

I know that karma does not really reach out and grasp the people who legitimately deserve a harsh measure.

I would hope that you would finally yield to the universe’s demand that you be held accountable.

To the women you made victim through no fault of their own, I offer my apology. Were the decision mine, liberal though I might be, legal proceedings would be the least of your worries.

I am hoping Justice prevailed. If not, there is no point in honoring our collective agreement to do no harm.

X

Party Like It’s 1582

The time change is supposed to make it feel earlier in the afternoon. By some miracle, I was asleep at 9:07 last night. I woke up at 1:42 a.m. and listened to jokes on Alexa. I did the no-laugh challenge. By the second joke, I was laughing enough to annoy Güino, who attempted to remain motionless and quiet at my knees. His consternation with me was apparent.

My newish downstairs neighbors had visitors last night. I used the tried-and-true “turn the box fan even higher” method to drown them out. It was effective. Standing on the deck this morning at 2:30, I whispered down at a couple of people as they smoked and gossiped outside and below me. One of the two guys jumped. The other one laughed. “I hope we weren’t too loud last night,” he said. “Nah, the fumes from my batch of meth had me hallucinating,” I replied, being as serious as I could. Both of the guys looked at each other and then laughed. My only regret is that I didn’t have a chemistry beaker as a prop to add credibility to my joke.

It doesn’t feel like Monday, and it indeed doesn’t feel like it is March with Spring breathing down our necks. It’s Pi Day. That always strikes me as funny, given most adults’ aversion to math. To me, November 10th would be more fun for Pi Day, as it’s the 314th day of the year on the Julian calendar. Most people don’t know that the Julian calendar reigned supreme until the later 1500s. I love the idea of someone just deciding to add two extra months to a year, or arbitrarily opting to change the year. The effect of this is that many events we have learned that happened on a specific date didn’t transpire on the date we note. In 1582, much of the world simply skipped ten or eleven days entirely; some parts didn’t. While we think traveling across time zones is odd, can you imagine traveling across an area only to discover that TEN DAYS was suddenly missing? In England, Sept. 2nd was followed by Sept. 14th.

Myths about daylight savings time that won’t die: we didn’t adopt DST to help farmers. We’re already on DST for 8+ months a year, so what exactly is “standard time?” The ‘extra’ hour of daylight does not make us healthier or happier; it’s physically and emotionally disruptive to many people.

I left my backward clock an hour behind. It’s a good reminder that it annoys most normal people to look at a backward clock to begin with.

Time is indeed an artificial construct. Keep that in mind as you clock in to work today. If your manager asks why you were late for work, feel free to reply, “I’m taking back my time from 1582. And where’s my pie to celebrate the day?”

Party like it’s 1582. It’s the least you can do to celebrate this Monday.

Love, X

Sunday Afternoon

As I pulled up to the Casey’s, it was impossible to avoid looking at the tweaker. He was an indeterminate early thirty year old man, replete with thousands of dollars of tattoos across his exposed legs, hands and neck. He sat and shifted on top of the wood for sale out front of the store. His jerky movements were uncontrollable, his eyes and head shifting wildly. I could tell that at some point a few minutes prior the rain had washed him.

For reasons I’ll have to think about later, I felt a wallop of sadness. It was totally unexpected. I see my share of tweakers in Fayetteville. None of them started life with that intention. I parked directly in front of him and when I exited I said good afternoon. His eyes briefly met mine and then he nodded wildly.

While I waited in line inside, the younger man in front of me kept looking out the window at the tweaker. He told the man in front of him that he wished we could round up all the tweakers and put them down as an act of mercy. Though he probably said it offhandedly, the residual effect of sadness inside me flared into anger.

I told him that if that were the case, I hope he would be capable of doing the so-called act of m mercy himself because that kind of heartlessness requires personal accountability. And that perhaps he could call the tweakers mom and let her know that her son has zero value left in life. The younger man commenting was stunned by my words. Everyone grew silent for a moment. Momentarily I felt bad for what I said. It doesn’t matter what my motivation was. My comments did not add anything positive to the world.

It’s true I would not trust the tweaker in my car or my home.

I bought a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and a soda for the tweaker. When I exited I placed the things on the woodpile next to him. I told them that the things were for him and he again nodded and grunted.

I know that I didn’t do those things for him. I did them for myself, to feel a little bit more human, and to express gratefulness that I had not chosen a road leading to where he is. It’s raining hard now and I know that he has nowhere to go. It’s likely we all know how his road will end. But there is a very small possibility that the universe will choose him for an unexpected upturn in life.

I drove away, glad that the young man commenting had a good enough life to foolishly think that such a thing could never happen to him. We all think that.

I don’t have a neat wrap-up or lesson here. I sit in my car inside my beautiful life, writing this without edit or correction.

Paraphrasing Alan Watts, he said that muddy water clears best when left alone. So I’ll leave my thoughts here unredacted.

Love, X
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From A Tree To Me

As I predicted, today was phenomenal. It got even better when the headphones I bought with Sam’s club points arrived. Along with my yellow shirt. Someone at work told me I needed a yellow shirt to go with black pants so I could look like a bumblebee. It seemed reasonable, like climbing a 70 ft tall tree in February. I saw the world from a different perspective up there. Don’t worry ~ I have insurance. Both life and health for that matter. It’s been 5 months since my surgery. Go ahead, ask me if I’m happy. I try to imagine what life would be like if everyday were this sublime.
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