Category Archives: Psychology

Dead Tree Remix Day

Dead Tree Remix Day

I don’t know if my dead tree project will ever be finished. I continue to add new painted limbs and branches to it. It’s currently standing in my extra room. I rescued the dead base of the tree from the woodpile near where I found the baby shower box a couple of weeks ago. The little branches I’ve added are from some of my favorite spots along the trail and near the hospital, so it’s a well-traveled creation. I love the idea of it in part because it’s something made from discarded and desiccated remains. That I can add an infinite number of pieces to it, all rendered in luminescent color makes me happy.

The day contains the same elements of any other day. It can be a repeat of the familiar. It can also be an anomalous remix, both familiar and strangely new. Like freshly-sliced jalapeños on vanilla bean ice cream.

For fans of both Merle Haggard and Survivor, I ask you to search for “Survivor and Merle Haggard – Eye of the Haggard.” It’s an example of juxtaposing two things that should not work together but somehow do. Musically, it’s a masterful bit of wild production and melody.

In other news, I don’t like to watch baseball. Albert Pujols joined Babe Ruth as a 600 HR hitter and a pitcher. I love it when anything interesting happens in baseball. It joins bowling and golf as two sports that are like watching my hair dry. Yes, all 11 of them.

I’m looking at the new day with the eye of a tiger and the pancreas of a hyena. (That joke might be a little too esoteric.)

Before I leave for work, I will turn off the light in the room with the dead tree project. The colors will fade to the eye until the sun washes through the window and illuminates it.

It will have its day in the sun.

I hope each of you does too.

My cat will jump up to the windowsill multiple times during the day. I added extra-wide sills to all my windows so that both he and the few plants I have can enjoy the second-floor view and light.

It’s what Mondays are made for, though most of us begrudgingly wake up groggy-eyed and unready for the presumptive start of the workweek. If you’re going to spend 20% of your work-life experiencing Mondays, you might as well find a new perspective to enjoy them.

Take the pieces that don’t work and refresh them. Remix and enjoy.

Love, X
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Inaction

In my new life I have countless stolen moments. Both in the late night and in the early morning. Whatever lies next and unseen in the path of my life, I know that these moments will scatter and disperse and become less frequent. I call them lemon moments because they are pungent and sour, but also fill my mouth and heart with delicious taste. A mouth of lemon provides a bite.

As I sit here on the deck drinking a bitterly delicious first cup of coffee, the wind occasionally lifts flotsam that’s been carelessly left outside or deliberately discarded. The lightning and thunder grows closer and the wind increasingly grows in intensity. I can hear raindrops begin to drum on the waiting vehicles. The insects are roaring and providing background melody.

Yesterday, I returned to the creek. Its water had subsided as the flood receded into the past. The water was still cool and refreshing. A single snake slithered across the causeway and into the upper stream above it. A man hollered down to me, warning me of snakes in the water. “Yes, I know.” As if they didn’t belong there and that I were not the interloper into their world. Snakes may bite when startled. It is nothing personal. I wish I could remember that when their human equivalent surprises me with their hurtful way of navigating life.

If I come across as introspective or pensive it is because I am. But I’ve smiled like a fool multiple times this morning. As the fire trucks and police raced past me to a developing emergency, as the wind gusted and spit rain on me, as my cat resisted capture and darted away from me, and as I looked at the bottle lights and my art-filled fence vaguely lit seventy feet away.

I love these early mornings. Projects and activity are waiting for me. I think of Taoism. It is supposed to teach us the lesson of action through inaction. To allow the natural process of life to cascade around us and envelop us. We of course resist, wanting it to unfold in the way that we think is most beneficial to us. Most of us don’t appreciate the lemon moments when they happen.

The news and the world will always disappoint us. It has always been that way. People falsely believe that the good old days aren’t constantly renewed. If you’re wired for pessimism you will find justification. Optimism is knowing that your life is homogeneous and filled with both delights and disappointments. The trick of this dance is to remember to look for the things that light you up or give you a smile and to look away from the things that don’t.

When I took a picture of the bottle light, it was rendered in white. I had to filter the noise to reveal the color. That’s either metaphorical or practical.

As the thunder races and a lightning bolt illuminates the upper reaches of the sky, I am sitting here with myself and my thoughts.

I will stand up and break the spell in a minute.

For now, I look at my cat whose silhouette is comically backlit by one of my bottle lights. He meows at me, asking me for something I can’t decipher.

I can’t decipher myself sometimes. And I love it that way.

Welcome to Sunday y’all.

The minutes are falling away and the day will start whether you want it to or not.

Love, X

Appreciate

I turned on am radio this morning. I hit the ‘next’ button until a signal came through. I’m paraphrasing. Because life is so much coincidence and odd congruence, after hearing the words, I did my best to remember them. When I opened FB, I saw that a mutual friend had posted one of the themes of what I’d heard. Can it be a coincidence? I hope not. I hope there is an unseen thread running through our lives, one that we often find ourselves disconnected from. In it lies magic, delight, and yes, melancholy.

“We are all on loan. If you believe in god, know that he’s going to call everyone in your life back to him. And if you don’t believe in a higher power, they are still going to leave, one by one. One of the things I taught my children is to act accordingly. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, remember that we are all temporary. Life distracts us with sights, sounds, sensations, and temptations. Keep your eye on the real prize: other people. You can all have all the things you want to delight you. But it is people in our lives who matter. And you are one of them for someone else. Be the person you should be for those around you. And find a way to appreciate the people who inhabit your world.”

Equally true is “chop wood and carry water.” Even as enlightened people, we have to do the things we have to in order to do the things we want to.

So, for now, my job is to somehow retrieve my cat Güino from the shadows of the far end of the landing outside. He doesn’t want to come inside. I don’t either. The insects are buzzing and the warmth of the May morning surrounds me.

A new day.

And if I’m lucky, a new way to appreciate even the moments that make me regret having a job or being around the people who need a skillet applied to their cranium. Maybe I’ll get lucky and no one will give me a much-needed application of the same.

Love, X

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Pretxel Fish Is Born

What is Pretxel Fish? Arkansas’ newest LLC. Due to the craziness of my name, Arkansas had trouble understanding that my first name is just X. I used the ongoing bureaucratic melee as a reason to replace the ‘z’ in ‘pretzel’ with an X. If ‘xylophone’ can be pronounced with an X, anything can. (One of my favorite words is ‘xanthous,’ which has acquired new meaning lately.) What is Pretzel Fish, the name from which I derived my company name? A reminder to be grateful and to experience whatever is at your feet. Not the potential of what could be or what you’d like to be. You can make moves to change your life incrementally or you can adapt and find lemon moments where you are. It’s up to you and me. I’m not sure what I will do with this new business. And that lights me up a little with both humor and expectations.

Love, X
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WTF-Time

“Lazy is a bad word. Shall we instead call it selective participation?” – The Internet

Today so far… woke up to laughter. Anytime 2 a.m. involves laughter is an auspicious day. And probably suspicious if I’m involved. There was heartache in the morning for someone I love and I hope she finds peace knowing she gave her presence in a time when it was most needed. I worked a bit, then came home and put wheels on my desk. Insert joke here! I built a wooden planter for sunflowers and installed it along the inside fence at this hideous apartment complex. Put up a shelf for random nonsense (I loathe specific nonsense.), one I repurposed and made from fence board. And then, because I couldn’t stand looking at it, I went outside (because that’s where trees and brush grows!) and cut away all the limbs and brush along the 50′ of the fence next to which I put in the planter. I’ve accumulated 4-5 truckloads of limbs and brush for ‘somebody’ to haul off; otherwise, the neighbors might stage an impromptu bonfire. I also picked up an entire bag of trash that somehow managed to get all over the complex since the last time I cleaned it. My back is still sore from all the previous festivities involved in “The Great Cleaning of 2022.” It’s 10 a.m. and I feel like I’ve accomplished a blizzard of activity. I’m going to go find some more laughter in a little while. My soul needs it. Enthusiasm is at a premium these days and I’m going to cash every bit of it in today.

“If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.” -Brian Tracy

X’s Frog Corollary: “If you have to kiss two people, at least one of them should be a woman.”

Remember that there are three distinct stages in life:

BIRTH

WTF

DEATH

The first two have already happened. Squeeze in as much wtf-time as you can, because it’s flying past with indifferent velocity. Otherwise, you’ll lose your health, your loved ones, or your life – only to look back and vehemently utter the phrase, “WTF happened to all the minutes?”

Love, X

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P.S. I made the picture out of several elements and rendered it.

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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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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

Both Personal And Random Ideas

“Make all the right choices. Eat all the right food. And you will still be dead one day. This is a rigged game, indeed, this gift of life.” – X

Have you ever thought that another way to describe a bath is “butt soup?”

For the first time in MANY years, I am getting a refund for both Federal and State taxes. While I can’t finance a yacht with the refund, it is a pleasant change of pace! Also, I did my taxes exceedingly fast; in previous years, it was a very tedious process, usually involving a lot of typing, swearing, and frustration – and that was just addressing the envelopes. Though I meticulously followed the software and triple-checked it, the IRS said my refund had to be adjusted. Whether it’s worth arguing over depends on whether my hold on sanity is firm the day I receive the letter to challenge their adjustment.

“The chickens came home to roost. Or so they thought… the smell of fried chicken soon permeated the air.” -X

Last week, very early in the morning, as I rounded the corner of the apartments near the trail by the hospital, I found three bags stuffed with personal items. Though there was no one there along the fringe of the building, I surmised that someone had slept between the minimal hedging and the brick wall. I saw someone there the following day, and I left them in peace. When I passed by again, they were gone, but the bags were still there. I left a gift for them next to their bags. I’ve not seen the bags since. I wonder about them each day.

I keep learning that being clear and honest still likely results in a mess. It doesn’t matter what your motivation is or how concisely and openly you share; the odds still dictate that things will likely spin away from you. Likely, there’s nothing you can do about it. So much of the outcome depends on the other mercurial person. Not stating your truth will just as likely cause you to bubble over unexpectedly when the pressure to speak overwhelms you. As hard as it is, between the two options, it’s always better to just state your truth when you feel like you need to. It won’t feel like the best option, though. Most of us are hard-wired to put off what plagues us until it seeps or explodes out. It’s important to remember that the feelings you bury are still alive under all the layers.

Wine ice cubes are fantastic. Not only do they go well in actual wine, but they also can be used as needed when you want wine to cook with. Don’t “at me,” either, saying that ice cubes in wine are uncouth. There are no actual rules regarding taste, cooking, or eating. The sooner we abandon that nonsense, the better off we’ll all be. And happier eating macaroni over the sink – or a bowl of cereal for supper. One wine ice cube is much better than a cheap grape popsicle, too. In my opinion. Adult note: if you drink enough wine, your appetite will likely go away. And your ability to cook coherently definitely will.

“Wisdom teaches us to be patient with the ridiculous setbacks we’re all going to encounter. It also somehow still fails to prepare us for being surprised by how people will act.” – X

Not everyone is wired the same way sexually. That’s to be expected. But if you’re a sexual person and not being intimate, consequences to your quality of life or well-being always follow. It doesn’t mean that sex is an overwhelming or inflexible motivator; it just means that human behavior will succumb to the urge toward intimacy. People need to stop being ashamed of their essential needs and how they practice and define them. Sex is the big mystery that permeates our lives in multiple ways – yet most of us have a completely mistaken idea of how other people live sexually, much less how to be happy with our sexual selves.

My therapist told me that in one of my first sessions, I said this: “Isn’t it odd how most of our need to look presentable isn’t really so we’ll feel good about ourselves. It’s because we are leaning into the idea of spectator attractiveness. We want to look good to other people. Because if not, generally speaking, we’d all dress comfortably and not think much about hair, makeup, shoes, or how we are perceived. Absent the expectation of attractiveness and left to our own devices, we might be a lot less preoccupied with appearance and happier as a result.” I could be wrong, but it seems to be true generally.

You can drive around the roundabout 17 times if you need to. Likewise, you can fail as many times as you need to or have to until you finally make the turnoff. It’s where you end up that matters, anyway. It would be nice to avoid a convoluted, circuitous path of errors, but life tends not to work that way.

“You’re not afraid of being alone in the dark. You are afraid that you might not be alone in the dark.” This isn’t my quote. It does demonstrate how our fears and thoughts overtake us.

Male secret #34: most men do not care if a woman’s legs are smoothly shaved. Or if their nails are painted, their blouse, shoes, pants match, etc. The enthusiasm of presence derails all those concerns. I’m not sure you should trust a middle-aged man named X or not – but this is true.

Rule of Presence: each of us will jump to hold the door for another person, but we will move heaven and earth to stop someone from passing us on the road.

I’ve put up three ‘fake’ streets signs in the last couple of months. All of them are still posted. PS If you want to do it quickly, have the sign made prior to showing up, with the bolt already through it. Since most street posts have multiple bolt holes, push the bolt through and twirl the nut on it quickly. Also, did you know you can order a custom street sign easily? If you’re bored, google it. It’s no accident that 75 mph is a great sign to add in Johnson. (I didn’t do that one due to public safety concerns. And the lack of a sense of humor with traffic enforcement there, now that I think about it.)

Another one I stole from the internet: “Each and every selfie is a picture of perhaps your own worst enemy.”

It’s been about six months since my surgery. It’s been the longest ten years of my life. I’m still thankful to be here. But I can’t escape the idea that I’d be a lot happier with a check for one million dollars in my wallet. I might not ever cash it.

Love, X
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