Reaching the age when you are looking through old photos and realizing that you are the only one in the picture still alive.
It truly comes for us all.
Because I’ve maintained my ancestry account for so long, I’ve had at least 20 instances where I realized that I needed to update someone’s life by posting their death. For several, I’ve not only been the first to do so, but the only one. In time, others often see a death marked with a ‘hint’ on their trees and borrow my initiative. I try to gather the enthusiasm as soon as possible to post all the pictures I have of the person who has died. I find it increasingly hard to imagine hoarding pictures from posterity; while I might possess a picture, I’m merely its custodian.
I can imagine what Paul Edgecombe from “The Green Mile” felt when he was cursed with long life. Part of the arrangement was that he had no choice but to witness the passing of everyone who shared his life. While I’m in my early 50s, I can feel the pain of someone who reaches 80.
Getting older presents us with more opportunities to hold the disparate ideas of bittersweet and melancholy simultaneously.
Because I love pictures and genealogy, the two hobbies often coalesce and focus my attention to the passing of people – as well as the infrequent but inescapable realization that the deaths accumulate behind me.
As the drive to pass along one’s bloodline and family name increases, so too does the unintended likelihood that many of the ancestors involved were adopted or the result of a union outside the official tree. AKA: The Macho Bloodline Conundrum.
* Having worked with many family trees, I can say without hesitation that this is more likely to be the rule rather than the exception. Behavior and decisions were much more easily overlooked or concealed in the past; DNA has eliminated many of these variables, especially in the last 4 generations of family. Through the span of history, however, every family tree tends to have many dead limbs and invisible branches.
Earlier in the week, I was driving to work. My kayak was in the shop to have bullet holes repaired, and a nun stole my bicycle Sunday night. At 4 a.m., I typically see a lot of craziness, including what must be a fair share of inebriated drivers. They could be drunk, too. If you’re not keeping up here, you might be 3.2 sheets to the wind yourself. Before the last bend in the street to reach the roundabout, I noted a large commercial truck was coming toward me fast – and on the wrong side of the road. Instead of braking, I absentmindedly moved to the left/wrong lane. The truck passed me on the right, heading away from me. As I rounded the outer fringe of the roundabout, I noticed one of the stop signs was plastered flat again. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I had switched to the wrong lane about 30 seconds before. I don’t worry about the police, as they typically are some of the worst drivers I see that early in the morning. I don’t blame them. What do you have to do wrong to get assigned traffic patrol at that hour?
Friday, my tire pressure system went bonkers again. (For my car – not my kayak.) I did the magical reset thing again with the hazard light. (This is true. For my car, you have to hit the hazard light rapidly with the key turned to an unfindable spot in the ignition. Weirdly, you then let a lot of air out of each tire in a clockwise motion as the horn honks for each tire. It sounds like a prank, doesn’t it?) I then drove around the block to normalize the sensor. Exiting the car, I realized that I drove around with my phone on the top of the car. I did the same thing a couple of years ago. Since I can’t remember one of the steps to do the magic pressure reset, I use the internet to look it up. For some reason, I instinctively leave my phone on top of the car, just as my ancestors must have done when crossing the prairies of the West.
My wife and I never use real butter. It’s not because we loathe cows, although we do. The last one we had insisted on standing on the coffee table while we tried to watch tv. The wife wanted to make something called Texas Sh#t Cake. Technically, it’s Texas Sheet Cake. Basically, it is 22 lbs. of what amounts to fudge instead of frosting. Legally, you can’t eat it unless you have full coverage dental insurance. The cake almost killed my mother-in-law, by the way. Strangely, it’s a funny story. I’ll bet she tells the story a bit differently than we do. A couple of days later, I surprised my wife by making baked sweet potatoes for her. I thought real butter would make the skins more palatable. And easier to eat. This doesn’t make sense anyway because she’s one of ‘those’ people who don’t eat the skins. She’d be a terrible cannibal, FYI. Even though I microwaved the butter for only 20 seconds, as soon as I pulled it out at eye level and removed the paper towel, the hunk of butter exploded, spraying butter onto my head, covering my glasses, as well as covering every inch of the available counters, cabinets, and floor as it sprayed. Somewhere, I heard a cow laughing at me. It took me forever to clean the kitchen. Luckily, I was wearing my reading glasses during the mishap.
Earlier in the day, I had to reach something over a pile of inaccessible supplies. Typically, I could be described as “stupidly clumsy.” During a typical day, I find myself climbing like I’m a jungle gym assembly tester. It’s just intrinsic to the insanity of what passes for a career. (Note: kids, stay in school unless it is welding school or rodeo clown school.) I was about 6 feet off the floor. I stepped off the side of a pallet of stuff onto a series of large boxes. As I soon discovered, they were literally large boxes with very little content. Just as happens in the I-fell-through-the-ceiling-from-the-attic fail videos, instead of stepping down a foot onto the top box, I crushed through at least 4 feet of empty space. I’m certain I made a long and quick series of nonsensical faces as I plummeted. I didn’t break anything if you’re worried about property damage. Until I took a shower and discovered that the soap burned, I didn’t know I left a piece of skin somewhere in that large box. Note: the pandemic has greatly worsened the safety of millions of workers. I’ll breathe a sigh of relief when we go back to a large, stifling bureaucracy to protect us. I’m not sure I can survive much longer, having an employer watch out for my best interests.
Thursday afternoon, I went to the store to get a cartful of delicious diet tonic water. Evidently, I’ve crossed the threshold into addiction. Since my mask usage proves my breath already smells like a dead hyena, I’ve decided that the sewage water aftertaste of diet tonic water doesn’t really detract from my overall personality. I did wonder why my wife insisted on a 12-foot long couch, though. As I rounded the aisle, I noted a flu shot table in the middle of the aisles, with an attentive nurse seated there. Near it, an older rough-looking gentleman was provoking his counterpart, seated in a wheelchair, to give his birthday already. He said, “Okay, it’s 1962.” Because I was in a great mood, I shouted, “1962? Jesus that’s old!” as I went by. Everyone looked at me – and then back to the man seated in the wheelchair. We all laughed. The only other option was for someone to shoot me. A few minutes later, as I was loading my cart full of diet tonic water, I saw the man roll by. “1962!” I hollered again. He laughed. When he was done, laughing, he laughed some more. I got him one more time near the registers. I’m certain he told that story later. As I was putting the 80 lbs of delicious diet tonic water in the car, a bag ripped, and one of the bottles rolled under the car. I searched for that bottle, even after backing my car away a bit (at risk of life and limb in that horrible parking lot.) I never found it. I can only imagine that someone picked it up with enthusiasm until they noted it was a bottle of diet tonic water. At that point, they probably cursed and hurled it like an insult at a slow waiter.
On the way out of the store, I stopped at one of those automated Lottery ticket checking devices. Of the 22 entries I had, none paid. Out of the last 34 tickets I’ve purchased, none have been winners. This is the longest losing streak I’ve ever had – unless you count the totality of my adult life. “This is so 2020!” I told myself as I crumpled the tickets and discarded them. “Hindsight is 20/20” is going to lose the publicity race and be replaced by “That is so 2020.” Sorry, Raven.
Also this week, I discovered another thing I could do well by not trying. I also rediscovered simultaneously that many people take themselves way too seriously. Holden Caulfield might call them a phony; I’d call them exasperating.
On a similar note, I played “crazy website snipe” a couple of days this week. Using the social media of a couple of genuinely deranged friends, I hid/blocked a torrent of stupidity forever. I can’t be the only person who notices that some people should have the ‘share’ option ripped from their fingers. Meanwhile, I watched a couple of people suffer from trolls and lesser people. Life’s too short and you’re making your cool friends irritated by tolerating the people you wouldn’t invite over for dinner, anyway.
Here’s a reminder, for those who need to know:
The Social Media Wisdom Observation
Say what you will about social media, but it has destroyed the mistaken urban legend that people get wiser as they get older.
We don’t get wiser; we get more sure, which tends to be a dangerous thing.
If you can’t drink diet tonic water, shout potentially hilarious and/or awkward things at strangers at the market, or drive on the wrong side of the road, my conclusion is that you shouldn’t be ice skating, either.
I’m not impressed with optimism when I see it in the eyes of a rich man. I’m impressed when I see it in the face of a poor man, working a job that depletes him daily, facing an endless stream of obstacles and problems. Wealth confers optimism to almost all who seek it; struggle reveals optimism in those who already possess it. – X
The King of Kung Fools Rule: once you ask that someone leave you alone and not communicate with you, total silence is the only option. If you engage, you will be bogged down in a perpetual fight wherein you’ll be held into a perpetual account for exercising your right to be free of someone.
If you’re reading this, you should think of Carly Simon: “I bet you think this song is about you.” It’s not. It’s about me and about the lesson I have to learn over and over.
We watch in society as people with protective orders still deal with the people tormenting them. It’s incredible it requires that. Pathology drives people to ignore the wishes of other adults.
It’s hard. Believe me, I know. I’m a fool on my best day.
Despite what people at a distance from me might think, I’m a bigger fan of snark, wit, and pithiness than you’d imagine.
I don’t care what you have to say or what motivates you. If I’ve asked you to stop communicating with me, you can be sure that you’ve done or said something (or many things) that brought me to the decision. Even if I decided on the spur of the moment, it is still my right to do so.
Even though I’ve been on both sides of this issue when I was younger, I’ve learned repeatedly that when someone says, “Leave me alone,” you should leave them alone. No matter how you’re connected, whether you’re related, past friends, or any other relationship, real or imagined, when someone says “No,” it means “no.” Regardless of your past connection, an adult has the right to say “Enough is enough,” if not, “I’ll let you know when I’m ready.” Forcing a conversation when it is unwelcome is aggressive and indicates that you don’t understand that each person has the right to choose who, what, when, how, and where regarding their lives. Who they permit to interact with them is entirely their choice and not subject to veto.
Manipulators and abusers insist they have a right because of __________. (Fill in the blank with the most common nonsense abusers mention.) This insistence indicates either immaturity, anger, or pathological tendencies on their part. Do not engage further. No matter what explanation you provide, it won’t be good enough. They will move the goalposts, gaslight you, or avail themselves to the tactics that all manipulators attempt. The worst will misbehave by saying or doing things to provoke a reaction. These actions will escalate to horrific levels if you acknowledge them. Being kind to them won’t work. Being mean to them won’t work. Their insistence to have access to you is a warning sign that they need help.
Have I mentioned how terribly I have failed to follow my own realizations listed above? I am an expert in falling into the holes I’ve dug for myself.
If you do engage, they’ll eventually succeed in making you respond with anger. They’ll then triumphantly screech in mock horror (and glee) that you got angry. Your anger at their stupidity is normal. It’s a superpower to be able to ignore abuse like that.
My Mother was a Kung Fool like no other.
At each stage of my life that I exerted control, she’d enlist any available family member to guilt me into reconnecting. My love for her sometimes interfered. It was a long, exhausting cycle. Not too long before she died, I finally broke the bond. I’d had enough. I mean, really enough, not the ‘enough’ of ‘maybe I’ll change my mind later’ enough. I only talked to her again because my Aunt Barbara called me and told me she had stage 4 cancer. Even then, I felt like I violated every protective mechanism I had in place. This was especially true because I had another family that convinced me he was going to kill me. In my family, that sort of thing is discounted at your own peril.
Addressing the other common refrain: you’ll be called crazy, a liar, or heartless. (Or some other word you can find it an Abusers Thesaurus.) IF the other person is correct and I am demanding to be left alone because I’m mentally ill, irrational, or simply hateful, it still doesn’t change the fact that I’ve demanded to be left alone. IF you insist on continuing the attempt anyway, you become the problem. If I’m spouting off nonsense, let me continue to do so and the truth will find me. Even Obama made famous a saying to let fools do their own talking.
If you can’t let me, you’re afraid of my message and that becomes obvious to people watching.
If you’re the abuser or troll, once the word “Stop” or its equivalent reaches you, stop. If you can’t get help, because you have control and anger issues that need to be addressed.
Wealth Insurance: being rich enough to be unaffected by most personal attitude or societal issues.
It’s easy to preach positivity when you’re not worried about how to keep the lights on, if your kids can eat enough, or whether you can pay for an asthma inhaler.
It’s easy to use people as positive examples if you’re wealthy enough not to be touched by their prejudice, misogyny, or homophobia. Privilege and wealth insulate you from the intrusion of lesser minds exerting their demands on your life. You can literally build a wall to keep most of it out.
It’s easy to preach positivity when you label contrary opinions and social awareness as negative. Opinions that mirror reality aren’t intrinsically negative.
If you insist on positivity while leaning against a granite countertop, you’re preaching, not teaching.
Most wealth is inherited rather than earned. If you inherit a house from your family, you’re 23 steps ahead of those who start from scratch.
People get angry and offended when privilege is introduced into conversations. Advantage begets more advantage, and disadvantage brings about further disadvantage. There’s no way around it. People with greater disadvantage simply have more obstacles to success and less time to decide about the perceived positivity of discussing those obstacles.
In the same way that richer people get pissed when privilege is introduced, people with greater disadvantage despise demands for positivity. People of all economic ranges despise positivity when it minimizes the specific circumstances that are making it difficult to keep a smile on their faces.
Anyone on the apex of the mountain can easily focus on the shiny golden moments and things in life. When your stomach isn’t grumbling, everything shines bright.
I distrust people who exude positivity at the expense of reality. From experience, I know they have the same problems as everyone else and often suffer from swallowing the symptoms of dissatisfaction.
Positivity in the sense I’m discussing is tone deafness disguised as a good attitude.
Because I’m incapable of defining it, there is a line that separates negativity from positivity, one which I can’t define but easily recognize when I’m interacting with people. My own hypocrisy in this regards often blinds me from seeing it in myself.
I needed a meme for myself, for obvious reasons. With a name like “X,” only weirdos expect me to play by the imaginary rules, much less be sane. The rest of y’all need to fry your bacon a little longer.
COVID has brought out the crazy in a lot of people.
“What’s wrong for being weird just for weird’s sake? Plenty of people are being normal for normal’s sake. And they look anything but normal in the process. Normal isn’t a thing and it never has been. It’s a fraud masquerading as an ideal. We have people putting fake fingernails on top of their real ones, injecting fat into their lips, acting like their human emotions and reactions should be repressed in favor of whatever the prevailing notion is. Worse, we have people who don’t recognize what real humor is or the difference that motive makes in regard to everything we do and say. Be authentic. That’s normal. If you want to shave one eyebrow off, do it. It’s no weirder than having painted on eyebrows – or gluing fake eyelashes onto your real ones. The next guy can put a quarter-size hole in his earlobe or another hole in his nostril but thinks he has the right to tell you that you can’t say “Hello” in Klingon if you damned well want to? Get your banjo and play it as loudly as you want to, even if you sound like you’re being electrocuted.”