Category Archives: New Word

The Social Media Revelation Observation

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This is my Uncle Buck, with his first wife. The picture is from 1965.

You must either post or perish. The road between reassuring affirmation and privacy is indeed narrow. If you fail to share the complex and multi-faceted path that got you here, people will not understand your sudden departure from the thing you declared to be angel’s elbows and dancing unicorns.

Corollary: If you don’t share a multi-faceted explanation for the arc of what you’ve experienced, people will judge you on single-issue concerns. We’re all voyeurs and we all tend toward oversimplification.

If you’re going to use social media, you must do so while bowing to the truth, even if it is not immediately glittering.

Don’t imply your life is perfection while you are eating hotdogs over the sink or looking out your window with teary eyes. We only share our humanity when we share it all. No matter what you’re going through, we’ve probably experienced it or helped someone else as they did.

Almost everyone agrees that sunlight is best. Yet, most shroud their goings-on with a bent elbow.
We not only judge when we have incomplete information, but also when we have all the information. It’s a no-win situation. But if you opt for secrecy when you claim everything is perfect, I’m going to look at you cross-eyed when you want to know why everyone is so curious.

You can’t have both affirmation and privacy: they are mutually exclusive.

P.S. I wrote this rule while in observance of someone whose marriage disintegrated. It’s a trajectory I’ve often seen: joy, distrust, implications, none-of-your-business posts, followed by resignation and a push toward the next phase of life. Repeat. But it applies to so many other areas too.

 

High School Picture Vanity? (The Picture Rule)

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Do I have your attention with this horrible picture? Is it completely real or photoshopped? Who knows! Who cares? It’s more or less me back in 2005. I’ve posted it before. It makes me laugh, precisely because it makes me look like the “before” picture for both the South Beach Diet and John’s Guide To D-I-Y plastic surgery.

I enjoy the posts about people complaining (gatekeeping) about people posting their high school pictures. It’s true that it doesn’t “help” current seniors. Let’s be honest, though. High school pictures don’t seem to help anyone. Except comedians. We all love a crazy high school yearbook picture. We can’t help it.

They do, however, remind us that our idea of hairstyle and fashion was never as great as we’d imagined. This is the case of every graduating class in the history of… well, history.

I know it’s not an ironclad rule, but I distrust anyone who is truly upset about anyone seeing their high school pictures. Not only are almost all of them available online, but they are precisely the pictures more likely to survive the next 300 years because they are public and otherwise in the hands of so many other people. They are copied, indexed, and even included in genealogy websites.

What am I saying? You’re screwed if you don’t want people to see your pictures from school.

Years ago, I scanned and archived several years of Springdale High School’s yearbooks. I also uploaded them to all the relevant SHS FB class pages, for everyone to share and enjoy. It look me 100+ hours. It was a huge way for all of us to get acquainted again, whether we liked it or not!

By the way, a huge number of yearbooks are available on classmates. Get a free account and start looking. Other websites carry college yearbooks, too.

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The Picture Rule: If you’re complaining about the existence of your high school pictures, you’re probably at the mercy of either an exaggerated vanity or a profound scarcity of a sense of humor.

P.S. I have almost never been stymied finding EVERYONE’S yearbook picture, not to mention the address you lived at when you were 7. Your life is an open book, no matter how badly you want to stick it under the bed where no one will ever find it. The more you want to hide your pictures, the more likely your brother-in-law is passing it around secretly via text, email, or DM.

P.S. Redux: If you are desperate to find someone – or a picture of them – let me know and I’ll get enough details to sleuth them out in the interest of both lovingkindness and transparency.

Love, X

A Few Words About Sociopaths

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That’s me in the jacket, 1997ish. The shadow is the lurking presence of what I brought with me from my childhood.

 

One of the tactics of addicts or sociopaths is that they time their harshest manipulations around major life events: big trips, funerals, weddings, birthday parties. Any gathering or otherwise stressful social interaction will suffice for them. Their anger at you festers. They bide their time, bite their tongues. And wait.

Your wish to get through the happy day increases your stress level. Addicts and sociopaths secretly wish for your suffering. They lay the groundwork, seeding insecurity. If you’re normal, you won’t understand how much pleasure and joy sociopaths can derive from the suffering of others. There are more of them in the world than you’d think.

Near the day in question, they’ll unleash a fresh hell upon you.

You’ll flounder and attempt to deal with the symptoms, rather than the disease.

If you’re looking back at your shared trajectory with someone you believe might be a sociopath, examine how many outbursts coincided with life events. It’s another sign.

My mother was an absolute tyrant in this regard. Another close family member followed her lead into adult life. He/she became blind to the fact his/her life slowly devolved into a miserable cycle of anger and control. As people fled in hurt, their departure should have signaled that something was wrong. Sociopaths, though, paint themselves as victims to other people’s search for normalcy. One thing they cannot abide is for another person to demand control and freedom from them. Departure is the ultimate treason.

The sociopath is the disease. Excising it is the only viable option, one we should run to with greater velocity.

We all make the same mistake: we attempt to navigate their well-placed mines instead of simply walking the other way.

You have to learn to cut ties more quickly. If you can develop this skill when you’re younger, you’ll be able to live a much happier life.

A lot of my adult life was diminished by my own stupidity. I tried to continue relationships with sociopaths and addicts. Some of it is because of family loyalty; we need a primer to teach us to demand change (or silence) especially from those closest to us. Family affiliation does not grant either access or proximity. It is one of the sociopath’s worst tools. They say things such as “We’re family.” Or, “You only have one family.” Worst: “You only have one sister/brother/mother/father.”

If you’re otherwise a good person, trust your instincts. If someone’s presence, words, or behavior triggers feelings of insecurity, something’s wrong. Figure out if the rupture lies within or without. Ask yourself if your life is better or worse by the other person’s involvement. Do you tolerate such behavior from strangers? If not, use it as a signal that something’s wrong.

Don’t open their emails, don’t answer their phone calls, and certainly don’t show up in the same place they’ll be. If it is your occasion, forbid their presence. As they recruit people to their cause through manipulation, ignore those impassioned and angry pleas. It’s a short-term gain. Take the long view.

Use a display of outward calm to communicate your dedication to taking back control of your own life. Don’t veer into the unwinnable territory of explanation. No matter how many words you’ll spew, not only will those words be used against you in the worst way possible (and out of context), you will be wasting your energy. In turn, that leaves you with less ability to live a good life.

Let your “No” be a whisper and leave your shouted “No” only for those times you’ve lost all inhibition against unleashing your anger.

The No Rule: let your “No” be a whisper. If someone demands an explanation for your “No,” start with the assumption you’re being manipulated.

Sociopaths love driving you past the point of control and then using your entirely normal response as an accusation against you. Observers won’t see the gaslighting. All they will see is you screaming in anger at your family member or friend.

When I was younger, I tried hard to distance myself. I had no real sense of self-worth. I knew where I was trying to go. Because of the pathology of many members of my family, I came into adulthood ignorantly. Interpersonal skills? Not much. I should have declared my independence and stuck to it unilaterally. I would have moved past some of my future obstacles much more quickly. Would my life have been lesser? Maybe. I don’t know. But, I do wonder who I would have substituted into my life absent some of my addict and sociopathic family. Something would have filled the void. Would it have been better? Again, I can’t know – and that’s on me.

If I had it to do over again, I would cut anyone angry or addicted from my life when I changed my name. I would abandon any attempt to bridge the infinite divide between me and people who were fundamentally different from me. Everyone would have been put against the backdrop of my poor grasp of normalcy.

As I got older, my ability to tolerate sociopaths waned. As my life moved toward a larger understanding of self, my joy in living a life free of drama became self-evident.  That kind of tranquility gave me greater latitude in saying “No” to the screeching urgency of the sociopaths demanding access to my life.

It is with this post that I give my final “No” to the sociopath who won’t take “No” as an answer.

 

 

 

 

See The Silver Lining Of The Pepperoni

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The belt in the picture tells the story of healthier eating since February 1st.

I’m officially adding two words to my vocabulary: precovid and postcovid. We will need words to divide our lives easily into instantly recognizable periods. Both ‘precovid’ and ‘postcovid’ serve that purpose. Everyone can understand their meaning without explanation. All of us recognize the truth of the two words. “Remember before?” will be one of our go-to phrases in the ‘after’ of this.

My wife bought me a new belt last year. I don’t use it because it’s rigid and lacks the comfort of my old one. It’s also wider and feels like I stole Hulk Hogan’s WWE belt. Not that anyone missed it, but I’ll take comfort any day over the options of style, fashion, or common sense.

When I started, I had no way of knowing that the pandemic would hit. Once it did, it eerily served as a replacement for the therapy rubberband that many people use for behavior modification. Looking at the underlying conditions contributing to COVID told me, “Hey you, dumbass!” And not politely.

I’ve read a bunch of commentary in the last few weeks about people increasing in weight and girth because of being isolated. My case reflects the opposite. I’m not trapped at home. My job places me right in the beast’s barrel, so to speak. Even when I’m too tired to fuss over ‘what’ I’m going to eat, I’ve so far resisted “the call of the pepperoni.” As you might guess, I love a bathtub full of chips and salsa.

Despite my previous bitching and moaning about Walmart in the precovid days and their hateful self-serve kiosks, Walmart (and Harps too), has been an unforeseen blessing. I don’t give my praise begrudgingly; they deserve it. It hasn’t been perfect. But their presence has made life drastically easier for many of us, whether we’re isolated or at liberty due to being essential.

Please throw this praise into my face once we’re past the crisis and I return to my hobby of freelance bitching and moaning.

As the particulars of the epidemic mounted, I often looked at my weight and nervously shook my head. I’ve had a dozen chances to lose enough to determine if my blood pressure would no longer require medication. I’ve lacked the wit or will to make it so. That’s on me. Pepperoni and starches are my mortal enemy. My wife and I still have 400+ assorted candy bars in a closet. I’ve eaten none of them. However, my previous failures to stop hurting myself by overeating continue to be my burden.

I haven’t eaten from the cafeteria at work since the beginning of January. Most often, my breakfast, which I tend to eat between 5 and 6 a.m., consists of a can of green beans, tomatoes, or soup. It’s the spices added that add the delight.

From there, I’ve resisted the pull of fast food. There have been exceptions, but even then, I’ve relented from filling my cavernous yaw like a dump truck.
I had Pizza Hut one night, but ordered my favorite, one which sounds terrible to sensible people: thin crust, no cheese, minimal sauce, no meats. With 10 different spices and sauces. You’ll I know I’ve lapsed into sadomasochism is you see me attempting to eat Dominos; or rather, the box it comes in. Studies have shown that Dominos pizza isn’t actually food.

I’m waiting for the enchanted umbrella of consistency to slip off my shoulders. I know myself too well.

We all see the reminders to see the good, find those who are helping and try to peer into the ether to see benefits from our inescapable calamities. Mine is this: the virus was a knock on my front door. Let’s see if the lesson is transitory or lasting in my case.

P.S. I’m not bragging. It’s dangerous, because tomorrow might bring new challenges that derail me. For example, someone might give me a truckload of potato chips, pepperoni, or pasta.

The B List

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My neighbor’s dogwood kept me up all night. Its bark did, anyway.

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The Rule of Vocabulary And Insults

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The Questionable Enunciation Rule

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Weird Al just got a lot richer. Congress just voted to replace the national anthem with his hit song, “Dare To Be Stupid,” and for self-explanatory reasons.

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I bought a non-area rug for my sister-in-law’s new house. It violates the laws of physics and literally takes up no room at all.

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Get out there and live a Joe-Exotic kind of life, minus the murder-for-hire part of course – unless you’re surrounded by people who listen to Luke Bryan.

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Judith Priest, local librarian, couldn’t figure out why everyone assumed she had a lisp when introducing herself.

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Tired of using boring masks to protect yourself? Just in time for the upcoming Friday the 13th, from my new line of PPE… No one will get close enough to infect you.

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Meeting doodle: each time something vague or contradictory was stated, I drew an arrow. At least now I know where we’re headed?

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“It’s not fair that Buffalo Wild Wings doesn’t get a routine restaurant inspection,” my coworker complained as he read the inspection list online.

“No, it makes perfect sense,” I replied.

“Really? Why is that?”

“Because there is absolutely no evidence that Buffalo Wild Wings has ever served food – or anything actually edible.”

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Afternoon Update: Mr. Good, aka The Cat, aka Guino, smells what I’m cooking. My wife snapped this picture moments ago, one of Guino sitting at the bar, evidently awaiting an undetermined meal. I’m on the other side of the bar, attempting to catch a picture of him. His face is illuminated by a flash from my camera, rather than the aura of my angelic yet diabolical presence out of sight to the left in the kitchen. P.S. After a delicious morning meal of beans, we had air-fried pickles for supper. The cat has so far not registered any complaints.

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Mr. Good, aka The Cat, aka Guino, sits on a mountain of blankets, looking toward me in the kitchen. The house is filled with the aroma of onions, garlic, and beans cooking in the Instapot. The cat better hide now, anticipating the aftermath of my enjoyment of 5 servings of beans.

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Stolen messenger picture: What heinous act did this cat just commit? He’s awfully comfortable as he either expresses derision or hunger.

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Stolen quote of the week: “I knew they wouldn’t kill me, there’d be too many questions from outsiders.”

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“There is beauty in the breaking,” is one of the most beguiling and contradictory observations that I keep having. The teeth of it aren’t sharp, but certainly insistent as they gnaw.

It Was A Real Nail-Biter

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A lot of people bite their nails.

Nail biting even has a fancy-pants name: onychophagy. The existence of such a word grants the habit legitimacy. Many people don’t know that cigarette addiction also has a Latin-based word to describe it: marlboroism. Okay, that’s not true. In my defense, it took cigarette companies decades to admit they were lying about cigarettes. By lying, I mean how delicious smoke tastes and how delightful a house smells after everything is coated in a vile sheen of yellowish slime.

It’s more common in kids and teenagers, but a surprising  number of adults are nail-biters. I should know. I’ve written before that I’m one of those ignorant dolts who is guilty of doing it. My fingers sometimes resemble the talons of an angry dragon trapped in the bottom of an inescapable well. I’ve stopped sniffing glue, being comatose by a method of self-chloroforming, and narrowly avoiding the craziness of alcoholism that has ruined the lives of literally all my immediate family. But nail biting? You’ll catch me gnawing on my nails like a starving monkey, sometimes even doing the ‘typewriter,’ a word used to describe going from one nail to the next like a crazed typist after a four-hour coffee break at a Cuban coffee shop.

“1/3 of nail biters say they have a family member who does the same,” say some studies. Which leads to the question, “Why don’t they bite each other’s nails?” It’s no surprise that the tendency to bite your nails might be genetic; that’s true of a lot of disreputable behavior, along with addictions, sneezing when exposed to sunlight, and voting for people with insanity issues. (Although I’m struggling to think of any such people in the last few years. How about you?)

If you cringed, you’re not alone. Nail biting is great for movie visuals or as a cliché, but terrible as a personal habit.

Given the hyper-focus that our unfriendly worldwide pandemic has caused, we’re working to keep our fingers out of our mouths. (Except for politicians, who are exempted, along with their feet.) Before patting yourself on the back, though, if your nails are longer than short, you’ve created a repository for everything bacterial or viral you touch. You might not touch your own face, but you’re marking your territory as you live your life.

Irrelevant note: most men are uninterested in women’s fingernails. The pandemic gives you the right to stop concerning yourself with the time and money invested in decorating your fingernails like they will be featured in Architectural Digest. If it makes you happy, please feel free. If you’re looking for an excuse, you have it.

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Some Unhelpful Tips To Stop Biting Your Nails, stolen from websites and headlines:

Amputate the tips of your fingers.

Just don’t think about it.

Dip your fingers in the dung or the blood of your enemies.

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According to science, it’s hard to distinguish the line between harmful compulsive nail biting and regular nail biting. A good rule-of-thumb, though: if you find yourself individually flavoring your nails as garlic, lemon, chocolate, pepper, and Parmesan in anticipation of devouring them, you’re probably in need of some therapy.

When I was young, I would get irritated at my mom, who delighted in punching me, slapping me, or putting her cigarette on my arm when she caught me biting my nails. I think the irony of her irritation with me failed to register for her. That I also wet the bed, was beaten like a dirty Victorian rug, or was screamed at for otherwise normal behavior, all those things seemed to overtake biting my nails as important. I forgot to mention that the rampant alcoholism and smoking seemed relevant too. I made the mistake a couple of times by saying, “I’ll stop when you put out the cigarette.” Although you would think she responded sensibly, given the track record I’ve painted of her esteemed and cultured biography, it was more reminiscent of George Foreman’s first loss to Muhammad Ali.

When I was young, I’d find myself biting my nails regardless of what I’d been doing. Disgusting as it was, it probably granted me limited immunity to a variety of illnesses. You’d be horrified to know how true this is. Since you might remember that I loved eating ashes and burned food, maybe it isn’t a shock.

I went through long phases where I conquered my impulse to bite my nails. Heroin helped me for a while. That last part’s a joke. Heroin didn’t help at all. It made me edgy as hell, not to mention unable to afford cocaine.

You’re probably going to doubt this, but I tried the bitter paint-on polish more than once. As bitter and nasty as it was, I liked the taste and aftertaste.

At more than one point, I’d decided I’d need dentures. It’s difficult to bit one’s nails with dentures. (And even harder to do so without.) I was about to buy the inserts you can put on your teeth to make it impossible to chew with my teeth. I don’t remember what stopped me. But it was probably laziness. For people who wear them, they are immensely effective.

Maybe this world-wide pandemic will grant me the motivation to figure out what techniques can help me make this habit a thing of the past. I’m sure there’s a perfect combination of timing, technique, and application. Otherwise, I’m opting for finger amputation. Is finger-stump licking a thing?

 

Love, X

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In the midst of this torrent of surprise and unforeseen circumstance, some of us have found means to engage our sense of morbidness and humor simultaneously.

I’ve always been more extroverted and loud as a Spanish speaker. One of my catchphrases is catching on. No one means any disrespect.

In fact, because we are in the barrel of this thing together, we’ve earned a bit of leeway from outsiders.

I created a shorthand way to say, “Hey, we’re above ground and working when a steadily increasing number of people aren’t.”

In Spanish, it’s “Los muertos no caminan.”

It literally means, “the dead don’t walk.”

I use it as a greeting, as a reminder – and honestly, almost as a tentative prayer.

Not all of us are going to see the end of this spectacle. None of us will be unscathed.

But we’re still walking with a bit of either optimism or denial.

Above it all, we nod and smile as we say, “Los muertos no caminan.”

I hope to see us all on the other side of this.