Category Archives: Opinion

Imperfect Union. Of Thoughts.

As a middle-aged white guy in the South, I would like to remind everyone that I am not what you see. Most of us aren’t. Most people aren’t even really the idea of them that we hold in our heads. If we have a fundamentally different worldview from someone else, we tend to vilify their beliefs or motives. We have to be on guard about that. It infects everything. There are a lot of evil people in the world, but most of us want the same things. No one likes other people interfering in their lives, yet so many do exactly that. People are surprised to discover how calcified their belief system becomes as they age.

I’m no Chicken Little. Despite the appearance of continuity, we’ve faced a lot of major upheavals as a society. I used my Handmaid’s Tale picture from years ago because it is a go-to symbol of a possible outcome if we don’t get our crap together. I made mine out of humor. It’s easy to see that we need a buttload more humor lately. It’s easy to succumb to cynicism and frustration.

Everyone’s social media is going to be flooded with opinions about social issues. Women who’ve had abortions, especially those who did so for their own reasons and often without others knowing, are going to learn a lot about their peers and loved ones. Some of those women did so for medical reasons or in cases of rape. Most of them didn’t choose abortion lightly. As I grew older and shared my personal life, I can’t tell you how many women told me stories that would shock you.

Most of the vocal celebrants of the supreme court decision are past the age when abortion is a viable concern for them individually. Old wounds will open and new ones will arise as people spew words. Unlike many of my contemporaries, I’m not worried about the next generation finding new ways to fix some of this. Old ideas don’t serve as well as many would like to think.

I have my own abortion story, one that tempers my interpretation of others’ opinions. Many of your friends and family members have them, too; most you’ll never know. Human sexuality is a constant drive, one that leads to consequences and turmoil. If we are going to limit other people’s ability to mitigate the consequences, we have to step up and provide a better social structure to support one another. It’s not about condemnation or judgment.

Women outnumber men.

I’m liberal, speak Spanish, and am in favor of just about every social program that helps people. Even if it reduces the defense budget, even if outliers take advantage – and even if the systems we put into place aren’t perfect. I’d start with universal health care, which, despite its flaws, would cost each of us less than our current system. Knowing that everyone around me could get at least basic health services anytime they are needed is something that seems stupidly right to me. For whatever reason, people disagree with me. My principal argument is that the rest of the modern world agrees with me. And universal health care is cheaper than our current system.

I anticipate a firestorm across the board.

Entropy is at play on a societal level. We are never going to be at a fixed point on any social issue. No matter which side of a particular issue you’re on, no issue is safe from review, even if you’ve achieved a momentary victory. If you galvanize a particular group, the system can be destabilized to such a degree that it no longer serves anyone. These issues are far from settled. They might even permanently rupture the system of government.

Politics is a dirty, specialized, and selfish game. If you play it correctly, you can achieve almost any objective, especially if money is involved.

So, I am a middle-aged white guy.

But I’m not responsible for the prevailing conservatism of my age group or those who look like me. We look alike but definitely don’t think alike. Despite that, we share a lot of the same ambitions, wants, needs, and desires. We have to learn to stay out of each other’s way as much as we can as we pursue our version of the dream. Conservatism in its purest form is sound; the evangelical version of it makes me cringe and shake my head.

So many of our problems result from those who “know” what is best for everyone else. Certainty breeds callousness. I try to think of all the things I once knew and believed, only to discover I was wrong. Which surely means that I’m mistaken about things now.

Railing about politics on social media is a fool’s errand unless you tell it as a personal story, one which reflects your life and who you are. You are not going to change anyone’s mind – nor should that be your goal.

Whichever side you’re on, remember that we are all human beings and got to our beliefs by inconsistent trial-and-error. Adding anger won’t change anything, even if it is justified. Like all of you, I admit that sometimes the burn of anger is a welcome relief, even as it short-circuits my humanity. It almost always makes me lesser.

I know that people are legitimately scared because the abortion ban will allow states to foolishly prevent abortions even in cases where it’s medically recommended, necessary, or a result of involuntary conception. That’s fiendishly diabolical and evil in my opinion. It ignores science and human decency.

No matter what changed, anything can be changed again.

Literally anything. With the right lever and effort.

Look for your lever and try to avoid adding to the woodpile of words. Find a way to convert your anger into action. Anger or fear is an immensely powerful motivator.

I know that being a middle-aged white guy contains a certain privilege of thought. I see that. But I can worry along with the rest of you, the ones who see a weird arc of conservative social ideology creeping into places that have little to do with fiscal policy or public health. Most of us think we have a singular plan and path for everyone else to live by. Imposing it only leads to no one having autonomy or happiness.

Love, X
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Do Not (Be) Disturb(ed)

Neither picture has anything to do with the post. 🙂

Someone surprised me with a SPAM brooch this morning. I quipped that my new official title is now Spambassador.

The other picture is of the moon at 3 a.m., peeping through the silhouette of a dead tree amidst living trees.
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I absolutely LOVE that people with smartphones don’t use their fantastic piece of technology to prevent late-night intrusions with beeps, alarms, and notifications.

Seriously! I get tickled. It’s like someone complaining that their ceiling light keeps them awake. Uh? Turn the light off!

You can sort it so that only specific people can call, text, etc. You can silence and blind all notifications with almost no effort on your phone. That includes vibrations, flashing screens, and phone rings.

You can even use do-not-disturb in such a way that only certain people will ring through or text regardless of the time of day.

Your phone is almost always near you. It only takes a few seconds to set it so that you’re its master as opposed to the converse.

If you don’t know how, a friend, family member, or phone store employee can demonstrate it. Or, you can use the fancy Google.

By using the DND features on your phone, you can still be contacted in case of a true emergency, which is the go-to reply when most people reply, “Oh, I have to be able to be reached if something happens.” It doesn’t even sound reasonable to offer that reply, not with the options available on iPhones and Android. People can still reach you if necessary – it just requires you to learn a little bit about how your phone works instead of using the goofy reply mentioned above.

Everyone works and sleeps on their own schedule. There is no longer a “normal” window. 9 p.m. is late for some. And others are up at 2 a.m. Lord knows that no matter how diligent you are, your apps are going to bink, boink, and sound at all hours no matter how careful you are with notifications.

You shouldn’t growl at someone for texting or causing a notification at 12:44 a.m. You should growl at yourself for not taking a few minutes and learning how to use that incredible piece of technology that’s inseparable from your hand.

If you use do-not-disturb features and your close family member still texts you at 11:30 p.m. to ask you if you use dust-free toilet paper, that’s a boundary issue you need to discuss. Also, that kind of person shouldn’t be involved in an emergency notification. In fact, they usually CAUSE them.

Because I don’t sleep with my phone near me, it’s not an issue for me. I tend to leave my phone on DND very often. For those who’ve had sleep therapy, you already know that keeping screens away from you while you’re getting healthy sleep is mandatory. We did it that way for thousands of years and the world still kept spinning. I am completely pro-technology. Phones aren’t the ruination of the modern world as so many people claim. Rather, WE are the problem. And if you’re one of those knuckleheads who keeps their phone buzzing, flashing, and ringing while you’re trying to sleep, I suggest you try another way. A simple, easy-to-learn, way. It’s built right into modern phones.

No, there’s no taser feature on them yet, because someone will hack yours and administer a shock when you’re talking to your mother-in-law about the niceties of mulch.

It’s common for people to grouch about phones. No one forces you to use them inappropriately, as in social gatherings. Likewise, you can easily learn to use the features baked into all modern phones, the ones that allow you not to be interrupted when you’re in a social gathering – or trying to sleep.

As for me, I assume that everyone uses the technology on their phones. So, if I message, text, post, or hit like at 3:37 a.m., I’m not going to be the least bit concerned if you say something like, “Your beep woke me up.” You can fix that. The first option is to pretend I’m dead to you. The second more reasonable option is to take a few minutes so that my interactions don’t bother you when you don’t want them to.

Not directly related to the above: everyone basically hates it when someone is using their phone as an entertainment device while they are supposed to be enjoying one another’s company. Focus on your activity and the people you’re with. You’re sending the unintentional (or perhaps intentional) message that their presence is less interesting than your phone. Put it face down, turn it off, or do whatever you must do if you’re with people. And, of course, turn the ringer off.

Grouch away, mofos.

Just saying…

Love, X
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Ugly Men

As I entered the inconvenience store, I noted that the line was long. I couldn’t help but notice that the two older gentlemen in front of me were mocking the cashier. He supported orange hair, along with eyebrows and mustache to match. He also had a purple heart died in the back. The level of scorn spewing from the two guys made me cringe. When it was my turn to pay, I enthusiastically complimented him on his hair and apologized on behalf of all the assholes like the two gentlemen who preceded me. Their ugliness on display far exceeds any perceived ridiculousness on the part of the happy cashier.

X
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FitBit Bingo Whining

Fitbit challenge notes…Not the most interesting post in the world, but an annoyance with Fitbit watch challenges…

I’m 55 and once weighed 100 lb more. I compete in challenges with people who are 30-plus years younger than me.

The Get Fit Bingo challenges aren’t fair. My goal numbers are always two to three times higher than the other participants. They shouldn’t use the word “bingo.” In that game, everyone draws from the same numbers. The game does not know who to participants are, nor does it make some cards harder than others.

I finally got confirmation through screenshots that my numbers were two to four times higher than everyone else’s. That’s okay, except they assign a winner. If I walk 150,000 steps, do 400 zone minutes and 500 flights of stairs, and the alleged winner does 1/3 of that, are they really the winner?

I compare it to playing genius-level trivial pursuit while the other participants are playing “who is smarter than a 5th grader.” If they are going to declare a winner, we should be competing on a level playing field.

What’s interesting are the arguments some people use to justify the disparity. They use my level of activity as a reason, saying some people are overweight or don’t walk as much. That’s exactly the point, isn’t it? I don’t get a handicap for being the oldest of all the competitors- and that’s usually the first reason given for such things. That is why we have age categories for so many sports. The varying groups don’t compete with each other.

With Get Fit Bingo, we are allegedly competing against one another for the trophy.

Other justifications given are that I am taking the word “Bingo” too literally. Fit Bit can use another word if they’d like. The rules of Bingo use a clearly set group of numbers. The arrangement might be random, but the numbers themselves are constant. Some people don’t get cards with fewer numbers on them. Everyone is playing the same numbers.

Each participant can choose his or her level of activity. If we are all running a race, each of us runs the same mile. And with other sports, each of us is treated as an equal participant.

That’s why I won’t do Get Fit Bingo challenges anymore.

People were already reluctant to compete with me due to my zeal and dedication in trying to make them earn their wins.

We’re all supposed to be running the same race.

I attached a screenshot. In that example, I am required to walk 97,600 steps and walk 43.3 miles. The other participant? He or she is only required to walk 49,000 steps and complete 18.4 miles.

Whoever finishes first “wins.” How is that a win? We’re not competing evenly.

They Are High And Happy

They Are High And Happy

I craved a diet soda. More accurately, I wanted the pound of small crushed ice that would accompany it. Entering the inconvenience store, I noted that the bananas did not look like they’d been there for six weeks, so I grabbed one. The clerk, one I’ve spoken to before, is one I think of as “Mr. Mumbles” in my head. He sounds like my dad talking after drinking a bottle of Old Charter.

“It’s crackhead central here,” he said, pointing to the multiple people crowded around the ‘entertainment’ row of casino-like machines nestled in a line in the front. These machines cause a lot of consternation for people. Some stores have run into trouble legally because of the way they are actually used versus how they supposedly work. In Monroe years ago, a small store where my mom lived made a fortune using them illegally as casino substitutes. It’s easy to do. I’m not saying this particular store operates that way. I’ll leave my observations aside. People are going to gamble and stores will find a way to provide an outlet. Vice invariably equals profit.

“I wondered why it was so busy in the parking lot,” I replied. (When I drove up, there was an inordinate number of vehicles even for 1:30 a.m. A couple of them looked like the ‘after’ picture from an insurance claim.)

“They got their government money. So, they are going to spend it. They’re high and they’re happy.” He didn’t say it out of spite, although he did go on to add a few comments. His opinions were based on his experiences, so it’s a fine line calling him out.

I didn’t know how to appropriately reply because it wasn’t in me to judge them. Or him, for saying what obviously was true. “I’m glad to have a job,” I told him. He mumbled something I couldn’t possibly understand. I nodded. I left him there, as he kept a careful eye on the various people inside the store.

As for drugs, a river of drugs runs through Fayetteville. Most places are like that, even if you don’t see the river flowing. There are people you know who use them, people who would surprise you. I can literally go next door if I were inclined and buy a pharmacy of them. If people behave, I don’t care what they do. They are going to do it anyway.

For the people who swim in that river, I don’t despise them. I’m glad I don’t.

If they are indeed high, I do hope they are happy.

I’ll take my half-dose of Lexapro and drink my cup of coffee now, as well as eat the banana I bought. Even though a couple of hours have elapsed since I saw the clerk, I know he is still eyeing the patrons of his store, waiting for the inevitable brouhaha that always erupts. My laundry is about done drying. It’s interesting going down to the laundry dungeon so early. I put it in to wash and took a walk, owning the quiet streets, my ears filled with joyous music to propel my steps.

Love, X

A Face To Surprise

I finally broached the new section of fence that runs parallel to the street. It was installed to conceal the beautiful dumpster here at the apartments. I wish it weren’t there so that everyone could easily see my massive fence project. In my opinion, the juxtaposition of the dumpster and my art project don’t contradict each other at all. Art and color should be in places that otherwise would be unadorned.

It’s hard for me to remember what it looked like before my arrival. It is all transitory of course. Everything and everyone is. But we can’t let that recognition stop us from brightening whatever surrounds us.

The pictograph in blue is a version of a smiling face that once was part of my legal signature, back when I had just one name. I have so many stories about those days! It tickles me to think of all the drivers and passersby who will see it and suddenly realize that a face is looking back at them.

Love, X
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A Lot Of Walking

I hit 10,000 steps by 6:00 a.m. One of my Fitbit competitors had to walk about 25 miles to catch up late last night.

Someone accused me of feeling superior for having lost a hundred pounds. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t be or become who they’re supposed to be. I admit I was very evangelical about my approach to weight loss. In part, because I did every bit of it only by changing my diet. Almost anything can be accomplished if you commit to increments and keep the promise to yourself that you’re going to do better. Part of the conundrum of life is that when you excel in one area, you tend to let other areas deteriorate. Each of us has limited time and focus and it is so easy to let the grind of the day distract us.

If I can ever figure out a way to channel my obsessive commitment to anything I set my mind to, I imagine that I will drive people crazy.

On second thought, I probably do that already. It is so easy to let criticism from people that don’t have you or your best interests in mind get in your head. Mine is too crowded to do more than give such criticism a passing inspection.

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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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