Category Archives: Opinion

Caprice

Preface: I wrote what follows this morning…almost as a coda, on the way to the apartment after work, a black Camaro zoomed impatiently into its left lane approaching me from the opposite direction. The driver was going too fast and over-corrected, sending him into my lane and luckily swerving wildly into the far lane next to me. I had no time to react, not even to stomp my brakes, which would have certainly resulted in a multiple-car pileup. As I passed without time to feel my heart accelerate, squeals, honks, and braking behind me filled the air. The driver of the Camaro managed to gain control without being hit. He stopped in the right lane facing oncoming traffic. The capricious and erratic symmetry of just living reared its head and whispered to me.
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All of these are true
none inscribed to change your hue

An undiagnosed cough ended on the kitchen floor
her love and life abruptly no more

Expert pilot fell to the ground
his loving sister to conjure the sound

A cluster of cells aligned with malignant intent
those around her yearning more time had been spent

The unbearable yet unbeatable beckon of alcohol
those who loved him clutching and watching his fall

A 92-year-old beloved woman took her last breath
a life well lived, met with welcomed death

An aneurysm unseen and unfelt and then all rendered past tense
no warning no reason no sense

Careless driver through the sign leaving one with an unfaithful spine
her arc of life flattened to a baseline

You worry about how you sound or look
how you sing, how you dance, how you might be mistook
any given moment, the universe can close your book

You have this moment to scribble your notes
to construct and imagine needless moats

Kind heart, clear eyes, and curious mind
make sure that you leave something meaningful behind

We are all preterit

This can both energize and immobilize, this insight into truth
beauty and love are in the eye of the beholder

May you live your life just a little bit bolder
no guarantee of life or that you’ll become older

Seize the day, come what may
otherwise, it will seize you
even if you do everything to perfection
these words are no mere early morning reflection
affection, expression, introspection
of these words, there is no question

X
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No, I Am Not

I had a real belly laugh earlier.

I went outside in the afternoon to sweep the parking lot below my apartment. I do this frequently to ensure that anything that blows off my landing doesn’t become someone else’s problem. If everyone did this, it would solve a lot of the messes that accumulate in the world.

I talked to one of my newer neighbors quite a bit. He was convinced I am gay. I think he thinks his gaydar is broken now! Everything from my car color choice to my art projects, to my glasses, and the way I dress. He also took the time to complain that he hates that I took my massive fence project down. He said that it reveals a lot about the person who tried to complain, something that was coincidental, given that someone else told me the same thing today about an entirely different situation. I told him the landlord tried to take back the request a couple of hours after asking me to do so.

Just because I like to be personal, I’ve never had a gay experience or been the least bit interested in the same sex. I am so glad I came out of my violent, racist, and prejudiced childhood without those attitudes of judgment toward people who are gay. Even when the same sex hit on me, I just smiled and explained and went about my day. Anyone brave enough to express their interest, much less in this seemingly growing era of backlash prejudice, deserves grace for being who they are. Sexuality is complicated enough without the added burden of falling outside the alleged norm. Almost everyone I know is trapped in their own personal cocoon of concealment and worry about their perceived sexuality and behavior. I’ve never understood why some people are so obsessed with other people’s sexuality. Except to gossip! Gossip is the exception – one that everyone claims they don’t do.

Although it’s not directly related, if you find someone you like, tell them. It doesn’t have to be awkward. It probably will be, though, because rejection is about as welcome as a spider in one’s shoe in the morning. From experience, I learned the hard way that you should NOT use a bullhorn to tell them. Or shout it out in church.

While talking to my neighbor, I was reminded of how small the world is and how interconnected we are. Because he knows a few people I know. And some of them have secrets, secrets that belong to them to keep private or to live openly. But I wish the world were filled with grace. Not acceptance… because that belies that people different from us must be accepted. They don’t need to be accepted. They need to be who they are without our individual judgments or perceptions affecting how they live their lives. Unless we’re having a laugh about the absurdity of individuals and their choices. I love it when people snark about me, as long as they are creative.

So if you see me driving around in my little blue cotton candy car, I’m not going to give you my number. I won’t go to Applebee’s with you either for a cocktail and hot wings. Unless you’re buying, of course.

Love, X

PS That’s a crescent wrench above my thumb. I keep one magnetized on each side of my metal door. It looks like a floating key. The “Sadboy” t-shirt I’m wearing, the one I splotched deliberately with paint, it’s the most comfortable shirt I’ve ever owned.
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There Is No Secret

This is a piece of motivation. Nadine, if you’re reading this, imagine that I’m an expert and not the goofball you know.

Stress will never disappear from your life. Neither will the obstacles that frequently jump up and surprise you. You’ll always be tired at times and not want to prepare delicious food that feeds your body. You’ll always be tempted to stop at some place quick and delicious on the way home. Given the certainty of those variables, you’ll have to come up with incremental changes. They won’t feel natural at the beginning. Nothing does. Continuity and comfort work for us. But they also work against us when we’re motivated to do something different.

If you want to eat less or eat more healthy so that you’ll look better, embrace it. Anyone who tries to discount the vanity and self-esteem aspect of looking better is fighting human nature. If you think you look better, you will almost always feel better. It will translate to energy and optimism. If you want to eat differently just to be more healthy, that can be amazing too. We all know that the food we eat is the fuel that helps our body protect itself. It’s equally important to know that you can do everything perfectly and still have illnesses and unexpected calamity. As we get older, all of us are forced to confront that.

Everyone who tries something new eventually hits the wall of the reluctance curve. You won’t see as much progress as you would like. Or you will have days where you fail. It will feel like those days of failure far outweigh any progress you’ve made. It’s not true. You have to exercise that muscle of habit. If you do things incrementally, over time, even with days of failure, you’re improving yourself and your habits. There will be days when you will drink an entire bottle of wine and probably eat half a cheesecake too. But over time, you will see that there are simple ways to eat a whole lot of food and be happy with them. It does require you think and plan ahead so that you’re not creating obstacles. Chances are if you’re smart enough and motivated enough to make such a change, you will be able to do it. It will be easy to point the finger at the people around you, because Lord knows they’re going to be eating entire pepperoni pizzas and ice cream while you are choosing better options. At the same time, there are times when you should go crazy and a pizza with them. Because life is short and food is delicious.

Try not to start habits that you cannot do for the rest of your life. Because once you start them and have some success, if those habits fall to the wayside, you’ll start eating unhealthy and put the weight back on. Diet and nutrition is pure mathematics. You have to eat fewer calories than you burn long term. It’s not so much about the individual days as it is the arc of your progress. It’s one of the reasons I advise people to not weigh themselves more than once a week or once a month.

For most of us, if you don’t have underlying medical conditions, no matter how bitter the truth is, most of us can hit an ideal weight simply by changing what we eat. Our bodies have developed over thousands of years to survive. Exercise has its own benefits, ones that overlap into other areas of your life. But you do not have to do any exercise changes to achieve your goal weight. You have to swallow the truth that your weight is nothing more than putting more calories in your body then you are burning. No matter how many calories you burn through exercise, the physical truth is that the overwhelming majority of your weight is diet and daily activity. I can’t stress enough that I am not saying don’t exercise or go to the gym if that benefits you. I am saying that we only have a certain number of hours in a day. If you can achieve your goal without using those precious hours in ways you don’t enjoy, then try to wrap your head around the fact that you can do it without activity that doesn’t bring you joy.

If you don’t have any medical conditions, you can be the way you want to be.

Read the last sentence as many times as it takes to believe it.

Will it be hard for you to eat differently? That depends on how you use your intelligence to learn new ways of eating and stick with them.

Choose your hard.

When we don’t choose, we are pushing the consequences to our future. We still have to deal with them.

You can do it. But everything hinges on you making the decision to invest in yourself.

If you’re happy with the way you look and especially so if you’re mostly healthy, embrace it. Don’t try to lose what you see as extra pounds. You can be happy with that if you have a happy outlook. If it is about your appearance, find someone who loves you. That kind of adoration is transformative for your self-esteem. It becomes easier to see yourself as they do, even if you are plagued by self-doubt.

Whatever your goal is, do not attempt to go from 0 to 60. Incremental changes are best. You can experiment as you go and find the things that work for you and skip the ones you don’t. That is what we’re supposed to do in life. We often skip the second half and forget to remove the things from our life that detracts from it.

Don’t bother with spending money on supplements or anything you have to pay for. It can all be done with delicious food that you like. In this modern age, we have more variety than we ever have. Take advantage of it and use your intelligence.

People ask me what the secret is. The secret is… There is no secret. Simplicity in your life and simplicity in your diet. Eat fewer calories than you burn and live a good life.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re starting. No one changes until they do. No matter how you got to where you are or the way you are, it took a lot of years of habits to get there. If we thought things could not be changed, it would be a horrible cynical world.

Love, X
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empty space

I’ve learned that people who isolate invariably have an addiction or a trauma. Quite often, it’s one they bury; like the ghosts of a cemetery, they emerge and travel capriciously in that person’s mind. Loop after endless loop. No one else bears witness. And because angst or depth wildly varies between different people, no one really understands the profundity of what afflicts them. Some people relentlessly look ahead, leaving behind the most heinous offenses. Others get trapped in the vortex over things we judge as minor. Though the loop may be nascent and small in circumference, each cycle takes the person closer and closer to calamity. We all see it coming and are mostly powerless to stall its progress.

Cognition seldom helps. You’re not rationalizing with the individual. You’re attempting to overpower something that is both tenuous and tentacled inside someone’s kidnapped mind.

You can try to get close out of love or concern. They often rebuff you. Isolation becomes its own self-fulfilling reward. The phantom loop constantly whispers to the person trapped in a behavior; its voice is not only proximal but deafening.

Don’t fault yourself if you’ve tried to pierce that bubble and can’t. It does not mean you shouldn’t try, even if it’s futile. Because the uncaring alternative is much worse. Even if the story ends badly. Most of us will return to that wall and vainly attempt to chisel away at it, even though we fluctuate between helplessness, anger, or realization.

This is the thesis of my Bystander’s Prayer.

And despite our varying cynicism, our hope for a dramatic change sometimes happens. The alchemy of why or how is beyond calculation. If this were never the case, our behavior would automatically adjust to just accept the unacceptable before we even tried. When it does come, the change, it brings joy. Everyone loves an underdog or someone who has overcome.

If it does end badly, we promise to try something different the next time. Likely, we won’t. There will always be a next time, as this world is full of trauma and unseen damage. Most of us believe that love or some fruitful variation will be enough to convince someone that it’s time to pull up into the high clouds instead of plummeting.

When one person plummets, we all do because that person carries a piece of us with them, even if they are blind to it. It’s how friends, family, and tribe work.

If you can, keep your hammer in hand, your chisel sharp, and your optimism high. If life gets you down, you might be in the hotseat. You’ll need us to pull up, just as we need you when we’re in the loop. The horseshoe finds its way onto every hoof, no matter who you are.

X
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It’s The Faces, Not The Places, That Matter

“I’m so hungry I could eat a horse and chase the rider.” -Old Saying

“A hungry stomach cannot hear.” -Jean de La Fontaine

“Breaking bread together” is an old phrase, but its simplicity is the message.

If you are hungry, any food will suffice. “Hunger is the best sauce,” someone smarter than me quipped. Hungry people don’t moan about what and where to eat; if they do, it’s kept short and grouchily pronounced. 

If you’re happy, bread with wine or dipped in oil is enough to fill you. And if you’re not, no amount of food will create a smile. 

If you are lonely, companionship will overfill your plate. People are the food of our souls. 

I love great food. Who doesn’t?

But I love simple food, made without stress and shared. 

And if I meet with someone or a group to eat, the presence of others is supposed to be the essential element. 

X’s Rule On Group Dining: You will dislike eating with at least one person in any group of more than four people. 

I’m not opposed to opulent multi-course meals. 

Who would be?

But if they require effort not joyfully given, they take away someone’s time and life to prepare. 

It’s one of the principal problems with holiday meals or get-togethers.

Traditions inevitably beget obligation. 

Often, what was once freely done becomes taxing and vexation. 

Complexity and expectations detract from someone’s enjoyment. 

It should always be about the presence of faces on one’s couch or around the table, no matter how luxurious it might be. Everyone’s house is lived in, messy, and full of life’s surprises that no one has the time or interest in rectifying. Unless you are eating off the mantle, leave the dust for later. 

Break bread.

Eat.

And be merry inasmuch as your circumstances permit. 

Because, well, you know. 

Tomorrow ye may die. 

Whether you’ve eaten like a gourmand or like a ravenous teenager with his hand in the bottom of a bag, it will not be what you remember as the wrinkles accumulate across your face. 

Humble food is the joy. And if someone wishes to make a feast joyfully, even better.

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” 

– Oscar Wilde

“Almost all happy people I know decide where and what to eat easily, graciously, and without complaint. And if they find themselves in the home of another with friends, family, or loved ones, they make do. Unless they are visiting cannibals, vegans, or Presbyterians.” – X

“It is the faces, not the places, that matter.” – X

Love, X

PS “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” -Mark Twain

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Return Of The Ugly Fence

Return Of The Ugly Fence

My pet dinosaur Redactyl sits looking out the suddenly barren fence line in the background. I know he will have a lot to say about it. He’s stuck staring at a lifeless, dilapidated scene now. Color once brightened his perspective.

I’m conflicted. I spent countless hours meticulously assembling the decorations for the longest fence where I live.

Nothing is permanent.

It was great fun, finding pieces and creative ways to use things that aren’t intended to be used in the way I chose.

It was also a lot of work. Work that put me in the zone and challenged me to keep going.

I heard nothing but delight from everyone about how much color and character it added to this ugly apartment complex and the area. Friends drove by or over to see it. Several people posted pictures of it on social media without me realizing it until much later. That made me smile.

This is precisely the kind of place that needs and needed color and something wild and different. Otherwise, it’s just a plot of land and a container that many find temporary.

Two days ago, in a blaze of adrenaline, I began to take the tiles, metal pieces, and assorted decorations off. It led to my shorts’ pockets being so heavy they were about to fall off, which led to the dreaded keys-in-the-dumpster incident. Hundreds of screws, washers, tiles, and assorted pieces. I wasn’t mad, but the disappointment grew as I looked at the fence. But seeing it this morning in the dim light made it dreadfully plain and lifeless. Nothing is permanent; I kept telling myself. But in the back of my mind, I wondered about minds so small they have to complain. 1% of me negatively reacted, given how much work and cleanup I’ve put into this place. We’re supposed to do that sort of thing without expectations.

On the other hand, I put in a proportional amount of work apart from the countless hours I spent brightening up the place. Most of my neighbors don’t do their share to keep the place better than they found it. It’s disappointing that someone took the time to complain they weren’t happy. Some people aren’t happy no matter what – and unfortunately, some take delight in ruining other people’s happiness. The problem with such people is that they will never be satisfied; they thrive on such effort. They are dramavores.

I will redirect my urge to color and brighten to something else in small places and wherever I roam. I’ve left dozens of decorations and pieces all over.

When people ask, “Oh my god, X, what happened to your art project on the fence?” I’m going to shrug and attribute it to the impermanence of everything. For a few weeks, it was something to behold. The entropy resulting from complaining took its price.

Now, as I look out onto the fence I repaired out of my pocket and with my labor, I see an ugly board fence, looking out onto a dismal parking lot. I think it traps us rather than keeps others out, especially now that an expensive home is being built on the small lot between us and the trail cut-through from Gregg.

In my head, though? I can’t look at the fence without imagining it filled with color.

As places like that should be.

I’ll put up a single tile in the middle of the fence at some point, one which will read:

“…Site of recent memory’s largest personal art project. It’s gone, but color remains if you seek it. X”

Love, X
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