Category Archives: Social Rules

*Once Bitten, Twice Died*

The cliché should be, “Once bitten, twice died,” instead of the old, “Once bitten, twice shy.”

Because not only do you die from the original bite, but you will most likely die of embarrassment, shame, or guilt from reliving the stupidity that got you the bite in the first place.

This is officially a variation of the tried-and-true, “Don’t be a dumbass” rule, for those keeping score.

A Peek Behind The Curtains

The hubris of life, of majestic leaps atop a mountain, of impractical love. That’s why I made the picture of the woman leaping with apparent joy. I hope she is happy and that the moment was magical for her.

Once you’ve peeked behind the curtains of someone’s life, both warts and happiness, seeing the frailty you share in common minimizes the feelings of your inadequacy. There’s something to be said about knowing that the person who seems impenetrable is as uncertain or more so than you are.

For every boring life or person walking the sidewalks with a wide smile, there is another person who wears the smile and frenetic cloak of being busy as a shield. It’s often unknowable whether each person is truly happy. People are adept at concealment.

If we could hear the tone of people’s thoughts, especially those who seem to have it all together, I think most of our feelings of inadequacy would disappear.

We window shop when we are in the world or when we use these electronic portals to peek into other’s lives.

There is joy, laughter, and fulfillment.

There’s also pain, remorse, regret, and loss.

For every bite of anguish I experience, I know that the toll for others, though often invisible, burns them privately. I regret that our lives don’t allow us to drop the pretense.

We don’t know what rivers flow behind someone else’s eyes, nor do we really understand what ignites them. Some people craft an ornate and expansive wall around them, on to which they project the facade they want us to see. This is truer when the disparity of their daylight life grows distant from who they are at their center, in the shadows, in private, or in whispers.

It’s exciting to peek behind the facade and share that protected self. It’s sublime and affirming.

But the shriek and tenor that results when some do not want to acknowledge that you’ve seen their secret self? Though you’ve not wronged them, they flail and pivot with the agony of your having shared their inner monologue.

It often gets masked as anger.

It’s not.

Anger is the symptom. It’s really sublimated fear.

It doesn’t have to be.

It’s okay.

Some of us can be glad we experienced another facet of life, even if the ending was a surprise plot twist.

It is a gift to hold the truth of someone else in your own heart. Even if it lodges there like a dart.

Of that, I’m certain, even as certainty eclipses my grasp.

The foolishness of my own certainty came back to punch me in the gut. In time, I will forget the lesson, just as I did with the lesson of life’s urgency; it’s a lesson that can’t be explained. It must be experienced.

A Mixed Post Of Story and Trivia

1/4 of all your bones are in your feet.

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“Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.” – Internet quote.

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He stopped and stared at the long rectangular Target sign at the front of the parking lot. Though the sun shone brightly, the chill of winter still clung to him. His life had become one continuous transition. His heart felt the pull of softness and also the duality of the hardness needed to live a good life. Making choices always cut one’s life into disparate columns; a choice made inevitably rendered another to be toothless. Most people found themselves unable to keep regrets from spoiling their minds; restless minds fill with regrets of things both done and undone, attempting an impossible balance.

The horn behind him startled him. He laughed as he jumped, waving to let the other driver know he was sorry. It had bleeped a long, consistent tone. “Forward now!” it said.

Just like that, he did.

He left the indecision behind him.

“Be happy,” he said, to no one and to everyone. Like his car, his life lurched forward.

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I want you to feel this sentence in your head, to experience the soft agony of a fleeting moment accelerating past. Words are knives, yet sharp edges have utility. The smell of wood smoke in December, hovering above a blanket of quiet snow. The smell of Saturday morning bacon or salt pork, your grandmother’s loving fingers artfully guiding the pieces in the hot pan, her mind focused on the utility of feeding those she loves. The smile of a September bride, her eyes opened to only possibilities and love, miles distant from those tragedies that always befall us. The tap of a piano beginning its melody in the background as someone lifts a cold beer from the family table. A raucous laugh bursting from an amused mouth. The sharp involuntary intake of breath when beauty is within reach. The rush of saliva in one’s mouth with the first bite of fried chicken, a grilled hamburger, or bell peppers slightly charred on a grill. Words are knives, but they are also caresses, ones crafted for delighted eyes and open hearts, to be whispered into attentive ears and crafty mind. Everything is a moment to an observant mind.

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“When life gives you lemons, squirt someone in the eye.” Cathy Guisewite

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Did you know that a truel is a duel except that three participants are involved instead of two? Most people don’t. Invariably, if I use the word without context, most people don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. (It’s the same when I use the word “antepenultimate,” which means “next to next to last,” or “third from last.” It’s a handy word. P.S. “X” is the antepenultimate letter of the English alphabet.)

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He sat motionless at the window, his mind trapped in an alternate universe, another timeline, one in which he was essentially himself, yet immersed in the consequences of other choices. This day would have been substantially distinct, its eddies and currents carrying him far afield from his comfort zone. Tom Wingo echoed in his head. He knew that most people wouldn’t understand the complexities of a complicated life. The invisible and hidden worlds contained inside our own minds are within reach of us all; seldom do people share them, for fear of their essential selves becoming unraveled. It is precisely inside these private compartments of our minds that we reside.

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If I tell you, “J is the only capital letter that faces the left,” you might immediately recognize that it is true. Despite this recognition, most people will stop and take a moment to inventory the alignment of their own alphabet. And if your mind is wired like mine, you will undoubtedly assign another moment to inquire as to why this small fact is true. Surely, there must be a reason.

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Someone wrote me and offered this unsolicited advice. I rewrote it to this: “The best partner is both critic and fan, unafraid to alternate between the extremes of correction and adoration.” Can you imagine if this were to be true in your own life?

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Can someone tell me why “Leave by example” isn’t a better cliché than “Lead by example?”

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Curiosity has its limits. For instance, I often see a picture of a beautiful person and wonder how many minutes have passed since they REALLY let one rip.

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About 1 in 10 people regrow at least some part of their tonsils back after removal. This fact has always stuck in my head, no pun intended.

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I am 19,717 days old today. Yay!

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Bananas are still the most popular item sold at Walmart.

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People don’t sneeze while they are sleeping. If you sneeze, you will wake up before doing so.

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A couple of the rooms here are flooded with rainbows emanating from the prisms I have in the windows. It’s the first day of Spring here in the United States. The day brought a lot of sunshine, some of which reached my heart today. That is a welcome change.

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The Malefactor Realization

You are a villain in someone else’s story.

I’ve written about this before.

It is an uncomfortable truth.

The realization hurts worse when you understand that you had to be made into one for the other person to get to a narrative he or she can live with. I think we are all guilty of this in some form.

It’s a rare thing for people to look at one another, nod in acknowledgment, and go on with their lives. We are wired to evaluate, judge, and appraise.

None of us like to imagine we acted badly. Sometimes, we have. And sometimes, not that often, we are outmatched by a superior intellect or a harder heart, both of which contribute to the likelihood that you’re going to be the rapacious villain when the words “The End” appear.

It will burn your heart and sense of fairness to be at the epicenter of such attention. Flailing won’t help – and neither will rebuke.

Sometimes, we’ve been assigned motives that don’t reflect what is in our head or heart. People need those motives to protect themselves from introspection or scrutiny.

It’s okay that it’s that way.

It is possible to act with the purest form of love and still stumble so badly that someone labels you as the villain.

It’s hard to change that label because so often there is no observable trail, no defense to be made, and no fair reckoning of facts or forces.

Yes, even in love, especially so; if vulnerability is invoked, it amplifies the rawness and center of people.

Consequences often overshadow intentions.

There are times when there is no real lesson, no moment of clarity or closure.

Only of acceptance.

Anthony Marra said it well: “You remain the hero of your own story even when you become the villain of someone else’s.”

Yesterday, I reached my moment of clarity and gave myself closure. In so doing, I ruptured some unseen line of acceptance. And I realized that the villain was me.

And I accept that, even though the label fails to align with the truth of my life. But such statements are given to an audience of no one. Fighting your labels is seldom rewarded.

I want everyone to be fulfilled and happy and to have people in their lives who love and appreciate them.

I say none of these words as villainous. But perception and personal filters assign motive for anyone reading this.

I had nothing but love in my heart.

I hope we all find our way back to it.

All of us.

Love, X

Language Belongs To All Of Us

“If we have to guess or spell words phonetically in order to be able to say them properly, why don’t we just change the spelling to be phonetic in the first place?”

I’m a better-than-average speller, but I despise the way our language makes people uncomfortable when using it. Most peoole use only 800 or so distinct words in a day. And most communication is verbal. One of my biggest pleasures is trashing the expectations of those who disagree. We all abuse the language in our own way. It belongs to all of us, to use and misuse as we wish.

Earlier, I witnessed a needless haranguing over language. I intervened jokingly. The self-appointed expert asked me something to exert dominance. I replied in Spanish. “I wasn’t talking in Spanish and I don’t understand it.” I laughed. “No, but he does, so who is the asshole now?”

I intended to write more, but I slipped and fell off my soapbox.

A Lessonless Moment

The fiftyish man stood at the postal kiosk, talking to everyone and no one. His bright orange shirt clung tightly to him. Though he lacked apparent red flags, his monologue with the anonymous interlopers in the queue signaled that something was amiss. He lifted his orange shirt to reveal his exposed stomach, punching himself repeatedly and with force. He told the onlookers that he did several hundred exercises a day to keep himself in shape. Taken ‘as is,’ his boast was comedic.

Because I constantly have a voice in my head, my voice noted the presence of a couple of attractive soccer moms who were ill at ease with his behavior. I observed their reciprocal and careful acknowledgment of what they were witnessing. I nicknamed him “Milftrap” as a nod to his self-confessed physique. As the line continued to move, Milftrap continued his tenuous conversation. The materials in front of him, purportedly the reason for his visit, remained in front of him, untouched.

I left him there, hoping he’d make a connection with someone to satisfy him.

I knew in my deepest heart that someone was terribly wrong, though I could not attach a diagnosis.

Though my nickname for him amused me, the life behind his story left me a bit untethered.

Had I seen only the briefest glimpse of him as he bragged about his physique, I would have departed filled with a bit of comedy and a new catchphrase; as it is, I left with a bit of cloud in my head.

Shirtless In February

This is obviously not me.

A few times a day, even though it is February, I have a sudden urge to just take my shirt off. Initially, I attributed it only to weight loss. I guess there’s a word for this condition: “Detunicitis.”

It’s important to note that I just made that word up.

When we were young, no one wanted to be ‘skins’ in the horrible PE games that the bored coaches made us engage in. It’s why half the world insists on wearing a shirt in the pool, which makes as much sense as flippers in the bedroom. Except for Gary. He can keep his flippers on, thanks to a condition I can’t publicly discuss. (Gary, you be you, okay?)

While I’m complaining about childhood PE classes, it was kind of sexist that the coaches never made the girls play “shirts” vs. “skins.” Particularly observant guys pointed this out to deaf ears on the part of the coaches. No one ever understood the complex morality of being modest in such matters while encouraging cheerleaders to run around half-naked. There’s a disconnect there, much in the same way that we don’t want anyone to see us in our underwear yet we cavort around poolside wearing less than our imaginations.

But we need a word to describe the sensation that encompasses the moments of realization that we’ve transitioned from obesity to normalcy. Those moments manifest themselves perfectly in those moments at Target where you’re looking at the ketchup selection. And realize that you’ve yanked your shift off.

It’s a real thing.

And, as for the three older ladies at Harps on Thursday, please accept my apology. It only got awkward because they started throwing money at me. Coins. It’s part of the reason that you can’t take your Grandmother stripping.

Anyway, if you see me without a shirt on, just walk past me without comment – even if I’m receiving communion when you notice. If it doesn’t bother the pastor or priest you’ve got no dog in the hunt. (I hate that cliché.)

“f you’ve got smokes, light’em,” so to speak.

I’m struggling to decide if this post is a joke or real. I’ll let you know.
Love, X

NO Such Recipe

Being able to sound crazy is a home field advantage. Telling the truth while sounding crazy is sublime.

He looked at me and hesitated.

I knew what he was thinking. “Go ahead. Ask.”

“What’s your secret, X? It’s like you’re training for something. You’re still you. But something else, too.” He was uncomfortable. I’m known for saying outlandish things without context. Doubly so if the other person initiates the conversation. (And triply so if the conversation is personal.)

“Do you have moments where you almost see the world differently? Where things fall away?” I asked him. “Like ‘The Matrix,’ but real? I’m being serious! As if the things you thought were important were illusions and vice versa? Like a hidden truth just becomes obvious.”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

“I had one of those moments. I saw myself as this other person, the one I forgot. And I just knew I wasn’t fat anymore.” I laughed. I love seeing the looks on people’s faces when I tell them this. Telling someone that all your previous issues evaporated simply because you suddenly ‘know’ the truth of something sounds ridiculous.

“Hmmm. I don’t know how to get there from here. That’s not specific advice!” It was his turn to laugh. “And yours wasn’t just eating. How did you do the other things?”

“Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not about thinking. Move toward the things you want. Weight loss, being happier with what you have, another job. As for the other things, those are things I should have always been doing, anyway, just like being more careful about what I put in my mouth.”

He made a face. “Yes, but what specifically can I do? Not guru stuff, the actual things I can do.”

I returned his grimace. “Stop doing the things you know aren’t healthy or the ‘you’ you’d like to be five years from now. Start doing the things you know you should be doing. Whatever you do, commit to it and be okay with things being awkward and failing a few times until they aren’t. It took a lifetime to get where you are, so start now. Eat less. Eat more healthily. Do things that you actually like to do. And think about how they impact your other choices.”

I could see the simplicity of such ridiculous advice as it reached him.

“Keep it simple. Whatever you do, don’t do it unless you can picture doing it for the rest of your life. Don’t pay for pills, drinks, or expensive programs. You already more or less know how you would like to spend your time. Now go find a way to do more of that and less of the other.”

“Ha,” he said. “I think I can do that.”

“I know you can. I don’t possess any magic that you don’t. You saw me do it. Now let me watch you figure out how to do it.”

I wondered if he might be the next to succeed. I think so. I hope so.

In the last few months, I’ve had versions of this conversation with several people. Most expect a specific recipe for success. There isn’t one.

The Piper

NSFW.

This post ends with the punchline.

A while back, I wrote about the fact that I would start writing more things that cross people’s lines. For anyone close to me, you already know that I don’t have a problem with cursing or other objectionable language – especially if such language is creative. Everything is context.

It is probable that people who don’t know me well will have a problem with me not having a problem.

The reason this fascinates me is that I’m the same person in that respect I’ve been most of my adult life. Acknowledging that my comfort zone is far wider than other people in no way negates whatever version of me that you hold in your head. One of the great realizations in our lives is to come to understand that each person in our lives has a different version of ‘us’ inside their heads. There is little we can do to alter that version of us.

If you think I’m the kind of person who doesn’t curse, you’re wrong. I adjust my audience accordingly, especially if I know that someone has a problem with coarse language. It’s a delicate balance that requires a bit of ‘squish’ on everyone.

Likewise, my turn of phrase goes directly to the idea of paying for the consequences of our words and actions. The original idiom implies misbehavior or tomfoolery that comes due.

My turn on the old cliché goes a step further. I don’t mind paying the reasonable consequences of something. Paying more than reasonable becomes onerous. From that was born my extrapolation of the phrase to be both humorous and accurate.

Don’t make people pay more than is due for errors, words, or deeds.
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“I don’t mind paying the piper. I just don’t want to blow him too.”
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