Moving Forward

One of the common themes of the show Mad Men is when literal imposter Donald Draper aka Dick Whitman reaches a hurdle in his life, he relies on the mantra of “Move forward.” Granted, Don is a philandering narcissist whose attachement to others verges on sociopathic at times, really he is right. He is often like someone banging on the outside of the glass, repeating the same thing over and over again that makes the most sense, coming from one of the most flawed characters.

We are all flawed. We have all made mistakes. It is those who choose to dwell in that misery, those who continue to hurt themselves and others because of their own pain who will never rise to the occasion. They have found their comfort zone in misfortune. Some of the rest of us have decided to learn from our mistakes, gain widsom from our pain and…

Move. Forward.

This week I have had some challenges and rather than stew about them like I used to do, I have taken the stoic mindset: Choose not to be harmed–and you won’t feel harmed.” I have registered the disappointment, the frustration, I have cataloged it, I have learned from it, but it has not harmed me. I am moving forward. It isn’t about me, it’s about them. And if this is what it takes for them to feel a modicrum of happiness, then I pity them. Because no one ever found happiness by being petty and causing others grief.

If I were a southern woman, I would say I would pray for them. But I’m not, so I won’t.

To those of you who know my history, a brief explanation to this is said simply: SSDD.

That’s all the thought we need to give it.

Recently, I have moved forward with other things as well. I’m reading a few books to help with my travel writing. As near as I can tell, a big challenge I have to face and conquer is getting out of my own way. That seems to be the story of my life. But right now, I feel like I have the talent to do this, but maybe I haven’t had the drive, nor the plan to actually move forward and navigate this goal.

Even as a kid, I always had talent. School was easy. Boring. I never even took notes in college. I got complacent. I didn’t strive. I barely struggled unless it was self-imposed to give me a challenge. I actually thought that just by having a degree, a better life and a high salary awaited me. None of that did me any favors. It’s a bad mentality to have. I’m reading these books and trying to learn. I’m trying to get over the sentiment that I know it all. I’m leaving ego at the door. I’m walking into it as a fresh-faced recruit. I can write. Sure! But this is more than stringing words together. This is something else.

Finally a challenge. Move forward.

So, I will keep reading these books and I will work on giving my talent some focus to make something out of it, rather than just something to show off at parties. It gets you invited to only a few parties, and then people stop calling because writers have a large vocabulary and often annoy partygoers. So the invites stop eventually.

Better put my non-partygoing time to good use and do what has been something I’ve grown to love about myself over the years. You can’t ever learn too much about something you want to do better.

So Much for a Year

Where has the time gone?

It has been a lost year for many of us.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around so much of it.

Loss of what we all used to know.

Loss of connection.

Loss of loved ones.

Loss of sanity for some.

Loss of the world.

For some of us, we struggle to rebuild our lives.

To make some sense out of a world that seems to be run now by those who can shout the loudest, be the meanest, and do so without compassion or regard for others. A population of people who think it is more important to be “right” than it is to be kind.

I’m doing all right. The Man in the High Castle in my own right. Out here on the outskirts, looking in, running out of Motrin from all the facepalming I’ve been doing lately. Glad I’m back where I came up from. I’ve found ways to find fulfillment that a year ago, I wouldn’t have considered. I took a lot for granted back then. I was complacent with other things too. I lived under the impression that waking up next week wouldn’t be much different than a month or a year.

I was wrong about that.

Sometimes I miss the damp, heavy air of a crowded room. The feeling of too many people in one place. I dream of stupid facemasks now. It’s better to just stay at home and keep busy with something else, rather than encourage those kinds of dreams.

This isn’t the Somme. This isn’t the Berlin Airlifts. This isn’t the Flood.

It’s annoying. It’s reminiscent of times I hoped were gone. I just look away and try to stay busy.

I check in on old connections sometimes only to find that we probably could no longer be friends. This world continues to divide. I don’t think things will go back to how they were either. That’s okay too. I never liked those parties all that much anyway.

A year ago, we were riding that wave, which broke soon thereafter. Just a few weeks and it would all go back to how it was.

In some ways, I miss that world, and in other ways, dealing with how things have become have opened my eyes to new possibilities. I have gotten new opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I am blessed and I am grieving all at once. I find myself better off now than I was a year ago in some ways. Like losing a close family member and getting an inheiritance.

What a weird place to live. A strange time.

Stay safe.

We’ve gotten lazy

I tend to share a lot of personal things on this site and there’s a good chance if you are in my life, your stories might find their way here. I always try to do my best to obscure the originator, since I’m just relating their story based on my own lens. That’s what people have done for centuries. They share each other’s stories, they tack on their own bits and push this collection of things to the next person. Entire civilizations have been built this way.

I contacted my friend last night because I was working on a chapter of the book that sampled heavily from a conversation we had at a New Years Eve party a few years back. We hadn’t visited in person for probably sixteen or seventeen years at that point, only keeping in touch via social media or Messenger. When I arrived at the party, it felt strange because everyone aged so rapidly from my memories of us all being in our early twenties to all of us being middle aged. I was like hanging out with everyone’s parents, pretending to be those kids I knew from so long ago.

As the night progressed, I was in the middle of a FOMO attack. That’s Fear of Missing Out. The woman I was dating at the time was off with “Friends” for New Years. Always so vague. It’s hard to be with someone like that, especially if you have trust issues. Especially when you find out later that these friends wanted to be a lot more. As I was moaning over not being included in this woman’s life, yet again, my friend–always the cool one of the group who did her own thing, made her mistakes, and somehow turned it around to seem like she had everything under control–gave me some perspective.

She said, “You used to be so cool and confident. Now you are sweating some basic bitch. What happened to you?”

It was a psychic ass-kicking, which I probably deserved from an evening of whining about my disasterous romantic interests. Back then, I was irritated by it. I had been through a lot. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was really worthy of anyone’s affection. It was always a constant struggle with my kids, who were caught in the middle of a high-conflict divorce. My oldest was peeled away from me the year before. The “relationship” I was in was toxic, since it mostly depended on whether or not she thought she wanted to spend time with me. I won’t even get into how my marriage served to break me down over the years to where I doubted everything about myself, and was still healing from that.

I had a lot of stuff going on, I guess. No, I wasn’t that cocky, confident guy at 20. I too had aged. I had my battle damage and I also wanted to know what the hell happened to me. In the years between getting married and finally filing for divorce, I lost everything. My friends. My family. I was isolated from all of my support systems, and made to think it was my decision. When you come back to people you lost a long time ago, your confidence is shot. It’s almost like you are apologizing. Asking for permission to be around them again. Not worthy of the love and respect they probably have waiting for you right where you left off.

She is living in a beautiful country right now, and I sometimes see the gorgeous photos of her travels in South Korea, with its colors and life that look like they are straight out of National Geographic. You see something like that and it’s hard to think they aren’t just having a blast. Last night as we were chatting, I caught up on a lot of her life via her blog. I’m a multitasker. I hadn’t even known she wrote one. Since this pandemic bullshit started, she has been physically cut off from friends and family, so she keeps up online. Like the rest of us, she has been segregated from her personal connections there too, with the hopes that social media and texts can still overcome that solitude. It works about as well as you’d expect. I mean we’ve all had our share of Zoom meetings.

Texts and emails are great, but they are no great substitute for a hug or sitting down and having a conversation. She really didn’t sound okay. In some ways, it was difficult to get her to engage in the conversation. I felt for her. Yet in some ways, I knew that it was like that New Years party. We were all catching up after a long hiatus. I remember that night and thinking “How come nobody checked to see if I was okay during those fifteen years?”

They didn’t know. When people are silent, sometimes the rest of us figure that they are just out there living their best life. We are hoping for that anyway.

We’ve gotten lazy. We rely on algorithms to deliver the news of our friends and family to our newsfeeds every day. Sure, we see a little bit, once we scroll through the ads for mattresses, soap, puzzle games, political punditry, and so much other static that permeates these little places we think are ours. Once in a while a crumb falls through the cracks, and we think of an old friend, and we click on their name and get to see this distorted reality of what their life is like. Usually the extremes of morose, desperately hopeful memes of encouragement, or sacharine pictures of their perfect lives. The truth is someplace in the middle.

I know that through my blog, I’ve seen the level of apathy we all have for each other these days. Back when I wrote on a LiveJournal account, we had networks of people dropping in to read each others’ posts. We would comment, have conversations. Some of my best friends are people I met that way and we have followed each others lives for over a decade now. There were no algorithms then. Just everyone’s stories laid out to share. What a time that was.

Very rarely though do people share like that anymore. We Tweet. We post one pretty picture on Instagram. We vomit our politics onto Facebook. We don’t call. We rarely text. And especially during this pandemic, we aren’t going to coffee or hugging or laughing together like we once did.

I was glad I reached out to say hi, to catch up a little bit.

Check on your friends. They probably aren’t okay.