A post from two years ago

Today.  December 6, 2019.

For the last five years, I have been able to measure and identify a lot of the changes in my life, what I am appreciative of, what I have survived, and what I have discovered about myself.

Reading this stuff reminds me of a few things.  Sometimes I am entirely too introspective.  And when I wrote this, maybe at the time I thought that was the apex of my personality.  That I had found myself and this was Me, moving forward.

Today, as much as I agree with a lot of what was said, can honestly say that living is a work in progress.  There are no definitives, and sometimes things are pendular.  My opinions on ice cream have changed, especially after meeting someone I genuinely enjoy ice cream with.  So far, my favorite is Little Man’s gingersnap cookie dough ice cream.  My opinions on the paranormal are less rigid now, with my former disbelief being a reaction to putting up with years of people pretending to be psychic.  I’m skeptical, but no longer atheistic on the subject. Mountain-biking kinda sucks; unless you are going downhill.

Since I wrote what follows in December, 2017, I have finally gotten to travel, and if you follow my travelogue at gettingoutmore.org, you’ll see that I can’t shut up about it. It has become my favorite vice and is truly a rush to experience.  Cigars might be up there now too. Along with good scotch and tacos.

I don’t go to church anymore.  The pastor at the one where I was going quit to become a day trader.  I really liked his sermons, but his absence created an identity crisis within the church, and sitting there, by myself, I felt like an outsider.  I adhere once again to the feeling that I don’t need a building to have a relationship with God.  I’ve seen people forget to be nice people and just cling to dogma.  Being a good person and following the rules are two entirely different things.  Something a lot of people should recognize if they read their Bibles.

I have gotten better at boundaries, both with others and myself.  Along the way, I have lost some people or changed the nature of our relationship with better boundaries.  It’s a good place to be.  I no longer do things to impress someone else or to prove my value.  I do things because I want to, or because I have to.  I am a lot more honest with myself.  I get bored of using “I” sentences, but in this case this is what has to be done.

I have also realized that I have outgrown my job, and am working on taking the next step, which will no doubt scare the hell out of me.  In good ways.  In some ways I am less cocky or sure of myself, but that has been replaced with confidence that I can get through just about anything if I put my heart into it.

I’ve also learned how to let go, and put things that hurt me behind me.  To act with grace and compassion.  Be careful, but not let sad choices cloud my trust.  To recognize happy choices and celebrate those.  To not see being an unrepentant, hopeless romantic as being a weakness, but as being a strength that does eventually allow you to accept good things.

Life continues to be stressful, there are wins and losses, things change but your attitude determines whether they are for the better or the worse.  Learn to appreciate what is good and move away from what isn’t.  I try to not beat myself up as much as I used to, and that feels good too.

Anyway, without any more jabber, here’s my post on Facebook from two years ago.  A few of these have changed, except for my hope and my optimism.  If you find some nuggets of wisdom in any of this…well, that’s good.

December 6, 2017

Over the last three years, I have been on a journey of self-discovery.

When you are divorced and free from an abusive relationship, everything you thought you once knew is demolished. You have a chance to actually know what is important to yourself, reject what is not, and embrace your new life. This takes a lot of navigation and personal reflection. Some things in your life should be consistent. Work being one of them. This is perhaps the easiest to keep consistent, since it is the independent variable of your life. The work continues, you are just the one who has been doing it.

So keep work. At least for a while. This is one of the things that I did. For the most part, the people I work with were very welcoming and forgiving.

Keep your family. They are probably your closest support system. Your kids might not be. They will be fighting their own battles for a while.

Your friends will change, this is okay. Keep the ones you can, welcome new ones, bid a fond farewell to those who will leave your life.

Your things. You might not value some of your possessions as much as you once did. Many of these things will be painful reminders of good times and bad. Other things, you might not view with the same importance. This can be a moment of catharsis when you realize, it’s just Stuff. However, some things might hold sentiment that is ingrained in your personality. You might need to hang on to these things, having a new understanding of exactly what they mean to you. Gone are the album books of wedding pictures, vacation snaps, souvenirs, expensive cookware and appliances, antiques you picked out together, birthday presents, CDs you might have listened to together on that roadtrip to Santa Fe, or even the couch you bought that wound up lasting much longer than your marriage.

Instead, you might have found the importance in an old blanket your great grandmother made, a bookcase full of books you have spent your adult life working through, an old chair a friend gave you because your new place lacked furniture, old love letters from someone you haven’t seen in twenty years, which had been gathering dust in your parent’s house–which on a day when you needed to be reminded of it, you were once, and one day will be worthy of someone being crazy about you again. An old pocket knife, a leather jacket, jumper cables, a collection of baby pictures your family gathered up and gave you to replace the ones you’ll never see again. These little things will get you through some of the rough spots. In time, you will gather more stuff, and even let some of these things go as well.

Little dreams. Big dreams.Sad dreams. Dreams to remember.

One of the first things I wanted to do when I was on my own was to make up for the experiences I was missing out on for years while I was married. Travel and new experiences being at the top of the list. Like anything, you have to learn to walk before you can run, and after surviving a divorce battleground, you won’t have money to do pretty much anything for a while. It all gets eaten up by attorneys, bill collectors, and responsibilities that you will have in reestablishing your life.

Let go of your anger. It’s a shadow that will follow you everywhere. It will eat anything good you can put in your heart before you even know it’s there, unless you get rid of it. I am not angry about much anymore. Traffic is about as irritated as I try to be. Sometimes something will jump up and get my goat. It’s usually something having to do with my old life. Irrational requests from the ex-wife, frustrations that crop up. I’ve found that you can handle just about anything if you are calm. You are allowed to be angry, just not ever to let it control you. Take some time to settle down when you get that tight feeling in your stomach. Because things can get much worse, you don’t need to help it get there.

Let go of bad habits. Fear, jealousy, panic, paranoia, etc. These were probably a culprit in the destruction of your marriage, so lose as many of them as you can before they get a chance to poison someone else. Kids. Future relationships. The First and foremost, before they have any further opportunity to poison you. It isn’t just about faking being “fine” so others want to be around you. You also need to feel comfortable being with you.

Take the advice of friends with a grain of salt. Some of them are probably living out their own divorce fantasies through you. Be cautious of this. Take things slow. Rushing out and partying, sleeping around, blowing lots of money, doing things that are out of character are not the best ways to explore what this new you is. Usually because there might be long-term consequences to this.

Find your faith.

Know what you don’t like. After three years of going to clubs, parties, social events, mountain biking, hiking, long drives, bars, sporting events, etc. I realized that there were things I was missing out on when I was under marital house arrest, and things I wasn’t. I realized that I enjoy writing much more than hanging out in a club, shouting back and forth into a friend’s ear while trying to have a conversation. I realize I love a good hockey game. Baseball, not so much. I can take or leave watching football on TV. It’s easier just to follow the scores on Facebook. I prefer a quiet hike in the woods to drinking with friends. I hate casinos. I don’t get the point of lifting weights. I love sea-kayaking. I don’t like running. I like mountainbiking. Working out helps clear my head. Cooking is a chore. I like binge-watching a good series on Netflix, but loathe watching network television. I like to read, but am often bored by it. I didn’t like graduate school, fishing, or court hearings. I have outgrown things like Renaissance Festival, Halloween, and tasting different kinds of whisky or wine. I’m fairly adventurous with foods I like still, as I always have been. I love spending time with my kids. Concerts just feel like a lot of standing in a crowd and going deaf. I no longer believe in the paranormal and haven’t been frightened by a spooky place in years.

Work is often boring and tedious, but it is consistent. I still don’t like ice cream or cake. I know now that I can refuse it if someone offers it to me. I know too that I need glasses all the time to see, not just for reading anymore. I know I will probably never run a 5K because my ankle joints just can’t take it. I’m fine with that too. I know you don’t have to reciprocate every time someone is interested in you. Sometimes you can just smile and say “have a nice day.” I’ve learned that you can come into contact with germs every day and not die of some illness. I’ve learned that usually when you get sick, you’ll get better. Often, you’ll be recovering alone and without sympathy. Sometimes people will come by and keep you company, lift heavy things for you, pick up the tab at dinners, text you in the middle of the night for advice.

I am an unrepentant hopeless romantic.

I like church and the gym for the same reasons. Both are new additions to my life. I don’t like going to either place, but I do like how I feel when I go home. I feel like both are making me a better person. I hate camping. I am over it. I did it every month when I was in Boy Scouts. I like a nice, warm, comfy bed much better. I actually do like walks in the moonlight, soft music playing in another room, but I don’t like movie dates. I enjoy dancing. Trading stories. Learning more about someone. There are moments when I am capable of just walking away. Standing up for myself. Being bored at home and being fine with that. I like how I look with a beard but I hate how scratchy it gets. I’m still not comfortable with compliments. But that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them. Because I like giving them.

In three years I have not found a reason to spank any of my kids. Much less many reasons to ever raise my voice at them.

I have to base what I like or don’t only on if I truly do, not by the context. Some context is good and some is bad. Prejudice is meaningless. You have to find your own beliefs, your own convictions, and sometimes rules are fine to break. Some aren’t. Some wound you further down the line.

I like coffee, but I don’t need it. It gives me bad breath. I liked the social aspect of it. People get together and drink coffee. Ordering coffee is a conversation with someone you might have missed out on otherwise. Alcohol just makes me want to sleep. And then I miss out on conversations. I don’t need pets. I don’t miss cleaning up after them, feeding them, or taking them to the vet. Kids require enough of that, and they are more interesting. It’s okay to have opinions and not waver from them. It’s also okay to change your mind on a subject. You won’t be judged as a liar for changing your mind if you keep the right kinds of company. You aren’t a loser if you aren’t going out with friends on a Friday. If you decide to do laundry for a lazy Sunday, it might just be enough. It’s okay to be alone. It’s fine to look back, look forward, living in the moment is fine too. Moderation is key. You’ll have regrets, you’ll have ambitions, you will continue to mess up, fall on your face, but just keep getting back up again.

Sometimes I talk too much. I overthink. Then I don’t say what really needed to be said, for fear of losing anything I have gained. I have been greedy with my emotions. Needy. Isolated. Reluctant and second-guessing myself. As we tend to be when we are brand new at life.

I like to write. It got me through a shitty marriage, and it’s going to be with me for a wonderful life. It supplied these words you have just read. I still haven’t traveled, other than some introspective journeying. But now, I have the patience to understand it is my life, and it doesn’t have to happen all at once. I have time.

 

So much time on my hands

“I haven’t posted here in a while” might be the words that are the death knell for a lot of blogs, podscasts, YouTube channels, and other creative content.  It is the holiday season, and among a dozen other excuses, I have to say that there is no one good reason that I haven’t posted here in a while, other than I just haven’t had a lot to write about.  That doesn’t mean I am out of ideas, but more that I have had to change the focus of why I write.

It certainly isn’t for “likes.”

I still have no idea how people monetize their sites.  My attempt to get an Amazon account went with a six month probationary period not even getting me the three sales from linked content that I needed in order to qualify.  My web-traffic is pretty low, except from Russia and China, which I suspect might just be spamming attempts.  In other words, not a lot of people are reading it.

That shouldn’t be the reason for writing things, though it is nice to think that whether it is a book, an essay, an article, or a blog, people are reading and hopefully enjoying what you have to say. If you are writing for attention, to get likes, to get affirmation, or try to get people to like you as a person, you probably need to reassess why you are doing it.

Recharging the batteries

Lately I have been listening to a lot of podcasts.  The ones with creative people were the most interesting, since it allows you to see what their creative process is, especially in a field as insular as writing.  Not long ago, before Twitter and Facebook obliterated the blogging communities, a lot of us got together on sites such as LiveJournal, Blogger, and even WordPress.  There were online forums as well.  I used to frequen the Baen’s Bar and Asimov’s Forum almost obsessively, but it wasn’t just memes.  We wouldn’t have known what the hell memes are.

When I was a kid, I used to go with my dad to his workplace once in a while.  On the breakroom wall, someone would usually post some photocopied panel of a newspaper cartoon on the board.  They are relate-able.  They give you a chuckle, usually along the lines of whatever dismal work experience you are having, and then you move on.  That is what 90% of Facebook is these days.

We gave up our online communities for pictures of a lady yelling at a cat.

Junk food for the mind

It seems like any creative outlet gets blocked by something, some vice, some bit of junk food for our brains that wants us to sabotage ourselves instead of achievement.  The internet itself was networking the minds of the world into a global conversation, beyond borders, which quickly turned into a place for free hardcore sex, black market purchasing, and clickbait news sites that essentially destroyed real journalism.

I have been listening to podcasts because the content is so rich, but there is also an awful lot of junk in there too.  Sometimes it is exhausting and actually winds up draining my creativity.  One of the weird things I get from listening to podcasts is how much they remind me of the mentality of people trying to entice you into illegal drugs.  “You should do a podcast!”

Sometimes I have thought about doing one myself and I have had people tell me I should because I have a voice that would be good for it.  I’m not going to totally nix the idea, but really, I don’t have a lot of time on my hands.  If readership on my blog is any indication of what subscribers would be to a podcast or YouTube channel, it seems like an awful lot of work to just talk to myself for an hour or two.

As it stands now, in writing my blog, I am losing momentum.  It is an awful lot of output, production, and content with pretty much zero return to make it worth while.  I still have to work, raise my son, maintain a healthy relationship with my girlfriend, and just have a life in general.  It takes a lot to keep your life together.  My well for content isn’t dry, but I have to create it, edit it (sometimes), and publish it.

Some days, you just run out of steam.  Last night, I took an hour long nap after making dinner.  I needed that damn nap.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you will pay for it later.

So, no podcast.  No YouTube channel.  And really, if my readership here and at gettingoutmore.org was any indication of interest, I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on one of a hundred million podcasts already out there when something I’m fairly good at–writing–isn’t all that well received.

Just busy

I have been told that the key to a successful blog/Instagram/podcast/YouTube/readership in general is creating a steady stream of regular content.  Eventually people will catch on and they will read/watch/absorb, etc.  But as the person creating content, this is not so easy.  Aside from just being busy with life, two jobs, raising a kid, and having experiences to write about, it’s difficult.  I can see why so many people give up.

I’m not really giving up, but I’m not doing it to get rich either.  At this point, I’m not even doing it to supplement my income.  I’m doing it as a compulsive tendency.  The majority of my readers seem to be Russian spam-bots.

Thankless

Constantly generating content is often thankless, and writing can be such a fickle, gatekeeper controlled venture that I vehemently discourage people from considering it as a livelihood.  God only knows how quickly I would starve to death if I had to rely on writing as my primary income.  Constantly generating content is thankless, and exhausting.  Writing creatively, whether it is a personal blog post, a travelogue entry, or working on my novel are very fulfilling and are the most effective way to keep me sane.

So there is value in that.  More than I could ever attribute to a dollar amount.

Being the Enemy at the Gates

I try to follow leads, I push my writing on social media, and I try to work with connections, but for whatever reason, what I’ve got doesn’t seem to be what a lot of people want.  Emails to editors are unanswered.  Queries might as well be nothing.  And the gatekeepers of social media mean that a socialite in a bikini can get more online presence than anything I write.  Maybe I need to show more skin?

I’ve always sorta felt like an outsider, even with my writing.  I had stacks of rejection letters that were pretty much “Missed it by *that* much.”  Hell, that seems to be how life is sometimes.  It has led to a bad habit of many abandoned, unfinished projects.

It can be maddening, but there’s a part of me that thinks maybe I’m missing something, like one day I will stumble across a button I didn’t know needed to be switched on and my content will be distributed around the world.  Who knows.  Again, writing for other people will drive you crazy.

For now, I will just continue to write for me, and if people like it, they will read it.

 

 

Okay, Boomer

This phrase has been going around a lot lately, and boy, I wish it wouldn’t.  I find it ironic that a generation which prides itself so much on the weight of words and the way language constructs influence out society and make a physical impact on others do this in many of the same ways that oppressors have used language in the past.

Ask any marginalized group what simple words have done to dismiss their accomplishments throughout history.  You don’t get a pass using a word to do this to a group with a perceived dominance either. In using the generational label to negate anything they say you are no better than they are.  It’s about equality, it’s not about paybacks.

As a GenXer, I spent the last 20-30 years with the media calling my generation nothing but a bunch of unmotivated slackers.  But like our Baby Boomer generational predecessors, we were raised in the shadow of the Greatest Generation.  The same people who survived the Great Depression and fought World War II were also the same people we looked up to when it came to work ethic, values, morality, and all that shit that doesn’t matter today.  Chances are, well into their 70s, a lot of us are still at the bottom rung of the ladder while the Baby Boomer generation is still tenaciously clinging to the top, unwilling and unable to retire to let us make more than base pay.

Now that I’ve laid the groundwork, let me give you the anecdote.  Today, not an hour ago, a woman came into the office, asking for a first aid kit.  Or some band-aids.  A young lady had been skateboarding close to the office and had fallen.  She had fallen and hurt herself pretty bad, but not badly enough for an ambulance.  So, I grabbed the office first aid kit and walked across the quad to the adjacent parking lot where she was, accompanied by two young men.

She sat on the ground with her legs outstretched in front of her, like she was watching a TV show on the living room floor. The boys hovering over her.  Her boyfriend was one of them, and he had brought his car.  I assessed her vitals, talked to her, asked for consent to help.  Once given, I gloved up and ripped the hole even bigger around her knee, telling her that her pants were going to be more stylish.  Her boyfriend marveled at how easy it had been to tear the fabric, as he had been trying before me.

The cut was deep, but there was no fat or bone visible.  She even said it didn’t hurt much.  I let her know I was going to clean the wound and then put on a gauze bandage, which I would tape in place over her jeans.  I went through the steps just like I said, and her wound was barely bleeding and not very deep.  The gauze bandage wicked up the blood pretty quickly but didn’t soak through.  She stood with help and was able to move her knee and her wrists.  The scuffs on her forearms were much worse and stung when I cleaned them.

I gave her a handful of band-aids, a cold compress, and told her to go home and clean the wound really well with warm soapy water. Also, I told her about the signs of shock (since she was shaky and a little disociative from the adrenaline) and to call the doctor if she blacked out. I also recommended some Motrin for pain and swelling.  Also a better skateboard.

From what I could gather, she had never hurt herself like this in 18 years of life and this was her first roadrash.  Yes, you read that right.  First. Roadrash.  I’m confident she would have still been sitting on the ground until either an ambulance or someone else came along.  I can’t remember the number of times I had walked myself home after a bike wreck or some jackassery my friends and I were up to.  Has the world gotten so nerfed that someone exists who is old enough to have a boyfriend they can call on their cell phone to come drive to pick them up from their first roadrash?

When I started working on the wound, she asked if I had any medical experience.  I had to think and said, “I was a Boy Scout, does that count?”  She said very meekly, “Yes.”  I could have also mentioned that I’m a father of three and this is not my first rodeo when it comes to scrapes and bruises.  But that’s just the thing too, I was sorta the medic for my Boy Scout troop.  I patched my friends (and myself) together after all sorts of shenanigans.  Burns.  Cuts.  Break. Sprains.  Concussions.  Hypothermia.  Sunburns.  Heatstroke. Etc.

We were not sheltered.

We went into this world with wild abandon while our Boomer parents were working their asses off or extending their childhood a few more decades.  We took care of ourselves.  We got hurt and got right back up again. Our parents didn’t always give a fuck either.

So whenever I hear “Okay Boomer,” I used to chuckle because everyone gets sick of “Back in my day…snow uphill both ways” stories.  But kids, THIS is the reason the Boomers are being as critical as they are.  Your world is nerfed and safe.  The scariest thing you have had to face is pronouns.  Cigarettes are bad, but weed should be legal and you are very adamant about this.  Trump is literally worse than Hitler! (TM)–I’ve met people with Holocaust tattoos–sorry, but you are wrong.

You are out of your element, and as annoying as the Boomers are, they are sorta right.  You are as Green as a June melon.

Schools suspend and expel kids for making fake guns to play with at recess out of sticks, but by the time they are 18, they are joining the military to fight forever wars.  They are encouraged to protest and lay down in traffic for a cause, but they aren’t able to read a document in the cursive it was written in which protects their rights to do so.  They are taught to simultaneously fear the police and depend on them as the only people who can protect them.

In my Generation, we stand at the border between these two generational groups and we just shake our heads.  We were the ones told what fuck ups we were growing up, but now have to take care of the generation ahead of us, while tolerating the ones who came after.  Talk about middle kid syndrome.

So, let your kids get roughed up a little bit by life.  It’s good for them.  And this “Okay, Boomer”shit? You’re better than that.