The Thrill Is Gone

You took my joy,
I want it back.
You took my joy,
I want it back!

— Lucinda Williams, “You Took My Joy”

There are some who would say I’m not a happy person. Some of those people may even live with me. I used to be happy, didn’t I? Old pictures of me show me smiling, enjoying the moment, experiencing joy. But then, somewhere, I guess, my joy disappeared. It was taken, or I lost it…I don’t know which, but it’s apparently gone.

How do I know?

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, sent me a blog post from one of the many positive parenting purveyors out there that explained in detail how their life was a series of aggravations until they were persuaded by another blog post that other people have it worse and we should enjoy what we have. I didn’t trash it immediately. I read it thoughtfully. I thought about the impact it had on me and what is says about my life that this friend would forward this to me. I did a few moments of navel-gazing and conceded that it was possible that I was an angry person. Maybe even an irrationally angry person. Now, I’ve laid out on this blog before that I am prone to having a short fuse, but I think this hints at a deeper problem.

Is it possible that I’m angry all the time? If so, why?

I lead a comfortable life. I have a good job with a great team. I have a wonderful loving family and we live in a nice neighborhood. I have an excellent family support system in both parents and in-laws. So, what’s wrong with me? Not too long ago I was diagnosed with depression and have been duly feeding the pharmaceutical industry to alleviate the symptoms. Honestly, I feel like I’m fine. I don’t notice that I’m angry, until I am. However, at that point, other people (apparently) notice.

So what is it that angers me?

It’s safe to say that the garden variety issues, like traffic and waiting in line, bother me to some extent. I have found coping techniques for these events such as extemporaneous karaoke in the car or reading a book to pass the time in line. But on a different level, the fact that I work two jobs and so does my wife and still we are unable, seemingly, to pay bills. The fact that my children, as sweet as they are, can be impossibly stubborn about the most minute things, not least of which is insisting that my wife do things for them when I’m the one with availability. The fact that sometimes my wife’s availability is compromised by what I perceive as her inability to rouse herself from bed on time. Aside: she is cute when she sleeps though! But, these things are minor…I should be able to move past this. Still, these things seem to be the tipping point for when I’m not able to filter out the facts of climate change that affect our health, gun control in a state where toting a military weapon is second only to bouncing an orange ball, continuous assault on educational institutions in the form of budget cuts, a world where I can’t allow my children to play in the yard alone without fearing they’ll be snatched and subjected to any number of horrific experiences, among other things. I’m angry because the world is not sunshine and lollipops. But then, no one said it would be.

Still, I’m angry. I’m angry because I have responsibilities like taking out the trash and making lunches for my kids. I’m angry because I can’t just sit and read a book or travel the countryside at my leisure. I’m angry because the pragmatist in me sees the world and how I live in it as it is and not how I would like for it to be. My power of positive thinking extends only as far as my sensible, and some might say misanthropic, mind will allow.

To that end, I’d like to be joyful. I would love to wake up with bluebirds whistling a happy tune on my bed post, but that would probably only draw my attention to the mountain of laundry on the floor and the less than clean bathroom just beyond. I do have happy moments. Just the other night, I watched my daughter smiling as she enjoyed a television show. Last night, I sat playing my mandolin out in the backyard while my son played on the swing set and I enjoyed his playfulness. I’ve also been more cognizant of giving my wife a hug every day because I read an article that said that women need daily hugs and that is joyful to me.

So, to that friend who sent me the blog post that stated “Things look a lot different when you hold your current annoyance against the fragility of life” I say, yes, that’s absolutely true. And I wish that I could curb my reaction to those annoyances, but it’s the very notion of the fragility of life that causes these annoyances to anger me. “Choosing to be joyful…” as the blogger suggests is a fine notion, but it’s not a realistic view for me. I am as joyful my circumstances allow me to be and I’m not likely to fake it in order to project happiness.

See you in the funny papers!

Drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.

By nearly all accounts, 2016 has been an unmitigated disaster. From unfortunate deaths of celebrities to the wholesale collapse of sanity in the election Aside: Seriously?! If you thought this would be without bias, you clearly haven’t been reading this blog for long. the arbitrary construct we know as the year 2016 has been without a doubt one of the most miserable in recent memory. And yet, I was able to weather it all with the help of family, friends, and a healthy monthly dose of Big Pharma. Mostly, I wasn’t even phased by 2016. I didn’t even really begin to be affected beyond brief twinges of mourning until the election and then it sort of went downhill. But, today…today it hit home. Just days before the end of our trip around the sun, a princess died.

Not any princess mind you. Our princess. The galaxy’s princess. Princess Leia. Sure, she was really Carrie Fisher. She was, for some, Meg Ryan’s best friend and Tom Hanks’ husband. She was even a crazed jilted lover laying down gunfire on Jake and Elwood. But for me and my generation, she was an ersatz ambassador desperately trying to reach Obi-Wan, her only hope, in an effort to save the galaxy from the evil Empire and Darth Vader. She was a girl who brooked no nonsense from anyone, certainly not a naive farm boy from a backwater planet or a huckster scoundrel whose love of money would not stand in her way. If she had to save her own ass, so be it. She was embodied feminism in a world that was desperate for a female who didn’t need a man to rescue her. Princess Leia was her own hero.

Don’t get me wrong. I mourned the death of Alan Rickman, Prince, and even Louisville’s own Muhammad Ali. Jose Fernandez and Anton Yelchin, both gone just as they were beginning their greatness. The prolific Leonard Cohen and the reclusive Harper Lee. Fidel Castro, who some thought would never die, and John Glenn, whose heroism made us feel that death could be overcome. But Carrie Fisher is the final straw because a little piece of my childhood died today. Her memory, mostly encased in 40 year old plastic in a 3 3/4″ likeness, will live on because an entire generation watched the princess in white defeat the evil in black.

The title of this post, of course, refers to her request that her obituary list her cause of death as having “drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra” due to a discussion with George Lucas about undergarments in space. I saw her once at a women’s conference. I was one of about 3 men in the room at the time, all fanboys naturally. She was, as she was known in later years, completely uninhibited and willing to talk about anything. She answered questions without giving one single fuck about anything anyone might have to say in rebuttal. I was able to get her autograph on a photo from the conference program, standing a table’s width away from galactic royalty, and aside from Peter Mayhew’s autograph, the only one I’ve ever received.

My wife asked me earlier if I was okay, and on the whole I’m fine. I didn’t know her personally, of course. I’m sure that her daughter, Billie, and her dog, Gary, and a host of people around her who knew her personally are devastated as they’ve lost a light in their lives. Truth be told, I didn’t even really start this post with the intent of making it solely about Carrie Fisher. It just speaks to how large a part of my life that Star Wars was, is, and continues to be.

I’m happy to report that my own family is alive and well. My parents have both lived to nearly 70 at this point and are happily sharing in the lives of their grandchildren. I could do with a little less debt and a little more money, but who couldn’t?! I know that in the grand scheme of things, a lot could be worse. But when something has been a part of your entire life, it’s hard not to reflect on the loss of it.

So, as we wave farewell to 2016 and begin yet another trip around the solar system, I want to say, May the Force be with you!

Too Long;Didn’t Read (tl;dr)

I have started this blog post a couple of times in my head. It still doesn’t sound right. I don’t know that it ever will. I don’t know that it is capable of being coherent. I don’t know that it will make any impact on life in general. I suspect that it will be too long and you won’t read it, as the title suggests.

That’s fine. I don’t know that it’s necessarily for you. It might just be for me.Still, I hope someone reads it because maybe it will help them think and have a clearer notion of what they would like to say.

On Tuesday, this country, OUR country voted out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of a woman president. Fear of immigrants. Fear for safety. Fear of economic confusion. And, you can couch that in any justification you’d like, but know that it was fear. And some of you will say I’m an elitist liberal who is out of touch with mainstream America. You are wrong. I grew up in white middle-class America. I live in white middle-class America. Did I get an education? Yes, but I worked for it. It took me 16 years of hemming and hawing, complacence and obstinance, laziness and aggravation, to get my college degree. And I got it mostly to simply maintain my existence in white middle-class America. However, the education that I continue to get is from an understanding that my education, my skin color, my income level…none of that entitles me to behave as those I’m a better human and that I deserve more than anyone else.

I get that some people are frustrated that their jobs are seemingly disappearing. Some of those jobs were always going to disappear. Automation and streamlined production processes make it simpler for companies to do more with less people or no people at all. I no longer need someone to operate the elevator for me, but I do need someone to fix the elevator if it’s broken. That’s progress. Some of those jobs disappeared because it’s simply cheaper to do business in other countries where they don’t worry so much about things like worker safety, overtime, or insurance. I’m glad we have child labor laws, so that my kids don’t have to work 14 hours a day in toxic conditions for pennies. Aside: although, it wouldn’t kill them to bring in a buck or two now and then to help with the mortgage.

I get that some people are upset that their world view is changing. When they grew up, men were men and those men married women who were women. I grew up in that same world. But, as my mother-in-law is fond of saying, “Only the flexible survive.” If you can’t see that there are people who find their biological nature to be a hindrance to their happiness and that their flexibility enables them to live in this world, then your intolerance becomes an issue; an issue that must take a back seat to an old way of life. And, just because you’ve never seen a woman be president before, doesn’t mean she can’t or shouldn’t. As a matter of fact, you’d probably be surprised if you looked back in time to see how many First Ladies might have made a better nation if they’d only been President; Abigail Adams, Lucretia Garfield, Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Betty Ford, to name but a few.

This country was built in its entirety on the backs of immigrants in some form or other. Even if your ancestors came over on the Mayflower, they were still immigrants. They may have been Irish or Polish, Chinese or Iranian or Bosnian, Vietnamese, Filipino, or any other host of nationalities that this country should have welcomed with open arms, but resisted time and again because they were different. Yet, the country survived, and grew stronger, because these people, my ancestors included, became Americans. They saw a great country and they came here, sometimes maybe without the proper paperwork, for the life they could not achieve in their own country. America is different. It is made of differences. We thrive on those differences; they should not be what divides us.

I’ve heard many calls for unity and healing and peace over the last hours. I’ve also heard of many despicable acts. The church I grew up in believed in the notion of turning the other cheek; to be kind to your oppressors. It’s hard to do when you’re repeatedly slapped. It’s hard to do when your oppressors want to see you eliminated from their lives either by deportation or by violence. I don’t fear for myself because by sheer genetic happenstance, I am light skinned and biologically male, and my formative years were spent in overwhelmingly Christian circumstances. But, I do fear for my friends who love people who happen to be biologically the same, my friends whose skin is darker than mine, my friends whose place of worship has a different symbol on the front door. I am content to join in the unity and healing, provided that the peace exists for all people not just the ones who happen to have certain chromosomes aligned in a certain pattern.

When President Obama was elected, I heard a chorus of people who were convinced that the end times were coming.When President Trump was elected, I heard a similar chorus just from different corners of the nation. Back then I urged calm and suggested that Obama be given a chance before we threw in the towel. Difficult as it is for me to think that Trump will be half the president Obama was, I still am of a frame of mind to urge calm and suggest that he be given a chance. Many people posed the post-election question, “What do I tell my children?” I asked myself that same question. I think at this point the best answer I can provide is that this is how the system works. Every four years we vote and someone wins. Our job, as citizens, as humans, is to work to create a nation and a world that is healthy for all people. When we vote, we vote for the person we think will do the proper job in bringing about that world. The winner may not always be the person we think it should be, but that simply means that we have to work harder at creating that nation. Growing pains notwithstanding, we are creating that nation.

I’m a person who uses humor to get through tough times. Unfortunately, over the last day or so, I’ve struggled to find the humor. I haven’t laughed because there wasn’t anything to laugh about. This will change. I will again find the laughter. I don’t know where it will come from, but I will find it. And, I will use it to help build a better world for me, for my kids, for you, for your family, for everyone.

 

Are you ready for some football?!

I have been spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about football lately. Partially because autumn is fast approaching and, with it, all things pumpkin spice, which for the most part I abhor. Also, the baseball season is winding down which always sort of depresses me. Winter seems extra long without the crack of the bat and the smell of grass and leather. Finally, because my path has crossed the football plane a couple of times lately and that has urged me to write this.

This leads me to my current thoughts on football which is hilarious because of this small anecdote: When we first ordered DirecTV, we were automatically signed up for NFL Sunday Ticket. Now, prior to a couple of years ago, I didn’t give any thought to the NFL. I was aware of it, I just had no interest. And NFL Sunday Ticket is no small price tag item, particularly if you have zero fucks to give. So, my loving wife called customer service to have it removed.

Wife: “Yes, we don’t need NFL Sunday Ticket.”

Customer Service: “You don’t need it?”

Wife: “Correct. My husband doesn’t watch football.”

Customer Service: “He…he doesn’t…he doesn’t watch football. At all?!

I’m fairly certain the gentleman on the other end of the phone had a minor stroke as he began the process of removing this golden package that every full-blooded American male covets with every fiber of his being. Suffice to say, we’ve never had NFL Sunday Ticket, and I don’t anticipate ever needing it.

Part I

Now, being as I’ve established my complete lack of interest in professional football, I should note that I do follow, with some interest, college football. Particularly where it intersects with the University of Louisville (my employer and alma mater) and the University of Kentucky (that other school which could burn tomorrow and I wouldn’t miss it) and the University of Tennessee (simply because they tend to regularly destroy UK, and I married into a Vols family Aside: Vols, Vowels, ahem, it all makes sense if you think about it.) and with this I do tend to get an appreciable amount of football.

Because of this, I had occasion to become a fan of Teddy Bridgewater, fan favorite at UofL, who was drafted to be a quarterback by the Minnesota Vikings and I tended to follow his progress with Minnesota just as happenstance. So, it was with some fear and an audible gasp from the city of Louisville that I read of his tibiofemoral dislocation Aside: Do NOT Google images of this unless you’re prepared to lose your lunch! Teddy is a quality individual who is well liked by pretty much everyone who’s ever spoken his name, that I’m aware of, and so this season-ending injury was devastating to him, to Vikings fans, and to UofL fans. I wish Teddy well in his recovery and hope that he gets back on the field for Minnesota sooner than later.

Part II 

Bridgewater:quarterback. Kaepernick:quarterback. Now, this is not an SAT question. Nor is it connecting Teddy Bridgewater and Colin Kaepernick (of the San Francisco 49ers) in any way. Merely a segue way to show you my mind gets from one place to the other. Still, if you’ve even glanced at the news lately and pushed aside the presidential election for just a moment, you’ve heard of Colin Kaepernick, of “sitting during National Anthem” fame. I don’t know about Kaepernick’s ability as quarterback, but I have several thoughts on his current stance (or lack thereof) regarding the National Anthem. Why? Because I have, at times, felt the exact same as Colin Kaepernick.

  1. I’m not entirely sure why we play the National Anthem before sporting events in the first place. It doesn’t seem to lend itself to any purpose other than a manner of beginning things. I would think that this could be accomplished in any other number of ways. One example would be to simply blow a whistle at the appointed time, or to yell “Play Ball.” It seems arbitrary to play the National Anthem. We could just as easily rally around “Happy Birthday” or a rousing rendition of “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night.” Stadiums are chock full of screens and clocks these days. It would seem that the crowd wouldn’t really need another defining moment to know when the game begins.
  2. It seems to me that people who might be offended by Kaepernick’s decision to sit are military veterans, of which I am not, but I know several. For many of them, their particular thoughts on the decision are that Kaepernick is well within his rights as an American citizen to sit during the anthem, particularly since he’s given a sound reason for doing so, rather than he’s just tired or lazy. I figure if people who have actually fought in wars are not concerned about his decision, then maybe those of us who haven’t fought in wars should be a little less irate. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why they’re mad. There’s this intense feeling that seems out of joint when their sense of decorum and patriotism is slighted. I would suggest that maybe they could listen to what Kaepernick is saying about his rights as a citizen, rather than simply flying off the handle.
  3. I used to be Colin Kaepernick. Not in a literal sense, but there was a time in my life where I didn’t stand for the anthem. I didn’t look at the flag. I felt that our country was participating in global activities that didn’t represent me and, for my part, not reverencing the flag was an act of civil disobedience. Currently, I don’t stand during the ubiquitous “God Bless America” because I don’t believe God does bless America, nor should God were God so inclined. We are a global citizenry and this jingoistic nonsense wrapped in love of country is not helping anyone. It reeks of McCarthyism and “Red Scare” and is entirely unnecessary. Still, there was a time I felt the same about the American flag. However, I should note that now, I stand and salute the flag (per the U.S. Code) and sing the National Anthem loudly and proudly (not least of which because I have a pretty great singing voice and I can’t stand to hear people mumble through it) because I’m supportive of these same military veterans that I referenced earlier.

So, with all of that said, it’s still baseball season as far as I’m concerned. The Red Sox are still in it to win it (though their bullpen could certainly use some help!) and I’m looking forward to fall with only the slightest bit of depression, as I typically do. And, maybe all of the above is why I don’t follow professional football.

Go Cards! Go Vols! Beat Kentucky!

See you in the funny papers!

 

Dealing With The Fear

There are stories that are true, in which each individual’s tale is unique and tragic, and the worst of the tragedy is that we have heard it before, and we cannot allow ourselves to feel it too deeply. We build a shell around it like an oyster dealing with a painful particle of grit, coating with smooth pearl layers in order to cope. This is how we walk and talk and function, day in, day out, immune to others’ pain and loss. If it were to touch us it would cripple us or make saints of us; but, for the most part, it does not touch us. We cannot allow it to.

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

 

I awoke this morning to a nightmare that I thought was nigh impossible and really doesn’t (or, so far, doesn’t seem to) have any effect on me. Yet, I feel compelled to address it because I’m concerned that this same nightmare might become a reality in my own part of the world. But, it is my belief that the so called “Brexit” is the succumbing of yet another country to the notion of “other” being incompatible with “us.” I can only imagine what this must feel like to immigrants in Great Britain, to expats living in the European Union, to people who felt like this was not in the realm of possibilities.

Our own president, Franklin Roosevelt, once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This is what fear looks like and we should very much fear it, because it is tearing apart the social fabric of global unity. Regardless of what your views on religion, or politics, or economics are, the notions of borders and “us and them” are divisive and unnecessary. A particular presumptive nominee in the United States continues to stoke the fires of this racist bigotry and is now exalting the results of the EU referendum as a pattern that the USA should follow in some fashion as it careens toward the November election.

Humanity is a collective organism. We all exist on the same plane and need to work together to ensure our own survival. Unfortunately, nothing that I’ve seen of late leads me to believe that we’re aware of that. We seem to be oblivious to each other and maybe we are doing that in order to function on a daily basis. It is entirely plausible that a crippling awareness of humanity on a global scale would be our undoing. However, I feel like we need to face that fear; stare it down back into its deep, dark cavern. Humans need to cross imaginary borders, both geopolitical ones and emotional ones, in order to create a world where fear has no sway. If you are with me on this, I want to recruit you to join with me in creating a world without fear. If you are against me on this, I’m not going to stop preaching about the need to band together as one, so at least keep listening even if you disagree. It’s for the good of humanity, it really is.

Silent No More

I have been silent. I have been silent in the face of the latest shooting in Orlando simply because I don’t know what to say. I have been silent because I’m not sure what more I can say other than this has to stop. And, I’ve said that before. I’ve argued with friends and enemies about the value of guns in our society. I’ve discussed with loved ones and strangers the vagaries of Constitutional rights. I’ve lost friends because of my belief that humanity as a whole outweighs being a Christian or Muslim or brown or white, or being a member of the LGBTQIAPK community, or a gun owner, or a social justice warrior, or an environmentalist, or someone who is mentally ill.

But, I will be silent no more.

We are all humans on this planet. Regardless of what label you put on yourself or others, you are a member of humanity which entitles you to treat every other member of that 7 billion plus population with respect, dignity, and love. You, whoever you are, do not get to judge what is right or wrong as though you have some moral ascendancy above anyone else. I’m not better than anyone who reads this, or has it read to them, or has it translated for them. And they are not better than me. We all exist on this planet for a short time and we owe it to one another, despite the labels, to be kind and generous to every member of our shared humanity.

My silence carried with it an implicit approval that everything is fine and everything is not fine. There are a great many wrongs in the world, in this country, in this state, but one thing I can no longer be silent about is the use of guns as weapons of mass destruction. This is what they are. Yes, I have friends who are responsible gun owners who will debate this with me to the end of time. But, guns are designed, manufactured, and sold to destroy things. They have no other purpose. Those things can be animals, targets, or as has been the case of late, people, but guns do not help humans. They are used to intimidate, frighten, attack, and destroy any number of things on this planet, but one thing they do not do is enable humans to engage with each other in a peaceful manner.

I have heard the arguments. They are no longer valid in the face of willful destruction of humanity. You’re welcome to challenge that notion if you feel so inclined. I’m not above changing my opinion in the face of overwhelming evidence, but I assure you that this is going to be a tough row to hoe. I will no longer stand idly by and allow guns to become a normative value in human society. They do not have a place in my home and they should not have a place in this world.

I will be silent no more.

A.M. or P.M.

Am I a morning or a night person? The answer to this has varied over the years, as I think it probably does with most people. At the moment, I don’t think I’m really either, though that also depends on your definition of morning and night.

Most mornings, I’m the person who gets out of bed first and begins the day for everyone else. This is not a criticism or a complaint, it just is a fact. My alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and that’s when I start my day, even if it’s just to hit the snooze button and catch up on the daily news via Twitter or Facebook. I’m not particularly happy that I’m the first one up, but I don’t really mind. I wish that my mornings ran a little smoother to the point where I could sit and grab a cup of coffee or tea and really settle my mind around the day. But, with a 6 year old and a 3 year old, that really doesn’t figure into my morning at this point. I would also imagine that some proper pre-planning at night might assist in this somewhat, but that leads us to the nighttime portion of this post.

I’m not really a night person, per se. I don’t stay up late generally and I find myself going to bed earlier and earlier as I age. Still, I enjoy the night. I like the night sky, in particular. The moon, the stars, the peaceful stillness (in most respects) are things I covet. But, it’s a struggle to get to that point. Once I’ve finished a day, I’d like to just sit and read a book or have a drink and get on with the business of going to bed. I don’t watch much TV anymore, I much prefer a movie or a good book…both of which can be enjoyed from the warm comforts of my pillow.

I suppose on the whole, I would consider myself a morning person by virtue of being able to commandeer that portion of the day with the most of my faculties. After a shower and a coffee or juice, I can attack the day. However, I think I would prefer if my mornings began at 8:30 or 9 or so. I could be a much better morning person at that point.

I reckon that this means I’ll be a pretty good retiree.

See you in the funny papers!