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!

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry, you make it double
Don’t worry…be happy!

~Bobby McFerrin

I’m not a worrier. Typically. I do have occasion to worry about my bank account, or my family, at times, but on the whole I don’t worry. I also have occasion to worry about the larger things: climate change, racism, gun control, the Red Sox, but I’m aware that there’s only so much I can do about these issues.

I know that other people worry about ‘the small stuff,’ and that’s fine, I suppose. I just wonder if they see little point to it as I do. For example, some people worry about traffic. Now, I grouse about traffic; it annoys me, particularly when there’s simply very little visible reason for such. However, I don’t worry about it. Often, particularly when I’m alone in the car, I can simply turn the radio up or enjoy the silence. I don’t worry about the cleanliness of the house, or the length of the lawn. I don’t think about the price of gasoline until I go to fill up and then I simply pay what’s listed and go on about my life.

Worry is an added detractor the pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t help anything to worry, particularly about things that are beyond the control of the average individual — which actually encompasses quite a large swath of global issues. I’m sure a wise person once said Aside: because I’m certain that this fun little axion didn’t just originate in my head. “Take care of you, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Regardless, I’m going to go about my day, my year, my life, doing my best to adhere to this bit of prophetic wisdom. I’ll be taking care of myself. You should take care of you as well…but I’m not going to worry about it if you don’t!

See you in the funny papers!

Three Favorite Shows and a Friday Five

Television. It is ubiquitous in our society. I must admit that I’m drawn in from time to time by a variety of different shows, but lately I’ve backed away from watching television. It doesn’t hold the same interest for me and I find myself less and less engaged. I also find that a good book will do just as nicely and it even helps me fall asleep more quickly. Still, we all have our favorites, particularly those we can watch again and again.

  1. M*A*S*H – The good old 4077. I remember seeing the helicopter fly across the screen to the opening strains of “Suicide is Painless” as I went off to bed. M*A*S*H was after my bed time when I was little, but even now I can sit down and watch an episode and be completely engaged. It was a delightful set of characters whose shenanigans were always fun to watch, but the show’s more poignant moments were reminders that it was a war zone and that people’s lives were at stake. It was a great balance of sitcom and drama.
  2. Gilmore Girls – You wouldn’t necessarily think that I’d be drawn in by a small town mother/daughter/daughter drama, but the writing was so fast-paced and intelligent that I was hooked from episode 1. It was one of those shows that you hated to see end and you wanted certain things for certain characters. Even when things didn’t go the way you envisioned them, you still sort of felt okay about things and were just happy to be invited to the party.
  3. Fawlty Towers – John Cleese is a god, but without the help of Sybil, Polly, and Manuel, this show would never have made it. Just an angry Basil doesn’t get it, but the exasperating reasons for his anguish are what truly makes this small ensemble click. If you’ve not seen Fawlty Towers, go with all haste and enjoy the few episodes that are available. And, if you’re not laughing within moments…maybe we shouldn’t be friends.

***************

Back in the day, when I was writing on this blog consistently, there was a little thing I used to do called the Friday Five. Five questions on a theme that provided the substance on a Friday. Today’s Friday Five is about communication:

1. What makes it easy to talk to someone? When they have something engaging to say, or share an interest with you. As an asocial introvert, I can most days without engaging in substantive conversation with anyone. However, the short answer to this is that nothing makes it easy to talk to someone.
2. What percent of the day do you spend talking? Per the first question, I’d say less than 15% unless I need to be on the phone for something. I’m a relatively quiet person and I don’t typically engage in small talk.
3. Who, in your opinion communicates better: men or women? It’s not really a matter of better. It’s a matter of difference. Men communicate in small bits of information, concise, and without elaboration. Women, on the other hand, can serenade each other with a host of information that lightly touches the actual topic of conversation. Neither one is necessarily better than the other, nor are these definitive; there are exceptions to every rule.
4. What topics do you avoid when talking to a stranger? There are no topics that are anathema to me. I’ll talk politics, money, family, sex…doesn’t matter. However, if I’m not interested in the stranger’s communicative engagement, I’m liable to appear standoffish or rude. This might not be an all-together inaccurate assessment, but then I don’t care much for conversation.
5. Do you like to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations? By virtue of not being a talker, I do find myself on the eavesdropping end of things quite often. It’s not intentional. I simply am not engaged in a conversation and am near enough to hear yours. More often than not, I’m not interested in that conversation either, but listening beats talking.

See you in the funny papers!

My Dinner with…

You may have noticed an increase in the bloggery on this blog. I’ve toyed with the notion of shutting it down completely, but then I go through moments where I feel like I want to write. Currently, I’m exploring a year’s worth of writing prompts from Rustico.com. It popped up in an email. I have no idea why or where it came from, but a year’s worth of prompts is nothing to sneeze at. Still, don’t expect, suddenly, a year’s worth of blogging either. I’m old and crotchety and I’ll do what I want.

Anyway, one of the prompts was if you could have dinner with any living person, who would it be? I’m sure this question has been done to death. There may even be an answer on this very blog, but I feel like there are so many great possibilities, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one.

Honestly, at this very moment, my answer has to be Henry Louis Aaron, probably better known to you as Hank. This one seems easy right now. He’s getting on in years (He’ll be 82 next month) and I’d love to sit with him and just talk about anything. I’d love to hear his stories about baseball from his early year with the Indianapolis Clowns, through Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, and relive 715 with him. I want to talk to him about his civil rights activism, where we are now and how far we’ve come and where we need to go. I’d be interested in hearing about what he thinks his legacy is as a ballplayer and as a human. I’d be interested in hearing his thoughts on Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. I’d love to know what he thinks of President Barack Obama also breaking a different kind of color barrier. I’d also like to invite his friends to sit down and have a few drinks and hear what they have to say about Hank Aaron.

Honorable mentions for alternate dinners: George Lucas, Queen Elizabeth II, Sarah Vowell

See you in the funny papers!

I Hope You Dance

My first boy/girl dance was in the 7th grade. At least, it was the first boy/girl dance I remember attending. It was in the spring, but it was practically after school let out, so it’s not as though it was this grand affair with tuxes and limos. We just slapped on a tie and went back to the gym where we had waited for the bus not more than a couple of hours before.

My self-esteem in the 7th grade, on a scale of 1 to Awesome, hovered somewhere near three. This didn’t stop me from being enamored with girls. I had a crush on a lot of girls. Silent crushes, of course, because of the aforementioned self-esteem. But, in my head, they were dream states. Y’know that scene in ‘Wayne’s World’ where Garth hears Dreamweaver? Yeah…that was me. Still, in the 7th grade, I was halfway to manhood Aside: *snort* and this was my opportunity to ask out my current crush. Her name was Myrna* and she was tall (which for a seventh grader really wasn’t that tall) and brunette and I thought she hung the moon even though I didn’t know squat about her other than her name and where she went to school, and this only because she sat behind me in math.

I went through the effort of calling her to ask her to the dance. Back in my day, we had to look this number up in a large book and go to the kitchen where the phone was attached to a line in the wall and talk to our desired party in front of any and every one who wandered by, including parents or younger siblings. My self-esteem level was boosted to 4 just to make this phone call. Yet, by most accounts, it could be said that this phone call was a harbinger of things to come. After I asked Myrna to the dance, she stated that she was going to be attending the dance with several of her friends and that she would see me there. In my 7th grade consciousness, this meant that we would meet at the dance, glide across the gym floor for an hour, and then, possibly, a kiss. On her end, I’m guessing that she was pretty clearly stating that most, if not all, of this was never going to happen. She was simply being polite. Looking back, this should’ve been much clearer to me, but when your vision is clouded with Dreamweaver sparkles it’s hard to notice these things.

So, I got spiffed up and headed for the dance. Dance is a loose term for this sort of event. A large gym with a stage at one end that had the lights out and a few tables here and there. I don’t even remember there being refreshments. Just loud music and moderately dim lighting since there were unshaded windows near the ceiling. I should also mention that I don’t actually dance. I mean, I can shuffle back and forth. I’m aware of the notion of rhythm. But, in no uncertain terms could any movement I’ve ever done be misconstrued as “dancing.” My goal was simply to get to Myrna, hold tight at 8 and 4, and sway back and forth until the chaperones made us leave the gym. But, she had other plans.

She arrived with her friends, and they stood in a gaggle, talking. For a 4 on the ‘EsteeMeter’ I didn’t have many options for breaking into the group. At some point, I must have gained an extra ½ point or so and I asked her to dance. And my world fell apart.

‘No.’

No? NO!? Okay…um, yeah, alright…I’ll, um, I’m just…ugh! And as I walked slowly away the tears rolled out. Not heaving sobs or anything, because y’know, halfway to manhood and all…but hot burning shame droplets that my friends could see. Well, they would’ve seen if they’d been there, but my friends didn’t dance. They were smart enough to realize back in the seventh grade that dances were a waste of valuable effort and the return on investment was simply not worth the risk. To make all this worse, there was nowhere for me to go. It wasn’t long before the dance would end. I couldn’t drive away because it was the 7th grade for cryin’ out loud. I could’ve walked home, but in my emotional state that didn’t occur to me, plus my parents were supposed to pick me up.

There was one friend, Albert**, who was a mutual friend of both of us.  I had spent several minutes sitting at one of the lonely, undecorated tables in a middle school gym, listening to Richard Marx sing about love, when he came over. He told me that Myrna had said I should get up and dance. I fumed, and I was angry at Albert, at Myrna, at Richard Marx, at whatever fool had dreamed up dancing in the first place. What right did she have to dictate to me how I should react to being shot down at my first dance? Why the hell did she send an emissary on a peace mission that was bound to fail among 7th grade egos? Whatever possessed me to want to go to a dance in the first place? I waited it out. I sat there sulking, stealthily wiping away tears, until the music ended and the bright halogen lights came on. I walked out into the fading early evening sunlight and slumped into the backseat of my parents’ car.

No, I didn’t want to talk about it. No, I did not have a good time. I was fine. I just wanted to go home.

*Not her real name

**Not his real name