Category Archives: life philosophies and other esoteric crap

It’s been a bitch of a year this month; give yourself space

After dinner showed up an hour late and cold enough to ice down the beer, I was a jerk to the delivery guy. In my defense, dinner was an hour late–and unprotected by those thermal sleeves pizza places who make their own deliveries use. If I’d known the 7:15 delivery estimate meant central time, I’d have gone myself. And then I got in a fight with my wife to cement my title of asshole of the day.

Me last night waiting for the pizza guy to show up.

Because I expect I’m not alone in these periodic moments of assholery these days, it’s important to do the following:

Recognize that it’s hard. When I grew up, news really was boring. We spent the better part of a week one year on the rabbit that tried to attack Jimmy Carter while he was out. We have more tough news every month than we’d have in five years back then. This isn’t then. The news is happening around us and to us in a way that’s unparalleled for most of us. We get to struggle a bit.

In 1979, Jimmy Carter has to defend himself against an aggressive bunny. This was news.

When the shit’s hitting the fan, accept that there won’t be style points. The fan is buried these days. We’re facing the worst parts of 1918-1919, 1968, and 2009 all at once. And that’s before you add in the political angst of the end of the Nixon era and a growing mound of internal violence unparalleled since the US Civil War. Are you mostly holding things together right now? Congratulations. You’re a bad ass, especially if you don’t think you are. (Bad asses rarely recognize their status in the moment.)

You…you are a badass.

Accept that you aren’t Jesus (or Gandhi or <insert mythically good role model here>). You’re gonna bitch at the delivery guy sometimes. Or get in a fight with your spouse. Or whatever it is that you do when you fall short. It’s not okay, but it’s understandable. Own it, try to do better, and move on. (Bonus note: Jesus doesn’t expect us to be him. And while he doesn’t brush away our hurts of his other people as meaningless, neither does he define us by them.)

You’re worth loving, okay?

Spend effort giving yourself credit for the mundane day-to-day. Are the kids you wanted to strangle for fighting during your work call healthy and relatively happy? Did dinner get on the table? Did you keep the lights on at work in spite of mind-numbing sameness and elbows thrown by people as stressed and frustrated as you are? (Especially that guy. You know who I mean.) Recognize that 2019 you thinks you’re amazing.

In every instance, we can choose to add to the experience of others or subtract from it. Last night I subtracted. But over all, I think I add. I suspect you do, too.

It’s a long game. It’s baseball, where you don’t reach base two-thirds of the time and the best teams lose sixty times a year.

Turn the page, learn, and do better today–and accept that you might not.

This will end, the same why everything does. In the meantime, the world is better for your presence in it.

The death of gratitude

Yesterday, January 73rd, 2021, was like every other day over the past sixty-seven years (10 months to be more accurate). I managed by 20-foot commute without major issues, then got a special treat because I went to Publix for some club soda and bananas after work. I actually left the house!

The sameness was mind-numbing.

To frame things differently, I worked and got paid like every other day since the start of the pandemic. I have a room set aside for my work, and I’m not trying to referee fighting children while also trying to get through a challenging work call. I’m healthy and only mildly inconvenienced by all this.

In still other words, I have a gratitude deficiency.

But I’m not alone.

This country is awash in people who find things wholly unacceptable.

The Gavinator’s favorite restaurant. Too expensive for even the Covid.

Regardless of profile, the need for some to flout the rules around Covid are driven from the same place. Whether it’s Gavin Newsom dining The French Laundry after lecturing those who wanted to eat at In-N-Out (a fast-food burger place I’d prefer), or Bruce Willis throwing a fit about his mask, we refuse to roll with the punches on Covid.

There’s a cottage industry of hard workers who amass power and money by parsing everything almost everyone says to see if somehow they can find something completely unacceptable someone said to show their power and righteousness. Sorry, Olivia Benson, you’re cancelled, too. Because the things they spent hours searching for make an immediate, material difference in modern life.

Even in day-to-day things we have it better than ever. We get groceries and meals delivered to our homes. And if we have to cook, just throw all that stuff in the Instant Pot and turn it on. It’ll cook in 20 minutes while we catch up on last night’s NCIS, streamed on demand.

It’s called an instant pot. Why do I have to wait five minutes?

The most egregious example comes from the people who freely flew or drove to the Washington, DC area, stayed at a hotel or Air BnB (mostly taking paid vacation to do so), freely ate at a place of their choice, then freely took the Metro to downtown DC to vent their rage at their absolute lack of freedom.

They made me take VACATION DAYS to do this! Tyranny! Tyranny!

In contrast are the people who’ve lost jobs, financial security, loved ones, or even their own health. People whose work requires them to wade waist deep into a Covid swamp that can’t be drained, at least not for a while. People whose nightmares from 2020 and the beginning of 2021 will never leave them.

The rest of us have it pretty damn good.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing for us, starting with me, to recognize that right now. In the history of humanity, our burden is almost miraculously light.

If we took stock of that, we’d be less threatened by many of the things that eat us up. We’d be a lot less fearful and self-directed. We’d understand that struggling with things is part of the burden that comes with breathing. We’d be more resilient and less likely to look for scapegoats for every inconvenience.

And a lot of those things burdening us might seem a lot smaller and less threatening.

CNN reporter’s meltdown shows a stark contrast with Bruce Willis’s petulant selfishness

Yesterday, CNN reporter Sara Sidner filed a report about the impact of the Covid on people, in particular, blacks and Hispanics in Los Angeles. The report was on a family that lost both parents over an eleven-day span and had a funeral in a parking lot. At the end of the report, she broke down.

In the same city, Bruce Willis was asked to pull up the bandana that he had on while inside a Rite Aid. He refused, choosing instead to leave and not make his purchase.

Across the country, several members of the House of Representatives–all of them Republicans–refused to wear a mask, too. To absolutely no one’s surprise, several members are now positive for the Covid.

The contrast couldn’t be clearer.

Willis is well-to-do, and could easily go the rest of the pandemic without having to work. Sidner’s report was about an area in Los Angeles that’s underserved, houses people whose work generally can’t be skipped, or done at home, and who are facing much higher death tolls than typical as a result of the pandemic.

The Republican representatives are amazingly tone deaf–at the very least.

Odds are very high that you and I don’t know what it’s like in Covid ICUs, or to go to work each day in an area that puts you hip-deep in a disease that could kill you, exactly as it’s killing the people you care for. We don’t know what it’s like to have to show up day after day to a job where you’re overburdened, vastly underresourced, and where death shows up that frequently.

It’s a near certainty that mental health issues for those who care for Covid patients will be a pandemic after the pandemic.

Some may consider Sara Sidner’s meltdown unprofessional–drama for its own sake.

Given what’s happening in the world today, her reaction is not only professional, it helps bring home the emotional impact of a story most of us can only imagine.

On the other hand, Bruce Willis’s reaction shows what happens when you don’t consider things you haven’t personally experienced. It’s selfish and tone deaf and adds risk to someone whose job requires them to face elevated risk for very little money.

It’s the type of job he might’ve had to work while he was trying to start his career.

Given that it’s January 2021, there’s no looking at this outside politics. To a lot of people who consider themselves conservative, anyone paid by CNN is liberal. Willis is likely conservative and the House Republicans definitely are.

I am.

Based on those two brief slices of life, I’d much rather see the world through Sara Sidner’s eyes than Bruce Willis’s.

Even in all the mess, love (which isn’t affection) is important

Over the years, people have done some breathtakingly generous things that have helped me and my family. The simple fact of life as that as much as the concept of the self-made man (or woman) is attractive and holds some value, it’s also very limiting.

When I was unemployed and needed a car to have a job, a very kind gentleman I’ll never forget stepped forward and made that happen. (His last name, fittingly enough, was Nobles.) When I was sick a few years back, the people who stepped forward, from my wife and my work partner outward, were amazing in their kindness and generosity.

I’ve tried to pay that back and forward over the years in a number of ways. If someone does you a kindness, you have an obligation to extend a similar kindness outward. For me, that all stems from a God who, in spite of my shortcomings (and they are legion), still longs for a relationship with me and loves me. If he, who is perfect and mighty, extends that kind of love to me, who am I to do otherwise?

For me that means my obligation to try to be positive extends beyond the boundaries of those who wish me well.

In other words, if you disagree with me vehemently about almost anything, I’ll still do my best to be decent to you. If you think I’m a stooge of the Communists who want to take the country over, that applies to you. Same if you look at my continued Republican affiliation and think I’m just a fascist, racist, sexist bastard.

It even means…and it’s hard for me to say this…I’ll help you out if your biggest desire in life is to remind everyone how many championships the Yankees have won.

Even these guys (gag).

I’m not perfect at this. Some might even say I’m not competent at it. But I do my best and I’m sorry when I, like everyone else, fall short.

That brings me to last week’s attempted coup. Some of the people who stormed the Capitol were trying to kill members of Congress. The woman who was shot and died was trying to invade a hallway where members of the House stood just moments before. They weren’t trying to break in for a Congressional tickle party.

Jesus wants me to love these knuckleheads.

I don’t understand how you can support that. I don’t understand how you can look at what happened and say it was justified or exaggerated or no big deal. I don’t understand. And I’ll argue against you vigorously.

And to be honest, I probably won’t like you very much; the feeling will probably be mutual.

But if you’re broken down in a rainstorm some night, I won’t go flying past you because of the bumper sticker on your car. If you’re feeling pained and alone because life crapped on you, I won’t rub salt in your wound. I’ll do my best to see you as a child of God.

Justice must be served over what happened last week. Those who broke laws must face justice. But beyond that, if we start withholding basic human kindnesses from those we oppose, we’re moving away from the ideal.

To be clear, I’m not advocating that we have to agree with people, concede to them, or meet their needs at the point of their definition. We should never justify those whose footprint on the world leaves an impression of hatred, selfishness, or harm to others.

In my world, God loves them, too. And that means I need to try.

Jesus said to love my neighbor. He didn’t say to like, honor, give into, grovel before, or validate them. It certainly doesn’t mean you get to punch me in the face, then become a victim when I don’t treat you like my best friend.

So I’ll try to do my best even when I don’t want to. I’ll accept that I’ll fall short and apologize where appropriate. I’ve been angry over the past five days, so I’ve probably fallen short a few times. And I’m not quite where Sarah Silverman is, but her stance is something to consider.

I’ve been the other before–and not without justification. And I knew I had to change. Without the possibility for vindication, change is pointless.

Justice must be done, but vindication must be possible.

Conservatism is about principle; it cannot be blind obedience to one person

Then Gov. Rockefeller signing the bill that created the APA. My former boss, Glenn Harris is standing next to Colonel Sanders.

I cut my teeth politically with a conservative member of the New York State legislature named Glenn Harris. Glenn could be a bastard to work for and I would never do it again, but he was a decent man and cared very much about his constituents. I’d vote for him in a second–even quicker these days.

He was a conservationist and helped create the Adirondack Park Agency, with an aim toward helping conserve the park for responsible use and future generations. When it became a vehicle to prevent people from erecting sheds on their property, he objected to that.

Mostly, he believed his conservative stances were best for the most people and at the time. The Chris of the 1980s agreed and today’s Chris hasn’t strayed far from that.

This guy’s only principle is the continuation of this guy. He’s not a conservative.

Government’s job is to stay out of the way until someone impedes that freedom, then to stop the impediment. It’s a principled stance that means more to me than any conservative (or supposedly conservative) leader. Had Assemblyman Harris or Ronald Reagan or any other leader I admired and supported gone into an election saying there were only two outcomes (I win or it’s rigged), I’d have opposed that leader. If they lost and were turned down by every court they approached with their arguments, I’d have opposed them.

Donald Trump, standing with Vladimir Putin, agreeing with hm over our own intelligence agencies.

If they ordered deployment of tear gas over peaceful demonstrators to facilitate a poorly conceived photo op in front of a closed church, I’d have opposed them. (Free speech, even when it pisses you off, is kind of a conservative value.)

A person who gasses people for this isn’t consservative.

If they publicly sided with the leader of one of our biggest adversaries, over our own intelligence community, I’d have called for their head. If they got the ten living Secretaries of Defense (including both parties) concerned enough that they felt the need to make a public statement that you don’t use the military to resolve an election dispute, I’d have opposed them.

If they called up the Secretary of State for a state they disputed results in (but provided no actual evidence of problems) and told that secretary of state to find enough votes to overturn the outcome, I’d have be one of a large chorus of people on my side calling for their removal.

Donald Trump is not conservative. The people who support him over the very Constitutional foundations that make this country great (it always has been), are not conservative. They’re not patriots. They love power and its use for their own end more than they could ever love this country. They’re about as much like a conservative as a beetle’s like a dragon.

Being a conservative, being an American, isn’t about a devotion to a single person, no matter who that person is. People are fallible, even corrupt. Principles are far harder to pervert.

So I’m a conservative–maybe one who’s moderated a bit over the years. But still a conservative.

The man in the White House is not.

Groping the flag doesn’t make you conservative.

Welcome to 2021. It’s bad, but you aren’t alone.

Yay. It’s the first Monday back at work for brand spanking new year. Somehow, it doesn’t feel new. And the time off, while a blessing might not leave you refreshed. In fact, the only thing that’s really changed in the number on the calendar.

And this first week back, we have to deal with:

  • High Covid numbers that continue to increase, amid travel and gatherings over the holidays and a new, more transmissible Covid variant.
  • Delays in the vaccination process, an increasing number of medical professionals saying they won’t get vaccinated, and one purposely spoiling the vaccine.
  • A vote to certify the election results, formerly a formality, is likely to become just more of the political food fight that’s intensified since the election.
  • A member of the House of Representatives has called for violence in the streets because the courts haven’t changed the election outcome.

We’re fractured and anxious, and though the calendar has turned over, all the same crap that happened in 2020 is carrying over to 2021.

Yay, Monday!

I wish I had something magic to say, first for me, then for you, but I don’t.

It sucks right now. We can pretty it up and pretend it’s something different, but really, this is just December 35, 2020. And it’s gonna be this way for a while.

Giving in to the dumpster fire would be the easy thing. There’s so much out there that tells us it’s the rational thing, too. No matter what you believe about the Covid or the American political system, it’s not going to change any time soon. And those idiots on the other side aren’t going to shut up, either.

The hard thing would be to find purpose in all this. To keep the strength and conviction to not give in. To stand unbowed and walk forward through the cesspool, across the field of broken glass. To go forward certain of only the next minute and the bigger cause that lies at the other end of the cesspool. To hold on for one more minute, then figure out how to do it again.

If you choose to take this harder path, you aren’t alone in it. A lot of people are holding on one more minute. One more day. And they’ve been doing it for the better part of a year now.

It’s not about who’s got it better or worse. If something sucks, it sucks.

It’s trite bullshit to say that misery loves company. It’s hardcore reality to say that if you aren’t alone, you can accomplish magnificent things.

Sometimes, like now, just repeating until things change is a magnificent thing.

I’m right there with you. Some days I’ll be really good at it and maybe I can carry you a bit. Some days, I’ll struggle the entire day and I might ask for help.

But this is certain: you’ve been through cesspools before. You’ve walked across broken glass. But if you look around this time, you’ll find you aren’t walking alone.

If you don’t see anyone with you, look again. Look harder. Ask for help.

Someone will come forward.

In 2021, maybe it’s time to think small (and build from there)

This appeared on my Twitter feed this morning.

This woman didn’t get up one morning and say, out of the blue, “Hey, I think I’ll run 45 miles today.” All great journeys start with a single step.

This is the time of year when people make grandiose statements about how they’re going to change this year. And usually within a few weeks, those changes are plowed under as the rest of life re-asserts itself. Almost everyone does it.

The new year is a new page, a chance to become the fantasy you, to write a totally new story. To go big.

But what if you went small. What if you did one thing, one little thing, starting today, that you know you can do every day. Do that for a while and add one little thing on top of it.

Last February, my writing was moribund. Horrible. Brutal. When I signed my name, it was written poorly.

So I decided to write this blog every day to get myself back in writing shape. It wasn’t intended to make a different. It was simply a tool to instill discipline. I’m not saying it’s been a life-changer for anyone, but I like to think it might’ve provided a pick-me-up for people who could’ve used one every now and again.

And as the events of the year played out, it helped me get a handle on them. It also provided me with a sanity check on some thought processes that were running amuck. It was one little change that has me writing something decent on the side.

So what one little thing can you do–and commit to–that will make your life a tiny bit better in the New Year?

Don’t shoot for the grand slam. I nice little bloop single will do.

Maybe instead of getting in shape, you commit to walking half an hour three days a week. Maybe instead of cleaning up your diet, you decide to have more fruit. Maybe instead of meditating for an hour every day, you make a point of sitting on the porch for five minutes in the morning and just taking in the outside.

You don’t have to run 45 miles. But the first half of this year may be as dark as last year. And it’ll be easier to get through if you have something worthwhile to do that you believe in.

Happy New Year. I hope this is the year you think small and make tiny changes that will pay big dividends down the road.

You made it through 2020. That ain’t nothin’.

For a minute think the challenges of 2021. Think about what happened this year.

Three major things emerged that have strained our mental health and relationships.

The first is the Covid. At the very least, most people have been isolated by it. Out of context, that type of isolation is a major life event. In context, it’s the low end of a spectrum that includes job loss, severe illness, and death of a loved one.

The second is the political disruption. Without picking sides, it’s been a tough year. Whether you support President Trump or not, very few have been untouched by people who feel very strongly that you’re wrong.

The third is the racial upheaval. As a white guy, I don’t know what it’s like to be concerned that you might be the next Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Ahmaud Arbery, or George Floyd. But even I see and understand the damage that was done in downtown Minneapolis or even here in Tampa near the USF campus.

And those three things don’t include the wildfires in California, the wildfires in Australia, the locust plague in Africa, the Christmas day bombing in Nashville, murder hornets, an overactive hurricane season, and whatever personal travails you may have processed.

It probably hasn’t been pretty, but here you are.

It took me five years to understand what I accomplished in 2015. I was sick with a disease that doesn’t typically go away. I was neck-deep in a project from hell with one other person. The product we implemented didn’t work very well and there was much ass-kicking. Our boss died. I couldn’t go any more and went on partial disability–then got my claim denied. Then I spent a lot of time and effort and won my appeal.

And heading into 2016, I felt beaten up and professionally diminished. That was inappropriate.

In a year like this, showing up every damn day, doing the best you can–even if it doesn’t feel like enough–is victory. There are no style points in a year like this.

That’s not just a easily typed platitude to make you feel better. That’s from someone who’s gotten a small taste of hell and made it to the other side. The biggest mistake I made was not taking a little time to look at that year as if my best friend had just survived it–and be impressed with that friend’s tenacity and resilience.

This morning, that best friend is you.

You made it through one of the hardest years ever.

That’s a hell of a lot more than nothing.

I’ve been wrong about Coronavirus (not completely). I’m sorry.

About a week ago, I went to Lowe’s and saw a lot of people walking around without masks. I got in the car after I finished, furious.

That was the beginning of my change of thought. Not about wearing masks and doing so correctly. You’re unlikely to convince me that’s wrong. I will do so when I’m around other people going forward. I’m not doing it forever, but I don’t have an end date in mind.

I was wrong in appointing myself the mask police. I never wound up being an active asshole about it. The closest I came was telling a guy in Publix that I hoped he wasn’t infected as he walked through naked from the neck up.

My assholishness–and I am a recovering asshole–was more covert. I became Judgey McJudgerson, swiftly dispensing swift and righteous judgement of the mind on anyone who didn’t measure up to my mighty standards.

No mask? Guilty. Mask below the nose? Guilty and annoyingly passive aggressive. Gathering in groups? How dare you do something I want to do but can’t.

Worst of all, I wore my judgement as a badge of Deep Concern, which immediately trumps any silly problems you might have with my infallibly science-based view of the world.

It’s possible that my attitude has damaged relationships; time will tell on that. I hope not, but my actions, like all others, have consequences.

It’s also very likely that I’m not alone in my inflexibility. It seems to be a time for that. Wear the mask or you suck. Or Forego the mask or you’re cowering in fear. My superior worldview has spoken, dammit.

I’m right and you know it.

I wasn’t as melodramatic as the Trader Joe’s lady, but I was just as unyielding. I was flexible and brittle and the very opposite of the type of person I want to be.

Kind of like me, except for the outward display of melodrama, the hair, and the bra.

In my opinion, if you don’t mask up and socially distance, there’s an increasingly rising chance that you’ll regret that decision. You might get infected. Your loved ones might. And the range of symptoms is stupifying. If you made something like this virus up for a book or a movie, it would’ve been dismissed as contrived.

But nobody’s perfect. I don’t see the world the way you do. And if I judge you for things if or when things go south, I need to first judge myself for the phalanx of horrible decisions I’ve made in life that I was lucky enough not to pay for.

And, in spite of my protective measures–the staying in, the masking up, the social distancing–I could wind up catching this stupid thing anyway. And considering the fact that I live with someone, I could transfer it.

So I’m sorry. Not for advocating for masks, not for asking you to considering wearing them, not for stories aimed at changing your view. I’m sorry for being a judgey schmuck about it, and violating the most repeated graphic on this august website.

If you ask people to wear a mask, it should come from a place of caring, from the realization that we’re all connected, especially in this. Haughty pronouncements of mask purity will only drive more people away from that.

So please follow the guidance. But if you don’t and things go sideways, we’ll deal with that if and when the time comes. And I won’t be a schmuck about it.

It’s Christmas, so of course, I want to just kick the crap out of someone. (Hint: That’s bad.)

In the Christian faith, tomorrow is the celebration of Jesus’ birth. It’s the celebration of God loving us so much that he laid aside his Godhood to come and be with us. It’s a symbol of his love for us and the model for us to love one another.

I know that I’ve messed up things enough that I haven’t earned that love. I also know that in judging others to be outside the scope of that love–and that they’re worthy for me to kick their ass, I’m engaging in what might be the ultimate act of hypocrisy.

Sorry, John McClane. I know you just overcame a mess of terrorist thieves, the LAPD, and the FBI to save dozens of people. But you aren’t wearing a mask so I’m gonna have to kick your ass. Sir.

And yet…

And yet the sight of someone walking into a public place without any type of face covering makes me angry to the point of almost literally seeing red. The guy verbally assaulting the Barnes & Noble lady that I posted yesterday makes me wish I was there so I could step in and crowd him the way he did to that lady.

For the first time in my life, I’m legitimately wondering if I’d avoid arrest if I engaged one of these eff you I’m not wearing a mask and you aren’t gonna do shit about it schmucks.

Hey dipshit, why don’t you come over here and drop me instead of some middle-aged lady trying to do her job.

I used to be an angry guy. I’m a recovering asshole and i have to be careful every day that I don’t slip back into that mode again. In all that time, I’ve never felt compelled to physical confrontation, until the last couple of weeks.

Jesus reacting to the caption on the last picture.

I live with someone who has an elevated risk. Her job requires that she go to a place where a lot of people congregate. One of those people caught the Covid a few weeks back–had mild symptoms and got past them and is back at work. As I shared, her friend’s sister died yesterday.

It’s creeping closer like the movie blob and there’s quite literally nothing I can do about it. I can wear my mask and stay in–and I’ve done that. I wear the mask everywhere and after the Christmas flurry, I won’t be making frequent stops at the store.

That’s good for multiple reasons. One of this is, as I’ve started to say things to people without masks, I’ve wanted them to make a big deal out of it. To touch me, just once, anywhere, so I could touch them back as hard as I possibly could.

In short, I’ve become an angry fundamentalist. I’ve become everything I’ve worked hard not to be–and then a little.

Knowing you have a problem is the first step to fixing it. In this case, the second step is to remember what and who we celebrate tomorrow.

I think God might understand. When you love someone, you give them permission to hurt you, and I suspect we hurt him a lot when we tortured his son to death. God is both love and justice and sometimes, even in God, those two ideals conflict.

But I also think God would be disappointed if I hung one on the construction guy who marched into the store like he was conquering a beach yesterday with no mask on.

That guy’s my son, too, God is telling me. Remember that. And remember what I’ve forgiven you for.

I do need to remember. I need to remember all of it.

Especially tomorrow.