Saturday, May 16, 2020

Exceptional people throughout history have been miserable. And, often, murdered by mobs. So why the hell would we want that anyway?

Many in my generation seem to not want to do...um...anything.

And we have our reasons. REAL, JUSTIFIABLE, LEGITIMATE reasons.

We did stuff in the past. Lots of stuff. Busted our ass, worked-our-fingers-to-the-bone stuff. And in the end it made no difference.

So we stopped trying.

I get it.

Sincerely, I do.

But I think we pendulum swung the other way, and would benefit from correcting to a middle ground.

See, we were raised to believe one person could (and therefore SHOULD) change the world. We were raised to "swing for the fences."

These teachings aren't bad on their face, but they are EXTREMELY bad for those of us who continued to fall on our face - as most folks do - despite our best efforts.

I'm swinging for the fences, ma! Why do I keep striking out? Where are my home runs? I'm trying to change the world, pa! So why do my efforts fall so flat? Why do I feel so fucking useless?

Fellow Millennials - I offer you this insane (but pragmatic) advice: AIM FOR THE MIDDLE.

Swinging for the fence every time will wear you out. "Change the world" is a helluva item to have on your daily to-do list.

It's no wonder, with goals like that, that you busted your ass/worked your fingers to the bone for a while. And it's likewise no wonder that, when those Herculean efforts fell short again and again and again, you gave up.

Now you just bury yourself in Netflix because what's the point in trying? The end result of both is the same.

You know how to change the end result? AIM FOR THE MIDDLE.

Seriously.

Because exceptionalism is, by definition, elusive and exclusionary. And if we're honest with ourselves, the exceptional people throughout human history have been miserable. And, often, murdered by mobs. So why the hell would we want that anyway?

AIM FOR THE MIDDLE.

Stop swinging for the fences, and just try to connect the bat with the ball. You don't have to be Hank Aaron (You're NOT. You won't be. No sense saddling yourself with that expectation.) Just focus on making contact. Get a single, double, or triple. Hell, keep your eyes open to make sure what you're being offered is even a good pitch, because if it isn't? You may get to go to 1st base just because the pitcher screwed up.

STOP TRYING TO CHANGE THE WORLD, and, instead, help your neighbor, family member, or friend. Know who DID change the world? Mother Teresa. Know how she did it? ASK HER!

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."

"We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do."

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."

"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples."

"I want you to be concerned about your next-door neighbor. Do you know your next-door neighbor?"

Like so many in my generation - and likely YOU - I've felt that what little I've contributed hasn't amounted to a hill of beans, so why try? Life and effort are meaningless. We're all gonna die anyway. Kim Kardashian is a gazillionaire for having a sex tape and a big butt, and the rest of us will die in obscurity.

What's on Netflix?

But in recent months I have been attempting - at least once a day - to aim for the middle. What's a small thing I can do today that can move the Needle of Awful just one one-millionth of one percent toward Sucks Less?

And it's been paying off. Psychologically and otherwise.

I took a walk the other day, and, instead of wordlessly passing a neighbor (What's the point in talking?), I paid her a compliment. That compliment became a 30 minute conversation. That conversation is blossoming into a friendship.

I know. Earth-shattering stuff.

But when you look at the state of the world - when you think about how often you feel lonely and helpless and hopeless - a new friendship IS a form of earth-shattering stuff. It's possibilities. It's new ideas. It's a new perspective. It's more presents on your birthday!

AIM FOR THE MIDDLE.

Clean out that room you've been meaning to for ages. Donate the junk from it. Tell yourself some poor family got your junk and loved it.

AIM FOR THE MIDDLE.

Get a book from a Little Free Library. Actually read it. Put a book back. Imagine someone reading your stupid donated book.

AIM FOR THE MIDDLE.

Make the phone call you've been putting off for 2 weeks, 6 months, 4 years.

AIM FOR THE MIDDLE.

You won't lose 20 pounds in a day. Probably not this year. Maybe never. But you can forego that one extra Coke today and feel good about it.

AIM FOR THE MIDDLE.

You probably won't be remembered for all time. But the time you spend with your kid today? They'll remember for the rest of their life. And it will affect how they treat their children. So that's a good 80 years of influence right there. Not bad.

AIM FOR THE MIDDLE.

"Small," very achievable activities like these are worth doing. And we NEED to do them. For ourselves and for future generations.

Roll your eyes all you want, the little earthquakes reverberate - they make you feel better. They replace the feeling of powerlessness for a few minutes.

I've come to believe they are the only ways out of the abyss.

And there's still a part of me that wants out of the abyss.

I think there's part of you that wants out of the abyss too, or else you'd have abandoned this post paragraphs ago in favor of yet another binge of "The Office."

So many of us are hurting. So many of us are lost and disillusioned.

We feel powerless, but we're not.

We've just been misled about where true power resides.

You don't have to be Churchill to change the world. But you do have to contribute somehow.

Watch for good pitches. Swing and just hope to connect.

In any and all things, just hope to connect.

Hope.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Rights for ME but not for THEE

I can rally, scream, and open carry

under the flag of The Confederacy.

But you? Can't even bend a knee.

Rights for ME, but not for THEE.

Whom I love, I get and marry

I - not you! - LGBT!

Rights for ME, but not for THEE.

What we need is prayer in schools.

And civic life

by Christians' rules.

Rights for ME, but not for THEE.

Live by what MY Bible says!

Supreme Court by Conservatives

all votes: 5 to 4

and you know I'm keeping score.

Rights for ME, but not for THEE.

A return to "olden days"

You know? Those happy golden days

before DREAMERS stole

my birthright

before migrants came

in the night

to kill me in my bed!

Even if that's all in my head.

Rights for ME, but not for THEE.

Why can't we just go back

to when whites could paint their face black

and not have to face all this flack

for a joke?

And ain't it funny how you can't make

half the best films of the decades

'cuz of all this MeToo

I don't care if I offend you!

I'm so sick of being 'woke.'

I hope you choke

on all of your "P.C."

Rights for ME, but not for THEE.

And, no, I don't believe her.

Mamma taught me that what I wore

told men whether I was a whore.

So maybe she wanted it.

Or lied.

For attention.

Did I mention

this bullshit might cost him

his scholarship?

Rights for ME, but not for THEE.

And while we're onto men's rights

I shouldn't have to fight

some queer in a wig

who wants to wear perfume

and use the women's bathroom.

'Cuz this is MY world, damn you

I make the rules!

on your uterus too!

I'm the majority - not you Jews!

or Muslims

or Hindus

or whatever froufrou

shit you believe in.

I'm the majority - I should be

what you see

when you turn on tv

but now it's diversity

this

and diversity

that.

Like I give a fuck if you're black.

or Asian

or brown.

Hey, Jose! WE SPEAK ENGLISH IN MY TOWN!

You can take that Spanish nonsense

back from whence

you came.

So what I mispronounced your name?

Guess you went and forgot

that in this melting pot

You're on bottom, I'M on top.

Rights for ME, but not for THEE.

Rights for ME, but not for THEE.

Rights for ME, but not for THEE.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Wicked Syndrome

Have you ever been given a glimpse of yourself through someone else's eyes?

We all have self-concepts.

But we also all know that one guy who we think is a total douche, who thinks of himself as God's gift to the mattress sales industry.

So who's right?

Does the douche know something we don't?

Yes.

Do we see what he can't?

Also yes.

I'm not the first to point out that we are our own worst critics.

Or that other people don't ruminate on our flaws to the astonishing degree that we do.

But what's got a bee in my bonnet this morning (Do you like my bonnet? Is it silly? I'll go change...) is the idea that much like the "what color is the broke-the-internet dress/maybe what I see as red, you see as blue, and we'll never know because we can never look through each others' eyes" conundrum, applied to the nature of an individual.

I'm astonishingly aware of my many flaws, but I do feel I lead an examined life.

So it ceaselessly floors me when someone will say something about me (either to my face or behind my back), that doesn't in any way fit my description as I understand it.

It's happened positively - some people think I am pretty ok. Fun, smart, brave even.

But, as is often the case for humans, the negative ones are the ones that burrow in and rob me of rest.

As when I have been accused of chasing someone's romantic partner (in whom I had no interest.) Or having negative feelings toward a person that I honestly hadn't given a moment's thought.

In these situations, there is nothing one can say to counter the other's claim - nothing that will budge them anyway.

So you must go about your day knowing that Karen thinks you're after her husband, when in all honesty you find him tedious, resent the fact that you have to work with him at all, and hope he puts in his two week's notice, like, YESTERDAY.

It's these interactions by which I am fascinated.

Like, I'm over here seeing a red flower, and Karen's looking at the same flower and calling it blue.

WHAT DOES SHE SEE?

HOW DOES SHE SEE?

And WHY is she seeing this thing in ME?

As is too often the case, I don't have a definite answer.

There's always the "it's just her insecurity talking" or "maybe her husband said something about you that made her suspicious" or "crazy just gonna crazy"...but why ME, specifically?

What is it about my face or pheromones that makes Karen come a'calling?

And, honestly, this happens to me all the time. As if I am communicating constantly in text messaging, and therefore no one can read my tone.

People who've known me forever - family even - will take something I've said off-the-cuff, or that in no way pertains to them, and make it somehow ABOUT them.

They speak about me as if I am the Maleficent of the original, animated "Sleeping Beauty," when, really, the Angelina Jolie remake would be more accurate.

I'm gonna name it now - this tendency for others to define you in a way completely opposite to how you see yourself: I'm calling it "The Wicked Syndrome."

In the book and musical of "Wicked" fame, we read/see/hear that, contrary to what we were told for decades about "The Wicked Witch of the West," the personage of Elphaba is someone who is passionate, caring, awkward, and, dare I say it? LOVEABLE.

So why have we spent decades hating her?

Because the victors write the history?

Sure.

But that's not the case in our day-to-day.

I mean, Karen didn't win the war for Oz. So why are we all aboard the Erin tried to take Mike from Karen train? I know I didn't personally buy that ticket.

The answer is probably some complex human psyche thing.

And that is, in turns, both fascinating and boring, so I'll simply say this: everyone writes their own story.

In some people's story, you'll be the villain. In some, the hero(ine.) In some, you'll barely even factor.

And somewhere betwixt the three probably lies the truth.

You likely aren't a maniacal supervillain (but, you know, kudos for trying). You likely aren't the pristine hero either (again, here's your participation trophy), and you are probably much more and much less important than the stories in which you are Rosencrantz/Guildenstern.

You're a person.

Complex, petty, generous, at turns the dress as black/blue, and then white/gold.

But whatever you are, the truth is YOU DON'T WANT MIKE SO JESUS, TAKE IT DOWN A PEG KAREN.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Prescient Precedent

You chopped down the tree.

The big one, in the front yard, where Shellie and I used to play.

The one with the faded paint around the base that my grandfather put there - why? I never learned.

The willow outside my window, whose graceful branches shielded me from a world that probably wasn't looking anyway.

You chopped down the tree.

The tree that meant the world to me.

The tree that - maybe? - obscured your view

without stopping to think

how it might have shaped mine.

You chopped down the tree

and with it, a piece of me.

***UPDATE***

I wrote this piece around midnight last night. I woke this morning to find my favorite tree had been torn up by the roots, was completely blocking our driveway, and had destroyed a fence.

Had the tree fallen another way, it would have taken out our power lines, or, more dangerously, landed in my bedroom, where I was sleeping.

I am convinced that my penning this piece is somehow connected to the downing of this tree. It isn't the first time I have had a strange sense about something, only to have it happen within hours.

Pics are proof:

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

I Ain't Your Moses

Moses died within sight of The Promised Land.

It's said he never lived to see it because he lacked or lost faith.

As he saw the burning bush,

heard God's voice,

obeyed, and left his home and family,

confronted the Pharaoh,

brought forth the plagues of Egypt,

parted the sea,

saw God at the summit of Sinai

carried the commandments,

and witnessed the manna from heaven,

this interpretation shocks me.

And doesn't bode well.

...

His eyes saw God...

but his feet ne'er trod

The Promised Land.

What am I to take from this?

How am I to understand?

If one so favored as Moses

ne'er reached The Promised Land?

I've seen no speaking bushes.

I've confronted no Pharaohs.

My staff has never turned to snake.

My faith, diminished, never grows.

I've commanded no locusts.

There's no blood above my door.

No hail, no seas that part for me,

so what's my suffering for?

I have not climbed up Sinai -

hell, stairs now give me pause.

Sure, I try to keep the Commandments

but for what cause, I ask. What cause?

I know I should not seek reward.

I don't - I seek relief.

And maybe that's what Moses sought

but in grief he kept belief.

Had I seen what Moses saw, perhaps I could keep too

but contemporaries of the time

built the calf, called it divine

so maybe we're all screwed.

Damn. Is this what it means to be a Jew?

Friday, April 3, 2020

HOMICIDE

Excuse me.

I'm here

to demand my face-to-face apology

for all those times you laughed at me

gaslit me to cover your apathy

in this catastrophe

catastrophe

catastrophe

you wrought.

Excuse me.

I'm here 'cuz you disparaged

your effects on my marriage

your role in my miscarriage

And while we're on the miscarriage - where's my fuckin' justice?

And - hey - not between just us

but your fuck ups?

Caused my DNA bust up

so nut up

admit

this shit

ain't just a dust up

You dirty -

BigPharma filth

the pills you peddle?

got some coughin', stopped some walkin'

put some in their coffin

But I still got air in my lungs

and though I struggle to step

this may take me out - but it ain't done it yet.

And yeah I am the voice

that rings out for the crowd

for the thousands and thousands

who tried to speak out

but were silenced when you shoved your degree in their mouths.

Yeah it took a few years

let you swagger and boast

marinate in your hubris

now it's time for the roast

And I? Well, I, for one, hope you choke

on the facts that we find

hope it weighs on your mind

that it's me and mine that the science supports.

It's time

for that apology

the one that you owe to me

and everybody

you poisoned

wantonly.

The "What if"s of COVID

Read a story 'bout a man who took a cruise in early March

back before the government was taking this thing seriously.

You can guess the end

the man got sick

and died

in hospital

alone.

Now his family has no husband

dad

grandpa.

And they're left with only

loss

and the curse of "What if?"

What if grandpa had never taken that cruise?

What if the government had given adequate warnings, so he'd have known to stay away?

What if the cruise ship company, noting what happened aboard the Diamond Princess, had cancelled the cruise 'til they knew, conclusively, that COVID was under control?

What if grandpa had heard about the Diamond Princess and acted on any second thoughts?

...

I'm all too familiar with the "What if"s.

I've not had a second's peace from them since 2015, when some pills and an ill-advised hospital stay robbed me of my health.

What if I had heeded the warnings on the packaging?

What if the government had given proper warnings, or pulled these drugs from shelves, knowing, as it did, that these drugs had destroyed countless lives?

What if, when I Googled the drugs - which I did - the personal accounts of the victims and the many lawsuits had come up on the search, instead of just the generic Bayer info?

What if I'd listened to my gut and refused the additional antibiotics? And the IV iron, which made everything worse?

What if

What if

What if

We make choices every day. And those choices have consequences.

What helps one could hurt another.

What's right for one could be wrong for another.

Sometimes the choice to "take the scenic route" versus the "straight there and straight back" one will forever change your life.

My heart goes out to all of the families battling COVID. To all of those who've lost someone, who are, I'd wager, playing the "What if" game.

To all of the spring breakers who brought COVID home. The "it can't be that bad"ers who ignored warnings and lost loved ones. And those whose jobs put them in the line of fire, who might ask themselves "What if I'd just chosen a different career?"

To those for whom this applies, I cannot tell you not to play it.

I play it every day.

But what I can tell you is that it doesn't change anything.

"What if" hasn't given me back an ounce of my health.

And it won't bring back grandpa.

Rather than live with the "What if"s, I encourage you - and this goes for those who have not lost anyone to COVID as well - to recognize this moment for what it is.

THIS is a "what if" moment.

Decisions you make IN THIS MOMENT can affect the rest of your life.

You cannot change the past, but the present is yours.

Make wiser choices, because more are going to get hurt.