You'll Poke an Eye Out!

COVID-19 is reminding us all, if we are paying attention, of our vulnerability. If you’re like me and wake up, get coffee, turn on the computer, and immediately check the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Map/Tracker, you’re well aware of how at-risk we are, at least on a rudimentary level.

But our experiences and perceptions of our vulnerability aren’t static. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed how much this has changed for me as I’ve aged. Thus the title of this post — a warning we probably all heard from a grandparent at one time or another. And now, ironically, it’s a phrase I find myself tempted to utter often. (Some version of it, anyway.)

It’s about consequences, really.

With age, I’ve become more aware of the possible outcomes of actions. And thus, I’ve gotten more cautious about some things. Driving in snowstorms, for example…

It used to be a point of pride for me to get to work no matter what. And I would. Now, I think about the challenge of getting home at the end of the day, or the hassle of having to deal with a fender-bender or, the even more likely, pain-in-the-butt of sliding off the driveway and having to get pulled out by some kind person.

If there’s any possibility of one of those things happening, I’m likely to choose work from home. (And yes, I am SO lucky/grateful to be able to make that choice!)

Looking back with horror…

We all joke, sometimes, about riding bikes without helmets and being unbelted while careening down highways in the 1950’s and ’60’s and ’70’s. AND when I look back at things I’ve done, I can feel quite lucky to be here with mostly all my faculties and with all my limbs intact. I’m thinking of things like:

  • Riding my bike, fast and unhelmeted, in and out of Philly from Havertown many mornings and evenings in the mid-1970’s. Had one person ever opened the door of a parked car while I raced by…well…it’s hard to think about.
  • The way we used to drive around at night, listening to the radio and seeing how fast we could go on the back roads. (Not to mention driving home from parties when we shouldn’t have been…)
  • Or sledding down hills and sliding out onto suburban streets, mostly oblivious to the dire possibilities.
  • Or, yes indeed, running with sticks, and maybe even scissors sometimes!

We just didn’t think about what could happen.

Well, folks, now I do — and the world sure looks different. Holly Cornblog and I are both scared. We pray a lot.

And now we wear helmets pretty much everywhere we go!

Posted in Random Thoughts | 2 Comments

Social Distancing

It’s a very strange place, this world, right now. So much has changed, and so rapidly. Tournaments have been canceled and schools closed. I feel as though something is looming, but what? So much is unknown.

And it’s challenging to know what information is reliable. On Twitter this morning someone quoted the announcement that Trump’s test results showed that he did not have the coronavirus. The tweet went on to say, “That means either he wasn’t tested or he does have the virus.” That’s America today.

And yet, when I look out the window, it’s a clear, sunny day, like any other nice day in March, albeit unseasonably warm. The daffodil bulbs are pushing up through the soil and you can see the buds fattening in the treetops. Vernal pools are melting from their edges in, and posts on Facebook tell me that the bears are waking up.

On the somewhat positive side, for me, I find that the times are normalizing social distancing. It’s been a lifelong practice of mine. And it has always made me feel a little bit odd. Now I find it’s a valued behavior.

Anyone looking for lessons, give me a call.

Or, better yet, send an e-mail. Calling is a little too, you know, close.

πŸ˜‰

Posted in Random Thoughts | 5 Comments

Ruby’s Big Adventure

It started innocently enough. Ruby had finished her dinner on Friday and was pacing around as she often does when she needs to go out.

Ruby, for those who don’t know, is our 15+-year-old Westie. A sweet girl who has lost a good bit of her hearing and eyesight. And we think maybe also a bit of her incisive, Westie clarity.

Some might say, in only the most loving way, that she’s gotten a little ditzy.

So, Ruby was pacing around in her Ruby way and it seemed a no-brainer to let her out. It was getting on toward dusk and probably time for the evening poop, or at least a quick after-dinner pee. But then, what happened was that Ruby stayed out for a long, long time. That’s because the humans in the house forgot that she was out there. And when they remembered and went to let her in, she was nowhere to be found.

Here’s Ruby’s version of what was happening at this point…

I was just sniffin’ and walking around…

For Ruby, it was one of those nights when sniffin’ and walking around was actually fun again. The snow was gone and so was the ice. Ruby was having a time of it.

But apparently, that wasn’t how the humans saw it. They were getting panicky. Caleb was out there, too, and he shares his observations below:

I was out there, too, and things got pretty weird.

So three humans were outside wandering around in the dark with headlamps and flashlights, looking for Ruby. There was no point in calling because they knew Ruby wouldn’t be able to hear. They were getting more and more worried. And meanwhile, Ruby was just sniffin’ and walking around, minding her own business and having a good time.

What happened next was very emotional for the humans. Ruby was discovered over in the field, pretty far from the house, past the grape arbors and heading toward the woods. She wasn’t at the edge of the deep, dark woods yet, but that’s where her paws appeared to be taking her. The humans were SO relieved and happy.

And for Ruby, well, here’s the rest of the story, from Ruby’s perspective…

That was the end of Ruby’s big adventure. The humans agree that it was SO lucky that Ruby was found before she wandered into the woods. And meanwhile, the dogs agree that human behavior is sometimes just weird.

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My Father’s Voice

Early this morning, while it was still dark outside, I was awakened by my father’s voice calling my name. Coming suddenly full awake I was disoriented. What had just happened? What had I just heard?

It was definitely his voice and definitely my name — just the single word — nothing more.

Some history.

Dad got us up in the morning. Mom kept us awake at night. That was just the way it was. The older I got, the more resistant I was to the whole morning process. I’d answer and go back to sleep.

So the process evolved. By high school days, when Dad called my name, it wasn’t enough to just acknowledge that I’d heard. No, he insisted that I get out of bed and look down our stairwell. He, on the first floor, needed to see me on the third floor, peering sleepily down on him. That reassured him that I was actually up and awake. I hated it.

Then he’d leave for work.

And as I thought about this just now, I wondered what it felt like for him to complete this daily ritual. What worries prompted his calling out. Clearly, he saw it as his responsibility to make sure that we were starting our day before he left.

And he cared.

Oh, and just as clearly, he knew that Mom wasn’t up to that task. Anyway, his voice, back in the day, became like the buzz of an alarm clock. It was irritating as hell.

And now I see that the sound offered some normalcy as the new day started. No matter what had happened the night before, you could count on it.

Politics…

Last night before going to bed, I watched a bit of MSNBC. There was Amy Klobuchar endorsing Joe Biden. Then came Beto O’Rourke. Joe spoke and then I went to bed.

Next thing I remember is Dad’s voice waking me in the dark.

These last three years have been a stressful and chaotic hell. And I don’t use that word lightly. I long ago made the connection between the crazed Trump presidency and the dysfunction that I grew up with. There’s a straight line from the orange miasma to sleep disturbance and elevated blood pressure. And I’m sure that’s true for lots and lots of folks in this country and around the world.

The personal is political, yes, AND the political is personal.

And then there was my father’s voice this morning. Another straight line, I’m thinking. This one runs directly from Joe Biden to the small spark of steadiness and normalcy that kept us all afloat through the 1950’s and ’60’s.

I’m not talking about promises or policies or values or electability. And I’m definitely not talking about nostalgia for ‘simpler times.’ Nothing MAGA here. No, it’s something more elemental and personal than that.

My father’s voice offered a toehold in a new day. That’s really all. And on an emotional level, that’s where Joe comes in for me.

Nothing big and nothing magical.

Back on Park Road in the 1960’s I climbed out of whatever craziness the night had held and did what I needed to do. It was often grudging and seldom very pretty. And no matter what happened during the day, there was still and always a lot of chaos to contend with back at home.

But there was also Dad’s voice, calling me. An annoying-and-ultimately-appreciated constant in my life, insisting that I get up and peer over the banister so he’d know I was awake.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 6 Comments

One More Time, With Feeling

I just published a draft post that had been sitting untended on my dashboard since November, and am now gearing up to get back into this game, encouraged by my kind blogger friend over at The Cozy Burrow. (Alice, I think you’d enjoy this blog.)

I seem to have lost some confidence, either in my writing skills or my ability to have original thoughts, somewhere along the line. The onslaught of terrible news, coupled with the degradation of our common language (and mine right along with it), has contributed to my discouraged silence.

To regain my footing, I’ve been doing more pen and paper writing over this recent period of time, and it has helped. There’s no doubt that writing takes practice, as does thinking. And I had been digging myself some pretty deep ruts, especially on the thinking front over these recent months.

My thinking, over time, had pretty much devolved to “Fuck you!” There was some satisfaction in tweeting that to Trump back in 2017. But more recently I find that I need to step away from that rut and find a different path and a different frame for hopefulness.

So now, as the days lengthen and there’s room to stretch and expand a bit, I want to give this another try. I’ll aim to start small and proceed from there.

And I know I’ve lied to you before. Not sure what I can say about that, except sorry!

Oh, and by the way I did finish Blowout and Jayber Crow — both excellent books that I recommend highly.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 4 Comments

Blowout

I’ve been listening, off and on, since driving to NY in early October, to Rachel Maddow’s book Blowout. The full and much more informative title is Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth.

It’s a disturbing and highly engaging experience. Maddow weaves together seemingly disparate threads in a narrative that you just know is going to get tied together at the end. Like her opening monologues, the elements can be a bit confounding at first. There’s Rex Tillerson, Vladimir Putin, the Sochi Olympics, fracking, oligarchs in Ukraine, and yes, even the pudgy orange miasma.

And it’s remarkable to me how theories about the hidden hand of corporate control — theories that seemed slightly paranoid and fantastical in college — actually were pretty realistic. I always suspected as much.

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia – including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove – was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.

From a review of the book…

Don’t those gilded toilets sound familiar?

They might not be the Illuminati, but there certainly seems to be a web of hungry corporations and crime-boss oligarchs vying with governments for power. And, it appears they’re quite good at exploiting fears of the ‘other’ to enlist the loyalty of folks whose necks are actually under these dudes’ tassel-loafered feet.

As an antidote to the all-too-true horrors of Blowout, I have also been reading Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow and am excited that there are so many books to explore that are centered in Port William. In this world of angst and acrimony, there’s something so grounding and calming about the simple ways of everyday life. This isn’t to deny the realities of the world, but we each have to find sustenance somewhere.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 2 Comments

Transparency, Thy Name is Trump

It seems an odd way to describe the swamp creature who inhabits the White House. But he actually is very transparent. Not in the sense of being authentic or honest, but rather transparent because he is so primitive and he blurts out his projections like prophecies.

And they are. Prophetic projections.

Indeed, anyone who debates Trump (if he is around to run in the next election and has the wherewithal to actually debate) should just say, over and over:

“I’m rubber you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you!”

Childhood taunt appropriate for usage with Drumpf at all times.

You can thank me, whenever — no rush.

His comments on the recent death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are a case in point:

“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”

Sounds like how Donnie might be feeling about the impeachment inquiry…

“The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.”

Adam and Nancy are coming and you’re in a dead-end tunnel, Donnie.

“The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death.”

Eric, Ivanka and Junior, you might want to take some precautions.

I could go on and on. The fakery of Trump is also so incredibly apparent. His photo in the Situation Room looks absolutely staged. Here he is, essentially a little boy bully trying to look all adult and thoughtful and serious, surrounded by others who often seem to be trying to do the same. (I imagine his jaw must hurt from all the clenching. Meanwhile, look how Pence is straining to stay focused and repress his attraction to national security adviser Robert O’Brien, in the reddish tie.)

Very serious grown-ups.

Contrast this with a photo of Obama in the Situation Room that’s been making the rounds since the Trump play-acting. It shows human beings who are actually concerned — not about how they look but about what is happening on the other side of the globe to other human beings. Pretty stark.

Actual grown-ups.

So after his big announcement (and I don’t mean to make light of what happened, only of the clownish and transparent egocentricity of the messenger), Trump had to go to Game 5 of the World Series.

There, where unlike at his rallies, he had absolutely no control over the ‘audience’ he was loudly and decisively booed. You can hear the fans first applauding some veterans who were being honored. Then the camera shifts to Trump. It was a decisive change in tone that went a long way toward restoring my faith in us!

There were also chants of “Lock him up” — echoing another prescient prognostication or portentous prophecy made by this pusillanimous @POTUS.

Here endeth the lesson…

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

PTSD

PTSD
I have it, do you?

I’m proposing a new addition to the DSM V or VI or VII or whatever number we are up to at this point.

Below I’ve enumerated the classic PTSD symptom criteria in the DSM-5.

Then, in a nice bold, bright red, italic font that matches the color of his ugly long ties, I’ve added the symptoms of President Trump Stress Disorder.

It’s an affliction that is of mounting concern to folks in the mental health community — and I believe it should be of concern to you as well.

Please read the symptoms below and consider whether you might be a sufferer.

And I’d be interested in hearing about your experience. The professionals at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), before they were all fired, had been collecting data on this looming public health crisis. I would like to be able to help them, in my own, small way.

PTSD Symptoms

Criterion A
You were exposed to one or more event(s) that involved death or threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or threatened sexual violation. In addition, these events were experienced in one or more of the following ways:

  • You experienced the event (Yup, I was following the returns that night.)
  • You witnessed the event as it occurred to someone else (Others were there, too, and it was horrifying.)
  • You learned about an event where a close relative or friend experienced an actual or threatened violent or accidental death (This has happened to me on Twitter numerous times and I have seen it happen to others, too.)
  • You experienced repeated exposure to distressing details of an event, such as a police officer repeatedly hearing details about child sexual abuse. (The daily news is a constant reminder. The repetition is harrowing and, while each day it seems we have hit rock bottom, the next day there’s a new low. The horror is unending and unrelenting.)

Criterion B
You experience at least one of the following intrusive symptoms associated with the traumatic event:

  • Unexpected or expected reoccurring, involuntary, and intrusive upsetting memories of the traumatic event. (I think back on that night and other events of this horrible presidency and images come unbidden, often.)
  • Repeated upsetting dreams where the content of the dreams is related to the traumatic event. (Yes, and I have even had dreams with Eric in them, which seems quite unfair.)
  • The experience of some type of dissociation (for example, flashbacks) where you feel as though the traumatic event is happening again (Election night 2016 still feels unreal, and yet there he is…)
  • Strong and persistent distress upon exposure to cues that are either inside or outside of your body that is connected to your traumatic event (Hearing his voice creates strong and persistent distress and, while I believe the sound is coming from outside of my body I am sometimes not sure…)
  • Strong bodily reactions (for example, increased heart rate) upon exposure to a reminder of the traumatic event. (My resting heart rate has gone up since Trump was elected, and contrary to his opinion, it is NOT because I am attracted to him.)

Criterion C
Frequent avoidance of reminders associated with the traumatic event, as demonstrated by one of the following:

  • Avoidance of thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations that bring up memories of the traumatic event. (I generally avoid things, so it’s hard to tell whether they are connected to the election.)
  • Avoidance of people, places, conversations, activities, objects, or situations that bring up memories of the traumatic event. (Pick-up trucks with American flags scare me and I avoid them when I see them.)

Criterion D
At least two of the following negative changes in thoughts and mood that occurred or worsened following the experience of the traumatic event:

  • The inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic event. (I can’t remember what I drank that night…)
  • Persistent and elevated negative evaluations about yourself, others, or the world (for example, “I am unlovable,” or “The world is an evil place”) (The GOP…)
  • Elevated self-blame or blame of others about the cause or consequence of a traumatic event. (The GOP…)
  • A negative emotional state (for example, shame, anger, or fear) that is pervasive. (Yup!)
  • Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy. (Following the news.)
  • Feeling detached from others. (The GOP…)
  • The inability to experience positive emotions (for example, happiness, love, joy). (He took my joy, I want it back…with a nod to Lucinda Williams.)

Criterion E
At least two of the following changes in arousal that started or worsened following the experience of a traumatic event:

  • Irritability or aggressive behavior. (Can you say Twitter?)
  • Impulsive or self-destructive behavior. (Does drinking while watching Maddow count?)
  • Feeling constantly “on guard” or like danger is lurking around every corner (or hypervigilance). (Because it is…)
  • Heightened startle response. (Actually, the craziness is more numbing…)
  • Difficulty concentrating. (Oh yes…I am constantly checking to see if he is still alive. So far, he has been.)
  • Problems sleeping. (Indeed.)

Criterion F
The above symptoms last for more than one month. (How many days has it been? Get the current count HERE.)

Criterion G
The symptoms bring about considerable distress and/or interfere greatly with a number of different areas of your life. (YES — Have you not been paying attention?)

Criterion H
The symptoms are not due to a medical condition or some form of substance use. (Unfortunately, that is no longer clear.)

WHAT TO DO

Stop it, stop it, stop it!

The main thing is, DON’T let this continue.

Your health and well-being are at stake.

So, pay attention, but not to excess.

Remember to exercise, eat plenty of vegetables, and try to sleep without utilizing sleep aids. (See the movie Judy if you have any questions or doubts about this.)

And Vote.

Vote, vote, vote, vote, vote!

Posted in Living Skillfully | Tagged | Leave a comment

It’s So Easy…

…to pen a blog post every once in awhile. Why do I step away for so long? And why do I subject you to this roller coaster of iron-clad commitment and then inevitable failure-to-follow-through? Is this some kind of sick, co-dependent relationship we’re in here?

On Track, Off Track, WTF?

I was thinking about this today — how I vow to stay on track and then fall off track over and over. It started me wondering if there’s something wrong with this whole idea of being on track or off. I mean, wherever I am, relative to this ‘track’ that I’ve fabricated, I still exist and am relatively okay. So why do I make myself feel not-quite-okay by creating a track and falling off of it over and over again? Why not have a more inclusive track to begin with? Or maybe one that’s gently banked or has some guardrails so that it’s harder to fall off?

Don’t blame it on goals…

I mean, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals. But I seem to set unrealistic goals for myself and then perpetually fall short. In part that’s because I get a little jolt of pleasure from the goals themselves. They may be grandiose, but I believe they are possible…until they aren’t. And that’s the main reason I do it (set goals, I mean). It’s not for the goals so much as for that initial feeling. In that moment, I am in total denial about what follows.

Getting better, though…

Yes, I really am. Maybe it comes with age. As my expectations become more realistic I’m on less of a roller coaster. And I am widening my track, too. When I make less grandiose promises, both to myself and to others, I’m better able to fulfill them. That, in turn, allows me to trust myself more. Trusting that I’ll follow-through I have less need to pump myself up with those BIG promises that lead straight downhill after the first flush of pleasure. So no big promises as I pop in to say hello. I’m NOT setting any sugary, gooey, grandiose goals. But, realistically, I do know I’ll be back. And that kinda feels like being on track!

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Toning It Down

So, some months ago I stopped looking for trouble on Twitter. (Just as an aside, wouldn’t Looking for Trouble on Twitter make a kinda cool book title?)

That shift has actually been a huge relief. I hardly ever think of Ann Coulter or James Woods anymore (except for just now, dammit).

And today, after having received some feedback (offline) about my last post, I’m thinking that I need to pull it back a little further.

Criticizing the man who is the current POTUS and criticizing his fellow travelers is all well and good. But it’s the tiny hands stuff that I’m thinking I need to pull back on.

Honestly, it’s just a cheap thrill and I’ll do better to put my mind to more thoughtful diatribes.

Okay, okay, not diatribes at all. I hear you, I really do!

Let’s just say research and thoughtful discourse, and the occasional whiff of trenchant wit. But nothing outright attacking, demeaning, or too heavy-handed.

Just mostly high-minded stuff. No more making up my own conspiracy theories, and no more mention of turtles or tiny hands. It’s all attacking in the most juvenile of ways and undermines the slim possibility that anyone other than the choir could ever be successfully preached to here.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments