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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Stand Up In A Clear Blue Morning

Tomorrow at noon will feel like a brand new day.  At least for many of us.  

Four years ago, during a November vacation that happened right after I was "retired" from a company I had planned on retiring with, my wife and I watched election results in horror.  A man who had basically failed at much of what he had done in life...two failed marriages...six failed businesses...was going to the be next president.  From that point on, it honestly felt as if there were a cold wet blanket on this nation.  I wasn't proud to be an American.  I watched with a kind of downward head-shaking acknowledgment when he promoted racists and demoted those allies we had that shared in our supposed national values.  

Last November, there was a kind of glimmer of hope if you will that maybe, just maybe, we might get a new president.  A president that didn't, for example, rage-tweet in the middle of the night.  Even then though, I basically still wasn't sure it was going to end.  The tweeter-in-chief's campaign of countless lawsuits succeeded in planting some doubt in my, and I am sure others, minds.

On January 6th of this year, we had a kind of crescendo of sorts, when all the ugliness of a failed president and his supporters had their final stand.  A Waterloo worthy of any dictator.  While those events are a stain on this nation, they also gave me though something that was lacking:  A real sense of hope.  After January 6th, I knew it was truly going to end.

As I write this now, Joe Biden will be the new President of the United States of America in about 14 hours.  It feels like I can finally exhale after four long years.  In something of an interesting bit of synchronicity, I now find myself a few months into a new job where I very well may be until retirement.

Lastly, I offer this...

What do the President of the United States of America and the author of this blog have in common?

We were both born in Scranton, Pennsylvania!

#ScrantonProud!


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Life is What Happens

Last week was, in a word, terrible.  Granted, it was terrible for many of us, but I had two extra things going on, in addition to the terrorist attack at the United States Capitol:

  • It as the anniversary of my brother's death
  • My stepson's father passed away
As a general rule, I do my best to protect the privacy of others on the page, and that will continue for my stepsons.  I will note though that they had a complex relationship with their father, which is something I knew about going into my relationship with Ms. Rivers.  Based on that, and the advice of Dr. Gordon Livingston (in one of his books...), I made the decision early on that I would work hard at being a positive part of their lives.  Time will tell if I have been successful with that goal.  

For the record, I didn't attend the funeral services.  This was in part because I viewed my possible attendance as being both disingenuous and a distraction.  The disingenuous part comes from the fact that I could not honestly honor the life of someone who caused pain to people I love.  I know though that there were good times in that family in years past, so it is entirely proper for others to come and pay respects.  But not me.  I did though contribute to the effort in other ways, including editing the photo for the obituary.

I am reminded though by last week's events that sometimes great pain...and even death...is part of the cost for a new life to begin.  That could be a new life for a nation that struggled for four years under the divisiveness of a malignant narcissistic leader.  Or a new life free from the what-if shackles of a non-supportive parent.  To that second point, well, I have some experience.  If you were to ask me how I felt when my own father passed away, my immediate answer would probably be "glad", as he was finally wrenched free from his physical and emotional pain, and at least one of his sons (me) was free from trying to understand why his father was never capable of actually being a father.  I know that's pretty dark, but on the other side of that passing is a kind of peace, as some memories do soften with the passing of time and (hopefully) the wisdom of age.  I hope that turns out to be true for my stepsons as well.

It's also time for life.


Sometimes when we're going through difficult times it's hard to remember that this is life.  That our life is ticking away.  By all means, we have to do the hard things of life, including losing people close to us, but we also can't get so focused on the trials that we miss everything else around us.  Life does not pause for us.  Life is always happening.




Monday, January 4, 2021

The Things We Can't Leave Behind


I'll cut right to the chase:  There isn't a day that goes by in my life when I don't think about my late brother Chris.  As in no matter what I am doing, no matter where I am, there are always thoughts about him pinging around in my head.  Some of those thoughts are probably best described as "whistful", as in thinking about what our lives should have been or what he would be thinking about relative to some current event.  Some of them are sad.  Some are just, for a lack of a better word, perplexing to the point of mental exhaustion, as I still really can't fully grasp just what happened 4 years ago on January 5, 2017.

If you are at all wondering just what the hell I am talking about you can click on this link:  http://www.sgalbert.com/2017/01/my-brother-chris.html

Yes, 4 years later and part of me just doesn't understand what happened, and that runs counter to all of my emotional and intellectual programming, as by and large I ALWAYS HAVE TO UNDERSTAND.  I have to be able to make sense of my world and what's happening in it to some degree, as any loose-ends gnaw at me like a beaver on a birch tree.  I need understanding and order in my life now to balance what I experienced growing up.  Yet though on another level the death of my brother does not now, nor will it ever make any real sense.  What's more, one of the few bits of saving grace in my childhood was the fact that there were 3 others in the world who could understand this to one degree or another.  Now my youngest brother has settled into a world and routine where maybe these things don't matter as much to him now, which I think is a good thing.  That means now there is really only 1 other.

There are times when I honestly just wish I could break down into a puddle of emotional goo over what happened, knowing that at least then maybe I could hit the emotional re-set switch of sorts.  That doesn't work though for me.  I somehow believe that I was fated to find my brother in January 2017, precisely because that was better than others finding him.  You see, that almost stoic, restrained, logical person that I am is well equipped for calming the emotions of others during trying times.  Yes, I do the crisis management thing really well.  Yet that comes at a high cost (as John Mellencamp once wrote, "I do things my way, and I pay a high price"), namely a kind of emotional governor that I can't seem to disable.  I am left with trying to use logic to describe feelings that are inherently illogical.  It's a vicious cycle.  

For the record, I don't know what actual purpose this posting serves.  It's not actually even a half-way decent tribute to my late brother (you can click on the link above for that).  If anything, it's the kind of rambling insider stuff that part of me wants to dismiss.  However, this seems to be what I can manage to scrape together from the jumble of feelings I can't seem to fully process all that well these 4 years later.  I also get the impression that I'll be able to write this same posting 10 years from now, as the fundamental conflict at play, namely my needing to be "in control" vs. the very "out of control" feelings I have buried deep down are not likely to be resolved.  Simply put, I'm not likely to change all that much, and Chris is not coming back.  

In the final analysis, what is clear is this:  I just wish he was still here.

Friday, January 1, 2021

All is Quiet on New Year's Day

 



Welcome to 2021, and I'm not even going to try and add to the chorus of why we collectively needed 2020 to come to an end.  While it wasn't the worst year in my life, it definitely was up there in the top 5, and I, fortunately, haven't had anyone in my family get sick.  Sometimes though there is this collective terrible that falls upon us all that doesn't need to touch us specifically, and it just wraps around everything and everyone like a cold, wet blanket.

As for me, I did something around midnight that I almost never do...I had alcohol (pink champagne, to be precise)...to both ring in 2021 and to toast Ms. River's birthday.  I'm good now in the alcohol department for another year+.

As for the new year, I just want some normalcy.  

I want to continue to have a normal job.

I want to be able to go out to dinner in a normal way.

I want to worry about normal things when it comes to my children.  

I want the national news to be filled with normal, boring things.

I want politicians to Tweet about normal, boring things.

If anything, COVID-19 continues to remind us all just how good we had it back before "pandemic" became a present-tense word.

I'm not sure any of the above is too much to ask for, but yet some of it still seems so out of reach.

In any event, there is only so much we can control, and most of that is simply our own reactions.  So as we all stare down 2021 with a mix of hope and suspicion, let's not forget that every big thing is made of a bunch of small things, which holds equally true for the pyramids and our own attitudes.  

We can do this...2021...one small, hopeful step at a time.

  


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

"The"

Many years ago, when Ms. Rivers and I first started dating (that sounds pathetic coming from someone who isn't in their 20's or younger, but so I digress), I remember her telling me that she would not allow her sons to watch "The Family Guy".  Given the content of the show, I was hardly in a position to argue the point.  That, however, hasn't been what's stuck with me all these years later.

Before I go further, to make sense of this posting, the first thing you need to realize that the show is actually titled...

Family Guy

-not-

The Family Guy

The second thing to know is that the moment I find something off-beat and funny, well, I'll literally beat it to death to the point of being ridiculous. 

To that second point, all these years later, I've taken to adding random "The" to things.  For example...

Today we are going to the Philadelphia

Where the show "It's Always Sunny in the Philadelphia" takes place

Last Sunday I had the Turkey Loaf for dinner

I got my younger stepson a vintage poster from the Supertramp for his bedroom

I enjoy listening to a CD from the Roxette on my drive to work

I have a great family doctor at the Geisinger

My younger stepson likes it when his Mom makes the eggs in a hole for breakfast

The odder the place where I can insert a "the", well, the better.  Why?  I can't really explain why, other than the fact that in some small way it amuses me and that I always need to have lots of different things pinging around in my head at any given time, including finding odd places where I can insert a "the".  Fortunately, Ms. Rivers is pretty tolerant of my rampant silliness.  Given the other myriad of things I could be doing, well, this seems like a minor inconvenience.

On a happier note, it's almost the 2021, which is truly good news.




Friday, December 25, 2020

Happy Christmas

 


If ever a nation...and a world...absolutely needed Christmas, it is now, in the year 2020.  I don't know that there is much more I can actually add to that point.  If anything, maybe the legacy of 2020 in general, and Christmas 2020 in particular, will be that the things that truly matter most don't come from stores and aren't delivered in the mail.  These are things like the health of our family members and friends, and the knowledge that a bit of sacrifice every now and then for the greater good, even if that sacrifice is as simple as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, is good for the soul.

I understand that what I noted above may not make that much sense for those who are missing a loved one who passed away, especially if the cause was COVID-19.  Then again, there is pretty much nothing I can say in general that can explain or just make a bit of sense about the loss of a friend or family member.  If there was, I would have told myself that a while ago.  In these cases, I think we just need to try and understand that there are parts of the natural world that are beyond our ability to comprehend.  This seems to me to be part of the best argument out there for a higher power, something that is greater than us and which helps creates some order out of what certainly seems like a senseless and chaotic universe.

Finally, I try not to give advice here, mostly because (A) I am unqualified and (B) Why would anyone listen to me anyway?  Yet, this being an extraordinary time, I will do just that:  This Christmas, we should all cherish those friends and family members we can see and spend time with, even if that's as simple as a loving cat or dog.   The world will change and things will get better...we just need to be patient for a little bit longer.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

8 Minutes of Retractions

 

8 Minutes of retractions by right-wing media outlets where they back-track on claims of election fraud in 2020.  

In a notably crappy 2020, this is a kind of year-end gift for the sane.


Sunday, December 20, 2020

2021 The Time It Will Be

I want to go to an IKEA in the worst of ways.  

I'll qualify that previous statement by saying that there basically isn't anything I actually need from IKEA.  I just want to go there.  I want to experience it.  As I've probably noted before, IKEA is in my mind probably the best brick-n-mortar retailer on the planet.  These smart Swedes have turned shopping into something of an experience that almost (well at least for me) transcends the need to actually buy things.  Mind you, I actually do buy things at IKEA, which is the other part of the genius of the place.  


There's something bigger though this time around as I rant about my favorite retailer.  Based on the crap-fest that has been 2020, on multiple levels, I think many of us just want to be able to do simple things that seem, well, normal in 2021.  We miss the normal things, and I also think that some of us are secretly (or not so secretly) afraid that "normal" will never come back.  That may be right, and it actually may be for the best.  

We will not be able to go back to the idea that our technology and modern way of life somehow insulates us from the basic things in the natural world.  Viruses don't care about things going "viral" online, as they have the real thing on their side.  Literally.

We will not be able to go back to the idea that we have this "better" version of democracy.  2020 has shown us that we are actually one conspiracy theory away from the banana republics we previously mocked.

We will not be able to go back to ignoring the essential workers out there while simultaneously idolizing adults that play games for a living.  Nurses (for example) did the hard, dangerous work of the pandemic.  Professional athletes played games in front of cardboard spectators.  The logic here seems pretty simple.  

We will not be able to go back to thinking that racists are just these small groups of hillbillies who secretly meet in the woods for beer and the occasional religious symbol burning.  Nope, they very well may live right next door.  Or across the street. Or maybe working in the White House*.

"Normal", it seems, may very well be a relative term.  That sounds so gloom and doom to me when I read the above back to myself.  Yet more often than not, for something new to be built, something old has to be destroyed.  If you live a full life into your 50's this becomes oh so abundantly clear.  A least to me.

So what new will be built?  I can't say with much conviction I know the answer to that, at least not on a macro-level.  Some of that stuff is just too far above my pay-grade.  What I can talk about is me, and it feels like I've talked a lot about myself in these postings over the years.  In a nutshell, basically, I need some relative sense of stability so that I can pry myself out of what can best be described as an on-going crisis mode.  Part of this is my career.  Part of this is doing a better job of truly letting go of some ghosts of the past.  And we all have ghosts of the past by the way; it's just that mine seem to rent more space in my head than they actually pay for and deserve.

What I will say about the world at large is this:  Maybe all of this pandemic despair and political insanity will help us collectively realize that it truly is the basic, simple things in life that matter the most.  Things like...

Being kind to each other...

Being considerate...

Assuming positive intent (until there is actual evidence to the contrary)...

Acknowledging that name-calling and racist dog-whistles are bad (especially coming from a leader)...

Acknowledging that we are far dependent on each other than we want to believe...

Being kinder to ourselves...

That last one is a bit of a dual-use statement, as the dirty (not so) secret thing here is that I am far, far more critical of myself than I would ever tolerate in someone else being critical of another.  The former is a learned trait.  The good news though is that while we can't really "un-learn" something, we can always learn new things.

So, for 2021, let's all learn some new things.  Some good things.

  



(*) Do I personally feel that all the people who voted for the current (as of December 20, 2020) sitting president are racists?  No.  I do, however, think they are more tolerant of racists than they should be.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

2020 The Time It Was

Decades from now, if I'm still around, I'll be reading the history books about the horror that was the year 2020.  Of course, there was (well, now, "is") the pandemic.  Then we had a president who believed in American democracy...but only to the extent that it allowed him to do whatever he wanted.  Then we have murder hornets.  The passing of an iconic Supreme Court justice (the Notorious RBG).  And countless other things.

What will stick out the most for me?

Well, before I answer that, I want to note that I'm not minimizing the tragedy of COVID-19.  We are, at the moment, nowhere near the end of this, so I'm sure there will be grim entries yet to come.  But yet, while I've known people who got sick (and a former boss who died from it), some of the collateral that goes with it hasn't been too terrible for me.  Saving a trip to a restaurant isn't the worst thing that could ever happen to me.  In fact, if people didn't get sick and die...if all we had to do was deal with social distancing, wear masks, wash hands, and staying home more often...well, I think it would be fine with me.  I know, that may sound terrible, but as I often say, it has the benefit of being true.

Anyway, the worst part of 2020 for me was the 6 months I spent between employers.  As I noted (probably too often) before, when you work for an employer for nearly 28 years, and then find yourself in the job market, well, it becomes something of a small trauma.  Except for the fact that I have worked for four different employers since that 28-year stint.  In three of the four cases, well, my hope was that it would be my final career stop.  That was not to be.  Well, I am hopeful for one of those stops (see below).  You see, I just wasn't equipped for the whole four employers in four years thing.  I wasn't intellectually equipped, and I wasn't emotionally equipped.  It's just not me.

Like most things in life though, it is the hard times that become something of a down-payment for the good times in our lives.  It's the bad times that help us better understand ourselves and appreciate the good times.  It's every blues song ever written.  It is all the grand cycle of life.

The above seems to be true for me, at least in the case of all I have experienced, sans one* glaring example.

Getting back to the dumpster fire that is 2020, my 6 months in the trenches of a job search laid bare some of the worst that pings around in my head.  It would do that to anyone.  I'm connected to a few folks on LinkedIn who are still battling a job search, for longer than my 6 months, and I'm shocked that some of them still manage to get up every day and keep trying.  Yet they do.  I will gladly say that many of these folks are better than I am, in more than a way or two.  Count me among the fortunate.

Speaking of fortune, sometimes it comes at your sideways, where you least expect it.  So it was for me, with more than 6 dozen employment prospects having not worked out, I ended up seeing an Indeed.com posting that I almost ignored.  It wasn't the kind of organization I had any experience with, which left me with thoughts of "they would never be interested in me".  Yet for some reason, I thought to myself "what the heck...I'll apply".  I expected even less from that application than I did from just about anything else I sought interest in during those 6 months.  

Oddly enough, it worked.  It really worked.  An unexpected phone call and two formal interviews later and I type this a fully employed human person.  For more than 60 days now.  It sounds like a cliche, but there are times when I just want to pinch myself, as it doesn't seem quite real.  I feel a mix of good fortune and cautious optimism (the latter of which is far harder for me to process than it probably is for others, as I have been told I am wired for "when it's good it's bad").  

All of this reminds me of the fact that life isn't a freeway, but instead, it's sometimes like the worst turning circle on Earth.  I'm going to be thinking about these experiences for a very long time to come.  That's the worst-case by the way.  The best case?  Well, maybe I'll just be happy.      



(*) My one glaring example:  I doubt I will ever see the good side of losing my brother.  He should still be here, and I can say with 1000% honesty that I truly miss him.




  



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Giving Thanks Is More Important (in the worst of times)

It's almost Thanksgiving, and I would bad a bad blogger if I didn't write something appropriate for the holiday, as I likely have already done over the past 11 years.  Of course, the difference in 2020 is the fact that it has been literally the worst year possible for so many out there, me not necessarily excluded.  How or why to give thanks when...

...the world is in the grips of a pandemic

...so many in our country believe that our nation is on the wrong path

...so many are struggling financially

...we have a sitting president who is trying to engage in a judicial coup d'├ętat

...so many of us will not be able to spend our holidays with our extended families

The answer?

We just do.  We still give thanks.  In fact, at no time is giving thanks more important, in part because some of these things lay bare realities of our world which we would just as soon forget.  Being forced to acknowledge reality is in itself a blessing, all be it one that's sometimes tough to swallow.  Especially for some.

So what I'm going to do is talk about what I am thankful for, acknowledging full well that there are things happening that I don't understand but which may in fact be lessons to be learned.  Call that whatever you like; maybe a good word, for now, is simply "Faith".

Here's my list.

I am thankful for my wife.  There are times when I genuinely wonder why in the heck anyone would want to spend time with me.  I am admittedly not much fun.  In fact, my idea of doing something "fun" is to actually sit alone in my office working on some inane thing.  Yet she loves me for who I am.  Better yet, she sees things in me...good things...that I have probably been conditioned to not see myself.  She is also my hero.

I am thankful that my children are healthy.  No other explanation needed.  Given the circumstances, that's truly a very good thing, and I hope it stays that way.

I am thankful for my job.  In 2020 I spent slightly over 6 months out of work.  In fact, never in my entire adult life have I never had so much time not working.  Not even in college.  The 6 months weren't without their trials and frustrations, as noted on these pages, and while I presented a confident face to the world, the reality is that I had more than a few "moments of doubt and pain".  Fast forward to now and I could not have imagined in July where I would be in November.  I don't know what the future holds for my career, but what I do know is this:  I think I am in the right place.  You can learn more about the professional me through my LinkedIn profile.

I am thankful for hope.  While there is so very much confusion, anger, and disarray on a national political level, we do have hope.  This is the hope of a president-elect who does not constantly rage tweet.  Of someone who wants to be the leader of the entire country, not just the parts that support him.   A president that will tear down walls instead of building them up.

I am thankful for the "givers".  It seems that, over the past few years, some in our society made "taking"...selfishness...greed...anger...xenophobia...good things.  Yet throughout all of this, we still have those who are selfless in their giving.  This includes people like nurses (under-paid superheroes if ever there was such a thing), police, those working with the disabled/those in need, people who help/protect and protect animals, and many, many others.  It's nice to be reminded that greed is not in fact good and that some still risk it all in the name of giving to others. 

I am thankful for my health.  I have not always been so very kind to my body, and I need to do better.  Yet in spite of myself, I am still reasonably healthy.  I need to do better though.

I am thankful for my friends and my network.  I am thankful for every email, text message, LinkedIn message, and phone call of support I received while I was out of work.  I am particularly thankful for those who asked for my help during this time.  It meant a lot to me to feel useful.  I hope I can return those favors in the months and years to come.

I am thankful for the gift of expression.  These blog postings may be self-indulgent, poorly written nonsense, but they are mine.  While so much of my life has changed over the 12 years of this blog, the blog itself has been something of a steady companion, chronicling the world both inside and outside my head.  It's not much, but it is mine. 

I hope that you...whoever you are...can find the time to give thanks, even in these seemingly worst of times.