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Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving 2021

This is a hard, hard time for many, so I fully understand (not that my opinion here matters that much) how difficult Thanksgiving can be.  We are all surrounded by messaging that tells us to "count our blessings" and "give thanks for all that we have".  I've been there, in that place, where it was nearly impossible to see those things in the face of troubles surrounding me.  That last sentence comes with the enormous caveat that what I've experienced by way of "trouble" firmly falls into the category of first-world in I have not wanted for food or shelter.  Yet, I've also looked at a mental ledger with what seemed like more debits and credits.  "Happy Thanksgiving" was akin to rubbing salt in a wound.

With age comes wisdom though.  I think.  If not age, well then maybe with persistence.

Part of the problem here, as I see it, is that in the United States we have this knack for monetizing virtually everything.  In order to make money off of Thanksgiving, this nation creates a kind of white-bread, Hallmark Channel version of a holiday that in part serves to kick off a season of consumption.  Note that nothing screams "thanks" quite like buying things.  That last sentence was sarcasm, for the record.

Maybe the better thing to do here is to think less about visuals of golden turkeys and made-for-cable movies about troubled people magically finding reasons for thanks at the end of two hours.  We don't need the idealizing of a perfect Thanksgiving...or a perfect life for that matter.  This is because none of us have those things.  None of us.  As was pointed out to me online recently, the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence because it's actually astroturf. 

I think that Thanksgiving works best when it works simplest.  Part is this is manifest by acknowledging our challenges while also being thankful for the fact that every day we wake up we have a chance to get it right.  Getting it right can be hard, nasty business by the way, but we are all capable.  All of us. 

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the gift of persistence.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

This is what we face...

I have this posting about Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in my head, but then I saw this on an actual Facebook page.

Like roadkill or other unsightly things, I just had to stop and look at this for a few moments.  By the way, this is, I absolutely assure you, a real sentiment expressed on two different Facebook pages.  In other words, there are people who believe this to be true.  And it is horrifying.
I'm not going to refute this, mostly for the same reason that I don't feel the need to refute accusations that gravity is fake, the Earth is flat, and/or that we are all just living in the matrix.  No humor was attempted or intended in that last statement by the way because there is nothing funny about these kinds of anti-vaccine sentiments.  Whether it comes from a Russian social media troll farm or the imagination of some grossly ignorant conspiracy theorist, the net result is the same:  This kind of thing can get people killed.

There is, of course, a larger story here.  A story about how, as a nation, we've made it okay to be stupid.  We've created an environment where 5 sentences of completely made-up nonsense is somehow the equal of the hard work put in by scientists and medical professionals around the world.  In our desire to make everyone feel good, I fear, we've somehow managed to convince a subset of the population that they are as smart as the entire Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  When you think about it though, all of us...even the people that believe the nonsense spewed in the above 5 sentences...have to rely on other experts.  Do these same people decry the supposed "experts" who change their brake pads?  

Yes, we all need to exercise critical thinking skills, so I'm not suggesting that we believe everything we see, hear and read.  But a part of critical thinking is the acknowledgment that a "fact" is only as valid as evidence provided in support.  Critical thinking also requires work, which I suspect is the real problem here...for some, it's simply easier to believe nonsense.  It must also make some folks feel special that they now know about the "vaccine conspiracy".  In essence, this becomes a kind of mental cotton candy:  Nominally food, but having no real substance or value.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

October in the Rear-View (and other non-related thoughts)

Here's to a month that has passed.  There was a funeral to attend, but it comes on the heels of the deceased, a truly good person, having truly earned an eternal rest.  It seems that October will always exact its toll on life, one way or another.

As for me, well, this is a long weekend in Hagerstown, Maryland.  It was supposed to be a long weekend in St. Augustine, Florida, but circumstances changed those plans.  Based on flooding in that part of Florida, and an airline system that can best be described as being "in distress", I'd say that those plans were changed for the better.  Whether it was Florida or Maryland, both Ms. Rivers and I have earned some time away.  

Why Hagerstown, Maryland?  I guess the better question is probably "why not?".  After deciding to 86 our Florida plans about a week or so ago, we bandied about a few other options for travel, and figured that Hagerstown was close enough, we hadn't been there, and we probably wouldn't encounter any snow.  Not that the snow part was likely to be anywhere we could have gone, but there's (s)no(w) sense taking any chances.  For the record, there isn't all that much to actually do in Hagerstown, which is mostly okay with us, as the destination is actually less important than just the notion of just getting away.  

How are you doing?

I've never asked that question before in a blog posting,  For the record, as of October 27th, this blog is now 13 years old.  I'd like to add "...and going strong" to that date, but that wouldn't be very honest of me.  It's been difficult to write consistently for a while now.  I think that's mostly been because of the career turmoil I've experienced for years now, virtually all of which was not my making.  Whether any of us like to admit it or not, the fact is that what we do with our time in order to earn a living is important.  In this western, American culture of ours, the notion of career has an outsized level of importance for certain.  Part of that is what has driven the United States for over two hundred years.  Sadly though, I could rightfully argue that the cost for many has been far, far too high.

It's the oversized importance of a career that I've been thinking a lot about over the past few months.  The fact is this:  It is the struggle (at home or at work) that helps us grow.  It's in facing adversity that we gain the ability to be resilient.  There just aren't too many shortcuts around that avenue in life.  Playing it too safe results in a certain degree of comfort that ultimately, I think, leaves us empty.  Granted, there can be too much struggle in our lives, especially when it comes to what we do for a living.  In my case, while I am grateful for all of the adversity that I have had to face in my professional life, in some instances I think the lessons could have been learned with just a bit less pain.  I suppose that's the case for many of us...or at least those who have taken a few chances.

The above mental wandering comes courtesy of the fact that I think I am in a good place now career-wise.  I couldn't have arrived here though without some roto-stripping of ego and my own preconceived notions of what constitutes success.  Nowadays my definition of success is decidedly simple:  I don't hate going to work & the people I work with seem to appreciate what I bring to the table.  Helping matters is the fact that I have settled in my head the fact that I have no ladder left to climb.  Simply put, I'm just going to do my thing for the next few years to the best of my ability, and whatever happens, be it good, bad, or indifferent, well, it will be okay.  I have a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will, in form of eventual retirement. 

It's difficult to write the above.  Why?  Well my mind, "when it's good it's bad".  That's a kind of short-hand way of noting that, as a pretty intense and observant child, I grew to become suspicious of any good times, as it probably meant something bad would be happening soon.  On one hand, that's a hell of a way to keep oneself on his/her toes.  On the other hand, well, it creates a kind of negative feedback loop where every bit of adversity comes with an "I told you so" mental tag line attached to it.  Nowhere was that more on display than my "retirement" in 2016.  It's taken me this long since then to really unpack some of these feelings and experiences and to arrive at this place where, to be blunt, I simply now choose to (mostly) not really care about negative people and experiences.  In fact, I have the following statement stuck to the bottom of my laptop screen:

"Give no f#$ks about those who give no f#$ks about you."

Crude?  For sure it is, but it has the benefit of being true.  In the simplest possible terms, it seems that, in life, we have a limited supply of things to care about ("f#$ks"), so it's best to use these things where they can matter the most.  Or so I am trying to learn. 

As is the case for many of the important things in life, some of this weighty career-in-perspective stuff is much less about reaching a kind enlightenment goal and more about just engaging in a deliberate practice where I work on keeping things in perspective.  In essence, there is no goal to achieve...that very notion is just more competitive business culture nonsense...and instead there is just a dedication to just trying my best to be a decent person to myself and to others.

As Jackson Browne once wrote:  "And when the morning light comes streaming in, we'll get up and do it again."


On that note, I think I've said enough.  

Tomorrow will likely be a trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  If believed in such things I would say that I'd like to encounter the spirit of John Brown.  Since I don't (believe in such things), I'm going to instead settle for a nice drive, some wonderful Fall photographs, and maybe learning a thing or three.