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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

I'll See You In My Dreams

Yesterday, May 20th would have been my brother Chris’s 59th birthday.  I won’t go over the history of the “would have been” part, other than to say that I was the one who had found him after he passed.  This was (and is, I suppose) equal parts traumatic and yet a blessing…in the sense that no one else had to bear such a thing.  

In an act of synchronicity I suppose, I just happened to finish the book Stitches:  A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott, which deals in part with the idea of grief and loss.

“When you can step back at moments like these and see what is happening, when you watch people you love under fire or evaporating, you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.”
 Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair

This was not planned by me, by the way.  As noted in a prior posting, I only recently saw enough of an improvement in my eyesight to get back into reading books in the evening.

Anyway, I’ve read several books by Anne Lamott, mostly due to one trait she fully possesses:  She gets to the truth of things…sometimes very difficult ways that seem remarkably relatable and accessible.  Life is about patching, and while I can (but don’t) sew, the analogy works.

As for my brother, I still see him in the occasional dream; sometimes these are vivid, other times these fade very quickly pretty much as I wake.  In almost every instance (that I can at least recall) his role in my dreams is usually that of a partner, as in someone I am doing something with.  I will note my dreams are almost never deep or profound in any way; a better descriptive would probably be “mostly stupid”.

Thinking about yesterday’s birthday, the patches quote, at least for me, has the benefit of being true:  Life is sometimes about patching the parts of our lives that need to be mended.  These patches don’t always look good or function as well as what they are fixing, but they nevertheless seem to work, as life does go on.  It was pretty clear that, for most of my adult life, I had this vision of the relationship I would have with my brother.  That wasn't the reality of this life though, particularly towards the end, and the book has me thinking about how my life in retirement (a few years away...) will have to be patched in some small way by the loss of Chris. I don't know how this will work though.  A part of me wants to spend countless emotional calories thinking about how I will have to adjust...a strange thought 7 years since his passing...but the smarter part of me knows that I simply can't.  This is an impossible task.  

All of this points a fundamental question:  How do we effectively deal with grief?  Make that "we" an "I".  My strategy to date has been to not think of it as being grief.  Instead, I sort of wrap what little I choose to think about this in more concrete terms; see this entire posting for the most part.  Note the word "think", and not the word "feel".  7 years in and I still can't describe this whole subject in terms of feelings.  This could very well be the best defense strategy available to me.  Put another way, sometimes the enormity of something is such that the best strategy to deal with it is to not deal with it at all.  Maybe, someday, I'll graduate to some more effective form of concrete grief.  

Until then, I'll just keep seeing him in my dreams.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Dr. My Eyes

Among the things I did on my birthday was going to the eye doctor for a much needed check-up and even more needed new pair of glasses.  By way of context, there is a posting titled "Life With Walleye Vision" that provides something of a backstory.  Anyway, my old glasses were really old and it was a time for a change.  Vision checked and new glasses ordered/delivered.  In fact, I'm actually wearing the new specs as I type this screed.

There is, of course, more to this current version of the story.  


For well over a year now, I've had trouble reading books.  And I love reading books.  The trouble part isn't a lack of books...I have plenty, thank you very much.  No, the trouble is a combination of glasses that were old and kept sliding down my nose, which caused some issues with how I see things, amplified by the near constant staring at computer text all day, and sometimes into the evening.  Most of the latter relates to work (as in what I do for a living) stuff.  The net effect of it all has been the fact that, by the time I could take some time to read a book, well, my eyes were as fried as a corndog at an Iowa state fair.

I've know the above has been an issue for this entire time, so why didn't I do anything about it?  That's a damn good question, and I can't think of a conclusively good answer.  My running theory though is that much of the proceeding months, going well back into 2023, have been difficult for me professionally.  Not difficult as in "I am worried I will get fired", but actually quite the opposite:  I know I am doing good stuff and I have a habit of becoming almost fanatical about getting that good stuff done.  This sets in motion a kind of spiral of work taking over more and more of my life.  Before too long, anything that doesn't fit into the work world...and my eyes were working more or less just fine for the work stuff...became less and less important.  This includes books, and even more important other things.

I don't blame the above on my employer or anything related to my professional work for that matter.  No, I own this, 100%.  Part of what I think is getting lost in the overly litigious, entitled world of today is the fact that freedom comes with consequences, especially for doing stupid things.  In retrospect, not having a greater sense of balance in my life is probably even more stupid than wearing 4 year old glasses (when I have Walleye Vision).

I could dig deeper into this, thinking about how I was summarily retired after nearly 28 years at one employer, laid off post a corporate acquisition by an incredibly incompetent VP of learning at another, and becoming a work casualty of COVID.  Losing 3 jobs in a row, when I look back on things, is an adult-sized portion of crap to unpack.  Maybe my hyper-focus at work has something to do with an unspoken fear of yet again falling into some employment chopping block.  This, by the way, is highly unlikely at my present employer.  Logic though rarely is the driving force behind deeply emotional reactions to life events.

Focusing* back on the present, I've had these disassociated thoughts in my head now for a while, but writing this down is the first time they've actually come together into anything that remotely seems coherent. reading good for the soul.

In the here and now, simply knowing a thing is a bit like being good at bar trivia, as in it really doesn't matter.  The truly important part is what one does when having learned a thing.  For me, that means getting some balance back into my life.  This is my work in progress.

(*) Obligatory eye pun.