Thursday, January 14, 2016

Age, Wisdom, and Radio Pop

I woke up this morning with the phrase "grammatical relativism" in my head, which makes no sense at all because I had a dream about samurai, with lots of fleeing and hiding and beheadings and blood, and katana that moved through the air like seaweed swaying in an ocean current. Which also makes no sense. But I'm determined to work "grammatical relativism" into conversation at some point today.

If you're keeping score, the blog post proper begins here:

I am grateful that Adele's "Hello" has been supplanted on the radio by her "When We Were Young" not because I don't like the former and do like the latter but because radio repetition can make me react to even the best of songs the same as I might nails on a chalkboard. Not that "Hello" is the best of songs. Or the worst. I'm just saying, Jesus, do I have to hear it ten times a day? Similarly, why can't they play more Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats songs? That whole album is great, but all we get, over and over and over again, is "S.O.B." Why? Why you damned, rich music industry fat cats, with your pinky rings and cigars and...

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Adele. For someone who famously names her albums for her age, and whose latest is 25, she uses a lot of phrases like, "after all these years," "we ain't kids no more," "when we were young," "that was a million years ago," etc. At first, I was like, "Girlfriend, please." Because, you know, I'm a 43-year-old white man from the suburbs who likes to appropriate as my own outdated pop culture tropes that I have no business using.

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Adele. Today it occurred to me: no matter how old we get, there will always be someone older, devaluing our age and experience because they are not as great or as extensive as their own. I imagine in the nursing home, there will always be a 95-year-old looking at the 75-year-olds and thinking, "Punk ass kids. Think they know shit about how things really are..." Hmm. Wait a minute. "Someone" is singular. "Their" is plural. Therefore, my '80s public school education tells me that there is no agreement among my pronouns. I should have used "his," because it is the correct choice both for masculine antecedents and those of neutral or unspecified gender. The judgmental 95-year-old in my imagined scenario is not described as either male or female. I should have said, "[t]here will always be someone older, devaluing our age and experience because they are not as great as his own." But I recall vaguely somewhere some discussion that we are living in a non-binary world now, and assignment of the masculine pronoun when the gender of the antecedent is undetermined is a construct of the patriarchy, meant to keep women and the LGBT (LGBTQ? Are we adding a Q to that now? Sounds familiar...) population oppressed, silent, under-represented. Traditional notions of grammar be damned, much like the rich music industry fat cats! Singular/plural agreement isn't as important as human equality! So bam. Grammatical relativism, right there. Done and done.

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh, yeah, Adele. You go on and be jaded and world weary, young lady. Your (or perhaps your songwriter's? Do you write your own lyrics? I don't even know) life experience is as valuable as my own. Hell, more so, because the older I get the only thing I know with more and more certainty is that the scope with which my knowledge and experience can be applied to real life situations becomes more and more narrow with every passing day, week, month, year. Perhaps by the time I'm a 95-year-old in a nursing home, I'll know that it doesn't actually apply to anything in the present or future at all, only the past. Which is pretty damned (like traditional notions of grammar and rich music industry fat cats) useless, actually.

Wait, What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Adele. I give her my permission to sing about the passage of time and the lessons it imparts, even though she is young. Also: I like Taylor Swift. There, I said it. "Blank Space" is a good song, I don't care what you say.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Divorce, Sobriety, and New Beginnings

One year has passed since Mrs. Rodius told me she wanted a divorce. About 2 1/2 weeks have passed since we signed and filed the Final Decree of Divorce. In about a week, it will have been a year since I had my last drink. 2015 was a helluva year.

In that year, I lost a wife. I lost about half of my time with my son. I lost my financial security. I lost my identity as a full-time stay-at-home dad. I lost my home, and my neighborhood. The best of my losses was the 50 pounds or so I shed, mostly because I quit drinking and spent a lot of time in the first half of the year angry walking, roaming for miles and hours every night after Thumper went to bed, stewing and avoiding fights with my future ex-wife. I put a lot of miles on my shoes in the spring of '15.

At the same time as all those losses, I had many gains, too. I gained a new relationship with my son as we navigate all these changes together. I gained independence and responsibility. I gained a new identity, returning to full-time employment after an 8-year hiatus. I gained a new home, a space of my own, something that I've never had. And most surprising, because I was certain that I wanted nothing to do with long-term romantic relationships for at least a couple of years, I gained a girlfriend.

I don't think I'll blog much about her. I'll tell you now that she lifts me up in ways that I didn't know I needed. She was a dear friend who mentored me through the early days of the implosion of my marriage, who told me often, though I didn't believe her, that I would be happy again. She is an amazingly down-to-earth mother who regularly talks me down from all of my intellectual flights of fancy and over-analysis of everything I do and think when it comes to Thumper and to myself. It was a surprise when that treasured friendship evolved into something more. She likes to give what I like to receive, and she likes to receive what I like to give. She is a gift. She is a gift that I don't want to share with you. So you may never hear another word about her. Though who am I kidding? I talk a lot. She'll probably come up again.

Something else I gained that I didn't think I would, though I wanted it very much for a very long time, is my sobriety. I drank. Too much. Through most of my adolescence and all of my adulthood. Most people who know me, or knew me, would be surprised, I think, to know how much I drank. I was good at hiding it and at functioning well enough. But it was a lot, and it would have killed me eventually, I have no doubt. Now I'm sober, and I don't even miss it. Sobriety is yet another thing that 2015 brought me, including divorce, and happiness, and a new and very different romance. If someone had told me a year ago that these things were coming, I wouldn't have believed any of it.

If you are here looking for advice on how to quit drinking, I don't really have any. I went to one AA meeting. The people there were kind and welcoming. I participated. I stood up and called myself an alcoholic. I cried. I got a hug, and a desire chip, and someone bought me a copy of The Big Book, though I don't know why they call it that. It's really not that big. I read every word, and some of it twice. I never called the number that the person who bought it for me wrote on the inside cover, and I never went back to another meeting. AA just didn't speak to me. I wanted to be done with alcohol, not spend much of my life talking about it. I had no stories to share of waking up in jail after a three-day blackout bender. I hadn't lost everything to alcohol. I don't even believe that alcohol killed my marriage. If anything, alcohol kept my marriage stumbling along long after it should have lain down and died. Most of all, though, I couldn't see myself ever getting past steps 2 and 3. For many non-religious people, the phrases "a power greater than ourselves" and "God as we understand Him" make it possible to reconcile a lack of faith in God with the faith necessary to work the steps. One person even told me that I could make that power and that God entirely symbolic, substituting something as mundane as a doorknob if I chose. But I still couldn't do it. I couldn't conceive of the power and I couldn't admit powerlessness. But reading the book helped, and knowing that I really never wanted to go back helped, too. I'm not denigrating it. It's a stunningly powerful and effective program, and its grassroots development from a handful of people to a worldwide movement is virtually unprecedented. It's famous because it works. It will work for you if you work it, as they say. I just didn't work it.

But I haven't had a drink in a year, and it hasn't been that hard. Outside of the first couple of weeks, especially the sleeplessness, it's even been easy. I don't want to drink any more. I don't know why I don't, but it's a huge relief. Some people I drank with seem puzzled, maybe even baffled that I would never drink again. Like Andre 3000 in Outkast's "Ms. Jackson," they wonder, "Forever? Forever ever? Forever ever?"



Yes. Forever ever. That idea was scary to me before I quit. To never drink again? Unthinkable. But now, it's more than fine with me. It took from me, but it didn't give anything back. What I thought it gave me was truthfully just another way it took from me. I don't want it back. I'm free. You can drink. You can drink when I'm around. It doesn't bother me to be near it. I'm just done. Don't know why. Just am.

And yes, I know the Big Book is full of stories of people who quit, and were sure, and started again, and never truly made it until they did steps 2 and 3 and the rest. And I haven't. And maybe that puts me in jeopardy. We'll see. Right now, I'm fine. I'm better than fine.

 And that's pretty much the sum total of my life philosophy as I move from 2015 to 2016. I don't know about next week. I don't know about next month. I don't know about next year. But right now? Right now is good. And that's more than enough. I don't really have any resolutions for the new year. I don't know that I need any. I do have a goal: run the Cap10K in under an hour. That's a pretty big one. I'd have to check the race bibs on my wall to see if I've ever done it before. I've done 10Ks in under an hour, but maybe not that one. It's all uphill for the first half. But I want to keep my weight loss going, and I want to get back the sense of accomplishment that running gave me in 2010, 2011, 2012. I don't know if running will ever again be for me what it was. I don't know anything, really. And I'm keeping my focus right in front of my feet for now. But if 2015, the worst year of my life, brought me so many unexpected and truly priceless gifts, who knows what 2016 will bring?

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Last Day of My Previous Life

Tomorrow, my wife and I are on the "Uncontested Docket" at something something District Court to have our Agreed Final Decree of Divorce blessed by a judge, or whatever it is exactly that they do. Sprinkle water on it and thumb the sign of the cross into the header? Burn some sage? Sacrifice a goat? I don't know. I hope I'm not expected to bring the goat. But this time tomorrow, God willin' and the...

Hey, have you ever heard that phrase? I have a co-worker who has said for the entire 16 years I've known her, "God willin' and the creek don't rise..." I always took it to mean, "with a little luck," as in "if God is willing for this to happen, and also the rushing body of water between us and our goal doesn't rise under extreme weather conditions."

But last month, said co-worker told me that someone had told her that she should be careful with that phrase, as it's actually racist. As in, the word "creek" in that saying should be capitalized. As in, it's not "so long as the creek does not rise under heavy rain and wash out the road" so much as it's "so long as those pesky Creek don't rise up in armed revolt."

As with most things, consulting with the mighty oracle at Google will tell you that it most definitely is true that the saying refers to the North American aboriginal people and their violent resistance to the oppressive conditions under which they found themselves to be living, and also that it most definitely is not true and is in fact related to the phrase "come hell or high water" in meaning and intent.

I did not bother Googlin' the origin of that one or attempt to ascertain whether or not H E Double Hockey Sticks should or should not be capitalized in the context in which I used it. Though I did capitalize in that context. But not the previous context. I don't know. I'm unpredictable. I'm an enigma wrapped in a something something.

Anyway, what was I saying again? Oh yeah, God willin' and the river don't rise, I'll be a divorced man in 24 hours or less.

How do I feel about this? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you met me at a very strange time in my life.



On the one hand, it's been less than a year from her uttering the words "I want a divorce" to (presumably) a judge uttering the words "by the power vested in me by the great State of Texas, I now pronounce you as done with each other as can reasonably be expected when you're raising a kid together. Go forth and multiply. Wait, no. Live long and prosper?" It's been a long, awful, fast, wonderful, bizarre, mundane, thoroughly aggravating, fascinating, amazing, and shitty year. We've been endlessly amicable and relentlessly bitter and vicious to each other. I'm thrilled that the year is almost over, though I spent the first 4 months of it trying like hell (not capitalized?) to change the direction this ship was sailing. I'm thrilled that it wasn't more than a year. I'm thrilled that we were able to come to a (more or less) amicable agreement on terms.

On the other hand, I suspect the emotions are going to hit hard tomorrow or some time shortly thereafter. Even though this is what I wanted (at least since some time in April), and at times wanted so desperately that I was screaming to the heavens "let it be over already!" I hear from others who've gone through it that there will be baffling feelings of grief and loss that the marriage of 20 years, the marriage that was the center of my life for over half my life, is truly dead. I am excited at the prospect of finally moving forward with the next phase, leaving behind the scorched ruin in which I've been living and finding my happiness in some new metaphorical place, wherever that may be. But I can see how it might be possible that the finality of a court agreeing that we are now to fuck right off out of each other's lives, to the degree that's possible for co-parents to do, will stir up afresh all of the feelings of loss and failure that I suffered through for the first 8 months of the year.

2015 has been a helluva year. I'm not at its close the man I was at its opening. While that's certainly true for any year in anyone's life, it is most acutely obvious for me, for this year.

So let tomorrow come. Let the marriage be over. Let the custody arrangement be set in stone. Let us let go.

Happy New Year, errby!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Traffic as a Metaphor for Life

Now that I've been back in the full-time workforce for almost half a year, driving in rush hour traffic a couple of hours a day five days a week, except on those days when I can blissfully take the train because I don't have to drop Thumper off at school, I find myself thinking about this article almost every day. It uses flowing liquid as a model for how traffic behaves and makes some conclusions on how we can improve our lot in heavy traffic. Actually, it concludes that we can't do anything to help ourselves, but we can help those poor suckers stuck behind us.

It goes on and on and on, and I know none of you are going to actually read it, but the gist is: leave large following distances. Even in slow traffic. Even when that guy is passing on the right and merging left just before the lane closure, the lane closure that you saw signs for 2 miles back and changed lanes to avoid, but he kept right the hell on going and now he wants in front of you after speeding up the right lane, like the rest of us jerks don't matter at all. Even then: large following distances. For each of the problems that heavy traffic presents (spikes of hard acceleration/deceleration, closing lanes, blocked lanes), the solution is the free movement of cars from lane to lane, which in practical application is: large following distances.

I blogged about this article before, and what I like about this philosophy is, regardless of whether its application actually makes things better, it removes the urge to drive competitively, to teach that other guy a lesson by sticking as close to the bumper of the car in front of  as you can and not letting him in. Despite that urge, you and I both know in our hearts that that guy doesn't learn any lesson. No one learns any lessons about cooperative action by having that cooperation withheld. He just calls you names and moves on with his day, probably forgetting all about you long before you've forgotten about him.

So in summary:

Stop worrying about what the other guy is doing, and stop trying to take away his ability to do it. We all benefit.

The end.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Perspective



"Tonight, we not only speak to the members of the Greater Jerusalem Baptist Church. We not only speak to Baptist people tonight. We not only speak to the Methodist people tonight. Church of God in Christ, Catholics, or no particular denomination. No particular city. But tonight we speak to the whole nation. Tonight, our message: Drop the hate! Forgive each other!"

I've been thinking about my problems lately, and sometimes feeling sorry for myself for the hurts done to me, and sometimes feeling guilty for the hurts I've done to others.

And then I think, really, things are pretty fuckin' good.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no one actively working to end my existence because of who I am or what I believe.

I'm surrounded by people that I love, who make me smile and laugh out loud almost every single day.

I have such an abundance of clean drinking water, that I expel my bodily wastes into it all the time.

I have such an abundance of food, that I track my consumption with a handheld computer that sends data to and receives data from space just so I don't eat too ridiculously much.

My greatest health concern is trying not to get sick from too much pleasure.

I have a job with health benefits and a salary that allows me not only a nice home and all that food and water, but also the ability to do almost anything I want, almost any time I want.

And virtually everyone I know has all of these things, too.

Clearly, some of these ideas I owe to the incomparable Louis CK:



"You're in a chair in the sky!"

"But, it doesn't lean back very much..."

Ha. Anyway. What was I saying? Oh, yeah.

When I look around, I'm baffled to see so many people so determined to be angry and unhappy. At work and in my private life, there are several people that seem to work very hard at being mad. They look closely for new injustices that have been heaped upon them by cruel circumstance and cruel people.

I hate being mad. I want it to end as soon as possible. I hate lying awake at night going over and over in my mind how angry I am. I'd rather sleep peacefully and wake up rested and refreshed. So I wonder: are there physical differences in our brains such that some people experience anger as a pleasurable sensation? I've always said of some people, "They're not happy unless they're mad," and now I'm wondering if it's literally true. Is anger akin to joy in the brains of some people? Are there studies on this, complete with colorful images of parts of the brain "lighting up" at the opportunity to tell someone else that they said or did the wrong thing, or said or did it the wrong way, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons? And to tell them over and over again, with white-hot rage?

The phrase "righteousness orgasm" popped into my brain the other day to describe the apparently climactic joy in expressing outrage at perceived victimization of a just or innocent person, and we all tend to think of ourselves as at least mostly just and innocent. It can be seen in comments sections all over the internet, and I think it's what Lenore Skenazy noticed in this post on Free-Range Kids. It's an outrage that seems easiest to express in writing, because face-to-face communication allows too much humanization of the offending party, too much explanation of extenuation, too much give and take, to really allow a good orgasmic buildup of righteous indignation.

I know I've indulged in the righteousness orgasm now and again, and even recently. I'm trying though, Lord. I'm trying.

Anyway, now I'm going to go turn my Pandora from Rage Against the Machine back to Lyle Lovett. And tomorrow, I'm told, is Aloha Friday. I've never been to Hawaii, but I have no doubt I can only benefit from more ukulele in my life.

Aloha, fuckers! Namaste, bitches!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Yep, Still Me to a T

Yep. I'm still here over proving that truer words were never said of me than, "You never could keep your fuckin' mouth shut." I'm feeling down and out because of my mistakes, but I'll be back on top and whistling a jaunty tune soon because I'm finally getting to accept and like myself and my quirks, and my foibles, and yes, even my utter failings. Not everyone thinks so, but I'm a good man doing good things. If I love you, I'll do anything for you, and there's a bunch of you out there that I love. You keep me going. You keep me from slipping in the pitfalls. I'm still going, y'all. This is just me on the regular.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

It's Different for Me Now

Driving to work this morning, I heard Dr. David Buss on KGSR talking about dating in the modern age. The gist was that modern technology and communications do not make it easier to find a long-term mate.

I'll be completely, officially divorced soon, probably some time in November, so I've been thinking about dating and mating and finding a match that works in the long term. I thought I'd found The One two decades ago. I was sure of it. But The One is now as foreign to me in heart and mind, as inscrutable, as an alien. I'm sure I am to her, as well. We simply do not speak the same language. It's not her fault, and it's not mine, or if there is fault, it belongs to each of us. But I think fault is meaningless in the end of our marriage. There was no infidelity. There was no abuse. There was the long, slow accumulation of resentment and the inevitable separation of what was once, truly if briefly, a close union of souls. Some of that foreignness comes from the pain of The Breakup itself, the cruelty we inflicted on each other while finally, irrevocably snapping that bond between us. But I also think most of our marriage was the desperate attempt to return to what existed for a few years and was lost through the vagaries of time and circumstance, mostly because we were at our cores incompatible in our personalities and desires. We were friends for a long time, even good friends, close friends. But we stopped being mates, I think, probably some time in the 20th century. We fell in love quickly at the age of 20 with the people we had the potential to become, and we fell out of love slowly over the next 20 years with the people we actually became.

Anyway, that's my paragraph-long post mortem on almost 23 years of daily interaction.

All of which begs the question, whether you call what came before a failure or an indispensable life experience, how does one go about making a new match that lasts and uplifts and continues to uplift over the course of years?

I don't think it's on Tinder. Or Match. Or eHarmony. Or OKCupid. Maybe. I don't know. Dr. Buss pointed out that each of these, and especially all of them in combination, give the illusion of infinite choice, infinite possibility, which leads to a paralysis of choice. It's a world where the next possibility is always better than the current reality.

A friend told me I'd have to go through my "divorce crazies," to go crazy and date lots and lots of people over the next couple of years. To step out of my comfort zone and go wild would be the only way to find out who I am in relation to other people, to find out what I liked and what I wanted. While I can see its value, that idea kind of gives me the heebie jeebies. I said in June or July, shortly after I moved out of my marital home and established for the first time in my life a space that was my own: I don't want to date. I wanted to live on my own, making my own choices for my own sake. I wanted to spend at least a year or two discovering who it is I am alone before I try again to discover who it is I am in cooperation with another person. And it was true when I said it. And it's still kind of true now. But I can see that a time will come, and maybe sooner than I thought when I was just beginning to believe that the end was in sight, the end of something that had become destructive, that I will want to find someone. Someone to spend time with. To talk to. To cuddle with. To help and to be helped by. To uplift and to be uplifted by. And yes, to bone. Bonin' is fun, after all. And making love is an expression of, an extension of, and a reinforcement of emotional intimacy. But more than sex: I will want someone to show my intricacies and to discover her intricacies, with all of the joy and fear and frustration and giddiness and fever and love that comes with that openness and discovery.

Who do I want? The more important question is who do I want to be? I think it's answering the second question that will lead to the answer of the first.

What I will not do is hold on to the past. I have friends who model for me exactly the behavior I refuse to engage in. I will not dwell daily on what I had and lost. I will not dwell daily on what she did that brought about the end, or what she did in ending it. I will not remain mired in the muck of what went before. I can't see anything of value in fighting any longer to keep or regain what is gone. I can't see anything of value in hating her or pitying myself. If you are one of my friends who thinks now that I'm talking to you, then hear this: let it go. It's over. You are only hurting yourself and your kids. Find a therapist. I have a recommendation for you if you want it. She was instrumental for me in seeing things differently. But you have to stop it. There's no point. There's nothing to be gained, only everything to be lost.

That's what I won't do. What will I do instead? I will be honest. Trying to be someone I wasn't didn't work. Pretending to want what I didn't want or to be happy when I wasn't didn't work. That staple of couples counseling and Alcoholics Anonymous, "fake it 'til you make it" only goes so far. Eventually the faking is as destructive to the self as the not faking was to the relationship. So I will tell the truth, even when it's difficult or awkward. I am who I am, and I'm a lot more comfortable with that at 43 than I was at 20.

I will be kind. Bullying someone to make them become someone else is a stupid strategy. It didn't work for her, and it didn't work for me. If I'm dating someone who turns out to have very different priorities than I do, it'll be OK to end things and move on. Better now than later. The ending can be as much of a kindness as anything else.

I thought it would be a long list, but I think that's it. I will be honest and kind. I think everything else is a subcategory of one or the other. Is it possible that the next great love of my life will appear, will draw me to her and be drawn to me, by living my life and endeavoring always to be honest and kind?
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