Posts tagged Lifenote
Posts tagged Lifenote
If you would have told me 3 years ago that I’d be living in a house in the suburbs, with a wife and dog, and that I’d be getting up at 6 am — for any reason — I would have told you to ease up on the hash.
Yet, here I am.
I’ve been thinking lately of how this existence is one of perpetual lack. Or perception of perpetual lack. By comparison to most of the world, I have a full life and most everything a person could ever want: a nice house, a well-paying job, a loving wife, and a mostly-loving dog. We eat pretty much what we want. We try to take two vacation trips a year. We have good friendships and family relationships. It’s a good life.
But how easy is it to complain about what we don’t have? How easy is it to focus on lack? On what could be better? On what’s missing from our lives? That measly 2-5%?
Oh, it’s quite easy, in fact. Too easy. We do it all the time. It’s a constant, unyielding white noise that reverberates in the background of our busy lives. I wish I liked my job more. I should be making as much as “X.” I wish I didn’t have to work at all. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a kid/a bigger house/a second house/two kids/a Porsche Boxster/a pool/a dog who didn’t snap at people/few bills to pay/a shorter commute, and on and on and on.
I suppose it’s human nature to focus on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have, but you have to wonder where it comes from. Is it a gene? Simply a bad thought process than can be corrected? Something we ate? It gets old, focusing on lack, pining for more, constantly striving for that next best thing that will make us happy, or so we think. It’s all so much materialism and ego, isn’t it? Why can’t we be happy making what make, doing what we do, having what we have, and live without the things we think we want? What is it that creates this spiral, and why does it seem that it’s always the people who are most well off, who already have so much, who suffer from this mental disease the most? Someone should do a study on whether the indigenous peoples of Mauritania or Kenya or Albania or Honduras feel this way about their lives.
I doubt it. I read somewhere that happiness comes from within, not without. That means you can only find happiness wherever you are, in whatever state your life already is in. Happiness is a state of being. A mental state. It almost feels like a choice we make for ourselves. I decide how I am going to feel about something, and that’s how I begin to feel as the thought process solidifies and repeats itself over time. In a sense it’s the easiest thing in the world to do: just change your thinking and focus on the positive.
But in another sense, it’s a very difficult thing to accomplish because we’re constantly bombarded with reminders of how inadequate we are and how imperfect our lives are. Some of it comes from ourselves and our own insecurities, but more of it comes from the outside. Glossy magazines that throw beauty and style and wealth in our face every day, in an obvious effort to stoke our feelings of imperfection and propel us into spending our time and money on those very things that are being marketed to us: $300 blue jeans, Equinox gym memberships, beer, 2.5 kids, the traditional family, the myth of the perfect life. News stories that propagate fear and conflict. Time to buy that gun! Time to put police in our schools! Time to register every kid with Asberger’s! NEWS AT 11!
I’m sick of it all. Fucking sick of it. It’s enough to make Buddha vomit. There needs to be a re-set button, a switch I can hit to drown out the noise, and bring me back to neutral. All of it is meaningless in the end. We’re here for such a short time that it’s ludicrous to keep chasing the ring like Frodo and Gollum. Because as soon as we get it, the thing we think we wanted loses its shine, becoming drab and ordinary, and we look for the next shiny thing to pine for, to consume, to eat in one swallow. THAT thing will make us whole and happy and satiated. Until it doesn’t.
He stepped out of bed slowly, carefully, while the murky pre-dawn light was just beginning to seep through the bedroom window. A dozen pinpricks fingered his back, and he felt a wave of pain radiate from his spine, through his lower back, and down to his hips and legs. It left him breathless.
Was it always like this? he wondered to himself. Waking up to a physical assault on his body, a daily rampage he could never defend, directed by a general on the other side he could never identify, an angry psychotic who ordered an invisible army to Take that Lumbar! Take that Coccyx, Take that ligament! Make. Them. OURS!
Middle age. The penultimate frontier. The first stop after youth, the last stop before decrepit old age. He was perpetually torn between loving his 40s and hating them. What he loved: the freedom, the money, the status, the wisdom, the power, and the unshakable confidence that came with surviving to his fourth decade of life (or the fifth, if you counted that nine months of womb time), more or less intact. In one way, he’d never felt more alive, more vigorous, more able to shape his destiny than he did at this time, right now. Unless you’d made some really bad decisions and really fucked up your life — of which there certainly had been ample opportunity during decades Two and Three, pitfalls that included, but were not limited to, premature impregnation of unsuitable life partners, unintended, and yet, fatal, mistakes at work due to inexperience and/or lack of intelligence, roads not taken that should have been taken, roads less traveled that were taken that should not have been taken, excessive experimentation with drugs, alcohol, and sex, bad relationship choices, good relationship choices that ended badly, divorce, and debilitating depression induced by solitude or genetics.
Being forty, or in one’s forties meant that you had overcome those hurdles, for better or worse, and were gliding into the secure and stable status of the Middle of Your Life. The 40s were the good years. The established in your career years. The maximum money-making years. The maximum money-spending years. The years to travel where you’d always dreamed of going, with the time and funds to do it, and, ideally, with a compelling person by your side to share the experience.
What he hated: the new physical pains that came at him from everywhere, the way he could pull a lat muscle just by turning the wrong way to hit the snooze alarm, the way his metabolism had slowed to the point of zero, so that it only took an ill-advised bowl of penne vodka to make his body go to shit, the hemorrhoids that popped up like ass pacifiers from too much sitting at his desk job, the narrowing demographic of female he could lust after without being justifiably labeled a sick pervert, the way he couldn’t stop himself in any case, the increased frequency of his urination, the sudden relevance infomercials — for Cialis, for Viagra, for IBS, for Lunesta, for Ambien, for Lipitor — had to his life, the new paranoia that overwhelmed him that he’d already lived more than half his life and the other half would take a third of the time to run its course and put him in the ground, or perhaps in a crematorium. Did he want to be cremated or buried? Was it too early to get long-term health insurance? Would he contract his father’s dementia? His mother’s high blood pressure? Would he die before getting married? Would he ever have kids? Would he ever get laid again by someone worth laying?
Most of all, he hated the questions.
When he hit forty three years ago, he’d been struck by how quickly the number had crept up on him, and, notwithstanding the ambush, how great he felt, how established and content. At his fortieth birthday party, a shindig at a local watering hole that he threw for himself at the last minute, after convincing himself that he’d earned it, and after deciding to ignore the fact that he was still single and never married, he marveled at the mishmash of guests he’d invited from all walks of life, some of whom had traveled hundreds of miles to mark the occasion: Lee, Doug, Patty, and Steve from grade school; Austin, Lloyd, and Mary from college; Jennifer, Mark, Jonathan, Susan, and too many others to count from law school; cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, and his parents. They had all come for him, just for him, to celebrate his fortieth birthday and his life. The poignancy of it all, and his deep-felt gratitude that the people in his life had rewarded his dubious presumption that they cared enough about him, that he meant enough to them that they’d show up at a hastily planned party in a shithole East Village pub on a summer Saturday, would have turned him into a blubbering mess had he not numbed himself to the point of incapacitation with vodka tonics.
The alcohol and the grouping in one place of so many people from the tapestry of his life — watching them all meet each other and interact as if they’d known each other their entire lives, and the fact that he brought them all together — made his head spin. For one, two, three minutes, the peak of his euphoric buzz, he looked around the dark-paneled pub and felt like a king. Seconds later, he felt a surge in his stomach and ran to a bathroom stall where he disgorged what felt like a week’s worth of food.
That’s what the forties could do to you.
Been toying with whether to continue this blog or not. I haven’t felt like writing anything in quite awhile. Part of it is because I’ve had other priorities — house, work, dog, hurricane. Part of it is because this is basically a diary half the time, and does a diary really need to be shared? Especially when I have to censor the good shit? Probably not. I can do my own diary. I can keep it on my own computer. No one needs to see it, really.
But the urge to write has been stirring lately, and I suppose there are certain rants not appropriate for Facebook that I can put on here without losing friends. Speaking of which, I have a long-time friend who is married to a certain former governor’s son in my home state of NH. I have never liked that former governor. I think he’s a cantankerous prick. I think he’s a fucktard. A blowhard. I believe this even more firmly after this election campaign, when said former governor of NH accused Obama of being lazy and incompetent after the first debate, and accused Colin Powell of endorsing Barry basically because they’re the same color (or a shade of same). Governor Douche also acted like a sarcastic bulldog in virtually every interview I saw him on, with the notable exception of interviews on Fox News, which, for some reason, always went smoothly.
See, now I can say that here because my dear friend, who I’ve known since the second grade, is never going to see it. And if she does happen to stumble upon this silly blog that few read and fewer comment on, she won’t know the author unless one of my friendly readers shanks me in the leg and tells her.
But if I were to write comments like the above on Facebook, say on election night, after a cathartic Obama win that got me hopped up on too much vino on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, after let’s say for example I dedicated Abba’s classic “The Winner Takes It All” to Governor Douche and various other political jerkoffs I detest, including, but not limited to, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, and Bengie NetanYahoo, well, see now she could see that, and it might cause me problems. And it kind of did.
Her reaction can be summed up thusly: my Governor Douche has done more for this country and my state than you ever will. Why don’t you run for office instead of ranting like an asshole on Facebook? To be fair, she had a point. Since he did serve as governor and an even higher position for a number of years, before he was unceremoniously pushed out the door after some questions came up about his billing taxpayers for personal travel expenses upwards of $600,000 (most of which he never paid back), I suppose Douche has done more for this country than I have. I mean, even if he passed one law, good or bad, he has accomplished more than me from a strictly political point of view. I’m never running for office (and who the fuck would elect me after reading this blog and my occasional Facebook rants — my own mother hates my politics), so he has me there. But I think GD has earned back whatever he put in — I believe he’s been working for a financial firm for many years and has all kinds of political connections and then there’s that approximately $540,000 that he still owes taxpayers — so to me it’s a wash, at best. The larger point I made to Dear Friend was that I don’t need to run for office to have a political point of view and express it.
It appears I hurt her feelings though. I don’t know if it’s because I dedicated an Abba song she doesn’t like, what I wrote after she challenged me, or whether she’s been waiting this entire campaign for me to say something untoward about GD. Honestly, I didn’t think she’d even be awake. I dedicated my song around midnight or one in the morning. Maybe GD’s tears about Romney’s loss were keeping them all up. Who knows?
A day later, I felt badly. I have known Dear Friend a long time and have always liked her and her family (pre-married family) very much. Our families had kids the same age in classes together. Dear Friend and I drove up to Anne’s funeral together in 1992, along with Matt, another dear friend who died a few years ago. I remember before we left my house together way back then, I said something stupid and insensitive to her that made her cry. It was something that wasn’t true and didn’t need to be said. It shouldn’t have been said. But I’m learning that I sometimes do that. I do that to my sisters, to my wife, to my friends. My need to be right, my need to make a point, is incredibly powerful, and it just takes over. It’s an addiction. It’s ego run amok. And I know I’m at war with my ego, so I’m not supposed to let him win. He wins a lot though, unfortunately, which means that I’m probably 50 reincarnated lives away from moving forward. I don’t know where it comes from, probably a defense mechanism from my childhood, or a byproduct of my profession, but it’s an ongoing problem.
Sucks to be me. But at least I’m making sure I’m right in Life No. 32!
Anywho, after saying what I said to Dear Friend back in 1992 and making her cry, I felt like a fucking asshole. I still remember her face. I still remember Matt’s face, him shaking his head and saying “Let’s go, already.” So I apologized to her, almost immediately, saying that I shouldn’t have said that and it really wasn’t true, and that Anne would be happy to see us together and going up to her funeral together. It was a hard day for all of us, attending the funeral of a friend we’d known since we were young kids, someone who lived around the corner from me, and we lost so shockingly young. I was still in shock. I made Dear Friend cry again when I gave a eulogy for Anne, but this time, it was for a good reason, and I had tears in my own eyes.
More than two decades later, I upset her again, though thanks to technology, I was able to do it virtually, and from two hundred miles away. I get that she knows GD personally, unlike me, and of course you have to defend family. So I apologized to her again, and tried to explain why I wrote what I wrote. I did it privately — no one knows about it except us, my wife, and now, you. I told her our long friendship is more important to me than making a political point, and that even though I don’t like GD (I used a different moniker, of course) or his policies, I do like her and her family and hope we can move past this little speed bump. I also deleted my Facebook comment and left hers up.
It’s been about a week, and I haven’t heard back from her. I don’t expect to anytime soon. Maybe my apology pissed her off even more, who knows? She hasn’t unfriended me, which I suppose is a positive sign. What’s interesting is that what I said to her back in 1992 was mean and personal and untrue and unnecessary. What I said in 2012 actually had some truth and wasn’t intended to be mean or personal at all. She forgave the first transgression almost immediately. Not this one. I wonder what that says about how we grow and become hardened as adults.
I’m sure we’ll eventually get past this. If we don’t, it’s another life lesson for me and my ego, and I’ll learn from it. That’s all you can really do, eh?
1. I’d much rather spend the day with Angus snoozing behind me than working.
2. My trip to Italy can’t come soon enough. Two more weeks.
3. We’re all just squirrels fighting over acorns. Then we die.
4. Last Saturday, the Wife and I went to see Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, in Tarrytown. We’ve been watching her show on TLC since it started last fall and have become fans. I don’t believe in mediums as a general philosophy. I understand the criticism of strategies they use, like cold reading and shot-gunning. I don’t like the false hope they create in vulnerable people who are grieving over lost loved ones. All that said, she’s pretty amazing to watch. She does do a bit of shot-gunning but the specifics she comes up with are just not explainable. She tells people things she could not possibly have known on her own. And these people are not actors. She told one woman that her dead son was telling her not to worry that she buried him “in casual clothes.” It turns out that the mother had buried him in a Ghostbusters costume. At one point she asked for someone named “Gerard” or “Jerry” and a guy named Gerard stood up from an aisle seat literally right behind her. She then gave him a reading that he said was dead on, and he was a skeptic. She does better on her show, when she focuses on one person or a handful of people, rather than an audience of a few thousand. What gets me are the specifics she comes up with without any prompting from the person who is receiving the reading. It’s easy to piss all over this phenomenon, but I find that most people who do haven’t actually seen what she does.
5. America has a real obesity problem. I’d say that 80-90% of the audience the other night was seriously overweight. I get that there was a certain demographic in attendance for LIM, but this is becoming ridiculous. America is a fucking fat country and needs to do something about it.
6. A run on the banks in Greece. This should end well.
7. I love how Wall Street hates the Volcker Rule but has no problem taking a $2 billion loss on proprietary trading. Let’s reinstitute Glass-Steagall and be done with it already.
8. My Wife has turned me into a morning person. I didn’t think it was possible. I used to sleep until 9:30 and 10:00 on weekends. Now, I’m usually up by 7:00 a.m. The key: going to bed before midnight. It makes all the difference.
9. I thought the first episode of Girls was lame. The show was so obviously trying to be a more realistic “Sex in the City” for Generation Y (or Z or is it now C?) All the male characters were extremely unsympathetic doofuses who had no clue about what women want or need. And the dialogue was a little too cute for my taste. It wasn’t how real people talk. I also couldn’t stand the main character, Hannah. After 4 episodes, it’s growing on me. Brian Williams’ daughter — can’t remember her name right now — in particular, is really good, as is the actress who plays Hannah. Still can’t stand the character with the English accent or the virgin though.
10. This is going to be the baseball season of my discontent. Not too many likable players on the Red Sox right now.
11. My mother just put the house I grew up in, the house they built in 1973, on the market. I haven’t felt much attachment to it in years. As I grew older, the house grew smaller to me. All the memories I had as a kid started to fade and were replaced by a fed-upness with the house’s age and the changing neighborhood where my parents barely knew anyone, and where the few people they did know were never home. They were traveling or visiting their kids in other states. The New Hampshire winters were cold and dark. On occasion, my parents would lose power and have to be bailed out by a neighbor or friends of my sister who still live in the area. Not good.
Still, once the house is sold and someone new lives there, I’m sure I’ll be bummed out about it. It won’t necessarily be that a stranger took over my house. It’ll be about the passing of time, which always depresses me. When my parents built that house, they were young and vibrant and looking to a long future with a growing family. Now, forty plus years later, it feels like they’re leaving in the same way we left Vietnam: a helicopter is landing on the roof and whisking them away before old age and illness crashes upon their heads. It’s sad. And now they’re moving to Florida, the last bastion of the old, where the sun always shines and the estate taxes are friendly. Ugh.
I spend an inordinate time thinking about my mortality. I don’t do this intentionally, and it’s not even a depressing exercise (okay, well sometimes it is), but it’s more like an everpresent awareness that death is there, around, lurking, waiting, biding its time, our time, all time. Time. Time is death’s friend and our enemy.
I suppose in recent days I’ve been thinking about this more because a few more celebrities have kicked off and when that happens, the thought “Oh yeah, they die too, and sometimes really fucking young” pops into my head, and I’m reminded that no, tomorrow is not a given, and the time-bomb hiding inside of me may decide to explode whenever it wants. We all have ticking time-bombs hiding inside of us, don’t we? That genetically coded rogue DNA lifestring that is counting down, counting down, counting down to our demise, every day, every minute, every second until there are no seconds left. Genetics are only a fallback position. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease. They may get you eventually, but not unless something else gets you first. Maybe something you’ve introduced to yourself in the course of your life that expedites one of these. Maybe you like the smokes. Or the genoa salami or the biscuits or the porterhouse every other day. Maybe you’re on the promiscuous side of the equation and not a precautionary kind of person. Maybe you took it one one night stand too far. Maybe you drive too fast. Maybe you don’t see that well at night. Maybe someone drives too fast and doesn’t see YOU too well at night. Happened to my friend Matt. He’s not here anymore.
It’s all endgame, and it’s all meant for us, whether we’re rich or poor, happy or sad, careful or reckless. Some of the least healthy people live forever. Some of the fittest athletes die absurdly young. There are no rules, or if there are, we’re not meant to know them.
So what do we do with that little line between those two dates on our gravestone? I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it out. That line is time, and I wish I had more of it. I wish days were 36 hours long and I only slept for two of them. Having play money would help, I suppose, because then I could quit my job and just travel and write and take pictures and enjoy Wife and Dog. I’d have so many of those hours back to myself. But then again, don’t rich people already have those things and mismanage them? So many of them don’t seem to happy — they end up spending what they have, upgrading the ol’ expenditure ledger to match whatever assets they have, and then they’re right back where they started. We all think we’d do better than they with all that bread — I think I would — but who really knows?
We have the lives we have, we have the line we have, and barring some miracle, neither will change very much. We plan for the future as if it will go on forever. It’s the human condition to pretend we’re immortal because it allows us to get up each day without popping 10 Prozacs, but when you stop and think about it, when Andrew Breitbart (43) and Whitney Houston (48) and Davy Jones (66) and Lucio Dalla (68) remind you that the future is not infinite, not even for the rich, loud, and famous, well that’s when it’s time to revisit, revise, and remind yourself to live for today and enjoy what you have and make time for the things and the people who matter to you because tomorrow is only a possibility, a conditional gift, that one day will be withdrawn without prior notice without a chance for an extension, without a chance for redemption, and quite possibly, without a chance to say goodbye.
Time to go paint the upstairs trim now.
Posting original material rarely am I. I have reached the point where there are not enough hours in a day to do everything that I want to do. I could really use that 6 hours a night I spend sleeping, but problem is, I really enjoy sleep and don’t get enough of it. I could really use that 10 hours a day I spend working. I don’t enjoy working all that much on too many days, but work really is a means to an end as it gives me this house, this car, this computer, this camera, this trip to Italy that I’m going on in June, this dog (Angus), this dog food (shit’s expensive!), this dog walker (shit’s expensive!) and all the accoutrements that go along with a post-modern materialistic American suburban life. Now would be the time when I rail against what I’ve become with faux indignation, viewed from the perspective of a younger and far more idealistic version of myself, a Me who was well taken care of by his parents and never had to do anything for himself until he was oh, about 24 or so. Now would be that time but I’m over it because now I’m 43 and staring down the rest of my life, watching parents and relatives get old, get sick and die, and I just don’t give a fuck about any hypocrisy or not living up to ideals that I had half of my life ago. It’s hard enough to just make it in this world with some semblance of happiness without berating your own success. Deep down I know that I’m not the things that I own. Deep down I know that I’ve busted my ass and sacrificed for the things that I have. Deep down I know that I have the life that I have because on some level I wanted it. I didn’t want to be broke. I always preferred listening to music to being a musician. I turned on to writing and photography too late to make a living doing it; they’re just hobbies. I’m risk averse. I like security. That’s just the way I’m built. I am my father’s son. I’m a lawyer. I do what I do, it ain’t going anywhere. And the playthings I have are just that: entertainment. There will come a day, a day too soon, when I won’t be able to drive the car that I love. Or deal with a house. I’ll have to keep my old computer and cameras instead of switching them over every time a new shiny thing comes out. That day is coming. I look at my father and my mother and I see it. It’s right in front of me. I can smell it, taste it, feel it. We all try to avoid our parents’ mistakes. In doing so, we make our own. And so I will try to enjoy this time of my life more than they did, they who spent their middle age arguing over money and sweating over bullshit. Arguing with each other, arguing about clothesforthekids and anewdishwasher and whospentthis and I’mnotpayingforit and not taking trips and not seeing anything new and just staying where they are and where they still are and where they may still be in five years if they don’t get off their ass and move to Florida like they say they’re going to.
As I often say, Dad used to say “Life is a one way street.” Fuck right it is.
New Year, new plans. The birth of something that wasn’t here before. Hope. Remaking. The chance to create.
2011 was a year of transition for me. Transition and obligation. I got married, bought a house, changed job locations, and began to adapt to suburban life for the first time since before college. It wasn’t an easy year but now that it’s over, I believe I weathered it well. Many times I could have panicked, regressed, tried to revert back to my formerly comfortable life, but I didn’t. I followed my instincts and did it with a smile on my face. I didn’t always feel like smiling. Quite the opposite. But it’s far easier to ride the wave of change than it is to fight it.
2012 will hopefully bring a settling and some tranquility. I want to travel this year. I want to do things I feel like doing instead of things I feel I have to do. I want to progress at work and challenge myself. I want to carve myself out of the rut I fall into once every month or so. I want to socialize more, go out and have fun. 2011 permitted very little of this. 2012 gives me hope that all that change is going to lead to some traction, some progress in my personal and professional life.
Even the number 2012 itself appears optimistic. Must be the two 2s and the symmetry they impose around the 01. Odd numbered years always depress me. I never expect great things from them. I was born in an even year. Graduated from grade school in an even year. Graduated from high school in an even year. Graduated from college in an even year. Graduated from law school in an ODD year. That’s when things started to go downhill, I think. With law school. 2011 was a big exception - many great things happened last year. But they all started with my engagement in an even year (2010).
I can be quite OCD about this, as you can see. 400 years ago, I would have been a professional numerologist, or perhaps, a Tarot card reader. In 2012, I’m just a lawyer who does some writing and picture-taking on the side. That’s good enough for me.
Happy New Year.
Last night, at approximately 8:30 p.m., I became an uncle for the fourth time. My baby sister, who entered my life when I was eight years old, and who I fed and helped teach how to walk, had her first child, a baby girl she named Alessandra. What I like most about her so far, apart from the fact that she’s beautiful (and not nearly as lizard-like as her mother appeared at the same age), is how much hair she already has on her head. It’s more than I was born with. It’s more than I have now. It’s more than I will have for the foreseeable future. God bless her.
Can’t wait to see her this weekend.
My lack of motivation at work today is due to a number of causes, which, for a change, are valid. Let me lay them all out for you and myself:
This has been a brief list of Reasons Why I’m Tired On This Sleepy Monday. Carry on.