A Coronavirus Misanthrope

I would describe myself as a misanthrope. A nice one. A nice misanthrope who actually has a few friends that I love dearly. I have always been able to entertain myself with no, or very little, interaction with other people. In the past, when I have been betrayed by friends, I was disappointed, but I never felt any life-changing pang of loss when I was no longer friends with someone. I have never felt that deep, saddening missing of someone who was still alive. I have felt deep sadness when someone dies, but a disconnection with someone who is still alive never greatly affected me. Overall, I would describe myself as not having much deep interest in other people…

UNTIL NOW.

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Oh my, my, my, how the tides have changed over the past few weeks. It’s as if the tides heard me boasting about my general, seemingly harmless disdain for other people. And then the tides all got together and conspire against me and against all of humanity, to teach a terrible, long-lasting lesson.

 

Dear tides: I GET IT. I AM SOOOOOO SORRY. WHAT CAN I DO TO FIX THIS?

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The answer is nothing. I can do nothing.

I suppose that whenever the coronavirus-related lock downs are lifted, I should not go out into the world, continuing to boast about how deeply misanthropic I am. It turns out, that although I am still not pining over missing friends who essentially dumped me for no good reason (I’m looking at all you lames who couldn’t get over my personal decision to not drink until inebriation), I am *totally* missing friendly interactions with strangers.

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Do you remember those people? Strangers? The Starbucks barista that you don’t really know but somehow remembers your name. The old lady in Target that asks you where the cat food is located. The even older lady in Palais Royal whose question about which pair of shoes look better leads to a long conversation about where she is going to wear the shoes (her sister’s funeral) and why she is nervous about buying a pair with high heels (she’s nervous that the graveyard soil will be damp and unsturdy). All of these are real things that have happened to me by the way.

I also miss hanging out with my friends. I know, gosh, who doesn’t, right? I miss laughing loudly in restaurants, always saying “yes” to bread baskets, and sharing crazy stories with them. I miss people laughing at my jokes. I miss laughing at stories about other people’s husbands.

I guess some part of me likes some people. Not many people. Only a few of them. But those few people really, really, do count. I miss my people. All five of them.

*all GIFs courtesy of http://www.giphy.com*

Thank You for Coming: A Story about Getting Ice Cream During a Pandemic

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“Thank you for coming,” he said, in a heartbreakingly sincere way. I immediately knew what he meant. I knew beyond what he meant. For a moment, I hurt with him.

“Oh, yes, of course,” I managed to fumble out, too uncomfortable to verbally acknowledge the worries and concerns that I knew the ice cream shop owner was experiencing. “Ha, yeah, umm, I want to, you know, umm, support businesses. Plus, ha ha, yeah, I’m lactose intolerant, but I do love ice cream so much.”

He smiled and his eyes seemed to look like how I bet they look when things are less grim and business is less slow. He smiled like it was a few weeks ago, before the dreaded COVID-19 had turned all of our lives into worrisome messes. He looked at me, really, really, looked at me, and smiled. It’s the first time that someone has smiled at me like that in several weeks. Most days, I am home, alone. On the times when I go to the store, people are avoiding eye contact. Or, when I do manage to make eye contact with someone, I only see fear. I no longer actively try to smile at people or make eye contact because seeing fear in so many people’s eyes creates a sadness that I tend to carry with me for the rest of the day.

“Hmm…,” I say, mulling over each ice cream label, carefully reading each one. I already knew what I was going to get. I always get only one of two flavors: Swiss Chocolate or Amaretto. He didn’t have Amaretto; I of course was going to get the Swiss Chocolate. But I stood there, allowing myself to just exist in the shop, and in the moment, and in the presence of this business owner who has perhaps only seen a few customers all day. I am silent. I almost wish he would chat a little bit. No, I absolutely wished he would chat a little bit. He seemed kind and open, but he’s probably scared, too.

“I think I’ll have the Swiss Chocolate. A kid’s sized cup, please,” I finally said, trying to seem like I had given the choice  much consideration.

“Yes, sure, of course!” he responded enthusiastically.

I looked at the restroom door. There was a sign on it that said, “Temporarily out of order.” I desperately wanted to wash my hands.

“May I use your restroom?” I asked anyway, hoping he’d let me slide. He didn’t. I respectfully understood.

He finished ringing up my small ice cream: over $5 for the ice cream and two scoops of walnuts. I handed him a $10, asking him if it was ok that I paid with cash.

“Sure!” he said, still gushing with enthusiasm. He slid a little white tray towards me for me to put the money inside of and push back to him. I’ve never in my adult life wanted to hand my card to someone or put a bill into someone’s hands so badly. A little tinge of sadness poked at my gut.

“Are you the owner?” I asked. He smiled and told me he was. I made the presumption based on his age and the somewhat slow and unsure way in which he mixed in the walnuts. His button up, unbranded golf shirt and genuine glee to have a customer also seemed to give away his status as owner.

He finished counting the change and put it back in the basket. As he counted, I thought about all of the times that I have struggled financially as a business owner. The worry, panic, anxiety, and sadness of being an entrepreneur is just a part of the freedom that comes with entrepreneurship. You lose a boss, but you gain even more perceived uncertainty. My heart went out to this man, who has likely had to take to tending his own shop because he can no longer afford to pay the youthful high school kids to come in and serve the customers.

“Please, keep the change,” I told him and smiled. He smiled again. I turned away, clutching my somewhat poorly mixed ice cream, heading towards the door before the tears could escape my eyes.

“God bless you!” he called after me.

“Bless you, too, sir,” I said, turning back and smiling before using my elbow to push open the door.

I drove down the street to an empty parking lot to cry and enjoy my ice cream. Even though it was poorly mixed, it was still so good. I love Swiss Chocolate.

Resilience

My Post (2)The good thing about the COVID-19 madness going on right now is that many people, myself included, are finding ways to reconnect with long lost hobbies (or people). The long lost hobby that I have personally reconnected with, if you can’t tell from the dates of my last three posts, is writing.

Writing always makes me feel better. I have journalled since I was in first grade and in the past when I’ve been especially down, reading the thoughts of a 7 year old version of myself always put me in a better mood. It’s so lovely.

Today, I wrote the following poem about resilience. I hope that reading it makes you feel a little more strong and able to continue on while the world is affected by the coronavirus.

 

RESILIENCE

3/20/20     4:08 pm

I am wind,

Flexible and free,

Present, yet unseen,

Moving, yet sometimes still

I am an energy to be felt.

I am oak,

Strong and sure

Changing,

Growing,

Enduring,

Evolving,

Adapting.

Sometimes, I forget these things.

Sometimes, I don’t remember that I am capable,

That I am resilient.

Sometimes, the reflection in the mirror appears weakened, broken, and sad.

Sometimes, I cannot see because I cannot rest.

I am the whole universe,

Experiencing this tumult, just as everyone else, just as every other universe, just as you.

Together, we are changing, growing, enduring, evolving, and adapting.

Together, we can rest, and remember. 

It Doesn’t Matter

Do you ever feel like no one understands you?

How you feel? Your humor? Your off putting affinity for skulls? Your not so secret desire to live on an island?

Do you ever feel so alone?

Maybe you share some of those feelings and maybe you have some quirks of your own that make you feel ostracized sometimes.

I can relate. Some days, it feels like “Ostracized” is my middle name.

I don’t regularly do the two seemingly most common American activities: drink alcohol and watch tv.

If I had to guess, I would say that on average, I have about one martini every 8 weeks and watch about 1-3 hours of internet videos a week. I watch no regular tv shows, even though I do plan to catch up on “The X-Files” soon.

Do you know what these facts make me? Well, they make me almost a social pariah.

People are so strangely uncomfortable when I tell them I don’t drink much and I watch almost no television. They think that I’m odd, and technically, they’re right.

I feel odd and I feel misunderstood.

I use the examples of television and alcohol as somewhat light hearted examples, but I’ve also often felt deeply misunderstood, sometimes even telling myself that I will NEVER find someone who understands me.

Well, here’s the thing: IT DOES NOT MATTER. So the f*ck what?

Recently, I was listening to an Eckhart Tolle talk and he addressed the ongoing need that we can sometimes have to feel understood. And of course, when our version of understanding does not come, we make ourselves feel miserable. We tell ourselves horrible things, like no one will ever understand, or we are terrible for being so odd, so on and so forth.

But all of those things are unknown. Maybe you’ll find the jelly to your peanut butter. Maybe you’re just a singular, delicious nut spread.

Regardless, the better focus is on understanding yourself. There’s so much focus that we can develop on what other people are giving us that we neglect to give ourselves anything.

So, maybe your family thinks you’re nuts? You might actually be a little weird. Maybe no one does understand you.

SO WHAT?

Do you, who has the most access to you,understand you?

No?

Then you’ve already got enough things to do.

So many, in fact, that you might not have much time to watch the tele.

Until tomorrow my friends…

A Challenge Within A Challenge

Hey, is it your first time visiting my blog?

It is?

It is not?

Welcome or welcome back. Let’s start to make things interesting.

Two days this past week, I didn’t feel like there was much going on upstairs. A writer needs a brain to, you know, write.

Some days are like today, when I was actually zonked out on the couch watching YouTube videos, until I looked at the clock and thought OH SHIT! I forgot to write my entry for today.

Other days produce posts like what I wrote yesterday, when the words seemingly poured out of my mind, with ease and emotion. Only three people have clicked on the post from yesterday, even though I think it’s the best one I’ve written so far, so please check it out, if you’re so inclined.

For the next five working days, I am going to throw myself a bone and do a challenge. You know what a challenge is: it’s when someone says they’ll do something for a finite amount of time and then talks about it for that finite amount of time.

So, for the next five days, I am challenging myself to get out of bed whenever I first wake up, if the time is 5:30 am or later. So, if I wake up at 4:45 am, I am taking my ass back to sleep. But, if I wake up at 5:41 am, I am going to do the thing where one moves their body from the bed and into the waking world, ready to take on adventures.

I wonder how this will go? I am sure this activity will give me some fodder for the next few days. I am sure it’ll suck, too, because I change the sheets on Sunday nights, so I am basically dooming myself to spend less time with my fresh sheets come morning time.

What do you think? How will I do?

Have you ever tried this? Leave me a comment below…

Until tomorrow, my friends…

Awaiting Death While Enjoying Kindness

A little over a year ago, I reconnected with an uncle-in-law that I used to see often as a child. He is now 82 years old, having had his most recent birthday on New Year’s Eve.

He was married to my Aunt, who passed away a few months before I graduated from college. Since I was the first person in my family to earn a Bachelor’s degree, walking across the stage and knowing she wasn’t in the crowd was both exhilarating and heartbreaking, at the same time.

He has outlived her for many years now, and thanks to a mismailed letter from the good ole United States government, I have reconnected with him.

I go to his house, on average about 3 times a week. I help him with his finances; I run errands. I now know that he gets a kick out of it when I bring him family sized bags of Ricola lozenges. I introduced him to Ricola lozenges, and when I first gave him a bag, I sang the all too familiar REEE COOO LAAAA jingle from the commercial. Now, sometimes he sings it back to me when I show up with a new bag.

He uses a lot of cough drops because, among other health ailments, he has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD. It prevents him from breathing while sometimes keeping him occupied with a lingering cough.

He doesn’t venture out of his house much anymore. And even though he has a cable subscription, he enjoys watching the same black and white westerns that I imagine he watched as a child and much younger man.

And even though his body is failing him, his mind, and his awareness of his long life and long suffering, are still very strong. Most days, his mind is clearer and stronger than mine is or has ever been. He remembers street names, people names, events, and lots of other things from my childhood that I have long forgotten or perhaps never even knew.

Today, I went to visit him. I took him two bags of the family sized Ricola lozenges and two stacks of low sodium Pringles chips. He was delighted to have the surprises. I also took him homemade biscuits and white gravy with sausage, both of which I made this morning. I also took him two bowls of homemade stew, which I made two nights ago. Everything turned out great and I think he enjoys and understands the value of homecooked food more than an average person.

You see, my now elderly Uncle was married to the most prolific cook in our family. My Aunt cooked EVERYTHING and all the time. I have heard stories of her banging around pots in the morning, and when she was discovered cooking at those wee hours, she simply said, “You want something to eat?’

She was simply amazing.

I think of her every time I cook something for my uncle. I actually think of her in two ways: one, an impossible way, when I ask myself, “How would she have made this?” Alas, that question is impossible because I generally have no idea. Second, a bittersweet way, when I think to myself, “I think she would approve” when something turns out good.

I know that nowadays, a lot of people eat out for almost every meal. I totally understand; I picked up a “chicken box” (as my mom calls them) from Church’s Chicken on the way home, not wanting to bang around my own pots and spend more time in the kitchen today. I also have another takeout box in my refrigerator right now.

But, to me, there’s something very special about home cooked food, especially when someone who cares about you makes it. When I make food for people, it is always with great care and hope that it will be really, really great. No, I do not always make the best tasting food, and certainly it is not all restaurant quality, but I have never served something to other people that I just flopped together, carelessly. I like to reserve my lower skillset for myself, on those nights when I feel self critical about dialing up a delivery man to bring me some grub.

Today, when I took my uncle the food, he went on and on about it. In my work of getting to know myself better and understanding why I am the way I am, I have recognized that I love the admiration of an eater.

Oh,  your cake looks beautiful! (*blushes!*)

Oh, your cake is moist! (*double blushes!*)

Oh, this cake is better than box / store bought! (*oh, gosh, don’t kill me with your kind words!*)

After he thanked me for the food and assured me that he knew it was delicious before even trying it, we talked about the city where we both used to live, many years ago, my hometown. Today, he didn’t mention his own death, but he usually does. Today is less somber; today he is excited to learn about my new client. And he told me another story about my father, whom I never knew personally, and how yes, I am like him in a lot of ways in terms of my personality, but no, I shouldn’t worry about it because even though my father had a well-deserved reputation of being a cold, rule following asshole, I am still a good person, even if I have some of those traits. Or, even if I have all of those traits.

I leave there feeling good about myself. I feel appreciated. I feel like I did a good thing, hanging out with my uncle for a few hours, and taking him food that might somewhat resemble the food he used to eat from my aunt’s magical hands.

If you have time tomorrow, hang out with someone who will truly enjoy your company. I suggest picking someone ages 0-10 or 60-the rest. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

 

My Calm Birthday

Today is my birthday.

Last night, I had to pleasure of sitting around a large table, in a restaurant, eating, drinking, and enjoying the company of people I am fortunate enough to call friends.

I also did not have to wash a single dish yesterday or today, which is the beauty of going out to eat.

I love the energy of my friends. I might not see all of them very regularly, but I love them all the same, regardless of the frequency of our visits.

Today was my actual birthday, however. I turned 35. I don’t feel particularly old in my heart, even though I often times feel a little beat up or achy in my body. I am working on remedying that through a better diet and more active lifestyle.

I think there are a few clues to the youth of my heart, however. My mind  and soul are old. My body is getting older. But my heart has the joy and interests of probably any teenager. Here are some random highlights from my day.

I Tried to Help

The first thing I did when I left the house today was to check the mailbox. My mom had sent me a card and I went to get it. Somehow, the door of the mailboxes had come undone. I honestly stood there, in mild horror, trying to figure out how to fix it. I even looked around for an older person, even though, one could argue, that at 35, many people would consider ME the older person.

I thought: maybe if an older person, or a handy looking man (or woman) walked by, they’d know what to do. They’d have tape. Is it ok to put tape on a mailbox? Is that a federal offense? 

Not wanting to commit a possible federal offense by using tape on a mailbox, and not wanting to draw much attention to myself as the discoverer of the undone mailbox, I left it in this state, using some construction materials I found lying on the ground.

It is not the best solution, but perhaps there won’t be mail and sales flyers all over the place by tomorrow, when the real adult, ermm, I mean, the mailman, comes by to check out the situation.

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My Music Tastes are Both Low and High Brow

John Mayer’s “Badge and Gun” is one of my favorite songs, but I say that about almost all John Mayer songs. I mean, really, it’s like he’s in my head sometimes.

The song is about a guy who has tried really hard to do what he was supposed to do, whatever that was, and now he’s just going to go on about his way, both metaphorically and literally.

It’s both joyous and somber, which I know sounds odd, but those are the things I feel when I listen to it. It’s basically an ode to the peace one feels when you can honestly say, “I tried real hard” but in the next breath say, “But I also give up.”

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And while it’s nice and all to be all cerebral and listen to the seemingly deeply personal lyrics of a John Mayer song, of course I also had to listen to “In Da Club” by 50 Cent because there’s literally only one day of the year when, yes, shawty, it is indeed, yo birthday.

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My Fashion Tastes Are De-Volving 

Devolving is the opposite of evolving. For a long time, I was a school teacher. Then, for a longer time, I worked in corporate America. My wardrobe has changed, but just between you and me, I absolutely LOVE fashion with whimsy. I will buy and wear almost anything that is red, any shade of red, from light pink to one of my favorites, a deep, moody shade of oxblood. I love it all.

These shoes make me especially joyous and with the light wind and crystal bright sunshine, they seemed to dance off my feet. A random guy even passed me and yelled: I LIKE THOSE SHOES. He, too, was wearing red shoes.

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I Am Still Working on Other Parts of Being an Adult

I am working on reorganizing my closet and I ordered this thing from Amazon. Of course it came flat packed and required assembly.

It was pretty easy to assemble, but I absolutely hate assembling things, so I had to fight my disdain for 30 minutes and use another 30 minutes to assemble it. But, when I was done, I was actually quite proud. I did something productive on my birthday, and that was nice.

However, I am also a 35 year old woman who bought a $16 fabric thing from Amazon to put stuff in. Shouldn’t I be at Ashley Furniture, buying a proper chest of drawers? Perhaps, when I am 40.

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Over all, it was a beautiful day. I had a very peaceful day and am still reeling from how thankful I feel for all of the people in the world who love me.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

I Am Not My Hair

“No way it’s not real,” he said.

“Way, it’s totally not real,” I assured him.

He looked at me with those squinted eyes one makes when you’re not sure what to believe. He gazed at my hair again, back at my face, twisted his mouth, and replied,  “No way.”

All those years ago, way back when I was a freshman in college, at the age of 17, I first experimented with changing the look of my hair.

I kept insisting to my then boyfriend, with pride and odd enthusiasm, that I had, in fact, added a few tracks to my hair.

My natural hair, back then at least, was so thick that it blended quite seamlessly with the faux hair pieces. This made me giddy and proud.

Now, when I look in the mirror, both today on the cusp of my 35th birthday and every other day for the past year or so, I see hair that has thinned from the glorious lion’s mane that I used to proudly sport. I remember that once, my mother scolded me for lamenting about my thick hair. “You’ll miss it when it’s gone,” she warned me. As with lots of other warnings about life, momma was right.

I am currently suffering from thinned hair thanks to lots and lots and lots of prolonged stress. According to my stylist, it will grow back. According to my mirror, it’s already growing back. Where once there was a flash of scalp, now there are little hair warriors, returning to the battle, hopefully ready to stay put, on the front lines, for at least a good remainder of my life.

To be honest, I’ve always had a pretty good relationship, at least mentally, with aging. I know lots of people who died violent deaths at a young age. I know lots of people who died when they were good and old.  I know lots of people who died somewhere in between, at the age where one might say, “He wasn’t even that old” instead of “But he was so young.” Aging, and it’s ultimate outcome, has been on my radar for a while.

I’ve been to lots of funerals. When I was a child, my grandmother took me to lots of funerals, in small country towns throughout north Louisiana. I’ve probably seen more than my fair share of dead strangers lying in caskets.

With these experiences, death is kind of normal to me, as normal as it can be to a person who still has lots of desire to live. Aging, however, is deeply personal, it’s something that I cannot disconnect from or interact with by just sending flowers or sympathy. Aging is the part of dying that happens to you personally, and you get to experience it in your own personal way, the same way that you must experience and live your own life.

Although I am not happy about how stress manifested itself on my scalp, I am happy that I have had the opportunity to live this long. Having seen death around me since such a young age, I have always lived with the realistic fear that death is always just around the corner for any of us, at any time. It is a beautiful chaos in which to dwell, both frightening and invigorating.

So tonight, regardless of what my hair looks like, I am meeting with friends. The energy of other people, these people, people I am privileged enough to call friends, provide calm and love on the eve of my birthday.

And regardless of my hair, I am thankful to still have some of it left up there.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

Understanding I Know Nothing 

Today isn’t a cheat day, but I will admit that I am somewhat hurriedly writing this from the tub, where I desperately need to soak.

Ongoing stress is continuing to wreck my body, but I’m doing my best to get the almost constant aches under control through massage, meditation, and warm soaks. Oh, and at least two Advil a day. Please, no one tell my liver.

I know that the tension and pain I am feeling is due to stress. I know that it is temporary.  I’m trying to remember that when I feel the discomfort. 

Everything is temporary.  I can’t be uncomfortable forever because I can’t BE HERE forever.  That’s morbid, but thinking that way does put the stressors and the stress in perspective. 

I am thankful because man, I am learning a lot. Every day, I learn something new it seems, and I am reminded of how little I know about anything at all, including myself.

To help me along on this journey of self discovery, the Universe sent me an angel, in the form of a friend, who gave me a copy of Eckhart Tolle ‘s book, “A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose.”

What are you reading? Has anything you read recently really changed your life?

Stay hopeful…

Until tomorrow, my friends…

I Don’t Care About You Anymore

I like to think of myself as a pretty open minded person. I have had the great fortune to live in places where I didn’t grow up, go places I never thought I’d go, and meet people I never thought I’d meet. I’m so thankful.

All of these experiences have given me the ability to accept, and admit to, receiving inspiration from almost anywhere.

As you read through my posts, and hopefully continue to read throughout the year, you will see a theme emerge: I AM KIND OF RANDOM.

And thanks to my innate randomness, I receive inspiration and connection in random places, like in the music of the ‘pop princess’ known as Ariana Grande.

I admit that I listen to and enjoy her music. I admit that I am a little afraid to type that and post it on the internet, given my, ahem, advanced age, but, here we are and there it is.

This little stanza gets me singing, horribly and enthusiastically, every time I am in the car alone: (taken from the song “I Don’t Care”

Used to cry ’bout some crazy shit before
I used to feel so obligated to be so much more
I used to let some people tell me how to live and what to be
But if I can’t be me, the fuck’s the point?

 

I have actually been singing it wrong the entire time. I have been singing “then what’s the point” instead of that more saucy version, but you get the idea.

This switch, to go from all of the damn CARING I used to do versus who I try to be, for myself and to myself, has really been serving me well.

I am naturally a loner and not really concerned about if or when most people don’t like me. But, I have cared in other stupid ways, like these:

  1. Worrying about other people’s problems when they don’t seem at all interested in their own problems
  2. Thinking I was “helping” by telling grown ass people what to do when they full well know what to do
  3. Listening as grown ass people describe how they took their outrageously stupid, albeit conscious choices, and royally screwed up their own lives

I have spent seemingly countless hours, genuinely worried about what other people were going to do, were they going to mess up, were they going to be ok, were they really going to eat 2 bananas when they know full well that even 1 banana makes them have bad gas.

But now, although it is a hard habit to break, I am working towards NOT DOING THAT. It might seem like such a friendly thing to do, to take on a friend’s emotional burden and store it away in your own mind, but it’s folly and bullshit. Don’t do it to yourself. Now that I am making the conscious effort to stop doing it, I can now do the following:

  1. Devote more time to my own horseshit
  2. Listen in a kinder way as my friends talk or vent (since I am no longer approaching things from a “can I help” point of view, I am now a better and calmer sounding board)
  3. Reduce my own intake of emotional energy

Now, I can really be ME and be authentic while I am listening to and interacting with other people. Now, I am choosing to just be more chill in general, to align my thoughts and feelings with the most authentic version of me. And, the most authentic version of me has her own horseshit to deal with, and acknowledges, perhaps most importantly, that my internal worry has never helped anyone or anything, not even myself.

So, to that end, I graciously tell you, that if you’re my friend, I love you, but I’m just here for you, right where we are and when we are. I’m no longer worrying about you later (most likely) and I would love to JUST listen to you. I trust your own guidance for your own life. I no longer feel obligated to participate in it inside my knuckle head.

Good luck to us both.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

 

Photo by Umberto Shaw from Pexels

https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-walking-on-floor-764880/