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*

Caring for Others, Part 2

I have a few more thoughts on what I wrote about yesterday.

When my grandmother taught me how to not be a little ungrateful jerk when I was offered those horrid bananas, she also taught me another lesson: care for yourself.

I have to admit that I am just becoming more practiced at self care, but I suppose a few decades late is better than never.

My grandmother didn’t force me to eat the banana. In fact, I don’t remember being forced to do much of anything as a child. I was encouraged to have an open mind, but never forced into anything.

I think that was an important part of my development into a somewhat carefree kind of person. I understand the importance of not forcing anyone into any thing, which makes me pretty hands off with people. I’m not the friend who is going to ask you to have just one more drink. I’m the friend who doesn’t give a shit when you willingly decide to do so, for yourself.

That little lesson from grandma also means that it’s important to not put the expectations of others before your own wants and desires, if you’re not hurting anyone. My grandmother cared more about me being a nice person than being an obedient one.

Thanks grandma.

I also have to truly thank my mother, too. She reinforced those same values in me. Sometimes she had to counter balance my natural propensity to constantly “Do my own thing” by teaching me the importance of making friends and all that hootienannie. But, I’m very thankful for those lessons, too, mom.

Until tomorrow my friends…

Caring for Others

The most rewarding things that I’ve done in my life involved doing something nice for someone else.

Many times, the recipient has been not so thankful. But, I still felt good anyway. I think it’s important to not let other people’s reactions rob us of the joy of kindness and good deeds. This is VERY hard for me to do, but I’m working on it.

I thought about writing this today because I made some meals for my elderly uncle. I cannot cook like his late wife (my aunt) but I know that he will appreciate my effort.

Do you appreciate other people’s efforts without being critical or an asshole otherwise?

I think that’s easier to do than we think it is.

When I was a kid, I hated bananas. I’ve grown tolerant of them as an adult because I put them in smoothies and the potassium makes my old body feel a little less old.

But honestly, I could never see another banana again and be fine, even happy.

But, when I was a kid, one of my grandma’s friends used to love giving me bananas. It was her favorite fruit and perhaps she thought that she was really being kind to me by offering me one.

I still hated them.

But my grandmother, in all her wisdom, instructed me to not eat the banana but to always, always take it and be completely gracious and thankful.

Eventually, I went from kind of pretending to be thankful to having a better understanding of what grace is. Eventually, my thanks was heartfelt and not at all pretentious, even though I never ate the damned bananas.

I learned to be gracious when someone thought enough of me to do something. I learned to not take the joy from them for being kind. I learned not to essentially punish people for being nice. I learned a little bit of what it’s like to not be an asshole.

And now, when I do nice things for people, I get to learn how to be on the other side of the equation. Sometimes something that I do that I think is kind is met with welcome and enthusiasm. Sometimes, it’s not. But regardless, I’m working on not attaching my feelings to the behavior of other people. I take the pleasure and reward of kindness from what I can control: only myself.

What do you think of this topic?

Until tomorrow my friends…

Getting Beat Up

Today I went to visit my elderly uncle. I’ve written about him before and today he imparted some more wisdom that I would like to share.

He’s 81 years old and is very gentle in nature. As long as I’ve known him or known of him, over 30 years, he’s always been the same. He’s not the guy who was a jerk before who became gentle. It’s just his nature.

Today, I talked to him about the challenges of entrepreneurship and having faith in myself.

He laughed very heartily, like I had told him a very funny joke.

“Do you know how many people have been beat up, so many times? And they just kept on trying. That’s what you will do.”

He said it with a level of confidence and surety that I honesty don’t always have about being an entrepreneur. Wait, I’m just kidding. That was an understatement. He seemed sure and I feel the exact opposite. But I’m still trying anyway.

I talked to him briefly about the often times crippling fear of uncertainty.

Again, he laughed, this time louder, and said: “You ever sit around and think about how every time you thought something was so messed up and some kind of way you figured it out?”

MIND. BLOWN.

No, my dear, ancient and wise uncle, I do not sit around and think about my successes. I have too many failures and near misses to think about!

That’s what I wanted to say, but I realized I was/am a silly worry wart and my uncle was right.

Trying is hard. Change is hard. Trying to do something new is hard. Failure is hard. But, for me, so is wishing for something different or settling for mediocrity.

Nowadays, I have no idea what’s going on in almost any aspect of my life. Everything from my health to my paychecks have big ass questions marks floating around them.

But, I’m doing it. I’m making it. I’m unsure, but I’m not dead yet. And if I wake up tomorrow again, not dead, then I have another opportunity to figure things out.

Take it from an 81 year old man: you can do it and it’ll be better than you thought, if you try.

Good luck…

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…

 

Here’s to Having a Good Time

I am loved.

Some days, we might not feel like it. Other days, we are fortunate enough to have our cups runneth over with love. Today, I had one of those overflowing with love kind of days.

The worry and heartache of the past 18 months or so have given me a new found gratitude for almost everything. Now that I know what it is like to worry all day, every day, the feeling of being in the present, and recognizing all the ways that I am loved, well, let’s just say it’s amazing.

Even when I am alone I feel loved. Tonight, I had an amazing opportunity to have a new experience with an old friend…to celebrate me being older. You can’t beat that.

I am just so thankful.

A few days ago, driving across town, I got into a short space of an almost meditative state. Even though I was driving on the freeways, my mind slowed down to appreciate the bright blue of the sky, the shimmering glass of the towering buildings whirling by, the flight of the synchronized birds overhead. It was lovely and I felt loved, even in that moment of almost organized chaos.

I am so thankful.

Being thankful and more mindful has helped me loosen up my definitions of myself. Before tonight, I would have emphatically said that I was not the kind of person to go on stage during a burlesque (what they call “boylesque” , since it featured gentlemen) show. But now, there’s video proof that I did go on stage and rhythmlessly girate my huge ass around for about 90 seconds. That video proof my night ever see the light of day, but, it exists.

I am just so blessed, so thankful, so loved.

I hope you are , too.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

I’m Turning Into Them

There I was, hunched over the left, lower drawer of my desk. I like to call it “the desk” because it is so substantial that it both fills the room and emptied my purse when I bought it.

When it was assembled, the rack for the hanging file folders were put into the wrong slot. I have used the desk this way for almost a year. Tonight, dizzy and nauseated from what I believe is the making of a migraine, I decided to do something about it. I have no idea why.

I held the Phillips’ head screw in my left hand, and said “lefty loosey, righty tighty” aloud before proceeding to unscrew the three screws that needed to move. I was wearing slippers, working diligently and silently, with an air of mechanical confidence that I do not usually enjoy. It was just unscrewing a few screws and moving a bar, after all.

But, right then, I felt it. I felt, for a moment, like an adult, like adult versions of my mother and grandmother.

Today is January 8, the date my grandmother was born way back in 1921. If she had not passed away back in 1998, almost 20 years ago, she would have turned 97 years old today.

It has been a long time since I have seen or spoken to my grandmother, at least in this realm, but I cannot remember a single day, in almost two decades, that I have not thought of her.

Her and my mother represent the parts of me that I wish I could cultivate more. My mother is feeling, empathetic, concerned. My grandmother was stoic, upright, moral, serious. Sometimes she was gentle, but I remember her as being pretty serious pretty much most of the time. I am more like my grandmother in personality, but I admire my mother’s warmth.

Tonight, sitting at “the desk”, I felt a like a little bit of both of them. My mother is so knowledgeable about cars that she could be a mechanic if she had any desire to get dirt under her nails. My grandmother was seemingly so unshakable and confident, it seemed that very few things or people could get her riled up. The stories that I have heard from her life really inspire me, although I am unsure how she was able to still have a hopeful and faithful heart, having grown up poor and in the Jim Crow southern United States.

Both share an affinity for houseshoes and a “can-do” attitude. Perhaps that’s why I felt a connection to them both tonight, as I sat there unscrewing the screws, feet nicely snuggled in a pair of sling-back, fuzzy, striped slippers.

As I have gotten older, I have started to release some of the expectations that I have for myself to be like my mother and my grandmother. It’s a hard thing to do, to let go of the dream of your heroes and realize that your own life is worth living in its own way. And, that things are worth doing YOUR way, no matter who your role models have been.

For me, I realize that I am light years behind the skill set my grandmother had as a baker. I have been rudely reminded of this fact for the past decade, every time I attempted to make a red velvet cake. However, this year, I think I got it right, but in my own way.

I realize that I honestly may never have the high levels of emotion and empathy for others that my mother has. I am beginning to accept this as just a part of who I am. Perhaps I can spread love through the world through cake instead?

No matter how I phrase it, or how I think about it, at least some parts of me are turning into parts of my grandmother and mother. And that’s pretty awesome.

Happy birthday, Lula Bee ❤

Until tomorrow, my friends…