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.

sad gif

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?

fix it gif
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.

waving bear gif

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

marble slab

“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. 

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…

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…

Free Advice for Sale

I was just scrolling through Facebook, and I saw an ad for a weight loss and exercise program. Yes, ANOTHER ONE.

I get why there are so many programs. Each one has an approach that will help their target group of consumers.

And people respond well to certain personalities and styles. I, for instance, enjoy the female badass vibe of Jillian Michaels and the humorous antics of Tony Horton. I also love the no talking style of Tracy Anderson.

I’m not paid to endorse any of those people and if I were, it would be a shame because I’m still fat. But you get the idea.

But the Facebook ad made me think about all the advice we can buy online, in the form of training programs, books, etc.

While exercise and nutrition training programs are great and useful, there are some simple things that you can do to get you started on the right track. I’m going to share some of those things with you here, now, totally FOR FREE.

1) Try to move around during the day.

Do you know that it’s kind of difficult to get in 10,000 steps a day, if you work a desk job at least. Start with trying to get 3,000 and then challenge yourself to take just one more step each day thereafter. Just noticing how sedentary you are is a way to change your behavior.

2) Eat something that is a green vegetable at every meal.

Today, I ate Thai takeout leftovers (don’t judge) but I steamed a small head of broccoli florets to go with it. Getting in your veggies can be hard, but if you develop some awareness of your lack of vegetable intake, you’ll likely improve.

A friend of mine once showed me a tray of vegetables he kept in his fridge, with the goal of eating them all in a week. I looked at the tray in horror! But I’m pretty sure he’s healthier than I am. He would just open the fridge, see the tray of vegetables, and sometimes just eat some raw, right then and there. Can’t get much easier than that, right?

3) Cook at least 75% of your own meals.

I can personally say that doing this has a good chance of helping you get healthier and lose weight. Not only will you consume less weird shit (you probably don’t have Blue#3 sitting in your cupboard waiting to be poured into your food, right?), but you will likely eat things that are simple to make and have fewer courses.

When I go out to eat, I usually have some bread (it’s free and delicious, so of course I eat that shit, nom nom nom); then I have a main course and wash it down with soda, and of course I don’t want to be rude to the waiter and not order dessert! What am I? Some kind of rude skinny person? No, of course not!

But, when I’m at home, even though I’m an accomplished baker (humble brag), I do NOT bake bread and brownies to have with my dinner. I eat the dinner and go do something else. Calories saved.

4) Keep going even if you screw up one day.

This is the one I struggle with a lot. I am still working on telling myself to just keep going and trying, but I often fall off the wagon.

5) Stress less.

Stress is an agent of the devil! The devil in hell and the devil of your mind, whatever you believe in. Stress is a bad thing!

My body has reacted to stress in the craziest of ways, including insomnia, hair loss, etc. Stress screws up your hormones and screwed up hormones mean FAT FOREVER. Don’t do it, boys and girls…dont even get me started talking about how delicious a brownie is after dealing with Tom in Accounting all day. Uh, go away TOM! Avoid Tom and stress as much as you can.

6) BONUS: Go to sleep

Guess what you’re probably not doing when you’re asleep? That’s right, eating.

There you go. Some free advice that you could have paid someone to give to you and I just delivered it, like an angel of sarcasm.

What’s your best healthy living advice? Leave a free comment below and tell me.

Until tomorrow my friends…

Sleepy

I don’t have a whole ass to devote to a post tonight. It’s been kind of a long day and I’m sleepy. So here’s my half assed post.

The one thing I will say is this: when you wake up tomorrow, promise yourself that you won’t let anyone or anything steal your joy.

Wake up with joy and commit to keeping it throughout the day. Pretend that it’s “your precious” like the gold ring in “Lord of the Rings ” and protect your joy, fiercely.

Love to you all.

Sleep for me now.

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…

Have a Little Patience

When I was a school teacher, I endured many observations.

The principal, the assistant principal, the specialists, parents, everybody and their momma came into my room at some point and observed me.

During one observation early in my career, an administrator told me that I did a good job by pointing out a mistake in something I had written.

Honestly, I thought she was just being nice and just trying to find something good to write on my report. I’m sure she probably wanted to comment on how I often forgot to call in attendance and how I was the biggest germaphobe on the campus. I found it very natural to tell my students that I had made a mistake. I didn’t understand back then that my behavior was kind of a big deal for a kid to see.

In the years since, I have learned that a lot of people (I’m looking at you, parents) are actually huge assholes towards children…their own and other people’s kids, too.

Don’t get me wrong; kids are pretty awful. They’re only awful because they’re small, untrained versions of adults, who are technically the most awful.

Here’s the kicker: there’s a good chance that the parent made them into a little fart face.

So, if you’re a parent or teacher or anyone else who is around kids regularly, here are two tips to help you be less of a jerk and raise a little person who is also less of a jerk.

Number 1: Admit Your Own Mistakes and Shortcomings

I think some folks think that having a kid means having someone to tie your shoelaces when you’re old and fat. Unfortunately, there’s much more to it than that, even though wouldn’t that be super awesome of that were the case?

Take a cue from me, from many years ago and today, and show your humanness in front of your kids.

That doesn’t mean show them your angry, irrational side. That means to let them know when you don’t know something. Tell them about times when you felt like a failure or really failed at something. If the kid sees you as a whole person, they can accept themselves as whole people, too. And whole people are more conscious of how they treat others.

Number 2: Chill the F☆☆☆ Out

Tonight, I tried to learn two card games from two pre-teen children. You’d think that when I got home, the first thing I did was reach into my fridge and grab a 40 oz and guzzle it.

I didn’t.

While the children fussed and taunted each other while playing the games, I sat there, patiently, being present with them. My attitude influenced how they behaved and calmed them down. I was beaten in both games and even now I have no idea how to play either game (because children are cheaters who make sh☆t up). It was fun. They enjoyed me playing the game with them and I was able to influence them without saying or doing much. It was very rewarding.

If you have a bunch of kids at home, I send you my love and energy and prayers that you never run out of wine.

But most importantly, I send you my wish that you never run out of patience with your little heathens. The world is depending on you to be caring and human.

Until tomorrow my friends…