Category: Life

At the Laundromat

At the Laundromat

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Sometimes, it’s an interesting cross-section of people you can discover at the laundromat. Sometimes interesting is the wrong word.

I don’t do laundromats much anymore, because, with three small children, it was one of our earliest goals after we moved to the small town we’re living in to have our own washing machine and dryer again to make sure that we didn’t have to take those three children to the laundromat once a week for several hours. On a weekend, when it’s crowded, and there are other people, too many other people, trying to use the same machines. And, likely as not, there are a couple of other sets of parents in the same boat.

Our dryer, quite unexpectedly, died recently. Washer still fine, but now we need to wash several loads of laundry and make a trip to the laundromat to occupy a few dryers for half an hour or so. We can bring things home and fold them. Less painful overall, but still not exactly the height of convenience, fiscal efficiency, or human interaction.

Not that most people want human interaction at the laundromat, and I certainly don’t want to most places I go. Let me do my laundry and peace, let me shop in peace, let me stop at the convenience store in peace, let me pump my gas in peace.

I will certainly accept that human interaction with the person who’s checking my groceries or ringing up my energy drinks, or whatever, especially if it’s someone I know, or even consider a friend. That changes the equation quite significantly. But social interaction isn’t my primary purpose for any of those things. I went out to get groceries, clothing, do my laundry, get gas, whatever. Going out specifically for social reasons, that’s a whole different ballgame. Yes, there totally needs to be a little bit of conversational lubricant for any transaction, and we all need the ability to make small talk for those, and I get that maybe some people are looking for that social interaction. Generally speaking, I’m not.

Especially at the laundromat.

However, I would have chosen that over this morning to the laundromat. If there had been a little old lady section of the laundromat, I would’ve gone sat in the middle of that group, smiled, and engaged in whatever conversation they insisted on havingwith me.

That section didn’t exist, not today.

I would have gratefully sat in the middle of the section of screaming kids, because I’ve been there and done that, and I feel the pain, and I could smile and be sympathetic with parents.

That section didn’t exist today.

When I got instead was half an hour spent not far enough from an aging dude-bro on his once a month laundry trip to wash everything he owned, taking up some combination of 10 washing machines and 12 dryers simultaneously, while blasting his music, which obviously should be universally admired. I spent my time reflecting on the society that produces those dude-bros and dude-sisters by the tens of thousands, the self-centered piece of each generation that seems to be growing with each generation, who doesn’t particularly care about anyone other themselves. I’m not interested in painting a whole generation with one brush. This particular dude-bro might have been just old enough to technically be Gen-X, and then there’s the Trump factor.

Sure, dude, sing along. It’s all good.

An old saying, one I thought was a cliché, but that we’re apparently losing: your freedom ends where my nose begins.

Of course, I’m too Canadian to have done more than my roll my eyes repeatedly. And too mature, apparently, to have been passive aggressive on my way out the door.

Be well, everyone.

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Omicron Persei?

Omicron Persei?

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So, like the old saying goes, men are from Omicron Persei 9, women are from Omicron Persei 7. For my wife and me, that’s still true the after all these years. And in case none of that is clear, what I mean is that we’re not always communicating very effectively.

In certain ways, we are all stereotypes. For myself, I frequently have the stereotypical male single focus, meaning I can mostly only do one thing at a time. I can switch gears, I can switch tasks, but I’m far more productive if I do one thing at a time.

Especially in the morning when I first get up and I’m having breakfast. Eating can be mechanical, but whatever I’m doing at the same time isn’t.

My wife and I have been together since 1990. We’ve effectively been living together since sometime not too far into 1991. And we’ve been married since 1995. More than 23 years now, closing in on 24.

And yet, one morning this week, as I’m trying to focus on the the story I’m revising, she’s trying to carry on what to me is a widely separated conversation. It goes something like this:

One, my wife starts talking.

Two, she gets my attention, and I realize that I missed the first sentence or so of what she said.

Three, she repeats what she said.

Four, she listens to my answer, and maybe or maybe not responds.

Six, she waits long enough for me to go back to the thing I’m trying to proofread.

Seven, we repeat one through six, and so on.

You can see how this is a recipe for frustration on both sides. For her, I’m clearly not paying attention and not listening at all. For me, I’m trying to get something done and I’m being interrupted constantly.

I’m not sure who gets to the frustration level first. I do know that by the fifth or sixth cycle, when now it’s obvious that she’s been building up to something specific all the way along, I’m clenching my jaw and hoping she doesn’t follow me to do or get whatever she just asked for.

Omicron Persei 8. For anyone who doesn’t get the Futurama reference, men are from Mars, women are from Venus. I’ve never read the book and I’m unlikely to. In reality, there are no hard and fast rules for communicating person to person, regardless of who the people are. Never have been, never will be, because even though there can be major similarities, we frequently do communicate differently. I strongly suspect that’s the case regardless of the genders of the people involved in the relationship. So maybe we should take the men and women bit out of the equation and just say some of us are from Mars, some of us are from Venus, some from Jupiter, Mercury, the asteroid belt… and even Earth. And communication is hard.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

Be well, everyone.

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Men of a Certain Age

Men of a Certain Age

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Knee painful – skeleton x-ray, 3D Illustration medical concept.

So, post visit to the orthopedic specialist, and the verdict is essentially the same as the prognosis I had for the last run of imaging when I was forty-ish, although little more advanced. I have generalized arthritis spread through that knee, more advanced than his average for my age, but I think I’d probably known that for quite a while, and that’s just a bonus. The right knee, of course, is currently healthy, and not even really a trace of arthritis as yet. So there’s that.

There are also definitely the floaty bits that were there before, they haven’t really ground down, although they may or may not have migrated. It often happens with arthritis, and to the nature of the original injury, they’re completely expected. A little flair up here and there should be expected, but if I have another major event like this past one within the next couple of years, we will probably be doing a scope where we slice open the side of my knee and go fishing for some of those bits. Oh, joy.

In the meantime the essential plan is to treat it properly. Don’t take up any high-impact sports. No running ever again unless I’m being chased by something dangerous. Low-impact activity is an excellent idea. Ice as required for minor flare ups, and stretching, lots of stretching. Most of which I should’ve been able to figure out on my own, I would think, without an extra set of doctor’s appointments. And yet, that doesn’t seem to have been the case. Middle aged stubbornness paired with youthful stupidity, I’ve been saying. The first one of those probably applies in a bigger way.

So, a proper stretching regime, a proper exercise regime. It leaves me karate but avoids any high-impact stuff. So, fewer jumps, more intelligent kicks, and focus on the striking art. I’m not quite willing to let the kicks go away, of course, because I do still very much want several the more advanced kicks in my repertoire: hook, butterfly, axe. But, those are going to have to mostly be with my right leg. Which functions very well. My left will be good for a stable base 99% of time. And I can work hard to keep that number the high 90s for as long as possible.

But getting back to running again is seriously no longer in my future.

More walking, or cycling, both of which I can do indoors, maybe even some swimming. Elliptical is fine. But the marathons I was hoping to get back to someday, the triathlons I was hoping would be my next physical milestones, well, those are gone. And that had a sucks.

But that’s getting older for you.

I’m not that old yet, a mere 48, and expect, if I take care of myself, to get past a hundred. Looking at the advances of medical science and taking proper care of myself, maybe much longer. I might be more than half done, I might not, and I might even be just getting started. But, the older I do get, the more work is going to take to keep myself in a reasonable shape to continue doing things I want to do. So be it.

I do keep coming back to that old poem. Do not go gently into that good night. Rage, rage at the dying of the light.

Or, put in a more modern, social media context, because fuck aging, that’s why.

Be well, everyone

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Coming Back From a Vacation

Coming Back From a Vacation

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It’s hard to come back to work after being on vacation for a week.

Actually, I suppose it’s hard to come back to work after being on vacation for any length of time. Strictly speaking, I was out of the office for 12 1/2 days, arriving to that first day back less than half an hour after I dictate these words. That said, I did continue to reading email and dealing with some things remotely for the first two days of my vacation, treating it like a weekend where I was still at home.

And I’ll be very curious as to the final email total. I have specifically not logged in this morning, choosing to go into the building blind and just let things unfold naturally. I will, of course, have to run a quick report before the managers meeting at 10, so I can know what I’m talking about when it comes to last week’s numbers.

But almost more important to my mental well-being, is the amount of writing I didn’t do while we were gone. I literally took nothing with me to work on other than two notebooks, one pocket-sized to jot things down in in the moment, and one about the size of a trade paperback book to keep a vacation diary in. That vacation diary also included notes on geocaching, a few quickly scribbled poems, and some settings and character notes for what may potentially be a novel that is at least partially set in Curaçao. I’m going to take, partially, the stranded alien theme and mix it with some human trafficking, politics and culture as an external viewer might see them, and probably a few other odds and ends that will just find their way in organically. I don’t yet know if it’s going to displace the next thing I intended to write or not, but it is possible. And yet, the next major thing I’m intending to write after Battlefield is finished is supposed to be Bad Teenage Poetry, a fiction novel set in a small city in the mid-1980s, combining my memories with some research. I’ve got a lot of actual research to do, mostly in the manner of making sure the little details are right and not just fallible human memory, figuring on doing it as I went along to the most part, but so it goes. I am actually having a little bit of luck with working on two long fiction projects at the same time right now, so it’s possible I might continue that, although I do want to write some short fiction this year, and a fair bit of it.

But we’ll see.

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Vacation Prep

Vacation Prep

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Image result for vacation image public domain

Have you ever noticed before you go on vacation that there is a $h!tload of stuff to do?

I don’t just mean the getting stuff ready, the prep for the actual vacation itself. You also have to do all kinds of stuff in advance for work to make it possible for you to go on vacation the first place: task to reassigned, things to get done, to email cleaned out, out of office responses, all the things that you would normally do as part of your job that need to be done still need to be done while you’re gone so you get someone to cover those. And then, whether you have older kids at home, house sitters, someone coming to hang out every day to feed and play with your pets, or nothing at all, there are still preparations you need to make for the house before you go away. It would probably be smart to be completely caught up on the laundry and dishes up to. The litter box won’t scoop itself. The garbage won’t put itself out. The leftovers won’t take care of themselves.

I mean, I’m not Arthur Dent. I’m not going to come home after being away any the three least fuzzy things in the fridge and thereby prevent myself from being patient zero in a space plague.

And then you come back, and you have all the vacation laundry to do, all the things to put away, all the things you brought back that need to be taken care of, and is all the housework that you really should have done before you left but didn’t, and some the garbage got missed, and there were two now unidentifiable leftovers tucked in the corner the fridge hidden behind the milk that you also should have drunk before you left. Then go back to work and there are hundreds of emails and a pile of paper on your desk and a long list of problems and issues that could’ve been taken care of in your absence but weren’t.

Just disregarding the financial cost of your relaxing vacation getaway, is there really a net gain in terms of stress and relaxation?

Make no mistake, I’m not saying you shouldn’t travel, but we seem to put an awful lot of baggage onto and in and around what’s necessary to do the actual traveling. Sure, maybe it’s easier if you don’t have kids or pets or a house or a job or any kind responsibilities at all. Maybe all those things together are building your background stress levels, not always in a bad way, to the point where you do need to go and relax for a week.

But maybe even if you do have all those things it shouldn’t be such a big deal. Maybe we just make it one.

Maybe I don’t have to make one.

Be well, everyone.

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I’m 48 and Dad Is Still Teaching Me Stuff

I’m 48 and Dad Is Still Teaching Me Stuff

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I don’t know if he realizes that or not, and I’m sure it isn’t his plan, but I think it’s true nonetheless.

I’ve said for a long time that life is too short to learn from only your own mistakes and decisions, and that’s a piece of it. I’ve also said for a long time that you can’t choose you can’t choose what the universe throws in front of you, only how you react to it, and that’s a piece of things, too.

The life he’s led has not always been easy one, and in some ways he’s paid the price that physically, and some ways mentally or emotionally. He has made his own choices all the way along. We all do. I expect that the vast majority of those choices were what he thought was right or necessary at the time. Some of those choices have been harder on his body than they needed to be, then he needed to be. Closing in on 75 years old, his health is not everything it could be, and the diagnosis a few years back of COPD did not really make any improvements. I understand difficulty in quitting smoking, and shared it closing on 18 years ago, but not after nearly so long at it, and I had the luxury of growing up in a time when there was always more information available than the day before. That really wasn’t the case in the same way during his formative years.

But that second piece, the choosing of how you react things, is also in the mix here, and probably a whole lot more. He’s picking the stubborn path, meeting what the universe is throwing at him in terms of his health and bending only as much as he has to so he can continue to live the way he chooses to. An oak tree.

He’s also choosing to live with regrets, and whether anyone else can see it or not, I can see those in him every time I go to visit. He knows how some of his choices have affected the people he cares deeply about, his family. Rather than trying to address those, reconcile them, and forgive himself, he’s swallowing them, stuffing them down as far as he possibly can and letting everyone be who they are. I’m not sure who all knows just how much he’s not dealing with things. I suspect I only have a small idea. I suspect there’s a lot more to it.

He’s also showing me potential glimpses into the future. We are a lot alike, although we are not the same person. We did not grow up in the same time, or in the same kind of places, and we did not make the same choices. When he was 48, I was 22, and I didn’t really seem a lot because I was in school. When I saw him, he was still presenting as the strong man that I grew up with. Over the next few years, and through scattered visits over time, I would slowly discover what most sons eventually discover about their fathers. There comes a moment when you realize that you are better, stronger, faster than your father at most things that aren’t a direct result of their specialties. And it is one of the saddest days of your life.

It’s also a too jarring reminder of the march of time and of your own mortality.
Make no mistake, there’s still a ridiculous number of things that he knows far more about than I do, but I can recognize some of what age has stolen.

I was a couple of years older when my son was born than dad was at my birth. But 46 and 48 are not too different. Measured against his father, there was a much larger gap, but dad was the youngest of seven. Pop lived to eighty-four with, a life filled with harder choices, and some of them, to my eyes, almost deliberately destructive. Did dad use that same measuring tape at some point? Does he still?

I’m not my father, but I certainly have those thoughts very, very often. I don’t need to be remembered by anyone other than my family, really. Beyond that, if I leave some stories behind for people to enjoy, that’s great, but what I really want is to leave enough good memories for my children to carry them through after I’m gone.

I hope I have inherited my father’s stubbornness, and I know I’ve inherited some of the desire for frequent solitude, but I am my own person, and I make my own choices. I love my father, but I do still find it difficult to talk to him sometimes. I don’t think I should, but that’s my problem. He’s still teaching me things, still setting examples. Sometimes those are examples I want to follow and sometimes they’re not, but there’s one I do like, for sure.

To steal a line, do not go gently into that good night. He will continue to not go gently for as long as he can, I think, and he does recognize what his eventual departure from life will mean to others. He may or may not recognize anything resembling the full extent of the impact to his children and grandchildren. None of us do, probably, but that too, in a lot of ways, is part of the human experience. Growing up, growing old, losing people, being lost.

I love you, Dad. I hope someday I’m able to effectively tell you. Whether day that comes or not, I hope I demonstrate it at least a little, and I hope you do know it.

Be well, everyone.

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Dunning-Kruger vs Shuhari

Dunning-Kruger vs Shuhari

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Related image
Lovingly borrowed from Psychology Today.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a close personal friend of mine.

I’m sure you seem to means, my favorite being that the first rule of Dunning-Kruger club is that you don’t know you’re in Dunning-Kruger club. Boiled down, without math or graphs or anything, it’s a cognitive bias that essentially says the skills you need to understand whether you are good at something or not are the same skills that you need to actually be good at that thing.

If you’re unaware of the effect, graphically it looks like a super steep line when you first learn something, peaking way above actually being good or knowledgeable about that something. So, early on, when you learn just a little bit, you think things are easy and that you’re really good at it. And then you learn a little bit more, and there’s almost as steep a drop-off into understanding just how ignorant of the subject you are. It drops into a bowl that, very slowly over time and learning, you come out of until, at essentially expert level, you figure out that you’re more or less doing okay.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

There are also a variety of concepts of cyclical learning spread across the world, but I like the Japanese version the best, which I may have discussed before: Shuhari. Emulate, adapt, transcend.

I try to look at both of these things together, really. A lot of the time, I know just how not good I am at something. In terms of cyclical learning, I’m still in the emulation phase. Looking at what people are doing around me, seeing the things that work well and don’t, and adapting my practices as result. I read, study, learn.

On good days, when Mr.’s Dunning and Kruger are my friends, I actually feel like I’m on the upward curve of the bowl. I’m in the adapt or extend phase of learning, providing the right example to the people around me, and being good at whatever job it is I’m doing at the moment. There are even flashes of transcendence, moments, hours, even days sometimes when I feel like everything is just working right, when I’ve got a grip on things, when I’m making things work, when everything is going well and I’m making a difference. Those never last, of course.

Most days are a mixture of the three, with, over time, more and more in the middle zone, where I’m maybe on the upward curve, mostly in the adaptive phase. But then there are days, or even weeks, that kick my ass.

Every morning, I should stop and wonder what kind of the day today will be. On Monday’s maybe it’s what kind of week.

I guess I just have to wait and see, and do my best at whatever I turn my mind to.

Be well, everyone.

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I Blame the Internet

I Blame the Internet

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But I’m not sure how to fix it.

Maybe I should reel back a little bit. It’s not a new problem I’m talking about, but it seems to get worse every day. There was a time, I think, when people were mostly polite to each other. But that day seems to be kind of in the past. There is a lack of respect for individual people by individual people. I’ll give an example.

A while back, we brought home a new pet, a ball python, a chunky, docile little snake who will never get appreciably bigger than the 3-ish feet long she is now. She’s cute, and I think reptiles are neat, and so I blogged about it and posted. And in among the various likes and positive comments, I had a couple of friends who felt the need to comment negatively, and not just some innocuous little comment about how they didn’t like snakes, which I could have lived with. One who suggested, and not terribly politely, that I was out of my mind and what was wrong with me? Another went so far as to say that if such an animal came into their house it would be dealt with in summary fashion, likely being chopped up into little bits.

I got publicly irritated with both of them. One of them possibly to the point where they may have snoozed me or blocked me. I’m okay with that. Keep thinking you’re an animal lover when you can laugh off telling me one of my pets was only good for killing.

In what social context is it essentially okay to be a dick to someone and tell them that their opinion or thing they like, not only doesn’t matter to you, but is worth your time to denigrate?

I blame Internet.

It’s mostly not anonymous anymore, if it ever really was, but it seems to have taught us to behave however we feel like behaving, say whatever we feel like saying, because there are no consequences. It’s not a real interaction so I can say whatever I want. Free speech, you know, freedom of expression.

To which I remind you that free speech isn’t freedom from consequences.

You are absolutely free to say whatever you want, think whatever you want, do whatever you want, so long as you’re willing to accept the consequences. I’m free to disagree with you, and free to do it out loud if I don’t like your opinion, particularly when it pertains to something that matters to me. It’s entirely reasonable for me to tell you that I think you’re being an asshole. And if you get offended, well, too bad.

There is an old, old cliché that runs along the lines of if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I like a slightly modified version: if you can’t say something nice, say something nice about someone else.

Now, I am almost famous for trying to see things in a positive light, the best light I possibly can. I do get irritable, and I do get grouchy, I do have issues sometimes with people, places, things, processes, whatever. But I try to pay attention to what’s coming out of my mouth or keyboard, regardless of what’s going on my head. I am a firm believer in Wheaton’s law. It’s the same cliché, but expressed in more modern terms, and very succinctly. Wheaton’s law: don’t be a dick.

Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? I don’t understand why it’s getting hard for individuals in our society not to be dicks to each other.

Where, exactly, along the line did we collectively get the idea that not only do I have the right to express my opinion, but that I’m entitled to an audience, that anybody who happens to be nearby has to listen to it?

Sure, you have the right to express your opinion, but why should I care what that opinion is? Why should I have to listen to it? Why, having been forced to listen to it at some point, should I have to agree with it or accept it?

The answers is quite simple, actually. I don’t have to listen. If I do hear, I don’t have to agree. If I don’t agree, I’m just as free to tell you that as you were to express yourself in the first place.

And sometimes I will.

Recent experience shows me, however, that there’s a good chance that if I call you on being a dick, your interpretation of that is going to be that I’m the one being a dick. Well, I can probably live with that. If you can’t, it’s kind of not my problem.

Sometimes, if you can’t say something nice, and instead choose to say something that isn’t nice, the appropriate response is actually for me to tell you to shut the fuck up. I’m sorry if that offends you, and I’m not usually going to go straight to that, but we might arrive there eventually. I’ll regret going there, but not for long, and not stress too hard about it after the fact.

In Wheaton’s name, be well, everyone.

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Taking Things for Granted

Taking Things for Granted

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Knee painful – skeleton x-ray, 3D Illustration medical concept.

Human beings tend to take a lot of things for granted.

It’s not a matter of faith or knowledge or hope or anything, but an underlying assumption that what is right now will always be. How we reconcile that in our own heads with another well-known axiom that change is constant is a question somebody far smarter than me is going to have to answer. I can make guesses on things based on my experience, but what it really needs is a whole lot of experts on human psychology, biology, and probably at least one or two other fields.

But the fact remains that we take a ton of stuff for granted.

Case in point: me, right now.

When I was 16 or so, and in those days there was still a bit of roughhousing considered appropriate even at that age, I got thrown harder than my attacker intended and landed badly, knocking my left knee out of joint in a bad way. Being a 16-year-old boy, I ground my teeth, got two friends to help me mostly stand up, and slammed it back into place with my fist. Right, thank you, carry on, gentlemen.

It was certainly tender for a while, but healed quickly since I was young after all. And the idea that there might’ve been long-term damage didn’t setting until much, much later. In my 20s, was the occasional irritation, in my 30s, it was more than irritation, and that carried into my 40s. But not far my 40s, not far at all.

At its worst in my 30s, I actually had some imaging done, and they were able to tell me that there were some free-floating cartilaginous bodies behind my kneecap that every so often got stuck someplace and had to work itself losing. They would, one hoped, grind down over time until they were no longer an issue. Alternately, there was the possibility of some relatively minor surgery to crack open my knee, take the offending bits out, and let it heal. This so long as it didn’t get any worse, was not really considered an option of time.

And then, a year or so later, I stopped having the every few months flare up. And it’s probably been six or even seven years since I had my last issue. I was in the clear, but, a couple of weeks ago, when the twinges started, I knew exactly what they were and so started to baby it a little bit. A little heat, a little ice, you know the drill. Except it didn’t go away, and actually got worse, until it drove me to the bench in a karate class, which has never happened before and made me kind of angry.

Since the incident, my left knee has never been fully mobile compared to my right, and my lack of flexibility on top of that probably didn’t help much, although the tight tendons typically would help the kneecap in place better, but it was functional and let me do whatever I wanted to do.

See, right there, taking current normal for granted and assuming that it will continue to be normal for the indefinite future. And it was, for a while, until it stopped.

My current normal is that I don’t enjoy stand when both legs are involved, and walking for more than a few steps is not recommended. I’m in considerable pain most of the time, and since I’m most of the time too stubborn to take painkillers, that’s not really changing. The thing is, I have done painkillers couple of times, and I think they’ve made me careless. It doesn’t hurt, so I can do more. Except, even without the painkillers, I’m doing too much, because I’m stubborn.

Youthful stupidity combined with middle-aged stubbornness. Good mixture for making an old injury worse, which I’m certain is what I’m doing at this point. Luckily, I have a doctor’s appointment the middle of next week, which was supposed to be a sort of semiregular blood pressure checkup, and now is going to be all about the knee. Well, the checkup will probably still happen, but to my mind it will be quick and cursory to make sure I have no other major issues and then we’ll move on to my real problem.

The fact that has gone on for three weeks now and has not only not gotten better, but it’s gotten worse, the whole not being able to walk very well thing is about a week old, and is leading me down the mental path that’s that surgery that was not recommended in my late 30s is probably almost a guarantee now in my late 40s.

I saw what really wasn’t an entertaining meme a while back: “Welcome to your 40s. If you do not have a mysterious ailment, one will be assigned to you.” Except, mine is not so mysterious and I already had it. I don’t know if that makes me ahead of the meme or not.

Be well, everyone.

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People Are Hard

People Are Hard

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Hard. Complicated. Difficult to understand. I think a big part of that problem is that every person is different, even if we can consider certain general personality traits that reach across many people.

I think I’m wired differently than most people, although I’m not sure that was always the case. I do think it’s possible to adjust your own mental wiring, to decide there are things you don’t like about yourself or your personality and consciously over time change them.

I grew up in a certain environment in a certain time. Paired with my genetics made some significant impacts and adjustments to how I look at the world, how I perceive people, and how I react to things. But our experiences change us, and if we continue to learn and grow, we will never be the same person from one day to the next. We learn and understand new things and some of those new things change us, and some of those new things we change. More frequently, both, if there other people involved.

But we can consciously make the choice to change how we think and feel about something or someone. Or to not change how we feel. We can decide we don’t like how we react when confronted with a certain circumstance or situation and then we can decide what we think the right reaction should be. After that, it’s just a matter of practice, when confronted by that situation, of stopping our initial reaction and consciously replacing it with what we want that reaction to be. Eventually, given enough repetitions, the reaction we want becomes the preferred one, and probably even slightly more tailored over time.

But is that my wiring or general human trait?

Over the last decade or so, I keep hearing the phrase brain plasticity, about how things can adapt and change inside your brain even deep even old age. About how we can change and learn and grow at any stage in our lives, if we want to.

But not everyone does, and not everyone wants to. You can’t choose the things or situations or people the universe puts in front of you, but you can choose how you react to them. And while self-interest is important, it’s not the only thing. I’m not quite certain how we got to the point culturally where it is the only thing.

I’m angry about a lot of things, all time, culturally and socially. I don’t do as much as I could to change them. I could do more.

Self-interest is important, but it’s not the only thing.

And there are times, and quite a few people, where self-interest crosses over into selfishness.

I like to be the soft and fuzzy guy, the guy who puts things in as positive a light as possible, who sees the best in everyone. Some people make that difficult, but sometimes, there comes a moment, a realization, when you have to cut things short with that person. Some people refuse to be reached, refused to engage in actual conversation. I usually keep trying to engage long past that point. A character flaw, maybe. I do believe that most people are reachable, most people are able to have actual dialogue, even if it seems like an increasing proportion of them don’t want to. That’s a learning process for me. Something that, maybe, I have to alter my reactions to.

I do like to be soft and fuzzy, I do like to find the silver lining in things, I do like to see things and people in the best light possible. But when the person I’m dealing with doesn’t, and walls, and can’t even consider meeting me partway, am I throwing good time after bad?

People are hard, people are complicated. Don’t expect that to change.

Be well, everyone.

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