An 80’s Tale

80’s nostalgia is all the rage.

I look at the things I see and read, and I don’t see the life I had.  I grew up in the 80’s.  My life wasn’t like the kids on “Stranger Things”

My parents didn’t get involved with the counterculture in the 60’s and 70’s.  Most of my relatives didn’t either.

My parents never let me play outside of my own yard.

My parents never let me go walking all over the neighborhood in the early 80’s, or riding my bike anywhere alone until I was about 15 and could drive myself anyway (albeit, on a learner’s permit).

I wasn’t even supposed to close the door on my outdoor playhouse.  I couldn’t walk in the woods next door.  I couldn’t walk to my Uncle’s next door without telling my mother where I was going and why.

When I turned about 12 or 13, I started getting invited to things like parties and little dates and the kind of stuff middle-school kids tend to do to act grown.  Parties with boys present were a hard sell for my parents.  I went to some, vetted to have responsible parents present, but for the most part, the answer was no.  I didn’t get to go where the other kids went.  I begged and occasionally got a reprieve.  I had to have five levels of justification to go to a different church youth group (Methodist instead of Baptist.)

At this point, some people will say, “But you probably didn’t get into as much trouble as those other kids.”

And that isn’t true.  I just fought harder for the gasps of air that I had.  In reality, I missed out on key socialization that I should have gotten earlier on.  I was always very independent, but I wonder how my life would be different, and possibly better now if I had been allowed to flex that independence by being allowed to … walk outside the yard.

There were no rock and roll albums in our house, and the most dangerous country songs was probably an Alabama album.  Most of what my parents listened to when I was a child were Ronnie Milsap, the Statler Brothers, and the Oak Ridge Boys.  When I was old enough to have records of my own to mix in with records about children’s characters, I had to play them on my parent’s record player.  I had a handful of 45’s.  I was about 5 or 6 when I got my first, but they had to be ultra-clean.  No bad words.  No blatant sexual allusions (my parents don’t really register metaphors and symbolism well, so I did get away with some things).  No references to drugs except in the “don’t use them” type of statement.

I did most of my music at other kids houses.

Every kid I knew was getting whatever album they wanted, no matter the content.  They had their own record players.  They had the life you see in “Stranger Things.”

I couldn’t watch most of the most popular shows because they were “filthy”.   My mother had a tough time with anyone in any movie or TV show saying “Oh God!” or “Oh my God!” She didn’t even like anyone to say the word “stupid.”  She monitored everything that came, was viewed, or was listened to in our house.

My brother and I got a tape player and a set of Disney cassettes one year for Christmas.  The standard type that held one tape and was black and silver and had a handle on the end.

That tape player was fun.  It let me record my voice. I had a few blank tapes I could record over and play with.  I was desperate for something that would let me listen to whatever I wanted.

Mostly, I did what I wanted to do at other people’s houses.  Watched the movies I wanted to watch. Listened to the current hits.  I remember learning the words to “Beat It” in the woods outside the playground at school.

We didn’t have cable.  Music videos were a precious magical delight to me.

The salvation of my life was Soul Train.  I would watch these people dance without a care.  Sometimes hear something modern before my mother heard something she didn’t like and change the channel.  I would also watch PBS’ Austin City limits occasionally when I could.  The second one was harder.  Came on when my father was in charge of the TV.  From time to time, an artist came on, and my father would say that he “Couldn’t stand” whoever it was and he would flip the channel.  That could mean anything from saying the individual had lyrics he found to be offensive to his sensibilities, or that the individual had displayed politics or said things he despised.  Willie Nelson’s long hair was never on TV for longer than five seconds.

Or, better yet- a mention that my grandfather or some other relative had hated (or did hate) that person—for whatever reason- and the channel was changed.  A Johnny Cash album in my car now will still cause my father to remark every time that his mother didn’t like him as if it was an important matter to my musical taste.

I was not allowed to play Dungeons & Dragons.  I had a few older cousins who played it, but their parents were the aunts and uncles that we weren’t fully encouraged to interact with.  With them, my mother had a social unease because they didn’t attend church regularly and allowed such things in their home.  They also kept beer in the house.  Although my father did drink beer, my mother never kept it in the house.  He could drink beer and other such things elsewhere.  My mother called it all “beer” no matter what variety of alcohol it was.   She never drank.  I don’t know that she has ever drank in her life.  She also has never smoked or done any drugs.  At all.  Such things, to her, are shocking and things to get a bit wide-eyed about.

My father did make homemade muscadine wine once, but he kept it hid in his shed, away from my mother, mixed in with other reused coke bottles full of oil and grease.

My mother didn’t like the men who were famous at the time.  If she ever found anyone famous truly handsome, she never indicated it in any way.  She didn’t watch most soap operas and always changed the channel when a sex scene came on. After a while, she didn’t watch them at all.  She would never get truly wrapped up in the adult conversations – only half paying attention to whatever was on TV.  When it comes to comedies, she laughed at bits that weren’t the actual punchline.

Very little got through the filter.  Either my mother thought it was bad language or too much sex or my father just didn’t like it, or the actor or singer was wrong in some way.

I fought and did my own thing as much as I could.

I had older relatives that were my parents’ age.  They may not have been as uptight as my parents, but certainly managed to go through the 60’s and 70’s without any of their core opinions being affected.  Some were uptight golf republicans—not religious, but still to this day, dress as if it is 1982.   Easy snobbery and dull, mostly unfeeling lives concerned with financial gain alone—they can’t get past the yuppie 80’s stage of their lives.

I wanted to be normal.  Badly.  I wanted to be able to drive my bike all over the place.  I wanted to be the kids who could go play as they wanted to.  I was sometimes able to sneak away and pretend at normal.  I made a point to get the jokes.

Cultural norms were that- norms. Not absolutes.  The extremities of my personal restrictions in my home were fairly unusual in the larger world, but in evangelical homes at the time, were actually par for the course.

Emotionally speaking, I feel my parents didn’t have enough of their own being worked out when they decided to marry and have children.  They never had the chance either.  And I am always working a little more on the ongoing process of life discoveries because of my upbringing.

Either I find a new movie that everyone else saw in 1987 or I find new depth in something forgotten. I listen to music from my childhood that was never played in my home and revel in its richness, no matter who is singing, or what the genre might be. I dive in. I let music engulf me.  I dance with wild abandon and relish in my body’s shakes and rolls and stops.

I am always finding something, even small things, that crack open the door a little bit more.

I still reach out for my normal.   ‘

Advertisements

Eroded Parts

Some things in you don’t go all at once.  They disappear little by little, bit by bit.

Trust is something that is all but gone.

When I find a nugget of it, I protect it so fiercely.

What I do feel toward others is mostly just a CIA-level paranoia. And I have to not feel that in order to let my brain relax.  The trouble is that I can’t forget things.

Gifted, they said when I was a kid.  And I got stuck in a special class.

At my job it’s useful and at times a mildly amusing curiosity.  It has helped me pass tests.  It has helped me remember a vague reference I heard on a documentary five years ago and look it up in order to add scholarly bulk to papers nearly unheard of in undergraduate work.

But I can’t forget. Not even when I drink myself into oblivion. Nothing wipes away the erosion.

I had a dream last night where animals begged me for names and then proceeded to rather obviously lie to me.  So yes, I see it everywhere, even in a dream about a raccoon and some large rodent walking into a library.  My mind’s natural assumption is that they would lie, omit and tell incomplete tales.

I hug my relatives that have lied and manipulated and left things out, but I feel nothing toward them.  Like hugging one of those cardboard cutouts of a movie character or a sports star.

I think we teach people a lot of ways to effectively deal with things, but not about being stuck around liars.   Often in the workplace, you will (by those above you in management) be made to feel that the right thing to do is to diplomatically overlook obvious lies in order to further the job goals.

We want people to keep the peace, keep the boat from rocking.   If they don’t, who will sign off on that time report and who will come over for Thanksgiving?

Otherwise, we freeze it out and freeze them out. Create our spaces and walls of ice.  Hide money and resources from them.  Keep our free time to ourselves rather than get mixed up with them.

The problem is that when people lie, it is because they feel no obligation to be truthful to us.  And that hurts. It is a very deep cut that goes to the soul of our worth in that person’s eyes.  Your heart says, “The truth is, I wasn’t worth the truth.”

And it is harder and harder to lay down that inner part of you that is looking for a place to hide from it all.  That part can be ignited so easily.  A wrong look.  A sideways glance. A mistake.  You see nothing but gradients and shadows.  You become pleasantly surprised when the truth is there and someone doesn’t find some way to screw you over.   You weren’t expecting it.

There aren’t a lot of effective ways to just function. To let your brain rest. To let go.  We need to find better ways to call out those who harm. I know some ways that do work with some types, but for our own mental sanctity, we need to work on more.

Because … we ARE worth more. We DO deserve the truth.  We DO deserve honesty.   People who see otherwise are the problem, and they need to be made to understand that in a way that doesn’t make us, the truth -seekers and truth-knowers, into the ones who are told we are judgemental.  People who see otherwise are projecting their own lack of worth onto us.  And we don’t  need to allow that to happen or impede us.  We need better tools to address it.  To live with it without it taking over our minds, invading dreams about woodland creatures in libraries.  Mostly, we need more truth– but that isn’t going to happen.  To take from my evangelical upbringing, you are not able to “convict the spirit” if it is unwilling.

We have to find ways of letting the reality of that be and defending ourselves effectively and finding ways to call people out when we can.  Truth is a disinfectant.  We need to use it more often.

Solace, resolution.  They are beautiful ideas in stories, but may never happen in life.  Some will never change or be rehabilitated.

We have to find better ways to live with both outcomes.

 

My mother and my father both walked into my cousin’s house several months back.  My father noticed the crack pipe on the table.  My mother didn’t.   Some people don’t register their surroundings.   Obvious clues fail them.  They get lost in what they are thinking or the conversation and their minds don’t land on the solid reality around them.

I’ve known people who had friends that took so easily from them.  Houses robbed.  Money stolen.

We all have the experience at some point of someone we looked up to (perhaps even were told or expected to look up to) turning into dust before our eyes.   We think we are bruised, but life is making us a set of glasses, with which to see truth more clearly.  The aunt or uncle that we thought was wonderful we now see as irresponsible.  The wondering wayfarers of our family become jobless individuals that can’t keep it together.   The teen kids with the cool jackets just become people, ordinary and oh, very flawed.   This one had their kids taken by the state.  That one did a stint in rehab.  That one became a preacher and embezzled from the church’s building fund.

Life is full of hard realizations.  We are all on a journey of getting closer to the hard solid bedrock of reality.  Each hard truth chips away at us, not taking away from us, but cutting the gemstone into greater perfection.

Back in 2011, I read something online that changed my life.  It was a blog about the “Always Broken Goddess” on Elephant Journal (currently offline). In breaking, we become something more beautiful. We are more than the sum of our parts in that moment, even as we feel our discomfort in our disarray.

We are all breaking, all the time.

In the years since I’ve seen a lot of fire and pain. The kinds of things that make you feel like your guts are being removed.  There were times – a couple of years ago when instead of stumbling forward toward greater truth about the people I knew,  I was free falling toward its ground, spinning uncontrollably. It started with one little step forward, and there I went.

Today, for the first time in a long time, I thought of the Always Broken Goddess.  While I’m not really a believer, I believe in learning from the lessons life tries teach us.  That is often what gods and goddesses represent.  Lessons we can learn from our lives.

Have I finally stopped and emerged at the end? Can my feet finally feel the sand?  Am I finally where I was supposed to land?   Can I catch myself?

Our journey toward truth, toward a greater embrace of reality, is not one that ever stops.  But I hope, I hope that I can pause and enjoy the feel of the earth.

Save all the receipts

When I was small, I would watch you say something,

And then change the story and say something else again.

I heard you try to make me doubt the things I knew to be true.

Things I saw, things I heard, things I read, they were are all up for grabs.

Anything to fit the idea that served you best.

And I learned, bit by bit, not to trust anything.

And you kept me around people who each had the same plan.

I watched them be cruel and desperate.

Unconditional love was something I would never see or understand.

Every pattern created would break

Every tale would turn upside down

Every time was a time for doubt

Everyone could be an enemy

And you would act like it was all natural, normal

And I was wrong for not wanting the same things as you.

And I was wrong for not wanting the same people as you wanted for me.

People like you.

People who make the truth out of the wind instead of the facts and reality.

 

And I couldn’t dive into love with my whole heart

Always holding something back

Always unsure of myself

Always checking the story again

Always listening to the tone in the voice for a fraction of a change

Debating what that might mean

I see me at 13, 14, vomiting before a date

With a harmless young man

I see me at 15, telling the truth about you

No one believing me

I see your angry hating eyes

Looking back at me, knowing that I would be my own person someday

Hating that you couldn’t control all of me forever

Hating that you couldn’t make me be like you

Not understanding why I might want something more

 

I see you and all the stories that I heard

I see you and what I overheard about you

I see you what you won’t ever know about me

 

And now I still double check every word.

I still verify everything I hear.

I still hold part of myself back.

I still can’t dive headfirst into love.

I still check everything again and again.

I doubt the very ground I stand on, knowing one day it may too collapse.

I doubt the stars in the sky because they fall.

I doubt the moon and the sun, snow and the rain.

I save every email and haunt just the right places in case someone tries to contradict themselves.

I mount up proof and evidence just to feel safe.

Just to know for once, it’s not happening again.

Any bump in the road is a sign that the bridge is out ahead,

And that I am an idiot for trusting anything.

And I sit and pray that I’m not an idiot for trusting.

And I carve out my insides and grieve.

I don’t know how to dive into love.

I don’t know how to trust myself enough to trust someone else.

 

My heart is littered with the thousand times

That I didn’t realize what I was trying to heal

When I trusted wrong because I didn’t know any better

Or when I heard one wrong thing, and ran like a frightened witness

Or when I dated the ones that you liked that were always so fucked up because you don’t know how to like anyone worth a damn

Running and pushing away, like the mafia was after me

Knowing how to sneak out of the party quietly

I see my 20’s, my 30’s…a series of self-destruction

Wasted time wasted heart

Dating men that I couldn’t truly love

Keeping myself safe, never playing the fool

 

Where does it end?

When do I get enough security?

When I do save myself?

Where is the ladder?

 

 

A REAL Southerner Speaks Up…

My family had slaves.  There is no point in me lying about that.  Some of my family members owned other human beings.  Some were too poor to do so.  But some were dabbling on the fringes of wealth and they had enough to have some slaves.

During the Civil War, my male relatives did fight.  Including a 13-year-old boy.  And a 63-year-old man.  They both died in the same battle.  This was toward the end of the war when young boys and old men were threatened if they did not fight.  I found this record in the Georgia archives, almost by accident.  I worked at the University of Georgia Main Library while a student there.   I looked up my last name on a whim, expecting to find nothing.

The family members that were too poor were probably aspirational and wanted slaves because that was how you obtained social capital in the South.  That was how you ensured your sons and daughters could marry better.  That is how you got a say in the community and how you moved forward.  None of that makes it right.

A free labor class meant that wages were unnaturally depressed for the free poor of any color.  An element of the antebellum era that no one seems to want to address when they wax romantic over large gowns and supposedly dashing young men is that the poor were kept poor by the economic downward pressure on wages, and the wealthy had little to do with them and kept mostly to themselves.

I don’t understand why people justify the war.  I don’t know why people justify the South as it was.

I’ve had the same argument approximately 10 bajillion times.  I want to say what I want to say and for it to be final.  For once.

If you are saying, “The war was over state’s rights” – let me direct you to the various state documents specifying slavery as a cause for the existence of the war.  Let me also clue you in to the speech Alexander Stephens made in Savannah.  This is called the “Cornerstone Speech” and was given in 1861.  Wikipedia that shit.  Go ahead.

Usually what comes next is, “Well, they lived in a different time.” Well, no.  Some individuals from before and during the time of the Revolutionary War questioned and even bristled at the notions of the institution of slavery in the South.  This was a subject that was discussed then and on into the 1800’s.

After this, there is, “Slavery has been a part of history forever.”  Exactly how does that make my ancestor’s use of it valid or moral?  It doesn’t.

After this, it is, “Look at how Irish people got treated up north.”  Yes, that was awful.  I agree. But that doesn’t make what my ancestors did magically okay.

After that, I hear, “Well, Lincoln didn’t want to free the slaves and they didn’t want them up north either.”  SO?   That still doesn’t make slavery okay.  That does not erase what my ancestors participated in.

Then it’s, “The Africans sold them to us.”  That doesn’t mean that white people had a right to create demand or to take a boat across a dangerous ocean and fill it with people.

Why is it always the same?  Why these same arguments again and again and again?  Why do they need to be made, voiced, brought up, even when the issue is only tangentially related?

“That statue really could–”

“Lincoln!!”

“But I mean, I’m saying that maybe we should consider-”

“Irish people!”

“Yes, that’s true, but I’m just saying that in order to move forward and be economically viable–”

“African slave traders!”

Why?  What does this argument do for people?  Why do this dance every single damn time?

I, for one, have no problem with saying that some of my ancestors were assholes.  Assholes aspiring toward wealth and status through human ownership even as the rest of the world was moving forward toward a greater conscience in terms of their fellow man.  I don’t know why the rest of the south has a problem with saying that.  I don’t.  The people who lived in 1865 would be strangers to me.  They would have no connection with me.  They wouldn’t understand half the words I use.  The uneducated ones wouldn’t be able to function in our society now.  We live in a society that presupposes that you can read and write, and use electronic objects.  What has a dead relative that I have never met done for me?  What did he or she ever do that affected me?

Does anyone look at their family now and think they are all perfect?  Do you go around defending the shitty actions of the ones that aren’t?  I don’t.  I realized a long time ago that it was an abuse of my mind and a waste of my time to do so.   Jumping through the hoops was causing too much emotional and psychological turmoil.  I was having to gaslight myself in order to make that happen.  Shitty people are just shitty people and it is okay to say so.

I’m not the greatly ballyhooed internet Social Justice Warrior. Even though I grew up with not much, I do understand the reality of white privilege. I don’t deny its existence, and I have seen what it can do.

I just want everyone to stop explaining the South.  To stop defending the antebellum South.  Especially those who 1- don’t live here or who 2- never had family here during that era.

The South was always a mixed area.  Native Americans, Hispanics from locations south, French, English, Scots, Irish, Jewish, free blacks and slaves intermingled, and, of course, had sex and had children.  The Jewish part of the Southern heritage clashes loudly with the current Midwest Aryan wannabes, but it is a fact.  Judah Benjamin was a high-ranking confederate.  Jewish people have been here since before the Revolutionary war.  In my own town, Asian people have been a part of the tapestry since the railroad was built in the early 1800’s.

The Confederates also ran after the war, if they had money.  No one talks about that part.  After the war, the wealthy individuals that could flee, did.  They ran to Havana, Brazil, and some made their way to Europe.

The fact is, the wealthy planter class always had far more in common with other wealthy people than they ever did the poor whites around them.  That was true both before and after the war.

I’m a human being, with a real Southern story.  I’m not a kid from Ohio who came down here.  In fact, I wish you all would keep your asses at home.  If we want to take down a damn monument that you never gave a shit about before three days ago, let us take it down.

History doesn’t disappear when you move an object from one spot to another.

And while we are at it, on the topic of Free Speech:

You can say whatever you want on a street corner.  I’ve seen itinerant preachers do it.  Go ahead.  But you need to keep in mind that you don’t speak for everyone.  And for God sakes, keep your ass away from me.  Because I am a real person from the South.  My family did own slaves.  And I want nothing to do with any of your shit.  We seemed to be getting along just fine without you.

The measure of true bravery and character is if you can say what it is you wish to say without a group of people standing behind you.

Frustration and waiting

I stopped myself from voluntarily going to the office today.  To make sure that everything was okay. To make sure other people did their job.

I slept a lot all weekend.  I tend to escape, to run and hide into the sacred space of sleep.

Hiding from work, the news, life.

I’ve run before.  Run away from home. And now I live here, wondering if I’ll make it out alive.

And now I live here, wondering if I’ll make it out alive. Wondering if fate will allow it.

I live here, in the heat and greenhouse feel of the rain sweeping down to the river and the subtropical air full of pollen and weight.  I wonder if I should go somewhere cooler, warmer.  I wonder how I will if I do, the costs mounting up in my all-too-logical-head, mentally converging to add estimates.

I think of the times when moving was dangling by a thread before…  men who asked me to move for my own good, me recoiling at their lack of courage.

I think of the luxury some have, roaming from place to place, funded by wealthier backgrounds, until they determine where they really want to settle down.

I think of the yard work today, how the air felt like a sauna and left me breathless from potting plants and taming those outlandish rose vines.

They don’t bloom.  They grow endlessly.

I think of the dream I had last night about snakes in my yard, the enormous- and real- black widow in the flower pot today.  Biggest one I have seen.

I look for that magic job that doesn’t exist that will pay me enough so that I can justify leaving or save up to do so.  I think about the mortgage, the cats, the yard. The fucking impossible yard.  I see myself running against the wall.

I think about doing less.  The feeling I do too much.

I remember that we were once migratory creatures, too.

I think of things to do.  I don’t do them. Holding myself back.  For what? For what?  I ask myself again and again.  What would it hurt to try…?

I look at a bill, mysteriously increased by 10 dollars… they changed my plan without telling me.  Knowing it will require a 2-hour conversation to fix, a conversation that must be during business hours between 9 and 5 Monday through Friday when I am working.  We value our customers, they say.

I hang here in limbo. Waiting for something crucial to happen.  Something definite.  Something absolute.

I hide my doubts.  I feel my way through it.  Stare at this diploma, sitting on my mantel.  I think about becoming a teacher just so I can have summers off. I have no illusions about impressing wisdom upon young minds.

I think about becoming a teacher just so I can have summers off. I have no illusions about impressing wisdom upon young minds.

I think about how tired I still feel.  3 days of almost nothing but rest and I still feel exhausted.  Beat up.  Worn out. Physically drained from a desk job where I have allowed myself to become too reliable, too much of a fixture.

I visit job websites and company websites and look again.

I think of things I could do on the side and still don’t do them.  I don’t know where I’d find the effort.  I’m running out of effort to give.  But I keep showing up and doing what is bid of me and more because I can’t stand the half-measures others throw out there and shrug.

I think about starting all over again.  What would it do for my retirement?  I’m not 22 anymore. Think about my vacation time that I take in droplets, unable to trust others to do the job?

Think about my vacation time that I take in droplets, unable to trust others to do the job.

I give up, buy a plant, a mascara, a nail polish, a t-shirt. A toy for the cats.  Just to get out of the house and pretend involvement in the world around me.   A play that I act out for five or ten bucks.  I feel no pull toward the club, the bar, the other bar, the cool new restaurant.  I go to places the old folks go, past their prime and coolness, refusing to wait in line for a table, forever for a beer.

I hate the patterns I see. The same kinds of people, different skin, hair.  Like a movie trope repeated over and over.  I wonder if any of them are any more complex.

I look at the news and fill with rage, despair, or just disappointment that things are going about as I expected.

I might comment on an article.  I might not.  I might get trolled by someone even more bored than I am.  I might not.  If I cared, it might matter what they said.  The names, the implied superiority, and assumed yelling.

I read some article on organizing my house, avoiding these foods, bad signs you should look for in your job/relationship/friendships/family.  Skim them as if they held meaning or advice for real humans here on Earth.

I wait on the fall.  The crisp air of change.  Hoping it will bring with it something new.  Hoping for a shift.  Hoping the shift will find me, when it happens.

Rambling about Escapism

Is our culture too invested in escapism?

We have TV everywhere and Netflix and video games and phones.

We are connected all the time.

We can have 650 “Friends” on Facebook and never have met any of them at all in real life.

We binge watch whole seasons of shows on weekends.

We have IMAX theaters where were can fully immerse ourselves in the story.  I remember my first experience with IMAX.  I was in Texas and it was this history film somewhere near the Alamo.  I wasn’t at all sure what I thought about it.  I’m still not sure.

Are we leaving reality behind too much?  Are we escaping so much that we fail to face the blunt force trauma of our own reality?

Do we need to unplug and relish the harshness of life’s cruel bends and clearly face them and solve them, or let them beat us down if that is what Fate has determined must happen?

In all the connectivity, do we grow?  Do we grow in the ways we should grow?  Do we absorb too much the tied-up-in-a-bow tropes and predictable storylines, expecting one day, that things will just “work out” for us, without applying any elbow grease?

Do we live in a world in our head that is almost reality- but not quite, because reality can suck and we don’t want to be there?  Do we let our problems sit, unsolved, unaddressed, un-felt?

Are we stopping ourselves from accepting uncomfortable truths about the lives we live and instead zoning out into something we find pleasant in order to hide?  Do we use these things to abdicate our own responsibility for our choices?

Is it fair to ourselves to hide from a rude or harsh thing that fate has dealt us, if indeed that is the case?  It is better to fall in and embrace the darkness of that fate, rather than create for ourselves a distraction?

I’ve found myself pointlessly watching “The Golden Girls” of late.  While I do laugh occasionally, I sit and wonder to myself at the plotlines.  Am I to believe that women in this age bracket are having relationship and friendship problems that a 14-year-old could clear up for them?  Or even a person much younger?

So why keep watching?  Is there a point?

Why do we watch things just to watch them?  Just to have the noise in the house, the pretend familiarity and warmth?  The illusion of people that are ultimately always safe and who never could actually do any harm to us?

None of us knows how to live a life.  Some of us flounder around trying.  Always attempting to figure it out.  Some people really try.  Some people never seem to care much, and come into this world sitting on a stump with a motionless face and go out the same way.  TV never seems to help much.  Unless you happen to run into some situation involving a comic misunderstanding with characters who only have a few dimensions.

That is where TV also gets us:

We think of people incorrectly, and people portray themselves almost as caricatures. Only a list of qualities based on stock roles.  We lose our complexity.  We fail to see the complexity in others.  We sell ourselves short on experiences and possibilities because of what we believe is fitting for us and who we determine we are.   We define ourselves by music preference and subculture and religion (sometimes as all three at once—as I mentioned in the previous post, everyone I meet thinks that because I am white I am also Christian, Republican, and listen to country music a lot.)

Some people may only be three things.  Maybe they aren’t multi-dimensional.  But maybe it’s because they never gave themselves the chance to be, creating walls of what must be, walls that would never let them change the dial from the country music station to the college amateur DJ hour.

Some of us fools do reach up and twist the knob.

Some of us do eventually turn off the TV and listen to the quiet and cry about our lives and thank our lucky stars for the good things while wondering still why we got passed over for some, and know that living our best lives means we may not ever have everything, but we give it a damn good try as much as we can.  Some of us do hit every station in the market.  Read books on the gods of every religion, and try dancing to alien beats. Some of us grab different wine bottles every time we are in the store just to see how different they taste.  We try the funny-looking appetizers and new fusion cuisine just to give it a shot.  We go to a restaurant without anyone having recommended it to us or looking up reviews, because, if it’s awful, at least we’ll have a story to tell.

Some of us fools allow ourselves to feel out of step with our surroundings.  To feel the discomfort. To realize that some things were our fault, but some things were dumb luck and out of our control.  That trope that hurts the most—the inability to make the magic-30-minute-resolution happen because you did the right things.

At the end, we, the oddballs, drink our totally random wine, sit outside on the steps and hope that maybe somehow, we are gaining wisdom in all our folly.   That we will have enough of wisdom to really feel different one day, but perhaps, that is an illusion too.

The fictional idea I find affects me the most is the “getting it right” idea.  The idea that we will cross a finish line and not make any further bad choices, mistakes, never have a thought come out of our mouth holding the wrong words… that we will somehow one day get everything right.  Our job will never disappear and our stock picks will only go up and we won’t forget we left something in the oven ever again.   Our skin cream will be affordable and eliminate pimples and wrinkles, all our plants will bloom and we will eat a proper diet and somehow extend the daylight hours in a manner that allows us to do it all and tie each day up neat and complete.

Even though I know is absurd, it affects me.  Something about the idea managed to wriggle its way into my brain, past all the TV and movie absurdities about love and heroics and success. This is the part that got through. Getting my choices right.  Staying on top of everything.  Although I know that no one keeps all the plates in the air all the time… I still think sometimes…. That if I could… I would break through to something else.

But there is nothing else.  This is my life.  And I’m living it.  This is it.  All there is.

None of us has the faintest clue what we are doing.