LIKE IT SHOULD BE

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Everything is as it should be. No matter how strange or bizarre, in the end, it’s right. It does not mean we are happy about the way our book of life is written.  Where is my shelf of bestsellers? My big house on the cliff overlooking the ocean? The hot little sports car and my horses?

I want what I want. To be richer, healthier, younger. I want my brother, a final conversation with my mother. I want my old friends to not live so far away. To live, period.

I want those things I buy to last forever. How many times do I have to buy a new refrigerator? Didn’t I just buy this one? Really? That long ago?

Somehow, it works out. It balances. You wind up in a place you never imagined being, but after a while, you realize it suits you.

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Good stuff can be subtle. Crises whack you upside the head. Hard to miss them.

Happiness is sneaky. It slithers into your world like a mist, gradually invading the darkness and filling it with sparkles. One day, you find you are singing as you go about your daily tasks.

“Oh,” you say. “I’m happy. How — when — did that happen?”

It’s never all up or all down. The coaster tosses you from side to side. You scream down the big drop and laugh as the chain pulls your car to the next peak. That’s the point of the ride, isn’t it?

I once stayed in a resort so far beyond my expectations, I was stunned. The weather, however, was hot and humid. We could barely bring ourselves to go out and do anything.

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The following year, we found ourselves in the most beautiful town on Cape Cod. We were near enough to the beach to see, hear, and smell the Atlantic. The room was horrible. The beds were hard. The bathroom was barely usable. But the weather was perfect, and the sun shone every day.

It’s okay to be sad. From sadness, we learn joy. We need darkness to understand light. (Remind me I said this!)


ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE, when everything actually turned out exactly as you’d hoped. Or better. Or something else entirely.

LOVE IN OLDER WAYS

Love is a big bouquet of dark red roses on my birthday and a WRITER sweatshirt that I said I wanted.

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Love is hauling my tired old butt into the kitchen every night to make a tempting meal, even though the last thing I want to do is cook. Because he won’t eat if I don’t prepare dinner.

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Love is remembering the great times we had and being satisfied because we did what we wanted and enjoyed it completely.

Love is watching movies you don’t much like and sports you barely understand so you can have something to talk about.

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Love is him learning the new geeky computer-speak ’cause if he doesn’t, he can’t talk to my in my language.

Love is driving me all over the place because I’m not up to driving anymore.

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Love is realizing how ridiculous life is and laughing about it together.

Love is knowing you’re in the right place with the right guy. And being smart enough to realize how unbelievably lucky you are to have this man, who loves you, in your life.

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Love is being totally fed up with everything and still being happy because we are together and that’s enough.

(The dogs are great, too.)


I Want to Know What Love Is

290 – OTHER AND COMPARATIVE RELIGIONS

THE DEWY DECIMAL SYSTEM – THE BLACKLIGHT CANDELABRA

In response to Bumblepuppies prompt on Blacklight Candelabra, I created a three 3-digit number. I visited this Dewey Decimal System website and found the subject which matched my number. I got lucky.


I cheated. A little bit. I used my address, which is three digits. And hit a bulls-eye. My favorite subject for mental meandering and an occasional rant.

Number 290 — Other & Comparative Religion

We waste a lot of time trying to figure out what life means. We don’t waste nearly enough time doing what we enjoy … which in my opinion, is the meaning — or at least the point — of life. Most people think religion has something to do with it. I was taught there are two ways to approach religion:

1) It’s a formalized set of beliefs to which a bunch of people adhere. (William James)

2) It’s the center of you, most “propriate” — central — to your “self.” (Orlo Strunk)

I’ve always gone with door number two wherein religion isn’t a set of beliefs, rules, and guidelines — no matter how many people claim to follow it. It isn’t what someone says at a pulpit on Saturday or Sunday. It’s how you live, what you are. If you are a miserable, mean-spirited bastard, I don’t care how often you attend church, synagogue, or mosque, you are the way you are. Your religion is you.

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Most of us are essentially self worshippers. We may include others in our closest (most propriate) circle. A life mate, kids, pets, closest friends. Maybe dedication to an art — writing, painting, music. Or making money and accumulating stuff. Regardless, our inner core is our religion. It’s what gives life meaning.

Life is rarely what we want or expect. Never what we believe we deserve. So you gotta wonder if the reason you are sick, broke, or miserable is because you lack faith or failed to adhere to those Higher Laws. Yet if you look around, you’ll see many folks with faith aplenty whose lives are a train wreck. They explain it by saying “God has a plan.” I’m not going to argue if there’s a plan, but I question if said plan has anything to do with me.

I’ve put decades of thought into why my life keeps falling apart. I’m not perfect, but whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s small potatoes in the scheme of things. It’s hard for me to believe, even in my darkest moments, I’m so wicked The Big Guy has in for me. Personally.

One day, I realized I had my answer. Life is random. There is no meaning except what you give it. If you give nothing to life, life will give nothing back.

Whether what you put into your life is based on principles espoused by a “formal” religion” (per William James), or is what you hold in your heart (per Orlo Strunk), you know everything you need to know. Mostly, you know right from wrong because you were born knowing it. You know what you love, what you care about. You can now move about the cabin. Make your choices without expecting reward or punishment.

Life doesn’t make sense. Never has, never will. You don’t “do the right thing” because it will earn you a reward or a ticket to heaven. You do right because it’s right. Life will probably screw you over anyway, but not because you chose wrong. Merely because life is like that.

If believing in a loving God makes you feel good, believe it. It could be true. If it turns out you’re right, you’ve backed a winner. If believing there is no God floats your boat, go with that.  Whatever you do, I hope it makes you happy. Take your best shot. Whatever awaits at the end of the line, the one sure thing is today. Pity to waste it.

MERELY LIVING

DAILY PROMPT: ME TIME — What’s your ideal Saturday morning? Are you doing those things this morning? Why not?


I woke up this morning. I did my physical checklist. Did anything hurt more than usual? Less? Breathing okay? Everything was working as well (or better) than usual, so I put a bit more effort into “me” than usual, weeding through eyebrows until I found an arch. Not as nice as the lady in town creates with her wax, but weather has made going anywhere a hassle. I haven’t gotten to town more than a couple of times all month.

I made it to the kitchen and did my Alpha Bitch thing. The dogs obediently (with just a bit of back talk) went outside to do whatever business they needed to conduct. By the time they got back, I was cleaning.

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It’s not that I don’t clean. It’s that I need inspiration and energy. I had a little of both and I cleaned the places around the sink that don’t get cleaned because they are behind or under something. I did the sink, scrubbed the water dishes, refilled them … all the while hearing heavy breathing and the click-clack of excited toenails on linoleum.

The dogs were swirling with energy. Admittedly, I was slow with biscuits. The longer I take, the more worked up they get. Finally, finished, I pivoted to face the fur people. “Huffa, huffa, huffa,” they said. You’d think no one ever feeds them.

“Liars,” I tell them. They huff some more. Bonnie does her happy dance, leaping up and down until finally, I distribute a Greenie and a crunchy to each. Do they think if they don’t do their routine, I won’t give them their treats?

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I’ve been up a while. Coffee is emitting little hisses of steamy satisfaction. I straighten the sofa. Bishop has been sleeping on it. He knows he isn’t allowed, but his interpretation is “what she/he doesn’t know doesn’t count” and makes sure he is off before Garry or I gets to the end of the hallway. Sometimes his timing is off and he gets caught in “flagrante delicto” so to speak. He leaves huge tufts of hair behind, so it’s not hard to figure out. Not to mention (but I will mention it) he rearranges the coverlets, pulling them off and putting them in a pile more to his liking. Bishop has the soul of an interior decorator. A hairy decorator with limited taste.

Eventually, seated, with a cup of coffee in hand, I turn on the computer and my day begins.

Today is Saturday. We are retired, so everyday is much the same as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Soon, Garry will join me. We’ll share quiet time, sifting through our email, answering and writing comments. It’s my favorite part of the day. Quiet, friendly, low stress. Whatever hassles the rest of the day may bring, morning is our time to decompress.

It’s life. Unsegmented into “me time” or “he time.” Life does not have sections. I don’t own a piece of the day, nor does Garry. I supposed you might say the dogs own all of it because they own us — but that’s another story.

OO-BLA-DI, OO-BLA-DA

No news is not good news. It’s just no news.

We are in a slow news period. It’s not as if nothing is going on. It’s just that nothing is going on in which anyone is especially interested.

2014’s elections were the usual vicious, contentious, nasty business. We used to get outraged, upset, furious about elections. Now, they come. They go. Everything changes, but nothing is different. This time, when the elections ended, it got quiet in a hurry. Bring on Christmas.

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The holidays came and went. All through February, the weather (pardon the pun) has been the hot topic. And who Prince Harry is (or isn’t) dating. “Deflategate” is being beaten to death on the sports networks, but is anyone listening? Do we care? As memories of the Super Bowl fade, spring training begins. Can the Sox pull themselves out of the tank? Is there hope for 2015? That’s the most interesting question on the news horizon.

We’ve had a lot of snow.

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I’m sure a national calamity was predicted for this year, but I forget what it was. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, the sky isn’t falling, unless that’s really what all that white stuff is … the sky falling, I mean.

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So there are no fresh disasters. Whichever huge controversies were with us last year and the year before are still lurking, along with a few tired, sleazy scandals. It’s the same old, same old. Back to the everyday struggles of a tired population hoping things will get better and suspecting they won’t. A new year is rolling along. Oo-bla-di, oo-bla-da.

THE COMMITTEE

My cousin called. It’s nice hear from her, good to remember I have some living family remaining. There used to be a lot more of us. When we were all a good deal younger, we used to see each other sometimes at family events. Anyway, we got to talking about insomnia. It’s part of the “older person” package of goodies. I commented my problem is the committee. Its endless meetings. Just when I want to sleep, the meetings begin.

First up, the Scheduling Committee. Dental, doctor, and veterinary appointments. Vacation dates. Taxes. When the snow melts, we’ll have to get someone to take a look at the siding and the roof. See what needs repair.

Enter the Maintenance Committee. They get to worry about the aging heating system. The once new, now not-so-new refrigerator, range, freezer. Water heater. Doors, windows. And let’s not forget the well. Exhausted, I drift off for a while, but I’m awake and alert in time for the Family Concerns Committee.

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The Family Concerns Group obsesses over health issues. Is Garry just tired, or is there some lurking disease? Is my shortness of breath because I’m old and out of shape, or something more sinister? Next up, worry about the kids and the granddaughter’s college education. And the dogs. Can’t forget the dogs.

I don’t even want to discuss the obsessive number crunching of Ways and Means. Complain, complain, complain. They just want to know where I’m going to get the money for everything. Shut up, already. I have no idea how I get from month to month and I’d just as soon not examine it too closely!

Wait! Another committee? Oh, right. Now it is time for the meeting of the Ecological and International Affairs Committee, an umbrella group that focuses on the economy. War. Global warming — which admittedly seems less an immediate threat right now than usual.

Melting ice caps. Disappearing polar bears. Besieged elephants, lions, tigers, rhinoceroses, and wolves. Where are the birds? Have they have survived this terrible month of bitter cold, snow, and ice? And the swans? I worry about swans. And geese. And ducks. Let’s not forget bats. We no longer have bats. They are all dead from an accidentally imported bat plague.

Bees. We are running out of hives. If we have no bees, there won’t be food. Which might be good for the planet. Fewer people equals less pollution. By the time the committees adjourn, the sun is up and I’m exhausted. Aren’t you? How are your committees? Had any good meetings lately?

What’s on tonight’s agenda?


Think Global, Act Local — “Think global, act local.” Write a post connecting a global issue to a personal one.

CHAOS IS KING AND MAGIC IS LOOSE IN THE WORLD

Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world. 

That was the conclusion Robert A. Heinlein drew at the end of  his two novellas, “Waldo” and “Magic, Incorporated.” And the conclusion I drew at the end of the day. Yesterday.

It was just one of those days. Not catastrophic, but not good. I had a doctor appointment. The back doctor. They guy who gives pain-killer needles and we were on the road. I was a bit nervous. More than a bit. They were going to take an x-ray of my back. Inevitably, when someone looks at my spine, they get all weird.

My current home.

I tell people it’s bad but I suspect no one believes it could be that bad. Everyone thinks whatever is wrong with their back is the worst. But you see, mine really is the worst. It’s the kind of bad that makes experienced spine doctors’ jaws drop. There are so many things wrong with it, it inspires the comment “I’m amazed you can still walk.” This from people who should know better. But they look at the pictures and just can’t help themselves. It pops out of their mouths.

I was afraid the doctor would look at the x-ray and refuse to do anything. Because it’s such a godawful mess. I suppose that’s better than going ahead and doing further damage, though it’s difficult to see how much worse it could be. Forget I said that. It can always be worse.

We were on time. We’d arisen before dawn. Had coffee, did our e-mail. Just like the old days, except instead of coffee and a newspaper, we had coffee and a pair of laptops.

Garry went out, gassed up the car. We were on our way. A few miles down the road, the car began to chug and balk. An unfamiliar idiot light went on and it starting dinging. It wasn’t any of the familiar idiot lights. This one is orange and looks like a battery or an engine schematic. Not the “Check Engine” light. I know that one. The car had been running fine. For seven years, it ran fine. We gave it regular maintenance. It started, drove, stopped. Until yesterday.

We pulled over and did a couple of 360s. Looking for something hanging, like the exhaust? A flat tire? Despite no visual evidence, there was something seriously amiss. We turned around and went home, grateful the breakdown was on Route 146 and not the Mass Pike. It took a while to get home. Amazing how long it takes at 30 mph when you are used to driving more than twice that speed.

After we landed, Garry grabbed the shopping list and hopped into the other car — the 2002 Sunfire. We don’t drive it much anymore. Almost never in the winter because it doesn’t have snow tires. And it has been making a funny noise we can’t pin down. He took it to the grocery story, came back appropriately loaded down, and told me the inspection sticker expired in December. The holidays. The Sunfire’s inspection had slipped past unnoticed.

When Owen got home, I explained the Cruiser was sick … and the inspection on the Sunfire expired. Garry asked if driving without a current inspection sticker was okay and Owen said, “No, not really,” so Garry asked if the yellow car would pass inspection. Owen replied “No, the driver’s side windshield wiper isn’t working and it won’t pass until it gets fixed.”

The yellow 2002 Sunfire is everyone’s backup car. When Owen’s car won’t run, he drives the Sunfire. When Sandy’s car is in the shop, she drives the Sunfire. Ditto Kaity. But if something goes wrong with it, it is our problem. At the risk of sounding whiny, whatever goes wrong — house or car — it is always our problem.

I pointed out to Owen we were without transportation in a town which has no public transportation, not even a taxi service. Leaving us stuck with no way to get anywhere was unacceptable.

So … as the sun set in the west, the Sunfire was street legal, though the Cruiser — the car with the new snow tires — is not going anywhere. It appears (according to Owen), to be a computer problem. Probably the bastard child of the random electrical glitch we’ve had for years, the electrical ghost that makes windows lock open or shut and doors refuse to lock — or worse, unlock. The ghost in our machine.

And so the day ended, none too early for my taste. Today has not brought new revelations. The Cruiser remains broken. The Sunfire is running, but it’s old. Chaos is definitely king. Right now, we could use some of that loose magic.

BEING HERE AND NOW

Oedipus defeats the Sphinx by correctly guessing the answer to the following riddle:

Sphinx-riddle

As babies, we crawl on hands and feet, using four legs. When we grow up, we stand. Thus, as adults, we stride through life upright, on two legs.  In old age, we are bent over, so in the evening of our lives, we walk with the help of a cane, on three legs.

This was how human life was summed up a couple of thousand years ago and even today, there’s truth in it. But not Truth. Because the riddle’s narrow perspective focuses on the physical changes we experience though life. It leaves out the emotional and intellectual changes … the most important stuff.

As kids, we want to grow up. Children are in a terrible hurry. We race full-tilt towards a future in which anything is possible. We want it all. We want it now. When we get there, we run even faster towards the next goal.

We slow down a bit as we get to the middle of life. We accept responsibility. We load ourselves down with possessions and obligations. We simultaneously discover life doesn’t work as we expected. We see our best plans and fondest hopes dashed on the shoals of random chance, a bad marriage, a boss who doesn’t like us. Or sheer accident derails us. A bad economy makes the profession for which we prepared irrelevant. We discover, in a personal way, that people die. For no good reason. In war, in traffic. Of disease, suicide, stupidity. Unlike Hollywood, real death is usually inglorious and sad.

By the time we reach our forties, we’ve lost a few rounds and are the worse for wear. We’re slower to judge, less sure of the future. The answers of youth are replaced by more questions and the wariness of people who’ve seen a few things. We begin to pay attention to security, realize we are “peaking” professionally and should make the most of whatever opportunities are available.

And then, flash! You are not young. Seventy is not the new forty. Holy shit! Who is that old person in the mirror?

You look around the office. You’re the guy kids come to for advice. Maybe you find no one interested in your experience because “the company is going in a different direction.” People in their forties seem awfully young. Ouch. How did this happen?

We all know, on some level, we will get old. After all, if you don’t get old, you get dead. Alive is the preferred state of being at every age and stage. But no one expects to be really old. We plan to be like we’ve always been. Maybe a few gray hairs. A wiser, more mature version of the person we think we know so well.

Times changes us more than we thought possible. We quit running towards the future and start looking around to see what’s going. Here. Now. This is the future. We made it. The rainy day for which we were saving? We look up to see clouds. Rain is falling.

No more “we’ll do that someday.” Buy the camera you always wanted. Get the car of your dreams. See Paris. It’s your turn. Finally.

None of us plans to die, but we know we could. Time to shift our focus to enjoying what we are, what we have, who we have. While we can. Life is fragile and we are transitory, just passing through. It’s a very different perspective from younger years.

Will the good old days come again? Doubt it. How good were those old days? Do we want them back?

The only time we own is today. Use it well.


Ice, Water, Steam: Weekly Writing Challenge