BRUTAL HONESTY AND THE KINDNESS OF A LOVING LIE

There is a time for honesty and a time for kind, warm-hearted honest lying. For example, here are questions that absolutely require a “yes” as the answer, no matter what think:

“Do these jeans make me look fat?” If you say anything except NO, you’re too stupid to deserve a relationship.

“Were you cheating on me in … (a date more than 5 years previous) …?” Unless you are still in that relationship and intending to break up your marriage, the answer is NO. All you will do by telling the truth is hurt your partner and maybe (but probably not) relieve yourself of guilt. The odds are very good that you will also relieve yourself of your relationship. 

“Do you still find me attractive?” Any answer other than yes can cost your life.

On the other hand, failure to communicate critical information can ruin lives. I always think about Cathy and Heathcliff. He eavesdropped on half of her conversation and stalks off in a rage. He never considers asking her if what he partially heard was what she meant or what the context was. Of course, if he had, it wouldn’t have made a very dramatic story, but that’s a different issue. A ten minute conversation could have salvaged three lives.

In the movie “Fanny,” she never tells him she is pregnant, so he goes off to war (convinced she doesn’t love him) and gets killed. If she had told him, everyone — including the child — might have been happy. Every time I’m forced to watch one of these movies, I just get annoyed.

Brutal honesty is always more brutal than honest. If you are forced to say something you know will hurt, at least be gentle. Brutal honesty is not honesty. It’s a brutal agenda wrapped in fake honesty. Don’t eavesdrop. If it just happens, you are not allowed to use whatever information you think you’ve gained by eavesdropping in an emotional confrontation. No one ever hears anything good while eavesdropping.

Use your judgment. If you care about someone, don’t make them miserable because you feel guilty about something. Your guilt is your problem, not his or hers. Making yourself feel better by traumatizing someone else is not being honest. It’s narcissistic.

THE TOWER STAIRS BY DARK OF NIGHT

Fandango’s Provocative Question #86: DREAMS BY NIGHT


This week, Fandango would like to know what was the weirdest dream we can remember and what do we think might have triggered it?

This was a real dream. I remember it because it was very clear and because its meaning was pretty obvious. It had to be at least fifty years ago since I was in my twenties. I dreamed I was in a tall tower with a long, spiraling staircase. I was supposed to climb all the way to the top. It being a dream, no further explanation was necessary, so I began to climb. The steps seemed to go on forever. Time is very warped in dreams, so for all I know, it might have taken a few minutes or even seconds.

I climbed and climbed. Finally, at last, I reached the top. There, at the very top of the tower was a steel door with a heavy iron lock and a sign which said:


“Room of Records. Sealed. No entry.”


To this day, I have a lot of missing memories. This could be just as well considering what I do remember isn’t heartening. Nonetheless, it was a long climb to a locked room. I don’t recall any follow-up dreams, so I’m guessing I never went into that room. I never got to see those records.

Maybe those were our Permanent Records? You know, the ones they threatened us with in school, as in: “This is going on your permanent record, young lady!” All those permanent records have to be somewhere, right?

MY BEST-EVER JOB

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #30: MY BEST JOB EVER

I had been looking for a job that would let me flex my hours so Garry and I could spend time together. It was difficult. He worked terribly long hours, gone before the sun came up and not home until it was dark again. Ironic. Most people think reporters work “a few minutes a day” because that’s all they see on the news. Not true.To get those few minutes of finished news on the air, they drag themselves through every kind of weather — blizzards, hurricanes, bitter cold, unbearable heat — and endless traffic, from one end of the state to another. They are often on the scene of the worst imaginable horrors before the first responders arrive. They have to look good while doing it without a break for lunch or even a trip to the bathroom. Someone once commented it’s like being in the army, just without the uniform.

His days off were Wednesday and Thursday. That meant we had barely a few minutes after work to meet and greet each other. Everything else waited until vacation. By which time Garry was exhausted and needed two weeks of sleep to recuperate so he could go back to work again.

The good part of his job? He loved it. I think everyone in the news business is an adrenaline junkie. The thrill of getting the scoop, tracking down the story, coming up with a different angle on something every other station is also doing and sometimes, finding new information to crack open a case. Garry loved his work. He didn’t love every single moment of it, but he loved most of it, loved knowing he could make a difference, shine a light into a dark corner and fix something that had been broken. When I married him, I married his work. No whining about him missing all the family events, never being around to help with the housework or the shopping. I knew from the get-go I’d be keeping his dinner warm for whenever he got home. That was the deal we made. We didn’t spell it out, but we both understood. We were social equals, but his job came first. Period. End of story.

One day, I got a call. A large HMO was looking for a technical writer to put together documents for their various computer programs. Aimed at users, this was entry-level stuff. For me, used to working on really complex software, it was a piece of cake — with icing. I went to the interview. Bad news? It was a part-time job, paying a retainer. I would be paid for 20 hours a week at $25 an hour, which was less than my usual rate.

The good news? It was a retainer. All the freelancers out there know there’s nothing better than a retainer. I might work all 20 hours, or no hours, depending on what was going on. I would not be required to go into an office. Ever. I would work from home or wherever I and my computer might be, including the back porch of the summer-house on the Vineyard. It was half the money I’d been earning, but I could take freelance gigs to make up the gap.

I took the job. This was a gift from Heaven. I figured I’d be working most of the 20 hours. It turned out, there wasn’t any work. Or almost none. Weeks and months went by. I would call to find out if maybe they’d forgotten me and didn’t they want me to do something? No, everything was fine, they said. No problem. We’ll call you. Once in long while, they did call and for a few days, I worked. It was almost a relief. Even though it was writing I could do in my sleep. For five years, I got a steady paycheck for which I did essentially nothing. I did a bit of free-lance stuff here and there and was obliged to bring a laptop with me when I went on vacation, just in case someone needed me. I was getting paid for free.

One day, I picked up the Boston Globe and discovered the division for which I worked was being disbanded. Apparently someone noticed that no one in the department actually worked. So I called my boss, Anita.

“Anita,” I said. “I was reading the Globe this morning. Does this mean I have to look for a new job?”

“Yes,” she sighed. “We all do. But you’ve got three or four months, so you should be fine.”

I couldn’t believe it. They were taking away the best job in the world. I was going to have to go to work, show up at an office. I would have to stay there all day. What an awful thought! I went job hunting and found what would turn out to the best real job I ever had. Wonderful colleagues and a great boss, but it was work. I had to think a lot. It was like getting a masters in advanced database building using object linking. After I synthesized what I needed to know, I then had to use that knowledge to write and design documents. I was back to meeting deadlines. My 5-year paid vacation had not eliminated my skills. I was as good as ever.

I was spoiled.

Never again would I feel comfortable working a 9 to 5 job although I worked them for twenty more years. I got terribly restless. Merely having to be in one location for all those hours made me twitch. I got my work done and done well, but I wanted my freedom back. I wouldn’t get it until I retired and that was a long time in the future.

I was ruined for the real world.

A NEW EDITOR AND A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT US AND OUR TECHNOLOGY

Fandango’s Provocative Question #83: Who’s controlling what?

One of the big issues with WordPress’s decision to create a kind of block format that is very unappealing to most of us who aren’t here to make money but joined to show off our art, write about issues that matter, display pictures … the artists rather than the money-makers. I’m sure that a lot of us would happily at this stage hop to another platform … but what platform? Medium? They don’t sound like like they would welcome my freewheeling style. Blogger? Has anyone ever gotten a dialogue going on Blogger? I couldn’t. Eventually, I simply gave up. So Fandango’s question is simple and basic:

I think the answer is really that technology controls us. I wish it weren’t true. I don’t want it to be true, but it is. Without WiFi, there’s little I can accomplish. My bank is never open. Everything happens electronically by cell phone and computer. We live in a small town where shopping is limited. There is, for example, no camera store. If I need a lens, I have to buy it online. It’s hard to even find a contractor to do work we need to do. There isn’t much work, but we are a little too far from Boston to commute … and who in their right mind would want to commute to Boston?

These days, WiFi is not a luxury. It’s a utility controlled as a monopoly by whatever town you live in. We don’t have any choice but Charter and they can charge whatever they want since they have no competition. And, because we are a low-density population, other companies aren’t exactly fighting each other to come here and open businesses.

What we have is a lot of natural beauty, the winding Blackstone River and its tributaries, a long history dating back to the early 1600s … and WiFi for everything else. So yes, we are controlled by our technology. Sometimes it’s a marvel. Other times, you just need one long downtime of your cable and suddenly, you feel helpless. Your computer breaks and panic ensues. Your cell phone bites the big one and you literally don’t know how you’ll get through another day.

Yes, we are controlled by our technology, especially right now when we are living in a plague-ridden environment.

What can we do to change it? I don’t know. Nothing right now, but maybe in the future we’ll discover other ways of living. I know I didn’t grow up owned by technology, yet over the decades, I’ve rolled right into it. Haven’t we all?

I HATE THE NATION WE HAVE BECOME

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #19: HATE

I hate the country we have become. I hate what 45 has done to us. I hate this world that is not even a shadow of the America in which I grew up … in which Garry grew up. Did we have problems? Sure we did and some of the results of those problems are worse from never having been properly addressed in the past. But still, we had at the very least a national striving to be better. To find problems and make an effort to fix them. Did we succeed? Sometimes. Often not, but once in a while we hit a homer right out of the park.

Now, I want that spirit back. The intention to care, the willingness to do good. The sense that no matter how wrong-headed the president or other politicians can be, they nonetheless genuinely care about this nation, care for their constituents. They are patriots. We might not agree with them, but we know they are Americans and would never collude with a foreign power. Instead, we have a government which cares for no one and nothing except, I suppose, power and money. Greed and corruption. It’s shocking, humiliating, and shameful. I often wake up wondering how I wound up living in this terrible place. It’s an awful feeling.

I hate what has happened to us and I hope we can redress this horror show in November. I hope our military understands they may be called upon to carry him out of the White House in shackles, if necessary. I hope that other powerful people are committed to our constitution and protection of our rights. As they keep saying in the convention we are watching:


VOTE AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT. BECAUSE YOUR LIFE DOES DEPEND ON IT.  ALL OUR LIVES & YOUR CHILDREN’S LIVES DEPEND ON IT.


 

THE DOG DAYS OF MUSIC

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #17

I wrote this just the other day, so here it is again.


There was a time in my life when I was “all music all the time.” I completed a music major in college (piano) with a minor in “what am I really going to be when I grow up?” I knew I wasn’t a good enough pianist to perform professionally, added to which I have such bad stage fright I was petrified playing for my piano teacher. Mind you I can talk on a stage — even with a camera running — but not perform. Especially not playing the piano. My teacher had to pretend to make tea so I would perform for her.

If my minimal talent was barely sufficient, my stage fright was paralytic, but my teacher was warmly encouraging. She felt I had talent. I don’t think she entirely understood my hands are really small. I am really small, though I often forget that I’m super extra short. I remember when I realize I can’t get things from the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets. And those tiny hands — I can barely reach an octave.

I had a terrible time with ‘big handed’ music — which is most piano music written by men with big hands. I think she kept expecting me to grow. I started taking lessons when I was 4, so I suppose she never got used to my having already grown up.

If she didn’t turn me into a professional musician, she did teach me to understand and love music. And I can always tell if someone is off-key. Including me. Oddly enough, I don’t want music playing all the time. If music is playing, I want to hear it fully — not as background noise. My favorite is classical music, but I can only listen to that at home. If I listen to it in the car, I find myself driving off the road. So in the car, it’s any other type of music from bluegrass, country, or 1960s rock. Eclectic, but old fashioned.

When I hear piano music that I once played, I see the notes in my head. I do miss music and I think when we finally get financed and life starts to move forward and I’m not worrying all the time, at least somewhere in the back of my head, I might learn to play something. A three-string cigar box guitar sounds about right to me.

FAVORITE TV SHOW? IT’S A TIE.

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #16

Fandango would like to know what my favorite TV show is and I have to say, it’s a tie. First of all, we’ve watched “The West Wing” at least half a dozen times during the Trump administration. Whenever we can’t stand the news anymore, we watch it. It wasn’t real. We know it’s a beautifully scripted television show but it reminds us that the U.S.A. used to have a government. A real one. With two functional parties. The last time we watched it, we saw it from start to finish then watched the whole series again.

After that, we discovered that “Boston Legal” was playing on Hulu and we watched all of it. We’ll probably watch it again, but right now, we are watching “The Practice” which was the show that came before “Boston Legal.” It’s not as good as “Boston Legal,” but it’s not bad either. And we’ll got back to “Boston Legal” again.

Meanwhile, if you’ve got nothing better to do and you need a touch of both humor and sanity, these are two great shows that might help you remember that we weren’t always like this. We weren’t always run by a stupid hulking man who apparently hates America and Americans. Just saying.

LOST LOVE?

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #4

I think I’m married to my lost love. So I guess he isn’t lost. Garry was never lost. He was just too busy. I had to wait until his career was less important than his emotional life. We married in 1990 — and thirty years later, I’m still glad. Is this story too short?  Is it even a story?

Amazing how time changed us in those seventeen years, isn’t it? 

NARY A RIPPLE

RDP Sunday–RIPPLES


“With nary a ripple” signals ultimate peace. No waves, no white water. Just the smooth glassiness of water and it’s reflection of sky, clouds, and the trees along the bank. And maybe the reflection of the geese or swan that float silently along the water.

LIVING IN THE WILDERNESS? – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP SATURDAY: WILDERNESS


The area in which we live is definitely rural, but I never considered it wilderness until suddenly, after 20 years of receiving packages from every known delivery service, we can’t be found. We have disappeared.

We get notes saying a post office package was “undeliverable.” Undeliverable? It’s not raining or snowing. There are no civil protests or traffic jams. No massive reconstruction projects. Personally, I think they didn’t even try to deliver to us. What happened to the packages? In the last two weeks, almost $600 of Amazon deliveries have had to be refunded to us and the same items ordered elsewhere.

I’m sure this means something, but what? Have our roads been deleted from maps and GPS’s? Has Uxbridge been banned from Mapquest?

Squirrel

I grant you that we live surrounded by woods. We certainly have a good deal of wildlife. Critters include fishers, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, flying squirrels, deer, skunk, chipmunks, coyotes, and foxes. In the air we have eagles, hawks, woodpeckers and every sort of garden bird. In nearby waters we have ducks, geese, herons, and divers — and some of the biggest snapping turtles you’ve ever seen. Nonetheless, these creatures are not crowding our highways or driveway. They live in the woods and unless you have feeders, they have no interest in you.

Oh look! I found a few seeds!

We have paved roads. Even a traffic light! We have a grocery, a couple of banks, hairdressers, and a really big lumber yard. Until recently, all of these made us a town that was still on the map. We aren’t huge, but we are not wilderness. In this same Blackstone Valley we have probably a dozen small towns, fire houses (with fire trucks, too!).

We have police (not many, but enough). We have post offices and drop-off and delivery areas for UPS and Fedex. You can get your nails done — or you could have, back in the “old days” before March 2020 — or get a tattoo. There were two dry-cleaners and a floor installer and TWO places that framed pictures.

Yet still, no one can find us.

It’s amazing after living here for 20 years and getting daily deliveries that suddenly, we don’t exist. A bit startling, too.

LOUDER THAN WORDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #23

Oh let us speak first of love. When a man says he loves you, that’s nice. When a man shows you he loves you, that matters. Men, after they get over the huge masculine hurdle of saying “I love you” seem to have an even more powerful resistance to displaying love.

What does showing love mean? An unasked-for hug. The kiss that isn’t pre-sex. A bouquet of flowers that wasn’t bought at the gas station … and for which there is no special occasion. Just loving. A gift for no reason. All these speak of love.

In the world of “other things,” the senator who stands up for what he believes no matter how badly it affects his personal political agenda. The military man who goes in after a civilian caught in a cross-fire, even though it won’t win him a medal. The judge who recognizes a youngster with potential who needs help and offers it instead of prison.

Even small things. Holding doors for older people who are having trouble navigating an entryway. Waiting patiently in line even when the elderly woman ahead of you is having trouble making sense of her money and the clerk ho kindly waits for her to finish, even when the line is stopped and people are griping.

There are many actions that display an understanding of right and wrong which no words can show. These actions speak ever so much louder than words.

OUT MY BACK DOOR – Marilyn Armstrong

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Out My Backdoor


I look out my backdoor a lot. It’s a small deck leading to a rather small lawned area that when we were younger and more socially active, was the scene of many summertime barbecues, the building of a tepee, and just handing out. The tepee is gone. The idea of feeding a hoard of people — assuming we knew enough people to create a hoard — is exhausting. Nonetheless, our deck is a big piece of the territory to which we pay most attention.

The birds and squirrels believe it belongs to them and resent our presence, so we tread gently when we are out there.

A winter Goldfinch at the finch feeder
Junco keeping company with our stone Toad

The three birdfeeders which have replaced the hanging fuchsia that used to grace the hooks have greatly changed the deck from a human place to a wildlife feeding station. I believe it’s far more socially useful feeding squirrels, the occasional chipmunk, and wild birds than it was as a place for morning coffee.

Cardinal on board

Times change. Since the arrival of mosquitoes carrying diseases previously unknown in this region, it’s hard to get really thrilled about being that close to where they breed.

One of our most frequent visitors, a Tufted Titmouse
Two feeders on a very cold morning

Even though the woods have been sprayed, the spraying reduces the mosquito population. It doesn’t remove it. I’m pretty sure it also killed a few hundred birds and other small critters too. Whenever humans decide to fix something, some creature pays the price.

Mist in a January woods