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miscellaneous

Men at 40

Long past 40 but heard this today on reboot and it hit. Hard.

Men At Forty

By Donald Justice

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices trying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

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miscellaneous

David Whyte on Friendship

I read the Three Marriages last year after an initial introduction to David Whyte on the Making Sense podcast.  He was back on a bit ago and read this, part of his newest book Consolations.  Love.  Every.  Word.

Frindship is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness.  Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn.  A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them.  An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy.  All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness.  Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.

In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.

Through the eyes of a real friendship an individual is larger than their everyday actions, and through the eyes of another we receive a greater sense of our own personhood, one we can aspire to, the one in whom they have most faith.  Friendship is a moving frontier of understanding not only of the self and the other but also, of a possible and as yet unlived, future.

Friendship is the great hidden transmuter of all relationship: it can transform a troubled marriage, make honorable a professional rivalry, make sense of heartbreak and unrequited love and become the newly discovered ground for a mature parent-child relationship.

The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence.

Through the eyes of a friend we especially learn to remain at least a little interesting to others.  When we flatten our personalities and lose our curiosity in the life of the world or of another, friendship loses spirit and animation; boredom is the second great killer of friendship.  Through the natural surprises of a relationship held through the passage of years we recognize the greater surprising circles of which we are a part and the faithfulness that leads to a wider sense of revelation independent of human relationship: to learn to be friends with the Earth and sky, with the horizon and with the seasons, even with the disappearances of winter and in that faithfulness, take the difficult path of becoming a good friend to our own going.

Friendship transcends disappearance: an enduring friendship goes on after death, the exchange only transmuted by absence, the relationship advancing and maturing in a silent internal conversational way even after one half of the bond has passed on.

But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend of sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.

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miscellaneous

Knowing when to give up when doing stupid things.

The stupid thing we were going to do got stupider with 3-4 inches of packed snow on the trail so I pulled the rip cord about 12 miles in. I was way off my min pace (glad I had that sheet calculated ahead of time and with me). And the snow was not melting off. Based on the sections we did, I am pretty confident that we could have done it in a reasonable amount of time if it weren’t for the snow pack.

Discretion is the better part of valor.

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miscellaneous

Added a hitch to the skoolie this weekend

Picked up a 15,000 lb weld on curt hitch a few weeks ago. Spent a few hours on Saturday and Sunday getting it installed. A little more difficult than I thought, but really happy with how it turned out. Just have to get it welded up and then get the wiring setup and I’ll be ready to tow.

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miscellaneous

Quarter million

Picked up my 2008 MB E320 Bluetech in May of 2011 with about 32k miles. Just crossed a quarter million.

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miscellaneous

Navigating the new rules of social interaction

It’s been more than a year since I’ve been on a plane. Nearly a year since I’ve been in an office. No clear timeline for when that might change.

Last year was a year of constant adjustment and regular disappointment. Trips cancelled. Concerts “postponed”. Restaurants closed. I fell into the trap of thinking that reality cares about our president or even about our calendar which has led to some new disappointments. 

The reality of 2021 is setting in: not too much is going to change from 2020.With that knowledge comes some power. Having had Covid to start the year comes with some added freedom or at least lower anxiety. Especially with reports like this.  I am using this knowledge and freedom to try to make 2021 different than 2020, for us at least.

So what does that look like?  We’ve already been out to eat, although we did that a bit in 2020. I’m going to the gym for small group work outs.  We went to a concert – the first since late 2019. We’ve got plans for dinner groups and trips in the skoolie. I’ve signed up for a few major IDPA matches and have a few hikes in the works (something that I also was able to do in 2020, but am trying to be more intentional this year about where I go and am adding pack rafting to the tool kit).

These changes will definitely improve my mental health.  I am best when I have a few things to look forward to and plan for.  2020 was hard that way, since nearly everything I was looking forward to got cancelled or “postponed”.  There was a silver lining in that though, it did give me nothing else to focus on except the present. I will try to keep that with me moving into 2021.

But I am also worried about the potential consequences of how I choose to navigate my social interactions in 2021.  I am not worried about the things I will do essentially on my own or with my family.  I am thinking about how to negotiate larger group interactions. 

On one hand, I am all about disclosure – the people I might be with should know what else I am doing, where else I have been, who else I have been hanging out with and that I have had and recovered from Covid and then should be able to make their own decisions. 

On the other hand, I know some significant portion of my social circle will react to that disclosure in a either / both of the following ways. 

(1) They will overreact and choose to not do something that they otherwise might.  Honestly, I can accept this one since I know it is just my perception of an overreaction.  I may have it all wrong and they are entitled to what bits of reality they want to let in and which they choose to block out.  None of us has a monopoly on the truth and none of us can see the whole truth at any one time.

(2) They will extrapolate what I am doing / how I am behaving in the midst of a pandemic to make assumptions about what I believe about everything from vaccines to climate change to gun control.  They will suspect me of having been in DC on the 6th of Jan (for the record I was flat on my back with Covid).  This seems a direct consequence of both polarization (there are only two places to stand on any issue) and of the abbreviated content / lack of context and speed of most “conversations” today (I will take one thing I know about you and quickly put you in one of the two buckets I have and from there assume I know you fully).

The second reaction is the one that bothers me and has me struggling with what, how and who to disclose.  To be clear this is not the claim that I am “unknowable” while at the same time demanding to be known.  Quite the opposite – I think I am like everyone else: somewhat knowable, yet full of (hopefully interesting) contradictions IF you take the time.  One part of my worry about this reaction is that I know I do this too.  It’s just such an easy trap to fall into.

To get over the bother and on with an amazing 2021 I will start with trying to be the change I want to see.  That means noticing when I am making broad assumptions about who someone is based on a singular belief or observation.  When I notice, I will try to be more curious to actually learn about them.  I am also going to accept when people don’t want to take the time to do that with me and not worry about what assumptions they might be making.

Here’s to everyone having an amazing 2021!

 

 

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miscellaneous

Resetting the clock

Added 165 days to the clock today. Been considering it for a bit and I think it makes sense to tack on a bit more time to move on at a natural transition. Makes the math a bit easier although I won’t get to brag that “I retired in my 40s” ;-).

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miscellaneous

Q: WTF is Wrong with Me? A: Perfect as enemy of good.

I broke quarantine last week by taking a walk in the woods with my daughter and 7 trusted friends.  We spent 4 days / 3 nights walking along the Sheltowee Trace in the south of Kentucky, mostly at social distance.  There are many things that I love about long distance backpacking.  One of them is that I am often out of cell range so have no choice but to be completely offline.

As I emerged from the woods on Thursday and started to reconnect, I learned about George Floyd’s murder and the resulting protests (and looting and rioting…all different things).  Welcome back to reality.  I wanted to restock, turn around and head back into the woods.

For the last few days I felt myself falling back into the same pattern as I followed in March, when Covid first entered my reality.  I was on twitter and reddit for hours a day.  Trying to both get a handle on what was happening…and (shamefully) somehow enjoying the images and videos of protests, police retaliation and looting.  Not enjoying it becasue I like what I saw, but because of some detached, self important sense that I was “living through history”.  WTF is wrong with me?

Last night, as I weeded our garden, I listened to the President address the nation.  I didn’t have high expectations, but the staged photo opp after the press conference took me by suprise…and got me really angry.  I am a cradle Episcopalean.  St. John’s, place of the staged photo opp, is an Episcopal church.  I unexplanably found myself getting extremely worked up that the symbols / location of my faith was being used as a backdrop to make some ridiculous political point (Side note: I am not really sure what the point was.  While he might have been playing to his evagelical base…but surely he knows that they are no fans of Episcopaleans with our pro-gay stance?).

Upon further reflection something else, even more disturbing occured to me: George Floyd was murdered by someone charged with protecting him and while that bothered me, it wasn’t the same intesnsty of feeling as I had about where a picture was taken.  Why do I feel more strongly about the symbols of my faith than the basic right to exist of every human being? WTF is wrong with me?

Some of my reaction can be reasoned away because the photo opp was relevant to me – it gave me a place to stand in opposition.  But that’s not enough.  I am white.  I have never been subject to any sort of harrasment or ill treatment from anyone in a position of legal authority.  So at the surface it is easy for me to find no place to stand to oppose where I feel anything in common with George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and many others before and since.  Where do I get off protesting something I have never experienced?  Something that I (not anyone else) can know the whole truth of?

Bu that’s bullshit.  I was missing our shared hummanity.  Before being white or black or brown or purple; before being Episcopalean or Catholic or Jewish or Pastafarian, we are all human.  We are all perfectly imperfect humans with hopes, dreams, ideas, experiences and relationships.  That is my place to stand.  So stand there I will.

And now a final realization that came to me while I was writing this post.  Writing is not doing something.  Or at least not doing enough.  This blog has always been a way for me to organize my thoughts, with the (sometimes imagined) reader acting as a force directing me to be as clear and coherent as possible.  So writing this post has served to help me get my thoughts in order, but thoughts without action are pissing into the wind.  Far too often, I write something here (or worse post something on social media and feel like I did something.  WTF is wrong with me?

I am ashamed of my initial insticnt to slink back into the woods and wish it would all go away, or at least all go away for me.  If everyone like me, who thinks we can and should do better does that, where do we end up?  No place good.  At the same time, I am trying to have compassion for myself because it is really hard to know what’s true, to know what’s really going on.  I really enjoy certainty.  Knowing, for sure, that what I am doing is right and my motivations are well ordered and intentioned.  What would it feel like to not have to know?

This deadly combination of feeling like I didn’t have a place to stand in opposition and not being sure of the “right” thing to do has been paralyzing.  But no more.  I can’t let perfect be the enemy of good.  Here’s my plan:

  • I am not quite sure I am ready to join the protests, but I am supporting those that are by donating to bail funds.  I gave to the Cincinnati, Lexiginton and Louisville funds listed here.   I recognize there is a chance that I might be bailing out someone who might be guilty of more than nonviolent protest, but from what I have seen in my local area, the number of protestors being arrested for vilating curfew is far outnumbering the number of looters that have been apprehended, so I am willing to take that risk.
  • I am going to start voting again.  My politics are complicated, confused and ever changing.  I haven’t stood in a voting booth (or otherwise cast my ballot since 2004 other than one single issue vote a few years back (whether or not the county I live in should be wet or not = sell alcohol) and this past KY Guberbatorial election so I could vote for the Libertarian candidate.  I dropped out of voting based on the extreme position that “all voting is violence”.  I still believe that, but I now believe even more in the idea expressed so well in the quote from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  This does mean that I will have to spend more time researching candidates, their positions and their records.  I am still not 100% confident that voting is entirely moral, but that seems rather esoteric.
  • I am going to start showing up at meetings.  I loathe adding this one to my plan given my brief experience going to shcool board meetings in what seems like a lifetime ago, but I am adding it because it represents another form of involvement and learning.  I am sure there will be some wastes of time, I know I won’t make all of them, and I am not even sure what meetings I should start attending.  Doesn’t matter.  Google works and I have some time to spend.  What else is more important than getting actively engaged in making things better.

This plan of action isn’t perfect.  It might not do much of anything.  I am sure there is still some ego in there.  Some privelage that I am neither sensative too nor understand.  But I can’t just think and write anymore.  I just can’t let perfect be the enemy of good, especially when there is so much that could be better.

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miscellaneous

A gift from my past self to my present self

This blogging thing is finally paying some dividends. Today comes a bit of perspective. Almost exactly 10 years ago today I was “trapped” in Europe due to an ash cloud that made it unsafe to fly. Reading the post I wrote after I got home brings back a flood of memories. At the time I could sense that it was something I would always remember. I was gald to have John along with me to share the experience. But most of all was the overwhelming desire I had to get back home, specifically to celebrate my birthday.

Let’s think about this for a bit. There I was, at first in Frankfort then in Barcelona, on a company expense account with a free pass to spend whatever was needed. The streets in Barcelona were full night and day with both locals Brits that had taken the one flight back from the US to somewhere in Europe that was still operating. There was plenty to eat and drink. We stayed in a 5 star hotel our first night in Barcelona and then moved to something more affordable…right on the Ramblas! The weather was perfect and John and I even had a local guide from our business that was more than happy to show us around. Yet, every few hours I was calling in to Delta and getting on their website to get home as soon as I could. WTF was wrong with me?!?

Flash forward 10 years and here I am at home on my birthday. I got exactly what I wanted so desperately 10 years ago. Yet I had been dreading today a bit. Not because of the number I’ll hang around my neck for the next year, but rather because I am stuck at home like everyone else. My pre-COVID plans for this weekend were as follows:

  • Friday: Symphony (Mahler) and dinner / drinks with some friends
  • Saturday: Shakespeare (Hamlet) and dinner / drinks with some other friends
  • Sunday: Keenland and lunch and ponies with lots of friends.
  • Monday: Day off from work to recover.

10 years ago I was in an amazing place and desperately wanted to be somewhere else. Today my 37 year old self gave my 47 year old self a present: the ability to see that although I would prefer to be somewhere other than home, it is in fact an amazing place if I would just settle in and enjoy it.

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This is not the new normal…yet

Since there seems to be plenty of expert opinion out there on what happened, what is happening and what will happen with COVID-19, I am going to attempt to limit myself to my own experience. What I am thinking about, going through and doing as I live through this once in a lifetime experience.

I am having trouble keeping track of what’s changing. I think it was only last Monday that Kentucky and Ohio closed all of their restaurants. While that may be chronologically true, my sense of the amount of time that passed since then makes it seem a month ago or so. My experience of time passing is directly tied to how much of what goes on I have experienced before. None of this has happened to me before, so it seems to pass much more slowly, with more packed in to each day.

I am noticing that the thin veneer has started to wear off at work. Some of the things that were important a few weeks ago don’t seem so now. I notice this in my own ability to pay attention and in the focus, energy and effort that others are bringing to the endless zoom meetings that we are having. I have decided to view this as a good thing – this can be a chance to “burn off” some of the project chaff and focus on what really matters.

I am thankful for the technology that I have access too. I can’t imagine going through this 20 or even 10 years ago. It’s true that I wouldn’t be so agitated/distracted/consumed by media, but I also wouldn’t be able to maintain some sense of normal through virtual happy hours, meeting up with the folks from my gym for a workout from home, and something to watch that the whole family can get into.

I am also thankful for the wake up this has provided me and those around me. While it’s uncomfortable to think about, which is why we don’t, the fact is that living is inherently a risky adventure. Every time I used to leave the house in my car, dine out, or get on a plane, it might be the last time I do that. Those are all risks I’ve accepted and so don’t think about too much, which helps my psyche, but doesn’t really force me to live in the moment with any urgency. This is all a great reminder that now is really all I have so I best make the best of it.

I am thinking about William Bridges transitions model. I have read a lot about “the new normal”, but I think that is misleading. What I am experiencing now is not sustainable, so by definition it can’t last = be the new normal. What I think we are in now is the luminal stage between an old normal and a new normal. I have experienced the grief and pain of letting go. Not going out to eat on Friday’s with the family. Cancelled plays, symphonies and summer music festivals. Putting another trip to Europe on indefinite hold. Now I am in between. A place where I know that the old is gone, but that the new hasn’t quite taken shape. Bridges points out that there is great power and opportunity in this in between space. It’s a time for questioning old assumptions and trying on new ways of being. It’s a time for patience and not rushing to the new normal. If I take my time and sit comfortably with “not knowing” I can use this time to explore many options for what a new normal could look like before settling into one that I prefer. I am slowly settling in to not having to know.