Category: Uncategorized

eyes front

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In surfing, one of the first things you learn is to never turn your back on the ocean. All might be calm on the horizon, but the moment you turn your head to see if the seagulls are stealing your Funyuns, a watery fist swings up from nowhere, flips you sideways, cracks your board into your skull, and pins you underwater. You rise, gasping, with ringing ears and angry tears in your eyes, salt mixed with more salt, looking around wildly for the culprit, only to see calm ocean everywhere, the thief of both your balance and your dignity hiding around a liquid corner. Until next time.

Same with your life. Or in my case, my life. I rise every morning like the good citizen I am. I make coffee, shower, put on clothes, drive to work and back, staring into a computer monitor and moving a little piece of plastic with a button on it around and around in tiny circles on my desk. I make decisions that may or may not help people, may or may not bring people happiness, relief, or at the very least, a modicum of satisfaction. Some days I pretend to care. Some days I really do care; about all the young faces before me, all their hopes and dreams, their tan, athletic legs, their sun-kissed locks of hair that would look right at home atop the heads of Thor or Freyja.

I eat when I’m hungry. I eat when I’m not hungry. I talk to myself in my head, make plans for my future. As in, how will I get through the boredom and frustration of the next work hour, day, week? When will I get an office aboveground, with a window, running water, a bathroom, and maybe air conditioning? What will I have for dinner? When will I need to go grocery shopping? Buy more toilet paper? Will I have enough money to buy toilet paper? Will I have to return bottles for gas or steal money from my children to buy gas like last time? Have the hemp seeds I bought a month ago gone rancid, or can I add them to tomorrow morning’s smoothie?

No matter how hard I work, not matter how hard my wife works, we never have enough money. Writing about it or not writing about it has the same effect, which is no effect. I try not to mention I’m poor in polite company anymore, unless I’m making a joke about it. Everyone has troubles of their own, thank you very much, and besides, it must be something I’ve done wrong. I shouldn’t have gone out for sushi. I need to get on a budget. I should have paid off my student loans by now. Why did I rent that beach house twenty years ago? How could I have been so irresponsible? Put back those cookies. 

Social media mocks me. Things that are trending mock me. Audi SUVs mock me. Vacation photos mock me. Boats whizzing by on the river with Golden Retrievers barking on the bow while I’m pulling boulders out of the ground on a Saturday morning mock me. Honest work is all I can do, and it’s not enough. I know I have a bad attitude some days. Yes, I should breathe. Go for a walk. Listen to music. Meditate like the Zen masters taught me. Sit under a tree and read my book and let little green caterpillars from the branches high above fall and then tumble down my neck and into the back of my shirt. Yes, yes, yes. I should do all these things. 

I’m a man which means I should suffer in silence. Or not suffer in silence and let my feelings out, in which case I’m a crybaby. Shut up, already! No one wants to hear it! Didn’t I tell you in the paragraph above that everyone has troubles and yours aren’t any more special or depressing than mine? 

We can only live one life at a time, and as a friend said, the longer we do something, the harder it is to do anything else. For example, I’d like to learn how to be a pot farmer. But obviously that will never happen. So, I could write a story or a book about being a pot farmer. Purge all my wonder. Have all my questions asked and answered that way. Yet, when I write, I would rather be painting. When I’m painting, I’d rather be taking photographs, and when I’m taking photographs, writing. I suppose this is a good thing, although most days it doesn’t feel that way. It’s an invisible circle in my head that no one sees.

All of this is true, some of it is true, maybe none of it is true. What’s really important, and what I started out wanting to say before I digressed into a pity party, is that it’s really, really important to heed the surfing instructor’s instructions: never take your eyes off the horizon. Don’t turn your back on the ocean. Keep your eyes open. Front. 

About a week ago, my wife, bless her soul because she tolerates these missives, came up with a genius idea while we were driving. She reminded me of a metal box I bought her for her birthday one year. The box was decorated like a vintage lunchbox and was meant to hold art supplies. What if, she asked, instead of art supplies, we write down our dreams, things that we want and hope for, on little slips of paper, and put them in the box? Then, as we accomplish the things we want to do, we take the slips out of the box. I joked that we’d need a bigger box because it would soon be filled with hundreds of unfulfilled dreams and desires. But I was just being sarcastic. It is a great idea, and we are going to do it. We talk about buying a bus or camper when our kids are in college, outfitting it with solar panels, and driving cross-country, taking our time and following the sun. Maybe that will be the first slip that goes into the box.

If we keep our eyes on the horizon long enough, coming up for air every time the ocean of our lives tries to hold us under the waves, I know we’ll get there.

 

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bcd2

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I’ve always felt that shoes, like most clothes, are kind of bullshit, disrupting one of our few full-time connections to the earth. Our feet have over 7,000 nerve endings that most of the time we shield from our environment. I noticed this yesterday when I walked barefoot around the track. The cool, pebbly rubber. The sand grains scattered on the track from a nearby long jump pit. My slightly altered, and more careful, gait as I walked without my customary protection. Like finding a sixth taste. A podiatry umami.

Today’s challenge is much the same as yesterday. Posture resets, 10 toe crunches, and another 30-minute walk, preferably outside. My biggest obstacle today will be time. I don’t think I’ll be able to take my usual one-hour lunch break, and I have some family business to tend to after work. There’s an outdoor high school track near my house. I might be able to find the time to go there around 7. But I live in Maine and there’s still snow on the ground in some places. The track is clear, but I’m guessing not very warm. Still, I may give it a shot. It’s only 30 minutes.

My myofascial roller comes tomorrow. And I slept with my lacrosse ball last night. Don’t tell.

the long goodbye

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Who will be the last person using facebook? Because you know it’s going to die. It’s dying already. Every time facebook makes a change to its look, or updates its privacy policy, it dies a little more. There’s going to come a day when post-boomers like me will finally take our data and go home. I’m not talking about taking a break or deactivating for a set period of time. I’m talking about downloading all your data from facebook (which can be done anytime, at least at the moment) and obliterating your account forever. Of course, the longer we wait, the harder the breakup will be. Most of our history, at least the last five years’ worth, is here. The most recent iteration of facebook, rolled out today, gives you even less freedom to change the look of your news feed than the last upgrade. The actual space where you interact with your friends is shrinking. Algorithms determine who and how often you interact with your friends. Ads are multiplying. The space where real life happens is being squeezed. Soon, I wonder if your feed will look like the screen of a CNBC show, with news tickers and stock prices scrolling down and across your screen, multiple windows open replete with talking heads, so that the thing you actually tuned in to watch is crammed into a small space at the center of your feed. Even the term feed has complacent, bovine overtones. We are being fed, almost against our will. We are given the illusion of sharing, when in fact we are being data strip-mined. We give it all voluntarily, of course. Maybe in the near future, we’ll turn back to real life and realize the only people we need to share with are the people right in front of us. We’ll give up our smartphones and talk to people the old-fashioned way, with actual phone calls and letters, or face-to-face conversations. I’ve lamented this before and to death. I’ve left and come back. But every time I come back, I have less and less patience. I’ve given up Instagram, Vine, and Twitter. I never had Snapchat and never plan to start, just like I don’t ever plan to start shooting smack. Don’t let the powers-that-be tell you that you need all this stuff. You don’t. Say no, while you still have time. Take back real life. It can be done.

So…let’s imagine a pre-facebook world, shall we? Post-boomers, I ask you: What would it look like?

I’ll tell you: Like our thirties.