Thursday, September 1, 2016

It's about Life, isn't it?

I look in the mirror in the evening and I look the same as I did in the morning, except perhaps a bit “work weary”. I go to sleep and look in the mirror the next morning and still, no change. At least that’s what my mirror says. It lies - it’s all in the perception of the reflection.

Some people say you should live one day at a time. But living my life one day at a time didn’t show the effect of the many days at a time I’ve lived. Days into weeks into months into years. I realized something was different. The mirror I’ve been relying on to make sure I’m still me imprinted an image on my brain and I’ve only been comparing that to my brain's digital image from a day or week before. I needed to dig way back in my brain’s archives to try and request the image from many years prior. When this antique image appears I need to realize this image is just the visual placeholder for everything stored in the files behind it.

I’ve concluded the deep differences between those files and the ones I’ve experienced today is called “Life”. At least I think so. This changes everything for me. I really had thought nothing much had changed within me over the years. I knew my hair and body has changed, but I blame that on stress, lack of sleep and exercise, and my ambitious search for the perfect cheeseburger. The outside of me is easy to recognize. My activities don’t seem to have changed either - I still play piano, take photos, go to work, fly several times a month, watch the same TV shows, and perform the same routines of rising, dressing, then later undressing, watching TV, and going to bed. Repeat daily.

Like I said - nothing really SEEMS to have changed. Turns out I’ve been missing (or ignoring) the files underneath. If the top layer is the body and the superficial and visual representation of myself; and beneath it is the group of day-to-day and week-to-week and month-to-month actions and activities, planned or unplanned; then way down below all of that is the invisible glue that keeps everything together, hopefully. It is where my personality lives, my humor, my joys and sadness, and my character. The various file names include such notables as “family”, “friends”, “loves”, and yes, some called “hates”, although I try to put those in the back of the box. Other files are in there too - “emotions”, “feelings”, “fears”, “happiness”, “anxiety”, both “helpfulness” and “helplessness”, “charity”, both “selffullness” and “selflessness”, “proud of's”, “hurt by's”, “hopes”, “dreams”, (although often my hopes and dreams files get mixed together and by then nothing really gets done in either.) There are a lot of other files and each of us has a different stack of them.

So I’ve decided Life is just all of them put together - All the files with all the little paperclipped notes and post-its hanging out of them. Try to leave anything out and it feels incomplete. Well, sometimes you feel it, but unfortunately, sometimes you don’t but that doesn’t mean it’s not missing. You just haven’t caught up enough to spot the hole in your life yet. But it’s coming. Definitely coming. OK.

I’m not really sure what, if anything, is underneath supporting this immense layer of files, but I imagine it’s probably God, the Universe, Humanity, or most likely all three smooshed together like a coldstone wonderland.

Father and Son

A Son and his Father
A Father and his Son

Holding his hand
Walking slowly together
One step at a time
Knowing time is short
Just a memory, only steps away.

One tall and full, the other thin and feeble, in baggy pants, body withered and gaunt
The Son tanned and strong, yet worn by half of life, leads with his arm.
The Father pale, hunched over, trying to keep up, inches at a time.

Son looking forward, surrounded by life.
Father looking back, seeing the future
And knowing He will be at the beginning again soon.

The Placecard

There it was. Just resting harmlessly on the table, folded neatly in half so it would sit up straight just north of my plate. It was Christmas eve and in a post-Santa frenzy of shredded wrapping paper, knotted ribbons, torn boxes, and soon to be broken toys, this little piece of paper was the focus of my undivided attention. There were quite a few of these miniature roadsigns to well needed sustenance, but this one was different. I knew it was mine.

Through the scrawled handwriting, the best you can get from a precocious 5 year old but a delight nonetheless, I could read my name written on this little card. I’ve seen my name a gazillion times, so not unexpected way for me to know this was where I was supposed to sit and enjoy the 85 pounds of way too tasty turkey, ham, amazing sweet potatoes covered in a Pompeii-like dusting of a pound of brown sugar, and of course the traditional twice-a-year green bean casserole. But that was not all it said. Right before my name was some more scribbling. Perhaps the most amazing word I’ve seen in a long time. The kind of word that makes you feel important and humble at the same time, undeserving and proud, bringing with it a 64 color crayon box of feelings — happiness, responsibility, being loved, mega warm & fuzzy, all with the unexpected knowledge something adorable just happened.

What is going on here? It appears I’ve arrived. I finally made the big time. And you know what? I feel like I’m home.

The place card read “Papa Mark”.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

People can be human too. Well some can anyway.

After my last post, it may appear that I think people are the worst thing to happen to this planet. George Carlin said it best when he declared that humans must really think a lot of themselves if they think that they can destroy the earth with their pollution and greenhouse gasses and global warming and nuclear bombs when the earth has withstood two ice ages and a giant meteor attack. He proclaimed proudly that the Earth wasn't going anywhere -- WE were! Anyway, all that to say that I don't really think the worst in everyone. I haven't canceled my Pessimists Monthly subscription yet, but occasionally find some people quite redeeming.

Usually they come in pairs - one without a clue followed closely by one that seems to have it all figured out. Take this afternoon for instance. I was at the car wash waiting for my "$7 in 7 Minutes" external wash (actually it always takes longer, but for $7 I figure it's not worth pointing out and later finding that "slow leak" in one of my tires). I was sitting in constant observance of my surroundings like I was Jason Bourne and may have to kill a bunch of terrorists trying to get at the $1.23 in my change compartment. Then I saw it -- a brand new Mercedes convertible pulls in and slows down as it approaches the multiple lanes for the different service levels. The driver was what I would call a typical Newport Beach Benz driver - over dressed for this warm afternoon (and all in white - like who does that?) and with that unmistakable facial smoothness revealing a face that has been pulled back a few times so that it now blends perfectly with the leather seats and the canvas convertible top. As she peered over the steering wheel (they never get the seat/steering wheel adjustment right - have you noticed?) I could tell she was quite perplexed about which lane to go in. She clearly had more than the $7 for my favorite line, but being a brand new vehicle (no plates and you could still smell the last of the free gas she got when she drove it out of the showroom), she really did not need the $49 handwash special either. I am pretty sure she was hoping for a lane that was only for "Wheel, Mirror, and Windshield Wash" with the optional satellite radio wipedown. For $4 more they will pet your poodle, which, take it from me, is a LOT cheaper than I usually have to spend to get MY poodle petted. Alas, the joys of wealthy ignorance. I didn't stick around to see how it turned out -- she may still be sitting there.

I left there and stopped at a little restaurant (actually it's a big restaurant but it's the middle of the afternoon and there was only me and this one couple there). Well I got my "salad wrap" - a new hybrid kind of food which combines normally fattening items with some lettuce and sticks it in a big tortilla so you feel like you're eating healthy and you can tell your friends you had a salad, plus hybrids are in now. Making my 4th trip to the water bar (which would not be necessary had I purchased a soda as those glasses are oil drum sized, while the water - which is free, is served in a tiny plastic cup normally reserved for those fun tests at the doctors' office only I didn't have a pen to write my name on the side) well I noticed the (much) older couple sitting off to the side. They were conspicuous as their cute-ability factor was off the charts. They both sat on the same side of the booth, which is normally reserved for guys on their first dates that don't know any better (really guys - you've got be able to make eye contact or you're never going to get to the good kind of contact!) or kids in high school that are hoping to cop a feel when nobody is looking. These guys may be thinking the same thing, who knows? Well they would deserve it. The man is on the outside as the typical protector of his lovely (eye of the beholder kind of thing definitely) bride of many decades. They were both wrapped in heavy outer coats with several layers of suits and stuff underneath. He had a wool hat and she had a nice scarf. It was about 70 or so in the place, so I'm thinking they just had everything they owned on at the moment. I looked for an old brown square leather suitcase nearby, but didn't see it. It would have completed the picture I had based on watching way too many depression era and WWII movies of Europeans on the move. Reluctant travelers from the known to the unknown carrying only their hopes for something better, but content just being together.

I have been searching for that kind of happiness and was about to give up, but now I know I only need to get in my time machine and travel back about seventy years to when times were REALLY bad in order to see that I must be a millionaire of dreams to them. However, that would mean that they actually noticed me, which I doubt as I leave and walk past them in that booth. Sitting there, side-by-side in silent admiration of one another, sipping their soup in unison and occasionally smiling at each other for reasons known only to themselves or better yet - for no reason at all.

Those are good people. I'll take those kind all day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mental Health -- It's harder than you think!

That's my new bumper sticker for the "Tolerance for assholes" impaired crowd.

I've always said the world would be a great place to live if it weren't for all the people. I mean the parts of it that people haven't had a chance to screw up are pretty cool - inspiring even. I guess there is probably a number of people out there that think the same thing as me and to them I wouldn't be around so it's probably a moot point to think about. Which brings me to the reality (ugh) that we're all stuck here together. Now I know why I can't wait to get home at night.

Even then, the drive home forces me to deal with all the same people driving with their cellphones held up to their ear that were doing it before they passed the headset law. And they all seem to only be able to hear out of their left ears so they never can see me as they change lanes and nearly change my radio station in the process since they are so close not being able to see anything to the left side of their nose. Jabber away - it is at this point that I tend to yell out to my empty car for them to just "GET OFF YOUR F-ING CELL PHONE!!". They don't seem to hear me. Why do I bother yelling at them if they're not paying any attention? Maybe if I rolled down the windows first... but then, they might not have purchased a blue tooth headset because they spent all their cash on the pistol in the glove box, so perhaps I'll just let that one go for now.

The only other thing that really gets me going in my drive to or from the office is the seemingly endless parade of bicyclists that make up their own rules on MY road. Now before I get a ton of hate mail (not that it will influence my opinion at this point), I'm not talking about the handful of people that have to use their bikes for real transportation or all the fun looking couples out there on their beach cruisers or having a nice afternoon on their mountain bikes or the small groups of REAL professionals that are actually training for the Olympics or something and understand the concept of sharing the road and playing nicely with their 4,000 pound neighbors a few inches to their left. In fact I even enjoy watching these real bike races and respect those that risk so much to pursue that dream.

No, I am not talking about any of those guys, but rather that ridiculous group of clones that don't seem to have anything better to do when I'm driving to work in the mornings besides staring at the multi-colored saran wrapped butts of the 2 dozen bicyclists all lined up in front of them. Honestly - somebody pass a law that these color-wheel disaster bike outfits only come in small or medium and that they should NOT STRETCH more than a few percent. I haven't done the math on this, but I'm fairly certain that a 250 pound bicyclist on a 1/2 pound bike is not going to shave 5 seconds off his time because he's wearing his version of the cape-less Superman outfit. They run in packs in my neighborhood, being the bike friendly capital of the universe apparently, like so many brightly colored comets bunched up behind or in front of me with total disregard for my existence. My usual question is - I wonder what kinds of jobs these guys have that lets them "go play" with their friends every morning when I'M GOING TO WORK!? That thought blurs as they whiz past me in glorious cycle technicolor.

And who are all these companies that have their names on these psychedelic outfits? All the writing seems to be French or Italian and probably just mean things like "biker dude" or "tight is right" but in a foreign language to sound elitist the same way Starbucks pulls that whole Venti/Grande thing on us every morning. Really Starbucks, I'm addicted to whatever you put in that stuff every day but can't you just name the damn sizes the way they look? And they should label the bicyclist's outfits the way they look as well - "Too small, too tight", too "Can you see my package?", and too "I can only get my sense of self worth smelling the butts of 50 more bicyclists in front of me all dressed the same." Plus I'm pretty sure one of those stickers they wear is French for "I can drive anywhere I want and don't have to stay in the lines or obey stoplights and you can't do a damn thing about it in your big old SUV that could knock me off the road just by activating the adjustable mirrors because my lawyer is Larry H Parker and he got me 2.1 Million dollars." Or something to that effect.

And in God's bizarre sense of humor, these bike clubs and my starbucks tend to collide on Saturday mornings as I'm standing in line trying to get my regular Grande IN a Venti Double cup - said very slowly so I don't actually get two cups of coffee - and I freeze as I hear the clippity-clop of their little shoes that don't have any souls (yes, I meant to spell it like that), but rather just a quick release clip to connect them to their individual mother ships parked outside. You can't wear golf shoes in the clubhouse, so why doesn't anyone decide that they don't want these noisy obnoxious semi-shoes in their stores? The reason is that they all buy triple venti non-fat lattes with light foam extra hot using skim milk from free range Argentinian goats (just before they were slaughtered to make the little breakfast sandwiches..) and they make a butt-load of money off them all.

But you want to know the real reason I can't stand these kinds of bikers? It's not any of these silly affectations they exude - including the funky suits. It's the fact that by not paying attention to me driving as they blow through a stop sign or cross en mass at the last minute across my freeway onramp turn they are forcing ME to be responsible for THEIR lives. And I did not ask to take that on. They are not my children or spouse or anyone else I am dedicated to protect no matter what they do. They're just multi-colored assholes that need a reality check; which is saying a lot considering my own struggle with reality!

And that is why it's so hard to maintain, or even DEFINE, Sanity.

Mental Health -- It really is Harder than you think.

Friday, December 5, 2008

George or Clarence?

As we approach the holiday movie season, oh hell, what am I saying, I watch Christmas movies year 'round, anyway I started thinking recently that I had to be one of these two characters from Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life". Not sure exactly how I came to that conclusion, but I have been sidetracked lately wondering about it. For those of you that don't remember (or heaven forbid have never seen it - go download it today on iTunes, or better yet - watch it free on Google Video!), Clarence is the angel sent to Bedford Falls to save George Bailey when he jumps off the bridge and hopes to get his wings by his actions.

So back to my question --

Am I George? Someone that seemingly has everything - friends, family, respect, integrity, love and admiration, but then runs into some trouble brought on by external circumstances, but trouble that he accepts full responsibility for and thereby spirals downward out of control until he ends up on the bridge facing the icy water below and pondering the thought that the world would have been better if he never existed.

Or am I Clarence? Someone that knows he has a special purpose, but that purpose has eluded him time and again until he is not sure he will ever fully realize what he is put on earth for. Even when he gets the chance to help someone that really needs him but does not know it, he still stumbles along unsure that he's really going to change George's life. The genius of his character is his impulse to jump off the bridge first thereby forcing George to save him instead of throwing his own life away.

I know there are other characters in the film, but I never related so well to anyone else. I take that back - maybe Zuzu - the little kid that got sick and only had to rest at home waiting for her daddy to discover the flower petals hidden in his vest pocket then he'd come running back to hug her after knocking that damn stairway banister off its post again. No other worries, nothing but the smells and sounds of Christmas going on in the rest of the house. Well, that's all a bit too distant and since I know I'm not a "Potter" or even the lovable Bert the cop or Ernie the cabbie, that brings me back to my original question.

So which one am I - George or Clarence?

Either way, I'm going in the water...