BWI: Blogging While Irritated

My brain is sputtering.

So, I’m in a foul mood. I’ve been ensnarled in an idiotic bureaucratic bit of insanity, and the only one who will suffer is yours truly. To say that I’m irritated is putting it mildly.

I’d get it if it made sense. I’d roll with it if the hoops I’m being forced to jump through were mandatory. But no. I’m being put through my paces simply to avoid inconveniencing everyone except me.

And the worst part about it? My brain is sputtering. I can’t think of a single thing to blog about.

I’d really rather not turn into one of those bloggers who does nothing but rage against the machine. Okay, yeah. I do that every now and then. But I don’t want to only be known as the voice for the malcontents. I don’t want to simply rant so that no one else has to.

I want to be both light and dark, happy and sad. I want to be nuanced. I want to be layered, like an onion, only without bringing tears to the eyes of everyone who comes in contact with me.

So I’ll simply say that today I’m annoyed, and here’s a picture of a kitten. See? I can be nuanced, gosh darn it.


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Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Do snails ever get impatient?

As a bridgetender, I get to spend a great deal of time contemplating patience or the lack thereof. It continually astounds me how irritated people become when they’re held up by an opening bridge. The average opening is 4 ½ minutes long, and most commuters are well aware that a drawbridge is on their route, and therefore the possibility of a delay exists, and yet I still have the pleasure of watching their heads explode from sheer frustration several times a day. They curse. They shout. They throw things. They pound their steering wheels and beep their horns. And my drawbridge carries on.

Do snails ever get impatient? Are they resigned to their fate, or do they think they’re moving along at breakneck speed? I wish they could talk. I’d love to learn more about their attitudes about life.

Recently I came home to find a gorgeously striped one sitting on my doorstep. I’m a live and let live kind of person, so I bid him good day and gently stepped past him to get inside. I figured he’d move along eventually, and he did. I know some gardeners take a dim view of snails, but I think they have just as much right to eat as I do.

I’ve always been attracted to the unorthodox, or maybe it’s that I’m easily entertained, but when I found out that there’s a World Snail Racing Championship every July in Congham, England, I thought, “Okay, that goes on my bucket list, for sure.” It sounds like great fun.

As this race, the participating snails are arrayed along the inner circle of a wet cloth, and the first snail to touch the outer circle, about 13 inches away, is declared the winner. My goodness, that must be exciting to watch. The delayed gratification would have me biting my nails down to the quick.

One assumes that no snails are harmed during the course of this event, and that doping is not tolerated by the judges. But you never know. Scandals have been known to crop up in the most unusual places.

Another plus side to this event is it makes an excellent fundraiser. I’m kind of surprised that other communities haven’t adopted this sport. Snails come with their own safety equipment, so start up costs would be minimal.

Maybe you’ll see me at the races someday. My snail will have lightning bolts painted on his shell with orange nail polish, and he’ll answer to the name Scamper. That seems like a recipe for success to me.

Slow Down

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One Crabby Family

During one of my recent “weekends” (Oh, to actually have it fall on a weekend, for once, but nooooo…) I went with my first Seattle friend to visit her parents in Port Townsend, Washington. What a gorgeous place! I’ll write about it tomorrow.

For today, I want to write more about what interested me the most about the visit: the family itself. It occurred to me during this trip that it’s a rare and special treat to experience the dynamics of a family other than my own. It was fascinating to sit back and observe how this family unit worked for two days. It was kind of like a sociological experiment, but one that left me feeling delighted.

My friend is a free spirit. She refuses to be defined. All I can say is that she’s a yoga-teaching, dog-walking, child-loving force of nature. I wish I was like her at her age. I’d like to think I’m slowly becoming like that at age 50 in my own way, but at 36 she’s already there, and I find that so admirable I can’t even put it into words.

But once I met her parents, I understood how she was able to grow so solidly into her own person. Her parents are their own people too. Retired, they recently had this stunning house built in this splendid community, and they don’t seem to have slowed down in the slightest.

Her father rides his bike 8 miles a day, and walks the dog, and is landscaping their entire yard from scratch. I have to say he’s doing a magnificent job. He also volunteers at various events, and will soon be doing a weekly Jazz radio show. Jazz is definitely his thing.

Her mother is, to sum her up, quite a pistol. She is irreverent, hilarious, and a fantastic cook. And she goes crabbing 5 days a week. I swear to God. This woman is out pulling crab traps into a tiny boat every day, and when she gets home, she bashes their little brains out and makes the most satisfying, delicious meals I’ve ever eaten. Honestly, how cool is that? She also seems to be the glue that holds the whole family together.

My friend’s sister wasn’t there during my stay, but she felt like a solid presence, as she was talked about often with great affection.

All three of them made me feel quite at home. Quite comfortable. They even allowed me to bring my dogs, which was extremely generous given the fact that one of them acted the fool the entire time by growling at their sweet old dog and pooping in their living room. That was the only time I felt mortified during my stay.

And what a loving family it is. They all know each other’s quirks and foibles, and for the most part they find each other amusing. Sure, they bicker and gripe from time to time, but in the end, the main thing is the love.

I watched my friend poke her mom as she snored though a movie we were watching. (I wouldn’t mention that except that she has one of my favorite qualities: she doesn’t care what people think.) I also listened to them all debate about whether a water filter should or should not be changed or the music should be turned up or down. All of this nearly brought tears to my eyes.

I would love to still have my mother around to poke. I’d love to have family members to irritate me. I’d love to have a gorgeous, active retirement (or any retirement at all, for that matter, but those are not the cards I have been dealt). I’d love to have a solid family unit and know without a doubt that people had my back. What a gift. What a treasure.

What an amazing family. It was wonderful to be a part of it, if only for a day or two. I was grateful for the opportunity to sit around a table eating crab with this deliciously crabby family! I will forever savor the memory of it.

[Image credit:]
[Image credit:]

EARN Your Misery

There are very few things that irritate me as much as watching people wallowing in their own misery and doing nothing to get out of it. There are a lot of awful situations in this world, and many of us have every right to be miserable. But if the universe is lobbing rotten tomatoes at you, the least you can do is try to duck and dodge. For God’s sake, don’t sit there and passively take it. Try your best to do something about it.

I was profoundly unhappy for years. Decades, to be honest. But I was always trying to change that. If I wasn’t in therapy, I was in school to try to educate myself into another career. If I wasn’t doing that, I was breaking out of toxic relationships, or working on my health, or relocating. The vast majority of the things I tried didn’t work at all. Some things made my life even worse. I have a rare talent for mucking things up. But there was no denying the fact that I was trying. I was doing something. I was making an effort.

And it wasn’t easy. A lot of the time I wanted to give up hope. It takes energy to dig yourself out of a dark hole, and when you’re unhappy, you don’t have any to spare. But you have to find it.

So, if you’re in an unhappy relationship, don’t just sit there and suffer. Position yourself so that you can move on. It might take you years, but you won’t regret it.

Not happy with your financial situation? Don’t resign yourself to your current job. Research careers that will be more lucrative. Learn something new. Put in some applications. Network.

Don’t like the way you’re living your life? Figure out how you would like things to change, determine what you’d need to do to make those changes, and start making plans. One thing I can guarantee you is that the world owes you nothing, so sitting around and waiting for it to pay that debt is an exercise in futility. You need to blaze your own trail.

I’m not suggesting that everything you attempt is going to be a huge success. That only happens in the movies. I’m not even implying that you will be happier 10 years from now than you are at this moment. But at the very least, you’ll have earned your misery. You won’t have felt sorry for yourself. You can dance in the eye of your storm and shout, “Bring it on!!! I can take it!” If you’ve tried and failed, well, then you can be miserable with your head held high. That counts for something.

But then again, you might surprise yourself. Things might just work out. Hey, it took me 50 years. But I can now say with all sincerity that it was worth it.

You can do it! [Image credit:]
You can do it!
[Image credit:]

So Happy for You! Sort of.

I have six friends who have always had some combination of the following: Good looks. Happy marriages. Dream jobs. The ability to travel extensively. Plenty of money. Gorgeous houses. Excellent health. A secure retirement nest egg. And I’m happy for them. Really I am. It couldn’t happen to nicer people.

But I have to admit that sometimes when I hear of their latest success or incredible run of good luck, I get a little irritated as well. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m jealous as hell. Because mine has not been a life full of those attributes, and at my age, the ship has sailed on most of those things. That’s just a simple fact. Most of us were not born with the Midas touch. Lord knows I wasn’t.

It’s not that I wish them divorce or unemployment or illness. I don’t wish that on anyone, especially on someone I love. It’s just that when I congratulate them, at the same time my inner child is wailing, “Why not meeeeeeeee?” If that makes me seem a little less sincere, I can’t seem to help it.

That’s a really putrid feeling to have, because I can also look over my shoulder and see millions, if not billions, of people who are much worse off than I’ll ever be. I seem to have hit that sweet spot where I feel bitter, and simultaneously feel guilty about that bitterness. Great.

The advice I give myself, which I seem to struggle to take, is to stop comparing myself to others and just live my life, warts and all. What can I say? I’m a work in progress.


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When Things Go Wrong

When your job requires that you open and close a drawbridge and something happens that causes it to malfunction, that’s a bad day. That’s a stressful, paperwork-generating, workmen-crawling-all-over-your-territory type of day. I don’t like those days. I’m having one of those days.

But really, since I didn’t do anything to break one of the most expensive pieces of equipment owned by the City of Seattle, I shouldn’t let it get to me. Nothing has “gone wrong”. Things are just not going according to my plan. It would be arrogant of me to think that my plan was the way things ought to be. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, who am I? If the universe sees fit to drop a bomb in the middle of my flimsy little itinerary, what gives me the right to complain?

Perhaps when I’m feeling as though things have gone wrong, I should try to look at it slightly differently. It’s change. Change happens. I need to focus on better ways to identify and adapt to change, rather than panic or grouse or be bothered by things I cannot control.

When you think about it, being rattled by change is about as silly as shouting at the waves for crashing up on the beach. They’re going to wash up no matter how big a tantrum I might choose to throw, so perhaps it’s time to stop making an existential fool of myself.

While I am capable of making choices in my life (and believe me, I’ve made some doozies), I am not the driver of destiny’s car. Getting too full of myself and thinking I’m steering this thing is what causes me to feel disappointment, frustration, and irritation. All of those feelings are generated by a sense of how things are “supposed” to turn out, when in fact, I haven’t a freakin’ clue what will happen next, so harboring a set of expectations is absurd.

So I guess I’ll let the workmen fix the bridge and accept the fact that one way or another, the universe will take care of itself. Whether I like it or not.


[Image credit:]

My Crunchy Granola Epiphany

Last night at about 4 a.m., alone at work and struggling to stay awake, I had an epiphany, and now I’m looking at the world in an entirely different way. Before I present you with my concept, let me say that I’m quite sure this theory didn’t originate with me. There are plenty of crunchy granola new-agey types out there who no doubt have come to the same or similar conclusions. And how’s this for a revelation: my philosophy doesn’t even have to be true for it to have a positive impact on me. Awesome.

I’m calling it Net Theory, and it’s deceptively simple: Everything is connected. All of us are one. From what little I understand about Quantum Theory, I’m fairly certain that it supports this notion. On a sub-atomic level, we’re all a part of one big, uh….thing. We’re bathing in a sea of light waves. There is really no place where I end and you begin.

And once you accept this idea, the way you perceive the universe changes. For example, I’m not as irritated by obnoxious people. I’m just grateful that they are performing this role instead of me. I’m not jealous of people who are more successful than I am, because their success is a reflection of the healthy part of this great net. Politics seem even sillier if that’s possible. It’s just one side of us disagreeing with the other side of us, and whoever comes out on top, well, it’s still us. Prejudice seems absurd, as does war, violence, cruelty, selfishness, pollution, road rage, even petty grudges, because it’s all negative energy directed at the great net of which we are all a part. In other words, it’s self-destructive. I suspect that moving forward, I won’t be as bothered by boredom, because I’ll know that somewhere something interesting is happening. I won’t resent work, because it’s part of what needs to be done.

Charity will seem like a way to be good to myself, as will sex and learning. Religion makes much more sense, because it seems like someone must be keeping this massive organism, for lack of a better word, on track.

Eating, I was musing on the way in to work tonight, is kind of problematic. Am I eating myself? Yuck! But then, why not? It is the gift I give to myself to maintain life. That’s actually beautiful, if you ask me. It’s kind of like the last supper writ large. It sure makes me want to avoid junk food, though.

And the more I get into this concept, the less I am afraid of dying, because now more than ever I can believe that I’ll still be a part of this great interconnectedness that is all of us and everything. I can’t imagine anything more comforting than that.


Patience, dammit!

It’s 7:20 a.m. on a Monday morning and I’m opening the drawbridge for a sailboat. Traffic is backed up for a half mile in either direction. Joggers are jogging in place at the gates, and a few are giving me dirty looks. Horns are honking. Then the sailboat radios in to ask why the bridge is taking so long to open. I reply that the bridge is old, and even the best of us take a while to get moving on these cold mornings. Oddly enough, that really is true. Whether he believes it or not, it seems to mollify him, at least for now.

Once the bridge is opened, the sailboat seems to take his sweet time going through. Once he does, though, I close the bridge as quickly as possible and reopen to traffic. Several cars make a point of honking their horns when they pass, and I know that for a brief moment, I’m the most cursed person in town.

Come on, people. The average bridge opening takes LESS THAN FIVE MINUTES! And if you KNOW you’re crossing a drawbridge or a train track or anything that will potentially cause you a delay, you need to ALLOW for that! Joggers? Same response to you, only I’d probably add, “get over your skinny little self” at the end of it. And the sailboat? Nothing reminds me more of Marvin Martian than an impatient person on a sailboat. Such impotent, self imposed rage. Sheesh. I can’t imagine having a life that’s so important that a simple 5 minute delay causes such a disproportionate amount of irritation.

Then I notice I’m tapping my foot.

I guess we’re all works in progress.