Low Key Holidays

To me this is holiday perfection.

It all started with the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. It was just to be me and Dear Husband, and I wondered out loud what the point would be of all that elaborate grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning and, you know, leftovering for just two people. So we decided, instead, to make reservations at a restaurant that was doing a Thanksgiving feast. All we had to do was get dressed and show up on time. And we actually came home with a ton of leftovers after all.

The venue we chose was The Fisherman’s Restaurant in downtown Seattle, which is located on the waterfront. They specialize in seafood, of course, but on this one day they were offering a 5 course meal, which included turkey and all the fixings. (One course was steamed clams and mussels, though, which was a delightful departure.)

As an added bonus, the weather was uncharacteristically mild, and we had a marvelous view as we dined. Afterward we took a nice walk on the waterfront. It was quite romantic. It also allowed us to work off some of the meal. And when we got home, all there was left to do was perform the traditional nap, which I’ve got to say I did with my usual aplomb.

To me, this is holiday perfection. No muss, no fuss. No dishes to wash. No tense family conversation. No Thanksgiving airport insanity. You can’t beat that.

A few days later, we went to a wonderful play called Mr. Dickens and His Carol, which I blogged about here.

At the beginning of December we had a lot going on, so we never quite got around to decorating the house with extensive Christmas light display we usually do. We didn’t buy and decorate a big tree. We didn’t print a family card. And we never buy and exchange gifts, because we prefer experiences scattered throughout the year rather than adding more stuff to the stuff we already have entirely too much of.

We did buy a tiny live tree, about a foot tall, from Costco, and it sat on our kitchen counter with a star on it. We’ll plant it in the ground once all the holidays are over and the season is right for planting. Dear Husband did put up our big lighted snowflake on the chimney chase for passersby to enjoy, but that was the extent of it.

To get in the spirit, we got tickets to the Garden d’Lights, which took place at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens. The tickets were timed so that only a limited number of people walked the one mile trail at any given time, due to the pandemic. It was, of course, out of doors, and it took about 45 minutes to wander through. That was fun. And it made me want to return in spring in the daytime, to see what the garden itself looks like.

I don’t know if I was just too busy with other things to notice, or if it was just that I hadn’t gotten out and about as much as usual, but I don’t seem to recall seeing very many homes lit up for the season this year. I’m wondering if a combination of economic stress and COVID burnout has everyone on the same path that I’m on. Simplicity equals stress reduction. I’m looking forward to a very chill Christmas, once I get home from work.

Sadly, my birthday falls between Christmas and New Year’s, so I’ve been short-changed, celebration-wise, my whole life. By the time my birthday rolls around, everyone, including me, is kind of over celebrating. Usually, I just pick a restaurant and we go to lunch or dinner. But this year, I’ve decided that I’m going to lean into the Christmas Baby experience and give myself the perfect day.

I plan to take the day off of work and… do absolutely nothing. No chores. No errands. No guilt for not getting things done. I will refuse to even look at my to-do list. And I won’t go anywhere. You can’t make me.

I plan to stay in my jammies all day and read a book. Maybe I’ll soak in the bath if the spirit moves me. I’ll definitely take a nap. That, to me, is my idea of heaven. I’m really looking forward to it.

As for New Years, it’s almost always a non-event for me. I’m not one to drink or go to parties. I don’t believe in ruminating over the past or making promises about the future that I know I won’t keep. If I’m up at midnight, I’ll say Happy New Year. If I’m asleep, I won’t. And I have to work the next morning, so life goes on.

Wow, this year went by quickly. I had already decided that I was going to make an effort to reduce my stress in 2023. It certainly seems as if I’ve gotten off to a good start. I could get used to this.

I hope you enjoy the holidays, dear reader, in whatever way you choose to observe or not observe them! Thanks for being here. I wish you peace on earth, good will to Men, and all that good stuff.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

My 10th Bloggiversary!

What an unexpected milestone!

Tomorrow, December 1, 2022, marks the tenth year that I have been writing this blog. I find it nearly impossible to imagine sticking to any task in life for that long, and yet here we are. What an unexpected milestone.

If this blog were my spouse, I’d be looking around for a traditional gift made of tin, because according to myweddinganniversary.com, “The traditional 10th anniversary gift is tin, symbolizing how a successful marriage needs to be flexible and stable, and able to be bent without being broken. Tin symbolizes preservation and longevity.”

When I started this blog, the last thing I would have predicted was preservation or longevity. I assumed that I’d run out of ideas in about 6 months. But then it became a habit. Then it grew on me. Now, I can’t imagine life without it.

My first post ever, entitled “Nature is what’s happening while you’re not looking.” is a full-on love letter to bridgetending, the job that I’ve now been doing for just over 21 years, and the thing that has given me the time and opportunity to observe the world minutely and then blog about it. But when I reread that post just now, I was kind of shocked that it makes no mention of the fact that I was about to embark on this life-changing blogging endeavor. Of course, at the time I thought this blog was mere whimsy and would have a brief shelf life. That goes to show that we never know how long a journey we will take when we first step out the door.

You’d think I’d have at least said something like, “Hi everybody! I’m Barb, and I’m nervous. Thank you for stopping by. I hope you like what you see.”

But in truth, I don’t think that I believed that anyone outside of my family would ever read it. And that’s a genuine irony, because my closest blood relatives are the very people who rarely take the time to read these outpourings of my very soul. I can only hope they’ll choose to do so long after my body has been made into compost and returned to the earth. If that’s the case, I’d like to say “Hello, relative! It’s about freakin’ time! Ha!”

This blog has caused me to go down numerous avenues of inquiry that I wouldn’t have pursued otherwise. It has allowed me to make friends that I wouldn’t have met in any other way. It has also given me the opportunity to vastly improve my writing skills and find my (often disastrously unfiltered) voice.

If this blog were a dog, it would be 56 to 79 in human years, depending on its size, according to this calculator. Good dog! So good! That deserves a chunk of cheese.

This is my 3,417th post. I now have 655 followers, but I don’t take that very seriously, because I follow scores of blogs that I almost never find the time to read. But when I follow a blog, it’s kind of a vote of confidence, and I definitely appreciate those when they’re directed at me.

Since I’m writing this post two weeks prior to its actual publishing, I can only calculate the following statistics based on overall averages. Through the years, I’ve had about 215,000 visitors who have read about 374,000 posts. That’s a lot of eyes upon my words. It’s almost too much to comprehend. It humbles me.

As for words, I’ve written about 1,808,000 of those in this blog over the years. It’s safe to say that I’ve exposed my soft underbelly to the extent that I can never run for president. But if you’re a regular reader, you know that such an idea would never cross my mind anyway. That much scrutiny and criticism would be my definition of hell.

Having said that, though, I’m even more humbled by the fact that so many people have chosen to share my words with others. I’m unsure if the 4,705 shares on Facebook include my own postings on my Facebook group for this blog, but I can guarantee you that I have had nothing to do with the 4,138 shares on Twitter, the 3,792 shares on LinkedIn, the 4,537 shares on Reddit, or the 4,406 shares on Tumblr. If I were that active on social media, I’d have no time to write.

Of the 15,465 comments that my posts have generated on the WordPress site alone, I must confess that 6,989 of them are mine. I make every effort to respond to every comment, even now, because I’m so gratified when someone takes the time to reach out to me that I feel that they’re owed a response. I’ve learned so much from my readers, and that education, for me, is priceless.

This must be a labor of love, because, despite a brief and feeble attempt to sell out by allowing ads on my blog a while back, I have made not even one thin dime in all these years. In a way, that’s kind of pathetic, but the truth is that I never wanted this to feel like a job. Money has never been the object.

I did self-publish one anthology, and I practically beat you over the head with my plaintive cries to purchase a copy. It’s safe to say that I shouldn’t quit my day job. But I am really proud of the fact that it’s out there, somewhere, especially since my last name is Abelhauser, and there are only 10 of us left on earth. This book is my way of saying we were here.

I learned so much from that first book, and if I had it to do over again, I’d make several significant changes. I have the blog posts picked out for several more anthologies, but as much as I love to write, I lack the follow through to actually make them come to life. I had so many wonderful people helping me with the first book, and many of those would jump right in and help out again if I asked. I just can’t seem to get my act together. The fault is entirely mine.

Part of my hesitancy in taking on another anthology is that I have a complete and utter lack of time, and a good portion of that lack is due to the blog itself. It can be stressful, trying to pump out content on a daily basis. When I’m not writing it, I’m usually in the midst of full-blown anxiety because I’ve fallen behind or I can’t think of anything to write.

To that end, I decided to cut back and only post on even numbered days, starting on August 8, 2021. When I reread my announcement about that change, I have to laugh at my naivete. I actually thought it would double my free time, and I’d have the opportunity to relax and read books, a pastime that I sorely miss.

I miss it still, unfortunately, because somehow when I made that change, my blog posts, which had up to that point averaged 528 words per post, almost immediately increased to 1059 words per post. So I’m actually writing more now than I had been. Believe me when I say that this was not a conscious effort on my part. The reduction in deadline stress seems to have awakened my muse, or at the very least, my tendency to ramble on.

But my life is so full these days, and my health is ever more precious to me. The bulk of my health issues are triggered by stress, so I’ve decided to take a run at reducing my content yet again. Don’t panic. You’ll hardly notice. I’ve decided to only post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays going forward. Statistically, viewership tanks on the weekends anyway, and on the weekdays, it will still feel like an every other day thing for you.

Hopefully this change will be a reduction in stress for me. But who knows? Maybe I’ll start writing even longer posts to feed my addiction. If so, perhaps I should quit blogging entirely and just write the books that are in me somewhere.

Nah. I’d be lost without your comments on a regular basis! I write alone, but we read together.

Thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me all this time. I hope you’ll continue to do so. You have been my companion on this journey of self-discovery by way of inspiring me to explore the world. And that means more to me than you’ll ever know.

So, what will I be doing to celebrate this decade of blogging bliss tomorrow? Truth be told, I’ll driving someone to a very unpleasant sounding outpatient surgical procedure, and then anxiously waiting until I can return him home. That’s what one does when one has a full life, I suppose.

After 10 years, I feel that I have the right to ask you for a favor. Please have some cake for me to recognize this lofty milestone of mine. Maybe even blow out a candle if you’ve got one. At the very least, sing a song, do a dance, or leave a comment below.

Thanks! And this isn’t goodbye. You can’t get rid of me that easily. I’ll be talking to you in two days. Life does have a way of going on.

I Sure Could Use a Mashed Potato Mystery

Are you suffering from news fatigue? Me too.

I wrote this humorous blog post about Jackson, Mississippi before they had their horrific water crisis, which isn’t going away anytime soon. They need our help. If you are able to do so, please read this article for some ways to support them. Thank you. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/how-to-help-people-in-jackson-mississippi-right-now/ar-AA11kcDP

Are you suffering from news fatigue? Me too. Worrying about the death of our planet, the death of democracy, the death of kindness, and the death of civility takes energy. Unfortunately, my reserves of energy are at an all-time low these days. Nothin’ left in the tank.

Worry, in moderation, can be useful. It promotes action. It thrusts you into problem solving mode. And that’s fantastic when that action produces positive results.

The problem, as far as I’m concerned, is that we have so much more access to information these days that it’s easy to feel that there are just too many problems, and whatever effort you put into a problem doesn’t budge the solution needle one iota. As a result, the type of worry you find yourself embroiled in is not the action kind. It’s the helpless, staring-into-the-abyss kind. And indulging in such worry is pointless.

I do believe we all need to remain vigilant regarding current events, lest the bad guys win more than they already have. I understand the importance of staying informed, but it’s been a long decade. We’re tired.

I think we could all use a distraction. Not in the form of an “opiate of the masses”, mind you. That seems too eternal. And not in the form of a person shouting, “Look! Squirrel!” and then stealing your credit card. That would be unsatisfying, to say the least. We just need something to briefly and harmlessly take our minds off the Sturm und Drang of our current reality. We need the information equivalent of an amuse-bouche.

We need a feel-good piece with just enough meat on the bone to be satisfying. We need a non-threatening whodunnit to try to solve. We need an opportunity laugh at the quirkiness of humanity. We need, in short, a mashed potato mystery.

Back in April, 2019, in Jackson, Mississippi, someone was leaving random bowls of mashed potatoes in people’s mailboxes, on their cars, on their porches. This confusing, intriguing, and mildly creepy story took the internet by storm for, oh, about 6 days. Newscasters were joking about doing the mashed potato, and then the cameras would switch to the weatherman, who was getting quite a chuckle from the whole situation.

My search engine found at least 20 articles on the subject, but this one seems to be the source document. These articles were all saying practically the same thing, and quoting the exact same quotes, so I’d say this is a story written by one reporter and then shared or stolen by various news outlets throughout the country.

Everyone wanted to know who this mysterious purveyor of mashed potatoes was, and what their motivation might be. Fortunately, no one seems to have eaten these mystery spuds, because lord knows what might have been in them. For the most part, people found it gross, yet funny. They didn’t involve the authorities.

And that, unfortunately, was where it all ended. I’m sure if anyone had found the culprit, that would have hit the news, too. The perpetrator did not leave a manifesto, so we have no clue as to his, her, or their motivation. And that bugs me.

But it also gives me license to come up with my own theory about the message that was sent to Jackson, Mississippi on that fateful day. And here’s what I came up with:

O, ye people of Jackson! Gaze upon these vessels of pulped spuds and take heart! For I shall give sustenance to all those who are hungry and imprudent, if they but follow me! But take heed, for this nourishment comes with a helping of insight, to wit: distractions are plentiful for those who wish to shun the vexing realities of their irksome routines. Yet distractions of a carb-ish nature, if indulged in frequently, can lead to obesity of the mind, body and spirit. Mayhap ‘twould better serve you to sup on a balanced diet of both reality and fantasy, fact and fiction, for optimum mental health. Blessed be.

Running the Gauntlet to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

I actually wrote this blog post in my head a few weeks ago at 3 am when I should have been sleeping. I should have written it down, but instead I repeated it over and over again in hopes that I’d remember it, because I’m actually 5 blog posts behind in my queue, and that’s a personal record that has me stressed out beyond belief.

Yes, this is a self-imposed deadline, but not missing a post since I started this blog in December of 2012 puts a certain amount of self-imposed pressure on me, especially since I know that several people consider reading it a part of their routine. You’d think that when I switched a while back to only posting on even numbered days, rather than daily, it would have reduced the pressure by half, but no. Now my blogs seem to be longer and require more research than they once did. Again, that is self-imposed.

Since I knew that repeating posts in my head was part of the reason I could not sleep, this post is about the many things that can prevent me from sleeping. Most of them are thoughts. Some are noises.

My husband, and the vast majority of the men I know, won’t be able to relate to this at all. They can fall instantly to sleep and not wake up ‘til morning. I find this quite annoying, because they’ll say to me, “Why are you so tired? It sounds like we both went to bed at the same time.”

All I can do is tersely reply, “Well, we most definitely did not go to sleep at the same time.”

So here are the many challenges I have when it comes to getting a full night’s sleep.

  • My CPAP machine breaking its seal on my face and whistling loudly.
  • My CPAP machine breaking its seal on my face and blowing a jet of air that flutters my eyelashes.
  • My bladder.
  • Soreness in general.
  • My dogs, wanting breakfast at an ungodly hour, and therefore doing an impatient tap dance on the wooden floor.
  • The sun rising at freakin’ 5:11 in the morning and setting at 9:11 pm in the Seattle area around summer solstice.
  • The sun rising at freakin’ 7:57 in the morning and setting at 4:17 pm in the Seattle area around winter solstice.
  • My dog, snoring, and why I find it annoying sometimes and endearing other times.
  • Hearing a random, subtle sound coming from the other side of the house.
  • My dogs barking at the least sign of any sound.
  • Wondering if I remembered to lock all the doors.
  • How intensely I love my dogs.
  • My feet scratching on the sheets.
  • Funny things I forgot to tell Dear Husband.
  • Delightful conversations I had that day.
  • Negative conversations I had that week.
  • Young men with tiny little penises motorcycling or drag racing down our street at random hours.
  • Grown men with tiny little penises shooting guns or fireworks off in our neighborhood at random hours.
  • Things I’m looking forward to.
  • Things I’m dreading.
  • Am I forgetting anything?
  • The beeps of our computers or phones when one of us forgets to turn them off before bed.
  • Am I good at this marriage thing?
  • The things I do that I’m glad are not qualities that my Dear Husband possesses, and how lucky that makes me.
  • How much this blog post will upset DH, because he wants me to be able to be as positive, optimistic, and carefree as he is.
  • At what point did I lose all ability to keep things organized, and why is that?
  • What I need to do tomorrow.
  • Upcoming social obligations, and whether I’m dreading them or looking forward to them.
  • What I was supposed to do today but did not.
  • Health issues for myself and my loved ones.
  • The state of this country, and the state of the planet.
  • My next vacation, and how much of the world I still long to see.
  • Past vacations and how wonderful they were.
  • The many ways I feel I have fallen short.
  • The many ways people want me to change but I find myself incapable of doing so, despite my best efforts.
  • Did I remember to water the plants?  
  • Do I have my lunch ready for work tomorrow?
  • Which drawbridge will I be working on?
  • Which shift will I be working on?
  • Work BS.
  • Am I forgetting anything?
  • How lucky I am, generally.
  • Potato chips.
  • My imposter syndrome.
  • Do people think I’m weird?
  • Why do I seem so much weirder than most other people?
  • How can I convince people that I’m not weird?
  • Why do I care what anyone thinks?
  • OH SHIT WHAT TIME IS IT? DID I OVERSLEEP?
  • My irritation that my eyesight is so poor that I can’t always reliably see what time it is without putting on my glasses.
  • My disappointment at not being able to read more books.
  • The many new and unsettling things I’ve learned about myself in the past few months.
  • How grateful I am that I can still learn new things.
  • Aging.
  • The future.
  • The past.
  • My understandable love of naps.
  • My bladder again, and whether I should hold it until the alarm goes off in an hour, or just admit I need to pee, get up and do it, and then return to bed and try to sleep for that last precious hour, knowing I won’t achieve REM sleep in that timeframe.
  • Am I forgetting anything?
  • Attempting to change positions as quietly as possible so as not to wake the dogs.
  • Cheese.
  • My desperate need to meditate before bedtime, which I never quite get around to doing.

Welcome to my brain.

After that, I usually remember to do a body part relaxation exercise, and I fall asleep for what little time I have left.

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Living in a Liminal World

Because we don’t know what’s in store for us, people are starting to freak out.

Can you feel it? Everything is different now, and none of us can figure out where we are going. For the past 6 or 7 years, we’ve been in this transitional state, somewhere between the land of “How Things Used to Be” and the land of “God Only Knows What’s Coming.”

It’s an unsettling place to be. We seem to be spinning our wheels. We can’t get any traction. We can’t seem to move forward, but it’s impossible to go back. We’re on the verge of something. We’re on the brink. We’re passing through this ominous borderland where the ground is shifting beneath our feet and we’re unable to see what’s on the horizon. Who knows what the future holds? Everything seems so unexpected and random.

We are living in a Liminal World. I feel sorry for the younger generations, because this is all they’ve ever known.

liminal
adjective 

lim·i·nal | \ ˈli-mə-nᵊl \ 

1 : of, relating to, or situated at a sensory threshold : barely perceptible or capable of eliciting a response. // liminal visual stimuli 
2 : of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition : in-between, transitional. //in the liminal state between life and death.

So many things have happened that we never anticipated.

  • A worldwide pandemic that would become senselessly politicized and therefore rage on to kill millions.
  • People so rarely sign their own names that their signatures are being questioned.
  • An insurrection in our Nation’s Capital only slightly less shocking than the war of 1812.
  • The election of a president (thankfully for only one term) who bragged of his penis size while campaigning, talked of grabbing women’s pussies, and claimed that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and still be elected, and it turns out he was right.
  • We find ourselves teetering on the edge of WWIII.
  • A pandemically-induced employment deficit is giving workers negotiating power for the first time in living memory.
  • It is becoming increasingly evident that we’re destroying the planet, and yet we aren’t doing anything about it.
  • Billionaires are going to outer space rather than dealing with the problems right here on earth.
  • Conspiracy theorists are taken more seriously than scientists.
  • Bitcoin.
  • Social media has exposed our gullibility, ignorance, hate and violent tendencies.
  • People are forgetting how to read maps and analog clocks.
  • Teens no longer rush to get their driver’s licenses.

Do I sound like a grumpy old woman who no longer feels she fits in the world? Well, yeah, I’m that. But this is much bigger. It’s more all-encompassing. People are starting to freak out.

Personally, I’ve been functioning under a level of stress that’s so intense that I’ve kind of forgotten that it’s stress. It’s time to do something about that. It’s time to find some solid ground again. My stability needs to be restored. Liminality is not a state where I thrive.

The thing about living in a liminal world is that it provides infinite opportunities for change. Change is scary. But we can insist that change be positive, rather than allowing it to be infused with selfishness, greed, and hostility. There’s untapped potential, here, to make the world a better place. We can break all those rules that haven’t served us well, and create a new way of living. The problem is that we can’t seem to figure out what that would look like.

Any ideas? Because I’m not going to lie. I’ve got nothin’.

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Welcome to My Mid-Life Crisis

Who the hell am I?

True confession: I’ve always looked at mid-life crises with a bit of disdain. From the outside, they look like privileged temper tantrums at the prospect of growing old. That type of behavior gets little sympathy from me. Aging is inevitable.

The stereotypical midlife crisis is described as an aging man buying a sports car and a bad toupee, and leaving his wife for a ditzy 20 year old. And while that does sometimes happen, that’s really not the typical crisis. First of all, many of us can’t afford crisis-mobiles or trophy wives.

And while psychological crises can occur at any time in one’s life (or, in fact, not at all), these mid-stage ones seem to draw the most attention. According to Wikipedia, this time in life is a period of great transition. To quote the article directly:

The condition may occur from the ages of 45–64. Mid-life crises last about 3–10 years in men and 2–5 years in women. A mid-life crisis could be caused by aging itself, or aging in combination with changes, problems, or regrets over:

  • work or career (or lack thereof)   
  • spousal relationships (or lack of them)   
  • maturation of children (or lack of children)   
  • aging or death of parents (or lack of them)   
  • physical changes associated with aging (or lack of them)

   Individuals experiencing a mid-life crisis may feel:

  • humiliation among more successful colleagues   
  • longing to achieve a feeling of youthfulness   
  • need to spend more time alone or with certain peers   
  • a heightened sense of their sexuality or lack of it   
  • ennui, confusion, resentment or anger due to their discontent with their marital, work, health, economic, or social status   
  • ambition to right the missteps they feel they have taken early in life.

Without going into the specifics, let me describe what I’m going through at the moment. For the past 20 years, a huge amount of my ego has been wrapped up in being a bridgetender. I love my job, and I take great pride in doing it well. When someone asks me who I am, bridgetender is one of the first things I think to say.

But lately my reputation has been getting attacked at work. Viciously. Unjustifiably. And my efforts to defend myself have gone unheard and/or have not been validated. It’s hard to prove that you’re not a (insert horrible thing here). Especially when you mostly work alone. Although my work should speak for itself, in the form of well-functioning and clean machinery, and great customer feedback, it’s as though all of a sudden these things can only be seen by me. I feel like I’m at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and no attempts to exercise logic will be tolerated.

These attacks came totally out of the blue and therefore left me stunned for quite some time. Given the sources, though, I am no longer stunned. What I am is deeply and profoundly depressed and confused and disappointed, and, frankly, pissed off.

It’s hard to maintain pride in my work when my work is being discounted, overlooked, contradicted, and attacked. But since I’ve allowed all my ego to be wrapped up in that pride, the question becomes this: Without that pride, who the hell am I?

And when you add a heaping helping of pandemic isolation to the mix, all of this turns into a toxic stew, indeed. It’s affecting my health in a whole host of ways. It’s impacting many of my relationships. It is definitely causing me to lose sleep. I’ve been crying a lot. I can’t seem to focus on anything. I’m even more forgetful than I was previously, and believe me, that’s saying something.

In a nutshell, I’m struggling. I’m at the end of my rope. I’m exhausted. I tried to take a couple of days off to at least catch up on my sleep, seek counseling (which turns out to be an enormous challenge during this pandemic), and surround myself with those who actually value me, but my supervisor questioned the legitimacy of this need, and denied the request. Apparently one has to be bleeding out the eyeballs to be taken seriously around here, unless you can come up with a doctor’s note.

So this leaves me sitting here at work, feeling resentful and not optimally competent, while trying to pick up the pieces of my stress-riddled body, even as I struggle to retain at least a few of my traumatized marbles. And now I somehow have to work up the energy to try to figure out what’s left of me. Pardon my dust as I reconstruct myself from scratch. Easy peasy. Not.

This is a devastating development for one who used to love going to work. This video, which was done based on a StoryCorps interview I did years ago about being a bridgetender, demonstrates the love I had for it. I want that back, but it feels completely beyond my control.

I need to find other sources of esteem. I am more than just a bridgetender, after all. I’m also a blogger, an author, a little free library steward, a wife, a dog mom, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, and a good person, dammit. Surely, amongst those things, I should be able to find the building blocks to repair my damaged psyche. And perhaps I need to spread my esteem more thinly, over a variety of things. With it currently being so densely focused on my job, I’ll have another identity crisis if and when I retire, and I’d much rather not go through this more than once. Once is already too much.

I can’t even seem to keep up with the blogging lately, and I don’t want to hit you with a steady stream of negativity. So, I’m at a bit of a loss, here. Don’t be surprised to see more fluff posts. I’m doing the best I can.

If Wikipedia is correct in stating that it’s going to take me a few years to get my groove back, I’m not sure how I’ll cope with that. Everything about this feels bad. Really bad. The thought of it makes me weep.

I’m luckier than a lot of people. I have a wonderful husband and fabulous dogs and a comfortable home and a lot of people who love me, even if they can only do so from a distance these days. I no longer struggle economically as much as I used to, and while sexism seems to press down more heavily now, I’ve never had to cope with racism, which must add a whole other level of awfulness to the mix. I’m terrified about climate change, but I’m better positioned to tolerate it than those who are on islands, or are plagued by floods, droughts, devastating storms and forest fires. Politically, I believe this country is circling the drain, and that’s painful to watch, but I’m learning to accept what has actually been the case all along: I have limited control in that arena.

Still, I feel like I’m lost in some otherworldly maze full of dead ends, and while I truly believe the door to positive selfhood is out there somewhere, I fear I won’t have the strength to reach it again. So, for the most part, I’m just trying to remember to breathe, trying to establish healthy boundaries, and trying to be gentle with myself. I cannot control how others treat me, but I can treat myself kindly, at least. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to leave those things that aren’t really necessary along the side of the road, because right now is a time to pare things down and focus on my mental health.

When I need a pep talk, I’ll listen to this song:

And when I am overwhelmed, I’ll listen to this one:

This is not my first visit to the land of depression. Experience tells me I’ll come out the other side eventually. I just need to be patient with myself. This, too, shall pass.

Encouragement is welcome. Telling me what I’m doing wrong, or should be doing instead, will only make me feel defeated. Rest assured that I’m making all the standard efforts (this ain’t my first rodeo) and I will get through this with time and help.

If you’re wandering this maze with me, here’s my hand, dear reader. Hold on tight, and pass the tissues.

Now is the perfect time to stay at home and read a good book. Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

American Cruelty

You have to eat or be eaten.

I can’t speak for the rest of the world. At the rate this pandemic is going, I might never be able to travel internationally again, so I’m losing perspective. But I certainly have ample opportunity to observe my fellow Americans from my exclusive perch in the tower of my drawbridge, and I also read enough of the news to believe this to be true: Americans, in general, are getting increasingly cranky to the point of being really terrifying.

I get it. This pandemic has us worn out. The state of politics, especially since Trump came along, has our nerves shredded. And the way that we have all been forced to answer certain moral questions of late is revealing that a lot fewer of us are decent human beings than I previously imagined.

Even though this post is not strictly about masks and vaccines, I do have to say that it seems like a no-brainer to me: If I’m asked to do something that I’m not thrilled with, but that thing will potentially help to prevent someone from dying, I’m going to do that thing. I got vaccinated. I wear a mask. But there are people out there who genuinely believe that they should not be personally inconvenienced just so someone else might live. It astounds me. Public health isn’t about just you. If the golden rule means anything at all, it means, hey, maybe I shouldn’t have a hand in bringing about someone else’s demise.

The whole mask and vaccine thing is just the tippy top of a huge iceberg of cruelty that is becoming increasingly evident. I’m seeing more people shouting at each other from the bike lanes and out of car windows. More horns are blaring. The schizophrenics among our homeless people, who I view as the human equivalent of canaries in coal mines, are starting to rage even more as tensions increase. It’s like we are now in a constant state of full moon. All bets are off. It’s impossible to predict who will lose it next. All that you can do is hope that you’re not anywhere near ground zero when it happens.

My friends who work in the medical field are being screamed at more often, and sometimes even assaulted. Here on my drawbridge, more pedestrians are refusing to cooperate every day. To hell with the 3000 gross ton gravel barge that’s bearing down on us. They have places to go and people to see. Screw the flashing lights and warning gongs.

More people are cutting in line in general. More people are blowing through red lights. The other day I saw two guys engaged in a fistfight on a street corner in broad daylight.

I can’t emphasize this enough: There is NO EXCUSE for yelling at and/or assaulting someone for doing their job. You may not like the policy they’re having to enforce, but they’re just trying to make a living. You want to shout, shout at the rich person who probably owns the company. Rich people should be shouted at a lot more often, if you ask me. They certainly deserve it more than cashiers or wait staff do.

It’s getting so I’m afraid to ask anyone a question, even one as innocent as, “How late are you open?” because responses to any type of question seem to be hostile these days. I spend a lot of time wondering what I’ve done to people. But it doesn’t just happen to me. Not that that’s any comfort.

I just read a fascinating opinion piece by Umair Haque, entitled, “Why America is the World’s Most Uniquely Cruel Society.” It really made me think about how America is set up to operate. It also made me think about how this country came to be the way it is.

In that article, the author posits the theory that we have a very unusual origin story, even for a colonial country that has been trained to utterly ignore the native people who were here first. Throughout colonial history, America has been colonized by people who were leaving home because on one level or another they were not wanted.

Everyone’s immigration story is different, of course, but we didn’t tend to attract the rich upper classes. Royalty wasn’t trying to move here. Some common reasons for coming to America included getting away from religious or political persecution, or avoiding violence at home, or desperate poverty and no opportunities in their homelands, or they were criminals. Let’s face it. There’s no need to pursue the American Dream unless you’re living a nightmare.

One thing that all desperate people have in common is the desire to no longer be at the bottom of society. They want to experience dignity, respect, and a sense of belonging. Who doesn’t? But in order for you to rise up in the hierarchy to the place where those things are obtainable, someone has to be below you, and that person doesn’t want to be there either, so it becomes a fight. And as more and more waves of immigrants washed up on these shores, more people had to get stepped on, and, the author suggests, this cruelty has since become a habit that has been passed down through the generations.

The English settlers hated the Native Americans. Then they had to hate all the people that came after them and threatened their place in the societal pyramid. So the English hated the French, the French hated the Germans, the Germans hated the Irish, who hated the Italians, and on and on. And of course, slaves got to be the scapegoats for everyone even though they never asked to be here in the first place. Then came the Asians who did the great service of also not looking like us, so they, too, were easy to spot and be cruel to. When we took the West from the Spanish-speaking people who had taken it from the Native Americans, we hated them too.

And through all of this, which is still ongoing, we have learned, consciously or unconsciously, that you have to be cruel to survive. You have to be violent to get ahead. You have to eat or be eaten.

Over the centuries, the cruelty has become institutionalized. Homeless? What a shame. Glad I’m not you. Less than desirable as a neighbor? Lock ‘em up and throw away the key. You don’t deserve universal health care. Higher education is only for those who can pay for it. Can’t get a job? Well, then, join the military and become cannon fodder or the good of the country.

We have one of the lowest life expectancies of any rich nation, and while that’s embarrassing, nothing need be done about it unless it starts impacting ME. We have the highest rate of mass shootings in the world, but hey, that helps decrease the surplus population. The only country that has a higher death rate per capita due to drug use is the Ukraine, and yet we put very little money into our substance abuse infrastructure. Let ‘em eat cake.

Based on this hierarchy of ours, the conservatives should encourage immigration, not attempt to squash it. Because if they are successful in their policies of exclusion, one day they may look around and realize that they no longer have anyone to step on, and it’s awfully lonely at the bottom.

We need to find a way to break this cycle of cruelty and hate. We need to lift each other up if we want this country to succeed. We need to realize that our current behavior is not serving us well.

But most of all, I think we all need to take a deep breath, pause, and grow the f**k up.

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

This Isn’t Goodbye

Am I ending this blog?

So, dear readers, I’ve been overwhelmed lately. I have an ever-increasing list of things that I need to do, and I just keep carrying it over from one weekend to the next, and by the time the weekend rolls around, I’m so exhausted that tackling the list is too daunting.

Bridgetending is the best job in the world in that you get a lot of down time, and you can use that down time to do other things, such as paying bills or cleaning out the digital photos on your computer or scheduling appointments or planning vacations. But I don’t do those things because I spend at least half my shift writing this daily blog.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore this blog. It has improved my writing, it has garnered me a lot of friends, it has given me the opportunity to express feelings and share experiences and explore the world. It’s a huge part of my life.

But it’s also the thing I hide behind so as not to become bored with my job. In that way it has become a security blanket. As I enter my cronehood (using the positive definition of that word, “A woman who is venerated for experience, judgment and wisdom), I am beginning to realize that I’m a lot more multi-faceted and nuanced than I once was, and can therefore stave off boredom in a variety of ways.

And on days when I have writers block, or when there’s a situation at work that actually requires that I do something, this blog has been a huge stressor in my life. I’ve lost sleep over this blog. Sometimes it takes me over rather than being something that I’m in charge of and freely choose to produce.

I have been on this treadmill every day since December 1, 2012. And I’m not sure when it was that I lost all agency. It kind of snuck up on me.

And then the other day I was in the shower, thinking about a conversation I had had that day with a friend in which she was describing how she had lost her sense of smell so gradually that she didn’t notice it was happening until it was completely gone. While washing my hair I thought about that gradual shift, and suddenly realized that was happening to me, too, in blog form. This blog has taken on a life of its own, and it rules me and it’s stressful. When did I lose all control?

Am I ending this blog? No! I can’t quit you guys. And I do love to write. But I’m going to take some pressure off myself. Rather than grinding out content every single day, I plan to only write a post for the even numbered days. (See what I did there? Seven months of the year I’ll get two days off in a row! Woo hoo!)

I’m hoping this will bring multiple gifts to my world. It will allow me to get things done that I’ve been putting off for aeons. It will improve my writing even more in that it will bring joy back into it, and I’ll be able to dedicate more time to each topic if the spirit moves me. It will allow me, once again, to read. I love to read. I rarely have the time. And my eyesight is not getting better from one day to the next, so I should enjoy reading while I can.

And nothing is cast in stone. If I feel the need to speak out about something that’s time sensitive, I can always post it on an odd numbered day. And occasionally I get so inspired that I write and write and write. If I hit one of those periods of abundance, I might go back to daily posts for a time. We’ll see.

The point is, I can be flexible. I am the decider. And realizing that has already taken a lot of pressure off me. I feel liberated.

And who knows? Maybe it will give me the time to finally publish book two. If so, You’ll be the first to know.

So, this isn’t goodbye. This is just me saying hello every other day.

Namaste, dear readers.

Not really! Don’t worry!

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Things to Be Thankful for in 2020

For starters, I’m grateful for you, dear reader.

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving. This is my favorite holiday. Good food, no pressure to give gifts, and, if this were a normal year, an opportunity to see loved ones.

I realize that most of us are not getting to celebrate it in the manner in which we are accustomed, but maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. We can all focus more, if we choose to, on the many things we have to be thankful for. And we get to avoid all those awkward political conversations that would surely be happening right now if this were a non-pandemic year. Maybe we should view this as the time and space this country needs to heal its rifts.

Here are the things I’m thankful for in this crazy year:

  • My loved ones value my health enough to stay away, and are staying safe themselves, even if it’s hard.
  • Everyone I know personally that I have crossed paths with since March has had the decency and the sense to wear a mask, and because of that, so far, I am COVID-free.
  • I am quick enough on my feet to back away from the maskless strangers that I encounter, thus protecting myself and my husband.
  • I’ve had the opportunity to spend even more time with my dogs than usual.
  • I have a renewed sense of how important people are to me, and how precious life is.
  • I take nature even less for granted than I did before.
  • I am more focused on exercising than I ever have been in my entire life. (It’s a great way to work off COVID stress.)
  • I am constantly reminded of the importance of patience. It is a lesson that I have always struggled with, but I’m definitely getting more practice this year.
  • It is very easy to tell who cares about others and who only cares about themselves these days, and that information comes in handy.
  • I’m feeling very patriotic because I’m doing my part to maintain public health.
  • I’m also proud of the fact that so many of us voted for the first time, and I’m proud that no evidence of election fraud has been presented, and that just saying does not make it so.
  • I’m glad that this year is almost over.
  • I’m touched by the amount of generosity I’ve seen. Times have been tough on everybody, but they’ve been even worse for some, and I’m glad that people are stepping up and helping out at a time when the government is not.
  • I’m grateful to still have a job.
  • I’m looking forward to hate being something that is less acceptable and comfortable in this country again.
  • I value all that this year has taught me.
  • I’m grateful for all the front line workers who have seen so much horror and done so much this year, and yet still keep showing up for all of us.
  • I am grateful, most of all, for those of us who have managed to survive thus far. It’s taking a village, but we can do this.

This has been a long, exhausting year, and we’re all on the ragged edge. No doubt about it. But I hope that you, too, can still dig deep and find things to be thankful for. Post some of those in the comments, if the spirit moves you, dear reader, and know that I am thankful for you, too.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Songs of Comfort

Here are the songs that comfort me. What are yours?

In these stressful times, I often turn to music to comfort me. Music can soothe like nothing else. It can put me in another place and time, and it definitely puts me in another frame of mind. Music can be an embrace, especially in socially distant times like these.

Here are a few songs that never fail to comfort me.

Mister Rogers Remixed: Garden of Your Mind by PBS Digital Studios. I draw comfort from this song because Mister Rogers is the epitome of comfort for me. He’s the father I never had. This song is a remix of many of his words of wisdom. It delights me to think that you can grow ideas in the garden of your mind. No matter how stressful life might be, somehow, if you view the world through Mister Rogers’ lens, you just automatically feel like everything is going to be all right. If you enjoyed this song, there are a few other PBS remixes you should check out. Namely, Bob Ross, Reading Rainbow, and Julia Child.

Another very comforting song is Let The Mystery Be by Iris DeMent. I just feel like she and I would be friends. And the song itself reminds me that I don’t have to have everything figured out, especially the biggest, most important things, such as my own mortality. This song just feels like a relief to me.

Sometimes you just want to be reminded that It’s OK. NNAMDÏ sings a song by that very title. It tells us that there’s no need to pretend we’re ok if we’re not. It’s important to remember that. I sing it in my head all the time.

And then there’s a song sung by the UU General Assembly 2020 Virtual Choir. It’s called Tomorrow, but I have no idea why. That word doesn’t appear anywhere in the lyrics. It’s primary message is that there will be better days. I think we all need to hear that from time to time, and when you hear it as sung by a hundred voices or more, you really believe it.

This one, I have to admit, is an odd choice for comfort. It’s got a sing along quality to it, and makes me feel like I’m part of the music. Colin Hay shows you how to sing the “Tumblin’ Down” part of the song, and you repeat that all the way though as he sings the lyrics. They blend well. Check out Come Tumblin Down. I have no idea why. It just makes me happy to sing with Colin Hay.

Another song by the UU General Assembly 2020 Virtual Choir is this song called “We Are”. It makes me remember that who we are is wonderful. It makes me feel like humanity is pretty darned good. I wish I always felt that way.

I hope these songs bring you comfort. I’d love to hear what songs bring you solace in the comments below!

comfort

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5