Growing “Old”

You can’t see them well, but they are there!

Yeah, I know. I’m not that old. But man do I feel like I am. Not all the time mind you, there are hours and days when I feel my age or dare I say a little younger. In my head I’m still in at least my early twenties. My body? Ha, that’s a different story.

I have gained a considerable number of grey hairs in the last year or two. I say two, but my wife would say one. It’s been a stressful one to be sure.

I fall asleep at 8. Mostly because I am up at 4:30. That’s for work. No telling what time I would fall asleep if I was as young as my age tells me. Let’s just say the night life would still elude me.

I can still run! Not as fast as I once did, but it’s all about the stamina right? Ah, who am I kidding? I can’t run as far or as fast as I could in high school. But I’m definitely beating my twenties.

Speaking of one’s twenties. What’s with 20 somethings nowadays? Waiting around until their 30’s to really start their lives? Start young, 30 is too old to be chasing kids and trying to keep up with a crazy schedule. Be like me and have grey hairs by the time you’re 32.

Oh wait, it’s been two years since I was 32. Where does the time go? How am I almost in my mid-30s? Eek! Slow down already!

They say you’re only as old as you feel, my question is: Is that how you feel mentally, physically, or emotionally? ‘Cause I’m all over the place!

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Pre-Posturous Humanity

peacock

Ever see a peacock strut around thinking he’s hot sh-tuff? Ever see a man doing the same thing?

Much of our culture is posturing. I don’t know why I never noticed it before. From rappers to politicians to kids on the playground, we put a lot of value in posture.

The problem is, it’s all a facade. I act tough to make the middle schoolers I drive around behave, but honestly I’m not the ogre I pretend to be. But when you’re getting stared down by three 13 year old girls, you have to out-mean-mug them to gain any semblance of respect.

Pretty much all the “urban” culture I’m exposed to daily is about posturing. Renting a Lambo for your rap video is a cliche for a reason. Being boujee is a lifestyle to so many people you’re almost weird if you aren’t. Those who can’t afford the appearances resort to physical posturing to make themselves larger than the next kid.

Social media and the blogosphere are perfect examples of posture over reality. Nothing is real online. Every post is carefully crafted to give the best impression of the poster. Even humility isn’t real online, we are too good at the humble brag.

Politicians are masters of the practice of posturing. Party squabbles are nothing but posturing. Nationalism is itself the biggest peacock. Everything in politics is about the appearance of being the bigger, badder character on the block. Get the biggest bomb, have the biggest economy, have the biggest army, anything you can do to make your homeland the biggest.

But posturing is silly. You are not that big. In fact you’re probably just as shattered and broken as the next guy. Most of the time the more extravagant the peacock the more fragile the ego. The higher the mountain the harder they fall so to speak. This applies to bullies on the bus, to politicians, and even to nations.

Perhaps the better policy is less posturing and more honesty. Perhaps we should all start admitting our weaknesses and help each other with our strengths. Perhaps we could all posture a little less and be humble instead.

But that, to the world, is preposterous…

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Detoxifying Humanity

Has anyone not seen the Gillette commercial? I’ll wait while you watch it.

It’s pretty amusing to see who is getting triggered by this ad. Many are acting like this is an attack on masculinity.

But I didn’t hear that word in the ad except for a few background overlapping voices. Is this ad really an attack on masculinity or is it an attack on terrible people in general?

To be fair, the ad is aimed specifically at men. You don’t see ads like this aimed at stereotypes of women being catty or nagging. Instead, you see ads which tell women they are ugly and not good enough, which is just as bad if not worse. Not to mention the classic “sex sells” concept in advertising, use women as bait and people will line up to buy your products. Even the ads that claim to stop shaming women for their choices carry the subliminal message that they really should choose Product X instead of doing Y.

While some may say it’s a bad PR move to imply most of your customer base is aggressive and rapey, there is absolutely nothing wrong with what they are trying to tell men. In fact I see no reason to be triggered at all by this ad. As one of my friends joked, he was only bothered by the fact it “barely scratched the surface of” human depravity. Ads like this should force introspection. You should ask yourself “am I like that?” If you are, change, if you aren’t, be glad and help others to change.

So why aren’t men just being introspective over this ad? Why are so many of them fussing and claiming their masculinity is being attacked? Definitions are important. Words don’t mean much anymore. “Masculinity” means different things to different people. It’s a cultural concept with a moving definition. Most of the left wants to define it by vices. The right by virtues.

None of the vices I have seen associated with the term make me think of the male gender exclusively. A jerk is a jerk is a jerk. A female jerk is just as horrible as a male one. Being a domineering, tyrannical adult-child is also horrible (but you never see the term “adult-child” just “man-child” do you? Hmmm…). Even though there are some hormonal influences that predispose the two sexes to different levels of aggression there is no logical reason to assume it’s a purely male tendency. Women can be and are frequently just as aggressive as men. Just this week I have witnessed an equal amount of bullying from girls on boys as boys on boys and boys on girls, it’s a universal problem. Being aggressive is a bad quality in anyone.

Unwanted sexual advances are just as awful from a woman as from a man (trust me, I’ve experienced both). Despite common myths, men, especially young men, do experience sexual assault and rape. The numbers are not as great, but the crime is just as egregious.

Likewise, all of the virtues I see attributed to “masculinity” are virtues we should laud in all people. Where but in the most tyrannical and oppressive places in the world is bravery, courage, strength, nobility, intelligence, and a desire to defend righteousness considered bad traits for a woman to have? Who decided character traits are dependent or associated with genitalia and chromosomes?

Being a good man means being a good human being. It means channeling one’s passions into productive and creative pursuits. It means building others up with love. It means being humble enough to admit you have feelings and emotions and you are capable of empathy, sympathy, and compassion for others. Being a good man means using your strengths for good, not evil. Do not harm others. Do not worship violence and destruction.

To praise the fact that men are “destroyers” and conquerors of nations is merely praise for worldly vain-glory. Destruction and enslavement of others is hardly something to be proud of. We should be working for a more peaceful world, not a more violence prone one.

Defending sexual aggression from either gender is pretty disgusting too. To act like words and actions are merely joking around and those hurt by them should lighten up is an attitude for thugs and tyrants. God created sexuality to be a wonderful thing, do not cheapen it by making it a joke or a weapon (or as advertising). Our sexuality is one of the most vulnerable characteristics of us humans, one that is easily damaged.

Instead of trying to detox “masculinity” specifically, why not work to detox all of humanity of it’s vices and sins? Instead of getting triggered by an advertisement that is trying to tell you to behave better, why don’t you look at yourself and ask if it’s true?

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Toxic Stupidity

inferno

I was going to write about the Gillette commercial. I was going to write about what a real man is and what good people are. But you know what? There is enough of that out there.

There are enough voices shouting at us, telling us what we should be, how we should act, and even what we should look like. The world shoulds all over us every minute of every day giving us impossible standards to live up to. Even if they aren’t impossible to attain, it gets old to be reminded day in and day out how horrible we are.

“Suck it up, buttercup” is a phrase frequently intended to toughen up the weak. But the concept that the world is rough and the best way to survive is to develop an equally tough skin is lacking. Numbing yourself to the world’s awful is not a way to make the world better.

We don’t make the world a better place with “righteous aggression” either. Carrying signs, shouting slogans, yelling at people online, and living our life in outrage at the crap does not make the crap better. Attacks merely result in equal and opposite attacks, and the peacemakers are caught in the middle eating all of it.

I might still write about the Gillette ad next week. Because the discussion is a needed one. But for now I just need to go cool off and let go of my righteous aggression.

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Advice From a Bus Driver

11281811021716028438.jpg

It’s been a long week. One of those weeks that have put a few more gray hairs into my beard. I started my bus route this week. Most of the kids are well behaved, they get on the bus, they sit down, they don’t yell and terrorize each other. But one school… oh… wow…

Here’s what I would say to them if I could sit them all down in a room, with no traffic or schedules to distract us:

Dear middle-schoolers:

First off, I’m not here to be a guru or to be your parent or your coach. I’m just here to drive you home safely and efficiently.

I am not mad. I am concerned, really. I care about you, and not just your safety on the bus. I care about your character, I care about your potential, I care about your future. It’s not a cliche to say you are the future of this world. You literally are the future.

To the ring leader. The Boy Scout. The one who will probably have a referral by Wednesday of next week. I was there once. I know the dirty jokes, stupid dares, and pranks that happen in camps and meetings all across the country when you think the adults aren’t paying attention. You are young and naive and you will do every thing you can to test the boundaries around you. But you are also trying to impress your friends. Don’t think I haven’t noticed your sudden quietness and semi-respectfulness when certain peers get off the bus. Here is some advice: if you have to act like an asshat to impress your friends, they are not the kind of friends you should have.

To the ones of you calling me old and “that white guy”, I’m probably younger than a lot of your parents. This gray hair is a result of stress and anxiety of raising five kids your age and younger. I’m not old, I’m learn-ed. And why does it matter one lick what color I am? I don’t look at you and take note of your skin tone, I couldn’t care less. But I do look at you and notice your behavior. Young and ignorant behavior has no color bias. Stop making a big deal out of race and I guarantee you will go further in life.

Now about your respect of others, I can’t wash your mouths out with soap. I can’t change your language in the short time I have with you every day. To be honest, I don’t care if you are loud or use “adult” words (do you kiss your mother with that mouth?). I have five kids, I know noise. I’ve learned to tune out the nonsense and key in on emergencies. Or in your case the insults, the disrespect, the meanness. You’re at a competitive age. You compete for attention, good or bad. You believe that tearing down others is the best way to climb to the top. Again, I get it. I was your age once. I said some horrible things to others.

Want to climb to the top? Have some respect for others. And yourself. You disrespect yourself when you tear down others. Be better than those around you, and bring them up with you. Out-do each other in awesomeness, not cruelty. That way you all succeed, or at least none of you are destroyed before you have a chance to get up.

Most of all, dear children, I have this advice: sit down, seatbelts on, windows up.

Safety is first on this bus.

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New Year, New Me?

Every new year people post resolutions all over social media and blogs claiming they will do something better this year. But do they really matter? How did you do on your resolutions last year? How did I do on mine? What is the plan for this year?

Two years ago I proclaimed several “birthday resolutions” because my birthday is so close to New Year’s Day it just made sense, last year I was late in my posting and went with the traditional “New Year’s Resolutions”. I won’t rehash the birthday ones, but it might do some good to examine 2018’s resolutions before I get to this year.

So how did I do?

Last year I said:

Well, in addition to continuing work on all of the above, this year is the year of focus and discipline.
Discipline because it is very closely tied to focus. Focus is part biology, part discipline. One can have discipline without focus, but one definitely cannot have focus without discipline. I want to be more clear about my purpose. I want to determine priorities and stick to them. There are things in my life that should be givens but are not. I intend to make these things absolutely critical and shape my life around them, not let my life dictate whether or not I get to them. These types of wants take discipline to achieve.

Was this year a year of focus and discipline? Since I claimed one cannot have focus without discipline I cannot make the claim that focus won out over discipline, but my description of discipline outlined above was hardly met. I disciplined myself to have focus but I seem to have forgotten to make priorities and make certain things in my life into givens.

Focus this year meant less about treating myself and more about survival. My priority shifted from making sure I was doing things to keep myself healthy to making sure we all were surviving day to day. As a result this last couple of months has been a bit of a train wreck emotionally, physically, and financially.

Lately, my anxiety has been back with a passion, I’ve gained back some of the weight I lost over the spring and summer (not a ton but I notice it), and we are falling so far behind in bills I don’t even want to acknowledge it.

You may have noticed my lack of posts recently. This is not for a lack of thoughts, I just don’t want to tell anyone about them. That’s assuming I could unwind that ball of yarn and get a coherent post out there. Even this post is driving me a bit mad to write.

“This year will also be the year of listening before I speak. No. Actually listening. Not just thinking about my response the whole time the person blabbers on. No matter how much they blabber on. It’s hard, but I know I can do it.”

I think I did OK on this one. Perhaps too well. It’s not hard to train one’s self to listen and not speak. But I may have gone too far the other way and have stopped answering when I should.

Likewise, I want to work on responding instead of reacting. Too often I get triggered and blow up. Or I sweep the feelings of others under a rug before they can fully express them. This is largely because I don’t want to have have feelings myself. It’s another offshoot of anxiety.

Ah yes, meta-emotions. Just being aware that I have them has helped me control them. I can listen to others and feel feelings without feeling feelings about those feelings. The words of others don’t have to trigger a torrent of emotional outburst or cause me to clam up and shut down.

What do I intend to do this year?

I am hesitant to make resolutions this year as I’m not completely satisfied with 2018’s results. Of course, it may just be the result of recent un-healthiness that I feel this way. I can honestly say that overall I am healthier now than I was at this point last year, just that right now my thoughts are a bid muddied from recent upheavals in my sleep, my diet, my exercise, and my environment.

I said “I’m tired” a lot this past year. And this year is starting out on that very same note. I don’t foresee that exhaustion subsiding much in the coming months, especially given a new job and a lot of stuff to do around the house. Rest is going to be a precious commodity for awhile.

Perhaps the only resolution that I will make is this: stick to the plan.

We have plans for the coming year. Hard plans. Plans that will be uncomfortable and difficult to carry out. Giving up is way too easy when circumstances are tough. This has led to many unfulfilled dreams and goals. Long-term benefits were sacrificed for short-term ease. This is something that I intend to remedy this year. I intend to stick as much as possible to our plans, even when they become unbearable to carry out.

This of course means that circumstances will have to be properly evaluated. Some things are legitimately out of one’s control. These are not usually the things that derail plans though. Most of the time what derails plans are feelings and anxiety over a perceived lack of control. You basically self-sabotage by thinking “oh no, this is not working!” when it’s actually working. It may not be exactly as you had hoped but it’s still working. Life is still progressing, just with a few detours.

So, stick to the plan?

Sounds like a plan!

Now how do I do that?

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Dailyish Thoughts #100

100. Yep. It’s been slow going, but I have arrived. I couldn’t make it 100 days straight (forgive me readers, it’s been ten days since my last post) but I have at least made 100 of these in total.

So what are today’s thoughts? Not a whole lot. Life has been work, work, and more work. With sleep and food stuffed in between. Is it worth it? I think so. I have seen some progress. I am now officially licensed to drive a school bus (watch out world!), but I am still without a route. So it’s monitoring the special needs bus and then doing a ton of deliveries for me. I’ll probably have to wait until after the Christmas break for a route.

I have been ruminating on some blog post thoughts lately. I know I mentioned this before in some post. It probably just looks like I am stalling, right? Well, maybe a little. Honestly I just haven’t had the time to sit and write, or even voice type. Perhaps this week or over the holidays I’ll get a few interesting posts put up. In fact, I might just go start a few right now…

Dailyish Thoughts #98

I’m not usually a fan of Christmas season. Too much chaos and noise and materialism. Not to mention the obnoxious darkness of winter. But I am trying. I miss my family “up north” something awful with all these ups and downs lately. The tree will be coming out tomorrow, I’m determined!

Today’s down and up was turning on the van only to have it rev up and down and idling at 15 mph. Then it would accelerate on its own. Good times. I managed to get it to the auto parts store for a code read and then home, in neutral most of the way! Thankfully I was able to clean the part and get it running again instead of buying a new one for $90. I can’t afford that! I am very grateful.

I get to start riding the bus as a monitor tomorrow. Not sure what that actually means, but I have to be there at 0600. Woo. It’s nice to get the extra hours and I need to get used to early mornings anyway, so I suppose I can say I’m happy about it.

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Count, Count, Count Again, Gently Through the Crap

Oh Florida, you’ve done it again. What is it about Florida that so many people simply cannot count? Is it all the missing fingers and toes from unfortunate alligator encounters?

If there is one thing this election cycle has revealed (hint: it’s not the winners of the races) it’s the fact that politics brings out the intellectual dishonesty in all of us. Neither side questions the insanity coming from their own ranks.

On the Republican side you have candidates and other officials jumping on every rumor. Every time a rumor flies about a new box of ballots being found in the belly of an Everglades python they jump on it. When it turns out to be just a box of office supplies, they just chuckle and pretend they knew the whole time. Every inconsistency is met with “Fraud!! It’s fraud!!” Turn on your conservative radio and they are talking like every law in the books was broken. Sure, some were (and of course the Democrats don’t seem to mind), but the more I look around the less I find to substantiate the claims.

The Democrats aren’t much better. Not only is law breaking acceptable when it works in their favor, everything is racist when it doesn’t. EVERYTHING. When you come in to vote officials make you sign a pad and they check it with your state issued id. It’s a silly system admittedly, because our signatures can change over time, but it’s not a particularly race related system. They almost turned my wife away. I cheated by looking at my license and making sure it was the same. But because some non-white people were turned away it must be a racist system. I won’t even get into this notion that “white Americans would simply not vote for a black man”.  Just because your candidate is black and he lost does not mean you can immediately run to the race card.

According to some in the media, Broward County voters are stupid. They can’t find the boxes on the ballots for each race. Maybe people just didn’t want to vote for anyone in that race? Maybe because the choices both sucked? I personally voted for Willie Nelson. I’m now positive the Democrats are going to say I must have meant “Bill Nelson”. Honestly though, if you can’t find the box, and you didn’t notice it and think “Gee, I didn’t get to vote for a senator, maybe I should double check this thing” you probably should do your civic duty and stay away from the polls altogether.

And doesn’t anyone find it unnerving the fact that ballots can get misplaced so easily in the first place? What happened to the concept of chain of custody? Why are precinct workers driving ballots around in their personal vehicles? Every time I have to get a drug test for employment I have to sign a bunch of papers signifying I understand the chain of custody by which my pee will travel to the drug testing site. Why isn’t the same care given to ballots? Both parties act like voting is some sort of sacred act, yet no one questions the way the sacred relics are handled. If my non-drug-tainted pee has to be kept under lock and key and guarded 24/7 by guys with guns (hyperbole much?) why aren’t ballots?

I don’t normally post about this kind of stuff, but this is way too entertaining. Maybe by the end of the week we’ll have a winner.

Or maybe by Christmas….

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Dailyish Thoughts #93

Information overload is a very real thing. BInge watching and social media threads are especially deep sources of wayyyy too much information. And 90% of it is antagonistic nonsense meant to provoke emotions instead of rational thought. The modern level of discourse doesn’t want debate over ideas and philosophies. Feelings are what matter, and feelings are best provoked by continuing to poke people until they burst. Poke people with enough negative ad hominems and eventually they will get violent toward whatever character you want.

So today was an overload. I consumed too much and I think too much about what I consume. Sometimes this results in a good product. Sometimes it just makes my head hurt. Today was the latter.

Onwards into tomorrow (today now). Let’s see if we can get the house clean on my only day off this week.

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