Who am I? Who wants to know?

Recently, an acquaintance of mine sent out a newsletter with the question: “Who am I?”

As he confronts a new period in his life, retirement, he finds himself questioning that now as he’s out of the work force. We so often define ourselves by our profession and the other roles we play in our lives as he has. In doing so, we may lose sight of another answer, one that is more accurate.

Then, I ask the question, “does it matter?” What does it matter if one is a physician, a plumber, a writer, or a politician (let’s not get into that last one, it will have to wait for another time).

I offer that it doesn’t matter. What matters, or should, is what we are. Not cultural, race, religion, politics. No. Are we good? Do we look out for others? Do we care about them? How do we help them? How do we make things better?

This is not a screed against work and the benefits it offers. It’s necessary. And yes, sometimes it may do more harm than good and that’s something to be addressed. It should not be a, or the, defining factor of who we are.

Rather, how do we live our lives? Hopefully as a positive force for good in any of the arenas in which we dwell. That’s who we should be. Who we are should be measured by deeds, not occupation.

Me? I’m trying my hardest to live into that.

The folly of red.

In what life does one admit to their own weaknesses in public? This one, I suppose.

I have an addiction to… red. Not in clothing, thankfully, but in things that matter more. My first girlfriend, if you can imagine a third grader capable of conducting such a relationship, was the red-haired Patty who sat next to me in homeroom. It was a foretelling of my future. As third grade “romances” go, it probably lasted all of a month. I realize in retrospect, the hook had been set and I was hopelessly attracted to “red.”

On purchasing my first car, it was a toss-up between a snortingly powerful, red Chevy Impala convertible and a small, red, come-hither MGA, it too a convertible. Either one would have been the perfect accomplice to my adolescent dreams of attracting someone of the opposite sex, preferably a red head, to me. I opted for the MGA.

Low slung, wire wheels, and a white canvas top, it was beautiful and vengeful. It rewarded me with a repair bill if taken anywhere further than the nearest gas station. After one particularly long trip to Boston and back, it stayed true to its mission and blew its engine. At least this relationship lasted longer than the one with Patty.

My next “red” relationship was with a Toyota sedan. Purchasing it under the assumption that since it was a Toyota, it was therefore indestructible. It was until one very wet and snowy day, it decided to, in front of my house, self-immolate due to a wet wiring harness. Was this confirmation that redheads are indeed fiery? It may be an inarguable point. However, it did last longer than Patty and my late-lamented MGA. But, I was missing the signs.

This particular curse is spoken about in the 1980 film, “Used Cars” starring Kurt Russell. Red cars are to be avoided at all costs as described in this piece of dialogue, “Rudy, what the hell is this? Rudy, this is a red car. Holy shit! A red chariot to take my ass straight to hell!” Stay away from red cars at all costs. It summed up what I had already discovered.

And yet, that wasn’t warning enough to prevent me from purchasing a lovely maroon red Saab. There wasn’t really anything wrong with that car except it had a penchant for magnetically attracting other vehicles. The first was when a honking big SUV backed into it (details are classified to protect the guilty); the second, and ultimately fatal to the car, was when an elderly person decided to displace my car on the road in favor of his, consequently totaling it. Maybe I should have known better.

But still, it’s a hard addiction to kick.

Have I owned any red cars since then? Hell, no. But I did marry a red head. And many things attributed to gingers are true. And I wouldn’t trade this model in for anything.

Taking the mask off.

Much has been written about the efficacy of masks the past couple of years. More so now that the pandemic appears to be waning. But this is not about the health benefits of wearing one nor are there any political undertones. No, this is about who the hell is that person masquerading as me for those two years.

Yes, we don’t wear masks in the house, at least not in mine. Nor do I wear one while showering and brushing my teeth. I do see my reflection in the mirror daily so it’s not like I’m a complete stranger.

Yet. Yet. It’s a different face. It is two years older and two years greyer, bordering (beardering?) on silver. WHO is that person?

There are new lines, a bit deeper than before. And the eyes, wearier now.

Such is the cost of what our lives have become in the short yet interminably long two years. Some of what has occurred is due to aging. I’m not fooling myself about that. It’s been a hard two years for all of us. It’s strain I see in my face now from not being able to live as I once did. It’s the weight of emotions from isolation, insecurity, and invasion. It has all contributed to the face now before me.

Besides the physical change, there are other changes. I’m more appreciative of the newly regained freedoms that are returning to us, ones we took for granted. I’m also more intolerant of deniers, those who for whatever reasons refuse to accept that this is no longer the ’50’s and that we are all in this together. One person’s freedoms are not another’s restrictions. That equation doesn’t work. Uh-oh, some science creeping in here. That’s not what this is about though. Hardly.

I’m glad the masks are coming off. They’re allowing us to see ourselves again in the harsh light of day… and those around us in the same way.

And if it becomes necessary to put the masks on again, I will and hope others will too.And that will produce change again and hopefully this time universal and for the better.

What is a friend?

It’s a word bandied about rather loosely without the true meaning attached to it. We receive “Friend” requests on Facebook, yet a “friend” on that site connotes something more than it actually is. Used that way, the word is becoming meaningless

The Oxford Language definition of friend is this: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. Do we really have that bond with our social media friends? Ehhh, I don’t think so. Nor can we. We are too far removed because of social media to have a genuine connection.

While it’s true many us have lots of “friends”, how many of those could we rely on should the need arise? Do we need that many friends? And how many of them really share our values, ideologies, positions, even our taste in ice cream? How important is that? You decide.

We are too quick to make new “friends” that we miss the value in the real ones who don’t need or maybe even want to know where we had dinner last night. Or why they weren’t there with us. A true friend respects our needs and asks nothing more than the same from us.

Finally, are we true friends to others? Hopefully, yes. Otherwise, we’re just acquaintances.

You can’t take it with you…

Nor should you. I’m not talking about death though it could just as well apply. What’s up for discussion is what we need to get through our days.

From the earliest pandemic days, working from home (euphemistically called “sheltering at home”) I stopped wearing a watch and my wedding ring. There was no need for the watch as my computer screen was far more accurate. The ring? Well, my wife was in the room next me and I saw no need to remind her daily of our commitment to one another.

And now?

As things cautiously open up again, I find myself as I venture back into life, now leaving those artifacts behind. The watch – nice, but unnecessary as my phone will tell me what I need to know. The ring? I’m of an age now where my ringless hand will not entice anyone to inquire of my availability, not that they would have in earlier years. The commitment remains, just as strongly as in the past, but sometimes the ring remains in the drawer.

There’s no need for a briefcase or tote to carry business stuff in as most of it’s available, again, through my phone. The same goes for an appointment book, archaic as that may sound.

Wallet and keys? It’s getting to the point that the phone will surplant those too. How long will it be before our cars will recognize our phone and allow their use without a key? Soon, I’m told. And you can pay for your coffee with a phone.

It will boil down to a smartphone is all we need to carry on.

So, at the end of the day, you really don’t have to take it with you and why would you. All I have to figure out now is how to leave the damned phone behind.

Thoughts while on “hold”.

How many times has one been put on hold for what seems like eternity after being told “your call is important to us”? Just how important is it, really?

While waiting in an office for an appointment, I’ve been offered coffee or water. That tells me that I am important enough to recognize my presence.

On the phone, we’re treated to generic “music” or what passes for it. Thinking longer about that, I wonder who composed it and were they paid royalties for it? Going deeper into that, did they study “music” in a conservatory? Do they have a record deal? Where can we get their latest CD or stream it?

Are all these call centers that busy all the time or is everyone on an extended coffee break? If they are indeed that busy, what does it say about the quality of their products that so many people are calling for assistance?

Is there really a queue in where our calls are placed or is it more like a Mayberry switchboard where some overworked operator is plugging in lines willy-nilly?

And then, only then, after waiting for the Messiah to come, is your call picked up by someone uniquely unqualified to help you. After explaining your situation multiple times, you’re asked to, yet again, be put on hold for a brief moment. The dictionary explains brief thusly: “of short duration.” “Brief” in their world is measured by a calendar, not by a clock.

Currently, I’ve been on hold for over forty-five minutes, though I’ve been reassured I’m next in the queue. Check back with me next week as I’m sure I’ll still be next in line on the queue.

“Who Knows Where The Time Goes?”

So go the lyrics to the eponymously titled Fairport Convention song. Sung plaintively by singer Sandy Denny, it addresses the passage of time through seasonal changes, and love and friends lost. The themes are universal, we’ve all experienced these at some time in our lives.

As I write this, I wonder where the past two years have gone. Friends have been lost, some to isolation, others to death. Even the seasons have been missed, while we euphemistically “sheltered in place”.

And now, once again, there is reason for cautious optimism that we may be turning the corner on the pandemic. Yet, time is not slowing down. I fear that upon reaching what will soon pass for “normal” we still wonder where the time has gone.

However, it, like spring, may afford us the opportunity to revisit some those endeavors/resolutions/hopes and start anew.

What would you like to revisit?

In search of…

The Holy Grail? No.

Aliens? No, again.

True love? If you got it, hold on to it. If not, good luck in the best possible way.

I’m currently reading the book Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. The protagonist states in the beginning, “It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make…”

And the choices in his search that he makes are unforgettable. Just as are the choices we make. It’s a search that, in one form or another, takes a lifetime. In Jacob Will, 11.0: A Coward’s Guide to Living, this protagonist learns that in a hard, funny, and hopefully poignant way with lasting effects.

What are the choices you’ve made in your search? Are you happy with them?

Shakespeare on Cowardice:

“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.” – William Shakespeare

And make no mistake, Jacob Will was a coward… in love, truth, and most importantly, himself. He lived no truths, without love, and he would have to learn to know and trust himself before he could do anything about it. He would have to die at least eleven times before he could live.