On Slowing Down

One good thing about being sick is it makes you slow down. I’ve been battling this bug for almost a week now and in that time I haven’t had my usual gusto, my usual push to “get something done; now!” I’ve had to relax. I’m not always as good at that as I could be.

Slowing down leads to intellectual exercise. Reading is one of my favorite intellectual exercises, but in my regular hustle-and-bustle mode I skim more than I read. I get the gist. I don’t digest. It feeds the beast but it hardly nourishes the soul. I’ve had more time to digest what I read this week.

Another favorite intellectual exercise of mine is to simply reflect. To sit, or lie, in a quiet place and sort through the mountains of data moving through my head. It’s shocking the amount of input we have to assimilate as human beings in the modern world. We become natural compartmentalizers, sifting through the information and storing it in places like “look at later,” “trash,” or “will I need this on the test?” It’s boggling. Meditation is a fantastic way to process it all. Our brains are natural servers and given a little bit of time and a moment away the mind can sort it all out on its own. I think that’s why a lot of folks like hiking in the woods; it’s a natural break from all these inputs.

But here’s what happens to me when I’m “away”:

I’m a natural thinker. I suppose we all are. My mind is always processing this stuff and storing it in that “look at later” folder. Most of the time, that’s the last I see that stuff. I have ideas. I have thoughts I could turn into potentialities, turn into intellectual exercises, turn into blog posts, game ideas and hours-long discourses at local watering holes. I have ideas I could turn into money. But in the cacophony of modern life I tend to pass up more ideas than I use. Who’s got the time to make money?

But in these quiet times, when I’m too sick to run around, too ill to hustle, and too tired to care, the ideas come faster. The ideas get better. The brain works harder on compartmentalizing and it finds a way to make sense of the cacophony. I begin to think I could do something really great, really soon.

But I’m terrible at writing stuff down.

I know, that’s funny, huh?

The kid who won’t shut up, this list person that I am, who likes nothing better than to take his half-baked ideas and blurt them out to the world on social media or a personal blog is terrible at writing things down.

“That’s a great idea, Tom,” Tom will say, “You have to write that down when you get home!”

Too late.

By the time I get home – or to work, or back from the bathroom, or out of the shower – a dozen new things have confronted me. Another text. A golden dog. Dinner plans. A cold beer. A moment of procrastination leads to a hundred more distractions. I’m a terribly unfocused man.

I’m the first to point out my strengths and the first to point out my flaws. I’m a great thinking man. I do it as well as anyone I know. I’m terrible at applying thought to constructive activity. Maybe worse than anyone I know.

Oh well.

I’ll record that transgression, assimilate the data, promise to get better, and store it all in the “look at later” folder. I enjoy the process of thought far better than the application of thought, anyway.

All week long the mornings have felt better than the afternoons, but yesterday morning was particularly bad. By evening, I was wrecked. At bedtime I took some sleepy medicine, it wired me, and I spent the entire night thinking in silence. It was awesome. I had some really good ideas. I was going to spring up and write them all down this morning.

I did this instead.

What can I say? I never even used to do this. I suppose if I live to be a hundred years old, and if my mind stays intact, I might just evolve into the sort of person that takes all these neat ideas, packs ’em between his mitts, and hurls ’em at the world like snowballs. Maybe.

But I’m starting to feel better, I think. I’m starting to get restive. Pretty soon there’s going to be something to get done. Pretty soon it will need to be done “now.” My gusto will return. My hustle-and-bustle will be on. In that world, Tom will go back to being Tom and all these ideas will be shelved.

I guess that’s for the best.

Life’s too short to spend all of it thinking. 😉

Looks Like An Early Winter

The missus and I have been fighting a bug all week. She’s still down and out, hacking her lungs out while trying to rest in a Nyquil-induced slumber. It’s 7:07 in the morning on a Thursday, and the rain is pounding against the roof. Our golden dogs just made their way back into the house, soaking wet, after refusing to wear their raincoats and then scurrying willie-nilly into the downpour for a quick pee. Their reward was a bowl full of dry food. My reward was fifteen minutes of drying wet fur. It’s not even November yet; it’s too early for this shit.

But sometimes it snows in April, as the saying goes, and sometimes it pours in October. The weatherman says that this bout of rain will last through Wednesday. I guess I won’t mow the lawn this week. Even though it sounds fun to run machinery in a monsoon, it is not. I have this head cold and the clippings clump up something fierce beneath the rotary hull. It’s a mess. I know, I used to do that for a living.

That seems like a lifetime ago, the lawn jockey business. I did it from the time I was 15, give or take, until I was about 32. That’s seventeen years for those counting at home. I remember placing a flyer in the paper towards the end that said “nearly 20 years of experience.” I rounded up. Sue me. I sold the thing within 6 months of that flyer. I hated the lawn business.

The lawn business was how I came to love the rain, though. As I sit here pounding this keyboard while the torrent pounds my rooftop, I’m in something like heaven. I love the sound of rain. I love the feel of the rain, both on my skin and in the air. There’s something magical about the air right before and right after a rain. There’s something powerful about the sound of it. I love the rain. I started to love the rain back when I was a lawn jockey because the sound of the rain meant I didn’t have to go do the work. When I did, in the rain, there would be mud trails and that clumping thing I talked about earlier. I hated that business. I stayed in it too long.

I stayed in it too long because it was easy. I don’t mean the actual work was easy, though it was at times. Routine. The routine was easy. I worked hard to make it my own, and purchased it from my step-father. I built it up, gained a strong reputation, and I worked hard. I loved the bookkeeping of the business. I loved making the routes, planning the weekly calendar, and doing the math. In the end, I worked 4 days a week for the amount I had once worked 6 days to 7. I had it all figured out.  I loved everything about it but the work. It was lonely work. Me. My machines. My thoughts. Too many long days of that. Plus, I really don’t like getting dirty. On a clean day, now, I shower twice. I’m not built for dirty work. I’m a people pleasin’, spreadsheet workin’, keyboard poundin’, clean hair and smiles kind of guy. Always be what you are, I say, as soon as you figure out what that is.

And that’s the rub. Figuring out who you are. That’s not easy. I would bet that three-quarters of every person, or more, on this planet never figure that out. They’re always angry or always sad or always unmotivated and they don’t know why. It’s because they haven’t figured out who they are, I say. Maybe they have, though. Maybe they know exactly who they are but who they are don’t fit in that well. I don’t know. I’m a blogger, dammit, not a doctor.

If I was some kind of doctor I would get up out of this chair and go figure out some way to stop the missus from coughing. She’s in misery in there. Trying to sleep, now at 7:27 on a Thursday morning. I feel better but I don’t feel perfect. Like a mild hangover instead of a brutal head cold. She’s just gotten worse. She’ll sleep all day again today; I’ll get the chores done around the house. I don’t mind those. I’ll open all the shades and watch the rain while I dust and vacuum and mop. I won’t even get that dirty, and it beats mowing the lawn. I’ll probably still shower twice.

Thanks for reading, folks. I hope your day is splendid and that you get to do exactly what the real you prefers to do. If not, hang in there, tomorrow is another day. Take a moment to enjoy the rain, take a good shower or two, and fill in your calendar for the week.

I hope you don’t get what we got.

It’s way too early for this shit.

Having Had Enough

I’ve had enough.

I’m not sick of writing. I’m not sick of blogging. I’m not even sick of politics – my return to the role of “news junkie” has only just begun. I love reading. I love learning. I love the act of synthesizing data to uncover correlations. I love coming to informed conclusions.

But I have had enough. I have had enough of this election.

I have ranted about it, here and there, on this blog. I have ranted about it, at times, on Facebook. I have discussed it, ad nauseam, in person. I’ve seen it from every angle. I’ve heard it from every side. It’s over. It’s not fixed, it’s just over.

I want to talk about something else. Doctor Strange is almost here. Iron Fist is coming. We finally got to see the first GotG2 trailer. That’s some exciting stuff.

If you’re not a superhero geek (and shame on you for that!) there’s some other really cool stuff coming your way. Halloween is 11 days from now. Thanksgiving is 36 days away. Christmas will be here in two months. Santa Crawl 2016 is about 1200 hours away.

The holidays can be stressful for some people (most people!) so if you’re one of them, sorry about all that. Let’s change the subject.

If you’re a Dallas Cowboy or Minnesota Viking fan you’re in a surprisingly great place.

If you’re the Indians or the Cubs you’re feeling pretty good today. If you’re the Dodgers you’re a little taken aback by recent events but still hanging in. If you like the Golden State Warriors you got to see last night exactly what happens when the rich get richer.

(insert political rant here)

I’m not. I’m not a Cubs fan or an Indians fan. I’m not a Warriors fan or a Cowboys fan. I don’t like or dislike the Vikings, they’ve done nothing wrong to me. I like the Lakers, who got squashed by them Warriors last night, and I like the Dodgers when I like baseball at all. I’m a Rams fan. Big time. Let’s talk about something else.

Andy Stern, an author and former North American union boss, tells us that we need to get ready for the coming world of unemployment. According to modern futurists (can I put those two words together?) we are going to see 90% of current jobs become unnecessary in the next 20 to 30 years. Automation and artificial intelligence will be able to do what most of us do by then, and they will be able to do it a billion times more efficiently. I made up the numbers “90%” and “a billion times” in those last two sentences, for impact. They can be substituted for “a bunch” and “a lot,” respectively. The gist is that the world is changing and we’ll have to do something about this whole work-for-income debacle we’ve created. We’re going to have to throw out the ol’ Protestant work ethic. It’s passé. Sorry if that was your thing.

I don’t know why I brought it up, either, I’m just fishing for topics so I don’t talk about the elephant at the podium.

But, here it goes, very quickly:

Last night was the final debate. Donald Trump came off like a pompous ass and a spoiled child, like he always does. Hillary Clinton had that cheesy, nervous smile almost entirely throughout. They both lied a bunch about what they’re going to do to save America from people like themselves. CNN says she won the debate. Almost every poll in the universe shows she has won the election. It’s pretty academic now. Either way, it’s not going to be the end of the world as you know it. You’ll be fine.

But I’ve had enough.

I’m going to talk a little bit more with people about holidays and superheroes and sports. I’m going to talk a little bit more about the future of humanity and what we can do in our daily lives to be better people. We’re living on a pretty nice planet during a pretty nice time. I’m going to try and ignore Him and Her, at least until after the election and maybe until January. I’m going to hug dogs and take walks and drink beer with the people I love most. I’m going to laugh like crazy. I’m going to be Tom.

Really, that’s the only way I know to stay sane.

I hope you’ll join me now in letting go. There is almost no feeling in the world better than letting go. And this thing – this long, dark contentious chapter – is almost over. Take my hand. There’s a light ahead.

I’ve had enough.

Ray Allen, God, and Me

I took a week off. I didn’t open a word document, didn’t light up a blank page with scribbles. I didn’t form an opinion on anything. I didn’t brainstorm or try to transform wisdom into dialogue. I didn’t write one true thing and let it lead to another. I didn’t pontificate at all. I took a week off.

My brain didn’t stop working. I didn’t lose my passion for prose. I didn’t shut down the inputs; I read voraciously. I learned a new word. Voraciously. It means something like “with great hunger.” I read this week with great hunger. This paragraph would have been a lot shorter if I wouldn’t have slipped in a big word and then defined it. If I would have just said that I read with great hunger in the first place I could have avoided droning on about it. But I did. I read a lot. I just didn’t write. I took a week off.

Sometimes you have to. Stephen King would not agree, and maybe he’s right. Maybe I don’t want to be a writer bad enough. Maybe I don’t want to be anything bad enough to do it all the time. Great fishermen fish all the time. Great speakers are always speaking. Nobody was born great. God didn’t give Ray Allen the ability to shoot threes. He practiced. He did it all the time. He never took a week off.

Or maybe he did. I don’t have him on speed dial. If you run into Ray Allen this week will you ask him if he ever just takes a week off? He probably doesn’t. The great ones probably don’t.

But I did. I took a week off.

I don’t feel guilty about it. If I felt guilty about it I’d probably sit here and write a whole entry about it. I might do that, anyway, but don’t go casting aspersions about my state of mind because of it.  This paragraph would have been a lot shorter if I had just said “doubting me” or “disparaging me” instead of saying “casting aspersions.” That might all be cut out in the second draft, anyway. The secret of great writing is great editing, you know? At least I think it is. I’m not a great writer. I take weeks off.

I have this entire piece I wrote two weeks or so ago about how we need to find some way to be ourselves in a world that is trying to mold us. I think it’s pretty good. I call “William Shakespeare” “Billy Shakes” in it, right there in the first sentence, to be sly. I think it’s pretty good. I haven’t read it in more than a week so I might be wrong. I talk about onions in it, too.

I almost posted it today instead of writing this. I almost posted it a week and a half ago instead of posting another thing. I received a lot of good feedback on the other thing, and it was an important thing to say, so I’m really proud of it. There is absolutely nothing important about what I’m writing today and I’m not really proud of that. But I’m out of practice. You know why.

I’m going to make a promise here in a second. It’s one that I really mean and, were I a better man, I would have made it years ago. I made it months ago, some of you might remember. I did pretty good with it for a while but, like all things, we do really good at something for a while sometimes and then we don’t for a bit. I’m not really proud of that last sentence at all. I’m not going to edit it. Sometimes we only recognize good writing when we see it bad. That was another terrible sentence. Let’s get out of this paragraph while we still can.

So, my promise: I’m going to write every day. I may not post every day because you would all quickly never read anything I ever post again. That’s how it works. Less is more. But just because I’m not posting doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be writing. Ray Allen probably throws basketballs at nets every day even when it’s not game day. I hope that’s the case. Because if he’s throwing up threes like he does, and he only ever throws while the clock is running, that means there’s some kind of god or something and he’s handing out him-given talents and I didn’t get one.

I can’t accept that yet.

Maybe next week I’ll write about something like that. Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow. I forgot I don’t have to wait until next week; I forgot my promise exactly 110 words after I made it. I’m going to forgive myself for that because I’m only human, I’m only one coffee in on a Saturday morning, and frankly I haven’t been doing as much thinking lately as I should. I’m out of practice with that, too.

I took a week off.

Thanks for welcoming me back with such vehemence. That word means…

Oh, forget it. Thanks for reading. Even when I don’t really write. 😉

Seeing the Change We Want To Be


I believe the world is changing.

I know it’s hard to see from where we sit today. The view is clouded by the volume of misinformation, the facts of history, our knowledge of human nature, and all this inhumanity we witness. I woke up this morning to the same horrific words and images as you, of people around the world fleeing Libya and Syria. Of people dying while fleeing. I’ve seen devastation this morning in Haiti, again.

A friend of mine is evacuating his home today in Georgia, his wife and son already out of the house, because of Hurricane Matthew. I hope the evacuation is all for naught and they come home to the same conditions that they left. I hope with all my might. But the conditions around the world, the things we humans have done to the people and to the planet, weigh heavy on me today. We are all fleeing or hoping not to flee, or fight.

It is only a storm that lashes our shores and we can prepare for storms. We are prepared, we like to think, for any storm. In most cases we are not. The people of Haiti could not have prepared for the storm that struck them this week, even if they wanted to. There is no money. They are already torn. The people of Libya and Syria had no way to prepare for the storm of war that has destroyed their countries. Look at the pictures again. We are terrible.

But the world is changing. I believe that.

We think that the horrors of those war-torn countries, the atrocities we see there, cannot happen here. They cannot. Right?

They can. We are divided. We turn on each other for color, for creed, for politics. We have seen demagoguery in our national election that we have not witnessed in a generation or more. Every speech divides us ever further. The nation braces for unrest. We are another recession away from chaos. We are three minutes to midnight.

Another friend of mine told me earlier in the week that the mass of information we are privy to in this day and age is a burden. It fills our heads with misguides and falsities. It leads us astray and divides us ever further. I disagree. The pictures are there. The truth is spreading like contagion. There is misinformation abounding, yes, but the truth is tearing through the illusions like rockets through the night. And when they hit, devastation. Devastation for those clinging to power. Devastation for those clinging to the outdated notion that freedom and abundance are only for the few.

We are in a powerful era. We have seen the advent of the information age, and it has swept us into a whirlwind of confusion. Our old myths are dying. Daily I see the rise of real, modern thought and the falling away of broken ideology. Daily the bright light of knowledge casts away the shadows of ignorance. It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s a terrible thing.

The pictures and words I’ve seen this morning changed me a little. They were disheartening and encouraging because I know they are there for all of us to see. Unlike any other era in mankind’s history, we can know what is really happening.  We can look beyond the manipulations and we can see the truth.

I worked all week on a blog piece about being ourselves in a world that tries to mold us. It’s finished. It’s ready to post. It will wait. This is more important. The world is changing.

I think we’re looking at the last time we will settle for the worst candidates. I think we’re looking at the last generation that will turn their heads at the plight of the world. I think we’re looking at the last time we will allow war for oil. I think this is the last time that we will talk about building walls against the downtrodden or how lifting up the rich will make us all less poor. We fell for that once. We fell for that twice. We will fall for that no more. Nobody believes that stuff nowadays anyway, do they?

If they do this is the last time that they will. We are cutting through the web of confusion.

The world is changing.

At last.