Journaling on a Friday night in mid-August (on my friend’s mortality, plus an update)

So it’s been 8.5 weeks since committing to stop drinking. That’s really good, and I’m proud of myself on this. Demonstrating my will power to choose to do better, for all those out there who, for whatever reasons, like to downplay the significance of will power. Can’t claim to comprehend what those folks are talking about there, seeing as how we’re always presented with options and even people with a whole lot working against them that one might imagine would never succeed have proven they could rise on the right occasion. When they made up their mind to do so and backed it with determined effort. I take inspiration from such people.

Yesterday happened to be my mother’s birthday. Decided to send her a text today, to which she replied saying she’d received flowers from the man she’s dating now. We haven’t interacted via text in several months prior to this exchange, per our norm. Yesterday also marked the day I decided to give up smoking herb for a solid couple of weeks. Hadn’t been partaking in it much since quitting drinking, but I still worry about replacing one crutch for another. So I simply decided to take a hiatus from that as well. Will be good for me. Might bore me into going to bed earlier and actually working out more than twice a week.

Hadn’t been inside a bar in about 2 weeks until today (where I ordered iced tea, of course). There I ran into a female friend and her ex-husband (those two remain close friends), having not seem either of them in months and him specifically since long before his last heart attack back in May. Might’ve been before Christmas since he and I last spoke. So I asked questions and he shared what all he’s been going through with that, plus he filled me in on details about his last heart attack 12 years ago as well as his mini-stroke 11 years ago. Also, he had underwent having a pacemaker put in back in March, which is what likely saved his life during this latest heart attack. Though when he collapsed he managed to fall and hit his head hard, resulting in a concussion that caused periodic bouts of dizziness for a month or more. They say he might live another couple of years at the rate he’s going. He’s now 61 years old, thankful to have healthcare coverage, currently living off the remains of his 401k while waiting for acceptance on disability coverage, with plans to file for early retirement next year so as to collect social security benefits. He had always worked up until the events of this spring, but now he’s unable to fulfill the duties of his job.

He spoke of the medications they have him on and their side effects, the doctors visits and body scans, and the insomnia he’s now plagued with. But what really struck a chord with me was when he talked about their young grandson and how he’s spending as much time as he can with him and letting him know how much he loves him. Says he can’t take anything for granted anymore. I got pretty misty-eyed listening to that portion of his story.

Mortality. The hardest part seems to be knowing that your days are numbered. His father and grandfather both suffered heart attacks and died relatively young, so he’s not counting on outliving them by much. Not that I can blame him there. He has to reckon with this to the best of his ability based on the information he’s being confronted with.

He’s a good man. Very sweet and caring. A good provider and overseer for his family, despite the divorce. Told me that he’s always adored me as well, and the feeling is mutual. A part of me does love that man, just because he has a good spirit. He will be missed, but like he said, we shouldn’t mourn him when he’s gone, we should celebrate life and living.

Wish I could make it to his eclipse party later this month, but I’ll be busy working like always. Will think of him when that eclipse does darken the sky midday on August 21st, knowing how excited he is to experience it during his lifetime (said it’d been 99 years since the last one that was viewable from coast to coast). He does love to watch the heavens for activity. In fact, he and his ex-wife were the first ones to point out to me the space station moving past overhead a couple years ago. I’d probably have never noticed otherwise.

Does make me a little sad to see him still drinking despite his heart condition. He said he knows he probably should quit, but he’d also like to enjoy what time he has left and drinking is a big part of their lifestyles. I didn’t say much to any of that since it’s none of my business. Just worry for him is all, but I don’t need to state that out loud to him. It’s his life, and who knows what the future holds. Conventional wisdom doesn’t prove correct in every individual case, so sometimes you just gotta let the dice roll.

Their family has been through a great deal this year, from his failing health to their son’s apartment burning down due to an electrical fire, etc. She said their son is taking his father’s health problems pretty hard. I imagine. It’s a sad situation. But nothing can be done about it. Death is unavoidable.

Something else this man said that troubled me: he’s not worried about dying so much as who’s going to have to be the one to find his body. He’s worried for his family members being put through that trauma. Yeah, that’s heart-wrenching to deeply consider, knowing all of them and imagining how hard it would hit them inside. All I could do was just pat his leg on that since there aren’t words to comfort somebody wrestling with such thoughts. Then he broke into a bit of a joke about dying on his riding lawn mower. He’s a truly sweet-spirited person who thinks about everybody else first. Couldn’t change his nature if he tried.

We told one another to not be strangers, and I do hope to see him again sooner rather than later. Told my female friend goodbye and I left. That’s all the heaviness I could sit with in that hour.

I didn’t mean to walk away, but it felt like I needed to once all had been said that needed to be said for one day. I miss him a little bit already. Only met the man a couple years ago but he’s one of those sweet souls who leaves a positive mark whether he means to or not. We got along right off the bat, which is saying something since I’m not known for being compatible with just anybody and everybody. Told his ex-wife, my friend, that she can call me whenever she wants to talk and that I’ll be here for them. And I mean it. That family was really good to me when I met them by random chance a couple years back during a particularly bad depression spell. They befriended me and have remained kind toward me, even when I wound up pulling away over the last year so as to tend to my own matters. Now is a good time to reconnect and to find ways to help out as needed. I do need to make an effort at that, to not let it slide as if there’s always enough time. Time runs out. People grow old. Health declines. The only thing that really matters in this world are our people, however we might define that. Our relationships are what matter most. Everything else just winds up fading away without a second thought.

We just kept hugging each other. Communion in its truest form. He didn’t seem scared about all of this, but I know he’s afraid of leaving people who love and depend on him. But he’s likely still got time, maybe another year or two or more. Never know. But I know I need to step up as a friend and be around more instead of retreating to my home. And I’m going to. Been wanting to for a long while and now it feels very necessary.

What I really ought to do is make them dinner or snacks to take over sometimes. And we really ought to do game nights again like we used to. Those were always fun. Make a few more good memories while time permits.

Spoke to my former partner on the phone tonight and told him about all of that. He’s met them a handful of times in the past. Then I cooked spaghetti with a side of steamed green beans for dinner. Worked out earlier in the day with my gym trainer. Have an early morning tomorrow, so for the rest of the night I intend to relax.

The latest audiobook I completed (coincidentally) and really appreciated was Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman. A very worthwhile book. Currently re-listening to A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine.

Ten Jewish authors I appreciate

Since I keep hearing and reading online so much negativity blaming Jewish folks for everything under the sun, I figure now would be a good time to post up something positive and share a few of the notable Jewish authors in my book collection. In no particular order:

1.) Erich Fromm — Might as well begin with the most obvious since I’ve mentioned his works time and time again on here and my YT channel. Thus far I’ve read 12 books by this man (excerpts are linked where available):Escape_From_Freedom_Fromm

Not all are personal favorites, but as a collection unto themselves they’ve certainly served as interesting food for thought over time.

2.) Richard L. Rubenstein — His book The Cunning of History: The Holocaust and the American Future provided a lot to seriously consider when I first came across it about 8-9 years ago. Shared copies with friends, though I can’t say for sure if any of them actually read him.

choose-yourself_Altucher3.) James Altucher — His audiobook Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Makes Millions, Live the Dream actually proved useful during a very depressing spell a couple years back. His promotion of what he refers to as the “Four Daily Practices” (basically caring for our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health) are what I needed to hear at the time and helped improve my mindset and outlook. Happen to be re-listening to it this week for kicks and giggles — he’s a pretty funny guy. Originally came across him accidentally by way of his blog, as so many people do. He encourages people to routinely itemize ideas in lists of 10 or more (on any subject we fancy) so as to flex and expand our “idea muscle.” Good idea, James.  wink

4.) Steven Pinker — Earlier this year I completed the audio version (after initially receiving a print copy as a gift) of his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, which I did quibble over quite a bit and still am not sold on the data and arguments presented therein. But its content was worth considering. Still chewing it over. Perhaps it deserves to be mentioned that several years back I received a copy of his book The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature as a gift as well, though I have yet to read that one (planning to listen to the audio version eventually instead, having recently loaned out my print copy).

5.) Yuval Noah Harari — Came across this author by random chance earlier this year and listened to his audiobook Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

6.) Richard P. Feynman — Originally I received as a gift a few years back a copy of his book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, following that with listening to The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think?: Further Adventures of a Curious Character. He offered up some very thought-provoking essays (along with quirky personal stories).

What_Is_Life_Margulis_Sagan7.) Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan — After first learning of their book What Is Life? on Dr. Corey Anton’s YT channel, I ordered a used copy online. Loved it and share it with others (especially young people — makes a great gift). Followed that with the audio version of their book Dazzle Gradually: Reflections on the Nature of Nature, which contains a couple stories that particularly stick in my mind and inform my imagination. So far I’m very impressed with what I’ve come across from this mother/son authoring duo.

8.) Dan Ariely — A family member first introduced me to his book Predictably Irrational. Later, I picked up a copy of The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves. Both are worth reading.

9.) Leonard Mlodinow — His audiobook Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior remains among my favorites. Following that, I purchased a print copy of his and Deepak Chopra’s book War of the Worldviews: Science vs. Spirituality, which I happened to find fascinating. Wasn’t a fan of Deepak Chopra prior to reading that book but came to see their viewpoints as not necessarily diametrically opposed to one another, despite initial outward appearances (even after watching footage of them debating). Can’t make a clear case for why I see it that way — it’s just how their written back-and-forth arguments resonated with me. I personally found both books valuable.

Deathbird-Stories-Ellison10.) Harlan Ellison — Can’t recall how I first came across his books, not being a regular reader of fiction, but somehow his collections of short stories crossed my radar. The two books I have read by him thus far are Strange Wine and Deathbird Stories. His writing skills are undeniably impressive, and it’s a pleasure to occasionally take time out to retreat into the products of his imagination.

Surely I could locate several more Jewish authors within my book collection (Elie Wiesel, Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Karl Polanyi, Karl Popper, Viktor Frankl, Isaac Asimov, Michael Pollan, Stanley Milgram, Jonathan Haidt, Robert Heilbroner, Steven Levitt, Ayn Rand, Thomas Szasz, Jared Diamond, etc. — come to find out enough to populate another list or two), but my goal today was simply to list the first ten that came to mind.

And perhaps presenting this list will serve as a deterrent to those online who might otherwise feel the desire to ask me, as someone did just yesterday, if I’ve considered “the Jewish question.”  ??  To which I flippantly responded about my appreciation for several Jewish authors (hence what motivated me to create this list in the first place) and for Mel Brooks’ films, on top of being an enthusiastic lifelong fan of Weird Al Yankovich who just so happened to marry a Jewish woman. So…there’s your answer, in a nutshell. And if being anti-Semitic is expected or required of those who align themselves with the so-called Alt-Right, well then, that’s just one more movement/political camp I need not concern myself too much with. Not a fan of movements of any kind anyway. Nor of categorically demonizing and scapegoating whole groups/classes/races of people based on arbitrary criteria so as to suit ideological ends. That’s not my bag.

Journaling on the last evening of July

Feeling pretty melancholy the last couple of days. Been doing okay overall, but slacked off on exercising last week since my gym was closed during its relocation. Also blew off my trainer last Friday. Worked out with him today though. Not been eating the best stuff, admittedly. Smoking too many cigarettes. But at least I’ve been remaining alcohol-free. Tomorrow marks 7 weeks since my commitment to stop drinking. Glad for that progress.

But I have a lot more work to do. Been taking time to try to care better for myself, like oiling my hair and doing my nails and making myself more comfortable at home. Lightly trimmed my hair tonight. Cleaned and organized around the apartment a decent bit in the past week. I do need to get out more. Haven’t been inside a watering hole in over a week. Just haven’t been in the mood lately. Not getting out around people enough though. Not yet feeling like taking the initiative to meet new people.

It’s been a bit rough going away from my former partner. We spoke on the phone a couple of times in the last 2 weeks, but that’s it. No in-person contact, which I don’t really want anyway since it’s such a depressing situation forever and always. Still hurt by some of things he said to me on that last evening at his place. Can’t shake it off. And when we talked about it since he just dismisses it all as stuff he spews when he’s mad. But I really don’t want to hear any of that anymore. It’s not good for either of us to be this stressed out and unhappy. While I recognize I’ve been very rough-talking with him in the past as well, I had hoped we’d move beyond that and start treating one another with more respect. He says that someday we’ll be able to do that. Just too much tension between us still. But I’m just so used to spending time with him and talking on the phone regularly, so now there’s that gap in my life as well, and I’m not sure how to fill it. Really need to figure that out since it’s starting to bring me down.

Went with my best guyfriend yesterday to watch the War For the Planet of the Apes movie. Graphics were cool, but the storyline wasn’t too good. Maybe I expected something more profound in its ultimate message, but it delivered more of a Disney-esque happy ending that seemed wrapped up in a neat hurry. Kinda felt disappointed leaving the theater after that. Hard to find good movies worth watching these days, hence why I so rarely go to cinemas. That movie series had potential. I really liked the character Caesar.

Just not entirely sure of what to do with myself. Most of what I want to do involves the internet and books, but what I probably ought to be doing right now is finding new places to go and becoming more physical and getting out of my head. Kinda worried about isolating myself too much since that eventually causes more problems than it solves. Nice to retreat sometimes though. Been out and about a great deal the last 2 years. Feeling like I should just focus more on exercising and otherwise going ahead and staying home more. But I should reach out to certain people and go visit them sometimes. Probably would be good for us all.

Some of the fogginess from alcohol has lifted, but not as much as hoped. Apparently that will be a more gradual change. Undoubtedly increasing my exercising will help there too.

While taking a shower tonight, my mind began roaming over all sorts of embarrassing shit I got caught up in over the course of my time drinking. Embarrassing shit I did or that others did. Things I said and regret. General ways I acted. Ran into a female bartender from the “raunchy bar” at the gas station earlier. Haven’t seen her since early June when I quit going in that joint. Still wondering what her problem was the last time I saw her. Ah well. She’s not my kind of people either way. Just a lot of stupidity to reflect on. Enough of the memories make me angry at myself or else make me feel ashamed. Pretty sure these thoughts and feelings will be following me for a long while, though I haven’t a clue yet on how to heal them. People like to talk a lot about forgiveness, but it isn’t proving to be my strong suit.

Hate to think I just wasted a bunch of years. But I guess I wasn’t in a rush to do anything else in the meantime. Not like I put off major life plans since I didn’t really have any to pursue. Already graduated from college and am maintaining self-employment, those having been my primary goals and I accomplished them. Guess it’s time to give serious thought to creating new goals.

In other news, got called a “coon lady” today by somebody ticked off in the comment section of my video about Cynthia G‘s batshit racism. heh  Interesting. That becoming a universal pejorative to sling willy-nilly at anybody and everybody nowadays? Folks online act so crazy…

What else? Currently working through Dr. Thomas Sowell’s book Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality? (1985). Really appreciating it thus far.

“Waking Up With Sam Harris #42 – Racism and Violence in America (with Glenn Loury)”

Have now added the books mentioned to my Audible wishlist: On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by Alice Goffman and Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy.

“The Vanishing American Adult”

From the Hoover Institution, Nebraska Senator Benjamin Sasse joins Peter Robinson to discuss his book The Vanishing American Adult and the growing crisis in America of “prolonged adolescence,” the necessity of productivity despite now transitioning into a consumption-focused economy, the lagging of virtues in what has become a preeminent first-world society, and the passivity commonly shown by millennials in the face of this unfolding reality and what can be done to instill better habit formation so as to build a work ethic as well as to learn to appreciate the values our nation was founded on.

I can dig much of what Senator Sasse is putting forth here, old-school and traditional as it can’t help but be. Not that all or even most traditions are wholly useless or obsolete to where they deserve to be discarded in the dustbin of history. In fact, we’d better learn more about those traditions and what all they encompass and why they came into being before jumping to the conclusion that they no longer serve a useful purpose or matter. This is me saying this, of all people. Some things can’t be brought back once they’re gone, and we humans have a bad habit, nowadays especially, of assuming we know more than we do. Thinking we have the right answers when we don’t. Getting caught up in modern life and not taking the time to explore in depth what we’ve historically and evolutionarily come up through.

Life is a massive puzzle that we’ll never be able to completely figure out. But now we do tend to act (at all age levels) as though if we can dream it, we can then somehow bring it into fruition and that will necessarily be good. We’re naive in that assessment, IMO. It’s a grand assumption, very often wishful thinking rooted in nothing but hopes and ideals. If we can’t or won’t seriously grapple with who and what we are—as individuals, groups/tribes, cultures, nations, and overall as a species—then how valuable and realistically applicable can we expect our dreams to be?

An untold number of generations have come before us struggling through entire lifetimes while striving to comprehend life and living, to survive and gain wisdom and insights to pass forward so as to give each subsequent generation a little bit more to work with. Yet we like to act nowadays as if all that’s come before is dwindling in relevancy, archaic, impractical in this day and age. I used to feel the same way when I was a younger. Admittedly still do to an extent, especially when faced with religious fundamentalism and the dogmatic extremes exhibited therein. And yet also I more and more feel drawn toward lessons already out there and articulated, wanting to learn from them instead of stubbornly refusing and attempting to reinvent the wheel. I need to focus more of my own time investigating and familiarizing myself with what has come before. Hard not to feel tremendously ignorant and humbled when confronted with so much information and ideas and observations generated and recorded in the past, just waiting for us in the 21st century to conscientiously engage with it and see what springs forth.

Aristotle sounds like a good place to start.

Late-night journaling in early July

Now 3.5 weeks into my commitment to stop drinking and feeling fine. No big problems thus far. The cravings come and go, but they so far haven’t proven too difficult to resist and move past (other than that one snafu night a couple weeks back, but that being the only one — feel like I have to note that for full disclosure purposes — keeping it real, heh). But yeah, so far so good. People drink around me sometimes but it hasn’t really bugged me much. One night my former partner’s beer started beckoning me, so I prepared my stuff to leave and let him know I felt a bit tempted, then I wound up reverting my attention to a National Lampoon movie on the television and forgot about it.

Though the cravings do remain and are very real. Just that they’re not as difficult to combat as I’d imagined they would be or as they were during previous times in trying to quit drinking alcohol. Still do kinda miss a big frosty mug or pint glass in my hands, but not too much. My beer can fetish is easily enough remedied by toting my Schweppes seltzer water cans around instead. Fizzy yet no calories. Goes down easy and keeps me distracted from the barley pop. Obviously lacks any kick, which I do sometimes miss, but I remind myself promptly what all tends to accompany that kick. All it takes is a trip down memory lane (even memories from this year alone) to cure me of wanting a repeat of any of that. So not worth it.

Been spending a lot more time online lately, seeing as how I have a good bit more time on my hands. Watched countless videos by Kevin O’Hara on his AlcoholMastery channel over the last three weeks, all of which have proven helpful. His calm demeanor and Irish accent is very soothing while the information and experiences he shares really resonate with me. Also wandered onto other channels on YT to listen to others’ experiences on quitting drinking, including a few millennials. Good to see so many of them recognizing the problems with that lifestyle so early in life, though I’m saddened to hear the sordid details of some of their tales. Can relate to plenty of that too. They tend to refer to their issue with alcohol as “binge drinking,” but like my former partner pointed out earlier tonight, that’s what older and heavier drinkers refer to as “novice drinkers.” Which is to say that every drinker starts out with bingeing; over the years it develops into a more steady (and generally daily) habit. It’s a progression.

Very glad to have come to my senses finally. Been knowing I had to get to this point sooner rather than later, but I struggled with it over the last couple years and wouldn’t give up the drinking. Not until I got seriously pissed off, at both myself and a good many of my fellow bar patrons. This is one example where getting angry really paid off. If one can harness it, that is. Which I finally did, partly by choice and partly because I was going to blow my lid otherwise. So sick of some of the losers I found myself in the company of at these various watering holes over the years, culminating in me arriving at the worst pub I’ve ever set foot in. But I’m grateful for what major assholes some of those people proved to be — made my decision so much easier finally. Gave me a terrific wake-up call like no other. Showed me what lay in store for folks who give in to that lifestyle and take it too far. Also showed me what a bunch of bitter jerks we can be when our lives wind up reduced to shallow indulgences that do us no good. So, for these reasons, I’m glad I waltzed into that joint earlier this year and took time to get to know those assholes. They definitely made an impression on me, and I’m pleased as punch to keep putting distance between myself and folks like them. Full-on misery loving company there. Good riddance.

Not that assholes are limited to that one watering hole. Assholes abound all throughout the barscene. I don’t doubt I was an asshole too. Kinda goes with the territory.

And I’ll probably remain an asshole-of-sorts. Just glad to no longer be ingesting a chemical that messes up my mind to where I say so many of the wrong things and frequently enough can’t even recall what they even were. Tired of feeling guilty about that. Also tired of dealing with idiots who love to get a reaction out of more emotional folks like myself. Too difficult for me to check my emotions and remain level-headed once I’ve had enough to drink. I tend to get far too reactive and mouthy. Irritated by disrespect and unnecessary bullshit, or I create it. And we’re all so prone to talk over one another’s shoulders and misunderstand each other’s intentions. They react, I react, and all communication bogs down. Hence why they prefer to keep talk so light and stupid, thinking that will stave off reasons for people to argue. But it doesn’t work that way for me. Their attempts at light and stupid tend to grate on my nerves. Just don’t possess enough patience any longer to deal with all of that. Something went snap in me over time and I no longer wish to put up with my fellow barhounds’ bullshit. Went beyond stupid, beyond depressing even. Became downright pathetic. And I do include myself in that assessment as well.

It’s all still on my mind day to day as I adjust to this new way of being. But more and more I find myself thinking about other matters and letting the bad aftertaste of dealing with those jokers slowly fade away. Will take time though. Dealt with those sorts for too long. Became one of them, at least so far as I was able to. And now that’s over and there’s all kinds of new terrain to explore.

Been re-listening to some of my audiobooks lately, including Taleeb Starkes’ Black Lies Matter and Dr. James Hollis’s What Matters Most: Living A More Considered Life. Put the last bit of volume 1 of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago on hold a few weeks back, with plans to finish it soon enough. Picked back up my print copy of Otto Rank’s Art and Artist: Creative Urge and Personality Development now that I have nifty reading glasses to aid me. Already mentioned on another recent post reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. A couple weeks back I listened to The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault, which was just okay. Before that I listened to A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History by Nicholas Wade. And also The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis, which was an interesting story. And a couple other titles that slip my mind right now.

Yesterday afternoon I rented 3 of the remakes of The Planet of the Apes films, in preparation for watching the newest one coming out later this month. Don’t know much about these movies, having only seen bits and pieces of the originals. The storyline sounds interesting, so hopefully it lives up to the expectations. Thinking of cooking up spaghetti Friday evening and nestling in to begin this series. A friend of mine also wants to see them, and my former partner said he too might try to sit through one of them (not much a movie-watcher usually). Might be fun. (Might also finally break out the new popcorn popper I received as a gift months back.)

What else? Trimmed my hair this evening. It needed it. The bleached tips are drying out and in need of gradual removal. Oiled it up tonight with argon oil (and coconut oil on the tips) after putting my usual drops of jojoba oil in with my conditioners. Managed to create a nice layering effect in the back this time around. Took some time and patience but I like the result. Been trimming my own hair for a couple years or more now and so far so good. Thinking of dyeing it again sometime soon, though I can’t settle on a shade. Went with black with reddish copper tips last time, but the black dye faded all throughout pretty fast. So much for Garnier Nutrisse being a permanent dye. The black dyes I’ve used in the past were steadfast, but not that stuff. So nevermind that brand. Leaning with going for a golden medium brown to slightly lighten my original color a bit. Done it plenty of times before to nice effect. But I’m also toying with going more amber, though it seems everybody is going for red hues these days. But solid black looks flat, and my hair is already dark brown. Burgundy shades are out since they too are all the rage right now. So medium golden brown it probably will be. Avoiding the frosting this time since it’s so damaging to my hair. Been dyeing my own hair since I was a young teen, rarely opting to go the salon route, and I’ve been mostly pleased with the results. Saves money to do it oneself, plus I’ve had my hair botched worse by stylists than by myself.

Little pretties like that make me happy. Still meaning to get around to doing my complete pedicure and possible manicure. Been lazy lately though. Have to stick with neutral shades when I do it myself since I don’t have the skills that the Asian nail tech ladies possess. Best to leave the application of dark and bright shades to them. Someday I’ll be able to afford their services again. Just have to catch up my finances for a spell before indulging in such luxuries.

That’s about it for now. Taking it easy, relaxing when not working, exercising occasionally, still staying up late most nights but aiming to wake earlier, sharing meals pretty regularly with my former partner (he’s been particularly generous lately in inviting me over for dinners — probably part of the reason I’ve yet to lose any weight these past 3 weeks), and keeping the alcohol out of my mouth (in the words of Kevin O’Hara). Oh, and on the 4th of July my former and I went on a walk to observe the local fireworks, which was nice. We rarely walk together much anymore, so that was good. Didn’t bicker too much either.

Journaling in the wee hours of the 4th of July (plus book review)

In a bit of a melancholy mood this evening. I don’t like to hear myself bitch any more than others care to listen to me bitch. But it’s fucking difficult to bottle up my emotions and to pretend they don’t exist, especially when I feel disrespected. And that’s probably a problem I have to sort out for myself since life isn’t fair and it’s never going to be. Just is what it is. Not going to go into any of that on here tonight.

Been a weird week overall. Weirdos abounding. Arguments reigniting. That car crash from last week and its aftermath. Another holiday approaching, which gets people all antsy. And here it is — the 4th of July. Independence Day. A day for Americans to wave around flags and watch parades and scarf down hotdogs and beer while reminding one another how we’re the best country on Earth, bar none. Patting ourselves on the back for what our forefathers bestowed upon us, as if we’ve proven to be good stewards of these historic blessings.

Bah! This holiday makes a scrooge out of me.

I tire of so much propaganda and the guilt-inducing patriotism. Gotta love everything about this country, right or wrong, or else GTFO. So they like to say. How kind we are to our fellow natives.

The_Bluest_Eye_Toni_MorrisonAnother thing that’s bothered me this week is I read Toni Morrison’s book The Bluest Eye. Pretty darn depressing read, though I figured on that before ordering it. Wanted to find out what this supposedly amazing author had to say that’s made her such a literary icon within the black community (as well as favored and applauded by Oprah Winfrey herself). Started out by watching an interview of Toni Morrison on youtube (was it from a Charlie Rose episode? I can’t recall). She came across as pretty darn racist. So decided to order a couple of her books (used through half.com) to find out what all the hubbub is about. Read an essay by her on the writing craft, then moved on to the book The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, this version including an afterword by her published in the 1990s.

What can I say about this book? It was well-written, I’ll give it that. Compelling enough to keep me wanting to read on. Wrapped up in the end as though its completion was being hurried, or at least that’s how it seemed to me. In her afterword section, Toni Morrison wrote on how she wasn’t terribly pleased with the book. But what got me is how she bent everything back toward race and racism. All throughout the book she described black characters who mistreated one another in awful ways, ending in a father raping and impregnating his young teenage daughter and then her mother beating her so badly that the girl went full-on crazy from thereon. The author described black parents who ordered their children around as if they had no thoughts or feelings of their own, who screamed and griped and carried on, particularly after another black man in the story was found out to be trying to molest another young black teen girl. The white people mentioned in the book were treated with scornful envy or reduced to being nasty idiots in need of black folks to care for them and their homes in order not to live in squalor. Aside from the two white rednecks who disrespected the young Cholly (the one who grew up to become the alcoholic who raped his own daughter) as he was attempting to lose his virginity the night of his aunt’s funeral — those two white guys were depicted as being part of the cause for why Cholly came out the way he did. That along with his father’s rejection after traveling to find him after Cholly’s aunt (and primary caretaker) had died. As well as having been tossed on a garbage heap by his mother when he was little more than a week old.

What gets to me about this story is that it showcases degradation within the black community, and Toni Morrison keenly portrayed it in all of its reckless degeneracy. And yet, still, somehow she found the problem to ultimately point back to white society as a whole. Not the choices of the black people written about. Not their poor parenting skills and heavy-handedness without first finding out the facts involved when it came to discipline. Not parents having sex in the same room as their kids, not to mention fighting and beating on one another. Not the drinking taken to the point that lust overcame all decency and familial bonds. White people had nothing to do with why Cholly hated women. Not even those rednecks who humiliated him deserved that honor. Yet Toni Morrison seemed to lay a good bit of the blame at their feet, claiming that Cholly redirected the animosity he felt at white people toward his own people, particularly black women and girls, as if that simply makes sense all unto itself. The mother who abandoned him was rather casually dismissed as assumed to have gone crazy. The aunt who chose to raise and care for him was spoken down about, as if her help had barely mattered at all. This was made clear when Toni Morrison claimed that the character named Cholly Breedlove had had no parenting skills to observe while coming up since he hadn’t been raised by his own parents. So what was his aunt? A nobody? Should she have simply left him to die on that garbage heap as a baby? Seems she received no credit for her sacrifices and love shown, or at least only trace amounts. Why? I think it’s because, for whatever reason(s), Toni Morrison didn’t care to flesh out his character in greater depth. She aimed to depict him as a loveless, broken man who’d given up and turned to the bottle, who hated women because he actually hated white people but couldn’t show it as openly, who came to care about nobody at all — yet the cause for all of this is somehow, somewhere, ultimately rooted in white society. These black people in the tale couldn’t love themselves or one another because of their envy toward whites, hence the fixation on blue eyes.

In the story, the white people mentioned all appeared to have money, whereas the blacks mostly didn’t. As if that’s the realistic split historically — yes-sirree, all white folks from time immemorial were blessed with money while black folks were not. Yep, that’s totally realistic. Right?  BS. But that’s how she wanted to frame her tale, creating a big divide between what she saw as the Haves and the Have-nots. Typical.

The book’s content was disturbing all unto itself without the added doses of racism toward white folks. Was going to loan it to a guyfriend, but after finishing it and telling him about it he stated he was afraid it might damage his spirit. And I agreed. Not loaning this book out to my friends. Not much good will come from doing so. Black folks who read it may very well accept Toni Morrison’s race-baiting antics without further scrutinizing all the black characters involved, and that’d be a shame. I found it to be more of an indictment of the black community itself rather than anybody else outside of it. Just a showcase of one scoundrel after another, some worse than others, but mostly scoundrels either way. The characters who might’ve proven to be fairly decent were mentioned in only a line or two and then left out of the rest of the story. The spotlight here was shined on these three black girls (Pecola, Claudia and Frieda), and it seemed nearly every adult around them wasn’t worth much of a damn. Hardly in any way conducive toward bringing up healthy, intelligent, competent and confident children. And I struggle to understand how that must be the outside world’s fault when so much control does and always has belonged to parents and families. Poverty alone can’t make people beat and rape their children. Hell, poverty is less likely to occur if one doesn’t drink and/or gamble away most of the money brought into the household!

Just kinda sickened me to read Toni Morrison’s afterword on the subject. Personal responsibility appears to mean to little to her since she’s caught up in this victim narrative and can see little else. Or at least that’s how her words came across to me. She stated this story wasn’t based on her own life but rather is a fictional account of an impoverished black girl (Pecola) who was taken advantage of by everybody, leading to the other two black girls (sisters Claudia and Frieda) who had befriended her to feel embarrassment and shame later in life when reflecting on how they couldn’t help her. But what was their primary concern expressed in the beginning and end of the book? That Pecola’s baby, conceived through rape from her father, had not lived. And that right there did me in. Makes me shake my head and wonder what planet we’re living on when that’s the primary concern here.

When I ordered that book I also ordered Toni Morrison’s Songs of Solomon. Hmm. Will wait a while before cracking that one open.

Father’s Day and Tuesday’s gone… (personal update)

One week into my new commitment to go a new way and leave alcohol alone. Also happens to be the Tuesday after Father’s Day, the day my Papa passed away 6 years ago. Thought about him some today, but then I thought about him all week. Think about him regularly enough regardless. He’s never far from my heart and mind.

It’s been a reasonably good day. Didn’t have much work to tend to, then went to the gym for about an hour. Unfortunately though, I came home and checked my bank account and found out someone had made two fraudulent charges through my debit card. Took over $250 out of my bank account, and I don’t have money to throw around these days. Called my bank immediately to dispute the charges, so my debit card is now deactivated until a new one arrives. Their site said that they offer “zero liability” protection for those of us subjected to fraud, meaning so long as we report the incident shortly after it occurs they will dispute it on our behalves and cover the fraudulent charges. One was to a website I’ve never shopped at, the other I have no clue about — don’t even know what type of company it is. Lady on the phone said maybe my debit card number was picked up by a card reader on a gas pump since that’s apparently a new fad among criminals. Told me to go inside to pay for now on instead. The matter will hopefully be resolved within 2-10 days.

Of course I can’t afford that right now. But what can I do? Some asshole decided to create havoc, and I’m surely not the only one being targeted. My former partner wonders if it had anything to do with that raunchy pub, but I’ll have to wait for my bank to sort it all out. Don’t know. Doubt his speculation seriously though. They’re low there, but I doubt they’re that smart. Either way, we’ll wait and see.

So that wasn’t good. But other than that, the day went fine. Overall, still not a day worth pitching a fit over. Financial matters can be remedied. My stepdad texted me earlier this morning to thank me for the letter I sent to him for Father’s Day. Decided, since he basically owns whatever he wants (or can at least afford it), and also since he has a young one now he probably doesn’t have free time to read books (typical gifts for one another), that I’d write down 10 areas where he had a positive impact on my life. This list included the music he exposed me to (sometimes inadvertently since I’d dig through his collection when he was out of the house), his decision to not subscribe to cable television (leading me to not subscribe to it either most of my adult life), the interesting books he provided us access to (particularly the science books, as well as the comics like Calvin and Hobbes and The Farside Gallery), his role modeling by working hard to become a successful professor, his thriftiness (which didn’t rub off on me much but is still a worthwhile example since few others in my family ever knew how to save any money), etc. Tried to keep it relatively light-hearted yet honest. Felt good to write that all down. Thought about doing so for a couple years now but never worked up the nerve. This past week felt like the right time to go ahead. Especially now that he has a 16-month-old baby to rear up with his new wife. Made me happy that the letter made him happy.

Called my Grandma on Father’s Day since I figured she was thinking about Papa too. And she was. Not too positive of thoughts though, as to be expected. Those two had a tumultuous relationship over the 50 or more years they were together. But it was good to talk to her. I don’t mind listening to some of that since it’s on her mind and she doesn’t have many people to talk to about it. But I still like to remember Papa in my own way, as who he was toward me and not just how everybody else in the family viewed him. He was a good Papa. Not perfect, but he loved me and it showed. And I love him very, very much. Always have and always will. That’s another reason for quitting drinking when I did, because I wanted to be sober this time around in honor of Father’s Day and his passing, knowing what all he went through with alcohol and understanding that he never meant for me to follow in suit.

Ever since he died Tuesdays have almost become sacred in a way. A day of remembrance and change. Like I can leave Tuesday to the past and move forward in a new way. At least that’s how it’s come to feel for me. So I took hold of that sentiment once again and decided this was the right time. It’s a good time. Two years ago I started to attempt the same thing, but I wasn’t straight enough in the head yet. Apparently hadn’t plunged quite deep enough yet. But this time around feels different. I feel ready. My resolve is strong now. To honor myself, to honor Papa and his memory, to show love to the rest of my friends and family, and to not contribute reckless nonsense to society in an unnecessary way (at least this form of it). One step at a time though. One day at a time.

Surely there will be more problems on the horizon. Always are. But now I can confront them and hopefully manage them better than before. It means the world to me that Papa would be proud. I want to be proud of myself too. Desperately need to be right about now, but only for good reason. I know my friends will all be supportive once they know. Preferring not to talk about it with most people until I have more of a handle on the situation and have more time under my belt to demonstrate how serious I am. They will be glad. Some of them don’t know the half of what I’ve put myself through, but they might have an inkling of an idea seeing as how this has been difficult to conceal. Gone on too long. Been down too long. They know I haven’t been living right. Hence why I tend to stay at a distance more and more with many of them.

Missed a galpal’s wedding reception this month. I didn’t even call to let her know I couldn’t make it. Just spaced it until after the fact. She might be upset, but I don’t know since I haven’t reached out to her yet. Waiting for the smoke to clear a bit first. Once I have money again I’d like to get her a little wedding gift, considering I’ve been an absentee in recent months. Little regrets like that keep adding up. Hard to smooth them all over. She might not even wish to speak to me anymore on account of that, which I’d have to understand. Not much of a weddings person myself, but apparently they mean a whole lot to other folks. And I knew better. It’s nearly all she’s been able to talk about over the last year.

Tonight my former partner invited me over for grilled hamburgers. That went well and we got along just fine. Watched some television afterward and tucked him into bed under the cool fan. Rubbed his belly a bit to help him relax since he had a long, hot day at work. On Father’s Day his son took him out to dinner, which he enjoyed. Doesn’t get to see him as much now that he’s grown up and is attending college. Soon he’ll be moving an hour away to attend a university.

These close men in my life I’ll always be loyal to, even if I haven’t always done right by them. But I do love them all. We are family, whether we were tied together by blood or bonds. I wish to become more upright for them too. All we have is one another in this life. It’s all anybody has, if we’re lucky.

I have been blessed. Lots of weird blessings in disguise, but blessings just the same.

Went on a bike ride with my trainer yesterday and didn’t get as winded as I usually do. Perhaps because he had to ride a bit slower due to recovering from blood clots. Perhaps because I had a little more energy as well. While on the bike trail we passed a George Carlin-look-alike riding a unicycle. lol  Shit you not. Only place outside of California (and maybe Colorado) where you’re liable to see something like that.

While out walking yesterday I came across a dead Monarch butterfly in the street. Not sure why that stuck in mind but it has. Just a random observation.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting week. Not too busy. Mellow yet odd-feeling, but still it’s been all right. Cravings aren’t kicking my ass, which is good. Watched my former drink in front of me twice this week and it wasn’t a temptation. Simply don’t want to go back down that road. Already know well enough where it leads. And it feels good to not be conflicted. Didn’t expect that. Figured it might be hell to quit, but so far it’s not a loud nagging. Though I have been noticing how much alcohol advertising is frickin’ everywhere out in society. The cravings are there, but they’re not overwhelming at this time. So I just pick up and walk on and refuse to focus on them.

Finished up listening to the audiobook The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault after putting it on hold this past week. It was all right. Fairly interesting. Honestly turned out to not be my cup of tea, but Dr. Charles Murray recommended it in his (audio)book The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life, which I listened to before that. He’s an agnostic but his wife became a Quaker and he sees the value in adopting a religious belief system. There was value in Cynthia Bourgeault’s book, though I’m not sure it was the right message for me at this moment, as an agnostic myself. But some of the historical information and differing interpretations were new to me and provided food for though. Currently re-listening to Dr. James Hollis’s What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life, a personal favorite.

That’s about it for now.