Time for another update (journaling in late September)

Can’t complain much these days. All has been going pretty well lately. Other than my car eventually needing some expensive repairs, life is pretty good.

Been saving up so that I can finally pay the IRS their blood money. Oh joy. Extensions make life easier in that department.

Have been working out regularly lately, typically 4 times a week at the gym and most of those days with my trainer. Was sore as a mofo the other day in my hip flexors/inner thigh area, so probably wandered around town looking like I just dismounted a horse. Ah well. It happens. Comes with the territory. Slightly injured my left elbow a week or more ago and so have been trying to let that heal up and focus on other muscle groups in the meantime. Didn’t do as much cardio this week; maybe next week I’ll feel a bit more motivated. Also got in some yoga after one workout with my trainer this week, so that was nice.

As mentioned on here previously, I put back on about 20 lbs. since the winter due to getting lazy for a while there (though it was a milder winter by Midwestern standards, winter conditions still make hitting the gym a PITA). So I got back up to a whopping 174 lbs., unfortunately, and my weight has stubbornly hovered in that range, particularly after I quit drinking alcohol and began craving other carbs as substitutes for all that beer my body felt deprived of. So…that’s been an irritating development. But it’s kicked me back into gear in terms of working out more and trying to watch what I eat a bit (at least some days). I’ve managed to drop back down to 170 lbs. (once again) and hopefully this time can keep the trend heading downward instead of yoyo-ing as has been the case for the last few months. I blame sunflower seeds and birthday bon-bons for some of this stagnation and have notified my former partner that I am no longer open to receiving big boxes of chocolates on future holidays. Can’t do it. Keeps my butt too big. Heh

Part of its muscle gain though too. Can’t discount that. My arms are looking better defined once again, which is wonderful. Just love seeing definition there, though the overall layer of fluff tends to obscure it. Was down to 152 lbs. last summer and miss that. But I was working out a lot more vigorously back then when my trainer’s own gym was still open. Oh well. We adapt. The new gym he’s now working at is a comfortable atmosphere, so I’m growing more bold there now too. Just gotta waltz in and act like I belong there and not let the super-muscular guys intimidate me. Not that it’s their fault — just that one can get self-conscious in their presence. Get to feeling like a dweeb playing with my little dumbbells in the corner sometimes.  lol  But c’est la vie. There’s a wide array of people at this gym, of all ages and skill levels, so there’s really no reason for any of us to feel out of place. And I love how much cheaper membership is there.

Wednesday I stopped by the local shooting range and signed the necessary waiver and watched the video required prior to gaining access. All of that is now taken care of so I am ready to finally officially start training with my handgun. Yay! They have a really great lady’s night special on Wednesdays that I look forward to taking advantage of, as well as 2-for-1 pricing on Fridays. american_smilie  That will go a long way in making that hobby more affordable. The place looked nice and the staff were friendly and helpful, so soon I will give it a go. This has been a goal in the back of my mind for a long time that I finally can take part in and check off of my list of things to do.  I consider it a reward of sorts for knocking off the drinking habit: allowing myself to go shooting at the range and exploring further weapons training. Really proud of myself for making this transition so that I can responsibly improve my marksmanship (wouldn’t allow myself to do much of that back before, and for good reason IMO). So yeah. Yay!  Good times.  biggrin_green  Already own ear and eye protection and ammunition and a carrying case for my firearm, so I’m ready to go.

Also been considering eventually purchasing a semi-auto to accompany my revolver, but that’s a ways off into the future. Have car repairs to worry about before then. Might even have to buy a different car since this one has such high miles that it’s really not worth dumping too much money into. And that might mean taking on car payments once again.  Oy.

What else? Been learning about the ketogenic diet lately. Not sure if I’m interested in going that far, but I definitely see the benefits in reducing my carb intake. Recently listened to the audiobook The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung and appreciated it. Would recommend it to others! Also discovered several YT channels that offer HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts, which are reminiscent of the types of workouts we used to do in classes at my trainer’s former gym. Had a lot of success with that form of cardio before and look forward to trying it out again. Though I’m sure my downstairs neighbor won’t be too thrilled by what sounds like a water buffalo romping around overhead.  Ha!  Ah well. He’ll get over it. Will try to time my in-home workouts around his baby’s nap-time if needed. Will be good for me, especially once winter hits for those days I don’t feel like driving through snow and ice to get to the gym and then having to change out my snow-boots once there. Too easy to blow off going to the gym under those circumstances.

Feels good to remain active. Actually been in better spirits for a while now. Even my Grandma commented on that. She’s sooooo glad that I quit drinking. It’s now been 14.5 weeks. So that’s cool. Once I began working out again more regularly back over a couple of years ago my mood began to improve, and now it’s improving even more. SO nice not waking up with a headache and feeling ran over right out the gate. So nice saving all that money and no longer having to worry about DUIs/OWIs. Nice also to have more free time on my hands to do other things and in a functional manner. Like doing my nails (not worth attempting while buzzed or drunk). Been less grumpy overall, and it’s become really obvious over the last few weeks. Notice myself laughing more. And that also has contributed to getting along better with my former partner (as I refer to him on here since I don’t know what else to call him anymore). I haven’t felt as sensitive about the stuff he might say or as reactive, which is good. If he annoys me, I manage to laugh it off (at least more often) instead of getting hot-headed or feeling insulted or whatever else. That’s worth its weight in gold: improved relations with my people. And when I don’t get snippy or over-reactive, he then is less prone to do so as well, and contentment becomes possible. Obviously he still drinks a good bit and he did have that bad night back in July where he decided to be an asshole for no particularly good reason, resulting in us taking a few weeks apart. Since then he’s come back with a better attitude, and so I’ve decided to let bygones be bygones and to just roll on. Upward and onward. Bad days happen. Less drama = less stress = less opportunities to create further drama. Glad to see us in a better cycle for a change. Reminds me of what we originally enjoyed about one another’s company. He seems to be in much better spirits as a result too. Says he has no desire to tempt me back into drinking again, that he’s proud of me for recognizing how volatile it makes me and for letting it go. I agree.

Though, he did make a comment this week about how eventually he expects me to be able to handle drinking moderately. Told him I don’t really want to, that I think I’m better off leaving it alone in going forward. That’s maybe not what he wants to hear, but he’ll learn to accept it over time. Not all of us are cut out for continuing the drinking lifestyle. Lots of downsides to it, and increasingly so as time rolls on. We discussed the matter and he expressed feeling badly about being a bad influence on me over the years we’ve known one another, but I told him that I don’t regret meeting him and likely would’ve taken drinking too far even without his presence in my life. Was mourning the illness and then death of a family member and didn’t handle it well. Besides, I’m grateful to be where I am now, so whatever had to come before to teach me important lessons was likely necessary to create this outcome in the end. So I can’t really regret what all has transpired. Just glad to be moving forward.

Am also glad to be less of an emotional drain on my best guyfriend since he’s the one I talk to on the phone the most. Lord knows I’ve probably stressed him the hell out over the last few years with all my crying and struggling with my lifestyle. But he’s remained by my side as a solid friend regardless. Gotta love that guy. Wouldn’t know what to do without him in my life. Looking forward to going out with him to a movie and dinner on Sunday.

The book I’m currently listening to is Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Owned a print copy for many years (courtesy of my Dad) and never got around to reading it, so decided to order the audio version instead so as to have it read to me while I go about my day. Am enjoying it. Much more interesting than I originally thought it would be.

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Early September 2017 journaling

Had a nice weekend thus far. Celebrated my b-day (one year deeper into middle age) by heading out to dinner with my former partner (ex-boyfriend/ongoing friend/whatever we are to refer to him as these days) on Friday night, with plans to hang out with my best guyfriend next weekend. Received a couple Amazon gift certificates (yay!), a box of chocolates, some nail supplies (a couple of which I returned and shopped for other items I can use), three sets of free weights to work out with in my apartment, and a massage gift certificate from a client lady-friend. Rented the movie “Get Out” from Red Box, which turned out to be the racial propaganda I assumed it would be. Skipped the cake since I need no extra sugary calories (but received a pack of chocolate cream-filled oreos, because someone is determined to sabotage my workout efforts, ha!). We ordered pizza last night (Saturday) from a little pizzeria I’d never tried before — won’t be eating there again, but at least we gave it a whirl. Chatted with my best girlfriend on the phone again yesterday and also had a chance to get back in touch with an old friend from Mississippi whom I haven’t spoken with in several months. And I spoke to my both my dad and brother a few days ago on the phone, that being the first time we’ve chatted in many months (maybe even a year?). Then Grandma sent along a card.

So it was a pleasant birthday.  party2

In two days time I will be at the 12 week mark in my commitment to stop drinking. Woohoo. Progress!

Also got to watch my former partner put together a grill he purchased for the low, low price of just $60 in an end-of-the-season sale. Very good buy. And it’s a nice big propane grill that looks pretty fancy. We’ll be hauling it out into the driveway probably later today if he can get that POS vehicle he’s been working on finished up.

Wanted to lay out at the “beach” one last time today with my guyfriend, but the gods aren’t cooperating with my plans. So instead I’ll stick around the apartment with the cat and play online this afternoon.

And there’s a problem with the software my landlord uses for collecting rent, so I’m unable to pay online at this time. So, gonna have to wait until Tuesday when their offices are open and go in to pay by check. Fun, fun. That’s what I get for not handling the matter in advance, seeing as how this is a holiday weekend.

What else? Ordered a few new audiobooks on Audible this past week and am currently listening to Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston. Honestly, her upbringing isn’t something I can relate to, nor were her professional aspirations, but it’s still interesting to take in another person’s perspective on drinking getting out of hand. She claims there are studies confirming that college-educated women are actually more inclined toward bingeing and heavy drinking, as opposed to working-class women in general. That calls into question the notion of professional women “having it all” and how stress is being dealt with.

After that book I’m finally going to listen to Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, after owning a print copy of it for a decade now (courtesy of my dad) and never getting around to reading it (and now having loaned it out with no clue when it will be returned). No worries there though since I’d rather listen to it being read aloud anyway.

Worked out at the gym four days last week with plans to return tomorrow (Monday) once my trainer is back in town from his vacation. Not too busy with work this holiday weekend either — guess most folks decided to take trips earlier in the summer this year instead.

That’s about it for now.

“Addiction – Reconsidered” (plus personal thoughts)

Liked that video and want to share it with others. Often lately I think about the notion of being cleansed by fire, which is to say purified in some sort of way through trials and struggles.

This past weekend was the first time in months I’d talked to my (ex-step)dad and brother on the phone. Told them that I had quit drinking, which I’d been holding off on sharing with some folks until I had more progress under my belt. Today marks the beginning of week 11 since my commitment to stop drinking. Dad asked if it’s been difficult, if there were physical side effects like shakes, and I told him this time around it’s actually been surprisingly easy, as it has. Though it’s been perplexing me as to why it’s felt so comparably easy.

When I think on it, I believe the reason is that the process actually began a little over 2 years ago. Back then I did get shaky at times due to going through spells where I’d drink entirely too much and hurt my body. Drinking on that level was often concealed at home where I could be alone. And that’s an awful way to become. Then when I did start heading back out to bars once again I’d wind up having problems with people over social matters, which were the sort of issues that drove me to staying home more and more in the first place. My behavior and attitudes became increasingly volatile as a drinker. I was severely unhappy — depressed really. Frustrated with myself but at the time feeling too weak to make real and lasting changes for the better. Dreamt of changing all the time, but struggled to do so and keep with it. So there was a lot of yo-yoing occurring within the last couple of years. And I guess that time period was in itself a slow-motion bottoming out. Actually I know it was and knew it at the time too. But I kept thinking I wasn’t on total rock bottom yet…not that I wanted to land there, but there’s some stupid little measure of comfort in believing you’re not there yet.

Humiliated myself many times. Numerous bad nights pepper my memories over the last couple of years (and before). Nights when I’m lucky to have made it home in one piece and not harmed anybody else in the process. Nights where portions of the evening are completely erased, blacked out, only known through what others later told me. Bad thoughts and bad decisions had me in a tailspin for a long time there, culminating in those last two years of suffering because I knew the jig was up but yet couldn’t seem to lay it all down and walk away. That was a very frustrating time in life, to say the least.

And then something happened inside that allowed me to say I’d had enough. Don’t believe it was any one event, just a broad collection of them that finally broke the camel’s back. And I got really angry, at myself and the others surrounding me and the lifestyle overall. Had been angry about it many times before, though, so I still wonder why this time something stuck and I was able to walk away. Didn’t feel like the change was completely due to my own will power alone considering how much that had failed me in years prior. Hard to say why the shift occurred so abruptly and how I’ve been able to stick with it this time around. Too much water under the bridge? Too many bad memories generated? Too much money wasted to where I was facing dire straits soon enough? Too many embarrassing episodes spanning back longer than I care to look? All of the above and then some.

But that had been my lifestyle all throughout my adulthood and it was my norm. Though, some part of me inside was never content with it, always critical about it. Maybe it was that inner voice that finally took over the helm when I was weak enough to allow it to do so, and through doing so I’ve gained a measure of strength and determination that I didn’t know I had. It’s kind of queer to think about really, how it’s unfolded and where my mind has been and how something inside became so damn enraged that it simply refused to live like that anymore and therefore took over operations. So, in truth, I did save myself, or at least a part of me saved the rest of me. And that’s a strange thought since so much of me had fallen down and I figured might not ever get back up and stay up. Most of the people I surrounded myself with on a day-to-day basis were heavy drinkers themselves who saw no problem in our lifestyle choice, taking every opportunity they could to defend it. Sometimes I’d debate with them over what we were doing, hypocritical as that always felt (in a bar setting, no less). But in the end, none of them or any of their empty excuses mattered one iota, and I was able to walk away.

Does it have to do with one’s personality? Has my stubbornness saved me once again? Or my fear of complete and abysmal failure? Or worries over becoming a devastatingly negative force for change in the lives of some innocent people who happened to cross my path at the wrong time? Or concern over potential destroyed and wasted? Or humiliation over the (repeated) results of the toxic mix of alcohol and emotional volatility that undeniably damaged my character? All of the above, I assume. But it still seems so strange to me that someone can be that entrenched in a way of life and that deeply steeped among others of like mind and still break free. But I did. Still coming to terms with that and am so grateful for my internal levee to finally give way, generating enough force to propel me out and away from that addictive trap.

Journaling on a Wednesday evening in August 2017

Been a good week so far. Hit the gym hard the last 3 days with plans to continue doing so tomorrow and Friday, in hope of making this a regular M-F routine. So nice having my trainer stationed at a nearby gym once again, plus I’m now saving money in not needing to pay him for training on the side. Determined to lose several pounds since I put so much back on over the last year (particularly the winter) after his gym closed down. Slowly but surely I am doing so, though now I’m kicking my activity up a notch, once again. Feels good. Nice and tiring. Haven’t lost my strength gains either, which is wonderful. And, come to find out, I haven’t lost any balance and flexibility either (demonstrated during last night’s yoga session). So…onward and upward there.

Currently in week 10 of my commitment to stop drinking. All is going well there. It’s gotten easier with each passing week. Less often do I drop into my favorite local watering holes nowadays, and when I do I’m only there for a short spell. Still nice to run into folks I haven’t seen in a minute and to chat and catch up. And I do like playing the Megatouch machine — got a rolling competition with a couple people across a few locations that’s been going on for years. Waste of money, sure, but I’m spending $5 or less usually when I do go out now (a far cry from what my outings used to cost me!).

Been successfully squirreling away money once again. Most of it is earmarked already, but it’s great to see my finances improving. Amazing how much money one saves by not blowing it in bars. Also picked up a new business contact whom I start working with tomorrow, so that too will help in giving my finances a boost.

Went grocery shopping for some healthier meal and snack options today. Not been doing terrible in that department lately, but wanting to tighten up on the reins a bit when it comes to carb intake. Still preparing pasta regularly, and that will likely never change, but I’m turning my attention more toward veggies and leaner meats. A couple nights ago I whipped up a Mediterranean-style omelet with cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and spinach. Delicious. Plan on having that again tonight.

Cutting down on my coffee intake since that made me jittery. It helped for right after I quit drinking alcohol, but then it began creating an interference of its own. Even caused me to post up a couple videos on YT where I was visibly hyper. Ha! So I switched to part-decaf and reduced the amount I drink each day. Feeling fine with that decision. Tea is typically more my speed anyway. Still drinking the heck out of seltzer water…good stuff.

Was invited over to my former partner’s place for tacos last night, which went well. We went 5 whole weeks without seeing one another after our last fight, but then we started back talking on the phone and last weekend decided to get together once again. Guess we’re fated to deal with one another indefinitely, and that’s fine, so long as we manage to get along better. He’s been sweet lately so I can’t complain. Wish we’d get our shit together so that out friendship isn’t so rocky, and hopefully we will. Obviously enjoy one another’s company when we are getting along.

What else? Oh, I stopped by a local independent bookstore on Monday and picked up a copy of Saul Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals. Why? Because I want to know what protesters are being taught out there. Doesn’t strike me as wise to employ the same methods, but I’d at least like to learn about them. Currently resuming listening to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. I — one long-ass book. Interesting to learn about Soviet Russia though. The other print book I’m still reading in when time permits is Otto Rank’s Art and Artist (another long-ass book). Actually sat outside yesterday afternoon for about 45 minutes reading it, allowing the dog a little extra time to run around in the yard.

As of today, I’m working on training a puppy to walk on a leash. So far, so good. He’s a fairly fast learner, aside from his terrible teething phase. It’ll help the owner to get his energy out since it’s difficult for her to walk him far. Learning to heel on the right so as not to trip her up is the current challenge. We’ll get it — just takes time.

Sorted more of my books a few days ago and redecorated one of my bookcases. Improves the feng shui up in here.

Headed out to catch some rays at the “beach” with my best guyfriend on Sunday. We also dined at a Mexican restaurant we both like. Was a nice afternoon.

Not much else to report on at this time.

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.

Sunday afternoon conversation with Grandma (on farming, past race relations, and our changing times)

Just got off the phone with my Grandma. From time to time she gets to tripping down memory lane, telling about her life while growing up out on the farm. Listened to her tell of all they work they had to do back then, from tending to the hogs and plowing the fields, to picking cotton and growing a wide variety of vegetables. Plus caring for the chickens and milking the cow, churning butter, picking figs and peas and butter beans, etc. She told about how for several years her father would recruit black men looking for day labor positions to help pick the cotton and how a black woman named Mrs. Annie helped facilitate it so that all the men would be ready to be picked up on the day of hire and how she’d also oversee when wages were paid out later in the day for the amount of cotton collected, ensuring all was accepted as fair so no disputes could arise later on (and they never did). That would’ve been back in the 1940s-1950s. Grandma reflected on it being a good working relationship between all involved, with her father viewed as a fair man in that respect who paid well and treated people decently. And his wife was known as a good cook who was generous about feeding people. And the black folks in that area (a poor county by most standards and still to this day) were happy for the work, showing up on time as requested, content with the wages offered in an era before minimums became enforced. She spoke of people sharing their crops with one another and helping each other out as needed on one another’s farms.

Not that she always had nice things to say about her father. But he was by all accounts a sober man and a hard worker, and he treated people with friendliness and direct firmness so that they knew what he expected from them. That being back in the time when people had many kids so as to have low-cost laborers for their farms. My grandma was one of 6 kids, all girls except for one brother. I only knew my great-grandfather past the age of 70, he later living with my grandparents until he died at age 98. But during those years he was so old and worn out by life that I never had much of a relationship with him.

Grandma spoke about her mom and how her mom’s mom had died early on, leaving her mom to be raised by her aunt mostly. Apparently that woman wasn’t too nice of a person. Said her mom worked hard all her life. That being the running theme among nearly everybody worth mentioning in my lineage. Workhorses is what I’ve always referred to them as. The kind of people who wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if left idle. They find work to do since that’s all they know. Funny how things changed so abruptly for us younger generations who know nothing of that sort of lifestyle and can only listen to these old stories with wonder at how they managed all of that year after year, incapable of relating to their daily struggle to earn a living.

Sounded like a lot of drudgery, like the kind of life my contemporaries and I cannot relate to. We rely on a grocery store to provide everything we need today, whereas in Grandma’s time the only items they purchased at the store were flour, salt, black pepper, and occasionally lard (when a freshly slaughtered hog wasn’t available). She speaks of the wells on the property and how beef couldn’t be preserved as long as pork meat in the smokehouse. She tells of her mother sewing clothes for herself and the kids, though they sometimes went to the store to purchase church attire. And she tells of how they’d sweat in those churches, that being years before the advent of air conditioning. I don’t doubt that unto itself would prove to be hell in the Mississippi summer heat.

Hard to imagine life back then. While not so long ago, it might as well be centuries ago. So I keep asking her questions and pondering on the stories she shares. I asked her about race relations in her time, and she says it wasn’t like how it’s become these days, that people worked together then more than now because they all had hard lives. Amazing the difference a few decades and the emergence of material conveniences has made. Nowadays it’s as if some people are trying to rewrite history, pitting one race against another and pretending as though they’ve never been anything other than enemies who’ve never been able to see eye to eye. It’s a shame really that it’s come to this since many of us are rooted for generations in that same red clay soil, under the same blistering sun and its humid heat, contending with the same climate and conditions in trying to eek out an existence. Those were my ancestors just as they were some of yours too. And looking further back to pre-abolitionist days, I’ve read of the first indentured servant with my Papa’s last name to land on the east coast only to die during his servitude. Our histories aren’t as wholly separate as some like to pretend these days.

It’s as if we’re all becoming detached and divorced from history to where we’re prone to repeat generic stories passed down from those pushing an agenda, nevermind the truths of our actual lineages. That saddens me because it’s like watching something real get swept away as if it no longer matters. As if the new narrative trumps the truth. And with that, we can no longer appreciate what bonds we did possess in common, including a shared culture, for better or worse.

When I listen to her it feels like grains of sand being poured into my hands that then trickle down between my fingers and disappear into bottomless space where they might never be retrieved. Going, going, Gone. History made and history abandoned. Life’s work retold but then forgotten. Communal bonds established once upon a time, only to later be denied by future generations who care not about what came before. The past is being disposed of, like an inconvenient truth that defies the new narrative being woven. And I sit here and watch and listen as the conflicting tales pull in opposite directions and tear at the very fabric of (Southern) U.S. culture.

In a few more years all that will remain is the new retelling of racial injustices with no mercy shown to the many decades of the late 19th century and early-to-mid 20th century where progress had been made. That’s deemed obsolete, if not outright denied as a fairy tale, by those who wish to capitalize on a perpetual sense of victimhood. But they ought to see that their retelling of events isn’t accurate, that it leaves so much out, and that unto itself creates a new form of injustice that we’ll all wind up suffering from as a result. But people don’t think like that usually. Instead, they don’t look far enough ahead and like to cherry-pick the past to suit themselves. But what are you trying to suit nowadays? A grievance industry? A monopolization on righteous indignation? A false belief that only one sort of people were ever taken thorough advantage of, or, in reverse, that only one sort of people ever universally escaped hardships? It’s untrue. All might not be equal, nor would I claim that to be the case, but it’s not as unequal as some would have others believe.

So, when people go on these days talking about our roots and bloodlines and heritages, I can’t help but feel like mine has died. Perhaps never to be resurrected except in libelous narratives that attempt to rewrite history in order to bolster divisive modern political pursuits. That’s a damn shame. But I suppose this is just the way life tends to go. What once was tends to be forgotten over time. And what is here today might disappear tomorrow as well. Not sure what good it would do to try to hold onto that other than to keep it in my heart and let it inform my senses in the face of what others now wish to bring about. Not sure there’s anything else that realistically can be done.

A weird dream about Saudi Arabia

How strange. Awoke from a vivid dream this morning where my grandparents, my former partner, and I were visiting Saudi Arabia. He and I had gone first, then Grandma came to meet us, then Papa flew over as well. Where we were staying there were a good many gay men around, and these were mostly Western men with blonde hair. They seemed to be corralled and stayed in houses or in hotels (informally jailed?) unless brought out to perform for others. Since we were around them most of the dream, I presume we were being jailed as well or at least were staying in the same hotel where they were being kept at the time.

Grandma was her usual jittery nervous self. Papa came over to help retrieve her to take her home to the U.S. And I was planning to go back with them but decided last minute to remain with my partner (presumably back together in this dream) instead of risking what would happen to him if left behind. I was listening to Papa tell stories of his trip over and dealing with people on the plane and the cab drivers and whatnot. Misunderstandings had occurred and one man had tried to grab him down below in some form of punishment, but I guess he had ran or at least somehow escaped the man’s clutches. We were laughing about his tales. Papa always was known for his confrontations with pretty much anybody and everybody, so Saudis proved no exception. But somehow we managed to handle them without major incident.

I was telling Papa of all the things deemed illegal there and the punishments meted out for each, which probably should’ve been discussed before he arrived. ha  And he was just shaking his head in disbelief. Grandma was pretty shaken up about the travel experience (in real life she’s never flown and refuses to do so), so he was readying her to return home. And I was telling them I’d meet up with them later once our last few days of the trip had ended. My former partner said very little throughout the dream.

The gay men were the strangest part of the dream. Why we were around them so much of the time there, I do not know. They seemed to be prisoners of sorts, like they did not have free rein to go where they wished when they wanted. So they lounged around all day like women kept in a Nevada brothel. And we were kept in the same place as them, so we watched and interacted. One evening they were brought to someone’s house party, and we followed along. That part of the dream has now become hazy.

No clue what that dream was supposed to be about. Have never dreamt of Saudi Arabia and don’t often dream of gay men. Was just a strange little dream. Woke up to my cat curled up against my cheek and the alarm blaring.

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Have a better idea what aspects of the dream mean for me now on greater reflection.

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.