I'm not sure how anyone else's brain works, but for me there are a few handfuls of neverending loss that haunt me. Healing and acceptance never seem to come, grieving never seems to end. The best you can do is push away the sadness with other cheerier thoughts (and that is only so effective, read: not very). It's been said that people of a depressive bent look back too often, and not enough forward, and that certainly may be adequate explanation for the general phenomena.
One of these losses, the one that prompts my writing on the topic today, is a friendship that more or less ended 15 years ago. We were friends, college roommates, then strangers once more. The disconnection still hurts. I tried quite a few times over the years to reconnect, but it never seemed to come to anything; he just never seemed much interested. I'm not sure quite what went wrong, but I blame myself. I would have done anything to keep the friendship, but I didn't know enough to know what to do or when to do it; I lack the art of easy friendship. And I know, if the past fifteen years is any guide, that I will never fully recover from the loss of his friendship and from the lack of his presence. I liked the me he teased out, I liked the synergies, and I liked him. I am sad for not knowing him longer, for not knowing who he became, and for not knowing the me I could have become through his friendship.
And so I think of him often enough, though not to any purpose (I know nothing of him now). I just can't find a way to put away the puzzle, to stop imagining that somehow we could get back to some new then; some moment where the years and miles fall away. Even if I could remember to forget, I'm never more than a few weeks away from a dream which tries to set my soul to rest, playing out some natural reunion. But, dreams are all that will ever be, because some things simply are scenes of neverending loss.
Every news story these days has a comment section which erupts into a slug fest between the politically left and politically right. The same arguments are made this time as last time, the same "proof" is offered this time as last time, and no one is convinced, and nothing changes.
What annoys me most is that neither side seems willing to debate their real point of view, they rely instead on dishonestly framing the debate.
On the right I wish they would admit, "Hey, look, if someone could could snap their fingers and get rid of all guns there would be a lot fewer homicides and suicides, but guns are a lot of fun, and people die left and right from driving cars and eating fattening food, so we've decided we're comfortable with the number of deaths from guns. And besides, it might theoretically make our government a little afraid of violating our rights, though admittedly they seem to be violating a lot of rights and we're not doing anything about it."
And on the left I wish they would admit, "Hey, guns are really scary. We're not hunter gatherers any more, and people who collect and shoot guns, especially at cute little woodland creatures, seem a little mentally disturbed to us. And if you want to carry them all the time, everywhere, and buy your kids Hello Kitty themed shotguns we really think you have a problem. We know there are so many guns in the country that banning them won't really do a lot, but it'll do something, and more important it'll feel like we're doing something. And maybe if we can damage the gun market now in a hundred years there will be less of them around, and maybe then society will be safer. And the sort of guns people have now haven't kept up with the hardware the government has, so give up on the argument that it'll keep us free from tyranny."
If both sides lead with that it would feel more honest to me, and at least make the debate potentially more productive.
The only states left to go are:
- North Dakota
I've lived (for at least 3 months) in 7 states:
- Washington, D.C.
- New York
- North Carolina
And I've spent at least a week in:
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
Image via MapLoco.
I'm a bad vegetarian. My diet is somewhat limited by peculiarly specific taste/texture dislikes which exclude most vegetables.
The only ones I can eat are:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Green Beans
- Black beans
- Brown beans
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Soy beans (not a huge fan, but I can eat them)
- Chick peas (not a huge fan, but I can eat them)
- Squash (only in soups with lots of bread available)
- Onions (in small pieces and in certain situations)
- Peppers (in small pieces and in certain situations)
- Tomatoes (in small pieces and in certain situations)
- Celery (only in soup)
- Mushrooms (only tiny dried pieces in Stroganoff/etc.)
- Avocado (only in very small amounts in burritos/etc.)
- Spinach (only in very small amounts in certain situations)
- Chives (in small pieces and in certain situations)
- Parsley (in small pieces and in certain situations)
That being said, I can eat other vegetables in very limited/special situations, generally involving minute amounts in some foreign food. For example, I can eat a vegetable fried egg roll as long as I don't dwell on the contents (if I were to open up the egg roll and try to eat it from the plate that would be a great challenge).
I wonder how common peculiar food issues are.
How quickly life can remind you that a day can be a truly miserable thing. Today mine started with a major fight with my girlfriend, Francine. In an attempt to escape the poisoned atmosphere of the house we set off on a pleasant but utilitarian outing. Any facade of pleasantness was instantly destroyed about 45 minutes later when I saw a huge, lovely turtle run over by a truck.
It died because I failed to save it. I saw the turtle emerging from the tall grass by the side of the road and stopped as quickly as I could, about 80 feet down the road (the speed limit was 45 mph, there was no shoulder, lots of cars behind me, I pulled off into a side road). I got out and began to go back towards the turtle but in those few moments it had moved far faster than I ever could have imagined and was already a third of the way into the traffic lane. A large passenger bus saw it but only drifted over the line to avoid running it over directly. The under draft knocked it along the lane and into the tires of a following pick up.
Life sometimes seems like a collection of utterly meaningless, pointless, forgettable moments punctuated by a few occasionally horrible and some wonderful moments. I envy the folk who see it as a more uniformly joyous procession.
I'd never seen a turtle so large on the East coast, it was at least 1.5 feet long, surely had lived a long time to get that size, and surely would have lived a longer time still. I'm not sure what I could have done differently, tried to step into traffic to flag people down, stopped my car in traffic and tried to alert people, I just had no idea there was so little time. We often imagine there's plenty of time left, to see relatives, to see friends, to be happy, to accomplish great things... Often there is not.
I cried like a baby on the drive home. I cried for the turtle. I cried for the horrendously capricious nature of life and death. I cried for my impotence; my life these days seems nothing but trying to help others only to witness their fruitless suffering. And I cried for the fact that I was crying, unable to accept life on its cruelly unacceptable terms.
We humans are sick, sadistic creatures, selectively choosing what and who we care about. Today I mourned the death of a turtle I didn't know, and cursed the driver of the killing vehicle, but I thought and cared little about the hundreds of mosquitoes, ants, and other bugs I likely killed in the remaining portion of the car ride home; I strongly suspect I killed or wounded two butterflies. But for some reason that turtle mattered most, that poor, beautiful, stupid, wonderful, turtle. I am so sorry I failed you.
Attempting to measure one's own accomplishments is generally a monstrously bad idea. Even the most successful of men may find themselves coming up short when they compare themselves to a yardstick of their own making. Those who succeed generally do so by finding themselves perpetually shy of achieving some newly important and consuming goal. That having been said, taking stock of yourself is a sobering necessity, something which me must do if we are to re-align our compass with an objective, societal true North. It is in this brutally reflective frame of mind that I make the following observations about myself, most easily expressed as a Guide to Leading a Highly Ineffective Life. The objective reality is that I have achieved quite a lot, more than many, less than many, and a reasonable amount given my particular make up and life challenges. Nonetheless, I have observed in myself the following limiting, (at times) crippling characteristics that have kept me from being far more than I am.
20 Things You Can Do To Be Highly Ineffective
- Work on many projects simultaneously.
- Associate with no professional colleagues.
- Cultivate few friends.
- Spend almost all of your time by yourself or with a girlfriend only.
- Work in secret. Share almost none of your ideas or work.
- Do everything from scratch. Build your own rather than modifying existing software/code.
- Believe your mind and/or abilities are failing you over time.
- Be deathly afraid of judgment. Ensure you never finish any task properly.
- Ignore important details.
- Explore periods of intense lassitude.
- Be mildly obsessively interested in many, many generally unrelated things.
- [Removed by request.]
- Secretly believe that those who succeed are magically different from you, possess something you entirely lack (as exemplified by the tone of this list).
- Put off until tomorrow that really hard thing that intimidates you, never try to do it today, never right now.
- If you find yourself not particularly challenged in a situation (job, life, etc.), then maintain the status quo, choose comfortable over challenge.
- Develop as little self-discipline as possible. Go to bed when you want, eat what you want, exercise as little as you feel like.
- Constantly wrestle with existential and philosophical doubts rather than engage in the business of actually living. Wonder about what the point of living is if you die rather than actually focus on getting the most from every minute of life.
- Avoid seeking professional, psychological help for things like depression and anxiety, assume that you alone can surely defeat obstacles which have bedeviled humans for millennia.
- Have tremendous difficulty switching tasks/projects, avoid doing so because it's mentally painful.
- Watch TV.
You know you are getting older when the present differs so greatly from the past... Here are some things that were once quite familiar to me...
I remember rotary dial phones, the days before VCRs (when classrooms used film projectors), when video games in no way resembled real life, when a soda cost $0.25, when a phone call cost $0.10, and when 5 1/4" floppy disks were the new and exciting thing (replacing audio cassettes for loading programs on a home computer). I also remember when our TVs were black and white, 8 track tape players were in cars, when the first portable audio cassette players came out, when the CD-ROM was the new hot thing, when answering machines suddenly became available to the masses, when the fax machine came along, and much more stuff that is now irrelevant or nearly so. Worse yet, this isn't stuff I remember as a 5 year old, this was the way it was when I was 9 ~ 12 years old and older...
And now we've got the Internet, cell phones, GPS, flying cars, hover boards, time travel, and... well, some of those things anyway.
Until I've spent hours around someone, seeing their face contort into many different expressions, seeing them in different clothes and circumstances, their face remains difficult for me to recall or identify. A few years ago I learned that my experience was the exception, not the rule; I always assumed everyone had a similar struggle. I'm sure the condition has had subtle effects in my life, perhaps encouraging a social reticence, discouraging being overly friendly or engaging with people whose identities I'm unsure about, but it's never been quite so blatant as it was last week.
I just moved into a new place in a new town, and have only met 3 or 4 locals who were introduced by having been acquaintances of my parents. The other day there's a knock on the door and it's a kind looking, slightly nervous, middle-aged woman, with gray-ish hair. She exuded the sort of familiarity in greeting and manner that strongly suggested I knew her, and I felt I knew her, though who exactly she was I could only guesstimate. She had come to ask me to a small wine and cheese gathering "down the hill" a few nights hence. I graciously accepted. With that, she was off. And I was left to try and reason out who exactly had invited me. Of the few people I know here only two are middle-aged women, so it really shouldn't have been much of a challenge to work out which one; but I couldn't. In theory the right approach would have been to immediately acknowledge my problem and ask her to identify herself, but social graces don't really allow that approach. Prosopagnosia (face blindness) sounds like such a curious and made up disorder, and I'd rather not invite a lot of misunderstanding or belabor an explanation so as to avoid any. Thus, I was reduced to post-event logic and sleuthing. My girlfriend had observed the car she was driving, but not the woman. The car was black. I checked Google satellite maps of the two women in question and the one I was most strongly suspecting did have a dark colored car. Bingo! Just to be extra careful I found a picture of her online, covered the brown hair in the photo with my hand, and tried to tell if the face looked recently familiar. It did, somewhat; and perhaps she'd just stopped dying her hair. The only odd thing was that the location of the event was ambiguous. She had said "down the hill" as though I knew exactly what that meant. The woman I imagined her to be had shown me a vacation rental house she owned (which I had been contemplating renting when I first arrived) which was, arguably, closer to sea level. Alternatively, the home in which she lived was in a town that was (I assumed) below the town in which I lived. She had never given me that address, so that discouraged that as a possible location. Comfortable with my conclusions I went about my life until the evening of the gathering. Francine and I set off on time and arrived at the suspected location only to find it entirely dark; only a deer was in evidence, grazing on the lawn. Not to worry, I had plan B ready to go, and we went off to check her primary residence for activity. After a long drive down the big hill I discovered the Googled directions took me worryingly right back up another side of the same hill. As her house came into view it was clear there were no parties going on there tonight. Thus we had to invoke Plan C, the residence of the only other middle-aged woman I knew in these parts. Another little drive ensued with the same result. No activity, no party. And I now had absolutely no idea who might have invited me, leaving me unable to even retroactively proffer an apology.
In the days that followed I still suspected the Plan A/B woman had in fact been my visitor, and that perhaps I had misread the house's activity that night. But a few days later I bumped into her on a walk and offered a tentative apology only for her to announce it had not been she. My best guess at this point is that it was some neighbor I'd never actually met was kindly welcoming me to the neighborhood but that my overly familiar response to her invitation (a response to what I thought was hers) caused her to assume I knew who she was and where she lived. Ah well... Such is the complicated life of a prosopagnosiast; I just can't believe I thought *this* was normal!