A book, with paper pages dog-eared, words underlined to look up later, and a cover. A book sits with other books on a shelf, or is waiting on a nightstand or a table, ready to be picked up so the reader can re-enter that unique world.
Despite being a ‘techie’, I do not own a Kindle or a Nook. I prefer my reading the old fashioned way, with a book on my lap. I don’t need any of the distractions that technology brings. I just want the book and nothing else. I use my Ipad as a computer alternative for quick lookups, email, video, shopping, maps, etc. For me, reading on the Ipad is like reading a magazine article, quick and informative, as opposed to immersing myself into the world of a book.
A few weeks ago I was having a quick solo dinner at Panera Bread, a friendly place like a Starbucks for people to eat, read, meet with friends and use their free Wi-Fi. Many of the people eating by themselves had some type of an electronic reader. I was one of the few people there who was reading an actual book, and was actually not envious that they had their shiny electronic device to use while I had an old-fashioned book.
Yes, I know, having an electronic reader has many advantages. They are often lighter than many books, and you can have more than one title at your fingertips (even though you can only read one book at a time). You can also use most readers as a tablet as well. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection.
But a book, oh for me there are so many advantages to having an actual book, and it is often more than just the joy of reading. I know what I am reading just by glancing at it, and others know what I am reading as well. A book is a great conversation starter, and at this Panera I had two conversations with people about books. The first was with the cashier who saw the book I was holding (The Leftovers) and asked if I had read any other books by the author (Tom Perrotta). We had a great conversation about similar authors and recommended to each other additional books to read. Then, while getting up to leave I had an excellent conversation with the older gentleman sitting at the next table about the book he was reading, which I had finished a few months previous (Stephen King’s 11/22/63).
I am a “people person”. I love talking with others, even complete strangers in a public place, often to the chagrin of my family (“there he goes again, talking to strangers”). Having a book, as opposed to an electronic reader, is a natural ice-breaker and an easy way to make a connection with someone else. You may consider this nosey, but I want to know what others are reading and if they like it. I may want to read that book one day!
They are in the corner of our eye.
People that come and go, in and out of our lives.
We may not see them every day, or even think about them more than once a month, or sometimes even less.
But they are always there, hanging on the peripheral of our daily activities.
We often forget about them, but then something happens that brings them back into focus.
Perhaps it is a memory, or a picture we see, or something they post on Facebook.
Or we see them at a wedding, or at the store and we are polite and make promises to get together.
Maybe we get a “hey, ‘what’s new, how are you” text.
And then we find out what has been going on in their lives, while they have not been part of ours.
And we find out that they are sick, or lost their job, or their mom has passed, or their kid did something great or perhaps got into some trouble.
And we weren’t part of it, or there to help them, to comfort them, to help get them through it.
And we feel horrible about it.
Not because we weren’t there, but because we were too busy to be there.
And then we feel guilty, and bad, and lament that so much time has passed.
Because it is not that hard to keep in touch with the people that mean something to us.
No matter how peripheral they may be.
A quick email, a quick text, a quick call.
Hey, how are you? Hope all is well. Let’s meet for lunch, dinner, coffee.
No pressure. Just a quick connect, let them know that they still mean something to you.
We should all do it before it’s too late.
Some days just don’t work, like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. No matter how hard you try, things just don’t fit together.
You have a busy Saturday with errands to run, appointments to keep, and kids’ activities to watch or drive to, and suddenly you realize it is not humanly possible to do be in two places at once. You try to figure it all out, but sometimes a problem will seem so insurmountable that it will ruin the carefully planned dance of the day.
The only way to make things work sometimes is to either find a new peg or a new hole, or reshape the edges of one so they fit together. Easier said than done, but sometimes moving things around in your life makes things fit together better and will help restore our sanity.
Thankfully, most problems have a solution. You may not like it, but a solution can always be found.
I was at my dad’s the other day to change one of his high ceiling light bulbs. Nobody wants their 80 something dad climbing a ladder, trust me. We started to talk about a trip they were planning. As senior citizens a drive to Boston is not made without careful planning. Where to eat, where to pee, did we remember the hearing aids, things like that. Each transportation mode (driving, and who drives and how far, train, etc) have positive and negative aspects, and potential problems and pain points are all over the place. As we discussed the possibilities I realized that each stumbling block had a solution, which I carefully placed in front of him, until he agreed there was no reason why they couldn’t go to Boston via one of the many ways we discussed.
Sometimes things just don’t fit together. But with a little sandpaper, reshaping of plans, and a willingness to compromise we can make the square pegs and the round holes fit together nice and neatly.
Happy birthday to me. Woo friggin hoo.
Another lap around the sun. Another lap getting lost, wasting time, being productive some days and others not getting a thing done, and wondering what I want to do with my life when I grow up. Another lap of laughter and tears and happiness and grief and hard work and absolute amazement of the good and the bad in this world. Another lap wondering how Plan A is going, and thinking about Plan B, C, D, etc.
Being overly reflective? Yes. Less work years ahead of me than behind. Wondering about the career choices I made in my life. One kid out of the house and thinking about a different future for himself (and we told him, take the chances now before you get old and regret it, just make sure you can pay your bills), and another kid that will leave the house in the fall to start the next phase of his life.
I think it’s ok to reflect now; after all it’s MY birthday. I think its ok to wonder where it all went and what I could have or should have done differently. I know I am not alone. Not only us, but all of our friends have kids that our moving on and parents (those of us that still have them around) that are really aging and we are getting those aches and pains and sprains and tears and torn cartilage and more gray hairs, and we are beginning to see that we are not young anymore.
I DO have a lot of gratitude. I have an amazing wife, and two wonderful boys who make me proud, each in their own way, have a lot of close family, and am blessed with many dear and close friends.
We continue to take the laps around the sun. We don’t give up. We continue to go through the everyday grind of life. We get up in the morning and go to work each day (paraphrasing The Boss), we take care of our chores, and we pay our bills, and fold the laundry, and call the plumber and go to our kid’s games. And in all of that chaos it is so easy to forget to take a minute and smell the flowers blooming in the spring and pull out of the bottom of our pocket the good things in our lives that often get pushed there by all the crap that we have to do.
Enjoy life, it’s too darn short. Today is my birthday. Happy birthday to me.
Kurt Cobain said that “the worst crime is faking it”. When Nirvana was active I was not a big fan, but I have grown to enjoy their music, appreciate their legacy, and influence on countless other bands. It is hard to believe that twenty years have gone by since he took his own life.
This post could be about Nirvana and music, or about women faking it in bed, but it is NOT about either of them.
This post is about masks. Not Halloween masks, but the masks we wear daily.
We all wear them. Don’t lie and say this does not apply to you. This applies to nobody specific but everybody in general. I am as guilty as everyone, and use one of those multi-layered rock solid locking masks sold at the high-end mask stores (not the cheap one sold on late-night television).
Our masks are on every day, from the moment we engage with people, until we settle down at night with a book or in front of the television. We could be having a horrible morning, after a fight with our spouse or we are worried about our kid’s schoolwork, but when a co-worker asks “How’s it going?” we always respond “Good!” To do otherwise would be to go against social norms and admit that something is bothering us and that life is not peachy keen perfect.
Masks are our protection. They are comfortable and behind them is safety. They allow us to look and feel better than we actually do. Masks are the force field that keeps people at arm’s length and away from our troubles. Our masks allow people to only see the public persona that we have constructed for ourselves. We can live and act like everything is fine, and nobody can see the bad and ugly parts of our lives.
But this is a lie. A safe lie, but a lie nonetheless. Our masks allow us to deny to ourselves and others how we really feel. It is much easier (and safer) to make believe everything is great, than to admit that we have a problem, or are troubled by something.
It is easy to be a faker and make believe that everything is OK. It is a lot harder to be honest with how we feel, and that starts with how we feel about ourselves. Living life the safe way is easy, and our masks help keep us safe. Taking a chance and taking our masks off a little bit takes courage, but allows us to be who we want to be.
I am trying to peel some of my layers off. It’s scary, but I will let you know how it goes.
So finally, Spring. The temperature this weekend was in the upper 50’s and low 60’s and it wasn’t raining. My biological clock says it was time to start tackling the yearly damage winter did to the grounds around the “estate” before we start any planting, pruning, replacing, and making multiple Home Depot runs per day.
Saturday was out. The youngest (now 18) had a lacrosse game an hour away smack in the middle of the day. By the time the game ended, we had a late lunch, did a little shopping, and got home all I wanted to do was read a little and take a late afternoon nap.
Sunday was more promising. Slept late, went to the gym, grabbed some lunch, hit the supermarket and then tackled the following:
- Pounded 8 three foot stakes into the backyard and ran tied levels of thin rope around each of the 2 areas. This will keep the crazy dog who loves to run and run, and whose paws dig through the grass to the dirt underneath, from doing any more damage to those areas so I can plan some seed there in the next week or so. This will also prevent her from coming into the house with feet so muddy we wonder where the sty is.
- Used the leaf blower to blow out the garage and driveway. The garage was easy and it is more efficient to do it this way than using a broom. The driveway continues to amaze me with the amount of dirt the winter snows left behind.
- Picked up a garbage can full of branches, sticks, twigs and leaves from the front yard and the curb area in front of the house.
That’s it. That’s all I did. Two hours!
And yet, by 6pm when we sat down to a dinner of grilled flank steak (yes, we used the grill!) my body (back, legs, shoulders) felt like I had run a marathon.
I know I need to lose 20 (or more), but I shouldn’t have been in that much pain. I exercise on a semi-regular basis (bike & treadmill at the Y, two or three days a week), and walk at work during lunch, so I know I am not in the best shape, but not in the worst. I even PASSED a stress test today.
I am just shocked at how tired I felt after about two hours of light work around the house. I know I was using muscles I hadn’t really stressed that much this winter, but still….
This getting old thing, I am not sure how much I like it.
Overheard in the cafeteria this morning “……things would be better if he would just stop. I don’t understand why he just can’t stop using”. I wanted to butt in and give my two cents to another of the misinformed, but walked away and kept my mouth shut. It got me thinking about addiction, and my brain started to think about “famous people” dying from the disease and the public misconceptions that swirl around these deaths.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is the most recent in a long list of ‘famous people’ (actors) that died from a drug overdose where the toxicology report determined they were addicted to prescription drugs. I am not an addict, but like many people have some addictive behaviors. Many of us have some sort of an addictive ‘thing’ we do all the time (a certain food we eat, a TV show we can’t stop watching, cleaning our home, washing our car, etc.). My goal here is not to talk about addiction to drugs as I have no experience with that. I am frustrated how so many people think addiction is a personal and moral failure. “Just stop using” so many people say, without having a clue about what that really means.
Addiction is real and not easy to ‘beat’ or control. Addicts don’t beat the disease. All they can do is keep it at bay. When an addict is sober they are not recovered, they are in recovery. This is a disease that stays with them the rest of their lives, always lurking in the background, waiting for a weak moment to strike. The FIRST step of any 12 step program talks about the admission of being powerless over the disease.
Russell Brand (who I am starting to respect) recently said:
“The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help they have no hope.”
People have said that Hoffman must have been depressed, otherwise why would he use drugs (he was, after all, a ‘famous person’, and famous people don’t have problems). We don’t know what was going on inside his head so it is a waste of time to jump to conclusions. People need to understand that addicts don’t choose to become addicts, that this IS a disease and there needs to be greater empathy towards people struggling with it.
As a society we need to do a MUCH better job helping the addicts in our lives stay sober. There must be more empathy and less stigmatism. It really bothers me when I read or hear someone say that ‘all they need to do is stop drinking/drugging’ and they will be better. Tell that to an addict and they may respond that you should stop eating or sleeping. To an addict, using is just an important to them as eating and sleeping is to us, and we need to find better ways to help them.
Addicts are people to. They have jobs, families, friends, hopes and dreams. They deserve our love and support, and not people who turn their backs on them. As with any disease, they need our help, and don’t need to be locked up in a jail cell or isolated in a dark hotel room somewhere because they think nobody cares about them. When they reach their bottom they need to be able to shout out and someone will be there to reach out a hand to pull them out of the rabbit hole and get them the help they need.
And, one more time, back to Russell Brand:
“Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a reminder, though, that addiction is indiscriminate. That it is sad, irrational and hard to understand. What it also clearly demonstrates is that we are a culture that does not know how to treat its addicts. Would Hoffman have died if this disease were not so enmeshed in stigma? If we weren’t invited to believe that people who suffer from addiction deserve to suffer? Would he have OD’d if drugs were regulated, controlled and professionally administered? Most importantly, if we insisted as a society that what is required for people who suffer from this condition is an environment of support, tolerance and understanding.”
I have been struggling with some things lately, and realize we are our own worst enemy in asking for help. There is a reason why we invented maps, and then the GPS, otherwise nobody would know where they were going. We can accomplish great tasks when we ask for help and work together, and we usually struggle mightily when we try to go it alone.
As a kid, we have to learn things on our own (going to the potty, tying our shoes, throwing a ball, etc.), but, if we never seek out help, we grow up never learning how to ask for it. We become adults who think asking for help is a sign of weakness. We tell ourselves we will find a way and figure it out ourselves. Eventually, we struggle with something and then dismiss it. “I can’t do that. I don’t understand it”. It is easier to ignore what we don’t know or can’t do than to push through to it. It is easy to dismiss something than trying to understand it. It doesn’t matter if you are a kid trying to figure out fractions or how to ask a girl on a date, at your first job, or twenty years into your career, struggling with something is going to happen.
In life, there will always be challenges and forks in the road.
The easy road is comforting. Familiar. A beautiful walk in the park. No problem. No sweat. That was easy. I can do it.
The hard choice? Don’t go there. Mom said to not go into the woods. It’s dark, and scary, and we can’t see around that first turn. It is outside of our comfort zone. Why should we struggle? Who is going to help us when we fall down?
We have to learn that it is OK to make the hard choice, and to ask for help when we struggle. There will be others who will help you along the way, who will not laugh at you when you fail. There will be people who will listen, guide you, share their stories of strength and hope, and remind you that you can accomplish your goal or work through your pain.
Life is an amazing journey. It is full of ups and downs, safe and hard choices. Sometimes the choices are easy, and sometimes life will throw me a curve when I least expect it and I am not ready for it. But, my journey is not over, nor will it ever be. I am finally starting to realize, as hard as it is for me to admit, that it is ok to struggle and not know where I am going. The journey is the most important part, as long as I am still learning.
And on the days where I can’t see where I am going, I may ask you for directions.
Updated my Who I Am page.
Added My Beliefs page.
My first “techie-light” post.
I love Evernote. Do you use it, and if you don’t, you really should!
Do you make lists? Do you like to save snippets of information you just read or found out? Do you need to see this information on multiple devices (ie phone, pad, various computers)?
Use Evernote! Seriously. I’m not kidding right now.
It is easy to use to add or edit notes. It syncs between multiple devices as easy as clicking a button. What you just added or changed then syncs among all of the devices you use. I have it on my phone, Ipad, laptop and desktop machines.
It is a cross-platform app. It is a digital file cabinet. A quick and easy way to save some important information on the fly, to jot down things I want to remember and save as opposed to writing it down on a piece of paper, and then wonder where that piece of paper ended up. Anything you need to store and save you can keep it in one place, and access from anywhere.
Did I mention it is free?
But what about Dropbox you may ask?
Well, the short answer is, I use them both, but I use them both for different things.
Dropbox is a file storage tool. It is great for storing larger, more conventional files that you would see on your computer: PDF’s, Word, Excel, Music, Video, Photos. My Dropbox folder has files such as my resume, photos, multi-page notes, spreadsheets, etc. Unlike Evernote, you can’t open a Dropbox window and type a few lines of text. In order to place a to-do list or reminder in Dropbox, you save the content in a traditional file (ie Word, Excel, txt, etc). Dropbox is in short just a folder on your computer that you can use to house files of any type. I use Dropbox for what Dropbox is good for: storing larger files in the cloud so I can get to them wherever I am (my phone, Ipad, and various PC devices).
This is where I store the “post it notes” of my life. It’s great for keeping track of A LOT of small pieces of information. The information is in the form of notes that have a title and then the content. You can then organize this data into different notebooks, and easily scroll through the notes like reviewing pages in a book. Plus, it has a powerful search feature. I use it to post writing ideas, web page and online clippings that I want to view later, notes and quotes from books I have recently read, lists of books to buy/research, music to buy/research, sites to revisit.…I could go on forever. The point is, these are things that would be an absolute nightmare to find if I saved them all in just a regular old folder on my computer. With Evernote I am able to find things fast and easy, and it is everywhere I go.
So, which one should you use? How about both! There really are no definitive rules here. It really is up to you. For me though, I’ve come up with my own solution that works pretty well:
Evernote is for all of the little bits of information I need or want to save, while I use Dropbox to house the larger files I need to get to. Evernote is the stack of Post-It notes on my desk or in my pocket, while Dropbox is my storage box (or in the ‘old’ days the thumb drive I used to carry around).
Go for it. Try Evernote out. You won’t be disappointed.
Oh, and if you need help, let me know.