my emotional well-being

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NOTE: This post is from Christmas, the anniversary of the car accident.  The weather is warming up around here, and I look forward to getting back on the bike.

It’s Christmas morning…

Instead of gathering around a sparkling tree and tearing away at presents, I’m on my bike riding the North Central Rail Trail. While I’ll be headed to see family soon, I need this time in the morning for me. The universe was stingy with its gifts this year, so it’s important to observe this one: time on the trail with the bike. A gift from my youth rediscovered, what a lifeline it would become this year.

The trail is cold and–past the first mile of the trailhead–mostly empty. A few hardy types like myself and few locals walking their dogs. The green and gold have given way to gray and brown. It would be easy to call it ugly, but as the trees stand naked, one can seen the hills beyond them. Crags of schist and gneiss stone, breaking through skyward, as the Gunpowder River winds bayward below. The occasional quartzite boulder face stands strong, indifferent to the oncoming winter.

This trail, where a century ago industry lurched from Baltimore to Sunbury and back, has become a refuge. A year ago on this day I was lying in an emergency room, having just survived a head on car collision. And this on the heals (days after) of one of the bigger relationships in my life ending. The breakup at the time had seemed a relief, but I had yet to dive into the well of misgivings lurking behind me… and the mental health problems that would follow the closed head injury would only make all of that worse. I tried to do a lot of forgetting, but what I did instead was a lot of letting go. The accident took me close to the brink, and the major change in life would have me gazing deep over the edge… into life, into myself. It was a journey. I wish I could say it was fun, but the most transformative seldom are.

I’m at the point where I’m mostly recovered and am finally starting to talk about it. “Hey do you remember how I suddenly ran out on your birthday that night? Panic attack.” “Hey do you remember that concert I inexplicably bailed on? Depression’s a bitch.” “Hey do you remember that crazy letter I sent you? I was on the verge of a breakdown. Still not sure who I was even trying to help.”

I’d been talking to some close friends about it the whole while, but not many. I learned a LOT about my support network–a process that involved some painful trial and error at times. I saw a whole bunch of doctors and professionals for therapy both physical and mental. It’s interesting: the one who was with me and remains with me after the whole ordeal? My acupuncturist. Big advocate. If you’re thinking about going, go.

It’s hard to talk about these things, though. It’s hard to write this. But a lot of recovery is talking about things. Hell, a lot of just being better and a little more alive every day is talking about things. And the truth is that I started seeing a therapist and working on improving myself a year or two beforehand. But you learn a lot in the crash and rebuild. If people were like computers, every day crashing and rebuilding, we’d each be amazing in our own lifetimes. As such, we build and rebuild simply what we can.

In either case, it is Christmas morning, and here I ride: on trails resurrected from the bones of industry, bicyclists and dog walkers trekking the hills of the Piedmont Plateau as it leans towards the great Blue Ridge. After each ride, I feel a little more alive than when I started it. I’m glad I started doing this. For me, this motion, this vitality is both the build and the rebuild.

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NOTE:  This is a post from last year, a draft dated 07/31/16.  In it I talk about mental health problems following my car accident, moving on from a major breakup, which was still very much on my mind at the time… eggs.  The eggs were all good last year.  Other things not so much.  At the time that I wrote this, I was feeling rested, somewhat recovered, but about a month later I would fall into one of the worst depressions that followed the car accident, one of the worst that I’ve had as a grown adult honestly.  It’s strange to look back on moments that felt like clarity with something much more accurately resembling clarity.

Sunday Morning

Just before Ten. I’ve slept in. The dim hopes of waking early and going on a hike dashed already. But I needed the sleep. It’s okay. Awoken by the phone, buzz buzz, a text message from (and I know it before I even look…) Mom. I’m still not texting her back. I should call today, though. Things have been good lately. The family visit last week much better than expected.

Breakfast: eggs, potatoes, sausages.

Light and healthy chicken sausages. I’ve done a good job of losing weight and getting back into shape this year. Need to keep at it. The tater tots: my weekend luxury. Besides, I bake em.

Scrambled Eggs a la Jon

1x free range brown eggs
1/2 pat of butter
1-2 tsp cream, whole milk, or half and half
Dash salt and pepper

Pictured: some other morning’s breakfast

Fifteen minutes prior to cooking, scramble the eggs in a bowl. Add salt and pepper. Adding the salt and letting it sit loosens up the proteins and makes the eggs fluffier (credit: J Kenji Lopez-Alt on the tip). In a non-stick pan melt the butter. Add eggs. Stir while they cook. Just as the eggs are setting, add the dairy. Do not add the dairy earlier than this. The timing is the point here. (credit: Michel Roux on the tip.) The proper ratio of milk to eggs, in most recipes, I’ve found to be a quarter cup of dairy per dozen eggs. So bear that in mind. You don’t need much. Just a bit. Continue to cook the eggs until just about fully set. Turn off the heat and let the eggs rest. Like pasta or fish. The timing can be tricky. I’ve really only just gotten any good at it myself. Had to crack a lot of eggs, as they say….

No solid plans for the day. Need to practice Pilates. Should do weights too, maybe the treadmill. Would like to play some pinball. I’m still no good at it, but I’ve taken an interest in it lately. I haven’t been gaming much lately, but I’ve been working pinball in about once a week.

Might make pickles. Been wanting to try some fermentation, but feel pretty intimidated by it. Perhaps more to post on that later. In either case, it would involve a trip to Target, which I may or may not be willing to make this afternoon. Perhaps of there is a Target close to some pinball….

Been doing a lot of redecorating and reorganizing around the house. I reclaimed my spare bedroom this week. It has sat vacant since my ex moved out, and it has lent a certain hollowed quality to the home. After she moved out, I did a pretty big purge, getting rid of things that reminded me too much of her. Tossing some, boxing others. Memories can be difficult to un-entwine when you’ve lived with someone. I imagine, it was easier for her. That’s just how she is. For me, not so easy. In fact one of the hardest things about the breakup was that I was stuck in this house that we had tried to make into a home together. She got to just leave. Make something new. A process of potential and excitement. I had to rebuild. Again.

The car accident complicated everything. Months of physical therapy kept me from doing much of anything around the house. I had not understood it at the time, but as painful as the PT process felt, there was a sweet structure there. A regimen to my days. When that regimen ended, things really went off the rails for me mental health wise. I believe the concussion had much to do with this, but the timing right after such a major breakup could not have been worse. I leaned into my support network and found mixed results. In the end, really, I found myself very much on my own.

It’s been a long summer, but I’m doing much better. I started leaning pretty heavily on behavioral techniques with the help of my therapist. Setting boundaries, removing triggers, avoiding things that I simply cannot handle right now. It’s been hard. I’ve had to let go of some things dear to me for the time being.
And so, here I find myself reclaiming my home. It’s not just my ex moving out, but that I’m living here alone altogether now. No roommates. No one. Just me. At times it’s felt like I’m the one haunting the place. It used to be filled with such life, so many people. And now I roam about, talking to my sweet cat.
I now type from my reading and writing room. This bedroom was home to several others, but now it is me who sits at this window looking out at the shady trees, the ivy creeping up the chimney, the patches of lawns visible in the distance. This is the shady side of the house after all. It’s very peaceful. I feel like a stranger here. A stranger I am trying much harder to like again. Sometimes it’s tough. Like I said, it’s been a difficult summer.

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I ran into a friend at work yesterday, and he asked me how I’d been lately.  It had been awhile, I realized.  We used to see each other often, but I couldn’t actually tell you the last time we had spoken. I like him.  We haven’t known each other long, nor were necessarily besties or anything, but he is one of the few coworkers who I actually feel like I can talk to.

My answer, “Well…”

He’s not on my social media, and as I began to casually comment on bouncing back from things, his eyes began to grow wider.  The last six months were something of a Greek tragedy, a Southern gothic.  I told him about the family stuff (which I won’t mention here), but I had a lot more to say about the car accident and the breakup that happened right before it.  And there was more… so much more.  But why get into the minor stuff.

It was a strange moment for him I think because I was smiling and looking great as I recalled a litany of drama.  I’ve been on the upswing.  I was speaking to my acupuncturist (a treatment I highly recommend if you’ve recently experienced trauma), and I observed to her that my life of late has been in strange sync with the seasons.  Winter was awful.  A winter among winters.  But spring… ah spring.

“Most people wouldn’t think of it that way,” she said. She meant that in a good way.  So far I really like her.

So: spring.

Having weathered a saga of things that I won’t get into much here, I’ve turned with the weather to greener things, newer things.  As rough as the past six months have been, there’s a great relief that comes from passing through hell:  freedom. I find myself very unencumbered as of late.  Perhaps I set the stage for much of this last year when I was busting ass and paying off my student loans, maybe I would have gotten here sooner had not life intervened, but in either case I’ve entered a phase where I’ve put down or been released from a number of burdens. Work, family, debt, relationships. Unencumbered.

I’ve been doing things on my own lately.  Going to shows.  Exploring new places.  Pushing hobbies to new places.

This weekend I dropped by a Maryland trail that I can’t wait to get back to: The North Central Rail Trail.  It runs from Hunt Valley up to PA, close to York they tell me.  It used to be a railroad but became one of the many Rails-to-Trails projects that have swept across the country (an awesome parks project that everyone should support!).

On a chilly Sunday in March, the winter still holding spring back for one more week, it is a very peaceful place. The last of the season’s white was trickling through the trees, while the first of the season’s green was pushing up along the path.  Once past the first mile marker, I had the place to myself.

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I plan on buying a new bike soon, and this is the first place I intend to ride it.  The crushed gravel is easy, and there is plenty of shade.  It’s one of those strange places where one can feel very removed from society and yet in fact be still quite close to it.  The peace of a country garden without losing any cell signal.

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I’ve taken up trail running.  That’s what I was up to this weekend.  I do a few 10k’s every year, but I want to add some trail runs in this year.  They just sound fun.  I might have to join a runner’s group or something, as I can’t seem to generate any interest in it among my friends who run.

Or I could just keep going it alone.

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More to come.  Tonight I start another new thing: Pilates.  Since my car accident, I’ve become committed to developing more and better-balanced core strength (I might even start observing leg day at the gym!). I’m looking forward to tonight. It will be fun.

 

 

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It’s been a busy summer.  What follows are some photographs from Quebec, earlier this summer.  I wrote some deep thoughts in my journal about our French neighbor while stowed away in a cabin up north, far north, as close to the Arctic Circle as I’ve yet been.  It’s an interesting place.  It’s a strange kind of nationalism that one encounters–a country within a country truly.  Our cities and states here in the U.S. seem like such distinct microcosms to us, but really they are not so much.  We Americans are more alike than unalike.

 

Saguenay Steps

In either case, the journey is what has been on my mind.  Thus the stone stairs and vista.  Deep, meditative spiritual stuff.  This is Saguenay Fjord.  A distant place, beautiful, sparsely inhabited, and largely unspoiled.  Hardy French northerners live here, and even the tourists are mostly fellow French northerners.  These smooth rounded peaks were gouged and polished by glaciers thousands of years ago.  The water of the fjord runs deep, as deep as the peaks that tower above it, and it is rich in iron, red ferrous tides sweeping throughout.

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I’ve learned a lot about being happy this summer.  Specifically the great cost of happiness for some of us.  I’ve learned in these sunnier days how to draw strong boundaries and place myself first and that escaping the cycle of bad habits has little to do with the habits themselves.  There’s this journey.  You cross boundaries and set boundaries.

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This is a hidden spot in the Montreal Botanical Garden, tucked away behind an Asian temple.  It has become one of my happy places, and I look forward to making it back there.  There are these times in your travels that you say to yourself, I will return.  Other places come and go, but some, a few–you just know you will be back.  This place was so.  I’ve been carrying it with me and look forward to returning as well.

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I don’t have many poems committed to memory… okay let’s be honest, I have almost no poems committed to memory. However this little ditty has always stuck in my mind, and of late I find it to be particularly apropos.

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes and, oh, my friends
It gives a lovely light!

– Edna St. Vincent Millay

Life has been busy. Crazy silly busy.  Here’s a short to-do list to give you an idea:

  • Buy new headphones
  • Fix up that bike a friend gave you
  • Floor hockey night
  • Bocce night
  • Text your aunt back
  • Start getting ready for your big summer party
  • Book Asheville trip
  • Book Denver trip (well, decide if you’re going first)
  • Book Portland (figure out when first, though)
  • Celebrate your birthday
  • Kayaking safety training
  • Pick up tickets, so many shows coming up…
  • Build shelves, lots of shelves
  • Paint the mud room (do this before the shelves)
  • Paint your bedroom
  • Text that girl you went out with the other night (can’t tell how interested she is though…)
  • Start getting ready for another juice (or semi-juice)
  • Figure out which 5k’s your doing this summer
  • Finish The New York Trilogy (good luck finding time for that!)
  • Practice your French

I’ll be happy if I get to half of these… though at least half are not optional.  To top it all off I volunteered for a special detail at work, which has been leaving me exhausted every day. Time is at a premium, sleep is at a premium, and the list just grows.  Sigh. Things are, despite my frustrated tone, quite good though. 

But enough of that.

What interests me most at looking at the above list is what isn’t on it. I’ve been doing a pretty poor impression of the video game and tv loving homebody I used to be. I’ve been doing and watching more sports than ever… it’s strange. Floor hockey, running, biking, kayaking… what happened to that nerd who used to stay up all night playing Xbox games? I miss him. Those Xbox games were fun.

It’s confusing really… my social circles of late have evolved along with my sporting activities…. Sometimes while sitting at happy hour I wonder if folks I’m with realize what a bonafide nerd is sitting at the table. I may be wearing an O’s cap and cooling off after a close game of hockey, but man I have a book case full of RPG books (mostly D&D) in my den downstairs… books I have no intention of ever getting rid of.

I don’t know, I suppose I’ve been feeling some dissonance about it lately. Perhaps I should journal more of it later.

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I’ve been thinking a bit lately about motivation.  In part, I suppose, because that is part of my job these days.  I should be keeping my techs motivated to do good, accurate work.  It’s tough, though.  I suppose I try to just be fair and lead by example, and maybe I haven’t gotten much further than that with it right now.  And that’s institutional motivation anyway.  Everything is different when working within an organizational framework.  One needs to consider corporate culture.  Ethics.  The law.  It’s complicated.

Shouldn’t personal motivation be simpler?  Sometimes it doesn’t seem so, but I’ve been keeping at it.

I really got my ass kicked in broomball Thursday.  It was a good night, let me be clear.  I got my first assist, and I had some shots on goal–even if they weren’t great ones.  But man did I push myself.  I was aggressive and kept pushing.  In the second half, I started to go too far and felt it immediately.  I was playing wing, and I could feel their defense getting tired.  I scrambled like mad on a few back to back plays, sprinting harder than I had since basketball in high school.  I rotated back to the bench a minute later, out of breath and panting like I’d just gotten run over.  My breaths came so deep and hard, for a second I thought I would hyperventilate.  Right there, mortified in front of these teammates who are still very new acquaintances to me.

Things cooled down. I caught my breath, and in the end we chalked it up as a somewhat successful loss, as for the first time this season we were playing with some real teamwork and putting pressure on goal.  I spent the next day completely laid up.  I’m getting old, man, I can’t keep doing this.

And yet I do.

I’ve been striving for discomfort lately, and from it I’ve been finding a new reserve of self motivation.  It’s tough when you’re in your thirties, and so many things in life seem to be on…. I want to use the phrase “cruise control” here, but instead I think I’ll say schedule.

You live by the schedule, you die by the schedule.  You have a career–an organization and a set of peers that have daily expectations and challenges for you.  You have a home–a never ending set of responsibilities and projects.  You have a family–where do I even begin with that one?

You live by the schedule, you die by the schedule.

It’s easy to lose your motivation when locked into a circle. A routine that can seem as meaningless as it can directionless.  I’ve taken to the inconveniences to break it up and keep me moving.  The problems, the challenges.  Too many people let go and let the schedule make all the decisions for them.  I mean, it’s easy.  I can’t even call someone lazy for simply checking in every day and meeting those tasks of career, home, family.  After all, there are many who fail to even do that.  Those destined to wipe the schedule clean and start over.  Once, twice, maybe again and again. We all know a few of those folks.

It’s tough, but I’ve been at it in little ways.  Playing in a more competitive broomball league is just an example.  It’s hard, it’s kicking my ass, I have no idea how successful I’ll be, and yet I’m keeping at it.

I woke up today sore as fuck and yet as refreshed as ever.  Decided to hell with stopping by the office on a weekend (I had planned to go in).  Today I’ll set my own schedule.

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So it’s a little interesting, I guess, being thrust back out into the dating pool unexpectedly.  I’ve definitely taken my time with things.  Hell, I was full on heartbreak boy there for a month or two.  But life goes on, and so do I…

I guess coming back around to dating right now, I can see sort of clearly why so many ladies date up in age:  those young guys just don’t have it together.  And when I say that, I’m definitely thinking of the younger version of myself.  Always oscillating between extremes, an emotional pinball, and so obsessed with defining life and discerning ultimate self identity.  I don’t miss those parts of being young, and I don’t miss how they messed up my dating life at the time.  I revisit some of the relationships in my mind sometimes, and man I just want to smack myself and shout “relax!”  But such is life.  (I have always been determined to learn things the hard way.)

Perhaps being a thirty-something (especially one who’s mistaken for a twenty-something) with some confidence and calm is a bit of an asset when it comes to dating.  I’m exploring that, and so far I like it.  It’s just funny I guess because when I was younger I would really obsess over age differences and age related things, and I’m finding that these days I’m just not worried about it.

I think the thing that experience has taught me the most when it comes to dating these days is simply not to overthink things.  Dating makes us so stupid.  Otherwise amazingly intelligent people are rendered complete fools when it comes to opening ourselves up to others.  The tendency to define who we should be dating, what we want from relationships, what kind of relationship we ultimately know we need to be in… There’s plenty there to obsess over, and it’s easy to overdo.

The other thing I’ve come to see so clearly about dating is the importance of first impressions.  And I don’t mean that in the sense that one should treat it as an imperative and obsess over one’s appearance so as to guarantee perfect first impressions always.  In fact, I think that quite impossible.

But no, I’m talking about just that moment: the first moment.  I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink a few years back, and he talked about our subconscious minds and how quickly and efficiently our subconscious minds analyze and make determinations.  In that first moment, so much information is exchanged, so much learned, right then, right there.  It’s profound when you stop and think about it. We meet, and we immediately know so much.

And it can be amazing. Have you ever had that moment?  You meet someone, and just click, snap, something just happens.  It doesn’t have to feel like magic, but somehow you just like someone right off the bat.  In fact, a number of my friends are in the process of getting married these days, and a lot of their first dates are described like that (followed, generally, but some form of all night conversation).

I’ve definitely had that moment.  Though definitely not on the dates I went on this week.  Very fine, attractive young ladies, and what academic pedigrees! (I guess I was running a theme this week)  But there were no sparks to be had, alas.  Oh well.

Maybe next week there will be some bang, pow moments… or maybe not.  In either case, I won’t be overthinking it.  Enjoy your days and toast your dates, that’s all that really matters.

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Don’t date coworkers. I’ve actually learned this lesson already, but somewhere along the line maybe I forgot it. I dunno. That was a long time ago, and I was a different person back then. 

But if you do ever date a coworker, prepare for this: the awkwardness. The word has started to get around about our breakup, and I’m constantly having to re-explain it. We work in a big office, and a lot of people know us. And hell, we simply dated for awhile. People thought of us as a couple.

Along with the awkwardness comes a unique, almost Sisyphean, sort of torture: reliving the details every damn time. For me, this has been going on for a month. That’s about how long ago she first told me that she’s leaving the United States to go live indefinitely in Spain. She didn’t ask me to come with her, and she express interest in anything long distance. Besides, I know her. I know that this is to be the start of a brand new chapter for her. There is no part written in it for me.

None of which I took well. Especially when we went back and forth several times and she said that she was reconsidering. She didn’t. She’s in Spain right now, actually, laying down the groundwork for living and working arrangements. And it was strange that I had to do it–because it was very clear to me that I was the one being rejected–but it fell to me to break it off.

And now everyone at work is getting word, and now they’re asking, offering condolences, etc.

I’ve made it through the five stages, but it seems to me that they keep coming in pairs. Denial + Bargaining. Depression + Acceptance. Anger + Acceptance. Bargaining + Acceptance. Depression + Depression. Each a unique burst of emotional flavor crystals that makes me hate life in a new way. I’m hanging in there, though.

Anyway, I haven’t decided if I really want to write about it much here, but I felt like getting some of my thoughts down. This page gets stalked regularly by one of her crazy, creepy exes, and, at some point, also I’m sure her. So there’s no point in getting into it too much.

I’ve been pretty weak about being social lately. You could say that I got sucked into that relationship black hole that seems to swallow people in twos… but I think it was something a little more than that. The outpouring of support from friends as I went through the breakup was an important reminder to me, though: don’t get so holed up.

I’m working on it.

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I’m having a bit of trouble discussing politics these days. I caught myself this weekend blowing up like a jerk on a thread that a friend (super, super awesome friend) had posted in my Google reader. And it gave me pause.

First, sorry again random guy from the internet (even though I don’t think you’ll see this), for accusing you of being a Republican. Them’s fightin words. I was being a dick. And to be fair: accusing the wrong person of being a Democrat can be fightin words as well.

I used to be really, really bad about this. It takes me back to a job I had a little while back. The corner of the office we were in was split pretty evenly between Repubs and Dems, and being the Bush years as it was, we got into some very, ahem, spirited debates. There was this one guy. Let’s call him Dale. We haven’t kept in touch, but I can 110% guarantee you that where ever Dale is, he’s a proud member of the Tea Party. This dude and I used to get into out and out shouting matches. I would like to say that history has proven me right, but I’m sure he would see it differently. We would even argue about how to pronounce the name of the restaurant across the street. That’s how me and this guy were.

But I learned some lessons then about cooling my temper. And he did too. He’s not a bad guy. Just extremely idealistic.

I’ve been good these days, but lately I just find it so hard. The shooting in Arizona has supposedly cooled tempers for the time being, but the cynic in me says that we’ll be back to shouting at each other before too long. I know we will. I just caught myself doing it.

I don’t intend this journal entry to be a treatise on what’s wrong with us or how to fix it. Although I primarily blame televised news. Journalism used to mean something in this country. Now our journalists are called newscasters, and they have lots and lots of plastic surgery. They think that presenting two sides to every issue is being thorough (though there are almost never two sides to any story–and frequently one of the sides presented is woefully over-represented.) Fact checking doesn’t exist. Statistics are as meaningless as ever.

Anyway, I’m rambling.

This is a reminder to me to be on good behavior. To lead by example.

I think what happens to people these days is simple: we can cherry pick our information. Do you identify as a Republican? Then watch Fox News. Do you identify as a Democrat? Then watch MSNBC (I think… I don’t actually watch MSNBC). Do you want to actually be informed about events? Then listen to NPR.

The point is it’s too easy these days to ignore anything you don’t want to hear. Just change the channel. I was thinking about this, and in a strange way a great deal of erstwhile editorial power has been placed in the hands of the consumer. We edit out what we don’t like, and we get our information from sources that confirm our self identity. To be perfectly honest, I see absolutely no solution to this problem. When you get down to it, we’re not debating facts. We’re screaming at each other “my identity is more real than yours.” Which, of course, for each of us individually is true.

The political conversations I have with my centrist friends (especially my center right friends–myself being center left) can be pretty amazing. But along the way so much frustration builds up.

It’s not a resolution exactly, but I have an idea: smile and ask questions. This is a mental note to myself not to be one of those ranting dickheads. Smile. Ask a question. Slow things down and either steer the conversation to something positive, or simply leave it alone.

There’s something I’ve noticed myself doing more and more of as I get older: giving negativity no quarter. I don’t care for people who do nothing but bitch. And I ignore them. But it’s a lot more difficult when my principles urge me to engage negativity.

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I spent the weekend deep in the wilds of Massachusetts. Did you know that there are Republicans in Massachusetts? It’s true. They all live up in the boonies, next door to some friends of mine.

So anyway, I was going to write a deep soulful post about long distance friendships, but instead I find myself watching the Steelers v Patriots game. I really want the Steelers–in their but ugly peanut M&M uniforms–to lose. Every team in our division lost this weekend… we need the Steelers to lose too. Baltimore wants to maintain the status quo.

Ok, so wait a minute. Like go read what I just wrote there. I want this to be documented for all the world to see: me talking about football.

I’m not particularly into football, and I’ll never be particularly into football. But I’ve come into this funny relationship with it.

It started with work. I have certain coworkers who literally talk about nothing but football. It used to be that these people annoyed the living shit out of me. But at some point in the coming of age process, I recognized that I needed to connect with some of my coworkers if I wanted to take my job and career seriously. Especially with the people I don’t really know. The bottom line at some point became clear to me: it beats talking about the weather. In fact it’s an adequate substitution for a real conversation between people that you basically have to talk to.

So that’s where it started.  I mean this weekend I found myself hanging out with long distance friends and at times football came up.  Jesus on that ride back home we were all bored as shit, tired, and sick of the satellite radio.  I was chiming in with updates about the games.  I really was that bored.  But it was something to joke around about with folks who are more than just acquaintances to me.

I’ve found kind of a happy medium:  pay attention to our division and the other division leaders.  If you know that information, all you need to get through a conversation is questions.  For example:  So how is Kansas City doing this season anyway?  Weren’t they having some problems.  (KC got whomped today, so it was a conversation point.)

And what happens is a funny thing:  as long as you’re not stuffing stats down their throat, the football folks are happy to carry the conversation.  And oftentimes in life, this is a good thing.  You need to socialize with a coworker that you don’t have jack shit in common with:  bam football.  Even with friends:  football.

Let me be clear–those of you friends who know me–this is no titanic shift.  Like when I was hanging out with my friends this weekend, I had already approached them about music.  A stack of CDs.  Good stuff too.  They hadn’t heard of most of it, liked what I played, but didn’t really care a whole lot.  That’s okay.  Not all my friends need to be music snobs.  Also, I was reading a Jonathan Letham novel in the car.  I didn’t bother trying to talk about that.  I just defaulted to something we could josh about.

And one other thing that’s important:  limits.  I’ll watch the home team game, but after that I am done.  Turn Sportscenter off.  Because I don’t want to hear it.  And I’ll never care for college ball.  I’ll never care for any college sport.  It’s just not me.

One of the things that I like about life is that the older I’ve gotten, the less and less of a hater I’ve become.  At some point I won’t be allowed to wear that Maryland is for Haters t-shirt if I get one.  I used to run my mouth endlessly about how much I hated football and how I felt forced to care about it.  Like here is what football was to me as a kid:  being ignored.  Even before the rise of ESPN, my parents would be locked out to me for whole days.  The football game was on.  The football game was on.  It was like a favored sibling that was smarter, better looking, and infinitely more charming than me.

But you know what: I endured.  I got to that point in life where I’ve gotten over my parents’ crazy shit and hangups.  So why worry about it?  It’s a decent sport.  Keep up with the home team and set your boundaries.  It’s been working out pretty well so far.

However for right now, I must turn the game off.  This is not my home team.  And Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead are about to come on.  Time to veg out to my shows before heading to bed.

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