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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Who Are You?

"A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension."

Part of the selection process for the books to be used during the first year of meetings for my book club has been to review my notes on anything I borrowed from the library since 2010. As that review unfolded - especially with novels I've read over these seven years - the unknowability of people kept re-appearing in my notes. Although I haven't yet decided which novel will represent this theme at a future meeting, based on my review, my top two contenders right now are "American Pastoral" (Philip Roth) & "My Name Is Lucy Barton" (Elizabeth Strout).   

Reviewing those notes and detecting that theme probably contributed to making the sentence opening this post jump right off an early page of Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead"  (2004) soon after I began it. Since reading her later novel "Home" a few years back, Robinson had been at the top of my list of must-return-to authors. Both books take place in Gilead, Iowa and feature families with fathers who are Reverends. Each novel is a thoughtful meditation on faith with prose that never raises its voice. If the work of Ernest Gaines or Kent Haruf or Norman McClean has moved you as it has me, be sure to add Marilynne Robinson to your list.

Please tell me and others which novel about the essential unknowability of people has spoken loudest to you. In what way did the author convey that idea that has remained with you, notes or otherwise?      

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Tiny Memorial

Having never lost a relative or friend who served in the US military is another way my life has been blessed with good fortune. Anyone reading this post who is mourning such a loss today, please accept my condolences.

Despite my good fortune, beginning in 1978, the approach of Memorial Day has often been difficult for me. Today, the holiday falls one day before my Mother's birthday. Usually, I'm relieved when the holiday and her birthday coincide - as happened in 2016 - especially if someone has a party; it helps a little to be distracted on May 30. 

"Life is unfair". So begins M Scott Peck's "The Road Less Travelled". Like all of you, I've had plenty of moments in life supporting his statement. But nothing has come close in the unfairness sweepstakes to my Mother having had just fifty seven years. On this day before the ninety seventh anniversary of her birth, this is my tiny memorial to her. She deserves much more.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

World History

There are events that  - even as we experience them - we're confident will be discussed in the future as history. Even as a self-centered adolescent, I was pretty sure the assassination of JFK was such an event. Few Americans alive at the time will ever be able to forget where they were when those planes struck. 

What public event from your lifetime has received less attention from a historical perspective than you think it deserves? For this thought experiment, use a distance of twenty five years, i.e. the event must have taken place before 1992. Now flip the experiment over. What pre-1992 event has - in your view- been widely over-played as living history?

When I try this experiment - in either direction - I'm struck by the way my filter has influenced and continues to shape my sense of history. For example, I knew King's assassination in 1968 was news, but when the movement for a national holiday in his honor later began, I remember being caught off guard in my white world. What King did was historical? In that same parochial vein, events from the last twenty five years that come first to mind as historical oversights - and the events that strike me as being widely oversold as important - are all US-based. It takes a rigorous and conscious effort to escape my narrow filter and think of events outside of the US.

What strategies do you find most effective for escaping a frequently myopic view of world history? Put another way, where were you on the day Anwar Sadat was assassinated? For the record, I have no clue where I was. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Blue Jasmine In Real Life

Although it's well acted and directed, days after watching the HBO movie "The Wizard Of Lies", I regret the two hours I spent doing so. If anyone has seen the film, I'm curious to hear what you took away from it. I hope some of the producers, including Robert DeNiro - who portrays Bernie Madoff - decided to donate some of the proceeds from the movie to the thousands of people whose financial lives were ruined when Madoff's Ponzi scheme came unraveled in late 2008. If not, then I can envision my regret curdling into a more profound disgust as additional time passes.

I don't know one way or the other if Ruth Madoff is actually delivering Meals On Wheels in Boca Raton, Florida as depicted near the end of the film. If she is, good for her. If she's not, shame on the scriptwriters. But either way, what exactly am I supposed to conclude about her knowing this? How are the filmmakers trying to shape my perception of her? Although it's depicted twice, this detail might have escaped me if I hadn't spent the last several years volunteering at Meals On Wheels alongside a lot of decent people. Is there a Ruth Madoff among them trying to start a new life and expiate some guilt? Maybe.

And maybe the filmmakers inclusion of that detail was trying to make the simple point that everyone has a story. The optimist in me wants to think that. The cynic who sometimes felt dirty watching "The Wizard Of Lies" is still reflecting.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Blurbing In The Wind

Although premature, I've now settled on the authors who will be effusively blurbing about my book after it's complete. And, since I'm already deep in fantasy land, it can't hurt to make suggestions to these folks, based on what I've learned reading their work. For the record, ladies and gentlemen, verbatim copying is acceptable.

"Fresh, surprising, and notably free of the clichés that frequently mar debuts. Bravo." - Martin Amis

"Smart, prescient, and full of dialogue that reads like real conversation." - Jennifer Egan

"No irony, no pretense, and none of the boring bits that Elmore Leonard always told writers to avoid. Try not to laugh; I dare you." - Nick Hornby

"Filled with quiet wisdom." - Marilynne Robinson

"Wildly discursive yet completely coherent. How did Mr. Barton do that?" - Philip Roth

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Elevated

"Everything about you - your race and gender, where and how you were raised, your temperament and disposition - can influence who you meet, what is confided to you, what you are shown, and how you interpret what you see".

It would be difficult for me to over-state how that sentence from near the end of "Evicted" (2016) affected me when I read it. Author and ethnographer Matthew Desmond's book - subtitled "Poverty and Profit in the American City" -  is masterful, moving, maddening, and filled with observations like that. The more I'm re-exposed to these kind of observations - you know, the ones that seem so obvious - the higher the likelihood that one day I'll be able to put a few of them to good use.    

"Evicted" has a compelling narrative structure, it is scrupulously researched, and Desmond's muscular prose never interferes with his story about desperate lives. But footnote #5 for the chapter entitled "Lobster On Food Stamps" elevated this experience from worthwhile reading to transformative learning. It took several hours for me to fully process that footnote. Then, over dinner, it took me ten torturous minutes to explain to my wife how I, along with every other unthinking liberal, have dehumanized poor people by "...cleansing them of all sin ...", the flip side of how any unthinking conservative dehumanizes poor people by "...stripping them of all virtue ...". 

I suspect I've done little justice to Desmond's skillful rendering of this critically important distinction but it's no exaggeration to say I'm a changed person because of it. If this blog post prompts just one other person to read the book or, to think twice about the way his/her politics dehumanizes poor people, perhaps my gross simplification of the author's position can be forgiven. I hope so.
           

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wizard? We Don't Need No Stinking Wizard!

http://reflectionsfromthebellcurve.blogspot.com/2011/05/im-off-to-see-wizard.html

What skill were you working at improving six years ago? How much growth have you seen?

When I published the blog post above six years ago today, my current musical goal to fully memorize three hundred jazz standards wasn't even on my radar. And though I'm still sixty nine songs from the finish line, time spent with my guitar since establishing that goal late in 2011 has had a discernible impact on the improvising skills I spoke of earlier that same year. How's that for an elegant example of the law of unintended consequences? 

I'm far from where I want to be as a musical improviser. But over these six years I've become more mindful of the way certain people inspire me to be more improvisational in a non-musical way; I've begun referring to them as my muses. When a recent social date with two of these folks had to be re-scheduled, I realized my disappointment was tied to my need for the buzz they routinely deliver to my creative engine. Who gets your creative mojo humming? Are you more spontaneous when you're with certain folks?

Who needs a Wizard when they're fortunate enough to have muses?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Long And The Short Of It

hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia - fear of long words

This ludicrously long word, masquerading as an ostensibly legitimate psychological condition, has to have been clandestinely invented by a psychiatrist with a twisted sense of humor. I can see the fiend laughing at the rest of us while collecting his stipend as an Oxford English Dictionary editor.

Questions for Dr. Inventor: What exactly is a long word? Is it letter count? Syllables? And, if two words with the same meaning are of comparable length but one is more commonly used than the other - e.g. talkative vs. garrulous - does the phobic experience symptoms when encountering the latter in print or speech? Or, is that a different malady? What is that called? How about I'll-stick-to-words-I-already-know-itis?  

Medical and linguistic high jinx aside, I've got an easy two syllable word for those of us who don't object to using a dictionary now and then - learner.           

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jersey Boy Gets Educated By W. Va. Girl

www.pinelandsadventures.org

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that my wife - born and raised in West Virginia - deserves most of  the credit for my appreciation of one of New Jersey's true treasures - the Pinelands. Without her interest in native plants, her planning, and her earnest education of this Jersey boy, it's likely the glory and history of the Pinelands would have stayed off my radar. Who in your life is responsible for bringing your attention to something you take for granted?

In my most recent experience in the Pinelands, I was again reminded of the power of the written word. The local historian who led our Pinelands Adventures tour opened the day by describing how the preservation of this critical ecosystem was a direct result of NJ Governor Brendan Byrne reading John McPhee's 1968 book "The Pine Barrens". Byrne was moved by McPhee's description of the rapacious over-development of the area that was occurring in the late 60's and subsequently issued an Executive Order halting that development so that his administration could explore ways to balance competing interests. Although the Executive Order was strongly opposed, Byrne prevailed and several years later the Pinelands Preservation Commission was established. McPhee's book, Byrne's growing environmental awareness, and later, Congressman Jim Florio's advocacy, each contributed to preserving this irreplaceable wonder.

If you're a New Jersey resident, visit this remarkable place. My recent tour was sponsored by a non-profit; their website opens this post. If you're from somewhere other than Jersey, put a visit to the Pinelands on your itinerary; you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Included With No Charge In Your Package

Among the challenges faced since the inception of this blog, limiting my bragging about my daughter has been the hardest. Each time she lands an acting gig with potential for broad visibility, I struggle anew. If I overdo it, would any reader be bold enough to tell me I've become one of those parents?

I knew next to nothing about the phenomenon of Aziz Ansari, and even less about his show "Master Of None", now in its second season on Netflix, prior to my daughter being cast for a part. And I was not alone; most of my baby boomer friends were equally ignorant of Ansari when I spoke with them about my daughter's spot on the show. Also, I'd already learned that bragging too much - blog or not - could backfire. Editing room floors are littered with many never-seen performances. Try asking Kevin Costner - the only remaining trace of him in "The Big Chill" is a shot of his wrists as the film opens. He was the college friend who committed suicide so that his friends could whine for a whole weekend. His good looking face and the lines he had to memorize and then deliver? On that floor. 

But then as season two of "Master Of None" neared - and my "to boast or not to boast?" ruminating grew each day - Ansari's name seemed to start appearing everywhere. In classic schemata vs. scotoma fashion, I'd never noticed him until a personal connection removed him from my blind spot. Of course, every Gen X or millennial I spoke to thought I was a dolt. You don't know Aziz Ansari?

We're BFFs now, me & Aziz. Goes without saying that I love the lines he and his partner wrote for my daughter to deliver in Episode 4, entitled "First Date". Please note how cleverly I snuck in both a bit of useless Kevin Costner trivia and the schemata vs. scotoma piece. This way, at least a few of you might learn something - useless or potentially worthwhile - to accompany my crowing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Worthy Companion

When I read "The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks" not long after its 2010 publication, my book journal entry noted author Rebecca Skloot's clear-eyed reportorial approach telling this remarkable story. I also wrote of my hope that the author would honor a promise that, if her book was successful, she would donate a portion of the proceeds to the Lacks family. The usability and amazing vitality of Henrietta's cells had made a lot of money for a lot of people over the past half century, but the Lacks family were not among that fortunate group. A few years later, I was pleased reading that Skloot had indeed kept her promise.

The recent HBO movie - produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey - is a worthy companion for this important book. There are some unnecessary dramatic flourishes but there are many more moving moments and - like the book - not a lot of cheap shots taken at specific individuals. Had I written this account, I'm not sure I'd have avoided making specific people from the medical and pharmaceutical industry into boogey men. Learning to think in a more nuanced way - and hopefully to have that ability seep into my writing - is a significant by-product of reading books like "The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks". The movie is no substitute but if it educates people and further aids the Lacks family, how can it hurt?       

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Pop Culture Triptych - Volume 5

For this iteration of my most frivolous series, I challenge you to come up with more than one word that can possibly complete the three listed below, restricting your thinking to popular magazines.  I did not use "Rolling..." - way too unique a first word - or "Reader's..." - with that dead giveaway apostrophe - or "National..." - which could easily yield the name of a few popular magazines. I also avoided magazines with monikers longer than two words, though the word "Better... " would have to point anyone who has not lived in a cave for the last half century in the same direction.

I say "Fast ..." and you say ...

I say "Good ..." and you say ...

I say "Sports ..." and you say ...

For that last one, it would be easy to seal the deal with the straight guys by saying "Swimsuit" but that's not the first word of any popular magazine I know. So, now can I lay to rest previous critical feedback I've received about being too serious and/or earnest all the time, please?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Power Of Paying Tribute

Imagine for a moment that something from your life was highly newsworthy. Let's keep it on the positive side of the ledger - an invention or other significant "first", or an artistic, philanthropic, or sports-related accomplishment. Would you rather be publicly acknowledged while you were alive or would you prefer some kind of posthumous recognition? I'd wager anyone reading this - i.e. people like me, aka folks with modest and circumscribed life accomplishments - would prefer the tell-me-while-I'm-still-alive version. Put another way, when did you last hear a dead person express gratitude for a tribute?

OK, now leave fantasy-land. When was the last time you told someone, out loud or in writing, how much you appreciated what they bring to your life? If you haven't said or written anything to anyone in a while, what's holding you back? Although I give myself generally high marks in the don't-wait-until-it's-time-to-deliver-a-touching-eulogy sweepstakes, sometimes weeks go by and I haven't taken the time to tell someone how important they are to me. And the gap between my written notes to people who have made a difference in my life has gotten inexcusably long. Lately, I've tried to catch up a little there by using e-mail to acknowledge others. Though e-mail is not as personal as a letter, it's still the written word and can be saved. Permanency is powerful.

Feeling that power is restricted to those who are still alive. Although this may be a common sense statement, in my experience, it's far from common practice for us folks on the bell curve to either give or receive these tributes. What has been your experience?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Words For The Ages

aphorism: a terse saying embodying a general truth.

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose": Kris Kristofferson

I'm guessing the aphorism directly above from Kristofferson's "Me And Bobby McGee" will make his obit. Since he is still with us, that premise might strike some, notably Kris, as a bit ghoulish. Apologies.

But my rationale for initiating today's new series is not morbid. I submit many of us have absorbed dozens, if not hundreds, of these pithy tidbits over a lifetime of listening to good song lyrics. So, if that one above is not your choice for #1 Kris Kristofferson aphorism, which of his lyrics is?

This has the potential to be a long running series. Ways to participate: 1.) Suggest lyricists - alive or dead - that you'd like to see featured; I'll run with it from there; 2.) Submit an aphorism from a lyric - keeping in mind the word "terse" from the definition - that will challenge other readers to top yours; 3.) Respond to future challenges from yours truly.


P.S. In response to an earlier blog post in which I annoyingly whined about my continuing difficulty attracting the massive audience I so richly deserve, one reasonable suggestion was offered. Why not dedicate one day each week to a specific topical area, e.g. music on Mondays, film on Tuesdays, etc.? Though I decided not to use that suggestion wholesale, the introduction of this new series strikes me as a good time to test it in a more limited fashion. So, any lyric dweebs who double as aphorism nerds, be sure to visit the bell curve on the 12th of the month for the foreseeable future. And, do your homework for June 12. Lyricist to be featured one month from today: John Lennon          

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Unraveling A Mind Thread

"In The Garden Of The Beasts" is Erik Larson's terrifying 2011 account of the experiences of American Ambassador William Dowd and his family in Germany in 1933-34 as the Third Reich led a civilized nation into moral oblivion. As I prepared to lead a book discussion on "...Beasts", my mind inexplicably kept leaping to LBJ. When you've been distracted by a mind thread that seems to come out of nowhere do you ever try to unravel it? Will you indulge me as I unravel this one of mine?

I discovered in my pre-meeting research that historian David Halberstam - author of "The Best And The Brightest"- is an important influence on Erik Larson. That book got the thread started; JFK led to LBJ. But the rest of the puzzle eluded me until realizing - days after leading the book discussion - that what had cemented LBJ in my head was his famous remark that signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would ensure the Democrats lost the Southern vote for fifty years. LBJ's uncanny political prescience was superseded only by his political bravery.
 
Ah, political bravery - the thread further unravels. In the mid 1930's - with respect to the rising menace of the Third Reich - political bravery was in short supply. And not just in the U.S., although that's where my thread jumped from FDR to LBJ. According to William Shirer in "The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich" - "That the allies could easily have overwhelmed Germany at this time, is as certain as it is that such an action would have brought the Third Reich to its end in the very years of its birth."

At the end of this thread was my admiration for LBJ who decided to face down his long time allies and political friends from the deep South. And there's little doubt LBJ - and the Democratic Party - paid a high political price for not letting those folks obstruct the moral arc of the universe. Just imagine if - in the mid 1930's - the U.S., France, Poland, had been so brave.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Upside Down Hawthorne

Probably because more days are behind than in front of me, I increasingly fantasize about shortcuts to help me locate folks that will enrich my life. Ideally, those same folks would be enriched by me.

My latest fantasy is turning the scarlet "A" model upside down. Now, given his Puritanical streak and crabbiness, I suspect Nathaniel would not be fond of this positive spin but I can always direct him to my blog post of May 9, 2011. The scolding tone of that missive will surely warm his cold heart. And before any reader goes all gooey on me, I do recognize there are more meaningful ways to connect. I'm also familiar with the notion that the joy of connecting with others is tied to taking time to peel away layers to get to someone's core. That's nice but I'm a little short on time. So, anyone not wanting to join this lazy fantasy approach to connecting, feel free to sign off before I offer a few suggestions aimed at upending Hawthorne's paradigm as well as assisting any sloth-like readers who yearn for an easier way to identify soulmates.

Let's start with that "A", shall we? I'd welcome seeing that letter embroidered on someone's blouse or shirt if it meant "Activist" . Someone with a bold "H" for "Humanist" - color of that "H" doesn't matter, BTW -  would definitely get my attention. Even the most casual reader of my blog will know "B" for "Bookworm", "F" for "Film Buff" & "M" for "Music Geek" will all be catnip to me. I've got a lot more (what a surprise, right?), but I'll last throw in my double "L" = "Lifelong Learner". What letters - standing in for what words - would draw you to someone?

http://reflectionsfromthebellcurve.blogspot.com/2011/05/other-helpful-scarlet-letters.html

Monday, May 8, 2017

Favorite

If you're not an only child, who was the "favorite"? If you asked your siblings, would their answer be the same? If you're the parent of more than one, how would your children - age aside - answer the same question?

Being the first born and a boy - remember this was 1949 - probably gave me some chits, at least to start. Had I been well behaved, my favored status would likely have been further solidified. But with only forty nine months separating us, by the time I was nine, many of the teachers in the grammar school we all attended experienced all four Barton kids in rapid succession. My two sisters and then my brother had only to remain in their seats half the time for those teachers to consider them angels when speaking to my parents. That had to have some impact on the whole favorite thing, don't you think? And, in addition to her good behavior, Barton #2 - my older sister - usually got higher grades than me. I always suspected that after dealing with me, some of those harried teachers were holding their breath when she and then two more Bartons appeared on their class rosters. I can only imagine the collective sigh of relief  reverberating through those school halls as my not-bouncing-off-the-walls siblings followed me.

Still, many years ago, I was stunned to learn - in the only adult conversation I ever recall having about this topic - that my grammar school shenanigans aside (and, honestly, I was a much more difficult adolescent), one of my sisters still held onto the idea that I was my Father's "favorite". Given our human propensity for bonding intensely with some people, does being a parent to more than one child make having a favorite unavoidable? Is it inevitable that at least one child from a multi-child family will perceive one or both parents as having a favorite? Had I been the parent to more than one how would I have navigated this territory? As often is the case, I'm relieved to have never been tested in this domain and grateful, at least today. One less piece of luggage for my daughter to lug around.    

Sunday, May 7, 2017

#49: The Mt. Rushmore Series

After over seven years of being involved in twenty book clubs - counting the one I myself initiated earlier this year and the "cl" of two started with a good friend in early 2015 - Mt. Rushmore needed this book club iteration. Each of the books on my mountain has been the source of rich discussions at four different clubs. And each is worth your attention. Alphabetically, by author ...

1.) The Elegance Of The Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery: Of these titles, this impressionistic character study is the most challenging. Be patient. Allow yourself time to be fully absorbed by the two unique voices. This is not a plot book; it's a meditation on beauty and authenticity.

2.) The Round HouseLouise Erdrich:  The most overtly political of the three novels here though the politics are secondary to the powerful family story being told. Prose with the texture of poetry.

3.) In The Garden Of The Beasts - Erik Larson: The only non-fiction entry, although Larson's narrative about the US Ambassador to Germany in 1933 has the momentum of a great novel. Disturbing, compelling, important.

4.) Where'd You Go, Bernadette? - Maria Semple: The most accessible of these four but make no mistake - this talented author has a lot on her mind. She just delivers it in a deceptively breezy way.

Book club geeks: Got four home runs that have been featured at four different clubs? Everyone else: I'll take any four with post 2000 copyrights that knocked you out but only if you couldn't wait to tell others about them.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Front Seats Are Full

Not long ago, a new reader suggested I was too hard on myself . The gently chastising e-mail I received from this person cited several examples selected from a few dozen of my more recent posts to support the assertion. Though I don't share this kind reader's view, the careful attention that went into the e-mail did prompt me to reflect on my ceaseless journey to self improvement, a journey littered with fits and starts. What does your journey look like?

More importantly, to whom or to what do you turn to for solace as you try to evolve into a better person? Considering that thoughtful e-mail, I found myself deriving a measure of peace by thinking of well drawn, flawed fictional characters. Prickly and perceptive Olive Kitteridge came first to mind. The tentative forward steps Olive takes in Elizabeth Strout's remarkable cycle of short stories are often accompanied by a step - or several steps - back. The wholly organic way Olive is brought to life has lingered with me for several months.     

After Olive, I next thought of Kitty Fane, the love-starved heroine in "The Painted Veil". Reading W. Somerset Maugham's 1925 novel years ago, I clearly recall how genuine Kitty's growth - and her slides back into astonishing selfishness - felt to me. Show me a clear, uninterrupted arc of growth in a fictional character and I'll show you a cliché. Life, like art, is not linear.

I share no surface characteristics with the flawed main character in "Americanah" (2013), the novel that currently has me firmly in its grip. Ifemelu is young, female, black, & Nigerian. But her acts of self-sabotage, her interest in the world, her arrogance, and her loyalty to her family each help reveal a deeper bond we share, thanks to the skill of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Ifemelu and I are on this journey. So, thanks new reader for helping put Olive, Kitty, and Ifemelu into the front seat with me.     

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Two Geeks In A Pod

Being an unrepentant music geek, I'm always on the lookout for kindred spirits. And any path to a connection with another geek is worth exploring. That brings me to a young man at a local store I regularly patronize.

Soon after moving to my current home, I discovered this individual shares a dubious talent of mine - he is an expert, almost in my league, at identifying recording artists who have had just one hit record.  Each time I've been in the store and one of these songs is on the radio, I call out to my guy. In seven years - BTW, he's young enough to be my son - he has missed just three times! This is way beyond Ted Williams territory. Many of these one hit wonders claimed their single spot on the popular music map before my savant was born. I don't remember how I first learned of my man's small "p" prowess but - don't judge - I look forward to frequently interacting with someone who - like me - revels in such utterly useless information.

A few days ago, "What I Am" was playing as I grabbed my to go coffee. Here's how much I trust the integrity of this musical soulmate of mine. When he couldn't immediately access the name of the artist who recorded that one-and-done song, I agreed to wait until I next saw him for what he assured me would be his right answer. He promised - and I believed - he would not cheat in the interim. The story has a happy ending. Think you know someone who could top my guy? I doubt it, but why not try them out first on "What I Am"? If they get that - without a cell phone or Siri assist - we'll move onto the three or four dozen other songs my man has effortlessly retrieved from his addled brain since I met him in 2010. I suspect your hotshot will be no competition for my cool geeky friend.       

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mired In The Muck

http://reflectionsfromthebellcurve.blogspot.com/2011/05/right-time-to-challenge.html

Six years ago in the post above, I asked about knowing when the time is right to challenge someone who routinely says things you find offensive. I'm obliged to admit that remaining reasonable with the person I had in mind when writing that post has become more difficult for me over the years. I have largely failed to go high when this person goes low.

A common sense definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way over and over again and expecting different results. More than a few times, I've tried examining this troublesome relationship to assess how successful I've been attempting different things in different ways. On the days I think I've been successful, that feeling leads me to hope the next face-to-face will be civil. But as soon as ugly words or offensive statements are made, things deteriorate. My challenges sound shrill; my silences shame me. End result: I walk away liking myself less.

Then I immediately adjust my expectations for the next encounter, and start planning different things to be done different ways. Is this loop familiar to any of you? If so, I'd welcome hearing strategies for escaping it. Because as chagrined as I am by my failure, remaining mired in this muck for another six years would be really pathetic.