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Thursday, February 28, 2019

More Work To Do

For today's exercise, begin by reflecting on any long term romantic partnerships from your life. Let's arbitrarily set twenty years as our parameter for long term. That's a little less than half the time my wife and I have been together.

Now, over those twenty (or more) years, think back on any people you've known as a couple that you ever socialized with fairly regularly.  Of those people - if the individual or couple still lives within reasonable proximity to you - which of them do you almost never see any more? How many of that group were initially your friends? How many were initially your partner's friends? Leave out of your tallies any folks you and your partner(s) met at or near the same time, i.e. the initial friendship was shared rather than primarily yours or your partner's.

OK, which group of people that you now rarely, if ever, see - those that were your friends initially or those that were your partner's - is larger? Finally - What conclusion do you draw from this data?

After forty one years with my wife, a higher number of the people we once regularly socialized with and now no longer see were initially my wife's friends. The disparity is not large but it is undeniable. And, after reflecting on that disparity and recalling several interactions, my preliminary conclusion is not that surprising. Over the years my wife has simply been easier to get along with socially than I. More work to do.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Shaking The Tree

"The voice that spoke inside me had the clamor of the wrong. It was the beat of feet on grooves worn bald by decades of obedience, not the light footfalls of the daimon on a path unique to me." - from "Thoreau Trailer Park" (2012)  

By the time I read those words, I'd spent almost two weeks dipping in and out of Mark Greif's 2016 collection of essays entitled "Against Everything". Spending this time with Greif's sharp mind and provocative insights was like being on a stimulating two week vacation. I was educated, energized, challenged. When was the last time you had an intellectual vacation like this?

I'm not sure what it says about me as a Father and role model that my daughter got this book for me based on the title alone, but, she enriched my life introducing this new author to me. Among the most significant of my takeaways was a renewed resolve to keep my mind open to rap. Greif's evangelism in the essay "Learning To Rap" (2010, 2015) was both persuasive and culturally eye-opening.

And most important, for every contrary opinion Greif and I share - our inability to understand the appeal of the Grateful Dead's music, our annoyance at ubiquitous TV screens, our belief that one house, one car, one boat is more than enough - there were just as many instances in this book when my margin notes said "ouch". In those cases - again, note the quote opening this post - Greif's incisive mind reminded me that all sacred cows, including the ones revered by know-it-all bloggers, need to be examined periodically. What was the last book you read that helped you to carefully explore how we all regularly confirm our own biases?

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Meds And Confessions

Knowing my propensities, eight years ago a good friend gave me a mini-journal called "One Line A Day: A Five Year Memory Book" as a gift. On the spot, I decided this handy little tool could serve several purposes aside from it's intended use, i.e. jotting down a single memory for each day. So, in addition to that memory, I began recording the title of my blog posts - my blog was about a month old at the time -  and I also began giving myself a daily grade for both productivity and attitude. To help ensure you're not tempted to call a professional and suggest my meds need adjusting, I'll refrain from sharing my grading rubric at this time. But if, by some stretch, I have any company re this wackiness, now might be a good time to step into the bell curve confessional. Just saying.    

Meds and confessions aside, now that I'm three years and two months into my second "One Line A Day" (regular readers will not be surprised to learn that as 2015 ended and that first mini-journal was full, I immediately purchased a replacement), today's reflection relates to some clear, if modest, benefits I've detected that are connected to this "new" practice:

* It's been cool to vicariously re-live some recent life experiences via reading the memory piece of these entries. I'm reasonably sure many of these memories would have slipped away a bit without this tool. In particular, the time-way-from-home entries have been especially rich.

* Each tweak to the afore-mentioned grading rubric (Don't alert the doctor but I'm now on iteration #4), has me upping my game a little.

* Having those blog post titles handy has helped minimize the need for as much online searching.

Anyone else out there using "One Line A Day" - or something like it - for recording memories? What benefits have you detected doing so?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Walk On The Beach

empathy: intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another person.

On good days, I envision a world in which every one of us has boundless empathy. We stop judging, blaming, or trying to "fix" people. We let go of the endless grudges of history and the differences in how we worship.

On in-between days, I work on my own empathy. I try identifying or vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others. I try to remember that we're all on a journey.

On bad days, the empathy deficit in modern life can overwhelm me. A walk on the beach helps.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Thanks For The Help In Getting Out The Funk

I don't believe it's a coincidence that a lifelong tendency to indulge myself in prolonged funks largely dissipated after I began publishing this blog almost eight years ago.

I'm not claiming to have had no bad days since March 2011. But aside from an understandable dip after my arrest for simple assault in August 2011 - when visions of being sued ran rampant in my brain for a few weeks - my low periods haven't lasted as long, my highs have lasted longer, and the in-between times have not felt as onerous as they did before I began blogging. What practice or discipline that you've integrated into your life has had a similar impact on your mental health?

I'm especially grateful to folks who've supported my blog, no matter the form that support has taken. I'm often struck by the timing of public comments - either here or on Facebook - and offline e-mails or conversations that reference something I've written of here. Comments, e-mails, and conversations like that sustain me at critical moments and likely contribute to my enhanced well being. Thanks for that.      

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Temporary Moratorium

https://reflectionsfromthebellcurve.blogspot.com/2018/11/goal-for-year-69.html

In the post above, I declared I'd only read authors new to me from my last birthday until my next. If you're a reader, I'm curious to know if you've ever tried to do something like this for any period of time. What did you observe during your temporary moratorium on authors familiar to you?

* When browsing in the library - a frequent pastime of mine (NERD!) - I have to remain mindful of my pledge. Just over the ensuing few months since making that pledge, more than one library drive-by has gotten me all the way to checkout before realizing I'd grabbed a title by a favorite author.

* I'm really glad my pledge included an exception for book club selections. That allowed me to greedily devour "World's Fair" (1985) by EL Doctorow and also to re-read the astonishing "Yellow Birds" (2012) by Kevin Powers, arguably the best novel ever written about the Iraqi fiasco.

* It's not hard to find authors new to me. But, so far at least, it also has not been easy to find books by authors new to me that blow me away enough that I even want to recommend them here. And since I long ago decided not to publicly bash any author on this blog, my post output featuring authors new to me has been limited since November 23. Oh well. Got someone you think maybe I haven't tried and a book by that same author you want to recommend? Bring it on.

In the meanwhile, tell me and others what your experience was like trying only new authors for a time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Select Peak Musical Moments

Few things in life give me as much joy as accompanying my daughter when she sings. I'm guessing any parent who is a musician and has had this experience shares my unbridled enthusiasm. And though most of my peak musical moments with my daughter have been in this context, I'd love to hear from any parent, musician or not, about peak musical moments with your children.

* Fourth grade school talent show: When my daughter nailed the high note at the end of the chorus in the LeAnn Rimes song "How Do I Live?", and the auditorium erupted with applause, Dad had to look down at his guitar to hide his tears of pride.

* Performing Arts High School recital: Her rendition of  Harold Arlen's ''Over The Rainbow" - again accompanied by her emotional old fart Dad - was simply spectacular.

* Just a few days ago, we were rehearsing the song she'll be singing ("Can't Help Falling In Love") at her cousin's wedding in South Carolina this weekend - a nice Ingrid Michaelson arrangement. Of the other stuff we then fooled with, the peak moment in that session arrived as she caressed "I'll Be Seeing You". My wife was so moved she asked "Who wrote that song?" Answer: Sammy Fain.

Join me in celebrating the way music has enhanced your life with your children.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Over & Over & Over, Again

Considering how many people outside of Punxsutawney ever pay attention, does it strike anyone else as odd that of all the movies ever made about holidays few have come close to being as good as "Groundhog Day?"  What would be your nomination for a holiday film that is the equal of Harold Ramis' goofy 1993 masterpiece?

Although I'm not a big Bill Murray fan, "Groundhog Day" is on the short list of films I've watched more than once. Of the several priceless bits in the movie, my favorite is probably Sonny & Cher warbling "I Got You Babe" on the clock radio that awakens Murray's character as he endlessly repeats February 2nd - brilliant song choice. What alternative tune would you pick as a way to aurally depict a nightmare you can't escape? My top nomination would be one of those treacly ballads Michael Bolton screamed during his brief but painful popularity, closely followed by anything from the repertoire of I-get-paid-by-the-note Kenny G.

Musical snarkiness aside, which bit from this modern-day cinema classic plays over and over and over in your mind? And, if you were able to repeat a single day from your life which one would you choose?