A place to indulge my narcissism... and write stuff...

Author: fifteenkey (Page 2 of 93)

Life is Short(er than Ever)

A CNBC report from July of 2019 describes a US life expectancy decline during 2017-2019 for 3 primary reasons:

  • A rise in drug overdoses
  • An increase in liver disease
  • A rise in suicide rates

The article goes on, “The last three years represent the longest consecutive decline in the American lifespan at birth since the period between 1915 and 1918, which included World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic, events that killed many millions worldwide.”

I recall hearing about this morbid trend and thinking the causes were too circuitous from my existence to worry. Well, 2 of the 3, anyway. Then COVID-19 showed up and mortality became “number one with a bullet” on the list of life’s concerns.  In other words, number one and still rising. Number one with a vengeance.

So, with impermanence now center stage, I find myself shorter than ever on patience for people’s bullshit. Specifically, “people” and their “bullshit” fall into several buckets:

  • Trump supporters (friends, family, social media trolls). He’s a horrible person and you support him. Connect those dots while you’re out there liberating America.
  • People who make unironic statements like, “My God is bigger than coronvirus, you’ll see.” (I left the misspelling in for authenticity.) Yeah, this guy thought his God was big, too.
  • Bullies who prey on those lower on the food chain.
  • Those who repeatedly declare “I’m done” to go along with other disparagements, only to later suggest, “You should reconsider the ease by which you shove people away.” Nah, I’m good. You’re done, remember?

Which brings me to, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It doesn’t mean indifference. Author Mark Manson says that we have a limited number of fucks to give in our lives. And with life now  shorter than ever, use them wisely on the people who matter.

Bern’d Out

Where to begin in this masked surreality we’re living? Let’s start with how much more I look forward to the dream state these days. It’s an 8-hour stretch (more or less) during which I don’t have to think about living through a deadly pandemic. Waking hours are long and stressful, yet I have it WAY easier than most. Work has been crazy, but I’m thankful to still have it. It’s been an interesting journey from “I wish I could just work from home” to “it would be nice to see the peeps in the office.” Videoconferencing has become a welcome daily activity and most now opt for their cameras to be on. It seems that before this pandemic, we, well I, really undervalued the importance of human contact. Not that the video meeting thing has escaped the noxious air completely, we’ve had our share of audio and video glitches, but people are much more patient with the hiccups. In my privileged world at least, people are being a little more empathetic with each other. The digital humanity is welcomed, even if there are occasional and hilarious fails. I experienced one this week, and it’s the highlight of my pandemic work from home experience to date. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that, Forrest.

In less fun news, Bernie dropped out. He was my candidate in 2016, and although I did financially support him this year, my giving was mostly to Elizabeth Warren. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get past the misogyny of white men enough to win some primaries. They seem to require a white guy, no matter how corrupt (Trump) or blasé (Biden). I knew Bernie and Liz were long shots, but I wanted their progressive voices in the campaign to move the Democratic party left, and they have. Biden, now the presumptive nominee – unless a “draft-Cuomo” wave occurs, moved left this week proposing to lower the age for Medicare to 60 and to forgive student loan debt for millions of middle-class borrowers. I like both proposals, but worry about what seems an obvious cognitive decline in Biden. He’s struggling now, and I’m not confident he’ll be able to string a coherent sentence together by November. I wouldn’t be upset if the Democrats changed course and went with Andrew Cuomo. During this crisis, he’s proven to be two things Donald Trump isn’t. A leader and a human being.

What else? Oh, after a year away, I went back on Facebook to keep up with people I might not otherwise be able to. Hey, we are in a pandemic. The Facebook experience has changed – from the interface to the interpersonal. It seems not many give a damn about the state of the country with a dimwitted orange crime boss at the head of it. Maybe people just want Facebook to be a light escape. I don’t know. I think the devolution of our country into a gerrymandered Republican authoritarian state is worth caring about, but that discussion is not for everyone. I don’t even get pushback from my MAGA friends. Oh, wait. I blasted them into the unfriended regions of I don’t give a fuck about your cut and paste opinions the last time I was on Facebook. I sometimes stalk their pages to see what kind of lunacy they’re posting. Same old FoxNews regurgitated lies. Just like their Messiah Trump, they’ll never ever admit to being wrong and now in a most deadly way.

Anyway, back to Bernie and saving the country from these fucking “COVID-19 is a hoax but I’m going to dump some stocks based on the classified intelligence briefing I received on it and oh, by the way, go stand in line at 5 polling places (down from 180 in Milwaukee) to vote in the pandemic anyway” Republicans, I’m “Blue no matter who.” Yeah, Biden wasn’t my first, second, third, four… Fuck, I only preferred him over Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Bloomberg, and Marianne Williamson, although if she wasn’t so “woo-woo” I’d prefer her policy positions over Biden’s. So yeah, even though I’m pissed that Bernie was done in mostly by the Democratic establishment and the mainstream media that supports it, I’ll be voting for Biden and so should every other Bernie supporter. I think this quote sums up the choice for the “Bernie or Bust” crowd:

“You can curse the darkness or you can light a candle. I’m getting a fucking welding torch. Okay?” – James Carville

“At every occasion, I’ll be ready for the funeral.”

I can’t type a number representing the dead because it will immediately be obsolete. Inevitably most of us will lose a family member, loved one, friend, acquaintance… You get it. The ex·po·nen·tial growth “curve” of humans contracting the virus won’t bend downward until we remove humans from its path – either by isolation or death. Once you’ve taken your last breath, you can’t spread Covid. Better to “stay the fuck at home.” Huh. I wanted to link to the video of by Samuel L. Jackson, but instead see, “Video unavailable – This video contains content from Disney, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.” Priorities.

So how are you doing with this? I’ve been at a heightened state of paranoia since around March 10th when I began quarantine for my son and me. A couple of nights since, I’ve been certain I somehow caught it. One night my feet were cold in bed and I was convinced that represented fever, forthcoming lung shutdown, and death. Beyond our physical health and financial concerns, there are millions of us on the edge psychologically or headed there. Desperation may have many bad outcomes. As I peered into the bleak abyss of my imminent demise, I focused on my breath. Breath, Breath, Breath, Breath… asleep. Sorry, to be a reformed smoker guy, but have you tried meditating? It’s really helping me right now. Still, this is so surreal. I am paranoid. I let packages and mail sit for days before I touch them. This week, a good friend wrote, “Today I got a package from Yep Roc –  5 new albums. Wiped down the box then each album w bleach.”

What’s working for me… Well, work is insane for me right now. I’m interacting with our customers every day as they are seeking answers. We all are. Crazy work is a welcome distraction from thinking about death. Family Guy also distracts this sophomoric mind. Beth, Kyle and I watched “The Ten Commandments” last night. That was a fun 3:40 distraction, but the plague scene with the creeping dark fog entering homes was an unwelcome metaphor. Other than that, meditating, exercise and music help. Even this one.

The Onion

I caught myself staring at the one sweet onion that my daughter picked up for me at the grocery store yesterday. She and her fiancée, Mike are shopping for me. Is it too dramatic to suggest she’s trying to save my life? I don’t think so, but it’s also not healthy to think too much about our mortality right now, so let’s get back to the onion.

It’s just an onion, but I was thinking “how can I get the most out of it?” How many meals can I stretch it for? A few feet away from the Allium cepa sits a bowl of black beans soaking in water. I bought beans and Jasmine rice over the past few weeks, preparing for the “shelter in place” situation I knew was coming. Thinking about maximizing the utility of an onion got me thinking about my grandmother and other people many of us knew that lived through the Great Depression. I remember thinking how silly her frugality was. From my naïve perspective back in the 1970’s, life was plentiful – and wasteful.

Today, none of us can take for granted dropping into the grocery store whenever we feel like it. We are literally risking our lives to do so. Jesus. I’ll cut this post short before I trigger a different kind of depression in myself and anyone who may read this. Here are 11 Life Lessons From The Great Depression Everyone Should Learn that may help us today.

Oh, and crying is natural. Don’t worry. It’s just the onion. It’s ok.

“In all things it is better to hope than to despair.”
– von Goethe

Chinese Easter Bunny

Easter 2020 in the US

Other working titles of this post were the Kevin Baconesque, “6 Feet of Separation” and “2.4 Million Weddings and About the Same Amount of Funerals.” I do feel for the graduates and blushing brides who will have their day postponed, but hopefully they’ll simply be grateful that their fate is better than those dying from COVID-19.

The title I chose juxtaposes our “Dear Leader’s” Easter delusion with the global-political competition between the US and China. I think there’s a “rest of the story” regarding the origin and arc of COVID-19, but we may never know the truth. What is apparent, at least to me is how much Donald Trump and some of his supporters have worked to spread the narrative of “the Wuhan Virus” to place the blame on China. An inconvenient truth is that there were cases in the US as early as October closely resembling the symptoms of COVID-19. Hopefully, testing of those individuals will reveal whether that had the deadly virus.

So, China and the Easter Bunny. I think what Trump and stewards of “American Exceptionalism” are most worried about is not the mounting deaths across our country, but that China seems poised to restart their economy since their outbreak in the Wuhan province began weeks before ours, and because they “shut it down” through government-imposed social distancing and mass testing, they seem to have stopped the spread to the point they can resume some semblance of normal life – including economic activity.

Meanwhile, in the (Far From) United States of America, Trump’s denials, downplaying and just general dumbness and petty vindictiveness have the country on the edge of a human and economic disaster. He and his administration received intelligence reports in January, but Trump, amplified by Fox News downplayed the threat into early March.  Now here we are. “Opening things up” by Easter is a fantasy, but also an indication by Trump that he’s willing to sacrifice American lives to not fall behind China in the Global Economy.

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
Donald Trump 02/28/20

Yep. Let’s hope we can make that miracle a reality on Tuesday, November 3rd.

The Land After Time

Friday nights usually don’t involve cooking or cleaning, but as I was loading the dishwasher with what held the quiche and soup, the following conversation took place:

Me: “Dude, I’m exhausted and I’m going to plant it on the couch. It’s been a long week. Do you want to watch something with me?”

Kyle: “I hate to break it to you, but it’s only Wednesday.”

Me: (I had a quick moment of terror before realizing it was indeed Friday.) “Dude, It’s Friday.”

Kyle: “Wait. What?” (He went to his room to grab his phone, and upon his return,) “How did that happen?”

Exactly. How did that happen?  The days are so long it does feel like Wednesday.

Next Wednesday.

So now I’m on the couch and about the only thing I can handle right now is “Family Guy.” There’s really never been a better time for “Family Guy.”

Sewing Protective Masks

I saw this in my company social media site:

“Do you know how to sew or cut fabric? A public health student at Lahey Hospital is coordinating a project to sew protective masks. You can fill out this form if you are able to help:

More info: https://patch.com/massachusetts/burlington/coronavirus-lahey-hospital-seeks-volunteers-sew-masks

My fiance is also working with a team at Lowell Makes (https://lowellmakes.com/) and a nurse at Lowell General to 3D print respirator masks. Please let me know if you have any expertise or resources to add to that conversation.”

Thoughts During a Pandemic

This may be the best I look for quite some time.

What if the plant-based “meat” I’ve been cooking with lately is actually Soylent Green?

Mass shootings should go down.

I may look like “The Dude” when this is over. I already have the sweater.

Just thinking about going to the grocery store is terrifying.  My daughter is shopping for me and I’m ordering some stuff online

Sorry, Tom. I don’t give a shit.

Most everyone is over the “I don’t want my video camera” on during this [insert online meeting platform here] call.  It seems seeing other human faces was a little underrated.

If my experience is typical, corporate online communities are having their 15 minutes, though the days are considerably longer.  In fact, the value of “Community” is painfully being realized.

My left knee is aching. I think I overdid it on the elliptical. I’m taking a break until it improves. I’m actually ahead of schedule on the 61-pound weight loss goal for 2020. As of this morning, I’m down 16.4lbs, but have a long way to go. I still have ample moobs.  Yeah, gross.

Kyle is ellipticaling and this week he’s done 6:27, 7:34 and today 9:21! I’m proud of my son and I think he’s feeling pretty good about himself. Tomorrow we’ll shoot for 10!

If you’re not meditating yet, give it a shot. We’ve got a ways to go.

Down in the Hole

Or holed up in the house. We’re all there. Well, hopefully most of us are so we can stop the spread of COVID-19. With all this time on our hands and darkness surrounding us, there’s never been a better time to start a meditation practice.

I did my usual workout yesterday, but it was hard. Mentally. It’s a slippery slope we’re all on right now and the Coronavirus is just one of the worries. Each of us, no matter what our mask may show to the public, walks around with a very fragile psyche behind it. Right now we need to protect not just our bodies from a deadly contagion, but our minds from despair.

Arthritic hips and knees don’t appreciate it, but my exercise routine begins with stretching and yoga. The pigeon pose days are over, but the cat pose and some gentle rocking of the hips loosens things a bit before 30 minutes or so on the elliptical machine. Exercise is critical right now for body and mind. I’m even pushing my son, Kyle to get in a daily spin. The first day he couldn’t make 4 minutes. Sunday he managed 5. Today we’ll add 60 seconds more. He gets pretty bad allergies, so the lungs need expanding. Yours do too. Take a walk. Get some fresh air.

As I lay face down on the Gaiam mat, my mind began to drift toward blackness. We all are well aware of the monochrome thoughts invading our minds right now, so it’s pointless to share mine. Here’s the thing. I quickly caught myself and shifted focus to my breath, just like meditation practice teaches. I stayed on the breath. The darkness dissipated, and I carried on. I’ll be relying on that learned skill for the next few… Well, however long it takes.

Years ago, before I meditated, I’d fall helplessly down in the hole. My resulting demeanor would adversely affect everyone around me. Now, just like in a movie, I’m able to reach out and grab an elusive vine to catch me from falling. (Note, it doesn’t have to be a vine. It could be like when Luke Skywalker falls down the hole in The Empire Strikes Back, but saves himself by grabbing what looks like an antenna…) You get the idea.

Just breathe. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Stay focused. Dark thought? Fuck that. Go back to your breath. What’s going to happen with this virus? Get the fuck out of here. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. OK. Now I feel better and need to get some work done.

Breathe.

More on meditation with links to great resources that got me started:

The Pursuit of Happiness

Thankfully Behind the Waterfall

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