I received a comment the other day from Jim the Greek, who is a fellow Crow’s Feet writer.
For the last many hours I’ve been in transit to Africa. I have no idea if he’s already published his promised story. He penned this on one of mine the other day and I asked permission to share it.
I’ve become healthier at 73 than I was at 23. How that happened is a story in itself, which I’ll be publishing to Crow’s Feet soon. I was lucky to be employed as a line cook at 16 in a restaurant managed by an alcoholic man with a bad temper. He was good at his job, but terrible to work for due to his caustic tirades. I would lie in bed after a long day, unable to sleep as I reviewed the day’s reprimands over and over. I quit the job, came back as a dishwasher, and vowed to stay in that position until I graduated and went to college. John persuaded me to try again. He didn’t change, but I did. I realized that what he said and did had far less to do with me, and was mostly about him. I became laid back and no longer obsessed about it. That has stood me well for nearly 6 decades of life. There will always be trolls, critics and annoying people. The harshest punishment you can render on them is to ignore them. Just keep being you. I may not always agree with everything you say, but I am so grateful that folks like you are sharing with us. As the British said so eloquently in WW II: “Keep calm and carry on!”
There are several pearls in this which I am going to tease out for my own uses, and hopefully, yours too.
- Kindly don’t take things personally. When you and I are very young, everything is about us. Without going into detail about how this is now kinda universal among so many Americans that IT’S ALL ABOUT MEMEMEMEMEMEMEME all the time, you get the point. It is the purview of extreme youth to take absolutely every damned thing as a statement about yourself. Time, a modicum of experience and even a mild commitment to adulting tends to wash that away. Clearly that RX hasn’t taken for a great many of us; more’s the pity. I just received that kind of shrieking, shrill, fishwife kind of comment from an older woman who, and with yet another lesson about not speaking to trolls EVER, nearly came unglued when I was doing my utmost to be polite. Those of you familiar with The Four Agreements, well. If you’re not, please see this.
- There is never ever ever a “better time.” Never was a better time. Each time has its own wars, pestilences, diseases, losses, nutjobs in office, you name it. While the world’s climate is in worse shape, from the standpoint of us humans, relative quality of life has a great deal to do with where we choose to place our attention. What we study, grows. Jim refers to WWII. As a military veteran, I go to the VA for all my care. I endure umpteen conversations by aging men who talk about the “good old days,” when the men in the trenches were dying of sepsis and horrific wounds, who were scared shitless. I could go on. There are no “good old days.” No damned fool is going to tell you that being in war was a walk in the park. If they do, walk away, you are talking to a nut case or worse. Now is all you and I have. If now isn’t good enough for you, no time will EVER be good enough for you, and you are in for a lifetime of misery. That’s why time and some adulting teach you to put down that kind of baggage and learn to be in the here and now. Which, again, is why half this country and a goodly portion of other voting blocks (can you say, Brexit?) have voted with their arseholes for people who promise to turn back the clock to a “better time.” All that does is prove how gullible we guppies are for nostaglia, when nostalgia in this regard is a bitter drink seeking better times. We’re better off making right now the best we can. That is how we improve. As for issues around race, that’s a whole other article. That job is ongoing, but by the same token, finding joy in those we love right now, holding onto the daily goodness that we can right now can make that endless fight a lot more palatable. I didn’t say that “right now” is good. I said that right now is all we have. All of us can work towards something better, but even when you get “there,” that particular “there” will likely disappoint, and another “there” will surface on the far horizon. You live long enough, you get it.
- Every generation has its own unique version of trolls, naysayers, haters. Social media simply gave masses of them a bully pulpit to bully people. A few folks made billions on doing just that, thereby making ignorant abuse a profit center with our full cooperation. Too many big corporations make vastly too much money on very bad websites and misinformation campaigns to stuff that genie in the bottle. The way I see it the only thing to do here, and I’ll go back to Jim’s point, is ignore them. One Medium reader, when I complained about having to go back on Facebook a while back, admonished me that I could control what came into my feed. They were right. I do. Because we are what we are, for me to have a business, I need a social media presence. But said social media, like Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook, need not have a presence in my life. I stopped following almost everyone. I don’t accept friend requests. I control what lands in my feed. I don’t watch the news, I do not doomscroll, don’t even look. They can’t have my eyeballs, for they will feed those eyeballs with gore and hate. Hey, Sparky, that might work for you, but as more than a few Medium contributors have written, Fox News has done a fine job of ripping families apart:
4. At the risk of repeating myself, get over it, where and what we attend to is a choice. What nutrients dressed up as words that we allow into our brain spans is a choice. Period full stop.
5. Finally, Jim doesn’t always agree with me. He shouldn’t have to in order to enjoy my writing or yours or anyone else’s. Dear God, what a world of bores if we all got along. On the other hand, the lugnuts believe you HAVE to be on OUR SIDE or you’re agin’ us. That is also puerile, immature thinking. Those loud, smart writers whose work I continue to read poke me very hard in the ass-umptions, and I have dislodged a crapload of crap beliefs, ideas and barnacles along the way. The grey areas are where we grow. Otherwise we are a world of pablum, Stepford people. I guarantee you there are many in the upper 1% who want just bloody that. I don’t plan to hand that over, even if that’s just me. It ain’t just me, but you get it.
There’s not much here I haven’t written about before. However I have a lot of new readers, and I don’t possess the ridiculous hubris to expect Dear Reader to pore over more than 1,700 articles to find the threads. I repeat myself for two reasons: first, you would, too, if you had twenty-two concussions. Comes with the territory.
Second, good advice bears repeating. The best advice, which is forever an universal can has been around since man started hanging out together, needs to be regularly repackaged. The current set of self-help best-sellers are hardly any different from most advice and best-sellers presented years ago. They are dressed up differently. My book on the power of words doesn’t say anything you can’t find in ancient texts. We just change the wrapping, the ribbon and hope that the next generation hears the message. Good shit is good shit.
Because people have never changed. Our toys have, fashions and music and haircuts have, but our base motivations have not. Ask any rape survivor, any person who had to leave a burning country to do war. We are what we are. We have changed the toys and tools to wreak far more damage. For those shocked about Afghanistan, ask a Vietnam Vietnam Era vet. I am one. You hang around long enough, you see it over and over and over and over again.
But by the same token, you and I have precisely the same ability to say no to toxic nutrients. Always did, always will. You and I can choose to attend to those things which heal rather than hurt. Like Jim the Greek, to whom I say:
ως γυναίκα, είμαι πραγματικά κουρασμένη,
the only Greek phrase I know. And because of that, I am choosing differently. You can, too. You might just save your life for the rest of your life. Which is one reason I listen to people who have lived a lot of it.
(the phrase means, and it’s from the woman’s viewpoint, “I’m really tired.”)