I once thought Love-Hate Relationships referred to the phenomenon of me loving people who hated me. But that was just Unrequited Love. Requited Love would be better. A common fourth quadrant is Hate-Hate Relationships which are under analyzed. We are more fascinated with couples like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor who marry, divorce, remarry, and divorce again. Or maybe that is my own bias. I even have a Love-Hate Relationship with insects. I have a theoretical love of bees, wasps, and ants for all the they do to benefit my environment. I love honey. But I hate getting stung when I step barefoot on a bee in the clover. I hate being harassed by wasps when eating on my deck. And I hate finding that I am sharing a peanut and butter sandwich with ants. I love and hate my automobile and my printer. I love having a roof and indoor plumbing but I hate how they leak. I love that mechanisms exist to register our like or dislike of services and products and I have utilized them when I am overly impressed or distressed. But I hate the bullying to participate as if I am rude to choose other ways to use my time. The volume of requests and surveys is so overwhelming, you could spend hours a day reviewing if that was a fun hobby for you. Consider the choice to pass as a review itself. Last week I was pumping gas at the Shell station by my house and the screen was flashing with a message to “Like us on Facebook.” What possible value would that action have for me, Shell, or their potential customers? I already proved I like them enough not to be gassing up with the competitor across the street.
Our 13 year old granddaughter lives on the other side of the country. She constantly calls my wife bursting with the excitement of big news. Her enthusiasm is the vaccine for my cynicism. If I am around, my wife adds me to the call. Thankfully Noemi tactfully lets her grandmother know that I am actually not needed on certain calls. On the few occasions when Noemi dials my phone, her opening words are always, “Why isn’t Gami answering her phone?” The big news can be a new boyfriend, a new hair color or style, new paint on her nails or bedroom walls, a new song she wants to sing or play for us on the ukulele or guitar, some school or athletic success, or something hysterical she and her girlfriends said or did. She has usually already shared any exciting news with said girlfriends because we hear about their reactions. We are always appropriately enthusiastic about any and all Noemi news items. So hopefully we will remain on her phone chain longer than we would logically expect. We avoid being judgmental because she is our link to the lives of her parents and brother. I do not know how typical she is. I do not remember our three sons communicating like this with their grandparents or with us for that matter. My siblings seemed to love our grandparents as much as I did but I do not remember the same level of communication or public enthusiasm when we were entering our teenage years. Maybe the difference is that we did not have our own phones. Our family phone was attached to the wall and had no video capability. I thought we were affluent but hindsight confirms that we were deprived.
While people-watching, I noticed a young woman, perhaps a teenager, cursing loudly into a cell phone. After a heated exchange on the call, she and the female with her summoned a young boy nearby and announced they all needed to go. As they walked away, I noticed one girl was wearing one white sneaker and one black one. Her companion, possibly a sister, was also wearing the exact same footgear. I assume they share the same shoe size, bought one white pair and one black one, and traded one shoe. I was impressed with the clever style statement if that was the purpose. I began plotting to borrow the idea. When I buy running shoes, I usually purchase two at a time but get different brands to superstitiously pamper my feet with a subtle variety of stress points on alternate days. My shoe size (10.5) is relatively common. But I would have difficulty finding someone willing to attend functions with me, let alone while wearing different colored shoes on each foot. I have accidentally worn mismatched shoes by hurriedly dressing in the dark. I once made the same mistake with a pair of pants that in light of day clearly clashed with my already too flashy sport coat. A big unscheduled formal meeting was called on short notice and became one of my most embarrassing moments. Luckily my inappropriate garb did not derail my career; other more substantive fatal flaws did that. I am not color blind so I have no excuse for all the times I mismatch socks. I often do not even wear socks. Occasionally I get caught wearing just one sock, apparently another sign of not completing a task after getting interrupted.
World leaders make and break climate control accords but one major player is never a party to any such agreements. Climate never signs anything. We have reason to believe that Climate is not pleased with the arrogance of mankind based on the implied messages expressed in the regular infliction of extreme weather. Humans used to be more submissive to the gods of sky, sun, moon, stars, light, dawn, weather, storms, wind, thunder, and rain. Our ancestors offered tributes from harvests and performed dances in supplication. Their petitions recognized that human existence was dependent on the forces of nature. We are no longer so timid although our own development and actions have increased our peril. We have more tools to temper the tantrums of the natural gods. But as we increase in numbers, our own diversity inhibits our ability to find universally accepted strategies for managing our environment. We have the theoretical capability to solve problems like world hunger but our nature makes it realistically impossible. However, this same nature insures that the best of our species, unfettered by elections, will nonetheless tilt at the non imaginary windmills of hunger, disease, and injustice. We are becoming experts at injecting ourselves with antibodies designed to identify and neutralize dangerous foreign organisms which threaten our collective existence. But we need to elevate ourselves with probody injections designed to isolate and distill the positive markers of people like Gandhi, Einstein, and Martin Luther King. My Blog only deals with big picture concepts. I will leave the details to others.
Giving an opinion is fraught with danger, especially if answering a question from a loved one. My strategy is to avoid direct responses. Better to be a politician and stick to my own canned soundbites. I have been asked which dress looks better. Which couch looks better? Which earrings look better? If I choose one, that will eliminate it from consideration. My standard answer is: Everything goes so well with your dazzling smile. People are less able to hold anger when they are smiling. Provoke smiles. In addition to that tip, I will also pay forward the best advice I have received from my friend Internet. If you cannot think of a word, just say: “I forget the English word for it.” That way people think you are bilingual or trilingual and not an addlepated dunderhead. The first time I tried this tactic, I was flummoxed by obvious follow up inquiries about which languages I speak. So I am trying to persuade my wife to just nod her head with deep concern if I ever start speaking in tongues in such a situation. My deception of feigning fluency in an exotic foreign language is her cue to join me in exiting the conversation by notifying everyone that my appendix just burst. Hopefully no medical doctor will be on site because I do not speak or understand the language of medicine. And I would be very embarrassed if somebody performed an emergency appendectomy and found that my appendix was already long gone. So if a doctor tries to intervene, I told her to explain that she would be performing the operation in the back of the cab on the way to the hospital as she has done so often back in our country.
I live in a modern age. Of course, all humans are born into a modern age. Only after death do you get relegated to a Middle or Ancient Age as newborns continually scramble to the top of the ever changing modern heap. Someday far enough into the future, I worry about being lumped and diluted into a broad category spanning 600 years from the Christopher Columbus Invasion of the Americas through the Great Floods of the 21st Century. Such worry makes me a sullen idiot in the best sense of those words. Lewis Thomas described the origin of the words sullen and idiot as long ago connoting someone unique and singular, a special isolated person. Eventually solitariness and compulsive individualism exerted more unfriendly images of a morose insolence and aversion to society. The erosion of meaning has come to the point where I can no longer compliment someone by calling them a sullen idiot. I worry that subtle nuances are lost forever and that sullen idiots are now taking offense at my characterizations. Lewis Thomas also has insights on worry and once said, “Worrying is the most natural and spontaneous of all human functions.” He suggests we learn to do it better. Unfortunately, he is no longer around to explain to me how I can implement better worrying in my life. I was worrying about getting a daily Blog posted in time. As I began to fill this previously blank page, I started to worry that my sips of Ancient Age were adding hilarity that might evaporate by morning. And now I worry that I am no longer worried any more.
People sometimes ask about my heart rate, blood pressure, or body mass index (BMI) numbers. They want to compare data about statins or supplements. I am amazed at the information available on their watches. I once blogged about not knowing my blood type which outed me as someone not donating blood. I get embarrassed and defensive about my ignorance of medical markers. I over share on my Blog, so I am not just trying to protect privacy. My blood pressure is taken at every doctor or dentist visit but what do those numbers mean? There should be one simple blood pressure number on a scale of one to twenty. If you have 19 Blood Pressure, you need medical intervention. If you have 7 Blood Pressure, you relax. I felt negligent when disappointing my Mom with the revelation that I was not taking vitamins or supplements. I do not oppose knowing my heart rate or BMI. I just resist taking time for a fat pinching test with a caliper. The one number easy to monitor is weight and I check mine every morning as an early warning system. Recently I found a BMI calculator on the internet. I tested at the midpoint of normal but since I am at a relatively rare low weight point, I would normally float around in the upper half of normal range. I was a little surprised that I could lose 24 pounds and still reside in the normal category. If I lost a couple dozen pounds right now, I would be very sick, dying, or dead! Which is why I simplify what I monitor. Do I feel good or bad? Am I alive or dead? If the latter, someone at my Wake will be scolding, “I kept warning Geoff to check his pulse.”
You will never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. Denzel Washington has been credited for popularizing that expression about ten years ago at a graduation speech. We all recognize that truth but still it does not stop us from acting as if we do not understand or believe it. In an AARP interview, Viola Davis says she was outraged that her father was being buried without shoes until she realized he would not need them. Egyptian Royalty did bury their possessions and valuables with them. Apparently they thought they could take them into the afterlife. Grave robbers knew better. Maybe the Pharaohs and Kings knew better too but just did not want anyone else to get their stuff. At least they had valuables. I am hoarding junk. When my grave is excavated, the archaeologists will announce they found the village garbage dump when they start pawing through the stuff I am taking with me. I have not yet purchased a burial plot because I am too embarrassed to tell the cemetery officials how much space I am going to need. I am also planning to buy a large U-Haul trailer to be at the ready because knowing neither the time nor the place of my demise makes it difficult to reserve a vehicle. My only worry is that my three sons may stumble on the realization that it would be more efficient to bury me at the dump with my hoard rather than transfer it all to my gravesite.
During the Pandemic, my wife and I have scaled back date nights to occasional afternoon walks around the neighborhood. Fine dining and movie outings have been replaced with takeout meals and television programs. Errands now count as going out. We have not been on an airplane in over ten months. Only a handful of people have been allowed inside our home and no one is clamoring to get on the waiting list. This allows us to cut a few corners on upkeep. But now we are developing bad habits. No one picks up the cigarette butts. This is an unusual problem because my wife and I do not smoke. Maybe those stubby little cylinders are anti-snoring nose vents that were spread all over when the dog ripped into the big Walmart bag. But we do not have a dog. Perhaps the raccoons have found their way through the gaping hole in the kitchen wall where our 17 year old grandson was trying to kill a phantom murder hornet with a sledgehammer. And so my wife and I were particularly excited to get dressed and out of the house for a special date yesterday morning. We were able to schedule Pfizer vaccinations after a few frustrating days hacking into user unfriendly websites. We passed rigorous tests proving that we qualified for Phase WD (Walking Dead) in the Covid-19 protocol. Scheduling the second dose is easier because of attrition in our category. The gentleman in front of me was in a wheelchair for his 9am appointment, only to discover he had signed up for 9pm. Of course, they inoculated him anyway. But the evening option made me realize we could turn our future medical appointments into actual date nights.
My children make sure that my worst moments are documented in an oral tradition that insures future generations will not forget my transgressions. So my only job is to remember my finer moments. This is easy because fewer of them exist and my mind selectively and disproportionately remembers my best actions. Although they would all fit neatly into this space, that would be so self serving as to defeat the purpose. But if you made a list of your own finest moments, the exercise would make you feel really good about yourself. Try it. Just remember that The Best of You List is not a resume of achievement like educational degrees or being President of this or that. This is a petition you might submit to St. Peter at the Gates of Heaven. Noble actions, even and especially against self interest. Giving to charity just to see your name on a donor list does not count. Maybe behind the scenes, you recommended a rival for a promotion. Or you sent an anonymous gift to an enemy. Perhaps you righted a neighbor’s garbage can and picked up the spilled trash while he was at work. Maybe you apologized or took blame for something when you did not need to. You may have done something bigger like raising a child that was not your own or caring for a sick friend. Or you simply kept a promise. You do not need to save the list. Burn it in a ceremony designed to carry the remnants of goodness into the Universe. Because the only person who needs to see it is you. And you need to see it sometime when you are down on yourself.