Meaning, Life, and Happiness

and The Glad Game

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Maybe life is suffering. Maybe our existential dilemma is manifested by our station in life. Maybe, just maybe, we have to feel miserable in some way to know we are still alive. Is it then too far of a reach to think we all suffer the same degree?

To ask what is life in a non biological sense sort of begs the question what is the meaning of life? It seems age old and as far as I’ve ever known, nobody seems to have a clear answer. It seems to me that there is a logical error in asking this question, kind of like how you can’t divide by 0.* The question we should be asking is what is the meaning of my life? Can each and every person on Earth have an answer to that? …

From here, the question is succinct enough to convey the idea that each of us is, simply by existing, a part of a larger whole, yet it lies wide open for individual interpretation. What is the purpose of my life, the role my brain was molded for, the thing I’m meant to do? What is the legacy of my life, the thing that I’m known for, the impact I’ve made, the mark I have left, the decisions of others that I have influenced? What is the effect of my life, the impact I leave on my children, the change I have effected on the world, the difference I made? Destiny, perhaps? Meaning is the function that connects you to the world.

Given the meaning of one’s life is found, and life is lived to fulfill that meaning, does that in turn satisfy us? Can we be happy by simply living out our purpose? Does this ease the suffering of life? Surely, this isn’t the sole key to happiness in life? “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work again.” Isn’t that it?

Suppose you are fortunate enough to do what you enjoy doing and it somehow still doesn’t feel like work. You may have made peace with your self and your connection to the world, but any number of unfortunate fates await a person. Illnesses and traumas are inevitable, but merely an aside to the consequences of unfortunate connections and best intentions fallen by the wayside. What of happiness then? Can one find happiness in the worst of conditions, perhaps even if most of their life seems stricken by misfortune? What weight do we give the sufferings of life, when those in great suffering can find happiness in so many places and those of immense fortune cannot be happy for a moment?

What is happiness? Again, I think the common way of asking is inherently wrong. Happiness isn’t a thing, it’s how we feel when our mind is positively focused. Perhaps we should be asking, “Where is happiness?” This question prompts active search rather than passive pondering. Where do you find your happiness? That’s a question we can answer. Sure, there’s bucket lists and hobbies, friends and family. It’s easy to think of at least a couple answers to where you find your happiness. I had a friend in Colorado that would insist on playing The Glad Game. Simply take turns stating I’m glad that _ and fill in the blank with something that hasn’t already been used that day. Being as we did construction, it was sometimes modified to The Fucking Glad Game, especially after a few rounds! Nonetheless, it usually cut through the thickest clouds of misery and gave folks a reason to laugh. Maybe focusing on happiness for the sake of a game takes the pressure off of trying to think happy thoughts for the sake of being happy.

Money doesn’t buy happiness any more than love. It can only ease so much suffering. Maybe without financial stress, in a vehicle both sturdy to outside hazards and comforting to the rider, the other sufferings of life are more impacting.

I will wrap up my philosophical soap box speech with one last thought. Maybe what intrinsically ties together these concepts of life, meaning, and happiness is reason. What is the reason I live my life? What is the reason my life means what it does? What reason do I have to be happy? Maybe asking the right questions is the key to avoiding an existential crisis.

*Yes, I remember invoking L’Hopital’s Theorem to divide by an expression that simplifies to 0. Entirely beside my point though!

Moving Forward

Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves?

I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my girl was lied to and hosed over by corporate ass fuckery once again. January is getting to be the month of unexpected unemployment for us. In any case, after stressing out of our minds for the last 3 or 4 weeks, she has finally found gainful employment again. I might be getting my hopes up, but the benefits are above and beyond and her initial impression of her new coworkers as ‘bubbly’ makes me think she might just have found a good long term fit. 

As for myself, money problems, not seeing the sun for weeks on end, being socked in with the cold rain, and the holiday season overall was enough damper to make me not want to get out of bed most days. My 30’s have had me down, but after a while I guess you come to the conclusion that you may as well, “get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’. ” (Shawshank Redemption)  Before you get concerned, rest assured that my boy’s bright, happy face and great big hugs  (like his dad’s) keep me grounded through everything. So, I’ve been chewing on this question all month and then some: what now?   

Without reliving too many miserable details, I have to say that I would pin this ‘midlife crisis‘ thing, if that’s what you want to call it, down to having to learn how to let go of your past hopes and dreams that didn’t work out, and find a new meaningful future starting from where you are. I suppose we are sort of guided as teenagers on our course of self-discovery and identity. You have to write all these thoughtful essays on how you understand and feel about the world, and coming out of high school you sort of have some idea about what your life should look like. Your roaring twenties roll around, and you’re full of piss-n-vinegar! You experience your first real world achievements, often your first really meaningful intimate relationship, and you start to set life goals. Then, struggle. Then, getting tripped up. Then failure followed by more failure. Next thing you know, everything you worked so hard to achieve is a damn mess and you start wondering how long it will be before you find yourself pitching a tent under Burnside Bridge! 

Without wanting to, my search for the answer to, “what the hell do I do now?”, led me to wondering just what I’m all about. Maybe I attached my identity to a dream future that didn’t come true. Maybe I lost myself along the way. Maybe I was distracted by the wrong glittery, shining things in life. Maybe that streak of success fooled me into forgetting the simple,  ubiquitous fact that life’s a bitch! 

Whatever the case, I’m starting to regroup and make a plan for moving forward. I’ve had to settle into myself like an expertly made cheesecake (for the love of desserts, don’t fuck with it for at least twelve hours! Why is this so hard?) or since I’m more of a savory foodie who more often than not gets the trial by fire treatment, maybe more like a homemade salsa made with flame roasted peppers. Either way, I’ve had to examine my past to accomplish this, and that’s been half the battle. 

The other half of the battle has been to find affirmation in the way I’ve dealt with my circumstances. See my previous post if you care to hear me rant and split hairs on choice, consequence, and circumstance. My early followers probably know that I have severed connections with my father and though I haven’t refused contact with my mother, still haven’t spoke to her in years. I won’t have alcoholism in my life, and I have neither the desire nor constitution to drag someone into reality that has chosen to be checked out of it. These are my choices, and I made them for a reason. 

Somehow, conversation with my girl last night triggered a chain of difficult memories, and I purged myself of some emotional indigestion over this fact. Sometimes, you just gotta let all that poison out of you to be mentally healthy again. This morning, with the ‘taste of it’ still lingering in my mind, I have this song in my head. I’ve given it a few listens and let it wash over me. There’s a lot behind this song for me. (Graphic content advisory: mild violence in YouTube clip, lyrics at the bottom if you’d rather not or the link doesn’t work) In fact, the movie it’s from, Kelly’s Heroes, is pretty damn classic, too. Even if war flicks aren’t your flavor, (though it’s minimal gore) I would say the all star cast from young Clint Eastwood to Don Rickles makes it worth seeing at least once. It has a lot of clean, old fashioned humor with a gold heist theme. The song resonated with my mother, and it took me until my adult years to understand why. Moreover, the movie stuck with me thanks to Donald Sutherland enlightening me to what it means to be a hippie out of his natural habitat. Come to think of it, I lived out quite a bit of that character’s role in my own service! Ha ha! I’m not even embarrassed about it! Woof, woof! 

Well, there you have it. Accepting who I am, accepting everything that’s happened, and getting the hell on with it. I will leave you with these lyrics and promise to be back soon to share my itchy green thumbs and projects.

“Burning Bridges” sung by The Mike Curb Congregation 

Friends all tried to warn me but held my head up high. All the time they warned me but I only passed them by.

They all tried to tell me but I guess I didn’t care. I turned my back and left them standing there. 

All the burning bridges that have fallen after me. All the lonely feelings and the burning memories. 

Everyone I left behind each time I closed the door. Burning Bridges lost forevermore. 

Joey tried to help me find a job a while ago. When I finally got it I didn’t want to go. 

The party Mary gave for me when I just walked away. Now there’s nothing left for me to say. 

All the burning bridges that have fallen after me. All the lonely feelings and the burning memories. 

Everyone I left behind each time I closed the door. Burning Bridges lost forevermore. 

Years have passed and I keep thinking what a fool I’ve been. I look back into the past and think of way back then. 

I know that I lost everything I thought that I could win. I guess I should have listened to my friends. 

All the burning bridges that have fallen after me. All the lonely feelings and the burning memories. 

Everyone I left behind each time I closed the door. Burning Bridges lost forevermore. Burning bridges lost forevermore. 

It’s Always Something #005

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal

You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

The negativity spiral. Some people think of it more linear, like a dark road you walk down, each step another ugly, degrading, demoralizing thought. The world is very cyclic by nature, so where it may seem we walk a straight path into darkness, there is indeed an ultimate point which we seem to be circling.

Anyway, I had a nightmare last Friday. Seems to be going around, judging by my feed. Mister had school, so I couldn’t just hide in bed like I really wanted. I got up, made my coffee, and joined the family at the table. Kim made breakfast and it looked good, but one challenging remark from the peanut gallery derailed my effort to convince myself to be hungry. So, without comment, I took my coffee and retreated to the bedroom. 

I felt like I actually had the fight that I just dreamt I had. There was nothing otherwise to complain about, I just felt beat up. After returning home from the school delivery, I got sucked into it. 

Kim asked me what was wrong. I told her I just felt shitty. She asked if it was her, or something she did. No, I just felt like crap. After more questioning, I told her I had a nightmare. I didn’t want to feed the negativity by adding details. I wanted to sit in silence and get my head right. 

She continued to pry. She explained that my being upset was upsetting her and wanted to know what was wrong. I tried my best to quarantine myself that morning, so being told that I failed to do so reinforced my negativity. She continued to ask what was wrong. 

The spiral. It ruined most of the day for us.

Ugh! Come the hell on, now! Of course, some thing is wrong! There are so many things wrong in my life right now, I can’t shake a hundred dollar bill at them all. If someone repeatedly asks for what’s wrong, I have an endless well of things to complain about. If you look for something to be a problem, you are going to find it. The only real problem is getting sucked into the negativity. 

Honestly…

There’s hardly a problem we have right now that can’t be completely solved with a liberal application of Go The Fuck To Work! 

If you stop and think negatively, there is always some damn thing. 

Oh, She’s Just Wild and That’s Okay

But what if it isn’t?

I took Kiley to school this morning. On most accounts, it was a typical morning. It took about 15 min of hounding for her to get dressed. It’s pouring rain and in the 50’s but that doesn’t stop her from putting on a light, airy dress. Last week, it was getting a bit cool. This week, it is cool and wet, the kind of cold that gets right to your bones and sticks there, haunting you while you try to recover your enthalpy sheltered indoors. As a parental figure, I couldn’t let her keep dressing for summer. After another 20 min of bickering that tempted a full scale meltdown, I dug in her clothes to find something suitable to wear. Another 15 minutes of hounding her to eat her one packet of oatmeal and we were finally out the door with 10 minutes left to get to school. 

Today was different because instead of driving through the drop off lane and letting her hop out, I parked the truck and walked her to her classroom. This is our routine now, because we are having quite some difficulty with her academic success. I won’t go into details, except to say that the school must be convinced that we don’t do anything for the child. I walked Kiley to her classroom and introduced myself to the teacher, a quiet, kind old man. I told him that I will be ensuring she comes to class and that breakfast isn’t a classroom issue. That nice man started nodding and saying “oh, it’s okay, it’s okay” before I could finish explaining why I was there. 

Through all of the headache with Kiley, I have to say that we have certainly taken up folks’ kind, supposedly helpful suggestions of showering her with more love and praise. Every single time, the same results: exponentially decaying behavior. Within days, she will be ruling the land with an iron scream. Look, I get that we can’t be suppressing children’s ability to let their emotions out, that we should acknowledge them and give them room for expression. However, here’s where it breaks down: Kiley is asked to do something, she does not feel like complying, she makes excuses, then if asked again decides to have a display of emotions. The consequences of this behavior is anything from having a nice, comfy seat on a beanbag doing nothing to playing on an iPad while the office ladies dote on her. 

STOP! It’s not fucking okay! She gets positive results from negative and disruptive behavior, what the hell makes anyone think that she is ever going to benefit from education, or even see it through, if she is given a more pleasant option than doing her work any time she feels? Oh, we get told that if she gives lip when asked to do something, just take her by the hand and -cheerfully- take her to where she needs to be. Then, there we are wrestling her kicking, thrashing, possessed body into time out while she screams all manner of dramatic domestic abuse phrases. Yeah, just take her nicely by the hand, huh? Then, surely the lying and stealing (ahem, taking then maybe asking, to be exact) are okay, too? What’s the punishment for that? Oh, offer her more stuff because obviously the reason she’s stealing is pure desperation, not because she receives positive reinforcement for doing the wrong thing. 

Look, one of our state’s most iconic natural areas just got torched because some hooligans had a seriously bad attitude toward authority. The parents are in the spotlight, but in the innumerable interactions those kids have had with the incredible amount of relationships through their lives, the village, as it were, how the hell did they come to the conclusion that what they did was going to end well in any case? At the very least, they were going to get a nice little fine from the state. In today’s world where everyone has high resolution video recording in their pocket or hand, if someone sees you do something like that, you are as good as caught before you finish the act. 

I don’t know what makes people just fall over themselves for certain individuals. My dad had that charm. He could talk a sane person into jumping off a tall cliff, I swear. He talked, and no matter how bad the bullshit smelled, people would eat it up and ask for more. Baby’s momma still has that charm. I walk through a custom tailored circle of hell every time I show my face at my son’s school. These people get to waltz all over society with their attitude. If I ever had the nerve to cook up half the lies these clever crooks concoct (man, the Dr Seuss really rubs off) I’d have my ass handed to me. No, something special protects these individuals from social backlash. I don’t get it, but I sure suffer the consequences. 

It has really only been recently that we have recovered control of our household on a day to day basis. Chaos, complaining, ultimatums, negotiations, and ultimately utter exhaustion used to be our norm. It doesn’t work like that. It might seem to work, but we can’t really all just play their games and insist that it’s better for them in the end. 

Well, maybe I made a bigger thing out of it than it needed to be. The point remains though, there’s everything wrong with disrupting class, taking without permission (aka stealing ), and simply refusing to do work. It’s not okay, stop telling me it’s okay, and for the love of humanity stop telling her it’s okay. We are doing everything we can to sort this behavior out (I say this as crying breaks out in the background) but for most of the time she is in school, she gets it her way all day. How can we be effective as parents if what we enforce at home is being undermined at school? 

Has anyone else experienced this or a similar frustration with school? We have considered home school, but honestly that’s a pretty tall order. I hope it really is a phase, but I somehow feel like this is pretty much getting to be a part of her personality. 

The Way Things Should Be

Because I think they should be

It has taken time and several concerted efforts, but our family dynamics are improving. There is less chaos, fewer meltdowns, and more talking. Oh, and the kids are back in school! I felt for a while the day would never come. It’s some semblance of routine, anyway. 

On another delightful note, I woke up yesterday morning and upon whipping the blanket off, was greeted with a snappy chill. Oh, man! I can’t wait to not have that fan in the window all night again. The cool weather is right around the corner, and that combined with back to school means one thing: germ season. Kiley stepped outside in her dress and started shivering immediately, and like a bad PTSD trigger, the image of her sneezing all over herself and opening doors flashed through my brain. I returned home from dropping her off and besieged the place with soap and bleach. I had other things to do, but I couldn’t let it go any longer. 

We have managed to get the kids to keep their toys more picked up. The living room got organized and things are much tidier overall. I clean like crazy because it improves the quality of life for everyone. Regardless what living space you occupy, even if it’s a tent or your car, your quality of life will be far better if it’s kept clean. In my mind, that’s the way it should be. 

Unfortunately, I have to exist in reality for a majority of my life. In reality, a house is very difficult to keep up with, especially with kids. Nothing is the way it should be, pretty much any time, ever. It doesn’t matter that I have been groomed to 5S the hell out of things or scrub a room to white glove perfection. I live in the real world with real cohabitants. 

I also have real bills that I have to share in paying. It doesn’t matter if I can balance a budget. I cannot be in two places at once to make two incomes at the same time. Hell, earning the one income is taking its toll on me. I should be able to pay all my bills every month. In my mind, that should be entirely possible. I should be able to afford a vehicle, not necessarily brand new nor high end. Just a vehicle to safely get me and the kids around. 

These things that should be, they bother me because these things are not. It’s not just my expectations of myself, is it? My debtors expect to be paid, the government expects to be paid, baby’s momma expects to be paid. Really, the downward spiral of it all, the eternal source of stress, is that all these people expect results. Hours of my time, abuse to my knees, back, hands and otherwise, nights spent on a ladder instead of bed, hours and fuel spent in traffic, all condensed down to a green sheet of printed fabric. 

I should be free to let my mind explore the world, the most succulent and delectable morsels of knowledge oft overlooked. Instead, I’m bound to expectations. I shouldn’t be bound to a life of poverty after working so hard to escape it. However, to be otherwise should not require I be bound to a life of corporate servitude, resorting to stealing my life back in a lunch break here or concocted excuse there as neither my weekends nor holidays are left sacred. 

These things that should be. I struggle to accept the reality that things are not the way they should be. I can accept the reality of the past, or at least I’m working on it. What bothers me is the reality of my future as there has so far been no indication of it being vastly better than the recent past. 

How do I ‘let it go’? How do I build ‘mental flexibility’? What can I do to make tomorrow at least marginally better than today aside from giving the home a field day cleaning? 

More Doing

In trying to shake this funk, I have come to realize that I no longer have a space in the house to claim as my own. There is a desk with a computer, but said computer is about to give up the ghost as well. I don’t really get quiet time to sit and do anything productive, either. 

Still, I have to make something. It’s just what keeps me able to wake up day to day. I shouldn’t imply that my family doesn’t do that for me, but I really lose the wind in my sail being little more than a babysitter day in and day out. I have to do stuff, keep my hands and my brain busy. 

I’m wishing I had a shop space again, as power bumps screw with the machine and usually makes it freeze. I also have just barely enough room to walk around the thing. Nonetheless, I finally got what I was after. 

I’ll take any kind of success I can get right now! 

Finally, back to making sawdust! 

That’s really all I have wanted out of life for a while. To stop this thing from being something I’m working on doing, and to finally say it’s what I do

Joe Gotta Go

I quit once, so I can do it again. It’s not really an addiction if I don’t let it control me. [Paraphrased from the low budget flick Coffee and Cigarettes ]

I have quit a lot of times. Haven’t most smokers? I slipped into it again. What is it, really? I admit that it came back to me when I was driving. I would go to the airport queue for my lunch period, see a few folks enjoying their nicotine and before I knew it…

In retrospect, I can see that I only wanted the company. Every other driver seemed to sit in their car and zone out into their phone the whole time. I just wanted some small talk and maybe to hear someone else bitch about their misery. I picked up a pack and enjoyed my social time. For a few weeks, that was my routine. 

Then I quit driving to work on shop projects. For the last few months, I have been trying to quit again. I have a week that’s not so stressful and I just don’t give in to cravings. Then I have a week that stresses me out and I say the hell with fighting that battle. Some weeks are okay, but most weeks this summer have just shortened my life span and grayed my hair. 

The counselor believes that most, if not all, of the intense bickering in our house is the result of my energy. Accordingly, I have been instructed to go for a run when I feel stressed. These moments of stress don’t follow a nice schedule though, and rarely in those moments do I ever have energy to run. I fell back onto construction as I can’t afford shop space right now, and have been on hiatus for anything active since. When the house starts going into nuclear meltdown, I take my loud, abrasive self outside. Since my body hurts, the only thing I care to do is cover the pain with tobacco. The crazy thing is that my body doesn’t even like it at all. One cig and I feel instantly shitty. 

So, it’s been a lot of just feeling shitty. I shared with my girl how I don’t really enjoy my smoke breaks but rather just feel like I’m being punished for shit I didn’t start. Little Kiley acts out, I go outside, and I reckon that in her mind she won the fight. She may have had a time out, but she made me go away. I was banished at her will, all it took was attitude and screaming. 

It sure wasn’t easy, but we had to flip the script. Kiley was informed of the new plan to punish her, and as anyone could predict, she just had to give it a try. This time, we decided that 3 strikes earns her a grounding in her room. One whole day, 24 hours, where she has her bed, stuffed animals, toys, but absolutely nobody to interact with. It was as close to a prison sentence as one could inflict on a child. 

Well, this turned out to be a great solution. Kiley is far more reserved in her outbursts and her tone of voice is less irritable on the whole. The listening skills need work, as do many other skills, but the nuclear meltdowns seem to be contained.

As such, it is time to take my own mental health seriously.

 I’m giving myself this one last lung dart, then I’m on the pesticide free diet. It’s time I get back to the pursuit of the 6 minute mile. I need to give myself that much with everything that’s going on.

I hope to get back in the shop and building things, but getting life on track is the primary focus right now. I need to get out from under the steam roller in any way I possibly can.