Some night when you have nothing else to do, take a drive at 3am. If you would always rather sleep, this can be a thought experiment rather than a physical exercise. Try to find a high-traffic road or get on the freeway. If the place you live is anything like the place I live, you'll find a surprising number of people.
It's easy at this time of night/morning to imagine what these people are doing, why they're driving at this hour. That man is on his way to his job in a hospital. That couple is of their way to the same place to give birth to their first child. The teen is on her way home after a late night watching movies at a friend's house. You get the idea.
Realize now that each of them is embroiled in their own story, living a life full of just as much detail as your own. Each one experienced childhood, some happy and loving, some neglectful, some abusive. They went to school and had friends and rivals, favorite teachers and the worst classes. In some cases their lives have extended beyond what you have experienced. They've lost a spouse or fought cancer or watched their body wither with age.
The point is that to each of them their own life is the center of the universe. The everyday stressors and the huge, life-changing events are all so important. This is true for every single person you see.
If you want to really blow your mind, think back to their birth. The parents certainly had profound emotions that day. In fact, that was likely one of those very important days in two entirely different lives, each with its own birth, growth, and perhaps death. The web of near infinite moments and details of life extends back in time, generation upon generation.
Estimates place the total number of humans who have ever lived at over 100 billion. It's easy to separate ourselves from "the other"–people in far off countries with very different cultures, people from the past with low levels of technology. But in fact, their mental faculties, their emotions, their thoughts and lives are very similar to your own. 100 billion people think they're the center of the universe. But they're not.
The truth is that nothing you or I or anyone does is outstanding in the global, long-term scheme of things. There are billionaires and superstars you've never even heard of. Throughout time there have been countless dukes and kings and queens, Ozymandiases all.
Some people look at this and see the miracle of life. Through all of time and space, everything conspired exactly as it had to in order for me to exist. My response is so what? So I can worry about that $60 credit card bill or fret because my car broke down or my daughter broke her arm. As a once famous person in a distantly fading movie once said, "it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people [or 100 billion] don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."
Maybe it's impossible to truly internalize, but the next time life seems crazy or overwhelming, try to remember that you and yours, and everyone you know ultimately don't matter.
To clarify, I will discuss the problems of dating as a 40-year-old man, not the problems of dating 40-year-old men. To further clarify, I have actually done either. I'm more than a year into my forties, ok, almost two years, and I haven't dated anyone in those years. I had a dream this morning that illuminated part of the problem of doing so. (Yes, this is a dream story, but I promise to keep it short and on topic, no polka dot giraffes appearing out of nowhere. Wait, aren't all giraffes kind of polka-dotted? Sorry, I digress.)
I was taking a college class with a very diverse student body. Several classes passed in a montage during the dream. During that time, some of my classmates and I worked together in small groups repeatedly. We started to become friends, as people are wont to do.
One of said classmates was an older woman, kind and motherly. She seemed the type of woman who would bake you a pie for no reason other than she's nice like that. Now I'm not the world's most physical guy, but in time, we started hugging on meeting and departing. Soon she started pecking me on the cheek. Sometimes I got the impression that she was heading for my mouth, and I would quickly turn my head to intercept appropriately. Still, I was pretty oblivious until she started giving one kiss on the cheek quickly followed by an attempted one on the lips. This created an uncomfortable nodding as we jockeyed for kiss position.
The realization that she may want to be more than friends startled me. Then, as I thought about it more, it shook me. I mean, this woman was old! She must be 50. She wasn't all that wrinkled or grey, but her demeanor was that of a kindly mother or even grandma. Analyzing further, she could in fact be in her 40s. Oh my dog, she could be my age! In fact, I could very reasonably be a grandfather right now. And as I thought about it further, she reminded me of an ex-girlfriend of mine if I aged her forward to the present. To make matters worse, what if she was 50? That's certainly not a huge age gap. I had just dismissed out of hand the chance of dating someone who was entirely appropriate.
This next part is hard to admit but truly illustrates the problem. In the same row of seats as me was a very attractive Asian girl. (I use those words, not to be racist or sexist, but as legitimate descriptors. To me Asian emphasizes her beauty, while girl is entirely appropriate. She was twenty-something. Ok, twenty-ish.) This girl started dating a guy a few seats up and one row over. As I watched their budding romance I became jealous. The fact is, other than a cursory hello, I had never spoken to her. I had no idea what kind of person she was other than her attractive looks and demeanor.
Thus the problem. In my head I'm still the 20-something I was 20 years ago. (Not that I would have had a chance with her then either, but shut up.) My insides haven't changed other than getting wiser and maybe more jaded. Every time I look in the mirror, all these lines in my face getting clearer. The past is gone. It went by like dusk to dawn. (And if you get my reference, you're old too! So pay attention.)
Worse still, the craven reptilian part of my brain will always want the 20-year old. There's a quote I couldn't find a source for that goes something like this: When I was 20, I admired (or fill in an adjective of your choice) 20-year old women. When I was 30, I admired 20-year old women. When I turned 40, I still admired 20-year old women. Now I'm 70, and, yes, I admire 20-year old women.
I realize how creepy this is, but it doesn't change the truth of it. I could cite biology, that the young are more fit to procreate and thus more attractive. I could blame society's idolization of youth and beauty. But it is what it is, for whatever reasons. I'm not justifying it or saying people should date without any thought to age or stage of life. But I do have some ideas to smooth over the generation gaps.
If you're a man my age, try to realize that the women our age are in the same boat we are, young people trapped in middle-aged bodies. They like aging no more (probably even less (yes, I'm being sexist)) than we do. Give them a chance. Look for that spark of youth and tell your lizard brain that your cerebral cortex is in control! Realize that that 50-year-old woman is closer to you in age than a 30 year-old. She is also likely much more similar in life stage as. Can u like actually imagine, like, dating a 20-year old? ikr (And now I'm being ageist.)
If you're a woman my age, realize that men of any age appreciate women of a certain age. When their mind or eyes stray, remember that their cerebral cortex, which chose you, is the part that matters. It also might help to be blunt in your intentions if a man seems oblivious.
And if you're a 20-something woman, why the heck are you here? (tldr) But just in case, here's your advice. Yes, we find you beautiful, but that doesn't mean any effort at communication is a pick up attempt. We're not about to start kissing you on the cheek. If an older man does talk to you, realize that his body has changed, he's had more experiences, but in his head he's a person just like you. It may be difficult to listen to, but he might have something interesting to say. And please, please don't simply turn away or roll your eyes or visibly throw up in your mouth. And don't call us "sir."
In the end, I awoke without finding out what happened in my mini romantic drama. Did I grow up and give the sensible woman a chance? Did I continue to pine over the forbidden fruit? Who knows. But in waking life I can make the smart decision. (If I ever left my house and met anyone I could date.) There, I kept it on topic, if not exactly short.
UPDATE: I realized after I posted this just how hetero biased it is. I've written from my experience. I imagine that women and gay men find younger men more attractive as well, and all the other iterations. So please transpose genders to fit your circumstance. And I'd love to hear if you agree.
A ubiquitous response to tragedy, turmoil, or even just rainy days is for people to "pray for you." But I have a solemn request. If bad things happen to me, whatever you do, don't pray for me! Here is my rationale.
First and most importantly, prayer and the New Age alternative, "sending positive thoughts", objectively do not work (see Wikipedia's summary.) Sure, there are cases where someone prays really hard, and the thing they asked for happens. There are also countless times when it does not work. Humans are notoriously bad at figuring probability. A few anecdotes of coincidence get blown out of proportion in believers' minds. The statistical truth is that your prayers do me no good.
The next reason is a very pragmatic one. I'll never know that you're praying for me unless you tell me. If you are telling me about that, I'd much rather you ask me how I'm doing, listen to my problems, or even just send me an uplifting anecdote. Instead of spending the two minutes praying or thinking, actually do something that I can see and appreciate.
The fact is that when something bad happens or a person needs support for whatever reason, people gather around immediately but usually disperse just as quickly. Weeks or months later, when the negative experiences are still very real, the support often is no longer there. So another option rather than praying is to mark a date on the calendar. Choose something random a few weeks out and write "contact Dusty and tell him you care." When the time comes, I can guarantee that it will be much more greatly appreciated than a few positive silent thoughts.
Finally, praying for me is rejecting my firmly held beliefs. If you need fairy tales and placebos to make it through tough times, by all means partake for yourself, but as for me, I'm ensconced in reality. Reality is sometimes difficult. Making it through is easier with the support of friends and family, and to me prayer is the opposite of support. It's wasting time and energy that could otherwise be spent on something productive. I hate waste, so respect my beliefs and don't expend any effort in prayer for me.
I wonder if there is a giant surge of blog posts at the start of the year. Like the hordes of newcomers to fitness centers after January 1st, how many people resolve to blog more in 2014? But fulfilling a resolution means creating a habit.
I just read an article on that very topic. The actual research shows that the amount of time it takes to begin doing something consistently and without thought depends, not surprisingly, on the complexity and difficulty of the activity. The easiest habits, like drinking a glass of water after lunch, formed after about three weeks. The most difficult goals could take 8-9 months to become habitual.
I'd place blogging somewhere in between. As each day passes, more people will fall off the wagon. Fewer blogs will be written. Not many people will make it the 100 days or so to make blogging a habit. As for me, I'll quit while I'm ahead and not bother to make a resolution I won't keep.
How about you? Have you resolved to write more this year? Have you seen any statistics affirming or contradicting my assumptions? Regardless, whatever your goals may be, I wish you the best of luck for 2014.
One advantage of waking up often during the night is that I remember dreams. There are certain subjects that recur.
One is baseball (and that's not a euphemism for "getting to second base.") Once a month or so I return to the finely mowed diamond for an out or an inning. It's odd for two reasons: in my dreams I am almost always fielding, yet in real life batting was my strong suit, and secondly, my childhood baseball diamond was more hard baked dirt parking lot than lush fairway.
Regardless, I think for me at least dreams are a lot about regret. In the case of me and baseball, as is so often the case, I didn't miss what I had until it was gone. I played in baseball leagues from the age of 7 until high school. But even then I dropped out before junior year. I was too busy with existential midlife crises to be bothered with sports.
The last time I played was probably 10 years ago when I met a friend at his softball practice and helped shag fly balls. It was astounding how a skill that had once been mindlessly second nature had become impossible from lack of practice. At the time I had thoughts of trying to join his team, but they weren't looking, and I didn't care enough to pursue it further.
To be fair, that was the last time I played on a real field. I have since played a form of whiffle ball several times. Every year or two my friend Michael invites his best buddies to his grandparents' cabin for Bacon Weekend (or as I call it, "Bakin' Weekend" since I don't eat pigs.) One of the traditions is the whiffle ball game.
The rules are simple and the same every time. There's no running (we're far too old for that nonsense.) The type of hit depends on how far the ball goes, from inside the baseline for an out to over the house for a home run. The final rule is that every inning one team or the other gets to make a new rule. It's like Fluxx baseball.
I participate in this game to a surprising degree. For batting, I kneel left-handed, and I'm sometimes not the worst batter. Fielding is harder since I can't move side to side or run or, for that matter, even walk much in the thick sand. But when the ball does fly within reach of my left hand, I'm known to snatch it out of the air, a very gratifying experience.
I've enjoyed these games and dreamt about baseball enough that I've sought out wheelchair baseball. Unfortunately, there's very little, and none in the Milwaukee area. So for the time being at least playing will remain just a dream.
Which brings me back to my initial point. There are several topics that I have recurring dreams about. Baseball is just one of them. I hadn't intended for this post to be consumed by it, but the rest will have to wait for another post. No regrets though. I don't want to start dreaming about blogging.
Get your modem runnin'
Head on the superhighway
Lookin' for Adventure
Or some game to play today
Nah, I've got to make the app, man
"Hello, world" and a curly brace
Fire all CPUs at once and
Like a true 80s child
I was born, born to compile
Writing code so fly
It's never gonna die!
Born to compile!
Born to compile!
Last night I played baseball. I played baseball in a dream.
It was near the end of batting practice. I stood in shallow center field waiting for a ball, but nothing was coming my way. Then a left-handed hitter came up, so I jogged over toward shallow right field. As I ran, the fluidity of my pumping legs, the miracle of movement, amazed me as it had never done before the accident. I knew I'd been crippled, and now I was cured, but my dream self didn't ponder the details.
Suddenly, the lefty hit a choppy grounder past the second baseman. I lacked the lateral motion to get to it, but I flung out my arm anyway. Astonishingly I made the grab. I skipped forward and launched the ball toward home plate. It had been so long, but my body remembered the motion from the thousands, perhaps millions of times I had performed it in the past. The throw was off target, but did it ever fly! Mediocre though it had been, that was the most satisfying play I could remember.
The practice ended, and Mr Ritz, my high school's varsity baseball coach, stood by the backstop picking up stray balls. I jogged toward him, anxious to talk. Sobs choked my throat and blurred my vision as I approached him. "I've played baseball so many times in my dreams. It was incredible to finally do it again in real life. Thank you." The irony was lost on my dreaming mind.
Then I woke up. Then I cried; not a lot, just a few more salty drops on my already tear-stained pillow.
I got this SMS message from the DRD Department at 9am in the morning. "We, Sam and I, are driving the VW wagon to buy NIC cards and LAN network cables to try and fix our IP protocol problem on the PC computers. We'll have to stop at the ATM machine and enter our PIN number to get some cash money."
*Department of Redundancy Department
If you're reading this, you've obviously found my little corner of the internet. Which is odd because I haven't published anything yet. Seriously, why are you here?
But I needed something to kick off the blog, so this is as good as anything I guess. Stick around and say hello or stop back later when there's more to see.