Find the Fun

Sometime in the past year, I crossed an invisible line. I left behind the carefree days of weddings and babies and entered a world of complaints and burdens. I kind of figured that stuff was still a long way off. My 50th birthday is still far enough in the distance that I can’t quite wrap my head around its implications yet, but chronological age aside, I learned today that a long time friend has a wife, 2 young girls, and an expiration date. He is not the first. My friends are getting sick and they are dying. Instead of talking about our great adventures and big dreams, we discuss surgeries and plans for a financially secure future. Are the best years behind us already? How can I face the second half of my life watching things fall apart around me?

One of my goals for 2016 is to “find the fun”. I want to stop worrying about filling out tax forms and whether I have the right car insurance, and who I’m going to hire to replace the leaking window. I want to figure out how to make the most of every moment. I want to laugh more. A tweet earlier today declared a man arrested repeatedly for breaking and entering to steal a cat had been found mentally incompetent. I laughed until, I cried. I  used to laugh like that all the time. I want to laugh like that again, everyday. I want to find the fun, but sometime in the past year it went into hiding (probably should have taken that cat with it!)

Have you seen or experienced “the fun” recently? Would you recognize it? Could you describe it to me? Maybe point me in the right direction???

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The Twitter Thing

Too Late?

I’m often a latecomer. I took my junior year abroad during senior year. I backpacked in Europe a few weeks after my 31st birthday, and I just signed up for Twitter last month. After launching in 2006 and a celebrating a successful IPO in 2013, Twitter has reportedly reached its peak and is now on the kind of slide that in Chutes and Ladders means better luck next time. Gee, my timing is off, but I’m onboard now and enjoying the benefits, so I’d like to see a Twitter revival.

In the early years, many people attempted to explain Twitter to me, but it just sounded unnecessary. Facebook already stole my heart with daily updates on family and friends. What could Twitter do for me? I understood the benefit for a business promoting itself, but for the over 40 crowd being pulled in multiple directions (demanding kids, aging parents, stressful job), it was just another time suck.

I see now that my attitude reflected the “I’ve never tried it, but I know I won’t like it” paradox often applied to vegetables.

How I Use Twitter

Most people have multiple email addresses, right? Because at some point you figured out that you wanted a private email account to send and receive messages among friends/family, and a separate email to receive order confirmations, bank statements, sign up for promotions, and receive renewal notices. Well, think of Facebook and Twitter like your two email accounts. Facebook handles all the personal traffic, and Twitter handles the commercial payload. Having both social media accounts makes each one work better. Twitter allows you to remove from your Facebook newsfeed all those pages you liked, and things you “follow” that cause you to miss the photos of your nephew’s 5th birthday party. Move it all over to your new account on Twitter, and stay on top of pop culture when the mood strikes you. From your favorite Hollywood stars, musicians, senators, foods, lifestyle guru, sports teams and athletes, to news media, Twitter provides more up to date and diverse information than any other single source.

So, if you have a Twitter account and don’t use it, or like me, you never gave it a shot, try reframing your perspective. Think about the fact that Twitter doesn’t have to be about what you give. It can be all about what you get back.

Smoking Gun

Until the 1990’s in America, smoking was an accepted social vice. My grandparents smoked. My parents smoked. Their friends smoked. My siblings and most of my friends smoked. Despite the habit being smelly, unattractive, and unhealthy, no amount of federally mandated warning labels discouraged people from lighting up.

Change came suddenly in the form of a social movement ignited by the media’s unveiling of ways tobacco companies lured in and poisoned the population for their own financial gain. As Americans, we might fight for the right to poison ourselves, but conspiring to make us look the fool? Turning us into patsies for profit? That blow to the ego demands retribution. Like a tidal wave, the momentum of popular opinion crashed effortlessly through previously insurmountable obstacles.

Almost overnight smoking was out. The backlash was so complete that venues in all 50 states banned smoking. Anyone unable to overcome the addiction has been ushered to a “designated smoking area” as the rest of us walk by and shake our heads. There is a big difference between being told what to do (government regulation) and finding out someone has been secretly screwing you over for years. Both scenarios invoke a “put up your dukes” mentality. We won’t stand for it, and true gun reform in America will need to come to light in the same way.

I don’t consider the right “to bear arms” in the constitution as intended for individual ownership. It is manipulative marketing, not unlike Joe Cool of Camel cigarettes convincing people to smoke. At the time the constitution was written, guns were kept in local armories and used only against large scale enemy attacks. Individuals riddling fellow citizens with bullets was unheard of and would certainly confound our forefathers. The article by Jill Lepore appearing in the New Yorker on April 19, 2012 entitled, “The Birth of the Modern Gun Debate” explained how the NRA evolved from a group of hunting and sport enthusiasts to the behemoth political lobbying effort that insists members would rather die than give up their guns.

Still, nations such as Britain and Australia have overcome their dependence on personal firearms. I have faith that America can, too. No one wants the government to infringe upon their freedom. The threat of legislation to control arms is a gift to the pro-gun lobby. With the media as their accomplice, gun enthusiasts push the button on the primordial fear response to bolster gun sales. But what if the issue of gun rights was reframed? What if it turns out the NRA is perpetuating a conspiracy? What if their real motivation is to encourage undesirable in the population to kill themselves off with all those guns? Far fetched, perhaps, but surely there is a conceivable angle to turn gun ownership into a stigma. Ideas once in fashion eventually fall away like the ash from a burning cigarette. We just need a perspective shift on guns.

 

Another Reason Not to Fly

This is a real complaint I recently filed with the TSA:

Dear TSA,
On October 20, I was departing MCO (Orlando) with my 85 year old father. We arrived at the security line at 10:25am in plenty of time for our 11:42am Jet Blue departure.
I had purchased expedited security (even more speed) through Jet Blue so that my elderly father did not have to wait in the long lines that I knew would face us. My sister was with us, but she had a different flight to a different city and entered the regular security line.
Here are my complaints:
1) The expedited security line was interminably long. My sister cleared regular security before we cleared our “expedited” line. This is alone is unacceptable. If we had purchased a product that didn’t function properly, the company would give us our money back, but since Jet Blue took our money, and TSA didn’t perform properly, we have no recourse.
2) My father suffers from cancer and has an implanted port device, but takes pride in the fact that he is able to stand on his own two feet and therefore refuses a wheelchair. Due to his advanced age, he is sometimes ushered through the metal detector and given a brief pat down at security. The times he is sent through the scanner machine, he ends up with yellow boxes showing all over him. I’m not sure if the machine picks up on his radiation treatments, or if it reacts to his inability to stand still in the machine (he shakes due to overall weakness). When we finally arrived at the screening machines, I requested that my father be put through the metal detector and given a pat down (citing his medical issues and our past experiences). I was refused (as I watched a teenager and his 40-something father use the metal detector and NOT have a pat down). The TSA agent was calm and polite, but unwaivering as he forced my father to attempt to stand still in the scanner with his arms raised. Of course, the yellow boxes appeared all over him. They checked all his pockets (which I had already carefully cleared), and they MADE HIM DO IT AGAIN. Once in the scanner was bad enough, but TWICE? After standing in line for 45 minutes, suffering the scanner twice, and enduring an extensive pat down, he needed a wheelchair! When we arrived at our gate, the flight was already boarding.
     I ended up in tears after the terrible experience because I felt like my poor father had suffered unnecessary abuse. On the plane, I searched the internet and found that other elderly travelers has suffered far worse. I understand that everyone needs to be screened, but I would encourage DHS to invest in ways that the elderly can suffer less during the process. The ability to keep on their shoes is helpful, but it is not enough, and please don’t think that offering to screen the elderly 2X is a benefit. That merely extends the torture AND holds up the line.
Thank you for your time. We will drive on our next trip.
In response, I received a brief apology stating that the TSA officers at MCO “may have mishandled the situation.
Anyone else have a fun TSA story?

Singles Matter

I am single (as in never married). Additionally, I have no children. I am a middle aged adult on my own, though I live with/care for my 85 year old father. Despite the fact that my Dad often acts like a 6 year old, I am not a mother. In fact, very far from it, or so I’m told.

Over the past few years, I have experienced episodes of being overlooked and treated as insignificant, and sometimes openly ignored. You see, my friends are all mommies, and when they have the opportunity to spend time without their children, they flock to other mommies for sympathy and support. Other mommies relate well because they face the same daily struggles. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who understand, or so I’m told. I’m left out of conversations, activities, and events because I’m not at the mommy hangouts: picking up a child from daycare or pushing a little one on the swing, and I’ve learned that when I do see mommies, they have no interest in current events that do not involve their children. It’s like I woke up one day and the women with whom I have been friends for decades suddenly have nothing in common with me, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I’ve tried to relate. I listen to the endless chatter about their children, and I share stories about experiences with my niece and nephew, but I always get a look, or a smirk, or an “Mmmm” (non-committal acknowledgment that I was speaking) and it tells me, yes, that’s nice, but you don’t really understand because you aren’t a mom. Some people have actually said these very words to me, highlighting my insignificance in midlife. I’ve made no biological contribution to the future and as a result, there is no room for me at the table. I’m the one who eats lunch alone in the corner which is especially hard for me because I was never that girl as a child. This game is all new for me.

Several of my friends (and other members of my own family) have aging parents, but they allow others (doctors, assisted living facilities, other family members like me) handle it so they can remain focused on their children. It sucks for me. I want to jump up and shout, “Hey, singles are people, too!” but I’m pretty sure no one would listen because that kid over there just skinned his knee, and everyone is looking for the first aid kit, and deciphering whose fault it is, and discussing if needs to go the the ER, and…

Twitterarians

A few of my friends converse only in twitter format. I don’t mean they are typing 140 characters into the twitterverse. I’m saying that in my attempts to engage once normally loquacious individuals in face to face conversation, they jump from topic to topic, headline to headline, in short bursts, never delving into a substantial conversation. It’s twitterally tiresome.

The tendency appears most frequently in mothers of elementary school aged children. These women have possibly devolved into twitter-speak through the multi-tasking toil of parenting, and therefore deserve to be cut a certain amount of slack, but I don’t think communication using highlights and soundbites does any good for mental health (mine or theirs). I desperately want to lock the twittersome into a room with lit candles and meditation music in order to slow down their hyperactive sensibilities.

Will this abbreviated, short hand style of communication cause a complete breakdown of their philosophical abilities? Are they doomed to be twitterarians for life?

You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy

I grew up singing Billy Joel songs.

Just the other day, listening to “New York State of Mind” on the radio, I was struck by the line:

I don’t care if it’s Chinatown, or on Riverside

I always sang the line as “Rock Riverside” figuring it was the name of a place in New York, but after nearly 40 years, it occurred to me for the very first time (despite driving to NYC and passing Riverside many times) that the place name was NOT “Rock Riverside”

If Billy Joel was singing “rock Riverside” it would mean that “rock” was not being used as a noun, but a verb (after looking up the lyrics, I see I completely missed the preposition). Forty years of syntax error!

There are things we all think we know. We are so certain of the veracity that we never question the belief, but sometimes we are wrong. I’m not attempting to spread doubt and fear here. I’m simply suggesting:

Be Open to the Possibilities

Don’t hold too firmly to truths you’ve always known. People used to believe the world was flat and that bloodletting cured disease. Discovering you are wrong can be a positive way to grow your understanding, or as Billy Joel sang:

“Maybe I’m a lonely man who’s in the middle of something that he doesn’t really understand.”