Thursday, September 29, 2016

Coming to Terms Turns Thirteen

...And speaking of still being able to write things that make sense...

I've been doing this for thirteen years, now.  

Not exactly going strong anymore, but still going.

In fact, puttering along so weakly that I almost missed the occasion.  But not altogether.  

Happy Blogoversary to me.  To me and "Coming to Terms." To us.

 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

No Debate

Posted this to Facebook yesterday, and it deserves a place here, as well...if only to confirm that, yes, I DO still write things that make sense.  And, I think, it needs to be part of my personal record of this moment in American history:

Just for the record: I have no intention of watching the debate tonight. That has been my policy for decades, ever since I realized that these televised opportunities for the candidates to look "presidential" and spew canned campaign talking points bear no resemblance to actual "debates." I don't know about anyone else, but I really can't stand to watch potential leaders of the free world NOT answer even the inane, non sequitur questions the moderators are allowed to ask; instead seizing upon any opportunity to recite a prepared text on a talking point that more than likely barely brushes up against the topic of the question asked. Add Donald Trump to that mix, and you have the potential for a train wreck of epic proportions. Which, I realize, is the bread and butter of our intrepid 21st century American media, but nothing I have the slightest desire to witness. I will be outside weeding my gardens and cleaning my greenhouse tonight, thank you very much.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Negotiating the Cease-Fire



I keep forgetting that our marriage is not a union.  It's a truce. 


It passed into that realm in 2010, when I understood there was no doubt that if I continued trying to pilot that restaurant, one of the primary casualties—along with my sanity and my health—was going to be my marriage.  Clearly, in order to preserve any crumb of what remained of my bond with my husband, I had to sever my attachment to the thing that had so starkly highlighted the decay of our regard for one another.

When we closed the doors on that disaster in 2011, I remember being desperate for peace.  And while the mere act of walking away from the endless mountain of aggravation, stress and frustration that was the Old Town CafĂ© dissolved the lion’s share of threats to the peace I craved, it didn’t take long for me to see that I had run away from a forest fire and into a briar patch. 

The husband and I were left glaring at each other over a thorny field of anger, hurt and resentment.  Eventually, we hammered out a treaty.  Not so much through negotiation as through a series of tactical retreats.  As long as we had calm, we had peace.  But the slightest stress—from an unexpected car repair to having to entertain out-of-town guests—would find one of us (usually him) losing it and the other (usually me) falling back and throwing up a wall. 

Yes…it’s been five and a half years.  And from the Peanut Gallery, I can hear jeers of “Get over it, already!”  I don’t think anyone in the world would like to see that more than I would.  But this isn’t something one “gets over.”  Any more than the death of a loved one or the loss of a home or the end of a satisfying career.  Like everything in life, it’s not a matter of “getting over it” at all. All one can do is accept the new normal and keep walking.  And above all, try not to dwell on when “normal” was so much more than it is now.

We mostly have peace now.  We are companionable, possibly even fond of each other, much of the time.  Sometimes I forget that our relationship is not healed, not what it once was, certainly not what I ever hoped it would be.  Then something happens, some nameless, invisible thing knocks up against and upsets our peace.  At those times, I understand that the best thing I can do is take myself physically away for awhile.  Luckily, I have a building and a business 100 miles away from here that can always use a day or two of my attention. 

So I sigh.  And I go.  And when I come back, there is peace again.  Until the next time.     

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Doo-doo-doo-doo



Don't you just want to put on a pith helmet and dark glasses every time you go on the internet?  Of maybe a hazmat suit... 

Everything is so slimy and ugly these days, to the point of dark surrealism.  The primaries were a disaster.  The Republicans presented their usual clown car, and the Democrats were determined to eat themselves alive.  Now that the smoke has cleared, Hillary may have been irreparably damaged, and I can hardly fathom the idea of Donald Trump even running for president, much less winning. 


I keep seeing these reports that Trump's number are in the shitter...that he's only polling at 40%.  40%?  While one should be encouraged by those numbers, this one is actually flabbergasted that 40% of anybody would even entertain the notion of Donald Trump as leader of the free world.  Oh. My God. 

I keep thinking I will wake up to find this has all been some kind of nightmare.  But the nightmare would have to have started in November of 2000, when George W. Bush purloined the presidency and the GOP grabbed the country by the throat and threw it to the mat.

Too many years to be just a nightmare.  Maybe I've been in a coma.   Or the Twilight Zone...

Who do we get to write us out of this mess?  Where is Rod Serling when you need him? 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Last Words?





Thirteen years ago, I discovered a place where I could indulge my compulsion to splatter words on blank pages—the internet.   Specifically, I stumbled upon the Petri dish containing the tiny zygote which would eventually become the blogoverse—AOL Journals. 

It was September of 2003.  I was completely stoked that I had found a place I could record  my challenges associated with “coming to terms with middle age” (I was 48 years old!); and—wonder  of wonders—other people could read, react, provide input…make me feel as if I wasn’t the freak I had always felt myself to be.  I was hooked.  

And, yes…it WAS September of 2003.  So the deadly nature of what was going on in our country was loud enough to penetrate the voices inside my head…and become one of them.  A stolen election.  A horrendous national tragedy.  The politics of fear, division and lies that eventually led to an illegal war and a degeneration of our national principals to the point that We The People gave the nod to any means available—including torture, illegal imprisonment, and utter disregard for “collateral” death and destruction—to keep us “safe.”

I discovered I had a previously untapped talent for political commentary.  Which quickly became a compulsion.  I was physically unable to allow what was going on in the USA to transpire without comment.  And without raising a regiment of red flags. 

I made my  first post of a political nature on October 5, 2003.  It was a short (they all had to be short, back then—with the 2000-character limit imposed upon us by AOL) commentary about the political goings-on in California, starring Republican Arnold Shwarzeneggar in the recall of Democrat Gray Davis.  I got no comments on that one…as I frequently did not on my political posts.  But it didn’t seem to matter.  The compulsion to comment and warn took root and grew.

Over the next twelve years, my internet musings upon the challenges facing an aging Baby Boomer were interspersed with peppery political commentary.  I wrote volumes before the 2004 presidential election; and continued, even through the insanity of my sortie into the minefield of entrepreneurship, to comment on things political through the 2008 and 2012 election cycles.  Things were happening that demanded notice.  It was important to comment.  I could no more keep my thoughts to myself than I could stop breathing.

Anybody who reads this blog must notice, then, the marked absence of political posts here at “Coming to Terms” this election cycle.  Surely the hideous mess with which we are now presented should be inspiring volumes of commentary from folks like me.  Surely there is enough insanity out there to wring at least one scathing commentary a day—even one an hour—from  my prophet’s heart.  And yet, I have been largely silent. 

Why?  Because it’s just NOISE.   Noise coming from everywhere, all directions, louder and louder, shriller and shriller.  The ugly, crushing roar of an angry mob. Two sides holding their hands over their ears and screaming curses at each other.   A soul-shriveling racket…that produces no results. 

No advice is heeded.  No warnings are acknowledged.  No pleas for sanity are recognized.  It all becomes swallowed up in the noise; becoming itself part of the discordant symphony…only adding to the hideous, deadly cacophony. 

I can’t do it anymore.  I can’t be part of that time bomb that will surely destroy us all if it doesn’t somehow fizzle out of its own accord.  Because I can’t stop it.  I don’t think anyone—any person—can. 

And don’t think it isn’t painful for me to stay silent.  The danger is so much more grave, the stakes are so much higher, this time around.  But the ceaseless noise has effectively silenced my voice.  As I go through my day, I think of a hundred talking points, come up with dozens of arguments, envision a kaleidoscope of debate scenarios through which I might get through to those who will not think but will only follow.  And then I sit down with my laptop at the end of the day, stare at the blinking cursor at the top of the page and write…nothing.  Because I know it would be pointless.  I know that all it would do is add to the miasma of negativity and contentiousness that has already swallowed us.  And that, I refuse to do.

So, for what it’s worth, here is my last bit of advice, the last word out of the prophet’s mouth, concerning the coming election:

Vote.  If you have already chosen your candidate—and I’m pretty sure that most people who intend to vote this cycle have already chosen their poison—keep your peace and mark an “x” in the proper box on November  8th (if you haven’t yet been stripped of that right…)  Make your choice and SHUT THE FUCK UP.  All the words, pictures, videos, brain-droppings that you can possibly put out there are not going to change anyone’s mind, are not going to win people over to your side.  People have made their choices, and they are as adamant and unshakeable about them as you are about yours. 

And if you feel that you have to dig up, make up, blow up, or otherwise broadcast filth about the “other side” in order to justify your own choice, maybe you need to rethink your personal selection process. 

I’m done. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Little Lies or Big Truths?

The other day, I overheard the husband making some "getting to know you" conversation with a young couple who run a food booth next to ours at the Sunday Market.  When asked if we had any children, husband responded, "No..."  And then went on to declare that the reason for this was that "we've always been so busy working...!"

Say what?  

I honestly don't know if he came up with that response because he believed my fertility issues were nobody's business... Or if that's what he actually believes.  I've never known him to have the ability to come up with quick, plausible fabrications to substitute for divulging sensitive truths in social situations.  Granted, we are not often together in social situations among people we don't know well.  But if this is a skill he possesses, I've never seen him use it.

Which is why I'm more prone to think that this is what he actually believes:  that we were too busy to have a family.

And I find that more than a little disturbing.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lessons



I have a thorny problem with the “resident” sister.  It doesn’t bear explanation here…suffice it to say the problem reared its head in a most obvious and frustrating way over this past weekend.  She just…irritates the crap out of me, and I get to the point that I really REALLY want not to continue to enable her quirks for One.  More.  Minute.

But in this morning’s short meditation with the Spirits, I was told in no uncertain terms to “Let It Go.”

Hmph!  I thought.  Why?  How can her behavior possibly be excused?

No.  You don’t get it.

No excuses.  No explanations.  No rationalizations.  No forgiveness, because forgiveness implies transgression, and this is not that.  It’s just a fact.  Like the sky is blue and water is wet...it is what it is. 

Just Let It Go.

Ok.  I’ll give it a shot.

But why is this so hard? 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

..Two Steps Back

After a slow and tedious winter, the time has come for my business to wake from hibernation.  We've done one event, plus the opening day of Sunday market.  Both have shown significant increases over last year's sales.  Yay, right?

Maybe not so much...

The first of this year, our water/sewer rate increased by 20%.

When our trash bill arrived last week, we were surprised by a rate increase of 33%.

Our "twelve month special" at Comcast expired, and our internet bill jumped 50%.

Gas prices are going up at the rate of at least 10 cents per gallon per week (which is no surprise...it's summer.)

I had to scrape together $1700 this month to pay off our American Express bill, as they plan to sell us out to Citibank VISA in mid-June, and I have no intention of being forced to do business with Citibank.

So, really...  As an aging member of America's once-great middle class...

There's really no getting ahead, is there?  Or, even, catching up. 


Saturday, May 7, 2016

"World's Worst..."


 
 
Recently, I read an article on thrillist.com that was supposed to be an indictment of "the world's worst customers."  (I had to reload that story, or it reloaded itself, at least ten times before I was finally able to read the entire thing...what is it with "a problem occurred with the page, and it was reloaded..."  SO annoying...but that's a different rant.)

Now, I am generally right there with anybody who complains about 21st-century customers; they are rude, picky, entitled, and selfish.  Though I did notice in this collection of first-person experiences, the horrible customers were almost always nasty little old people;  but in my experience of five years running my own restaurant, the seniors were as a group the sweetest, least grouchy customers we had.  I suppose this is what comes of presenting an issue from the point of view of twenty-somethings.  Old people ARE the enemy when you're that age.  But the taint of ageism was not what bothered me about the article.

No...what struck me as...sad, came from one of the longer anecdotes in the piece, where a young woman provided a sort of TMI presentation of background about why she was not necessarily concerned about giving her best to her job at a WalMart deli, where she ultimately suffered her encounter with her "worst customer in the world."  She was young, she had a newborn, she and her boyfriend were not getting along well, she has just graduated college but because of the economic downturn had been unable to get a job in her field, so she was bitter about having to do menial labor to survive...drama, blah-blah, more drama.

It was plain, to me anyway, this girl had no business standing behind a counter in a customer service capacity.  But THAT is a strike against her employer, and against our culture in general.  Service work is looked at as the bottom of the barrel; the thing you do when you haven't the skills to get a "better" job.  I, personally, suck at it, so I know enough to understand good customer service is something not just anyone can provide.  Why can't Americans and American business concede it takes skill, knowledge, patience, and even a particular personality type to graciously deal with the demands of an increasingly ornery customer base? You really need to have the talent for it, every bit as much as you need artistic talent to paint a mural, or musical talent to play a symphony.  So, no...the person telling this story should never have been hired for a position where she could encounter--and walk out on--the worst customer in the world.

But it wasn't her obvious unsuitability for the job that sent up a red flag for me.  It was this young woman's attitude toward work in general which gave me pause.  She chose to devote the first several paragraphs of her story to the dismal circumstances of her personal life, indicating that she places "job" far down the list of personal priorities.  "I had all this horrible, negative crap going on in my life...and, oh yeah...I had this job, but surely you see why I couldn't be expected to be more than a "decent" employee."  Worse, it's plain the author of the article had no problem buying in to her attitude, and apparently assumed readers did, too.

And there's the nugget.  This is the culture of the 21st-century American workplace.    Businesses treat their employees like crap, and employees don't give a rat's ass about the business. Employees have gone beyond dissatisfaction, to disassociation. A job is merely an unpleasant chore that has nothing to do with who you are, or who your friends are, or your personal life in general.  You show up at the job as infrequently as you can get away with, you skate by putting in as little effort as possible when you do show up, and if a more attractive activity should present itself which might conflict with the time you're supposed to be at work, you have no problem at all tossing the job aside and opting for the extra-curricular.

On top of the general low priority given to anything having to do with paid work, there is the compounding issue of today's electronic society.  Young adults are surgically joined to electronic devices that rule their lives to such a degree that they're unable/unwilling to be fully present to face-to-face encounters.  Anything that might interrupt that constant flow of electronic social chatter--like a job--is instantly assigned negative status; so the attitude going into any job is poor, before a person even steps foot across an employer's threshold.
 
My posts are beginning to look like the sour rants of a crabby old lady.  I try not to be too judgmental of today’s young people and their habits.  And it’s not that I don’t understand the allure of electronic society—between the old AOL Journal Land and Facebook, I’ve experienced my share of that sort of addiction.  But sometimes I can’t help but feel that young adults are missing out on important social interactions—rights of passage, even—which we experienced back in The Olden Days; experiences that helped us grow, shaped our lives and our communities.  Millennials, and whatever we are calling the generation nipping at their heels, may possess technological knowledge completely unheard of when we were young, but they lack life experience and face-to-face interaction skills.  And in a society where one is required to be employed if one desires any kind of decent lifestyle, these social deficits are not doing them any favors.
 
First of all, if you have to work (and you WILL have to work) it doesn’t do anybody any good for you to go into it with the attitude of, “I’m only doing this because I have to.”  Will every job you have be some expression of your personal talents or heart’s desire?  No, it will not.  But if you can’t do what you love, it’s a good idea to find some way to love what you do—find fulfillment in some aspect of the job.  Why be miserable? 
 
Then there is the question of life priorities.  “Job” will not be at the top of anyone’s priority list; not anyone who isn’t a total workaholic, anyway.  But it can’t be at the bottom, either.  How can anyone expect to be successful—or content—when one has to spend thirty or forty or fifty hours a week doing something they really don’t care about?  Never mind how it will affect your employer.  How will it affect the people you work with—people with whom you spend the lion's share of your waking hours and with whom it would brighten your own life to get along?  How will it affect YOU?
 
The thing that was saddest, and most frustrating, about this girl’s tale of woe was the apparent ease with which she wallowed in the drama of her personal life, and dragged it everywhere she went.  Back in the Olden Days, a job was a good place to go to get away from the heavy problems of your life.  Job and home were two different entities; you didn’t bring the problems of your job home, and you didn’t take your miserable home life to work with you.  Work was a great place to step away from challenges at home.  It was a place to immerse yourself in something besides yourself.  It was a place to be social with a group of people outside of whatever mess your personal life might be in.  It was an escape. 
 
How many times in my own life, if I hadn't had a job, might I just not have bothered to get out of bed, or put one foot in front of the other for weeks, months...maybe ever again.  Young people today don't have that escape.  They can't (won't?) step away from sadness, frustration, failures--drama--at home and into an alter ego where the things they do matter.  They help.  They make a difference.  
 
I don't know whether the sea change in employers' attitudes toward employees has created this dismal mindset for today's workers.  I suspect it has a lot to do with it.  But I also feel like, somehow, we as parents, grandparents...the preceding generation...failed to instill in our progeny the work ethic that kept us more or less sane and grounded in the workaday world.  Instead, we passed down our resentment of having to work for a living, at something we mightn't necessarily love.  Maybe we believed we could somehow save them from that fate; but things didn't work out that way.   So we did our children no favors by not passing along our coping mechanisms--the things our parents taught us about "work ethic" and "teamwork" and the proper place for those things in our lives.  We created a generation of self-centered malcontents who would rather do anything other than work for a living, and are not afraid to make that very clear from the outset.  Not a great sampling from which to build the army of customer assistance workers needed in today's American "service economy."
 
So I take any stories about "the world's worst customers" with a grain of salt, these days.  How valid, after all, can these stories be, coming from the "the world's worst employees?"