Wednesday, April 1, 2020

I know I'm scared. You?

I’ve never been through anything like this. Most of us have never been through anything even remotely like this. This is a big deal. A life-changing-big deal. And I’ll admit it — I’m scared. 

I’ve been scared before — 9/11 and the day Trump got elected immediately come to mind. (I’m just talking world events here. There are plenty of things in my own life that have scared the shit out of me, but this isn’t about just me. This is about the bigger picture.)

Like both of those events, this one will have a permanent impact. The world is never going to be the same. People you care about could die. The way we go about our daily lives will change. Forever. That’s not hyperbole. That’s reality. 

But what’s really setting off my panic buttons about all this? That’s a good question we should all be asking ourselves. If nothing else, knowing what we’re scared of can make a little bit of the fear go away. At least that's what the shrinks say.

Here’s a quick list of what’s keeping me up at night:
  • I’m not so much scared of getting sick. I’m still young-ish. If I get sick, chances are good I’ll recover. I’m more scared about losing people who might not be able to recover.
  • I’m scared about losing my job and living in the streets. With no Netflix.
  • I’m scared by the mind-boggling thought of hundreds of thousands of people dying in a short span of time. Those stats just don’t make sense. Maybe because I won’t let them make sense. 
  • I’m scared to think about what the world might look like once this is all said and done. If it is ever all said and done.
  • I’m scared Chipotle will shut down and never reopen.
  • I’m scared I’ll never be able to go to another rock show or movie theater.
  • I’m scared by people who hoard toilet paper. Seriously, toilet paper? The last thing on my mind in the middle of an apocalyptic meltdown is wiping my ass. Hoard some goddamned baked beans or canned meat for the love of survival! Who cares if you die with a dirty ass?! Stop it. Right now!!!! Thank you. There, I feel better.
  • I miss sports. A lot. 
  • And I’m scared shitless by the lack of leadership at the top. Now more than ever we need the reassurance of a steady hand at the wheel. What we’ve got instead is an egotistical bully incapable of feeling an ounce of empathy and he's driving a crazy train off the rails at full-fucking speed. I don’t know about you, but I’d feel a whole hell of a lot better if we had someone in charge we could trust. Or at least somebody who gave a shit about something other than his own re-election.
But it's all gonna be ok. Because like a lot of people, when I get scared I get a little angry, too. I get stubborn and pushy. I get what I call an “edge” to me. That edge—probably more like a defense mechanism—is what gets me through. It gets me out of bed every morning when I know the day ahead will look and feel a lot like the day before. And the day before that. 

That edge provides a buffer between what’s going on outside my door and what’s going on inside my head. I need that edge to survive. Without it, I’d go insane. Literally. Some days I wonder if that’s exactly what’s happening. 

That edge has gotten me through a lot in my life. I hope it’ll be enough this time, too.

I think what’s got me so uneasy is so much of this is out of my control. Sure, I can stay home and wash my hands 398 times a day, but other than that, I just have to sit back and watch this thing run its potentially catastrophic course. The best thing I can do is hope for the best. 

Maybe it’s not as big of a deal as my overthinking brain thinks it is. But I tend to believe the medical experts and scientists who say it is. 

I was telling my wife the other night that I’ve felt something big coming on for a while now. I’m not a psychic or a conspiracy theorist, just an overthinker. For the past few years there’s been something in the air saying something isn’t right. The world has been way out of whack. The uncertainty is almost tangible. Maybe this is our wakeup call—a brutally blunt warning that we better do some reevaluating. Maybe this is the world’s way of correcting itself after being so off course for so long. What goes up, must come down, right? The boiling point has been reached. It’s tragic that so many lives will be lost while the planet tries to right itself. But that’s what it feels like is happening. At least to me. 

So, where do we go from here? Great question. My plan is to do my best to take things one day at at a time. I’ll stay home and keep washing my severely chapped hands. I’ll have good days and days void of all hope, but they’ll even themselves out. I’ll keep my edge and try to stay strong. I’ll make more of an effort to be more positive, if for no other reason than to make it easier for my wife to live with me. I’ll do what I can. Because that’s all I can do. 

And even though this is all scary as hell, I truly believe we’ll get through it. And I hope we’ll be better for it. Eventually. 

I encourage you to find your “edge” and do what you can to get you and the people you care about through this. And remember to be nice to each other—from a safe distance of course—because we're all in this together. Like it or not. 

Stay home. Stay healthy. And stop hoarding all the toilet paper. Assholes. 
JS

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What If?

What if we stopped trying to be somebody we’re not?

What if we didn’t give as many shits about what people think?
What if we realized that people don’t think about us as much as we think they do?

What if everything we’ve ever been told to believe in never existed in the first place?  
What if right here is all there is?

What if dogs could talk?

What if we stopped trying to make everything so black and white?
What if we all moved just a little bit closer to the middle?

What if it wasn’t all about the Benjamins?

What if we wasted less time on the things that don’t really matter?
What if we realized only a handful of things really do matter?

What if we turned off the nightly news now and then?
What if the internet was broken and we didn’t know how to fix it?

What if Elvis was never born?
What if Elvis is still alive?

What if we reminded ourselves more often that this is all temporary?
What if it was all gone tomorrow?

What if we weren’t so fucking scared of what we didn’t know?
What if we asked “why not?” instead of “what if?”

Just wondering.
JS

Sunday, June 25, 2017

We All Got Reasons.

Where there’s a who, there’s probably a how.

Remember that bully on the playground who thought it was funny to knock the smaller kids off the merry-go-round? It’s possible he was just an awkward kid going through an asshole stage. But maybe his rage was fueled by the daily ass-kickings he took from his never-sober dad. And maybe his dad is the reason he’s spent most of his adult life in and out of rehab.

What about that girl in high school who couldn’t seem to keep her pants on? Sure, she might’ve just been your run-of-the-mill slut. But maybe she hated herself, and her total lack of self-esteem left her searching for ways to feel wanted, and the only time that happened was when she was on her back.

That dude at work who always seems to have something else going on when you invite him to team happy hours. You know which guy I’m talking about. The one who always eats lunch all by himself. Maybe he hates everybody. Or, maybe he’s battling severe anxiety and the never-ending struggle to get through the day leaves him too mentally drained to deal with people.  

Then there’s that guy who didn’t get married until he was in 40’s. He’s probably some kind of weirdo, right? Or, it could be he’s an overthinker with deep-rooted trust issues who for years found it easier to live on his own, inside his own head, where nobody else could get hurt.

See where I’m going here? Reasons. We all got ‘em. Every single one of us. Some have more than others. Some are more severe, some are more subtle. But they’re always there. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that reasons are excuses. Reasons are reality, excuses are made up. And in many cases, reasons can be fucking brutal bastards with the power to beat you down. But with some hard work (and the right prescription meds) you can get your reasons to sit quietly in the background, only doing as much harm as you allow. 

The real reason I bring it all up is this: you can’t get through life without having a few reasons of your own. But, when you take time to realize that everybody else has them too, you might be a little less quick to judge — others and yourself.  

All that being said, some people just suck. And there’s really no reason for that. 


JS

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Say What You Gotta Say

Today I’d like to talk about having the balls to have a point of view. 

I spent much of my life too scared to speak my mind. Mostly because I’ve always been way too worried about what others would think. I’d never say what I had to say because I didn’t want to stir the pot. Or ruffle the wrong feathers. Or lose friends. My deep-rooted need to have everybody like me prevented me from speaking up.  

Thankfully, those days are gone. Now if I’ve got something to say, I’m probably gonna say it. (Sometimes to a fault. Somewhere along the way my filters malfunctioned. But even if those filters were working full force, the current state of things would certainly test their fortitude.)

Let me be clear here. By no means are my viewpoints radical or offensive. At least I don’t think so. My personal beliefs don’t cause others harm. And I don’t live on the extreme end of any of the spectrums. So it’s not like I’m haphazardly spouting militant theories. I’m just a thinker with things to say.

And sometimes what we say can rub some people the wrong way. 

But get this: I’ve learned that if somebody out there has an issue with what I say – or with me in general – that’s ok! Because that’s their right. (Seriously, there are times when I have an issue with me. So I get it.)

But I can’t let what others think stop me. I’ve lived long enough, seen enough and been through enough shit to have my own point of view. I’ve earned my voice. So have you.

So go ahead and say what you gotta say. Even if I don’t like it. I’ll get over it.

And so will they. Those who truly give a shit about you will put up with your point of view, even when they vehemently disagree with it. 

I recently thought about turning my voice down a notch. But I realized if I did that I’d go right back to that silent, skittish place I used to live in – a place where the only voice I had was the one in my head. Nope. 

So my new motto is this: Be respectful. Be civil. But be heard.

That’s all any of us can do. It’s your right to share your voice and speak up for what you believe in. You’ve earned it. 

Unless you believe in having sex with farm animals or that dinosaurs never existed. Both of those beliefs are pretty fucked up and you probably shouldn’t talk about them out loud. 

JS

Friday, December 9, 2016

Does Anybody Remember the Golden Rule?

An obnoxious, self-absorbed bully who’s treated people like shit his entire adult life will soon be the leader of our still-great country. I still can’t believe we did that to ourselves. But we did.

Once the shock of the election wore off, and I shoved some more anger further down the hole, I started to think about where things are headed. And how things seem to work now.

Here’s what I think.

We’re taught from an early age to treat others like we want to be treated. To show respect and general concern for those around us. To use manners and common decency. But now, as a slightly past-middle-aged man with enough time under my belt to see the world with wide-open eyes, I’m starting to really wonder if any of that still matters.

Maybe our parents were wrong all along. Maybe it’s not about treating people with respect. Maybe you have to be a dickhead to get ahead. And maybe the Golden Rule doesn’t mean shit anymore.

You see it every day. People in high places with absolutely no sense of self-awareness. And no real desire to have one. The sole purpose of their oblivious existence is to keep climbing their imaginary ladders, not one bit concerned with who gets a foot in the face on their way up.

More and more it feels like we live in a world where being an asshole gets you a trophy. But is it the asshole’s fault? Or those of us handing out the trophies?

I’m hoping my cynical assumption that the douchebags are taking over is just me overthinking, again. I’m hoping there’s still room here for those of us who still believe in respect and empathy.

And I’m hoping with everything I got that most of us can still recite the Golden Rule.

But seriously. That guy? I still can’t believe we did that to ourselves.

JS

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Boogie Man is Real

I don’t feel safe anymore.  

The news is full of murder and death. Somebody, somewhere is being shot right now. And all the bad shit keeps getting closer and closer to home.

Why is this? Are people angrier than they used to be? More desperate? More fed up? Probably. 

It wasn’t always like this. At least not how I remember it. Back in the day we never locked our doors. The only thing protecting our family from a wandering psycho was a cheap screen door and a dog with a big bark. But we weren’t scared. Because we didn’t need to be. 

Back then, the boogie man under our beds was only in our heads.
Now, the boogie man is real and he lives three houses down.

Maybe I’m overreacting a bit. Maybe I’m not. One of the many less-than-desirable character traits of being an overthinker is the ability to make something out of nothing. I do that. Like all the time. So I realize my fears are probably a little overblown. But that doesn’t mean they’re not real. 

That smelly dude going door-to-door collecting money to save the bees – does he really love bees, or is he just trying to get a good look at all the stuff he could steal?

Why do cars pull up to the house down the street, knock on the door, go in for 20 minutes, then leave? Are they stopping by to say hi? Or is there a full-blown meth lab in the dining room? 

Is that little kid on the bike packing heat? 

Come on! What the hell is going on here? What happened to me? What happened to us?!

I don’t want to be this way, but I don’t know how not to be. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but the guy who just shot that other guy in the mall parking lot won’t let me. 

I don’t want to be afraid. I want to walk down the street with my head held high and greet people I meet with a smile and a hello, with no fear of confrontation. I want to trust in the goodness of the bee lovers of the world, no matter how bad they smell. I want to get a warm fuzzy when I see somebody stopping by a friend's house for a quick visit, even if they are doing meth. (At least they’re spending quality time together, right?)

So listen up, boogie man – enough is enough. You don’t scare me anymore! You got that? I’m gonna do my best to assume you’re a good guy until you prove me otherwise. Deal? Cool. 

Now please put that gun down and let’s talk about this. Nobody needs to get hurt here. 
JS

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

It's the little things

The lawnmower almost always starts on the first pull.
It’s the little things.

Our dog gives me a tiny hug with her little head before I leave for work, every single day.
It’s the little things.

We had baked chicken for dinner last night. I squeezed on a little Sriracha for a little extra kick.
It’s the little things.

My nephew can’t say hamburger. He says “hambagerb.”
It’s the little things.

The Sammy Hagar CD I ordered from Amazon was in my mailbox last weekend. (Yes, I still listen to CDs.)
It’s the little things.

Patch has been gone almost a year. But his paw prints still live in my mom’s cement patio.
It’s the little things.

I ordered small fries. They gave me large fries.
It’s the little things.

Our new reclining sofa is super comfortable. It’s down in the man cave, in front of the man-size, wall-mounted TV.
It’s the little things.

Wearing Buck Naked™ Underwear from Duluth Trading is like not wearing underwear at all.
It’s the little things. (Bring on the dick jokes.)

There’s a bunch of really pretty purple flowers growing by the garage. We didn’t plant them.
It’s the little things.

From work or home, I’m never more than a 10-minute drive to a Buffalo Wild Wings.
It’s the little things.

Our neighborhood is on the ice cream man’s route. The jingle is creepy, but the truck is cool.
It’s the little things.

The way the sun hits the living room wall just before it sets feels like the last baseball game before supper, 1983.
It’s the little things.

The sound of your blow dryer every morning reminds me that I’m not lonely anymore.
It’s the little things.

The way the little things make the big things not so big.
And all we have to do is pay attention.

JS