Since retiring and moving to the desert, I’ve observered a number of things disappearing into the rear view mirror of life. And I realize I need to be looking forward through the windshield instead. More on that at the end. So, according to Bob, what’s vanishing?
1. My body’s flexibility and strength. That’s easy to fix as I’ve stated before. Just need to get my lazy ass off the couch. All my mental gymnastics aren’t working and shit’s atrophying at an alarming rate. I need to make sure when I’ve fallen, I can get up.
2. My belief in the goodness and progress made in society. The vanishing points in the rear view mirror have been turned around. That which I thought was behind us, is now in the windshield. The car of the country has been commandeered by The Keystone Cops, turned around, and we are hurling back towards the past.
Working in State government most of my career made me think that everyone was on a level playing field, to a certain extent. But it turns out that I’m wrong: I’m a privileged white male. College educated, tall, reasonably good looking, wear a suit well, and am pretty good at interviews. The last three things were sort of a running joke, but I cringe at my arrogance now. Coming to terms with this has taken me through all the stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I can’t change it, but I am changing my thinking.
3. One-on-one conversation. The popularity of social media has accelerated this disappearing act. It has turned us all into the stereotypical sullen thirteen year old who would rather stay in our collective rooms and not interact in person with anyone. Conversely, I have found an amazing number of my long-time friends refuse to learn new technology. Those who have embraced Facebook seem to use it as a modern version of the chain letter, hijacking posts in the comments section to converse with someone other than the author about unrelated subjects or; broadcasting warnings about information they saw without fact checking. They’ve become their grandparents. Harking back to the days of the rotary phone (or further). Leading us to the next subject. I do realize the irony, considering the last two sentences:
4. Kindness and Empathy. Another byproduct of social media is people hiding behind an “on-air” persona. It’s much easier to hit and run with a comment without any true accountability. No need for an informed opinion when you can pick up baseless shit and lies from Twitter or Facebook and regurgitate. Don’t bother to fact check; that might differ from your limited world view. Hard to get away with that in person. It’s more dangerous since many seem to be armed these days, further emboldening them to assert their ignorance over your facts. “...The pen...may be...mightier than the sword”, but that’s only true if you can poke it into the eye, temple or ear of your enemies ala methods described in books by author Trevanian. I’m joking of course. Have to put that out there because:
5. A sense of humor. Social media, email and texting lacks the ability to convey irony, sarcasm and humor. Facial expression and body language are still major players in being understood. But unless you know the recipient, your simple message could be very different from the intent or presumed understanding. Even then, it can be dicey. Comments taken out of context get people in a lot of trouble. Or it used to.
6. Intelligence. Self explanatory but not self evident. See #4 & 5 above. We broadcast our lack thereof when we refuse to think first and then speak/write. Flat-earthers come to mind. We can have an opinion, but sometimes it’s best left unsaid. And yes, I understand the irony. But this is my blog. Get your own if you disagree. Or comment on this one. We can have a lively debate. We can consider the other’s point of view. I’ll point out where you are wrong. See #5. We can agree to disagree
7. Me. Whether it’s by outright or subtle ghosting or being ghosted, I’m slowly receding from the view of others. Or I’m letting them recede. I’ve grown/changed/morphed - call it what you will. Found new interests, made new friends, found out stuff I thought was right, wasn’t and let go of what no longer serves me. Whether it’s me, them or a combination of our actions, changed (or unchanging) persona, or more frequently it seems to be because of some misunderstanding.
Admitting you are wrong is hard. I know. I do it every day and it genuinely sucks. See #2 above. Learning new things or ideas is a good thing. Hanging on to old ideas that prove to be just plain wrong is bad. And hard or impossible to grasp for some. Whatever the reason, letting go or being let go is bittersweet. Especially when it comes to longstanding friendships. I’m not forgetting my childhood relationships and memories. They’re great and in the past. They are the reason I am who I am, but I’m not mired in them.
So. What to do about all the vanishing? I’m making a concerted effort to realign myself with the Yamas and Niyamas of Yoga. You can look it up. But I’ll break it down to four sentences: Be cool. Be kind. Look within. Don’t be an asshole.
The last one is especially hard. Because to some of you out there, no matter what I do, I’m still gonna be one. But that’s on you to do the other three yourself.