Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Re: Re

I think about friendship and the people in my life more these days than I used to. I started thinking more about it after my mother's stroke. People came out for her --work colleagues, friends from the neighborhood, from the women's club --all kinds of people.

People came out for me, too --A few were those I'd known since I'd first come to Charleston, a couple from work, a few college friends, one or two others from High School and most amazingly, my two dearest, childhood friends.

It was in comparison a paltry few, but my mother was a teacher for 35 years, the president of the women's club and even considered once as a potential candidate for the local school board (she turned it down). The number of people I see or work with is small and many of my work relationships are at least a little adversarial. I probably wouldn't be doing my job properly if the folks at Mountain Stage loved me, but they don't and it's not tragic that they don't.

The stroke made me start looking at Facebook differently or maybe it just made me look at it again. It seems like the more people I know on Facebook, the fewer people I know in real life, the fewer real friends I have. The presidential election sort of fine tuned that. People weren't looking for conversation on Facebook. They were looking for converts to a particular way of thinking.

It got worse after the Newtown massacre. Out came the gun lobby supporters, the conspiracy theorists and the folks still ramped up from the election noise machine. The things they posted disturbed me to my core and I spent a lot of time trying not to convince them what they believed was wrong, just that the proof they were using for they believed was wrong.

It was foolish and didn't make a difference.

I had an old fraternity brother kick me to the curb after I pointed out that by posting these things he was posting, without any sort of disclaimer he was endorsing them. I showed him evidence that discredited what he was echoing and said that if he was comfortable propagating lies and distortions for political gain it was morally reprehensible.

I deserved being dropped.

Since the new year, I've been trying to cut back on my usage. It's not easy, but of course, not a lot of people were coming around to find me with the service. They just stopped in for a laugh when I was being funny or maybe to read something I posted that I wrote if it happened to be something they were into. Not a lot of people were checking on how I was doing; you know, "Since your mother had that stroke?" or "After that divorce?" or "Since you started seeing that hot librarian?"

Actually, only two and I can't really say I've been following the real lives of anyone I know either. So what's the fucking point of participating in the social network if it's not really social?

So I'm slowing and hoping to stop.

Meanwhile, I'm learning to stop thinking of everybody I work with as a friend. Some of the people I work with do not want what is in my best interests, but rather have interests of their own they want to serve. Relying too much on the people you work with for your community, for your circle, your tribe, is ultimately self-defeating. 

I think you if you want to be part of the world you have to go farther than the keyboard on your computer, farther even than the farthest cubicle at the edge of the room. You have to leave your home, leave your yard, leave even the mailbox at the end of your drive and find your way on some road somewhere.

There are no digital shortcuts an few professional pathways. You've got to find your own way to each new person you add in your life and usually one leads to another leads to another and so on. It's funny. There was a time when I knew this already, but I'd just forgotten.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013: Living and breathing

Shortly after the divorce, I lost my health insurance.

After over a decade of being fully insured through the state, I was suddenly faced with having to decide whether I wanted to go forward with picking up the newspaper's usually demonized insurance or going without. I was still limping through the first year of paying a mortgage on my own and a car payment I hadn't expected. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to continue feeding myself. Taking on insurance seemed like a burden I just couldn't handle --not yet.

Instead, I opted for a health club membership, figuring preventative care was probably better in the long run. A little swimming, some running and lots of free weights matched with (mostly) healthy eating seemed like a more economical approach to a safety net --plus it seemed like a more positive step.

But I still wanted the insurance.

The last time I was without insurance for an extended period of time, all kinds of bad shit happened. I had a really bad cold that turned into walking pneumonia, but the worst of it was a bout of strep throat, which cost me a couple of hundred bucks and went away right after I took my second prescribed antibiotic pill.

A few years ago, I was really amazed at how easy it was to fix things when you had insurance. I had a issue with my blood pressure, brought on by a bad diet, too much weight, a smoking habit I was sure I could kick whenever I wanted, and a lot of stress. I was doing a piece on a plasma center for Graffiti and the nurse told me my blood pressure was way off. I was sick. The doctor I went to confirmed it, put me on some blood pressure medicine and advised me to quit smoking, lose weight and learn to relax.

A few months later, I'd more or less done two of the three and my pressure was normal. I didn't need the medicine, but the whole experience taught me to pay attention a lot better. I check my blood pressure periodically and can tell when it's creeping up. It goes up with my weight and I start having more headaches.

The thing is, without the assurance of insurance, I probably wouldn't have gone to the doctor. I'd have self-diagnosed, treated myself as I saw fit and hoped for the best. That might have worked out fine, but maybe it wouldn't have. Either way, I certainly wouldn't have had access to blood pressure reducing medicine, which I'm sure made it easier to take care of the rest.

That old issue with my blood pressure became more meaningful after a friend's father had a stroke a few months ago, right after my mother had hers. Mom, who is struggling to regain her mobility, recovered her mind. I don't know if she'll ever be able to walk again, but regardless, things have turned out much better for her than they did for him.

After lingering for a couple of weeks, my friend's father died. He was only a year older than me and like me, had a certain built in reluctance to going to the doctor when he wasn't feeling well.   

Anyway, it's looking like I'll have one less reason to not get a checkup. Apparently, I might just be able to swing health insurance after all.

It's like the best news.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Back in black

It's been a while since I've taken to blogging. The ebb and flow of my life has been kind of odd lately --and I've gotten out of the habit, but here I am, again affirming that this here blog is not dead, nor shall it rest.

As has become an almost yearly tradition, I'm attacking the new year with a set of resolutions. Some of these will look familiar. It often find myself in the same place as I started.

First and foremost... I'm finishing up that novel. I'm about a third of the way through the most recent re-write. I'm trying to put an hour on it every day, with the intention to work up to two hours and with a little luck... will begin sending it out to agents/publishers again. There is no specific time table, but the sooner the better.

Second, as usual, a few pounds crept up on me over the last six months. I can feel the weight on me and don't like it. I began a diet today and this morning was my first trip back to the gym in almost three weeks (the holidays, man. Not my fault).

Third. After book one is out, I'll work on that second one that ended up going nowhere. I need to find a better ending, but that should get me into the summer. Try to finish it and have it going to publishers and agents for consideration by Halloween.

Fourth. The West Virginia Writers is holding another writing contest. I resolve to submit a couple of short stories this year.

Fifth. Trips. I don't think you can really grow as a person if your only window to the world is a series of  flat screens. This year, I'll be taking some trips and maybe a valid vacation. It's going to happen. Maybe Planes, probably trains and definitely automobiles.

Sixth. The garden comes back and with it my ongoing war with the beasts of creation, which seem to want to eat things that don't belong to them. My garden will be bigger this year --but only because I get tired of mowing the lawn.

Seventh. Do a better job being me and take better care of the people I care about. Also a correlation with this: do less for the people who don't really give a shit about me. This may mean less baking. Maybe. Probably.

Eighth. Take good advice and avoid bad advice.

Ninth. More blogging. Less Facebook.

Ten. Buy a motorcycle. Learn to ride the damned thing.