Saturday 28 January 2017

2017: Where I am and where I’m going

I haven’t blogged much in the past year. What could I possibly say about anything?

I’m bored with blogging. There, I said it. I have no idea why I’m sitting here by myself typing out these words. Who cares? I could say I’ve run out of things to say, but it’s more like I’ve gotten bored with my own opinion. Who gives a rat’s ass what I think? Heck, I don’t care what I think.

I look around on social media and it’s all about stating your opinion: your thoughts on politics, your view of the world, your take on latest headline. I’m tired of listening to my opinion. I can’t do it anymore. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I can’t do it right now. Who knows? Tomorrow, I could go off on a five-thousand-word rant.

I turn sixty-five on October 20, 2017. In June of 2016, I turned in a letter announcing my retirement on July 14, 2017: this corresponds with the anniversary of my original hiring at the company. That’s it. It’s over. My career comes to an end and I supposedly go off to enjoy life, as though I haven’t been enjoying it while I work.

The response I’ve gotten when announcing this has been for the most part, “Congratulations.” Congratulations for what? I know people mean well, but what exactly have I achieved? What have I done to merit this expression of praise? I can’t help making the comparison with birthday greetings for old people. “Congratulations!” Yeah, congratulations on still being alive.

I stop working and that means the bi-weekly direct deposit in my bank account stops. That means I have to figure out life not just personally, but financially. Yes, there’s the question of what am I going to do with the rest of my life, but there’s also the question of how am I going to pay for the rest of my life. Congratulations on entering a phase of your life when you’re supposedly free to pursue whatever you want but end up with one more thing to worry about. This is also the part of your life when you get hit with a health issue and see your savings wiped out. Doesn’t that sound like fun? However, I will continue to smile good-naturedly at the next person telling me “congratulations” and leave the fretting for all that free time I’m going to have.

I owe my ex-wife a debt of gratitude
My ex-wife and I were together for sixteen years, thirteen years married. Our divorce was not amicable and we’ve had no contact since, six and a half years as of this writing.

A colleague at my office recounted to me their ski vacation in B.C. I’ve skied. When I met my wife, divorced with two teenage daughters, she had started skiing with them as a family outing. I joined the fun. In other words, I took up skiing because of her. If I had never met her, I doubt I would have ever learned to ski.

It occurred to me that I owe her a great deal. If it wasn’t for her, I never would have had many wonderful life experiences: vacations, trips, cruises, camping, cottages, being married and all the little things that go into making a home as a family.

Will we ever meet again – amicably I mean – and discuss the good ol’ days? Never say never, but right now, there’s nothing on the horizon. I figured I should at least jot this thought down: “Thank you. You enriched my life.”

I wrote a book
I published a book. Ta-da! I did it. I check off another item on my bucket list. Technically, I’m an author, however, I won’t be jetting off to my mansion in the south of France anytime soon. Right now, according to my sales reports, I’ve sold 257 Kindle copies, eight CreateSpace paperbacks and one IngramSpark paperback. That works out to about $1,300 in royalties. That, by the way, is with little or no marketing, other than me posting on Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t start this project knowing anything about writing and I continue in phase II not knowing anything about marketing. How far can you get not knowing anything? I’m going to find out.

Sometime, I should write a separate blog posting about the experience. It’s been an interesting journey undertaking something I’ve never done before in my life. I should share the steps of my project to give other potential authors some ideas of what to do or better yet, serve as a warning of what not to do. Ha, ha.

Bed Bugs
Holy Mother of God, this was not something I wanted to add to my list of life experiences. This started at the end of September 2016 and is still on-going, having involved so far four professional exterminators, four sprayings of my apartment, a sniffer dog, and countless washing and drying on hot settings plus vacuuming. I’ve had dozens of itchy bites on me, some that persist in being itchy weeks after the original bite. I’ve had an allergic reaction to one set to bites that’s turned into a mysterious rash. My doctor took a photo to get a professional opinion of a dermatologist and I am now going through a ten-day treatment of steroid cream.

Just before Christmas, I got frustrated and I threw my bed out. After spending three weeks of sleeping on the floor on an exercise mat in the living room — I was scared to go back to the bedroom — I’ve bought a camping cot and have been sleeping in the bedroom, but using something called the Climbup Interceptor under each leg of the cot. Supposedly, this contraption prevents bed bugs from crawling up the legs of the cot to get to me. If this works, I will eventually buy another bed, however I’ll be using this interceptor.

I know more about bed bugs than I ever wanted to. My first inclination is to call them insidious little bastards, but like the cockroach, they’re remarkably resilient organisms and I joke they could probably survive a nuclear blast.

Until I know with any certitude that my infestation is gone, I’m not going to buy another bed; I’m going to continue to “camp” in my bedroom. Every night before I go to bed, I take all my bedding and put it in the dryer on the hottest setting for an hour. At least when I slip between the sheets, I know there are no hidden bugs waiting to crawl over me to suck out my blood. Okay, after writing that vampire description, I’m going back to calling them insidious little bastards.

FYI: Bed bugs only feed on blood. Their presence is in no way associated with filth. They’re agnostic. They will infest a rich house just as well as a poor one, a clean one as well as a dirty one. According to my research, bed bugs almost disappeared in the 50s and 60s during the era of DDT. However, they’ve been making a comeback.

Like writing a book, this experience deserves its own blog posting. Heck, I could write a book just about this!

In 2011 and 2012, I went nuts writing about American politics. This time, I vowed I’d stay out of it. And I did. Sort of. I didn’t blog, but I posted to Facebook a zillion times. I got caught up in the back and forth with other people of linking and commenting on various articles about the campaign and election. I’m not sure I ever appreciated how divisive politics can be. And I did not appreciate how crazy the Republicans were in losing in 2008 and 2012 until I saw how crazy the Democrats are in losing in 2016.

Of course, Donald Trump is a most unusual character. Is he the most unusual president? Ever? I have no doubt the next four years are going to be tumultuous. This too merits a blog posting. Just one. I find debating politics to be exhausting and fruitless. I think I find it exhausting because it is fruitless. Once somebody says “I believe”, the debate is over. You don’t argue belief, you just believe. There is no debate, rationale, or argumentation. With belief, you’re accepting something as true without proof. I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows.

Donald Trump is about misdirection, the form of deception used by magicians. Donald Trump is also about gaslighting, a type of psychological abuse. While he is certainly wealthy, a larger than life character, I don’t know if his unorthodox approach to government will lead to the breaking of the ideological deadlock between Republicans and Democrats. While we praise or criticise the president, the leader is really the head of a group of people and therein lies the devil in the details. As with the butterfly theory, changes to policy can ripple throughout society and have larger and unintended consequences. I’m a strong proponent of the idea “If it was as easy as that, it would be done by now.” In other words, every politican gives us a slogan and gets us to rally behind them as the one true savior. Unfortunately, the situation is far more complicated than any of us including the politicans understand. For every person standing at the podium saying, “I have the right answer,” I would counter with how many others have said the same thing and been wrong.

Trump won. The United States is committed, for better or for worse. The world is committed whether they like it or not. Did we roll the dice with Obama? With Bush? With Clinton? Trump is a most unusual personality. That could be good. That could be bad. We have no idea. However, when I get up tomorrow morning and read the headlines, I have no doubt it won’t be boring.

Social Media
I have a love-hate relationship with it. On the one hand, it's interesting to see other people's postings, repost, post my own stuff, comment, like, etc. , that is, interact with like-minded people. On the other, it's a big time suck. I can waste an entire day looking at stuff instead of doing something productive. I joke about being easily distracted, however I think there's a lot of truth to that. Geesh, like my posting or my comment is going to change the course of history. Sometimes, I realise how much time I've spent on Facebook and I hate myself. What did I accomplish today? Nothing!

My Health
In April 2012, I suffered a sports injury and traumatised the upper left quadrant of my body, stopping short of tearing my left rotator cuff. I was in pain twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for five months straight. Every waking moment was about pain management: various medications, moving very carefully, and avoiding a number of body positions. I could only sleep on my right side for nine months curled up in the fetal position. It was hell on Earth: I was trapped in my own body. It made me think of people like Stephen Hawking or Christopher Reeve: you’re alive but have little or no control over your body.

Coming up to the fifth anniversary, I’ve established a new life style. Every day, I do five sets of thirty sit-ups with several isometric exercises. Once a day, I do a fifteen minute set of exercises using resistance bands connected to a door jam. Every two days, I go to a gym and do a two and a half hour routine on various weight machines. Once a month, I visit a kinesiologist for a “tune-up”, a check of the ol’ bod. In other words, I’m doing everything to ensure my 2012 accident never happens again in my lifetime. Finding yourself trapped in your own body, unable to move, feeling pain constantly, unable to function normally, is frightening. As a consequence, it’s also inspirational.

I’m at a ten. I have this incident and fall to three. Slowly, I work my way back up to nine. Nine isn’t ten, but nine is a lot better than three, so that’s a good thing. Later, I have another incident and drop to six. Six is bad. I remember how bad three was. I work my way back up to eight. Eight isn’t nine, but eight is a lot better than three. Ten, nine, eight ... I think you see where this is going.

I had an uncle recently die at the age of one hundred and one. While that’s amazing, he’d said several times not to live past eighty-five. It was then he began to suffer from a number of physical ailments which only accumulated and got worse with age. These past few years were not the best and after my own issue, I reflected on his quality of life. Yes, he was alive, but what was the quality of his life? Seizures, diapers due to incontinence, cataract in one eye, macular degeneration in the other, restricted mobility, use of a motorized scooter, pain from slow-growing cancer, and in the end, he couldn’t even go to the bathroom unassisted. Is that living?

Right now, I’m inspired to work out, however I realise I’m only staving off the inevitable slide into growing physical limitations and ill-health. I’m sure anybody would say I’m being overly pessisimistic, but I’d say I’m being realistic. Life: Nobody gets out alive. We all only get so much “quantity” of life, but we can work on the “quality” of life?

I manage the I.T. department of a small company. We got hit with ransomware, but I’m pleased to report we didn’t pay the ransom and escaped pretty much unscathed, other than some lost time while we restored the infected parts of our systems. I need to write about this to serve as a warning to everybody: what to do to protect yourself from the bad things in the world.

What’s next?
I don’t know. I have a lot to figure out. And I have a lot to accept: the end of my career, budgeting for financial self-sufficency, and discovering what to do with all this free time I’m going to have. Vacation in Tahiti? Write another book? Shave my head and become a monk in Tibet? The world is my oyster: I can do anything I want for this last and final part of my life.


Wikipedia: The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
Act II, Scene II
Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny.
Pistol: Why then the world's mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.
Falstaff: Not a penny.

my blog: 63 and Counting
I’m 63. More than likely, you’re not. More than likely, you’re younger than me. Consequently, how does your view of the world differ from mine? With age, do we tend to look back more often and with greater concern? What have I accomplished? What’s left for me?

Justin Trudeau, at the age of 43, has just been elected Prime Minister of Canada, with a majority government I should add. Where am I now? Where was I at age 43? The vast majority of us are average people. Not famous. Not rich. No Oscars, Nobels or Pulitzers sitting on our mantelpieces. And yet, I’ve met people over the years who have been interesting personalities in their own right, accomplished, and blessed with an array of life experiences. In light of that, would a trophy have made it any better? At the end of the day, the cameras have been turned off, the crowds have gone home, and all of us sit alone with our thoughts. How do we feel about ourselves? How confident do we feel? What sense of accomplishment do we have? How much do we love ourselves? If you’re 43, are you out there trying to set the world on fire while at 63 you’re reflecting on your attempt to set the world on fire and how much you succeeded or failed?


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