Month: January 2018

Exit 186. The voice of a ghost singing words a quarter-century old recently pushed me to make a difficult decision.

The voice of a ghost singing words a quarter-century old recently pushed me to make a difficult decision.

Okay, I suppose that’s explaining it in an overdramatic way.  Let me back up and explain.  A couple weeks ago, Irish musician Dolores O’Riordan died unexpectedly.  Ms. O’Riordan was best known for being the lead vocalist of the band The Cranberries, who had three big hits in my late teens.  At least that was my extent of Cranberries knowledge over the years.  (I should point out, though, that as friends started posting Cranberries music on social media as tributes to Ms. O’Riordan, I found a couple more of their songs that I recognized.)  They weren’t one of my favorites back then; I was mostly neutral toward their music.  I always liked the song “Dreams,” although I don’t think I ever knew the title until maybe five years ago when I was expanding my collection of 90s music for making retro gaming playlists.  I had completely forgotten about “Zombie” from some time in the 90s until seeing someone perform it at a karaoke bar in 2015, but that is a good one too.  The third song of theirs that I remember, however, was definitely my least favorite of the three, and ironically, those are the quarter-century-old words that I’m writing about today.

I hate trying to interpret song lyrics, because I was always bad at interpreting poems in high school English class.  But the way I’m reading this one seems pretty straightforward: the narrator has been treated badly by a significant other, but her feelings for him still linger.

So what does that have to do with me?  I may not have been treated badly, or treated others badly, in the specific ways described in the song lyrics, but I understand that sense of feelings lingering from both sides.  And I did something about one side this week: specifically, the point of view of the other character in the song, not the narrator.  I called someone I met on Christian Mingle and told her that I just didn’t feel like we were clicking.  It’s hard for me to do that, because I often can’t pinpoint a specific reason for it.  She didn’t do anything wrong, but I just didn’t really feel like she was someone I could see myself spending my life with.  And I didn’t want her to have to feel like she was wasting her time with me.  And as much as that hurts on both sides, I think that’s better than pretending to make something happen when I know I’m not feeling it and stretching the heartbreak out over several months.  (This makes me think I should link to another relevant song here, this one not having any direct Cranberries connections, but it does use the word “linger” in the same context – by the way, I saw this band live for the third time last week, they didn’t play this song but it was an AMAZING SHOW!!!)

I’m wondering if there are other lingering issues I need to deal with (double meaning, issues related to old feelings lingering… lingering issues of lingering, if you will).  In this case, I’m more like the other perspective of the song, the narrator dealing with her lingering feelings for someone who doesn’t care for her in return.  In particular, I have a lot of people I’m still in social media contact with whom I’m not sure if I should be in contact with anymore.  Some of these are people I knew in the past who mostly just post angry political and/or anti-Christian stuff that I don’t agree with.  Some of these are people whom I’ve had various issues or hurtful experiences with in the past. Some of them are acquaintances from certain social circles who are just arrogant jerks.  Most of the people in question here I have at least unfollowed on Facebook, so I don’t have to think about them any more than necessary, but that begs the question, what purpose would it serve to unfriend them completely?  If I don’t see these people anymore in real life, and I have things set such that I don’t see their posts on social media, is it necessary to take any more steps?

It might be.  It might help me find closure in my mind and put a stop to the lingering (there’s that word again) issues once and for all.  But, as I’ve said before, maybe I’m overthinking social media here, but I find it hard to cut people off like that.  If you are my Facebook friend, that means there was a time when I wanted you in my life, and it’s hard to let go of the hope that we’ll never be close again.  But maybe it’s necessary to let go of that.  There are people that I once hoped to be close with, but realized that I didn’t want to after all once I saw what they were really like.  And there were people I was once close with, but then they changed, and my hope is that I might once again someday be close with who they were before, not with who they are now.

So I don’t know.  I don’t have an answer for how to deal with these situations.  But it’s something I should be thinking and praying about.  I need to take care of myself, and it isn’t healthy to let people linger in my life who are causing more harm than good and probably won’t change.

Exit 185. Church isn’t supposed to be this stressful.

Church isn’t supposed to be this stressful and upsetting.

I’ve been hopping around between at least three different churches the last few months, and I don’t know if I’m going to stay at any of them long term.  The church I’ve been going to the last two years (which I’m counting as one of these three) just doesn’t feel like it’s for me anymore.  They have a new pastor, and I think he has some great ideas for how to bring Jesus to the trendy urban neighborhood surrounding the church.  The problem is, I’m not in the trendy urban neighborhood surrounding the church.  I’m 12 miles away in the suburbs.  I have a very different lifestyle and very different views than most of the people there, and this has manifested itself in ways that have been making me feel uncomfortable lately.  The other two I’ve been going to are very different from each other, and I don’t know if I’m going to stick with each one.

It’s not supposed to be like this.  Singing the praises of God, having fellowship with my brothers and sisters in the faith, learning from the Bible, all of those important things shouldn’t be overshadowed by my frustrations with the culture of Christianity in the USA and my difficulty finding a place in it.  But it’s hard when I don’t feel like I belong anywhere, and it’s also hard when people from churches I haven’t been to in a while ask where I’ve been.  Most of the people I know at these churches know what’s going on, but that doesn’t make it easy.

But I’m doing the best I can.  I’m not going to leave my faith behind.  That’s not who I am, and that’s not what faith is.

If you live near me, just be aware that you might see me at your church sometime, even if I don’t normally go there.  And I might disappear for a few weeks.  And I might show up again sometime.  That’s just how things might be for a while.  But that’s ok.

I need to go spend some time in prayer tonight before I fall asleep.

Exit 184. Doing nothing.

I just spent an entire three-day weekend doing nothing.

And it was great.

The world went on without me.  There were lots of opinions over politics and political figures.  One of my teams kept finding new ways to lose.  There was another death of a celebrity whom I associate with my coming-of-age years.

And I did nothing.

I didn’t leave the house much this weekend.  I went to church, I went to one of the places where I used to go dancing regularly, I met a friend for lunch, I went for a 27-mile bike ride, and I walked around the big park in my neighborhood catching Pokémon.  And that’s it.  The rest of the time I was home, sleeping, reading, or playing retro video games.

It was the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.  I should do nothing more often.  Yay for taking care of myself.

Have a great week, friends.

 

Exit 183. I learned something new.

I’ve been seeing an interesting news item that keeps coming up: Apparently, starting on January 1, gas stations in rural parts of Oregon are now allowed to offer self serve pumps.

If you don’t live in Oregon or New Jersey or haven’t spent a lot of time there, you may be wondering why this is news, or why this is even a thing.  Here’s why.  Until this week, it has been illegal to pump your own gasoline in Oregon.  (There is a similar law in New Jersey, which is why I mentioned it, but nothing else in this week’s post relates directly to New Jersey.)  Drivers in the other 48 states, which contain about 96 percent of the population of the United States, regularly use gas pumps without any major incidents or adverse effects.  But for some reason which I haven’t researched thoroughly, these two states decided that they would prefer to place the act of pumping gas in the hands of people who actually work for the gas stations.  (A quick Google search suggests that it was historically for safety reasons, since pumping gas involves working with hazardous flammable substances.)

At any rate, the Internet exploded with Oregonians complaining about the inconvenience and safety hazards of pumping their own gasoline, or  bragging about how they don’t know how to pump their own gas, and suggesting this is a job better left for trained professionals.  And the memes followed soon after this.  I can’t tell (Poe’s Law) if these are actual complaints by actual Oregonians afraid to pump their own gas or trolls mocking them.  Probably a mix of both.

There are two important points being missed here, the first of which is what the law actually says.  It says that gas stations IN RURAL COUNTIES have the OPTION of allowing self-service gasoline.  Most Oregonians do not live in the areas affected, by the definition of “rural.”  And any rural gas station can still offer the option of having an attendant pump gas.  This was the norm everywhere until the mid-20th century.  So why do self-service gas stations exist in the first place?  It costs less to not have to pay an attendant.  As automobile travel became more common, more people preferred paying less, even if it meant pumping their own gas, and full-service gas stations either went out of business or stopped offering that service, because so few people were willing to pay extra for it.  This is exactly how capitalism and the free market is supposed to work.  There is nothing stopping someone from opening a full-service gas station in one of the 48 states that allow self-service pumps, except for the fact that in most areas, they probably would not get enough customers to stay open.  It’s just like how there is nothing stopping someone from opening a video rental store or an ice block delivery service so people can keep their food cold.  They just would not get many customers in this era.

As for the second important point… story time.  The setting is a self-service gas station in Davis, California, in the fall of 1994.  I think it was the Chevron station on Anderson Road at the corner of West Covell Boulevard, across the street from Save Mart (which was Lucky at the time and was Albertson’s for a while in between).  I was 18, on my own for the first time.  A few weeks earlier, I had moved from my parents’ house into a dorm that doesn’t exist anymore on the UC Davis campus, and at the time, students who lived in undergraduate dorms were still allowed to park cars at the dorms (although it cost extra).  I needed to fill my tank for the first time, and when I got to the gas station, I realized I had no idea what to do.  I had been driving for two years, but I had never had to fill my own tank.  My family pretty much had all shared one car for much of the two years I had been driving.  On the few occasions when we needed two different cars for different family members to be in different places, we would borrow a car from either Grandma or Grandpa, who were retired and in their 70s at the time and still both had cars despite not using them all that often.  (Grandpa passed away in 2003, but Grandma is still alive at 97 and still has the same 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass, I think, although now on its last proverbial legs.  And I might be off by a couple years on the car model year.)

The point is that I was never made responsible for filling my own tank.  Someone else would always do it for me.  Besides not having a car that was entirely my own, I also grew up in a fairly sheltered family, where I was not often forced to learn and experience new things.  I don’t remember exactly what I did that afternoon in 1994; I think I parked, found a pay phone, and called home, panicky, asking what to do.  And through some combination of listening to Mom or Dad and reading instructions, I figured it out.  I filled my own gas tank.  No one died, there was no explosion.  Instead, although I may not have realized it, I felt accomplished.  I learned something new.  And that’s part of growing up: learning new life skills, so I don’t have to have someone do everything for me forever.

So maybe those people who live in areas affected by this new law should embrace the challenge instead of complaining about it.  They get to join the other 96% of the population and learn how to do something useful.  Trust me… you’ll feel good about yourself once you do.

Now that I’ve finished writing this week’s post early, I’m going to go run some errands, one of which will be getting gas.

Exit 182. Unfinished business.

Author Sue Grafton died last week.  Ms. Grafton is best known for writing the Kinsey Millhone books; those are the ones with the letters in the titles, A is for AlibiB is for Burglar, and all the way up to Y is for Yesterday which was just published in 2017.  Ms. Grafton was already in her 40s when she started the Kinsey Millhone series, after having written two other novels and working for many years as a screenplay writer.  She was 77 at the time of her passing.

I’ve written before about being a fan of this series, and how I came to discover these books.  I just read Y is for Yesterday a few months ago, and I just reread it this month.  Knowing that Z is for Zero (the tentative title) will never be published gives me a sense of unfinished business.  Ms. Grafton made it clear in numerous interviews that she never wanted to work with a ghost writer or have anyone else have control over her characters, and it would be wrong not to respect her wishes.  But at the same time, it feels kind of wrong to leave the series incomplete.

I’ve been thinking a lot about unfinished business in my own life.  Much of my lack of inner peace comes back to this in some way.  I never got to be a normal teenager with friends and parties and a silly puppy-love girlfriend.  I never got to marry my college sweetheart and start a family in my 20s and take my kids to Sunday school.  If I could go back and do high school and college again knowing what I know now about people and socializing and the world, I might not have ended up stuck in this limbo.  And some of the relationships and relationship-like experiences I’ve had might have worked out better if we had met at a different time or in a different place.

So how do I deal with this?  There is only so much I can do in the first place.  Things happen that don’t give closure; that’s just life.  People die with their life work unfinished.  People change and leave others behind for no apparent reason.  Everyone’s life is full of what-ifs, and dwelling on them only brings pain, so I need to learn to make a conscious effort not to dwell on these things.

Dealing with this might also mean unfollowing certain people on social media whose posts reflect the kind of supposedly perfect life that I’ll never have.  But it’s definitely going to have to mean being honest with myself, taking a long, hard look at my life, and figuring out two important things: what exactly it is that I really want, and how to work with what I have.  Just because I can never have what I once thought to be the perfect life or the perfect relationship doesn’t mean that there are no good options left for me.  But as I said, I need to figure out what those options are, and I need to figure out what it is that I want in the first place.

I just wish I didn’t sound so repetitive.  Much of this I’ve written before.  How long will it take me to make real changes?