Author: live_a_life_less_ordinary

Exit 193. It really wasn’t a bad week.

I’ve been having a rough week.

I had some ideas for things to write about.  Then I forgot them, and I misplaced the paper where I wrote them down.

So I’m going to do something else instead.  I’m not even going to think about my rough week.  I’m going to list everything good that happened in the last week and a half or so.

I went to three Sacramento Kings games.  They won two of them.  The one that they lost had a significant historic highlight: Vince Carter passed up Patrick Ewing for 22nd all time in total points scored.  Vince Carter is the oldest active player in the NBA, approximately the same age as me, in his 20th season.

I took a trip to go have lunch with an old friend I hadn’t seen in over 20 years.

I was able to help out a friend who needed a ride, even though it was a trip that took a few hours total.

I played lots of games with friends.

I went blues fusion dancing.  One of my favorite dancers ever was there; she doesn’t come as often as she used to, and when she does, I sometimes don’t get to dance with her, because a lot of other people want to dance with her, and she often leaves early.  We had a good talk about life, and I got to dance with her.  Twice.

I had some time to work on a creative project.

I watched a performance that one of my friends was in.  We stayed up for over three hours talking afterward.

I was at Walmart, I checked the garden section on a whim, and I bought a tree.  This was something I was thinking of doing soon, but it didn’t occur to me until the last minute to get it at Walmart.  I just happened to be there for something else.  And I got an interesting reaction from some teenagers who probably weren’t used to seeing someone pushing a tree around in a shopping cart, along the lines of “Whoa!  Is that gonna get real big?”

And in a moment of desperation, on the one night I was up all night and couldn’t sleep, I temporarily made a post on Facebook that said, help, I need someone to talk to, or pray with me, or just listen.  And I got three responses pretty quickly, from three people in three different circles: one of the admins of a Facebook group I follow whom I’ve never met in real life, a relative in another state, and a local friend whom I haven’t seen in a while.  All of them had helpful things to say.  Two of those people were also having trouble sleeping because of things on their mind, and it was nice to know that I’m not alone.  (The third was up because she works nights.)

So it really wasn’t a bad week.  And by early afternoon today, there was not much more I could do today about the situation I’ve been dealing with, and my appointment this afternoon was cancelled, so I took the rest of the day to relax and do absolutely nothing.

Life is good.


Exit 192. I hope all of those people grow up.

One of my friends, someone I’ve known online for a very long time but have never met in person and don’t talk to often regarding the little details of our lives, recently posted a clickbait-type article that had a list of strange reasons why couples broke up.  Among them were such petty grievances as someone who said “my bag” instead of “my bad” and someone who ate chicken drumsticks with a fork.

My first instinct was to make this about me.  I replied, what about these?  Are these good reasons to break up?  I told her about Acrux, moving far away without including me in the decision, and then putting little effort into the relationship once we were a long distance couple.  I told her about SN1604, repeatedly flaking on me, rescheduling on me, and standing me up, telling me after a month of this that it just wasn’t a good time for her to be in a relationship with anyone because of everything going on in her life, and then meeting someone else a few weeks later.  My friend told me that it sounds like I’m still hurting from these experiences, and that my worth doesn’t come from how others treat me.

These are things I’m still working on, both with my therapist and in my prayer times.  But my friend is right; I am still hurting.  It’s been too long to keep carrying this baggage around; the two stories I told happened in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

I replied that this gave me an interesting shift of perspective.  I wish that I could meet some of the people who wrote these breakup reasons.  I wish that I could tell them how happy I would be to have someone special who loved me for who I was, who didn’t make everything in the relationship all about her and who valued my opinions, even if she did eat chicken drumsticks with a fork.  I wish that I could tell them how much I long for someone who says she wants to be with me and actually follows through on her words, someone who is honest and does not hide things from me, even if she thinks the expression is “my bag.”  I struggle to meet anyone, and these people are treating their significant others as disposable just because of some little thing that really is not all that important in the long run.

I hope all of those people grow up and learn to accept their significant others’ imperfections, and I hope they learn to stop discarding people for petty reasons.

Exit 191. More important than winning.

As I’ve mentioned before, I occasionally host an event at my house that involves staying up really late playing video games from the 80s and 90s and listening to 80s and 90s music.  I did that last night.  At one point I was playing two player Dr. Mario with my friend, whom I’ll call “Adhafera.”  Dr. Mario is a puzzle game first released for the NES in 1990, with subsequent rereleases on many other Nintendo consoles.  The object of the game is to match up colors in little pill-shaped pieces in order to kill viruses.  This game is often placed in a category similar to other block-moving games, like Tetris, and other games that involve matching pieces, like Candy Crush.  In the two player game, two players go head to head to see who can clear their viruses first, and special combo moves in which more than one row of pieces is cleared result in garbage blocks being dropped on the other player’s game, making it harder for them to clear.

Adhafera came to my last retro gaming party two months ago, with his girlfriend.  For most of the time they were there, they were playing games together.  I felt bad when they left, because I had hardly talked to them, and they came from 30 miles away.  This time, his girlfriend was not with him.  So at one point, I joined him for a two player game of Dr. Mario.  Adhafera is way better at Dr. Mario than me.  Usually I have to play about four or five levels below him (i.e., I get fewer viruses) in order for it to be competitive.

And this time, I got a chance to talk to him more.  We talked about life.  We shared stories from our respective childhoods and younger years.  I told him about my struggles at church and the new church I’ve been going to.  We talked about the sports fan cultures at our respective almae matres.  I told him about the novel I’ve been writing off and on (more off than on) since mid-2014.  And I didn’t do too well at Dr. Mario.  He swept me 3 games to 0 most rounds.  I think once, maybe twice, he won 3-1.

At one point he asked if the talking was distracting me from winning.  It might have been.  But I said, “I think getting to talk is more important in the long run than winning.”

Because it is.

Exit 190. I’ll find you when I think I’m out of time.

One interesting thing about having a huge collection of music is that every once in a while, I’ll have all of my thousands of songs on shuffle, and I’ll rediscover a song from my past in a way that speaks to me all over again in the present.

Jars of Clay is a Christian rock band that was popular during my college and young adult years, when I was first discovering Christian rock (and first discovering what it meant to be a Christian, for that matter).  Their song Flood, off of their self-titled debut album, was a major hit in 1996, crossing over from the Christian niche into mainstream music and charting on the Billboard Hot 100.   I’ve seen them live at least three times, most recently in 2006 with Vega the Nice Ex.  (Some of the popular Christian bands of that era I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen live, since I went to some festivals and other large events where many bands were playing.  I know I’ve seen them at least once at a festival, and twice as the actual headliners of actual concerts.)

Jars of Clay never really replicated that early mainstream success.  They experimented with different sounds over the years, and although I have all of their first seven studio albums, their self-titled debut will probably always be my favorite.  But there are some good songs off of their other albums (as well as some recent work which I haven’t heard at all; maybe I’ll have to check them out one of these days).  The song “The Eleventh Hour,” from the 2002 album of the same title, came up on shuffle recently, and I hadn’t heard it in a while, and it had probably been even longer since I had actually paid attention to the lyrics.


The English phrase “the eleventh hour,” which like the phrase “jars of clay” is derived from a passage in the New Testament,  refers to the last minute, a time in which it is almost too late.  (Some modern translations use modern methods of timekeeping in that passage instead of the words “eleventh hour”; the NIV, for example, says “five in the afternoon.”)

The song says:

Rescue me from waiting on this line.
I won’t give up on giving you the chance to blow my mind.
Let the eleventh hour quickly pass me by.
I’ll find you when I think I’m out of time.

Sometimes I feel like I’m out of time.  Sometimes I feel like my best years are past me, having been wasted drowning in fear and self-doubt.  Sometimes I feel like I could have been happy and had a more fulfilling life if I had done things differently in my younger years.  Sometimes it feels too late to be successful financially, or too late to meet that special someone and find a family, or too late to find a place where I belong.  God, rescue me.  I won’t give up on you.  I can still find God, and he can still do wonderful things with my life, even if I think I’m out of time.

As I’ve been writing this, two other Jars of Clay songs came up on shuffle.  Maybe God is telling me he approves of my topic for this week, or that one of my readers needed to hear this.

Don’t give up on God.

Exit 189. Even though I haven’t talked to her in a decade, what she said stuck with me.

I had a rough day at work on Thursday.  Many of the students are at a point where they just don’t care.  They don’t yet have the maturity to understand that they need to do some work in order to be successful in school or in life.  So, as a consequence of that, they are completely lost in class, and they can’t tell me the main idea of what we’ve been learning all week even though they literally should have been writing it in their notebook at least once a day and using it on their homework.  (You know, the homework they didn’t do.)

I was sitting in my classroom, looking at the music on my phone, trying to figure out what to listen to while I graded papers during my prep period.  My prep is the second to last period of the day, so I had one more class to go after that.   I came across a playlist with a noteworthy title: “Listening To A Hug.”

I made this playlist, but I didn’t coin this title.  Someone who I used to know from Carbon Leaf‘s online fandom did.  In 2004, when Carbon Leaf was first touring nationwide and I was very active in their online fan community, they recorded and released a song called “Let Your Troubles Roll By.”  The song has regularly been on their live set lists ever since, usually played toward the end of the show.  Another regular on their fan message boards, we’ll call her “Naos,” wrote something about how she loved this song.  “It’s like listening to a hug,” she said.

For a few years in the middle of the last decade, I made a lot of friends through Carbon Leaf’s online fan sites, and I met some of those people in person during my 2005 travels.  Some of them I am still friends with today.  Naos, however, is not one of them.  One time I was bored online as I often am, I messaged Naos on AIM to say hi, and she replied something like, “Don’t you ever have anything better to do than message people online?”  We never spoke again.  Thanks for showing me your true colors.

But, even though I haven’t talked to her in a decade and have no desire to, what she said about listening to a hug stuck with me for many years.  Several years later, I was listening to Let Your Troubles Roll By, and I thought about this, and I thought about other songs that have felt that way to me.  So I made a playlist of such songs, and I called it “Listening To A Hug.”  I hadn’t listened to it all the way through in a long time, but I rediscovered it a few days ago when I was having a rough day at work, as I described above.  And I listened to it, at least as much as I could until the period was over and the students came back.  And I was much more calm for the last class of the day.

Some of the songs on my Listening To A Hug playlist are well-known classics by some of the greatest artists in the history of music.  But some are by lesser-known artists.  Some are down-album tracks by well-known artists.  Some were big hits for a brief time that have mostly been forgotten.  (Interesting side note: I was curious exactly when I first put this playlist together, because a few of the songs were by artists well known at the time I made the playlist but haven’t really followed since then.  The original file on my computer says it was created February 18, 2013.  Exactly five years ago today.  Weird.)  Also, normally when I make playlists like this, I try not to use the same artist too many times, and with a playlist of this length I would normally not use the same artist more than once.  I kind of violated that with two songs with Michael Jackson on vocals, but one of them was from early in his career with the Jackson 5, and the other was the last song he completed in his lifetime, so they really don’t sound all that similar at all.

I should also point out that I left Christian music off of this playlist.  I was really into Christian music from the mid-90s until the mid-2000s, and I still listen to Christian music occasionally.  But I already had a lot of comforting playlists with Christian music.  I wanted to try to do one with secular music just to see what it would turn out like.

Here’s my playlist.  I know I have a very eclectic taste in music, I don’t expect all of you to like all of my songs, but maybe you’ll find something here that is like listening to a hug for you too.  (I tried to use legal official videos and songs wherever possible.  If any of the links don’t work someday, let me know.)

Exit 188. A curious milestone.

I reached a curious milestone this week:  For the first time in at least a decade, probably longer, I have now gone a full year without making any new friends named Sarah (or Sara or any other creative spelling thereof).

First, some back story.  In 2009, over a span of just a few weeks, I noticed that had four new Facebook friends named Sarah (technically three Sarahs and one Sara), and that Sarah/Sara had become the most common first name among my Facebook friends, with ten.  Sarah has never relinquished this position among first names in the ensuing years.  I have a few inside jokes with friends involving having so many friends named Sarah (and some of the Sarahs are in on the jokes as well, like when I got a birthday card signed “Sarah #21”).  I’m not going to get into those too much now, because most of these are the kind of inside jokes that don’t make sense when I try to explain them.

Of course, when it occurred to me a few weeks ago that I hadn’t met a new Sarah in a long time, the first thing I wondered was, is there a discernible reason for this?  And I think there is, but the reason has nothing to do with the name Sarah specifically.

I blame this on the fact that I just haven’t met many people in the last year in general.  I used to try to connect on social media with just about everyone I met.  I don’t do that anymore, at least not right away, because I came to realize that I just didn’t really want to be friends with everyone I met.  There are a lot of jerks out there, and people who are too negative in the kind of way I didn’t need to be around.  I also just don’t meet as many people as I used to.  Most of the people I met over the last decade came through dancing, and I just don’t go dancing as often as I used to.

And, of course, this isn’t a bad thing.  Quality is better than quantity when it comes to friendships and relationships.  I spent so much of my childhood having so few friends that it took me a while to learn this lesson, but it’s true.  I don’t need to stay connected with everyone I meet; I have control over who I do and don’t try to be friends with.  And that’s a good thing.

Exit 187. In an unfriending mood.

So I could be sitting here writing about how much I don’t care about this year’s Super Bowl, because I don’t particularly care for either of these two teams, and because I’m a little disgusted at the state of the NFL with all the protests and stuff like that.  But I kind of wrote about that already last year, when I also didn’t care much about the game.  I just now missed the Super Bowl kickoff by a few seconds because I was peeing; I suppose that says a lot about my level of interest in this game.

So instead, I’ll write about something else, continuing my post from last week.  Where we left off a week ago, I was contemplating unfriending some people on Facebook.  I had six people in mind specifically when I wrote that, and about a day after I posted, I pulled the proverbial trigger and unfriended five of them.  It felt like time to burn those bridges.  I’m a little hesitant to write this, because I feel like I’m airing other people’s dirty laundry behind their backs.  I generally feel that if you have a problem with someone, the best approach is to go to their face and have a conversation.  And I didn’t do this.  I thought about it, because I would have wanted to know why if someone was unfriending me.  But I didn’t, because I didn’t want to open myself up to any more hurt or disappointment.  Also, I’m going to write mostly in generalities, so I’m not gossiping behind anyone’s back.

I know that at least one of the people involved here used to read this blog occasionally a long time ago, and I know that the person on the chopping block who I decided not to cut off reads this sometimes as well.  On the off chance that you, reader, are one of those who got unfriended and you feel the need to confront me, you know how to find me.  I apologize for not talking to you first.  But be aware that I might not reply right away, or at all.  I don’t know if I’ll be ready to have that conversation.  I”m feeling hurt and confused about a lot of things right now.

Three of the people involved, my issue with them stems to an incident that happened approximately two years ago.  I talked to all of them around that time, and one of the people I was even on somewhat good terms with again for a while, before this person found another social circle to associate with and we grew apart naturally.  The main reason I cut off contact abruptly is because I wanted absolutely no lingering hope that things would ever again be the way they used to be.  Because they won’t.  These people are not who I once thought they were, and they have disappointed me one too many times.  I know that I should let things go after this much time.  But it’s hard, especially given the nature of what happened.  I feel too deeply, I care too much, and my life is not such that I can easily move on from this kind of thing and find other people to fill the void.

One of the other people is someone who mostly posts angry political rants against people like me.  There are lots of people who I have unfollowed for this reason, but kept on my friends list, just in case, and they don’t make me consistently angry.  And the fifth is his wife; I have no direct reason for unfriending her, except that I don’t really know her in a context apart from her husband.  So why unfriend them and not simply unfollow them?  I honestly can’t give a good answer for this.  I think part of it was just that I was in an unfriending mood after unfriending the three people I mentioned above.  Also, the way I know them, the role they played in my life, is one where the fact that this guy posts so many immature and angry political rants makes me particularly sensitive to what is going on.

I know that some of my friends are still friends with some of these people.  If you know who I’m talking about, I don’t have a problem with any of you staying friends with them, of course.  And don’t stop inviting me to things just because one of the people I unfriended might be there.  I’ll put on my big boy pants and deal with that when it comes up.

I might be willing to go into more detail in private conversations, but that’s all I’ll say publicly.  Maybe someday I’ll feel healed and ready to move on.  Part of me wants to say that maybe someday I’ll be on good terms again with all of these people, but honestly, I don’t know if that’s best, and I don’t know if that’s what I want.

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.