life

Exit 249. I like consistency.

The TV show The Goldbergs is one of the most relatable shows to me in the history of television.  The show is about growing up in the 1980s with a crazy family.  That was my life (except that we’re not an East Coast Jewish family).  The show’s creator, Adam F. Goldberg, is the same age as me, and he basically just wrote a sitcom based on his actual family and childhood friends.  Many of the episodes’ stories themselves are based on true stories.  (“Adam” and all other names in this writing related to The Goldbergs will refer to the characters, not the actual persons on whom they are based, since this distinction may be relevant at times.)

By now, I’ve seen almost every episode from all six seasons (so far) of the show.  Every now and then, though, I’ll turn on Goldbergs reruns and see one that I haven’t seen before.  That happened a few weeks ago, with an episode from season 3.  One of the recurring story lines throughout season 1 involves the preteen Adam’s interest in a girl named Dana, who becomes his first girlfriend.  At the end of season 2, Dana tells Adam that she and her family are moving across the country because her dad got a job out of the area.  The beginning of season 3 finds Adam and Dana in eighth grade and attempting a long distance relationship (which in the 1980s could only be done with expensive long distance telephone calls).

Dana comes to visit a few times that year.  In this episode, the one which I saw for the first time recently, Adam is excited for Dana’s impending visit; he prepares to do all the things that they loved to do together before she moved, including going to a Weird Al Yankovic concert.  (Yankovic himself guest stars, wearing his hair as he did in the 80s.)  But Dana is unenthusiastic about doing all of those things.  Adam and Dana realize that they have grown apart as they have grown up, and they break up at the end of the episode.

As I’ve said before, I’ve had a hard time dealing with this kind of thing happening in my own life.  I like consistency.  I didn’t really have a group of friends in childhood, and when I finally got one late in high school, we all dispersed and moved away soon after, and I lost touch with most of them.  And I’m going through it again.  The group of friends I’ve spent the most time with over the last several years is shrinking.  Many of the others have grown up, gotten married, had children, and in various other ways taken on new adult lives, leaving them less time for game nights with friends or staying up ridiculously late.  Some have jobs that limit their social time.  (I have a job, but I manage to make socializing happen anyway, to some extent.  That’s probably why I’m tired all the time.)  Others have drifted out of my social circle for numerous other reasons.  And some people have moved away; I have had an unusually large number of friends move away in 2019, or plan to do so soon.

Why is all of this happening?  Some of it is just a natural part of life.  People grow and change, and their friendships and relationships change as a result of this, much like the story of Adam Goldberg and Dana.  This might not be what I want, but sometimes there’s just no way to stop it.

Or maybe, just maybe, God is clearing out my life to prepare me for something new.  Maybe I myself will be moving out of the area as well.  (God answered a prayer about that in the negative a few months ago, and I have no plans to move at this point, but who knows what will happen in the long term.)  Maybe I will become involved in a time-consuming way at my little 10-person church, as we find ways to grow.  Maybe there will be a new activity or a new relationship or a new hobby of some sort, or something I can’t even imagine right now.  Or maybe I’ll just make new friends, or for some reason shift my priorities to one of the other social circles of which I am on the periphery.  Not much I can do about it.  I just have to figure out which parts of my life to hold on to and which to let go of, and not stay stuck in the grieving phase when parts of my life are ripped from me through no fault of my own.

Exit 242. The unrelatable becoming relatable.

The television sitcom The Big Bang Theory came to an end this week after being on for 12 seasons.  The show has an ensemble cast of nerdy and geeky young scientists and their ditzy aspiring actress neighbor.  They all come from such different worlds, and often they don’t understand each other’s little quirks.  As the series went on, new characters were introduced, mostly to bring in love interests for the main characters.  (Leonard didn’t need a new character; he ends up married to Penny, the aspiring actress).

I started watching that show in the middle of season 3, on the recommendation of nerdy and geeky friends.  I stopped watching somewhere around season 8 or 9, I think.  I don’t usually stop watching TV shows at all.  I’m still watching Survivor after 19 years, and The Simpsons after 30 (although I’m not as excited about it anymore as I used to be, for a variety of reasons).  I stuck with X-Files even during the mostly Mulder-free season 9.

Part of the reason I stopped watching The Big Bang Theory was that I was really busy for a while, and I just never caught up and never got back in the habit of watching it again.  But part of it was that it just wasn’t as funny as the older seasons were.  The show changed in a way that made it less relatable to me.  As the show became more popular in the mainstream, they placed the characters in more mainstream situations, by which I mostly mean they all found significant others.  Also, the characters felt more like Hollywood trendy elite’s stereotypes of what scientists and sci-fi aficionados are like, rather than what those people are actually like. (To some extent, though, this was true about the show from the beginning).

So, a year ago or so, they announced that this season would be the last, and I’ve been seeing commercials during Survivor and The Amazing Race that the last episode of The Big Bang Theory would be coming soon.  I decided that the show deserved enough respect for me to tune in one last time.  Apparently I had missed a lot in the last few years.  Sheldon and Amy got married.  Howard and Bernadette had kids.

The final episode was a good one.  It still wasn’t the same kind of funny as the early seasons, but I think they did a good job of wrapping up the story.  It was relatable to the mainstream, yes, but also enjoyable to someone like me.  And that was sort of a theme addressed in the show… the unrelatable becoming surprisingly relatable.  But I won’t give anything away.

Maybe I’ll have to go back and watch the seasons I missed someday… someday when I have time.  Then I’ll feel like I know the complete story… because, you know, not having the complete story totally sounds like something Sheldon would freak out about.

That’s all for this week.  I’m exhausted, and I can’t think of anything more profound to write about.

Exit 239. The simple solution that was right there all along.

A couple weeks ago, I got home from somewhere in the evening and noticed that the porch light was out.  I took out the old bulb; it was definitely burned out.  But when I put a new bulb in, that didn’t work either.

I tried the new bulb in another socket, and it worked.  So it wasn’t the bulb.  Something in the process of inserting a new light bulb broke the porch light, apparently.  I spent the last couple weeks with the knowledge in the back of my mind that I needed to do something about the porch light eventually.  I was hoping it would be something simple, like a loose wire, but given the way that I’ve had so many home repairs over the last few months, I was afraid it was going to be something difficult to fix requiring me to shell out another large sum of money and work around someone else’s schedule to get fixed.

I hadn’t done anything about it until this morning, mostly because I had been busy and hadn’t felt like dealing with it, and having a porch light isn’t absolutely essential.  But I decided to take a look at it this morning.  I started by unscrewing the bulb to make sure, again, that it worked in another socket.  It did.  And then, looking at the porch light, I noticed something.

When I tried to change the bulb a couple weeks ago, it was dark.  A mix of cobwebs, dirt, and stuff that fell off of or came out of bugs was inside the socket.  Apparently, when I tried to screw in the new light bulb in the dark, this debris had pushed into the socket, making a bad electrical connection between the bulb and the rest of the electrical system.

So I took one of those spray can blowers and blew out as much stuff out of the porch light as I could.  I took a paint brush and brushed more of it off.  And I put the new bulb back in.  It worked.

Sometimes, one can be so blinded by stress and worry so as to completely miss the simple solution that was right there all along.  That is all.

Exit 230. I don’t have time.

I don’t have time.

I always have all these great creative ideas, and I don’t have time to work on all of them.

I wrote a novel off and on from 2014-18, more off than on, and it still feels like it isn’t quite finished, like there’s one part that needs to be rewritten.  I started a second blog recently.  I have another fictional universe I’ve done things with in various forms for over a quarter-century.  And I feel like I can’t really commit to any of them.

But that’s okay.  All of these projects are just for fun, and I shouldn’t stress about them.  I’m not trying to make a living out of any of these creative projects.  I have a real job that takes a lot of my time.  But this is also the kind of real job that periodically gives me time off when I can concentrate on things like this.

So I’m just not going to worry about it.  I’ll write what I can, when I can.  Even if no one reads it.  Because maybe when I’m an old man, I’ll look at some of my old writing that I haven’t read in decades, and I’ll get a good laugh out of it.  (That actually happened recently with some poems I wrote in my late teens that have followed me from hard drive to hard drive on five different computers.)

And if any of you don’t know about my other projects and are curious, let me know.  I’ll either share it, or maybe I’ll kindly thank you and explain why I’m not comfortable sharing everything with everyone.

Exit 224. I need to be patient with myself.

It’s time for another hiatus.

Life is just overwhelming right now.  I’ve been really busy with the usual work responsibilities.  My schedule got disrupted a couple weeks ago, with two days of school canceled because of smoke blowing down from the recent fire in Butte County.  (Just so you know, I’m about 100 miles from any areas that were actively burning, so I was never in imminent danger.  But the fire was so big and the wind so strong that smoke spread all over Jefferson and northern and central California.)  Although those two days gave me plenty of time to relax and prepare for my trip to visit my family for Thanksgiving, it also gave me more work to do this last week to adjust for having missed those two days.  I also have a lot to do around the house.  Laundry and dishes pile up so quickly, and I have a few home repairs I need to address as soon as possible.  Life definitely isn’t all work; I’ve been making time for fun too.  It’s December, which means lots of fun holiday events with friends, in addition to the usual game night group and my Dungeons & Dragons game.  The UC Davis football team is also in the playoffs at their level (NCAA Division I-FCS) for the first time since the school’s athletic program moved up to that level in 2004.  We won, and going to that game was totally worth it, but it also took up half of my day.  (There are eight teams still alive in the FCS playoffs, and there won’t be any more home games for UC Davis, so I won’t have any more games to go to this year.)

I need to take time for myself sometimes.  I need to be patient with myself that I can’t get everything done.  And I need to realize that sometimes it’s okay to spend money to get something repaired, rather than trying to do half of the things myself, and not doing a good job of it, and letting the other half of the things go until they cause worse problems down the road.  That’s especially true now that money isn’t as tight since I’m not barely scraping by on a private school salary anymore.

So in the interest of not trying to do too much, I’m going to take a few weeks off from this blog.  Whatever holidays you might be celebrating during this time of year, I hope they go well, and I’ll see all of you in 2019.

Exit 223. I can learn something from the way that they lived their lives.

Death.  Never an easy topic to discuss.

Comic book writer Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and many other superheroes, died a couple weeks ago.  I recently saw the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, based on the true story of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen.  Freddie was only 45 when he died, and yesterday was the anniversary of Freddie’s passing in 1991.  My pastor knows another pastor in the same denomination whose toddler granddaughter recently died unexpectedly and suddenly.  And, hitting closer to home, a friend from the church I went to when I first moved here lost his battle with cancer this weekend.  He was only 30; he was in the college group at church when I first started going there, and his older brother was one of my first friends when I moved here.

I feel especially bad because this guy and I had kind of grown apart.  We didn’t argue or have a falling-out or anything like that; we just grew apart from natural causes as life took us in different directions.  The same thing happened with me and his brother, who no longer lives in California.  I’ve grown apart from a lot of people over the course of my life, and I’ve always told myself that no one is in the wrong here, that growing apart is just a natural part of life.  But now I have to accept the fact that it had been well over a year since I had seen him face to face and now I won’t get to see him again.

Death also always makes me wish I had known people better in their lifetimes.  Like I said, my deceased friend and I didn’t really run in the same circles anymore.  Similarly, at the memorial service for another acquaintance who died unexpectedly in 2012, I learned all kinds of things about him that I never would have expected.  And, as I have written before, I didn’t really discover Queen’s music until the months just after Freddie Mercury’s death.  But I can still appreciate everything and everyone in my life now, because I never know what will happen in the future.

And I can learn something from those who pass away and the way that they lived their lives.  In the case of my friend who had cancer, he was one of the nicest people anyone would ever meet, being kind to all of those around him and committed to knowing God and living for him.  And that is something we can all learn from.

Exit 221. The best I can with the life I’ve been given.

Recently, one of my friends shared on Facebook that her daughter was pregnant, and that she was going to be a grandmother for the first time. This announcement was significant to me because of how I know this grandmother-to-be: she was in my high school graduating class.

I’ve known for years that this moment would be coming soon, and I’ve been dreading it. Having children was never on my radar, I’ve always felt like I was missing out on something special because of that, and now I’m old enough to be theoretically having grandchildren. It’s quite likely that she isn’t even the first grandparent in our graduating class. Quite a few of my classmates already have adult children (we’re in our early 40s currently), and at least three-fourths of my classmates I have heard nothing from since we graduated. I know of people my age and younger who have older spouses and step-grandchildren, and I know of someone in the class a year older than us who was a grandmother at age 39. But it hits home a little more when it’s someone whom I’m actually in social media contact with.

I’ve been dreading this because it is just a reminder of the fact that having children has never been something to consider for me, which in turn is a reminder of my failure to form or have a romantic relationship. I am constantly surrounded by reminders of this, and it makes me feel like there is something wrong with me.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. I can just keep doing the best I can with the life I’ve been given. And I have plenty of reminders of experiences I’ve had, and continue to have, that wouldn’t be possible had I had children. This isn’t what I naturally think about first when this happens, but I need to learn to change my thinking.

And besides, most of the greatest human beings who ever lived weren’t like everyone else.

Exit 219. I don’t know how to let go.

I’m not well.  Not mentally and emotionally, at least.

I don’t want to talk about it.  But I realized yesterday, as everything was falling apart, that there is something deeper going on that what appeared to be happening on the surface.

I don’t know how to let go.  I don’t know how to forgive.  I don’t know how to move on.  I’ve been carrying around decades of burdens and rejection and hurt, and I just don’t know how to move on.

I think about things that I was successfully able to move on from, to try to figure out what to do about this.  And it turns out that it might not have been so successful after all.  Sometimes forgiveness happens because whoever or whatever I’m mad at apologizes or makes an effort to make things right.  But I can’t control that.  I can’t control other people.  And sometimes it looks like I’m able to forgive someone on the surface, but then their true colors show again later, and years pass and I’m still angry and carrying it around.  Or sometimes I just manage to distract and numb myself for long enough that the anger I’m carrying around doesn’t affect my ability to be a functioning adult… most of the time, until something happens like the last few days, and something that is truly insignificant in the long run triggers an avalanche of anger.

I just don’t know what to do with this.  I can stay away from certain people or places where I am likely to get upset, but that’s just a Band-Aid.  I’m scared.  I hope I haven’t done any permanent damage to myself, my friendships, or my career.  Fortunately, I see my therapist this week.  That’s a start, I guess.

Exit 218. Everything will be all right.

I’m ok.

Everything is going to be all right.

Sometimes it feels like the world is falling apart, like everything is hopeless.  But it’ll be all right.

Things might not turn out the way I would want.  Things might end up completely different.  I might have to make some major changes.  I might have major changes forced on me.  I might stay here for the rest of my life, or I might have to flee with nothing but the clothes on my back.

But everything will be all right.

And I’m fine.  I just needed to remind myself of that.