It’s so easy to forget you’re human. I need to revisit this topic for my own sanity.
If you’re anything like me — and God help you if you are, you’re fairly hard on yourself. You can spend a lot of money trying to figure out why you’re like this, or you can just accept it as fact.
People who are hard on themselves usually spend a lot of time thinking about the way they did something or said something, presented themselves, worked on a project, planned a presentation; pretty much scrutinize every aspect of their lives. You go over it in your head a dozen times. This process, although it can keep you awake at night, is not necessarily a bad thing. It might be healthier to come up with an alternative that would be more productive the next time you do whatever it is that you’ve done.
For example: You decide to confront a friend who has been consistently late for a dinner date. Your friend gets to the restaurant 30 minutes after your scheduled meeting time and you’re angry. As they approach the table at the restaurant, you stand with your hands on your hips and you make certain to tense up your facial muscles and you stare her down.
She apologizes and you say, “I’m tired of your excuses; if you cared anything about me and my time, you wouldn’t do this to me.”
Your friend gets defensive, tells you that you have no idea what it’s like to be her and that she almost cancelled because she has so much going on. You both sit down angry, with no appetite, and no resolution. You both leave the restaurant wondering if your friendship can survive this confrontation.
You can stew on this forever or you can decide that there was a better way to approach the problem. This, of course, is only if you value your friendship; some friendships are more work than they should be. Writing down various solutions are “next steps” can help purge the problem and free-up your thinking.
You can try calling your friend and letting her know that she means a great deal to you and that you have come to realize that she deserved better. She now knows that you do not appreciate her tardiness and that you had gone past your level of tolerance. Remember, forgiveness and taking the high road are very freeing. You can try saying this:
Jane, I realize that you have a lot going on in your life these days and I really appreciate that you still make time for me. Perhaps in the future we can decide on a time to meet that is more practical for you. For example, if trying to have dinner at 7:00 p.m. is stressing you out, perhaps we can meet for a drink at 8:30 or 9:00 instead. Or maybe a weekend brunch would work better for us . . . or a morning walk.
Your letting Jane know that: 1) you understand and hear her, 2) you’re willing to work with her, and 3) you obviously want to see her. She’ll feel a whole lot less defensive and more understood. I’m pretty sure she’ll be on time in the future. And if that doesn’t last, you need to re-evaluate how important being on-time is for you.
Give Yourself a Break
I’m so much easier on others than I am on myself. Lately, I stop for a second after I disappoint myself and I say, how would you have treated your friend David if he had done the same thing? Nine times out of ten the answer would be that I would let it go. Often, it was an innocent mistake or there is a simple explanation and therefore, I can let it go. If I can treat a friend that way, I can do the same for myself. You’ll find that when you treat yourself fairly, you will performing an act of kindness and it feels just as good when you do it for yourself. In fact, it really needs to start with you; empathy comes easier when you know how it feels.
Worst Case Scenario
By now you know that this is my modus operandi. Consider the worst thing that could happen. You will normally discover two things: 1) the worst thing is not likely to happen, and 2) if it did, you would survive it.
For example: When I decided to move overseas I naturally experienced some anxiety. What if I hate Portugal? What if the people there don’t speak English? What if my money runs out in two years? And on and on.
A good friend realized that I was anxious over the “what ifs” and said, “Chris, why are you so worried? If it doesn’t workout come back to the States. You’ll always be an American citizen and you’ll always have a home here.”
Duh, permission granted to stop worrying.
Treat Yourself the Way you Like/Want to be Treated
Why is it so hard to treat ourselves with love and respect? I know it’s a loaded question and very difficult to answer; however, why not start today. Like any habit, it’s learned behavior — you have to do it and then repeat it over and over again; after awhile it will become a habit. You will see, you’ll do it without thinking about it. Try it one day soon: look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are not perfect and that’s okay. In fact, it’s even better than okay, it’s the preferred way to be. Perfection is hard to be around; it makes one feel inadequate and less than. You are enough . . . I am Enough.
A few years ago I was told that my laugh is a little loud. I became self-conscious about it and I stopped laughing. I stopped until a work friend told me how much he loved my laugh.
He said, “Chris when you laugh everyone hears you and we all laugh with you; your laugh is contagious.”
That person who told me that my laugh was loud, for whatever reason, could not handle joy. I can be sad about that, but it shouldn’t stop me from laughing. Think about how many times you were not your authentic self because someone else couldn’t handle it . . . well isn’t that just too bad for them.
Every time you take two steps back, remember that as long as you take three steps forward, you’re making progress.
morally right or justifiable. “feelings of righteous indignation about pay and conditions”
Just as soon as I read “feelings” in the definition, I thought, well, no one can argue with my feelings. But can they? Lately, I’m feeling an abundance of feelings about so many things. I feel like I’m in righteous overdrive. Is it the divided world we live in or am I an angry old man?
Things I Have Felt Righteous About (I typed a list yesterday and it disappeared. Now I’m forced to consider what counts):
Politics (lies and misinformation)
Dishonesty in relationships
Smoking around non-smokers without asking if it’s okay
Recycling (people who act like it’s way too difficult to separate their trash)
Climate change deniers
People who do not/will not listen
Friends, family, and/or strangers who take me for granted. The number of people who think they’re entitled to whatever is astounding. You forget to say thank you the first time you’re forgiven; after that, you’re on your own.
People who use religion to explain away their bias or hate
Laws or rules that make no sense or serve no purpose
People who fight socialism who do not even knowing the meaning of the concept
People who see others in pain and turn the other way
Abusers of all kinds
I’m going to stop there because I’m getting fired up.
Using That Energy
The simple truth is this: if you have anger, rage, resentment, fury, it has to go somewhere or it ends up sitting in your internal organs and festering. Should it go unchecked, it will fester to the point of severe damage. The best thing you can do for yourself is to channel that anger toward something positive. For me, writing is my outlet, my escape valve. When the pressure builds, I write. The other method is to exercise patience; patience takes a lot of energy. If your deliberate in your practice of patience, that energy will become something fruitful and thought provoking.
Case in point: I get angry with a sibling who calls me on a regular basis and talks and talks and talks, but doesn’t bother to ask how I’m doing. I let that steam build this week and I was going to let this family member have it. A piece of my mind was appropriate and there would be no holding back. (This individual does not read my blog, but I still feel compelled to keep his or her name to myself — family will know).
The phone rings and it’s the culprit. I listen. I seeth and I wait for the right moment to pounce.
I’m about to unleash the kraken and my sibling says, “What’s happening with you these days.”
If that lesson is not convincing enough to keep me from jumping the gun, coming out with my fists clenched and my chin out, I don’t know what is. Patience Christopher, patience.
Whether this individual listened to my reply . . . well, that’s a whole other matter. The other life lesson is this: we humans are only capable of so much change. The higher your expectations, the greater the likelihood of disappointment. Baby steps are all we can hope for.
What Do Others’ Think?
Like most, I pay way too much attention to social media. Whenever I’m feeling particularly righteous about something happening in the public arena (i.e., politics), I notice a post gets a lot less attention than say, a cute picture of my dog Paco. Or perhaps, people notice my outrage and agree with me; however, they made a vow to stay away from politics on social media and they’re sticking to it. That sort of gets under my skin. Waiting for a big election to come around is not the time to protest. Right now is the time to counter the false narrative.
The other side of it of course is that I am preaching to the choir: the people in my life who are my tribe . . . the people in my life that I respect and admire because they agree with me. In truth, there are a few people in my orbit who are on the fence; these people are not 100% one way or the other. These uncertain few are my audience when I go off on a rant. I know of two people in my close circle of friends who have come over to my side. It is for this reason that I will not stop putting the facts out there and presenting a raional, truthful, common sense perspective; in my opinion.
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
There is only one way out of this rut. No, that’s not true, in fact, there are many ways out of this rut. I’m cheering myself up, bear with me.
The pandemic is/was tough on everyone. Being a unique situation, we all use different survival skills to navigate through it. During two extended lockdowns, I developed a routine that kept me fairly sane and allowed me the space I needed to be somewhat productive.
Developing a routine is good for productivity and bad for creativity. I’ll compare it to a machine that makes widgets. At the end of production every widget is the same; there is no variation in size or design. That’s not what I’m looking for in my life, my creative outlets need to happen willy nilly — when the spirit moves me so to speak. This is the polar opposite of routine.
I’ve been working hard to break away from all of the unnecessary routine in my life. Changing things up, cancelling my plans at the last moment (not plans with others, personal plans). This seems to work well for me. I give myself an internal high five when I can accomplish it. Ironically, it’s just another daily task; however, one worth considering.
Note: Paco’s daily walks have to be at or about the same time of the day, everyday. His internal clock is fairly precise and if I don’t make a move for his leash, he torments me with his eyes and intensity. This is one routine I cannot change. Another is coffee in the morning and many of you will relate to that one.
Time. Once it passes, that’s it, it’s gone, can’t get it back. At times, time seems to almost evaporate into the ether. It seemed that way during the pandemic. I assume it was routine that caused this distorted perception of time. I found this disturbing; as if someone tore a chapter out of my book and I cannot rewrite the pages.
The best way for me to deal with this, is to be more present going forward. I’ve been mixing it up, churning it around, and trying my best to make every moment count.
Putting it All Out There
A friend recently commented that she was impressed with how I was able to, “. . . put it all out there.” Being who I am, I contemplated the thoughts behind the comment. Was she in fact saying, “You overshare” or “Do we really need to know all that?” I’m hoping she shared what she shared with the best of intentions, that is, that my candor was refreshing, unique, or brave. I may never know for sure. What I do know, is that sharing my reality helps me to keep things in perspective.
Travel Helps to Change Things Up
One of the many reasons I love travel, it that my daily life changes dramatically when I travel. There was a time when I would try to have the same schedule: up early, exercise, language lesson, answer emails, etc. No more of that nonsense when I’m on the road. The last few trips did not include gym time. Instead I took lengthy walks or cut out exercise altogether. I’ve discovered that giving my body a few days off is actually a good thing. In fact, I think your body is not the only part of you that benefits from the break — I believe your mind also responds favorably. I cannot quantify positives, but I can feel it and that’s what counts.
Cutting A Former Partner Out
I have a former partner who was in my life in a significant way for a long time. When our relationship ended, we agreed to remain friends. If you can take the best parts of a relationship and savor them, that’s a good thing right? Grown up, mature even. After a while I realized that I was the only one of the two of us, reaching out. That speaks volumes about the other person and what they think of me and/or us. I have decided to cut them out of my life. I found seeing his life laid out in front of me on Facebook and Instagram, hurtful. Removing the thing that brings you pain is mature as well, yes? What do you think?
It’s interesting to know that he will never see this and that he might not even realize that ties have been severed; oh well. I think that says it all.
I often think of that carnival game where you throw a hardball at these furry little pop-ups and hopefully, slam them down. Get ’em to stay down and you win a prize. At times, I feel as if those furry guys are a metaphor for my life. I imagine a place or a goal, and shit happens, giving it the big kibosh. COVID-19, climate change, politics, life; it can all leave you feeling completely defeated.
Human beings are resilient and born to persevere. Still, how many times can you be beaten down before you give up? It always looks easier for other people. And sometimes, you have the passion and wherewithal, but others are hell bent on convincing you that it ain’t gonna happen. How do you navigate all that?
When It Looks Easy It Probably Isn’t
Because we’re human, it would be difficult not to compare our own lives with others. Your neighbor tells you that he’s taking his family to their lake house and you think, why don’t I have a lake house?
I had a friend who was always boasting about what he could afford to buy. He had no problem spending $500 on a meal and he flew first class every time he travelled. I won’t lie, I was jealous. He crashed and burned; I learned that he was losing his home and his car because he was spending money he didn’t have. Things are not always as they seem, as they say.
What to Say to People WhoTry to Squash Your Dreams
I’m aware of all of the obstacles that could get in my way, however, I’m committed to giving it a try.
Will you help me make it happen?
I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, but it’s important to me that I give it a go.
Fuck off why don’t you!
Put Your Dreams in Writing
I love the saying, “If you can see it, you can have it.” You can only manifest something if you truly want it and believe it’s possible. If you have a dream, and I hope you do, make it real by putting your words down on paper or . . . tell others about it — that makes it more real as well.
I’m going to practice what I preach by putting my own dreams in writing:
I want to wake up in a home that is mine, right on a river, a lake, or an ocean. I want to see nothing but water.
I want to pay for a child’s college education.
I would like to spend zero time thinking about what others think.
I would like to soon be what I think is my ideal healthy weight (about 180 pounds).
I would like to fall head over heels in love again.
I think my main point — sometimes it takes me awhile to get there, is that you cannot allow all the noise and naysayers to stop you from believing anything is possible.
Just finished the Naomi Osaka tennis player’s documentary (miniseries on Netflix). I cannot begin to imagine what this woman will accomplish in her lifetime. I’m blown away by her determination and grace.
Back to Vila Real de Santo Antonio tomorrow for a few days. This place may become my home away from home. The Pousada is exceptional and I need to return.
Stockholm is looking pretty solid for late August. Lyon in September, London in October, Asia in January, Cuba in February, Toulouse in April, and Basel Switzerland in June. There will be stops in between, however, the planning will cease until this virus calms down a bit. Many of these trips had been scheduled and were postponed.
Just a small town girl Livin’ in a lonely world She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere Just a city boy Born and raised in South Detroit He took the midnight train goin’ anywhereA singer in a smokey room The smell of wine and cheap perfume For a smile they can share the night It goes on and on, and on, and onStrangers, waitin’ Up and down the boulevard Their shadows Searchin’ in the night Streetlights, people Livin’ just to find emotion Hidin’ somewhere in the nightWorkin’ hard to get my fill Everybody wants a thrill Payin’ anything to roll the dice Just one more time Some will win Some will lose Some were born to sing the blues Oh, the movie never ends It goes on and on, and on, and onStrangers waitin’ Up and down the boulevard Their shadows Searchin’ in the night Streetlights, people Livin’ just to find emotion Hidin’ somewhere in the nightDon’t stop believin’ Hold on to that feelin’ Streetlight, people Don’t stop, believin’ Hold on Streetlights, peopleDon’t stop believin’ Hold on to that feelin’ Streetlight, people
I was raised in a home where you said what you had to say; you got it off your chest and then you let it go. By the time I got to kindergarten, I learned that the rest of the world didn’t operate that way.
Along the way, I received lots of reactions to my “Brooklyn” bravado. I had to hide my sexuality, therefore, it was act tough and survive or whimper and be bullied. I developed a thick skin and a look that said, be real with me or get out of my face.
And then this happened . . .
I was a candidate for a really great position on campus at the University of South Carolina. It was my second year of a two-year Master’s degree program and I had spent the first year validating my candidacy for a coveted position. At the end of my second semester, I met with the director of the Living & Learning Program and discussed my future. I remember a smirk on his face I didn’t appreciate. He told me that there had been a couple of complaints about my direct nature — an interesting way to put it. He further went on to tell me he had observed it himself. What he said in not so many words:
I appreciate that you’re from New York and that New Yorkers are known for speaking their mind. It’s not how we conduct ourselves in the south. We tend to start with some small talk and then we sugar coat our words a bit. That’s how we succeed in getting what we want. You might want to consider changing your communication style while you’re in South Carolina; maybe tone it down a bit (source is now deceased, 1983). I guess I might have been reliving this horror in the middle of the night last night, because I also recalled that he said that I was a “primadonna.” At the time, I didn’t even know what that meant.
To say that I was devastated is a gross understatement. I spent the next two months questioning everything about the way in which I conducted myself. I cried a lot, I was angry, I hated that creep, and I went from deciding I would change everything about myself to being determined I would stay true to who I am.
At the end of a long and tortured summer, the director called me into his office; I almost refused to take the meeting, but I knew he had a lot of influence at the University. He asked me if I’d thought about what he’d said in May. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that I was tormented by his feedback. I responded:
I thought about what you said and I agree with some of it. I went on to tell him that I could be a bit less crass and a bit more tactful. I also stared him straight in his eyes and told him that I liked my own sincerity and direct approach; bullshit was not my style and being all nice nice without feeling it, wasn’t ever going to happen.
He listened with what seemed like an open mind. I asked him if there was anything else and he said,
“The position is yours if you want it. There are a lot of people on campus who are rooting for you, don’t let them down.”
He shared his own reservations and I sat there acting all smug and self-satisfied. I wanted that job more than anything and I was determined to prove him wrong.
So what is the point of my telling you this tale of woe? There are a few reasons actually:
His words stuck with me more than any others that I have heard in my life. I didn’t like him, but I respected him and I came to believe he was sincerely trying to teach me something.
In many ways he was right. I was overly confident and way too direct.
Had he not shared his observations with me, I may never have been told that I needed to lower the volume. I still resent his harsh and hurtful approach, however, he managed to get me thinking about how I communicate with people and that is never a bad thing.
I have mentored several young people throughout my career. I have been in the position to share my thoughts about character flaws I thought could be altered or corrected. I am thoughtful about the way in which I phrase my criticism or feedback. I can always tell when I may have pushed too hard or said too much. I recall how much I learned from my critic and I accept the anger directed toward me. My own saboteur reminds me that I am vulnerable and imperfect.
And Another Thing . . .
My neighbor has decided to make his condo an Airbnb; it’s his place, I guess it’s his business. Personally, I think it’s an ugly dump and I’m not sure why anyone would rent it. It’s probably cheap, so it’s attracting young party people.
Yesterday, my new, not-so-friendly Airbnb neighbors were getting on the elevator to go to the beach and I introduced myself:
“Hi, I’m Chris, if you need anything please knock.”
They looked at me like deer in headlights and I very gently said:
“Do me a favor, when you close your door, please do it slowly. When your door slams my apartment shakes.”
Seriously, it sounds like a bomb has hit the building when the wind is strong.
You would have thought I was asking them to go to bed earlier. The look I got was of utter disgust and resentment. I promise you, I was pleasant.
What I said to them was not even criticism mind you. Would a big ugly sign outside my door asking for consideration be better?
Things I Keep In Mind When Offering Criticism/Feedback
Will I ever see this person again?
Will my words make a difference?
How am I being impacted by their approach or style?
What words can I use to make a difference?
Am I being honest or mean?
Do I really know better?
Is my honesty a way to sabotage a relationship?
Will they hear me?
Are they open to feedback?
Why am I doing it?
I know that I don’t know anything about most things, but I sure do know a little about some things. Keeping my opinion to myself isn’t easy, so listen up:
Men of Portugal (you know who you are), stop dousing yourself with buckets of cheap cologne, you stink and you’re making me sick! People, when you’re in line at the supermarket you need to stay in line; continuing to shop and expecting to keep your place in line, isn’t cool. And to the young men who own motorbikes in my neighborhood: I know that having a small penis makes life difficult; however, taking your muffler off of your motorcycle or moped won’t make that little penis any larger. You’re just making people angry and the girls don’t think it’s cool. Spend more time on your hair, it’s quieter. And I’m sorry to judge, but young gay men are not driving their loud motorbikes all around Faro.
Note: I’m just guessing about penis size.
When people are not willing to speak out for fear of repercussion or alienation, they become angry, resentful, and complacent. Keep this in mind when someone around you is feeling stifled or worse, gagged.
Travel: Time on the Spanish/Portuguese border in a Pousada next week; they can’t cancel that on me. I’m pretty sure I’ll get to go on my trip to Stockholm in August. And maybe even a booked trip to Lyon, France in September. I don’t count on travel anymore, I just have to wait and see.
Castles, Palaces, Monasteries, Halls of kings and Rooms of Queens… The Pestana Pousadas de Portugal offers the ultimate immersive Portuguese experience in some of the country’s most historical and iconic properties.
Note: Check out Wanda Sykes who is hosting for Jimmy Kimmel this week. She’s doing some kick ass truth tellin’.
I’ve always despised angry old men; therefore, becoming one of them is not an option. I’ll start with something positive and then launch into my tirade:
I live in Portugal where they take recycling seriously. There are bins no more than 100 feet from nearly every residential building in my city. Organic trash for composting is stored beautifully underground in very convenient locations. Still, time and time again I see people dumping huge bags of plastic, glass bottles, and non-organic trash, in said compost bins. It makes me angry, it makes me sick, and it makes me sad. It makes me wonder about the integrity of human beings.
Many of my fellow humans don’t seem to care. It’s perplexing to say the least. How can you care about your children and grandchildren or just about anything, and not care about the environment? How can you fight for human rights, black lives, immigration rights, and/or equality, and not consider the threat to our planet?
These questions are confounding to me much of the time. It takes so little effort to sort out your trash, throw cigarette cartons in the wastebasket, clean up after your dog, but so many contribute to the problem rather than help solve it. My guess is that I have anywhere from 20 to 30 years left on this magnificent planet. Yes, it’s a reminder that the natural order of things dictates a life cycle and the planet is part of that cycle; however, we are hastening the death of planet earth by thousands of years.
While I’m pissing and moaning, I’d like to also mention the strain we humans are putting on our very expensive and extremely unstable healthcare system. I’m not saying that I have never put anything unnatural or life threatening in my body; I’m only human after all. But we all know that those with an apparent death wish are making it very difficult for the rest of us. Doctors and hospitals were under tremendous strain pre-COVID-19; if we keep it up, only the wealthy will get treatment (true in many countries). Cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol, pill popping to cover-up emotional and physical pain, etc. The rest of us will suffer from health issues and regret when we cannot afford to see a doctor; soulda, coulda, woulda will not offer any consolation.
Accountability is one of many annoyances that haunts me day and night. Why do white collar criminals get away with little or no jail time? How and why do the rich literally get away with murder?
This building collapse in Miami . . . who, if anyone, will pay the price of so many deaths?
I am dealing with a personal situation concerning accountability; it gets my goat more than just about anything.
Holding back on making a list here. Proving to you that I am growing up. Perspective is essential to success.
I know who I am. I know what I am. I know that I am a control freak (this took a while to own). I have come to terms with accepting the things I cannot change. They say some people become more accepting as they grow older, I may be an exception.
Travel has become close to impossible. I have a short trip planned for the Spanish border, 45 minutes away, and I’m not sure it will happen. Toulouse cancelled, Bristol cancelled, mediterranean cruise cancelled. Everytime I book a trip I brace myself for that almost certain email telling me that COVID-19 has prompted restrictions; home seems to be the only destination I can count on.
I’m scheduled to go to Stockholm next month. Since Sweden has never really closed, that may actually happen. Still, my guess is that Portugal will enforce a quarantine rule upon my return. I guess we’ll see.
I am resigned to any and all possibilities — I don’t consider complacency a good thing right now. The resistance to vaccinate is frustrating and puzzling. The same people who bellyache about restrictions, are the ones who refuse to be vaccinated. I want to shake some sense into these stubborn resisters.
The EU has agreed to a digital vaccine certificate for travel outside of one’s country and for use in order to go to certain concerts and/or sporting events. I have quite easily acquired my certificate and for that I am grateful.
I’m sitting with friends having a light brunch and some bozo at the table says, “I’m not sure why Paul has to hide his sexuality, it’s so much easier to be out these days.” I sit on my hands and hold my tongue in a vice grip. People have this habit of wanting to brush over the truth to create their own sugar coated reality. The plain truth is that it is not so easy to be out of the closet in 2021. True there are pockets of the world where being gay is celebrated and respected; however, even in those places, it is complicated and uneven.
First, it’s important to note that being open about your homosexuality is against the law in certain parts of the world. You’d better hide it if you live in Brunei, Yemen, Somalia, or Iran. Death or imprisonment can be an almost certain deterrent. Come out to what I ask you? And if you don’t believe Americans are affected by what happens outside of the U.S. (and in some states), you are sadly mistaken.
“Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 70 countries. Some of them, including six nations that are members of the United Nations, impose the death penalty. Another five make such punishment technically possible, even though it is rarely enforced. In 26 other countries, the maximum penalty is prison with terms varying anywhere from a few years to life imprisonment.” Hristina Byrnes | 24/7 Wall Street, 2021.
Hence, the reason I hold my tongue. It’s nice to know I can marry a man in Portugal, but the reality that my gay brothers and sisters in so many other places, cannot, makes it difficult for me to celebrate. That guy screaming at my at 7:00 a.m. after Biden was elected, doesn’t help either.
“Why the fuck do you people need a parade anyway? Nobody cares.”
This vengeful serpent has many heads. When I go to a family wedding and family members are whispering about my sexuality, I can be out, I can be proud, I can even be partnered, but there is no way that I can say that I am content — nobody wants to be judged . . . least of all by my Christian aunties. Has it made me stronger? No doubt, I love being different, defiant, and getting all the attention has its appeal; however, I’d choose blending in with the wallpaper any day of the week.
Having cousin Ann say, “Aren’t you sick of hearing about gay rights?” That will never be okay.
We freer gays stand on the shoulders of individuals who have fought for basic rights for decades. I applaud and appreciate their efforts, but it isn’t over; it isn’t over by a mile. It was only months ago that transgender individuals were being told they could no longer serve in the military. And just because we have a new president and human rights and freedoms are being restored, does not guarantee one’s ability to serve in the future.
[I stopped writing yesterday; the anger and frustration were palpable. I needed perspective. I’m afraid it didn’t come.]
I’ve come to terms with who I am. I don’t apologize to anyone for it. I am no longer lamenting about what could have been: children, grandchildren, a 50th wedding anniversary. Coming to terms with the kicking and screaming that went on in my brain for decades, feels good. But I can’t help thinking about the kids everywhere who are tormented by their own questioning demons; when will they be relieved of their pain. As long as there are teens offing themselves because their being “fill-in-the-blank” does not fit into the “right” box, I cannot sit at the table and agree that coming out is easier.
I am relieved to be home from a three week trip to the States. Ironically, I almost said, ” . . . three week trip home.” I did not go home, I am home, Portugal is home. We spend so much time making our homes comfortable and beautiful and then we travel someplace else.
In many ways returning to the United States during a pandemic was an insane proposition. My flight was cancelled, rebooked, cancelled, changed, changed again, and changed one final time. What should have been a seven hour direct flight turned into two stressful flights; the first in the wrong direction with a very tight connection — more like 17 hours. I had to be tested for COVID-19 prior to travelling, at my expense. It should be noted that the PCR test in the States was offered at no cost. COVID testing has become a big business with many charging as much $250; criminal.
Looking back, the four airports I travelled through were extremely busy — a plug for Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, which was by far the most efficient and user friendly.
I cannot help but wonder if I would have made this trip knowing what I know now. True, there are family and friends I wanted to see; I needed to see. It had been a long time and I lived in the U.S. for the first 59 years of my life. This trip took its toll on me mentally and physically like no other before it. I’m going to stop writing for afew days. My negative feelings about what I saw and experienced in the U.S. are skewed and time will help.
[An apology to friends and family: I imagine you grew tired of comparisons between Portugal and the U.S. For example, “I can get a latte and a pastry for two euros in Faro.” That must have sounded more like: wah, wah, wah and wah. My bad. Is it true people are no longer saying, “My bad.?”]
Some time has passed and I have gained some perspective.
One of positive things about travel was the renewed appreciation of my home. Whilst away, I thought a lot about Faro, Paco (my dog), and my apartment. After only a few days, I lamented about the rest I get in my own bed and the joy I get from hanging with Paco.
Of course I know that I think and say all of these things and by next week this time I will be thinking about my next trip and longing to be away again.
I didn’t take very many photos; living in the moment and creating living memories.No doubt, I am one lucky fella.Don’t be upset if you do not see yourself here, I chose these pics quickly — I blame jet lag.
Some of the highlights and pitfalls of my time in the States (not all fact, but a whole lot of opinion):
The non-U.S. passport line at JFK was a lot shorter; there is a first time for everything.
I oddly had little to no jet lag going west.
The old Penn Station was like entering hell without warning. I’m still suffering from PTSD — Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury (Google).
New York City is not the same with Broadway gone dark and that’s just a fact.
People get angry with you when you’re nearby, but have no time to see them. Please don’t be mad at me.
The food in New York City is better than anywhere I have ever been (must be the competition).
Brooklyn Bridge Park is absolutely incredible and should not be missed — what a gift to the people of Brooklyn and the city of New York.
There is no bed like your own bed.
May is the best month of the year for good weather in the northeast (mostly not hot and humid).
I understand why they say you can never go home again.
No one gets you the way your siblings do.
Charlotte, North Carolina has exploded (I went to university there).
BBQ should only be eaten in the south.
Downtown Boston is not easy to navigate since the Big Dig. I almost missed my bus back to New York (plug for Flexi Bus; easy and inexpensive way to travel).
I’ve been writing this blog for three years and much to my chagrin, friends actually said this, ” . . . so what is your blog about?”
Not everyone is happy that I was able to get the J&J vaccine in Brooklyn. Doesn’t matter, I’m glad I did.
I spent way too much time throughout my travels, thinking about quarantine weight.
I refuse to travel back to the United States during this pandemic; I know we’re all hoping things will improve soon.
I thought turning your data off on your cell stopped you from roaming. A cell phone bill for hundreds of euros let me know that I was wrong. I’m certain cell carriers and cell phone manufacturers are in cahoots regarding this issue. My iphone has to be on airplane mode to avoid roaming charges. I can assure you that unless I have dementia (do I?), that will never happen again.
You know I have a lot more to say, note my restraint.
A Minha Casa
Now that I have been home for almost a week, I can sit back and reflect on the significance of this last visit to my place of birth. People I know and love have lots going on; they’re frenetic, preoccupied and manic. That doesn’t mean they love me or think of me any less. What it does mean, is that I need to be patient and understanding. All I ask in return, is the same consideration
I painted stenciled blue birds on my solarium floor on my first full day home. No doubt I was seeking peace and tranquility. Hoping to squash that PTSD.
I cancelled my trip to Lyon scheduled for next week. Too much COVID-19 testing and complicated travel. Businesses blaming everything that goes wrong on this virus is getting old.
I have tickets to Bristol, UK in July — who knows if that will happen. It’s only been postponed four times. Stockholm in August, Toulouse in September, London and a European cruise in October, and a long awaited trip to five Asian countries in January 2022. Cuba moved to February and the planning continues. I keep telling myself it’s okay to plan, even though it’s a bit insane. Humans are strange after all.
April was a significant month for me, the United States government officially acknowledged my hard work and said, in not so many words, you can retire now and we’ll give you back a fraction of the money you paid in for all of those years — 43 years to be exact. For reasons I won’t go into here, I have decided to wait on those funds a bit longer.
Still, milestones are laden with questions and expectations: Am I retired? Have I achieved all that I desire? What is my ultimate purpose in life? What matters most? Are there more rats in the world than people? Who really cares?
When I started this blog three years ago, I was addressing three important personal concerns:
What will I do with all of my spare time now that I am no longer employed (my choice)?
Does anyone care about what I think? It’s all about feeling relevant.
Can I monetize blogging?
Time is a tricky reality. When you are happily doing what you want to do, it just sort of slips away. I have never truly felt “retired.” My days are filled with so many wonderful and interesting things to do and now that travel is back in the mix, I don’t think I’ll have much time to think about time.
Some people do seem to care about what I have to say; however, oddly, not my family. I don’t think any of them follow my blog. Perhaps if I ask them to read a particular piece, they might. At first I was hurt by this, but I have evolved and now I could care less. I do have several close friends who read my blog each week and some even comment. I convinced myself early on that I write for myself; so much of life is what you tell yourself.
I cannot monetize my blog because I refuse to make it about one thing. My topics are all over the place and that’s the way I want it. Money is important, but it’s not everything.
The bottom line is that I’m been fairly structured about publishing on a timeline/deadline. It’s been weekly from the start and that has worked fairly well for me. My schedule for 2021 has changed dramatically due to my travel plans. Most of my 2020 trips were moved to 2021, making it more difficult to stick with a weekly format. So basically, I will continue to write, but my posts will be more sporadic. This will provide more freedom, less structure, and perhaps my readers will enjoy the anticipation. I’ve been trying to be more loosey goosey for years; I’d like to think I’m coming around. Not easy when you’ve behaved a certain way your entire life. Other people do not impose expectations, it’s all me. Time to get away from that if I can, this is a start.
My problem with routine is this: I think after a while anything can become boring. I realize there has to be some order in my life; Paco for example expects to go out certain times throughout the day. Sleep on a schedule is important; without sleep I’m useless. But so many other things can and will be more spontaneous. Here are just a few of my daily “must dos” that will hopefully become less structured:
coffee in the morning
Paco to the dog park
gym time (I prefer early morning when I have optimal energy)
watching the news
catching up with friends
trying out a new recipe(s)
tending to my terrace garden (plants and herbs)
Up to this point I actually noted many of these daily to dos on my daily calendar. I find way too much comfort in checking things off a list. Yesterday (Sunday 5/2) I went about my day with a blank calendar. By the end of the day I was amazed how much I got done just by doing things when I felt moved to do it. I planted on my terrace, grilled, and hung some photos; none of these things were planned.
Now you need to stop laughing; it’s just not right. I can do this. I can change. I will change. Now I’m laughing.
There is a part of the day that I have come to love and appreciate; I don’t believe that I should shake things up to much. After dinner I take Paco to the park across the street from my apartment. There are always people strolling, runners running, and other dog walkers — I don’t know most of them and I like it that way. It’s peaceful. It’s the start of the winding down process. Once we are inside and my teeth are brushed, there is no more eating; sometimes a snifter of brandy, sometimes not. I save my favorite series from Netflix or HBO for this time of day. If there is a new film out that I can subscribe to, I order it. My cell phone automatically goes on do not disturb and so does my brain. The light from the sun going down is magical in the late spring and summer. This two or three hour ritual prepares me for sleep. I have learned the hard way, one cannot go from 60 to five in 30 minutes. Why mess with a process that is almost guaranteed to make a restorative sleep possible.
I entitled this post “Going Forward,” in truth, this was a roundabout way of telling you that in the future, I will only be writing when I have something to say. If you’re a subscriber, they will be dropped into your email box whenever I complete an entry. Please continue to comment and provide feedback — it’s fuel.
I read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig this week. If you’re searching for meaning in your life, I highly recommend this wonderful, insightful, provocative, novel.
Reblog from 2019 post with some new content (always learning) — [new content in brackets]
“The best mirror is an old friend.”
Who are your true friends and why are these friendships so important?
Friendships come in all shapes and sizes and it would be difficult to share my thoughts on all of them; therefore I will focus on just a few for this blog. I will cover these five:
Friendship with a life partner
A close friend
A sibling who is also a friend
Your parent as friend (being childless, I do not feel equipped to write about this matter from the parent’s point of view)
A co-worker who is a friend
My friends are extremely important to me. I hold my true friends near and dear and would do just about anything for them. The friendships I cherish the most were established many years ago, but having said that, I do have several friends that I only met recently. Six months ago I left a city I resided in for less than five years; yet several of my close friends live in Maine. You can gauge some friendships by communication (although some friends are better than others at this). When I moved overseas, there were individuals I expected to never hear from again and some that I thought would communicate regularly. As with many things in life, what I expected, has not panned out. Several people I thought would reach out, never have and others I that I thought were acquaintances have been great about staying in touch. Some people work hard at developing friendships and their persistence can pay off. These days you have to factor in social media, because it doesn’t take much effort to drop a line or two. I truly miss the days of letter writing; writing a letter took time and thought.
[The pandemic shed a new light on close friends; I’m fairly certain a couple of my friends saved me from myself during lockdown. What did we do before Facetime, whatsapp, and Zoom? I shared a few meals with single friends from the U.S. during lockdown and it made eating so much more fun.]
To be clear I am not writing about acquaintances:
acquaintance əˈkweɪnt(ə)ns/ noun
2. a person one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend. “a wide circle of friends and acquaintances” synonyms: contact, associate, connection, ally, colleague
I am certain you all acquaintances; if you had an expectation that they would all be friends, you’d be extremely disappointed.
[I’ve spent a lot of time differentiating close friends from acquaintances this past year. It’s been so much better for my emotional well-being. My expectations are always off-the-charts; therefore, sorting out who my true friends are was a good exercise for me.]
Friendship with a Life Partner
This type of friend is quite unique due to the intimacy factor. Once you have been intimate with someone (and I don’t necessarily mean sex), it’s a game changer. I’m talking about a deeper emotional commitment where there is love and affection. Hopefully, because it matters if it’s true or not, you and your partner have shared moments, where at the time, you cannot imagine a deeper connection. Whether it’s a secret or a thought or a revelation, this kind of sharing creates a bond that can and often does, last a lifetime.
Even when there is a breakup, this close bond will ensure a lasting friendship — if you allow it to happen. Unfortunately, new partners are often intimidated by this kind of friendship and will not allow it. If you’re able to see past the jealousy, permitting your partner to be friends with ex-partners can enhance a current relationship. Your partner will see you as open and caring and trusting — all wonderful thoughts about your partner.
Keep in mind that none of us can be all things to all people. Your partner has limitations and expecting this individual to meet all of your needs is unfair and impossible. This is why it is dangerous not to have close friends outside of your relationship. Lean on others occasionally, it will make your relationship lighter, freer, and healthier.
Also, if you are outside of a relationship looking in, what you see from the outside is not always a complete picture. Couples have their own way of loving one another. Aside from physical and emotional abuse, which is never good, disagreeing and gentle prodding can be the sign of a healthy partnership.
[I feel fortunate to have an ex who has become a good friend; someone I can talk to, travel with, and rely on. He knows me better than just about anyone else. He can call me on my shit and do it without offending me and I can do the same (I think). Knowing there is someone you can call and they will show-up for you, means everything. It wasn’t easy getting here, but it certainly was worth it.]
A Close Friend
Your best friends (yes I believe you can have more than one) deserve a category all their own. Because we all know that if you have a life partner, that individual cannot and should not be able to fulfill all of your needs, emotional or otherwise. A close friend can provide an outlet for sharing and a different kind of important intimacy. It can be someone to talk to about your life partner or boyfriend/girlfriend (finding the right pronouns isn’t easy). With a close friend, no topic is out-of-bounds.
We all go through difficult periods in our lives (having just lost a dear pet, I’m feeling deep loss right now). [Paco is not a replacement for Giorgio, but he’s loving and sweet and I’m better off for having adopted him.] A close friend will sometimes know you are in distress even before you know it. This person will be there to help you get through whatever difficulty you are experiencing. Refusing the help of a friend or pushing a friend away is never a good thing. A true friend is a beautiful gift and you can be sure that this person sincerely wants to help. Let this individual know that you appreciate that they are there for you and that you need them and want their love.
I like my privacy and I tend to grieve when I am by myself. A good friend will always allow you “alone” time. If you gently let your friend know that you just need a little time, they will give you what you need.
Caution: Be careful to make sure that sharing is reciprocated. There is nothing more annoying than a friend who only wants to discuss his or her own woes. Ask questions; show genuine interest and it will elevate the friendship.
Also, do not abuse the generosity of a close friend. Leaning on someone in a time of need is fine, but pick and choose when to lean. Being a constant burden will make a friend second guess the sincerity and value of the relationship. We are only human and all of us has a threshold. Keep your relationships strong by being considerate, nurturing and compassionate. Communicate your needs; assuming your friend knows, is an unfair assumption.
[Due to the pandemic, I have not seen several of my closest friends, but that’s about to change. In a few weeks, I will once again be able to hug, laugh, and cry with friends — the emotional roller coaster of the last year has been challenging.]
Who knows and understands you better than a brother or sister? Unless you were raised in a different household or there are many years between you and your sibling, this person can be a very close friend. I should not rule out a half-brother or sister who is a great deal older or younger. I had a half-brother who was 20 years older and before he passed away, we became very close. He was actually as much a mentor as a friend. I could share anything with him and he “got” me. The relationship was different from that of a parent because he didn’t feel the need to discipline or direct my behavior; it was all about the freedom to be who we were. [It is strange to say this, but even though my brother has been gone for quite a while, that relationship/memory has only gotten stronger. It has taught me that death can be the continuation of a beautiful friendship, however, on a different level.]
A sibling who doesn’t judge you, who accepts you for who you are and who provides a level of trust that is achieved in no other relationship, is a treasure to hold dear. I’m a lucky guy because I have a number of siblings I consider close friends. Unfortunately, I have also lost several siblings; these individuals have provided strength and love well beyond their passing. [As I stated earlier, life, in its purest meaning, doesn’t end when someone special in your life passes.]
Your Parent as Friend
It’s not easy being friends with a parent. Very few people I know are friends with their mother or father. When you are young, your parents are disciplinarians and when you get older they want what’s best for you and that often causes conflict. Being friends with your parents can be fulfilling. Practicing patience and forgiveness is key. If you keep in mind that your parents want what is best for you because their love for you is strong, you can be very close friends. You can confide in your parents, you can lean on your parents and you can usually trust your parents. Having a sit down after a disagreement can help both parties achieve a higher level of trust and understanding.
Of course there are always exceptions. My mother always told me that everything was her fault. She’d say this with a half-smile, “Chris, save yourself money on therapy. I am to blame for all of your issues. Yell at me, lash out, be mad; then think about how much I love you and move on.”
She was a smart lady, my mom.
Friendship with a parent can go through stages of strength and at times this strength may waiver and that’s okay. Keep in mind that your parents won’t always be around. Bringing you into this world and keeping you safe are not easy tasks to manage. They usually want your friendship and they usually earn it.
“My childhood was very colorful, and I am close friends with both my parents. We have no secrets.”
[I had a deeper friendship with my father; I’m not sure why that was, but what I do know is that it came naturally. There was no judgment, only support, compassion, and sweet memories. The loss of that friendship is felt almost every day. Still, I feel fortunate to have had that friendship for the first 41 years of my life.]
A Co-Worker who is a Friend
This can be an incredibly satisfying relationship because you often share so much in common with a co-worker. When you’re together socially it can be fun to gripe about your hours or your boss or your salary or your work environment or your benefits or your co-workers or all of the above.
Careful what you say and to whom at work; a true friend will be discreet and he or she will keep what you tell them to themselves. Such a friend is not easy to find; when you do, try your best to hold on to them.
There are those who believe you should not become friendly or be friends with someone who is higher up or subordinate. I have never felt that way. I think as with most things in life, it depends on the person. If your friend is mature and trustworthy, you’ll have nothing to worry about. If others at work have an issue with who your friends are, let them know (in a kind way of course), that it is not really their business. Still, perception and appearance are both important considerations. Managing all of this at work can be challenging. I believe it all boils down to personal integrity. You know who you are. If you are honest, thoughtful and appropriate, you should have nothing to worry about. Always remember that at the end of the day, the only person you truly have to answer to is yourself.
[I count several former co-workers as lifelong friends.]
Separation from a Friend
As it goes with relationships, sometimes they go south. Of course it’s always better if you can repair the damage; however, that is not always possible. Some friendships grow toxic and if that becomes the case, I think it’s better to walk away. If you make that decision for yourself, it’s best to come clean with the individual. This business of just disappearing isn’t very fair to the other person and often, closure is necessary. Otherwise, you have this unpleasant, unfinished business hanging over you. [I recently attempted to be truthful with a friend about a conversation that disturbed me. Her reaction was unfortunate, defensive and untruthful; she took no responsibility. I have broken my own rule and ended the relationship without stating my intentions. As I get older I am realizing the value of self-preservation and the avoidance of drama.]
Call me a coward, but I often put my thoughts into writing and send an email or letter. This way I can be clear and provide the other person an opportunity to think about what I shared and respond. You can tell a great deal about a person by the way they reply. If they become very defensive, angry, and lash out at you, it validates your decision. If the person sincerely apologizes or asks to see you, it shows that they value your relationship and that they would like to patch things up. I find that the other person often feels the way you do and the friendship will come to an end. If you can work through it as mature adults, you’ll be happy you did the work.
For some, my desire to shed toxic individuals will come across as cold and dismissive. I have decided that I only have time for friends who are loving, forgiving, true, and real. I value my time on our planet and I’d prefer that my relationships be authentic and fulfilling. Divorce, partner or friend, is never easy, but sometimes it’s the only healthy solution. Don’t judge others or yourself, judging makes life burdensome.
I could do an entire blog on friendship and today’s political climate, but if I were to dwell on the topic for more than a few minutes, I’d have to make myself a double.
When Trump was elected president, I was angry, upset, terrified, and disappointed, and I still am [much less so as I update this blog — today I am hopeful.] I let family members know how I felt and some of them said a version of this:
“Family always comes first and you should never let politics come between you and family.”
And that’s where we disagree. If I know for a fact that you hated Obama as president because he is African-American, and that you consequently voted for a conservative man because he was going to undo everything the last administration did or that you don’t believe a woman can hold our highest office, then I do not want to be your friend and it is has undoubtedly come between us. Does that mean that I love immigrants and medicare recipients more than I love my family and friends? It does not; however, what it does mean is that I love my fellow human being and when I think about the one percent wealthiest Americans, the biased, the racist, and the greed of some politicians, I am always going to be sympathetic to the poor, the minority, the immigrant, the unemployed, the drug addict, and the LGBT community (not an exhaustive list).
Acknowledging the doors that were opened for you or the opportunities you have had that others have not had, will help you to be a more empathetic and giving person.
If family know how I feel and still want me in their lives, well then they’re stuck with me. [This situation has played out on two occasions and I am grateful for the patience and understanding of these two individuals. As a result of the work we’ve done, our relationship is stronger and more meaningful. Of course, I’m only speaking for myself.]
Sometimes years go by and you do not hear anything at all from an old friend and then suddenly, there they are sending you an email or calling you on the phone (a call is less likely these days; texting is safer). You wonder of course: 1) why you are hearing from them now? 2) should you respond? and 3) if you don’t respond will you wonder what it was he or she wanted?
People lose touch with one another for all sorts of reasons. Often, time goes by and one feels reaching out would be awkward and often it is. Be open-minded; reconnecting may be the best thing that ever happened to you. I have had former friends I was upset with contact me and frankly, I couldn’t recall why I was angry with them in the first place. That tells me something: it might have been something very small and petty and perhaps it’s time to get past it. Forgiveness has enhanced my life in so many ways. [Forgiving myself especially.]
I am not claiming to be a “friendship expert.” What I do know is that I have had a lifetime of meaningful friendships and without my friends, I would be a lesser person.
“No better relation than a prudent and faithful friend.”
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
I made it to São Miguel and I’ll be writing about my trip for next week’s blog. So far, I like what I see.
Question of the week:
Do you have a story to tell about a friend or would you like to share some friendly advice?