Humans Are Strange Mammals

The Travel Paradox

My last view (from my bed) prior to leaving the States

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.

Going Forward

Life, Evolution, and My Blog

Photo by Robin Schreiner

April was a significant month for me, the 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?

My Blog

When I started this blog three years ago, I was addressing three important personal concerns:

  1. What will I do with all of my spare time now that I am no longer employed (my choice)?
  2. Does anyone care about what I think? It’s all about feeling relevant.
  3. 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.

Routine

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)
  • chores
  • blog writing
  • eating meals
  • reading
  • watching the news
  • catching up with friends
  • journaling
  • cleaning
  • 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.

Going Forward

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.

The importance of leaving room for spontaneity in your life is just as  important as having a schedule in your… | Spontaneous quotes, Cool words,  Inspirational words

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.

All Kinds of Friendship

Reblog from 2019 post with some new content (always learning) — [new content in brackets]

“The best mirror is an old friend.”

George Herbert

adult affection beads blur

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.]

A Sibling

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.”

Rebecca Hall

[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.

Politics

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.]

Reconnecting

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.]

[My friend Isa recently sent me this photo. It was the day I met her mother Arnet (pictured). We posed for this picture on the Brooklyn Bridge after a delightful walk and lunch. Isa said that she framed it because it was a special day for her; our friendships often introduce us to others who may become significant in our lives as well.]

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.”      

Ben Franklin 

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”     

Thomas Aquinas

I think this Stephen Schwartz song from Wicked sums up the power of friendship.

Travel

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?

You Thought You Might Be Crazy

I believe that at some point in every person’s life, they believe they might be going mad.


Which one are you?


For the purpose of this blog, I am not using the word “crazy” in the true meaning of mental illness; therefore, please do not be offended. You will see where I am going with this; political incorrectness unintentional, I promise.

Synonyms for my kind of crazy: wacky, off-beat, quirky, loopy, nutty, strange, mad, unhinged, eccentric, and passionate (favorite).

A friend of mine said this yesterday: “Poor people are crazy and wealthy people are eccentric.” I couldn’t get her to quantify wealth.

There are many advantages to getting older, but I think the number one positive is that you no longer care what most people think. To a certain extent you will probably always care, but I think that might apply more to the people in your life that you love and respect. The rest can just fuck off.

Therefore, when your mind wanders to dark places: Am I going mad? Did I just do something crazy? Are these insane thoughts? Do people think I’m crazy? Maybe I’m sane and everyone else is crazy (a sign that you’re not totally sane)? Everything seems distorted.

The Times I Think I Might Be Losing My Mind

  • When I see someone doing something that makes me angry and I think about how I might disfigure them.
  • When I’m waiting on line in a bank and I’m daydreaming about how I might get away with robbery.
  • When I think I might pack a bag and become a Monk in Tibet.
  • When I wonder about an alternative universe and the role I play in it.
  • When I imagine suddenly being wealthy and giving most of it away.
  • When I believe a certain person might be sincere.
  • When the words come faster than the keys can accommodate.
  • When I read my horoscope or give it any credibility.
  • When I rely solely on the mainstream media for news.
  • When Paco gives me a “you’re crazy” look.

You might have chuckled when you read some of these; I imagine because it may have resonated with you. Our brain is a complex organ, capable of so much more than we know. So when your thoughts are a bit extraordinary or when your mind goes rouge, it’s a pretty normal thing. It’s no wonder we keep our thoughts in check; acting on only the more reasonable stuff swirling around our brains. I like thinking that we’re all a little crazy.

Creativity

Most of us are at our most creative when we’re centimeters away from insanity. It’s the out-of-the-box thinking that makes our ideas interesting. There are times when I’m thinking about a new piece of furniture or rug for my apartment and I allow myself to consider colors or designs that do not as a rule, go together — crazy right? When I have done this kind of non-traditional thinking, I usually end up with something interesting and worthwhile. However, I have to almost force myself to draw outside the lines. Societal norms, customs, rules, and our neighbors — all keeping us in check. Fairly innocent stuff, we worry far too much about.

Let Go

If you think about how we define “normal” or sane, you have to admit it would be pretty boring to be just like everyone else and do exactly what is expected of you. Yesterday, instead of walking to the locker room at my gym, I danced the whole way there. I got quizzical looks, some laughs, and even people looking away — don’t want to notice that lunatic. I have to say it was a very minor digression from my normal behavior, but it was fun to see how people reacted. I’m sure several of the people I see every morning just passed it off as me being me and I’m okay with that.

My Point

Instead of working so hard to stay in your assigned box/space, why not just allow yourself the freedom to be who you are? Think freely, be a little crazy, and have some fun. Keep others around you guessing. Most of us cannot and will not veer too far from the straight and narrow, centuries of socialization wouldn’t allow it.

Travel

I think São Miguel Island might actually be happening on Wednesday. I’m getting the government-paid-for COVID test here in Faro on Monday and then I’m hopefully getting away for a week. The weather is supposed to be rainy and cool, but I’m actually okay with that. We get an abundance of sunshine in the Algarve; therefore, I’ve come to love rain and welcome it. It’s all about perspective. Anyway, it’s never good when we allow weather to determine our mood.

Resources:

Am I Crazy If I Think I’m Crazy? Quara

Am I Crazy? Mental Health America

This song from Company has been in my head for weeks, hence the blog topic

Question of the Week:

What were you thinking when you thought you might be losing your mind?

The Lessons We Learn

Or Choose to Ignore

Photo by Yogendra Singh

A break from someone will either help you realize

how much you truly miss/love them or

how much peace you have without them.

Saw this on Instagram this week

It’s been a year since the start of this pandemic. Hard to believe that much time has passed because to many of us, not much has changed. I say many of us because the majority of people in the world were not personally touched by tragedy. Many died, many got sick, we almost all experienced some sort of lockdown, but many among us were not personally touched by the pandemic . . . and yet.

We want to believe that it’s almost over; there is only so much disruption the average person can tolerate. In truth, COVID-19 will be with us for a long time, perhaps permanently. Over the last few months I have heard many intelligent, resourceful, optimistic people, talk about the upside of this pandemic. For many, the upside has been a discovery of who we are, what we can endure, and what we ultimately want out of our lives. A lot of this is me convincing myself that everything will be okay.

My education, training, and Ph.D. are in higher education, therefore, I am ill equipped to speculate on how this virus will impact our psychological well-being. As usual, I will write from my own experience and observations. What I propose is not science or gospel, it is one individual’s point of view. A point of view I am certain is shared by many and can be seen as a way of understanding why some of us do what we do or say what we say.

The Lessons I have Learned

One of the big life lessons for me is how much joy that I get from going to the gym five or six days a week. Aside from the use of machines to stay in somewhat decent shape, I do a great deal of socializing at the gym. I get there early, very early, and spend about an hour and 15 minutes catching up with gym friends and doing a semi-rigorous workout; convincing myself that because I do this, I can eat anything I want. This has been a steady practice for the last 40 years and until now, I have never missed more than a week at the gym in any given year; I even book hotels with gyms so that I can workout when on vacation. The lesson is, I need to be motivated by others in order to work harder, and two, the routine keeps me on track for the remainder of the day. No doubt I am much more productive after a workout.

I now know that going to bed at the same time everyday and waking up at the same time every morning, helps me to be and feel completely rested throughout the day. When I’m not in lockdown and I go to bed later, I still wake-up early, making me feel sluggish the entire day.

I have rediscovered the joy of cooking. I’m more creative in the kitchen than I have have ever been and I now have a large selection of recipes filed away in my head. The knowledge that things I might have been passionate about in the past can be revived, is the lesson for me. I have been doing a mental sweep of past activities or habits that have fallen to the wayside; several of the positive habits of my youth are worth revisiting (e.g., spending a good deal of time in nature, exploring music).

What I Have Heard From Others

  • Being home with my partner 24/7 forced me to communicate with him or her and truly get to know them. Well, you know which way that one might go.
  • I started out on my sofa in the morning, and ended up there at night.
  • I never realized how disconnected I was with my children. Time with them has been a rediscovery and gift.
  • I need structure in my life, otherwise I do nothing.
  • I never thought I had it in me to do ____________________.
  • I never realized how much I enjoy my own company.
  • I have finally learned to balance work and leisure time.
  • I didn’t have to do as much laundry while in lockdown.
  • We didn’t have much to say to one another after a while.
  • He got on my nerves.
  • I fell back in love with him.
  • I kept worrying that one of us were going to get the virus.
  • We never ran out of toilet paper.

Human beings are super resilient. Faced with adversity we find ways to make change, improvements, and get on with life. This pandemic has forced people to consider new careers and work in ways they never imagined they would or could. Sitting down and taking inventory of what lessons have presented themselves to us is important. Don’t just assume you will realize what you’ve been taught or what you have taken for granted. Pat yourself on the back for what you have accomplished and make that a habit, in time, you’ll rely on others less for motivation. Internal encouragement and cheerleading is healthy and will lead to success. It will also lead to your encouragement of others — something we do not do nearly enough. I think this is one of the reasons so many seek “likes” on social media.

The Lessons We Refuse to Learn

What has amazed me throughout this pandemic, is the number of people who refuse to a wear mask or who continue to gather in close spaces with large numbers of people. I’ve seen some of this in my own family and I find it baffling. When you consider the number of people who have lost their lives, the enormous amount of people who became seriously ill, and the impact closing the economy on the world has had on billions of people, many, refuse to believe the pandemic should be taken seriously. Refusing to comply with mandates is madness and a selfish act of defiance. Again, I rely on karma in place of revenge. Yes, I’m slightly pissed off.

Some of us have used this past year as an excuse to overindulge and become complacent; rationalizing the pandemic as a pass for sluggish behavior (who’s watching anyway). It’s not too late to get out of bed and start something new; something that might someday have you saying:

The pandemic was the start of me realizing my potential and fulfilling my dreams.

Travel

Cancelled Cuba which was scheduled for April 22. The government wanted to hole me up in my hotel room for a few days and bring me food. I’d be watching god knows what on TV waiting for COVID test results. Not going to happen. Rescheduled to February 2022. The good news (I think) is that I’m headed to São Miguel in the Azores instead. I’ve already book tours to the volcanos, falls and gin tasting. I’ll be writing about it for sure.

United Airlines wanted to re-book me from Lisbon to Newark on my seven hour flight, headed home in May. Their proposal: go through two countries in the wrong direction and get me to the States 29 hours later. I should note that this is without apology. Not going to happen. Booked Delta on a direct flight and crossing my fingers.

Toulouse, France in June: flight cancelled for the fourth time. This time I put it off until April 2022 (just around the corner).

I have tickets on EasyJet for Lyon, France in June; I’m waiting for that cancellation. They have already changed one of the legs of my journey. See a pattern here?

Bristol, UK in July. I’m thinking this will happen, it’s been postponed three times.

No sign of a vaccine for me here in Portugal, they’re very slow in getting this done. I’ll be getting lots of COVID-19 tests done for travel. It does feel a bit like things are changing for the good. There’s that optimist.

I’ve Been a Bad Boy

This week I started a big fight on Facebook around the issue of dog poop in Portugal. I have to say it was fun to watch it play out. People get really passionate around any attack on culture. I had to unfriend a couple of crazies. Root canal this week as well; a tooth infection could take you down a dark path. My dentist insisted it was a receding gum issue — doctors could do a better job listening to their patients.

Resources:

COVID: The Lessons I Learned From Lockdowns in 2020, BBC News, January 5, 2021

Five Lessons We Have Learned From Lockdown, Pro Group, Tom Eagle

Question of the Week:

Name something you learned about yourself during this pandemic?

Fighting Your Own Impulses

Or Imposing Self-harm

Max Vakhtbovych

This is a difficult topic for me. I am strong and for the most part able to resist many of my impulses, but I have been fighting urges to act on the negative ones all of my life. Some impulses are positive and should not be ignored. For example when you see hunger and pain outside of your own community and you have an impulse to help, you should act on it. Warning: I may be a bit preachy in this blog.

Impulse defined: a sudden strong and unreflective urge or desire to act (Google)

The Impact of Impulse Decisions on our Lives

The world is made up of a vast array of different personality types; some strong with good intentions and others, out-of-control and divisive. We have various tools at our disposal that help us to control aspects of our personalities that might cause harm or pain. For the purpose of this blog, I’d like to discuss impulses that have an impact on our own future, not necessarily the future of others. Obviously, our decisions affect and impact those around us as well; however, it is the more personal variety I am exploring today.

Decisions About Where to Live

Acting on impulses regarding where you live can have long lasting effects. How many times have you heard a friend say, “I could live here,” better still, how many times have you thought it or said it yourself?

Where you end up residing is by far one of the most important decisions of your life. Granted, wherever you decide to live, it is possible to leave; however, the amount of details that one has to attend to in order to relocate, are cumbersome to say the least. So much of your happiness depends on your external environment. This is one impulse that should definitely be checked and kept in control. Do your homework, visit and spend some time there, ask people who live there, write a pros and cons list, work-up a budget, and have a plan.

Don’t overthink it.

Health Decisions

Our impulses often take us to dark places that are difficult or impossible to resist. For example, no one likes pain: psychological pain, physical pain, and or emotional pain. Our instinct tells us that we should do everything we can to make it go away. Unfortunately, many of today’s remedies are harmful to us and may have long lasting effects. So when you turn to the bottle for relief and escape, your mind tells you that it’s a temporary escape; you only need one cocktail and you won’t need it again tomorrow. I know too many alcoholics who went down that slippery slope with little or no awareness that it was happening, while it was happening. So many people die due to alcohol abuse and the casualties of abuse, every day, yet it’s hardly ever a part of the public conversation. You know why that is and it’s time to face the horrible truth. We mandate the wearing of masks, ban smoking indoors, and we keep transgender people out of certain bathrooms, but we allow excess drinking almost everywhere. No one has the right to put others in danger.

Relationships

Regrets are usually a waste of time, but I have one regret which will haunt me my entire life: my marriage. My ex-wife was perfect in every way: beautiful, smart, trustworthy, loving, and devoted. We were never compatible because she was straight and I was closeted. How could she have known when I hid it so well? But my impulse was to snatch her up because she could provide the life I “thought” I wanted and should have. I could be a husband, a father, and we could live happily ever after. In what universe? When will people stop judging one another and start opening up to the many faces of love.

If you’re one of those people saying, “But isn’t it much better than it used to be?” shame on you.

I take full responsibility for the farce of my marriage, but I also blame the world around me that taught me to discard any other possibility. I have apologized to the woman I married many times; still, the pain I caused her will never be fully forgotten. I appreciate her love and forgiveness, because that and my integrity, are all I have.

Giving Birth to Children

I know that human beings, like all animals, are naturally meant to procreate and I’m certainly not advocating that we stop bringing children into the world.

However . . . I firmly believe that some make the decision to have children without thinking it through. Most of what I feel comes from my own experience of having a mother who had seven children in a very short period of time. She had little or no concern about how she would care for and feed her babies. My father probably had even less concern, sadly, I never got to ask.

I have a couple of female friends who consciously decided not to mother children. They gave it a great deal of thought and came to this very sound conclusion. Both have told me that they have been getting grief for their decision for years; some people think there is something wrong with them for not wanting children. I think our grief is misplaced, we should be focusing on those who decide to give birth and then either abuse their children and/or put the burden on others to care for them. Obviously there are exceptions, I don’t feel the need to explain what those are.

The Impulses I Fight Daily and How I Control them

I’m happy to share the impulses I have that I believe could be problematic in my own life. I view these urges as a weakness; controlling my destructive behavior has always been challenging. I know that I am harder on myself than I need to be, but the alternative is not an option. My intention is to let you know you’re not alone; fighting one’s demons is an uphill battle. Yes, the things I share are extremely personal; however, I hid my true self for over 20 years and that didn’t do anyone any good. Counseling has helped me over the years; however, I suspect my story includes a fight to the end. Giving you a glimpse of my journey helps me to try harder and heal from past mistakes.

Alcohol Abuse: I often mention alcohol in my blogs, therefore, I thought I should address it. I have been fortunate when it comes to alcohol. As I have said before, I occasionally enjoy a late afternoon cocktail and a glass or two of wine with my evening meal. If it’s a special occasion, I might have a second cocktail, but this is very rare. I have never had a problem with alcohol abuse, however, there are several reasons I limit my alcohol intake:

  • I like being in total control — my somewhat compulsive personality dictates my behavior
  • I prefer not to pay the high price of alcohol in a bar or restaurant.
  • There are times when I am out and driving (certainly not of late); alcohol and driving cannot happen
  • I drink slowly and enjoy my cocktail or wine.
  • I do not drink to become inebriated and can honestly say I never have (except at that one Bar Mitzvah when I was 12 years old).

I mention alcoholism now and again because I have several individuals in my life who are alcoholics. I do would not and do not judge those who have a difficult time controlling their alcohol intake; I am aware that addiction is a disease . It is painful to watch someone you care about spin out of control due to substance abuse. I have seen a tremendous amount of success with Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics/Marijuana Anonymous. To be honest, quick rehabilitation programs seem to be less effective. It is my understanding that alcoholism is linked to genetics. I’m not a professional abuse counselor and my opinion is just that. Please challenge me if you believe I have a problem with alcohol abuse.

Gambling: this vice is an entirely different story. There is no doubt in my mind that if I did not control my impulse to gamble, it would become a problem. Both of my parents loved and abused gambling. My mother incurred a massive amount of debt due to her habit; I believe my father was able to keep his impulse under control, but I have no doubt that he lost a great deal of money in his life; horse racing was his vice.

The most I have ever lost at one time, was about $1800 on a cruise ship. It was my birthday and stupid me was thinking: you have to win, it’s your birthday. Any smart person will tell you that you cannot gamble expecting to win. In this case I visited the ATM machine on the ship three times in one night. I told myself that I could go to the machine once and that would be my limit. Ha, that never works. Because I was so angry for losing that much money, I convinced myself that it could not and would not happen again. This is how I control my gambling:

  • I limit myself to three casino visits per year (I usually come closer to five or six visits).
  • My bank has a daily withdrawal limit on my ATM card.
  • I put a certain amount of cash in my pocket and I leave my credit cards and ATM card at home (harder to do on a ship, but even leaving the cards in my cabin, is a deterrent.
  • I do not live near a casino and that was always a conscious choice.
  • If the impulse is strong, I will often treat myself to a nice dinner instead.

Gamblers are judged harshly in our society, therefore, it is seldom discussed with friends or family. Instead, it is divisive and draped in shame. Even writing about my own battle with it is shame filled and upsetting.

Overeating or Impulse Eating: this too has been a lifelong battle for me. I love food; not just sweets, I enjoy savory food with as much fervor. I’ve written several blogs about my struggles with eating; to be frank, I have for the most part conquered this addiction. Portion control, meditation, and vanity, have prevented obesity. At this point in my life comfort is essential. If I eat too much, I am uncomfortable and in the end, it’s not worth the limited pleasure I might have gotten from two more ribs or that second piece of cake.

All of these impulses, although personal, affect the wellbeing of others in your life. Acknowledging you might have a problem, monitoring your behavior and seeking help, are all essential for success in overcoming these difficulties. As I write about my own struggles, there are a few realities that come to mind: the impulses I speak of effect many of us; more than society cares to admit, we cope with most of these difficulties on our own because of the stigma attached to them, and lastly, to be flawed and challenged is to be human. Never give up the fight; giving in or giving up, is the worst thing you can do. If you need help, ask for it.

I realize that I did not cover every impulse we struggle with in our lives. Admittedly, the stress most of us are under during this pandemic, only make resisting negative impulses more challenging.

I'm really not good with impulse control Picture Quote #1

Resources:

When Loss of Self-Control is Really an Impulse Control Disorder, Family First Intervention, March, 6, 2019

Is Impulsive Behavior a Disorder? Healthline, May 12, 2020

Alcohol Abuse, Harvard Health Publishing, December 2014

If you don’t mind sorting through some bullshit and aggrandizing, there is some great stuff on Goop (sample below):

Question of the Week:

Have you acted on an impulse that ended up being a disaster? How did you fix it or are you still trying?

Who Are You?

How well do you know the people you love?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

After a great deal of resistance and skepticism, I have fallen in love with podcasts. It happened shortly after our second lockdown in Portugal. It was hard and fast and I’m better for having embraced it. Although I love music and have been listening to music while working out for years, I found my long, rigorous walks with music, tedious. I noticed a podcast option on Spotify one day and thought I’d give it a try. It’s been a truly transformative experience. I now look forward to my long walks, choosing which podcast I will listen to before I leave my apartment. Stay with me, I’m getting to the point.

One of my favorites is Modern Love, a New York Times podcast. Modern Love is a column that started in the NY Times in 2004; I didn’t know till now that it was also a podcast. They’re usually about 15 minutes long and nearly always engaging. Essays about love, loss and redemption, are read by mostly famous people. These readers choose an essay because it resonates with them in some way or another. I’m listening to one of these podcasts, and it’s a reaction to a study done where you can meet a potential romantic partner, ask them a set of 36 questions, and then by the end, know whether or not you are compatible.

I can’t see myself participating in such an experiment; however, the concept of truly getting to know a person based on their answers, peaked my interest. Lockdown can be a massive downer if you allow it to get to you. Day after day of the same routine, not knowing the day of the week, wondering when it will come to an end. It has forced some of us to be creative with our time and perhaps even use the time to improve our lives.

As a single man, living alone, I find that if I’m not careful, days can go by without human interaction. If you’re an introvert like me, that could be considered nirvana; but I’m not sure how healthy it is. A friend of mine in Brooklyn, and dare I say, my soulmate, has a similar attitude about solitude. Gina and I have talked about why we enjoy living alone and how we are seldom lonely, many times. But this Modern Love podcast on “36 Questions” had me thinking about how well I know Gina. We’ve been friends for over twenty years; good friends for over 15 years. She is beautiful, funny, independent, probably the best mother I know, resilient, an amazing cook, and she loves me, but how well do I really know her?

We speak via Facetime almost everyday and when I visit New York City, I almost always stay with her. As friends often do, we share problems with one another, hoping for sympathy, empathy, and sometimes just an ear. But there is this 35 year period before we became friends that I know little about. There are also the things we may not share for fear of embarrassment or just consideration; not wanting to bore the other person or drag them into our neuroses. As I considered my friendship with Gina and what I knew or didn’t know, it occured to me that this might be a good time to take our friendship to a deeper level.

May be an image of 2 people, including Christopher Papagni and people smiling

The idea of asking Gina questions about herself seemed like a great way to start. A few weeks ago I sat on my terrace with a pen and paper and a smart cocktail (a term another friend uses for cocktails that are complex and have deeper meaning). I deliberately did not look at the 36 questions from the study; wanting to customize my questions to suit my intention. Armed with three poignant questions I was excited to pose to Gina, I gave her a call.

There are two things I have to tell you about Gina: First, unlike me, she always cares about how she looks, lockdown or not. She has a knack for casual fashion and she knows how to flawlessly accessorize. Second, she is almost always thrilled to see my face on her screen. So she answers the phone wearing a beautiful Channel scarf in her kitchen. She sits in a stool next to her kitchen island, straightens her back, and usually says, “Hello Babe, whatcha doin?” Who wouldn’t want to be greeted that way? Her long, dirty blond hair is usually tucked behind her ears and recently washed. We sometimes have an agenda, having texted one another with reminders to mention some documentary or another. However, still, this is mostly small talk; making conversation.

Gina, I wrote down three questions that would help me get to know you better, are you game?

“Sure babe, fire away.”

There have been a couple of occasions over the years when Gina said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Trust me, when this happens I am smart enough to keep my mouth shut. Gina is from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, you don’t mess with Gina. It’s one of the many things I love about her.

Gina was delighted to answer my three questions. After about 20 minutes of revealing conversation, I felt closer to her that day. What I found even more gratifying, was Gina’s delight in my interest in her thoughts. She thanked me several times and she said she’d like to ask me several questions as well, but that she’d like some time to prepare, another thing I love about her.

I’m certain you’re asking yourself why I don’t just marry her? Life is complicated isn’t it? The point I’m making is that getting to know someone on a deeper level is worth the effort for many reasons:

  • We all want to be appreciated
  • Being truly listened to and heard is a rare gift
  • Knowing someone better helps us to understand where they are coming from and where they are going
  • At times we spare one another the pain we are going through; this is a great way to give voice to the things that may be troubling us
  • A beautiful way to pass the time
  • It can be wonderfully disarming
  • There is a chance the effort will be reciprocated, as it was with Gina
COMO DESENHAR O SÍMBOLO YIN YANG SUPER FÁCIL - YouTube

Every yin has a yang, and my relationship with Gina is no different. There are days when I don’t want to talk to anyone and being that we are both introverts, she’s okay with that. There are days when Gina goes right into, “One quick thing before ‘we’ hang-up,” a hint she might be done, and then of course there is the occasional more than one call in a day, but I know that’s all normal stuff, we’re only human after all.

Some fun questions that might help you get started

Resources and References

36 Questions That Lead to Love, Modern Love, The New York Times, Daniel Jones, Jan. 9, 2015.

200 (Not Boring) Questions To Ask To Get To Know Someone Better, Women’s Health,

BY JASMINE GOMEZ AND LINDSAY GELLER, JUL 29, 2020

Question of the Week:

How do you prevent your empathy for the pain and suffering of others, from weighing you down?

Smile Blog Revisited

Coping With Lockdown

The Western Algarve Coast

This blog is more for me than for you. I recently learned that the Portuguese government will extend lockdown until early April. On top of that, my vaccine is months away and the two jabs could get in the way of travel. It’s been a difficult year, however, I have come to realize that there are several things that I now do and can do, to make lockdown more tolerable. I made a list which I believe is best left in my journal.

When you put it all down on paper, it’s a full life. Last year I read interviews that were done with elderly people close to the end of their lives: when asked, “Is there anything you would have done differently?”, they overwhelmingly responded that they would have worked less and spent more time doing the things they enjoyed. For the most part, I’m doing the things I enjoy, in and out of lockdown. Excellent life lesson, especially for someone who believes that we get one shot at making it count.

I should add that I am acutely aware of those all over the world who are far less fortunate; gratitude helps keep things in perspective. I must admit this all seems a bit trite considering the current condition of humanity.

Spring has arrived here in the Algarve; it’s warmer, greener, and hope is in the air. That makes me smile.

“ALWAYS WEAR A SMILE BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHO IS WATCHING.”

Gracie Gold

I want to smile more. I do. One would think that this would be an easy goal, but trust me, if you’re not inclined to smile, deciding to do so, just like that, is a difficult objective. I was born cynical, but coming up in my world, how could I not be. I also believe this is one of those nature/nurture arguments. Was I cynical because of my genetic makeup or did growing up in a tortured household make me cynical. For the purpose of this piece, let’s call it a draw and say that both factors are the cause. The point is, I have to work at smiling and how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

“Love yourself for who you are, and trust me, if you are happy from within, you are the most beautiful person, and your smile is your best asset.”

Ileana D’Cruz

Some Ways/Places to Practice Smiling

  • Tell yourself to smile every morning. You can do it when you’re brushing your teeth. It won’t take any more time out of your busy day. Soon it will be as routine as brushing; you won’t even think about it.
  • Add a little caveat to practicing your smile:  make it so that you cannot smile unless you add something you’re grateful for. For example:  this morning, before I brushed my teeth, I thought about how grateful I was that I slept well and then I smiled.
  • Practice while you’re doing something mundane — like when you’re on the treadmill at the gym or while you’re riding in a bus or on the subway.
  •  Look straight into a mirror and keep smiling.
  • Practice with a friend or family member. Let them tell you what they think of your smile and accept the feedback. Is it genuine? Too broad? Too big?

Be Your Own Motivator

I have a friend whom I met at a gym in Portland, Maine. He was struggling on an abdominal machine near where I was working out. He saw me watching him and asked me if I knew how to use the machine. I hopped on and did a few reps (gym lingo for repetitions just to show you how cool I can be). Chomba is from Zambia, he studied in Europe, he’s in his 20s and he’s quite a specimen; naturally I was pleased to show him how to use the machine correctly. Like any normal man, I preened and walked away triumphant. A few days later I saw him using the same machine and he was smiling ear-to-ear. Honestly, Chomba has the most genuine and beautiful smile I have ever seen. I noticed him using the very same machine on a regular basis. I finally approached him and asked him if he used any other equipment at the gym. He shared a big laugh and thanked me for showing him how to use the machine. I said, “Chomba, because I always see you on this ab machine, I am naming it the Chomba Machine.” From then on I when I would see him I would ask if he had done his ab reps on the Chomba machine that day.

Weeks went by of just saying hello in the gym and I thought it was time to become friends outside of Planet Fitness. I approached him and invited him over to my place for dinner. I was having a dinner party and I thought he’d be a great addition to my guest list. Chomba was delighted and came to my place with a nice bottle of wine. Everyone at party fell in love with him. He’s the kind of person who lights up the room and makes everyone feel special. That night I learned that he was a motivator working out of Boston. His firm was hired by companies to motivate their staff (Chomba if I’m getting this all wrong I apologize). What I loved more than anything is that he did not boast about his work or his life. We had to poke and pry before he came clean. Chomba is a modest fella. By the way, Chomba models now (lives in Portland, OR — fairly new) and always stays in touch. I’m grateful for his candor, his loyalty and his beautiful smile.

What Chomba has taught me is invaluable. Essentially, you can be your own motivator. You can do what he does, but in your own head. You can get yourself charged-up and energized whenever you feel yourself needing a little boost.

Experiment

Having been a sociology student in college, I often love to go back to my roots and do human interaction (behavior) experiments. I occasionally spend the day smiling all day just to see how people respond to it. I also enjoy seeing if it affects my mood.

I have to say that I get pretty amazing results:

  • People almost always smile back.
  • It sometimes feels like you’re waking someone up and suddenly they seem to come alive.
  • It makes me feel lighter.
  • The results make me want to do it more often.
  • Sometimes it makes strangers laugh; especially when I smile really big. I’m thinking, they must think I’m crazy, but who cares.
  • There is a reason for the saying “A smile goes a long way.”
  • I am in the middle of a very frustrating experience with an upgrade to my apartment. The person responsible for getting the work done has been slacking off and it’s sort of driving me crazy. The project began 14 months ago. I decided to give him an ultimatum knowing that he might walk away from the job. Instead, when I saw him I smiled. It appears that is not what he expected and I believe he may be close to finishing the job. Yesterday, I received a call from a man who will hopefully complete the job this week.

Current Mood

One of the interesting things about blogging is how your mood and thoughts change as you work through a particular thread of thoughts. I woke today in a non-smiling mood. You may relate to what I’m feeling, except that I don’t quite know what I am feeling. What I do know, is that I don’t feel like smiling. I had an interaction yesterday that was troubling and it’s still on my mind. I’m pissed to put it bluntly.

I am going to work through these feelings and thoughts by forcing a smile and see where it takes me.

The next day:  the left home for a bed & breakfast about 90 minutes away. Sometimes it helps to be away from your familiar environment. I found myself smiling just as soon as I boarded the train.

Smiling is one of those things you can do to brighten your day and/or someone else’s day, and it cost nothing! Nada! Zip! Zero cents! In fact, studies have shown that it’s good for you too.

Image result for is smiling good for your health
Why Smile?

http://www.waynedentalarts.com The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness. … The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well (4). This not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.Jun 25, 2012

There’s Magic in Your Smile | Psychology Today

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge…/there-s-magic-in-your-smile

There’s Magic in Your Smile

Surprising Health Benefits of Smiling

Two things that help me smile: Giving when I can and volunteering my time. Never underestimate the power of compassion and charity.

Question of the week:

What makes you smile?

Admitting Your Own Mistakes

Image result for mistakes quotes

This is a tough one :p

This will be a short blog. Not because I haven’t made mistakes, in fact, I’ve made many mistakes. The reason this blog will be brief, is that I am working on being more positive. Weeks and weeks of lockdown can send you down a dark rabbit hole and I’m choosing an upward path.

Objectivity is way more challenging than most of us care to admit. For me, everything is always personal. The former president signs an executive order to ban immigrants from several Middle East countries and I take it personally. It’s not terribly healthy, but I recognize the mantra, “It’s not about me,” is worth repeating often . . . very often.

Big Mistakes Versus Tiny Ones

I often say regrets are a waste of time; therefore, rehashing bad decisions would be futile; except in at least one circumstance: if you can learn from your mistake.

For example, and I’ll avoid a personal recounting for a change, you purchase oysters and put them in the refrigerator. You plan on opening the oysters that evening, but something comes up and you tell yourself you’ll shuck them the next day. Life happens and the next day comes and goes. On the third day you remember the oysters sitting in the refrigerator. You think about the $26 you spent on them and you wonder how long they sat in the fish market stall before you bought them. You ponder their freshness for another 30 seconds and then you say, “Oh, heck, I’m sure they’re fine, I’m going to have Harry shuck them.” That night you and Harry end up with food poisoning that almost sends you to hospital. I think it’s safe to say that you will never make that mistake again. And who the hell is Harry?

Big Mistakes

For me, the biggest mistake one could make would involve badly hurting another person. There are so many examples of this: having an affair, killing someone (accidentally or on purpose), pinning a crime on an innocent person, driving drunk and paralyzing someone for life, and more.

Hard to fix a big mistake, in fact, in many cases impossible. You end up having to live with the mistake and live with yourself. So why do we make big mistakes? No easy answer here; however, there is something we can do to preempt big mistakes:

  • NEVER drink and drive
  • When you get so angry you want to use your physical power against someone, walk away
  • Play the worst case scenario game and if the outcome is dire, don’t go with that plan, choose another
  • Ask friends for their advice
  • Write a pros and cons list (my favorite past time)
  • Use protection prior to sex with someone you don’t know very well

Small Mistakes

Small mistakes are quite different. We make small mistakes nearly everyday. Beating yourself or someone else up over a small mistake, is a waste of good energy (as are regrets). Instead, why not apologize to someone or use it as a teachable moment. No major damage was done and a lesson might be learned. Repeating bad behavior is inexcusable.

45 Forgive Yourself Quotes | Self Forgiveness Quotes images – FunZumo
Sure, easy for you to say

A mistake I made this week: I walked into the dog park in my neighborhood with Paco. Please keep in mind that I have been going there with him for seven months and there has never been an issue. I asked the two people in the park if it’s okay to take Paco off-leash. We were all three wearing a mask and the two individuals were fairly far away from the entrance. I believed I had been given the go ahead. Unbeknown to me, one of the two women, is tried to tell me that she didn’t believe our dogs would get along. I didn’t comprehend this until Paco charged her dog and attacked him. The owner screamed and lifted her dog off the ground with his leash. Paco grabbed his tail and he was literally swinging off the dog’s tail. I pried Paco off and tried to grab him, but he was angry and rabid. I held the woman’s dog high in the air so that Paco could not harm him and she managed to put Paco on his leash. I learned that this poor woman has heart problems.

I anguished over this mishap for several days. I have since learned that you cannot not expect a neutered male (Paco) to play with or interact with a non-neutered male (her dog). Lesson learned and I hope it never happens again; it was extremely scary and could have ended in the spilling of blood or even the death of her beloved pet.

Side note: There was an unneutered male dog at the park yesterday and his owner assured me that there would not be a problem. She was right, Paco played beautifully and happily with this dog. She told me that it is not the neuter factor, but a scent that dogs give off. It is this uncertainty that concerns me. Is there a clear cause and effect answer?

Recommend an excellent podcast, Obama and The Boss

Question of the Week:

I’m getting some great feedback on and off-line and I want to let you know how much I appreciate it.

Have you done something in the past that haunts you? Is it time to let it go?

The End. Period.

Photo by Markus Spiske

Is there someone else? When did it start? I should have known you’d cheat, you bastard; who is he? How did I not see it. I didn’t want to see it, I was blindsided . . . or so I thought. The truth is, there were weeks and weeks of deafening exchanges, changes in patterns, and forced smiles. Back then I thought I was the cat’s pajamas, the guy who could pick and choose. Why would anyone walk away from a guy who can cook?

In total, we broke-up nine torturous times. Each time I swore to the gods that I would never go back. How many times can you smash your head against the wall before you realize it may cause permanent damage?

When you force a conversation, please talk to me, tell me what you’re feeling, tell me what’s wrong, and this is what he tells you:

“I don’t know.”

You don’t know? I ask.

“I don’t know.”

Time to walk away, except for some reason you will never fully understand, you stay. You stay and allow yourself a daily dose of torture; sometimes two or three doses. That’s called low self-esteem and it’s time to build it back up, but not there, not with him. It took a good deal of heartache and losing a couple of friends, before I had finally had enough. I was fortunate that the tipping point arrived before I’d hit rock bottom. I know too many people who stay and regret it years later. Sound familiar?

Side note: When someone says, “I don’t know why I treat you so badly,” it’s because they are afraid of saying the one thing that might make you say, “Fuck you, get out and don’t come back.” As hard as we might try, we cannot change people.

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What’s Your Story

Many of us have ended relationships. For some, it’s as easy as snapping your fingers; for others, it feels more like passing a kidney stone. For me, I’d have to say it depends on who it is and the circumstances.

We never really know what another person is thinking or feeling. They can tell us or we can guess; however, the truth can be elusive or distorted. Here’s what I mean:

You’re dating an individual who may have very few faults or imperfections. If you’re like me, the tiniest issues reveal themselves very early on. You find yourself tormented by the idea of ending the relationship because you might not see it going anywhere. Sabotage is alive and well in my world. Communication is essential, without it, you have a wobbly foundation. With a solid foundation, you can address nearly any issue. Still, some problems are insurmountable and if your eyes are wide open, you’ll see it.

The Kinds of Endings You Might Contemplate:

Love Relationships — I am the last person to comment on ending love relationships. There are only two things that I know for certain: 1) Sex after a break-up will not make you feel better or help you get over him, and 2) Until you decide it’s over, it will not truly be over. If your gut tells you it’s not working, listen to your gut.

Friendships — Ending a friendship, long or short, is not easy. However, not unlike a love relationship, once a friendship becomes toxic or unpleasant, it’s time to consider cutting your losses. In the end, it’s about what you think of yourself. If you value your self-worth and quality of life, walking away from a friendship — as difficult as it might be — may be the best thing you can do. I think this rule applies to any friendship, long or short.

Many of us view the end of a friendship as failure; for some of us, failure is not an option. So we remain and allow it to slowly rot bits and pieces of our core. I had a 25 year friendship that ended about 10 years ago. I contacted this former friend on her birthday a few years back and she was very angry; she hadn’t let go of the bitterness that tore us apart. I realized that nothing and changed. In some ways that revelation can be a good thing, it helps gives you closure and affirmation. We reach out to one another on our birthdays now, that’s about all the contact either of us can tolerate. Not going to lie, every once in a while I find myself missing this person, but then I recall why it went south and I am relieved that I called it quits when I did. At the end of the day, your integrity is all that matters; and your sanity, that matters as well.

There are those who believe that when you end something it’s best not to revisit it. I’ve had situations when I can’t recall why it ended in the first place and some people do evolve, don’t they?

Business Partnerships — I have a friend that hated his business partner. It got so bad he’d drink himself to sleep at night. If have to ask yourself if it’s worth the pain and suffering, your answer is right there in front of you. Talk to anyone who ended a business relationship that was poisonous; nine out of ten times they’ll tell you they bounced back and came back stronger. When you take care of yourself, you not only fix the problem at hand, but you also end up mending a lot of other broken parts happening simultaneously. Your courage and strength carries over to all other aspects of your life.

Family — This is kind of break-up has hit close to home recently and it is still somewhat raw. If I write about it, I’ll get a bit of backlash and it’s not worth it. I will say that as difficult as it might be to walk away, there are situations that are so distressing, remaining in touch can do physical and emotional harm. In the end, your choice should be to protect yourself. Exhaust every avenue to fix what is broken before you say goodbye. The harder you know you have tried, the less you will regret your decision.

If you don’t end up sad and hurt by the loss, you are either uncaring or way too guarded. Having an open and loving heart has its pitfalls, but I’d rather be sad and hurt than live through life feeling nothing. Or even worse, being angry all the time.

Employment — This break-up variety is every bit as onerous as any other. You add money and fear of failure to this equation and you have quite a lot to consider. One of the things I did that I found helpful, was to make a list of the pros and cons. I also played the worst case scenario game, which I always find helpful. When you’re going through the hardship, you’re thinking I will never survive if this ended. In truth, we always survive. On the other side of abuse and unappreciative supervisors/owners is something better. Remember there is only one direction you can go when things get that bad. If you’re dreading going to the office or meeting with your boss, that’s a pretty clear sign that it’s time to move on. When my doctor prescribed Xanax so that I could sit in the same room with my ex-boss, I knew it was time to go. Don’t let it get to that point.

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One of my favorite ending a relationship quotes:

“I thought I was strong, holding on to you, but I was stronger when I was letting you go.”

Cuba postponed to April 22. I will hopefully get to finally go. Back to the States to see friends and family in May (we’ll see). I’m accustomed to the uncertainty.

I’m still in lockdown here in Portugal. The police are out checking for face masks, ID, and for those who might be illegally leaving their municipality. I’m not sure how much more surreal this whole experience could be. It seems like there may be a light at the end of this tunnel — stay strong and healthy.

Question of the Week:

Do you have a successful break-up story to share or advice you might like to convey?