Tag Archives: Adolescence Interrupted

Green with Nothing

“The grass is greener where you water it.” —Neil Barringham

Envy, jealousy, and the need for other people’s affirmation are the three human attributes I’m most grateful to be missing.

Fundamental to the core neuro/emotional wiring in the majority of the species, these “craving catalysts” can be both potent motivators and crippling knocks to the knees. Like Wilson peeking over Tim Taylor’s fence, far too much of our focus is directed on what the neighbor is doing, saying, and collecting.

For whatever reason, I simply lack that circuitry. Eschewing any desire to walk in someone else’s shoes, I celebrate my circle’s accomplishments and milestones from afar. Watching from the sidelines, I generally track trajectories with a well-balanced mix of support and detachment. I am genuinely happy, proud, and encouraging of their roads and the courses they’ve chosen to chart, but I have no deep-seated desire to join the jog.

If driving toward some lofty goal attainment is only possible by comparing yourself, your talent, or your abilities to someone you hold in higher status, respect, etc., keep chasing the rabbit. If that’s the only protein powder you can use to shake yourself into a state of motivation, so be it.

But turning that light inward might scare away some of those jealous shadows and reshape your target practice. There’s always more work to be done when we’re brave enough to take that introspective dive into the darkness.

We certainly have a lot of Wilsons in this world right now, checking on the neighbor’s grass growth instead of splashing their own yards with a hose from time to time.

Plant your own seeds. Grow your own trees. The other forests will still be standing there, waiting to be explored when you’re ready.

Adolescence Interrupted

A Chapter Closes

Two weeks ago, I lost my last biological grandparent. Defying all rational convention about some hardwired human acceptance of the inevitability of life’s ultimate conclusion, I found myself at odds with the abrupt presentation of this unmistakable new reality.

On a loop or in a wheel, we are only granted so many spins. It should be no surprise that someone who has lived a long, full existence will eventually read the words on that final page. But reaching the coda does not always arrive free of regrets. There are some who scrape and scratch and claw in the desperate hope for one more second to say what’s been hiding, dormant, during each previous solar lap. With the chronometric click of a stopwatch marking that last finish line cross, there are many who will suffer under the weight of internalized regret.

Any finale free of an encore is a bitter pill to swallow and a harsh concept to stomach, regardless of the strength of your constitution.

But there are a rare few who can float above that burden to find the gift of a truly peaceful passing. Leaving this terrestrial plane with the satisfaction felt from completing a comprehensively explored journey is not simply uncommon. It’s downright remarkable.

The only matriarch I had the opportunity to know, my paternal grandmother was a queen in her castle, surrounded by a ceaselessly devoted and doting “royal household.” She was a ringmaster and supervisor, discreetly directing the proceedings with a simple glance or folding of the hands. A subtle conductor, she left little doubt about what she thought or felt. But everything was wrapped in a warm, inviting embrace behind kind, wise eyes that seemed to see the soul.

The finality that follows death is not something I have ever been able to fully process, and there is always this nagging notion that something was waiting…undone, unsaid, or unanswered. But I can take some comfort in the fact that this one human being lived her life to its greatest potential and left nothing sitting on lists. No buckets. No wishes.

Still, there is a tangible vacuum created when a wheel is suddenly absent from its hub, and every earthquake sends out shocks from its center.

We are all still rattling.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Beauty of a Broken Record Is the Skipping

Noons and nights. Suns and shadows. Rise and rest.

Well before the mind-numbing repetition of the pandemic clock dictated our daily existence, we slid from week to week, slaves to the schedule. We were wind-up toys wobbling in the waves of whatever felt like an accepted societal standard of a “good day’s work,” and we celebrated our victories by planting flags in some piece of future soil to mark a personal milestone or forever honor an arbitrary date of achievement. With fingers crossed and blinders fastened, we strove toward a fantastical finish line in some desperate hope for the fleeting opportunity to take a knee and finally catch our collective breath.

The needle dropped…and the record spun.

Resetting back to one, we built a fresh blueprint to pursue an even more impressive objective. A greater goal worthy of our newly acquired skill set…and all those gains gleaned from the grind.

But there is always a higher peak to summit. A wider chasm to traverse. Hotter coals to cross.

So, when we are presented with an opportunity to shatter the monotonous glass—even if we can only muster a few cracks in the corners—it’s important to let those shards fall. There is a deep release felt from the freedom of cutting reins and remembering how to run on our own two feet.

A lifted needle dragging along bumpy vinyl on a tilted table is specifically built to help us remember what sits in the cracks between the tracks.

Leave the broom in the closet. Watch the translucent time pirates sit helplessly in heaps on the floor.

Let the song skip.

Adolescence Interrupted

Ditch the Greed, Find the Good

In a world drowning in overindulgence, degeneracy, and nefariously naked malevolence,  there is one virus more deadly and culpable than any other.

Greed.

The cracks at the base of every broken heart. The desperation of drug addiction as a means of escape. The tear-stained cheeks of a starving child.  The innocent hands reaching out for compassion and finding a wall of abject antipathy. The baffling realization that a chasm constructed by an imaginary system of wealth and power to oppress, ridicule, demean, and belittle is as fragile as the egos that designed it.

This is the way we choose to occupy the literal blink of an eye opportunity we have to breathe oxygen on this planet.

Seems like the collective cost of effort, time, and resources could be better spent improving the quality of our human experience as opposed to a wild-eyed maniacal race to obtain and maintain the most toys.

Some are drowning in money, most are drowning in debt.

None of this is real. It is a giant constructed illusion to award power and influence to those at the summit. We worship the shiny silver success of excess and spend our days plotting our own path to the promised land. But most of those intrepid mountaineers stepped on the broken backs of the masses to make the ascension. 

Unable to handle the level of pain and suffering constantly endured by the innocent, the overwhelming impetus to take action is paralyzing. So I am left stopped and stalled and defeated. Frozen by the panic, size, and scope of the challenges sitting on the docket, passivity takes the place of initiative, and further down the spiral I slide. 

But a reckoning is waiting in the wings and the majority will no longer silently stand idly by, merely satisfied with the fallen scraps dropped from fortunate tables.

Adolescence Interrupted

Get the Motor Running

There are few things in life more propulsive than a powerful internal engine. Those who possess an inherent ability to run in the red at all times can manage infinite checklists, juggle limitless balls of obligation, and spin more appointment plates than the average “avoid friction at any cost” modern human. They are the first in line and the last to leave, having apparently, inexplicably inked a deal with the devil to require less sleep than a roaming elephant.

But instead of lamenting a lack of that wild-eyed Tom Cruise caffeine by resorting to self-caning or drowning in feelings of unyielding inadequacy, it’s important to remember that we all shimmy and shake to the sound of our own drummer…even if he’s keeping it slow and steady at 45 bpm.

The key is time management and a focus on achievable goals. No one likes to be buried beneath the mud of self-imposed demands. There’s no oxygen, and at a certain depth, the stains become impossible to remove.

Sometimes the hare spins in circles, while the tortoise takes care of the details. We all have our roles to play at a pace that works for our wiring. The dissimilarities and peculiarities of our species are what keep the soup spicy. I’ve been called “crazy,” “weird,” “unorthodox,” “strange,” or “perplexing” more than once. But I stopped trying to squeeze into the wrong shoe size a long time ago.

Accepting the tag instead of tearing it from the seams has generally limited holes on the collar.

If your engine is turbocharged, enjoy the speed. But if you need some time to get lost in the weeds by seeing where the winding roads of your brain will lead, embrace the room to wander and roam.

You’ll rarely regret the detour.

Adolescence Interrupted

Around the Next Corner

The most unexpected twists and turns of life arrive with the surprise of a shotgun blast. But the persistent pace of the ever-chasing tortoise is what ultimately helps dry the wet concrete of the foundation beneath our feet.

This very human inability to predict the future is what keeps us driving toward the possibility of a fresh start with every sunrise. If we were to possess a thorough comprehension of our trajectories, that inherent knowledge alone would influence the outcome of decisions and choices we didn’t even know we were making.

So we’re left to wander through these incredibly short lives blindfolded, with arms outstretched and fingers splayed, searching for the grasp of something solid to help steady the spin. Day after day, we turn blank pages in a book waiting to be written, occasionally penning a line or two before we lose the light.

But consistent tenacity is the key. Sometimes simply staying in the game is enough to claim victory. We are not able to forecast the arrival of a rainbow after the rain. So the opportunity to write a new chapter might surface far later than expected.

It would have been inconceivable to envision this beautifully balanced Sunshine State existence while I was in the excruciatingly painful throes of those LA migraines. I spent countless nights searching in vain for any semblance of a glimmer in those infinitely, frightfully dark tunnels.

We can’t see what’s waiting just around the next corner.

The hopeless global desperation experienced by millions of people during this pandemic is further evidence of our supremely frustrating lack of clairvoyance.

It may not have slowed the spread or saved the dying, but a kernel of hope that help was on the way could have delivered the most basic and most lacking resource…perspective.

There’s a reason our planet swims to the current of a constant clock. We like to mark our starts and stops.

Take that away and the blindfold gets a little tighter.

Adolescence Interrupted

Delay the Blame

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”  —LC

Leonard Cohen was right. But maybe that’s how the truth sneaks in as well. In an age of finger-pointing panic, saddling innocent necks with a concocted albatross feels like an exercise in sweaty futility.

Punching someone else in the mouth to alleviate your own toothache is psychotically pointless, and we are witnessing a disturbing cycle of dangerously misplaced condemnations in the form of false attributions.

Clean hands are too often tarnished and soiled by the stream of mud and muck spewed from the mouths of rabid believers desperate for vengeance. Idiots search for scapegoats in a world that has turned its back on their illogical ignorance, and they’re running out of easy targets.

Unforgivable violence as an outlet for the bottled frustration, isolation, and loss that have permeated the population is not going to stop the spread, clear the lungs, or bring back the dead. Sidewalk assaults, venomous threats, and racial slurs only fuel internal fires. So maybe it’s time to spin that mirror and explore some page-turning solutions—as opposed to bullet-spitting blame without scientific proof or justification.

The sneaky little secret that no one likes to share is that it’s not about race. It’s about disgusting food manufacturing and the ugly, unquenchable consumption of innocent, sentient beings. As long as we continue the barbaric practice of wet markets and turn a blind eye to the perilous commingling of humans and animals, we are at constant risk of viral outbreaks.

That’s a much longer discussion, best suited for another post.

But if we don’t take a drastic collective turn as a people and a planet, I recommend we start seeing this pandemic as simply one in a line, not one in a million. 

Adolescence Interrupted

A Panglossian Perspective

“Your end can be greater than your beginning: butterflies are the greatest proof of this.” —Matshona Dhliwayo

The thaw on the heels of a freeze. A rainbow following a storm. Resets and restarts. There is a beauty and certain merit in the gift of a new beginning.

Cleaning slates can achieve more than neat stockpiles of dust generated by rote eraser smashing. For all the effort involved in the grind, the result is a smooth, sharp edge. As our eyes start to squint from the glare of an unfamiliar sun, there’s a chance to see what’s changed while we were away.

With a significant (albeit temporary) reduction in carbon emissions, the planet was able to take a deep collective breath, without choking on the exhaust from a billion daily tailpipes slingshotting between home and work. The solution? Home=work…and it’s not that tough.

A nonsense-free workspace shone a spotlight on the delays and distractions inherent in an office setting. It’s impressive what people can accomplish when left alone to focus on a task. Increased opportunities for mindfulness, meditation, and achieving a better work-life balance replaced idling on a gridlocked freeway, wondering what happened to an already-tenuous grip on sanity.

But the most obvious gift we’ve been granted in this past pandemic year is the smack in the teeth of perspective. What matters and what doesn’t? The global population was left to ponder which relationships were worth preserving, which hobbies and activities warranted the necessary time commitment, and how to best live life on a loop.

Introverts soared, propelled by lighter wings and limitless air, while extroverts crashed under the burden of unattainable energy reserves, held just out of reach by isolated friends behind social prison bars.

Those who craved connection were glued to substandard Zoom chats and a perpetual battle against the glitch. The best-laid intentions for daily commiseration sessions soon became weekly, monthly, and then nonexistent.

But using the sting and pain of the present as brick and mortar for better days, we can stack the necessary blocks to avoid building a road to repetition. Lessons are only valuable when learned, and this is a prime opportunity to put into practice some real, tangible change.

The list of what’s on that docket is a volume too extensive to tackle in this condensed format, but the opportunity for metamorphosis has presented itself, here and now.

Static caterpillar or unbound butterfly? Choose wisely.

Adolescence Interrupted

Groaning Pains

For years, I felt a mounting, suffocating disillusionment with the future direction of this country and the transparent apathy that seemed to only fuel a fire of hatred and inequality. Trapped in a plummeting elevator—destined to crash without an emergency brake—we stood stuck in some debilitating glue of inaction, waiting for someone to pull it.

Maybe it took thousands of deaths a day for us to realize that something had to change. Maybe the volatility of our quotidian safety or the cognizance that the greatest country on the planet was nothing but a fallacy built on tired, outdated notions of some unattainable dream was enough to snap us out of our opiate-induced haze and finally feel some pain. Maybe we simply grew tired of watching facts wobble and shake, forced to stand on cracked foundations in desperate need of some concrete. Or maybe being forced to wear the pawn’s high-collared uniform, made of aging wool, too brutally tested our tolerance for the itch.

As a self-described radical Socialist who thinks even Bernie is too far to the right, I had hoped we were ready to hit some detonators on this broken system and start fresh in every facet. But I’m willing to accept progress over regression, in any form I can get it. 

We have a population tattered, torn, and divided. Those wounds (imaginary or real) are not healed overnight. Anger and pain will persistently propel action. Information will be relentlessly manipulated and propagated.

There are always winners. There are certainly always losers. But I will continue to adamantly support whatever ultimately benefits the greater good.

When eggs are sacrificed for omelets, there’s no use spending time lamenting the splintered shells.

Adolescence Interrupted

 

Parting clouds

Riding a bandwagon in the backseat of the planet’s most unoriginal thought, let me be the millionth person to comment about the rigor and emotional discomfort of the past twelve months. Guess what, everyone? Things were a bit difficult last year.

But, for the first time in a deep stretch, I see a future lined with silver optimism and some serious potential for the globe to recognize lessons learned from reaching out for a hot stove, simply to see what happens.

If our collective crispy singed digits weren’t enough of a system shock to take a different course of action, it seems we are drowning in a sea of punishment gluttons who relish the disruption of every conceivable facet of their lives. If that’s the case, we’ll need a lot more than masks, common sense, and science to save us from ourselves.

Offering benefits hidden inside doubts, I’ll wager this next spin around the sun feels more like fuzzy slippers than frozen skates. Just the ability to walk out of a grocery store without immediately initiating NASA-level decontamination practices is enough of a reason to rejoice.

Suffice to say, our limbo stick expectations aren’t very low. Most of us would gladly take normalcy over excellence, and the installation of leaders who are intellectually capable of recognizing the stakes will benefit the greater good, regardless of how much detractors resist the helping hand. But “normal” needs to wear a different outfit or we’ll still be able to see the stains.

A fresh start to something stale. A moment to reflect, banish, and then change. Watch this worldwide debacle get smaller in the rearview as we walk into a better and brighter tomorrow.

Raise your hand if you’re ready.

Adolescence Interrupted