Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Paranoia Rides Again

I always liked the bumper sticker that says: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean somebody isn’t out to get you.” I can relate.

All evidence to the contrary, I really do not like making an ass of myself. Most of the time, I readily admit, I am the instigator. But every now and then…today I wrote a note to one of the groups to which I belong, including a link to one of my sites. When the message was posted, I saw it came across with a space between the “gr” and the “ey” in “doriengrey.” With my sterling track record for screwing up, I knew the error was mine. (Like, who else’s could it be? Ya’ know what I’m sayin’?). So I hastily sent a note of embarrassed apology for the error, including the correct link, without the space between “gr” and “ey.”

I checked the site a few minutes later, and there it was...the space where I had not put in a space, where no space should be, and where no space was intended. So, glutton for punishment that I am, I sent yet another note, typing, when I came to the link, each note with one finger and deliberate slowness: “d...o...r...i...e...n...g...r...e...y.” I looked at it for a good ten seconds on the chance that a space might creep in while I watched. It did not. I posted the note again. And when I went to check…yep; the space was back.

This particular site to which I refer is run by Yahoo which, I have noticed, seems to have an absolutely wonderful time at the expense of its customers. We have one member whose every post comes across with a question mark wherever a period is supposed to be. I know he didn’t do it, unless he is so terribly insecure he must seek approval for every sentence. He is not.

Another member of the same list posts frequently. She has been a member for a couple of years, now. Yet every single post she sends is automatically pitched into Yahoo’s Spam bin. I have no idea what she might have done to deserve it, but I’m sure the Yahoo gods are doubled over with laughter each time the poor woman tries to get directly through to the group. (Oh, and tossing her every post into the Spam bin means that I have to go into the Spam bin about ten times more frequently than would normally be necessary, just to retrieve her posts.)

And there are two other members with whom Yahoo takes delight in playing some sort of cyber ping-pong. At least fifty percent of the time, their posts will also be tossed into the Spam folder. Exactly the same address each time. Absolutely no reason for it, but, hey…
I received a call on my cell phone yesterday. I answered it (punch the “open” button to talk). I did it exactly as I have done it with every call I have ever received. But instead of being able to talk, or being able to hear, I got a random page from the phone’s “Menu.” I hung up, hoping whomever called would call again. They did. I punched the “open” button. I got a random page from the “Menu”. This went on three times until I literally had to hold the hand with the phone tightly with my other hand to keep me from tossing it through the window.

But, hey, it’s all in jolly good fun, isn’t it? ……I said, isn’t it? Why am I seeing a menu page from my cell phone?
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com

Saturday, January 13, 2018

To Catch a Raindrop

I have always been a misfit. What seems to be so elementary to everyone else is totally beyond my comprehension. What everyone else does…how they interact with one another and seem automatically to understand what is expected of them…is to me the deepest of mysteries and a source of very real anguish.

It’s as though I have been sent out into a rainstorm for the specific purpose of catching a raindrop. Just one raindrop. But not just any raindrop, mind you: a specific raindrop. I have its detailed description: it is roughly globular in shape, and it is wet. This is, it has been made clear to me, all the information I should require or will be given. It is to be retrieved intact, and not to be contaminated by being diluted by or blended with any other raindrop. My failure to do so will be and is taken as absolute, irrefutable proof of my total incompetence and inadequacy as a human being.

I have been a raindrop catcher all my life, and at the end of each day, back from the failed hunt, inside where it is warm and dry, I picture everyone else proudly displaying their own perfect, pristine, and prismatic raindrops. I imagine they keep them in display cases, neatly cataloged, and referenced with an infuriating casualness. (“Oh, this one I got December 22, 1990. It was a snowflake when I first saw it, but I recognized it at once, and when it turned into a raindrop, I had it.”) To me, and to my great shame, raindrops are raindrops and they all look alike.

I tell myself that all of this is nonsense, and that I am really no more incompetent than anyone else. Unfortunately, I don’t believe me. This sense of alienation, of being alone and neither understanding nor understood is, once again, why I write, because despite all my pontifical blather, I know I am not alone in being alone.

The realization that I expect far too much of myself does not stop me from expecting it. I never cease to measure myself against others, and I never fail to come up short.

The problem lies in the fact that I do, truly, want to be so very much more than I have ever been, or than I can ever realistically hope to be. I want to be a good person, and I really do try. I want to be liked by everyone (an indication of the illogic of my expectations). I do sincerely try to live the Golden Rule and I am ashamed of myself when I find myself being petty or insensitive to others. I largely succeed in not disliking anyone as an individual, though there are large groups of people for whom I have nothing but utter contempt—primarily those who presume to speak for God, and those (often the same groups) who are convinced they have the right to dictate and pass judgement on how other people live their lives.

I cannot comprehend or tolerate bigotry or hypocrisy—which, for some unknown reason my computer’s “dictionary” insists is spelled “hypocreaceae”—or gratuitous cruelty or even lack of common civility. We can all be so much better…I can be so much better…why are we not? Why am I not?

While there is a great deal of pain in frustration in holding myself up to standards nearly impossible to meet, I keep telling myself that because I cannot meet them does not mean I should not try.

Everything begins somewhere. And for me (since I cannot and will not presume to speak for you) I think I’ll be on the right track as soon as I can catch that one perfect raindrop. Wish me luck.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Giving Thanks

I know I spend far more time than I should revisiting the past and feeling true and deep sorrow for the loss of so many things—friends, lovers, and family—I once had and no longer have. Thinking of them truly does create a physical ache of longing. But even as I grieve my losses, I realize just how blessed I am to have them in my life at all. I have from time to time wondered, if offered the choice of having been spared the pain of losing them by never having had them in my life at all, would I choose to relive my life without them? The answer, of course, is “no.” So even while I grieve, I am thankful for having had their company—no matter for how short or long a time—on my walk through life.

No matter how I may bewail not being 21 again, the fact is that I have been lucky enough to have lived as long as I have. Tens of millions of people never have that chance. As to physical limitations, just by looking around me, I see legions of people who I consider far worse off than I (and it is quite probable that each of them, looking around, feel the same way when they look at me).

I still have friends and family who are very dear to me, and who make my life infinitely more pleasant and meaningful than it would be without them. We seldom realize what we have until we lose it.

We are all given special gifts, talents, or character traits we are too close to ourselves to see. We’re generally too busy concentrating on what we do not have to realize and appreciate what we do have. I bemoan the changes my poor, brave body has gone through, but I get a sharp wake-up call every time I go to the Mayo Clinic, and see what others endure with far more nobility than I could ever muster. I think of Stephen Hawking, trapped in a body which barely functions but with a mind as brilliant as the sun. I would not choose to be Stephen Hawking, but it is unlikely that he would choose to be me.

All of the above comes down to the fact that we shouldn’t limit our giving thanks for our gifts to one day in November, but consciously try to make it a part of our everyday lives. And of all our gifts, by far the most important is simply the gift of life. It’s all too soon taken away; so every now and then, it might be a good idea for us all to sit back, think a moment, and truly appreciate what we have.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com

Friday, January 05, 2018


Oh, dear Lord, how I hate condescension! Deliberate condescension is infuriating; unintentional condescension is just hurtful. But either way, it is dismissal…and I find myself increasingly on the receiving end of it as the years too-rapidly pass. Again, most of it is well-intentioned, but the fact is that the older we become, the more we are regarded the same way as we regard small children. (“Oh, that’s a very pretty picture, Bobby. Did you draw it all by yourself?”)

Yesterday, in a store, a young woman dropped a plastic bottle of water, and I quickly bent over to pick it up for her. Rather than a simple “thank you” she went out of her way to let me know how very much she appreciated my kindness, and wished me a very nice day, which, in turn, was very nice of her. But would she have reacted the same way if a 30-year-old had done the same thing? Possible, but I somehow doubt it.

What happens to us as we grow older? Why do people begin treating us differently just because we have accumulated several more years than they have? And have not the slightest doubt, regardless of how young you now are, that if you are lucky enough to live long enough, your days of being on the receiving end of condescension will come.

Part of the problem, admittedly, belongs with the aging, who too often stop doing things for themselves when they see they can rely on other people to do it for them. Strong, dynamic people who once ran successful businesses and raised families and whose opinions were sought and valued on every subject slowly slide into timidity and hesitancy and insecurity. “Oh, I can’t do that anymore!” “I’m too old to do thus and so.” “No, thanks, I think I’ll just stay home and knit.”

When I lived in northern Wisconsin, my neighbor and good friend Louisa was nearing 80, living alone, keeping her house spotless, cooking wonderful things which she would make sure I would share. She tended a good sized garden, and was always on the go. Then one day she fell in her home and wasn’t found for a couple of hours. Her daughter Marge immediately came from Minneapolis to care for her and in the blink of an eye, it seemed, Louisa changed from “Let me get you a cup of coffee” to “Marge, could you get me a glass of water?” Marge, out of love and concern, insisted Louisa come to live with her and her family in Minneapolis, taking Louisa not only from her home but from everyone and everything she had known all her life. Within a year, she was dead. In a way, I can’t help but think she was a victim of a virulent strain of unintentional condescension.

The gap between what we were and what we, willingly or unwillingly, become grows with each act of condescension. “How are we today, Bob?” (The use of “We” is the epitome of condescension.) “Would you like some help with that?” If Bob looks like he needs “some help with that,” by all means offer it. If he looks too frail to stand by himself on a bus, by all means offer him a seat. But if he is just carrying a package or standing there minding his own business, give him the dignity of treating him like everyone else.

We should never stop being kind, or thoughtful of others of any age. But when it comes to those much older than you, just, please, adapt the level of kindness to the situation. Be careful that your kindness does not say, as condescension to the elderly too often says: “You are no longer one of us.”
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Backward, Turn Backward

Though I couldn’t find it, I distinctly remember a poem beginning “Backward, turn backward, O Time in your flight….” (Some credit it to a woman named Elizabeth Akers Allen, of whom I’d otherwise not heard.) [Dorien is right: you can read the poem here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52071/rock-me-to-sleep]

I had a dream the other night where time had begun running backwards. I emerged backwards from sleep one evening and began moving backward through the day. And with each moment I moved backward, my memory of what then became the future disappeared. I had full memory of the past, of course, and was aware of what was happening.

Dreams being what they are, I accepted this as perfectly natural. I knew that I would eventually move backward through my cancer recovery, treatment, and symptoms until I emerged from that period able to eat again: to actually eat and chew and taste and swallow and take a huge bite out of a Big Mac, and look up at a passing airplane, and be totally oblivious to what lie ahead. I would continue to move backwards from Pence to Los Angeles, to my mom’s dying in the hospital to her cancer disappearing to my dad’s being alive again, to my original years in Chicago, to graduating from college, go back into the navy, enlist in the NavCads, graduate from high school…well, you get the idea.

It was really a most interesting dream, but it reminded me that, as much time as I spend dwelling on the past in these blogs and elsewhere, for all the wonderful things I would re-experience while moving back through time, there would also be an incredible amount of pain. The fact that it would be experienced backward would be of some comfort (if I were still aware what was happening) since whatever heartache or physical pain I was going through would always get better and eventually disappear completely. But pain is pain no matter in which direction you’re moving through it.

Things would get easier and easier as time regressed. Fewer and fewer major problems. More and more reliance on the love and protection of parents and family. And eventually, in moving backward in time, would come to the point of reentering that place where babies go before they are born. It is exactly the same place, I believe with all my heart, that we go when, moving forward through time, we however reluctantly, reach the end of our allotted time on earth. And I think that I have never really been afraid of death. We came from nothing, we return to nothing. And how can one fear nothing?

I’m not quite sure why I seem to take so much pleasure—which I must or I wouldn’t be doing it—in speculating on the impossible. But I find “what if?” to be among the most fascinating of phrases. I suppose it is another reflection of the fact that I really have never been satisfied with the way things are, and always want…and often truly ache for…what I cannot have.

So I spend endless hours in the attic of my mind, sitting cross-legged on the dusty floor, opening boxes of long-sealed memories and watching tiny spiders in the rafters spin dreams. Each provide me with an endless supply of “never was” and “never could be” to contemplate and play with. But while I fully realize that I can never have all those things that I so desperately want, it certainly doesn’t stand in the way of my wanting them.

And so contemplating having time move backward is just another exercise in the game of “what if?” But it’s a fun game.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com