Doing Better

Ms. Angelou has lots of wonderful words of inspiration, but this quote has been swimming around in my head a lot lately.  Always interested in being the best human being I can be, I’ve read a lot of self-help books.  In nearly every case, I’ve grown because of them, and learned to “do better” in my life.

I’m going to share some of the ones that have led to the biggest improvements.

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

This was the first self-help book I remember reading.  It might not technically be considered a self-help book, but so much of what was said in there spoke to me in profound ways.  Through this book, I learned about many Zen teachings, and how to accept that the body that is Alyx Morgan is completely separate from the energy (or soul, or whatever ethereal word you want to use) that’s currently living in it.  That helped me to not fear death or to become too attached to things in this life . . . it’s been SO freeing!

Shortly after a major breakup in my late 20s, I read a series of relationship-based self-help books that also helped me learn things about myself:

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray, Ph.D.

I found so much of what Dr. Gray says in this book helped me to understand the reasons for my emotional needs, but also to not expect my future mate to know exactly what I wanted or needed from him . . . I needed to be able to speak up and make my needs known.  Before this book, I used to think that if someone “really loved me” they would automatically read my mind and give me what I needed . . . how wrong I was.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

This book was such a HUGE eye opener for me.  I’d never before considered that people spoke different “languages” of love, but he spelled it out in such a way that I could easily see which love languages I speak.  This added on to Dr. Gray’s book so that I knew how best to phrase my needs to my potential mate.

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

Aahhhhh, this lovely little book.  While this book is technically a relationship-based book, it’s SO much more.  It’s not just about our relationship with other people, it’s more about the relationship we have with ourselves, and how to love yourself enough that you don’t feel the desperate need for love from others (something I’d done most of my life).

There’s one self-help book that I haven’t read all the way through yet:

The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford

I’ve started reading this book several times, but have never finished it, so maybe I’m still not ready for all of the lessons in its pages.  But the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from this book is to embrace my “bad” traits as well as my “good” ones.  That there are times it’s perfectly okay to be a “bitch,” or “needy,” or “angry.”  Every human being is made up of multiple facets, and as long as we don’t judge them, we can see where they are useful.  For instance, if I feel someone is trying to take advantage of me, that’s the perfect opportunity for me to let out my anger and/or inner bitch, to let whoever know that I won’t be taken advantage of.  Yes, eventually I’ll learn how to do that without the aggression, but there’s still nothing wrong with said aggression.  Accepting all facets of myself has been extremely helpful in not beating myself up.

As for the last book I’ll discuss in today’s blog . . .

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

I’m currently reading this book and it’s answering SO many of the remaining questions I’ve had as to many of my behavioral characteristics.  I had suspected that my relationship with my mother was codependent to some extent, but reading this book I can see just how pervasive my codependency is.  In the book, I’ve found several keys for releasing myself from the chains that have held me for such a long time, and I feel like I’ll be able to work through most of the rest of my issues with the lessons I’m learning here.  I’ve been noticing the places where I’m acting in a codependent manner, and have already begun making different choices in my actions and reactions to situations and people.  I had originally checked this book out of our local library, but it will be owned and sitting on our bookshelf very soon.

These books have helped me grow over the years, and I’m forever grateful to them.  Are there any books you’ve read that have taught you things, or helped you to “know better,” and subsequently “do better?”  Please let me know, and maybe I can add them to my bookshelf, too.  😉

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Celebrating (?) Alcohol

Today’s post is going to delve into some songs . . . namely songs that seem to endorse drinking or being drunk.  Please know, before I go any further, that I’m not against alcohol, or drinking.  I just don’t understand why people seem to like songs that celebrate it.  Maybe it’s because I personally don’t drink anymore, and so don’t have those experiences to connect to.

I did drink for a while.  From the ages of 14 to 17, I used to drink with my mom and our friends (especially when we’d get together for a bonfire).  This was because–when my mom found out that I’d had my first rum and Coke–she pulled me aside and said that she would buy for me, but only if I drank at home, so I could find my limit in a safe space.  I think this was a VERY wise thing to do, because 1) she’d make sure I wasn’t out driving under the influence, nor riding with anyone who was; and 2) she’d made the subject of drinking a safe one, rather than turning it into a taboo that a teenager would want to test out.

So anyway, I started drinking early and quit early as well.  It was a summer night up at the cabin, and my mom, our friends and I were there for a long weekend.  We sat around a bonfire down by the lake, and I’d had 6 Screwdrivers (more vodka than OJ), half a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 Grape, and half a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 Orange (think of the cheapest “wine” you can find).  I didn’t feel any of it go down, and apparently I blacked out so that people had to carry me back up to the cabin and put me to bed.  The next morning, I had no headache.  No hangover.  No amount of “paying” for the night before.  That scared the crap out of me and I haven’t touched a drop since.

So, maybe because I started so young, I missed all the “fun” of alcohol and being drunk, or maybe I’ve spent enough years without it to see things with clearer eyes.  I don’t know, but that–coupled with my love of knowing song lyrics–makes it so that I often can’t “enjoy” songs about drinking.

For instance:

Margaritaville, by Jimmy Buffet (lyrics in the video)

I’ve hated this song with a passion ever since I can remember.  I’ve also had a strong dislike of Mr. Buffet for a long time, as well, mostly because of this song (which I admit was the only thing I knew by him for a long time).  The lyrics have him talking about a “beauty” of a tattoo that he can’t remember getting, and later he talks about cutting his heel because of a broken flip flop, but he doesn’t worry because “. . . there’s booze in the blender, And soon it will render that frozen concoction that helps me hang on.”  Ugh.

Friends in Low Places, by Garth Brooks (lyrics here)

There are TONS of Country songs that espouse the “benefits” of drinking or being drunk, but this one was such a favorite when I frequented a karaoke bar back in Michigan, that it just strikes me as the penultimate “drinking makes everything better” song.  I mean, the guy in the song shows up drunk to someone’s wedding, causes a scene (even though he says he didn’t mean to), and then slinks away to some bar “. . . where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases my blues away . . .”

Marry You, by Bruno Mars (lyrics in the video)

This song also falls into what I call the (Not) Love Songs category.  It’s a catchy tune and I enjoyed it for the most part (too repetitive) until I fully listened to the lyrics recently.  It’s basically a song about two people so drunk (possibly in Vegas, I haven’t seen the video) that they’re going to do something “dumb” and get married.  He doesn’t know if it’s “. . . the look in your eyes, or is it this dancing juice . . .” and he doesn’t care.  And, he also doesn’t care if you want to “. . . break up after you wake up.”  I mean, seriously?!?!?  I’m sure there are people who’ve had this as their wedding song, because he says “I think I wanna marry you” so many times.  But honestly . . . If someone says they think they want to marry you . . . wait until they’re certain.  PLEASE!

But Craig introduced me to a song that seems more honest about getting drunk:

Alcohol, by Brad Paisley (lyrics here)

I’m not normally a fan of Country music, but everything I’ve heard by Brad has been pretty funny and good (I’d liken his writing style to Train for pop music), and this song is no exception.  Here’s the true (and sometimes funny) story of what happens when you let alcohol be your “medicine.”  A sample of the lyrics:  “You had some of the best times you’ll never remember with me . . . alcohol.”

So, let me state again that I’m not against alcohol.  Not at all.  What I am against is the celebration of the foolish things that drinking too much can make you do.  But maybe I just can’t relate because I got scared shitless for not having a limit and not paying for it one night back in 1987 (a problem that I know many people wish they had).

And I’m okay not relating.  I’ll sit over here with my water, thank you very much.

Smooth Sailing

When I was younger, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be such a fan of cruising as a form of vacation.  I’d seen the commercials with Kathy Lee, and wondered why anyone would want to spend several days on a big ship out in the water.  The thought of visiting a hot, tropical island was never very appealing to this girl, who sweats in anything above 80 degrees, and I don’t think I was aware then that cruises stopped at locales other than the Caribbean.

Plus–as much as I like the water–I honestly thought I’d go stir-crazy if I were stuck on a boat for 7 days.  Of course . . . that was before I realized just how much stuff the cruise lines like to pack into each and every day.

So, while I never thought I’d do too much cruising in my life, I’ve been on three cruises in about five years.  Heck . . . if we include the one I’m on right now, that’s four in five years!

I’m not sure why it never would’ve occurred to me that I’d enjoy this.  There’s plenty of stuff to do on the boat; plenty of activities or excursions to partake in at each port of call.  Plus, the ship is large enough that you’re sure to find a nice, quiet area, if you’re looking for solitude.

That’s something I DEFINITELY took advantage of on my last cruise.  I took a 7-day Mexican cruise for my birthday last year . . . by myself.  Craig was also looking for some alone time, and didn’t feel he could take the time away from work, so I went off on my own.  There had been so much stress in my life for the previous two years, and I just didn’t want to be around people too much.  So–with a couple of exceptions–my days looked like this:

Wake up
Go to buffet area to eat breakfast
Go back to room
Read until I fall asleep
Wake up
Go to buffet area to eat lunch
Go back to room
Watch movie or read until I fall asleep
Wake up
Go to restaurant for dinner
Go back to room
Sleep

I’m not kidding you . . . that was my life for that week.  There was an 80s Music Trivia Challenge that I participated in (lost by one point), and I did step off the boat in our two ports of call; Cabo San Lucas (AWESOME snorkeling), and Puerto Vallarta (found a cool cemetery to photograph).  Otherwise, I kept to myself 80% of the time.  And let me tell you, I NEEDED it.  Toward the end of the cruise, my system must have been rested, because I was doing more reading than sleeping when I was in my room, but I still enjoyed the peace and quiet.  And I’ve found myself longing for another “do almost nothing” cruise lately, though this time I’d be okay with Craig joining me . . . cuz he desperately needs it right now.

But the cruise we’re on now is a bit more exotic.  We’re somewhere in the middle of a 14-day European cruise.  Craig and I wanted to take Athena to Europe, and she seems to like cruises, so we let her pick out the route.  We leave out of Southampton, UK, and stop in Gibraltar, Nice, 3 places in Italy, Spain, and Portugal.  Craig and I definitely have our cameras at the ready, and I hope to come back with a TON of cool photos to boost my photography career.  But, more importantly, about half of the days will be At Sea.  While we’ll definitely spend some time together as a family (this is Athena’s last summer as a high school student, and she’ll soon be off to college), we’ve also got our own agendas for the At Sea days.  Athena will likely spend it with the teen group on the boat, or in the pool as much as possible.  Craig will also spend some time at the pool, or stippling in a corner somewhere, and he’s discovered that there’s a miniature golf course on the boat.

As for me?  Well, I’ll probably join Craig on a few activities here and there on the boat, but I’m also packing 3 or 4 books for me to hole up with in our room . . . before I fall asleep.

Why Dating Sucks

I’ve never been a big fan of “dating.”  It sounds nice and romantic (especially the way some movies portray it)–you meet someone, maybe for dinner, you chat, you feel (or don’t feel) an attraction, you decide if you want to see him/her again–but it’s always seemed so superficial to me.  Very few people are honest about who they are on a first date (or third, fifteenth, etc.), instead opting to put their “best foot forward,” so you run the risk of getting into someone and then months of investment later find out that s/he is an alcoholic, thrice divorced person who likes to hunt, was mean to cats as a child, and oh by the way, is your third cousin.

And it’s not always great when people are completely honest with you up front, either.  I’ve had first dates where the guy told me how wonderful he thought I was, and how he could see the two of us married with several children (EEK!), or yet another who put his leg over the arm of his chair, essentially flashing his manhood to me, while telling me that my lack of interest in having sex on a first date was because I was sexually repressed.  (UGH!)

So, for me, I’ve always preferred getting to know a guy and be friends with him for a while before finding out if we’d be compatible in a sexual relationship.  Any relationship I’ve had that started out as dating first was very short-lived.  But the men whom I’ve truly loved in my life started out as friends.  And as much as they probably hated being relegated to the Friend Zone, I needed to know they would still like me, even if I later found out they didn’t want to take the relationship to the next level.

I’m sure a large reason I did this was my fear of being abandoned, but I also know it was partly due to me not wanting to waste my time on someone with whom I wouldn’t be compatible.  While some people might be okay playing that game over and over again, for months (or even years) at a time, that’s just never held any appeal for me.  Which is a good thing, because back when I was younger, I was still looking for someone, ANYONE to love me; because I apparently didn’t, and for some reason felt I needed someone else to do so before I could.

That’s one of the MANY reasons I’m so glad to be happily married to my wonderful, life-long friend, Craig.  We started out as friends 31 years ago, and traveled along a very circuitous route to find each other (for the third time) in 2009.  When we were married 3 years later, it was one of the best days of my life, and these last 5 years have been wonderful!  We’ve had our ups and downs, but they’ve been minor, and through all of it, I know that I’ll never love like this again in this lifetime.  The support, friendship, laughter, and memories we’ve shared and created together have helped to heal so many of my early wounds.

So, as our Anniversary is coming nigh, I wanted to take this chance to say that I’m happy that I think dating sucks, and that it never “worked out” with any of the other men in my life.  I’ve found my soul mate, and I’m looking forward to the next 5, 10, 50 years together.

I love you, baby!

 

 

The Pervasive Boob Tube

I’m warning you now . . . today’s post is going to be a bit of a rant.  And it’s about the love/hate relationship that I have with TV.

I grew up in the 70s, right around the time that TV started to get really “good,” with lots of fun and educational programming to choose from.  I learned Spanish and sign language from Sesame Street.  The Electric Company’s Easy Reader helped instill in me a love for reading (thanks, Mr. Freeman!).  And to this day, I still sing several of the Schoolhouse Rock songs at the most random times.

We also had amazing cartoons; from the three-hour Bugs Bunny/Road Runner marathons on Saturday mornings, to all the Hanna-Barbera shows where mysteries got solved by those “meddlesome kids.”  And throughout the late 70s and early 80s there was some great pabulum to be seen in the form of prime-time viewing (though now, so many of the shows I loved back then seem dated . . . and not in a good way).

And being of the “latchkey kid” generation, the TV got turned on as soon as I got home from school.  I would try to turn it off to do my chores, but that usually wound up happening 30 minutes before my mother was due home from work.  Sometimes I scrambled fast enough that I was able to get the cleaning done in one commercial break.

I still enjoy watching TV . . . to a certain extent.  In fact, right now there are more shows that I enjoy watching than at any other time that I can recall.  Some of that is due to the sheer number of channels available, but some of it is due to the better writing that has come out of Hollywood lately.

No, my complaint with regards to the boob tube is that it’s begun to infect every single corner of our lives.

People have been watching shows on their cell phones for the last few years now . . . which strikes me as weird, since we used to complain about the tiny size of the available screens back in the 70s.  I just can’t make peace with watching something on a screen 4 times smaller than I had when I was little.

But even worse is that TVs are now cropping up in restaurants, grocery stores and who KNOWS where else!  I can understand the concept of having TVs at a sports bar . . . because that’s why people go to a sports bar . . . to watch their team’s event.  But why does it need to be in other restaurants?  There are a couple diners here in Alameda that have multiple TVs playing any time I go in there.  And Craig just told me about a recent experience at a Burger King, where there were TVs in there playing 2- and 3-minute clips of various shows . . . followed by several minutes of commercials.

And THAT’S what I hate the most about this new trend . . . the advertising!  It’s bad enough that there are more commercial breaks in TV shows now than before.  But–if the Burger King incident is any indication–pretty soon it’ll be 5-10 minutes of TV show surrounded by 20 minutes of commercials.  That trend started to irk me when it infiltrated my sacred movie theaters over a decade ago.  Though, that one I’m willing to put up with so that I can be sure to get my favorite seats when I see a film . . . but I do tend to focus on something else if I can.

But I don’t know that I’ll be okay with the trend of restaurants playing TVs all the time.  I’m actually considering a boycott of restaurants that have said distraction in multiple areas of their establishment.  Craig pointed out that I don’t need an even narrower group of places I can eat (due to my dietary restrictions), but I might be willing to make that sacrifice.  It really irks me to have to vie for someone’s attention when I’m dining out with them (and I don’t care who you are, you’re bound to get distracted by the boob tube . . . it’s designed that way).  It just seems rude and unnecessary to “have” to be connected to the idiot box all the damn time!  Talk to the people you’re dining with, for crissakes!

And, even if I’m dining by myself, I’d much rather have peace and quiet so I can read my book or magazine and not have my attention keep getting pulled away by whatever is being said on the television.

In writing about this now, I realize that I’ve actually started strategically seating myself to where I’m the one in sight of the TV . . . because I know I won’t be as distracted as the other person might (or, at least I think that’s true . . . who knows?).  I hate realizing that I feel the need to think that far ahead about that sort of thing, because that puts me on the defensive already.

So, while I’m okay with TV being a distraction in the home, I don’t need or want said distraction to follow me when I’m going out for a nice meal.  Heck, even a mediocre meal (no offense, BK), deserves more attention than having a TV on in the background provides.

The Sins of the Parents

When I was researching the phrase “The sins of the father are the sins of the sons” for this blog, I found two possible origins: the Bible, or William Shakespeare (depending on whether or not you believe in either).  Regardless of where it stemmed from, I’ve never liked the phrase.  When I first heard it, I interpreted it to mean that whatever “wrongs” a parent does, the child will have to pay for.  And later in life, I found that it could also mean the habits and idiosyncrasies of a parent will likely pass down to the child.  Neither interpretation is happy: with the former, the offspring would have to “pay” for their parents’ choices . . . and with the latter the offspring doesn’t have the free will to be his/her own person.

But some things have come up in my life recently that tell me the second meaning is probably more true than I wanted to believe . . .

In doing the research on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I learned that quite often children from parents with NPD can develop NPD traits as well.  This happens because those children grow up feeling neglected and insecure and those two things often transform into narcissism.  It’s a vicious cycle that began with some ancestor several generations back and keeps moving forward until someone breaks the cycle.

Ever since this discovery, I’ve been on the lookout for narcissistic behavior in myself and have been trying to change my reactions to people or circumstances accordingly.  But I’ve recently discovered that I exhibit one of my mother’s behaviors more than I was aware of . . . jumping to the wrong (often bad) conclusions.  This happens especially in conjunction with trying to be in contact with certain people, namely my brother and Athena (my step-daughter).  Both of them tend to be not as responsive as I would like.  If I text or call one of them, I might not hear back from them for hours or even a day or two.  This then feeds into an insecurity that maybe I’ve done or said something recently that upset them and they’re “punishing” me for it.

This sort of a reaction is bad on a couple of counts.  First, it implies that these people have nothing better to do than wait around for a call or text from me.  Second, it’s my ego inserting itself saying that I’m somehow important enough to said person that they would take time out of their day to be so bothered by some random thing I might say or do that they would deliberately ignore me.

My own life is incredibly busy right now and I don’t have time to speak with my own friends as often as I would like to.  So, I’m probably not as communicative as they might like right now either.  But hopefully they don’t jump to a conclusion that I’m upset with them.  And I need to remind myself of the same thing with regards to other people who don’t get back to me right away.

Another trait from my mother that I apparently (unfortunately) picked up is correcting people’s thoughts or words.  This one bothers me the most right now, because I used to HATE when she did it to me when I was younger . . .

Often, when I would say a word that my mother didn’t like, she would “correct” the word when she responded to me.  For instance, if I talked about how “weird” it was that someone didn’t like mushrooms, she would correct me and say “It’s certainly ‘different.'”  She did this because she thought the word “weird” meant “bad.”  To me, it was simply another way to say “different,” but because it made her uncomfortable, she wouldn’t say the word.  She has lots of euphemisms that she did this with, and each time she did it, I felt like I was getting a subtle message that the words I used were “wrong,” or “bad,” or that there was something wrong with me for using them.

Well unfortunately I’ve apparently started that myself (grrr).  In trying to better my life, I follow things like The Secret that talk about how your outlook on things will change your perception.  It’s like the proverbial glass . . . some people see it as half-full, while others see it as half-empty.  And the thought is that those who see the positive in a situation will continue to see positive things in their lives.

Anyway, Craig will sometimes say things that sound more like a negative spin than a positive one, and I’ve apparently started correcting him to put a positive spin on it.  He recently brought it to my attention and–knowing how badly it made me feel when my mom did it to me–I apologized profusely to him.  Analyzing myself, I understand that I was doing so because I want to make sure I continue to see things in a positive light, but it doesn’t excuse my behavior.  He’s not wrong for phrasing things the way he does, and I need to stop doing things that make him feel like he is wrong (inadvertent though they might be).

I suppose seeing these things in myself can help me to understand my own mother’s behavior a little better, and not be so mad about it, but right now I’m still in the “I can’t believe I’m turning into my mother” phase of acceptance.

Experience Overload

When I was a little girl, I used to want to be a nurse, a teacher, a mother, and a couple other things I can’t remember now.  My mom told me that I could be any one of those, but I said I wanted to be all of them.  That’s when she told me that acting is a place where I could be all of those things and more.  I was hooked.  From that point on, I wanted to be an actress.

In my 20s, I realized that part of the reason I wanted to act was so that I could be anyone, and anywhere OTHER than who and where I was.  But over the last few years, I’ve realized another reason is because I have this innate desire to experience everything.  While I consider myself to be very empathetic, hearing someone’s story about their experience (good or bad) is just not the same as living through said experience yourself.

And when I say “everything,” I truly mean EVERYTHING.  There’s a part of me that’s curious to know what it FEELS like to be shot, or to run a marathon, or give birth.  Now, I likely won’t do any of those things, because all of them sound VERY painful to my logical brain (as well as for various other reasons), but the curiosity is still there.

The problem with wanting to experience so many things is that, when you actually HAVE had tons of experiences, it’s hard to know what to tell people about yourself, and when to share this information.  I mean, some things come up naturally in conversation, but I’ve known people for years that are shocked when then learn some aspect of my life 2, 5, or even 10 years into the relationship.

And it’s not like I’m going to introduce myself to someone by saying “Hi, I’m Alyx.  I’ve been sexually abused by my father, my mother was an alcoholic, I’ve worked at Disney World (as well as at least 20 other companies), been in a cult, know all the words to at least 1,000 songs, have been bungee jumping, flown in a bi-plane, traveled to more than 10 countries and speak enough of 5 different languages to get by in said countries.”  Not only would that be just the tip of the iceberg that is my life, it would be very weird and a little off-putting to the other person.  For one, that’s a HUGE information dump to get in a 5-minute introduction.  For another, if you were to hear about all of those experiences from one person, you might not believe them.  Some of it might sound like bragging, while other things might be so “out there” to you, that you couldn’t imagine anyone actually doing them.

That’s why it takes so long to really get to know someone.  By the time you meet them, they’ve likely had at least 20 years’ worth of experiences to share, as have you.  But that’s one of the reasons I’d rather hang out with someone in a one on one setting, so I can take the time to get to know them.  Hear what makes them happy, sad, excited.  That’s something you can’t do in a crowded bar, or party.

It’s also hard to know what experience to bring up when I’m meeting a new group of people (in a class, or large auditorium-filled seminar) and have been instructed to share just one thing about myself to the group.  Such an open-ended question will have me searching for quite a while through my memory’s data bank in order to come up with the “appropriate” choice.

Still, I wouldn’t trade all of my experiences for anything.  I’d much rather have the experience than have other people know about it.

But, if you do meet someone, and s/he tells you that s/he’s had a bunch of experiences . . . give him/her the benefit of the doubt, would ya?  ;o)

Shedding a Little “Light”

Every now and then I’m struck by just how many different jobs are out there.  Jobs that many people probably don’t think about, because the product is just always there.  Some of my previous ponderings have been over the plastic ends on shoelaces (called aglets or aiglets), the handles on coffins, and even those cup holders at Starbucks.  All of these things are necessary and we’d be lost without them, but we usually end up taking them for granted, especially if we’re not the ones who work on these items.

Some of these odd jobs might now be automated, but at some point, someone, somewhere had to actually design the products, and someone else had to make them and/or attach them to whatever product they’re a part of.

There’s a great show called How It’s Made that shows things like this.  It airs on The Science Channel (sometimes several episodes back to back), talks about anything from potato chips to caviar to snowboards and even big construction machines.  There are some things that I don’t particularly find interesting, but by and large, I LOVE this show.

Anyway, lately I’ve been pondering automobile tail lights.  It’s a weird thing to be thinking about, I know, but when I’m in traffic at night, and they’re sitting there in front of me, it’s hard not to see the unique designs they’re coming up with now and wonder “Who thought of that design and why?”

I know that interesting car features have been a big thing for years.  Back in the 50s many cars had fins, others a porthole in the rear window, but I’d never really noticed the tail lights to see if they, too, were unique among automotive companies.

So come with me and take a look at the (oftentimes) interesting world of car tail lights . . .

First we’ll start off with the more “regular” looking tail lights.  These have been on 90% of the cars out there for several decades now.  There might be a few tweaks here and there, but mostly they’ve been sturdy, functional, and somewhat boring:

plain-tail-lights-group

Next, we’ve got a few cooler-looking ones.  These car manufacturer’s apparently decided to blend the tail lights into the new, sleeker lines of the car.  To make them a part of the car’s design, rather than an afterthought:

cooler-tail-lights

And then there are the REALLY cool, trippy kinds of tail lights that mesmerize you a little bit:

trippy-tail-lights

In fact, it’s the eyeball-looking lights (above) that caused me to want to write this blog.  Those things are so cool, but still freak me out a little bit . . . like the car is looking at me sideways (which I’m sure is what the manufacturers were going for).

Paying attention to the tail lights (while I’ve been working on this blog) has helped to curb my road rage a bit, because I can focus on the different designs in front of me, rather than the slow person in front of me.  But it’s not so distracting that my attention is diverted from what’s happening on the road.

How about you?  Have you ever wondered how they made that, or who came up with that idea?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.

An Unlikely Soldier

I’m just gonna come right out and say it . . . This election SUCKS!

Not only because our new dictator-in-chief is a reality show buffoon, whose petty, xenophobic, misogynist, and homophobic tweets have incited people to crawl out from under whatever rock they’ve been hiding and be just as vulgar.  Nor is it because it seems he’s trying to undo all the good, progressive growth our country has gone through over the last 50+ years, and turn us into a fascist oligarchy.

Those things are horrible, true.  But what bothers me more about this election is to learn just how many people in this country seem to WANT the fascist oligarchy, or hate on any group of people who aren’t Aryan straight men.

And what I hate even MORE than that is that I can’t seem to accept the “other side’s” point of view on this one.

I’ve tried most of my life to be someone who lives by the edict of “To each his/her own.”  I don’t expect all of us to see eye to eye on every issue, but I believe we each have the right to our respective opinions.  I truly used to think I was like that.  But I’m so incredibly scared of what might happen over the next 4-8 years (God, PLEASE let it only last for 4!), that I have no desire to even listen to what the “other side” has to say.

And I tried.  I really did.  There was an article I saw online where a female reporter decided to sit down and talk with a Trump supporter who lived in her neighborhood.  Apparently what I saw was her second conversation with the guy, and they were sitting down openly discussing their opposing views and also responding to various comments in his Twitter feed.

I totally applaud her ability to be able to sit down and have the discussion with him, because, yes, we DESPERATELY need to have open conversations with each other, to try to understand where the other is coming from (because, maybe the “other side” is only afraid of people, because they don’t understand them).  But, unfortunately I got maybe five minutes into the video, and then had to shut it off.  I am so adamantly against this incoming administration and everything they stand for, that I found myself unwilling to listen to this man’s side of things.  He seemed so angry and (in my opinion) ill-informed about what went down, that I had to shut the video off before I began screaming at the screen.

So I find myself in much the same position I’m accusing the “other side” of being in: angry, resentful and unyielding in my beliefs about what is “right.”  I’ve said for some time that the only thing I’m bigoted about is a bigot . . . and here it is, staring me in the face.

But thankfully, there are millions of people who aren’t on the “other side.”  I was SO happy and proud to see all the people out there who marched last weekend in protest of Trump and the crap he’s trying to do.  It’s heartening to see just how many people are out there in favor of the things I support.  It gives me hope that all might not yet be lost.

But there is still a fear inside of me that we might be headed toward another Hitler-like regime.  What with Trump already forbidding certain news agencies to his hearings, and changing the government websites, it feels like the dictatorship is gearing up.  Which makes me think that a revolution isn’t far behind.

And that comes to what scares me the most . . . if a revolution is imminent, then I feel that I must do my part to keep entire groups of people safe from such atrocities as were thrust upon Jewish people in Germany, or even Asian people here in America.  NOBODY should be put on some sort of “registry” just because they follow a non-Christian religion.  Nor should anyone be forced to “convert” to a “more acceptable” lifestyle.  Just the thought of either of those things coming to fruition pisses me the fuck off!  So I feel like I need to join the fight.

Deep down I’m terrified of being jailed or killed over this, but I also feel that I’d be an absolute coward to not stand up and fight for something I truly believe in.  I have too many gay/black/trans/Muslim/etc. friends whose livelihoods appear to be on tenterhooks as of January 20th to just sit idly by and not do something.  I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror ever again, if I sat on my hands.

I never wanted to be a fighter.  I even refused to go into the military (even though I needed the money for college) because I just don’t agree with using excessive force to get what you want.  I had always prided myself on letting people have their own opinions.  But this election has been divisive, and in my mind this new administration is very dangerous.  I have to stand up for what I believe in.  So if it means I need to go out and fight . . . then fight I will.

Vive la revolution!

New Year, New Me

As I’ve stated before, I’m not usually one for making New Year’s resolutions.  I generally feel that, if you’re not willing/ready to make the change at any time of the year, chances are you won’t succeed at it just because a new year has begun.  Maybe that’s just a defeatist attitude that I’ve used to keep me from attempting to make any large changes each year, but it’s not like I’m ever graded on my human-ness by whether or not I participate in this social activity, so I haven’t cared to look at it any deeper.

This coming year, however, I have decided to make some changes.  I don’t know that I’d call them “resolutions” per se, but these modifications are things I feel are necessary to my emotional and physical well-being, if I hope to enjoy a healthy long life.

The first is to be MUCH more diligent in changing my eating habits.  I’ve known I had Hashimoto’s for nearly two years now, but I’ve been pretty lax about making sure that I avoid gluten at ALL costs.  Sometimes it’s because I don’t want to cause too much of a fuss, but it’s mostly because I don’t pay that close attention to ingredients when I eat out, so I’m sure there are times when gluten still gets into my system.

Also, the more I speak to my functional medicine doctor, the more I learn that there are other foods I should be cutting down on, or cutting out of my diet entirely.  I’ve been fighting it like a five-year old throwing a tantrum and being mad at my body for being this sensitive, but I’ve finally started to accept that I need to put on my big-girl panties and stop letting my ID control me.  Mine isn’t a life-threatening disease (yet), but I know that I can feel better than I do right now . . . and I WANT that.

The next shift will likely happen as a result of eating better for my body . . . lose weight.  Both Craig and I need to lose quite a few pounds, but we’ve let our reasons and excuses keep us from doing just that.  Well, Craig’s been encountering more and more health problems due to his weight and our not-so-great eating habits, and neither of us wants him to have to be on medications for the rest of his life, so this is one change that we’re gonna work on together.  YAY!  The fact that I want to go to Hawaii for my 50th birthday is a HUGE incentive.  We both want to go hang gliding, walking on volcanoes, and even ziplining . . . And we’d probably have a better time doing those if we were down to healthier weights.  We’ve got until 2020 to get there.

The other switch that I’m going to make is to stop playing so many video games.  I started using them as a little break/de-stressor from the daily grind, but it’s now become more than that.  They’ve come to take up a good hour or two of my days . . . which is time that I could put to MUCH better use with editing my current audiobook or auditioning for new voice over gigs.  Or even taking new photos or editing old ones.  I have two amazing careers that I really want to get off the ground, and playing video games is taking up too much of what little free time I currently have (since I have a day job as well).

These are three really good switches that I’m going to be making in my life.  So, why am I waiting until the new year to make them?  Probably the same reason so many other people don’t make the changes right away . . . I don’t wanna!  lol  While that’s meant to be funny, it’s also quite true.  My ID is definitely sensing the danger of not being in control for much longer.  It’s one of those consequences of not disciplining oneself enough as you’re growing up . . . you spend 40+ years doing/eating whatever you want, whenever you want to and not thinking of the possible repercussions (because you don’t notice any for the first 20+ years of your life).  That’s a LOT of years of bad habits to try to overcome.  So I guess I’m giving myself a couple more weeks of “freedom” before I make the necessary changes.

The funny thing is that deep down inside, I WANT to make these changes.  I know, inherently, that all of these changes will make for a MUCH happier, healthier Alyx.  And I so desperately want to be happier and healthier.

So, maybe these last couple weeks of 2016 are really a chance to let the deeper part of me work on convincing my ID that these changes are a GOOD thing.  Probably not, but I’ve only got two more weeks to make excuses.  ;o)

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