The age of reflection

As someone who just acknowledged* the passing of yet another year since my birth, I couldn’t help but reflect a bit on how long I’ve been around.

I suspect some think I’m kidding when they hear me say I’m surprised to be here. While I am happily surprised, I am serious nonetheless. I would never have predicted this.

My written reflection will be brief, but the day and its inexplicable milestone status had me thinking more than usual about family and friends who died far, far too young.

I miss them. I hope to honor them this year by making it one of my best as a husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

Out walking around...
Out walking around…

* Celebrated would be an exaggeration. My actual age in human years is irrelevant unless you’re going to offer me a discount on something.

Crossword question

Dangerous thoughts on a Boulder trail

bike-197229The tall, slender man rolled fast toward me
on his bicycle, talking to the purple-haired
woman riding next to him, looking at his phone,
unaware of his likely imminent demise.

I had the body mass index advantage, I said
later. I had a helmet. I was going downhill
as he was going up. He was shirtless and the
road rash would be ugly if he even survived.

My bicycle was new, nearly scratch-free. I had
things to do, a looming deadline, bills to pay.
I shouted, too politely, and spared his life,
as I had with the oblivious guy the other day.

The next time he may not hear me and we’ll collide
but I swear in advance that I tried to avoid him
even though I was tempted to teach him a lesson.
I really don’t have time to waste in prison.

 

An experimental essay

Perspective is everything. One man’s “primitive” was once another’s state of the art, or at least within shouting distance.

The Radical Midwesterner

From the Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking, July 8-13, 2018.

1.

I always go back to this question of who or what I am as a writer. A year or two ago the answer seemed relatively clear: I was a scholar, an academic, even an “intellectual” on my more confident days. I taught an wrote and thought for a living. But now that I am living the post-academic life it’s not so clear anymore. Who am I as a writer and a thinker? What identity do I want to have? I think I should write for a popular audience. I should get paid. But I really can’t think at the pace of the internet, nor do I really want to learn. And yet the slow and painstaking work of developing and sustaining a scholarly argument for a year or two or more so it can be published for…

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The path back to life in technicolor

I mentioned recently that I know what to do when my nemesis comes skulking around, wrecking my mood, sapping my energy, and sometimes rendering me grouchier than usual. It took me a good while to figure it out some years ago.

hot air ballloonYour own path back to the technicolor world is unique to you, but these things help me:

  • Bicycling. I’ve said before and it proved true for me again over the weekend, exercise always helps. You don’t have to ride fast or far, but ride — or run or walk or do something else that suits your capabilities and makes you feel good.
  • Talk about it or write about it. I’ve done both, the first with Mrs. Smith and with professionals on occasion, the second right here and elsewhere. Great combination for me.

It isn’t always easy to act. Getting results can take time.

Now, back to the final edit of my new crime novel.

Pedal on.

B.J.

Nemesis begone

My nemesis had not stopped by in many months, maybe years, to remind me that it was still there, waiting. It returned almost imperceptibly.

The thing arrived in recent days like Sandburg’s fog, on little cat feet, while my attention was somewhere else. By this morning all the vibrant colors of the world had faded to black and white and then to drab shades of grey.

Sleep is a haven and waking unwelcome. Numbness is a blessing.

Now that I recognize the old signs I’d almost forgotten, I know what to do, what help I need to send this depression back to its dark lair. Maybe someday it will remain there.

For now, a little patience. Soon it will move on, and so will I.

 

Thoughtless writers and the stigma that needs to die

The chaotic world of social media is awash in nonsense, much of it perpetrated by those who claim to be or imagine themselves to be writers.

They consume precious bandwidth by tossing around famous quotations of questionable provenance, Instagramming their groan-inducing sentiments about “the writing life” and, with their often careless use of language, perpetuating damaging stereotypes about writers and others.

Take the example that set me off today, a post that said:

ALL WRITERS ARE LUNATICS

The poster asked: Haven’t you noticed that all writers are just a little bit… off? (In the best way possible)

A couple of dozen followers agreed, celebrating their alleged lunacy and the apparent cool and oh-so-specialness of their writerly selves. I responded with a simple “Nope.”

Why?

  1. Both the image used in the post and the related question make light of the serious issue of mental illness.
  2. The notion that “all writers” are a “little bit off” is a myth.

The term lunatic itself is outdated, pejorative slang, though it does seem to be useful in Twitter snark and other online commentary. It was even removed from the U.S. Code in 2012. Its use may seem harmless and even lighthearted in some contexts, but no serious writer who seeks to destroy the stigma that surrounds mental illness will use it lightly.

writer's deskRegarding 2, while it is true that some famous writers suffered from mental illness that shaped their creativity (and sometimes led to their deaths), writers in general are no more “off” than the general public.

For the record, I have been treated for depression for nearly 20 years. I’ve been writing for a living a good bit longer than that.

Take that, stigma.

Write on.

B.J.