Rules. No one's favorite word by a long shot. You know, the ones that are pretty much etched in stone and not usually definable by individual interpretation. My dear friend Webster defines a rule as a regulation or bylaw governing procedure or controlling conduct. I can research every component of that definition and the meaning does not change. A rule is a rule.
Now, on any given day I watch rules of all kinds get challenged. A road sign says Speed Limit - not "Speed Suggestion." Another sign warns No Passing Zone - not "Pass If You're Annoyed by the Person Driving the Speed Limit in Front of You." And, of course, we all presume that Stop means "Just Roll Right Through This Intersection If You Think You Won't Get Caught." Why is it so difficult to follow simple rules? What compels us to break them? Who empowers us to blow it all off?
My initial thought is we are all just selfish individuals who believe that rules do not apply to us. Or, perhaps, we are all closet rebels who dare anyone to question our authority to do whatever we want. Maybe it's as simple as having zero ability to plan our lives on a timely schedule so we rush everywhere. Or, lastly, we just do not engage our brain before acting irresponsibly. Any of those sound remotely familiar?
Now, nothing is that simple, but it is astonishing how so many have little regard for rules clearly designed for safety. It is even more absurd that those who do choose to follow rules are met with honks, loud screams, and very colorful hand gestures. I used to think the honks and cheers were virtual high-fives from a friendly community. The hand gestures debunked that theory.
Then there are the unspoken rules of life. These unwritten courtesies may not be underwritten by law but carry the same level of common sense. As I was leaving the grocery today, I had to navigate an empty cart obstacle course. Shoppers decided they did not need to walk the cart to their car, so they grabbed their bags and left the cart where it stood - right in front of the door. I know it takes 12 extra-long annoying steps to return it to the queue, but three quick steps would have at least moved it to the side. How thoughtless of me to think they could do the right thing.
Years ago, I worked in an assembly plant. It was disturbing how disgusting the bathrooms got as the day progressed. I walked in once on a break to see a coworker washing their hands and deliberately dripping the dirty, wet suds all over the sink and faucets. She must have seen me staring, mouth agape, and decided to ease my troubled mind. "I can't do this at home, so I do it here. It's fun." She then giggled and left without any regard for the mess she left behind. To this day, that statement leaves me speechless. Add arrogance to my initial thoughts about why people do what they do.
Okay, so we all have pet peeves. Obviously, rule-breakers top my list, and it does not matter if they are rules of law or unspoken courtesies. It would be a much kinder world if we would all think before acting like inconsiderate idiots. All actions have consequences, and when you make a choice, you also choose the consequence.
Unlike the "Golden Years" I have lamented about before, the "Golden Rule" does indeed become more priceless with age. At this point in my life that price has become incalculable. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
The older I get the more I ponder how my perceptions of the past, present, and future might have paralleled those of my predecessors. With all my might, I wish as a kid that I had found the insight to listen more closely to my parents and grandparents discuss the issues of the day. Were there conversations about climate change, global discourse, or the positive or adverse effects of technology? Obviously, climate change was not an issue back then and technology revolved around a simple calculator. But I am sure there had to be timely issues that adults debated. I only seem to remember hearing the objections to our loud music, long hair, and short skirts.
I do vividly remember the announcement of President Kennedy's assassination over the loudspeaker in my elementary classroom and watching Neal Armstrong, on my family's only television, declare a giant leap for mankind when he stepped on the moon. Yet, I do not remember talking about it in detail with my parents. I can only think that parenting was just very different back then. Maybe, just maybe, my parents felt they needed to protect us from fearful discussions about larger-than-life issues. Perhaps they equated emotional response with weakness and were very reluctant to voice their reaction.
Today, technology gives people of all ages access to whatever they want to know whenever they want to know it. When was the last time you visited a public library? Technology has eliminated the communal adventure of data discovery. Sadly, while it might accelerate a learning curve it has diabolically altered the way we interact and communicate with each other. We are becoming informational robots and sequestered gamers. We hardly chat via phone anymore, we just text or occasionally video-call. I wonder what my parents would think? Although having spent hours and hours on the telephone as a teenager, I would imagine my parents would have joyously reveled in having access to the home phone again. But I digress...
So, if the power grid goes down tomorrow, I genuinely question how many of us could evolve without the immediate response of technology? My dad made me uniquely aware that I am the only architect of my future. There is no reset button, no reboot option. Could we survive if we had to cook everything over an open flame rather than turn on the stove, plug in the air fryer, or push a button on the microwave? You have to remember our refrigerators and freezers are going to fail as well. No fast food? What's your next option?
Okay, so I am definitely not a doomsday prophet but let's go one step further. Think about what all of civilization loses without access to the power grid. Gas pumps are down, ATMs are useless, and retail outlets are out of luck. Yes, some corporations will have generators, but how long will the fuel last or even be available? It takes power to generate fuel products. Your WIFI is out but it really doesn't matter as cell towers will only last as long as their alternative power sources do. Worst part? I am only touching the tip of the iceberg. It will be a Titanic moment.
Now, I confess without shame that this spoiled little lady would have been an abominable pioneer. Yet, there is much to be said about getting back to basics. Put your phone down. Turn off the television. Limit video games. Plan a nutritious meal without the help of technology. Pick up a book and read, alone or to each other. Unearth a new appreciation for what technology provides before we forget how to survive without it. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Am I the only person who is often astonished at how very predictable humans can be? Even as I claim to be a proactively divergent visionary sometimes I watch myself make decisions based on a very finite set of facts. I do not like peas so I will not like a casserole with peas in it. Ridiculous. I am not fond of Will Ferrell's sense of humor so I will not like his movies. Also, ridiculous. Is it comfort or laziness that limits any wanton desire to pursue alternative thoughts, activities, or even friendships outside of preset notions?
Sometimes we just don't want to change or feel the need to grow. We become creatures of habit operating in a comfort zone with a safety net. I am no exception to this theory, but I am definitely surfing the waves of change.
I wake up daily to an Alexa alarm set to play random music from my music channel of choice. This musical wake-up call ranges from pop and country to jazz and blues. I truly enjoy the diversity. Recently an unfamiliar song with a very dramatic intro jolted me awake. It was compelling. I had to listen. I was instantly awake and alert.
Now, I am a music fanatic and except for twangy country or offensive rap, I pretty much love it all. Musicals have always topped my favorites list. When "Hamilton" achieved critical acclaim in 2015 I immediately discounted its allure because of its rap-based score. Who in their right mind would ruin a good musical with rap? Seriously... why?
Time for me to fess up and eat crow. The compelling song that jolted me awake was
the opening number of "Hamilton" on the Show Tunes channel. I frantically searched YouTube for clips and have become an obnoxiously obsessed fan. Everything about it is brilliant - the interpretation of history, the wordplay, the mastery of language, and the undeniable talent. Even the staging and choreography are noteworthy. While the music is rooted in hip-hop it uniquely co-mingles flavors of the beat music of the '60's and traditional show tunes. I actually subscribed to Disney+ for a month so I could watch the video version, but it still remains number one on my "must-see live and in-person list. One song, although referring to political negotiations behind closed doors, says it beautifully for me: "I wanna be in the room where it happens...no one really knows how the game is played, the art of the trade, where the sausage gets made."
So, the moral of this rant is to stop letting life pass you by because of a preconceived notion. Will this genre of musical theater top my favorite styles? Probably not. But it works beautifully with this content. And, like most choices in life, don't let just one song or one scene etch your impression in stone. Take a chance and experience the entire event. Open your heart, your brain, your eyes and ears, and your soul or face the embarrassing loss of small miracles that might just change your life, or at the very least, brighten your day. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
There is always a pinch of excitement for me as the end of the year arrives. Part of it may be only because all the hustle and bustle and crazy 'I'm Cuckoo for Christmas Cocoa Puffs' kind of exhaustion has finally slowed from a marathon to a brisk walk in the park. Accepting the pace with grace and sanity is enough of a holiday goal.
Honestly? I don't do resolutions. In theory, I believe in just starting every New Year with a clean slate - always look forward, not back. Now, if you've been reading between the lines of these blogs, you already know that would require a profound transformation in me. My life is but a journey of memories. I might casually tend to actions that need attention or irritations that need elimination, but I will not resolve to change. Life is too short to set myself up to fail. So instead, I simply make a promise to myself. I refuse to allow disappointments or sadness that shrouded me last year to follow me into the New Year.
That does not mean, however, that I think resolutions are bad things. Quite the opposite. We all engage different mechanisms to survive our own pitfalls and I applaud every effort people make to improve their emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, or financial well-being. The only person who can affect change is you.
So, look both to the heavens and inside your heart to forge a new path into the future. To each and every one of you, move forward with boundless anticipation. Trust in yourself. Proceed with thoughtful reflection, one step, one day at a time, and life will fall into place exactly as your Master Designer intended.
Happy New Year!
I have always had a passion for music. Both my parents were actually quite musically talented so, throughout my youth, music embraced our daily existence. While my older brother had the albums of every new and upcoming recording artists on the charts, my parents had stacks of vinyl records spanning classical standards by The Boston Pops to the romantic and soulful styles of Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, and Sam Cooke. I loved it all. As a young girl, I never dreamt of being a nurse or a teacher or a secretary or a movie star. I wanted to be the first female orchestra conductor ever.
I would perch myself in front of our family room mirror and wield an invisible baton to Richard Rodgers' "Victory at Sea" and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." Although untrained I could hear the subtleties of each violin, the unique voice of the oboe, and even the rumbling thunder of the timpani. While I fantasized about being a violin virtuoso my school did not offer a full orchestra with strings. My innate musical inclinations had to take a different path. I learned to play the alto saxophone and bassoon, but my voice became my primary instrument.
I started singing publicly at the age of six- was known to bring even the frailest of little old men and women in church to their knees and knock the late-arriving worshippers off the back pew when I belted out a heartfelt refrain. Even my dad said he couldn't believe such a big voice came out of such a little girl. And Grandpa? He just believed I should be a regular on Lawrence Welk. For you youngsters, Google it. Only us old farts will understand that reference. I could vocally interpret almost any song with a unique sense of style. It felt powerful to hold the emotions of an audience in the palm of your hand. Maybe my audiences were my orchestra, and I directed their emotions through song.
My point? While none of us are perfect, isn't it amazing how every person is imperfectly unique? Some people are born comedians, musical or artistic prodigies, intellectual mind-benders, or even style influencers, sports freaks, inventors, and mechanical wizards. Some are all the above.
I truly believe we are all born with innate talents that merely need attention, nurturing, and recognition. We are here for a reason. What if what we dreamed to be was indeed a very specific roadmap awaiting interpretation? Life allows us to pursue whatever we want. We just need to find the right vehicle. Do it. You were most likely born for it. You just have to take that leap of faith. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
I used to be a Christmas Elf. No, not the pointy-eared kind, but the jolly old I'll make you smile if it's the last thing I ever do kind. There were cookie-bakes that started at sunrise and finished when either every participant left with more goodies than they would ever need for the entire season or the Christmas Cheer glasses were finally empty, whichever came first. Guests were entertained, or irritated, by follow-the-bouncing-ball Christmas Carol Sing-along videos all day long. Yes, you read that right. All... day... long...
Oh, and don't forget the empty stockings, hung by the chimney with care, that were mysteriously filled during the wee hours of the night and miraculously overflowing on Christmas morning. I even donned a different pair of crazy Christmas earrings on every December Day. I was a bit much. But I never doubted that I brought joy and goodwill to those stuck (either by choice or tough love!) in my holiday bubble.
Truth is though, I don't feel like an Elf anymore. Relax, that is not a sad realization. Like a fine wine, aged Elves have robust wisdom and full-bodied grace with candy cane overtones. But, my little elfin feet can't withstand 14+ hours of baking anymore; and countless glasses of Christmas Cheer have thankfully exited my epic holiday rituals as well. What does remain, however, are the purest of sugarplum visions.
While 2020 may go down in history as the storm of the century, Christmas is always the season of hope. We are, after all, each individual snowflakes in the middle of a big, beautiful blizzard. We endure and overcome life's blizzards through prayerful repose. It is faith, hope, and charity that will light a path to brighter days.
This finely aged Elf still has eyes that twinkle with anticipation. I envision for each of you a holiday for all seasons. I wish you and yours the warmest of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa blessings wrapped with tidings of great joy. All Elves can do great things when their hearts are true... the Elf in you is awaiting your permission to twinkle!
Have you ever contemplated at what age we learn fear? Fear scientists tout all kinds of theories. Some say we are born with two innate fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds. Really? Others argue that it is an instinct - a part of human nature. Okay, so that is a bit more digestible. However, many believe that most fears are learned behavior. I question all those theories.
As a young kid, carnivals were just the bomb to me. I am not referring to well-organized county fairs but the small pop-up amusements that seemed to appear overnight and disappear almost as quickly. Sleazy hawkers would taunt and lure unsuspecting innocents into spending cash on rigged games for meaningless prizes. It was strangely fascinating and ridiculously fun. So, what does this have to do with fear?
I'm guessing I was about eight years old when one of these magical mystery tours materialized in a nearby town. At the end of the midway stood a funhouse. Now, this was not a house of horrors or a freak show. It was a walk-through giggle-fest with mirrors, overstuffed teddy bears, and dancing frogs. It was fun. As I moved through the very narrow path, I hit a hard left turn. Two steps in I froze. It was dark but wasn't pitch black so I'm not quite sure what triggered the fact that I simply could not move.
Up to this point, I had not felt scared; nothing had surprised me or jumped out in front of me. Suddenly I was afraid of what might happen. Tears welled up in my eyes and I cried for help. The operator had to physically rescue me with a flashlight and walk me out. A scaredy-cat was born that morning. But my fear was not based on tangible influences. It was a fear of the unknown.
I suffered the same fate during my earthquake years in California. When the earth started shaking, I would freeze in fear and had to be literally dragged to a safe haven, even if the door jamb was only a few feet away. Not knowing how bad it would get or how long it would last would completely disengage my survival instinct.
While fears are meant to be conquered, this fear of the unknown still haunts me. I hesitate more often than I care to admit on life decisions solely on the fear that I don't know what will happen. Where did this come from? How does a confident, successful over-achiever fear what they cannot visualize or control? It is not a learned behavior. But...
In retrospect, even as I am writing, I realize that the fear of the unknown might very well walk hand in hand with the fear of failing; and, failing is indeed a learned behavior. Add in the curse of perfectionism and it becomes clear how both fears might turn life's Viennese Waltz into an Irish Riverdance.
I'm just going to speculate that it means I really screwed up in a previous life and failed in epic proportions. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Age milestones have just never been a thing for me. I have watched my friends cringe and panic over birthdays ending in zero for years. I am certain that youthful memories play a significant role in adult behavior; and, I am no different.
My father had his first heart attack at 37. I was eight years old. Within ten years, our family endured multiple heart surgeries and incomprehensible lectures about preparing for the worst. While the story is heartwarming, amazing, and sad all at once, by the time I was eighteen he was gone.
I vividly remember the smells, the tears, and the bottomless well of loss as it seemed every grieving visitor whispered, "He was so young." At eighteen, 47 just didn't seem so young. Of course, at eighteen we all believe that we are immortal so age really is just a number. My loss did make me acutely aware that life is not only fragile but never guaranteed.
So 30 and 40 were not milestones to me. They were gifts - until my 47th birthday when my heart and soul experienced a jaw-dropping metamorphosis. At this same age, my father was fighting for his life, trying to protect his wife and children, and I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I now understood. 47 is "so young." For those of you cringing, and panicking, and dreading those horrific zero years, stop. Just stop. Celebrate every hour, every day, every year, every decade for what it is - the amazing gift of life. What I wouldn't do to celebrate my zero years - no, all of my years - with my dad.
On the other hand, as we all catapult through busy lives contemplating the speed of our demise, don't get me started about how we sometimes treat our elder contemporaries. I know of mothers, fathers, grandparents, and even siblings that want desperately to share their last days comfortably with friends, family members, and loved ones. They don't panic or cringe as birthdays come and go. They silently pray for one more. Their only panic is that they are alone. After all they have given, and all they have shared, not being alone is a selfless request.
We must never forget that these generations have raised our teachers, doctors, nurses, soldiers, technicians - this list goes on and on. Find the time, respect, and kindness to honor them. One day you will awake among their ranks. Give karma a reason to be kind. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
When did the world become so angry? When did kindness become passé? I'm guessing it has always been angry. When you choose to look at life through rose-colored glasses - like I do - its jagged edges become so softly transparent that the fire in your belly rages with good instead of destructive intentions.
I look. I listen. I observe. Many, it seems, handle stress by lashing out at every obstacle in their path. It's always someone else's fault. What is so hard about stepping back to realize every person on the planet faces the same earth-shattering, heartbreaking, godforsaken crises that you do at any moment in time? Your bad day may be a really good day in someone else's eyes.
Yes, we argue: "It's their job!" - "I'm the customer!" - "That was rude!" - "There's no excuse!" - and sometimes I would most likely agree. I have been guilty of it all. But, what do we accomplish by snapping back? We become a mirrored reflection of that same insensitivity. Bravo. We just became what we hate. How's that working for you? I'm not saying these deeds should not be addressed. I'm merely suggesting before we choose to yank that band-aid we consider removing it more delicately to abate the aggravation or hurt that always results on both sides.
Of course, sometimes attitude has nothing to do with anything. This quiet riot of a rage may well be born from pure jealousy. We berate and belittle to make ourselves feel better. We judge based on what we have, don't have, or want. It certainly isn't pretty but it happens.
My crazy thoughts, however, are only a tiny spec in the realm of quantum societal behavior swings. We are just a rapidly changing breed. Immediate responses to almost everything in our lives - fast food, overnight delivery, instant downloads, TV/movies on demand - are programming us to not only need it now but expect it now. And somehow, amid all the chaos, thoughtfulness just flies out the window.
Wouldn't it be amazing if we could all remember the old adage: you attract more bees with honey than vinegar. Kindness, common courtesy, and simple civility - together - are the honey that binds a civilized world. What a sweet way to enjoy your life more. Let the anger go.
In my next life, I think I'll study psychology so I can get paid megabucks for this nonsense. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Over-achieving perfectionists... don't you just hate those freaks? You know the type. Always early, disgustingly confident, hopelessly organized, diligent in the execution of even the most mundane tasks, and secure in the notion that nothing is impossible if you beat the dead horse long enough.
Whoa. Wait a minute. What am I saying? I am one of those people. I am a card-carrying member of that demonic society! Ok, so I don't beat the dead horse thing, but I have been known to reformat and reprint an 80-page document to offset 1/100th inch of glaring white space that only I can see. Sickness, people... it's a sickness.
But, it can have its rare advantages. This infliction trains our observation skills to notice even the most minute detail. Everything you view most likely requires some kind of adjustment and you believe those changes are always for the best. It becomes readily apparent when you finally agree to meet an online acquaintance for the first time and you can't help but notice they have one ear bigger than the other. Strangely, the more you chat the bigger it gets. Seriously, it's really bigger. Perfectionism rears it's ugly head and suddenly you realize had you studied cosmetic surgery you would know how to improve this person's existence - wait for it - perfectly. But sadly, the scene was set. This introduction was over and you realize you never heard a word they said. Okay, so maybe that wasn't an advantage. Sadly, perfectionists know how to create and destroy with the flutter of an eyelid.
Now, the contradictory side of this double-edged sword is that perfectionism isn't particularly all-encompassing. While tasks in the workplace always require razor-sharp precision, the same rigid expectations do not always apply at home. I assure you I have cobwebs that could display multiple strands of Christmas lights quite beautifully. As long as the unacceptable cobwebs are maximized for optimal utilization, the result is still perfect, right? Isn't it ironic that perfectionists can even rationalize imperfection?
Perhaps what we should learn as we navigate our eccentricities is to groom a path beyond our own inhibitions. Yes, even perfectionists have crippling limitations. And it is not easier to let go when you know you're afflicted. Surely, somewhere, there are meetings for this...
Hello. I'm Jacque and I'm a perfectionist. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.