Peace, privacy, maintaining positive relationships

I am just barely involved with social media. I have a Facebook profile, but mostly I use it for looking at photos and things that my few online friends like and share. I am involved in a single Facebook group. And that’s it. Other than my blogs, which are hardly controversial or divisive, I am remain pretty low-profile, practically anonymous. And I prefer it that way.

A few of my work-related associates and clients wonder if we are social outcasts of a sort because we are not public participants in the social media world. Of course, they are millenials and grew up entrenched in this environment. Whereas I am an old dinosaur and very happy with my quiet life. I was also a fairly late Facebook joiner.

Their reasons for flying under the radar are exclusively professional; they do not want to be too public with details of their lives and personal opinions or open themselves to scrutiny from potential clients, employers, adversaries in business. I get that. Mine are more practical: I find Facebook and social media a complete time-sucking waste 98.8% of the time, and other 1.2% is devoted to pictures and events in my kids’ and friends’ lives and photos or topics of interest to me shared or liked by people whose thoughts and opinions I respect. Between work and the rest of my day-to-day life, I rarely have the luxury of enough time to cover all that I want to do and still get enough rest. I try hard to maximize my productivity and not be clicking through page after page after page of stuff I either barely want to think about much less care about reading.

A close friend has zero social media presence and rarely to never publishes pictures of himself and asks that others more active in such forums respect his request to stay offline as much as possible. His preferred method of communication is email; he is even a very spare texter. While far from a Luddite or technology adverse, his thought is that it is far too easy for the ignorant to feel powerful without basis or cause for their opinions and ideas and life is challenging enough without becoming involved in an online spat. If anything, he himself has been guilty forming an opinion too quickly based on a quick scan of information on current topics and having to backtrack and rethink his opinions.

All told, a pretty careful, thoughtful person.

In today’s emotion-charged public discourse, I long for the periods of my life where more measured tones were used within the context of public debate. I miss the days when newspapers and television news reports could be trusted in their reporting of facts and observations and witness accounts. Such reporting was verified independently and the writer’s personal bias and opinion was either excluded or ruthlessly edited from the published piece. Corrections, when needed, were published discreetly, but at least mistakes were admitted and corrections issued. These days? Fake news is an industry into itself. Reporters are pundits and their personal bias colors nearly everything written under their byline. In this era of social media and no-holds-barred instant access to off-the-cuff opinions and remarks, there is less thoughtful discourse and more victimization for any and all perceived wrongdoing against an individual or group or villainizing of those whose thoughts and ideas fall outside of lock-step agreement with the majority of the larger, more vocal masses. Being righteous and advancing the agenda is the only thing that matters; bulldoze opposition, silence dissent, beat anyone standing in the way into submission. The agenda is the only thing that matters.

It now seems to have become part of dialog within my own family, where we almost shout each other down and call it debate. I am disheartened by such behaviors, and when cooler heads prevail, an honest conversation about how we interact on hot-button topics needs to take place. I am not looking forward to that, yet I know it’s necessary to maintain healthy, open dialog with other adults in my family. The volatility of today’s political climate seems to either build healthy debate or aggressive erosion of relationships. The polarization is killing life as I prefer it.

M is as guilty as anyone, and while I tend to believe we are all intelligent and thoughtful people, he is far more sensitive to being discounted and disrespected than I am. M is far more entrenched in a traditionally moral, Christian perspective than I am, and while I respect his opinions, I also disagree on many fundamental issues. Yet from a values perspective, we are more alike than we are different. However, it seems easier for me to accept that the world is changing, probably too rapidly for my comfort, but the next generations think differently and are influenced in ways we were not. When demanding respect for us as individuals and well as the values and ways of life we hold dear becomes the driving issue, the conversation becomes incendiary and not at all relevant to the topic under discussion. The dug-in opinions of being absolutely correct become more important than the mutual respect and affection we share as a family.

It saddens me that the antics of the lunatic fringe on both sides of the debates are monopolizing and becoming the entire dialog about governing, and I am so disappointed it has now become a thing within my own family. I have disagreed with a lot of things our leadership has done most of my adult life, and sometimes my disagreement seems so futile. Yet I know staying completely silent, not voting, not participating and letting it roll right over me is not an option either.

I am reading, listening, trying desperately to discern what is real, what is fiction, what is primarily the shrill agenda of those with the biggest megaphones and/or the quickest to use their fists or any sort of violence to make their point. Anymore, it seems important to use care when expressing an opinion. For whatever reason that saddens me. How can we become closer as a family, as a community, as a country, if we cannot have talk openly about our differences?

We have new neighbors who think M and I are nearer to the antichrist than we are normal, rational, thinking people because of the chasm between our political beliefs. M and I have agreed that for the sake of peaceful fences, in the future we must refrain from discussing current events or politics with people that living so close to us. We own our home, as do they, and we have no desire for the next 20 or 30 years to be cold detente every time we happen to cross paths. We already have a contentious relationship with the elderly couple directly across the street, but then again, so does everyone else living nearby. None of our neighbors are our best friends and with the exception of one couple unlikely to even be on our guest list for a backyard bbq, but they are part of our geographically closest community. If we must adopt a don’t ask, don’t tell to maintain a sense of peaceful tranquility, surely we can just do that and all continue with our superficial getting along? Unless they start hosting strident rallys or protests that are disturbing to us, I think it is a small price to pay to pleasantly coexist.

It comes up today because our newest nextdoor neighbor has installed a flagpole and has a rainbow flag flying from it. When we first met them M looked up their Facebook profiles, which are locked up tight and completely private. Makes perfect sense to me – he is a financial planner and she is a school counselor. Personally I don’t care about the flagpole or the rainbow flag, but M finds it particularly annoying. It seems in tune with his general peckishness lately with the craziness of the news reports and the furor over Charlottesville. I remind him that these are not our friends, barely acquaintances; they are neighbors, nothing more. And really no worse that the Harley enthusiasts that lived a few houses down when we moved in and would host hordes of bikes for parties a few times per month. While these were yuppie bikers, the noise from the motorcycles got annoying when trying to enjoy a peaceful Sunday at home.

But more and more, I am starting to think my privacy-enjoying pal is on a better path. Maybe more restraint from even logging in and scanning the headlines would bring more serenity to my life. Perhaps then I would be more open to listening to the thoughts that come forward in my discussions and able to find a way to agree or disagree more productively.

But I know me – I’m not very capable of completely disengaging. The search for balance continues.

Good somethings

Last night I went to a yoga class with both daughter C and future daughter-in-law K. It was hilarious. None of us are particularly bendy people, but we tried. I have more experience with Bikram than either of them, and neither were prepared for how hot it is in a room heated to 105 degrees. Still, I treasure any time I spend doing just about anything with my kids, and yoga is no exception. K is game to try again on Thursday, C has to work, but we may be together again at a class on Friday. Girl power at its finest.

I used the cable machine all by myself again this morning. I had not definitively decided before getting to the gym, but I leaning toward another try at it and refining my technique and form. Then J asked me what my plans were, and I made my final decision to go for the cables. It was still early and the gym was still pretty empty, so I felt secure in my choice.

I was going to use a single, stand-alone cable machine, but when I got out there and set my stuff down near it, the nice gent who helped me lower the cable thing yesterday let me know the machine I was using yesterday was available – he was using only the other side of it – and I was welcome to it, so I moved back over there. My attachments were all nearby, too, so I not have to wander far to find what I needed.

And my whole body today is pleasantly sore, which rarely happens anymore. J’s guidance on Monday had been as many reps as possible while maintaining good form, so I tried for 20 on each exercise. I did not always succeed, but I feel good about the effort put forth. It was a good day at the gym.

Plus I was not completely freaked out when some other guy comes over and starts doing pull-ups right in front of me while chatting with the other member using the other side of the machine. I mean, I am standing there doing final set of rows and he just steps in front of me and starts doing pull-ups on the overhead railing. Disconcerting for a second, but not nearly as weird as the time the guy put on some sort of ankle boots and hung upside down from the TRX structure while I was minding my own business and using the TRX straps right across from where he was hanging.

Every morning when I get to the gym it is still dark out. I park right next to the swimming pool and realize how familiar and comforting it is to hear the sound of someone or several someone’s swimming laps. The regular, rhythmic splashes are soothing to my nerves.

When I got home, M was just leaving for his run so I pulled up and rolled down my window, ZZ Top blaring out of my stereo. I did turn it down – M yelling at me over the music it at 7:30 in the morning is not the image I want our neighbors to have of us – and our neighbor across the street yells “turn that music down!” Any of our other neighbors we would smile and laugh and suggest turning it up louder in their driveway, but this guy is a curmudgeon of the first order. I am so proud of us, proud of M in particular, for not letting him get to us and stalking across the street for a confrontation. This man is old enough to be ZZ Top’s grandfather and has gray hair longer than mine with a matching gray beard. Completely not worth getting into a heated discussion with him, which is he only type of conversation he (the curmudgeon) has with anyone.

One of the associates at my firm is a rather hipster cool kind of guy with a sharp sense of humor and scary smart type intelligence. He is on the quiet side, and when he does speak it is with this sort of crisp authority that makes the hairs on my neck stand up in respect and understanding that he could be cutting and cruel if that were his intention and goal; he is not someone who radiates warm fuzzies. This morning he strolled into my office with his time and expense reports for February, looks at me, then smiles – one of those genuine, sincere smiles that completely overwhelms his eyes – and says “I love your hairstyle; it’s beachy, what my niece refers to as ‘mermaid’ hair.” I was astounded and stuttered out a thank you. It was the first time ever he has made a personal comment to anyone in my hearing. And my hair? It one of those wash-and-goo and hope for the best events, and since my hair has a lot of natural curl/wave/puffy available to it, there is a lot of prayer behind that hope for the best. I have no appointments today so I felt okay with going a little more casual. Who knew Mr. GQ likes beachy hair?

The weather here has been absolutely glorious.

I have 2 nephews I have not seen in more than 15 years. Of the 2, the older one has been in jail/prison for most of that time, and the other was a beneficiary in my mother’s will and that resulted in several brief phone/text conversations while I was settling the estate. Other than that, though, I think it safe to say we are strangers who share some strands of DNA. Yesterday on FB the younger nephew popped up as someone I might know, and a brief scan of his page says he has a baby daughter that is about 6 months old, named after my sister, albeit her middle name, which was the name she always reserved for the daughter she never had. I looked through his page, at the pictures of him now and his son (about 12 now) that I have never met, and now this beautiful baby girl … and I closed FB without liking or commenting or opening the window to communicating. Because my sister and I were very different people with very different parenting styles, and I do not want to open my heart to a stranger I cannot trust. I thought I would feel guilty. Instead, I feel a little proud for protecting myself from the particular kind of heartache that comes with family drama.

Our next door neighbor’s son was working at her home with his 3 goldendoodles on the loose in the backyard. They are so goofy, friendly, adorable, and make me smile every time they come to visit.

After writing the post yesterday, I recognize the balance is not as elusive as it seems to be in my heart and mind. Balance for me is recognizing and acknowledging the positives of the good somethings as well as the impacts of the less desirable somethings. Counting my blessings, being thankful, gratitude journaling – however I phrase it, I too often discount or diminish my personal positives and overemphasize and obsessed about the soul-destroying negatives. Why I feel unworthy or less deserving could fill several blogs. An intriguing side effect of changing my habits and improving my physical health has meant that my brain cannot keep broadcasting messages counter to my new reality. Perhaps that is the best something of all.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Carpe diem

My next door neighbor has just learned she has both brain cancer and has a very poor prognosis. We just found out last night, and I am not quite sure how to feel about it, other than shocked and sad. Maybe shocked and sad is adequate for right now.

This is the neighbor with whom I used to do regular urban hikes around the neighborhood on weekends. She and her partner went on vacation a couple of months ago and were gone nearly a month, so we got out of the habit. But we are still friendly and see each other in our comings and goings, but the opportunity to walk and chat has been missing for quite a while. When her partner came by last night to tell us the sad news and give me a small gift – a heart rate monitor she will never use – we tried to be supportive and comforting. But he’s not an emotional or comfortable with support kind of guy, so it was awkward. I asked if I could or should come visit, and he said it would be best to text and ask if she was up to visitors. We also asked if there was anything we could do – feed the cats, errands, groceries, anything – and he said they were fine right now.

I feel badly for them both, and I did text thanking her for the gift and to ask if she would like a visit or if there was anything I/we could do for her. Thus far no reply, and I am not taking it personally. But I am so saddened by the situation.

Part of me wishes to do something, anything for them. Yet I also recognize this is me wanting to do something to make me feel better about an impossible situation. I am opting to simply sit and wait, but it is awkward and difficult. Ours is a neighborhood full of elderly people and several have passed away or moved to assisted living in the almost 4 years we have been in our home. These neighbors, though, are about our same age and we thought they would be around for a while to come.

Sometimes the phrase “carpe diem” hits far too close to reality than I like.

We are practically criminals!

Yesterday’s mail brought notice of alleged code violations from our county officials. We have 15 days to correct the problem or be cited. Our crime against humanity? M’s project car sitting in the middle of our front yard. It also has no grass and is a simple pile of dirt, so we are expecting yet another nasty gram about that as well.

*sigh*

I have been asking M to move the *$!# project car for weeks. Just like I have been asking him to figure out a solution for the back deck and stairs leading to the pool deck. But seriously, moving the project car is a much bigger deal, because it’s an eyesore. He needs assistance to get it pulled into the side yard to be stored and has been reluctant or too focused on other things to make it happen. While I am happy it’s finally going to get put away, neither of us are happy about the courtesy code violation notice. We are generally law-abiding citizens and it bugs the crap out of me that this was in our mailbox. With this piece of dynamite lit under his ass, M should get done on or before this weekend. Edit: he called a friend and the two of them are doing it tonight. In the dark. I am bracing myself for a visit from the sheriff with a noise complaint.

Is it coincidence that I was mulling a post about our neighbors? Or did I sense this was waiting for me in the mailbox? Maybe I am turning psychic and developing a sixth sense for ignoring rules. My minor irritation with our elderly neighbors has now been thrust to the forefront.

We are friendly with most of our neighbors. I walk every weekend with our immediate next door neighbor and we chat and catch up. This morning she had emailed me about some gossip heard from the neighbor on her other side. They too are nice people – probably nicer to our elderly neighbors than M and I are these days – and the husband helps out the widow a couple of houses down on the other side of us. The one who complained about the jackhammering while we were installing the new concrete.

Anyway, she told them that we are not very neighborly or friendly and are vandalizing the sprinkler system at the empty home next door. The landscaper taking care of the house told her that she had fixed the sprinkler timer and it kept getting un-fixed, likely by us, or more specifically M. I think I saw red when I read that in the email, then considered the source and calmed down.

The landscaper engaged to maintain that property is not doing a very good job of it and has left the sprinklers running on more than one occasion, flooding our yard. M has spoken to the elderly woman’s son about it, and he (the son) told M to just turn them off when it happened again. This was last month sometime. He came out a few weekends ago and inspected the broker sprinkler head and disconnected the time. He was supposed to ask the landscaper to adjust the timer and fix the broken piece so it was not watering our concrete and lower yard rather than her garden. Guess what? Landscaper did not do that at all, but reported back to the son that she did. The night after her visit, our concrete was soaked, the lower yard flooded, and the sprinkers back on all night long. M wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but he did take photos with his phone and emailed them to the homeowner’s son. When it happened the next night, M hopped the fence, turned off the sprinkler system, and emailed the son details of what he had done. Son came by the next weekend and asked M to help him repair the broken sprinkler and then the two of them worked out the timing system. Problem resolved, we thought.

That was a couple of weeks ago. The landscaper lady was by sometime last week and immediately after her visit the sprinklers are going off and again all night long. We are in a drought. There are very specific water restrictions going on, and yet this empty home has sprinklers on all night long. M emailed the son last Friday, he came out on Saturday and turned off the sprinkler system completely and then put a lock on the box to keep it that way. He apologized for the inconvenience, which we appreciated. M opined, being pretty pisssed off at the useless landscape lady at this point, that she was not very good or efficient at her job.

Widow neighbor on the other side told the son and our other neighbor that the landscape lady told her that we, specifically M, was turning them on to make the landscape lady look bad.

*sigh*

We love our neighborhood, and we actually like our saner neighbors. There are a few older, lonely couples/people who have far too much time on their hands and need to inject some drama into their lives, so they pull crap like this. If we were the only ones it had ever happened to I would be a lot more concerned, but every one of my more sane and normal neighbors has at least one story of being reported or gossiped about by the elderly who need some excitement. The neighbor’s son is a nice, laid-back guy, and he appreciates all we do and have done for his mother. Unfortunately his sister in Connecticut and his mother in assisted living are the ones wearing the pants as far as the services at the house, so he has no authority to fire the landscaper. He knows she’s not very good and taking advantage of the situation, but she is an old friend of his mother’s and his sister does not want to upset their mother from 3000 miles away.

So, there you have it. In an effort to be completely transparent on my blog,you now know we have violated county ordinances by leaving an old car in the front dirt patch and now been accused of wasting water. I may actually lose followers on this with my checkered history now exposed. Oh the horror!