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Soul-Searching with a Cup of Java

It’s overcast outside. Grey clouds are threatening a downpour at any moment. On autumn days like this one, I like to put on some easy-listening music, grab a cup of coffee and sit and think.

I call it quiet introspection.

People who know me say that I am transparent. I admit that I am also opinionated. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Holding my tongue not only belies who I am; it agitates me like an itch that gets worse the more I scratch it. There are some things – not many – that I will not speak openly about unless I am asked, and my answer may be brief but candid. Depending on the topic, my advice is if you are not prepared to hear the answer, then don’t ask the question. It’s a play on the axiom, “Be careful what you wish for; you just may get it.”

Someone else’s viewpoint about an issue is their opinion, and mine is mine. They may argue that my perspective is wrong, but I will not change my mind to appease them. By the same token, if someone disagrees with me, I won’t try to change their mind, but I will let them know that I feel differently.  Everyone has an opinion (though, but some folks would never admit to it). The best thing for strengthening an opinion is having reliable information to support your position. For instance, if I say that over half of the people in this country drink coffee every day, that is my opinion. If I say that a Reuters study shows that 64 percent drink it daily, I’ve backed up my opinion with data provided by a verifiable source.

I try to be open-minded to suspend judgment and to accept without condemnation things with which I don’t entirely agree. I am no more perfect than the next person, and I wouldn’t think of casting the first stone. But what I am not – is a hypocrite.

This nonconformist does not follow the herd. I will not pretend to believe that day is night, left is right, and what I perceive to be wrong is right just because society may dictate it or because everybody else thinks it’s okay. Nevertheless, my doctrine is simple – live and let live.

My mother was dutifully religious. I consider myself more spiritual than religious, but the disadvantage of being a child imbued with a strict religious upbringing is that it sticks with you through adulthood. Mother has been dead for six years; however, in my mind, I still hear her quoting Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

I don’t know how many times I heard her say that when I was growing up.

Sometimes we deviate. That doesn’t mean that we forgot the lessons. God bestowed us with free will, and fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we make a conscious choice to choose the other of the two roads in our path instead of the trail we were taught to follow.

Since the scriptures prophesize that we “all have sinned,” sometimes I think that trying to walk a righteous path is futile. If I could say that to mother now, she would immediately remind me that the Bible also says that each of us will be judged according to our deeds.

So, I reiterate that I will live and let live. But I refuse to be fake. Sometimes even when I go along to get along, I feel like a fraud. Anyone who wants me to accept them for who they are must, in turn, take me for who I am. Because we disagree doesn’t mean that we have to be nasty about it. It merely means that we have a different point of view.

Indian philosopher Krishnamurti said, “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” I haven’t reached that peak. Maybe I never will. But I don’t worry about it, because I have plenty of company on the concourse level.

It takes an extraordinary person to look at something – anything – in a completely neutral manner. Can someone be open-minded and critical at the same time? Is it feasible to think that even the smartest person can observe something and not draw a conclusion? I wonder. Because someone doesn’t publicly express an opinion, but that doesn’t mean that he or she has not formed one?

There is nothing like relaxing to some easy-listening music, a cup of coffee, and quiet introspection – in my opinion.

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Reflecting on Being Too Tired to Laugh

My earbuds are in place, and I’m listening to Bobby Womack croon, “I’m looking for a love.”

Not me, Bobby. I’ve got love. I’m looking to laugh again. I want to rediscover humor in a country blanketed under a cloud of gloom.

Anxiety simmers everywhere. I rarely hear anyone laughing anymore. I’m not talking about a forced smile or a polite chuckle. I miss the shoulders jiggling, head thrown back, falling in the chair laughing. I haven’t laughed like that in a long time and rarely see anyone else doing it. But I hear a lot of people saying, “I’m tired.” Not tired like the exhaustion you feel after a long workday at the office. It’s mental fatigue. Enough-is-enough. Sick of the existing state of affairs tired.

My list of tired is long. I’m tired of hearing about social distancing and the coronavirus death toll. Tired too of sheltering in place because going outside means dodging unmasked people and avoiding crowds. I’m tired of anarchy and criminal politicians – rotting from the head down. I’m tired of reports of voter suppression. I am sick and tired of seeing numerous newscasts and amateur videos of black people getting beat down or killed by rogue cops. I am mentally exhausted from seeing unprovoked injustices against the same people for driving, walking, working, living – while black. I’m tired of reading incredible reports about black people found hanged in public places, and their death ruled a suicide. I’m tired of seeing non-violent protesters attacked by goon squads and racist hatemongers because the activists rightly believe that black lives matter.

I’m tired of being tired. I need to get my laugh on. Reset my funny bone.

I used to have a good sense of humor; don’t know when my funny side slipped away like a runaway bride. I woke up one day and realized that finding something to laugh about in a topsy-turvy society is difficult. Experts say that humor keeps us psychologically healthy, so I often remind myself of the words of Maya Angelou, “Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.”

I want not to be tired. I want to laugh freely again. I want normalcy. To hell with the so-called new norm. I long for a return to normalcy as it existed half-century ago before people began questioning, “What is normal?” If half-a-century is a stretch, then I’ll settle for normalcy as it was before 2020, better still before 2016.

I know I am not alone. Every God-fearing person I know is as tired as I am of the status quo. We all want to feel untired. We want to relax and laugh again.

I believe that eventually, things will get better. Scientists will discover a vaccine for COVID-19, and November 3 could bring hope for a major overhaul in January 2021. That would surely give us something to laugh about.

I am a realistic optimist. I realize that a nightmare scenario could recur on Election Day. (God forbid!) So, I’ll wait until the final count is in, and refined people have reclaimed the building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And then, to paraphrase a favorite hymn of mine, I won’t feel no ways tired, ’cause you’ll find me at Lafayette Square, aka BLM Plaza, laughing my ass off while doing a happy dance.

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Count to Ten

People are losing their mother freakin’ minds. Our lifestyles, social practices, and in some cases, living arrangements are changing from day-to-day. The novelty of enduring temporary adjustments has worn off, and social distancing is forcing another new norm upon us. Health-minded, law-abiding citizens are trying to comply with each change, while resisters in places like Michigan are openly protesting. Nearly everybody’s patience is growing wafer-thin, and some people are spelling pandemic P-A-N-I-C.

I don’t go outside very often unless I need something from the store or am feeling claustrophobic and desperate for a change of scenery. This morning, I decided to go out and buy groceries, and I invited my daughter and grandson to join me in case I purchased more items than I could carry.

We were all wearing masks as was everyone who I saw in the store, and most shoppers were following the silly arrows on the floor, directing pedestrian traffic.

As we were preparing to leave, we apparently got too close for comfort (less than 6 feet) to a woman who was standing in front of the exit with her cart of groceries. She too was wearing a mask.

Perhaps she was waiting for a ride; I don’t know. What I do know is that if you don’t want people walking near you, then you need to stand someplace else instead of in front of the exit door. Anyway, as the three of us drew nearer to her, she got wide-eyed, grabbed her cart, and sprinted back into the store, all the while mumbling something mostly indecipherable about social distancing. I can smell attitude from a mile away, and she had a big-time bad attitude, which I chose to ignore.

As I said, people are losing their mother freakin’ minds. And to add to the madness – some grocery and convenience stores are now scheduling shopping days based on shoppers’ last names.

Stressed to the max is the phrase of the month. I won’t be surprised to see skirmishes start to break out in grocery stores and everywhere else over little indiscretions. I feel that if things don’t turn around soon, it will come to that. I say turn around instead of return to normal because I doubt if normality will ever return. Normal bought a one-way ticket to forever-gone. Having to adjust to new societal rules like social distancing is driving some previously mild-mannered citizens mad. What do you think?

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Not Embracing the Fear Factor

During times of despair, no matter how dire a situation looks, I choose to focus on the positive. I tell myself to travel in the light, not in the dark, to find humor in the most troubling situations even during a pandemic.

Darn the coronavirus. It’s no lie that it has changed life as we previously knew it and I am sick and tired of hearing about it. I may have to give up my claim to being a news and political junkie and leave the TV turned off for a while because there’s no escape. Breaking news reports about the pandemic has become more common than commercials about bladder leak and auto insurance. The mute button on my remote control is getting stuck from being depressed so often.

Aside from making people sick, this thing has everyone paranoid. Medical professionals are advising people to avoid physical contact and reiterating it so often that some people are acting like they are afraid to look at another person. Listen, people. Making eye contact with someone across the room will not infect you with coronavirus. Let me amend that statement by saying, not yet anyhow. Who knows? At any minute, a breaking news report could repudiate that claim. As of now, it is okay to look, just don’t touch.

Last week on the Today show, NBC medical correspondent, Dr. John Torres, said that we are safer if we maintain a distance of at least six feet away from people. Since then, I’ve heard numerous other medical professionals mimicking his statement.

Among other things associated with the current pandemic, I’m particularly angry over the no-touch factor. Touch is the first of the five senses, and it is a basic human need. Research suggests that touch is fundamental to social bonding and health. Studies have shown that human touch can improve the immune system, reduce the heart rate, and lower blood pressure. They also reveal that compassionate touching is a good thing. That is until recently. Coronavirus arrived on the scene like a spurned lover straight out of fatal attraction, and it is releasing fury and creating private hells for people worldwide.

I’m a toucher and a hugger. I don’t need a study to tell me that. It’s who I am. Now, I have to retrain myself not to reach out and touch people, and to avoid touching my own face. Believe me when I say that it is a struggle for me to resist the urge to high-five or shake hands with an acquaintance or embrace a friend.

We are temporarily (let’s hope that’s the case) living in an altered reality. It’s another so-called new norm among many new norms that have surfaced in recent decades. And it sucks.

Stores are bankrupt of essential cleaning and sanitizing supplies. Overburdened medical staff are setting up triage tents for testing. Businesses are temporarily shutting down. And some people are losing their minds.

This morning as I was out walking, I saw a couple approaching from about half-a-block away. The woman was wearing a hijab and an abaya. No problem. However, the person walking beside her (I couldn’t determine if it was a woman or man) was wearing a blanket over clothing. Yes, I kid you not. A full-length, gray, grabbed off of a bed-covering blanket. It was wrapped around his or her entire body probably secured with safety pins or some other device behind the head. The blanket extended from beneath the person’s eyes to below the knees of the trousers.

I struggled with the temptation to avoid pulling my camera out of my pocket to snap a photo of them before they got too close to me. But then I realized that I had reached my turn off point and veered in the direction of my home. As I said, some folks are losing their mind.

I am determined not to buy into the fear-factor, but I won’t take foolish chances either.

Moments ago, I was sitting at my computer typing this post, and enjoying the breeze coming through an opened window, when I heard a male voice outside sneezing several times, so loudly that I thought he would blow out his lungs. The sneezes were followed by a brief coughing spell. Just as I jumped up to run over and close the window, I noticed that I didn’t hear him hacking anymore. Perhaps he got into a car or went further down the street.

No sooner do I sit back down and begin keyboarding when I cough, twice. Dang it! For real? Where did that come from? I tell myself that it is merely a psychological response. I’m good. But then I hear a faint voice deep in my brain asking how long before symptoms appear after exposure, 7 to 14 days? Oh, hell no! Get out of my head. I’m not going there. I refuse to surrender to paranoia.

I just hope that before this mess is over, I don’t run out of hand soap, cans of disinfectant spray, Lysol wipes, bleach and hand sanitizer.  Oh, and that precious commodity for the porcelain throne – toilet paper.

 

 

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Remembering A Dog’s Life

Years ago, I worked with a wonderful man who had a basset hound named Cleo. Occasionally he would bring Cleo to the office. I liked that dog as much as her owner loved her. You know how you hear people say some things that stay with you forever? Whenever Cleo’s master was agitated with some of our business associates following a meeting or phone call, he would say to me privately, “That’s why I like animals better than I like humans.” At the time, I thought that was a rather odd statement, but over the years, I have come to fully understand why he felt that way, and I know other pet lovers who would agree with his statement.

Domesticated animals, particularly dogs, and cats are more compliant and much easier to deal with than people in general. The most agitation an animal will cause is when it chews up one of our favorite slippers or pillows, scratches the furniture, or has an occasional accident inside the home instead of doing its business outdoors. People, on the other hand, are not always acquiescent and tend to frequently get on our last nerve.

Animals, although territorial, tend not to be power-hungry, cantankerous, or disloyal. They give us unconditional love. In human relationships, this precious commodity is almost impossible to find. When our loyal, four-legged companion senses that we are in danger it comes to our rescue. If we are stressed-out, our pet is there snuggling beside us, wagging its tail or purring as if to say, “You’ve got a friend.”

Although I like both cats and dogs, I am partial to dogs, except for a few bad-rep breeds. Advocates of those breeds would have a hissy fit if I called them out, so I won’t, but many of you can imagine which dogs I am referencing. Face it; you rarely hear reports broadcast about a collie, poodle, or some other gentle breed mauling someone to death. (Note, I said rarely, not never.) If you don’t know which vicious breeds I am referring to, use your honest, unbiased imagination or ask Judge Judy. She will unhesitatingly tell you which breeds have the bad-repute.

When I was a youngster, our family had two dogs, during different periods in my life. Our first dog was a beautiful black lab named Tippy. I don’t recall where we got Tippy, but I remember that she was a lovely animal. Below is a photo of Tippy with my sister taken in December 1964.

After Tippy, came Muffy. I don’t have a photo of Muffy, so I’ll simply describe her as being a white mutt. She too was a sweet canine. If I remember correctly, my mom told me that a friend of my youngest brother gave that dog to him. That was around late 1967 or early ’68.

I have a memorable event relating to Muffy. She was still a puppy when I brought her outside one day. As I was sitting on the front porch of our family’s home deeply engrossed in a novel. I believe it was Valley of the Dolls. Muffy, off-leash wandered off of the porch, trotted to the end of the block and out into the street. You guessed it; a car hit her. Fortunately, it was a quiet street with very little traffic and not a busy avenue.

Some of the neighborhood kids came running to the house and told me that Muffy got hit by a car. Long story short, a handsome young man around my age had been driving the car that hit Muffy. He stopped, picked her up and was holding Muffy in his arms when I rushed to the scene. Muffy’s right paw was bleeding. He handed her to me and then drove us to a veterinarian clinic which was a few blocks away. Fortunately, Muffy had only a minor leg injury, but through that encounter, I met the greatest love of my life. And although we each eventually went on to live our separate lives, we remained the best of friends for over 30 years. I will always believe that it was divine intervention that led him to visit me one day in May 2001. For about an hour that day, we laughed and reminisced about old times. That was two days before he suddenly died. It is impossible for me to think about Muffy and not remember him, because memories of both are intertwined.

Even stranger is a dream I had recently. My former boyfriend was standing beside his car, which was parked in the middle of the street. The same street near my parent’s home, where he had run over Muffy years ago. In the dream, he is holding Muffy and smiling as I approach them. I return his smile. Muffy with her beautiful, big eyes, looks intently at me but seems quite contented to be in his arms. As I reach out to pet Muffy, they both vanish and I wake up.

I did some research about dreams about deceased dogs and came up with this. Dogs are usually a symbol of loyalty and friendship and often might represent good things in your life. I also discovered this — It could mean that you haven’t gotten over your dead dog and your subconscious mind is trying to communicate this to you. Very interesting, isn’t it? I’m going to leave that right there.

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