Get Your Habit in Your Hand

Just Before Halloween 2022

Like many marketing professionals, I’ve collected all sorts of verbal flotsam over the decades. After all, you never can tell when you’ll need a reasonable-sounding bromide or impossible-to-source statistic to derail a discussion that’s gotten out of hand.

Here’s one of the latter: habits take three weeks to establish but far less time to destroy. By that standard, on a rolling two-to-three-week basis, I’ve spent much of the past six months destroying years of virtuous activity. To the extent that regularly posting here possesses any virtue, that destruction includes this space.

The reading hasn’t stopped. The writing hasn’t stopped, either, although it’s been directed towards ends eleemosynary and academic. As always, self-doubt abounds despite the fact that my charitable efforts reach thousands and persuade hundreds to act. What comes next seems a perennial question and I can’t help thinking I’d have an easier time if I stopped reading the blogs of writers more concise, literate and informative than I am. (Drop a comment if you want an example or two.)

Let’s see if reestablishing a habit is possible.

 

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I’m a Madman, Don’t You Know

Early March 2022

In his later years, whenever a disaster occurred my dad would start muttering, mostly to himself, “It’s terrible, terrible.”

Now I understand why.

I remain among the world’s fortunate residents. My nation hasn’t been invaded. Our biggest problem is people deciding it’s easier to hate people you disagree with than learning to live with them.

But look at the screen, any screen. There’s no escaping what’s happening even if it’s possible to compartmentalize it away during working hours. Tanks and infantry rolling from one nation into another. Cities, military installations, nuclear plants on fire. People burying friends and family, then returning to the fight to defend their homeland.

All set in motion by an isolated madman seeking to secure his spot in history.

Well, he’s succeeded and no one of sound mind would mistake his over-confident botched strategy, let alone his frenetic dictatorial diktats and demands, as the behavior of a smart and savvy leader.

From my privileged position, it feels like I should be doing more. And it feels like there’s nothing I can do. Maybe you feel so, too.

And maybe that’s the clue to my dad’s mutterings.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Invented These Lists?

Mid-January 2022

Photo by Polina Kovaleva from Pexels

In a sense, I’m the last person on earth who should be uttering the above question. Professionally, I’ve had almost daily contact with lists for three-and-a-half decades.

Other folks, especially folks who obsessively tote up their daily tasks or feel compelled to enumerate their annual list of resolves, may Continue reading

Oh Tannenbaum

Close to Christmas, 2021

A year that began in turmoil appears to be gearing up to end in a similar state.

Even the cliches seem to be not up to the task. With uncertainty gone exponential (and how else would you describe the uncertain uncertainty of the moment?) I find myself torn between  Advil and Jameson’s. It’s no help that my oven has died and so I must somehow conjure up a stovetop holiday meal.

While I take a little time cogitating on the best way to address that problem, let me share a simple thought about the season. At a time of year when our hemisphere is more dark than light, we celebrate life. It’s no mystery to me why my Bavarian ancestors and other peoples across Europe chose to festoon trees with. garland and candles. The central Christian feast of the winter is, after all, a birthday party–a celebration of life, and light.

In that spirit, I salute all who are celebrating the great gift of life.

See you next week with the year-end playlist.

Succumb to the Beat Surrender

From Obscurity to Infamy to Nothingness
Ruminations on a Lost Love

As tortured paths go, any road that begins in the working-class precincts of the northeastern United States and ends with a Nobel laureate in the Rhineland may be in a class by itself. There’s a through-line, though, I Continue reading

Once in Every Twenty Years

September 11, 2021

I hadn’t planned to do this.

For decades now, I’ve avoided the entire subject, especially on the anniversary.

Of course, I have my story of that day. It lacks the heroic, life-taking/life-saving efforts of the police, fire and EMT Continue reading

Crossword Puzzle Blues

August 2021

I’m not playing coy in not noting the date. But I am aiming to convey a sense of indeterminacy.  It is August, of that I am certain. Yet the actual date itself seems to not matter much at all.

It’s tempting, right about here, to adopt the tone of a self-help guru in the moment before they experienced their great personal breakthrough. That sort of requires a breakthrough, though, and what more can be said of ennui? Believe me, there’s little satisfaction in dissatisfaction.

Funnily enough, while I have my moody moments (more correctly,  many moody moments, according to Mrs. AHC) I’m not generally dissatisfied. I’m pretty certain that in the great lottery of human existence I’m in the winner’s circle. Am I so petty as to be jealous of those folks who have scrambled to the pinnacle?  And if I’ve correctly identified myself as possessing one of the less noble emotions, should I find satisfaction in recognizing such an unseemly, even unsatisfactory, state?

Paragraphs like that last one probably lie behind an observation made by my high school lab partner: it’s easier for smarter people to end up unhappy.

That wasn’t a welcome contribution back in the day, and I probably feel about it now the way our friends–a majority of whom were, at the time, bound for the blue-collar ranks–may have then. It’s self-aggrandizing in an unpalatable way.

I like to think I do the work without cutting too many corners. I recognize real scholarship and talent when I see it. In more honest moments I can admit I possess a limited talent for verbal mimicry but lack any true capacity for insight. And what I’m truly deficient in, and so despise in many others, is the confidence that any of that matters as long as the talent, however modest, can be leveraged to ensure one’s betterment.

This is what happens when the loves that are really distractions–the music, the reading–stop working and seem burdens. Even old standby tactics, like starting another book so the pressure of the unread stack will force completion, stop working.

The only finality I find these days is in crossword puzzles. You start. You fill-in. You correct. And at the last you get a banner that says ‘Finished’ and notice of the time it took you to be a smarty-pants.

Maybe that’s going to have to pass for satisfaction for a while.

Three Little Birds

Mother’s Day 2021

No one can object to a day that celebrates moms. Yet on a day when so many are celebrating their mothers, many others are missing theirs.

I miss my mom daily. And so, because the pressures of the day call me to them, today I’ll just leave you with three great songs Continue reading

What to do When the Lights Go Out

Daylight Savings Time 2021

So, you’ve had an “hour” stolen from you.

I’m here to tell you it could be worse.

Because you’ll survive resetting your clocks and have something to complain about for the next two days or so.

I, on the other hand, have a full home network meltdown on my hands. Like everyone else in the age of pandemic, I’m my own IT guy and that’s not a skill set I maintain nor does it come naturally to me. I find myself reduced, then,  to this short post from my phone, as if I were a true digital citizen instead of a visitor from the mechanical age.

Enjoy your day and week. Stay safe. Drink good coffee and hug someone you love.

Peace.

 

Language is a Virus

A Note from the Contagious Disease Ward

My plans for 2021 did not include sitting here with a pound, pound, pounding headache that even Excedrin might not alleviate. I suppose that’s the appropriate,  reward for playing nursemaid-on-the-contagious-disease-ward and Mr. Mom for the last week and a half.  I should probably happily accept that having only a few symptoms beats a full house.

So I’m just going to post a video–one of the two Laurie Anderson recordings I can listen to–and crawl back to my misery. I will offer this report, having watched this virus’s progression: it’s a nasty bug, survivable if you’re healthy but damned unpleasant.

Take it seriously. Don’t be foolhardy. A mask isn’t an imposition on your freedom. If people walked from east of the Mississippi to California, you can handle this unusual period in our shared history.

Stay safe.