Putting our Heads Together

Putting our Heads Together
I don't think he sees me

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dismasted, My Mother's Passing

I once had a sailboat, it was my favorite sailboat actually.  She was a 23-foot Hunter that I named JMS Handal after my wife.  I was out in high winds on Lake Pueblo with a friend of mine.  We were having an exhilarating time with the sails full and the boat seeming to fly.  All of a sudden, a whipping jib sheet on the windward side caught a cotter wire for a clevis pin to one of the side stays.  The wire was pulled free, the pin fell out, and my mast broke in half.  In a heartbeat, the boat was no longer heeling, she was simply floating along and the heart racing ride had been replaced with a stillness, an emptiness in the wake of a catastrophic event.  I wanted mayhem, I needed it, my mast was broken, my guidance gone.  My energy and reaction instincts, my adrenaline were at their peaks and I had nothing to do, no task to undertake that didn’t have the luxury of being performed slowly and methodically.

This morning I found out that my mother had just peacefully passed.  A personal catastrophe that has left me in the violent calm once again.  Buffeted and rocked by waves of weighty emptiness in the wake of my mother’s passing.  While the world about still turned at its normal lethargic pace.  My wife and I hug and kiss and cry, it is mainly what we have to do while we tie up what loose ends we have at home before traveling South.

I ache to do something, anything, but I am 2000 miles away and have been for decades.  My sisters and my brothers are back home taking care of the things that must be taken care of, and I am 2000 miles away.  I am glad that they are there together and mom is not alone.  I am glad they are there together, rocks for each other, and no one of them is alone.  I just can’t stand the calm here when the world should be as upside down as it feels.

Our mom was the quiet rock of us.  Her personal mantra being that she didn’t want to cause us any trouble, and she never did.  I wish she had, she was worth trouble.  Her life was one of self-sacrifice for her family, and this has never gone unnoticed.  It was also one in which she embraced her blessings, gave her love unconditionally, and bore one of the defining smiles of my life.  I just think such a woman and such a life deserves some noise and upheaval, some scrambling to make things sea worthy if only to be able to limp back to port.  But mom leaves us as she led us, with things to do with as little trouble as she could make it, a calm not before the storm, but in spite of it.  This calm is acute and disquieting, there are other winds to keep my sails filled, but she was one of my world’s trade winds, and how do you replace that?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Performance Anxiety

Life is full of disappointments and I have never wanted to be one of them.  It’s not easy going from day to day worrying that you may disappoint your boss by not going the extra mile on every project, or fearing that your wife will think less of you if you squeeze the middle of the toothpaste tube or leave your underwear lying around on the floor, or that your children will turn away from you in shame if you don’t know how to help them with a particular math problem or their geography homework.  Now my chronic insecurities have found a new and frightening place to nest.  I am afraid to disappoint my phone.

Some time in the last week, I was exploring the features of my Samsung Galaxy 6S Active.  (perhaps that was my first mistake, accepting ownership of a phone named after an impossibly vast celestial structure…who could live up to anything with Galaxy in its name?!?).  Anyway, I was pressing buttons, checking out apps, opening folders, windows, gateways and suddenly this screen popped up that offered some incredible features that my tactile compunction disorder could not resist.  It was built around personal health.  There was a widget to check my pulse (a little too high) and even one to check blood O2 absorption (SpO2 – 95%)!  I remember thinking that my phone rocks.  Well somewhere in all that touching, probing, pushing, and pressing, I must have triggered some action that lead my phone to the mistaken belief that I wanted my activity to be tracked.  You would think any phone smart enough to be able to do all the things this phone can do would be smart enough to know if I wanted my activity tracked, that I would hire a private detective.

So now, when I check my phone (which is frequently - another compulsion I am not proud of) there is a running update.  Not an update of my activity level, but my phone’s subjective assessment of my activity level.  I will wake up my idle phone and on the greeting screen will be a messages like Activity goal not met yet, You have walked less than yesterday, and Are you going to eat the rest of your dessert.  Activity goal?  When did I set an activity goal?  If I had knowingly done such a thing, I would have low-balled it to provide the false sense of security I am accustomed to.

The first part of this week I was in Washington DC on business.  The narrow scope of my visit left me a little time to explore.  I spent part of one day walking around, looking in bookstores, and riding the subway various places (in my old age I find myself turning into a train dork).  At the end of that day, I was checking my phone (once again!) and the message on the screen read Congratulations! You have exceeded your goal.  This is your best day yet!  Are you going to finish your dessert?  I made the last part up, but the rest was true.  You would think after getting such an encouraging and life affirming pat on the back from my phone, I would be happy.  I would be shouting to the world, or at least doing some jumping jacks to exceed my phone’s expectations by a wee bit more, but noooooooo.  I felt guilt and pressure.  Now those days of not achieving my goal (actually failing to achieve my phone’s goals for me) and the messages of stark disapproval flashing across my screen came flooding back to me.  I didn’t want to see those again.  Not because I was now motivated to regain the athletic form of my youth, or that I wanted to achieve some annual resolution of a healthier lifestyle, but because I didn’t want to disappoint my phone.

This makes me insecure about my insecurities.  I have now reached a new low, a whole new classification of phobia that makes me beholden to an inanimate object.  I feel like William Shatner stuck in that diner on the Twilight Zone, unable to leave or act unless the fortune telling machine in his booth granted him approval.  Now I am worrying if my phone somehow knows I am writing about it and plotting some Machiavellian revenge by adding on to the goals that it already has for me, some double secret activity probation.  I mean it’s a machine, and it’s connected, and I am writing this on a machine, and it’s connected too.  Of course my phone knows!  Of course my computer is sharing information!  All those electronic bastards know each other!