The Only Constant Is Change

Dig this beautiful essay on selfishness, selflessness, and love titled “Nobody Tells You How Long a Marriage Is” by Lauren Doyle Owens.

At the end, she writes:

“Nobody tells you how long marriage is. When you fall in love, when you have fun with somebody, when you enjoy the way they see the world, nobody ever says, “This person will change. And so you will be married to two, three, four, five or 10 people throughout the course of your life, as you live out your vows.” Nobody warns you.”

Tru ‘dat.

Same as when I married three decades ago, I have no interest in military history, plant nomenclature, or jazz; now though, I am interested in lots of new things like cooking, food, endurance athletics, North Korea, and Stoicism. When I married I was a pauper public school teacher who was oblivious to the stock market. Now I identify in part as an investor. When I married, I was a conventional Christian, today I am more open to and interested in other religious traditions and forms of spirituality. When I married, I used a lot of product in my (amazing) hair; now, not so much.

When I married I was agnostic about the natural world; today, my well-being depends upon it. When I married I was a son; now, I am not. When I married, I was Lauren’s husband, preferring the suburbs; now I’m Lauren, preferring anywhere else.

Life is fragile and mysterious, meaning best case scenario, the Good Wife and I are in the middle of our life together, meaning she’s been married to four or five Rons* with maybe another four or five to go. Here’s hoping she continues adjusting to my continuing evolution.

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*As a result of this recent Janos tweet, I’ve decided my Witness Protection name is going to be Rondo not LeRon. What, you don’t get to pick your WP name?!

Written while the Celts were losing their last game, “we are need rondos.  I am say all day all night for lots time  but is no rondos.  i  am frustrate.”

Commas Are Killing Your Relationships

It took a long time, 56 years to be exact, but I have mastered human relationships. Picture me taking a bow.*

Harmony depends upon your ability to apologize to whomever you offend or hurt. When in the wrong, which in my experience is most of the time, there are two ways to apologize, one wrong, one right.

The wrong way is to say, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but . . . ” The “but” completely cancels out the original sentiment.

To the other person, everything that follows sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher or an unintelligible foreign language. Commas are sly bastards which we wield to say, “You’re overreacting.”

To review, when you say “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but whah, whah, whah,” what you’re really saying is “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but you’re overreacting.”

Always choose periods over commas.”I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”

*somewhere, The Good Wife just spit her tea all over her screen :)

My Personal Total Solar Eclipse

Of the mechanically inclined, we say “He’s/She’s good with his/her hands.” For some reason though, of the mechanically disinclined, we don’t say, “He’s bad with his hands.”

But if the shoe fits. You can say I’m bad with my hands because it’s true. My excuse is I was the youngest son, meaning whenever something needed fixing, Older Brother 1 or 2 took care of it. I have a lot of friends who didn’t grow up learning trades, but they’re naturals, totally renovating their houses. “Just watch a YouTube video,” they say.  I use YouCanTooTube to replace air and cabin filters, but it’s little help when attempting intermediate or advanced fixes.

Today I did my first triathlon of the season, swim-cycle-mow/edge. I used to continually fight my gas edger because it would unspool and I’d repeatedly take it apart with a screwdriver and slowly rewind it until it unspooled again. Then God looked upon me with favor, by which I mean I went electric. The electric edger never unspooled and life improved immeasurably.

Today, two years later, I ran out of line in the middle of my landscaping handiwork. Then it happened. Something as rare as a total solar eclipse.

As I retreated to the garage I wondered, “How am I going to fuck this up?” Then I flipped open the manual to the exact right page. An omen.

I lined up the hash marks so the eyelets were even, measured and cut 15 feet of line as instructed, inserted it into the eyelets so that each side was the same length, wound it up, and cut it off so that each side was exactly five inches long. Back in business in a few minutes.

I forgive you for thinking, “This is simple shit. What a sad sack for celebrating re-spooling his edger.” But everything is relative. When it comes to home repairs, the Cleveland Browns win more often than me. If my sad sackness makes you feel better about how good you are with your hands, I’m happy to contribute to the self esteem boost. One day, two accomplishments.

 

What Everyone Needs

A sense of purpose. Of being needed.

That’s what my mom struggled with the last several years of her life. Her family that had needed her for a long time, was grown and gone. Her husband, who had needed her and provided companionship for even longer, was gone too. Be especially kind to older, single people.

Teaching has always been fulfilling in large part because it has provided me with a clear sense of purpose. Administrative work I’ve learned, not as much. Having done more administrative work the last few years, I confess that I’m in a work funk, probably the result of a less tangible sense of purpose.

That’s why I did something I almost never do, saved a student’s end-of-class “thank you” from mid-December. Despite telling her in a follow up message, I don’t think she had any idea how moved I was by it.

Hello Dr. Byrnes,
Here is my final paper. I have thoroughly enjoyed your class and am very sad it is over. This class was one I could consistently look forward to every week. It was one where I could wake up on a Tuesday or Thursday morning and say, “I GET to go to Writing 101 today!’ This class greatly increased my knowledge, view and perspective of the world. It challenged my beliefs and opened my thinking to accept new ideas. Thank you for leading so diligently and kindly as you did. I count it an honor and blessing to have taken this class. Thank you.

The honor and blessing was all mine.

Like my student, take a few minutes today to tell someone how they enrich your life in small or large ways. Remind them they are needed and that their life has purpose.

The Simplest Way to Change the World

Form a family. Of any sort, biological or otherwise. Eat dinner together nightly. Repeat.

In that spirit, here’s a paragraph to ponder from the reading journal of one of my January-term students*:

“Since both my parents had careers in the Air Force, my family was run in a military manner with strict rules, many activities, and time management. We had timers to regulate our homework, play, and exercise. Our family vacations were notoriously un-relaxing, with us often traversing 6 different cities in two weeks or cycling the entire coast of a country. However, one area in which we were a “slow” family is related to dinner. My mom very strictly required that we have a sit-down family meal together at 6:00 P.M. every night, at which we were expected to try every food item on the table, chat about our days. Skipping or arriving late to dinner was unacceptable, as was leaving the table before 7:00 P.M. My brothers and I rotated through chores of setting the table, helping cook the meal, and loading the dishwasher. I thought this was normal until I found that none of my college friends had routine family dinners growing up. Though I resented this forced family interaction time, it became the stabilizing force in my life, a chance to wind down and reconnect with my family. Is this family priority outdated, unrealistic, and a little ridiculous?”

The “stabilizing force in my life”.

Social scientific research on the effects of family dinners is eye-opening. How can something so simple have so many positive correlations? From “The Importance of Eating Together” in the Atlantic:

“. . . children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.”

Consider the flip side, the negative consequences of families who do not eat together with any regularity:

“There are two big reasons for. . . negative effects associated with not eating meals together: the first is simply that when we eat out—especially at the inexpensive fast food and take-out places that most children go to when not eating with their family—we tend not to eat very healthy things. As Michael Pollan wrote in his most recent book, Cooked, meals eaten outside of the home are almost uniformly less healthy than homemade foods, generally having higher fat, salt, and caloric content.

The other reason is that eating alone can be alienating. The dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community. Sharing a meal is an excuse to catch up and talk, one of the few times where people are happy to put aside their work and take time out of their day.”

Why don’t we eat dinner together more? Have we convinced ourselves we lack the time or are we unaware of the positive effects?

The more we follow the lead of my student’s mother, the better the world and we will be.

*shared by permission

Only One Border

Imagine everyone in the world agreeing to limit their long-distance travel to mitigate the problems associated with climate change. Specifically, imagine everyone agreeing to only cross one border whether state, provincial, or national, in their remaining days on earth.

For example, living in Western Washington State, I could choose to travel only to one of the following places for the rest of my life: Oregon; Idaho; or British Columbia, Canada.

Even though I was born in Idaho, I’m more familiar with and fond of Oregon and British Columbia. Which brings me to a very difficult decision. Oregon has an abundance of beautiful terrain to recommend it. And I still haven’t played Bandon Dunes or any of the adjacent courses. And of course there’s Shakespeare outdoors under the stars in Ashland, cycling in the high desert, running the Deschutes River trail, Batchelor, Hood, the Three Sisters, Crater Lake. Don’t just take my word for it, give this guy’s work a look-see.

Despite the difficulty knowing I will never cross the Columbia River again, I’m going north to British Columbia. For the rest of my life. As much as I like Oregon, I love British Columbia. Victoria, Vancouver, Whistler, the Okanogan Valley, Penticton. Barely scraping the surface of the southernmost part of the province has been enough to tip the balance.

The GalPal and I will stay here a few nights. Here too. And we’ll make regular visits to our private suite at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria.

Part of it is a feeling I get in B.C. I’m sure I idealize it, but I like knowing there’s less gun violence, a progressive head of state, a single payer health care system, and often a self-deprecating sense of humor. I hope some of my Washington State friends are down with my decision. It would be a lot more fun to have some company along for the many, many ferry and border crossings in my future.