It Can Get Better… But That Doesn’t Mean It Will

 

The slogan has been around for years now. I just read a story where “Weird” Al Yankovic said that nerds saw him growing up, and they find that it gets better. I want to love that kind of certain optimism, but I can’t, because it simply isn’t so.

Look, it CAN get better. Bad things in your youth can be shed (mostly) when you become an adult. When you grow older, you can take your life in your own hands, and work to fashion it into something worth living, if that’s something you wish to do. That does not mean it will get better, not with any kind of certainty. “It gets better” is, at best, a statement of faith because there is no evidence to support it. So I can’t help but cringe every time I see that slogan get tossed around.

I don’t like it because it does two things:

A) It reinforces the idea that things can only go up from where you are. That if you wait just a little longer, things will improve and good things will happen for you. It reminds me of the old saying “good things come to those who wait,” and if you remember, I have a few choice thoughts on that particular piece of advice.

And

B) It makes those whose lives stay the same, or get worse, start believing that there is something wrong with them because it’s not getting better. That the reason it’s getting worse is because of something they did or didn’t do.

Then there’s those of us who see it and take it for feel-good bullshit. I can honestly tell you I have heard so many of these sayings in my life, and they’re all about as useless as tits on a bull. Oh, sure, some people are motivated, and they manage to make it work in the end, rising above their circumstances, but that’s the exception, not the rule. We live in a world that fights hard to close off access to a better life in order to afford those who have plenty to have just a little more.

Life simply doesn’t work that way. “It gets better” just makes me angrier every time I hear it, because I remember hearing these things from the very people who did not lift one finger to help me out of the situation I was in. Anyone can say “be of good cheer.” There are plenty of those in the world. Hell, you might get a million likes on Facebook when you post that you’re down, but what’s a million likes worth? What does any of it mean? How valuable is good will if it’s not followed up by good action?

To say “it gets better” is fine if you’re following up with “and I’ll tell you how to make it that way, and help you with the resources required to make it happen.” Otherwise, you’re selling empty hopes to someone who will face crippling disappointment further down the road when they find out it was just more empty words from a society that possesses a surfeit of pithy expressions, but a dearth of willing action.

So look, if you’re in a bad place right now, I can’t tell you it gets better. I can’t tell you that you’ll find what you’re looking for someday, that your nightmare will end, that before you draw your final breath you’ll achieve your dreams, or even simple peace of mind, because that’s not how the world works.

All I can ask is that you don’t let the bastards get you down. They’re going to hit you, and hate you. They’re going to attack you with every breath they have, and then they’re going to keep doing it because they don’t give two fucks about your life, or your feelings. Those who push you down do not care. They do not give you a moment’s thought outside of their perverse pleasures.

I’m not going to pretend it will get better. It may not. Hell, it may get worse. A lot worse. I know that each and every person has a different level of determination, they have a finite amount of stamina, and you shouldn’t feel bad for being exhausted. You shouldn’t hate yourself for not wanting to deal with this awful, awful shit. Goddamn, I wish I could encourage you. I wish I could tell you the world will one day be your oyster, and that you’ll live a long, happy, prosperous life with all the love and fulfillment you need. If I could snap my fingers to make it happen, I would.

I can’t. Fuck me, but I can’t. I want you to hold on. I want you to do whatever you can to stay in the game. I want you to live, and I really want you to succeed. I want you to show those assholes up, whomever they are, with a mighty “fuck off!” by being successful in whatever your heart desires. Just don’t let them get you. Don’t let them push you over the edge of a precipice from which you can never return. God, I know how it feels, I know how close it is, and you’d be surprised how long you can dangle your feet over the edge, wanting to push yourself forward and go into freefall, but I ask that you don’t.

I can’t promise that it gets better, because I would be lying if I did, and I sure as shit am not going to lie to you, or anyone. I despise false hope, the idea that you just “fake it til you make it.” All that leads to are fake people with fake smiles and fake hopes telling you how really awesome they feel, when they’re just dead inside, and pretending that everything is what it could ever hope to be. Fuck that. I’m going to tell you exactly how I see things, I promise.

So don’t let the bastards get you down. I know you’re tired. Fuck me, I know you’re tired. I mean, I’m tired as all fuck, and every day I ask my body whether it can handle yet another day of this living nightmare, and it usually responds with “fuck if I know, but let’s goddamn try anyway.”

It might not get better, but every day is a new chance. I’m too goddamned nosy not to try and make it to the next day in the hopes that things will turn around, and I hope they do, with all of my heart, because I’m so tired. So tired. Eh, I never know when to quit anyway. Maybe it’s all that relentless fucking optimism.

 

-j.

Losing Community Patience

So I left a message board the other day. It’s not one most of you know. I had been a member there since 2004, and it was an off-shoot of a message board I’m still a part of today.

I don’t know how most folks do it, but when I go to a discussion board, or forum if you prefer, I actually wish to discuss things. I will make a statement, ask a question, provide answers to questions asked of me, or just joke around talking about nonsense for a while.

The board I was on has shrunk significantly in the past few years. They went from a hundred active users to about 10, though there are technically thousands of members, most have long since left.

The board has changed hands a number of times, with each new administration having new sets of ideas, but still working to maintain the general feel of the board for everyone. That being: allow as much freedom as possible, especially to hang yourself if you’re idiotically inclined, while also moderating with enough force to keep people from getting the board in trouble.

Currently, the board is owned by 4 people, who do their best to keep things at an even keel. The board was once very liberal, then it became super conservative, then libertarian, and now more moderate. Through it all, I’ve been a member, and I dealt with each change in atmosphere as it came, because the people were decent, the conversation enjoyable.

Well, after 13 years, most of the decent people had left, and the conversation had become nothing more than a broken record, looping and repeating the same broken phrases over and over again. People kept trying to dance to the music, myself included, but you can only hop around like an idiot for so long before you start to feel foolish.

So about a week ago I decided to try something. We were having a discussion about gun control, gun rights, and whether gun manufacturers and sellers had a responsibility should their weapons be used in a murder. My position was that gun manufacturers should be held responsible, at least to some degree. Guns are made for killing, that is their purpose.

Of course, the conversation began to play out as it always did, with everyone taking their assigned positions and nothing new being shared. I noticed, as I sat there, half asleep from exhaustion (mom had been in the hospital for a few days and I had been traveling to Cincinnati and back every day), that no one was asking questions. The sentences with question marks seemed like questions, but they were just assumptions tied up with question marks as window dressing. No one was actually curious as to the reasons behind what people were saying.

So, I decided to test whether or not anyone actually cared, or whether it was just one of those monotonous rote discussions that had become all too commonplace. So I came up with a radical idea, I said that gun sellers should be held responsible if a buyer used that weapon in a crime. It was outside of what I actually believed, quite a ways outside, and anyone who knew me would have seen through it, if they were paying attention.

No one did.

Instead, it was immediately attacked, unquestioned, with everyone making assumptions about what I meant, not asking, just assuming. I mean, honestly, why bother asking someone what they meant if you can just make it up? Saves time, really. No need to have two people in the conversation that way. Nice and neat.

Around the second day of this, I started dropping clues into my posts. For example, talking about how my idea was just a modest proposal, or in one sentence I remember saying that it wasn’t like I was advocating eating poor children. Still, no one got it. They were so hyperfocused on what they thought I said, and what my intentions were, that for several days it just went on. Finally, after getting frustrated from the utter lack of actual discussion taking place, I revealed my hand. What happened?

Everyone got angry. I was told I had made a poor trolling attempt. Some simply didn’t believe my explanation, assuming I had been caught out and was trying to backpedal, even though I’d never backed down from a position before in my time there (at least, without admitting it wasn’t well thought out, or was wrong). Yet they were willing to believe this totally non-me behavior, again, without question.

Even from someone whom I had considered a friend, I got this treatment. I knew then that it was time to go, that I had worn out my welcome, that what I was seeing was the death of a community slowly, by asphyxiation of thought, by the neutering of ideas in the name of complacent familiarity. So I left.

It may not seem like much to some, but I had given 13 years there. For several years, towards the end, I had managed as their tech admin, taking care of the board software, updating, adding features when requested. Now, just to clarify, it wasn’t everyone who shunned my response. The board owners knew me well enough to know I wasn’t lying, and we still keep in contact, but for the rest of the board? I’ve left, and I’ve no intention of coming back.

I’d say the board is probably heading downward fast, but it has been around long enough, and the remaining people stubborn enough, that short of a technical disaster, it will continue onward for years to come. I hope things improve, I really do, but my part in that community has ended. I wish them the best.

I notice that I’ve been losing patience with such things. Where once I could talk with someone about the same point over and over again, but these days I haven’t the energy. I just don’t care anymore. Life is too short, and the topics too inane.

That’s all for now.

-J

 

 

P.S. – For those concerned, it’s not TBBS. This was a spinoff board of TBBS from way back. Still, my patience grows thin even with that board more and more every day. I’m starting to think it’s a symptom of a greater problem, one I’ve talked about before. I hope that I don’t feel the need to finally leave there, as I’ve put 15 years in, and know so many wonderful people. I guess my tolerance for some things has just faded, and I grow more and more concerned about people who become so entrenched in one idea, in one point of view, that they forget the histories of the people around them, and treat old friends like strangers.

Bean and Bacon

 

I’ve been a vegetarian for a while now, and I like it. I like the idea of not having to eat animals in order to survive. This morning, my blood sugar dived, and I had to grab a can of bean and bacon to halt the plummet, because we didn’t really have much in  the house to eat. We can’t really go grocery shopping like most folks, because we live in a small apartment, with almost no cabinet space (seriously, we have two cabinets in which to store food), and a refrigerator that kills fresh foods fairly quickly with ice (the fridge is 30 years old, small, and the landlord is waiting until it dies before replacing it).

I had a choice between bean and bacon, and a chicken and rice frozen dinner. I tried to take the road of least impact, as bacon “bits” would be far less of an issue than large pieces of chicken.

Why do I always have to go for the things that make my life even harder? I want to protect the lives of animals, but at the same time I put myself in a dangerous position every time, because I’m already dealing with a disease that does not care about my ethical choices, or my financial situation. It only wishes to ravage.

I also live in an area where getting cheap, fresh fruits and vegetables is impractical. I don’t get to go to farmers markets, it’s not an option. At all. Our local grocery store has fruits and veggies, but they’re costly compared to more plentiful, filling options, especially when you’re trying to feed 3 people with different diets. That gets expensive, and makes an already short dollar just that much smaller.

So I have decided I’m modifying my diet, not just for my health, but also to remove some of the stress off of my head when I simply want to have a meal without dealing with the inability to simply *eat* something.

I’m switching to pescatarianism. I figure fish are assholes, so why not? Nah, seriously, I feel that I can eat fish, while still having a 95% fruit and vegetable diet. That may sound like it doesn’t help much, but wow, you have no idea how much easier it is to eat something like fish around here. Every restaurant has a fish meal or fish sandwich option, our grocery store has fish platters that open up my diet without compromising all of my principles, and honestly, as much as I would love to save the entire animal kingdom, and heal the environment just by virtue of my diet, I can’t. Not now.

I know my thoughts here might make some of my vegan friends uncomfortable, or disappointed, but I can’t help that my body needs these things. I am fighting with everything in me to keep from going back to eating regular meat, because I do want to help animals, and while I hold nothing negative against anyone who does eat meat, it’s just something I don’t want to do for myself, so I feel bad that I can’t maintain that, but if compromising in favor of animals, while also making sure I don’t die because of my various diseases, then so be it, I can adjust. I can cope.

I just read a blog article from a woman who was vegan, but her body was rejecting it, so after years of being vegan (way beyond my capabilities, btw), she switched to eating meat again, where her meat consumption was about 90/10 veggies to meat, which is something I consider a reasonable move, all things considered.

She was lambasted by so many people, it made me sad for her, and I ended up posting in support, talking about my switching to pescatarianism. I’m sure I’ll see venom dipped posts before long, but I cannot abide bullying in any form.

All of that aside, this is nothing more than a drop in the ocean, and in the grand scheme of things, none of this really matters. If I ate nothing but meat every day, it wouldn’t matter for most, and I’m okay with that. It’s something small, something personal, where I don’t want animals to be used and abused. I’ve long taken the Temple Grandin approach to such things, who said “nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.” If we eat meat, then the least we can do is be more humane, we can be more environmentally and ethically conscious. I don’t see this as something beyond our abilities.

Now the bean and bacon is hurting my stomach. Urgh. Diabetes sucks.

Over, Onward, and On (A Poem)

 

Down in the dirt, a part of the lawn,

the Sun comes up, I’m a part of the dawn.

Erosion, corrosion, an atom bomb explosion,

convection leads to resurrection,

everyone is gone.

 

Down in the bottom pit, communing with the soil,

An epoch then an era, and we’re topping off the oil.

Sleep is a refuge not afforded to the dead,

when up on the mountain top, I’m messing with your head.

 

Down in the deeper darker doorstep of your soul,

Press me hard I shake apart the diamond in the coal.

Carbon copy life form, amidst a rubble civilized

sanctified-antagonizing legacy we stole.

 

Down in the cave of death, the rook becomes a pawn,

corpses line the floor, where have all the people gone?

Brittle bones and overtones that sing, immortal songs,

where the foolish men of history step over and over and over and onward and on.

 

John W. Allen

7/14/17

Just Everyday Things (Wendy’s Edition)

 

Wendy’s: I love you, you make tasty food that’s not too expensive. For a vegetarian, though, my options are limited. I can choose from a baked potato, french fries, and a side salad. Now, those options don’t sound bad, and they’re not, but I do have some quibbles.

Firstly, your side salad needs improvement. Granted, the salad is less than $2, but I would gladly pay $3, $4, or even $5 if you would add more tomatoes, a few more cucumbers, and for Christ’s sake, remove the red lettuce. I don’t know who told you red lettuce tastes great, but they lied to your asses. Red lettuce is bitter, sharp, and has a rusty flavor to it. Please quit using it.

Secondly, I have heard rumors that you are considering a meatless burger, something like Gardenburger’s black bean burger. If you are considering this, I ask that you make this happen. If Burger King can have a veggie burger (which is okay, but lacks flavor), surely you, oh superior eatery, can have a veggie burger. Come on, Wendy’s, make it happen right here in the good old state of Ohio. Me and the other 5 vegetarians that live in the rural parts of the state are hungry, and sometimes don’t like having to cook when most people can just waltz right in to any restaurant and have full choice of the menu.

Come on, just be a pal.

 

No I

The finality of death fascinates me. The biological engine that makes up who we are is snuffed out in an instant, and the sentient life form that once was is no more. Even a simple thought, such as “I like the color blue,” no longer matters, because the “I” in the subject no longer exists, and it all occurs without pomp, without circumstance. 

In nature, the organism merely desiccates, the once living, thinking, postulating, dreaming, philosophizing brain, that opinionated and fact laden organ, is no longer relevant or useful except as sustenance for other creatures, predicated on a successful death for which they shall, too, follow along in their meeting.

It saddens me. Hugs, giggles, rage, tears, self-examination, wonder, and worry, a universe inside a universe… rotting meat. It seems so ingnominious in its occurrence. You would, or might, think that we, as a species, would put our collective power, our amazing intellect, into preserving this precious commodity of life, to save it from the unceasing cruelty of death, but instead we help death along, giving aid to a force of nature that does not care for it, nor does it offer special consideration for those who do: war, famine, greed, pestilence, we augment these evils, we give comfort to the destroyer, possibly because we see ourselves in it as children of chaos and destruction.

I consider this to be a great unholy alliance. There is no I in team, nor is there one in death. When will we learn this? I do not know. For me, death is forever the enemy, because once I am dead, it holds me forever, and I have not the power nor presence to fight it, for there is no more I.

Fathers Day

Today I wished my father a happy day, and gave him the gift of a book. He doesn’t read much outside of his favorite room, but when he’s in there, he has plenty of time to read quite a bit. That said, I always have conflicting emotions on this day, big surprise. I wish every father a happy day today, and I honestly wish I could join them in that celebration. I have wanted to be a dad my entire adult life. 

I have wanted a wife, children, and to be a part of that aspect of humanity, to add myself to the chain of humanity, to contribute a part of me that would go on when I am gone. That it continues to elude me just presses the pain deeper. 

My mother was 23 when she had me, my father was 19. My brother was 19, and his wife 22 when their first child was born. There are cousins who were born when I graduated high school that are getting married and starting their families. I wish them well, but oh gods the knife just twists and twists in my chest. I just have this knowing, sinking feeling that I will die of loneliness, surrounded by oblivious strangers.

When I turned 18, my mother was 41. I am 37, loveless, lonely, and childless.