Trending away.

Great minds speak of ideas
          average minds, of events
     small minds, of people and things
But me? I speak
          of the idea of us
     two people
          and what we did
          and what we had

Blatantly ignoring the signs
          I assumed it was me
     and I was wrong
But on the drive home
          that February afternoon
     you asked for forgiveness
          that wasn't mine to give
          I gave it anyway

Trending always away from
          what I thought we meant
     of what it meant to be us
But I was confused
          there was no us
     how could there be?
          there was only me
          there was only you

We played at 'us' as best we could
          never breaking character
     always saving face
But when it was time to leave
          there was always 
      someone else
          waiting for you
          waiting on me

And looking back now on it
          it shouldn't surprise me
     although it always does
But if I had it to do all over
          I know in my soul
     that my heart would be
          yours to break again
          forever and ever

You will always come first
          you will always be the one
     yes, that surprises me, too
But the past does not lie
          nor does it tell the truth
     it just is
          and continues to be
          never changing

Trending always towards
          what I thought we meant
     which was nothing
But I am confused
          and to tell the truth
     you never chose me 
          it was always someone else
          it was always somewhere else

So I should pour another drink
          cheers to us
     and what we never were
But the bottle is empty
          and it's far too late
     for me to brave the cold
          of this Autumn night
          for another drink.

Another Day by Debbie Vandenberg

A good friend of mine, Debbie Vandenberg, shared with me this beautiful poem she wrote this morning as she was enjoying the sunrise from her porch, and has given me her permission to share it with you...
Another Day

Sunset gently waking me
Kissing away the night before
Wiping sadness out of my eyes
Then teasing me
To play some more

I take a sip
    hot
    strong
    creamy
I can taste the opportunity
In the warmth
Cup to my mouth
Toying with me
As I hold it in my hands
To make the best of this day
That is all it knows
And this, too, I understand
My clothes hit the floor
I need to be ready in an hour
So the shower takes me in
Washed away
Every ounce of sorrow
Then like a mad man
I let the water go cold
As the shower
Boldly reminds me
It is up to me to decide
Hold on, or let go

My chair wants to be one with me
It is the softest
Space I have
So I bring my legs up from the floor
And relax every muscle that I have
My breath I begin to watch
Breathing in, then I release
A sweet sense of joy surrounds me
My chair shows me how to find peace

It is time now for the mirror
Without the above
I could not face
In there I see lines of wisdom
And eyes that have seen
What it is to find grace

Now I am walking out the door
The world is mine to
Explore
I thank the
     sun
     shower
     chair
     mirror
For waking me,
Cleaning me,
Holding me,
And letting me see the truth
Now I have the power
To face another day.

-Debbie Vandenberg, October 2021
©2021 Debbie Vandenberg 

at sea

and I've battened down all of
     the hatches
and I'm sailing too close to
     the wind
and at times I've been dead
    in the water
and at times I've held fast on
     the right tack

at times I've feel her shot
     across my bow
as it screamed and it tore
     through my decks
and at times I've trimmed
     my sails eastward
in pursuit of the leeway lost
     to the west

a loose cannon that meters
     deep waters
given a wide berth to pummel
     the shoals
three sheets to the wind, maybe
     four, maybe five
in dead water it is always
     sink or swim

and from atop the lofty
     crow's nest
yet again I hear the cry
     of land-ho!
and I trim to the aft
     just to find
the mirage of the sea
     once again

and so by the board
     all at sea
and sailing toward that
     distant horizon
the shimmering sea that
     beckons the brave
and equally the cowards
     like me

the salt air and a sail steady
     is all I can ask
as I search for the source
     of this call
a siren in red who gestures
     from close quarters
as the crow flies it is
     unimaginably far

as the storms whips my sails
     thunder clamps down
and the wind is brutally,
     caustically fierce
but I dare not set sail for
     the safety of home
there is nothing for me
     in that lonely port

better to batten down all of
     the hatches
better to sail too close to
     the wind
and ignore what it is that
     I am becoming
ignoring what I might
     have been

August Update II

It’s been a super busy month so far – between ridding myself of useless material clutter and watching two of my kids go back to college for another year, it’s been non-stop action!

The band has added a number of new songs, so I’ve had my work cut out for me there as well.

I’m preparing to get my COVID vaccine booster in the next week, and very excited about that!

I also passed my PCEP certification, and am now a Certified Entry-level Python Programmer – so, one test down, two to go!

The road trip to Providence the last two days has been especially fun! As we raced down I-44 and the local NPR affiliate, KWGS, faded from range, I told Ian about an idea I had for writing a golf game in Python, and he immediately grabbed his laptop from the back seat of the rental car and began coding it, with occasional input from me.

When the battery on his laptop died just outside of Rolla, MO, he put it away, then downloaded a moblie Python IDE to his phone and continued working!

The next morning, as we were leaving Columbus, OH, he explained to me the differences between Cartesian coordinates and the polar coordinate system, and how to convert from one to the other using “simple” (his word, not mine) trigonometry functions. He then went on to talk about vector addition – it was a very educational and entertaining morning!

Once we were checked into our room in Providence, he combined what was on his phone and what was on his laptop into one .py file and let me take a swing at it…pun intended

I must say, I think Ian’s golf game has much potential!

August 2021 Update

Got a lot going on, but not much of interest. You know how it goes – work, dealing with the dog days of summer, worrying about the surge in COVID cases. It’s time-consuming, both physically and mentally.

One thing I have started doing is Joshua Fields Millburn’s and Ryan Nicodemus’ 30-Day Challenge. The idea behind this particular game is that, starting on the first of the month, you rid yourself of one material possession. On the 2nd, you get rid of two things. On the 3rd, three. And so on.

Today is August 10th, and so far I’ve gotten rid of:

1st – donated one bag of men’s clothes to Goodwill.

One bag of men’s clothes

2nd – threw out two old boxes of X-mas decorations.

3rd – donated three books to the library.

4th – donated four pair of gently used shoes to Goodwil.

5th – threw out five boxes of miscellaneous crap from the garage.

6th – donated six books to two different Little Libraries in my neighborhood.

Six books to Little Libraries

7th – seven old computer cables that I’ve been hoarding for no reason.

8th – eight old phone cases for phones that will never be used again.

9th – nine old phone and laptop boxes that I could never bear to part with previously.

Nine old boxes (smaller ones inside the bigger ones)

10th – ten ball caps that I will never wear again.

Ten hats that will never see the top of my head again

All of this has made a very small dent in the sheer volume of stuff that I have, but every step is a step forward.

Learn more about the 30-Day Challenge/Game by clicking here.

And as always, thanks for reading.

-Steve

The Heart of Theseus

Modern literature and pop culture is rife with references to broken hearts. From Whitney Houston to Shinedown, from Nora Ephron to Rupi Kaur, from New Girl to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, you can’t turn around without bumping into someone who has survived a broken heart, is surviving one now, or is about to suffer through the debilitation of having their heart ripped out of their chest and stomped on.

And yet, this imagery has never rung true with me. The most glaringly silly example that I can think of is Padme dying of a “broken heart” at the end of Revenge of the Sith, and I’m not the only one who thought this was silly, albeit for different reasons.

The imagery of a broken heart carries with it the idea that something inside of you is broken and in need of fixing, when the opposite is actually true. When someone betrays you or acts in such a way that is contrary to what you were expecting, it is not an indication of some short-coming within yourself. It is in indicator of something missing within them.

Setting aside the fact that your (emotional) heart is located in your head and not your chest, I prefer to think of the heart – that part of you that feels and cares and loves – as an ever-evolving entity that is constantly changing and growing. It is not stagnant; it learns new things, forgets old pains, overcomes previous prejudices, perseveres onward.

When I was young, my mother and step-father tended to punish my sloppy ways by yelling at me or threatening me with a beating with one of my orange Hot Wheels tracks, but occasionally they’d get fed up with trying to correct my behavior, so they’d gather up all of the comic books I’d left lying around and throw them in the burn barrel. My ten-year-old self was traumatized by this betrayal, but it didn’t break my heart. It was an experience I internalized.

When my first marriage ended, I truly felt broken. Not in the “oh-how-will-I-go-on?” sense, but more in the “what’s-wrong-with-me?” sense. I felt I had failed in one of the most basic tasks in life, making a home with a partner. How could I possibly be successful in any other endeavor if I couldn’t do this one simple thing properly? However, I was still able to fully function on a day-to-day basis, so obviously I wasn’t that broken.

Over time, I have come to realize that the heart doesn’t truly break. It takes on more experience, letting old situations go in favor of new ones. My heart is not the same today as it was when I was ten, or thirty. And yet, it’s the exact same heart I’ve always had. How is that even possible?

When something is broken, it doesn’t work any longer. Well, that’s not entirely true – even a broken clock is correct twice a day. But for all intents and purposes, a broken clock is useless for anything more than decorating the wall in the guest bathroom.

The heart, I’ve found, is more resilient than that. With apologies to both John Mayer and Celine Dion, rather than being broken and in need of repair, the heart goes on, continuing to feel and care and love despite all indications to the opposite. And with each new joyous experience, an older, more painful experience is expunged, until one day you feel whole again, and capable of once again giving your heart to someone. Your same old heart, though experience and attrition, has become something new.

That’s been my experience, anyway.

prisoner.

I remain a prisoner
     my own jailer
trapped in a tapestry of
     my own tastes and
          my own desires and
               my own self
a self that doesn't exist

I have freedom, to be sure
     free to act how I wish
     free from constraints
     free to think 
          to act
               to believe
but I am still a prisoner

and left to my own devices
     my own preconceived
view of right and wrong
     of good and bad
     of black and white
     of shades of gray
I remain imprisoned

victim of my own thoughts
     my own fears
          my own dreams
prisoner to my own view
     absent of clarity
     absent of context
chained to my day

while freedom is just a
     breath away
I reject the notion that
     I can just let go
as hard as I try, my
     attempts end in vain
and move forward

for even in the letting go
     there is expectation
     that does not dissipate
it eats at the fringes of
     my restful mind
     questioning all
doubting everything

never reaching that
     blissful, settled state
that promises relief from
     doubt
          fear
               anger
                    angst
busy, monkey-mind
won't release its grip
on the banana

whirling around in circles
on to the next stop
     when this one is
          incomplete
always starting
never finishing.

bed.

awaken to the sound
     the gentle swell and release
of the ocean just outside
     my window
of the ocean just inside
     my phone

smell the coffee brewing
     thank god for timers
the scent of vanilla
     wafting up the stairs
the scent of cinnamon
     filling the house

log in and grimace
     so much to do
take a deep breath
     but the stress remains
shut the laptop
     drink the coffee

randomly chosen mug
     I watch the words
resolve to a sentence
     and I think
me too, mug, me too -
     I'm definitely 
           going back 
               to bed
                    after this.

20820

as I begin the long, slow
     slog towards fifty-eight
          (and beyond, hopefully)
     with a mind that is clear
and a heart that is full

(or at least more clear
          than a year ago
 and at least more full
          than yesterday)

I have learned to not
     look back in anger or
          resentment or fear or
     melancholia or 
          wistfulness

     what happened yesterday
or last week or month or year
          is set in stone
     unchanging
and I can gain nothing from it
          but to learn from it

I have learned to not
     worry about the future
          adopting a fluid view
     of what can be and
         what cannot

     and so as I start
day two thousand eight hundred
          and twenty
     I breathe in and note it
and focus on the now that is
          foremost in my mind

(at least more so
     than a year ago
 at least more so
     than yesterday)

and let go of the anger and
          worry that they lied
               to us, for
     they promised us jetpacks
and yet I remain grounded
     here on earth.

fifty-seven.

one more book
one more drink
one more song
not so much to ask

one more guitar
one more practice
one more gig
not too much to ask

one less argument
one less headache
one less heartache
not so much to ask

one more day
one more walk
one more kiss
not too much to ask

one more trip
     around the
          sun
with you.

party.

hey, good evening
glad you could make it
can I get you a drink?
let me take your coat and
introduce you around

this is my best friend
Anxiety
she's a bit of a mess
but she means well
usually

this couple over here
Intention and Distraction
are constantly fighting
endless arguments
always at odds
I don't even know why I 
invite them to these things

this is my co-worker
Motivation
he's a bit of a talker
so steer clear
unless you have an hour
or a day to waste

I'm not sure where she is,
Peace
I know I invited her
at least I think I did
ah, it doesn't matter
she rarely shows anyway

oh! you'll like these guys
Clarity and Concentration
they spend most of their
time in the kitchen
they like to keep to themselves
but when they pop in
to say 'hi'
you'll remember it

man, this guy, though
Sarcasm
(he thinks he's much cooler
     than he actually is)
watch your step around him
he'll piss you off then
wonder why you can't
take a joke

and finally, my new friend
Mindfulness
we're just getting acquainted
and we may hate
each other
or we may be in love
really, it is
too early to tell

anyway, welcome to the party,
the party of my direct experience.

practice.

a blank page
is not the goal
it never was and
it never should have been
what good would
that do? why was that
even a thing?

concentrating on the
rise and the fall, hoping
for the clarity that will
sweep me away in
its beauty and surprise
but its really not like
that, is it?

do I count?
do I note?
equanimity escapes me
as it always does, so
with a tone of
self-compassion 
I begin again

striving to do what
I love, but why is it
simultaneously
so easy and so hard?
so difficult such a 
simple task,
it can never end

but there is joy in
the enjoyment, in
the attempt, in
the breathing, in
the practice

the recognition is
     the attention,
the failure is 
     the success.