Untethered Dog

You Never Know Where He Will Go

Words About Numbers

01/01/2020.

You have to love the symmetry.

The cleanliness.

Today is a day that even the most rabid anti-Gregorians would have to admit is pretty frickin’ sweet, dude.

I think we all know that even-numbered years are better years. And balanced days on even numbered years? Off the charts, man. Plus you have the perfect Ones. And the clear sighted twenty-twenty. There is a reason they call it 20/20 vision. Because it can’t get better. Today, behold, we are witness to the rare and true. The rock stars of numbers!

And balance. Who doesn’t strive for more balance in his or her life?

You want balance: you got balance right here. Don’t even need to try. The stars are aligned for you, the time is now. The new gym membership is available (just waiting for your credit card and the consent form).

I just wrote the date in my notebook, as I do every day. Except it was different. Because this is not every day. There is only one of these. Truly. There will be more Wednesdays, of course, and more new years, to be sure — may I see them, many of them, and you, too — but there will not again be a one-one-twenty-twenty.

Now, technically, you could have said the same thing about 02/13/2019. Or even 03/16/2018. But the statement would not have had the same oomph, would it? Not the same immediacy. The same getup-and-go. Not the same awe-inspiring, blog-post-motivating, dream-creating lift. No — I don’t think so.

What a time to be alive.

What an opportunity to be.

What will come today?

What will you make on this glorious occasion?

01/01/2020: There is only one thing left to do but rise up to meet the day’s rarified goodness with some of your own.

Gratitude Review

I wrote recently — on November 17, 2019, to be specific — about a pet project I had undertaken pertaining to my gratitude practice. My goal was to make a more concerted effort to add to my gratitude journal (maintained on this site) each day. My aim was less about what or how much I might write in this virtual journal and more about frequency: I wanted to get in the habit of recording my gratitude on a daily basis.

Specifically, I wrote:

“I aim to record at least one thing every day — and record that thing on the very day — from now until one of my favorite days of the year, the Winter Solstice. If you want to check, you will, of course, be able to see if I have failed to follow through on this aim.”

I believe in SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. I am not always the best at the math elements of this equation: that is, the amount to be measured and the time to reach that amount. (Specific? I can do specific.) Yet, as goals go, this one was, obviously, simple and straightforward. I wasn’t attempting go from walker to runner of the Boston Marathon or anything like that.

I arrived at this arbitrary goal after starting the book Thank and Grow Rich by Pam Grout. The “rich” in the title has little to do with money; Grout argues that gratitude is the answer to most life challenges. She says that to cultivate gratitude is to invite all kinds of goodness into one’s life. You get more of what you need when you are thankful for what you already have.

I will say more about the book when I tell you what I leaned (below), but first I have to take you off the edge of your seat and let you know how I did:

I made it. Almost.

I had cruised for the first few weeks. I mean, it was a breeze — the first thing I did each day.

Then, well, and I guess you could see this coming, I missed a day. I recall that day generally, if not the specific day on the calendar; I was already in bed for the night, when I remembered I had set aside the journal earlier that morning, but I did not return to it. I made the conscious choice to allow this failure to be rather than firing up a blue-light device at sleepytime just to say that I did. I went back the next day and recorded both days.

I missed again near the Solstice. Ditto on the catch-up.

Despite the misses, the exercise was well worth it. And when it comes to cost-benefit, writing a Gratitude Journal is off-the-charts: a total reframe in a positive way in just minutes a day. Talk about easy payments.

Specifically, what I learned, and Grout is good at explaining this, is that you can, if you so choose, dial into a frequency of gratitude. Not unlike going to a radio station. When you tune into KMOJGratitude on your thinking dial — and I know no better way to do this than by writing; I suppose speaking aloud things you are grateful for would work similarly and, of course, you could create a meditative practice around gratitude — you shift the lens from which you view the world. You unwittingly start finding more good things and you start believing even neutral or adverse events are positives. You, in other words, prime your mind to find good more often and negative less often. I am a big fan of diet and exercise as solutions to most types and degrees of depression, anxiety, and stress, but if you want to be happier tomorrow than you are today, a gratitude practice is probably the fastest way to get there.

Now, gratitude as an attitude can be taken overboard — and Grout surely does this. Her book is, at times, Pollyanna. Writing in a flip tone, with inspirational quotes before seemingly every section — and there are many, many sections –– Thank and Grow Rich is what I refer to as a McBook; it comes off as though written in a long weekend, wrapped with mid-book promotions for her publisher. She reveals (or uses) very few references. This is a book that goes down easy. It is the literary equivalent of fast-food.

To be sure, dissatisfaction has its place. You should want to leave a bad job. You should strive to change, if you can, or leave if you cannot, a relationship that is not good for you. It is a decidedly positive thing to look around your environment and realize something is missing — that you need more sustenance — intellectual, bodily, what have you.

Certainly, people who are being abused or neglected should not be told to think only of the upside. On a logical level, Grout would agree. The tone and tenor of her book, however, suggest that gratitude is not merely a tool but the answer — always. The world, she says, is perfect. No, no, it is not. And it’s dangerous to say so.

Yet, whether you groove on science-based evidence or you are spiritually inclined and would like some more woo-woo in your life, you can find it while concentrated on gratitude.

I won’t vow to be any more perfect at my practice going forward than I was during this project. But I will say that I have reached the point where missing even a single day is a great reminder about how much good is available to me when I don’t. Ha!

2020 Vision

I’m not much on resolutions, myself, but I do appreciate the clarity of a new year. It puts me in the mood to assess my goals and consider whether new or fewer or different might serve me in the 365 days to come. I feel especially primed to undertake such considerations this year after listening — more than once, I might add — to the December 12, 2019 interview of Gary Keller on The Tim Ferriss Show (podcast). Keller, co-founder and CEO of Keller Williams, the world’s largest real estate firm, speaks and writes of a question he regularly asks himself: “What’s the One Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” As someone who has in the past struggled to summon sustained focus for personal projects, Keller’s frame speaks to me. He talks during the interview of “power hours” — those parts of each day during which we can and do our best work. Simply put, you can’t optimize every hour of every day and even trying would make a person miserable. Instead, he says, aim to have a great day by noon. That is, focus on the most important thing(s) first, each day, then allow the force of that self-gendered wind to carry you easily through the rest of the day. If you get distracted at that point? So what. You know you are going to refocus in the morning. “My life” Keller says, “is better when I’m spontaneous after I’ve done my most important thing. Being spontaneous before that, that’s where it becomes a distraction and does me harm.” There is a seemingly endless number of tasks one could place on a to-do list each day. There are not an endless number of tasks one can do such that by doing them everything else will be easier or unnecessary. To more often do that one thing — there are worse goals at the start of a new year.

Song of the Week

I heard “Water Me Down” by Vagabon for the first time while driving in my car the other day. I have been jamming on it since.

I have written before about how sometimes when a song especially grabs me I will listen to it over and over. I do not impose this — let’s call it an idiosyncrasy — on anyone else (other than my dog, who does, I must add, get the benefit of a happy-dancing owner who sometimes sings to him. Oh wait: no, my singing would not be considered a benefit, even to a dog.)

Operating with the belief that our psyche draws us to things or people or places that serve us in some way, even if often illogically, it’s useful to consider our attractions. Especially the strong ones.

Why am I attracted to this particular song at this particular time?

It’s not the artist, for I know little about her biography. Vagabon, the stage name of Laetitia Tamko, is described on the interweb as a Cameroonian-American autodidact multi-instrumentalist, a signer-songwriter, and a producer. She is 25 years old. If I have ever heard any of her other songs, I do not recall the experience.

Of the term, water down, Merriam-Webster says: “to reduce or temper the force or effectiveness of.” So the song does not take on the sort of topic that is usually going to get me jazzed.

I would not say the lyrics are especially arresting, either, though I find calm in messages about the benefits of patience. (In most things, I do well to cultivate more patience.)

So I’ll take my time, next time
And I’ll do it right
And I’ll take my time, next time

Mostly, it’s the rhythm, I believe. There is a steady intensity to “Water Me Down” that slowly increases over the course of the song. (I do wonder if this is a song that won’t have a long half-life of appeal for me; there is a hint of cheesiness in the beat, a sound that hearkens that of a mistake made by a user while interfacing with certain desktop software.)

I like the way the dancers move behind Vagabon in the video, especially as the intensity increases over the course of the song. Movement and music amplify each other, of course.

I also like that, even if I didn’t know the back-story upon my initial listens, and even before I had read the lyrics, that I could intuit that the song explores meaningful — i.e., not frivolous — things. That is me most of the time, yeah, all my friends would say.

In a press release quoted in Under the Radar magazine (August 27, 2019), Vagabon says her intention with “Water Me Down” was to “create a playground in which to explore difficult feelings with confidence, triumph, and foresight.” She wrote the song, more or less, immediately after hanging up from a frustrating phone call.

Something to consider next time you try the cable company. Or an ex. Don’t get mad — make art.

The Weather Outside is Frightful

The sign says, “Walk-Ins Welcome” — not Drive-ins. Can’t you read, Bub?

At least there is medical care not far from here.

I kid because I can. I wish no one harm.

Icy streets are no fun — except for those wearing skates.

I made it to the gym, across town to meet the Saturday morning crew, and then even got over to the library to pick up a hold. This despite hockey-rink-like conditions outside this morning. The guy in this mini van was not so lucky. I sincerely hope no one was hurt.

At first, I gritted my teeth. I had been looking forward to this day and didn’t like when I knew I would have to cut the gym short and still I was going to be late. Then I started to get notices that some would not show for the proceedings at all. Then another event I had an eye on attending today was canceled outright. Yet, with hands firmly on 10 and 2, there was something pleasant about accepting the conditions at-hand and traveling at horse-and-buggy speeds. I noticed things I usually drive past too quickly to see. I was grateful to park my car, stand up without falling, and slowly shuffle into a building five miles from home — a series of events I almost always take entirely for granted. The meetup itself, despite sparse attendance, was fantastic. Maybe it was better because it was smaller. In any event, I was so happy to be there.

It’s a good reminder: We always have a choice about how we think about the world as it is. Which is, of course, easier to say when driving along in a vehicle that didn’t just crash into the front of a doctor’s office.

A Walk in the Woods

 

We were kicked out of the bird sanctuary.

Actually, it’s more accurate to say that we were turned away at the door.

And we weren’t even packing a hammock. We did not, in other words, have clandestine motives to steal hammock time.

The sun was seriously glorious today. That is why the little buddy and I got in the car to find a new place to walk — new ground on which to pee. And sniff. And pee again.

I really wanted a place with woods. A path through the woods — that is what I had in mind. A park that was, if technically not an off-leash, a place where a victimless crime could be committed. A local bird sanctuary came up on the magic box. Seemed perfect. Except they don’t let four-leggeds into the bird sanctuary. (Or hammocks, apparently.) We learned this upon arrival. This was disappointing but some days cannot be spoiled. Certainly not by laminated signs with red lines.

Undeterred, we walked around the sanctuary, also part way around a nearby lake, and later found a path through a woods near a cemetery. The little buddy at one point started running around like a madman — his distinct manner, in which he dashes this way and that, back and forth, paws akimbo — his form of the happy dance.

One of the beautiful things in this life is to go for a long winter walk, get ticketed our, then come home, eat a big meal, and cuddle on the couch until you slip into a dreamy little nap.

Ahhhh-hmmm.

Politically Speaking

You don’t come here for political analysis but I don’t know how we can not all be at least a little engaged in politics right now.

In fact, it seems wrong not to be at least a little engaged in politics right now.

The president was impeached last night.

The right to watch “Dancing with the Stars” comes with responsibility.

Speaker Pelosi’s short speech to open the vote was surprisingly inspiring to me. Both she and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff have comported themselves during these past weeks in a way that I think the founders of our country would have hoped would be exhibited by persons elected to Congress: measured, articulate, and tough — trying to do right even in the face of ongoing personal attacks.

Yet more than any particular speech yesterday it was footage of watching Speaker Pelosi stride down the hall on her way to the vote that moved me most.

She was dressed in black. And, yes, that would be the choice.

Black is power.

Black is also death.

And, to be sure, something does need to die.

Something will die.

Something will die by her hand — or in spite of it.

I have not always been Speaker Pelosi’s biggest fan; I wanted, frankly, more courage sooner in this matter (though few could argue that her way proved wise; no one can say she rushed to impeachment). Too, I have wanted her to be bolder policy-wise. Less calculated. Yet watching Speaker Pelosi stride down the hall, surrounded by aids and security, solemn and silent yet with her head raised, the picture of poise, the sense was that here is a person who, despite all the stature she had already accumulated, had risen, was rising, to the moment.

There is, it seemed obvious, at least one adult in the room.

Adults seldom feel the need to scream.

When it comes to my view of our country, I have found myself in recent months to be cynical. This has been such a cynical time. Politicians, and the people who fund them, play on and feed the cynical parts that exist in all of us. They want us to feel hopeless and angry and, well, they want us to turn on “Dancing with the Stars.”

I have no illusions of purity when I watch Speaker Pelosi stride down the hall in black. Perfection is not the point. In fact, that is part of the mix of what I felt — not that we have a savior but rather that we have a leader, one who speaks to, and represents, the non-cynical parts of us. She may not prevail but she will fight.

She was not there to protect or promote any single person but rather to advance and defend for the good of the country. Just watching her walk made me feel more hopeful.

So, yes, what I got was more of a feeling than thoughts: here is a person of power trying to wield that power for good.

That seems so simple — something that maybe once I took for granted. Not in this moment, not on this day, did I feel cynical. On this day, gratitude.

Sixty-Four Cents

It is one of the best things I have done.

It worked out better than I hoped.

It looks nicer than I thought.

It was, in other words, money well spent. (And I am a stingy dude.)

I speak, of course, of the carpet I put down last month in my otherwise unfinished basement.

Since I first saw my current home, I imagined I would add some sort of floor in the basement so as to make use of an approximately 10-by-25-foot area unoccupied by anything other than a storage shelf. I figured rubber tiling; I imagined the sort of floor you might see at a gym; I saw a video online of how such floors could look; the space could be a great place to get a quick workout in; it was going to be glorious.

Yet the budget … not so much.

This is either a positive attribute or sheer laziness, I’m not sure, but I am pretty good at adjusting to circumstances — with just dealing with what is rather than changing what is when changing what is would mean spending money I don’t have and/or buying something I don’t really want (especially if it means replacing something I do want). Case in point: While cleaning my computer keyboard I dripped liquid into the key crevices and so the 1-2-3-4-etc. at the top no longer works. And they don’t make my preferred keyboard anymore. So I get used to using the numerals on the side pad instead. Let’s keep writing. I have been, then, using a broken keyboard for about six months now. I know: it barely shows!

As the air cooled this fall, I began to have more urgency about the floor, though. Not only for my ability to exercise without taking the car out on snow days, but, more importantly and more pressingly, because the older the little buddy gets the more the winters affect him (makes two of us). Memories of the Polar Vortex, circa February 2019, flashed through my mind. Yep: We needed a warm place to play.

I went back to the rubber floor idea. They do have some cheaper options than those of my dreams. I talked to my handyman and he suggested carpet instead. The dog might not do well on the rubber, he said, as he might get claws stuck in the crevices. Besides, many carpet stores sell remnants. Now he was speaking my language; I could just get something cheap to tide us over. I also went to the RE Store, which always has slices of carpet for sale.

So in my mind I went from beautiful boutique gym floor to duct-taped shards of ratty carpet that would make the space salvageable as a venue for rubber ball toss-and-fetch. OK.

As with many solutions, though, the answer was found in the middle of those extremes. When I couldn’t find a remnant of good value and the right size, I went to Menard’s. Going to Menard’s is not my favorite maneuver; I seldom seem to get good customer service and frequently feel lost in aisles that are bigger than my block. This time my preconception was all wrong. A flooring staffer named Steve Martin — no, he was not a wild and crazy guy, not at all — was terrific. He agreed rubber was not the way to go and for the same reason. (How far we have come with awareness about our companion animals!) Steve showed me some cheap new carpet with the pad already attached. Turns out, he only had Tuscany Gray. Which is perfect because my basement is, even if it doesn’t hearken Tuscany, is at least well-suited for shades of gray. (You can’t make up a metaphor like that!)

I called a few days later to prepay. Turns out, they were, as of that very morning, having a sale. The 75-cent Tuscany Gray was now another 11 cents off per square foot. More than the money it seemed the universe was telling me I was moving in the right direction.

It is beautiful when, after trying out various ideas and options, things then fall into place. Life, it seems, is about figuring things out and it is about allowing the right answers to present themselves. You must attempt and you must allow. Both.

in any event …

… I stayed within the budget.

… The color works.

… The width of roll turned out to perfectly align with the bottom of the stairs.

… This option is perfectly suited for pushups. I got a workout in when it snowed buckets the other day.

… And my little buddy now gets excited every time I make for the stairs, as ballgames on cold nights are already a part of the routine.

It is, as they say, all good.

Grief

A characteristic of grief is that it can keep you from feeling things you want to or need to feel. Not just the so-called good feelings, either — happiness, joy, pleasure. Though, to be sure. Sometimes grief, which I imagine, if one wants to visualize it as an entity all its own, as a sort of fog, a personal fog that circles us, covers us and yet also extends beyond us so as to be possibly felt by others in our presence, gets in the way so that we can’t access fully the feelings we must feel in order to be human. It sucks to not be able to feel sad. To not be able to access empathy. To not be able to allow the full range of human emotions to flow through you. You still have those feelings, of course, and sometimes you glimpse them, feel them, but they are very often caught in the fog — lingering, stealing energy, weighing you down, clouding your vision that much more.

Has Anybody Seen My Words?

They have to around here somewhere. I just had them!

Where did you last see them?

They were right … over … there! … right where I always leave them.

You could retrace your steps.

[Head scratch] Did I? No: I couldn’t have left them at the office. The gym. In the garage. I have seen them since then. Damn! Where did those damn words go?

You knew they can’t talk back, right? Besides, don’t think about it and it will come to you.

Yeah, I suppose you are right. It’s just I am lost without those things.

They will turn up. You know they will. They always do.