I’m watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” and thinking about mom. I remember watching this movie with her (nearly) every year as a kid in Landenberg Pennsylvania. I’m sure it held a charm of nostalgia for her, which I suppose is the lure of all movies. It takes us to the time of who we were and where we were, when we watched it. But for me, I remember sitting on our olive green and gold and orange (the color of the late 1970s) patterned couch, watching a movie I didn’t fully understand, and enjoying it through the eyes of my mom.

I hope not

Hope is not a destination. It’s not a settlement. It’s not a place to live or dwell or wander forever. Hope should be a temporary state because it cannot be sustained. Hope is a bridge, a gateway toward something tangible and productive.

Hope is essential to living, but it’s power is limited.

Hope is unrealized potential, the thought before an action, a dream before a painting. It is not reality and not something to live for, but something to live beyond.

We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.
—Madeleine L’Engle

Ache For Home

I can’t stop thinking about England. I was fortunate enough to travel to Reading for business in October.

Despite being there for such a very short period of time, being inside in an office building for 8 hours, and seeing so very little of the country. The shift in culture was so freshening and invigorating and soothing that I can’t stop yearning to be back, to again be immersed. The way everything seemed operated; the way people were mannered and reserved, the voice announcement on elevators, the simple efficiency of the cabs, how most all cars and even a most lorries were small and reasonable, the weather was tepid and underwhelming, the roads, the variance of signs and new ways of presenting information to the mass public, hearing small children with such lovely accents, even the fixtures the bathrooms were naturally better thought and executed.

It all felt so right, so much better suited to my mind, my senses, my reactions and needs, that I now I feel homesick for place I’ve never lived. Maybe there’s something deeply written in my bones from my ancestors that vibrates in the marrow of my essence. Or maybe it’s just the indulgence of new experiences.

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

—Maya Angelou

A certain time ago, in a headspace far far away…

Life never seems as consequential as when elucidating on milestones that significantly changed you – graduation, marriage, first home, birth, job loss, death. Over the last five or so years I’ve experienced each of those, a few several times over.

In the years surrounding these many milestones of my life, my mental wellness was being punctured. My self-esteem and self-worth were bullied, beaten, berated, and buried. I became empty, and over time started to put all of who I was on vacation. The me that was left was just a veneer of a human with my name, designing things, writing words, saying stuff, minimally existing to avoid fully dissolving.

I didn’t feel like a person, at least not the person who I thought I was or wanted to be. I was more like a yes machine. A production pawn. A startup shill. Compromised and ridiculed and bedraggled.

So in what might have seemed insignificant or ordinary, I turned myself into an avatar. I drew a flat, expressionless illustration of myself (with the proper amount of gray hair and facial stubble) and replaced any photo of my actual face with it. On every digital platform. In every virtual exchange. The real me was gone, and I welcomed a vapid, agreeable, inoffensive, polished product of my desolation.

Over the last five years I’ve been forced out of a company I helped create (there’s a large and complicated story there that I’m still not fully comfortable talking about), had a child threaten suicide, lost two dogs and a cat while also gaining four dogs and three cats (this is why we have called ourselves the Armstrong circus), dealt with family wide anxiety and depression and medications and doctors and therapists, witnessed teenage breakups and graduations, watched my mother whither away in dementia and die, was laid-off from a job in a company-wide downsize, got personally diagnosed with Celiac’s disease, diagnosed our oldest with EDS, and many more mundane and routine and random and tragic and beautiful life milestones.

And for more than four years this avatar has protected me. This stupid and meaningless symbol teeming with burdens. All the while I’ve been digging out and digging in. Searching for healthier dialogs to my inner tormentors. Moving up and moving on. Covering over and covering under. Ceaselessly crawling forward toward wholeness. But never resting. And I’m exhausted.

I need a rest. I need to recuperate so I can be full and connected and whole.

I’m ready to be real again.

Contemplation is a rare commodity that is only afforded to those with the privilege and means to buy emptiness. The exclusive price of buying oneself the precious jewel of time and the ability to drift into long uninterrupted periods of reflection. A simple act. Effortless and hidden, yet costly. The luxury of thought.

I dreamt that I was best friends with Jim Halpert. Not John Krasinski, the actor who played Jim on “The Office”, but the actual character.

For some reason we were lost in a labyrinthine parking garage that was also a hotel and also a stage and movie theater and arcade and bar. We were looking for a box office to pick up tickets to a show for he and Pam. We wandered through stairwells and levels and had to run away from a flooding pool. Somehow I ended up in an audience for a Jimmy Kimmel show (not the Jimmy Kimmel show, some weird live news or political show, which was on FoxNews). I heckled the audience because they hated what he was saying.

Moral of the story: my nightly habit of falling asleep while watching “The Office” yields weird dreams.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about how we as humans make every choice, every act, every trait, every thought, every decision we encounter or experience as a binary unit. This or that. Here or there. Wrong or right. Love or hate. Success or failure.

It’s very simple to approach things in such a limited way. It reduces our cognitive load. The brain loves patterns and simplifying choices, and therefore it creates binary outcomes. Direct opposites. Contrary poles. Except nothing in our modern life is as simple as what our brains want to achieve. While they might be factual, they are not truthful.

We often feel like failures in our lives. If we haven’t achieved all the things we set out to accomplish, that we are deficient and disintegrating into futility. We’re often told to understand our strengths and weaknesses. Positives and negatives. Except that hardly contains the full picture. What constitutes our reasoning behind these comparisons? What is a positive? What is a weakness? What is a failure? What is a good decision? How much time is needed or number of people involved or branching and layered outcomes examined to determine our binaries?

Our weaknesses are opportunities for strength and our strengths are just a step away from being a weakness. Failures are wisdom and learning. Choices are steps in a direction. Normalcy is an illusory perspective. Our binary guardrails shortcut communication, eliminate empathy, hobble logic, obscure understanding, and diminishes collaboration with all other humans who we feel are “opposite”.

You are contradictory set of double negatives and illogical thoughts and complicated threads. You are an array. You are a spectrum. You are a rainbow. You are wonderful chaos. It’s time to stop being so 01100010 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001.

Recently started watching (the much hyped) Amazon series “The Boys”, and I can say that it’s much deserved hype. It’s very good. And dark. And violent. And surprising. It’s a worthy follow up to the spirit and tone of “The Watchmen”. I highly recommend if you like not just dark and gritty, but also twisted and disturbing (which I understanding it’s everyone cup of water).