Exploring the future through the present. One day at a time.
I hope I stay within budget
My website: http://www.almarquardt.com
|There was a time not to long ago—in actual years, but an age in internet time—when people could write whatever they wanted without having to worry about being “canceled.” Reamed by others for silly opining, sure. That comes with the territory when posting something for all to see and comment on.
Even though few read either this blog or my other one, I still can’t stop from self-censoring. I continue to be tempted to write weak entries that won’t offend others.
Yet when I stop and think about those I read and enjoy, none of them hold back or seem to worry about who might try to silence them. And when I look back at which of my own posts received the most praise—or at least the most interaction—they’re invariably the ones where I let my thoughts fly, damn the consequences.
No one remembers or respects those who hide within the crowd. They do remember and respect those who stood up, even if they disagree with what that person is (literally or figuratively) standing for.
So what do I fear writing about?
Many things, mostly having to do with current events. My reticence is actually two-fold; only one is the fear of how it will be received.
It’s more about what I wrote in my last entry on September 11. Anything I say about what’s going on in today’s world won’t be unique to what others are also saying. Mine is simply another voice in the choir. So unless I figure out a solo, anything I write nothing but one note in the already deafening harmony (or discordant melody, depending).
Another excuse I tend to use is the energy involved with stating my case even further when someone disagrees. Do I really want to take the time to defend myself? Sometimes I simply don’t have the will or desire to argue or debate.
Maybe it’s my age showing…
|Right now the internet is abuzz with personal remembrances of 9/11 twenty years ago.
I’m usually not one who goes with the crowds on any holidays (so-called). Maybe it’s due to my natural tendency to avoid what the majority is doing. Why add my voice to similar voices when it’ll only get lost in the multitude?
After all, my experience that day isn’t much different from most everyone else’s. The shock, the disbelief, the heart-stopping realization that our world isn’t safe and that we had enemies willing to kill themselves in order to kill us.
Yet we also tend to forget when life returns to normal—or at least adapting to incremental changes in our day-to-day lives so adeptly we still call it “normal.”
For instance, twenty years ago, we didn’t have to arrive at the airport a minimum of two hours before the flight for the privilege of figuratively (and sometimes literally) stripping down before stepping foot on a plane. Now it’s simply a part of our “normal.”
We stepped (and often willingly) into a world where everyone is assumed to want to harm others, and we must prove through metal detectors, x-ray machines, and secret courts that we have no such intention.
We’ve decided to distrust others until they prove themselves otherwise. The whole issue with the thing-that-shall-not-be named going on today has taken that distrust even further.
What other freedoms and liberties have we lost or willingly relinquished in the last twenty years and have convinced ourselves we no longer want or need? And how many others will we give up in the next twenty? I honestly shudder to think…
|The title of my entry is a bit strange, but I think by the end of this entry it’ll make sense.
Everyone has their blind spot, something they can’t wrap their mind around no matter how many times they face it. They watch how others react to that particular circumstance seemingly without effort, and all they can do is scratch their head (figuratively or literally).
For me it’s what to do when someone dies or when a friend loses a loved one. I’ve lost both my parents within eighteen months of each other. Because I’m good at compartmentalizing my emotions, I set my grief aside and did what needed to be done and in as short of time as possible. Luckily my sister and I were on the same page throughout the entire process, so we completed almost everything for both our parents within weeks. Our dad’s girlfriend (our parents had divorced a few years earlier) was shocked at how efficiently we took care of our dad’s estate. I’m sure she thought we were a couple of gold-digging vultures when that wasn’t the case at all. It’s who we are; it’s who our parents were. They wouldn’t have wanted us to become blubbering piles of goo when there was work to be done. Our efficiency was a testament to our love and respect for our parents, because that’s how they raised us.
Even before then, though, death to me is a part of life. Sure I miss my parents, but I know I will see them again. Maybe if I wasn’t a Christian I would feel differently. Although… I kind of doubt it. If I were an atheist, believing nothing exists past this life, and I and everyone else ceases to exist the moment we take our last breath, it simply is what it is.
Nothing is ever gained by dwelling on things we can’t control.
Yet I also know my point of view is rather unusual. People grieve much more poignantly than I ever will, and for grief to no longer overwhelm can take months if not years. I don’t consider that a weakness, by the way. It’s merely a different way to process such a deep loss that I can’t embrace for myself. I’m not built that way.
If anything, I’m the weak one when it comes to dealing with death. My lack of true, emotional empathy makes me appear cold and unfeeling. It’s frustrating, because I want to be able to empathize and therefore know exactly how to respond when someone else faces a great loss.
What brought all this on? A friend of mine lost her husband a few days ago. He’d been sick for a while, but at the same time, one can never be truly prepared for losing a spouse. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what do do and what to say. Sending an email or card with flowers saying “I’m sorry for your loss” isn’t enough. Yet I also don’t want to drop by unannounced bearing flowers and food to express my sympathies either.
I go back to when my parents died and I was actually annoyed by all the expressions of sympathy. Sure I was sad and I appreciated their thoughtfulness, but at the same time, I thought it was unnecessary. I didn’t need it, and I was forced to hold my tongue and simply say, “Thank you.” Still, I do remember their kindnesses such as when my boss had a few pizzas delivered for us.
So what do I do for a friend who just lost her husband knowing anything I do will be inadequate, perhaps even unwanted?
I ended up sending her a text expressing my sympathies and offered a few things I could do (such as pick up groceries, help with her dogs, housekeeping, or a listening ear). Is it enough? No idea. Too much? Again, no idea. Nor has she responded, but I’m not surprised. I’m sure she has a lot more on her mind than responding to a text.
So, yeah, I don’t do death well.
|To be human often means to be at odds with oneself. What the heart wants, the head ignores, and what the head knows, the heart refuses to hear.
Such is the case with addiction. In this case, social media addiction. My head always knew social media could be addictive and that I may indeed have that problem. My heart, on the other hand refused to admit it. It simply likes it too much. Better to live in ignorance and do what it wants, consequences be damned.
Yet now, being off of it (except for one hour a week which I will describe below), my heart can’t deny it any longer.
It’s now been ten days (less one hour) since I’ve checked any social media. I’ll admit I figuratively slobber at the idea of getting back on, and my fingers figuratively itch to type in those websites.
It’s getting better though. I’ve managed to steer my attention away from each temptation by reading a book (or two) and diving into my new story (the first chapter is finally complete).
In fact, I’m nearing a point where the thought of social media makes me cringe a little. It’s nice not having to wade through all the national and international drama and taking the risk of being called the whatever the popular –ist of the day is because I deign to spout an opinion.
I do miss the more positive interactions, though, and discovering what my friends and family are doing. Luckily some of them have signed up to receive updates on this humble (yeah, right. Me, humble?) blog, so I’m not completely cut off. And thank you to all for being here!
Speaking of positive interactions, the one exception I made is participating in an hour-long #healthyfaith chat on Twitter once a week. They hold the chats four times a week and discuss either a chapter of the Bible or explore certain themes. For an hour, the host asks ten questions and the participants answer and give their thoughts. Very few serious arguments, hardly any trolls, and I get to learn more about scripture.
When my church physically closed for the thing-that-shall-not-be-named last year, the healthy faith chats became my church.
Aside: my church did hold online services, and my son and I “attended” one of them. I found it more depressing than uplifting, so we never did it again. What I discovered about myself in that year is that I’m not as introverted as I thought. I need to be around people, even if I don’t always interact with them.
While a year may seem like a long time to stay away from social media, I’m more and more confident I can make it.
For once, both my heart and my head agree.
|Or so I like to tell myself. As I get older, the less I like change. Change is for the young(er).
In this case, though, changing the title of my blog once again seemed like appropriate. Mostly because I’m diving back into it after a long hiatus. Freshen things up a bit, as it were. Sure I could have started a brand new blog, but the subject matter remains the same even with the title change. What is that subject matter you ask?
As boring as it might sound, this is the story of my life, or at least how I see it.
I noted in my previous entry, I kicked myself off social media for a time. Another disadvantage of social media other than all the ick is the fact so much of it requires self-censorship. Every time someone mentions even in passing the controversial subject of the day it’s marked with all these fact-checks (using the term loosely) to say nothing of the caustic responses of those who disagree with a particular take.
Here, however, has never been a figurative shouting match between various ideological factions where the arguments are little more than sloganeering.
I can’t say I won’t touch on controversies, although at this point it’s unlikely. This is my escape from all that. I do talk a lot about my Christian faith and may spew a whole lot of scripture. Anyone who’s followed me here or on other sites will not find that a surprise.
I may also write quite a few entries as I try to fill my time doing that instead of looking at my email every few hours for a response to the two book proposals I sent to publishers a few weeks ago.
Ugh. Waiting. Hate it.
|While social media can be fun, it’s also a time suck and a dumpster fire in the middle of a cesspool. It can also be a bit one-note in that people keep talking about the same thing over and over again. In this case, the thing-that-shall-not-be-named. Why dost I not name this thing, and how are you supposed to know right off this thing that I not be naming? A clue: Facebook and Twitter always puts fact-check notifications whenever someone mentions said thing-that-shall-not-be-named. It’s the thing that has taken over our lives for the last two years.
When there are so many other, more interesting and less frustrating things we could be talking about.
Back during an election year, I kicked myself off for an entire year. I was just as sick of all the same talk, all the same arguments, the same hateful rhetoric about and by the then candidates as I am about the thing-that-shall-not-be-named. I ended up writing over 250,000 words and a boon to my mental health.
I decided yesterday—on my birthday—that a similar social media sabbatical is in order. I need to finish editing one book, and begin the sequel of another. I even wrote the first page of said sequel (a fantasy) last night.
Does that mean I’ll spend more time here? Maybe. Hopefully. I’ve always liked the atmosphere here. It’s a quiet yet interesting neighborhood with no cesspools or dumpsters on fire.
|I will spend more time here.
I keep saying I'll do a lot of things I never end up doing.
Will 2021 be any different? In this case, maybe. With all the upheaval of many social media platforms as well as certain internet hosting sites eliminating content, I can't help but think my own online days are numbered.
Here, though, with it being largely private and consistent with enforcement of its Terms of Service, I'm not concerned.
The only promise I will make here is I won't delve too much into political rants. I save Twitter for that since it's a cesspool of a dumpster fire anyway.
My only other concern about people disappearing from certain social media sites (even if I remain on said sites) is I'm bleeding followers like crazy. Since many agents and publishers look at social media follow numbers for their prospective authors, that I've lost so many decreases my chances of finding either.
The same holds true if I self-publish. How am I to gain readers if I continue to lose followers?
Then again, the Internet isn't the only way to market books. I can always travel to local events where people sell their wares, book expos, signings in libraries and book stores... the only real limit is my imagination.
|The headache started early yesterday afternoon. No big deal. I get them occasionally due to hormonal imbalances. Usually it’s a dull throb behind my eyes that doesn’t require medication.
Sometimes it worsens as the day goes on, and this was one of those days. Still not enough to make me get out of my chair to take some Excedrin, though. Then I watched our governor give a press conference closing all K-12 schools state-wide (public and private) for a week.
My son being twelve and my hubby self-employed, I don’t have to take time off from work to take care of him, or scramble to find either daycare or a babysitter. My heart does go out to those who do, though.
Still, my headache figuratively exploded and traveled up my skull and all the way down my neck. Even after taking two Excedrin, it refused to let go. My hormone-induced headache morphed into a tension headache. Oh, yippee.
I slept little, worrying over not so much what would happen to me or my family--or even my state as a whole other than more runs on grocery stores. I had hoped that this weekend would give people two days to calm down, reflect, and act a bit more rationally. Instead, I think people will continue to panic even more by stockpiling, cleaning out bank accounts, and pulling more money out of the stock market.
I may be wrong, and I sincerely hope I am, but never underestimate the irresistibly of survival instinct. The larger community matters little to the scared individual during those moments.
Which is why this morning I stood outside my house in one inch of snow and below-freezing temperatures to watch the sunrise (one of the benefits to hot flashes; I didn’t even shiver). Thick clouds covered the sky, but not enough to prevent all of the sun’s light from breaking through. Small birds chirped to announce the dawn, and while initially calm, a cold breeze soon wafted through, making the as yet bare trees wave at me. That I didn’t see the sun’s orange glow or the blue sky, the filtered gray light was still a reminder that regardless of what other people do, we can still count on the earth’s rotation, and the sun’s light and heat (yes, even in the winter however scant it may be) among many other constants we take for granted. For instance, we’re still in control of how to act or react to any given situation, no matter how trying.
Today (and possibly for the rest of the week), I resolve to not watch or listen to a single bit of news. I will avoid the incessant pessimism of both the news and social media in that we’re all doomed. Because we’re not. Historically we’ve weathered by far worse. We’ll get through this one, too, and hopefully we’ll march through to the other side a little bit wiser.
Some have said that it’s better to overreact to a situation than under-react. In the simplest terms, sure. The logic is still flawed, however, because those aren’t the only two options available. Maybe instead of knee-jerk overreacting, or pretending there’s no problem at all, we should stop and take time to study the facts through legitimate, scientific, and non-biased sources (which eliminates almost all news media). From there, we can rationally figure out the best course of action that doesn’t harm ourselves, others, and both the short and long term future.
While none of us can predict the future with certainty, we all have a hand in how it unfolds. As we pause, we must consider the consequences of our actions and how they will affect ourselves, our family, community, and our nation. Once we’ve formulated and pursue a logical plan of action, maybe then we can breathe a little easier. No more anxiety or fear, but with confidence and hope.
“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?... So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:27 & 34 (NLT)
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 1 Timothy 1:7 (NLT, emphasis mine)
|Either I’m not getting enough Sun, my hormones are completely whacked out, or it’s a combination of both, but I’m suffering from a severe case of apathy.
I’m not sad or depressed, but I can’t seem to find a reason to care about much of anything more than what I’m required to do for work and family. I’m either in automatic or neutral, and don’t care enough to change gears even when I know I should.
I keep thinking I should be concerned, but I’m not. Mostly. Actually, I am concerned, but not enough to do anything about it.
Part of why I’m writing it down is so that maybe, just maybe doing so will push me out of this odd mood I’m in. Sometimes seeing what I’m thinking and feeling on the screen helps me to find a solution to whatever is bugging me.
Change o’ subject (sort of):
I’m thinking of changing the name of my blog again. This time to “Dear God. I Have Questions.”
Two reasons for this.
Once again, I volunteered to write several devotions for my church’s yearly Lenten devotional. Eight, actually, which is the most I’ve volunteered to write so far. In one of them I admitted I don’t love or trust God as much as I know I should. I take much of my faith for granted, and worse, when it starts to matter, I hide it away, afraid.
Many non-religious accuse religious people, Christians especially, as following blindly, never asking challenging questions. For some, that’s probably true. I’ve heard enough stories where church leaders have punished people in a variety of ways for daring to challenge their beliefs or orthodoxy.
Yet that’s far from biblical. In both the Old and New Testaments, God and Jesus encouraged questions and seemed to enjoy being challenged (as long as the questioner was genuine in wanting to learn). For example, in the Old Testament, Jacob literally wrestled with God–and would have won if God hadn’t cheated. In the New Testament, never once did Jesus condemn anyone for asking questions. Sure, he was tough on the Pharisees, but he also knew their motives; their questions were meant to trap him, not to learn.
I want to focus my blog on studying God’s word to strengthen my relationship with him, and hopefully show others that to be a Christian actually means to ask a lot of questions, to challenge our current religious thinking, and yes question what the Bible says about certain subjects we find objectionable or problematic (while at the same time knowing that my understanding of said scripture is what’s flawed, not the scripture itself).
I also hope that by increasing my time of study, it’ll kick me out of this apathetic funk.
|As a writer, I often wonder, am I telling my story (fiction or real) in a way that people will both understand and embrace? Especially as a Christian who wants to relay certain truths (without the sermon), storytelling is my avenue by which I feel called to do it.
Sharing stories isn’t new. It seems to be ingrained in every human, perhaps even in our DNA. Storytelling goes back to cave-dwellers before written language. Scribes wrote down a leader’s accomplishments many times in the form of a story, sometimes true, often embellished to make said leader appear larger-than-life, and thereby worthy of being followed.
The Bible itself is full of stories. Whether you believe they literally happened the way they’re written or not is--as far as stories with a point go--irrelevant. Because the truth (or message) of that story is what matters. Many of Jesus’ words also took the form of stories, because he knew his audiences. To simply say, “don’t steal,” wasn’t enough to drive the point home. By creating characters who stole, and showing how those characters had to face sometimes devastating consequences, the listener (or reader), can better relate to the story, remember it, and hopefully apply the lesson to his/her own life.
I’m reading “Engaging Unbelief: A Captivating Strategy from Augustine to Aquinas,” by Curtis Chang. The author also talks about telling stories, but on a macro, societal level. On page 29 he says, “The one who can tell the best story, in a very real sense, wins the epoch [or era]. History is replete with examples of epoch-defining power gained by superior storytelling.” He then goes on to use examples of the Nazis (negative), and the American civil rights movement, namely Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and his “I have a dream” speech (positive).
To use a cliche “the pen is mightier than the sword,” in many cases this is true. Hitler wielded words that turned Germany from the biggest loser in WWI to a world power in only a few decades. Dr. King wielded words that gave minorities a bigger and more influential voice in American society and politics. Their speeches often included narrative that, as Chang put it, “[took] every thought captive.”
As a storyteller, I and others like me sometimes forget the impact our words can have on others. Too often we think our words will never matter. While we may never spur a new epoch in our history, what about that those who take our words to heart, and in turn influence others who do change the course of history?
If you’re not a writer, and have no desire to be one, nevertheless, tell your stories. Show others the lessons life (or God) has taught you, so they may avoid the mistakes you’ve made, and instead enjoy more success.
Be a superior storyteller; take people’s every thought captive so that those who might otherwise lead them astray can’t.