So, despite the rumors you may have heard in the back alleys of Internet society, I’m a basically decent human being. (No really, I’ll take a blood test. Sign me up!) And, as such, I possess the lovely human quality of being able to get far too stressed out about things that may or may not matter in the end. (Well, some humans possess this quality. During my down time from worrying about things, I have run into some people who never worry about anything. I am envious of these people. How are you able to be this way? Do you avoid processed foods? Did it involve surgery of some kind?)
Still, many esteemed psychologists (and by “many”, I mean “I can’t really name any right now because I’m just making things up in order to move this post along”) say that you should talk about your fears in a comfortable group setting. Okay, fine. But since I generally am not comfortable in group settings involving anyone other than me, I’ll have to go to Plan B, which means redirecting my emotions into a keyboard and then clicking on a “submit” button.
In other words: Different day, same drama, same keyboard.
And here we go…
ONE. The elections that are happening in 8 days in America.
If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you are most likely aware of my political and social leanings. (Unless you’re one of those folks who scroll through your feed and click “like” on everything in a misguided attempt to achieve numbers instead of true interaction, never actually reading anything or even visiting the site.) There are so many things I could say about the cluster-truck that has been this election cycle, but I’ll limit it to this (admittedly recycled) bit:
I am stunned by the sheer number of Americans who are planning to vote based on hatred, racism, xenophobia, sexism, willful ignorance, and an apparent incident in your childhood that presumably eviscerated any chance of you becoming a mature and responsible adult. Maybe you should be the one taking a blood test to see if there’s a drop of humanity in you.
Okay, that felt good. And I promise that’s the last of the really-serious soapboxing in this edition, for those of you who are a bit clenched right now and just want me to get to the funny.
Many of you writers out there know about National Novel Writing Month, an annual event that runs throughout the month of November, a challenge wherein participants try to achieve the lofty goal of producing 50,000 words for their latest work-in-progress. (If you pause to think about it, this is a concept based in madness. That’s a hell of a lot of words, considering writer’s block, the limited number of hours in the day, convincing other family members to leave you alone, and the need for things like food and personal hygiene.)
But the whole experience is also a rush, if you can hold on for the entire ride. 50,000 words is half the length of a robust novella and a third of a decent-sized novel, so it’s thrilling to amass that much story in thirty days. As many authors will tell you, the hardest part in writing a book is getting the story far enough that it begins to feed itself. Once you hit that point, things become easier, and NaNoWriMo is one of the tools that can help you get there.
Now, there are some naysayers (and it’s valid naysaying) that forcing yourself to focus on a word count can distract you from quality. And that’s fair. But it’s really part of the process with NaNoWriMo. Abandon your anal-retentive need to get it right the first time, and just let all your random thoughts flow into the keyboard. Run with it. You will end up with a lot of crap that just has to be excised later, but you’ll also trip over a wild, promising seed that you wouldn’t have noticed if you were carefully cultivating your garden instead of letting things grow naturally.
THREE. What do people in India really think about me?
Not that you asked, but the stats for my blog reveal the following demographics about the country-of-origin for interaction: People in the USA hit me up the most. (No surprise.) People in the UK are just behind that. (Again with the no surprise.) Third place, Australia. (And here is where I should point out that gaining the trust of an Australian blogger is a good thing, because those folks can become your staunchest supporters. I don’t know what it is, but it’s great. No offense to other countries, I’ve met some wonderful people from everywhere, but Australia tickles my fancy.)
What surprises my fancy? That India is fourth on the list. In one respect, when you consider the math, this shouldn’t be a surprise. There are roughly 74 billion people in that country, and probably 73 billion bloggers. Still, I guess I naively assumed that there would be language and cultural variances that might impede a connection. (And I suppose that shows my ignorance of world dynamics.) In any case, I’m glad that this avenue has opened up, because I’ve found that the Indian bloggers I follow are, for the most part, very spiritual in nature. (And I don’t mean this from a religious perspective, although there is some of that.) The writing is just very reflective and respectful and thought-provoking, something you don’t always find with American bloggers who are sometimes so jaded that their point is lost amidst all the noise and hollering.
Still, I can’t help but wonder if my connections in India are here because they like my writing or they are just really friendly people who support everyone even if they are jaded Americans who holler.
FOUR. The rollercoaster of retirement.
Retirement is different for everyone, but many folks follow this path (at least in America): You save up enough money in your 401k, IRA and pension plans that when you walk out the door you can chunk all that capital into decent investments and then hope you can live off the base and the potential profits. The key words here are “hope” and “potential”, since your livelihood is basically tied to the financial markets. If Wall Street has enough really bad days, you can go from the prospect of a modest but viable monthly stipend to suddenly being shoved back into the work world, sobbing and rending your hair.
This situation sucks mightily. Of course, “financial planners” will tell you that you just need to ride it out, there are highs and lows but the markets always eventually trend higher. The thing is, I want that market to trend higher during the part of my life when I am still cognizant and mobile, not in my declining years when I’m in the Beaver Valley Home for the Wretched and Incontinent, confusing the one niece who still bothers to visit me with the physical therapist who annoys me with his insistence that I get out of bed every few days or so.
Something to ponder: I can remember being a wee bairn in the early 70s and garnering 5% annual interest on my tiny little savings account that I initially opened with ten dollars in quarters. (There was a promotional thing, wherein the bank gave the tykes a fold-out pig (for “piggy bank”) wherein you could insert quarters in little slots until you satiated the pig, and then you were an official banking customer, even if you couldn’t drive or otherwise make responsible decisions.)
5% annual interest. On a savings account. It’s unheard of these days. The current average is .01%. If I could still get a 5% return on my savings and accrued pension, I could live comfortably until they finally invent that magic pill that allows us to live forever. And then I could keep going.
That right there is one of the fundamental flaws in America with not just banking but the whole concept of retirement. If I have dutifully saved for decades, I should be secure in my retirement and not dependent on the whims of Wall Street. When are we going to get away from Big Business ruling everything in our lives? Oh, right, that would mean we have to start electing people who aren’t lobbyists for Big Business. Can you hear me now? Your pocketbook surely does.
FIVE. The sunset.
Since I’ve broached the subject of my eventual internment in Beaver Valley, I couldn’t help but reflect on a few things. Granted, as long as I make at least minimal attempts at living a somewhat healthy lifestyle, I should be good for a couple more decades, maybe three, if I can remember to take my daily vitamin supplements on an actual daily basis. Still, you never know, and I’d like to end this post with a few queries that we should all be asking ourselves.
Did I do the right thing more often than I didn’t?
Did I go to the places that I’ve always wanted to go?
Did I learn to not care about what other people think?
Did I seize the day?
Did I make sure that the people I love understand that I love them?