Archive for September, 2011


Moods and Mortality

“Blue” wasn’t just part of my online persona’s name yesterday. Ole Deac really was suffering a case of the blues.

Coming face-to-face with mortality does that to you.

Nah, I haven’t gotten some horrible diagnosis and I don’t have a dying family member. Hell, I don’t even have a sick pet right now. So, perhaps my experience is just so personal to me that it will seem trite to you. Maybe it isn’t worth blogging about.

Shit. Like I’ve ever let a little something like that stop me before.

It started with Mrs. Blue being kind of down in the dumps herself, really taking a pessimistic (somewhat justifiable, but in other ways not) view of something we’re working on right now relationship-wise, as well as kind of beating up on herself about one of those kinds of things women in particular so often beat themselves up about. She was bummed, and that bummed me out, since I wasn’t able to really brighten her spirits.

Then the weather was kind of sucky. Plus I’m recovering from a cold. So I was already vulnerable when I got the e-mail from my dad. He had thanked me earlier for something I sent him, and I responded back to ask how things were and how the family was doing in Arizona (those would be my mom’s relatives; my dad retired out near them instead of in Minnesota where his family is—the man is simply not interested in doing the mosquitoes and winters ever again).

This is where I find out that a former renter of his owes him even more money than I thought he did. And that my dad’s having some eye problems. And that even though he’s pretty active, he’s been gaining a bit of weight lately. Then I find out one of my cousins has remarried and just had the kid with his new wife baptized, and I never even knew he had been divorced from his first wife.  And miscellaneous other news of which I was also unaware.

The net combo has been to, first of all, remind me that my dad is going to die someday.

I know, big surprise, right? As is the shocker that he’ll probably precede me in shucking of his mortal coil.

But you know, while he’s a fit guy, Dad’s had numerous minor issues. Cholesterol started sneaking up on him. Sciatica and arthritis are getting in on the act and have been for years, frankly. And so on. Is he knocking on death’s door? Hardly. Will he likely live another 15 or 20 years (or more) most likely? Probably.

Or maybe not. I just don’t know.

Mom died early in my now-nearly-14-year-old marriage. She suffered cancer, and I wasn’t there when she died (though I did travel out to California to be there for her major surgeries and part of her recovery). Doesn’t matter that I had marital obligations and we just didn’t know when she would die…I still wasn’t there. And arriving in California to see her body before it was taken away for cremation didn’t really make me feel like I’d been number-one son. She and I were tight when I was growing up.

Still, I never beat myself up about it, and that’s because we always stayed pretty well in touch. Dad’s not much of a talker; Mom was. And aside from that, I knew Dad was with her, and Xeena the warrior princess miniature Dachshund. I knew she wasn’t alone.

But ever since she’s passed on to the next phase of spiritual evolution, I’ve often worried about my dad. Sure, he has in-laws around him who adore him, so if he dies someone will notice. But how soon? Dad and I don’t talk much because that’s just not the way he is. If we lived in the same state, we’d likely get together often. But phone calls and e-mails? Not so much.

I worry that Dad will die alone because, well, of course he likely will. He lives alone. Even the dog recently gave up the ghost. So now I’m extra sensitive to his health woes, because as much as I hate the thought of losing my only remaining parent (even though it’s the normal course of things), I hate as much…perhaps more…that he may very well have no one there when he checks out. Sure, he may end up needing care some day and may be living with us (or vice-versa) and we might have plenty of advance notice, particular if cancer decides Mom wasn’t enough and decides to visit Dad, too. But I worry about a fall, or a stroke, or a heart attack.

Stupid, I know, to worry about any of the innumerable “what if’s” that might arise. But still, I do, and more so the older he gets.

So, yeah, mortality in my face…even if it isn’t my own.

Plus the fact I’ve kept in poor touch with my relatives with whom I was so close for so long. I still have the connection, and yes, I know they could do more to keep in touch with me, too. But still, these are blood of my blood, and I feel like I’ve been too long disconnected from them.

And who knows how long I’ll live. Or when my grandma or some of my aunts and uncles might get their visits from the Grim Reaper.

Mortality again.

So much to do in life. So many obligations and desires.

So little time in the grand scheme.

I don’t have the blues today. But it all still weighs heavy on my mind.


Twitter’s a Drug, Y’all!

So, I’m taking some time off. Wish I could say it was some time off work, but nah, it’s time off from Twitter. I’m going to give it a week and see how things are, then decide how often I want to be on it. (For the record, Twitter is my main form of social media…I hardly ever log into Facebook, Google+ or any of the other major or minor networks)

The decision (which I tweeted about, so people wouldn’t wonder where I went) struck some people as sudden, a few of my favorite tweeps among them—and my wife as well—but there’s a reason. Well, actually, more than one, but most of it boils down to time. Twitter takes time. It can take too much time, and when your life is already chronologically challenged like mine, that’s a big thing. Then again, most drugs are time-stealers.

Yeah, Twitter’s a drug. I said it. More on that in a minute. (And it doesn’t mean I think Twitter is bad.)

So, how did I get to the point I figured I need a good chunk of time off? Well, the tipping point came Saturday morning, when my wife told me she was a bit surprised I didn’t check on her the previous evening when she was sick, and simply came to bed at around 1:30 (which is a pretty usual time for me, just so you know), rolled over to my side, and went to sleep. Apparently, she meant it as a light comment. But it didn’t sound light. And my response led to a response by her which set up a nasty feedback loop. I won’t go into details. We both overreacted. Doesn’t matter who “started it” or who “overreacted more” or even if there was any quantitative difference. But an interesting thing that my wife did was to strongly suggest I not interact with her on Twitter anymore. The “why” isn’t important. What is important is the impression she had that my presence on Twitter with regard to her had caused her some hurt. (How does this tie in with the whole “not checking on her while sick” thing? Trust me, there’s a connection, but let’s not get off track now.)

Also, for what it’s worth, we’ve both apologized to each other for the morning weirdness, and my wife has indicated it’s not necessary for me to step back sharply on Twitter interactions with her nor mentions of her on Twitter. Nor did she ever tell me to stop tweeting for any amount of time. Let’s make that clear.

That very same day, a few hours after the blow-up between me and the wife had blown over, one of my tweeps responded to a tweet I had made the night before. It wasn’t an angry response, mind you. But it was a misunderstanding of the thrust of what I had posted online (Something to the effect of “By what strange alchemy does the Japanese language make most of the men sound angry and most of the women sound inherently giggly?”). My intent, aside from a slight bit of humor, was to point out that whenever I hear Japanese (and this is the only language I’ve witnessed this in), it so very, very often evokes specific gender differences and cultural mores in the very intonations. But my tweep first noted I was engaging in stereotyping and then in sexism. I wasn’t doing either, because my point was what it sounded like, not how I viewed the people who spoke the language, and I simply wondered at why that occurred in the speaking of that language so much.

It didn’t turn into a Twitter argument or anything. She’s reasonable and I explained myself. So, no bad blood. But, on top of the comments by my wife, it was another example of Twitter causing me to step in something I hadn’t intended to step into. Having cleaned up both messes (the encounters with the wife and the tweep) doesn’t make stepping into them to begin with any more pleasant.

So, I started thinking about Twitter. I started thinking about how I use it to be witty. Or snarky. Or edgy. Or insightful. Or banal. Or a combination of these and other things. I wondered if I’m using Twitter too much and trying too hard. Could it be that this particular social network was encouraging me to engage online frequently to the detriment of my interpersonal relationships (marriage, parenting, friendships, etc.)? I thought about how Twitter works in my life. Every few days or so, I might have a day when I didn’t check Twitter much, or at least not until nighttime when Little Girl Blue was in bed, but I pretty much checked it every day. Most days, I checked it frequently, and often I would go back a ways and see what tweeps were saying. Even when I didn’t go back far, just looking at responses to me or by my favorite people on Twitter could take a while.

Does it eat up all my time? No. I’m not addicted. But Twitter IS a drug of sorts.

This isn’t all bad. Alcohol is a drug, too. I like to have a glass or two of wine most nights. I like beers and ales. I rarely get drunk, but a light buzz is nice when the day is done and I no longer have to go anywhere by car or deal with deadlines. Also, almost every day of my life involves caffeine, which is also a drug. Nicotine and marijuana are both drugs, neither of which I have any particular grudge against. There are many other drugs, of course, that are of more concern to me and which I would likely never so much as touch, and most of them do tend to begin the ruin of many a person’s life. Then again, even the hardest drugs can be used more or less responsibly by a precious few people without leading to addiction, personality changes or whatever.

So, calling Twitter a drug isn’t an insult. I’m not knocking Twitter, nor am I making judgments or casting dispersions on people who use it. After all, I plan to come back to it. And Twitter isn’t the only form of social media that can eat at our time, sometimes too much so, or even lead to addictive behavior among some users.

Thing is, though, I could get more done if I stepped away from Twitter. In fact, by stepping away I’m already getting something done: I’m updating this blog for the first time in a while.

I’m trying to write commentary and short stories for four blogs that are solely my own (two publicly attached to my name and two that remain anonymous due to sexual content) and a fifth that I share with someone else (also anonymous and sexual in nature…yeah, I’m a randy kind of guy…sue me.)

Twitter easily eats a couple hours each day. Probably more many days. Sure, I stay up late and do a lot of the tweeting then, and it’s not like I tweet when I’m supposed to be doing work for my paying job, but it still eats up time. Time that could be used for other forms of writing I’ve been neglecting, my fiction being the one first and foremost in my mind. But I also could be catching up on the many movies I want to watch on DVD or streaming on Netflix. I could be catching up on several great cable TV series that I missed because Little Girl Blue hogs the TV during the day and evening. I could be reading more novels that I want to read.

Yeah, you noticed I didn’t mention family. That’s because I don’t do all that much social media when it’s family time or the wife and I are doing stuff. I’ve been known to check Twitter very quickly at times, for example, when we’re shopping or something and I’d otherwise be standing around looking clueless while my wife is picking out clothes for our daughter or something, but I rarely take it out if I’m actually supposed to be engaging with my family. Still, the fact I even do…however rarely and briefly…pull out my phone and turn on the Twitter app during the occasional meal out still says something about the druggy nature of Twitter.

Again, drugs aren’t all bad. If I’m losing my mind due to exhaustion I may need to guzzle my coffee quickly when my family is trying to talk to me. If I’ve had a really rough day, having a glass of wine at dinner might be a good idea just to chill a bit.

But to my mind, there are a lot things I could have been doing that I wasn’t because I was on Twitter (all my blogs have suffered in recent weeks for lack of regular updates, for one thing).

Am I giving Twitter up? No. I like it. It’s fun. And it doesn’t cause me to become violent, spend all my money, engage in hazardous sex, crash my car or anything like that. As far as drugs go, it’s not a bad one. But I’m going to clear my system of Twitter just a little and then reassess after a week how I feel and how often I really want to be on Twitter going forward. I need to find out how much I get done without it, to better gauge how much time I should spend with it in the future.

Maybe that will mean getting rid of many people whose tweets I rarely read. Maybe it will mean taking every other day off of Twitter. Maybe it will means a strict time limit each day. Who knows?

You won’t see me on Twitter for a week, give or take, but maybe you’ll see me here more often.

Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley


Jeff Bouley

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September 2011

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