Eye of the Optimist-friends and fate

Posted on May 21, 2016 at 6:32 AM
It is a full moon weekend. Do you feel odd during a full moon? Do you feel anxious or off? I often do, and I did today.

Well, either the full moon or the peppermint tea chaser to a glass of beer combined with chat with uncertainty about the friends I was with resulted in a bad sleep. Leaving those people and going directly to bed was probably a bad idea. I probably needed time to unwind and a distraction. I guess I have doubts about the friendship since these two seem lukewarm about their association with me, each in his own way. I felt a little awkward and I noticed myself either trying to push the conversation along if my mind was not drifting. The one person explained how a break-up had been affecting him lately. The other person seems to have become indifferent to a lot of people. She seems self-contained in her carefully measured avoidance of people so that she is not open with them . She waffles about social invitations and commitments, preferring her freedom to do exactly how she feels as much as she can. I realize that and I accept it. I respect it, given her cultural background and the likelihood that she has been burned a few times by people's lack of loyalty. I guess I have been like that too. People used to call me "slippery." I would not give enough to let them learn enough to draw conclusions and I did not like being pegged. Well, I think I am nervous around people these days, after a period of strong self-confidence on the social front. Recent developments with my circle of colleagues and colleague-neighbours have made me doubt myself and them. I prefer to withdraw, socially. I do not seek company much. I make little effort to make social arrangements because of many disappointments, like no-shows and other affronts. The circle here has shifted, with loyalties transgressed and persons abandoned as the friendships have been shuffled around. I had been talking to someone who started out as new friend then seemed to be unfriendly (the one experiencing the break-up), but he has formed a tight friendship with Y, whom I was getting close to. Yeah, there was more than the full moon at play last night.

I find myself losing confidence on my life's path when I enter into a social dark cloud. I know the emotions of the situation can fog my judgement. I should not bother with much reflection during a full-moon phase, a phase when I am feeling skittish and a bit negative. I cannot help but wonder as to the magnitude and consequences of mistakes I may have made. I wonder if I had been on a better track in life, one that fed on my potential more and was better suited, if I would be among better friends. I must admit to lost opportunities that were abundant when I was still a youth. Take sports. I like to watch sports and I admire accomplished athletes. An international athletics competition was on TV, and I started to reminisce about my high school track days. I have often wondered whether it would have been wise to join the varsity track and field team. Today it struck me that I had no encouragement and no invitation to do that. My high school coach had never praised me, although my school mates had a little. We had the strongest team in the province with many strong runners, so I did not stand out even though I knew I was among the top best in my province, since I could out-run most of my peers. Today I thought that I could have been competitive since few of my peers went on to university. Then I realized that students from all over the country attended my university and some athletes did so especially because of the fine reputation of many of the sports teams there, including the track and field team, so I may not have done well. I may not have passed the try-outs. (I remember one team mate from high school who had joined the varsity team and I remember that he told me I was very fit. He did not suggest involvement in the team, though.) Still, it would have been a good experience to try, and certainly a good experience to compete at least for a year or two. Oh, well. I was neither wise or bold enough. I have to believe that I was not enthusiastic enough about it, and probably because of the so-so experience I'd had with sports in high school, to make the effort to join. There were opportunities related to employment that I let pass me by because I was not ready or enthusiastic enough. Nobody was around asking me what I wanted to do and I did not seek anyone out to give me advice. That is generally because I perceived most people around me as indifferent to me. I was focused on keeping my mind and emotions together, and getting through a degree program. It took a lot of energy and concentration to do that. I felt alone. I felt burdened by the solitude and sadness of social neglect and abandonment. Maybe what I really needed to do was to break away and take a plunge to try a decent job, even before graduating. I was not ready when people were knocking on my door. They soon stopped knocking and the opportunities dried up before I could get myself together enough to make a decision and make a move. I teeter on regretting those missed opportunities. 

I go from believing that I followed my heart and remained true to myself, spending some much of my life as an activist for social change instead of pursuing a career or marriage; perhaps I did what I was meant to do. Perhaps that is just the kind of element of the vast universe that I am and nothing could stop my course, even myself. I was there to try to make a difference and speak out about injustices and try to push forward social progress when so few would. I am known to some communities and circles for it, even if my career is not much or is hard to put a finger on.

As my relationships evolve and those fall in my "friends" category come and go, I need to update my communications and networks periodically. In the past couple of days, I have been flushing away old correspondence and documents from past activities and associations. I emptied my downloads folders on my computers. I updated the entire list of my friends and acquaintances on Facebook. I culled out stored correspondence with students and organizations in my electronic mail files. In my office, I cleared out years of papers. I even reviewed my will with its accompanying list of contacts and decided to make changes. The list of friends and associates to contact in the event of my demise was shaken up and sorted out. Some names got crossed off and others got added. Since I have come to know my nieces better recently, one of whom I had named as an executor, I changed the name of the executor and stand-bys today. I felt relieved after to all this housekeeping and rearranging.

In the modern world where myriads of people regularly pass each other by, and numerous relationships grow and fade all the time, I guess it is normal for those one calls friends to change all the time. I knew when I was a teenager that I would have to make myself strong enough to be fit to stand up for myself and carry me through my life, because one had to be self-reliant. Besides, how well does anyone truly know anyone? I've watched enough crime documentaries to be aware that even a person with the best reputation and apparently the most solid relationship can turn out to be holding deep dark secrets and thoughts, and may turn on the ones they say they love, parents or spouse. It is nice if a true friend comes along and listens and tries to know you and offer help, but circumstances can limit or prevent that. I imagine that few people have life-long friends, especially amid all the world travel, all the alternative styles and misfits, and career-hoppers like me. 

As I reviewed my lists of friends this sunny afternoon, I enjoyed the memory of the acquaintances. I  have known quite a wide variety in terms of occupation, age, perspective and education, and I have come to know them through a wide variety of activities. Some of my contentment and confidence returned as I leafed through the files. in the end, I eliminated a very few names from my lists, knowing that there is substance to the friendships while realizing that I know people to varying degrees and from varying angles. The experiences were real, all the same. I can truly call them friends. 

The sunlight of day exposes more truth than the cold light of the moon, which is a mere reflection of the sun, anyway. Moonlight can fool you or mislead you. It is a distraction.

Despite the adjustments to my immediate social life in the present, I have been enjoying a lot of friendship and it is rewarding. I should not let these little tussles and upsets get me down. Sure, I am older and wiser today, and can criticize my history more astutely, but there is nothing to be ashamed of or regretful for, on the whole. Overall, I have enjoyed a good measure of fortune despite all the misfortune. I have overcome a lot of problems. I have passed through phases of education in different ways and built myself up by it, even if there is nothing much immediately visible in terms of material stock. I have gone forward even if I have stalled at time. I have known a lot of great people who have been kind to me. I have tried to help others and have won appreciation in many forms. I have something to say and I am getting better at saying it. My accomplishments speak for me, too.

Categories: communication, living, positive thinking, depression, relationships, social justice and change

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Thinking and Doing It Positively

Household Treasures

11 January 2021

I heard an interviewee speaking over the radio talk about cherishing items in the home. It is one way to explore and enjoy surroundings without traveling, he said​I'll try it.

A lot of objects on display in my apartment are artifacts from my travels, ironically. They refresh my most poignant memories of precious and mind-opening explorations.

Sitting atop the filing cabinet next to my desk are to souvenirs from South Korea, where I worked and resided for 10 years. After such a lengthy stay, I have loads of memories prompted by numerous artifacts of my experiences in that country. These two are among the best reflections of cultural and historical particularities of South Korea. They are a framed photo of a hero central to the labour and national democratic struggles and an ornament from folk culture in the countryside of the southern part of South Korea.

Jun Tae-Il was a courageous student activist leading actions against the last dictatorship in his country. He represents the heart of the movement and the victory for democracy. He became a martyr when the police fatally shot him while he was demonstrating in the street in Seoul, the capitol. The ornament is an ceramic fertility fetish, an image of a penis from one of several such parks in the southern region where I used to live. This part of the country remained tribal longer than other parts, so folk traditions such as shamanism and superstitions have endured. Fertility monuments were erected (pun intended), of course, bring about more healthy children. The foreigner exploring such parks giggle at the sights. 

Next to the filing cabinet is a bookshelf. One of the most noticeable objects near the top of this piece of furniture is a tacky, plastic, white alarm clock. It is significant because I bought it to ensure I woke up on time on my last morning living in South Korea. I had an early flight. As a small travel alarm clock had recently failed, and I was not sure my phone alarm would wake me fully, I picked up a cheap clock at a local general store. I don't use it as its ticking is noisy, but I have not thought to give it away. It remains perched on the shelf, deprived of a battery, as a reminder of my departure from the ex-pat life and return to Canada. 

I also have items saved from two trips to Cuba, one in 2003 and one in 2019. Both trips were organized political events. The first took me there with a political choral group to meet Cuban choirs, learn some of their songs, perform with Cubans, attend the May 1st rally, meet labour associations and tour the island for two weeks. I am looking at a typical replication of a sketch of Che Gevarra which one can find easily in street markets. Our choir, supportive of the Cuban revolution, valued the Cuban revolutionary democracy, social arrangements and political principals which that image, the most famous in all the world, represents to millions of people. It inspires and gives hope. I remember strolling through the streets, visiting markets and restaurants, chatting with locals and attending all the meetings on our hectic schedule. I have other little treasures such as a ceramic, hand painted ashtray, photos of our Cuban comrades, and an African-Cuban, wooden statuette.

Above my desk hang a pair of water colour paintings in wood frames. They portray sites in southern Manitoba in the general area where my grandparents met, married and bore my mother. They feature two views of the banks of the Red River, a river highly important to Canadian history. There were battles against invading Americans launched there and a key struggle of the Métis nation. The city of Winnipeg lies nearby, which used to be the industrial hub of Canada until the Panama Canal opened up and undermined the Canadian railway system. I have only passed through Winnipeg by car. This area is not one I remember, for I have never visited it. 

On the floor near my desk lies a wicker hamper. I have mixed feelings about it, but it has been very useful, so I have kept it. You see, it belonged to my father's second wife. My father remarried this odd, older person rather quickly after my mother passed, which denied her children necessary time to adjust. I carried resentment about her, but chose to avoid them rather than say anything or show my negative feelings. As I said, it is a practical item for it holds linens and Christmas stuff and allows aeration through the woven stems.

I originally bought the filing cabinet to organize research, not academic information but information found in the course of activism and stabs at political journalism. It therefore stores records of several international and regional conferences. Though I purge it once in awhile, there are still clippings, leaflets and pamphlets. They cover issues such as Canadian mining firms abroad, human rights cases, privacy rights, student concerns and transportation. I have been replacing old articles and folders with my own writing pieces. Among them are also old, self-published newsletters addressing local and international issues, some of my published articles and unpublished poems. 

Conversational News

10 January 2021

It is so good to be able to express myself and have contact with readers through this blog again. The loss of the access to my blog along with other aspects of confinement and restrictions really affected me. There were added unsettling restrictions due to circumstances, even including access to my games when Adobe Flash Player was removed. I was feeling the mounting stress of rising COVID cases and the awareness of the damages inflicted by this disease as well as the damage inflicted by states that remain focused on helping profitable enterprises more than addressing the disease and health care and financial interventions fully and equitably. Most such as Canada are handing the responsibility of pandemic management to individuals. Very unjust!

I had been handling the conditions of the pandemic fairly well, but emotions were catching up to me in December as I personally began to feel tired and stressed. I started to feel irritable and alarmed. I looked forward to two weekends at home over Christmas and New Years, but the employer wanted me to work on the Saturdays. Saturday being the heaviest work day for me with five hours straight teaching and two hours travel, I had been wanting relief to get a chance to rest and calm down. I ended up taking the Saturday following NY Day off, which certainly helped. I am much better now.

I did not carry through with my usual practice of personal assessment and planning in December as is my habit. I was too agitated. I did not want to reflect on this past year, actually. Not then.

Anyway, there is not any change in my goals. I generally carried through with financial, livelihood, social, family, health and growth goals. However, the social and family goals were frustrated by Covid-19 rules. However, there are elder relatives with multiple health problems whose mental health was being upset by the situation, so I have been visiting with them in cafes and such. They are better now. I have also been aiding an elderly neighbour whose health, already in decline this year, was getting worse partially because of Covid-related restraints. (Her degrading sight and hearing, as well as shaking and loss of balance, caused her to stop driving permanently, and skeletal issues caused her to stop regular exercise. She is worried she will be forced to consider entering a facility while many care homes are in crisis!) My exercise regime was also compromised. The local fitness center remains open but I perceive it as risky, so I do not go there. Aside from some hiking and walking to accomplish transit and errands, I haven't been exercising much until recently. Now I do some yoga, lunging, stretching and weighted arm raises sometimes. I am prevented this week because of an inflammation (hemorrhoid caused by lengthy sitting!).

 One big factor affecting stress and anxiety levels is news reportage. State and private corporate news services, like most enterprises today, try to streamline by relying more on tech and web browsing to find news topics. There are fewer reporters and there is less extended, investigative reporting. For the past decade at least, such services have resorted to "conversational journalism." It is an adjustment to distrust of news and official authorities during a trend of democratization, I feel. However, it tends to keep popularity and viewer or reader stats in mind. Topics can be sensationalized by rehashing events and speculation. Commentators are brought in to discuss as are senior reporters, but the discussion is not very productive in that it does not lead to increased knowledge. Rather, it keeps generating more questions. Conversations often entertain unanswerable questions, particularly because there can be no resolution. They just push the topic and stimulate possible answers to stir up controversy and alarm in order to improve ratings. Pertinent information might be omitted if it actually answers a question. Once audiences abandon a thread, they turn to some other topic and start over. It is really unconscionable because of the innuendo, speculation, rumour, omission, lack of investigation, assumptions and biases.

The COVID coverage is a clear case in point. Partial information is supplied, such as a medical official's announcement that is partly based in some truth. The announcement is questioned. Opponents are recruited to present the false arguments. Sideline topics are raised to create more friction. Proper sources are ignored. Questions are recycled and spin round and round with no conclusion. The affect is understandable: alarm, anxiety, fear, stress, accusations, complaints, etc.

I follow a couple of doctors who produce daily videos to update viewers on scientific developments and explore reasoning behind government and medical decisions regarding the pandemic. I rely on Dr. John Campble and Doctor Moran. Find them on Youtube. Campbell is the most digestable, for he uses plain English, which Moran is more technical. The latter seems to be addressing people in the medical field. By following Campbell, in particular, I can see the gaps in the regional and national news reporting. I can see that they are lagging behind the news by ignoring or failing to search for reliable information.

We're Back

07 January 2021

Apologies to my followers and viewers. You have been very supportive and encouraging for many years. I might have disappointed some of you who were looking for new entries from me. 

Let me explain. VISTAPRINT changed its platform last year. When they did that, the method for making blog entries changed. I had no information from them about what to do. It simply appeared that I know longer had any blogging service. 

However, I just spoke to a VISTAPRINT rep who guided me. I can now write blog entries, as you can see.

It was a strange year all the way around. Things seemed kind of more chaotic than usual. I felt agitated and stressed last month for no definite reason. I had trouble sleeping. I felt exhausted.

My general astrology reading asserted that the pulling away of Jupiter, one of my planets and a very powerful one, from Saturn would make Sagitarians feel exhausted by the end of December. Despite the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, it does indeed feel like I worked and accomplished a lot (activism, teaching, writing). Things are supposed to get easier for us Sagges. 

There was added stress because of the effects of the pandemic. Not only that but worse, state aggression seemed to increased around the world, causing civilian mass responses. Though I had handled it pretty well until the end of 2020, I guess it finally got to me and I started soaking up some of the stress and anxiety emitting from my region and beyond.

2021 is starting out a bit weird, too. Just look at yesterday's events. U.S. Whitehouse invasion. Solar flare sending rays that caused several storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. More lockdowns. 

I wish all my readers well. I will resume entering focused pieces when I have more time. Please stick with me. Thank you for your comments to date.

Ed Wise


15 January 2020