Somewhere in the Middle

This morning, I will attend church, physically, for the second time in umpteen months.  At approximately the last minute, with several seconds to spare, I was asked to introduce the guest speaker for today’s insight service. I reluctantly agreed, because that’s what I do; reluctantly agree. The reason for my reluctance stems from my diminishing ability to speak coherently in front of groups. Once, I was a practiced public dissembler, lying to audiences about all manner of things I was asked to say or about matters on which I wished to mislead them. As I’ve grown older (and older and older and older), I’ve become more conscious of content when engaged in public speaking. So, when I relay information that seems less than entirely true or that seems intentionally and transparently translucent, I stumble a bit. I’m no longer paid to mislead (and to protect the interests of morally repugnant slugs) and it’s a little tough to speak on matters about which I have less than full buy-in. But all of this has little to do with church, right? Yeah, I suppose. But I slipped it in, just because I could. Anyway, this morning I will do the introduction; I will base my behavior on what is admittedly poor recollection of what is supposed to happen. By the end of this morning’s program, I may well be the first Unitarian Universalist excommunicated by popular demand. I’m really not very good at public speaking and never was. Why I came to enjoy it (but now I don’t), I will never know. I think I’m somewhere in the middle, now.

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My IC and I went to a friend’s birthday party last night at the sole pub in the Village. A band made up of extremely young people, Bad Habit, played for part of the time. They are good, no question. The pub is loud, no question. I’m growing more tolerant of loud, smelly, hot places suffering from COVID-related understaffing. Tolerance and enjoyment live in different states, by the way: New Hampshire and Baja California (so, technically, they live in different countries).  Eight-dollar drinks, though, are growing a little tiresome. I may open up a limited-access pub in my home, complete with a dart board. I would require only that patrons bring their own liquor/mixers or other drink or chewable of choice and that music be kept to decibel levels my ears can enjoy. My hours of operation might be a bit iffy, though.

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I found myself enamored, yesterday, with a two-bedroom, two-bath condo located in the heart of the Argenta district of North Little Rock. For only $250K, we might have been able to snatch a place within easy walking distance of excellent pubs, restaurants, a baseball field, entertainment venues, and the like. We wanted to go view it up close and personal on Monday. But we found out that, unfortunately, it was under contract. The Argenta district is hot. Condos, especially, are in very low supply. There are a few more houses, but not as easily walkable as the condo. I  hate that someone snatched it before we could even give serious consideration to the place. Admittedly, giving serious consideration would require us to do things like decide on who’s selling what, who’s paying what, and a host of other matters. But acting on whim is fun sometimes, even when it doesn’t yield solid results.  I still miss living in Chicago, thirty-plus years later. Instant access to city amenities is addictive (in Chicago, that included excellent public transit).

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I was awakened by a very loud noise this morning. Since getting out of  bed, I’ve decided it was a dog shaking itself awake while wearing an assortment of collar tags. The poor beast was shaking in abject fear last night during the worst of the thunderstorms, so he was allowed to sleep in bed as a means of comfort. But he woke me at 4:00 a.m. with his shuddering percussion, which made me feel less compassionate. I took him outside to pee (him, not me) while a light rain continued to fall. He did his business, but was in one hell of a hurry to get back inside. But, hey, it was already 4:00 a.m. I suppose he wanted to hurry back to sleep. I figure I’m up for the day. So here I sit, communing with the keyboard.

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Eventually, against our most fervent desires, we all grow up. Even those who claim to be wild and crazy in their old age have grown up; through pain, regret, love, anger, and a string of other emotions too long to measure. Emotions—the ones that bathe us in love and those that bury us in despair—thicken our skin and scuff our souls. But they can leave scars that cannot be covered up. And the retained pain in those scars can cause us to behave in ways we disdain, but cannot avoid because we’ve not grown up. Until we realize we must. We have no choice. The scars on scuffed souls cannot be used as alibis forever; eventually, we have to grow up and behave like adults.

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Self-deprecating humor always carries a kernel of truth. At least I think that must be the case. The comedians I’ve heard who use self-deprecating humor base their bits on their own lives. While humor is sometimes an exaggeration of real life, it is not always an exaggeration. Sometimes it is the only way a person can deal with a piece of his or her past that is just too painful or embarrassing or uncomfortable to share uncovered. I’m not sure why that came to mind this morning. Maybe it was because I was thinking about Robin Williams a couple of days ago; his self-deprecating humor was so funny. Now, in retrospect, some of his humor was not so much funny as it was poignant. And, looking back, perhaps a cry for help that was never heard until it was far too late.

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My public persona—an attempt at appearing a semi-pseudo-quasi extrovert—sometimes overwhelms the real me, the introvert. The introvert needs far more uncommitted time and less time in the middle of the action than the “average joe.” He needs more time to think than the normal person on the street. He’s just needy in an isolationist, hermit kind of way. Anyway, as much as I enjoy being around people I love, I sometimes need them to be in the next room or sitting quietly next to me.

The other side of me, a side I only occasionally recognize (but may be more common than I think), is the incessant, highly annoying talker. That side of me might be an attempt to show actual extroverts what it feels like to have the social needs of an introvert. :-).

What are the people with whom I socialize really like? I realize, of course, they’re “really like” the way they are with me. But I mean in the absence of other people who matter. I mean in the midst of personal challenges and traumas. Are their public personas really who they are, or is there something hidden behind that façade? We may never know, not even in the midst of heart-to-heart conversations. We may never know what’s hidden just a little deeper. But if we ever do, we should treat it as the honor it is.

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I may back away from some of my commitments at church. I’m not feeling overwhelmed. No, I’m feeling constricted. I can’t make plans without consulting my calendar, which makes me crazy. I don’t want to have commitments I can’t simply ignore. I have enough of those in the form of doctor appointments and their ancillary stuff like x-rays and CT scans and such. Aside from those necessary obligations, I want to have no responsibilities. What was I saying about being grown up?

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It’s only 6:10, but I might as well wrap this up and scrounge for breakfast. Or, I could wait and eat at church. What shall I do? Who knows?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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Please talk to me about what I've written. I get lonely when I'm the only one saying anything.

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