Birthday and Your Old Friends

My birthday was a few days ago so I went to Los Angeles to spend time with friends I don’t get to see very often. It’s some sort of magic when you interact with people who know you to a degree you almost forgot was possible.

Los Angeles is a nice place when you don’t get too caught up in the tourist attractions and celebrity. There are stupidly nice restaurants, and awesomely middle of the road places. They’re places that a rich person wouldn’t go, but are a touch better than most places in most towns. It’s true about traffic, though, that always has to factor in to what you decide to do and when you do it.

But I won’t bore you with the details of my trip, it was a good time, but it really got me thinking about the connections you have with people you’ve known for a long time. I met these people 12 years ago, and it’s amazing we still have things to talk about. But more amazing is our ability to talk about nothing for hours. I’m terrible at meeting people, and painfully shy so talking to new people is rough for me, but I even with semi-good friends, filling time for hours and hours is difficult. Eventually the stories run out and the life updates since we last talked run out. Some jokes don’t land the right way and what you mean is sometimes lost in how you said it. But a close friend can pick up on every single clue you lay down.

I was wondering how long the average best friend relationship is for everyone.

Sometimes you meet someone and have that instant connection. In a months time you are as close as a couple married for 40 years. (Sometimes that turns out not to be the case and you are out a kidney and your social security number.) My closest two friends I’ve known for 12 and 13 years. I can’t imagine how many hours we’ve spent together. We’ve probably heard every significant event that has happened in each other’s lives and have been around to witness most of them. We’ve had so many shared experiences that it’s almost as if we are the same person. There’s nothing that can really do that but time.

Anyway.

Love people. Enjoy them and let them enjoy you. Give everything and expect nothing. Appreciate what deserves appreciation. Acknowledge effort. High five constantly, like a volleyball team.

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ps – can we still crop photos on wordpress? The edit button took me to renaming the picture and adding a description, nothing about changing the size or cropping.

Birthday and Your Old Friends

Valid

When I get sick or physically injured, I go to the doctor to find out what’s wrong and how to right it. But when I’m mentally unwell, I talk to people without degrees (or degrees in unrelated matters). People with little more than opinions. So while my broken arm is healing in a cast, my mind is left to professionals with “feelings” of how to make it right.

Some people have degrees that indicate they have a level of authority on the issues concerning mental health but when it comes down to methods, not as many as you’d hope have been tested in any rigorous way. And that’s almost the highest standard. At the low end we look to people like Oprah or the author of The Secret for advice on how to live well. What gives them any authority on the issue? They may well be incredibly smart and insightful. Their ideas could be brilliant. Unfortunately great sounding ideas don’t always translate. But we allow ourselves to be led by something with little actual substance. And for some reason that’s acceptable. For some reason, our intuition is good enough when it comes to mental well-being but not when it comes to malaria.

But why do we treat our brains so differently? Why do we require years and years of testing for a new drug, but anyone with a thought may have some way to help fix our mental issues? The argument might go, “Well, an improperly tested drug may kill you.” But so can a terrible idea. When we are heading towards the relentless depths of depression, bad ideas keep us on track to oblivion. Even when it isn’t literally life threatening, isn’t mental well-being something we all value? Imagine a life of constant unhappiness. It’s hardly ideal to stay down in the dumps. All we have to support most of the advice we receive are anecdotes that so-and-so helped, but where are the numbers of success and failure? Where are the studies? Why would we take someone’s word for it, especially when that someone is selling us a book or a weekend seminar, when it comes to our mental health?

But if it feels right to someone there’s nothing else to talk about. The conversation, debate, inquiry, is closed. We require the absolute minimum for one of the most important aspects of our lives.

Valid

I haven’t felt rested for weeks and it seems life shouldn’t be lived this way. There’s no specific reason I should be this tired. I don’t think there’s much of a reason any of us should be worn out almost all the time. But so many of us are.

I have some unfortunate expectations. I have some sort of idea of success and what I need to do. (I take some solace in the fact that I decided what to value and what to pursue.) No matter what I do I can’t shake the desire to accomplish certain goals. I think that’s probably necessary to some degree. I imagine it’s hard to feel a sense of purpose without a desire to do something specific (or less specific). But the goals are an endless list of problems. First of all, the stress piled on when working towards something becomes it’s own source of stress that is self-perpetuating. Then there’s the trouble of misguided goals. When I want to accomplish something that is either a dead end or the wrong path. I get, and agree with, the journey not the destination argument, but wasted time on a fruitless endeavor is never fun to swallow. Not to mention when the goal is so misguided as to actually do harm. It’s a fair point that I probably learned something but that’s assuming I pull out in a timely fashion and don’t bury myself in some failed idea or person.

There are so many moving parts it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. Even when we admit how little control we hold over everything, it can be too much just trying to watch.

Life and a question

I’m listening to a podcast saying to write a diary of all mundane stuff in your life. The boring, uninteresting parts that make up about 99% of actual life. The random “deeper” thoughts are fine too, but the details are what you’ll forget as you age. So write your daily activities. The stuff you’ll look back on and laugh.
The big stuff will always be there nipping at your heels, but the milieu drifts off. When you’re fifty or eighty or two hundred, you can sit down with a spouse, life partner, best friend, son, daughter, niece, nephew, or maybe even your mom and dad, and relive the small events that escape recollection.

I’m a fan of this idea. I want to be able to look back and laugh at the terrible writing and the poetry and my thoughts on free will, determinism, deontology, utilitarianism, and religion. But I also want to be able to read a random post and think, “Goodness, I don’t even remember being that mad at you for refusing to do the dishes during my finals week.” Or “remember when the water heater broke and we didn’t shower for two days?”

Which brings me to my preemptive apology.

I might need to apologize for inundating you all with posts about babies. I hope to keep the posts vague enough to apply to more than just me (in relation to kids), but I will be unsuccessful at times. I hope you don’t have to suffer through too many “babies sure do change things don’t they?” posts. I know you can just scroll on by, but I like to be considerate when I decide to post something. And I’m well aware of how torturous baby posts can be. But I’m nothing if not a hypocrite.

Something you won’t have to worry about but an idea I had was to start writing a sort of diary for my niece. I was curious to know if they were a common thing to do, or if anyone had thoughts about the idea in general.
There will be a million pictures and videos, half of which are uploaded to Facebook already, but I think it’d be nice to have some stuff down in writing for her. I’ve written a couple of letters already about how crazy it is that she exists. I’d like to add more little details. I don’t live in the same city as she does so I don’t see her as often as I’d like, but I still see her frequently and want to write down the experiences for when she’s an old lady.
She’ll have plenty of pictures and videos, so I’m not sure if this would be excessive and unnecessary. I wonder if she’ll find the mundane life of her infancy interesting written down. It’ll be filtered through my eyes, of course, and I’m not sure how that’ll shade things. I might add annoying musings. It’ll be easy to make the entries boring and/or melodramatic. I guess it could come down to execution, but I worry that writing too much about a baby is intrinsically embarrassing.
There’s a demanding impulse to remember every tiny, innocuous moment even though it isn’t possible. The time she laughed a lot. The time she kept spitting her pacifier at me. The time she slept through lunch at the Chinese place down the street. The time she grabbed my finger and wouldn’t let go and though I read about how strong babies are, I marveled at the fact staring me in the face. And the general feeling of seeing her.

I won’t post those type of entries here, but I was wondering if anyone had input on the idea.

Thanks.

Life and a question