Hold the Wheel & Drive

Yesterday in that well-known journal of philosophical studies, popularly known as the AAA magazine, I came across this: “Expectations are the great enemy of happiness.”

But what my esteemed colleague is neglectfully discounting is this: Expectations are so often a source of happiness, in and of themselves.

And consider another of his points: “Travelers with fewer expectations… maintain an attitude of radical acceptance, open to whatever comes their way, good or bad, and as a result have more authentic encounters with the great big world out there.”

For many of us… or some of us… or at least one of us, though, this radical acceptance affords a novel joy for only a brief period of time, with happiness soon giving way to a sense of aimlessness. Then pointlessness. Then futility. Then we are dealing with a full-on depressive episode.

Do not discount the fact that purpose and drive can be true sources of happiness. “Authentic” even.

Couplers & Conflict Theorists

I listened to an old Rationally Speaking last night that inadvertently explained to me why there is no discussing things with some people.

Two ways of categorizing people:

a) Mistake Theorists vs. Conflict Theorists

Mistake theorists: “We all want to help the world, but we just disagree on how to
help it.”

Conflict theorists: “Stuff is bad because people have caused these problems, and so we need to defeat those people.”

b) Couplers vs. Decouplers

“In a nutshell, decouplers want to be able to talk about the specific claim,
or the specific disagreement, without context. We should just be able to
isolate these specific, factual questions and figure out who’s right.
And the non-decouplers don’t think that’s feasible or desirable. And they’re
kind of suspicious that the alleged decouplers really are decoupling, as
opposed to just trying to smuggle in a lot of attitudes and implications while
claiming to be decoupling.”

The other day a friend of mine complained about the writer of an editorial being “disingenuous.” I couldn’t understand it. How do you know he’s being disingenuous? Wouldn’t you have to read his mind? Or at least know him a hell of a lot better?

Now I get it – friend is a coupler. The fact is that the editorial writer had a reputation of being against affirmative action based on race. This is a no-no attitude in friend’s worldview. Ergo when the editorial writer tried to make it clear that he was not against affirmative action based on socioeconomic background, friend calls “disingenuous.” From friend’s point of view, editorial writer is just trying to catch you off guard so he can “smuggle in a lot of attitude.”

Needless to say I’m a decoupler and mistake theorist.

If you’re not going to give someone the benefit of the doubt for arguing in good faith, I don’t think you should engage at all.

The Goat-Owning Problem-Free Life

So I haven’t gone on about this yet, but this past weekend was shearing weekend. And we went out Saturday morning, a beautiful day, all gung ho and set to shear as many goats as we could… and Columbia’s face was COVERED in blood. In the barn we found a POOL of blood. She had suffered a grievous horn injury – and not the first time; in February 2020, her other horn had come off right in Xopher’s hand. And horns bleed a LOT.


I almost felt like I wanted to pass out, but Xopher was relatively nonchalant.

The next day he tells me he wants to saw off what’s left of the horn she just injured. It was really long and curly, and we don’t know exactly what happened to her Saturday morning, but having a really long curly horn is just going to be really prone to getting caught on things, knocked around, and injured.

He assures me that horns are only alive for a few inches, and most of the horn that we see on an adult goat is just like hair or fingernail. But I’m totally squeamish – sawing off an already injured horn. Ich! Ugh! But what can I do? I put the whole thing in his hands. I sat there and did my part to hold her down while he sawed away. First he was using an electric rotor saw but it fell and got busted early on, so he had to resort to a manual hacksaw.

I sat there trying to mentally check out as much as possible. And I thought about this passage:

“Most of us treat the problems we encounter as doubly problematic: first because of whatever specific problem we’re facing; and second because we seem to believe, if only subconsciously, that we shouldn’t have problems at all.”

Really how many times do you tell yourself that? Usually it’s in the context of how much money we have, and how “first world” our problems are. We start ticking off all of our blessings, and literally say to ourselves, “Hell I shouldn’t have any problems at all.” But of course we have problems!

So I sat there thinking about how the problem-free life will never happen – certainly not the goat-owning problem-free life. And here holding a goat down while my husband saws off her injured horn – it’s just one more of those problems, those problems that always have been and always will be.

And reader, that helped.

On Having Two Dead Parents

I came across a written passage yesterday, which was a thought I see written from time to time: that once you have two dead parents, the feeling of mortality weighs down on you in a new way, because you are “next in line.”  I never feel that way.  I feel a lot of things about having two dead parents, but a heavier sense of my own mortality isn’t one of them.  It feels kind of like the illogic of thinking two coin tosses of “heads” in a row increases your chances of “tails” on the next throw.  We can any of us die at any time.  Just because both my parents somewhat recently landed “heads” doesn’t make my ”tails” any more imminent.

What I feel most about having two dead parents is freedom, and not just the freedom to spend Thanxgiving any way I please from now on.  Two relationships that defined me whether I liked it or not, and I didn’t, no longer define me.  Now I’m just me.  And my siblings, the relationships that bound us together, child to parent and parent to another child, no longer exist.  Now we’re just three adults.  All of that drama, it’s over.  And more than that, there are no more excuses, either.  Blame your parents for 50 years if you like, but there’s got to come a time when the ridiculousness of that can no longer escape even you.  I had my chance to be molded and shaped and deformed and stunted and held back and warped and all that.  It’s been done, it’s over.  Now I’m just me, just a pushing-50-year-old woman, “I yam what I yam”.  Not that life is over and I won’t “grow” or develop any further; I hope to.  But it is now in my hands entirely, to a new extent.

And speaking of pushing 50, there is an anonymity to this age about which I’ve also read strange things from time to time: that a woman of a certain middle age and beyond becomes in a sense “invisible.”  Men on the street no longer see her as a sexual possibility, and so they don’t “see” her at all; likewise younger women, who no longer see her as sexual competition.  This too feels very freeing to me.  I’ve always WANTED anonymity.  As a very young adult, I felt happiest sitting on a NYC subway car, surrounded by every variety of humanity you could imagine.  Back in high school, back in Staten Island, I felt I stuck out all the time, a hideous thing full of acne.  On the subway, nobody gave a shit about the girl with the acne; she was one of the less interesting and gruesome things around.  I loved it.  I never wanted to be noticed.  I always wore things to tone down my bright red hair, not draw attention to it.

For others, relationships are ‘primary’; for me, they’re not even secondary.  All I’ve ever wanted to do is my own shit.  Now I can drift through life unnoticed and unimpeded more than ever before, and just do my own shit.  Finally.