Like paper in fire

Who’s to say the way

A man should spend his days?

Do you let them smolder

Like paper in fire?

John Mellencamp in “Paper in Fire” from the album The Lonesome Jubilee

I’m not sure if it’s related or not, although probably it is, but as I turn 53 later this week, I’ve had the above lyrics going through my head. In the song, Mellencamp recounts the stories of two people and generations and how they let their lives smolder like paper in fire. The obvious question seemingly Mellencamp is asking himself and us is will we do the same with our lives? The obvious answer is, or on the surface should be, no.

Of course, as we go about our day to day lives, sometimes/often we lose sight of that. We let our lives smolder right along without thinking about it. For me, as I turn 53 on Thursday and will be taking a four-day weekend until Monday, I want to think about it…at least, some.

I have a book that I have been waiting to read, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. I also have saved a podcast called On Being with an interview with him by Krista Tippett. I want to get to both this weekend, which to some of you, I’m sure, might not sound the most uplifting way to spend one’s birthday: thinking about mortality.

However, as I’ve been reading the Stoic philosophers like Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus over the last couple of years, I notice that they use mortality as an impetus for life. What are we living for? Just to smolder like paper in fire, and look back when we’re older with regrets? Or to live our life fully with intention, with forethought, not hindsight about what could have been?

I’d like to choose that latter option myself and maybe this week, amidst my other reading and planned relaxation, I can contemplate how I can do that, some of which I already have started with meditation, journaling, and therapy. That doesn’t mean mean that I don’t have “fun” planned too this weekend (because I do), but I still want to incorporate this book and these thoughts into my weekend.

I’ll write more on the fun later in the week…well, later in the week, but for now, I’ll leave you with the song:

My Own Personal Sabbath #15

Almost every Sunday since mid-May 2020 with a few exceptions, I have been taking my own personal Sabbath, where I tune out of the news and social media and turn off my ringer and all notifications on my phone. Throughout the day and/or sometimes the next day, I share what I am reading, listening to or watching during my Sabbath.

This weekend, my own personal Sabbath comes early, on Saturday, since I work on Sunday. When I last left you two weekends ago, I was planning on reading Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard, Riverman: An American Odyssey by Ben McGrath, and Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. I finished both Get Shorty, which was good, and Riverman, which was, and will be, one of my favorite reads from this year. As I was reading, I kept reading passages to my wife. That is one way I know a book is good.

That leaves me with Under the Banner of Heaven still to finish, but I don’t know if I’ll get to that this weekend as I might need some lighter fare after the past week. Last weekend, my wife tested positive for covid and I took home tests Sunday and Tuesday, with both being negative. She is getting better –  like the end of a bad cold that keeps lingering- and I, to be honest, while so far physically well, need a mental respite from the world.

To that end, I’ve joined my sister in a social media break for a little bit. I’m really only on one, Instagram, as I “gave up” Facebook and Twitter several years ago. For me, it’s not “the feed” that is the issue but “Stories” where I hear about the latest news whether I want to or not. And it’s not that I necessarily disagree with what the person is posting, it’s just that sometimes it’s all too much. I need to get away from time to time.

While I don’t know what I’ll be reading, I do know what my wife, who is off all weekend, and I probably will be listening to and watching:

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 and/or Rifftrax movies (this past week, we rented the “riff track” for Ready Player One, which we had on HBO)
  • The Mission to Zyxx podcast,which we slowly have been making our way through over the last couple of months.

I also have set up a a playlist of podcasts for this weekend’s Sabbath, some of which I’ll listen during a walk:

Other than all that, we’ll see where, or if, I’ll land on any reading.

May: Month of Mental Health Awareness & Bad Movie Watching

I’ve seen a post or two acknowledging that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, with bloggers sharing about their own mental health. So I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon, but also to discuss my other focus this month, which is watching bad movies with my wife.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Like some other bloggers have chosen to do, I’m not going to go into real depth, here. Instead, I’ll just be honest about where I’m at and where I’ve been, which is taking Prozac for over 30 years. Only within the last couple of years, I’m not ashamed to say, I have gone into therapy. Both have helped, but that doesn’t mean everyday is sunshine and roses.

Also, over the last couple days of years I’ve gotten into meditation. I’m not sure where it started exactly. However, I think it coincided with listening to a podcast I found on Spotify at the start of the pandemic called Wake Up/Wind Down podcast with Niall Breslin. I would provide a link, but the show ended this past week. He still has another podcast that is continuing, called Where is My Mind?

I also use two meditation apps: Headspace and Shine. Each has been helpful. I highly recommend looking into one or the other or both. Another good one that has lots of free meditations is Insight Timer.

I’ll end this section by sharing a few podcasts from Breslin, Headspace, and Shine, all available for free on Spotify…and maybe other podcast platforms:

Bad Movie May

Last weekend, my wife Kim and I had a bad movie weekend in celebration of Mystery Science Theater 3000 dropping most of the episodes from its first 10 seasons. We also had a selection of movies we found on Tubi for free by a local director who has a cult following among bad movie enthusiasts from which to choose. We watched one.

Now, we have extended it into Bad Movie May. I’d like to tell you all the bad movies we’ve watched so far, but there were so bad we don’t remember them — and, in some cases, alcohol helped us forget them. Most, to be honest, were from MST3K. Tonight, we’re having a double feature: Noah’s Shark, followed by the Rifftrax version of M. Night Shyamalan’s Old. We purchased the latter through Rifftrax. Using their app, you just sync the movie with the Rifftrax and wa la, a way to listen to commentary, and laugh your way, through what might be, and often is, an unbearable movie to make it through otherwise.

I’ll leave you with the trailers for both, the first being Noah’s Shark directed by the aforementioned local director and available on Tubi:

I was unable to find the trailer on YouTube for the Rifftrax of Old, but if you follow this link, you can see the trailer there for yourself.

My Own Personal Sabbath #8

Almost every Sunday since mid-May 2020 with a few exceptions, I have been taking my own personal Sabbath, where I tune out of the news and social media and turn off my ringer and all notifications on my phone on Sundays or Saturday and Sunday. In the interest of full disclosure, I do use my phone to listen to music and podcasts, and check out e-books from the library. Before, during, or after my Sabbath, I share what I am reading, listening to, or watching for that day or days.

Two weeks was the week of little things, one after another, many unexpected, that led into last weekend’s sabbath. This past week, it was, without going into details and being admittedly cryptic, one big thing (don’t worry, my wife and I and our families are all okay) that led into this weekend’s Sabbath, which already is in progress.

I’m writing this Saturday morning. It’s about 10 a.m. I’m listening to the soundtrack for the movie Drive My Car by Eiko Ishibashi. My wife is also off from work this weekend and she is in the next room, journaling and listening to the music with me. Her birthday was this past week and we had a pre-birthday celebration earlier in the week. Last night, we had a post-birthday celebration with dinner and a movie, popcorn and wine. The celebration will continue throughout this weekend and the month.

Besides journaling and meditation this weekend, I also plan on continuing to read the devotional books I chose for Lent last month, and reading and listening to Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh and narrated by Dan Woren. I only have about an hour left in the book and probably will finish it this weekend. As usual, I set up a playlist of podcasts set up that includes the 100th episode of Niall Breslin’s podcast, Where Is My Mind?:

On the fiction front, I have several books from which to choose, but I’m not sure yet what I’ll read, if anything this weekend. Among my choices are books by Elmore Leonard and Tim Dorsey.

Tonight we’ll probably watch some fun TV, with a bevvy of choices, including Tacoma FD, The Righteous Gemstones, and a Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie. We’ll see what we are in the mood for tonight. Tomorrow, along with my reading, I’ll be chilling out in the 21st edition of The Chill Out Tent, which is celebrating its second birthday. I’ll leave you with a sample from a recent session: