Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wiping My Mouth With A Page From A National Geographic Magazine

On the overnight, my brain shifts a bit. I become slightly contemplative...especially in the wee hours of the morning when the world around me stops buzzing. I reflect on the happenings over the past year and some that have taken place over the past decade. Once in a while I flirt with questions that start off with, "Where was I ten years ago...five years ago...three years ago." Then, I take a good look at the here and now.

A few years ago, I turned the big 40. The universe started shifting about a month and a half prior. That brought on a couple of big changes with a few trivial ones sprinkled in. At the time, decisions made accommodated a few goals I had set. The excitement surrounding this whirlwind jaded my common sense and I skipped a few steps between the proverbial point A and point B.  Surprisingly, this sets well with me as I believe the universe throws in a few shimmy shakes to prepare us for what is meant to be.

Since turning 40, there have been considerable changes in our life. More noticeably so, the people who are in our life now versus a year ago. Like with happenings, people cross our paths for a reason. Some stay. Some leave. Regardless, there is a reason and they all leave an imprint.

Such is the case with "Winnie."

One of my most memorable friends, hands down, had to be Winnie. Our friendship ended about 7 years ago. A year ago, I was still in the "I have no idea why we crossed paths" frame of mind. We were polar opposites when it came to virtually everything.

Winnie was a jovial woman in her early 50's. She resided in a little adobe style house close to the desert. Not a day went by where she didn't complain about being short on cash. She'd plaster her social media streams, or compose a blog entry or two, about her trials and tribulations that interminably ran circles around her financial woes. I'm usually uncomfortable with this topic of conversation. Winnie's redundant rants went in one ear and out the other.

I. Never. Knew. What. To. Say.

For a while, Winnie was unemployed. Getting laid off wasn't her fault however, the length of time it took for her to get a job sort of was. She had a long list of criteria and no desire to work full time. She wasn't willing to budge on the amount of free time she had throughout the day and evening. When job opportunities arose, if she felt these jobs would impede on free time, chip away at her care free nature or be too stressful, Winnie would decline the offer for employment.

You can imagine how often I had to bite my tongue because I didn't not agree with the flaws in her job logic or work ethic.

It's fair to say that Winnie leaned more towards the free-spirited style. I was certain, back then, her stubborn care-free nature was a means of saving face. Winnie didn't dine on an abundance of fresh picked tomatoes, stale granola bars, beans and ride her broken bike into town for earthly purposes. That bullshit translated to Winnie not being able to do a thorough week's worth of grocery shopping or come up with the money to get her car fixed. Winnie's taste for the more indulgent side of life and her caviar tongue was kept at bay from onlookers.

At the time, I was working for a media company and my career was taking off. I worked an insane amount of hours writing columns, managing content, diving into the blogosphere, etc. It was exciting and, for the first time in my life, I could honestly say I loved my job. I tackled my position with gusto and was quickly earning the respect of my colleagues. People were taking notice of my talent and, as a struggling writer for many years, this was a much needed relief and window of opportunity.

Winnie frowned on this and didn't hesitate to share her views on my work ethic, long hours, and commitment to the company I worked for.

Winnie was also an artful soul. Her menagerie of friends consisted of musicians and other artsy folks. She played at various functions that included women's festivals and burlesque shows. I'd often drone out as she went on with detailed stories of this festival or that. No detail was spared. I'd often hear of her sleepless nights and, what some would consider, bad choices made while her brain marinated in adult beverages.

After an hour of storytelling, Winnie would pause and ask, "What about you. Tell me a story." Silence followed. There wasn't a story I could tell that could possibly top her sleepless nights and dining at Ethiopian restaurants. I didn't have worldly adventures to recap and none of my friends belted out their voice at some underground dive.

The uncomfortable silence was often followed by Winner clearing her throat. She disapproved of me in every way possible. After a few throat clearings, I'd ask if she needed a lozenge. Winnie wasn't amused by my witty charm. Her next comment surfaced seconds later, "Why don't we talk about something interesting you read in the newspaper or a magazine recently."

Another grueling pause. 

This might be a good time to mention that Winnie found me to be the most uninteresting person and she made that quite apparent. At times, I felt as if she was irritated by my existence. Nothing I said captured her interest because it didn't fit into her way of life. I was always confused as to why she asked me about recent articles I had read. Was it simply to criticize my mundane interests? She disapproved of the magazines I had piled in my wicker basket.

"I was reading Women's Day last week and came across this article about salsa and it included a bunch of recipes for both sweet and savory versions. Some are made with mangoes and pineapple and one of them..."

"You read Women's Day? Do you know that's one of the most mindless magazines out there?"

"But...I like it." 

"What other magazines do you read? Let me guess...Good Housekeeping, Country Woman, Family Circle...right?"


"If you're going to read a magazine, it should be one that's packed with informative articles from around the word and about things that matter. It should open your eyes to the world around you and be a learning experience. You should subscribe to National Geographic. I've been reading that magazine for 20 years. Just last week I read this article. Let met tell you about it..."

Winnie dragged on with a stories from recent articles she had read about African tribes, politics and other world-worthy tidbits of information. She went on for over a half hour. I muted my phone and completed some much needed housework. Then...she asked if I had read any decent books as of late. Nope. Nothing. In fact, at the time, I didn't own a single book. I informed Winnie of this. I knew it would make her lip curl.

"You don't own books? How can you not own a book? When is the last time you opened a book and spent a few hours reading?"

Over the years, I've gotten a lot of similar feedback. People are shocked that I don't own books, I stay as far away from the TV news as I can (unless it's weather related) and I'm not too interested in politics. I no longer subscribe to magazines because I don't have time to read them and, after a while, the articles become stale and repetitive.

Just for the record, I am not stupid. I read most of the day and evening. I'm online for about 16 hours a day and I read dozens of articles. My brain is sponge and I soak in every paragraph. Some people watch the news. Others read newspapers or books. I gather my information online. Let's not judge how we acquire our information, stories, biographies, etc.

I'm more than capable of having an intelligent conversation. At times I participate in them. Sometimes I sit, listen and learn. There are copious methods of soaking up information. I can hold my own during a conversation whether it's about social media, SEO, the misconception of pit bulls, or illegal immigrants. I enjoy in-depth conversations surrounding a variety of topics.

And yes, this includes discussing recipes and cool ideas I stumble across on Pinterest. 

My world isn't confined to a book, magazine or the nightly news. My means of obtaining information might be unconventional, but does it really matter? The amount of books, or lack of, in this household or the selection of magazines in my pile passed down from friends, should not be a reflection of my intellect.

One day, I blew up at Winnie. It was long overdue. I had a bad case of PMS, I was exhausted and her attitude towards my life and unconventional ways of obtaining information overwhelmed me. I went up one side of her and down the other. Months of pent up steam erupted. All the moments I bit my tongue and sucked in my all came out. My rant was followed by an uncomfortable silence and Winnie clearing her throat.

I asked if she needed a lozenge.

Our friendship crumbled shortly after.

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