The West Wing, “Holy Night”

Some time in October, I think right around the second presidential debate, I decided I was tired of real-world politics. To relieve myself of this and escape for a bit, I started watching the (awesome) TV show by Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing. I never saw it when it was first on. Politics wasn’t interesting to me at that time, middle school to high school years, at least not as interesting as it is to me now. And it definitely wasn’t a thing my father was interested in. He was more into sci-fi (Star Trek) and cop/law shows (Law & OrderJAG, etc.) Not knockin’ on any of those, though, I enjoy a variety of at least semi-intelligent entertainment.

So anyway, I started watching The West Wing. Of course I started at the beginning, and I knew exactly nothing about it going into it. Except that the few other people I know who watched the show loved it. I also loved, LOVED, Newsroom, so I was hoping this would be similar.

And I’m slowly making my way through the series. I just started on season 5 tonight. More than halfway there! And for the most part, most of the episodes are really good. Some are obviously better than others, and a handful stick out as absolutely excellent. There are some great quotes, wonderful discussions, and thought-provoking ideas. It’s eerie how true some of these ring today. It makes me wonder, politically, what things were like at the time the show was on.

However, there is one particular episode that I dislike, and it has really bothered me since I saw it a few days ago. That episode is in season 4, episode number 11, “Holy Night.” In this episode, some political stuff happens, but the big thing for me is the reunion between Toby and his father. Or more accurately, the fact that Josh instigated the reunion.

I don’t have a good relationship with my father. We have not spoken for 5.5 years now, by my choosing. Amazingly, he has actually respected that, which I wasn’t expecting, and I kinda keep waiting for the other shoe to drop in that regard. Without going into the nitty-gritty details, I called him out on something, he did not respond on my terms to it (he tried to respond on his terms), and I told him that he was ruining my life and I didn’t want to speak to him ever again. This is the watered-down version, it was actually much more emotional than I’m making it seem. But the point here is: I actively sought to NOT have a relationship with him.

When Josh brings Jules and blindsides Toby, I could not believe that someone would be so disrespectful of another person’s choice who to have a relationship with. And then, when Josh says, “That I would give anything to have a living father who was a felon, or a sister with a past… That’s it.” That’s all well and good, but can we go back a second to when Toby asks, “Do I get to think what I think?” That should’ve been it. The end. No more. Don’t project your ideas onto somebody else. Don’t project your desires and wants. Don’t try to tell people what you THINK you would do in their situation, when in reality all you know is what YOU would do in their situation, given your entire history and life experience up until this very moment. I swear to FSM, if somebody tried to pull that shit on me, I would’ve flipped the fuck out, laid into my father, and laid into whoever the hell brought him here.

I get it, you want to have a relatively happy holiday episode. None of them have been particularly sunny up until this point, but they’ve all had a general positive resolution. Season 1, “In Excelsis Deo,”, Toby gets the homeless guy a real funeral. Season 2, “Noel,” Josh makes a huge breakthrough in an all-day therapy session (and the fact that they focused on mental health is great, I really love this episode). Season 3, “Bartlet for America,” Leo’s questioning looks like it’s going to take a horrible turn, but it ends up being postponed before an awful truth can come out. And here, in season 4, you have a reunion between son and estranged father.

But it could’ve been so different. Let’s see Toby feel guilt or remorse. Let Josh drop a hint to Toby that Jules is trying to get in touch with him. Let Toby seek out his father. Make it Toby’s choice.

It’s the whole giving your family a second and third and fourth and an infinite number of chances to not be a bad person simply because they’re family. No. They don’t get to be more special than any other person on the street.

Now, I realize that we don’t get a whole lot of backstory into their relationship. Maybe Jules really isn’t a bad person. Maybe he just “fell in with the wrong crowd” or was honestly desperate to try to make a better life for his new son and didn’t know any other way. Maybe once he got out of prison, he did turn his life around, and had respected Toby’s wishes for no contact. (And if we find any of this out later, don’t tell me! I’m not there yet!)

It’s still forcing someone else’s idea of what a family is supposed to be and how a family is supposed to act onto Toby, and by writing it so he caved in, they made that concept ok.  It’s not.

You absolutely have a right to not talk to a family member if they are a bad person, if they are toxic, if they are abusive, if they are not a person that is good for YOU.

It’s YOUR life. Nobody can tell you how to live it.

Shut up, you’re not funny.

This is a phrase I wish I could use more in my daily life, primarily when I’m at work.

I work in an office. I have a little cube with fuzzy gray walls, and I work from 8am – 5pm, Monday – Friday. I have a typical white-collar gig.

And I loathe it some days.

I had heard about “office humor” before I actually worked in an office, back when I worked in food service during college. It seemed like totally harmless, cheesy humor. I even kind of wanted to be part of that culture, mostly because it seemed like it would mean better job security and less shitty hours (oh, and not smelling like grease).

Then I joined the culture.

I soon realized that it isn’t that problem isn’t the jokes themselves. Yes, they really are all cheesy and mostly harmless. The problem is that they are the same. goddamn. jokes. every. time. And while they ranked cracking a smile the first time I heard them, after the 1,000,000,000,000,000th time, it’s a little tedious.

Yes, please make another joke about jam the delicious fruit spread when there is a paper jam at the printer.

Yes, please comment again that you have no idea where the day went, how is it already [x] o’clock?!

Yes, it is Monday. I get it, you don’t like Monday, but please tell me again how much Monday sucks.

Yes, I am indeed in [coworker’s] chair, at [coworker’s] desk, please say, ‘[Coworker]! You look different!’ again.

Yes, please repeat again that your computer is slow, it must need more coffee.

And please, please, do continue to make an effort to make painful small talk that neither of us wants to participate in. It’s the highlight of my day.

Oh, I forgot. The other part of the problem. All of these are supposed to be equally funny every time they are repeated. As if it wasn’t bad enough hearing the same people repeat the same tired shit day after day, they don’t seem to realize they’re doing it, and find it equally amusing every single time.

God forbid you not laugh or smile. You must be in a bad mood. What’s wrong?

Whatever you do, don’t call the person out at this point, because they’ll just get offended and think you don’t like them. Also, you can’t really say that you’re just trying to work, because then they’ll think you’re hinting that they’re slackers and they’ll get defensive. Basically, if you’re at this point, you’re fucked.

And all of this could be avoided if it were just socially acceptable to say, “Shut up, you’re not funny,” and force people to actually listen to themselves…

Why I shouldn’t feel bad about yesterday

About 4.5-5 years ago, my husband & I decided that we needed to get our butts into an exercise routine. We were both out of college and not running around like crazy anymore, we both had “desk” jobs in an office, and he had made a promise to himself to buy a motorcycle by 30, but a prerequisite to that was losing weight.

Not really having any ideas or knowledge about exercise, I tagged along with him in the beginning, pretty solidly for the first year or so. A lot of it had to do with my own shyness and confidence issues. (Both a fear of looking silly in front of other people, and a fear of doing something incorrectly and injuring myself.) After a lot of time with him, I learned how to do some of the major lifts: squats, deadlifts, and bench press. And I eventually branched out on my own, deciding what I wanted to focus on, what pace I wanted to try to set for myself, what goals I wanted to try to hit, etc. So today, while we still drive to the gym together, we’re not on the same routine and haven’t been for some months if not years.

2016 has been a really shit year for going to the gym. I have no idea why. It just started off weird and I’ve had a really tough time settling into a weekly routine. I’ve had to move days, change my plan for the day, skip days and throw my schedule completely off, on and on. I’ve done some good things, so it’s not all bad. I’ve learned to accept that I have a weak upper body and to stop getting frustrated or embarrassed about my bench press weight. I also learned sumo-stance for deadlifts, and set a new un-assisted PR. I’ve stuck with cycling as my cardio and am slowly improving. So like I said, progress!

But for every minor success, I have multiple days like yesterday.

Yesterday was squat day. It was the first squat day in two or three weeks at least, so I knew it was gonna be kinda shitty. But I sucked it up and did it anyway, because it doesn’t get any better if you keep pushing it off. I did what I consider to be a light set: 1 warm-up set of 5 reps at 45lbs; 2 sets of 5 reps at 65lbs, 2 sets of 5 reps at 85lbs, and 1 set of 5 reps at 95lbs. (My PR for a single rep is 155lbs, and I can regularly squat up to 120-125lbs for 2-3 reps as my max set without really thinking about it.) And I. Was. Fucking. WINDED. After that last set. Doing just squats yesterday was so much goddamn work.

Now, I haven’t been super serious about lifting the past couple months. Actually, I haven’t been super serious about working out in general for the past couple months. And I have REALLY not been super serious about my diet, for at least the same time frame. So I get it. I’m out of shape. I shouldn’t be surprised that yesterday was as difficult as it was.

But at the time, I was. I was so frustrated and embarrassed and demotivated after my 2nd set at 85lbs. I was about ready to throw in the towel and just go cardio while my husband finished up.

But then it clicked. I remembered, hey, I have not been serious about this for a while. Of course I’m going to have a shitty “first day back”. But if I DON’T have a first day back, if I don’t start somewhere, I’m never going to get back on track.

I’m not aiming for anything great, here. I’m not looking to compete or set any records, other than personal records. I just want to have a little bit of strength, lose a little bit of weight, and at the end of the workout, feel like I accomplished something.

Everybody has to start somewhere. And I (re)started yesterday.

Celebrating Christmas as an Atheist

Let me be up-front about this: I am an atheist. For many reasons, which are not important here, but I may delve into later down the line.

I wasn’t raised this way. It was a decision I made over several years of debate and reconsideration. I was raised in an Christian-influenced-agnostic-ish household, so I have had a vague grasp on Christian ideas my whole life. And, as a result of that, and living in the United States, I celebrate (kind of) the typical Christian holidays. And by kind of, I mean Easter is about bunnies and chocolate, and Christmas is about presents and cookies. (There’s a general food theme to a lot of what I do…) I didn’t learn the actual religious meanings until at least high school, and even now, a lot of the details escape me, but I do know the basics.

This year, Christmas was going to be weird. I knew that back in the late summer / early fall. First off, because my husband and I were going through a rough patch, so I wasn’t sure how that was going to effect things. Secondly, because this was the fucking weirdest Presidential election cycle ever for me. I am strongly anti-Trump, and my in-laws (I celebrate with them, me & my family… we’ll that’s a whole ‘nother post) are strongly in favor of Trump. Throughout this fall, and even until now, reading some of their Facebook posts, and talking with them, has been difficult. I kept getting asked, “Are you REALLY going to vote for Hillary?” (Yes, I really wanted to vote for anyone that wasn’t Trump.) Long story short, I made a Facebook post after Election Day, and there was some fallout from it, and I wasn’t sure how THAT was going to effect conversation or inclusion.

So I’ve been thinking a fair bit about celebrating Christmas. Why do I do it?

The only answer I’ve come up with is: because I always have, and because everyone around me does.

Which is a weird reason to do something!

Grace Hopper once said, “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”

So why on earth would I continue to do something that I don’t have any real feelings about, that doesn’t have any real meaning to me, that isn’t important to me?

Is it because it’s important to other people?

And is that reason enough?

Because the whole, “put the Christ back in CHRISTmas” thing is really annoying. Having the religion of Christmas shoved in my face every single year is tiring.

Believe whatever you want to believe. I’m not telling anybody they’re wrong. First Amendment and all that. Also, Voltaire: “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend, to my death, your right to say it.”

I am just so fucking tired of the arguments of happy holidays vs. Merry Christmas. I honestly thought a lot of those were made up stories, until I fell victim to one of them this year. And then saw one of my friends get into one as well.

It makes me just want to give up and say, thanks but no thanks.

Welcome (back) to blogging

I’m still not entirely sure how blogging is supposed to work. Why do people blog? There are lots of interesting blogs out there, I’ve read a few, but I don’t really follow any. More often, it happens that I’m looking up something specific and I find it by accident, or a friend on Facebook shares a link to a blog *they* find interesting.

I’ve tried blogging a few times in the past. I had a Xanga eons ago, and I’ve had a few LiveJournal accounts. (But I’ve never really liked LJ, there’s just something about it that doesn’t click with me. This already feels a bit better.) Those accounts were more… journals, I guess. I think I’d like to use this space for more essay-type writing.

Partially because while I do claim that writing is one of my hobbies, I don’t feel like I do it enough. And I’m not really that serious about it. So sometimes I feel a bit guilty saying I like writing, where I have friends who ARE writers and it’s their job, or at least their passion that on occasion offers the opportunity for them to get paid. Which doesn’t make any sense, because there are plenty of things out there that I am not serious about, but I don’t feel bad saying those are my hobbies….

Regardless. Let’s use the fact that I feel bad about not writing enough as motivation to keep this thing going!

So, what should you expect to find here? I dunno. Random stuff, I guess. Some of my hobbies include: writing, reading, listening to music, riding my motorcycle, weight lifting, photography, hookah, drawing… I guess you should expect posts on some if not all of these topics, and then some, depending on what if anything I decide to nerd out about that week…

I should also mention that while I wouldn’t list “politics” as an interest, there are several political issues I feel very strongly about, and I may use this space as a way to take that spammy / soapbox aspect away from Facebook. Partly because I know not everybody wants to read it, and partly because… well… I’m a wuss, and when I write about certain things, certain people tend to argue with me, and these are not arguments that will ever have a resolution, so I’d just as soon avoid them.

I also find philosophy to be an interesting topic. I greatly enjoyed the few philosophy classes I was able to take in college, and I keep promising myself I’ll make more time to read actual books on the subject, and not just brief Wikipedia articles. So there may be some of that here as well.

And, last but not least, I keep promising myself I will write down more of my weird dreams that I remember, and this WILL ACTUALLY HAPPEN HERE. Sometimes I think my brain just gets bored and wants to entertain me. But sometimes I think my brain has issues it needs to get out and doesn’t know how to express them, so it comes up with some really fucking weird shit. And sometimes I think the two get crossed… But I think either way, I’m going to try to start writing them down and keeping track of them more.

Alrighty, that’s enough for my intro post, since (1) my coals are probably done so I need to go grab them, and (2) I know what I want my first real post to be about. So… here it goes!