🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
A Good Self 👋
Urgent Care, Revisited 👩⚕️
Slow Down 🐢
I remember this time back in sixth grade when a trusted adult was talking to me as I struggled through what turned out to be a pretty life-defining traumatic experience. The friends I’d grown up with since I was a small boy had decided, en masse, that I was not good enough to hang out with. Suddenly, I was in a new school — our middle school combined four elementary schools from different communities — with absolutely no friends and more than just a few people who were engaged in what even then would have been called bullying.
“Just be yourself,” this trusted adult said, encouraging me to “get out there” and meet new friends.
I remember wanting to punch him in the face.
Didn’t he understand? That was at the core of the fucking problem! Who exactly was I? I’d never really known. I knew that I could adapt who I was to just about any different setting. I am extremely gifted in that area, I’ve come to realize as an adult.
I also knew that, when not with anyone else, I didn’t have a clue who I really was.
I knew who I was supposed to be. Those norms had been instilled in me by well-meaning parents and my suburban New York upbringing. But did I feel like being the person defined by those things? Absolutely not.
You know who I was back then? I was a scared-as-shit, lonely, angry, confused pre-teen who had absolutely no clue why he didn’t seem to fit into this world in any meaningful way. I’m quite sure that what this trusted adult was saying wasn’t that I should go be that person.
But if the me I was supposed to be being was someone different, well, no shit, yeah, I’d want to be that person. Would you happen to have the Dewey Decimal System number in the library to go find that book so I can study up and make it happen?
I tried so many different things to “be me.” I looked back to a time when “me” seemed “good enough,” and I pegged the change to third grade, when I got glasses. Apparently, seeing through external semi-artificial means was a grievous sin in my school, so after being made fun of one too many times for wearing glasses, I put my foot down and said I wasn’t going back to school if I didn’t get contacts.
I got contacts. It changed nothing.
I tried changing how I dressed. I tried smiling more. Smiling less. Talking more. Talking less. Approaching random groups. Being generous with surplus snacks. Selling Blow Pops for a quarter (word to the wise: Don’t ever start getting high on your own supply).
No matter what, “being me” always seemed to be a step behind or out of line with everyone else who seemed to have comparably less problem being them.
I fully recognize that all these changes weren’t me being authentically me, but again, at that time (and, to a large extent today), I had no clue who the hell the authentic me actually was.
Being told to be me led me down some pretty dark paths as I grew through my teen years. Being me sometimes meant I was a sullen, angry, argumentative, standoffish prick. Being me led to overwhelming, uncontrollable, often unseen sadness and pain that nearly drowned me.
That was me being me, but not the me I wanted me being … not the me that anyone wanted me being.
It has been more than three decades since that trusted adult told me to just be myself, and I think his advice no less stupid and unhelpful than I did back then.
I was thinking about that today, thinking that the person who gave me that advice is probably dead, wondering how many other people to whom he passed on that little pearl of wisdom. I know he meant well. I know he thought what he was saying was wise and helpful. I also know that he missed the point.
What would I say to sixth-grade me? Could I do any better job in counseling that kid, to help pave a less difficult, painful, scarring path for him to get to where I am today?
Yes. Yes I can.
“John, make yours a good self.”
I realized about a half decade ago that the cure for me when I’m feeling down or anxious or angry is to focus on doing for others, on being a light, on not just being me but being a better version of me.
This doesn’t mean I have any resentment to the me I am before I start focusing on being a better me. It just means that we all can do more. Every fucking day, we have opportunities to do something different to be a better self. That doesn’t mean we have to. It just means the option is open.
It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t not have to be big. It could be a random act of kindness for a stranger. It could be flowers for my wife. It could be leaving an anonymous gift for a co-worker on his desk. It could be sitting and talking with a homeless person and giving him a bag of supplies before a cold night. It could be buying myself a coffee and sitting outside in the cold and alternately sipping the hot drink and watching the fog from my breath in the cool air.
Whatever it is, if I go back to doing that thing that helps me be a good self, I seem to find peace. Do I fit in any better? Maybe. Maybe not. It just doesn’t seem to matter as much when I’m making me a good self.
So please … fuck all this talk about just being yourself. That is so often unhelpful. Just make yours a good self.
I found myself back in urgent care this morning. It was a different urgent care from the one I visited Saturday morning, the one in which I was diagnosed with a double ear infection, given a steroid shot in the arm and handed two prescriptions — one for an antibiotic and one for steroid pills that have made me jumpy as a meth-head.
If anything, the stuffiness in my left ear is worse. The ringing in that ear is worse. My head overall is more stuffy. I’m tired, cranky and hate talking because it echoes in my brain.
If I wanted to see my primary care physician, I might be able to get in around January. Of 2088.
I worry about a nation that is pushing its ill to understaffed clinics with the most qualified person being a nurse practitioner. I have nothing against nurse practitioners. The have more medical training than I do. But they’re not doctors. Which isn’t to say I have tremendous faith in them either. Not after 2021 and my adventure with traditional medicine and Longhaul COVID.
This nurse practitioner today did the same thing the nurse practitioner did on Saturday She looked in me ears. She told me I have lots of fluid on my left ear and that my eardrum is really red. She told me my right ear has fluid but is less red. She peeked down my throat. She listened to my lungs, which seems to be the doctor-visit equivalent of being handed a tiny snack back on an airplane.
In the end, she called in a prescription for a different antibiotic and for ear drops. She said if I didn’t start feeling better by Monday, to call … and this is where I thought she was going to say “a real doctor” … my primary care physician or an ENT. I’m sure she’s well aware of the challenge of getting into either, even with ears stuffed for more than two weeks, before I either go insane from all this stuffiness or suffer permanent hearing loss.
Positive note: I’m getting really good at saying the word, “What?”
Top 5 Things You’ll Learn If You Read This Whole Thing. If you keep lots of birds in a prison cell with you, you’re going to be covered in bird crap. Robert Stroud was not a kindly prisoner, even if Burt Lancaster was a sexy stud. My Grandma Fiorina had elective hand-amputation surgery. Before Amazon,…Keep reading
I got a text at work today from Boy The Elder. “Do you have time for a call in 15 minutes or so? I have a big internship decision to make and wanted to talk it through.”
This is how BTE operates. Nine times out of 10, he knows the right thing to do, knows what he wants to do, knows what he’s going to do … he just needs to talk to someone to get it out of his head and hear his own thoughts. I’m incredibly thankful that he sees me as a good person with which to do that.
I’m going to brag on BTE for a bit here, but keep in mind, this isn’t your typical dad-bragging-on-his-kid crap. I can take very, very little credit for anything that BTE is. He came out of the womb blessed with an old soul, curious brain and desire to learn. His work ethic is uncanny and certainly more than I ever had. He’s much more like his mother, but he surpasses even her intense concern over academics and achievement. Simply put, he’s driven.
Because of that, he has always impressed the adults he’s met. He’s always been ahead academically. He’s incredibly logical and a great thinker. He’s got amazing potential, and he’s not about to let any of it go unfulfilled. That’s a credit to him, not me.
BTE had a great internship over the summer. He had designs of going back there this coming summer. Then he interviewed with a different company, which he thought would just be a backup option. He absolutely loved the backup option. So what he needed to talk through was which internship would be the best one to take.
We talked it through. He knew already that it would be better to widen his net and take the one with the new company. The reasons are plentiful. Like I said, he just had to hear his own thoughts. That he considered my own is humbling.
The more important piece of advice I gave him is the same piece of advice I’ve been giving him for a year now: Slow down for a moment and take a look around. Breathe it in. Enjoy it.
He’s worked incredibly hard to get where he is. I know from experience the desire to achieve, achieve, achieve. He’s following a similar path by getting engaged while still in college. That means a post-graduation job is really important. So will earning more money once he gets into the working world.
I never stopped to enjoy my successes. I was a newspaper editor at age 22, albeit at a shitty weekly that couldn’t possibly get any worse. I was a hot-shot journalist with a bright future in an industry that, sadly, was in a death spiral. Not once did I ever pause to breathe it in and enjoy where I was. I was always looking to where I was going.
Then, suddenly, there was no place to go. The industry was dead. So I left it. I’ve never really had that same career trajectory since.
It only was recently that I realized that that was OK. My priorities shifted. I stopped being defined by my day job and started caring more about my passions. I should have realized long ago that those two things didn’t have to be the same thing. I started seeking good-enough jobs that paid well so I could support my family better and create the experiences for all of us that I want to create. I focused more on my physical and mental health.
Now, I truly work to live, as opposed to live to work. I am blessed with a good job that (finally) pays me what I’m worth. I can support my family with that, plus the work I do that is my true passion, Johnny Boy Marketing.
How do I know I’m getting it right? I’ve been in this job since late June. I don’t have my work email on my phone. There’s no need to. The workplace respects my home life. I take care of my shit here. Then I go home. I come back the next day. I do the best I can. Then I go home again.
It’s a simple formula. For me, right now? It’s working.
I just want to make sure BTE knows that this formula is a good option too.
Today’s Reasons to Keep Living
- I have new antibiotics to take!
- Metallica, 2023!
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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Little D Nears ✈️Familiar Familial Drama 🎭Van O’ Canadians 🍁 My favorite African returns to us tomorrow afternoon. Dieudonne will board a plane from Philly with an escort (not THAT kind … I think, anyway), and land in the STL around 1:15. For the next three or four months, we’ll take…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩TikTok Stupidity 😠Back Woes 😧Improv Friends 🎭 There are increasing number of hours each week in which I have a strong desire to throw every piece of connected technology into the nearest lake and move to wherever I have to go to be as far away from any modern gadget as…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Anniversary Changes 💍Near Death Experience 💀Dreamcatcher Drama 😳 All relationships change over time. Friendships, parent-child, boss-employee, husband-wife … no matter the relationship, the only constant thing is change. My marriage has changed mightily since it began. When Wifey Poo and I said our vows on March 22, 1997, we were –…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Why The Blahs? 😷Anniversary Plans 💍Unpleasant Warnings 🐍 Feeling blah is complicated when you have my medical history. For many people, feeling blah as I’m feeling right now is a clear indication that some sort of illness or infection has invaded the body. But for me — and for many others…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Dentist Visit 🦷Basketball Sucks 🏀Found Husband 👨 No one truly likes going to the dentist. I’ve had people push back on me when I’ve said this before, but when I lay out the following scenario, well, it’s pretty much checkmate: “You just had the most well-respected doctor in the world tell…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Dumb Gubment 🦅Dawg Party 🐶Flying African ✈️ We as modern Muricans tend to just accept that it’s the gubment’s job to educate our children. Of course, when other countries that aren’t our friends do that, we call it “indoctrination,” but that’s a topic for another day. The topic for today is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Costly Mortality ☠️Crazies, Unite 🤪Defining ‘Appointment’ 🦷 I’m getting ready to die. Sounds ominous, right? Dramatic? Scary? It’s not. Oh yes, in a certain light, it’s depressing as hell. But what it really involved was a meeting with an attorney that Wifey Poo and I had yesterday to figure out exactly…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Books and Stories 📚SVB Lessons 🏦Basketball Party 🏀 Holy crap, you guys! I actually finished something I wrote! In fact, I finished two somethings I wrote! As my regular readers (hey you three!) know, I’ve been stunk in a funk of starting to write books and short stories with gusto and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Podcast Appearance 🎙️The Birth Control Pill Story 🐶Good Tired 🥱 If you would have asked me a few years ago whether I could ever envision myself on a stage in the back room of a dive bar sharing a story about how my dog ate six months of birth control pills…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Pee Mate 🚽Game Maker 🎲Dumb Muricans 🦅 I have been thinking about death a lot lately, not because I’m particularly eager for it to happen or because I’m particularly not eager for it to happen. I guess it’s because I’m a few months shy of my 49th birthday and please-for-the-love-of-God let…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Dieudonne 🌍Hoops Win🏀Cornhole Roll ✔️ In 2021, during some of the darkest and most difficult times in our lives as individuals and couple, Wifey Poo and I did a thing. It was a big thing. It was a challenging thing. It was an amazing thing. But to say it was just…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩’Full Stop’ 🛑Needles 💉Business Lessons 🧑💼 Here’s something I learned about myself today: One way to ensure that I will debate you on a topic until I give my last breath or until you are huddled in a corner in a fetal position is to end the statement of your opinion…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mindfulness 🧘Mullet Prez 👩🦳Murder Family 🔪 Our brains are amazing things. So adept are they at routines that they can essentially run on autopilot and let you do the everyday stuff like operating a multi-ton object advancing at 70+ mph among lots of other multi-top objects advancing at 70+ mph without…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bloody Hell 💂Circus Moments 🤡Silence 🤫 OK, people: I’ve got a bone to pick with you. But first, a little digression. What in the bloody hell does that phrase mean? “A bone to pick with you?” That sounds absolutely disgusting. And if you’re wondering why I said “bloody hell,” well, that…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩24 Hour Video 😡Rubik’s Kid 🧊Dilbert Doofus 🤪 There are two things I cannot stand in the working world — and in life, in general. The first is people whose lack of preparedness turns ordinary stuff into emergencies. The second is when people criticize the result of something they previous approved.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mormon Billionaires 💰Bigger Packages 🍌Birds Really Aren’t Real 🐦 Can we just get on with blowing the tits off the world with nuclear weapons or something and end this stupid thing we call the human race? Yeah, I know that’s a little dramatic, but when I take a look at the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Muricah The Evil 🦅You Buy You 💰Big-Ass Van 🚚 I find it rather humorous that Muricah warned China not to send arms to one side of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine … and that we issued this warning with a straight face. I’m quite sure most Muricahns believe their country…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Salve 🩹Car Wash 🚗💧Light Removal 🎄 I try not to venture too often into a Wal-Mart, especially on the weekend. I cling to slim hope for this nation as it is, and I find Wal-Mart trips do not help my grip. Alas, this weekend, Boy The Younger was under the weather…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩CC, BCC, FU 📧Basketball Poll 🏀Andy Rooney 🎙️ This week has largely been a Shit Week marred by Shit People. What are Shit People? They aren’t exactly easy to define, but one hallmark of a Shit Person is his rampant use of the CC function at work to passive-aggressively play power…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Chill Day 🛋️Busy Weekend ⚾Halftime 🏈 I’m not working today. Not only am I not working at my day job, I’m not doing any work for my side gig today. I’m not planning on doing much of anything, actually. And I don’t feel guilty about that. This weekend was insanely busy.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Big Pharma Sucks 💊Work Rules 🧑💼Big Weekend 🏈 Spend any time in front of the television and you’ll see ads touting the latest drugs that you shouldn’t take if you’re allergic to and that you most definitely need to ask your doctor about. Now comes a study showing that the people…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Top 5 🎈Symphony 🎻Living Eulogies 💗 Top 5 things overheard in Missourah last week as a purported Chinese spy balloon made its way over the state en route to its rendezvous with an F22’s missile: Despite my high-brow upbringing in Suburbia, New York, I’m not what anyone would call A Symphony…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Space Walk 🧑🚀Bye-Bye Brady 🏈Failure Rate 🐿️ When Boy The Elder was just Boy and devoid of a younger brother, we had a nickname for him: Pokey Joe. BTE didn’t do anything fast, but more than anything, what he did incredibly slow was get out of a car. That would suck…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Raccoons 🦝February 💘Man Nips 🕺 Today I bring you the story of a raccoon who got his balls stuck to railroad tracks. But the reason you think I’m bringing you this story is not the reason I’m bringing you this story. You think I’m bringing the story of the raccoon Neil…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Tyre Nichols 😔Tattoo Day ✒️Nephew Hoops🏀 I was a white kid in suburbia, New York, in 1988 when the gangsta rap group N.W.A. came out with its album Straight Outta Compton, featuring the song Fuck Tha Police. It was scandalous, at the time, to suggest that the police would be anything…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Car Concert 🎵Sick Wife🤒People Suck 🖕 Within the 24 hours in the run-up to Snowpocalypse 2023, the estimates on the Weather Channel app for our snowfall total ranged from 1 to 10 inches. That’s like going to the doctor and being told you have anything from a splinter to terminal cancer.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mission: Failed 👎Ho 🤣Handy Family 👍 It has to suck to work at the Missouri Department of Transportation. Why? It took exactly 75 minutes for all of 2023 to be a failure. Let me explain. Those of you unfortunate enough to have been involved in any sort of corporate planning process…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Houston 🖊️Sad clown 🤡Taco Seasoning 🌮 Houston, Missourah, is not unlike a lot of other rural Missourah towns through which I’ve driven and bears a resemblance to the Small Town USA in which Boy The Elder did a lot of his early growing up and to which Boy The Younger came…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Definitions 📖Missing Bourbon 🥃Mysterious Knocks 😵 I generally abhor any writing that starts with, “Webster’s dictionary defines …” Webster’s dictionary defines “ceiling” as a noun meaning “the overhead inside lining of a room.” The implication is that it’s a limitation, a max, a point of demarcation between what’s out there and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sadness 😥Annoyance 😠Disappointment 😞 When Boy The Elder was Boy The Only in our home, he watched one of the Air Bud movies featuring a basketball-playing dog. Or maybe it was football. Or soccer. By the time that series was over, that dog had played them all. Anyway, whichever Air Bud…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Thor’s Blurry Hammer 🍆Pigeon Delivery 🕊️Idiot List 🤪 Thor is really, really good with his hammer. And by that, I mean that Thor the walrus in Scarborough, England, is really good at masturbating and ruining New Years Eve. If you haven’t heard about this story, stop reading stupid news like politics…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bruising Basketball 🏀Poke ☝️Six?!? 🔫 I grew up in the NBA era of the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons while loving a New York Knicks team that was, to put it mildly, quite physical. Guys like Steph Curry and LeBron James can makes basketball seem like artistry these days, but give me…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩What There is Like! ⛅’Modern Policing’ 🚨Xylophone Time! 🎵 When you decide to talk about a time in which you truly believe you more-or-less died and saw what comes after this life, you have to be comfortable with the fact that people might think you’re nuts. Hell, talking about it on…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Grace Ashford! 📰Idaholy Shit! 🥔Story of the Year! 🍆 The three most influential people in my life as a journalist are, sadly, all part of the Great Newsroom in the Sky now. Professors Michael Perkins and Bob Woodward (AKA Bob Woodward-Not-That-Bob-Woodward) helped educate me at Drake University, and Lisa Warren was…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Poor Puppy 🐶Romeo and Juliet 🤴👸Meta Mistake 🙊 Disturbing news out of Washington, D.C., today as Republican Congressman-elect George Santos (if that’s his real name) brought a 6-month-old puppy to the house floor and screamed “Hey, look at me!” before slitting its throat and lapping up its squirting blood like a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩A Pretty Good Rant 😠Tesla Plunge 🚗Missed Lasts 😥 Those of you who regularly read my drivel (I see you, DirtySciFiBuddah) might have become aware of the fact over the past year or so that I am not a huge fan of our world’s modern institutions. All of them might, in…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Incomplete 🕮Frustration 😠Bowl Bust 🏈 To say that I know how to write is like saying I know how to breathe. No one considers that they know how to breathe. They just … breathe. No one is particularly good at breathing or bad at breathing. Again, they just … breathe. I’ve…Keep reading
Welcome to Issue No. 15 of Listicles, the feature that presents the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, Top 100 or Top 1,000,000 of whatever it is you want to know about. Email your Listicle suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. So last year, I had a list of 100 intentions for 2022, and I did fairly well,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩2023 📅Helping 🧠The Universe 🔭 I’m not much for long-term plans and goals. This isn’t to suggest I don’t think they’re important. I just think that spending a lot of time on them is futile. What’s the saying? Man plans, God laughs. Something like that. Anyway, I’ve learned through experience that…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Chain Links 🔗”Work” 🧑💼Popular Toys 🧸 After my first son died in December 2000, I spent a lot of time wondering why. Why me? Why Wifey Poo? Why Jacob? Why this level of suffering in a world supposedly created and run by an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God? So I did what…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Chiefs! 🏈Indy Tickets 🏎️Bank Visit 💰 When I bought the tickets to the Christmas Eve contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks as a gift for Boys The Elder & Younger, it was sometime in September and temps hovered around 90 degrees. The thought that the game might…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Timelines 👶Extinctions 🌋Sin City 👌 As I fall deeper down the rabbit hole learning more about theories on space and time, the concept of alternative timelines comes up again and again and again. Whether it’s the stuff of science fiction or one day will be proven to be the stuff of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩’Cousin’ Laughs🎤Improv!?!? 🎭Drake Hoops 🏀 Back when I was a boy, I had a favorite Cousin-Who-Wasn’t-A-Cousin. His name was Joey DeVito, and he was in no way a blood relation to me, though I called his father Uncle Frankie and his mother Aunt Celia. I’m pretty sure this is an East…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Glazed 🍩Bingo! 🖥️Disappearing Christians ⛪ I didn’t intend to bring doughnuts for my co-workers yesterday morning. It just sorta happened. How it happened and how it played out is a window into my weird mind. First, an explanation: I have a card purchased from Boy The Younger that entitles me to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩STL’s Homeless 😥Snake Hoo-Hoos 🐍That Was Epoch 👴 I found James huddled underneath a blanket as he sat, knees to his chest, head bowed, just outside the doorway of a CVS in the Delmar Loop section of St. Louis. If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s a fun place filled…Keep reading