The Benefits of Aging

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As a young man, occasionally an elderly person would stare at me with intensity and croak, “Don’t grow old!”  This was a source of some amusement, as my questions of “Why?” would always be answered with groans and fits of coughing.

Many, many years later I find myself at the other end of life’s ruler, and am convinced those doomsayers were nothing more than miserable specimens of humanity trying to scare me.  Being old has so many benefits that I am unable to list them all in one sitting.  I will, however, go over some highlights for the benefit of our younger readers, and hope it also serves as a reminder to those of us in our waning years that this is a time to celebrate.

Usually the first indication that you are growing older comes on your fortieth birthday.  Upon awaking, you will discover that the warranty of one of your body parts has expired.  For most of us this is vision.  Do not despair, because this is only nature’s way of exercising your arms as you stretch them away from you in order to read.  When your arms just won’t grow any longer, you get to visit an optometrist and find just the right pair of glasses that compliment your face.  Glasses tell the public that you’re wise beyond your years, an illusion only dispelled by speaking.

For men, this is the decade of your life that hair begins to stop growing out of the head and begins sprouting out of the ears and nose.  This added bonus helps keep your head warm during the winter as you are compelled to wear hats, and the additional hair in your nose and ears is great for keeping bugs from moving in like so many uninvited houseguests.  You ladies will discover that certain portions of your anatomy will begin to succumb to gravity, which is great, because with the help of slings and straps you can actually appear more full-figured.

On the morning of your fiftieth birthday, when you rise from your bed, some part of you will not.  This should be no cause for alarm, as your doctor probably hasn’t seen you in over twenty years and would enjoy the challenge of reattaching whatever fell off.  For me it was my teeth, which turned out to be a blessing as I’m no longer plagued by toothaches or a slave to brushing.  In your fifties you will find that if you drop something onto the floor (which happens more often as you lose strength in your hands), it is more difficult to rise from a squat.  Your knees will begin to make sounds very much like firewood crackling in a hearth, but as your hearing fades, you won’t hear it so much.  You learn that while on the ground you might as well pick up anything else you find, just to avoid stooping again anytime soon.  In time your surroundings will be much cleaner, which aids longevity.

As you roll into your sixth decade you will find that the things which upset you before are now frivolous.  This reduces your level of stress to almost nothing, except for that little matter of regularity.  Listen well and heed my words.  If you do not keep yourself regular during this time it is certain you will meet with great discomfort.  Dynamite is a last resort so keep plenty of roughage handy, or if you can stomach it, a spoonful of mineral oil will keep the impaction police away.  In your sixties and beyond, you will begin to move slower, which helps you appreciate little things like the tile pattern on your kitchen floor, and racing snails while driving.  Eventually you will revert to a child-like state again, which is the best thing of all about aging, because you get plenty of naps and mischievous time, and can say whatever’s on your mind without fear of repercussion.  I could go on forever about this, but my thinking bone is telling me to take a break, and the recliner is calling.  So have fun growing old!

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Lucid Dreaming 101

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There is a very simple technique that can bring about immediate results in the creation of your dreams, and it involves the power of your imagination combined with a certain amount of preparation.  It is important that you train the mind to do as you wish.  I like to say that the mind is a good slave but a poor master.  The mind operates best with structure, and in order to take control of your dreams you will have to begin keeping a dream journal.  Set a date that you will start, and have a notebook and pen on hand.  Every morning write down whatever you can recall, be it just a feeling, bits and pieces of a dream or an entire saga.  This tells the mind that you expect to remember your dreams, and it will be eager to please you.  Within a couple of weeks at the most you will discover that your dream recall has increased dramatically. 

Now, the key to ‘waking up’ in your dreams lies in actually creating your dream environment.  Every night as you prepare for sleep, pretend you are in a place of your making.  You can construct a place in your mind by imagining, for instance, sitting in a comfortable chair and visualizing everything around you from the floor (Carpet or hardwood? Tile or stone? What color?  If you are barefooted, imagine how it feels on the soles of your feet.), to furniture (Plush or wicker?  Leather or fabric?  Is it a couch, loveseat, recliner or lawn chairs and beanbags?  Try to give it as much life as possible.) to decorations, fireplace, windows, ect.  Go about the room in your imagination and begin to visualize it in a 360 degree perspective.  Don’t worry if you fall asleep doing this and don’t remember anything.  You’re training your mind to do your bidding.  It all boils down to how strong-willed your mind is, and how easy it is to make it surrender to you.  If you find this way distracting, you can pretend you are in one of the rooms of your own house.  Imagine being in the middle of the room and try to fill in as much detail as you can.  This can be an ongoing exercise.  Don’t be alarmed (though most people are) if you suddenly find yourself ‘Here” in the place of your imagination.  With a little more work you will be able to successfully leave your body in sleep and travel wherever you wish. 

Another simple trick is to tell yourself just before going off to sleep “I will remember my dreams in the morning” or “I will wake up in my dreams tonight” or whatever postulate you can think of.  Give the mind commands and it will eventually obey them.  The mind, unchecked, is no better than a monkey flying about in a cage, but just like a child, it thrives under strict but fair supervision.  Give yourself postulates before sleep each night and soon the mind will be excited to work for you.  If you wish to wake up in your dreams, set yourself up for that by telling your consciousness this is what you expect.  Again, depending on how stubborn your mind can be (if it’s been in control for a long time you will have to assert yourself.  It has no choice but to obey if you are determined.) 

Yet another way to either become cognizant of and in your dreams and/or being able to leave your physical body is to lie on your back in your bed, being as relaxed as you can be.  Listen very carefully to every sound; identify them.  You will soon be able to hear a very high-pitched electronic hum that seems to come from within you.  This is what I call the Sound of Silence.  It is literally the primary vibration of the inner worlds.  Some people hear a deep HUM, some hear chimes, or a single flute note, but pretty much everyone can find the high-pitched tone.  Put your attention lightly on that sound and soon your mind will turn all the outer sounds into ‘white noise’ and all you will hear is the Sound of Silence.  It may take a few nights to master this, but if you persist it will become easier and easier.  Once you can identify and ‘latch onto’ the pitch, practice using your imagination to create an environment or a familiar place, or being with a certain person even, and it will happen.  Again, don’t be afraid.  It’s normal to get freaked out at first, but if you stick with it you’ll soon be flying around dreaming whatever you want to dream of, and if you’re diligent you will be able to actually leave your physical body and see it lying on your bed while you float above it. 

The key to all these techniques is to teach the mind to do your bidding.  Repetition, practice, and determination are your tools.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.  If you find yourself in a place where you don’t feel comfortable or in control, you can always call my name and I’ll be right there to help out.  We all have the potential to do these things.  As children it was as natural to us as smiling.  The demands of so many rules and laws piled one on top of the other in our growing years pushed much of these abilities deep within.  You can restore that sense of childlike wonder and awe with just a little effort.

Its The Law

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The longer a country remains sovereign, the more laws it has to make just to keep the crazies from taking over the place.  This counts for states and cities, too, not to mention (well, then, yes to mention) the basic family unit.  I actually had to make a sign and put it on the bathroom door that said “PLEASE FLUSH THE TOILET IF YOU USE IT” after a certain someone in our house kept ‘forgetting’.  While we’re on the subject, let me share a bit of wisdom with you: No matter how hard you try, you cannot train a cat to flush the toilet.  Imposing rules becomes a necessity when living with morons or liberals.  Just because a box of plastic garbage bags doesn’t say “DO NOT PUT BAG OVER YOUR HEAD AND ATTEMPT TO DRIVE” doesn’t mean it’s ok to do it.  Unfortunately, over the years it has been necessary to impose laws and warnings to keep people from hurting themselves or others. (See “CAUTION: HOT” on the lid of a McDonald’s coffee cup).

Some laws are strange, to say the least.  In Alaska, it is illegal to look at a moose from an airplane.  Ok, I could understand it if they said you can’t look at a moose if you’re FLYING an airplane (I can see a pilot becoming enthralled by a moose’s good looks and plowing their plane into the snow), but come on!  Are there forest rangers with binoculars watching airplanes as they pass?  “Uh, yeah, Delta Charlie, this is Yogi One.  I just spotted a passenger in a Piper Cub ogling one of our mooses.  Permission to bring it down by lethal force.”

In Miami, Florida it is illegal to imitate an animal.  I’ve heard of thin-skinned alligators, but this takes the cake.  If I lived in Miami, I would dress in all black and sneak around the neighborhoods barking and meowing just to be rebellious.  Makes you wonder what happened to bring that law in effect.  “Your honor, I thought my neighbor was a chicken and accidently wrung his neck.”

In Illinois you must have a steering wheel to drive a car.  You can do without wheels, a chassis, brakes and an engine, but by golly you’d better have that steering wheel.  Reminds me of the cop that pulled a man over for walking down the highway with a car door perched on his shoulder.  When asked what the deal was with the car door, the man explained that he put the window down because it was getting hot.  I would have been scared to ask him about his exhaust system.

In Kentucky it is the law that you must take a bath at least once a year.  God forbid if you’re a shower person.  Wouldn’t you hate to be the guy that has to make sure this law is enforced?  “Ok, lift your arms one person at a time, please!”  I wonder if the person who broke this law went to Miami – would they get in trouble for smelling like an animal?

Here’s one I wish was a universal law: In North Carolina it is illegal for dogs and cats to fight.  They are permitted to disagree, but please, no violence!  Personally, I think every dog deserves a good raking across the snout just for general principles.

In Providence, Rhode Island, it is illegal to jump off a bridge.  Jumping to conclusions, however, is allowed with a permit.  In Cleveland, Ohio, it is not lawful to leave chewing gum in public places.  This makes one wonder if it is ok to stick gum on a statue’s nose in Providence, and all right to swan dive off a bridge in Cleveland.  I know where I’m taking my next vacation.

If you’re in West Virginia, you’d better be a baby if you’re going around in a baby carriage.  Otherwise, you’re fined.  They’d probably take away your binky.  Who in their right mind would roll around in a baby carriage after they’ve been potty trained?  I could make all kinds of West Virginia jokes here, but I wouldn’t want a diaper upside my head.

There are so many strange laws I could go on literally for days, but I’m so busy staying on the straight and narrow I don’t have time to do more research.  Of course, I’m probably breaking some ordinance somewhere, but that’s just the outlaw in me flaunting my criminality.  Did you know in Tennessee it is illegal to sell bologna on Sunday?  You’ll find me just over the state line pushing thick sliced bologna from the trunk of my car.  I have to sell it fast, because if my product turns green, I’d be making a killing – literally.

It IS a Small World After All!

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Even at age fifty four I’m constantly blown away by things I didn’t know before.  It’s almost as if the older I get, the less I know.  By the time I’m eighty I’ll be completely ignorant.  Perhaps senility has something to do with it, and if it is, my hat’s off to it (just so I can get some air up there).  And I’m not talking about the typical ‘Did you know if a frog had wings it wouldn’t bump its butt every time it hopped’, type of knowledge, either.  I had to go to the Veterans Hospital in Birmingham a while back to get set up for a sleep study (I can hardly wait to get my very own Darth Vader mask!), and the sixty-something year old driver of the DAV transport’s name was Foy James.  Well, my mom’s maiden name was James, and there is a whole slew of James hanging out in Walker County, Alabama.  I got to talking with this fellow, and he said his grandfather told him when he was a kid that HIS grandfather had a brother who settled down in Walker County.  Well, the more we talked, the more it occurred to us that we were related, which kind of blows my mind because what were the odds of us meeting and being relatives?  I moved back to Alabama in 2005 to be closer to my sisters and cousins, but I had no idea I’d have distant kinfolk crawling all over the hills.  If a casual conversation with a van driver can reveal a shared bloodline, I’d be willing to bet I’ve been bumping into cousins and such all along (unless I had wings).  I like to joke around and say everyone in Alabama is related to each other, but I had no idea they were all related to me!

Like I said, what are the odds?  Math hurts my brain, so I’m not even going to try, but there are seven billion people in the world, and three hundred million people in the United States.  If I had more fingers and toes I’d be able to tell you how many cousins I know about, but this fellow was definitely not one of them!  Makes me wonder how many folks marry relatives and don’t know it.  Hopefully more than do know it.  Once my ex-wife and I were talking about our ancestors and we discovered that we both had Jacksons in our family tree.  I was quick to change the subject.  On a related subject, I used to have fun with my sisters when they were little – I think torment would be a better word – by coming up to them and saying, “Ewww!  You’ve got ancestors!”  They would start crying and say “NO I DON’T!” then run to mom and dad and complain.  That’s about the time I discovered what whippings were.  I did something similar with my daughter when she was just a sprout.  I’d walk up to her and say “Oh my God!  Your epidermis is showing!”  That’s when my ex- taught me what it meant to be in the doghouse.  But back to the subject.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been reminded just how small the world is.  While in the Army I had a female acquaintance stationed in Natick, Massachusetts.  We only had a handful of opportunities to see each other whenever I visited the base there, and our relationship never grew serious.  Eight years later I attended a seminar in Atlanta and was at the Peachtree Convention Center, riding down an escalator in a crowd of people.  As I casually looked over the teeming mass, I saw this young lady coming up the escalator next to me!  I quickly got her attention by acting like a fool (an act I’ve honed to perfection) and we had a pleasant afternoon together.  She was there for a completely different reason, so it wasn’t like we had been drawn to the same place because of similar interests.  I never forgot the incident, obviously, and still marvel over it.  I’m deliberately not calling it a coincidence because I don’t believe in them.  If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that there are no coincidences or accidents.  Everything happens for a reason.  The trick is figuring out the reason.  That’s the mystery of life, I suppose.

Once when I was a cab driver in Washington, DC, I had two women in my cab that I had picked up from different places.  I don’t know about how it is now, but the company I worked for back then had DC broken up into sectors, and it was common for a cabbie to pick up people from one zone and carry them to other zones that were connected.  All very technical, you know.  Anyway, I had these two women in my backseat and they were talking.  As it turns out, they had attended the same elementary school in New York City twenty years earlier and had been best friends.  Well, we were all completely stunned.  They were crying and hugging each other and I was in the front seat wishing I had someone to hug at that moment.

I’m sure we all have similar stories.  It just offers proof, to me, at least, that not only is the world getting tinier, the degrees that separate us are sometimes non-existent.  This realization keeps me looking at the faces in crowds no matter where I am, just in the off chance I’ll run across an old friend or relative.  Who knows?  You may be living next to an old school chum from half a world away and half a lifetime ago, or you may very well be working in the same office with a distant cousin.  I’d bet if we knew just how connected we are, we’d never meet a stranger.