Monday, February 24, 2014

Orange Tap Water and Gratitude

The XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, are now over. And the morning-after blues came today, as they always do following the close of another Olympics. For the first night in more than two weeks, I didn't have any curling, snowboarding, hockey, bobsledding, or skiing to watch nor any medal counts to check up on in the news.

Beyond the actual sporting events, a lot of fuss was made about these Games because of the reportedly deplorable conditions many American and other Western athletes and media encountered in their Russian dwellings while in Sochi. Supposedly, toilets were sometimes constructed side by side, the tap water resembled peach iced tea, closets were built on ceilings, and dogs were super-glued to doors (maybe), along with many other horror stories.

One school of thought is that this was Russia's way of saying "nuts to you" to the rest of the world. Another belief is that a record $50 billion investment in the Games was completely mismanaged and then, when they realized they were running out of cash, these makeshift accommodations were the unfortunate result.

Whatever the reasons behind it all may be, there's one thing I know for sure: We have things pretty darn good here in the United States.

I've known that for a fact since the first time I traveled to a foreign country, and the idea was even more apparent to me as a missionary in Peru, where living conditions are downright awful in many placesI daresay even Third World. It wasn't uncommon to visit people in shantytowns, in homes literally standing on cinderblocks and loose bricks, with tin roofs and dirt floors. I twice contracted a bad case of fleas on my lower calves and ankles because of the dust everywhere that became stuck in my socks. In some areas, we carried flashlights with us, because there was no electrical power, and in other places, there was no running water. There were no litter laws like there are in our countryat least none that were enforcedand, as a result, we often walked past mounds of garbage. I found myself watching in bewilderment as people would casually throw wrappers or other pieces of trash on the ground, out of their car windows and everywhere else.

When I arrived at my and my companion's apartment for the first time, I was in disbelief at how dumpy and pathetic it was. Something I didn't realize for a long time is that my Peruvian companion absolutely loved the place and loved being a missionary, because, along with the obvious blessings of serving, he'd never had it so good with his living arrangements, either. I soon learned that, to the people I was serving, this was their way of life, and they weren't about to complain about it.

I can't do justice to it all with just a couple of paragraphs of description. But I think you get the idea.

I felt even more gratitude for the land I live in when, just a couple of days ago, I read a Facebook post by a missionary I served with who is now a stake president in Venezuela. (Yep, I'm either old enough to have served with someone who is now a stake president, or Venezuela is desperate for good leadersor both.)

Venezuela, as you may have heard, is not a great place to live in right now. There is government oppression and rioting and protesting and people being killed. From what I know, it's not a pretty sight. My friend's post, as stake president, was a series instructions to members of his stake to help keep them safe and free from harm. He counseled them to suspend all extracurricular church activities but sacrament meetings until things quell down; to use phone calls and social media to keep in touch with each other and make sure all are accounted for; reminded them of the importance of having a supply of food, water, and emergency supplies; and moreover to be smart and stay away from danger, obeying suggested curfew times. Most importantly, he counseled them to pray. I told my friend that I would pray for the people of his stake, too.

It made me very grateful for the land in which I live, not to mention for the organization of the Church, to boot. I'm amazed at how, time and again, it is very much an institution interested in the well-being of the individual as well as the whole.

It's a big wide world, and very few people out there have things as good as we do. I may forget that fact occasionally, such as on April 15 and whenever the Kardashians are on TV. But it is a fact nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Angry White Anniversary

As of today, the Angry White Loner is a year old.

Angry White Loner the blog, that is. Not the AWL himself.

Beginning with this unforgettable first post on February 18, 2013, the Angry White Loner began to blog and to change everyone's lives for the better, one groundbreaking post at a time. The rest, as they say, has been history.

Feel free to party along with me out there in cyberspace. Or whatever you do to celebrate an anniversary of a blog. Your guess is as good as mine.

We'll play some Twister, we'll do some breakdancing. You know, the stuff that you do to party.

You are even welcome to bring me a plate of brownies. You may think I'm kidding when I write stuff like that, but I'm really not. At least, a devoted reader picked up on this and actually brought me a plate of brownies a couple of weeks back. Thanks again, devoted reader.

What will the next year bring for the Angry White Loner? And for angry loners in general?

Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Forgiveness and Stuff

Singles' Awareness Day came and went, like it does each year, yesterday. You may have heard of this so-called "holiday" at one point or another.

Rather than sitting alone in the darkness at home, eating only the chocolate part right out of multiple boxes of Neapolitan ice cream and sobbing uncontrollably while watching Moulin Rouge! for the 27th time, however, I decided to take a different approach to Valentine's Day this year. I didn't plan on it when the day dawned, but my friend Tyler's Facebook status inspired me to look at things with a new point-of-view as I faced the day.

He posted the following:

"This Valentine's day, instead of celebrating romantic love, I'm going to celebrate forgiveness love. My heart has reached critical mass with bitterness and resentment for all those who have wronged me, all the girls who left me to 'find' themselves or weren't entertained enough or who wouldn't give me the time of day, all the guys who ditched me for their other friends or girlfriends or lied to me, and the family members who weren't there when I needed them. This day I will let forgiveness cleanse my heart so that I may start anew and love without the weeds of the past stifling the flowers of the future. Happy Valentine's Day!"

I have such respect for this unflinchingly honest statement. It recognizes that bad things happen but that they don't need to hold us back or to affect how we interact with others in the future. It encompasses so many worthy, rather than wasteful and unproductive, uses of my time that I don't know where to start. The Angry White Loner couldn't have said it better himself.

I've been where he has been, even recently, but I want to be where forgiveness, time, and experience will and can lead me. Just as I need forgiveness for the many things I do wrong, I, of course, need to forgive others.

It's truly an amazing concept. It's almost like I read it in the scriptures once somewhere.

This also doesn't mean that the AWL won't still be bewildered by some of the things the opposite sex does or doesn't do. (And he's sure that the feeling is mutual.) He will still post about these things from time to time, but it will be done in an effort to decompress and to understand what makes them tick. If family members or friends have input or insights that will help him understand things better going forward, they are certainly welcome to give them.
 So, Happy (Belated) Valentine's Day, you wonderful old Building and Loan! Happy Valentine's Day, you twitterpated couples who get all gooey and post photos of flowers delivered and of yourselves hugging and squeezing each other and do more than your share of giving the rest of us diabetes! Perhaps most of all, Happy Valentine's Day, future significant other(s)!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

You Don't Bring Me Flowers . . . or Pop Tarts

I've given a girl flowers only once.

When I confess that fact, I'm certainly not counting high school dancesboth of the ones I attendedwhen I bought corsages for my dates. Like you're supposed to do.

This explains so much, Angry White Loner, some of you might be thinking. No wonder you're going to be all alone on Valentine's Day. Again.

Maybe. Then again, maybe not. It could be a post for another day.

The thing is, I bought and took flowers to an ex of mine rather than I girl I was currently dating. It had been more than a year since we had broken up. Unfortunately, we had not parted on very good terms, and, I believe, a share of the blame rested on me.

While I was at the store on this particular day, I passed by a display of daisies. For whatever reason, I thought of her, completely out of the blue, when I saw them. Further, I received the impression that I should buy some for her and take them over to her place that afternoon.

According to Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) in the movie You've Got Mail, "Daisies are the friendliest flower." So, why not? I thought.

Flowers in hand, along with a fresh box of Strawberry Pop Tartsa treat we often shared together back in the good old days—I rang her doorbell. Not knowing what reaction to expect, because it had been months since we had last spoken, I prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. To my surprise, she seemed pleased to see me and appeared genuinely grateful for the gift of the daisies, as well as the Pop Tarts.

Perhaps she was more grateful for the Pop Tarts than for the daisies. I can't really say for sure.

As I stepped in to visit for a few minutes, I noticed several boxes and other things waiting to be packed up. She was moving away, and the day on which I had brought her the flowers was the last day she would be in her condo.

Timing is rarely on my side. Fortunately, this was one occasion on which it had seemingly been just right. I'm not one who often receives promptings to do things like that, and I definitely haven't always listened to those promptings when I do, but I'm glad I did so and that we were able to patch things up before she moved.

So, why don't you bring *me* some flowers someday, you big goof? some females are now wondering.

Give me reasons to, and I just might. Maybe drop a guy a hint about your favorite kind of Pop Tart, while you're at it, mmmkay?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Battlestar Grammatica

So, as it turns out, some people don't really appreciate it very much when you go out of your way to point out mistakes in their grammar on Facebook and/or in other social settings.

Such was the case the other day, when I thought I was doing a favor for a friend of mine by commenting on her incorrect use of the word your when she actually should have been using you're. This is a common error and is one of the most widespread grammatical offenses in this, the 21st century. You know, the enlightened period of history in which we're supposed to have achieved world peace, and everyone now has a flying car or a hoverboard.

Your = the possessive form of you
You're = the contraction you are

Who made you the Grammar Police? she asked me.

I was expecting something more of a thank you instead of this question, but I suppose it's a warranted response.

A degree in journalism, along with more than 10 years' professional experience as an editor and/or proofreader, for starters, make me the Grammar Police. Also, I list being somewhat obsessive-compulsive in my analysis of things I read—not quite as OCD as Adrian Monk, but close—among my qualifications.

Mainly, though, I am the Grammar Police because I care.

'Cause that's just the kind of good guy and loyal friend the Angry White Loner is.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Aspirations in the Clouds

"Aspirations in the clouds,
But your hopes go down the drain."
 -Howard Jones, "No One Is to Blame"

At times when the Angry White Loner is feeling a bit more melancholy than he normally does, he wonders whether one of the main purposes of his Church mission was to prepare him for rejection. One of the most eye-opening, heartbreaking, and frustrating parts of those two years was learning to deal with closed minds, hearts, and doors on a daily basis. Rejection took place, unfortunately, far more often than acceptance did.

The thing is, though he is used to it by now, rejection never gets any easier.

The AWL went to his weekly institute class tonight with the goal of reaching out and meeting at least a few new people. Maybe even a female or two. He said "hello" to three people he hadn't previously spoken to; all three were seemingly disinterested in talking to him. The girl he recently asked out, or tried to ask out, likewise, made eye contact with him once but otherwise pretended like he was not even there.

"People, you can never change the way they feel.
Better let them do just what they will, for they will."

 -George Michael, "Kissing a Fool"

It's not just in socializing or dating, or in attempting to do so. The world as a whole seems to be filled with rejections of one kind or another. Applying for jobs, for example.

So, the Angry White Loner poses the question: How do you deal with rejection?

Do you go out to a secluded spot and punch-dance until you can't punch-dance anymore, like Kevin Bacon in Footloose or Andy Samberg in Hot Rod? Do you kick the neighbor's cat? (Any cat will do, really.) Do you scream out all of your frustrations into a paper bag?

Is there even a healthy way to deal with it at all? Do you eventually reach the point at which you give up on trying to accomplish some things altogether?

I'm interested in finding out, 'cause I don't know. I really don't. I'm looking for ideas.

*Long pause*


There is comfort in knowing, for example, that a day will come "when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone" (Hymn no. 124).

Until then, however, I'm trying to figure things out for myself, one closed mind, heart, and door at a time.