Nothing personal

“But it is not what I am saying that is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said. You are hurting yourself. There is no way I can take this personally.”

— Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Do you ever feel that every time you open your mouth, you’re walking through a minefield that could conceivably blow you and the people around you sky high? That what they hear is not what you said? That people read between your lines and inaccurately so?

What do you do? Do you clamp down hard and rescind your typing privileges? Do you continue to speak your truth — damn the torpedoes full speed ahead — never mind the fallout? Or, do you follow a third way, taking a moment to breathe and regroup?

I consider myself a communicator and I think I’m a good one. I should be able to accurately convey my thoughts. But when I don’t, when people misunderstand what I write or say, is that a personal flaw? Perhaps. But it could also be the reader coloring my ideas with their own, born of their unique lives and experiences — what has led them to this day, what will lead them to the next.

Lately, it seems that my truth is offending people left and right. And it makes me sad. But I can only control what I say. I cannot control how others react to it. How others react to what I say is none of my business.

But, you contend, how can you be so cavalier? You need to worry about how your words affect other people. Pussyfoot around, wary and soft. You need to measure your words — nay your very thoughts — like a well-scripted diplomat. You need to censor your truth.

I understand. I get it. But I don’t buy it.

I may anger a few people with this post. But how you react to my words is your business, not mine.

This is my truth. Now go speak yours. And I promise to not take it personally. Because nothing is.

The_Four_AgreementsDon Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

Right now — I’m OK

I’m trying to live on $900 a month.  It’s not working.  If I stayed in one place, not going anywhere or doing anything, I might be able to swing it. But then again, I doubt it. Insurance on my motorhome and car alone accounts for a fourth of my annual budget. And so I am forced to dip more into my savings which shouldn’t be a surprise — that was The Plan.  But, as they say, the devil’s in the details and financially, the details in this devil suck.

When I force myself to live in the present, this very moment, I realize that I’m OK.  I have food, a roof over my head, heat and hot water, and a comfortable and warm place to sleep.  I’m even getting used to the almost round-the-clock trains.

Question marks

But when I think about what happens next, how I will earn money at some  unknown point in the future, my heart compresses and I panic.

What was I thinking when I decided that a plan of no plan was a good plan?

Whose stupid idea was that? Oh yeah, right. It was mine. I have no one to blame — or to thank? — but myself. Guilty as charged.

Not too long ago, I didn’t look at price tags. If I wanted to buy something or do something, I bought or I did. I could fly to Milwaukee for Christmas without worrying about how much a plane ticket cost because I knew there was more money coming in. Now, not so much, not at all, actually. I find myself counting pennies and I don’t like it.

I went to a pizza place in Hondo the other night with Valerie and Bob. They have an upscale kennel outside of Philadelphia. I felt their eyes on my back as I carefully counted out the change for my bill — $11.37. I had eleven dollars exactly and just a little over thirty-seven cents. It was close. Wow. I felt poor. I could have used my debit card but since Bob paid in cash I wanted to too. Yes, I am a copycat.

'I'm sorry but you obviously don't believe in God because you didn't forward the religious emails to 10 or more people in your address book.'Worrying Roan with my new nightly habit of periodically getting up from my desk to lie on the carpet next to him seeking insight, I ask — what the heck am I doing?  But then I force myself to remind myself to tell myself that I am OK now. I have food, a roof over my head, new friends, a gin and tonic, high-speed unlimited Internet access, a very cozy bed, and Roan. I am OK now, this very moment.

Is a life wide open, a life of infinite possibilities, worth daily double-D doubt?  I have faith that it is but no concrete proof. Check with me later. Maybe I’ll know then. Or maybe not. It’s all a crap shoot and the odds are up in the air.

But right now — I’m OK.


I try to meditate every day, usually around 4 PM, before Roan’s pre-dinner walk. He likes routine and so do I. Sprawled on my back on my bed, I found myself reciting a silent mantra: “Please help me find my way,” I repeated to myself. “Please help me find my way.” It wasn’t planned; it just happened. As the meditation came to a close, the mantra became “Please help me” and then simply just “Help.”

I dunno. What do you think I should do? Finally… the moment he'd been praying for.Since I do not have reliable high-speed Internet or Verizon cell coverage (“Can you hear me now?”), I was moving on. I decided to head to the SKP Sagauro Co-op in Benson, Arizona, about 46 miles southeast of Tucson. Verizon cell worked in Benson and the price was right — $50 for the first week and then $280 a month plus electricity and tax. WiFi was $35 a month. Perfectly doable. The 300-spot RV park was like a little town with many activities including a chorus which started rehearsals the following Monday. Having always loved to sing, the chorus sounded like fun.

It was Tuesday evening. I was putting things away, both inside and out, in anticipation of starting the 800-mile drive the next morning — not too early but early enough to do 200 to 300 miles before stopping for the night. I planned my route, locating strategic places to stop for diesel and rest along I-10. I had about 500 miles to drive in Texas before crossing into New Mexico and then Arizona.

I was sitting outside relaxing, after removing the tire covers, lowering the window awnings, and stowing the sewer hose. Roan lay in the shade on the cement driveway in front of Pegasus, looking for cats. I drank Texas Cabernet out of a Styrofoam cup, covered to prevent gnats from dive-bombing into the ruby sweetness.

Liz, a woman I met a few days before, called out as she walked half a block away: “Hi Roan! Hi Liz!”

Everyone knew Roan.  “Hi Liz!,” I shouted back.

Liz turned and walked towards us. Roan, guarding the remnants of a mangled rawhide bone, began a low growling grumble.

“He’s ok,” I told Liz, “He’s just talking and has a lot to say.”

“Evidently,” she replied. A former New Jerseyan, Liz was mercurial but measured. She had bright white short, naturally curly hair and wore stylish tortoise-shell glasses. I recognized the Easterner in her manner, straight to the point with a minimum of fluff. It was familiar and comforting.

For some reason, I told Liz about my communication woes. It turned out that her husband, Jackson, was a retired electrical engineer with network expertise. He knew hardware; she knew software.

“Well, your problem is all these trees,” she said, pointing to the offenders which provided shade yet blocked WiFi signals. “WiFi requires Line of Sight (LOS) to work. And the signal can’t go through that reflective sunshield on your windshield either,” she added.

I invited her inside.

“That’s another problem,” Liz said, “Your desk is in the back. The WiFi signal can’t get back there. Could you work in the passenger seat?”

When I assured her that I could not, Liz nodded.

“Well, this is what I’m going to do,” she offered. “Jack and I will come by tomorrow to evaluate your options. How does that sound?

“Great!,” I said enthusiastically. “I was planning on going to Benson tomorrow but will wait.”

“Benson isn’t as nice as here,” Liz said, “It’s desert.”

That night, lying in bed, it came to me. Perhaps Liz and her husband were the “help” I had asked for. If the Universe, or whatever or whomever, were answering my call, the least I could do was stick around and see what happened.

As promised, Liz and Jack, short for Jackson, stopped by the next morning. Jack was a born-again Texan, tall and thoughtful, a straw cowboy hat on his head. He and Liz walked around Pegasus, making suggestions.

After about 20 minutes, Liz was ready to wrap it up and go; she urged Jack to get to the point: “I have things to do.”

Yin Yang symbol

Liz and Jack reminded me of Mom and Dad; not mirror images but complementary. They just fit together. It wasn’t just the cliché of opposites attracting, but also the symbiotic relationship between yin and yang. Each contained aspects of the other and so saw themselves in the other person.

“Bye Wolf,” Jack called to Roan as they drove off. He called all dogs “wolf.” “It makes them feel important,” he said.

And so, here I am still in Hondo, Texas. Developed with Liz and Jack, the plan is to move to site 52 where the cell signal is stronger. Liz and Jack will lend me an Alfa wireless USB adapter to try to boost the WiFi signal. And then, we will see.

Can you hear me now?

I hate this. If I had a temper I’d be throwing things. Instead I start counting.  Inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts. Try it — it works. Having spent the last two decades of my life online, being cut off is an uncomfortable and alien feeling.

Jetpack searching for Verizon service
Jetpack searching for Verizon service

I have no reliable Internet or cell phone service here at the Lone Star Corral RV Park.

I pay $89.99 per month for 20 gigabytes of data from Millenicom, a reseller of Verizon bandwidth, and $88 per month for calls, text, and 1 gigabyte of data from Verizon Wireless. But Verizon doesn’t work well here in rural south Texas — AT&T country.

The RV park has WiFi but it’s up and down. I try to connect to LSCwest — “No Internet access.” Agh! Rusty and Alice tell me that the park’s had WiFi problems for a long time.  They have a DSL line.

“We’ve had a lot of rookies working on it,” Rusty says, “Now they’re putting in a modular system that will be completely controlled off-site.”

That sounds promising. I hope it’s up fast and works.

New Verizon tower near Lone Star Corral RV Park
New Verizon tower near Lone Star Corral RV Park

What makes the communication void even more frustrating is the new Verizon tower perched within sight.

“They’re supposed to turn the tower on next month,” Dianna in the office tells me when I arrive in late September.

Ever optimistic, I choose hope. It was almost “next month” and I get a strong and steady 4G signal when the tower’s on — good enough to stream Project Runway. But when the tower’s off all I can get — if anything — is 1X. Remember 1X? Me neither.

Verizon cell service doesn’t work here either. Incoming calls go straight to voice mail. When I receive a voice mail, I walk to the club house and one bar of service to retrieve it. I have to drive into Hondo to get four bars. My new phone booth is the Walmart parking lot.

Jetpack connected to 4G LTE Verizon
Jetpack connected to 4G LTE Verizon

So, what are my options?

1) Take my notebook computer to the club house where the WiFi signal is better (and where I go to post this blog),

2) Keep the Jetpack on hoping for another testing window and 4G,

3) Research and purchase signal boosting equipment,

4) Deal with it, or

5) Move to a campground with better cell and Internet service.

I don’t want to move. Roan and I are starting to meet people as the temperatures drop, becoming more conducive to outdoor socializing. We met six new people just this morning. One stylish woman invited me to the 4 PM social hour; her manner discouraged dissent. Another told me about 7 PM card bingo; $3 for a card with 6 games. Things are picking up as lot owners who have traveled all summer come back for the mild Texas winter.

So, if you want to reach me, don’t call, don’t send a text. Send an email and hope that the communication gods — and me! — are smiling.