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The art of the fold

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The Observer is still learning, in our decrepitude, one of the hardest lessons there is to learn: when to stop putting chips on the table and fold. You tried to teach us, Kenny Rogers! Why didn't we listen?

Giving up on a thing — a dream, a desire, a want, a need, a person, a life, a relationship, whatever — is hard as hell, and knowing when to say when is even harder. It's especially hard for Yours Truly. We, the less-than-fortunate son of a country that regards dying for your own personal Alamo as virtue and in a state where many otherwise sane folks are still raising toasts, rah-rahing and flag-waving over the second-place ribbon the Confederacy received in the Civil War, were raised to never give up.

Americans are a people, by and large, that know how to win, know how to lose, but don't know how to quit. That trickles down to a lot of our citizenry and makes more of us miserable than you'd think: All those people who have held on to their cupcakeries and scrapbooking stores and back-of-a-cocktail napkin ideas to make a cool million long after the Invisible Hand of the Free Market has reared back and slapped them upside the head. All those people who cling to relationships, blood and love, long after it's become clear that whatever made them worth a damn has long since flown. All those people who cling to jobs that make them wish for the zombie apocalypse so they might actually feel useful to mankind. All those people who cling to people, even as their bodies sprout tubes and wires like mechanical kudzu up at the hospital. "Quitter" is a curse word. "Failure," meanwhile, is an epithet reserved for your direst enemy, or — more often — one's own self, deep down in the stygian depths of the night.

The Observer, as we grow older, is trying to do all we can to let go of that. We've been doing a lot of soul searching on the subject of late. Such things happen when you grow older, kiddies. As the gray in our hair slowly drives the brown from the world map of our noggin, we're coming to recognize that, contrary to what you may have heard, the road to hell isn't paved with good intentions. It's actually a cobblestone lane bricked in regret, most of those bricks indelibly and maddeningly stamped with all the ways you contributed to the things that went sideways. And so we are letting that go as much as we can. The Observer would submit that there is something worse than failure, and that's lingering too long, overstaying your visa in that land that once blossomed for you, but now bears only thorns, in the false hope that it will blossom again. Like a friend said to us once: Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is to buy a bus ticket.

These are the thoughts that come to The Observer more and more often these days, friends, consuming The Grand Old Insomniac of Maple Street while our Beloved sleeps and Junior sleeps and Netflix comes up empty and the cat does her best to destroy The Observatory one blind and decorative pillow at a time. Not because The Observer is unhappy with where we are or the choices we've made, but because time is a river that is always sweeping us toward the sea. Cruising into middle age soon, and many of those we care for even older, we are trying to find the Zen of "when" — how to fold while we're still ahead. We believe that will be of good service to us someday, and especially when it comes time to cash out.

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