Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Perspective (Re Post)

I have always been a guy that talks about "perspective" as it pertains to an individual's situation. One who asks those who are complaining about their life or their dilemma to put on the shoes of those far less fortunate and try to imagine the pain and reality they endure in order to lessen the blow and give proper weight to one's suffering. However in recent days I have begun to feel and comprehend something that I heard from my father a long time ago, and it's so simple and yet so very profound: "Your pain is your pain." 

The simple truth is that there are grades of misery and anguish, a sort of "ranking system" to how painful things we experience in or lives are, or at least should be. For example, if you fail a final exam while taking an online college course it's certainly going to be a bummer, but it won't wipe you out the way being fired from your job might. If you spill coffee on a new shirt that you love you'll be annoyed and pissed off, but far less than if your house burned down. Grief and suffering are never fun but we have found a way to compartmentalize and prioritize these sufferings based on the impact they have on our daily lives. However, pain and suffering in the emotional realm, especially loss of a loved one or experiencing a highly traumatic event can throw things completely out of whack and it's where I have begun to understand what my father told me.

When I found out I couldn't have children of my own I was upset, certainly, and it was even more difficult because it prefaced the ending of a twelve year marriage to a good woman. As painful and difficult as this time was I avoided dealing with the trauma head on because I chose to "put things in perspective" and convince myself that so many others had so many troubles worse than I and spending time crying or dealing with these issues was foolish. I could be in Iraq and have my leg blown off, I could have cancer, I could be living in a place where there was no freedom, etc. Perspective.

As my divorce went by and I was already involved too soon elsewhere, it became brutally apparent that the woman I loved was not only far from being ready to divorce her husband, but that in fact the mere presence of me in her life had caused great trauma of it's own, and there were many terrifying nights and depressing days enduring what transpired in that heavily flawed situation. As I finally extricated myself from it I did my very best to convince myself "it could have been worse" and to move on with my life without getting bogged down in the details of what had happened over that past year or so of my life. Who was I to complain, really? I made my choices and I had to live with them...

So I took all that baggage into another person's life and luckily she saw right through me and knew I wasn't ready and she walked away, and it hurt like hell. With that one I began to feel the impact of all that had transpired before and I began to feel myself sinking a little but my father, as he always had, reached a hand out to help me up and also force me to face some of the realities of my life and the choices I had made. My mom and brother and many of my friends were also vital at that time and I might not have survived emotionally had all of them not been there. However, I wasn't truly dealing with the pain, or fixing any of my issues, I was just leaning on those around me to help the hurt feel a little better, and before long I was back to perspective arguments with myself. Convincing myself I had no right to even grieve because in my case especially, with so many bad choices, I hadn't even really earned the right to be upset or in pain. I deserved it.

Well, a few quick relationships where I was totally unavailable and hurting a few people in the process, and I found what I thought was to be my savior in a beautiful woman with four kids. The problem was, of course, I was the only person who could save myself and the pressure it put on that relationship was too much to bare, as could only be expected.

There's no need to go into the details of why "that girl from Avon" and I failed, because the truth is that as much as I had to endure things that had no place in any relationship, I chose to make that move. I chose to get deeply involved with a woman with four children weeks after I met her instead of take my time and let things grow naturally and assure that the kids had plenty of time before forging bonds with me, only to be hurt with our inevitable failure. My selfish desire to heal myself through the promise of new love and the excitement of an instant family was the warm embers that lay resting beneath the wicker frame of our union that so quickly ignited and burned us down. All the while, the source of so much of my strength and support, my father, was tearing himself down from the insides as well, only to be gone before I even had a chance to say a real goodbye.

I know that many times in my life I have experienced joy and happiness, and it felt great. I know that I have been proud of myself at times and felt good about a choice I made or an action I have taken. I am certain that I have given and experienced love and understand how blessed I am to have that in my heart. I also know, though, that in the last few years I have been in a tremendous amount of pain. Deep and debilitating pain, some of which is of my own cause and design. The rest is just along for the ride and it's a bitch as well, and it's time for me to stop trying to put it in perspective for awhile. If I don't let my pain be MY pain and stop trying to minimize it as a comparison to everyone else that suffers in the world then all I am is just someone floating in the river of denial, with no chance to heal and move on. If I blame myself for everything and never forgive myself then I can never love myself, and then it's truly impossible to love another person. I don't want to live the lonely, empty life that I know that would be.

I am horribly saddened by the loss of my father, and I miss him more every day and I'm afraid I haven't fully even come to terms with it yet. I wish I could have children of my own and there's not a day that goes by that I don't get a little sad about that. I wish I had made better choices in relationships and didn't hurt the people I did with those choices, some of them very selfish. I wish I realized some of the great things I had in my life sometimes and hadn't taken them for granted. I wish I didn't act so impulsively at times and have to endure the pain of what followed those actions. I know in my heart that I am a good man, but I am one that's in dire need of a "searching and fearless moral inventory", followed by some long and deep healing that I WILL do, because I am not going to let myself talk myself out of feeling my pain anymore. There is always someone who suffers more or endures worse, I know that, but I am not them and they are not I, and the only life I can control is my own...and it's time I start doing that. 

And I will. :)


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Why Don't We Just Say What We Mean?

Politicians. Used Car Salesmen. Lawyers. Jim Carrey in the beginning of Liar Liar. Welders...

These are all people who are closely associated with fabrication. OK, so welders are fabricating in other ways, unless of course you're a welder who lies, then you're a "double fabricator". Come to think of it my roommate is a welder and he tells me that he's not eating my Soft Oatmeal bread and Apples but I see the supplies dwindling from time to time and I know I have heard that loud crunch that only a set of teeth cracking into a fridge-crisp Gala can make. Oh well, sometimes I use his toothbrush to clean my ears, life goes on. Anyway, the aforementioned people are intrinsically linked with dishonesty, and the vast majority of us would likely say they're not very trustworthy. While I will agree with that, what I find curious is that ALL of us, even on a daily basis, are telling lies. 

As a society we have given classifications to lies, even colors: "It was just a 'little white lie', honey. Why are you so mad?" Curious that a man may use that term when the color she arrived at was red, after discovering you weren't really at the Shelter handing out free meals to the homeless but instead at the Jugg Factory getting a lap dance with her brother. We start from a young age learning that lies are acceptable, as long as they're in fun or about things that inspire or intrigue us. The level to which we will embellish these "standard" lies is often incredible. "No Timmy, I don't want to hear one more time about how Santa can't make it down that stove pipe. I know it's not a Fireplace but Santa is magic and he has ways to do it! Don't you give me that look!!" If we want to shape our children's behavior we tell them stories of the impossible and often terrifying: "Amber if you don't stop making that face at your sister it's going to stay that way!" The little child rarely listens at first but after several peeks in her bedroom mirror with her bottom lip up near her nose, eyes crossed, she decides life would be rough if things stuck this way.

What perplexes me though, mostly, is not so much the lies we tell for the myriad of reasons we make excuses for, but instead why we don't just say what we mean, and mean what we say. I can wrap my mind around the idea of Santa Claus as a fairy tale and using clever methods to stop a child's bad behavior, but why as adults are so many of us not telling the truth about even the most simple things? Why aren't we expressing how we actually feel and not the way we think someone wants us to feel or behave? So often in life the words/actions we choose are based on motivations and influence outside of the realm of truth and reality and it seems to me that life would be less stressful and far more rewarding for everyone if we just spoke candidly and honestly about everything, no? For example...

"John listen, I really want to give you that promotion but you're dumb. You have trouble forming sentences and you think Jersey Shore is a better show than Mad Men. You also wear clothes from Wal Mart and drive a PT Cruiser with a "ChxDiGMe" vanity plate. I'm sorry, but we're going to leave you in the Mail Room at this point." OK, so it seems a little harsh and unkind, but let's look at the reality of John's situation. He is not very bright, he dresses for the job he has and not the one he wants and he makes some questionable life choices. Is he really ready for the next level of corporate America? Probably not, and won't being honest with him help in the long run if that's his goal? He certainly has the freedom to live/dress/act as he pleases, but the boss also has the choice to make decisions based on who best fits the job he's hiring for, and Johnny here just isn't it. Honesty wins.

"You are simply not cutting it for me in the sack, Linda. I'm sorry but... you're great at Words With Friends, my mom adores you, you always smell delightful and you dress OK but I can't have sex with a North Atlantic Cod, I just can't. I have tried to work with you, we tried those videos, the books, I bought that riding crop, but we just aren't synching up sexually and I'd like to go back to weekends of Miller High Life and masturbation. I'm sure you understand." Yes, it seems a little strong and insulting but anytime we see a chick magazine at the checkout counter or some big Internet survey or psychological study it's about sex or improving sex lives or better techniques, etc. Sex is a very important part of relationships and why should we lie about what we need or want? Better that Linda here knows that Fred wants to be handcuffed and set on fire rather than living in an empty relationship much longer, devoid of the kind of passion she'd prefer with a gentleman from the mortuary sciences, accounting or actuarial background, or perhaps a Dallas Cowboys fan. Truth helps all involved once again.

"Jim listen, I am your friend and I feel I need to tell you this because if I don't I fear I may squeeze my head into one of those Olive Garden cheese graters and start fucking grinding myself, OK? Your stories never have a fucking point, they're boring and they make people want to punch you in the ear. Maybe if you felt that you'd understand how we feel as listeners. No one understands where your stories go, they have no depth, they aren't about people we know or care about and you go on so many god damn tangents that you're really telling nine boring as fuck stories instead of just one. You're a great guy, when you're not speaking. Let's just keep things tight here as friends and you keep laughing at all my shit and not yammer on about yours, cool?" I know, I know, it seems very nasty and callous but this guy Jim WANTS to know he's that boring and uninteresting, trust me. It's like with bad breath, no one wants to just have it and be making people sick, we all want to be told so we can deal with it. The man in this example is actually enriching the quality of poor Jim's awful existence. Rock on, honesty.

"Honey, listen. Your mother in law may actually BE the devil, OK? She's not just evil but I mean she is the Queen of ALL that is evil, universally. The dog shits himself when she's here, the cat won't come out of the freaking closet and you've seen what happens to the reception on the can't be a coincidence! I know she's your mother and all but, she offends Buddhists and nothing bothers them! She talks in movie theaters...about her hemorrhoids. She steals half our groceries when she's here, she drives like fucking Stevie Wonder on Meth and she asked our son, our first born sweet little six year old child, if he wanted to play with her book of matches in the attic!!! And she doesn't even smoke!" No one likes to hear derogatory things about their parents, well, unless it's like really funny I guess, but regardless, in this case it's best to just speak the truth. There is only so long you can go on pretending you have any affinity for a mother in law that's so vile. Will you be stuck on the couch watching Soft Core porn for a few nights? Possibly, but truth's rewards aren't always seen right away.

Lying has become easy for us all, especially with the birth of the Internet and our ability to be so disconnected and even anonymous. You can be whomever you like, invent whatever history you choose and forge a whole new existence out of bullshit...but it can never last. The winds of truth thrust harder than the walls of deception can ever lean back against. One of the greatest quotes in history by one of the worlds greatest men, Winston Churchill. Actually, I just made that up but it sounded cool. See what I mean? Lying is as easy as the keystrokes it takes to type them or the minimal breath and effort it takes to utter them, but truth can often times be so much harder. It takes GUTS to speak the truths presented here, but how easy would it have been to just have lied in each situation? Where has the courage to be honest gone? Somewhere down society's drain, preceded by the Furby and Silly Bands.

I think we should all start saying exactly what we mean and letting truth be our guide, and let the chips fall where they may. If all the interconnected lies were to just dissolve overnight and we could feel free to speak honestly without fear of reprisal or guilt, just imagine the world we could live in. Police officers would laugh as we told them "I was trying to catch that asshole in the Civic who blew by me, sir, and yeah I know it was probably pretty fast, like 117 maybe?" We could tell our boss that we didn't finish that report because last night at 12:33am I was doing shots off a hooker's fake breasts and wearing an Iron Man costume. All of us could gain strength in the knowledge that if we just told the truth, the full on no holds barred truth about what we thought about each other sometimes, that we wouldn't be vilified, destroyed on Facebook, dumped, physically attacked and forced to post a bullshit apology sounding like it was coerced at gunpoint. Yeah, that would be sweet.

I'm going to start right now, and I don't care what comes of it because it's honest and real and life's too short to be afraid of telling the truth: I think my roommate is having sex with his girlfriend right now, but I think he sucks at it...because these two sound like Chicago O'hare at noon most of the time walking around here but they head to the bedroom and all of a sudden I can't hear a damn thing. With my exceptional history with women I know what they like and how they're supposed to sound, trust me. Really. I also know dogs shouldn't be barking during it unless they're trying to tell you you're doing it wrong.

Ahhh, I feel better already. Saying what you mean is a wonderful thing. There's a 77.392% chance it will shorten your lifespan by 53.609 % but, what kind of a life is it really if you can't speak you mind truthfully? :)


Writing: The Most Rewarding Form of Self Torture

One of the best books I've read in the last few years is "The Courage to Write" by Ralph Keyes. Without doing a full review, i...