I was having some deadly serious dreams

I was having some deadly serious dreams. Dreams where I wanted to kill people that were antagonizing me. I am waking up late and still feeling drugged, even though it’s been two days since I took a sleeping aid.

I woke up thinking that everything I thought I wanted to do yesterday was now null and void. I woke up feeling like every choice I will make moving forward is a bad one.

My father, after going back to school at the age of 40 and getting an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science (this was 1981 and this was sufficient enough to get a programming job) decided to pack up his family and move to Missouri. His youngest was not even born yet when he made the decision, and my little brother would only be a few weeks old when we flew to KCMO from Denver.

Years later, I remember criticizing him for the horrible decision. Imagine, deciding to leave someplace cool like Denver for a shitty little backwoods town north of KCMO full of hicks. Except, now I understand. Now that I have a little one of my own, I understand that he was simply trying to make the best decision for his family’s financial future.

Was it the best choice? Did it leave us a happier family than we would have been had he toughed it out as a baggage handler for a few more years before finally landing a dream computer job in the Denver area?

I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t completely the best choice. Maybe he did what was easy and safe. He stayed with the airline so that he could have a bigger pension (that Carl Icahn apparently would raid later so this became moot but that is hindsight). He knew someone that would be one of his bosses. An easier interview and the same company–that probably seemed attractive at a time when he was putting in odd, long hours and then trying to go and be presentable to some random 80s office douche.

It is, of course, all in the past.

His oldest son would never adjust in the school in Missouri, and was not adjusting much in the school system in Denver. Gus would go on to give a try at being a teenage dad, a solider, truck driver, and whatever he did that ended up giving him AIDS ten years after he was chased out of the house by my dad. His youngest son, the one who was but three weeks old when we moved to KCMO, would die in a car wreck sixteen years later. His second oldest son would leave at the first chance to join the military and rarely come back until finally mostly disowning my dad. I suspect Garry will show up at my dad’s funeral looking for his cut from whatever my dad leaves behind.

I felt the pressure on my head to do something that would make my dad proud and make his efforts not seem to be in vain for any number of years. I tried my damnedest to do everything I could think of that would make me more successful so that he would think that his paying for my entire college education was actually worth it. But gradually, I stopped letting this kind of pressure run my life. I just couldn’t. My dad wasn’t even aware that I was making decisions about career and spouse based on what I thought would make him happy and what would have made my mom happy. I don’t know that he really cares much about what I do, anymore. He is happily trying to date every single woman in a 100 mile radius of him who is roughly his age, and I can’t do much about that.

Writing about my older brothers joining the military made me think about the one time I attempted it. It was really just a flirtation with the idea of being in the military. After years of being humiliated in the gym and weightlifting class locker room, and knowing my own propensity to be pee shy when forced to pee in a trough with a bunch of other guys, I was actually terrified at the prospect of joining the military. I was pretty sure I’d be one of those guys who ended up a statistic–the drill sergeant made his platoon clear that the pee shy guy was the weakest link and needed to be taken care of, and then you hear the story of him accidentally drowning in the pool or getting shot when it came time to crawl around underneath live rounds of ammo going off overhead.

I mostly just wanted to rebel against my dad because I wanted to impress my older brothers and show my parents that their adoptive and biological sons were not that much different. I held this notion for many years before I finally realized that I was my parents’ child, and I was not much like my adoptive brothers at all. It left me shaken and unable to know who the hell I really was.

***

I am in possession of a valuable heart and mind that isn’t being used to full capacity

I am in possession of a valuable heart and mind that isn’t being used to full capacity. I am certain that at some point, through my adolescent’s willful ignorance and/or my heavy consumption of alcohol, I fogged over valuable connections in the brain that would have enabled me to see more success in life.

I have sought clarity in structure. I have returned to institutions I abandoned in my youth, and romanticized institutions that I never joined in the first place.

I need to set particular and precise goals or I will get nowhere.

For the long-term, I am seeking a means of more effectively and efficiently retaining the information I consume. What’s more, I would like to be able to make that information useful in some way, either to help others or help myself.

For the short-term, I am seeking removal of the old demons that still haunt me.

Fact: I am easily distracted and prone to a wandering mind.
Is this due to a lack of discipline on my part or simply the way my brain is wired?

Where does real, sustaining change of one’s self begin? Does it begin through simple modifications, like tending to a small garden every day, or does it begin once relentless practice of good habits override the bad?

Most of my good habits that I started, back when I was still focused on self improvement for the sake of securing a mate, are habits now completely gone or only barely there.

I am doing good to walk the dog on an extended walk every day — and by extended, I mean half a mile — when I once ran five miles a day.

I am doing good to write something at all every day, when I once wrote a fiction or essay piece every morning that was concise and full of focus with the intent of seeing it published. Now, I am doing good to fire off a rambling journal entry like this at least twice a week.

I went to a job that kept me fully engaged because I actually believed I could build a career path from it. Now, I am wondering if I will find 10 hours worth of work this month.

Some of this is perfectly correct and intended to be this way. I needed to strip everything down and analyze what I was doing to understand where I was being so ineffective. The habit of endlessly browsing the news was originally a habit started with the intent of searching for great new business ideas and inspiration to start my own business. Now, I simply get into a comfy habit of hopping from new story to news story until I’m only reading the horror stories about parents and grandparents killing little children because they had psychotic breaks and nothing in this world was left to catch them before they experienced a complete freefall into evil. Along these same lines, I find myself scanning the news comment boards excessively in search of the wisdom of the crowd, and mostly finding petty, small-minded trolls and bullies.

I am not learning or remembering much of any of it.

What is wrong with you?

I’ve had a lot of time to think about myself. I am not sure if it has done me much good, but it is certainly changing a lot of my assumptions about myself and how I relate to the world.

I sat down recently and performed this exercise: I stated out loud, “the one thing I know for certain, is…” and I couldn’t come up with a single thing. I have nothing but quasi-statistical probabilities. There are stories of people who have cheated death. So, I can’t say for certain that I will die one day. I can only be pretty damn sure.

Last week, my high school class got together for the twenty-year reunion. I was mildly interested in flying up there and seeing these strange people who had only peeked out at me occasionally on Facebook. But, that was last year, before we got word of my wife’s pregnancy. Of course, I couldn’t have flown up there less than four weeks after his birth to participate in what may very well have been more evidence that I have moved through this life as a ghost. Really, I don’t need to attend a high school reunion to understand this.

It’s been some six years since I had this revelation, but occasionally, I have moments of clarity where I really see beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was true: I grew up with what would have been diagnosed as Asperger’s had I lived in a different time and place. People were constantly diagnosing me with the best intentions. “You’re fine, you just need to get out there and get more involved with school activities.”

“You’re a handsome young man. I don’t understand what’s wrong with you.”

“Well, if you think something’s wrong with you, than we can get help for you!” said by a father with a tone of voice that sounded more like he was ready to condescendingly indulge a four-year-old with an ice cream cone.

I did, finally, start trying very hard to be sociable. I got very active on social media. I said yes to every happy hour invite. I followed any and every trite piece of advice I snatched up online.

In order to make friends you have to be a friend.
Just be yourself.
You can’t change if you keep doing the same things.
Stop whining and complaining.
Fake it until you make it.
Stop looking at what’s in it for you.

And so on. You see these kinds of things now as pithy quotes on Facebook and Linkedin, with lots of people who seem to mostly be less educated or salespeople endorsing them without question.

And, of course, there was the occasional trip to the therapist. She and people who had once called themselves my friends would say that I was possibly trying too hard or not trying hard enough. I could never figure out which one it was, but I certainly grew uncomfortable showing up at event after event and watching the person get that bored look on their face and take a pretend text, or animatedly look up at just about anyone else in the room and run over and start talking to that person instead.

My attempt to have a career follows a similar arc. I start out at an organization as their website manager, email marketing manager, marketing automation specialist, etc. with the hope of showing them how smart and capable I am of doing so much more, and inevitably, I become pigeonholed as being only capable of doing that one particular button pushing task.

I have to draw the conclusions I can inevitably draw from all of this. Am I whining? Maybe. I am trying to see myself for who I really am, not as someone I’d hoped to become.

The career attempts can all fade away into a fog, as can high school, college, and most of my twenties and thirties. Except, I want to learn whatever I needed to learn from those years so that I am not waking up ten years from now writing from the same place.

I think one thing that is important to consider is that I was at least partly raised with some of the ideals of parenting that would go on to pervade Gen Y. I do believe that my parents saw my issues as being potentially growth crippling, but they wanted desperately to think that their son was more of a gifted genius than most babies. And so, when I came home frustrated that I wasn’t making the connections I’d hoped to make with my peers, they tended to provide that kind of old-fashioned, homespun advice instead of taking me to see a shrink. That part was definitely from some era even before Gen X, but the part about thinking their baby boy was a gifted genius, special, and in need of trophies for his minimal efforts–that part was definitely for a generation to come.

I wrote a poem. They shellacked it and called up grandma to ask me to read it to her, and grandma bought me a journal book to fill with my poetry. I painted a picture. They bought me a hundred dollars’ worth of art supplies for Christmas.

There were other things I did that they didn’t pay attention to. My dad had gone back to school at 40 to become a computer programmer, and we always had the latest Microsoft OS computer in the house–starting with a pre-MS TRS-80. I wrote out 80% of an office suite in Basic–not anything original, just code that came in a magazine we subscribed to. Still, the concept of a nine year old writing hundreds and hundreds of lines of code so he could have a word processor, spreadsheet, database and email tool in 1985 was rather remarkable, but went largely unnoticed. On some occasions, when I said that I wanted to be a computer programmer as well, my dad would say, “no, you don’t, they will always be the grunts of the organization, just doing whatever they are told.” I guess his prescient vision about computers becoming so important didn’t go far enough to see the day when programming nerds ruled the world.

I grew frustrated with the program, though, as it was full of bugs from typos I’d created, and I wasn’t even sure if our PCjr had enough memory to handle the program, as it was written for a PC. I took to working on a novel, my first attempt. I wrote page after page about a boy who grew up in a family full of boxers who always wanted to fight each other, and he got sick of them and ran away. I made up adventures in towns that I found on our map of the USA in the hallway.

If you read my diary of me when I was 11, you can see that I was easily distracted, jumping from interest to interest. I joined 4H and did rocketry, woodworking and basket weaving. I played Little League baseball and sat on the bench mostly until the final innings when the team was either clearly going to win or lose. I occasionally got my Dalmatian out and played with him. I took a cartooning class for kids at the local community college. I moped about the yard pretending that I could travel back in time to the trip to Florida we’d taken two years before that was, in my estimation, the best vacation ever. I was glad when my older brother got called to start boot camp early, so I could have the room to myself. By then, we were both very sick of each other.

There is a video footage of me from about that time, when a retired band director went through the K-12 school system taking video of us kids in our classes so that he could sell it to the parents. I am singing in music class, and I have chosen to isolate myself from the rest of the class. My hair is a complete mess, as it would be two years before I had an inkling of what it meant to comb one’s hair. I am still wearing my first pair of glasses, and they are badly damaged because I always managed to play rough while wearing them, and get them dinged up. But, why have I chosen to sit so far apart from everyone else? Is it because the music teacher had seated me next to some girls I didn’t like, and I didn’t want to be seen sitting next to them? At any rate, I look like a special needs kid, rather than a nerdy, bright kid.

I always had a place in my heart for the special needs kids. I identified with them. They seemed to be a lot like me, but were simply different by degree–enough of a degree that they went to special ed classes, and I didn’t. I usually got placed with them on teams in gym class, because I think most kids saw our athletic abilities as more or less the same. I remember one girl who only briefly attended our school teasing me on the bus in sixth grade (before the really terrible bullying started from others), and she was convinced that I was retarded. I did little to convince her otherwise. And, this was prior to puberty and its own special hell.

To this day, I am not sure any of us are all that different than special needs kids underneath. I think that with different parents, or slight changes in their genetics, any powerful person or celebrity could have ended up wearing a paper hat at their job. The ability to change one’s self is also quite deceptive.

Any person who has drank the koolaid of a motivational speaker or prosperity gospel preacher will try to tell me that I am simply not trying hard enough. That I need to get more disciplined with my actions and my will to change myself. I should be setting goals for myself, and sticking to getting up early every morning to run and write and read inspirational quotes. I am simply not trying hard enough. It’s a comforting philosophy to have, because you can ride great waves of euphoria and optimism before crashing, and you never have to squarely and soberly face evidence to the contrary.

I don’t completely knock it, actually. I believe that we all inject some amount of a mythology into our lives to keep us going. We ride waves of belief in something to avoid the despair that would inevitably come when we think about how much we’ve lost in life. If I sat around and only focused on the bad choices I’ve made, and the time I’ve wasted doing frivolous things, while also meditating on my premature gray, thinning hair, I would probably never get out of bed.

But, I think that there must be times in which you completely strip away all of the optimistic mythology (but also the unnecessarily harsh self doubt), and try to look more objectively at why you aren’t getting anywhere.

At this moment, I would simply argue that the reason I am not getting anywhere is that I have chosen to never do one thing at the expense of all others. If you look at my personal library, you will find books on so many different subjects that you will quickly see that I can’t possibly be capable of reading all of these books and knowing deeply all of these subjects.

If I decide that I do want to devote my career to becoming a true computer nerd for the next twenty-five years, then my writing will have to become much more tightly focused and journalistic–I will have to simply write as a tool to keep me on task every day while learning a programming language or two. If I decide that I want to devote my career to becoming a writer of some sort, then I will have to stop pretending that I can be a technical person, startup entrepreneur, or even a manager of a sales and marketing team. I will have to write a lot more letters to many more people in search of an opportunity to make money writing for them.

What does my heart say?

Have I ever really listened to my heart–I mean, sat down, and with great focus thought deeply about what would make my heart happy?

So many of my recent job changes have been due to my ego flaring up. The ego gets offended that people can’t see me for being something more than just a menial button pusher, and I quit. This is cerebral. It’s not even a good kind of cerebral, but a self delusion I’ve chosen to perpetuate–a myth of self that I’ve created to keep me believing I will one day be somebody great.

I don’t think this is a bad thing, but I don’t think I have a good resonance between my heart and this part of me. My heart is full of love for humanity and a desire to help others, and my head is full of a vision of me being somebody important in a big city. The two are almost at complete odds with each other.

***

There were a number of years that went by where I asked the question: what kind of man would I have become if I hadn’t been such a people pleaser out of touch with himself?

But, this was the wrong question.

The right question is: what kind of man do I want to be?

The possibilities are always wide open. Socially, we allow ourselves to be narrowly defined and tagged as being a this or that. I think the concept of free will has greatly diminished since the time of the Enlightenment, as first Newton, then Darwin, gave us pictures of ourselves in which we are more the product of physical and chemical forces than the product of our own creativity and choices.

Quite frankly, for myself, I want to embrace a philosophy of radical personal responsibility. I don’t know that it is something for everyone, because I can’t begin to know everyone else’s life situation. However, I would argue that I still tend as a kneejerk reaction toward looking for someone else to blame for my life situation. Stating “I will have more personal responsibility for my actions” is a nice thing to say, but a hard thing to practice. It is so easy to look for other people to be the scapegoat in my unhappy situations.

I want a brutally honest vision of myself. I welcome criticism of me. I want the young hipster guy in the workplace to hate my guts because he has made a snap judgment concerning my gray hair and has decided that I am a basic corporate schmuck with no new ideas. I want to think long and hard about whether or not I really am a Mac, PC or Linux guy. I am not so sure any of them are worth taking on as a shorthand way of describing who I am. I want shit that accomplishes the job it promised to do.

I am not a OWS man or a Tea Party man. I am enough of a student of history to know that our system, as terrible as it might seem at times, is a lot better than one where everyone is getting beheaded or shipped off to a gulag because they don’t agree with the megalomaniac made king. Companies, governments, political parties, etc. — all are systems that began with the purpose of solving a problem and have more or less become complex organisms that exist to exist. I think most of the bigger ones are probably like giant tumors. The recent show I watched where they removed a large tumor from a man clearly indicated that any wrong cut would be disastrous to the organism feeding the tumor. Most people want to make disastrous cuts instead of precise, surgical ones, because those kinds of cuts get good sound bites.

Killing big government or killing big oil — either activity will require a surgeon and not a mob with some loudmouth fool (or worse, a bomb-happy fool) representing them.

I am of the firm opinion that I have way too much about me that still needs to be changed before I go and try to change other people.

I am not a pessimist or an optimist about the future. Why should I waste my time being either one, when they are both laughably one-dimensional, and neither is sustainable?

***

I’ve had a lot of time to think about myself

I’ve had a lot of time to think about myself. I am not sure if it has done me much good, but it is certainly changing a lot of my assumptions about myself and how I relate to the world.

I sat down recently and performed this exercise: I stated out loud, “the one thing I know for certain, is…” and I couldn’t come up with a single thing. I have nothing but quasi-statistical probabilities. There are stories of people who have cheated death. So, I can’t say for certain that I will die one day. I can only be pretty damn sure.

Last week, my high school class got together for the twenty-year reunion. I was mildly interested in flying up there and seeing these strange people who had only peeked out at me occasionally on Facebook. But, that was last year, before we got word of my wife’s pregnancy. Of course, I couldn’t have flown up there less than four weeks after his birth to participate in what may very well have been more evidence that I have moved through this life as a ghost. Really, I don’t need to attend a high school reunion to understand this.

It’s been some six years since I had this revelation, but occasionally, I have moments of clarity where I really see beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was true: I grew up with what would have been diagnosed as Asperger’s had I lived in a different time and place. People were constantly diagnosing me with the best intentions. “You’re fine, you just need to get out there and get more involved with school activities.”

“You’re a handsome young man. I don’t understand what’s wrong with you.”

“Well, if you think something’s wrong with you, than we can get help for you!” said by a father with a tone of voice that sounded more like he was ready to condescendingly indulge a four-year-old with an ice cream cone.

I did, finally, start trying very hard to be sociable. I got very active on social media. I said yes to every happy hour invite. I followed any and every trite piece of advice I snatched up online.

In order to make friends you have to be a friend.
Just be yourself.
You can’t change if you keep doing the same things.
Stop whining and complaining.
Fake it until you make it.
Stop looking at what’s in it for you.

And so on. You see these kinds of things now as pithy quotes on Facebook and Linkedin, with lots of people who seem to mostly be less educated or salespeople endorsing them without question.

And, of course, there was the occasional trip to the therapist. She and people who had once called themselves my friends would say that I was possibly trying too hard or not trying hard enough. I could never figure out which one it was, but I certainly grew uncomfortable showing up at event after event and watching the person get that bored look on their face and take a pretend text, or animatedly look up at just about anyone else in the room and run over and start talking to that person instead.

My attempt to have a career follows a similar arc. I start out at an organization as their website manager, email marketing manager, marketing automation specialist, etc. with the hope of showing them how smart and capable I am of doing so much more, and inevitably, I become pidgeonholed as being only capable of doing that one particular button pushing task.

I have to draw the conclusions I can inevitably draw from all of this. Am I whining? Maybe. I am trying to see myself for who I really am, not as someone I’d hoped to become.

The career attempts can all fade away into a fog, as can high school, college, and most of my twenties and thirties. Except, I want to learn whatever I needed to learn from those years so that I am not waking up ten years from now writing from the same place.

I think one thing that is important to consider is that I was at least partly raised with some of the ideals of parenting that would go on to pervade Gen Y. I do believe that my parents saw my issues as being potentially growth crippling, but they wanted desperately to think that their son was more of a gifted genius than most babies. And so, when I came home frustrated that I wasn’t making the connections I’d hoped to make with my peers, they tended to provide that kind of old-fashioned, homespun advice instead of taking me to see a shrink. That part was definitely from some era even before Gen X, but the part about thinking their baby boy was a gifted genius, special, and in need of trophies for his minimal efforts–that part was definitely for a generation to come.

I wrote a poem. They shellacked it and called up grandma to ask me to read it to her, and grandma bought me a journal book to fill with my poetry. I painted a picture. They bought me a hundred dollars’ worth of art supplies for Christmas.

There were other things I did that they didn’t pay attention to. My dad had gone back to school at 40 to become a computer programmer, and we always had the latest Microsoft OS computer in the house–starting with a pre-MS TRS-80. I wrote out 80% of an office suite in Basic–not anything original, just code that came in a magazine we subscribed to. Still, the concept of a nine year old writing hundreds and hundreds of lines of code so he could have a word processor, spreadsheet, database and email tool in 1985 was rather remarkable, but went largely unnoticed. On some occasions, when I said that I wanted to be a computer programmer as well, my dad would say, “no, you don’t, they will always be the grunts of the organization, just doing whatever they are told.” I guess his prescient vision about computers becoming so important didn’t go far enough to see the day when programming nerds ruled the world.

I grew frustrated with the program, though, as it was full of bugs from typos I’d created, and I wasn’t even sure if our PCjr had enough memory to handle the program, as it was written for a PC. I took to working on a novel, my first attempt. I wrote page after page about a boy who grew up in a family full of boxers who always wanted to fight each other, and he got sick of them and ran away. I made up adventures in towns that I found on our map of the USA in the hallway.

If you read my diary of me when I was 11, you can see that I was easily distracted, jumping from interest to interest. I joined 4H and did rocketry, woodworking and basket weaving. I played Little League baseball and sat on the bench mostly until the final innings when the team was either clearly going to win or lose. I occasionally got my Dalmatian out and played with him. I took a cartooning class for kids at the local community college. I moped about the yard pretending that I could travel back in time to the trip to Florida we’d taken two years before that was, in my estimation, the best vacation ever. I was glad when my older brother got called to start boot camp early, so I could have the room to myself. By then, we were both very sick of each other.

There is a video footage of me from about that time, when a retired band director went through the K-12 school system taking video of us kids in our classes so that he could sell it to the parents. I am singing in music class, and I have chosen to isolate myself from the rest of the class. My hair is a complete mess, as it would be two years before I had an inkling of what it meant to comb one’s hair. I am still wearing my first pair of glasses, and they are badly damaged because I always managed to play rough while wearing them, and get them dinged up. But, why have I chosen to sit so far apart from everyone else? Is it because the music teacher had seated me next to some girls I didn’t like, and I didn’t want to be seen sitting next to them? At any rate, I look like a special needs kid, rather than a nerdy, bright kid.

I always had a place in my heart for the special needs kids. I identified with them. They seemed to be a lot like me, but were simply different by degree–enough of a degree that they went to special ed classes, and I didn’t. I usually got placed with them on teams in gym class, because I think most kids saw our athletic abilities as more or less the same. I remember one girl who only briefly attended our school teasing me on the bus in sixth grade (before the really terrible bullying started from others), and she was convinced that I was retarded. I did little to convince her otherwise. And, this was prior to puberty and its own special hell.

To this day, I am not sure any of us are all that different than special needs kids underneath. I think that with different parents, or slight changes in their genetics, any powerful person or celebrity could have ended up wearing a paper hat at their job. The ability to change one’s self is also quite deceptive.

Any person who has drank the koolaid of a motivational speaker or prosperity gospel preacher will try to tell me that I am simply not trying hard enough. That I need to get more disciplined with my actions and my will to change myself. I should be setting goals for myself, and sticking to getting up early every morning to run and write and read inspirational quotes. I am simply not trying hard enough. It’s a comforting philosophy to have, because you can ride great waves of euphoria and optimism before crashing, and you never have to squarely and soberly face evidence to the contrary.

I don’t completely knock it, actually. I believe that we all inject some amount of a mythology into our lives to keep us going. We ride waves of belief in something to avoid the despair that would inevitably come when we think about how much we’ve lost in life. If I sat around and only focused on the bad choices I’ve made, and the time I’ve wasted doing frivolous things, while also meditating on my premature gray, thinning hair, I would probably never get out of bed.

But, I think that there must be times in which you completely strip away all of the optimistic mythology (but also the unnecessarily harsh self doubt), and try to look more objectively at why you aren’t getting anywhere.

At this moment, I would simply argue that the reason I am not getting anywhere is that I have chosen to never do one thing at the expense of all others. If you look at my personal library, you will find books on so many different subjects that you will quickly see that I can’t possibly be capable of reading all of these books and knowing deeply all of these subjects.

If I decide that I do want to devote my career to becoming a true computer nerd for the next twenty-five years, then my writing will have to become much more tightly focused and journalistic–I will have to simply write as a tool to keep me on task every day while learning a programming language or two. If I decide that I want to devote my career to becoming a writer of some sort, then I will have to stop pretending that I can be a technical person, startup entrepreneur, or even a manager of a sales and marketing team. I will have to write a lot more letters to many more people in search of an opportunity to make money writing for them.

What does my heart say?

Have I ever really listened to my heart–I mean, sat down, and with great focus thought deeply about what would make my heart happy?

So many of my recent job changes have been due to my ego flaring up. The ego gets offended that people can’t see me for being something more than just a menial button pusher, and I quit. This is cerebral. It’s not even a good kind of cerebral, but a self delusion I’ve chosen to perpetuate–a myth of self that I’ve created to keep me believing I will one day be somebody great.

I don’t think this is a bad thing, but I don’t think I have a good resonance between my heart and this part of me. My heart is full of love for humanity and a desire to help others, and my head is full of a vision of me being somebody important in a big city. The two are almost at complete odds with each other.

***

There were a number of years that went by where I asked the question: what kind of man would I have become if I hadn’t been such a people pleaser out of touch with himself?

But, this was the wrong question.

The right question is: what kind of man do I want to be?

The possibilities are always wide open. Socially, we allow ourselves to be narrowly defined and tagged as being a this or that. I think the concept of free will has greatly diminished since the time of the Enlightenment, as first Newton, then Darwin, gave us pictures of ourselves in which we are more the product of physical and chemical forces than the product of our own creativity and choices.

Quite frankly, for myself, I want to embrace a philosophy of radical personal responsibility. I don’t know that it is something for everyone, because I can’t begin to know everyone else’s life situation. However, I would argue that I still tend as a kneejerk reaction toward looking for someone else to blame for my life situation. Stating “I will have more personal responsibility for my actions” is a nice thing to say, but a hard thing to practice. It is so easy to look for other people to be the scapegoat in my unhappy situations.

I want a brutally honest vision of myself. I welcome criticism of me. I want the young hipster guy in the workplace to hate my guts because he has made a snap judgment concerning my gray hair and has decided that I am a basic corporate schmuck with no new ideas. I want to think long and hard about whether or not I really am a Mac, PC or Linux guy. I am not so sure any of them are worth taking on as a shorthand way of describing who I am. I want shit that accomplishes the job it promised to do.

I am not a OWS man or a Tea Party man. I am enough of a student of history to know that our system, as terrible as it might seem at times, is a lot better than one where everyone is getting beheaded or shipped off to a gulag because they don’t agree with the megalomaniac made king. Companies, governments, political parties, etc. — all are systems that began with the purpose of solving a problem and have more or less become complex organisms that exist to exist. I think most of the bigger ones are probably like giant tumors. The recent show I watched where they removed a large tumor from a man clearly indicated that any wrong cut would be disastrous to the organism feeding the tumor. Most people want to make disastrous cuts instead of precise, surgical ones, because those kinds of cuts get good sound bites.

Killing big government or killing big oil — either activity will require a surgeon and not a mob with some loudmouth fool (or worse, a bomb-happy fool) representing them.

I am of the firm opinion that I have way too much about me that still needs to be changed before I go and try to change other people.

I am not a pessimist or an optimist about the future. Why should I waste my time being either one, when they are both laughably one-dimensional, and neither is sustainable?

***

Well, it’s been a week and a half since my son was born

Well, it’s been a week and a half since my son was born, and I haven’t written anything, anywhere. Such as it has always been–the more excitement in life, the less I write. The amount of stimulation going into my senses is just too much for my reflective nature to process. Naturally, this has been to my detriment, since there have been many exciting periods in my life that would have made for interesting stories. My writing, when it does start to come back, appears to be very dry and at times, mechanical. You would think I had few emotions at all about life experiences.

In 2006, my dog Anastasia died, I found a puppy who would become little Buffy and be the closest canine companion I ever had. My mom got word of her final onslaught of cancer, and battled it through the rest of the year. I continued to be in my on and off again relationship with Lucy. I worked on the U.S. Senate campaign almost full time as a volunteer for three months. I had the bicycle accident. I lost my status as a salesperson at Ahmis, because I wasn’t paying enough attention to my work there. I almost killed myself taking too many pain pills and muscle relaxers on election night. I flew to Baltimore and ran a booth at a major tradeshow all by myself. I flew to Boston and was on a panel at a conference. Shortly after that was when I lost my salesperson status, and was reduced to being content schmuck–they were just trying to squeeze me out of the company without firing me.

So much happened, and it was just too much. The political campaign itself was just non-stop madness of calling people every day to ask them to volunteer their time and money, and having them push back and ask me for yard signs which the candidate was initially too cheap to spring for. I put up with so much shit from people that year, that you would have thought that I would have become battle hardened to take on anything. But, the bicycle accident and losing my sales job wrecked my self confidence. I went into a tailspin, and took a piddling little web marketing job for a medium-sized non-profit, and let people push me around and was a total schmuck for three years. My mom dying of cancer in 07 certainly didn’t boost my spirit to take on the world. And, it started feeling like one failure after another. Every attempt to make a friend, lover or get ahead at work just seemed doomed.

I can’t explain it. I do myself a great disservice by shutting down completely on the inside, and leaving a portion of myself running to face the world on autopilot. This enables me to hold down a full-time job, but doesn’t allow me to realize my true potential.

Now that I’m 38 and married with a newborn son, there are a lot of things that used to matter that don’t matter anymore. I don’t need people to affirm that I am handsome or at least not old and ugly, so I don’t dye my hair and put Rogaine in it. I often don’t bother to wear contacts, and I haven’t been exercising nearly as much as I should. In some ways though, it feels like I’m on the cusp of seeing some of these things in life matter so much more than they ever did when I was single and in my 20s and early 30s and relying too much on the opinions of others.

It’s more of a sense of needing to persist. To keep pushing outward. To work daily and nightly at knocking back the demons of self defeat any which way I can. If it means I have to take some pills for periods of time, then I don’t care. I’d rather shorten the life span of my liver and kidneys for the sake of not being a monster around the house, than pretend that I am utterly capable of changing myself without a little help.

So, what then, of becoming a father? Should I discuss the gory details of being present throughout the entire process of my wife’s labor? I don’t think so. I think what really struck me over the head hard was not the messiness and violence of birth, but the moment the gray, goopy little thing pulled from my wife took his first breath and made a little yelp. That was a moment where I realized I didn’t know much of anything at all about life, if I ever did, and that all of the smug people who think they know everything about life and death don’t know a damn thing at all. I needed to stop letting my ears get turned this way and that by people claiming to have all of the answers, because nobody does. I needed to stop worrying about when I was going to die, because I had no control over that.

I needed to focus on being there as much as I possibly could to make sure that my son will reach the age of eighteen with a head more decently screwed upon his shoulders than mine was at that age. I think the day that he goes off to college, and it’s crystal clear that he knows what he’s doing and where he’s going in life is the day I can rest and do whatever again.

Maybe we’ll have one more, I don’t know. My wife probably doesn’t want to think about having one more right now.

So, it will be twenty years or so from now before I can think about drifting off into dream landscapes and escaping into reverie over a fantasy of living in a loft that overlooks Central Park. It will be twenty years or so from now before I can declare that I at least did the noble thing of taking a little one or two and making them into decent grownup human beings.

My son wasn’t anything like I’d imagined him to be when he first arrived. He seemed more crabby and pissed off about being here in this world than I thought he would. A little piece of me, not much of one mind you, but a little one, had even imagined that my son might be my little brother reincarnated. It’s clear to me that my son is no such thing. He’s his own person, through and through, and will grow to have his own ideas about what he likes and doesn’t like. And, all of the reading to him of the Greek and Roman classics won’t do much good if he decides he’s a sporting fellow and just wants to play some college ball before getting a business degree and becoming a financial services advisor.

Or, maybe I’m reading into his newborn self too much, and I’m not even seeing a personality yet. It could be, that in a few years, I’ll start to see a little repeat of my own self emerge, and I’ll have to contend with a young fellow whose unappealing character traits match the ones I had at that age.

I just really want my son to fit in with his peers better than I did. I don’t want him to be such a loner, and forego all of the social events and clubs in middle school and high school like I did. My life has been such a lonely, desperate life of yearning for the day when I will turn a corner and make some friends that I don’t scare off for being too weird or saying too many inappropriate things, or for missing too many social cues that everyone expects me to get, but I simply can’t seem to read.

I’d rather have my son turn out gay, and find a welcoming community of LGBT people in a larger city, than turn out the way I did: always alone after realizing I’d only made drinking partners who loved to laugh at me when I became silly, not friends I could really count on. I’d rather have him be a total band or computer nerd, than be the morose loner who goes out behind the school maintenance shed to sneak a cigarette and pretend that he’s better than everyone else. I’d rather have him be a sporting fellow, bereft of any sort of personality that resonates with mine–at least he’d be popular and have friends.

My goal is to explain to him as much as I can about the world of humans, and try to help him navigate those rocky shores between becoming a mindless herd animal and becoming an outcast.

Of course, I hope to God that he’ll be my friend through most of his life. I want to share books, bugs, rocks, art, stars, math, foreign languages, etc. with him. Heck, I want to take him fishing and play catch with him, and help him practice trying to score a goal on me or dribble a ball past me to shoot a basket. Honestly, I’d rather never have to work another day in my life if it means that we live a little on the poor side, but my son remains my friend.

Am I selfish about this? Of course I am. But, I don’t think I’m self-centered in quite the same way my dad was/is. After about the age of four or five (where for a couple of years he’d watched over me during the day while my mom went back to work, and he worked nights), he seemed to retreat into a shell of sitting in his chair, reading and smoking cigarettes. It was pulling teeth to get him to play catch or go fishing, or even just go to the lake and hike. He started to take an active interest in me and my world again when I turned thirteen, but by then, I was already lost to teenage rebellion, and a keen sense of believing that my dad had nothing cool or new to teach me. Leading up to my mom’s death and shortly after, he got really close to me again and confessed a lot, but then a month or so after she died he put a personals ad up online and decided to invest his time in chasing old ladies. Of course, he made himself available for the most part when I called or visited him, but he seemed emotionally distant again, and would quickly change the subject of conversation to be whatever his latest topic of interest was–usually it was whatever his latest lady friend was interested in.

I know that I’m pretty selfish in that I am creating a continued thread of “how is this about me.” I don’t think in this life that I’ll eradicate my ego nearly as much as I’d hoped I would. But, I do also feel that I will be capable of losing myself to focusing on my son’s needs and interests, and putting aside whatever hobbies I’d been trying to pick up for the sake of making sure I’m there for his school and extracurricular activities, as well as making sure that I’m doing whatever it takes to keep the household income required to see my son succeed.

There is a part of me that is delighted at having someone who I can totally sacrifice myself for, while knowing that he might not express his appreciation in my lifetime, that he will hopefully pass it on to his kid. But, even if he doesn’t ever have a kid, I can still delight in this kind of self sacrifice for somebody else in a way that I never quite could while I was volunteering and helping kids as a mentor and tutor. Those were always somebody else’s kids, and there was always acceptable limits to what I could do for them.

On being a new dad

Well, it’s been a week and a half since my son was born, and I haven’t written anything, anywhere. Such as it has always been–the more excitement in life, the less I write. The amount of stimulation going into my senses is just too much for my reflective nature to process. Naturally, this has been to my detriment, since there have been many exciting periods in my life that would have made for interesting stories. My writing, when it does start to come back, appears to be very dry and at times, mechanical. You would think I had few emotions at all about life experiences.

In 2006, my dog Anastasia died, I found a puppy who would become little Buffy and be the closest canine companion I ever had. My mom got word of her final onslaught of cancer, and battled it through the rest of the year. I continued to be in my on and off again relationship with Lucy. I worked on the U.S. Senate campaign almost full time as a volunteer for three months. I had the bicycle accident. I lost my status as a salesperson at Ahmis, because I wasn’t paying enough attention to my work there. I almost killed myself taking too many pain pills and muscle relaxers on election night. I flew to Baltimore and ran a booth at a major tradeshow all by myself. I flew to Boston and was on a panel at a conference. Shortly after that was when I lost my salesperson status, and was reduced to being content schmuck–they were just trying to squeeze me out of the company without firing me.

So much happened, and it was just too much. The political campaign itself was just non-stop madness of calling people every day to ask them to volunteer their time and donate money, and having them push back and ask me for yard signs which the candidate was initially too cheap to spring for. I put up with so much shit from people that year, that you would have thought that I would have become too battle hardened to take on anything. But, the bicycle accident and losing my sales job wrecked my self confidence. I went into a tailspin, and took a piddling little web marketing job for a medium-sized non-profit, and let people push me around and was a total schmuck for three years. My mom dying of cancer in 07 certainly didn’t boost my spirit to take on the world. And, it started feeling like one failure after another was going to be my life narrative. Every attempt to make a friend, lover or get ahead at work just seemed doomed.

I can’t explain it. I do myself a great disservice by shutting down completely on the inside, and leaving a portion of myself running to face the world on autopilot. This enables me to hold down a full-time job, but doesn’t allow me to realize my true potential.

Now that I’m 38 and married with a newborn son, there are a lot of things that used to matter that don’t matter anymore. I don’t need people to affirm that I am handsome or at least not old and ugly, so I don’t dye my hair and put Rogaine in it. I often don’t bother to wear contacts, and I haven’t been exercising nearly as much as I should. In some ways though, it feels like I’m on the cusp of seeing some of these things in life matter so much more than they ever did when I was single and in my 20s and early 30s and relying too much on the opinions of others.

It’s more of a sense of needing to persist. To keep pushing outward. To work daily and nightly at knocking back the demons of self defeat any which way I can. If it means I have to take some pills for periods of time, then I don’t care. I’d rather shorten the life span of my liver and kidneys for the sake of not being a monster around the house, than pretend that I am utterly capable of changing myself without a little help.

So, what then, of becoming a father? Should I discuss the gory details of being present throughout the entire process of my wife’s labor? I don’t think so. I think what really struck me over the head hard was not the messiness and violence of birth, but the moment the gray, goopy little thing pulled from my wife took his first breath and made a little yelp. That was a moment where I realized I didn’t know much of anything at all about life, if I ever did, and that all of the smug people who think they know everything about life and death don’t know a damn thing at all. I needed to stop letting my ears get turned this way and that by people claiming to have all of the answers, because nobody does. I needed to stop worrying about when I was going to die, because I had no control over that.

I needed to focus on being there as much as I possibly could to make sure that my son will reach the age of eighteen with a head more decently screwed upon his shoulders than mine was at that age. I think the day that he goes off to college, and it’s crystal clear that he knows what he’s doing and where he’s going in life is the day I can rest and do whatever again.

Maybe we’ll have one more, I don’t know. My wife probably doesn’t want to think about having one more right now.

So, it will be twenty years or so from now before I can think about drifting off into dream landscapes and escaping into reverie over a fantasy of living in a loft that overlooks Central Park. It will be twenty years or so from now before I can declare that I at least did the noble thing of taking a little one or two and making them into decent grownup human beings.

My son wasn’t anything like I’d imagined him to be when he first arrived. He seemed more crabby and pissed off about being here in this world than I thought he would. A little piece of me, not much of one mind you, but a little one, had even imagined that my son might be my little brother reincarnated. It’s clear to me that my son is no such thing. He’s his own person, through and through, and will grow to have his own ideas about what he likes and doesn’t like. And, all of the reading to him of the Greek and Roman classics won’t do much good if he decides he’s a sporting fellow and just wants to play some college ball before getting a business degree and becoming a financial services advisor.

Or, maybe I’m reading into his newborn self too much, and I’m not even seeing a personality yet. It could be, that in a few years, I’ll start to see a little repeat of my own self emerge, and I’ll have to contend with a young fellow whose unappealing character traits match the ones I had at that age.

I just really want my son to fit in with his peers better than I did. I don’t want him to be such a loner, and forego all of the social events and clubs in middle school and high school like I did. My life has been such a lonely, desperate life of yearning for the day when I will turn a corner and make some friends that I don’t scare off for being too weird or saying too many inappropriate things, or for missing too many social cues that everyone expects me to get, but I simply can’t seem to read.

I’d rather have my son turn out gay, and find a welcoming community of LGBT people in a larger city, than turn out the way I did: always alone after realizing I’d only made drinking partners who loved to laugh at me when I became silly, not friends I could really count on. I’d rather have him be a total band or computer nerd, than be the morose loner who goes out behind the school maintenance shed to sneak a cigarette and pretend that he’s better than everyone else. I’d rather have him be a sporting fellow, bereft of any sort of personality that resonates with mine–at least he’d be popular and have friends.

My goal is to explain to him as much as I can about the world of humans, and try to help him navigate those rocky shores between becoming a mindless herd animal and becoming an outcast.

Of course, I hope to God that he’ll be my friend through most of his life. I want to share books, bugs, rocks, art, stars, math, foreign languages, etc. with him. Heck, I want to take him fishing and play catch with him, and help him practice trying to score a goal on me or dribble a ball past me to shoot a basket. Honestly, I’d rather never have to work another day in my life if it means that we live a little on the poor side, but my son remains my friend.

Am I selfish about this? Of course I am. But, I don’t think I’m self-centered in quite the same way my dad was/is. After about the age of four or five (where for a couple of years he’d watched over me during the day while my mom went back to work, and he worked nights), he seemed to retreat into a shell of sitting in his chair, reading and smoking cigarettes. It was pulling teeth to get him to play catch or go fishing, or even just go to the lake and hike. He started to take an active interest in me and my world again when I turned thirteen, but by then, I was already lost to teenage rebellion, and a keen sense of believing that my dad had nothing cool or new to teach me. Leading up to my mom’s death and shortly after, he got really close to me again and confessed a lot, but then a month or so after she died he put a personals ad up online and decided to invest his time in chasing old ladies. Of course, he made himself available for the most part when I called or visited him, but he seemed emotionally distant again, and would quickly change the subject of conversation to be whatever his latest topic of interest was–usually it was whatever his latest lady friend was interested in.

I know that I’m pretty selfish in that I am creating a continued thread of “how is this about me.” I don’t think in this life that I’ll eradicate my ego nearly as much as I’d hoped I would. But, I do also feel that I will be capable of losing myself to focusing on my son’s needs and interests, and putting aside whatever hobbies I’d been trying to pick up for the sake of making sure I’m there for his school and extracurricular activities, as well as making sure that I’m doing whatever it takes to keep the household income required to see my son succeed.

There is a part of me that is delighted at having someone who I can totally sacrifice myself for, while knowing that he might not express his appreciation in my lifetime, that he will hopefully pass it on to his kid. But, even if he doesn’t ever have a kid, I can still delight in this kind of self sacrifice for somebody else in a way that I never quite could while I was volunteering and helping kids as a mentor and tutor. Those were always somebody else’s kids, and there was always acceptable limits to what I could do for them.