Quirks

Hello, it’s me. It has been a while since we have spoken, and it will probably be a long time until we speak again; don’t fret over it – it’s me, not you. Although I want to talk (boy, can I ever talk if I get going) I find it incredibly difficult to maintain relationships. It is an indescribable feeling to be an extrovert locked up inside a mind taken over by anxiety, and a little bit of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, to boot. I have the tools to be successful in life but have absolutely no idea how to use them because the instructional manual was lost a long time ago, and the replacement is written in a different language.

I started this blog hoping it would be therapeutic for me; it would hopefully give me an outlet to write what was on my mind at the time, a way to flesh out the problems. I was hoping that it would help me process things. In reality, I am too scared to post anything most of the time. It’s too painful to think of accidentally offending someone, or worse, being criticized or rejected. Maybe this will surprise some of you reading this who know me well because I can have an acid tongue from time to time or an acid pen, depending on how you look at it.

I don’t make a good first impression; in fact, it can sometimes take me weeks, months, or years until I warm up to you. Why so long? Because I probably don’t think you like me very much, plain and simple. I am always shocked when I realize that someone actually values me as a friend, co-worker, etc – my mind is so busy informing me that everyone thinks I am an asshole that sometimes I will read the slightest facial expression or casual remark from you as an affirmation of that. It is exhausting to know me personally, ask anyone that is close to me.

So, in the interest of clarity, I thought I would list a few of my “quirks,” some things about me that I don’t necessarily share with people but might help those who have a hard time figuring me out. Secondly, maybe writing them out will help me overcome them. Maybe not. It’s worth a shot. In no particular order…

  1. I don’t like odd numbers unless they end in 5. You will usually find my car stereo tuned to a volume setting that is an even number. If it’s too soft at “16,” I will move it to “18.” It makes me physically uncomfortable to know that it could be set at an odd number unless that number ends in 5. Why 5? I don’t’ know.
  2. If you are making plans with me, I need to know every detail. Where are we going? What time? Who will be there? Is it busy? What is the parking like? How should I dress? I don’t always ask these questions but they are always burning in my mind. I don’t like the unknown – spontaneity isn’t my strong point.
  3. And if you do invite me somewhere where the majority of the people are unknown to me, I most likely will not show up. Meeting new people is terrifying to me. I am uncomfortable even when I am with a group of friends.
  4. Wearing a hat for me is akin to Linus’s security blanket, without the thumb-sucking. If I have a hat on, I am usually feeling more anxious than normal. Probably because I feel it helps me to blend in better because dudes wear hats? I don’t know, I don’t make the rules.

Well, I think that is as far as I am willing to go today. I don’t want to scare everyone away right from the start. The most difficult part of living with these eccentricities is that I actually realize they are eccentricities but am powerless to change them. My head is a constant buzz, there is always noise up there, always a devil on my shoulder. It gets tiring and lonely.

 

 

April the 14th

April 14th is my mother’s birthday. Today, she would have celebrated her 62nd year on this earth. I would have called her by now and probably would have made plans to drive up to visit this weekend. For the past eight birthdays that have come and gone since her passing, today was usually a hard day. Today is the ninth birthday I have commemorated without her, but I am no longer filled with sadness or anger. For the last few years of her life, she suffered greatly: she was in pain, both physically and emotionally, the only time I ever saw her truly happy were those brief moments she was able to meet her (step) grandson. Christine and I occasionally talk about how those moments were what kept her alive, and once she saw me truly happy, she no longer fought. The one thing she wanted more than anything on this earth was grandchildren, it did not matter if they were blood or not. Well, she got one, and she loved the hell out of him for the few moments she was able to be around him.

I carry cartloads of anger around with me every day, and it can get to be burdensome. When my mother passed away, it changed me. Literally. I have become more serious now than I ever was before, and pessimistic to boot. I no longer tend to look for the good in people but instead, I prepare to be disappointed. In a way, that has helped me. Afterall, stoic philosophy teaches this aspect of life. Prepare to be disappointed, and when you are not, what a wonderful surprise! It is not to be confused with pessimism, although it is very easy to do so; I admit there is a fine line.

There is one other thing that stoicism has taught me, and it is the most important gift of all. Nothing and no one ever belong to you. Everything and everyone truly belong to the earth. We are here for a brief moment and then we are not. It is as simple as that. Therefore, we never “lose” anything or anyone, they are simply returned (yes, this even applies to possessions, but that’s another story for another day.) Why grieve over the death of my mother when her time on earth was not pleasant for her? Why grieve over the death of my father when his time on earth was not pleasant for him? Even if they had each led amazing, pain-free lives, I think I would rather celebrate the time I was able to spend with them then mourn over the time that was taken away from me. Time does not belong to anyone.

Water will eventually find its way around the stone.

Mental Blockage

I am not really sure how to get back into the swing of things as far as writing goes. My output over the past year has been horrendous, and I don’t really see that changing anytime soon. It is not as if I don’t have quite a bit to share because I do; the words get trapped inside and only a few of them ever see the light of day. I suppose I could write about my father’s death but I don’t think I am ready to delve that deep. There’s also the death of not one, but two grandmothers to talk about. I will save all of that for another day.

This post will be short but that is OK. I needed to write something down if only to prove to myself that I could. Perhaps more is coming. Perhaps it is not.

Beware of Darkness

My father is dying.

There, I finally wrote it down. My father currently lies in a hospice bed 90 minutes away from me, rapidly deteriorating from advanced cancer. After being sent home from the hospital numerous times with the doctors throwing their hands up in the air and claiming ignorance as to why he was sick, they finally diagnosed him with cancer, and then said “sorry, it’s too late to do anything now. If only we had known…” There are so many things that can be written regarding the piss-poor care my father received through the Veterans Administration, but that is for another day. What’s done is done.

What I will write about is how my father, who is schizophrenic along with other issues, always did what he could for me, never turning his back on me when I needed help. Was he the best father? No. But was I the best son? Absolutely not; however, when my mother and stepfather kicked me out of their house for a crime I did not commit (long story) at the age of 17, he unequivocally took me in without restrictions. I learned some independence from my father, along with some valuable lessons.

When I came home from school one day shortly after I moved in with him to find a box on the porch filled with the rest of my things, all smashed up and ruined, my father taught me to not let anger consume me and to remember that one should never be surprised by a person’s actions towards them. When my computer was returned to me with the cord slashed and the monitor smashed, he just let me use his anytime I wanted to with no complaints, and that was back when my life was consumed by Earl Weaver baseball and AOL chatrooms, so I wanted that computer incessantly. Of course, I still struggle with these issues even today but he was really the first person in my life who truly led by example, wordlessly. Was he upset that I was treated that way by my mother? Yes, but he never spoke a word against her in my presence, not even then. I gleaned a lot from that man through his actions more so than his words.

I learned that music is to be listened to by your whole being. You sit your ass down and you take it all in and you really think about what it is saying to you. He taught me how to let the music take you to a different world. All those days and nights of watching him sit in his chair and listen to his records either out loud or with headphones on and seeing his far-off look told me all I needed to know. Perhaps this does not make sense to anyone but me, but that does not matter, really.

This is the first time I have really put my thoughts of this man into words, either spoken or written. I should have spoken these things to him sooner when he was more lucid, but how was I to know that our time would be cut short? Now I have learned another lesson.

 

 

No more ghosts for now

Yes, it’s been a long time between updates. No, this is not a continuation of my story. Truthfully, I am not sure you’re ever going to see another update on that idea. I consider it a failed experiment; it’s not really how I write, and it seems disingenuous of me to continue writing in a style that isn’t really mine. My apologies to the handful of you that were invested in what I was writing, hopefully, you will stick around for whatever comes next!

To say 2015 has been a frustrating year would be an understatement, but in actuality the past few years have all been this way so perhaps it’s the new norm. The challenge is to adapt and not let your obstacles permanently detain you, and I am not willing to just roll over and die.

So for now, the postings might be few and far between while I work on repairing my health and continuing my schooling. Thank you to those of you who have been supportive of me, I am sincerely grateful.

The porch

When we moved to our new house in August, I became quickly enamored with our front porch. There is a tremendous delight in being able to sit outside in the cooling last nights of summer, listening to the cacophony of competing cicadas, their calls bouncing from tree to tree back and forth through the neighborhood. I was never afforded that luxury where we lived prior; living in a larger city before this, we did have a side porch, but the view was a dirty alley and some dilapidated garages. My new view was rows of green trees, and cute little houses up and down the main road.

The porch itself is small, but there is enough room for our blue, round plastic table. You can choose to sit on three plastic chairs the colors of green, red, or yellow, all custom painted by my wife, who would not let them remain their original color of white. No, we need color! Atop the table usually sits a rather large citronella candle that never really keeps the mosquitoes away but when the sun goes down gives off a pleasant, yellow-amber glow. Fire can be dangerous, of course, but a candle has always been soothing to me.

To my left is a brick wall that reaches up my waist when standing, but when sitting is the perfect height for giving your beer glass a rest. What better refreshment than a cold glass of beer? Hemingway got something right, at least. To my right, I can see the neighbor’s porch, and I could step right off the porch into the dirt (not much grass) if I so desired; there is no wall, just a small jump down into the soil. Terracotta flower pots are buried up to their rims around the edge of the porch, stopping when reaching the sloping cement walkway that leads either to the sidewalk, or back up to our summer hangout. Depending on the season, there could be mums in those pots; gold, maroon, purple, they add some more color to offset the dullness of the cement foundation.

Of course, there is a porch light if we ever wanted to use it, but we prefer to sit by candlelight, or moonlight, if it’s bright enough. The purpose of a porch is to watch, not be watched. It’s a place to relax, share moments of your day with family and friends, discuss current events, or just sit and listen to the language of the cicadas, under a lush green umbrella of trees. Once fall, and especially winter arrive, the umbrella turns to bony fingers; the trees have been stripped of all their foliage, the cicadas have gone away, and it is much too cold to sit out there. So we sit inside our living room, counting down the days until summer, when we can return to our little front porch.

Damn Hoover

Why aren’t we doing more to help the poor?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services lists a family of three taking home an annual income of $19,790 to be at “the poverty line.” That is not nearly enough to support a family of three. Sadly, whether it be from a lack of education, poor job market, a spouse being incarcerated, many families are scraping by, living from paycheck to paycheck. I don’t think poverty can truly be appreciated until you’ve lived it. If you pay attention to the world around you, you might start to notice that the decks are stacked high against impoverished families to succeed. Government assistance does not make you wealthy, but I’ve read many online comments from regular citizens that state the contrary. According to a NCBI study done in 2006, it showed that poorer neighborhoods had four times as many liquor stores as wealthier neighborhoods, as well as fewer fresh fruits and vegetables stands, bakeries, and natural food stores. You need only take a drive around the poorer sections of your nearest city to notice all the Pawn shops and “Fast-Cash” places. These stores are predatory in nature, and do nothing but prey on the poor. The school districts that need money the most, get it the least, while the wealthier suburbs reap in the tax dollars, affording better materials, better teachers, and better equipment. The system is rigged for most, and poverty becomes generational for some, instead of an unfortunate isolated incident.

Society judges poverty harshly, as if everyone had a choice in the matter. We are fortunate many times by circumstance. We were given the opportunities we had based on the luck of the zip code. This is a systemic failure on our society, and it’s time we stop demonizing the poor.

The Incident

It was one of those spring days that stories are often written about. Bright, warm, and inviting, my friends and I were engaged in a game of wiffleball on the busy city street. It was the year of my third grade. We were all at ages where crossing the road wasn’t an option yet, so we chose to play our modified rules game right there on the sidewalk. Looking back on that day now, I don’t know how we even managed to play at all. The tightly boxed in vehicles didn’t give us much leeway as far as our swings, and I’m sure the neighbors were none too pleased about the possibility of that little, white plastic ball ricocheting off their shiny cars. But, we played on.

As anyone could have predicted, the ball soon rolled into the street. Now, when I say it was a busy city street, I’m not talking about a booming metropolis. My friends and I happened to live in a small city, if it could even be called that, and the street happened to be the main drag in town. It was even called ‘Main Street.’ Nevertheless, it was a fairly busy road. One needed to be careful. Volunteering to fetch the ball, I looked both ways, and not seeing any cars coming I darted out between two parked cars in search of the elusive wiffleball. I don’t remember the sound of tires screeching, but I’m sure it happened.

I was lying on the sidewalk, and I could hear my friend’s mother calling the police, and then I could hear my father being beckoned; I only lived about 6 houses down from where I was struck by the car. Time was fluid, because the next thing I know I’m being lifted into an ambulance on a stretcher. I politely asked the medic not to run over any railroad tracks, because I knew it would hurt. The man smiled at me and promised they would be extra careful. He kept his word.

At the hospital, my mother was by my side. My father must have called her (they were divorced, and their relationship was far from amicable) and I can only imagine the abuse he suffered from her acid tongue. She was talking to me sweetly, trying to divert my attention from what the doctors were doing to my right leg. When they were done, I was allowed to look over. There was what looked like a giant mechanical screw imbedded in my leg, surrounded by brownish residue, and my leg was suspended in what now I believe was traction. I was in awe. How did I not feel it? This was awesome! Of course, that euphoria would be short-lived as the shock wore off and pain moved in to take its place.

The end result was two broken legs, one worse than the other. My right leg wound up growing a bit shorter than the left, which gives me trouble to this day. The woman who hit me was found liable, but I really can’t hold any resentment towards her. I should have known better, and even though I remember looking both ways, I obviously did not. Memory is like Play-Doh; you can shape it any way you want to over time. One thing is clear, however: I will never forget that day.

Cemetery Gates

I enjoy cemeteries. Ironic, really, since I am absolutely terrified of using one as my final resting place. I may hate my life, but I don’t loathe it enough to find out what, if anything, is on the other side.

Unless, of course, god turns out to be pepperoni pizza.
Unless, of course, god turns out to be pepperoni pizza.

I do my best thinking walking among the tombstones and mausoleums. Although, being a fan of Phantasm I tend to avoid getting too close to the latter.

Thank you very much for that, Angus.
Thank you very much for that, Angus.

When I was younger, cemeteries were creepy. After all, every horror movie I ever watched taught me that only bad things come out of graveyards. Zombies, vampires, witches, etc: These are all things that I want no part of in real life, unless…

Yes, why I DO happen to have a moment to talk to you about your Lord and Savior, Lucifer!
Yes, why I DO happen to have a moment to talk to you about your Lord and Savior, Lucifer!

Now that I am older, and perhaps a bit more emotionally intelligent, I realize cemeteries for what they are: memorials of loved ones, and also works of art. If you take the time to walk around the majority of burial grounds, you will find lots of marble sculptures like this one angelweeps, which you’ll find if you are ever in the cemetery which holds quite a few of my relatives. You don’t have to believe in a higher power to be moved by these creations. They are beautiful, and one can only hope that the person they are dedicated to was worthy of it.

Now, instead of traipsing through the graveyards looking for ghosts, I stroll through them looking for clarity. I take time to look at the names, how old they were then they passed, and wonder what kind of person they were. Sometimes, depending on my frame of mind, I can become melancholy and distant, but usually it awakens in me ideas that were dormant. It fuels the creativity. I want to live up to my headstone.

Years lost

Three years ago today, my 19 year old (step) nephew passed away. Jesus, this is as far as I can go. I must force myself to post this because I promised myself I would never delete something once I started, but what good is writing for therapy when you can’t even write.