Food for thought

There is no limit to the stupidity of content on Social Media. From posts asking you if you remember your phone # or address from your childhood (an obvious attempt at identity theft) to the idiotic “everyone’s first job was at McDonalds, prove me wrong”. I don’t understand why anyone would comment on them but hey, that’s just me. One that has caught my attention recently is the “would you want your father (mother, sister, etc.) to be your father if you could do it over again?” On these, I immediately hit the comments. It is incredible how many people say no.

As it turns out, a silly FB post stimulated me a bit. I can’t begin to imagine a scenario in which the foremost influences in my life would be held in such poor regard? This interests me because I am a person that believes that good or bad, your experiences made you who you are and, in addition, it’s a waste of time to think about the past because you can’t change it.

I suppose if I had horrible parents, and was mistreated in some way that resulted in a traumatic childhood that left me a damaged and dysfunctional adult then maybe my thinking would be different. On that, I honestly can’t relate and will reserve judgment. But I still found a takeaway in the comments section, it made me think about my childhood.

After all, it all comes down to the childhood, doesn’t it?

Even if I could, I wouldn’t change a damn thing about mine. No revisionist thinking taking place here. I think I’ll dedicate a few posts to it.

The Horseshoe

I’m a fortunate man. Things seem to fall in my lap sometimes. S0 often in fact, that I began to believe an idiom that I used to scoff at,”Everything happens for a reason.” I was always a shit is random kind of guy. But so many things, series of events, and happenings have occurred for it to be random. Tonight’s tale is the latest.

I clean cars for people in town. It has become an illustrious little enterprise for me and, in three years, has netted some much-needed disposable income and also some great relationships. One such relationship is Ellen, a Nurse who lives in a Condo development in town. I dropped off her car early this summer and she waiting with a check and a cash tip. As I pulled into my driveway I noticed that she had given me two 20’s. I called her and asked if she meant to. She hadn’t, the bills were stuck together. I brought her the money back. She was very impressed with my honesty and told me that in turn, she would spread the word about my services in her development. I thanked her of course, but that wasn’t why I did it.

Last month I got a call from a woman in that development, referred by Ellen. I gladly cleaned her car for her and when I dropped it off she was quite talkative. She had heard through the grapevine the story of Bill’s health journey and she wanted to know if I was ready to go back to work. I told her about my Insurance license and the position I had committed to. She told me that her company was hiring. She is a therapist at a Drug/Alcohol Recovery center. Undeterred by the fact that I told her I was about to be employed, she continued. I was intrigued and told her that if the Ins gig didn’t work out, I would reach out. I drove home excited, working with people in recovery is something I have mentioned many times as a career choice. But I was committed so I put it out of my mind.

Then the Insurance thing didn’t work out. I immediately called her. She gave me a contact to call. I told my mother and she immediately recognized that I had expressed interest in that field before but I had moved on because I didn’t have a Social Work License. As it turns out, the available Case Manager position doesn’t require one. I made the call and it was requested that I fill out an online application. I did it that evening. The next day I got a call and ten minutes later I had an interview for the following day.

The interview went great. I was prepared and dressed to the nines. Interview equals suit to me, my dad would roll over in his grave if I showed up to an interview without it. I made the right call. The interview was great. I wish I had the confidence I have now in what I bring to the table twenty years ago. I explained my reasons for wanting to work with people in recovery. Wanting to help people is paramount of course and that was the central theme. I came across as humble, genuine, caring, and compassionate. It wasn’t an act, I don’t state those qualities, I exemplify them. I knew the role of Case Manager in and out and made sure they knew that. They repeatedly emphasized how hard the job is. I wasn’t phased. They even admitted that they try to talk people out of it to see if they are intimidated. It didn’t work. I like to work hard.
I left excited and I knew that they had seen the real me.
That was Thursday.
I got the call today. I was offered the position.

I did a job. I went the extra mile to the point where someone felt the need to help me. That effort resulted in meeting a person who had access to something that I have always wanted to do. At a time when I most needed it. That is not a coincidence. I have a lucky horseshoe lodged in my ass and I will leave it there.

It is definitely bringing me luck.

On selfishness

self·ish[ˈselfiSH]
ADJECTIVE

  1. (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure:
  2. “I joined them for selfish reasons”

One of my least favorite aspects of human nature is demonization. I don’t know if it is inherently human to seek ways in which to feel superior to others but it is absolutely everywhere you look. Racially, politically and socially we make assumptions and cast aspersions in order to well, let’s call it what it is, to feel better about ourselves. We call each other racist, rich, poor, spoiled, uncultured, and any other labels that seek to classify and denigrate others. One that has been sticking in my figurative craw is selfish.

It never ceases to amaze me how people, and this is a behavior that I suspect is here to stay, are compelled to compare value systems as if theirs and only theirs is the right one. How they have to weigh in on the way others live their lives. My take on this is simple and oft-heard. To each his own. If someone is happy, not bothering anyone, and not harming children and animals then I don’t care what they do or how they live their life. That extends to the extent of time and effort expended in the pursuit of their own interests.

Ayn Rand, the much-maligned Russian novelist known for strong and controversial opinions noted in The Virtue of Selfishness,

“In popular usage, the word ‘selfishness’ is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends . . . and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.
“Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word ‘selfishness’ is concern with one’s own interests.
“This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions.”

The long and short of it is that I think it’s ok to look after yourself. There are many popular euphemisms surrounding it;
You must take care of yourself before you can take care of another…
Put your oxygen mask on first…
Take a breather…
You can’t pour from an empty cup…

All of these allude to the notion that at some point you must come first. I find it to be a valid concept, especially if you are a person who dedicates a considerable amount of personal resources to the assistance of others. Yes, take care of yourself first. But what if you are a person who does the bare minimum, or maybe nothing at all in the service of others? Is it acceptable to villainize them for looking after their own needs only?

There are many people who, not out of contempt for charity or out of deliberate disregard for others, simply dedicate their lives to the pursuit of their own interests.

I believe every person has a purpose in life. Many people feel as I do and they strive for that purpose in building a career, growing or creating a business, and working towards countless goals. There are too many to list. But bottom line, they are comfortable enough worrying about their own lives. I don’t condemn people for this. The reason one person stands out as giving and generous and selfless is because there are plenty of people who are not. It’s just how we are wired as individuals and it is not always something that can be changed. Or villainized.

No person is more villainized along those lines than the person who has the brave audacity to admit in a crowded room that they don’t want children. I feel for these people because they are constantly forced to justify it. They are challenged;
“Don’t you want to carry on the family name…?”
“What about the joy of creating life…?”

The list goes on. It’s especially bad for women. It’s as if it comes down to the fact that because they are able to conceive then they must. How Catholic. It is perfectly valid, especially in 2022, to not want to bring a child into this world.
Parenthood isn’t for everyone. There are a lot of BAD parents out there. There are also a lot of children that are born into despair and poverty with little hope for survival, never mind a future. Raising a child is prohibitively expensive, physically and emotionally draining, and requires complete and total commitment. As I always said, once you have a child your life is no longer about you. It is not something that everyone can even do. Recognizing that and choosing not to make the leap is perfectly ok. It doesn’t make you selfish.

Selfishness can be a bad thing and I’m not defending it. But not everyone who is focused on their own life and goals is necessarily a bad person. In many cases a person is barely able to handle their own life, never mind assisting others. The term is used as yet another harmful and judgmental label. To me, it flies directly in the face of a saying that I believe should be in the Declaration of Independence…

“Live, and let live.”

Situational people watching

I have written about this many times, my proclivity for people-watching. It is a natural extension of my curiosity about humanity. I’ve always done it and it has been brought to my attention more than once and I have come close to being punched over it. Note to self, when a large drunk at a bar says “what are you looking at?”, don’t say “you don’t know either?”. I barely talked myself out of that one. Generally speaking, I don’t mean anything by it I’m just very aware of people. I study them.

It has occurred to me recently that people-watching is situational. Sometimes it is just observing, casually playing the guessing game.
What does that guy do for work?
Is she happy or just pretending?
Is that dad a good dad or not?

Sometimes I dig a little deeper and in a more melancholy manner.
Does that guy playing on his phone while out to dinner with his family know that he is missing out on a memory right now?
Does that clearly harrowed professional-type at the bar know (or care) that he is killing himself for a job that would replace him if he dropped dead tomorrow?
Is that older gent sitting on a park bench at 11 on a Tuesday enjoying the day or missing someone right now?

The great epiphany I recently had was that my inquiries and observations were based on the place I was in at the time mentally. To be more specific, was I in a good mood or bad? Was I healthy or ill? Was I feeling good about my place in life or battling with the ever-present-in-my-life inferiority complex. That revelation opened up a whole new line of thinking for me. I realized that much of it, and this brings me no joy at all, was a comparison/contrast. In other words, how, if at all, do I compare to them? This extends to Social Media as well. Am I the only person to ever see someone’s profile and wish my life was as good as theirs? Sure, there are people who give credence to this…

But there are also people who really do have a great life and their FB is accurate. While I genuinely try to be happy for everyone and I enjoy the aspect of FB that allows you to see what people you know and like are up to, depending on where I am at the time I am capable of comparing notes and subject to the green-eyed monster known as envy.

This was never as bad for me, in real life as well as scrolling Social Media, as when I was sick on dialysis. I was broke, sick, and depressed and everyone’s life looked better than mine. Despite not really believing that my current situation was in any way a result of bad choices but instead illness, I people-watched as a jealous fucking teenager.

When I recovered from my illness, I people-watched from a much better place both publicly and on Social Media. I was outwardly and genuinely happy for people and able to study people in a more objective, superficial, and harmless manner. On social media, I mostly marveled at the apparent failure of the educational system for graduating people with no knowledge of spelling and sentence structure. In public, I was drawn more to the happier people and focused on what their secret to happiness was. Any negative observations were mostly focused on negative and angry people. I also identified with the unhappy. I will always be the champion of the unhappy among us and will always want to understand. Maybe to identify causes that I can understand, definitely to help. Any envious tendencies would focus on the physical; mainly guys in better shape than I because I will always, always, always want to look better. This damn body dysmorphia will never go away.

I could, but won’t go on and on. You get the point (I hope). I am pointing out that people-watching, as in life itself, depends on the perspective from which it is being viewed. It is just another layer to contemplate as I watch my fellow humans on their journey along this giant spinning rock…

From what place does this observation come from, where is it going and what can I learn from it?

Hot summer days

I miss those hot summer days
Basking in the sun’s rays
Always outside, even when skies were grey
The knock on the door…
Can Billy come out to play?
Cops and robbers in the yard
My shins and elbows were always scarred
Streetlamps were my curfew
Go home already? There’s still stuff to do
Wax bottles and candy cigarettes
Eight-tracks and mix-tape cassettes
Hot afternoons in the pool
Mirrorshades, trying to look cool
Sleepovers at summer camp
Motocross bikes, let’s jump that ramp
Swimming and fishing
Shooting stars and wishing
Cool lakes to dive in
The Saturday night drive-in
Talking to my first cutie
Worried about getting cooties
Bad music and One-hit wonders
School dances and social blunders
First day of school, new clothes and sneakers
My first Hi-Fi with the big speakers
The sound of the crack of the bat
My very first Red Sox hat
The first day of tryouts
Please don’t make a flyout
The ground ball heading to first
Missed it. I’m the worst

Those days were the best
I just didn’t know it
Let me go back
This time I won’t blow it
I don’t want to play adult
Tell Zoltar to stop winking
I wanted to be Big
What was I thinking?
I miss my old house
I miss my first dog
I miss not worrying
About every damn thing
I miss feeling good
rugged and strong
I feel like I lost my joy
I used to be a happy boy
My longevity is fleeting
I’ve taken a beating
I’m tired of this, my downward phase
I want to go back to those hot summer days

The awkward reunion

I did a series recently on the trials and tribulations of a new job that I had started at a local restaurant.

The long and short of it was that it didn’t work out. Among all of the disappointments, one stood high above all. I was mad at myself for walking out. I have never in my life left a job without leaving notice and completing it. But this one time, I had an argument with a co-worker that drove me to leave at the end of my shift.

I had trained a kid with a smug expression and an entitled attitude. It wasn’t an assumption, I knew from the moment I met him that he was going to do a bare minimum, help no one but himself and think he’s entitled to more than he deserved. Sounds like a leap to you I’m sure, but I was right on and he took little to no time to prove me right. But I tried to make it work, I may be cynical but I’m fair and I trained him the best I could. He proved to be a decent worker but I knew his snarky attitude was going to cause a problem. On his second week, it happened.

On a busy Saturday he became overwhelmed. I stepped in to help him and he snapped and started yelling at me. He didn’t want help. I knew for the sake of the business that he needed it. It got ugly. I was furious. Normally people who talk to me like that end up spitting out some teeth but I walked away. But I was so disgusted at the fact that my owner did nothing and my coworkers showed me no support that I decided that there was no way I could work there anymore. I was pissed off, and I was embarrassed. The only positive was that I didn’t say or do something that I would regret to the kid. I’m not a violent person but I can be spiteful when wronged and he really pushed my buttons.
I finished my shift, three and a half hours of barely suppressed rage, and I headed for the door. I gave my friend and boss a chance to say something, anything, and he didn’t so I punched out and never went back.

I took a few days to process it. I felt real bad about leaving with no notice and I would address that later. My anger at the kid was still boiling up inside me. I began to imagine scenarios in which I would see him again. What would I do? It’s a small area, I knew there was a good chance that we would meet again.

Last week I went to my local Wal-Mart to pick up some prescriptions. When I approached the counter I saw a familiar face. Yup, my little friend from the restaurant was now a Pharmacy Tech. He saw me and his face was priceless. I grinned as he ducked into the back room. I was told that my scripts were going to be a few so I sat and waited. I watched as he moved about and knew he was clearly avoiding eye contact with me. I averted my stare and asked myself how I wanted to handle this. Several minutes later, I watched as the woman at the counter asked to leave for her break. I laughed to myself as my little friend reluctantly approached the register to replace her. I nearly laughed openly when I was called. Yup, he was going to be the one to serve me. It was too perfect. By then I knew what I was going to do.

I approached the register, gave him my name and DOB and waited for him to gather my order. As he began to ring me up, with almost ZERO eye contact, I stepped to my left to get around the plastic sneeze shield that separated us and I said “Kid, for all it’s worth I have no hard feelings. The past is the past.” The relief visibly washed off of him. He smiled and replied,
“I was hoping that was the case.”
We talked a bit about the restaurant, I congratulated him on getting a better job and I left. I thought about it on the way out. Sure, I could have wanted an apology. I also could have been rude in so many different ways. But I was pleased with the way I handled it. Anger, bitterness and resentment are heavy and cumbersome. I don’t like carrying it around. I chose to forgive it for me, not for him.

I think I did the right thing.

It’s not about you

I hate to admit this because we alpha’s, even the neurotic ones, but I have been fixated on the ex lately. I’ve mentioned it before but not in great detail. I’ve also said that I need things to make sense; in this case, the two are related. In a nutshell, her behavior during our breakup really bothered me, but her behavior post-breakup doesn’t make sense to me. Herein lies my conflict. On top of being heart-broken, I’m confused. And it bothers me.

In the end, she just pushed me away. It’s as if one day she just turned. It was crushing for me, I had a powerful connection with this woman. More powerful than I had felt with anyone including my wife. That was the hardest part. Or so I thought. But when I reached out a couple of months later she was totally unresponsive. She wouldn’t even respond to a text. This infuriated me and in addition I was then confused. She dumped me but we were civil about it. I fixated on it because the long and short of it is that this behavior makes no sense to me. I should be the one hating her. Yes, I know that I don’t like anyone to dislike me. That’s my curse and I will have to deal with it. But I couldn’t think of any reason why she would. Finally, I got her to reply to a text asking her for some personals back. She wanted to coordinate with my daughter, who she had a Facebook friendship with, to get my things to me. I thought this was fucking childish and really put me in a mood. She can’t be an adult and face me? What the hell.

I confided in a friend and he said something that really helped. He told me that she was doing me a favor. I pressed him on this. He said maybe it’s not about me.
He asked if I loved her. I said yes and no. He asked if I would go back with her. I told him absolutely not, not after seeing this side of her. He said it’s not about you, it’s about her. For whatever reason, she doesn’t want to engage with you. It could be that she has regrets and doesn’t know how to handle it and doesn’t want to put herself in a situation she can’t handle. That was the most appealing option to me…not going to lie. Option B, he explained, was that she is just an asshole and I’m better off. Also appealing. It made absolute sense to me when my daughter said almost the exact same thing a day later without my mentioning any of the conversation I had with my friend.

I still have feelings for her. Or maybe I cling to the idea of her and how she made me feel. But the takeaway is that, after her juvenile bullshit she really pissed me off. I’ll take anger over grief any day of the week. I can process anger, I really struggle with loss. I’d be lying if I said I was over her, but I’m getting closer. I know I’m a good guy. Sure, I struggle just like anyone else with the challenges of relationships but I know that I have value and I deserve to be with someone who appreciates me.

I guess that’s as much healing grace that I am going to get here. That and the understanding that it’s not always me.

A much needed reminder

How are you don’t lieInstead of heading straight downstairs to find a seat for dinner I asked my Brother John to save me a seat. I knew many people at the event but I always prefer to sit with close friends at these events and for some reason, one which will reveal itself at the end of this post, I wanted to sit with John. I can’t put my finger on it but for some reason, we really click. He agreed and I went outside to clear my head and put on my “everything is fine” face. I knew that I would be asked how I was doing by many. My health history is well known and it is a blessing and a curse that many inquiries regarding my progress are made. I needed to be ready. You see, it is my opinion that for some the greeting “How are you?” is generic at best. But among my brethren they really mean it. And they know me, I have famously said “fine” to the greeting hundreds of times when I was anything but. A true friend would push and ask for the truth. That night, it was going to be difficult to satisfy those people because despite my robust physical appearance, I was bearing the weight of the world. Someone was going to call me on it.

The walls really were closing in on me. I was beating myself up over leaving my first Insurance Job. Three weeks in I was being pushed too hard and trained too little and despite my Herculean efforts to learn and apply TONS of information from Licenses to Certifications they weren’t happy with my progress and we parted ways. It really isn’t a huge deal career-wise. It wasn’t a good fit and I wasn’t contracted yet. Still, I felt like a failure, as I am prone to do. I was miserable. On top of that, I was disgusted and upset that my recently-broken-up-with ex-girlfriend didn’t have the decency to even text me after I drove over an hour out of my way to give back some belongings. Why would she be so childish and angry with me after she dumped my ass? She broke my heart and n top of reeling from that, now I have to wonder about this? I was consumed and my mind was racing. I shook it off and went inside.

I joined John and a few other good friends for dinner. It really was a tremendous set up. The room was full of well-dressed happy people. The decorations were lovely, the food was amazing and the bar was open. As expected, many inquiries were made about my health. I think I fooled all of them. Then John says to the whole table, hand resting on my shoulder, “Bill has the most amazing attitude. He is the most determined, optimistic and cheerful guy I’ve ever met. He’s been through so much and he keeps dusting himself off. He’s an inspiration to me.” Everyone at the table offered up similar sentiments. I gratefully acknowledged them and thanked them profusely.
Then it hit me.
There was the reason I had felt compelled to sit with John that evening. Because I was destined to hear that. Not for the praise, despite how flattering and humbling it was. No, it was a REMINDER to stop spiraling down the drain of negative thinking and remember that I have survived so much big and important shit in my life that I can’t let a couple of setbacks get me down. Somehow I had lost my mojo but John’s words snapped me right out of it. To Hell with the heartbreak, it’s her loss. To Hell with the job, it wasn’t the right company but I’ve still got the license and I will use it. To Hell with negativity in general, I needed to get back on track.

I know this is hard for some people to believe, but sometimes things really do happen for a reason. I was at an absolute low and by the end of dinner, I was actually in a decent place. I can’t begin to understand how it happened that quickly, but I can’t deny that it happened.

Today, I’m not 100%. I still miss her terribly and I still wish the job had turned out better. But neither of them are getting me down. And for now that is good enough.

Right place, wrong mood

As a Mason, my favorite time of year is Installation season. Every year, and every 2 for some lodges, there is a turnover in Lodge Officers. The officers of a Masonic Lodge are modeled after the ancient Stone Masons guild and have roles ranging from Master to the man that watches the door. The officer line changes as some move in, others move up and in my case, as departing Master of the Lodge I moved out. I’m done and my role is now diminished.

The Installation is a special event for all involved. Families and friends are invited as well as any Masons that want to attend as they witness a ceremony that is not only historic but memorable as well. Especially for the Master. Becoming Master of the Lodge is a special thing. I can only speak for myself when I say that, when I first joined, I didn’t know if I wanted to move to the big chair. But a few years in I committed to it. It can take many years to move through the line and there is a great deal of work involved to prepare. But if you “get it”, as those in the know say, it’s worth it. It is a position of respect to be celebrated. I will always fondly remember mine. As Masons, we are very supportive of each other and an Installation is well attended by well-meaning brothers. I am a well-meaning Brother and I attended many this season. The most recent was Tuesday night.

I visited another lodge in my district to witness my friend Tony be installed as Master. I sat with a great group of Brothers who I consider dear friends. I couldn’t be in better company nor could I be doing anything more enjoyable at that moment in time.
Yet I was in a terrible mood.
Everything was bothering me at that moment and the environment I was in failed to improve my mood or even distract me for a while. I was in a terrible place. The ceremony was wonderful, perfect in every way in the way of fellowship, camaraderie and the love and respect being given to my friend, yet it couldn’t be over fast enough for me. When it ended, I only wanted to have a drink and eat. In that order. I asked my Brother John to save me a seat in the dining hall. I went outside to get a breath of the cool September air. Before I would re-enter the building I would have to put on my “everything is fine face”.

More tomorrow…

A new venture

I’ve been away a while. When I get really involved in something I totally dive into it and I don’t allow time for other things. This includes Blogging. I really got into something and I just now feel that I have time to get back to putting my thoughts to paper (as it were).

The biggest change in my life of late is the confirmation that I am in good health and should be, depending on how diligent and committed I am to maintaining it, for a very long time. While this is to be rejoiced, it presents a new set of challenges. For one, my Disability Benefits are expiring and I have to return to work. I’ve known this for some time but it’s getting closer and closer to the day they cut me off. I look forward to going back to work, I’m not really a big “collecting” kinda guy. I’m excited actually because this time around I may be able to find something I want to do as opposed to a life of tolerating jobs because my family and finances required it. Fuck money, I’m never going to be rich and my overhead is a lot lower now. Satisfaction and the possibility of helping someone is the goal.

So I started interviewing.

Despite hiring a professional Resume service, with the specific request that my skillset acquired through years in the car business was presented in a more universal manner because I believe that the skills are transferable. Many hundreds of dollars and several weeks on job sites later…you guessed it. Car sales were what I was being offered. Double sigh.

Then I got a call from a recruiter who offered me an interview in a business that had always interested me, Insurance. So I interviewed. A good group of people with a lot of good products in a fairly friendly atmosphere. They offered to take me on, as a contractor. Agents are generally not salaried and benefitted employees. Again, at this point in my life, I can do something like that so I asked for the next step. I was told I couldn’t do anything until I got my State Insurance license.

Oh boy, testing. My favorite thing, with the possible exception of shaving my scrotum with a cheese grater. But I decided that an Insurance License would give me a tool for life to earn a living. There are so many possibilities. I was excited. So I signed up for the prep course.

For 3 weeks I lived, ate and breathed Life, Accident and Health Insurance and Annuities. I worked my ass off. All the while the agency checked in with me on my progress. I registered for the test on the following Monday and 2 excruciating hours later I passed with an 84. A 71 was the minimum score allowed. With one click of the mouse I received my license and producer number and I became a licensed Insurance Agent. My life was about to change.