Do better

I was nose deep in a book yesterday when Mom entered the room and dropped a envelope in front of me.
“Look what I found. Your thank you letter to us for your Graduation Party.”
I looked at the envelope, there was the unmistakable and easily recognized bad handwriting. Jesus, I wrote that in 1992.

I immediately read all 3 pages. It was as if I was opening a time capsule. With the exception of some very genuine and sincere acknowledgements of my parents (of all the negative stuff I talk about one positive about my life is that I have great parents), the rest of it was classic me. Regrets, apologies, some introspection and a lot of remorse about mistakes made, opportunities wasted, time lost, and promises to do better. It could have been written last week.
After reading all of that I concluded that in 30 years I haven’t changed a bit. I’m still a fucked-up mess that is barely comfortable in his own skin. I just have a different set of things to be neurotic about now. I guess some things will never change. Not until I change the way I think.

I’m making progress on that front. I recently published a post about my troubling propensity to be really hard on myself and a couple of readers made comments that really helped me drill down on it. I opened myself to the option of just letting shit go and just do better. One blogger said that I am only trying to put the best version of me out there, that I am just dedicated to self-improvement. I think that is accurate. I may hold myself to a very high standard, but if my goal is just to be the best version of me that I can be, what is so bad about that?
I just need to find a healthy way to do it.

You see, the usual standards for everyone do not apply to me. I am in my late 50’s and I still try to look like I did as a 31 year old gym rat. Biology doesn’t cooperate with such notions but I consistently deny that. The good thing is that it drives me to work out, which is never a bad thing at my age. But I still don’t like what I see in the mirror so that is decidedly unhealthy. Part of me should be asking what exactly a 56 year old man who battled renal disease for most of his lofe, has had a nearly fatal motorcycle accident, cancer, 3 staph infections, sepsis, dialysis and two kidney transplants should even look like. In that light, I should give myself a break. Right? Nope.

I guess what matters, and I wish I knew this when I wrote that letter 30 (wow) years ago, is that the answer is to just do better. To stop the toxic behavior and stop sabotaging myself. To use the windshield more than the rear view because one is big and the other small for a reason. If I don’t learn to think like that I’ll never grow. It amazes me that I know what to do and yet fail to do it. What has changed is my determination to keep the positive at the forefront of my thinking, not have the typical epiphany after beating the shit out of myself for days about some verbal misstep or behavioral gaffe.

So after a long streak of no change and cycles that seem incapable of being broken I think I have the tools now to get my entire being on the same page. It took a 30 year old letter to see this clearly but it really makes sense now.

perception

“It’s all a matter of perception.” Boy, you said it.

I’ll get right to it. I’m struggling a bit with the whole perception thing. But that’s not new, to a degree I have my entire adult life. Here’s the rub, I thought that I had finally come to grips with it and I get a shot across the bow. Not life threatening, not necessarily a game changer, not even a “hurt feelings” moment. I’d like to consider it a chance for growth.
Because that’s what adults do.

Like most great stories, it begins with a girl.

I met this girl. A friend of a dear friend. To be exact, my buddies new wife’s best friend. I had met her at a gathering they were having. She was with a guy then but in what I thought was a fortuitous moment they broke up that night. A couple of weeks after that we became friends of FB and then began chatting and before I knew it we were chatting by text during the day and talking at night until we both turned in. Every night.
I asked her out.
She was hesitant.
But she wanted to get to know me, and I her.
She said yes.
We went out and had a great time. Being out of the game for as long as I have (I hadn’t been on a first date since 1990) I thought I did ok. I think she did also. It was after that was the problem. I pushed and I scared her off a bit. The second date was not in the cards. To be worse, she told me over the phone, that I had officially entered the dreaded, cursed, never to be climbed out of “Friend zone”.
Face palm.
In the course of the conversation she decided to give me some constructive criticism to help me with my “next one”, despite my still wanting her. Not the next one. But I listened . Among the many criticisms, the one that stuck, and stung, was when she said that I was “full of myself.”
Really? WOW. That was the moment that either denial or growth would need to occur. I think I chose the right one, I went for growth. With that came the inevitable question…am I?

I have struggled with my identity for as long as I can remember. It was as if the key to who I am was a carrot on a string and I kept chasing it but it was always just out of reach. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I realized that the fucked-up, neurotic, good at a lot but not great at anything, heart on the sleeve wearing guy that hated his own reflection was as good as it was going to get. So I embraced it.
Later in life, as I took hit after hit, some my fault and some not, I finally grew up a bit. While I was still the same fucked-up, etc., (see above) guy, I embraced it and changed what I could. I really worked on myself. I looked for the lessons in every setback, I tried to find positivity in negative situations, I tried to put others before myself whenever I could. As the lessons of Freemasonry taught me, I just tried to be a better man than I was the day before. I embraced spiritualism, my compromise to rejecting atheism years before, and tried to embrace my smallness in the universe. When I got sick I adopted a persona, that of a fighter and an optimist. In the words of some, not my own, I was inspirational. All while my ultimate goal was just to be a good guy.
A guy that means well, charitable, fairly interesting and occasionally funny with something to offer the right person.
With her, I don’t think I came off that way.
It’s bittersweet actually, it wasn’t a total loss. She also told me that she thought I was incredible (not sure what she meant but I like it). We still talk every night. I’m not entirely sure where I stand with her but I still enjoy it. And I can’t ask for a second date even if I wanted to because the world is on hold. When and if I ask her out again I suppose I’ll know what zone I’m in.
Either way, I’ll be ok. I just have the one lingering problem. It really bothers me when anyone gets me wrong.

You can’t undo it. There are no redo’s in life. As my late Grandfather always said’ “You can’t put the shit back in the horse.”

It’s all a matter of perception.