Saturday, October 16, 2010

Complete Control

As with many of us, my biggest struggle in life has always been against myself. When I was a child, I felt that I was always outside the norm. I liked video games, was interested in karate (though I was never allowed to take it, as my parents feared injuries), and liked playing outside. I never had any imaginary friends or kept pet snakes or anything you'd commonly label as "weird kid" stuff. On the flipside, I was never a jock, never popular, always the smartest kid in class (read: big nerd), etc. So I was never verboten, but I was never included. Oddly, or maybe not, that carried over through my teenage years, though I developed a sense of humor I could share with (or exert upon) everyone around me to help defuse situations and fit in more. Even more oddly, that's carried over into my adult life. I still play video games, I finally managed to actually study (and even now teach) karate.

So what's the point of this 30,000 foot view? I've spent some time lately trying to determine why I do what I do. Every behavior we repeat, good or bad, we do because we get some sort of reward. Exercise, breaking our diets, drinking, dating, fucking, Starbucks, procrastinating. We get something out of all those things or else we wouldn't keep repeating them. That being said, I've wondered lately why I still have so many of the same habits, interests, desires, etc. I had as a kid. Am I somehow refusing to grow up? Is it bad/wrong that I'm still such a dork? Setting aside those questions, what is it that I get out of all these dorky little behaviors? The short answer, or at least part of the larger answer, I think, is control.

With games, you're popped into an imaginary world where you get to control a character who is, often, capable of achieving great things on his/her own. Your protagonist doesn't have a mortgage, isn't stuck doubting his self-worth, doesn't have to worry about having money to feed/clothe/warm his kids, and more often than not, doesn't find herself in any situation that can't be resolved with a head shot or running someone through with a sword large enough to have its own zip code.

Karate isn't all that different, at least in this aspect, especially as a sensei and head of school. I control what I teach, as well as having the ability to control what other instructors teach to ensure students get the full curriculum covered. I can determine if/when I want to offer special classes, weekend classes, etc. I know I'm good at it, so I don't worry about my self-esteem while I'm at class, I get to forget, even if only for 3 hours a week, about all the mistakes I make week in and week out in my relationships (talking too much, not listening enough, impatience, the list goes on and definitely does not warrant sainthood).

However, I also wonder if these devices, these behaviors that allow me more control than many things in my life (and let's face it, the list of things we can control is vastly shorter than what we cannot) are being used by me as more of an ostrich escape than anything else. Why do I feel guilty playing games still? Why do I simply not feel like going to class some nights (but always feel better when I get there)? Why do I feel REALLY guilty when I vanish out to the garage to play drums (or tinker, very badly, on the guitar)? Is it because I know these things are not "productive" (vs. studying to be better at my job, thinking up ways to improve Brandi's & the kids' lives more, etc.) and therefore, they are selfish time-wasters?

Hobbies are healthy, provided your hobby doesn't involve making human lampshades, but at what point does a hobby cross the line into selfishness? Of the things we find in our control, at what point do we cross the line between controlling our hobbies/behaviors and letting them control us?

One of my hobbies is handiwork and home projects of whatever form. Today, I thought I could control the project of building a new, elevated bed for our daughter until that little project bit me in the ass with a hitch I did not foresee. My immediate thought when I encountered the issue, which had to with the supporting side rails interfering with the supporting posts, was that I *should* have seen that issue when laying out the plans, but I got so busy getting busy that I missed a little big detail. My mistake cost me a nice night with Brandi and now I'm up at 1am beating myself up over my failure to control something I feel was within my grasp, if I weren't so busy and so blinded by the illusion of control over the process. Were it not for my selfish desire to charge ahead at top speed with the project, the evening would have gone much differently. Ultimately, and with the intervention of Brandi and a friend/neighbor, everything worked out all right, but the ends certainly don't justify the means. So I, who am admittedly a control freak on these home improvent projects (making me a huge pain in the ass, sorry), need to learn to slow down, open my ears and let loose the reigns a bit.

So do I seek this control because I never feel like I fit in doing most "normal" things, thus I try to clamp down on those I think I can do reasonably well? If so, is that an attitude that requires some focused effort on maturation? Tonight, I fired up the Xbox and was hit with this "What the fuck are you doing and why?" thought. I wanted to work through it, hence this looooong-winded blog. So if you're still with me, feel free to toss in your two cents on what you try to control, what you think you need to control more, how it affects your life and relationships, and what you've had to give up trying to control?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

At what age does this stop?

I'm 34. Officially mid-30's. No more bullshitting my way around "33 is still in the first third of the thirties, so I'm in my early 30's still, right?" And yet tonight, I feel utterly defeated over stupid shit. I've been babbling on like an idiot for the past week (read: month) about getting a new cell phone. It's required by my employer, but I've turned it into the Most Irritating Possible Quest for a Holy Grail Noone Else Gives a Shit About. Brandi was kind enough to a) be at home today when the UPS guy showed up and b) let me know my phone was here. I wouldn't have blamed her if she gave it to the dogs as a chew toy and prayed it came out their respective back ends in pieces for as much as I've been debating this damned thing out loud.

So I came home for lunch today and plugged the phone into the charger first thing. It was ready to rock & roll by the time lunch was over, so I took it with me for my afternoon full of sales calls. In between calls, I set a few options here & there for notifications on calls, emails, texts, etc., but didn't have one of my usual "super dork" experiences where I pick up a device I'm not intimately familiar with and have it all figured out in 5 minutes flat. What's even worse is that Brandi IS that familiar with it because she, unlike me, actually took time to read the instructions.

Soooooo..... I manage to further irritate her by openly bitching about how I can't find this, that or the other feature, can't get the phone setup right, blah blah blah. In my defense, our cell carrier didn't have the Super New Cool Extra Funky Fresh features set to switch on until Friday (today's Wednesday and I set all this shit up last week, so I fail to see how that is supposed to be helpful?). But that only addresses part of my stupidity. The rest is all me for not reading the manual. So anyway, as I said, I've irritated her even further about this goddamnmotherfucking phone of which she has the exact same model (got it a week before mine) and loves hers, while probably wishing mine shared the same existence as a legitimate musical album from Limp Bizkit (read: never happened). Now I feel dumb and like I'm nothing more than irritant to her lately. The brown icing on this shitcake is that even AFTER she stepped in to show me how to set a wake-up alarm (shouldn't that be easy? probably is...), I still couldn't figure out how she did it. You have to appreciate how rare this is for me. If you've read her blog at all in the past few weeks, you'd know that I can do everything including brake jobs, tear apart/repair & reconstruct an Xbox 360, build a room onto a house, etc.

So why the fuck is a phone whooping my ass? Answer: I have no idea, but tonight has officially sucked. I feel stupid, I feel like an irritant whose company is rightfully unwanted, and like I just didn't contribute shit to anything tonight. This is seriously not a pity party for me (trust me, I want to slap me, too), I just needed to get some shit off my chest and, for some unholy reason, felt the need to write it down. Apparently publicly. Which still feels weird, putting my shit out for public-ish consumption. Keep feeling like somehow this is going to get used against me in court or something. Not to preempt anyone's response, but I could seriously do without the "keep your chin up, it'll get better" shit. Does nothing for me. I know this will pass and tomorrow will probably be a great day. However, if you've got anything else to say, by all means, share with the group...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Trying not to think about the other shoe waiting to be dropped

So, aside from one of the oddest phrases in English language as my subject (seriously, wtf does that mean? When did shoe-dropping become such a bad thing? And above all, do flip-flops count? Moving on...) and partly, OK largely, due to the three Newcastles in my belly, I'm pretty content. This has been a pretty damned awesome week, I must say. And mind you, I'm not used to getting awesome *weeks*. Days at best, usually moments, have the been mode du jour for the better part of the last decade of my life. However, I feel like things are really starting to change.

I don't believe in God, per se, as an anthropomorphic being that gives two hot shits about what I do or when or with who or on which piece of furniture. And I don't think that Eastern religions are better than Western (classic "Christianity is the most violent religion" bullshit. Punch up "Buddhist protests" in Google and you'll see some pretty horrific shit, too.). I simply wasn't raised religious and haven't ever had anything happen that made me believe in a higher power that cares about us more than, say, cockroaches, which I consider to the lowest, filthiest, most useless, disgusting lifeform on this planet... That being said, I do believe the universe is a living entity that is self-sustaining at the least and self-promoting at best. Wow... Got lost in the cosmos... Or maybe that's the 36 ounces of Newcastle (best beer ever) at work. Where was I?!? Right, so point being, I believe the universe, at the least, keeps itself in balance (it's clearly not self-destructive) and that seems to usually translate into my measly little life.

So the awesomitude (Get used to me making up words. I have an English Lit & Comp degree and they give you a lifetime pass to make shit up.) of this week should theoretically be balanced by some horrific shit, like my 9-year old dog dieing or something. But until that happens, I'm just going to enjoy the week. The new job, which will always remain nameless for a multitude of reasons, is going greaaat. I'm used to working for unpredictable, power-drunk lunatics and I now work for & with the most reasonable, genuinely honest folks I've ever worked for (at least so far, here's hoping this isn't just the honeymoon period where, like dating, everyone is on their best behavior for the first year, then goes out to the car for all the baggage they've been waiting to haul in). I can only hope this is the real deal and holds up for quite a while longer.

So I've made a few sales, always good, got my first commission check, double what I was expecting and still only half of what I'm due, had a great week of karate classes (I run a Cuong Nhu school, feel free to look up our style at, my kids had an incredible week (our 6-year old won a contest at school for best "witch" drawing and our 3-year old is making leaps & bounds of progress in his speech therapy), and I've had the chance to meet Brandi a few times for lunch during the week and get a lot of good hugs from her (my fave). I also managed to knock a reasonable rendition, possibly even recognizable for uberdorks like me, of Tool's "Vicarious" tonight on the drums. I've been playing for about 2 years, can play most songs to a t, yet continue to aspire to be like some of the more talented, unique drummers out there vs. just being a beatkeeper. For those interested, go to and look up legends like Buddy Rich, Danny Carey (Tool), Tim "Herb" Alexander (Primus), Neil Peart (Rush, a band which otherwise sucks IMO), etc, etc... So this has been a killer week of successes on every level. If every week were this good, I would probably die of a goddamned heart attack. Now it's time for the weekend (it only gets better!). In all fairness, I have to fix the washer, replace a burnt out headlight on my Honda, buff the "leftover" polishing compound off Brandi's bumper, etc... So there's work to be done, but it's all good. :-)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Eating with Placenta

We all know someone whose life seems to just work out for them at every possible turn. Dream job, dream house, dreaming in color, dreamsicles in the fridge, you get the point. Fuck those people. No hard feelings.

Let me clarify. I bear no ill will towards anyone for having the luck of the draw. What bugs me is the lengths to which people will go to cover up the dings, divots and cracks that exist in all our lives. For some reason, we have a culture where having a "great life" seems to mean having an unrealistically, downright imaginarily (it's a word if I say it is) stable life where nothing ever happens outside of a normal, Cleaver-esque routine day. Call it "Church Face" or "Keeping up with the Johnsons-itis" or whatever it takes for you to associate this to some asshole(s) you know (let's not limit ourselves to the single crowd here).
My promise, dear readers who do not currently exist as readers of this particular blog, is to see those cracks. Not all of them, as some things are simply private and not for public consumption, mind you, but a good deal. I suppose that should start now.

My better half, and that is so far from being a figure of speech, seems to think I am a saint, as her blog references indicate. I can't tell you how far out of whack this is. I am simply the combination of all the influences I've been fortunate (and not) to have in my life with a pinch of my own special seasoning mixed in to make it more interesting. Witness tonight:

After 10 all-too-long months of unemployment, I've had a job for the past, count 'em, 5 weeks now! Woo hoo! Going great so far, feels good to be earning a check and helping to pay the family bills, not to mention having some legitimate (read: "non-borrowed") fundage in my pockets. So after a long day at work visiting more businesses than I ever knew Jacksonville had, I shake it on home and get here around 5:30. I unwind for about 20 and think I'll start on the list o' shit I had down to do tonight. HUGE fan of lists here, folks. Keeps my crazy in check.

Before I can start the dishes, Brandi texts me and says she's stopping by the store for groceries, probably due to the fact that we need dinner, the kids are too tired to take them out to eat and my stupid ass didn't want to be inconvenienced by having to turn around and put myself back in the traffic jam I very narrowly avoided by getting past the just-burnt-up car before the cops fucked up traffic for 2 hours. Tangent: Is it really necessary to block off an 8 square block area for a tow truck to pick up a burnt, piece of shit Isuzu? Main line (sounds fun, no?): So Saint Brandi offers to stop by the store on the way home. I figure the least I can do is make it through the dishes and possibly get cracking on the shit ton of leaves in the yard to give us more time to enjoy this weekend, sans kids. Dishes get done, I pour her a glass of wine, light a few candles to cover up the smell of the dogs we have, and try to make for a nice homecoming. Everything goes well for the evening (saintly part) until it's time for our daughter to actually fall asleep. She wants to say good night to mom, who I think is in the shower, and I figure it's no big deal to open the door enough for her to say one last good night at the end of what's actually been a good night. (Cue music from Jaws)

So my dumb ass, in all my dumbassitude, pops open the bathroom door to find, shockingly, Brandi using the bathroom (whodvethunkit?). All I heard was "What the fuck?!?" "Shit!" "Good night." and laughter. They all happened at the same time, best as I could tell, and I'm not sure who said what or if all of that was swirling in my head like my brain just flushed itself (idiot part). So needless to say, I am now very rightfully in trouble for not knocking.

Thing is, this is kind of a regular occurrence, I think. Not the toilet part, mind you, that's fresh as a flower fart, but the whole bit about balancing something good with some colossal blunder. And maybe that's just my oft-questionable self-esteem recalling more incidents than exist, but probably not (that sumanabatch is usually right). So my goal is to minimize the idiot and maximize the saintly. The title of this blog will change when that happens, but don't worry, you could probably favorite this, check back in a few cycles of rebirth and it'd still be the same.

So I'm inviting you to join me as often as you wish in living vicariously through all the stupid shit I don't plan on doing, but will pull off in fine fashion anyway thank you very much, for as long as I keep drinking, er, keep up this blog.