Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A very incomplete list of things that annoy me.

Dante speaks to the traitors in the ice, Infer...Image via Wikipedia

Yeah, I know I am becoming a positive, optimistic person. But that doesn't mean I never get annoyed. And this is on my mind. So here's the list in no particular order:

1. People walking around with their pants hanging below their butts. I know that one's been done to death, but c'mon...pull'em up.

2. Insurance companies: High premiums, High deductables, crappy coverage all have me convinced that Dante would create a 10th circle of hell for them.

3. Pedestrians crossing against the light.

4. Politicians: Conservatives in particular, but they're all pretty annoying.

5. Stupididty

6. Hipocracy: Unfortunately, I am often guilty of this.

7. Clutter: In my house, in my car, in my head, clutter rules my life.

8. Work

9. Money: I don't have nearly enough.

10. Commercials

That's the list. Like I said, it's not nearly complete. I'll follow up with things I like at some point.

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I was relaxing the other evening in a lawn chair and happened to notice a scar on the calf of my right leg. I remembered that scar coming from an injury I received when the crank broke on my mountain bike. I had just pushed hard on the pedal to get moving. The crank snapped and the downward momentum of my leg caused me to scrape against the jagged metal of the broken part.

Looking at that scar led me to looking at some of the other scars I have. Having done mostly physical labor all my life, I have many scars from cuts and scrapes. The nastiest is on the middle finger of my right hand. I got this finger caught in a small printing press at my first job after tech. school. It was a bone-head accident that could have been prevented. It also could have been much worse. At least I still have the finger. But that scar, which runs the length of my finger from the cuticle to the second knuckle, reminds me to keep my hands away from moving machinery.

On the index finger of my right hand, there is a scar that I got from an underscore blade on a press. My finger got between the blade and the anvil roller I was trying to put in. I was upset that my supervisor insisted on taking me to the E.R. to get the cut stitched. It didn't need it and the company didn't need a reportable accident. Plus, I had to pee in a cup for a drug test because of the accident. That's not a big deal as I was clean, but it still sucks.
Then there's a scar on top of my right index finger between my first and second knuckle. That one was really stupid. I got it when I lit a wrapper from an American cheese slice on fire. The melting plastic dripped onto the finger and almost immediately hardened. So it kind of burned into the skin. That was pretty bone-headed too.

I see a couple scars on my left wrist. A girl on the school bus, for no apparent reason that I recall, dug her fingernails into my wrist. Obviously she drew blood. I'm pretty sure she liked me. I kind of liked her too, but nothing ever came of it. I was too shy.
When I say, “...for no apparent reason...”, I mean that I wasn't being mean to her or anything. She was just that way. We'd sit and talk on the bus ride. Sometimes we'd be bantering back and forth, trading jibes. Sometimes she'd slap me or something. So I probably said something and she dug into my wrist.

There's another scar on top of my left wrist. This one has a little grey/black colored dot just under the skin. That was from second or third grade. My friend, Rob, accidentally stuck me with a pencil. I'm sure we were horsing around like young boys will do. It was completely accidental and I was not angry. But I always gave him grief about it when I'd talk to him later when we were in high school.

I had lost touch with Rob for many years. Then I found out he had co-written a screenplay for a kid's movie. In fact, I found out when I saw his name in the closing credits. I looked him up and got in contact with him. He's doing very well in Los Angeles. He had a comic book series that ran for 10 years. He directs a T.V. show for Comedy Central. I'm very proud of him. I always knew he'd be successful. But I still, even after some 15 plus years, had to bring up the pencil incident. I told him that it has always been a fond reminder of our friendship.

On my right forearm there is a roundish scar. That one came from a game of chicken I played with my friend, Dick. In this form of the game, the two “players” put their arms together and drop a lit cigarette so it is burning into both players' arms. The one to pull away is the loser. It's funny to think of now. What does the “winner” of this game win? Both people have the same nasty burn on their arms. Add that one to the growing “Bonehead” list.

On my right eyebrow I have a scar from a sledding incident. I was sledding with my friends, Mark and Brian. I think I was around 12 or 13 years old. I don't remember exactly. We had built a snow ramp. Of course we were going for maximum air and distance. I went down on an old runner sled, the kind you could steer. I was laying on my belly on the sled. I hit the ramp perfectly. I flew for a good distance. It was probably the longest jump of the day. Then I landed. My head snapped forward and hit the metal cross bar on the sled. I got up, laughing and holding my hand to my forehead. I was saying, “Oh man that hurt”, and “Did you see that jump?” It really was a fantastic jump. When I brought my hand down, I saw the blood. So we went to the house to get a band-aid. Mark's mom looked at it and insisted I needed to get stitches. That was when I started crying. I did not want to get stitches. I had never had to before and it scared me. But, I had to go anyway. My mom happened to be the receptionist at the clinic so it was convenient for her to sign the paperwork and all.

That incident happened shortly before school pictures. We were not a wealthy family. We tried to save money where we could. So my mother always cut my hair. And the only style she knew was the “bowl” cut. So school picture time was coming and I needed a haircut. Picture day came and went. A few weeks later, pictures arrive. And there it was. My bangs went straight across my forehead, and made a perfect little arch over my right eyebrow. The eyebrow had not fully grown back and you could see the scar. Thanks mom.
I have other scars. Most of them have a story to go with them. I don't have any tattoos so my scars tell my stories.

I hope this wasn't too boring. I hope the readers, if there are any, didn't expect to read any psychological or emotional scar stories. Although I do have plenty of those to tell. And I have and will. But these scars, these flaws in my skin guide me to some of my memories. And it's ironic that they are only skin deep. Sometimes the stories behind them are so much me anyway.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Getting to know me: Installment II, Act "as if"

Act “as if.” , is a phrase anyone involved in 12 step programs should recognize as the phrase "Fake it 'til you make it.

I am changing myself from a cynic and pessimist to an optimist. This is no mean task for me. I didn't come to my outlook on life over night. I developed my cynical, almost hateful views over the course of many years.

The cynicism and pessimism have not only been directed toward the world and life at large. Disappointment in my career choices, educational choices and other life choices have brought me to a state of near self-loathing. Negative feelings toward myself have slowly eroded my sense of self-worth and self confidence to a point where I have become stuck in quicksand. By that I mean I know I need career advancement. I need more money. I need to have a less physically demanding career. I need to move forward for myself and for my family.

I believe I've suffered from a condition known as Dysthymia, or, minor depression for years. The year 2000 began a string of deaths of loved ones that would continue through 2006. Over that period, I believe the Dysthymia slowly escalated to full clinical depression. I say, “I believe”, because I was not diagnosed with clinical depression until 2007 when I found I couldn't function anymore.

The above conditions have helped to develop in me a dark, nihilistic, bleak outlook and in-look. In fact, there is actually a symbiosis between my negative thinking and depression. They feed each other. The more negativity in my thinking, the tighter the hold depression has on me, driving my thoughts toward the negative.

So, to make the turn around from cynic to optimistic, positive thinker is like reversing a freight train. This is where, “acting as if”, comes in. I am so used to finding the bad and wrong and down side in everything that negativity shouts down any positive thoughts I try to form. So I act as though I am a positive, optimistic person. I act as if I believe that I am confident. I act as if I am happy. I act as if the world is a good place and people are good and life is good.

All this takes enormous conscious effort. I have to turn up the volume on the positive voice in my head. I have to make that voice drown out and shout down the negativity that has permeated my very being. It isn't easy, but I am doing it. And in time instead of acting as if I am happy and confident and optimistic with a bright future, I simply will be all that.
I will not become a Pollyanna. I won't become a Stuart Smalley. But I will be what I am: a strong, intelligent, talented, happy person.
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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Getting to know me: Installment I

I've been trying to think of things to write about. I'll be honing my writing skills as I go. But I have just been dry on ideas of what to write about.

"Write about what you know", has been a recurring theme when I think about this. So, what I know about right now, is me. Conversely, I need to get to know myself better.

This is the first installment of an open-ended series on self-discovery. While it is specifically my own journey, I feel it could be a guide to others who want to advance their lives and raise their own self-awareness.

Here it is:

Here's something I've been contemplating lately:
Why is it that even though I am 39 years old, and have not gone to any kind of school in years, I still feel the need to address teachers and school administrators as Mr./Ms./Mrs. So-and-so?
I can understand that when my children are present, I want to address these people the way the children should. But I am an adult. I am on an equal level with these people. There is no reason I should feel subordinate. Yet, I tend to treat them with the same deference that I did when I was a child.
This is bothersome to me. Because at the same time, there is also the same underlying challenge to authority which was also there when I was young. This tends to bring out a certain passive-aggressive, adversarial attitude in me.
As involved parents, my wife and I work very closely with the school. Our oldest sons are challenging to work with at times. This makes it all the more important for us to keep an open dialog with the principal and the faculty at the school. However, in meetings with the principal and teachers, I still have this feeling that somehow I am the child with the issues by extension or something.
My boys are good boys. They have their behavioral issues. But we stay on top of things. We are proactive with the school to help shape the way they are dealt with. Unfortunately, I have perceived that my sons are at times singled out now. I've felt they have been held to closer scrutiny and called out for doing the same stuff other kids are doing. To blur matters further, they are extremely smart and they have strong leadership abilities. This makes it more difficult to know if they should be singled out as instigators or if they are being unfairly scrutinized.
My dilemma then is: I need the principal and teachers to know they have to be assertive and not give much leash to my boys. But at the same time, I don't want my boys held to an unfair standard over the behavior of their peers.
I think that my feelings of deference to school faculty is a hindrance to advocating on behalf of my children. And I wonder if simply addressing these people by their first names is a step toward commanding equal respect from them. Or by contrast, expect them to address me as “Mr. Musack”. It's not a power struggle. After all, the common goal is the education and healthy development of our growing children.

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