Monday, February 25, 2019

My Least Favorite Words

Since 2018 was a trans-formative year with plenty of patience testing events and accompanying therapy I have tried to get more in touch with the emotions I feel. My amazing therapist described "typical" male emotions to me as follows:
  • Things are ok. I am not hungry, angry, and things are generally going my way. 
  • I am angry. Things are not ok and until I get them under control I am going to be pissed off.
  • I want to breed. This is all about caveman lust and has to do with the physical act of love and nothing at all to do with hearts, flowers, and candy.
  • I love you. This is typically reserved for our mothers and our children. It is affectionate and can most likely relate to a sense of comfort or protectiveness. 
  • *Optional* I am depressed or sad. This is often when the anger has worn off but the bad situation has not resolved itself.
The good doctor explained this and I found myself thinking that his "typical man" had more modes of feeling than I typically express. For a number of years I pretty much have two modes: Sullen Brooding and Antisocially Pissed Off. I certainly wrote using other emotions. Still the emotions that anyone ever saw me express were one of the two. Habits are hard to break, and I must admit I enjoy the Sullen Brooding mood. It sort of makes me feel like what I imagine Conan the Barbarian would have felt like.
Since I have begun building on my mental health I try to mostly avoid Antisocially Pissed Off and I use Sullen Brooding sparingly. I find myself frequently in the realm of Content or Satiated. My favorite emotional place, the one I am typically in when I am writing, is Intellectually Playful. That emotional bandwidth is the one I use at work. It is all about being intensely concentrated and turning that into a sort of high level mental play that is infinitely satisfying to me. It is the polar opposite of Bored. Bored is to be avoided at all costs. I strongly suspect my personal Hell will be a lot like a never ending afternoon in a civil court room where there is nothing interesting going on and absolutely no acceptable way to distract yourself from it.
I have tried to start expressing my emotions in words that are not written vulnerably in my blog. It leads me to say things like," That hurt my feelings and made me feel a little insecure. Please don't do that again." I often want a long bath after that level of emotional honesty.
By the same token I am having to learn how to appreciate and accept compliments. There is nothing more uncomfortable than doing a truly fantastic job at work, being recognized for it, and then awkwardly fumbling out a thank you in response. I love giving compliments. Shoring up my self esteem made it a lot more graceful to accept them. I still feel embarrassed about them, but I cannot expect miracles overnight!
In all this change, it is odd how much I have come to hate the words,"I love you."  I feel love acutely. Occasionally, I feel it obtusely. (I really did just drop a geometry joke) I don't mind expressing love, but those three little words are starting to feel routine, boring, and very overused. The word trite comes to mind.
All too often what I hear when someone drops," I love you," is "Do you love me?" Now, that isn't a bad question to ask. I don't mind hearing it occasionally. It might even have me wondering if I am being emotionally distant. Imagine hearing it five to seven times a day.
"I love you," is not the answer to having a fight. It isn't the thing you should say to fill in an awkward silence in the conversation. It also is not the answer to breaking up. "Marge," says Homer,"I can no longer tolerate your lack of domestic grace or ability to carry on a decent conversation. I am leaving you."
"But I love you, Homer," replies Marge.
"Are we having the same conversation, Marge," inquires Homer," I have just informed you of my intent to dissolve our marriage and you expressed an unrelated emotion that in no way conveys your comprehension, acceptance, nor denial of my statement."
"I love you Homer,"repeats Marge.
To my knowledge ,"I love you," should not be used as any sort of argument or persuasion. When Romeo was attempting to seduce fair Juliet does he lamely state," I love you," and call it a day? Of course not! The Minstrel spends most of an Act of the play having Romeo pine for her (although much of this creepily relates to her refusing to have premarital sex). Modern men and women have fallen far from this mark in our persuasive and descriptive powers. There are so many more effective way of trying to get yourself laid.
For my part there is a much better way to proclaim your love. I prefer,"I really enjoyed your company today," or similar statements of value. I enjoy being told how much someone appreciated my time. I even enjoy sentiments about the quality of my performance. "I really enjoyed how warm you kept me while we were cuddled up watching that movie," is infinitely preferable to a generic and boring,"I love you."
Say it in a million ways, but don't waste time on the literal. It is too forward. It is dull. It lacks imagination. It is far too easy. Any love I am shown should come with thought and effort rather than routine! That gives it an obvious value.
Hmm. Does this make me a jerk? Is it arrogant of me to not want to settle for the mundane? Maybe a little bit.Truth be told, though, I am worthy of someone expressing love in a more meaningful way. I don't love half way. I don't see any reason to accept less.

As long as we are listening to my complaints, I am not a fan of," I miss you,"either.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Stolen Moments

Every once in a while I make a really great decision. That decision then leads me to some deeper understanding of life and the way I interact with it. This morning one of those wonderful confluences came to pass. This time I was savvy enough to realize it was happening, enjoy the moment while it lasted, and then share it here.
I have a serious work ethic. I hustle at my job. If I have "free" time at work I roll myself directly to the next task I need to accomplish and stay well ahead of the tide. As long as there are no fires to put out that need my direct attention this leads to a great amount of freedom in my job and a relative avoidance of stress.
To be quite fair, I take my breaks and lunches very seriously as well. I give myself about an hour and a half each day to take a break. One hour of that is time for me to not think about work and eat something. The other half hour is to do the work equivalent of socializing. I point this out so that no one takes the above paragraph to mean that I drive myself in some unreasonable way.
I don't. In fact, I believe getting caught appearing to be hard at work is embarrassing. The work should get done, but it should look very effortless. The vibe I aim for is relaxed. I never really am, but I look the part. This is a sort of zen state where you have fooled the people around you into believing that you are at one with the job. I like to think I do this well.
One advantage of the facade that masks the hustle is that I actually really am productive. What I produce is generally of above average quality. I have been fooled into appearing to believe that those above me appreciate my efforts. (My theory is that professional relationships are all based completely in deception.) Once I manage to lay my day or week to rest I can sometimes safely take off a little early.
This "free" time is of inestimable value! I am unaccounted for. By this, I don't mean that I am performing some grand deception of hiding from the people in my life, but rather I have time that I had sacrificed to the necessity of work returned to me. I can then to decide to gift myself this time in the form of extra minutes or hours of sleep, pursuing a passion (like writing this blog post), or surprising a loved one with my presence.
All too often I give myself this time to a practical pursuit like sleep. I hurry home and gain very little. By the time I settle in my hour of free time translates to about 15 minutes of actual sleep. This morning my shift ended and I found myself doubly blessed. The night is breathtaking. It is February and in the mid-fifties outside. It is a little damp, but not rainy. I walked outside and immediately lamented the necessity of having driven the car to work. It is BEAUTIFUL riding weather.
On the drive home I found myself debating. Tuesday I typically get one of the best rounds of sleep of my week. Adding a couple of hours to that time, especially since I won't get my typical allotment today, seemed practical, prudent, pragmatic, and damned boring. I don't really like that I have to sleep. Those are hours of my life that I am not pursuing anything all that interesting to me. Sleep is a dirty necessity akin to a bowel movement. It is better to take care of it as quickly and with as little effort as possible so I can move on with doing things I really want to do. This is probably why I spent years as an insomniac.
If I wasn't going to use the guilty pleasure of the stolen time to sleep, what is the worthiest thing to do with it? I don't like the idea of "catching up" on my reading. Hell no. I want to always have a massive backlog of things I want to read. All too often that isn't the case and I find myself revisiting old favorites rather than take on new narratives.
I could come home and spend some time with a video game. I resented that idea as soon as I thought it. Video games are a distraction when I cannot spend time in a place I would rather be. They are a welcome and sometimes much-needed distraction when I am kept indoors by illness, rain, snow, ice, or more rarely baking heat. Common sense sometimes also requires a day of "relaxing" at the house. Video games fill those hours wonderfully. Stolen moments should not be spent on something as pedestrian as clicking buttons on a controller!
Romance would be a worthwhile investment of those stolen moments. Either emotional or physical expressions of love are an amazing investment. Have I mentioned I get off work typically at 0430 (that is 430 in the morning for the non-military time minded)? I certainly am capable of negotiating affection at a very reasonable price at even that early hour, but it is rather impractical. Such a tryst is also likely to not end within the amount of time I had stolen. Tempus fugit particularly where intimacy is involved. Those types of stolen moments also tend to have higher long term costs than I can afford to pay of late. The smallest of those costs is eating into my sleeping time or time already paid toward other pursuits. I am no longer possessed of the priorities of a love-struck teenager. Age has its benefits.
Spending time with those I love would be the choice. Literally, the majority of that group is asleep! The girls (that would be my daughters) never get enough time with me. Had either of them been sure to be awake the time would have been assigned to them without regret or hesitation. Still, it would be great to spend it with someone or something I love.
Ah. My two-wheeled ladies. Those steel sirens have sat long neglected undercover in my driveway. I drove away from them each day with a sad pang of longing for warmer days and nights. After discussing the conundrum with one of my most trusted advisors, it was observed that between the available choices- sleep or an early morning motorcycle ride- I was clearly leaning toward the ride. I hesitated not one moment to move stealthily through my house assembling my gear and to creep back out again.
I actually went on two rides on two different bikes. I might have taken a few more, but the reality of the value of stolen moments hit me just as hard as the wonder of riding again. I had really needed the joy of the open road. I spent my stolen moments and a few more before rejoining my routine at the appointed time. This blog comes as no sacrifice as I typically spend at least an hour per morning after work writing. I admit the exception to my video game routine normally follows as I play Magic the Gathering Arena (you can challenge me. My player name is Githix.) long enough to earn my daily gold and any packs available to me before resting briefly.
I have always been good at stealing these moments in life. They cannot be planned. They happen with a sort of magical spontaneity that defies preparation. If you try to manufacture them regularly they fall flat. You just cannot appreciate appointed time in the same way you do a stolen moment.
Remember in school when you found out that the teacher wasn't planning to teach and was instead going to show a video for the duration of class? That was the best, most magical part of your day. That time was stolen away from the curriculum of learning. Moods improved, no matter the movie choice, and together you and your classmates reveled in something a little forbidden and a whole lot underappreciated.
The same feeling lead me to often skip classes in both High School and College. My oldest daughter was conceived in a stolen moment of skipping a College class. I didn't resent learning things. I didn't even resent having a schedule. It was just amazing to steal away an hour or two to do something rebellious and off the beaten path. If I could spend it with someone I loved, so much the better.
Every meaningful relationship I have ever had has lived and died on those stolen moments. I didn't realize it until this very morning. In school, we stole time by writing one another love notes which communicated our feelings and thoughts telepathically from French Class to Biology as we quickly passed one another in the hallway. On the high school level, we also found places where we could steal a (not so) quick kiss out of site of the disapproving faculty. I might have been known to cop a feel or two along the way as well.
As adults, we formalize our time. We schedule a date night. We plan activities. Every Thursday from 1900-2200 we will do something we classify as sweet, fun, or romantic. The implication of this is an almost scheduled and regimented romantic evening that ends predictably. The worst relationships devolved into doing this around payday.
The best relationships found a way to include the stolen moments so that everything remained happy, healthy, and spontaneous. We started writing each other notes, but they weren't desperate, regular, or sloppily regular. We texted to steal moments away from the other's grind, but it never came to be expected and therefore taken for granted. We met for lunch and had sex in the bathroom at the food court. Ok... yes, that may not be for everybody, but it was a damned fine lunch. Guys never stop asking her," Do you wanna get out of here?" This will get you laid more. I promise.
Love affairs are all about stolen moments. Adultery is a sad necessity of life because most of us are not properly built correctly to date much less be married. That is one reason why people have so much damned fun cheating on one another. Even the most innocent extramarital relationships begin with stolen moments. Those moments are a shared guilty pleasure built on forbidden common experience. Know them for what they are. It may not stand the test of a regimented relationship.
While I am on the subject, I want to warn all of you, if the person you with doesn't want to ever steal moments away with you then your relationship is probably already over and you just haven't buried its body yet. To avoid this, steal moments with your person. Make out in the back seat of your car in a parking lot occasionally. Send nudes to one another (caution to men, even this is NOT a place for the unsolicited dick picture). Realize that dressing rooms in the mall are MADE for quickies even if you are 70 years old. Just remember rule number 2 and don't get caught. This is harder than you think because, remember, stolen moments cannot be planned out.
Also, remember that stolen moments are important to happen separately. I needed my motorcycle this morning more than I needed a hug, kiss, eye gouge, or cuddle. Don't judge me. You don't know what I am into. Let you person steal their own moments without jealousy. Encourage them to steal moments whenever they can. Stop being the selfish, greedy animal that you are for a minute. Whatever it takes, right?

For now, I am going to go bask in the afterglow of an expertly stolen moment. I hope you are doing the same. Make sure you think of this post the next time you see some "motorcycle asshole." He or she is stealing a moment from the man even if it is just in commute to the soulless grind of his coroporate job. Be kind and don't run over them.

December 2nd Comic Books on a Budget