Free Advice

Tonight I’m feel a little bit exhausted. I can feel my buckets are getting empty again. This happened last weekend too. I’m learning to not feel guilty about it. Today was a hard chapter to write about. It had a lot to do about anger.

I’m going to take the wayback machine and explain it a little bit.

When I was married, the house was always loud. Someone was always fighting, the TV was always blasting, and someone always had to be outraged about something. I had actually been told more than a few times that I wasn’t “angry enough” about something. So, like getting stuck in the mud, I would back up a little bit and get another run at it. Plowing right through some kind of berm of humanity and right into irate assholiness.

I hated living like that. So, when I was first out on my own, in spite of all the divorce drama, I worked hard to not be angry. You see, when you are angry, it’s a cheap source of energy. For quiet nights like tonight when I’m just a little quiet, anger is like those pills they sell at truck stops to keep the truckers awake. It gives you energy, but it is also killing you.

Anger gives you a cortisol drip, which triggers your fight or flight reaction. So, whether it was fighting each other, fighting the kids to eat their food, or fighting with random strangers in the store who looked at my ex “weird” I had a constant fuel that seemed to have no limit.

Nowadays, I just worry. It’s the same result. It gives you energy, but that anxiety will kill you eventually. There’s a lot of things I cannot fix. And a pro-tip, all that worrying won’t fix anything. But it gives you energy. As it kills you.

It’s the same drug really. Cortisol. Cortisol also causes you to gain weight (and I’ve heard that a reason for this is fatty and carby foods help regulate it by triggering a comfort response).

I gave up anger. Do I get angry? Sure. It’s a human emotion and last time I checked, I’m still not a robot. But I work through it. But it’s this worrying thing that has been dominating my life for a little while, and anyone who reads my posts probably figures “Yeah, it’s understandable why he might be worrying a lot.”

Thing is, I’m sick of it. And I’m sick of filling my buckets with high-test cortisol just to keep pushing forward. Last weekend, I disconnected from contact with everyone for a couple days. It bothered a few people and in turn they worried about me, or thought I was mad at them or pushing them away. I wasn’t. I was just spent, and I knew that I wasn’t any good to anyone feeling the way I did. Sometimes you have to know your limitations and take some time for yourself.

I often pester a friend of mine about self-care and I know I sound like a jackass whenever I bring it up. But I only mention it because I am awful at self-care, and like many aspects of my life, I love giving advice, but I seldom take my own. Dropping off the grid, for me, was self-care. Taking a step back from everything was self-care. And yes, I did take a whole day to go get coffee at Dutch Bros. Twice.

This same friend has often told me that they aren’t going to get mad at me for dropping off when they know they haven’t done anything to cause it. That is reassuring and much appreciated. Because I think so many of us are wrapped up in each other’s business sometimes that it makes it difficult to just disconnect. I think getting your head together and regrouping is important, but because we all live in each other’s phones anymore, it has changed that dynamic.

Today, I wrote a hard chapter about anger and the past, and I got a phone call from a buddy of mine who was just worrying about the same stuff they have been worried about for the last two weeks. I hit a point where I was like–okay, I’m going to disconnect for a little bit again. Because I just ran out of evens. I can’t even. So, I cut the call short.

I’m working on the book, trying to figure out this whole travel writing thing, the court stuff with my son, working on sorting out my life over my recent stress overload for the last couple of months–and trying to be a better friend/man/son/dogdad/dad/etc. It’s not easy.

But instead of worrying about it (which made sooooo many things worse in recent events) I’m just going to do what I did with anger. Take a deep breath and step away from it. Look at things from another perspective, and then respond instead of react.

Recently I watched a video about people with something called “anxious attachment disorder”. There are lots of things to pay attention to when they resonate with how you have been in the past–maybe not even the past. One of the key features of this are when people need constant reassurance. But here’s the kicker. As you work towards “secure attachment” no amount of reassurance is going to be enough. What is feeding your anxious attachment disorder is that you have allowed anxiety to become part of your personality. Even hard-wired that shit. So it becomes as much a part of you as your favorite color or which hand you brush your teeth with. Being aware of it, at least gives you the advantage of saying “bitch be cool” to yourself.

And when you realize you are riding that wave of anxiety because everything feels like it is coming apart at the seams and you just don’t have the energy, you can also see that you are like Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition. About to go over that waterfall into the Land of the Lost.

So, the problem with giving others free advice you should be taking yourself is you get what you pay for. It’s easy for me to spout some crap to someone when they are struggling, but if I don’t take my own advice, it’s not really worth anything is it?

So, I’m going to work on filling the buckets. Today I wrote. I cooked French onion soup. I visited with a few good friends, (and I didn’t dwell on my problems in the process). And I threw the tennis ball for the dog for about twenty minutes. I worked on not worrying so much, and I can already feel my buckets filling back up.

Amateur Dreamer

Today is a day I have to coerce myself to stay focused and put my ass firmly in the chair. Maybe I feel the pull of the collective unconciousness telling me I need to go shopping. Maybe it’s a need to distract myself and continue running away or towards something unseen.

There is a passage in The War of Art by Steven Pressfield that I have bookmarked. It helps me start work every day. I have begun calling it work, because writing sounds so artsy and pretentious. It is work. It’s work I enjoy doing, but it is work nonetheless. It’s probably a little more than that too. It’s also a gamble, and right now I feel like the House always wins.

Here’s the quote.

Resistance and Being a Star

Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re the sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work, and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.

There are moments when I fantasize about the kind of life I could have and that motivates me. Money has been an issue for me but only because I think of ways that I could improve my life experience. It would allow me to travel more, to live more comfortably, and there is always that teaser that talent and appreciation come with monetary value. Which sucks. We literally put a price tag on our hearts. Other than court and child support and keeping up with bills, I am actually pretty comfortable right now. I simultaneously love and feel uncomfortable with being able to just write. I feel guilty when I talk to friends who are working their asses off to break even at a job that would replace them before their funeral if they happened to croak. I will have to step up my game and multitask with stuff that pays and stuff that might change my life forever. A man’s gotta eat.

There is one true thing about life that everyone should get to try at least once. It’s knowing that no matter how much money you have, it won’t fix your real problems.

There are times I remember the year in college when I lived alone and how I would just peck away at my MacBook 190CS writing stories and then reading late into the night. There were the days I wasted too and did nothing, and I still kick myself for that. To be fair, as a 21 year old, I might not have had a lot to say anyway. It was all practice. It was whetting my appetite.

So, once I get done with this post, I’m going to work. And hopefully find some success in the labors of the day. Daydreaming about cool stuff you want (I’d be happy with a 4Runner. I don’t need a McLaren GT) is fine, but there have been times I have overwhelmed myself. I wasn’t getting the THINGS I wanted right away from working. How can you? If Black Friday is an indication, the collection of things is like digging a hole in sand. There’s always going to be more things to get.

Didn’t yesterday teach us to be thankful for what we have? Oh how soon we all forget.

Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving and it is always a mixed bag of emotions for me. I’m going to use the wayback machine on this one. It’s all personal stories, so keep scrolling if not interested.

Back when I was a kid, a rift in the extended family meant that people chose sides. My aunt is a true narcissist and when her marriage ended, she demanded complete fealty to her without question. As she proceeded to sleep around with half the men (and a good number of high school boys) in town, every whim and indulgence was afforded to her at the expense of anyone whose life she touched. Especially her family. In just a year, she went from being the holiday dictator and this forced Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving at her house to my mom and dad and me spending the holiday with just ourselves. Cast out, as it were. She was good at talking shit about her ex-husband, and as a result, her boys lost their dad. And really, the whole rest of the family melted down too. Things have never improved.

My family is odd. We eat Thanksgiving dinner at 11am. Yes. You read that right. That is to say that’s how my folks do things. I do not. I’m still trying to find out my own way. As my life continues, post-divorce, I don’t really know what I do anymore. Usually I’m along for the ride. A third wheel with friends, or dragging the kids with me to dinner with the grandparents. And sometimes the police drop in if the baby-mama decides to call a welfare check in the middle of dinner (this has happened twice).

Because my family growing up was pretty much stuck with themselves, as the only kid around while all my other friends had the day off, I had to respect that they were all doing things with their own families. Which also meant they were having Thanksgiving Dinner at a time probably much later in the afternoon. If not the evening. Long story short, it was a lonely day.

When I was married, I did much of the cooking, including brining and babysitting a giant turkey in a 5 gallon bucket overnight (checking on it hourly to make sure it was at a temperature that wouldn’t kill us–because germs! *clutches pearls*) and for whatever reason we invited both sides of the family over. Because my former BIL always worked and my parents’ fixation with eating dinner before noon, we compromised and tried to hit the 1 o’clock mark so everyone could inhale the dinner we had worked our asses off to make and be out the door before it got dark. Like 8-9 hours to prepare (I’m not kidding–I would start cooking at 6am) and about twenty minutes to inhale.

In those days, every Thanksgiving came with its share of drama. Nieces and nephews, grandparents, our kids, freaking dogs all over the place–complete chaos. And once it was done and the piles of our nice china were collected (and for some reason I was the only one trusted to wash them all) the cleanup began. Then my ex-wife would attack the Black Friday sales on her own later that night while I stayed home with the kids. Or sometimes I would have to stand in line to get that PS3 or whatever other garbage nobody needed because it was on sale.

I never felt like I was a apart of the Holidays, other than what I was being used for to make them happen. In a way, I wasn’t much different than that turkey.

I went from a lonely Thanksgiving growing up to this clusterfuck of epic proportions. I went from wanting family around and then missing that connection to just wishing I could take a vacation someplace on my own. The other day, a friend of mine told me about how she just wants the big turkey and the family dinner and how in all the years she’s been married, she’s only been able to do that once. I can’t remember how many turkeys I’ve roasted over the years. I feel like we could benefit from a Freaky Friday on this one.

However, Thanksgiving became something else for me. A sore spot in my own life. And I wish I could say things have gotten any better. Well, I guess in some ways they have. Mostly my attitude.

The first Thanksgiving after I filed for divorce introduced my kids to the house where I had moved. They played on the playground behind my house, but they were still so spooky. I got them for half the day. My parents got to meet these new spooky kids who mistrusted everyone (because they were told to). I was so happy to have them back with me again after having not seen them for 24 days. But they had changed. And not in good ways. The holidays are hard for my kids. And for me, there has always been the push-pull of trying to placate everyone or make everyone happy. The peacemaker who knows no peace.

We have had to split Thanksgiving since then, making it a real pain in the butt holiday. It’s a weird, goofy schedule I have to look at every year. This year was different. My two oldest live with their mom. I haven’t seen them in years. My youngest is wrapped up in a court dispute right now, and wouldn’t you know it, the court made no provisions for birthdays, holidays, or Thanksgiving. So, I won’t even be hearing from him today. I’ve seen him in person twice in five months–that 24 days is nothing compared to this.

I miss my kids. I miss my family. Yet again, the will of one person has a ripple effect and history repeats itself. And who suffers? Who gets to see that this is “normal” for adults to do this?

So, today, I feel that solitude like I did back when I was growing up. I ate dinner at 11 this morning with my mom and dad. I was back home again by 12:30pm and knowing that everyone else was busy making dinner for their families, going over to friends, or just doing their thing, I took a nap for a couple hours. This year wasn’t the worst Thanksgiving though. Even if we were short a couple table settings for those who couldn’t be with us.

I had years where being surrounded by family made me feel more lonely than just being in a house and listening to music on my own or playing fetch with the dog. Those years made me want to scream and cry and walk out the door and never look back. But you know in our society, it is anathema to even speak like that. (Men don’t have real feelings).

Right now, I know my son is thinking about me. He’s a great kid, and stronger than any eleven year old ought to be.

As opposed to kicking rocks on my own as a kid, I’m just here in my own skin. I’m thinking of how I would like to build my own tradition. This year was such a weird, up in the air kind of thing, with court and all that I didn’t get to make plans. I’d love to do something different. Try lots of things that are different. Maybe instead of the traditional dinner and such, my thing will be to never have it be the same every year.

I am thankful for many things. Having a roof over my head. Getting to work towards my dream of writing full time. Reconnections. Grace and Patience from others. Having newfound faith in things working out with my son. Getting to live in such a beautiful place. Sharing time with my mom and dad. And of course Penny. Getting to learn new skills like carpentry and kimchi making. Establishing boundaries and enforcing them. The memories that keep me company of good times and great people. Finding strength to ask for help, and being a friend to others who are struggling sometimes. I’m thankful for my health. Thankful for having less debt than I ever have. Thankful for that cold blast of air that hits me in the face every morning I step outside. I’m thankful for surviving and now it’s time to show my thanks and start thriving.

So, while everyone is cooking like crazy, watching football, or slipping into a turkey coma, I’m going to put my butt in the chair and write.

Happy Thanksgiving! Always be thankful for what you have.