Ever have a rough day and you wish you could go back in time and just sit with someone and talk with them and wind up laughing together until you had tears in your eyes and you forgot all about what was bothering you because you felt that fire inside your soul get stoked one more time when you thought it had all but gone out?

Today, I’m feeling a little frozen. Stuck. I haven’t had many of those people in my life, but I sure could stand a visit from one of them now. But right now, all I can manage to reach out is writing this post. Why? Because it would be nice to know that people actually care without having to ask.

I used to be a pretty happy guy. Not so long ago. I think that as usual, the struggles that I have to go through in this life right now have chased a lot of people off. They always say it doesn’t matter, until it does. I think they are fine with whatever external conflict they see, but they don’t like seeing what it does to me inside.

Today, I might feel more alone than I ever have in my life. But I’m not supposed to talk about that. It shows weakness that can be used against me, even though I don’t think anyone would be grinning and bearing what I’ve been going through for the last few months.

I don’t want a medal or a pity party. I’m just done is all. Fuck.

I’m missing many things right now. I’m missing the way my Grandma Babe would tell a story at the kitchen table and her eyes would light up. I don’t think she knew what an indoor voice was. I’m missing sword fights in the park at night with my two best friends growing up; they were more brothers to me than anything. I’m missing a trip with a bus load of kids going from Denver to NYC, kissing someone in an Ohio barley field at sunset with lightning bugs rising around us. I’m missing cigars and wine on the back porch on a summer night listening to Salt-N-Peppa another lifetime later. I’m missing house-wide Nerf gun battles with the kids and car karaoke with my daughter who had the sweetest singing voice I’ve ever heard. I’m missing random facts read to me from the Guinness Book of World Records. I’m missing riding scooters in the dark on campus and watching my youngest play in the sprinklers on a Summer night. I’m missing gifs and heart reacts and movie marathons long into the night and an octopus stuck to my face.

Today, my heart is shattered. These moments are all gone. I held onto them too tightly and they fell through my fingers like sand.

Fixing Things

Today I’m going to let you behind the curtain and deliver some unsolicited information about men and women. Buckle up. I’m going to mansplain some stuff.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard woman complain that men are always trying to fix things. If a woman has a problem, she doesn’t want a man to come swooping in to fix things. She just wants him to listen. This seems to be a universal complaint.

I’ve read books on the subject that talk about whenever someone puts themselves into a position of being a mentor/mentee or worse–a parent/child role–eventually when the student/mentee reaches that equilibrium of having their shit together, they will do what children/trainees/etc always do. They will assert their independence and bite their teacher/parent/mentor in the ass. Or at the very least put in a boundary that told the other person to back off, we’ve got this handled.

We’ve all done it at some point.

So, here’s the problem between the sexes. And I’m going to do my best to articulate this…men aren’t the fixers. Not really. Sure, in a traditional role, men fix things around the house, they fix cars, they change tires, etc. And probably upon request. Or multiple requests. It’s usually the periferal things (unless he’s a paramedic or a doctor or nurse) such as inanimate objects too. But if I go to one of my male friends and vent my problems and fears and whatnot, 9 times out of 10, he’s just going to listen. He might say something pithy or funny or sarcastic. But he isn’t going to fix anything. Not unless I say, “What do I do?” In which case, he’ll probably just say, “I dunno, man. I wish I knew.”

If (and I have) I were to talk to a female friend, relative, therapist, etc. about my problems, 9 times out of ten they are going to tell me how I should fix things.

Kinda weird, don’t you think?

So, this begs the question, why is it women think that men just want to fix everything? Well, maybe it’s the spirit of reciprocity, because women are always there to fix our problems (as men). Behind every strong man is a good woman…that kind of thing. Women are the ones who traditionally put band-aids on our boo-boos and kiss them to make them feel better. They are the ones who bust out the map or tell us to pull over and ask for directions if we get lost. They are the ones who will see a hole in our jeans and get out the needle and thread. I’ve heard more “This is what you oughta do” from women than I’ve ever heard from men. I’ve heard them say it to each other too.

Men probably just figure that if a woman is talking about a problem, in the spirit of reciprocity, he is obligated to give a solution. It gets called “mansplaining.”

Perfect example of this is something I saw on TikTok. A woman noticed that her boyfriend had put a solitary egg on top of her egg carton in the fridge. She posited the question to some male friends and they told her that the other carton was probably empty except for that one egg, but rather than leave it in the fridge, he decided to put that egg on top so it would get used before the newer eggs.

Her mind was BLOWN. She called it “positive mainspaining.” Hold on. I already know what you are thinking. It gets better.

In the comments she got dogpiled by her viewers (99% male) that it wasn’t mansplaining. It was just a man answering a question she had asked.

So, in giving her this information in her comments (and I’m talking HUNDREDS of interations of this) that was completely obvious…guess what. They were mansplaining.

So, my friends–my male friends especially–you don’t need to correct someone, you don’t need to offer solutions or unsolicitied advice. You don’t need to fix anything (unless YOU broke it). You just need to listen. Like really listen. And maybe offer her a snack.

And ladies. Same.

Advice/assistance/etc. requires consent. Always be sure to ask if someone needs help first and then ask them what anybody in retail can already tell you the first question you should ask anyone.

“How can I help you?”

That’s not falling into gender roles and stereotypes. That’s just being a good listener. Isn’t that just what we usually all want? Unless they say “Tell me how to fix this.”

Then work together to fix it. Because even if you “fix” someone’s problem, they might wind up resenting you for it.

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.