Monday, June 28, 2004

Shared Reality

A friend recently made a comment; as genuine and well meaning as it was; It's caused me to do some soul searching about the reason for these Chronicles. The meaning of the quote is one of perception. His was of good intentions. My perception of it needs a bit of examination ... Or as I've learned in Com 101 "perception checking" to clarify it's meaning.

In light of it, I wish to impress upon you that the purpose of these Chronicles is not to express adversities that are so horrible that obstacles in your life may seem mundane and easier to overcome. It's purpose is not to point out that my life has been so much more tainted than anyone else's.

These articles have been almost therapeutic for me. The times depicted in them; these times in my life, are times when I was the most alone in the world and felt that the world was directing it's cruelties only upon me. Since I've been writing these Chronicles I've made valuable discoveries.

I have never met an adult who has not experienced the death of someone close to them; I've never met anyone who was not hurt by a failed relationship or lost love; I've never met a parent who did not fear or have felt the pain of losing a child to death or custody battles.

This, as a human race, is our shared reality. Emotions are the major component in that equasion. The existence of minds and hearts link all of us together through the universal effect of all human emotions. For example ... Billions of dollars are made by companies who, through advertisements, target our emotional responses. When a campaign works, it works because all human kind can relate to it through a shared reality.

I've had a lot of great comments about these Chronicles from the few readers I have because these ideas attatch themselves to that shared reality; they diminish that feeling that we are alone in the world with our thoughts and emotions. And that even our perceptions are not all together unique.

The purpose of the Perception Chronicles is to eliminate that feeling of "the world is against me" and to create a "community" where it becomes "us conquering the world" by opening minds to new ways of seeing things; or an over all understanding that "this experience is not only happening to me."

More on this subject in later posts ...

That's how I see the world; how do you see it?

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The Shackled Bliss of Solitude (Updated 3/31/06)

It's not, in relating a portion of my life, that I feel it makes a great story ... because it doesn't. My hope is to derive from it some insight value.

Entering my first real relationship in the year following my high school graduation, intrinsic to teenage boys, I had a hard time keeping my pants on. A few months later she was pregnant, and just as intrinsic to teenage boys ... I ran; for the first half of the pregnancy I ran. I refused to "believe" that the baby was mine, refused to acknowledge my actions and I hid from accepting responsibility for my choice.

I'm not clear on what monumental force finally persuaded me to pull my head out of that dark place; I do remember, reflecting on my parents divorce when I was 8, thinking that it would be insanely unfair to deny this child the one thing that I had always needed. Much of my childhood was spent wondering what I had done to make my father leave, not knowing or understanding why I didn't have a dad like other kids. This was my baby girl and I am her father.

Regardless of how scared I was, Nikki was a responsibility that I just couldn’t run from. All that it took was one touch of her little hand and I fell in love with her. My resolution then was simple; I couldn't wish for anyone, especially my own child, to live life without a dad or without parents who held an amount of affection for each other.

I made a promise then, a promise that was never mine to make, a promise to my children that they would always have a father. This relationship lasted three years; we never married.

Six months later I met Katurah. I may be sued someday for mentioning names. Just seeing her name in print engulfs me in a black tide of regret. I had found my best friend. I was "in love." One year later we were married; three apartments later we had a home ... Our home! A split level, four bedroom, two bathroom home with a one acre lot that we transformed into a "park." I had always wanted to have a home in the middle of a park. Seven years into the marriage people still asked if we'd just met. The spark in our eyes was growing. I had the life that I believed was always out of reach for me. I knew real happiness; consumed by it. This relationship lasted 10 years.

"Only a moment when you have 100 years to live." Five for Fighting.

The child support obligation became compounded with the divorce; support for my youngest two boys took effect and for six months, July to Dec of '99, I lived in my car, parking it where I could. My "rent" consisted of $100 a month in gas money since I had to keep the car running at night for heat. Then the apartment hopping began. I'd save enough for first and last months rent and deposit; move in; then two months later when I couldn't make rent I was back to my car while I built up another savings. Eventually Pay from a series of second jobs started coming in and I held an apartment for the remainder of the following year.

Through the denseness of that time, my body ached for a bed, my psyche ached for companionship, and my heart ached for my kids. I missed them so much that holding on to that apartment was the essence of all that I lived for.

A few years into my solitude I'd found a great friend. She's my age; never been married; and successful; MA, BA, and MFA degrees ... being 34, female and single people question that; not that it really needs to be; people like to talk and create conflict in others' lives to make up for the insignificance of their own. I mention her in lieu of other friends because she, oddly to me at the time, honestly had no interest in a relationship. To her the best kind of relationship would be a man who has his own home to go to across town. My perception was "why would you want to choose to be alone?"

In light of two relationships ... the first saturated with fighting; the second; the last year was silent oblivion; and relationships since have seen their share of tension ... I've gained valuable insight from my friends position. Some of us are alone because we've been alone too long. Having a man in her life now would disrupt her serenity. And for some of us; we are alone because we haven't been alone long enough. Always having someone in my life disabled my ability to realize my identity; disabled my ability to derive some strength and stability in knowing that I don't have to have someone in order to simply survive. I have to find that stability with my self and find happiness in being alone if I ever hope to make another person happy in the future.

For someone who's had little experience with being alone, It's very difficult. The loneliness and depression can, at times, be very intense. On one hand I "push" friends away or forgo making any because, as life has taught me, any relationship is unstable and may not last. On the other hand my life seems so worthless without that other person to build my world around and friends Bar-B-qing in the back yard. Not because I have to have that, but because that's the way I was raised; to believe that a broken family was miserable; that not having a wife and kids was an incomplete life. I believed that "The best part of me ... is someone else." That may seem highly pathetic, though for better or worse, that's who I am. Since childhood I can't say that I know the bliss or comfort in being alone. Until my divorce I'd never experienced it as an adult. I loved it as a child, but what child doesn't like their solitude?

I had made a transition from social isolation to social dependent, a stage in my life where my shyness has become the fuel of my depression and self-destruction. However, I do have a sense now that I will not grow as a person without a portion of my life spent where the best part of me is actually ... me; inasmuch as I have to learn to be comfortable with that.

"The most valuable of all education is to make yourself do the thing you have to do, whether you like it or not." Author unknown.

Society has changed the meaning of being alone since I was a kid. Many people hold onto their relationships for as long as they can even if love never has been or no longer is a factor. And some cling to abusive relationships out of fear of loneliness, leading me to believe that the power of loneliness is much stronger than the power of physical or emotional pain.

So ... is it conceivable that some of us are simply not capable of being alone; that we can't emotionally function and we settle to save ourselves from being alone? Is that a detriment to our character if so?

It's silent chaos for me. It's a constant internal tempest between loneliness and an unwillingness to put myself in a position to ever again love someone so much that my world crumbles when it's over. Though ... I wouldn't have wanted to live life without having experienced that kind of love; and the children that were born of it. Solitude then becomes a blessing and a curse; a peaceful resort; a prison with no bars.

My actions and choices are as much or more at the source for this end as misfortunes and fate. I live with them ... and very slowly I learn from them.

That's how I see it; how do you see the world?

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Path of Resistance (Updated 6/15/04)

For anyone who's ever been inside of a Circuit City store, you'll recognize right away the signature red tile walkway that encircles the show room. It's part of my job to take care of that and when it comes to stripping the wax off and recoating it ... it demands 24 hours of direct time.

With only 2 hours per day of customer free, closed store time to work on it, the process could take nearly a month to complete. In that length of time and given the amount of traffic the store generates, the first sections that I've completed would be substantially worn by the time I've finished the full squared circle. So ... I have to find a way to do it in a shorter time frame. Closer to one week.

Being new to this kind of work, I fool heartedly chose to try to do small 5 Ft sections throughout the work day. If I block off the area well with wet floor signs, etc. my boss also agreed that this was a viable solution.

I took great measures to envelope my 5 Ft work sections with signs, and several mop buckets which I placed the mop handles in a fashion to block the way through the section. Then I slopped on the stripping chemicals and began scrubbing with a long handled deck brush. Now ... This chemical mixture looks like soapy water, although this stuff is so slippery it will put you down faster than Mike Tyson. I liken it to crude oil on a hockey rink.

So ... To recap the big picture ... I have a 5 Ft area completely secluded by signs, buckets and handles running between them ... I'm in the center of this section scrubbing the slippery substance around.

And then it happens and all I can do is stand stupefied as the event unfolds.

A customer approaches with a puzzled look on his face. He stops for a moment. I say hello. He nods a hello back and then proceeds to push a mop bucket out of the way, squeeze by it and tip toe through the work section. Mind you; taking an isle to the left or right to get around me would have only been a 12 foot trek, though the eager shopper didn't even consider an alternate route. His puzzled expression was clearly a contemplation of his dilemma to get "through" me, not ever considering how to get "around" me.

I replaced the mop bucket and resumed working in utter amazement as another customer and later a Circuit City Sales Person both act in the same manner. As bewildered as I was I resolved to shout out a warning to anyone who was to even approach the area. I felt very awkward about doing so ... As if I was questioning or doubting their intelligence, although as the day progressed that's exactly what needed to be done; even with my verbal warnings, six more customers and two more employees still took time to contemplate how to squeeze through the slippery brew rather than find an alternate path around. Very seldom was an alternate path even considered an option. Short of closing the area off with crime scene tape, I couldn't keep people from walking through it. Even on the return trip out of the store they pushed through.

I've always seen the logic in the idea that it's human nature to find and take the easiest path. Though I learned to challenge that theory this day. It's not the easiest path we want. These people wanted the quickest path regardless of the signs, my warnings, and the risks to their safety.

Why do we choose the quickest path ... Even if that path isn't always the safest for us?

The question intrigues me because this phenomenon occurs in several other areas of life ... Consider boys/men and sex, dieters trying to make the weight, Corporate workers who want to be at the top without climbing the ladder, drivers in any city in America, anyone who considers flying as an option in this terroristic time, or even a writer so eager to be published that he self-publishes, with out pay, on an online blog. And the list grows from there.

I don't believe it's necessarily about stupidity, as much as that seems to be the case. Tunnel vision, narrow mindedness, ignorance or maybe just plain laziness? Or could there be more to human nature? Could we think so deeply that issues like taking a longer route are simply mundane to us?

I've been prone to be a victim of it. At times simply getting to where I need to go overrides all sense of rationalization and when put into that mode of thinking; the theory that humans are generally lazy doesn't really work because the brain will work very hard at figuring out how to get through an obstacle instead of around it even though going around, in the long run, may be less work; albeit take a little more time. At other times I'm so deep in thought over something that I simply don't see another path. Compared to the issues on my mind, going around is so minute, so mundane that I can't even see it as an option.

The logical idea that we should get is ... "when you come to an obstacle; evaluate the situation and look for alternatives." Most of us just don't have the time for evaluation. Or for some, that evaluation may be just as mundane as going around. So ... If we consciously consider ahead of time; after all we know obstacles are out there waiting for us; that there are other options available than straight through, then maybe in time our minds will automatically search for and possibly see monumental benefits in choosing the alternate path.

My journaling buddy and I have written a lot about the "benefits" of getting lost in a society where people don't have time to get lost. She and I have both decided that getting lost once in a while is when you see the best stuff; stuff that we usually take for granted. So take that 12 foot isle to get around ... You might find a technological trinket that you can't live without. Take the wrong exit or drive down a road you've never been. Make a decision in your life that you wouldn't normally make. The quickest path is not the best path! The quickest path offers no growth, retrospect, or excitement. Get lost once in a while, physically, emotionally, literally ... What you find may be amazing.

That's how I see it. How do you see the world?