“Sensitive people suffer more, but they love more and dream more.”
Tag Archives: emotions
On December 31, 1985, I gathered with one of my best friends, his then-girlfriend and her older sister at the girls’ house to ring in the New Year. In my 22 years of life at the time, I had never been so glad to see a single year fade away as 1985. Just about everything had gone wrong for me. I was placed on academic probation in college because of my dismal grades for the fall 1984 semester; then got suspended for the fall 1985 term because I still couldn’t get it right. That prevented me from becoming a full member of a fraternity I so desperately wanted to join. In April my parents and I had to put our German shepherd, Joshua, to sleep. That fall I had my first sexual experience, which proved embarrassing and depressing. In October I fell into a police trap and was arrested for drunk driving. (My blood alcohol level ultimately proved I wasn’t legally intoxicated.) By Christmas, I was an emotional and psychological wreck. I’d come as close to committing suicide as I ever had that year. But, as New Year’s rolled around, I’d settled down my troubled mind and realized my life could continue.
I realized 1985 was the worst single year of my brief existence and hoped I’d never see another one like it. For more than three decades that pretty much held true. For the longest time almost anything related to 1985 made me tremble with anxiety. Nineteen ninety-five turned out to be almost as bad; instilling a phobia in me about years ending in the number 5. Ironically, though, 2005 was a pretty good one for me, and last year was okay.
Then came 2016.
People all around me are waiting for this year to die, like a pack of hyenas loitering near a dying zebra. Aside from a raucous political campaign – with a finale that seems to have set back more than two centuries worth of progress – we’re wondering why this year has taken so many great public figures and left us with clowns like the Kardashians. I could care less. This year has also taken my father and my dog and is slowly taking my mother.
Over these last six months, I’ve experienced emotional pain unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I’ve never endured this kind of agony. It’s dropped me into an endless abyss of despair. Early in November, strange red spots began appearing all over my body. It brought with it chronic itching sensations. I wondered if small pox had been reintroduced into society and I was one of its unwitting earliest victims. The rashes and the itching would come and go, like million-dollar windfalls to an oil company executive.
It all shoved me back to the spring of 1985 and the odd little sores that sprung up on either side of my midsection. They were painful pustules of fluid that I tried to eliminate with calamine lotion, ice cubes and prayer. They finally vanished, and only afterwards did someone tell me what they were: shingles. I had to look up that one in a medical reference. For us cretins aged 40 and over, WebMD was a fool’s dream. But I knew that’s what I had, and its cause was just as apparent – personal stress. My poor academic performance, Joshua’s death, thinking my failure to join that stupid fraternity was a reflection of my failure as a human being – all of it had piled onto me.
In November of 1995 – about a week after my birthday – I woke up early one Saturday morning, stepped into the front room of my apartment and repeatedly banged my fists against the sliding glass door. I was aware of it, but I felt I was compelled to do it. As I lay back onto my bed, my hands already aching from pounding on the glass, I asked why I had done something so bizarre at that hour of the morning. Then, almost as quickly, I answered myself. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was experiencing serious financial problems at the time and I was having even more problems at work. My father had just experienced a major health scare. One of my best friends was sick with HIV and had been hospitalize with a severe case of bronchitis, and I’d just had a heated telephonic argument with another guy I thought was a close friend over…some stupid shit I can’t recall after all these years. So, after weeks of dealing with that soap-opera-esque drama, my mind cracked. Stress of any kind wreaks havoc on one’s mind and body. It’s several steps up from a bad day at the office. This is why U.S. presidents always look light-years older when they leave office.
So, as I smothered my body with cocoa butter lotion and anti-itch cream, I harkened back to 1985 and thought, ‘Goddamn! History repeats itself too conveniently.’ The death of another dog and more subconscious trauma. This time, though, events have been more critical than not being able to join a fucking fraternity or falling into a drunk driving trap.
But something else has changed. While my body reacted in such a volatile manner, my soul has been able to handle it better. I’m older and wiser now, and with that, comes the understanding that life is filled with such awful and unpredictable events. Yes, I’ve fallen into fits of depression. But I’m not suicidal. I don’t want to harm myself in any way. In fact, I want to heal and keep going. I didn’t kill myself in 1985 or in 1995 or in any other stressful period since then. I really just want to keep going.
I keep a list of story ideas; a Word document amidst my electronic collection of cerebral curiosities. When I peruse that list, I realize I may not be able to bring all of those ideas to life. But, if I didn’t try, why should I even bother with it? Why bother even with getting up every morning?
Something has kept me alive all these years. Something has kept me going. Earlier this month I noticed a cluster of irises had bloomed unexpectedly in the back yard. My father had planted them a while back. With Texas weather being so schizophrenic, warmer-than-usual temperatures must have confused the flowers, and they jutted their blossoms upward into the swirling air. I had to gather a few before temperatures cooled, which they did. They languished on the kitchen counter for the next couple of weeks, longer than usual. And I realized their presence is coyly symbolic. My father was telling me that, despite the heartache of this past year, life continues, and things will get better.
I still miss my father and my dog, but I care for my mother as best I can, even as her memory keeps her thoughts muddled from one day to the next. And I continue writing because that’s who I am and what I love to do. I can’t change what happened years ago, but it brought me to where I am now. I couldn’t alter the events of this past year. But it’ll all carry me into the following years.
Happy New Year’s 2017 to all of you, my followers, and to all of my fellow bloggers!
A is for adamant. I have a certain view of how my life should function and I refuse to relinquish it. It’s how I’ve survived all these years without going crazy and killing myself. I don’t impose my ideals on others, though. I’ve had that done to me and sometimes I’d obey; thinking if I did what others thought I should do, they’d like me. It never worked! So I stopped doing that shit. Other people’s rules don’t apply to me.
B is for barrier. I’ve placed too many barriers in front of me; impediments of my own making; excuses to prevent me from taking unnecessary risks and possibly hurting myself. I’ve told myself I can’t do X because of Y. Or worst, because someone else told me I can’t or shouldn’t do it. So, I’ve finally learned to knock down those barriers.
C is for curious. I’ve always been curious about the world around me, even if I feared it most of the time. I’ve wondered why hurricanes form and why dogs move in circles several times before laying down. I wonder why most people are assholes and refuse to get along, when the alternative is constant yelling and fighting. When I get curious about human nature, I become frustrated. So, I start thinking about dogs and hurricanes. At least they have a reason for being the way they are.
D is for depression. It’s one of the ugliest words in the English language. It’s been a constant, demonic companion in my life. It’s robbed me of life’s simple pleasures more times than I can count. It’s held me back from taking the chances I needed to move forward. It’s kept me in bed or drunk, when I should be out doing something good for myself. It’s almost killed me – several times. It’s still there; lurking in the back of my psyche like a dormant flu virus. But I finally stood up to it and beat the fucker back down into the gutter where it belongs.
E is for education. I feel this is the single most important factor in any civilized society. Odd, considering I dropped out of college in the late 1980s and didn’t return until almost 20 years later to earn my college degree. But, I did it. And, my education didn’t end when I finished that last class. It continues. I’m still learning. I’ll always keep my mind open to new experiences and different things.
F is for fear. There it is again – fear of the unknown; fear of people; fear of taking chances. Fear has been the other unwanted companion that just won’t leave me alone. It’s taken almost my entire life to learn to smack that thing down into oblivion. Still, on occasion, it extends a grimy finger upwards and points at me. It still tries to intimidate me. But now, it’s all been turned upside down. Fear is scared of me.
G is for glaring. The truth about people and things is often glaringly obvious to me. Why don’t others see the various and sundry colors of the world, instead of just the grays? Some folks look at me like I’m crazy. But I just have my own unique view of my surroundings and the people who occupy it. More importantly, I no longer expect people to think and feel exactly as I do.
H is for health. After seeing an aunt battle with cancer in the late 1980s and a friend ravaged by AIDS just a few years later, my physical and mental health became paramount. Few other things matter as much. For years, however, I had a handle on my physical health. I lifted weights, jogged regularly and did some basic calisthenics almost every weekday morning before heading out to work. It took a while longer, though, to get a grip on my psychological welfare. I know my body will grow tired, as I continue to age. But I refuse to get “old.” That’s more a state of mind.
I is for introvert. It used to upset me so much. I had such a hard time making friends. I just couldn’t get too many people to like me. I felt, for so many years, that I was defective. Something was wrong, I kept telling myself; something wrong with me. But now, I embrace that attribute. It’s me; it’s who I am. I am just quiet and insulated. I’m a reader and a thinker; not a showman. I don’t have to make a spectacle of myself anymore to feel important. That introverted attribute generates a slew of story ideas and compels me to write and to read.
J is for jaded – as in cynical. You get that way after a half century of experiencing life’s bullshit; enduring years of being shoved around because you won’t conform to others’ expectations. I’m jaded as in bitter; bitter that it took me so long to realize I’m important and have much to offer this world. But, at this point in time, that jaded personality has given me a more clear view of life.
K is for kill. If I killed everybody who pissed me off, I’d be the world’s worst serial murderer. Then again, who wouldn’t? Part of being introverted and jaded is that I don’t like people much. I’ve always said the more I get to know people, the more I like my dog. Animals are cool; most people are assholes. But, I couldn’t waste my time killing anyone. I don’t want to spend that much gas money driving out to secluded locations to bury the bodies. I have stories to write!
L is for lost. Growing up so shy and timid I often felt lost in a world of bullies and cool kids. Now, I feel lost in a world of idiots. So I get lost in my world of reading, writing, music and good wine.
M is for meticulous. I’m a very detail-oriented person. Some people like that about me, especially at work; others find it annoying. People don’t have a certain place in society, but objects do.
N is for nearby. I keep the memory of long-gone loved ones close to me. People who helped raise me and had an impact on my life reside in my heart and my soul. I won’t let them drift away. I can’t. I can’t turn my back on them just because they’re no longer physically present on Earth. They’ll be the ones to come get me when my own life expires.
O is for ordinary. As difficult as I am to get to know – this, according to my own parents – I consider myself rather ordinary. I’m not handsome and I don’t have the perfect physique. I certainly no a genius, but I’m intelligent and well-educated. I do consider myself a very good writer, so on that level, I’m somewhat extraordinary. Writing is the one part about me in which I’m 100% confident. Otherwise, I’m an ordinary individual trying to live a relatively ordinary life.
P is for past. I’ve dwelled on it too often. I always wanted to make things better – things that happened a while back and can’t be altered now. I’d spend – waste – so much time thinking about the past. You do that a lot, when you grow up shy. People always seemed to take advantage of me and get the best of my mind and soul. So, even though I finally stopped doing that to myself, I occasionally have trouble breaking free of the past. Pulling my mind away from way back there and keeping it in the here and now.
Q is for quiet. Teachers and other adults always said I was quiet as a child. I’m still somewhat quiet. Now, it depends more on the situation than on my desire to stay out of trouble. If I’m quiet, that usually means I’m listening; sometimes plotting. What’s wrong with that? No one needs to be loud and obnoxious. Those who feel the need to be that way actually need to be smacked. As a writer, I relish the quiet; the solitude; the isolation. I’m quiet because I’m observing the people around me – and trying to figure out how their personas would fit into one of my stories.
R is for rebellious. Yes, I’ve always been quiet. But, I’m also rebellious. Quietly rebellious – as oxymoronic as that sounds. I don’t like to make a scene, unless I become enraged. It always startles the crap out of people when that happens. But I’m generally a silent rebel. My parents wanted me to study computer science, or anything related to computers. I wanted to be a writer. They equated that with being a bum; thus I started studying computer programming in college – just to please them. But my inner self said no; that’s not who you are. You’re a writer. Now, I’m a technical writer by day and a creative writer by night. Ironically, I’ve had to become a computer aficionado to engage in both tasks. Either way I’m still a writer. I rebelled against my parents’ desired plans for my future – quietly.
S is for smart. I’m smarter than I look. I like to read, so I know a lot; a lot of different things. Things like arctic hurricane is the formal name for a blizzard. Things like Polynesians in the South Pacific sometimes have blond hair, not because some European sailor got shipwrecked on an island 300 years ago and then got lonely, but because there’s a genetic trait among them that produces fair-colored locks. I’m smart because I understand human nature, even if I don’t like people that much. I’m smart because I know the environment is worth saving and not from a politically correct standpoint. I’m smart because I’ve been around and listen and observe more than I talk.
T is for tender. I have a good heart – physically and emotionally. My disdain for human beings notwithstanding, I still have compassion for people in general; mainly children and the disabled. I certainly have a tender spot for animals. Yes, that’s kind of odd to hear from someone with a leather fetish and a taste for vodka.
U is for underappreciated. Once more, growing up in a cocoon of timidity, I always felt underappreciated. It also means underpaid, and the two are usually interconnected. Showing someone respect is showing your appreciation for them. For example, I always try to remember people on their birthdays. To hell with Christmas or Valentine’s Day! Those are easy to recall. But, if you really want to show someone you care about them, or at least acknowledge their presence on Earth, wish them a ‘Happy Birthday.’ They’ll appreciate that more than ‘Merry Christmas.’
V is for various. I like a variety of things. My blog, as well as my writings, reflect that. I like different foods, different genres of literature and different styles of music. I have definite opinions on various subjects; some of which seem contradictory. I urge people to vote, for example, but I despise most politicians.
W is for weird. I’m a writer. I’m just weird. They’re symbiotic elements – ying and yang. They just go together. Only other writers will understand. But, whereas I once cringed at the mere hint of being dubbed weird, I now celebrate it. Actually, it’s pretty normal for me. Other people are the ones who think I’m weird. They just don’t understand. And, that’s fine.
X is for X-ray. Sometimes, I’ll expose my true self to people, so they can see who I really am. Those who think I’m weak will see the strength deep inside me. Others who think I’m cold and calculating will see the clown figure that lies beneath the rigid exterior. That’s not a common occurrence, though. I rarely let people get inside me like that.
Y is for yes – as in a restrained yes. I won’t say yes to just anything. I’m too cautious. I’ll say yes to saving an injured animal; yes to good vodka; yes to dancing to my favorite music. I reserve my yeses for the most important elements of life.
Z is for zeal – a zest for reading and writing. Well, I guess that’s two words for this one letter. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, though, my passion for the written word is boundless. We writers have to possess such an innate desire to sit down and drop words onto paper or a computer. It can be exciting and rewarding, but quite often, it’s frustrating and disappointing.