Saturday, July 30, 2011

Being better...

          I'm sitting on my bed with a nice breeze coming through the window, and I have been ruminating on what I can do to be a better person.  Not that I'm a terrible person.  In some ways, I am a pretty good one.  But I am too selfish.  Too self-centered.  I wish I wasn't.  There are all kinds of excuses.  I grew up moving around a lot.  Like every two years.  It was hard for me to trust people.  It was hard to make friends.  I came to the realization as a child that I would wear a poker face.  That I would put myself first.  That if it came down to someone getting hurt (I mean mainly emotionally/verbally here), that it would be them and not me.  To be quite frank, I was kind of an asshole for a long time.  The weird thing is that people liked it. I have had old friends tell me they miss the old me.  The one that wasn't afraid to verbally tear someone to shreds.  Maybe it was powerful.  But it wasn't fun.  It didn't make me feel good.  Over the past decade or so, I have tried to change and make amends.  But I still haven't gotten it right, yet.  So, tonight, I'm sitting here with the breeze keeping me cool.  Thinking about the vacation I am about to go on with my wife and daughter.  My wife is so nice it is ridiculous.  My daughter...well, she's just shy of three, so she has her moments...but she is pure sweetness.  Most of the time.  Sometimes she looks at me or says something to me that makes me want to weep and punch myself in the face simultaneously.  Rarely, it is something mean.  Usually, it is something so genuine and free of bullshit that is sends shivers down my spine.
         So, anyway, the conclusion I have come to is that this is something that needs to be consciously worked on.  I work out so I can fit in my pants.  I write and work on my 'craft'.  I work hard with the kids I am fortunate enough to work with.  I work hard keeping my motorcycles in good condition.  I take care of my knife collection like the knives are made out of crystal.  But I don't ever consciously work on being better at being a human being.  That needs to change.  It will be hard.  I see other people who are so kind and genuine that it is almost astonishing.  To use my wife as an example again, she not only would never hurt someone on purpose, but she allows herself to be hurt to spare pain in others.  It is a pretty remarkable thing to see.  And it is humbling.  Because I spend a lot of the time thinking about how situations can work out to my advantage.  How I can profit...not monetarily, but how I can get what I want/need.  It makes me ashamed.
          Like I said, we are about to leave for a vacation, and I am taking a stand.  I am going to spend more time with my daughter.  I am going to be more thoughtful when dealing with my wife and friends.  I am going to try and undo the damage that being an insecure, lonely, frightened kid did to me.  I am not religious, but I do believe in the major themes of most religions.  I think the meek should inherit the earth.  I think I should love my neighbor.  I think I covet too much.  I am a teacher and not wealthy, and I visit friends who have much more than I do monetarily, but they do not have the greatest wife in the world.  They do not have a daughter who worries about them when they have to get a root canal.  Somewhere along the line, I got my priorities a little bit skewed.  Sure, there are far worse people than me, but there are a hell of a lot of people who are better than me, too.  From now on, I am going to try and give more than I receive.  I am going to try to be more empathetic.  I am going to do more random nice things for people...not because it will make me feel like a "nice guy"...but because it will make them feel good.  And that is important.  It is more important than the kind of car I drive.  It is more important than my OCD...which makes me very selfish at times.  It is more important than anything.  We all leave this place at some point or another, and I want to leave having been one of the good guys.  We have enough parasites.  Even minor parasites.  It is time for some serious self reflection.  I'm really good at giving advice, and not so good at applying it to myself.  I'm going to work on that.  More than anything else.  If my pants don't fit, I can always get new ones, but I can't resize the kind of person I was if I wait until it is too late.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Social Networking = Instant Nostalgia

            I recently allowed myself to be convinced that Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and the like were good ideas…not things I should fear, cowering in the corner of my cave with club in hand, wrapped tightly in a bearskin.  And, it turns out they are good things.  But I still have some reservations.
            The best thing to come out of the conquering of my luddite tendencies was that I got a job.  This is huge.  Not only did I get a job, but I got a job doing something I love and am good at to boot.  I’m also getting more hits on my blog.  More people are listening to the music my friend Pat and I have spent decades recording.  I’ve reconnected with some people I genuinely am glad that I will get to talk to again.  But there is part of me that is still resistant. 
            I have thought about this quite a bit.  It doesn’t make sense, but it is the same reason I have moments where I absolutely hate the internet.  Don’t get me wrong…I am, without a doubt, addicted to the internet.   I appreciate that it affords me an easy way to stay in touch with people…a venue for my creative endeavors…the ability to look things up really quickly (like a few minutes ago when I couldn’t put my braincells on the word ‘luddite’).  It is the most amazing advancement we have made as a species.  But it has changed things. 
            Here I was writing along, and I thought, ‘ahhh, what do you call people who fear technology?’  Had my answer in ten seconds.  But there is part of me that misses the feeling of remembering something you have been trying to think of for days.  That nagging, torn cuticle masochism that leads to the ‘aha’ moment where you say, “luddite!…that’s the word I’ve been trying to think of”. 
            There are other things I miss.  I haven’t been to a library in a LONG time.  I don’t get mail anymore unless it is a bill or something I bought on eBay.  Or junk mail.  I feel like an old man banging his cane against the monitor sometimes.  The internet is wonderful…but things were wonderful before, too…a different kind of wonderful.
            I spend a lot of time on the motorcycle forum I am a part of.  And now on Facebook.  I spend a lot of time finding various amazing (and many not so amazing) sites on the internet with which to amuse myself.  But I spend a lot less time sitting in cafés and chatting with people than I used to.  I read less.
            I guess it could be argued that progress always involves the death of the old way.  And I am not saying I want to be Amish.  Hell, a little girl down the street showed me her chickens today (my daughter was very impressed), and all I could think of was, ‘do chicken’s carry diseases?  Mites?  Bird flu?’
            I am the first one to admit that I like modern conveniences.  I spend a lot of time on a pocketknife forum, too.  I collect ‘traditional’ pocketknives.  And we spend a lot of time waxing poetic about the ‘traditional’ ways of life that are disappearing, but it is pretty hypocritical and dumb, too.  I like buying milk.  I don’t want to milk a cow.  But, then again, I have never milked a cow.  Maybe it’s awesome. 
            What I think doesn’t matter, anyway.  The ball is rolling and has been for some time.  But it makes me wonder what kind of world my daughter will live in.  Which makes me nostalgic for things that we still have.  Which is a weird concept in and of itself.  And that is why, despite the fact that I like the internet.  And despite the fact that I think social networking is ‘neat’.  And despite the fact that I can’t go three hours without checking my email, I will always drag my feet.  Because I already miss the way things are.