Kool-Aid

I was never much of an athlete.  That never bothered me.  I started attending the Heavy Weapons practice of the local SCA group about ten years ago as a soft, doughy young man.  My form was terrible.  My muscles were weak.  The armor was heavy and uncomfortable.  Getting hit HURT

I loved it.

With a little (read: a lot) of help from my friends, I got my own heavy but marginally more comfortable armor put together.  My form improved.  After a year, I was finally starting to swing the weighted rattan weapons with some semblance of authority.  I was less doughy.  I toughened up.  I dropped some of the superfluous armor in favor of greater mobility.  I got a little more flexible.  I dropped the massive ex-roadsign I was using for a shield in favor of greater mobility.  I got a little faster. 

For a little bit, my attendance at the weekly practice slipped.  I got fat.  My normal weight has been +/- 170 pounds.  I was weighing in at 210.  I got into the gym under great duress.  I started running, lifting weights.  My weight dropped.  The shoulder problems that had plagued me disappeared very nearly overnight.  I found a way to get back to practice.  I quit drinking soda altogether.  I started to eat heathier. 

Those close to me will understand that “healthier” basically meant I was eating protein bars instead of whatever fast food I used to eat.  I did keep eating McDonalds for a bit longer, but that faded out too.

I started a job that had me working on the nights that I practiced.  I finagled my schedule so that I could go to practice, then head straight to work from there.  It wasn’t ideal, but I got to have my cake and eat it too.  I always made practice.  I made far fewer actual SCA events than I used to, but that’s a different story.  At one of these rare appearances, they offered me Knighthood. 

My entire exercise regimen had been the armored combat.  Except, people stopped coming.  The Thursday practice has all but disappeared.  I have still been going every week.  I teach the 2-5 newer fighters, but I necessarily keep myself reined in.  No glory in laying waste to those unable to defend themselves, right?  No fight has meant no workout for me.  I got soft and weak again.  And depressed.

My wife saved me once again.  She does that.  I’m the Knight who never saves anyone and she’s the damsel who isn’t in distress.  She convinced me to keep teaching.  She also sold me on joining her gym.  It’s a CrossFit gym.  I’m only two beginner classes in, and it’s kicking my ass, but FINALLY I have a fight on my hands again!  A couple of my co-workers have expressed their dislike of the subculture surrounding CrossFit.  They’re worried that I’ll drink the Kool-Aid. 

Any time someone adopts a subculture, they are filling a void left by some other incomplete aspect of life.  The SCA rewards and recognizes people for their achievements in a way that the workplace often does not.  I was made a Knight by people who know what it’s like to go unrewarded for hard work.  Practice is no longer keeping me physically fit, so I’m going to the gym to try to maintain my ability to fight.  If I can start making another practice, or if the other fighters come back to mine, so much the better.  Will I slowly turn into a firebreather the same way I became a Knight?  Who knows.

Maybe I’ll just have a sip…

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Playground

I have been silent on this page for a long time.  I know that I originally set it up to chronicle my fights with my inner demons.  I know that I wished to set my more creative endeavors apart from whatever storm and stress afflicted my mind at any given moment.  It isn’t that I don’t have problems anymore.  Far from it.  What’s really going on is that now I have someone to talk to about all this nonsense. 

It happened quickly.  Neither of us expected it.  It wasn’t meant to happen.  But we all know how I feel about “meant.”  There is a woman out there who will fight for me every bit as hard as I fight for her.  I did what may end up being the only smart thing I ever do.  I married her.  She is my teammate.  I talk to her about everything.  She listens and cares.  Gives me the strength to shoulder the weight of every petty shitty thing people pile on each other. 

It’s incredible. 

Tonight, I had the boys.  My wife was at work, so it was just the three of us.  I have a lot of fun with them, mostly.  One thing about their behavior has had me worried though.  “I can’t do it.  It’s too hard.  I’m scared.”  That’s basically the battle-cry of the loser.  I have a video from perhaps a year ago that shows both of them scaling a playground structure.  Fast forward to last week, when my amazing wife and I took them to a playground.  The bars hadn’t changed.  The slide hadn’t gone higher.  I still couldn’t convince my son to climb the damned thing.  He kept repeating his horrifying coward’s mantra.  I can handle him insisting that I call his shoes by brand name (instead of calling them shoes).  I can handle him talking about how a Happy Meal is good for growing boys (despite my own adamantine refusal to have a McBurger ever again).  I can’t let him give up on things that are difficult or scary. 

There is hope.  Today, I showed the younger of the Destructive Duo how to climb the bars, then had the older do it.  “Was that scary?”  I asked the older.  “Was that too hard?”  I asked the older.  No’s to both.  “See, your big brother can do it!” I told the younger.  After a couple of aborted attempts, he was climbing it.  At last. 

And then there was the slide.  “Daddy! Catch me!”  So I would go stand at the bottom of the slide.  He would slide down.  I didn’t budge.  He scooted off the bottom of the slide.  “Daddy! Catch me!”  I repeated my action.  Eventually he stopped wanting me to catch him; he actually started yelling at me NOT to catch him.  FINALLY.

The older of the pair wanted to cross the monkey bars.  He knows how to do it.  “I can’t reach.”  So I stood by and told him he’d have to jump.  He tried to jump to me.  “Nope.  You want to cross the bars, you jump to the bars.”  He tried to jump to me again.  I repeated.  After a few minutes of back and forth like this, he finally leapt out into space.

He caught the bar.  One hand slipped, but he got it back up.  “Good!”  I yelled.  “Swing!  Grab the next one!”  He haltingly kicked his legs, one hand lurching forward.  He caught the next bar.  He kept going.  “Yes!  Good job!  I’m proud of you!”  By the end of the night, they were both climbing and swinging and sliding and jumping like normal kids. 

Back to the Books

“Reactivated my facebook account.  Immediately regretted it.”

A true story.  I was talking to a friend of mine as I logged back in to the social media site.  I got my “Welcome back!” email.  I was immediately tagged in one of my friends’ stupid trolling posts.  For those unfamiliar, you can tag people in a comment, then like that comment to give someone two notifications.  For anyone dumb enough to have alerts enabled for their phone, it’s super fucking annoying.  Swearing for emphasis.

I vaguely recall enjoying that little game, but note the past tense…  I shook my head.  My compatriot who was physically present pointed out that if I went a month without it and didn’t miss it, I wasn’t going to want Facebook back.  He’s smart.  And perhaps more importantly, right.

So, to my dismay, I’m back on the book of faces.  As noted before, it’s the only place I have access to some of the more important pictures of my life.  It’s the only point of contact for me and much of my extended family.

I’ll keep it.  But you can’t make me like it.

Clocked

Wait – Xmas is when?! 

(Yes, Xmas.  A consumer holiday celebrated on the same day that the faithful celebrate the birth of their savior.)

I’m not ready!  Oh, right.  The world has never once given a flying fuck about whether I’m ready.  The world asks that I prove my boast about being able to swim in the shitpool.    Or the whirlstool, if you read the last post.  Haha, poop jokes!

After a few minutes of thought, I have my list of who to shop for.  A few minutes later, I know what to buy for half of them.  I scrape the depths of my mind and recall that the other half said they’d get back to me with gift ideas.  Sigh.  Great.  At least my tree is already up.  It’s got a lonely ornament made by that special someone.  A shadow flickers across my face.  Won’t get to see her on the holiday.  No worries.  We knew this ahead of time, and the make-up time will be phenomenal.

I think I’ll be turning the lights back on at my FB page on January 1st.  This isn’t a resolution.  I think that this year I will skip resolutions and see how it goes.  I scored 2 out of 3 on last year’s, but the fewer reasons I have to beat myself up, the better.

So, what you’re seeing here is what happens when I keep thinking of a million things I want to tell someone and knowing I have to wait.  I am temporally out of sync.  I think that’d be a good start for a short story on my other page.  It’s about time that I start feeling that trickle of ideas flowing again.

I almost feel like I should let this die as a draft, but it was either here or some other social media.  Call it practice: I’m still rusty when it comes to distilling signal from all the mental noise.

Facebook

I regret nothing.  I have lived as few men dare to dream.

That said, I’m rediscovering the joys of treading water in my own personal whirlpool of shit.  Shitpool.  Whirlstool.  Ha.  I like that last one.  

I am a sucker.  Or a chump.  Or a goddamned idiot.  Except, as I am ever fond of saying, I don’t have to be just one thing.  I’ve done…  well… something.  It’s actually a thing I can’t talk about.  So, being vague on the internet.  I like it as much as you do, but the upside is that I doubt I have readers at this point.  I’ve ceased advertising when I post, and I hadn’t been posting frequently anyway.  

Now, rather than devoting time and space and effort to inchoate rambling about X that I did and can’t talk about, I’ll ramble about the other thing.  I disabled my Facebook account.  Why?  Here we go…

I have said regularly that I’m not a fan of passive aggressive.  I don’t like the victim’s mindset.  I don’t like heavy-handed manipulating.  I don’t like “pictures” that are really just huge font platitudes.  I don’t like apostrophe abuse.  This list keeps getting longer.  Really, I just don’t remember enjoying Facebook.  Most of my posts ended up being check-ins on Foursquare and pictures from Instagram (although I hold fast to the rule that one does NOT post pics of food).  I was reminded, rather heavy-handedly, of all of these facts recently.  I thought about it for a bit, then I requested an archive of all the shit I’ve posted.  Then I deactivated the account.  

There are downsides.  First and foremost, I do have friends and family whose only contact with me was via that particular social media site.  Second, there is an astounding number of pictures on the site that I don’t have copies of anywhere else.  Important pictures.  My son.  My knighting.  Basically, it’s the only way I can think of to see me the way other people do.  

There are behavioral changes involved here too.  One of the more interesting ones is that now when I obsessively check my phone, I don’t have anything to read.  I’ve had to search out news sites.  I have an Android phone, and Google offers some of the classics; I have started in on H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.  I’ve been posting to Twitter a little more regularly and I’ve been writing more than that.  People can now show me things I haven’t seen in person.  There’s a point to small talk because I haven’t already read a typo-ridden passive aggressive version of all my friends’ stories.

It can’t last.  I admit that I will reactivate the account.  At the very least, there are all the pictures.  Additionally, although my views on family may be a little skewed, that doesn’t mean I don’t care about them.  It’s just nice to be able to pry myself free from the claws of something so insidious.  It makes me feel powerful during the winter doldrums.  Yeah, Facebook, I’ll be back.  Maybe after the first of 2013.  Until then, maybe I can be productive at a computer.

Mood

“Ramser, you need to stop being so transparent!”
Why?
“Always putting your feelings out on display is seen as a feminine quality.”
Again, why?
“You need to make her chase you.”
This is stupid.
“You need to stop meeting people at the bar.”
I don’t do anything but work. At a bar.
It went on in that vein for fifteen minutes. Or maybe only five. It felt like a century. My co-workers are concerned that I’m off my game. On the days when I believe anyone actually cares, I still hate hearing the speech about how I should just be happy. Because it’s so fucking easy. I know I’m not 100% right in the head. The beginning of winter always kicks my ass. So does early April. It’s just how shit goes. I drag myself out of bed, slam an energy drink (we all know which one) and wait for the caffeine to blast me into my happy space. It’s worked for how many years now?
I have two enemies. The first one is my own brain chemistry and my tendency to catastrophize. I fall into a bad mood pretty easily. Especially during certain times of the year. Halloween and Easter seem to be the worst for me. Getting on medication would require seeing a psychiatrist of some sort. Not my idea of a good time, but maybe it finally actually needs to happen. The second enemy is my tendency to catastrophize and obsess. I can make a bad situation horrific just by thinking about it for too long. Do I call someone or don’t I? They must be done with me for good this time because I haven’t heard from them. Work is slow now, so the business must be shutting down. Sounds fucking crazy, right? Sometimes I can tell, but sometimes these things are cleverly disguised as rational thoughts in my head.
Whatever the source of this perpetual mental shitstorm, sometimes I am just in a bad mood and I need to ride it out. Things get dark for a bit, then they get better. It isn’t always fun. Actually, it’s pretty much never fun. Two things keep me going. First, you can only see the stars once the night gets dark enough. My son, my friends, every good thing seems to shine brighter when I’m drowning in the inky black. Second, I choose to fight. I can always kindle a little bit of anger over the way things are (or the way I am), and I get a lot done when I’m angry.
I am allowed to be in a bad mood. Sometimes I just need to be allowed to hate the world for a little while. Dishes still got cleaned. Coolers stayed stocked. I was pleasant to customers. I don’t want to cause anyone distress. In fact, I have essentially been wired to help people. Part of my mood was because I was aware of a problem I cannot help fix.
As for the conversation from a few paragraphs ago- I know there is a game between men and women. I know there are rules. I just don’t understand any of them. I say fuck those rules. I will be open and honest and genuine and understanding. I will weather whatever storms come my way. I burned every bridge but one. If it doesn’t work out, I will swim.

Scatterbrain

My thoughts have been pretty far-ranging in the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been able to sit down and write, but I have consistently failed to get a fully developed post out of any of my ideas.  I have had the same document open all week, gathering idea-trash.  Finally, I sat down, finished the sentences, and called it good.  What follows is definitely brainvomit, but I don’t delete.  Call it potpourri or a junk drawer.  Or brainvomit.  That word made me laugh out loud.  My hand is unsteady as I go to post, but truth steels my nerve.  Since when have I been shy about putting my heart and soul on display?

I remember how to start.  You smile.  She smiles back.  You come up with a quick conversation starter.  She takes the bait.  You get her number.  You call or text.  Set up a date.  You go out.  Have a good time.

I don’t remember what comes next.  After the shit hit the fan a couple of years ago, I was immoderately pissed at the fairer sex.  I mostly got over it, but I was in no shape to have relationships.  So I didn’t.  I’d go out with a girl a few times, and then let the whole thing fall apart.  I became very efficient at it.  Hell, I probably sabotaged things a few times.  Not my nobler self, that’s for sure.

But now…  I need to remember how to do things right again.  To do them well.  To try.  To care.  Last year, Jenna and I thought that I was done being the machine and that I was ready to be alive again.  We were wrong.  My mom used to tell me that there is a difference between “better,” and “good.”  Even from the grave, she teaches me things.  I chuckle every time I say this because it came from a cartoon, but “Memory is the key.”

——-

Once, I worked with a man who was a terrible typist.  His spelling, punctuation, grammar, and speed were all atrocious.  He felt bad about it.  In an effort to make him feel better about it, I explained character creation for a role playing game to him.  I did want him to improve, but self-loathing doesn’t get things done.  I asked him what he was good at.  He rattled off a short list.  I told him that he got X points to divide up between all the things he wanted to be good at.

To keep things short, he understood the metaphor.  I tell that story so that the next thought makes more sense.  I am a man surrounded by opportunity.  “Oh, you poor thing!”  Yeah, I know.  Get some real problems.  Thing is, I try to take every opportunity in an effort not to miss anything.  I end up feeling pulled every which way.  So I thought of the points division.  Maybe the key is that the more energy I put into a single opportunity, the further I will go on that line.  Makes sense, right?  Sometimes I can’t see the forest because all these damn trees are in the way.  Anyway, I cut a lot of opportunities out this last week because I finally want a focused and dedicated effort on something.  I’m pretty fucking nervous about this.  If it fails, I’m at zero again.  On the other hand, I have good the best friends to help me, and I’ve risen from the ashes before…

——

My stance on wishing is well-known.  If I somehow haven’t delivered this rant to you, here’s the recap: keeping your wishes secret guarantees that your friends can’t help them come true.  Seems like a no-brainer, right?

There’s another thought that keeps getting passed around that I’m finding I disagree with.  The idea that you should stop looking and ‘X’ will find you.  Bull fucking shit.  Curse words for emphasis.  Basic example: my car keys don’t find me when they are lost.  Flawed example?  Maybe.  Allow me to clarify.

“Be patient and opportunities will come to you.”  “Stop looking and that which you seek will find you.”  No.  You want an opportunity?  Patience will help, but only if you’re in the right spot at the right time.  You find that spot and you show up early and you watch for it.  Seeking something or someone?  Wait, you actually know what you want?  Whoa.  Okay.  So you hunt.  You inspect any sign to see if it resembles what you want.  If a lead doesn’t pan out, you try not to sweat it.  If that which you seek is seeking you as well, you have twice the chance to find each other.  Then (more cursing for emphasis) you fucking fight for each other.  Fair goes out the window on this one – the more dear to your heart, the more ferocious you should be.

I use the term “aggressive-aggressive” a lot.  Passivity is for the dead.