Archive for May, 2008


May 22nd, 2008 No comments

Every once in a while, I take a closer look at the many interesting ways I manage to screw my life up and hold those experiences up to a magnifying glass, looking for some crumb of evidence that I’m doing something right, but more often find that I’m not. I just want to make my life better. There are those that look up at the stars and dream and hope. Hope is nice. It is what I hang onto when I’ve done all I can do and everything hangs by it. However, until that moment comes when all of my efforts have been exhausted I usually end-up turning my world upside down. You can’t change others(which I have found to be an ultimate truth in the universe) nor should you try! (unless they come looking for guidance, and sometimes not even then). So, you might as well start fixing things right under your nose.

Lately, I”ve been reflecting a lot about my choice and or willingness of myself to bend to the will of other people; To be the one to change, to ‘give in’ to the things that I am not willing or wasn’t willing to put up with or to be a part of in the first place. Often times during heated discussions and arguments, I’m reminded that I’m not as flexible as I used to be. So, I find myself reflecting on those moments even after much time has passed, looking at the way I acted, the choices I’ve made, and looking for a path through the issue that might have resulted in everyone ending-up happy, or in the very least, happier. Sometimes that is and was possible, and sometimes it wasn’t. The point is, I’m a thinker. I spend a lot of time thinking about people’s feelings, thinking about how the way I acted or didn’t act might have affected their lives.. and hell, my own life too! It doesn’t even matter sometimes if the other person totally screwed up and went off on me like a 5th grader, I still reflect on it, and you still feel it long after their words are gone.

I’ve carried this weight of ‘over thinking about others’ feelings’ on my shoulders for a very long time. I’m not sure why I’ve been carrying it. I think part of it is because I want people to be happy, and I want them to have what they want to have, many times before I have what I want. Its just part of who I am. So, do I bend? Do I give up what I want so they can have what they want? Sometimes… okay, probably more than I should. Well, at least I used to. So, something must have changed at some point.

I know I wasn’t always this way, I wasn’t always as inflexible as I have become. There was a time when I was younger that I used to bend all the time, and what I found was that generally other people would walk all over me, and i would rarely get what I wanted. Even after I took a great college level writing class, and my ability to persuade people increased dramatically, I still found that many folks didn’t want to be persuaded (i.e. words were not enough, even good words and sound reasoning). Some people just want to have their way.

Looking back now, I can see that I made it a mission in my life to stand up to people like that in my own way. It was an active choice, to ‘not’ be a reed in the wind to people like this, to ‘not’ be swayed by people who would not sway, that is unless they decided to become more flexbile in their own views for the issue at hand. It didn’t always mean that straight out Mortal Kombat was necessary, but often times just reflecting back at them their own rigidness would be enough to spark the beginning of change. Sometimes, it would lead to disaster.

So, For myself, I would ponder “Is worth it to stand up for a friend when nobody else would, even if it meant some of the other folks you thought were friends would ostracize you, or standby silently, only to not call or message you as often if it all, or even ridicule you publicly for your actions, separating themselves from you.

It is. However, it doesn’t make the suffering any less painful.

This thinking reminds me of my old friend Bob Delaney. He had a girlfriend at the time whose name I now do not recall (blame: topamax/age). She claimed to be able to tell a lot about a person by simply touching them. The very first time I met her, she simply asked to and held my hands, and one of the things she told me was, “Ben, you have a good heart, a very good heart…but bare in mind, due to your compassion and feeling for others, you will endure a difficult and painful life. ”

So, Is this what she was talking about? When I stick up for folks I call friends, and everyone else hangs their heads low, and shuns me for doing it, …is this was she was talking about?

This idea is one that has kept me up at night. When I help those I care about by sticking up for them, and I see friends sit by, …acting indifferent to the suffering of others around them, what am I to do about that?. …However, ya know? it’s not really indifference. They see it…. They see the suffering! They complain about the suffering! Yet, when the time comes for action, to rise up and do something to fix the problem, they sit idley by and hang their heads low, hoping that nobody else will notice their inaction, and that someone else will fix the problem and take the crap that comes with being the one to rock the boat, and not only that, they will attempt to silence the one trying to fix the problem in hopes of claiming the right of the ‘peace-keeper’ and somehow becoming a hero.

These people act like friends, but in every reality, they are something else.

I have good friends, and for those I am very thankful.

I’m left asking myself, what needs to change in me:
-If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
(be more aware of this, e.g. trust your instincts)
-Establish friendships with individuals
(not groups)
-Try to keep to your age group for friendship.
(younger folks are immature just like you were)
-Don’t trust unconditionally, and give full trust more slowly.
(I tend to trust too much too soon)

Other than that, I fully intend to keep on standing up for my friends. It’s just part of who I am, for better or for worse.

Categories: Ben, General, Introspection Tags:

The Guest List

May 19th, 2008 1 comment

(this post started before Anna and I were married) Family. What is a family? How do you deFINE family?? Well, That’s become a very repetitive question for me lately, one that I keep coming back to, even after I’ve answered it, even after I thought I had pretty much nailed it down and secured the defintion into a Jack Bauer style holding cell, and since I’m writing in my blog (Anna, use right hand and secure jaw back to head), something must be not right, ..either about how I defined it, or in how I expected others to act with their definitions of it, or in how they defined it, or (sigh) ..SOMETHING!

Lets start with the activity that I had been building up in my head and heart for a long time, watching those wedding shows with Anna, seeing all of those TV shows growing up, with a room full of people, and both families there, everyone there ready to wish the new couple a prosperous journey as they start a new life together as a married couple, as a family. But!…I already knew our version was going to be different.

My mother hasn’t been a part of my life since my parents divorced (I was 6). I used to really take this personally growing up, to wonder why, try to rationalize, … and when I was nineteen, I sat her down and explained that I was forcefully removing any chip on my shoulder that she had placed there for me by not being a part of my life growing up.

However, after hearing recently from my sister, that she did something similar (10 years later), I’ve realized (many years ago in fact) that it has nothing to do with me, has to do ..had to do with her. Based on the conversations with my sister, my biological mother, Louise, just doesn’t take her responsibilities seriously, even responsibilities of the heart (Family). She has played the largest role in doing damage to every brother and sister that she has tried to parent. At some point, someone nearer to her (I have not been) needed to remove her from power. She just doesn’t ‘do that’ well. It should be like any job, you do it bad enough, you get fired.

What I’m getting at….even with all my ‘after the fact effort’, she had a place in shaping the man I have become …. especially with how I deal with those that hurt me, and in that respect, I have spent many years undoing the damage she imposed all those years ago. I have come to a happy medium, and have found peace with it, choosing who I keep around me, giving the worthwhile folks second chances. I hear that she’s nearly on her death bed, she suffers from diabetes (the bad type), and general bad health from years of being over weight, not exercising, and not taking care of herself (or others for that matter, see also: family). While this saddens me, and it does, it’s not the same as if I had a working relationship with her for years. It’s more like a stranger is on her death bed. And, while I don’t wish anyone ill will, I don’t tend to go out of my way for family that doesn’t tend to do the same. Some may call this a fault, others may totally understand this, but it is my choice to make. Ironically, she is most likely the person that has most shaped me in this regard. …but back to the point…

When it came to if my Mother would be coming to any wedding that Anna and I might have, ……no, …. I would not be inviting her.

Then, there is my Dad.

I love my Dad. I have loved him my whole life, and have talked about him with love, …telling people that while I might have been unlucky in the ‘mother department’ growing up, least I had a dad that made up for it, and he did. He is the guy that I have aspired to be for many years. He has been a guiding light for me, about what is right and wrong, how to make good choices in life, you name it. I have many fond memories when I think of my dad. Him, helping me to learn how to play T-Ball, ..helping to coach the team, even if we weren’t often the winning team. Him, helping me with my homework. Him, coming to my band shows (I Played the trumpet, haven’t picked it up in years, until recently when Cassidy started to express interest in music, so I showed it to her). He has been there for me, and while i have played the role of kid (not perfect, making mistakes along the way, etc), I am grateful, and I have shown it. There has been something missing for quite a few years, and I only started to realize it in the last few years. My dad really didn’t have any interest in me, and it showed. Any time we talked, I would ask how things were going with him, and that’s what we would talk about, him, his life, his work, and that was it. It was odd, since he always prized himself on how good a listener he was, and I’m sure, even now, he would argue this point (and that’s okay, I expect that from him, even now).

Now, it’s not fair for me to say that my hands are clean in this matter. I have never been good at calling family on the phone on a regular basis. This comes as what should be a simple thing, but… it isn’t. The reason it isn’t, is because, my sense of ‘family’ has been screwed up for years. But, that story wont’ come around until the next post I think (we’ll see, putting all of that into a tangible, linear story may be more difficult than I think it will, fingers crossed). In any event, I don’t’ expect that Gary understood this, at least, he didn’t take the time to.

In any event, at least as far as the cell phone calls from Gary, about to board his flights, there’s only so much one-sidedness that anyone can take before they become disgusted, and grow weary of the lack of interest from the other party. For me, it took quite a while, probably because I couldn’t help but think of all of the energy and love my Dad has put forth in raising me, I mean… talk about a labor of love. My dad thinks I don’t understand this, and he’s wrong, and again, he’ll argue this with me, and that’s okay, we don’t’ have to agree on this.

I feel that my father, Gary, views me as he did when I was in my teens, and that he still feels the need to guide me as if I was in my teens, and that if I do something that he doesn’t like, that he feels the need to scold me as if I were in my teens, living at home with him.

Kandy, his wife, came to visit several months ago. During this visit, she was the Kandy that I’ve really grown not to like. The one that acts just like her mother does, judgmental, serve me, act interested in my life, but its not important if i’m not interested in your life. I’m not going to go into the full details of her visit, but in short, during her visit, she pushed too far. Once she had gone, I wrote her a letter, and I included my father. In the end, my father wrote me a letter back, and rather than get the introspective answer I was looking for, I got judgmental asshole Gary.

See, during my adult life, Gary and I haven’t argued, or if we did, I don’t remember it. I’m not sure that Gary knew how to respond to me not being thrilled about him and his wife, it certainly didn’t seem that way. In short, the letter back from him made every effort to be ‘blunt’ and cut me to shreads (he knew what he was doing). He knew that I would likely not want to have anything to do with him after this.

He made claims about my life and my behavior (after not having been a part of it for years). Most of it was completely incorrect, and also questioned the way that we parent Cassidy (after having spent minutes with her). so, in short, Gary? you knew it was coming, you knew it was an asshole move to write a letter like that, but…. you still did it. This….. was your move of compassion (they’ve been Buddhist for a while now)

I had a choice before me, forgive, … let it go, and act like everything was okay. Or push away. I chose the latter. I really don’t have space in my life for people that want to act like that. I don’t care who you are. If you want to be an asshole, find some other place to do it. Find someone else to do it with, there are plenty of takers, ….just not me.

So, would my dad and Kandy be coming to the wedding? No, they would not be coming to the wedding.

So, this left me with a really tough decision. My side of the family (some sisters up north), wouldn’t probably not come to any wedding we had in California, and I knew that Anna had plenty of folks that would come to a wedding here. I wanted her to be happy, I wanted her to have a wedding that she wanted, but how do you do that when … when my family is so screwed up.

Anna, this is why it took me so long to get the plan rolling in the first place. I finally worked up the courage to just be completely frank with your, and talk to you about all of the the things here, and how I wasn’t sure what to do about it, but that I knew what I wanted to get married.

I was …so…relieved that you were okay with going downtown and getting married in a civil ceremony. But, even now, when I see commercials that come on tv, that show these lavish weddings, with tons of friends and family members, and people all dressed up, …I can’t help but wonder if did us a true service. I never want to live with regret, …but living with a screwed up family, … a mother that lead me to be know what I am willing to put up with has narrowed my list of friends down to a shorter list. I know what I have is a gift, Anna, Cassidy, they’re both gifts, and I cherish them, … I guess, I just wish things could have been better, but this is one of the things I can’t change. I can’t change that Gary and Kandy have become overly judgemental as they’ve grown older. And I can’t change that name Louise is just a word to me (supposed to mean “mother”).

So, where do I go from here? (sigh) ….

(Bob Seger ) Turn the Page.

Categories: Ben, Family Tags: