Monday, August 29, 2016

Pavlov's Girlfriend

I'm not a guy that has had a ton of girlfriends. I've had more than my fair share of dates, but because I tend to find most people insufferable, dates don't usually make it much further than two. To be fair, I'm sure I'm just as intolerable to most women as most people are to me. I've often said, and still maintain, that I'm a bit like beer; an acquired taste. On that same note, if you like me you probably really like me and if you don't, you'd like to see my entire house burn down with my family inside. That's just the way it works out.

So, I'm definitely not a ladies' man. I've had a couple long-ish term relationships, but not any that have yet developed into anything that's stopped my search. They usually end peacefully and with some semblance of us still being friends (or at the very least not enemies, which is just as good in my book). One of my relationships I dated a girl for a few years, we'll call her Tonya. I thought the world of Tonya although she had a few things that were irritating, I thought she might be the one. In hindsight I'm glad it never got to that point due to a lot of alarming things, but while I was in it, I was smitten.

Tonya and I would go on a lot of road trips together. Road trips are fun no matter what and when they're with the person you're in love with, they're even better. It's a great way to learn about someone, get lots of meaningful conversation in, and also act like idiots singing along to the radio.

While on one of our trips one day,  a thought struck me... Pavlov classically conditioned his dog to salivate every time he rang a bell by constantly feeding it whenever he rang that bell. So, he'd ring this bell and feed the dog. Every day just like that. I don't know how we measured the dog salivating, but it was proven somehow that the dog learned to associate the ringing bell with getting fed so that whenever Pavlov rang that bell, the dog would start drooling in anticipation of the food he was sure was coming.

So would this work with a person? I had to find out. But what could I do? How could I test this for myself and do my own little science experiment? I wanted to figure it out for myself. Just then Tonya interrupted my train of thought with a "Hey... love you," which I, of course, returned with a little squeeze on her knee.

A few seconds more down the road and I realized... that was it. A squeeze on the knee could be the same as ringing a bell and the "love you" would be the food. It seemed too good to be true that I had it sorted that quickly. I wanted to get started right away, but didn't want to appear too obvious... not that it would be plainly obvious what I was doing to any sane-minded person, but that's just the way my mind works. I waited until well into the drive after a rest stop which we got some sodas at before starting. I reached over, squeezed her knee, and said, "Love you," which she returned. I had only even done this this one time and I thought it was hysterical already, but had to contain it.

From then on, whether it was a road trip or just a short trip up to the store, I made it a point to do it. Reach over, squeeze her knee affectionately, and say, "Love you." She always returned it. This had gone on for several months before I decided it was time to try it out for real.

I can't remember where we were going, but it seemed like it was somewhere in or near Detroit. It was a long drive, about 3 hours or so. We might have been a little under halfway to our destination when I reached over and affectionately squeezed her knee followed by complete silence. A couple seconds passed and I was beginning to think I was a failure and then she slowly turned her head to me and said, "Hey... I love you."

OH MY FUCKING GOD IT WORKED! At least, I figured the one time of it seeming to work was enough for me. Again though, I had to keep it all inside. There's no way in Hell I could reveal that I had basically trained (read: classically conditioned) my girlfriend to tell me she loves me on cue. I kept it together and simply replied exactly as she expected, "I love you too."

On the way back, after a long day, I had to try it again. Sure enough, it was almost the same exact response. A light, affectionate squeeze on the knee, a few seconds elapsed, and she came out with it: "I love you." My mind raced at the possibilities. What evil could this be used for? Could I classically condition her to do sexual favors? Would it go that far? All the other ideas I had were no less sinister and, when I think about sharing them, come off like I'm a misogynist (like having her make me a sandwich)... so I'll leave them out. Somehow, this alone truly seemed somewhat morally ambiguous and evil.

I kept it up for a long time. Until the end of our relationship, actually.  I don't really care what you think, because I still find it pretty damn funny. It is funny. Fuck you if you think otherwise. I don't think she ever suspected anything and I never tried to classically condition her to do anything else. Although, in all honesty, I found out that Tonya was kind of super shitty to me during our relationship (a few things came to light afterwards), so I feel a little less bad about the whole thing and do kind of wish I had trained her to do other things on cue.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Best is Yet to Come

One of the most important keys to improvement is consistently working towards improvement of whatever it is you're trying to get better at. Focus, determination, dedication, and the will to succeed will get you where you want to be in time. How much time, nobody can ever know, but you'll get there if you work towards it.

I feel as if I am consistently working every day towards being a better person. Better than I was yesterday. More moral, more ethical, more open, more honest, more feeling, and more caring. It's a shit ton of work in itself to realize and catch myself in the middle of some behaviors that have become ingrained in my personality. Traits that I'd like to make less evident or lose entirely. Although I haven't always had the greatest self-image, I don't know that I've ever actually really hated myself. The thing is, I've spent so much time talking negatively about myself and giving that impression across that I can fully understand how others might think that I think that about myself. That's one big transition I feel I've made in the past eight or nine months. Yes, the self deprecation is still there, but I can rightfully say that it's far less frequent and incredibly less earnest sounding when it does break free.

Another area I'm just now realizing and addressing is my fear of being smart. Don't jump the gun on me, I know I'm not Albert Einstein and I likely won't ever be solving any world problems with the thoughts kicking around in my head. Having said that, and I hate to sound conceited, I am coming to realize that I might be a fair notch or two above the average person. I feel like a dick even typing that. But, I think the key is not to hold that over others (which I don't think I do) but at the same time, not be ashamed to let it show either - which I have been afraid of for a very long time. My lack of self appreciation over the years hasn't really allowed me to enjoy many things about myself because to acknowledge or admit that I'm good or better at something, in my eyes, makes me come across as a dickhole. That's where the "consistently working towards improvement" comes in for me though, in this aspect of myself. Like so many other things.

I know I've said countless times that I will write here more. That I'll write more period. Somewhere, somehow. And that never comes to fruition. So, here's another aspect that I need to work towards because I've got ideas that need to escape, whether they amount to anything or not is another story... but I can't keep holding on to them. I feel like my life is headed towards something and you better believe that working in my call center job isn't it for the rest of my life. I guess that's what everyone says (only with whatever they do currently, not necessarily the call center), but I won't get anywhere if I don't start putting the work in to be the best writer, philosopher, music maker, or whatever the hell it is I wanna do. The time has come, to practice what I preach. I hope you'll see more of me around here. Even if it's rambling nonsense like this kind of is... Let's work on it, dude.

Now, even though nobody reads this, tell me... what do YOU want to improve in yourself?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Universe Explained

Here's the thing, man. I've got it figured out. By "it" I mean the Universe. Yeah, intense, I know.

So, check it. The Universe is like a flowing river. It doesn't matter where it began, it doesn't matter where it ends or where it's headed. That's not for us to figure out. It just is. It could be some dude with huge plans decided to create the river and let the water flow freely and do whatever it wants... or it could be that the river just kind of created itself from circumstances that arose through nature. Again, it doesn't really matter.

In this river, there's rocks, sticks/limbs from fallen tree branches, shallow parts, deep parts, and all that jazz. In its current, let's pretend a little swirl gets started behind a rock somehow. Yeah, the river goes on around the swirl but the swirly gig is definitely a part of the rest of the river. There it stays and goes on and on. Hey, swirly gig! Let's give it a name. How 'bout... Adam? Adam is the first swirly gig in the river.

Adam can have thoughts, dreams, aspirations, whatever. Like any other part of the river. But, because Adam is definitely an unmistakeable part of the river, anything Adam does affects the river as  whole. Why? Well, simply put, because Adam is his own entity, but he also is the river in a weird sort of sense.

Heck, nearby there might be another one with a different name. Further down even more. All these swirly gigs are their own thing while also really being the same. It's heavy, I know.

Now get this. Let's say the rock gets loose. Dislocated. A different tree branch falls and breaks up our swirly gig Adam. Adam's not with us anymore but, well, he actually is. Adam didn't really go anywhere, he was just released back into the rest of the river. Which is all he was part of anyway, right? Maybe a few feet down the river parts of him get caught up in a newly formed swirly gig. Maybe he is just released forever. Our swirly gig doesn't really cease to be because it still is... as it was before.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Shit Talking

At the urging of my therapist/counselor, I've started attempting to make some sort of mental note (sometimes I actually carry paper with me and make tick marks) whenever I catch myself speaking negatively about, well, myself. Even if it's one of those seemingly harmless self-deprecating jabs everyone makes from time to time.

I hate to admit it, but for someone who really does feel like he's okay with himself and who is his most of the time... I talk a lot of shit about myself. While I do think this exercise is a good idea, I kind of wonder if it's maybe also somewhat harmful. Now I'm not only making the jabs at myself, but I'm making myself feel guilty each time I do it and question why I always have some nasty shit to say about myself. It's like a feedback loop.

Then again, on the other hand, I am catching myself more before it comes out of my mouth. Although, sometimes, it's just like being on autopilot and I've said something before I even realize it. And I'm sure I'm not even catching all of them myself since it's just how I've operated for so long.

I think being the fat kid has kind of built it into me. Young kids are nasty so I would destroy myself before anyone else could. At the time, it seems less damaging when it comes from yourself than to hear someone else say it. But I'm finding that it's true what they say; you can only hear something so much before you start to believe it's true. That is where I think a lot of my self-esteem issues have come from over the years and learning to hide/keep the hurt inside along with everything else that seems unappealing.

The thing is, I really do feel like I'm joking most of the time when I say these things. Well, mostly joking. But, I also understand the idea that it's probably not healthy to have these ideas about yourself in the first place so I'll continue to work on it. Sometimes, dude, I just don't know.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

First impressions are for suckers

Before we begin, I can now address one reason I'm not a famous author and getting paid to write like Jenny Lawson (check out my last post, I think). Because I'm less regular than someone who only eats wheels of cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I suppose if I want to be some iteration of a semi-famous blogger, I better start writing in the goddamn thing. Fuck me.

A while ago, I had a thought that I think deserves to be repeated and explored. First impressions, specifically those provided by first dates. In this day and age, even moreso because so few people actually know each other when they first meet - everyone is into online dating. Take a small journey with me.

I want you to envision one of your longest relationships. Whatever that is for you. To some it might just be a few months, to others it might be years. Better yet, remember one of your most serious relationships. When you're in a serious, potentially long term, relationship all your freak flags fly - in all senses of the word. These are likely people that have seen you dressed to the nines (whatever the fuck that means) and people that have seen you completely bare-ass naked. They'll see/hear you crack jokes that fall completely flat and they'll be there for many of your best zingers. The point is, these relationships see the good, they see the bad, they see 'em both and there you have... a long term commitment. Not the facts of life.

So let's take it a step further. Let's start out on the wrong foot and warn everyone just what kind of cesspool they may be stepping into. Don't put your best foot forward, because nobody is on their best game all the time - especially once that guard comes down. You look forward to that point in time when you can just be you so start out that way!

Qhat does that mean, Adam? What are you driving at? For my dudes; this means showing up in your gym clothes, maybe even directly after a workout sweat as hell. Don't style your hair, don't put on deodorant, no cologne... all that jazz. For ladies, show up in yoga pants, pajama bottoms, throw on an oversized sweatshirt, leave your hair undid or at most a pony tail/legitimately messy bun, unbrushed teeth, no perfume, whatever.

I think of it like this, if we require truth in advertising, that damn well better apply to the dating world as well. Because, if this damn relationship that you're trying to start heads anywhere, you're going to see all the warts anyway, right?

Can you just pick that one dingleberry, honey?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Writing ain't that hard, son!

I just finished reading this book called Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. A somewhat famous blogger and mental illness sufferer. Overall, it was an entertaining book but I'd also have to say it was nothing special. I mean that in the nicest way possible. I read it, I enjoyed it, but I don't know that I'd ever read it again.

But, here's what struck me. While it was entertaining, the writing is not that dissimilar from my own writing. So why does this lady have a book published? Two of 'em, actually! Why does this lady get to make a living off of doing cool shit and writing non-sensical short essays and calling them chapters? I can do that too. I can fucking do that!

The catch is, I guess, I don't have any diagnosed mental illnesses. Which seems like a really weird thing to be complaining about. But, because I'm not diagnosed with anything and I'm not on a million meds, I'm far less interesting. I also don't seem to rush to write down ever somewhat whimsical or quirky experience i have. Maybe I really should start doing that. The thing is, even when I'm doing this writing I look back and see how many times I write "I" and think, "Who the fuck gives a shit about me this much? Goddamn and I a narcissist or something?". Maybe to be a blogger you have to be to some extent.

You've also got to not give a fuck on sharing shit about people that might, potentially, read what you write. I don't really interact with enough strangers to have material to write about them, so the folks that would end up here are also my potential audience. Then I'd start to piss those folks off with my (now expressed) inner dialogue and lose readership. It'd be fine at first, but then once they all dwindled down there'd be nothing left and I'd be forced to make new friends to write about and shortly dwindle down to nothing only to have to start all over again and again and again like some weird vicious cycle.

My writing has a ways to go, I realize that. I'd argue the same for a lot of these bloggers that have published books though. We're, for now, ignoring the fact that I am certain I'm the only person that reads my blog, though, that is. Jesus, I guess that'd be a good start to getting somewhere with this thing first too... getting some actual readers. Sounds like a thought.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Not Ready to Say, "Goodbye" Part 3

So the days are started to meld together and, as bad as it sounds, it seemed like dad never was going to die. I mean, that's kind of what we were all waiting for and finally having some closure and at least attempting to get back to something that resembles real life seemed appealing. A guy can only take so many repeated days of depression and watching a loved one wither away in a row. I keep re-reading those first couple sentences and I know it sounds horrible, but can't think of how to rephrase it to more accurately describe it. I just wanted it over and, being honest with myself and by speaking with the nurses/doctors, I knew he wasn't going to come out of this and be his old self. I mean, shit, he was in hospice care. That's just our modern way of basically acknowledging someone is dying without having to say that exact phrase.

One night we (my mom and I) went out to eat at Olive Garden. It was pretty close to the VA and seemed a lot better than fast-food or cafeteria digs. Nothing was particularly stand out about the meal except until the end. One of us had some leftovers and the (fairly new) waitress brought a box and was boxing it up for us to take "home." Her hand slipped, or spasmed or something, and she dropped the food all over the floor and burst into tears. You could tell she was having a bad day, she was nervous, and then she goes and has a moment that could happen to anyone and it just got to her. It wasn't a big deal by any stretch of anyone's imagination and certainly not worth crying over. Neither my mom or I were that distraught over the mediocre leftovers from Olive Garden - but I remember us both telling her how it wasn't a big deal and to forget about it. Really consoling this girl over some spilt pasta that someone half-asses from a freezer. This sticks out to me because I remember in that moment trying to get this girl to calm down about something as stupid as spilled pasta meanwhile my dad was stuck in a hospital bed staring at the ceiling and dying. I wasn't pissed at the dropped food, but I was pissed that this was something someone was wasting so much emotion on and I had to sit here and act like I gave a shit. I wanted to scream at her, "You think this is bad? Wait until you have to watch someone you love wither away in a fucking hospital while you have to go out to shitty Olive Garden for dinner! This. Doesn't. Matter. Get. Yourself. Together."

In hindsight I realize she might have been dealing with something else at home. Or maybe something similar but still had to work and this was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I dunno.

Other than that, it was all the same day in and day out. I couldn't tell you how long we were there, but it seems like it was weeks when I'm looking back at it. Until the 17th of January. I still felt stupid, it never didn't feel stupid, but I was talking to dad. His eyes did seem to move and focus on whoever was talking to him, so I had this idea that he was in there somewhere. And, yes, I talked about all the stupid shit from that other post. Divorce Court, whatever was going on in the news at the time, my thoughts and feelings on adding additional countries to NATO, and anything else my feeble mind could grasp onto.

I don't think there was ever a day that I didn't tell my dad I loved him while he was in the hospital. While I was blabbing on about stuff, I knew I had to stop and tell him just that. It seemed important right in the middle of a sentence, so I did. Then a crazy thing happened - he said it back. It was barely there, his voice was raspy and he could barely squeeze the words out, but it was there and this was the only time I can remember him saying anything the entire time we were visiting him. I still knew that things weren't going to get better, but it was a real indicator that he was there and aware of the things around him. That's also extremely depressing to think about, actually. It instantly brought tears to my eyes and it still does when I think about it.

I took the chance to talk to him more, and this is something I'll probably always feel on the fence about. I knew he was listening, so I told him everything I was feeling and how difficult it was to watch him suffer like I knew he had to be. I told him how much all the time he had ever spent with me meant to me and how there will always be certain things that make me think of him (thank Gandhi a lot of them are super cool things like the movie Pulp Fiction). The last thing I remember telling him was that if he was hanging on for me, not to. I told him it would suck, but I'd go on, I'd have to eventually any way... he couldn't be with me forever even if he didn't have cancer.

I already know the majority of people will at least say that was an honorable, or right, or brave, or difficult, or whatever thing to do. It was. I still don't know that it was right. I can't, for sure, say it was wrong either. I don't think any amount of discussion with anyone, or logical reasoning within my own head will convince me either way.

I hesitate to say something as sinister sounds as "it worked", but I don't know how else to say it. Because that was the day, 17th of January in 2005, that my dad passed away later that night. Maybe he "gave up" knowing that I was willing to march on without him. Maybe something else kicked in or took over and finally put him at rest. There's about a gazillion things that could be attributed to it - but I'll always have in the back of my fucked up mind, in some way, that I'm at least partly responsible for his death. And, yes, I know that's fucked and doesn't make sense - but neither does that damn Puff the Magic Dragon cartoon and I think about that a lot more often than I'd also care to admit.

The thing is, I said that, but I wasn't ready for it anyway. Hence the title of all these posts. But, I don't think anyone ever can be ready for something like that. Even when you know it's coming and on the horizon. I mean, Christ, he was in hospice so we knew it was coming. He was unresponsive and the doc himself said he wasn't sure how long he'd have... his eventual death was something that I had PLENTY of time to prepare for - but you just can't. I can't imagine any type of advice I could give anyone for losing someone as loved as I did my dad because there isn't any way to be ready for it. You never truly will be.

That's about all I care to share about this whole ordeal. There are, of course, a lot more details I've glossed over or ignored entirely but I think you get the general gist of the scenario. Even though I probably should have been addressing these issues a hell of a lot sooner, and not 11 years later, it has definitely helped me in some odd sense as well. I'll take this time to again thank everyone that took the time to read this and hope, maybe, it'll help someone dealing with similar issues.  As for me, I'll keep plugging along... doing the damn thing. I don't have much choice, I promised my dad I would.