Call me Crazy!

Friends call me crazy at work.  My Girlfriend calls me crazy at home.   I always have a joke, or a quick comeback, or just some silly response to a situation that catches people off guard.  If I hear one common theme when people describe me, it’s…

“You’re crazy!”

Not really of course.   I don’t go around loping of people’s heads or pulling legs off ants.   I don’t howl at the moon or wander around the street with a shopping cart talking to God.

Nope.  I’m just as sane as you are.

But I say all that to say this.  I’m a real fan of therapy.  Not because I’m crazy, but because I’m not!   And I can prove it!

I actually started seeing a therapist about 10 years or so ago.  I had just lost my job when my wife kicked me out after I caught her cheating.  (She kicked ME out?  There’s something wrong with this picture! But I digress…)    This woman was the love of my life.  We were so good together, and so much alike my friends used to say that she was just me with tits.   She was my soulmate.

Or so I thought.

So, to say I was devastated when she kicked me out is like saying that an atomic blast is a little warm.  There are no words to describe my total and utter despair.  I had to find a new place to live, but I was unemployed (Remember?)   At the time I was drawing unemployment, but it was just enough to survive.   Barely.   My food budget was $25 a week.   On a good week.   Lots of egg sandwiches and Ramen Noodles.  Not a good time.  But then I started seeing someone.

My therapist.

At first, it was an hour of her listening to me cry.  And Cry some more.   Then cry until I couldn’t breathe.   (And so on…)

And then things begin to change…….

My best friend at the time also went through her own breakup just a few months after I did.    We all deal with things in different ways, and she turned to alcohol.   Okay, I’ll admit, I had a wee bit of that myself.    Many of nights we would sit and drink wine together sharing this immense misery.   But she REALLY Turned to the booze.  Over time I started to get a little better, and she just kept on drinking.  She started drunk texting me in the middle of the night…  One minute it was “I love you man”, then the next yelling and mad at me.    And then she switched to phone calls with the same.   I kept trying to encourage her to get help, but it fell on deaf ears.    We just about reached the breaking point when her daughter called me at 2:00 am to ask if her Mom was with me.   She wasn’t.    She had passed out on the couch at her house when her daughter came home, but when the daughter got up to pee, her Mom was gone.  (Her daughter was 22 by the way…)  So she called me.  I made all the calls to local hospitals, and to the jail, but she was nowhere to be found.    Finally, it occurred to me to check at her ex’s house.   He only lived about 5 miles from me, so I got dressed and drove over.   It was now about 4:30am, and sure enough, there was her car!   She had gotten up, drunk, and decided to drive over to his house, where they screwed, and she passed out again.  That was her account later, when she was lamenting to me again about how miserable she was.   I again encouraged her to get help, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with it.   The final straw was a few weeks later, when she called me at 3:00 am crying…  She asked how did I manage to recover from the breakup?  And I told her…. therapy and a lot of hard work.  And she said…

“That’s a lot of psycho babble mumbo jumbo… what really works?”

I wished her luck, asked her to please get help, and hung up the phone.    We haven’t spoken since.    I do hear from her daughter from time to time, and she’s coping.   Barely.   And still goes back to her ex (who is now remarried) occasionally for a one-nighter.  And she’s miserable.

Some things just can’t be handled on your own.

I have another friend who is really struggling as well.   She has a huge fear of commitment, and an even bigger one with intimacy.  And she can’t remember anything at all about her life before she was 8 years old.   Personally, I think she’s dealing with some abuse issues, but that’s another story.  I keep encouraging her to find a good counselor and learn how to face commitment and intimacy issues.  But she is terrified.   She’s afraid that therapy is going to bring things up and force her to remember all the issues she’s suppressed from her early years.

But I disagree.

I told her a story.    There was a young man who was absolutely terrified of elephants!   I’m not talking scared, he would get physically ill just talking about them.   If he saw a photo of one, he would break out in a cold sweat, start shaking, and go into a complete panic.   No rhyme or reason, he was just scared to death.  So he finally agreed to therapy.  (You can only ignore elephants for so long) They started off easy…   A few conversations.   Then watching cute cartoons with elephants.   Horton hears a who….  George of the Jungle… anything with elephants in non-threatening environments.   Over time they slowly progressed through various levels of interaction until he could deal with a trip to the zoo, and come face to face with his biggest fear.   He wasn’t comfortable, but he wasn’t having panic attacks either.

A few years later he took his daughter to the circus, where she absolutely fell in love with the elephants!  And the joy she found was only accomplished by all his hard work.   He had mastered his fear.

Now, the reason he was so terrified of elephants was that as a small boy, he witnessed a circus elephant run amok and trample several small children right in front of him.  Seeing a 5,000 pound beast stepping on a 5 year old’s head is not something a child can deal with.  The memory was locked away, but he retained a deep fear of the animal.  And he got over it.   He got over it without reliving the trauma.

He learned to deal with his fear, not the memory.

I see therapy as coaching.   Tiger Woods was the number one golfer in the world.   And he thought he was too good for a coach and fired Mark Harmon.   His swing began to completely fall apart shortly thereafter.  He fell from the #1 spot, and never recovered.  Of course there was the incident with his wife and the 9 iron… but yet another story.

The point is, none of us are too good to not need help or the insight from others.

My Mom used to tell me that there are two basic kinds of people in the world; diagnosed and un-diagnosed.  And it’s the Diagnosed that are the lucky ones.   They have a chance to heal.

I know I’m a much better person now.  Not because of anything my therapist has done, but because I’ve worked on myself with the help of a professional.  She hasn’t fixed anything.   She never gives advice or tells me what I should do.  She listens.  She makes observations.  She asks questions.   And at the end of a session, I say… wow.  I did not know that about myself.   That’s something I can fix.   Understanding is the first step of healing.  Honesty with yourself is the path to change.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is too big that it can’t be overcome.  And with a lot of hard work, and a great therapist, I’m comfortable with myself.  I can be silly.  I can be a smart ass.  I can be Me.   But I’m not Crazy, and I can prove it.

Just ask my therapist.

 

Therapist couch

Sleeping indoors

Bored

 

So I’m curious.  How many of you just absolutely love your job.   You can’t wait to get up in the morning and start a new day.   Being at work is such a joy you’d do it even if you weren’t paid…  A show of hands…   Anyone?  Hello?

Oh, there’s one in the very back.   And what do you do sir?   Retired?  Of course you are!  You know you’ll die in a few years, right?  How do you like it now?

This is a gross exaggeration obviously.   From what I’ve seen there are elements of any job that are enjoyable, and hated.  I had a boss tell me one time that if you had 30% of your job that you enjoyed you were better off than most.  And in my experience, that would be correct.

So if you could make the same salary and do whatever you wanted to do, what would that be?  I’ll bet that less than 10% would say they’re doing it.  I’m definitely in the 90% group.   I don’t hate my job, but I don’t love it either.  It’s just a way of earning what I need to survive.  So for myself, I think there are a couple of different answers.  If I had the skills to do what I wanted, I’d be a professional musician.   I’ll admit I have just enough ability to be on the fringe, but not to the level of earning a living.   There’s down sides to that too I’m sure.   To be successful there is lots of travel and time away from home.   That can be pretty cool, but only for a little while.   I’ve done that with my job, and it gets old pretty fast.   After a while, all hotels start looking the same, and there’s no real difference between a plane and a bus, except there are more people on a plane, and more room on a bus.

Hm.   Maybe not the idea job after all.

In all honesty I’d rather be a writer.   I’d get one best seller out, and live on the royalties while I worked on the next one.   It’s a job for sure.   Writers block can be very frustrating, and there are still deadlines and commitments to be met.   Still…  I think that’s one I could be happy with.

In fact, I’m already getting paid to do it, just not enough to live on.  Well, not being paid TO do it, but paid WHILE I’m doing it.     I’m at work trying to avoid the 70% of my job I’m not looking forward to.

But, the work isn’t going to do itself, and there are bills to pay.  It’s back to the grind.  But frankly, if it wasn’t for the whole sleeping indoors and eating regularly thing, I’d be drinking my coffee and working on my blog.

Just like I’ve done for the last hour.  I love my job.

Livin la vida loca

 

So…  In case it isn’t obvious, I’m getting a little order now.   Not on death’s door by any means, but my best years are behind me.  I’m certainly not the young man I used to be.

Hold on.    Behind me?  What the hell is up with that?

I’ve definitely had some good years in the past.  The joy of having babies is indescribable.  Raising them is hard, but even then, watching them grow into their own personalities and maturing into adulthood themselves can be a fantastic experience (Especially looking back.  Don’t make me wait up again until 2:00 am to make sure you’re home okay.)      My career peaked around 45.  In terms of accomplishments and influence at work, there’s no question that I’m on the downhill run.

But were those times the best?  Is there nothing else to really look forward to with the same optimism and happy anticipation?

I think not.

To use the very overused phrase, ‘Age is relative’.   And that is the truth.  My parents got old a whole lot faster than I am.  Some of this was my being young and just seeing them as old.  But even now, remembering how they lived and their attitudes towards life matured at a much earlier time.  By the time they were in their 50’s, their manner of dress had changed, their interests shifted and the whole outlook was at a much different place then.   Mom dressed like an old spinster.   From my teens, all I can remember is her in a knee length, very conservative cut dress with really ugly patterns and colors.  Her hairstyle changed too.  No carefully maintained and stylish cut.  Just a short perm, curled tight.   Hard to explain, but I guarantee if you saw it today, you’d immediately think “Grandma”.  And okay…  back then the standard for men was suit and tie every day.   And my dad did conform somewhat with the new styles and fashion.  He had no choice.   You could hardly find the simple black suits with the narrow lapels and skinny ties anywhere.  It was a shock the first time I saw him with a colored shirt going to work!   And with a leisure suit sporting wide lapels and highly colored three inch wide ties.  (Sounds hideous I know, but back then it was all the rage!)  But as far back as I can remember, he lived like an old man.  His idea of fun was spending time in his garden, carefully tending his roses.    I could spend then next hour or more just getting into their old personalities.

But that’s a story for another day.

Now, it’s totally different, and not just for me.  We go dancing at the clubs, and there’s just as many over 40’s there as there are 20’s.  We’re not doing the foxtrot or waltz either.   Shake that booty!   Then there’s hanging out at friends’ houses; just laughing, partying, and whooping it up.  We go to trendy restaurants, craft beer festivals, and concerts.  Our fun is more like a 30 year old well into our 60’s.   And not being irresponsible or inappropriate either.   Just having a good time.  And it’s not just the crowd I choose to hang with, you see it everywhere!

I can see a different story in my mirror.  My hair is white.  My face is wrinkled.  Don’t even look at the back of my hands either!  Varicose veins?  Yep.  I got ‘em.  I’ll admit that sometimes it’s difficult to make eye contact with myself in my reflection.  That image does NOT go with the thinking.

Looking at contemporaries, it’s hard to believe that they’ve aged like they have.  I see people I went to school with and think “DAMN… they look HORRIBLE”.   You know that they’re looking at me with their own “DAMN”.

But it doesn’t fit!  Damn!

So here’s the thing.  I choose not to be an old man.  I’m not going to live a sedentary life, spending time rocking on the front porch yelling at kids to get off my lawn.  Not only has society as a whole has morphed into this ‘age is a number’ time, but I still think like I did 30 years ago.  On the average, people are living longer, which does stretch the middle age period later in life.  Even if I die at 70 however, I refuse to be that crotchety antique just waiting to go.  I want to keep “livin la vida loca” right up to the very end.  As I look back, I want “damn that was fun”.

If you are in the ‘pre-senior’ group, I’ll bet you understand completely.  And if you don’t, why the hell not?  Sure, we all have the ache’s and pains from all the years of use of our bodies.  You drive your car long enough and the transmission is going to go out, and the paint is going to fade.  A few repairs and it still keeps you going though.

And you young’ens?  Hold on!  It’s coming faster than you think.  You blink and your kids are in college.  They are married with children.  They are starting to creep into their own ‘middle age”.  It’s a grim reminder to us that time marches on, but that applies to you too.  This old world keeps spinning, and you’re spinning with it.

My advice? (Since you asked) Live your life.  Live ALL your life.  Don’t anticipate the end, be surprised by it!  “What, over already?   Is it really time to go?”  Start enjoying yourself early and end late.  Find your joy, have your fun and don’t ever slow down.  Allowing yourself to live old only brings that eulogy closer.

I prefer to consider myself still in my youth, just with a whole lot more experience and memories.  And kids, if you listen closely there are things you can learn from those of us who’ve been there and done that.  One advantage I do have is a lot of chances to learn from my mistakes.  And make no mistake…

You don’t live once.  You die once.  So Live it!

Casket

It’s a small world

We have a global economy.   We’re blasted with news from around the world 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  Social media gives us the ability to make new friends anywhere on earth.  The Russians are wearing blue jeans; the Japanese are eating McDonalds; the Koreans are making our cars; and American politics are the laughing stock for everyone.  (Sorry, just a little personal commentary on the US.   Never mind)

Even within our own country it’s like were just a big village.   I have a daughter and 3 grandchildren that live on the opposite side of the US, but we chat almost daily.   I have friends…. Good friends… in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, California, and New York, and we are all in touch regularly.   My job covers all of North America, and I talk all the time with people from every state and province.

I read blogs from people in places I’ve never heard of; learning cultures and gaining insight into their world and perspectives.

Yep.  It’s truly a small world.

But before you go patting yourself on the back for being so sophisticated and worldly, think about it a minute.  Just how big is your world?

One of the few Beatles songs I actually like goes like…

“Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late …….  “

(A day in the life…)

Isn’t that really our world?  I don’t ‘fall out of bed’ to take my place on the world stage.  My morning routine isn’t engaged with our global existence.  Whether or not I pack my lunch or decide to go out to eat has no impact on someone 2,400 miles away.  In fact, it doesn’t really have an impact on someone 24 miles away.   Or 2.4 miles away.   It’s all about me.

Okay…  I’ll expand that one out a bit, just for the sake of argument.    I decide to buy lunch.   The girl at the fast food restaurant gets paid to take my order, enabling her earn enough to make the rent.   The food is cooked by someone who came from St. Louis (Or Guatemala or Montreal or Gonzales, LA… whatever).   The beef came from Nebraska, the potatoes came from Iowa, and the Cola came from Georgia.  Yada yada yada…   But ultimately, It’s really just about me and my lunch.

Think about it.  As you go through your day, where are you really focused?  You’re caught up in traffic on the drive to work.  There’s the dentist appointment on Friday you need to remember to put on your calendar.  Did I pay the phone bill?  Damn… I don’t remember.  Better not forget to stop by the store on the way home, we’re out of creamer.   And my knee is really hurting like a son of a bitch today.   Must be the weather.

Nope.   Nothing about the price of tea in China.

Yes, I have friends in Japan and England, but I don’t know who lives in the house next door.  I can tell you he’s a strange som’bitch, but don’t ask me his name.    No clue.  Outside of the people I work with on a daily basis, I couldn’t tell you a thing about all the people where I work.   We nod and smile as we pass in the hall, but they could bite me on the ass at the grocery store and I would have no idea who they were.  My life consists of my job, my family, and the people I interact with every day.   Thanks to Fox News, CNN and Facebook I’m aware of the outside world, but truly, it matters not.    My world… no OUR world has a very small circumference.   We deal with what’s right in front of us.   We think about what affects our day to day. Sure, we may get pissed off about walls being built or monuments being torn down, but even then, it’s about what impacts me.  Right here.   Right now.

So… think about that the next time you get in that political discussion about immigration policy.  Or you read about the UK withdrawing from the EU.  Or respecting the flag and tearing down monuments.  For that matter, how does Manchester United look for next season?  (Or the New England Patriots… bunch of assholes!)  Does it ultimately trickle down to us?  Of course it does.   But does it change your day?   Or your week?  Or any of the things that we ultimately spend our time doing?   I’m not saying we shouldn’t be aware of the big picture, because we should.  What I am saying though is, when you look at what’s important right now, all I’m really concerned with is what I’m going to have for lunch tomorrow.

It’s a small world after all.

 

Earth

A new day

It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,

it’s a new life…
and I’m feeling good! 

That kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

It depends on perspective I supposed.

It’s a new dawn…   And my happy ass is already at work watching the sun rise and looking at 10 more long hours ahead.
It’s a new day…   Wednesday.  Three more days of stress and aggravation until the weekend.
It’s a new life…   That’s getting shorter for this old man every day.
And I’m feeling good…  If you don’t count the advanced arthritis in my knee, recovering shoulder dislocation, and general aches and pains that are always worse in the winter.

I’m not really old you understand.   I still have a couple more years until the big 60.  And at least 15 more years before I can retire.   But when your manager is 43, and the average age of your coworkers is 30, then 58 is definitely old.  A few years ago my career took a huge downturn.  Thanks to a change in the economy and shift in the local business concentrations I went from being the head honcho of a mid-size business to an individual contributor part of a large staff for a fortune 500 company.  And my salary adjusted accordingly.  I’ve recovered somewhat, but when I took this job it was a 60% pay cut.  But 60% of something is better than 100% of nothing, and that was the choice I had.  I had a former employee apply for a job at my company, and she approached me for a reference.  She used to be an indirect report (By two levels), and the job she’s applying for is two levels above me.   I have to admit, that smarts.  Of course, she’s half my age, has a degree (which I don’t) and is in a field that isn’t affected by the job market changes.  I am old enough however to be beyond the point of any major job change.  My opportunities within my current company are limited, and no one is going to hire someone who will be able to retire in just a few years.  And don’t say, you never know!  You might still find something.   Two years of job applications and head hunters with no, yes NO responses will beg to differ.   So I’m trying to look at this as my pre-retirement job, not part of my career path.

It’s kind of fun being the old man though.  I love telling stories to the kids at work about how it used to be back in the day.   As a youngster I used to keep a dime in my shoe to be able to call home from a phone booth in case of an emergency.  Phone booths?  What the hell is that?   Why not use your cell phone?

They’re so cute.

Call 911? (or 999 for my friends across the pond).    That didn’t even exist until the 1980’s.  Whaaat?  What did you do in an emergency?

They were talking the other day about ‘classic’ music.   Green Day?   Weezer?  Foo Fighters?   Please!    What about the Animals?  Waylon Jennings?  Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead and The Band for crying out loud.    THAT was real music.   Of course, if I could have asked my parents it would be more like Frank Sinatra, Irving Berlin, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland.   The difference though is that I also know and appreciate that era too.   Today’s punks, uh…I mean today’s youth by and large doesn’t have a clue.   Ask anyone under the age of 40 about the Viet Nam war.    Yeah, they’ve heard about it… maybe.   Tet offensive?  Mai Lai?   Kent State?  Huh?   They have no concept of what it’s like to live without a microwave, personal computer, or cable TV.  Or color TV For that matter… Sheesh!

And I’m not just talking about millennials either.  These are the 30 to 45 year old range too.

You know, I appreciate all the new gadgets and conveniences of today.   But I really miss the old days more.    It wasn’t without our own strife and anxiety though.  Remember the monthly air raid drills?   The town siren would blow at noon the first Wednesday of the month, and we’d all go into the hallway at school, sit on the floor with our backs against the wall, and wait for nuclear annihilation by those commie reds.   The Kennedy assignation was a catastrophe on a world scale.  The sexual revolution, the anti-war movement, gas crisis, and the resignation of a US President (For offensives that would barely make the news today) kept our world in turmoil.  But we didn’t have all the news outlets screaming   in our faces 7×24, sensationalizing events real and imagined just to keep their ratings and everyone worked up.  We had the morning paper with news and the afternoon paper with local stories.    And 5 days a week the local TV Station (one of three) had an hour news broadcast, with news, weather, sports, and generally an editorial piece reflecting the stations views.    CLEARLY defined as the stations VIEWS, not hard news.  The weekends were for Cartoons, Westerns, Ed Sullivan and Hee Haw.

I found a photo of the ‘city’ nearest the town where I grew up the other day.   Just a few ladies downtown shopping in their dresses and bouffant hairdos, and a man walking by the ‘56 Chevy in his overcoat and fedora.   I showed my co-workers, and they were just amazed!   Both at the fact that there were people from that time were still alive, and I was one of them!    It made me sad, but a happy memory at the same time.

downtown

Wow.  How did I get down this path?

That’s my joy with the written word and my style of writing.   I never know quite where I’m going to go. I guess I like stories that have a surprise ending.  Even my own.

That reminds me of something that happened just last week.    That’s for another time though.

I do wonder how it’s going to end?

It’s all so exhausting!

Three lawyers walk into a bar in New York City….

Hold on.  Different story, different time, different audience.   Reboot.

The following stories are true.  Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.   Or because I’ve forgotten them.   Whatever.

I was sitting in a bar in London a few years back (Marriott Kensington, just off Trafalgar Square.  Lovely place if you ever get the chance) and there was a man next to me on the phone with his wife.  It wasn’t a pleasant call, but thanks to the consideration of all people holding public cell phone conversations I was able to hear every word.  (Whether I wanted to or not).  It was pretty obvious the gent was having a rough go at it.  There was lots of yelling about Susan this and Susan that.  Susan wouldn’t make that kind of mistake, Susan never yelled, Susan was better with kids (hm…) and she sure as hell was better in the sack!   Wait, what?   My curiosity was piqued at this point, so I started to pay attention.   Apparently, his marriage was over.  Surprise! All that was left was fighting over the spoils.    Who got what, what was the kids visitation schedule, and whadda ya mean the mortgage is late again?  I gave you the fuckin’ money!  My God you’re an idiot!  All the usual fun stuff.  Thankfully the call ended, and I turned back to my scotch for quiet contemplation.  But then the next call came in… Guess who?  Susan!  Now it’s another hour of hearing about what a bitch his wife was, and how he’d be so glad when it was over and done with so they could get on with their lives.  Then came the plans.    He was meeting her in Vail, CO the end of the month for some skiing and serious snuggle time.   And he thought he could stop by her apartment on his way home from the airport for a bit.   He sure did miss her!  And then, it was quiet.

*Whew*

Oops.  False alarm!  Now he had a live audience.   He preceded to tell me about all the problems he had at home, and how difficult it was to sort out the divorce.   He still loved her he supposed, but over time they had just drifted apart.   They had no common interests.   The spark was gone, and once the kids had started coming, the sex just dried up and died.  And the nagging!   She was always at him to get a baby sitter so they could go out for dinner and a move.   Geez…  He eats out all the time at work and has seen all the crappy movies already on the inflight airplane entertainment to and from his various business trips.  “Drop the kids off at his parents” she says… “Let’s go away for a weekend by ourselves” she says.   Did you hear the part about business travel?   The last fuckin’ thing I want to see is another hotel.  Now Susan!  Susan is different!  She’s fun, she’s exciting, and hell yeah, she’s younger.  (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!)  Meeting HER in a hotel is a totally different story!

Moving on.

I was on a flight from Gatwick back to the states, and from my isle seat I could see the man on the opposite side of the isle in the row ahead of me writing on a legal pad.   What caught my attention was him getting a half of page written, tearing it off, balling it up and starting over.   I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but he had a nice clear hand, and I’d seen the inflight movie at least a dozen times already (Dodgeball… Are you kidding me? Again?).   It was a letter to his wife.  How sweet.   But as he wrote more, I could see why all the misstarts and balled up discards.  It seems this gentleman was having some of the same issues as my friend from the bar.   Only he hadn’t ‘fessed up yet.    That was the purpose of the letter.   He was trying to find a way to tell his wife that he no longer loved her, and that he’d found someone new.   It was so sad, really.  They truly did have a good life together.  Time and travel took its toll however, and despite all his intentions, he’d met the true love of his life.  He was leaving her and immigrating to the UK to be together.    Don’t worry about the finances; the lawyers could sort all that out.  He’d make sure she’d be well taken care of.  He was just so, so sorry…

Queue the Virgin.

No, not what you think, you prev.   I was on a Virgin train between Manchester and London and happened to find myself in front of a very attractive woman about my age.  If you’ve never been on a Virgin (Careful now) the first class coach had facing seats for two, with a table in between.  I just so happened to land this lovely as my table mate.    And she was texting away like mad!  And if you can imagine hearing someone beside you yelling through a text, my ears were ringing!  That was one pissed off lady!  Eventually she petered off, and with an exasperated sigh, chucked the phone down on the table.   She glared at me for a moment, took a deep breath and had a little smile.  (I am quite the dashing figure after all).  She apologized for all the time texting on her phone.   That’s a bit of a pet peeve with her apparently.  People always nose deep in their phones and ignoring the world around them.  So let’s start over, shall we?  She introduced herself and jumped into the sordid details of her most recent affair, and how it was just becoming dreadfully horrible to maintain the sham she called her marriage.   Being the Gentleman I am, I listened attentively and waited for my opportunity to take advantage of the situation.  And I was just about to hit pay dirt, and we discovered she was the ex business partner with my Brother-in-Law running and Ad Agency in LA.

Oops!    Exit, stage right!

It’s like a Cabbie in Birmingham once told me…  “The story of my life!   I fall into a barrel of boobs and come up suckin’ a brick!”   I meet a beautiful woman on a train 10,000 miles from home, and she turns out to be family.

Moving on.

This brings me to my own story.  I traveled a great deal with my job, and the situation at home was less than optimal.  When I was at home, the earth would tremble.  Not in a fun way, but because of the atomic explosions I would always walk into.  I had no idea I was such a flaming bastard!  Thank God I did spend so much time on the road, or my five year marriage wouldn’t have lasted two years.  Predictably however, we ended up parting ways.   Oh.  My.   God.   What an ordeal!  All the paperwork!   All the Lawyers!  All the anger!  And bless me sweet Jesus, all the money!    It wasn’t a fight to the death.  It was a fight to the penny.    And when it was all said and done, that’s about all that was left.

It was a wee bit ugly.

But let’s go back to the guy in the London bar.  After he droned and on and on about how wonderful his new life was going to be, and how much time and effort it was taking to get there, I finally asked him a question.

If you had put as much effort into keeping your marriage as you have getting out of it, don’t you think you might have been able to save it?

Bam!

Conversation over.  My new friend stormed off to parts unknown (Probably to call Susan about the asshole in the bar).   I’m finally left alone to contemplate my scotch in peace.   And a lovely scotch it was by the way.

But think about it.

Isn’t that the truth?   Relationships do take work.  If my bar friend had spent the time with his wife having nice dinners, weekends away, even family vacations, don’t you think his marriage might not have been such a horror?  And the letter writing passenger.  From the over the shoulder analysis reading his letter, the effort had been on creating something new, not preserving something he had.    And if my lady prospect on the train had given her husband the come on she gave to me (wink wink), I’ll wager he’d have stepped right up, and they’d have had a fair chance of sorting it all out.

And me?

Could that marriage have been saved if I put that kind of effort in?   Honestly, no.  There were just too many things wrong with that one from the beginning.   The marriage wasn’t a dumb decision, it was idiotic.   Another long story for another time.   But the one before that?   Yeah, who knows.    I think we had just gotten to that point in our lives where boredom took away incentive.  A little more effort might have made enough difference.

And marriage number one?   Honestly, I have no idea.   I’m not even sure I remember her name.

It might have been Susan.

writing image

 

The man before us

I’m starting with the man in the mirror

I’m asking him to change his ways

And no message could have been any clearer

If you want to make the world a better place

(If you want to make the world a better place)

Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

-Michael Jackson 

 

The man in the mirror.  That is where it all starts, isn’t it?  We’re all so quick to judge others, but do we take the time to judge ourselves first?

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
-John 8:7 (kjv)

A noble sentiment, but totally impossible, right?  And it’s not fair, either.  I’ve never murdered anyone, but I’m supposed to just accept it because I’m not perfect?  And that gossip at work; they really ought to be ashamed of themselves.  And can you believe that your neighbor got caught screwing the woman next door?  We’re not supposed to hold them responsible for their actions?

But what are you really judging?

I say that the man in the mirror is a perception, not reflection.  When we look at others, we’re really looking at ourselves.   Who is the quickest to accuse a spouse of cheating?  The one cheating on their spouse of course.  I mean, if I do it, she’s going to do it too, right?  I know you’re going behind my back at work to get that promotion.  But you won’t’ get it because I’m better.

Our judgments and expectations are really about ourselves.  We hold everyone else to our own standards.

Years ago I managed a large staff, and found it very difficult to find people who were really qualified to do the job I needed.  They took too long to finish assignments, their ideas were stale and unimaginative, their work ethic was sadly lacking.  Then one day I had an epiphany!  Wasn’t I just holding them to the standards I set for myself?  Is that really fair?  I’m a workaholic; 12 hour days are average, and 16 hours aren’t unusual.  Does that make a 9 hour day worker a slacker?  I know what my limits and abilities are, so meeting my expected timeline is a given.  And with my 16 hour days, you know I’m going to finish first.  And of course no one came up with ideas as good as mine!  The greatest test of intelligence is how much they agree with you.  Who’s going to come up with something better than you are?

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I was looking at people who were behind the mirror.  The image I expected was myself, and it was projected on those whom I was responsible for.   I expected to see myself in them.

That would be a really boring world, wouldn’t it?  If everyone was exactly like everyone else.

Definitely, we should constantly examine at ourselves and our actions, and try to make ourselves better.   We rarely do, but we should.   Instead of trying to see others as we see ourselves, take the time to really look at who they are, without measuring them to our own perceptions.  Don’t forgive the monsters that rape and kill.  Gossip and infidelity don’t have to be accepted.  There are people who are better then you are.  Your abilities, thoughts, actions and morals aren’t perfect.  Just because you shortchange your server after a dinner out doesn’t mean everyone does.  Let’s face it. So many problems we deal with daily are because we don’t accept that others are going to be different.  This is true from aggravation with the idiot that sits next to you at work, to strife in the Middle East and terrorism.    We’re not looking at the man in the mirror; we’re holding that mirror in front of the man before us.  If you want to look at yourself and make a change, start by looking at others and change your view.

It’ll make the world a better place.

 

Mirror