Some Kind of Monster

Bruce_Banner_Hulk_AvengersFirst of all, the new Avengers movie is a lot of fun.

It’s not perfect and honestly, I thought there were times where it was simply trying too hard or got carried away with itself, but I definitely give it kudos for once again getting right one of the hardest Marvel characters to get right.

That being Bruce Banner and the Hulk.

Without giving away spoilers, what I love is that Mr. Whedon seems to have found the right balance in Banner’s humanity and the Hulk’s rage. He also tests them both and is pragmatic about what is surrendered in terms of a “normal” life.

I can’t relate to Steve Rogers or Tony Stark. As I am definitely not a god, the same applies to Thor as well.

I’m not as smart as Bruce Banner, nor am I as powerful as the Hulk, but I can relate to them all too well.

I wish I didn’t…but I do.

 

Turn Your Head and Cough

medicalIn the last decade, I’ve had access to affordable healthcare for all of six months, after I broke in with my first full-time media job in 2012.

I had it long enough to get set up with both a doctor and a therapist. I had a checkup and all of three sessions to try and work out my depression and that was it, because our office policy rates spiked from $10 per month with no copay for healthcare to $60 per month with a $40 copay.

Overnight, it went from paying $10 to see a doctor to ten times as much, and I was a fully-employed guy with no history of smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, obesity, diabetes or any other malady which is often reason for an individual’s healthcare rates to boom.

This was life for a lot of us before the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

Now I am not a “Big Government” shill, nor am I a diehard liberal out to take down “traditional” America, its family values or the almighty free market system. I can give you at least ten things wrong with both Republicans AND Democrats in under five minutes (and at least 90 more if given enough time).

I freely concede to being an unabashed social progressive, but also am a bit of a fiscal conservative. I regret nothing on either count, nor should be expected to.

If that annoys you, too damn bad. Go read something which insulates your particular echo chamber and stop wasting my time.

I know I did a vlog about this earlier in the month, but it’s a noteworthy point. I’ve been working since I was 16 years-old, two years before graduating high school. I worked in retail and office jobs. For a short while, I even had my healthcare guaranteed by the mighty AFL-CIO union.

Yet in that time, I have had access to even decent healthcare for fewer than three years. Three years of coverage in twenty-two years of life.

That’s what it was like for a lot of us before the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

Is it a perfect system? Hardly. There are still too many things I won’t be able to likely afford under it and as it was written by insurance lobbyists for the insurance industry, there’s a lot in it which further angles the slope towards more profit for them and less effective healthcare for their customers who need it.

That said, for the first time in my adult life, I have healthcare that does not render me immediately poor and will hopefully give me the means to deal with both my CMT and my depression, which were allowed to go unchecked and to flourish expressly because I lacked the means to address them with qualified physicians.

My first doctor’s appointment is this next Tuesday and while the idea of being poked and prodded in places I’d rather not be poked or prodded may seem somewhat unpleasant, I’ll also take it because I’ve had the alternative, which is nothing, for more than long enough, I think.

The cliche is the first step to solving the problem is recognizing the problem exists. I recognized mine a long time ago, but couldn’t do anything about it.

Now I can, and if nothing else, I’m very much looking forward to the idea of feeling better in both mind and body.

Self-doubt

1373806395-Selfdoubti-oSylvia Plath is noted, among other things, for saying, “The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt.”

Man…don’t I know it.

I haven’t worked on the revisions for my novel in the past four months. I recorded a new vlog the other night, but I haven’t touched it since, even though I could put it together and get it online in about an hour.

Now, the reasonable argument could be made that with my day job taking up considerably more than the traditional forty hours of a week, along with my venturing out into the nearby areas to utilize my camera and spending whatever time is leftover working out, eating, sleeping, or just trying to relax with a book, movie or some music, I’m simply too busy to get those things done.

It would be easy for me to lean on that evidence as the primary justification for why I’m not doing more creative projects…but that would also be a lie.

It would be a lie because not being at home for long enough to allocate the time necessary to work on those projects is a calculated and deliberate effort by me to get out of working on them.

For the last several months, sitting down at my computer to work on revisions or planning out a new vlog has been accompanied by such severe anxiety that I honestly cannot sit still for more than five minutes before I want to go do something, anything else.

It’s not that I don’t think my novel isn’t a good one or doesn’t have the capacity to be something other people will want to read. I don’t think my vlog is a waste of my time either. I have so many things I want to say through it, especially using my knowledge of the inner workings of media to illustrate how completely ass-backwards my profession is.

What stops me is seeing so many other people out there doing the same thing, and from my perspective, so much better than I can.

Why would anyone want to pick up my book when they can go get one of John Green’s?

Why would anyone want to check out my vlog when they can watch one of Hank Green’s?

I don’t hold any animosity towards either of them. If anything, I look at them as inspiration for what I could do on my own both literately and visually. But inspiration doesn’t always translate to belief, and in my mind, I don’t believe I’m good enough.

I never really have and it’s done more to stifle my creativity than I ever thought possible.

Social Media Kerfuffle

o-TWITTER-facebookSo I got into my first bona fide Twitter war today, all because I made an observation that it was apparently Openly Secular Day and I being an atheist, am not ashamed to publicly admit as such.

To be fair, because I don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian, Mormon, Islamic, Hindu, or Scientological dogmas, that doesn’t mean I don’t have any less respect for those who do.

Editor’s Note: If there’s a possible exception to that it would be Scientology, having watched Going Clear recently, and…well…yipe.

I understand the human need to put our faith in a higher power to justify the things we still can’t fully comprehend, and if that’s what works for you, fine. Everybody needs something to help get them through the grind of life with their spiritual being intact.

I simply made the observation that my reason for not following the Christian/Catholic faith I grew up in was I’ve seen the hypocrisy it fosters throughout its entire infrastructure, from the Bible, to its advocates and overseers and on down through its parishioners.

And true to form, someone took exception and followed the form of most people I’ve encountered who have a quasi-zealous theological mindset.

For the purposes of clarity, it should be noted that my antagonist stated, “atheists have about the intellectual capacity of a demented baboon.”

..and people still wonder why I am not an overflowing font of faith in either a god or even my fellow man anymore.

Day Off

You know your priorities are a little out of whack when the most frightening thing you can do is take a day off from work.

By last Thursday, I needed a break. I’d worked pretty much non-stop since the holidays wrapped up in January. A lot of long hours had been spent in the office, covering events and earning every dollar I got on my paychecks. And even though I get to have weekends off in this job, it doesn’t mean I ever relaxed enough to enjoy them.

I don’t know where I ever got the idea that there was something wrong with slowing down, or even standing still and enjoying a quiet moment, but for a long time, I’ve been operating by the Newtonian law of an object in motion tending to stay in motion.

While that is helpful for being productive, it is also exhausting, and I was feeling it. As a culture, we Americans pride ourselves on working ’til we drop and that only “losers” ask for a break.

I asked my boss to take a three-day weekend with no small amount of trepidation and anxiety, even though I really didn’t have a reason not to. I’d worked extra hours over the last two weeks and had been told I had a day off coming to me when my boss went on his vacation in March.

Yet I was genuinely concerned that by taking advantage of it would open me up to somehow losing my job, regardless of the fact I’d earned it.

I woke up Friday morning and went through a couple of hours where I genuinely felt I was doing something wrong. I was supposed to be at my desk, grinding away on stories and not complaining about being wiped out. By noon, I decided if I needed to keep moving then the best way to do that was getting in my car with my camera and taking a drive.

Venturing into the north country, I wasn’t prepared for what I found over the next five hours.

Reflecting PoolBy the time I got to this spot, I had seen so many things that I was emotionally overwhelmed and unable to comprehend the one thing I wasn’t prepared for.

The silence.

I’ve spent time on the coast and loved the sound of the ocean.

I’ve spent time in forests and loved the sound of the trees.

But I’ve never been anywhere that the only sound was nothing.

Under a wide open sky, it was so serene that I sat on these rocks and began to cry.

There was a peace out here that I’d never encountered. A tranquility I’ve never really known. It was equal parts frightening and tremendously energizing and I wouldn’t have found it had I not decided I needed to take a day off.

If I never get anything else out of my time here in the desert, it’s that I found a place where there is nothing but beauty and silence.

Look sir…a $%#&’n Star Destroyer!!

I admit that I was never more disappointed as both a Star Wars and film fan as I was with the “Prequel Trilogy”. So much so, in fact, that I have been highly reluctant to even hope that J.J. Abrams and co. can right the ship and make the franchise good again.

I wasn’t all too impressed with the first teaser when it was released. But this…?

This one gives me hope, which is equal parts dangerous and glorious.

A Fighter is Born

I was seven years-old on April 15, 1985.

I was living in the non-descript town of Raymond, New Hampshire and in was in the early stages of building the fascination for sports which has carried over to this day.

I’d watched boxing a handful of times prior to this, but this fight meant the world to me because Marvelous Marvin Hagler lived and trained in Massachusetts, so he was immediately my guy.

Tommy Hearns wasn’t just good, he was scary. A guy who could (and did) knock out any one with one punch.

For eight minutes, the two men didn’t box. They fought at the highest level with both giving as good as they got. I watched, hoping that Hagler would win.

In the third round, he did, sending Hearns totally off-kilter with one punch and then putting him to sleep a few seconds later.

I had never seen anything like it, but I was ecstatic that my guy had won against a bigger and faster opponent. Hagler took Hearns’s best shot and refused to fall.

I came away with it both fascinated and educated.

That night, I became a fighter.

Conditions

Unconditional love.

We crave it. We seek it. We tell ourselves we’re not only capable of it, we absolutely deserve it.

It’s the one thing we anticipate getting from our parents from the moment we’re born to the moment they die and it’s the one constant we look to carry on to the families we create.

And yet, every relationship we have. Every instance of love we encounter, is wholly conditional.

A child develops an understanding that their parents are supposed to love them unconditionally, but if they’re unable to meet the demands of their parents’ expectations, the child is often disowned or abandoned.

When you meet someone who could be a potential lover, a set of physical, intellectual and emotional criteria immediately come into play. A suitor may meet those criteria initially, but if they deviate at any point, the likelihood of maintaining the same relationship changes dramatically.

A marriage is often considered the ultimate expression of a person’s unconditional love for another person, even though the establishment of vows is mandatory.

You will love, honor, cherish, obey, forsake all others in sickness and health, richer or poorer, til’ death do you part. It’s a total checklist of conditions which you are willing to accept in exchange for the possibility of what we consider to be unconditional.

I honestly don’t think there’s ever been a point in my life where I’ve experienced true unconditional love. My parents were never capable of expressing it, nor was my wife, or any other woman I’ve fallen for.

I don’t blame them for that. I didn’t meet their criteria and that’s on me.

Being a parent now, I understand the importance of having that unconditional relationship with my son, but when it comes to virtually everyone else I’ve known in my life, even I have set conditions and had my own expectations for the people I can say I’ve loved.

I’m not proud of that realization, but recognizing the reality that truly unconditional love, like it or not, is a myth, isn’t a detrimental thing either.

Once you accept that reality, not only does the world make much more sense, it also takes a weight off your shoulders.

Life is too short to be chasing myths.

On Selfishness

It’s an interesting dichotomy.

We admire those who put the well being of others ahead of themselves and call them selfless. We shun those who put their own well being ahead of others and call them selfish.

And yet, we recognize there are times where that selfishness is essential to preserving our mental and physical health and making ourselves more able to interact with those we love and care about. There’s also a time where selflessness can be detrimental. Where you devote so much energy to others that you avoid or ignore the necessity of investing energy in giving yourself love, attention, and assistance.

It’s a fine line between being selflessness and selfishness and it is often crossed and recrossed depending on the situation.

One of my biggest shortcomings, as much as I hate to say it because it implies that I prefer to behave this way, is I’ve been far too selfless and not selfish enough. It was always my design to make sure I was available and there for the people who mattered to me, even if it meant I neglected my own needs.

Some of that can be attributed to my own stubbornness, but that can also be seen as the byproduct of being programmed to think of obliging my internal responsibility rather than solely devoting my focus on my external responsibilities is a character flaw.

My rebuttal to that, however, is how can I be expected to be able to take care of others, when I don’t do what’s needed to take care of myself? I don’t like the idea of telling someone, “No, I can’t help you right now.” It feels like any justification I could make would seem like a cheap excuse for why I couldn’t be bothered. Except we only have so much energy to expend.

As much as we’d like to, we can’t have it both ways, so which is the greater mistake?

To be totally selfless at the expense of the self, or to be selfish long enough to do the things that allow us to continue to be selfless?