Masochism Tango

masochistWhen you think about it, it’s amazing how much pain the human body can tolerate and still function well enough to get through each day.

With my CMT and all the bumps, bruises, breaks and sprains I’ve racked up over the years, it’s usually an even money bet that something on my person is going to be sore or out of whack when I roll out of bed every morning.

It can be an ankle one day, a knee or shoulder the next, but there’s usually one part of me that’s not as pleased to go through the daily grind again as the rest of me. And we tell ourselves that’s part of the wonderful process of growing older.

Parts that are reaching the end of their warrantied shelf-life start breaking down and there’s very little we can do about it other than the ol’ suck it up and deal.

Then there’s the pain you feel not in your elbow or your back, but in your head. The psychic and emotional pain that can be every bit as crippling and debilitating, but we try even harder to ignore or minimize so we can function.

We don’t let ourselves be angry when we have the right to be. We don’t grieve when we lose someone or something that is precious to us. Instead, we compartmentalize it and tell ourselves, I’ll deal with it later…but more often than not, we never really do because to do so means opening ourselves up to levels of emotional pain we’d do anything to avoid.

So we ignore the pain we should feel in order to deal with the situation, choosing instead to accept the potential pain of leaving those psychic and emotional wounds open to fester and infect our personality further, under some odd notion that it’s somehow the wiser option.

I’ve lived a very large portion of my life this way, going through every day under the presumption that I am supposed to be miserable because that is the consequence of simply being me. I’m the person who at some point is going to get the shit dumped on me by someone for some reason they either will or won’t be able to justify, so I best be as ready for it as I can be.

It’s been my standard operating procedure since middle school, really, but the twisted thing is not just that I’ve learned to anticipate feeling that miserable, but I also cannot seem to function at what I perceive to be my best unless I am at that point where I am totally depressed and despondent.

It’s a truly bizarre realization to come to, I must say, when you begin to understand that you’ve become so programmed to accept only the absolute worst emotional states as normal and anything else even remotely positive feels completely wrong.

You don’t let yourself heal emotionally because you honestly begin to believe the pain makes you function better somehow. It serves as the reminders of all the ways you’re a terrible human being and it’s reinforced by the events which caused it in the first place, be it a broken friendship or a failed relationship, or even a missed opportunity for a job or something else you desire for yourself.

I’ve spent the past week asking myself why it is that I am so reluctant to approach all the painful moments of my life which I’ve managed to conveniently cram into the dimmed background in the back of my mind.

The best and perhaps also the most insane answer I can come up with, is that I need them in order to function as the person I am now. That letting myself go through what will be a very emotionally painful process of dealing with all those memories and moments which resulted in me losing those people I’ve cared about most won’t just be potentially unbearable, but it will mark the cessation of my self-identity as it currently stands.

That’s a damn scary thing to consider from my side of the equation, and if I’m honest, I don’t know if I’m emotionally strong enough to handle it.

So I suppose until I can reach a point where I am, I shall continue to dance the masochism tango, and try my best not to trip over my two left feet.

Finding Negative in the Positive

negative_stimuliThe nice thing about being able to take the occasional long drive is it gives you the opportunity to both clear your head and step away from things which are bothering you.

I drove to Spokane yesterday, a 250-mile and four-hour round trip, for a doctor’s appointment which only lasted about 20 minutes. I wasn’t in a great mood when I set out in the morning. I hadn’t slept well after pulling a 12-hour shift the night before that left me on an emotional tilt anyway.

When I got up and was eating breakfast, I did my usual online rounds – email, job boards, newsfeeds and social media. Scrolling through Facebook, I saw posts from friends which I imagine wouldn’t bother most people, but they managed to push the right buttons to get my Depression talking.

One thing that isn’t always understood when it comes to Depression and most mental illness is the impact of external stimuli,  no matter how innocuous or harmless it may seem.

Last week, I was supposed to have a friend come out to see me as she was on her way back to Portland from Alaska. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the ride that was going to get her out here to the desert, so she didn’t make it.

A year ago, I got to do my first photo modeling session with another friend at my old apartment in Vancouver, and most of the pictures we got turned out quite good.

So when I saw my one friend back in Portland and expressing how happy she is to be back around her friends, and my other friend posted some new pictures from a different photographer and was highly complimentary of them, it was the exact thing my mind loves to jump on.

“See?! This is why your life is what it is. You think people need you in their lives when they actually don’t. They just don’t to tell you the truth about how much they can’t stand you and how little you have to offer and why you deserve to be alone and so miserable.

Trust me, I know how the world works far better than you do. All those ‘compliments’ and ‘nice things’ people tell you…it’s all crap. They’re lying and you know it as well as I do. They just don’t want to admit it.”

To be absolutely clear, I am not saying that this is my friends’ fault. There is no way they could know that I am capable of having that sort of reaction to them just going about their lives.

And if I wasn’t someone who is constantly grappling with the dichotomy of having people saying they care about me and that I matter butting heads with my well-honed senses of both inferiority and being a perpetual thorn in the side of everyone I come into contact with, then I know it wouldn’t be a big deal.

The problem is me having to figure out how to change the way in which my mind processes the things I see as reasons why I can’t have friends or why I can’t trust people? As much as I don’t like it, I have to deal with it all the time and I cannot turn it off.

I suppose when I start feeling like this, I could get in my car and take a long drive, but it won’t always solve the problem for one, and it will cost me a hell of a lot of gas for two.

The obvious solution would be to not let such things get to me, but that is also naively simplistic, because the human mind rests within a 3.5-pound gland which programs itself to respond to stimulus in specific ways. And when you have Depression, that response can be totally contrary to what it should be.

What shouldn’t bother you can become catastrophic because your brain chemistry dictates that it should be, and trying to override that through simple choice works sometimes, but not all the time.

Sometimes, Depression can be lying in wait, just looking for opportunities to pounce.

An Evening in Surreality

helping-hand_02I’ve spent most of the last hour trying to make sense of something that took place earlier this evening, unsure if I did the right thing, as I hope I did…or if I did the entirely wrong thing and am now only realizing it.

I got a phone call at the office this afternoon from a high school student.

Editorial Note: As both a matter of legality and journalistic ethics I cannot and will not use her name because she is a minor, so for the sake of contrast between the other players in this piece, I’ll simply call her Q.

The reason Q called my office is because both she and her girlfriend have been bullied and threatened by another student, and had reached a breaking point. She said she’d tried going to administrators and the police, but nothing had been done yet, so she was going public to make the district do something about it.

During the district’s monthly forum tonight, Q, her significant other and their families aired their grievances and quickly found themselves upset and angry because they ran headlong into their own wall of legalities, which the district officials clearly outlined and explained, to their credit.

Even so, Q walked out of the meeting visibly exasperated, even though one of the officials personally took her and her family aside for a private conversation to try and help find an acceptable short-term solution, while the long-term solution would be determined.

As much as I work to remain as objective as humanly possible in my job, there is still no way of getting around the fact that try as I may to appear otherwise, I am still human. Seeing Q’s frustration as she looked at the group of adults and classmates around her in irate amazement that they either consciously or subconsciously could not see her plight awoke my own frustrations when I was in a similar spot at that age.

When the meeting ended, Q was nowhere to be seen. I figured she and her family had left, but I at least hoped she’d gotten somewhere with the officials. It was obvious she’d gotten their attention, but that’s not always enough for the person in the middle of a conflict.

I grabbed my camera and notebook and was heading out the door when I got stopped by another official who pulled me into a conversation he thought I could apparently contribute to.

Two other students were talking about what Q had said and said they were interested in helping, but they also thought she was lying, or at the least, embellishing what she’d gone through.

“I’ve been coming to this school for four years now and it’s not as bad as she says it is. I’ve never seen anyone get bullied once and I know a lot of kids here!” One of them said.

In that moment, as soon as the words hit the air, a switched flipped in my head. It doesn’t happen very often these days, but it’s the one that allows me to access all the theoretically correct things to say.

Editorial Note: When I say it doesn’t happen often, I mean once in a blue moon, if I’m really damn lucky. Ask any of my friends who can manage to corral me into anything resembling a conversation these days and they’ll tell you I possess a learned talent for clear diction when I’m choking on my own toes.

I took about five minutes and explained that just because you don’t see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That if they really wanted to help Q and other students like her out, they would take the initiative to sit down with her and educate themselves on what she’s going through by doing nothing but listening. That they may find out things which they didn’t know or never considered, but they could then take that knowledge and use it to not only help the Q’s of the world but also bring about change in other people who are equally oblivious.

Because that is how we change a culture and if we’re lucky, that culture can change the world.

As they left and I was once again heading out the door, Q had come back and was talking to another official, whom I’ve gotten to know quite well in the year I’ve been here and vice-versa.

I wasn’t surprised that I got pulled into yet another conversation, because at least this time, I knew the reason why.

Q and I talked for about the same five minutes, but it was a much different context. She explained that while she felt she’d gotten her message out to people who seemed interested in helping her, the frustration, anxiety, desperation and rage she felt at continuing to be harassed and now threatened was just more than she could take.

She talked about how she and her antagonist had once been friends, but now he used his knowledge of her as a weapon. Things like her mother, who’d died when she was a toddler, and how infuriating it was that she couldn’t stop him from pushing her buttons.

I was killing time online the other day, when I came across something that managed to wedge itself in my mind ever since, and not for a good reason either.

WP IThe problem I have with this, aside from the inherent sanctimoniousness, is the idea that what we needed to get through that part of my life was a better version of me, when in fact, I believe with every fiber of my being that I needed someone worse.

What I needed was someone who wasn’t scared to meet force with force and to use my anger in all the ways I could rationalize and justify, in order to fend off my own bullies and antagonists in the most decisive terms possible.

When I look at me, that’s always what I see.

But as I sat there listening to Q, I understood I was actually looking at a person who was within maybe five degrees of who I was at that age.

Q didn’t need to hear my anger. She needed to know that someone could truly relate to her and she wasn’t alone.

In the end, I probably said too many things about myself in those few minutes. Things that I’ve admitted to people I care about very much, only to realize later I should’ve been both smarter and more guarded with them. I said them anyway, because if there is one thing you absolutely cannot and must not half-ass, it’s empathy.

When I finished, Q replied with something so surreal that even now, it makes my head almost spin just thinking about the look of genuine surprise on her face as the words came out.

“But there’s nothing wrong with you,” she said.

The only answer I could give was, “If you only knew.”

At that point, my official buddy returned to the conversation and Q left not long after, having done something I don’t think she was physically or emotionally capable of when she’d walked in two hours earlier.

She smiled. It didn’t last long, but it was enough.

And as we watched her leave, my official buddy leaned over and said to me, somewhat hyperbolically, “I think you might have saved someone’s life tonight.”

I don’t want to think about what I did in those terms, if I’m honest. The main reason is that I didn’t plan on saving anyone, because I know I can’t save anyone. I also don’t want to consider the possibility that it ends up not being enough and I get a call tomorrow or in a few weeks saying something happened to Q, either by someone else’s actions or her own.

I guess what is bothering me the most is that I crossed a line I swore years ago I wouldn’t cross again.

I’m not supposed to get involved any more. What happens to other people isn’t my concern. I’ve been to that well too many times and I know it’s dangerous to even go near it now.

When I got home tonight and the combination adrenaline/emotional high finally began wearing off, I was so disoriented that I finally asked a friend, What the hell am I doing?!

I suppose her response says it all.

“You are you.”

Beasts of Burden

It’s one of the most common things a person who is trying to deal with Depression and PTSD, or any other chronic or potentially terminal condition fears.

The idea that what they’re going through is somehow a burden for everyone they come into contact with. Every friend. Every family member or significant other or potential significant other.

Everyone who matters to us.

It’s nearly impossible to not get into the frame of mind that what I’m going through, and thereby me as an entity, is nothing more than a colossal anchor waiting to drag those people down with me when I’m feeling at my absolute worst.

I’m not alone in this, either. I was talking with a friend who’s dealing with a whole lot of emotional stress and mental strife and she said the same thing, which gave me reason enough to try talking about it.

“I am so tired of this and being such a burden on everyone anymore.”

The word itself has gained a lot of hypocritical and socially-negative weight that using it in either the context of the self or those around us seems to be an absolute no-no.

If I say that dealing with my Depression and PTSD and all the chaotic feelings they generate are a heavy burden for me to carry, it’s seen as a complaint and illustrates my inherent weakness.

If I say that my dealing with it is something I don’t want to burden others with, then it’s considered to be noble in some twisted fashion.

After all, people like me are expected to figure this all out ourselves, quietly, and without it rubbing off on those around us. It’s expressly because of that societal expectation that in the greater majority of cases where mentally ill people end up turning to suicide, there is the consistent narrative that they did so because they didn’t want to be a burden anymore and the burden of dealing with it was finally too much to carry.

That puts us in a virtual no-win situation. We can’t ask for help due to the implied obligation to keep those close to us out of the fight, so we’re left to take it on ourselves, but under no circumstances can we express how genuinely hard it is to fight on alone.

One of the primary reasons why I was so eager to get out to the desert and away from everyone I’d known for most of my life was expressly because I had been feeling like that anchor around a lot of people I care a great deal about, even before I had my breakdown in 2011.

I became very good at keeping those people at a distance or otherwise napalming the bridges connecting us because at its most devious, my mind bombards me with propaganda that they don’t care to begin with and all I’m doing is making their lives worse.

It’s why I’ve also gotten good at deflection and misdirection. Someone asks me how I’m doing, it’s a short answer immediately followed by a question back to change the course of the conversation.

The burden of dealing with mental illness is hard enough to try shouldering alone and the last thing I, or anyone else who carries it wants, is to have it get its hooks into the relationships we value most.

You ask any therapist, though, and I’m willing to bet you’ll get a consistent answer. One of the most vital things a person who has Depression needs is a strong support system. We need people who can understand and recognize the reality that in order for someone to overcome mental illness, the burden needs to be shouldered by more than the individual who’s fallen prey to it.

Do I have to do the lion’s share of the heavy lifting? Absolutely.

But it helps tremendously to know that doing so still allows us to communicate and interact with other people. It helps to know that we’re not a burden on the people we love and want be the best versions of ourselves for.

It helps to know that we don’t have to go through this alone.

A Study in Misanthropy

Linus IAt this time a year ago, things were about as bleak as they’ve ever been…which I suppose is saying something considering what else I’ve had to overcome in the course of my life so far.

I’d been out of a job for nine months and despite my dogged attempts to find one, I kept running into the same fundamental problem. No one felt altruistic enough to want to give me one, and because the world revolves around the necessity of pulling a regular paycheck, the forecast seemed likely that I would be homeless for the third time in my life.

Fortunately, I managed to finally secure a job and better still, it was one which finally got me out of Portland, a city I’d grown to both love and despise with equal feeling over the 25 years I spent there. The chance to get away from all the emotional reminders and psychological triggers which made being there so hard for me was one I was all too welcome to take.

Editorial Note: I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for knocking that city by those who both live in Portland and have benefitted greatly from doing so. I get that and concede that some of said flack is likely deserved. What must also be understood is that with the exception of the friends I made and still have there as a result of my being exiled from my home in New England as a kid, Portland was otherwise not nearly as kind to me.
It’s a great little town with a lot of perks and pleasure spots, but it’s a long way from Shangri-La, too.

When I loaded up my moving van and set out for the high desert, I must admit it was a feeling I’d had only once before on the day I finally got to walk out of prison. I did so with the knowledge and absolute certainty that I wasn’t going to look back. That I had managed to survive and get out meant I could go somewhere new and isolated and truly start over.

For the first few weeks, dealing with the initial awkwardness of coming from a cosmopolitan city with culture and diversity to the rural homogeneous scrub was tough. I wasn’t prepared for the level of culture shock I got hit with, however it was hardly a surprise, really.

Now that I’ve been here a year, though, I’m realizing there is one constant that connects where I’ve come to with where I’ve come from.

I cannot stand seeing, being around or interacting with people anymore.

The technical term for this is called misanthropy. A general dislike or disdain for humankind.

This being the case, the natural questions to ask would be How did I come to this? and Why do I have such a hard time with people?

The answer is the same for why I ended up having both Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They do not manifest themselves in people spontaneously. They are the end effects brought on by either a singular or multiple causes.

And you really can’t despise people if they don’t give you a reason to do so first.

From the time I was in elementary school until now, I’ve been repeatedly exposed to the worst in people. I saw it in my parents and other family members, classmates, teachers, neighbors, co-workers, significant others, my ex-wife friends, acquaintances and even perfect strangers.

Using both the law of averages and the law of causality, a definite percentage of that exposure was the result of my own actions, whether intentional or not. We are reactionary creatures, after all, and I would be remiss if I didn’t at least own up to my side of the equation.

I’ve done a lot of things in my lifetime which have genuinely pissed a lot of people off and given them every reason in the world to hate me. I may not like that, nor am I proud of that. It does not and cannot change that fact, either.

That said, it also leaves a lot of things that were done to me which I had no influence over.

I never told a bully that I wanted them to take every possible opportunity to humiliate or assault me.
I never told the privileged to remind me how inferior or irrelevant I am because I’ve had to survive without it.
I never told those who found my intelligence or abilities to be somehow intimidating to marginalize or trivialize me.
I never told those who’d earned my trust and loyalty to betray me.
I never told those whom I loved to walk away.

But they did. For reasons I will likely never truly understand, they did.

Eventually, misanthropy begins to blur the line separating the people you want to associate with from the ones you can’t stand. You stop always being able to see any humanity, because you become conditioned to both recognize and anticipate only the inhumanity.

And, like it or not, we’ve become exceptional at treating each other like absolute shit. We really have and seeing ample evidence of this is not too hard to find.

Seriously, one need look no further than an open Facebook group thread or the comments section of any news story.

The digital age has made misanthropes of many of us.

In the four years I’ve been on my own, the only new friend I can feel safe in saying I’ve made is my neighbor, a guy named Derby, and that’s only because we run into each other either as I’m walking out the door to go to work or I’m coming back home at night.

Sometimes, I’ll find him camping out on the front step, watching the rest of our neighbors get drunk and/or stoned and carouse for what seems like hours on end. I might join him once in a while and together we’ll share in our mutual dislike for the whole ruddy gang.

Editorial Note: Nothing helps build misanthropy quite like being around people who go out of their way to aggravate you seemingly all hours of the day.

Fortunately, Derby’s a Mormon and my own biases aside, I like not having to worry about him raising hell so much.

I guess it helps that he’s also a dog.

I don’t know if there will ever be a time where I will enjoy interacting with people again. I’d like to think it’s possible still, but it’s going to take some work and not just by me.

If you’re not the cause, then you become the effect. I’m trying to hold onto what little humanity I may still have in the hope I don’t have to give up on it entirely.

Loss of Words

Verse II’d like to say I had a nice day or even a nice weekend…but I’d be lying and I refuse to do that in the confines of my own space.

I’ve learned how to do it on the rest of social media. The Pavlovian act of smiling and nodding and saying “Everything’s fine! Nothing to see here!”

Or…as is also common social policy nowadays, to not say anything at all, because why should we feel free to step out from behind the digital facades we so carefully craft for each other to gawk at long enough to admit things aren’t always so bright or so rosy?

-exhale-

I’m not in a good space right now and I’d love to be able explain why that is were it not for two very simple reasons.

1.) I’m too afraid to and B.) I don’t have the words in my brain to properly express what the rest of me wants to say.

Fortunately, as I live in the Information Age, I was granted a moment of genuine serendipity long enough to find this to speak for me, instead.

And it says it a whole lot better than I probably could even if I had the words on the tip of my tongue.

Carry on, Citizens.

Living with PTSD

PTSD IIFor reasons I’ve never really understood, being told I am dealing with Depression was always easy to accept.

Being told I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been an entirely different matter altogether.

There’s always been major stigmas surrounding the acknowledgement of depression and most forms of mental illness. Growing up, it wasn’t hard to recognize that there was something wrong with me, even if everyone around me seemed passively or willfully oblivious to it.

When I finally reached the point where I could be honest with myself about the reality of having mental illness, being able to encapsulate it in the broad definition of Depression felt natural.

I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy thing to overcome, but as the cliche’ dictates, the first step in fixing a problem is recognizing it exists.

Going through all the tests and exercises over the past few months to confirm that I had Depression felt anticlimactic, to be honest, as it just confirmed what I’d already long suspected.

When the results came back indicating that I had something more than that though, that another part of what is going on with me is PTSD, that was both unexpected and disconcerting.

I am not a soldier, nor have I ever made any aspersions of being one. I cannot begin to know what it is like to have survived in a combat zone or had to watch helplessly as people around me were struck down.

By comparison to the average person, my life would not seem drastically different on the surface. I grew up in the suburbs, went to regular schools, got regular jobs and had altogether vanilla existence.

But framing it in those terms also whitewashes a lot of things that as much as I or anyone else doesn’t want or like to admit.

They are not hyperbolized stories or things designed to draw unwarranted sympathy or make myself out to be a drama queen. They are historical facts of my life, and that I managed to get through them does not mean they didn’t leave their marks.

PTSD IWhat I didn’t get was how those marks added up or how much they can become a part of who you are.

I honestly can’t tell you the last time I’ve gone to bed at a decent hour, or slept a full night without some sort of nightmare.

I can’t tell you the last time I went through a day without feeling on the verge of emotional implosion about something connected to past mistakes, the times where my actions, no matter how benevolent and regardless of my intent, ended up hurting or alienating someone I cared about or destroyed a relationship.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve come home or gone through a day where I haven’t dealt with extreme stress that is usually remedied by lacing up my gloves and hammering away on my heavy bag until I can’t lift my arms anymore.

Part of why I’ve isolated myself for the past four years wasn’t because I thought it would somehow be cool to be truly independent or that I was subscribing to oddball ideology. Rather, it came as part of something I’ve felt since I was a kid. That the only way I can get through life is by being as detached from civilization and the people in it is as much as possible.

Now one could make the logical argument that I do these things simply because I am not a nice person. That I get angry because all I want to do is hurt people and hate the world so much.

It’s also a superficial argument at best and totally ignores the underlying issue and it comes in the name itself. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a reactionary thing, an effect resulting from a cause.

And the more causes there are, the worse the effects can ultimately be.

In my case, the causes were growing up in and dealing with a highly dysfunctional family, getting through both neglect and abuse and being put in situations that took a major emotional and psychological toll.

That includes being bullied, harassed as a child and being disregarded, rejected and yes…even incarcerated as an adult.

After about 30 years of living this way, it’s impossible for it not to become second nature. As difficult as it is to change who I am simply from the effects of Depression, I’m realizing that change is compounded even more because at the core of it is all the volatility which comes with PTSD.

That said, I am still a big proponent of our ability to evolve into something better than what we currently are. I believe such things are possible, though it takes a whole lot of work and support to make that evolution happen.

The question is, am I able to put myself through the process to change what has long been second nature into something I don’t need anymore?

Honestly, I don’t know, but what other choice do I have?

Why I’m Not A Good Guy

High RoadI once had someone accuse me of always trying to play myself off as the good guy in any conflict by always taking the high road.

As a person who grew up understanding that there’s little to be gained by resorting to appeasing bullies or being antagonistic in an argument with another antagonist, I guess my choosing to use maturity over my hostility can be seen as a character flaw.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to get down in the mud and get my hands, though. In fact, there’s a lot of times where I wish I had done precisely that.

Let me say this in as clear of terms as possible. More often than not, taking the high road sucks. It really does.

In order to take the high road, a person has to be willing to step back and look at a situation with as little emotion as possible. You have to disconnect yourself from whatever feelings you have, be they hate, anger, oppression and yes even love, and see the conflict in its entirety.

In order to take the high road, you have to understand there are indeed two sides of any conflict and be willing to accept whatever responsibility you have for fueling that conflict.

Conflict doesn’t come about for arbitrary reasons, after all. It is bound by the primordial rules of cause and effect.

You either do something to someone or they do something to you which forms the genesis of conflict, leaving the two-pronged path of the high road and the low road to resolve it.

Being a kid who was mercilessly bullied and antagonized in school by other kids who didn’t like the fact that I was intelligent, who was good at things and an unabashed non-conformist, I found myself in many conflicts for a lot of arbitrary, and frankly, many stupid reasons.

Considering the amount of anger I carried with me at being picked on all the time, my instinctive response was to meet fire with fire. It didn’t take much to set me off and for every bully or preppie or jock who gave me shit, I wanted nothing more than to return it upon them ten-fold.

I know I certainly would’ve felt better having done so. I’d have felt vindicated and like it would’ve sent a message to everyone else who was lining up to take their shot at me.

The message being, Unless you want to get hurt, don’t do it.

It took a long time and a lot of conditioning, learning and understanding conflict to realize a lot of the hostility can be diffused by simply walking away or not stoking the emotional fire that’s already begun to smolder.

It also took me realizing that there are many times where I will say or do the wrong thing to someone whom I create a conflict with and it’s on me to recognize that, acknowledge it and own up to it.

There’s no big secret formula to how it works. It’s called being mature and responsible.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love a good scrap or that find a great amount of catharsis by going off on someone who’s earned the privilege.

Case in point: 

The other night, I had a chance to speak my mind to someone who helped divert the course of my career from where I wanted it to go, to what it is now.

In my defense, I spent hours trying to figure out how I can take the high road and not engage in the ongoing argument. By the end of the night, though, I found myself saying Screw it. I’ll get this off my chest so I don’t have to spend the rest of my life not being able to say it.

So rather than being the good guy and walking away, I dropped myself down to his level and got out exactly what I wanted to say.

And you know what…? It felt really damn good.

Make no mistake, I am just as capable of being a belligerent asshole as the next person. Most of the time, it’s the first thing I want to do when I find myself in a situation that gets my blood boiling. It’s a natural reaction we all have and I am certainly no different.

That I choose to take the high road, though, says more about me than it does whoever is standing on the other side of the line, I’d like to think.