Camera Shy

There was a time, back when I was still in middle school and even high school, where I was more than happy to get my picture taken. As a kid, I was an absolute ham and found just as much enjoyment in having someone click a pic of me as I was to find something to get on film myself.

In the Age of the Selfie, where we’re expected to show off ourselves virtually all hours of the day, I know I’m supposed to be all too happy to be clicking my phone and advertising my life wherever, whenever.

Except I may be the only photographer on the planet who has no interest at all in turning the lens back in my own direction.

The last time I voluntarily took a picture of myself was just over two years ago as I was sitting atop a ridge overlooking Banks Lake in the middle the Washington high desert and even that one felt like the emotional equivalent of pulling teeth.

Now one would think that for a person who loves photography as much as I do, I’d have a stockpile of candid snapshots of my own face large enough to crash most of social media.

But I don’t. In fact, of all the pictures I still have collected over the entirety of my life, I may have no more than thirty in which I appear. Before leaving the desert, I ran all my old high school and college photos through my paper shredder and I’ve reached the point where I have very little interest in even using a picture of myself as an identifier on social media.

In fact, if there’s one thing that puts my anxiety on edge more than being made to interact with people, it’s the idea of producing a photo in which I appear.

The reason why has nothing to do with ego or the need to be contrarian or anti-establishment, either.

The No Selfie Rule exists because they embarrass me.

In the 30 years I’ve been using a camera, I know all too well what amazing things they can produce and I’ve been damn lucky to be in the right place at the right time when I had my Nikon ready to shoot. It’s that pursuit of things that are worth immortalizing in an image which always inspires me to keep exploring and trying.

I am not one of those things worth immortalizing. I’m a pasty, pudgy, middle-aged guy with a gimpy chin and a hairline that looks like a pencil with the eraser bitten off. Instagram material, I am most definitely not.

My life being what it is has made it clear to me that when all is said and done, the better course of action is for me to fade into obscurity, that sort of person who maybe one or two people can say they knew, but there’s otherwise no documented record of existence.

And you know what? That’s okay. Not everyone is meant to be remembered.

I am more than happy to show you the world I see through my camera. I’d like to think that it’s something I’m good at and I can find things that go against the grain of who I am as a person.

But when it comes to my being in the frame, sorry, but I don’t do that anymore.

My eye is way too critical to find that an appealing photograph.

Inconvenient Truths

So I finished watching the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why last night and for all the heavy-duty subjects they cover in it, the lingering thought that’s been banging away in my head after waking up this morning, is the notion of truth.

In both our current political and social discourse, truth has become both a dirty word and a grossly distorted one.

According to Webster’s, truth is defined as:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we’ve learned over the past few months especially, however, truth is one of those rare concepts which is both subjective and objective. In the face of no matter how much empirical data or ironclad research you want to throw at a person to quantify an objective truth, they can very easily choose to either ignore it or reject it outright with the help of whatever subjective truth they cling to as a means of insulating them from the reality that the world which fills their own bubble of beliefs, ideas and emotions is somehow incorrect.

No amount of objective truth can penetrate the subjective truths constructed by someone capable of leaning on alternative facts in order to prove that they’re right and everyone else is wrong.

But that brings up the question of where do personal truths fall into this spectrum?

If there’s one thing I took away from both watching 13 Reasons Why and reading some of the reviews of it, it’s that as a culture, we are much happier being straight lied to and living in an absolute illusion than having to confront even the slightest bit of truth that we are not as wonderful as we like to think we are.

Editorial Note: In keeping with managerial policy, I won’t be leaving any spoilers about the show. I trust that if you’re interested, you’ll either watch it or you won’t.

In a lot of ways, I understand why. No one likes to think that they’re a bad person or whatever more exponentially negative adjective you wish to apply. It doesn’t change the unpleasant truth that we are, though, even if no one has the courage to tell us as much.

We excel at treating each other like shit.

It’s something I’ve personally witnessed since I was old enough to start comprehending what the world is. We all know how brutal we are to everyone from the people we work with and the kids we go to school with, to the people we call family, friends, lovers. What’s worse is we collectively nod our heads to one another before burying them in the sand of, that’s just the way life is.

 

That, I suppose, is one of many unpleasant truths I’ve never been able to accept, regardless of how many people remind me of its validity.

But what bothers me more than anything is the seemingly constant battle I feel like I have to wage every day just to be able to convey my truth, in whatever form that needs to manifest itself in.

I’m the first to admit that my personal truths are not pretty things. They are often dark, cynical, unforgiving and even incredibly brutal in their honesty and assessment of my world, based on the experiences I’ve had with those who occupy it.

I wish they weren’t. I really do. I wish I were one of the lucky ones who got everything they wanted and never really had to struggle for anything, like so many people I know who believe their truth is a lot more dire than it actually is.

 

But my truths, whether you want to consider them or not, did not come about arbitrarily. Truth, like everything else, is brought about through experiences both good and bad. And the fact that I feel the need to express them through things like writing about them maybe a gross inconvenience to you, but for me, it’s the only constructive way I know of to both examine and deal with them.

It’s how I’ve done it since I was a kid, because even back then, no one seemed all that much interested in the truths I had to tell them either.

And until I can find a better outlet for them, I will continue to do so, because the truth is this is one of the few things I’ve ever felt good doing in my life.

That enough truth to suit you?

Inferno

You find me in a bit of a philosophical crisis.

For the greater majority of my life, I’ve clung to the belief that any relationship can be salvaged as long as the two people involved are willing and able to sit down like two reasonable adults and talk, regardless of how long it takes to reach a mutually-beneficial conclusion.

And maybe it illustrates my innate Pollyanna-esque attitude to such things, or more of my sheer bullish stubbornness to not let go of those people who matter to me emotionally, the older I get, but I feel like I’ve reached a point I never wanted to be at.

The point where, as much as I don’t want to, I may not have any other choice but to let some bridges I’ve tried to rebuild burn back down to the ground.

Even the thought of it as I write those words down twists my heart into a very uncomfortable position, but I seriously don’t know what else to do that I haven’t already tried.

Two months ago, things seemed to be okay. I had asked for an opportunity to do exactly what I’d hoped to do, which is sit down and talk. In my defense, it was a tall order on my part because I was nothing if a live-wire ball of anxiety for most of the day and even after our conversation started because I was constantly on edge about saying the wrong thing, which is something I have a made a living off of, much to my chagrin.

Editorial Note: I have had the incredible misfortune to spend my life in the presence of some seriously terrifying people. People who have actually killed another person for reasons so arbitrary and insane that they defy logic, as well as all other manner of cruelty and diabolicalness. But if you told me that the person who’d genuinely scare me the most in this life stands all of about 5’4″ and spends most of their day reading books or hunting Pokemon, I’d say you were a complete loon.

I walked away from that conversation feeling hopeful that there was a chance that this bridge I’ve spent years trying to hold up might be saved. I knew it would take a while and it was likely going to be far from easy, but I was hopeful all the same, because its preservation mattered to me.

And maybe, that’s my big mistake in all this. I don’t know.

Look, I’m not blind to the reality that people change and that in the course of that evolution, they don’t always become the person you hoped or even subconsciously wanted them to be. It’s our own arrogance to presume that we can compartmentalize someone into a neat little box with a one-word label on it, thereby stripping that someone of all the complexities and sub-layers that makes them who they actually are.

And in our knee-jerk, hyperactive world, it’s even harder to try and convince someone that you are capable of being more than whatever image of you exists in their mind. I know this better than most. People still tend to look at me as if I never grew a day past my 13th birthday, or worse, which is saying a lot, that I haven’t managed to attain any level of evolution after my life imploded six years ago.

I’d like to think that I have, even if that progress has been glacial at times. But the only way I can prove it is through the interactions I have with other people and that becomes a bit of a problem when all that’s coming back to you in the attempts to maintain a dialogue is nothing but silence without explanation.

If I had a reason, that would be one thing. And before you tell me that there’s not always a reason for why people do things, allow me to politely call that out for what it is, which is complete and utter bullshit.

Everyone has reasons for why they do everything they do, myself included. No choice or action is made in a bubble, otherwise said actions and choices lose complete traction when it comes to justifying or rationalizing them to both ourselves and others.

The problem I have is I can only theorize why this bridge feels on the verge of going up in flames. I don’t have answers. I don’t have reasons. I don’t even have the person on the other side willing to respond when I simply say, “Hello.”

I feel like I’m talking into an empty telephone because the other end of the line won’t pick up and I don’t know why.

That leaves me with the moral dilemma of whether or not I keep trying to span this chasm that’s clearly dividing us, or do I finally concede that as much as I absolutely do not want to, it’s time to strike the match and let it burn.

Every fiber of my being is telling me not to because I know doing so is going to hurt like few things I have ever experienced before.

But what the hell else can I do?

Rebuild

I won’t lie. The purely infantile and macho side of my ego would love to say that this is me…but it’s not even close and that’s okay.

About two weeks ago, I was faced with a decision of what I could do to pass the time between getting up in the morning and going to work in the afternoon. Living in Boston, there’s no shortage of things to do. But with the cost of doing so being rather considerable, I knew I needed to find something which was both productive and worth the investment.

It’s been about six months since I was last able to do some boxing, having left my heavy bag back in the desert, and I miss it. Looking into a couple of gyms, I realized that for now, they’re a little out of my budget, but after doing a bit more digging, I discovered there was a YMCA gym about 10 minutes from where I’m camping out.

So I looked into it and decided to sign up, figuring there was two benefits to consider.

1.) My current situation of living in my Jeep means I need some way to make myself presentable when I go into the office.

2.) Considering I’m officially a middle-aged man who’s never been in the best physical shape, there are worse things I can do than get some exercise in everyday.

I’ve been at it for a little over ten days now and though this might sound way too cliche for its own good, I am already starting to feel and see the results of getting myself to just walk in the door every morning.

When I wake up, part of the motivation for me to actually move and get into gear so I can get on with my day is the fact that I have to go to the gym and do something, either jumping on one of the bikes I like to ride, playing some shoot-around basketball for a bit, or even taking some weights out for a spin.

Editorial Note: If the Y ever brought in some heavy bags, I swear I’d have found Shangri-La, but it’s a small concession to make in the long run, really.

In some ways, it’s disconcerting and rather ego-deflating to be surrounded by people who have the physical appearance which makes them the envy of others. They’re toned, muscular, healthy, very much the antithesis of what I’ve been for the majority of my adult life.

The simple truth, though, is that they got that way by putting in the time by walking in the door. I’m sure they have days where they feel far from good, but they manage to get through them nonetheless.

When I started two weeks ago, I didn’t really have much of a plan. I still really don’t other than the goal is to go in every morning and do something for as long as I can, in the hope that that simple action will bring the dividends of my pants starting to fit a little better and I’ll hopefully live a little longer.

If there’s something I wasn’t really expecting, though, it’s been the mental boost I’ve been getting, even on the days where I’m not capable of doing everything I want for one reason or another. In reality, I shouldn’t be surprised, considering physicians and psychologists have long explained how exercise boosts serotonin and dopamine levels, along with the mass influx of endorphins that wash over the brain.

But as someone who, by the opinions of most doctors, should be on antidepressants so powerful they’d make Oscar the Grouch giddy, I guess I wasn’t expecting the degree of what I feel when I walk out of the gym.

I know it’s a combination of having done the work and fulfilling my goal for the day, which thereby earns me the right to get on with the rest of my day. I can go get lunch, do my routine on my laptop, and then go into work knowing I didn’t half-ass it this morning. I walked in the door. I got myself sweaty and sore in places I didn’t know I had…but I did it.

If that’s what it takes for me to feel that much better about myself when I look in the mirror, I’d like to think that’s far from the craziest thing I could do to get me there.

Surviving in the Sea of Horrible People

For the past few days, I’ve been rolling the idea in my head over and over about the criteria for what defines a horrible person?

During the course of my life, it’s been made abundantly clear on multiple occasions that I am nowhere in the vicinity of a saint. I’ve been labeled every synonym of the word I can think of, including monster, freak, sociopathic, psychopathic, evil, the Anti-Christ…even the physical manifestation of Satan himself…and that was because I was playing a silly little card game when someone I’d never met or even knew existed until that moment formally declared me as such.

No one likes to think they have the capacity to be horrible to someone else, and yet, I see it manifest in so many people I know every day and often, for the most arbitrary and spiteful of reasons.

The frustrating part is waking up every morning and realizing I’m surrounded by horrible people who will argue to the ends of the earth that they are anything but horrible, even though their behavior, their attitude, their expectations and perhaps most importantly, how they treat other people paints an entirely different picture.

When I was a kid, there was a certain degree of fun and dare I say, even a little romanticism, in the reflex of responding to horrible people in kind. It was that eye for an eye mentality that children tend to subscribe to because it’s the fastest way to achieve the results you want. Someone insults you, you insult them back.

Simple. Direct. Gets the job done.

As we get older, though, we learn how to add varying degrees of complexity to our horribleness. Sometimes it can come through the passive-aggressive demands we place on others out of our own sense of victimization, or the subtle manipulations of a person’s emotions, knowing full well they hold no impact and the ensuing damage that realization will have on said person doesn’t either.

The worst part is we rationalize our own horribleness, try to justify or minimize it behind excuses and defenses that make it somehow seem warranted or worse, deserved.

Except there is no justification for being horrible to someone else. None. If you’re one of those people who tries to, then it simply further defines how horrible you actually are, because it shows you don’t care about anyone else’s feelings or intentions.

As I approach 40 in a couple of weeks, I know I still have the capability for being an incredibly horrible person, if I chose to be. The truly scary thing is, with the way my life has gone and the impact of being repeatedly subjected to the machinations of horrible people, it wouldn’t take much at all for me to slip into that mode, either.

After all, love is an inherited human emotion we are all born with and are exposed to from the moment we enter this life, whereas hate is a learned behavior built up through repetitive exposure and practice interacting with horrible people. And based on those experiences, some days it feels like I have enough hate stored up in me to blacken the sun if I really wanted to let it all go.

What stops me from fully committing to my own horribleness, however, is a fairly simple question:

What do I gain from it?

The answer, of course, is nothing. Not a damn thing. Being horrible would satisfy my vindictive ego and the parts of my psyche that fuel it, but beyond that, it doesn’t achieve a single productive goal or make any relationship I wish to have be worth a damn.

It comes down to the simple matter of choice, I guess.

You can either choose to treat the people around you like shit for your own satisfaction, or you can accept that being a better person means making the occasional concession and realizing that for as many times as you’re the hero of your own particular story, you can turn on a dime and become the villain as well, and we do it to ourselves all the time to the detriment of both ourselves and those around us.

I wish more people were willing to understand that.

Forging

I’ve always had this base fascination with the concept of a blacksmith.

I guess some of that comes with my lifelong interest in swords and medieval culture, as well as the process of turning an unattractive, rudimentary chunk of metal into something artistically, aesthetically and functionally beautiful.

Leaving work last night, I was struggling to get out of a rather dark headspace that’s become a bit too familiar as of late.

When I came up with this insane decision to uproot from the relative comfort and ease of where I was in the Pacific Northwest and come back home, I admit that part of it was the self-created illusion that the transition would be easy.

I’d get back here, camp out with family for the short-term, lock in a job, get a place of my own and then carry on with my life in the directions I hoped to take it. Five months later, I’m in a place I never thought I’d be. A place I never even conceived of for myself because it’s not in our nature to consider failure as the likely destination you’ll arrive at once the journey has started.

It took far longer to get a job than I’d wanted, and even though I have a good salary, what I don’t have is any sense of security or commitment that I will be able to keep it long-term. Along the way, my attempts to reconnect with both family and friends have devolved into situations that I didn’t foresee happening either and it’s been a hard thing to take.

As someone who once had strong connections to family and a small but rather tight circle of friends, finding myself on the outside looking in at these relationships that matter to me, but for all my trying, I can’t seem to maintain, only increases the degree of isolation and self-doubt that I already possess.

I’m a few weeks away from turning 40 and I’m at a place I’d never want anyone else to find themselves at – I feel old, tired, angry, afraid, unwanted and incredibly alone.

And yet, all I could think about this morning was the art of a blacksmith.

In order to create something out of metal, the blacksmith first gets it as hot as possible and then proceeds to hammer out every ounce of impurities they can. It takes an extreme amount of pressure to do it, banging that ingot over and over again over an unrelenting and unforgiving anvil, bending it, stretching it, taking it as far as it can go without breaking it.

If my life has been nothing else, it’s been a seemingly endless question of how much I can take before I finally break. I’m not proud to say there’s been times where I did. As much as I think I can take it, I get those reminders where I’m not Superman. I have limits. I have doubts. I have times where I lie awake at night scared out of my mind that things are not going to get better or I will keep getting every arbitrary, narrow-minded and malicious excuse for why I can’t have the sort of life I want.

The question I have to answer for myself is whether or not I can continue going through the process? Can I keep taking the pounding, and if so…what sort of person will I be when it’s all over?

I’d like to think I could become something beautiful. Someone worth something to the people who matter to me.

What do you think?

Nomadic Thoughts

I woke up on Saturday morning full of feelings that have become all too familiar to me over the past few years. A combination of anger, hurt, vexation and anxiety which all coalesce in an insatiable need to find a road and drive until I either reach the end of it or find something along the way which gets my mind off the turmoil churning away under my skin.

So I took Boomer on the first long road trip we’ve been on since I bought him, up the turnpike through New Hampshire and on into Maine, stopping in the midcoast town of Freeport for a few nights.

The motel itself was nothing special, despite the incredibly comfortable king-sized bed I was all too happy to fall asleep on. Freeport itself is one of those kitschy tourist traps where the downtown is nothing but strip malls full of shops that sell stuff people don’t really need at prices people really can’t afford, but if you come back with something that says L.L. Bean on it, I guess that counts as some form of moral victory over the rest of the Joneses.

Fortunately, I don’t have the need for such things, so I was content to just get back on the road in the morning and explore the area, even though there were times when I found myself checking my watch like I had some pressing appointment to keep. I guess it’s one of those things you have to adjust to when you’re so used to having an existence based entirely around the concept of work and not much else.

When I was younger, I always liked the idea of taking road trips with friends and heading off into parts unknown. Now that I’m older and don’t have many friends anymore, my mindset is more one of just taking off for as long as I need to, figuring I can do a lot less damage if I’m flying under the radar.

I got out to Boothbay Harbor and finally pulled over in the tiny hamlet of Ocean Point, which looked like something you’d see in every tourism or real estate magazine that wants to convince you of what the real New England looks like.

In all honesty, the scenery was incredible as the late winter cold had backed off enough to provide some glorious sunshine and warmth, even with the tide starting to roll in. It’s one of the many things I love about being near the ocean, along with the cleansing, calming white noise it generates which has always managed to have a positive effect on me, no matter my state of mind.

And after the past few weeks, I know I needed it.

It’s been a rough go, as of late. In spite of working again and getting the most financially lucrative paychecks of my life, I’m still in a state of limbo and uncertainty about the long-term steadiness of my job that I can’t commit to finding an apartment yet. So I’ve been getting by through sleeping in the back of Boomer under a mountain of blankets and a sleeping bag.

Is it the most comfortable accommodations? Hardly, but compared to other alternatives and situations I’ve found myself in over the course of my life, it beats the alternative of having no protection at all from the last serious cold that’s still hanging around over the area.

The other issue I’ve been trying to figure out is what I’m going to do about some of the people in my life, whom I care a great deal about, but seem utterly disinterested in maintaining healthy relationships with me.

One of the primary reasons why I have a tendency to go off on my own to remote places like this is that it provides me time and space to think, which is a trick I picked up back when I was a younger man trapped in an 8×8 box with nothing but time to think about anything and everything. Admittedly, being able to do it under an open sky which flows all the way to the horizon is much more emotionally and psychologically pleasant, and it affords me a chance to sit and process things from as many angles as I want or need to.

The situation I have before me is this: Whether or not I keep trying to salvage relationships with these two people, or do I let the bridges burn down and just walk away?

The conflict which puts these relationships in jeopardy is the reality that I possess feelings, emotions, thoughts and opinions which run contrary to theirs and I’m not always willing to compromise them for the sake of ego or a sense of entitlement. Some of that is down to my innate stubbornness and some is also due to being a person who will say what I think and mean what I say, because I long ago had to adopt the position of what you see from me is what you get.

I get that not everyone likes that. I get that such an attitude is inevitably going to cause friction, disagreements or some issue which casts me as the villain. it would be incorrect to assume that I’m proud of it or that I mark it as some form of moral or ethical superiority. It’s simply the end result of my experiences with people, which at times makes me more open and sociable or very distant and misanthropic.

The question I have, though, is why is it these same people who become offended by my choice to speak my mind are allowed to do the same thing to either me or other people in return and not realize that they are being equally, if not more, destructive?

That’s the general sense I have of these two relationships now. It doesn’t matter what I say or do, what concessions I make or how I try to assert myself as a person who is worthy of the same level of respect and acceptance which they demand of me, such things only seem to place me more in the wrong because doing so opens me up to presumptions and assumptions based on what they think I am, as opposed to what I actually am.

It’s not a fun position to be in, I have to say, because something I’ve intensely conditioned myself to over the years is the theory that any relationship can be saved so long as two people are willing to meet in the middle and have an adult conversation.

Except the conversations aren’t happening because the avenues of communication have been cut off. Based on the evidence presented to me, they are no longer interested in what I have to say or why I feel the need to say them. They are not interested in resolving whatever conflicts which have presented themselves through a dialog.

The bridges have been set alight, and they are standing on the other side of the divide, seemingly content to watch them burn for reasons I truly don’t understand.

And I guess that’s what bothers me so much, because after spending so much of my life dominated by all these destructive emotions and experiences that have molded me into the person sitting at this laptop writing this, I genuinely have no interest in creating more conflicts or destroying more relationships which I hold as valuable.

Only I can’t rebuild these bridges alone. I know because I’ve tried and the idea that I may have to move on knowing I’m leaving a smoldering wreck behind me hurts like hell.

I hate giving up on people and I hate walking away. It’s not in my DNA to do so and every time I’m forced to, it’s always with the endless debating with myself about how it wasn’t entirely my fault (even when it wasn’t) and trying to figure out what I could’ve done or avoided to prevent it from being the only available option I have.

And as I sit here at the edge of the world, watching the ocean trying to pound the breakwater into submission, part of me would love nothing more than to let these waves envelope me so I don’t have to feel the pain that is going to inevitably come with the reality that I might not be able to repair the rift separating me from two people whom I love very much.

 

 

Real Friends

After getting a fitful night’s sleep in what was an otherwise luxurious hotel bed, I’ve been walking around the city for most of the day trying to better understand my own perceptions and understanding of the concept of what constitutes a real friend as opposed to a fake friend.

It’s been on my mind because I got quite an earful already this week about not being a real friend and I guess it’s as much an attempt to make sure I have the right definition in my head as it is a chance to see how subjective it can be.

Editorial Note: For the record, this is how I see this concept from as objective a viewpoint as I can surmise. Your results may vary and if you feel inclined to join in the chorus of those who will feel fit to lecture me on how off I am, line forms to the right.

In our current climate of hypercriticism, hypersensitivity and hyper-emotionalism about just about everything, as best I can tell, the modern definition of the word friend is something akin to this:

“A person who provides mutual affection, unwavering loyalty, and never, ever says or does anything to threaten the existing echo chamber, safe space or state of being, no matter how destructive or negative it may be to the individual or those constituting their sphere of community.”

Considering how the avenues of access to such people have evolved at lightning speed over the past decade thanks to social media and the insular bubble it can help develop in giving someone their sense of self-identity, I can see how easy it would be to want to surround ourselves with other like-minded people who never question our motives or behaviors for any reason, even if those behaviors are destructive or toxic to even the most casual observer.

Like it or not, this is also complete bullshit.

Maybe it’s because I’m older, or as my mother likes to remind me, I am a descendant of people who possess Yankee Blood, which somehow justifies being as empathetic as a cold piece of concrete when the occasion dictates, but any person who want to be surrounded by only those who will cater to their every demand, no matter how impractical, illogical or downright harmful is not looking for friends.

They are looking for acolytes – people who will follow blindly without questioning anything or disrupting the narrative which exists in their leader’s mind.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the world is too cruel and rancorous a place for life to work that way, which is why understanding what a real friend is becomes all the more important.

real friend is someone who does not follow blindly.

They do not attach themselves to a person out of necessity, but rather because they see something in another person which they may not always see themselves. They see the latent potential and through affection, trust, belief, empathy and hope, seek to cultivate it into something greater.

real friend is someone who does not exist to be the perpetual kiss-ass or to constantly declare that you’re always right and the rest of the world and all the people in it are always wrong.

They will be the ones to step back, assess a situation and call you out on it when they feel that you are either in the wrong or are proceeding down the wrong path, even if it means drawing anger, spite or even hatred in their own direction for doing so. Sometimes, the best thing a real friend can contribute to resolving a conflict is to ask the simple question, “What the hell are you doing?”

real friend understands that people are different and as such, they strive to be as open and accommodating as possible.

They also understand that openness and accommodations are a two-way dynamic that must be mutually maintained in order for the relationship to not devolve into toxicity.

real friend is someone who sees you are going through Hell and will stand by you, regardless of the risk to their own well-being, so you do not have to bear the full weight of going through that Hell alone.

They do so because they care and want to see you come out of it better, while also understanding that they cannot carry the weight for you entirely, but they will at least help shoulder the load for as long as they can, long after the acolytes can’t be bothered to show up.

And like it or not, but a real friend can be the one to recognize when a friendship has devolved from healthy to toxic and as much as they’d rather not, they understand there comes a point where the only option which is in the best interest of both sides is to walk away, not because they want to…but because the dynamic of the friendship has changed to the point where it is necessary.

I know I don’t have many friends in this world anymore. To be honest, I never had that many to begin with. But I value the ones I have now beyond measure because I believe with every fiber of my being that they are real.

If I need a shoulder to lean on, they are there, and if I need someone to slap me upside the head and tell me when I’m being an idiot, they’re there too.

I may not like it when they do that. Some days, it straight pisses me off to no end. But as I said, the world is a cruel and rancorous place and no amount of yelling and screaming to try and force it to become an easier place to exist in is going to change that.

In such an unforgiving landscape, it is never a bad thing to know who your real friends are.

Disconnection

I woke up this morning feeling a combination of extreme anxiety and anger, which I suppose could be rationalized and justified depending on your point of view.

I’ve spent the past hour or so sitting at the desk of the hotel room my work put me up in as the most ferocious blizzard I’ve ever seen is wailing away on the city just outside my window, trying to get a grip on just what it is I’m feeling and why.

Over the course of my life I’ve been told that I’m both a good man and a terrible man, I’ve been told that the things I do, both positive and negative is because I’m a fallible human being or that they are because I am anything but human. That I’m a monster. A freak. Something evil and wicked that has no interests other than causing the most amount of damage that I can.

My actions, no matter what how well-mannered my intentions were at the time I made them, have been dissected, analyzed and scrutinized by people who think they know me. Who think they have the arbitrary right to make flash judgments, presumptions, assumptions and conclusions based on their biased perceptions of who they think I am.

I’ve been branded everything from a sociopath to a psychopath and even worse things that I don’t have the heart to put into words by those who either cannot or will not look outside their own selfish malice and need to project their own pain and self-loathing onto others.

Am I perfect? Not even close. Am I flawed? In more ways than I ever like to admit. Do I make mistakes and say things which could lead to someone being offended, no matter what how well-mannered my intentions? Yes I do. Do I take any measure of happiness or joy or positive reinforcement out of it? Never.

Does that make me a terrible person? I guess you’ll have to be the judge of that.

But when I find myself in this sort of emotional headspace, like I have over the past few days, it often leads me back to the only conclusion that I can accept based on the evidence that I’ve been given.

People suck and I’ve had enough of people for one lifetime

I am tired of trying to hold onto connections to people I care about, even though they don’t feel remotely the same way.

I am tired of being accused of things which never even crossed my mind by those who are looking for someone to blame for their own inadequacies and short-comings.

I am tired of doing what I can to better myself, to actually put in the time and effort to evolve into the kind of person I wish to be, only to looked at as someone who will never change through the eyes of those who lack both the courage and motivation to truly change themselves.

I am tired of being hurt by those who presume to lecture me on the damage that my words and feelings can have on someone, and yet they are free to rip my heart out with their own because it’s somehow acceptable in their own warped belief systems.

I’m tired of being told that I am not allowed to process the pain which comes from going through that process, or that I’m not allowed to respond in kind with my own anger or even in defense of myself because doing so would bring in the reality of unpleasant facts that will make the other person feel uncomfortable or maybe realize that they’re actually wrong.

I’m tired of being afraid to honestly express myself because the current emotional climate has become so hyper-critical and so hyper-reactive that unless we spend all day, every day, walking on eggshells and reinforcing each others echo chambers, then those who don’t are immediately considered to be the enemy.

Mainly, I’m just tired of people because of what they are. Mean, spiteful, narrow-minded creatures who are interested in nothing else but tearing each other down after propping one another up with false platitudes and sycophantic delusions of affection and acceptance.

So I’m done. Count me out. I am officially no longer interested in being part of the human race anymore.

I beg your pardon…but for right now, you can all go to hell. And if you really want to understand why I’m feeling this way, I strongly suggest you take a long, hard look in a mirror and don’t stop until the answers finally come to you.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Harmful Empathy

I may have lost a friend last night and I guess I have only myself to blame for that.

Given the way my life has gone, it’s in my nature to want to reach out to people during moments of crisis, even going back to when I was in kindergarten. Having an empathetic mind is something I’ve been both blessed and cursed with, depending on the situation.

I got another example of how it’s a curse last night.

The short version is my friend was in a position of deep emotional crisis, which compelled me to engage in the hope of bringing some level of comfort and stability back into the equation. What resulted was the exact opposite of what I’d hoped for in not only did my intervention not resolve the problem. It made it exponentially worse, which was the absolute last thing I wanted.

Which leads to the question of how? How did I allow things to deteriorate even further than they already were?

I guess that’s why I’m writing this, to try and figure it out.

When I’m presented with a situation where I have someone I care about in a bad state, either physically or emotionally, there are two options I can consider:

1.) Do nothing.

2.) Do something.

99.9% of the time, doing nothing doesn’t work for me because my conscience won’t allow me to sit back and do nothing. If I see someone who is having trouble, I am compelled to do something about it and damn the consequences.

So because I chose to do something and engage, that presents me with two more options:

1.) Listen and say nothing.

2.) Listen and try offering support.

In this situation, I chose option #2, in part because I needed to understand better what the nature of the conflict was and what can be done to resolve it. Upon reflection, I should’ve gone with option #1 and not said a damn thing.

Now the question becomes, “Okay, Dev, why did you feel the need to interject your own insight into the matter?” To which, the answer is because I’m 3,000 miles away from my friend and we were conversing through the vastly impersonal and emotionless medium of text messages, where words can often get misinterpreted and misconstrued, regardless of how succinctly they are put.

It’s also because given the nature of what was generating my friend’s state of mind, I saw so many parallels to my own experiences that it was easy to identify them.

The danger in that, however, is failing to understand that just because I had been through the same situations, doesn’t mean that my friend is able to respond in the same way. We are two different people, after all. What works for me is in no way guaranteed to work for someone else and it’s very easy to lose sight of that in the heat of the moment.

Had I been closer and in proximity where I could’ve engaged in person, then I know I would’ve been able to just sit there and say nothing. Being on the other side of the continent and unable to have a spoken conversation raises the degree of difficulty considerably, though.

But my attempts to better understand only generated more hostility and my words, no matter how well-intentioned they were, were met only with the presumption that I didn’t care and was paying attention at all to what my friend was feeling, or more importantly, why they were feeling that way.

By the time the conversation was over, it had been made abundantly clear that my wanting to help had resulted in doing a great deal more harm than good, which both angers and hurts me a lot.

I don’t like seeing people I care about in a state of emotional or physical pain. As an empathetic person, it’s hard to see these situations and not reflexively put myself in the same position out of a desire to take some of it away or reach a level of understanding where the other person doesn’t feel so isolated and alone.

Sometimes, letting myself go there brings with it the right words or actions that can help me throw a lifeline which can bring them out of it and back to a level of stability and calm.

Other times, like last night, my actions take what’s already a volatile situation and make it all the more volatile, simply because I believe I’m doing the right thing.

I woke up this morning angry with myself that I had done the wrong thing which may result in the end of a friendship which I value. I find myself going back over our conversation to see what I wasn’t paying attention to, what I ignored, and what I should’ve said or not said, what questions should I not have asked, and why I thought I was helping when all I ended up doing was exacerbating the degree of pain my friend was already in.

I find myself asking why I feel like I should’ve done anything at all and why I refused to do the smarter thing in doing nothing at all.

It’s a question I’m going to be asking going forward, should I ever get into a position like this again and that bothers me, because we live in a world where too many people think it’s better to do nothing to help someone who’s in a form of physical or emotional trauma than even trying to do something.

We tell ourselves, “it’s not my problem,” and that they just need to, “suck it up and deal.”

The risk you run by doing something, however, is for all your good intentions, it only ends up making an already bad situation worse. When that happens, it causes me to question both my instincts, which is unsettling and disheartening.

I’ve never approached someone in turmoil thinking that I’m going to do more damage by doing so. I’d like to think no one ever does, but that is the other side of the fine line that we walk when it comes to empathy. Sometimes it’s the fuel that makes an already dangerous fire worse.

I wish I could back time up about twelve hours so I had a chance to go back and do it right. My friend deserved better than what I gave them.