Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Class Reunion...In Reality

So, briefly said, I sucked it up and attended the last few hours of my 10 year reunion, much to the request of a dear - and highly inebriated - friend. What the heck? Free beer, right?

I walked in, and upon scanning the fifty or so faces in the room, I didn't see a single one I felt all that comfortable approaching. It was quickly concluded that the above-mentioned friend was in the mens' room...potentially "making more room" for beer.

A small round table surrounded by five female classmates shared polite hello's. One of the gals at this table I would have never called close, but we got along well, as did our brothers, and she greeted me with a hug. OK, ice breaker...check. She and I exchanged the basic info...kids, job, home, etc. Then moved on. Aaron and I played wallflowers for another minute or two, scanning the room once again, until above-mentioned friend managed his way out of the mens room. I finally relaxed at this point.

It was pointed out to me that liberals still made a great minority in the group. The lack of shock balanced out the level of funny. There was a great many people I never had the chance to say a word to, and I'm pretty OK with that.

At one point, there was some drunken discussion about a class orgy, and at the 15 year reunion we could bring all the 5 year olds and play "who's your daddy?" The friend who started this conversation is a classic freckled redhead, so you can imagine the jokes that wrote themselves. Thankfully, I've come to learn that this man's wife is one of the coolest people ever.

Throughout the night, a few more people approached Aaron and I, some of which I expected, others I was pleasantly surprised by. Aaron managed to connect with a classmates boyfriend, which is good since I kept accidentally ditching him. (Thanks for taking it stride, sweetie!) Much of my cynicism went away once I was asked this question; "Well, are you happy?" Which I met with a resounding "Hell yeah!" "Well, that's all you need, then."

The night closed with a very tipsy, yet very sweet compliment. I know he's reading this blog, so he knows what was said. (You do remember, right?) To those who took the time for me Sunday night, both expected and not, thank you. There is hope for this world yet.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Class Reunion...in my head

My ten-year class reunion is coming up this weekend, and straight up, I won't be there. The decision had been debated for months before a date was even set, but having to work that night pretty much sealed the deal. Disappointed? Not really. Curious? Hell yeah.

I graduated with approximately 80 people, a hearty sized class for Oostburg High. But the people in my graduating class who genuinely gave a damn about me, and took time out of their life to show me, the number is somewhere in the single digits.

On the other side of the coin, I'm damn proud of where I am today. I'm happily married with one kick-ass daughter and two stepsons that, while I occasionally would like to send them to Mars, are two guys I am genuinely proud of. I'm proud of what I have done for the community, whether it be Earthfest, being involved politically, and even helping a minority religion thrive in Sheboygan. I love my life, end of story. Would I like to rub it in a few faces? Hell yeah!

But I'm not convinced they would see it that way. I am back at Pizza Hut. I'm still fat (or shall we say, "fluffy"). I don't have tons of money or a newer car. To me, these things don't matter. But all my hard work isn't what the status quo says it takes to be successful.

There's another thing hanging out there. There was one classmate who was about as much of an outcast as one could be. He made himself that way, and he knew it. He wasn't out to make friends. If you were one of the few who didn't piss him off, you were alright. He idolized Andy Kaufman (look him up, it explains a lot), wore an "I'm with Stupid" shirt for our senior group picture - fashioned from a Hanes white tee and a Sharpie marker - and he attempted to interview people at the school entrance with an old tape recorder. What many don't know, he was a huge success in his efforts with the OHS theatre, both on and off stage. He was nominated for student of the month two or three times, each time being denied by our former gym teacher principal. I was one of the few who didn't piss him off.

Over the last two years or so, we stayed in scattered contact via email while he wandered the planet. Upon a return trip to Wisconsin, he asked to meet up with me to show me something from high school that would "show some insight about our classmates." During Junior and Senior years, he put a box in our history teacher's classroom which was for "Suggestions for ______". When you put yourself out there like this, and happen to be the class outcast, there is some preparation that needs to be made. But the level of cruelty is reminiscent of what likely caused the Columbine shooting and many like it.

This man handed me an envelope filled with folded up pieces of ten year old notebook paper, and what I read was beyond words. "I'd rather die than be a freak like you," was the one that cut the deepest. And according to him, this was merely a taste.

So, why dig up old dirt? People change, right? Well, sort of. I'm a believer that anyone can change...if they want or feel they need to. In reality, most people become a more grown-up version of what they were in high school. A version with more responsibilities but more opportunity to be what they are. And they're generally OK with that. This rings true for me. By the time I graduated, I knew the winds of change were blowing, I just had no clue what they were telling me. Clarity brought me to the self I am now. The slackers find jobs that pay the bills, but bear minimal responsibility. The over-achievers use their college degrees for their career, and deservedly earn the fruits of their labor, but still tend to bear that "I'm a step above many" mentality, though they keep it filtered and tucked back. The list goes on.

I don't believe the people who wrote these horrible things would do so again if given the chance. But it's not to say they wouldn't think along those lines. It becomes a passing thought, you scoff to yourself, and you move on. That's the mature version of what happened ten years ago.

All I really want to know is, has anyone really figured it out? Would these people genuinely regret what they said/wrote. Of course they would, if you told them it nearly lead to self-inflicted gunshot wounds (which it did). Gods forbid you have that on your conscience! But if you showed someone what they wrote ten years ago, would they really regret it, with nothing but their own feelings to work with? I'm not convinced. Forgive me for my cynicism, but I'm waiting to be proven wrong. Perhaps at our 20th...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Does this make me look like an ass?" A lesson in filtered friendships

From working in retail and food service, to attempting high-maintenance friendships, I've come across a wide variety of complainers, drama queens and "victims". They're at your workplace, school, social gatherings, everywhere. You can't avoid them. In some cases, you may even feel the need to "fix" them, sans-PHD.

But not all complainers come in one neat little package. There's a wide array I've encountered, and with each new venture, I've found a new way to deal with it. In most cases, the relationship ends. In reality, I'm a "fixer" until this person starts taking more of my energy than my own kids. I've got one success story, but you'll have to go to the end to find out who.

"The glass is half full...of Arsenic!"
These people are tricky. You don't know what you're in for until they've got you tied up by your toenails. They come off as pretty level headed. You can generally get along with them at work in small doses because, sure, we all have bad days. But when you delve into their personal life, you realize, "They're all out to get you." Conspiracy theorists and divorcees often fall under this category. Mention of "Big Brother" is a dead-giveaway. Or, "The ex needs money for the kids' new shoes, but I'm sure he'll just buy something stupid," is a frequent conversation starter.

Overall, these people are relatively harmless. They spew, rant and rave, but they're pretty good at keeping it in the right place at the right time, if such a thing exists. I've maintained relationships with these people because I make a point to not spend more than an hour one-on-one with these people. A few hours in a group setting is relatively harmless, unless they're a Tyra. Read on.

"Well I just looooove everything! Especially ME!" - The Tyra Complex
I wouldn't put these folks under a 'complainer' status, but they can be mixed with several of the other levels of "victim"/drama queen.

Say you're out to dinner with an "Arsenic" person. They asked for their steak medium-well, and they receive a medium-rare. To ask the server to have steak cooked a while longer is fair, with a certain level of tact and respect. But, the conversation turns to, "You know, eating a steak that isn't properly cooked can KILL you!" This is the remainder of the evening's conversation. You now have an Arsenic/Tyra on your hands. You poor bastard.

Straight-up Tyra's are simply called narcissistic. As Eddie Izzard stated, a narcissist is pretty much someone who stands in front of the mirror and says, "God, I'd love to have sex with myself." If you choose to befriend a Tyra, you should either be A) Quiet. B) Also a Tyra. If you fall in-between A and B, you're screwed. Get new friends.

"Nobody's done a damn thing for me. Why should I bother?"
These are the toughest nuts to crack. You get the complete package with a "Why should I bother?" This person has been "victimized" from birth, they exaggerate their level of persecution, and they refuse to shut up about it. An added bonus; they can't keep track of who they told which exaggeration to.

While these people seem to be the worst energy-vampires, they've seemed to be the most common in my adult life. I feel like Lucy from the Peanuts gang sitting in my booth. The most recent case I've encountered was actually a combo Arsenic/Tyra/Victim. She had a rough childhood, she's on federal assistance which is constantly out to screw her, and damned if we weren't going to go an hour without hearing about it. My current circle of level-headed, fabulous friends took her in, and she pretty much made her rounds until everyone was exhausted. Concerns were discussed and it was determined we needed a break, and she voluntarily left. Months later she returned, apparently developing a bout of amnesia of the previous discussions, and much to her shock, we were "all talking shit about her behind her back". This person has no desire, correction, she doesn't think she needs any changes in her mental situation. We tried, we gave her a second chance, and it is done. If you have a PHD in psychology, have at. If not, run. Period.

"Tinkerbell is my homegirl."
These people are simply a hoot. But it sucks to have to rely on them. These people live in a fantasy world, where fiction is fact. "No, really, Robert Pattinson and I are BFF's! He friend-ed me on Facebook!" *face-palm*

These people manage to slip through the cracks as healthy, sane people. They obtain positions of leadership, then their fantasy world comes out. Now, we all have our own interests and hobbies outside of the workplace, and I won't stop anyone from having them. Even if you like - epic sigh - Twilight. But you tend to lose respect of your peers when you're in your thirties truly believing every celebrity you "friend" on FaceCrack is a genuine friend. You also lose a bit of credibility when you're weeping over your dying grandmother when she's been sick since you were learning the multiplication table. (Rest in peace, Grandma.)

Basically, these people don't have much going for them, so they need to create this world where they have friends and power to feel valuable. I've managed to tolerate these folks by simply patting them on the back saying "Ok, sweetie. Have fun with that."

"I've got baggage, but I'm a bellhop, so it's cool."
Lots of people come with baggage. It's how one builds character. It's how you handle that baggage that determines your level of drama. Here comes my success story.

A gentleman came into my life via karaoke about eight years ago. We knew a lot of the same people in town (duh, it's Sheboygan), he was recently divorced with two children, and quite honestly, he wasn't a very good parent, or spouse for that matter. We built a relationship with plenty of ups and downs, battled trust issues, etc. He accepted several flaws, many of which involved his kids, some of which involved relationships with the opposite sex, and we now have a happy marriage.

Baggage does not a "victim" make. With a Bellhop, desire to change must come from within. Often times they've gone through phases of Arsenic, Tyra, Why, and even Tinkerbell. But they remained phases that were needed to develop into a whole person. Baggage can be left behind when a person is ready. Or, they can open it, take out what doesn't serve them, and put the rest in storage. These people, while they accept their fate, also acknowledge life is worth living, and lugging shit around will just slow it down.

In all of the above cases, no one can fix a person but themselves. If you want to take someone on, you have my blessing, whatever my blessing is worth to you. Many simply don't want to be fixed, or they're in such deep denial they don't think they need outside assistance. They may be happy where they're at, whatever their definition of happy may be. All I can say is, it takes all kinds to make the world turn.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Trying Something New/ A Lesson in Balance

Lets, face it, I have an addiction to my computer. No, seriously. Every day I find myself asking "Why the hell can't I just step away from this stupid thing?"

So, we're trying something new. The worst part of the addiction is I find the most assinine things to do. Facebook is very much the culprit. I mean, I miss the days of watching Homestar Runner cartoons in my buddy Jon's smoky computer room (which, alas, is still quoted in my home.) So, my new goal is to find more purposeful things to do while sitting in the monitors not-so-warm glow. Hence, the rebirth of the blog.

I'd like to think I have interesting things to say. I'm not stupid (say for a few bouts of 'mommy brain'), I have a toddler - which makes for hours of entertainment to boot - and I'm rather involved with the community and the process of making it a better place for my daughter to live. I try to pay attention to politics, I'm pissed as hell about the BP disaster, so I'm pretty sure I'm bound to find something interesting to say.

My intention a few hours ago was to write a blog about complaining. But before I got to really put together my thoughts on the subject, I got into a heated discussion with someone about...you guessed it...complaining. I'm not sure if this makes me more or less eligible to write such a blog in this moment, so I'm going to hold off.

I do, however, want to write about a topic that seems to be popping up a lot lately...Balance. I've been attracted to the yin yang symbol since, for certain, Sophomore year of high school. Though, back then, I had no idea why. I've told the story to many people of how I was trying to debate what to put on my class ring, and one side boiled down to the yin yang, and the cross and Bible. Five bucks to the person who guesses what the final result was. Yep, NOT the one that is currently tattooed on my left arm. (Thanks Mom! :P )

The basic premise of the yin yang is that you cannot have the good without the bad. Even on the ying side of the symbol, there's still a little dot of yang to keep it in check, and vice versa. If life was infinitely wonderful, the joy and splendor in life would become the norm, and you would lose sense of appreciation. On the flip side, if life was infinitely miserable, you would accept this as your fate and you would never know joy.

There was a time where I saw lots of yang, but not a lot of yin. Unemployment seemed to plague this home, an unplanned (yet blessed) pregnancy, every time we had a shot of getting ahead, something on the car would break down, you name it. But the yin was that we never went without. We came out of the situation with our home, our car, our family and our sanity relatively intact. I didn't always see the light at the tunnel back then.

I also have a friend who once thought that if a lot of good landed on her lap, she then deserved the bad to eventually come, so to the point where she seemed to invite it. Don't dupe yourself into thinking this. The Universe knows what it's doing. If you find a $20 bill on the sidewalk today, you're allowed to enjoy your good fortune. Perhaps that $20 bill, which you happened to find just before realizing you left your wallet at home while at the coffee shop, was a response to bad night in tips you had a month ago.

Of course, this, and the conversation of Karma, is frequently met with, "Why does good things happen to bad people?" The Christian faith proclaims that "God has a plan." I don't necessarily find this to be wrong, though perhaps a bit misleading. "The Universe has a plan," would be my response, but with a few stipulations.

What defines "bad things?" As an example, Aaron fought to keep a job by hopping from temp job to temp job for the majority of Autumn's life (about 2 1/2 years,now). Being that I keep the budget and checkbook, many times I yanked my hair, lost sleep, and even got upset with Aaron himself for irrational reasons. In the end, those temp jobs gave Aaron the skills needed to land the permanent (and perfect for him!) position he is currently working.

A more extreme situation involves death, or critical injury. I think of a a story currently in Sheboygan news involving a family of six who crashed their car while visiting family in Mexico. The mother is currently still in too poor of shape to be transported. They all survived, but the rehabilitation will likely never end. In other recent stories, there are drownings, fires and other situations where innocent children have died. What good can possibly come of these things-which I think we will not argue are all "bad"? I do not know the individuals personally, so I cannot answer for these families. I know the drowning of a 9-year-old girl brought a divided community of Musilims and "everyone else" together. In these cases you have a heavy load of yang, and too many people feel that after such a tragedy, they do not deserve to be happy again - to have their yin. This is also false. This is where you need to balance your sorrow out with the support of your community, in whichever form may present itself to you.

I guess what I'm saying is that while you have freewill, don't push the issue. Strive for as much yin as possible, but accept that the yang will come... and go. Balance allows you to feel your joy, sorrow, and all feelings in between. You are allowed to grieve, but it musn't consume you. You are allowed to love, but don't let it make you reckless. Humankind in its ignorance, hatred and irrationality, has managed to survive this long. Let the Universe do its job.