Friday, March 25, 2011

I Never Cried

I was thirteen years old when my dad passed away. I clearly remember my mom telling me and my sister in our living room. It had been seven years since I had been hospitalized with a brain infection that had sucked away a good portion of my life and my understanding of things; but this was beyond horrifying! I felt awful, a large chunk of my life was being stomped on; my dad was gone............ but I never cried.
I haven't thought a whole lot about that pivotal moment in my life until a little while ago when I was listening to someone I knew explain how he had felt when, just recently, his dad had passed away. He spoke of how over time and dealing with certain events we learn how to handle our grief, yet he explained how him and his family were truly upset over their father's passing. I could see the sadness on his face and hear it in his words.
Are we ever supposed to get better at handling grief?
His dad was with him a lot longer than my dad was with me. Is that supposed to make a difference?

Losing a loved one is earth shattering, no doubt, but there are also many, many other challenges we face that are difficult. Walking through life with a disability and barriers that I face because of it has proven very tasking at times. I'm sure others have come up against mountains to climb as well. I have faced unemployment and been unemployed and it can be very scary. Once you find yourself out of that employment ring, even for a moment, it can be quite challenging to get back into. Expenses in life are high and stressful. Romantic relationships, friendships and even family can present trials and tribulations to ones life. Depression, frustration and confusion are really, unfortunately, not that hard to come by. It is easy to feel bad and worthless because things aren't the way they are supposed to be.
But is anything really supposed to be?

Don't get me wrong, people should have jobs and work and contribute. People need to make money to pay bills and feel self worth. People need to be open and accepting to ALL forms of relationships. Doing the right thing and trying your best and sharing and loving are definitely things that should be done. This is the way to live. To lend a helping hand and to be pro-active. But even if we do all of this and try real hard and things don't work out, because life has proven time and time again to have its challenges, no one should feel like they've lost.
"This isn't the way it is supposed to be." I've heard it before and I'm sure it will be uttered somewhere again. We all get to feeling down about things when they don't work out. I've been there, I've felt it, and I am sure I'll feel it again. It is what it is.
There is no supposed to. Things in life change all the time and we need to remember, I need to remember, that we have the power to feel about it any way we want, all of us.
Because just like I never cried, we feel and then deal with it in our own way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ready, Set, ......... Wait!

I'm sure a lot of us know what it is like to think of things that should have been said during a conversation, only after that conversation is done. It happens to me on a fairly regular basis. I don't often regret, if at all, anything I've said because I usually don't say a whole lot. If anything, I tend to regret that, not saying quite enough. But, in my defense, I do have trouble keeping up at times and just concentrating on the topic at hand and what others are saying, that is enough for me. And honestly, I really do not understand why things always have to be so rushed. Really, what IS the hurry?
Technology also has, and still is, growing by leaps and bounds. It took quite a while for me to get a computer and then get online just to establish email. It took me some time to think over and grasp the concept behind Facebook and even longer with Twitter; and it seems those programs want to keep changing formats.
I understand that things change and there is a need for evolution to continue, but why so fast?
My cell phone is great and does the required thing it is meant for, I think most do, yet there seems to be this pressure to constantly change and update. I like buying and collecting the movies that I enjoy most but the transition from VHS to DVD to Blue Ray and beyond I don't get. Where did the demand for all this quick turnaround come from?
There are quite a few vehicles on the roads these days and it almost seems like they all are in a hurry to get somewhere. We here stories of people breaking speed limits on highways, on regular sixty mile an hour roadways and even in school zones.
I'm not sure when the need for all of these changes or the need for things to move along so quickly happened, but it has almost, in  my opinion, gotten a little out of control in some cases. I think we are even at a point where people who do start to feel a little exhausted, out of place and want to slow down are too afraid to do just that, because the peer pressure of "keeping up with the Jones'" has become society's norm.
I get the feeling that the saying "stop and smell the roses" is now somewhat of a joke, something people will laugh at. Not because it's not understood or a funny sounding saying, but because of the pressure to keep going in both the social and business world. The philosophy that it has to get done now seems to be a universal one.

When I first thought of this simple title to my blog, "Ready, Set, ....... Wait!" I was thinking in my mind about all of the things I've mentioned above and even more. How I would sometimes feel better if I could place the world in slow motion. But now something else runs through my mind; a funny and perhaps profound memory of my father.
I was probably around twelve and I was spending a beautiful summer afternoon with my family, including my sister, parents, grandparents and aunt and uncle. My uncle, dad and I lined up in the field for a race that my mom, aunt, Oma and sister watched. My Opa shot his pretend starters pistol, and at that exact moment my dad froze in a running motion pose while his trousers dropped to his ankles revealing his tighty whiteys. Everyone paused in a moment of puzzlement and then burst out in laughter! I think that that moment, that memory,sums it up. Wait, we're family, together on a beautiful afternoon, let's enjoy the moment as much as we can and smile and laugh.
There is no need to rush, or race, we got time, that goes for all of us. Time goes by too fast, it is not something we can change. But we can change our actions; we can stop and smell the roses. Just stop sometime and look at what is around you. Close your eyes and listen. The laughter of my mom with one of her care-givers while working in the kitchen, my dog yawning, the crackling flames by the outside bonfire, the waves of the water at the lake near where I live. These are beautiful sounds, sounds of life..... because a beautiful life is all around us and happening right now. We just need to slow down and wait to let it all sink in.
All of that beauty that we want, the things to make our lives easier, less stressful, more enjoyable even, are there whether we speed through it or not. I don't think any of us want things to fly by too quickly before we can really enjoy life. Let's just relish a bit in the right now.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Trendy Indifference

I’m not really someone you would refer to as a trendy person. I’ve never really been one to follow trends and I’m definitely not a trend setter. I have difficulty with both comprehending and keeping up….. especially in today’s world when things seem to change so often.

Clothes were always a challenge for me in my public and high school years. I just couldn’t be bothered with looking the “cool” part; being accepted for just being there and keeping up and understanding were the things that mattered to me. I never really put together that my choice of clothing might just play a part in all of that…. at least socially.  I also didn’t really know what made me look “cool” or “hip”, so I just went with comfort and looking somewhat decent and clean. (I still do not quite understand how it is that I got the occasional snicker when deciding to wear jogging pants to school and now-a-days it seems wearing pajama bottoms in public is acceptable.) 

I never wanted to dress flashy or wear anything that would make me stand out, I just wanted to blend in. I found it difficult at times to even do just that. I didn’t want to feel different either and it became frustrating when I did manage to catch on to a trend only to realize it was old and everyone had moved to something else. I got through, sometimes uncomfortably, with a very casual look. I ended up getting help from a few friends and my sister who gave me the confidence to at least know what to look for. From that I eventually developed my own self in dressing, realizing that unless you felt comfortable with who you were one could never really quite look good in anything they wore. 

I now mostly dress casual to business casual, depending on where I am at. I also realize different circumstances may call for different apparel. I still don’t quite get the whole ‘trend’ thing, I find myself behind quite often and I can’t keep up; but I try. Usually though, I just follow my own trend and do what I feel is best. I figure that I’m either accepted or not, and I find that as long as I’m displaying a certain confidence and standing tall, for the most part I am accepted.

The technology trend is the latest thing I have had trouble keeping up with. I was the last out of almost everyone I know to get online; even having a computer and using email. Once again I found myself not being able to keep up, or even understand. What is it that is so important about having the latest cell phone or software? It took me a while to understand Facebook and for a long time I stayed away from Twitter. 

I try to do my best keeping up with things, but it isn’t easy. I still don’t get all of the changes and everything can be just so fast. But there is one thing this hard to grasp technology allows me to do, something that can be done at my own pace, something that can be done by my own hands, and that is to write. I get to write, and share and communicate while not having to worry about keeping up and following the latest trends. Pen to paper has always allowed me to write but this technology allows me to more easily share and get feedback and communicate in a way I can’t always do so well at on my on.

So just like with the clothes, I’ve learned to adapt. I think that as long as I’m trying to keep myself somewhat in the game and at the same time just being who I am, but confidently, I’ll be ok. I also think that "trends" and trying to keep up are traps. Being true to ones own self is what's most important.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Stuck In The Middle

I think it is safe to say that mostly all of us have heard the saying, "nice guys finish last". Is this saying true? Is it not true? I believe both and that is why I am stuck in the middle.
Ever since I can remember I have been a nice guy. I know that this may sound a little self involved, but I've heard it over and over and over again. I have been called the quiet, shy, responsible, helpful and caring individual.
"You're such a nice guy," they would say. Blah! Where has it gotten me?

I'm not financially wealthy, I struggle with money; I struggle with life. I easily get confused and frustrated. I can be slow at certain things and quite often feel physically drained, or a bit sluggish. I have only a handful of friends and I've lost quite a few others. I've lost both my Grandparents, I lost my dad at a pretty early age. My mom has had an accident that she has to struggle with every day. Romantic relationships have not worked out for me. I work hard and have a lot of skills to offer and yet I've never really had what you'd call a great, lasting career. I've made some mistakes and have been hurt through them
Finishing last sometimes feels exactly that. And that saying, it seems, is one I've latched onto and drag around with me everywhere. I can't seem to shake it. But I know deep down that being the quiet, shy, responsible, helpful, caring individual is who I am.There is no changing it because I don't want to change it.
I have a good home to live in, a good family that I love and loves me, and few that there may be, I have some terrifically wonderful friends. Everything I've gone through in life I've learned from and some of those things have been for the better. I am not bummed about not having a romantic partner. (Although that does not mean I don't want one) I cherish my time alone, a time I get to do things I enjoy, like exploring my creative side..... writing, going out for walks with my awesome dog, working around the house, (yeah, that's right, I enjoy it) and volunteering from time to time to lend a helping hand.

But still, I just can't seem to shake that saying. It is like a little voice popping into my head every time something bad or difficult to handle happens, "nice guys finish last you know?" Over the years, over time when I've learned and grown I have slowly been able to overpower that voice and not let that saying bother me so much. It still remains though, I don't know if it will ever go away. I'm sure we all have something that brings us down, that Achilles heel. But it is that shadow of omnipotence and inner strength that I try to focus on. It's a different voice that I should be listening to, a clearer voice that tells me "There is no finishing last, because there is no race."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm Not As Tall As I Stand

For as long as I can remember I have always been the tall, lanky kid. For a quiet and shy boy who just wanted to blend in and sometimes even disappear, it did not help. The idea of sticking out frightened me. I got names like, "daddy long legs" or "green giant"; no "jolly" that I can remember. I don't ever recall sensing a playful tone behind those name callings either; whether they were there or not I was too insecure to hear.
I was constantly hammered with two on-going questions, "how is the air up there?" and "do you play basketball?" I really began to despise those questions. I'm fairly certain that a foot or two shorter than myself and the air was and is exactly the same, and at present time, being six foot four inches I can tell you I never have played and have no intentions to play professional basketball. I may have touched a ball once or twice but I was on no team in or out of school. It was just not my game. I have trouble with the whole dribble, move, watch concept; I did then and I do now. I may shoot some hoops but that's it.
If and when I was dragged to a school dance or out to a club with friends, I stuck like glue to the wall. The glue eventually came off, but I still remained close. I got this self conscience thing going on where I'd be afraid people were watching and laughing. "Watch the tall kid," I would hear in my mind. For similar reasons I never liked sitting in the front row; still don't really. I used to slouch too, not just sitting, but walking around. I was told it had to do with me being asthmatic and instinctively wanting to protect my chest from the cold. And while that may have been true I think I was also shying away from my fear and confusion to things in the outside world.
Over the years growing up I've been through quite a bit and learned a lot that I'm thankful for. But two things that really stick out in my mind when it came to me really standing up were my mom and the memory of a kid named Roger.

My mom took a serious fall quite a few years ago and the result was an acquired brain injury that haunts her to this day and will for the remainder of her life. Even before the accident I was nervous about things, a bit fearful in fact, depressed, a little lost, unemployed, no girlfriend, few friends; I really didn't think of my life as much of a success story. I had lost my grandparents, my dad too. Now this thing with mom!
I could have easily thrown in the towel, but I didn't. I had friends; I had my sister; and I still had my mom. She deals, very well I might add, with her barriers in life, and from that I knew I could to. One of the first days my mom was in the hospital I recall being at home, sitting quietly in her room, going through papers I wasn't even looking at. My sister came in, stood by my side and placed her hand on the top my head. She said nothing and only sighed. I did eventually hear a voice though, inside, and it said, "Stand up." So I did.

I went through a writing program once and I did real well. I enjoy writing and I really do consider it a great source for therapy. After graduating from the program, with honors I might add, and learning all that I did, I took on a very personal assignment. I put together a short story which I titled "Taking The Time", a story about me and what it was I went through. It led me to researching some things about my illness as well as taking a trip down memory lane with a fairly thick scrap book my mom and dad had put together for me; included in it were drawn pictures from my sister, stories from my best friend, and "Get Well" cards I received. Quite a few of those cards were from the students that were in my classes from school.
I recalled, after reading all of those cards that brought a smile to my heart, that when I returned to school a year later (which you can read about in my dissertation "Breaking Down Barriers")  I befriended a classmate named Roger. Grade one was so long ago things are a bit hazy and I don't remember a whole lot about Roger, I can't even recall his last name. But when the teacher had an announcement to make, a lesson to teach or wanted to tell a story and would gather all of the kids down in front, Roger would encourage me, and challenge me, to sit up straight and tall. And that's what I did.

So now at thirty-eight years old and at a height of six foot four inches tall I know that I stand much taller than my physical appearance. Maybe it is why some people continuing asking me if I'm still growing. I suppose I am still growing, in a way. I'm still learning and I know that there is no age when you stop learning. There are times that I still get confused and scared, but I know now that it is alright. I know how to get through difficulties in life because I am aware of my self worth. I used to be frightened and even embarrassed of the barriers I face from my disability, but I cherish everything I have learned and still learn by it.
I am still shy and quiet. I still hug the wall when it comes to dancing. I suck at basketball. But I laugh and have fun and I stand tall and proud everyday because I know I can. Life has allowed me to do that. Life allows us all to do that.