“Everything’s shiny, Captain.”

Been a long time since I’ve been here. I was only a little surprised that my account hadn’t been deleted in my long absence. Got a lot of thoughts and such that need organizing and refining running around in my head. It’s been a better year than the one before but some days it doesn’t feel like it. Some of the thoughts and feelings I’ve had or been having feel like they’re conflicting with one another – making me wonder if it’s the sort of thing Anakin Skywalker may have been experiencing during some of his time as a Jedi.

Yeah, he’s a fictional character. Get over it. I’ll identify with whomever I want if it helps me get my point across.

I sometimes see things differently from other people; have opinions or like things (or certain parts of things) that don’t make sense to people. I can try to explain it to them but since I have difficulty getting the right words out quickly, I get overwhelmed by opposing or differing viewpoints. I understand that you may not fully get why I like what I do or why I feel the way I do. Just don’t put me or my feelings down like they’re worthless.

So yeah…”Everything’s shiny, Captain.” (Just ignore the bangs and smoke in the engine room behind me.)

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Old Wounds, New Scars and Another Look Through My Eyes

For a long time, I’ve wanted to do what was right. At first it was to make amends for things I had done that had hurt some people. Slowly – and maybe surely – it became doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do. I’ve never been perfect, haven’t claimed I was or could be. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way and have tried hard to make up for them and also not to repeat them. I like to think I’ve been moderately successful at that. But certain events, conversations and other things over the last year have given me cause to question that way of thinking and now I’m no longer as certain as I was that a certain course of action is the right thing to do.

Well, that may not be an accurate way of putting it. One of the things I’ve started to have doubts about is ‘the right thing to do’ and what it means from different perspectives or points of view or whatever. For almost as long as I’ve been trying to do the right thing, I’ve also done that with a mindset of putting the other persons needs/wants ahead of my own because that’s something you do when you care about someone. That’s what I’ve thought anyway. Maybe I’ve taken that too literally. I don’t know. In some recent (separate) conversations with a couple of close friends, I brought up wanting to do the right thing in pursuing a relationship with someone and how I’ve been prepared to remove myself from the relationship-equation if it meant they would be able to pursue the things they wanted. Every variation of that decision has been done with the mindset and intent of putting the other person first. Because that’s how much I wanted them to be happy. However, these decisions had a side effect. From my perspective, while whoever it was I was dating/seeing/going out with had the chance to go for what they wanted, I had to suffer the pain of losing my chance to have what it was I really wanted. And it hurt. Each time.

It feels like I’ve spent so much time trying to take care of the people I care about and have feelings for that I’ve forgotten to take the time to take care of myself. Even with all the pain I’ve seen, heard about and experienced in the last few months – losing a one-month old nephew in September, my dad having a heart attack a couple weeks after that, friends breaking up, recurrences of grief – there is some part of me that feels like I need to help protect them. Or do something to help take the pain away. Kind of like a shield or a sponge. Thing about both is that they can only handle so much before they start to wear out.

That’s were I feel like I’m at. Worn out. Tired. I have spent most of my life (half, at least) keeping my thoughts, emotions and feelings to myself. So much so that I could probably be considered part Vulcan. 🙂 But with the events of September/October last year, the combined weight of it all started to make itself known. Losing my nephew and my dad’s heart attack were just the ignition point. I spent so long holding in everything. Trying not to feel.

Now it was time to feel. And I felt. Everything.

No more room left to store anything. No vacancy.

I left town for a week back in November. Visited a friend and his wife in Ohio, drove over to northern Pennsylvania to visit some relatives. Saw my grandma for the first time since…2006, probably. Stopped for a couple of days in Lancaster County to visit some old friends – some of the oldest ones I have, actually. Not in age, mind you, but in how long I’ve known them. It felt good to get out and sort of ‘recharge’ after the major curveballs life threw my way. But that feeling didn’t last a long time.

You probably wouldn’t know it if you looked at me. I usually have walls up or some kind of mask on to keep people from knowing how and what I’m feeling or thinking about. There are moments when things leak through the cracks and people can tell that something’s bothering me, but I usually shrug off their questions or give some kind of noncommittal answer, then put the mask back on or put the walls back up and try to go on like nothing happened. But things did happen and as much as I try to avoid it, some of them eat at me; eat away at my strength and resolve until I feel like I can’t fight anymore.

Some things really bother me. Being stood up for a date, being told that you “just don’t think God wants me to be in a relationship right now” (only to have a new boyfriend a week or less later). That last one just tells me two things: 1) you’re just not that into me and 2) you don’t think I was worth the truth. Other things that bother me, get under my skin, etc: mind games or whatever you want to call them. I tend to take most things people say to me literally and at face value. So if you tell me one thing but really mean something else, I won’t catch it. Likely. I’m clueless like that. I did my own share of mind games, playing with someone’s affections and such. It led to heartache and pain and I’ve regretted it each time.

With all the emotions and thoughts going around in my head ever since my nephew passed away, I feel like the way Tony Stark describes himself in the first half hour of Iron Man 3. “A piping hot mess.” ..ok, maybe not ‘piping hot’, but definitely a mess. I don’t know when it started. I’ve tried to see it as an accumulation of all the pain and hurt I’ve done my best to keep inside over the years. Pain from hurting someone or being hurt emotionally, pain from disappointment, pain from feeling like I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to do, pain by proximity (sympathizing with pain other people went through). I don’t know how to keep it all together anymore. Somehow I do though and maybe it’s me feeling like I have to look out for everyone, do something to help or protect them. Maybe it’s turned into a reflex, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it brings me back to something I said earlier.

I feel like I’ve spent so much time and effort into looking out for other people that I’ve forgotten to take care of myself along the way. There’s so many lies I’ve told myself (things I believed at the time) that I’ve made it extremely difficult to believe otherwise.

“She won’t go out with you.” – Well, this one I’ve gotten around. Yes, I’ve gone on dates. That right there proves that someone WILL go out with me. It may not happen every time I ask.

“You’re not worth it.” – Also not true, but I still struggle with this one. I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten close to having a serious relationship a couple times. Out of respect for the ladies in question, I will not reveal their names. The first I handled badly and ended up causing a lot of pain to someone who really cared about me. The second I handled better. I think. When we got to the ‘where do you see this going’ conversation of the dating stage, I encouraged her to go after her dream job, even though it meant she would have to move away and we would not be able to be together. I wanted her to stay so we could be together, but in my mind, I was putting her needs above my own by encouraging her to go after what she wanted. Even though it meant I would be hurt by her leaving.

“What you want isn’t going to happen./What you want isn’t possible.” – This one I still have trouble with. I’m writing all this aren’t I? The thing about this I have an issue with is trying to undo the amount of time I’ve spent believing it. The more it keep NOT happening, the harder it is for me to believe it will happen at all. I like to use a baseball analogy when I talk about this part. Imagine a baseball player coming up to bat and striking out, or flying out, or doing anything but getting on base safely. First time or two or three can likely be shrugged off. It still happens in games today. But now imagine that happening to the same player, only now it’s a streak of 20+, 40+ or however many consecutive plate appearances without a successful hit. That player is not likely to be optimistic about getting a hit. The longer he goes without one, the harder it will be for him to believe his teammates, managers and trainers when they tell him “Don’t worry. You’ll get it eventually.”

“Eventually” looks further and further away each time it doesn’t happen. And it gets harder and harder to try.

I try to do the right thing and be respectful to and of the lady in question, but I’m often racked by overthinking everything. “What if she says no? What if she says yes? Not right now? When is it appropriate to ask again? What if I ask too often? What if I wait too long?”  Questions like those fly through my head every time someone catches my eye and I think about asking her out. I worry so much about messing things up that I don’t think to consider that things may go right.

There’s a section of a song – a cover, really – by Johnny Cash that popped into my head while thinking about all of this:

“I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here.

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end..”

I don’t know how to tell you how that is relevant to the many points I’ve made and will likely repeat in this post. It came into my head, I felt like it fit with what I was thinking or feeling. …I’ll have a go at it anyway…

The way I see it: the “crown of thorns upon my liar’s chair” is me causing myself pain by not telling someone how I really felt about them. Not actually lying to them, but also not telling them the whole truth. “Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair” is fairly self-explanatory. I’ve carried around a lot of brokenness that I’ve tried and failed to repair. Some of it may be mended, but it isn’t as strong as it used to be. Hence, why I don’t feel like I am strong enough to keep going on in spite of repeated rejection. Somehow I’ve managed it and I’m sure there is a name or phrase to described that tiny little spark at the very center of the part of me that won’t let go of my deepest desire. I don’t know what to call it. “Beneath the stains of time, the feelings disappear” is also pretty self-explanatory. Over time, whatever feelings I’ve had for someone who turned me down or rejected me or whatever happened to end things between us – those feelings diminish. Most go away completely. “You are someone else, I am still right here” to me refers to those I’ve cared about enough to explore the possibility of being more than friends with, but didn’t because things didn’t work out for whatever reason. (That is meant to be intentionally vague, not dismissive or cruel.) As for the last four lines, that’s me questioning myself and feeling like that special someone is always going to be out of reach and it will likely be my fault (again).

Which isn’t a good thing for me to be thinking. I recognize that and hopefully that’s a permanent step in the opposite direction – thinking differently and believing that something…or rather someONE wonderful will cross my path and stick around for the duration.

Sometimes I wonder how I would act, behave or respond once I did get into a serious relationship. Part of me feels like I wouldn’t know what to do because I wasn’t expecting it. Reminds me of a sort-of joke I’ve heard:

“Do you want go out with me?”
“Sure, what did you have in mind to do?”
“..I don’t know. I didn’t think I’d make it this far.”

Or that one line said by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight:

“You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!”

It’s ok. You can laugh.

I read somewhere that the Japanese say you have three faces. The first face is the one you show to the world. The second is the face you show to your close friends and family. The third face you never show anyone, as it is the truest reflection of who you are. I don’t know if the source I got that from is accurate or not. Whether it is or not, I’ve shown that third face, though I’m very cautious about who I show it to. Family and closest friends. Coworkers…some. I’m very cautious about that sort of thing at work. I hide my hurts and discomforts behind masks of silence or humor and while that may keep them from knowing who I really am, it may also make them think of me in a way I don’t want them to. It may cause them to not take me seriously when I’m trying to talk about something I take seriously. It may make them think I’m not interested in one thing or another, or in participating in a certain event, when the truth is I am interested but just wanted to be asked.

To be given a chance. A chance to prove the kind of person I really am and aspire to be. A chance to prove that I’m not in this to just pass time, but that I’m in this every step of the way. A chance to show that maybe I am just the person you’ve been looking and waiting for.

But I’ve been given chances. A couple of times I came close. I was young and foolish the first time. Didn’t realize what was in front of me and ended up causing a great deal of pain. The second time I was not so young. I don’t know about the foolish part. I was part of something wonderful and amazing and I let it go. Not because I didn’t want it – just the opposite. I chose to put her desires before my own. As a result, we stopped seeing each other and she moved away.

Someone (name withheld) on Facebook recently posted a link to a blog entry that I checked out – first out of curiosity, but what I read made me think. In that post, the author wrote that “only a weak man can make a woman love him then mess it all up.” The author wrote more to expound that statement, but I kept focusing on that line and eventually realized that I both agreed and disagreed with that statement. I agreed with it because the first time I was in what could have turned into a serious relationship, I messed it up. Maybe I was weak. Maybe I just didn’t know what I wanted. As for my disagreeing with that statement, I turned my memories to the second time I was close to a serious relationship. I don’t believe it was weakness that led me to encourage her to go for her dream job. In my mind, I was putting the needs of someone I cared about ahead of my own needs and desires because – in my mind – that was the sort of thing you did when you really cared about someone. And I think that it takes some kind of special strength to do that. To willingly set aside the thing you want most in favor of someone else’s dreams and desires.

I don’t think I was weak when I made that choice. It’s possible that making that choice weakened me. Putting yourself in a vulnerable position can have that effect. It can also hurt you. I’ve sometimes wondered if I’ve caused myself pain so that I wouldn’t be in a position to cause pain to someone I cared about. I don’t know. Somehow I picked myself up and slowly moved on.

If certain people I’ve mentioned here happen across this and read it – and realize where I’ve mentioned them – please don’t think badly of me. The same goes for the rest of you, from close friends to casual acquaintances (or even random person who stumbled onto my blog). Please don’t think badly of me.

Someone somewhere once said that a knight in shining armor is a man who has never had his mettle truly tested. If that’s true, then I’m sure mine is looking battered, bent and broken. I’ve taken a lot of hits, to be sure. Some worse than others – although they may not have felt like it at the time.

This isn’t a game to me. I’m not in it to just pass time or play with someone’s emotions. I’m in it because I see the potential to build and grow. I’m in it for the duration. Just like that one line from Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

“I’m with you to the end of the line.”

*I apologize if I rambled from topic to topic and back again. I tend to do that.

Train of Thought #2

“We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people, all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” – Eleventh Doctor, The Time of the Doctor

I remember who I used to be. Not many specifics, mind you, but more of the kind of person I used to be. Some of it good. Some of it not. Much of it is what inspired me to start this blog – however much or little I write in it – and be a better person than I had been. I remember other things about me as well. Things I used to enjoy doing. Playing the violin. Drawing. Reading a lot. You could say that everything’s gone through a phase or something. I’ve revisited some of those things and only thought about others. Maybe I’ll get back to the rest. Maybe not.

I don’t remember where I first heard or read it, but a quote has been stuck in my mind recently. “There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.” I’ve felt and been both, though not at the same time. I think most people can’t tell/see the difference in anyone except themselves. Although I suppose if you’ve known someone long enough; spent enough time around someone, then you would be able to pick up subtle hints as to which way they were feeling.

I don’t know where I was going with this train of thought. Everyone needs some time to themselves sure. Some need more time than others. But in the long run, everyone should have someone to be with. It’s just a matter of finding that someone; that someone who won’t run away from who you are or used to be.

I don’t mind being alone. It’s the times when I’m lonely that I have to be cautious. About what, I’m not sure. It’s difficult to describe right now. Maybe next time.

Train of Thought

Hello again. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? 2013 was an interesting year. Full of an assortment of good, bad and the in-between. I’ve been thinking about getting back on here and writing more regularly – or as close to what can be considered ‘regularly’. I’ve had a lot on my mind recently. Some people have noticed something amiss with me (or suspected I was not feeling like my usual self) and I put it off by saying I was ‘ok’, or saying that I just had a lot on my mind and hadn’t sorted it out. Accurate, but not the whole truth. Which brings me to my reason for writing this.

I titled this post “Train of Thought” for a couple reasons. First, all that I’ve had on my mind has felt all wibbly-wobbly, like an episode plot of Doctor Who. Or the 3rd challenge of the Tri-Wizard Cup in the film version of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (the maze that had shifting walls). Second, that hopefully by writing this I’ll get things sorted out and my mind will feel less cluttered. I don’t know how long it will be. I don’t know if it will be coherent. I know where it starts, but where it goes after that is anyone’s guess. So, without further ado…all aboard!

* * * * *

I’m not a perfect man. Not by any means. I’m nowhere close to being perfect. If you asked me what I would change about myself if given the opportunity, I’m sure I could make a list. But I don’t want to. Because every little imperfection that I see in myself, every mistake I’ve ever made (whether I remember it or not), every good and bad thing that I’ve experienced has helped shape me into who I am today.

So, no, I’m not perfect.

I’m broken. I’m hurt. I’m ashamed of some of the things I’ve done and choices I’ve made. I’m someone who puts on a brave face because I don’t know what else to do. Sometimes I don’t know how to let go of past mistakes. I tend to look on the more negative side of things instead of seeing the good that’s right in front of me. I’ve owned 5 cars in less than 2 years. I’m turning 30 in April and I’m not really looking forward to it at the moment. I hide what I’m feeling and keep it inside because I don’t know how to explain it to someone, or I feel like they wouldn’t understand. And sometimes when I think of all the years I’ve spent doing all those things I don’t know how I could change or how someone could accept me in spite of all my flaws, cracks, mistakes and broken pieces. Sometimes I feel like there’s too many ‘skeletons in the closet’, as it were.

I don’t know where that phrase came from, but it’s found a comfortable place in my mind to stick itself. I’ve heard people talk about ‘having all this baggage’. I guess I found a different way of saying what they meant.

I can feel the weight of the hurt inside. It feels heavier than before. Or maybe I’ve begun to take more notice of it. Perhaps it has worn me down, slowly, over a long period of time. Down to the point where I’m starting to feel like I can’t – or don’t want to – fight it anymore. I’ve been thinking that maybe what I’m feeling is regret over a decision I made some time ago. It felt like the right decision at the time. Now I am not so sure. What I want versus what the right thing to do is.

I say that like they are two different things. Or like what I want is wrong. What if what I want isn’t wrong? How then do I choose between what I want and what I feel I should do? I’ve begun to pride myself on ‘doing the right thing’. Has it been my downfall? (You know, ‘pride goeth before a fall’) Have I gotten to the point where I will respect another person’s decision/wishes/feelings; where I will make and abide by my own decisions even though it could cause me pain later on down the road?

“Return with honor.” That’s something I’ve tried to live by ever since discovering that phrase. Doing the right thing. That’s another way to look at it. But what if what I believe to be the right thing to do actually isn’t? What if it’s a situation where there is no right or wrong decision? I guess I’ve taken the whole ‘do the right thing’ so literally that I feel like I have to do the right thing, regardless of what I may or may not want out of a particular situation.

I’ve been hurt before. I’ve also been the one to hurt someone else. Nothing I do will ever change that. All I can do is try my best to not let it happen again. “I’d sooner break my own heart than be responsible for breaking someone else’s.” I came up with that a long time ago. Don’t remember exactly when. I was probably feeling extra moody about something or other. Putting the other person needs/wants ahead of your own is important, isn’t it? I don’t want to be selfish though.

Writing is therapy for me, in a way. I’m more likely to be apprehensive about telling someone all of this in person. At first anyway. Maybe. Perhaps.

Fish sticks and custard.

I’m growing my hair out for the second time. Don’t know if I’ll do it again.

I suppose I should write more often. More often than “when it suits me”. Books are good, I should read more. Also more often than “when it suits me”. ..actually, ‘when it suits me’ needs to happen more often.

Stuff gets in the way, though. Life stuff, work stuff, overthinking stuff, car stuff. That last one can go away and bother someone else. I’ve had enough over the last two years – in 2013 alone, even – to last me a very long time.

Somehow, no matter what corner I shove all my problems in, no matter how hard I hide them, there always comes a time when they start leaking out again. When people can see through the masks I put on.

Suffering in silence. That just popped into my head. Why? I know, you can’t answer that. It was meant for me anyway. Not sure why. Maybe because it would take me too long to get my point across. (“Well, why don’t you just give me the important points?” or “Well, why don’t you just give me the short version?” ..Because it’s my story to tell, or my message to convey, or whatever. Mostly, because “I’m telling the story!” and I’m going to tell it the way that works best for me and if it’s too long for you or if you’re having a hard time following it, then too bad or pay better attention. ..because I don’t know how to tell it any different way other than what my gut instinct is.)

Suffering in silence. “Why don’t you talk more?” ..maybe because I was taught that if I don’t have anything nice to say than I shouldn’t say anything at all. ..maybe because I don’t bloody want to. ..maybe I had a long or rough day and just want to rest and relax.

…just let me be me and don’t try to get me to change into the way you think I should be…

Being a quiet person/introvert is not something to be ‘cured’ or ‘fixed’. “Have you tried being more outgoing?” or “You just need to be more outgoing.” Maybe I tried that and it didn’t work for me. “Well, then you’re not doing it right.” ..and that’s the point where I get mad at the other person and go back to being quiet. “You just need…”, “You should do this…” No, what I need to do or be is for me to determine. If I don’t know what to do or can’t figure it out and wish for advice/input from someone, I will say so and/or ask for it. …usually…

I used to write a lot of poetry. Much of it is kinda depressing or sad. Probably since that is how I was feeling at the time. I never really got inspired to write much ‘happy’ poetry. Except for one in particular, titled “Dear Little Angel Mine”. A few others come to mind, but that last one sticks out the most.

I’m not a fan of cold winters anymore, but I think every kid should have an opportunity to build a snowman at least once.

Dear Android OS autocorrect: Screw you. The iPhone is way better at understanding what I meant to type. If I type 600-630, that does not mean I wanted to say 60-70000. It is also better at adding punctuation I was too impatient to type myself.

I like Earl Grey tea. It’s my favorite. I always drink it the way Captain Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation) ordered it. “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” No sugar, no honey, no milk, no lemon. Plain. Hot.

“Hello, Bigshot! I mean, uh, jahwol, Kommandant Bigshot! I mean, uh, forget it.” (Ah, Sgt Schultz…)

” ‘Christian boy said ‘fart’ this time! I can’t take this, he said ‘fart’! ..We don’t say ‘fart’, we say ‘toot’.’ ..And that makes it smell a whole lot better.” (Virtual fist bump if you know where this quote is from)

“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

I can think of decisions I regret making. Some of them were bad decisions. Some of them were not. Not all of my bad decisions had bad consequences, or rather, side effects. My decision to move from CA to AZ in 2008 was poorly thought through, but if I hadn’t done that, I would not have ended up with an 1984 BMW that turned out to be one of the coolest cars I’ve ever owned. Conversely, sometimes a good decision can have negative side effects. Example – deciding to move to CA for the summer to fill in for an intern at AT&T only to be told 2 days after I arrived that I couldn’t fill in for the intern because I was not technically a student anywhere at the time.

Other decisions I have mixed feelings about. Or something. Not necessarily bad, but perhaps not the best thing that could have been done in a particular situation. ..If that makes sense. It brings me back to what I want versus what I think I should do, or what I think the right thing to do is.

I’m not sure what’s next. Both in life and in this post. I might think of something to add, but put it in earlier than this. (Crazy part is that you’ll never know if I did or not, or where it may have been put if I did.)

I’m carrying a lot of stuff. After everything I’ve been through so far, I don’t know how anyone else could go through the same and not have some kind of burden on their shoulders. I’ve dealt with mine in different ways over the years. I’m not sure which parts have fallen off on their own, which ones I’ve dropped, or which ones are still there. Maybe none of them have been lost. Maybe they’re still hanging around. It feels like that sometimes. Like everything is there, all together, weighing me down. And it makes me tired. Kind of how this guy looks:

uktv-doctor-who-the-crimson-horror-33

That’s Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor in an episode of Doctor Who. Not sure which one – haven’t seen it yet. I had a difficult time finding a photo of him in character and with the right expression on his face – a mixture of sadness and weariness, from being weighed down by the loss of past companions, the loss of Gallifrey (his home planet) in the Time War, among other things. Maybe sadness from being alone so much. He often tries to hide it all (sadness, weariness, pain, etc) from those who travel with him, or those he encounters in his travels. Sometimes he’s successful, sometimes he’s not. Sometimes he thinks he is, but someone (usually someone who has spent enough time with him to know when he’s hiding those feelings) can tell but chooses not to say anything.

The expression on his face – that sadness, weariness, hurt/pain, or whatever else you might think he’s feeling at that moment. I feel like that’s the expression I try to keep hidden when I’ve got too much (past stuff and present stuff) on my mind.

*(That is an awesome outfit he’s wearing. Wouldn’t mind getting one just like it.)

…yeah. …I think the train’s pulling in to the station now. Don’t know when the next ride is. Just one final thing before I disembark…

(I borrowed this final bit from a friend’s Facebook post and tailored it to fit me.)

I’m quirky, silly, blunt and broken. My days are sometimes too dark and my nights are sometimes too long. I often trip over my own insecurities. I require attention, long for passion and wish to be desired. I use written words to speak when spoken words fail me, even though both are as important to me as the air I breathe. I love hard and with all that I have…and even with my faults, I am worth loving.

* * * * *

End of line.

I’m back!

Hey everyone! … do I hear crickets?… Yeah, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on here. Suffice it to say I don’t need practice on the virtue of silence. (Is ‘virtue’ the right word?) Anyway, I’m back and I’ve started to research the next virtue from Benjamin Franklin’s list: the virtue of order. I don’t want to do a straight copy/paste from The Art of Manliness and claim it as my own (because that would be wrong), but I do want to quote sections of it. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure I write down who wrote the article. I’d prefer not to get sued for plagiarism or anything.

(By the way, if anyone from AoM is reading this, I would like to apologize now if I have failed to attribute proper credit where it’s due, or if I’ve cited my sources incorrectly. I’ll make necessary adjustments if needed to make sure everything is cited correctly and proper credit is given. One of my goals with this is to share the information and I would prefer not to take anything down if I can avoid it.)

I’ve also done some other writing. Story draft, journal entries, that kind of thing. I complete NaNoWriMo ’13 with a final word count of 50,027, give or take a dozen words. It was difficult and the story is chock full of B.S., but it got written. It’s not finished by any means – there’s many paragraphs that don’t do anything besides describe bigger scenes as generally as possible.

That’s it for now. I don’t know how often I’ll post anything, but keep an eye out for when I do. If something strikes a chord within you, or if you disagree with something, or something somewhere in between, drop me a line. It feels good to know that someone is reading my stuff.

The Virtue of Silence, Part III

As before, the source material is here.

The Internet

The beauty of the internet is that it allows free flowing communication in an unprecedented way. Yet this also means that communication on the internet is not subject to the same rules of etiquette that apply to public life. Extreme crassness and incivility plague forums and blogs. It’s as if there is a competition on who can come up with the most shocking and caustic thing to say. This severe form of incivility creates an environment of hostility that hinders productive dialogue and debate.

Applying the virtue of silence on the internet

1. Never say something to a stranger on the internet that you would not say to a stranger in person.

The internet provides a cloak of anonymity behind which people feel free to say whatever they want. Yet the words which we both write and speak are our creations. We must take ownership for them. Never write something you would not be proud to have attached with your real name. Before you hit “Send” in an email or a blog comment, stop and ask yourself: “Would I use these words if this person was standing right in front of me?” If not, reword your communication. Just taking the time to think before you publish something on the web can help increase the amount of civility on the net.

2. Don’t attack people personally

Certainly here at AoM, and on the internet in general, you are free to disagree with the ideas of others. But do not personally attack the people behind those ideas. Many a blog user will make a valid comment only to end with “You’re an idiot!” And some will dispense with the valid argument part altogether. Using personal attacks adds nothing to the conversation and only shows that you do not have anything insightful or intelligent to offer.

3. Don’t just debunk things

Here on the internet postmodern deconstruction is alive and well. Many an internet user’s energy is devoted to poking holes in every idea that crosses their path. But cynicism is easy. Chronic debunkers don’t do any of the hard work it takes to create something, and then they barely lift a finger to tear things down. Digg users are notorious for this. There could be a post about a man saving a bus load of lavender smelling babies from a river and some digg user would find a way to make a snide, caustic comment about it. There’s nothing wrong with criticism, but be constructive with your criticism. If you have nothing substantive to add to the conversation, it is better to be silent.

4. Stop the excessive vulgarity

Nothing shows a juvenile mentality and a lack of class like excessive vulgarity. While salty language has been on the rise in normal conversation as well, the proliferation of profanity on the internet is excessive. Because of the information glut on the internet, men feel they must pepper their comments with over the top language to keep them from being lost in the shuffle. But if such additions are needed to get attention, you clearly did not have anything meaningful to say in the first place. Before you publish a comment with the F-bomb used as every other word, try to find another, more respectful way to say it.

* * * * *

This is perhaps the most necessary, yet least likely to be used or taken advantage of.  Some people, somewhere, on whatever forum or blog or random website, are going to respond to whatever video, picture or post in a way to assert their own superiority and correctness over each other, while at the same time putting the other person down it what they believe to be the most humiliating and derogatory way possible.

One of the aggravating things is that there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.  Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.  Freedom of speech and all that.  It’s a shame that people choose to abuse it the way they do.
Oh, well.  That’s it for the virtue of silence.  The virtue of resolution is next.  I’ve got some reading to do now. 🙂

The Virtue of Silence, Part II

As before, my source material for the virtue of silence may be found here.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Today men are often pressed for time, stressed, and subject to daily annoyances. These frustrations are then frequently taken out on those in the service industry. Often made to feel like peons in their normal lives, these men see their interactions with people in the service industry as an opportunity to finally be treated like a king and boss someone around.

Applying the virtue of silence with customer service

1. Don’t unload your anger on those who are not at fault for your problem.

Uncouth is the man who takes out his frustrations on whoever is in closest proximity whether it is their fault or not. This guy will yell at the waiter if there is a hair in is food. He will yell at the computer support representative because his computer crashed. He will yell at the person at the airline ticket counter because he was late and the plane didn’t wait for him. Save your indignation for the the real cause of your problem, especially if that person is you.

>I’ve got 3+ years of experience working in a customer service environment, most of it in retail, and I have my share (as well as heard my share) of difficult customer stories.  Some ended with the employee in tears, some ended with the customer storming off in anger for not getting the result they desired, and some ended with a “wth just happened” sense in the air.

Using the above example from the Art of Manliness: the waiter just brought the food out, he wasn’t responsible for making it.  The attendant at the ticket counter is not responsible for the passenger missing his plane.  It is not fair to take your anger out on the person behind the counter.  They do the best that they can and yelling at them will not allow you to get your way.

2. Don’t talk on your cell phone while simultaneously talking to someone serving you.

Some people will talk on their cell phone while they place their order and pay for it. These people believe that the person running the register is just an automaton designed to do their bidding, and thus they need only devote ½ of their attention to addressing this robot. They also believe the person they are talking to on the phone doesn’t mind being ignored periodically. They are wrong on both counts.

> I’ve run into this scenario many times both in my previous retail jobs and my current food industry job.  Someone comes up to the counter, talking on their phone and you just stand there trying to ring up their purchase or take their order.  You attempt to get their attention or convey information and sometimes the customer will glare at you, or perhaps just toss their credit card on the counter without acknowledging what you said.  Sometimes this occurs on the opposite side of the spectrum.  The customer will come up on their phone, but fortunately for you, they either end the call or physically set the phone down and place their order or complete their purchase and go their merry way.  I can assure you that while the person attending the register may be smiling and polite, inwardly they are wishing for you to shut the h*** up and get on with the transaction. There is a reason it’s called ‘customer service’.  The person behind the counter – the one you’re ignoring by remaining on your phone – is serving you, the customer.  These people get paid very little money for the amount of B.S. that they have to put up with at times.  I know.  I’ve been there many times myself.

3. Have a little patience

In Italy, people linger over their dinner for hours as several courses are slowly brought out. In America, men blow their top when their blooming onion appetizer comes out 5 minutes too late. And they act like their grandma died if their burger has been topped with the wrong cheese. These men believe that paying $8.00 for a meal entitles them to be king for a day. They are in serious need of some perspective.

> “I know how to shoot.” “Yes, I saw.  Very ‘American’.  Fire enough bullets and hope to hit the target.” (The League of Extraordinary Gentleman)  What is it with the ‘satisfy me now’ mentality?  I know that quote doesn’t go with the ‘satisfy me now’, but it’s a good example of the lack of patience that everyone seems to reek with.  Take a chill pill, deep breath, or perform a Vulcan meditation technique…ok, not really that last one.  But seriously, calm yourself down.  There is no reason for someone to lose their temper because their food is late or the wrong cheese got put on the sandwich.  I can understand asking something to be remade if you were allergic to a certain ingredient that was accidentally included in your meal, but otherwise…

4. Err on the side of understanding

Before you berate someone for what you believe is sub par service, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. Is your waiter slow in bringing out your order? His section probably just got slammed, some kid knocked over his soda on the floor, and one of the cooks called in sick. He may well be doing the best he can. We never fully know what happens behind the scenes of people’s lives. The cranky woman making your coffee was just served with divorce papers. The scatter brained woman checking out your groceries is having trouble concentrating because her child is sick in the hospital. You never know the whole story. So cut these people some slack.

> Need I say more?  This last section says it very well.  Cut the other person some slack.  They are doing the best they can under whatever circumstances are in effect.

“Do not speak unless you can improve the silence.”

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There is one more part to the Virtue of Silence, and it’s going to focus on everyone’s favorite discussion area (not!) – the internet.