Question Everything

That’s the biggest singular piece of advice I’ve ever gotten from a living soul, and anytime I feel adrift in this crazy sea of life I go back to it like a lifeline, tethering me to a better version of reality where I’m not its star and others I come in contact with aren’t my subjects. Everyone does things for a reason, and even though I don’t have to always be privy to their reasoning, I should always think about why I do the things I do. See, I’m not in charge of them, but I can think about me.

Question everything. Continue reading “Question Everything”

Standing Up: How to Deal

The great Richard Pryor

I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. Honestly. I thought all my problems would be solved if I could just laugh about them in front of an adoring audience that would then forgive me for all the horrible things I’ve done and clean the slate. Absolution with a touch of ribald humor, always a winner. Of course, my problem is that I’m horrible with a punchline. Ask anyone (except my children, they think I can do no wrong, and they love my “pig” punchlines). There’s something about timing, phrasing, pausing, you know, every single thing that makes or breaks a punchline. Simply put, my jokes just aren’t funny. I’m much better at random sarcasm.

So, how to deal with my problems, to get them out without being able to laugh at myself in front of an audience of my peers? Well, that’s what friends are for, right? My problem has always been in finding friends, though, and then once I’ve found them, maintaining them. Maybe it is my tendency to be randomly sarcastic that has something to do with not maintaining them, or perhaps it’s how often I laugh at myself. Maybe I just need therapy. If I talk to someone who has to listen because I’m paying her, would that solve all my problems? Continue reading “Standing Up: How to Deal”

The Wake-Up Call

This is your wake-up call. You’re gonna miss it all.” – Phil Collins

Often in life, people have what is considered a wake-up call, something that shifts their line of thinking, even though that line of thinking had been going on for a very long time. Sometimes that wake-up call is because someone has achieved something you think you should have achieved first. For example, when a colleague gets promoted over you when you’ve been at the company longer. And often that wake-up call is courtesy of a life-changing event like having a baby or getting married (not necessarily in that order). In the order of life-changing events is the death of someone close to us, or who we felt a kindred spirit with. For me, that wake-up call came when Michael Jackson died. It reminded me that life is short (and 50 is way too young to die), that we all have problems but medicating them is not the answer. And it also reminded me that if I want to get things done, I have to do them myself, not wait for them to come to me, because odds are they won’t.

Then just this morning I heard that Chris Kelly, from the early-90s kiddie rap group Kris Kross had also passed. He was 34. What is it about people who are younger than us dying that really gets us thinking? Well, at least that’s what happened to me. I remember quite clearly when the duo was on the top of the charts, rapping it up to “Jump,” and taking the world by storm. Those precocious pre-teens were all over the place, with their baggy pants and their backwards attire right when I too was a pre-teen, so I identified with them. That’s what it really is, isn’t it? An identification with someone or something, a trigger that makes the event more emotional for an individual.

So why does it take us so long or certain events to finally WAKE UP? How can we live the vast majority of our lives stuck in a vacuum and going nowhere until we get that jolt? And does it happen for everyone? I would argue that it does not happen for everyone, that some people go to their graves without ever recognizing their potential, without ever seeing the pitfalls, or the promise that their existence could have had.

I had to write the great American novel. I had a neutron bomb. I had to teach the world to sing by the age of 21.” – R.E.M.

And I woke up. On June 26, 2009, I woke up for the first time in a world where Michael Jackson was no longer breathing, and I finally began breathing myself. I took all of my creative ideas and laid them bare to observe, to dig through, and to continue working on. I got out my green pen, made great big slashes, changed so much, but I was finally doing it. I was finally getting that wake-up call, answering that call, and going for it as a writer. And I haven’t looked backwards, even though the world tries its best to put me back to sleep, to slide me back under those covers, under that duvet, but I don’t let it. And neither should you. Find what makes you happy. Write that great American novel. Teach the world to sing by the age of 21, or whatever you want (just try to avoid that neutron bomb). Just do it now. Who needs a bucket list? All you need is an alarm clock.

Wake up with me.

Sam

The Friend Analysis

So, I was talking with my therapist the other day about how I feel like I make friends easily, but they have the tendency to disappear. She said it might have to do with my intensity, and I recognized that for a truth right away. I do have a predilection for being loud, gregarious, spirited, energetic, etc. In short, I tend to overwhelm people, especially when I am first getting to know them. I realize my personality is over-the-top, and I think most people tend to enjoy that at first, which is why I make friends rather easily. But then, after a while, I think it’s probably tiring to keep up with me and my Energizer Bunny personality, so they drift away. And here I was blaming them for it when it was me all along. Isn’t that always the way? My therapist also said that maybe I need to re-evaluate what I expect from a friendship so I’m not over-sharing and making people flee (my words, not hers). I agree, so like with everything else, I will post my expectations here. Someone I would consider a friend is:

1. Willing and able to go toe-to-toe with me when I’m in zany mode, or at least willing and able to tolerate me when I’m in that mode. You see, if someone can get past that part, I do have other levels to my personality that shine through at times. And of course I’m also proud of my personality, so it can’t be a disgruntled tolerance. That’s not real tolerance. It would actually be a bonus if they could appreciate the quirkyness. It’s tough to find people who aren’t quirky who appreciate the quirkyness, though.

2. Ready to be spontaneous, because while I love making and keeping plans, I also like to be surprised, and to be surprising. Getting little gifts and doing little things for my friends “just because” is one of my joys. The problem is when the friend feels like they have to reciprocate. If they just wanted to spontaneously do something for me, or get me something, that’s fine. But I think animosity builds up when they think they are beholden because I got them something or did something for them.

3. Available to spend “just chillin'” time with me on occasion. And here’s where the disconnect starts, according to my therapist. While I consider “on occasion” to be at least once a week, it seems that most others think it means something more amorphous, so if I didn’t see them for six months, that was cool and acceptable. But for me, six months is an eternity. I mean, they’re friends for a reason. I want to spend time with them. I don’t know if I could get on board with the six month thing. I guess I subscribe to the theory of making time for things that are important to you, and I can’t reconcile that much time between.

4. Ready to communicate. Now, I don’t mean we have to be in constant contact, but even a text message here and there is better than absolute silence. Or if I send a text message to a friend, I like to get some kind of response, even if it’s a short one, or even a generic one. I guess I just like contact of some kind. Maybe I’m old-school with my idea of a friend in this way, but I would think in this information age, with phones at our fingertips, why not? I will sometimes send short quotes of the day to my friends just to brighten their worlds.

5. Willing and able to talk about serious issues. Sometimes we all need a chance to vent, and I think friends are there for you when you need that. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re a burden on your friend because you’re always talking about how your life sucks, or something else depressing in your world. But that’s what friends are for, to be there for us, in the good times and the bad. So, that means share all your positive things as well. That way you won’t feel guilty (even though you shouldn’t anyway) when you unburden yourself.

6. Willing and able to give the support needed. We all need to vent (see: 5), but sometimes that’s all we need, someone who will listen to us, and let us get it out. Other times, though, we are looking for advice. And what is a friend better at than giving advice?  Because they know us, they know our tendencies, and they know how our minds work. That’s why we talk to them about our issues in the first place. So, when we need advice, they are there with that sound knowledge we are looking for.

I definitely realize, after typing up that list, that I am asking for a lot from a friend, and so many people these days are looking for something a lot more loosely defined when it comes to friendships. In fact, what I see so many people calling friendships look to me a lot like just acquaintances. See, it IS all in the way we define the essence of friendship, and I’m glad I came up with my definition so I can refer to it when seeking new friends. If you don’t already know yours, you should come up with your own definition too, so you’re not devastated when you find people who don’t fit the bill. That’s okay. There are other friends for you out there.

Sam

The Friendship Archive

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