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“What bad habit would you like to change?”

badhabitsI can choose only one? Seriously, I have a ton of bad habits that have stuck around simply because I haven’t deemed them worthy of taking the time necessary to eliminate them from my repertoire. And the ones I have deemed worthy, for some reason, haven’t been all that easy to get rid of, at least in the time I dedicated to them. It’s funny how it works out that way, or doesn’t work out, as the case may be.

But to choose just one? Hmmm. It would probably be my tendency to let other people make decisions for me. Not just those decisions like Taco Bell or Wendy’s either, but like many major decisions in my life. I look back on everything that’s happened to me so far, and what strikes me most is that I let all those things happen to me. I didn’t take a step back when others were making the decisions I should have made, instead going along with the flow.

I wonder what my life would have been like had I made more of those decisions myself, but I have an excuse. Okay, so it’s not an excuse but an explanation. I tend to surround myself with big personalities, people who take over a room because they’re in it. I’ve done it for so long that I tend to copy those people in situations where no one is like that. I guess nature abhors a vacuum or something. Anyway, it always seemed easier to go along with what they thought I should do, instead of taking the time to actually figure out what I wanted or needed to do.

It’s a bad habit. It’s probably the worst habit I have, when I think about it, because often times I did have a preference. Many of those times I had a course of action I would have rather followed, but rather than make waves I just went along. No, that doesn’t mean shooting heroin or anything, but from small things to major things that I’ve done in my life, I haven’t made every single one of those decisions. The decision to leave Philly, it wasn’t me. The choice to move here wasn’t made by me. Down to the slippers I’m wearing on my feet at this exact moment, the choice was made by others.

Perhaps I’m a rubber stamper. Hand me the ink, I’ll hop in it, and you’ll get some perfect footprints mapping out what I’ve done in my life. Some decisions have had wonderful results, like the one to move here, while others have had disastrous consequences (pretty much any decision I’ve allowed other people to make about what happens to my money). It’s one thing to get advice from others on what I should do, but quite another to then take their advice, and only their advice into consideration when making the decision.

I guess it’s easier that way for me because in the end I can’t place all the blame on myself, even though it is 100% my choice to go in the direction they pointed out to me with their LARGE ARROWS. If it doesn’t work out I can sit there and judge them for “making me” do whatever it was I did. And if it does have a good outcome, I can clap them on the back and share in the good fortune, even though I really had nothing to do with it. So yes, if I could change one of my many bad habits, it would be this one. In the end I would be responsible for deciding which paths I go in life, and for the decisions that I make.

Of course, when it comes down to it, all of the ultimate decisions in my life really were made by me, or they were made in tandem with the person they would ultimately affect just as much as me. Like getting married, having kids, and choosing my profession in life, all of those were me, and all of those turned out great, even though each one has its challenges. But that’s life. And I’m ready to make more of my own choices in it.

Sam

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Dear Journal,

We are so close I can feel it in the marrow of my bones. I can taste it on the wind today, as the weather was so beautiful out I could imagine running across the field, Chariots of Fire style, with a bitchin’ soundtrack playing in the background. Sub woofer speakers and everything. We are so close I can stand inside the house and feel it humming around me, waiting to assimilate me as its own.

But we are not in yet. And therein lies the rub.

You see, it’s a game of cat and mouse. Or Paula Abdul and MC Scat Cat. “Two steps forward. Two steps back.” The kitchen cabinets are in, and the tile is down in the mudroom, waiting in its forms for a settling. I walk through the rooms and I can see where everything will go, where our lives will be lived, but it’s as the echo of a shadow of a thought, blurring all my lines.

The possibilities I can’t help imagining are plentiful, as I fall asleep night after night and dream, as I sleep to dream a future. The house sits there across the field, beckoning to me even now, calling out to me over both distance and time, and I’m dying to respond. I want to scream out into that dissonance of distance and time, to fold it up all nice and tidy, to make it disappear with the sheer volume of my cry.

But that’s not realistic. So I’ll just keep dreaming until those dreams come from our bed, in our house, instead of here, until those whispers speak to me like they never have before. Until they embrace me like a brother.

And I will answer.

Sam

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Dear Journal,

e-tSome days I feel disconnected from society, like I’m a pod person just emerging for the first time and reticent to interact with others for fear that they’ll find out I’m not one of them. This was one of those days, when I fought hard to keep in my “crazy” because I knew others wouldn’t understand. So I went about my business, and I responded when others spoke to me, but I didn’t initiate any conversations and I tried to keep to myself for the most part. I tried to avoid my lizard brain, my E.T. consciousness that just wants to phone home.

I hate feeling like I have to rein myself in sometimes, but my references to obscure books and movies, and my imitations of obscure people are generally met with a “Huh?” and I know they’re judging me. Of course I know I’m always being judged (who isn’t?) but the obvious judgments, the on-the-spot judgments, the “he did NOT just do that” judgments, they’re the ones that sting. So I fight hard to filter myself for their sakes. For my sake.

Then I get back here, and my wife, the one person I can truly be myself around at any time, gives me that same look I was so afraid of receiving from my coworkers. Then she smiles, because she’s not judging me. She never judges me, even though I tell her those obscure references to those odd movies, and I twerk it out while speaking pseudo-German. Because while she might not “get” the references, or the funny nature of the things I have tried to keep in all day, she GETS me. She understands that I need to have that outlet, that my mind works in odd ways, that I’m a unique individual who shouldn’t be judged.

So on these days when I feel the most alone for the vast majority of the day, when I can’t help the ways in which my mind meanders, the ending always goes according to script. Even when I’m about to bust because I feel I can’t just be myself, I know somewhere in my scattered mind that in the end I’ll be reunited with the person I know will always accept me for me, quirks and all, and that keeps me grounded enough to go through those “E.T. days.”

And that’s more than enough for me.

Sam

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“The rich declare themselves poor, and most of us are not sure if we have too much. But we’ll take our chances ’cause God stopped keeping score…” ~George Michael

Dear Journal,

f6513bd24f5eeea3145b74664892f7efIt’s a definite, I guess. In time all things change, even the things I used to see as inflexible. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can just be something different than the way it used to be. I see it like having to change your password on a particular website. You might have been attached to your password, but subtle changes need to made to it for you to continue to visit that site. Something like that.

In time the world has become smaller. I have several international students in my classes this semester, which reminds me of this point. I have Facebook friends from far and wide across the globe, which reminds me too. It makes me want to learn other languages, to be able to speak with them in their native tongues.

In time things that were simple have become complicated, and things that were once difficult are now easy. We can copy entire catalogues of music onto something smaller than our wallets, but we don’t know what to do with ourselves during a blackout. We can read an infinite number of books on our eReaders, but our libraries are starting to die out. The cycle of decay reaches everything.

I went to the Utica Zoo this week, and I saw the decay there as well. It’s sad, really, that something dedicated to preserving and providing an adequate home for endangered species is itself breaking down — becoming endangered. Seeing the building falling into disrepair, the animal habitats cracking at the seams, it makes me hate time. Because time can ravage, leaving everything in its wake.

In time love can turn to hate, people die, and things are said that can’t be taken back. It always seems like we have so much time ahead of us when we’re young, but it hits us like a sledgehammer how little there actually is once we’re old. In time praying becomes cajoling, a bargaining for more when we only end up with so much less in the exchange. In time our dreams become memories that we eventually forget.

Sam

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Dear Journal,

It’s hot, but I’m not complaining. How could I? I’m the same guy who argued all winter that the chill was no issue. So heat is also no issue, right? I told myself that over and over again while I tossed and turned on the air bed all night, sweating profusely. I wasn’t hot. I swear I wasn’t. Who am I kidding? I miss the air conditioner.

One summer, when I was in day camp, probably around age 10 or so, we were doing basketball that year, and the final program was all about showcasing our basketball skills to our adoring families. This showcase was full of loud background music, and the song I remember the most from it was “Some Like It Hot,” by Power Station.

“Some like it hot, and some sweat when the heat is on. Some feel the heat, and decide they can’t go on.”

I remember hearing that song for the first time and thinking some people were just wusses. I mean, it’s just heat, right? But heat can be deadly. It can also be purifying, though, like sweating out all the bad toxins and coming up from the heat bath refreshed. I like that idea a lot better, especially when it gets so hot I think I’m going to melt like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Which reminds me… water would be nice right about now.

Sam

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20160417_191601.jpgDear Journal,

I’m drinking beer on a Sunday night at 7:20. I can’t remember the last time I did that. Maybe it was when I was 19 and I shouldn’t have been anywhere near alcohol. Or perhaps it was when I was 24 and drowning my sorrows over all the negative things that happened when I was 24. It might have even been last Sunday for all I know, because my memory’s just not what it used to be.

Nobody told me that the closer you get to 40 the worse your memory gets. I naturally assumed the age for memory degradation was 10 years away at the least. I was wrong.

And at least this is Irish Ale, so I can pretend I’m not hiding in this back room by myself drinking swill that I could have gotten for a couple of bucks at the corner store. For one, there are no corner stores here because there are no corners in the country. I bought this Irish Ale at Target, a place which up until about 6 years ago didn’t even carry alcoholic beverages. Oh how the winds shift.

So I’m drinking beer, and still trying to figure out whether or not I like the taste. I had a conversation the other day with a youngster who told me she hated dark beer, and I asked why. She said it was too thick, and I think I knew what she meant. When you take a sip of dark beer you need to be prepared, because it fills you up faster than the light stuff. It’s what I would call an “acquired taste.” And yes, I like dark beer, but I like the amber stuff too, and the light stuff too.

I just don’t drink very much of any of it too often. And that’s not because of the taste. That’s because I honestly have such a low tolerance that more than one bottle of beer (I don’t drink cans if I can help it) makes me just a bit tipsy. I used to think I was a silly drunk. I’m not. I’m just a bit more hyper than usual, which sounds like an innocuous thing but can get me into serious trouble. So I draw the line at two.

At least tonight.

Sam

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grammarproblemsDear Journal,

My biggest pet peeves are generally about grammar. Is that sad? Too often I find myself reading through my Facebook feed and mentally correcting every single issue I find. The worst is when a meme is making the rounds, everyone is “like”ing it, and I see that it says “to” when it should say “too.” It ruins the whole thing for me, and I’m the one who has to use the new “angry” emoticon. How else can I express my displeasure?

It’s not just spellings, either. It’s when people don’t use apostrophes, when they use big words but they use them incorrectly, when there are run-on sentences, and fragments, and comma splices just because. I can’t stand when people correct other people’s grammar and their corrections are also incorrect. And don’t get me started on the news and how many problems exist at the bottom of that screen.

I guess I’m just fiercely protective of language and its many uses. I know I am absolutely mortified every single time I spell something wrong. Once I posted something on Twitter from my phone and the autocorrect changed what I wanted to say, making it wrong. I didn’t notice by the time I hit enter and it took me forever to figure out how to delete that tweet. It was the worst five minutes of my life, knowing that was out there, that people were seeing it and judging me.

Yes, I’m that English teacher everyone is worried about introducing to their friends. Yes, I’m judging your use of “good” when you mean “well.” Yes, I’m running your words through the strainer of my mind, picking out the good parts and leaving the rest to hang in the air. I can’t help it, but hopefully you can’t tell. Hopefully I’m smiling and nodding along and you have no clue you’ve said anything that rubbed me the wrong way.

Because it’s just words, after all. Right?

Sam

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