Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Invisible Rebel

The hardest thing about writing a serious blog is getting started. I usually go for funny, and for me, funny normally comes pretty easy. Serious is difficult. I have all sorts of thoughts I think make sense, but trying to organize them in a coherent blog is something else entirely. I said a while back I wasn't going to write stuff like this, but for the last few days this has been bouncing around my head, and I've sort of been involved in some mental mastication with it (ooohhh...that sounded naughty). So I figured, what the hell, let's write it down, put it out there and be done with it. So I'm going to reach down the throat of my soul, grab a handful of viscera, and see what I can dredge up (by the way, I love words, especially ones that sound EXACTLY like what they mean. 'Viscera' is a great example. So is 'screed'. Those are two of my favorites at the moment, but there are many others, like, well, mastication for example...but I digress). So here we go...

You ever wonder who you are? I have. I did. And I do. I have come to accept that I have up until very recently defined myself as "anti". I had opinions about everything, and I always defined myself as "not that". More specifically, if I perceived something to be too popular with the masses, too common, maybe even too human, I would internally feel myself ramping up to rebel against it. That's right...rebel. There's the obvious rebel...the guy/gal with the tats, the sneer, the 'fuck you' attitude, the fights, the drugs/alcohol, the...whatever. It's all exterior for all to see. Then there's me. Normal looking (by most societal standards), a home owner, a guy who is concerned about his lawn, pays his bills, takes care of his family, and works like a dog. The middle class looking guy you encounter every day...on the exterior. Yet, when people get to know me, I usually get the same reaction, "Holy are MUCH DIFFERENT than you seem." That's me. Anyway, I've rebelled against everything: popular music, how people groom themselves (ask me about a debate I had about French tipped pedicures), how people drive, what people eat, what they do for entertainment, relationships, sexuality, and on and on and on. I had opinions, strong opinions, on all of it. It was how I defined myself, but why? All it usually did was cause argument after argument. The thing is, being "anti" is nothing. It's not a state of's essentially a formless state of nothing. But it's safe. When you choose to 'be' something, you take risk, and you open yourself up to ridicule and rejection. I've played it safe for a long time, because I didn't know any different.

I grew up in a family where expression was non-existent. It wasn't safe. To express your uniqueness was to open Pandora's box for some pretty harsh derision (another great word). My dad, even though always drunk, was a master at it. He was wicked smart, funny, and fucking cruel. If you presented something of yourself that brought attention, something unique about yourself, it was open season (me coming home with a pierced ear at nineteen years old. My dad, although caught off guard, did not miss a beat. After a nanosecond pause, his comment: "Nice. You wearing a maxi-pad too?" Like I said, funny...and cruel). In a house like this you learn to lock yourself down both spiritually and expressively, and, believe it or not, you develop a sense of humor. It was the only thing my dad respected, and if you could come up with a quick and witty retort to one of his quips, he would laugh and go away. So you become light on your feet...mentally agile. And stunted. And anxious. And withdrawn. And "anti". If you're nothing, then maybe you'll be ok.

As I've thought about this, I've also come to realize this is not actually true, even though I've lived it. I do know who I am, it has always been there, I've just kept it locked down, down, down where I couldn't see it, but to those who have known me well, they could see it. I've been talking to people lately, and there has been some common themes I'm beginning to accept as to who I am:

-I'm smart. I've always hungered for knowledge. I find physics interesting. I like words. Space and the cosmos FASCINATES me. I like arcane (another great word) knowledge. I will have just met you and talk for half an hour about ancient Assyria because I actually WANT TO KNOW, and you'll be surprised that I already know something about it and the Aramaic language. I will probably win at Trivial Pursuit, and I'm a motherfucker at Scrabble.

-I'm funny. I can make most people laugh (a nice benefit to a fucked up childhood learned defense mechanism), and I love to laugh. If you can make me laugh, I will walk through fire for you. I see humor, admittedly sometimes foul, in EVERYTHING. There's nothing I can't make a joke out of: Mexican radio stations, how Apple products are wrapped, clogged toilets, frustrations with dumbasses in the checkout line, and on and on and on. Take me to a party, get some drinks in me, and set me loose.

-I'm charming (another defense mechanism. Please like me!). There's not a social situation you can put me into, no matter how foreign, that I can't mingle, talk, and mingle and talk, WELL (although there is a good chance I'm anxious as I do it, but you'll never see it). Big business Christmas party? No problem. Rednecks wanting to talk trucks at the water slides? You got it. Heavy metal concert? Of course. A roomful of computer people I have never met and I'm there alone? I'll work the room. A bunch of bros talking MMA? I'll profess my admiration for Frank Mir. Racing? Open wheel or stock car? A room full of women? I'll flirt and make them feel pretty. A roomful of guys? I'll have them talking football and tell fart jokes. Meet your mom and dad? They'll LOVE ME. They always do.

-I'm sensitive. I used to fight this, because I thought it was a sign of weakness. But that's wrong. Allowing yourself to feel is the bravest thing a person can do. To shut down and not feel is cowardly. I think I've been guilty of being an emotional coward in the past...but no more.

-I can be cruel to the ones I love. I'm smart, I'm funny, and I'm fucking OBSERVANT. Just like good old dad. Guess the apple doesn't always fall too far from the tree, huh? Whenever I'm hurt or emotionally fearful, which is only possible from the ones that mean the most to me, I will deconstruct you bit by bit for fear if I don't, I will cease to exist...and better you than me. I have a laser beam of focus, and I can burn right through you. I have done some incredibly hurtful things to people who meant the most to me and didn't deserve it, and I have to live with that shame. Upside, if you want to call it that, I see it now for what it is and as the fear ebbs, and I have a better sense of self, the lashing out just keeps fading...

-I'm intense. See above. It can also be a good thing because when I'm motivated by a noble goal, or even love, I'm tireless in my devotion to it. However, I have been told this can be hard to handle for some folks.

-I'm actually a nice guy. I used to think that was a personality flaw. Now I realize that makes me very rare indeed.

-I can be anxious. See cruelty...

-I'm loyal. I used to think loyal was boring. No, it's of the highest value.

-I'm successful. I have all the trappings to indicate as such.

-I'm caring.

-I'm artsy. Obscure music, fiction, and art is another thing of mine. It just happens to bore others on occasion.

-I'm complex. I used to think I was the simplest guy in the world. Well, apparently, that was me being delusional. I have now been told time and again I am occasionally unpredictable, tough to figure out, have a brain going a million miles an hour in a million different directions, and often apply complex solutions to simple problems. I will lay out concepts that seem very basic and linear to me that leave others scratching their heads, and this can lead to frustration for both parties.

Actually, there's a lot more, but I used to think of these things as commonplace characteristics inherent to any human being. I'm beginning to learn that was just my reflexive self deprication kicking in (don't want to seem boastful, I may not be liked otherwise), and I never really embraced it for the uniqueness that was me. Folks would praise me for some of these things, and I always dismissed their nice words, because I wanted to hear something different. Remember, I'm anti, therefore those things could not be true. Funny thing though, you hurt folks by not accepting their kind words. Your act of ego control really only damages others, who knew? And then, because they can only take so much rejection, the kind words stop, and your anti is blissfully fulfilled. It's the most cosmically fucked up Catch-22 ever (told you I was smart...if a little dysfunctional), but I'm ready to be done with it. A Catch-22 has no answer, and you will go insane looking for it. But what you can do is take that big old bag of burden, set it down, appreciate the lessons you've learned from it, and walk away....

(I used to rebel against white tennis shoes. Check out my new faves...although I had to go online to find a pair that was different and hard to find. Hey, some things change slower than others:)


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