Tuesday, January 20, 2015

4 Generally Nice Things That I Can't Handle

Title pic:  Bill Branson, National Cancer Institute

Hey, Internet, what’s up?  I just came out of a holiday cookie-induced coma and saw that it’s a new year.  At first I thought it was February already, given all of the Valentine’s Day advertisements in Walmart.  I panicked and checked my smartphone, wanting to know how much time I had left to get something for my wife, and I saw that it’s actually only January.  Then I remembered that my wife doesn’t care much about Valentine’s Day, anyway.  How could I have forgotten that?  How many cookies did I eat?  Man… I’m going to be shitting sprinkles tonight.

But that’s enough lighthearted humor; it’s January and it’s high time that I wrote something… you know, since I fancy myself a writer and all.  So… what to write about:  Well, the recent Holiday marathon pointed something out to me:  There are certain things that most people aren’t at all bothered by, and in many cases enjoy, that I just… don’t do well with.  I’m going to write about them. I’m only speaking for myself as I do so, though I imagine some you out there reading this will identify with at least an entry or two.

4:  My Own Name

Yeah, that’s right:  Apparently I can’t stand my own name.  There’s nothing wrong with “Anthony” being my first name, and in fact I’d much, MUCH rather be called “Anthony” than “Tony.”  I can’t imagine being called anything but “Anthony.”  All the same, I jump halfway to the ceiling whenever I hear someone speak my name out loud.  I’ve been that way for years, since at least middle school.  Okay, I might not actually jump when I hear it (most of the time), but my heart definitely likes to skip a beat or two, no matter who’s calling my name.  My wife, who I’d say I trust more than anyone, can call my name and I’ll still feel twitchy.

Why do I jump at the sound of my own name?  I honestly can’t give you a good reason for it.  I want to say that it’s because someone calling me by name has often preceded something bad happening, but I don’t really think that argument holds water.  If I could count up every time through my entire life that someone’s called “Anthony,” I’m sure most of the times would not lead to some kind of PTSD fodder.  Sometimes maybe, but come on:  Who out there hasn’t had something horrible happen after someone calls their name?  My brain’s just plain pessimistic.

This apparent name anxiety that I have has had a strange side effect:  I don’t like calling other people by their name any more than I like hearing mine called.  Seriously; I avoid it like the plague.  I rely so heavily on pronouns and expressions like “hey” that it’s not even funny.  There could be an emergency requiring me to yell for someone, and I bet I’d waste a second or two trying to find some alternative before finally yelling.  I even avoid using names of people that aren’t there!  Whenever I’m telling my wife about someone I know they’re always something like “the guy from college who had the car” or “my aunt’s second kid.”  Then I see the exasperated look on her face and realize that I have to choke a name out.  I’m weird.

3:  Family Dinners

Bill Branson, National Cancer Institute

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve already seen me imply (or outright state) that I’ve got issues when it comes to almost anything related to that age-old buzz word, “family.” I also said that I do have good family, too.  Well… I still feel overly on-guard when eating dinner with even the good ones.  I don’t mind eating dinner with my wife at all, but add almost anyone else, and it’s a goddamn family dinner!  Going into those things are like my own personal “camera orbits me while I say that shit just got real” moments.  (Or they would be if my life was a movie.  Get on it, Hollywood.) 

Universal Pictures
I want to be played by Vin Diesel.  They can just reuse the Riddick costume.  Or make me a tree.  Whatever works.

The reasoning for this little hang-up is twofold: personal experience and (obviously) the bad family.  Compared to most people my age, I have years less experience with the typical family dinner.  It just didn’t happen growing up… or now.  I ate in front of the TV.  If it was good enough for the Simpsons, it was good enough for me.  In addition to simply making me unused to the dynamics of having food and conversation at the same time, growing up this way also gave me a different attitude towards dinner than most people.  To me, it was no big thing.  My grandparents from the good side of my family were like that, too.  Staying with them, food was just made and served and that was that.  The TV stayed on, because no act of man or God was coming between my grandpa and The Price is Right.

Aside from the rare strange dinner at a friend’s house, the only people with whom I commonly shared family dinners with was… you guessed it: the bad family.  And holy shit… if you ever want to get an essence of the grievances I have with that side of my ancestry, look no further than the dinners.  It always seemed to bring out the worst in them.  Why do emotions run so strong for some people once eating has commenced?  Dinner is like this big, critically important thing to them, as it seems to be for many people.  Of course, that means dinners with them were goddamn minefields. 

I think the concept of family dinner has been permanently tainted for me.  If I’m eating dinner with the good side of my family (it happens occasionally) or with my wife’s family (more occasionally), I know it’s unlikely that anything bad is going to happen.  Problem is: the part of my mind that knows this has no clout at all with the rest of me.  I just go quiet at these dinners.  It’s probably a remnant of an old family dinner tactic of mine: trying to be invisible.  Also, I’m lost in memories of earlier, shittier dinners.  God help me when someone calls me by my name at one of these things. 

By the way, while I kept using the phrase “family dinner” through this entry, this principle would apply to breakfast, lunch, or any sort of meal with family, be it in a house or at a restaurant. 

2:  Praise

Yeah… praise. At this rate, you’re going to think I don’t like anything!  Well, don’t worry.  Push comes to shove: I suppose I do enjoy being praised.  It still screws with me, though.  That’s because I’m never really sure that I deserve it.  Technically, I’ve had some nice accomplishments in my life... but I frequently forget that.  Yeah… I’m the dude that remembers almost everything, but I forget my own achievements.  For example, I have a master’s degree, which I think people generally view as an achievement, but I repeatedly forget that I do.  Hell, I catch myself thinking that I went to college but never earned any sort of degree sometimes. My memory’s an asshole.

Basically, I am my own worst critic.  I can’t shake the tendency to think that everything I do sucks.  This is where praise starts to mess with me.  Say I write something, and someone praises me for it:  (This has actually happened!)  Of course part of me feels good about it.  A little part of me (probably that same uncharismatic part that knows family dinners won’t end with pain and grief) might even believe that I really did a good job.  But the rest of me thinks there’s been some mistake.  This applies to more than just praise for something I wrote or some sort of accomplishment.  People have said that I’m a good person, and I’ve immediately thought that’s just because they don’t know me well enough. 

Feeling awkward yet?  Well I’ve got one more entry for ya:

1:  Happiness

Happiness?  Seriously… happiness?  What’s wrong with me?  (Spoiler alert: I don’t know.)  Much like praise, I do like being happy.  The reason I argue that I can’t seem to handle it is because I’ve noticed something:  Whenever I’m happy, I try to figure out why.  I’m not trying to stop the happiness, but apparently I do find it anomalous.  I guess I just tend to assume that happiness is not my natural state.  And seriously… WTF????   

I never noticed that my own happiness was apparently anomalous to me until more recently in my life.  Two periods in my childhood that I remember as happier than most for some reason were 3rd and 8th grade.  This has led me to think of these two years more than others, wondering just what was different in my life at those times versus other years.  One time I was thinking out loud about this to my wife, and she pointed out the gigantically obvious elephant in the room tap dancing on my brain: why do I have to figure out why instead of simply being happy?  I don’t really have a good answer for that. 

I still catch myself doing this if I find myself suddenly happier than I think I should be even today.  I might be getting a bit better at just learning to accept it, but old habits die hard and all that.

Well… this post started out silly and went kind of gloomy.  January’s often gloomy enough (at least where I live), so… here’s a cute picture of a kitten, which I believe is the internet’s universal “chill, dude” symbol:

Feel better?

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