Archive | March 2013

The normalcy conundrum

Recently, I was wasting time on the internet looking at stupid memes and other such tomfoolery, when I came across one that was about something I thought was pretty innocuous. I immediately started googling to see whether it was true or not, and to my embarrassment, it was. What’s worse is that when I tell you, it’ll sound rather ridiculous and foolish, until I explain WHY. The subject, of all things, was tickling. When I was growing up, this was a common thing in my house, especially with my siblings. I even saw other people outside of family life do it, and figured it was commonplace. What I wasn’t aware of, is that this is considered very flirtatious behavior between adults, something I never even considered.

Let’s face it, I’m a pretty physical person, so I think nothing of horseplay. To me, it’s how people interact, or at least so I thought. Finding out that my standard actions are most likely making people I’m friends with uncomfortable, or making me the village creeper, is pretty shitty. I know I usually come off as a pretty harsh “this is just how I am, so deal with it” kind of person, but the truth of the matter is that many times that’s the farthest thing from the truth. I constantly seek the approval of others, always worrying about what people think of me, so finding out news like this kinda fucks me up. The only good part about this, is that it’s simple enough to fix, but any damage has been done, and labels tend to stick. I’m aware that many of my friends will read this, even ones that I’ve done this do, so understand that I honestly didn’t know it could be taken that way. This post isn’t about asking for forgiveness or for anyone to play it off and tell me they never saw it that way or whatever. You all know me well enough to know I never believe people when they say stuff like that. What can I say, I’m pretty fucked up, but I think I have a good idea how I got this way.

Many years ago, I suffered from major panic attacks and anxiety problems. I got through the first few years of it with heavy medication, but in the end my savior was a therapist (not “the rapist”). Brief history: When I first got sick, I started seeing a shrink and her shrinkhypnotist husband. They were awful for me. They enabled me, and coddled me like I was their child. They also shared a large amount of their personal life and drama during our sessions, which made it seem more like they just wanted people to talk to instead of people to help. I stopped seeing them, and started seeing another lady. She was PHENOMENAL! She was tough as nails, and didn’t let me get away with any avoidance behavior. She challenged me every step of the way, and forced me to look at myself as objectively as possible, and from multiple angles. She is also the one that made me aware of something she referred to as “under learning”.

Adults who were children in dysfunctional households, for example: children of alcoholic parents, tend to suffer from what she called “under learning”. This is when someone grows up in such a messed up place, as far as social interaction and the like. They end up not understanding or learning many normal social cues and things of that nature, things most other people take for granted because it’s just status quo. When I got into my 20’s, I started encountering really fucked up situations and began getting what I thought was very odd reactions from friends and such. When I started dating my wife, and we got really serious, she had to teach me a lot about social cues and what to say/not to say. As a result of all this, I have large gaps in my understanding of social interactions, which was covered up partially by the fact that I’m a geek, so everyone just expects that of me. The truth of it, is that most of my knowledge about what is considered “normal” by societal standards is just guesswork. This is why shit like this happens. Doesn’t make it right, but at least now you all understand. So, in the future, when I act like a total creeper, fucking tell me, cuz chances are that I have no idea I’m coming off that way. I know that sometimes I intentionally make people uncomfortable, but you should all be able to recognize the difference here. Help a brother out!

By the way, other symptoms of “under learning” are:

– guessing at what normal is.

– having difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.

– lying when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.

– judging oneself without mercy.

– having difficulty with intimate relationships.

– constantly seeking approval and affirmation.

– feeling you’re very different from other people.

– extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that loyalty is undeserved.

Sound like anyone you know?

Playing god

My wife and I recently received some very bad news. It’s one of those things that really kicks you in the junk, leaving you nauseous with tears in your eyes. Early last week, I noticed that one of our dogs had a swollen neck. We took him to the vet, who then did a bunch of tests, and a few days later gave us the results. Though we had our suspicions, we weren’t prepared for it. Cancer. Our youngest dog, Sully, a 6 year old black lab/pit mix, has lymphoma.

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Sully man, the Blanket

Sully isn’t the first of our dogs to have this. We had a small beagle/corgi mix, Cosmo, who also had lymphoma. He passed away 5 days before our oldest child was born.

Nothing prepares us for this. We spoke with the doctor, and he recommended we see an oncologist for treatment, since it’s stage 1, and the chances would be good. The problem is, the cost. We took a beating on Cosmo’s treatment, thousands of dollars, and that was before having kids. Now, we’re stuck. Our vet is willing to do the treatments himself, and help us out as much as possible with the costs involved, but it may not be enough. We may not be able to afford what could be done to save him.

The other part of this, is that there is absolutely no guarantee that it’ll work. We could spend a few grand and he could still die in 6 months. So now we’re in the fucking shittiest of all positions…we’re “playing god”.

Now we have to wait for the cost numbers to come back from the doctor, and when they do, we have to make a decision. Is the amount of money, and subsequent debt, worth it when weighed against the risk of it not working, and the discomfort for Sully during the treatment. Chemo is nothing to sneeze at. The treatment can be brutal for dogs, just as it is for people. So we have to put a number and a weight on his beautiful life, and it’s fucking torture, made worse by the fact that he doesn’t understand what he’s going through, or about to go through. We hold him, kiss him, cuddle him, and look into his eyes, all the while feeling like we might betray him by not being able to afford to treat him and extend his life.

Personally, I feel like a cold hearted betrayer. I’m a judgmental person to begin with, and the personal torment levied here is huge. How could I make such a decision? Who am I to value or devalue such a life? What makes my personal wants or objects worth more, when I could sell my keyboard, my Xbox, my pinball machine, for enough money to cover treatment? Where would it stop? Should I sell my personal possessions for a chance at maybe 2 years more? If I don’t, am I a monster who doesn’t deserve the love Sully gave me unconditionally?  These are the things going through my mind during all this, and though I’m mostly a rational and logical person, I have no idea what the “right” thing to do is. I hope I make the best choice, and I hope Sully forgives me if it’s the one I don’t wanna make.

Shitty work ethics, and the folks who love them

For most of my life, I always been under the impression that I had a pretty decent work ethic. I get my work done, it’s done correctly 99% of the time, and I usually don’t have many complaints outside of missing a small detail here or there. It now appears that I’ve been under a false assumption, since it’s not just the results, but how you work, and I’m not talking about procedures.

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Nothing like me….I don’t wear a tie…

I truly flourish as a worker in a specific type of environment. I have no problem dealing with difficult people, or troubleshooting difficult issues, so long as I work with good people that I can talk to and joke with. In the end, I’m a social person (though you wouldn’t know it by my “special” social skills), and I like working with good people. My last job, in NYC, had me working with a large group of truly awesome people. We cracked jokes, played pranks, and kicked ass. We supported very demanding clients, solved very complicated issues when they arose, and had as good of a time doing it as one could have.

We may look lazy, but we get shit done!!!

We may look lazy, but we get shit done!!!

Without coworkers like that, I’ve found myself trolling around Facebook, watching Netflix or downloaded movies, and desperately looking for people to chat with on IM during the day. Problem is, some places frown upon such activities, which leaves me in a shitty position. See, I don’t have a problem with complicated work. I don’t have a problem with menial tasks either. My problem, as it stands, is that I need some sort of break or distraction to be able to truly work effectively and efficiently.

Now I’m sure you’re saying to yourself “But, dumbass, if you are distracted, then you can’t work effectively OR efficiently, since you’re not fully focused on the task at hand!”, and logically you’d be correct, but that’s not how my brain works. I need some sort of break in the action, especially when it’s a lengthy project or boring task. Let me be completely honest here; I get bored relatively easily. If I’m hacking away at something, and it’s going very slowly, I need something to charge me back up. It helps revitalize my efforts, and I can get back to my task with fervor. If the issue at hand is critical, or the job is fast paced, then I don’t have that problem, since the insanity makes things much more fun.

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The soul-crushing truth

Working in an environment that lacks the enthusiastic camaraderie , and disallows any other distractions, makes a few things happen. First and foremost, I end up bored as fuck. Nobody wants to work in a place where they’re bored all day. Don’t get me wrong, I have a shitload of work I could be doing, but there’s nothing to break it up or make it enjoyable in any way. I’m also more prone to make little mistakes here or there. I know I’m only human, and mistakes happen, but they happen more when I’m not enjoying what I’m doing, which I guess makes me a shitty worker to some people. Granted, even with these “extra” mistakes, I still do at least as good as many others who have similar experience and responsibilities, but that’s besides the point.

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“If only I could use one of these screens to play Super Metroid every other hour or so…”

Perhaps the worst result of this type of environment is that it causes depression. Let’s face it, folks, nobody wants to work in a place where the work itself is boring, unless the people or other distractions make it enjoyable, and vice versa. Achieving enjoyment from your job isn’t only about the feeling or sense of accomplishment when a task is completed or a problem is solved. As is consistent with many things in life, it isn’t just about the destination, it’s about the journey. When I think about raising my kids, this becomes most apparent. When i’m on my deathbed, and I see the people my kids have grown to become, no “end result” can possibly hold a candle to the awesomeness of the years leading up to it. It’s the same way at work. If you’re in a job where you’re in an uptight environment, with little enjoyment other than the sense of accomplishment from doing the job, then you’re not likely to be happy there. Granted, this isn’t a general rule, just my opinion, but I think it’ll hold true for a fair amount of people.

Just to throw this out there, Google has a policy that sort of proves my point. A policy they have with their engineers states that 20% of their work time is to be spent on a “company related” project that interests them personally. Even though it’s company related, having screw-around time is essential to keep the gears turning, and I’m pretty sure it’s helped them tremendously since apps like Gmail and Google News started as 20% time projects. Take notes, employers.

So there you have it. Not sure where I stand in the “Shitty Work Ethic Hierarchy , but whatever. At least I understand enough about myself to know which variables lead to my best output. Guess I’m just high maintenance….