Smiling Practice

This morning, I made it my personal goal to hold a good, genuine smile during my drive to and from work. I did OK on the first leg, and we’ll see how the second leg goes, but besides being a mood augmenter, the personal challenge is eye-opening to a lot of things.

While the more I’ve learned about people, the more I’ve come to understand how strange each single person is, it still doesn’t exclude the fact that I’m a strange person. A few months ago I started practicing smiling. In fact, there are a lot of really subtle things that I go through phases of training and practice with. Smiling just happened to be the one that popped into my mind a few months ago.

One of the things I’d do during this phase was try to hold a smile the entire time I drove anywhere. Partially because of easy mirror access to judge how well I was holding up, and the other part because if you’ve ever driven a car, then you know how hard it is to stay happy for long.

The thing about smiling is that it seeps into your mood. If you’re smiling, and by that I mean replicating a genuine looking smile, then eventually the line will cross from just forcing that smile to actually smiling, and because pleasantness and happy emotions are so strongly bonded with that facial expression, that smile gets you feeling better; feeling good.

Life’s been pretty great lately, but I still have found my mood wanting to fluctuate, and I admit, I have a few things that my emotions are trying to hang on to against my will that I currently have no reason to be holding on to. Sometimes I feel like I’m too much of a loner. I make it work, and I can surround myself by people, but you can always be around people and still be a loner. An example like this is just one element. Elements. Just enough small elements to pull my average mood down to a slightly less vibrant coefficient than what that factor was sitting at a couple months back.

My drive in to work got me realizing two major things: first, that I was generally feeling happier and in a more consistently in a buoyant mood back when I was actively practicing smiling. I don’t think that this is a spurious correlation by any means, and maybe I can be proven wrong, but I firmly believe that the more you smile, that more you’ll feel happy (even if you’re not, holistically). It’s a chicken and the egg kind of situation at times, but if I want to feed myself, I’m going to stock up on as many chickens and eggs as I can. Why be exclusive?

Second, and less encouraging, is it makes me realize how much pettiness we have in the things we get upset about. Before you read this and fuss at me — hey, jerk, don’t lump me in with you, I don’t get upset at stupid things! 

Bull.

I always pride myself as someone who is laid back and able to take almost everything in stride. HA! How silly. Even though I don’t let annoyance visibly mount, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there often, and even worse, when I look back at all the things I got frustrated by in the past couple weeks, almost all of it is is so stupid. You know those bags of chips you get sometimes that are, like, 1/4 full? Well, it is like the reasons I get get upset are produced in a factory that follow Six Sigma standards, except if reasons I get upset were like a bag of chips, my personal factory produces those defective back of chips 99.99966% of the time, and a legit reason the other 3.4 million times. What a rip off.

So there I am, driving, bright expression on my face, happy because I woke up early and it is a beautiful day in a beautiful world, but every 2 minutes, a miniature, invisible Spider-Man attaches two webs to the corners of my mouth and yanks down.

🙂    —->   : |

“HEY, PERSON IN THAT HYUNDAI, IF YOU’RE GOING TO DRIVE 2 UNDER, GET THE HELL OUT OF THE LEFT LANE.,” the thought courses through my mind. Then I parse it, and force the muscles in my face, and with more strain, the little urges of mood flitting around inside me to prop back up.

^ _ ^’  ….

Back to full power

Don't Worry, Be Happy

 

 

Not even a minute passes.

“Oh, hey there person in the lane to my right. Oh, you want to speed up? Ok, I’m slowing down. Wait, why are you slowing down now? Stop that, you trickster. Hey. HEY! I NEED TO GET OVER. HEY, TRY THIS COOL MAGIC TRICK: PUT YOUR CAR KEYS IN YOUR MOUTH THEN SWALLOW! BASTARD.”

Seriously?

 

 

And then I want to break.

And sometimes I dip down a little bit lower than I should.

No way..

 

 

Then the safety net embraces me as I catch myself. Why you heff to be mad? So worked up, and over something so small, so inconsequential that the other people involved will never realize that they did anything to upset anyone (though some of these people really do need to learn how to drive, but that’s beside the point).

All these thoughts want to dent my ornate set of armor.

This person never talks to me unless I contact them first. Do they even like me?

Why do these people aaaaaalllways misunderstand me?

How is she going to trust HIM over me?! So stupid.

GAAAAAAAH, someone teach this person how to put what they’re going to say all in one text instead of carpet bombing my phone.

Why does this dude insist on calling me when he knows that I can’t answer right now?

These passing thoughts continue, and they riddle and splatter into everything like raindrops in a thunderstorm. Then you look up and realize your umbrella is terrible.

RIP Umbrella
RIP Umbrella

 

So that’s that.

My personal goal this morning was to hold a good, genuine smile during my trip to and from work, but now my goal is to smile every day when I drive to and from work.

Give it a shot.

I don’t know what can be done about the things that upset us— the things that upset me, but I at least know that if I can turn the volume on Channel Feel Good, that it will start to cancel out the profanities and infrasound coming from The Downer Network.

So..

:)

 

 

Personal Gallery: Struggling With Emotional Abuse

PREFACE

For anyone who has read any of my postings, or heck, had a real conversation with me, you know that I’m very candid about my past; my emotions and struggles and all sorts of that type of stuff. I’m pretty sure a majority of stuff I wrote on here for a 2 year period was related to things associated with a pretty severe bout with depression, development of a very inhibiting level of social anxiety disorder, my break-up, dropping out of school, and so on. Those were all challenging events, but I overlooked that I hadn’t talked about one thing that hadn’t properly talked about one thing; prolonged emotional abuse.

The depression, the anxiety, the extreme exile, all of these things were obstacles that required a sort of emotional-personal training and rehabilitation in order to overcome and grow beyond, but this one aspect is one that has represented more than an obstacle; it has reshaped me as a person, and even now, I am still suffering the effects from it.

A critical reason why I have always shied away from this subject is because it is hard to talk about it without feeling very incendiary. It is just hard to talk about it without it feeling like a smear campaign against another person, and it is far from that, and I’d also say that a lot of it was out of control of either person in my case, but there were so many factors that fell into place ‘just right’ that, for two people who were new to serious relationships, didn’t have the experience to see all the trouble on the horizon and take measures to make sure that the relationship can’t sustain these destructive qualities. I kind of look like it as sort of a relationship immune system. We were still babies. We didn’t really have much of one, and it only took a few bacteria to exponentially grow into a debilitating disease.

And much further than that, a lot of emotional abuse is self-derived. You might be able to trace the pattern of thought to a case in which the other person felt the need to control how you feel once or twice, but it only took those few times to develop it into a habit of the self. It is just a nasty, ugly mutant.

So with that said, I just reiterate, one more time, anything I say in what I am writing is in no way saying anything against a specific person. This is someone I still hold in the highest regard, and knowing her so well all those years, I know that we’ve each taken everything from what we had and grown more than the baby from Honey, I Blew Up the Kids after that shrink ray got set to reverse. Sorry if you can’t help but get the wrong impression about someone because of this, I can’t help you if you do, but I am finally going to say some things about it, because, as always, I write here mainly for myself, but I do recognize people read this, and I try to hide it, but I like that. That fact is always in the back of my head, and many times, I write this very personal stuff because I think there is always someone out there who stumbles in here, then ends up being able to relate in some way. Anytime someone tells me they read my blog, and that it reached them in some way, well, that really does mean a lot to me. Ignore me trying to hide it.

Close relationships are weird, because they are kind of like classified CIA files, how long is long enough before you can declassify certain information? There probably is no answer to that, and maybe I make too much public, but I’m going to take the easy way out and chalk it up to the writer’s curse.

Alas, onward!

PART I  – EMOTIONAL ABUSE AND YOU

If you have never experienced (or recognized that you are experiencing) emotional abuse, then let me try to sum it up. I’m going to use someone else’s words first. A user named ‘SUSAN_IS_A_BITCH’ on Reddit had this to say about emotional abuse:

And the worst thing is it’s not always clear. With physical abuse there are bruises, cuts or other injuries. It’s easy to point to mark on their body and say “she did this to you.”

With emotional abuse you just get worn down from the inside. It starts small, with offhand remarks that don’t even seem that insulting or controlling. “You spend so much time with your friends, why don’t we do more things together?” A balanced scale isn’t enough for them, so they slowly tip it in their favor. Every time you hang out with a friend instead of him he gets sad, apathetic, withdraws or outright tells you that you’ve hurt him. You’re choosing not to spend time with him, so that makes you the bad girlfriend, right? Eventually your friends ask you why they haven’t seen you in a while, and they either withdraw from you or challenge your love for him. But he’s only guilty of wanting to spend time with you, and how bad is that?

But she’s not satisfied. You wear a shirt she doesn’t like and she pulls away from your hug. You make a joke she finds insulting and she ends the conversation. If only you could dress yourself better or not be so offensive you wouldn’t have so many arguments. If only you were a better boyfriend.

Now you’re walking on eggshells, because any little comment or mistake you make might set her off.

And when he does get argumentative, it’s almost scary or intimidating. He lashes out and calls you blind, naive, immature, selfish, lazy and drags up past events to prove his point. And he’s right. Because you were selfish at that party last year. You were immature in front of his friends when you hung out those two months ago. Remember that one mistake you made two weeks ago? He does. And it hurt him. How could you forget it?

But it gets to a point where you can’t take it anymore. You yell back at her. You tell her that this is the last time you want to have this conversation, that you don’t think you can do this anymore. That you don’t want to do this anymore. And she cools down. She realizes that she was wrong, that she went too far. And she apologizes. It’ll never happen again. She’ll never shy away from your hug again. She’ll forget about those things you said. She’ll talk to you when something bothers her.

And you’ll make up. Because you love each other.

But it’ll happen again. And it’ll be your fault.

The examples might be kind of weird, but part of that is the arbitrary nature. It does hit on a couple things, though. There is a lot of subtlety, because there is emotional abuse in a relationship the way we are talking about right now, and there is abuse abuse in a relationship where somebody overtly and violently makes a point to tear someone down, often with tactics such as shouting and outbursts, making a point to take away the other person’s worth verbally. In this case, I’m not talking about that level of emotional abuse, which, to me, is almost an apples to oranges level difference. In that case, any self-respecting person can easily recognize the emotional abuse and other forms of manipulation (unfortunately, a lot of people who get stuck in those arrangements have already had their self-worth stripped from them before they can recognize they need to get as far away from that at possible).

This is what makes emotional abuse in a relationship so frighteningly effective– it is that harmless stream of water, masked as the ebb and tide of being in love, but over a long period of time, that stream ends up serving to be more of a knife than anything, cutting into parts of your emotional landscape it is not meant to flow.

I’d identify a cycle that you can recognize from ‘SUSAN_IS_A_BITCH’es words on emotional abuse. There is an innocent start. Something arises borne out of love. We don’t spend enough time together or you spend more time with your friends than you do me is a real common and strong example. You love this person, or you are at least infatuated with them at this point. Of course you want to see them, and wait, they want to see you, too? Just more than you have been?

This innocent start then leads to spurious thoughts. Oh wow, this amazing, beautiful girl that I am falling in love with really cares that much about seeing me? And she wants to see me more?  How did I get so lucky to end up with someone so great? 

This specific example is particularly good because it has a high risk of developing at any stage in a relationship. For instance, I know that I have a common problem in the beginning of any involvement with a woman where I am almost in a state of shock and disbelief. The thoughts swarming in my head whisper to me that any day now, she is going to realize that she doesn’t like you like she thought she did, after all, and certainly not as much as you do– she’s bound to call it off and leave you holding all the cards. When you meet someone you really really like, then further actually are able to develop something with them, I can’t imagine a worse fear. So if it is early on in a relationship, of course this is going to be very dangerous, because it is not even close to emotional abuse at this point, and you have no way of recognizing that it could turn into it down the road, because it is perfectly harmless at this point. It is affectionate. It invalidates all of your fears while validating you. It is awesome.

The other side is when something like this happens in a relationship that has had time to mature. This one is just as dangerous because while you don’t have that newly born affection factor at play, you have something that is probably packaged with a lot of truths. And for all anyone knows, maybe there really is an imbalance of attention and time. Maybe it really is just a case of someone neglecting the other person, which presents plenty of other problems. But usually it isn’t so cut and dry. All you need is a couple instances.

I know that we spent time together last night, but you were at the gym late, and by the time I saw you, I was already so tired. I feel like I didn’t even get to really see you.

Last weekend we didn’t really do anything. I went shopping with you and Mary, which I don’t mind because I get to hang out with you, but then there was Dan’s birthday party. I’m not complaining, I was just hoping to get to spend more than just a few hours with you on Sunday because I waited all week, and it isn’t the same when we always have to go out or I have to compromise just to see you.

This kind of stuff is really tough, because there are a lot of intricacies of time management, social balances, relationship boundaries, and definitions of what constitutes as proper time spent together. In spite of that, what can you really say in light of that? You might even agree. It is not the sometimes occurrence of this that leads to any emotional abuse, but it is the next pattern that comes into play. In the case of this example, and pretty much any other experience that I can think in my case, it is when something wrong with you or how you’re investing into the relationship is changed from a perfectly normal grievance into an emotional gun that is shoved in your face and used to hold you hostage. And as you can see, the spurious correlation is kind of like that infamous Wikileaks video that people are still arguing about. Is it a rocket launcher or a camera? Is this a sincere grievance, or a ransom attempt?

Finally, you get taken hostage so often and for so long, you develop a type of stockholm syndrome, where you really begin to doubt yourself, but you want to be so committed. You love this person. You want to give them their best. You want to love them as much as they love you. Bam. You voluntarily have walked into the prison cell and locked yourself in. Until you start to send that you are in a prison cell.

This leads to the point when you break. I guess in this way, you could almost look at your emotional well-being like a tree. You can put a lot of weight and stress on each branch, and you wouldn’t be alive if you weren’t doing this, but at a certain point, a branch snaps and breaks. It’s painful. It is painful before, but within reason, and pain fluctuates, but when something breaks, instinct takes over. Everyone has shouted some variation of “OW!” in their life. This is no different. Your blow up happens, their blow up happens.

You’re not even necessarily enlightened about being abused emotionally, you just are recognizing that the other person has been taking themselves in account and not you, and the only real recognition you’re guaranteed to have is that you’re not wronging them this time, they just need to chill out.

Let me step aside from outlining the cycle of emotional abuse to note that when it comes to identifying if you are being put through emotional abuse, this is the stage where it should be totally clear if you are or not. I don’t know enough to really know how to technically describe what is probably going on in the other person’s mind at this stage, but in essence, you’ve just called this person out on their game. You might not be saying, “hey! You’re taking advantage of me– emotionally!,” but you are saying, “hey, boy! This ain’t right! You tryin to game me!” It is basically a recognition of manipulation. Someone who is emotionally abusing another person is manipulating them. They might not consciously realize it, but as soon as someone snaps and calls them out, they recognize it, and their greatest fear is that the other person recognized it, because in their mind, if they did, then everything is going down the tubes and everything will probably be ruined forever (much like that fear I have at the beginning of a relationship).

The thing is, the other person might not quite realize the game being played, furthermore, even if they feel like the other person is being unreasonable, they probably don’t see it as manipulation or abuse. Much furthermore, who wants to come to grips with the fact that they’ve been abused– emotionally? I’ll come back to that later, though.

What you have next is the save face freakout on behalf of the abuser. A surreality sets in, that they could be jeopardizing everything they have with you because of how they’ve been acting and all the pressure they’ve been putting on you. Above all else, they must do everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen. This person breaks down, they might even beg and plead; admit they were wrong, and promise to improve. Of course, you have gone this whole time feeling like you’re doing all these things wrong, and so you make the same vows. And, as SUSAN_IS_A_BITCH clearly outlines, the ugly cycle continues.

Legitimate concerns repeatedly packaged as trojan horses in order to take you hostage until you can’t handle it anymore, snap, have a falling out, and strong pleas and vows to do better, until the trojan horses come back, except the next time they’ll probably be trojan cows, or something else. That’s the general process of it all, now, let me tell you about myself.

 

PART II – EMOTIONAL ABUSE AND ME

I couldn’t help but kind of laugh to myself for part of that run through the cycle and spending time example, because in my former relationship with Kara, I was actually the first one who employed that sort of thing. In fact, I’m sure I probably subjected her to some emotional abuse as well over 3 years, I think it would be impossible for us to not be guilty of all the same things in relationship that, as solid as it was, was loaded with so much gunpowder, the only differences is what degree of offense is each person guilty of?

Even when I had only been dating Kara for about a year, maybe 1 1/2 years, there was a certain internally recognizable irony of my situation. In a relationship, you tend to blow up moments and instances in your head into these huge, monumental events, that may not have been to anyone else. That’s basic storytelling, and a relationship is a very complex story about two people. For me, one of the first of these iconic scenes in our story took place a couple weeks into our relationship. At this point in time, I had spent about half a year chasing this girl, getting to know her, and getting so close to her before we even dated that we basically had been dating for 3-4 months before it was official. For once in my life (while I’m in the habit of pointing them out, I will add that the phrase ‘for once in my life’ is another common psychological fallacy, which makes for good sarcasm when you recognize that)— for once in my life… things were going my way.

In high school I never quite got the girl I wanted. I always wasted all this energy chasing a specific one around, all tunnel-visioned and crap, getting close, but never quit getting over the hump. I’m a sophomore and college and I finally did it. Sticking to my guns, my standards, my method, it finally worked, and it was going to be so worth it!

One of the things about pursuing anyone like that is that when you finally flip that switch and go into ‘official’ mode, there are a lot of blurred lines that probably need defining, but it is hard to, because they’ve always been so blurred. That whole time spending thing was one. In my head, I spent so much of my life that school year compromising just in order to see this girl I was crazy about. If I wanted to spend time with her and her alone, I had to go do homework in the lobby with all of my friends, and hope that we are the two who out last everyone on any given night. It was a micro lottery on a daily basis. Even as we got close, the only time I could really count on getting that coveted alone time with her was a scheduled Tea Time, where she would make me a cup of tea and we would sit on the stairs near her floor and just talk for 15-30 minutes.

The value on that half hour was so inflated that it was the best stretch of time in my week every week. Then here I am, this girl is my girlfriend now. I can get her all to myself regularly now! But I don’t know what that means. She doesn’t know what that means. And, to me, I screwed that all up, and laid the groundwork for what would later be a lot of my own undoing.

It is a snowy friday night, two weeks in, I want to see my girlfriend and do things that girlfriends and boyfriends do with each other. I just want to be with her, close to her, next to hear, I want to hear her talk, I want to feel her hair in my hands, I want to sense her with all five ways that my body gave me, I just want to be with her; all understandably so. Naturally, I clear out my friday, and she has some plans to eat dinner with friends. Cool. But dinner with friends is never actually dinner with friends. I spend all night by myself, anxious, restless, then finally needy and greedy. 11 PM comes around and she is just getting back, but now she’s tired, and I’m freaking out. I transfer that to her. Now I’m freaking out on her. I probably even cried.

I just wanted to see you so bad. I just thought we could spend some time together. It isn’t the same during the week. Blah blah blah blah. I feel terrible about it still. While I doubt there is any actual correlation to things turning out this way, fast forward 6-12 months ahead, and most of her friends are off in their own little worlds and she is disconnected from them. We go through almost an entire relationship with her social life on life support. Of course, mine was most of the time, too, but mine had a couple recoveries here and there, where as hers struggled so often to improve.

That example about spending time together? Yeah, I went through that plenty of times. It mutated often. It was a solution-less problem. It was a variation of Paper-Rock-Scissors called Paper-Rock-Scissors-Guilt.

Paper beats Rock.

Rock beats Scissors.

Scissors beats Paper.

Guilt beats Everything.

For me, I wasn’t going through a situation of ‘you never spend time with me,’ but rather a ‘I’m sorry that I always want to spend time with you, I know you love me, too, but it is just hard for me because it is really hard for me to make friends,’ so of course I am lonely without you. That was what I was reading in between the lines.

I loved this girl. The last thing I want is to have her be lonely and feeling inadequate because I went to the gym to play basketball with my friends. Me deciding to do such a thing was, in turn, a form of my emotionally abusing myself because I felt so much guilt due to the disparity. I’d beat myself up for it, sometimes even hate myself for it. In my mind it would play out; this is so wrong, if anyone should be lonely and friendless, it should be you.

I can’t say how much of it was ever her being needy or lonely or just wanting me to be there because of insecurities, I’ll never know, and it isn’t my place to guess, but I know, especially because I was guilty of it a couple times myself, that it did happen, and that was enough to mess me up for a long time.

After we broke up, I felt even more guilt on that front. I felt that if I went out and had fun, that I was doing her an injustice, and that my entire love was a fraud the entire time because if I spent time with my friends I would not be totally deflated every second of the day, and if I wasn’t depressed that I clearly had just been making up my feelings all these years. It is one of the most broken thought processes I’ve ever experienced in my life, but I was completely hostage to it. My insides, my feelings were literally sick and diseased. Eat poison and your body will be poisoned. Emotional osmosis is no different.

Right now, I’ve been writing this for over two hours, and I’m sitting here terrified, because this is the first time I’m realizing how scary it is to undergo this. I’m realizing that when your emotions are mishandled by someone else, that it only takes a few times to turn yourself into the greatest threat to your own emotional well-being. When it comes to Kara and I, she probably only had a handful of instances that you could clearly identify as emotional manipulation, which were heavily augmented by a hormonal imbalance due to an only partially functional thyroid. If I could go back in time and replay our entire time together and take notes, I honestly might find some regular subtle exchanges that slipped out, but only a small number of occurrences I’d identify as anything that anyone would seriously qualify as emotional abuse, but that small amount of poisoned experiences was enough for me to stockpile enough self-generated emotional abuse to have my own emotional well-being on the brink of death for 2 years.

TWO YEARS! And even to this day, I catch myself struggling to maneuver properly in many social situations, and I know precisely what I am ailing from.

Jealousy is one of my least favorite things ever. I struggle with jealousy. That person hanging out with my friend all the time that my friend talks about in a way that suggests that they don’t really enjoy their company as much? Yeah, that’s my friend! They are closer with me than you! They should be! It is me, and you are you! You aren’t even self-aware! Rarr! Envy! Your time with them is time that they should be spending with me, not you.

That girl that I like with the boyfriend? You bet I’m jealous of that boyfriend. Yeah, you, guy I’ve never met, you suck. Look at me, the arrogant, ungrateful one! You’re only dating her because you met her before I did! Rarr! Jealousy!

These are impulses, and I fight them with every mean, measure, and method I possess. I like to think that I combat it well enough to at least never let it show, even if that is well below my goals.

I spent a lot of time on the other side of jealousy, and it only made me hate it even more, but it also made me that much more susceptible to its ills. Insecurity is scary. There is a specific haunting memory that may never leave me.

Belmont has a concept known as convocation credits. You have to go to 60 events that grant you at least 1 convocation credit, divided into 5 different categories, from personal development to culture and arts. Despite a lot of these convocation events actually being pretty interesting things to attend, every Belmont student in history has dragged their feet to complete them (except Jason Biddle, but he is an android from the future so he doesn’t count). It was our senior year, final semester. I wish I had a cool name for the Convocation fest that encompasses a Belmont student’s final semester. Here we are, though, me with my 30 credits and her with her 40, at one of the weirdest convocation events we ever attended. Somehow this guy who was a Commercial Voice major got his Senior Recital to count for convo, I’m guessing the catch was that he had to do it at 10 am. Of course, he packs out Massey Performing Arts Center with a roomful of entirely apathetic Belmont students who just want to get their card scanned sixty times and get on with the rest of their lives.

We sat in the back left area on the lower level. This was a period in my life where going to sleep by 5 AM was early for me. The lights are dim, the music is unfamiliar, and the apathy is at an all time high.

James zones out.

Kara probably is undergoing very similar things, but instead of zoning out, her natural inclination is to pay more attention to James.

Kara sees James staring at some girl.

James sees a lot of blurriness and probably some point where a seat and the floor meet.

From this point, the only thing they could be stranded on an island, just the two of them, and the only thing Kara will see is James staring at every girl but her.

The recital ends, the cards scanned, and they are walking home. It is early fall, a beautiful, warm morning, and everyone walking on campus reflects that pleasant vibe, until I look over and she her fighting back tears.

What are you doing? What’s wrong?!

I am answered with the dam crumbling and full out weeping.

Are you serious?! Talk to me, please! What the heck happened?

“You don’t love me anymore. I saw you staring at that girl the entire time! How could you do that?! Just break up with me! I want to break up with you.”

No, no, no, she can’t be serious. And she is not going to do this to me right now, she is not going to make a scene like this in public. And she isn’t going to do it over something that didn’t happen.

I’ve described being taken over by anger as a red out. Instead of fading to black, everything surges to a red, then some time goes missing and when you come to again, you find that you’ve done something awful.

I red-ed out.

Almost visually, I saw the final words release from my mouth like torpedoes from a submarine, propelling at high speed, but appearing to be slow motion as water often does to motion. For those final few words, my view of the world slipped out of my two eyes and I could see myself next to this sweet, though troubled girl, violently yelling at her, and the mushroom clouds that hit her eyes and face as they impacted. It’s probably the worst I’ve ever felt in my life.

And that’s all I care to remember of that dreadful experience. It was not the first time I had been accosted by her jealousy. It was not the first time I had been emotionally abused as a result of it, but it was the time that caused me to snap.

When long relationships end, it takes a long time to become your own outside of them again. That first year of conversation was painful, I’m sure, to everyone who had to listen to me. I couldn’t form two sentences without mentioning her. Even the second year didn’t let off with the difficulty, but here I am, today, and I am an individual again. Even then, there are just stained, grimy grease spots on the carpet that I can’t help but step in from time to time.

I still struggle, greatly, with looking at a girl in the eyes. If I don’t know a woman, and she notices me, my instinct is to, very exaggeratedly turn away my entire posture from them and pretend it never happened. Sure, some of that stems from natural shyness, and a confidence that has the weight of a feather, but the instincts, the expressive reaction, that all stems from that emotional bruising that our friend SUSAN_IS_A_BITCH was talking about. It isn’t even just the conditioning I underwent where I learned to keep my head down and interactions at a minimum or risk an emotional altercation, but probably even more than anything, that guilt I felt from when I snapped and berated someone I purported to care about in the most unique way in public.

Yeah, I’ve been emotionally abused in my past. I don’t want to make a big deal about it, but I don’t want to ignore it, because it is just like depression or anxiety. You’re not going to be able to help it if you don’t accept it. You could argue just how bad it actually was, I’m probably more emotionally vulnerable and sensitive than normal, and I think that I am probably taking a lot longer to recover from it than the average person, but I was also very slow to recognize and accept it. It never ceases to amaze me how parents are always several steps ahead in some way.

I was on the phone with my dad. I had just had a massive breakdown in the car with her, and all my parents could do was sit and listen to two adults uncontrollably weeping. It was the first time I had totally cracked at that point. Later, it was just me and him talking and told me in plain English, “You probably don’t even realize it, but you’ve been emotionally abused, and have been for a while. You’re bearing someone else’s burdens, but I want you to know that you have them too, and you’re my son and I love you, and I am here to bear your burdens the way that Christ did for all of us.”

Honestly, that was probably the first time I heard those two words juxtaposed like that. Emotional abuse? Me?

Well, if you didn’t know, now you do. I didn’t know until I was informed either.

This has probably been the hardest thing I’ve written, amongst a list of a lot of difficult things I’ve written about. And you wanna know the irony of it all?

My current feelings after having written what little I did are engulfed by a single word:

Guilt.

 

 

note: WOW. I just realized that I also just happened to write this on a certain person’s birthday. Totally coincidental, but I guess on that note, happy birthday!, and I truly hope that wherever you are in life, that you’re in the best of places!

high gravity days

I’m having what I call a high gravity day. I’ve had a high gravity week, really. Every day since Tuesday has been a high gravity day.

A high gravity day is one of those days where I wake up and it takes everything I have to get out of bed and function like a normal person. I’m bloated with anxiety, my little parasites of depression pump through my blood stream, and I border the line of becoming an inanimate object. I really didn’t have days like this until about late fall of 2010. I was at my worst from December of that year until about April or May of 2011. From that point, they’ve been spreading out, anchoring me with lighter objects. Except for this week.

I admit something, right here, that I’ve only told one other person: I know my body isn’t regulating itself correctly anymore. I can’t really say much beyond that, I think it is mild, but I just know it isn’t, there is no way it is. Earlier this year, Robert got checked out at the doctor and all of the test results revealed that his body was producing adrenaline at the wrong points in the day (as a combination of diet and habits), which was a large part of why he would wake all night, sleep all day, and spend each of those ends feeling depressed — OR SOMETHING KIND OF LIKE THAT — I’d wager that this is likely where I am as far as that goes, and not something more complicated, but of course, I don’t know, nor can I, really.

I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor if I needed to, or to any other sort of practitioner right now, and that is just about parallel with my life. I just accept it.

See, today is a high gravity day, and I think perhaps, while my body helps trigger these days, once my brain encompasses itself around the notion, I’m legitimately screwed. Usually, when I have one every 2-3 weeks, I can spend anywhere from an hour to six wounded, then I regather my willpower and energy, if I’m smart, do some praying, then I burst through again and usually carry out the rest of my day, at least able to wear the guise that everything within me is ‘normal’.

Everyone’s lives are riddled holes, glitches, and unanswered questions, mine no different, I just feel more hexed than most of the people I know around me.

The past year or two of my life is just a story of continually failing relationships and friendships. I don’t know, at this point I can only say to no fault but my own, why else would things so reliably breakdown? Yet, the thing is, I consider my relationship skills, if there is such a thing, to be quite good. Very flawed, sure, but I just know that I get my sense of extra-consideration from my mom, so even when I’m being a punk, I usually feel naturally inclined to take consideration for the other person– it does a lot to make up for all my other problems, yet it seems to get me very little gain in terms of my friendships. It gets hard when you have to shuffle who you can turn to, rely on, confide in, trust, and cry for help every 3 months. It gets hard. I know that I’ve some who have been as reliable as a great crag, unmoving, but it is hard to ignore the huge crater.

I don’t know who remembers those old Bugs Bunny cartoons where Bugs would find himself in a wicker basket as they stuck swords into it from all angles. Right now, that’s where I feel I am in my life. I am in this awkward position where I don’t know if I should wriggle around and try to make it more advantageous, of if I need to stay entirely still and wait for the last couple blades to be put in place before they start getting removed.

In fact, my entire existence often feels marred with failure. This year is no exception. I ride the wave of apparent success as a means to keep myself spirited, but sometimes that momentum comes off as a total lie. I set out 3 goals for myself while I was around my lowest, last summer. First, go back and finish school. Second, find work. Third, move back out on my own.

I only really found success with one.

Sure, I had a part-time job for a while, but that doesn’t count because it was a means to an end; a way for me to pay the last bit I needed for school, as well as things like gas and food. It never would have helped me do anything such as start an actual career, or what I really want from work: get me out of mom and dad’s house. And today, I have work, and it is a good role for me, but I’m not sure how much longer I can last in a situation where I am not consistently getting paid. We won’t even comment on the third goal.

Even in my goals, the things of which I pile all of my ambition and willpower like an assortment of explosives and set flame with every last joule of energy I have, I fail.

And that takes us back to the basket with the swords. Like a wave nearing shore, the question rises: can I continue to be forward thinking, and stay in the position I am in now, or do I have to go into emergency mode and readjust for now?

I don’t see myself getting out of this tangle now without a large culmination of changes. I need to get out of this house because my entire life is stifled as long as I am in it.

Let me sidestep real fast. When I was going through the thickest of the inferno that my relationship with the ever lovely Ms. Seale (I do mean this, if anyone questions that I do), I fell into a confront – battle – retreat cycle. Confrontation was met with all the mayhem we had to deal with that nobody had any actual control over with. Battling was all the madness that actually had to happen as I did my best to be there for her, and retreating was me slinking away at the very instant the battle phase ended. Like a burned, shriveled mutant, I’d drag my body across the ground and find the deepest, darkest hole the earth could offer me. This often manifested itself in the form of my room. When I lived in Bruin Hills, I’d sprint up the hill from her apartment to my own, breathlessly jaunt with the key and lock until I fell through the opening door, immediately stomping into my room, shutting the door and play computer games. When I lived at Belmont Terrace, it was pretty much the same thing, just sub the hill thing to walking down the steps to my apartment and add in tripping over Jasper, the Alien Dog. When I really needed a hide away, I’d go home. I’d often bring my desktop PC with me, set it up in my room, and as soon as I closed that door I was in my fortress of solitude.

Being in that room, with myself, with my own devices, while necessary, was something that I increasingly found myself doing. As soon as that door shut, it was an entirely different state of mind I’d enter in. My mind, body, and soul knew that I was very damaged and weak, and this was all I could do to heal up enough to face the next day. Being around people was like surrounding myself with needles, and leaning a degree in any direction would place those needles upon my skin serving a prickly warning that if so much as take a step that my nerves are going to be invaded with a barrage of sharp pain. I conditioned myself to two very large things:

One, that I would habitually spend each day feeling the need to shell up at some point and play Team Fortress 2, Quake, or Civilization for a few hours, even if I didn’t want to. Something in my would just yearn for it like it were water or food.

Two, that my room, and especially my parents house, will trigger this nest mode in my mind and subsequently the rest of me, that I was in “I’m hurting, please let me curl up and bleed a while so I can start scabbing up” mode. That is all this house is to me anymore. It hurts. The place I spent most of my childhood has disappeared to some parallel universe, and replaced with this haunted lookalike.

I can’t function here.

Honestly, I moved back here around May of 2010. I’ve yet to truly unpack since then. My room is often a consolidation of various mess, and I don’t bother to do anything about it because if I am not even going to bother to unpack my life, why would I care if it has any order. It is not like anybody comes to visit me in my nesting shell. It takes days when I am really fed up with everything, with being here, that I slap myself internally and clean it. That, or the promise of someone coming over. I hate it. I don’t like living in such a disorderly state, but it reflects my life and what mental state this place puts me in.

Let me step back in, now. I don’t see myself getting out of this tangle now without a large culmination of changes. I need to get out of this house because my entire life is stifled as long as I am in it. I can’t get out of this house until I am making enough money to afford to. I’m not nearly as effective getting myself in place to make money at my current job because I do a lot of my work from home. I am highly productive out of the house, but when I am home, it is a new struggle to cram into these walls. I can’t always justify going out to do my work because I am in extreme savings mode, and I’d either have to give up the occasional weekend where I cut loose some and just try to enjoy life, or something more. I can’t always leave when I want to anyway because I have to share a vehicle with my parents. I can’t pay for any of these things anyway because I need to pay my loans. I can’t even get that stress out of my head because every time I am about to talk to them, I see that they have already called me 22 times that day, as if I didn’t know about the $40,000 I owe, which just angers me back into a point where I’d rather default in some kind of foolish protest than talk to them.

It goes on.

I need to find a new girl in my life to hold my attention. I can’t find such a person because I am rarely out in this house, or part of the world for that matter. I can’t fully get over the last girl who unintentionally did more than a number on me because I can’t find anything new to distract me. I need to find more new friends to fill in the holes that have developed (naturally) from the other ones. I can’t — you get the drill.

I could write these until the seasons changed, and even for the smallest things. The point is, I don’t feel I can really do anything right now, but I feel like I need to change almost everything, and I can’t change anything without changing everything. And in that regard, almost nothing has changed from a year ago, nothing at all. I have it in writing. If I want to put myself in a deeper hole to climb from, I can go read it (I’ll spare myself today).

And that brings the wicker basket questions. If I stay fully committed to my current job situation, I put myself in a good position long-term. I am already an invaluable asset to the other 3 guys I work with, they give me a lot of autonomy, and responsibilities that make the intern label I have a bit of a joke. And let me note, I am, at the least, partially-committed to this thing no matter what. But it is how long can I keep myself in a position to be all-in on it. Especially at this time now where my responsibilities and time commitment is about to ramp up once again. There is a horizon with this thing where I can now see myself with cash flow, potentially within the next couple weeks, but the question is would that be too late to wait for a ship to come snatch me up from treading.

Half of me says, “sit James, you’ve worked the long-play patiently this long, it is a waste if you squirm out and go raging bull at this point.” The other half is raging bull. He tells me that I need to do everything I can to get out of the house, right now. Immediately find a second job to make sure I can sustain it, and also, to keep me out in the world. Keeping me out in the world means that I am not having to rely purely internally to prop myself up. Yet that takes away a lot of my flexibility for these other things that are currently developing, potentially taking away prime positioning. The thing is… wholly, I need to do both of these things, and I guess that is because half of me says I need to do the other.

And I don’t know.

I told myself that I could hold out for another couple weeks. I’d be much like Wesley from the Princess Bridge, propped up on a lean-to, rapier barely contained in my hand, the mere illusion that I’m still going in this state, but that help would be on the way. And if it didn’t show in that time frame, that’d be my cue to hit the self-destruct button, blow everything to the sky, and make drastic emergency changes.

I just didn’t plan on getting ground down so fast this week. Now that I’ve spent the last couple hours trying to display this in written page, I feel enough is there to propel myself back for today, but what of the next day? And day after? This doesn’t preclude the fact that I already forced myself to remain in bed until 2 pm today because I didn’t want to get up. That already happened.

You know, it’s not that I have the world going against me, I really don’t. It is more that once you remove the core things that I have in my favor, there really is nothing going for me, and hasn’t been for a while. Maybe I have another 38 years of wandering in the desert.

For now, I’ll keep writing about it and telling myself I do it so that I can look back and remember where I came from– when the time comes.

Hey future me, remember those high gravity days? Of course you don’t, you tepid bastard. I envy you.

Assorted

It is a good time to write something, considering I’m feeling particularly empty right now. There’s a reason for that, which I’ll get to in a moment. My goal here is to churn out a few paragraphs, with each one covering entirely different territory. Just littering a small assortment of thoughts on the table, maybe you’ll like some of my wares.

I just completed rewatching HBO and David Simon’s (as well as Ed Burns) ‘The Wire’ — the critically acclaimed masterpiece, and likely the greatest piece of TV yet created. I remember the first time I watched it, I had heard all this talk (read: hype) about how it was the greatest show ever– from sources that I consider credible and respected, to those whose tastes I didn’t much regard to complete strangers. Anytime anything gets “best ever” hype, I’m immediately put off by it, anytime something gets hype from every possible corner of the Earth, then it will pretty much take Jesus’ second coming to sway me into its favors, and even brilliance takes me a while to overcome. This isn’t because I don’t want to like something great, but because the billing is so long it gives it a value that is impossible to amount to– kind of like the National Debt. With that said, it took me about the first episode to have the rug pulled under my feet and get swept under it. From that point on, I knew I was watching something that is a masterpiece on the same level that we call works of DaVinci or Michaelangelo masterpieces. Something that is so brilliantly executed, has an intricate plot that isn’t a labyrinth to follow, characters who stick with you even when you’re far removed from the show and hits so many huge nerves on society and reality– it’s relevant and entertaining. Maybe one day I’ll write some more on The Wire, but I wouldn’t say what hasn’t already been said countless times before by many who can say it better than myself, but the point is, it is the best example of the Television medium being used to its full potential. I feel utterly empty now that I’ve finished on my second time around. I think I even feel more depleted than the first time, and the first time was a catalyst that ultimately led me to quit school in my last semester. Frankly, I feel so many things as a result of this 5 season journey, and most of all, I’m sitting here right now thinking to myself the all these characters are out there in Baltimore right now just continuing the saga of their lives, their bodies splitting their cells for their short stay on earth and existence just barreling on like it always does (which hits more on a Six Feet Under level). I don’t mean to nuthug on HBO or The Wire anymore, but I think the point here is that very very rarely does a film, even a great one, leave me feeling so much emptiness at its end. I love television. If I had an ultimate dream, it wouldn’t be to write and direct movies (which is high on the list), it’d be to create and produce a television series for HBO.

Sorry, that paragraph was really long, but I am trying to hold to my hopping paragraphs promise.

The last week and a half has been an emotional oddity. Yesterday I texted my friend my favorite quote from Minority Report, “dig up the past, all you get is dirty.”  It is true though. Sometimes the past digs itself up, though, and like a horror movie, the arm of the undead reaches out from the ground and sucks me in the void. When that happens, I panic. When I panic, I do stupid things. I did something stupid. In a way, you could say I channeled the dead (not literally, if somehow that wasn’t clear enough). I had a conversation with a person that I’m effectively dead to, thus they have to be dead to me, or else there would be too much pain of loss. I was thinking a lot about this conversation, if you can call about 7-8 exchanges of text on Skype a conversation. You (“the dead”) had said something about things (in the past) going wrong, or knowing that you never will know what went wrong. I don’t want to look it up, because that is digging up the past, nor do I want to misconstrue what was said, I just remember what struck me, though. I am pretty sure it was general like that, but in my head, I thought about it and wondered if you really used to wonder what you did wrong. If know you, and even if we don’t exist to each other anymore, it will be a long long time before I can say I don’t know you, then I know that you felt this confounding and bewildering thought before. It makes me sad, because if I could ever get anything across to you, it wouldn’t be how much I loved you, how much you still mean to me, in some weird distant satellite orbiting the Earth kind of way, or how much I often worry about you and hope you’re just doing well– or any of these things. I would just want you to know that there is no question of what did you do wrong. It makes me sad because life is the biggest paradox. It makes less sense than quantum physics, because I can assure you with my entire being, that especially in our last act, you did every possible thing you could have done right. That’s all there is to it, and the only thoughts and feeling on that it is safe to let out. For now, I’m going to pat down the now reburied past unless it comes seeking me out.

I’m listening to an afrobeat song recorded in 1975 right now– Expensive Shit by Fela Kuti and it has got me thinking about a lot of songs I have stumbled upon over the years. I think the best example is that Vanderbilt radio station Robert is obsessed with. Anyone who knows me a little bit knows I hate the radio and if I know you well enough and you listen to the radio, I will chastise you until we are both raw in the loins from it, but this kid always insists on his radio station, especially late at night in the summer, because that is when they let people DJ who play stuff from the farthest reaches of the Earth and time. I gotta admit, I love listening to that station at that time, you got me, Robert. Some of that stuff is the most bizarre and disconcerting stuff I’ve ever heard, to plain bad, to really cool, but more than anything I just think to myself,  “People actually recorded this?.. In a studio somewhere?..  At some point in time? What?” There is a certain feeling connected to this, and it is likely fueled by the fact that I always listen to these things at these weird hours, 1 AM, 2:13 AM, 4:25 in the morning and so on. I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten that feeling, where you almost feel like a small part of yourself is not quite aligned with the rest of your body and you’re kind of pulled out of yourself, but that is one ingredient. As the music plays, I just get this vibe that at some unimaginable time in a non-existent place, a group of people got together at an hour that nobody else on the planet is awake (never mind time zones and Earth’s rotation) and recorded this music that only 247 other people on the planet have heard, and now I’m the 248th. Then, while I listen to it and process that, I think to myself that none of it mattered, yet it still was created. Whether it was a good creation or bad, it didn’t matter, it just happened. Now I’ve been given this little capsule of time, bundled with energy, emotions and fragments of the persons’ lives who created it, and when the song finishes it, I will be one of the few people who is now carrying the small piece of life and culture— all the while the sun hides and the rest of the planet sleeps. About thirty minutes after I listen to anything like this at hours like this, the feelings finally completely fade and I feel like my being is again entirely one. Maybe nobody else has ever felt this but me, but I’m just throwing it out there. I’m repeating this song and feeling it right now.

It beats feeling completely empty.

I’m glad I wrote this.

Rapumentary Vol 4. – One Year Later

First thing: I’m feeling lazy but oddly productive, meaning I’m not going to format this like I usually do until later (so I can use this productive burst on something else). If you read this and don’t see this, then you got in after I formatted this. SUCKER!

 

It’s been a while since I chronicled my work on my current pet project. A few months.. crazy— it’s June already? Wow. Anyway, a lot of the going has still been kind of slow. but lately my personal productivity has sped up. I spent the last few months learning and practicing as much as I can when it comes to mixing. I am just now feeling comfortable enough with it to finish up some songs and take the pseudo fictitious hip hop duo part of the documentary live. The real good news out of all this is that I can focus more on songwriting, making music and ultimately circle back some to the film aspect, which is no longer a cub, but a ruthless, starving bear. A picnic basket isn’t going to be enough to satisfy Yogi.

This is a pretty important update because we have officially reached the 1 year mark on this project. The earliest rough draft of any tracks I have on this project dates back to May 27th, 2010, a really rough mp3 of Lactose Intolerant with my scratch vocals, as well as all of Ryan’s verses. The creative process is such an arduous pain. It is probably the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever subjected to myself through, but the more ambitious and broad your scope, the longer it takes to chip away at turning out something finished– and as anyone who creates knows, these things are never finished, you just force yourself to stop working on them and share it with as much as the world that cares to pay attention.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I am actually surprised that we have actual video footage filmed and collecting dust particles of bits and bytes on a hard drive somewhere, yet the actual project hasn’t really started in my opinion. One of my closest friends in college and I had a ritual of nicknaming everyone in any class we had together. If I explained the nuances and intricacies of properly and effectively doing this, it’d take pages, so I’m going to shorten it and say that these nicknames were essentially random. One of the better ones was ‘Hat Wizard’. In my mind, this phrase has almost no meaning, although I do know that when I coined it I was thinking of Merlin or some form of a wizard who wears a wizard hat. Now I know it was all foreshadowing. I’ve made huge strides on being a hat wizard, trying to effectively wear every hat I can, not only in hopes of using it to market my talents and dedication, but really because I have no choice but to.

This has been a year long musical odyssey and I have nothing to show for it– yet. This is a new horizon I’m arriving at. I spent this year drifting at sea, every morning seeing the same painting of yellows, reds, oranges and gold bouncing off an endless navy blue surface, each night watching it turn into an endless void of black sometimes hidden by the silver glow of the sky’s lunar guardian. Soon, I will wake up and find myself wandering an entire new space, new obstacles, asteroid fields and the irresistible pull of gravity from all directions until I reach that new horizon, that new planet of which, in the third phase, I will crash land on. But for now, I am still a sailor.

So, as I said a second ago, I still have nothing to show on this project. The reality of it is that I have nothing I am willing to show yet. In February I played a few rough mixes of a couple tracks for my dad. Up until then, nobody outside of two or three others had heard nary a thing I had produced. This was actually a pretty nerve wracking thing for me. For one, I don’t always like to show things to my family first, because the good and bad thing about that is that they will always be positive about it– especially a loving parent. I don’t always need that positivity, so I usually let myself wrestle with it on my own and get beat up for a while, then when I need that boost, I go to what I can count on. Secondly, as I covered in my first entry, my dad is a musician and I have never not known him to be anything else or less (those two words can spell each other), and as far as musicianship goes, I don’t feel like I hold a candle in any regard (though I also hold the opinion that I am better than him in every way when we interact with each other). As we all know, I’m newer to this in comparison to my other creative pursuits, but I guess I am not ‘green’ new thanks to my upbringing and guitar playing. Then there are a few other miscellaneous aspects, for instance, I have to do a lot of singing on this project. I don’t nor ever have considered myself a good singer. My dad and sister sing, and kind of as a result, I never have. I wouldn’t say I’m bad, but it isn’t one of those natural things for me (I’ve been working a lot on it in the past half year), so it is something I am not always comfortable with, merely because most people don’t know that I ever do. Funny, because every time I let someone new hear a track they never realize it is me singing. Basically, there were a lot more reasons why this was kind of nerve wracking, but it was done and he liked it.

Beyond that, he didn’t really hear anything more than that one time, so the other day I actually let him and my mom (who hadn’t been exposed at all) at some stuff– a mix of old and more recent stuff. The reception and what not is irrelevant, the point is that if I am feeling comfortable enough to do this, then I am almost comfortable enough to offer a true look at this project, and not just words. So here is my guarantee:

My next entry on this project will feature at least a few snippets of some of the tracks for my pseudo fictitious hip hop duo– of course, I may even put some stuff up on their soundcloud before then… so…. We will just see how it goes. I have to just finish tying a few knots on a lot of things, arrangements, mixing, some writing, recording here and there (this excludes the songs I’ve recently started on, but there are also good odds I finish a lot of those first because my process is better and my abilities are more refined).

 

There you have it. I’m pretty much going to leave it at this for now. Not much insight, or expounding on anything, just more of thing where I place a milestone in the ground for my own purposes.

Final thing I will say is that it is a total bitch (honestly the only substitute I can think of to replace this word is about 2 paragraphs long– I’m lazy) to come up with all this stage and group name nonsense. You’d think for a fake persona and group it’d be easy because it shouldn’t much matter, but there are so many external forces that it has to align with.

Be proud of me, I kept this under 1500 words.

Until next time folks,

Jack Wizzy

Lessons I’ve Learned From Disney

I am going to try to stay mentally engaged by writing a little bit so I can stay awake and carry on with the rest of my plans for today without sleeping through everything. It should be a simple enough setup for a moderate disaster, now just to wing it from here.

So I had a micro thought– like forty-five seconds ago, I was thinking to myself about Johnny Tsunami of Disney Channel fame. That movie came out in 1999. I was 12 or 13 years old at the time, and man, I loved that movie, much as I loved just about any Disney Channel Original movie that they grinded out, except that one, Double Teamed. That movie simply offended me on every level; as an athlete/basketball player, as someone who bases half of his moral philosophy on all of Federico Fellini’s work from 1950 – 1969, and mostly as a young man who had always dreamed of one day being able to reincarnate as a pair of twin sisters– one soul, two bodies– that became a highly unappealing dream after that movie, plus I don’t even believe in reincarnation anyway, so I had to move on.

Getting back to Johnny Tsunami, in 2007, the Disney Channel released Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board. For whatever reason, maybe even God’s calling, I just so happened to have the TV on and on the Disney Channel the very night and minute it premiered. Given how much TV I watch on the actual television these days, just having the set on was a major miracle. I was 20 years old. Given the rarity of such a cosmic alignment and coincidences, I had no choice; I watched the sequel.

Now let’s make one thing clear here, I don’t believe there is any type of sanctity protecting any TV movie franchise, especially not Johnny Tsunami (now Smart House, Luck of the Irish, or any one of the other ones that starred a young Ryan Merriman, well we can at least discuss their possibly sanctity), but I can’t ignore a few things. For one, I have a childhood memory of liking a Disney Channel Origianl Movie (I guess I might go ahead and start abbreviating it DCOM) about a kid, who was my age, who is a surfer, which was cool, and he had a grandfather, who was also a monster surfer, which was cool, who moves to Vermont and becomes a snowboarder, which was cool, and obvious, since surfing 20 ft. waves on a board is practically the same thing as surfing a 10,000 ft mountain; cool. Of course, much in the vein snow and mountains, this all avalanched into a snowball effect of coolness, he gets an attractive girl (well, she was attractive because Disney casted her in the role of the attractive girl that the protagonist gets, at least), he sticks it to the man (his dad) and ultimately makes some punk preppy pricks (like my dear pal, POOP aka Corey Griggs, because all Vermontians fit this stereotype) look like absolute CLOWNS; not of the Bozo or Krusty class even, but more of a Bello Nock level, and he isn’t even actually a clown, by standard definition, just a guy who’s always filled a clown’s shoes. Escalating levels of coolness for my vulnerable 13 year year old mind. So clearly, not holy in any regard, but still has a small stamp on that section of my heart reserved for things classified dear.

Finally beginning to put frayed threads of thought together, as soon as I got hit with this memory of Johnny Tsunami and his conquering of the Pacific Ocean, Vermont and what I assumed following the movie, the world, I was subjected to the awful reality of Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board– Johnny didn’t conquer the world, in fact, he wasn’t even cooler than me anymore (though when I was 20-21, I was probably at my peak coolness, probably guy with 3d glasses for a 2d movie level of cool, not bad, but not my goal of Pointdexter ranking from Toejam & Earl). It was almost as demoralizing as when you saw Benny ‘the Jet” Rodriguez in his Dodger’s years and just knew, albeit at a much later point in life than initial viewing, that some Hollywood prick was just playing games with you, because there is NO WAY The Jet would ever rep the mustache, especially not at that point in his pro career. Granted, The Sandlot is a movie that is anointed into the ranks of movie sainthood, so you learn to look past stuff like that, and the faith-shattering TWO sequels that they have released this decade, but here is the bottom-line: this sequel took a piece of my childhood, and discredited it.  And what are the implications of discredit? Well consider this, when I so happen to re-watch one of these pieces of my childhood, which while not happening often happens enough to matter, the only thing that keeps such a piece of entertainment protected from the razor sharp eye of criticism and willingness to make merciless incisions upon the material, with the same willingness and enjoyment as the stereotypical case of the plastic surgeon gone bad, is the fact that I do have this fond perception of it that stayed with me from my youth. Johnny Kapahala represented the American dream of coolness, as did Andy ‘Brink’ Brinker, and countless others who were created for that exact purpose. It is an antique curtain, of highly flammable material; Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board was a mere spark which exposed me to the harsh light and poisonous radiation of reality. Bummer.

So here we are, with a multitude of decently threaded ideas, time to finally try and braid it all into a solid rope. When you’re younger, you and your parents have this concept of anything that is made in the name of Walter Disney being both good (if not timeless) entertainment, while instilling valuable life lessons that uplift and educate fellow kids on the good in the world. When you get older, if you’re lucky and don’t become a parent too young, you learn that most things created in the name of Walter Disney is good capitalism and the greater picture gives us a clear image of yet another vandal in a land where nearly the entire population has caught the virus of vagrancy.

So what are some things I have really learned from Disney? Well look at some of the lessons they apparently learned from their long journey through the 20th century to the 21st; from a wonderland so brilliantly crafted by the prestigious minds of the Imagineers, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, to Beauty and the Beast, to the troubled history of The Land Before Time— all thirteen of them; from monochrome Davy Crockett to autotuned Hannah Montana– nothing is safe or precious if it can make you a buck or two and there’s no such thing as sloppy seconds.

Now, I’m not a historian, nor have I been alive long enough to really know, so without research I’m only making an educated guess relative to my knowledge of the timeline, but it seems like Disney spent much of the 80’s taking notes. For instance, I consider this the true rise to prominence of the sequel, you know, the one with the colon after the title followed by some obvious caption that must have been written by some hive mind intern. Now, you might convince me that the 70’s or 60’s or even 1820’s are the real decade responsible here, and you could make a good case for the 90’s, as that was likely the highest output of this class of sequel, but as it stands, I am certain it was the 1980’s. The output may not have been the highest, but it was like when the guys in suits had the big apple fall from the top of one of their sky scrapers and crush them, leaving their then brain-damaged heads with the realization that there was easy money to be made, thus paved the way for another gold road. It is already hard enough to make a decent movie, and I think there is a certain responsibility that any filmmaker who really loves what they do should have to at least try to have some kind of balance between entertainment and art. Obviously, with most things the best balance needs to favor entertainment, but the point is that there needs to be some art to it too. Without the art you have no heart, too much and you’re likely self-aggrandizing to the point of no return; balance. This ‘invention’ of the corporate sequel takes both of these key ingredients out.

What are we left with? Soulless celluloid, alive but not living. It eeks onto our screens and into our minds and hearts, as if it were exclaiming, “feed me!” Our children and parents of all ages are feasted upon by the living dead until their soul too, is devoured and a thirst for anything more than over-processed, synthetic marketing campaigns of arts and entertainment abandons us and never returns.

So did I really just assert what it seems I just did? You bet. I’ve learned the Disney is ultimately responsible for sucking the souls out of the populace, likely holding them captive in briefcases, which they use to store and refrigerate until they finally sell them to the devil, at a great profit. Furthermore single-handedly maintaining the world’s largest prostitution ring running, whoring out every one of the creations and machinations until we get the message; it is ok to be whores, Disney gives us the green light! Personally, I’ve felt less ripped off by Nigerian princes. Back in the day people used to get cool stuff for selling their souls to the devil, like guitar chops.

I will end this with a message of hope though– Disney hasn’t quite caught on to the’ reboot’ sensation of the 2000’s, yet. There have been a few signs of life here and there, but I guess when the new Tron finally drops, we will know how well they have been taking notes. Personally, I’d rather have the sequels.

closets full of ideas

The other day I was looking through all of my posts on wordpress– drafts, stuff I published and what not– and it turns out that I actually have been writing pretty regularly. I probably have 15 or so entries that were either finished, or more than 70% written and I’ve just never published them.

I’m not really sure why, but I am currently thinking that a lot of it has to do with a slight deviation between speaker and writer/author. I’ve been writing a lot of stuff, which despite a lot of it being heavily wedged between the roots of my life, also has a lot interwoven of which is from someone else’s life; partial fiction, partial reality. In line with this thought, I’d imagine it is just too much trouble to be actually publicly displaying smudged writings. Maybe I’ll change my mind on this, or realize I am wrong about my theory entirely, but for now none of that will change.

The more interesting portion of all this is that is the reason; why am I writing these cross entries that represent a very out of focus picture of my life. I could come up with answers for days, and that signifies the multiplicity of pretty much everything. I’m not interested in completely breaking down something that won’t get more than 60 minutes of thought in the next 6 months, but I would like to at least get something out of the hour or so of thought that will be spent.

Call this the optimist within me– yes, yes, he is in there hiding somewhere, much akin to a political minority on the same scale as the independent party candidate in the U.S. Presidential election– but I think the first thing to note is that it is a corporeal representation of the fact that I have ideas. Substantial proof that I have a lot of ideas going through my mind these days. I wouldn’t consider everything a bleeding of ideas though. My thoughts aren’t just hemorrhaging and seeping into every other thought around them, but I think it is a subconscious representation of many things. For one, I’m not trying to write fiction, but I have a few entries that border on the line of being short stories; straight up. I don’t want to be writing short stories though, I mean, when I sit down and write the stuff I have zero intention of writing a short story, or any such work of written fiction. I’m just writing. I just get ideas and I want them down in words, whether highly abstracted and more stream of conscious, or something that resembles a narrative format. Of course, when I think about it consciously, it seems apparent that I just don’t want to risk the misconception.

On that angle, maybe I’ll get over it and just put the stuff up for the heck of it, I know my intentions after all, and nobody can convince me I did something I didn’t. In fact, having this internal dialogue with myself on it, I probably have given myself enough of a ‘screw it, I have ideas, I’m writing them however I want and posting them, so screw all of you’ attitude to probably starting excessively posting these idea based things. I need to be able to steal from myself in the future anyway.

Bobbing back into my subconscious, I think I can also say that a lot of it helps cover up thoughts and feelings that hit me from time to time. You know those alien thoughts and feelings that come into your mental orbit and briefly streak across the sky of your consciousness and don’t return for years? Those kind of thoughts and feelings– often dark, or conflicting, maybe troubling, foreign, or something straight out of the mind of that evil twin you have running around somewhere.

From there, I don’t really have any take on it though. Am I trying to not vilify myself? Am I trying to maintain a conceptualization of myself that is antiquated? Maybe I’m just trying to spare everyone else of having to deal with the kind of thoughts and emotions that we likely have to battle with from time to time. I don’t have any clue, but I will say that as a best friend of mine once noted when talking about his creative process (and I very very loosely paraphrase– so loosely I’m not even close to paraphrasing), “By letting myself work through the darker side of my thoughts and myself, I am able to work out ideas I have into more balanced end results, or that can better show the good out there.” Heck, I really just paraphrased a lot of myself, but rather think that he said something that pretty much was exactly inline with my own views on such things.

In the end, this all falls in the line with the well-known fact that being associated with us creative types (especially the writers for some reason) is an association that is apt to go through many moments that you won’t find in typical means. From saying one foolish sentence which can inspire thousands and thousands of words, to what can seem like a self-expose (imagine there is an accent over that e) of an insane, depraved person. Regardless, I have a closet of ideas collecting dust, so soon I’ll either do some spring cleaning or just move that crap up to the attic for 25 years.