Saturday, July 26, 2014

Watching Death From A Distance

I had to watch my beloved mother-in-law die in Murfreesboro, TN, three hours from the home my wife and I share in Cordova.  My wife was there for her mother in her last days.  I stayed here to watch the house, although if the vehicle we're using these days wasn't her uncle's aged pickup truck but rather something sturdier, I would have made the drive to be there.  It wouldn't have been easy for me, because I don't deal with death well, but I would have done it.

I'm sure I've talked on this blog somewhere about my emotions when my mother died in 1986 when I was ten years old.  I basically shut down emotionally, refusing to go to her bedside for her final days and refusing to go to her funeral.  Pretty immature, even for a ten-year-old, but I guess I just wanted to pretend it didn't happen or that it wasn't a big deal, even though it was the most shocking moment of my life.  I haven't had to deal with much death since.  My grandmother raised me after my mom died, then she kicked in 1994 right after I completed high school.  She had been sick, so it wasn't a big shock, and I was able to absorb that loss much easier.  I've attended two funerals since--my grandmother's two brothers around a decade and a half ago.  So my reaction to seeing my mother-in-law dying had I been there probably would have been some version of an emotional shutdown because it was a sudden and swift illness--an ovarian cancer and kidney failure combo--and I would have been in a position with which I'm not very familiar.  My wife said she wanted me there to support her during that very stressful two weeks, but I'm not sure if I would have provided anything besides a shoulder.

My wife had to watch it happen right in front of her, and she's been dealing with it predictably, sobbing at Outback during our first dinner after she returned home.  I basically got a play-by-play over the phone for that two-week period--the hospital stay, the surgery, the complications, the digestive system breakdown, the dialysis treatments, the doctor's conflicting diagnoses, the eventual decision that it wasn't going to work out and the in-home hospice care that wasn't very caring on the final night.  My wife was the last voice she heard.  "Don't be afraid to walk into Jesus's arms," my wife whispered to her, and seconds later, she stopped breathing.  I was asleep when she died.  My wife called four times, then finally gave up and texted me, "Mom just died."  When I saw all the missed calls the next morning, I knew before I even read the text.

It was a rough couple of weeks for me.  You may not think it would be seeing that I wasn't there watching it happen like my wife was.  And I'm not saying it was anywhere near as rough as she had it.  But I had shit going on inside of me as well.  I had a lot of guilt for not being there for my wife, and also not being there for my mother-in-law, who I'm sure would have liked to have my support.  I had a deep sense of loss because I just gained a new mother three years ago when I married her only daughter, and before I could really have a bonding conversation or some kind of intimate talk where we get beneath the surface and really get to know each other, she was gone.  I had a nagging guilt for signing up for scoring Memphis Redbirds baseball games once I knew my wife was going to be in Murfreesboro for a while, before we knew her mother was dying.  The night she died, I was asleep because I was tired from working a baseball game that day and then driving to a wrestling match that night.  I guess I felt like taking advantage of my bachelor status to enjoy myself to the fullest, but afterwards, I always felt like a little turd, running around like a kid whose parents left town and left him the car.  And naturally, there was the mortality that everyone contemplates when someone close dies.  I've had issues with my mortality ever since I almost passed out during that cruise last summer, and almost every day, I choose to eat bad foods and not exercise and I beat myself up for doing it and I wonder how many days can I waste doing that before I pass out permanently, and then I do it again the next day.  Yes, that's a really crappy way to live, and I'm going to see a therapist next week.

The memorial service was very nice, but the moment that got to me emotionally was a little odd, which is perfect for me since I feel a little odd every second of my life.  It was seeing a poster board at the entrance of the church where well-wishers could write messages for the deceased, and the first message was from two women who were longtime friends of my mother-in-law.  They dubbed themselves "The Three Musketeers."  When the minister asked for volunteers to share memories, one of the Three Musketeers was the first to stand up, before any family members or other friends, and something about hearing her speak made me think about the only friend I have, "Jacob," and what he's going to say at my memorial (probably some off-color stories).  That touched me.  Seeing friends cry hard and talk about how much they missed their buddy reminded me of how fortunate you are if you have friends who love you that much.  Or maybe I was affected by the thought of how many people I knew during my time on Earth who wouldn't be at my funeral because we have lost touch.  Or because they don't care about me.  I try to be a tough guy on the outside and act like I don't give a fuck about anyone who did me wrong, but I guess I'm not as tough as I try to be.  I hate that "Ronnie" and I spent that much time together and we won't be there for each other now that we're older and hopefully more mature.  I hate all those moments I spent with "Karen" and "Torrie" and "Sarah" and The Co-Worker Who Shall Remain Nameless and "Giselle," none of whom I anticipate ever seeing again.  I hate that I'm nowhere near my family and Jacob and "Drew" logistically, so if I do keel over after another chicken tender at Gus's, they wouldn't be able to make it down here in time to say goodbye.  All those thoughts flashed before me during the service.  I stood up and spoke about my mother-in-law, about how nice she was to me, as she was to everyone, and how she had four pictures from our wedding on her shelves, which is three more pictures than we have of our own wedding.  Then we sat around at the church for a few hours sharing stories and fellowship and, for some of us, bringing the excruciating last few weeks to a close.

We'll be dealing with the aftermath for a while emotionally and in a tangible way.  My wife has to slog through a lot of paperwork in settling the estate, and soon we'll have to drive back to the home and clean it out in preparation to try to sell it.  We have her mother's car, a Honda Accord, and my wife bequeathed me her mother's laptop computer, so there are daily reminders of her here at home.  We'll be planning a trip to Florida to scatter her mother's ashes into the ocean.  What my wife has told me she has really taken away is how loved her mother was.  People came through to wish her well during her illness, and no one had an ill word for her ever.  "I have big shoes to fill," my wife said.  We should all have such a legacy.

Rest in peace Mama Howell.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Four Words For The Next Elliot Rodger: They're Not Worth It

That could have been me.

I watched a couple of Saturdays ago, ironically the weekend of the tenth anniversary of me spending Memorial Day weekend in a psych ward, as CNN reported on the shootings near the campus of California-Santa Barbara carried out by a male teenage virgin frustrated at emotional and sexual rejection by girls, and I had to think about my own mental frailties when it came to women.  There have been many killings over the years by people who were pushed over the edge by the treatment of others, but this and the Columbine killings spoke directly to me.  Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were bullied and punished daily by high-schoolers who felt they didn't fit in, and the result of that was Columbine, and I almost got their names tattooed on me when it happened because I could identify.  I don't necessarily condone killing people who make you feel bad, but like Chris Rock would say, "I understand."  The same goes for Elliot Rodger.  I don't condone stabbing guys and running over random people before opening fire on more random people, but I get it.  Rodger felt like the last guy in the world that girls would desire, and living with that thought was too much for him.  Nobody gets that more than me.

Even before the situation with "Karen" made me decide to check myself into a mental institution in May 2004, I had thoughts about women and society and rejection that could have morphed into me going homicidal if I wanted access to firearms.  I can't pinpoint where in my childhood I went off the rails, but I still remember the names of my kindergarten (Laurie), 1st grade (Petra), 2nd grade (Margaret), 3rd grade (Kyra), 4th through 6th grade (Lisa), junior high (Tammi), and young adult crushes, all unrequited, and how disappointed and angry I got when I didn't get what I wanted.  I've learned from the media coverage of Rodger that there's a name for what I was feeling--Entitled.  Funny, I never felt like I was entitled, but if the experts say I did, I guess it must be true.  Anyway, I endured puberty with the raging hormones and active imagination of many males my age, but I also had obesity, a penchant for overdramatizing, a lack of class, and an obvious desperation, probably stemming from losing my mother at age ten.  So it's not surprising looking back that I wasn't successful.  But the pain of being what Rodger and certain chat room occupants of his ilk would call "InCel," or involuntarily celibate, hurt very badly.

I didn't have a manifesto exactly, but I have a black folder of poems and songs and short stories that I wrote over the course of my twenties, when I was coming up with writing ideas and being creative, before gambling and depression and everyday living sapped me of the energy.  Here's a small sampling of the anger and resentment of women that pumped through me back then:


Thought you were a nice girl
Then I saw you drunk
Thought you had good taste in men
Then I saw you with that punk
My Last Endeavor

...Why do so many feel the need to hurt me
When all I'm looking for is hope?
If I open up to many more users
I may reach the end of my rope

This is my last endeavor
I can't take much more pain
This is my last endeavor
Think I'm gonna go insane...

...I discover that women are brought up with the notion that the intelligent kid with the innocent qualities and physical flaws is the worst available.  Beat up women?  More desirable than me.  Do drugs?  Smoke?  Hey, that's sexy today.  Have a horrible personality but work out?  You can't keep the girls away from you.  Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a parallel universe.  This world makes no Goddamn sense.
What's It Like?

What's it like to be beautiful?
To look good and be adored?
What's it like to receive attention?
I'd like to know

What's it like to be with someone?
Someone who is there for you?
What's it like to have an actual partner?
I'd love to know...

They say you must love yourself
Before anyone else can
But they don't say what it's like
When no one else cares
When you don't matter
To the rest of the world...
Self-Loathing: The Remix

...Where's my soul mate, where's my love
Women want to use me and then drop me from above
Step on my broken heart with their six-inch heels
And no one else in the world knows how it feels...

And there's so much more:  The rape fantasy short story about a woman who rejected me in real life (she falls for me and has real sex with me at the end), the outline for a longer story, or maybe a novel, called "The Greatest Summer Of My Life," which was about a fed-up young man seeking out every woman who scorned him and going on a killing spree...yes, it was that bad in my head for a long time.  I haven't actually found any of Elliot Rodger's manifestos or videos and watched them because, frankly, I'm frightened at how much like me he might sound.  I don't need to be confronted with precisely how sociopathic I might have been at the apex of my anger at the world.  I'm legitimately surprised at how much of my writing was just that angry.  I mean, I knew obviously, but I didn't realize to what extent.

Again, I'm the guy that blew a gasket at a woman secretly running a sex club even though I was cheating on her, so my irrational anger at women is already very well-documented on this here blog.  There are other recountings of my dealings with girls and women through the years, but I don't want to list them on this post.  My point is, if you didn't think you knew of a man carrying the kind of nuclear hatred that it took for Rodger to do what he did, look around.  You may be surprised.  And if you're male and you didn't think other guys understood your struggle, well, most of them don't, but I do.  And I've come out the other end of that shit to tell you that eventually, believe it or not, no matter how lonely you are, it turns out alright.

Ignore the fact that I'm married to a sweet, intelligent woman who's way out of my league in terms of how good she is.  It started to get better before I met her.  Going back to my blog postings in 2006, after the "Shelley" experiment in which I dated the most vile, mean woman in the world just to see how long she would treat me like shit, I was showing signs of figuring out that whole "Love yourself" thing that I referenced in the above poem "What's It Like?"  That was the whole key.  I had to finally realize that I have to take care of myself in this world above anything else, and if I meet someone along the way, fine, but that's not the purpose.  In other words, the pussy ain't worth the struggle.  Now, figuring that out came at the same time as passing age 30, which now, at age 38, sure feels like I passed some threshold where my testosterone has dropped off drastically and took the edge off.  So perhaps it goes hand-in-hand with mentally coming to grips with the fact that no one else was going to give a fuck about me.  But I know this:  From puberty to about that same age 30, I was a ravenously horny young man, willing to screw anything that moved, and my pursuit of sex consumed me and made me make some incredibly shitty decisions, and that cut off after "Grace" the one-night stand, which happened two weeks after my 30th birthday.  I must admit, I don't miss feeling like getting pussy is the beginning and end of my existence.

But I actually feel terrible for the guys who are still sort of prisoners of their own cocks, unable to see their lives past the asses of the girls walking in front of them.  It sucks.  From what I've heard of the guys who got laid regularly, it still sorta sucked because without meaning, it was a series of empty endeavors.  My problem was, once I got a nice run of empty endeavors, I put meaning behind them where my partners weren't necessarily looking for that.  So what would I suggest for the young men who feel like me and like Elliot Rodger?

This three-step process:  First, no matter how hard it is, tell yourself that they're not worth it.  If you're being driven crazy by ladies choosing other guys over you, I empathize, but you need to stop.  Women will do what they want with their bodies and their hearts, and if you do what you can to persuade them and it doesn't work, that's not the be all and end all.  It's their loss.  Some will even use your lust of them against you and tease you.  It's okay.  You're going to listen to your lovers and please them in and out of bed and treat them as well as possible, and if you keep striking out, that's just a long list of females that missed out on an opportunity.  Second, you have got to keep steppin' and do your thing.  I had to talk to myself in a mirror for a full hour in order to start the process of living my life for myself and not for the pursuit of pussy.  Whatever you have to do, do it.  But at the end of the day, you have to come to the realization that there is a world out there chock full of things that bring you pleasure, whether it's sports, art, music, food, television, movies, or sitting in a park looking at petunias, or cars, or the clouds, or whatever.  You have your career, your education, your health, your living space--you have a plethora of things on which to focus and improve yourself and be the best you can be.  The pussy almost definitely will come once you focus on those things--"love yourself"--because people are more attracted to those who are not desperately seeking love.  Seems a little cruel and unfair, but that's how it works.  Third, there is a media assault on libidos for the sake of selling things, and I think if you're frustrated by girl problems, you should avoid images and news that throw it back in your face.  It's in our nature as men to find beauty in women, so it's very difficult to take our eyes away from them, but you may have to.  Use the information that men respond to visual stimulation to your advantage and avoid that stimuli.  Nothing drove me crazier than seeing couples walking around because to me it was a gaggle of women choosing someone other than me and telling me to fuck off by parading in front of me.  They weren't doing that on purpose, of course.  But if it hurts to see hot women because you want them so bad, then don't look at them.  The knockout in your classroom every day that gives you a hard-on just walking through the hall?  You control your eyes, not her.  Look somewhere else.  The porn star in your dreams every night?  If you're starting to obsess, find a new hobby.  Can't believe Kim Kardashian married that prick Kanye?  Don't go to looking for the latest updates.  That red-headed hottie in the car commercial?  She's there to sell cars, dumbass.  She doesn't care about you.  It's not easy to avoid beautiful women, but if they're driving you nuts, then they're not worth the short-term pleasure of looking at them.

And finally, you can add this as a last step because it's made a big difference for me:  Stop caring what women think of your thoughts and desires.  You're never going to arrive at a stage of enlightenment until you're honest with yourself about what you're going through.  I hid a lot of my frustration because I was afraid of what women would think.  I didn't hide all of it, but I've only let two people sift through that black folder full of my innermost rage--an older woman who acted as sort of a surrogate mother, and my wife.  I felt shame for years and years.  I felt like I was the only man going through these issues.  Only now that I'm older do I realize that if I had spoken more openly about my feelings, I would have found others wanting to have a similar dialogue, and by talking more, I would have rid myself of some of the rage that made me write those hateful things.  When I think of where I am now mentally, it's so much different than it was back when I was Elliot Rodger's age.  I'm telling all you guys feeling like him, hang on.  Life gets better.  Navigate those tough waters, as hard as it is and as long as it takes, because life does get better.  Even if I were single today, it would still be better.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Can't Sleep, So I Type

Ever since I got this CPAP mask for my sleep apnea, it's been a very rare occasion when I have not been able to go back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night.  But this is one of those nights, which is now not night but rather early Saturday morning before I trudge off to work.  I've been awake for two hours but it's felt like all night, and I actually don't know why.  I didn't have caffeine after my second cup of coffee yesterday morning.  I may have been a little amped up watching the two college basketball games that ended around the same time last night after 11P, but I managed to fall asleep within an hour of those conclusions.  I just woke up around 3:30A and never fell back asleep.  I may have had failed relationships on my mind subconsciously because I ran through them in my mind as I attempted to fall back asleep, but it didn't work to make me sleepy this time, just more and more anxious.  So I'm typing out some of my anxieties in an attempt to help the time pass before I have to shower and go to work, and also to try to hash out some of what could be on my mind that made me not fall back asleep for the first time in a long, long time.

Before the thoughts of past failed relationships clouded my head a couple of hours ago, I had a somewhat stressful past week living the ups and downs of the college basketball tournament, and that certainly needs to be explained by me because the tournament by itself is no reason to stress anyone out.  But you may have heard about billionaire Warren Buffett announcing the concept of giving away one billion dollars--$1,000,000,000!!--for free to any schlub who signed up for his bracket challenge and submitted a perfect bracket, that is, predicted all six rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament correctly before the tournament began.  That's a 64-team bracket, 63 games to predict correctly, and the odds of anyone doing it are so astronomical that I won't even go Google it again because it's depressing.  But I signed up anyway because I always sign up for these bracket challenges, even when the prize is a Best Buy gift card or something else relatively meaningless, because it's always free to sign up for these things, and why can't I have the best bracket someday?  I can get lucky, right?  Well, the first day of the tournament was last Thursday, and I was off work because it's my normal off day, and so I got to watch live as the first game of the day was an upset that I predicted correctly...then the rest of those first games all went in my favor...then the second slate of games all went in my favor...then I started humblebragging on Twitter about my perfect afternoon...then Dove Men + Care started Tweeting at me from out of nowhere asking for my upset picks for the evening games, of which I only had one...then the evening games played out in unreal fashion with three different overtime nail-biters, including one where the team I picked was losing by double digits late in the game but somehow rallied to force OT, and then all of those picks won, including my only upset pick of the night...then I go to sleep and wake up to see that the late games all went my way, capping off a perfect 16-0 first day.  I went to work absolutely flying high.  My brain kept bouncing the impossibility of a perfect bracket off the improbability of a perfect first day, and if I did that, why couldn't I keep it going, even though it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with which random team of 20-year-olds would decide not to show up that day and lose a game they should win?  And what would my wife and I do with a billion dollars, and if Warren Buffett offered a buyout with three games to go, should I take it or negotiate or let it roll, and...the first game of the second day was Duke getting upset by some school I never heard of, and there went the dream.  I had to watch the score slowly updating on my phone because I was on my lunch break, so that made it even more excruciating than if I were watching live.  At least watching I can curse at the screen or something.  The real stress came when I got home that night and read the rules of the Warren Buffett bracket contest and saw that the top 20 brackets each won $100,000.  This money was absolutely within my grasp because I didn't have to have a perfect bracket, but rather just have a bracket better than almost everyone else, and that's still right there for me because I had only lost one game through the first 24 played, and I can pay all my bills and get a new car with that money, and go back to school, and it's still life-changing...and then I lost two more games Friday night, and one of those teams was one of my Final Four, basically fucking up any chance I had of having a top-20 bracket.  I took more losses last weekend, and then last night, Louisville lost, and that was my championship prediction, and now there's completely no way I'm going to make anything off of this tournament, even with that perfect first day, and Dove Men + Care isn't Tweeting me anymore, and the podcast I did with "Jacob" the night before the tourney began documenting all of our picks that I thought would be out there as testament to my genius is instead just another set of ramblings by a loser, and I'm back to square one financially, and I don't know if that's the reason I couldn't sleep, but it may have been even though I really haven't thought about the game since it ended.  But if you know me or have read this blog, you know that it doesn't take a whole lot to set off insecurities inside me about being a loser in life and coming up short and not being good enough.

That brought me to lying in bed at 3:30A cycling through all of my failed relationships, not just women, although almost all of them women, but "Ronnie" and even my dad as well.  I didn't jump mentally to wanting to cycle through all of my failed relationships, that's just where my mind went hours after losing a big game in which I was invested even though I don't gamble any more.  When I lose, I feel like a big loser, and it weighs on me.  I guess that's why I was picking through all of my relationships, sexual or not.  Speaking of weight, that's another issue I've been battling lately.  I mean, I've always been a fat ass, but I had the health scare last year and the diabetes and high blood pressure crap my doctor dropped on me, and I improved my diet a little after that, but I've gone back to eating bad things, salty, sugary things, a lot, like, at least three sugary treats a day even when I don't intend to indulge, and I still feel like I could stop any time I really wanted to apply myself, but the truth is, I probably would fail at that too and cheat.  Unless I leave my wallet at home and refuse to bring cookies and candy into the house, I am going to indulge when I get that craving because that craving is almost as strong as a sexual craving that would make me take liberties with a woman because I want nothing more at that moment than that woman.  I'm sure there's a simple chemical explanation for it, but the same "I shouldn't but I can't help myself" craving that I have when I buy a sweet snack from the vending machine at work feels very much like the same craving I had when I was dating "Karen" but went on the internet and saw pictures of "Sarah" with clothespins on her nipples and sent e-mails to her telling her how hard she made my dick and how I had to have her.  It's the same craving I had when I was dating Sarah yet felt compelled to flirt online with her daughter "Elaine," and the same craving when I lied to Sarah over the phone and told her that my co-worker and I were having an innocent dinner date while that co-worker had her legs wrapped around my waist.  It feels like something bigger than me.  It feels like if I don't answer that urge RIGHT DAMN NOW, my mind is going to explode, and in one swift motion, I'm typing that e-mail to Sarah, I'm typing that IM to The Co-Worker Who Shall Not Be Named and asking her to fuck me, I'm in a hotel room trying to fuck Susan's daughter and her best friend, and once I get what I want, then everything's all good in my world, until I get that next craving.  (Oh, and I've had that craving occur during my marriage.  I've stopped myself from indulging other women, but I remember how strong that craving was when I was in my 20s, and I don't think I would have stopped myself.)  The problem with answering the food urge is, I'm close to 400 lbs. and feel like shit most days, and I'm going to Chicago next weekend and I have to get around using public transportation because I don't have a car up there, and however lazy I was when I lived there, I'm worse now because I don't have to walk anywhere, and I'm anxious because I'm going to not enjoy my time up there as much as I want because I'm going to be so tired, and it pisses me off.  I don't know with all this technology why I can't buy something that gets rid of 100 lbs. and gives me energy and lung capacity in about 15 minutes.  Oh, and my uncle has been arranging conference calls with the folks who went with him on that cruise last year to discuss another cruise next May to the Caribbean or maybe Cozumel, Mexico, and what happened on last year's cruise?  Oh yeah, my obese ass nearly passed out on the beach and had to be carted back to the boat.  So as much fun as my wife and I had, talking about a new cruise brings back in my mind the anxiety over losing weight, and saving the money to pay for it, which brings back the anxiety over missing out on free money because of the college basketball games, and really ties it all together for me.  Add in my coffee addiction (honestly, I can't go one morning now without a cup of coffee, and usually two), and my wife and I not connecting well lately between our being tired from work and all of the attention I pay to sports, and somewhere in all of that is the reason I was so anxious that I couldn't fall back asleep three and a half hours ago.  And now it's time for me to go to work.  This should be some day.  I imagine with my lack of sleep and dredging up all sorts of old memories, I'm liable to snap and curse someone out if they get on my bad side.  Hope I still have a job next time I write.