Tuesday, December 31, 2013

(Not so) Descriptive words

The past few months I’ve been called a few things that have really hit a nerve. Nothing really devastating, but still it’s enough that I’ve been thinking about them and decided they were worthy of a blog.

So I’ve been called “Comfortable”, “Clingy” and “Weak” (or “not strong”). I have issues with each one of these, and figured I’d address them publicly

Comfortable: This word on the surface doesn’t seem like it would irritate anyone. After all, everyone strives for comfortable. That’s what you want. Like a blanket, or a warm fire. I may be different than everyone, but I hear the word “boring” when you say I’m comfortable. This descriptive word is kind of confusing to me. I perceive myself as anything but boring. I live a pretty eventful life, as regular readers of this blog can attest to. I’m well aware I do bring a comfortable vibe to those I meet. I’m not sure if this is a blessing or curse. On one hand I want people to feel comfortable with me. I want them to know there is nothing to fear. I’m a pretty complacent guy and I let very little bother me. On the other hand, people feeling immediately comfortable, particularly women, brings an immediate sense of disarmament. That can be unnerving to a lot of people. If you’re immediately comfortable with me. Then you have no reason to fear me upsetting you. This puts me at a huge disadvantage. If there is no fear of losing or upsetting me, then there is no risk involved in a relationship with me. I wish I could be an asshole. I wish I could legitimately threaten people with the fear of losing me. The problem is that I’m too understanding. I’m too predictable. I’m too… comfortable. That shouldn’t be a bad thing, but when I hear it applied to me, that’s what it sounds like.

Clingy: This one makes me particularly upset. One of the main reasons, is it’s true at some points. I am clingy at times. When I find something I like or enjoy, I put everything into it. I’ve learned over the years not to smother the things I love, but still I have every desire to spend as much time with either the thing or the person I’m interested in. Some may perceive this as clingy. The truth is just that I enjoy being with that thing or person. There is no obsession involved. I spent years being a lonely married man. I wanted to spend time with my ex, but it never happened. Why shouldn’t I want to spend as much time as I can with the things I love? The difference I’ve learned between being clingy or not is the ability to let someone do things on their own. I’ve learned this and accepted that people are individuals and their life doesn’t revolve around me. Yes I want to spend time with you, but I’m well aware that people need time to themselves.

Weak:  This last one is more amusing than hurtful to me. I’ve heard this many times in my years of relationships. It only those that truly know me that I am far from weak. Others perceive me as weak because I don’t immediately assert my dominance. My first instinct isn’t to fight, but to diffuse situations. This isn’t weakness by any means. I’m evaluating the situation. I’m letting my opponent make the first move. This isn’t weakness. This is true strength. A weak person charges into a situation without seeing what’s at stake. A weak man tries to insult his opponent. Tries to goad them into a response. This isn’t strength. The truly weak person tries to bring the other down to their level. A strong person isn’t afraid of a “weak” person. A truly strong person isn’t threatened or intimidated. If a supposedly strong person has to try to insult or upset a “weak” person into action, then who is really the “strong” one? I will fight back if pushed, but the truly strong person is the one that doesn’t need to fight in order to win.

Despite being annoyed by these words, I don’t mind them as much as this post may indicate. Call me these things. I’d rather you underestimate me. It makes my friends that see through the bullshit that much more special. That much more worthy of me and all I have to offer.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Little Things

I told someone how incredible they were the other day. They asked why I would say that? They didn't do anything special. I told them it wasn't anything in particular. It was the little things.

 The little things are what make a difference in life. It's what makes all the difference in the monotony of this modern world. It's the difference between winning and losing. It's the difference in being noticed or not. That one restaurant that you go to instead of the one that's a bit closer. You go there because they give slightly bigger portions. The waiter that remembers your drink earns a bigger tip than the one that just does her job. 

I've spent a lot of time on commercial airplanes and I've noticed that they keep taking away the little things in order to squeeze a little more savings, but I think the negative impressions they leave when they do this far outweigh the cost savings. I'll remember that one airline was stingy with sodas, or that another didn't have blankets anymore even though it was a red-eye. When it comes time to buy a ticket, that's a more deciding factor than price.

The little things are what make life special and set you apart from others. All the door holding, drink getting, and smiles add up in a big way. Sure, there are massive things that you can do, or happen to you, in your life that can make an immediate impact, but in the end it's the little things you notice and remember. 

I recently stayed at a B&B and even though the room was spectacular, I'll remember it for the homemade treats that awaited us in our room, and the custom breakfast we were served because we were the only guests that night.

You don't have to be the worlds greatest artist or be rich and buy things for everyone to leave a positive impression. Spend an extra minute making sure your outfit looks good. Take 5 minutes out of your way to grab some flowers on the way home. Take a friend out to lunch. Offer to carry that heavy box. Those little things will pay dividends in the end.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Roller Coaster of Life

     This past week was a roller coaster. Both figuratively and literally. It started with actual roller coasters Sunday at Six Flags, Discovery Kingdom, followed by a surprise on the way home. It ended with more roller coasters on a second trip to Six Flags, followed by some emotional roller coasters.

The generator of Screams
      I loved roller coasters as a kid. I couldn't wait until I was tall enough to ride the Cyclone at Lakeside Amusement Park in Colorado. I ran to the Scream Machine with my friends at Six Flags over Georgia.  As I got older, I began to hesitate getting on coasters. Maybe I was getting soft, or maybe in the advanced age of 17, I was now becoming aware of my mortality (maybe it had something to do with me getting scared to death on a ride called the “Free Fall”). I still enjoyed the speed, but hated the first drop after that long climb. Other than a brief stint of bravery when I went on my first coaster with a loop, I hadn't been on any “real” coasters since my early 20’s (Space Mountain, while fun, is not a real coaster). This changed (with a vengeance) last Sunday.

      Partially fueled by my current “do the opposite of what my minds says to do” philosophy, and mostly by the desire not to chicken out in front of my adult companion, I warmed up on the wooden “Roar” coaster, then proceeded directly to the second scariest-looking ride in the park, the Superman. It was a blast. I was like a little kid, nearly screaming “Again! Again!” (Yes, like you, Princess Sophia). The lines were incredibly short that day, so, other than chickening out before the V2 (I redeemed myself on the second visit), we managed quite a few coasters that day.

There's a reason you can't see the
entire drop in this pic
     While walking to the Medusa, which was the one I was most excited about because of the loops, my jaw fell when I saw the huge initial drop. I got myself on the coaster by telling myself that in order to get to all the loops which I wanted, I’d have to do the drop, which I was dreading. I dismissed this philosophical gem until later, when I was trying to encourage someone by using a paraphrased version of what I thought that day. It was then I realized that when people say life is a roller coaster, it’s actually a better analogy than you think.

Waiting in Line
The line is arguably the scariest part of any roller coaster. Not because of the wait (which is sucky, not scary) but because of the anticipation. You see car after car go by. You hear the screams. You have way
too much time to second guess things, and you can easily get out of line and abandon the ride at any time.

Much of life is spent waiting in some sort of line. Since our society is dominated by the clock and calendar, we have to make appointments; plan things out, and make a plethora of decisions. Unfortunately, like the roller coaster line, the time waiting for these scheduled events is sometimes spent over-thinking and over-planning things. This leads to second-guessing and doubt. When the line is short, like our day at Six Flags, you have less time to think and more time to react, and in return, whether things turn out good or bad, you get to experience more out of life.

Strapping In (and the climb)
With the exception of the infamous “pass-through-to-the-exit technique”, once you sit in the seat, you’re committed. You’re strapped in, rapidly climbing to the dreaded drop, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

This is what happens when you commit to something. A new relationship, not taking that less fulfilling, but higher paying job, going back to school, or even ordering dinner. Once you say “yes” (or “no”), it’s time to strap in and see what happens. While it’s a little easier to get out of real life commitments than a roller coaster seat, the consequences are the same. You feel ashamed, a little embarrassed, and in some cases you have a whole crowd looking at you. Worse, you let down your companions who now have to ride next to an empty seat.

The Drop
The free fall can be either frightening, thrilling, or a little of both. That climb built up your adrenaline and you are no longer in control of where this thing is going. Like I alluded to earlier, despite how the fall makes you feel, it’s the only way to get to the loops, dips and turns.

In life, the drop is when you launch yourself into your commitment and things aren’t under your control. It’s the hard part that you have to go through to get to the good stuff that led you to making the commitment in the first place. It’s that moment after you say “I quit”, when you announce to your parents “I’m pregnant”, when you hit “send” to prospective publishers of that first novel, or when you tell your crush that you’re falling in love with them. You put yourself out there, and now it’s up to either another person, or life, to react.

The Loops, Turns, and Ups & Downs
This is the heart of the coaster. Some of it’s fun. Some of it’s scary. You’re up. You’re down. You’re sideways. Sometimes even backwards.

If much of life is spent waiting in line, this is the part when you’re really living it. Everything has the potential to go in any direction, and the majority of the time it’s up to you to make the best of it, even if you’re holding on for dear life. The highs and lows are all part of it, but one secret I’ve learned is that that both produce great stories. You’ll retell the tale of the time you caught the biggest fish in the lake (and leave out the part of how you never wanted to go in the first place). The tale of the girl who broke your heart can serve as a warning to others, and better yet, serve as a prelude to how you met the love of your life. Those eight hours spent in the ER fixing your broken leg may well be worth relaying the awesome time you spent skiing with your friends.

Some coasters are fast and furious; others seem to last forever with limitless momentum. Either way, it’ll eventually slow down without an additional boost. Recognize and enjoy the moment.

The Ride Back
Once you pass the final loop, turn, or drop, your car has used up all its momentum and you have a little moment of calm as you slowly move to the unloading area. You have a little down-time to reflect on whether you enjoyed yourself or not, and begin making a decision on whether you want to go again, change seats, or try a new ride.

Every once and a while in life, you’ll find a comfortable lull. This is the time for self-reflection. You stop and look at your life and have an opportunity to see if you want to continue, make a change, or try something new. Use this time wisely, because it’s usually over before you know it and you could be either be forced to keep riding or kicked off, all because you weren't paying attention.

     Approach life as you would a coaster. That way you’ll always know that the frightening drops lead to the fun of the twists and turns. You’ll know that if you like it, you can commit to keep riding. If you don’t, you’ll be aware that all coasters run out of momentum and you’ll be given an opportunity to get off at some point. The ride is what you’re living for. It’s what all the time and effort goes towards. Enjoy it all, because when you’re not on the coaster, you’re stuck waiting in line.