Saturday, June 7, 2008

Writing Plans

Well, it's Saturday, can you believe it?! That means I actually made it through the week! I think I put in a total of around 12 hours of overtime. I was kind of stressed out about trying to get everything done in time to be able to go with my wife to her brother's wedding yesterday too. Neither him nor his wife seemed to care much that I was there, I felt a bit snubbed when they came up and talked to Tara and pretty much ignored my existence. On the bright side, though, my daughter and my son were wonderful. They looked very nice in their outfits and made a perfect Flower-girl / Ring-bearer.
At the reception they had a fountain with Belgian chocolate that you could dip strawberries and marshmallows and several other things in. It was delicious! Now, I've seen and tasted the regular chocolate fountains, but they could have very well been flowing with liquid charcoal compared to this fountain of tasty goodness. Everything was beautiful. It was a very nice ceremony, the reception had a wonderful atmosphere. There was even a 4-person orchestra playing in the corner. I was impressed.

So, about being snubbed... It happens. In fact, it happens to me quite a bit. I think it's my not-so-sunny disposition, in most cases anyway. My wife's brother is the type of person who will be talking with you and when you are in mid-sentence he will turn to someone else and start talking to them instead. I hate those situations. You really want to finish verbalizing your thought, but you know any attempt to do so would be in vain. He's gone. So, you let your voice trail off and look around contemplating what you should focus your attention on so as to appear totally consumed and unaware that you were just the victim of certain rudeness. It's awkward.
There are certain circumstances where you just can't help how people will act towards you. Other situations can be changed greatly by the way you carry yourself and your general mannerisms. I am actually quite aware of these things. Unfortunately, coping mechanisms we develop to protect ourselves in bad situations can bleed over to situations that should be good and generally wholesome. When I was in the military I began having trouble breathing around jet fuel. I was one of the guys that drove around in big green trucks with 6,000 gallon tanks and pumped fuel into the jets and cargo planes. I was the all-American supa-troop until I started having problems. I went from the model Airman to the Dirtbag. I was openly accused of faking my problems by upper management. A Senior Master Sergeant had no qualms telling me that as soon as my condition cleared up, I could get back to normal duties and non-extended work hours. The Chief Master Sergeant told me to my face that I was a liar. It's funny, I probably wouldn't have minded as much if he told me that he thought I was lying, but when you are called a liar by one of the top ranking enlisted members, it has a different effect than you would have previously thought.
Anyway, as time wore on I stopped being as outgoing and started being more withdrawn. My constant smile that I had perfected over years of hardship turned hard and instead of a look of empathetic inquisitiveness my eyes glared with suspicion. People who had been my friends before now laughed as they made me take out their trash and snickered before walking across the floor I was mopping with their muddy cold-weather boots. I lived in that atmosphere for over a year before they finally completed the medical disqualification process and had a training date for me to change jobs. Over a year of being a sub-form of life and being hated for what they believed was a conscious choice. To them I was just a selfish person taking up a manning slot. The weakminded were quickly convinced that I was causing them each to work extra hours and making their lives miserable. They didn't care how many times I missed lunch or how many Saturdays I worked after a full work week without even a full day's notice.
I guess I started 'looking angry all of the time' because I got tired of people thinking they were better than me. Looking back, it was the lazy thing to do, I changed because I couldn't change other people and dealing with it every day hurt. Maybe saying it was lazy isn't being fair... but saying I did the best I could isn't exactly honest, is it? Old habits die hard and being closed off and not vulnerable seems safe enough and it's easy to sit and observe things without being bothered. I queitly watch people and situations unfold and I absorb mannerisms and determine motives, I can roll these things into believable characters because I have an understanding of how and why people do a lot of the things they do. I used to be empathetic and I tried to listen and be there for people. Somewhere along the line that became bothersome, probably when it felt hopeless that anyone would ever reciprocate for me.
So, what does it take? How do you break out of that shell you've created without exposing too much and risking an ultimate withdrawl back into the shadows? It requires effort and consistent kindness. Notice I didn't say constant kindness. No one should ever be expected to be constantly kind, but kindness on a consistant basis never hurt anyone. Also, the knowledge that kindness is not weakness, but a subversive demonstration of strength is a wisdom that must be tempered by fire. Anyone who believes a kind person is a weak person, an easy target for manipulation and exploitation, should question their own intelligence. They have confused 'kind' with 'simple' - a mistake that could prove deadly, after all, we've all heard that some experts can kill with kindness, a more clever weapon has never been forged.
Perhaps that would be a good subject for a piece of writing... a person who kills with kindness, and not in the way that people like to say when they are normally oppressed. Being nice to people who are being rude to you takes a resolve much greater than I possess. I think I would rather actually kill someone with kindness, literally. It would be amusing to find out how someone would go about killing with kindness and how they would come about such a course of action. Would it be a result of seemingly dim-witted do-gooding or would it be the result of perfectly planned good-doing? Interesting.

So, this post has been full of things I would normally never tell any of you and things I should never tell any of you. Pain is best left unspoken and talked about only after you've died. Thus far the post has naught to do with the title, Writing Plans. Here it is, this weekend I will be putting together a few posts for Tam at Fighting with Writing. Tam's been going through some tough life changes recently and I've always enjoyed his blog. Sometimes when life is at the forefront of your attention, a blog seems an insignificant responsibility. An unfortunate side effect of putting a blog on the back burner is that people stop visiting when you stop updating. When people stop visiting it's easy to decide to throw in the towel and focus on other things. While I admit that I do see a day when I will no longer be blogging, I am not ready to see that day come for Tam. That's why I am going to give him a few guest posts that he can mix in with his regular updates so he can take a day off here and there without suffering too many blogging set-backs. He can use them at his discretion and I am not doing this to promote my own blog and won't mind if he chooses never to publish a single one. This is just a gift from one guy who has been through a period of hard times, to another guy who is going through a hard transition.
If you get a minute, and you've enjoyed Tam's blog in the past, please drop by and give him some words of encouragement.

Creative Writing Prompt:


Jena Isle said...

Brady, I usually just scheme and move on, with long personal posts like this one -
( self-examination). But I liked this just as I liked your creative ventures. Your words were smooth and they tugged at my heartstrings.

More so, because I can relate to it. People I know, most often accused me of being kind to a fault. They say that I should not be kind always, that people abuse me because of my kindness.

I agree with you that it takes strength of character to be kind, in spite of the unpleasant actions of other people. It is easier to be mad and to get back at them. Maintaining your composure and being unaffected takes a lot more courage.

But could you imagine yourself sleeping soundly (because you are kind and refused to get mad) and the person who got mad at you, tossing in bed restlessly because of his rage? That would be a good revenge, wouldn't it be?

Oftentimes, people misjudge us; but we should not be bothered by whatever impression they have of us, because only we - know the truth about ourselves, and that is what counts most. It takes strength of character to behave well when people are rude. But this is one instance in which one can see the difference between a "man" and a "boy" (with regards to character).

You have great talent and this is your gift. Lots of people don't have this zest for writing, but you do.

It was a good post. Thanks for sharing.

Laura Brown said...

I've read a story where they did kill with kindness. It was all the planned do-gooding type. I forget how it came about, what started things. But it was a woman killing her overbearing husband with kindness. She just kept feeding him, jumping up to do or get whatever he wanted. He became a full time couch potato, unable to get out of his big chair. She went on with her life. Started doing the things she had wanted to do. He was unable to do anything to help himself. I forget how it ended. But my ending would show his arm waving over the armrest of the chair, his voice fading, still calling for her to fetch him something and yet realizing he hasn't seen her a few days and she isn't likely coming back. I like a story with an evil twist. They can't all be goodie goodie and yet I don't like anything gruesome. Evil should have a sense of humour.

I've always been a nice person. Many people make the mistake of thinking I'm an easy mark cause I'm nice and feeble minded or extremely honest or gullible too. Sometimes I am but as I get older I'm also becoming a little more selfish and able to say no.

I understand about having a bad reaction to the fuel you were working with. My ex husband would be annoyed with me saying I'm allergic to everything, as it I was using it as an excuse or something to get my own way about not going somewhere or doing something he wanted to do. But, we went to his Aunt's house with all her dogs and he stopped his complaining that day (for awhile).

Tam said...

I can totally relate to what you're talking about. The cliché "don't let the bastards grind you down" is a fine mantra, but the reality is that no matter how hard you try, it gets to you after a while. Like you say, you give up trying to change others and instead, you change yourself.

I used to go into work with a natural optimism and good humour. I wanted to do the best job I possibly could and spread a bit of positivity.

My fellow managers had all been working together for 10+ years, (slight exaggeration) and as such, not very receptive to new ideas from an outsider. Not to worry, I naively believed, I’ll gradually win their respect.

A blame culture existed in the shop which really frustrated me; it never mattered that something went wrong, so long as it wasn't seen as being your fault, there’s no problem.
Oftentimes this would be at a customer’s expense. If an order was messed up, the priority seemed to be to bicker as to why this happened, the mini-investigation, the kangaroo court, the protestations of innocence, the denial of responsibility, the passing of the buck etc, etc.

All the while, Joe Customer just wants a Chicken Royale without lettuce. We could have made it half a dozen times by now.

So I’d abstain from all such pissing contests, with a view to getting poor Joe some chicken in a bun. I’d invariably accept all blame just to speed things along. People get wind of this, and it didn’t take long before my name was mentioned whenever someone messed up.

Being a fall guy, it doesn’t do much for your credibility. There was now less chance I would be able to gain the support of my colleagues to try to solve problems.

I started off really keen to sell millions of burgers to millions of delighted customers, and to get everyone involved in a team with common goals. I’ve worked in atmospheres like that before, and I’m sure that being part of a team is the route to real job satisfaction. You feel like you belong.

Instead, the bastards ground me down, I changed.

I became the person who does just enough work to get by, and always with one eye on the clock for when it was time for home.

Home was a whole different set of problems, but that’s another story that I best not get into.

Now I’m back living in my hometown amongst the support network of my family and friends. I start working at a new place on Monday (where I’m determined to start afresh and not to show any signs of the worn down by bastards persona.)
The stress was getting on top of me and causing some medical problems for me, but all that is being treated. I’m incredibly excited about this new chapter in my life. There is even the prospect of having another stab at University in September.

The only bad thing about my situation is that I can’t see my wee girl every day. Even there things are not as bad as they could be. For all the issues between my wife and me, I have to say that she is an excellent mother; Molly will be in safe hands.
Relations between us are amicable thus far, and we are both determined to do what is in the best interests for Molly. This includes me getting to see her regularly, so happy days.

I just want to say a huge thank you to Brady for his offer of support. There was a blogger that lived on the other side of an ocean, who was going through something that he could relate to, and he saw an opportunity to assist a kindred spirit.

It’s a transitional time for me at the moment, but I have to say, a real optimism has returned to me. Helped along with the knowledge that people aren’t all bad, evidenced by kind deeds from people close to me, and people thousands of miles away; I am determined to have another stab at this life malarkey.

Unknown said...

I just wanted to take a minute and thank you Jenaisle, Laura, and Tam, for your support. I am glad you understand what I feel. Though I am sure the experiences that led to your understanding were not the best, you have triumphed and have become all the better for it. I will try to lighten my spirit and allow the kindness to show in my expression more often. You are my inspiration.