Archive for November, 2015

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Mask It

11/24/2015

Holidays are often times meant for looking back, maybe even comparing where you are now to where you used to be. I just never imagined I’d be coming into a holiday where looking back would make me long for a way to right things. I enter this Thanksgiving at a level in my life I have never experienced before.

The past 5 months have been difficult in ways I cannot even begin to describe, and when holidays, family gatherings, and social interactions are thrust into the forefront, the difficulties are compounded tenfold.

Put on a smile, say little, be jovial, and appear content.
Don’t let anyone see past the façade.
Don’t talk about yourself or anything that could invite a comment.
Don’t react when you hear others talking about a sensitive subject.
Be sterile.
If the subject comes up, feign disinterest, nonchalance, and confidence.

Exist to exist and get by; what every day feels like. It’s becoming harder and harder to suppress the negativity in my thoughts, and a time when everyone else seems so happy and joyous only serves to make the blade sharper.

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Rear View Window

11/13/2015

Looking back, I think I’ve always been a loner. As far back as nursery school, I remember making friends being a difficult endeavor. I’m not entirely sure from where it arose, but insecurity and a lack of confidence has been part of my character makeup for as long as I can recollect. My memories vividly recount my 4-year-old self, a nervous, fidgety little boy who didn’t know what to do to make friends, awkwardly and pathetically shuffling over to anyone I wanted to play with and, instead of just playing, meekly asking, “Are you my friend?” Most of the time, the answer was a simple and curt “No.” These were the years kids started to forge friendships that lasted lifetimes; for me, they were simply the beginning of being on the outside for the rest of my life.

I had two very close friends when I reached kindergarten, both of whom lived within walking distance of my house. One was a year older than I, but lived close enough that I could walk to his house, or he to mine, at any time and play outside or go in to play video games (he had the only Nintendo Entertainment System on the block), despite not being in classes together. The other was actually in my kindergarten class, and I remember it being awesome. We got along great and both seemed poised to be lifelong friendships.

And then they both moved.

The older friend simply moved to another part of town, but it was a school change, and the removal of our proximity spelled instant doom. My other friend from kindergarten moved to Buffalo, NY. The distance between grew from less a quarter mile to 360 miles before summer was over, and to me, it felt like a bomb had been dropped on my fun. I never made friends like that again.

I meandered through school, making some friends here and there, but none of them were actual best friends. Sure, we sat together in class, made jokes, and sometimes got together outside of school. But it wasn’t the same as what I saw others do. No one was ever my “blood brother” and no one would ever stick up for me or have my back. Qualities I saw in other friend groups, where one always backed up the other, would go out of his or her way to cheer them up, or just simply want to be with them, were not present in any of my relationships.

For all of this, I am under no illusions that the shortcomings aren’t my own. I don’t blame others for this characteristic lack of anything. I soon found myself looking for friends outside of school, and I did in fact make one. He was 3 years my senior, but we hit it off. Again, we didn’t go to school together, so we spent a lot of time on the phone, and would get together over the weekends to play music. It was fun.

And then he went off to college in New York. We stayed in touch via email, and whenever he came home we would hang out, drink coffee, watch tv, play epic matches of Madden NFL or NHL on my Playstation, and have dinner. But he lived full-time in NY, so the visits were few and far between. Still, I considered him my best friend for many years.

In later high school years, I formed bands with various musicians and became good friends with one guitar player. As per my usual fortune, he lived on the other side of the county, and he was older than I was, but he had a car and we got together every week to jam. When his car died, my mother, in her absolutely unending generosity to almost any endeavor I pursued, agreed to drive out to his house across town every Sunday to pick him up and take him home. He was always so grateful, and it was never a burden.

As time went on, the “band” sort of drifted apart and I lost touch with him. I regret it to this day. I also regret what I came to find out many years later, that what I felt was a good friendship, a two-way street that we both enjoyed was actually only good in my eyes. It was admitted to me that I had made him feel a burden, like a second-class person. It cut me deeply, not because of insult, but because it was absolutely not at all what I had intended or felt to express. It was also not the first time in my life I had been told something like that, although it was the first time the statement had come from someone I had considered a friend. And a close one at that. We have since made up and put that behind us, but we are not as close as we once were.

In this time, I met MB, and my life was forever changed for the better. She became my best friend and my everything, and she remains that to this day. I am married to my best friend, and for that I am eternally grateful. Together we have created a family the likes of which I could never have dreamt. But while she is able to make friends at almost every turn, with her outgoing and cheerful personality, I continue to be aloof and closed off, not really knowing what to do or how to act, and therefore never really creating any new bonds with anyone.

In an ongoing theme, many years later, after being the best man at my wedding, the aforementioned friend who moved to NY for college met a girl. MB and I had had Eric already, and my friend brought his girlfriend home to Baltimore to meet us. It went well, I thought. We met at a Starbucks, as had become somewhat of a tradition, and we sat and talked for a good long time. Little did I know this was going to be the last time I ever saw him.

Not too terribly long after that, he proposed to her. When I proposed to MB, he and I shared a late night phone call, talking and reminiscing and sharing the moment, and that was when I extended him the request to be my best man. In the weeks leading up to my wedding, he even informally promised me a spot in his wedding party, should that day ever come. The speech he gave at the wedding was perfect.

When he proposed to his girl, the only message I received was a picture message of the ring, also sent to at least 20 other people. When I sent a congratulatory response, he never answered.

For another couple years, I tried texting him occasionally, hardly, if ever, getting any responses. Birthdays went by; I would send him birthday wishes every May, he would never send me any at all. In my stubbornness, I hung on a lot longer than I probably should have, but I finally decided I wasn’t going to try anymore if it wasn’t desired by the other party. As it turns out, a recent curious look on Facebook confirmed something I had suspected; he had gotten married months ago, without so much as an invitation or even a “Hey man, it happened.” Thus landed the final nail in the coffin of yet another “best friend” relationship that didn’t survive. While it had been such for many a year at this point, that was when I definitively and finally decided, after close to 20 years, it was over.

And so my existence goes. Even with professional colleagues, friendship with me seems struggled. Neighbors seem to enjoy my company, but never does it feel like I’m actually wanted around, but simply tolerated by forced proximity. My closest friends are either very far away, or live enough of a differing life that our paths simply never intersect, despite desperately wanting to catch up. The older I get, the harder it seems to forge any sort of relationship with anyone new that holds any deeper meaning. Everyone already has their lifelong friends, their blood siblings, their crew that they always know will be there, through thick and thin, whenever, wherever, however, whatever it takes. It’s something I wish I had, something for which I long, and something I will likely never have.

-A

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Puttering About

11/10/2015

Exhaustion seems to be the theme of the world lately. At least, my world. Sleep is always difficult to come by and there always seems to be something on my mind that prevents the sleep I do get from being at all restorative. Right now, I am taking a few moments to attempt to get some thoughts down before I have to run out for a Foundation meeting with my family to go over our annual giving for 2015. Hopefully there will be some time for me to crash afterwards. We shall see, though.

It’s a grey, wet day outside, and the lack of sunlight is definitely making any energy feel sapped away. I’m on my second cup of coffee, so the endorphins should be coursing soon enough, I hope.

I was actually fairly productive yesterday, which was a nice feeling. Getting things done usually elevates my mood a little bit, if only a touch. I also took a wild chance and wrote a letter to a favorite celebrity of mine after reading another one of his books. I don’t expect a response. I don’t really even expect that he’ll read it, but I had been wanting to put some thoughts down and send them off since I started reading that book, and it felt kind of good to attempt to open a discourse, even if its completion is nothing more than a pipe dream.

I also came back here, to try to turn this into more of an actual journal for me, and maybe give me something of an outlet, even if no one ever reads it.

I have about another 15 minutes before I need to hop up and head out. I don’t think I have that much more to add here, and I’d rather stop short than attempt to squeeze blood from a stone for words. Have a nice day.

-A

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Backstop

11/09/2015

Hello again.

A lot has happened since the last entry I wrote here, and much of it involves details I will not go into. Suffice it to say, there have been a lot of issues that I have been facing lately that have made 2015 one of the most difficult years of my life. Without my family, I really don’t know where I’d be.

Back in March, right around my birthday, Cody had a cancer scare that created one of the worst weeks of our lives. Severe hip pain had him in the pet ER two days in a row and subsequently in surgery to remove tissue that was compressing his spine. The doctors were 95% certain he had cancer in his spine and that we would be looking into oncology and chemo. Through a stroke of sheer good fortune, and in one of the most bizarre cases the doctor had ever seen, it turned out to be nothing more than inflammatory tissue that would not threaten Cody at all. This past September, Cody had a mass in his ear, that we previously never noticed, rupture. Cody was forced to have a TECA (total ear canal ablation) and had a rather rough recovery, but, thanks in no small part to his wonderful surgeon, he has returned to himself and despite the ear surgery, is living a normal, happy, goofy life.

Back in June, I had my identity stolen, but thanks to some diligence and proactive notifications, no harm was done. Two accounts were attempted to be opened in my name, fraudulently, and they were snuffed out before anything could go wrong. Still, a stress I didn’t need. Further checks and security have shown that there have been no further attempts to defraud me.

Being a father is still the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done with my life, and watching the Littles grow is nothing short of remarkable. This doesn’t come without fears and trepidation, however. With kindergarten looming on the horizon, my fears of the public school system and Eric’s sojourn into formal education are piqued. While I would love to send him (and Emily) to private school for the entirety of their careers, financially that is a herculean task. We will have to investigate further.

These past few weeks have been hectic, which both kids’ birthdays coming around, parties being thrown, and lots of activities going on. I can’t believe the kids are 5 and 1, now. It blows me away.

This past Friday, MB and I had an evening to go get some dinner ourselves, so we chose a nice restaurant in Monkton called The Manor Tavern. We’ve been there many times before and wanted to go back. Originally we intended to snag a booth in the bar, but all were either taken or reserved, so we relocated to a table in the back dining room. MB started with an amaretto sour, her go-to drink, while I was in a less-than-common mood for a red wine. I was vacillating between the more economical glass-by-glass approach and the indulgent bottle order (which, if ordered, I knew I’d be finishing myself) when common sense and practicality won out over indulgence. I went with two glasses of a pleasant and wonderfully smooth 2013 Amado Sur, an Argentinian Malbec. It seemed to compliment everything it went with, from the hot cheese crab dip we split for an appetizer or the bison osso bucco with squash and potato that I had for my main course. MB’s Maryland crab pasta was good, though slightly spicy for her palette. We skipped dessert that night, already feeling overly full.

While dining, we were regaled with the overtly negative and vitriolic “conversation” from the woman at the table behind us (I put conversation in quotes because there was only one side of the table talking; hardly a conversation in the traditional sense). I hadn’t heard so much concentrated complaining, negativity, and self-righteousness in a while. Nearly everything that came out of her mouth was in some form of complaint, from how long it took for their entrées to be delivered (hardly a long wait, from what we observed), to how “awful men are at planning anything”, to how difficult her life is with her child wanting to go “a concert for some band called White Chapel, awful heavy metal shit.” She appeared to be treating her mom to a nice dinner, and when her mother offered to put some money towards the check, instead graciously declining the offer, the daughter said, “Take me to breakfast sometime soon, for all the shit I’m doing.” They left before we did, and their dinner conversation ended with the daughter berating the mother for not “holding up her end of the conversation” because she wasn’t telling a story to her satisfaction. While this gave us some mild entertainment, we found ourselves bristling at what we overheard and were quite glad when their check was paid and they filed out.

Saturday was a very busy day. We had an appointment at the house, then I had a haircut. MB and the kids came with me and we grabbed a small bite to eat before heading back home before Eric went to a birthday party that evening. The party was fun for everyone, but we were all completely beat when we got home. Sunday was more of the same, as Eric had another birthday party, and not long after that, we all headed to Columbia to exchange a pair of Eric’s shoes (damaged in wearing, even trade) and grab some dinner. It was a successful day, if not still tiring.

Back to the grind of the week, with more to come. Until then, my friends.

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