Let me apologize in advance.
There are days when I present my middle finger at you.
Not you personally.
I mean all of you at the same time. As in the world. There are days I still flip off the entirety of planet earth. But not so much in a mean, hateful manner, my bird is out there in a fun, maniacal laugh sort of way. I’m me, getting to be me all day, everyday, all year long and there is no one left to stop me. The kind of defiance I lived my whole life to attain.
If I subscribed to the concept of regret, the bummer is I wish I arrived in this place far sooner. However, part of the grand lesson is — life doesn’t work that way. Pain, suffering, depression, anger, fear and hate will certainly dominate most human brains, until enough wisdom is gained to triumph over those very real life experiences.
If we’re lucky, we all start off in youth as happy, life loving kids ready to conquer the world. My childhood was interrupted with some unpleasant years, but the other side of that adversity made for a tremendous set of teenage years. Then six years of military service and a marriage to my dream girl and two really cool kids.
According the American Dream (TM) patent pending, I had won at life and the rest is puppies and rainbows, right?
Not so much.
So, here is the second admission. My flipping the bird at you and the world wasn’t always in fun. It used to be accompanied by rage. Unending rage that the supposedly angry Incredible Hulk would be proud and envious to have.
The weird social expectations assigned to me at birth were not being met and I was not checking off very many of the required boxes. Breadwinner? Well, only for the first couple years of the marriage. After the move to Wyoming, the Mrs. crushed the combined salaries from both the radio station and newspaper. As a feminist, who always wanted his wife to succeed — I got used to the idea, but it wasn’t as easy as I told myself it would be.
I had always wanted to be a father, and that is far more difficult than I remember seeing on the old television series Father Knows Best. I think I could have rocked that hat too from the old black and white series, but not much else in how easy the show made family life look. Dad does not always know best, even when he thinks he does. Missed another expectation box.
Of course, there were financial struggles, relationship struggles and then the business failures kicked in. One was a really cool magazine where my business partner had to bolt at the very final moment due to family difficulties of his own. And then up next was a business partner who quickly misappropriated all of our family life savings.
George Lucas and Star Wars is really onto something with the Dark Side. It is so real.
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.
Most of the suffering is endured by everyone closest to you. My friends and family, some of the customers at the comic shop I owned. For about a five year span, I became a comparatively horrible person. I apologized on occasion, and tried for some good days, but it takes falling pretty far before the wake up call lands on you.
I knew I was in trouble. I knew for a while I was trapped in an angry spiral, and I felt powerless. All of the expectations of what so much of world tells you to have, and nothing about the disappointment if you don’t meet those illusions of what life is meant to be.
Since there is no handbook for that, I leaned heavy into a lifelong hobby of reading philosophy. It seemed like philosophers east and west were on the same quest as myself, trying to find meaning in a meaningless world. I found a few of those new age philosophers that picked the best elements from existing ideas and repackaged them in smaller doses for people who don’t have time to break down Plato’s Republic one line at a time.
I read a bunch, but didn’t always get it.
The end of the tunnel happened when I realized that everyone I loved didn’t hate me for my anger spiral. They just wanted me to be happy. It sounds so easy, but it is tough to make that leap of faith, to leave the security of feeling sorry for oneself.
Being angry at the world is the easy choice. People who are ignorant in your eyes, or hateful, or rude or simply don’t agree with you are super easy targets. Anything that didn’t go my way was the enemy of that moment. Blaming other people for my misery was a sport, and I was good at it.
Living in the light of unconditional love from an amazing family, super-human wife — she really is Wonder Woman, but don’t tell anyone her secret identity — fantastic friends and now the sun truly shines brighter. And the moon too.
Now, I have unending joy and care for the world. Sort of a sickeningly sweet love for people, an appreciation for the simple beauty in everyone and everything. So sweet, that on occasion, my inner-Marine Corps voice says, “Dude, dial it back. Just a little.”
Go ahead, make my day – just try and push the old buttons. If you don’t agree with me on something? Fine or grand as my Irish kin would say. My team doesn’t win every game, or any game, they’re still my team. Politics? Hah, no one ever wins that discussion. Story doesn’t work, write another one. If someone I love has a bad day, there will be a better tomorrow. If it rains, every storm eventually ends.
I wake up, write and appreciate the chance to be the real me. The once happy kid who was ready to conquer the world is back and really awesomer now. It isn’t weird, and I don’t care what the world’s expectations are anymore. Wisdom reminds me it doesn’t matter. Love the ones who love you back and life will sort itself out.
If you see me through the window of my house, and I’m running around with that middle finger extended, it’s not for you it’s for me. I’m just a big tease at this point anyway…