Every once in a while I have to stop what I'm doing, look around, and feel thankful for the people i work for. I get new projects all the time from folks who are nothing but a pleasure to work with, and I know if could be so different! I guess I'm just saying thank you, thank you and thank you to everyone who works with me here at the ol' Bullfrog. Thank you!
I walk around our neighborhood each morning with our dog Daisy, usually before 8am. All summer I've strolled, half awake - but in tune with the sounds, smells.
Today is the first day of public school in our community, and it feels.... different. There is a tone in the air. I remember it as a kid. For me, it was anxiety in it's most raw form. Terror. I didn't mind the "school" part of school. I liked learning, doing assignments, reading. But I loathed the social aspect. Mean kids, bullies, fingers pointing, whispers, scheming, rumors, gossip. I learned at an early age how full of dicks the world truly is.
I didn't know how to effectively seek out the cool kids. How to befriend them. The few times I tried, I was met with ridicule. I shut down early.
So today I walk the streets with my dog with quite a bit of these early feelings still intact. I see some kids walking the sidewalk, slowly, heads down, backpacks slung low. I empathize. Then I see the extraverts, having fun pushing each other around, laughing, kicking rocks, and I feel the same envy I did 40 years ago.
I can't blame anyone for my introversion. I could wrestle the nature / nurture argument. But instead, I'll just focus on being a good person, good husband, good dad, good brother, good son. I think that's ok. We are such complicated systems, us humans. Could I train myself into extroversion? What would be the benefit? Would I be a better person?
Today I have many commitments. Of which, most are for my business. I have literally hundreds of small elements of projects to get done on time, correctly, before I can call it a "day".
I love my wife.
I never learn. I was hoping the cushions would be dry. But, no. This morning I must sit on a hard bench instead. Middle class white guy problems.
Sunday and Portland is slowly awakening around seven am. Once again the crows and scrub Jays dominate the narrative, but traffic and car doors shutting remind me of where I am. I'm in the world of people.
I am a slave. I was born into a slave system that is deceptive and effective enough to keep the enslaved unaware of their servitude. Carefully executed agendas have stayed mostly unexposed until this information age finally took hold.
I have the freedom to say what I want. I can travel the world freely if I wish. I can own stuff. I can even defend my freedom and stuff with firearms. Who in their right minds would consider this slavery?
The Boy Scouts trained me for the military under the guise of "learning preparedness". I was one of the better marksmen in my troop. Though it was only a .22 caliber rifle, I was firing a weapon at age 11.
The endgame for my twelve years of public school was to get a job. Working for someone. Work for someone else. Pay fucking taxes.
While employed, we see others with nicer stuff than our own. Envy kicks in. The bank lowers the worm on the hook, offering me better stuff now that I can earn later. You know where this is going.
Keeping us in debt assures the wealthy, through their governmental proxies and other schemes, that we will stay quiet, continue to pour our lives into the workforce, stay intoxicated, distracted and spend our lives making them wealthier.
I didn't see it coming.
I remember in school when some student would question the purpose of learning history. It was always answered with something like "so we can learn from our mistakes and not repeat them".
The history textbooks were a beautiful tool to control and shape america's youth. More than the inaccuracies, the omissions of historical truths painted a picture for us. A picture of America being just, honorable and all about liberty and freedom.
With this mindset, it didn't bother me to follow the status quo. People I admired did so.
So I sit on this hard bench, with a computer in my hands. I am on property owned by a bank, with legal papers binding me to pay for it. I have toys, conveniences, stuff and things to keep me content. Keep me working. Keep me from challenging the elites of the world. Go ahead and tempt me with the allure of more things to borrow for, you bastards!
So my wife and I will slowly pay hundreds of thousands of these imaginary "dollars" until we are too old or too sick to care. But in the mean time we have a secret.
We are happy and don't give a rusty fuck! You rich pricks go ahead and manipulate the shit out of me, show me your new toys to envy. I'll play along on the outside. I'll remain apathetic and fat in spite of you. On the outside.
Inside is where my freedom lies. In every second of each day I can love freely. I can think freely. Unless, wait... They drug me to manipulate that, too!
Where's my coffee. What kind of beer tonight? Did I take my antidepressants today? How's my blood pressure?
It saddens me that we live in a culture that offers overnight delivery for packages. It is a sign of how ridiculously fast we are living. It is not living, not appreciating life....fast, fast, fast. Nothing can be that important.
Well... maybe some life saving drugs or something would be an exception? My generalized gripe stems from experiences this week.
I ship packages every day. It's a big part of my job, and requires a lot of attention. Accurate orders, correct addresses, careful packaging, printing labels, charging the client appropriately, tracking and accountability for the delivery. It's difficult but necessary for what I do. When someone asks that I overnight their package, it costs me quite a bit.
I cannot have packages picked up from my shop that need overnight delivery. I must deliver them to UPS - requiring a drive across town, a wait in line, forms to fill out, and a drive back home. A minimum of an hour. An hour of downtime costs me way too much.
If I make a mistake on an order, I will ship overnight with no hesitation. If the client makes a mistake, well... I usually still do it, but it creates a net loss. In my one-person company, an hour is about 10% to 12.5% of the work day. It may sound small, but it's huge. Close to 30% of every buck I make goes to fund wars, art taxes and bike lanes. I am paying off expensive production equipment a month at a time, paying back money borrowed to build the shop itself, paying electricity, water, trash - all that good stuff. I get to keep about 1/2 of the money I collect, then I pay these things, and what is left takes care of my home and family. It's tight.
So please, don't ask me for another 10% of my day. Please get your shit together, don't be in such a hurry, plan better, and be responsible. Please?
I can't think of anything to bitch about right now. It's completely foreign to me. Usually all I have to do is pause for a moment, reflect on the last day or two, and I have a bucket of gripes to complain about. Right now.... I feel pretty good!
But I remember...
I had a little housefly in my shop the other day. The bastard kept landing on my legs, my arms, my head.... all on bare skin (yeah, I'm a baldy). It could not be ignored. I'd shoo him off my head, and ten seconds later he'd land on my calf. Then I'd shake my leg, and he'd park on my forearm. Tickle, tickle, tickle. He would mock me as he wiped his little fly hands in front of his little fly face. I tried the bent ruler snap. Nope. The loaded pencil whack. Nope. The spastic flail. No dice. I considered keeping the shop-vac near my side. I considered registering for a shotgun. I considered burning down the shop. For hours, the little shit taunted me.
I wanted to take it out on the world. I wanted to punish god. Damn little fly, anyway. There's plenty of dog poop around our house. Plenty of composting food stuff, thanks to Metro, the festering ass pustule of unelected government within the city government. Okay, now I'm mad.
So as I stepped outside to scream, I noticed something nice. Something....soothing, and it brought me much joy. I saw spiderwebs. Spiderwebs, everywhere. And I pictured my new little fly friend, looking for me, distracted, getting snared in a web.
Life's little victories.
I'm not an easy guy to live with, work with, or be around for any long period. People praise me for being a "nice guy" a "good guy" and that makes me feel pretty cool most of the time. But under-appreciated is the woman behind the scenes, my wife Denise.
I have never been a confident person, and have always been rather anxious. In my Mother's day, she was diagnosed with "agoraphobia" :
"Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives certain environments as dangerous or uncomfortable, often due to the environment's vast openness or crowdedness. The sufferer may go to great lengths to avoid those situations, in severe cases becoming unable to leave their home or safe haven."
As a kid, I never believed my Mom's diagnosis. I assumed it was just all in her head. I realize now that I've had this all my life, too. Poor Mom. She's been gone 11 years and now I get it. My anxiety disorder is a little different. Here's mine:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a neurological anxiety disorder that is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry. This excessive worry often interferes with daily functioning, as individuals suffering GAD typically anticipate disaster, and are overly concerned about everyday matters.
And now, poor Denise is married to my anxious ass. But you know what? She still loves me. She cares for me, calms me, and helps me get along in life with my crazy disorder. Keeping my head on straight has become her job to a certain degree. Take that, and then try raising a daughter - middle school, high school and now college! Boyfriends, sports, learning to drive, becoming a woman and now entering College in another state - Denise has been the force keeping Mad on course, too.
An anxious husband, a daughter to raise, her own Mother's health declining, her own health challenging her, a career that is completely absorbing.... and she's still there for us, every day, when we need her.
Thank you, sweet Denise, my love. Thank you.
Today I saw an alien walking by a pile of black bicycles. He was tall, skinny, big head, big eyes, gangly, a slot for a mouth, and tiny ear holes. Pretty typical. Just strolling by.
The bikes were all the same, 100% black, in a huge pile about 10 bikes high, held together by hot glue. He was strolling, strutting, looking cool. Nothing to see here - just a damn alien and a pile of bikes.
And that's my story. I'm sticking to it.
As a young man, certain scenarios require actions. When a friend puts himself in a compromising situation, it is your duty to take full advantage.
My dad and his brother, my uncle Paul, went fishing. There was a small fiberglass porta-potty at the end of the gravel parking lot by the boat launch. Uncle Paul had to take a crap.
The rocks in the parking lot were perfectly sized, about 2 to 3 inches. As uncle Paul locked the bathroom door, the barrage began.
Dad began pelting the hollow shell with rock after rock, while poor Paul attempted to take care of the business at hand. Imagine the distraction.
Upon exiting, Dad struck the "wasn't me" pose. Uncle Paul began looking in the brush behind the toilet. He found an old tree branch, maybe 5 feet long. He proceeded to dip the stick into his fresh poop in the bottom of the toilet.
A moment too late, Dad realized what was happening. The race was on. Paul chased Dad into the brush, where he tripped and fell, then rolled onto his back. Paul stood over Dad, hovering the poop a foot over his face. The begging and pleading was met with a smiling victory laugh, not unlike that of Beavis and Butt-head.
Paul had won, and accepted the surrender gracefully. Gentlemen, never lose your youth, despite your age.
Since Zoloft’s launch in 1991, Zoloft sales have generated over $30 billion in revenue for Pfizer. Prior to Zoloft’s patent expiration in 2007, which resulted in a proliferation of less expensive generic versions of the drug, Zoloft’s annual sales were over $3 billion annually. Since its patent expired, Zoloft sales have continued to generate over $500 million in revenue each year. Currently, over 20 million prescriptions of Zoloft and generic sertraline are filled annually.
I got a taste of my old self recently, and frankly - it sucked balls. It's a strange defeat.
I was prescribed a drug in 2006 to help with "Generalized Anxiety Disorder". I never believed much in that kind of bullshit diagnosis, but I sure was an anxious little fuck. I felt that if I was anxious, well... that's how I'm supposed to be. Anxiety helped keep humans from being eaten into extinction a long, long time ago. For me it felt like a safety mechanism.
I blame the boy scouts for this. The slogan "Be Prepared" was rammed up my ass and hammered into my skull at every meeting, every campout, every event. The world was out to kill me, and it was up to me to prevent it. It was similar to the driver's education program. They showed films of terror, blood, brutal death and suffering - combined with math and physics - to instill respect for the machines we wield.
So back to the drug. After pumping the chemical into my body for a week or two, I slowly changed. I began to feel ...flat. Not void of energy, but a little less clever, less creative....and less anxious, I suppose. I stopped standing up for myself, or so I felt. Caving in and accepting things I did not agree with became ok with me. I didn't care.
As a result I came to a conclusion. Apathy is my tool for fighting anxiety. And I have to accept that the only way I can live apathetically, is to drug myself.
These ramblings stem from my attempt to ween myself from the drug, beginning about a month ago. I implemented a slow, methodical decrease in my dose. Three weeks later, I was without the selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors in my blood and my brain.
An old demon, who had been sleeping soundly, began to stir. He was rage.
At the smallest feeling of being unconsidered by someone, I'd snap. If I felt disrespected, I'd snap. By "snapping" I'd speak in harsh tones, with sharp words. I felt I was standing up for myself again. Defending myself. Not letting them "step on me anymore". No more caving in and pretending to agree with things just to keep the peace. No more apathy.
But the demon was cruel to me as well as those around me. I could feel the physical manifestations of the anxiety. Shortness of breath. Sweaty palms....obsession with details and possibilities. Here's a good example:
When driving a car, I am computing and processing many things. I have a sense of the mass of the vehicle and the 4 small points of contact between the tires and cement. I factor in the condition of the street, the weather, the rubber - and I feel the friction that keeps the car upright and on the road. I feel the brake pads squeezing the metal discs - hot metal, and it's incredible stopping power, converting inertia into heat. Driving a car, to me, is the most dangerous activity I partake in. Not just due to the crushing, killing potential. It's also because of the dipshits, simpletons and careless others driving their cars beside me.
Have you ever seen bumper bowling? Retractable rails in the gutters allow the bowler to roll the ball hard, fast, crazy and carelessly without consequence. In fact, with a reward! I feel most drivers treat the highways and other cars like bowling bumpers. They don't take the responsibility that I feel they should, for the safety of the people in their car, or those around them. Obsessed with time, drivers take risks. Following a car at 70mph, less than 50 feet behind, is gambling. Gambling that the person ahead of you is competent. Gambling that the guy who tightened the lug nuts on that car was competent. Gambling that the guy who inspected the tire at the factory was competent. Gambling that the guy in the other lane will see the car in his blind spot. All of these gambles, for the sake of time, willing to risk the lives of me, my family, and the people around me. Driving is gambling. Driving without care often becomes murder and suicide.
So that's how it goes on in my head. That's "why" it's unnerving to me. And I'm not wrong. Like all gambling, it's all about the odds. But I have to admit, careful drivers kill people too. By accident, or mechanical failure. Maybe a deer jumping out, causing a swerve. Maybe a blowout in a front tire. It is not possible to travel at high speeds without risk. Period.
So yes, I look forward to the numb, flat apathy that is coming soon. Ignorance as we all know, is bliss.