Zen and the Art of Going Out and Doing Things

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So, I came to the conclusion that I need to expand my circle of friends. I never thought it would happen, but I desire companionship with new faces. I didn’t quite know how to do it; my dad suggested going to a coffeehouse or some place that has booked and talk to people. I looked at him and said “Dad, that is the creepiest thing I could do. I would get pepper-sprayed or get kicked in the face.” He glumly agreed after a moment of introspection. A friend suggested meetup.com, a website that allows groups to advertise their presence and you can join them. I thought that might be a nice place to start, and one of the first groups it showed in my area was “Introverts of Houston”.

The internet gathers more data on me than I thought.

Anyway, I signed up for it with a laugh thinking “This ought to be good.” Well, for a group of introverts they sure go out a lot. Of course, people tend to conflate introversion with antisocialism, to which I say they are related but not the same. Introverts are quiet, reserved, and typically have a small circle of friends. Antisocial people just don’t like society in general. I’m both. I have days where I tell reality to stuff everything right in its ear and leave me alone; other days I have to go out and simply watch people pass me by while I sit in my little bubble.

In any event, I signed up for a few of the activities they have planned and they’re pretty wide-ranging, from wine tasting to concerts to political activism. Most of them are on my work days so I can’t quite make it, but others are fairly close, on my days off, or in the evening, so I signed up for those. My first one is this Saturday evening, so I have my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

At least they know what to expect.

Addendum: Adventures in Dating, Conclusion

I completely forgot to add that the whole online dating thing is off. Kaput. Finished. Out of circulation. No longer on the agenda. It is still a meat market as I had feared and it was a depressing and humiliating experience. So I just chucked it all and left a lot wiser and more cynical.

Onward I go once more!

“We’re going to have fun, right?”

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(My apologies for my absence last week; I was on a last-minute week-long vacation from work at enjoyed it as much as I possibly could, meaning as little internet stuff as possible!)

Adventures in Dating, Part 3

The saga continues as I wearily separate the wheat from the chaff, and I have to say once again:

I’m not impressed. In fact, I’m getting a little peeved.

I have spoken to more people trying to scam me out of money than actual people. Seriously? I have always maintained that people who run online scams or create bots to do it should devote their energy, enthusiasm, and ingenuity into doing something positive for the world. I’m sure a lot of problems would be solved in short order.

And the silence. That’s almost as bad. I’ll send a friendly “hello!” or “I like [point of interest here] as well” and all I get is…nothing. Not even a “not interested”, or even “leave me alone”. It’s maddening and altogether frustrating, especially to someone like myself who grew up with face to face communication.

One of the few people I spoke to started off well. We were discussing light and inconsequential subjects such as the weather and what we liked. He then said he would like to meet and chat, and appended “we’re going to have fun, right?” at the end of it.

I didn’t quite know how to respond to such a question. I was sorely tempted to say “nope…no fun will be had” in my usual sarcastic/joking fashion, but I knew it wouldn’t be taken well over the impersonal internet. So, just in case he meant something else (what can I say? I’m a cynic), I replied that it depended on your meaning of fun, and my idea was chatting over coffee or lunch.

He hasn’t responded, so I guess my cynicism was justified.

I am at my wit’s end with this mess and I don’t quite know where to proceed from here. I am a stranger in a strange land where the people either act in random fashion or don’t respond to my entreaties. Sure, I could read a book or listen to some self-improvement guru tell me what I should do, but they may not apply to/work for me. I like doing things myself so I can learn from them, but how can I learn if I don’t know whether there is a problem?

I don’t know, and quite frankly I’m wondering if the effort is even worth it. The world of dating is fraught with uncertainty, fear, love, happiness, and misery, and they can be pretty difficult to navigate properly. My efforts are made harder by the fact that I’ve never really been comfortable with the whole dating thing, but that excuse can only go so far.

Perhaps I will one day get the hang of it and this will be something to look at and laugh at my naïvety about all of it. Or I could just drop all of it and throw my efforts to the Fates in the hopes they smile upon me.

Or I could not worry about it, live the rest of my life as a hermit, and write blog posts. 🙂

Adventures in Dating, Part 2

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In my last post I mentioned I was once again dipping a toe into the dating pool and I am forced to report that I am not impressed with the quality of people out there.

My requirements are simple, but no one seems to meet them. To be certain, some get very close, but not to the degree that I require. I’ve dated shitty people and have no desire to put myself through misery for the upteenth time; I’m going to be picky andbe happy with an outcome for once. My requirements aren’t even that difficult to meet: 1) be a decent human being and 2) be smart. That’s all I require and yet, that seems to be almost impossible to find. In fact, I’m finding the opposite.

I’ve already had three separate individuals message me with kind words and I was grateful for that, and they warmed up pretty quickly, which both pleased and alarmed me. My previous experiences told me such actions were suspect and so I was immediately on the defensive. Sure enough, they eventually came around (regardless of the method) and attempted to wheedle money out of me. Two of them did so under the auspices of being members of the military! Such actions are repulsive and I made sure to voice my disgust with their life choices.

My friend H is also jumping into the fray and encountered an issue of his own. Turns out a guy he was talking to used someone else’s picture in the profile and provided the (presumably) accurate picture before they agreed to meet for coffee. I cannot imagine why anyone would 1) post a picture that wasn’t them on their profile and 2) think this was an acceptable behavior. Do they think the other person won’t know or figure it out? Do they think the other person won’t be upset because of the trickery? Who the hell comes up with this stuff? I shudder to think about the poor individuals who would be taken in by this chicanery.

Aside from the poor behavior exhibited by others, I have encountered some very nice people and I hope some of them might go on to be friends. I have no expectations to disappoint or intentions to be thwarted, so hopefully something good will come out of my foray.

Tally ho!

Irritation, A Wonderous Woman, and Once More into the Breach

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I have been irritable lately because I’m antsy and don’t know why. I feel like there’s something I want to do but I don’t know what it is. It’s akin to the desire to eat a specific thing but you don’t know which one; you try as many foods as you can to find it, but they never seem to satisfy the hunger, so you end up full but still not satisfied.

I’ve tried reading; got bored. Played some video games; none of them grabbed my fancy. Tried writing; got sidetracked. Currently working; can’t focus. And so on ad infinitum. The work part is frustrating for obvious reasons, but I can’t help it. I’ve brought all of my attention to bear and it seems to be working for now, but I still feel fidgety. I’m barely able to write out this blog post!

A Wonderous Woman

I finally got to sit down and watch Wonder Woman (no spoilers!). It was a fantastic movie and one I hope movie production companies watch and learn from. A female lead who isn’t ditzy, talks about boyfriends or her love life (or lack thereof), or needs rescuing was lovely to see. Diana not only holds her own but shows up the men (whoo hoo!) she’s helping, and it was a very wonderful movie all around.

It is a sad reminder that women still get the short end of the stick when it comes to portrayals in movies and this is something that must stop. Women can be crude, brave, arrogant, and yes, ditzy, but they are usually shown exhibiting a narrow range of behaviors (most often stereotypical ones), and it’s really sad. Hopefully Wonder Woman will galvanize people into supporting movies with realistic female characters and companies producing the characters in question.

Once More Into the Breach

So, I’ve decided to dip a toe into the waters of the dating pool once again, but I do so with extreme trepidation. The mere thought of dating brings to mind all my stupid, idiotic behavior from my yesteryears, and that’s tough to face down and square away. At least I can say I have more experience this time around and it has already served me well, so there is a silver lining in all this.

I just don’t want to deal with the potential humiliation, disappointment, and emotional turbulence all over again. I’m also unhappy about the lack of data in regards to the rare moments when I’m talking to someone and I say or do something that causes them to stop interacting. I’m 44 and I still don’t have a clue on what I’m doing wrong. It’s frustrating not knowing what I’ve done (or what I didn’t do, or even if I did anything wrong in the first place!) because I can’t correct the parts I have power over. I’ve already had several people stop talking when they finally saw my picture; I get that a lot, so I’m used to it. That’s something I can’t control, so I just flip them off in my head and keep moving.

But what if I say something awkward and don’t realise it? What if they’ve had a bad day and it had nothing to do with me at all? What if, what if, what if…*sighs* I hate it. My friends try to be supportive and it is appreciated, but that can only get me so far. Part of me wonders if I should even bother…but then I see couples and I get a little misty-eyed. Humans aren’t really designed for solitary existence and it is a miserable way to live (as I well know), so I guess I’ll just keep trucking as before and hope for the best.

Wish me luck!

Dancing to the Beat (of a Different Drummer)

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Today I went to a restaurant that I had never been to before. I always like to try a new place at least once a week in case it is one of those fabled “hole in the wall” locations that earn rave reviews from the people lucky enough to stumble upon it.

On the way there I was stopped at an intersection when this massive truck (it’s Texas, so there are always large trucks) stops next to me, blaring rap music that can easily be heard even with the windows up. My tinnitus was caused by loud music and it’ll happen to them as well, to which I say “It is their own fault”. Nonetheless, it reminded me of a question that I have often asked myself:

Why in the world would anyone like rap music?

It’s essentially a drum machine and someone shouting lyrics a cappella. The lines aren’t even that good…in some cases they aren’t even discernable. It’s an atonal Gregorian chant crossed with beatnik poetry in a scat style. Why would that appeal to anyone?

I can understand why people like modern music (Lady Gaga, for example…mainly because she’s one of the few I actually know something about): It can occasionally have a complex mixture of chords and melodies (perversely and disgustingly autotuned) and a standard “stanza/chorus/stanza” setup so there is at least a semblance of a composition, but what rap I have been forced to hear doesn’t have any of that (at least, I think they don’t…sometimes I can’t understand what the hell they’re saying).

Now, some people are undoubtedly thinking “You listen to classical/opera music and I can’t understand why anyone would like that! I don’t even know what they’re saying!”. Yes, it’s true you don’t know what they’re saying because it’s in a different language. The problem with that argument is that mumbling is not a language and can’t be understood by anyone (except perhaps through verbal pareidolia).

I don’t care what anyone thinks about this because it is true: Writing rap is not difficult. Spoken rhyming lyrics accompanied by a drum machine is absurdly easy to write, but writing a two hour opera with full orchestra accompaniment is not. People have told me it is hard to write “good” rap and I point out the absurdity in putting “good” and “rap” together in the same sentence (I must report that they do not like that response).

To me rap is just noise with words attached. It has no intrinsic value as a music type and I would be surprised if it lasted as long as classical music has. It has no complexity, no redeeming qualities that make it important to keep around. Classical music makes you feel things; who can avoid thinking about sad longing when listening to Aida sing “O patria mia” or feel festive when listening to the “Drinking Chorus” from La Traviata? (If you have never listened to either, I highly recommend them.) The only thing rap makes me feel is an urgent need to depart the vicinity.

Oh well. People have liked the strangest things in the past and will continue to like strange things in the future. They are the trimmings on the main course, the finger food of a cocktail party: not essential to the larger picture but they definitely make it better.

“You want to talk about your feelings? Screw that…let’s talk about me instead.” – Sol

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The Inevitable Change and the Dreariness of Time

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So, earlier this week I realised I need to look for work elsewhere. I love what I do and could do it all day long; instead, it’s the new guidelines and (to a lesser extent) the changing direction of the department that disheartens me. I keep telling myself not to work in corporations whenever I look for work because this is a common process and I hate it, but I inevitably end up working for one because they’re the only ones with the benefits I must have.

I really wanted to establish a career there because my work record is spotty and would make any recruiter nervous. I rarely stayed at a job for more than two years because I would get so fucking bored and, given the lack of papers “proving” I can do something, most of my jobs rarely had the opportunity for advancement, so I looked elsewhere for intellectual stimulation. I would find another job and thrive there for a while, only to grow bored once again and repeat the process ad infinitum.

The other reason I want to stay is because of my insurance requirements. Most companies make you wait three months before the benefits kick in, and I can’t wait that long with a monthly medication regimen. I may have to beg my psychiatrist to let me have a three month supply instead of doling out the refills one month at a time (she insists I see her monthly, which is entirely unnecessary and money grubbing, but psychiatry is apparently not considered very worthy of coverage by my insurance and so there are very few who are accepted in my area). Nonetheless, I’ll figure something out and keep trucking. I always do.

I also turned 45 this week and I was not looking forward to it. I used to get really excited about my birthday because (like everyone else) I got presents, which was fairly rare in our house growing up. We didn’t have a lot of money and I can only imagine the extra hours Dad had to work in order to afford some of the things they got me, so any event where we received presents were definitely favorites of ours. However, I grew less eager for my birthdays as time wore on and more disgusted that I was still alive. Birthdays became a reminder that I’d dealt with shit for a year and (in my own eyes) didn’t have anything to show for it. I lived with a fatalistic wish that I would finally die and be done with it; unfortunately, that meant I did nothing to prepare for the future. Every year I hoped this would be the year that I succeeded, so I wouldn’t bother doing anything so “foolish” as saving money. And yet, every year I discovered I was revoltingly healthy and would continue to be so…until this year.

Appedicitis, root canals, and back pain have dominated my existence this year and I find myself regretting my previous mentality, but of course it is too late. Life really is the worst teacher of all because, had I known what would be happening now, I wouldn’t have been so fucking stupid all those years. Of course, I suffered the full brunt of my depression during much of those years and my perspective was warped accordingly, but at least I would’ve known. My father laughs when I recount my physical ailments but in a good-natured way, as he has been suffering those for quite some time. “Welcome to the club, son” he tells me, and I cannot help but feel a certain grim humor that arises unbidden in spite of whatever it is I feel.

Getting old(er) sucks. I’ve already mentioned that aging is the worst punishment of all because you remember what you were capable of many years previously, and that is definitely hitting me hard. I occasionally suffer from insomnia and don’t get to sleep one night; by the afternoon I’m passing out whereas before I could stay up for 36 hours before reaching that point. Even then it takes my body a while to readjust itself after waking up and I feel wiped out the entire rest of the day. Same thing with alcohol: I used to never get hangovers…now it takes me at least a day to stop feeling like utter shit.

Oh well. It won’t be long before even this day will be considered better than how I’m feeling in the future, so I suppose I might as well start trying to enjoy it while I still can. No matter what happens, I always manage to find my way through and escape (relatively) unscathed, so I can’t imagine this will be any different. I’ll probably just get older and pester my nieces and nephews for money, and beg them to put me into a nice senior living facility.

A Cynical Analysis

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Whether we actively think about it or not, we deal with the complex subject of friendship in a cunning and analytical perspective. Our subconscious has a chalkboard marking off the good and bad points incurred with our fellow human beings, and it often makes decisions based on little more than a cost-benefit analysis. It does sound cynical, but hear me out.

I was friends with A for a few years. This was back when I drank a lot and he was a fellow drinker, so we’d often get drunk at his apartment. We went on some crazy (and, in some cases, extremely dangerous) adventures while inebriated, and my friends kept telling me I needed to stop hanging around him because he was a bad influence (I would relate the stories and they were horrified that I was risking life and limb).

It was around this time that I realised I wasn’t getting any younger and it was taking longer and longer for me to recover (I never suffered hangovers until I got older), plus A was pissing me off more and more. I became less inclined to hang out with him because I just couldn’t drink like I used to, and I began to see how irritating he was now that I was not getting drunk. After a while I just stopped hanging out with him and rebuffed his offers to go drinking, and the friendship just withered and died (thankfully).

This event gave rise to my theory: Friendship is an imposition that we willingly accept because the benefits of that imposition outweigh the negatives of same.

When my friend H calls me and wants to eat dinner at some point, I have to decide if I want to accept the invitation or do something else. My brain is instanteously balancing all possibilities and gauging which option is better/more advantageous at that moment in time. In the end, our subconscious makes the decisions and our conscious brain creates the justification in terms we can relate to and/or readily accept. I can say with 100% honesty that I enjoy having dinner with H, but there are a lot of reasons why I enjoy it and some of them are not as readily apparent as others.

The analysis itself can be a staggeringly complex flowchart that would paralyse us if we had to consciously work through it. Example: A friend always seems to be out of money when the two of you have dinner but tells the funniest jokes you’ve ever heard. Does their proficiency with humor overcome the inconvenience of having to cover their dinner every time? What if they were constantly on their phone as well as cracking jokes? What if they also regularly thanked you for covering their meal? The possibilities can involve any number of factors and are effectively infinite in number.

I will concede that this is a cynical perspective of friendship, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I can also agree that it gives the appearance of portraying what is a simple expression of fraternal love into a subconscious multiple choice event, but this also doesn’t negate the observation. Either way, try to think about why you choose to hang out with a friend instead of doing something else. You might be surprised at what you learn.