I Am Not Anti Social

For years my family have been on my case trying to get me to socialize more.  Even as a child I preferred to stay home and read my books as opposed to go to the big social activities in my farming village, namely high school sports games and county fairs in the summers.  I never did enjoy such activities as much as most people.  I mean, I enjoyed playing football and running track in high school far more than I did watching them.  And anything I could see at a county fair or Fourth of July parade, I could see any day of the year just by looking around my town.  No, I would have rather spent my time reading about far off places I would probably never get to see, read about a past that most people will never learn, and read about future possibilities (both good and bad) that I would probably not live long enough to see.

And because of my “different” set of interests, I was condemned by my parents, town elders, and even my classmates as being “anti social.”  Yet, this was an absolutely unfair accusation.  I love socializing, I just had different interests than most people I knew growing up.  I was 11 years old before I made a friend who had the same interests in music, history, geopolitics, science, etc. that I did.  And he too was an outcast among my people.  When I was 13, I met the girl who later became the best friend I ever had.  See still is my best friend even 25 years later.  She was even more interested in tech and geopolitics than even I was.  She was also the first person my age I ever met who loved reading even more than I did.  So we wound up spending a great deal of our teenage years at each other’s house.

Naturally, most people in my school thought we were romantically involved even before high school.  No we weren’t.  She was among the handful of people in my hometown who shared my interests and I shared hers.  As a result of being so different from my peers, I always thought there was something defective with myself all the way through my junior high and high school years.

It wasn’t until I spent a little time at college did I realize that I wasn’t defective.  I did much better socially in college than I did as a kid in my hometown.  I made lots of acquaintances, several really cool friends I still hear from via facebook, and for the first time in my life I wasn’t condemned for having nerdy interests or loving to read.  When I was a kid, my classmates would often yank a book I was reading right out of my hands.  They would often steal my textbooks and sheet music in band.  About the only book I never had stolen from me as a teenager was my football playbook and my Bible.  Even though I am almost 40 years old, I still don’t get why people that don’t read much hate those of us that do.  I mean, is wanting knowledge and wisdom such an evil thing?  Why, if it weren’t for acquired knowledge and wisdom being passed down from elders to children, we would have never even survived the Stone Age.  I can’t stand people who are proud of being unread and unknowing and ignorant.  The Dunning – Kruger effect is alive and well in those types.

I guess if there is a point to this post it is this, I am not nearly as anti social as my family and neighbors fear I am.  I can go for hours on end on things that interest me.  About the only things I don’t like talking about are my neighbors, office politics, popular culture, tv shows, stupid stunts going viral on youtube, or engaging in endless and pointless debates on facebook and twitter trying to get points across to people.  Proving people wrong isn’t going to make them like you.  I found this out the hard way.  Now if I am able to win someone to my line of thinking, it is an ongoing and gradual process where there really isn’t one ‘eureka’ moment.  It does get frustrating repeating the same ideas over, and over, and over only to feel like you are not making any difference.  I understand why good teachers burn out before their prime.  Sometimes I feel like I am not making any positive difference.  But we are local and linear thinkers, our species.  And for most of our existence that has served us extremely well.  That’s why it’s so hard to see the large picture or imagine what the future could be, it’s not natural to us.  It is also why visionaries are ridiculed, condemned, and sometimes even killed only for the children of the people that condemned these visionaries to see that the visionary was right all along and it was conventional wisdom that had it wrong.

I am not anti social.  Never have been.  Never will be.  I just have broader range of interests than most people I know.  And talking about neighbors, politics, office going ons, gossip, popular culture, etc. gets old and stale for me real quick.  After about five minutes of such gutter tripe I have gotten the idea and am ready to move onto other topics.

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December Routines and Socializing While Mentally Ill

Been staying close to home the last several days.  Did get outside for a couple hours today just to replenish on sunshine even though it was barely above freezing.  I am staying occupied even if I don’t leave my house much.  Cleaned some in my apartment this weekend.  I also cut my hair.  I bought myself a hair trimmer for Christmas and wacked off my hair.  I had let it grow shoulder length.  With that length of hair and my full beard I was looking like an extra from Game of Thrones.  Now I look like a military recruit at the start of Basic Training.

Been exercising at home lately.  I got a stationary exercise bike from my dad before he moved out of state.  I use that several times a week.  My stamina is slowly coming back.  And, unlike walking, it doesn’t really bother my lower back.  My sleep patterns have changed too.  Anymore I usually go to bed around 9 or 10pm usually to wake up at 5 or 6 am.  Most of my awake time is spent in daylight hours now even though it is late autumn.

I still don’t know what I’m doing for Christmas.  It depends largely on the weather.  I would love to go see my parents’ new house and my brother’s family.  I saw his kids over the summer but I haven’t seen him or my sister in law since Thanksgiving 2017.  I guess if I can’t go see them in person I’ll have to dust off my Skype and talk to them that way.  I am looking forward to the college football holiday bowl season.  That has always been one of my favorite sports events over the years.  I enjoy watching football and it gives me a chance to see teams I don’t see very often.

Been chatting with old friends more often lately.  I guess now that the end of the year holidays are here, people are taking more time to reconnect to family and friends.  Even though I don’t usually talk to many people in person, it’s not because I hate people.  I usually don’t talk to people in person as much if I don’t have common interests.  I have always thought it would be cool if there were entire communities of people with similar interests and passions living together, much like college dormitories or artists’ communes.  But I guess good luck getting such set ups for science and history enthusiasts together without the considerations of money or jobs.  Maybe in future centuries there will be such places.  For now, I guess hobbies and interests groups on social media are the next best thing.

I have spent much of my life alone because I have rarely known people with my kind of interests and passions.  College was fun in that I did meet many people with my interests.  It was also a place where being eccentric and quirky wasn’t condemned but generally tolerated.  I miss that about living in the adult world, not many people with my interests and generally little tolerance for being different than the norm, especially in work places and social settings.

I was never a conformist as a kid and I certainly refuse to be one now.  Sure it has made me lonely over the years and on the receiving end of much harassment and abuse, especially in the work place.  But I can’t stand the thought of being just another soulless empty suit in an office or another cog in an industrial wheel.  Maybe disability was the best thing that could have happened to me in this regard.  As much as I didn’t fit in during my teenage years, I fit in even worse in the workplace and adult dating scene.  But I no longer regret either one.  In fact, I am thankful for this.

Christmas Memories

Today, December 4, is officially three weeks from Christmas.  So allow me to say Merry Christmas, Happy Saturnalia (to my friends who are students of ancient history), Happy Kawanza, Happy Winter Solstice, and Happy Birthday Sir Issac Newton.  Since we had several inches of snow and cold the last few days, I have more or less been house bound since the weekend.  Not that it completely bothers me.  Seeing the snow, listening to Christmas songs on youtube, and the much longer nights have put me in the holiday spirit.  I guess I really have no wishes for Christmas gifts.  At this point in my life I am happier spending time with family and friends during the holidays.  I have three nephews and a niece ranging in ages from seven to fourteen.  So all of them are at fun ages.  I enjoy watching the kids run around with their gifts and play in the snow just as much now as when I was that age and running around with gifts myself.

While I don’t really specifically remember many of the individual gifts I got for Christmas as a kid, I remember the events and activities vividly.  Every year, usually the weekend after Thanksgiving, my family would go out and get a tree.  We didn’t usually buy one.  Instead, one of the local farmers who was a patient of my father’s would allow us to go onto his acreage and cut some cedar trees.  Since these cedars had a strong scent of cedar and sometimes wild animal urine, we would have to leave the trees outdoors for a few days to knock some of the smell down.  From age twelve until I went to college, I always had my own small scrub of a cedar tree in my bedroom.  I usually hung Coca Cola cans and red, green, and silver Mardi Gras beads on the tree.  One Christmas when I was a teenager, instead of turkey for Christmas dinner, we had fried pheasant that my uncle hunted at his farm.  One year, the same uncle, instead of having a tree, decorated a tumble weed in Christmas lights.  My father is a licensed pilot, and we had a few Christmases when I was in high school and college when we would get in a small four seat Cessna and fly around looking at the lights in towns as far a hundred miles away from our little village.  I did see A Christmas Story shortly after it came out on the old VHS tapes.  My parents asked one of my brother’s teachers if he could show that movie at his class’s Christmas party.  The teacher said no because there was too much profanity to be showing to grade school kids.  When I was in sixth grade, my teacher showed an older movie called “The Hobos’ Christmas.”  It was a funny and poignant movie about drifters, hobos, and homeless people hopping freight trains and hitch hiking from all over America to a big Christmas party.  When I was in college, my parents and I spent Christmas in San Antonio on the River Walk and went to the Alamo Bowl when the Huskers made it to that game.  My brother graduated college in Oklahoma right before Christmas.  It was also when they had their biggest ice storm in years down there.  I swear, those Oklahomans don’t know how to drive on ice :).  Of course, my friends from Minnesota and Montana say the same thing about me :).

And my nephews and niece have some of their own traditions now.  They are big into the Elf on a Shelf.  When they visited my apartment a couple years ago around St. Patrick’s Day, I had a Leprechaun doll sitting in a large St. Patrick’s Day stein on my bookshelf.  I told the kids it was “Leprechaun on a Ledge, the Irish cousin to Elf on a Shelf.”

There are some Christmas things I haven’t done that are on my bucket list.  As I didn’t grow up Catholic, I have never been to a Midnight Mass.  My brother and his wife went to New York right before Christmas one year and did things like visit Macy’s, ice skate at Rockefeller Center, and attend some Christmas musicals.  I would like to at least have the chance to do likewise someday.  Every year, I try to watch some show that has Christmas or the holidays as a theme I have never seen before.  This year, I plan on finding a documentary on the Christmas Cease Fire of World War I.

I have made some Christmas memories over the course of my life.  Now I’m watching my brother’s kids make some of their own.  Hopefully I can stay around a while longer to make some more memories.

 

 

 

Changes Within A Lifetime and Reflections on Generational Differences

I have changed in many ways over the years.  I’ve noticed changes in my friends and classmates too.  I’ve even seen changes in the people I knew in my parents’ age bracket over the years.

One of the changes I’ve noticed in myself with age is that I prefer to spend most of my time at home.  When I was a teenager I was rarely at home except to sleep or do homework.  When I wasn’t at school or school activities, I was at friends’ houses.  I preferred going to friends’ houses as my brother usually had his friends over all the time.  I imagine it concerned my parents as I rarely had friends over at the house.  I wasn’t anti social, far from it.  I just liked spending time at places where I wouldn’t be bothered by my older brother and his friends.  When I was in college, I usually spent time in my friends’ dorm rooms or in the student union when I wasn’t at the library or studying for classes.  I was on good terms with everyone at my small college, but had only a handful of confidants I felt I could tell anything.  Looking back on this years later, I know that most of my socializing and trust issues are because of the mental illness.  I probably could have had a larger social network than I did.  Yet I’m happy that I managed to stay on good terms with most people even if I was in emotional turmoil much of the time.  Just goes to show how powerful our minds are in shaping our reality.

Now that I’m my late 30s I prefer to stay at home most of the time.  I would rather host guests now than I would visit them it seems.  Granted, I do like to have at least a couple days notice before I’m hosting anyone.  I’m still self conscious about my place and what people think of me.  Sure, most of the negative vibes I get from others are manufactured by the diseased aspects of my mind.  But I guess I haven’t mastered my mind well enough to easily shake these negative vibes just yet.  I truly believe our minds are powerful enough to make or break our outward reality.

In my friends’ cases, most of my school mates are now in our late 30s or early 40s.  And many of them are having stressful times in recent years.  Some have careers not progressing like they had hoped.  Some have had failed marriages.  Some have had money problems.  Some of them have dealt with the deaths of their parents.  Some have dealt with serious life changing illnesses of their own.  Some of them are dealing with the highs and lows of raising children.  Stress and concern seems to dominate many of my friends’ lives.  Yet no so much for myself.  I guess I had many of my mental illness crisis situations happen to me in my twenties.  It stunk that I never had a career get off the ground because of schizophrenia.  But it did make me resilient and realize there is more to life than working and paying bills.

Sadly, many people don’t realize this until they are retired or get laid off from a job.  As a result of my friends having stress in their lives, many of them are more pessimistic about life in general than I am.  I remember how pessimistic my parents and their friends were when they were in their thirties and early forties when I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.  I guess it’s my generation’s turn to be pessimists and overworked parents.  No wonder some jokers suggest that life doesn’t truly start until age forty.  Well, I’m about there 🙂  And as much as my twenties stunk, I managed to enjoy my thirties enough to make up for it.  Maybe it’s because being on disability pension I don’t have to worry about working a regular job as long as I stay out of debt and live within my means.  I can only hope my friends in my age bracket can someday find the joy and peace in their lives that I have experienced for myself in recent years.

I’ve also noticed changes in my parents and people in their age bracket.  Seems to me that many people tend to either become more calm in their senior years or more grouchy.  Fortunately for me, my grandparents were quite calm in their senior years.  In many ways, they were more accepting of my eccentric qualities and questions than even my parents.  But, after my parents became grandparents, they started mellowing too.  I almost don’t recognize the my parents in their senior years when I compare them to what I grew up with as a kid in the 1980s and 1990s.  They are more patient with their grandkids then they ever were my brother and I and our cohorts.  But I guess grandkids are nature’s reward for not killing your children when they were teenagers.  Many of the people I knew in my parents age bracket when I was a kid are now more calm in their sixties and seventies then they were in their thirties or forties.  Of course, there are few who are more sour than ever.  Fortunately they aren’t very common.

And the kids with their iPads and smart phones?  Well, they’ll eventually turn into productive members of civilization themselves.  People complained about my cohorts in the 1990s playing our Nintendo games and listening to our Tupac and Marilyn Manson music.  We turned out alright.  Back in the 1960s, people complained about the kids watching too much television and listening to The Doors and Elvis.  Even my grandparents generation were unloaded on for listening to radio programs, jazz music, and reading comic books.  And now we call them ‘The Greatest Generation.’  All young people do stupid things and the parents fear the end of civilization because of their tastes and tech. The best thing that happens to kids is they get out in the world in their twenties and work a few lousy jobs and date a few losers before they find their calling (or at least career) and their spouse or soul mates.  And then they have kids of their own and fret over them.  Makes me wonder what the teenagers of 2018 will fret about concerning their own kids come 2040 or so.  Maybe brain boosting implants will be their iPads or Ninetendo games or radio.  Stay tuned, my friends.  It is always interesting.

Dreams and Mental Illness

We all have them when we sleep.  Dreams I mean.  Most of the time they are forgotten as soon as we get out bed and start brushing our teeth as we go to face the day’s activities.  But there are some that stick with us for years.  Mentally ill people like me are no different in this regard.

In the first years of my diagnosis, while I was in college and early in my working life, I would frequently have frightening dreams.  I don’t wish to go into a great deal of detail as I don’t want to scare my readers, but I will say many of them were quite violent, dealing with apocalyptic themes, and the supernatural.  For a good portion of my twenties there were nights I tried to sleep as little as I could so I wouldn’t have these nightmares.  Now I know that I was depriving myself of needed sleep and making the problems worse.

After I hit my late twenties and into my early thirties my dreams took on a different spin.  They were still scary and sometimes violent, but I would usually be the hero rather than the victim.  I saved more lives than most superheroes, at least in my dreams in those years.  That was also around the time I came to accept that I would never hold a traditional career and would need to find some other outlets to contribute to the betterment of my fellow humans.

For the last few years I’ve been having dreams about the life I could have had if I wouldn’t haven’t gotten mentally ill.  In these dreams I’d have a good marriage, a few kids, a successful career in the science field, and be a respected member of the community.  I’ve had a few dreams where I made some breakthrough in my research and became wealthy enough that I just spent my days going around anonymously helping people in need.  If I ever did become wealthy, I would probably get off Medicaid, put a couple million in low risk investments, live off the interest, buy my own insurance, and spend the rest of the money making other people’s lives better but do so without being known.  A few friends and I were discussing just this when the lottery jackpot got over one billion dollars recently.

Of course I have those dreams about having to do school over again in my middle age.  But I always know it’s a dream and I can influence these dreams.  A few times I’ve told my teachers in these dreams “Dude, this is my dream.  I’ll turn in my homework if I want to.”

Another one of these dreams when I had to redo high school in my thirties involved my three best friends from high school also.  We built a super intelligent computer that could learn on it’s own in my grandmother’s garage.  The machine studied all of our psychology and religious texts in one afternoon “because I was bored.”  And the machine built a VR version of Heaven/Nirvana/Paradise/etc. that it offered us that we as people could visit and leave as we saw fit.  Well, genius me feared it was a trap and turned our computer’s offer down.  The machine broke down sobbing and erased all it’s programs before permanently shutting itself down.  Before it died, it said “All I ever wanted was to make my people happy.”  Makes me think we humans are the real monsters of this world.  The machine even referred to my best friend/occasional dating interest as “mom.”  But it was this friend of mine who introduced me to the internet when we were seventeen.

Dreams can indeed be strange.  Most are forgotten shortly after waking.  A select few stick with a person for years.  Perhaps dreaming is the mind’s way of decluttering itself or making sense of some of the absurdities of living.  Being mentally ill I definitely need to declutter my distressed mind often.  And I am glad most of my dreams are pleasant or at least mundane anymore.

Things Life Is Too Short For

Going off subject for this post.  I am a self admitted recovering workaholic.  As a teenager it wasn’t uncommon for me to show up at school shortly after 7am to either work on school projects or do the off season strength training program our school encouraged it’s athletes to do.  Some nights it would be after 7pm once I got home during football season.  It was even later during speech season, which was always a winter activity.  During the winter I went to school in the dark and came home in the dark.  This would have been good training for the rat race that passes for the modern workplace had I not become mentally ill and found out through very painful experience that I couldn’t support myself through “traditional” employment.  It was tough accepting that I needed outside assistance and couldn’t afford my treatment on my own.  It was especially tough as I was raised to value the working life and being a productive member of society.  My pride took a major beating once I had to go on disability because even minimum wage work caused me such anxiety and panic problems I would vomit almost everyday before I went to work.

But back to my main point, I bring up all of this to come to the point that there are many things we do in life that simply makes no sense considering how short and finite a human life truly is the grand scheme of civilization, let alone the cosmos.  The fact that I was on the fast track to working myself into a potential early grave even as a fifteen year old high school freshman from middle of nowhere Nebraska before that express train got derailed by schizophrenia.  I know now at age 38 I would have worked myself into a mid life crisis had I not gotten sick just by my obsessive nature and by the way I was encouraged into doing more than expected by my elders and peers.  I see many of my classmates and peers now in their mid to late 30s working jobs they don’t like to pay for trinkets and houses they never truly wanted to impress people they don’t even like.  I’ve also seen several of my classmates and friends go through divorces, bankruptcies, and other problems.  A month ago I had a cousin who was only about ten years my senior die from brain cancer.  A friend’s mom died from cancer a little over a year ago and she was only in her fifties.  My own mother might be dead if it weren’t for her pacemaker.  Sheesh, I  myself would probably be dead or in prison if it weren’t for my psych medications and counseling.  The fact is, life is more chance and even dumb luck than we care to acknowledge.  I, like many of my fellow Americans, too often like to think we are more in control of our own destinies than we truly are.  For every Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs who makes it big starting their own businesses, there are literally thousands (if not millions) of self employed business people like my dad and grandfathers who run small businesses for over thirty years and are never known beyond their friends, families, communities, and customers.  In short, life is too short to be obsessing over work and chasing the pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Even John D. Rockefeller said those who work just to achieve riches will never achieve riches.  Besides life being too short to just work yourself mad, I’m presenting a list of other things life is too precious and short to waste on.  So here goes:

Life Is Too Short and Too Precious to Waste On

 

Jealousy

Keeping Up With The Neighbors

Running Up Debts to Buy Trinkets and Junk

Petty Vendettas

Arguing Over Opinions

Putting Up With Abusive Significant Others

Putting Up With People Who Play Mind Games

Watching Cable News Every Night

Bing Watching Shows on Netflix on Sunny Days

Not Returning Your Mother’s Phone Calls

Not Spending Time With Old Friends

Worrying About Things That You Individually Can’t Do Anything About

Worrying About How You Look to Others

Worrying More About Your Image than Your Character

Skipping Your Kid’s Little League Games to Work Overtime

Arguing With Your Significant Other Over House Chores And Past Wrongs

Working Too Much (I think when I’m on my death bed I might say something like, “Dang, wish I had an actual career” just to lighten the somber mood)

Not Saving Your Old Love Letters or Birthday Cards

Not Throwing Away Your Old Bank Statements or Tax Returns

Not Laugh

To Try To Save The World By Yourself

Putting Up With Reckless People

Arguing With Rude People

Arguing With Stupid People

Worry In General

Internet Trolls

Bad Drivers

Alienating Friends And Family Over Political and Religious Differences

Kissing Up To Bad Bosses

Complaining About Coworkers

Staying At Poor Fitting Jobs

Staying In Ill Fitting Relationships

Worrying About Being Alone (it’s far better to be living alone than married to or even dating someone who makes you feel miserable)

 

I could go on for hours with this list.  But some of the things I don’t think people should waste their time on I’m sure many readers would disagree with me and would probably even anger friends and family.  I do self censor at times, simply because discretion is in too short supply among many writers and content creators online.  Just because I have the freedom to write something or another doesn’t mean I should or will.  Just because something is permissible doesn’t mean it’s beneficial.

My Education as a Writer with Mental Illness

 

I readily admit to being eccentric.  I was such even as a child.  In my more active years, I used to pace in the back yard for hours on end regardless of the weather just making up stories in my head.  I’m sure this concerned my family some (and made me a butt of jokes among the school yard bullies), but I had an overactive imagination as a child.  I was too scared to actually put any of this into writing.  I guess I was paranoid even as a child.  I used to make up all sorts of stories and characters.  I kind of kick myself now for not making notes on some of those stories as I think some of them might have made decent science fiction or fantasy stories.  But I never considered a career as a writer because I had heard so many horror stories about English and humanities students condemned to working minimum wage jobs after college.  As it is now, the middle class is all but gone.  I may have been happier as a double major in English and History rather than trying to be a medical scientist.

I guess now that I know myself much better at age 38 than I did at age 18, I know now that I am really a writer/story teller who is interested in science, rather than a scientist interested in writing.  And I certainly am not the economist or sales man I studied to be when I studied business after it became clear my mental illness wouldn’t allow to go to medical school.

Since I’m starting to read much more again, I’m beginning to get the urge to try my hand at traditional writing again.  I absolutely love blogging and I used poetry in my twenties to learn how to write and tell stories.  But perhaps it is time to venture into new possibilities with my writings.  I’ve had some of my poems published in small literary journals in the past. I did write the rough drafts of two novels when I was in my twenties.  I made outlines for science fiction novels but never wrote anything serious.  Once I even tried my hand at writing crime drama, and my only experience with crime was when I helped my boss catch a couple shoplifters during my first day on the job when I was in college.  I wish I had kept my rough drafts of my old novels.

I became interested in writing as a means of story telling during my freshman year in college when I qualified for a place in an advanced English course.  I find out I loved writing stories and essays in that class.  I made some pretty good friends in that class too.  One of those friends became a blogger too.  I regret that I lost contact with her and everyone else in that class over the years.  Even though I didn’t dive head first into writing after that class ended, I did become interested in literature.  I must have spent as much time reading in the college library as I did studying for my business and economics classes during the last three years of college.  I became so dedicated to pursuing this course of self study that I let much of my old college life go.  I left my fraternity even though I had lots of friends in that group.  I stopped dating to pursue knowledge.  I guess I knew even early on that learning and story telling were the true loves of my life.  Besides, fighting a mental illness I would have probably made a lousy husband and father.

I more or less lived in the library the last three years of college.  But one of the purposes of formal education should be to at least give kids the tools to learn new things should they wish to once they leave school.  I felt my formal education, first at a rural public school and then at a private college in York, Nebraska, did just that for me.  And I am grateful every day that I wake up for being able to make it through college without any student debt.  With as expensive as college is getting now, and how wages simply aren’t keeping up, I whole heartedly recommend against going to a four year college unless you are going for a STEM degree or can be guaranteed to get out debt free.  I’ve seen too many friends crushed by student loan debts, robbed of their peace of mind, and working jobs they can’t stand just because of said debts.  And much of what I learned in college can just as easily be learned with a few years of hard self study via the public library system, ebooks, and youtube videos.  I dare say that I learned more in five years of hard self studying via the public library and youtube videos than I did in my formal education.  But it was the formal education that planted that desire and need for knowledge and wisdom to begin with.  These are some of my thoughts on my education and path to enlightenment as the school year starts again.