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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January 16, 2019

Haven’t gotten out much lately besides running errands.  I feel quite stable over even if I am content to just stay home and socialize with only old friends, family, and neighbors.  I still go to bed around ten p.m., sleep until 4 a.m, and am ready to go for the day.  I still nap for an hour or so during the middle afternoons.  As it is I still socialize even if I don’t get out of my complex much besides running needed errands.  I have become a homebody I suppose.  It’s quite a change from when I was growing up and I rarely wanted to be home, preferring to be with friends, at the library, or attending school activities.

I’ve been very stable lately.  Besides a bad but short lived break down in November, I haven’t had any true problems for over a year.  Maybe I am learning how to deal with the illness quite well.  Or maybe I just have discovered a routine that negates the worst parts of the illness.  Regardless, I’m doing well.  I want to keep this winning streak going.

Making a Bachelor Pad a True Home with Mental Illness

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I admit to having been quite lax about taking care of my living quarters during the previous year or so.  Mentally I was stable, but that was mainly because I didn’t leave my apartment much.  I would stay home, read books, read online articles, watch science lectures and videos on youtube and curiosity stream, and ride my exercise bike a few times a week.  Yet I wasn’t taking care of my place like I should have been.  I used the excuse that I didn’t have guests very often and didn’t even really want guests.  But, there are going to be times when people have to visit us even unannounced.

But now that I’m gaining an even stronger sense of stability with my schizophrenia, I’m taking steps to remedy these problems.  I recently hired a cleaning person.  She’s been to my place a few times.  I think it’s going to work out well.  I had gotten lazy about keeping on top of the place, especially after my back went bad several months ago.  But I have lost some weight since the autumn and got some maintenance issues cleared up.  I was lazy about clutter and while I could find anything I needed in my place, no one else could.  In my occasionally paranoid state, I thought that by rarely leaving my apartment for any true length of time, I could make the problems manage themselves.  Well, that wasn’t happening.  Problems never take care of themselves.

I’m better able to stay on top of things because I asked for help.  Breaking down and admitting when I need outside assistance is one of the toughest things for me to do.  I imagine part of this is my natural paranoia (I was kind of paranoid even before I developed full schizophrenia), my illness itself, being still relatively young, and being a bachelor man.  Some men are notorious about not asking for outside help until a crisis develops and I am definitely no exception.

My place is feeling more like a true home rather than a mad monk’s chamber in a medieval monastery.  I received frames for the art work I had bought from an old friend for Christmas.  Got those hanged on my walls.  Now the place looks more cheerful and less dreary.  I had forgotten how good wall decorations could make a place look.  For the first several years out of college, I hung posters and pennants of my favorite rock stars, sports teams, and snarky but comical quotes on my walls.  It looked like a frat house except no girly pics or deer antlers wearing hats and Mardi Gras beads. My first bachelor pads out of school had the antlers but my girlfriends probably wouldn’t have liked the girly pictures.

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As far as decorations go, I have some nature artwork done by one of my old high school friends, a painting of an alien landscape inspired by science fiction literature done by an artist acquaintance (sadly lost contact with him when I withdrew from the local arts scene), and a world map with push pins in the countries where I had visitors to this blog from.  The list of my countries I have not had visitors from is now quite short after almost six years of regular blogging.  Even though the place is more decorated now than even this time a year ago, I’m still thinking about adding to my wall art collection.  And yes, I am far beyond the age where things like stolen road signs, snarky posters, and alcohol advertisements are appealing.

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Friends

I must confess that I never was Mr. Popularity, not as a kid or an adult.   I may have not had legions of acquaintances I considered friends, but I am fortunate to have had a few I felt I could tell anything and not be condemned for my confessions or thoughts.  It was tough for me to make friends as a kid because I had different interests than most people in my town.  I loved reading about science, history, and foreign cultures even as a little child.  This didn’t endear me to the neighbor kids much as I didn’t really like tossing around the football, playing basketball, or any other games grade school kids are supposed to like.  I was usually one of the slowest runners and least coordinated children in my grade school.  Of course this singled me out for some ridicule from school mates.  Being the really smart kid who wasn’t going to hide his smarts didn’t help my social life either.

As a result of not having much for friends as a child in a town that was lacking for choices of friends compared to most places, I spent a lot of time alone.  I would often wander in the back yard or the allies and make up stories in my head.  I often continued these stories and characters for weeks and even months at a time.  I wish I would have written some of these down.  But I was afraid I’d be ridiculed for being creative by my school mates and family members.  Every time I brought home a piece of work from my art class I was proud of, my older brother and even some of my cousins would critique it and tell me how awful it was.  I kept a diary one summer in junior high but my brother found it.  After that I kept my creative streaks to myself.

My saving grace came from two really cool friends I met as a pre teen.  One was an artistic guy who introduced me to some really cool music like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica, AC/DC, etc. that I still listen to occasionally even twenty five years later.  He also introduced me to cool artwork.  We admired everything from the Renaissance masters to Andy Warhol.  He taught himself how to play guitar just by listening to rock albums.  He became quite good and even played in a band for awhile.  Like myself, he too had problems fitting in during our school years.  When we were in sixth grade in 1992, he and I would be talking about the news from the presidential election.  While many of our classmates were discussing the latest Denver Broncos game or Michael Jordan commercials, he and I would be critiquing old Ross Perot’s latest television specials with his graphs and pie charts.  Naturally, our school mates thought us kind of odd.

The other really cool friend I had growing up was another artist type.  She and I thought alike.  We liked each other right away.  As she was home schooled until high school, we didn’t have the shared misery that was middle school.  Like myself and my other close friend, she wasn’t really interested in sports or popular culture.  Even in our early teens we spent time discussing art, philosophy, politics, literature, and science.  Her family and mine were among the first to get in home internet back in the mid 1990s.  She also taught me how to get free songs online.  I never did this because the internet was very slow and costly in those years.  And since it was old dial up, it tied up the house phone line whenever I wanted to go online.  Kind of tough to download the latest Green Day or Ice Cube songs when dad was telling me to get off the computer because he was expecting business calls.

I also had some other cool friends in my church youth group.  But since most of them lived in different towns and went to different schools, I didn’t get to spend as much time with them as I would have liked.  We did spend time together at summer camp for a couple weeks every summer.  But it just wasn’t the same as seeing them everyday in the halls of school.

After I graduated from high school I moved onto college.  Even though I have more friends from college I stay in contact with than high school, the friendships just aren’t quite the same as the ones I managed to save from my middle and high school years.  I loved college.  Even though I was going through the trials of adapting to life with a mental illness, I had some amazing times.  Dated some more in college than I did high school.  But, looking back on high school, I think that my best friend being a girl was what killed my dating life more than anything.  Yet, I wouldn’t trade those experiences at all.  Besides, high school dating is pointless nonsense and too much drama anyway.

My social life dried up once I got into the adult world and many of my friends moved away and got married and had families of their own.  Fortunately, thanks to facebook and easy communications, I can keep in contact with my college friends and high school acquaintances pretty easily.  Even though I wasn’t Mr. Social Life in high school, I made an honest attempt to be polite and considerate to my classmates.  Sure I butted heads with a few kids in my school, but what teenagers don’t experience social drama and strife?  It’s all part of learning how to socialize and be an honorable human being.  And, unfortunately, the only way to learn this is to go through the trials yourself.  It’s not like you can have that knowledge uploaded to your mind, like in The Matrix movies.

Even though I don’t socialize much in person anymore, I still occasionally make new acquaintances online.  Most of these people have similar interests and participate in the same online forums and discussion groups.  Once I figured out how to sort through the various trolls and trouble makers, socializing and making friendships online became a pleasant experience.  Granted, it’s not the same as making friends in middle school, high school, or college.  But, seriously, how many people make their best friends when they are adults?  My biggest regret about my friendships is that I haven’t heard from one of my two best friends (the guitar playing guy) since 2005.  And, sadly, he’s not the type of man to spend time on facebook or going to class reunions.  Haven’t seen him in years but I still miss our conversations.  I don’t know if anyone makes the same kind of friends as adults that they made as teenagers.

Thoughts on January 1, 2019

New Year’s Day 2019.  Feels kind of strange to say it’s 2019 already.  It’s been 19 years since the “Y2K” fears didn’t materialize, 18 years since 9/11, 11 years since the Great Recession came close to becoming Great Depression part II,  7 years since the Mayan Apocalypse came and went, etc.  Yet, for me it sometimes doesn’t seem that long ago any of these things happened.  But, when I look at people in my niece and nephew’s generation, they weren’t even born when Y2K or 9/11 or the Great Recession took place or at least not able to remember these events.  Makes me wonder for these youngsters what events will be taking place in their adolescence and early adulthood they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  I was born in 1980, so too late have living memories of Vietnam or Watergate or the Apollo programs but early enough I can remember first hand stories of the Dust Bowl, World War II, and the Civil Rights movements from my grandparents and their friends.  One thing I have learned from surviving my home world making almost 40 laps around the mother star is that the only real constant in our lives is change.

I am 38 years old. As far as life expectancy is concerned, barring any major medical breakthroughs coming, my life as a human is statistically half over.  Having a mental illness, I’m probably closer to the grave than even that.  I can tell there are some changes happening in myself already.  Physically I am beginning to slow down and get unexplainable aches and pains that don’t always clear up as fast as they did even three years ago.  Being overweight makes this only worse, no doubt.  But, as far as signs that I am in middle age, my physical strength gets sapped faster than previously, I no longer have much of an interest in sex, I don’t feel much of a need to compete against anything beyond my personal bests, have come to accept and appreciate who and what I am, etc.

As it is, I am glad to have been able to experience and witness the changes my civilization and my personal self have gone through.  Makes me wonder what changes the next 38 years will bring.  If I’m still around and blogging is still a thing in the 2050s, I hope to be able to write about even these changes.

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.