Friday, October 31, 2014

Friendship: A Short Short Story

He wanted a friend.

He tried to make friends with the people he knew.  They already had friends.  They weren't looking for new friends.  

He went to where friendly people congregate.  He stood there forlorn, as he didn't have anything interesting to say.  People stopped by and said hello.  He tried, really tried, but they moved on to people they found more enjoyable to talk with.  

He checked the classifieds.  He came across an ad, "Wanted: friend with benefits."  He sent a short email expressing his interest.  He was asked to send a photo and a description of what kind of stuff he was into.  He told the man he enjoyed playing the piano and reading a good novel.  He asked the man what benefits he might receive.  He found a nice picture of himself, attached it to the message, and closed by telling the man that he was very interested in having a friend and looked forward to hearing back.  He never did.

He reached out to people he knew years before, even socialized with on occasion.  They were excited to hear from him, they said.  They'll have him over for dinner sometime, they said.  He said he'd like that, that he'd even bring dessert.  He was happy until weeks and months went by with no dinner invitations.  They were busy, he knew, so he tried not to take it personally.  Besides, he was sure he scared them off somehow.

He was old.  He had long given up on making friends.  He sat next to another old man on a park bench.  He glanced over and saw his own face.  "Will you be my friend?" he asked himself.  "I don't know," he replied, "what's in it for me?"  He thought it over.  He had nothing to offer.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Vanity

All is vanity.  Indulge me my own.



Me, one year ago.



Me, one day ago.


The more observant among you will notice a major difference between the me of one year ago and the me of one day ago.  That's right; my hair is, in fact longer.  I think it looks better, don't you?  It downplays the prominence of my widow's peak and shows just how luxuriant and full my hair is.  You should see the me of today's hair, though.  It's amazing!  It really puts the hair of the me of one day ago to shame.

I guess I should also point out the other big difference.  Yes, the me of one day ago is indeed clean-shaven.  This is a recent development.  I don't know if the me of one year ago would have liked it.  It makes me look younger, mostly because my beard's getting gray.  Youth is overrated.  I'm looking forward to being a grouchy old goat.  Is 36 too early to start?

I've been a vain man.  Those of you who have witnessed my past insecurity about my appearance may disagree.  But what's vainer than worrying about how attractive you might be?  Obviously, the me of one year ago is considerably heavier than the me of one day ago.  Around sixty pounds heavier, in fact.  It's actually not been much of a struggle to lose this weight.  I've done it slowly, which is how I wanted to, even though I'm not always the most patient of people.  I've got more to lose before I reach the appropriate weight range for my height, but I'm getting there.  Is the me of one day ago vainer than the me of one year ago?  I'm a little less self-conscious about my appearance, but I'm also very proud of the weight I've visibly lost.  Which is vainer?  In all honesty, I don't care.  I wrote this post just to show you how gorgeous I am.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Honestly

I'm a liar.  But I'm not a very good one.  As a result I would say that I lie less frequently than most people.  Maybe that actually makes me an honest person?  I don't know.  I do know I've upset or annoyed many a person by answering a question with complete frankness.  Perhaps my brand of honesty is not ideal, but I never ask another person a question unless I want an honest answer, so I guess I expect the same out of each of them.  This doesn't mean that I don't feel bad when I hurt someone's feelings.

The issues I intend to present here are whether honesty can coexist with flakiness, or whether disingenuous commitment, or the lack of commitment, is the same as dishonesty.  This is another one of those posts that maybe I shouldn't write.  I've gone and got myself in trouble in the past because I've commented on common, even universal, traits that may or may not be negative.  Some readers have seen themselves as uniquely having (or not having) a given trait and have assumed I was talking personally about them.  Sometimes I've thought out loud about something I see in all of us.  I usually talk about people in general, not one specific person, but somehow my generalities become seen as specifics.  When I say "you," I usually mean "you the everyman" or "you the collective," not a literal person.  When I talk about "I, we, you, etc.," I am frequently creating a character as an illustration.  This blog is intended to be literary, not a diary of my life, even though I may incorporate stories from my past if I think they make the prose, the poem, or the prose poem better.  I hope all of this isn't confusing.  Actually, that's a lie.  I enjoy confusing people.  But I'll tell you right now, I (the real "I") personally have used the noncommittal approach to avoid outright lying, so, as I've said many times before, this post is as much about me as about you.  Anyway, here goes.

I don't expect any discussion (though I'd like some), but my questions are not completely hypothetical.  Can honesty coexist with flakiness?  Is disingenuous commitment, or the lack of commitment, the same as dishonesty?  We've all said or heard such statements as "We should have lunch sometime," or, "I'm sorry, I just got so caught up in what I was doing."  The former gives the appearance that the two of us would have an enjoyable time together.  We might indeed find each other's company more than tolerable, but it's clear to both parties that we will never have lunch together, that other things will get in the way.  The latter gives the appearance of honest intent on behalf of one party, while inconveniencing or irritating, sometimes even dashing the hopes, of the other party.

Sometimes we'll use a different kind of open-ended commitment.  We'll say something like, "Yeah, I'll definitely visit soon."  As soon approaches, soon becomes further away.  Soon becomes as meaningless as "sometime."  Soon is a cop-out.  Soon is a bad habit.

There's a different brand of outright flakiness.  We might schedule a specific time, knowing we'll probably have to cancel.  This is certainly hurtful and, I think, crosses the threshold of dishonesty.  We make it easier on ourselves, delaying our day of reckoning by making promises that we know will go unfulfilled.  That's different from simply being absent-minded.  It's devious.

I've used fairly benign examples here, but lying starts benignly.  We make disingenuous promises to avoid the consequences of telling the truth.  We lie to avoid the consequences of telling bigger truths.  Lying is a form of cowardice.  Lies become bigger as consequences become more severe.

The larger problem is that lying gives rise to mistrust.  There are times when we're completely truthful, but others will think we're lying.  We've probably all done this at least once.  As we listen to another person, we might subconsciously think, "I would say what he's saying if I were lying about this, so he must be lying."  If we've been lied to, repeatedly, about something of real importance, we may even forget that there are good people in the world.  I've had my own doubts.

Not about you, of course.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Psalm #10

Nothing good has ever come from my writing.  It's best I keep my fingers still.  Maybe this psalm should be left unwritten, unsung.  Few will read it anyway.  But, Lord, it's here on the tips of my fingers.  I have little in worldly goods, but I have a voice, even if it's unheard.  I know no more now than I've ever known.  Your creations are a mystery.  I am a creature, as are all things, loved by my creator, put together like an intricate puzzle with missing pieces.  I don't have to create a thing to love the thing created.  And I love, with selective depth.  Where am I now?  Broken but slowly healing, older but not wiser, with many wasted years.  You don't look at outward appearances, but at the heart.  If I knew where you were, I'd sing your praises.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Fear, Part 2: Even Fearier

I went to church yesterday for the first time in years.  I thought I'd try to become more social by involving myself in something I was at least familiar with.  Though it's been a while since I've gone to church, I've more often than not felt a spiritual connection with the faith I was raised in.  Anyway, I thought that I might take the plunge and involve myself in a very social situation.

It was, as might be expected, awkward, weird, and a little terrifying.  The occasional reader of this blog will know that I suffer from social anxiety disorder.  Yesterday, as my hands were shaking, sweaty, or squeezed into white-tinged fists, I sometimes wanted to find a closet to hide in.  I don't know why, but I sat there for three hours without getting up to wander the halls (yes, my church meets for three hours every Sunday, with members expected to, essentially, attend two hours of Sunday School).  As people came up to introduce themselves to me, I smiled and said hello, though I was quaking inside.  I couldn't tell you any of their names, even the pleasant gentleman who drove me to church and back home.

I was asked a couple of times what I did for a living, and I simply said I hadn't found a job out here yet.  I didn't say that the social interaction required in a regular job was overwhelming, and I didn't express my desire to be a writer.  I want to make a living as a writer, to establish myself artistically and monetarily, in part because I feel driven to create.  The other part is, well, I want to do my part, to support a family, to make them happy or, at least, less stressed, to not let the financial burden fall on my theoretical future wife.  It breaks me that I can't do that now.  I sink, I lose my ability to float, if I let myself think that it will never happen.  I want it.

Another piece of this social anxiety conundrum is my desire to be of some use to others who are in need, who feel overwhelmed by their lots in life.  There are limited things one can do to really make a difference in someone's life if one can't bring oneself to be around people.  There are some things I could do with my church or with charitable organizations.  I know of plenty of avenues of service, but, to be frank, I'm scared.  I can offer help to those I know and love, and I hope I can actually help them, but my overtures are usually rejected, my sincerity is suspect, and I feel useless.  I'll never tell you I want to help if I don't really want to help, but maybe I'm more a hindrance than a help.  Maybe I'll get in the way.  Maybe others don't want to feel like they're burdening me, without realizing that it's not a burden, that they'd be making me happy if I'm able to offer genuine help.

Or, maybe I'm just a little odd.  That's probably it.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Want

You rarely get what you want.  It makes no difference how much you want it.  Someone has to be willing to share it with you, to part with it, which takes generosity and, more than that, courage.  You want it now.  You're crazy about it, not just something like it, but it.  You must feign disinterest.  You've waited so long.  You don't want to wait anymore.  You must feign patience.  But you'll have to hold out, even if you end up broke and empty-handed.  You are paralyzed by fear, traumatized by hope, shattered by time and perception.  Want haunts you. You may have little to offer for trade.  You can only hint, flirt around the edges, pretend that you have a bargaining chip.  If you let it, want will burn you from the inside out.  But there's a small chance that the treasure you've discovered becomes yours.  You should be so lucky.  You should find such peace.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Psalm #9

I live in a pocket of cold.  That's fine; I like the chill.  It's the tepidity just out of reach that haunts me.  I can see it, feel it like a phantom limb, but it's not real.  That's what I tell myself, praying to make it true.  I don't want to be lukewarm.  You've been clear it doesn't please you.  But I'm going to have to leave this bubble sometime.  I've upset too many with my hatred of mediocrity.  I want to be forward, but the world you made doesn't smile on such boldness.  Help me work my way through this lukewarm life to find the fire that will make me whole.  Help me be me, but better.  Help me bestow on others the peace that still exceeds my grasp.  Give me the faith to believe that the misery of these many years has been an illusion, that I was made to have joy.