Hate

I’ve experienced a rather unsettling revelation.

I hate someone.

This is not the first time this has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. People, by nature, are almost designed to bump up against one another and cause friction. Arguments and misunderstandings and dirty deeds will continue to happen between human beings from now until the end of time. Grudges will be held, friendships will be severed, and dislike will bubble over into hatred time and time again.

Something feels different about this, though, and that’s what is bothering me. Like most all of us, I have been mistreated personally and professionally at various points in my life. I’ve been picked on, although I’m not sure I was ever bullied. I was put down verbally and made to feel worthless. In most of these instances, I knew who the people were. It wasn’t as if pain were being inflicted on me by strangers. I always managed a certain amount of disconnect somehow, though, as if these people were more constructs of things I didn’t like than antagonists capable of wounding me.

As the old saying goes, this time it’s personal.

hateI’m not sure if fully realized hatred is possible in cases where trust has not been fully given. I’m not sure if a bona fide enemy can be acquired without some sort of relationship with a nemesis. I can’t imagine a deeper wound being inflicted by someone other than a friend, someone you have shared details of your life with and never dreamed they would ever do anything to hurt you.

This happened to me. I still can’t actually believe it. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up one day to discover it didn’t actually happen. I did trust someone. I did have a relationship with someone. I was friends with someone. It feels strange talking about it in the past tense, but it’s true. That state of being is over, and I’m not sure it will ever come back.

It also feels strange to feel absolutely no remorse over feeling the way I do. Even now, I want to include a paragraph about how I feel bad about how I feel and how I wish I could figure out how to put things right. I would be lying, though. I feel nothing right now but blind rage, and I wish nothing but vengeance on this person. I at least have the morality left to not try to inflict that vengeance myself. It is difficult, though, to not stoop to that level. I want to be a wrecking ball, destroying every object of hate in my path.

This feeling is not fading. It feels as if it will last forever, and everything from common sense to religion to quotes in the Reader’s Digest are telling me to let it go. I can’t, though. I don’t even want to right now. Is this meanness? Is it sin? Is a byproduct of depression? Am I just not a very good person, or am I simply a human being who is having a very natural reaction to a terrible situation?

I hate not knowing the answer.

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Tuneful Tuesday: The Mellow Zone

mushroomI had the opportunity to eat lunch at the Mellow Mushroom in Nashville on Father’s Day. I would highly recommend it. They have some really awesome pizzas there, and the service was great, too. Lots of music stuff inside, which is right up my alley, of course. Just an overall pleasant experience.

It’s been a while since I’ve actually focused much on the music playing inside a restaurant I was eating at. There are usually so many other distractions around, particularly now that every restaurant seems to have at least five different televisions all playing five different things at the same time.

(Pet peeve: Why do restaurants put a television on a sitcom or newscast or something, turn the volume all the way down, and not turn on the closed captions? You’ve reduced the viewing experience to basically watching mimes.)

For some reason, though, on this particular day, I was listening to the songs being played with some degree of attention. As a string of ’90s alternative tunes reeled off, I had a realization: Even though some of those songs came out during really difficult periods of my life, when my depression was at some of its lowest points, I smiled after the first few notes of each of them played. It was like I was running into a bunch of old friends again.

With iPods and digital music, I think we’ve sort of lost the value of hearing a song from long ago played over a distantblur speaker. We can put our whole libraries on something the size of a notepad (or smaller). There are still those moments, though, when the past comes creeping in and taps you on the shoulder, just as it did for me Sunday. Counting Crows’ album Recovering the Satellites was like a depression soundtrack for me, but I sang nearly all the words to “Angels of the Silences” when I heard them. I don’t know what I was doing when Cherry Poppin’ Daddies “Zoot Suit Riot” came out, but I know I was diggin’ it Sunday. And even though I only know two words of Blur’s “Song 2” (“woo” and “hoo”), the energy of it made me sit up and take notice.

There may have been songs that took us to the depths of despair, but, man, aren’t we glad later on they were there? They came through when the happy, poppy stuff didn’t, then they came back years later to share war stories. Sad songs don’t always have to make you cry; sometimes they can make you smile because you’re not in the place you first heard them anymore.

That, my friends, is a pretty mellow trip, indeed.

The Invisible Alien

I believe I may be an alien being from another planet who possesses the power of invisibility.

“Crazy talk,” you say? “Not so,” I reply!

Consider this…

Nearly every computer or technological question I pose to humans is met either with a look of quizzical fascination or with the words, “Hmm, I’ve never heard of that before.” Perhaps there is some otherworldly electrical current which courses through my fingertips, rendering laptops and personal computers helpless before me. And maybe my knowledge of an alien alphabet keeps me from being able to enter passwords correctly, therefore keeping me out of websites and accounts it is crucial that I gain access to. Mankind appears incapable of solving these dilemmas for me.

I also possess the gift of being able to utter words into the air which are beyond the auditory perception of human alienears. Sometimes, it is as if what I’m saying isn’t heard by anyone at all. At other times, it is obvious that I was heard, but a response to my words is found lacking. This could be because I speak in some of dialect which I perceive as English, but is actually a type of speech birthed in the outer realms of space and transported by me to this rock known as Earth. I may also possess a different type of hearing which renders my measurement of volume inaccurate. What seems loud to me may be a whisper to someone else.

Whatever the causes, I seem to be able to move largely unnoticed through this world. I possess relative anonymity in a town I have lived in all my life. I have skills which appear to be fairly easy to ignore. My face is so unmemorable that a person I had actually met twice before told me that I reminded them of a picture they had seen on the news that day of an escaped convict. At my 20-year high school reunion, I ran into a former classmate who still lives in our hometown who asked me how work was going at the newspaper – somewhere I hadn’t worked in nearly a decade at the point.

Of course, I’m playing all this for laughs, but there are definitely times in my life when I feel as if I truly do not belong on this planet. I was reminded of this yesterday as I attempted to complete my college registration. Questions about usernames and passwords were met with largely blank stares. Did I stutter? Am I dense, and that is why I can’t figure this stuff out? Or am I over-thinking problems to the point where people don’t even understand my questions? No one is ever completely and constantly misunderstood, but certain days have a way of making me feel as if really am speaking a different language than everyone else.

This is presuming, of course, I actually manage to get someone’s attention. I cannot count the number of times recently I have been point-blank staring at someone and said something they appeared to have not heard whatsoever. Yesterday, when I got home, my two sons were running around the side of our house. I called to them; they didn’t even break stride. Am I that uninteresting? Have I said so many useless and trivial things in life that everyone just ignores whatever I say, whether it is important or not?

When did I become someone people could stare straight through? Or was I this person all along and am just now realizing it?

I am getting better at accepting who I am and realizing my personality traits are what they are. I’m also trying to figure out how all these parts of me make up a useful and functioning person. The real fear, though, is that I’ve waited too late to get started. Maybe I spent too many years in space. Maybe this is as good it gets for an invisible alien.

The thing is, though, there’s no way to backtrack from here. The alien wouldn’t come to Earth if he didn’t think there was something worth coming here for, and there’s nothing much in the outer limits worth staying there for. Adapting, improving, evolving, learning… These are the ways we aliens learn to survive in what can be a hostile environment sometimes. It’s not just a matter of survival, though; it’s a matter of learning to love and to live and to find a voice that asks questions worth hearing.

Space

waltons-arguingRemember those old westerns where there was a family living on a homestead, and the oldest son desperately wanted to get off the farm, but his parents wouldn’t let him go? He would always go storming out of the house, and the mother would always begin to pursue him, but the father would grab her and say something along the lines of “Just let him go. Give him some space.”

Personally, I am not a big fan of “space.” I’ve always believed that if you give a person in a bad state of mind more room to move, the more likely they are to do something rash or stupid. I usually prefer to stay and slug things out, even if it is a terribly uncomfortable and unfruitful process. There are obviously times when some space would be a good idea, but I am rather stubborn about this. I would probably grab that kid on the way out the door and not let him leave the house.

Sometimes when a person is depressed or sad or disturbed about something, the people around them want to give them space. “Just give him a little room to get over it.” I think one reason this occurs is because depression can look an awful lot like anger to the outside observer. You have someone who is not really talking to anyone, not making eye contact, and making virtually no effort whatsoever to be sociable. Mad people need space to cool down, right?

Many times, though, the person you thought was angry is really very, very depressed, which can make communicating with anyone a considerable chore. Symptoms that accompany depression can be extreme feelings of shame, anxiety, guilt, and, yes, even anger. Many people who suffer from it tend to isolate themselves, which creates an odd paradox within themselves: They don’t want anyone to bother them, but at the same time they feel dreadfully, painfully alone.

This is why I don’t believe granting space is always the best course of action. I know in my personal experiences of attempting to isolate myself, I have been screaming inside for someone, anyone to make an effort to reach out to me. I don’t have the strength to come get you; I want you to come get me. Granted, I don’t always like what people have to say to me in those moments they come after me, but I do appreciate on some level the fact that they at least tried to do something. Too often, though, I see people walking on eggshells around me, afraid to find out what’s really going on inside.

If you are more in the “space” camp, I totally respect your point of view. Sometimes hotheads need to get away from everyone before they can cool off and think rationally. Too many times, though, I have seen people fall though the cracks of “space,” and by the time anyone notices they’re gone, it is too late to help them. Think about it. What is one of the most common statements following a suicide? “I had no idea…” I don’t say this out of condemnation, but rather out of concern. Not everyone needs to be left alone.

So the next time you notice someone drifting way or being more quiet than usual, ask them a question or two. You may not get an honest answer, but you may let them know that someone cares about them. They may still want to leave the farm, but at least you tried to keep them around for one more crop first.

The Saboteur

You find yourself in a deep, dark hole, with only yourself. You know full well how you got there. And you have only yourself to blame.

You’ve been here before, but each time you return the darkness feels more suffocating, the weight of guilt and shame heavier. Your first inclination is to lie down and accept it, to let it all just smother you. At least that way it would end. Something inside you, though, keeps telling you to get up. You’re not exactly sure what that something is. Your best hope is that it is the will to live. Your worst fear is that you are too selfish to give up on the awful creation you have turned out to be.

You fumble through the space around you until you find something you can touch, and then you begin the slow, arduous climb out. You’re not exactly sure how deep the pit is or if there is even a top to it, but you continue to dig your nails into the walls and make your way up, up, up. Occasionally, you imagine you hear a voice or two encouraging you, telling you that you can make it if you just keep trying. These voices are faint, however, and you don’t trust your senses enough to believe they are real, so you brush them aside and continue your ascent.

sabotageEventually, you see a light. At first, you don’t believe it is real. As it becomes sharper and more intense, you begin to move faster toward it, desperate to feel its warmth and heat. Suddenly, it is real before you. It moves from the world of abstraction to become an oasis in your desert, a shelter from the wind and rain that has pounded you senseless for so long. It illuminates you, so much so that the voices you thought you heard earlier become real as well. You begin to shine yourself, thanks to this amazing, saving grace.

As wonderful and light as you suddenly feel, however, you still feel the weight of your worst fears like an albatross draped around your neck. You know the terrible darkness which resides in your soul, and you know somewhere deep inside you that you are not good enough for this moment. You are not capable enough, smart enough, attractive enough, skilled enough, mature enough to maintain it. The light burns as brightly as it ever did, and it continues to reach out to you and beckon you, but in your mind you are convinced it will see you through you one day and withdraw itself.

You begin to try to secure it, to make sure it cannot abandon you. You begin to form constructs around it, essentially boxing it in and dulling its luminescence. You know you are effectively contaminating the purity of what exists, but your fear blinds you to all logical thought. You realize you need the light to survive, but you are convinced it will not choose you to receive its blessing, so you begin to crave it as an addict would crave a needle in his arm. You are fully aware of your selfishness, and you resolve to do better a thousand times, but each time you look at it you are overridden by one horrible, terrible thought: It will leave me if I grant it freedom.

Then, one day, you are confronted with the truth you knew all along. You really are selfish. You really did destroy the beauty that was before you. You really can’t change what you have done. Your heart begins to race, your thoughts begin to scramble, and you begin to admit your every sin and flaw. You are devastated when the light suddenly speaks to you and says, “You foolish, foolish man. I chose you all along, but you could not receive what I offered you.” You feel your grip loosen and the air begin to rush past your ears as you begin to fall, down, down, down. The light becomes more distant. In fact, you even notice it beginning to turn away, slowly, reluctantly. It wanted you, but you could never believe it.

Your fall is swift, much more rapid than your ascent, and it is not straight. You bump against walls that once seemed smooth, but now seem to be jagged and rocky, puncturing you as collide with them. You recall that you have felt pain like this before, but it seems more intense this time, as it does each time you fall. You wish at times that the fatal blow could be delivered, but it never comes, and you chide yourself because there is still that part of you that is selfish enough to want to cling to life with all you are worth. Then you feel the dull thud of yourself hitting the bottom. The light is gone. You are alone.

And you find yourself in a deep, dark hole, with only yourself. You know full well how you got there. And you have only yourself to blame.

An Open Letter To You

openletterThis is for you.

I owe you a giant apology.

I have lied to you. I have hidden things from you.

I have stolen from you. I have taken things that did not belong to me.

I have denied the truth when it suited me. I have hidden because I did not want to face reality.

I have hurt you beyond measure. I have no excuse for this.

Why have I done all these things? Simple: I am selfish. I am so absorbed in my own head and my own life that I failed to see beyond the parameters of my own existence. I loved you, but it was within the confines of my own space. I wanted to help you, but it was always with an eye on what I could get out of it. Even now, as I type this, notice how many times I refer to myself.

And who are you? You are the person who trusted me. You are the person who believed in me. You are the person who loved me. You are the person who encouraged me. You could be a great number of people. You know who you are.

I say this to you: I am sorry.

I realize that you have absolutely no reason to forgive me for any of this. I was even so bold as to point out the splinter in your eye when there was a huge plank in mine. I can only beg your forgiveness and try to remind you that beneath all this ugliness is a person you once cared for. He is still here. I ask you to give him another chance.

Much of what I did, I thought I did for you. It was always through the lens of me, though. For us to work, it has to be us. I cannot be untruthful with you anymore. I cannot place my needs above yours. I cannot doubt myself and throw up walls to distract from the real issues at hand. In short, I can never benefit you so long as I am so wrapped up in me.

I am writing this to you because whether you were aware of it or not, I damaged something between us. I hope it can be repaired, but I have to accept that it may never be what it was before. I can only move on now and attempt to regain your trust. You are what is important to me now. I have seen the damage I can inflict. I am sick of me.

This is for you.

The System

In college basketball-crazed Kentucky, being a fan of the NBA makes me something of an anomaly. Most of the time when I mention I like professional basketball, the responses will almost always be the same…

“They don’t play any defense.”

“It’s a thug league.”

“Too much one-on-one basketball.”

“I don’t have time to follow it.”

Almost all of those assumptions are untrue. Defense in the NBA is actually pretty intense on most nights. Yes, there may be some thugs, but show me any professional sport that doesn’t have its share of bad apples (I’m looking at you, NFL.). There are some isolation plays, but no more than you would see in the average college game these days. And with the internet, apps, and 24-hour sports television, a person can basically be a follower of any sport they want.

san-antonio-spursTo me, the best example of how entertaining the game of professional basketball can be is the San Antonio Spurs. Granted, the Spurs have not quite been the juggernaut they were in the NBA Finals last June when they were steamrolling the Miami Heat, but they do still possess the sixth-best record in the loaded Western Conference this season. But, my goodness, the Finals! I don’t know that I have ever seen a basketball team, professional or otherwise, share the ball like the Spurs did in that series. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

I had a chance to watch the Spurs play the Chicago Bulls today on ABC, and I was reminded of that series. In addition to the ball movement, though, I remembered another thing that always amazes me about the Spurs – the way they can fit nearly any player into their structure and turn him into a valuable part of the team. I’m not saying players like Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, and Patrick Mills aren’t talented, but would they have the kind of impact on another team that they do for the Spurs? It’s difficult for me to imagine they would.

Even though I feel like the term is overused these days, the Spurs certainly posses a “system” of some sort. Everyone seems to know their roles. They seem to get along with one another. They don’t mind taking a backseat to each other. They don’t appear to be selfish. And despite the fact that they’re getting older (by NBA player standards), they keep on winning. Whatever the system is in San Antonio, it works.

I’ve wondered for years how certain people can be total failures in one place and then go on to success somewhere else. I think maybe my bewilderment stems from never quite feeling like I fit in. Everyone has weaknesses, everyone has flaws, everyone has strengths, and everyone has areas they excel in more than others. Somewhere inside me, I’ve always felt I work better as a part of a team, drawing upon the strengths of others to make up for where I am lacking. I have been looking for a system.

There are definitely times when we are forced to stand on our own. For instance, being a writer forces you to put yourself out there in a very individual kind of way. Even outside of work-type situations, though, there is a system somewhere we’re all looking to plug into. It may be a lifestyle regiment to bolster us. It may be a support network of friends. It may be a regular routine of giving. Whatever it may be, it involves accentuating strengths and reducing weaknesses. It reduces selfishness. Most of all, though, it wins.

I haven’t found my system yet. I’ve caught little glimpses of here it here and there, but it never seems to last. I either break it down myself or someone or something else does along the way. When I see a system working, though, it gives me hope that the right one is out there for me somewhere. It may take me a while longer yet to discover. Even the Spurs weren’t always the way they are now, and they don’t win a championship every year. A system that works, though, is a winner every time, if you ask me.

Envy & Us

Yesterday, I wrote about how depression can cause people to become very selfish and unsupportive. I only sort of hinted at what can cause this type of behavior, though, probably because I didn’t want to admit I had it hiding in myself, too.

It’s envy.

Here is a comment a friend of mine left on Facebook after I posted a link to yesterday’s post there: “But what’s worse for me? It brings me down even further knowing that I have those selfish feelings. It is an evil cycle.” The word cycle is one that can be used often in the life of a depressed person. It basically means there are feelings that beget feelings that beget feelings… It’s almost like building blocks.

facebook depressionSpeaking of Facebook, the news world was abuzz this week concerning a study by University of Missouri researchers published in Computers in Human Behavior which linked use of the social media site to feelings of depression. Specifically, researchers discovered a link between Facebook use and envy. The problem seems to stem primarily from people perusing other people’s pages rather than participating in the more community/social aspects of the site.

Why is this a problem? Well, just browsing over a person’s profile is not going to produce an accurate representation of that person as a whole. We all want to put our best foot forward in the public eye, so all of our pictures are going to be smiling and happy; none of our posts will expose our darkest secrets; and we will do our best to appear busy, confident, productive, and happy. Without a component of human interaction, why wouldn’t we all think everyone else has a better life than we do?

Interpersonal relationships often yield surprising results. They let us know that other people are just as vulnerable, just as scared, and just as apprehensive about certain things as we are. Facebook, as a whole, can yield some incredibly positive experiences. It can reunite old friends, deepen relationships, even lessen the symptoms of depression in some instances. The problem isn’t with social media; it’s with us.

We get jealous and envious of those who seem to have it better than we do. We perpetrate a false image of ourselves to the world because we are convinced no one would accept the real us. We turn away from those who actually are honest about their struggles because they make us uncomfortable. All social media has done is just give the already-envious people within us the chance to step out onto the stage a little more.

The great irony of a site like Facebook is that it is ultimately antisocial at its core. It is designed to allow us to communicate with others without having to spend actual, physical time with them. A survey such as this one is exactly right and exactly wrong at the same time. It is highly accurate in connecting social media use to intense feelings of envy and depression. It falls short in painting Facebook as the villain. The enemy, as they say, is us.