Tempering All Things

dairy queen dq jurassic peanut butter cookie dough smash blizzardI tried out the new Jurassic Smash Blizzard at Dairy Queen tonight. It was actually quite good, and it even came in this little commemorative Jurassic World cup. I suppose by some strange manner of commerce I just fed into the movie’s vast money-making scheme. As if it needed my help at this point.

As much as I enjoyed the Blizzard, though, I still won’t be going to see the movie.

I never quite understood the allure of the Jurassic Park movies. I felt the only one of the first three that really had anything intriguing about it was the first one, and about half of that one was spent watching people get chased around by a species of dinosaur I had never heard of before. The next two movies were basically spent cleaning up the mess from the first movie in one way or another.

That brings us, of course, to the fourth installment, Jurassic World. I find the concept behind this one sort of baffling. The first three movies all showed how creating a park full of prehistoric creatures was probably not the best idea someone could have. So what should we do for the next movie? Why, create a new park full of prehistoric creatures! What could possibly go wrong?

In an odd way, though, this sets up Jurassic World as a movie I might be pleasantly surprised by, mainly because I jurassic-world-chris-pratt1have virtually no expectations for it. I like Chris Pratt, but that’s about it. Conversely, I have experienced some of my biggest disappointments with movies that I have gone into with very high hopes for. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace darn near destroyed me. I had it so built up in my mind, and it was so, so bad. Another Pratt movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, blew me away, though, partially because I went into it thinking it was going to be Marvel’s first big cinematic misstep. Boy, was I wrong.

I’m learning more and more as I go through life that tempering expectations is a very valuable part of the thought process. When I become too optimistic, I am likely to crash. When I become too pessimistic, I often don’t even try to find anything good in the situation in front of me. I’m attempting to find the middle ground between these two right now in two different situations.

As I wrote about here a little while ago, I’ve been playing music with a couple of guys recently. I have no idea where the whole thing is going yet, but I would love it if it turned into a band of some sort, since being in a band is something I’ve always wanted to do. Already, though, I’m finding myself wanting to jump ahead, picturing all these scenarios where everything works out. It’s not that I hope it doesn’t work out, but you may have noticed I’m 41 and still have never really been in a band. That track record doesn’t exactly bode well for the future.

The other situation has to do with my going back to college. So far, everything is working out perfectly for this to happen. In fact, I’m worried it’s sailing along a little too perfectly, so I find myself ratcheting down my expectations so I won’t be crushed if it doesn’t happen. What kind of attitude is that, though? It’s almost like walking down the street on a beautiful, sunny day and waiting for an anvil to drop on your head.

So the trick is to not fly too high or too low. If I were to imagine Jurassic World as the best dinosaurs-chasing-screaming-people-around movie ever made, it’s probably going to let me down because I’ve placed too much expectation on it. If I go in thinking it will totally suck, though, I’m going to sit there and nitpick it until I mess up what could have been a nice viewing experience. Why not just approach it with an open mind then? See what happens, enjoy the ride. Be a student. Play music.

star-wars-episode-7-light-saberStar Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will hit theaters later this year, and I am staying as completely ignorant about it as possible. When the original Star Wars movie debuted, I was such a little kid, I didn’t know anything about anything. I want to go back to that feeling for this one, just let the wonder of it sweep me away. Whether it’s a dinosaur or a spaceship or a school book or a guitar, it seems the less I know sometimes, the better.

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We Could Be Heroes

Robin Williams threw me for a loop last week. I just couldn’t stop thinking about the guy, so of course I kept writing things about him here. In fact, I think everyone with a blog was writing about him last week. I don’t know if any of us actually contributed much to the overall discussion of Williams’ passing, but I think we all needed to try to deal with it in some way.

keep-calm-and-be-a-good-man-1My original intent last week, however, was to examine whether bad behaviors could be viewed separately from a person’s overall character. What I mean by that is, if a person’s activities or habits are not good, does that mean they are not a good person, or can what they do be separated somehow from who they are?

Let me recount a story for you from about three years ago, when my dad passed away. A lot of people came up to me and said some very nice things about my dad, my mom, and my family. Not that I wasn’t moved by anything I heard, but I managed to keep myself composed for the most part. The only thing that really broke me down was a statement most guys would love to hear, and it was directed at me: “You’re a good man.”

The reason it bothered me to hear that was because I didn’t think it was true. In fact, I knew it wasn’t true. They didn’t know all the stuff I kept hidden from everybody else. I felt like a screw up and a failure most of the time. I wasn’t a good person at all. I felt guilty even hearing people say that about me.

Flash forward to today when I was having a discussion with someone about not feeling like a very good man. As I was explaining how I didn’t feel I could be a good person because of sins I had been wrestling with for years and years, I was hit with a statement I’ve been chewing on all day: “Why don’t you believe you are a good man and start acting like it?”

At first, I wanted to throw this out as “Build it and they will come” crap, but the more I thought about it the more I realized there was megamind-first-5-minsa certain validity to what they were saying. It’s sort of the Megamind syndrome: If you believe you’re the bad guy, you’re going to think all you’re capable of is doing bad things. What if you thought you were actually capable of good deeds, though? What if you thought you could actually be good enough? Would it not only change the way you thought about things, but also the way you did things?

It’s an interesting point to ponder, and one I’m going to be seriously considering. I’m not sure if my depression is the reason for this, but I’ve never had a particularly high view of myself. I’ve never felt very adequate. And my sin, well, my sin is just the worst, you know. Much worse than anyone else’s. All this begs another question: Do I act like I’m no good because deep down I really believe I am no good?

guardiansFrom the aforementioned Megamind to this summer’s smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy, the world seems to be full right now of stories where the bad guys suddenly realize they don’t have to be bad anymore. This causes them to rise up and do noble things. Maybe the world is catching on and getting better. And maybe I need to follow suit.

And

andIs there any more demanding word in the English language than and?

Take this weekend, for example. My mother- and father-in-law graciously offered to watch my wife and I’s brood of five children (which includes our 1-year-old daughter) from Friday night until Sunday morning. We’ve had a recent stretch of dry weather where I live, so my usual Saturday ritual of mowing the yard didn’t need to be performed. That meant we essentially had no schedule or obligations except those we set for ourselves.

Knowing this, my mind nearly exploded with possibilities. I wanted to go out with my wife and put a new string on my guitar and get outside and ride my bicycle and maybe see a movie and sleep in Saturday morning and shop for a couple of things and write a new blog post and catch up on my emails and

Well, obviously, I didn’t get all that done, mainly because no human being can possibly cram that many activities into an approximately 36-hour period. Time is not my enemy, however, when it comes to achieving most goals. My problem is I don’t know what to focus on, so I haphazardly bounce from one objective to another. I want to be a good husband and a good father and a writer and a performing musician and hang out with the guys and be in good shape and

This may sound like the mark of a very ambitious and successful person, but my experience has been much the opposite. I have spent much of my life pecking away at things and never quite becoming proficient at any of them. This tendency even led me to consider I might have Attention Deficit Disorder before I was diagnosed with Chronic Depressive Disorder. With either disorder, though, thoughts can become jumbled and priorities can be difficult to set. It’s not that I’m trying to overload myself; it’s just that every single option seems just as important as the other, and I can’t focus because it seems as if I need to complete them all at the same time.

I believe this way of thinking can lead a person in one of two directions: They can either work themselves to death trying to stay on top of everything on their list, or they can view the mountain of expectations they’ve placed on themselves and lock down and not do anything. Personally, I have had more experiences with the latter than the former. There have been times when I have felt so behind that I just didn’t even want to start, which only made things worse for me when actual effort had to be put forth.

A friend of mine has recently told me several times, “You think too much about things. Stop over-analyzing. Just take the moment for what it is.” They’re right, of course. I do analyze the crap out of everything (which you’ve probably picked up on by now from reading this blog). I have a very difficult time shutting down the noise in my brain and just doing something. I did have a brief revelation of what that might be like this weekend, however.

guardians_poster_via_marvelOne of the goals I did achieve was going with my wife to see Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Saturday afternoon. While I enjoyed the heck out of the movie, I can tell you, Shakespeare, it is not. Once I got past trying to figure out character motivations and comic book history and what we might do after the movie and where the movie ranked on my list of all-time favorite comic book films (and, believe me, such a list does indeed exist), my brain sort of entered this zone where it was simply having fun watching a darn good popcorn flick. I was there to be entertained, and I was. Simple, right?

I remember years ago hearing someone on sports radio talk about former Major League Baseball player Manny Ramirez’s ability to hit in virtually any situation. Now, for anyone who doesn’t remember, Ramirez was not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. One of the first articles I ever read about him was in Sports Illustrated and featured a moment where he and his agent were driving around one day and Ramirez (who played for the Cleveland Indians at the time) asked the agent if he could afford a house they drove by. The man literally had no concept of the money he was making.

This particular person’s perspective on the radio that day was that because basically very little was going on in Ramirez’s head when Manny-Ramirezhe stepped to the plate in a game, all of his focus was on just hitting the baseball. He didn’t have any distractions or complex goals or stats he was trying to keep up with; he was just trying to put the bat on the ball. And, even though he paved his own way out of baseball eventually because he wouldn’t stop using banned substances, he was remarkably successful as a hitter. That was what he did; he just hit.

Sometimes I wish I could be more like that, but I don’t think it’s possible for me. What I can do is dedicate myself to one decision at a time. I tried making lists for a while, and I may have to go back to that eventually. It’s odd that in an age where people seem to be trying to utilize more of their brain power I’m actually trying to shut some of mine down, but it’s the truth. I’m tired of standing in front of my closet spending five minutes trying to decide what T-shirt to wear. Some things just have to matter more than others.

That checks the blog post off my list for this weekend. Now all I have to do is go to bed and go to sleep and get prepared in my head for tomorrow and … well, actually, maybe I’ll just focus on the first two.