Living in Fear of Living

My son said something to me recently, that made me sad. He was talking about something that was difficult, or undesirable; not something that would hurt or kill him, but a common situation he just didn’t want to experience in the future.
“Well, that would make it so I had to (do this bothersome/uncomfortable thing) so I’m definitely not going to do that!”
While I would normally applaud him for making a decision to avoid an undesirable outcome, I did not teach him to live in fear of feeling or experiencing things that aren’t necessarily ideal. I have lived through many things that were dark and scary, and when I look back, I realize those situations could have ended in my death. Several times. But I went through them, and I made more bad decisions, and I experienced more hurt and loss and sadness and failure, and I went back and did it again. I wasn’t afraid to feel those things, because they’re necessary.
I have been completely broke and starving, staying awake all night in my car, because I didn’t want to be late to bring my daughter to school the next day… and at other times, I have also had more money than I could spend.
I have lived in my car, I have lived in a trailer, and I have lived in a beautiful split-level ranch. I have lived with my parents, as an adult. I have lived with toxic people who I depended on for help. I have lived with people who I had no idea were keeping me hostage.
I have felt like I had nowhere to turn, and I have had enormous support all around me. I have felt smothered by attention, from those who love me, and those who don’t.
I have submitted countless pieces of my writing, and had them all be rejected. To this day, I have not been paid for one word I have written, and I continue to write for free.
I goofed around in school and got poor grades, and I went to college at 26. I dropped out of college, and went to work. I have quit jobs, been fired, and been promoted, only to then be laid-off indefinitely.
I have been married, I have been divorced. Twice each. Stalked countless times. I’ve been “loved” in ways that terrified me.
I have been very overweight, and I have been severely underweight. Both because of choices I made, to not care for myself.
I have loved myself, and hated myself. I have contemplated suicide, and I have been grateful for resisting the urge to do so.
I have been in trouble that was so bad, I thought it had to be a dream. I have been in situations that were less than ideal, and if I had known they were coming, I may have said “I’m definitely not doing that!” But I went out and lived those shitty things, because that is where you grow.
The idea that my son thinks he can pick and choose what he can feel in his life, or what he will experience, is unfathomable. I realize he is trying to make as smooth of a path as possible for himself, but he needs to let things happen: good AND bad. He needs to go for things that lie beyond the destruction of his ideal picture. He needs to be brave. He needs to be scared, and do it anyway. He needs to feel sad, bored, and let down, because that is life, and we grow from the pain. The happy times are beautiful, and should be cherished, but they do nothing to bolster our fight. I want him to fight.

-jg

Cold Turkey, Hold the Guilt

I have learned many things in the past ten years of my addiction to facebook. I have recently learned that I wasn’t always addicted to it. It was for fun at first; sharing photos and funny quips with my friends and family… and then it was a daily interaction to find out what everyone was up to. And then it was to keep in touch when I moved and connected at new jobs. And then it was to promote my writing. And by the time I realized I was hooked on making excuses for my addiction, it was too late.
I talked for years about leaving facebook forever. I even made a few half-assed attempts to do so, but I ultimately went back every time. I was a fiend! Not a fiend for likes and shares, but for the interaction with people. Many of my friends travel the world, which I have not been able to do yet. That’s not to say I haven’t been to some beautiful places, but I’m sure I will never see the architecture of Iceland, or the peak of Mount Fuji before I die this time. I just know I won’t, because I’m not going to those places. So, living vicariously through my friends and family, became my drug of choice. It also became an excuse for not actually visiting those friends in real life. Facebook makes it “good enough” to just be connected passively, without carrying the weight.
Even as I type this entry, I am peeking at my facebook messages, but this time, it’s for a different reason: I am actually quitting facebook. This time, for real. I have set an exact time for execution, and hopefully the world will be watching as I disappear. It’s ironic to want to be noticed when you’re leaving, but I am reluctantly leaving a lot of people “behind.” Some have asked me to stay, some have asked why I’m leaving, some have pledged their support, and some have just hit the “sad emoji” reaction button. My value to many causes has not been lost on me, and I will miss being able to open people’s minds and hearts to things that are happening beyond their scope of perception. I have some very dedicated followers, who not only enjoy my writing, but also enjoy the way I point out stupid things that others don’t think to notice. It’s hard to jump from being able to just post a song lyric about how I feel, to having a standard of content to be able to share with my readers. This blog is going to be a lot of work. Right now, I’m an hour and a half from my deadline to post this very piece.
When asked why I’m leaving facebook, I find myself at a loss for rapid explanation. So much good has come from my logging on and reconnecting, but there was also a lot of bad shit that was happening behind the scenes. My information was being used for purposes I was unaware of, some of my “friends” were complaining about me behind my back without understanding what I am really about, and I was leaving a gaping hole in my everyday privacy just by carrying my facebook portal around with me. I also saw a lot of propaganda being passed around and shared, without the poster even thinking about what they were posting. I saw so many of my intelligent friends be ignorant and loud.  I had my pseudonym taken away by facebook officials who wanted to see a photo ID from me, while they let other RIDICULOUS names and nicknames stay. I saw hateful rhetoric being spewed from the mouths of people who (I thought) were good people. I saw facebook – and all of the world’s events, tightly packed therein – tear apart my circle of friends and acquaintances.
Mostly, I just DO NOT NEED it. Not that I need this blog, but I WANT this blog. I want it to be great, and I want to reach people with my experiences, and I want to cut out the memes and propaganda. I want to cut out the videos and articles. I want to cut out the obligation that came with some of my friends. I want to keep the good things, such as my opinion and my unique point of view. I want people to feel my words, and not just see them amongst photos of girls in their underwear, and big fat pictures of trumpy. I don’t want to be screened. I want to be loud. I want to make people uncomfortable, and I want to BE uncomfortable. I want to argue with people who get the message. Real people. I don’t want to be told that something isn’t for me to understand. I want to talk about everything. I want to include everyone who is willing to contribute without trying to keep up appearances. And yes, I want to complain to my heart’s content, without the forced makeover suggestions, courtesy of some fake-ass people who are trying to make an image for themselves as being “Woke.”
The short version: Facebook was always fake. It’s a pacifier for you to suck on, to comfort you, while you are being sold. That’s all it is. And the more we try to tiptoe around things, and try not to ruffle feathers, the less human we become. We have to own what we say, and stand confidently behind it, and if the opportunity to learn something comes along, we always have the freedom to change our minds. That’s what makes being a self-aware, singular human so great. Don’t be the coward who just agrees because someone bullied them into thinking their ideologies were better. Don’t be a facebook profile. Don’t let technology shape who you are.
In the past 50 years, we have seen technology come a long way. From when we started carrying our phones in our pockets, to carrying our entire computer on our person, to having a robot control every aspect of our lives, we have only devolved as people. We let the car control our fate, instead of paying attention and being careful. We let the computer and phone supply us with those good feelings of being in love, or the pride in our hard work. We attach those feelings to the phone, because it’s the phone that is present with you while your brain is releasing that dopamine. We let the computer take over, to make up for our fears of coming up short. How lazy do you have to be, to not know when your own family’s birthdays are, without having to rely on a prompt from the computer? Why is it more convenient to put all of your most vital information – credit cards, medical issues, addresses, phone numbers, the things that could kill you, the info about where you work and worship, your child’s schedule – in one, easy to find location? What would you do, if all of that information and access suddenly became unavailable to you? When we allow computers and robots to run our lives, down to the most menial task, we allow ourselves to become dependent on them. We take the task off our own responsibility, thinking we’re doing ourselves a favor, but we’re really allowing our brains to die. We’re no longer priming ourselves to be responsible or accountable for what we do, and who we are. We experience our child’s most important moments through the screen of a smartphone. We tell ourselves we’re “documenting” but we’re not even retaining the actual memory.
Not all technology is bad, so save those comments for later. I just want to eliminate the poisonous technology that is doing more harm than good. I want to get back to being held responsible for *seeing* my friends, instead of just catching up on what they’ve been up to recently. I want to know that someone’s birthday is coming up, because I cared enough about them to commit it to memory, and then I want to tell them “Happy Birthday” with my voice. I want to reach people without organizing a facebook event. I want to go out and experience life for the prizes it provides, when we rely on being a human. I want to have a real personality, that is not dictated by what people *choose* to see. I want my progress in life to be real, not just a page on an app.
T- minus 24 hours and counting…

-jg

Mothers’ Day… Just ONE?!

In honor of this upcoming Day of Life, as I like to call it, I have decided to post a piece I had written last year, because I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to top it. Enjoy….

Being a Mom is SUPER FUCKING HARD.

Oops, I mean… spoiler alert. Being a Mom is literally THE most difficult job on the planet. I can say that, because I’v e worked at every job on the planet. No, that isn’t true, and of course I don’t care what job you think is more difficult, I still stand by the original statement. This job is taxing on every single part of your existence. There is nothing else.

But for shits and giggles, let’s think about a difficult job: underwater welding. Sure, getting fried in the water sounds cool, but not when there aren’t drugs involved, and we’re talking about a life-ending shot of electricity to the body. That never sounds cool. So, you’re an underwater welder, and that’s a tough day, I can admit, which is why I chose it for this example. I’m just warming you up, see. So I can yoink the proverbial carpet out from under proverbial you. Underwater welding is dangerous, and I would never want to wake up in the morning to the knowledge that I had to report to underwater anything, much less for 10 hours of welding.

But picture this: life is good, you’re underwater welding, you have your underwater welding coworkers, and you’re all eating lunch, and it’s time to get back to work, but one of your coworkers barfs all over you! Like, everything they just ate, is now being pulled by gravity, down the front of your whole body, each piece of disgusting food searching for a place to crust onto. They even got some in your mouth. Then, another coworker gets diarrhea all over the place, before they can get to a bathroom, and it’s in their hair, and it’s just leaking out of every microscopic hole in the fabric of their clothing. And another coworker says he’s hungry, and doesn’t want anything he has in his lunchbox, even though he has all of his favorite foods that he liked as recently as yesterday. Oh, and another one has taken all of his clothes off, and is trying to stick a piece of his apple in his butt. All of them are looking to you for solutions, NOW. They’re touching you. They’re whining at you, in stereo, like some hellish choir. And don’t even think about taking a nap! There are bodily fluids in the form of toxic sludge, just waiting to be cleaned up. Cleaned up by you. You could ask another coworker for help, because you have one available, but he has his own job to do, so you probably have to handle this one yourself.

All of this, of course, comes after the First Day of Work, where you have to find a way to push something large through an impossibly small opening, while somebody rips your very soul out of you, without giving up, without asking for anything, without killing someone. Congratulations, you’ve made it through the first day! Here comes the diarrhea….

Now, don’t get me wrong: I know there are men who do all of these things (other than the First Day part) every day, and they’re fucking spectacular at it. There are men I know, who are better parents to their children than the Mother is. There are men I know, who do all of the parenting. I am speaking in a generalization of our society, which is the only one I can speak from with accuracy. This piece aims to highlight the things Mothers are typically expected to handle, regardless of the number of parents in the household. When baby shits himself, it automatically prompts the person holding the baby to exclaim “Oh boy, someone has a present for Mommy!”  Huh?! Why the fuck is it for Mommy? What if they were so inspired by your face, that they shit their pants and gave it to YOU as a present? That shit is your gift, and you’re trying to re-gift to Mom because you assume that that is the process of things. Why should someone who has probably changed a few diapers in their life be expected to change a shitty diaper? No, that’s Mom’s job, here you go.

That shit used to drive me insane! I will gladly change a friend’s baby without even blinking an eye, because THE BABY NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. If you were bedridden for some unfortunate reason, and weren’t able to use the toilet, would you expect a hospice worker to come over and say “Oh gross! Someone else…. I am NOT doing this!” No, you’re lying if you think that would feel ok to you. The diaper needs to be freshened, it doesn’t matter who is doing it. I’m sure the baby has no preference.

Same thing with puking. When a friend’s baby pukes on me, it doesn’t occur to me to be grossed out or flinch. I will take care of the baby, and then clean up myself afterward. The baby is helpless for their own care. Ridiculing it for puking is not necessary, I can assure you. Change the damn baby and stop whining about how gross they are. You’re gross.

So, Mom is expected to keep everyone clean of bodily fluids of all types, keep everyone fed, keep everyone’s clothes on, keep everything picked up, even though there are thugs following her around, fucking up her shit in her wake. Moms have to have everything in order, which if you didn’t know, is impossible to do when kids are involved. It’s barely possible with a grown man in the house, much less ANY number of tiny relentlessly wild humans who apparently aren’t aware of just how many strings they can pull at once. These things have to be done, and if by some miracle, someone sees your house on a clean day, I’m just kidding, that never happens. But if it did happen, like I said, by some miracle, then you get zero credit for everything that happened up until that point. It’s like in the movies, when the house is trashed, and the parents are coming home, so everyone is hauling ass to clean the house, and they get the last thing cleaned in the nick of time, and the parents think nothing has been going on. It’s status quo. All of your hard work and effort has gotten you to the point of looking like you haven’t done anything all day, because nothing is out, and nothing is going on.

And don’t even get me started on how much of a slap in the face it is, when someone comes home to the part where the thugs are fucking shit up behind the woman who has been frantically cleaning and trying to keep food and bodily fluids from being expelled (sometimes unnoticed, where it dries onto the surface, and you only realize it’s there when it starts to smell really really bad) all day long, and she hasn’t had a chance to brush her hair or eat a piece of toast, and the partner says, “You don’t even do anything but stay home and play with the kids.”

Jah, please help.

Being a Mom is difficult from day one, and for the rest of her life. Your Mom had to watch you make mistakes that tore her apart inside. She knew about things you didn’t know she knew. She didn’t approach you, because she wanted to see if you would do the right thing. Sometimes, you didn’t, and she loved you anyway. But when you did do the right thing, it was everything to her.

She had to watch you leave her home, which no Mom is ever ready for, no matter what she says. Yeah, I’m blowing it up for all the tough-as-nails Moms out there. It is never easy to say goodbye to your child, and it doesn’t matter if they’re leaving for the weekend or the semester. Moms spend hours of labor trying to get you into this world, then spend years trying to prepare you to leave her home, and then when you do, they want you to come back. She calls you and hounds you to come visit, and it gets annoying, but you were everything she knew for decades, and now she can’t hug you when she wants, or see if you’re doing alright. Your Mom will never stop wondering if you’re okay, even when you’re old enough to take care of her. She made you. She spent years of her life putting you first, not considering herself a priority for time, money, food, love, or care. She has worked endlessly for your happiness, and has felt the pain of your misdirected anger. She has cried for you more times than you can count.

There is a reason why so many people talk about how special their Mom is/was. Moms are something that gets woven into us. Some people have had a less than positive experience with their Moms, and can’t relate at all to any of what I’ve said. Again, I’m speaking from a basic cultural standpoint that is prevalent in even the poorest of homes. Income and status need not have anything to do with it. To some children, their mother is their security blanket, and the mother doesn’t even pay attention to them, but just knowing that she is physically there is enough to create a bond.

Mothers experience a change when they have a baby, and whether that change is positive or negative, it never leaves her, and it never leaves the baby. The baby will grow up with feelings toward the woman who felt at least positively enough about them, that she would let her body be defeated by pain, just to bring them into this world. Even for Moms who don’t show their children affection or support, there is still an emotional tie that never goes away. Even cases of greed and deceit early on, can turn into guilt and anguish for women who are incapable of manifesting the “Motherly” manner toward their children. So there is always an effect.

I think, generally, Mothers teach us that women can MAKE a human being. They can make a person. They can produce the vessel, to be filled with good or bad, and present it to the world. Women make the mark on society by even choosing to have a child or not. It’s a process that makes a person realize they could have been nothing, but instead they are here, and now they too have the choice to create something to present to the world. Without Mothers, there is nothing to present. We make the world.

This day is for every Mom, even the Mother of that evil spray-tanned toddler wearing the president’s hat. I’m sure she has the superhuman ability to love him, which is pretty impressive for any human (she’s human, right?). You gotta give it to the woman who dealt with that shit,….so then I guess probably the nanny?

No worries, nannies. You will have your own special relationship with the child/ren, because it’s been shown that children develop similar bonds with nannies, for the same reasons as they do with their Moms: when needs are met, the child feels safe, and trusts that they can rely on this person for care. The only difference is, the child grows to realize that this nanny is not their Mother, and they thereby create the separation, but the genuine emotional feeling of security is still there.

Even in respect to the nannies, Moms have to make the decision to let another person care for their child, and I am sure there are some Mothers who would prefer a better situation, but can’t for whatever reason. This is difficult for those Moms, because women are expected to return to work so quickly after maternity leave, that they miss out on the essential bonding that happens between a Mother and baby. For Moms who can’t be bothered by their children’s presence, there are some much more toxic underlying issues happening in that world, and it’s probably better for the child to be cared for by the nanny. This will create a bigger bond between the child and nanny, but the child will learn that their needs are being met by somebody and it very well could have been nobody. The Mother had to make sure the child was cared for, so there is some semblance of love toward the child, whether the Mother wants to acknowledge it or not.

Becoming a Mom is easy. BEING a Mom, every day, is the tough part. Giving up will cross your mind. You lose a part of you that for soooo long, used to belong to you, but now belongs to someone else. You cry, you laugh, you pray to nobody, you eat a plate of French fries at 2 o’clock in the morning because it’s the only time you can eat without someone stealing your food, you starve for five days straight because you put the kids first, you wonder if you will ever pee without an audience again, you forget how many days it has been since the last time you showered (tub with baby may have been it), you find things within you that you didn’t think were there, you find things within your toilet that you did not want in there, you stop giving a fuck about anyone else, you surprise yourself with how long you can go without sleeping, you silent scream wishes that the baby would just go to sleep, but then when they do, you just stare at them and stroke their fat little hands, wondering how they can be that beautiful.

And then they wake up and they’ve shit themselves, and removed their diaper for you already, and painted a beautiful poop mural on the wall. That full body electrical shock is sounding pretty nice, isn’t it?

Happy Life Day!

-jg

FOMO, MOFO

For those of you who may not be hip to the new lingo, FOMO is just Fear Of Missing Out. We have all felt it, whether on a minimal scale or a grand scale, myself included. I remember back when Matt and I first started dating, he was still in his band, and I had to miss a lot of his shows because I couldn’t find a babysitter, and it would drive me crazy to know that everyone else was there watching him perform. Everyone except for me. I knew what the songs were, and I knew pretty much everyone who was going to be there, but something made me feel resentful about them enjoying themselves.
That’s FOMO.
And that’s what we face when we make a leap like social media abandonment. Closing facebook means you don’t get to hear what your friends are up to, as they live spontaneous moments of their lives. It’s not as easy as emailing your friends and family every day, asking if they did anything cool or noteworthy, or if they had a frustrating experience that needs to be talked about, or if they have any photos they feel like sharing. Facebook is responsible for the reunion of old friends, the discovery of family, the assembly of mass groups, and the spreading of knowledge we may not otherwise have access to. I’ve been to surprise birthday parties that were organized on facebook. I met someone that made a huge difference in my life, on facebook. Hell, I met Matt on facebook. We tether memories to facebook, and expect that each day we will be able to relive old memories from years prior. It’s comforting, because we expect that they will always be there.
So when we leave facebook, the FOMO turns on. We lose the connection to friends. We lose the stream of knowledge that flows between people. We lose the comfort of our memories. We lose the ability to allow facebook to handle birthdays and graduations and concerts and gatherings. We lose our private audience. We miss out on memes, trending topics, and the opinions of others. We miss out.
It’s a sick, sick thing. It’s like a drug, and we think we need to go back, so we don’t completely delete our account; we just deactivate it for awhile. The fact that it’s even an option to do that, is so fucked up, because it shows that they KNOW it’s an addiction, and we’ll be back! If they were smart, they would make the initial account free, and then charge to reactivate if you deactivate at any time. Just like a drug dealer.
I am currently transitioning away from facebook, which is truthfully a FOMO moment for me. I don’t have phone numbers or email addresses for many of my friends, and most of them may as well be on another planet, since I live way out in the sticks. I don’t want to miss my friends. I also live half the country away from my family, so it’s hard to convince myself that I’m not missing out. I have family I have only seen on facebook.
Life is short, and I hope I am able to maintain relationships with people I’m close to, even without facebook. I went ten years without speaking to people I once considered my best friends… and then I got facebook, and spent ten years becoming reconnected to them. I hope the next ten years is full of real-life visits with those friends, experiencing their laughs and smiles, smelling them, which sounds weird, but I’m a smell person. I’m not going to sniff you, or anything, but I can smell you. I smell you. I want to smell you in real-life.

-jg