Hide the Happy

Kid lenses – I’ve written about them before.  It’s my term for the goofy perspective we have of the world as a kid without experience, perspective or knowledge.  The coming up with ideas or beliefs or behaviors as a child because they fit your understanding of the world.  As I’ve gotten older, it’s been interesting to see the views I’ve had, the behaviors I’ve had that have been unhealthy, but that have been so ingrained in me, such a part of me they’re hard to change.  They’ve become like a default setting.  It takes a lot of conscious effort not to return to those default settings in times of stress.

When I was younger, one of those beliefs was the certainty that I had to remain calm, flat on the outside.  If things were going super well, I felt like I had to hide that happiness on the inside.  If I was too public about that happiness something bad would happen, somehow that would be taken away.  Fate or something.  If I was sad about something, I needed to be careful not to complain too much or that same fate would show me how much worse things could be.

I remember how much I used to love little toys.  Things that I could carry in my pockets and hold in my fist.  Things I could touch and just be secretly happy on the inside.  When I was really little and got a stuffed animal for Christmas, I would bury my face into it to hide my smiles.

This was actually behavior that was called out fairly early on.  My first real girlfriend was bothered that I wasn’t shouting with happiness from the mountain tops about my joy of dating her.  Over the decades I realized I was a story teller and liked opening up about some things as I was teaching soldiers or my son about things.  Then when I started therapy a couple of years ago after the big break-up I realized I needed to let people in, express joy and sadness more openly with friends, family and significant others.

My blog is a weird animal.  It’s obviously publicly posted, but I don’t have a real audience.  I do use it for interaction with a few people who are friends, but largely I use it as a diary, to augment my craptastic memory.

So.  The last couple days I vented on here about ex girlfriends and social media.  I bumped into one of them a couple weeks ago and it knocked me off my beam.  I complained about it to all the normal people who listen to me.  And then instagram suggesting we be friends, then my mom doing the group message thing.  Stupid stuff in the grand scheme of things.  And you want to know what put it into perspective?  Finding out, and then subsequently having to tell my son that my Dad has prostate cancer.  I know prostate cancer is relatively manageable but the fact that my older sister died of cancer, my younger sister is fighting with leukemia and I’ve had 2 cancer scares myself, I’m just kind of not as optimistic as I could/should be.

Now I know I wasn’t being punished for complaining about my ex-girlfriends.  He’s known about this for awhile and just last night decided to tell me.  And I know that if something…  more tragic happens, it wasn’t be because I’m upset about my dad’s prostate cancer.  But there’s still that urge to just go complete turtle.






Sam McCain

Being the son of an Iowa farmboy, there are two mystery series I’ve really enjoyed over the years.  One were the Donald Harstad books, set in contemporary times to when they were written and the other is the Sam McCain series by Ed Gorman.

I found “The Day the Music Died”, the first in the Sam McCain series on some bookshelf during some deployment somewhere and I was hooked.  With both series, it’s fun to think of crime and indecency happening in Iowa, the same type of bad stuff that happens in New York or LA, in the sleepy little farming communities.  The McCain series is set in the 50s however, and the protagonist is a young guy trying to find his way in the world.  The mysteries are sometimes a little weak, and the stories begin to follow a certain formula but the characterizations are generally great and that’s what kept me coming back for more.

What I loved about the early books in the series was the Betty-Veronica-Archie triangle he had going on.  Sam pines away after Pamela, who is pining away after someone else altogether while Mary pines away after Sam.  Sue me, I’m a sucker for angst, especially when it’s well written.  To me, well-written = relatable.

I had read through the books in my reading list and was looking for something this weekend, when Amazon told me that with my Kindle Unlimited subscription I could read “The Day the Music Died” for free.  I hadn’t read it in years, so figured why not?  I’ve been frustrated that more books I want aren’t available through KU so the opportunity to exercise my membership seemed great.

Sometimes when I read, I skim a little.  Or sometimes a passage will hit me once when it doesn’t another time.  For some reason this one hit me this weekend, it’s a spot where he’s establishing the characters so he’s “remembering” a time in high shool:

I didn’t say anything.  She started to cry and I didn’t know what to do and I sort of slid my arm around her and while I was doing it I could see down the front of her formal.  She had small breasts but they were very sweet.  I mean there’s all kinds of breasts when you think about it, noisy breasts and quiet breasts and angry breasts and melancholy breasts and sincere breasts and superficial breasts and arrogant breasts and shy breasts and probably lots of other kinds too; her breasts were just very sweet, like Mary herself.  I guess that was the first time I wanted to love her.  I mean I couldn’t love her, not in the way she wanted me too, because I loved Pamela that way.  But right then, if God had given me a choice, I would’ve said reach in my brain and take Pamela out and put Mary in.  Because it would’ve made her so happy if I could have loved her that way.  Pamela didn’t care if I loved her at all.  But Mary would have been all shiny and new and fine with it, just a few stupid words that you h ear on the juke-box all the time, and she would’ve been so happy.  So I held her and I kissed her and then we really started kissing and then we started rolling around on the grass and then it got real serious and while we didn’t use the Trojan, we came damned close, damned close, and then we were in my older brother’s 1946 Plymouth and headed out on the highway to where there was supposed to be a  beer party at the old quarry and the radio was blasting Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins and the prairie night air was so cool and fresh and s he sat so close to me and I was so almost in love with her that I didn’t have a single though of Pamela for at least an entire hour.


Happy Ending

A couple of months ago I posted this.

I’ve gotten pretty good at making candied bacon and it really makes me happy.  And of course I want to be obnoxious and share/rub my happiness in everyone’s face.  So I was making some a couple of weeks ago and took some photos of the process and posted them on Instagram without a lot of explanation.  I’m actually “friends” on social media with someone from that school, all that time ago.  She posted a comment on one of the pics about being curious to see what I was making and what the final result would look like.  So I sent her a video that someone else made that roughly matched my process on FB messenger and she said something about loving bacon and it making everything better.

I sent back a smart-alecky comment about how even thought it’d been decades since we’d hung out, that I knew I always liked her and she replied, confessing to having had a huge crush on me back in the day when we went to school together.  That rocked me back for multiple reasons.

It’s funny.  For the most part I like the way I am now, and the coping mechanisms I’ve developed over the years.  They’ve gotten me through some really tough times in good humor.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve made changes to things, took the time to reflect and see what was still helpful, and what wasn’t, but that didn’t mean that I’d hated what I became at any point.  I just used painful situations to stimulate growth.

But there are some times in my past, particularly my childhood, that had become 2-dimensional in my memories.  I use them as stories to illustrate a point or as a punchline in a joke and have become numb to the true feelings in the moment, or blind to the context of the entire situation.

That school was the first time we’d moved that impacted me like that.  The moves before then were before I was in school, before I could be the “new-kid”.  The family was the nucleus of my social circle, so moving wasn’t impactful before then.  That move, that school was the first time I was bullied and mocked.  It was were I started developing those coping mechanisms, where I started retreating into myself (interesting question – they say that introvert/extrovert isn’t a binary condition, it’s a scale and everyone possesses some level of both, it’s just a question of where they land on the scale.  Is it nature or nurture?  My experiences would say it’s a little of both).  So I tell stories of that to explain why I’m me to people, focusing on some of those bad things that had happened.  But I’d forgotten that I’d made some good friends there, had some good times, learned things I loved that have become a part of me over time.

She was a really cute, shy girl back then.  I’d remembered her over the years, but I’d forgotten having a crush on her too, and forgotten the times we’d played together and had fun together back then.  I really appreciate her telling me that, and making me pause and remember the good times.