Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shallow Thoughts
by AJ in Nashville: Psyche Session

Monday Morning Contemplation
I dunno sometimes. There are occasions on which I amaze myself at the level of thoroughness and attention to detail I’m capable of displaying; other times I am simply appalled by my lack of awareness to things and those around me.

I just received another jolt of AJ reality yesterday morning; a reminder of how double-edged the phenomenon of blogging can be for me. And in writing this post, may it be noted that my intent is not to offer it as an apology for my shortcomings — and far less, to fish for affirmation from the ‘offended’ party, who I’m sure doesn’t really feel offended in the least.

That being said however, if after reading this anyone feels the need to try and comfort me, or tell me I shouldn’t beat myself up over this, I would politely request that you suppress that urge. For this is indeed a black eye that I want to feel for awhile; an uncomfortable bucket-o’-cold-water-in-the-face that perhaps I have needed to finally wake up and smell the coffee.

This is just one of those times when I feel compelled to brain-dump a little and self-flagellate a little more, to the end that maybe, possibly, in so doing I might shame myself into change. But that’s a longshot, however, as self-absorption is a considerable part of my personality, and something that has gotten me into trouble since I was in the third grade — probably further back than that, actually.

Okay. There, I said it: I’m a self-absorbed individual. However what I mean when I say self-absorbed may not be what immediately comes to mind for most people. I really don’t consider myself to be selfish, however, I seem to have this Jeckyll/Hyde thing going on when it comes to communication. I honestly care about my family and friends, yet at times I somehow manage to neglect them to the point of utter ridiculousness. I get ‘caught up in what I’m doing’ and by the time I realize it, months have gone by since the last time I picked up the phone or stopped to write a loved one an e-mail.

Being self-absorbed isn’t always an overt act — at least it’s not with me. Nevertheless, it is what it is, ultimately: making the decision to give preference to one’s own thoughts and concerns over those of others.

In one sense, that definition is pretty innocuous, since it basically describes every person in the world who isn’t named Mother Theresa. But hopefully you know what I’m getting at: that it’s still no excuse. Like my high school gymnastics coach used to say, “Excuses are like assholes — everybody’s got one and they all stink.”

Living in The OC(D)
What it all boils down to is, when I’m writing, I’m not doing or thinking about much else — just ask my wife, Michelle. How she put up with me back in 2004 when that’s ALL I was doing, I’ll never know.

When I discovered Blogger.com in May of that year, I wrote every single day for nearly two-and-a-half months. I spent nearly all my time at home in front of the computer. She referred to the bonus room where my office was located as the “cave” that I lived in. Of course in recent years, the term, ‘man-cave’ has become all the rage in terms of masculine home decor. But believe me, back when she was making the ‘cave’ reference, Michelle’s connotation wasn’t intended to be a positive one.

But what can I tellya; I was in a zone back then. I was so caught up in my newly discovered form of self-expression that I just couldn’t see anything else. It was soon after that time, particularly as I began writing more about myself (as opposed to almost strictly about my family) that I began to see the compulsive behavior patterns that I now recognize as permanent strands in the fabric of my personality.

However, it wasn’t until about a year later, in mid-2005 that I realized my compulsions could go both ways, taking me away from writing as easily as they sucked me into it.

I suppose you could just say that after my first year of blogging, the pendulum began to swing back the other way. The average number of posts my second year of blogging was less than half that of my first. Oh, I had plenty to write about, and I did accomplish my longest and most ambitious series to date — it’s just that it took me nine months to finish it.

Along the way, the daily distractions, trying to make it up to Michelle for that ‘lost first year,’ hockey games and vacations — anything that came up seemed to be an excuse for me not to write, despite the fact that I really wanted to. Not only did I not write, I stopped reading as well. Daily or weekly visits to my friends’ blogs became monthly or even less often in frequency.

Year three, things degraded to the point that between April and the rest of 2006 I posted a grand total of eleven times. I was beside myself in a number of areas: my career was in jeopardy; I turned fifty years of age and felt ‘old’ for the first time in my life; my confidence was flagging. AJ was not a happy camper.

Blog-wise, I totally felt as though I’d lost my mojo, not to mention my friends.

A large potion of my regular readership got tired of waiting for regular posts, and save for a few die-hards (thanks, guys — you know who you are), many left and have never returned — and who could blame them? Certainly not me.

For in reality I knew that it was I who had left — and had long before my readers did. I also knew that it would require getting myself un-tracked once again, writing on a consistent basis, before things would change. And when I say ‘change’ I don’t mean getting my readers back; that may or may not ever happen, and it really doesn’t matter, one way or another. No, the change I’m talking about is a return to making writing a consistent part of my lifestyle once again, because ‘I’ need it; because once that bell was rung, my life has never been the same without hearing its reverberation in my soul.

It’s nice to have people who like to read and comment, but as I’ve stated many times before, folks, this is an outlet for me, first and foremost. Hence, I put an awful lot of effort and importance into what I write. I guess the question is, do I place too much emphasis? Do I really need to?

And that brings me to yesterday morning, when a long overdue visit to one particularly close friend’s blog brought with it two surprises: one that was very good, and one that was heartbreaking.

Neither made me feel too great about the fact that I hadn’t communicated with him in several weeks.

The good news was that my friend is getting married. The heartbreaking news is that the announcement of his engagement fell within hours of his Mother’s passing in her sleep that very same night. He never even got the chance to tell her that it was official. Fortunately, she knew her son’s relationship was soon headed that way, so in a sense you could say, she surely knew before she died; a mother knows.

But me? Shoot, I didn’t know squat.

I didn’t know anything about my friend’s good news; I didn’t know about the bad news either. I had been off in my own self-absorbed world for nearly two months since the last time we’d spoken on the phone or I’d visited his blog.

I’d been busy — no doubt, too busy.

Tied to the Whipping Post
I know that the purpose of this post is self-flagellation, but I do feel kinda funny dwelling on this so much. After all, I’m a guy, and us guys aren’t supposed to be overly concerned with things like hurting each other’s feelings; that stuff’s for those of the female persuasion, right? We’re not supposed to care; we’re supposed to just suck it up and keep on going, and for the most part, we do.

As a matter of fact, this friend and I discussed that very subject in our last phone conversation when he called some six weeks ago (geeze...has it really been that long?). We agreed that hey, we were both busy and the fact that we weren’t consistent in keeping up with each other’s blogs (yeah, it went both ways) didn’t mean that we didn’t care or didn’t want to stay current, necessarily. And the fact that he’s the one who broached the subject actually made em feel pretty good, since he obviously felt as bad about not visiting me as I did about my conspicuous absence from his site.

But I went away from that conversation with the assurance that it was indeed okay to just concentrate on writing my stuff, and he’d write his; we’d just keep up with each other’s lives with an occasional comment or phone call.

That’d be okay, wouldn’t it? Well maybe...if I’d actually taken the time to call.

The last few communication attempts had been his, not mine. And while I had indeed made attempts to return the favor, the timing never seemed right. It pretty much amounted to one big game of phone tag all summer long.

I knew his Mom was in poor health, although I don’t even think he anticipated that she’d go so suddenly. But even with that as an aside, I should have tried to communicate at least as often as he did with me. But nope, I rested on the excuse that ‘non-communication was cool,’ and spent my energy writing. And after a mostly business-as-usual, spotty posting period throughout this past summer, in recent weeks, I finally began to buckle down and get back into blogging.

We had sold our house and moved into an apartment to await the completion of our new home’s construction in January, 2008. So as soon as we were settled, I was determined to get back to writing, and as of the end of August, I did.

I recently finished a very enjoyable, brief (for me) recounting of Michelle’s and my experience in Chattanooga two weekends ago, seeing my daughter’s latest play.

Prior to that, I spent a good deal of time chronicling the first part of a series dealing with a trip to Dallas back in late September, the second part of which I’ll be continuing in earnest this week.

In between the two, I posted another lengthy series that got my blog-juices flowing as much as anything I’ve done in the past two years. Bottom line is, I’ve been having the best time recently posting with greater regularity than at anytime since my way-wordy beginnings back in 2004.

However, lest I confuse the point, it isn’t only about output — it’s about awareness and willingness to answer the call. I feel alive and plugged-in when I’m writing consistently. And when I’m not, I feel as though I should be; a frustration that seems to haunt me on a daily basis.

I don’t blog to log, I blog to live. I blog to freeze-frame my life’s experiences to enjoy them again, and to allow others to enjoy them as well. It’s that double-hit of cognition and reflection — making sense and finding meaning in even the most routine and mundane circumstances of life, that makes this medium so special and adds so much more to my daily experience.

But why do I find it so hard to stop every few days at least, and run down my blogroll? Why do I always say to myself, “I’ll catch up with everyone just as soon as I’m finished with this story...” And then when that story is finished, I feel the need to immediately start writing another.

Maybe it’ll take ‘outing myself’ here in front of god and everybody to really get me to stop and take this character flaw more seriously, before I do any more damage (perceived or otherwise).

Maybe I can make myself a better friend, a more responsive person; someone more sensitive to the needs of those I love.


We’ll see.

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