The Romantic Role Model

Mansplaining: to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronising.

I am not about to, so don’t worry, but I am seeing this term, and the actions of the definition therein far too often. It is the Counter Wife/Women-is-always-right movement I suppose, which is a little understandable, but only a little. I mean a real little little little.

The problem is using an approach that is condescending and derogatory is counter productive which ever side of the fence you sit. I fighting fire with fire only works when you know what you’re doing. When you don’t you just get a bigger fire, and on the internet, wildfires can spread incredibly fast.

I want to focus on a particular brand of Mansplaining, more of a topic in itself, and that is the “You-make-me-do-it” fallacy argument. You know, the argument that goes along the lines of “When you didn’t dress that way, lean over like that, talk that way, post nice pics, etc, etc, etc then I wouldn’t be this way.” Those arguments.

If you have read any of my earlier posts about control, then you’ll already know what I think in this regards. If you haven’t, here’s a brief recap;

No-one makes you do anything. You choose your own thoughts and actions.

What really gets me is the contrast between the cultural icons that litter literature (both written and visual) which clearly show that a respectful and considerate outlook is a far more favourable trait in a man then the lustful self-righteousness we see off screen. How can we see this sort of role model in our everyday entertainment, and yet not be inspired to be like said examples?

And here is where I connect back to acting…

Mr Darcy

Let’s take a character that many consider to the penultimate depiction of the ideal romantic lead. He starts of aloof, even a little high-and-mighty, and gradually comes to realise his faults and works to change his ways, becoming more present, aware, and compassionate. He is a no time lustful, nor untoward the female characters in his story. He is certainly not one to rest the fault of thoughtless actions upon the shoulders of another. He accepts that he is the master of his own presence. When he is struck with feelings of love, they are from a place of respect and admiration, not a desire to grope. He is aware of his feelings yet chooses to remain in control of himself and act with self-respect.

This character appears in mainstream literature all the time, even in some of the present day superhero-movie franchises. Please consider that many of the heroes in our lives share similar qualities with Mr Darcy; they are flawed but work to overcome, they ultimately respect others even though they can be a little cheeky about it, they are ultimately honest and reliable, even though they may not start out that way.

Even our real-life heroes exhibit  similar qualities, and when they don’t meet these qualities, or it is revealed that they have somehow been otherwise, they experience a rapid fall from grace. For example, Tiger Woods, Golfing phenomena and with all the hallmarks of an honest family man, master golfer, honourable and respectful… then it crumbled. People and companies wanted nothing to do with him for a very long time after his indiscretions were revealed, and while he has accepted his mistakes and worked hard to regain some of his former standing, but the tarnish will never be completely removed. Admired when he fit the image of an ideal man, then shunned when that image was shattered.

Yet many men in general seem to stick to this fallacy that their actions are not their own, and thus expose themselves for the weak and fearful creatures they are. This is not the attitude of a courageous man, to deny responsibility for the words and actions committed by their own physical bodies.

Be the Romantic Lead

When you mansplain away the responsibility for your own actions, you are playing the role of the arrogant coward. You are the Wickham, rather than the Darcy. The one whom is either reprimanded, forced to conform, or left with nothing.

Do a Google search into the qualities that make for popular, interesting, and even romantic men, and you will find the consistent appearance of kindness, respect, and self-control. You will definitely NOT find selfishness, arrogance, conceitedness, and a willingness to blame others for your actions. Those are traits usually associated with the second in command of the bad guy, not the hero.

Nice guys don’t come first is something that was said to me a lot growing up. Usually by other boys. To me it evokes ideas of driven selfishness in order to achieve a goal, not matter the cost to others, and that being “nice”, which I take to mean considerate, paced, and cautious, means you may mist the prize. Well, that may be so, but what is so great about being first anyway? While the winner of a race is celebrated, the one that stopped to help his rival is often remembered longer, if not who they are, but what they did at the very least.

And if the prize is at the cost of the respect I get from others, then you can keep your prize.

The act of kindness, consideration, and respect is the act that moves people. Sacrificing the self-glory, which apparently is so incredibly important, in order to help another earns more respect I believe. It’s why people love such stories, even if they don’t personally behave as such themselves.

If you are a guy who is truly keen to get the attention of a loving and respectful woman, then you would do well to look at the types of male heroes they respect in literature, and maybe try to find some of those same qualities in yourself. I can promise that they are there, you just have to choose to use them, and not just for a little while.

Throw away your childish pride. Take the courageous step. Take control of yourself and be a man.

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Lonely Voices

JeffRemembersSome days I remember
What I knew;
How it felt;
Who I was.

Lonely voices tell me
It was real;
It was truth;
It was me.

I recall a poem
I once wrote;
I once felt;
I once knew.

I sit with others in a crowded room.
I talk with others in a crowded room.
I laugh with other in a crowded room.
Always alone.

EmptyThat was then.
Times have changed.
That was them.
It was not me.

Now I see between them and me,
Lonely voices that hide within.
When at the time I could not see,
So deafened by the crowded din.

These days I am stronger,
Resilient,
Aware.
Yet…

Some days I remember
What I knew;
How it felt;
Who I was.

The Hard Road Part 9 – Making a Stand

This brings the story to almost now, and there are things happening in my life now that once upon a time, I may have been unable to manage, and may very well have found myself contemplating the unthinkable yet again. Yet I am not. I feel I have “matured,” and in the true sense of the phrase.

I will say that when I compare my life experiences to others, I do not feel I have suffered as bad as some, and for that I am grateful and saddened equally. I know how it felt for me at my lowest points. To imagine someone going through worse is heart breaking. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

I know that I could potentially come off as being arrogant, self-righteous, or similar, and that is certainly far from my intent. This has been a process that has helped to clarify many things in my life. It is the final step for me in becoming whole. I have let go, so to speak.

“When we let go, we are free”

Yet that phrase is a little misleading I feel. In some respects we let go, and in others we regain the reigns.

  • We let go of worrying about things we cannot control, and instead take the responsibility of our choices.
  • We let go of external expectations, and give ourselves permission to express our desires.
  • We let go of the lies and take back ownership of our truth.
  • We let out the bad to reclaim the good.

For me, it has become about perspective, and being aware the we will all have a different one. I can only be true to my perspective, and when I find something new, I adapt and evolve. I like to consider myself open minded, yet I will defend my right to choose what is right for me.

I certainly have let go of a lot of things, and found a new level of balance inside. It has had some interesting side-effects.

  1. My general tolerance levels have increased, and substantially so. I am not easily startled any more, much to the frustration of my daughter and her mother. I often scare them by simply entering the room, whereas their attempts to startle me are frequently met with a simple glance and “Hello.”
  2. It takes a lot to irritate me. Before, I would work very hard to hide any upset of anger, and would often sulk or mope as a result. These days, I find that I am less inclined to do so, preferring instead to think about things.
  3. I have not shut off my feelings, but now consider them more of an information service, rather than a directive. When seen in this way, I find that when I feel an emotion (anger, fear, sadness, joy, lust, love) I can see the options they present, and then make a choice that satisfies my needs, both emotional and intellectual.
  4. I have become more aware of my body. I can feel things changing in my body more keenly than ever before. I can sense the beginnings of alcohol intoxication long before it actually starts to affect me, or when I take cold and flu tablets, I swear I can feel the effects as it hits the blood stream.
  5. Not only have I become more aware of my self, I have been able to take more control over my body. When I feel anxious, it is an incredibly simple matter of focussing and gaining some level of control.

This is not to say that I don’t continue to suffer periods of anxiety, depression or darker emotions. I have developed the capacity to handle them better. It is almost like my reserves, which had previously been tapped out just trying to sty afloat, now have space to spare. When trouble presents itself, it takes a while to fill the reserves.

I don’t expect anyone to change their way of life because of what I say, and if they choose to consider my thoughts, then I would be happy if my words help.

My personal rules for life.

  • Aim high and expect nothing.
  • Don’t sweat what you can’t control.
  • If it is life-threatening, likely to cause harm, or will affect many people, then it probably warrants some thought.
  • Don’t enforce your beliefs on another, and do not let another enforce their beliefs on you.
  • Do consider another’s point of view, and respect their right to choose their own path.
  • Offer advice when asked, or at least ask permission first.
  • Placing blame gets no-one anywhere. Focus on resolution rather than attributing fault.

I thank you for staying with me for this tale. For those who may have just joined, if you would like to read from the beginning… The Dark Path Part 1

The entire story, both series, can be found under the Depression menu option above.

The Hard Road Part 8 – Perspectives

I was changing my view of the world. What I began to realise, and not just superficially, but innately, was just how much our world view is dependent on our individual perspectives. We aren’t just all different, we see the world differently. Yet the evidence is all around us.

I began to appreciate how much I lived my life with platitudes without meaning. I would say I believed in certain ideas and concepts, but my actions and choices often contradicted what I felt. More often I was acting in the way I thought I was expected to, which was in direct conflict with my desires. I was disconnected.

Suddenly certain phrases and bits of advice took on new and deeper meanings.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”

This deceptively simple statement holds a lot more truth that I ever gave it credit for. The things we get worried about, when one looks at them from a distance, how much meaning do they really have? It is so easy being the observer in another person’s life to see them issues that often get the most stress, anxiety, or attention, are often the most meaningless.

That may sound a little harsh, and honestly, it is. The thing was, I could see that in other people, but I didn’t apply the same scrutiny to my own life. I had developed a reactive tendency to find the worst in any situation, and usually at my own expense. So a situation that I would see as trivial in another’s life, I would see as another testament to my own failures.

I began forcefully apply the same observations I made on others to myself, and discovered something; there is at least two sides to any situation. One is always “better” than the other, and I was CHOOSING the worst of the options.

I think that realisation itself was the biggest shock. I was actually choosing depression over any alternatives. That may need a bit more explaining.

I gave up control of my decisions by letting in the voices and expectations of others, and allowing them to influence my choices and decisions. I may not have known better. I may have been naive. I still allowed it, but accepting this fact was hard… and I wanted to know why.

It took stepping out of my emotional perspective, which was a lot harder than one might imagine, but once done, I could see what my actual flaws were, which were to actually believe that I was flawed. This belief fuelled my drive to not trust in myself, and rely on the advice of others. Even those who didn’t have much to do with my life any more. I had allowed my life to be driven mainly by emotions, guided by well-meaning yet misguided advice.

Balance Equals Harmony

When viewed rationally, things are usually far more trivial than they seem emotionally. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is a very rational piece of advice, because it is with a analytical approach that facts can be assessed. This is what we need to be telling our emotional sides, and I wasn’t.

Looking back over my life, my rational side had been rather beaten into submission by various circumstances and people, and I hadn’t done much to take it back. Now I had the opportunity to do just that. My experiences, both bad and good, now found a new use in reconstructing the spirit of myself. There was good to come from everything I had been through, I choose to see the good in every situation, and as I have described a few times already, when I made the choose, things got better.

In the end, my only real mistake was in not accepting responsibility for my own choices. I needed to find a balance between rationality and emotionality. I need to find the calm. I need to take back control over the only thing I had any right, or ability to control: me.


 

I am nearly finished with the series, and I invite you to read my other posts on my journey. The first series: A Darker Path. Series 2 – The Hard Road.

The Hard Road Part 4 – Strange Games

Not my actual cat, but very like him. I may upload a proper photo later.

Upon my return home, somewhat relieved, but bitterly disappointed in myself, some interesting stories unravelled over the course of a few weeks. First I need to explain one thing before getting to the meat.

While I was in the UK, my cat had passed away. He was a gorgeous Russian Blue, and incredibly intelligent. When he passed, my parents told my grandmother, with whom I was staying at the time. They did not want me to know as they thought it would upset me. My grandmother didn’t agree, and eventually told me. Thing is, I already knew.

I had been strolling across Cornish fields with some of my extended family, when I suddenly saw Smokey (my cat). He ran up to me and rubbed himself on my legs. He then looked up at me before running and fading away.

I had to step away from my desk for a moment. The emotion got to me, which in itself is interesting, considering that at the time, I felt an incredible sense of calm. I knew then that he had passed. Just a note, this wasn’t my first contact with “spiritual” experiences, but that is another story entirely.

So my parents were understandably concerned that I may upset about that, which I wasn’t, but they were hesitant about telling me about other things, so news came in dribbles for a while.

JealousAs I recall today, the first thing I remember being told was that my grandmother had thought my decision to go to London had been my own decision, and that my uncle had been surprised by it, and had apparently tried to talk me out of it. Then I heard that he had been concerned for my well-being, and thought that I was acting autistic. With each revelation, I recounted my version of events, and soon a picture formed of a man who saw this young lad (me) as a rival in some obscure family relations game. Driven by a fearful jealousy, he seemed to have played both sides, or at least, that was/is how it appeared to me, in order to “get me out of the way”.

When all knew the story, there was much anger and upset from the family, except from me. I instead saw it all as having been done, and in the past. There was nothing to anyone could do to change time. It was a fateful series of events telling me that I was not ready, or destined for a different path. Partly self-depreciating, and partly couldn’t be bothered dealing with it. Much later, I learned that the uncle in question was himself a sufferer of depression, and his own actions had caused more suffering for himself, including the loss of his partner, and loss of trust from his family. I just felt pity for him, and moved on.

It was a half-way point for me. I was not getting overly upset by the turn of events, but I was not yet above blaming myself for much of what happened. After all, I had allowed myself to be duped, convinced, and talked into making the decisions I had made. I began to realise that this was a common trend in me; allowing other people to make decisions for me. Giving my self-control over to others, and it had started at home.

For a while, I had taken control over my decisions and my life, and it had been great, and uplifting. I made the choice to go to the UK, to apply for RADA. They were my choices, and it felt good to make them. Then old habits, which really are hard to kick, took up their familiar mantle and things quickly turned sour.

It was the hindsight realisation that when I made the decision to return home, I really learnt the value in taking control over your choices, and the effects it could have. There were so many things that were beyond my control, and there was very little I could do about them, except consider how I truly felt about them. Me. My feelings. When I had my doubts about the plan to go to London, rather than question those doubts, I allowed another to make the decision for me.

Side Note – Food for thought

Now why do we do that? And don’t say you don’t because we all have done, or continue to do. I would hazard a guess that it would be because responsibility is frightening. And why is that? Because we don’t want to be blamed for anything? And why would we be blamed for anything? Because it might go wrong? Might?

ControlOne of the most liberating things I have done to date is to acknowledge those things I am actually responsible for; my actions, my beliefs, my decisions, and my reactions. The good and the bad combined. I’ve stopped worrying about things I can’t control; other people’s actions, beliefs, decisions, and reactions, or even things that simple are.

And don’t get confused between consider and worry. I still consider those things that are beyond my control. I don’t want to become an arrogant snob after all, and I like the feeling being considerate gives me. I just choose not to get anxious, or fretful over things that I can’t do anything about. It is a surprisingly distinct line, and simplifies life choices.

We are complex beings. We have light-sides and dark-sides, and a variety of shades between. Denying a part of yourself is akin to stopping the flow of a river by blocking only half of it, you just make the water work harder to get out, and you increase the pressure. Eventually, the wall will fall.

The question is, would you rather control the flow, or let it explode?

Find the entire Hard Road series here.

Depression Sensitive

SBMI think I have realised something today. An interesting side effect of being someone recovering from depression. It makes you overly sensitive to someone else’s.

I know I’ve done it more than once. That is, jump in with unsolicited advice when I get the whiff of a sad emotion, particularly when it rare to see in the person in question. I get so caught up in stopping someone else falling down the hole, that I react without thinking, and don’t see it until much later.

Today I did it again, and so did someone else. It was when the other person came in with sword flailing that I suddenly realised what I had done, and have done many times before. Seeing both reactions so close together really drove it home.

It sort of flies in the face of many of the things I tell myself I believe in, which is rather amusing from a certain point of view. I am still human, and capable of making mistakes. There’s something oddly comforting in that thought. As I think about it, I can now see times that not only I, but others have done the same thing; to me, and to other.

SBM2Yet, as I recall, having someone rush in to drag you up, hold you steady, give you lots of “atta boys” and positive words-of-wisdom, was the last thing I wanted when at my darkest moments. What I really wanted was someone to stand by me, be there, be a support, and giving me room to breath at the same time.

Getting control over depression isn’t something someone else can do for you, no matter where they have been, or what they know. Depression is personal, and the solution must come from within. Having the love and kindness of friends makes the search a little less painful.

Well, that is my opinion at least. 🙂

Mind Ablaze

imagesMental fires of industry. Smoke and steam leaking from ears.
Carbon footprints on the soul. The unsupervised automata of conditioned thought.

Toxic.

Like 1000 monkeys on typewriters. Random nonsense.
Sometimes something sensible. Rarely very useful.

Chaos.

Clawing back control. Regulating the automata.
Firing the Monkeys. Clean away the clutter.

Peace.

Learning a new approach. The regime of the Self.
Finding the balance. Taking control.

Harmony.

—-

NOTE: During my years at University, I often wrote nonsensical poetry and prose, which I then force-fed via email to anyone I could think of. I’ve had the stirrings to start this again… You have been warned.

Uncertain

Following your dreams. We keep telling each other to do this. Don’t give up on your dreams, living the dream life, or other variations of the theme. I’ve come to the realisation that this idea can be just as dangerous as the overly negative “realistic” phrases such as “you’ll never make a living” or “it’s a great hobby.” Both are opposite sides of the same coin really. One is idealistic and potentially misleading. The other is far to grounded in avoiding any form of risk taking and defeatist

I am a long time believer in the “everything in moderation” philosophy. I am also prone to making mistakes, just like anyone else, so I don’t always find that point of moderation. I guess that is the thing with moderation. It isn’t always obvious. The extremes are easy to find, which is no doubt part of the reason why people often choose one or the other, even bouncing from one extreme to another.

So I led myself a little astray with a few inflated hopes and dreams, and belief that a platter had been handed to me. In hindsight, I was too eager, too frustrated, feeling too confined. I wanted luck to smile on me, and I felt I deserved it. I leapt, without really looking at where is was falling, which I wouldn’t ever do normally.

Things changed, I was in a strange place, and I had to find a way to make it work quickly. It wasn’t just me in this leap of faith. I had people depending on me. I struggled. I wasn’t ready. Things crumbled quickly, things I should have planned for, and others beyond my control.

Fortunately, I had a fall back plan which had been strongly recommended prior to my leap. I was able to play my get-out-jail-card in the nick of time, and now I find myself back in familiar territory. Even after a day, it was like I had never left.

However, even though I am back in familiar territory, things are not the same. I am changed. I know, irrespective of how things fell apart, that I want to go back. Better prepared and armed to the teeth of course, and this will take some time. I am also a little more aware that I was a little blinded to my life before. I had seen restrictions when there weren’t any. I had held myself back with a false reality. I had believed that in order to “follow my dreams” I had to change my lifestyle. I was a little deluded, and I should have known better.

MakeItHappenI have learnt a very important lesson; following your dreams is not enough, and the wrong way to look at it. I mean think about it, to follow is to remain behind, having your dreams lead you on. I want to be in the driver’s seat, not the rear seat. I have to do hard work in order to get that seat, like learning to drive, learn the routes, understanding the rules, and making sure there is enough fuel in the tank.

A Darker Path: Part 7 – Backbone

In the continuing saga, from Part 6.

Inspirational Examples

Of all the teachers I had through primary and high school, none do I remember more fondly than Mr Beer, and Mr Tozer, my Maths III and II teachers respectively.

Mr Beer was simply cool. His approach to teaching complex maths was always with inspirational games and events. He often gave little challenges to test out puzzle solving skills, and one that I remember all too well goes like this;

There is a young lady at an airport somewhere in the world. She has missed her flight, and there isn’t another until the next day, but she is clearly desperate. However, the is nothing to be done. She will have to wait. This is all observed by a gentleman who approaches her as she leaves the check-in counter.

“I couldn’t help noticing that you missed your flight. Can I help?”

“My mother has fallen ill and I really need to get home.” She has clearly been crying.

“Well, I have my own private jet and about to leave. I would be happy to take you wherever you wish to go.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to put you out of your way. You don’t even know where I am going.”

“It wouldn’t matter. I am heading to Perth in Australia, and I can assure you, wherever you are going, it’ll be on my way.”

The question is, where are they?

I’ll just leave that one for you to ponder. There was also the time he was teaching about using angles to calculate the length, or height, of an object. His approach was to use two navigational angled finders, sextants, to measure the angle of a kite flying above the sporting event on the school oval. We could also measure the distance between the to sextants. Back in class, we used these figures to work out how high the kite flew. Then we went back a tried to get it higher. Maths was fun, when creative solutions are a part of the deal.

Mr Tozer struggled through year 11 with a very slight speech impediment. He was clearly uncomfortable, and classes were somewhat tedious. Between year 11 and 12, something changed. He had learned to overcome his condition, and he was a different man. Suddenly, classes were more interesting, and enjoyable. He was more relaxed and confident. It was rather enlightening to watch, and I think I learnt more in his transition, then in class. For someone who struggled with confidence and image, this was a significant lesson.

Protection in Confusion

A development from my experiments in saying hello to those would did not expect it, was outlandish humour. Having observed people for many years, I knew I didn’t want to be a bully, and use violence as a way to “control” others, but being meek and mild was not working for me either. So I needed something else. Witty repartee was out because I never could think of anything until hours, even days after the event.

So I used to say completely random things. I couldn’t tell you now what I did say. It was just bizarre things. It had the effect of making someone stop, look at you strangely, forget their train of thought, and diminished the effect of anything they might have said. I didn’t mind if people though I was a bit weird. It was better than the alternative.

I used it great effect when in Sydney. I had joined up with a nationally based Saturday morning group, who got together and motivated each other. Quite a few of my school friends were a part of it, I rather enjoyed it all. We had a convention and most of us hopped on over to Sydney for a few weeks. I believe this was during Year 12, although my memory is a little vague.

Walking around Circular Quay, I became aware of the large number of non-english speaking tourists, because every time we walked past a group, they would all start laughing. I admit, I was a little self-conscious, and I couldn’t figure out any reason why they would be laughing at us. So I turned to my friend and said, “I’m going to do something here, and I want you to go with it.” He nodded.

Now, I had no idea what I was going to do, but I know I wanted to do something. So as the next group of tourists approach, and on cue they started babbling to each other, I turned and uttered a stream of utter garbage and gibberish. He, to his immense credit, returned with something equally out there. We were both rather stunned and amused by this that we burst into fits of laughter, much to the wonder and bewilderment of the group we were passing.

It was my ultimate weapon.

Finding a Backbone

To this day, I do not know what motivated a strange turning in someone I had thought as a friend. Climbing a flight of stairs to my , I was startled by the sudden appearance of said friend, who came running around the corner down the stairs. On the way, he punched me in the stomach. Startling in itself, I was blind-sided, winded, and rather bewildered.

Much much later, he apologised. Mind you, he did so with the obvious assistance of others, and he stood there with his cheeky grin, his slightly in-genuine apology, and I, already feeling animosity toward him since the attack, was offended. He held out his hand for a hand shake, and I thought that this was not enough. I stepped forward and punched him in return.

I am not usually one to get involved in fights, and I certainly was not one to initiate them, and I would not encourage anyone to do so. In this moment, it felt right, and it felt good. I never shook his hand, and our friendship was slender from that time on, but to his credit, he took it as a fair cop, if a little unexpected. Someone said to me later, “Nice to see you have a back bone.”

It wasn’t the last time it showed either. In the final days of year 12, I had found a certain degree of freedom from the bullies, taunts, and such. Most had found that I no longer cared what they said to me, or that my confusion tactic was simply too weird for them to hand, or they had found other, better interests. Which ever way, the top order bullies generally left me alone, and that made way for the mid-range wannabes.

It is interesting that there is a clear ranking system when it comes to bullies, and I only realised when I was able to stop worrying about it so much. So it was that on the last day, or near last day, of high school, the one such wannabe bully decided to have a go at the infamous victim. I had just slung my bag over my shoulder when it was knocked of. I turned and saw who it was, and told them to leave me alone as I slung my bag up again. He knocked my bag off a second time, so I told him to get lost. After a third time, I turned, dropped my bag, and told him to F* off.

I didn’t and don’t swear much. When I do, it is usually unexpected, and it certainly was here. For a split second, he was a little stunned, but quickly recovered.

“Oooo, I’m gonna kill you for that.”

I snapped. “Really? You wanna kill me? Right then. Come on. Do it. F*g kill. COME ON. PUT YOUR HANDS AROUND MY THROAT AND KILL ME!” and I dared him to kill me. I got up in his face (he was slightly taller than me) and demanded that he kill me. Old feelings came flooding back. Feelings I had not felt in a very long time, and for a brief moment, I wanted him to do it. I wanted him to try. I wanted to see if he could.

I remember thinking that I had seen death. It was a long dark tunnel with nothing at the end of it, taunting you. If you wanted to talk death and killing, then you better have the balls to follow through with it.

He didn’t. I fact, I think he got more than he bargained for. He didn’t know what to do. That was when on of his mates called to him. He turned, clearly relieved of the distraction. After all, no one wants to fight a mad dog, and told his mate, “Jeff beat me up.”

I almost could hear the click as he realised what he had said, and his mate was rather amused at this also.

“Oh please.” I said. “You really need to grow a pair.” I collected my bag, and left without further incident.

But I was troubled. Old memories had been stirred, and I would have to find a way to bury them back down again.

A Darker Path: Part 5 – Out of School

So, anyway, continuing on from Part 4...

In writing these posts, I have stirred up a swarm of old forgotten emotions and memories. It is rather incredible what the human mind can store, and what it takes to trigger it.

There was, of course, a lot more going on in my life than school. Ju-Jitsu, Boy Scouts, Piano lessons, and a little bit of athletics somewhere in there. Oh, and computers. I was there for the first PCs made for mass consumption. The Commodore Vic20. You could load programs by plugging a cartridge into the back. I remember spending hours playing Omega Race, Space Invaders, the original DOOM!, and so many more. Then they brought out a tape deck so that you could load audio files. With the help of my father, we built our own audio adaptor that made it possible for us to use any tape deck. When I loaded games from cassette, I got to hear all the strange computing noises that are now associated with computers, and I wanted to post a sample, but couldn’t find one that suited. Maybe later.

Frightened Little Boy

I had become fearful of my father, more so than ever. He was a driven man. Stubborn, in pain, frustrated, and no doubt a little afraid himself. He was not in good health, and he could no longer work as he once did, yet he took pride in being the one that paid the bills, and kept us fed. Even though he was often angry, there were moments that I could see the struggle that he lived with, and his stern attempts to not let anyone see, end even though I did see, and did have a glimmer of understanding, I found him unpredictable, and scary.

One telling moment was after another heated telling off for something, which I can’t even remember now. It’s a bit like that. You can remember being told off, but the reason for why has been smothered by the emotional energy of the event. He came into my room, to apologise as it turned out, but to my eyes, he was coming in for round two. I retreated. I had no-where to go, so just curled up in the corner, on my bed, trying to keep as much distance as I could. I can still remember his face. He was disturbed, and shocked. He later confessed that it was this moment that made him rethink a few things, and he tried. I know he did. He is a stubborn, and occasionally opinionated man, but I truly believe that he tried.

To me, he was the perfect role model for going too far. Even though he had serious back issues, he started up a business installing alarms for private and corporate properties. He put his body through some extreme stress, and pushed himself to, and beyond, his limits. He has suffered more injuries than I care to count, and all because he wouldn’t, he couldn’t give in. That attitude often blinded him I believe, to his limits. He just could not accept failure or weakness, and especially in himself.

While I had respect for his persistence, I felt I could never be good enough for him. He was quickly and easily frustrated. I was often “Bloody useless” and he could do the job quicker himself, and he was right of course. He could do the job quicker. I just didn’t have an interest in the same things as he did, and found it very difficult to simulate enthusiasm for him.

Show me Something Jeff

Still, he had his moments. He used to test me and my Ju-Jitsu. For many years, on the odd day here and there, he would give me his best kick, which was really no higher than my waist, and for a long while, I was too frightened to do anything about. One day, I didn’t think. I reacted. I slid sideways, blocked and scooped up his leg, and grabbed his shirt-front. He could have gone flying if I had let myself carry through, but I managed to stop short. He had been completely take off-guard. He said “I don’t think I’ll do that again.” and he didn’t. Amazing what confidence that simple little thing did for me.

I didn’t like getting into fights at the best of times, and I had been dragged into a few, unwillingly. Being able to tackle my father, the man scarier then all the bullies I had ever met, and effectively stop a fight without fighting was quite powerful. When the kids at school found out the I was learning a Martial Art, they all wanted me to “bust a move.”

“Show me something Jeff.” If I had a dollar for each time. I rarely did. Once or twice, I may have twisted the wrists of a couple that got a little to pushy. I think the best demonstration I ever gave was when a group of boys descended on me as I sat watching a sporting session. Because of my hay-fever, I was rarely including in scheduled sports events. I sat at the shed and watched, blowing my nose quietly to myself.

But back to these boys. One in particular sat down next to me, on the other side of a pole that I had been leaning against.

“I hear you do Karate.”

I looked at him. “Nope.”

“Yeah you do. You’re doing that Kung fu shit.”

I just looked at him. The grin on his face told me everything I needed to know. He was picking for a fight, and wanted an easy one. So he picked the quiet, shy, embarrassed, runny nosed nerd for an easy win. Except I wasn’t going to fight him. I just looked at him.

He reached for the skin just above my left hip, grabbed a handful, and began twisting. I just watched his face. I had a little bit of flab back then. Not a lot, but enough for him to get almost three full twists out of me, and I just watched him. Pain control as something that I had learnt from my training.

When he realised that I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of a reaction, his face fell. He looked a little shocked, which he tried quickly to cover up. He muttered some pathetic statement about me not being worth it, and walked off. His cronies walked off disappointed. I watched them leave without saying a word.

The bruising that appeared the next day was intense, but no-one ever asked me about it afterwards. I think this was the day I learnt how to deal with Trolls; don’t give them anything they could feed off. Give them crumbs and they will hang around like seagulls. Give them nothing, and they will soon wander off seeking another source of sustenance.

Fighting is not the only option. Often the most effective battle to win, is the one with you own self-control.

Pearls of Wisdom

Back to my father for a moment, for all his stubbornness, and strong opinions, he occasionally had something useful to say. In my latter years of high school, I was out the front of the house helping my father with the gardening, when one of my many antagonists walked by the house. You see we lived opposite a small pathway that led to a main road, and a local shopping centre. People often passed by.

My father, much to my embarrassment, said hello to afore said bully, who made an uncertain, hesitant reply. In a rare moment of tact, my father waited until he was gone before asking me why I didn’t say hello to him.

Erm, dad. We don’t like each other. He and his mates are some of the kids that pick on me.

“Still, it’s just a word. Wouldn’t hurt to say it one in a while.”

I thought to myself that he didn’t know what he was saying. I mean please, what would that do? Seriously! He clearly had lost touch.

But the comment stayed with me. What would happen? I realised that I didn’t have a clue. It would certainly be unexpected. It would probably confuse people. I marinated on the idea for a few weeks, then one day, walking along a crowded path between classes, I saw one, and I said “Hello Bill!”**

The reaction was absolutely thrilling. They turned to say Hello back without thinking, then saw who it was, and it was like their brain froze. Their face screwed up in confusion, and I felt brilliant. I had learnt a very important lesson, and thing started to change.

** The name has been changed to protect the guilty!! 😉

Continues…