Alpha Beta Fired

I had to fire an actor last month. He was talented and he was intelligent, but he wouldn't follow direction, he took it upon himself to chastise his fellow actors, and he disrespected his Stage Manager and his Director. That's not what got him fired, though; the morning after Opening Night, he wrote a harassing text to a former director, using the theater's full name to drive home his point. At that moment, the decision whether or not to fire him ceased being the Director's... and became mine, the Producer. Had he not sent that text, had he not done something outside of the stage, chances are he'd had stayed for the entire run - replacing him required a lot of extra work, and the Director was already worned to a frazzle at that point - it was 50-50 she'd just resign herself to his arrogance and unprofessionalism.

During ehearsals, he had done little things to try and assert his dominance. Had me print off extra flyers and postcards for him. Had me book reservations for his friends. Had me allow a couple of his friends to come to the show for free. Had the Stage Manager carry his keys during performances. Which we did, with no complaints... so he assumed that meant we had acquiesed.

Printing more flyers and postcards, booking reservations, letting two friends see the show for free, hanging on to his keys... was us keeping a tempremental artist in the best of spirits and doing our best to guarantee as many people saw the show as possible. What he thought was him having us jump through hoops was us doing our jobs. He misinterpreted that... which caused him to misread me. When the decision became mine, I didn't hesitate - I immediately contacted the Treasurer to make sure mechanisms were in place to refund tickets, I was ready to immediately shut down production. As soon as I had the necessary reassurances, I fired him. He was caught completely off guard by my phone call and by my decision to terminate his association with my play and my theater. After all the hoop jumping, he never thought I had it in me.

I am the first to admit... I look like a Beta. I'm polite and courteous, I do my best to be helpful, I do my very best to be kind, and I always try to see the best in people. I wear slacks and a sports coat most of the time. I'm pale because I don't work or play outside. I am more than willing to follow someone else's lead, so it's easy to assume I'm a Follower, a Beta.

NCO within five years of enlisting. Held down a post that should have gone to a NCO three grades above mine to guarantee my enlisted soldiers were taken care of. Combat patch. Lead singer of a classic rock band. Star of last year's musical. Music director of last year's musical. Officiated my oldest friend's memorial after writing his obit and eulogy. I'm a Leader, an Alpha.

I didn't do anything to prove I'm an Alpha, so he figured otherwise. He hadn't taken into consideration I was respecting my Director's choices and not overstepping my bounds. He hadn't taken into consideration he'd already been given a second chance after he'd disrespected his cast mate, his Stage Manager, and his Director. He hadn't taken into consideration that a true Alpha... has nothing to prove, especially to someone like him.

I enjoyed firing him more than I should have. It would be nice to think he learned his lesson, but with Alpha wannabees like him, it's doubtful. He did learn his mistake about me, though. I will take that.

Being Ghosted

My Best Buddy blocked me from seeing the Story on his Instagram account. He doesn't want me or my lovely Lady Fair to see his relationship with his "special" twenty-something female friend is growing into a level where she refers to him as her "Boo."

He hasn't called or written me in months... so finding out he was removing me from his social media footprint was no surprise. I had been expecting it. Seeing the evidence on my smart phone - or, in this case, the lack of evidence - still hurt, though. Someone I love would rather remove me from their life preemptively... than risk me not supporting their decisions regarding their personal happiness, or voicing disappointment in their actions and motives... and that just cuts like a knife all the way down to my soul.

Officially Out of the Loop

The marriage of one of my best friends is cratering. Things between them blew up seventeen years ago, and the story was they'd been seeing counselors and working stuff out ever since. Facebook and Instagram were both full of photographs of the happy couple and the happy family. And then a few months ago, it was revealed that was all a sham - they'd stopped seeing the counselors years ago, and all the old reasons why things blew up then were now new reasons why things were blowing up today. A few days ago, he moved out of the house and into an apartment. The narrative is he can't get his head together with her over-analyzing everything he says and does... of course, if he would quit doing sneaky crap behind her back, she would probably stop being so anxious.

Officially, I don't know any of this. He hasn't called or written to fill me in on what's going on. I'm hearing about all this only because she is calling my Lovely Lady Fair. Not only am I only getting one side of the story, I'm only getting one half of that side - I get to listen to my Lady Fair's half of the conversation only.

When things originally went boom, I was caught completely off guard. I always assumed everything was peachy keen because he only told me about the good things that were going on in his life - I literally had no idea things were bad at his work, much less between him and his wife. For years afterwards, I pushed him to open up, fill me in on his progress, and keep me in the loop - he refused. He finally said he only had enough strength to open up to his counselor and his wife - everyone else had to stay at arms length. Which I understood and accepted.

I also put him at arms reach. I'd been sharing everything with him since we'd met, since before I was married. He knew all my hopes and dreams... he also knew all my fears and anxieties. When my lovely Lady Fair and I hit our rough patch, I told him everything; how much it hurt, how resentful I was, how I had to accept my part in everything going kablooey, how much I had to put my pride aside so I could focus on making my marriage right, and especially how much I had to accept and seriously tackle my own faults to make me first a better person, so I could then be a better friend and husband. Finding out he'd not been reciprocating hurt me to the core, but not nearly as bad as hearing he had no intention of recipriocating while he was going though his own version of the journey I had already started. Our relationship had been exposed as unequitable - I was sharing far more than he was, ever had, and probably ever would - so I had no choice; I reset our boundaries.

After a few years, he realized I was no longer sharing my failures with him. I wasn't seeking his support or asking his advice, and he took umbrage. He wanted to be there for me. He needed to be there for me. When I pointed out he refused to let me be there for him, he tried to turn it back on me; now, he was only open and giving to people who were open and giving to him; and if I wanted to be inside his world, I would first have to allow him inside of mine. When I pointed out I had already done that and for years he had never reciprocated, that it was his turn to be vulnerable, he refused. If I wanted to be a confidante, I would have to make him a confidante first. It was mandatory I not just take the first step, I would have to go more than halfway to meet him. I would have to earn his trust. He missed the part where it was he that was complaining he wasn't privy to my internal monolog. I hadn't come to him bitching and moaning I wasn't being treated like a Best Friend - that was all him. I politely declined, and he stopped communicating with me. Phone calls on my birthday and holidays, and an "Attaboy" when I posted about an acting triumph or the band performing a successful show was all I could expect.

That was five years ago. I didn't find out his was unhappy at work untll the family called to tell the Lady Fair and I they were moving across country for a new job. I didn't find out the eldest daughter had all but stopped talking to her father until her mother mentioned it to my lovely wife. I didn't find out my brother from another mother had moved into an apartment until his wife spent over an hour on the phone with her oldest, closest friend in the world.

Because I don't officially know any of this, I can't say or do anything about any of this. Because he isn't sharing any of this with me, I can't be there for him. Because he made it abundantly clear he doesn't want or feel he needs my help, I can't give or even offer my help.

My soul is heavy and my heart hurts. Knowing someone I love is in pain and consciously not doing all I can to help is completely against my nature. And I do love him, with all my heart. Always have and always will. If he ever calls, I will pick up immediately.

If he ever calls.

Yeah... No.

I'm long-winded and like explaining things. I like showing that there's a thought process going on, that I'm not just spewing forth stream of consciousness horse hockey. So I wrote a very long Facebook post yesterday, the first half an explanation of why I do what I do in the second half. The point of the post was the second half, though... the first half was just history and context.

Evidently, a friend of my parents got as far as the first half and stopped, immediately launching into an attack on me personally. I was ungrateful, didn't appreciate everything my parents had done for me. I needed to stop blaming them for my mistakes, take responsibility for my actions. I needed to stop living in the past, and not just start living in the now, but start living by The Golden Rule.

I sent a private message to her later, pointing out that in the post in question, I had literally written the words "My parents were just doing their best to look out for me, make sure I didn't have to break my back... " On more than one occasion in the past, I had written in length how my parents unquestioned love for me had kept me from doing something stupidly self-destructive. I consistently pointed out that not only are my parents remarkable, but they are the parents all my friends wish they had.

This made her happy. But I was hurt and angry, so I continued writing. "You think I'm ungrateful. It's your opinion that I take no responsibility for myself, that I selfishly blame everyone else for my shortcomings."

"No, you are a good man. I was just defending your amazing parents."

"That's not what you wrote. That's not what you inferred. How can I be a Good Man, when it's your opinion that it's my feeling all my mistakes were caused by my parents. Because I can't be both. Either I'm ungrateful and only dwell in the past, or I'm a Good Man. Which is it?"

"LOL  You are overthinking this."

"I think you insulted me on my own Facebook page. I think you hurt my feelings far more than you know. And I think you're incapable of acknowledging that."

"I was defending my friends, like a good friend should."

"And I think that wasn't an apology. I am happy my parents have such a stalwart friend guarding their back, they are blessed to have you. But we are done." Then I unFriended her and deleted all the texts.

First, if you don't like something I've written, critique what I have written. Show me where I've stated something incorrect, gotten a bit of history wrong. Tell me how my logic is faulty. Do not launch into a personal attack.

Second, if you do launch into a personal attack, follow it up. Tell me where my personal failings are. Give me examples of where I have failed you. Tell me how you believe I can better myself. Own that attack... because you can't just take it back. I will make you own it, and you will prove you were right to make the attack, or you will apologize to me for all you are worth, then hope I care enough for you to give you a second chance.

She's a wonderful woman, loyal and kind, a good friend to my folks. But she refused to own what she said, then refused to apologize. Bye, Felicia.

Closure, My Ass

I had to chew out my mother a few weeks ago. I haven't been 100% since.

I learned a long, long time ago that everyone is the hero in their personal story. Unless they're truly a psychopath, no one sees themselves as the Villain; they may be the misunderstood loner, or the anti-hero fighting against a system that is rigged in The Man's favor, but never do they just flat out call themselves The Bad Guy. Because of this, people will do almost anything to justify their actions, even if just to themselves. Once you understand that, nothing a person does surprises you ever again... because a person can justify some truly monstrous acts.

I decided a while back that I would live my life based on the facts; that if the facts didn't support my opinion, I would change my opinion. It's become abundantly clear over the last couple of decades that this kind of behavior is now the minority... there are way too many people who just ignore or refuse to believe facts that don't support or just flat out contradict their view. I live in a very Red State, so while it's impossible to avoid these folks, I do my best to keep my interactions with them to a minimum. And fortunately for me, the bulk of my family doesn't live with their heads in the sand.

In one particular area, my mom is an ostrich.

Mom is almost 70. She's been married over 50 years. She raised three kids. She's a grandmother and a great-grandmother. Yet, even now, over half a century later, Mom is still a little girl whose daddy left and mommy was never home. Mom still has abandonment issues, trust issues, daddy issues, and the Big One: working stuff out with her long dead mother by catering to her grown, married, now-grandmother daughter. If the subject is my sister, Mom will deny any truth, call any fact a lie, will make any accusation no matter how far-fetched, and will throw anyone she has to under the bus, all in order to keep that personal narrative alive.

If it was anyone else, I would have gotten the hell out of Dodge a long time ago. But it's Mom, and the truth is when the subject is anything else, Mom is absolutely amazing: funny, fun-loving, witty, intelligent, capable, hard-working, warm, accepting, and loving. 90% of the time, she is the mother all my friends and cousins wish they had. When the subject of my sister comes up, she's obstinent and unreasonable to the point of almost being delusional.

I don't bring my sister up, except to ask how she and her sons are doing to show I still care. It's Mom who brings up the subject in ways that force a confrontation, all because with her head stuck in the sand, she refuses to see how things really are.

I had to chew out my mother a few weeks ago. Two long texts and a small novel of an email sent to her over the course of a week later, and I finally got a "I'm sorry." And I haven't been 100% since. Closure, my ass.

The Abandoned Cycle

I collect abandoned people. I am also a martyr. Throw in procrastination, and you have my worst habits.

My mom's parents divorced when she was still a little girl, not a tween or a teenager, so there was still a lot she didn't understand about the world. My grandfather had a new wife and a new life to get on with, so he moved to Chicago. My grandmother was a single mom and working woman back when that was not really an acceptable thing for a woman to do, so she became hard, harder than she already was. My grandmother would get home from work, make sure my mom and uncle were fed, then she would put on her dancing clothes and my grandmother would hit the bars. Before she left, my grandmother would look at my mother and say, "Now... you be a good girl." My mother, being a little girl with little understanding of the world, took that to mean she had not been a good girl, and that was why her mother was leaving... why her mother, who hadn't been home all day and had only been home a little while, was now leaving again. Had my mother been a "Good Girl," her mother would be with her; had she been a "Good Girl," maybe her daddy would be with her.

My mom was pregnant and married by 17, and yes, in that order. She graduated high school at midterm, wearing maternity clothes under her graduation gown. She also had a decade of abandonment issues built up by this time.

I didn't get married until I was almost 25, and I still don't have any children, so I did not follow the example of my parents. When my wife and I hit a rough patch in our 7th year of marriage, I promised I would do all I could to stay married if my wife went to counseling; after she had some time to work on her personal issues, I would join her; and I would continue to go to marriage counseling and I would continue to try and save our marriage as long as she put in the effort to do the same. She did, so I did. Good news is, the counseling worked and we celebrated 25 years of marriage last February; bad news is, I found out I have a horrible habit of trying to fix lost people with abandonment issues, and putting their "needs" ahead of my own. My lovely wife was just the latest in a long line of abandoned people I was killing myself to save - her father died while she was in high school, a loss she's never completely gotten over - a line that could be traced all the way back to my mother.

My martyr habit really took shape in the Boy Scouts. You are first taught to "Do Your Best" (DYB or dib), but you are then taught to Do a Good Turn Daily. You are expected to put other people ahead of yourself from the age of 7 on. "On my honor as a Scout... I will endeavor... to be unselfish to my devotion to the welfare of others," part of the Order of the Arrow oath. The more I did for others, the more I ignored what I wanted, the more praise I got from Scout Leaders and my parents. When I ran out of things I wanted to ignore for the benefit of others, I started ignoring things I needed. I was a high-functioning Martyr by the time I was a junior in high school, where the brand new JROTC program was ready to use me as the Scouts had. By then, I was best friends with the pretty Drum Major and adored by both of her divorced parents; and dating my High School Sweetheart, whose father never married her mom and disappeared soon after she was born. My oldest friend and adopted brother was now across town, being abused by his new stepfather. When I wasn't driving JROTC cadets across town, I was rushing my adopted brother back to his house in time for his after school job; when I wasn't consoling the Drum Major over her emotionally manipulative first boyfriend, I was convincing my High School Sweetheart she was every bit as attractive and lovable as the Drum Major; and when I wasn't acting as president of the Art Club and performing in the show choir and senior musical, I was working as a waiter at the ice cream parlour at the mall while attending rehearsals for my buddy's garage band.
My sister married a man with divorced parents. My brother married a woman with divorced parents who already had a child from a failed relationship. You could rightly say all my mother's children are attempting to fix someone with abandonment issues... just as you could rightly say we picked up that habit from dealing with her in our developmental years. I could make the argument I am the biggest martyr out of the three of us... but I would also have to point out the decades my brother and my sister have put the needs of their spouse and their kids ahead of my own. I may be the only one to make martyrdom a lifestyle, but when it come to their families, my siblings are every bit as self-sacrificing as I am, if not more so - I never had to make a sacrifice for the sake of the children.

I am the only one to spend 6 years in the military so I could provide for my spouse and earn a way into college. So yeah... the argument could go either way.

So I'm a martyr whose default is to pick up strays with abandonment issues and be there for them. Being the first person to tell them they are good enough, smart enough, and loving enough to be loved themselves gives me a quick fix for feeling good about myself. There are two problems with this habit, though: spending all my time trying to fix them means I'm spending no time trying to fix myself; and you can't actually fix anyone - you cannot do the work for them, they have to fix themselves.

Abandoned people love hearing there is nothing wrong with them; they do not, however, love being told that since there is nothing wrong with them, they have no excuse not to take better care of themselves. They will put up with it awhile - they still want that love fix - but sooner or later, they blow. Abandoned people always push folks who claim to love them away - the abandoned expect to be abandoned, so they push to see if that is going to happen; if it doesn't, they push even harder the next time. The abandoned have also grown very accustomed to feeling abandoned - they have a tendency to view themselves as victims - so they also do not appreciate being told they can choose to be the hero of their story and save themselves instead of waiting for a knight in shining armor to do it for them. Finally being told they are worthy of love is one thing - being expected to save themselves, throw off their chains, armor up, and fight their demons all by their lonesome is something else entirely. As much as the abandoned say they want to be bolder people, as much as they claim they appreciate knowing someone is behind them all the way, the abandoned always push back.

One day, the abandoned will finally have had enough of being told/asked/begged to find the courage to save themselves, and they push back so hard they cross the line.

As sure as the sun rises in the East, as the sky is blue and water is wet, this always happens. Sometimes it happens later, sometimes it happens sooner; sometimes it happens at the most unexpected of times, and sometimes you can see it on the path ahead drawing closer and closer... but it always happens. A month before, you were the most insightful person they had ever met, they were stunned you knew so much about them just by taking the time to look below the surface... yet this month, you understand nothing about what it is to be them, the cross they bear, the demons they fight. Last week, you were briliant; but this week, you are an idiot who doesn't get it. Yesterday, they needed your love and support or they couldn't make it until nightfall; today, you are at best an annoyance, and at worst a hurtful reminder of their failings.

The last big push beyond the point of no return is always different, but always happens. Happened with my oldest friend and adopted brother; happened with my High School Sweetheart; happened with my best friend from the military; happened with the young woman I called my "Li'l Sis:" happened with my wife; and it even happened with my mother. My oldest friend took advantage of my martyr nature, then abandoned me when he no longer needed me. My High School Sweetheart turned every argument into an excuse for accusing me of wanting to leave her. My military buddy only told me about his successes; when he could no longer keep his failures a secret, rather than confide in me, he ditched me. My "Li'l Sis" was in a bad place and decided to take it out on the whole world, starting with the person whose only fault that day was to tell her he believed in her. My wife decided she was no longer sure if she loved me, after I had worked three jobs while putting myself through night school to support her. My mother gave me an ultimatum - her way or the highway - ignoring the fact that I hadn't done anything to deserve being thrown out of the house: it was she who had decided the rules were no longer in her favor and so the rules needed to be changed. That being thrown out of the house would derail my college education and upend the start to my music career was of no consequence to her: what my mother felt she needed for my sister was more important than my future.

I don't take love lightly. When I say I love someone, I mean it, and I don't stop loving them for any reason. I do reset my boundaries, though; and I don't attempt to make the relationship what it was before the blow up unless I see them putting in as much effort as me. My relationship with my wife actually improved after the blow up, though the first couple of years of counseling were brutal so it wasn't a sure thing for a while. My relationship with my oldest friend and adopted brother matured; but I also learned to keep him at arms length so I couldn't be taken advantage of again. My military buddy still doesn't tell me about the bad stuff in his life, though he has somehow convinced himself that he shares everything - he changed jobs recently, and was shocked that I didn't know he had been unhappy in his old position; never occured to him he hadn't told me. A few years ago, I reconnected with my High School Sweetheart: we're friends again, after I apologized for not being a better boyfriend. She turned into a martyr herself, so I do my best not to get sucked into that spiral. The intelligent and talented young woman I called my "Li'l Sis" has all but disappeared - not be able to hide behind victim status threw her for a loop, and rather than make it up to me. she chose to remove herself from the relationship. Once a year, she'll answer my Happy Birthday text with a Thank You! and that's it.

Any headway with my mother has all come from me. I have come to terms with a lot of past events, I've accepting responsibility for my role in those events, and I've forgiven my mother for anything and everything that I could. We don't talk about certain subjects, though, and I had to ask to be removed as executor of my parent's estate - I just couldn't do it in good conscience, so asked to be taken out of their will. When the time comes to honor my parent's final wishes, my siblings can handle it - I'm done being a punching bag for the family.

I've entered the last half of my life. There are still a lot of things I want to do, and a lot of improvements I still want to make to myself. I can't do that and collect abandoned people to martyr myself for, though - I need to just concentrate on fixing me, and only loving everybody else. It's all up to me to break The Abandonment Cycle.

Here's hoping knowing is half the battle.

The High Road

My lovely Lady Fair was upset with me Sunday.

Saturday, her trusty steed fell sick and wouldn't start, which was bad; it decided it was quite happy where it was in a public place, in the middle of a public throughway, which was worse. The lovely Lady Fair called me to come join her down the street, so she wouldn't be stuck front and center in front of God and everybody. So I jumped into the Mustang and drive the thirty seconds down the road so I, too, could look at her SUV with a blank stare.

Not two minutes before my lovely Ladyr Fair called me with news of her ill wheels, her mother had called the house looking for her - she'd only left her mom four minutes earlier, yet my wonderful mother-in-law had already thought of something they hadn't talked about the three hours before. When she asked what I'd been doing, I responded "Laundry," which earned me a teasing - I was supposed to be reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I got off the phone, grabbed my keys and headed out the door, my feelings hurt. This wasn't the first time she had called and expressed disappointment that particular day, teasing or otherwise: she'd called that morning to ask if the temp job might become permenant. "No... it's a TEMP job. I'm just filling in." This answer earned me a groan and a deep, soul-crushing sigh. The fact this was the first temp job I'd had in months, the fact this was a new agency, the fact I was doing a bang-up job and would certainly get a good recommendation, I reccommendation that would hopefully prompt new temp or temp to permenant jobs in the future meant nothing - in the hear and now, I still didn't have a job. I swallowed the hurt and went to my lovely Lady Fair.

My lovely Lady Fair's anxiety was spiking, so she was not in the best of moods. She was snippy, she was spiteful, and she was more than a little snarky, all of which she was taking out on me. I'd just had my feelings hurt by her mom yet again, so I was in no mood to be supportive, especially given that I know nothing about automobile maintenance - I can find the gas tank, I can check the oil and transmission fluids, and I can change a tire, and that is it: anything more than that, and I'm a waste of space. This particular Saturday, I was a waste of space. If there is one sensation I can do without, it's feeling useless in the bad situation... so now, not only am I a disappointment to my mother-in-law, not only am I a punching bag for my wife, but I'm now as helpful as a screen door on a submarine.

The next time my wife growls at me, I growl back. We continue to growl at each other until we finally get her SUV towed to a repair place and I drive us both home. I spent the evening drinking beer and feeling sorry for myself.

Sunday, my lovely Lady Fair lets fly that she's upset with me. Not only was I no help on Saturday, not only did I not offer comfort or moral support, but I was obtuse to the point of practically being intentionally unhelpful; that my lovely Lady Fair felt I was actively trying to make the situation worse.

That I would never do anything to intentionally hurt my wife never occurs to her. That I told her upfront what her mother had said to me on her two phone calls, that I wasn't upset with her, I was upset at failing her mother never occurs to her. That I am completely useless when it comes to cars, so I was completely out of my element and feeling in over my head never occurs to her. The only thing my wife knows is she counted on me to be helpful, and I wasn't helpful; I was snippy and snarky when she needed me to be supportive. My wife was upset that Saturday, I acted like her instead of taking the high road and being the me she depends on me to be; and since I wasn't being the me she depends on me to be, I must have been doing it on purpose.

A few years back, I made a decision that if I wanted people to remember me a certain way, I would have to act in that way; that if I wanted a reputation of being someone people could count on, I'd have to be there when people counted on me. It's what I had been trained to do, sure, but instead of resenting it, I would embrace it... that is who I wanted to be, so that's who I choose to be. That decision comes with some drawbacks, chief among them being... I don't get to get upset. I'm expected not to just be there, but be a comfort, too. I expected to see the bright side, be the cheerleader people need when things are going wrong. I'm not allowed to have a bad day. I'm not even allowed to have a bad afternoon. And when somebody I love treats me poorly, I am supposed to blow it off, remind myself they're having a bad day and go back to being awesome; I supposed to give them the benefit of the doubt, even when I know that benefit is not going to be extended to me.

I keep thinking there will come a day when I've done enough good deeds, donated enough time and energy and money to people and charities that when I screw up and fail to live up to expectations, I will be given the benefit of the doubt before someone assumes I being negative for negative's sake... but according to the person who loves me the most in the world, that day is never going to happen; and not only is it not going to happen, but I shouldn't take offense, it's just human nature everyone will always expect the worse of me. So after dwelling since Sunday afternoon, I have come to the conclusion that my lovely Lady Fair is correct - this is the best I can hope for.

I'm going to keep being me - this is still the version of me that can still look himself in the eye when he looks back in the mirror. Today, though... today, being me is making me very tired.

Unfinished Business

It's been two years since my oldest friend, my adoptive brother, passed away. I spent the first year writing about how I was dealing with the grief on a pretty regular basis, up until the first anniversary of his death - that's when I stopped. Every so often, I'd say I missed him, or write a post about something that reminded me of him... but I didn't make it a point to keep marking the milestones the way I had that first fifty-two weeks. The grief was at a point where I could manage it, I had learned what my triggers were, and it was time to move forward.

On the second annniversary last week, some of his closest friends got together to commorate and comisserate.

I'm not done grieving.

More specifically, now that I'm not heart-rendingly sad each and every day, I'm angry. I'm mad as hell.

He didn't have to die when he did. His heart gave out because the dozen or more congestive heart failures he had survived had damaged and weakened his heart until it just plan give out. He kept suffering from congestive heart failure because fluid would build up in his chest cavity, which restricted his heart's ability to expand and contract. The fluid in his chest cavity kept building up because even though he was in complete renal failure, he wouldn't stick to his diet or monitor his liquid intake.

Had he followed his diet and stayed within the prescribed limits of his liquid allowance, the fluid would never have built up in his chest cavity, sending him into congestive heart failure, and his heart never would have been damaged. Had he taken care of himself, he would be alive now. He might even have that kidney transplant he kept swearing he was going to recieve any day.

Some of his friends say "He died as he lived: by his own rules. He decided he was going to live his life to the fullest while he still had the time." These are also the same friends who would be sprawled out on his couch at three in the morning watching zombie films with him, but only after they'd eaten all the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Chips A'Hoy and drank most of a two-liter bottle of Big Red or sweet tea. Had he stood up and announced "I going to life life to the fullest, damn the doctors and damn their instructions - it's quality over quantity!" I wouldn't have liked hearing it and I wouldn't have agreed with it... but I would have respected his wishes. I would have respected him. That is not what he did, though... he looked me in the eyes and said "Don't worry. I"m going to take care of myself. I hear what you're saying, and I'm going to be around for a good long time." Those of us who were desperate to keep him healthy, he told us what we wanted to hear... then he'd call up one of his enablers and blow his dietary restrictions all to hell.

One of the enablers was at the event on the second anniversary. She let slip she was upset no one had contacted her about the last time he was in the ICU - she didn't even know he was sick until I posted his death on my Facebook page, and that hurt her feelings. And it was all I could do to keep from screaming at her "You helped PUT HIM in the ICU! You helped KILL HIM! And you have the gall to be MAD you weren't on the Chain of Concern list when it came to his HEALTH! You have the nerve to tell me you could have HELPED in the situation! YOU PUT HIM THAT SITUATION! You and your damn need to leech off of his light like a god damn emotional vampire - you took everything you could from him to keep your darkness at bay, and you never once gave a single tinker's DAMN that you were KILLING HIM in the process! GO TO HELL, YOU SELFISH BITCH!"

I didn't scream at her. I didn't scream at anyone. I just felt my blood pounding in my temples as if my skull was going to explode. I went home soon after.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do. So many of his friends are still grieving, and in far worse shape than me. They need my help... but some of them I just cannot deal with. The anger I feel at him for lying to me I feel completely justified in aiming their direction. And I do not want to be that guy. I do not want to dishonor my friend's memory that way.

Hoping For No Miracle

I'm agnostic in the purest sense of the term. I honestly don't know if God exists, and I know science hasn't progressed to the point the existence of God can be proven or disproven. I prefer to believe that a higher power exists, but I do so knowing the facts don't support such faith - I believe because it feels right.

If I find out there is no God, I'm good with that... just as if I find out there is a God, but all the religions have it wrong, there is nothing more after life, there is just the void, I'm good with that, too. It would come as a huge relief to be able to close my eyes and never wake up.

What would suck would be to find out the self-righteous insufferables are the ones that got it right: there is a God, and you have to stand before Him and answer for your sins... because if that is the case, I am going straight to Hell.

I try to be a good person. I try to be there, both physically and emotionally, for the people I care about... a shoulder to cry on, a set of extra hands when need be. I don't wake up naturally thinking selfless thoughts - I have to constantly remind myself not to be so self-centered, to do what my Boy Scout upbringing would have me do. And on a whole, I don't do so badly - if I were to be run over by a bus tomorrow, at least a couple of people could stand up at my funeral and state a few nice things about me, which is all I want.

When I was younger, I hurt some folks I shouldn't have hurt. It wasn't by mistake, it wasn't a miscalculation on my part not realizing they would be hurt, and it wasn't because I talked myself into believing what I was doing was justified - I knew exactly what I was doing and I did it anyway, for no other reason than I was being selfish and incredibly petty.

Too young, too inexperienced to know better is forgivable... but knowing better and not caring enough to do better? Unforgivable.

No amount of regret or attempts at redemption will ever make it right. I accepted this a long time ago... just as I accepted that if I ever had to stand before my Maker and answer for my sins, I'd just have to shrug. "I was a douchbag. Got no excuses, got no reasons, got no justifications. Just a douchebag."

My hope is if some religion does have it right, it's the folks believing in reincarnation - maybe then I can get the chance to get it right. But if the pious hypocrites are on the right path after all, I have a very long eternity in Perdition ahead of me. I'm not what you call good with that, but I am resigned to it.

Tilting at Windmills or Banging My Head Against a Wall?

I have spent the morning online arguing with a friend whose final barb against what I posted was the original author wasn't nuanced enough - not that my friend disagreed with the original premise, mind you, but that the post was an oversimplification of a complex issue.

Do you know why the rednecks and Joe Sixpacks think we're all elitists who look down our noses at the unwashed masses? Because we are and we do.

Lord save me from the overeducated.