Before I had children, I had almost zero responsibility for anyone but myself. Sure, I was (and am) in a fantastic relationship with Sheryl and I felt some responsibility towards her. I would always inform her if I was going to be in all day or if I was out, who I was going to be with, out of a sense of caring and courtesy, not some expected or required duty.
It was not uncommon in those childless times for me to spend a day or six playing video games. I am not a serious gamer. I don’t own or play a wide variety of games. I am pretty much content with Halo and a few sports games. My personal favorite is the NCAA College Football series. Relatively easy to play, the game has evolved over the course of a decade or so, keeping most of the core controls the same, but adding some very cool and realistic features. This is highlighted by my only buying a new game every five years or so. Graphics get better, player controls more dynamic. game characters more life like. Still, it only takes a few games, maybe six, before I feel comfortable with any change.
On Monday, I decided to branch out a bit and buy a NHL game.
I have just discovered a love of hockey and when I saw the game for a decent price, I decided to give it a go. Oh my, I am awful at it. I have to play on the easiest level in order to not find myself screaming and throwing things about the room. The worst part-It is really, really fun! I really dig how great it feels to score in overtime, hit someone just before they pass or start a brawl with the defenseman who has been cross checking my center all game.
Since leaving my job at the library, I have been trying to find my rhythm at home, a comfortable place where I feel I am doing all the things I should and want to be doing. I need time to clean the house, take care of the boys (they like to do stuff! Weird, right?), and also find time to keep myself from going insane. I need time to myself because I am extremely selfish. I want time to write, time to ride my bike, time for some friends. One of my ideas was to give myself one day a week where I have no set responsibilities. I can use this time to clean if I want, read or watch movies, nap or as I have done lately and as I did yesterday, play video games.
Having the new game made the course of the day inevitable.
I started playing just after noon and finally decided I needed to quit when Sheryl asked me to start dinner at just before 6. The first three hours, I didn’t even notice the time passing. I started to pay attention when my son, Destry pointed out I had been playing for quite a long while. Being me, that just made me grumpy with him. You don’t get to tell me what to do, son.
When I started dinner (grilling burgers in the 100 degree heat. Clever me), I felt really off center. In point of fact, I was downright pissy. At first I thought it was a left over feeling from something the boys had done, or that a particularly persistent hornet kept buzzing my head like it was a traffic control tower and I was in a insect remake of TopGun. As I sat there, burning from the sun, burning from the heat of the grill, stewing in my anger, I could not deny what was going on. The video gaming had left me angry. I was angry I had played all day and angry I had to stop. I wanted everyone and everything to leave me alone and let me be contradictory and confusing. I wanted to forget any and all of my responsibility, forget my family, forget everything. I don’t want to compare it to substance withdrawal, but I felt a sickening need to play more and an equally disgusting feeling at the thought of wanting more of it.
This isn’t the first time I have felt like this after gaming, but it was the first time it had been this potent.
Lucky for me I have good people around me. I didn’t tell them anything about what I was feeling, but just being around them made me feel a bit better. I did end up playing two more games in the evening, stopping myself to water the garden, gaining some sense of control over things. Little lies sometimes make us feel better.
I am sure I have learned nothing and that\sometime soon, maybe next week, I will find myself back in front of the television, gaming console humming away, my eyes growing weak and sore from staring at a static image for hours on end. As for today, I am out and about, sitting among people at a coffee shop as I type this. My head feels clear and I am in a pretty good mood despite the muggy heat and this extremely uncomfortable chair. I am writing, I am listening to Nirvana play “Sifting”. It feels good. Wish you were here.
Everyone who has tried to write poetry has written very bad poetry at some point. Like any skill, writing takes time and practice. I think of the music my children play on the piano when compared to what my wife can play. This is not to say I value one over the other (in poetry or music). They both have a place in an artists development and being ashamed of the early efforts devalues what you learn, how you progress.
One of the traps most young writers (and by young I mean in effort and experience, not age), fall into is using very abstract words when faced with sharing or expressing a difficult concept. Words like -truth, love, beauty, real, free, and any of their various forms. They are easy filler and often writers think that these words are universal, hope that they carry a heavy weight that everyone understands.
Unfortunately, this is a false hope, an inaccurate thought. Most often the opposite is the case. Very few of us agree on what these words mean, what they represent. It would be honest to say that many poems, many stories are attempts to better explain to the reader a particular perception of one or more of these concepts. When trying to write a piece talking about something that an individual finds beautiful, it makes little sense to describe the thing as ‘beautiful’.
The sky is a beautiful blue.
Ah yes, I totally understand. Well done.
Freedom isn’t free.
Well then, we need to call it something else.
Hopefully as a writer progresses they find better ways to explain these concepts, understanding that they may fail in conveying what they intend.
The sky slipped and shifted to a brilliant cerulean blue.
This could be beautiful or not. I like it, to me it is beautiful.
Bloodied and broken, I cast off the shackles.
A particular type of freedom cost me a great deal. I can make sense of this.
I am more forgiving of this type of abstract writing when it comes to creative things than I am when it appears in non-fiction writing. When someone throws out ‘reality’ as if it is something we all understand, it is an instant cue to me that I am done reading. The same thing applies when one discusses ‘freedom’ as if the word itself represented every individual understanding of the word everywhere.
There is nothing common about common sense. It is always a matter of context.
“I don’t think I have the right to tell people what to do. I believe in personal freedom.” Perhaps so, but there are always limits. I have yet to come across someone who believes in unlimited personal freedom to do whatever one wants to whomever, whenever. It is rhetoric, pure and simple.
It is miraculous we can communicate at all when you stop and imagine all the possible definitions and analogies behind every word ever spoken. Context, context, context.
But I am straying…
There are infinite ways of describing things, events, emotions, concepts. Better writing avoids huge generalities (there are always exceptions). Better writing challenges my conceptions, my perceptions. It can even form them. I really want to be a better writer.
In my youth, I was never what one would call a good employee. My first job, selling newspapers, I bailed on after two days. Creepy boss aside, I could not make myself knock on doors to sell stuff, even basic things like newspapers. The one shift I worked alone, I just walked up and down the street until the van came to pick me up. Selling things was never going to be something I was comfortable doing. This came into play later on when I was on a mission for the LDS church. I never liked the sales type of approach and that is what it often felt like, going door to door, giving what they called “door approaches”. The thought of it still makes me cringe-That sickening feeling as you stood on a doorstep, suit and tie and bad haircut, shaking with nervous energy, hoping that no one is home, but knowing it will be your turn until someone answers. Yeah, awful. I hate selling things.
My second job introduced me to the world of grocery. I started out as a cart pusher, stock boy and worked my way up to dairy clerk, later on to the produce department. Work is probably the wrong word. I went to the store and sometimes did some things that were asked of me. I found all sorts of interesting ways to avoid working. I was 17 and wanted very badly to just get the money and not have to do anything for it. You really can find comfortable places to sleep in a dairy cooler, if you are patient and look.
My first full time job saw me as a warehouse worker, where I learned that I could do actual manual labor, if I wanted to, which I didn’t. Again, I found all sorts of fantastically interesting places to sleep and hide. I did enjoy working on the delivery trucks, driving all over the city, seeing the inside of so many homes. Sometimes we would have to deliver out of the county. Those were the best trips, driving to Heber or Midway, Park City or even Nephi, taking bad end tables and cheap sofas to people. I liked the physical nature of the work, combined with the often mind blowing efforts to get furniture through tight spaces and around or over obstacles. It was challenging, and I learned to do it well. Still, when I was given the choice to do my job or find someway to avoid it, I would choose the later.
It is very possible that I am remembering this next part wrong. And by wrong I mean out of order, either the job, or where I lived, or if this conversation took place at home or on a drive, but we are going to pretend this is how it went down.
I recall when I began working for ZCMI that I was constantly taking time off, calling in sick, being my usual unproductive self. One day, Sheryl came home from work and I was already there. I was supposed to be working until 9, but decided I wanted to do anything but my job. Sheryl was disappointed with me and we sat down to talk. I don’t recall the entire conversation, but one thing she said stuck. In essence, I had agreed to do a job and I should take some pride in being reliable, doing what I said I would do.
My wife is pretty damn smart.
From that point on, I started to give some effort to doing my job well. My entire attitude changed. I ended up leaving ZCMI with a bad taste in my mouth, but it was for other reasons than my laziness or poor effort.
When I worked at UPS, I worked my backside off, doing my best to get the job done. Loading shipping containers accurately and rapidly, I made some fantastic friends and learned a great deal about doing a hard job well and the emotional and physical rewards that accompany that sort of effort. It remains one of my favorite places I have been employed.
This carried over to my work at the library (though some might argue my effort. They would be wrong and jealous. HAH), where I could always be counted on to work extra shifts, be on time, do my job. Don’t misunderstand, I still took days off when I really wasn’t ill, but they were very few and far between. Because of some honest criticism from someone I respected and loved, I made a change for the better. What surprised me the most is what I was capable of accomplishing. I could do more, be more than I thought possible.
It’s always the little moments.