get what you’re given

This Christmas I laid out a mission to be slightly better around my parents, when it was just me, them and the dog.  Try to be a less objectionable, surly teenager, I told myself.  It can’t be hard.  While my brother frowns upon this behaviour as he finds it easy to act, be cheerful and upbeat, which shouldn’t be all that hard for him – looking from the outside at his beautiful family and life, it’s also not too uncommon to regress to former selves like this.

Many do it, a self-fulfilling prophecy, almost what’s expected of you.  In a podcast interview I listened to recently the successful Hollywood actor, Michael Sheen, from a small south Wales town of Port Talbot, confessed the same.  It happens a lot, so I’ve never significantly beaten myself up for it.  But it was still no reason not to try and be better.

And be better was, I think, what I achieved.  In fact, I was given fairly solid evidence of it by overhearing my Mum comment to my Dad, “he’s better company this year.”

Er, thanks Mum.  Success!

Recent exposure to horrible, tragic and traumatic real life stories enforces perspective too.  Look what you have around you; your family unit, your generally fit and healthy parents, your brother and his gorgeous kids and nice wife.  So you don’t see any of them all that often.  So they all have their quirks and oddities, some of which perhaps you wish they didn’t.  Who doesn’t?  You have tons.  It’s about learning to accept all of them as you get older, appreciate them – they’re less likely to change; care less, grieve less about stuff you don’t have.

It reinforced a belief and personal paradox: that it’s important to surround yourself with people, if you possibly can.  I was reminded of this again last night, after a curry and beers with my oldest school-friends, most of whom I only see a handful of times a year at most, but we all click back into our roles, helped by the large slabs of shared experience.  Humans are what matters.

And yet, here comes the paradox, I don’t like lots of them.  In fact I take an instant dislike to many.  I live and work very much alone so could legitimately be labelled a sad loner.  Despite the fact that I think humans are very important.

No, I don’t understand either.

This is beginning to sound like a slightly embarrassing, sanctimonious sermon borne of an unspectacular but perfectly pleasant seasonal period of reconciliation and acceptance – as well as a dash of broader perspective.  I’m sure I’ll be moaning and whining about the usual things before too long.

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belief and a lamppost

It was boredom which teased you out alone, the desire for more general stimuli than exists in your flat, the desire for a populated environment, for that warm festive buzz you supposedly revile; as well as an antipathy towards your own company in your own flat for yet another evening.

Although you like your flat and could have watched the match there, you were bored.  You fancied alcohol and more variables. In your flat someone might email you!  Or reply to a tweet!  Your phone may even ring!  These are all quite unlikely though. 

There are more possibilities in a pub, although as an individual with no friends you’ll most likely sit in a corner intermittently studying the large screen showing live football and the small screen in your palm.  Still, there are other people in the same room to illicitly consider and make judgements about.

It was raining as you walked to the pub.  You looked back over your left shoulder into a newish trendy bar and considered doubling back into there instead.  No.  It was too trendy to go into on your own and watch the football, wasn’t it?  Yeah it..

-A metallic clang was audible a millisecond before the scuffing impact and the searing pain into the centre-right region of forehead.  gaahh.  Ouch.  Really ouch.  FUCKING ouch.  Shit.

Several yards down the street a handful of people at a bus stop looked towards you, remarkably none laughing.  You took a moment out to stand in an empty doorway, getting rained on a little less, waited for the world to stop spinning and the pain to subside.  You wondered if this would prompt a brain tumour to hemorrhage.

A minute or two later you confidently ascertained that you were wet and throbbing and had a rucked, probably swelling forehead; your dignity was severely compromised – despite there being no evidence anyone had actually witnessed your calamity.  But there was no blood.  That was a good thing.  You’d live long enough to watch the Blackburn-Bolton game.  At least the first half.  Slowly, carefully, you made your way towards the pub.

Once inside the surprisingly crowded room and maybe mildly concussed(?) you bumped into a shortish but burly, typical doorman.  Not softly.  You thwacked a full shoulder of your frame and apologised immediately, a pacifying hand on his shoulder.  He glared back at you, up in your eyes, steely and unimpressed, two glasses in his hands, the level of one glass not up to the level of the other.  You apologised again.  His face was unmoved.  He probably enjoyed his moment, thinking you were shitting yourself and worried you might get immediately ejected.  You were shitting yourself a bit.  He said nothing and you left him, continued on to the bar and got a pint before seeking out a quieter corner of the pub near a television screen.

Also nearby were two separate couples on dates.  All handsome people.  The better looking pair were more polite and slightly less relaxed with each other.

You’d developed a soft spot for bottom-of-the-league Blackburn Rovers, a luckless football team with numerous solid, experienced professionals who never appear to play that badly.  You admired the dignity of their besieged manager, Steve Kean, who received a barracking from his own fans at every match, home and away; constant abuse and hounding to quit.   You wondered about his domestic back-up, judged that there must be a strong woman at home who supports and believes in him.

A glance at a laughing couple below the screen.  Your wobbly, still-throbbing head went on to generate thoughts about the consequences of isolation, loneliness and perceived constant shunning by people.  How that can infect a person and ultimately lead to misogyny and misanthropy.  Hell, if nothing and nobody accepts you – literally: females, friends, employers, family, lampposts, then why the fuck should you accept them? Fuck em all.

But where does that leave you? A crazy lunatic who wants to punish the world?  A paranoia-wracked schizophrenic?  A person who scuffles with lampposts?

In spite of everything you feel an enduring faith in people, entirely devolved from religion or religious values.  And also an obligation to the belief that life must be about surrounding yourself with people, if you can.  You rarely see an artistic endorsement of happiness, contentment and oneness through total isolation.  Not in a relatively young person anyway.  It’s commonly portrayed as leading to madness, self-harm and suicide.  Potentially brilliant art too.  But no, sociability is where it’s at.  It’s what seems to work for the majority of humans.  And it’s what you believe in, despite it being completely at odds with how you appear and how you live and how you instantly dislike a lot of people.

There are no guarantees though.  As painfully unfair as it seems, shit things happen to generally good people all the time and in lots of ways.  Good things you want might for yourself, through no fault of your own, might simply never happen.  They don’t happen for everyone. But you still have to invest in romantic ideals, or you could end up just wanting to kill everyone which, on balance, doesn’t sound like the greatest idea.

Blackburn lost again by a fine margin to their near-neighbours and fellow strugglers, Bolton Wanderers.  A slice of luck in the dying moments could easily have seen them earn a brave point.  The wet ball skidded off centre back Samba’s shining head and wide of the post.

then there were none

This one stems from another exhausted attempt with females; that once again defeated deleted what is the fucking point? futility..  Patience spent.

Single women often affect an exterior of confidence but when it comes to making decisions about men, even to meeting, they seem to almost subconsciously erect obstacles or barriers.  Of course this could be because they specifically don’t want to meet me.  I’m wide awake to this possibility, of course.  But I sense that other common factors are often at work too.

My hunch is this.  The one serious, possibly but not necessarily previous relationship, left them crushed and almost critically low on confidence.  Particularly if it was a small town childhood sweetheart upon whose word they hung unconditionally.

Particularly if that childhood sweetheart was an overbearing, oppressive, insecure twat who wanted to demolish them for anyone else.  Men do this.  It’s most effective if the women are left on the cusp of middle age, maybe with a child or two in tow.

Advancing through the emotional wreckage and feeling recovered, a remnant nervousness or flaky uncertainty can still exist, particularly when it comes to relating with men in real life, on that level, in meeting them, at that point when convenient cosy barriers must come down.  This frequently leads to them making excuses, overthinking and bottling it.

Merely a theory but I’m sure there are many like this.

Also unhelpful is the devilish deception of virtual communications.  That feeling of effectively being in each other’s pockets all the time; the blithe underestimation of the non-verbal, which itself carries masses of information.  Words are all we need, right?  That and the odd bloody “LOL”, an emoticon here and there.  Sorted.  Actually meeting can come later, even if you have to wait forfuckingever.

Still I find myself being held prisoner to virtual online communications.  It leads to a protracted period of unsatisfying and insubstantial communication about fluffy things which may easily have no bearing upon liking one another.  Opposites who appear to have little in common with each other can attract too.

Right now I’m again exhausted by the amount of time and effort which needs to be expelled in the virtual world, for nothing.  Months of time and effort and hope so regularly (basically always) turn out to be completely pointless.

You can chat to several people at once, even though doing so can feel oddly duplicitous, but everyone does.  You develop favourites.  You try to take it somewhere, and it eventually flumps on its disappointed arse and you realise your time would be better spent reading books or taking more photographs or playing on your Xbox or watching shit telly or doing practically anything else.

What instead?  Pretend like real life is an episode of Friends and talk to people in coffee shops?  Can you imagine the excruciating results?

I’d still like a dog.