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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Doing Everything Right has its Risks

Was thinking about this subject on my flight from ABQ to HOU after a recent phone discussion with my son and following several negative interactions I had with different individuals in recent days.

I thought I had made some pretty significant progress in my efforts to become a more social and positive person but these recent setbacks had me doing some significant soul searching and self evaluation.

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not - the string of communication failures has come in the midst of a new age of pain and immobility with my left knee - taking away my ability to exercise intensely and leaving me wandering what's next.  In addition, my part-time retainer contract for employment, has expired.

Between the vastly reduced workout schedule and the extra time available because I'm not working - maybe I just have too much time on my hands.

My delicate balance in life has definitely become unbalanced.

But as with all things in Life, you can only take in all that Life throws at you, assess the situation, create a Plan and then start executing the Plan.

So here I am on a flight to Houston to have my left knee evaluated for a Total Knee Replacement.  That's the next step in restoring a normal Walk of Life - literally and figuratively.

I will likely spend the rest of 2016 dealing with the plans, schedule, events and post-surgery rehab of a Total Knee Replacement - which is OK, because it's something that has to be done.

But I still have to function in other aspects of my Life while that's going on.

Which leads me back to the discussion I had with my son.  Basically, I asked him for constructive criticism, analysis and advice on developing better social skills and personal interaction.

You have to understand my son comes from a generation that has had access to all kinds of information, lists, procedures, techniques and self-help guides for being or at least seeking to be what I call "the Perfect Person" - the Best..... Communicator, Worker, NetWorker, Father, Son, Brother, Hunter, Cook - with the Best Disposition and the Best Body and Mind with every minute of every day working at becoming better at all these things and more.

And Hey - there's nothing wrong with all that....

Or is there?  I'll get back with you on that.

So let's go down the list of social topics and advice my World-Wise Son threw out to his dysfunctional Old Man!
  • Space - When you're talking with someone, don't get too close to them.  Don't invade their Space. You'll know you violated the Inner Sanctum when they draw back from you.  I probably have a problem with this but for a totally unrelated reason.  I have a high frequency hearing loss since I was 20 as a result of shooting thousands of rounds of a 12 gauge shotgun without hearing protection - which was "unheard" of - Oh that's funny - back when I was 15 - 20 years old.  As a result, I unconsciously lean toward people when they're talking to me, especially in a personal conversation, to better hear them.  Guess I'll have to work in a different Audio -  Space continuum.... Next.
  • Gesturing / Physical Expression - I talk a lot and I talk pretty expressively with hand gestures and this turns most people off according to my son.  I'm probably more guilty of this in the morning when I'm amped up on caffeine cause I'm definitely a morning person.  But point well taken.
  • Giving People Complements - especially Women.  My son gave me this dissertation on the fact that you're never supposed to give personal complements like you should never tell a woman she has pretty hair or nice eyes or whatever to which I asked the question - "Why give a complement if it's not personal?" I mean that's the whole point - right?  So we went round and round about this for a while and agreed to disagree.  Let me put it this way - I've probably given out 100 personal complements to men and women over the last year and I've never gotten one negative or adverse reaction so I must be doing something right.  Moving on.
  • Touching people - Now this is one where everybody has to be careful.  It's definitely a function of how well you know someone which will tell you how comfortable they are with being touched.  Enough said.
  • Texting and follow-up - This is one where I really don't do very well.  Not that I don't text well because I think I do probably too much.  Where I fail is I expect everybody else to take the time to text and to text as much as I do and follow up as quickly as I do.... and that's just not realistic because people's texting style and inclination and time to text is as different and varied as the people are.  So just because you text someone, don't expect a reply back.... today..... and if they don't reply that probably tells you something.  Duly noted.... or texted.
  • Cussing - This issue is as old as I am... because I grew up with cussing.  My dad cussed, people in high school cussed; I worked in an environment for 25 years - the chemical industry - where cussing was rampant.  It was just part of the language... and frankly, that's how I view cussing.  I personally don't see it as a personal deficiency or bad habit... just a manner of speaking.  I typically cuss to provide added emphasis or effect to what I'm saying and / or to express joy or frustration or anger. For example - I could say "Man - that was a hard workout" or I could say "Man - that was a hard fucking workout".  Which workout do you think was harder?  Some people might say "Well - you're just a crude person that's making an excuse for a bad habit".  To which I would reply...... "Fuck off!".
  • Personal Hygiene - I actually got high marks from my son on this one - Personal grooming was good, breath was good, clothes was good, hair was good.  Don't know what to say - guess I'm glad I passed the appearance and smell test.
This was like a 4 minute presentation and I figured most of the advice was selected and presented based on his personal observations of some of my social deficiencies.

Which is fine - that's what I asked for and that's what I got.

And quite honestly, I acknowledged and agreed with all the facts and figures, approaches and techniques he presented.

Kinda reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from my favorite movie series from one of my favorite actors.... Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone in "Stone Cold" - he and his girlfriend are sitting at dinner and she's counseling him on dealing with an unhealthy obsession with an ex-wife and his excessive drinking that results.

After her reasonable and heartfelt counseling he looks at her with appreciation and says.....

"Your advice is good.... it's just not good for me".

If I learned and practiced all of the recommended renovations to my Rambling Wreck of a Life Estate, no doubt I would probably be a better person.... Well at least I would be doing more things right....

Which leads to a Better and Happier Life - right?

Hmmm.... Not so fast there.

Do I really wanna be like everybody else, i.e. the "normal" people of the world?

Do I seek Social Rightness at the cost of the "Snowflake - ness" that makes me the Weird and Unique Creature I am?

I dunno - that's a Tough One.

On one hand, you are a more accepted and functional member of  society apt to do the right things, say the right things, and surely advance in Social, Relational and Financial status - Who wouldn't want that?

On the other hand, you don't break any laws, don't hurt anybody or yourself - physically at least - you ruffle a few feathers, sometimes make a spectacle of your yourself, but are always true to your natural bent - seeking and following the Life Line that is true to your nature and unique perspectives and approaches to dealing with People and Life in general.

I guess over the years I have encountered and been a victim of this "Cookie Cutter" approach to people... and frankly, I don't like it.

Mainly, I don't like how it excludes perfectly good people that have their imperfections.

I have seen brilliant and productive people kicked out of work environments at the short and long term detriment of them and their employer, all because they were different and they didn't follow or practice all the social graces.

Some of the most interesting, fascinating and inspiring people and frankly, the people I looked up to the most, were very unique, eclectic and stubborn individualists - they were extreme in one or many aspects of their social or relational approach to life.  They might even be classified as dysfunctional, weird, OCD, outcasts.... and if interviewed by a psychiatrist - be plastered with a number of labels in this "If you can Name it, you can Tame it" society we live in.

But dammit - they were interesting.... and entertaining... and fun to be around.... and maybe part of their appeal was that they were so....

Maybe I am drawn to people like this, identify with them and feel comfortable with them because....

I can identify and empathize with all their failures, foibles and idiosyncrasies.

Because I am the same way.

And because I accept them.... maybe... they will accept me.

Should you seek to be a Good Person, to be a contributing member of society, to be nice and follow all the social etiquette and develop and practice the virtues of Social Rightness?

Sure you should.....

Just make sure you don't lose yourself doing it.

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