21 March 2011

Taking stock at 40

Not much has changed since I completed my 40th year, um.. yesterday, but what invades my thoughts more than anything is the very small number of friends I've collected. Those who know me will tell you that I have more friends than I know what to do with. I guess it's all relative. Define "friend" for me and I'll bet that my definition holds people to a higher standard of behavior and participation than yours does. I really wish I weren't this jaded on the subject of friendship, because it gets in the way. It's got something to do with childhood problems.. and no I am not about to announce that I was molested as a kid- that never happened to me- but what did happen was that we had an alcoholic in the house. Being the oldest of three, it fell upon me to be the super-responsible 12 year old.. and from there it spiraled out of control. You can't be a kid in an environment where fists are flying, glass is shattering, 911 is being dialed or you're running out the door to escape on a regular basis. When I was 17 my mother was nearly choked to death- if I did not run to her aid in that moment she would have been gone. So it's told that [adult] children of alcoholics have a hard time with a lot of things. We're crippled, we're lame, and we can't understand why. I think we have a strong tendency to shut down and build protective barriers- sometimes very subtle, sometimes very conspicuous- but they're always there- reminding others to keep their distance in order to instinctively keep ourselves out of harm's way. It's a survival tool that kept us alive long ago, but which now burdens us with it's obsolescence and brutality. Time to put down this weapon and be vulnerable? It's not for lack of trying, but it seems like whenever we let our guard down someone takes a cheap shot, someone exploits weakness, someone betrays you.. and then we say "well fuck everyone!- I don't need a single one of them".. Then the next thing you know it's your birthday and you're left wondering how you managed to isolate yourself and why you count the people who you trust on only one hand. Oh yeah, I remember now.. raging violent alcoholic in the house conditioned us to be in perpetual warrior-survivor mode. You can't get an closer to me than the length of my fucking spear. Sorry about that- it's a work-in-progress.

5 comments:

Ardent said...

(I do not know if my previous comment went through, so I am sending it again. If you have two comments from me, please delete one.)

What an incredibly morbid thing to write on your birthday. I am quite shocked.

I would like to state a few observations without being offensive and treading into your private space. We all have faults and no one is perfect. One of the biggest faults people have is that they blame their inadequacies on other people and other situations. You blame your distant and reserved personality on your father. NO that is you. I understand if you say that you are angry about your childhood but you control your current actions.

I have two children and I have given them the same love, support and education, they have grown up in the same loving environment, yet they are both nothing alike. My son sounds very much like you; he has a very reserved personality. When he meets someone new, he does a lot of listening rather than talking evaluating the person prior to having a reserved conversation. He cannot blame his personality on me.

On the issue of friends … To be realistic who has time for an abundance of friends. I don’t. With work commitments, charity work, family commitments, cleaning, cooking, when I have time to myself I really enjoy my own company. That is not to say I do not enjoy friendships.

Same with you. From your blog site I can tell that you work full time and also sell bicycles. You spend a lot of your free time training and going to cycling events. You would also have responsibilities at home, so that is how you have prioritized your life, there is nothing wrong with that.

I would like to say on your birthday that I wish you a wonderful life and continued luck and success. Yes… you are very lucky … you have a beautiful and supportive wife, an amazing and cute son, employment (even though burdensome, you are able to make a living and be part of a team), your wife supports your cycling challenges and you live in a loving environment. Stop being hard on yourself and appreciate your blessings. They are there!

I’d like to share this proverb with you on your birthday:
The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials. – Chinese Proverb

Murat Altinbasak said...

I actually do not consider myself to be distant and reserved. This is not about a single person shaping the character and personality of another. It is about being a product of an abusive environment. If you kick a dog enough times he will eventually stop coming home.. If you have not read 20 books on the subject of "children of alcoholics" or attended an Alanon meeting or cleaned up blood and broken glass a dozen times before you were 15, then it's easy to dismiss my attitudes and behaviors as something uniquely my own, or as pure as the driven snow. Your heart's in the right place and I appreciate your genuine concern.. but I believe I am misunderstood here, which never comes as a surprise. The irony of it all is that I prefer solitude. I'm happiest when people just leave me alone, and that's the vibe I put out there and most people can read it and do a good job of keeping their distance. I'm an idiot for complaining! lol. At the end of the day I guess it all works out.

ecoccio said...

Wow...I too am the oldest child of an alcoholic parent and I'm sure I spent many of my childhood days in as bad or worse situations than you....but you have to lighten up. The past is the past, if you can't move on from it, and maybe even learn a little from it, it will deny of the life and happiness you can have. I like to think I have made my peace with the past and most times I don't think those things stop me from living the life I want. It's good to take stock of your life at different intervals and see how you can improve the things that keep you from being happy. Certainly surrounding yourself with hundreds of "fake" friends won't make you happy. Just get rid of all the negative...it's definitely not worth it.... Hopefully you'll do better with 50.

Anonymous said...

It's like we grew up in the same household.
Both my parents beat the hell out of me or verbally abused me. Imagine a mother telling his 9 year old child that she hopes he gets hit by a car on his walk home from school. Or pleading and screaming "Anne" for help not realising its her whose about to give you a black eye.
The beatings my mother recieved from my dad, which ended when I turned 16 have me tearing up as I write this.

Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will fucking kill you, especially when it's spewed from those who you love unconditionally.

Anonymous said...

I am replying to you nearly 5 years later, anonymous.
I'll pray for you the next time I pray. Go easy.