Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pickles, panic and pretty ponies, oh my!

Song: “Green Acres”

Dear Uff Da: What's a boy to do?

I'm starting to think my move to another, smaller city was a wrong decision. Very wrong. Don't get me wrong, the city I moved to isn't so bad, but I'm starting to see just how conservative and Bible-thumping these folks are.

I mean, there are places and times that I feel I have to be "hush-hush" when I say bad things about our president for fear of major retribution.

I'm starting to think I should just work, put off school another semester and move back to the town I lived in before I moved here when my lease is up on my apartment.

Can you pass along some Norwegian advice to a confused boy?

Dear Confused: Well, you’re in a right ol’ pickled herring, now ain’tcha?

This is a tough one, but I’m going to dive right in and remind you of the old adage that’s generally nothing more’n a big pile of stinky horse shit: The grass is always greener on the other side of the prairie.

It’s stock-taking time, and we’re not talking the kind that gets corporate CEOs hard.

You’re not happy where you’re at, true, but you’ve also just moved there, and now your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer some questions about where you are, where you’re going, and whether that cowboy who just drove by likes boys.

And that last part, my friend, is a major part of the equation: men who like to get nekkid with other men, and the other elements that go with that way of thinking. You know, values like being open-minded, free-thinking and fashionable.

Now, I know that these sorts of things were absolutely oozing out of the pavement where you were before, but why did you leave there? What do you like about where you’re at now? Is there anything you can do to make it better?

Like the last poster, I’m going to give you the same exercise: sit down and meditate on your future where you’re at. Really think about it, put yourself in your shoes this time next year. What’s your life like, who’s in it, what are you doing, who are you doing it with? (And no, Brad Pitt is not an acceptable answer!)

Now, do the same with your old place, in your old life. Now, listen to yourself. I mean really listen. No matter what the answer may be. And, before you make any decisions, give it a year, if you can. If you can’t imagine that, give it until the end of this year, after the holidays.

Better yet, give it a semester of school. School changes everything. Give it a go. I did a semester at UNC once, and that was enough to send me hightailing it back across the Mason-Dixon line for good! Give it a semester.

And, in the meantime, try to live in the moment, where you’re at, with the understanding that it may just be temporary, so how bad can it really be for just a little while?

Song: Avril Lavigne, “My Happy Ending”

Dear Uff Da:
I’m not sure if I should be worried. About myself. A short while ago a relationship I was in imploded. Well, okay, I blew it up, but my hands were tied, I didn’t have a choice, I had to get out or get wrecked. The ex was someone I’ve been completely and totally ape shit in love with since about 10 minutes after we met, and it was like a movie that we actually, finally hooked up. I was happier than I’ve ever been in my whole entire life … unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Seems I was used to get the ex back, the jealousy routine, which totally worked, and the ex flipped, and I was left with “can’t we just be friends.”

So I walked away, the smartest and right thing to do, no doubt. Problem is, it’s killing me. I’m so miserable, more miserable than I’ve ever been in my life, and go between anger and sorrow and hatred and depression and back again. I can’t eat, I don’t want to go out or do anything, I don’t give a shit about a damned thing. I feel dead. What do I do?

Dear Dead:
That sucks. Unfortunately, that’s also life, and the thing we call love. Okay, no, wait. That’s a lie. That not what we call love, that’s called emotional fuckwittage, and the first and foremost thing you need to remember is there are countless people wandering this earth, upright even, who feel that it’s okay to do this, as long as it ends with the “friends” caveat.

Don’t buy into it. Whether or not you were used, or wronged, or just plain hurt, your feelings are what matter to you, and once someone plays their card, as your ex has, the only thing you can do is make things right inside yourself, and move on.

(Of course, I also took out the part about you wanting to take a lead pipe to said ex’s kneecaps. That’s understandable, but, as I’ve said before, violence is not the answer. If only, right? But, it’s not.)

We can’t keep people from using us for their own cavernous emotional needs, but we can decide how to react in the future. As I see it, you’ve got a few routes you can take: you can remain shut down, and waste away like some dramatic Victorian tale, or you can take the time you need for yourself, get strong, feel better, and realize that you actually would have dumped the fuckwit in the end.

Yes, you heard me right.

Someone willing to use others for his or her own emotional games is not worth the time, and you, being smart and feeling enough to be this hurt by all this, would have eventually gotten up and walked away. You weren’t the happiest you’ve ever been, it just feels that way. Honestly.

Now, I know you don’t feel that now, but I want you to sit down and meditate on this, imagine your future had this not happened, and see where it ends. Everything happens for a reason, and I’m willing to bet the emotional fuckwittage is simply a mere fraction of the faults of this particular bad one.

In the meantime, take as much time and pampering for yourself as you can afford, reconnect with your friends, remind yourself every day of how awesome you are, no matter how little you may feel it right now, and little by little you’ll get there. And, if it makes you feel better, take some karate classes – it’s always good for getting out the aggression!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Maybe Camus was right...

Dear Uff Da:
So, I think I DO have a mental problem. Or mental problems.

Yesterday, out of the blue, I hit rock bottom. I slept most the day. Wandered downtown to the main library, got a library card, and rented “All Creatures Great and Small" because I’m craving the English countryside. It reminds me much of upstate NY.

What the fuck?!

Country music doesn't please me as much as ambient new age and classical. It seems I’m entering a new phase of my life, to a place I’ve been once before.

I want to give up my pickup for a Ford Focus, I want to take classes in stained glass, and I want nothing more than to sit in a coffee shop listening to jazz, reading something Edwardian.

I miss my family. My sister gives birth, once again, in a couple of weeks. I want to be there for the birth. I cannot.

It’s strange. I yearn for different, simpler times ... like 1992 in Germany. Making $350/month supported me totally for a year. Today I can barely survive on $350/week.

What happened?

I want to be back in Germany, hanging with my German friends, discussing the overbearing, meddling father known as the USA, looking out the window at an alpine lake. People who ride bikes for necessity, not sport or fitness.

Shoot me now fucker!!

Dear Lost,
Well, first off, while I’ve often pondered whether you are indeed a mental case, that’s neither here nor there! Truth is, what you’re thinking and saying is not that much different from what I’ve heard from others. Save for the Edwardian bit, that is.

The most important thing to remember is that we all have choices, and we make them every day in regard to who we are, what we do and how we do it.

You said you’re entering a new phase of your life, which is a place you’ve been before. Why do you think this is? What is it in you that’s got you thinking about things you used to do, and the life you used to have, when, as you said, you could live on $350 a month?

A lot of it could come from stress over the whole proverbial growing up and taking on responsibilities and debt. Or, it could be something deeper. What have you been doing lately that is different from the life you write about? (Admit to the pickup truck and penchant for sweaty shirtless cowboys, boy!)

I think the thing you need to think about is whether this desire to go back to the old days is a true desire to return to something or someone you were before, and maybe have lost or walked away from, or just a way of avoiding what’s going on now.

Believe me, I understand the whole concept of wanting to go back to the past, putting the proverbial rose colored glasses on. His name is Matt. But, hey, guess what: 99.9 percent of the time, when you get back to the idealized past, all the things that made you leave are still there, and they suck just as much, if not more. Why do you think I’ve never set foot in San Francisco again, either?

If you realize that perhaps you’ve been denying a part of yourself, or you’re missing something that you truly do miss, maybe it’s time to start moving back in that direction, even if it’s just in small ways.

There are a shitload of coffee shops in this capitalistic caffeine-fueled nation of mindless, soulless workaholics we live in: pick one. You’ve got the library card, take out CDs and books that appeal to this side of you, and see if they still resonate. I’m glad to hear country music doesn’t please you—it’s all just a bunch of whining pussy boys with annoying accents anyway. Work on getting some money together to take a trip to Germany, or find one of those meetups and meet hot German men who will be your sugar-daddy and take you to Germany with them! (Um, I'm not probably not supposed to advise that, but hey, whatever works, right?!)

And bikes for necessity—well, stick here in the U.S. long enough and we’ll all be doing that. Hell, I did all my errands on my bike today. Of course, I’m an exception in that I’m addicted to my bike, but, it’s peaceful, it’s good exercise, and, if you’re like me you might just find yourself chasing some tattooed hottie who passed you on an Alpe D’Huez that you know just wants to snuggle up against your Zurich, thus increasing the aerobic benefits, wink-wink-nudge-nudge! (Oh, if only I'd caught him ... )

However, the other part of your message regarding family is another matter entirely: as so-called Generation X, we made our way out into the world, formed our own family units, made our own rules, didn’t do what our parents did and … well, now many of us find ourselves adrift. Most of us were smart enough to not have kids (can’t afford them, no stability, look how we were raised), but I must admit there’s a part of me that looks at the dumbasses who have them, most of whom are in the process of fucking them up as surely as we were fucked up, and sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake. It’s lonely, it’s hard, and the desire for family is human, and understandable.

We’re not like our great-great-grandparents, off on a ship with no contact, no chance of going back. We’re global, we can visit and call and text and e-mail and see and hear what we left, and as we age the old rose colored glasses again come into play, but, when it comes to family, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The desire to connect to family is human, and if you really want and/or need to be closer to them, start working on getting back to them.

But, if you’re missing them because of what you’re missing in your own life, it’s not a quick fix, because Mom will still tell you how poorly you dress, Dad will still tell you you’ll be single forever if you continue to be so abrasive and opinionated, your ex will still be frigid and judgmental, and you’ll find yourself walking into the woods hoping for a hungry bear.

We can’t use people and things around us to fill the hole in our souls, but we can use them to help guide us to where we need to be, for ourselves. It’s a big, ugly journey, but we’re all in it, whether we like it or not, until we’re worm food.

Although, on the Germany part, I can’t say I blame you on the desire to expatriate. That’s another column completely! I’ve been missing being abroad so much I went to Ikea today and bought enough Scandinavian food to feed all of Valhalla!

Friday, September 02, 2005

We're all killing ourselves slowly

Song: Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt”

Dear Uff Da,
So many of my friends seem so depressed and self-destructive. I hate to see them hurting themselves and, in some cases, wrecking their lives. What do I do?
—Out in the Cold

Dear Cold,
While I cannot speak for the past, there seems to be a psychic malaise running through society these days. Of course, considering the horrific violence, global destruction and natural disasters that seem to be rising as fast as the cost of a gallon of gas, it’s not that shocking.

First, the awful truth: You cannot save them, or cause them to stop what they are doing to themselves, no matter how hard you try. However, it also doesn’t mean it’s necessarily hopeless.

If someone you love is self-destructive, the reasons for their behavior could stem from almost anything: they may have been locked in the attic when they were children, had a schoolmate compare them to the Hindenburg while watching a documentary in seventh grade, been the Siamese twin that lived during the separation, or it could be something more recent … the possibilities are endless.

Most of us know someone who’s addicted to drugs or alcohol, engages in risky behavior, hurts themself or finds someone else to do it. I’ve got one friend who has sex with whoever asks: she’s been told from infancy she’s shit and she figures she’s not worthy of respect; several others cut themselves, drink too much, stay with abusive boyfriends or drive SUVs. All are physically manifesting inner hurt.

If you care about them, and you’re in the position to talk to them in a loving and non-judgmental way, it may be the opportunity they need to start talking about what’s going on, and start healing. Self-destructive behavior, while distressing, doesn’t signal a lack of character or willpower, or mean the person is bad. They are simply at mercy of life’s forces, and coping in the only way they can at this very moment.

Of course, some situations really are hopeless, at least for you, the upset friend/loved one. Confronting someone may make them angry, they may push you away, or try to hurt you in turn.

Sadly, sometimes there really is nothing you can do, and it’s your decision to stand by while the person you love destroys themselves and everything around them.

Sometimes they are almost as hurtful to you as they are to themselves, and you have to save yourself first.

Each one of us has to make our own decisions, but if it seems too hard, or you feel guilty, you might want to consider a support group; community pages in newspapers have groups for everything under the sun. Sounds lame, I know, but oftentimes having people around you who understand what you’re going through, and are going through or have been through it themselves, will help you, and possibly your loved one, get through and move forward.