A Jealousy of Dysfunction

I’m going to admit something I’ve never admitted before. I am jealous of people who possessed a good, decent, and normal upbringing. I’ve spent some time wishing I had that one key thing which ripples across the surface of so many facets of a lifeline. I know that having a normal upbringing wouldn’t have guaranteed me success. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my flawed upbringing. There are some wonderful things I might have missed without that dysfunctional sidecar.

I’ve had to learn interpersonal communication skills as an adult that I should have been taught as a child. These things would have helped me with everything from developing and keeping friendships to being successful in the workplace. Some of these missing skills would have made me a better parent. These tools would have helped me make better decisions and choices in my life. I would have avoided some heartbreaks.

I would have succeeded in life much sooner.

Yet, when I look back at my life, I am grateful for the things I went through and the things I experienced growing up. Yes, life could have been easier for me. I have mostly learned the hard way, sometimes the hardest way. I am glad that I’ve made it as far as I have and wonder if I had been brought up differently if I would have been able to reach the same level of experience that I currently have.

So, while I wish that my growing up had been in a nurturing, close, loving and supportive environment and while I wish that I had been taught all the profound moral values while being surrounded by knowledge and diversity, perhaps by being the child of University Professors or Business Professionals, I accept that I was not involved in any of these things. I accept that what I wanted and what I needed were two different things. I’ve accepted the life and challenges that life has brought. Rarely has my life been easy but neither has it been so difficult that I couldn’t figure it out.

While my upbringing lacked, my adulthood has been an active process of learning and growing and creating the life I want. My adulthood has been the classroom where I taught myself, searched for truth, filled the voids, fixed the holes and learned to develop a resilience to my dysfunctional sidecar. I’ve learned to grow through what I go through. I’ve learned that a lifetime of self-improvement is more valuable than having a cookie cutter foundation and wasting it anyway.

I feel like in the end, I probably turned out the same. I just have a heavy rich suitcase full of unique experiences that are better than any I come up with for one of my fiction stories. These experiences will pepper everything I write, every character, every scene, every motivation and for that I am grateful. So, while a part of me is still a touch jealous or envious of those with great childhoods, I am glad for the variance in our society, knowing each of us can take control of the handlebars and lose the sidecar, anytime we want to.

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The Winning Team

It’s election season and I started to notice something I hadn’t noticed before. Politics is very similar to organized sports. You have two main teams to root for. People get all riled up about who will win. Some teams that have a large following also have a large base of haters. These confrontations between the two are always a shouting match of who is better and who will win. “Your team sucks” is the equivalent of “crooked Hillary” or “dumpster Donald”. Although, up until these last few years, it was safer to have a favorite team than to pick a side in politics. Being a Raiders fan wasn’t going to cost you any friends and didn’t impede your ability to get hired at your dream job. The competition was all in good fun. No lives were on the line. Freedom itself wasn’t being challenged. The only chance of a riot was after the championship game and even then, it was in the hometown and only for one night. Now we have “demonstrations” between opposing groups and clashes with tear gas and riot police on a regular basis. We now have confused children that don’t understand why no one can have a civilized talk with grandpa anymore because he is always spouting off about liberals trying to take his guns. There are so many problems and divides now that have made us all reactionary. Everyone has an opinion and we are bombarded by them through all forms of media, traditional and social. Everyone thinks they are on the right side of the fence and that only their team’s actions are for the best interests of the general population. No one wants to lose what all is at stake. Everyone wants to celebrate a victory. But are we heading in the right direction? Are conflict and a championship necessary? Or are we simply doomed to repeat old ways over and over?

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Judgy

I think dealing with your own personal issues is probably one of the hardest things in life to overcome besides great loss. It’s a painful thing to accept something problematic about yourself. It is also quite difficult to have both the courage and ability to change these things. There is no simple step-by-step guide. There will be trial and error, mostly error.

 

However, I have learned that if one does not navigate one’s own issues, not only will everyone else around you have to continue to deal with them, eventually those people will tire of you not dealing with your own issues and will possibly leave your scene.
I personally have grown tired of another’s refusal to grow or to outgrow things that don’t work for them and decided to walk away. Usually, these are things related to drama and drinking. Likewise, over the years, I have had others walk away from me due to my problematic behavior.
I was recently referred to as “Judgy Jaimee.”
Ouch.
But is it true? To some degree, yes.
Does it need to change?
Well, after some deep introspection, I believe it does.
(Even when I am right.)

 
You see, the thing is, I can’t become the person I want to be with this current mindset. And while there have been times that being judgmental has kept me out of a potential problem, it has also lead me into some as well. This is a jagged pill to swallow but I believe in taking my medicine. I believe in self-improvement and personal evolution.
The experts say that the first step to change is to admit that there is a problem and while I have been chewing on this for weeks, this is the first time I am truly admitting my problem. I am actively working on changing it and becoming a more accepting and hopefully more acceptable human being. While I cannot change the past, I indeed hope that anyone who has been negatively affected by this issue forgives me for something I did not see before now. I am sure that during this process of change, I will stumble, as that is part of the dance, though I hope that my actions are harmless when I do.

 

One other thing that I have to remind myself is to not be judgy with myself as well. I have been my own biggest critic for far too long. I have judged myself harshly for every mistake I have ever made. This has kept me from growing into the person I need to become and perhaps cost myself some amazing friendships along the way. I have prevented my own growth and my own enlightenment. I imagine that I am not alone, and perhaps there are those who will judge me for admitting these things. I accept that. This is my path and my road. I will continue to do the best I can to navigate it.

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Keep Writing

“Keep writing.”
It’s the most common piece of advice that you hear seasoned writers tell the novices. It’s also one of the most important. It’s about not stopping at the moment to check the spelling of a word or to see if you are using it correctly. It’s about keeping the writing flow going and it takes time, effort and repeated practice. The most common method is to start with five or ten minutes. Some writers suggest doing 15-minute chunks. Others will tell you to just keep writing until the thoughts are all on the paper in front of you, (this can lead to a grocery list being thrown into the middle of a creative word vomit) and this is okay too.
It’s not just sitting down with a piece of paper or a keyboard and putting the words down, although it starts that way. Then it’s doing that over and over but with different ideas and objectives. It’s playful and fun and yet can still manage to be hard work. It takes practice and reading the works of others mixed with learning the ropes (and there are lots of writing ropes to learn). It’s creation fueled by inspiration. It’s learning to trust that part of your creative self and learning to be honest with your voice (writing what you mean versus what you think others want to hear).
It’s about writing even when you don’t want to because even with as much as I love it there are days where I just don’t want to. I at least write what has become a sort of diary which I have come to call my “morning dump”. I write these 750 words as fast as I can when I wake up in the morning and use that space to just vent or verbalize anything that I feel needs to be said. I do this for me only. I always feel like I start off the day with a clean slate that way. I use the program 750words.com because I like the feedback it gives at the end of each session as to where my mind is at for the day. I feel it gives me a sense of self-awareness and it gives me the opportunity to redirect my mindset if I am in a negative mood.
Keep writing. It’s how you get better. I don’t always reach my goals for writing every day but my agreement with myself is that if I don’t write like I should, I read instead. I think the combination keeps me balanced and gives me things to chew on when I am not writing. I believe writing reflects back to you ways you can work harder on becoming the best you that you can be and there is nothing wrong with a little self-improvement in the mix. It is an amazing thing to watch a person and their writing grow together (it is also a personally enjoyable thing to do).
Don’t stop writing. I love it when after someone reads something I wrote and they lock eyes with me and tell me this. “Don’t ever stop writing.” To me, writing has become such a strong and stable part of my life that I can’t imagine living without it. My dream is to write for a living and while I am unsure if this dream will ever come true, I know I will write even if I never get published. I will write for the handful of people who have begged me to keep going and for myself, always for myself.
I am not a perfect person and have made plenty of mistakes. The only mistakes I continuously regret are the times when I stopped writing. I regret that wasted time, the words I did not write. When I look back at old stuff I have written I cringe sometimes but often enough I find a glimmer of a phrase or an idea that was good. I also love to see how far I have come over the course of this journey and looking at older works is beneficial.
Fix what you write. I used to be terrified of the editing process. Over the years, there were editors that I met that wowed me. What I didn’t realize was that my limited experience prevented me from being able to edit a piece effectively. I still struggle with this one from time to time. I am more free with putting things down rather than asking myself why or looking deeper. I am learning how important editing is…however … not until the story is written entirely. You can’t edit the first draft until you have the first draft.
Then there is the sharing. Oh, one of the hardest parts. To become so vulnerable as to share these intimate thoughts, ideas or stories. What will people say? Will it be awful? Will they like what I wrote? Do I like what I have written? How can I make it better? What will happen next? That is the question that helps me finish. When I feel the settling that signals the end, I will still try to keep writing. With the help of good readers, I go back in and hope that I can make the story better with the next round of edits.
Keep writing. Then there is the final piece. The submissions or the putting a story to bed. Yikes. Scary stuff. Waiting to see what they will say about my work if anything. Will they like it? Did I send it to the right place for that particular story? Will they publish it or reject it? I try not to worry about what could have been better until I see if I have found it a home first. With the pieces I put to bed, I keep them in a “cuts” folder on my computer for now. Either way, my goal to send my pieces to find their new homes, wherever they may be. This last piece has become as important to me as the entire writing process.
So I keep writing and I don’t stop.

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Dear Friends,

I hate to admit that I still have a few racist friends left. I have justified keeping them out of some strange sense of loyalty. However, as time passes I feel I am not being loyal to myself. I feel that, especially in this current political climate, it is impossible to keep them. Not that being racist is ever fine. But in the past, at least they were learning and growing and (I thought) evolving. Now that the “American” narrative has gone backward (and it has), it seems impossible for me to ignore this problem any longer.
Perhaps I have outgrown these friends anyway? Or perhaps I should overlook their shortcomings and accept them for who they are as I have always done? Perhaps I am overreacting? I am here to figure this out. Writing is the best way for me to do so.
In the past there were bits I could let fly, so long as no active harm was being done. I was naive to think that if I didn’t see it, it wasn’t a problem. At this point in the narrative, EVERYONE now has an opinion on the kneeling thing; some for, some against and I understand the reasoning behind both. But that doesn’t mean I agree. (I honestly hate what football has become and detest organized sports for the most part.) But, I think that when you have a platform you should use it and do something that matters. Whether or not anyone agrees or likes it. (The president is a perfect example of following this unwritten rule.)
But now, with this whole Roseanne thing? Well, I’ll just state things the way I see them. I will admit, back in the day, I used to watch her show. I used to think she was funny but eventually I became disenchanted. Whether I outgrew her or she changed I am not sure. But I started finding her more and more …unlikeable. It happens. I had no desire to watch her new show and still don’t. I have no need for her crass attitude in my life.
Now that she has shown her racist colors to the world as well as shown her fragrantly rude and disrespectful side (example: that one time someone decided to let her sing the anthem) over and over without any remorse, my opinion of her is beyond low. Why are people upset that she got fired? Are these the same people that said Kaepernick should be fired for kneeling? In most cases yes. This is the blatant and disturbing hypocrisy of our time. What scares me most is this is the mental framework that is helping to shape the next generation.
Look, I don’t care what side you are on. Go ahead, pick a side and wave those colors proudly. But when you look to me as a friend and I am gone, you should know why. So, in writing this, I have decided, this is my goodbye letter to my racist friends who are left. I am sorry that we could not continue. But I cannot in good conscience continue to pretend that these attitudes and beliefs don’t go against the very fiber of my being. I am not mad at you. I am disappointed that you chose to quit evolving. I am sad that I have to let you go because you don’t understand that what you are doing is wrong. The words “racist” and “friends” cannot fit together in my vocabulary. And common decency means it never should have had to.

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Be the 20%

I was in Costco yesterday picking up a few things. I had the rare opportunity to casually cruise through the store while making a list for a bigger trip later. I had been up since 6 am and hadn’t really eaten so I was hitting the sample stations one at a time. Each time, I would come up with my cart and at least 3 or 4 people would rush or push in front of me in order to get there first and literally swiped up whatever sample was there to be had without even a thank you. The fourth time this happened, the attendant was an elderly woman about 3 inches shorter than me with the typical white smock and hair net. She was beginning to look fatigued. I made eye contact, smiled, and said “thank you” as I took my sample and pushed my cart off to the side just out of the way. While I snacked, I watched her as she refilled her tray. I struck up a conversation with her by mentioning the “vultures” I witnessed. She smiled with a sad understanding and said that what I just witnessed was “mild” compared to most. Curiosity got the best of me and I asked her, “How many people are like me verses like that?” and nodded in the direction of someone else who just swooped up another sample without a “thanks”. “Honestly?” she paused as she thought, “People like you are probably only about 20% of what I see daily.” I was shocked. And yet, looking around at my fellow Americans right now, not really all that surprised. I shook my head with shame and then smiled at her. “I am sorry. Thank you for what you do and experience.” She returned my smile and stood a little taller and I could feel the gratitude pouring out of her as she thanked me. I couldn’t quit thinking about this experience and it made me want to write about it.
I now want to challenge anyone reading this to step into the 20% of the population. Instead of rushing to be first, let’s take a little more time to be courteous to others. Say “thank you” instead of expecting. We all have shit to do. Let’s do so with a little gratitude instead of attitude.

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The Divided States

In some ways, our country has always been divided. Our two system party, the American Dream vs. Big Brother, North vs. South, Rich vs. Poor, Cowboys vs. Indians… Yet even with the violence of the civil war, our current divide seems more dangerous and more deadly. Is it because of our ever-growing population? Is it because of the ease of modern communication? Is it because of our growing and impassioned beliefs? Is it because of politics and the political systems in place? Or does it simply boil down to the fact that we are human and have a very primal human nature? Or is it because these continuing issues seem to be uniquely American in nature and are forever woven into the fabric of our life and our flag?
Our divided states are like one big chopping block instead of a melting pot. Combining and emersion are not encouraged; keep things divided, separate from others not like you, alienate anyone who is different. This is how the dividing occurs and we are willing participants because we all have opinions and preferences. I would rather not indulge some of our cultures worst traits, yet maintaining freedom means those traits get to stay. It is a serrated edge that cuts and separates the “what could be” from the “what is”.
“They” have us fighting with each other, solidifying the division, closing our ears and our hearts off to viable solutions. Alienate. That is what an abuser does. If he can alienate his victim, then the abuse can go on as directed, without interruption. The abused usually is clueless as to what is going on, too busy trying to juggle the blame and horror of the situation. That is what many of us are doing or experiencing. And yet we are blind to it.
If you say to me, “The kids don’t know anything about gun control! They were just eating Tide Pods last month!” Perhaps you are right. Still, as adults we are supposed to protect the children until they are old enough to make their own decisions, that is our job. It is our job to raise “responsible members of civilized society”. Whether as an adult or a parent, you have to realize that if we don’t like what the children are doing, then we need to educate them and guide them, not belittle them. The age of abuse is passing out of existence and we must lovingly evolve our thinking. Let us use communication as a tool instead of a weapon.
I believe that we are mainly divided by those who want change and those who don’t. It’s almost like a couple who is continually fighting. One side thinks everything is “just fine just how it is” and the other side is showing all the ways things aren’t fine. Perhaps there are some things that shouldn’t change. But we obviously need to sit down and really look at what is working and what isn’t. Isn’t that what you would do with car trouble? Or financial issues? What is working well and what needs to change? And then how do we change it? It is pointless to constantly point the finger of blame and not provide or explore working solutions.
I believe sometimes problems arise so that we can (together) find solutions. Perhaps strength and change come from having the hard and difficult discussions. Perhaps this is where we find our true humanity. Perhaps in the process of breaking down is where we create the strength of building up. Perhaps this is where we bridge the divide. Let’s fix this rift before it gets wide enough to swallow us up. We can fix things without losing what we have. But if we continue to fight amongst ourselves we could lose all that we have built. Divided cannot be United.

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