A Column in the Benicia Herald…

photo of vehicles on road

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HAVE YOU EVER TAKEN SOMEONE FOR GRANTED?

Of course you have. We all have. But have you ever taken someone for granted who was so close you didn’t even realize you were doing it?

And maybe you didn’t realize because they’d had your back for so long you lost sight of that fact. I guess that’s the definition of “for granted” isn’t it? Someone who was granted to you — by life I suppose — to be on your side.

Well, I’ve just taken someone for granted in a way that has left me feeling a bit foolish.

So an apology is in order.

But, like I tend to do, I’m going to apologize by way of an explanation. I have this funny quirk about me that makes me think that if I just explain how I arrived at a poor decision or bad behavior, then I can make the casualty of my behavior understand how I came to offend. And that somehow lessens the crime.

I think I do that because I’m a bit selfish.

Here’s what I mean: I tend to see my life as me on the middle of a mostly empty stage. From time to time people come onto the stage and make things happen, but I don’t always see those people — or the things they do — as connected to me.

And I think maybe — like some of us out there — for me it’s a defense mechanism. I think a lot of people are like me in that they find life easier to manage when they think they’re only managing (and affecting) themselves.

Maybe there are others out there who started out like me, as a shy kid. There was this time I was about 8, sitting in my grandpa’s car, and some kids wanted me to play soccer with them. I love soccer, always have, but because I didn’t know them I just sat in that car by myself and watched a game I should have been in.

Why didn’t I get out of the car?

At some point, I made the transition from “shy” to something else. That is to say, I went from letting others know I was somehow unable to do a thing, to giving them the distinct impression that I didn’t want to do the thing.

You don’t really get to be shy as an adult. Kids can be shy — that’s normal, even expected. But not adults. Grown-ups don’t get to be shy. We’re expected to have it all figured it out by now. We’re expected to understand ourselves and to have picked a more mature personality.

Shy isn’t OK.

So what can “shy” become? Well, there’s humble, modest, or even wary. Those are all mature and believable things for an adult to be. But shy just isn’t cool. Shy, in an adult, is seen as odd. Like there’s something wrong with you. Wrong as in, come on, you’ve had years to figure this out, how can you still be shy?

So you pick another thing to be.

I think the thing I picked was “aloof.” Aloof is cool. It’s detached, it’s unaffected. It’s in control and on its’ own terms. If you’re aloof you seem to know exactly what you want – and because you speak up so seldom, people don’t know you don’t.

But there’s a downside to aloof – it can give the people around you, and people important to you, the impression you don’t care. That you’re not interested. That they don’t matter to you as much as you matter to them. And that’s a bad message to send.

Especially to someone who’s got your back.

I’m not going to tell you who I’ve taken for granted — but I will tell you this: If she reads this she’ll know who I’m writing about. And she’ll forgive me — because that’s what she does.

Right after my divorce, back when I was trying to prove I really was the good dad I wanted to be, I did something not very smart. My ex took the kids to Disneyland (something I had neither the money nor the time to do) and in a kind gesture, invited me along.

I came home from working late, and at about midnight jumped in my truck to drive the 400-plus miles to be in Anaheim by morning. I then spent the entire day traversing the park, carrying the youngest one on my shoulders.

By evening I was exhausted but jumped in my truck anyway for the drive back to NorCal, because I had to work in the morning.

The drive started okay, but then my eyes got harder to keep open. I tried playing the radio loud and driving with the windows down, but I just couldn’t shake the drowsiness.

I needed sleep.

So, even though it was the middle of the night, I called the person who was always there. And she stayed on the phone with me for hours. As long as I talked to her, I found I could stay awake. And at one point, when I hung up in the small hours of the morning so she could sleep — I started to sleep, too. So I called her again, and she kept me going again.

The only reason I didn’t fall asleep that night on the freeway is that she didn’t fall asleep that night.

She’s always been there for a guy who’s aloof and pretends that nothing really affects him. But here’s the problem with being aloof — it’s self-imposed seclusion. It’s this situation that leaves you alone with your feelings, and because you’re alone with them you’ve got almost no practice in sharing them with others — which is how they get defused, or validated, or whatever it is they need to get. I’m lucky I’ve got someone like that in my life.

Now I just hope she reads The Herald this Sunday.

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Semi-Superhero

 

I use to be a superhero.

Well, a semi-superhero, anyways. When my two sons were little – probably about eight and ten – I told them that the man they knew to be their dad was actually the mild mannered alter ego of a superhero named Bugflector. Continue reading →