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After a year-and-a-half at Harmonix, I finally had my first real tiff with a co-worker today — worse, one I actually like quite a bit.[1] Well, even the fairly mild “tiff” may be too strong a word; basically, I unknowingly acted kind of like a schmuck, and my friend/co-worker took the “unknowingly” part of that situation away from me.

I don’t like ever feeling like anyone’s upset with me ever. It’s one of my least favorite things in the world. I know it happens, of course: I’m human, I fuck up, I piss people off or hurt their feelings or what have you. But I try very very hard to make sure that happens as infrequently as I can, both because I genuinely don’t want others to feel upset because of something I’ve done and because it makes me feel all icky inside, like my guts have been coated in a spicy self-recrimination salsa and heavily breaded with angst crumbs.

I have to say, though, that I feel like I handled today’s not-quite-a-tiff like an actual, honest-to-Jebus adult. You might think to yourself: “Well, Allen, you’re 38 years old, so you totally should be handling these sorts of things like an adult.” And you’d be right to think I should, yet incredibly wrong to think that I do.

Today, however, I listened to what my friend had to say, and I apologized (even as he said an apology wasn’t necessary — to me, it was: I’d acted like a douche and should, therefore, apologize). I told him I’d try to be better about this sort of thing in the future and asked him to call me on it if I do it again.

Then I made him hug it out with me, because that’s what secure, adult men do after spats.

Now I have to figure out how to apply that same level of calm, coherent listening-and-discussing-without-letting-it-destroy-my-fragile-self-esteem thing to my more personal interactions. Even after twelve years of spending every day together, I still let the tiniest argument with Terry (or most anyone close to me) send me into a flaming spiral of depression and self-flagellation. When Terry’s upset with me — which doesn’t happen incredibly often, but still more often that I’d like, as I seem to be a fairly infuriating person to live with (sorry, Terry!) — I take it as if my entire being is at fault. When I piss her off, it’s as if I’m the universe’s lowest form of bottom-of-sneaker scum. I have exactly one feeling which even remotely compares to that awfulness, and that’s the feeling that I’ve disappointed my daughters. I’m honestly not sure which is worse.

Maybe now that I have more proof that I can handle the disapproval of others and know that it won’t kill me, that I can look it in the face and not shrink from it (at least to some limited degree with people I like and respect), I can put that same be-a-damn-grownup principle to work the next time I make Terry want to chuck a shoe at my head.

I have a feeling I won’t have to wait long to give it a try.

[1] OK, I like 95%+ of my co-workers, so that’s not a surprise.

Written by Allen

August 19th, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Posted in Personal

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Why I Don’t Often Write About Politics

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I don’t get into discussing politics very much, especially in public forums like this site. Sure, I’ve occasionally posted a pro-Obama video or link, but I stay away from the details of exactly what it is I believe, or why I believe it, or why I support the issues or politicians I do.

And I’m not going to do so in this post, either, though maybe I will do so before election day next month. What I want to talk about instead is why I don’t like to talk about politics, in hopes that I can work something out in my head, and in so doing, be more able to have these conversations in the future.

(As an aside, I’d like to preface the following discussion with the fact that you could probably replace every instance of the word “politics” with “religion” and it would still stand true.)

It’s not that I don’t think I can defend my views or should have to; it’s not that I think I’m so right that I’m afraid of having my worldview or political opinions or ideologies shaken; it’s not that I’m not open to listening to other ideas and viewpoints. I’m always open to being convinced that I’m wrong, even when I firmly believe I’m right. It’s possible that my mind can be changed with an argument persuasive enough, compelling enough, and factual enough.

But the thing is… those sorts of discussions almost by definition are arguments, and I don’t like to argue. At all. And here I mean “argue” in the debate sense more than the fight sense, though I don’t like to do that, either. I have plenty of friends and relatives who love to argue (in both senses of the word), who take pride in their ability to verbally take apart someone’s views, and that’s not an attitude I can fathom in the least for myself.

A lot of my distaste for arguing comes from a lack of confidence in my verbal jousting ability — while my brain works quickly, I have a lot of trouble getting what I’m trying to say to work its way out of my mouth coherently. But even when I’m dealing with dissenting opinions via the written word, my heart pounds and my vision goes all swimmy — fight or flight kicks in, and most of the time I’d much, much rather fly than fight. So I usually try to stay away from situations where arguments are likely to occur (i.e., talking about politics with The Other Side). Also, there’s the fact that I could be far more versed in the details of the issues than I am. A lot of my opinions are high-level and gut-level — I believe the way I do because not to do so feels wrong. Some of what I believe, I believe because these things just make sense to me, regardless of political ideology. But when debates or arguments comes down to a point-by-point back-and-forth on minutiae… well, right now I can’t really hang with that. I can argue up to a point, but then I begin to feel insecure — not in my beliefs but rather in my ability to defend them well. I have friends who can get into discussion particular Supreme Court cases, particular nuances of different areas of law or policy, and rather than risk feeling like an idiot, I tend to clam up and listen (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

Yet I notice that I seem to Twitter a lot about politics. Most of my last couple of weeks’ worth of tweets (lord, do I hate that name) have been about politics in some fashion or another, and I think it’s likely a) because the format of Twitter, while it does allow back-and-forth conversation, doesn’t really much encourage it; and b) because of the nature of Twitter, I don’t have to think much about what I’m putting out there. I can make quick observations or snarky, off-the-cuff comments and just kinda throw it into the wild without too much fear of negative repercussions.

And really, as far as repercussions go, what I’m most afraid of is alienating people — especially my family, most of whom are very Republican. I still cling to this middle-school-notion that I want everyone to like me, even though I know that’s impractical, impossible and, honestly, undesirable. But that adolescent need still hangs around in my head, and talking about politics pretty much guarantees pissing off someone. Hell, just my writing these words, admitting I have an opinion and that it’s pro-Obama, is probably going to piss off someone. Or a whole lot of someones. Quite possibly someones in my extended family. So part of my reluctance to talk about these issues is simply a matter of trying to minimize drama in my life, I suppose.

But now that I have all of those reasons/excuses out there, aren’t I really saying… that I’m a coward? I just admitted that I’m afraid to admit to or back up my opinions. Whatever I claim the reasons to be, it all simply boils down to cowardice, pure and simple. And I don’t want to think of myself as a coward.

So… no more. I’m not going to be afraid to state my opinion, and I’ll back it up as best I can, if need be. If you feel that you can respectfully tell me I’m wrong and think you can convince me of your points, preferably using verifiable facts to back up your position, bring it on. As I said, I’m always open to learning and having my mind changed. But I’m not going to get into any comment-thread flame wars with anyone.

As a liberal, I’m a big proponent of free speech. I firmly believe that you’re entitled to your own opinion, no matter how backwards, asinine, hypocritical or short-sighted I think it may be. The flip side is that I’m also entitled to my opinion, and this site is my venue for expressing it. If you don’t like my political opinions (or my opinions about anything else, for that matter), you’re under no obligation to read them and can either come back when I blather on about something innocuous (which will surely be soon) or, if I’ve bugged you that badly, not at all.

Just don’t hate me because my opinion is different from yours, and I’ll try to do the same.

Written by Allen

October 10th, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Politics

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