Document 13: A Dystopian Tale, Part 11

Here is Part 11 of “Document 13”, a dystopian graphic novel I’m creating with my daughter. This week: It moved!

Love it? Hate it? I welcome any and all feedback!

The year is 2074, the world has been plunged into darkness. One girl, Sarah Doe, will learn the secrets of the dark forces that run the ruined world. With the help of a few friends, her family, and her own powers she will fight to return the world to an order not known since well before her birth. Will she succeed? Read to find out!

———————————–—————

Scene: Interior hallway. The orderlies are pushing two gurneys towards a large door.

O1: It’s been awhile since we fired this up. We don’t have much time before morning, let’s hope it works still.

He switches on the incinerator.

O1: Alright, just a few minutes and it should be hot enough.

One of the sheets on a gurney moves.

O2: Did you see that?

O1: See what?

O2: It moved!

O1: You’re nuts. They’re dead.

O2: We gotta push them in, bodies creep me out…

O1: Alright, let’s go.

One of the sheets moves again. Sarah moans.

O1: Shit ! What the hell? No one survives outside! We gotta push her in the oven first.

They push the gurney to the oven opening and open the door.
Sarah sits up. She sees what they are about to do. She quickly rolls off the gurney and struggles with the orderlies, knocking one of them towards the incinerator door. His hand goes into the fire.

O1: Aggghh!!!

S: Get off of me!!

O2 lets go of Sarah and rushes to 01. Sarah runs away.

O1: Get her! My arm is not as important as my life!

O2 runs after Sarah.

She manages to make it outside the building but trips and falls just before the airlock door. Orderly 2 catches up and they struggle. The headmistress appears.

HM: What is this?! I thought I told you to dispose of her !

O2: I don’t know, she woke up!

HM: I don’t know what is going on, but you’ve become a real liability around here, Sarah. I may have one last option. Orderly, load her in the transport and take her to the lab.


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Photographic Catharsis

Catharsis. It’s such a rare beast. Of all the experiences I have ever experienced it seems to be the most endangered and the most short lived.

I’ve been pent up as of late. Old patterns of self-hatred have been rearing their ugly heads. Of course to distract my brain I drowned myself in beer and new projects.

The beer made the patterns more pronounced, the projects just created new negative emotions about all the projects yet to do. I want to do a million things and all that desire just eggs on the anxiety.

“You never see things through. Don’t start something new.”

“Where’s the profit in this? You’re spending money you’ll never make back.”

“There’s so many ways to get where you want to be. Why can’t you just find them?”

“Where do you even want to go?”

“This isn’t the life you wanted. You’re a failure.”

I bought cameras. I made cyanotypes. I made t shirts. I posted posts. I bought film (which I’m now terrified to use). I bought an adapter and a controller and two games for my old Nintendo 64. I ordered prints. I dug out old treasures from the closet.

Each and every time I hoped something would give me a little punch of endorphins that would push my negative thoughts and emotions out for good.

Nope.

But a few days ago I did find something that made me pause and *almost* crest that hill of tears.

As I’ve gotten deeper into photography I’ve started looking back through my old portfolio trying to find the gems. Unconsciously, I was also seeking some validation that perhaps I’m getting better. I don’t know about the latter (photography has its ups and downs) but I have found a lot of gems.

After listening to a podcast about street photography I remembered taking candid shots of a concert I attended just before the pandemic hit. At the time, the world was about to lose such experiences. I was about to lose my wife. She had already signed a rental agreement and at the time I was teetering on accepting her choice. The future was bleak for me, and for the rest of the world as well, though they didn’t know it.

I scrolled back through to that night, February 28th, 2020. The concert was at Jackrabbits in Jacksonville, FL. The acts performing were local: Hensley, Yellow Steve, Denver Hall, and Faze Wave. I went primarily for Hensley and Faze Wave as I had seen them before at Raindogs, but after this night I was a fan of all the acts.

Seeing that world in photographs smacked me so hard.

A world without social distancing. A world without masks. A world where people were just people, all colors, all ages, just enjoying a night out. This really was the last hurrah in a lot of ways.

And for me it was such a last gasp. I never even noticed the pandemic. My life completely fell apart and I didn’t have time to waste on the world outside. I wouldn’t even recognize the man who took these photos. He probably would despise me, and I envy him. He was as oblivious as the crowd was.

So many feelings broke loose looking at these. The very memories are tainted. But I saw the world through those past eyes. It’s a vision that eludes me right now.

I want to see that world again. To have those eyes again. But I can’t. I am a different person and the world has changed around me.

Is this catharsis? Have I purged the negative thoughts and emotions? I’m still working on it. Looking back seems to be one of the best ways to look forward. I see where I was. I see where the world was. Maybe some of that “innocence” is still there.


Even though I have been to many concerts and social events since, none of them quite have the feel of that particular time and place. Perhaps it’s my jaundiced emotions that make modern experiences less enjoyable. Perhaps the world truly *is* different. Either way, I’ll keep searching for that old world feel.

As for my emotional constipation, I don’t have to keep chasing newer and better things. However, there is nothing wrong with trying new and different things. They may not spark permanent joy, but they are worth doing, and doing as well as I can.

Perhaps in doing new things well, I’ll finally break the clog. If not, at least I’ll have fun right?


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“Document 13” A Dystopian Tale: Part 10

Welcome to part 10 of “Document 13”, a dystopian graphic novel I’m creating with my daughter. This week: an escape.

The year is 2074, the world has been plunged into darkness. One girl, Sarah Doe, will learn the secrets of the dark forces that run the ruined world. With the help of a few friends, her family, and her own powers she will fight to return the world to an order not known since well before her birth. Will she succeed? Read to find out!

If you haven’t read the other parts, go back and read them first!
———————————–—————
**Scene:** Just outside the secret hiding spot in the pantry. Sarah is zipping up a bag while Ruby waits.

R: You have everythin’?

S: I think so. You sure I can read well enough to understand your directions?

R: Girl, you read better than I do. You’re some kind of super genius or somethin’. You remember the signal?

S: Yeah. Stay behind you in the shadows until you put your hand behind your back.

*They walk out cautiously and Sarah lags behind a bit.*

**Scene:** Night time in the compound. All the orphans are asleep and aside from a few lights around the perimeter, everything is dark. Ruby is seen walking towards the suit room.

Orderly 2: What do you need?

R: I received a message that one of my family is hurt. I need a suit to see him.

O2: You know you have to get permission from the Headmistress to get a suit. Do you have it?

R: No, sir… I’m in a hurry, can we skip the formality just this once?

O2: Tell you what, the shift’s almost over, no one has been near this room for a month anyway, I’ll go with you and get her permission.

R: But sir, that will take too….

O2: Shutup! I’m not losing my job over you!

R: OK…

*She puts her hand behind her back and follows the orderly towards the office.*

*Sarah sneaks out of the shadows and approaches the suit room. Just as she gets in she hears a voice behind her.*

Orderly 1: So there you are! I knew if we gave it enough time you’d appear.

*The headmistress appears with Ruby and orderly 2.*

Hm: Send them outside. No suits.

Sarah: Kill me! Not her!

Hm: I can’t have any insubordination, both or none. I can always replace a cook…

Ruby: Girl, shh.

*The two orderlies shuffle them into the airlock.*

S: I’m sorry, Ruby! You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me. I should have just been obedient and left before!

R: No Sarah, you are here for a reason. The good Lord wanted me to find you. I don’t believe He’s gonna let you die, even if I do. You are special and if a noose didn’t kill you, nothin’ will. None of this is in vain. I’m not their slave, I can die with my head held high. I love you.

*The airlock opens, both women struggle to breathe, holding onto each other and finally falling still.*

Hm: Retrieve the bodies and dispose of them in the incinerator. Don’t mention this to any of the other orderlies. Do it quickly!


———————————–—————


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“Document 13” A Dystopian Tale: Part 9

Welcome to part 9 of “Document 13”, a dystopian graphic novel I’m creating with my daughter.

If you have missed it so far, check it out on my Drip Torch Studio page.

Love it? Hate it? I welcome any and all feedback!

The year is 2074, the world has been plunged into darkness. One girl, Sarah Doe, will learn the secrets of the dark forces that run the ruined world. With the help of a few friends, her family, and her own powers she will fight to return the world to an order not known since well before her birth. Will she succeed? Read to find out!
———————————–—————

Scene: One month later in the pantry. Ruby enters and shuts the false wall. Sarah has several books now. She also has a pencil and is tracing letters when Ruby comes in.

R: It’s gettin’ harder to keep you. The orderlies have been askin’ harder and harder questions, which is sayin’ a lot for them. I think they have their suspicions. I love you girl, but it’s gettin’ time for you to leave the nest. 

S: But how? You said they are guarding the suits. Robin died without a… 

R: They only have two guards. And they are dumber than bricks. You should hear the questions they’ve been askin’. Sure, they’ve gotten tougher, but when the early questions were softball questions… 

S: What are we going to do? 

R: They switch shifts every twelve hours. The next switch is in two hours. Gather your things. I brought you some extra rations and directions to the outside. 

S: The outside? 

R: Now, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten everything I taught you. The safe-haven outside the city. My friends work in a factory supplyin’ shoes to the floatin’ city, but they have connections to the safe-haven. I’ve managed to smuggle out a message to them with one of the other orphans so they’ll know you’re comin’. She had no idea what she was deliverin’ but I’m sure she got it on the right bot. I hope anyway… When the guards are switchin’, I’ll distract them and you sneak out. Do you remember where to go?

S: The library in the Northwest Quadrant. Stick to the safety corridors away from dogs.

R: Yes, they will meet you there and take you to the safe haven.

Scene: HM office, one week earlier. One of the orphans is standing in front of the hm desk. The hm is reading a note. 

Hm: Thank you my dear one. You said the cook gave this to you, correct? 

Orphan: Yes, ma’am. She said to hide it in bot Q105. 

Hm (taking notes): Q105? That’s a shoe factory bot… thank you again, you’re dismissed. 

The orphan leaves.

HM (picking up the phone): I think we found her. I have a plan. 


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The Curse of Time

Tick tock.

Emma stared at the watch her father left her ten years ago. Despite its age, it was still ticking away, ten years now since the owner departed from this world. Well, the second owner anyway. It has been twenty years since the first owner passed away. That owner was Emma’s grandfather.

Tick tock.

Both men had owned this very watch. Both died young and sudden. Ten years apart to the minute exactly. Emma knew the stories well, but they didn’t spook her. She didn’t believe in superstitious nonsense. It was just a watch after all. A watch could not *kill* someone. It’s not a completely inanimate object, but it is not alive.

Tick tock.

Even so, today Emma is slightly worried. Today is exactly ten years since her father died in a most random way. He had fallen down three flights of stairs while checking the time on this very watch. Her grandfather had died ten years before that by stepping straight in front of a bus. Witness accounts testified that he had been staring at his wrist, and despite the honk of the bus horn and the screeching of tires he didn’t even look up to see what hit him.

Tick tock.

Both had died at exactly 6:53 PM. Despite the violence inherent in their deaths, the watch remained unharmed. It was a curiosity that fed the family rumors that the watch was cursed. No one wanted it when her father died, but Emma remembered admiring it all of her childhood, so she gladly took it. It wasn’t ornate or anything, just a simple numbered face and a bland black band. But to Emma it represented her father, and since he wasn’t a very rich man, he didn’t leave much else in his will.

Tick tock.

In Emma’s room, the time on both her phone and the watch said 6:45 PM. Despite her agnostic attitude about curses and killer objects, Emma is not going to take a chance near any staircases or busy city streets. She sits on her floor, snacking away on chips and scrolling her phone. Only occasionally does she glance at the watch, which is laying on the floor next to her.

Tick tock.

6:46. She doesn’t feel different. Surely a curse would create *some* feelings of lingering doom in the accursed. Even so, she insists on sitting still until the wretched anniversary passes. She’s not convinced, but she will be cautious. If anything it will prove to her relatives that they are paranoid and need to give up on such fables. When they call her later this evening it will feel so great to gloat. Despite her urging them to stick around for what would be, in her mind, an uneventful evening, none of them wanted to be around for, in their minds, an impending disaster. They weren’t taking any chances. Instead, they agreed to call her and check in right after the fateful minute.

Tick tock.

6:47. Emma plays a round of Candy Crush. Her mind is focused on getting just a few more lines matched. Success! Before the next round can start, she takes a long look at the watch and remembers her father. She sets down the phone and picks up the watch. Even though it was ten years ago, the trauma still turns her insides. She was the one who found his lifeless body. At ten years old she had never seen a body. Her father’s body had the dubious honor of being the first. To be honest, it was the last also. Death is a concept that resides far from our modern minds. She hasn’t known anyone else who died in the intervening years.

Tick tock.

6:48. Emma watches the second hand tick tick tick around the face of the watch. She ponders the seconds her father spent wearing this watch everywhere he went. She never saw him take it off. To him it was a memory of his father, a man Emma had never met. He didn’t think it was cursed. It wasn’t until his death that her relatives noticed the coincidental circumstances of both of their deaths. Both stared into this very watch face as they died. Both died ten years apart to the minute.

Tick tock.

6:49. What did they see? Emma wondered. It was just a watch. Nothing special. Three hands: a second, a minute, and an hour hand, each gliding across a black and white numbered face. Emma thought about time. None of us know when we will die. How many times will those hands drift around that perfect circle during our short lifetimes?

Tick tock.

6:50. Emma was beginning to drift. She couldn’t stop staring at the timepiece. The rest of the world fell away. She could see her father wearing it, swinging her in the yard as a child. He loved his only daughter. The memories made her feel warm. She wished he could have seen her grow into the young woman she is today.

Tick tock.

6:51. The hands move on and on. Around and around. There is nothing else in the world to Emma now. She can hear her father’s laugh, his voice, she can see his smile. He was a good man. How many hours did he play with her? Why did she not appreciate the seconds and minutes of his life? Time is short she thinks.

Tick tock.

6:52. Emma’s mind melts into a melancholic haze. Her eyes bore a hole into the watch. She can’t take her eyes away. Visions of her father fill her head. The second hand ticks away. One, two, three, four, five… She counts the movements. There is no watch now. Only a circle. Only hands spinning on a dial. Only numbers representing the abstract concept of moments… How many of those moments constitute a lifetime? How do we not see them fly by except when we look at our wrists? How can we be so blind and not appreciate every second of this thing we call life? So many questions. The power of time overwhelms her…. She feels as though she is falling….

Tick tock.

6:53. Emma’s body slams into the roof of a car. Pedestrians on the sidewalk scream. One of them had called out to the girl in the sixth story window only a minute before. He watched helplessly as she stared at something in her hand, completely unaware of his voice or of the danger she had put herself in. She seemed in a daze. He called out several times before that girl leapt. Or fell, depending on which witness you asked. They all agree on one thing: She never took her eyes off that watch. On the car’s rooftop, her body lay mangled, the watch clenched firmly in her lifeless hand, in the gaze of her glassy open eyes.

Tick tock.

6:54. Emma’s phone rings in her now empty apartment. Her family wanted to believe her, the watch wasn’t cursed, they were crazy for imagining it. It was a coincidence, right? Sadly, she never answers, and they know the watch has claimed another victim.

Tick tock.


This was originally written on my Hive blog. I hope you liked it!


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One More Reason I Despise Facebook

Yesterday morning as I opened Facebook for the first time in a long time I was greeted with this:

It seems some bored FB employee (most likely an AI bot) scanned my posts from way back when and decided my meme (harvested no doubt *from* FB itself) was somehow an endorsement of Jeffrey Dahmer’s cannibalism.

I wasn’t too phased by this, because I don’t advertise or “go live”, whatever that means. But it did bug me enough to appeal it to FB.

Of course this went nowhere:

They then told me that I could appeal it with some mysterious entity known as the “Oversight Board”:

I can only imagine some shadowy cabal of old white dudes in billowing scarlet robes reading in monotone every single appeal before striking down a gavel and declaring a sentence. Nonetheless, this vision didn’t spook me too much.

After a few clicks I was able to reach the “Oversight Board” website and turn in an appeal titled simply: “This Is Clearly Meant To Be A Joke.”

My appeal reads as follows:

“I posted the meme in question because it clearly contains a joke. It was not meant to be an endorsement of Mr. Dahmer’s behavior. I’m not sure how it can be interpreted as endorsement of anything other than a humorous approach to macabre topics.

This is an old post, but if my memory serves correctly, it was a meme I found *on* Facebook. It was passed around extensively at the time and I am almost positive no one was harmed. I’m even more positive that no one saw this meme and decided to become a Jeffery Dahmer copycat. We would have heard about it on the news.

I believe that Facebook should allow this meme to stay because it is something the world needs a bit more of: humor. It may not fit everyone’s sense of humor but what’s a world without a variety of humor? If we ban everything that *someone* finds problematic we will have to ban all humor. Thus we will die in a dull, miserable, bland, beige world.

Please allow my appeal to pass, we need a more humorous world. *I* need a more humorous world. It brings me joy to help the world laugh, and if this is taken down I will be robbed of that joy.”


Hopefully this works. If not, oh well. At least I will have stuck something to the giant humorless man that is Facebook.

Projection

“Tell a lie enough times, it becomes truth.” or so the saying goes.

Some of us are more susceptible to this kind of manipulation than others. Self-critical or self-effacing people, or just those who can’t stand to place blame on others are quite accepting of false charges laid against them. If something is off, it must be their fault, especially if they are told repeatedly that it is.

“You have anxiety” was drummed into my head for years. I accepted it as fact, I had generalized anxiety disorder. The fact that I was stressed all the time was ample evidence. It had to be true.

I was told over and over that my response to stress was disproportionate, that I was oversensitive, needy, too emotional. I had buzzwords and subjective terms thrown at me: “anxious”, “codependent”, “enmeshed”, “entangled”, “clingy”, “controlling”, “manipulative”, “unhealthy”, “obsessed”. Always negative terms, but never a description of healthy alternatives.

I became convinced that I was somehow defective.

Then the word “abusive” was dropped on me, over and over again, with no definition or explanation of what I did to abuse. Eventually, I was told my kindness and attempts to do the right thing while being abandoned, cheated on, and lied to were covert ways to control and manipulate. I was treating her “not like a friend, more like a wife who ran away”. I was too nice.

I was a sociopath. That was the only explanation. Not only did I not see my own abusive nature, I really thought it was kindness. If I could abuse the one person in the world who I promised to love, cherish, and protect without realizing it, who else was I abusing? No one deserved me blindly controlling and manipulating them to gain power and affection.

That was my breaking point. I literally ran away from home. I spent two nights in a sketchy hotel before my mind cleared.

I am not a sociopath. Abuse has a motive. Cruelty is nearly always abusive, kindness? Not so much. I do not use people for personal gain. I do not treat people well just so I can weasle my way into owning them.

We live in a subjective world. Words no longer hold objective definitions. When I looked into the words thrown at me I began to find many of them simply have no meaning.

“Anxiety” is a “disproportionate” amount of stress or worry about a situation or event. The first thing that popped into my head was “who defines what ‘disproportionate’ means?”

When I asked my therapist what the appropriate amount of concern is over a situation he replied that it has much to do with each individual’s resilience and experiences. The same applied to “what is the appropriate amount of affection one should have for or expect from loved ones?” and “What is ‘healthy’ and who defines it?”

There are many blogs and psychology articles out there that will tell you every single neuroses that you have. They will convince you that you are anxious, codependent, narcissistic, needy, unhealthy, etc but not one of them will tell you what “healthy” looks like.

Why I’m Awake at 4 AM (and Divorced)

Why am I awake right now? It’s 4:07 AM and adrenaline will not let my body back to sleep. It was probably a cat that woke me. Or a phone notification. Something. But now the adrenaline surges and the nausea begins. My brain will not shut up. There will be no more sleep tonight.

Why am I awake? Why am I where I am in my life right now?

Because in December 2019 I was told “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.”

In March of 2020 I was abandoned and told “I’m not hurting you, you’re just hurting.”

Then I found a half empty box of condoms in her apartment. I was foolish enough to think her friends had given it as a gag gift. When I asked if there was someone else I was told “No, but if there was, this would be so much easier.” It would take me a week to break down and ask her point blank in the crassest terms if she was sleeping with anyone. She said she was sorry, but seemed more concerned that I had violated her privacy than sorrowful about her betrayal.

I’m awake because I kick myself for my naivety. I fought to keep her. I tried multiple therapists and counselors. I believed her when after four months of her abandonment she started saying I was abusive. I had to be the bad guy. There was no way she could ever be wrong.

“Even if you changed, I still wouldn’t like you.”

I’m awake because I still think in “what ifs” and wonder what went wrong. I’m awake because I know the truth. But the world sees her façade and supports her. I got off social media almost entirely because it’s mostly garbage. She blocked me shortly after she moved out. But occasionally her account pops up in my face because one of the kids leaves it up on the browser. I know the truth, but so many people are supporting her.

I can only assume they don’t know.

I can only assume they believe her story.

I can only assume what they think of me.

I was accused of “abuse”. She couldn’t give specifics. She couldn’t name times, places, actions. I was simply left reeling and questioning my own intentions. She convinced me I was a monster. What crime was I guilty of? I still don’t truly know.

How many people believe her? How many people think I’m the one who cheated? I’m the one who lied? I’m the one who left her? How many people believe I’m a controlling monster of a man?

I didn’t just lose a 20 year relationship. I have lost pretty much everything. Sure, I got to keep the house (she didn’t want it anyway), but where are my friends? Where is my church family? Where is anyone? Why does she get to have a life on social media complete with likes and comments about how cute she looks with her new man while I lie awake at 4 AM wondering why God hasn’t just killed me?

Has anyone ever loved me? Is every person just a selfish narcissist with varying degrees of skill at hiding it? Am I? Is there something wrong with me for wanting justice here? For wanting people to know the real story? Am I a sociopath? I still don’t know my sins which warranted abandonment and betrayal. A sane person would know exactly what he did wrong. A sane person would believe a woman who accuses him of abuse, because women are never wrong. Men are monsters, we all know that.

She tried to break me. She told me as much. “When I first moved out, I wondered how many men I would have to sleep with to break your love for me. Five? That seemed like a lot…” She didn’t break my love. That’s the unfortunate thing about love. True love doesn’t break. I still love her, despite what she did and continues to do. I’m just very good at being numb. I’m very good at redirecting my love to others. She didn’t want my affection, someone will.

She did break me as a person. This is why I am up at 4 AM. Two years and a new life later, I’m still sick to my stomach.

What is the cure?

Another Year Older

Isn’t it odd that we make such a big deal about birthdays? New Year’s makes perfect sense, there is a psychological “reset” button when that number rolls over to the next in the sequence. But birthdays? Every day we tick closer to our demise. A birthday is a luminous beacon pointing out that our death is looming ever closer.

Not trying to be depressing, but if one thinks about it, what is the big deal? We age at the same rate, so every day is just like the other. What is so special about the one day the earth just so happens to line up with where it was at one’s birth? Perhaps I’m too cynical. Milestones are important, and surviving another 365 days on this hellish globe is definitely a milestone.

My birthday happens to fall very close to the new year, so for me it’s a reminder of the “reset” of a new year as well as a reminder of my own mortality. Because of this closeness in dates, I started making birthday and New Year’s resolutions at the same time. It’s a habit that I continue this year.

Right now, my life seems less “pressing”, there isn’t much I am unhappy with. There are definitely logistical things that need to be improved. My house needs a deep clean and purging, my diet needs attention, I should definitely drink less and exercise more.

But mentally?

I don’t have anxiety. I’m still not sure I ever did. Circumstances can stress me out. Long term stress can wear me out and exhaust me. But real clinical anxiety? Nope. Any claim to such would just be excuse making. There is no lurking disorder controlling my mind. There is no chemical imbalance impairing my self-control. If I eat myself alive with fear of tomorrow that is purely my own choice.

How many of us hide behind “mental illness” to protect ourselves from having to do the real work of growth and maturing? I know I did it for several years. I don’t mean to imply that real mental illness does not exist, or that our minds can’t be so overwhelmed with circumstances that we lose them. Life is rife with pain and difficulty, and disease, even of our minds, is part of that. But if we aren’t careful, we can mistake our own sinful responses to life for victimhood.

The stress of the last two years has taught me how to be content. I could have wallowed in my circumstances. I could have blamed my anxiety or my ex for my feelings and actions. I could have shifted the blame for my circumstances to any number of places. But that would make me just as bad as the people who hurt me. My response to my circumstance is my own, even if I am not fully at fault for them. Sitting around pointing a finger or holding onto bitterness is not going to make circumstances change. So I had to be content. I had to accept my life.

Contentment is an odd feeling for me, I was always so driven and worried. But I have learned to appreciate what I have and savor the little bonuses. Nothing is guaranteed in life, except for death, so why not be happy with what comes to me?

Not only that, but how much can I truly control? The most discontented action we can engage in is trying to change what we can’t. How many things do we miss completely when we focus on those things? We can change far more than what we believe we can, but we get so hyperfocused on ridiculous notions (like the idea we can change people) that we miss those things entirely.

So what circumstances can I change? Or at the very least, influence?

Materially and practically speaking, I can control many things. Finances, the state of my health, and the state of my home and yard come to mind.

This year I fully intend to build more wealth and invest more wisely. I want to build my business and sell more resin crafts and photo prints. I want to have a more successful blog on Hive (sorry WordPress, you don’t reward me with crypto). I want to get out of debt as much as possible.

Physically, I want to fit into all the pants I bought in 2020 which “shrank” in 2021. I’m feeling my 37 years, which I shouldn’t. I want my body to stop hurting so much until I am at least 45. So diet and exercise it is until my waistline becomes more civil and my energy comes back.

My house has always been a source of discontentment for me. I have spent countless hours trying to make it work only to find it a mess again. Living with children (and an ex who didn’t get out of bed much) means there are circumstances that I can’t fully control. There will always be a battle until they are out of the house. But how much of the struggle is my fault? What do I contribute to the disaster which is my home? I want to narrow down these things and fix them as well as I can. I want this year to be the year when I can finally sit down every night and breathe, no more constant movement and exhaustion chasing one mess after another.

Fixing physical issues can help me with many emotional issues, but not all of them. Some problems must be dealt with internally.

I want to build more patience and trust with people. I consider myself a patient person, but betrayals of several kinds have made me lose trust with people in general. The world’s response to betrayal is to get revenge, or to destroy the betrayer, or at the very least simmer with bitterness towards them. This mentality destroys one’s patience. You can’t overlook offenses if you are constantly vigilant for them.

Betrayal tends to make one paranoid and always expecting more betrayal, it’s almost as though bitterness spills out and washes over everyone the betrayed comes in contact with. I don’t want to seek fault where there is none, or over exaggerate small faults which should be overlooked. I shouldn’t blow up tiny “offenses” and let my pride destroy those who slight me. Not every wound from another is a betrayal. I want to learn the difference between the two and patiently bear the one and courageously confront the other.

I should not stand idly by while someone flaunts destructive behaviors. I am not the only one consumed in the flames of someone else’s selfishness. Selfish people destroy themselves. Selfish attitudes impair growth and joy in life. To stand by would be to hate that person and watch them die. So this year I resolve to confront selfishness in others close to me, no matter the consequences of their response to such confrontation.

Life is too short to let it pass without making the most of it. There are far too many people who live short pointless lives because they don’t fight for it. I intend to make the best of what’s left to me.

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Because I Want To

Is selfishness a virtue? Depends on how you define it, I suppose.

A few months ago, I re-picked up a life coaching podcast that had been helpful to me last year. While browsing through the list of episodes one title caught my attention: “Because I Want To.”

It sounded so empowering. “Do what you want because you want to. Don’t worry about everyone else’s opinions or feelings about your actions. Take control of your destiny and define your life on your terms.”

After listening to the episode I just felt sad for the host and everyone else in her life. My sadness was increased even more after listening to another one of her episodes on the virtues of selfishness. The message of the podcasts was essentially “screw everyone else, because you aren’t responsible for them, do what you want. Be selfish, it’s virtuous.”

Maybe it wasn’t quite that harsh. She did define selfishness as “taking care of your own needs so you can better care for the needs of others.” But this definition conflates selfishness with self-care. I don’t disagree with the concept of self-care at all, but there is a fine line between self-care and selfish narcissism.

What happens when you take care of your own needs just because you only care about yourself? There is a blurry boundary between (bad) selfishness and (good) self-care. It is one thing entirely to say “I’m going to take a break to recharge my batteries so I can be better at taking care of my responsibilities.” It is quite another to say “I’m going to walk away from my responsibilities because I want to.”

The entire ethos of the host is basically “I do what I want because I want to. I don’t care how it makes others feel (after all, I’m not responsible for their feelings, they are). My selfishness is a virtue.”

But what if everyone lived like that? She has a rather optimistic view of humanity. Like so many humanists today, the host believes that most of us deep down really want to care for others. It is common to believe that most people are intrinsically good.

However, It doesn’t take much time among the general population to see this just isn’t true. Most people are looking out for themselves. They live her ethos every day. People are naturally selfish and inclined to look out only for number one.

The result is that most of us live in misery.

Podcasts teaching people that selfishness is virtuous only serve to validate narcissists, not that a narcissist needs much to validate himself. By his very nature a narcissist believes he is always right. He looks out always and only for himself. He makes himself an island and declares himself king. He does what he wants because he wants to, no one can require anything from him.

This is all fine and dandy until relationships get involved. Narcissists are incapable of mutually beneficial relationships. They only want relationships that “serve them.” If anything is required of them they immediately shut down the relationship.

Depending on the type of narcissist, they may require something physical or emotional from the other person, or they may pretend to require nothing (whatever “serves them”). Either way, they themselves contribute nothing, unless it’s begrudgingly.

Everyone is familiar with the overt kind of narcissist. This one is a noisy leech, the overt narcissist demands the world revolve around him and takes takes takes.

The lesser known kind of narcissist is the kind who requires nothing of those around him. This one is a bit more insidious. He gives nothing and validates himself by saying that he requires nothing in return. They put on airs of self-sufficiency and generally take care of their own needs. In their mind they are completely independent. They project this independence on everyone else. If they can be an island, so should everyone else.

Worse yet, when they do have needs they don’t express them, preferring to play a “victim” of the “selfishness” of others.

But needs are a bit more complex than simple air, water, and food. Humans require emotional support and affection as well. We are social animals. This is why we form mutually beneficial bonds in marriage or friendships. We give and we get in return.

As I mentioned before, narcs aren’t capable of mutually beneficial bonds. Not only are they not capable of such bonds, they thrive on destroying such bonds. Narcissists feed on chaos and controlling the emotions of others. So when some respected podcaster tells them that they should do whatever “serves” them, they naturally gravitate towards destructive behaviors. They can walk all over others and claim it’s healthy behavior because after all, selfishness is virtuous.