Friday, November 04, 2016

Josh Flaws & All Part 11 “I’m always Angry”

“You want to know my secret, Cap? I’m always angry.” – Dr. Bruce Banner

This is the last of the FLAWS AND ALL essays, and I saved the one I’m most ashamed of for last. This is the one that dominates and overshadows all of the other flaws. I am a very angry man. When I say angry, I don’t mean I transform into a giant green, purple-pants-wearing rage monster. That would be kinda badass especially if I could break Dayton.
Yes, break Dayton and watch the ruins burn… Josh, smash!
Anyway, I admit I have a temper, but it’s a really passive aggressive temper, which turns me into a dark and brooding bastard. I don't hit people, I don’t break things, and except on the most extreme occasions, I don’t yell. What I do is much more pathetic. I stew in my anger and allow it to permeate every other part of my life. The anger builds and condenses until all I have is this black hole of irrational rage buried deep in my liver sucking all the joy out of my life. I suspect it looks like a demonic magic 8 ball.
I thought for a long time I could control and redirect my anger, and for a while I did. But as the years went by and the symptoms of my bipolar disorder increased, it became harder and harder to control the anger let alone shunt it to a place where it couldn’t hurt anyone. It all reached a climax in the spring of 2011 when I decided to leave my wife.
Let me rewind and give you the entire story.
In 2007 I drove my family into financial ruin because I was too proud to tell my wife how bad our financial situation was. We collapsed and were forced to declare bankruptcy, but in the process, I had a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide for the second and final time in my life. When the dust settled my bipolar depression was in full bloom and my anger toward my wife was growing unchecked.


My wife is wonderful, and she did nothing wrong and deserved none of the negative emotions I directed towards her. The problem was she was intertwined with the things making me so upset, and she was also the one person I was sure would love me no matter what and therefore she was the lightning rod for my darkness. I’m still so ashamed of what happened.


Everything that happened—the car breaking down, the kids acting up, the overdrawn bank account, and the constant plumbing and electrical issues I blamed on her. It was her fault we had the seven-year loan on the car as opposed to the five even though it would’ve only been twenty dollars more a month. It was her fault we'd been suckered into buying a house that was falling apart, over priced, and beyond our means. None of these were her fault, but in my mind it all was.
I told you my passive aggressive anger makes me a real bastard.
In the spring of 2011, my internal anger destroying me. I told my wife I wanted a divorce. It was a horrible day of tears, anger on both sides, and conversation. The conversation was the important part. We hadn’t actually talked in years and in the end that talk saved us. Anger and sadness were vented, and when we were done, I knew I still loved her more than anyone in the world, and that none of my problems were her doing.

I want to say after that cathartic night everything was better and I’ve had a better handle on my anger for the last five and a half years. I wish I could, but if I did it’d be a lie. I fight my anger and the accompanying self-loathing every hour of every day. Has it gotten easier to deal with? Yes, between my medication and keeping a constant open dialog with my wife things are better. But I will never be able to let my guard down. I will always be angry and because of that I will always be cautious.

Everybody’s Working For The Weekend Part 6 “Working For The Man”

From the fall of 1998 to the spring of 2001 I was a stay at home father. To say it was the best job I’ve ever had other than being a writer is an understatement. Having every day with my children was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Unfortunately, in 2000 we were seduced into buying a home well beyond our means, and in 2001 I was forced to seek full-time employment in order to keep our home and not have to live in a van down by the river.
My grandfather was a politician in our town. He’d been on the local city council for several years and eventually made a run at the state house of representatives. He never won the house seat, but he made a good showing in the election. In 2001 I put in an application to work in the city maintenance department as a seasonal employee. I won’t treat you like an idiot, the only reason I got the job working for the city was because my grandfather put in a word for me. But hey, I’m okay with that. I was more than qualified for the position and once I had it, there was never any complaints about my work. The complaints were because of who I was related to, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
So, how was it working for the city? Well, you know the whole thing about city employees being lazy slackers? It’s one hundred percent true in regards to the city I worked for. My assignment was a combination of the city recreation center and water park.


That fucking water park. I lived in the city when it was built and oh my gods what a cluster fuck. Built with mob labor and taxpayer money that shit show was constantly breaking down. The multimillion dollar facility stayed open for a whole seven years. Then they closed it, and it’s lain rotting on Main St. for the last nine years.


My duties working for the city during the summer were pretty straight forward. I cleaned pools, restrooms, buildings, and repaired or painted as needed. Also, I got to run those giant fucking lawnmowers and use the best weed whackers ever built by man. Did you ever see SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE? The one the main character uses at the end of the movie is a toy compared to the ones I played with.
Of course, when you work for the government everything is politics.
The first problem came from who my grandfather was. Several members of the maintenance department were convinced I was a narc being sent in to catch them fucking around and doing the things they actually did as opposed to what they were supposed to do. After that myth was dispelled, the problem came from the direction of the half dozen other seasonal employees. They knew I wanted a full-time city job and they figured I had the in. Then there was the fact that I actually did my fucking job as opposed to joining the other employees, the ones with full-time jobs, in their laziness and general shitty work ethic.
This is not me saying I’m some perfect employee. At best I’m an adequate worker. I like taking extra breaks and long lunches. I love being able to sit around and shoot the shit with my buddies. But here's the thing, we were all vying for a single $20.00 an hour full-time city job with benefits in the future. When you're doing that, maybe you should make an extra fucking effort.
At the end of summer 2001 two things happened. The twin towers fell, and I was the only seasonal employee asked to stay on until the end of the year. I was at work when the towers fell and I saw the second plane hit in real time. We were going on our first break and walking past the reception desk when we heard the Today Show cast talking on the television. The first tower had just been hit, and they were running that now iconic grainy footage of the impact. We stood around the desk watching in stunned silence when the second plane hit. We spent the rest of the day doing nothing but watching the television in our break room. I’ll never forget it and I shouldn’t.
At the end of the year, my then Maintenance Director and the Parks and Recreation Director came to me and told me I could have a job working at the rec center until the spring when I’d be back in the maintenance department. The job at the center was so boring I wanted to blow my brains out. All I did was monitor the various activity rooms for six to eight hours a day, but it kept me employed until the next spring when I returned to maintenance.
My second and final stint in the maintenance department wasn’t as good as the first. There were personality conflicts and backbiting to a degree I hadn’t experienced since my tenure with the Dayton Daily News. I also learned the dirty secret about how the city ran, it was all based on who you knew… through the church. Because apparently unless you're a member of an approved church, you're never going to advance in the city.
A new seasonal worker started with us that year. His name was Eric, and he was a former criminal who went to church to my boss. I knew then, and there I’d been cast aside for new holier employee. I worked just as hard that season and was kept on with Eric at the end. I didn’t go back to working for the rec center at the end of the year. I’d have rather been anally violated by an icecicle.
Instead, I went back to Meijer for my second stint.
I never went back to the city. When the next season started, I was hired back but never started. When I went in to fill out my paperwork my supervisor, not the director, picked a fight with me and in my anger, I told him to shove the job up his fat ass.
Interesting addendum, in 2008 a full-time job in maintenance opened up, and I took the civil service test. I scored fourth out of two hundred and interviewed with my old director. It didn’t go well and a month later Eric, who scored fifty-seventh, got the job. Of course, when the economy crashed six months later he and a dozen others were laid off.
Serves them right.


Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Flaws and All #10 “I’m Impatient”

“I WANT IT NOW!” – Verruca Salt

I may be the most impatient son of a bitch I’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing. I’m not exaggerating when I make that statement. Impatience has been a hallmark of my character since I was a little boy. And when I say impatience I don’t mean the normal kid excited for Christmas morning level either I mean the make myself puke kind of impatience.
When I was in the first grade, my mother had her issues and went to stay with my grandmother in Dayton, Ohio for a few weeks. She took my infant unnamed brother and left me alone with my father. It was an amazing time of staying up entirely too late and grilling stakes in the rain. That all came to a self-induced, crashing halt three days before my mother came home.
The GI JOE comic book and companion television cartoon had entered my life not long before my mom left and it was all my friends and I could talk about. To this day GI JOE is probably my number one childhood pop culture touchstone after Star Trek, so you can imagine how excited I was when the commercials for the toy line started airing on TV. When Mom told me on one of our nightly phone calls that she’d bought me a GI JOE Action figure in Dayton, I nearly pissed myself.
If she’d told me the night before coming home everything would have been fine. But in thinking, she was doing me a favor by telling me as soon as she bought it she actually took an emotional haymaker at me and never knew it. That is NOT to say I’m blaming my mother for what happened next, for fuck sake she did something incredibly generous for me. It’s not her fault I have the nerves and patience of a jittery hyper-caffeinated hummingbird.
The first night of anticipation was awesome. I reread all of my GI JOE comics a hundred times and drew picture after picture depicting my interpretation of the subject matter. The second day wasn’t so good. I spent the day listless and jumpy at the same time. All I could think of was the action figure and how awesome it was going to be to have and play with it. That’s still barely within the normal spectrum of childhood impatience.
What happened on day three crossed the line.
I remember it clearly. It was Monday and therefore I was in school. We were nearing the end of the day and my best friend, Jason’s mom Laura came to pick him up early. While she was there, I asked her if my mom was home. They were also best friends and lived right across the street from us, so it was a valid question to ask her. She said Mom was home and that yes she had my brand new GI JOE action figure. That boils and ghouls was when the anxiety and impatience spiked dramatically.
I vomited ten minutes later all over the classroom floor.
After that, my impatience manifested in many interesting ways. Fear, rage, sickness, and anxiety being the primary venues those manifestations chose. Most people hate waiting, but for me, it’s enough that if the line at a theater or restaurant is too long, I’ll just say fuck it and walk away. In the process, I may or may not break something or yell at an unsuspecting companion.
I know it makes me sound like a petulant child, but I swear I do my best to control it. For every one instance when I lose my control and make a complete jackass out of myself there are a dozen times I hold it together. That’s not an excuse. There is no excuse for such base and immature behavior, I’m just telling you how things are.
Nothing has been affected by my impatience, other than my poor, suffering and amazing family, more than my writing. One of the main reasons I was never able to jumpstart my career for so many years was because the process of finishing a manuscript drove me insane. I was convinced I’d never be able to write a complete book from start to finish without going insane. Obviously based on the amount of wordage I’ve spewed into the universe in the last four years that fear was unfounded.
Still, impatience permeates my life. From my hatred of cooking to my loathing of the time it takes to do the laundry, my everyday life has been saturated by impatience-induced problems. It’s the time it takes to do normal everyday activities like shaving and making the bed that drives me to reenact the face-shredding scene from Poltergeist, not the actual task.
It’s all so tiring and mind breaking.