The More Things Change…

When I wrote my first post, some three years ago, I was at a perplexing point in my life. I was in my mid-thirties, working for a Fortune 500 company, married, and living in a humble little home outside of Chicago. If I were to compare my life, to the usual standards that so many of my family members had set for themselves, I would have considered myself a success. And yet I was not at all happy.

I hated my job, I was afraid of becoming a father, and I was feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities that come with home ownership. Then there where the anxiety attacks. I would get them once, sometimes three times a week. If you have never suffered from an anxiety attack, let me tell you, it is overwhelming and draining. The feeling of my own heart beating so hard that it feels it is desperately trying to break through my ribcage to get itself free, while this overpowering sense of impending doom consumed me, left me feeling both drained and a little crazy.

I knew I had to make some significant changes. I couldn’t stick with the status quo because it apparently wasn’t making me happy. I was going to need to be proactive and do some things that I found intimidating. But I felt I had no choice. Because I was getting too comfortable just always feeling down.

I guess this should be the part of the post where I tell you how I managed to do miraculously a complete 180. Well in some ways I did succeed in turning some aspects of my life around. I went from not being able to picture myself as a father to loving almost every single aspect of fatherhood. My son will soon be two years old. And to my great surprise, I have found that fatherhood suits me. I love spending time with my boy, and playing with him, and making him laugh uncontrollably. My boy is this little adventurer who makes life so much fun and is the most charismatic person I’ve ever known. He fills our life with more joy than I could ever put into words.

I still work at the same crappy place, but after nearly a ten-year hiatus, I went back to school. I am currently halfway through my senior year at Southern New Hampshire University. And if everything goes well, by this time next year I will be working on my MFA. So hopefully, I will be making a living doing something else sooner than later.

My anxiety attacks have decreased significantly. I suffered my last attack a few months ago. I get a bit anxious from time to time, but thankfully I have been able to keep myself from going all freakazoid. The trick is not to fight the anxiety. Now anytime I feel the wave of panic coming, I simply let it wash over me, and pass. I accept it. Because Anxiety is about the realization that we have so little control over things.

So yeah, in many respects, my life had changed a lot since when I first started the blog. And yet I still find myself asking old questions disguised as new ones. Are we financially ready for baby # 2? Will I find a job once I’m done with school? Do I have any idea of what I am doing?

I don’t have any clear answers at the moment, which makes me feels both uneasy and frustrated. It is exhausting to always be worrying about something. Especially things that are in many ways out of my control. And I still find myself asking if there will ever come a day when I can live in the here and now, and not allow myself to worry obsessively about the future. Hopefully, I will get to that point, sooner, rather than later. In the meantime, I plan on reviving my old blog and post here more often. I probably don’t have time to write one to 4 thousand words post, like I did back in the day (I write enough for school), but it may help me work through some self-doubt while honing some of my creative nonfiction skills. Anyway, allow me the opportunity to welcome you back to Lost Around the Block. I hope to be seeing you all more often.

Tom

Watch “Father John Misty- When You Are Smiling And Astride Me [FULL ALBUM STREA…” on YouTube

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a love song that felt as powerful as Father John Misty’s “When You Are Smiling and Astride Me”. It’s everything a love song should be, passionate, sensual, awkward, and real. Happy Valentine’s Day you crazy kids.

Sincerely

Tom

P.S.: If your interested in the lyrics ai will post them below so you cansingg this little jam to your S.O.

There’s no need to fear me
Darling, I love you as you are when you’re alone
I’ll never try to change you
As if I could, and if I were to, what’s the part that I’d miss most?
When you’re smiling and astride me
I can hardly believe I’ve found you and I’m terrified by that

I’ve got nothing to hide from you
Kissing my brother in my dreams or finding God knows in my dreams
You see me as I am, it’s true
Aimless, fake drifter, and the horny manchild models for to boot
That’s how you live free
Truly see and be seen

A Poor Sinner Went to Church One Day

A Poor Sinner Went to Church One Day

A couple of years ago my wife had dragged me to one of her biannual trips to a Catholic Church. This is not the sort of thing I look forward to doing because I’m not a fan of the way that some in the church choose to demonize gay people.  Then there is that little global sex abuse scandal that the church likes to sweep under a rug. However Jess grew up in a household where the church held a central role in her family’s life. Her parents are still very devout Catholics, and so every now and then Jessie feels compelled to go to church because its what her family has always done. So I chose to set politics aside and tag along for the ride, because doing things that you hate is what marriage sometimes is all about.

I found myself sitting in the pew alongside Jess situated somewhere near the back of the church, as a middle aged Mexican gentleman with his Sunday’s best on was reading a bible verse before the entire congregation. The priest, another middle aged Latino male, with a pudgy physic and a slicked back   hair-do that made me suspect that he frequented the same barber as I, was sitting to the side of the altar facing 2 alter boys that were seated across  from him. Every time I find myself in a church  my eyes wander around the ornately decorated room and at some point become fixated at it’s main center piece; the image of an oversize crucifix. This particular church, which is situated in one of the more pleasant neighborhoods in Cicero, had its crucifix with a copper colored molding of Jesus nailed to it. It was raised prominently in all it’s glory up on the ceiling above the altar for all to see. A crown of thorn adorned the top of  Jesus head. There was a faint look of longing on his mostly relaxed face. I find it so strange that for us (I was born into a Roman  Catholic family too)  that the most powerful symbolic image our religion is that of a 1st Century torture device used to execute prisoners and enemies of the Roman empire. I often ask myself if any of the other great religions feature such somber imagery, and perhaps in a sign of my ignorance, none ever really come to mind.  I half jokingly wondering what would have happened if Jesus had been executed during the French Revolution or in Jim Crow era Alabama. Would we have the a small guillotine hanging on our chains, or would we all be staring up at the image of Jesus in a chain gang prison garb, strapped to an electric chair?

After brushing away my silly musings I allowed my eyes to take in the rest of the congregation. They are made up of a mixture of bored young Mexican couples with their figgity children, and older, silver haired Latinos with slightly bent backs, and life worn weary faces; who I imagine have been coming to mass every Sunday since they were children. It only takes me a moment to see that there is a contrast between the two prevailing age groups that makes up this congregation; and I’m not talking about the obvious age gap that exist between the two groups. The older followers are mostly there unaccompanied. Many of them don’t appear to me that they are following along with middle aged gentleman that has sought out the honor to assist the priest in giving today’s homily. Instead many of the older folks appear to be facing down, eyes closed, muttering private prayers that nobody can hear. I imagine many of them, especially the women are holding a rosary, but I can’t really tell. These folks are devout believers. They are here to plead with God to answer their prayers. Some are obviously asking for good health and a positive break in their financial situation, others probably are asking for guidance and forgiveness. But no matter what these folks are muttering, I get the sense that they have faith that someone is up there listening to their prayer. On the other hand I don’t get that same sense from the younger crowd.

I notice a young couple sitting about two pews ahead of where Jess and I are sited. They have two young children with them. One of the kids, a boy, no older than one years old, is in his mothers arms, trying to squirm his way out of her grasp. A young girl,around 4 years old, is seated closely alongside her mother. The stringy little girl with long brown hair that is tied in a ponytail, is better behaved than her baby brother; however every few minutes the little girl still finds a need to tap her mother in the arm to get her undivided attention, and then whisper something into her ear.

 

The young mother, a twenty something Mexican woman, with long brown hair that clearly illustrates whose hair the daughter inherited, is sitting there holding the energetic baby close to her breast. I can’t help but give the young mother some credit, because although I can’t quite see her face yet, her overall body language doesn’t show a hint of frustration, despite the fact that her attention is seemingly being pulled in different direction by her children. Eventually I get a good look at the profile of her face when she turned to look over at her husband, or at least that’s who I figured he was, who was sitting at the same pew, but about 3 to 4 spots to her right. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had witnessed the little girl slide across the pew to whisper in his ears on several occasions, I wouldn’t have known that he was with them at all.  I notice that the mother appears to be very tired. She had darks spots under her eyes that robbed her face of its youth. Her skin tone was a light colored caramel, which made me wonder if somewhere in her bloodline there was a Conquistador that forced himself upon an Aztec ancestor.

I never observed any other types of emotions coming from the young mother. She didn’t seem angry, she never flashed a smile, not a hint of frustration. All there was to see was a weary, joylessness on her face that seemed almost permanent. She looked over to at her husband multiple times as if looking for something, perhaps an acknowledgment from him. But for as long as I was there, I never saw her get one. He just sat there looking at something in his lap, perhaps a cell phone, or looked around aimlessly, appearing as if he just wanted to get the mass over with. The same could be said for all the other young folks in church that day. Most, if not all who were below the age of 40,  were just going through the motions. We weren’t inspired by the homily, the well wasn’t being replenished of faith. We were in a way doing exactly what we all figured was expected of us, because that’s the way it had always been.

It was then that I realized that I, like the young husband that was sitting before me, hadn’t bothered to acknowledge my own wife. I peeked over to the side to see Jess still sitting there listening to the lecture, looking half bored. I guess she got that feeling that we all get when we sense a pair of eyes are on us because she turned her head towards me. She gives me this have quizzical look and mouthed if I was feeling alright. I give her a quick smile, nodded my head and mouthed back that I was ok. She smiles and sticks her tongue out at me like a naughty 5 year old before rising up on up to her feet, along with the rest of the congregation, as the priest came up to the podium.

That day I found myself in church because I was trying to be a good husband. My wife was there simply because she wanted to be a good daughter. All the young folks attending mass with their young children, were probably there because they wanted to instill in their children the types of traditional values and customs that they themselves had grown up with. And the elders, who had been coming to mass since the light of the sun was dawning on their lives and not setting on it, wanted to be in good graces with God. A god that to them was just one silent prayer away. We were all trying to please someone else in order to feel like we belonged. What each of us wanted to belong too may have differed, but in the end we were all their just trying not to feel alone, just like Christ did while he was up on that cross.

Watch “Peter & Kerry – The Shadows” on YouTube

Today I managed to get my wife mad at me at 5:30am, had a rough day at work where I couldn’t focus on the task at hand, managed to get my car stuck in the snow, tried my best and failed at calming my crying baby boy who was not feeling well, while my two dogs that come in at a combined weight of 160lbs hounded me for attention, all while struggling to keep my anxiety at bay. All in all today was not one of my better days. Thankfully music still goes a long way at soothing this anxious beast.

Tonight’s Music to Get Lost In presents: Peter and Kerry “The Shadow”.

Hope you enjoy this track as much as I do.

A Lesson in Anger Management: How to Be the Bad Guy Even When You are the Good Guy

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This past week my wife and I had what some might call a little disagreement. Due to, let’s just say a difference in opinion. Naturally, in typical Tom Gonzalez fashion, I got myself rather worked-up. Like Marsellus Wallace, chasing after Butch, after he was run over by him, type of worked-up. But don’t you worry good people, I didn’t do anything dramatic like he did. That was because I am trying my best not to get myself into any major arguments with the wifey. I know myself well enough to know that If I dared to opened my mouth at that time, if I allowed the somewhat heated conversation to continue, I would end up saying something idiotic that I would most definitely regret and make an already bad situation turn even worse. So I channeled my inner Buddha by taking that giant ball of rage that was threatening to engulf the peace of our little home and swallowed that baby whole. Well maybe not whole. I still managed to take out a small portion of my frustration on my poor phone. Which apparently it failed to appreciate. Because by the next morning my phone went on strike and stopped working. This only served to exasperate the sense of frustration that I was already reeling from.

I needed to clear my head. Catch my breath so to speak. Remove myself from the situation. Now I’m not very fond of bars, or drinking on my own, so that was out of the question. It was late, and I was broke, and I had to wake up early the following day for work, so going out to see a movie wasn’t going to fly either. So I did the next best thing. I took myself and my festering tumor of rage downstairs to the family room. I powered-up my trusty 360 and spent the next hour and a half unleashing my biblical sized wrath on the poor citizens of Los Santos, while playing a game of GTA V.

At some point I heard several sets of footsteps coming down the stairs at various speeds. I didn’t need to look back from the comfort of our sofa to know that the wifey was coming down the stairs being escorted by two eager fur-balls. Pixie and Dory came over to me, tails wagging , mouths panting, asking in their usual adorable manner for me to pet them. I was upset but I knew that they were innocent in all this, so I obliged. After giving each one a gentle pat on the head, they both settled down on the rug. The wifey crossed my field of view in order to sit next to me. I made sure avoid all eye contact, and kept my gaze on the screen, where one of the characters I was playing as was being perused by a small army of police cars. My cold, yet still beating heart, was apparently making the basement even chillier than usual, because the wifey ended up covering herself with the throw-blanket that we keep on the sofa. She didn’t say a word. I’m sure she wanted too. But the fact that I never bothered to acknowledging her existence probably gave her enough of a hint that I wasn’t in the mood for talking. The silly thing was that I did want to talk. I wanted to tell her that what she said had bothered me. That I felt offended even. I wanted to tell her that it was beyond ridiculous for us to even be having these types of discussions at this juncture of our relationship. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m too much of a knucklehead. Too damn proud. Especially if I feel that I am justified in feeling the way that I do. Which to be completely honest with you, I always feel justified. Even when I’m not. I simply couldn’t bring myself to tell her how bad I felt. Instead I allowed her to just sit there feeling guilty. Well I think that was what she was feeling. I guess I was practicing that whole eye for an eye thing. You know– like a good Catholic.

My little session in digital anger management wasn’t working for me. Having the wifey just sitting there, looking all sheepishly, was in the end making me feel like a world class jerk. My wife has one of those pretty faces, that when she gives of a big, genuine smile, she can light up a room, but when she is feeling sad and low, you can’t help but feel like all the colors in the world have been muted somehow. That’s why I hate to see that lady sad; even when I’m mad at her. I knew that she was sad because I was refusing to give her the time of day, which was causing me to slightly hate myself. Which, let me tell you,  is a job I do well enough on my own without her added assistance. This, as you can imagine, was only serving to piss me off even more. It was I that was offended. It was I who was made upset. It was her words that got the ball rolling here. Yet here I was now feeling bad for her too. That my friends was some straight-up, Jedi mind trickery. that this little woman was pulling on me. I thought it was beyond unfair.

********************

I know Jess was just trying to extend an olive branch. She wanted to tell me ”Hey babe. Yeah you’re right. What I said was a bitch-ass move. I guess that makes me a bit of a busta’. But I want you to know that I love you. And never meant to say anything to hurt you. Plus– and I don’t want you to think I’m trying to make cheap excused for myself here. But I would like you to keep in mind that I’m a woman after all– and sometimes I say some shit simply because my body is releasing an egg or some other womanly function is taking place inside of me that I’m sure your male brain knows nothing about. And that, as it has been extensively documented by science, sometimes causes me to go a little crazy. But with all that being said–my bad boo.” I on the other hand, being the gracious, enlightened fool that I imagine myself to be; I should have accepted her olive branch with the utmost humility. I should have told her that it was all water under the bridge. That if she really wanted to make it up to me– she could start by going back upstairs with me to make monkey love like Bonobos (I know they aren’t monkeys. But just go with it.) do. But I didn’t. I just allowed her to sit there. Quietly. Patiently. Until her presence made me feel so guilty that I abruptly ended my game session, and walked myself straight to the bathroom to take a scalding hot shower.

I know I’m an idiot for it. I still feel I had every reason in the world to be angry. That part I will not deny. But what, I ask you, was the point of allowing my pride to prolong my suffering? What good did that do? The only think I accomplished that evening, besides being an asshole, was making myself sick. Just because I can’t never just let things go.

The wifey would eventually grow the courage to apologize to me after I had laid myself down for the night. She told me that she did not mean to upset me the way that she did. That I had a right to be upset. Which in my head I said loudly “No Shit!” I mumbled and grumbled a bit before saying it was fine. She gave me a soft kiss. Told me that she loved me and then proceeded to sleep all snug like a bug, happy that all was well in our little kingdom of four. Unfortunately it wasn’t as easy for me. I was still mad. I found myself holding on to those negative feelings like a man trying to break a wild mustang.

All that negativity just got bottled up. It had no outlet. There was no pressure valve in site that I could use to release some steam. I just allowed the hard feeling to fester, while I spent the night wallowing in self pity. So what happens when all that negative energy doesn’t get released? Well it gets absorbed. Right around my lower intestines.

I got upset on Sunday night. By midday on Monday I started suffering from what you can refer to as lower abdominal discomfort. I’ve felt this before. Always happens after I have gotten myself past the point of what most people would consider upset. I don’t know if this condition has a name, or even if it is a condition at all. For all I know its all psychosomatic. But whatever this thing is, it about as much fun as a 12 hour marathon of C-SPAN. Now some might consider this to be TMI. So please accept my apology if me sharing this offends my dear readers delicate sensibilities. But I like to be honest with people. Which means that sometimes I get to share stuff that don’t always come of all lollipops and gumdrops. Basically it felt (and as I write this still feel) like having to take a perpetual shit. You know that feeling you get when you been binging on nothing but red bean chili and Fiber One bars for three days straight, and for whatever reason you been denied bathroom privilege during that entire duration? No? Well I don’t either, but I imagine that the pain that I feel is probably pretty similar to that. To make matters worse, even if I go to the bathroom, well lets just say there is not a whole lot of action going on. So the pain just lingers. Another side effect is that my lower left side becomes very sensitive to the touch. If any pressure is applied to that area the general feeling of discomfort can be pretty painfully. Which is why sitting in front of a computer, trying to write a blog post, while feeling kinda crappy (pun totally intended) is not so appealing. This is the reason why I missed my making my usual Wednesday post here Once Around the Block.

The old me would have gone over to WEBMD by now to look up what this so called ailment might be. But since every symptom on that site basically points to cancer, I decided against it. Why give myself something new to stress about. Besides, the only time I get this is way is whenever I get Hulk SMASH mad. So it is obviously connected to my emotional state. Just another example of how not having a healthy way of coping with anger and stress can start tearing you up from the inside-out.

So that’s my current dilemma. I need to find a good, healthy way of deal with the everyday stress that comes with just being alive; along with the extraordinarily stressful situations that occur when you have to interact with folks, who like me, are trapped living in a self contained reality that exist only in their mind. I know I can’t avoid arguments out right for a number of reasons. One being that it’s not really part of my nature, and two, I’m married, and couples are gonna disagree and have misunderstanding from time to time. Plus I have a temper, and folks sometimes like to poke a stick at a sleeping bear. But I can control how I allow that tension to affect me. The only thing we have any control over is how we react to that stress, tension, adversity. Like (os and so says) life is 10% what happens to you. 90% how you react to it. That’s my problem right now—well always really. I react horribly to any situation that I deem remotely unpleasant. I need to make finding a healthy way of dealing with my anger and stress a major priority. Because all this pent up aggression is starting to kill me. How exactly do I do that? Fuck if I know.