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

Ultrasounds and Baby bumps: Facing Fears

Ultrasounds and Baby bumps: Facing Fears

The wifey is laying on a hospital bed, almost completely flat on her back. She doesn’t quite know where to focus her eyes, so she settles to just look directly up at the ceiling. She’s quite. Well quieter than usual. That means she’s nervous, we both are. Jess is about to go through her second scheduled ultrasound. The nervousness stems from just not knowing what to expect. The first ultrasound went on without a hitch, well for the most part. Our unborn child was coming along nicely. No signs of abnormalities. And the heartbeat sounded nice, strong and hurried. The only hangup was that the baby had it’s legs crossed; so we were unable to find out what was the baby’s gender. We were very much hoping that this would be answered the second time around. Yet we were both feeling a little anxious.

I can’t say for sure if Jess had the same types of thoughts creeping through her head, but I know that I couldn’t help but wonder what if the ultrasound comes across something bad that was missed the first time. Not that I was really expecting any surprises. Just my mind likes to gravitate to the worse case scenario all the time. I don’t know if it’s a bad habit or just a defense mechanism. Either way it does a good job putting me on edge. As I sat quietly on the chair in the corner watching the technician apply the ultrasound gel on my wife’s exposed navel, an endless conga-line of really crappy what if’s paraded inside my head.

The ultrasound technician, a cheery, 20 something year old, with a dot like birthmark that was smack dab on the tip of her nose, asked us if we were interested in learning the baby’s sex once she came across it. Jessie smiled and said yes with enough enthusiasm to hide her nervousness. I could feel my heart changing gears as the anticipation grew. A few weeks earlier the wifey’s OB/GYN had asked us if we preferred having either a boy or a girl. Jessie gave the customary “doesn’t really matter, as long as the baby is healthy with ten fingers and ten toes.” The doc looked over at me clearly expecting me to say something along the same lines or that I wanted a boy. Instead I told her “I think I want a girl”. The doc was clearly surprised by my answer because she turned her head slightly, almost like a curious puppy would. The crease of her mouth gave the hint of a smile as she asked me why I felt this way. I suspect that after years of serving a predominantly Latino community, the doc had just grown accustomed to the idea of her patients male partners being more inclined of wanting a boy as their first child, guarantying the continuation of their family name. Personally I never really put much weight in those old world notions. I told her that in my opinion “it was probably easier to raise a girl to be a lady than it was to raise a boy to be a man.” I went a little further and explained how the men in my family have, for the most part had been knuckleheads and screw-ups, and that I just felt that if I had a bit more parenting experience under my belt that I might have a better chance at succeeding at raising my boy properly. The doc, an older Indian lady, with a last name that I have a hard time pronouncing, nodded her head slightly in agreement. She went on to tell us about her first born. A boy that turned out to be a handful. His father a proud doctor from India had told her that since they had a boy it was his duty as a father to be the one to guide him. That it was a mans job after all.She regretted not asserting herself more, because as the years went on their boy gave them a lot of headaches growing up, and that it wasn’t until her son hit his thirties that he finally came into his own. She didn’t come out and say it, but she basically hinted at the fact that her husband just didn’t know what the hell he was doing. I could relate. She went on to say that if she had a choice, she would have had the girl first. She strongly felt that it would have somehow made a difference. The doc’s experience only served to strengthen my desire to have a girl.

About 10 minutes into our second ultrasound session the technician smiles and says, with the slightest hint of what I thought was an eastern European accent, “Well it looks like you are having a boy!” I can’t quite recall what exactly Jess said. I think it was something along the lines of “Really?” with a big Kool-Aid smile flashing across her face. I felt my heart race. I smiled too and I think I said something like “WOW”. We were both very much surprised.

For weeks now I had been predicting we were going to have a girl, almost from the moment I learned about the conception. I was thoroughly convinced of it.I thought that maybe some of my great grandmother’s Santeria inspired soothsaying abilities had rubbed off on me.  Add to that all the comments I heard Jessie’s friends and family members make, claiming that we were going to have a girl because the shape of her belly correlated with some long held wives tale that was deemed as good as true.  I even dreamt with a little girl a couple of times. She had dark, black, curly, hair like her mother. Black eyes like her father. And her mother’s smile. I was not one to dream about kids, so I just took this as another sign. I believe Jess when she said she didn’t care about the baby’s sex, but I think that she had started to root for a xx chromosome carrier because she had started to realize that it meant something to me. She just never had a clear handle why that was, and neither did I.

Sitting on that chair, watching the images of my unborn son morph across the ultrasound screen I came to understand why I had been wanting a girl so badly over the course of those last few months. I had been scared. I had been scared of continuing the cycle, or the family legacy if I may call it that. The declarations of war by our fathers to the heartbreak and lament of their sons. I guess I had fooled myself into thinking that if I had a girl first I would have a bit more leeway to make parenting mistakes. I was stupid enough to believe that girls basically raised themselves and all I had to do was just be there to show some guidance. I know I was full of shit for thinking that way. I see that now. There will be nothing easy about being a parent. I wont be able to coast my way through this like I have on so many other things. I am going to have to teach my son what it is to be a good man, while I try to figure out how to be one myself.

I am beyond happy that I am going to have a little boy. I hope I can inspire a sense of wonder in him. Furthermore I will try to teach him that nobody truly has all the answers in life, which is why its important that he seeks those out on his own and not just take everything that people say for face value. If my unborn son ever comes across this blog, I want him to understand that the grumpy old man that he calls dad, was once a young confused guy that traveled a long way just to try to find out who he was. I pray that 20 years from now, when my son is 19 years old and I’m 55, we can talk to each other like I never could with my father, or my father with his.  And if the day ever comes, when my son tells me “Dad, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do?” I can look the kid in the eye, give him a big hug, and tell him that there was a time when I didn’t either, but if you just try to do what is right, life will throw hints your way and give you a chance to figure it out.

Music to Get Lost In: Nahid Akhtar – “A Happy Christmas to You”

Music to Get Lost In: Nahid Akhtar – “A Happy Christmas to You”

Since I am not planning to spend much of my time online tomorrow, and since I’m pretty positive that it is Christmas somewhere on the globe, I figured now would be as good a time as any to wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas. And if you’re the type to be offended by that sort of thing, then I wish you a Happy Holidays. And if that still bothers you then how about I hope you have a nice, regular, non-denominational, Wednesday.

With all that being said I would like to leave you with this little Christmas diddly that I heard being featured on Radio M the other night. It may not be the most traditional Christmas song that I’ve ever heard, but it is still a cool little jam. I present you Nahid Akhtar – “A Happy Christmas to You”.

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Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day: My Failed Attempt at NaNoWriMo

Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day: My Failed Attempt at NaNoWriMo

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It is Wednesday, December 4th. Which means that it is the “Insecure Writers Support Group” Day. And boy I could use the support.

If you are, like me, a struggling writer, or just someone looking to discover some great talent out there, go check out this great blog that I found called The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It’s a great little community of writers that have come together to express some of the joys and struggles of writing. I hope you get a chance to check the site out. It will be well worth your time.

Soooooo National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as everyone else seems to call it was a complete and utter failure for me. I didn’t even come close to writing the amount of words that I had hoped for at the beginning of the month. Which to be honest really bums me out because I felt like I was up to the challenge back at the end of October.

I was confident I had everything in place to start my novel. I had the frame work to a good story. 5 friends come together to make sense and come to terms with the events that tore them apart almost 15 years earlier. It was a story about breakdowns and what could have beens. It was an angry story. But it also had a sense of hope.

I had a good idea of who the characters are. What were the things that motivated them. I knew their likes and dislikes. I knew their backgrounds, and what their childhood was like. I knew everything from their favorite color, to the kind of dreams they were likely each to have at night. They were 5 real, breathing, three dimensional characters. Distinct in every way, and bound forever by their shared experiences.

Everything was set. All I had to do was sit down and write the story. But in the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. Every Time I made an attempt, something would come up, or I would make something up; just so I wouldn’t have to sit down and write it. I would be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t hate myself a bit for it. It’s just that sometimes I just can’t get myself going. No matter how hard I try. My brain just doesn’t cooperate. Writing for my blog is one thing. That comes easy. Because it doesn’t feel like work. But sitting down to write a novel is different. That feels like a job. That takes a different kind of concentration. The kind that at this moment in time I just dont simply have. Maybe it’s the ADHD. Maybe I’m just afraid to succeed at something that I love. Maybe it’s a bit of both. Whatever the reason, I sure don’t like myself much for it.

 

Being Mindful and Giving Thanks for Another Thanksgiving

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I read a news report from a reputable business publication that the company I’ve been working for over 7 years now will be making another significant reduction in its corporate workforce. A spokesperson for the company was quoted that the company is always looking for ways to “optimize” its operation. I can’t help but crack a cynical smile at the way they the spokesperson tries to lessen the psychological blow of mass firings by rebranding it as optimization. Which really is just corporate speak for handing out pink slips like Tic-Tacs, trimming their idea of unwanted fat, and spreading the work that still needs to get done to outsourcing companies. And for the rest of us corporate sharecroppers that managed to avoid the axe, we get to look forward to having the company dump even more responsibilities on our laps with very little if any compensation. Our only reward being that we got to avoid the unemployment line for just a little longer. But you know what, I understand that I can either allow myself to grow bitter and angry; and feel nothing but spite for people in suits that don’t even know of my existence, or I can be mindful that it is the Holiday season. That Thanksgiving is almost here and that I have so much to be thankful for.

For starters I have a beautiful and caring wife that is “with child”(God I love saying that!). A woman that has, for reasons that still eludes me, has decided that she was OK with putting up with my wondering mind, and moody musings. A lady that willingly holds my hand in public, even though I am nobody’s idea of an Adonis. A woman that kisses me gently on the lips and sweetly tells me that I have the saddest eyes she’s ever looked into with the tenderness and love of a merciful angel. Are things always perfect and hunky-dory between us? Off course not. We argue more than I would like, and after all these years it is rather easy for us to get on each others nerves. But our “aim” much like Elvis Costello‘s had for “Alison” is as “true” as it gets.

I am grateful for the little child that is growing within Jess. That little person that was conceived by love and not lust, has sparked a new sense of awareness that I was sorely lacking. The realization that I am going to be a father has slowed down my thought process in some ways. It has brought me a sense of hope that I have not had. It gives me added reason to keep working on myself and keep trying to move passed all my shortcomings. Am I sure I can overcome them all? No. But I have all the motivation in the world to keep on trying.

turkey-prozac-funny-cartoonI am thankful for my family. My mother, my brother, even the sister that I’m not in talking terms with. I am grateful to them because each of them have touched my life and have helped mold me into the person that is writing this today. Are we the ideal notion of family? Unfortunately no. But I still love them with all my heart. Because in the end they are, and will always be, my family. It’s taken me a long time come to terms with that realization.

Since I feel it is relatively safe for me to assume that everyone that is reading these words of mine are in varied states of being alive and kicking, then let us then take a moment to be thankful for the air in our lungs and the rhythmic beating of our hearts. It’s important that we never take the life that we have been given for granted. We should also take a moment to reflect back on those who are no longer with us. Folks like my friend Angel, who has been gone for almost 15 years now, or my other buddy Marlon who died in Iraq, and my father Tomas Gonzalez Jr., whom I had the bitter sweet honor of spoon feeding him the last Thanksgiving meal he would ever have. Each one of them passed on much too young, and it is their memories that remind me to embrace the passing seconds and relish them.

Travers in his most memorable role, as Clarenc...
Travers in his most memorable role, as Clarence Odbody in It’s a Wonderful Life (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it realistic to sings life’s praises 24/7? Hell no. I mean if we were just marveling at all of life’s wonders all the time we wouldn’t get much done. Plus we all have our George Bailey moments when we wonder if the world would be better off without us; when life feels more like a burden than a gift. But it important that we don’t lose sight that even though life has it’s fair share of painful moments, I personally can attest to that, it also holds more beauty than our scattered brains and modern lives will allow us to appreciate.

Am I my feeling nervous about all this uncertainty that seems to be surrounding my life? Off course I am. Last time I checked I wasn’t an unfeeling machine like the Terminator. In fact I probably feel it a whole lot more now that I have a little baby on the way. But I also know that I’m not alone in feeling that sense of unease. That I am just one of probably millions of lost souls who so happen to be on the same boat. I would also be telling you a bold face lie if I told you I didn’t feel a twinge of anger every time I hear the CEO gleefully touting about the companies record profits, and sales, and how their innovative leadership has managed to make a significant boost to their shareholders portfolio, while those way down the corporate ladder spend sleepless nights wondering how the bills are gonna get paid if they are deemed expendable.  After all, I don’t have the inner peace of an enlightened Buddhist. But I am also trying to reconcile with the fact that life is long and unpredictable and that we can’t put all our energies and focus on possible but unfulfilled future events. Be mindful of them? Off course. Ignoring it completely is just asking for trouble. Be obsessed with it, until it starts affecting your ability to live in the now? Never.

black-friday-memeFor that reason alone I will put to rest, at least for a few days anyway, any lingering thoughts of what if’s. I’m will not brave fighting through an unholy berserker horde that will be foaming at the mouth in search for that perfect Thanksgiving\Black Friday deal. I won’t bitch and moan about having to work most of Thanksgiving day. I will take a moment to reflect on those that are no longer here with us. And when I finally get around to sitting down to enjoy my warm Thanksgiving meal later in the evening, I won’t fret over calorie counts or carb content, or any other things that will rob me of the joys of having a delicious home cooked meal. And above all else I will be extremely grateful that I got to spend the time that was allotted to me with my wife, her family, and our unborn child. At the end of the day that is really what the day should be about.

With all that being said I hope you all out there spend the day taking part in whatever family traditions that makes the day enjoyable and memorable for you. May the turkey or ham, lechon, vegan platter, or whatever it is you choose to eat on Thanksgiving day be moist and delicious and plentiful. And if the meal turns out to be a little dry don’t be too bummed. Just enjoy the day for all it’s worth. I want to wish you and all your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving. Salud.

P.S.

For those who have been frequenting my little blog here from across the pond and other parts of the world, I wanted to take this moment to thank you for reading. If you ever feel inclined please drop me a line and let me know a little about yourselves. I would love to hear from you. Thanks. 🙂