Thursday, February 16, 2012

More introspective BS . . . yeah, one of those posts

I guess I'm human. Sometimes I worry about the way I'm perceived by others, even though I tell myself such matters shouldn't bother me. There are times when I really find myself second-guessing myself, and I hate those times.

This is going to be pretty disjointed, so I'm warning you in advance. I don't keep a diary, so this will have to do, I'm afraid.

So, the problem started with a girl I work with. Granted, I've had problems long before then, but for the sake of the story, it started with her. One thing I learned pretty dang quickly was that, like a lot of girls, apparently, she really eats it up when I tease her about stuff. She's one of the most absolutely adorable people I have ever met, and for that reason, she is loads of fun to tease. Somewhere along the line, though, I don't know where, I managed to cross a line. Suddenly she didn't laugh at my jokes anymore. Suddenly she started getting legitimately perturbed when I would make a crack about her squeaky voice or her childlike enthusiasm. I wasn't really sure what to do, but for some reason, both our personal and working relationships were swishing madly around the porcelain bowl, and every attempt I made at patching things up only added fury to the maelstrom.

Needless to say, I decided to stop teasing her. She showed up to work with a pretty bad cold, and she sounded just like Marge Simpson. I couldn't help myself; I had to bring that up. She wasn't amused, so therefore I decided to quit while I was (nothing resembling) ahead. Three days later, she arrived at work with no voice whatsoever, and was evidently still sick, but she looked absolutely gorgeous nonetheless. I wanted so badly to say the right thing, but since she was arriving at the same time that I was departing, I only had a second or two to do so. I opted for honesty. I said, "You look lovely today," and then I acknowledged that I knew she still wasn't feeling well (her hoarse croak made that obvious). Now, my intention was to say that even though she wasn't feeling well, she looked . . .  well . . . lovely. It was an honest attempt to brighten her spirits during a miserable time. 

She just passed by without acknowledging what I had said. I just kind of frowned and headed out the door. I assumed she hadn't heard me and moved on. It turns out, however, that this was not the case. What had really happened was that she had heard my attempt at a compliment and registered it as me being a sarcastic jerk, i.e. "Well, don't you just look lovely." Apparently it legitimately ticked her off. I was totally oblivious to it, and that really kind of bites. 

Another thing . . . they say that alcohol brings out the truth, and if that is so, I will admit that I prefer the gentler solace of dishonesty. I love my roommates dearly, and I know they care about me just as much, but they're really not good about letting me know when I get under their skin. Unless they've had a few beers, and then it hits like a hammer.

Don't get me wrong here. This isn't one of those cases where I'm being emotionally victimized by brutish winebibbers. Not at all. This is an example of me--cynical, opportunistic, often pretty dang cruel me--pushing good, kind, honest people to the point where they have to bottle up their feelings, and it takes a depressive substance to get them to open up about it. 

How do I react? Of course, I get defensive when they say they have had to make sacrifices, had to practically bend over backward to accommodate my "needs" (or whims). I get defensive when they call "BS" on my attempts to justify my actions. I counter with my usual cynicism when they try to remind me how many people would literally drop everything and do anything for me, and I don't even seem to give a care sometimes. I rely on coldness as a defense mechanism, and as much as I hate admitting it, part of me even starts mapping out clever (re: cruel) ways I can exploit the situation for dramatic effect. I look at these people who have invited me into their lives when they never had any reason at all to do so, and I think of ways I can use that, or ways I can just get under their skin as punishment for making me feel uncomfortable. 

Let me just go ahead and dispel any rumors you may have heard or any notions you might have about me from my more lighthearted postings: I am not as "nice" as you might think I am. I am not as soft or naive or innocent or weak or foolish as even those closest to me keep insisting I am. What I am is a tactician. Obviously, given my track record with people skills, I'm not a very good one, but I am nothing if not opportunistic . . . clever . . . strong-willed. I don't like obstacles, and frankly, I'll do everything in my power to bulldoze any obstacle that falls in my way. I have issues with anger. I resent the idea of owing anyone anything, and as such, I find myself resenting the fact that I owe so many people so much, on so many levels. How awful is that? I resent the fact that I have people in my corner who are willing to do virtually anything for me, simply because I don't want to be beholden to them. 

What's really crazy (or profound) is that one of my roommates likened the way I play beer pong to the way I live my life as a whole. I do not look at the cups when I toss the ball; rather, I glance at them quickly and lock eyes with the guy in front of me. I say it's because I want to train my muscles rather than my eyes. I say I like the showmanship aspect. I say I play basketball the same way, practicing 3-point shots instead of free throws, even though I stink at both. I say I find looking at the cups distracting. I say learning to do things the easy way is boring, and I have more fun with the hard way. I say I'd rather set ridiculous goals for myself than settle for average. I say a lot of things; he says I'm not being honest. I'm not really sure what he means, because I really do believe all these reasons. But maybe on some level there is a reason I don't know about. Maybe there is something to the idea that I don't know how to look ahead in life, and that I don't want to. Maybe I'm scared of looking like an idiot playing beer pong, so I play like a cocky jassack to avoid shame. Maybe I'm just a cocky jassack. What I know for sure is that I feel lower than low when my roommate, a man closer to me than my own brothers ever were, looks at me with this knowing expression, as though he's got me all figured out and nothing I can say or do will convince him otherwise. It's not just the beer pong; this happens a lot, and it drives me up the wall because it makes me second-guess myself. I don't know why he cares how I play beer pong, and yet I do. I attempt to take his measure every day--it's natural. I search out weaknesses in everyone, and just as he thinks he knows where I am most insecure, I think I know the chinks in his armor as well. 

So where does this lead? Do I use what I think I know (which may be only what he wants me to think, just as I only let him know what I want him to think) to my own advantage? Do I pick apart this friend who loves me more than a brother? Do I let him know how jealous I am of him, that I wish I had half his talent and were half as well-adjusted? Why in the world do I even entertain these thoughts?

Because, as I said, I'm not a particularly nice guy. I ticked off one of the most amazing girls I've ever met because I deliberately typecast myself as a snarky creep. I alienated my best friends in this town--indeed, this house--because I didn't like admitting when I had a problem (or, more accurately, when I was a problem). I let cynicism rule my life and turn me into somebody I'm not proud of, and at the same time, I come across as suuuuuch a nice guy in my daily life that I keep attracting more sheep who think I'm just wonderful. Boy, are they in for a surprise.

And yet, deep down I know that I don't have to be the man I've made myself into. I can actually be the good guy if I try, if buckle down and pray to the God I still believe in (but what is belief without obedience; am I, then, a believer if I do not honor the basic law of my Creator, which is, essentially, to be good to my fellow man and be a good representative of Him?) and if I put aside my petty resentments and make amends with the people I take for granted or abuse. 

Maybe, though, I don't really want to be good. Maybe I've put on the show my entire life and now I want to make myself miserable and alone. I know deep down that this is crazy, that nobody wants that, but I can't think of any other reason why I still treat my loved ones like garbage until I need something from them. You know, tonight one of my roommates said with absolute conviction that he would lay down his life for his friends without thinking twice about it. I believe him--I honestly do. He is that kind of selfless friend--he is exactly what he claims I am--but I honestly don't believe I could do the same for anyone. As miserable as I make myself at times, I still love life too much to willingly give it up. I still have a level of arrogance that makes me believe my self-screwed up existence is worth something, and ultimately, I know that every day I stay alive is another day removed from the hungry flames that await my selfish, sinful carcass for choosing to be who I am. Choices . . . you'd think they'd be easy, but sometimes . . . sometimes the easy ones, the ones that lead to salvation and happiness, are the ones you just can't go with. Sometimes you just want to keep lobbing that basketball from across the court, or toss that ping-pong ball with your eyes closed, just because you're scared of actually trying and failing.

But I am trying, am I not? Am I not?

Am I not?