Originally published at Electric Quaker II. Please leave any comments there.
Today being the 29th of April, my father would’ve turned 53 today. [In the unlikely event random people are stumbling up against this, I say 'would've' because he's not turned anything since 41 – apparently the Highway Code's suggestion that one should check for oncoming traffic before turning a lorryload of concrete across the carriageway isn't quite such a pointless directive, after all.]. Twelve years is a long time, of course; even if I were inclined to try I doubt I’d be able to give you more than the roughest of character sketches of the man.
Still, it’s not untypical for me to get pensive at all of three points in the year, this one included and, this year more than usual, I’m finding myself feeling introspective. Five’ll get you twenty that this is down to finally having somewhere to head in life, or, at any rate, a plan that extends over a greater scale than my previous range of ‘Do x because everyone knows that’s the thing that happens next.’ Even so, I don’t much care for introspection. It’s so inclined to get in the way of not really thinking anything much.
The bulk of you, I suspect, will have seen that inspirational-sounding quote about how scar tissue is stronger than yer actual regular tissue &c., &c. Of course it isn’t; it doesn’t have the elasticity or something, so it’s less good under strain: less like a wooden oar patched up with steel braces and more like torn blotting paper that’s been prit-stiked back together along the edges. Still, as a quote it sounds good, which is the main thing.
Much like ‘That which does not kill us makes us strong,’ it’s been kitted out to give comfort rather than point out to a chap who’s lost of all your limbs, but not died, will nevertheless find it hard to summon the strength to heft a sack of potatoes; there must be a whole industry out there devoted to thinking these things up. (What, you thought Einstein came up with that whole ‘1% inspiration, 99% perspiration’ without spending five nights tearing out his hair and moaning “Come on Albie! The miniature diary industry is counting on you!!” Yeah, right.)
Anyway, I’ve got a whole welter of the scar tissue knocking about, and I find it mainly leads to character traits that come under the heading of ‘OK in moderation’.
A prime example of this is the manner in which I can be stubborn. To a point, being stubborn is the same as being persistent – you get to go home and say you tried your best & if things didn’t pan out OK, then it’s no fault of yours. Except I default to the kind of stubborn where I try my best and if things don’t pan out then it’s because I didn’t try hard enough; I take failure in the face of impossible odds as a weakness on my part, and I’ll beat myself up about it along the way, which is somehow made worse by the fact I know what a stupid approach it is.
Summer of 2005 was pretty much a case in point, there: there was a time during that particular fight where, in retrospect, I think we were all sunk and we all knew it, except for the pig-headed bastard who kept saying ‘This is not going to happen’ under the impression that if you said it quietly enough the world would just stop holding out on you.
[Tip for Film-makers: If you want to win me over run one of those scenes where the bad guy gets the living crap pounded out of him by someone who's got so angry about the whole thing that they've suddenly got dead quiet, and started breaking people's elbows over their own knees while nevertheless asking really politely. And humming a cheery tune. I promise you at least five “Awesomes!” in the foyer afterwards.]
In fairness, it worked; I think I got some good work done, under the circumstances, but I screwed myself up in the process. When I stopped doing that job in Spring 2006 I spent about three weeks getting hammered on a nightly basis because it turned out I’d wound myself up so much I couldn’t deal with the sudden disconnection from all the responsibility I’d taken to assuming.
Yeah, that’s another one. I take responsibility for way too many things, although it sometimes feels like I can hardly wait to offload it onto some other chump once I’ve got it. Except, not always: I can’t access it on a conscious level, but I’ve decent reason to suspect that I’ve got a complicated ranking system somewhere in the back of my head that sorts out the people to whom I feel a greater level of responsibility than others. Mostly it doesn’t have an effect on anything, least of all how I deal with people on a daily basis, but you should (really, really not) see me when you cross someone on that list: not only will I take it incredibly personally on their behalf, but I can hold a grudge for long enough to make Basalt feel worn down.
Even now, there are people out there that I have never met, and if they introduced themselves and said ‘Hi, I’m Mike,’ I’d say ‘Hey, Mike, nice to meet you’ and we’d probably get along fine and have all sorts of interesting conversations, because nobody ought to be judged by who they used to be (certainly I shouldn’t; I was a complete arsehole for years.) And yet, if Dave were there and said ‘This is Mike. Yeah, Mike,’ I’d lay even money that I’d punch the man in the face while he was waiting to shake hands simply because five, seven, ten years ago he did something that fucked over a person I’d only meet a decade later and if I feel an obligation to someone, I’ll gladly backdate it just far enough to cover past injuries. Or, rather, I’ll automatically backdate it. Doesn’t seem to come with an off switch.
The reason for that, I believe, comes down to a simple fact: there have been times where, through no fault of my own, I’ve failed to stop Bad Things happening, and that doesn’t sit well with my stubbornness. In that sense, pretty much anyone I like is quids in: either I’ll try and pull a shielding-from-the-badness maneuver, or I’ll make life miserable for anyone pissing you about. It is, of course, hard on anyone unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire (thought it’s ideally worse for anyone in the crosshairs, of course) but it’s been a while since anyone played silly buggers anyway, I’m happy to say.
(Lord knows how many times I’ve polluted this blog with memes, but I’m still looking for one that decides that Which Character I Am is an abominable cross between Ikari Gendo and Malcolm Reynolds. That would be a meme built out of raw Awesome. And dodgy html, of course.)
Happily, therefore, I’m not actively stoking anything right now – and given long enough, I can let things slide. I usually do, in fact, because it’s quite tiring otherwise, and once I’ve burned through the actual anger, I tend to have trouble keeping up enough of a head of steam, though God knows I’ve seen the anger last a few years a head. (Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be linked to whether the person who actually got done over has done with the forgiving thing. It’d be a lot simpler if it did, really, but instead it seems to run on whether I can still remember how much it affected them. Introduces auto-balancing, I guess.)
But I like to think, on balance, that it all works out OK, and that I’m not, in fact a sociopath. (I am antisocial, mind, but that’s just because I continue to use computer games as a Way Out Of Responsibility, where fixing bad things is just a quickload – or, indeed, a console command – away, and I’m not giving that up in a hurry). I periodically worry that I’ve got a predisposition to be horrible to people I decide I don’t like, but it rarely seems to be much of an issue, thank goodness.
Mostly, the worst extremes of being stubborn, and overzealous and inclined to fret like crazy, I keep in check, and the impression I get is that by balancing them out I actually wind up as a reasonably easy-going (& ideally half-way considerate) sort of person. Or, at least, I look like I’m trying, which is better’n nothing.
Mostly, I hope, I get by OK without being too horrible to people.
Mostly, I think, I avoid writing people off entirely because I fail to make allowances for why they might be acting like that.
Mostly, in fact, I wonder how well I match up to the tracing of a character sketch I last saw done in charcoal more than a decade ago, and which would probably be out of date even if I could remember what the shape of it was.
I’m not certain, but I think I’m slowly getting there. Perhaps if I work on it long enough I’ll fetch up with something that wouldn’t completely disappoint the original artist, hey? It’s always good to have something to try and do tomorrow, after all.
No comments today, folks. I ain’t here to fish.