Farewell Grandpa

It’s been a few weeks since my grandfather passed. It still hurts, but I’m finally at the point where I can write about it publicly. I wrote a eulogy, a little token of my love, but when the day came to say it in front of my family, I found I was too upset and quickly hid it in my pocket, feeling a bit shameful for my lack of fortitude. I guess I shall share it now:

One of my most cherished memories is working on an old fan with my grandpa. The activity itself wasn’t unusual. We had worked on projects before, and would after, but that day has always stood out, because it was the first time I realized how special he was. I wasn’t more than 10, and next to me sat a few tools and a can of WD40 at the ready. In front of me was this old, intimidating, metal GE fan. Most adults would have pushed me aside and done the work themselves, or yelled at you if you didn’t follow directions, but my grandpa was different. He told me the basics and watched as I worked. I made mistakes, I was learning, but every time I looked over ready for a reprimand, all I found was a smile and advice.

As I listened to everyone at the wake tell stories about my grandfather, I kept hearing similar things:

Jack was so gentle.

Jack was so sweet.

Your grandfather was a kind man.

He was so patient.

These are attributes that are undervalued. I aspire to them. The gentle souls are the hardest to notice in life, but their absence in death is impossible to ignore. The world is a little harder without that oasis of quiet dignity.

I love you Grandpa. I miss you.

John (Jack to his friends) Donohue Sr.  February 11, 1942 – February 25, 2015

Breaking the Ice

I feel like I went so long without posting, I was over-thinking and further delaying my writing. I’m not announcing this one. This is for me. Write. You must write.

Pet peeves 1 and 2

I’ve decided to start listing my pet peeves. I feel like too many things annoy me, and I think it might be therapeutic to list them out. Maybe seeing how petty some of them are will allow me to ignore them in the future and start enjoying life more (doubtful, but I can dream). My goal is to reach 100 and exhaust myself of negative feelings. I’ll try to do one or two a week in between more substantial posts.

So let’s start. Are you excited? No? You know what? You piss me off too.

1. Slow checkouts.

I’ll never understand how some people can be so slow checking out of a store. It’s a simple process, and one which we all should have a lot of experience performing. Sure, there will be times when a cashier is new, or maybe there is a language barrier, but otherwise you should have an idea of how it’s going to proceed. I’ll even forgive the occasional coupon (It better not be expired, asshole), but sometimes it feels like everything is in slow motion. People don’t put their items up fast enough, don’t move them forward to give you space, don’t have their money or card ready, don’t know how to work the card machine and then ask the cashier a question after they should be done. It’s all very inconsiderate. I try to do everything as fast as possible. I don’t want to waste the time of the cashier or the people behind me. I often watch people checking out and wonder if I could move as slow if I tried, and I usually decide I couldn’t.

2. Walking abreast on narrow sidewalks.

I’m so glad my parents taught me common courtesy while walking. If you see that a sidewalk is narrow and your group is about to pass another person, and you don’t walk single-file, you’re all dicks. I’m tired of being forced off a sidewalk, often onto grass covered with dog shit (A future subject), and they don’t even notice the event occurred. I see large families walking side-by-side, and I cringe.

 

It’s OK to read the classics

It’s a sad fact that for most people today, classic English literature is the reading equivalent of eating your vegetables. It shouldn’t be this way, but years of bored English teachers droning on have completely ruined some amazing works for generations of readers. Luckily, I never read, or even payed attention to the readings during most of my school career. I know, I was a teacher’s dream. I was spared, and when I entered college, I did so with no preconceived notions of many works. I had heard the titles, knew of the authors, but I didn’t have a bad taste in my mouth, which would have stopped me from enjoying these great works. I started to read them on my own, separate from my school work. A great feast began.  

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Now some of you have read Great Expectations, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Robinson Crusoe and the like, but you didn’t think much of them. It’s probably due to your mindset when you read them. I rarely enjoy a book when it’s assigned to me. It’s a weird quirk, and I think many of you share this foible. Even if a friend hands me a book and tells me I should read it, it becomes an assignment in my mind. Avoid this feeling. Do some research on your own. Find some cultural touchstones, and go read them in your on way and in your own time. I guess that sounds a bit like an assignment. Do it anyway.

You may still disagree with me, asking why these books from the past really matter anymore. Is it because there’s some weird fetishism within the English teacher community? No, it’s because these works contain universal human truths. Sure, You’re probably not an English lord, but you’ve probably felt like you’re meant for better than the job you’re currently working, or have fallen in love with someone you know wants nothing to do with you. That’s why these stories are often watered down for modern audiences. From Clueless, to Bridget Jones’s Diary, you know these stories, even if you don’t realize it. Time to understand the source of all those tropes and archetypes, so you can impress people at those soirees you’re always going to.

I’ll finish up by sharing a page from Great Expectations. I’m in the middle of the story, and I thought this beautiful writing would resonate with some.

 ‘Do you want to be a gentleman, to spite her or to gain her over?’ Biddy quietly asked me, after a pause.

‘I don’t know,’ I moodily answered.

‘Because, if it is to spite her,’ Biddy pursued, ‘I should think – but you know best – that might be better and more independently done by caring nothing for her words. And if it is to gain her over, I should think – but you know best – she was not worth gaining over.’

Exactly what I myself had thought, many times. Exactly what was perfectly manifest to me at the moment. But how could I, a poor dazed village lad, avoid that wonderful inconsistency into which the best and wisest of men fall every day?

‘It may be all quite true,’ said I to Biddy, ‘but I admire her dreadfully.’

In short, I turned over on my face when I came to that, and got a good grasp on the hair on each side of my head, and wrenched it well. All the while knowing the madness of my heart to be so very mad and misplaced, that I was quite conscious it would have served my face right, if I had lifted it up by my hair, and knocked it against the pebbles as a punishment for belonging to such an idiot.

                                      – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

On being neurotic

Do you think you’re neurotic? According to my nonexistent survey, the majority of you say yes. Honestly, I don’t doubt you. Most people seem to have their own personal neurosis, and if you’re like me, you’re a bit proud of how messed up you are. However, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page about this, so let’s really define what a neurosis is.

According to the book, The Neurotic:

 “Neurosis includes those conditions that are characterized primarily by excessive anxiety, regression, conversion, compulsion, or any mixture of these. The psychoneurotic is a person who, as a result of conflict, is incapable of making adequate adjustment in usual fashion, and who has therefore evolved compensatory mechanisms with which to effect adaptation and achieve some release of tension.”

Now, before we deconstruct that clinical language, I need to point out an important fact. In the United States, the highest authority on mental disorders is the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Guess what? No, I don’t keep a scantily clad picture of Derek Jeter above my bed. Good try though, you weirdo. What I was going to say is, the APA hasn’t included neurosis in their diagnostic language since 1980. Their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is what’s used by everyone from therapists, to insurance companies to decide if you’re fucked up. If that doesn’t include neurosis as a disorder, is it a real thing? Yes, but it’s something that doesn’t hinder your life to the point where you need professional intervention. Sure, some of you could use a therapist, but we all knew that already.

Let’s go back to the definition now. Basically, what it’s saying is, people with neurosis, when faced with a certain type of stress, will respond in a specific way slightly outside the accepted norm. Let’s work with an example. I’m a chronic procrastinator. I procrastinate because the stress of looming work forces me to avoid that work until the last possible moment. I can’t handle the load until the pressure is so great it can’t be avoided. It’s a system that made me an honor student, but it’s certainly not a healthy way to cope with a task.

You can think of some you have now. Do you bite your nails before a job interview? Do you make weird video game analogies when you’re on a date? Do you pace around your house when you’re waiting for a pizza delivery guy to ring the bell? These are all different types of neurosis. They become part of you to such a degree, you usually stop noticing them in yourself. It’s easier to see them in others, but try not to judge too hard, because you’re no prize.

Do you feel better now, knowing that you’re not officially messed up, or did you want an actual disorder for the street-cred? Too bad. You’re messed up to a normal degree, and you have tons of other people, including me, to share the experience with.

Would you like to know more?

Sure, OK. Here are some of the resources used for this article:

The Neurotic

ADA

Mind disorders

With this, and any article in the future, I welcome criticism, argument, revision ideas and questions.

The journey begins

It’s strange how long a person can leave an idea alone in their head, where it’s safe from criticism and failure.  I’ve hemmed and hawed about this site for years, but now it finally begins. I’m excited. You should be excited too. Why? I guess that’s a fair question. In a world inundated with blogs and website, with twitter feeds and Instagram accounts, how do you decide what to follow?

Well, in my opinion, you should follow someone that’s going to provide you with variety. You want both rhetoric and fiction? I’m your man. Do you want the author’s neurosis to bleed through? Yeah, of course you do, so I’m your man. At this point you’re getting your wallet out, but stop. I’m writing all of this for free! I know, stop thanking me. Just sit back, grab your favorite snack, and watch this crazy Bronxite write about anything and everything.