Archive for February, 2013

Not So Timid
24 February, 2013

A management course taught one of my coworkers, a big bloke, to stand sideways in someone’s doorway to avoid making them feel trapped and intimidated. (The rule has an informal name based on an executive who is both big and prone to blocking doorways.) I have not paid much attention to my positioning in doorways but I suspect that I avoid blocking them instinctively. It may be something of a cliché, but I am the sort who prefers to sit with my back in a corner and where I can see the exits. I address each room as if I will have to fight my way out of it.

It would be dishonest to say that I do not wish to be intimidating. I do like to be intimidating, but only in certain circumstances. The problem is that I seem to be intimidating when I wish not to be, but not when I wish to be. My eldest referred to me as “Scary Dad” when I was merely being stern. Yet I have had crazy ladies step up on me. While I think of myself as a nice guy and like to be perceived as such by others, I also want people to avoid attacking me.

I recognize the contradiction of those positions. A couple decades of having no one respect my boundaries gave me the instinct to create those boundaries with menace. I did not learn to use my words to enforce my boundaries because my family of origin ignored both my words and my boundaries. Rather I learned that the only way to enforce a boundary was by releasing the beast within. This was quite surprising for others, most of whom both expected me to use my words and had no experience with that level of fury.

My goal is to never need to be actively intimidating. I work hard to not be intimidating, to be sensitive to those as might feel threatened by my size or demeanor. Through years of work, I am learning to use my words and modulate my responses. But, to be honest, if I had to choose between being intimidating but respected and not being intimidating but disrespected, I would choose the respect, even though it came with the intimidation. Apparently I have more work to do.

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Pater Ineptus
17 February, 2013

I rarely feel successful as a parent. I feel contentment at my kids being protected and nurtured. But in no way do I feel a sense of accomplishment. On the best days I feel relief that they are flourishing in spite of me. On the worst days I feel shame that they are suffering because of me.

Along with software jedi and husband, I consider parent to be one of my three jobs. (That I keep forgetting to list taking care of myself as a fourth is telling.) My standards for being a parent are as strict as those that I have for my other jobs. Like all children, the experiences of mine reflect the experiences of their parents’ childhood. Unfortunately, my childhood had a pronounced paucity of good experiences.

Recently I stated that I do not know what normal is. A friend disputed me, saying that I know normal but just never experienced it. With respect for his opinion, I most certainly have no experience with normal parenting and hazard that I do know even know what it is. As with most things, I endeavor to compensate for this lack with hard work.

So I fake it, with a smile when possible. Perhaps all parents feign competence and I am just whining. I would be heartbroken if other parents felt as incompetent as I do but were content with it. I must believe that they care as much as I do, but are just so much better at parenting than I am.

I have no idea what success as a parent would feel like. My kids say they are happy with the job I am doing. But I said the same things as a child when I was markedly unhappy. By the time my performance can be truly assessed, it will be too late. I guess my success is that I have never quit.

Abnormality
2 February, 2013

I am not a normal person. That is not to say that I am better than everyone else: I am above-average at a few things and a flailing neophyte at all the rest. Rather, that is to say that I am neither typical nor expected.

Intellectually I know the provenance of this abnormality. For example, I used to think it was normal and reasonable to sleep with a loaded pistol in the nightstand. (Now I know it is not normal, just reasonable.) In a dysfunctional environment, the dysfunction prevented me from being able to recognize normal. I tried very hard to act normal, though I doubt I was very successful. I thought everyone else was acting, too.

I learned to approximate normality whilst terrified. Perhaps that could have been the start of a successful acting career if I was better looking. When I was about twenty a coworker said something about me being an actor. She meant it in the context of the movies and that is the context in which I dismissed it. But I suspect at some level everyone could tell that I was just acting. The façade must have cracked over the years; my mind certainly did.

It was beat into me throughout my childhood that I showed my emotions too much. However, outside of that environment the rest of the world begs to differ. What may appear to others as stoicism is merely the hard-to-break habit of pretending everything is fine. Part of that is that I react to different things than a normal person would based on my abnormal perspective. Even when panicked I do not appear on the outside like I feel on the inside.

I hesitate to catalog the areas where I am abnormal lest it send me into a shame spiral. But I continue to discover them empirically. Every time people give me that look that says that I should not laugh at some thing or I should erupt over some other thing, it reminds me that I am not a normal person.