Social Situations

We give some people way too much power over us, don't we?

At the end of a fantastic week I found myself stalking the produce section of a grocery store I don't frequent. Rather, I used to haunt this one, but a closer one opened up to my better half's office and now we go to that one. Thing is, at the end of a pretty great week I was on the hunt for a couple key ingredients for some curry we planned to make as soon as I came home. I was a bit disheveled. Nothing drastic, just a bit rumpled and more than a bit greasy after a productive day. Tie loosened, collar unbuttoned. My alleged hipster hair flopping down into my eyes like the 11th Doctor. I turned the corner around the vidalia onions and there he was.

This dude I used to know.

He was a cool dude. We didn't know each other that well, but he had been a tangential social connection in college who had done me a few favors when I needed them. We always got along just fine but there was a clear social dynamic - he was cool. He was the alpha male. I was not cool. I was the clear beta. He still possesses this unspoken confidence and carries himself very well. I still slouch and second guess every single thing I do. I don't even know if he recognized me, but neither of us acknowledged the other. 

I pretended nothing clicked in my head and went about my business, keeping an eye peeled and watching for any recognition from him. None came. When he checked out and left before me, I relaxed a bit. There was no bad blood between us, so why the anxiety? Simply because it would be awkward to reintroduce myself to someone I knew, and I guess to explain who I was? That sort of makes sense, but it doesn't make me feel better about it. Just being surprised by him threw me off balance and the old dynamic reared into being. Years have passed since I even spoke to this dude, yet there I was, all nebbish and strange as though my years of personal growth and accomplishments vanished due to proximity. 

I've been thinking about this weird encounter all night. It shouldn't bother me, but it's going to linger like a bruise, I can tell. It's foolish. It's not like I'd send him a text and say "Hey! How's it going?" at this point. Waves in the ocean. I'll cross paths with people like this again. I need to remember not to let it sway me. I like who I am. Dynamics change. Relationships grow and wither. People don't care as much as we think they do. I'll shrug it off.

Ah, well.


Sir Limpalot

This machine will break down. 

This morning I got up way too early and pounded the pavement. It was the longest run in the last few years. I make myself do it three times a week at the least. The guilt is overwhelming if I can't carve some time to go running that often. The sad thing is I feel guilty even when I do hit the self prescribed minimum. Despite forcing myself from the comfort of bed when it's still dark, injecting relentless tunes into my skull and working up to a decent pace around a conveniently close-to-home loop, I feel guilty that I'm not doing more. My knees crack and my hips pop. I'm wearing through another pair of shoes. Still, there's a nagging feeling that I'm not doing enough. 

This machine is relentless. 

I chug on and on, huffing and puffing away for no discernible reason other than my own unending drive for more. More what? Punishment? I'm not trying to lose weight. I'm not training for a marathon. I'm not training for the military. It's as though there's some invisible meter in my body that builds up energy over time and I feel this urge to discharge it. When I finish, gasping as I punch in the code to raise the garage door, it feels like a pressure valve has been opened over the previous hour. It vents anxiety and frustration. I can feel the pressures of life easing as I run laps around the mile and a half loop in my neighborhood. 

This machine is working for me. 

The pressures on my mind ease as the wear and tear increases on my body. It's a tipping of scales. I used to take the amazing mechanics of my body for granted. I'd sit on the couch doing nothing, gorging on poison without a second thought. The tide turned a few years ago and now I'm bound and determined to run this thing right into the ground. I realized soon after the practice became habit that there was an energy exchange occurring. The higher the mental energy, the more I could burn while running. Stressed? Overwhelmed? Hard day? Give me an hour and my shoes and it's gone. It takes the starch out. It bleeds the poison from my mind as I wear out the joints and beams. It was made over the course of thousands and thousands of years of evolution and is the most elegant, efficient system we could have. I'm already wearing it out. 

This machine won't last forever. 

I'm already having to hack the system. I'm using a brace on one knee, and I can feel the other starting to creak. Special foods and recipes designed to make the most of the fuel burning process. Doing all the necessary stretches. Utilizing BPM tracking on music to push me. Running in loops around my home in case my bad knee suddenly locks up on me, out of the blue. My better half tries to find opportunities to talk me out of wearing myself down, finding reasons to sneak me a cookie or experiment with homemade ice cream. Telling me to sleep in, to take days off. She knows I'm running the machine too hard, too often. I hope she doesn't worry, but that probably won't stop me. 

I'm going to run this whole contraption right into the ground. Sooner or later, something will give. A ligament tearing. Heatstroke in the summer. Slipping on the ice in winter. Dodging distracted drivers at intersections. Maybe I'll trip over one of the countless startled rabbits that don't expect me at that ungodly hour. Back pains. Bad knees. I can't run forever. As long as the machine works, though, I'm not stopping. 


Donor Card

I donated some blood the other day. 

Not a lot. Just a pint. 

I know there's a certain squick factor here, but I rather enjoy the whole bizarre process. Being fortunate enough not to have a fear of needles, that's reason enough. I also happen to be the picture of health - no diseases, allergies, pre-existing conditions of any sort. I've never even broken a bone. So the least I can do is make good use of a healthy specimen and donate some blood to someone who might need it. Does it alleviate the guilt of having all the advantages I do and not doing much to make the world a better place? No. But, it does a small bit of good. Someone needs it. I guess it goes bad after a while, so fresh, healthy stock is needed. So why not?
It's a weird process. The more you think about it, the more unusual it becomes. There's this viscous goo inside us that we donate, and you feel really dopey and light headed afterword. Any other time you lose blood like that, you're probably terribly injured and at least a little traumatized. This time, you're okay, just have a cookie and relax for a minute. People can joke about oil and being a pint low and all that, but really - that there's this operating substance in us that can be siphoned out is so bizarre. It makes you reexamine your sense of self - there you are, draining out of your arm into a bag. It is both marvelous and humbling. We are a sum of parts, yet so much more.
Additionally, there are health benefits to donating as well. Apparently most Americans (possibly others, but I can only speak for my country of carnivores) have diets that are much too high in iron. These iron particulates, when unabsorbed in the bloodstream, behave as free-radicals, which are rarely a good thing. There is a saturation point at which our bodies fail to process all of the excess iron and it can build up to a detrimental level. Donating blood both removes some of this excess as well as allows the body to freely generate and replace the missing pint with its own fresh supply, thus redistributing the remaining amounts. 

So I probably sound like as ghoul, dissecting all this. Eh. It's a fascinating thing, one that more people should do if they're up for it. Gives me a break in the day and makes me appreciate the wonder of a functioning, healthy body. Good gravy, how's that for a glimpse under the hood, eh? #NoVamps #Twitterjoke 


Baby Sat

So I watched the Jonah Hill comedy The Babysitter recently.

It wasn't very good.

It was, however, a memory jogger for me. I had pretty much forgotten about the fact that I used to do a fair bit of baby-sitting in my pre-driving teenage days.

I don't really know why it strikes me as so odd to have spent as much time as I did taking care of other people's kids. I guess it strikes me as weird, and it must have struck others as weird too, just from the context. Some kids at school raised an eyebrow. A boy baby-sitting! Defying gender stereotypes! Imagine what the papers would say! It didn't even register for me at the time. Now I think back and laugh at the odd choice for me. I mean, yeah, I got paid for it...but I was never that big on kids.

You know how some people do really well with kids and can play with them and entertain them and be patient? Parents and kindergarten teachers, i think they're called. Not really my deal. I didn't dislike kids and I still don't, it's just as a 14/15 year old, they were mostly just noisy and distracting. Their parents always told me I was a good sitter and that their kids liked me, but I just kind of shrugged and thought "Okay, so I hang out at your house, make sure your kids are fine and you give me money to watch TV once they go to bed? Deal."

One time the parents said their kids liked me because I treated the kids like they were peers instead of kids, but really they weren't that much younger than me. I guess I was 15 and they were like...10ish? I don't recall, exactly. I remember thinking that it seemed like the right thing to do. Why talk down to them? Maybe that was it - I didn't really patronize them. Maybe not the best tactic as a babysitter, but then I don't recall any difficulties either. Kids listened when I asked them to go to bed after a night of goofing off. It's not like I fed them junk food and let them run wild, but in hindsight, what was I doing, anyway?

I think I started down that path because some family friends were in a bind and I was socially (and generally) awkward, which meant my weekends were open. Once I equated the money with the loafing around, I was down. Basically it was watching kids for a bit, then I could simply sit and watch TV or read a book I was way into while getting paid for it. On top of it (and I suspect this was the crux of it) I was in a new school and feeling super anxious about anything social. It was an easy out for a Friday/Saturday night - sorry, busy making money, can't hang out! I didn't feel like as big of a loser as if I was sitting at home doing nothing. I was making money!

My secret favorite part of it, though, was the walk home after the parents returned. It was always people in my neighborhood, so I could walk. In the winter, it would be super late (in my teenage mind 11:00pm was late to be wandering around the West Hill) and cold and dark, but the moon and streetlights would reflect off the snow, giving the quiet nights this strangely serene, isolating quality. I would walk home in the cold, money in my pocket, the whole town asleep. It was this secret little adventure I would go on by myself. That's what I thought of when I saw that mediocre movie.

Winter is never far off in Minnesota. When it comes, I think I'll have to have a redux on these weird walks, only now I have the benefit of a better half and a glass of wine. It's only August and I'm thinking of winter all because of a bad comedy. See what we put up with here?