Jøhnny Fävòrítê (johnnyfavorite) wrote,
Jøhnny Fävòrítê
johnnyfavorite

fighting my own nature

The following is an e-mail I wrote to an acquaintance in December 2002, lightly edited to remove identifying details. The reason I've chosen to use it for entry fodder is to establish some back-story for some other stuff I intend to write about later on. Even though I wrote it only a few months ago, I don't think about this stuff the same way today, nor would I write about it in this way again, if I had it to do over.

Today's word is "carabiner." I love it. Carabiner carabiner carabiner. It's a D-shaped metal thing you use in rock-climbing to hook a rope to something else, like your harness or a belay device or whatever. Recent models have the most ingenious locking mechanism, easy to get open but not so easy that it would happen when you didn't want it to, like at some point when an accidental opening might mean, oh, hypothetically speaking, plummeting to your death. I bought myself one a couple of weeks ago. It's made out of three or four pieces of finely machined aluminum and a couple of concealed springs. It clicks open and shut with commanding authority. It strikes me as very Teutonic. If the Deutsche-landers don't have one or two carabiner brands of their own I'd be surprised.

A bigger part of sports than most athletes are willing to admit, I think: gear fetish. As a sport-climber who's never left the gym I have no justification for owning more than one carabiner, yet I'm fighting the urge to go buy another twenty or so. They are marvels of engineering, as you'd expect anything to be if you're going to trust your life to it. Carabiner carabiner carabiner.

Thanks for thinking about me. I'm sorry I took so long to write back. I've had a little ... relapse?, maybe I'd call it?

My emotions are like the weather. Judging by the material I've e-mailed you over the last few months you can see I'm all over the map. I am TRYING to fix that but geez, it's not going to happen overnight.

I was hoping to keep you in the "normal" half of my life. Or "normal" third, or "normal" fourth, or whatever the breakdown is right now. I've sent you things I thought were delightfully impertinent at the time I hit the "send" button and then I read them over a few days later and I'm just HORRIFIED I could have ever let such a thing out of my computer. Urgh, I'm squicked out just thinking about it.

I've been having, what would I call it ... an excess of "rage incidents?," I guess? I feel the need to report this to you since earlier I was all gloating and stuff about how I failed to demonize that guy who stepped out in front of my car. Lately it's been more failures than successes.

Here's one I can tell that's representative of the whole lot. After my second time at the climbing gym I realized that this sport is for me, I need to go buy my own equipment and stop renting the boring stuff at the gym. Off to the local REI outlet.

I got lost of course, I always do. I missed a turn I was supposed to make and I was back-tracking, in the process I made a U-turn at a light. Yes, illegal, but I wasn't in anybody's way. Despite that the guy who is now behind me decides to LAY on his horn. Ten seconds, fifteen, twenty, still going, that's a *long* time to be honking. I hadn't even forced him to slow down any and this guy thinks it's okay to honk at me for eternity.

I didn't even get to think about it. None of my rational thought processes were involved at all. No careful consideration that this is not who I want to be anymore. I rolled down the window on my side of the car and FLIPPED HIM OFF. I was looking for where the next light was so I could get out and walk back there and pound on his window. Let's see how tough you are when I'm right in your FACE, you jerk.

Fortunately for me the urge passed before I did anything *that* drastic.

Now, here's the good part. I own a tiny red Toyota MR2. I bought it new in 1990 so it's now twelve years old. Stuff is starting to break. The power window on the driver's side is getting flaky. It stopped working altogether about three months ago and I took it into the shop and they lubed it up and pronounced it temporarily healed, but warned me that I'd have to replace the motor pretty soon. So, guess what? After I rolled down the window to flip the guy off, it wouldn't roll back up.

Ha ha! Good one! Got me, eh? And it was really cold that night too.

I should have done the logical thing and realized that I've been smited for my sins and drive the car back to the house where it can sit in the garage and not get rained on and take it into the shop the next day. But no, I decide to be all guy-like and pretend like it didn't get to me and I charged into REI and bought 200 bucks' worth of gear, Boreal rock shoes and a harness and the aforementioned carabiner and an ABD (automatic belay device -- climbing guys get a bit flowery in their terminology). But I wasn't enjoying it. I was distracted and uneasy the whole time. The salesguy at REI was trying really hard to be nice, telling me about the rock-climbing wall he built in his own backyard, how he'll say "hi" if he sees me around at the gym, etc. I couldn't even look him in the eye, I was too busy thinking about my car out in the parking lot with the window that's stuck half-open and how I'm not really doing all that hot at self-improvement, am I. Damn near got into a fistfight with a guy over a honking incident. Totally ruined what should have been a triumphant moment of Sports Gear Fetish. I wasn't paying enough attention and I ended up with a harness that's too big for me, now I'll have to take it back and exchange it. Hmph.

And it didn't end there. I managed to get the window rolled back up by brute force and decided to put off getting it fixed. I was planning to go someplace today but my car is displaying no signs of electrical activity at all. I suspect the power window motor shorted out and took my battery with it. Mom called triple-A for me and they hauled it off.

All this, over losing my cool, one time. Every one of these car incidents makes me remember it.

What scares me is that I'm afraid I am not in fact having any more "rage incidents" than I ever did, it's just that I am noticing them now whereas I didn't before. Good god, I guess I *always* demonized everybody in sight for every little thing, didn't I. Sigh.

I am at war with myself. I can't trust my own instincts, they lie.

I've done this many, many times before. I might be bad now but I'm a lot better than I was in my twenties, before three or four similar self-wars. That doesn't seem to be making them any easier.

I know you said that I didn't necessarily have to cut out swearing to reach your level of imperturbability (or at least that is one possible interpretation of what you said, I guess). But I think I probably do. It's like alcoholism. Once you've shown you're prone to abusing something you have to give it up cold turkey. I've known a few alcoholics that thought they had their problem licked and that they could return to being social drinkers, including my dad, and I don't think it ever works. They always end up back at their worst possible selves.

So one small victory I can point to is that I've cut myself off halfway through thinking or saying the F-word about twelve billion times in the last couple weeks. I probably missed a few dozen other cases when I wasn't thinking about it but hey, I'll take my progress where I can get it. Maybe I'll let myself have a few token swear words after I've shown some real improvement. Swear words aren't as bad as alcohol. But certainly not now.

That plays into one of my pet peeves. Americans are so into instant gratification. Denying yourself something can be a *good* thing, probably better than allowing yourself some sort of pet indulgence, in almost every case. Minimalism.

Working within strict boundaries often produces the greatest art. I think the reason a band's first couple of albums are always the best is partly because they are working against severe constraints, not enough time or money or experience. Popularity often means becoming fat and lazy and self-important.

I should have been born in Europe. Introduce me to ten Americans and ten Europeans and I'll probably like eight of the Europeans and two of the Americans. Most of the people who have registered (i.e., paid for) my newsreader are Europeans and I am perversely proud of that. In the same batch of e-mail when I got your latest one was a registration from a Swedish guy. Way to go, [Swedish-sounding name redacted]! You da man!

Yes, my Mac is fixable, and has in fact been in the shop for over a week. Back-ordered part, I guess. We have lousy electricity around here and its power supply got blown. I'm going to buy myself a UPS with an isolation transformer and put a stop to that nonsense.

I don't know if the rock-climbing thing is related to the about-to-turn-forty thing or not. I'd guess it's just one phase of a whole slew of changes I undertook about the time I ended up in Tennessee. I'd elaborate but given our e-mail history I expect you'll be hearing about all of it in due time. Yes, all in due time.

ALL RIGHT THAT'S ENOUGH OF THAT, BACK TO TALKING ABOUT ME ME MEEE. Like any other subgroup, bugnuts people tend to romanticize their affliction. You see, emotionally volatile people such as myself are the ONLY ONES who truly have our ears to the ground, accurately taking the pulse of the world, lapping it up in all its great splendor and terrible agony (talk about a mixed metaphor -- more like pureed metaphor au gratin). You "normals" just can't understand. That's the party line at least and I'd still be sticking to it if I hadn't turned rogue. Now I'm attempting to join the other team.

Man, it is really getting tiring, monitoring my own behavior so closely all the time, which always becomes necessary if I'm going to change myself. That's one good thing about dealing with bugnuts-types: there's never any doubt about where you stand with them. The tiniest infraction will be met with loud and violent complaints. With normals it's all a lot more subtle. If they disapprove of what you're doing they'll just slip away quietly without you even noticing. Might be weeks before you're aware they're either gone or not in your life as much anymore and by that time people like me will have trouble even remembering what the issue was. We are used to immediate unambiguous feedback. It's making me feel like I'm run ragged.

Well heck, I could keep typing like this forever but it doesn't appear there's anything like a "point" looming anywhere on the horizon, and I probably can't get to anything like a "point" without another several thousand words, so this is as good a place to stop as any.

Epilogue: I got my Mac back from the shop. I bought a UPS for it and have had no further problems. I'm using it to make this entry. It turned out that my car's power window motor wasn't dead after all, it was the alternator. I haven't been climbing in quite awhile, but I'll get back to it one of these days.
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