Can life make someone bitter, or is it merely the experience of numerous disappointments in life that can stir up such negative feelings?
I had to speak with a therapist when I was in school, and I remember one thing that the doctor went out of his way to repeatedly point out: other people don’t make me upset, I chose to let people upset me. Events are of my own doing, especially if I give others control over how I respond to things. Just because something irritates you to an unprecedented level doesn’t mean you have to react to it the way everyone expects you to. You can lose more than just your temper when things go your way. You could also lose respect, devotion, and the loyalty of others. Actions have consequences, so if you’re going to take the hit, at least be in the driver’s seat when it happens. Don’t surrender the wheel to anyone who might have other motives that might conflict with your best interests.
Isn’t it odd how everyone wants you to surrender control? Give in to your urges, they say. Surrender to the feeling, and let Jesus take the wheel. Are we finally starting to see a pattern here? Our feelings and what we do with them are sometimes the only thing we can actually control, so why should we give that away too? Why would any person want to? Another nugget I got when I was young was the following quote: anger is a weapon, only to one’s opponent. Whenever you lose control you surrender it to the very person you oppose, and that never leads to a positive outcome.
There’s a reason why people never show emotion at the poker table, because the key to success as the table is concealing what you have and to keep your opponents guessing. The moment everyone knows what you have, you lose your leverage and thus the ability to raise the stakes and cash in. Like at the table, you gain nothing and lose everything by displaying any kind of emotions, and that rings true for many moments in life. Sometimes you have to keep your cool, keep your cards close to your chest, and reveal nothing until someone calls.
I’m not going to judge you if you’ve failed to keep your control, as I’ve been there. Even though I know I should stay cool, I’ve lost my temper as much as alcoholic has fallen off the wagon. That’s how I feel sometimes when I get angry, that I fell off that wagon and have to start over again. It’s like there’s a construction sign inside my head that reads “this many days since Peter lost his shit”. Those days when I lose my temper is when that internal counter goes back to zero, and all the days that I successfully managed to stay cool just vanishes into thin air, as if they never happened. Back to zero, time to start over… one day at a time.
I wanted to believe that tempers skip a generation but I recently learned that just isn’t the case, because if it was then I’d be the only asshole around. That isn’t even remotely true, as my Dad, my brothers, and even my kids are all as stubborn as mules. There’s a little bit of asshole in them all, so that means being an asshole is actually hereditary. You get it from your parents. I know I did. My parents were both rebels, and defiant of authority whenever possible. So can it be surprising when some their kids started to rebel themselves? One could argue the child was simply following their example. You know, monkey see monkey do.
I don’t talk to my parents anymore. The ironic thing about this is that our relationship started to deteriorate when I myself became a parent. The older my kids got the more I disliked my own parents and how they raised my and my brothers. I became more of a critic the more experienced I got raising my own. To make matters worse, I wasn’t impressed with the effort being made by my parents to spend time with my kids, and I didn’t hesitate to get in their faces and let them know. There’s that resistance of authority I was telling you about. As a result, we didn’t talk much over the last several years. And when we did, it didn’t go that well.
When it came to my own grandparents, I really drew the shitty straw here. Two grandparents, the ones with the best potential I might add, both kicked the bucket before I could get to know them. The two that were left over were not much to work with. One had been in a wheelchair since the 60’s and we had to visit her rather than the other way around. I don’t blame her for that, it wasn’t her fault but that did make things awkward sometimes. She was still a very sweet person who still tried despite the challenges that made things difficult. The other leftover grandparent was a bitter, mean, contemptible asshole. He was a nasty, miserable piece of shit that was hated by many. Yet for some reason we got along and I spend a decent amount of time with him. Both of my grandparents loved me and did their best, and I actually appreciated their effort and loved them for it. This is why I got in my parents face, because they were worse grandparents than the cripple and the asshole. They had the ability to be amazing grandparents, but chose not to make the effort and the real losers were my kids because they miss out on something I know should have been great for them.
One of my parents has failed to make things up, because she’s since passed on. My kids will grow up with a few, but not many memories of her… very similar to my few memories of her mother who passed away when I was five. My father is still around, but he might as well be dead. We clashed like rams on a mountain top, and I hate to say this but life has been a little more peaceful since I stopped talking to him. I’ve cut a few toxic people out of my life, and I’ve been less stressful as a result. My Dad was one of them. The shitty part is that I have a new kid, a new member of the family. She’s never met my father, and at this pace she probably never will. I’m conflicted over whether or not that’s a bad thing. My daughter has good grandparents on her mom’s side that have been stepping up and doing the right thing, so I’m not in a hurry to bring that asshole in here and possibly muck things up.
I’m not going to claim to be the innocent party here. I’ve done my fare share and greatly contributed to the dysfunction in this dysfunctional family. I’m not the easiest guy to get along with sometimes, but there are days that have been better. I could quote Marilyn Munroe about putting up with good and bad times, but I can always turn back to the whole parenting theme we have going on here. He’s the parent, so it’s his job to forgive me and move on. I didn’t burn the house down, or crash his car. I gave him a good telling off, and there was nothing untrue about what I said. I’m not going to apologize for telling the truth.
And the more the old man keeps his silence and his distance, the more he proves my point. I have three kids and I love them more than I love myself, and that’s saying something because I love myself a lot. Even if one of them became the second coming of Ted Bundy, I’d still visit them in prison. Every weekend when I give my kids back to their mother, it breaks my heart just a little. There’s a part of me that questions whether or not my father feels that pain. I don’t think he does… and I think therein lies the problem. He doesn’t miss me. He probably doesn’t even like me. So why would I even want to be a part of someone’s life if that person doesn’t even like me? That’s a good question.
If we remember what my therapist said; I don’t get angry or sad because of someone or something, it happens because I chose to let myself get that way. The truth is I’m not angry anymore, and I’m not sad anymore either. I’m disappointed, but not surprised. Rather than care about the people who don’t give a shit, I’m moving on and giving my time and effort to people who actually deserve it. When my father dies, I’m not going to attend his service and funeral. He doesn’t deserve my attendance, not when he had a chance to hang out in the living years and chooses not to. There’s no point going to the old man’s funeral, because I already act like he’s gone. He’s been dead to me for well over a year, and I appear to be moving on.
It’s been said that you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your family. There are some days when I’d rather pick my nose than spend any time with certain members of my family. I wish I was kidding, but how can you miss someone who was never around? If you only saw someone once a month for less than two hours, if you remove that minuscule moment what is there to miss? That’s the position I find myself in. There is a part of me that wants to care, make contact and mend bridges. There’s another part of me that wants to accept reality: there is no bridge. It was nuked a long time ago and there isn’t enough material to build a new one… so just walk away.
And so I walk.
Ta Ta, motherfuckers.