Agent of Change

A Blog by Cory!! Strode, who really should write something interesting here.

Archive for the category “Personal”

You know it don’t come easy

I have said over and over in my little essays that my goal is to “Love everybody and make ‘em feel good about themselves.” Michael Des Barres, who I knew little about until I started listening to him on his Underground Garage radio show, states that he is “Your Humbler Servant” which was something I adopted to put words to how I see my life.  I didn’t come to this easily, and for a portion of my life I was embittered, cynical, and felt that I had been given the fuzzy end of the lollypop.

 

I made the change in my thinking, and I am NOT one of those people who believes “the secret” or that positive thoughts bring you positive results. In fact, the world around me hasn’t changed.  I’ve still had to struggle, deal with financial and emotional upheaval, had people in my life who did me wrong and the like.  None of that changed, and the people who say “thinking positively will always make you rich!” are scam artists just as big as the Nigerian Prince who used to e-mail you about helping him get his money transferred to another bank.

The world didn’t change. I still have been laid off 4 times since 1999 when I made the mental change.  I have had a dear friendship dissolve in a painful way.  I have had five relationships with women I loved end.  I have suffered huge financial setbacks, increased anxiety, family tragedies and the like.  What changed was how I saw it.

With people, I assumed positive intent and gave forgiveness, knowing that they did what they thought was a good idea at the time. With employment, I made sure to keep myself learning and got away from thinking that my job is who I am, and instead see it as how I help others.  With family, I realize that things will be good at times and not good at others.  With my own mental health, I realize that I can do what I can to take care of myself and to get help when I need it, same as I would for an infection or a chronic condition.

I wake up every day knowing that my internal weather determines how I see the external circumstances. That everyone is a person with hopes, dreams, fears, desires and needs and while what they do may affect me, it’s all in how I react to that.

I have also seen people whose lives are defined by who and what they hate, and the more I se4e it, the more I realize it’s not my job to oppose them, but to avoid them and not let their anger change how you live your life. I fail at this, and tend to take criticism much more easily than praise, but I’m trying to do better.

I want to live in a world where everyone gets what they want. Even my enemies.  It ain’t easy, but since we’re all we’ve got, we have to help each other.

Much love to friends old and new and I hope that you learn to live a life defined by forgiveness and hope rather than anger and fear. It may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

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Perfect Moments

I am amazingly sentimental, and when it comes to anniversaries, I tend to obsess. I realized this week that 30 years ago I finished college, moved to Minnesota and started my jobs at a juvenile justice group home that doesn’t exist anymore and a comic shop that doesn’t exist anymore.

I am going to record a podcast about that shift soon (and it’s along the lines of the song “That’s how I got to Memphis” if The Newsroom gave you a deep, abiding love of that one). But one thing I remember was a day when I was all done with college, had finished up my college jobs (they were for students only) and was sharing a house with a woman I was in love with.

It was a cool early summer morning, the radio was playing, and we had had a light breakfast, and we just sitting around, reading and enjoying each other’s company. I stopped what I was doing and said, “We need to treasure this.  All is right in our lives, things are peaceful and relaxed.  This is a perfect moment.  Soon, we’ll have to worry about jobs and money and other things, but for now, everything is where it should be.”  I was right.  In the years since, those “perfect moments” have been few and far between, but they are to be treasured:

-Watching Batman Returns with my son at the drive in as a Thunderstorm slowly moved toward us

-A warm evening on the patio at Uncommon Ground where I was reading, a couple of people were working out a new song on a guitar, and people walked by on their way to their Friday night activities

-Reading the New York Times with Gene Colan before a comic convention stared for the day and talking movies

-Shooting pool with a woman I loved the day she moved in with me

–Nights on my deck, reading comics with a cold beverage as the sun went down

-Watching the X-Files cuddled together on a couch and talking about the future during the commercials.

-A road trip with music playing and singing along to the music.

-A long conversation with a future friend at a coffee house

-Having a conversation while wandering the streets of St Paul through twilight

-Sitting on the banks of the river in Stillwater after going through antique stores

-Driving a drunk woman home as she muttered on and on about how much she loved me

-Taking my son to his first showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show

-The glorious, amazing all night multi-theater horror movie fest on Halloween

Moments where all is right with the world are fleeting, special and should be treasured.

Much love to friends old and new, and what are some of YOUR perfect moments?

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On hypocrisy

I have been thinking about hypocrisy today.

It’s been a huge thing in the news lately, it’s something we use to beat down those we disagree with, and a LOT of what I was taught in behavioral psychology was about cognitive dissonance, the backflips the mind goes through when we hold two opposing ideas. One of the worst things you can call someone is a hypocrite, and I know people who gleefully point out the hypocrisy of people they don’t like just to watch them squirm.

But. What if we think about it in a different way?  What if, as part of loving everyone, we assume positive intent about people and their hypocrisy is a case of them just not living up to the ideal version of themselves they want to be?

We all have failings. We don’t follow through 100% on every promise.  We don’t fulfill every request from the people in our lives.  We all see ourselves as the hero of our stories, but sometimes we’re the fool, sometimes we’re the bystander and sometimes (hopefully rarely) we’re the antagonist in someone’s personal story.

Instead of instantly jumping to the attach when someone’s words don’t match up with their actions, think to yourself about things YOU say about yourself that you are trying to live up to. I see myself as a kind person, but I’ll bet you don’t have to look too far to find someone who sees me as opportunistic or manipulative.  I know a person who holds her friends to incredibly high moral standards, but has had affairs during different periods in her marriage.

Hell, I once had a friend who was a living embodiment of this, and I learned early on that the only way I could stay friends with them was to realize that they had a highly inflated version of themselves that they could never live up to. I accepted them and forgave them when they would speak with massive hypocrisy.

I always see the ones I love as their best selves, even if they don’t.

We can attack and tear them down, or, we can give them what we would want if we fall short of our internal standards. Understanding.  I often say I don’t have goals and resolutions, because they invite failure, and it is the same with these things.  If we flip it from being mad at someone’s hypocrisy to understanding it’s a case of them not living up to their ideal of themselves, it’s easier to forgive and understand.

Much love to friends old and new, and I hope you are able to forgive those who don’t live up to their perfect version of themselves.

 

 

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Morning drive

Normally, my drive in to work in uneventful. Since they have shifted my start time to 8:30, I avoid the freeways, as they increase my drive time by up to 45 minutes.  Still, it’s rush hour so there is a lot of traffic.  The first leg of my drive is along a lake with a lot of wooded area around the road, so you get to see squirrels and other animals, and sometimes, the squirrels dart across the road ahead of you.

This morning, as I was driving in, a squirrel ran out in front of me and was across my lane of traffic, and then stopped and started to run back. It made its change at a point where I was unable to slow down enough to keep from hitting it.

I know. It’s just a squirrel.  But it hit me and I started to think about the different metaphors that can be gleaned from what happened, the fragility of life, and how I was listening to the news, getting concerned about everything going on politically but in many ways, none of that matters as the world keeps on moving along.

A few miles later, a busy intersection as blocked because there had been a car accident. A minivan had its entire front end destroyed, with smoke billowing from the raw, visible metal, a sedan had a side crushed, and another car had its front end smashed beyond repair.  While cars were driving around the accident to get to work on time, on the median, there was a woman, sitting, head in her hand, sobbing with someone sitting next to her with an arm around her shoulder.

As I was waiting my turn to go around them, a police car showed up. The officer was talking to the woman who was sitting in the median as I went around, and I did my best not to gawk at what is probably one of the worst mornings in that woman’s life.  All three vehicles were totaled and with the officer reacting the way he did, I was reasonably sure no one was killed or seriously injured.

In both cases, a decision was made that turned out to be a bad one. In the squirrel’s case, it was to change direction in the face of danger and it was fatal.  For the drivers of those vehicles, I would speculated that someone made a decision and didn’t correct from things changing around them (an unseen vehicle, slowing down to let someone turn who might not have the right of way).  It makes me think about how our choices are all based on what we know in that moment, but the information or calculations we make can be flawed.

This is a week of unpleasant memories for me. Some are public, some I have only shared with close friends, but being a sentimentalist, I tend to think about them overmuch when the calendar bring them up again.

Some, I chose to do something. Some, I didn’t have much of a choice.  Some, I was merely reacting to what someone else wanted.  All of them changed things and brought me here, to this time, and this place with this knowledge.  I wish all of them would have turned out differently, but for all of the memories and heartbreak, I have to embrace them for the knowledge I gained.

Much love to friends old and new, and I hope that when decision time comes, you are able to make the wise choice based on where you are, what is going on around you and what is best for everyone involved.

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I told ME not to be so stupid, you moron

I have no problem saying I am a moron when it comes to some things. I am well aware of my limitations, abilities and when I can and cannot learn.  In 2011, I realized that I am a complete moron when it comes to close relationships, that I make poor choices, and tapped out.  Every interaction since then has proven this was the wisest thing I have ever done.

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Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?

Yesterday it came up that one of my friends said that I am pretty much the same on-line as I am in person. I asked a couple more people I know, because I have been “on line” since my first e-mail account in 1985, and it’s something that has always knocked around in my head.

When I first started up a webpage in 1999, I created an exaggerated version of myself as the “writer” on the webpage. I’d been doing the Weekly News Update news parody for a few years, and had created the persona of a hard drinking cynic who despised humanity that was how I was at the time turned up to 25.  It was odd in that people who dealt with me in person did searches for me and then would bring it up.

Try to explain to your son’s friend’s mom that the piece you wrote mocking “mission statements” where you say your drinking is more important to you than you job or family is a joke without feeling like an asshole. I dare you.

But when it came to person stuff like in e-mail, chat and the like, I tried to do a good job of presenting myself “as is”. Too many times, people puff themselves up, make themselves seem more important than they are, or just flat out lie, even when it is in personal conversations.  I’m not talking in the whole “dating website” thing where people lie about their age, their job, their physical activity, etc… I mean when you just chat with someone.

People try to put their best self forward, even if the shoes doesn’t quite fit any more.

I do the opposite, I think. In my podcast with Joe, Kray Z Comics and Stories, I turn myself up to 11, mock myself (The Solitaire Rose Compound type of joke), but I don’t make up stuff about myself, or make myself into more than I am.  Hell, if anything I downplay myself because it’s about the content, not making myself famous.

On Facebook, I try to be funny, sometimes thoughtful and always honest. Probably too honest.  I discuss my emotional swings, generalized anxiety disorder, feeling alone in a world with 7 billion humans, how I work too much, what I get excited about, and how I am a contradictory mix of hope and dread.

Am I the same person on line? As others have said, I’m much more gregarious and open on line.  When I meet people, I tend to wait until I feel safe before opening up because I’m guarded.  One person messaged me that I am a LOT quieter in person which I agree with.

The Boy said: You’re a snarky asshole for justice.  I decided to lay down the snarkiness and cynicism in 1999, but I guess I have a LOT to work on with that.

A local comics creator said that I was a bit intimidating, which I have heard from time to time, which amazes me, as I see myself as a doofus. I used to be told that when I worked in Juvenile Justice as well, so I need to work on being more approachable.

But I try to be on line who I am in person. Hopefully, I succeed, and those of you whom I messaged and asked to fill me in on it, I really wish you would.  As I try to do better in my quest to Love Everybody and Make ‘em Feel Good About themselves, I am really looking for honest feedback.  Last year messed with my head in more ways that I knew at the time and any feedback is good feedback.

Much love to those who know me and haven’t run away screaming and I hope you feel secure enough to be yourself, because you are accepted and you are enough.

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Crackers

I saw a list on line of someone Top 10 crackers. I am stealing the idea and doing my own because I can. Letterman retired, so was can ALL do top 10 lists now.

  1. Triscuit – They have a bajillion flavors now, from rosemary and olive oil to Mountain Dew, but I don’t care. Plain old Triscuits are awesome. When I was in 6th grade, we bought them for sleepover movie nights thinking we were classy, now I buy them because they are the best way to eat cheese.
  2. Pretzel Thins – Pretzels you can stack shit on? Awesome.
  3. Saltines – When I was a kid, my dad would crumble about 40 or so of these in his soup in order to eat it. It wasn’t until my 40’s that I realized you didn’t have to do that. Still, if I am tired and hungry, there things are edible, take no thought, and taste just good enough that you eat them.
  4. Graham – You can lie to yourself and say they are healthier than cookies. I won’t call you out. They also were created as a health food, so they have always been a lie. Most of you buy them now only to make s’mores, which is a damn shame.
  5. Teddy Grahams – These saved my son’s life numerous times on long car trips because if he had a baggie of these, he’d be quiet while I listened to the radio or tried to figure out where the hell Cedar Rapid is on the damn map.
  6. Goldfish – These saved MY life on long car trips so that I didn’t lose my mind and start eating the dashboard out of hunger and boredom.
  7. Pita chips – These are sold to us as healthy (they’re BAKED! Wait, all crackers are baked…) and you eat them with hummus instead of some industrialized cheese product.
  8. Ritz crackers and their assorted generic knockoffs – When you want a rich golden brown color and more fat with your saltines.
  9. Animal crackers – These used to be in the top 3, but somehow in the last 20 years, they make them with extra “who gives a damn” so that they don’t taste as good as they used to. Or, I’m am not a child any more. Either way, I buy a box or so a year, and half way through, I realize why I never buy them.
  10. Bagel Chips – The loudest food in history. If I am eating these, it’s because I really don’t want to hear a damn thing you’re saying, but am too polite to wander away or to tell you to shut your pie hole.
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What I saw today and how I reacted

On my way into my office today, there was a woman breaking up with her boyfriend/significant other/ whatever over the phone. Loudly.  With emphasis.  And she kept repeating “I don’t care!”

That’s the gist of it, isn’t it? When it’s over, one of the people just doesn’t care.  It doesn’t matter how they got there or what happened, they have reached a point where they no longer care.  I have been snarky at times with my ending things with the phrase “I think we’re done here”, which Thom Lange says should be on my tombstone.  (Children?  Make a note of it.)

Oddly, I have never gotten to a point where I just don’t care. I have gotten to the point where things need to end, I have gotten to the point where, for my own mental well being I have to walk away, and I have gotten to the point where I realized that when you take the “L” out of Lover it’s Over.

But I do care.

When I ended my last close friendship, I said Goodbye. The person said, “No, good night” and I replied, “Goodbye.”  It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t that I didn’t care, it was just…I thought we were done there.

When it’s over, it’s best to just snap it off and walk away. No amount of arguing, yelling or anything else will bring it back because….someone just doesn’t care.  I felt bad for both people in that conversation, but I felt worse that it had to be done over the phone.  It’s probably also why I’ve had the idea of telling the people you love how much they mean to you infusing all of my thoughts today.

Much love to friends old and new, and no matter how upset I get, I do still care.

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My thoughts on the passing of comics giants last week

I don’t think a lot about my passing. I won’t know about it, it will be for others to deal with. But in reading the stories about artists, writers and others who have passed so far this year, there are a lot of “Oh, I loved their work.”

The ones that stick, however, are the ones where you read about how kind someone was. How he was friendly to everyone, about how she loved to show people how to do something, about they quietly gave to help others. Vonnegut said that you need to be careful what you pretend to be, because it’s who you become.

So, in 1999, I decided to pretend to be kind and to love unconditionally.

The people in my life have flaws, we all do, but I chose to think of them as their best selves. Not the disagreements we have had, not the times when they fell short, not the times when communication was messed up, because those things don’t matter to me.

Let me repeat that for those in the back of the room: THAT SHIT DON’T MATTER TO ME!

They may be too busy to talk to me for long periods of time, or they may forget things we had planned, or they may screw up, but other than the momentary annoyance, it doesn’t matter because I will always see them as their best selves. Guess that’s why I have forced myself to learn to forgive and love unconditionally. It doesn’t come naturally, and I struggle with the bar I have set for myself.

I’m gonna keep being kind. And I hope that is what people remember me for, but all I can do is keep doing it and hope that I live up to it.

Much love to those who have lost someone recently or long ago and that you remember them as being their best selves.

Because dammit, that is who they are.

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Sunday Morning Musings

Sunday morning, at the group home for developmentally disabled adults, my primary task was to make breakfast. Seems simple, you read the menu and give people what is on the menu:  Oatmeal, toast, juice, milk and coffee.

However, some people don’t like oatmeal, some are on a diet, some have extra things they get with breakfast, and they are taking their morning meds at the time, so some people need their meds before they eat, some after, and some take so long to eat that if they don’t get their pills first, they will be late because they take 90 minutes or longer to eat.

On top of juggling all of that are the people who have a specific cup they use, or a way they want their toast, or what they want ON their toast and so on…and many of them don’t ask for it, since they have pretty much the same thing every morning, they are used to it Just Being Done The Way They Want It. That means, if you miss something, they may pout, or stare at their plate, or leave the room, and not tell you why they are upset.

It sounds goofy when you write it that way, but we all have a little of that in us. We want things the way we want it, when we want it, and how we want it. And at our worst we get upset when those needs aren’t met, but we don’t tell the people involved why we are upset.  How many times have you said, “They should KNOW,” when it comes to a disagreement.

That’s just it, we don’t know. Maybe we haven’t known you long enough to know, maybe we are too wrapped up in our own head to know, maybe we are doing what we fee is the right thing and it’s taken the wrong way or maybe communication isn’t very good.  I once had a GF mad at me for a week because I’d done something in a dream that made her question my honesty (for the rest of the relationship she keep asking what I was hiding from her).

So, start asking people what they want. Start telling the people you care about what YOU want.  Don’t leave the room and hope we’ll figure out you want jelly on your toast and not cinnamon sugar, or that we don’t like pineapple juice or that we feel alone and just want to hear that things are OK.

Much love to friends old and new and I hope that today, someone you care about is able to ask for what they want, or YOU are able to ask someone you care about for what you want.

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