In my opinion, seeking happiness is the whole point of existence and is achieved through being compassionate and kind. When living this mantra, I’m usually a happier person. And the opposite holds true as well: when I am mean and hurt or offend someone—anyone, even the biggest D-bag you can imagine—I feel like complete dog shit.
I haven’t always been able to articulate this—why I’m not a fighter—but I’ve never been a fighter. Just don’t have the stomach for it, I guess. Because I’m so freaking sensitive, thoughts, feelings, and experiences—especially unpleasant ones, unfortunately—leave deep impressions on my mind. And so I remember a ton of crap from my childhood (shit that everyone goes through, but most people forget), including, of course, my first fight.
I was 3, in daycare. And there was this wicked cool, communal toy chainsaw that all the kids in the “class” always wanted to play with. When you pulled its rip cord, it shook and made an engine sound. Ms. Wheelock had us take turns to ensure we all got a try. During my turn with the chainsaw, Ms. Wheelock was apparently preoccupied. Because the bully of the bunch—this dude named Patrick with dark hair and a bowl cut—marched right over to me and ripped the chainsaw out of my hands.
Honestly, I am a freak. I practically remember shit from the womb. And I remember, like it was yesterday, thinking: “Hmmm, well, I guess Patrick just took that from me. I guess I could just let him take it, like I always do, or, hmmm… What would it be like if I didn’t let him take it this time—if I grabbed it back from him? What the hay, let’s give it a whirl.”
So I grabbed the chainsaw, and Patrick and I had ourselves a little tug of war. It wasn’t at all fun or interesting, but it wasn’t terrible either. And then he hit me. An open-fisted haymaker to the temple. Physically, the blow didn’t hurt one iota, but on the inside I melted like a soft-serve on a steamy, summer day. I could’ve kicked his ass, I’m not kidding. I really was stronger. But I stopped fighting because it just felt so… weird. I let go of the chainsaw, assumed the fetal position, and bawled my eyes out like a whiny, little bitch.
Since that fight with Patrick, I haven’t been in any physical altercations. But I’ve been in plenty of verbal and mental brawls. Probably fewer than most, but more than enough for me. Unlike that early tiff with Patrick, which was inspired by curiosity, my arguments since then have been fueled by those short-lived emotional reflexes—typically anger or annoyance—that flood the mind after being challenged or crossed.
When I get in real fights these days, I still get this “is-this-really-happening” feeling that I had in my fight with Patrick from 30 years ago, but worse than that, my increased self-awareness leads to this out-of-body experience that provides a front-row seat to my own ugliness in the heat of battle. I look like Jaba the Hut. It’s awful—it’s the polar opposite of who I want to be. Afterwards, I feel all anxious and lonely and depressed.
So, what do I try to do instead of fight? I take a deep breath, recite a few “oms,” and swallow the insults back down my esophagus before they get to my lips—no matter how money they may be or how big of an A-hole it is that I happen to be dealing with. This is not easy and can be painful, like swallowing fire. But, seriously, if I had a nickel for all the debilitating “zingers” my mind has cooked up in the heat of passion that I’ve opted not to say, I’d be a way less douchey version of Donald Trump.
As I hope you know, it can be agonizing, at least in the moment, to turn the other cheek when you’re really fucking pissed. Grrr… It’s like being a punching bag sometimes, and it really irks me when someone punches me knowing I won’t give it back. When I feel this particular frustration I remind myself that (in the long run at least) I’ll be a better and happier person for it. Scotch also helps me release some of this steam. As does my wife. As does Zoloft. As do my friends.
Friends, you see, don’t just support me, but they provide a fabulous channel for letting out some of the pent up aggravation that builds within me as a pacifist. When it comes to me and my true friends, typical etiquette does not apply. We don’t have to censor ourselves for fear of insulting one another. In fact, we insult each other all the time, because, strange as it may sound, our steady exchange of abuse is yet another bridge for our mutual love and respect.
The other day, for example, when my dear friend Trevor decided to take a hot, steaming beet* deuce on my face by talking all sorts of crazy junk about my hypochondria and Jeff’s dependence on Xanax—from his high horse—taking plenty of liberties, I might add, in his “holier than thou” sermon—I took a deep breath, banged out a few “oms,” and before too long had a good laugh. Then I shot him an email congratulating him on well-written rip job of me and added that he should go fuck himself. I continued to insult him throughout the evening. And even though he orders shots of vagisil when at the bar, I knew he could take it because he is fine, and because he, myself, and Camaro (don’t want to leave you out of this strokefest, Jeffy) are true friends.
If I really did offend you with any of these words, Trevor, than I retract it all—just like you retracted calling me a sensitive pussy the other day… But I know I didn’t offend you, T, because you are the founding father of Shit-On-Your-Friends Therapy; and so I don’t feel the least bit bad.
I feel amazingly GGW—“transcendental”—to tell you the truth.
*(If you have or will read the piece Trevor wrote on beet shits in Pencils in my Eyes—how they’re “transcendental” and all that, just keep in mind that it was very early on in his blogging career and he was still testing out stupid subject matter and even more in love with the sound of his literary voice than he is today. If you don’t have a dictionary handy, or if you don’t like reading about the nasty—actual—shit that results from eating beets, I’ll quickly recap the piece for you here: “Blah, blah, blah, blibbety** blah. Blibbety, blibbety, blibbety, blah. Blibbety, blibbety, blibbety. Beet shits are transcendental. Epilogue: Stay posted. I went to the farmers market and purchased “Heirloom Golden Beets.” I am hoping to shit gold bullion.***)
**(Note: “blibbety” is a stand in for any of a variety of very impressive words that neither you or I know the meaning of but that wonderfully display Trevor’s brilliance and enable him to flex his literary muscles in front of a mirror and his Winnie the Pooh doll while wearing his favorite banana hammock.)
***(Are you kidding me with that Epilogue? Really had me on the edge of my seat with that one.)