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Hello Avery,

I love sharing stories about my childhood with you, and all too often I can only recall the darker and tragic fair of my past. I wonder if certain moments of un-tarnished joy are like the rare diamonds of memories shaped by the miles of earth hiding it  from sight. Thankfully, I have discovered one these rare historical gems of my past, and the more I contemplate its meaning, the more I can see how it has influenced every good decision, that I have ever made. I was thirteen years old, and on my way to my first and only summer camp. Far-far away from home, and every familiar face I had ever known, this is the story of camp unknown.

Camp was an immediate contrast to my everyday life. I had been living in a household that always had a kitchen filled with delicious snacks, soda and frozen pizza’s; I was accustomed to eating at-will, and with king esq. porpotions. At camp there was no food or sugary beverages available outside of the cafeteria’s three-meal schedule. I could no longer wash down a jumbo bag of chips with a two-liter of mountain dew, and call that, “Dinner”. This change taught me the difference between wants, and needs. Avery, let me be clear, a two-liter of Mountain Dew is not a need. The best part of this dietary shock was discovering a new love in a thing they called water. There was this one special water-fountain right outside of my cabin, and I would close my eyes, lean in close, purse my lips, and let it bestow my thirst with a blissful-brain-freezing-hydrating love. I have never tasted a better fluid to this day; as they say, first loves never die.

Another important discovery made at camp was in the form of a new social challenge. The simplicity of my childhood friendships was being eroded by the winds of popularity and puberty. This change of social-climate presented a threatening possibility that all my friendships could easily go extinct. Camp was starkly different, because you were a stranger among strangers, that are being offered an opportunity to be a genuine character with a fresh start. It was simple, everybody was a friend by default, and there was no incentive to be the enemy. The strange part of this social-setting is that I really can’t remember most of theses people; they became this fog of faceless friendly equals. I may not remember their names or recognize any of them if I saw them today, but I learned more about socializing from these nameless memories, than any of my past or current local best-mates.

Two of these strangers stood out above the rest, and will never be forgotten. One came from a five-minute conversation with my cabin camp-counselor. He was probably in his early twenties and had a general purpose duty to break up fist fights, tell us were not evil for masturbating (not a bad message… but kind of weird) and  most importantly he had to make sure nobody dies or gets molested. I never had any one-on-one interaction with him until this one special day called “The Hobby Fair”, all the counselors were to present a hobby of their choice, and we were supposed to pick something we had never tried before. Every table had a long line of kids figuring out what activity to try except one, and I saw my cabin counselor sitting there beneath a sign, “Bible Study”.

I thought,

“Why would anybody choose to study the bible”.

As a thirteen year old, I sincerely didn’t know that people chose religion, as a fun way to spend their time. I was raised in a Catholic family, and had been treating my faith like a chore. I summoned the courage to approach him with my curiosity.

I asked,

“Why would you want to do this on a Saturday?”

He said,

“I enjoy studying the Bible it makes me happy”

I replied,

“Has anyone signed up?”

He calmly states,

“None yet”

I asked,

“What will you do, if nobody does?”

He smiled warmly and responded,

“I will enjoy my Bible alone”

From this conversation, a controversial question stuck to the back of my mind; was he happy because he believed in God, or was he happy because he believed in the motives of his choices? The answer to the question seemed so clear and implied for him,  and very much the opposite for myself. This moment became one important piece of finding the faith in my own choices and I still firmly believed in my choice to sign up for soccer, and I did so with his inspired conviction.

The second memorable person was the evident poor kid. He wore a large stained t-shirt that had this huge clown face on it. At night our cabin would host playful wrestling matches where This kid would physically dominate everyone he faced, and would celebrate each victory with frightening impersonation of King-King. Later that week, the campground finally opened the pool. You had to take a swimming test to receive a special wrist-band that permits you to swim in the deep-end. I passed easily and spent all my pool hours jumping off the diving board and playing a game of deep-water treasure hunt. The rules were you had to challenging someone to collect the most sunken objects from the bottom of the pool, with just a single breath. Just as my clown-shirted friend did in the wrestling ring, I dominated every challenger that dared to try. Then one day I saw my friend walking up to the diving board. He was wearing the proper wrist band and of course he swims in his horrible clown shirt. He carefully shuffles to the end of the board, pinches his nose, closes his eyes and leaps forward into the water. In theory, he was going to use the bottom and push himself towards the latter. In reality I can guess his feet probably didn’t reach the bottom, and he clearly didn’t know how to swim. I waited, in a single moment of panic, wondering, “How does a person not know how to swim, and when is an adult going to save him?”. After that never-ending second of panic I took action, dove in head-first, grabbed him by his gigantic thighs and used all my leg kicking strength to push him up and over to the the ledge of the pool. By then a crowd gathered and over the ledge to safety. He coughed up a half-gallon of pool water and managed to make a small joke of it all by saying,

“I knew I could do it”.

Through the culmination of these different events I had discovered a belief system within myself; for the first time ever, I grasped a new notion that personal-worth wasn’t attained through popularity, faith, status, intelligence or wealth; it was exclusively defined by the value of your actions within the scope of your opportunities.

This camp was not for normal kids. I was sent there because I was labeled an “emotionally troubled youth”. There were some obvious red-flags that made it easy to pick me out of the crowd. But looking back as an adult I would like to think there was a teacher or social worker that heard some sort of cry for help. Whatever the motives for selecting me may have been it proves an all-important lesson that no matter where, when or why; we all have a responsibility to share, care, and act; because every human-being deserves an opportunity to be more than just another sad story.

Hey Avery,

When you’re a kid, you will be taxed with numerous challenges. Everything from your first heart-beat to motor-functions, breath of air, bowel movements, crying and on, and eventually you will learn to play, laugh, and dance; and yes, it can be all fun and games, but someone always gets hurt. I don’t mean some little scrape on the knee, or for that matter, I’m not even talking about physical harm, this lesson is about learning to handle emotional pain.

Call the Whambulance

My journey through this challenge, was very difficult, and I must remain connected to this time of my life, so that I can be aware of your own struggle, and be your guiding light. This is the story of my own childish journey through the dark murky waters of emotional ambiguity.

Gradually over time, I began to feel my body and mind change, and I recall this metamorphosis being hard to notice in the moment, but still strangely confusing. My family was very loving and providing, but I remember feeling like they were distracted and not aware of my introspective struggle.

I should clarify, I didn’t roll up into a ball and cry in my room, I did actually try to heal these wounds, but I was a kid, and my first attempts to discover emotional clarity, were quite crude, and rather dangerous. My first solution came to me while facing social-anxiety, I recall wanting to talk to my baby-sitter, and was afraid to do so. Instead, I sat in my room, and would stare into my cheap plastic osculating fan. I took off the plastic barrier and started jamming action figures and other random objects into the spinning blades. The destruction, and dismay gave me an internal sense of fulfillment, that I had never before felt. Once bored with that game, I began to wonder what would happen if I jammed my finger into the fan blades. I imagined the blood, drama and panic it would cause. I did approach the fan blades with my pinky-finger, hoping for the worst, but I didn’t have the courage to find out that a plastic fan, can’t actually sever a finger. A week later, I told my Mother, that I was thinking about committing suicide. It was a lie, I wanted attention, and I got the attention of a psychiatrist instead. I was prescribed anti-depressants and everyone acted as if all was well. I never swallowed a single pill.

I never swallow

 

So I failed the fan test, but the idea planted the seed of a dangerous concept, that pain and fear could provide a momentary sense of emotional clarity. One night I stole a pair of tweezers from the bathroom; I can’t even remember how I got this idea, but I laid in my bed and began plucking single hairs from the inside of my nose, one by one. I did this until my nostrils were hairless, then I would wait, until I could seek relief another night. My patience grew short, and I would wait less and less. I was already a drug addict, and I didn’t even know what drugs were yet. One night, I was seeking relief real bad, and my nostrils were bone dry and would even spot with blood, so I decided to start plucking other hairs, eye-lashes, eye brows, and I had even started at the top of my head. So I got out of control, and one day while I was at school, a classmate pointed at the top my head and shouted, “baldy!”. I had not known, but I plucked a bald spot, the size of a quarter, into the top of my head. My Mom and the therapist she said was mine, decided I was allergic to the antideppresants, I was pretending to take. I will never forget my Father, when he looked directly into my eyes, and announced, “He is doing it to himself”, nobody believed him, and I didn’t have the strength to out myself, but for some strange reason, it was all I really wanted, is to be noticed.

Coming soon, a picture from my Jr. High year book with the nickname “Baldy” underneath.

Things made a turn for the better at this point, far from perfect, but better. One of the most important influences of my positive growth was discovered through music. I borrowed my Dads album “Animals” by Pink Floyd, just because the cover art interested me. The very opening track is “Pigs on the Wing Part 1”, and I remember feeling like I had already wrote the lyrics to a song that I have never before.

If you didn’t care what happened to me,

and I didn’t care for you,

we would zig zag our way through the boredom and pain,

occasionally glancing up through the rain

wondering which of the buggers to blame

and watching for pigs on the wing. 

I continued to discover that many of these confusing emotions were all packaged in this fascinating poetic rhythm. Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, The Doors and Pink Floyd, spoke to the dark corners of my imagination, and provided a contextual beauty to the emotional pain I struggled to process. It may not have been the last time I flirted with self-destructive behavior, but it was the last time I felt like I didn’t have any other option.

The soundtrack of my puberty.

 

Avery, my situation was my own, and not yours. I intend to do everything in my capability to protect you, but I know even the greatest efforts will falter under the ambiguous nature of the human psyche.

Hi Avery, 


 It has been a tough couple of months, yet on the surface, I have nothing to complain about, I started a new job, I’m in good health, and I have a great partner to share my life with. So I feel the need to talk to you about my recent nights of paranoia driven sleeplessness.So what is it, why can’t I relax, I have everything going for me, so why not just close my eyes and sleep in peace?


 Avery, I fear the Apocalypse.

 


For me, this word is not some excuse for a wild conspiracy theory, or some cult following of a fiction horror genre, you know, where the dead come to life and eat the living; for me the apocalypse is simply anything that kills my entire family. So anywhere between an atomic bomb, and a head on collision with a drunk driver, I lay there, wondering if something is around the corner, waiting  to rape and murder everything I love.


I’m trying to keep this feeling of dread and panic in perspective, its not like I live my life thinking about this all the time. But with the notion of your future existence, the stakes are only getting higher. So I need to find a path towards peace with this fear, in a practical way, where I can protect my family, as well as my sanity.Here are my two biggest fears: 

 Problem #1 Societal Collapse




Since the day I was born, I have been raised in an environment that solely relies on a communal-system, to provide everything we need to survive. What if that system breaks and seizes to exist? Will we just wait for death while watching our Ipad’s battery life trickle to zero-percent?



Solution: We, as a family, will go camping, backpacking, and we will also practice and prepare for outdoor survival. The outdoors is considered by many, a place for vacation or adventure, but its easy to forget that it’s the home of many living things, and it just may end up being the home for our family. We wont have Ipad’s or the Netflix Instant Queue, but we will always have each other, and if the family dog goes “missing”, don’t ask me whats in the stew. 




 Problem #2, People like to Rape each otherThe very same community that we rely on for our survival, has unfortunately created the advent of the sociopath. People, for a multitude of reasons, derived from a mixture of their environmental and mental influences, will steal, rape and murder each other. How can I protect you from these threats, while being the pacifist, bleeding heart, and anti-gun liberal that I’am?The Solution: 




Well first off, a gun is not an option, although it would be extremely helpful in the case of an apocalypse, and I feel vastly more sympathetic to those who choose to own a gun, than ever before; yet I still have one ethical issue with this choice. I fear that the simplicity of its function would cause a different kind of paranoia. I believe that if a life is to be taken, under any circumstance, I prefer it to require more effort than just pulling a trigger. I have found an alternative to this limitation? I will use a duel weapon system, where I combine pepper spray in my off-hand, and a samurai sword in my right hand. You can’t shoot what you can’t see, and there is just something frightening and classic about a samurai sword. Plus, I think there is something instinctively cautious about  anything that looks like a gigantic knife, and I also feel like there is less chance for an accidental or domestic related incident. If something dies by a sword, it was probably meant to be.



 





During these two sleepless nights, these ideas profoundly scared me, and I laid awake staring at my ceiling contemplating the frailty of life, how quickly it can all end, and everything there is to lose. Ultimately, all I can really do, is place these dark thoughts into something constructive; and embrace my role as your protector, by teaching you how to protect yourself. So sharpen your steal, pack your bags and stock up on pepper spray, the Boyle family will not be fucked with.

Special thanks to the Nerdologues, check out their site http://yourstories.podbean.com/

Avery, I have good news and bad news.


First the good news:
I got married. It was quick, simple and my partner and I made a fun video of the event.

We did not do this because of love or commitment to each other, we had that before, and that has not changed. We did this for you, more so for the societal structure we have to raise you with.

The bad news:
The world we live in is a bit more complicated than things like: Love, happiness, family and education; no, unfortunately there is much greed and darkness we must tread through. Your birth could be the light at the end of this dark tunnel, but that tunnel has a price, and I’m concerned it is a price I’m not willing to pay.

Your Father is not a perfect man, although I will let you believe so for as long as your willing, but sadly I’m a man that is considered a social reject. Not because I like artsy things, or because I defend controversial politics like politically correct language and affirmative action. No, those things are subjective, and as adults, we wear them on our sleeves and we learn to agree to disagree, or say nothing at all. What earns me the title of a social reject is my complete lack of greed. I say this negatively, I’m not patting myself on the shoulder and bragging about how not greedy I am. What I mean is, I literally don’t care about money, to the point where I would rather be a transient hobo, rather than, “one of them”. So clearly, there is a problem. How can I function as a responsible Father with this attitude? How can I expect my partner to cope with this financial ignorance amicably, and retain a happy functional unit? Were already struggling to figure out how to afford you, and I’m faced with these greedy insurance companies that will treat you and your motherly vessel like a financial investment. It makes me sick, thinking about his garbage, and it makes me question whether or not I should really create you.

I’m feeling very dark and sad Avery, I feel like this is all a bad idea and the prospect of your life is more likely to be that as a victim, rather than a gift. How do I do this, how can I keep my integrity and be the father I need to be without placing my personal ethics on the corporate assembly line of financial greed. I just want to be a creative, healthy, and happy Father. I don’t care about fancy cars, expensive vacations, pretty jewelry, big raises, tax returns, 401ks, interest, credit score, BLAH BLAH BLAH; all I care about is you, and I’m gravely concerned that I can’t do both.

Avery, my friends and family are going to respond to this post with an affirming and positive retort:
It will all change, stay positive Shawn, it is all worth it in the end, love will conquer all, grow-up, be a man, you have so much support, don’t be negative, and this sounds like a cop-out.  

                   

[please fill in the blank, and assume your encouragement is appreciated, without it being stated like a broken record of supportive rhetoric, I’m exploring truth, not begging for support]

In conclusion:
I’m so ashamed of the world I live in, I’m worried that you will be happier living innocently in the depths of my imagination, than in your own flesh; the older I get, the more I find myself doing the same. Your smile would be warming, but this world is always colder. It might be too late, and I already feel the regret of a future not worth having.

Maybe if I pay my insurance company enough money, I can be happy, sort of…

I have bad news for you Avery, some day your joyful innocence will be poisoned with the hormones of puberty. My intention is not to take away your struggles, but instead to make sure you don’t feel alone in your suffering. I can only share my own stories and hope you can find comfort in the company of my pubescent nightmares.

Unfortunately the time-line of my memories are fogged and will be far from accurate. An accurate account would be a great help for you, but my memory has it’s reasons. Lets just assume all of these stories range between the ages of 10-12 years old.

My first feeling of arousal happened in church. It was during the moment where the adults embrace each other and exchanged their “Peace be with you’s”. I had summoned the courage to participate in the ritual because I had a crush on a young woman behind me. I wanted to know what her skin would feel like touching my own. I also admired the way this woman dressed and felt conflicted by my fascination in her garb. She turned at the waist and twisted to shake the hand of a person on the other side. As her hand reached over, an opening between the buttons of her blouse was formed. This secret window framed her soft bare flesh and the bottom edge of a white lacy bra perfectly. Her body shifted towards me and her hands reached out to clasp my own. She gave my small single hand a sensual two handed clasp. I felt the warmth of her flesh travel throughout my entire body with a direct destination to my groin. I heard her voice but none the words she used (a theme that would continue to haunt my love conquests for years to come). I excused myself to use the washroom, and I sat on the toilet alone waiting for the protrusion to pass. I told my family I was constipated, they gave me laxatives and I spent the day alone with diarrhea and erections. Every Sunday at church, I would find the same body with a different face and repeat the behavior. Still to this day, church gives me an erection.

Not long after this, I had my first nocturnal emission. My Mother promptly washed my sheets and said “Don’t worry about it, it happens”. I didn’t have the courage to ask, “what is it?”. I never had a repeat occurrence cause I accidentally stumbled upon masturbation soon after. I was taking my bath with my action figure toys. I liked taking baths, cause it felt very private and selfish, like I was in a secret lair. I would always bring toys, and my body would become the playing field for their adventures. I loved the notion that they could breath under water, an ability I envied greatly. I had one female G.I. Joe, that I named after my school yard crush Ashley.  The typical scenario would be, the male G.I. Joe’s captured her, and the Ninja Turtles would aquatically sneak attack them to save the day. This occasion, I decided that each Hero would be awarded a kiss from their damsel in distress. I closed my eyes and pictured the women in pretty clothes at church kissing me; my hands new what to do next. I never brought toys to the bathtub again, they had been replaced.

The first entry into my jerk bank.

I had only confided in one person about my new discoveries. Well actually he confided in me first, since he was a year or two older, and just as confused as I. It was a huge relief to learn that his penis was able to do similar things. He would sleep over and we would masturbate late at night in the same room. It was comforting more than it was sexual. I started to look forward to our little jerk-off (pun-intended) sessions. Until one fateful evening changed the course of my puberty permanently. It was at Mike Ramel’s house, and a half dozen of us were having a sleep over to celebrate his birthday. Everyone was taking turns telling a secret and it was mostly frivolous gossip about who kissed who at the dance last week. I thought I would be the coolest kid on the block and I told them everything that my buddy (who wasn’t present) and I had been doing. They all stared at me in silence, it was the longest silence of my life. At the moment, I felt judged and ashamed. Looking back, I bet they felt on the spot to discuss their own explorations. As a group, their silence banded them together and they took the path of least resistance. In their blank stare they unknowingly fast tracked my insecurities. I hated myself for masturbating, and I decided to hate my jerk-off friend as well. I forced myself to feel like a victim of his curiosity and naively dismissed him as a predator of my innocence. From there on out, I never discussed my sexuality with anyone until it was much too late. Confusion and fear compounded exponentially with each ejaculation. I began masturbating non stop, I would even sneakily jerk in the back of the family van while driving to distant destinations. The more shame I felt, the more drastic and unhealthy my sexual actions became. I don’t understand why nobody caught me, looking back I think I intended to be caught.

For the most part I survived, but I still act out with progressively outlandish desires, and often times, I still feel like the weird freak at the sleep over.

Good luck Avery. I can promise you will suffer, but I beg you to accept, that you will not suffer alone.

Love,
Dad

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Avery, the most important time of your life is spent in the womb with your Mother. You will grow over nine months with the lifestyle of a parasite clinging for a free ride.  During such time you will have no windows into the world of human vanity and I envy your position of ignorance. The moment you’re born, this world will want to hide you from yourself. Human civilization likes to brag about their abilities of free thinking and expressionism. I think of it more as a delusional defense mechanism. Its not horrible that we hide, the horror is in the methods of our lies. We drown ourselves into a mental mucus of self-hate, and a palpable fear of the vehicle in which we exist. We all continue to carry an identical burden without ever noticing the irony of relevance.

I want to tell you about my physical deformities and the self torment I have endured my entire life. To put it simply, I live in a body that I hate. NLazy ot a day goes by that I don’t fantasize physical perfection. I hate my body hair, lazy-eyes,  penis, fat belly, love handles, man-tits, teeth, and my flabby stretch marked arms. Most of these things are my fault. I could eat healthier, see a dentist, exercise and dress better; but I don’t. All that aside, there is one physical failure that haunts my conscious above all else. I was born with a birth mark on my right but-cheek. Not some cute little freckle colored shape. Were talking about an area of black splotches that cover 75% of the right cheek. Not only does this look hideous, it is also complimented by matching lump shapes that feels similar to cottage cheese in a zip lock bag. Half of my sexual partners don’t even know this about me. I would keep my back-side hidden from them and intimacy would be tainted by my deception. The strangest thing is that it changes every day. Some days it feels and looks like a bag of black cancer rotting beneath my flesh. Other days, it looks like a faint bruise. Sometimes, I secretly wonder if it is my own natural mood ring. If only it had some secrete power or purpose, but it doesn’t. It just exists everyday as if it has its own personality. I often wonder if it is feeding off me, like an emotional parasite fueling off of my confidence and self worth while clinging to a free ride.

                         

This is about you Avery, not me. I have my problems and I will continue to suffer from them with sporadic degrees of severity; but I wish to be stronger. I must act as a role model and start abandoning the sickness that I wish to spare you from. It is time for me to embrace my imperfections and lead by example. Exposure is the only cure, and with it, I shall finally be free of this emotional burden.

You give me courage:

                         

Love, Dad

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