Growing Up. Changing Attitude.

Sitting on the porch, sipping coffee, contemplating life and realizing I am slowly learning life’s lessons, but they are very expensive ones that leave me indebted in ways I never thought imaginable and to which I can only strive to repay.

Some of the problem is the transition between being a man of limited thoughts and ideologies to one of free thoughts, ideas and actions. The Christianity I absorbed by osmosis growing up and the Wicca I dabbled in in my 20s both have a theme in common with the idea of a life of unrestricted freedom: as long as you are not hurting others with your actions, go ahead and do what you want. It’s an idea I’ve always adhered to but it seems to get harder and harder to live up to it.

Despite this mature outlook to life it feels like only now, at 40+, as certain aspects of my life feel out of my control or out of synch with the way I want to live my life, am I growing up! Isn’t that meant to happen, magically, at 18 or 21? Life just hasn’t been that idealized image for me of a school-college-job-marriage-kids-promotion-big house and car-… progression and I realize now that somewhere in my subconscious this has bothered me and greatly influenced the situation I find myself in, (how could it not, right?).

Only once in my life have I jumped into a situation without fear and procrastination, (which on reflection, are very similar), and I gained so much from that, but I’ve let the good I gained become tainted with my old ways, which have only amplified the way things are.

Last night my wife and I were talking about it and we realized that in a lot of life’s situations, people have a tendency to “bury their head in the sand”, until suddenly, the problem they’ve been avoiding becomes real. We live reactive lives rather than proactive lives.

From here, the mentality I’m aiming to achieve and maintain is one of seeing and planning and doing, not of dreaming and hoping and waiting. Only I can rectify the things I see as detrimental in my behavior and outlook. As much as others in my life may want to help, it is only up to me to do it. And only me.

I know An Old Lady Who Sat Idly By

There was an old lady who sat idly by.
I don’t know why she sat idly by – It’s agist to ask her why!

There was an old lady who ignored pleas for help,
The emails and phone calls and memoranda for help;
She ignored the pleas and sat idly by;
I don’t know why she sat idly by – It’s sexist to ask her why!

There was an old lady who helped blame a YouTube video;
How absurd to blame a YouTube video!.
She blamed the video to cover ignoring the pleas;
She ignored the pleas and sat idly by;
I don’t know why she sat idly by – It’s agist to ask her why!

There was an old lady who stood by coffins;
Fancy that to stand by coffins!
She stood by the coffins and blamed a video;
She blamed the video to cover ignoring the pleas;
She ignored the pleas and sat idly by;
I don’t know why she sat idly by – It’s sexist to ask her why!

There was an old lady called to the Senate;
To testify in front of the Senate?
She was called to the Senate beause she stood by coffins;
She stood by the coffins and blamed a video;
She blamed the video to cover ignoring the pleas;
She ignored the pleas and sat idly by;
I don’t know why she sat idly by – It’s agist to ask her why!

There was an old lady who had a fall and a clot.
A coincidental time to find a clot.
They found the clot, just before she was due at the Senate;
She was called to the Senate beause she stood by coffins;
She stood by the coffins and blamed a video;
She blamed the video to cover ignoring the pleas;
She ignored the pleas and sat idly by;
I don’t know why she sat idly by – It’s sexist to ask her why!

For one political party this is “par for the course”…
She’s likely their next POTUS Candidate, of course!

Just Not Happenening…

I finished my last entry with the line

I think it is time I looked over them all, pick one and take the plunge, finally listen to the decades old advice of my family and start regaining that self-worth I’ve been missing for so long…

Come on, its easy, right…

  1. Pick an idea.
  2. Open up a Kickstarter or Indiegogo page to raise $$$.
  3. Sell product(s) on Etsy, etc.
  4. Make some money.

Like I said. Easy.

Except during part 2., a panic attack sets in immediately on opening the websites in a tab. And I get a similar reaction during job applications, as the idea that I’d get called for an interview terrifies me so much, just thinking about it as I’m writing this is causing me to feel short of breath and tight of chest.

Time To Succumb And Jack In The Cubicle…?

I’ve been unemployed a good long while now. Being unemployed as a married man with commitments is different to when I was in the same circumstances as a young twenty-something, still living at home with Mum. Being unemployed as a married man is depressing.

Sorry. That’s the truth of it.

In 2007, I was desperately looking around for another job whilst working out the remaining time with a company in a position they had had the great idea of outsourcing to an Asian country. For once, I lucked out. I went in for aptitude testing and an interview for an administrative-based job with a company closer to home, (literally a five minute drive away), and came out with a second interview date for a position completely not related to general clerical work, which eventually lead to a great offer, which I accepted. I finally felt things were going my way, but then the crash of 2008 hit and eventually our team was pared down like so many other in the company had been before us, and I was gone.

I took the opportunity to be an SAHD, but the blow to my career ego and self belief was huge. Almost two years later, I eventually found a temporary position on a project with the company I had left in 2007 and my self belief was so low I was very nervous. To overcome these jitters, I took to wearing a shirt and tie to the job, instead of the business casual the company allows. I jokingly told everyone it was because I was aiming to be taken back as a permanent employee with the corner office and important meetings.

“Dress for the job you want!” I would say, managing to force a twinkle in my eye.

The reality was different. Once we were in our cubicles I felt a strange juxtaposition. I found myself loath to standing up, for whatever reason, thus enabling me to see across the tundra of the powder blue cubicle tops, yet it took no time at all for the cubicle walls to feel stifling. I remember one time standing there, during our designated break time, watching the people scurry from their 6’x6′ pieces of corporate real estate and thinking, “This is it?”. It wasn’t what I wanted for myself. I was missing my family every hour I was away from them and the special needs of our eldest made me nervous about being so far from home…

Maybe the day I first stood there with these thoughts in my head was the day I sabotaged myself, because as soon as the project was winding down and they were looking around for the dead wood to drop from the project, I was front and center, apparently.

I was a SAHD, once more and, for a while, things were good. But then the money started to run out and soon we were living moment to moment, staggering the payments of utility bills, and eeking out every last cent when grocery shopping – Manager’s Special is the name of the farm we get all our meats from!

I’m starting to get a few nibbles, so maybe the economy is finally turning around, like they say, but its all been very depressing. The damage from 2009 cracked the very foundations of how I perceived myself and the walls have just crumbled these last couple of years. Even just the mere thought that someone might want me to go for an interview makes me short of breath, the thought of being in a cubicle, once more tightens my throat, and the thought of answering ‘phones makes me want to find a dark corner and assume a fetal position, complete with soft sobs.

Through all these five years of despair, there have been plenty of people I’ve thrown the blame at – the managers, the bosses, the politicians – but I also accepted my own role early on.

Maybe, as an immigrant, maybe I don’t have that American “gene” – my Naturalization papers apparently didn’t come with a free course of “Kick Ass” injections or free sessions with a “Go Get ‘Em” counselor that Americans apparently get from birth!

Maybe I’m built differently. It seems many Americans people the world over accept their lot in life and do what’s needed to keep it going or improve it, but all I found myself doing was wallowing in a vicious circle of inner self loathing and unbelief.

About thirty years ago, I started cooking in my mother’s kitchen. I was always a little adventurous out there, and remember that early on I was reaching for the recipes my Mum wouldn’t bother with – like most mothers, at least when I was a kid, she could cook great tasting food, but its variance and adventurousness was minimal - and I remember pulling souffles, gingerbread loaves and trays of very sticky treacle toffee out of her oven. I still love cooking. I burst with pride that someone I love has told me that the dish or cake I just cooked was awesome. It doesn’t have to be fancy and most always never has a recipe, after the first couple of attempts.

Before I left the UK in 2000 one of the most popular tv shows was on in the mid-afternoon, aimed squarely at the SAHMs whose darling little angels would soon be home from school, ready to empty the pantry and refrigerator. Ready, Steady… Cook! took two “celebrity” chefs, two audience members with about ten quids’ worth of groceries and twenty minutes to knock out a meal. The first time I saw it, I loved the show, used its formula of “groceries + ((basics + staples)on hand)” from then on and I still mostly cook like that.

My Dad would call me “Tony Stopani”, after a local West Country tv “celebrity” chef from the 60’s & 70’s. I would happily sit for an hour or more, thumbing through Mum’s cookbooks, whether a modern offering from the OXO stock cube company, a Reader’s Digest recipe card collection from the late 60’s or the Mrs. Beeton’s book from 1926 that Mum got when her Mother-in-Law passed away. When the all-boys school I attended for my secondary education decided to offer a CSE level Catering course, I jumped at the chance and was in one of the first two classes in our school.

Catering was always a suggestion on peoples’ lips around the time it came to choose career paths. I was more interested in the sciences, though being the poor scholar I am, I failed them. Miserably. By the end of Sixth Form, all I needed was any passing grade in my Biology “A” level – my last remaining course, and a subject I still love to read about, to this day – but it wasn’t to be. My train of thought was that if I didn’t know it by the time of the exam, “swotting” for two weeks beforehand wouldn’t help. Besides, spending free Summer days on the town’s beach, eyeing the girls and splashing around like kids seemed much preferable. A classic example of youth wasted on the young…

Anyway… catering…

All I could see when I heard the word catering or chef was long hours in a hot kitchen, getting rude customers whining about the food you just spent hours preparing and cooking. My reticence to go into this field was probably helped, too, by my “work experience” for my CSE which consisted of two weeks – or maybe it was one week that just felt like two! - in the increasingly dilapidated, soon-after-that-closed holiday camp – Billy Butlin had had the sense to get out of there before the place finally died – in the touristy part of town, where my jobs were running the dishwashers and using the kitchen scissors to cut up roasted chickens into the ubiquitous quarters so beloved in British “cafes”. In contrast, the only other work experience I had provided for me, as part of my studies, was a week in the local Dow Chemicals plant, using x-ray spectroscopes and gas chromometers and all other manner of cool toys. Catering? Nah… a mugs game. Science it was for me.

The bravado and self-assurance of youth rode roughshod over commonsense and perspective.

Of course, now I live “Stateside”, I miss good old British cooking, on occasion. Fare like steak & kidney pie, faggots & peas – if the name of that dish offends you I suggest you Google it – bara brith, Dundee cake and bangers & mash aren’t very likely to be on the menu at your nearest Denny’s or pre-prepared and sat in the freezer section at your local Wal-Mart.

Over the years I’ve had many business ideas. If I were to guesstimate, about one-third have been based around food. I think it is time I looked over them all, pick one and take the plunge, finally listen to the decades old advice of my family and start regaining that self-worth I’ve been missing for so long…

Little Hitlers

Little Hitlers in government,
Little Hitlers made of bureaucracy,
Little Hitlers, Little Hitlers,
Little Hitlers all the same.
There’s a boy one and a girl one
And a black one and a white one,
And they’re all made of bureaucracy
And they all act just the same.

The Little Hitlers in government
All went on the training course,
And became slaves to bureaucracy,
And they all came out the same.
There’s inspectors, D.M.V. clerks,
and Department executives;
And they all become Little Hitlers
And they all act just the same.

The bigwigs play on the golf course.
And drink their martini dry.
And they all have pretty children.
And the children go to school.
And the children go to summer camp,
And then to the university,
And they all get brainwashed
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into government
And marry and raise a family.
And they all become Little Hitlers
And they all act just the same.
There’s a boy one and a girl one
And a black one and a white one,
And they’re all made of bureaucracy
And they all act just the same.

Oligarchy In The USA

I am an antichrist!
I am an oligarchist!
Yes, I know what I want
And I know how to get it.
I wanna destroy liberty!

‘Cause I wanna be oligarchy.
Make you my dogsbody!

Oligarchy for the USA!
It’s been here some time and maybe
It’ll stay a long time.
Ensure freedom’s decline.
Your future dream
Is a Survivor scene.

‘Cause I love to see oligarchy!
In the D.C.!

So many ways to get what I want.
I use the best.
I use the rest.
I use the N.Y.T.
I use oligarchy!

‘Cause I wanna be oligarchy!
It’s the only way to be.

We love the USDA!
Oh! We love the DOJ!
Oh! We love the NSA!
You thought this was USA?!
No, just another country;
Another socialist tendancy.

I wanna be oligarchy!
Oh! I wanna be oligarchy!
Know what I mean?
Oh! I wanna be oligarchist!
I get pissed!

Abraham Lincoln Speech in Lewiston IL on August 17th 1858

“The Declaration of Independence was formed by the representatives of American liberty from thirteen States of the Confederacy, twelve of which were slaveholding communities. We need not discuss the way or the reason of their becoming slave-holding communities. It is sufficient for our purpose that all of them greatly deplored the evil and that they placed a provision in the Constitution which they supposed would gradually remove the disease by cutting off its source. This was the abolition of the slave trade. So general was the conviction, the public determination, to abolish the African slave trade, that the provision which I have referred to as being placed in the Constitution declared that it should not be abolished prior to the year 1808. A constitutional provision was necessary to prevent the people, through Congress, from putting a stop to the traffic immediately at the close of the war.

Now if slavery had been a good thing, would the Fathers of the Republic have taken a step calculated to diminish its beneficent influences among themselves, and snatch the boon wholly from their posterity? These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to his creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all his creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.

They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children, and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, or none but Anglo-Saxon white men, were entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began, so that truth and justice and mercy and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.

Now, my countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence; if you have listened to suggestions which would take away from its grandeur and mutilate the fair symmetry of its proportions; if you have been inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated by our chart of liberty, let me entreat you to come back. Return to the fountain whose waters spring close by the blood of the Revolution.

Think nothing of me — take no thought for the political fate of any man whomsoever — but come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not only defeat me for the Senate, but you may take me and put me to death. While pretending no indifference to earthly honors, I do claim to be actuated in this contest by something higher than an anxiety for office. I charge you to drop every paltry and insignificant thought for any man’s success. It is nothing; I am nothing; Judge Douglas is nothing. But do not destroy that immortal emblem of Humanity — the Declaration of American Independence.”

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