Sunday, May 2, 2010

I want change

I'm sitting here missing my wife, who is currently stranded at Chicago's O'Hare Airport while American Airlines is scrambling to find a regional jet that actually works.

I kind of hope they do, you know?

Anyway, it's been a dreary, stormy weekend and her absence has made a particularly tough week even worse. It's nothing serious, mind you, just my usual fits and starts when it comes to my confidence. And my work.

But since I can't do anything about my manuscript (well, I could. But I'm done with it), I decided to come up a list of things I'd like to change about myself in the coming weeks. Oh, I'm also considering attending my first writers' conference this fall in Cincinnati. We'll see.

So here's nine things I'd like to change about myself:

1. I would like to be more confident, about my work and myself. I really am my own worst enemy. If someone tells me they like my novel, I immediately suspect they're lying. If they say it sucks, I take it as gospel. I really would like to reach a point in my life where I no longer give a crap what others think of me. I mean really, it's not junior high anymore, you know?

2. I'd like to be a better husband to my wife. I'm not a bad one, mind you. I don't drink or screw around or mistreat her. I don't lie to her and I tell her I love her several times a day. We've barely argued in the 17 years we've known each other and we remain each other's best friend. But I know I could do better. God knows, she deserves it.

3. I'd like to be a better father. Again, I'm not a bad one. I love my kids more than I love myself and I would walk across broken glass for any of them. I would. But sometimes, I yell at them -- especially the two older ones. Sometimes, I wish I could just be their friend, but I'm convinced that doesn't work. So I am the disciplinarian, whether I like it or not. But I really didn't have much of a father, so I really pretty much started from scratch. But I will say I'm a far better father than I ever thought I'd be. Sometimes, that's enough.

4. I'd like to be a better listener. I don't have a ton of close friends (by choice, unfortunately; I'm borderline antisocial. It's true), but those I have like to talk to me. About their lives. Their loves. Their pain. Their innermost secrets. I don't know why this is, but it's true. So why do I want to be a better listener? Because sometimes they bore the living shit out of me. God, I can't believe I just wrote that. But it's true. I nod sympathetically and say all the right things, but sometimes I wish I could really be there for them rather than just nodding and saying all the right things. Oh well, fake it 'till you make it, I always say.

5. I'd like to be a better Christian. Whoa. That'll cost me some followers. But yes, I am a Christian. A really, really bad one. I go to church (but not always), and sometimes I pray. But I cuss like a sailor and sometimes I lust for women in my heart and all that other stuff. Ahem. But I try. I really do. I became a Christian slowly over the years, after becoming deeply spiritual in the 12-step program that saved my ass more than twenty years ago. I still find that particular brand of spirituality superior. Well, most of the time. For me, Christianity comes alive when working with poor people in places like Tres Reyes, Mexico. To me, that's what the Bible means. Doing for others. Unselfishness. But I am a very liberal Christian and the Religious Right often rubs me the wrong way. But I'm trying. Anyone who has ever read Anne Lamott's wonderful books on spirituality will know what I'm talking about.

6. I'd like to be a better writer. Not that I think I'm a bad writer. No. But sometimes I think my reach exceeds my grasp. And that really pisses me off. I wish I had the talent to get down on paper all of the wonderfully complex thoughts and images that fill my head every second of the day. But I can't. I try, though. And I intend to keep on honing my skills so that someday, I might get there. Slowly. Slowly. (Ack. Adverbs!)

7. I'd like to be a better son. This one is tough for me. My father is dead, killed in a horrific car-train accident in 1996. My mother and I have not spoken in years. The last time we spoke on the phone -- the night before I left to spend two months in the dangerous jungles of South America in August of 2005 -- I told her I love her. And she hung up on me. Still, I wish I could be a better man about it. I wish I could forgive her. I really do. But I cannot. Not yet. Maybe never. So I live with the regret and resentments. Life ain't fair and people don't act right. And that's the end of that tune.

8. I'd like to have better personal boundaries. Because if I did, I wouldn't keep writing this intensely personal shit on my blog. And then people in my life would stop getting pissed at me. But what can I say? It's who I am.

9. I wish I was less vain. This kind of goes along with the confidence one above, although it's slightly different. I really am vain, although I go to great lengths to give the impression that I'm not. But I hit the gym five days a week and am always watching my weight. Why? Who the hell knows. I just know that I always think that if I just looked better, I'd be better. But that's never been the case, and I know it. I used to dye my hair because it started going silver at a fairly young age. About three years ago, I just stopped. It was really hard, because I was afraid someone would think I was my youngest son's grandfather. But it turns out my hair looks really cool and silvery on the sides, so now it just feeds my vanity. Sigh.

I don't have anything left, although I really wanted to get to ten. Do you have anything about yourself that you wish you could change? Want to get honest about it? If you do, hit the comment button and fire away. I won't judge you. I promise. And I promise here to work on all nine of those above. Scout's honor.

Have a wonderful Sunday night.


  1. Good list. I have tons of things I'd like to change. One is that I'm pretty much a hermit... I need to make peace with that. I feel guilty when I turn invitations down. But it's who I am. I like time to myself. Not everyone has to be the social butterfly.

  2. My comment was too big. I emailed ya.

  3. Ah Terry, you should be a philosopher instead of a writer. Kidding, I've read your stuff, you're great.

    We all want to be something better, and we try, sometimes we succeed, sometimes we succumb to our past behaviours because it's easy. But that's who we are, that's what makes us individual.

    Personally I'd like to stop swearing like a drunken sailor, and I try but when I substitute words, like flippin' for f*&%ing, it just doesn't have the same meaning.

  4. I admit to the vanity thing myself. Although it's not so much about my looks, because I'll always be insecure about that no matter what I pretend on the outside. It's more about my belief that I was meant to do something more than just live an ordinary life. The "O" word seems like a dirty one to me, I hate it!

  5. Kristy: I'm a bit of a hermit myself, although sometimes I get all social for some odd reason. But mainly, I like to be either by myself or with my wife and kids. Crowds kind of freak me out sometimes.

    Christi: I e-mailed you my response. And I still think we're related!

    Anne: I'll bet I can out-curse you, not that I'm proud of it or anything. It's really one thing I would LOVE to change, but I'm afraid it's progressed beyond just habit and is now a way of life for me. Oh well. Fuck it. ;)

    Tracy: Wow. I have ALWAYS felt the same way -- that I am somehow destined for more than just ordinary. And in some ways, my life has already been anything but ordinary. But I always remember that old Chinese blessing/curse: "May you live in interesting times."

  6. Hey Terry, I love your honesty here. I wish more people would do it because it's what's real. I believe it would help human kind to know that everyone goes through this kind of shit.

    As far as changing? There are so many things I want to change but they would be the same things that everyone else wants to change. So why repeat?

    I never believed I was destined to be ordinary either but my beliefs are slowly changing.

    Please keep being honest on your blog. I feel much safer with people that show their human side and tell the truth.