The One When I Destroyed My Wife’s Birthday

birthday cakeI’m either an unbelievable idiot, or an incredible a-hole.

I hadn’t really planned anything for my wife’s birthday, other than taking the day off work. I suspected that we could hang out, have breakfast/lunch/dinner somewhere, and just enjoy each other’s company. I had visions of what her cake would look like, but hadn’t really put anything together.

This would be my undoing.

My intention was to give her the opportunity to do whatever she wanted. To choose the things that make her happy. What I failed to understand is that she wanted me to plan something. She wanted me to make the day special. What she didn’t want was to decide. She didn’t want to pick out what to do, where to go, what to eat. She wanted her day to be special, and to not have to make those choices. No matter how many things I proposed, all I was really offering was a choice.

What I didn’t manage to put together was that she hates trying to choose. For her, the cereal isle of the grocery store is both gripping and paralyzing. Trying to decide what to spend a ten-dollar Walgreens gift card on is sheer agony. I should’ve read the signs. I should’ve seen the light.

But I didn’t. Instead, I was an jerk.

She worked on her homework for a bit, as she is aspiring to be a teacher, then announced that she would shortly be ready for the world. We headed out early in the afternoon for a day of frolic. My intention was to take her wherever she wished to go. She gave me a short list of places, standard stuff really, couple discount stores like Homegoods and Tuesday Mornings, but nothing out of the ordinary. As we headed back toward our apartment, we hit one last store: A specialty grocery store, to grab a little chunk of cake from their wonderful bakery. This is where things went downhill rather quickly.

She headed toward the back of the store for the bakery, I was drawn by the allure of the bulk coffee bins, to supply my french press for the weekend. I figured she would pick something wonderful for us to share, so I went about my business. As I finished up with the coffee grinder my wife found me, her demeanor visibly changed. Her hands, empty. She was upset and I could tell – I just couldn’t tell why.

Shortly after we got home, about 5:30, my wife posed a question: “Are we in for the night?” In hindsight, I should have answered that question very differently. What I should have said was: No, let’s go have dinner/buy a cake/have a party. Instead, what I said was: “I suppose.” For her, that was the final straw. She got – justifiably –  angry.

Instead of apologizing, I argued back.

She told me how she just wanted some acknowledgement of her day. I expressed, all too bluntly, that I offered her several opportunities to go and do: Breakfast, dinner, cake. I explained, in my unkindest tone, that I would have given her anything she wanted, all he would have needed to do was ask. But that wasn’t the point. I should have made an effort. I should have done more. Her cell phone rang, interrupting our debate. She slipped into our bedroom and I slipped out into the dark, rain-soaked evening to try to remedy the situation. I was angry. Quite angry. It wouldn’t be until later that I realized I was in a mess of my own making. That I had destroyed my wife’s birthday. We’ve been married for nearly fifteen years. I should have known better.

It is said the road to hell paved with good intentions. I’ll go as far to say that the bricks formed with those intentions create a bumpy path, where individuals stumble and fall inflicting pain and sorrow. Pain for themselves, damage to their friendships, and absolute agony within their marriage.

Truth be told, I had some pangs of guilt throughout the day for not having something for her to unwrap. As we wandered through the drug store earlier in the day, I felt guilty for not even going to the trouble of getting a card. But as I stood there, in Walgreens, wandering among the greeting cards and stuffed bears, I lamented that it was too late. It most certainly wasn’t.

The day was salvaged to some extent. In my late night run, I purchased some rather feeble gifts and ordered some stuff from Amazon (which will show up tomorrow). There was a gift bag properly loaded with some new socks from The Gap (I know it sounds like crap, but the girl LOVES her socks). The day after, I baked the cake I had intended to create in the week leading up to her birthday. Strawberry with buttercream frosting, topped with fresh berries, all from scratch.

I got something from my wife’s birthday. A rather simple lesson: The best day for her is one where she doesn’t have to make decisions. It stirs a memory of her mentioning that very thing to me before. I wont forget it again.  The greatest tragedy is, that for me to learn this lesson, my wife had to suffer. I’ll likely stumble again, but I’ll do a much better job of doing, instead of just intending to do good.

-Dennis

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Good Things are coming…

This little window into what would be my diary has been really good for me.  It’s been a solid outlet when I needed one, just a place to dump some thoughts.  2015 is really looking up, and there’s big, scary, awesome things on the horizon.

changes

About a month ago, I purchased the coursework for my real estate license.  I am over-the-moon excited about it. The tragedy is I have yet to make the time to work on it, as I haven’t quite figured out the schedule of my day-to-day life, However, today I took a day for myself, so that I could sit back and work on the things that are important to me.  I’m gonna dump a few of them here…

workoutWorking Out:  I’ve been trying to “un-fat” for a good portion of my life.  I’ve been going to the gym sporadically, some weeks making it five out of seven days, while other weeks only making it once. The scale hasn’t really shown me that changes that I’m looking for, but I can see that I’m getting stronger.  I’m not going to try to do more, but just do it more consistently. Four days a week. Furthermore, yesterday I had the thought that I don’t need to feel badly if I don’t make it everyday. This extra three mornings I can do other things that are equally important. Something I really enjoy is having a seat with a good cup of coffee and watching the sunrise.  I recently decided Saturday mornings, from 5:30 – 7:30 are gonna be some quiet/reflective/writing/planning time. This will accomplish two goals: I get to do that one centering thing that I enjoy, and it gives me some reflective time to blog,

Real Estate: This is a really big deal. There’s more to it than just getting my license and jumping in with both feet.  When I went out on my own the first time I was only 24 years old, and didn’t have the financial burdens that I have now (student loans Real-Estate-Sign– UGH). I’m in the process of assembling a plan, so that I have some personal promotion in place before I ever get to the license exam.  Today I’ve been reading up on blogging, as clearly It’s a decent tool for me.  I think that there are a few folks with good intentions writing about the ins and out of real estate.  I’m going to give it a go and see how many followers I can have in the next 90 days.

Time Management:  I don’t mean to sound as though I have to have my life planned out before me, knowing where I’ll be from moment to moment, but creating a day to day schedule will allow me to say no to the things I need to decline, and yes to the things that I need to accomplish.  Knowing what days are for which tasks, and having a set schedule, should help me be more assertive at work, and leave when it’s time for me to leave.  Too often I’ve had to stay late, work for free, and feel really irritable about it. I need to plan to get home and spend time with my wife and other valuable pursuits. It will also help me to be more productive at the office, knowing that I simply can’t stay late to do “X”, so I’d better shut out some distractions and hammer out what needs to be done during the day.

Tomorrow is going to be a good day.  I may or may not have a new blog, in addition to this one, But I will make a post here just to confirm to the world that I rolled my chunky butt outta bed and did as I said I would. There are great experiences to be had in this world. It’s high time I made some space in my schedule to have them. How’s your schedule? Do you know when you;ll have time to work on that one thing? Leave me a comment and tell me about the things you do to keep on track, moving toward your goals. I’m open to suggestions. Let’s call it, internet coaching..

Gratitude

Don’t concern yourself, dear reader, as I have no intention on being too sappy here.  Just a couple thoughts:

For the past week or so, I’ve been focused on an anniversary coming up. No, not the wedding or anything near that important. It’s a date that marks my landing on the East Coast of this great country. The end of January 2015 will mark four years in a city far, far from my boyhood home.  You see, I dragged my wife here with a glimmer in my eye and my head in the clouds, dreaming of the steps to take to make a better life. I wanted to go to law school, and I was aiming squarely for a school within the boundaries of the city where I now reside. A city 1800 miles away from my home, from everything I knew.

I had high hopes, big dreams, and zero fear. I was working through the last year of my undergrad, and was running headlong toward the American Dream. I was determined to fly unrestrained through my legal education, after which I was gonna hold this world by its coattails and shake the gold from it’s pockets. I know, I know, financial gain is one among the litany of wrong reasons to attempt such a foolhardy endeavor. Fear not, dear reader, as my morals are intact, the delusions of untapped wealth washed from my eyes. Very near the time to make the big leap, I became as frightened as ten-year-old girl in a busy biker bar on a Friday night.

Perspective is a funny thing. You see something far off in the distance, it always looks small enough to pick it up and put it in your pocket. As the time to apply for law school approached, I slowed as a runner slows to get a drink, and took another look. Perspective was no longer on my side. I was now standing at the base of an enormous monolith. Most specifically, the financial expense of what a law education required rolled over and over through my head (Roughly $150K). This and every other possible reason I could think of poured over me like a bucket of water, extinguishing the flames of fearlessness. The thought of the potential debt given my status as a man of a certain age, was overpowering. What the hell was I thinking?

Therefore: I am not, nor do I plan on, attending law school.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I got caught up earlier in the Thanksgiving week with a bit of a humbug bug, I had a couple of solid days, thinking to myself: Well here I am, four years in this joint, could’ve would’ve been graduating from law school but I chickened out. I’m not really any farther ahead than I was before I got here, or got this useless undergrad degree, or this crap job. Wallowing in self pity. It’s an ugly place to be.

I’ve been a bit down on myself lately, as I tend to equate my own level of success with what I see around me; not necessarily material things, but quality of life stuff: Apartment or House? 14 year old, sputtering Ford Focus or fairly new Mustang? But then I started finding a few things upon which to be thankful for: When we moved here, all I had to provide for the four of us was a part-time job. We didn’t even have a place to live. For the first six-or-so weeks of our existence here, I had a part-time job and a 65 mile commute each way because my wife’s sister had agreed to let us live in her unfurnished basement for a bit.  I moved up to selling car parts full-time at a retail store to supplement my part-time income. Shortly after we landed an apartment where we could bring our “children”, two furry, spoiled, loving, Labradors. I got a better full-time job. We got a better apartment. My full-time job said we’d really like it if you quit your part-time job, here’s a pay raise equivalent to what they pay you. There’s certainly enough to be thankful for. Everybody has tough circumstances. We just tend not to see it. Or we try to ignore it.

When people post the really shitty parts of their lives on BookFace (or their blog, thanks for stickin’ with me), we roll our eyes and call them dramatic. When people display all their successes: We call them undeserving a-holes and avoid them like the plague. I challenge you to be really successful at something, and see how many people are cheering you on, and for how long. We don’t really want to see illustrations of life any better or worse than we’ve got it, but the human experience is really just the same for all of us in a lot of different ways. We all have the same range of emotions to work from: Joy, happiness, despair, exuberance, pain, grief. Which ones we experience are really just a matter of choice. Admittedly there are exceptions. But I made a choice: A couple days ago I decided that I needed to be more grateful. More thankful for the great opportunities that have been presented to me on a silver platter. I’m holding countless opportunities to do a great many things, all I have to decide is how much fear and uncertainty can I tolerate.

In order to experience a greater number of the good emotions, while minimizing the crappy ones, I’ve got to be more grateful. Being pissed off about one’s circumstances is a sure fire way to experience all the wrong emotions. More importantly, an attitude of gratitude might lead me to be a nicer person to hang out with, and lend to the introduction of better things to come.

I’ll keep ya posted.

-D.

Let’s Discuss My Title….

I’m sorry internet.  It’s been far too long.

I have been wanting to take a minute and discuss my title: Cubicles and Airplanes…. To me it illustrates the greatest dichotomy of my life.  The polar opposites of my world. The thing I want to do vs. the thing I have to do.  In a minute you’ll know which is which.

I am currently employed as a charlatan in an engineering/test facility. I lead a team of crack professionals that test wireless products. On a good day, it’s a bit dry. We have fun, we giggle, we work. To the masses who enjoy the solitude, that so often comes within the confines of a cubicle and the art of engineering, it’s a mecca. For me, I struggle to find inspiration within these three tall, gray, fabric walls.

Last week I flew to Detroit. It was for work, otherwise I would have likely chosen a more tropical destination. Something I’ve discovered over the last few years is an incredible amount of creativity that washes over me when seated on an airplane. I’m unsure if it’s my oversize canister stuffed into an undersize middle seat, restricting movement to a bare minimum. I do know that I watched the sunset through the window across the aisle. Breathtaking doesn’t begin to describe it.

Words came. I needed to write. I grabbed my phone and ended up writing two verses of a song. Original stuff, not something I remembered. I believe it may have been country music, at least that’s what I heard in my head. I wrote of homecomings, and sunsets, and longing.  I sent it to myself in an email, satisfied that I had secured something so wonderfully fleeting that I might be able to finish it later, as it needed a chorus. I looked for it later, it was gone. Not in my draft folder. Not in my inbox. non-existent.

This same thing happened a couple of years ago.  I was on my way home from Utah back to the East Coast. My father had just passed and the need struck once again. I dunno if it was the beginning of my Dad’s biography, his eulogy, or something else altogether. The need to put “pen to paper” was overwhelming and I had to hammer out some words. The Death of a Statesman  still resides on my laptop, tapping it’s foot in anticipation of completion.

This is where you come in, dear reader. I’m using words to self-soothe. You, my friends, are the unwitting beneficiaries of the need to express my thoughts. I’m grateful you’re here.  And I’ll try to turn this up a notch or two and make it interesting. Or at least amusing.

Until then.

D.

Big, Tough. Changes.

First post, and this is gonna be a duesy. I have some things to get off my chest and internet, you’re the only one I can talk to right this second. It life change time, ’cause I’m 38 and adulthood can be a bit boring. These are changes for the better and I could use a cheerleader or two. If you’ve got the time to stroke the ego of a complete stranger, you’ll have done some good in your life and can move on with the satisfaction that you’ll reach a higher plane of heaven – if it’s organized like that.

First life change: Admit when I’ve been a jerk. Today I sent an apology letter for being a jerk to someone.  I don’t mean I plead for forgiveness on someone’s Facebook page, because that’s lame. I actually typed up my words, got teary eyed a couple times, proofread, got teary again, printed it, stuffed it in an envelope and sent it to someone I haven’t seen face-to-face for nearly eight years.  I’ll skip the details, but I was an ass. We were both working in the same industry- he was successful and I wasn’t. Rather than buck up and get to work, I was a jerk instead. I used his success as a measuring stick for my own deficiencies and took it out on him.  Sarcasm is my tool. My shield. Which leads me to my next point.

Second Change: Kill the sarcasm. Sarcasm has served me well. It has defended me against people who were smarter, funnier, more caring, more religious, more successful. If you had a quality that made me feel insignificant, I had a sarcastic remark for you. In the last couple of days I’ve been doing a lot of study of human behavior, a favorite topic. It seems that instead of looking beyond myself for subjects to examine, karma instead held up a mirror and showed me some of my own issues. I’ve made the choice today to work on being more genuine, more kind, more authentic.  All of the things that I cannot be through sarcasm. I cannot image the hurt that I’ve caused through my sarcastic remarks.

Third Change: My work. I know, gazillions of people are unemployed to some extent. If that’s you I’m sorry, but you may want to skip the next few sentences, because I’m going to bitch about my shitty job even though you don’t have one.  I don’t suffer from that. I’ve never really been unemployed for more than a couple of weeks.  What I’m struggling with now is that fact that I’m balanced on the precipice of trapping myself in a cubicle for the rest of my natural life.  I work for a technology company, surround by people with real degrees.  Engineers. Programmers. Coders. It’s like living a lie, but they pay me. I’ve learned a lot and they’ve promoted me. I’m trying to find the words to tell my wife that it’s real estate or homelessness. Which may equate to the same thing. Really though, i went from being a real estate agent for nearly ten years, got a degree in what may as well have been Liberal Arts (Aviation Science) and now I am a middle manager in a cubicle. Am I just looking back longingly at better times? Or is there real potential in this new/old possibility?  Time may tell. I’ve got a couple of people that i’m going to ASK FOR HELP. (something else I’m not too good with – and a separate post.)

WordPress reader, you have become my ally in this battle for decisiveness, kindness, and if I can create a new word, un-sarcasm. If anyone sees this, has suffered in similar ways, and survived, I’d like to know what lies on the other side. What it was like for you. What helped? How was it better?

Thanks internet. I’m counting on you.