Whining

Tonight, for something completely different.

No great lessons, I’m talking about me.

But not the usual me talk in which I describe what a master rhetorician I am, nor will I dissect or analyze the flaws of my ideological enemies or point out the flaws in reasoning of my friends.  Instead, I have a confession to make.

Frankly, I’m a mess.

I’m not a crack addict or unemployed alcoholic or anything.  I go to work on time every day, and I do a good job.  I get along well with others, and everybody around me thinks I do an even better job than I actually do.

I’m well-respected by my peers.  If you called me in the middle of the night and were on the verge of suicide, I would talk you into loving life again.  I’ve saved marriages and kept soldiers from wigging out in a combat zone.  I’ve mentored several younger men.  I see little flaws in how they do things, provide them with fresh perspectives, encourage them or kick their behinds (somehow just knowing which to do when), and they turn their lives around.

Then they surpass me because I don’t know how to take any of my own damn advice.  When I was in Afghanistan (where drudgery was a far worse enemy in my case than the Taliban), I was the positivity point that lifted everyone’s spirits as I quietly seethed.

Obviously, it’s not all bad, but there’s something seriously out of whack.

I can (partially) trace this to two related parts of my past.  First, I was raised without a proper father.  I didn’t get those little coaching sessions on how to perfect my baseball swing, change a tire, or ask out a girl.  I instinctively knew I couldn’t come across as weak and that asking for help indicated weakness.  One of the many things a father does for a son is to “help” him innumerable times when the kid doesn’t ask for (or even necessarily want) it.  This simultaneously humbles the child while preserving his dignity.  He doesn’t have to seem weak by asking for help, but he’s still going to get it.

“Here, let me show you an easier way to do that.”

As a result, I’ve learned to be that coach I never had to just about everybody I know but me.  I come across as eminently competent, so my allies see no need to assist me with anything.  I’m the one that they come to instead.

Still, very little in my life actually changes.  I’m great at kicking everybody else’s ass, but my own, not so much.  I can do it for a while, but never quite long enough.

Father issues abound, even in healthy societies.  Still, I was even more isolated from masculinity than most.  I’ve learned how to interact in a masculine context, but that’s only because I put a lot of time and effort into it.  My “game” with other guys works, but it’s very unique and was developed after lots of painful trial and error.

Also, even if a father isn’t perfect (and none are), a lot of adult men with living fathers can know that their fathers are at least on their side, even if they don’t know how to be of any practical use.

The last time I spoke to my dad he called me a racist and a fascist.  He’s made it abundantly clear he wants me to fail.

Second, I was spoiled rotten.  I was raised below the official poverty line, but if I wanted it, I got it.  It was my grandmother that gave me everything, but my mother (who had major issues with her own mother) did nothing to stop it.

A sense of entitlement is detrimental to everybody, but I think it’s especially problematic for boys.  Despite feminist indoctrination, women still aren’t really expected to make their own way in the world; a man is (I don’t disagree with this).  If a twenty-five year-old woman starts crying on the subway, everybody will offer her their kleenex.  If a man does likewise, he’ll be shunned (except by the occasional kind soul who might assume he just found out his dog died or something).

Thus a girl with a sense of entitlement is more likely to have her spoiled brat desires met by somebody, to have things handed to her, than a man.  People are more likely to give to her because she’s a girl; he’s expected to earn it.

This is the natural order of things, but it makes life especially precarious for the man who spent his boyhood being catered to. “Earning it” feels beneath him, but not only is it not beneath him in the objective sense, it’s not perceived that way by others.  No free gifts for other guys.

I’ve worked incessantly to purge this part of myself.  I’ve worked seventy hour weeks on multiple occasions.  I enlisted in the Army (when I could have been an officer) in large part to prove to myself that nothing is beneath me.  Still, there’s this feeling that things should just happen for me.

But they don’t, I suspect because God expects something more out of me.

I went to a high school where the normal thing to do was to go to work at some factory after graduation.  The smart kids went to Eastern, Western Michigan or Michigan State, and the really smart ones went to U of M (one or two per year).  I managed to get into a university far more prestigious than that and went to school with the rich kids.

At first, I was intimidated, but when I learned that I was just as smart and capable as they were, I got cocky and expected that my degree would pave my way to immediate greatness.

It didn’t.  The rich kids may have also felt entitled (albeit not as much as me), but they also had daddy’s friends to get them jobs, even if they only managed a 2.2.  I had cockiness with out Game or connections.  The scrappy poor kid who fought his way in lost his mojo.  I was the first half of Rocky III except before he won the championship.

This isn’t to say I haven’t put lots of effort into turning my life around.  One of my seventy hour per week jobs was ostensibly one of those “paying your dues” type scenarios that lead to a great job, only it didn’t (we lost the election).  I’ve gotten in great physical shape several different times, but once I get there, I haven’t been able to stay.

So I’ve been finding it difficult to maintain focus.  Is it worth it to put in countless hours at the gym and carefully plan my meals for months when I know I’m just going on some eating binge just before the finish line to undo everything?  Should I go through another round of volunteering for and impressing people who could forward my career aspirations when I suspect I’ll either flub it all at the end or have them give up?  (Those times I actually have followed through it hasn’t worked out, either.)  Clean my apartment when it’s going to magically look just like it does now three days later?

Of course it is, and I know that.  I’ve just got to be the bug in my own ear that I could so easily be in yours.  Yet for some reason, that’s so much harder.

I digest, assess, and convey information to others as well as anyone I’ve ever met.  This comes naturally to me, and for this I’m truly grateful.

But it’s almost like I’ve mastered calculus before learning my times tables.  If I can’t do the basics, the really special stuff doesn’t matter.  I might be a far more persuasive voice for my views than 95% of the idiots on TV instead of me, but they’ve mastered (or at least managed to learn) some very basic skills that still confound me.

And in a sense, this makes them more worthy.  After all, aren’t incompetent intellectuals one of humanity’s worst scourges?  If I can’t manage to make my voice heard, can my voice really be worth hearing?

So I know what I’ve got to do, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable as dissecting all of the political implications of Genesis or comparing modern ideologies to the worldviews of various Shakespeare characters.  Yes, I’ve got to blog.  I’ve also got to get to bed early enough to be able to get to the gym before work, keep better track of my email, not let the mail take over my dining room table, waste time on stupid YouTube videos, etc.

I’ve got to learn to be more than who I am if I want my life to be more than what it is.  Unfortunately, this means spending way more time on stuff that bores the crap out of me.

But that’s part of life, and it’s time I accept that.

In any case, feel free to pray for me if that’s your thing.  I’ve got lots of work to do.

This entry was posted in Family, Feminism, Foundations, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Whining

  1. NeitherK says:

    Good Post Martel.

    On Parents:

    The role of parents in a child’s life are often squeezed to pithy sayings or disqualified entirely, but if you see how your parents managed to do what they do, you may be amazed.

    My parents, high-school dropouts in a Southeast Asian country, managed to earn enough to send their three boys to universities in the US. That they worked hard and became successful is a fact. That they were almost absent from our lives when we were growing up, due to long hours spent working, is another.

    I still remember the older days when I feel a certain disconnect that the woman who was called ‘mom’ was more distant than the ‘nanny’. My dad was a looming distant figure that mostly came as a form of harsh discipline. My parents only became more of a constant figure in my life when we moved countries due to riots in the 98 economic crisis. However by that time things became strained, moving into another country and changing family dynamics meant that we have to learn to communicate again.

    That uncertainty, combined with my childhood where I was bullied for my chubbiness, meant that I always second-guessed myself and my self-worth. People often underestimate how distance from your parents as a child can instill uncertainty that his parents will be there, to accept and protect him, should he screw up. I had a hard time making friends because of that.

    Till this day, I always felt that tingle (heh) of uncertainty when I make a mistake.

    On helping others:

    While I was volunteering in church-planting, I had a similar experience.
    I volunteered at the church at the time when I had nothing to lose. I had a ‘Worthless’ degree in history and politics, very low job prospects, limited social skills and no initiative. Only through my parents’ prodding did I decide that things must change.

    I was open to help the members, became a trusted adviser to the Pastor and pretty much organized the running of the church from scratch. while ignoring my needs. In the end, while the church stagnated, I failed to grow spiritually, volunteering and being a Christian was just a coat of paint on an old building. The pastor had his heart in the right place, but at the time I always felt disconnected from Christianity.

    I tried helping people, devoting a lot of my time to lift them from their predicament, before subsequently seeing them fall into trouble again. It’s only after seeing the repeated failings of people around me that I realize that success and failure is your own responsibility. I can help them go to church, as I did, but I cannot help them come to Jesus. I can help them with their assignments but I cannot help them if they refuse to learn proper English.

    In the end, I stopped helping people and I admitted I have big problems of my own that need addressing.

    “I’ve got to learn to be more than who I am if I want my life to be more than what it is. Unfortunately, this means spending way more time on stuff that bores the crap out of me.

    But that’s part of life, and it’s time I accept that.”

    Amen, Brother.
    (Sorry about the Essay.)

    • Martel says:

      No worries about the essay.

      At the moment I’m not being much of a “helper” to anyone (a couple of weeks back I sent some helpful texts to somebody, but nothing major), so it’s not like somebody else’s problems are keeping me from addressing my own.

      And yes, your assessment of my statement there is correct. I know I’m right about that, but I wish I wasn’t.

  2. Emma the Emo says:

    Not sure I completely understand everything, but it made me think about so many things. I feel many people would relate to it at least somewhat. And since I can relate to some of it, I’ll summarize some stuff that worked for me. My experience is not huge, but here it is.

    One, when truly stuck somewhere, the solution is not to do more of the same (since it doesn’t work) . When this happens to me, it means I probably don’t know how to get where I want to be, even if I think I do. There is something missing. When this happens, it’s time to learn more than you know and think creatively. Maybe to search around in the library, write a daily journal on it (yeah, sounds girly but how else to do it?).

    Two, if it’s hard to be a bug in your own ear, it might help to place inspirational material around the house, to remind you what you want to be. I’m never as inspired to work on something as when I’m reminded what I’m missing… Self-shame and envy really work and I experience them as positive emotions. However, it has to be balanced out with an optimistic (perhaps not entirely rational) belief that you will totally get where you want, because you have all the essentials for it (everything else can be earned). You just have to work smart and you’ll be there eventually.

    Three… Multitasking (trying to do everything at once, to achieve many goals at once) is hard and is a skill to be earned all on its own. If you have like 30 goals to keep up with, some will naturally fall away and be rarely updated. And you might get really tired and burned out, too, at which point you’ll fail even where you usually succeeded. Or you’ll spread yourself too thin and do everything averagely.

    Four, perfectionism will make sure you stay mediocre, pefectionism should be avoided.

    I hope you figure out what to do.

    Last, but not least, I want to ask – why do you think doing the necessary work to reach your goals is boring? (sorry if you already explained it but I didn’t get it)

    • Martel says:

      One and two would take me forever to respond to. Three and four are challenges because there are so many things I’ve got to work on. When I focus on one thing, other stuff goes to crap until I have to focus on that instead.

      Regarding the “necessary work” part, not all of it’s boring, but some is. The worst part is the day-to-day stuff like making & packing meals, getting laundry done on time, making sure I get the oil changed on time. I’m either a tightly-wound machine who does EVERYTHING right and on schedule (perfectionism), or it’s chaos.

      If I could just wake up, go to work, come home, write, fart around a bit & go to bed I’d be set.

  3. A♠ says:

    After reading this, we really need to speak one on one.

    My sincerest thanks for you sharing this information.

  4. Acksiom says:

    All this certainly fits with your refusal to continue our previous conversation as soon as it was unmistakably clear that you’d lost every point of argument and could perceive no other options than spoiled brat silence and adult male accountability.

    • Martel says:

      The discussion Acksiom references is here, beginning about halfway through the comment thread. If any of my readers agree with Acksiom’s assessment, let me know.

      • Acksiom says:

        No, Marty dear; you’re supposed to do it yourself. If you really need the help of others to pick up even that small a load of adult responsibility, you probably shouldn’t be presuming to advise and counsel others about anything yourself ITFP.

  5. Sis says:

    “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

    I pray that you will seek the Lord with all your heart and mind, that you will find rest in His arms, that you will experience His deep love and grace after failure, that the lens you see life through is changed to His purposes and not your own, that you find peace.

  6. Sis says:

    Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
    is God in his holy habitation.
    God settles the solitary in a home;
    he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, Psalm 68:5-6

  7. Emma the Emo says:

    I have some more questions about this post. You say here:
    “I’ve worked seventy hour weeks on multiple occasions. I enlisted in the Army (when I could have been an officer) in large part to prove to myself that nothing is beneath me. Still, there’s this feeling that things should just happen for me.”
    What do you mean when you say you feel that things should just happen for you? Is it the same as thinking “I wish sometimes I could get a break and things weren’t so hard”?
    But are you really feeling entitled? Your actions don’t seem to reflect your conclusions about this (who works 70 hours a week if they feel entitled?) Perhaps you are right, but both wanting to get a break and loss of focus could happen from the last 2 points I made in my first comment.

    This topic is so cool btw.

    • Martel says:

      “What do you mean when you say you feel that things should just happen for you? Is it the same as thinking ‘I wish sometimes I could get a break and things weren’t so hard’?”

      Somewhat. It’s like I feel like if I put every bit of myself into achieving something, that other achievements should then naturally follow. I’ve “shown God” how much crap I’m willing to go through by being such a good soldier, so now He owes me.

      Besides, crappy childhood, blah, blah, blah. Time for things to just start going my way.

      Not proper, I know.

  8. infowarrior1 says:

    With a growing number of boys without fathers. Proper mentors are sorely in need.

  9. Martel says:

    The idea’s pretty much dead, but the Dead Beta Society (link in categories) was an attempt to address this.

  10. theshido says:

    I’m in a VERY similar funk right now. I know how to beat it, too; I think it’s school that’s doing this to me but I’ll only find out after I finish second year.

    Good luck bud, you can handle this shit.

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  12. blazingsuth says:

    It’s so interesting that you should post this. My brothers went through something similar in their early-mid twenties. They’re still sort of dealing with a few loose ends from that time. Your post makes me wonder if it’s more common than we think among men in today’s society. I couldn’t tell you how they dealt with the issue; I’m not sure they could even articulate it themselves. They both had different approaches to dealing with these feelings (they’re identical twins), and their solutions turned out pretty differently (but mostly successful so far).

    Many of the things you describe as being difficult or boring to manage, are things that women are usually good at (or at least not overwhelmed by); possibly this is one of the unacknowledged benefits of early marriage that we have lost as a society.

    ADD coping strategies might be useful for getting the mundane stuff done to a minimum standard. Those strategies usually focus on achieving ‘good enough’ and breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable portions, along with some pretty useful ideas for staying on track. I don’t have ADD and I love ADD strategies for handling these sorts of things. This approach really simplified my laundry routine for example.

    • Emma the Emo says:

      “Many of the things you describe as being difficult or boring to manage, are things that women are usually good at (or at least not overwhelmed by); possibly this is one of the unacknowledged benefits of early marriage that we have lost as a society. ”

      How does early marriage help it? Just curious.

      • Martel says:

        In the Manosphere you’ll often hear of a variation of what I call the “capstone fallacy” of marriage regarding women: marriage is the final flourish on adulthood after achieving career-success, adventure, etc.

        Instead, marriage probably works better as a “cornerstone”, a central part of life that helps you achieve financial success, fulfillment, etc.

        A man’s going to have a harder time making life what he wants it to be when he’s spending time cooking, cleaning, etc., that he’d rather spend either pursuing his dreams, or even just watching football, recharging. If he already has a wife, not only can he spend less time chasing poon, she can save time for him by taking care of the stuff that feels extraneous to him.

        There was a “division of labor” to marriage that worked pretty well for most people. A man knows that a clean living space is important, but most women FEEL it’s important. Dusting and vacuuming doesn’t feel like a distraction from what she’d really rather be doing to quite the same extent.

        Furthermore, two single twenty-five year-olds could probably save a lot of time if they lived together, for instead of maintaing two apartments, it would just be one, two trips to the grocery store, just one, etc.

        Instead, we’re all doing everything separately. It’s not only exhausting, it’s incredibly inefficient.

    • Martel says:

      I’ll check out the ADD strategy stuff. Thanks.

  13. blazingsuth says:

    As Martel put it, “If I could just wake up, go to work, come home, write, fart around a bit & go to bed I’d be set.” In a traditional division of labor, that’s what the husband does while the wife takes care of the house.

    Early marriage solves the problem of (young) men getting sidetracked by not knowing, or caring about the house keeping side of things.

    I suppose early marriage isn’t really necessary, many men learn how to manage these aspects of their life just fine. Though since it seems to really free men up to achieve their greatest potential when they don’t have to deal with this stuff; the earlier they are able to work towards their potential, the better.

    For example, my husband’s family is amazed at how much he has accomplished in the last few years. They sort of think I have something to with it, but don’t realize that he’s gotten so much done because I took over managing the more mundane aspects of life. I sometimes wonder where he would be today if we had met 10 years earlier.

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