Monday, April 25, 2016

On Overcoming Adversity

Before I start, I'll say this: I recently made a declaration on Facebook that I am not going to ramble anymore.  Therefore, this post will be shorter than usual for me, and I'll cut down on the unnecessary details.  Hopefully, this will make my posts and writings in general more accessible.

I know someone--remember, I don't name names on here!--who has said for a long time that she doesn't like certain songs because they remind her of bad experiences from her past.  However, I know this person well enough to know that those songs don't match her tastes in music anyway; she probably wouldn't like them even if it weren't for those past incidents.  That doesn't make those memories any more pleasant, though.

Like her and pretty much anyone else, I have bad memories from throughout my past, too; however, mine often involve activities that I enjoy or, at least, used to; since I've always been a talker, I tended to be rather outspoken about my favorite shows, celebrities, comic strips, video/computer games, etc.  I honestly can't think of anything that I've ever enjoyed doing that I wasn't persecuted for somehow; the only things I did that I wasn't persecuted for were ones I hated, like Boy Scouting or AVID.  If I avoided absolutely anything that could bring back a bad memory, I'd do nothing but eat, sleep, and stare off into space; seriously, you never know when a Disney Channel episode or a Christian novel could trigger something like that.

Despite being persecuted for what I liked to do, I kept doing it until I felt it was time to move on to something else.  In recent years, I've rediscovered some of my childhood favorites, ranging from Lizzie McGuire to Power Rangers; yes, I was made fun of for being a fan of those as well.  However, I'm not about to let my naysayers dictate what I can and can't do in my spare time; really, it's none of their business.  If anything, those people's attacks made me all the more determined to spend time involved in my favorite activities.

You may think that it was just punk kids who were bullying me that were at fault, but that's not always the case.  Sometimes, adults were just as guilty if not more so...and, sometimes, the fault was entirely mine; I wouldn't have gotten such a reaction if I had just kept my mouth shut.  Not only that, but...when I think back on how my favorite show was all I could talk, write, or think about...well, that's just disturbing.  Frankly, I can see why people got annoyed with me back then.

Even though it's been years since all that took place, the memories are still there, and they pop up pretty much every day.  Sure, I may not be watching one of those shows or looking up something online about one of those games...but, there are references to them pretty much everywhere I look, ranging from the places I shop at--garage sales, MovieStop, thrift stores, etc.--to Facebook to even at church; you never know what my friends may be talking about at a potluck or other social function!

Okay, so some "advocate" threw a hissy fit when I made a reference to Mork & Mindy; so some punk kid bullied me for being a Scooby-Doo fan; so I thought The Magic School Bus was real.  So what? That doesn't really matter; if I want to do it, as long as it's morally right, why shouldn't I? As we all know, people are going to judge me and criticize me no matter what I do!

I have two concluding points. First off, that road goes other ways as well.  If nobody--well, other than my parents and God--has the right to take away what I enjoy, they also have no right to shove their idea of "fun" down my throat.  Last year, I briefly considered trying my hand at running a marathon per some people's suggestions...and it went absolutely nowhere.  You may think that I used my "condition" as my excuse, but, I stopped doing that years ago; I'm sure there are people who have the same "condition" I do, or maybe even a worse case of autism, who have successfully run a marathon...and, I say, more power to them.  My problem was that the drive just wasn't there; someone or even a group of people saying, "Well, I think this is a good idea," is not enough motivation for something that's never been on my bucket list.  Not only that, but...I also don't have the right to make other people do what I want them to; in fact, I've lost friends because people got tired of repeated requests to read my blog or chat with me on Facebook's instant messenger.

Second off: When it comes to the past incidents I was speaking of, I think I could classify most of them as emotional abuse...but, the parties responsible probably didn't think of what they were doing that way; they may have thought it was just a joke or, believe it or not, that they were doing me a favor.  Human logic is a very flawed thing; just look at how those who have done the unthinkable--ranging from the shooters at Columbine to Osama bin Laden--felt justified in their actions! That's actually why I don't want to get married: I'm afraid of opening myself up to emotional abuse.  You may say that a Christian woman would never do that, but, it happens in marriages--even ones where both members follow the Way--all the time.  The problem with emotional abuse is that people--not just women; men can do it, too--don't even realize what it is they're doing; they say, "I'm just speaking my mind!", "Somebody's got to tell you this!", "Can't you take a joke?", or something to that effect.  My fear when it comes to marriage is either that the emotional abuse will start right after the honeymoon, or that our life together will start out sweet and innocent...only for something in her to snap, and our relationship will never be the same after that.  I've already suffered through enough emotional abuse for a lifetime; I don't need any more.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I Can't Be With You If You Don't Respect Me

We all know that I'm a complicated individual.  While everyone has their quirks, it seems that I have more than most people.  You can blame my "condition," my unique upbringing, or whatever you want, but that's just the way it is.  Trying to get me to be "normal" just isn't going to work.  First off, a truly normal person doesn't exist; as John Ortberg said in the title of one of his books, "Everybody's normal until you get to know them." Second off, when it comes to one person's or some group's definition of "normal," I'm just not going to fit it.  I've tried in the past, and it just hasn't worked.

As such, some people have had serious trouble dealing with me.  While I've been adored by countless individuals, many folks I've known just couldn't handle me; I just drove them crazy.  You may think that was just punk kids at school, but it was not only fellow church members--of all ages--it was also teachers, and other people who really should have been on my side, but just weren't.

Sometimes, their annoyances with me led them to doing the unthinkable to me; what they probably didn't realize was that they'd scarred me for life.  I regularly am haunted by the horrible things people said or did to me over the years; sometimes as far back as elementary school.  While I haven't had to worry about that much lately--while there are some people I currently know who don't like me, they just don't pay me any mind, which I much prefer to what I endured back in the day--the bad memories are still there, and probably always will be.  I've heard people say they don't care for certain things because of bad memories from years past...but, if I avoided anything that reminded me of such times in my life, I wouldn't do anything at all, including watch television and movies or read books.

While I haven't heard much of anything in years from the majority of the people who did such things way back when--which is actually the way I prefer it--some of them I'm still in contact with.  Why? Well, while they may have done the unthinkable and refused to apologize for it, they also did some really good things, such as going out of their way to help me out.  The question I still ask myself is: If they could be that good some of the could they have been as terrible as they were those other times?

While that concept applies within social interaction in general, it's also true in relationships as well; in fact, it's the main reason why I feel that one just isn't for me.  If I'm going to be close with someone--whether in a romantic relationship or even a close friendship--I need someone who understands me.  Sometimes, there are obvious signs that someone doesn't know you very well.  Back in the '90's, I attended the birthday party of a neighborhood friend, who got countless gifts; someone who obviously didn't know him very well got him some books, which I doubt he ever read.  If they'd known him like I did, they would have known that reading was difficult for him because English was not his first language; even when trying to read dialogue in video games, he struggled.  Truth be told, when I first met him, I didn't know about his language difficulty either; if I hadn't been close friends with him, I probably never would have.

While everybody's situation is different, mine seems to be more so than others', and it's also complicated.  That makes it tough to find someone to be in a relationship with or even close friends with; people tend to be afraid of what they don't understand, which would mean respect wouldn't come naturally.  One thing I've always said is: I'm not going to let anyone--even a potential significant other--take away what's important to me.  That includes my faith, but it also includes all the other things I'm passionate about: my shows, Disney Channel or otherwise; my music; bargain hunting; my technology; my books; pretty much anything I'm known for.  If I feel that God is taking those things away, that's a different story; however, if some "friend" tells me I'll be unfriended if I ever watch Supergirl again...well, I'd unfriend him/her right then and there.

However, it seems that such beliefs are going to lead to me staying single forever.  When I meet people around my age--regardless of gender or marital status--they just aren't doing what I am.  Maybe they might like one or two of the same things I do--such as superheroes and/or reading--but, that's about it; they couldn't care less about last week's episode of Liv & Maddie or when the next neighborhood garage sale is in my area.  I'm not about to fake being interested in something that I'm really not--i.e., sports or theme parks--just to impress some girl; eventually, the truth would come out, and she would be steamed when it did.

There's another problem when it comes to relationships as well: I don't want to marry a jerk.  You may have seen the video that went viral on Facebook where a married woman told the sordid tale of the guy she married who eventually did the unthinkable to her teenage daughter.  I recently saw a similar story of a young woman who married a guy who turned out to be a pedophile; he had just finished a prison sentence for his horrible crimes before they met...but he neglected to tell her that, and she didn't find out until it was too late.  So, if people can hide their criminal acts before they get married...why can't they hide the fact that they're a jerk, which there is no law against?

I've always been attracted to sweet, kind women; some years ago, I had a crush on an older friend because of how nice she was.  I used to say back then that, while she was already married, the reason for my attraction to her was because she was the kind of woman I hoped to wed one day.  Unfortunately, people can easily put on a sweet exterior and hide their true self underneath, as was the case with some of the teachers I had; they may have conned my parents and others into thinking they were God's gift to the education system, but they ended up being a thorn in my side the whole time I had them.  It was bad enough being stuck in a classroom every day with such a person for an entire school year; if I had to come home to someone like that every night for the rest of my life, I'd probably shoot myself.  I simply can't deal with people being jerks; if someone can't be nice to me, I'd rather they not talk to me at all.

This is my concluding point: Unfortunately, with the whole feminism thing going on, it seems like many women think it's their duty to demean the men in their lives.  While I agree with the base belief of feminism--women are divinely created individuals, and should be treated as such--I don't think any entire group of people should be looked down upon, whether it's all men, all Hispanics, or anyone from the state of Texas.  Such behavior is nothing short of prejudice...but, it's all too common, and people engage in it without realizing it.  God made women as a helper for men, not as a thorn in the flesh or a middle school bully.  If I ever do get married one day, I hope the woman I wed realizes that and sticks to that belief; otherwise, I'm going to regret the day I ever said "I do".

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Respect Issue

For the first semester of my freshman year of high school, I had a teacher, who I'll call Mrs. McConnell, who failed me.  I don't mean that she gave me a "F"; I mean that she didn't do a very good job of teaching, especially in my case.  Not only was she absent for a week at a time more than once, but she didn't follow the plan that had been set up because of my "condition".  My mom urged me to switch to another English class for second semester, and I did...but that teacher wasn't much better.  Mrs. McConnell wasn't even there the whole year; just after second semester started, her other job caused her to never return to teaching...and neither I nor anyone in the special education department missed her.

Despite her negative traits, Mrs. McConnell did one thing right, and it was something that other teachers, even some of the good ones, didn't do: She put a note in the substitute's lesson plans about the accommodations for my "condition," such as using the computer.  Substitutes had given me flak about that well before high school; I was infuriated one time in fifth grade when a sub wouldn't listen when I begged and pleaded with her that I wasn't supposed to cut anything out.  After she made me do it anyway, I vented to my mom about how she had "violated" the rule.  My mom said that those kinds of problems would happen...but, they didn't in Mrs. McConnell's class.  To this day, I don't know why an otherwise terrible teacher like her helped me out on that front, but other instructors who were usually great failed me in that regard.

Believe it or not, what happened with Mrs. McConnell has happened countless times with other people whom I know or have known.  Various people have done the unthinkable to me, or defended others for doing so, and have made me tempted to unfriend them...and not just in the Facebook sense! Yet, when other parties describe those people, they say things such as, "They're the best friends you've ever had!", "They are your biggest advocates! There's no excuse, disability or not, for your comments about them!", "He likes you and you don't even know it!", "She is your biggest fan!", or other similar adulations.  It's true that some of the individuals they were describing did some great things for me...but they also did some terrible things as well! If they could be that wonderful some of the time...why couldn't they be that way all of the time?

One of my big things has always been respect.  If you don't respect me and/or what I do, then, it's going to drive a wedge between us.  When it comes to my interactions with people, I tend to respond in kind.  If someone is nice and sweet to me, unless I'm in a horrible mood, I'll be just as kind to them; however, if someone comes up to me and starts chewing me out over nothing, or thinks they have the right to make fun of me for being a Disney Channel fan, I'm not going to react very kindly.  I may not say much of anything to the person responsible, but someone will definitely hear about it, likely my parents.  Unfortunately, too many people I know or have known act in a way that seems to foster disrespect, though they don't seem to realize it.

Back in 2003, I witnessed an online debate where one of the arguing parties said something that has stuck with me ever since: "Whatever happened to edification or spurring one another on to good works?" You may recognize that as a reference to the Bible, but, regardless of your religious beliefs, I'm sure we can all agree that hatred only breeds more hatred.  Instead of tearing each other down, we need to be building each other up...but, it seems like the entire world is bent on the former.  That's why I ask myself that question fairly often, especially after unpleasant interactions with so-called "friends".

You may remember the whole debacle a few years back when a comment on a Facebook friend's status led to the ending of a once-good friendship.  If you do, you've probably read or heard the oft-quoted lament from that former friend: "That's just great! Some actress you're never going to meet gets more respect than a real-life friend! Yes, I'm being sarcastic!" Honestly, I have found my favorite celebrities easy to respect, and here's why: I don't actually know them.  It may seem like I do, because many actors and actresses are best known for one role, but they roles they play and who they really are can be quite different.  There are times when celebrities break many people's hearts, such as when beloved actor/comedian Robin Williams committed suicide some years ago; that was a slap in the face to the scores of moviegoers whom he had made laugh during his career.  Still, my favorite people from Tinseltown can't do to me what the people I actually know have done...because they simply don't know me.  If I truly know someone, that means that I don't just know their good points; I know their flaws as well...and sometimes more in depth than I ever wanted to.

Believe it or not, this concept actually relates to the relationship issue, and here's why: I don't want to be in a relationship--even a platonic one, such as a close friendship--with someone whom I can't respect.  Unfortunately, there are too many people who I should be able to respect, but just can't because of their actions towards me...yet, they're the people who are said to be my "biggest advocates" or "the best friends I've ever had."  Even if a relationship started out sweet and innocent at first, people change over time, and the wife I once considered an angel from heaven could suddenly become the thorn in my side...which would drive me insane and have me begging and pleading for a way out.

That may be why I've been seemingly providentially hindered from being in a relationship: God doesn't want me to go through such pain.  While other people could just brush unfortunate comments off, such words would stick with me for years regardless of who said them.  I'm still haunted by horrible things people said to me as far back as elementary school.  Being close to someone--whether in marriage or otherwise--gives them the opportunity to hurt me...which is something I don't want to give anyone.

Now, for my conclusion: It seems that people don't take the wrong things they do seriously; even when someone else is obviously hurt or otherwise negatively affected, they don't seem to care.  I know that people are going to wrong me--it's part of life!--but, it's not about who has wronged me and how; it's about how they feel about what they've done.  If they have the decency to come to me and apologize, or they somehow make up for what they've done, then I can respect that.  What I can't respect is when people give me the proverbial slap in the face and not feel a single shred of remorse, even if I'm in tears or in a rage because of what they've done.  Such actions do nothing but foster disrespect...yet, people act that way all the time towards me.  If you're on my side, then, act like it; otherwise, I don't have any reason to believe that you're my friend!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Staying True to My Entertainment Values...No Matter What

When I was younger, I didn't have many interests except for computers, television, and reading; all sources of entertainment.  Though my favorite toy was my Commodore 64, I still spent many an hour watching our old, discolored television set.  You may remember me being a big fan of shows such as Growing Pains or Lizzie McGuire, but, during those times, if those shows weren't on, I was usually doing something else.  Before most of you knew me, though, I was a pretty ardent television watcher, or couch potato, you might say.  A big part of my TV diet over the years was the Problem Child movies, which originally came out in theaters when I was too young to remember, but aired on basic cable channels such as TNT or USA umpteen times over the years.  I haven't seen one of those films since I was in high school, but, I recently watched a clip from the second film online...and was shocked by what I saw.  I won't describe it in detail, but it involved two teenagers engaging in sexual activity, and a crowd of voyeurs watching.  That kind of humor probably went over my head as a kid, but, now, I can't believe I was even allowed to watch such a thing; that's the kind of trash that I bashed my fellow Christians for watching...yet, I watched it several times, even as far back as when I was in elementary school! I guess I had no room to talk; if only I'd realized it back then.

That wasn't the only violation of my own rules; shows such as Hollywood Squares, Home Improvement, and even Diff'rent Strokes had right much content that I shouldn't have seen...but I still regularly tuned into those programs, and, with the former two, for quite a while.  While I can't undo what I did back then, I can make a change for the future...and that's what I'm going to do!

Before I get to my rule--there's only one, because, to me, it's that simple!--I will share some of my thoughts on this topic.  First off: It's easy to get suckered in by entertainment...especially for me.  When you get involved in a show, movie, book, video game, etc., of course you want to see it through to the end; you'd only quit before you finished it if you didn't care for it.  People with my "condition" tend to be more apt to stare at a screen or look at words on a page than others.  I remember seeing an article online about a decade ago that linked TV watching to autism, saying that studies showed that infants and toddlers who watched more television than others their age tended to end up diagnosed with some sort of autistic disorder.  However, most of the comments disagreed with the results; they believed it was the autism causing the TV watching, not vice versa.  I've noticed myself sometimes unable to turn away from a television screen, even when it was showing something I'd rather not see.  If I'm going to get involved in entertainment, I have to make sure it sticks to my rule...or else I should avoid it at all costs.

Second off: I don't want to play the ratings game.  There's been much discussion over the years over the flaws in the MPAA rating system; I remember reading an article on Plugged In that told of a "PG-13" movie I won't name that even left the secular critics saying, "There are so many reasons this should be an 'R' film"...but, it wasn't.  You may have known someone--or be/have been someone--who wasn't/isn't allowed to watch movies with certain ratings.  I've said for a while that I don't watch "R" films, but, some would say "PG-13" ones are worse because of innuendo...which is exactly why I don't watch those unless they fall into the superhero, sci-fi/fantasy, or Christian genres!  Besides which, many of the movies I've watched in recent years are telefilms or direct-to-video ones that will say "Not Rated" on the back cover, maybe alongside a Canadian rating, which is even more unreliable than one from the MPAA.  Honestly, I don't think I could stick to just "G" films; I got burned out on Disney or Disney-style cartoons as a kid, watching movies such as Beauty and the Beast or We're Back!: A Dinosaur's Story umpteen times on video.  Most of my DVD collection consists of TV shows, but, most of the movies I own or have owned/watched in recent years either are rated "PG" or "PG-13"--though not "R"!--or would be if they'd been submitted to the MPAA.

Last point before my conclusion: Just because something is for adults doesn't mean it is or has to be morally offensive.  In recent years, "adult entertainment" has become the "G"-rated way to say "pornography"; I don't know why they won't just call it what it is.  Still, at the library where I work, we don't have any such DVDs, but we still do have an "adult" section and a "juvenile" section, as well as a "young adult" one.  The "adult" section has books, DVDs, and CDs that are catered to an older audience.  Sometimes, that does mean an "R" rating...but it doesn't always.  You'll find plenty of clean media, such as old-school television programs, Hallmark Hall of Fame telefilms, and classic Disney live-action movies, in the DVD section alone.  While such media may be clean, that doesn't mean young children or even teenagers will appreciate it or even understand it.  When I was a kid, I had a computer game called A-Train that I never would have understood if my brother-in-law hadn't helped me play it.  The content was completely clean--definitely no profanity, sex, nudity, drug use, etc., and not really any violence either--but it wasn't for young ones because it was just too complicated.  It's the same with plenty of entertainment out there; it may be fine morally, but that doesn't mean it's appropriate for the younger crowd.

Okay, now here is for my rule:

If I don't want my friends or family members to know I watched or read it...
If I would be embarrassed to read or watch such a thing in public or within the doors of my church building...
If I think people would consider me a hypocrite for watching or reading such a thing...
...then, I'm avoiding it at all costs!

Sound good to you?