Still Angrily Impatient…But Not Always

A bunch of years ago, when I first started working on changing, or better, working on the whole me, a friend described me as angrily impatient. That’s still true. It’s something that has both caused me grief and served me. Probably more of the former than the latter.

For about 10 years, I was a photojournalist. During that era of my life, my opinion is it definitely caused me more grief, than helped. My last job in this capacity was in Cedar Rapids, IA. I can recall four distinct times being angrily impatient was not in my best interest. In the first, I had just started my job. I received an assignment to photograph some kids at a local event. It was in an auditorium. I remember getting there, and kids, being kids, it was difficult to get the attention of those I was supposed photograph. I really didn’t want to shoot this. Out comes Mr. AI, and in a manner not conducive to working with kids or persons in general, I did what I thought was necessary to get the picture done and out of there. When I returned to the paper, I was called into the managing editor’s office. He’d already had several parents call about “the rude photographer.” Strike one.

Another time Mr. AI showed up was a portrait I’d been assigned  of some guy who’d been responsible for updating a local theater. When I was working with the fellow, he kept wanting to ‘direct’ the photo. After several minutes of this, I finally said something to him akin to, “I’m the professional here. We’ll do it my way, understood?” Another phone call to the editor, another lecture. Clearly, Mr. AI wasn’t earning anyone’s welcome and causing me many more problems then he was solving. Strike Two.

The last time in Cedar Rapids this happened was the straw that broke the editor’s back. I was shooting a University of Iowa football game. It was raining pretty hard and in those days, maybe still, Iowa used Astroturf on their field. Funny thing about Astroturf and rain, they don’t play well together. In fact, there’s usually a pretty good lake that forms on the field. As a sideline photographer, I knew I was supposed to get on my knees to shoot, but with a field that wet, it would have been like jumping in a pool. An Iowa state trooper came by and ‘ordered’ me down on the field. Maybe I squatted, maybe I didn’t, I really don’t remember. What I do remember was standing, not kneeling. Up comes this state trooper, grabs my jacket, starts pulling me down with a “I said get down!” command. As you might imagine this went over like a lead balloon. Not only did I not go down, I told this guy if he put his hands on me again I’d file assault charges. A pretty good shouting match ensued. Unfortunately for me, the assistant sports director of the university is witnessing the whole thing. Not only did I get called in to the editor’s office, I was fired. Strike Three, you’re out! I remember him saying, “Donny, when I hired you I told you I would stand by you. I have. For three, long years. I just can’t anymore.” There was no begging forgiveness or another chance. It was to be the end of my career as a newspaper photographer. There’s almost never a day since I haven’t wished I knew then what I know now. I might still be shooting. It was one one of the most painful lessons ever. To this day, I don’t photograph much of anything. There’s still a stigma about what was lost. Maybe some day.

Did I learn anything from this? Yes. Many years later, I was in a situation with a K-12 school official. This guy, a former principal, and clearly someone used to getting his way, approached me on a project we were working together on. He asked me a question about an area of the project I was not responsible for. When I answered his question with that information, he began screaming at me. I mean screaming. In olden days, I might have strapped on my six-guns and invited him out to the street at high noon. This time, I stopped, caught me breath, and asked myself what this guy really needed. I knew his boss could be a real handful, he was likely under a lot of pressure from her. So, what did I do? I told him he was correct and asked him what I needed to do to make his life easier. The change was almost immediate. His anger deflated, we finished up what needed to be done with success. No one died. No one got fired.

While I’m nowhere near as angrily impatient as I was back in Iowa, I’m reminded how true it still is when I think about my relationship with my friend, Bruce. He is one of the most loving, caring men I know. He learns, he says, by asking questions – lots of questions. And that’s where I become angrily impatient with him. I can always feel the onset. It’s like I want to strangle him, never would of course, but the urge is there. I ask myself, “Who else in my life asked a lot of questions? How did I feel about it? Why does it make me angry – and is it really anger or my old friends fear & sadness? Another question might be, “Who didn’t ask me questions?” Right now, that seems to be the more relevant question. The answer would be Dad. He wanted me to be the way he wanted me to be, not the way I was. Another answer might be Mom. At the times Dad was raging, why wasn’t she asking him the questions of why he was taking his frustrations out on me.

With Bruce, I think it’s about how I’m processing his questions. Seems like (to me) he’s asking variations of the same questions repeatedly, so my frustration is, “He’s not getting it. Either figure it out, or stop with the questions!” It might also be that there’s a part of me which doesn’t want to allow somebody (Bruce) to get to know me that intimately. Because? Because if he does, he won’t like what he finds out about me; therefore, he won’t like me.

There’s a ring of truth to all of the above. Not enough question from Mom & Dad. Not wanting someone to know something about me which might cause them to dislike me. Nothing I can do about the former. For the latter, I want to be willing to accept whatever the outcome is. If someone doesn’t like me because of something they learn (I’m not a criminal, after all) that really isn’t my problem. It’s theirs. All I can do is be myself, warts and all. That’s either acceptable to someone else, or not, based on their own preconceptions. I don’t have to change the parts of me I like, only the parts I want to change.

I imagine, I’ll carry angrily impatient the rest of my life. How I choose to deal with it, well, that’s How Am I Changing?

 

Don’t think of all the misery. Be aware of the beauty and joy as well.

The title of this blog is a play on something Anne Frank said. Her quote is, “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

I’m thinking about what I write about. It reminds me of the personal work I’ve done during the last 13 years. I’ve done writing about anger. Writing about fear. Some writing about sadness. So I asked myself, “Where’s the joy?” Certainly there are persons, places, ideas, events and so on bringing joy to my life. Why don’t I write more about that?

It’s kinda funny – as in ironic, actually. As I finished that first paragraph, I started thinking about some of the events which brought sadness into my life. Be gone sadness, anger and fear, today, is about joy, and by gosh, that’s what I’m going to write about.

So, what are some of the things I’m joyful about, anyway? I’m so happy to say I have a wonderful relationship with my older brother, his wife and their kids. I know so many persons who have horrible, even non-existent relationships with their siblings. I cringe each and every time I hear about it. My brother and sister-in-law, (she’s really my sister from another Mother) are examples for me of how two persons can survive and thrive together for many years. This December, they will have been married for 44 years! I have a cousin and a dear friend, both gay, who’ve been in long term relationships as well. It brings me so much joy to see couples who’ve made the commitment and stuck to it.

I’m also joyful about my niece and nephew. My niece, well, she was the first baby I ever held. I was tricked into it. Have you seen the recent commercial where a gal is holding a baby, she has to go do something, so she turns to her brother-in-law and hands the baby off? Later she comes back and says she can take the baby back. He replies, “I got this.” That’s just about what happened with me. Only that wonderful brother and sister I’ve been talking about connived together to make it happen. I got this. I was the only member of the family for quite a while who could rock that little girl to sleep (cold hands, warm heart.) That little girl, by the way, turns 40 this year. Oy!

My nephew, now that’s a whole other story. I know there’s a cruel, mean part of me. My nephew got some of that as a youngster. He would run and hide when I would tease him, so I would tease him more. At some point, the part of me that is loving and caring stepped in. Then, we became really good friends. Today, we talk quite often. He’s a bit of a geek, so we can talk about geeky things such as computers and smartphones. I even, <cough> learn stuff from him sometimes <cough>. I’m so grateful for him and his wife as part of my life. They are just a joy to be around.

Friends.

“I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.”
–Charles R. Swindoll

What Mr. Swindoll says pretty much sums up the happiness I derive from friends. In 2014, I have to say if it weren’t for <cough>Facebook<cough>, my life might be a bit emptier. For instance, I have friends on FB from my high school days (a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away). For some of them, I bet we didn’t say a hundred words to each other back then. Now, I can’t imagine how we weren’t closer all those years ago. Then, too, there are the folks I’ve known since grade school who are still my friends (you know who you are.) One friend really comes to mind. This is someone I was really close to my second go round in college. Then there was a 25 year absence. Once we reconnected, it was as if no time had passed. I look forward to talking with her regularly. And, if it weren’t for FB, we might not have.

There are also my friends in my ‘real world.’ Not many, but the few who are there, I know I can count on and they know they can count on me. Although I’m a bit of a recluse, it brings me great joy when I spend time with these folks. Great friends….priceless.

Regardless of what else is or isn’t going on in my life, I go to movies. A lot. I’m joyful I get to go to about 60+ movies a year. I tend to like action, shoot ’em up type films. Films like Taken or most of the Marvel movies. But, I also like movies that touch my heart and my soul. Films like Seabiscuit or Begin Again or The Help. I have no hesitation to tell you I cry a lot in movies. Oddly, I don’t like comedies very much. Those goofy films with Adam Sandler or Will Farrell. However, every once in a while, I’m sure someone in the theater is looking around for the odd guy guffawing out loud. That would be me.

I like to travel. I don’t do it enough. And, even though I’ve got status on American Airlines, I often don’t take the time to see a city I’m traveling to for business. Reminds me of a friend. This guy is very high up the food chain for a certain card game. He’s been all over the world playing the game. He’s played with some awesome celebrities. And, yet, the only thing he’s ever seen in many decades of doing this is the ballroom in the hotel where the game is being sponsored. I don’t want to be that guy for the rest of my life. I want to see things like Mount Rushmore, the Taj Mahal, the holy land. Most of all, I want to re-see all the parts of Scotland I rushed through in my youth. And…..wait for it…..I will.

I’ve always loved books. I’ve bought and held unto many. Many, I never read. Don’t get me wrong, there were many I did read; just many more I didn’t. I don’t know why. I know I’m not the only one like this, but ever since the Kindle, I read lots more. On planes. In restaurants. At home. Everywhere. And you know what I’m reading most? Many of the books I bought earlier in my life which I can now read on my Kindle. I’m sure someone has done a study on this, somewhere. Why is reading on an electronic device easier than holding a book in my hands? Turning each page. Hunting for a character introduced earlier in the book I’ve forgotten when he’s re-introduced (that’s one reason I do like my Kindle, it’s so much easier to search than a ‘real’ book.)

I would really be remiss to not say food brings me joy. You know that old expression, “Some eat to live, others live to eat” ? Well, I’m the latter. I L-O-V-E to eat. I’m lucky. I don’t have the current American obesity disease. Probably because I’m also very OCD or ADD or ADHD (ask my ex, she can tell you which one is the true Donny) But, I’ll freely admit, given my druthers, I’d eat like Michael Phelps in training. Imagine! 12,000 calories a day! Wow! (Of course that assumes one is burning 10,000 calories a day in workouts.)

Lastly, as a tag on to my little rant on eating, let me say I’m joyful for my health. I’m six years older than my Mother was (of course, her death was not natural). And, while I’ve had a couple of big fixes, three angioplasties and a three-level cervical discectomy, I’m really pretty healthy. I work out. I would also agree with one of my teachers: Tai Chi saved my life. Learning to slow down, breathe and take an hour to figure out nothing else but where my hands and feet are has been one of the great joys of my life.

(I’m saying this next thing as much to me, more, than you, the reader.) Take the time to be aware of the joys in your life. Cherish them. Get rid of the stuff which brings you no joy. The effort for both is, for me, clearly the same. Give me more joy.

How Am I Changing: I’m looking at all the emotions in my life. Please remind me when I stay on one too long.