Killjoy – noun: one who spoils the pleasure of others |
He starts to back out from a supermarket parking space. In the corner of his eye he spots a car speeding down his aisle. Simultaneously as he begins to brake, she exclaims, “Watch out for that car!”
Startled, he lurches to a stop and says calmly, “Yeah, I saw it.”
She says with skeptical tone in her voice, “You say you saw it, so why did you keep going?”
In frustration he replies, “I didn’t!” More to the point, he silently resents the implication and downright accusation that he’s a liar. It’s but another moment heaped upon similar moments that have occurred through the years. He acknowledges that he is no better than she is; that both are equally guilty of unwittingly squeezing joy from each other’s lives by the comportment they project. He thinks she’s being disrespectful, and she thinks he overreacts in anger. Sadly, neither realizes what they’re doing. The same scene replays among couples everywhere, each doomed by their negatively biased human condition set in motion when they were spanked into birth. Example: A newly dating couple is in the throes of an optimistic romance, a romance such as has never before occurred in the entire history of the freaking universe. (Sarcasm intended—for those keeping score.) They visit each others’ homes. Both hear the other call a brother or parent “stupid” and hiss anger and disrespect toward family members. Each should wonder whether or not that’s the treatment they will receive after years pass, but they don’t being “in love” and blind to (or in denial of) the other’s imperfections. Come to think of it, when a couple has the very first date that’s the time to lay it all out there; i.e., show warts and all. But they don’t. Each follows songwriter Johnny Mercer’s advice and, “accentuates the positive and eliminates the negative”. We present the person we want to be (or have invented in our own mind) rather than the person we truly are. Inferiority complex? Perhaps. Childhood training? Maybe. Defective DNA? Probably.
And so the beat goes on: deteriorating interpersonal relationships between veteran couples, which I surmise began when the honeymoon ended and the reality of the work-a-day world began, and continued to erode with daily contact and intimate familiarity. Why else would half the marriages end in divorce? I must admit, dear reader, I am not qualified to be a psychologist or (good grief) a relationship counselor, but I am a THINKER so please keep that in mind as you read my comments.
I once wrote that life is a gift that must be given back, and joy should arise from its possession. Why is it then that so many of us sabotage our lives and those of our partners? What is it that penetrates our conscious being through and through and says we should put on a mask; be different? The ruse cannot last since, during any long term relationship, our true nature reveals itself—sooner or later. I guess by then we just don’t care, and if we can’t be accepted for who we are, well, screw it. Bingo: divorce; breakup, and in extreme cases homicide.
What happened to joy?
I wonder if perhaps our proclivity for self-destruction is programmed into us at a young age by either pedantic, controlling, or oblivious parents. We begin life full of joy and marvel then become slowly but inevitably conditioned by our role models. Keep in mind that I am NOT making value judgments; simply opining about our human condition.
First there is the child brought up in a home with rigid rules of behavior. No flexibility; no discretion; only law without justice. There is no harm in letting a child know what is and what is not acceptable in the confines of family and society. What is wrong, in my opinion, is severe punishment, physical and mental, for the smallest infraction. Chances are the child will grow up to be a controlling, demanding adult with a similar paradigm for his/her own married life including spouse and children. Such individuals may be all charm and grace when courting—the old honey gets the fly trick—but miserable to live with when the honeymoon ends. Countless motion pictures have exploited the subject.
Second there is what I call the child-of-today. I often see them when dining out. These little ones have little or no rules of behavior, and they act out freely when displeased. They throw food on the floor, are loud and obnoxious, and not made to remain in their seats—they run all over the place. The parents enjoy their wine oblivious to the little brats, and are probably convinced they’re model parents; i.e., their child’s “friend”. Such grown-ups are all about the child’s self-esteem and self-actualization. They don’t understand why you should keep score in sports, mark test papers with red ink, give failing grades, and not present a giant trophy for finishing ninth. These kids grow up, meet each other, marry, and expect their spouse (and society) to cater to their every whim. Unfortunately such individuals are selfish to the max and have little empathy for anyone else least of all their partner. Each is autistic to the other. They have expensive bachelor and bachelorette parties in Las Vegas, destination weddings, and (maybe) remain married for, say, three years. They refer to these nuptials as starter marriages. I recently saw a movie where the girl confesses to her fiancé that she slept with a tour guide because (duh) he speaks French; and angrily tells her beau to “get over it”.
Third is what I refer to in this essay as a “normal” upbringing—the kind I had. There were rules enforced with understanding and love including an occasional swat on the ass. (Also, I can still conjure up the taste of Camay soap on my tongue. Bleah!) We were taught the value of competition, and being fair to playmates, and to respect adults, and to have good manners: yes sir, yes ma’am, thank you, you’re welcome, etc. We referred to adults as mister or missus not by their first name. Therefore, since we are so well adjusted it follows that we always have happy, free-flowing, mellow relationships with our ladies, right? Sad to say; not so much.
Although the foregoing examples are (in my mind) spot-on portrayals, all three are infected by the human condition of mood swings, good and bad experiences, and changing environment. We put on our best face (act?) when courting, but like the old saw says, familiarity breeds contempt. Hey, they’re stuck with us, right? It begins with an occasional snap usually about some minor point that we later feel badly about—and for which we maybe even apologize. This “infection” may grow and eventually escalate into full blown arguments when certain subjects are broached. See, our environment and level of learning causes each one of us to change—some more than others—and our worldview becomes either broader or narrower. The problem is that we tend not to change at the same rate, and may even become more divergent in our opinions. What can happen is mates either become strangers or intolerant of each other. We may learn to give-and-take (compromise) and live in peaceful coexistence—the old agree-to-disagree schtick. We may live relationships of consensus; i.e., I-don’t-agree-with-you-but-I’ll-go-along-for-the-time-being. Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes when one “goes along” without give-and-take for a period of time, deep seeded resentment occurs. This generally surfaces at a most inconvenient time and/or place (like the Thanksgiving dinner table). The best Thanksgiving example I can recall came from a lady caller to an Indianapolis radio station. She asked everyone at the table to mention something they were thankful for only to be totally ignored and talked over. Angrily she blurted out, “Oh, yeah. Well, living with your father is pure hell. He used to (blank) me up the (blank), and I have the hemorrhoids to prove it!” She stormed out of the house leaving her stunned family. No joy there. (Comedy though.)
It seems we would be better off to heed the advice of a Zen Buddhist and always seek to exist with the mind set of a rank beginner, what they call a beginner’s mind. Every day we would begin by recalling that first, fresh time when we began to know our partner by heart, what the attraction was, and why we fell in love.
I have resolved not to do or say anything that robs me of joy during my remaining years. Each morning I spring from my bed happy to be alive for a new day. That’s right, I’m one of those annoying morning people—just ask my wife. I’m filled with elation as I go for a run, bike ride, swim laps, and hit the weight room. Then it happens: other human beings enter my sphere of pleasure.
He speaks: “You know, I’m glad I don’t have long to live. The politicians and terrorists are ruining everything! The problem is that the young people are a bunch of clueless rubber ducks. The world’s going to hell in a hand basket!”
She says, “I don’t know why you wear those toe shoes. They look stupid!”
Another offers, “Hillary’s a complete idiot. Those stupid news dicks on CNN keep trying to convince us she’s smart. What a laugh! And did you get a load of Trump? Why do the choices keep getting worse? Why I oughta…”
One of my quirks is that I do not imbibe alcoholic beverages when I’m depressed. Good thing. However, I’m also happy to report that I’m about 90-percent on the joy scale. What’s the old saying? (Well, hold on a sec.) Actually, I live by three: 1) Life’s too short; 2) Happy is he who forgets that which he cannot control; and 3) I’m just a young guy with a dream.
So take that Peter Pain, Mr. Toothdecay, Cruela DeVil, Snidely Whiplash, Dishonest John, Boris Badanov (and Natasha), Isotope Feeney, Yosemite Sam, Wicked Witch of the West (who I think may be Nancy Pelosi), Dick “Darth” Cheney, Bluto, and mainly Oil Can Harry.
Respectfully submitted by Gene Myers an opinionated man with an impeccable worldview, and an incredible sense of geometry. (Th-th-th-that’s all folks!)
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human condition, relationships, divorce, self-destruction, worldview, Zen Buddhist, beginner's mind,