• author
    • Tom McMasters-Stone

    • August 21, 2017 in Columnists

    Flaws and Faults

    One of the ongoing, lifelong parts of the journey of an addict is working on defects of character.

    The texts talk about asking our higher power, whatever that looks like, to remove our defects of character.

    The perfect human being? I don’t think so, not even if you are Yoda or the Dalai Lama.

    The Spirit of the Universe of my understanding doesn’t remove shit, and I don’t even ask her to do so.

    The object of my journey is to temper, to minimize, my character flaws. I have been happy with my success so far, with one glaring exception.

    For the early part of my life, I felt worthless, and it was hammered into me from many directions. Father, schoolmates, girls, nuns, teachers — just about everybody in my life. One beautiful exception was my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. I don’t remember anything from them but love and support.

    That all started to change when I was a sophomore, as I have said before. Two events. I went out for JV soccer and I stood up to a bully that was picking on somebody else.

    On the latter, I came around the corner of C-wing, and there was a weak guy cowering before one of the assholes. It it me wrong, the timing was right, and I went for it. As bullies do, he folded his tent up. There were plenty of witnesses, too, from all classes. Phase I

    In hitting the soccer field, I defied the physique stereotype. The portly guy was quick and smart, and the more I played, the leaner and meaner I got. I spent hundreds of hours kicking the ball against the concrete-block wall of the Albertson’s grocery down the street, and I played school, summer and spring leagues. Even in immigrant-laden Sacramento, I rose to the top tier of defenders, and I had an absolute blast roaming the field from my center defense position. I had some excellent wing-men along the way, including Jeff Allgeier and Rick Grabner. With Curt Siebe or Grant Nelson in the goal, we were always known for a solid defense. Losses were not uncommon, but neither were one-goal differentials.

    A couple of years after school, I moved to Folsom, but didn’t know anybody in town. Consequently, I joined the volunteer fire department to meet people.

    My life was changed forever, my future in place. Although I didn’t have a history of wanting to be a firefighter, I loved it, and I was good at it.

    Moved to Fairfield, CA to go to school, and never left — until I retired.

    Anyway, back to my defects and contemporary times.

    There seems to be one blind spot — one area that consistently gives me problems –dealing with self-centered, sometimes brain-damaged, people, even alcoholics and addicts.

    When daddy comes to visit and buys you a new electric guitar, but no amplifier, I have a problem with you expecting staff to take you on a three-hour trip to take you to get one. Get an Amazon account and order one. Take care of yourself.

    If you have mastered the art of bullshit and can talk the talk to whatever audience is listening, but you really are a walking dead man with terminal uniqueness, I have a problem with you. You are dragging down the place and the people in it. Nothing pleases you, and the constant, “woe is me” gets old.

    This place is not like most rehabs. It’s not going to be handed to you on a platter, it’s not going to be force fed to you. You have to want it and you have to go after it with a vengeance.

    Anyway, what’s my problem? I have been trained to believe that any time I have a disproportionate reaction to something, it’s somehow my fault.

    I believe that. Even when I have done nothing to create the problem, the reaction to it is my responsibility, especially if I grab on to it and won’t let it go.

    The first suspect is the generation gap. Is it something as simple as that? Maybe. The immediate-gratification, spoiled rotten folks just simply irritate me?

    Maybe, but it sometimes seems more visceral than that.

    One cause of these types of feelings is projection — one often finds fault with others for a very basic tenet of their own personality. Maybe.

    Of course, I have an Amazon account, and my own PO box here. I take very good care of the Ranch and myself. So, no, I don’t think it’s projection — not in this case, anyway.

    Another frequent cause of these feelings for a lot of people is that they were once one of that type of person, but are now reformed, and in the process they become an avid critic.

    I think this is it. Growing up worthless, never being good enough, being treated like the bastard I turned out to be. Even the transformation that started as a sophomore and culminated in being a well-respected fire officer and an elected official could not change that very basic imprint.

    So, my self-loathing has resulted in me being intolerant of what I once was. No surprise there. My task now is to consciously be more patient. I can do that.

    On the other hand, I need to have reasonable expectations.

    Will I ever be serene with people who expect us to buy lactose-free milk, but are the ones who eat the most ice cream whenever we have it available? Probably not.

    Will I ever be as patient as I could be with the guy who whines about our menus because he has a heart condition, but eats bacon every single time we serve it? Probably not.

    Like Clint Eastwood once famously said: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

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