My Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

By | September 19, 2019

I apologize to the world.

Yes, I know that statement sounds really stupid. But hear me out.

I know that I often rub people the wrong way. I can be thick as a brick and not realize when others find my presence or my behavior grating. I have often been so needy and so focused on attention-seeking behavior that I’ve taken situations that should have been about others and tried to make them all about me, me, me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve interacted in a social setting or work setting with others only to come home and realize what a total jackass I had been.

For most of my life, I’ve been the guy you don’t invite to the party. The guy who causes you to abruptly change the subject of conversation when he walks into the room.

I get it: I’m annoying.

I wish I’d had this epiphany sooner. But it wasn’t until I spent quite a few sessions with a therapist back in 2012-2013 that I realized how in need of getting myself under control I really was. I’ve worked very hard on anger management and self-awareness and focusing more on the needs of others.

I don’t think I do a very good job in this regard, but at least I’m trying.

I’m not an alcoholic; I hardly ever drink these days. I’ve never done illegal drugs. I don’t have a gambling problem — in fact, I don’t even buy scratch-off tickets, let alone take trips to Vegas. From time to time I overeat, but I’ve never gotten to the point of having stacks of empty donut boxes next to my bed, and in any event, I’ve lost 50 pounds this year (yay). I sometimes spend money on stupid things I don’t need in the vain hope that they’ll cheer me up, but I don’t compulsively buy things with no rhyme or reason. And so on.

So when I say I’ve spent plenty of time reading materials from twelve-step programs, you might go “why?”

I grew up in a family where my father basically treated his kids like resented houseguests who’d overstayed their welcome. He literally never had a kind word for any of us. It’s pretty obvious to me now that my father should never have had kids, but like a lot of people, he didn’t figure that out until it was too late.

Dad had some very strange ideas about proper child-raising; he constantly reminded me not to take pride in things like having above-average intelligence, because I’d done nothing to achieve it — it was something I’d been born with and hence I had no right to feel special about it. He went to great pains NOT to compliment me or praise me for scoring highly on gifted-and-talented tests and assessments because he didn’t want me going around bragging.

I wound up pathetically desperate for attention. I’d act out in hyperactive ways in elementary school and, surprise surprise, had absolutely zero friends. Never did homework, either, all the way through high school. There was no incentive to do well in school; Dad wouldn’t have treated me any better if I had. I ate lunch at a table by myself all through middle school and most of high school, absurdly lonely but having no idea how to make friends or get positive attention.

I wised up a little bit, socially, by the time I finished high school and managed to become a class clown of sorts. But that didn’t translate into anything worthwhile; I never had a girlfriend, never went on a date. (It’s not like Dad would have let me have the car to take a girl out on a date, anyway.)

I somehow got into college and kept right on being an infuriating ass. I was the poster guy for “does not, can not, LEARN”.

And so it goes. I wound up in a career where “being paid attention to” is at the center of everything: I’m a corporate trainer, and from what I understand, apparently a reasonably competent one, in that I’ve managed to keep my current job for 21 years and counting. I get to run my mouth and be the focus of attention ALL DAY LONG.

<sarcasm>Woo-hoo! Score!</sarcasm>

(How did I ever get married? I was desperate and the woman who became my wife was equally desperate. We were both people who left a trail of pissed-off acquaintances wherever we went. We were perfect for each other. How we’ve lasted 22 years is anyone’s guess.)

I’m addicted to attention.

Yes, I know how sad it is that I work out my daddy issues by trying to get people to look at me, listen to me, notice me.

I know it’s not going to change anything in any substantial way; no matter how much me-me-me I do, it’s not going to bring my father back from the grave and get him to say “I respect you, son” or “Good job, son.”

I don’t think there’s a 12-step group out there for “attention whores” (pardon the expression). But if there was, I imagine I’d be there week after week going “Hi, my name’s Jay, and I’m an attention whore.”

As you probably know, one of the core concepts of a twelve-step program is taking an inventory of oneself and one’s flaws and then working to overcome them. Another core concept is making amends. I’ve been working pretty hard for the past seven years on the first part there — to the point that I think I’ve come to annoy those people who can’t entirely avoid interacting with me with endless talk of exactly how awful I am, and in what specific ways my awfulness expresses itself.

It’s the second part that’s so hard to do: the amends.

When you’ve driven people crazy your whole life through aggravating, maddening “acting out”, it’s not exactly easy to contact someone and go “hey, I’m really, really sorry for being such an asshole that time”.

Especially when the act of reaching out is itself an attempt to get attention.

The best, most effective “amends” I can think to make is to basically just disappear, as much as I can, as much as my still-needy ego will let me.

I used to do a lot of social media — now my Facebook account is completely devoid of content, to the extent that I don’t even have a profile photo. I still tweet a little bit now and then, but usually think better of it a day or two later and scurry around deleting everything.

Most of the time these days I just want to be invisible, to go unnoticed, to just completely drop off the radar. If I didn’t want to follow a few organizations and pages on Twitter and Facebook, I’d delete the accounts for good and save you all my presence. That said, from time to time I deactivate both accounts for a few weeks or months; no one ever notices me gone. I only maintain the furrs.org blog itself because once in a while it’s vaguely enjoyable to do a bit of writing; I’m well aware that you can count the number of people who read this crap on the fingers of one hand (but I thank those of you who do).

And at the end of the day, I’m also well aware that the act of writing and posting this long-winded garbage is itself a cry for attention. But I’m only really writing it so I can pin it to my Twitter and Facebook profiles in case someoneĀ does wonder where I’ve gone. I doubt anyone will come looking for me, and as a result read this, but if they do, well… I apologize to them too.

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2 thoughts on “My Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

  1. Bill Hileman

    You might as well be telling my story except substitute mother for father. I wish us two non-drinkers could go throw back a few together sometime.

  2. Marith Flugelhorn

    If you need a break then of course you should take one, but disappearing off the face of the net isn’t the only option for change if you’re not happy with how things are. If you hang out in a creative space (AO3 being the example I know best) and practice leaving encouraging and supportive feedback for other people, they’ll be appreciative and over time you’ll find yourself a very welcome participant in discussions. It’s not wrong to want attention and validation, everyone does. šŸ™‚ And you’re already good at gaining it in some healthier ways, between your job and your volunteering.

    I hope you feel better and can come back soon. FWIW, I don’t think of you as someone who can’t learn; I’ve seen you take feedback and modify your behavior in response. Not everyone can do that, but you can. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

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