“You want McDonald’s or what?” he asked, after I told him that I was hungry.
“Sure,” I said. He slowly extended the middle finger of his left hand to press the turn-signal lever. He glanced over his right shoulder, then into his rear-view mirror before slightly turning the steering wheel. The loud high-pitched hum of tire-road contact and the deep murmur of the 1986 Honda Civic engine waned as we slowed, changed lanes, and pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot. Sitting in the passenger seat, I waited quietly for the last shriek emitted by the blue car’s brakes. He sat lazily in his chair and pulled up his emergency brake. The sound awkwardly broke the silence with a boisterous zipping noise.
He turned off the engine and looked at me with hopeful sadness. His black beard was growing thick, covering the skin under his chin and climbing halfway up his cheeks. It had also merged with his mustache, providing a neat scruffy border around his lips. He smiled halfway and said, “ We should hurry. Your mother will be mad if we miss your flight.”
“Ok,” I said obediently. I pulled the door handle on my right and stepped out of the car intently. My father exited from the other side of the vehicle and we both turned toward the entrance. He grabbed my hand as a car passed in front of us. His grip was firm and commanding. After the car had passed we walked slowly to the door. My legs pulled against my body with reluctance. The three-hour drive had made me tired and sleepy.
My father opened the door and allowed me inside. As I walked in, I noticed a train above the tables and chairs to my right circling the room where the wall and ceiling met. It rushed along its tracks steadily, whistling here and there amid the hustle and bustle in the open kitchen. Below I saw restroom door, placed squarely at the end of an aisle created by two rows of chairs and tables. The walls were painted an array of colors, forming several imaginary characters.
I looked behind me for my father. His beat up blue jeans paced toward me. I tilted my head up to see his face as he scanned the room and laid his hand softly on my back, guiding me toward the counter. As we walked toward the counter, I glanced over the room once more. There was a condiments stand to the right and a half raised wall exposing the playground outside to my left. The playground was behind a huge glass window beyond more tables and chairs.
We stood behind about five people patiently waiting for our turn. The forest of tall people standing in front of us blocked my view of the menu. I turned around for one more look at the playground and watched the other children play. My hunger became less important and my want for playtime increased.
“Come on, boy,” my father urged. He was standing next to the counter across from the ticket lady. They both stared at me impatiently. I walked up to the counter and my father grabbed my hand.
“What do you want?” he asked. I looked up at him and we stared at each other. “Tell the lady what you want,” he said. I turned my head up toward the menu. Slowly deciphering what it read, I replayed the display I had seen earlier.
“Um…I want…the number …four,” I said indecisively. The lady quickly punched her finger into a machine and handed my father a piece of paper. He grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the counter in search of a table. I turned and gazed at the playground.
“Can we sit outside, Dad?” I pleaded.
“You want to play with those kids, don’t you,” he replied with a smirk. I smiled back at him, trying to hide my deep excitement. “Ok, let’s go sit outside,” he said. I eagerly pulled his hand toward the back of the restaurant under the train and through the glass doors into the dining area next to the playground. As we found a table, he gently stopped me and said, “Before you can play, you have to finish all of your food.” We sat at the table. I stared at the children with great envy and a noise came over the loudspeaker.
“Wait right here,” my father said. I sat impatiently. All the waiting made me anxious. He returned holding the tray of food firmly between his palms. As he walked toward me, his draping green shirt pulsed with the movement of his legs. My feet swung back and forth above the ground sitting in my chair awaiting his arrival.
He sat down across from me, passed my food and readily began unwrapping his burger.
“Finish it all,” he said. I began eating my food, first picking at my fries with the occasional bite of the burger. My father looked at me with a smile, ”Are you excited about seeing your cousins in Toronto?” He seemed somewhat nervous.
“I guess,” I replied, half staring at the happy children and half eating.
“We’ve got a long way to go. We have to pick up your mother and luggage in Killeen on the way to Dallas to catch your flight at six,” he commented.
“Yeah, it’s a good thing we came back for my passport,” I replied, for a moment trying to keep up with the conversation. We conversed a while longer.
I near finished my food and gazed at the other children. One of them wore a plain white polo shirt and khaki shorts. His short and shiny brown hair cupped his scalp just above his freckled face. He ran back and forth from the playground to what appeared to be his grandparents, occasionally sipping on a happy meal drink. The grandparents smiled at him from the dining area while he interacted with the other kids.
“Can I go play now?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said after glancing over my plate.
I hopped out of my seat and rushed to the playground. I slipped off my black suede shoes, placed them into the shoe holder, and looked around eager to meet a new friend. The kid in the white shirt and khaki pants approached me.
“What’s yer name,” said the boy.
“Koby,” I replied. My shyness took over my body. Making friends was always somewhat awkward for me. I looked at the floor timidly, rocking back and forth.
“Hi, I’m Tim,” he informed me. I said nothing. “You wanna play hide-and-seek?” he asked.
“Ok,” I said. He smiled, quickly raised his hand and tapped my shoulder.
“You’re IT!” he screamed and scrambled up the tiny ladder into the playscape. Dodging the other children, he giggled and laughed with excitement as I chased after him. Crawling through tunnels and traversing play nets we played for several minutes, trading the “IT!” disease back and forth. From time to time, I would glance over to the dinning area where my father sat to see if he was watching.
Eventually, Tim’s grandparents told him that it was almost time to go. Over the course of our playtime, we had argued numerous times over who was the faster of us both.
“You wanna race?” I finally asked him, aiming to prove myself with sheer confidence.
“Ok,” he said “but get ready to lose.”
“Nuh Uhh,” I replied, “You get ready to lose.” I knew I could beat him because he was much shorter than me and I caught him several times during our game of hide-and-seek. We lined up beside each other at one end of the aisle created by the fence and playscape. The fence was composed of bricks that were piled about four feet high. It had several brick pillars that stuck out slightly every four to five feet. Iron rods stood vertically atop the bricks in a lined formation. The fence cornered about twenty-five feet ahead, creating a sidewall and back wall composed entirely of brick and iron.
“You wanna race to that wall over there?” I asked eagerly.
“Ok,” he smirked. We both slightly crouched, awaiting the moment of release.
“On yer mark…get set…” I called out preparing myself for victory.
“Go!” he screamed and darted across the playground floor. I ran after him excitedly and quickly caught up to him. As I passed him, he began to lose his footing. He leaned forward, reached up to me and grabbed the bottom of my shirt. “He’s trying to keep me from winning,” I thought and pried his hands from their firm grip on my shirt. As I sped in front of him and touched the far wall, he fell forward and forcefully rammed headfirst into the corner of a brick pillar. I looked behind me and saw the frightful display. Tim was on the floor wailing in pain. His hands covered his face as he squirmed trying to find relief.
“Are you ok?” I asked nervously, running over to him. I tried to remove his hands from his face to assess the damage. Blood fled into his palms. I pulled his hand back to reveal a deep gash lodged in the left part of his forehead. His screams eventually attracted his grandparents and a few other onlookers. Horrified, in fear of persecution, I ran over to my father in the dining area.
“What happened?” He asked grimly, “There’s blood on your shirt and all over your hands.”
“I was racing Tim and…and he fell. It wasn’t my fault. I promise!” I answered short of breath.
“Oh no,” he said looking me up and down. “Go and clean yourself up. Don’t worry you’ll be fine.”
I went over to the glass door leading back into the ordering room. I glanced behind me and noticed a small crowd of people gathered around Tim. I opened the door and raced by the tables and chairs, passed the line of people waiting to order and turned into the aisle where the bathroom door stood. I heard the train whistle and passed the colorful characters on the wall. I opened the door, ran into the bathroom and locked it behind me. I saw myself in the mirror as I frantically tried to wash the blood from my hands into the sink and wipe it from my shirt. I was shaking.
After a few minutes of washing and scrubbing, I looked at the figure standing before me. His eyes seemed hollow. His black and white striped shirt bore orange-brown stains near the shoulder. He and I stood there quietly contemplating Tim’s fate. I looked down at my watch and back up at the figure. “Was it my fault?” I asked him. “Did I push him into the wall? Will I go to jail?” I thought. I brooded over the situation for some time and finally convinced myself to come out of the restroom. My father was waiting for me just outside of the door in one of the chairs. He stood up and extended his hand in order to take mine.
“Let’s go,” he said quietly as we both walked toward the exit. The flashing colored lights almost blinded me. A large white truck was parked outside of the door. Tim lying still on stretcher was loaded into the back of the truck. His grandparents and a few other people stood, weeping, around him at the back of the vehicle while a man in a white button-up shirt pulled the truck doors shut.
We both entered the old beat up car. My father started the engine. I pulled down the vanity mirror above me revealing the same figure I had seen in the bathroom earlier. The orange-brown stain remained. I stared at the figure a short while and put the mirror back in its place. We pulled out of the McDonald’s parking lot and drove away.
If there is any one thing that you can guarantee, it is that things change. Forever, in the sense that things, lifestyles, people, objects, do not go through change is a figment of our (and Disney’s) imagination.
To maintain such thoughts and expectations as one ages is naive and childish at best. What makes us grow as individuals is how we respond the change. Thus, personal, organizational and societal growth are all conscious decisions.
Change in any form, whether perceived to be good or bad, is a very complex experience. It can be difficult at times. What we must look at in these moments is our relationship to change. How does it make you feel? How has it made you feel in the past? And what does it make you do in response?
In looking at this relationship, the emphasis should be on who or what has control. Does the situation control you? Or do you (your conscious mind) control the situation?
The best thing that you can arm yourself with during times of change is information. This includes, information about yourself, about the world around you, about the relationships between the various objects in the context of change.
As you gather information, you will begin to see patterns as they emerge. You will begin to see modes of causality and correlation. This information gathering requires creativity, ingenuity, courage, and an appetite for discovery.
You will try things and fail. You will expect things and they will not show up. You will be disappointed, but if you hold strong, you will also be rewarded with knowledge.
Information: The Emotion Mitigator
As you become more knowledgeable, you get better at making predictions. Things become more clear. Over time, the clarity turns into familiarity. Sooner or later, you don’t have surprises any more and change has ended.
This process is easier said than done. Emotions add a layer of complexity to the equation. Emotion is the reason knowing your relationship to change is important. Feelings of fear or over confidence may cloud your judgement. Your beliefs about what is going on is based on how you feel, not verifiable data. You lie to yourself without even knowing it.
This is where information becomes important. When you have a disappointment, when you come to believe that something is true about the world around you, and the way things are moving, go to the data. It will either confirm or deny your feelings.
With this kind of confirmation, you can make sound decisions about what you believe, and what you plan to do in response to change.
Perfection is not Required
No system is perfect. No one makes the right decision every time. There are instances where you simply do not have enough information, and waiting will not impact the outcome one way or the other. The emotions might run high, your thinking is clouded, or you just don’t have time. Ultimately, you still have to make decisions, you still have to make a choice (even if it is the decision not to make one).
As mentioned before, change will happen, with or without you. You have one of two choices, you can manage that change, or the change will manage you. It’s completely up to you.
The Honesty Policy
Honesty is our best attempt at representing and communicating the truth, whatever that is. In our society it can be understood in one of two ways, through verifiable evidence or through trust. The way in which it is understood depends upon your relationship with another person. If they are a stranger, you rely more on verifiable evidence. If they are a dear friend who has displayed a track record of presenting valuable, and factual information, trust is the currency of choice for the exchange. This interaction exists on a gradient ranging from strictly evidence (or complete lack of trust) to strictly trust (or complete lack of evidence).
This understanding of honesty raises yet another question in response to how we think about our lives: What kind of relationship do you have with yourself? Can you trust your own representation of reality and fact? What is your track record?
The problem with honesty in dealing with the self is that it is too easy to tell yourself a lie and believe it as the truth. There is no one there to tell you that you are wrong. You know that friend who was in that really long relationship with that one guy, who was kind of a douchebag, and just so happened to break up with her. The emotion that came out of that experience colors the thought patterns that take place within her mind. She might say something like: “All guys are jerks.” or “All the good guys are taken.”
If these feelings are strong enough, they compel us to close off opportunities before they start, break off what could be otherwise fruitful relationships, and act in ways that some people might describe as being closed-minded.
What to do
One question that I struggle with is: how do I know that I’m being honest? How can I trust myself?
For me, the answer has been to look outside myself for verification.
I ask myself the following: What data out there supports my current opinion? What refutes it? Sometimes there isn’t data out there, and then I go about the business of collecting it. Once you have that data, you will have a much more accurate and clear view of your reality. Things might not be as bad as they seem, or they could be much much worse.
In other instances, I ask a trusted friend for their opinion. In these instances, I don’t just ask anyone. Not everyone understands your situation, and doesn’t necessarily know the complexities involved. Go to someone who has been there and done it before, and came out on the other side better than they were when they entered the situation. Sometimes, I even pay for the advice, to make sure that it is accurate, and dependable information.
No matter what process you use, focus on getting the most accurate picture of reality before making choices. Sometimes the “surprise” that caught you off guard, may have been staring you straight in the face and you didn’t even know it.
2. Ask for help
There are two ways to do this: call someone you know who has been there, or stop at a gas station (preferably nearby) and ask for directions.
Sometimes you can find a map. It may be a good one, but if it sucks, make extra time for detours, dead ends, huge potholes, and maybe a couple of flat tires. Oh, and make scheduled stops for gas!
4. Be Flexible
Remember those detours I talked about earlier? What about that crappy map? Sometimes you might have to go a different route in order to get there. You might even feel lost! There are many roads that lead to the same place. Trust that you are going in the right direction and look for signs, and landmarks to show you where you are.
5. Avoid Distractions, Detractors, and Accidents
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t go! It’s your car, not theirs! Also, stopping at every tourist attraction on the way will increase the time it takes to get there. I know those billboard advertisements are awesome!! But, keep in mind that you are trying to get somewhere! Know that you are going to get there. Practice safety and believe in your ability to prevent accidents. Watch the other drivers closely, their carelessness might keep you from getting to your destination. Nobody likes car accidents.
6. Exercise Discipline
Don’t drink and drive! It will blur your vision. If you get tired, stop for a break, and when you regain your strength get back onto the road. And if Vegas is not on the agenda, just don’t go!
Measure and look at your progress over time. Are you making good time? Pat yourself on the back. Have you gone astray? Look for ways to get back on route, and then repeat items 1-6.
Eventually (in a longer time frame than what you expect), you will get there. And when you do, party like you did in 1999 (with the friends you meet at the destination)! If you didn’t do a good job of partying back then, let them show you how it’s done!
Do people call you crazy behind your back? Do you hear through “the grapevine” that others consider you to be a train wreck? Have you been accused of jumping to conclusions way to early? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, you may be suffering from Emotional Distortion of Reality (EDR).
What is EDR?
EDR is a complication of the mind to which any human being can fall victim. It occurs when certain experiences cause extremely negative or extremely positive feelings. The feelings burn a perception of reality associated with that experience into the mind, forming beliefs about the world around us. These beliefs are wildly exaggerated beyond reason and rationality. The onset of EDR can be exacerbated by the mismanagement of symptoms.
Symptoms of EDR
Symptoms associated with EDR vary wildly. However, they are mostly associated with our feelings and how we believe the world operates in response to them. They include but are not limited to:
- Clouded Judgment
- Speaking in Absolutes
- Excessive Worrying or Excitement
- Extreme and Intense Mood Swings
- Feelings of Paranoia or Invincibility
Causes of EDR
The specific causes of EDR are still unknown. Scientists and Psychologist believe that the source of EDR may start in early childhood, when particularly vivid or palpable experiences may have created unrealistic and exaggerated belief systems. In sheltered environments, individuals are particularly prone to early onset EDR. These individuals may not have had the chance to go through the revision and refinement of ideas as it relates to their belief systems.
Treatment of EDR generally includes a process called self-introspection. It is a process in which the individual stops what he is doing briefly to ask himself questions and get at the genuine truth. These questions are designed to compel the individual to analyze himself in the context of his feeling and the current situation that he finds himself in.
For the treatment to be in any way effective, the individual must seek the core truth about his reality.
Recovery from EDR can take as little as a few moments to as long as many, many years. Time frames for recovery principally depend upon the individual’s willingness to accept reality as a construct of his perception. The acceptance of this reality must first meet the requirements for belief by the individual. After this point, it’s simply a choice.
Comments are appreciated. If you enjoyed this post please Subscribe to KobyAckie.com by Email.