Cognitively Complex

Therapy for the mind…

Oh, How the Cold Heals…

Right now, it is -17 degrees outside. The wind chill is -45 degrees. I lasted 30 minutes in the extreme cold before I had to succumb to the bitterly cold winds. It’s been a lonely couple of days. If my last post was any indication, it’s become increasingly more difficult to sit in this 1920’s fortress of solitude, trapped by Mother Nature as if she is telling me to “get over” my depression.

Surprisingly, my day today was a complete turnaround from the previous. I contemplated my future for a bit, but for the most part — the day was filled with optimistic thoughts. I spent a great deal of time programming a couple of small web applications, diving deep into new technologies that I’ve never worked with. Learning something new always gets me amped up. My need to be less antisocial sometimes gets in the way though.

The small epiphany I had today was one that I’ve thought for most of my adult life. I was listening to a few interviews with Richard Dawkins. I’m not religious, and I’m probably a closet atheist who has told people I believe in some sort of higher power because I want to be accepted. Those interviews by Dawkins were filled with such certainty and confidence, I became inspired. I became enthusied about the future. 

Why? Because seeing these people talk about these passions with such confidence and certainty made me believe that there is an equal out there like that for me. That is something I very much want in a partner. In fact, it’s a requirement. I don’t want someone who is just going to come home, take off their shoes, and take a four-hour nap, then do nothing for the rest of the night. I want passion!

Understandably, the connection is a bit odd. Atheism to love? Yeah, I find it odd as well, but I could feel it in my bones as I watched. It’s interesting how being forced into solitude by Mother Nature, something I was dreading, has actually helped me.

It’s a New Year, Optimism is Low

Spare me the clinic on positivity and optimism. I’m just not up for it. 

Over the past couple of months, society’s push to make all of us unfortunate souls who are alone for the holidays feel even more alone succeeded. My journey of personal growth and eventual redemption was put on hold for long nights under a blanket, marathoning coming-of-age dramas on Netflix. This is entirely my own undoing, of course. Why do I let these things get to me?

Most of my anxiety heading into 2014 remains on the notion that I’ll be alone forever. I know, I know… I’ve beaten this dead horse enough. You’re right, but it’s difficult to not think about it. The whole online dating thing has led to… zero dates. Zero. Even when I get a little interest, it disappears. 

My status as a single father is likely scaring these young lasses away. I get it. But then I don’t get it. I think that’s what pisses me off the most about the whole situation. It really makes me realize why there are so many single Dads out there without someone in their life.

Naturally, this has put me in a bad mood. I’ve also realized, after visiting family over the holidays, that the Midwest isn’t for me. I’ve lived here all my life, but I’m the furthest from your typical Midwesterner. I’m not a Republican. I’m liberal in my views. I’m not religious. I hate chain restaurants. When I think of active and outdoors, I don’t think of running down a bike path or hiking in a forrest. I want mountains.

I’ve been thinking about relocating, but I don’t want to give up how much I see my son. My only option is to convince his mother to move with us, and she’s somewhat open to the idea as she doesn’t like it here either. But I don’t want to make a rash decision with a cloud of depression over my head. I might regret it.

It’s going to be a tough year. I’ve been contemplating how I will meet new people. How can I make new friends? What can I do to make things better? Any suggestions?

The Stinging Breeze of Winter

Last night, I attended my son’s Christmas concert. I can vaguely remember these events when I was a kid, but I do recall singing Christmas classics while our parents ooh’d and ahh’d at how cute we all looked. It’s a tradition among all communities across the nation, and yesterday was no different with the exception that the roles had switched. I was now the father in the crowd who watched his own child sing with joy.

Once the concert ended, I scurried to the exit to meet with my son. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, and I wanted to make sure he knew I was there to see what he had accomplished. We embraced in a big hug and kiss, and I walked with his mother out to the lobby. I spoke to her about a few details about the upcoming weekend, said my goodbyes, and walked toward the exit. 

As I opened the large double-paned glass doors, a massive gust of cold, Arctic air hit me in the face. Many of the people around me dove under their massive coats, yelling in agony at the cold’s bitter assault on their skin. “Oh my God! It is freezing!”, yelled a mother next to me. 

I didn’t skip a beat, strolling through the lot as if the wind was welcome to do its worst. Crossing the emergency parking section, the wind picked up even more, blowing my peacoat around back and whistling through my dress shirt. It fiercely pierced into the pores of my face. I looked up and out into the sky…

I smiled.

There’s something comforting about the cold air of the winter, blowing through your hair as you look up at the stars. It is almost as if it is cleansing you of whatever bad shit happened that day. Whatever challenges, stresses, or problems you had, it takes care of the heat and gives us a new beginning. I’ve always embraced the cold, and everybody I know can’t figure out why the winter is one of my favorite times of year. 

In my mind, it’s a time for rebirth, for new beginning. Go outside and embrace it.

Consumed by Interest

One of the “joys” of being single is all of the free time. Yes, I’d rather have a significant other who is willing to listen to my insanity, or someone who can intertwine their legs into mine underneath a blanket on the couch while watching independent films. But I have a borderline obsession with learning, so this sudden bachelor status has become a confusing, yet exciting mid-life crisis.

Why is it a crisis? My mind can’t decide what I want to learn next. Let me give you a week in the life of my brain:

  1. I watched On The Road on one of the premium channels Saturday morning. It wasn’t received well by critics, but it made me want to read Jack Kerouac’s classic. In fact, I’ve always wanted to read classics to see if I could glean some sort of inspiration from their pages. I picked up a copy and started reading it that same day.

  2. I got an itch to begin learning how to program iPhone apps. I’ve been wanting to learn a new programming language for a long time, and at this very moment — I wanted to learn. I also wanted to buy a Macbook Pro. So I did. And now I’m learning how to program iPhone apps three days later.
  3. I was sitting at work listening to a colleague go on and on about the markets. Some of my clients deal with market prices, futures, and hedging. I have no idea how futures or hedging work. A few clicks, and I found some courses via the Khan Academy. On my to-do list.
  4. All my searching for courses on futures led me to a bunch of Metafilter questions about investments. My company doesn’t match my 401k barely at all, so what are my best options for opening a Roth IRA once I max out the matched contribution. I have no idea what to do. I need to read something.

As you can see, this is pretty obsessive for a week period. There are far more things I could list that get very technical in regards to computers. That’s probably why I love my job. It is constant learning. My brain, however, needs more. Like Johnny Five in Short Circuit. More input!

How does one manage this kind of disorganized, chaotic appetite for learning? Right now, I’m getting a headache just thinking about how to learn these things, how to prioritize them, and then  re-prioritize them when something else comes up. 

I blew thru 37 pages of On The Road while waiting for my son’s Christmas concert to begin, so there’s that. I blasted thru most of Apple’s iPhone development tutorial last night while pushing the Lumineers through my ears. I got some of that goal done too. What about the rest? Argh!

Sometimes, I feel like I have this beautiful mind that most people would dream of having. But at other times, I feel like it is a hindrance in my ability to find happiness. Yes, I can do all these things, but it’s difficult for me to sit and be happy without moving on to the next thing I must do. 

I need a break.

It’s a Hard Knock Life, Single Dads

For the past six months, I’ve been attempting to date online. I must admit, I was skeptical from the first keystroke I laid down. I tried desperately to impress the ladies with an influential self-summary followed by a witty list of six things I couldn’t do without. My very, very tiny list of incoming messages gives me the sense that my assessment isn’t giving anyone butterflies.

The only reasoning I can even fathom is that these women think they are going to come into my life and have to take care of a child from day one. What else could it be? I’m handsome (Well… this is debatable. I would say I’m average. Some say I’m above average. I have no idea), successful, passionate about what I do, well-read, and opinionated. I’m not exactly a social butterfly, but I get around the office, chatting up fellow colleagues. I hit the town from time to time, bantering with bar patrons as I liquor myself up to approach women. In nearly all cases, I’m not seeing any interest from the opposite sex. For lack of a less effective phrase to depict the situation… it fucking sucks.

I’m not going to sugar coat my needs here. I’m horny, god dammit. But that’s no reason to go running off into the sunset with the first woman off the boat. I have standards. I want someone who is also successful, well-read, passionate, and open to the idea of having a child with me. I want her to be concerned about her health, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and be active. Oh, and when my birthday comes around… every once in a while… could you organize a little surprise party, kiss me on the lips in front of everyone, and show me how much you appreciate me. Because I know damn well if I find someone like the person I described above — she’ll be my queen and I’ll never let her go.

Maybe I’m asking for too much though. I do have one bone to pick with the single ladies though. What the fuck is the problem with single Dads that you can’t give us even a smidgen of hope that you’ll give us a chance? We are mature, caring, loving parents who are walking through life scared shitless that we’ll fuck up our children. How is that a weakness exactly? I’ll never know. In my mind, our vulnerability makes us emotionally mature and open. Some of the women I’ve met superficially look at the situation as if they are a twenty-year-old version of myself and say “Fuck that! No way I’m raising someone else’s child!”

Is that what you think dating a single Dad is like? If I had my kid 100% of the time, it might be different, but I lead a very strange life. Every other day, I’m super Dad, coming home, working out, cooking, cleaning, teaching my son how to read and write, then playing Legos with him or showing him the intricacies of building a cannon in Minecraft. All the other times, I’m thirty-something bachelor with a lot to offer, yet I get bizarre looks by “girls” when I say I have a son. 

Sometimes, I just want to say fuck you. But I know there is someone special out there.. somewhere.

Escaping the Dread of Singledom

My greatest weakness is the fear of being judged. It has single-handedly controlled experiences in my life that should have been meaningful, but fell short because I feared that out of the fifty people in the vicinity — two of them might laugh and think that I’m a complete idiot. The thing is… isn’t that the case in almost all situations in life? Somebody in the room is thinking to themselves, ‘Heh, what a stupid answer!”. I would know. I’m one of those people from time to time, judging, being a silent asshole in my own head.

Oh, the hypocrisy!

So, it comes as no surprise that it took courage to walk into a restaurant during the lunch rush this past Saturday to order a couple of drinks and eat a sandwich. People are looking at me as I stroll past the hostess and stake my claim to the barstool in front of the television. In my head, they are all laughing at me, ridiculing me for my thinning hair and ugly features. This is a rare occasion. New territory for me as a newly single 30-something. My friends are all married with children, and my family has fled the region, leaving me high and dry with nothing but a curious six-year-old who can’t sit at the bar with me and discuss why the Republicans hate Obamacare so much.

I exchange friendly banter with the bartender, erasing a little self-doubt and boosting my confidence a bit. I leave an hour later, satisfied with the fact that I can go out alone and enjoy myself. Maybe this single thing isn’t going to be so bad after all, right?

After four hours of battling soccer moms, hipsters, and college kids for the latest and greatest crap that nobody ever really needs, I walked into a local tavern that sits in the middle of an outdoor shopping center. It was ideal for the mid-afternoon, filled with nice, old-fashioned gentlemen who were having a drink while their wives blew away their retirement funds. I sit down, eager to kill a couple of Imperial Stouts that I’d been eying since the last time I’d been to the establishment — well over three months ago. 

An hour passes, and I’m two beers in. I’m warm, and everyone around me is friendly. People talk about where they work, what they do, why they are out, what beers are great, what’s good on the menu, and so on. I get to know a few of the other bar patrons, mostly older couples. How great is this!

Another hour passes, and I begin to hypothesize some of the issues I’ve had in the past meeting new people. The fear I have is completely gone, likely due to liquid courage in the form of beer. That is true to an extent, but I noticed when I first came in that I was still rather relaxed and comfortable approaching people. I had sort of psyched myself up by stating the obvious — what do I have to lose? Nothing. 

I meet a guy sitting in his alma mater’s colors watching a basketball game while waiting on a carry out order. I give him a hard time because his team is being dominated by an opposing rival, and I share a few stories of great times I’d had over in his neck of the woods. As it turns out, he’s in the same boat as me, single, thirty-something, looking for new friends. We exchange numbers, talk about going out next weekend to a singles bar to have a few drinks, help each other out in the wingman department. Honestly, I did not expect to meet such a cool cat.

The night progresses, and out of nowhere — a man tells me to politely fuck off because he and his wife “never get out and just want to talk.” Fair enough, I totally understand. But when I woke up the next day, I didn’t understand at all. I was rejected. And all I could think was why am I so fragile to let an arrogant but totally warranted rejection from a man and his wife affect me. Why? 

It makes perfect sense to me now. I’ve struggled so mightily for so long to get everyone to like me, yet for reasons unknown — I have very few friends. I’m not included in many of the activities that the droves of people I work with do on a regular basis even though I interact with them daily and generally feel great about the interactions. It’s frustrating and depressing. Even in my triumph of the social scene at a local tavern, one rejection ruined the night for me, and this fear of being judged squelched what meaning the night had for me. I escaped the dread of singledom for a few hours, only to have that feeling of rejection slap me right back in the face when I woke up the next day. Time has always healed these wounds, but my question is… how much time will it take this time?

Rejected by Religion

It’s 9:00 PM on a Friday night, and I’m sitting in a garage, pierced by the first significant “cold” of the Fall, watching college football. I’m there to distract myself from what I’m really thinking about, and I’ve been having a hard time dealing with the fact that I need to figure out how to be alone.

My phone buzzes. It’s her.

A few texts later and we’re in full disclosure mode. She’s flirty, telling me that she does, in fact, like me a lot. Everything seems to be escalating… finally. Then she drops me for the count with a monumental right hook.

I squirm in my seat while my best friend explains why college football team A is better than college football team B. My mind has wandered, and I couldn’t care less about the BCS rating system at this point. I’ve suddenly and depressingly sunk into sadness, knowing that I’ve been rejected once again.

I had known before we ever began talking to each other that she was a religious person, but it had never came up as an imperative attribute in the man she would want to be with. I am not religious, mainly because I was not raised in that world. I have no problems with people who are religious and are passionate because of it. I just don’t partake, mainly because the things that drive me are mostly based on values and principles not rooted in religion, but experience.

Unfortunately, that’s not an option for her, and the conversation spirals into a strange break-up conversation, even though we aren’t actually dating. While the words are being written, I can’t help but think… in today’s society, is religion really a deal breaker? Why?

After a few moments contemplating my desolate future, I retire from the garage and head home. As usual, Adam Duritz escalates my morose mood by providing a soundtrack to my life as I fly past each street light with the wind in my hair. I try to think positively about what is happening though. Why would you want to be with someone like that? You wouldn’t. I’m right, I wouldn’t.

I make it home in ten minutes, sulking my way up my steps and into a big, empty house. I throw off my shoes, socks, jeans, and shirt, then dive into my sheets and comforter. I fire off one last text, responding to her final word.

“I understand.”

The Third Date

As I pull into the parking lot of the local ice cream shop, it begins to downpour.


The rain hammers my windshield, acting as the perfect metaphor for my current mental state. I’m feeling anxious and optimistic about this date, but the week has been met with loneliness and sadness. This girl is someone I want to get to know on a deeper level, and I figure if I’ve made it this far without her completely cutting me off from communication… I must being doing something right.

She pulls in five minutes later, and we walk into the shop together, laughing over small talk and getting our feet wet. We discuss all sorts of subjects over the next couple of hours, and it goes great, just like the first two dates. Tugging at my heart is this feeling of sadness as we walk outside to end the affair. She remains happy at the opportunity to go on this date, but distant in terms of revealing deeper emotions. Again, this is only our third date.

I climb back up into my truck and sit in the darkness, cursing at myself over what had transpired. The date went great, right? What the fuck am I upset about? I haven’t even got close to showing this woman a sign of things to come, but she hasn’t been inviting either. Is this part of the game? Is she testing me out before deciding whether this can go further? I’ve been out of the game for way too long. Is this how it is now?

My obsession with confirming my stance in the dynamic has been something that’s haunted me for years. When I get into a new dating ritual, I lose weight and become riddled with anxiety. Is she into me? What if I fuck it up? 

It has never occurred to me that someone might not be right for me, and that the other person is trying out for the team as well. In this case, however, I’ve already bought into this person. She’s fantastic with her only flaw, from what I can tell, being that she is way too busy to entertain the idea of going out a couple of times a week with me. 

I drive home and sink into my bed, pumping Adam Duritz through my head once again:

I wanna be the light that burns out your eyes
`cause I know there’s little things about me 
that would sing in the silence of so much rejection
in every connection I make
I can’t find nobody home
I wanna be the last thing you hear when you’re falling asleep….

In the Midst of a War

It’s ten o’clock. I’m fidgeting between my bed sheets and comforter, throttling around in bed as I project the lyrics of Adam Duritz through my earbuds and into my consciousness. I begin to cry.

The crying hasn’t been a consistent theme of these evenings, but the Loneliness and Sadness have always been there, sending new rounds of reinforcements to the front lines to assault my feelings. 

I’ve been battling a two-pronged war from the beginning. A couple of months of believing I would be alone forever spiraled into another month of highs and lows I’ve only experienced when beginning a relationship. Ultimately, the goal of my enemy is the same, but the means to pushing me off the cliff are very different.

Strangely, these introspective sessions I’m having as I fall asleep seem, in hindsight, like a great thing. But they’ve brought up feelings and emotions that I haven’t had to deal with in a long time. My poor mother, gone so long ago, was never a focus of any grieving from me because I knew it was coming. Now, I miss her more than ever. Those thoughts have crept into my my mind in this isolation, sometimes spontaneously spawning outbursts of tears. It’s as if Sadness is sending in their special forces unit to take out my power supply.

Miraculously, I do have a counterattack, somebody new who has filled a void that I have never found in someone before. A positivity that is so attractive and inspiring that it makes me believe greatness is possible in a relationship. It is slow-going, which is exactly what I believe I need, but with such an arrangement comes doubt. Will this ever be fully realized? Nobody knows. 

Who will win this war? My pessimism is leaning toward Sadness and Loneliness, but at some point in my life — I must change my outlook. I must change for the better. I’ve never been the person who says the positive thing, but in my mind and in private — I’ve said to myself “Why can’t it happen to you, man? Believe!”

So here I am… believing.

Battling Loneliness

I woke up on Friday morning at 4 AM, or as I like to call it as of late — the usual. 

No, this isn’t normal. It’s been a reoccurring theme since I broke up with my ex-girlfriend a month ago. I suppose I could read into what’s going on as anxiety about the breakup, but to be perfectly honest — most of the time I feel completely justified in the decision. But there has been something eating me up inside, and I’ve experienced it before in past relationships. I have a hard time being alone.

As I opened my eyes and checked my messages, that familiar feeling rushed into my brain and into my gut. I felt completely alone in this dark room with four walls. What the hell is going on!?

Thursday night was an evening I won’t forget any time soon. I had dinner with a lovely woman from work who sparks my interest immensely. She’s beautiful, intelligent, driven, and independent. I’ve wanted all of those things in a girl for a long time, and I find it bizarre that in the aftermath of my last relationship — she just swoops in and lands in my lap. Three hours later, we left the restaurant with smiles on our faces. It was fantastic.

We exchanged a few texts back and forth regarding how great the evening was before signing off to bed. What happened next was typical of me in the past. I read into things way too much. Within those texts, I tried to get a feeling for where this was going. Was this possibly a relationship-bound friendship? Could this become more? Keep in mind, we’ve been on one date, but we’ve been talking for almost three weeks. 

Yes, that’s right. I’m being fucking ridiculous.

Today, I’m regretting the exchange, although when I look over it again and again — it’s innocent and tame. Regardless, this launched me into a full-on depression state in which I sat at my desk thinking about how I’d be alone for the rest of my life because I’ll totally fuck up this great thing I have going. 

I lost this battle, but I’ll win the war… hopefully



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