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11/14/2003 Entry: "[sniffle] Habby bud-day du beee... [sniff sniff cough] Habby bud-day du beee..."

And so today I turned 35.

I woke up so sick this morning (head cold), I called in sick from work. My wife and son were also sick, so my birthday was pretty much everyone leaving each other alone in their head cold misery. Now it's later in the afternoon, and I feel a lot better. I hope I am well for tomorrow's party. I am a wee bit bummed I have to clean the whole house for it, as well as make my own cake. But my wife spent the better parts of her free time in the last few months planning a murder-mystery LARP, so I can't really complain. And the house needed a good cleaning anyway.

I have been thinking about that book, "The Games People Play," all day. The stuff I read mulled around in my head, as I tried to find out if any of my friends used those games. And I concluded if I can't tell when they lie, I won't be able to tell if they play those games, either. But I tried to find out the depth of any games I played, and found some interesting games I do play... and some maybe I should, or at least should be aware of.

For instance, sometimes I thought people would praise me at the most inopportune times. Like I'd be confessing how bad at something I was, and people would say, "Oh, you're a lot better than you think. You are too hard on yourself." Deep down, I resent this a little, kind of like someone was taking my confession and throwing it back at me like it was worthless, and somehow my honest impression of my work is somehow flawed. But I didn't say anything, because I never detected malice in their responses. Maybe I felt a sort of, "Well, you should spend a day in my shoes, then you'd KNOW how bad I was at this... and it's not EASY confessing how bad I am," but no real anger that lasted more than a few seconds. And maybe my self-assessment is flawed, but I do feel like that I at least should know better than anyone about my own skills. But now I think I understand why some people might get angry at my insistence of, "No, I really am bad at this. Here's eight mistakes to prove my point..." They may think I am "fishing for complements." Now, this way of getting complemented doesn't seem logical to me. How could one derive complements from pointing out flaws? I certainly don't do this at job reviews! "Here's my software, but it took me a long time to write it, correct constant mistakes, and I am not confident it is bug free!" Uh... no. But apparently this is a game a lot of people play (or at least Dr. Berne thought so in 1964).

This explained two how I must have pissed off two people in the last few years. One guy kept going on about how bad of a father he was, and while another guy guy went on about how he was a good father, all fathers feel that way, I essentially said, "Well, what have you done to improve yourself?" The "bad father" didn't have an answer for that, and played the "YDYB" game ("Why don't you... yes but"), giving excuses about how little time he had, how non-supportive his wife was, and so on. I had a name for this in my own head, "addicted to the problem, not interested in the solution," and so after a few rounds of trying to give advice and getting vague excuses without any indication he was interested in advice, I told him if he's tried all those things, and they didn't work, I didn't have an answer. I have had to take that stance recently in my life; to only have sympathy for people who are trying to solve their problems. I have to accept I cannot control other people's will or habits; I simply do not have that power. But I did not realize that the correct thing to do would have been to keep my mouth shut earlier into the conversation, and maybe just given a little more sympathy to a coworker I'd have to work with for the next year. he expected sympathy. The people who get mad at me for pointing out my own flaws must think *I* am playing this game! Holy crap! And I doubt saying, "I am not asking for your sympathy, just listen to my confession and offer advice," would make it worse.

I think I went through half that book going, "No... way!" like a 1980s Valley Girl.

Part of me is still resisting. "How can one guy know all this? Maybe he's like Freud, and the obsession he has is projecting onto his patients." There have been times in my life I thought someone had all the answers, only to be let down that they were just as flawed as everybody else. So I am cynical. But it seemed like a lot of the stories he had about people was like suddenly seeing a whole new side to an argument. I can accept he's right about some things and wrong about others. Just which ones is he wrong about?

What is truth? What is reality? I feel so like Charlie Brown right now. Auuugh!

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