I would like to propose a new acronym. Much like LOL, LMFAO, BRB, and the dreaded YOLO, I will throw my hat in the ring of the Digital Age’s penchant for making acronyms of anything and everything so that teenage thumbs can quickly insert them into their cell phones while the other hand holds the steering wheel. My new acronym is MODF. What, pray tell, does MODF mean, you ask? Well, MODF means My Own Damn (or Darn, if you prefer) Fault. Inspired and ripped verbatim from Jimmy Buffett’s song “Margaritaville,” it is a statement of responsibility. To quote the song, “Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame, but I know it’s my own damn fault.”

This is not about a woman, and it is also not about blame. I don’t propose this Internet-worthy acronym so that we all can mull on the fact that a certain problem is due to nobody else but ourselves. Blame is not constructive if it ends there. If I decide that something is my fault and then proceed to beat myself up over it endlessly, that gets me nowhere. If I use it to belittle myself, to believe that I am worthless, or helpless, then it is counterproductive. MODF is not a declaration of defeat in the sense that I want to present it; it is a declaration of empowerment.

Metallica stated, “This thorn in my side is from the tree I planted.” Creed lamented, “I’ve created my own prison.” Mad Season said “My pain is self-chosen.” When I use the acronym MODF, I am not using it to establish blame but rather ownership. I planted the tree, I created the prison, and I chose the pain. If I did all these things, then I have power, and I can do other things that rid me of the thorn, the prison, and the pain. Those who have read my other blog articles may notice some similarities between this and a previous post, including the reference to Mad Season. It is all part of an evolution of thinking that was set in motion when I was laid off in 2011.

I love Mad Season. If you haven’t read my aforementioned blog post, I will tell you who they are. Mad Season was a collaborative effort from the mid-nineties of some of the members of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Screaming Trees. Layne Staley from Alice in Chains was the vocalist. Staley has always used haunting and somewhat depressing lyrics and imagery in his music, probably due to his ultimately unsuccessful battle with drug addiction. But one thing I’ve noticed is that he also shines a light of hope within the despair. As for the above Mad Season quote, taken from the song “River of Deceit,” Staley sings,

My pain is self-chosen

At least I believe it to be

I could either drown

Or pull off my skin and swim to shore

Now I can grow a beautiful

Shell for all to see.

For a song that started out bemoaning the fact that, “A head full of lies is the weight tied to my waist,” Staley brings it to a higher place – a place of empowerment. He has a choice, a classic, almost clichéd choice: sink or swim.

My current circumstance brought this musing on. I am unemployed again. As I stated in the first blog article, when I was initially laid off of my job of thirteen years, I was devastated. I found a job a year later, but now it’s over. The contract expired and I haven’t heard back from them. Worse yet, I am worse off financially than if I had never taken the job in the first place. In short, it sucks.

What does this have to do with MODF? Neither case was my fault. My first layoff came as a result of mismanagement of the bank where I worked, which I had no control over. The second one was possibly a budgetary thing. I have no idea. Whatever the case, I did what I was supposed to do and just got the shaft. This is clearly not a case of MODF, is it?

No, it isn’t. But it is, at the same time. While I didn’t cause my downturn, I did cause the difficulties that followed. When I was laid off I found myself with thirteen years of experience and yet none of my skills meant Jack in terms of employment. I don’t have a college degree or certification. I was never a manager, supervisor, or president – in fact, I shunned such positions of authority. My ambition and drive to improve myself were nonexistent because I was comfortable. I was making plenty of money, had enough to do all the things that I wanted, and I was satisfied. I could have spent the time bettering myself – finishing my education, creating a writing portfolio, etc. Instead I squandered that time, so when I lost my job I was left unprepared for unemployment. THAT was MODF.

I could spend all my time kicking myself – and believe me I have – but that doesn’t help me. What MODF does is show me the path to climb out of these holes I find myself in. Not the same-old same-old path, but the uncomfortable path. A path that might get me into debt again, or make me push myself to my limits. I’m afraid of that path. I’ve spent thirteen years ignoring that path, sinking into my comfortable hole, content that I could sustain my status quo forever and never have to grow or change. I’ve been deep in debt before. It was debilitating. I don’t want to go to that dark place again, so I use it as an excuse to avoid all things that would bring debt but might otherwise help me. I’ve had no success with love, and my experiences trying to woo the fairer sex have only served to shatter an already fragile self-esteem. I’ve felt happier and better about myself when I have given up on finding love. That has been an excuse, a self-made limit to keep me from experiencing that pain again.

For a long time I have convinced myself that I am limited. I have led myself to believe that I can only do so much. I don’t aspire to greatness not only because the path is hard but because cresting that hill puts me in the crosshairs. When I strive for greatness I bring responsibility upon myself. I don’t like responsibility. I like to be the unknown peon who does his job and gets enough money to live a simple but comfortable life. I hold myself down because I am afraid of what will happen if I rise up.

So here I am, back to MODF. It started as a way to beat myself up for my failures. It has morphed into an impetus. If I can cause my problems, I can solve them. Even those things which can’t really be said to be my fault can be. My unemployment is a result of decisions I made. The hole I find myself in was dug by my own shovel. I’m not helpless, and I need to stop pretending that I am. I’m not the victim, I’m the future victor.

During these times of unemployment one thing has remained constant: my father. When I first lost my job and came to live with my father and my brother, my father had been falling a lot. In his old age, and after a stroke or two, his motor and speech functions are iffy. My first bout of unemployment came exactly at the right time – just weeks before my father had to have 24-hour care. I have been able to play a significant role in my father’s life, and it has been amazing. When I look upon him, I see someone who is truly helpless. Without the funds to pay for professional in-home care or to move into an assisted living facility, my father has no choice but to rely on his family. I have a living, breathing example of helplessness in front of me every day. How dare I pity myself? I should be ashamed every time I sit at the bottom of my hole and mope about how stupid or weak I am. I have a choice: drown or swim. If I can lift my father up, I can lift myself up.

This MODF concept seems tangential to the main message of empowerment. I don’t know if it was the right way to present the subject, but it was how I arrived at it. Owning the problem made me realize that I could solve it as well. Perhaps it just takes a little pity party at the bottom of a dark wet hole to make a person realize that he has power. I have fingers. I can claw my way upward. Sure, a shovel would be nicer, or a ladder, but that ship has sailed. If I can dig the hole I find myself in, I can fill it too.

I hate burdening others with my personal baggage. This blog has served as a sounding board for me, a way to work out my thoughts and feelings during a time of crisis in my life. I never really approached it as a presentation to the world at large. I’ve discovered a lot of things about myself. Some I’m proud of and others I’d rather bury while I’m filling up that hole I dug. I am surprised if my mad ramblings have any significance to others. But maybe they do. Maybe like Layne, my journeys into the depths of my psyche can serve to propel others out of their own dark places. I hesitate to allow myself that conceit, but I do appreciate everyone who follows my blog and enjoys it. To you I offer my profound thanks and well-wishes.


4 thoughts on “MODF

  1. “Best article you’ve written to date, in my opinion. Really. I hope things work out for you soon, man. I understand what you’re talking about here in frightening ways. It’s incredibly difficult being comfortable, because if it carries on for too long it can turn into stagnation. All the worse for those who are creative by design. But it’s never too late to pack up your things and leave Bag End for a while. If you hurry, you just might catch up to that company of Dwarves heading off on an adventure. “Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many paths to tread.” Good luck, and take care, Bilbo! 😉

    • Thanks, Galedrun. You’ve been a good solid fan. Using LotR imagery, I see it as Frodo in Rivendell. I’ve taken a journey through darkness and I have a choice: return to the comfortable stasis I enjoyed or push myself beyond where I’ve been already. I know there’s still a long hard journey to Mordor, I just have to get up the courage to volunteer for it.

      • Well, if and when you do so, here’s a friendly heads up from someone who’s also mildly familiar with that darkness– there’s this nasty thing called Shelob along the way. She sucks. Tread lightly, and maybe bring a ‘star’ with you.

  2. reluctantwritergirl says:

    This is sincere. I like sincere. I could have written some of this about myself as well. I think it is good that you are having these honest streams of consciousness. Use them. The fact that you are able to tend to your father – is you “rising up.” I think so many times we view success in the way the world wants us to. And we tend to the miss the real moments that are life changing. You being there for your father. And having the time to do so is something I think you will value more than any other accomplishment.

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