This Isn’t Advice, and You Shouldn’t Take It

advice

I do not write an advice column.

I don’t want to be a life coach, I don’t think I’m smart and I don’t believe people’s lives will be better if they act like me.

I don’t think I’m better than anyone, I don’t think I’m an expert in anything and I don’t think anyone should listen to me.

I failed Intro to Computing TWICE my freshman year of college. This challenging class included the basics of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. I failed it because I liked smoking pot and having fun more than I liked going to that class.

When I was the editor of my college newspaper, I let a story run with an anonymous source who claimed to be a sophomore female student in the College of Pharmacy’s honors program. She was bragging about how much she liked taking the drug MDMA, which most of us know as Ecstasy.

Turns out there were only eight sophomore female students in the Pharmacy honors program that year, and our source WASN’T one of them. I never bothered to vet her ahead of time. Maybe I was high. She had lied about being in the honors program. And eight completely innocent students at my university were made to look like assholes.

But really I was the asshole.

I used to lie about the cost of candy I was selling for school and pocket the extra money.

I accidentally let my car insurance lapse earlier this year and drove around for a while not even realizing I wasn’t insured.

I forget shit all the time unless it’s something I’m super-stressed about or have a reminder note written.

I’m not particularly intelligent. I’m far from being the responsible adult I aspire to be.

My dad has been divorced once.

My mom has been divorced twice.

And I’ve now been divorced. I cried like a total pansy a bunch of times for months afterward.

I don’t have a fucking clue what a super-healthy, super-functional marriage looks like from the inside. And I’m really sorry if anyone is or was under the impression that I did think that.

Some People Don’t Think You Should Listen to Me

I don’t disagree with them.

I wrote a series of posts called An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands. They’re my most popular posts by a mile, because I think sad and pissed-off wives like seeing a guy figure out why his marriage got toxic because he did all the same stupid things their husbands do. I think these women are hopeful that maybe their significant others can come to the same conclusions I did. I think these posts validate all of the things they feel and that they’ve tried to explain to their husbands and boyfriends for years. And finally! A guy gets it.

And I do.

I do get it.

And I think it’s devastatingly sad that so many guys don’t seem to give a shit just like I didn’t seem to give a shit until it became pretty clear that my marriage was fast-tracking to divorce.

It took that fear of losing my marriage—that motivation to avoid it—to exert the energy to learn what was happening in my relationship. I read books. I prayed. I talked to people.

And it started to become really clear how all these little things I had been selfishly and obliviously doing for years made my wife feel how she did.

Anyway, An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands Vols. 1, 4 and 6 get shared a decent amount on Facebook. (For the record, Vol. 4 and Vol. 6 are the only ones I think have much value. Vol. 2 is a preachy, shitty post and I should take it down because it reads like a total asshole wrote it. No one likes being preached to.)

I’m not privy to any of the comments people make about those posts on Facebook.

But a couple days ago, someone shared Vol. 1 on Reddit and a few readers were not impressed. I was able to check those out.

From “terminite”:

“This article, and the other volumes I read look more like the manifesto of a depressed and guilty man who thinks he is the sole reason his wife left him. He talks as if he ruined their marriage because he didn’t treat her like a princess… Then goes on later to say that you both have to give 100% to the marriage – Did she treat him like a king? The volumes I read were overtly abrasive and erroneously absolute, I guess to hook the reader, but it’s hyperbole and generalizations out the ass. I don’t think people should read too much into a recovering divorcee’s self-help writing therapy.”

The writer made that last sentence bold to emphasize it.

And terminite, I’m sure, is right. You SHOULD NOT read too much into a recovering divorcee’s writing on marriage. It’s not as if I was good at it.

But let’s get something straight, because it’s REALLY important:

I write about marital things, shouldering the lion’s share of blame and responsibility, and encouraging men to do their part in their relationships because I think it’s really important to take responsibility for your place in life.

Who am I to tell women what they should do as wives? I don’t know the first thing about being female or a wife.

But I DO know what it’s like to be a dude. I DO know what it’s like to be a husband. And I DO understand how I contributed to my marriage’s demise.

I figure I have two choices: I can either point fingers and scream and pout and call my ex-wife a bunch of names and blame everything on her.

Or.

I can be an adult and take responsibility for what I did and let the rest sort itself out.

Of course I don’t think my ex-wife got everything right. I was a ragey sonofabitch for a while after she left. Of course I felt justifiably pissed off dozens of times during our marriage.

But I’m not going to sit around telling men to just stand their ground and keep doing what they’re doing when I KNOW half of them are going to end up divorced if they do, and another large chunk will spend years suffering through a shitty, loveless marriage “for the kids.”

Someone has to lead. Someone has to apologize first in a fight. Someone has to be the first to call for peace during war. Someone has to be a “big” person and swallow their pride and put their marriage ahead of their selfish, petty wants.

Why not the husband?

“terminite” continues:

“We’re obviously not getting his whole story. The Masters example is a poor one, I think. I’m certain he fucked up greater than that, and much more often. And probably a lot of little things that compounded into years of resentment.”

No. You’re not getting the whole story, terminite. I was married for nine years AND I have a shitty memory. I could write an encyclopedia-sized volume of fuckups if I could only remember all of them.

From “saturdayd”:

“I really think you’re right in saying that this isn’t a reliable source of marital advice and more him trying to process what he felt went wrong.”

She seems to get it.

From “dominodog”:

“I agree. I don’t know why his marriage failed but can guarantee it wasn’t because one Sunday he wanted “me” time instead of going on a family hike that his wife wanted.

“It appears to me this guy has no idea why his marriage failed and I don’t know why anyone would take his writing as good advice.”

I don’t either, man. I don’t either.

From “gddammit”:

“He probably did this all the time to her. I am always alone and doing things alone. When my husband is not working, all he wants to do is watch TV or be in another room from me. We have only been married 3 years. It’s hard and it makes me sad. I don’t know if I am unreasonable in the way I feel, and I often wonder if he is telling me the truth when he says he loves me.”

… 

I don’t give advice. I’m not in the advice-giving business.

I’m in the storytelling business.

Matt did X. X= something shitty.

The result was Y. Y = something REALLY shitty.

And in the final analysis, maybe a couple people will be able to identify with my experiences and make the choice to not do X so that Y won’t happen and ruin their lives.

That last lady? The sad wife? She’s sad because her husband is essentially the same guy I was. He takes her for granted. She likes “Real Housewives” and “The Voice” and romantic comedies. And he likes video games and watching football and movies with explosions.

So he hangs out by himself to do what he wants to do. He might not even realize he’s causing harm.

But he’s committing marriage’s worst crime, after infidelity and abuse.

He’s leaving his wife alone in their marriage.

And someday it’s going to break.

That’s not advice. That’s just really good guessing.

I got a little defensive when I saw people treating my post like I was trying to be a marriage counselor. Part of that is because I’m naturally defensive. It’s one of my shittiest traits.

But another part of that is because I really don’t want to be seen as a guy who thinks he “knows” anything.

I don’t know anything.

I only know that sometimes I read or hear things, and combined with relevant life experience, I sometimes have some “Ah-ha!” moments that make me grow and be better.

It would be really cool to write stuff that helped people have some of those “Ah-ha!” moments once in a while, and God-willing, maybe end up in a happy, healthy relationship because of it.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands is just a clickable headline. I don’t really believe all these men are “shitty” husbands. And I don’t believe that men are always the assholes ruining their marriages.

But I do believe there are some small, subtle things that a man CAN and WILL do if he knows that doing them will be the difference between being married or being divorced.

I don’t think I’m smarter than you.

I don’t think I’m more insightful than you.

I CERTAINLY don’t think I know any more about marriage than people who are actually still married.

I just think there are a few guys out there that don’t know they’re getting marriage wrong and might recognize a few commonalities in my story.

And just maybe they’ll ask their wives the right questions.

And maybe then they’ll make some changes.

And maybe then everyone grows just a little bit more, loves just a little bit more purely, feels just a little bit happier.

None of this is advice.

It’s just a story.

Just a story with a bunch of blank pages waiting to be written.

Just a bunch of blank pages hoping for a happy ending.

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The Level Playing Field

typewriter

I will never be able to run faster than Usain Bolt or swim faster than Michael Phelps.

I will never be as intelligent as Neil deGrasse Tyson or Stephen Hawking.

I will never throw a football as well as Peyton Manning or dunk a basketball like LeBron James.

I lack the physical prowess, mental aptitude and genetic resources necessary to be a great athlete or a genius astrophysicist.

But I look down at these keys I punch expertly like an old pro: 26 letters, 10 numbers and a handful of symbols.

That’s it.

That’s all there is.

And my fingers dance. A beautiful sound I fell in love with during my days in the newsroom. An orchestra of tapping. The sound of a thousand word choices being made simultaneously in the great exchange of ideas.

One of my biggest childhood regrets is that I never learned how to play an instrument. I’ve owned two guitars, pianos and keyboards, and a full drum set. And other than some average-at-best trumpet playing in middle school, I’ve never been able to make music—something I love very much.

I have a mother and sister who are both very talented, musically.

I wish I’d inherited those same gifts.

Equal Opportunity – Since 1878

The modern QWERTY standard keyboard has been around since 1878. I once made the keyboard a metaphor for dating after divorce. It totally worked.

That’s how long everyone has had to get to know these keys: 136 years.

I haven’t taken any polls, but my guess is there is a higher percentage of proficient typists living in 2014 than there’s ever been given that so much of our time is spent in front of computers or mobile devices all using the same keys.

I just look at it. It’s simple genius. My brain completely ill-equipped to understand how I’m able to punch all these keys in exactly the right order to make each sentence. Endless possibility. That’s what this device represents. A world without limits.

This is the keyboard used by William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe and the New Testament Gospel writers. (Just kidding.)

But it WAS used by Mark Twain. By George Orwell and Hunter S. Thompson. By Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. By Ernest Hemingway.

It was also used by Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook. By Bill Gates to create Microsoft. By Larry Page and Sergey Brin to create Google.

Just look at the keys in front of you.

Punch these buttons one way, and you have Not-So-Bright-Internet-Message-Board Guy: “wtf your a idiot every moran know the knicks goin all teh way !!!!!111!!!!11!!!”

Punch them another and you end up with my drivel.

But somewhere in that endless sea of possibilities is the perfect combination of keystrokes. The perfect combination of words that make magic. That change lives. That introduce new ideas. That will pen the next Oscar-winning film. That will earn the TV news anchor her first Emmy. That will win the Noble Prize for literature.

And you don’t have to be the strongest. Or the fastest. Or the smartest. Or the best. You just need to have the keyboard and be brave enough to tap it. Disciplined enough to rewrite. And courageous enough to ship it.

You might even rescue someone 1,000 miles away.

The internet has made it easy. And we have no more excuses.

You have a song to write that will stir our insides.

An idea to share that can help change the world.

A story to tell that might save a life.

Everyone uses the same keyboard. No advantages. The same keyboard. The world’s greatest achievers. Using this exact same tool. What might be possible?

I was wrong.

I am a musician.

This keyboard, my instrument.

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.

A glorious symphony.

Calling you. Calling me.

Go create.

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The Number 333, Vol. 2

333

“3:33,” the digital clock likes to tell me.

“Oh, here he goes again! Matt thinks he’s a numerologist!”

Believe what you want. I see the number sequence 333 ALL THE TIME. As I said before, I see it infinitely more than my semi-intelligent brain deems to be the statistical likelihood.

When I wrote about this the first time, I was amused to discover it was my 33rd post after hitting the “Publish” button.

This time, I knew it was coming. Post No. 333. There could only be one topic.

But, what to say?

What Does it Mean?

I still don’t know. But I love that I’m thinking about it.

When I wrote about this 300 posts ago, I made fun of some of the things I found on the internet in my quest for 333 answers. Because the most-common result when searching for 333 meaning is this: Angels and Ascended Masters are trying to get your attention.

<insert vinyl record-screeching noise here>

You fall into one of three camps:

Camp 1 – “Angels and ‘Ascended Masters’!?!? Are you phucking (you thoughtfully use “ph” to lessen the impact) stupid!?!?

My response: Maybe.

Camp 2 – “Well, OF COURSE it’s the angels, silly! What!? You thought it was just a funny coincidence all this time!? Hahaha!”

My response: Maybe.

Camp 3 – “I don’t live my life assuming I know anything for sure. I acknowledge I don’t have all the answers and try to stay open-minded.”

My response: Me too.

Several weeks ago, a friend set me up on a date with one of her friends. She included something akin to a cautionary warning: She has “unique abilities,” my friend said about my date.

Details were scarce. I didn’t know if I was dealing with Miss Cleo, the Long Island Medium, or just someone super-spiritual.

“She can see auras and detect certain energy,” I was told.

I grew up Catholic. I still am. Psychics scare us. But, dammit, if I’m going to walk a higher path, I’m not going to judge people and be afraid of things just because I don’t understand them.

As dates go, I wouldn’t call it successful. She insists she had a good time.

However, a legit friendship was born. She’s pretty fascinating. And the more I get to know and understand her, the more I appreciate her unique perspective on life. I have deep respect for how she experiences the world.

She’s the one who convinced me to try meditation, something I’d already been considering. Life-changing, I think.

I don’t need to be psychic to know what you’re thinking: “Is she for real? Does she intuitively know things?”

Maybe she’s just a good guesser, like me. But after hanging out with her a half dozen times? Yeah. I believe she’s the real deal.

I drove her to dinner about a month ago just to hang out for a few hours one random night. I pulled into a parking lot just off a road under construction. There was a huge dip as we pulled in that made both of us bounce quasi-violently in our seats. I do this thing where I instinctively put my right arm out to “protect” my passenger in situations like that, as if my floating arm is going to save anyone’s life in a car accident.

We were laughing about it as I apologized for the rough ride. “I didn’t know we were going to Moab!” I said, referring to a town in Utah famous among Jeep owners and off-road driving enthusiasts.

We pulled into a random parking spot seconds later. She tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the back of the Jeep Wrangler parked in front of us.

“You said you’re always looking for signs,” she said with a mischievous grin. “You could have pulled into any of these other spots.”

On the Jeep’s back window was a large Moab, Utah sticker.

Things like that happen when you’re with her.

The Source has several names: Mother Earth. Allah. Nature. The Universe. The Supreme Being.

My friend and I use “God.”

The place from where light and love and energy emanate. God doesn’t speak to us in a booming voice from the heavens, she insists. Nor from a burning bush. Nor from impossible-to-miss miracles in the sky.

Rather, we’re spoken to in whispers.

And for most of my life, I’ve tried hard to plug my ears and not listen.

It’s not convenient to cede control. I’ve always been too afraid.

Because then I won’t get to do what I want!!!

I’m trying to remember the last time doing what I wanted brought me peace and happiness.

Still thinking…

333: All the Time

I see it on the clock.

I see it on microwave timers.

I see it as my phone or Jeep dash display tells me how much time remains in the song I’m listening to.

I see it on billboards: “Hotdog and soft drink combo! Just $3.33!”

I see it on email timestamps.

I see it on my word counter.

I see it on my treadmill.

I see it on my odometer. Just this morning at a stoplight: 13,333.

I understand if you think it’s bullshit. I think lots of things are bullshit.

My friend says it’s the angels. She doesn’t think, she says. She knows.

She calls me a “light worker.” Not light worker, like I only do light work, but light worker as in I’m someone called to do good.

And maybe sometimes I do. I don’t know. These things aren’t measurable.

And I don’t know that I believe I’m called any more than anyone else to be a force for good in this world.

Everyone is capable of lighting up the darkness.

If everyone tried, there wouldn’t be much dark left.

Which sounds pretty nice.

I don’t know much.

But I’m convinced there are many things about life beyond our understanding.

And if angels or the Universe or random chance choose the number 333 as a tool to remind me to walk a higher path, then it seems worth paying attention.

So, that’s what I’m doing.

I hope you will, too.

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The Science of the Heart is Sometimes Lost on Me

heart health

I used to make my wife cry because I treated her like her feelings weren’t important.

“Just because you feel that way doesn’t make it true,” I would say like an asshole.

This is an example of being both right AND wrong at the same time. Because, sure. I was right.

The truth is the truth. There aren’t several versions of the truth. There are only the things that are actually real. Seeking truth seems worthwhile.

Just because someone accuses you of being mean and intentionally trying to hurt their feelings doesn’t mean that’s actually what happened.

However.

In this situation, does the “truth” even matter?

If the woman I vowed to love and cherish forever literally felt as if I was sometimes being mean or hurting feelings to the point of making her believe it might be intentional, or at best, recklessly indifferent, does it even matter what my intentions were?

It goes like this:

Someone levels a charge. It stings because the accusation suggests you’re doing a shitty job of being a spouse/friend/employee/parent/student/teacher/player/coach, etc.

So you get defensive because you’re always trying your best, which is the most anyone can ask for. Right?

Wrong.

Your Best + Indifference = You’re Maybe Being Just a Little Bit Shitty

Your Best + Empathy = Your Actual Best

I didn’t learn how to empathize with my wife until she totally shut down and flipped the script on me during the final stretch of our marriage. She felt as if I had been indifferent and unresponsive to her opinions and emotions for several years. And then I got a taste of it myself.

It tastes like sulfur soup mixed with drunk-guy vomit and asshole sprinkles.

I wonder: How many marriages end because one partner keeps feeling hurt over and over and over, and the other seems like they don’t care even if they actually do?

Are Feelings Bullshit?

I’m guilty of having said more than once (and meaning it) that “feelings are bullshit.”

Context matters.

I believe that people’s emotions are highly volatile and ever-changing. What we liked and wanted five years ago is not what we like and want today. What we like and want five years from now might be different. Those feelings, desires, opinions are always changing as we go through life experiencing all that we do.

So, when we’re talking about marriage and divorce, I’m sometimes of the opinion that feelings are bullshit.

Every married couple is comprised of two people who were once totally, magically enamored with and wrapped up in one another. You’re either the type of person who wants to be married or the type of person who doesn’t.

If you actually got married, I assume the former.

It means you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to spend your life alone. I think most of us get that.

And if you’re that kind of person, you’re going to be with someone, sooner or later.

I don’t think it’s sensible to assume that simply changing partners is going to bring the feelings of lasting love, security, peace, happiness, contentment, sexual satisfaction, that most of us seek.

In fact, I think changing partners without a thorough self-reflection process that forces you to look in the mirror and ask the really uncomfortable question: “What did I do to help destroy my marriage?”, means that you’re pretty likely to keep having relationship problems until you do.

So, I stand on my soapbox and scream for people to realize: Love is a choice.

If you’re going to be with someone anyway. And you accept the premise that no two people are going to feel all lusty and infatuationy forever, then I think there’s a time for leaving emotion at the door and waking up every day and making a choice: Today, I’m going to love unconditionally without expecting anything in return.

One person walking that walk alone cannot and will not save a marriage. By definition, a marriage is two operating as one. And half of that can only carry it for so long before collapsing. You need both people to care.

But I sometimes wonder how many relationships would be saved if just one person (and I’d like it to be the husband) would make the very challenging, very heroic decision to sacrifice that much. To love that much.

I think feelings can follow.

And change the whole world. Maybe for everyone. Or maybe just for one small family.

If you’re part of that family, there’s no difference.

I Don’t Want to Lose My Empathy

I used to cry a lot. I don’t know what that makes me. Not very tough?

I mention it because I’m, historically speaking, not the biggest crier in the world. In fact, I used to be fairly stoic. I haven’t decided whether I think that’s good or bad.

When I was in my early 20s, I got absolutely obliterated on beer and sparkling wine at my best friend’s wedding and cried afterward because I had to say goodbye to everyone and go back to Florida where I missed them a lot. It was embarrassing.

When I was in my late 20s, my mom called me one afternoon to tell me she was leaving my stepdad who I’d known since I was 5. All the sudden I felt like a kindergartner again and cried just like I did back when my mom and dad got divorced.

And then in my 30s, there I was again. Crying. Because of divorce. My own.

I know what it’s like to be a child of divorce. Twice.

I know what it’s like to be a husband getting divorced.

I know what it’s like to be a father watching his young son deal with his parents’ breakup.

That’s empathy. And it manifests itself the best when I feel.

It’s this empathy that made me a better person in the wake of my failed marriage and as I’ve grown and evolved into whatever and whoever I am right now.

And while I’ll never celebrate the end of my family, I’ll always feel grateful for that metamorphosis which gives me a chance to be a better man moving forward. A better father to my son. A better partner to anyone who might one day grant me the opportunity.

Brokenness and Healing

The constant refrain from people close to me following my separation is that no one saw it coming. Time and time again, I heard how we seemed like the perfect happy couple. The couple others aspired to be.

No, Virginia. There is no Santa Claus.

I believe strongly in all this stuff. Passionately. That we don’t need to break as much as we do. That our relationships—the very foundations of our human experiences—can be fortified and last forever just like all those Happily Ever After princess stories we’re fed in our youth.

It just take guts. More guts than most of us have when we FEEL so horribly.

We have two choices.

We keep doing what we’re doing. Throwaway marriages built on wedding vows we either betray or never really meant in the first place.

Or we get serious about changing ourselves. On the inside.

About giving more than we take. Every day. Forever.

Feelings aren’t bullshit.

Because how we feel IS what’s real for each of us. And if we can learn to be empathetic enough—courageous enough—to love others on their terms and not on ours, maybe we’ll get the same treatment in return.

And then maybe a bunch of things won’t break.

And then maybe a bunch of kids smile and laugh and play more, family intact.

And then maybe we don’t eat so much sulfur soup mixed with drunk-guy vomit and asshole sprinkles.

And then maybe the whole world changes.

And it didn’t take a miracle.

It just took you.

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Now I Can Die in Peace

There will always be a higher mountain to climb.

There will always be a higher mountain to climb.

I root for professional sports teams in a city famous for not winning a championship in 50 years.

It’s almost statistically impossible to have a five-decade run of suckage like we’ve had in Cleveland, Ohio. That’s why sports fans in northeast Ohio collectively showcased the world’s largest erection in the history of sexual sports metaphors last summer when basketball star LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The return of James ignited a series of events that now have the Cavaliers as the odds-on favorite in Las Vegas to win the NBA title. Probably for the next five years.

Typical fans expect major injuries to crush all of our hopes and dreams.

Sensible fans simply hope this team built for dominance will deliver Cleveland its first major sports championship in five decades.

Fans like me engage in conversation about how many championships we might win.

I’m never satisfied.

With what? I don’t know. Everything?

My poor (at worst) to middle-class (at best) upbringing shouldn’t justify my high expectations. But I have them anyway.

This dissatisfaction would manifest itself in my youth as materialism. I wanted things. I had a lot of friends with infinitely more financial resources than my family did. There was no jealousy. Please don’t think that. But it did establish a standard in my mind. A standard of living which, if achieved, would seem to indicate you’ve “made it.”

Hardly anyone has money in college. So, when I started getting my full-time job paychecks from the newspaper after graduating, I felt like I made it.

I was living in an affluent beach town on Florida’s Gulf Coast, surrounded by boat owners, country club members and owners of prime real estate. I’d feed my lust for big houses and piles of cash by walking through multi-million-dollars homes on the weekends and dreaming of life in a place like that.

That’s the recipe for making a totally pleasant three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment three miles from the beach seem like a shitty place to live.

When we moved back to Ohio, we bought a house that would have cost three times as much in the town we’d just moved from. So it seemed awesome.

All it took was a job offer I was unable to accept that would have made me a lot of money to make my perfectly adequate house seem wholly not so.

I drive a new Jeep Grand Cherokee. But it’s not the Limited!!!

I have six televisions (and don’t even watch TV that much). But I need a new big-screen for my basement!!!

Everything is relative.

I might never have most of the things I want. But I could lose a whole bunch of things I already have and still always have everything I need.

Fortunately, my cravings are no longer material. I want to achieve a higher state of being. I want to walk a higher path.

I don’t seek things. I seek peace.

I’m intellectually capable of understanding that contentment and happiness come not from attainable things, but from within.

Even still. I want more.

Desire is Full of Endless Distances

That was the headline of marketing genius and prolific writer Seth Godin’s blog post today. I read it three times and hugged myself because sometimes that’s how much I love things I read.

Here it is:

“Just one more level on this game, she says. Once I get to level 68, I’ll be done.

Just one more tweak to the car, they beg. Once we bump up the mileage, we’ll be done.

Just one more lotion, she asks. Once I put that on, my skin will be perfect and I’ll be done.

Of course, the result isn’t the point. The mileage or the ranking or slightly more alabaster or ebony isn’t the point. The point is the longing.

Desire can’t be sated, because if it is, the longing disappears and then we’ve failed, because desire is the state we seek.

We’ve expanded our desire for ever more human connection into a never-ceasing parade of physical and social desires as well. Amplified by marketers and enabled by commerce, we race down the endless road faster and faster, at greater and greater expense. The worst thing of all would be if we actually arrived at perfect, because if we did, we would extinguish the very thing that drives us.

We want the wanting.”

Seth’s usually (always?) right. I think he’s a genius and a master of asking the right questions.

And I agree with him here.

There’s something tragic about it, too. About a life lived chasing and climbing and chasing and climbing… and never arriving, OR getting there and thinking: Shit. Now what?

I’m skinnier. But not skinny enough.

I’m stronger. But not strong enough.

I’m smarter. But not smart enough.

I’m a better man than I used to be. But I’m not good enough. And I’m now realizing I probably never will be.

Maybe I’ll never have my Rocky Balboa moment. Maybe I’ll never conquer all of my personal battles or achieve all my goals.

And there is something inherently dissatisfying about that. But it’s also honest.

And the truth is: I want the wanting.

I want to chase after the things that move me, even if it amounts to nothing more than a cat chasing its tail.

Because what the hell else am I going to do?

I want things. Things I may never have. Things that, if I acquire, might lose their appeal and have me looking longingly toward other things.

I choose to embrace the tragic purity of climbing and chasing knowing I may never arrive at my destination. That the Browns may never win a championship. That I may never have my dream home. That I may always feel like I have a bunch of growing to do.

We’re human. The real beauty is in the trying.

There. Now, I can die in peace.

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Ebola: When is it Okay to be Scared?

ebola

I was watching horror films long before I should have.

A Nightmare on Elm Street. Friday the 13th. Halloween.

My mom found out I’d watched The Silence of the Lambs at a friend’s house in 1992 when I was 13 years old, and she freaked, not realizing I was already acquaintances with Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.

Horror films scare my mother. And she was trying to protect her young son. I get it.

“But they don’t scare me, mom,” I told her. And it was true. I understood—every step of the way—that those were actors in makeup pretending for the camera. “It’s fiction, mom. I promise I’m fine.”

While certain parts of scary films had certainly made me jump or given me goosebumps, I’d never watched one that truly frightened me.

Then in 1995, when I was 16 years old, I went to the movies to see Outbreak.

In that film, a fictionalized Ebola-like virus breaks out in a small African village. A small monkey contracts the disease. And someone brings that monkey on a freight ship to California. An outbreak ensues in a small California town. Bad things follow.

And then, for the first time in my predominantly peaceful, innocent, small-town life, my mind processed the concept of a deadly pandemic in the United States.

Of quarantine zones.

Of martial law.

And I took a deep breath, realizing: I’ve finally seen a film that scares me.

March 2014

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an announcement: There’s been an Ebola outbreak in Africa. Nothing to fear! It’s on the other side of the world. Hey, look! Kohl’s has khaki pants on sale!

April 2014

It’s discovered and reported that Patient Zero was most likely a two-year-old child in Guinea. The child died in December, followed by the child’s mother, sister and grandmother over the next month. Try to imagine being a parent of that child. Your child has a fever. Crying and screaming. What do you do? You hold them. Because you must.

Thoughts and prayers for those poor people.

July 2014

I avoid the news (forgive the expression) like the plague. It doesn’t make me feel good. But even I couldn’t avoid the occasional news updates: Ebola cases are growing. The death toll is rising. “Absolutely NOTHING to worry about!!! It’s in Africa! Things like this happen there due to poor sanitation and subpar medical facilities! It could NEVER happen here!”

August 2014

I was standing in a hotel bathroom in Reno, Nev. during a business trip watching the morning news when I heard: Two American doctors have contracted Ebola. And the powers that be are going to fly them to Atlanta, Ga. where they will be treated at Emory University Hospital.

Ummm. Wait a minute. Ebola? You’re bringing it to the United States? ON PURPOSE? You’re aware that we’re the third-largest country in the world, right?

But then they brought the doctors over. Both recovered without incident.

Whew. I guess there really was nothing to worry about.

September 2014

The CDC announces the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States. Patient Thomas Eric Duncan had been isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas.

One of my friends posted an article about Ebola on their Facebook wall with the words: “If you only read one thing about Ebola, make sure it’s this.”

So, I did.

And I thought about that two-year-old child. OF COURSE the mother, sister and grandmother contracted the virus and died. It’s because they were human beings. It’s because they loved.

An excerpt from the fantastic piece from Slate:

“In short, Ebola parasites our humanity.

More than most other pandemic diseases (malaria, cholera, plague, etc.) and more than airborne diseases (influenza, swine flu, H5N1, etc.) that are transmitted indiscriminately through the air, this disease is passed through very minute amounts of bodily fluid. Just a slip of contact with the infected party and the caregiver herself can be stricken.

The images coming from Africa are chilling. Little boys, left alone in the street without parents, shivering and sick, untouchable by the throngs of people around them. Grown men, writhing at the door to a hospital, hoping for care as their parents stand helplessly, wondering how to help. Mothers and fathers, fighting weakness and exhaustion to move to the edge of a tent in order to catch a distant, final glimpse of a get-well video that their children have made for them.

If Ebola is not stopped, this disease can destroy whole families within a month, relatives of those families shortly thereafter, friends of those relatives after that, and on and on. As it takes hold (and it is taking hold fast), it cuts out the heart of family and civilization. More than the profuse bleeding and high kill rate, this is why the disease is terrifying. Ebola sunders the bonds that make us human.”

Even still. Nothing to worry about. Right?

October 6, 2014

A nursing assistant in Spain becomes the first known person outside Africa to contract Ebola.

Also, a freelance NBC cameraman who contracted Ebola in Liberia and returned to the United States was admitted to the Nebraska Medical Center.

Okay.

October 8, 2014

Thomas Eric Duncan dies from Ebola in Dallas.

Ohhh.

October 11, 2014

Critical care nurse Nina Pham is diagnosed with Ebola. She closely treated Thomas Eric Duncan. Pham is the first known person to contract Ebola in the United States.

Great.

A Lot Can Change in 24 Hours

October 15, 2014

8:30 a.m. – Amber Joy Vinson, a second nurse from the Dallas hospital where Duncan was treated, is diagnosed with Ebola.

11:30 a.m. – News reports break that Vinson flew from Dallas to Cleveland over the weekend.

Well, holy shit. That’s not too far away.

My co-workers and I went to lunch in a big group. Someone else said it, but I was already thinking it: “Just watch. The Ebola patient probably spent the weekend here and ate at this very restaurant.”

4:30 p.m. – Vinson’s family lives in the same small town in which I work. Every day.

Whoa.

October 16, 2014

Vinson’s family’s house has been taped off by public health officials, and the family members quarantined.

A ton of media vans and law enforcement affected this morning’s commute for many of my co-workers.

The house is 0.6 miles from where I now sit.

What About Now?

Is it okay to be scared?

Sure it is. But it’s still very much a theoretical fear. I don’t have any physical anxiety or stress about this interesting development.

But for the first time in my life (short of the remote possibility of World War III breaking out after Sept. 11, 2001), I’m looking at something that actually threatens my way of life.

I think people are either very ignorant or very foolish to not see it that way.

Standing in a restaurant two weeks ago with my friend, we saw the African Ebola death toll numbers on the news and talked about how important it is to make sure we don’t let this disease spread further.

How many people does one person come in close contact with?

How many people do those people know?

How many Ebola patients would it take to cripple the nation’s health care system?

How many would it take to destroy the financial markets?

How many would it take before civil unrest set in? Martial law?

How many before they can’t deliver food and supplies to grocery stores?

How many before there’s no more fuel being delivered to gas stations?

How many before the system is overloaded and the police and fire department don’t respond to 9-1-1 calls?

What then?

I’ve never been scared of getting sick and dying.

I may die in five seconds because my heart stops beating, or I get in a car accident, or a rogue meteorite plummets from space to Earth and slices through my office roof and pierces my skull.

I absolutely WANT to live. But I also understand that dying is an inevitable eventuality.

That’s not the scary part.

We’re a bunch of pansies in the United States. Even the really tough people. They are still conditioned to need pharmaceuticals and groceries and gasoline and electricity to accomplish the things they need to accomplish.

I’m speaking out of school here, but I submit Africans living in harsh conditions are infinitely better equipped to deal with danger and civil unrest than the average American citizen who complains when their iPhone battery drains too fast and the line at Starbucks almost made them late for their Pilates class.

My biggest fear has always been this: The fundamental breakdown of society as we know it.

I only know what I see and read in post-apocalyptic fiction. Maybe none of that could ever happen. I don’t presume to know.

I just know there are so many things I don’t know. That anything can happen. That I love my son more than I love anything else, and I fear my ability to protect him in a world gone rogue.

I have a history of worrying about things outside my control.

One of the things I’ve tried hardest to do in this new life of mine—this scary, post-divorce world I now live in—is to let go of all fear (it’s pointless), or at least let go of fearing things I can do nothing about.

And those efforts are working.

Because I really do feel good. So much better than the bent and broken me of yesteryear.

In many ways it’s been a spiritual journey.

I try very, very, very hard to not let things related to religion or politics poison what I’m writing here. Not that all religious and political matters are poisonous. Only that the inevitable divisive rhetoric that follows ALWAYS is.

I won’t switch course now.

I’ll only say this: I have always believed there’s more to life than this.

That the human experience is so much more than just a random mathematical anomaly that will eventually see all of us die and rot in the ground, our lives having amounted to nothing.

We are more.

I don’t like to say I “know” things because I don’t know anything! But, I feel.

I feel like we’re part of something so much bigger than our little minds (only using three percent of their capabilities) can comprehend.

I feel like we’re all made of the exact same things.

I feel like we’re all connected.

Africa to the United States.

Texas to Ohio.

You to me.

And everything that really matters in this life is so much bigger than what I can see and hear and feel.

That was true a million years ago.

And it will be true in a million more.

Is it okay to be to be scared now? The thing that frightens me most is literally in my backyard.

Sure. Probably.

But doesn’t it feel better to be brave?

I’m starting to get a little practice with that.

And yeah. It totally does.

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The Belt Notches

Graphic courtesy of jamesclear.com

Graphic courtesy of jamesclear.com

I was dressing for work the other day when it happened. While buckling my belt, I noticed it needed to be pulled a notch tighter.

You notice because your belt develops this funny little hump where it gets settled into being buckled in the same notch over and over and over again. And then—bam. It needs a new home. Strange. Different. Uncomfortable, but not in a bad way.

My belt got tighter because I’ve been making good lifestyle choices, both in terms of physical fitness and eating habits.

You don’t really notice the changes day to day. The improvements are so incremental that they would seem nearly immeasurable. But, added up over weeks and months, they are not only noticeable, but in some cases—drastic.

Most of the time, I drive right by my ex-wife’s office on my way to and from work each day.

For many months, I noticed myself always looking back to see whether I could see her vehicle parked outside. I don’t know why. Old habits die hard?

What I do know is that it never made me feel good. There were even times I saw my little son hop out of the car with her right at the moment I was driving by.

That made me cry once.

A brutal reminder of all that had been lost.

Lisa Arends at Lessons From the End of a Marriage (who everyone dealing with divorce-related matters should read) once talked to me about emotional triggers. And she said something I’ll never forget. She said they’re going to sting. And it’s going to surprise you. But then, over time, you’ll notice they don’t sting anymore, she said. That you’ll drive by and you won’t feel horrible. You won’t cry.

And that will surprise you, too.

And then you’ll know. Like passing a test of sorts. That you’re stronger now. Braver now.

That you’re actually you again.

I can’t be sure when it happened. But I caught myself once jamming to something awesome on the radio. Smiling because that day was going to be a good day. Just, feeling good.

And I realized: I didn’t look back. I didn’t look to see whether her car was there.

Then I realized I didn’t know when I stopped doing that. Weeks ago?

Because it just happened. Slowly. Unnoticeably. Incrementally.

My mind will continue to process all of the many changes these past few years have brought.

My body will continue to get leaner, harder, stronger.

And my spirit will soar because of it. Taking me to places I’ve never been.

One little bit at a time.

1% a Day

My favorite writer James Altucher writes often about improving just one percent each day.

I like it because it makes sense to me. Here’s an excerpt from a recent post of his:

I have a friend who is feeling down. He doesn’t like his job. He’s uncomfortable with the people he is working with. He’s had this job for ten years so he’s afraid to bail now after putting in so much time.

He wants to make a fast change.

Every day, though, is a new day. The past is just a photograph. The present is everything we can see and feel and hear and touch and love and live. The future is a fantasy.

So today improve just 1%.

That sounds trite. What is “one percent”?

Maybe I’ll write a list of ideas today. Maybe I’ll take a walk. Maybe I’ll call someone I love. Or maybe I will shower twice and do pushups. (or, ahem, maybe shower once).

Maybe you can tell me: what are all the ways someone can improve their lives 1%?

Maybe I’ll eat 1% less junk food. Or read a book instead of some stupid news article that is filling up the inane news cycle of the week before it’s forgotten when the next news cycle hits.

Maybe I won’t argue about a stupid issue. Or maybe I will spend time with my kids.

Someone wrote a completely insane comment on my wall the other day. I delete it and move on. No need to argue.

Another person wrote a blog post accusing me of trying to control him with “Neuro-weaponry,” apparently developed by the U.S.Navy. I ignore it and move on. I don’t even like to swim.

What are some other ideas? I hope you can tell me.

1% seems like a small amount.

And it is a small amount. It’s tiny. It’s easy. It’s doable. Today.

But 1% compounds. If you improve 1% a day you will improve 3800% in a year. I don’t even know what that means. Life is not a number.

But it means your life will be COMPLETELY different.

I know this is true. My life is completely different than it was a year ago. And a year before that. And I can barely recognize the year before that. I can’t even remember two years ago actually.

Sometimes just a kiss improves my life 1%.”

Technically, it’s 3,753 percent. If you improve one percent every day for one year, you improve 3,753 percent. That’s a lot.

James is right. Our lives are not numbers. And I don’t know what it means either.

But I know I can get one percent better at something today. Probably more.

Everything changed. And sure, I’m still scared.

But not very much.

And not very often.

I’m alive. More than just surviving. Living. Progressing. And striving for achievement more than I ever have before.

Instead of worrying about tomorrow, and way down the road about things I can’t possibly control, I’m mostly concentrating on getting a little bit better today.

A slightly smaller stomach.

Slightly stronger arms.

A more-courageous heart.

A calm, capable, clear mind.

An unbreakable spirit.

I wasn’t strong enough before.

And maybe I’m not today.

But I will be. One percent at a time. 3,753 percent more one year from now. And a nearly incomprehensible amount, five years down the road.

“So, Matt. What’s your five-year plan?”

Oh, nothing much.

Just improve 7.85 billion percent.

Rad.

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You’re Not Supposed to Laugh at That

This is pretty much exactly what I'm talking about.

This is pretty much exactly what I’m talking about.

I was the only adult in the introductory Cub Scouts meeting without a child present.

“Which one is your son?”

“I’m sorry, he’s not here. He’s at karate with his mom tonight,” I said.

“Oh, I see.” But I could tell he really meant: “Yeah, right! You just want to Jerry Sandusky our kids! Pervert!”

Whatever, virgin.

I wasn’t there to be sold on Cub Scouts. We’d already decided to sign our six-year-old up. I was just there for the paperwork.

But the Cub Scouts leaders were laying it on thick, sharing anecdotes about how great the experience is instead of letting what is a totally worthwhile children’s activity sell itself. In fact, Public Service Announcement, Boy Scouts of America People: If you really want to grow your brand, stop having guys who have never had sex before and have the personality of C-SPAN be your public speakers.

Chlorophyll? More like BOREophyll. Right?

I came to the meeting intent on signing up, and an Eagle Scout damn near convinced me I’d made a mistake. He was like the Bizarro Billy Mays, talking me out of doing something I already wanted to do, one shitty selling point at a time.

Then one of the mom leaders started talking. She has three boys and they’re all in Boy Scouts, and it’s A-MAY-ZING!!!

She shared personal anecdotes. Camping stories. And then something bad happened.

All I heard was: “Blah blah blah blah blah, and then the boys pitch their own tents. Blah blah blah blah, pitching tents, blah blah blah. And blah blah blah Boy Scouts stuff blah, it’s so great seeing the boys pitching a tent.”

And then I made eye contact with the only male Cub Scouts leader in the room who might have had sex before, and I lost it.

I snorted a little.

A few tears streamed down my face.

And I had to just stare at the ground for a few minutes to keep my shit together.

I’ve always known it. But this felt like a defining moment for me. The guy without the kid at the Cub Scouts meeting laughing by himself because an awkward Scout Mom kept using the phrase: “Pitching a tent.” (Which for the uninitiated, is a popular phrase to describe a clothed male erection.)

I’m a 35-year-old child.

And maybe I always will be.

Tell Me, Big Puberty Guy

I was in fifth grade when I met my friend who would eventually be my college roommate for four years and the best man in my wedding.

But before we were rocking college keg parties and standing up for one another at our respective weddings, we were grade-school kids doing whatever grade-school kids did in 1989.

Two of those things were: sex education and puberty.

And despite neither of us being particularly advanced on the maturity side, we took to calling boys slow to develop physically “Big Puberty Guys.”

So, like, a kid with a lot of peach fuzz and super-young-looking features? Big Puberty Guy.

I was sort of a Big Puberty Guy. And still pretty much am because I lack the physical ability to grow a beard. I seriously only shave every two or three days. On day two, I look like 5 O’Clock Shadow Guy, and on day three, I look like Dirty-Hippie Neck Hair Trying But Failing To Grow A Beard Guy. It’s the opposite of hot.

In 1988 a little-known new wave synthpop band (that sounded British but wasn’t) named Information Society had a hit called “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy).”

The hook went like this:

I want to know

What you’re thinking

There are some things you can’t hide

I want to know

What you’re feeling

Tell me what’s on your mind

And for reasons I can’t explain, my friend and I changed the second stanza for the Big Puberty Guy theme song:

I want to know

What you’re thinking

There are some things you can’t hide

I want to know

How you’re maturing

Tell me, Big Puberty Guy

To the surprise of music aficionados worldwide, we DID NOT win a Grammy for songwriting that year.

The Mike Holmgren Beej

Two things you need to know:

  1. Mike Holmgren is a 60-something-year-old former NFL coach and executive famous for winning the Super Bowl in Green Bay during the Brett Favre era. I’m a Cleveland Browns fan, and for a short while, he was running my favorite football team. He has a pretty solid mustache.
  2. Beej = blow job.

One of my very best friends—someone I’ve known since first grade and think of as family—is a successful attorney and my son’s godfather.

We’re both football fans, though we root for different teams. And we often talk football whenever we catch up on the phone or visit one another. We sometimes discuss potential or hypothetical trades to gauge the other’s interest in acquiring players or draft picks, or to evaluate whether we think a particular trade is equitable.

Sometimes, when you’re on the fence about whether to make an NFL trade, one team (or in this case, just our hypothetical imaginations) will require a pot sweetener to seal the deal. Traditionally, an extra player or draft pick.

So, my friend (my son’s godfather—the man we selected from the entire pool of humanity—who I love very much in totally non-homosexual ways—as a spiritual guide for our child) invented the Mike Holmgren Beej® to be the ultimate pot sweetener.

Him: “Okay. So, would you be willing to trade the 4th pick in the draft, the 22nd pick in the draft, and a first rounder next year to the St. Louis Rams so you can trade up to draft Robert Griffin III?”

Me: “Three first rounders is pretty steep, man. I don’t know.”

Him: “Okay. What if I toss in a Mike Holmgren Beej®?”

Me: “Hmmm. With or without the mustache?”

Him: “With. Obviously.”

Me: “Sold.”

The Heaven Bones

Just to prove that we DO actually have a spiritual foundation and value our Catholic roots, we (mostly him) also created The Heaven Bones™.

What’s a Heaven Bone, you ask? Good question.

First, you either believe in an afterlife, are open to the possibility, or don’t believe in one at all. Given what I think I understand about energy, combined with my Catholic upbringing, the concept of “Heaven” is one that’s been with me from a very young age.

The premise of Heaven, if you don’t know, is that it’s eternal paradise. A place with only love and good things. No sadness. No anger. No hatred. No evil. And it lasts FOREVER. The concept of eternity (even GOOD eternity) has always scared the piss out of me.

“Who gives a shit, Matt!?!? WTF is a Heaven Bone???”

Right.

So, Heaven Bones.

Essentially, it’s having sex with people you always wanted to have sex with on Earth but didn’t or couldn’t.

So, that girl or guy you dated in high school that you fantasized about, but just weren’t ready at the time?

That friend or co-worker or old flame or friend’s sibling that was always off-limits?

In heaven, you can Heaven Bone™ them! (Theoretically.)

“But, Matt!!! What if you want to Heaven Bone someone, but they don’t want to Heaven Bone you back???”

Another great question! Glad you asked.

We also invented for your heaven-boning pleasure, the Heaven Bone Clones©.

An EXACT heaven-produced Xeroxed replica of the person you want to heaven bone.

You never thought about this before, right? And now you’re nodding, freaking pumped because you totally want to bang <insert person or clone here> for eternity. With NO consequences. Everyone will be cool with it! Because it’s heaven.

It’s going to be rad. Heaven Bones.

And if you didn’t already want to go to heaven, now you’re at least thinking about wanting to be there and will now be a better person moving forward. You’re welcome.

Why Do I Want to Laugh When I’m Not Supposed To?

I don’t know.

I just know that I do.

When I was a kid, I always looked around at all the adults and looked forward to being one, because then I’d finally have it all figured out and I wouldn’t have to worry or be afraid of anything anymore because I’d be mature and smart and wise and brave and ready for anything.

But then I just kept growing up. Aging. Staying alive.

And the longer I stay alive, the less I’m sure of.

The longer I’m around, the more I realize that we’re all, in many ways, that same person we were snickering in the back of our fifth-grade classrooms.

In a lot of ways, I have grown up. In a lot of ways, I am ready to take on the world around me when life calls for it.

But in ways I never expected, I’m still, just, me.

Just a kid causing a little bit of mischief in the back of the room and snorting at dick-and-fart jokes and throwing out a “That’s what she said” whenever it’s appropriate (which is often).

I’m sure some people frown at what they perceive to be childishishness on my part. In a corporate office meeting, I’m the odds-on favorite to crack up during someone’s presentation because of eye contact with one of my fellow childlike counterparts.

I’ll say it again: I’m a 35-year-old child. And maybe I always will be.

“What would it take to get you to grow up, Matt?”

I don’t know. Something major.

“A Mike Holmgren Beej?”

Hmmm. With or without the mustache?

“With. Obviously.”

Sold.

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Lift Him Up

Image by Imajali at Deviant Art.

Image by Imajali at Deviant Art.

Maybe I was wrong.

When I said that men have the most power to save their marriages or long-term relationships.

The thinking was, men have so much room for improvement, that if they can get some of these little things right—these little things that make their wives or girlfriends feel unloved, unsafe, and insecure—that men can collectively make incredible gains toward a future where divorce occurs much less frequently.

And while I still believe that to be true—that men wield a lot of power in the fight for marriages—I’m questioning whether men actually have the most responsibility.

Bear with me for a minute, please.

Divorce is bad, I think. Worse than most people give it credit for. It’s the second-most-stressful thing that EVER happens to you, according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Marital separation is No. 3 on the list. It is only behind the death of your spouse, and ranked ahead of things like going to prison and the death of a close family member or friend. When it happened to me, I FREAKED. Hard to describe, but I don’t think I have to. I think most people understand what freaking the hell out feels like. It’s worth avoiding. (Free life tip!)

I repeat: Divorce is BAD. And it affects 95 percent of us.

We are not arming young people (or ourselves) with the information we need to make good marital choices. It ends up with a whole bunch of broken homes and broken hearts and economic hardships and children growing up in more-challenging environments than we’d all prefer.

It’s an epidemic.

People collectively freak out and band together to fight all kinds of worthy causes in this world. Causes that impact barely a fraction of the people that divorce does.

It matters to me.

It affects me every day in one form or another.

And I believe as we collectively become more enlightened in the information age, it’s something that can get incrementally better as we move into the future.

Boys vs. Girls

I have no idea how girls (and women) experience the world. I won’t pretend to.

But I know what it’s like to be a boy growing up in a reasonably typical environment in small-town Ohio.

Political correctness keeps a lot of people from being honest with themselves and others about differences between boys and girls that are generally true. (I KNOW there are exceptions.)

Here’s how I remember it:

Boys liked to play sports. Roughly. And with trucks and action figures and watch superhero shows on TV.

Girls liked to play with bedroom vanity and kitchen sets. Much more orderly. And with dolls and watch Jem and Strawberry Shortcake.

Boys were generally stronger and faster and got in more trouble during school, more prone to fighting, but also pretty good at getting along with other boys.

Girls were generally better students, stayed out of trouble, would go to the bathroom together in groups (I still don’t get it, ladies—totally weird!), and were generally less successful at getting along with other girls not in their immediate social circle.

Boys wore blue. Sports t-shirts. Air Jordans and Reebok Pumps.

Girls wore pink. Pretty things. Jewelry.

I think it’s important to admit that boys and girls are different. If you think your husband or wife thinks and feels exactly like you, then it’s no damn wonder you communicate poorly and get so frustrated with one another.

But. If you acknowledge the differences. Respect them. Understand their complementary value. Then you can understand why conflict and misunderstandings are taking place. You can learn empathy. You can attempt to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. THAT’s where compromise, balance and peace live.

Ladies: You Can be the Superhero

Depending on your individual chemical makeup, I understand that you want—check that, need— to feel supported, loved, respected, cared for, protected. It’s necessary security and I can appreciate now more than ever how important feeling secure really is.

I also understand ladies that when some of your critical individual needs aren’t being met… (you feel alone in your marriage, he doesn’t touch you or look at you like he used to, he chooses other things over spending time with you, he seems oblivious to all you do for the household—thoughtless and insensitive, he repeatedly does things that hurt you even though you tell him over and over and over again that it does. He tells you that you’re acting crazy. Like you’re making it up. That how you feel ISN’T what’s real. He just doesn’t get it. I understand.)… that it’s really hard for you to exert the energy to carry the responsibility of the relationship on your shoulders as well.

You already do feel that way because the vast majority of the time, you’re WAY better at performing the functions of married life than your male counterpart.

You just are.

At the risk of sounding like I think my ex-wife wasn’t supportive, an honest look at my adulthood yields the feeling that she didn’t have much respect for the things I was (and am) good at because I fell short in her eyes in so many other areas.

In the interest of fairness, perhaps that wouldn’t have been the case had I gotten my husband duties right. I did not. The net result was a broken marriage. It takes everyone pulling in the same direction. Always has. Always will. No cheats or shortcuts.

My ex grew up around tough guys who fixed and built things with dirty, calloused hands. Guys not unlike my father (who I was rarely with throughout my formative years). Men who fought in wars. Men who fixed cars and broken water heaters. Men who chopped down trees and repaired household appliances.

I am not like those men. And I’m fucking tired of trying to be.

I write. I read. I talk. I like watching sports on TV. And playing poker.

I find joy in cooking. In laughing with friends.

I can’t build you a car. I can write you a book.

I can’t fix your furnace. I can cook you a five-course meal.

I don’t think working all the time is nearly as valuable as living all the time.

I think my wife, in conjunction with all of the typical husband failings I committed, really tired of me not being the kind of man she respected and idealized.

And I’m very much done worrying about not living up to expectations in that regard.

I will be judged on my behavior. And you’ll leave the who-I-am part of it the fuck alone. Thanks.

Ladies, I think men need your help.

Because I do believe strongly that you are, just, BETTER, at relationships and marriage than your male partners. Not always. And not about everything. Just most of the time about most things.

And those with the most power to do something, in my humble opinion, have the most responsibility to.

You know things. You feel things. You inherently understand things that he does not.

Help him.

If he’s not successful at whatever he’s working on, his inclination is to stop doing that thing and to find something in which he does succeed. It might look like quitting to you. It might look like giving up. Like he has no follow through. But he’s NOT quitting. He’s simply chasing success. And it’s because he WANTS you to be proud of him.

Help him.

Maybe you don’t respect him because you feel unloved. He craves the respect, though. Needs it. Like water and air. Having your respect is every bit as important to him as having your love. It’s true.

Help him.

You’re not crazy. You’re not psychotic or delusional. It really happened. When you met him, you were totally smitten with him. Desire. Love. Respect. And you HAPPILY and WILLFULLY entered the relationship with him based on all the evidence that he was every bit the man you could ever want.

But now he’s changed, you say.

But now you’ve changed, he says.

He’s got work to do. I’m not saying he doesn’t.

But… maybe you do, too?

What if you just believed in him like you did back then? Encouraged him? Told him you were proud of the things he does well? Of all the things he takes care of so you don’t have to?

Believe in him.

Because that’s the same man. There’s more guilt now. More shame. More stress. More… just… life and baggage and bullshit piled on all those shoulders.

But he will carry it to the moon and back for you if you can find a way to love him and lift him up even when you don’t feel like it. Even when it’s inconvenient.

Maybe you feel like you’ve been the bigger person all this time and just don’t have the energy or desire to do it anymore.

I can’t save your marriage or relationship and would never think otherwise.

But I know that we all meant it when we said “I Do,” and most of us do a really shitty job with follow through years later when life and love stop being easy.

You loved him once.

He loved you once.

And you probably both still do.

You probably just don’t feel it. And sure, that’s important.

So maybe don’t wait for him to “get it.” Because maybe the way you’ve been trying to get through to him doesn’t work very well.

We all learn differently.

And maybe if you’re the strong one—the superhero—you’ll lift him and your relationship to places you didn’t know it could go.

Maybe if you believe in him, he’ll surprise you in ways you didn’t think possible.

Maybe if we choose love even when it’s hard, we change the world.

But there’s really no “maybe” about it.

Choose love.

Change the world.

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Here I Am

Just a few minutes. To live. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. But right now.

Just a few minutes. To live. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. But right now.

We never turn it off.

Ever.

Our minds, like a humming hard drive, always buzz, buzz, buzzing, jumping from one thought to the next. From a distant memory, to a worry about something that hasn’t happened yet, and might not.

It is our most-important physical asset. Nothing functions without our minds. We are not even ourselves without them.

Our minds are the things we use to experience the world. Writer and speaker Andy Puddicombe said it best during his 2012 TED Talk in London: Our minds are what we need for happiness, contentment, emotional stability. They are what we use to exhibit kindness. We require them for focus, creativity and productivity. And yet, we don’t take any time to take care of them.

We change the oil in our cars. We wash our hair. Brush our teeth. Vacuum the carpet. Mow the lawn.

We spend so much time maintaining things in our lives.

But rarely our most-important asset. We don’t take time for it. And then we get jacked up when shit goes wrong. We experience it as stress, anxiety, fear. We experience it as sadness, anger, depression.

We spend an estimated 47 percent of our waking lives reflecting on the past or thinking about the future. Nearly HALF our short lives, given to times that don’t really exist.

I want to learn how to be present.

I want to learn how to be mindful.

I want to learn how to live in the now.

At work, I sometimes get lazy and don’t shut off my computer each night before I leave. Regularly restarting my computer allows all the necessary security and network updates to load. It allows the machine to take a break and reset so that it’s performing optimally when I need it.

When I fail to restart it, the computer will often bog down. It will have trouble performing too many tasks at once, and I often am forced to restart it just so it will work properly.

Our brains function much like computers. More powerful than any man-made computer. So much to do. So much to control.

Yet, we don’t perform routine maintenance. We don’t let it rest.

Reset Your Mind

Meditation never made sense to me.

You mean, you just… sit there? Doing… nothing?

Precisely.

What a waste of time!

I used to think that very thing. Who has time to do… nothing?

Never mind that I’ve wasted approximately 600 billion hours high, drunk, playing video games, watching movies or television, or doing something else equally unproductive.

Over and over again as I’ve navigated this new life of mine, I’ve read books or blog posts, or listened to podcasts from people I really admire. People who are living life like how I want to be living. And over and over again, I noticed a common theme in so many of these people I respect and admire: They were meditating daily.

It was time for me to try.

Many of you may already know this, but I didn’t: Meditation IS NOT a bunch of Ghandi-looking monks sitting silently by gardens and waterfalls or in temples or little worship huts.

You CAN meditate that way. But that’s not what it is.

There are people in my life who are curious about meditation. Intrigued by the concept when they learned I was going to give it a shot. People not unlike me. People who have been through hard times and are trying to grow into the very best versions of themselves.

What do I tell them when they ask? What IS meditation?

I Found Me

In a quiet little church I’ve driven past hundreds of times on my work commute and never really noticed, I found myself tonight.

I, for the first time, subjected myself to a guided meditation I’d been curious about attending.

I was not struck by lightning. God did not audibly speak to me. And I’m no wiser about what my next major life move should be than before.

But in that quiet little church, I was ME.

No stress.

No worries.

No pressures.

No responsibilities.

No chores.

No phone.

No speaking.

No texting.

No typing.

No nothing.

I sat in a chair, and with the guidance of the woman leading the class, I was able to achieve a state of relaxation I didn’t know was possible.

I have a body. But I am not my body.

I have emotions. But I am not my emotions.

I have thoughts. But I am more than my thoughts.

And you let every ounce of bullshit in your entire life go.

And you just let yourself… be.

I can’t explain it. I don’t know that I want to try. And I’m sure the experience is different for everyone.

It was truly profound.

But not BIG and LOUD.

More like a whisper.

What is meditation?

Peace.

It’s peace. And I want more.

I used to toss and turn and fret about finances when I didn’t know where my next paycheck would come from after an unexpected layoff a few years ago.

I used to sleep in a guest room and feel sorry for myself every night while I tried in vain to save a failed marriage.

I used to shake and cry because everything about my life felt broken and wrong.

All I wanted—the ONLY THING I WANTED—in those moments was to just not feel shitty anymore.

I needed all the ugly to go away. I needed to feel peace. I needed to be me again.

My little personal-life comeback tour has caught fire.

I’m making healthier choices.

Walking a higher path.

And seeing the fruits of my self-improvement efforts paying off.

I am—dare I say it?—something very close to happy. In the deepest recesses of my soul. I am close.

In the evenings, when I do the right thing and shut down my computer, my machine performs like a champ.

In my life, when I do the right things, my body gets lighter and stronger, my mind gets sharper and confident, and my spirit feels peaceful and whole.

It wasn’t that long ago: not attractive enough, not smart enough, not rich enough, not strong enough, not tall enough, not good enough.

We cannot change the things that happen to us.

We can’t.

But we can change how we experience them.

Just breathe. In, then out.

I’m tall enough.

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