Monthly Archives: December 2013

A New Year’s Toast

Happy New Year, everyone.

Happy New Year, everyone.

*clinks glass a few times*

Sorry, everybody. Could I have your attention, please? I promise this won’t take long.

Thank you so much for being here tonight.

I would like to propose a toast.

To my son. A big-boy kindergartener now. With two missing teeth. Even in my most-frustrated moments, when you’re behaving like a little demon spawn, I never cease to be moved by just how proud of you I am. You are loved in indescribable ways. And everything I do in this new year will, first and foremost, be rooted in my deepest desire for you to have the best life imaginable. You are my life’s finest achievement and its greatest blessing. I couldn’t love anything more. To 2014, little man.

To my ex-wife. Thank you for everything you do on behalf of our child. Thank you for all of your kindness efforts over the past several weeks. Thank you for walking the walk every day as it pertains to putting our son first. Here’s to 2014 delivering peace and healing and hope in this next chapter. You’ll always matter.

To my friends. In my very worst year, bar none, you saved my life. I may have kept breathing. Walking around. But it’d be an illusion. Because I’d be on life support. But here I am. Alive. I have glimpses of the new normal now. Hope remains. I love you, dearly. Even when it doesn’t feel like it because I’m often so bad at communicating that. I hope to give you a better effort in 2014. May the new year bring you peace where there’s conflict, hope where there’s despair, forgiveness where there’s anger, and laughter where there are tears. I truly could not live without you.

To my family. I am going to come out of this alive because I was blessed with you as my foundation. However fragmented. However dysfunctional. There has always been love. My rock. I love you.

To my fellow writers. Thank you for the joy you bring others by sharing your talents. Your words. Your souls. Thank you for teaching me new ways to think. New questions to ask. New ways to write. To engage. So much wonderful talent out there to admire. Whatever your writing goals may be, I pray that 2014 brings you that much closer to achieving them. And if this tiny, humble slice of the internet can ever help bring you closer to those goals, you need only ask. To 2014, ladies and gentlemen.

To everyone who takes a timeout from their busy lives to pay attention to what’s happening here.

You cannot know what you mean to me.

How honored I feel that people invest their time, their minds, their hearts, in some of the things that are written here.

The words living here are saturated by so many things.

Tears.

Rage.

Love.

Childishness.

And hope. Always, hope.

In my darkest days, you’ve delivered comfort and reassurance. Wisdom and encouragement. Laughter and friendship.

You make me believe, for so many reasons, that my life can matter. That I can be so much more than who and what I am.

I pray that 2014 delivers to you all that you deserve.

Healing for the broken.

Prosperity for the poor.

The fulfillment of whatever it is you set out to do in this next calendar cycle.

Every year, every month, every week, every day is another opportunity for you to experience the best thing that has ever happened to you.

Hope.

Please always choose hope.

*raises glass*

To you and me.

To the pursuit of happiness.

To 2014.

Cheers.

Happy New Year.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

I think I know where happiness lies. I just don't think it's easy to get there. But isn't the climb worth it?

I think I know where happiness lies. I just don’t think it’s easy to get there. But isn’t the climb worth it?

People chase money.

They chase sex. Fame. Status.

They chase adventure. Education. Fitness.

People chase fun. Friendship. Spiritual peace.

In the end, people are chasing these things day in and day out because they believe achieving them will make them feel good.

We don’t really want millions of dollars. We just want to not be enslaved to debt. To never be stressed about unexpected bills. To never worry about how we’re going to pay for something. To have the means to acquire things or participate in various activities.

We want to do all those things because we believe doing so will enrich our lives.

It’s the pursuit of happiness.

Misery Loves Company

I was several hundred words into another post when a friend texted. Her marriage is on the rocks. Has been for a long time.

She had a rough weekend with her husband.

Then something happened, triggering some atypical emotional responses in her.

“It sent me into a tailspin,” she said. “I’m questioning EVERYTHING.”

I know how you feel.

It doesn’t take much, sometimes.

I told her we both suffer from the same problem.

That we’re both in phases in our lives where we’re simply waking up every day, doing what’s required of us, and trying to not die.

It’s a wholly dissatisfying way to live.

There’s little fun. There’s no peace. And happiness is a long-forgotten stranger.

A figment of my imagination, it seems. Something I remember feeling, but not what the actual experience is like.

Like a decadent dessert you tried long ago.

You don’t remember the flavor. Only that it was beautiful and that you want to taste it again.

What I Want

I texted my friend: “What do you want? Be specific.

“To me, the only thing that makes sense is to write down specifically what you want. Really specific.

“Then, only do things that get you closer to those things.

“Everything else is a colossal waste of time and energy.

“We don’t have a lot of time.”

Well, alright then, Matt. Try not to be a hypocritical douchebag for once in your life.

What do you really want?

  1. I want a partner who I love and trust. I want to share the same life philosophies. I want to share meals and laughs and drinks and friends with her. I want to have ridiculously adventurous and spirited sex that would make all of my friends jealous if they only knew. And I want to always be giving more to the relationship than I’m taking.
  2. I want to be a good father to my son. I want to set a good example for him spiritually, intellectually, financially and socially.
  3. I want to spend more time surrounded by friends and family.
  4. I want to wake up every day, write whatever I want, and make enough money to maintain whatever lifestyle I choose.
  5. I want to be at my physical peak. Because I like how I feel when I am. I like feeling wanted. I like having mountains of energy. I like being strong.
  6. I want to live a life where I help other people acquire all of the things on their What I Want lists.
  7. I want to achieve spiritual peace.

So, what do I need to be doing right now, and tomorrow morning, and the next day, and the next to achieve those things?

  1. I can’t do anything about #1. But it will come. I can concentrate on the rest.
  2. I can be a better man, I can read more, I can be more financially disciplined, and I can be a better friend.
  3. I need only reach out and make the effort to be with those I love.
  4. I don’t know that I can do much more than I’m doing. I need to read more. Get smarter. Get wiser. Practice the craft. And maybe, if the stars align, someone will decide to trade money for words. Goonies never say die.
  5. Work out. Stop being a chump. Make the effort. Every day. First a little, then a lot. I need it. Excuses are bullshit.
  6. I do try to help people. Perhaps I can do a much better job. Ask more questions. Listen thoughtfully. Then, when possible, take meaningful action to help others achieve their dreams.
  7. All I need to do is say “Thank you” every single chance I get and be good even when no one’s watching. That will be an excellent step toward being the man I want to be.

I don’t want to be rich.

I don’t want to be famous.

I don’t want to be popular.

I just want to feel, deep within me, the peace and happiness that has eluded me in adulthood.

And I believe so strongly that it can only be achieved through great effort.

That this world gives you what you put into it.

That you must ALWAYS give more than you take.

In your human relationships.

In your professional relationships.

In your spiritual relationship.

You can sit around like me. Play the victim card. Why me, God? Why?

Or you can actually do something.

Happiness isn’t hiding behind that bush over there.

It’s big and shiny and on display for the world to see.

Only it sits atop a mountain. A big one.

And the weak can’t get there. The lazy can’t capture it.

Without strength, without discipline, without resolve, without faith, without perseverance, without courage, the climb will break your spirit.

Better to just sit staring longingly at the summit?

Or to prepare for the difficult climb?

I’m tired of this shit.

The climb must begin.

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The Yule Log

advent_yule_log (18)

Which is to say Christmas. As in Yule. Yule log. Not a log. I don’t have a log. I mean, you know. If I had a log, not in the sense that you think I said I did.

 7:23 a.m.

Ohhh. That last Christmas ale wasn’t the best idea. What’s that horrible taste in my mouth? Oh yeah. I smoked a cigarette last night like a moron.

*Looks at clock*

Well. This is it. Christmas. Sweet.

*Grabs phone*

*Responds to blog comments*

I should get out of bed and do something productive.

*Plays Tetris for 45 minutes*

8:16 a.m.

*Gets out of bed, walks downstairs*

Shit. I still have to wrap my son’s presents.

I’m a little hungry. I want to go out to breakfast. Nothing is open. Swell.

*Eats brownies and drinks coffee*

*Lays on couch, stares out window*

8:58 a.m.

My first “Merry Christmas” text. From one of my best friends who got a little irritated with me the night before after I called him a negative scrooge for disliking It’s a Wonderful Life.

9:05 a.m.

I can either go to church in a half hour, or at 11:30…

*Plays Tetris for an hour with the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas playing in the background*

9:55 a.m.

The jewelry store girl texted me a Merry Christmas note. She doesn’t write me very often, so it was unexpected.

That was nice.

10:01 a.m.

*Pacing around my house I notice footprints in the snow on the deck behind my house*

Creepy.

*Texts two friends who might have left them*

The first one says it wasn’t him.

The second one says: “Merry Christmas! Must have been Santa!”

“Footprints back there. Makes me nervous, actually,” I typed back.

He confirmed it was him.

Whew.

(That was the second-most-exciting thing that happened all day.)

I started thinking about getting ready for church. In my experience, the church gets REALLY busy on Christmas Day because of all the people who only show up on Christmas and Easter. My ex-wife calls them “Chreasters,” which is a pretty cool name. With mass beginning at 11:30 a.m., I figured a bunch of families will be there after opening gifts in the morning. I wanted to get there 45 minutes early to find a parking spot.

10:46 a.m.

I pulled into the church parking lot. There were, literally, only two other cars there.

*Plays Tetris*

I’m sure all the other cars will start pulling in any second.

11:05 a.m.

Three more cars showed up. I saw an attractive twenty-something blonde frantically typing onto her phone, muttering to herself, and looking as if she had been crying. She was walking down the sidewalk toward where I was parked.

She was wearing pajama pants. She wasn’t there for church.

I was having the internal debate about whether to offer help when a gold Ford Edge with a dented rear-driver’s-side quarter panel, pulled up behind me. The blonde got in and they took off.

(That was the third-most-exciting thing that happened all day.)

11:20 a.m.

I walked into church. I was shocked at how empty it was. Glad I got here 45 minutes early! But it’s not like I had anything to do anyway.

Everyone must go to Christmas Eve mass, or the earlier one, because I had never seen it like this. Really sparse. A little sad.

I knelt down in my favorite pew, next to my favorite stained-glass window. It’s the one that reads “Fortitude.”

11:28 a.m.

I spot a couple I’ve been seeing at church for as long as I’ve been attending (more than seven years)—but hadn’t seen for at least a year or more. They’re Indian. They often sat behind us on Sundays past. My ex-wife and I always talked about trying to be friends with them, but both of us were always too shy to say anything to them.

They have a little girl now. She’s beautiful. I don’t know any of their names. But seeing them—seeing that little girl, who I hadn’t seen since she was a tiny infant—made me almost tear up, similar to when I walked into my former brother-in-law’s place a couple days after Thanksgiving and spotted my niece I hadn’t seen all year.

Mass began. And I tried so hard to be in the moment. To keep my mind focused on the spiritual significance of the holiday. But it was virtually impossible.

The opening hymn was “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” It’s one of the most-magnificent songs ever written. It was one of the songs played at my wedding as guests arrived and were being seated. One of my few contributions to the ceremony. It was impossible for me to not think about that even though we weren’t married in the church I now attend.

11:50 a.m.

One of the ushers came by and asked if I could be one of the guys who helps with the collection baskets. Some churches pass around baskets. Ours uses long-handled baskets. I was nervous that I might mess up somehow, but there’s really not a lot to it. I did a good job and even managed to smile at everyone as I passed each row.

(That was the fourth-most-exciting thing that happened all day.)

12:31 p.m.

I started Googling different variations of “What’s open on Christmas?”

There’s a Denny’s-like place called Eat’n Park that’s generally open 24 hours per day. I checked their Facebook page to see if they were open on Christmas. They weren’t.

I altered my Google search query.

Hallelujah! My local Chinese joint was open. I laughed to myself as I thought about the Chinese restaurant scene in A Christmas Story. Fa ra ra ra ra, ra ra ra ra!

I spotted the gold Ford Edge with the dented quarter panel on my short drive to the Chinese restaurant. Weird.

I ordered sweet and sour chicken with white rice because that’s what I always order when I’m not craving anything in particular.

The Chinese ladies behind the counter were grumpy and no-nonsense as they always are. They never smile. One of them is super-hot, too. There was one old lady waiting for food before me. They handed her her food. The grumpy Chinese lady said “Merry Christmas.” That surprised me. The old lady said nothing.

The song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” started playing. The entire situation was hilarious. I wish I’d been happy enough to laugh.

A few minutes later, they called my order, handed me my food, wished me a smile-less “Merry Christmas,” which I returned, but with a smile, and headed home.

I turned on Home Alone 2, because I couldn’t think of anything better to do.

I ate all of the sweet and sour chicken and rice. There was a lot of it. It gave me a stomachache.

I opened the fortune cookie.

I was hoping for the most-profound fortune cookie message of all time…

“A focused mind is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.” (In bed.)

Mehhhhh.

1:33 p.m.

I called my father. I talked to him, my stepmom and my 15-year-old step-niece for an hour and 12 minutes.

2:47 p.m.

*Wraps son’s gifts. Poorly.*

I should go volunteer. Seriously.

3:15-ish p.m.

*Falls asleep*

I’m such a fraud sometimes. Honestly.

4:33 p.m.

*Wakes up*

My ex-wife texted that she’d be bringing our son over after dinner so he could open all the gifts at my house.

I spruced up the kitchen and cleaned off the bar from the night before.

6:05 p.m.

My son and ex-wife arrive.

Within a few minutes, he’s opening all the gifts under my tree. My ex-wife, for the third-consecutive visit to my house, sits on an old chair rather than the new couches, making me wonder for the third time whether she does that because I once wrote on this blog: “Don’t even think about sitting on my new couches.”

I kind of feel bad about that now, but didn’t want to bring it up on Christmas.

The boy mowed through the presents because he’s five years old.

Toy snakes, because he’s really into reptiles right now.

Books.

Beyblade and Pokemon items, because he’s really into the Japanese stuff for reasons I don’t understand.

A Nintendo 3DS and a few games.

And other odds and ends.

Then we all sat around playing with his stuff for a while. Just the three of us.

The family that isn’t.

But it wasn’t as bad as I expected. When my ex decided to leave, I hugged her. Kissed her cheek. Said “Merry Christmas.” And meant it.

I felt sorry for her heading home to be by herself, if that’s what she even did. I wouldn’t know. We don’t know what one another does anymore.

Because I’m a dad, I’m going to miss a lot of parties over the next week. One on Saturday, and at least two New Year’s parties.

I wonder if that will be as depressing as Christmas was?

Probably not.

8:40 p.m.

I put my son to bed. I laid with him for a while. He assured me he had a nice Christmas. That he was happy. I hoped he was telling me the truth. He’s old enough now to fib a little while trying to be sensitive to our feelings.

(That was the most-exciting thing that happened all day.)

He fell asleep a little after 9 p.m.

I walked downstairs. Looked around.

So this is Christmas.

I ate a little of the cranberry-jalapeño-cilantro dip I’d made the night before. My stomach still hurt, but the dip is so good, I didn’t care.

I played a little Mario Kart 7 on my son’s new 3DS hand-held video game system. Fun game.

Then I went to bed around 10 p.m. I arbitrarily decided to watch Groundhog Day and laugh at Bill Murray.

I fell asleep during his third time reliving Groundhog Day.

I didn’t cry, though I felt like it.

And I didn’t die.

I’m here.

Still alive.

With every opportunity to make today better than yesterday.

And next year, better than this one.

Watch out for that first step. It’s a doozy.

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

 With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and I was at home, totally alone, and writing a poem. The house is a mess. I don’t really care. My friends coming over, can lick my…

Christmas balls, brownies and cranberry dips! The beer tastes so good when the head hits your lips! There will be shots of tequila! Rum and eggnog! Ensuring this night that we’ll sleep like Yule logs.

The house has a chimney where squirrels once nested, baby squirrels rained down, and my patience was tested. So I installed a cage to keep the rats out, a cage that’s likely to make Santa shout.

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?!?!” the old man might yell, frightening the reindeer who will jingle their bells, before flying away and stranding St. Nick, who will stand there dumbfounded, feeling like a dick.

With the chimney shut tight, and the reindeer aflight, Santa will sneak like a thief in the night, to my back door and let himself in, and that’s when he’ll hear it: The sounds of our sins:

Laughter and swearing and off-color joking. Eating and drinking and probably smoking. The Mowgli’s, Cake, Of Monsters and Men. Walk the Moon, Volbeat, and Radiohead. Imagine Dragons, Beck, and Lana Del Ray. Childish Gambino and then Hot Chelle Rae.

“Holy shit, Hot Chelle Rae!” Santa will say. “This song’s gayer than Freddie Mercury’s pants!” before involuntarily starting to dance.

He’ll stomp down the stairs to my basement bar, but no one will notice; we’re not seeing far.

Faster than magic reindeer, his angry voice will come, and he’ll scowl and he’ll point and make us feel dumb: “Now, Scott! Now, Angel! Now, David and Connie! On, Joel! On, Mindy! On, Pam and on Johnny!”

He’ll flash a quick smile, do a quick whirl, point right at me, and wink at the jewelry store girl.

“The idiot reindeer left and now I’m in trouble, please pour me a drink, in fact, make that a double!”

Obliging the man, I’ll pour a tall glass. “I can control time! I’m getting drunk off my ass!”

His eyes will not twinkle though his dimples will be merry. His cheeks—like roses. His nose? Like a cherry.

We’ll party. We’ll laugh. We’ll dance and we’ll sing. Only God knows what the evening will bring.

“Sonofabitch! Would you look at the time! Lord, where are my reindeer? Please show me a sign.”

And just then on the stereo—Bullet for my Valentine.

Santa will slam down his drink with a thunderous THRAP. “Happy birthday, Jesus! I hope you like crap!”

He’ll stand up and stumble—a drunken Kriss Kringle. Scott will leave early; his keys, he will jingle.

The noise will draw reindeer back to my home; and here I thought I’d spend this evening alone.

We’ll laugh and we’ll hug and become Facebook friends, then he’ll climb in his sleigh where the time always bends.

He’ll put his hands on my shoulders: “Thanks for the shots. You’ve been naughty this year. But when have you not?”

I’ll shrug and I’ll nod because that’s what I do.

“Look under your tree. I left you a few.”

The magic is back, this Christmas, you see, with the promise of treasures in 2014.

If the presents are late or the gifts too confusing, I apologize, sincerely, for adult-drink abusing.

A visit from Santa. A visit from friends. An abundance of blessings where fun never ends.

Be thankful for fun and for laughs and for life. Be thankful for friends, your family, your wife. Be thankful for children, for adventure—live free. Be thankful for wine and barrel-aged whiskey.

I’m thankful for you. You give my life light.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Please have a fun night.

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So This is Christmas

I'll just keep walking forward. Waiting for the snow to melt. The flowers to bloom. The sun to rise. Because those things will happen.

I’ll just keep walking forward. Waiting for the snow to melt. The flowers to bloom. The sun to rise. Because those things will happen.

Christmas is less than two days away.

The most-beloved holiday on the Christian calendar. It’s so popular, most of the Jewish people I know celebrate it, too.

I don’t think we should wield the word “magic” too lightly, but that is precisely what so many of us experienced on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning throughout our childhoods.

Do you remember that first Christmas where the magic went away?

Maybe it was whenever you stopped believing in St. Nick’s Christmas Eve rounds. Maybe it was a holiday season spent away from your family. Maybe it was after a great personal loss. Maybe it was after your family went away.

I remember my first one. It was during my last year of college, and I lived far enough away from my family where I had to leave early Christmas Eve to head back to school. On Christmas Day, my job working with special needs people required that I be at a house with mostly strangers helping to prepare Christmas dinner.

It was my first Christmas dating my ex-wife. She was home with her family. I spent Christmas Eve night alone, assembling a large DVD cabinet my parents had given to me.

I spent the day with strangers. We ate turkey and watched The Goonies. We made the best of it.

But Christmas came and went without any of the magic I’d felt my entire life.

By next Christmas, I was living in Florida. That decision murdered Christmas.

I spent that Christmas Day with a handful of new friends I’d met at the newspaper. None of us could afford to fly home to be with our families—or we were on call at the paper in case of a major news event. As the lowest members on the totem pole, some of us had to be available.

I didn’t have a Christmas tree.

We played basketball in 80-degree temperatures.

The magic was gone.

It Found Me Again

Moving back to Ohio returned a bit of magic to the season. While it was my wife’s family and not my own with whom we would celebrate, it was still family. When our son came along five years ago, it further enhanced the holidays.

Even last year, with my marriage on the rocks, Christmas brought us all together. It was—literally—the last time it felt like family with my ex-wife, son and I together.

Then, poof.

Gone.

Everything.

Normalcy. Peace. Routine. Tradition. Love. Happiness.

The ever-hopeful voice that lives inside my head still whispered the possibility of unexpected Christmas blessings.

And perhaps they’ll come. I always like to say that there’s no reason to believe today won’t be the day that the best thing that ever happened to you, happens.

But as I sit here staring at the calendar, wondering where all that time went between spring when my life fell apart, and now, when I’m still firmly in wake-up-and-just-try-not-to-die mode, I feel… I’m not sure what.

Not joy. Not peace. Not magic.

But I also don’t feel horrible things.

Not despair. Not dread. Not hopeless.

I’m somewhere in between.

I’ll wake up with my son on Christmas Eve. We’ll have breakfast and I’ll take him to his mom’s.

I’ll spend the day wrapping gifts. Buying odds and ends for a small gathering of friends Christmas Eve night. Once again, a rogue group of people, away from their families, making the best of it.

Things can never be the same.

I don’t get to wake up an excited little boy on Christmas morning ever again. It’s all part of that hourglass sand moving from top to bottom.

I don’t get to wake up with my family. Drinking coffee. Eating pastries. Opening gifts. Watching A Christmas Story or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

There’s a fair chance Christmas morning brings with it a slight hangover from too many Christmas ales.

I’ll attend church alone.

I’ll spend the day picking up the pieces from the night before.

Perhaps I’ll listen to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on repeat for a while, because it’s my favorite Christmas song.

Maybe I’ll watch Elf because laughing is healthy.

Maybe I’ll volunteer at a local shelter.

Maybe I’ll drink alone.

Maybe I’ll cry.

I don’t know.

I just know this is it. My new life.

And I must accept whatever comes. And just… deal.

So this is Christmas.

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The Fantasy Life, Vol. 3

happy-worker Not unlike some overdue library books I kept far too long, my fantasy football teams in 2013 were a reflection of the state of my life.

Unmanaged. Disorganized. Neglected.

The day I wrote about those library books, I was feeling particularly wretched. I’m not sure I can pinpoint why. I just know it was one of my lowest days in what has been a three-year run of major suckage.

Fantasy football is no longer the obsession it once was for me.

There’s nothing like a little personal turmoil to help a person straighten out their priorities.

What I’ve found throughout this divorce-recovery process has been that all of the fun things I used to enjoy when I was married—my individual hobbies and pursuits, I mean—I now have trouble enjoying.

I don’t blame my interest in fantasy football, or my interest in playing poker, or my interest in music as reasons for my marriage ending. But it’s almost as if subconsciously—because they were mine and not ours—I’m having trouble finding joy in these things.

I’m sure many of you know exactly what I mean.

Sometimes, It’s Not as Bad as You Think

Because of—I don’t know what to call it. Depression, maybe. Because of that, I totally neglected my fantasy football rosters this year.

For the uninitiated, fantasy football requires those of us who play to manage our rosters of real-life football players that make up our teams. If they play well in real life, your fantasy team scores points and does well, also.

Sometimes players get hurt. Sometimes they have bye weeks where they don’t play at all.

And because of those scheduling inconveniences, and my inability to find five minutes to adjust my rosters each week, there were at least eight weeks this season where I played someone who received zero points because they didn’t play in real life.

Of the three leagues in which I participate, I started players who were on injured reserve and out for the entire season in two of the leagues for several weeks, and I started a nearly uncountable number of players during their bye weeks.

Despite this gross negligence, I have managed to remain in third place in the league that matters most to me—the one I won for the first time last year. We formed this league 20 years ago when I was 14 years old. I haven’t done anything for 20 years other than be alive, and eat, sleep, etc.

With two weeks remaining in the season, I am 89.16 points behind the guy in first place—an insurmountable lead, unless every player on his team dies.

Because I’m a masochist, I decided to go week by week through each week’s scoring summaries to see how many points I would have if I’d simply not started injured players and guys on bye weeks.

Had I managed my team as I normally would have, I would have scored 151.52 more points this season. I would have a 62.36-point lead—a lead I don’t think I could lose.

I would be preparing to win back-to-back championships.

I encourage everyone reading to ignore this image except for the guys in my fantasy football league.

I encourage everyone reading to ignore this image except for the guys in my fantasy football league.

I was watching The Legend of Bagger Vance a few weeks ago. I’ve seen it a handful of times.

The film ends with an epic golf match between three players. The film’s protagonist—played by Matt Damon—calls a penalty on himself because his ball moved a half-inch when he was trying to clear the ground around his ball.

The ball moving was an accident. It did not give him a competitive advantage. He didn’t have to call the penalty on himself.

But he did anyway. To be honest.

Be good even when no one’s watching.

And on the 18th green, the match ended in a three-way tie.

But you always know the protagonist would have won if not for that silly, little technicality.

So, you smile.

Kind of like me.

Sure, my fantasy team didn’t suffer from some great act of nobility. It was nothing but laziness and apathy. I don’t deserve to win.

But I still like knowing I did it again—that I put together the best team—even in the midst of chaos.

Sometimes, it’s not as bad as you think.

I was frowning early today about the gray, cloudy skies. But now they’ve parted. And the sun is shining.

I was frowning yesterday, unsure whether I wanted to leave the house, feeling content to stay home alone. Reclusive in recovery. But I attended a Christmas party with friends. We laughed. We drank. We laughed some more. It was perfect.

I frown often, because my life is unmanaged. Disorganized. Neglected. But my mom visited for a few days this week and helped me pick up a lot of the literal pieces.

And now many things are in place.

Things are coming together.

Literally.

And metaphorically.

Hope.

Always, I choose hope.

And I feel as ready as I have in a long time to continue my pursuit of happiness.

The place where joy lives. Where peace lives.

The fantasy life.

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How to Be a Man, Vol. 2

keep-calm-and-make-me-a-sandwich-52

It was about 5 a.m. this morning when I discovered a subgroup of people I seriously didn’t know existed.

The manosphere.

It was a comment from a reader on my An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4 post.

I think he was trying to be helpful.

“Man, you have to go and reinvent yourself… I am in the same situation. It gets better, if you do the work,” he said.

He dropped in a link and a suggestion: “Start here.”

So, I did. In the wee hours of the morning—knowing I’d pay for neglecting sleep later tonight, I dove headfirst into the rabbit hole.

I was introduced to psychological concepts like “hypergamy,” which is the theory that women instinctively want to discard their current partners when an opportunity arises to latch onto someone better.

Is that what my wife did?

I read all about the sex strategy of women, according to these guys—Alpha fucks, and Beta bucks. This is the theory that all women crave the comfort and stability of whipped men brainwashed by the rising tide of feminism into a “fem-centric,” safe, Beta-providing lifestyle. But they want to be fucked, on the side, like porn stars by large men with huge dicks and werewolf blood.

I am part of this emasculated, effeminate world, they’ll tell you. Plugged in to the feminist system. In metaphorical chains. Destined for a life of being taken advantage of, and abused by women.

Essentially, they will tell you: I am ignorant. I am a weak idealist. I am a fool.

The author of The Rational Male is clearly very intelligent. Educated. Well-read. A strong writer.

But is he wise?

I’m not sure yet. I must read more from him to get the entire scope of his philosophy. And I will.

But just between you and me? I value wisdom more than intelligence.

Men vs. Women

I have read way too little of this manosphere philosophy to offer any sort of major criticism or thoughtful rebuttal.

The following represents my uneducated gut reaction.

At first glance, it appears men who subscribe to this lifestyle measure life success on three things:

1. How many women they have sex with.

2. Never being tied down to a monogamous relationship doomed to fail because modern marriage is a societal construct that goes against the very nature of men and women’s genetic programming.

3. Having power and dominance over women.

If I had a candid conversation with any of these guys or even if they just read my quasi-tongue-in-cheek whining about never having sex, they’d all tell you it’s because I’m a big pussy. Wussified by my mother, and liberal, feminist brainwashing, and years of emasculating servitude to an ungrateful spouse who did exactly what all women are instinctively prone to do—trade up for the bigger, better deal when the opportunity arose.

I’ll say this. I err on the “side” of wives in my writing. In my opinions as they relate to male-female relationships.

But that doesn’t mean I think all men are worthless pigs, and all women, blameless victims.

There are a MILLION posts to be written on shitty wives.

But I’m not going to write them.

OWN. YOUR. SHIT.

I write my posts to “shitty husbands” because I believe in every individual accepting responsibility for his or her own actions.

I write about the need for men to serve their wives and families. I do that because I believe men have the most power to stem the tide of divorce by being what a husband is supposed to be.

That’s not to suggest the wife should sit around getting foot massages and fake tans while metaphorically castrated husbands run around saying: “Yes, princess. Of course, princess. Whatever you want, princess.”

Absolutely not.

Women are responsible for themselves. They are responsible for self reflecting, asking the difficult questions, and deriving reasonable conclusions as to the role they play in failing human relationships, same as men.

My job is to accept responsibility for my own actions and encourage everyone else to do the same.

I’m not going to sit here and point any more fingers at my ex-wife than I already have.

I’ve done plenty of That-bitch-ruined-me feeling sorry for myself.

She’s not a bitch. She’s a human being. Flawed. Mistake-prone. Unable to carry the weight of the world when the pressures and brokenness all become too much.

Just like me.

Just like you.

Life is not one-size-fits-all.

We don’t need advanced degrees in human ethology to recognize that all humans share some very striking physical and emotional commonalities. AND, that we’re all incredibly unique and diverse, as well.

To pigeonhole every man and woman into these silos seems incredibly over-simplistic.

It’s a battle for ultimate power, these guys will tell you. Us versus them.

Is that what we’re in, men and women? An epic power struggle between genders?

Am I supposed to look at every woman I meet as someone plotting to control me? As an enemy?

These manosphere philosophers seem to believe that very battle is being waged. And at least a few of them argue their points intelligently and succinctly.

I just have a little trouble latching on to such ideas. You know that smell? That reeking smell of rotting bullshit? That’s what I smell when I read some of this stuff.

So men should have power over women, you say?

Should white people have power over black people?

Should straight people have power over gay people?

Should rich people have power over poor people?

There’s an aura of macho elitism in much of this. And in their defense—like the guy who commented on my post this morning—I think they just want to help me. They want me to join their team because they believe that’s where true life satisfaction and happiness as a man lives.

A Different Kind of Tough

They’ll tell you I’m weak.

And don’t take this the wrong way, guys, because I’m not completely dismissing every facet of this manosphere philosophy until I’ve studied it much more (the author of The Rational Male, for example, has been married for 17 years and has children)—but, fuck you very much.

I don’t not have sex with women because I’m weak and can’t get any. I don’t have sex with anyone because I’m strong.

I believe in unconditional love. In choosing to love. In making the hard, difficult choices every day in the context of a committed monogamous relationship.

You think that’s easy to do? You think that’s weakness? Eat shit.

Because that’s HARD.

Walking the walk every day—striving to be the best version of your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual self—is not for the weak.

You better be strong. Tough as nails. Every single day, forever. Because that’s what it takes.

My tough might not look like your tough.

You slept with three women last week. Running a scam. Pretending to be something you’re not. To perpetuate the lifestyle of cheap, throwaway relationships, designed solely to serve yourself.

Forgive me for failing to see the virtue in that.

I would gladly choose a lifetime of celibacy over treating human beings like things.

If you want to write that off as my inability to get laid, that’s your choice to make.

I believe in respecting myself. I’m attracted to people who respect themselves.

It’s not weak to respect women. To do it right actually takes enormous strength.

The Meaning of Life

I try so hard to keep theological conversation off these pages.

1. I don’t want to debate it.

2. I don’t want to tell people their beliefs are wrong, nor do I want people saying that to me.

3. I’ll never believe that words on a page will bring people to spiritual fulfillment. Spiritual fulfillment lives in prayer, meditation and taking action. Self-discovery.

To be part of the manosphere, it appears I would have to abandon every moral principle I possess.

Marriage is bullshit, they say. Committed relationships are for fools.

So we teach our sons, through both action and word that women are inferior beings designed to be subservient to our daily whims? To what? Not respect their mothers? Or any other girls in their lives?

And we teach our daughters, what? That they’re a lower-class of human being? That they need to find a dominant man to “game” them into bed before they tire of our daughters’ illogic and crazy emotion-driven behavior?

Here’s as preachy as you’re ever going to see me. Do with it what you will:

Keep telling yourself there are no such thing as souls. That life is meaningless.

That there are no consequences, in this life or the next, in living without moral restraint.

I do believe in God, and maybe I’ll write about why someday.

I subscribe to Christian principles when I’m not saying “fuck you very much.”

I don’t pretend to understand the mysteries of a world beyond our human experience. I don’t have any answers. I just know that trying to emulate Christ (NOT by judgmental assholes who call themselves Christians, but Christ himself), leads to making solid lifestyle decisions that involve loving each and every human being. In behaving in ways that set a wonderful example for our children. Our friends. Our neighbors. Our co-workers.

It doesn’t mean preaching on street corners, screaming at “sinners” and quoting bible verses all the time.

It means walking the difficult path. When people are watching. And when they’re not.

I’m HORRIBLE at this. But it’s what I strive for.

I don’t need to sell anyone on this, nor am I trying to. You’re going to do and believe what you want. And you SHOULD do that. Ask hard questions. Figure things out for yourself.

The truth will be revealed in the end, one way or another.

But living without restraint—without principles—leads to a poisoned soul. Darkness. Contamination. On the inside of us.

It robs us of peace. It robs us of fun. It robs us of love. It robs us of the best feeling we get to experience as human beings—happiness.

Do the wrong thing long enough, and you’re going to feel shitty. And I don’t want you to feel shitty.

So, maybe try something new.

Because many of you manosphere guys are going to wake up 75 and alone one day. And none of your “game” or selfishness is going to have gotten you anything of value.

You’ll be empty, and morally bankrupt.

Maybe—just maybe—you could try it my way instead.

1. Love yourself.

2. Be grateful for your life.

3. Love your partner unconditionally. Choose to love. It’s a decision. Not a feeling.

4. Serve something greater than yourself. On Earth, and spiritually.

5. Give more than you take in all of your relationships and feel the world return that unselfishness to you. Because it will.

Sure, your way will get you more sex with women who don’t care about you in the interim.

But my way? That will keep you from wanting to off yourself in retirement, when you’re empty, bitter and alone. When you’ll need all the “Game” you can muster to get that flaccid thing erect to try and work things out yourself.

Hopefully, there will be some Bones reruns playing for you on TV Land.

Because I’d hate to bump into you 30 years from now working behind the local deli counter.

I’ll walk in. You’ll immediately identify me as not being as manly as you. My pocket will be full of Beta bucks.

“What can I get for you, sir?” you’ll say.

And I’ll reply: “You can make me a sandwich.”

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The Things That Make You Go Vroom

I'm in love.

I’m in love.

I’ve never written it here before, but I work in the automotive industry.

I’m not a “car guy” in the traditional sense of the word—I can’t fix much, and I’m mostly lost under the hood.

But I do like things that go fast—not a diehard racing fan, but I do like it.

And I do like things that are beautiful—and my time working closely with hot rodders has taught me to appreciate the automobile as much more than just a transportation tool to get us from Point A to Point B.

I’ve learned to appreciate the art of vehicle design.

From the original lines and curves made at the factory level, to the work done by custom car builders—the exquisite restored and custom hot rods you might see on television or at car shows.

I’m also learning to appreciate what cars say about the people who own them. Little reflections of themselves.

While I’m not a big fan of mini vans, wagons or compact cars, I’m perfectly capable of appreciating utility and good sense.

So this is less about daily drivers than it is about our ideal vehicle collection in an ultimate fantasy sense.

Maybe you care. Maybe you don’t.

Maybe you like cars. Maybe you never think about them.

But I do think someone’s taste in music, in food, in art, in a variety of things, can tell you a lot about them.

I always want to let you get to know me as much as possible without making it weird. (Too late?)

So, I’m going to share with you my five favorite cars, if I could outfit my garage with anything I wanted. (I’m not factoring money, otherwise I’d simply choose the five most-valuable cars and sell them like a champion of smartness.)

I hope you’ll celebrate or criticize my choices as you see fit.

And I hope you’ll share yours.

The Cars That Make Matt’s Little Heart Race

 1961 Chevrolet Impala Bubble Top

I could totally get a girlfriend with one of these.

I could totally get a girlfriend with one of these.

And all the girls say I’m pretty fly… you know… for a white guy. This would probably be the car about which my son would tell his friends: “He never drives it! He just rubs it with a diaper!”

1959 Buick LeSabre

She's beautiful. More than any other car I've seen, she needs to be appreciated from every angle. Stunning.

She’s beautiful. More than any other car I’ve seen, she needs to be appreciated from every angle. Stunning.

In the history of the world, no car has had sexier lines than the ’59 LeSabre. I’m not sure I’m skilled enough to parallel park this thing. But that concerns me less than having one of the most wonderfully unique cars around. Truly an artistic masterpiece.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

OMG, OMG, OMG.

OMG, OMG, OMG.

“Oh, Matt. Is that yours? I’m sorry. I don’t know why my underwear won’t stay on. This is so weird.”

This is the first and only car in my lifetime for which I was on pins and needles waiting to see. I was not disappointed. So fast. So sexy. So awesome. I need one.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with snorkel kit

The only thing that can stop you with one of these is gas prices. So awesome.

The only thing that can stop you with one of these is gas prices.

Perfect for summer. Perfect for winter. Perfect for driving under water. Perfect for the zombie apocalypse. When I bought my Grand Cherokee, this is what I really wanted, but I live in the suburbs with a young son. *shrug*

1964 Plymouth Belvedere

The most aesthetically versatile car ever. Love the classic black racing wheels in the back. A lot.

The most aesthetically versatile car ever. Love the classic black racing wheels in the back. A lot.

I can roll up to a hot rod event with tatted sleeves wearing a white t-shirt and jeans. Or I can smoke you at the local drag strip. Or I can roll up to a black-tie event dressed in a tuxedo. And look totally awesome and normal in all three scenarios. THAT’s how rad this underrated classic is. The Belvedere is probably not for everyone. But as you may recall: I love underdogs.

And that’s it.

My fantasy garage. I apologize for the discomfort down below ladies. Gorgeous steel and brawn has been known to have that effect.

Even on guys like me.

What do my favorite cars say about me?

Well, I like classic looks. But I want modern performance. I am HEAVILY biased toward American automobiles, even though there are some phenomenal cars built overseas, particularly in Europe. In the final analysis, I don’t really know what my fantasy garage says about me, but I hope someone will weigh in with an opinion.

What are your favorite cars and what do they say about you?

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The False Memories

brain-memory

And there she was.

My gorgeous ex-wife, on the floor with our son, doting over something he’d put together.

“Hey mom! Look at this!”

So excited, my little five-year-old.

He was smiling. She was smiling. I was smiling.

It felt good—having us all together.

Later, there was dinner. The usual chit-chat. Just like it used to be.

At night, with our son sound asleep, we curled up next to one another on the couch. It didn’t feel foreign. Just the same as it ever was. Like a time warp.

Not like when it was bad. Like when it was good.

The sitting became holding.

The holding became touching.

The touching became kissing.

The kissing became sex.

And I liked it.

Whoa.

We Don’t Remember Everything

You see it when investigators question eye witnesses.

People remember men of different heights. Wearing different color shirts. Driving different types of cars.

In some instances, it’s because we smoked too much pot in college. I always joke that that’s my problem when I exhibit forgetfulness.

But this isn’t about remembering someone’s birthday, or to run that errand, or that you have a test at school tomorrow, or whatever.

It’s about memories you feel certain about. Sometimes they’re wrong.

Researchers proved this by interviewing people with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory—you know—the kind of people who remember what they had for breakfast and what song was playing on their drive to work on some arbitrary date 15 years ago.

Even THEY get it wrong—human beings with the most-gifted and powerful memories on Earth. Things they are really sure about, too.

There was a fascinating piece in The Atlantic last month about it. One of the memory researchers quoted in the article said that all memories are colored by bits of life experience.

“When people recall, they are reconstructing,” the professor said. “It doesn’t mean it’s totally false. It means that they’re telling a story about themselves and they’re integrating things they really do remember in detail, with things that are generally true.”

I was fascinated.

It relates to the stories I tell on this blog.

It relates to my memories from my marriage. Were the good times as good as I remember? Were the bad times as bad?

It relates to my ex-wife’s memories about our marriage.

As writers, I think we owe it to anyone reading to be as honest as possible. When telling old stories, we risk getting things wrong. I am committed to getting it as close to the truth as my brain is capable of delivering.

But I am, inevitably, fallible and mistake-prone.

That affects my work here. That affects my human relationships.

And it affects my subconscious.

What Dreams May Come

I don’t remember dreams very much anymore. Most of my life, I’ve woke up in the middle of the night or in the morning on the heels of some pretty vivid dreams.

I remember the frightening ones.

I remember the sad ones.

I remember the sex-laden ones.

They actually have an effect on me. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically.

My dream about my ex-wife in the early morning hours today was shocking to me.

It was the first time I’d had any sort of dream like that about her.

I wish I knew what it meant—that it didn’t feel bizarre. That I liked that she liked me. That it all felt, just, happy.

But I don’t get too caught up in the specifics. Especially when it comes to dreams.

It’s probably weirder that I hadn’t dreamed about my ex-wife up to this point than it is weird that I did this morning.

Dream interpretation is almost never literal.

My subconscious, like my totally conscious self, probably just likes human connection.

It’s not that fun sitting around by myself all the time when my son isn’t home.

It’s not that fun never having sex with anyone. Ever.

It’s not that fun cooking for one and eating alone.

I woke up.

No one was in bed with me. My room was still disheveled. My life still kind of sucked.

I opened the blinds.

No birds chirping.

Just a bunch of snow. A bunch of gray. A bunch of cold.

The winter of my discontent.

Perhaps Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) in Groundhog Day said it best: “I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold. It’s gonna be gray. And it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.”

But then my son ran in.

And I’m apparently “the best dad in all of the Americas,” as he’s learned that Central and South America are places, too.

I love you, son.

I got a blog-comment notification on my phone. Someone said something ridiculously kind about my writing.

That always makes me feel good.

Thank you.

My mother is visiting today until the weekend. To see her grandson. To help make her sad son’s holiday just a little brighter.

Thank you, mom.

I read a blog post. A gorgeous, smart, hilarious young woman watches and listens as her friends are always being chased by men, but she feels like the perpetual bridesmaid.

It’s not just me.

It’s never just me. And it is always us. All of us.

Battling sadness, anger, fear, stress, shame. Together.

I’m not alone.

You’re not alone.

Let’s never forget it.

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How to Change the World

Be the change.

Be the change.

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” – Nelson Mandela, facing the death penalty, 1964

I don’t know much about the life of Nelson Mandela.

It’s because I’m a self-centered American often guilty of not considering the suffering that goes on in other parts of the world.

I only knew him as the poster child for racial equality in South Africa and that he’d endured so much to see that dream realized. A champion for human rights; adored and respected globally.

Mandela died December 5, at age 95, to the sadness of admirers worldwide.

I wanted to get a better sense of the man whose life and death reverberated globally. So I read about him. I’m no historian. I’m going to miss major milestones in his life. But these are the highlights that jumped off the screen at me.

The Life of Nelson Mandela

  • Born 1918.
  • Lost his father at age 12.
  • Expelled from college for participating in a student protest.
  • Graduated college in 1943.
  • Married in 1944. Had four children—two boys, two girls. One of his daughters died in infancy.
  • Co-founded South Africa’s first black law firm in 1952.
  • Separated from his wife in 1955. Divorced in 1958.
  • Remarried in 1958. Fathered two more daughters.
  • He was arrested several times between 1955 and 1962. He received a five-year prison sentence for leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike.
  • In 1963, he stood trial with 10 others and faced the death penalty.
  • In 1964, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison.
  • His mom died in 1968. His eldest son died the following year. He was unable to attend their funerals.
  • He had prostate surgery in 1985, after serving 21 years of his life sentence.
  • He was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1988 and was hospitalized for three months.
  • Released from prison in 1990.
  • Helped spearhead talks to end white minority rule in 1991.
  • Won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
  • Inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994.
  • Divorced again in 1996.
  • Kept his word, and stepped down in 1999 after one term as president.
  • Lived the rest of his life championing freedom, education and equality for all.

The Legacy of a Hero

Mandela was just a man. He didn’t have superpowers. He had marital troubles just like the rest of us. Failed at marriage twice.

But what a life—from the outside looking in. Not one to envy. Just one to admire.

We don’t have to be political leaders to change the world. We don’t have to be messiahs. Or miracle workers.

You can just be you, living with a servant’s heart.

A soldier changes the world when she dies fighting to protect her country’s citizens.

A firefighter changes the world when he rescues a child from a burning building.

A teacher changes the world when she makes a breakthrough with a troubled student who goes on to do great things.

A volunteer changes the world when he serves the homeless, not with pity, but with compassion.

A writer changes the world when she pours her soul into the words, helping us heal.

An adoptive parent changes the world when he provides opportunity for children to maximize their human potential.

A spiritual leader changes the world when she helps us tap into life’s greatest mysteries, where peace and hope live.

A coach changes the world when he teaches young people the value of teamwork.

A mother changes the world when she brings a child into it.

A father changes the world when he serves his wife and family.

The lessons of Mandela’s life are that if you’re willing to accept that life won’t always be easy. And that there won’t always be shortcuts to success. And that we’re all human and prone to failure.

And that we must sometimes endure great pain and hardships along our journey.

That everyone is capable of changing the world for the better.

That we’re all capable of being part of the solution.

This isn’t about hippie circles and peace signs. This isn’t about being the most sensitive person in the world. This isn’t about peace rallies or candlelight vigils or political causes.

It’s just about using today to love and respect yourself. To love and respect others. To love and respect life.

Mandela spent the better part of 30 years in prison fighting extreme injustice and racism, health issues, emotional turmoil, and came out the other side a hero and symbol of hope.

Isn’t that proof enough that we can love our neighbors?

That we can stand up against the wrongs that plague our lives?

That we can be brave enough to say: I can change the world?

It won’t always be comfortable. It won’t always be safe.

It will never be easy.

But you absolutely can make a difference.

And you can start today.

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