Monthly Archives: April 2014

How I Could Just Kill a Man

We can be so cruel to one another. When we are kind, who do we choose? And why?

We can be so cruel to one another. Why are we kind to some people and not others? What’s the difference? (Image/Wallpapercave.com)

I could kill a person trying to harm my son.

I could kill a person trying to harm others I love or in self-defense.

I could kill a person trying to harm other innocent people if in the moment it was clear the act would save lives.

I may not have the physical tools or weapons to get the job done on a case-by-case basis. But I could muster the nerve. If the stakes were that high. I’m sure of it.

But what if the person causing harm was my father? Or my sister? Or my childhood best friend?

How long might I hesitate if this hypothetical person I’m so certain I could kill was someone who resides permanently on my “People I Don’t Want to Kill” list?

Who matters?

Who doesn’t?

Where do I draw that line?

Of all the things I never want to do, I think killing someone ranks No. 1. And I don’t mean murder. That should go without saying. But even a “justifiable” killing. The thought of taking a life makes me very uncomfortable.

I don’t know very many people who have killed someone. The few I do are older men who were once soldiers at war. The curiosity in me has always wanted to try to coax those stories out of them. To get a sense of the feelings those memories manifest.

But I’ve always stopped short of asking because I don’t want to ask men to relive what are likely their worst memories.

Is This the World We Want?

I’ve been asking myself the following question every day for about a week now.

What is the difference between the people who matter and the people who don’t?

Where do we draw the line? Between all of the people we care about or treat kindly or help versus those we don’t care about, treat poorly or ignore altogether?

The idea popped into my head while reading Tom Shadyac’s Life’s Operating Manual. Shadyac is something of an anti-capitalist. He and I don’t see eye-to-eye on economic theory. BUT. I do respect very much where he’s coming from when he poses the very thought-provoking question: What separates the people you are willing to profit from, from the people you simply want to help?

He argues that the mindset of capitalism—always trying to maximize profits and charge as much as possible for goods and services—makes the human experience so much uglier than it should be.

For example, he says, if someone you love very much needed help—didn’t have food or clothes or shelter—you would instantly invite them into your home, and feed them, clothe them and let them stay with you (without asking for anything in return.)

Generally speaking, I think this is true of most of us.

But then we walk around major cities, or even suburban Ohio communities like where I live, and occasionally see people asking for help.

Maybe they’re really homeless and have good hearts.

Or maybe they’re really con artists.

Or maybe they’re really drunks or addicts looking to score a fix.

No matter what the situation, I submit all of those people could use help of some kind.

Who Matters?

Everyone ranks the people in their lives relative to their specific circumstances.

But I think this is representative of the general order in which we value people.

1. Spouse/Partner/Significant other and children

2. Parents and siblings

3. Friends

4. Neighbors

5. Co-workers and acquaintances

6. Strangers who are like us (Social, spiritual, economic, cultural, geographic commonalities)

7. Strangers who are not like us

8. Known enemies

Where do you draw the line?

Where on this list do you decide: “That person means so much to me that I want to help them with their problem,” as opposed to your cut-off point? The place where you say: “Screw ‘em. I don’t care. I have enough problems. Let them figure it out for themselves,” or worse: “That person isn’t like me, so I don’t like them and I’m going to hurt them.”

This question about who matters versus who doesn’t makes me think about the post-apocalyptic world on display in The Walking Dead.

It truly is survival of the fittest and every man for himself.

Every stranger is a threat. Someone who might steal your supplies, murder you, or murder you so they can steal your supplies.

But often, after a warming-up, get-to-know-you period—after one of the strangers puts his or her life on the line in service of others—trust is formed.

Bonds are built.

And these strangers, these random people who didn’t care about each other days or weeks ago, morph from stranger to acquaintance, from acquaintance to friend, and (if you believe as I do that you don’t have to share blood to be family) from friend to family.

These people who were threats become people you will sacrifice everything for.

There are bad people in this world. Threats. People who in a lot of ways don’t deserve our kindness, generosity, charity, help, whatever.

An irresponsible or naïve Pollyanna-like view of life benefits no one.

But I don’t know how to muster the cynicism required to not believe that everyone deserves a fair shake. That every person deserves a baseline amount of respect and benefit of the doubt before we rush to judgment.

We don’t need to write a 10-page letter to their boss petitioning for their promotion, but being courteous to the customer service representative on the phone who is NOT responsible for our problem seems reasonable.

We don’t need to invite every kid in school to our birthday party, but smiling at them, not engaging in bullying and treating people kindly doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

We don’t need to give our weekly paycheck to the guy panhandling outside the grocery store, but maybe a sandwich and a bottle of water would serve to nourish more than just his hunger and thirst.

We allow ourselves to disconnect and then we treat people like enemies.

People who, if we were stuck in a survival situation with, might become our family.

I know a little boy who—just seven years ago—wasn’t even a figment of anyone’s imagination.

And today I love him above all else and would do the unthinkable to keep him safe.

And I want him to live in a world where we don’t scream at each other and bully people on social media and hate one another because our skin color isn’t the same or because we care about different things.

Maybe we can be one little ripple in the pond. One kind act at a time.

And maybe those acts can cause more ripples because others agree that these arbitrary barriers we put up between us and other people seems like a silly reason to completely change the way we treat one another.

And maybe good spreads.

And then maybe there are fewer 12-year-old kids in Catholic school cafeterias celebrating the release of a Cypress Hill rap song called “How I Could Just Kill a Man.”

Even if those kids do grow up wanting to be part of the solution.

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How James Altucher Saved My Life

This guy is my writing hero. Not because of how he tells you. Because of what he tells you.

This guy is my writing hero. Not because of how he tells you. Because of what he tells you.

James Altucher lied to get on television because he was afraid to fly on airplanes following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, where he lived.

His boss wanted him to fly south for a business meeting. Altucher needed a way out of it. So he lied to Jim Cramer—an investment advisor and TV personality—about how much investment money he managed in order to get on Cramer’s TV show.

I was reading this story last summer in the first post I ever saw by Altucher. I was struck by the honesty in the words. It seemed almost a little messy, like his unkempt hair. But the writing was still somehow more pure than anything I’d ever read before.

“Once Jim asked me to go on I couldn’t stop shaking,” he wrote. “I knew I was a fraud and I was finally going to prove it to everyone I went to high school with.

“I assumed they would all be gathered at the same place, eating popcorn and laughing at me.”

I laughed out loud when I read that. This guy’s awesome. He really gets it. He really understands how to communicate what it’s like to be a person!, I thought.

Altucher finished recounting his experience being on television with this:

“Afterwards two things happened.

“My dad wrote me an email congratulating me. Since we were in a fight and I tend to avoid people I’m fighting, I didn’t respond to him. Then he had a stroke and died.”

It took my breath away.

It was the first time I had ever seen someone express something like this. It’s as if he’s giving you permission to laugh at the tragedy. Of every paragraph I have read by any writer—ever—that is the one that stays with me.

That’s when I knew I loved Altucher.

That’s when I knew if I had any chance at all of being a legitimate writer, I had to choose bravery as he does. I had to bleed a little onto the page. I had to take off the mask. The one I wear out of habit and fear. The one I wear to appear smarter or more confident or more accomplished than I am. The one I wear to appear less fearful, less neurotic or less damaged than I am.

Why Don’t I Feel Brave?

Here’s a sample of what people write to me on my About page.

“Your bravery in laying yourself bare for all to see is commendable.”

“Your writing here requires some serious balls, and I gotta admire you for that.”

“Your ups and downs, your words of hope (even when stuff gets really bad), your honest words and struggles shared with us, they are priceless. Really priceless.”

“Have to say, your honesty is awesome.”

Nothing about what I write here feels particularly special or honest or courageous to me. But I also know my opinions are mostly irrelevant.

Sometimes I write things I like, but no one else does, and sometimes I write things I think are just mehhhhhhh and people seem to love it.

One time I wrote a post about how all the typos I was writing and publishing were getting emailed to people. I was mortified. The post was me apologizing to you for shoddy work.

At the time I hit the Publish button, I considered it just about the most-pointless thing I’d ever written. WordPress editors chose it for Freshly Pressed—a part of WordPress where blog posts are shared with thousands of readers. I think I tripled my daily traffic overnight with the post I was most embarrassed about. Fitting.

It makes me feel like a fraud. You think I bare MY soul? A James Altucher post often feels like voyeurism. Like the police just let you behind the yellow Caution tape to check out a murder scene.

Altucher says he studies great writing so he can write things 1/10th as well as the people he’s reading. Which is funny, because I set out to write things 1/10th as well as he does.

With each thing he writes, he has three goals: Entertain. Be honest. Help people.

For my money, no one has ever been more successful doing those things with a keyboard.

What Honesty Looks Like

Here are excerpts from a bunch of Altucher posts. Out of context, they might lack the impact they do reading them within his stories. But I want to share anyway.

“I was afraid this was my one shot and I was blowing it. I was even crying in my car. I was going broke and I felt this was my one chance. What a loser.” (from How to Get an MBA from Eminem)

“One time I bored Dave Chapelle to death. I kept talking and talking and finally he said, ‘Excuse me, I have to get out of here and find me a girl for tonight!’

“Another time there I asked Al Franken if I could interview him. He looked me up and down and said, ‘No’ and walked on. Fair enough. Now he’s a U.S. senator, and I just write random stuff on my Facebook wall.” (from Louis CK and the Hare Krishnas Used This ONE Trick for Success)

“One time I was at a funeral of a relative. There was a woman there I had a crush on. Everybody was hugging each other because it was a funeral. So I hugged her more than once. Every time I passed her I would hug her. Finally I got the sense that she thought it was weird and then simply because she thought it, it did become weird. Actually, it was weird. I can’t blame it on her. I was weird.” (from How to Hug)

“I’ve done everything to avoid being lonely.

“I pretended to be a psychic on Craigslist.

“I’ve spent ten hours a day on dating sites.

“I asked out girls in elevators, girls in laundromats, girls at ATM machines, waitresses, more waitresses, thousands of waitresses. Only one said yes. And then she didn’t show up.” (from How to Cure Loneliness)

You get the idea.

He’s the best.

I don’t know James Altucher. And he sure as shit doesn’t know me. He follows me on Twitter along with more than 10,000 other people, but I bet he doesn’t know it.

But I get to feel like I know him because he lets us in. We all do. Because he takes off that mask and lets us see all the messy human stuff that lies beneath the surface.

And now I get to try to write bravely like he does, and some people think it is brave and that it helps them somehow. I still think it’s a miracle that people read anything I write.

Thank You, James

Because almost half of all married people get divorced I sometimes think I’m being particularly lame whining all the time about my divorce last year.

I’m afraid people will think I’m weak.

I’m afraid men will think I’m a douchebag.

I’m afraid women will think I’m pathetic and never want to have sex with me.

I’m afraid my ex-wife reads every one of my posts with a satisfied smirk on her face, thinking: Now everyone can see why I left this coward!, just before jumping into bed with some hard-bodied guy she met at the gym.

All of this negative energy was building up inside me, and it continues to if I don’t take action.

But I do take action.

I write little stories here. And I’m able to take all of that ugly trying to grow inside me all the time and rid my body of it one sentence at time.

I don’t know how or why it helps. I just know that it does.

And maybe if I didn’t do that, I’d be dead.

And maybe if I wasn’t honest, it wouldn’t work.

And maybe if I never read James Altucher, I wouldn’t know how.

Thank you, James.

And thank you, people who read.

It’s no exaggeration: you saved my life.

Two of the smartest things you can do right now is visit James’ website and sign up for his email list and buy his latest book “Choose Yourself!,” which is currently on sale for Kindle for $0.99. Less than $1 for one of the most-important things published last year. 

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If You Could Only Choose One: Love or Marriage?

Marriage matters. But honestly? Not as much as love.

Marriage matters. But honestly? Not as much as love.

I’m pretty good at beating myself up.

If they awarded fighting championship belts for kicking one’s own ass, I’d be a top contender.

And I’m a bruised, bloodied mess after this past week—about 13 months after my marriage detonated.

Because I’ve been having inconvenient feelings about my ex-wife for the past week or so.

It’s because getting over anger is one of the things I’m best at.

It’s because she’s my son’s mother and seeing them together is like watching the sun set into the ocean, or watching a meteor shower from the top of a mountain. Seeing them together combines two of the most beautiful things I know of.

Mega-beauty. Beauty on steroids. And it affects me down deep where almost nothing can reach.

Removing from the conversation the special love a father has for his son which all parents and perhaps many non-parents understand, I can say with absolute certainty that I have never loved anything the way I loved his mother.

Not even my parents, who I adore. You’re sort of born into loving your parents, and if they love you back, you just always have that mutual love. The same is true in reverse of your own children, except you’d quite literally do anything for them.

But your spouse is a different animal entirely. You choose them. You love them the same as your parents and children, except there’s no genetics tying you to them.

The bond is something more powerful than genealogy. Supernatural, really.

The souls melt together in a spiritual cauldron.

I think that’s why you die a little when that bond is forcibly torn apart.

Marriage Matters

It does.

It matters.

I know there are a lot of people who don’t like it and have been destroyed by it and want no part of it.

Maybe I’ll never do it again. I don’t know.

There are a lot of people who believe monogamy is against our very nature as human beings.

I get it. I really do.

The anti-marriage crowd exists because almost everyone gets married, and statistically half crash and burn, and then a bunch of things suck afterward.

It cripples individuals across all four key areas of life: Mental, Physical, Emotional, Spiritual. Families break. Friends are lost. Homes are abandoned. The cost is high. Financially and within the fabric of our lives. On the inside.

People look at marriage and say: “It’s bullshit! It fails HALF the time, and a large percentage of married people are miserable!”

Hard to argue with them.

But marriage does make sense to me. It’s the optimum way to raise well-rounded human beings.

And I don’t think “marriage” is broken. I think people are broken. And I think, viewed through the right prism, the appropriate conclusion is that, yes, marriage sucks—but it doesn’t have to.

Here’s a five-point, scaled-down excerpt from something I wrote in August 2013 on the subject:

In Defense of Marriage

1. A life partner

I don’t really like being alone. I think most people feel that way. I think we inherently crave human connection. There are many ways to achieve it. Marriage is one of those ways. I know what you’re thinking Person Who Hates Marriage. I don’t want some ball and chain tying me down! My friends, my family and my dog keep me company! Yeah, I get it. But, guess what? Someday you’re going to be old. OLD. And I don’t want you dying alone at the local Bingo game reeking of Ben Gay while suffering from gout and fibromyalgia.

2. A sexual partner

Having sex is important. It’s good for you. It keeps you sane. And it chemically and spiritually enhances your relationship with your partner. Sure, you can have sex with a bunch of randoms, if that’s your thing. But if you do that too much, you’ll just end up with bastard children and gonorrhea. And then you’ll die alone. With herpes on your mouth. It’s better to do it with just one person. More boring? Probably. But that’s why you practice often. So you get really good at it. So good that all other people in the world could never do it as well as you guys can.

3. An emotional partner

Everyone has a different childhood experience. But for the most part, we’re raised by parents in some form or fashion. They are the people who love us, and teach us, and provide for us, and care for us, and fill a million different roles as we mature through our youth. And then one day, maybe when you least expect it, they’ll be gone. It’s a hard time. And having a strong, loving, emotional connection with someone—someone you can count on to carry you when you’re too weak to walk, to hold you when you need to cry, to sit patiently when you need to scream—is a valuable thing. We almost all leave the nest. And there is wisdom in building a new nest. Otherwise, you might just end up flying from one tree to the next, shitting on freshly washed cars and singing for a mate who never comes.

4. A spiritual partner

I understand not everyone makes faith or spirituality part of their lives. But I do aspire to Christian principles, which I’d break down into a super-basic philosophy: Love people. Give more than you take. Don’t be a dick. I’m almost decent at two out of three. No matter what faith or philosophy you practice, some days are harder than others. Life gets in the way. We question things. We have doubts. We search for meaning. Having someone around to help you walk your walk is a helpful life tool. More importantly, if there are children, having mom and dad on the same page really helps establish whatever foundation you want your kids to have.

5. A parenting partner

Science supports the notion that having both a mother and father at home is a wonderful thing. Children are better off when they receive the daily benefits of both. And it’s invaluable for them to have their male and female role models show them what unconditional love in a family is supposed to look and feel like. Ever notice how kids who grow up with mothers or fathers who do something great, seem to make following in their footsteps look so easy? Happens in sports all the time. Great football player has kid that goes on to be a great football player. Successful attorney has kid that goes on to be a successful attorney. Famous politician has kid that goes on to succeed in politics. The list goes on and on. Genetics have a little to do with it. But mostly, it’s the example. The football player’s son knows nothing but how to succeed in athletics. The attorney’s daughter never dreams of doing anything but going to law school. The politician’s child never considers any career but public service. They have the blueprint. They follow it. Because they don’t know how to fail at those things. The same can be true of marriage. The same SHOULD be true of marriage.

Love Never Fails

But when the enchanting and delightful Jennie Saia (she’s married; calm down) asked me the following question in the comments of my last post, something inside me changed.

“If you had to get just one right – say the universe wouldn’t let you have two, no matter what – would you choose love or marriage?”

I’m not sure why it even took 10 seconds to decide. I guess I was just being careful.

You choose love every time.

Jennie’s question doesn’t alter any facts about my life. The truth is the truth.

I failed my wife. I was a subpar husband. And she eventually fell out of love with me and moved on.

I didn’t take it well. (You’re allowed to laugh at that.)

In the final analysis, I was bad at marriage. And I have the self-flagellation cuts and scars to prove it.

But I’ve never been bad at love. In fact, I’m kind of awesome at it.

If you’ll indulge me a Forrest Gump quote: I’m not a smart man. But I know what love is.

A simple question, really. But a profound one.

Love or marriage? If you had to choose.

If we’re ever going to heal. If we’re ever going to love or be loved again. Then we MUST (it’s a legit prerequisite to a functional life) forgive ourselves.

We must.

I’m not very good at it. So much of that hinges on failing my wife and son. Failing my friends and extended family. Failing myself.

I was a bad husband. And a bunch of people paid the price for that. Including my two favorites.

How do we forgive ourselves?

Maybe with some perspective. Maybe it starts right there.

Love or marriage? If you could only have one.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love always hopes.

Love never fails.

We shouldn’t forget it.

The marriage is gone. A memory. An old ring in my dresser drawer. An old photo album. An empty spot on the wall where a frame once hung.

But the love doesn’t have to be gone.

And we get to sleep at night because we love. We get to hold our heads up high because we love. We get to draw others to us because we love.

We get to forgive ourselves because we love.

And then, I think, we get to find out what we’re made of.

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The Inconvenient Truth About Divorce One Year Later

my-own-prison

It makes you feel weak.

It makes you feel like a chump.

In manspeak, it makes you feel like a pussy.

Stage one is when your wife completely disengages and treats you, not just like a stranger—but maybe less than that, because you’ve seen her smile at strangers before. Like nothing. Like the most-inconsequential thing she’s ever known.

During stage one, your initial reaction is anger and a little bit of misplaced cockiness. She’s got the problem, not me. It doesn’t take long for the self-reflection to begin. You start to remember that you married her on purpose. That you love her above all things. So you start choosing responsibility. What did I do to cause this?

The answers hurt. When you don’t lie to yourself.

Stage two is when she leaves. Maybe you’re like me and foolishly believe she’ll be back soon. She totally vowed forever. In church! In front of all our friends and family! She’ll be back!

Surprise, dipshit! She’s serious.

Stage two is horrible. But you still have tangible hope. And hope is a critical component to living the optimal human experience.

Stage three is when you find out she’s with someone else and loves him. And she thinks you’re shit. Worthless. Pathetic.

You learn where you really stand with the person who replaced your parents as the most-important thing in your life.

Stage three is when you feel a soul-crushing rejection you didn’t know was possible.

Stage three is when you fluctuate wildly and uncontrollably between a sadness you didn’t know was possible and a rage that scares you because now even the guy in the mirror is a frightening stranger.

In stage three, you taste bile and self-loathing with every breath you take.

In stage three, you hate yourself just a little bit more than you deserve.

In stage three, you find out just how much self-respect matters to functioning as a human being.

You cannot prepare mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually for when the person you trust the most causes you the most pain you’ve ever felt.

It makes you doubt everything you have ever believed.

You die a little. You do. On the inside.

Hope becomes something you just talk about with a fake smile on your face. But you don’t really feel that way. You just know it’s the right thing to say. Fake it ’til you make it.

But when you wake up each morning and realize that thing you feared most actually happened?

You feel lost. Forsaken.

And you feel sorry for yourself.

And then you cry some more.

And then you lose even more self-respect.

Where’s your pride?, you think as you look in the mirror.

What the hell’s the matter with you?

More self-loathing.

What a pussy.

How Does It Feel When It’s Love?

Van Halen asked that in 1988 on their OU812 album.

I can’t tell you but it lasts forever.

It’s not possible, right? Not forever. I can’t tell you. It’s been a year and a month—389 days, if my math skills aren’t failing me.

Maybe it’s like maternal imprinting. Like on those occasions where an animal mother adopts a youngling from another species. Maybe I imprinted a part of me onto her that I’ll never quite be rid of.

I don’t know.

I just know that the inconvenient truth of divorce 13 months later is that I still very much love someone I don’t want to love.

I just know that when I saw her a year ago, I wanted to die, and when I see her now, I smile.

I just know that when she texted me a year ago, I wanted to vomit, and when she texts me now, it’s nice to hear from her.

I just know that I was with her and my son at our 1-year-old goddaughter’s birthday party last weekend. A large room full of people. People I only know through my ex-wife.

And there we were together, for the first time, really. The three of us.

Me. Her. Our young, kindergarten-aged son. The family that isn’t.

I just know that I liked talking to her.

I just know that when the sun hits her blonde hair just right, she looks like poetry.

I just know that I have never chose someone in my entire life other than her, and I haven’t found a way to shut that off. The anger masked it before. The fury.

But I don’t know how to stay angry. I don’t know how to maintain fury.

I just know that when she and my son drove away for Easter weekend, part of me wanted to be making that trip with them.

I just know that I almost did something I haven’t done in a long time.

I wanted to cry.

Unforgetful Me

“Oh my God, Matt. You want her back!”

Do I?

One year ago, the girl of my dreams boxed up a non-verbal “Go fuck yourself” care package and left it on my doorstep along with an imaginary photo album and highlight reel of some new guy touching my wife.

I didn’t even fight it back then.

I’d just let the scenes play out over and over and over and over and over and over again in my head.

Scenes so real, that it doesn’t matter that I didn’t actually see them.

I saw them.

I felt them.

I’m forgetful. I forget many things. But I don’t forget that.

And now I see them all the time. When I drive by that hospital. Every time. When I lay down in our bed that is no longer our bed. My own private video reel that starts playing whenever it wants.

And now maybe I never get to be me again because of it.

But back in stage one, you learned how to choose responsibility.

What did I do to cause this?

And you come full circle. Maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe you’re not entirely responsible. Maybe you didn’t deserve it.

But you could have prevented it from happening.

She used to sleep next to you every night. She used to ask you to come to bed with her.

Sometimes you said no.

You live with that.

She wanted the happy, sustainable marriage BEFORE you wanted the happy, sustainable marriage.

You live with that.

You totally vowed forever. In front of your friends and family. You could have prevented this.

And you live with that.

From Church Bells to Wish You Wells

Your brain is the most-important part of your physical body. It’s smart. Even the dumb and damaged ones like mine. Totally smart.

You can never reclaim what’s been lost. You can’t go back in time. There are no do-overs. She doesn’t want you. You are now strangers.

But your body revolts.

Maybe it’s habit. Maybe it’s psychological imprinting like we see in the animal kingdom. Maybe it’s some kind of supernatural bond I can never break.

Maybe I made that vow, and even though I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, maybe that meant more than I could ever understand.

Maybe forever is forever even when it’s not forever.

Maybe when you get the love part right, but the marriage part wrong, you have to live in this prison after it all breaks.

Maybe that’s just part of the deal you don’t find out about until you’re living there.

Maybe you spend the rest of your life in a one-man band playing songs meant for two and wondering why they always sound so shitty.

Maybe this is the curse of being a bad husband. The consequences of not doing enough. The results of falling short.

Maybe when the stakes are that high, the punishment is this steep.

A prison sentence where you involuntarily love someone you don’t want to love. Where you love someone who doesn’t love you back. Where every day your brain fights your heart. A bloody fight.

But a pointless, inconsequential struggle. Because the results are the same no matter what wins.

Maybe love—real love—is forever.

And maybe taking action today—not tomorrow—can bring you joy.

Maybe it’s time to tell her “I love you.” And mean it. And choose it.

You can stop there if you want. Maybe you’ll make it. Some people do.

Or you can take it one step further.

The part I didn’t do until it was too late.

You can live it.

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The Great Mosaic

Image courtesy of adot.com

Image courtesy of adot.com

Up close, it’s little more than chaos. When we’re in the thick of all the noise, buzzing around doing all those super-important tasks.

Money! Laundry! Groceries! Lawn care! Errands!

Buzz, buzz, buzzing around like bees, doing all this work on jobs that will never feel finished.

What are we doing? What are we looking at?

The Rat Race. Where so many of us are scrambling around to grab everything we can for ourselves. Mine, mine, mine.

Ever see Black Friday shoppers in a frenzy?

It’s like a frightening metaphor for how so many of us live.

It’s how I’ve often lived.

Me-first.

I used to think it was because I grew up as an only child. But maybe it’s just because I’m selfish.

Everywhere in nature not involving human beings, equilibrium is maintained because living organisms only consume what they need. Trees don’t soak up all the water and nutrients in the soil, depriving all other nearby plant life of what they need to live. The trees use exactly what they need to grow.

Lions hunt gazelles. After eating one, they don’t run around killing more.

But sometimes people do things like that. Needless metaphorical gazelle slaughter. We’re cruel to one another. We inflict pain. Lie to get ahead. Insult. Steal. Wound. Rape. Kill.

We do it because other people have different beliefs. Because they have different color skin. Because they live in other countries. Because they’re a different gender. Because they’re not as cool as we are. Because they’re weak.

Because we can.

I didn’t realize it, but the cultural story we all believe about ourselves is a story that’s only 10,000 years old. Humans have been around for 175,000 years. Life is 4 billion years old. So, 10,000 years is nothing. A relative blink.

We’re young. Young and stupid. Like when we were growing up, and we’d take toys from one another, and whisper secrets in the back of class about teachers and other students, or snicker in the halls at kids who knew they were being snickered at.

Up close, in the middle of all the shit, it feels chaotic and hopeless.

“There’s just so much ugly!” we say after watching the news. After driving through bad parts of towns and cities. After reading comments written by cowards on the internet.

But is there really? As a matter of percentage? If we really do the math?

I notice people holding doors open for one another. Smiling and exchanging pleasantries. Extending courtesies of all shapes and sizes.

The news doesn’t tell us about the people who donate their time and money at the local shelters and soup kitchens. Who band together to raise money for their friends’ cancer treatment. Who do immeasurable good.

The ugly gets a microphone and a video camera.

The beauty often gets ignored in the great mosaic.

We need to step back. It’s time.

Life’s Operating Manual

That’s the title of the interesting book I’m reading now. Author Tom Shadyac—an accomplished Hollywood filmmaker—asks readers to rethink many things. He asks a very thought-provoking question: Does life have an operating manual? A set of instructions, that if followed would see the world—and all its inhabitants—achieve an optimum state of being?

The gut reaction from many people—including, admittedly, me on some topics—will be to accuse Shadyac of being a dreamer. An idealist. Someone with a lot of interesting thoughts that are not necessarily executable because you could never get buy-in from enough people.

It would take a revolution.

Is this the world we want?

It would take an awakening.

Does the author ask the impossible?

I used to make fun of environmentalists.

I thought they were a bunch of namby-pamby liberal hippy morons.

When I was 21, I stood face to face with U.S. Vice President Al Gore in the summer of 2000 inside of the newsroom where I was working between my junior and senior years of college. He asked me about my career goals. I shook his hand, smiling, and answered his questions honestly, even though all of my goals have since changed.

I respected the vice president. I was polite. I try hard to treat everyone that way.

But in the back of my mind? I remember thinking his position on the environment bordered on lunacy.

This will not be a place where we spend much time discussing politics. But I do try to be transparent with you and it’s a topic I’ve mostly danced around. Intentionally.

Because I care about connecting with people. I think connecting with people is WAY more important than politics.

And political conversation, debates, arguments disconnect us.

I don’t want any part of that.

Because I respect you and want to talk to you no matter how much you agree or disagree with me. That’s the only way that makes sense to me. That’s the only way I can think of that gives us any chance of making the human experience a better one.

I have a mostly conservative and right-leaning political history. I was raised in that environment.

I’m politically moderate today. When I take those online political quizzes, I come out damn near dead center of the grid.

I’ve left behind the political ideals that stopped making sense to me based on my life experiences.

And I’ve gravitated left on some social issues, education and the environment as a result. All of those things have a very striking commonality to me.

They strike me as non-partisan issues. We politicize them so we can scream at each other on TV and radio and in internet forums and at political rallies and conventions. Our media accommodates because they like the ratings and the opportunity to help shape public opinion on editorial pages and via talking heads.

But the truth is, most sane people care about the general welfare of all people, an education system which functions effectively, and do not recklessly seek the planet’s destruction.

The vast majority of us don’t even think about it. How much has changed.

We were born into a world with highways and skyscrapers and infrastructure and where traveling the globe relatively safely are commonplace.

It’s what we know.

But not long ago, EVERYTHING was different.

Just 2,000 years ago—there were only 250 million people on the planet. Today, there are 317 million people in the United States alone, and more than 7 billion people worldwide.

It took 174,800 years of human life before there were a billion of us. It took 123 years to reach the second billion, 33 to reach the third and 15 to reach the fourth.

In about a dozen years, we’ll have 8 billion alive on earth.

The planet is filling up.

I’ll leave it to the experts and Chicken Littles to debate the health and sustainability of our planet’s natural resources. I’ll just listen to what makes sense to me and try to be part of whatever the solution is.

But I do think about all the people. As we continue to close in on one another. As our needs increase.

It’s going to become increasingly more important that we co-exist.

As the population increases, we need to make sure the beauty—the good—increases as well.

No Beginning, No End

We don’t have any hard edges. You and me. We’re mostly empty space. A whirling flock of subatomic particles dancing in the air, comingling with everything around us, including one another.

Our hearts have a measurable electromagnetic field it emits 10-15 feet from our bodies, causing our hearts to literally affect other peoples’ hearts.

At the risk of sounding like a namby-pamby liberal hippy moron, I’m really coming around to this idea of “oneness.”

That we’re all made from the same stuff.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

But not just with our planet.

But with one another.

I believe we are all intertwined. Connected.

That you are me. Sorry!

That I am you.

And that all those soft-edged particles of energy that make up our bodies, hearts, minds and souls can dance together if we can just take a step back from the chaos and see the big picture.

A change of perspective.

A step back from The Great Mosaic.

So instead of this…

cassini-wave-earth-detail

We see this.

wave_earth_mosaic_3

Happy Earth Day.

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The Resourceful Rabbit

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Admit It: You’re Just Making This Up As You Go

It's one of those secrets no one told us.

It’s one of those secrets no one told us.

I was just a young hormonal Catholic school boy sitting in church on Sundays begging God to forgive me every time I thought about having sex with one of the girls I saw.

Why am I thinking about sex in church!?!?

I used to think I was so bad.

I used to feel so guilty.

I used to look around at the backs of all the grownups and think to myself: It must be great being an adult! You can control all these thoughts and FINALLY be a good, disciplined person!

I was just a young, helpless virgin with no one to talk to about it. I wonder what THAT feels like!

I’d watch my mom and stepdad living their lives. They NEVER sinned!

I’d sit at the dinner table at my friends’ houses, quietly studying other families. They’ve got it all figured out!

When I was a kid, I didn’t know the secret.

I didn’t know everyone else was wearing a mask, too.

When I was a kid, I thought everyone’s lives were amazing and had every reason to look forward to adulthood when I wouldn’t make mistakes and feel guilt anymore.

I didn’t know everyone was having marital problems, having sex with other people or wishing they were.

I didn’t know the secret until I was well into my thirties: We’re all just making this up as we go.

You Are Not Alone

At least one of you (and probably many more) can relate in some way to all that young, hormonal, confused kid stuff. At least one of you thought you were going to reach adulthood and have the great “Ah-ha!” moment we’re all waiting for, and at some point it finally dawned on you that it never actually comes.

You don’t just wake up feeling like an adult one day.

You always just feel like a scared, confused kid, and realize with horror—maybe after having children of your own—that you ARE an adult, even though you don’t always feel or act like one.

And I just want you to know that you’re not weird.

I just want you to know that you’re not the only person who doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.

I want you to know that it’s okay to be scared. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

That it’s okay to be confused. Because things didn’t turn out the way you thought they would. Because not even you are who you thought you would be.

And that it’s okay to be sad. Because you wasted all those childhood years looking forward to these shittier, adult years, never once stopping to think: “Holy shit! I’m a kid! No one needs me for anything! All I have to do in the entire world is hang out with friends all the time and learn stuff! I better enjoy this while it lasts!”

We were all in such a hurry to grow up.

So we could have FUN!

Because we thought drinking beer and having sex and getting into bars and trips to Vegas and having a job with a paycheck would be better than playing playground kickball and freeze tag and passing notes in class and sneaking kisses behind the school.

Because we thought having our own money would be better than our parents just giving us some.

God, we were stupid. And by stupid, I really just mean ignorant. It wasn’t our fault.

It’s natural to want to drive a car. And stay up as late as we want. And go to whatever party we want. And wear whatever clothes we want. To be cool.

It’s natural to be curious. To want to try new things. And to do things we’re not supposed to.

The forbidden fruit, and all that.

It’s natural to want what we can’t have.

I’m not into Buddhism. But Buddhists wisely recognize that we DO gain value in our lives from our pursuit of things we want, even though acquiring or achieving those things didn’t bring us any palpable happiness or perceived value.

That experience brings us value. The garnering of wisdom from chasing and getting, followed by the lack of long-term fulfillment afterward.

That knowledge is valuable. Because it gives us wisdom.

We didn’t fail because our lives aren’t like we thought they would be.

This, in a lot of ways, was inevitable.

Behaving like human beings and suffering the consequences was inevitable.

That’s what’s real.

I think that’s part of really being an adult. Really being human.

I think it’s one of the many fragments of that “Ah-ha!” moment we’re all waiting to experience, but end up collecting one little realization at a time.

When the light bulb clicks.

When it dawns on us that we’re not the only one.

When we see a quote from Socrates and realize: Hell. I already figured that one out for myself.

“The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing.”

It feels good to admit it.

It feels good to grow up.

It feels good to realize all those other boys in church were thinking the same things.

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The Book Project

And we're off...

And we’re off…

I’m attempting to write my first book.

I’ve been treating the project somewhat like I do my blog posts. I get an idea and just run with it with little forethought or planning. I just wing this stuff. Sometimes it turns out. Sometimes it doesn’t.

In the end, this project will require infinitely more organization than I’m accustomed to. I’m not a very organized person. The day I’m holding an actual finished product in my hand will be something akin to a miracle. But it must happen.

I believe that human relationships—not counting the deeply personal spiritual relationships many people have—are the most-important and most-impactful things we experience in our lives.

I believe adulthood is more difficult than we’re generally led to believe growing up. And I believe marriage, or committed relationships like marriage, are even more difficult.

I think people have expectations for how things are going to be. Then we grow up and things are nothing like what we thought they were going to be. Our partners don’t act like we thought they would. They don’t make us feel as loved or safe or good as we thought they would. We change into people different than who we thought we were going to be. Our partners do, too.

All of that builds and stews and compounds and complicates. Before you know it, people are sleeping with other people, or wishing they were. Homes and bedrooms that used to represent sanctuary become hostile territory.

We feel like we’re losing everything. We hurt. We cry. We’re afraid. Because the future is uncertain and now we know just how horrible it can be. Now our minds can conjure up frightening and painful outcomes much easier than before, back when life was simple and happy and easy and we had our entire lives ahead of us.

Before the scars. Before the brokenness. Before the fear.

Divorce is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I believe it’s the worst thing many people experience.

In addition to all of the emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual strain everyone going through it feels, a bunch of other things also break along the way.

Children’s lives are completely changed.

Friendships evolve uncomfortably or break altogether.

Family relationships fracture.

Divorce is shitty and horrible. And I don’t think it needs to happen as frequently as it does.

A Higher Calling

I think we all have the capability of having healthy, sustainable relationships. By “we,” I mean people like you and me. People who have the mental and emotional awareness to participate in conversations like the ones we have. People who care enough. People who want to grow and contribute to making this world just a little bit better than it is.

I cannot build a house or fix a car. I don’t know how.

But I believe if I spent time with capable contractors and mechanics interested in helping me learn, that I could. I COULD be a guy who builds houses and fixes cars.

Some people are good at relationships. Most often, they’re women. Women are better at relationships than men. Not always. But most of the time.

Which is why I believe men have the most power in this world to stem the tide of divorce and all the shit storms it causes in the lives of so many of us.

We can’t do much about the super-selfish or apathetic ones. They are who they are. They must choose unselfishness. They must choose to care.

But there are A LOT of good men out there. A lot. And they WANT to be good husbands and fathers. Deep within their hearts, minds and souls. A lot of guys don’t know that being nice isn’t enough. A lot of guys don’t know that good men can be shitty husbands.

They don’t have the tools or knowledge to build the house or fix the car. But with those tools and a little help, they could.

A Book with No Genre

I’m not proposing a self-help book here. My bachelor’s degree and judge-stamped dissolution of marriage documents DO NOT qualify me to pontificate on how to do things right.

But here’s what I believe—and most of it is predicated on my experiences since launching this blog:

1. My stories about my failed marriage ACCIDENTALLY help people. They either relate emotionally so they don’t feel alone OR sometimes cause people to rethink some of their beliefs about what it takes to make relationships work.

2. My days as a newspaper reporter make me decent at finding good informational resources that teach me things. I like sharing those resources with others.

3. I believe men (and perhaps many women) don’t understand just how different (and potentially complementary) men and women are from one another. Gender differences. In our chemistry. In our mental and emotional genetic makeup. I think if all men truly understood these interpersonal dynamics between the genders—and respected them enough to alter their behavior accordingly—we’d start winning the fight against divorce and broken relationships. Like, make-divorce-our-bitch-style winning.

A husband doing things the right way will:

  • Never leave his wife feeling emotionally abandoned and unsafe.
  • Set a great example for sons and daughters (and other friends and family) about what successful marriage is supposed to look like, making it more likely they will have healthy relationships in the future.
  • Significantly reduce the likelihood of a wife looking for greener pastures because she feels loved and respected and wanted by her husband. In turn, the husband will feel loved and respected. He won’t feel SHAME—an absolute relationship killer for men. They will have a healthy and vibrant sex life. This will greatly reduce occurrences of emotional and physical infidelity.

4. The average man is not going to read The Five Love Languages or Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. They’re just not. My wife asked me to read “Men are from Mars…” several years ago in an attempt to help me understand why she would get upset with things I said and did, or didn’t do. I read three chapters and never opened it again. And that right there is the kind of shit I’m talking about. I wasn’t a bad guy. I was just a shitty husband. What if I read that book and respected my wife’s emotional needs way back then? Isn’t it possible we’d still be married today? Isn’t it possible we could have avoided all this brokenness? Isn’t it possible we’d both feel safe and loved and optimistic about our future, and have our five-year-old son at home with us all the time, instead of just half?

OF COURSE, it’s possible. I’d argue, likely. I’m really talented at breaking shit and figuring out how I broke it. I’m reasonably good at not making the same mistake twice. At least not the really big ones.

So, I’m always thinking: There MUST be a bunch of other guys out there like me. There must! Guys who still have time. Who haven’t broken their relationships yet, or are early enough in the process where they can turn it around. Or, better yet? Guys who are in the very early stages of laying the foundation for their lives with their significant others. If they knew what I knew, wouldn’t they have a MUCH better chance of making it?

Yes, they would.

And I want them to. I’m not even almost as smart as John Gray or Gary Chapman, the authors of Men are from Mars… and The 5 Love Languages, respectively.

But I have an advantage over those guys. I don’t have “Dr.” in front of my name. I say bad words and watch football and play golf and air hump random stuff after one too many drinks at a Saturday night party.

In other words, I’m just a totally average, regular guy. And maybe a small percentage of other regular guys will read something I write whereas they won’t read some “girl book” their wives or girlfriends wanted them to read.

Maybe. I don’t know.

I hope so.

The Book’s Framework

I’m making broad generalizations here. I know this.

But men tend not to read much. We have subpar attention spans. Already, this blog post has WAY exceeded the average person’s TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) threshold. Most dudes stopped after the third paragraph because it didn’t have the word “boobs” in it.

This is the part where I ask you for advice and feedback.

Currently, I’m planning to make the book something in the general vein of “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married.” We will come up with a better title. I promise.

I want each chapter to cover each of the following things.

I would REALLY appreciate any and all feedback and/or suggestions as to how I can make this list better.

Here’s the current chapter list, subject to change, and in no particular order:

1. Getting married is NOT like having a permanent girlfriend.

2. Yes, it can happen to you. (Don’t get too comfortable, married guy.)

3. Love is a choice.

4. Know your role. (The importance of gender differences.)

5. Your parents might have done it wrong. (As far as these gender roles and telling us the truth about marriage.)

6. Don’t keep secrets. (Big and small. This will cover sex and lots of mind, body, spirit stuff.)

7. Monogamy can be hot. (Have lots of sex. Make it dirty if you want to. If everyone is honest with one another, this can work fabulously. I think this is one of the ways we cut down on instances of infidelity.)

8. Being good at marriage is a learned skill. (Men are often naturally competitive creatures. It’s a huge mystery to me why men aren’t competitive about being studs at marriage. They should WANT to be amazing husbands and fathers to stoke their fiery competitiveness. Perhaps those desires can be drawn out with the right language? Seems worth exploring.)

And there will be more. Or less. Whatever. This is a fluid work in progress.

Each chapter will be written a lot like how I write blog posts—present-day thoughts with back-story personal anecdotes that apply to each topic sprinkled in between.

I have no idea what the end result might look like. But I hope it can matter to someone. And I hope I come out the back end a more-confident, capable writer. One who contributed a few ideas to the world.

Only time will tell.

Thank you for being a part of it.

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How to Stop Procrastinating Later

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A husband I know got into hot water with his wife after letting the family’s insurance coverage lapse several months ago.

“How could he be so irresponsible? How could he let that happen to his family? What if something happened?” my friend said to me.

I just shrugged. Because I do things just like that.

I am a world-class procrastinator. I think I currently rank No. 2 in the world, just behind my five-year-old son. I’ll check the rankings later.

My friend thinks I’m a good person and totally responsible. She thinks I’m a good sounding board for discussing her marital frustrations.

I got a letter in the mail a few weeks ago. There was a huge “URGENT!” stamped on it in super-duper-emergency red.

The exact wording of the letter from my insurance agent escapes me, but it was VERY close to this:

“Dear Matt,

“Because you are an irresponsible degenerate piece of shit who can’t manage bills like an adult, your insurance policy has been cancelled. We sure hope you haven’t been driving around with lapsed auto coverage, and we have our fingers crossed that your house doesn’t catch fire or get swallowed by a sinkhole.

“But if it does, you’ll deserve it. Because you’re an asshole.

“Life tip: You and your son’s health and wellbeing, along with your house and car are the three most-valuable things you possess. So maybe think about growing up one of these days and taking care of your shit.

<Cue Samir from Office Space> You are a very bad person, Matt.

“Sincerely, Your Insurance Agent”

Yeah, tell me something I don’t know, Insurance People. You should see what I can do to a marriage.

One of the best ways for me to overcome procrastination is to create an emergency.

I respond FABULOUSLY with focus, energy and determination when I’m facing an emergency. I had insurance coverage restored within 24 hours of realizing I had a problem.

You may be wondering: “How the hell could something like that happen?”

I have a three- or four-month supply of unopened mail on my home office desk.

I still have unopened birthday cards laying on my dining room table. My birthday was three weeks ago.

THAT’s how.

I am capable of putting things off in ways you haven’t even thought of yet. And maybe I’ll tell you about it someday if I ever get around to it. Start holding your breath… right… now.

AWOLprocrastination

Procrastination is not a good thing. I’m making light of it because I don’t see the point in flailing about all dramatic-like, AND because this offers you a peek into the guy my ex-wife wanted to leave.

I do want you to know who I am.

One wonders why I wouldn’t want to clean up the sins of my past that lead to the single-worst thing that has ever happened to me. Perhaps there’s a psychological explanation for why I am the way I am. And perhaps I’ll look into that one day. You know, when I get around to it.

I am a negligent person.

Some of you may remember the post where I explored the hypothetical ramifications of my grandmother marrying a Liam Neeson movie character. At the end of that post, I disclosed that my grandmother had been in an accident which forced her to have a variety of surgeries. She was in and out of the hospital for several weeks.

My grandmother is the sweetest woman on the planet, and I think about her often, and did pray earnestly for her recovery.

I called her yesterday for the first time since the accident in January. I left her a message because my grandparents weren’t home. When my grandma called me back last night, I ignored the phone call because I felt “too busy” to answer.

Hopefully, I’ll be disciplined enough to return her call today. Start holding your breath!

I only recently discovered PsyBlog. It’s awesome.

Last month, PsyBlog author Dr. Jeremy Dean wrote a nice post titled 10 Foolproof Tips for Overcoming Procrastination.

If you’re interested, please give it a read.

I’ll list the 10 here, but you’ll need to read his post to get the full context for a few of them.

1. Start easy

2. Start anywhere

3. Beware excuses

4. Up the value

5. Procrastination personality

6. Turn up

7. Think concrete

8. Don’t rely on memory

9. Avoid over-thinking

10. Forgive yourself

There’s a lot of good stuff here that very much applies to my life.

Because I do make excuses. To others and myself.

Because when I “Up the value” (an emergency!) I get shit done.

Because I do have a procrastination personality.

Because I have a subpar memory for task management and short-term things.

Because I over-think EVERYTHING.

And because I have a lot of trouble forgiving myself for… gee, let me think… pretty much every bad thing I’ve ever done.

I bet if I stopped procrastinating, I would feel less stressed.

I bet if I stopped procrastinating, I could get in great shape again.

I bet if I stopped procrastinating, I could make a good book.

I bet if I stopped procrastinating, I would feel spiritually balanced.

I bet if I stopped procrastinating, every facet of my life would improve.

This is great! I have something to focus on! An identifiable shortcoming I can do something about!

It’s going to be so gratifying to work on this stuff and grow and evolve into the person I want to be!

But when to start!?!?

Eh.

Maybe later.

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The Quicksand

Quicksand

The more I fight it, the faster I sink.

My heart beats faster—but not in an excited, happy way. More like anxiety.

For months, I punched these keys. Almost every day. Bouncing between the past and the present and the totally inconsequential in an attempt to paint the picture of one average guy trying to make his way in the world after everything changed.

I thought maybe it could help me.

I thought maybe it could help someone like me.

And maybe it still can.

But something’s broken now. Something related to my writing and thinking and ability to produce is broken.

It doesn’t feel like cutting back. Like some necessary rest and relaxation.

It feels like sinking.

It feels like failing.

I want to be a writer. That’s who and what I want to be.

I am a father. I am a divorced guy. I am a friend and a son and a co-worker.

I know I am those things.

I don’t know that I’m a writer.

You’re not a writer if you don’t write. You’re not a writer if you can’t write. If I’m not practicing my craft… if I’m not growing and learning and discovering and experimenting… then I’m nothing.

I won’t have only become what I always feared most, personally—a failure at marriage.

I will have also become what I’ve always feared most professionally as well—a nobody. Just another punk in a cubicle.

Some of you are going to want to say nice things. You’re going to want to electronically pat me on the back and encourage me.

“Hey Matt! It’s totally okay! Take a break!”

“Hey Matt! It’s totally okay! You post way more than I do!”

“Hey Matt! It’s totally okay! I work in a cubicle, too!”

Please don’t.

There needs to be more to life than punching the proverbial clock wearing business casual.

We spend more than half of our waking hours sitting around offices and doing laundry and washing dishes and mowing grass and dusting window sills and vacuuming carpet and running a bunch of errands all the time. Half of those errands are because we want to own all that shit we’re maintaining and going to work for so we can finance having it.

It sounds so insane to me when I put it that way. And I don’t take it back. That’s exactly what most of us are doing.

I think that can be a very good thing for a family raising children. Stability and routine are nice things. Safety and reliability should not be taken for granted.

But for a guy like me?

The 50-percent dad?

It feels like a wasted life.

And don’t tell me it’s okay. Don’t enable me. Don’t say it’s okay to short-change our future selves. Because it’s one of the worst things we do as people. Sacrifice our futures for the now.

If I am the sum of my choices, then I am a punk in a cubicle because of those choices.

If I want to be something more, I need to make better choices.

In Over My Head

Several months ago, I wrote a post about writing—about how I wanted to be more than just a guy writing marketing copy for someone else.

A guy who used to read these posts but doesn’t anymore told me I needed to check myself.

That most of the people reading here are writers. And all of us dream of being able to pay for our lives writing the things we want.

About how hard and impractical that is.

About how most of us fail to achieve that.

That it might be time for me to reevaluate my goals. Lower my expectations. Dream smaller, if you will.

And maybe he was right. Maybe we’re all a bunch of foolish dreamers. A bunch of nobodies destined to stay nobodies.

Maybe I’ve been in quicksand this entire time. And maybe now I’m finally in over my head.

Maybe I’m trying to force something that really isn’t there.

Maybe I should just be happy with what I have.

Isn’t that what we’re all really chasing anyway? Contentment? Happiness?

But I’m not content.

I’m not happy.

The only thing I can think of to write about is writing and how much of it I’m not doing.

I don’t know how to escape the quicksand.

Just like I didn’t know how to fix my marriage. The harder I tried, the worse I made it somehow.

I can’t do that here.

I can’t keep forcing posts just to be feeding that ‘Publish’ button.

Maybe I need to step away for a bit. To go analog. To write with a pen and paper. Making notes for the book project. Making notes about all of the things I want to do or learn about or think about or experience and eventually write about.

Maybe that reader and commenter was right about me. About us.

That we are who we are. And acceptance is the key to making peace with it.

That things are just the way they are and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Maybe that applies to everything.

That we shouldn’t try to improve our schools.

That we shouldn’t rethink the way we approach our relationships which fail half the time.

That we shouldn’t try to fight disease and crime and poverty.

That we should merely accept these as facts of life.

Maybe sometime I’ll think and feel just like that.

But not today.

“Are you feeling, the feeling that I’m feeling?

Dreams are like fish. You gots to keep on reeling.”

 – Dreamin’, G. Love & Special Sauce

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