Category Archives: Stuff I Want to Help Others With

Cracking the Code: 7 Ideas That Would Have Saved My Marriage

Crack-The-Code

Sobbing wives write me all the time, desperate for answers. “I just read your posts and cried all the way through. Thank you for understanding me. How is it that you seem to get it but my husband can’t?”

The most frequently asked question I get is: “How do I get my husband to understand this before it’s too late?” I’ll be extraordinarily wealthy AND save millions of marriages if I ever figure that out.

I’m probably more introspective than the average guy, and certainly more willing to write it all down and share it with strangers. But there’s little difference between me and any of these other guys. By and large, we’re the same. Just ask my ex-wife.

There are exceptions, but most of the time, when a woman on the brink of leaving her husband or who is desperately searching for ways to reconnect with him, lists things he does that make her feel worthless and abandoned, a little bit of shame washes over me because I remember doing some of those same things.

Many readers of this blog think I’m some great guy destined for an amazing relationship someday, and maybe I will have one, but none of them have ever stood in my kitchen and heard me spew hostility toward the woman I vowed before God, her parents, and most people we know, to love and cherish always.

“I love how your way is so perfect and righteous, and my way is bullshit and makes your life miserable all the time,” I more-or-less said during several fights, feigning self-righteousness in a totally immature and belligerent tone. “If you’re so miserable living with me, why don’t you file the fucking papers and go find your new magic husband you’ll love being with so much more than me!”

Which she more-or-less did. I didn’t like it.

I really did love my wife. I don’t just say that. So I’m confused about why I was capable of being such a dick in those moments.

My point is simply that it’s possible to go from Guy Who Acts Like a Dick and Sucks at Marriage to whatever you think I am now.

I don’t know how to get him there. Because there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

But there are ideas fundamental to relationships and human behavior that I have come to learn over the past four years of immersing myself in this world. Ideas that took me from Guy Who is Just Like the Others, to the guy who occasionally gets marriage proposals (probably not super-serious ones) in blog comments and emails.

These ideas changed my life and, in a cynical world, have given me reason for hope.

1. Two People Can See, Hear, Feel and Experience the Same Thing and Describe it VERY Differently Without Being Wrong

This is, by far, the most important one. This applies to any two people (Barack Obama thinks this, Ben Carson thinks that, and BOTH men have intelligent, valid conclusions even though they might contradict one another).

In male-female relationships, the most common source of breakage is this dynamic. Husband does X. It hurts his wife. She tells him it hurts. He doesn’t take it seriously because if she had done X, he wouldn’t hurt like she is claiming to. His conclusion is that it can’t possibly hurt her, so she’s complaining and being unreasonable about something she’s blowing out of proportion. He chalks it up as something he needn’t take seriously.

It IS possible that she is simply being unreasonable. I account for the fact SOME people are just horrible at being alive. Maybe he married one of those for reasons no sane person could ever explain.

I want to give people credit. If you’re the kind of person who reads things you are reading right now, then you’re the kind of person who I credit as being reasonably smart. Thus, you are unlikely to be the kind of person who would take a marriage commitment so lightly that you’d just marry ANYONE.

You deliberately chose to marry the person you married. Since you’re smart, I think you married another smart person. You didn’t both get dumber and meaner.

In conclusion, you should assume when your partner tells you something that she/he is telling you the truth. Denying the validity of your spouse’s claims will ensure your divorce close to 100-percent of the time.

HONESTLY, GUYS: ACCEPT THAT SHE IS SMART AND MEANS WHAT SHE SAYS, or punch yourself in the face repeatedly for being the dipshit who intentionally married a dumbass.

Until a highly accredited doctor at an insane asylum admits your wife, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by just believing things she tells you.

The only way to do that is to also accept that when X happens, how you feel about it and how she feels about it may not always be the same, but that BOTH can be true.

So when you’re driving home from the party, and she tells you how it made her feel shitty when you made a joke in front of all your mutual friends at her expense, the appropriate response is a sincere apology, a respectful request for an explanation as to how and why, and a pledge moving forward to never intentionally make her feel that way again.

It’s NOT: “Oh, lighten up! We were all just having fun. Everyone was laughing! You obviously can’t take a joke!”

Taking the leap of faith that you’re both fighting about two different things, and then recognizing when it’s happening so you don’t continue the pointless, unsolvable conflict? That will do more to strengthen your relationship than almost anything else, because all the positive dominoes start falling from there.

2. You Cannot Feel Happy Without First Feeling Grateful

Appreciating all of the good things in your life—even when bad things happen—is the only way to consistently feel good. Just ask every rich and famous suicidal person, ever.

People get REALLY annoyed about this. “Stop telling me to look on the bright side! I just want to feel angry!”

Really? You WANT to feel shitty? Like, that’s your goal? Right.

I operate with the assumption that the vast, vast, vast majority of people prefer life when things feel good more than when things feel bad. The foundation for happiness is gratitude.

And so it is true in your relationships.

The foundation for a happy marriage is habitually demonstrating appreciation for the sacrifices our partners make on our behalf.

Every day, find a thing, big or small, and say: Thank you. Start right now.

3. We are Scientifically Wired for Boredom

I used to wonder how Tom Brady could leave Bridget Moynahan or how Hugh Grant could cheat on Elizabeth Hurley, because I find both women painfully attractive.

The answer to why that happens is the same reason you don’t baby your car the way you did when you first bought it, or why even though you felt awesome when you got your big raise at your new job, two years later, you feel just as broke as you did before.

It has a name, and humanity would be wise to get familiar with it: Hedonic adaptation.

It means that your brain adapts to positive changes—new stuff, more money, bigger house, hot girlfriend, great job, etc.—and then you return to the same emotional baseline you usually feel.

You and your spouse WILL, 100-percent, feel boredom toward one another eventually. You are not freaks. There is nothing “wrong” with you. It doesn’t mean you are not “soulmates.” It doesn’t mean you chose wrong because your lovey-dovey, excited feelings didn’t last forever like you hoped they would.

It means you are a normally functioning human being, and your body and brain are doing what EVERYONE’S body and brain does. You are adapting to a previous life change, and it’s “boring.”

This is why we do #4 instead of stick our privates inside of other people’s privates.

4. Love is NOT a Feeling; It’s a Choice

Sometimes you feel happy. Sometimes you feel sad. Sometimes you feel angry. Sometimes you feel afraid. Sometimes you feel confident. Sometimes you feel anxiety.

FEELINGS CHANGE CONSTANTLY. Up and down, side to side, and back around again.

So, when you want to make your marriage work even when you don’t “feel” the same as you did on the day you got engaged and had sex all night afterward, the solution is pretty straightforward: You choose it.

My feelings change. Her feelings change. Sometimes we cannot control our emotions because life is hard, and sometimes unexpected and inconvenient things happen. The only way to make sure our love lasts forever is to deliberately make the choice every morning when we wake up to love our spouses and purposefully demonstrate that love. Some days will be easier than others. But if we both do it every day, our marriage will not end. I’m going to choose it every day.

5. Strong Boundaries are Sexy and Healthy

Develop and cultivate strong boundaries. Understand what boundaries really are and how having them will change your life. Choose to be with other people who have them too. This will benefit you more in the dating phase of your life than your married one, but—you know—better late than never. Demand respect. Be with people who also demand respect. Respect them. Act like it.

6. Wife’s Stories Boring You? Listen Anyway.

Step 1 – Be quiet and listen to your wife or girlfriend tell you her story, or verbalize a problem she’s having. Don’t interrupt unless it’s to ask an engaging question that moves the story forward and demonstrates active listening and mental investment.

Step 2 – Don’t sigh and act disinterested. Don’t ask her whether her story has a point. Don’t behave as if everything she just said was dumb. And for the love of God, DO NOT TRY TO SOLVE HER PROBLEM WITH YOUR MAN-SUGGESTIONS unless she specifically asks for your advice. You’re making a small time investment, like you do when you work out, or like when you save money for retirement. You’re investing in her wellbeing and security. It doesn’t make sense to you that something as seemingly meaningless and passive as sitting there and just listening can make your relationship profoundly strong. But it can, and will, if you can just take a deep breath, and with love and respect, listen.

Step 3 – Enjoy how it feels when your wife respects and appreciates you and tells her mother and friends how great you are, and how it feels when she wants you to ravish her instead of fantasizing about her project partner at work, or the furnace repair guy.

7. Be the Leader

This does not mean “dominate.” This does not mean: Act like you are better or more important than her.

It means:

  • You accept responsibility for the quality of your marriage
  • You accept responsibility for the behavior and “success” of your children
  • You accept responsibility for hurting your wife’s feelings even when you don’t understand how or why it happened
  • You accept the challenge of not repeating those behaviors
  • You do not passively ask your wife to manage the entire household’s calendar and make all decisions about food or weekend activities, only to complain when it doesn’t align with what you want to do
  • You accept responsibility for making her feel sexy and desired, planting the I-Want-To-Have-Sex-With-You Seeds at unexpected times and not just after you ignored her all night and got a sudden hard-on, or worse, only when you’re post-party drunk twice a month

A wife should never cheat on her husband (just as a husband should be vigilantly faithful to his wife). But instead of feeling and exhibiting jealousy and paranoia, or wondering whether she’s looking elsewhere to fill physical or emotional voids, BE THE LEADER.

Accept the challenge to proactively make your wife your life’s focus at the top of your daily priority list.

Then, affairs go away. Emotional insecurity goes away. Resentment and anger and hurt feelings and fighting go away.

In their place, you have two great friends. Two psychologically, emotionally and spiritually balanced parents in position to raise great kids. Two active lovers. Two people who give more to one another than they take for themselves.

We are either people enslaved and victimized by whatever Life does next, or we are people who have a say in the outcome. We have to decide.

Should all marital responsibility fall on men? Of course not.

But could men take the lead in a unified social movement intent on improving the state of marriage—and helping to make it a satisfying, life-giving institution instead of one rife with failure, regret and misery?

I like to think so.

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How to Find the Classic WordPress Editor and Not Kill Yourself

peter griffin grinds my gears

(Author’s Note: Feel free to skip to the bottom of this post for help finding the old “Add New Post” page because most of this doesn’t matter. Also, I know most of you have already figured this out because you’re a bunch of smarties. This is for the people who haven’t and are possibly just one or two posts away from offing themselves to avoid having to use the new editor again. They deserve our support.)

Ohhh. THIS is what she was talking about!

A friend who blogs on WordPress asked me how I felt about the recent changes to the “Add New Post” page.

I think she said something like: “I don’t know how to feel about it. I’m not sure I like it,” but at the time I was still seeing the trusty, familiar WordPress editor page that doesn’t hate children and puppies when I went to post something.

It’s because she’s nice and not dramatic, unlike me who has a tendency to arm-flail and loudly express displeasure with more exuberance than is warranted. I’ve had to point this out more than usual lately: I am all about hyperbole and exaggeration and redundancy and saying things more times than necessary.

So, did I really want to kill myself after having WordPress’ updated “Add New Post” page thrust upon me like an uninvited, smelly penis?

Yes. Yes, I did.

Not All Change is Good

For anyone still reading who doesn’t publish on WordPress, you might be thinking: “Oh, Matt! You’re just being silly! EVERYONE resists change at first, but once you get used to it, you’ll see it’s actually better! You can’t stop progress!”

And if you are thinking that, you can go drink pee and like it.

I was in the newspaper business for a decade. We would infrequently make thoughtful design changes to the daily newspaper, and geriatric anal-retentives would lose their minds because we moved the crossword puzzle from the third page to the seventh and now their lives were ruined and they were cancelling their subscriptions just as soon as they finished their episode of Murder, She Wrote.

I’m not one of those All-Change-Is-Bad people.

So when I stumbled on the new-and-different WordPress editor, I embraced it as a fun new toy to play with.

But THEN, I played with it. I used it to publish five blog posts. And honestly? It was a little bit shitty and kind of sapped my will to live. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. But it’s obviously not an improvement, and I’m always confused by “updates” in which regular users lose more than they gain.

The new interface is kind of like a Slinky that doesn’t slink. Or playing basketball with a half-deflated ball. Or playing music with an out-of-tune guitar that’s missing its B string.

Maybe I’m a Terrible User

I may just be doing it wrong.

For example, it’s not difficult to add tags to posts in the new editor. But I’ve posted three times now forgetting to add them because of how different and hidden the new tag box is.

The shittiest change for me was trying to link to old posts. In the classic editor, when I want to add a link, there’s a little search box where typing in a couple keywords will bring up titles of all related old posts, and it’s super-easy to click on them and add the link. But now it looks like this:

Sad Link screen

All the great, user-friendly functionality is gone. I have to open a new browser window and find the post I want, and then copy-and-paste the URL to create a link. And that’s fine! I can handle it, I guess. But why make it suckier and more difficult for no reason?

How to Use the Classic WordPress Editor Instead of the New One You Hate

If you want to use the old “New Post” window that you’re comfortable with, it’s relatively easy to do…

When you’re signed into your WordPress account and you click on “My Site” in the top left corner, it takes you to an Admin page where you can see stats and stuff.

If you choose “Add New” from that page, you’ll be doused in sadness when this pops up:

Booooooo WordPress

BUT. REJOICE!

If you look all the way to the bottom left, you’ll see “WP Admin,” in all its nearly hidden, understated glory:

WP Admin Click That

This is where you want to select “Add New” to create a new blog post:

That's your friend

And now, dear friends, life can suck a little less:

classic wordpress editor

Maybe WordPress will kill the classic editor entirely one day. But until then, keep on keepin’ on and stuff.

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A Response to “Hey Internet: Stop Trying to Inspire Me”

(Image/janrisher.com)

(Image/janrisher.com)

Jamie Varon published a four-minute read that rose to the top story on Medium where I saw it today.

It’s rare to strongly agree and strongly disagree with something at the same time, so I was delighted to stumble on a written piece that did exactly that. It made my “Now what the hell am I going to write about today?” process an easy one.

The following is Ms. Varon’s post supplemented with my occasional interruptions. As always, I’ll totally understand if you don’t care.

Hey Internet: Stop Trying to Inspire Me (By Jamie Varon/Medium)

I think when people are ultra-positive and have this incomparably sunny disposition toward the world, I get turned off. There’s a lot of stuff out there which attempts to make you feel inspired, but ends up leaving you feeling ashamed for being human. It would be easy for me to say:

“Everything happens for a reason!”

“Life is an adventure!”

“Love solves everything!”

“Happiness is a choice!”

These are easy words to say. Easy things to think. Easy, easy, easy. But, their meanings dry up the moment life happens.

Interruption #1

I think most reasonable people with basic reading-comprehension skills can understand and appreciate what Jamie is saying here. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one, been divorced or through a bad break-up, lost a job, was abused or neglected or mistreated, struggled with addiction, fought horrible illness, etc. totally gets it.

You feel like you die. Your entire body hurts. You think and feel things you’ve never thought or felt before. You don’t know what to believe anymore. You don’t know what’s real. Because everything you’d ever believed or “known” about yourself prior to that moment is gone. Lost. To this new, strange version of yourself. Because everything just changed.

I empathize with how Jamie might be feeling. Because when I was sobbing and broken, if someone told me to chin up, I wanted to punch them in their stupid, fucking faces. I get it.

But then she loses me.

Because it’s just as easy to say:

“Everything is meaningless.”

“Life is boring and painful.”

“People are hopeless.”

“We have no control over our feelings.”

There’s a lot of gray area in the arena of human emotion. Can we CONTROL our emotions when we just found out someone we love died? When someone intentionally hurts us in cruel ways?

Not really.

But can we, generally, take responsibility for our thoughts and feelings and work daily to take care of ourselves, to practice gratitude for the many beautiful things in our lives? (Yes, I think EVERYONE, no matter what, can feel legitimate gratitude for their lives, and I’ll accept the challenge should anyone disagree).

It all starts with “Thank you!” For food, or health, or shelter, or clothes, or friends, or hugs, or employment, or children, or pets, or opportunity, or this next breath.

If you can’t find a reason to say and feel “Thank you!” then forgive my bluntness, but you’re doing this whole being-alive thing wrong.

Jamie continues…

I have spent far too many nights feeling ashamed that I couldn’t be more positive, happier, better, stronger. I’d look at these shiny people plastered with positivity and I’d wonder where I went wrong. Why was I so affected by the world? Why didn’t every day feel like an adventure? Don’t these people have to pay bills and have uncomfortable conversations and wake up sometimes with a headache and an axe to grind? Why was I seemingly the only one so deeply affected by the human experience?

I don’t want to be inspired anymore. Inspiration is cheap. It’s easy. It’s flowery. It’s drenched in promises no one can fulfill.

I want to feel understood. I want to feel heard. I want to feel like my weird and twisty and dark thoughts and fears and feelings are not unique to me. I don’t need someone negating my experience in order to provide me with sweet words fluffy as clouds — and just as transparent. I want gritty and real and raw and I’d rather see people fucking up than trying to act as if they never do.

I’m tired of people trying to inspire me to have a better, bigger, happier life. Let me exist. Let me fumble. Let me find the patch of light in the long tunnel of darkness. Let me figure out some shit on my own. I say we need less fake inspiration in this world and more realness. Less doomsday. Less fake happiness. More real shit. Less preaching. More storytelling. Less advice. More community.

I wish people would stop trying to perfect my life. Everybody is selling the magic pill to happiness. Why do I have to be so happy all the time? CAN I LIVE?

Interruption #2

It’s hard sometimes to look over there at those people and just feel: What the hell is so great about them and so shitty about me that everything about their lives is perfect and everything about mine is so, just, uggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhh?

But we are REALLY BAD guessers, sometimes.

Remember how you felt about Tiger Woods before you found out he slept with every woman you know, or Bill Cosby before—you know—unbelievable, or that person in your personal life who did something so out of line with the story you had always told yourself about them, that everything changed once you learned the truth?

Their lives aren’t perfect, either. Those people (the authentic ones!) who want to help others. But they CHOOSE to focus on the good and not the shit. The light. Not the dark.

They ALSO feel shitty and scared and confused. But I admire them for trying to encourage people instead of ignoring them, or worse, playing the victim card and discouraging others along the way.

She said “Everybody is selling the magic pill to happiness.” And maybe some people are. But those frauds are easy enough to spot. The people who are closest to figuring it out don’t use smoke and mirrors. They don’t have to. They’ve been to the bottom and write authentically and authoritatively about it. They’re the ones worth listening to.

Jamie gets so much right, though.

I love this: “I want gritty and real and raw and I’d rather see people fucking up than trying to act as if they never do… More real shit. Less preaching. More storytelling. Less advice. More community.”

Even more importantly, she hones in on the most valuable aspect of human connection through the written word (and probably every other type of social interaction):

“I want to feel understood. I want to feel heard. I want to feel like my weird and twisty and dark thoughts and fears and feelings are not unique to me.”

Preach on, Jamie. You (yes, you) are not the only one. You are never, ever, ever, EVER the only one.

It’s so important for people to realize there are others who think and feel just like them. That they’re not freaks. The effect it has on our hearts and minds is extraordinary.

You’re not a freak. And it is TOTALLY human and normal to think and feel whatever you think and feel. It’s the culmination of every experience you’ve had right up to this moment. We shouldn’t have to apologize for that.

But to deny the power of GROWTH or the ability to positively influence our lives moving forward? To act as if whatever’s going to happen is going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it? That we’re all just a bunch of hopeless victims of whatever comes next?

That’s just someone lying to themselves.

Like that one time they thought Bill Cosby was a great guy and the kind of role model the world needed.

Jamie continues…

I want you to know that you don’t need to fix yourself if you’re not smiling every moment of the day. Sometimes you have very little to be grateful for and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s hard to muster up the energy to be happy with what you have when you want so much more from the world and yourself. That’s okay. It’s okay to be angry and to be kind of dark and weird and not a ball of positivity every moment. Sometimes it’s okay to be bored and to think that happiness is a bit boring because it kind of is. Sometimes it’s fine to be moody and sad and contemplative and to solve problems with a glass of wine or a pizza or some good sex I don’t even know but it’s okay to just not have it all figured out, to have no answers, to just be like, what is the point of anything.

It’s okay to feel like the ground is shaking beneath your feet. It’s okay because everything is temporary. You can lose your footing one day and be on top of the world the next. Things can change in a blink. Happiness is as fleeting as anything else. These fake salespeople who act like they have the cure to being human really grind me up. All they serve to do is make you feel ashamed for not having it all figured out. They sell your aspirational experience and bake shame into it.

Just promise me that the last thing you’ll do is be ashamed of where you’re at in your experience of being a human. Nothing good comes from shame. It’s about the lowest vibrational place you could be operating from. Avoid shame and anything or anyone that causes you shame. Get it all the hell out of your energy field. Shame is not going to motivate you. It’s going to drain you.

If there’s one promise you can make for yourself, let it be this: I will not let myself be ashamed of my unique experience of being human. Forget the positive bullshit: that promise, that mantra, that state of mind is what can really change lives. A person incapable of cowering to shame is a hero — considering all the many reasons our world gives us reasons to be ashamed. To forgo the feeling of shame is an act of radical resistance. Let yourself be. To truly be. What freedom.

In Conclusion

I think the world today shames people more than any other time in history. The internet is the world’s loudest microphone and we are bombarded with You’re not good enough! messages everywhere we turn. We need to work out more, have better sex, eat healthier, make more money, be better parents, go to church more, stop believing in God, being more tolerant, holding onto our values—whatever.

No matter who you are, it’s not hard to find something to tell you how much better you could be! And if you order right now, we’ll toss in a second one absolutely free!

A person should never feel like there aren’t others out there who feel as they do.

A person should never have to look at their social media feeds and feel like everyone’s lives are so much better than theirs.

A person should never feel ASHAMED of who they naturally, organically, authentically are.

I co-sign with that and so much of what Jamie wrote in this piece. I think she was doing what so many of us do. Just saying: I hear you! I won’t judge you! You’re fine just the way you are! You’re not alone!

And I applaud it. Enthusiastically.

But there’s that other thing, too. The part I strongly disagree with: “Sometimes you have very little to be grateful for and that’s okay.”

That’s NEVER true. Not ever.

Almost every one of us woke up this morning and we could see and hear and had the use of our limbs. People love us. We have food and shelter and electricity and functioning brains and beating hearts and air to breathe.

As my favorite comedian Louis CK once said:

“This is earth, and for trillions of miles in every direction it fucking sucks, so bad, it’s so shitty that your eyes bolt out of your head, because it sucks so bad. You get to be on earth and look at shit as long as you’re not blind or whatever it is, that you get to be here, you get to eat food. You get to put bacon in your mouth. I mean, when you have bacon in your mouth, it doesn’t matter who is president or anything, you just ahh, ahhhhhh.”

We are miraculously fortunate to be here. The odds against us even existing are beyond mind-blowing.

The least-fortunate human on earth could spend the rest of their lives writing down reasons to feel grateful and never run out of things.

And every day we feel sad and miserable (that is NOT one of those fresh-wound moments where even the most-stoic person alive feels pain), is a day to seek more things to be thankful for.

Like a treasure hunt.

The treasure hunt to real happiness.

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How to Start a Blog

(Image/blog.ringcentral.com)

(Image/blog.ringcentral.com)

Feral Wife asked:

Hi Matt, I have truly enjoyed reading your blog. I found it shortly after asking my husband for a separation (we decided not to). Your words were a blessing, and long story short, you and the many commenters have inspired me to start my own blog. The premise of my blog is I am the wife of a shitty husband, a husband who was shocked when I asked for a separation. Now we are trying to work it out and stay married. So I want to share my journey in hopes of helping other wives and husbands. But I don’t really know where to start, I am assuming your blog didn’t start off as fabulous as it is now (if it has, more props to you!) so I am asking for tidbits/advice on where to start. I would like to remain anonymous, for a variety of reasons. Anyway, you said we could ask you stuff, for free, so I thought I’d ask: “How do I start my own blog?”

There are countless reasons to start blogging.

Some people love writing. Some people like telling stories. Some people dream big and hope people will like their writing and that it might create future writing and career opportunities. Some people process information and life events best when they get thoughts down on paper (or a computer screen). Some people want to help and be a resource for others.

If you ask me today why I write here, those are my reasons.

But that’s not why I started.

One night, less than three months into my marital separation, I was self-medicating with vodka before some friends were picking me up to go out.

I was feeling sorry for myself because my wife was seeing someone.

I was feeling sorry for myself because my son wasn’t home.

I was feeling sorry for myself because I was taking my first crack at online dating and it was a colossal failure by every measurable standard.

I was totally losing it. I called an 800 number off a card someone at work had given me for over-the-phone counseling.

I don’t remember anything about the conversation except for the part where the therapist lady told me I should start writing down my thoughts and feelings. Normal people keep journals. I thought: Maybe I’ll just write anonymously and publish it! That might be a fun experiment!

I thought Must Be This Tall To Ride was going to be a sarcastic, juvenile journey through my online-dating stumbles—the story of this bumbling, depressed, freaking-out newly single 30-something father trying to “date” for the first time in his life.

I started blogging because I’m a total spaz and as soon as any idea pops into my idiot little head, I rush off and do it until I get bored or distracted by something else and move on.

But then something happened I didn’t expect—some people gave a shit. People were reading. Not a lot. But some! Whoa.

Writing has some magic qualities for the people doing it. Something intangible that, no matter how many times people tell you, you can’t really understand it until it starts happening. That therapist lady knew it. But I didn’t. Not until, for the first time in my life, I took things from the inside of me and turned them into words.

It was a little scary. A little embarrassing. But, man. It worked. I really started feeling better.

And then something even crazier happened.

Some of the people reading said it helped them feel better, too.

I’ve written PLENTY of immature bullshit here. Sorry. I am immature and sometimes I make bad decisions that are bullshit.

But mostly? I started really caring about being someone who wasn’t adding to all the noise and negativity shrieking and clanging around out there.

Maybe this can matter. 

How to Start a Blog

1. Have a reason. A concept. A thing.

No matter how much I don’t want to be, I’ve sort of become this divorce/relationship blogger, which makes no sense, but whatever. Sometimes things don’t make sense.

2. Think of good blog names, and pick one with a sensible, AVAILABLE URL (or if you’re not hiding your identity, try to secure your name. Example: BobRodgers.com)

I picked Must Be This Tall To Ride because a week earlier I wrote to some 5’2” online dating chick one night who wouldn’t date guys under six feet, and I used it as the subject line. It made me laugh. She wrote back, but not because she wanted to go out. I’m glad the URL was available. That was lucky.

3. There are a variety of blogging platforms. I like WordPress for many reasons. Choose a non-sucky theme

I picked this theme (called “Chunk”) because it’s SUPER-clean, and I like clean. I like Google’s home page. I like Apple’s advertising. I like white space.

So I chose this because there aren’t any distractions.

I thought I would be able to customize it so that I could take some of the things that live WAY down at the bottom of these pages that most people never see, and move them up to the sidebars. But this theme doesn’t let you do that, AND I suck at HTML coding, so even if it did, I probably couldn’t have pulled it off.

My advice: Choose a theme that allows people to follow you via email up in the sidebar, and showcase other information they care about like recent posts, or popular posts, or how to follow you on social media, or whatever. When you bury it at the bottom of your blog like I do here, most people never see it because they’re busy and don’t care. You have to make it easy and obvious for them to follow you.

4. Use photos in your blog posts.

I usually stick with just one image up top. Credit the photographer or at least the source whenever possible in the caption. People like images.

5. Write as much as you want, but 800 words or less will help readers stay with you.

I usually write over a thousand because I’m wordy and don’t always do what I’m supposed to.

6. Write well.

This is subjective. I don’t think I’m a particularly great writer. But (usually after publishing a mistake or two every time) I’m pretty good about keeping the copy clean. Typos are bad. Using “their” instead of “there” is bad. Bad punctuation is bad. Bad everything is bad. Unfortunately, I do some things poorly. It’s because I’m only moderately intelligent AND because I rush through this stuff, never planning ahead, and hastily hitting Publish during my lunch hour at work. It’s a bad blogging and writing strategy.

7. Make it easy for people to share your work.

WordPress plugins make it easy to embed social media sharing on your blog. Twitter is the only social media I use to share posts and it generates very little traffic because I’m shitty at Twitter. Facebook is obviously the biggest and best place to share. Because I’m afraid of family members and people in my professional network reading about accidental vaginas or my grandmother hypothetically marrying a Liam Neeson movie character, I’ve always been too scared to share stuff on Facebook. But it’s still the place where my posts that do get shared, get shared most often.

8. Reply to comments.

I’m not always good at this, but I aspire to be.

9. Try to develop a regular posting schedule.

Posting every day only worked for about nine months for me. That was masochistic. I generally stick to Monday-Wednesday-Friday now and I find it more manageable. There’s no right or wrong way. But consistency is smart.

10. Tag and categorize your posts thoughtfully.

I just sort of guess. There’s a science to it, but I’m always in too big of a hurry. Tagging or categorizing my posts “Marriage” or “Divorce” or “Penis” allows people to find content that interests them and lets regular readers know what they’re getting into.

I’m probably leaving stuff out because I’m out of time and need to stop writing this.

In Conclusion

Feral Wife called my blog “fabulous.” Which is too kind because of all its structural deficiencies and sometimes-shitty writing.

If it is fabulous, I have a hard time believing it started out that way. Some people have read every post, and they would know better than me.

I’ve published close to 500 posts in just over two years here, and any time you do something hundreds of times, you get better at it, but that’s also subjective because some of you are reading this (or quit 700 words ago) and are thinking: Why the hell am I still reading this?

Fair question.

I have no idea.

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Hey! Stop “Bob Rodgersing” My Pregnant Wife!

old-guy-with-hand-down-large-womans-pants

A classic Bob Rodgersing. Here, this man is showing you a creative, one-handed variation of the Original.

Author’s Note: Sexual assault isn’t funny. And if Bob Rodgers were to ever “Bob Rodgers” the wrong person, he could conceivably get in sexual assault-ish legal trouble for doing so. I’m not a lawyer. But my friend is. And he just happened to be there the night Bob Rodgers “Bob Rodgersed” my pregnant wife, an event that forever changed our vocabulary, the types of photos we text or email one another, and turned a random guy’s name into a verb and a noun. The names in this post have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty.

I spent my high school years living on a quaint little street at the bottom of a steep hill with a cul-de-sac on both ends.

It was quiet other than the occasional train roaring by on some nearby tracks. My parents (my mom and stepdad) were conservative and fairly strict. Nothing wild EVER happened at that house.

So, when my wife and I rolled up to my old house where my stepdad lived alone less than a year after my mom left and filed for divorce, and about 10 years after I’d moved out, I almost shit myself.

Hip-hop music was BLARING from the garage via professional DJ equipment.

People were everywhere, laughing and having a good time.

Are we back in college?

This was a bona fide keg party my stepdad (who I met on my 5th birthday) was throwing while trying to reclaim his life after the divorce.

Before long, I was drinking shots with friends and neighbors and relatives standing around the kitchen table where we prayed before every meal and where I’d never before drank alcohol.

I was bumming cigarettes to my uncle’s girlfriend who was trying to hide it from him.

I was laughing it up with friends and family all of who shared my awe of the surreal scene: What planet are we on right now? Can you believe this is happening here?

It was the second-most surreal and awesome thing that would happen that night.

One of the neighbors is a guy named Bob Rodgers. A guy in between my age and my parents’ age.

He was always nice to me.

“Hey Bob! Good to see you, sir! Want to drink a shot with us?”

Damn right, he did.

All night, we were filling up plastic cups from the kegs, and drinking occasional shots from my stepdad’s neglected liquor cabinet. This was a man that drank ONE light beer, once a month with dinner. Maybe.

It was a great party.

My lawyer friend isn’t just my lawyer friend. He’s my childhood best friend who happens to be an attorney also.

He and I were standing in the backyard admiring the sights and sounds of the summer-night party when my pregnant wife walked up to us.

“So, I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but who’s that guy over there?” she said.

“That’s Bob Rodgers. He lives right over there. Why?” I said.

“He just totally put his hands down my pants,” she said.

I didn’t love when guys did that, but I was drinking a lot and am harder to upset under such conditions.

“What do you mean? Like the front? Like, he tried to touch you down there?”

“No. In the back. Between my jeans and underwear,” she said while sort of demonstrating how it went down.

My friend and I looked at each other, half-disturbed, half-amused. My top priority was making sure my wife wasn’t upset. She wasn’t, and we all started to lighten up.

“Wait. On top of your underwear? Like, he went for your ass, but checked himself before going full skin?”

“I guess.”

“He used both hands? God, his wife is standing right there! I wonder if she saw that. How far down did he go?” I said.

She showed us again. About down to where your thumb connects to your hand.

Maybe it was all the drinking. But things were getting funnier.

My uncle’s girlfriend came over to bum another covert cigarette.

I excused myself from the Bob Rodgers conversation and went to smoke with her. She leaned in close to my ear. “Do you know that guy over there?”

“Hell yeah, I do. That’s Bob Rodgers. He just stuck his hands down my wife’s pants!”

“No way!” she said. “That’s what I was going to tell you!”

“You saw him do it!? I totally missed it.”

“No, he did it to me too! Just now when I was over there. He pulled me in for a hug and put his hands down the back of my pants!” she said.

“This guy is unbelievable!” I said. “Important question that I’m sorry for asking: Did he put them between your pants and your underwear? I mean, did he stay above your underwear?”

“Yes. Exactly,” she said.

“Holy shit. Bob Rodgers is Bob Rodgersing everybody!”

I drug my uncle’s girlfriend over to where my wife and friends were standing. By now, more of them had been brought up to speed on the Bob Rodgers incident.

“Guys! Lisa got Bob Rodgersed, too!” I said, probably too excitedly.

Lisa and my wife compared notes and it became official: Getting “Bob Rodgersed” was now a Thing, and it had just happened to both of them.

We spent the rest of the night sharing the story with people and inventing new ways to Bob Rodgers someone. My lawyer friend’s wife’s cousin (seriously) lived down the street and she already knew about Bob Rodgers and his inappropriate groping.

This was apparently what he did all the time. He’d get super-wasted at bars or parties, then would Bob Rodgers (the verb) every woman he could. Then he’d pass out and have to be carried home.

The rumor was his wife knew about Bob Rodgers’ nasty habit of Bob Rodgersing everyone.

My stepdad was pissed when he found out my wife and at least one other borderline family member was groped by his drunk neighbor during his party. We assured him all was well, but that it might be wise to keep an eye out for this sort of thing in the future.

(I have a young sister. When she was still in high school, Bob Rodgers would make very Bob Rodgersy comments to her. He’s probably a ticking time bomb.)

How to Bob Rodgers Someone

This is a photo of Kendall Jenner getting Bob Rodgersed by sister Kylie.

This is a photo of Kendall Jenner getting Bob Rodgersed by sister Kylie.

As I do not, and will never, condone uninvited touching of other people, especially in areas covered by underwear, I want to clearly state in no uncertain terms that you should only be Bob Rodgersing people who you are allowed to Bob Rodgers (the verb).

That said, here are some basic Bob Rodgersing techniques you can use at home. (I apologize for the lack of illustrations with directional arrows.)

The Original Bob Rodgers

In a classic front-facing hugging position, stick both hands down the back of his/her pants, inside the pants, but outside the underwear.

The Reverse Bob Rodgers

Basically, this is your classic courtesy reach-around while standing behind him/her, except you must leave your hands atop his/her underwear.

The Double Bob Rodgers

Best accomplished from the side, the Double requires you to put one hand down the front and the other down the back (on top of the underwear!) simultaneously.

The Bent-Over One-Handed Bob Rodgers

This guy's almost got it right.

This guy’s almost got it right.

A common maneuver in Turkish oil wrestling, when he/she is on hands and knees, you put one hand down the back of the pants. Counting to 10 is optional.

The Double Reverse with a Twist Bob Rodgers

This is tricky shit, and is virtually impossible to pull off when belts or tight-fitting pants are involved. In a front-facing position (like the Original), you slide BOTH hands down the front of his or her pants (above the underwear), but then giving a little twisting finger motion at the end to let them know you mean business.

These are your entry-level, super-basic Bob Rodgersing techniques to get you started.

There are no limits, so please let your imagination run wild.

If you have Bob Rodgersing tips, stories, or new entries to the How to Bob Rodgers Someone Library, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

From the Bob Rodgers Training Facility, over and out.

Another Author’s Note: There are more than likely MANY guys named Bob Rodgers out there. I want to reiterate that Bob Rodgers is a totally made-up name and is NOT the actual name of the guy doing all the Bob Rodgersing in this story. If your name is Bob Rodgers or you know one and like him, I’m really sorry.

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The Magical Power of Writing for Two Years (and a Bit About Marriage)

Magic-Book

The date came and went without me noticing.

June 21 was the two-year anniversary of my first post here. You can’t read it anymore because I privatized it. I privatized it because I said angry things about my ex-wife. She is my son’s mother and my relationship with her means more to me than having a published account of the worst thing that ever happened to me.

It won’t be long before I start publishing my last name. I will publish books. I want to write for larger publications. I’ll have to use my full name, and protecting people I care about matters to me. Even if they’re just someone that I used to know.

It took two years to get here.

The Advice Guy

I don’t want to be Advice Guy. That guy is usually an asshole. Plus, I don’t really know anything. If you forced me to offer the world life advice; that would be my contribution: Stop pretending you KNOW anything about anything. You don’t know. And there’s freedom in being honest about it.

Better to ask questions. Better to seek truth.

There is something about writing that gives you an aura of credibility that you don’t really deserve, but it doesn’t rid you of your responsibility to help when people want it.

I’ve published about 450,000 words here in the past two years. And for reasons that don’t fully make sense to me, some people think that means I know things.

I never know things. I just think things.

On Marriage

People ask me to advise them on marriage ALL THE TIME. Several times per week, wives email me asking for marriage advice or at least for suggestions on how they might get their husbands to understand the things they believe I do based on what they’ve read.

It happens so often now that I’ve actually looked into acquiring certification for marriage coaching. Because, you may recall, I’m nothing more than one divorced guy who failed at marriage in his only attempt.

I think every marriage reaches a breaking point. And the choices made by each (or either) spouse during that time determines the union’s fate.

I think, generally speaking, everyone gets married (the first time) LONG before they’re ready. Ironically, you’re never ready for marriage until you’re already married and THEN demonstrate good (read: unselfish) decision making.

I think we grow up seeing all these married people around us, so we’re all programmed from Day 1: When you get older and become an adult, you get married! It’s just what you do!

All we see from these marriages are the masks everyone wears. We’re kids! No one is going to tell us how it really is. That he NEVER says thank you or demonstrates appreciation for all her hard work cooking or cleaning or taking care of his laundry. That she constantly tears him down and never encourages him. That he’d rather jerk off thinking about her cousin or his old college fling than have sex with her. That she spends half her day swapping complaints with her girlfriend about what an inattentive asshole he is while both of them fantasize about one another’s husband.

We send our kids off to school to learn about the World Wars and the Periodic Table and The Old Man and the Sea and about our solar system and Algebra II. And that’s great. We should all be learning things.

But when the kids are 30, clinically depressed and fantasizing sexually or otherwise about other people and other lives because no one EVER was honest with them about what it takes to make marriage work, I have to ask: Are we really teaching people things that matter? How much good is Hemingway and knowing the atomic number for Boron really doing them? When they’re broken and sobbing on the floor?

I think men and women are biologically different to varying degrees, and that, because of a misplaced desire for political correctness, or because people are sexist and believe their gender is “correct” or “better,” very few people ever bother to learn about gender differences.

So guys walk around their entire lives thinking women are overly emotional and crazy.

And girls walk around their entire lives thinking men are dense and are only motivated by competition and sex (but mostly just sex).

Guys think that over time, women will come around and “get it.” Start thinking “the right way.” Like a man!

Women think that over time, their man will come around and “get it.” That he will finally start understanding her and seeing her for who she truly is. The he will start thinking and communicating and doing things “the right way.” Like a woman!

Usually, 5-10 years later, it’s all fucked and broken.

All because no one bothered to teach us important things about love and communication. Because no one ever really showed us what it looks like to give more than we take. And how by giving more than we take, we actually GET MORE, and create a life of love and abundance.

No, we all hurt too much from that mean thing he said.

We all hurt too much because she is so disrespectful and makes us feel like failures.

Resentment grows. Communication lessens. Sexual interest and attraction fades. You grow apart and die on the inside.

THIS IS THE SAME THING THAT HAPPENS TO EVERYONE. You’re not a freak. None of it’s good. But it is normal.

It happened to me. And now it’s happening to you. And I don’t know how to stop it. I don’t know how to make people care as much as they should. And I’m sorry.

I am so sorry that I don’t know how.

On Writing

People like to ask about writing sometimes, too.

My advice on writing is infinitely shorter.

1. Read writers who write how you want to write. Also read other things. Basically, just read. A lot.

2. Write often. Use fewer words than me.

3. Bleed when you write. (It’s a metaphor. Please don’t cut yourself.) Write about things that frighten and embarrass you. That sadden or anger you. Because you need to learn (and constantly be reminded of) something really important: We are all super-similar and you are never the only one. And you get to be the brave one that helps people realize that simple, but sometimes life-changing truth. Don’t take it for granted.

4. Take off the mask. You spend every second of your life trying to be who you think your parents, friends, boss, kids, lover, neighbors, or whoever, want you to be. It’s exhausting trying to be so many people and we always fail at it, because it’s hard enough just being one person. Always be you. It organically filters out all the people you don’t want in your life without exerting any energy. And it organically attracts all of the people you do want to be part of it. And it makes you come alive. This is hard to do in real life, even though we should try. But dammit, you better do it when you’re punching the keys. Make courageousness a habit.

Writing makes me see the world differently.

Writing allows me to see myself differently.

So that I can grow and change and think and love and share and be better today than I was yesterday.

All it takes is a willingness to leave a tiny imprint of your soul in the words. Bare and vulnerable.

Not everyone will care.

But someone will.

And that’s where the magic lives.

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11 Books That Will Make You Smarter, Sexier and Awesomer

stack of books art

I read a lot.

I do it for three reasons:

  1. I believe it’s the most-efficient way to get smarter. I’m kind of obsessed with learning about everything. When I was a kid, any learning that wasn’t hands-on was a total drag and I just wanted to play. I’m older now and my priorities and interests have shifted. I want to be a genius capable of solving any problem, but I’ll have to settle for Moderately Smart Guy Who Reads A Lot (and uses Google).
  2. I’m also kind of obsessed with new ideas and discovering new ways to do or think about things. That, combined with the desire to write things, makes it wise for me to read often.
  3. I want to be sexier and awesomer. (I have little evidence this part is working, but I think it probably is.)

Not everyone likes reading or wants to do it as much as I do. But maybe you’d like to try something new. For everyone who loves books like me, here are some exceptional ones I’ve read in recent months that I hope you enjoy too.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

So many people are miserable because they hate their jobs and/or lives. Sometimes it seems like certain people have given up. They throw up their hands: “This is all there is!” Some people perform mundane jobs and live what I might consider mundane lives. I’m probably one of them. Sometimes people in lives like that feel satisfied and content. I applaud those people. But there are others who always feel like something’s missing. I often feel that way. The call.

Jeff Goins explores this phenomenon and the personal journey in this fantastic book about how people find their “calling.” What you were meant to do.

I love it and you probably will too because I have excellent taste.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Damn near everyone wishes they were better at something. For example, I’m shitty about cleaning my house (which is why I bought and will read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing once I stop putting it off), and effectively managing my refrigerator, and finishing my large-scale writing projects. I was officially diagnosed with adult ADHD yesterday (which I already knew and told you about), and which is an inexact science, but I still believe in personal responsibility and Duhigg’s book helps me understand why we are prone to do or not do so many of the things we do. Good stuff.

Double Feature

Steal Like an Artist 

steal like an artist

and Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

show your work

Both books are really quick, interesting reads that I have trouble differentiating from one another because I read them back-to-back within the same week. As someone interested in the creative process for writing blog posts, and more-ambitious things like books, the lessons Kleon imparts here are important to me. If you want to MAKE anything, read these books and thank me later. (Just kidding. No need to thank me. But seriously, read them.)

Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson

models

I’m a little embarrassed about this one because one might get the impression I was trying to learn “pick-up” artistry (which I was not, and which this book is not about, though Manson addresses it). The author’s mission is to help men become the best versions of themselves and develop what he calls “true confidence.” Not false bravado, but legitimate comfort with oneself to establish healthy boundaries while navigating the sometimes-scary dating landscape. This book taught me a lot of things about myself, and I imagine almost any man would benefit from the important truths and psychological lessons. Frankly, I think most women would like it too. Manson has quickly become (even though he’s a bit younger than me) one of my favorite writers. You should sign up for his highly infrequent blog posts here.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

choose yourself

This guy is my favorite writer. He has written two new books since this one (The Power of No, which I haven’t read but do own on Kindle; and The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, which I have yet to read because A. I don’t have that much money, and B. My book stack is beyond obnoxious and I just haven’t got to it yet.) Altucher is a genius and I love him. I read every blog post he writes, I listen to his podcasts on road trips, I subscribe to his monthly newsletters, and suspect I will buy every book he writes for as long as he chooses to write. No one has affected my thinking more than Altucher, and my life is better for doing so. Choose Yourself is exactly what it sounds like: A guide to rethinking EVERYTHING and making your own rules in a world that often wants you to play by someone else’s.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

on writing well

I’m in the middle of this one now. It has already taught me so much about the art form I love most. Zinsser provides a ton of important lessons about what separates good writing from bad. (I do a lot of bad.) And the real value lies in the editing and rewriting portion of the work (which I NEVER do on this blog, sorry.) Many of you are writers, too. If you have never read this masterpiece, please remedy that soon. It’s accessible and amazing for writers of all levels and it WILL make you better. Even if you can’t tell from my work.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by bird

Another book on writing, but less on science and more on art. I can’t describe this book, because its qualities are intangible. But I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you: It’s magic.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

ferriss four hour workweek

This one is a dirty lie because I haven’t read it yet, and I’m sorry to deceive you, but not really. It has 3,700 reviews on Amazon with a 4 ½-star rating, so I feel good about including it. Ferriss’ bestseller is in my monster stack and I will get to it and almost certainly write about it when I do. The reason I wanted to include it is because Ferriss is extraordinary and you should know who he is. I’ve read and listened to Ferriss many times in interviews and podcasts and articles. He’s exceptional and magnetic.

There’s never enough exceptionalism and magnetism in life. Tim Ferriss, yo. He’s legit.

The True Measure of a Man by Richard E. Simmons and Jerry Leachman

true measure of a man

Men have an identity crisis in 2015 because what it means to be a man in today’s society is radically different from what it meant for previous generations. Some men feel lost, like rudderless ships. I feel that way sometimes. People want to know why. We all just want to know WHY!?!?!? for everything. If you’re a guy and nodding your head right now? Please read this. It will help you make more sense of things. (You should read it even if you didn’t nod your head.)

Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas are the Currency of the 21st Century by Claudia Azula Altucher

idea machine

Claudia is James’ wife. So she gets bonus points from me simply by James-related osmosis. But I don’t want to minimize what she’s done here. Claudia took a staple of James Altucher’s self-improvement advice and made a nice, useful book out of it.

Bottom line: There is no skill I would rather possess than the ability to come up with great, creative ideas on-demand. Something shitty happens? BAM. I know what to do.  I want to complete a new goal? BAM. Here’s the methodology for tackling any problem with high-level thinking and execution.

That’s what this book will teach you how to do if you’re willing to grind and sweat a little (don’t get excited—I don’t mean that sexually.) Everyone can and will benefit from this book.

I always believe tomorrow can be better than today.

So, I read. Because I want to be a part of the solution.

We have Father’s Day coming up. And also, just, life.

Maybe you or someone in your life can benefit from one of these.

I hope so.

Please have a great weekend, everyone. Love you guys.

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The Things That Matter

13599-Memories

One of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite shows had a man sitting on the edge of a hotel room bed talking on the phone to his ex-wife sitting on the edge of her bed.

He had just learned she was dying of cancer.

His eyes well with tears and he calls her by his pet name for her. His voice breaks.

Her eyes well with tears because she hears this stoic figure breaking on the other end of the phone.

No one says anything, but they don’t have to, because the audience gets it. A silent moment where so much is happening. Two people who have completely let go of every ounce of anger and resentment toward one another because their time is short and they’re not going to waste any of it on anger. Two people focusing not on all the bad times, but on all the good.

He can’t speak.

She says: “I know.”

And we know that she does.

This was the end. Sadness and regret. Because it used to be so good and beautiful.

And they both remember those times.

The things that matter.

A Letter from my Grandmother

I’ve joked many times in this space about what will happen if my grandmother ever read my writing here, and about other things. Because I use a lot of bad words and occasionally write about mature themes, the working theory is that my super-sweet, kind, prayerful grandma will read it and then have a stroke and die.

I am her first grandchild, and was for nearly seven years. I am closer in age to my grandma’s youngest child than I am to her second grandchild.

I think when we are lying on our deathbeds, we are going to think about the life we lived and it’s going to be painfully obvious to us where our missed opportunities were. Where we failed to meet some standard to which we hold ourselves.

I think most of us are too afraid.

To go on that adventure.

To give up the day job.

To kiss the girl.

To dance.

To leap.

We like to do things that feel safe, and I think in the end we are going to regret all the chances we didn’t take. All the safe, comfortable choices we made.

And I think when we’re dying we are going to only think about the things that matter. The people we love and the people who love us. The people who shared in our pleasure and pain and celebrated or suffered along with us.

I’ve written a lot about what a charmed upbringing I had, despite not having much money. My childhood is the ultimate example of how money and having lots of “things” has never, and will never provide the happiness and contentment we seek.

I was happy because my family loved me, paid attention to me, treated me well, and always made me feel safe. My friends did the same.

That’s why adulthood has felt so uninspired. At times, so disappointing.

That’s why divorce was so hard. Because I’d never really felt the kind of pain divorce causes. When you’ve never bled before, I think the pain of the cut and the sight of blood is more traumatic than it is to those with battle scars.

My grandmother—a wonderful, kind woman; the matriarch of a large family (eight children and 19 grandchildren)—is largely responsible for the envelope of love, happiness and contentment in which I was raised.

She wrote me a letter.

Dear Matt,

Time goes so fast. I want to write you a letter and let you know how much you are loved. The time we came to Iowa. You got lost at 2 years old. We were to blame. I was so scared. But we found you and all was well.

The time I flew out with you to Iowa so you could be in Debbie’s wedding, and when we left, you sobbed for a half hour on the plane and I couldn’t fix it. You didn’t want to leave your dad. The time you went out to live with your dad when you were a junior in high school. Oh, how I missed you. I’m so glad you decided to stay here for your senior year and graduate with all your friends.

I remember all the times just you and I went to lunch together when you were little. It was so special for me to have you with me. I love you so.

As grandpa and I are getting older we want you to know how much we love you and always will. Our time on this earth is so much shorter than it was and I don’t want to waste any time, so I hope you know how much we care for you and our great-grandson.

Matt, you’re a good father and we are proud of the man you have become.

Just know we love you and always will. 

Grandma and Grandpa

How will we know? What matters, and what doesn’t?

We won’t always know while it’s happening.

But I think one day we will.

I think, one day, we’ll just know.

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Finding Yourself After Divorce (and Other Trauma)

(Image by Sheilah Wilson)

(Image by Sheilah Wilson)

When you first get divorced, everything feels wrong.

Virtually every facet of your life changes overnight and your brain and body aren’t equipped to deal with it. So for a long time, you just feel different than you’ve ever felt before. Maybe some people like it. I think most people hate it.

I hated it.

One of the most-terrified feelings I ever felt was staring at my own reflection in the mirror and legitimately not knowing who I was looking at. I don’t mean like amnesia. I knew it was physically me. But I think everyone who knows anything about divorce or serious marriage problems understands that our physical realities mean just a bit less when we’re broken on the inside.

I’d just stand there, looking into my own eyes.

Who are you? Where can I find… me?

Despite not having very much money growing up (a lot of used cars and budget grocery stores and cheap clothes), I lived an incredibly charmed life for my first 30 years.

Even though my parents divorced when I was 4, and I was super sad to not see my dad often, I was totally immersed in a large, loving family; attended a great Catholic school in my small Ohio town (thanks, tuition assistance) and was blessed with many friends, a handful of which I stay in touch with today.

Anyone who measures their worth by career and finances need only go from my safe and charmed childhood, to my tormented and broken adulthood to fully understand how nearly irrelevant our paychecks really are.

For 30 years. Laughter. Fun. Safety. Innocence. Security. Hope. Comfort. Everything a person could want.

And then it all died.

I didn’t have my family anymore.

It was a slow death, and I think that might be the worst kind. I became more sad. More hardened. More hopeless.

I thought it was depression but I think that’s just a word we use to lazily describe the feeling our bodies naturally feel when it’s telling us to remove ourselves from bad situations. That’s just how our brains work after a million years of avoiding predators, James Altucher says. He’s probably right.

My brain was full of all these memories. All these ideas about my identity. Who I was versus who I am. And even though I’d built up decades of stories I knew about myself—who I perceived myself to be to others, and who I knew myself to be inside my own head, heart and soul—I couldn’t remember that guy anymore.

I felt—literally—as if I’d lost myself. And I didn’t know if I was ever going to get me back.

I think a lot of people feel this way after divorce or losing a loved one or going through some other radically life-changing trauma.

It’s really scary to feel that out of control.

To realize just how fragile the human experience can really be after you’d been insulated from its cruelness for so many years.

“When were you… you again?”

That’s what she asked. My friend who lost a child and a marriage within three years. Someone who’s trying to find herself physically and emotionally.

The question made me pause.

And then I realized just a little more truth.

You don’t just wake up one day and feel like your old self again. There’s no magic switch.

It’s a moment.

At first it’s a laugh and a smile. The kind you don’t have to force.

And then a series of moments that begin to compound.

Then maybe you drive by one of your many pain hot spots—because she’s in there, or often is, or whatever. But you don’t feel the stabbing anymore. You don’t want to cry.

Then a date. Then a kiss.

I can do this.

You make more friends. Have more fun. Make new memories.

I’m alive.

And then you can just sit still. All alone.

You can just be still.

And the silence is no longer deafening. You don’t feel like you’re going crazy. You don’t over-think.

You can just… be.

It would have been sweet relief had you been able to find that peace in the beginning, but there’s no shortcut to reclaiming your life.

There’s just… the way.

Maybe it’s weeks. Months. Years. I imagine everyone’s journey is a little different, and in some respects, never-ending.

You just collect the moments and hold them in your heart.

Smiling comes easier. Peace, more abundant.

Justifying all that hope you thought might have been in vain.

You can breathe again, but no longer have to force it.

In through the nose. And hold. Out through the mouth. In, then out. Don’t forget to breathe.

But when you’re you again, there’s nothing to remember. You’re just breathing.

Because you’re back. Resurrected.

Still here.

A glance in the mirror.

I know you.

Alive.

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Ask Me Things, Please

Image courtesy of kindnessresources.com

Image courtesy of kindnessresources.com

In an effort to evolve this blog and maybe have a little fun or some great conversation, I launched a page called Ask Me Stuff which you should go read.

I want you to ask me things because it will create some new content opportunities and because maybe I’ll accidentally help someone once or twice.

Let’s call it a social experiment.

For anyone inclined, I appreciate your time and contribution very much.

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