Tag Archives: Human

Not Afraid to Step Into the Fight When We Can’t See the Light

(Author’s note: Writing and posting today nearly undermines its intended purpose. Today is not a day for my voice. It’s just the day I had the opportunity to use it. I’ve not posted in nearly three months. I don’t anticipate that kind of gap happening again. Please don’t interpret this as me trying to talk over others. Please interpret this as me encouraging others to join me in listening to everyone who must be heard. They must.)

Here’s how I come at this: I spend most of my time talking about relationship stuff. And the reason why is because when I was 4 my parents divorced and it felt really bad, followed by my own divorce at age 34 which felt even worse.

My premise is simple enough as it pertains to marriage and romantic relationships. I don’t care whether people get married. I’m not out here advocating for marriage.

But I think when two people marry, voluntarily and intentionally, that they should have WAY better odds of making it than 50 percent.

The real tragedy from my perspective is that the list of things I believe will have the greatest impact on whether relationships will be healthy and sustainable versus shitty and broken are NOT on anyone’s radar.

In other words, situations and behaviors that will determine the fate of people’s marriages and families happen while the participants are unaware of how critical and life-altering they are. People—none more than me 10+ years ago—struggle with getting outside of their own heads to seek greater understanding about how another person or other people might be experiencing something.

Our partners share thoughts and feelings with us. And instead of:

  1. Listening
  2. Validating
  3. Seeking further understanding to A. Know the people we love more fully, and B. Make sure we know what we need to know in order to actively participate in them NOT feeling this hurt or shitty in the future…

we often judge what they’re telling us. We try to evaluate whether we think they should or should not feel what they feel. We try to correct them.

This is how you make people feel invisible. Sad. Angry. Rejected. Unloved. Disrespected.

Maybe there’s a case to be made for shit relationships. Maybe there are people unlike me who perceive toxic relationships to be a positive thing for themselves and those around them.

But this is the fight I fight.

Seems Pretty Black and White to Me

As friends and professional colleagues have broached conversations with me about recent events in the United States, I heard myself saying IDENTICAL things as I do in my coaching conversations about marriage and healthy romantic relationships.

It took me a long time to embrace the idea of listening to people outside of my bubbles, echo chambers, and social circles of sameness. It took me a long time to realize I needn’t ever be afraid of my beliefs being challenged.

Truth will always, always, ALWAYS hold up to scrutiny.

Please validate people who think and feel things differently than you (if you value having healthy relationships with them and/or believe they deserve respect and decency). You needn’t ever agree with someone else. Agreement is not required.

Please seek to understand WHY people think and feel the things they think and feel. You’ll likely find that based on everything they have seen, heard, been taught, and experienced, it totally makes sense that they think and feel the things that they do.

Always search for the WHY.

People matter. Not some people. Not people who look like me. Not people who act like me. Not people who think like me.

EVERYONE.

Either everyone matters or nobody does.

When our spouses come to us and say that they feel hurt, please don’t say “Everyone hurts, you whiner. Toughen up!” and then expect afterward to have a healthy, connected, trusting relationship with them where everyone feels loved, cared for, and respected as equals. If that’s how you show up, it’s going to get bad. It just is.

Everyone in that relationship will suffer.

When our fellow citizens come to us and say “Black lives matter,” please don’t say “All lives matter, you whiner. Toughen up!” and expect afterward to have healthy, connected, trusting relationships with them where everyone feels respected as equals. That’s how many of us have been showing up. And it got bad.

I mean, for many people, it’s been bad for my entire life. I was just mostly too comfortable and too busy “not needing to worry about it” to notice most of the time.

Of course all lives matter. Just like of course your spouse isn’t always being his or her best self when trying to communicate with you about something that’s upsetting them.

Is the goal to have a healthy relationship where everyone thrives peacefully, or to win some semantics debate? It’s a choice.

When someone is screaming and fighting for justice for their fallen brother or sister killed by the actions of a public servant sworn to protect them, maybe that’s not the time to scream and fight over political points RE: Antifa, and George Soros, and about how white people sometimes suffer too, and about fucking ANYTHING that is NOT specifically: “Holy shit. I’m so sorry that happened, and I can’t imagine the horror and outrage you must be feeling right now, and I know I can’t do anything to help, but I can stand with you. You’re not alone.”

Validation is not about agreement. Everyone has a perspective. And the path forward is everyone listening to and understanding those other perspectives regardless of how much they agree with them.

The danger is allowing oppression to silence some of those perspectives.

That’s not what sustainable relationships are built on.

That’s not what sustainable societies are built on.

That’s not what the stars and stripes represent. And that’s why our brothers knelt.

Silently.

Peacefully.

Maybe some of us listened. But we didn’t lift a finger.

Just more silencing. Just more comfortably moving onto the next thing that was all about us.

Just more twisting the conversation into one about politics and patriotism and NFL public relations TV optics instead of the conversation peaceful protesters tried to have: “What if we collectively banded together in order to—to the best of our abilities—prevent the killings of innocent people? What if we collectively worked together to fight for civil liberties for EVERYONE?”

I struggle to understand what could be considered so unfair or unreasonable about those questions.

I can’t imagine what it must be like living in the United States in the year 2020 and fearing for your safety, or for the safety of your children, siblings, parents, neighbors, and friends because you happened to be born with skin that looks differently than mine.

And I hate the helplessness I feel—this tiny voice behind a keyboard.

I destroyed my marriage—not by actively sabotaging it, but by not paying attention to the things that actually mattered. I hurt people I loved because I chose to passively and comfortably not pay attention.

Even if I didn’t “do anything,” I allowed bad things to happen.

And I don’t want to be the kind of person who allows bad things to happen because I’m too busy being comfortable. Because I’m too busy not being black, not being female, not being gay, not being the person in the relationship feeling shit on every day.

That’s who I was in my marriage, and it’s precisely what I’ve been fighting against.

And this is exactly who I’ve been as a white guy in America. I’m not “doing anything” to cause harm. And I can keep justifying my actions or lack thereof behind that wimpy defense. Because I’m not “the problem,” I can just keep blindly, deafly, ignorantly coasting through life while others suffer. That’s a choice.

But it’s not one I want to make.

It’s not who I want to be nor who I want my son to be.

I want to listen. You MUST be heard.

I want to validate. You MUST be made whole.

And most importantly, I want to understand. Because I can’t be the kind of person who walks around with blinders on, obliviously letting my neighbors suffer while I comfortably do nothing.

My brothers can’t breathe.

My sisters can’t breathe.

I’m so sorry that I wasn’t listening to you. I’m so sorry that I wasn’t fighting for you.

If it’s not too late to earn your trust, I’m listening now.

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The Life Blueprint

blueprints

(Image/thescoutlife.com)

“All models are wrong. Some are useful.”Faris Yakob

The Life Blueprint® is a lottery system which varies from person to person.

Two people have sex and conceive a child, and on the day the child is born, they are given their customized Life Blueprint.

They vary dramatically from place to place. The kid slinging rock in south central Los Angeles who never met his dad has a schematic which looks much different from the one handed to the private-school teen from Manhattan’s Flatiron District.

The fisherman’s son in the Philippines has a Life Blueprint that looks and feels different from that of a bank president’s daughter in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I was handed a Life Blueprint, too. Just like them, and just like you. While all of them tend to vary among the various cultural demographics, we are all united in that we were all handed one with no attached instructions.

No one told us we weren’t obligated to follow the blueprint, and because we were babies and stuff, we weren’t smart enough to ask: “Umm. Why do we do things this way? Might there be a better way? Are we allowed to study other Life Blueprints and experiment? Are there examples of other people doing things differently and succeeding? What if we studied the Life Blueprints of a bunch of people we want to be like, and then follow the steps that apply to us? Why isn’t that an awesome idea?”

Maybe some people have these conversations through their formative years.

I didn’t.

I was just alive one day and felt happy to be loved and fed and hugged and protected by those who cared for me. Maybe if you live in a place where bombs fall at night, or with frequent gun violence in the neighborhood, or where people die often because there’s no accessible sanitary drinking water, you aren’t lulled into the comfort of the Life Blueprint. Maybe when you witness a bunch of shit and horribleness in daily life, you’re always looking for an escape.

So am I lucky? Because of my safe but perhaps sheltered upbringing?

Or unlucky? Because I accidentally believed one of Life’s biggest lies. The one we believed because no one told us differently.

The Way Things Are Here is THE Way.

We don’t see it as optional.

We see it as the path. Because everyone we see and everyone we know is walking it too.

What’s Your Life Blueprint?

I could have this wrong since I only have access to one brain, and it’s failed me before, but I’m pretty sure my Life Blueprint is shared by A LOT of people in the United States.

I imagine non-U.S. residents who haven’t spent much time stateside mostly think of New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and maybe San Francisco and Chicago as representative of typical Americans.

But I think most people grow up in places like me.

Some smallish town in what people on the coasts call the “fly-over states.”

We grow up going to Friday night high school football games, going to church on Sunday, knowing personal secrets about people in other families because so many people know one another, and we don’t have to drive far to see farmland.

I grew up in a small Ohio town just like that. There are many good things about such a life. And as with everything, there are tradeoffs, too.

The Way (When You’re Me)

My Life Blueprint was basic enough.

You go to kindergarten when you’re 5, and you go to school and do your best every day until you graduate from high school 13 years later.

You have to do a good job in school so you can go to a good college, because that’s The Way to succeed.

Then, when you’re 18 and know a million times more than your stupid, close-minded parents, you move away to college, but probably not too far, because out-of-state tuition is a bitch and because you need those idiots to give you money, and a place to do laundry and eat balanced meals when you occasionally come home because there aren’t any unmissable keg parties on the radar.

Then, you get your bachelor’s degree, which means you’re ready to be a professional-something!

Then, you have choices!

  1. Take a job doing a thing for very little money relative to the median household income and try to work your way up.
  2. Go get a master’s degree to demonstrate MASTERY of a subject.

Maybe it’s nice having a master’s degree. I know several people with them, and I don’t think any are morons. But after five years of an inefficient major-switching, college-newspaper-editing, pot-smoking march toward my piece of paper telling the world I Did It!, I wasn’t interested in sitting in any more classrooms.

The Career Way

I’d followed the Life Blueprint, but even I had the good fortune to walk a path different from the average college student.

I can’t be sure how other college graduates feel RE: preparedness to tackle their career upon leaving university life. But in terms of doing the job? I was in good shape. I graduated with a Communication degree with a concentration in print journalism after floundering through three semesters of Business school where I failed Intro to Computing—the basics of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint— TWICE, because that class was stupid and student loan money wasn’t “real money.” (I wonder whether I’m the only person to ever do that. Maybe!)

Because I was a college journalist lucky enough to be at a university with a fairly sophisticated newspaper published twice weekly (frequent by college newspaper standards), and hustled on summer and holiday breaks in professional newsrooms who welcomed my reporting, I had written hundreds of stories—including local front-page and even some national news—before getting a desk in the newsroom of a Florida paper after graduating.

I’m not sure what people who study economics, political science, or whatever feel after graduating.

But that’s kind of my point.

Take the poli-sci major who spends four years sitting in lecture halls and writing papers after reading pieces and parts of their 10-pound, $300 textbook. They graduate with $100,000 or more in debt, but they have their fancy new bachelor’s degree which will help political strategists or those managing political office staff realize how qualified they are!

Life Blueprint Challenge Exercise

What if the person who did that, instead of going to college, read one non-fiction book per week about political strategy, political history, biographies of politicians, or about any ancillary subjects important to those seeking political office?

What if the 18-year-old, instead of college, had volunteered all of her or his time to a local or state candidate’s election campaign, asking questions and experiencing life on the inside and building a network of strategists and elected officials?

What if, instead of going into debt $100,000 or whatever, they spent a fraction of that over four years traveling and gaining the kind of depth, perspective and maturity that only comes from experiencing new things?

Who do you want on your team, Elected Official or Person Running for Office?

The 22-year-old with mountains of debt, little to no experience, and a bachelor’s degree?

Or the one who read 200 books, worked on several campaigns, can pick up the phone for advice or to recruit help from a large network, has countless hours of real-world experience, and a ton of personal references from those she or he worked closely with?

On what planet would someone think the bachelor-degree way is better? Because the Life Blueprint said so, and so did all of our friends’, so we never question it?

And, honestly, Everyone 30 and Older Who Now Realizes Our Parents Knew Things: What is the WORST-possible outcome of this? Starting college as a 22-year-old and a ton of maturity and experience to apply to the classroom?

I don’t get it.

The Marriage Way

Where I’m from, you start thinking about marriage in high school or college. Anyone who has dated for two years might get married, and it’s not even weird. Seriously.

When you’re in high school, you’re surrounded by a bunch of single people just like you.

When you’re in college, you’re surrounded by a bunch of single people on the same general life path as you.

And even though Typical College Student demonstrates morally questionable behavior on the daily RE: sex, drugs and rock & roll, after a lifetime of church-going in Small Town, Fly-Over State, he or she has likely been taught that all sexual activity outside of marriage makes God, our parents, and most people we know really sad and/or uncomfortable.

Throw a bunch of college party-attending, single people with raging hormones, a lifetime model of seeing people meet and marry in their early to mid-20s, and a Life Blueprint in their back pockets reminding them they should hurry up and get married because of the sex thing, and also to have babies, because That’s Just What You Do—It’s The Way!, and it’s no mystery why so many young, well-intentioned people meet, fall in love, and get married without knowing The Things Married People Should Know.

Why do we do things this way?

Well, because we can’t know what we don’t know. And the Life Blueprint says we should do it this way. We look around, and everyone else is doing it that way, too, so it must be what’s best! I mean, everyone’s happy and winning the Game of Life, right?

Why?

Because we (and our children, if we’re not careful) believe: This is simply The Way things are done.

Because, models. All that we see, which tells us do this, and not that, because this is normal, thus obviously best.

But what if it’s not?

Because all models are wrong. There’s no such thing as One Size Fits All in the human experience.

But some models are useful.

Seek. And ye shall find.

…..

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The Secrets We Uncover

It's not just you. The stalagmites do look a bit like penises.

It’s not just you. The stalagmites do look a bit like penises.

One minute I was standing on a hilltop in the Ohio countryside, scanning miles of farmland in every direction.

The next, I was 103 feet below the surface on a guided tour of one of my home state’s best-kept secrets: the Ohio Caverns, where my young son and I explored a couple miles of underground magic. Back when glaciers were forming my part of the world, the melting ice would unleash huge amounts of water that eventually formed a bunch of lakes and rivers. But some of that water would work its way through cracks in the surface and carve out underground aquifer tunnels we now refer to as caves and caverns.

The surface was basking in 80-degree sunlight.

The caverns, a steady 54 degrees. (They are always 54 degrees, whether it’s summer or winter.)

The surface showcased everything one would expect to see in rural Ohio. Farms and fields. Country roads. Birds. Dogs. Cars. Tractors. People.

The caverns featured the kind of things most of us only see on episodes of Planet Earth.

My almost-7-year-old was in awe. I was, too.

The cavern ceiling and walls were limestone canvases, painted with gorgeous blacks, browns, greens, whites and oranges from the various mineral compounds leaking through the surface. Crystal formations, big and small, were growing from both the floor and ceiling from calcium carbonate buildups over thousands of years.

I am humbled by the awesome might of the oceans.

I am humbled by the majesty of the night sky.

And I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I am equally humbled by seeing underground crystal formations, some of which took more than 200,000 years to form.

This is what a 200,000-year-old stalactite looks like.

This is what a 200,000-year-old stalactite looks like. It’s just under five feet in length.

That’s one of those numbers that makes your brain hurt when you try to comprehend what you’re seeing. I take a lot of joy from moments like that.

Because I spent a lot of time driving over the past few days, I had plenty of time to consider the implications of the caverns’ discovery.

Two things stood out.

The Things Beneath the Surface

The most obvious takeaway from the experience was the realization that caverns just like these (gorgeous, priceless places) must be much more common than most of us think. Presumably, anywhere with glacial activity consistent with the Great Lakes region in North American and semi-similar ground composition.

I’ve spent most of my life standing on ground in Ohio. And sure it’s very pretty in spots, but frankly, all pretty typical. Particularly away from the cities.

And all this time, I might have been standing above undiscovered treasure. Above some of the most uniquely beautiful things I have ever seen, masked by all the things I’m programmed to expect.

It makes me think about people. About what we see and think about them versus what’s actually there underneath all that apparent normalcy.

How you could never know who a person is just by what you see and hear.

But it also makes me think about one of life’s most exciting truths: There are still many secrets waiting to be discovered.

If You Believe There Are

I think some people believe everything has already been thought of. That there are no new discoveries to be made.

But I don’t believe that. Scientists discover new biological species all the time. We see constant advances in medicine. In material science. In computer processing. In digital technology.

A person who believes everything has already been done, or thought of, or discovered might be tempted to stop searching. To stop asking questions. To stop seeking better, smarter ways of doing things.

But a person who believes in secrets will continue to search for answers.

I believe in secrets.

I think about marriage and divorce a lot because divorce was the hardest thing I ever did and it seems like half or more fail, and it all makes me think there must be a better way.

There are secrets. Secrets to unlocking the reasons why husbands and wives continually fail by making the same marital mistakes over and over again.

Somewhere, amid all of the happy older couples celebrating 50 or 60 years together, and all of the broken, sad and angry people running away from a relationship they so desperately wanted just a few years earlier, are answers.

Why do so many husbands do that?

Why do so many wives feel this way?

What are the commonalities between all the couples who make it?

What are the common personality profiles of couples who make it versus couples who don’t?

What if it’s as simple as asking the right people the right questions? What if the key to helping people make it, or helping them figure out how to choose compatible partners in the future, is simply a matter of discovering answers to old questions and looking at the data from a different angle?

We walk around constantly taking our surroundings (and the people in them) for granted. We have an amazing capacity to get used to just about anything. And as our familiarity increases, our curiosity wanes.

But what if we didn’t forget to ask better questions? What if we didn’t forget there are always secrets waiting to be uncovered?

It makes you come alive on the inside.

It makes life adventurous.

It makes the ordinary extraordinary.

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To Dust We Shall Return

We're the same. And would do well to treat one another accordingly.

We’re the same. And would do well to treat one another accordingly.

Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea

All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

“Dust in the Wind” – Kansas

The vanity license plate on the little red two-door read: “KRISTI.”

I glanced over to check out Kristi as I passed the car on my morning commute. Instead of Kristi, I saw an older guy driving what presumably is his wife or girlfriend or daughter’s car.

Something about it struck me as funny. I laughed out loud. I laughed out loud a lot.

That guy. Driving around. In that car. With that license plate. Kristi.

Hahahahahaha!

It’s because I’m an asshole and think things like that are hilarious.

When I was in first grade—the grade my son will be in next year, Oh, man—I walked in the bathroom this one time and there were two second graders in there.

“Hey! Will you pick up these paper towels for us and throw them away?”

Always eager to please: “Sure!”

And I picked up the wet paper towels and threw them away.

The two boys laughed and laughed and laughed.

“Hahaha! We peed on those! You just touched our pee!”

Then they left the bathroom.

If I had been cooler and less of a chicken-shit, I would have picked up the pee towels and cleaned both of their faces with them. But I don’t really do bad-ass things like that. And I certainly didn’t when I was 6.

That incident represents one of the only times in my entire life I can remember anyone being “mean” to me.

While totally disgusting, it is kind of hilarious.

“Wait. You peed on those towels and convinced another little kid to touch them!?!?”

Heck, I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.

Everyone has moments where their friends or family members or total strangers make them feel bad. I’ve been very blessed to not have very many of those.

It’s in large part due to the fact that I work very hard not to hurt people’s feelings, myself. I would NEVER make fun of someone to their face, unless we were very close and I was confident they knew it was in jest and understood they were among my favorite people. Guys who are friends do this with one another a lot.

But behind someone’s back? I seriously do make fun of people all the time. For cheap laughs.

It’s kind of sick, I guess.

Like the guy in the “Kristi” car.

Like wannabe professional wrestlers.

Like other kids in school.

Two eighth-grade classes from two different Catholic schools in neighboring towns combined to make up my freshman high school class.

Our class doubled in size from junior high to high school.

That meant there were a bunch of new people I’d never met before. It was still a small class relative to what most American students are accustomed to (I graduated with about 75 kids), so it didn’t take long to get to know everyone.

One of the girls in our class (who was very nice and liked by pretty much everyone) had a large mole on one of her eyebrows near where her forehead met the bridge of her nose.

Because we were Catholic—and total dicks—a bunch of boys in our class nicknamed her “Ash Wednesday.” I thought it was hilarious because I’m not a very nice person.

She eventually had the mole removed. I hope that made her feel better and less self-conscious. She eventually won a large lottery jackpot with her husband, and I hope she is living happily ever after with him and her children.

We called her “Ash Wednesday.”

*shakes head*

There was another girl in school, too.

We called her Unga Bunga. Like the words a caveman might say: “Unga Bunga!”

It wasn’t very nice, either. But it was very funny.

Her last name had the prefix “Unga-” and combined with Crood-ish looks, it made the Unga-Bunga nickname an absolute winner.

I think about those little moments sometimes.

I wonder whether those people think about them, too. Whether they feel bad when they do think about them. Like how I feel when I think about picking up peed-on paper towels. Except maybe a lot worse. 

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Today is Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar. Traditionally, Catholics attend mass and a priest or someone else will use ashes to draw a cross (which generally looks like a huge black smudge) on our foreheads and says: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

It’s a good reminder.

That we’re all made from the same stuff.

The same stuff that makes up that tree over there.

The same stuff that makes up the fish in the ocean.

The same stuff that makes up the stones on the ground.

And all those plants.

And all those animals.

And all those people.

Connected. Built by the same materials. Powered by the same fuel regardless of what we choose to believe—both physically and spiritually.

There’s something beautiful about identifying those connections. Those commonalities.

It breaks down the barriers in our lives.

All the bullshit we use to divide us. To fuel the senseless hatred and bigotry.

Social cliques.

Politics.

Religion.

Race.

Sexual orientation.

Geography.

Class warfare.

Sometimes I laugh at people. Like the guy in the “Kristi” car. Or “Ash Wednesday.” Or “Unga Bunga.”

I hope I can still be a kind person even though I do that.

And even if I can’t be, I hope I can instill thoughtfulness and kindness into my son. And perhaps the grace to handle any unkindness eventually directed his way.

We’re the same. You and me. And that person over there. And that other person over there. And that person on TV. And that TV. And the furniture you’re sitting on while watching that TV.

We’re all built from the same stuff.

How much better would we all treat one another if we never forgot that?

Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, all your money won’t another minute buy

Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind

Everything is dust in the wind

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The Phantom Pain

Are these fears healthy and prudent? Or are they irrational and holding us back?

Are these fears healthy and prudent? Or are they irrational and holding us back?

It was a typical winter day in Ohio.

Around 9 a.m.

Co-workers were milling around, getting coffee and chatting.

I work in a large, shiny office building with hundreds of people. Our building sits along an Interstate a few miles outside the city.

Me and five others have desks nestled in a corner of the second-floor corporate offices. Huge windows line the walls, giving us a view of a busy two-lane road outside.

A typical winter day in Ohio generally consists of snow-covered grass and below-freezing temperatures. Moisture on the roads can freeze into an invisible layer of ice. Black ice, it’s called.

Driving the speed limit is encouraged in such conditions.

On this particular morning earlier this year, one driver didn’t get the memo.

He was driving a plain white contractor’s minivan. Recklessly. More than 80 miles per hour in a 35 mile-per-hour zone, the police said.

He lost control.

Through the large bullet-proof glass windows of our office, we all heard the sound of screeching tires, then a series of loud bangs as the van barrel-rolled across the road, taking out one of our company’s medium-sized trees, and slamming into six cars in our parking spaces nearest the road.

The driver was ejected and thrown headfirst through the windshield of a green BMW that had just gotten out of the body repair shop the day before. It was the last thing he ever did.

Now, those parking spaces are called “Death Row,” here. There is a mulch circle where the tree used to be.

Those spaces used to fill up pretty early in the morning. Now, many people are hesitant to park there.

As if the van crashing into them, and that man dying, makes it more likely that something bad will happen again, when—weather aside—the statistical probability of car accidents happening right there are the same every day.

It’s a Human Thing

We knee jerk. It’s what we do.

Terrorists fly planes into buildings. Then we’re terrified to fly.

I lived in Toledo, Ohio in September 2001. They evacuated the tallest building downtown that day. It’s only 33 stories. New York City alone has well over 100 buildings taller than that.

Remember your first trip to a movie theater after all of those people were shot and killed watching The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo.? Mine was a few days later. To see that very movie. There were extra policemen in theaters everywhere. I did think more about rogue gunmen that night than I normally would.

Similarly, not long after the D.C. sniper situation, some asshole with a rifle in Ohio was shooting drivers on their morning commutes just outside of Columbus. People everywhere were thinking about getting shot just driving their cars after that.

Whenever I walk into rooms in my house where I’ve seen the biggest spiders, I always catch myself looking in those same spots for them as if they’re most likely to show up there.

There are countless examples of this completely illogical, yet ever-present mental and emotional reflex many of us have to traumatic news or unpleasant situations.

Which brings me to…

My Next Relationship

I talk a pretty big game about wanting to meet someone. To eliminate the loneliness. To share moments. To connect on the kind of level that brings people together in meaningful ways.

But, like those people shaken when stepping on airplanes those first days, weeks and months following the Sept. 11 attacks; like those people nervous about walking into movie theaters after the Aurora shooting; and like everyone at my office hesitant to park in “Death Row,” I have an almost-involuntary aversion to letting myself get too close to another human being again.

I want to. In my head.

I believe inner peace and happiness lie there.

I believe satisfying physically intimate relationships lie there.

I believe a balanced life lies there.

But it does something funny to my chest. To my insides.

This idea of letting someone in again.

I’ve written about the feelings of rejection from my short-lived online dating experiment.

And other incidents have popped up where I realize just how fragile I am now.

I feel angry when people I care about are mistreated by their partners.

I feel concerned when people I care about have doubts about their relationships.

I feel sad when people don’t like me as much as I like them.

And it hurts when someone pushes me away. Whatever their reason may be.

More specifically, I feel all of these things more acutely than I ever have before.

The anger burns hotter. The concern, more pronounced. The sadness, heavier.

The pain? It scares me now in ways I’ve never experienced.

People who shouldn’t be able to hurt me can hurt me now. Little things that might seem silly and meaningless evoke feelings similar to when my wife expunged me from her life.

It’s like a layer of mental and emotional toughness has been stripped away, leaving me frail and weak. Vulnerable. Easy to damage.

Does this type of wound heal? Will scar tissue form? Is it possible to reacquire the armor I once possessed?

I don’t know.

Maybe time will heal this wound. Making me healthier.

But in the meantime, I have to ask myself some hard questions about what I’m willing to endure. What I’m capable of enduring.

Am I going to let a relative stranger in enough to hurt me the way my ex-wife did?

Am I going to ruin potentially good things by keeping people at a distance?

Am I being illogically reflexive? Irrational? Am I avoiding perfectly adequate parking spaces due to fears that don’t make sense?

At some point, I’m going to have to be honest with myself and others about these questions and answers.

Because I don’t want to live recklessly.

I don’t want to lose control.

I don’t want to end up a victim of self-destructive behavior.

Dead, but on display. Like that man on the BMW.

Unable to remind those looking on in horror to keep on living.

And to do so unafraid.

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Writer’s Block

I need this to matter. For someone. Because I don't know how to write for just me. That might make me vain. It definitely makes me needy.

I need this to matter. For someone. Because I don’t know how to write for just me. That might make me vain. It definitely makes me needy.

I lose sleep over it.

Writer’s block.

Because this project matters to me. Other than my son and job, I don’t dedicate energy to anything like I do this.

I’ve grown to love it. I might even need it.

As more people begin to pay attention—some I know, most I don’t—the pressure mounts. To punch these keys in such a way that provides value for those of you kind enough to read.

And that right there—is where I try to stop myself.

Because my goal here has always been to simply work through this unexpected new reality in which I find myself.

Divorced.

Alone.

Scared.

Depressed.

My journal. To explore who I was, who I am, and who I want to be.

And if telling these stories—stories told with honesty—can help just one human being feel better about themselves or rethink their life choices a little bit, I’ll have done something meaningful.

It’s a wonderful fringe benefit of being honest with myself—having people tell me that these stories matter to them. That honesty matters.

I feel a little better about my life each day now.

I credit friends and family.

I credit God.

I credit time.

I credit you.

I credit this.

What Is This Thing?

And now this exists. This… thing. This place where I write. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what it can be. I don’t know what I want it to be. But I know it needs fed.

And I know I want it to matter.

I want it to be relevant.

I want it to be cathartic. To write and to read.

I want it to entertain. And inform.

A small, positive contribution to humanity, regardless of how many people ever see it or ever care.

I just need one.

Just one shitty husband to change his life—to actively choose to love his wife and save his family.

Just one lost soul lying to herself and everyone around her to start choosing honesty. To choose the truth and feel freedom free from the shackles of living a lie. To really start to feel alive—outside the shadows, with nothing to hide.

Just one young man to learn from the sins of my past and build a strong foundation with the girl he loves to create something lasting. A relationship that will produce beautiful little children who will get to find out what family is supposed to look and feel like. The blueprint for marital success. So that they may grow up making positive choices and being part of generations of people who contribute positively to this planet.

It only takes one. One brave person to influence somebody so profoundly that this new person develops the courage to do the same.

The ripples take effect. And good spreads.

I’m not strong enough or smart enough or credible enough to be the influencer. I don’t know a goddamn thing about what it takes to be a good person, or the meaning of life, or what happens after we die, or how to feel peace when you lay down at night.

I’m an absolute failure at marriage and at always doing the right thing even when no one’s watching.

But I AM brave enough to try. To shine a little light on my skeletons. To try to reach that person who IS strong enough to instill change in their life and the lives of others.

In the hopes that some other husband doesn’t lose his family. That some wife doesn’t have to be afraid. That some innocent children aren’t poisoned by the anger they had no part in creating.

I’ll never know. And that’s okay. Because I have a good imagination. And that’s my fantasy. That one story can make a difference for one person who can REALLY make a difference.

Now What am I Supposed to Write About?

Before, there was scandal. Sex. Drama. Anger. And sadness.

I actually cried writing at least three of these posts. Maybe more.

I understand why people read that stuff.

But, what now?

As the scandal fades. As my anger fades. As I transition from Total Freakout Spaz to Typical Divorced Single Dad Guy, is any of this going to matter?

What will I write about?, I wonder.

I’m scared to lose whatever relevance this has.

Things will come to me.

Old, embarrassing stories. Things I remember from my marriage that are applicable to the idea that we all need to be giving more and taking less.

New stories about dating whenever I get around to trying that again.

Stories about my son as he continues to grow and evolve and experience life and the human condition now that he’s being exposed to all of the challenges that school brings—academically, socially, spiritually.

Even though I want this to be a healing mechanism for me—a way to grow as a human and as a writer—I’m absolutely guilty of wanting to keep you.

I don’t know how to write for nobody. And I don’t want to know what that looks and feels like.

I wrote once about The Fear of Losing What We Love.

And now I’m afraid to lose you. To lose this. Because this is the first and only good thing to happen to me as a direct result of my wife leaving.

Now, I feel like I need you.

I’m going to write a bunch of self-indulgent crap once in a while. I think this may even be self-indulgent crap. But it is sincere.

I’m going to write a bunch of nonsense once in a while. I’m nothing if not juvenile. But I want this to be bigger than that. (*wink*)

I’m afraid of so many things in this world. Some big. Some small.

And that fear is paralyzing. It prevents us from trying.

This—the words on this screen—is me trying.

This is what I know. All I know.

And I hope it’s enough.

Not for me. I’m never satisfied.

Not for everybody. I’m just not tall enough.

But for one.

Just one.

Maybe it’s you.

Hi.

I need you.

And so does everyone else.

Go be great.

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