Tag Archives: Perspective

The Fastest Way to Stop Feeling Angry: How a Dying Child Changed the World

father hugging children

(Image/penneylaw.com)

“I hate you, dad!” he yelled from his bedroom. “You always want me to do things how you would do them, and I don’t want to! I’ll never be like you! You’re the worst dad ever!”

I was getting a divorce the last time I lost my breath while standing still.

The little person I love most in the world is about to turn 9.

He had refused to follow some simple instructions, said something dickheaded, so I sent my only child to his room to think about it for a while and threatened to cancel his upcoming birthday plans if he didn’t leave the door closed.

I’m sure I did it wrong.

He got angry and yelled a bunch of unkind things from behind his door that I’d never heard him say before.

It feels sometimes like he’s all I have. He’s the only person who gets everything I have to give. My entire life literally revolves around his wellbeing and needs.

I hate you, dad, he’d said.

That left a mark.

I’m pretty sure Maria McNamara never said something like that to her parents. And I’m pretty sure her parents—Ed and Megan—never sent her to her room for being a little shit-machine.

Maybe that would have happened at 17. Maybe after dad told her: “You’re not walking out of this house looking like that, young lady,” or after mom told her: “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with your phone, Maria. We love you and if we have to read your texts to understand what’s going on in your life and keep you safe, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Probably not, though.

maria mcnamara - prayers from maria

Maria McNamara (Image/Prayers From Maria)

Look at that cute freaking face. That’s the face of a future class president, or the girl who won’t let others feel left out and who always stands up for the kids getting picked on, and then credits her parents for instilling good values and setting a great example.

Maria McNamara would be 17 today, enjoying her final high school summer break before senior year. She’d be getting her senior photos taken pretty soon. Maybe she’d have a boyfriend.

Maria died when she was 7.

One day, everything was normal and her parents probably felt frustrated with her and maybe occasionally used frustrated-parent tones with her. And then the next day doctors told them their baby girl had a cancerous brain tumor and would die within a year’s time.

“We knew on that day that our lives had changed forever and that we would never be the same again,” Megan McNamara wrote.

[NOTE: If you want to quit reading or are in a hurry, please at least scroll quickly to the bottom of this post to learn about a child killer we can identify AND do something about.]

I often wonder how much I’m getting wrong as father.

He’s my only child.

I wonder how verbalizing my frustration with certain things he does or doesn’t do might harm him. There’s a happy medium somewhere between not sweating the small stuff and providing adequate parental guidance.

I replay moments in my head and wonder to what extent he maybe feels like I’m too critical of him, or somehow disappointed in him.

I write a blog with a name symbolically rooted in the powerful human desire to feel adequate and accepted—to feel like we’re “enough.” If I foster feelings of inadequacy in my little boy, shame on me. He must always know he’s enough. I hope I can figure out how to always make him feel so.

What if I died today?, I wonder sometimes.

Maybe my heart will stop suddenly in my sleep. Maybe I’ll get T-boned at an intersection by a high-speed driver who never saw the light. Maybe I’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get killed in an armed robbery.

What will my son feel and believe about himself because of these moments?

I don’t know.

But I do know that if I knew today was my last day with him, I certainly wouldn’t be wasting time on anger or sending him to his room.

I know that if I knew today was my last day with my son, he would never feel like I’m being hard on him. He would never feel anything except all of the intense and unconditional love I have for him.

In a life where ANYTHING can and does happen, one wonders how we so easily lose perspective on The Things That Matter.

Whoever you would want to see and talk to. Wherever you would want to be. Whatever activity you would want to be doing. In our final hours.

Those are the things that matter.

How easily we forget.

Little Maria had a brain tumor called a glioma. It is the second-deadliest form of cancer in children.

Her dad and mom, Ed and Megan, searched desperately for a way to save Maria. What they discovered was that cancer research focused on glioma prevention or recovery was virtually non-existent.

They then spent the next 14 months feeling unimaginable things—they and their three other children.

“In the course of the 14 months from Maria’s diagnosis, we watched her go from having balance issues, double vision, sleeping excessively and vomiting to bouncing back almost completely to normal after radiation in what is known as the ‘false hope’ stage,” Megan McNamara wrote. “From there the tumor began to grow back and eventually rob her of everything a child loves to do. She endured horrendous debilitating headaches. Eventually eating, swallowing and breathing became difficult. She watched as her body slowly began to shut down. I wasn’t even able to hug her tightly as it caused too much pain. As she saw herself becoming worse, Maria would tell us ‘I think we should go back to St. Jude’s.’ We had to tell her that St. Jude’s could no longer do anything for her anymore.”

How Little Maria Spent Her Final Days

She didn’t feel sorry for herself nor spend time praying for herself.

She spent her final days intent on praying for other children and other families battling cancer.

“Through it all, Maria showed tremendous character and dignity. Her strength, her courage and, most of all, her faith, left marks on our souls that have changed us forever,” her mom wrote. “She never thought of herself. Instead she chose to pray for all children suffering from cancer and their families. She prayed that the doctors would find a way to help them. She is our hero and her fight became our inspiration. Her prayers became our mission.”

Lighting Up the Darkness

People sometimes say “Everything happens for a reason,” and I don’t like it for the very reason that sometimes little kids get cancer, and I’m sorry, but I’m not okay with attaching concepts like Fate or Purpose to Maria’s death and the agony felt by her parents and siblings.

But I also understand that THIS is why people say that.

The suffering endured by Maria and her family provided an opportunity for a tiny person with a giant heart to inspire those around her.

And now we have Prayers From Maria – Children’s Glioma Cancer Foundation, dedicated to funding global research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for these childhood brain tumors.

 

Why I’m Writing About This and Why it Matters So Much to Me

I know a guy.

He is easily among the best and most-inspiring people I know. He has become a personally significant mentor and friend. He owns a web-design firm with a few business partners. They are amazing people doing amazing work. Their company’s stated mission and purpose is “to help humans flourish.”

Not to maximize profit (though they run a fine business). But simply to—as a business—lift people up.

Their remarkable team walks that walk on and off the clock. My personal admiration for them knows no bounds.

They are donating a bunch of their time, talents and money to Prayers From Maria.

They didn’t stick their hands out asking my consulting partners and I, or anyone else, to help offset their costs. They said simply that this is an amazing organization doing difference-making work and invited us to be a part of helping people who need and deserve it.

I feel honored to be asked, and would have wanted to help them EVEN IF the cause didn’t matter to me.

But I’m a father. This matters to me.

I think about how fast my son is growing. Too fast.

I think about how I’m not promised tomorrow, or even five minutes from now.

How everything can change at any moment.

How truly, humbly, grateful I feel right now to have a healthy little boy.

How grateful I feel to have another opportunity to hug his precious face and see about mindfully adjusting how I communicate with him. About mindfully adjusting how I choose to think and act today with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

To be here.

Right now.

Soon it will be time to go hug my son.

Almost 9 years old. Who’s luckier than me?

Maybe you. I hope you feel this too. The thing that replaces hurt and anger when we see things from another perspective.

Thank you for being you, Maria McNamara. For all you gave. And all you continue to.

Do Something Amazing Today

I don’t feel good asking you for things. If I ever get a book finished, I’ll surely be spamming you with pleas to purchase five copies.

I’m trying to save whatever goodwill I’ve earned for that.

But some things are bigger than me and more important than how comfortable I feel.

Right now, there’s a father somewhere who is about my age who has a son about 8 or 9 years old. Like me. But instead of getting ready to celebrate his birthday, he’s saying goodbye. Helpless. Trying to be strong for his wife and family. Trying to keep it together at work.

Right now, there’s a little boy out there around my son’s age who will grow up to be a father himself. And one of his kids is going to be diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Today, that diagnosis would be a death sentence.

But tomorrow, it doesn’t have to be.

Please join me in helping people save the lives of children and give hope to their parents.

There is no amount too small to give.

Thank you so much for reading this and doing something meaningful for other people today.

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I Am the Monster You Should Be Afraid Of

Monster Check by Adrian Sommeling

(Artwork by Adrian Sommeling)

How far back can you remember?

I’m pretty sure I can remember moments when I was 3. We must have thought and felt things before our earliest memories. I can only guess that the things I thought and felt as a baby are consistent with what I remember through most of childhood.

Unless you value money above all else, I had it sickeningly good.

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, a child will die because there’s no sanitary drinking water in his family’s village, another will be physically abused or abandoned by her father and/or mother, and another still will become a pariah within his family, social circle or community because of appearance or handicaps or interests or beliefs. It’s unspeakably tragic.

But me? I was immersed fully in constant affirmations of love, had all of my basic needs met, had most of my wants catered to (within the context of our financial resources), and experienced nothing in the realm of abuse, neglect or rejection by family or friends.

“You’re such a good boy, Matt!”

“You’re so smart, Matt!”

“You’re so handsome, Matt!”

“You’re so polite, Matt!”

“You’re so funny, Matt!”

“You’re so nice, Matt!”

“You’re so SPECIAL, Matt!”

Not the sarcastic “special,” either. They meant it. Parents. Grandparents. Aunts and Uncles. Parents of friends. Teachers. Coaches.

I’ve had embarrassing amounts of nice things said about me.

It’s a nice way to grow up. You’re never afraid to meet strangers. You’re never afraid people won’t like you. You’re never afraid of failure.

Because you’ve never heard, experienced or even CONCEIVED of a situation in which people didn’t like and accept you, or where you failed to succeed at whatever you set out to do. From your earliest memories, everything about you is “good.” When everything about you is good, you don’t have to work at anything. There’s nothing to improve because everything’s good as it is.

Suggestions from someone to the contrary makes them “weird,” or “wrong.” How many people think YOU’RE the nicest, smartest, most-special person in the world?! Hmmmmm?!, you think to yourself without saying it out loud. Because that wouldn’t be “polite.” And polite = good. Just like me.

When the world sees a happy, polite, nice, smart, funny person, no one raises any red flags or sounds the alarms. In a world with people who rape and murder on purpose, no one’s going to center any public-awareness campaigns around protecting society from people fitting my description.

Violent crime is scary. But in the United States you have less than a 2% chance of being a victim of one in your lifetime, and that’s including a punch to the face.

The vast majority of human suffering stems not from violent acts, but from the trauma endured from the emotional and psychological damage inflicted in our human relationships.

So, philosophical question: What’s a more frightening proposition—the easy-to-spot emotionally abusive and neglectful person you should obviously steer clear from, or the happy, polite, nice, smart, funny person you never see coming?

And this last part is important: The emotionally abusive, happy, polite, nice, smart, funny person isn’t using deceptive subterfuge to trick anyone. The ability and/or tendency to neglect and abuse isn’t part of some clandestine conspiracy.

Because even they themselves can’t see behind the cloak.

A monster.

A terrifying one. Not because you’re afraid, but because you’re NOT afraid.

A dangerous one. Not because they’re intent on destruction, but because they don’t know what they are.

Undetected Monsters Don’t Just Sleep in Our Beds, But Stare Back in Our Mirrors

Remember when little I-see-dead-people Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense” said that the ghosts he saw didn’t know they were dead? Same thing.

Sometimes, we are monsters. Dangerous ones who WILL destroy things, including ourselves, and the scariest part about it is that it’s NOT scary.

Non-imaginary creature definitions for the word “monster” include:

  • a powerful person or thing that cannot be controlled and that causes many problems.
  • one who deviates from normal or acceptable behavior or character.
  • a threatening force.

I was, and likely remain, dangerous because I’m conditioned to assume that my good, polite and intelligent (arguably) thoughts, intentions and actions are completely benign. That something I do or say is harmless. And if someone suggests that something I do or say isn’t that, then the instinct is to assume they’re getting something wrong.

I fundamentally changed the course of several people’s lives just by waking up every day and doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing, or at the very least, making normal, reasonable choices.

The expectation was for my girlfriend/fiancée/wife to think of me and treat me the same as all of my family and friends did from every second I could remember, until whatever present-day moment I was ever in with her.

When she didn’t, she was being unfair, or she was being crazy, or she was just being WRONG.

On matters big and small, she seemed so wrong because of her failure to see how nice and smart and polite and thoughtful and correct and GOOD I was.

It seemed totally insane to hear her say things like: “How could you be so mean to me?” or “If you really love me, why can’t you act like it?”

The Good Guys vs. The Bad Guys

I’ve been a sports fan for as long as I’ve known what sports were.

Football, basketball, baseball and others. My Cleveland Indians are getting ready to face the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.

Almost no one outside of Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals fans dislike the Cubs. They’re the quintessential Lovable Losers. The Indians are too, but the Cubs sort of out-pathetic them in an Ultimate Baseball Sadness competition.

Because my dad’s side of the family is Illinois-based, most people I know and love there are Chicago sports fans. And because I grew up with my mom in Ohio, and live here today, I and most of my friends are Cleveland sports fans.

For the first time in 37 ½ years of life, I am forced to actively root against the team my dad and hundreds of people I know and love are rooting for. The Cubs, who I have ALWAYS also rooted for because there’s never been a conflict, are now the enemy.

The Cubs (it hurts to type) are the bad guys.

I realized as I was going through this thought exercise that the Indians—my lovable-loser, underdog Indians—are ALSO the bad guys. They’re the good guys to me and my Ohio friends. But they’re the bad guys to the legion of fans in Chicago who have been dying for a Cubs championship their entire lives.

Every time something good happens to the Indians and I feel happy, a bunch of other people will feel sad.

If we win a game, we’ll celebrate while Cubs fans will hurt.

And vice versa.

The heroes in our World Series stories are different, depending on who we are and how we feel.

The good guys and the bad guys are different, depending on your individual circumstances and opinions.

Who is right? Who are the good guys?

It’s always been hard for me to imagine the people rooting for the other team to be rooting for the good guys. I’ve never had much sympathy for them.

But this really drove the point home for me. A bunch of very good people. Amazing people. People I love. Craving desperately a result that will make me and a bunch of my friends feel shitty. And me wanting the opposite even though it will adversely affect people I love.

Yet another example of the two perspectives, and how two people can look at the same thing and describe it differently. How two people can disagree with neither being wrong.

The lovable losers have become the monsters.

Monsters who don’t think they’re bad guys.

They look in the mirror and can’t see the monster underneath all the good guyness.

Maybe just like you.

Certainly just like me.

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The Illusion of Incorrectness: The One Time Seeing the Other Woman Can Save Your Marriage

optical illusion old lady young lady

Surely, most of you have seen this famous optical illusion before. Many of us can see “both” women — the young woman facing the other direction, as well as the large-nosed old woman. But our brains tend to default to one or the other, forcing us to really “look” for the other perspective. Is it WRONG to see the young lady? Is it WRONG to see the old one? Two different conclusions, but NEITHER are incorrect. Both are right. This happens in life and marriage all the time, but we’re less quick to let others see what they see. We tell them they’re wrong. And then, sometimes, everything breaks. (Image/Gizmodo)

Megan wrote: “I posted your ‘She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink’ article on FB and my one woman friend who always disputes the existence of sexism replied, ‘This wife could’ve learned that dishes in the sink actually isn’t an act of deep disrespect worthy of divorce just as easily as he understood she interpreted it that way despite his intention. I think he’s better off without her. Part of marriage is accepting small flaws rather than blowing them out of proportion. But I say this as someone who’s not a neat freak, nor married to a neat freak (thank God!).’ I’d be curious to hear your reply to that.”

I don’t think Bob Dylan’s music is all that great. I hear it and naturally don’t like it as much as music played by others.

I think shopping in retail stores on Black Friday is insane. I can’t save enough money to justify putting myself in the middle of those crowds.

I think bleu cheese makes everything taste worse. If I was kidnapped and starved by a gnarly hillside cave dweller who scraped a dead skunk off the road, ate it raw along with all of the bugs and grossness crawling on it, had a bowel movement, and then presented it to me as an alternative to a regular meal with crappy bleu cheese sprinkled all over it, I’d have a difficult decision to make.

But people like bleu cheese. A lot.

Black Friday is, I think, the second-most-popular shopping day of the year.

And Bob Dylan’s an absolute legend. I think we all can agree that on the Great Musicians Totem Pole, Dylan ranks considerably higher than Twenty One Pilots, GZA, or The Decemberists, yet the latter are all in my phone and listened to semi-regularly. I don’t hear much Dylan unless I’m somewhere and classic rock is being played.

I got caught up the other day reading a monstrous comment thread on Facebook underneath a Tasty video where a macaroni and cheese recipe called for cottage cheese.

People lost their minds. Some called cottage cheese an abomination. Others said they loved it.

Was anyone right?

The Worst Thing We Do In Relationships

Think about your life for a moment.

You are born. And then you have all of these individual experiences, feelings, educational opportunities (formal or otherwise) and emotional responses to things based on your specific makeup combined with all of those life things.

Now, whenever anything happens to you, you respond accordingly.

When you see a car driving on the street, you probably don’t think anything of it.

If a member of an indigenous Peruvian tribe living in the wilderness saw one, maybe they’d freak out like Brendan Fraser’s caveman character in Encino Man when he saw his first garbage truck.

Total indifference to a passing car AND being blown away by seeing a car — a machine you didn’t know existed — driving by for the first time are equally reasonable responses in context.

It would be weird if a 30-year-old American living in suburbia freaked out when a car drove by.

It would be weird if a person who had never seen a complex machine before paid no attention to a passing automobile.

But when we have the whole story (and we NEVER have the whole story), we understand why someone else responded differently to something than we would.

People draw upon their background and experiences to interpret information.

Everyone you meet will like you so much more, and you’ll be able to grow meaningful connections with them if you DO NOT trash and invalidate their memories and experiences just because they’re different than yours.

This exact same phenomenon happens in each and every one of our relationships up and down the spectrum, from parents and siblings, to friends and coworkers, to our kids and romantic partners.

I am divorced today for many reasons, but I think this is the biggest one:

I never honored, respected or demonstrated any real effort to understand my wife’s individual thoughts, feelings and life experiences during disagreements.

The patience and compassion I would grant to the tribesman in awe of seeing modern civilization for the first time, I denied my spouse. And I honestly don’t even know why, and can only guess it must have felt more difficult to agree with her and I have a nasty habit of choosing “the easy way.”

And here’s the REALLY scary part — I was honest, self-assured and felt confident I wasn’t doing anything wrong each and every time I did so.

I was doing one of the worst things a person can ever do to a loved one, and I was doing so without one shred of remorse because I didn’t know any better.

After doing so enough times, the worst thing that ever happened to me happened and I never saw it coming.

I was so certain of my opinions and personal preferences throughout most of my life that I thought I was doing my wife and other people a favor by challenging theirs. Like, if they just start doing things MY way, imagine how much happier their lives will be!

And even though I think it’s an asshole move, I think I still involuntarily do it almost every day in moments big and small.

That Certainness Will End Your Marriage

Here’s what I think most of us do. We think:

1. I’m of sound mind and body. I’m not insane. My choices and beliefs make sense.

2. That other person is saying that X made them angry or sad or embarrassed. But I experience X all the time, and it doesn’t make me angry or sad or embarrassed.

3. Because my choices and beliefs make sense, this other person disagreeing with them must be wrong.

It makes perfect sense that we do this. Which is why it’s so scary that it’s at the heart of virtually every human conflict in global history.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Anaïs Nin, author

We don’t have time to go over EVERY imaginable life scenario. Surely, there are times where facts and evidence should sway reasonable people toward certain conclusions.

But on matters which are CLEARY subjective — “That movie sucked,” or “Vegan meals taste amazing,” or “When the person I love repeatedly chooses to play video games or watch football alone rather than touch me or spend time together, it HURTS badly” — the future of marriage and healthy human relationships across the board is dependent on our ability to let people own those opinions and feelings, even when they clash with ours.

Everyone who isn’t an exact clone of ourselves with our super-specific set of emotional reactions, habits, beliefs and life experiences, might react in ways we don’t expect to something we do or say. They might enjoy things we don’t, or want to avoid things we want to do.

And if you tell that person that they are WRONG, or MISTAKEN, or FLAWED, or STUPID, or CRAZY, or otherwise INCORRECT because they don’t arrive at the identical conclusions that you have, you’re going to wreak havoc and dysfunction in all of your relationships.

That means, anytime you surround yourself with confident, boundary-enforcing, authentic people who care about you enough to always tell you the truth even when it’s uncomfortable, and you have a disagreement with them, it’s going to end with one or both of you walking away, perhaps causing irreparable harm.

And maybe there are people out there who thrive in isolation, but it’s my observation that the quality of our human relationships tends to dictate how good and pleasant, or how shitty and miserable, our lives are.

Megan asked me for my response to the woman who suggested my wife could have adjusted just as easily to my behavior and thoughts, as she expected me to do to hers.

The woman said I’m “better off without her.”

At the risk of putting words in this total stranger’s mouth, I think this woman said the equivalent of: “Because the husband’s feelings were just as valid as the wife’s feelings, and she failed to recognize it, this guy should be happy that he’s now divorced and only sees his son half of the time, because I can tell from this one metaphorical story that she is more trouble than she’s worth.”

In one Facebook comment, a stranger dismissed the value of my family and marriage because she disagreed with the premise of my blog post, or perhaps objected to her friend Megan liking and sharing it.

Make of that what you will.

We’re all a little bit blind, or at least colorblind, to the world as it really is.

We can’t know what we don’t know, and that’s nobody’s fault.

But once we KNOW, it becomes our job to stay AWARE.

Don’t forget. Remember. Every day:

Other people are different. My spouse is different.

They are not wrong or crazy. They simply arrived at a conclusion different from mine, and in the context of their entire life story, it makes PERFECT sense that they did.

I want to be friends with them.

I want to have good relationships.

I don’t want my family to break because I was an unaware asshole worsening each and every problem.

And then we go to work trying hard to understand WHY the people we know and love believe things different from us.

In the end, we become smarter and stronger. And we have great friendships.

And I think, just maybe, we have the kinds of marriages we set out to have when we first say “I do.”

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New Things and Places Make You Grow and I’m Almost 1% of the Way There

Guy walking down road traveling

(Image/smagmagazine.wordpress.com)

Even though I lived in three different states growing up, I didn’t understand that people in other places were different than the people I was accustomed to seeing around me.

As I imagine there are many common traits among people living in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, so it is with people in Iowa, Illinois and the part of Ohio in which I was raised.

I was born in Iowa.

My parents split when I was 4 and I moved to Ohio to begin my school years. I spent a lot of time in Iowa and Illinois along the Mississippi River visiting my family throughout those years. Both places—Ohio, and the Mississippi River Valley—provide feelings of Home.

There wasn’t a ton of money floating around nor did I know anyone close to me with a passion for travel.

So I didn’t get out much.

Which is actually fine as it’s happening when you’ve never experienced anything different. Contentment is a highly underrated thing—a lesson I learned the hard way after graduating from college. What I lacked in material wealth and life experience was more than made up for in genuine contentment, surrounded by wonderful family and friends no matter which state I was in.

How do you manufacture a decent guy with a genuinely kind heart and good intentions who is capable of ditching his crying wife in the hospital hours after giving birth to his beautiful newborn son?

There are an incalculable number of factors, but I fear many innocent and well-meaning actions and conditions contributed.

I was born to very young parents. They were eightish years younger than my ex-wife and I when our son was born. I didn’t feel ready at 29. It’s hard to imagine how they must have felt.

I am, for all intents and purposes, an only child.

Because my mom is from a very large family of kind, loving people; and because my dad was from a mid-sized family who didn’t see me often; and because I made friends easily and was seemingly well liked by their parents and my teachers because I’m naturally outgoing and well mannered, I was showered with an almost-obscene amount of love, support and affirmation growing up.

These things feel good. And almost every day felt good. Being me was a very positive experience.

I think my dad spoiled me just a bit because of our unfortunate geographic situation which kept us from a typical father-son relationship. I think my mom took it pretty easy on me in terms of chores and responsibilities around the house because she was so accustomed to (and skilled at) accomplishing home management tasks from being the oldest of many brothers and sisters, so I got used to things just “magically” getting taken care of.

Folded laundry. Swept floors. Clean counters. Spotless bathrooms. Stocked fridge and pantry.

My only real job was schoolwork, and I could perform academically at a fairly high level without trying hard, and certainly without learning the material inside and out. After all that K-12 learning, followed by whatever I did to get a bachelor’s degree, I’d be surprised if I’ve retained even 10 percent of it. We’ll never know.

So what DID I “know”?

  1. Being myself makes most people like me, and I don’t have to work hard for things.
  2. I’m totally smart, which means when people disagree with me or challenge my beliefs, there’s an above-average chance they’re wrong.
  3. Life is beautiful, people are kind, and mostly good things happen, which means sad, depressed, angry or impoverished people just aren’t trying hard enough. Yay, life!
  4. People are mostly the same everywhere you go. It’s obvious because I’ve been between Iowa and Ohio my entire life, and it pretty much all looks and feels the same! Neat!

Certainly, attending a 20,000-plus-student public university after 12 years of Catholic schooling in a town with the same amount of people delivered some eye-opening moments.

Not everyone believes what I believe. Some objectively super-smart people disagree with some of my political philosophies and can articulate why without saying anything moronic. Also, I’m friends with black people! 

But the real shock to the system happened when I braved a move outside of my little four-state bubble in middle America, moving to a Florida beach town on the Gulf side to take a newspaper reporting job.

Because we all live inside our own heads and nowhere else, and because I hadn’t done a lot of travelling, and because when I had gone to other places, they shared many cultural similarities with my hometown, I assumed people were pretty much the same everywhere, at least in the United States.

In other words, I thought I was moving to Ohio with Nice Weather and Beaches.

It only took me a few months in Florida to observe how incorrect my assumption had been, and to learn an important life lesson at the age of 23:

Different people in different places often have different beliefs and different life experiences than I do, and those differences feel as natural to them as my normal does to me.

Oh, the Places We’ll Go

Last week, one guy I met while living in Florida told his oldest son to pick any place in the world to visit for a father-son trip. The boy (I think he’s 11) chose Tokyo, Japan. And off they went, leaving mom and the younger two brothers behind. Those two looked like they had an awesome time, and I imagine both father and son will have grown significantly from the experience in some way.

As I type, another friend is in the midst of a two-week tour of Europe. She texted me some photos from Switzerland that made me want to drop everything and go there. Mountains. Waterfalls. The greenest greens. And those totally rad “Ri-cola!” horns.

A new friend, author and potential future collaborator routinely travels the globe, has lived in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, is married to a Dutch man she now lives with in south Florida, and returned less than a month ago from a speaking gig in Stockholm, Sweden.

That’s just regular life for her.

For me, that’s, like, whoa.

I started traveling domestically in my second job out of school, which had brought me back to Ohio. Every couple of months, I was going somewhere for a conference or industry trade show. It was then that I really felt as if I was broadening my horizons in my mid- to late-twenties.

I took a look at a map to evaluate where I’ve been.

Toronto, Ont. is my furthest trek north. New York City is my furthest east. To the south, Key West, Fla. And to the west, San Diego, Calif.

I downloaded an app where you can log all of the places you’ve been. I went through it carefully, marking my destinations.

Two countries. My homeland. And Canada. And let’s be honest. When you’re from the United States, and you occasionally get Canadian coins handed to you when cashiers are making change, and when the border is way closer than half of the U.S. states, it doesn’t really feel like international travel.

And unless I’m forgetting one, I’ve visited 24 states and Washington D.C.

That’s it.

About half of the states in my native country and a few cities in one Canadian province.

My new app was kind enough to calculate what percentage of the world I’ve seen.

That figure? 0.8 percent.

I’m 37 years old. And I try to write stories that I hope might help someone live and love better.

And I’ve seen less than 1 percent of this world.

There’s More to Life Than What We Think We Know

I’d seen and read a bunch of things about saltwater fish and coral reefs, but until I went snorkeling off the coast of the Florida Keys, I couldn’t accurately describe their beauty.

I’d seen and read a bunch of things about New York and Washington D.C. throughout my childhood, but until I walked the streets of Manhattan or sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I couldn’t marvel at all the steel and concrete that makes up NYC, or feel what a grateful American feels looking out over my favorite visual piece of our nation’s capital.

I’d seen and read a bunch of things about California and the Pacific Ocean, but I was 28 before I stood on Mission Beach for the first time and felt the awesome power of the largest body of water on Earth, and could finally understand why so many people are willing to move so far away and spend so much money to live near it.

I am a better, different, wiser, more intelligent, more balanced, more complete human being for having experienced the few life-expanding places and moments I have.

And I’ve seen less than 1 percent of all there is to see.

How much better, different, wiser, more intelligent, more balanced, more complete might I be if I see more? How much more might you be?

Maybe we owe ourselves the opportunity to find out.

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What Matters More Than Your Relationships?

the most important things are not things

(Image/esterpartegas.com)

As a child dreaming about the future, I imagined myself in life scenarios I believed would make me happy.

I dreamed of being an adult. Independent! Freedom to do whatever I want with my own money! I thought going to a job and being paid for my time would be better than going to school and hanging out with my friends every day. I thought having my own house would be better than living with adults who could restrict my choices. I thought having my own money would be better than my parents financially fulfilling life needs and occasionally just giving me some.

I dreamed of owning a big house. I won’t even want to go on vacation if I live in paradise every day! I didn’t know I was hopelessly incapable of keeping even an average-sized three-bedroom house clean and properly maintained on my own. I didn’t know about hedonic adaptation, and how we all adjust to every positive life change over time, and then it stops feeling as awesome as when it first happened or something was new. I didn’t know that could also happen to rich people who could buy anything they wanted.

I dreamed of fun things like having season tickets to all of my favorite Cleveland pro sports teams. I can go to every game! Awesome! I didn’t know how much I wouldn’t like hunting for parking spots downtown, or sitting outside in the cold for hours, or how watching games at home in 2016 would in many ways be a superior experience to driving to the stadium or arena; nor did I know how much my emotional attachment to my favorite teams would fade as life introduced me to new things to care about.

Some People Think Relationship Stuff is Dumb

They don’t care. It’s simply not on their radar.

I was out with friends recently. We were kicking around some important relationship ideas over beer and food when Jeff sitting to my left used a pause in the conversation to ask Ryan for his thoughts on the Batman v Superman movie. We all laughed and joked about Jeff’s less-than-subtle conversation pivot to something which didn’t bore him to death. But move on to comic-book movie discussion, we did.

One thought stuck with me: If Jeff’s wife ever decides to divorce him, he’s probably going to care so much more about the conversation we just had than he will about movies.

My divorce not only put me on the path to understanding how common human behavior leads people who were once in love to dislike each another so much that they’re willing to go through life’s second-most stressful event (according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale) in order to get away from their spouse; but also helped me achieve what I feel is a more appropriate and healthy perspective on life—one which prioritizes THINGS THAT MATTER.

Everyone will decide for themselves what matters to them. There are no universally right or wrong answers.

But there is strong evidence that most people are incorrect in their guesses about what will make them happy, and that elderly people who die slowly but alertly on their proverbial deathbeds express many of the same thoughts and regrets in their final hours of self-reflection.

How to Live a Regret-Free Life

A Hospice nurse interviewed several dying patients in an effort to compile commonly shared wisdom about how to live a life free of regret. Money, Career, Fame, Big houses, and Cheap sex were all conspicuously absent from the list, which actually looked like this:

1Live a life true to yourself; not the life others expect of you.

2. Don’t work so hard.

3. Express your feelings courageously.

4. Stay connected to friends.

5. Give yourself permission to choose happiness.

Perspective is really important.

That guy who just cut you off dangerously and rudely in traffic is a huge asshole who needs to learn how to drive, UNLESS we later discover he was rushing to a nearby hospital because his small child was undergoing emergency surgery and he didn’t know whether his little son or daughter would live or die.

When I was in my late teens and 20s, I despised “little-kid” things. Like Barney or The Wiggles or going to some elementary school performance where a bunch of kids who don’t know how to keep their shirts tucked in properly and are objectively terrible at singing and dancing are supposed to entertain me by singing and dancing.

You suck, little kids!, the younger me thought.

But then I became a dad. And watching his favorite kids’ shows is now (usually) a fun thing to do. Attending his little-kid school performances is (always) an absolute must.

Perspective.

Interview a hundred men and ask them what they want out of life, and a common refrain will be: “Success.”

Ask them to define Success, and you’ll get a bunch of different answers. I won’t pretend to know how other guys define it. I only know that it’s common to observe in men the tendency to avoid any activity or situation in which he perceives a high probability of failure—like how I’m afraid to go skiing in front of a bunch of strangers, or to play in a golf tournament if I don’t know what to expect from my swing after not playing for a while.

This Men Avoid Failure Thing is important in the context of a man’s marriage or dating relationships. Men often withdraw and/or actively avoid conflict in their relationships. We do this because our experience has taught us that we cannot succeed by having the hard relationship conversations. (Not because it’s not possible, but usually because we’re unskilled communicators lacking profoundly in the empathy department, so we just keep having the same fight over and over.)

Maybe that’s not just a guy thing. I don’t know.

Our Relationships Matter Most

I’ve written it a hundred times: I BROKE after divorce.

My head and body physically hurt. There was chest tightness and constant feelings of stress and anxiety that never really went away unless I was asleep or intoxicated. When I slept, I had bad dreams. When I drank, I blabbed constantly about divorce to both friends and strangers, and probably made everyone uncomfortable.

When your mind and body betray you every second of every day, NOTHING in life is good.

Work sucks. Parties suck. Dating sucks. Even spending time with your child sucks because it’s a constant reminder of your failings and the undeserved life sentence you just gave him.

Until I felt how true misery poisons, or at least clouds, every life experience, I never truly realized the importance of Mental, Physical, Spiritual, and Emotional health like I do now.

Mental health and addiction are huge factors in accidental deaths and suicides, and I’m woefully ignorant about and unqualified to discuss them.

But assuming some of these people took their own lives to simply get rid of the hurt, I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to realize that people who “succeed” and who are “loved” and who experience great fame and fortune and accolades ARE JUST LIKE US. Many of them had everything marked off on the Things I Believe Will Make Me Happy checklists shared by so many of us. But for reasons we can’t fully understand, they were so miserable they intentionally killed themselves or consumed enough drugs to end their lives.

Robin Williams. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Whitney Houston. Heath Ledger. Kurt Cobain. Hunter S. Thompson. Tony Scott. Ernest Hemingway. Marilyn Monroe. Junior Seau. Don Cornelius.

It’s staggering.

Until I first experienced true isolation, I never truly understood the critical role our human relationships play in our overall life experience. I’d taken it for granted every day because I’d always had it. In the context of our earthly lives, nothing is more important. You know it when it’s gone.

Perspective.

We neglect our intimate relationships and our families and our friendships in pursuit of “succeeding” at other things. Our jobs. Our hobbies. Our competitions.

And then sometimes we “succeed,” but no one’s around to share the success with.

And then sometimes we get old and die, lonely and afraid.

And perhaps all because of something as sneakily simple as HOW we thought about our relationships and what the word “success” really means.

Like many previous life lessons, it was one I had to learn the hard way. Maybe some others won’t have to.

Because it’s never too late to put our focus over there instead of over here.

Maybe that’s where we’ll find what we’re looking for.

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That Probably Doesn’t Matter

caveman fire

Do you have ANY idea how much better life got once the cave folk discovered fire? (Image/en.paperblog.com)

“What probably doesn’t matter?”

Most things. Most things don’t matter.

Whatever has you stressed. Whatever you’re doing instead of playing with your children. Whatever you’re doing instead of the things that make you feel joy. Whatever you read in the news that pissed you off this morning. Most of the things you thought about, and most of the things you said, and most of the things you did today. (Not all! Just, most.) None of that shit matters.

Here’s a thought experiment most of us have probably done before: (Don’t cheat. Do it. Yes, especially you.) Imagine an asteroid of the world-ending variety is barreling toward Earth, and that you’re NOT the kind of asshole who is going to loot stores for flat-screen televisions and diamond rings. It doesn’t matter when impact is. Tomorrow. Three months. Take your pick. The experiment works either way.

Now, even though you should write this stuff down and look at it every day for the rest of your life and live accordingly, I know you won’t because you’re too busy like me worrying about things which don’t actually matter. So, instead, just think really hard and try to remember it later when you’re contemplating replacing your family room TV with something bigger and more high-definitiony. “OMG, my 50-inch 4KTV is soooo grainy and shitty compared to Randy’s new 60-inch 4KTV!!! Watching ‘Force Awakens’ on Blu-ray isn’t even fun anymore!!!”

You, everyone you know, and every stranger you meet has a fast-approaching death sentence.

Who do you want to be, and who do you want to be with?

What are the things you want to say to people you know and love?

What do you want to experience, and why?

In a non-apocalyptic, real-life scenario, what’s stopping you from doing those things right now? Okay, back to We’re All Gonna Die…

Are you still pissed about that thing you saw on Facebook?

Are you still stressed about whatever you’re stressed about?

Are you still hung up on politics, your favorite sports team, that argument you had over the weekend, or work “problems”?

If you’re dead next month or next week or tomorrow? Those were rhetorical.

Maybe we can make better choices.

OMG, Let’s All Freak Out About [Insert Stupid Thing Here]!!!

Last week, the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer was released, and it was pretty awesome but that’s subjective and not why I mention it.

I mention it because it only took humanity via the internet about an hour to try to ruin it for everyone.

“OMG!!! ANOTHER female lead?!?! WTF, Star Wars?!?! Are we ever going to see another male lead?!?!”

No, Guy Who Is Super-Mad About a Second-Consecutive Female Lead in a Star Wars Movie. Every Star Wars film from now until the end of time will have a female lead, you know, except for the Han Solo and Boba Fett projects which have already been confirmed. Settle down, shit eaters.

Some people got worked up because the writers included a martial arts expert in the story and had the audacity to cast an Asian man for the role.

One guy on Twitter counted the number of male and female actors appearing in the ‘Rogue One’ trailer, categorized them by race, reported the numbers, and used them as evidence Disney is secretly racist and sexist.

I wonder how many of those people would give a crap about racial quotas, and how many actual racists would measure people by skin color if that asteroid was showing up tomorrow.

Sometimes, people care about stupid things

I did something important for me and my son Saturday on a one-night Cub Scouts camping trip.

There was a decent-sized group of parents and kids staying at the campgrounds. We rented two cabins. One with a kitchen with all necessary appliances, running water, central heating, two bathrooms, and located right next to a parking lot; and one thin-walled wooden ice box with visible gaps under all the doors, large bugs crawling around, super-uncomfortable cots, one fireplace for heat, and some rickety open-air outhouse toilets at least a football field away that—even in a biological emergency of epic proportions—were so uninviting that I would have chosen death by dysentery before using them.

My son and I drew the short straws and were asked to stay in the Haitian shanty while 90 percent of the Scouts and parents were staying in the well-heated Bellagio. In total, four dads and five sons were asked to stay in the rustic cabin.

The overnight temperatures were in the low teens. Very, very cold.

Because of a no-show, two beds became available in the Bellagio cabin late in the evening. The head Scout guy asked whether I’d like to stay there with my young son, and even though I secretly wanted to say yes, I did the right thing by declining.

“I have electricity and climate-controlled air every day of my life. We need this,” I said, truthfully.

My son, who has never known life without the mobile web and unlimited on-demand video content, was forced to entertain himself by laughing with his friend in the neighboring bunk, making faces at each other in the glow of the fire.

I slept next to a three-inch-thick non-insulated wooden wall, purposefully avoiding the bottled water on the window sill next to me because there was no simple way to biologically purge it. I can’t overstate how cold, wet, muddy and all-around uncomfortable it was outside where wild turkeys and deer kept their distance from the howling coyotes.

When you don’t want to drink water (which many in the world don’t even have easy access to) because “using the restroom” is more trouble than it’s worth, and you feel cold in your bones when not under several blankets even though you’re well-dressed for the conditions, your brain starts working better.

Functioning thermostats are neat. Insulation is neat. Running water is neat. Appliances are neat. My bed is neat. The ability to go to the restroom whenever and without stepping outside is neat. Kitchens are neat. Pavement is neat. Overhead lighting is neat.

You get the idea.

Perspective. A change in focus. Like we’d all have if that killer asteroid was heading this way.

Wives: ‘How Can I Be a Better Spouse?’

Relativism is a funny thing.

For wives married to shitty husbands, I stand with them in their intolerance of hearing bullshit comparisons in defense of lousy spousal behavior. “I don’t cheat on you like Rodney does on Kathy!” or “At least I’m not drunk every night like Gary!” or “At least I provide this nice house for you to live in unlike Trailer Park Bob!” as if those things somehow magically offset shitty husbandry.

Guys, just because you know other guys who score F grades on the “Am I a Good Husband?” Test does NOT make your D+ or C- something to brag about.

But on the other hand, a wife using relativism as a tool to achieve perspective? Might that be useful? I think so. I think seeking out the good in people and situations is the surest way to avoid feeling miserable all the time, which is really important to avoid.

Wives ask me all the time via comments and email: “But what about ME?! I can be a shitty wife, too, sometimes. What more can I do?”

Some people really are married to shitheads. I know this.

But, sometimes? They’re married to pretty great guys and have spent years ignoring many of the good things about them, choosing instead to focus on the “bad things,” or on everything that’s missing.

Sometimes, wives are so pissed that Netflix is buffering in the middle of their show, they forget to remember and be grateful that they’re watching high-definition video on-demand for $8 a month on a kick-ass TV made possible by the technological miracle of readily available internet access and electricity.

As comedian Louis CK famously said: “Everything’s amazing and no one is happy.”

God knows I’m not asking wives to just grin and bear it if they’re dealing with abuse or neglect. But everyone needs to accept more responsibility for their lives and how we feel about ourselves, and that, by definition, includes married women.

Look around and see how others live. Recognize things about their lives you’re happy you don’t have to deal with. Feel good about those things.

Look around at what you have. Recognize that MOST of it consists of things most people around the world don’t have but wish they did.

Even the aforementioned Trailer Park Bob lives like a king compared to millions.

This isn’t just a wife thing.

EVERYONE needs to work harder at gratitude.

EVERYONE needs to work harder at recognizing that how we feel about almost everything is based less on each thing’s individual merit, and more on how it compares to something similar, or our preconceived expectations.

I’m 37, and I’ve already heard four generations lament the loss of the “good old days.” About how something from our particular childhood was somehow infinitely better than every other generation’s childhoods in human history.

It’s because we’re ego-centric, selfish, ignorant, lack humility and always forget to ask the right questions. You know… relatively speaking.

But I don’t think we have to be that way.

Because if the asteroid was coming, we wouldn’t be.

And since none of us are getting out of this alive, you might say that it kind of is.

 

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How to Feel Grateful

Pi lost everything. Everything except hope. And he learned how to feel gratitude, even love, for his greatest obstacle.

Pi lost everything. Everything except hope. And he learned how to feel gratitude, even love, for what he feared the most.

I just watched Life of Pi.

Reading the book was on my to-do list. But I just never got around to it. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone interested in it, so if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, you should go read this really fantastic blog about homeless people instead.

In Life of Pi, the protagonist loses everything.

His country. His home. His girlfriend. His family. Human companionship.

Then, he loses basic needs. Shelter. Food and water. Safety.

My favorite line in the film was: “Hunger can change everything you thought you knew about yourself.”

I don’t think we spend enough time thinking about stuff like this.

We wake up and go to work and eat food and do random activities we may or may not actually enjoy, then go to bed. Then we do it all over again the next day.

We complain about our bills. I’m still whining about those stupid couches in the living room.

We fret over the loss of our creature comforts. This actually happened: When someone asked me why I still have the iPhone 4S and never upgraded to the iPhone 5, I talked about how much I enjoy having a bunch of phone-charger cords, and how I put off upgrading to avoid “only” having one or two phone-charger cords rather than the five or six I have now. I have issues.

We whine because our good stuff isn’t good enough. I had a conversation last night with two other guys over beers about how our high-definition widescreen televisions weren’t nice enough. How we needed bigger and better ones.

People are sick. Dying. Addicted. Starving. Abused. Raped. Murdered. Wrongly accused. Impoverished. Abandoned. Homeless.

Sometimes people are several of those horrible things at the same time.

And I was drinking a $6 beer and bitching about a 53-inch HDTV I wish was nicer.

We can all use a little perspective once in a while.

Me, more than most.

We must choose to be grateful. Actively. To feel it.

We need to remind ourselves due to our natural tendency to take things and people for granted. It is one of the pitfalls of the human experience.

Ten Miracles

My favorite writer is a guy named James Altucher.

I don’t know that I think he’s the best writer. Probably not. But he’s my favorite. Because he’s the guy who taught me to be honest when I write. So honest that I’m sometimes afraid to hit “Publish.”

He claims to write down at least 10 miracles every day. The miracles aren’t necessarily Holy-Jesus-Did-You-Just-See-That!? miracles.

A few of his examples:

“At 5 a.m. this morning, I walked outside and watched the river, gray and beautiful under a rising sun. Then I saw a skunk looking at me. It was strikingly beautiful as well. Then I ran.”

“My two daughters are too young to fight in any war in Syria. They can’t even operate drones. I hope they always stay that young.”

“While I was driving and not killing anyone, a satellite from outer space beamed the song “Heart of Glass” directly into my car. This made me very happy. Finally outer space is useful.”

I don’t know if I have the time, discipline or inclination to write down 10 miracles every day like Mr. Altucher. But as an exercise in strengthening my gratitude muscle? It seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

It’s about 5 p.m. I haven’t even left my house yet today. (Bad decision!) But here are 10 miracles at work today.

  1. My heart is beating. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t plug it in. Or use a battery. But there it is. Delivering life to the rest of me. Providing the opportunity to breathe the fresh, cool air and admire the perfect blue sky and think and eat and watch a movie.
  2. I don’t feel lonely.
  3. I was invited to a party tonight.
  4. I thought about a girl today who isn’t my ex-wife. Someone I’d like to go out with.
  5. I get to feel excited about little stuff like watching football again.
  6. A bunch of little things that make writing this possible. Electricity. My computer. Wireless Internet access. The use of my hands and fingers.
  7. I don’t feel angry about my marriage failing.
  8. Life of Pi entertained AND enlightened me.
  9. I can survive several weeks on the food in my house. I won’t go hungry. And when the supply dwindles, I can afford to go to a grocery store and buy more food. What a blessing.
  10. I have you. I don’t know how many of you there are. Doesn’t matter. I have a reader. I am unbelievably grateful for you. You have no idea. It’s a miracle. You’re a miracle.

Find a reason to tell someone who matters that you’re grateful for them today.

You’ll feel good.

They’ll feel good.

And you both deserve it.

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Bad Luck with a Side of Perspective

In the poker game of life, you have to be able to handle the swings.

In the poker game of life, you have to be able to handle the swings.

I played poker for the first time since my wife left.

Just a few hours ago.

My hopes were high heading into the game because I’m an above-average tournament player.

But it went the same as the rest of my life.

The house we played in was amazing. Everyone attending had a lot of money.

Everyone except me.

I kept waiting for the rich guy my wife is banging to show up and take my chips.

He never did.

But everything else that could have gone wrong did.

The Job Loss

Right around Halloween in 2009, the managing editor of the business publication I was working for called me into a conference room. I thought we were going to discuss a project or story he wanted me to work on.

He told me that the company’s downsizing as a result of the Great Recession was continuing and that my job was being eliminated. It was the third round of job cuts at the company that year. I had survived the first two.

Third time’s a charm.

They invited me to stay on staff through the rest of the year, but that come January 1, I would no longer be employed.

Everyone I worked with knew before I did. It was really hard to walk around the newsroom with my head held high after that. But I faked it well.

Telling my wife that my job had been eliminated was an equally awful experience. I told her everything would be OK. That we’d make it work. That I’d find a way to reinvent my career and find something more sustainable than journalism. That I’d find a way to make more money.

I was unemployed for 18 months if you don’t count the freelance copywriting business I started.

That’s one and a half years of my wife going to work every day with me mostly staying home with our son.

Mr. Mom.

She thought I was a loser. She never used those words. But she didn’t have to.

Believing in me was never part of her marital makeup.

Back on the Felt

I was dealt one good hand the entire night. A pair of jacks. And I had to fold them. Because I knew I was beat after an ace flopped.

And that was the theme the rest of the night: fold, fold, fold.

Concede.

Submit.

Give up.

I should have stayed home and mowed my lawn, I thought.

My tournament ended unceremoniously on a Hail Mary all-in bet that was called by a superior hand, which rightfully held up.

And bam. It was over.

In the grand scheme of poker playing, I’ve been here before. Many times. This sort of thing happens. And you have to be able to handle the swings. Poker is not about short-term gains. It’s about long-term ones.

But I could really use a positive experience or two. For real. And I wanted to win that game. Badly.

But Lady Luck still isn’t taking my calls.

It was miserable faking smiles while I shook hands and wished everyone “Good luck” before heading home.

A Side of Perspective

I checked my phone when I got in my car.

A text message and Facebook status update alerted me to news that shifted my entire focus.

The publishing company that owns the business journal from which I had been laid off three and a half years ago was relocating the publication to Detroit.

Almost everyone there is now facing two choices: Move to Motown or start collecting unemployment.

Wow.

My mind swirled. I felt bad for my friends there.

And then it hit me.

Thank God I got laid off when I did.

Because I’d be damn near suicidal right now if I had to deal with a job loss in addition to the rest of this shit.

I have a great job. I mean, it’s bullshit and corporate and a little too Office Space some days.

But it’s secure. My co-workers are mostly awesome. And I make way more money than I ever did as a reporter.

And I swore I would never again take quality employment for granted.

And the news that all of my old colleagues are now facing the guillotine really drives that point home.

I almost smiled. I do feel really bad for those employees. Because I know exactly what that flavor of shit sandwich tastes like.

But I couldn’t help myself. The corners of my mouth actually flirted with a smile.

Because EVERYTHING in this world is relative.

And for one brief moment, I got to feel lucky again.

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