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Dec 25, 2011

Chaotic Christmas Calm

It's Christmas Day! If you are having the average morning here in America, you probably have had a sick spouse or children, the dog whizzing on the tree, someone smeared chocolate from the stockings on the tablecloth, and a major ingredient for the family dinner was likely forgotten. Faking smiles and burying your anger because you believe everyone around you expects you to maintain a good mood regardless just because of the date on the calendar.
However, take a moment, breathe and relax. Know that those with whom you surround yourself today love you and don't really care if your hair isn't perfect or if the turkey is a little dry. The fellowship, the love, the gift of peace for everyone everywhere is why we celebrate this day. Stop and remember this; let the stressful details go and enjoy your friends and family. It doesn't have to be (and won't be) perfect...and they will love you anyway.
Look around at the children today too. They don't know anything but how to have fun today. They are filled with joy and excitement. They probably have no stress and probably no regard of impressions to make either. I think there must be a lesson there somewhere. Perhaps today I should strive to be a little more childlike without shurking my responsibilities, of course. If anyone gets that one figured out, let me in on that secret.
Anyway, may today (and everyday) be filled with joy and blessings beyond understanding and that transcend the conditions around you. Count your blessings; I bet like me, you have many, many more than you permit yourself to recognize on a daily basis. I know I have an amazing life and some of the most wonderful people to share it with me. I love them all, and I know they love me - and that's all that matters today. God bless everyone!

Dec 7, 2011

Parents Just Don't Understand

I’d love to hear Will Smith rap about raising kids in response to his teenage song twenty years ago. But let me just say, raising kids is not for the weak. My daughter is wonderful. She is talented, makes good grades, stays out of trouble, has reasonable social activities, can converse on an adult level, conducts herself in a strong moral fashion and is generally congenial. But wow – there are moments I still want to kill her.
Recently, she has been going through a forgetfulness phase, losing jackets or forgetting homework or leaving her phone at different places. It’s been the theme of the past few weeks and always an item that would seem “mission critical” for the context of what’s happening next. Worse, her attitude becomes one of indifference or expectation that her parents are servants to resolve her mistakes.
However, to demonstrate the dichotomy of this young teen and how soft-hearted she can be as well, I must note that in the midst of me writing this, she came into my office and asked if she could stay after basketball practice tomorrow to scrimmage and help coach the Special Olympics participants. So, it is difficult to complain about her attitude.
Nonetheless, much of success is gained through discipline. I don’t mean punishment; I mean discipline in the way of keeping oneself to a schedule or routine with a commitment and promise to oneself to do whatever is required to stick with it. This is a tough thing to practice for most adults, but that is also why it is important to establish it when the kids are still young. And I have failed to instill this well in my child.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share an idea we are trying here. I’ll keep everyone apprised of how it works. It may be a dismal failure, but I’m hoping it will be a radical break-thru. In reality, it will probably just be one more thing to try, but we’ll see.
We have listed out the expectations of my daughter, house-hold chores and general responsibilities. This is typically maintenance stuff, like keeping her room “non-atrocious” in appearance, cleaning the guest bathroom daily, and feeding the dog. I think most parents struggle to keep their kids doing such things. So, we have created “consequences” – which is entirely different from punishment, which would be used for defiant behavior or the deliberate breaking of house rules.
These “consequences” are designed to mimic life, where the impact of one’s mistake is perhaps more random. In my life, minor mistakes sometimes have huge consequences, and sometimes I have a huge blunder that I just get away with out of luck. So, I’m conducting a list of things, such as “lose phone privilege for a day” and “must do an extra chore” but have included “pay a dollar” and “nothing this time” on the list. When she fails to do her duties, we are doing to roll dice and randomly select the consequence.
We’ll see how this goes, but I’m hoping it will make her more alert and aware of responsibilities. If nothing else, it will teach her that sometimes life just isn’t fair – and that’s a lesson we could all stand to remember.

Nov 28, 2011


In thinking of some of the worst times of my life – times I’ve lost jobs, lost friendships, ended a marriage – there seems to be a common thread that runs through them all. That thread is pride – not the confident, assertive kind, but the haughty kind that “goeth before the fall.”
I won’t go into any details, but I was once fired from my job because I thought I was too important and placed myself above the goal of the project. Another time, for nearly a decade I was estranged from a once-close circle of friends when I believed they were disrespecting me and my talent. My marriage failed, and when the final straw broke, it was more about my personal dignity than the actions or events that had happened. Most recently, I broke off my engagement and much of it was due to my ego and what I felt I deserved without expressing what I needed from her; in fact, I even gave her permission to go against my wishes, then turned those actions against her.
However, my point has nothing to do with the details, but I offer a glimpse to illustrate my puffed-up ego and perception of my own self-importance in each of these cases. Later, after the dust of my pride settled, I suffered deep regret from each of these happenings. Sadly, these are not the only episodes of my life where this lack of humility exists, but they are significant events where my point is easily identified.
To be fair, I am not the sole villain in these tales. This is not some self-piteous crisis that I decry. The other people in each story are not innocent and did things I believe they now regret as well. However, I cannot control or be responsible for what anyone else does. I don’t get to correct and build character from their mistakes and actions. I can only do those things about my own behavior and my own mindset. Regardless of anyone else’ actions, I must still be true to myself.
This makes me think of the passage in Second Chronicles, where it says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I note that Ezra does not address the wrong-doing of others or blame enemies for things that had happened to the Israelites. He talks about their actions, their responsibilities and their humility.
I can’t point the finger at others and blame them for the results. Others may play a factor and influence the outcome, but ultimately I make choices. I am held accountable for those choices, regardless of those around me. When I choice with a spirit of pride and without humility, the results are often wasteful – and become chapters of my life filled with remorse.
Today, I pray that I stay humble in every encounter I have and that I remember I am not as important as my pride whispers. I will cherish everything as if it were a gift – because it is.

Nov 27, 2011

A New Season, A New Cause

The Advent Season is upon us. Those who know me well or have followed my blog for a while are aware of the personal tradition I started a few years back when I decided to Fight the Establishment. In some ways, this is my own Occupy Wall Street movement, but in my opinion following this idea is far more realistic to bring about a positive change for those in need.
Three years ago, I discovered that Americans spend over $450 billion on Christmas gifts each year. Now, I have no breakdown for the one-percenters spending versus the working class citizen, but according to the American Consumer Credit Council, the average American spends $925 on Christmas each year. Also, a Gallup poll found that 36 percent of shoppers thought this spending to be a chore-like activity.
It was that Holiday season of 2008 when I changed my personal practice for Christmas. I still bought gifts for my family and close friends; however, I asked everyone who would spend even $5 on me for a card to take a different action instead. I realized that I didn’t need the esteem of knowing someone cared by receiving a trinket. Most things I received at Christmas-time were items I rarely used or cards I would throw away. Instead I asked those who wanted to give me a gift to donate the equivalent money to a worthy charity, the Rwanda Clean Water Project.
If there is something I want, I have the means to get it. However, many people in Rwanda go without clean water on a daily basis. And for that $5 card/gift spent on me, one more person can have drinkable water for life if it were donated to this cause.
However, this year I would like to add another cause to the list, should someone wish to donate in my name for Christmas. A new charity I have taken on is the International Rett Syndrome Foundation. Rett Syndrome is debilitating genetic, non-hereditary disease that affects around 4000 girls in the United States alone. And those are the ones who have been properly diagnosed, but the actual number is estimated to be 1 in every 10,000 girls around the world.
The affliction, a mutation on the MECP2 gene, prevents proper neurological development in young girls. Because it is on the X chromosome, boys rarely survive beyond a few weeks after birth. Girls, however, have 2 X chromosomes, allowing a back-up gene for development and permits them to live, but this compensation leaves them with a range of neurological issues. Because each girl has her own unique genetic set, her symptoms are different and specific to her. However, common drawbacks include slowed development, the loss of purposeful use of the hands, stunted physical head and brain growth, problems walking, seizures and the inability to speak.
I know there are many horrid diseases and worthy research causes to which one can donate. I have heard others say that in syndromes such as Rett, the money is just prevention-style research to find ways to identify the disease and stop it for future generations, but donations do not really help those currently stricken with it. This is sometimes the excuse not to give. However, I want to dispel that type of thinking if anyone reading this is of similar mind.
In 2007, Dr. Adrian Bird announced the reversal of Rett syndrome symptoms in a mouse model. In afflicted mice the treatment allowed breathing and weight to normalize, mobility and gait to restore and tremors to cease. More importantly, this treatment appears to be reversible even in the late stages of the disease. This means young girls who are affected today might be restored to normal lives with further research and funding.
I personally know a young girl, almost five years old now, who has Rett Syndrome. At one time, she was to become my step-daughter. But regardless of familial status nor whether she is ever cured or not, I will always have love in my heart for this beautiful angel. However, if I had the power, I would give her the cure, but I can’t do it alone. This is why I have added the IRSF to the list of charities I support and ask others to donate to it instead of buying me a Christmas gift. The small trinket to let me know I’m loved is nice, but that same money spent to restore the quality of life for this little girl (and others like her) would mean much, much more to me.
Please keep this in mind when making out your shopping list this season. Also, please consider asking your friends and family to forego the gift-giving to you and to donate in your name to this cause instead.

Nov 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Life

It’s early Thanksgiving morning, and I’m the only one up so far. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the blessings in my life this week. Further, I‘ve examine how bad my attitude has been. While I may have gone through some difficult episodes recently that explain my view, a bad attitude is something that cannot be permitted to continue regardless of the excuse. Perhaps that’s why Thanksgiving comes around – so that at least once each year we have the opportunity to stop, be grateful and reset our mindsets.
Without getting political, because that is far from the point, but I read an article about those living below the poverty line here in America now live more comfortably than most European royalty of four hundred years ago. In fact this article stated that the “non-homeless poor” owned more household amenities than the middle-class did two decades ago. Yet, we have people ignoring their blessings and occupying Some Street in protest of the economic travesty. So many Americans, like me, have lost focus of how amazingly blessed they really are.
But it’s not just about materialism. Yes, I am blessed with more wonderful items than I can say grace over. And yes, I take that for granted. That is something I plan to change and be more cognizant of.
However, the true blessings and true riches I have are the people in my life. I’ve heard some cliché sounding similar to that statement so many times, and nonchalantly nodded in agreement. But recently, I’ve become increasingly appreciative of the connections, the conversations, the experiences and the rapport I have with other people, and how often I miss great opportunities and blessings because I am focused so intently on the wrong thing. Either I’m grumbling over a problem or I’m waiting on the “next thing” to happen, and I miss some gems surrounding me.
I’ve come to realize that men tend to be “fixers.” One step further, I am an analyst and solution developer in my career. I have been trained to find problems, to envision beyond the scope and anticipate problems that don’t even exist yet. Then I determine their risk and take pre-emptive actions to mitigate those risks. In business this makes great sense. However, as that permeates into my life-living philosophy, it creates great tragedy.
I focus too much on the negative and ignore or forget to appreciate all the success that goes on routinely. In my friendships and romantic relationships, I ferret out “the problems” that need to be mitigated, often before they even exist. These issues linger in my brain because people cannot be quickly re-coded like software; thus, those “problems” (real or not) are always a risk with that person, a subconscious label I place.
Wow! How sick is that? Yet, I imagine many more people think like that than just me. I spoke with a stunningly beautiful woman yesterday who complained of the onset of some wrinkles around her eyes. I begged her not to focus on the less than one-percent she felt was bad when all else was phenomenally gorgeous. There are many other examples. I’m sure we each have our personal anecdotes to support how we notice the dirty house, but ignore the clean one.
So, this is my new character project: to make every day Thanksgiving. I am resetting my focus away from the problems, at least the ones that don’t yet exist, and appreciate what is good and pure and beautiful in my life – because there really is so much more of that to notice in my charmed life. Every morning I will remind myself to look for these things and to catch myself when inappropriately focusing on the negative.
Also, with each encounter, every conversation or experience I have with those close to me, I will make a mental note to ask myself, “If this were the last time I saw this person alive, would I be content with how I interacted with him or her? Would I be proud of the attentiveness I gave this moment?” It is important for me to start cherishing moments, in the moment, rather than wait until it’s too late and wishing I had that time back again. Regret is not the intangible I want surrounding me. I want to be a man who carries his treasured memories…so much so that I glow from them.
So, this Thanksgiving, I will take the moments to remind those in my life just how special they are to me. I will be truly Thankful for them. I hope everyone who reads this will reserve a few moments to do the same. God bless you and have a fantastic Thanksgiving Day (and life).

Nov 18, 2011

The Plum - Reposted

Original Post Date: Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 9:00am
This is not mine. A friend posted it on FaceBook, but I found it too invaluable not to share.
You should learn you cannot be loved by all people. You can be the finest PLUM in the world: ripe, juicy, succulent, a positive delight.
But you must remember there will be people who do not like plums.
You must understand that if you are the World's Finest Plum, and someone you like does not like plums, you have a choice of becoming a banana. BUT you must be warned should you choose to become a banana, you will always be a a second-rate banana instead of the Best Plum.
You must realize if you choose to be a second-rate banana, there will also be people who don't like bananas.
Further, you can spend your life trying to become the best banana, which is impossible if you are a plum. Or you can seek again to be the Best Plum.

Nov 15, 2011

Project Post-Mortem

The room-makeover project was a wonderful experience in many ways. As I mentioned before, it was nice to see the results of my efforts in an obvious and tangible way. So much of what I do at work and in my relationships don’t have that sort of real evidence. It was a great reminder that a good effort made does yield a good outcome.
Secondly, this was a physical work effort, something I’ve been unable to do for several weeks. That measure may be shy too. Not only am I healed from my surgery, but I now realize how much I hurt prior to it and did not recognize it. To be physically normal again is an amazing blessing and is having a “runneth over” effect on my psyche as well.
Perhaps it’s Providence that I was in so much pain while I was recently engaged. I’m convinced we were not meant to be – or at least we were not joining together for the right reasons. That said; I can see where much of my physical pain created anger, frustration and reactions from me that probably would not have ordinarily been there. In truth, that uncomfortableness probably is the blame for our break-up, which is both sad and fortunate.
As I said, there were unspoken issues that would have made our coupling difficult, but at the same time, it is heartbreaking to think we called off a lifetime together over a hernia. But alas, I now look at this somewhat like a vacation. My three-month engagement was beautiful, exciting, thrilling and wonderful; it was a great place to visit, but living there isn't something I will do. Just because the vacation comes to an end, doesn’t mean I feel bad for not having moved there. I don't have to be angry that the vacation is over. I still think of the visit fondly and with beautiful memories. Vacations are often high points of life that are remembered always.
But now it is back to reality and living where I am, no longer on that vacation. There are many wonderful things about “living at home” too. It’s comfortable; it’s safe; it doesn’t have to be about the next big thrill. I am free to be “me” again – and now that I am no longer in pain, I really have returned home to the me I really am.
So, all of that from painting my bedroom. Not to mention, I have a great looking room too. I wonder what revelations my next home project will bring.

Nov 13, 2011

Bedroom 2.0 - Day 3 and fini

The painting is complete. I’ve even hung the décor back up. However, the weight bench I planned to buy won’t fit in the remaining space. I might have to go with a smaller one, which is fine because I doubt I work over a 300 lb press. But we’re not talking about my training; we’re talking about the room.
Anyway, the photos don’t really do the room justice, but it gives a bit of an idea. The room is a tad darker in reality; I suppose the flash lightens the image a little more than normal. At any rate, I shot the first image outside looking in through the doorway, then the others inside the room, corner to corner, starting at the entryway and then rotating to my right each shot.
I stayed close to the budget (over about $40) but did not purchase a headboard. So, there are two more additions to come over the next few weeks: the headboard plus weight bench, if you weren’t paying attention.
Anyway, I’m very pleased. Even when my fiancée lived here, she wanted to paint the room. I agreed it needed some pizazz. However, I suppose this was my way of “remarking” the territory. Nonetheless, it is nice to complete a project and actually get to observe the fruits of my labor. This was beneficial in many ways.

Picture 1, From Entryway

Picture 2, Looking to the bathroom door

Picture 3, All three doors; far left is entry

Picture 4, Where the weights should be

Nov 11, 2011

Bedroom 2.0 - Day 2

Well, I had to take a couple of days break from my inspiring room project. There were just more important issues with which to deal, specifically some special daughter-time and a friend in need. So tonight I took back to the paint. Of course, having a water main break down the street causing the water to be shut off in the house made for an interesting start. But all turned out well.
Not a lot done tonight, but I did apply two coats of paint to the accent wall behind the bed. I’m still waiting for it to dry so I can touch up the edges and move the bed back. However, I think the simulated pictures are fairly close, although the real color is slightly more purple than I expected, but then again it’s not yet dry in the picture.

Computer-Generated Wall Color

Still wet after 2 coats
Slow and steady wins the race...

Nov 9, 2011

Bedroom 2.0 - Day 1

Last night I bought paint, curtain rods, sheets, a new bedspread, sham and accent pillows. My original estimate is now almost blown, so I may wait on the headboard for a week or two. Plus I'm still planning on a few other additions, so the final revealing may be after Thanksgiving.
Now, it was too late to paint anything large scale, like the walls. However, I did change out the linens and paint doors, two coats. So, the pictures below in the top row are real, and the ones below have predicted wall color by PhotoShop. It will be nice to have this complete because I don't think the photos do the red accents justice, and comparing them side-by-side make them appear to fight much more than they do in real life.

Painted Door

New Bed Decor

Real Doors, Generated Wall Color

Computer-Generated Wall Color
Not too bad for one day. Of course, one problem with painting with red is drips outside the splash sheet are harder to get out of the carpet. More to come...

Nov 8, 2011

Alone In My Room

So, I thought I'd give a quick update. I used the Behr website to select a color scheme. This is not final, but a general idea of what I'm thinking. My sister's suggestion of accenting with red is interesting. I'd probably use a darker red, and I might paint the interior side of the door red. Also, for these pictures, I deliberately darkened my existing bedspread to closer match what I'm thinking as a final result.

Blue/Gray No Soffits Painted

Blue/Gray with Soffits Painted

Reverse Corner with Door
There is my idea at the moment. I am still unsure what to do with the soffits. I also think the website program tends to be a little brighter than reality. It was close when painting Rachel's room, but I remember thinking the result was just slightly darker than the computer mock-up.
I'm looking for a little feedback and other suggestions, but I will probably settle on paint colors in the next day or two. Worst case, I don't like it and paint again. Give me your thoughts, please.

Nov 7, 2011

Go To Your Room!

This may not be an exciting topic – or perhaps some will find it a refreshing change. However, I thought I would share the plans for my newest project at home. As most know, I recently purchased a new house late last spring. I absolutely love my new house, but now I can’t just call the landlord when I want something done – not that I did much of that previously.
It’s interesting to note what one does and doesn’t have when moving from bachelor-style renting to home-ownership. And in all fairness, this latest project was inspired by my former fiancée who had several good ideas for decoration when she lived here. So, I am starting with the Master bedroom. Part of a schema has been started there anyway; now I’ll just finish it out.
As I said, it is interesting what is missing. I have no curtains anywhere in the house. Now, the blinds that I have in the living areas may mean I don’t need them everywhere. I’m sure there is a wide variety of opinion on this topic. However, in the bedroom, there are times one needs to “black out” the world around. While I was recovering from surgery, that early morning sun pierced through my blinds quite easily, making the additional rest I needed not so simple.
Last night I purchased two panels of Roberta-textured thermal curtains. They are black, but because of the textured style they have more of a peppered look. And honestly, I’m not sure what “Roberta” means in this context, but they’re going to look good. However, what I forgot to buy with them was curtain rods. But Lowes is only a mile and a half away.
I also plan to paint the walls and neutral-ish blue-gray of some sort. I’m still picking the color. I’m struggling with exactly how much to paint. I may do two tones on opposing walls, like navy versus gray – or I might just hit all four walls the same color. Besides just the color and number of walls, I must decide what to do with the two 4x20 foot soffits in the room. I’m not sure whether those are “part of the ceiling” or whether to paint them as well.
Finally, I will replace my bedspread with a gray-matching one. Also I will find a headboard to match the recently-purchased dresser pieces that are in the room now. Ironically, one of those pieces is sitting empty, but that story has been told enough.
If I tabulate only my expenses from last night forward, I think the whole renovation of the room will cost under $500. Of course that mainly depends on the headboard I choose. Curtains and paint won’t come close to that figure; the bedspread could be a factor but shouldn’t be too pricey.
Anyway, this is what I will be working on in my spare time between now and Thanksgiving. Please feel free to share ideas with me, and I will keep everyone apprised of the progress.

Nov 5, 2011

What Difference Does It Make

This week has been a strange one, but as Shakespeare said, "All's well that ends well." And this week did end well for me in the sense of personal and emotional comfort in many ways.
I had many issues flaring up this week, most of which I did not handle well early on. Stress was at one of the highest points it has been probably in the past five years. However, some specific moments of clarity befell me, and life in so many areas started to become far less burdensome. The problems or the pain still existed, but my perspective changed - and that made a huge difference.
So to better explain, I am going to share a specific struggle - one I've written a lot about this past month, my recent break-up. I contemplated whether or not to share this specific topic because in the past she had expressed discomfort with me blogging about her. However, after a moment of consideration, I realized what I'm about to state is ever-so-much not about her; it is about me.
I came to some very real honesty about me, how I felt, and the angry side I harbored over the break-up. For events involving my former fiancée this week, I had both poor and mannerly responses. Nonetheless, I did reach a point of healthy closure and took a therapeutic exercise to accept that closure. Doing so, freed my heart in an amazing way. My thoughts still go back to our time together; she lived in this house and we spent time together at many places I still frequent - so there is an unavoidable nostalgia that exists.
However, my thoughts are no longer weepie or angry. I am able to look at these memories with a strange and wonderful fondness. Whether a fool or not, I loved this woman very much. How she felt in return cannot diminish what I gave and cannot lessen what I felt. And I am no longer making myself be responsible for whatever it was she felt, didn't feel, what she did or didn't do. What difference does that make? I know what I had (and still have) and what I felt (and still feel) and I can enjoy and cherish those intangibles that live within me. Those don't have to be affected by anyone or any event outside of me.
Yes, through therapy this week, through gaining new insight about trust and relationships, through personal conversations with others, my outlook (regardless of my circumstance) is strong in many areas of my life where I struggled only a few days ago. Yes, it has been a strange but good week.

Nov 4, 2011

Young Brilliance

My daughter, Rachel (Age 13), has been rather creative lately and has been writing several prose and poems. She recently penned a poem that not only I found quite discerning, but also has a nice meter and rhyme. She has given me permission to publish it here, and I'm very proud to share it.
    Some people lie, some people steal
    Some people give, some people heal
    Some people hate, and some people love
    But most of us do all the above

    All people hurt, all people feel
    All people wish some things weren't real
    All people hope, all people dream
    But not all people are quite what they seem

    We all have a life to make or to waste
    We all have something we have to face
    We all have little time before we are ghosts
    So with that time we must make the most

    So find a person that you hold dear
    And keep them close, oh so very near
    So try to live with more love than hate
    Before you meet an untimely fate

    You will be missed, this is true
    But we will remember the life you knew
    A life filled with faith, hope and love
    And wait until we meet again, way up above

    Some people lie, some people steal
    Some people give, some people heal
    Some people hate, and some people love
    But we are all equal way up above

Nov 3, 2011

Weak Trust

Today we had a seminar at work on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. We discussed the issue of trust, and I gained some very interesting perspective.
We often consider trust as something earned or that a person must have strong qualities to be trusted. We think that proven accomplishments over time is what establishes trust. However, that is a semantic game. What this describes is not trust, but responsibility and reputation.
Oddly enough, trust is not about being strong; trust is about sharing vulnerabilities. So to earn trust from another person, one must actually be weak rather than strong, open up and share fears or failures, explain trials or difficulties and be genuinely human.
Counter-intuitive as it seems at first, stop and think about it. We all know of someone who goes to painstaking effort to appear strong, to hide his or her weaknesses, and cover up their mistakes. At the end of all that, what opinion do we form? That they are shifty, sneaky, fake – and should not be trusted.
However, when someone shares a story of difficulty where they were hurt and struggled, how they suffered through a trying time or about a lacking skill he or she is trying to improve…what do we think then? Usually, it is along the lines of “Wow…that person is so honest with their own personal life” – and we conclude he or she is someone we can trust.
So, as I have overly stated this past month, I have been through an awful lot. The result of so much of this has become a barrier from trust built up around me. It’s so surprising I would have trust issues out of everything; right?
However, today was huge for me. I don’t want to have trust issues, and I want to move past them. I no longer want to focus on the problems or define what I’ve suffered. I am ready for recovery, and I need to build trust again. So, it was a wonderful revelation to me how trust really works. I feel confident that I can rebuild myself and trust in others not by trying to become “strong” again, but rather by sharing and connecting with others, admitting my wrongs and allowing myself to be vulnerable.
It won’t happen quickly. It won’t happen overnight. But it will happen as I continue to be honest, be loyal and be real.

Nov 1, 2011

The Measure of a Man

It's been a difficult time this past month. I've had a major surgery which kept me bedridden for days. It was a week before I could even return to work, and only now am I even close to being recovered. During the first few days post-surgery, my fiancé and I decided to end our engagement. She moved out, and I (well, we both I suppose) had to adjust to living alone again. My daughter had her thirteen birthday, and I had promised to celebrate it larger than normal because it’s what our family calls a “milestone” age. The event went wonderfully, but not without some ugly exchanges with her mother and what I interpret as attempts to manipulate the celebration.
The one point of pride, besides my daughters, that remained was my job. Today, however, that died too. I am still employed, and the details are not appropriate to air in public, but I discovered I am far less valued there and was even conspired against. While I was looking out for the interest of the project and its success; others used that desire to their advantage to damage me professionally.
I have taken the day off from work to consider all that has happened. And I find myself in a dark place. I no longer know how to measure myself, how to gauge my value…or whether I have any.
But I fight off the dark thoughts, knowing I will have great material for my next therapy session. And I look for inspiring words and things I can do. I am still planning to serve food to the homeless this weekend. As sorry as I feel for myself, I’m still in better standing than many others. And helping those in need will act to fulfill me.
In light of my questioning my value, I wish to share this poem I found:
   Not - How did he die? But - How did he live?
   Not - What did he gain? But - What did he give?
   These are the things that measure the worth
   Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.
   Not - What was his station? But - had he a heart?
   And - How did he play his God-given part?
   Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer?
   To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
   Not - What was his church? Not - What was his creed?
   But - Had he befriended those really in need?
   Not - What did the sketch in the newspaper say?
   But - How many were sorry when he passed away?
   These are the things that measure the worth
   Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.

These words have helped me to remember that I have value beyond how most of society assess. Even in dark times, I must keep my spirit strong and my character right. I must acknowledge where I’ve done wrong and make amends for such, while still striving to do what I know is proper. And I thank God for my daughter, the incredible relationship we share and the blessing of having her live with me.
I’ve told my girls, the one still in the house as well as the two now living on their own, that stress is not a result of circumstances but rather a result from unmet expectations. I must remember I am not entitled to everything going well for me; I should not expect it. However, I can expect that joy, happiness and fellowship can still exist even when times are tough.
That is where I will set my focus. I will continue to be honest, to be loyal and to be real.

Oct 31, 2011

It's Not About Me

Having to cope with some less-than-pleasant information finding its way to me unexpectedly, I suffered a minor panic attack last night. It actually surprised me that I was as deeply bothered as I was, but the emotional state can be tricky thing at times.
At any rate, I came across an older blog post which reminded me how to best deal with moments of depression. I thought I would share this idea by reposting the original:
Better Than Chocolate, Than Prozac Even...
Posted: 03 Feb 2009 08:34 AM PST

   I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes,
   until I met a man who had no feet.
         ~ Jewish Proverb
I believe shows like “Jerry Springer” and other daytime drama provide an odd public service. It makes us look at ourselves and say, “I’m not so bad.” In theory this should affirm and esteem us, but this I-ain’t-so-fouled-up result still leaves us cold, often followed by thoughts of “I just can’t do this…oh, or that…and, yup, there’s that problem too…”
This count-your-blessings explanation just doesn’t seem to functionally work. Jerry Springer does not give us the affirmation we need, even though surface logic would indicate it might. Oddly, subjecting ourselves to these type messages often hurl us into an even deeper depression. In the vein of personal activism I’ve been promoting over the last few posts, I’d like to make an interesting observation, which flies in the face of Springer-Logic.
As most know, I was burgled about a week before Christmas last year. I was fortunate as burglaries go. I lost a very small amount compared to what might have been taken. Nonetheless, the theft of a few thousand dollars worth of items could have easily depressed me, especially during the Christmas Season.
My response was quite the opposite. I was in the midst of a Fight The Establishment campaign, designed to help those less-fortunate than I. Something inexplicable stirred in my soul and told me, the need is still out there despite my current circumstance.
Rather than sitting immobile, wallowing in my misery as I was tempted to do, I got up and went to McDonalds. No…I didn’t glutton my depression away; instead I purchased 20 Arch Cards to carry with me in my car at all times. I now pass these out to homeless people I see (and still with less proficiency than I should).
Now, what I can only explain as a miraculous transformation of spirit took place. My burglary really seemed small, and I felt really good inside. Note I the grammar; I didn’t feel well – I felt good. My problems seemed irrelevant. Logically, it makes no sense; I had a problem, but focused on other people and lent a helping hand. Please note, I did address my own problem; I secured my house and updated the things that were needed, but I had no self-pity when doing so.
I surmise that this approach of feeling good about one’s station and counting blessings is the way to truly reach the “I’m not so bad” state of mind. To look down our noses at those with bigger problems gives us a temporarily state, but it is sung in a falsetto voice, and the beauty is only an illusion which turns us even colder than we were before. However, to reach out in kindness places a real grace in our hearts, works towards solving another’s problem and blesses them in an inexplicable way too.
However, where this spiritual energy drink kicks in is what it does for those not involved directly – and for me, the indirect person affected was my daughter. I cried uncontrollably when I overheard her tell someone why she has a “wonderful Daddy.” Catching the story in midstream, her words were “Then he went over and helped that mom and kids get their car unstuck from the ice. No one else did anything, but my Dad didn’t hesitate. He was there to save the day. I am really proud to be his daughter.”
I don’t say this to boast, but to recognize that my daughters have very little idea what I do at my job, nor do they care to understand it. They couldn’t care less how brilliant of an idea the non-recursive SQL stored procedure linking six unrelated data elements through a dynamic cross-reference table in real-time is. What my daughters notice, what makes them proud is the compassion of my heart. And they learn its importance. They learn to be cautious too, but they learn from my model of personal activism.

Oct 30, 2011


It's gritty; it's vulgar; it's sexist - but it's honest. It doesn't discuss how things should be; it presents things how they really are. As I strive to improve my character and my world, it is important not to forget the actuality of this imperfect place.
I've just finished the book, Things My Daughters Need to Know, by Rodney L. Demery, a homicide detective from Shreveport and a man not many would consider gentlemanly when it comes to his personal history with women. However, there is still a strange sense of honor to the author, as he reveals secrets of the darker sides of men's thoughts and motives towards the other gender.
Also he advises women how to avoid the lies and tricks that men themselves often aren't aware they do. He also explains how to seek out men of higher character and how to experience happiness, debunking much of the popular thinking about modern women finding male companionship...and sometimes it isn't delivered with a sugar-coating.
I particularly liked how he admits to his mistakes, holding himself accountable for them. At the same time he expresses that everyone is responsible for his or her own happiness as well. The idea of not stewing in the past because it will prevent one from enjoying the present and the future struck me in particular today.
...a woman must know herself. I want my daughters to know their happiness is their responsibility. Don't hold grudges or carry bitterness. It doesn't help you. It just weighs you down. If he cheats on you, don't sit around blaming him. Don't let someone else hold your emotions hostage. Lick your wounds and go on. Whatever love you are blessed to find, enjoy it. Enjoy it that day, without worrying about tomorrow. Submit to that love. I'm not saying abandon all common sense, but let your emotional guard down and take it all in. Whether the love lasts a minute or ten years, enjoy it.
This selection from Demery's book has true wisdom in it. It acknowledges pain and recovery, Most of all it focuses on the appreciation for the blessings in life without measuring or comparing them to other things. Although we often forget to do this, an experience can be and should be enjoyed by its own accord.
I like this - and needed it. Today I stopped to remember some of the great moments in my life...and I have become just a little more grateful for them.

Oct 25, 2011

The Weepies

I’m sure those who read my blog are beginning to tire of my lachrymose attitude over my recent break-up. I’ve written numerous posts lately about my struggle and introspection. “Get over it already” some would say. Others may even be hoping I’ll make an opposing political post, just to have a different topic.
In truth, I’m moving on fairly well; however, there are unexpected moments where a memory floods back – often happy, but some are deeply sad. Songs are especially memorializing. When “Gotta Have You” by The Weepies or “Fall For You” by Secondhand Serenade plays from my random list, they evoke a powerful emotional response in me still. Oddly, I even found myself tearing up at a baby commercial the other day.
The truth is I am a very passionate person. Sometimes that’s a beautiful thing; sometimes I’m down-right ugly with it. And it was with ugly passion that this relationship ended. I realize that I had some guilt and regret over the episode, wishing I had handled it more maturely. But I am also reminded of the phrase my ex-wife used to say, “If things didn’t end poorly, they probably wouldn’t end.”
Nonetheless, I have a few therapy sessions left. So, I will probably have a few thoughts left to express here over the next few weeks, but my life is returning much more to its normalcy. And I’m finding my way once again, and soon I will walk even taller than I did before we got together.
One important event that has happened, which I am even hesitant to mention, is I have had some subtle contact with her. It has been for a very legitimate reason, but it did permit some clearing of the air and closure to happen. In earnest, it also stirred some confusion in me as well.
However, perhaps the most important thing that happened during this exchange is I was able to let loose of the resentment I held against her – to forgive her so to speak. It wasn’t anything I confessed or items I listed for her to know, but simply a quiet letting go. I also apologized for the ugliness of my passion at the end. Because of that, I was able to forgive myself, and hopefully she can forgive me as well.
Where we two go now is still a mystery. There was clearly a common interest we shared to hope to build a life together, but the truth is we are different people on different paths. Being casual friends with a beautiful memory of our time together is the most likely result. However, I am pleased to have a more melodious decrescendo to the current song in the soundtrack of my life.

Oct 24, 2011

As You Like It

I offer only a brief revelation from last night, which is really little more than a paraphrase of the poem below. But I have come to realize that not everything wonderful lasts.
And that is okay and the nature of some things. Some of our greatest experiences in life are like roller coasters – meant to be remembered for the thrill because to live such adventure continuously would disorient us, make us sick, then numb and finally destroy us.
I recall at the end of my marriage five years ago, there was so much drama in my life from the choices we had made, I remember yearning for boring. But that's a story for another time. For now, I offer the often-referenced poem, “Reason, Season or Lifetime.”
PS: Bonus points for those who know why I referenced Shakespeare in title and image.

People always come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

When someone is in your life for a REASON,
It is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty,
Or to provide you with guidance and support,
To aid you physically, emotionally, or even spiritually.

They may seem like a godsend to you, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
This person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die. Sometimes they just walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.

When people come into your life for a SEASON,
It is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn.
They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.
And like Spring turns to Summer and Summer to Fall,
The season eventually ends.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
Those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person anyway;
And put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas in your life.

It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.
Thank you for being part of my life,
Whether you were a reason, a season or a lifetime.

Author – Unknown

Oct 23, 2011

Wax Off

Today in church, the etymology of the word “sincere” was discussed. Let me disclaim that the story cannot truly be corroborated, but that’s not really the point. Consider this a Liberty-Valance moment and permit me to print the legend.

The word derives from the Romans’ love for marble statues. These were very difficult to sculpt without breakage. So the typical sculptor would re-attach broken parts (limbs and so on) with wax (cera) and cover it up so the wax would not be seen. However, the best stores would only sell the best statues, the ones which were whole and unbroken. They had a sign above the store saying: “Sine Cera,” without wax.
Myth or not, this had a profound effect on me today. There are two reasons. First is because of a particular phrase that my former fiancé said to me just a few days prior to our finality. She expressed how I wasn’t quite the knight in shining armor she had believed me to be and now she saw there were cracks in my armor. I don’t fault her for this and it would be improper to reveal the full context, but it was said in an honest and respectable way.
The second reason complements the first. The lesson in church was about parenting children and this specific point was about demonstrating a sincere faith – because children learn from what they observe, not what they hear. If parents wax-coat their behavior and try to fool their children, it is insincere and the folly will be revealed. To truly be sincere with your children, you must allow the flaws, the cracks, the imperfections be revealed.
This concept is true for anyone with whom I connect. For there to be any honest sincerity with my children, with my friends, with my peers or with my lover – I must be unafraid to admit to my imperfections. If I try to hide them, conceal them, deny them, then I probably am only exposing them and fooling myself. I must accept myself, flaws and all, before I can trust someone else with those secrets…or what I think I’m keeping secret.
At the same time, this doesn’t mean I have to like my flaws or be complacent about them. To say, “I have anger issues and that’s just how I am, so the world will have to adapt to my tantrums!” is not reasonable, but it is the dangerous other end of the spectrum in this view. I am not a marble statue. I can have personal growth, heal and seal the cracks…or at least lessen their depth.
All in all, the point is about me being honest. I’ve long said I know my strengths and weaknesses – and I do. While I don’t want to advertise my flaws, I do recognize that my ego makes me insecure and insincere about them. Today’s dose of humility hasn’t been easy to swallow, but its restorative powers are precisely what I need to be a better human being.

Oct 22, 2011

What Stands Behind Me

When recently sharing with close friends a dispute I had with my ex-wife, I came to think on who I am when I am single and unattached compared with the person I am when I am in a relationship. Clearly, we function somewhat differently by the very nature of the role and interdependency. However, I am now considering my decisions, thought-process and successful life-navigation in each scenario.
This contemplation stemmed from a ridiculous accusation that I am unable to take care of myself and since the divorce others must resolve problems trailing behind me. This claim was near-immediately dismissed because of the evidence to the contrary that came to mind. Without listing everything, let me summarize. Over the past five year post-divorce, I am now more accomplished and more effective in my career, spend more meaningful time with my daughters, manage my finances far more effectively, and I purchased a new home.
There is a certain ironic vindication best exemplified by the house because the only woman who assisted in any way was my realtor (and she was completely professional). However, there were some women who after visiting my new house seemed impressed and perplexed I was able to select so well without their help. Now, I’m not a mind-reader, so I can’t be sure…but I believe egos may have been bruised and suspicions laid that I didn’t act on my own.
There’s a play on the famous proverb which states “Behind every successful man is a very surprised mother-in-law.” However, in my case, I believe it would be better phrased to say “an ex in denial.”
All joking aside, this has led me to consider if I make better decisions when I am flying solo. Do I lose my good judgment when I’m romantically involved? Perhaps my teamwork skills are just poor. Perhaps I fear disappointing my partner. Or perhaps the women I select are…what word should I choose…stronger than I can handle. I suppose it’s possible I’m just not built to be married – I’ve never considered that before.
At any rate, my journey of self-discovery and life renovation continues.

Oct 19, 2011

Weird Science

I’m not sure of the average age of the readers of my blog, but those who are around mine will remember the classic 80s movie, Weird Science. It starred the master-geek of the decade, Anthony Michael Hall, as a kid who creates a sexy woman, played by Kelly LeBrock, by hacking into the internet (before we called it that) and downloading vast knowledge and power into a sentient being.

Yes, it was one of those highly believable plots from the 80s with testosterone-filled geeks trying to figure out what to do with it. Plus, the second “jerk role” for a young Bill Paxton, after being stabbed by the Terminator. Also there was some other antagonist in the film who grew up to be Iron-Man…but I digress.
At a latter part of the film, four boys wearing bras on their heads are trying to recreate the process as a bartered deal to trade another sexy-fembot-like woman for the geeks’ popularity. Of course, this fails because they missed a step, which results in a nuclear missile appearing. This really makes sense if you’ve seen the film.
At this moment, the sexy but matronly original creation appears to summarize the basic idea behind the film. Lisa asks the boys, “When are you gonna learn that people will like you for who you are, not for what you can give them?” Of course, this is when she lures the Road-Warrior mutants to the party to prove the boys’ true honorable character. Again, it really makes sense.
Nonetheless, in my honest inventory of who I am, who I attract, who I want to be with (both friends and lovers) – this concept has become an important topic of my psyche. This also feeds into the fear of success concept from my previous post. I forget that I have intrinsic value just by my own character. I forget that I don’t have to purchase the affections of other people. I forget that when someone loves me, unconditionally and just for being me, then I don’t have to fear a repression in the economy of my gifts or deeds.
Now – this doesn’t mean I can be a do-nothing, bring-nada-to-the-table jerk and demand others to respect me. But what it does mean is that I don’t have to impress anyone in exchange for friendliness or offer a favor to receive fondness. While living over four decades now, I still struggle with this junior-high insecurity; and it lives larger in my heart than I realized.
Lastly, I’m not saying that any of my friends reciprocate their affinity towards me because I feel this way or do these things. I’m not saying my ex-wife or my former fiancé only loved me because of how I performed or items I bought. I believe those in my life, past and present, are not so shallow for this to be the only factor. However, I did practice this art, whether I knew it or not – and in doing so, it sent a message to others that it was okay to use me…and probably at times, people did – and I allowed it, and allowed it guilt-free.
Something new to work on. But this is good. As I said previously, I’m building my character anew from the wreckage of my life-ship which went off course. My goal, as always, is to be honest about my brokenness, fess up to it and take the responsibility. Then mend myself with the help of friends, family and the Father. Perhaps not everyone believes I do that, but I don’t have to prove it to them; I need only be true to myself.
By the way, what ever happened to the grandparents? Are they still in ageless stasis in the kitchen pantry?

Oct 18, 2011

The Peacock And Hera

I recently posted a link on my Facebook wall about the “Fear of Success” and began to ponder this concept, some of its underlying motivations, and how those relate to my involvement with women. My recent broken engagement has clearly brought about a lot of introspection, as I hope to break what seems to be a cyclic pattern of behavior when it comes to relationships.
This is both a pattern about my behavior as well as characteristics in the women I choose. However, let me be perfectly clear; I am not saying the women I’ve been with are all the same because they most definitely are not. What I am saying is that often they share similar traits or coping methods and my natural or comfortable response yields comparable reactions. These women may all be different chemicals, but they are in the same grouping – and when introduced to my chemistry a destructive explosion is a likely result.
Much of this comes from the plaguing thought in my mind of “what went wrong?” Without revealing details, my last relationship went from flawless to intolerable in a matter of only two or three weeks. She wrote a response to me and indicated the immense stress of external factors were too strong for us to handle in the infancy of our relationship. However, this statement struck me odd when I read it in our post-breakup email exchange.
In all fairness, different people respond differently to different circumstances. What might be stressful for me, my former fiancé might just shrug off, and the converse might be true as well. So it is possible she felt stress that I have not given the appropriate merit. However, what we had before us as “problems” did not seem grandiose in my opinion. Of course, compared to the issues during my divorce five years ago, little seems insurmountable to me anymore. Thus, while this might explain her perspective and reactions, it doesn’t work well to explain my frustration and anger at the end – and more importantly it doesn’t explain the rapid shift from paradise to punishment.
I do believe that in this case there are two people responsible for its demise; however, I can only focus on and analyze the variables I brought to the table. The others, while I may need to acknowledge, are not mine to solve. Certainly some factors carried more weight than others, but my effort here is not to place blame but rather that I be responsible for my own character.
So, I ask myself – do I know what a successful relationship looks like? Do I know what it feels like to truly experience an intimate, supportive, beneficial and romantic relationship? Have I been playing the game all my life without understanding how the points are getting on the scoreboard? Is it possible I have sabotaged my own relationships because of insecurities that I have?
I don’t know if it is as extreme as it sounds from those questions, but there may be an element of truth here. On the flip side, I am far more volatile to live with than the analytical persona presented from this blog indicates too. But I am coming to understand that those moments of emotional outburst are less about the circumstance and more about my anticipation for the other shoe to drop. I may doom my own happiness being like the peacock of the Aesop fable who was not satisfied with his lot. If I look for a problem, then I will surely find it, be it real or not.
I am starting a process to learn to be content in the moment – whatever that moment is. This is not an excuse to be slothful or not maintain what must be done. However, I need to relax and accept things better, to quit anticipated for some future moment because it never comes and I miss out on enjoying the now. It also means I can accept that not every moment is enjoyable, but that doesn’t mean it destroys the whole situation just because a problem exists. I must learn to drown out that little voice that says “See, this is why this won’t work” and replace it with one that says “We’ll get through this.”
Lastly, I think much of this is about simply making a decision. My feelings are not always trustworthy. Not that I should become a Vulcan either, but there certain things in my life where I’ve already decided no matter what this is where I stand or what I will do – my relationship with my daughters, for example. This is simply a decision, come Hell or high water.
Why then have I not applied that, reassured that, strengthened that and reinforced that in my relationships with women? I don’t know the answer yet, but I plan to find out. I’m suspicious though it has to do with actually being afraid of a healthy relationship. And this is where my therapy will delve soon.
I’ll keep everyone posted.

Oct 17, 2011

But Sometimes I Still Do

This month I've had seven posts in the first twelve days. Now I've gone silent for nearly a week. So, I've felt compelled to make a quick note to ensure everyone that I'm okay.
I had a very dark time last week. As I stated previously, my body healed enough to permit my brain to process and take on the emotions of my recent life-change. And that became far more overwhelming than I expected. That flood of emotion coupled with a difficult time planning my daughter's schedule for the weekend sparked an ugly exchange between her mother and me. This further plummeted my spirits.
However, I have been blessed with a wonderful and supportive family, but also a group of level-headed, compassionate friends who have advised me well in the last few days. I did as I said in my last post and formed an accountability group - a small circle of friends with whom I share uninhibited honesty about what I'm feeling and experiencing. Trusting this group, I share internal turmoil I would not want aired publicly, and this allows me an avenue to move the troubling thoughts out of my head and into an "emotional cache" where I can better cope.
So, a lot of my introspective time over the past week has been spent writing things to this group and talking on the phone with its members. It also allows me to have more appropriate things to discuss here without the pressure of revealing details probably not best shared in such an open forum.
I told someone earlier that my life recently had just been hell. Because of a good weekend and feeling like I've started to get my footing on life again, I was able to joke that the hell I've been going through however happened to be air-conditioned with ample food, convenient transportation, intermissions with entertaining sporting events and movies, and of course the comfort of good companions. So, while I still claim my physical and emotional recovery have been quite painful, I am quite fortunate.
The title to the post is, of course, a reference to the Joe Walsh song, "Life's Been Good So Far" in which he says, "I can't complain, but sometimes I still do." I'm not out of the forest yet. There are still a few emotional predators and pit-fall traps of insecurity that I must still overcome before returning safe from the wilderness of grief.
But I have a plan and a course of action to take. I will not lay down in the woods and die of shame. And life will be good again.

Oct 12, 2011

Caterpillar Confessions

Remember the scene in “Ghost” when Molly is grieving Sam’s loss, and Carl is helping her clean out some of his personal belongings? Patrick Swayze’s character as the apparition is looking on as they uncover the Dave Brubeck concert tickets. Carl asks if he should toss the ticket stubs, and Molly says, “No.” She then has a silent moment of nostalgia over Rolaids. Meanwhile, Sam is watching in dismay because they hated that concert and has no clue what she’s remembering about the antacids.
I had a bizarre moment like that tonight. I re-read all 6,188 text messages shared between my ex and me, but I blame my geek-factor for enabling this Molly-Jensen moment. To defend the obsessive-sounding behavior, let me explain that I store everything I have electronic. If there were a “Digital Hoarders” show on the A&E Network, I would be the pilot episode. So, now I’ve deflected one neurotic moment with psychological disorder.
Of course, I discovered several strange things beyond the nostalgia. For example, there is superstitious evidence the Def-Leppard curse was real. I bought the tickets eleven days from our first date, and we broke up eleven days after the concert. Yes, my “beautiful” mind works in strange and statistical ways.
The good thing about this exercise is that I examined the courting-phase, the dance prior to actually coupling. I was able to examine my approach, technique…the “bait” so to speak. Now, let me be very careful how I phrase this. My former fiancé is a wonderful person with many admirable qualities; however, like all of us, those better qualities left certain other aspects of her persona without mastery. Thus, there were key characteristics which were simply less than my minimum requirement.
This is not an insult. All of us fit this same model of being a double-edged sword. A quiet, calm, level-headed person rarely becomes passionate enough for some partners. Perhaps a hyper-compassionate person is not a good match if his or her partner’s threshold for stray cats is low. Strange examples, I know – but it illustrates that some personalities just don’t work well together. Further, sometimes it takes a while to figure that out.
But I’m examining whether I am attracting women who will not fit my needs by the way I sell myself. While my ex-wife and most recent girlfriend are very different people, they do share some similarities in the areas that fell below my threshold. And if I keep finding partners with these personality traits, then I’m doomed to a cyclic pattern. Either that – or I have to accept that this is a price for the trade-off with the other characteristics to which I’m drawn, and therefore I have to change my standard. However, changing one’s standard is pretty hard to do when it’s not a preference.
What I have concluded is that I don’t recognize this “imperfection” in the women I chase until there is a critical incident, when my need is screaming. Suddenly, I have an expectation these women have never known from me, and almost unfair to them I hope they can deliver. But the truth is – they didn’t stand a chance; they were never equipped for the job. And these women from my past cannot be blamed for that. They are who they are – and it’s unfair to become angry at water because it’s wet.
However, I am very nostalgic and also quite sentimental, although those traits of mine are not often broadcast publicly. Because I have such a passion for closeness and familiarity, I cherish the memories I relived tonight. I don’t think most who know me platonically realize the level of intimacy I crave and feel when coupled with a serious partner. This attribute of mine makes me vulnerable to these memories. Without the proper safe-guards, I am drawn back to a ruined relationship like a moth to the flame.
So – in closing this post, I publicly confess my secret plan. In addition to my counseling therapy, I am going to create a secret group of good friends to keep me accountable. All the love and adoration I had for my ex-fiancé didn’t go away when we broke up. When I remember our moments over cheesecake or pancakes, I yearn for those moments again. However, to act on that desire is unsafe for me and unfair for her; thus, I can’t. But I may not be strong enough on my own; so I’m enlisting my friends, who I have called one of my most valued treasures more than once this week.
Finally, I realize this post is highly personal and mostly written for no one else’ benefit but my own. However, it is only through this level of transparency that I can achieve the honesty I need to do the right thing. My wounds need the open air to heal. Despite the vulnerability, for me to grow I must reveal these thoughts and confess my mistakes. The group I establish will aid me to make my thoughts become habits and eventually character and to modify those mistakes into my new mission.

Oct 11, 2011

Man in the Mirror

I am radically changing topics today. I have been looking at myself, my patterns and what causes them. When looking in the mirror with a meditative eye, there is a certain hypocrisy that gets revealed. After all, everyone is a hypocrite to some degree.
Today, I’m not going to focus on me, per se. Instead, I’m going to address a greater hypocrisy than me. I know that limits the field, but in all fairness I am still part of it. And in truth, I’ve been thinking about how to conquer my recent depression. Trust me; this serves that goal.
Without attempting to be political, I’d like to share a few interesting thoughts about the entitlement mindset in America – not a topic untouched by me previously. I don't believe striving to be successful or even having money is wrong; often these are good things, but this is more about the motive.
The recent statistics I have discovered make the world’s hatred for America make sense. Let me explain by turning the spotlight on the culpability of the rich and their audacious greed for not redistributing the wealth among the neighbors. I phrased it that way on purpose, but there is mob mentality to pilfer from the coffers of those making more than six-digits.
Whether that opinion is valid or not, there has been a lot of talk by our Congress and “grassroots” groups about the top 1% of money-makers and how to force capitulation of their funds. And yes, there are many who are in need, even in America. But is $63K really the poverty line, as the 2011 Self-Sufficiency Standard suggests? I don’t mean to sound like Marie Antoinette, but to the rest of the world America must appear like a crowd of stingy scrooges fighting amongst ourselves.
From the world’s perspective, including industrialized countries, everyone in America is rich. The statistics I mentioned earlier illustrate this appraisal. Without considering any other variables beyond the wage itself, which I admit is not perfectly fair, if a person makes a mere $37,000 annual salary, he or she is among the top 4% of all wage-earners on the planet. To qualify to be on the list for the top 1% of the world’s richest, one only needs to make $45,000 per year.
Most of us are living large but refuse to recognize it. We still complain that it ain’t enough, like insatiable and irresponsible children. Yes, there are many greedy millionaires, but there are many greedy hundredaires too. My point is not about the amount of money but rather about covetousness and materialism.
I’m not asking anyone to sell their possessions and wander the earth. However, the next time I become frustrated because the store is out of the latest tablet computer or because my budget won’t let me afford two nights per week of steak-dining, I will remind myself of these numbers. When I can’t refinance the loan to absorb both my 18-month-new upside-down trade-in and also cover the tax, title and tag on the latest and loaded model, I will remember my world status. When my unlimited wireless data contract is adjusted with a threshold, making me ration the number of songs I stream from my personal song library to my phone in even remote locations, I will recall the fortune I already have.
Further, I know there are many who are hungry and broken in my own community. Although I have a history of sporadically serving, I plan to set a better schedule for my volunteer time and share this lesson with my daughter. It is important that I take action and not rely on others, charities or programs to do this work; it would be tragic if we all waited for others to act. But if only for selfish reasons, helping others helps me – I’ve learned that moral already.
But beyond charity, I will also be aware of the “moral high ground” upon which I stand as I judge how others bestow or horde their money because I cannot say grace over all that I enjoy. I need only worry about my own agreements for service in the vineyard and pay less attention to what the landowner pays his other workers.
I often hear lessons focusing on one point or the other, giving to the needy or minding my own business. Yet, each seems incomplete without the other. Perhaps practicing these two principles together is the secret to face the man in the mirror.