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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.

Oct 10, 2011

Undiscovered Kryptonite

I was told a story once about a car-accident survivor who woke up in the Intensive Care Unit, only to discover her husband had died in the crash. She, herself, had a brain injury from the collision. Family and close friends took note that she was unable to grieve, and most believe this was due to her physical condition.
It is difficult to say with absolute certainty when neurological damage has occurred, but the survival instinct to heal physically first protected her from the emotional distress. However, the consequence of not grieving in a timely manner brought about other issues for the woman.
While my own condition is far less severe, both physically and emotionally, yesterday I had an experience that now allows me to understand this story better. I am still recovery from an invasive surgery to repair an inguinal hernia. There is a four-inch incision in my lower abdomen that has been healing for eleven days now, and I’m still on a ten-pound lifting restriction.
However, within the past few days, the subtle but ever-present physical pain ceased. A co-worker commented that I was finally walking upright on Friday. While I’m not fully recovered, my body now requires less dedication to complete the mending. Yet as a result, the floodgates of my emotional fitness over the break-up have broken open. Suddenly I am suffering heartache and facing mawkish demons, which I believed had been endured.
My response has not been good. I am angry and petty, and spite oozes from my skin. And whether my feelings are valid or not, I don’t like my conduct. While I’ve not crossed any line of truly uncouth behavior, I simply am uncomfortable with this unexpected state. I know this too shall pass, but in the meantime it’s unsettling to discover the labyrinth is larger than expected and that my progress was merely motion.
Worse, the emotional state has resulted in some physiological backlash. I awoke to my wound, oozing and bleeding a bit this morning. Perhaps my body is protecting me again, deterring my sin-nature by Stigmata. (Hopefully, everyone will recognize that deduction as satire.)
I have phone calls in to doctors, both physical and mental. And while I already had appointments for both, we shall see if they determine an early visit for either is needed. In the meantime, I am taking Columbus Day off from work. It’s clear I’m not the Superman I mislead myself to believe I am.

Oct 9, 2011

Pressure-Cooker Recipes

There have been a few people I’ve known who base their morality on happiness and convenience. We’ve all seen the long lines at the checkout and commented, “That’s just wrong!” However, we all likely know one or two rare birds who really find this unjust in their minds and believe something should be done to correct it or compensate them because of it. For them it’s not just venting in jape.
Sometimes I even use these few personal examples I know to treat myself to some Jerry Springer therapy. That’s when we look at someone worse off and feel better about ourselves. The irony of the treatment is it allows us to laugh at the person trying to clear the 20-foot chasm because they only jumped five feet before plummeting – all the while, we too fell, only having made it six.
But I’ve recently reminded myself that dark humor and irony is funny – even when it’s about me…perhaps even more so when it’s about me. So this morning’s confession is that I’ve been on both sides of the coin recently. I’ve looked down upon another because I’ve measured my failure less destructive than someone else’ failure…only to discover I’m Charlie Sheen yelling “Winning” in hopes that everyone will believe me.
On the flip side, I’ve found myself angry over petty items from the break-up. At times I have twisted my thinking so these trifling issues somehow become about right-and-wrong or damaged character. But the truth is these things are just the MacGuffin in this script, although in my case it’s not an item to possess rather a point to justify.
The thing about MacGuffins is the whole story gets wrapped around it but yet the fixation itself becomes otherwise completely inconsequential to the plot. And that’s what I’m discovering about my silly mania. When I calm myself, truly consider what it is, I’m just mad because of nuisance – but there is no right or wrong, no morality, no universal flaw about these replayed events in my head.
What would be a universal flaw is allow myself to continue in this thinking. Time will make a difference of course, but time only simmers an attitude. If I persist with my personal justification of blame, then time will allow this bile to fester within me. It is important that I fill myself with serenity over these events. Then the slow-cooking of time allows me to blossom and grow from experience.

Oct 7, 2011

Taxes in the State of Crazy

Because of what I said in my Fair Warning post, I’m reluctant to share any details about why things didn’t work out for me and my almost-future-spouse. However, when confirming personality traits that one knows will be seriously problematic, the stories which script the evidence can be wonderful material for an HBO stand-up comedy special. And I suppose I’ve always been a fan of dark humor.
However, it is probably inappropriate to expose those details through this portal into my private life. And I truly have no reason to cast a dark shadow on my former partner. There’s a quote which fits my point, but I cannot recall who said it. Allow me to paraphrase: Never speak evil of another without knowing whether it is true, and even if you know that it is true, ask yourself why you are speaking it.
As wonderful of a person that she really is, like all of us, she had her flaws. Those flaws fell in areas which were simply not manageable, tolerable, satisfactory (whatever the word) for what I needed in a wife. And as I stated earlier, the anecdotes that revealed the truth became amazing bar tales, which is where you’ll have to hear them from me after paying the price of a beer for admission. I’m sure stories about my behavior are being sold for a price elsewhere as well.
But they are funny. And they’re sad too. That’s the secret of dark humor. As I recounted some of the recent events and explained that I was deeply sad over how things had gone, a co-worker noted, “You are the happiest sad person I know.”
The truth is I am happy. I avoided making a huge mistake which likely would have drained me in ways which would have been devastating. But I am also immensely sad. I invested a startling amount of hope and emotion for something that will never come to fruition.
Another important truth though is that I harbor no ill will. I’ve stated it several times how important I believe it is to forgive and truly let go. Forgiveness is not condoning the harm, but more dismissing oneself as judge and jury. Perhaps even denying oneself the spectator seat as well. I know so often we won’t take the vindictive action ourselves, but we wait and watch, hoping for karma to pay vengeance on our behalf. This is not healthy either, and probably not what lives in the heart of the true forgiver.
However, along with “not condoning the harm” goes “still having to suffer the consequences.” Those may be from the other person, from me or from the combination of just being together. But they don’t just disappear when the other person goes away. And this is where the dark humor has its value – because the coins are already spilled.
The coins are a parable of personal experience I tell my daughters. When I was 20ish, I owned a 67 Mustang, 3-on-the-floor, V8-302 engine with a 9-inch posi in the rear. It had some serious power and could run the quarter somewhere around 13 seconds. One day I gathered all my loose change to cash in at the bank, placed all those coins in this large beer stein and balanced it on the floorboard of the car. I drove so carefully from the house, as to not spill those coins. However, at the first intersection to get on the highway, I turned the corner too fast and the coins scattered everywhere.
I laughed hysterically. See – it was funny; irony is a great source of humor. The consequence remained regardless of my response. Whether I laughed or I cried, I was still going to have to pick up those coins. It was just easier to take on that task while recognizing the comedy of it. It was about my attitude not the task – as so much of life truly is.
As I got older, I forgot about the coins and became distressed and depressed over a great many things. However, I’ve had many reminders lately, my recent break-up being one of them. My response could be anger, writhing in the injustice. My response could be depression, pitying myself for how things never work out for me. My response could even be spite, hoping and praying that she experiences the same pain and disappointment. But those are all taxes in the State of Crazy.
No, my response will be to laugh, remember the greatness, beauty and wonder of what we two shared. I will smile and be grateful for the opportunity of so many happy moments. I will bask in my reminiscence of the sensual intimacy we once shared. But I won’t pay those taxes.
And just for the record, I am the resident in the State of Crazy.

Oct 5, 2011

Tri-Bonds: Concerts, Comics and Karma

I know; I guessed things that start with the letter ‘K’ at first as well. However, surprise; that’s not the answer. There is a common bond between these things, nonetheless, but to find out we have to take a hot-tub time-machine ride back to the 80’s.
Marvel Comics produced a super-hero role-playing game around 1985. This would be around the time of Bruce Springsteen, Madonna…way before Nirvana; there was U2 and Blondie and music still on mTV. So, the setting is understood – good.
For those not familiar with role-playing games (outside your own kinky thoughts), they are a story-based form of entertainment where players act out or write their own actions as the script is generally plotted by a game-master or arbiter. It is much like impromptu acting, playing pretend with rules or being in “Who’s Line Is It Anyway” where the points actually matter.
Marvel’s theme in the game was to play out comic book hero stories similar to those sold on the comic book rack at the grocery store. In addition to the marketing ploy to capitalize on the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons at the time, it did have its aspect of imaginative fun. However, one of the rules in the game was called a “karma pool.” Each character would gain points of karma for heroic acts; these points could be spent to receive a bonus to the dice roll (increase the chance of success) if ever the mutant hero character needed to perform a feat of unimaginable proportion…as often done in comic book tales.
However, the “karma pool” was an advanced rule, used only by serious and organized gamers. To apply it, one had to be a member of a superhero team and be in the good graces of all team members. If everyone consented in advance of the die roll and a single member needed a positive boost to accomplish the uncanny act, then he could pool the points from all the other members of his team into a “karma pool” to be used as a one-time bonus for his action. Okay, let’s stop here before I start designing and explaining a character sheet.
Another event from 1985 was the car accident involving Rick Allen, drummer of Def Leppard, who lost his arm in the street-race-turned-bad. Technically the accident happened on New Year’s Eve, but none of us heard about it until 1985. Even so, the lead singer of the group, Joe Elliott, authorized the use of a “karma pool” to allow Rick to retrain himself to play the drums with only one-arm, using his left foot and a specialized drum kit to compensate for the missing one. And the “die roll” was a successful with his post-accident drumming debut at the Monsters of Rock festival in 1986 and the release of the Hysteria album the following year. (This is a rather amazing and inspirational story and truly an heroic feat of unimaginable proportion.)
Now, let’s fast-forward to 2009, when I attended the Def Leppard concert in Tulsa. It was not my first rock concert, but it was my first one dressed-up as an 80s rocker. It was unbelievably fun...and yes, more pictures are on my Facebook for those who must see. Anyway, what I didn’t realize is that by doing this, I became a member of the “karma pool” from which my points had been taken.
Of course, I don’t really believe this, but sometimes happenstance takes on funny patterns. Mine manifested around the 2011 Def Leppard concert, which my former fiancé and I jokingly referred to as the “Def Leppard curse.” I purchased the tickets in bulk for the same group I went with in 2009 and fronted the roughly one-grand personally with the promise to be reimbursed later.
Although we had only started dating for a few weeks, my girlfriend and I decided to go to the concert together. However, a few weeks after, the “leader” of the costumed-cavalcade told me she would be leaving the country for a business opportunity, which pretty much made the proud owner of several unclaimed concern tickets. Almost immediately after that, my girlfriend decided to stop going out with me, meaning I gained one more unclaimed prize.
Most everyone knows that I bought a new house about a month later. The tickets became lost in the shuffle, and I even convinced myself that I had inadvertently thrown them out while separately trash from important documents. Of course, within a week or two after this, the girlfriend and I started dating again in secret. Magically, I found the tickets and was able to sell the extras on eBay.
By July, we announce our engagement to be married, but more Def-Leppard tragedy occurred when Joe Elliot’s father unexpectedly passed away and the concert was delayed for two months. This nearly cost me my hotel reservation, but I was able to salvage that; however, it was a very stressful transaction.
A few weeks later, during a couple of days of confusion, where we had a disagreement about the direction of our future together, my then-fiancé and I both joked how we might never make it to see Def Leppard together and farcically blamed them our troubles. We did work it through and re-engaged our path towards marriage. This disagreement was not really a break-up, but we often referred to it as a “speed bump.”
So, with this whole dissertation behind me, I come to the point. When she and I finally did go to the concert and spend the night in Tulsa, it was on this day that noticed the handwriting on the wall which foretold the doom of our relationship. Without revealing details, let me say her behavior, her indifference, her stoic obligation signaled the obvious to me; ironically it was during the Def Leppard trip.
I’m glad I pressed the point and we could determine that she wasn’t really ready for the commitment. Had I not, we might have continued lying to ourselves and each other – and where would we be then?
Yes, I jovially blame Def Leppard for my break-up and claim they stole my good karma. However, the truth is the concert was a very important revelation. So, it was not a curse, but rather a painful blessing.

Oct 4, 2011

Fair Warning

My engagement to be married is now over - complete with closure and all possessions returned to the proper parties.
I state this clearly because my former fiance would often be upset when I would broadcast my feelings in my blog, specifically if they could be reverse-engineered back to her by anyone who knew us personally. Despite that I take great care not to reveal names or give specific details whenever it would be inappropriate, she still despised that someone might misconstrue something I said and blame her for my condition.
I'd like to believe and still hold fast that this is a silly notion of hers. After all, anyone who knew us that well would probably already know the details more intimately than described in my writings. However, even stating this is pushing the boundaries of what I think is proper etiquette, but it's a necessary evil to make my point. This blog is where I vent and share my experiences and try to garner a grander perspective to find the life-lesson by my exposure. I hope that my memoirs will provide enlightenment to others but also to my future self.
While I promise to always tell my tale with respect to others' privacy, I will not deny my right to share who I am with whomever chooses to read my words. Yes, I will be polite and further acknowledge that my view is only one of many ways to understand whatever events I describe. However, whenever a significant turn of my life happens, the most effective form of self-improvement I have is to take inventory, retell the tale, meditate, share, consider my missteps and reflect upon the larger point in the universal scheme of things. It is what I do...with the proper decorum, of course. Understand this is not a cheap shot to bad mouth someone but rather my method of self-analysis.
So, for any who hold unwavering loyalty to my former partner, you may wish to drop my blog or unsubscribe the RSS feed for the next few weeks, as it is highly likely a few future posts will contain respectfully-told stories about my emotional state and response to the break-up and the events surrounding it. Don't consider yourself an outcast or voted off the island. But I ask you recognize in yourself the level of restraint and dignity you possess as you read and comment - because this event cannot be summarized as something less than significant and I will have reactions to post. Hopefully, I will learn some lessons along the way as well. I might even explain the Def Leppard reference in my comment on the previous post while simultaneously connecting a Hindu principle with comic books.