So – what turns you on?

Me during a conversation about gender & sexuality issues (not really in my cis-gender WASPy wheelhouse) with an old friend who doesn’t “get it.”

Me: “Do you know how an ignition switch works?”
Him: “Not really”
Me: “Yet you use it every day, and you trust that it works?”
Him: “Yeah”
Me: “Well, it’s kind of that.”
Him: “But I can find out how that works”
Me: “True, but you trusted it to work for years without knowing.”
Him: “But I can find out, and then I’ll know.”
Me: “Right, talk to an expert, look it up on line, if you care you can learn right?”
Him: “Right, so it’s different.”
Me: “Not really – If you care enough to learn about it, talk to some experts, you can learn about people who are LGBTQ and then you’ll have an idea of how that works too.”
Him: “And you’ve done this?”
Me: “Not as much as I should, but like the ignition switch, I know that it’s more complicated than I think. But once I accept the fact that it works, I can care more about the whole car.”
Him: “What?”
Me: “I care more about the whole person than just worrying about what turns them on.”
Him: (laughs) “Fine, but what about the people that switch genders.”
Me: “Hey, I used to be a Ford guy and you were a Chevy-head. But now I drive a Subaru.”
Him: “Yeah, I’m still a Chevy guy.”
Me: “Hey man, whatever turns you on… Did I tell you I just bought a motorcycle?
Him: “Harley?”
Me: “Kawasaki.”
Him: (expletive deleted)
Me: (explained my decision, price-style-etc. especially the “dirt look”)
Him: “I guess you got the right bike for you.”
Me: “Yeah, can’t buy a bike because of some one else’s opinion. Have to get the one that fits me.”
Him: “Yeah, but still, I like that low and slow chromed out full-fender fat-boy look.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s not me – I guess you could say I’m trans-fendered.”
Him: “You (expletive deleted)
Me: (laughing) “Yeah but you love me anyway”
Him – more cursing

And that’s how I know he’s thinking about it. He’s trying to figure out how to deal with a family member struggling & accepting a lifestyle he doesn’t understand. But we may NEVER understand. But we cis-gendered WASPy folks can care more than ‘know’ and that’s the point. We are incapable of “hating the sin and loving the sinner” because we are still putting ourselves in a position of pridefully judging ourselves “better” & that.ain’t.love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”1 Corinthians 13:4-8

So – If you find yourself lacking understanding, struggle to love anyway. Put down the pride and protect those struggling with identity and sexuality, trust that God is working within them, hope it doesn’t take long to resolve, but even if the struggle changes – persevere in love. Don’t let your love fail. And remember, when God works, it may not be the outcome we thought we wanted, but it may be the outcome God foresaw and worked toward.

Too many of my friends have self-medicated with drugs & alcohol, committed suicide, been turned away from churches, family and friends – been denied love, while struggling to find where God is in their lives.

So let us each be a representative of God’s love and Love our neighbors, our family members, our friends, because be they gay, straight, lesbian, pansexual, monosexual, asexual, transgendered, cis-gendered, non-gendered, trans-fendered… THEY are US.

Let us trade in our ignorance (lack of understanding) and our hard-hearts (lack of caring) for the bold and persevering love modelled for us in Christ.

“Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

And if you are so ignorant, so prideful, so vain to be sure you know the mind of God to the degree of condemning one of God’s children, throw that rock my way, and I’ll do my best to keep from returning it tenfold – because I’m called to love you too.

Loving people I agree with – that’s easy.
Loving people you can’t agree with?
That’s Godly.

And that’s why it’s hard on “both” sides.

And that’s why most people don’t try.

But that’s how God loves us. All of us. In our pride, in our ignorance, in our contraryness… It’s as if God said, “I have the key, I turn the lock, I ignite the spark, that triggers the battery to turn the starter to…”   You get it right?

We’re not the driver – we’re the car, or the bike. Different brands, different makes, different models, some built for hauling rocks, some for hauling… other things. Different colors, Made in different countries, changing over time. Getting broken, the occasional dent, dirty, scratched up – some of develop smells… And all of us end up totalled (but some donate their parts). But we’re all made by God.

Love is the key.
The Spirit is the fuel.
The scriptures are the map.
And God guides us on the road.
Stop being a pothole.
Stop being a STOP sign.
Stop trying to be a member of the highway patrol trying to enforce the law when God is driving.
Just let God open up the throttle and love.
Don’t put the brakes on God’s love and mercy.
Let God be in control & you’ll discover something. The road will be smooth, but it’s going to have some turns. The straights may be a measure of your strength – but God works best in the turns.


The unintended consequence…

There is a tent in my living room. Inside it are: my XL sleeping bag (with washable cloth liner) on my inflatable bed roll (for my 49 yr old back) with two pillows (one for my big head, another for my knees – I’m a side sleeper), my mess kit (pot, pan, lid, 2 bowls, flatware, cooking spoon, towel, 2 cups) and my backpack. Just outside, two propane tanks & my burner (with fold-out prongs for pot or pan). Along side, my 300lb rated camp chair. Why? Because I’m going camping and before I pack, I lay everything out & practice setting it up. I want to know that I can set up & breakdown/repack everything on my own.

This is all “new” gear to me because my focus has shifted. I used to pack for “glam-ping on a budget” as a friend called it, but I don’t camp that way anymore.

Gone are the days of bikes and skateboards, pop-ups and screen tents. Now it’s Xbox-x and high speed internet, projectors showing movies on the sides of RV’s, I know I sound old, but I don’t want that. I don’t like rugged camping either (although Blue River has the nicest out-house I’ve ever seen).

I want to go camping. Not pretending to be a member of the Donner party, not driving a land-yacht to an RV park. Just camping. Enough electricity to charge a phone & a couple battery packs. A lake to swim in. Water from a spigot. But there are a few “concerns.”

My son hates camping, So, as I’m staring at my phone, about to pull the trigger on a pre-wired X-Box X carry-case with built in screen, the sheer weight of all I was going to take with me bent my shoulders. “I’m not getting away, I’m just relocating. I’m moving the same stuff around while adding more and more stuff.”

This is not what I’ve been doing with my life lately. Seriously, I’m “whittling” Beau out of Rob. I’ve let guitars go (to friends), I let my slowly-killing-me job go, I let my anger go, I’ve even thrown out perfectly good T-shirts!! I let comfort and stability go. I bet God and me against a miserable life…

Which brings me to concern #2, to make the beautiful woman who will be my wife and her 68 degrees or crying daughter and my son enjoy camping, I’m going to need more than a plastic case of wiring with a 19″ TV glued to one side. I’m going to need an air conditioned/heated camper with a private sound-proof room. I’m going to need satellite TV and high-speed Internet and a private bathroom with a human-sized shower. I might as well buy one of those travel-busses & paint the side movie-screen white.

I mentioned retiring and travelling the country in an RV once – and her response was kind, but questioning. An RV to my specs would run an easy 80 grand and she’s right, We’d have to stay in hotels or cabins more than 4,ooo nights to justify that expense. (Considering she gets 2 weeks vacation every year, it would take us more years than we have).

So, that takes care of that. Can’t go big, but I can’t stay home. So, I went to the garage and started looking at my bins. I’ve got some swag in there. My 14x10x8 instant up “cottage” with the external frame, my dual burner suitcase grill, which was replaced by a tailgate grill with dolly-wheels & can cook 6 steaks at a time, a foldable rack for grilling over fire, 4 sleeping bags that could zip together in pairs, my 7×4 cot, inflatable mattresses (now that the latex powder has been washed off), a good sized igloo that doubled as an air conditioner with a battery powered fan, center-mount ceiling fan with LED lights, my 4 person mess kit, my solar shower bag, my 5 gallon water bladder… Basically whatever luxury I could stuff in the back of my Subie.

I sighed. I hated the “bigness” of it. I can sleep 8, but I don’t know 4 people I’d share a tent with. It was just too much, too much to fool with and honestly – it KEPT me from going out by myself. bringing with me kept me from going. It needs to get – smaller, more manageable.

Like my diet, like my work-week, like my stress level…

When I camp, what do I need?

Something to do: My phone (books, music, maps, audio recorder, contact) and battery packs.

Something to sit in: A comfortable chair (one of my biggest complaints of camping is picnic tables).

Some place to sleep comfortably.

Some food & a way to prepare it.

A clean bathroom/place to shower.

Bugspray, first aid kit, rain gear, clothes… blah, blah, blah.

That’s it?

And that’s why there is a tent in my living room, next to a small burner, next to a chair rated for big people. This is my new rig, all I need.

Funny fact: All of it breaks down small enough to fit into my 40L backpack.

Fun fact: All of it combined weighs less than 20 pounds.

Freaky fact: Wearing the backpack, I am still physically lighter than I was by myself two months ago.

Fitting fact: the pack fits perfectly on the rear seat & mounting plate of my bike & has mounting straps to secure it.

Fantastic fact: That leaves my tank and side bags free for clothing, toiletries, food & water.

Final fact: I’ve already found 3 campgrounds within a 3 hour ride that have WI-fi so I can still catch a small-screen movie… but don’t have cell service.

Cue the music.

Lenny Kravitz, “I want to get away, I’m gonna fly away…”


… Wait? There’s no WI-fi?…

I used to camp with my parents. We would pack up the van, put the bikes on the front rack, hitch up the trailer, pit the sailboat on top of that and Sanford & son our way to the North Carolina coast. There were a few incidents, like repacking wheel bearings on the road or when my dad’s buddy dropped a trailer on my dad’s foot and dad ended up in a cast, but it was filled with days of playing in the water, riding our bikes around the campground & finding new ways to permantly scar ourselves. It was grand.

At least I remember it grand. That’s probably why I continued to camp well into my forties, bought a few tents, really nice cooking gear, etc. and even figured out how to “air condition” a tent with a cooler, bag of ice & a battery-powered fan. My tent is an instant-up 14×10 two room cabin, my two-burner propane tailgate grill can cook breakfast for 4 while perking coffee. Sure it’s a tight fit for the back of the Subie, but it’s all good right?

It was, until I thought about it.

Blame the bike.

Because it’s a “mini-adventure” bike I had these dreams of riding from campground to campground, popping up my mini-tent, sleeping on my mini-mattress, and seeing America. I admit it – in my heart, I’m a romantic, even if my brain isn’t.

So as I searched for a tent that would fit in my water-proof back-bag, my brain reminded me that, near as I can figure, I haven’t really enjoyed a camping trip since about 1986. I’ve enjoyed the company, the stories, but as for camping, I just don’t have it in me.

I know that because I have a 14×10 tent that, if it wasn’t for the door, I could park my Subie inside it. I can put a 4-5 person tent inside my tent. It has two rooms – and weighs a ton. Why?

Because I once spent a windy 34 degree night in a 36″tall dome tent on an air mattress. I got “chilled to the bone” to the point where I honestly considered wetting myself just to be warm for a few seconds.

That same small tent once tried to kill me in a wind-storm. I was on the ground on a 12 inch tall cot and it kept bending until the fabric covered my face.

The whole time, I’m laying awake thinking someone was stealing our gear.

So I bought a tent that was the size of a suburban house bedroom. I could bring the gear in at night & get one of those queen-sized inflatable beds and really do it right. I can bring the gear in at night (I never have).

Did you know most of the cheap mattresses are either made of latex or use a powder to keep it bendy, but not sticky? I didn’t, until I woke up barely able to breathe. My son, still awake at 3am watching a Jake and the Never land pirates on the DVD player at least looked up from his screen. That same trip? I pinched a nerve in my back going off a diving board & spent hours on a folded out sleeping bag, on that mattress. It was 172.3 degrees and I considered wetting myself just to get cool. OK, not really, just because I didn’t want to try to get up or walk 300 feet to the bath-house.

Which reminds me. Apparently we decided as a culture that campground bath-house technology peaked in 1954. It’s somehow always “more” of the weather outside. If it’s 32 degrees outside, it’s somehow colder on the throne, and taking a shower above 90? Your Deoderant evaporates in the container before your shower is over. And fellas, if you not going to contribute to porcelain fund – find a tree – not the floor. I’m pretty sure that the mixture of hepatitis Z will be created in a campground men’s room & 28 days later, we’re all zombies.

Still though, the view… Is usually of an RV owned by a divorcee who “won” it in court, but is now too busy working to pay for it. It’s little grey satellite calls out to the campground children as the gather around, praying with their little tablets – just hoping there is free WI-fi, but there never is – there never is.

Which is why you wake up at 5am and find little children of the corn leaning on the side of the tent, there little faces pressed up against the netting, watching a 7″ wide screen from the outside. While you try to refocus, one will ask if you have any other DVDs, as if standing outside my tent like little Jason Vorhees at 5am and asking for a favor is perfectly appropriate behavior.

And that’s the another breakdown. When did campgrounds the gathering place of drunk Skynard fans? “Back in my day…” We had our own fields for bonfires, shenanigans & daring do. We didn’t pay $13 a night to howl at the moon next to a dentist that is trying to bond with the kids he never sees. If you’re going to throw .22L ammo into the fire, do it on your own land.

And THAT’s the real problem.

I noticed it yesterday coming in to Louisville. I grew up with my Grandfater’s farm, camping, day trips to the lake and long trips to the beach. I got disconnected from the land somehow. I don’t mean some “mother Gia is angry, so we shall dance to appease her” My mom & dad gave me that (and my first motorcycle). Pulling off on Hurstbourne Lane it took 2 minutes before I got my first honk – for not running a fresh red light.

Living on top of each other just makes us angry, anxious and stressed. It’s a living video game and people lose it. In parking lots, in lines, in traffic, in stores, we now live in a “whatayameanican’tgetfries!!” “Because ma’am, this is a bank” world. Where people pay $8 for coffee & complain about free WI-fi.

People think we’ve “nerfed up” the world with participation trophies and anti-bullying campaigns, while failing to realize it’s an attempt to improve the world. “They’ve taken God out of our schools” – maybe – but they’re trying to bring compassion, mercy, and kindness into the students.

They’re trying to create a world where the Dentist with the $80 adventure zip-off leg pants, luxury SUV and air-conditioned pop-up camper can walk over to a group of drunk Skynard fans and say “Turn it up man,” be handed a frosted beverage and sing “Sweet home Alabama” together at 2 am while some idiot in a mini-tent staggers outside to brave the palm-sized mosquitoes in the campground’s men’s room.

And that’s why I’ll buy a mini-tent, and figure out a way to sleep more comfortably. I’ll buy tiny things and pack them all into a bag that I can strap to the bike and just “go.” When possible, I’ll crash @ the houses of friends, but the preference will be with friends in a field.

Because, while camping hasn’t treated me well – My friend’s always do.

Just give me three steps…


Faith and Fitness

On January 25th, my fiancé gave me my birthday present a month early (What you just thought should tell you a lot about your faith). It was membership into a fitness program that I’d been thinking about for about a year, but never pulled the trigger because I didn’t want 1) to spend any more money on fitness programs and 2) didn’t want another failure. You see, I’ve failed a LOT in the past. I’ve dropped weight by joining a gym and paying a very fit man to yell at me three times a week. Then, I quit. I dropped more than seventy pounds over four months twice – by liquid diets – and either gained most of the weight back, or ended up in my doctor’s office listening to explanations that the lumps found in my body were “most likely” deposits of calcium. Diet and exercise haven’t worked, so why would this?

Well, she bought it. I read the materials, listened to my inner-voice and realized, this was going to be another failure. It was going to fail because I was going to fail it. There was no way I was going to do three workouts a week and switch my diet to the “stuff food eats” diet again. I liked my chips, sodas, fries… (sorry faded off for a minute imagining fries) … and Krispy Kremes. And I’m right – the program is going to be another failure – because I can’t lose all the weight I need to (almost a hundred pounds) in the next 3 weeks. Well, it’s now been 26 days, almost the end of week four and this is what I have learned.

One – the bathroom scale is not the measure that is important. That “fundamental” element of every program I’ve ever tried is centered around this evil thing. Those numbers are the numbers of competitions, of the past, and frankly, will get my morning started off in exactly the wrong mental state. “I’m up .7 pounds from yesterday, what does that mean? What if I move it over to this part of the floor, and angle it this way, and step on it slowly, or what if I…” In the meantime my kid gets dropped off as school late because I’m obsessively trying to get every single tenth of a pound off that number.” That leads to failure. I know that about myself. I’ll starve to see that number come down, and then immediately run through a drive-thru to “celebrate.” This does not work long-term.

Two – the tailor’s tape is my friend. I have this measuring tape that tailors use, all plastic and bendy. I wouldn’t use it build a book case, but here’s what it tells me. In 21 days, my belly is 8” smaller. My chest is 2” smaller. My hips are 1” smaller. Arms, legs – all the same. My doctor was apparently right (who knew?) I apparently carry all my fat around my heart, lungs, liver… all the really important parts. So, I may have lost “only” fifteen pounds – but my body has lost significant size.

Three – everything I learned about diet was completely and utterly wrong. Did you know there were “good” fats and “good carbs?” I didn’t. Here’s what else I didn’t know. I can have a couple of pieces of real bacon (which I slow down for, just to enjoy the fatty-goodness) every now and then, and enjoy them, just not a pound at a time. I can have a coke, a nectar-of-the-gods coke, but now I drink from a 12 oz bottle, and a few sips is enough to pass the craving before I go back to my trusted water bottle (but not until the taste gets out of my mouth, I want to enjoy that as long as possible). I still probably take in 1200-1500 calories a day, but I don’t obsess over them. The other night, in a little-tiny bowl, I actually took some of my son’s uber-cheesed macaroni and ate some. It was delicious – which made me think of how often I’d shoveled this stuff into my gullet without actually taking the time to taste it. I hated carrots, but put some salt on them (now that I don’t eat fast-food often, my body can handle it) and they’re salty and crunchy, so much for potato chips during the game. Switching to “real” steaks instead of processed meats, yeah it’s a little more expensive, my grocery bills have gone up $40 a week, but my eat-out expenses have gone down more than $70.

Four – can you tell I’m enthusiastic? Usually the first thing to go in one of these things is my sense of humor. It’s still what it was (I won’t say I’m funny – but you’re free to say it). I have more energy (mostly) and I have found something I didn’t have before. I had diet-friends, fitness challenge buddies, but for the most part, most of what I did was on my own. This program has facebook support groups that make me laugh, inspire me, and when I do get down (because every now and then, we all get sad), I post “Hey, in need of some inspiration here.” I get a couple-hundred messages of cheer and support.

Five – maybe this will work? After all, it’s “my” program, I’m making it my own. I’m adapting to it (sometimes the motions are a little close to “why I need my knee repaired again” for my taste) and making it adapt to become something permanent in my life. I can live with it…

This whole program is based on the concept of “having faith in yourself.” But in reality, you rely on the message boards, the owner/guru, the other leaders. I rely on the recipes, the movements, the dynamic resistance, and the charisma of 3-time WCW champion Diamond Dallas Page to get me through this thing that lets me kick my own backside with nothing more than my own bodyweight. I have to buy in, to trust… and the testimonies are what had me on the fence for so long instead of dismissing it.

IN that way, it is a faith, a belief and yes, a discipline. And a commitment to do it for the rest of my life. And now it’s time to bring this home. Do I know if I’m going to hit my doctor’s goal weight for me? (I’m 70 pounds away according to his BMI-based goal). No. I don’t, but I’m at least interested in trying to find out, and strong enough to move on into more challenging sessions.

Many times, we try to exercise our faith without preparing for the strain. In today’s news there was a story about a power-lifter that came upon an accident involving a Jeep and a small child trapped under it. He literally lifted that over-turned Jeep off the kid so the first-responders could save that child’s life. He’d probably been asked more than once, “Why are you trying to get so big?” and now he literally can say, “I saved a child’s life.” That’s superhero stuff (Hulk it up!).

But we don’t often work out our faith. We don’t take in the good things that we need to, like scripture and study. We don’t surround ourselves with a supportive network, like a church that accepts us where we are and cheers for us every now and again, encourages us rather than measuring us on some scale of fitness. We don’t let ourselves commit to it until we try it out for a bit and see if we can see the results, and our ability to measure changes is not realistic – like trying to lose almost a hundred pounds in a week. We look for the perfect program, or book to buy, or short-term fix to a larger problem (like wearing a knee brace because we’re putting off the surgery). But it doesn’t give us the substantive change we long for.

Because we lack two things – inspiration and discipline. Inspiration from hearing those testimonies and being a part of other people’s stories. And the discipline to practice the routines even if it feels like we aren’t getting the results that we want, or we aren’t getting them RIGHT NOW! One has to come from a community, the other has to come from within yourself. If you want a fit-faith you have to be willing to work and seek inspiration.

Now, I know the typical response is, “I get all the inspiration I need from…” and I get it. But let me clue you in on something. On the fourth day of this, I noticed I couldn’t breathe in one of the positions. It was a safe position, meant to lower your heart rate, and I was gasping and panting to the point where my heart-rate shot up until I could hear it in my ears. I was dizzy. So, I called a friend of mine who laughed about it. “Yeah, put your knees farther apart and your ankles closer together.” All that extra body I had? I was pressing it into my thighs, restricting my lungs. Next time I hit the position, “BAM!” my heart rate started coming down and I could breathe. I also dripped a lot of sweat onto the mat (anyone know how to clean a yoga mat?).

I needed the help of an expert. I needed the help of someone who had not only been down the same road, but had taken the time to learn how to pave it and make it smoother for others.

So, feel free to work out your faith on your own. But be aware, if you try to do it all on your own, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. You’ve probably tried many times in your life to do that and may even think you’ve failed. But if I can suggest something? Find yourself a community of people that will support and inspire you, and find some leaders that know what they’re doing to give you some guidance before you really do damage.

In my early faith, I used to believe a lot of things, and I didn’t work them out all that hard. Then life started punching me in the face, and I didn’t know how to take a punch, how to block it, or if I was strong enough to handle it. But I made a decision, to stretch my faith, to test it, to work it, and I’m still doing that – because it’s a life-long goal. I have more questions now than I used to because I’ve stretched it. I used to believe in a very limited God. For a particular people, in a particular time, in a particular place, with particular rules and behaving in a very particular way.

But then I realized something, on my knees, struggling for breath. God is more peculiar than particular. What kind of peculiar love extends to all? What kind of peculiar love involves a sacrifice so thorough? How peculiar, strange and unusual, weird and abnormal is this love God has for people that haven’t earned it, don’t trust it, and question it so regularly?

Those are my workout questions, and so now when life punches me in the faith, I try to remember that faith, that is strong, doesn’t come from me, but with my relationship with the Almighty. And then I remind myself, “I don’t know why – but I can’t wait to see how God is going to work through this.”

It’s not only a faith I can live with, but a faith I will die with.


Satisfaction is my enemy

I figured something out. This came to me while I standing in front of the mirror in my bathroom. I’m not going to rehash particulars, because my mid-life crisis is well documented in way too many blogs. Short version, I was incredibly unsatisfied with my job, my visions of the future, my marriage, my guitar playing, my constant sickness (or depression depending on your point of view), my weight. So, I went on a lengthy, unplanned tear down of everything external. Amicably (as much as possible) divorced, quit my job, started practicing guitar and recently started working out 5 days a week… and that’s when it hit me. For the most part, I was satisfied with my suffering.

How messed up is that? I was satisfied being unhappy. Profoundly unhappy. And worse, it was both external and internal. Yes, my circumstances were not congruent with what I wanted out of life. But in my head, my “voice” wasn’t satisfied with who I was. I was a “good” guy, I was a “good employee” (well, for the most part), I was “good” husband to most eyes, good dad, good… you get the point. But here is the truth. I was “good enough.”

Give credit to God, my parents, my inner-drive, the protestant work ethic, whatever, I was not built for good enough. You can’t support my attitude (ego) with “good enough.” Good enough kills me. Being good enough eats me alive because in my own mind, “I’ll never be good enough.” And that’s the true conflict. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t “suffer” from low self-esteem. I am “blessed” with a drive to be better, an important distinction. I am built to never be satisfied. Improvement is like a drug for me. Personal, interpersonal, professional, spiritual, intellectual improvement is my heroin.

I don’t want to have a “good call” to a “good church.” I want to have a “damn good call” to a “fantastic church.” I don’t want to be a “good dad” I want to be the best dad I can for my great son. I don’t want to be a “good husband.” I want to be the kind of husband to a wife that not only gets me but actually likes me (and the “real” me, not my representative or who I might pretend to be). I want to be smarter, so I’ve got to read good books. I want to play music, dance, sing… live life. I’ve got too many people around me that need “life energy” or “light” to drain them. I want to be the kind of guy that people around me are filled up with substance and light. Charisma? No, Charismatic. Excitable. Eccentric. I want to be able to sit around a table with introverts and discuss books (when they venture out of their houses) and get into a groove with a drummer while I play bass, or play guitar and sing.

I’ve been through darkness, in my own way, and they only way I’ve come through it at all is copious amounts of light and ridiculous amounts of laughter. I will always be surrounded by darkness, I’m not going to light a candle. I’m not going to burn the candle at both ends. I’m going to shine like the sun – a star. I wasn’t built for “good enough.” If there is something that I have to “own” that’s it. I wasn’t made for mediocrity.

And neither were you.

If you’re going to sing – sing out loud.
If you’re going to play – then have fun.
If you’re going to dance – then let it fly.
If you’re going to study – then learn and share, don’t keep it to yourself.
If you’re going to speak – then share, do not judge.
If you’re going to keep accounting tables – then be immaculate.

What I’m trying to say is don’t be “good enough.” Good is the enemy of great (read that on a poster somewhere), and I want to be great (in my own way). So, you too can be exemplary. Be better than you were yesterday (the only you can really compete with), start with the attitude that you’re already good (thus addressing the self-esteem issue) – but you can be better (addressing the satisfaction issue) – and then put in the work (which ends up solving both!).

And that’s why this came to me in the mirror. One of the last (hopefully) competitions in my head is my weight. Truthfully, my fitness level, part of which my weight is a problem. I don’t like the way I look before. Now, I know I’ll never look like Keanu Reeves (for starters his hair is the wrong color) but I’m comfortable enough to say I think that guy is attractive (and the lifestyle, musician, bass player, etc. adds layers of cool. Or Brad Pitt (his eyes are blue). But I can look better. I’d just stepped off the scale and lost a “few” pounds this week. I was starting to feel down. Then I measured my mid-section and learned that my belly was smaller than it was 13 days ago (DDPYoga baby!) and I started to get all excited. Then it hit me, why? Why did one number make me sad and the other make me happy? Because one wasn’t as much as I wanted. The other was more than expected. I wasn’t satisfied with one, but was with the other. But here is what I did.

I went to the kitchen and grabbed a gallon bottle of milk and a half-gallon of orange juice. I put those in a backpack, put that backpack on backwards (on ma belly! so jelly!) for a bit. I sat down on the couch and watched TV, then went to the kitchen and ate my breakfast with that stuff on. I started collecting laundry – grooving to some music. I’m wearing it at my computer right now. It’s cumbersome, it’s in my way and it keeps slipping off my shoulders (to be grabbed by my tiny-tiny arms). It is absolutely ridiculous and makes me laugh.

But here is the point – that’s how much weight I’ve lost. All of a sudden, I’m not “satisfied,” I’m in the same zip code as giddy. It’s not “good enough,” Because my own goal is a lot more. So that means same level of focus with MORE work.

And that’s what I’ve figured out. I wasn’t built to be satisfied with good enough.
I was built good already, now it’s time to work to make things better.


The Myth of Control

We don’t control a lot. We can’t. We think we can, and there are definitely people in the world that suffer from the delusion that they are “in control,” but they aren’t. You may have power, influence, wealth… but you are never, EVER, going to have total control. Right now in the US we have a president with enough money to make Solomon blush and control over most of the government – but yeah, even he can’t get the stuff he says he wants done finished. So if THAT guy, in THAT position, who cares so little about what people think can’t get it done, what makes you think you can? He’s “free” of needing money, free of a need of friends, apparently free of his wife’s influence if adult actresses are to be believed. He’s the world’s most jerkiest guy in supposedly the world’s most powerful position, and even he can’t get a fence put up because the HMO says no.

So why do we so desperately seek control? Because before we were two – and we figured out that screaming this way gets us fed, this way gets us changed and that way gets us a toy – we have tried to control our environment. And this goes on in life from “Ok, I had my food labelled in our staff fridge and someone ate all my thin mints!” to “If I rinse out this bottle of salad dressing and place it in the proper bin, I’m saving the world.” We think we have control, and so we stress out over it, but in the grand scheme of things, we don’t. And this is “pouring all the patience out of the bottle.”

I learned this watching motorcyclists and road-ragers. Do you know why drivers are so angry? It’s mainly because we’re doing something that we’re not designed for. When we go fast, weaving in and out of traffic, lane-splitting on a bike, or driving like we’re in a video game, we get amped up. Adrenaline rushes, we get focused (except for morons who still insist they’re good drivers that can text or watch TV while driving) and if we get hyper-focused (which we really should be while hurling a ton of metal around at speed) when that gets interrupted, we pop off. Add to it being late, trying to apply makeup, smoking, adjusting the radio, trying to open a bag of Cheetos… and we’re even more amped up. “I’m a good driver.” Yeah, but you know what you don’t control? The other drivers. They change lanes without signaling. They have blind spots (if they look at all). They think you should let them over, so they just come on over. Traffic, mis-timed lights, school busses, trucks that can’t get off the line because they have to go through 9 gears before they cross the intersection, anyone in a Prius, rental box-trucks driven by people used to driving a car that could be put in the back of what they’re driving with room left over for a couch… it’s not Frogger y’all. In some part of your brain, there is a small part, probably buried deep inside you that has been dormant since you got your permit – and it’s screaming “THIS IS INSANITY!” as you go past running speed and it’s churning away at the stress mill like an Amish woman making butter, and each mile, until our brains eventually shut it down (which makes us more dangerous) it builds, and builds, and builds until someone’s window washer sprays over their car and gets droplets of moisture on your freshly waxed… BOOM! Example: People have been shot over parking spaces and being cut off – YET we will still see people get out of their cars to go back to another car and complain. AND those people will actually roll their window down to shout back. AND then an even smaller percentage of that brand of idiot will get out of their car to directly engage. No one says, “Yeah, I’m so sorry, I’m glad you weren’t hurt.” And the biggest morons are holding a camera saying, “I got that on tape, I got that on tape” because at some point, someone is going to shoot them and take their camera/phone.

Telecomute? Computer viruses. Kid’s get sick. Customer service needs to be called. Pipes froze. The super is super-creepy. Flat tires. Need groceries. Power is out. The internet goes out. The DVR only recorded the first half-hour of Million Little Things. Parents. Homework. Projects. That evil person at work that has become your arch-enemy in some weird office drama/comic book situation that started over post-its and will end in death. We are all wound too tight. All the patience is poured out of the bottle, and we need a good stiff drink (If I EVER go into the bourbon business, my first product sold only in mini-bottles will be called “Patience”).

So relax. Which to show you how bad a shape we are in, is a trigger-phrase for most people. “Just relax.” Is pushing the final button. “What you think you’re better than me because I think this shows I care more, am more professional…” While you stand blinking & thinking “This is not relaxing.” But seriously, lighten up. You’re making it harder on the rest of us, at least until we stop caring, and (especially with Generation X) that’s a point we all get to eventually. And your level of mismanaging stress isn’t really helping anyone around you, “I’m just keeping it real?” Well, in the real world, you’ll notice when someone “unfriends” you. In reality your showing your lack of self-control and making a fool of yourself. “Well, they can think what they want to think.” Exactly – you have influence but no control.

IF you live in “crisis mode” you will eventually burn out and take out the people around you. Ever had a work-a-holic boss? The one that worked nights and weekends (while making 4x your salary) and expected you to do the same? You know the one with the really nice car, who is divorced and never sees their kids. The angry one. With the significant other that has the personality of a golden retriever (friendly, kinda goofy and not really ‘into’ things like the other dogs) The one prone to go off like a shot but then stay and carpet bomb? In other words, snap-reacts without all the information and starts a tirade that makes the employee go from “oh, I should do better,” to “Oh, this really must be important if they’re yelling this much” to “Ok, I got it, you can stop screaming now” to “And we’re still on this? When was the last time I updated my resume” to “Ok, now that I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get fired, does Chicken Palace deliver for lunch?”

Yeah – you can’t control work. If you’re an employee or a boss, or owner. You’re got to answer to someone at some time.

How about at home? When was the last time you got into a “discussion” and didn’t even realize it was a serious discussion until about two minutes had passed by? The “fun” about these is you get to have the same conversations over-and-over and in some cases both parties get to build stress. My first wife and I were together for 21 years. About year 6, I “corrected” her method of putting dishes in the dishwasher – she swore she’d never put another dish in it. 15 years later, in a cancer-induced morphine fueled fog she walked into the kitchen, looked at me and said, “I can’t remember your name, or why this is so important, but…” and put her dish on the countertop. (Important note: I loved her for it). You can’t control other people (see “carpet bombing”) forever. And, other people can’t control you unless you let them.

So – you can’t control “home.”

You can’t control who wins the big game (even if you have stood up and done the circle, wearing your rally hat and sporting the same socks as when they won their last championship).

You can’t control what other people think (even if you bring them Ruth Hunt Mint – Chocolate meltables – which are the single greatest thing every invented). You have influence, but not control.

And sometimes, you can’t control yourself. Look, I don’t just mean your mouth or thoughts, I mean physically. If you could, I would not weigh as much as I do and would still enjoy boxes of Ruth Hunt Chocolate-mint meltables. I’ve switched over to non-processed foods, limited gluten and almost no corn syrup… I drink a 12 ounce coke and my bowels are as irritable as my son when the internet goes down.

So – the first step in reducing stress is taking control of what you can (which is largely things about you), influencing others where possible and learning that HOW the dishwasher is loaded is much less important than if the dishwasher is actually run.

The old trope line (which I’ve yet to find scriptural support for) was “God will never give you anything more than you can handle.” Truth is, we often take on things that are well beyond our capacity to handle and then expect the higher-power to clean up the mess. And that is the height of our arrogance, and the depth of our ignorance. When we want God to take away our trash, but don’t invite God into the house that makes it, and think throwing in a $20 tip every now and again pays God back.

So give it up. Sit down and make a list of all the things you are “responsible” for, and then figure out exactly how much “control” you have over them. You’ll be surprised, and you may find yourself with more patience in the bottle. Sure, some things are going to fall apart – that’s what happens when you buy stuff at Buyabunchmart. But it’s also what happens when you buy stuff at Handmadeexpensiveprimo. But something is always going to fall apart. It’s life. And when you recognize your lack of control in most of it, it will give you focus for the things that you can control, or influence, or eliminate from your life.

But what do I know, I’m just a guy that still occasionally locks his keys in his car, with the spare key locked in a house, for which I have no spare key.


A Letter to My Younger Self (My Inner Child Needs a Better Parent)

Hey Kid,
I’d tell you to stop being such a jerk, and be careful of hurting other people, but you don’t listen and probably stopped reading about [here]. But if you were to read this as a kid, just before Jr. High (now middle school) this is what I would tell you (no spoilers).

Running your mouth is eventually going to lead to you getting the stuffing kicked (literally) out of you at some point. But your mouth is going to be your “money-maker” in almost every job/career/call you choose. You have a power to tear people down or build people up. Have more “up” days than down ones.
You’re going to have a “pre-life” crisis. You are going to freak out and put all kinds of stress on yourself because you think that you have to “get it right” or the rest of your life is going to be following a path that you didn’t want to go down. Guess what, you’re going to make major changes in your life every couple years for about a decade. So stop trying to lock yourself down to one thing or another. In twenty years, most of those incredibly hard decisions are going to turn out to be unimportant. Sorry – that’s just life.

Your life is not a contest with anyone else, but it is going to be complicated. Because life is always going to throw stuff at you, some of it is hard, some of it is heavy and pointy and it’s going to leave scars. Sorry kid, I know you wanted the rock-star lifestyle of easy, fame and money – but your guitar heroes in my time, well, some of them are dead. Most have been through rehab, lost fame, and you’re not working very hard anyway, take some lessons. But seriously, you are always going to be facing something. Sorry, but that’s the truth. You can’t protect yourself from it, and you can’t walk away from most of it. So, make it your business to take care of your business. Don’t let the piles of dirt that fall into your days build up, they are very hard to move from place-to-place and once they become a hill or a mountain it takes forever to get rid of them. This is the fight of your life. This is everybody’s fight for life, but the sooner you get that, the better off you’ll be.
The fight for your life begins between your ears. You’ve got a decision to make – and the sooner you make it, the better it will go for you. Are you worth fighting for? Hate to bring it up, but I know there is a good chance right now, you don’t feel like you are. I don’t remember why, and it has yet to make sense, but right now you’re pretty messed up in the way you think. So let me help – you are going to live. I know it doesn’t feel like it. But I’m the older you – you’re going to live. Because deep in the recesses of your brain and your heart, below those thoughts that tell you otherwise, you actually like yourself and other people. But the problem is – you’ve got the order backwards.

I know, people are telling you that you are self-centered. Here’s a little hint: You are supposed to be. You are not supposed to be selfish. There is a difference. Selfish is putting yourself above other people, self-centered is what you are when you’re trying to work stuff out, and you have a lot of stuff to work out. You have to figure out who you are man, and so is everyone else.

Right now, you’re trying NOT to be selfish, even though you are, and like everyone else, always will be to a point. But not looking at yourself, figuring your own stuff out, you’re an empty suit of armor. People see you and think well of you, but they don’t see what is inside. That’s living a lie. You’ve got to fill the suit. You can have the greatest shining armor, people see it and admire it, but you’re going to be empty until you figure out the person inside. You’re never going to be able to accept praise for the armor AND most importantly, it’s heavy, takes a lot of maintenance and it’s not going to protect you. Plus, while you’re out fighting other people’s battles, the suit is going to fill up with nonsense that you just have to clean out.

While I’m on the subject. You are going to develop a hatred of suits. But for you, today, I want you to look at what you’re wearing and I’m going to make an observation, “You aren’t a real rebel if you dress, act, talk, walk just like all your friends.” That’s conformity. Sorry to say this young punk – but the stuff you’re doing that makes you a rebel was done by kids ten years before you, and will be done ten years after you. Want to be a rebel, do your homework.
I know it’s boring. I hate it too. But here is something you will learn. Repetition (like practicing scales) is the child of self-discipline, the mother of learning and the father of success. And relying on people outside of yourself to discipline you? It’s foolish, because they won’t always be around. Pick up your room, make your bed, go to work, not because someone else says you have to, but learn self-discipline. Trust me, if you do that now, you won’t have to reform your life in your forties. And here is the thing, it’s not your parent’s fault. God knows they tried, you’ll eventually appreciate it, but it isn’t up to them. It’s the choice you make between your ears.
When you fill the suit, you’re find out that the “enemy” is between your ears. All that negative self-talk, all that emotional weight, is there because YOU will make the active choice to carry it. Sure, it may have been FROM what happened to you, but if you keep it on your shoulders, it’s because you chose to bring it forward.
Here is a great secret of life kid, pay attention, people are always going to say negative things about you. If you’re doing something, you’re doing it wrong, or it’s not the right thing to do. If you’re not doing anything, then you are lazy. But, just like you figured out that your teacher’s opinion of you doesn’t really matter, you’ve got to thicken your skin to those people – and what they say is more of a reflection of themselves (things they don’t like about themselves or things they fear) or their own way of wearing the suit to cover up who they really are. Fight for yourself between your ears, and ANY of that negative stuff that comes in, either confront it or discard it, but one way or another put it behind you as fast as you can. You will struggle with this your entire life. But the weight of it all will only wear you down day to day if you decide to pick it up in the morning.

Which is why your safe-zone is about as safe as three-mile island (later Chernobyl). You’re building a blanket of negative self-talk and pain to carry with you. It’s comfortable, it’s well-known, and it isn’t a blanket. It’s an anchor – and that’s why you’re going to go a bit crazy for your mid-life crisis (you still don’t get a Corvette or Ferrari). Your inner-child is a bastard who is five times greedy and ten times needy, and the only person on this earth that can parent that little sucker is you. Your inner child needs a better parent. You’re going to have to do that. Don’t put it off for later because one other issue you’re going to deal with is that your “today” Rob is going to despise your “yesterday” Rob because he was such an idiot.

Look man, I know this is long, and doesn’t include any spoilers about sports-betting (did I mention, no time-machines) but it’s important. You are going to develop a unique ability to self-deceive. And the great part about that is, everything you say to other people, because it doesn’t come from truth, is going to be a lie. And your lies are going to hurt others, deeply, and you’re not going to even know you’re doing it. Because you’re so focused on the armor, no one gets to look inside. And that is going to be lonely.

So, when you’re in your mid to late forties, you’re going to have the dumbest mid-life crisis ever. You’re going to correct mistakes you knew you were making when you made them. You’re going to strip your life to the bones and then rebuild it. You’re going to raise your inner child in a very short period of time. And most importantly – you’re going to find happiness.

Not just in God, not just in a person, not just in a gig, not just in habits that you will change and wonder why you didn’t change before. You’re going to mess up, but it’s going to be ok. You are, believe it or not, going to live long enough to change your mind about a lot of things (Bill Cosby and Bruce Jenner in particular). And everything you believe about life, the future and everything is going to turn out to be wrong.

So do me a favor.

Relax. Your life hasn’t even started yet.

Do not start smoking again. Get some exercise and for the love of all that is holy, try to eat better.

Tell mom and dad you love them every day. You have no idea how important that will become later. And tell Sheryl she’s the best sister a guy could have, because she rarely lied, and when she did it was about parabolic cylinders and you will eventually stop caring about those.

Stop pining for the girl, redefining for the other one and when you meet her (you’ll know when) marry THAT girl. It’s going to break your heart but get you ready for what comes next.

Don’t stay too long and never go back to where you were before. Learn to let the past be dust, yearn for the future’s dream and work every day to make it happen.

Remember the words of your dad, and do not limit your possibilities.

Be kind to yourself, treat yourself the way you want others to treat you (because that way if no one cares enough to take care of you, you can do it yourself).

Fill the empty suit, and if you have to wear a suit, get a good tie.

Treat every single girl/woman that was kind enough to spend time with you, crush on you or just be nice to you with respect. Most of all, the ones that do not want to date you will end up good friends – do not violate that friendship, because thirty+ years later, some of them are your friends years later and while they may not introduce you to people to date (because secretly you’re their plan B because even though you’re a mess, you’re a hot mess) they will help you get your head together when you go all “piney”

Do not worry about someone else’s preferences of partners or politics, but learn what their favorite drink is, having it on hand shows class.

Write man, every day, and let other people read it. Their opinions may help you thicken your skin.