Man-Child Manifesto

About 7 years ago, I was training to be a personal fitness trainer.  My gym assigned prospective trainers like me to “floor shifts.”  If you belong to a gym you see floor-shifters shifting around the gym floor.  They are supposed to help out, get towels and schmooze with customers.  These workers are paid peanuts, have little to do during their shifts and usually open the gym at ungodly hours until they get their training certificates and can take on clients.  The crappy pay, work and hours is meant to separate the wheat from the chaff—the people who really want to train and people who just want a job.  I was chaff.

I had good reasons why I quit the gym:  I made much more money at my other job (I did); their training method was stupid (it kind of was); gyms promote superficial fitness, not health (they do).  But another reason for quitting revealed itself.  It didn’t matter what I was doing.  I always found reasons why something sucked.  Personal training, acting, modeling, cooking, school, girlfriends, friends—I quit all of them for good reasons.  It wasn’t an episodic issue, it was a systemic one.  I was a quitter.

I realized that I wanted to be more than a quitter and a dabbler.  After the gym episode, I started a program of recovery from quitting, carried out in a pretty straightforward way:  I stopped quitting things and finished many things I had started (I got geeked out on transformational workshops for a while too).

But that recovery took time.  It took a while before the old evidence was displaced by the new.  I had to show up to relationships, jobs and other commitments for a while before I was able to fully experience myself as a committed person.  With any major change, there is a period between letting go of what you don’t want and creating what you do.  Which brings me to the present.

Most of my “adult” life has been spent primarily living for myself.  Sure, I’ve shown up and committed to relationships and institutions, but I always made sure I had enough emotional or physical distance that our needs weren’t completely intertwined.  I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything drag me down with them.

I’ve had great times living this way.  I’ve been mobile and flexible.  I’ve slept well and gotten plenty of exercise because no one impinges on my schedule.  Since I have minimal material needs, I haven’t needed to make much money or work too hard.  I’ve been able to change my life instantly without all that messy explaining one must do in close relationships.  For example, I can go vegan overnight because no one else is eating from my fridge.

But something happened 9 months ago.  I met a girl.  I like the girl.  The girl wants a family.  In order to be with her for a while, I had to be on board. Continue reading “Man-Child Manifesto”

Praxis of Evil

Not sure how relevant this image is to my story.

I moved 5 times between the ages of 8 and 16.  While some transform this type of peripateticism into an ability to adapt into any situation, I transformed it into a means to feel isolated in any situation.

My first move was from Park Forest South to Flossmoor—2 generic, south-side-Chicago suburbs.  The former was lower-middle class, mixed race; the latter middle-to-upper-middle-class, mostly white.  This move went okay.  I adapted to my 3rd grade class fairly well, making friends easily.

Things went to shit on the 2nd move when my mom couldn’t afford Flossmoor anymore and we returned to Park Forest South 2 years after leaving.  There had been a white flight in our absence and I entered the 5th grade 1 of 2 white boys in the whole class.  All the friends I had left in 2nd grade dissociated themselves from me.  I was beat up daily, ostensibly because of the color of my skin, but surely abetted by my obvious sense of not belonging.

The 3 other moves—to the north side of Chicago for 3 years, then back to Flossmoor for 2 years, then to Boulder, Colorado for another 2—were the same situation in different locales.  I would be the new kid.  I might make a friend, usually some socially maladaptive kid.  That friendship would run its course.  And because I was never part of any clique, team or group, I would be isolated again.

Isolation became my default setting.  For much of my life, I shirked the need for friends and girlfriends for long stretches, sure people would eventually reject me.  It wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s that it occurred to me that I liked and wanted people in my life.   Continue reading “Praxis of Evil”

Be Fearless Like Me!

Let's look at the eye of the f'ing tiger (or lion as the case might be) .

I marvel at my power.  I am an unstoppable force, crushing inner and outer obstacles with the aplomb of a samurai facing battle.  For me, fear is a foe met and conquered.  Behold some of the areas where I have mastered my fears:

Staying home alone. I do not hesitate when it comes to isolating in my apartment.  I will watch one Netflix movie after the next with unshakable placidity.  I don’t even fear watching movies I’ve seen many times before—I have seen both the Godfathers I and II at least 10 times each with the steadiest of nerves.  Nor do I fear consuming foodstuffs purchased at Trader Joe’s while watching these movies.  As unbelievable as it sounds, I can simultaneously eat tater-tots dipped in barbecue sauce while watching Lord of the Rings without a vestige of timidity.

Shutting down my emotions. Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but I have no fear of withholding how I feel.  Whatever the situation may be, whether it’s expressing how I feel to my girlfriend, family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, I can shut down my emotions with lightening quickness.  My mastery is such that I can stuff my emotions down until I’m virtually incapacitated.  I can smother my needs, suppress how I honestly feel, even withhold my concern, with Herculean strength.

Not putting myself out for scrutiny. While many people have difficulty withholding their gifts and talents from the world, such is not my lot.  I have years of experience withholding who I am.  I have library’s worth of unread writing.  I have fearlessly dodged scrutiny and judgment innumerable times.  I know what you’re thinking:  “How do find the strength to withhold all that?  Where do you store all your undistributed gifts?”  Frankly, I don’t know sometimes.  Perhaps this fearlessness is just another one of the innate talents I keep to myself.

Surfing the web, emailing and text messaging.
This one might sound the most improbable, but it’s true.  I have nary a shred of fear wielding these electronic sabers.  I can surf the web for hours, check Facebook links, scour the news, refresh my email inbox, and rattle off pithy texts on my phone, all without churning my stomach with fear.  I suspect I could even approach a woman online if I didn’t have a girlfriend.  That’s how little fear these things cause me.

Not asking for help. I can go years without addressing a need, stewing in pain and toil, never succumbing to the urge to ask for help.  This is made more impressive when you consider that help is all around me much of the time.  I seem to have been born with an indomitable pride that precludes me surrendering to even the most dire needs.

Wasting my precious life. This feat is almost beyond belief.  I know this life is extremely fleeting.  I have had people close to me die or undergo serious health issues.  I know that this window I have here, with all physiological cylinders firing, is a very short.  And yet I appear to no little fear squandering the hours of my days, stewing in resentment, asking for shit I don’t need, looking for my ego to be stroked, not loving those around me, not helping those in need, not sharing my gifts or engaging my world.  My strength is beyond comprehension.

If you too want master your fears, I urge you to keep reading my blog.  It may not be an overnight matter, but with time, determination and assiduous devotion to my instructions, you too can live as fearlessly as I do.

Dames and Dumbfucks

Everything's cool man.

I shan’t mince words.  I’m a liar.  And exactly 2 years ago, my lies created a life where I felt like someone was pressing the butt of a broom handle into my chest all my waking hours.  I was in a relationship and living with a great girl.  She was cute, generous, worldly, punctual, committed.  But she was in a relationship with a liar (me) and we were fucked from the beginning.

The first lie was the most basic one:  I thought that she was, or someday would be, someone other than who she was.  I saw red-flags from our very first meeting.  I rationalized them away to perpetuate the idea of the relationship—something I wanted to believe in.  But rationalizations are not solid building materials for relationships.

The trouble, in short, was we had nothing in common.  Our politics, spiritual views, tastes, communication styles were often diametrically opposed.  I joked about these things at first, but as time elapsed and our incompatibility became more glaring, the humor evaporated.  These issues would come out in fights and feeble attempts at communicating, but I knew, underneath my ideas and rationalizations, the relationship was DOA.

One night in February 2009, we got into a fight.  It was the same fight.  She accused me of not wanting to spend time with her.  She was right.

I would typically cauterize the fight with lies that I wanted to believe were true, but knew were not.  This night, I couldn’t do it.  I knew this fight would go on as long as we were in a relationship.  I knew things would not get better.  I knew she was who she was and I was who I was and given that, we had to break up.

So I told the truth and was promptly asked to move out (it was her apartment so there was no question about who would leave).  She went for a walk and I stuffed as many of my things in a large duffle as I could.  It was a Tuesday night at midnight.  I was a bum, but one with a modicum of integrity. Continue reading “Dames and Dumbfucks”