The Bouncer at the Gates of Heaven

On this site, I talk about how to handle relationships, overcome challenges, fears and the like. I tell stories about how I deal and have dealt with these various situations. I paint the picture that I have prevailed and am prevailing in the face of it all. And if I can do it, you can too! I even give instructions how.

There are many peddlers of personal empowerment like me. We are not sages, just guys and girls who’ve discovered a modicum of personal freedom and want to share our experiences with the world. Our central tenants are overcoming fear, explosive self-expression and abundant living.

But there’s a trap with producing and consuming personal empowerment: it’s that freedom isn’t an end in and of itself, it’s a means.  We overcome fear, explosively express ourselves and start living abundantly so we can get lots of dates, be famous and make lots of money.

This is a sort of spiritual Chinese handcuffs: the more we focus on becoming free so we can achieve the goals that elude us, the more we substantiate our lack of freedom. We perpetuate the notion that free people don’t get nervous, they aren’t obsequious and they certainly aren’t broke. Until we are those things, freedom will be out of our grasp. Freedom and happiness forever remain something out there, in the future, when; not something here, now.

What if freedom became our ends, not our means? What if freedom looked a lot different than what we thought it did? What if it happened in a cubicle or looking at your flabby body? What if all our indicators of freedom were false? What if we could be free now with our never-going-to-be-famous, inhibited, broke-ass selves? How might that change our day? What excuses would that take away?

Monday Morning Coffee

Monday mornings are not typically my strongest time. Rather than the week occurring as a vast ocean of possibility, it occurs as a barren creek, whose scant water is suffused with obligation and pains-in-the-ass. This perspective usually changes by Tuesday, when I see that no one is forcing me to do anything; that I signed up for all of my supposed burdens; that they’re not in fact burdens at all, but actions inside of a greater commitment; that I do and have created my life. But not Monday. And particularly not Monday morning. That time is reserved for doom.

Rather than jumping into action, I become overwhelmed and jump to have a second cup of coffee, which sends me into a state where I simultaneously do nothing while my caffeine-addled mind scorns my inaction with improved efficiency.

This disempowered state relies on a particular conceit: that who I am is a function of what I do. If I don’t do, I am not (worthy, powerful…alive).

But what if this is a mistaken conceit? What if there were nothing to prove? What if we were inherently valuable–that our existence didn’t hinge our abilities to check items off our Google Tasks widget? How would that free us?

This is not to say things don’t need to get done. When I finish writing this, I have a shitload of things to do. The question is how will we do? Will we do under the lash of obligation, maxing out our willpower to make things happen, doing to prove we are good enough, that we matter, that we exist? Or will action flow from our inherent worth and power–from a place of nowhere to go, nothing to prove? Both work in their own way–one just sounds a bit more enjoyable.

 

 

 

 

It’s Okay, Put it Off till Tomorrow

Statistically speaking, you will probably waste your day today. You will not work on that book or painting or business. You will not go to the gym. You will be rude and impatient with strangers. You will get furious at someone on the sidewalk or highway. You will stress about money. You will spend a lot of time in front of a glowing screen. You won’t take that walk in the park. You’ll get takeout for dinner. You won’t call that friend back. You won’t take chances.

It’s okay. You’ll do it tomorrow. You’re working on it.

I’m flying out Saturday to be with my father who has lung cancer. My stepmother, wife, brother and his family will be there. It’s one of those trips.

Tomorrow is not a certainty. Stop trying to live.

Seeing What is Possible, Dealing with Reality

Emily Dickinson: Possibility/Bedroom Dweller.

Emily Dickinson wrote the famous verse, “I dwell in possibility.”  Unlike the famous poetess, many of us dwell in limitation, using the past as our main referent for the future—i.e. because we’ve have never done it in the past, it will not happen in the future.

Possibility on the other hand allows for unprecedented realities.  Something that has never happened can happen simply because it’s possible.  We might not know how it will happen, but when we acknowledge the possibility, we are more likely to take the action corresponding to realizing that possibility.

For example, if we think being physically fit is impossible, based on the fact we’ve been unhealthy our whole lives, we won’t do the things necessary to be fit.  Conversely, if we believe being fit is possible, even if we don’t know how, we can figure out ways to realize that objective.

There is a dark-side of possibility however.  It’s what I call “the narcosis of possibility.” The easiest place to see this is at 12:15AM after a few vodka-sodas.  You invent a possibility, like starting a business.  You can’t wait to start making it happen.  The dude on the next bar-stool is going to design your logo.  Any-fucking-thing is possible!

You wake up the next day with a vague recollection of what was so great about your idea.  You try to muster the enthusiasm of the night before but are preoccupied by thoughts of coffee, eggs and Law and Order reruns.  You think of your lack of business skill, money, etc.  Fuck it.  It wasn’t that good an idea anyway.  Reality trumps drunken possibility once again.

This phenomenon is not limited to buzzed brainstorming.  Many sober minds have conjured great ideas that do not withstand reality.  We get psyched about a project, relationship, fitness plan, etc., but we fail to deal with things as they are in reality.  We don’t acknowledge our level of business training, our emotional maturity (or lack thereof), our state of health, etc.  Instead of developing these things, we become overwhelmed by the gap between possibility and reality, often doing nothing.  There are others who use willpower and force to bridge that gap—these people can make things happen, but generally at the expense of their health and happiness.

Sometimes we can’t admit that just because something is possible, it doesn’t mean we should do it.

Other times we create a possibility aware of the realities we’re dealing with.  It’s something we’ve considered well.  We have an idea and plan to carry it out.  But once the plan is in motion, we don’t ask ourselves often enough, “Is this working?”

Lest I be too abstract, I’m writing about myself.  I started this blog 6 months ago based on the possibility of writing for a living.  This idea was pure, uncut possibility.  According to the past, I had no reason to believe I would make it happen.

I love the writing part and the feedback I’m recieving.  I love processing my life and helping others process theirs.  But I haven’t been dealing with a couple nagging realities:  I don’t love not making money or working in isolation.  I’ve been trying to will these things out of my reality, but I can’t seem to do it.

Sure, it’s entirely possible I can make money if I refine my plan. I could find more ways to engage people.  I actively do both these things.

But the truth is I’m not dealing with reality.  I want to be better at working alone.  I want to be more of a self-starter.  I want to be one of these people—who seem so numerous on the internet—who through pluck and Twitter, amass great followers and fortunes.  But in reality I am not these things—at least not right now.

I have to assess where I’m at, based not on the narcotic effect of possibility, but on the sober truth of reality.  From there, I can create a new possibility.

The new possibility I’ve created is to continue to develop my writing, but with more human contact and steadier income.  There’s an ancient tradition I am going to employ to remedy this situation.  It’s called a job.

Maybe if Emily Dickinson took a similar approach, she would have left her bedroom.

It’s important to note that deviating from an original possibility is not killing it.  In fact, sticking to the original plan would kill it.  My new possibility affords me self-expression through writing, supported by the stability and relationship building of a job.

Here are some things to consider for yourself:

  1. What possibility in your life is being thwarted by reality? In other words, name a dream—one you may or may not be taking action on.  Within that dream, what realities are compromising your ability to take action or enjoy acting?  For example, you want to date, but don’t do so because you have trouble being open with potential partners.
  2. What new possibility could you create if you dealt with reality as it presently exists? Using the above example, based on your lack of skill, you could create the new possibility of being supported, getting a dating coach or asking someone who is romantically fulfilled to find out what he or she does.
  3. Take one action that based on this new possibility right now.

The Case of Mistaken Significance

Oh man, I’ve got problems

First off, I’m trying to realize my dream of writing for a living.  I’ve been at it for 6 months and I’m not making money.  I’m not broke as I earn money from other sources and have savings to draw off for living expenses.  I also have a supportive girlfriend, family and friends.  But I am afraid I won’t be able to realize my dream.  If I don’t, it’ll mean I’m a loser.  It’s a big, horrible problem.

Another problem is my diet.  A couple months ago I started practicing the Paleolithic diet, which suggests that humans are not genetically set up to consume domesticated foodstuffs like grains and sugar.  The diet mostly consists of eating vegetables and meat—no grains, no legumes, no processed foods.  I was doing good for a while, but my girlfriend and I started holding community brunches every Sunday.  Between 10 and 30 people show up each week, each contributing dishes.  The brunches have been great, but I’ve had trouble not consuming grain products.  It’s been tough to get back on track the next day.  My blood sugar fluctuates quite a bit and sometimes (like now) I feel a little lightheaded detoxing from the sugar.  If I don’t stick to this diet, I’ll be a flabby, energy-deprived loser, which is an awful problem.

I have communication problems.  My phone was broke last week, which was a huge clusterfuck.  I relented and got an iPhone the other day.  It works great, but I can’t seem to figure out how to sync my Google calendar with with my iCal for realtime updates.  I’m afraid I’ll put an appointment in Google and it won’t sync with iCal (or vice-versa), which might cause me to double book or something.  People will think I’m a flake.  My life will unravel around me.

I have housing problems.  My girlfriend and I are discussing moving in together.  We want a nice place in Brooklyn, preferably around Park Slope or Cobble Hill—two beautiful, tree and brownstone-lined neighborhoods.  But we also want someplace to duck out on weekends in the country—maybe something in the Catskills or in Pennsylvania.  We’re not sure where we’ll live or how we’ll make the country thing happen.  Without quiet, spacious homes, we might not achieve inner peace and enlightenment, which is a pretty significant problem.

I can’t think of any other problems at the moment, but I’ll post them in the comment section when I do.

If a problem is a flame, significance is its oxygen. No significance, no problem.

This is easy to see with problems as as shamefully bourgeois as mine—the kind of problems most of us deal with.  We have no “real” problems.  Most (if not all) of us have computers, which puts us ahead of at least 85% of the world’s population in wealth.  We are reading a blog, which suggests we’re on the younger side and are probably relatively healthy.  We probably live in America or some other first world nation and enjoy a stable, non-violent society.  The majority of problems that occupy our consciousness are probably pretty trivial, centering around ourselves and our unmet desires.

A fraction of us have problems that seem inherently significant.  Terminal illness, major health problems, death of a close friend or family member, eviction, impending or realized poverty, etc.  We believe there is no spin on them that would make them insignificant.

But what if nothing had any significance outside of the meaning we give it?  Let’s take terminal illness as an example.  It seems inherently significant, but, as Chuck Palahniuk writes in “Fight Club,” “On a long enough timeline. The survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”  We’re all going to die.  Every important figure throughout history has lost against some form of terminal illness.  Why are we or our loved ones so special?  What if death had no significance?

I’m not suggesting we deny that things have meaning to us.  For example, we might decide  ending war has meaning (surely a higher caliber issue than syncing calendars on an iPhone).  But what if we recognized that the meaning and significance we give something is ours, not the thing’s?  Believing this, we could act and whether we achieved the results we wanted or not, it would not mean anything about ourselves or the world.

The worst part of giving significance is that it often compels us to not act at all.  The results have such grave implications, so we just avoid the issue altogether.  For example, we won’t submit that manuscript or ask that girl out because if we don’t receive the result we seek, it’s significant.  It might confirm that we are the losers we think we are.  Better to do nothing instead and not receive confirmation.

What if we could just act without making the problem or the results significant?

With these these thoughts in mind, consider the following:

  1. List the big problems in your life?
  2. What meaning do you give them? For example, not getting a raise means you aren’t valued or important, or not getting a return call from a girl you like means you’re unattractive.
  3. What if these problems had no intrinsic significance? What if not getting a raise or not getting a return call meant nothing?  They lacked significance.
  4. In what ways would you act if the results of your actions lost their significance? What if getting rejected was not significant?  What if dying was not significant?  How might you act if these were the case?
  5. Choose one action you’ve been avoiding because of its significance and take it now.

The Best Excuse Ever Told

I heard it once said, “Most people consider a good excuse and no result to be a result.”  Some examples of this adage:

  1. I was late because the subway was down (late + difficulty = I’m reliable)
  2. I didn’t talk to that girl because the bar was loud (no phone # + loud bar = I’m bold)
  3. I didn’t finish that painting because work got in the way (no painting + busy job = I’m an artist)
  4. I’m single because there are no good men/women out there (alone + lack of suitable partners = I’m a good partner)
  5. I didn’t lose that weight because of the holidays (fat body + social eating = I’m healthy).

A well-thought out excuse makes otherwise crappy results acceptable.  It maintains a peace—however uneasy, with whatever impact—between what we do and what we say we want and are committed to.  We say we want to be reliable, bold, creative, in a relationship, healthy, but because of subway delays and Stovetop Stuffing it’s okay that we behave differently.  The impact of the excuses is that friends and colleagues wait (or tire from doing so), we live afraid of talking to women, we feel creatively unexpressed, we live cut off from prospective mates and inhabit unhealthy bodies.  But it’s okay, we have a good excuse.

Excuses obscure a dark truth:  that we might not be committed to the things we say or think we we are.  A person who is committed to being punctual will be on time regardless of train repairs; he’ll get out of the train station and take a cab if he needs to.  A person who is committed to being in a healthy relationship will figure out what’s in her way of achieving that.  She will not blame a sparse dating pool.

Assuming we want to line up our commitments with our actions, we have to stop excusing our behavior.  We have to acknowledge results as they are:  that we were late; that we didn’t talk to the girl; that we didn’t finish the painting; that we are alone; that we are fat.  It’s not that these results are bad.  It’s that they don’t accord with what we want and are committed to.  In fact, the excuses verify that our results are not want we want.  If they were those things, we wouldn’t need to excuse our behavior; it and our commitments would line up.

All of this came into relief for me after a frank talk last night.  My friend bludgeoned me with the contradictions between what I say I want and am committed to and what I’m doing.  I say that I want and am committed to being a personal development author and speaker and that I want to make my living doing it—a living that could support a family.  What I’m doing is writing away without clear direction, much less remuneration.  I’ve been pitching a book idea to literary agents, but even that has been only half-thought out.  I didn’t do market research.  I didn’t run it by the people in my life.  I didn’t do the things necessary to make sure I fulfilled on my commitment.

My excuse has been confusion:  that I don’t know how to do the things I want to do.  I’ve reasoned that I will figure it out soon.  This excuse doesn’t not ameliorate my rapidly emptying pockets.

This leaves me with a pit in my stomach.  The pit is the turd of commitment, wondering whether it’s going to be released or if I’m going to get off the can upon which I sit.  Will I act now (the only time a committed person can act) or salve these contradictions with another, more elaborate excuse?  (I’m leaning toward the former route).

With this in mind, here are some things to contemplate for your life:

  1. What do you say you want or are committed to that you are not doing?
  2. What is the impact of not fulfilling on this commitment? Wasted time, dejected friends, unexpressed desires, poor health, etc.
  3. What excuses make your lack of results surrounding your commitments acceptable? Lack of money, time, a tough childhood, a rough time in your life, an unsupportive environment, etc.
  4. What are your excuses hiding? For example, that you are not in fact committed to the things you say you are, that you are afraid you won’t be able to fulfill on them, etc.
  5. Write out a list of the results in your life that contradict your desires and commitments. Write them undiluted by excuses.
  6. Commit to one thing for next week to fulfill on a desire or commitment.  For example, commit to meditating 10 minutes every morning without fail.  Note your excuses when you don’t want to fulfill.  See how these excuses stop you in every area of your life.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part IV)

Photo by Jim Newberry

[This is going to be the final installment of this series.  It pretty much sums up my whole view of relationships, though the preceding installments are useful for more tactical approaches to dating and relationships.]

Be the person you want to attract and be in a relationship with

It’s never, ever, ever, ever about the other person.  Not even that one time.

This is the sad and good news.  Sad because accepting this holds us responsible for all of our failed relationships, courting nightmares and people we attract.  Good because nothing is wrong with the universe.  There is no shortage of good men or sane women.  Our childhoods did not irreparably damage us.  We are the problem and solution.  We hold the key to your pasts, presents and futures.

An easy way to demonstrate this is by looking at how we often seek qualities in a partner that we do not possess ourselves.  I know scores of fat, out-of-shape guys who deride women for not being pretty and thin enough.  I know scores of women who complain about men being irresolute and uncommitted yet engage in relationships with these same men, even though the women know they are not what they want; in other words, they are irresolute and uncommitted about what they want.

Focusing on other people’s faults always seems to make ours disappear.

If you want a fit partner, exercise.  If you want a more worldly partner, travel.  If you want a partner who listens, listen.  If want more mature partners, be mature.  If you want greater commitment, commit to what you want.

Perhaps you think you are the things you seek.  You think you are responsible, healthy, or whatever trait you’re looking for in a partner.  Yet you attract irresponsible, unhealthy, etc. partners—or none at all.  Instead of asking yourself if you might be the problem, conceding that you may have blind-spots about yourself, you blame the other party.  You sooner declare a global drought of suitable partners than look at what it is in you that continually attracts and creates what you seemingly don’t want.

I write “seemingly” because we always get what we want, even though it seems like we don’t.  The problem is what we want unconsciously trumps what we want consciously.  Our want to feel important, look good, be comfortable, be right, secure, not change, not be alone and so on, trumps and undermines our want to be happy, healthy, generous, etc.  Don’t believe me?  Look at your relationships and who you attract into your life.  They are the evidence that this is true.

Many of us will point to our families and friendships as evidence that we aren’t doing anything wrong.  Because they work so well, it shows that we know how to be in healthy relationships.  The only logical conclusion is that there is a good-man or sane-woman shortage.

Family, friends, co-workers and other non-romantic relationships show us who we are, but not in the way romantic ones do.  If relationships are like mirrors for who we are, then family, friends, etc. are like a mirror you pass in the hallway—useful for straightening up and checking yourself out.  Romantic relationships are like those cosmetic mirrors, where every pore and imperfection stands out.  Our romantic partners and prospects show us what we really think about ourselves, what we are really willing to accept out of our lives—not some intellectualized concept we talk about with friends.

This close-viewing is the promise romantic relationships hold.  It’s hard to find out so much about ourselves without this level of intimacy.  Living a life filled with only friends and family, it’s easier to stop short of full self-knowledge.  The level of closeness inherent in romantic relationships forces people to do one of three things:  confront themselves, impose an uneasy stalemate or abandon ship.  If you’re ready to take a deep look at yourself and really free yourself, few situations are more conducive to that than romantic relationships.

Also realize that just because our partners and prospects don’t match up with the misbegotten notions we have about ourselves, this inconsistency need not be a deal-breaker.  We need people to work our shit out with.  It’s preferable to do it with someone who’s more-or-less on the same page.  It’s delusional to think you’re going to find someone without problems.  The key is to find someone with complimentary problems and wants to work them out with you.  This is actually the best part of my present relationship:  we both have shit, but we use each other to work that shit out.

This is all a long-winded way of saying keep the attention on yourself.  Like everything, courtship, dating and relationships are inside jobs.  The perceiver and the perceived are the same thing.  You want to attract a great partner?  You want a great relationship?  Be a great person.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part III)

Love makes you strong apparently.

[I’m still going and probably have a few more things to say.  I might just take out the “part” part.]

Focus on being happy and having a good time

Men and women act ridiculous when trying to attract a partner.  Men act serious and/or predatory.  Women act aloof and humorless.  If you want to attract someone and keep him or her attracted, stop fronting.  It’s unattractive.  Fun, happy people are attracted to fun, happy people.  Fronting, insecure people are attracted to fun, happy people too (but not vice versa).

Back in my single days, I was reasonably adept at meeting women.  My guy friends asked me how I did it and I said, “smile and give yourself reasons to smile all the time.”  It’s was a win-win.  I was happy, and I attracted people—men, women, happy and unhappy alike.  Humans want to be happy.  When someone seems to have that trait, we gravitate toward it.

There are some who are drawn toward darkness and sadness.  If that’s what these folks want their lives to look like, then they should move toward that moody dude or that sad-eyed girl.  Maybe their love will fix them.

The rest of us want to be happy.  And happy-loving people rarely see someone and think, “Man, who’s that anxious guy/girl over there?  I want to get to know him/her.”  Don’t be one of those anxious/fearful/angry/sad guys or girls.

Give yourself reasons to smile.  Hang out with fun friends.  Do things that interest you.  This principle holds true whether you’re single, dating or married.

If you really can’t create reasons to smile, you probably shouldn’t be concerned with dating and relationships.  Take yourself off the market until you address your needs.  Do yourself and the dating pool a favor.  Seriously.

Make your romantic intentions known

For men, this means taking risks.  The reason men don’t risk and let their romantic intentions be known is they fear being rejected.  They think that if they make their intentions known, it’ll scare women away before they know the great guys they are.  So these men act as though they are only interested in being friends, hoping the girls will come around.  These guys rarely get as far as friendship, having to content themselves with indifferent stares and fake phone numbers.  If they do make friendship inroads, it usually ends in bitterness because the woman shacked up with some guy who had the balls to be straight about how he feels.

Don’t be an asexual lump.  It’s better to go down swinging.  And relax, not every woman is going to think you’re hot.  You don’t find every woman hot, right?  Be bold.

It’s prudent to clarify what I mean by taking risks, letting your intentions be known and being bold.  It does not mean groping or harassing or any other form of forceful behavior.  It means clearly offering your intentions to the other party for consideration.  She can take or leave this offering—this part is out of the man’s control.

For women, this means taking risks too.  She has to be vulnerable enough to admit she is interested in a guy romantically.  Women do the “just friends” thing too, hanging on far too long with men they are attracted to in order to avoid what they probably already know:  that the attraction is not shared.  Most women know this from the get-go but are afraid of admitting it.  They’ll endure a purgatorial vagueness in the relationship rather than knowing one way or the other.

You might be thinking, “What if a woman is attracted to an asexual lump who doesn’t know how to make his intentions known?”  To which I answer, few woman are attracted to asexual lumps.

Men who have experience with women—men women are attracted to—tend to make their intentions clear from the outset, be they romantic or not.

Some men and women send mixed signals, making their intentions unclear.  If this is the case, at some point you will have to ask what their intentions are and deal with the consequences.  Whether the answer is that they are attracted, not or uncertain, you’ll have an answer (and yes, “uncertain” is an answer).  Better to know sooner than later.

I don’t have personal experience with how this plays out in gay relationships, though I imagine it’s much the same as straight ones.  Be clear about your intentions.  If they are not reciprocated, accept it or move on.

There is the chance that two people are just friends and romantic feeling develop over time.  This is ideal.  Romance combined with friendship endures.  Romance without friendship crashes.  Who I am speaking to are people who know how they feel but are afraid of expressing those feelings.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part II)

Do you shack up with people or fantasies?

[This is part II of an unknown numbered series.  Part I is here.]

Don’t have sex until you know the person you are having sex with

Revolutionary right?  That you might actually want to know the person you are having sex with.  But I have lots of personal experience having sex on the first, second or, at latest, third date.  I know I’m far from alone.  It’s almost never ended well for me and I’m pretty sure you’re no different.

A friend of mine said, “There is no such thing as casual sex.”  When we have sex, our bodies tell us, “You are now in a relationship.”  Our hearts and minds, on the other hand, haven’t had time to discern their feelings on the matter.  Maybe we’ll like this person, but maybe not.  Who knows?  I’ve jumped this gun many times, finding myself in a relationship with someone I barely knew.  Rather than confess my error, I slog away at relationships with women I have nothing in common with aside from anatomical compatibility, sometimes for years.  This problem would have been avoided had I known the people I was having sex with.

See people for who they are

As Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”  Pay attention to people’s behavior, not to their words or who we want them to be.

We often can’t see people for who they are because of our ulterior motives.  Most of us think we are broken and believe we are unworthy of being loved.  When a datable girl or guy comes along, we create the fantasy “he/she is going to fix/complete me/make me lovable.”  With this fantastic pot at the end of the relationship rainbow, all of our observations are skewed.  We will believe words and look for actions that affirm the fantasy rather than observing actions that might directly contradict them.

In our fantasy land, our new partner—who might be someone we just met in a bar—can do no wrong.  We overlook her deeply bitten fingernails or his constant looking at other girls.  This is why online dating is problematic.  We literally don’t see anything.  All we have are words that people write about themselves; words that would be negated by 10 seconds of face-time.

These fantasies are often projected in a flash.  You see a guy with a tweed jacket and fantasize about reading books together in bed on Sunday mornings.  You see a girl with a backpack and imagine family expeditions to the Himalayas.  When we set up these kind of fantasies, it’s almost impossible for things to work out because no one ever lives up to our fantasies.

People are mixed bags.  We have healthy and not-so-healthy traits.  Ignoring either side shows us that we are disconnected from reality.  A good test of this is how often we use or think the words “always” or “never” in relationship to someone. “He is always so thoughtful.”  “She never considers my feelings.”  No one always or never does anything.

Healthy relationships and courtships are based on being with someone in reality, not in fantasy—loving and respecting the mixed bag that they are.  If you meet someone and they do something you don’t like, don’t expect that behavior to change.  Accept it or move on.

Don’t talk smack about your prospective partners

“There are no good men.”  “Women are crazy.”  “Gay men can’t commit.”  “Lesbian women are too dominant.”  When we say these things, it creates a lens through which we see the world.  Men cannot be good.  Women cannot be sane.  Gay men cannot be committed.  Lesbian women can’t be agreeable.  We think we have evidence, but the evidence is all collected looking through the lens.  Take off the lens.

The first step is stop saying these things.  It may take some work because we are often surrounded by people who agree with our contentions.  Many women surround themselves with other women who believe there are no good men.  Many men surround themselves with other men who believe women are crazy.  Maybe some time away from these people is in order.  Hang out with people who are in healthy relationships.  Barring that, don’t participate in the conversation.

What Do You Want?

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.

I had coffee with a new friend the other day.  He asked me the dreaded question—the same question I ask when I encounter someone who is experiencing confusion, powerlessness or frustration with his life.  Answering this question can threaten the delicate balance of the answerer’s emotional and physical ecosystem.  The question is, “What do you want?”

I was flummoxed.  I thought I knew, but things had changed since the last time I wrote out what I wanted.  You see, every now and again I list out what I want for my life.  I get as detailed as possible, creating a material and emotional blueprint for my life.  The more detailed I get, the more likely I am to move in specific directions and ask specific questions.  Here are some examples of things I currently want:

  • To develop my writing such that it supports me and a family materially and spiritually in abundance
  • To start a family by the end of 2012
  • To live each day joyfully and filled with love

My wants exist as possibilities.  They are often unprecedented and have little relation to my past experiences.  The trouble is if my past dictated what I want now, I would content myself with a heated home and a girlfriend who doesn’t shoot heroin.  Not a particularly inviting future.

The most unsettling part of the question is what stating my desires entails.  If I want this, then what do I have to do?  Who do I need to be?  What if the actions I need to take and the person I need to be are different than what I’m doing and how I’m being?

Well they are different.  How do I know?  Because my current actions and states perfectly ally to produce what—and only what—I currently have.  In other words, I do what I do and I am what I am and that gives me exactly what I have.  These actions and behaviors are manifestations of unconscious desires (looking good, comfort, etc.), which are fine, but not necessarily gratifying in the long run.

If I want things other than what I have now, I need to supplant my old actions and ways of being for new ones.  For example, in order to make my living off of writing, I need to be bold, disciplined, organized, etc.  These new actions and states might not jive with last night’s engorgement on grass-fed beef and sweet potatoes while watching Deadwood on DVD.

I answered my friend’s question as best I could.  I’m not totally clueless as to what I want.  But I also saw the need for refining what I want.  It’s easier to chart a course with a map.

With these thoughts in mind, here are some exercises I’m incorporating into my life and suggest you do too:

  1. What do you want? Get as detailed as possible—emotional state, health, profession, relationships, living environment, etc.  These desires should be authentic—i.e. they are your desires, not ones shaped by the past or someone else’s conceptions; do your best to keep what your parents’ or a multinational corporation’s desires for you out of your answers.  Feel free to co-create with the people in your life; for example, make sure what you want aligns with what your wife or business partner wants.  Don’t butt desires.  Write them down and keep them somewhere you can see.  Be willing to amend if you’re wrong about what you want.
  2. Who do you need to be to get what you want? This step is aligning yourself emotionally with your desires.  For example, if you want to be a professional singer, but you’re too timid to audition, you will need to be courageous.
  3. What do you need to do to get what you want? Once you believe that what you want is possible, you will have to take certain steps—go to that audition, write that novel, quit that job, etc.
  4. Every morning, ask yourself “what do I need to do and who do I need to be to get what I want?” Write out your answers and let them inform how you conduct yourself in the world.  See what happens.