It’s 6:58am. The sky is turning a lighter shade of gray. My coffee is drained. I’ve made a few trips to my Facebook Comment App page (still haven’t figured out how to properly integrate it). Despite a LinkedIn update being the most interesting thing in my inbox, I’ve checked my email a few times. I’ve stared at my computer screen for an hour. I’ve written almost nothing.
Why can’t this be easier? Didn’t I read my previous posts? There is no time but now. Start living. Share yourself. Inspire people into action. Write.
Then I ask, “What if it’s okay that it’s not easy?” What if the struggle–the blank looks at an empty page, the seeming desert of inspiration, the useless byways to far-flung websites, the accusations that my hyper-affectionate cats are preventing my literary greatness–were, if not essential, not abnormal. What would be possible if resistance wasn’t a problem?
Most of spend our lives looking for the easy way–for the path of no resistance. Perhaps this path exists. I’ve waited 35 years looking for it…maybe 36 will be the easy year. Or maybe if I spent a thousandth of the time acting with resistance as I did looking for ways around it, I’d get done what needed to get done. Maybe working with resistance is the easy way.
[This post got a bit long-winded, so I’m splitting it into 2, maybe 3 parts]
The issue of meeting a romantic partner has come up a lot in my life recently. I talk to countless men who can’t meet good women or men, women who can’t meet good men or women. Perhaps they are coming to me because I am (somewhat disbelievingly) in a healthy relationship with someone I am connected with emotionally and physically. They want to know what we’re doing.
I’m no expert, but I know some basic things that do and do not work in relationships. I was also single for a long time and had a certain facility meeting the opposite sex. I figured I’d codify what I know. These principles/guidelines are directed toward single people, but apply equally to people in relationships.
What do you want?
This is a huge issue for for both men and women. We have no idea what we want. Without that bearing, what happens is we meet someone and ask, “Does he/she like me?” Or we settle for someone who likes us rather than going for what we want.
Rarely do we ask, “Is this what I want?”
In these directionless relationships, a power balance inevitably arises. As a friend said, “In every relationship there is a junkie and a pusher” (this friend was a relationship nightmare for the record). The junkies wonder whether the pushers likes them and obsess about the pusher’s every action. The pusher’s attention is their lifeblood; it’s where they derive their power. The junkies diminish themselves, lie and generally piss away their lives in order to keep that power coming.
It’s hardly easier for the pusher, who most of us have been at some point. The pusher’s narrative goes like this: “I met/am dating/married to someone, but I’m not that into him/her.” The pushers persist in these relationships, not because they like the other person, but because they derive power from the dependency—a power they likely lack in other domains of their lives. But it’s a destructive power. The junkie is in servitude. The pusher is unfulfilled and neither party has what they want (unless you count not-being-alone as a desire).
A healthy dynamic is to treat meeting someone like making an important purchase. For example, when we shop for a car, we get the best car based on our needs and budget. We don’t purchase based on whether the car likes us. Chances are most people will not be the item we want. Find out what you want and don’t be afraid to shop around.
Don’t talk poorly about yourself
Don’t talk about your shitty job, fat ass or unfinished associates degree from DeVry. It’s not funny. It’s not disarming. It’s not “real.” It’s pathetic (I know because I’ve done it a million times).
Some self-effacing jokes are okay, but they have to be jokes, not veiled indictments against ourselves. Be kind to yourself, or better yet don’t say anything about your character. Let your behavior demonstrate who you are.
There is a caveat to this: if you are looking for people who find comfort in mediocrity, by all means talk smack about yourself.
Don’t talk about your past
This is a tricky one because most of us are still embroiled in our pasts. We have left wakes of physical and psychic damage from past relationships. We haven’t cleaned things up. We haven’t looked at our mommy/daddy issues. If these things are the case, our pasts will inevitably come up in conversation.
When I boozed a lot, I bought a micro-cassette recorder to keep track of all my ideas. I was certain alcohol was the lubricant that unlocked my genius. While drunk, I spoke poetry, I ejaculated ideas of earth-shattering import, I was an uncaged, intellectual giant. And while I couldn’t stay drunk all the time (try as I did) I could record the profusion of profundity my debauches unleashed.
I would listen to the recordings the next day, eager to convert my ideas into gold. What I invariably heard was horseshit, unless you consider protracted, vowel-heavy emanations the hallmark of genius. “I aaaaaaaaaamm gooooooaannnn staaaaaaann, aaaaaahhh….”
Meaningless speech is by no means the sole domain of 2AM drunken ramblings:
“I’ll call you.”
“Maybe see you there tonight.”
“I’m going to cut out sugar this month.”
“For sure, let’s start a _____ group/business/team.”
“Blah, blah, fuckity, blah.”
We say things all the time that we either don’t think through, don’t mean or are irresolute about. We make plans, conjure up big ideas and declare that we will make them happen—“for sure”—only to forget these things or “change our minds” when we see what it takes to carry them out.
Breaking our word is made easier by peers who let us off the hook because they don’t want to get called out on their broken word.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call last night,” we might say.
“Oh, that’s cool. Don’t sweat it,” they say, knowing that their excusal is a coupon for their own future transgressions.
What happens over time is that every promise unkept, appointment missed, agreement broken and project abandoned creates a karmic residue. It’s not only that others learn not to believe what we say. We don’t believe what we say. We don’t trust ourselves. The connection between what we say and do is weakened. Depending on how far we let it slide, our word can mean nothing, little or, as is the case for majority of people, it’s like a lottery that pays out every now and again.
This whole “be your word” thing is dicey in some circles. Many think, “Don’t be such a hard-ass. Take it easy. They’re just words.”
I would love to take it easy. I would love it if all the things I said but did not follow through with had no impact on me and didn’t diminish people’s estimation of me. But my experience is unequivocal: when I break my word it diminishes my power to make things happen.
If you’re finding it tough to keep you word, or you feel like you can’t get shit moving in your life, here are a few suggestions:
Keep track of what you say. Whether it’s a planner, notebook or phone, have someplace where you keep track of what you say you’ll do (this includes old stuff). Let your unkept words burn a hole in your head until you follow through with and complete them.
Honor your word, even when you don’t keep it. There are times when you are compelled to break your word for whatever reason—sickness, injury, death, some unmissable opportunity arises. If that’s the case, honor your word and do your best to clean it up. If it’s a broken appointment, reschedule. If it’s a project or goal you set out to do by a certain time, renegotiate the time. This caveat can be abused. We can become known as a cleanup crew for broken words. Honoring your word in the face of a broken one is plan B. It’s easier to stick with plan A wherever possible and keep your word.
Shut up. Really, stop talking shit. Stop saying things you don’t mean or have no intention of following through with. It’s better to not make an appointment than make one and miss it. I heard somewhere, “A good man does what he says. A wise man doesn’t say much.”
I’ve been sick for the last week, which is tough for someone who identifies with being a hot and healthy dude. No, I don’t make a lot of money (or almost any). I live in a dump. I lack accomplishments, awards, degrees beyond a bachelor’s (and it took me a while to get that), but gosh-darnit, I’m healthy. I get sick maybe once every 3 years (and it’s usually mild). My bowels move freely. My nasal passages blow like wind over a Himalayan ridge. My skin is clear. My midsection is taut. My limbs are long and strong. My fingernails are hard and free from bites or dents. Random people frequently tell me things like, “You look like you take good care of your body.” So when that body shuts down—even partially—it fucks with my identity.
The first thing I do is go into diagnostic mode. What caused this? Was it hanging out with all those kids? Was it mold in my apartment? Was it my recent penchant for eating loaves of white bread (this is my #1 theory)? Was it negative thoughts and fear?
While I don’t think it’s a bad idea to examine why I got sick (especially when it happens so rarely, making it easier to discern the cause), once sick, the cause becomes less urgent than recourse. With sickness, as in all things, there are 2 ways of dealing:
Resist it. I can get pissed off at all the things I can’t do. Maybe I try to labor through these things, pretending as if everything is cool, meanwhile protracting my recovery.
Surrender to it. I can accept that my body is still vulnerable to sickness. I can accept that all of my plans and designs for taking over the world are subject to the vagaries of nature.
While I don’t want to overstate the significance of my sniffles, my health can be likened a bit to the Japanese tsunami. Both illustrate how the best plans and precautions can be unexpectedly and completely undermined by forces of nature. After all, I’m not some sedentary layabout. I ride my bike everywhere. I do pilates. I make sure to eat raw vegetables every day. I get adequate sleep. I freaking meditate. And I still got sick.
Japan wasn’t Haiti. It had a modern infrastructure. I’m sure it was as prepared as any highly-populated, seismically-active, island nation could be in dealing with an 8.9 submarine earthquake. And it still got its shit rocked.
I believe that what is good for now is good for later. This principle holds true for every system. Taking care of my body has immediate and longterm benefits. Cleaning my house provides a nice place to live now and keeps it from deteriorating later. But at some point and time even the best systems fail, whether that system is respiratory or solar. It’s what the Buddhists call impermanence. All phenomena arises and disappears (and I dare any reader to provide an exception). Rather than trying to ensure that our various systems never fail and getting pissed off when they do (i.e. resisting), wouldn’t it make more sense to learn how to handle this essential failure? This is not giving up, it’s surrendering.
Giving up is when you stop washing the dishes in your sink because you think, “Why bother? Everything is going to shit anyway.” Surrendering to their impermanence is happily washing those dishes, knowing they will one day break, but content with the brief satisfaction they bring you now (and you’d just assume have a clean eating surface).
No home, a big duffel in hand, a bigger backpack on back, I headed to the uptown 1 train to crash on my buddy’s couch. My body felt like a plucked tuning fork. I heard every car honk, every splash when wheel hit puddle, felt every distant train rumble, smelled the dankness of cold-moisture and curbed garbage, saw every glimmer off the pavement, every swirl in the florescent lights in the train-stop.
The train arrived. I sat and pulled out my notebook. I had just broken up and everything was still and clear. What had brought me to this place was clear—all the lies, all the needs I suppressed. I was done. I had needs. I wrote down what I needed. Someone who listens. Someone who likes reading in bed (or at least appreciates that I do). Someone who is openminded. Someone who cares about the environment. When I rattled off a couple pages of these things, I wrote out a declaration that for everything I listed, I would be willing to deliver the same thing.
I arrived at the 116th street stop. A light glaze covered the bricks of Columbia’s campus walk. I gulped in air. I hadn’t breathed in a while.
I called my mom and told her what happened. I apologized for lying to her (something I would do a lot of in the coming days). Dishonesty cannot be not contained. Lying in my relationship made it easier to lie to friends and family. Since talking about my relationship was dooming it, I quit talking or showing up.
I got to my friend Chikodi’s place. It was 1AM. We talked for a couple hours—about what happened, what went wrong, what was possible now. 2 years of dammed energy were released. There was no way I was going to sleep, so I pulled out computer and started to write.
It’s almost 5 in the morning, I can’t sleep. I just broke up with _____. I’m laying on a friend’s couch. I’ve very little idea what’s next—just a clearer idea of what will no longer be [doing my best imitation of Neo at the end of the Matrix]….I was just thinking about you. How I’d love a lover who I would be excited to have you meet. _____ was never that, and I’m sure it drove a fissure in our relationship….I’m sure there was an invisible but palpable toll on our connection, that everything had to be filtered through the lies that maintained my appearance of emotional and spiritual health. It just wasn’t there…the health that is.
So to long health in a short life.
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”
When I got home last night, I split an acorn squash in half and pealed a head of garlic that I put it into a crock filled with olive oil. I put both the squash and garlic in the oven. I made some honey-mustard dipping sauce with mayonnaise, maple syrup (didn’t have honey) and mustard. I turned on “The Godfather,” which I started watching the night before. I watched the movie while I ate raw broccoli dipped in syrup-mustard sauce waiting for the squash and garlic to cook.
When the squash and garlic were done, I put them on a plate and smashed the garlic, olive oil and a heap of salt into the squash’s flesh. I also put some Trader Joe’s tater-tots into the oven so I could continue eating after the squash. By the time the tater-tots were cooked, I ate most of the squash and was uncomfortably bloated. I ate the tater-tots anyway. The glut of food directed all of my body’s energy toward my digestive tract, making my theretofore racing mind docile.
I watched the end of “The Godfather” (which I’ve seen at least a dozen times before), and because it was early and I’d watched all of my Netflix DVD’s and I had no internet signal and didn’t want to read, I put in “The Godfather II.” I watched that for less than a half-hour before my food coma fully took hold. I managed to meditate for 15 minutes, my posture kept upright by an overstuffed intestine. I read a few pages of the book “Ishmael” and went to sleep around 11:00.
This is a rare glimpse into what I call my “anesthetic ecosystem.” It’s a solitary world that flourishes on weekday nights when I have no plans. It’s where I go when I don’t want to deal with shit. When I don’t want to maintain relationships. When I don’t want to overcome fear. When I don’t want to clean messes. When I don’t want to help anyone but myself. Continue reading “Anesthetic Ecology 101”
Eighteen years-old. I had just spent three months sitting in my folks’ basement continuously high, working out, watching TV, in near-complete isolation, interacting only with parents and pot-dealer. Bleakness prevailed. I thought learning how to play my dad’s old guitar might help. I just needed $30 for a book so I could learn some chords. I asked my dad for money. He said no. I broke down crying like a baby. It had nothing to do with the guitar book. I needed help. I realized I had never asked for help before. I asked for help. I got help.
Twenty-three. I was in Munich, Germany, debauching my way through Europe after two years spent more or less continuously drunk. All my waking hours were dominated by drinking. My mornings—if I could get up in the morning—were pervaded by hangover-induced physical violence. My early afternoons were spent in regret and physical recovery. My late afternoons/early evenings were spent thinking about how getting a drink might not be a bad idea. My nights were spent drinking, repeating cycle. By Munich, I couldn’t handle it anymore. My body was shutting down. The myth of drinking to have a good time was being demythologized sip-by-sip. I couldn’t go on. I stopped. I asked for help. I went home. I got help. I got well.
Twenty-six. I finally broke up with my ten-year-senior, ex-stripper, adolescent-child-toting girlfriend after five unsuccessful tries. I couldn’t seem to do anything right, even break up. I was bouncing from job-to-job. I had no purpose in life, no direction. I was desperate. I needed help. I asked for help. I got help. I found direction.
Thirty-two. I was in a very unsatisfying relationship with a satisfactory woman. She was the picture of who I thought I should be with: pretty, successful, spiritual, worldly, etc. And I was totally fucking miserable. I had spent two years trying to make a connection. I moved in with her. She was under the impression that we were going to get married. I knew better. The weight of my lie was like an anvil bearing down on my chest. I distrusted everything I said. I went to bed early and got up late. One night, we had a fight—the same fight we always had. I saw the opening to get honest. I was honest. The relationship ended. I moved out within an hour. I had to rebuild my life in an instant. I asked for help. I got it.
At an event I host, a programmer named Amit Pitaru gave a talk about designing the best motorcycle to travel through South America. He said that when asked, most people said they would want the most reliable motorcycle they could find. The prospect of getting caught in the middle of Nowhere, South America is not an enticing proposition.
But he described the worst thing that can happen on a trip to see South America on motorcycle: not breaking down. When you break down, you have to ask for help. You get to know the locals. You create bonds through your interactions that would have never been possible zipping by on a problem-free bike. You might witness a beautiful sunset fixing your clutch. You might meet a great family or friend fixing a flat.
He went on to say that on your never-break-down-bike, you zip past little towns never interacting with anyone you don’t pay to help you (restaurant, hotel and gas station attendants mostly). You attract thieves because your fancy bike probably makes you look like an easy target. You move through the country efficiently, but detached. You have no problems, but you have no meaningful experiences either.