A Funny Thing Occurred to Me While Tripping on Acid

Drugs were an unspeakable evil as a child growing up in the 80’s.  The “Just Say No” campaign bludgeoned me with fear.  Many of my mom’s friends experienced coke-fueled implosions.  Shane fell off the bridge and got brain damage on Degrassi High.

But my adolescence was an unspeakable evil too.  Without drugs, I was like a cold Chihuahua, thin, shivering, plaintive eyes, tail between my legs.  I walked around certain that no one liked me, unpopular with both sexes.  I offered guys no competition.  I offered women no confidence.  Most of my nights in high school were spent alone watching reruns of Quantum Leap.

Shortly after moving to Boulder, Colorado when I was 16, I was introduced to marijuana.  I was working at a bike shop.  One night after we closed, “Shorty,” a buzz-cut, army-fatigue-wearing, 6’5” Wisconsan, who grew skunk-smelling, crystal laden kind-bud (I’m not sure if they still call it that) lit up a bowl.

I took one puff of Shorty’s weed and was sent into paroxysms of coughing.  When the coughing subsided, I spent the rest of the night in the bike-storage room hallucinating that my parents were at the front of the shop. It was not an auspicious start.

Undaunted, I worked past this initial foreboding experience.  No feelings of near-death and extreme terror were going to deter me from squashing my depression.  Throughout that summer, I learned to love marijuana.  When I started my high school, that love blossomed.

Nancy Reagan lied.  Drugs were great. I spent the next few years continuously high. Continue reading “A Funny Thing Occurred to Me While Tripping on Acid”

Support Local Inspiration

I wish I could be like Bieber and is that Kanye West? I want to be like him too. Image via justinbieberneversaynever.com

Justin Bieber has a new movie called “Never Say Never,”  whose website promises, “Find out what’s possible when you never give up,” and gives this synopsis:

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is the inspiring true story and rare inside look at the rise of Justin from street performer in the small town of Stratford, Ontario to internet phenomenon to global super star culminating with a dream sold out show at the famed Madison Square Garden in 3-D.

Seeing the Bieb’s movie made me think of a funeral I went to last night for my friend Clemente.

Clemente died about a week ago.  He was only 50 or so, but had been dealing with numerous ailments for a while.  Though his death was well within the realm of possibility, it was still a shock.

Clemente was a complicated figure I knew through a 12-step community. He was an outspoken advocate for taking newly sober people swiftly through all 12 steps.  He ridiculed the “easy does it”/“don’t drink and go to meetings” approach to getting sober, thinking it homicidal for someone who needed real relief from his demons.  His rhetoric was not hollow.  He practiced what he preached.  In the 5 years I knew him, I saw him repeatedly give his time and energy to countless men and women, many of whom seemed like lost causes.  Many of these people have stayed sober to this day.  Clemente saved lives.

His charity didn’t buffer an edge about him.  He was a pissed-off man.  He thought other people were doing things wrong and he let them know.  He was controlling and unyielding.  He felt misunderstood and ostracized and carried a major chip on his shoulder; this disposed people to misunderstand and ostracize him.   He was pedantic and self-righteous.  When he got deep into Roman Catholicism in the last couple years, his righteousness was turbocharged.

Yet in all his complexity, in all his abrasiveness and anger, Clemente was an inspirational figure in my life.  Unlike the Justin Bieber’s of the world (or his more sophisticated equivalents), he wasn’t an abstraction or a snapshot.  His trajectory to greatness was not linear or nicely packaged.  He wasn’t handsome.  He made weird grunting sounds due to his medical conditions.  He lived with his mom and got fired from his last job as a doorman because he was supposedly overheard saying he hated rich people (he confessed to me that he thought that, but never said it).  Yet more than most people, he “never said never” when it came to giving himself to those in need.   He was a pissed off Puerto Rican who showed me what is possible when you never give up. I’ll miss him.

I like to keep my inspiration local.  I’ve got many people like Clemente in my life—highly flawed people who kick ass anyway.  Many of these people, like Clemente, are not young, handsome, pretty, rich, famous or charming.  And yet it is through my intimacy with them—through knowing the specifics of their challenges and how they surmount them—that my admiration grows.  It is the reality of them that inspires me, not the fantasy.  I don’t need movies or magazine profiles to show me that people can overcome obstacles.  I’ve got phone numbers.

With this in mind, here are some things to consider:

  1. If your primary source of inspiration comes from people you don’t know, get off it. It’s easy to love people from afar.  Go local for your inspiration.
  2. If you don’t have many inspirational people in your life, don’t ditch your friends, start inspiring them. You’re probably a downer, so start sourcing inspiration.  You’ll attract inspiring people and help the people already in your life.
  3. Start looking for inspiration in the people in your life. Everyone’s doing their best.  Find that best in them and acknowledge it.

46 Days to Overcoming Your Addiction to Hope

“Hi, I’m David and I’m Hope-aholic.”

“Hi David!” roars a big crowd.

“I’ve been struggling with my addiction to hope for years, going in-and-out of the rooms of HA [Hope-aholics Anonymous].  I’ve spent countless years hoping that someone or something will make me whole.  It started when I was a kid.  I hoped that the approval of other kids would do it.  When I was a teen, it was girls and popularity.  Nowadays, it’s having a healthy relationships, a good professional life and material security that occupy my hopes.  These things sound reasonable enough, but I know that deep down I am setting myself up.  I know that as long as I hope things will be different than what they are, I can’t be okay with now.  I know that if I’m looking for something external to make me whole, who I am, as I am, will forever be insufficient.

The other night I almost relapsed on hope.  A friend had invited me to an introduction seminar for a yearlong course on how to grow my business.  I knew it was a bad idea to go.  I read on the website that there would be an open-bar of hope from 7-8. Continue reading “46 Days to Overcoming Your Addiction to Hope”

Are You an Individual or a Follower?

Do you believe like these guys believe? Image via bvibeacon.com

Right now I’m reading the autobiography of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and watching a PBS documentary about the Mormons.  Aside from mutual obsessions with the afterlife, you’d probably assume that these two parties have virtually nothing in common.  The Swiss doctor, famous for writing “On Death and Dying” lived a free spirit, constantly eschewing conventional female roles, disobeying an autocratic father and becoming an iconoclast in the annals of modern psychotherapeutic theory.  Conversely, Mormons as a group, are models of conformity, preaching a blind devotion to their scriptures and prophets.  In one of the documentary’s interviews, an LDS (latter-day saints) elder says that Mormons should not question their leadership even if that leadership is clearly in error.

Yet reading and watching the accounts of these two parties, I found some overlap.  The first was a clarity of purpose.  Coming of age after WWII, Kübler-Ross couldn’t wait to serve refugees in war-ravaged Europe.  She fed the hungry and nursed the sick in concentration camps and decimated villages all over Europe.  One can assume that her purpose is to meet the needs of others.  Likewise, the Mormon’s ostensible raison d’être was and is to be like Jesus.  Though some of their tactics like conversion (pre-and-postmortem) might seem questionable in their utility, others like an internal welfare system and disaster relief are not.  Like Jesus, the Mormons clothe the naked and feed the hungry.  In other words, their purpose is to meet the needs of others.  Yes, yes, they’ve made some glaring missteps—Mountain Meadow Massacre, the exclusion of black people until deep into the 20th century—but I don’t think these missteps applied to a collective body are necessarily worse than those of an individual.  I’ve done some pretty stupid, harmful stuff (no murder fortunately); if there were a few hundred thousand of me, my stupidity and harm would be that much greater. Continue reading “Are You an Individual or a Follower?”

We Are All Going to Die!

Watch video for perspective.

Sometimes we find ourselves doing, and enjoying, things that totally oppose our sense of aesthetic congruity.  For me, this happens every Tuesday at spin class.  Once a week I enter a glass-enclosed studio where 20-or-so of us pedal stationary bikes, showering sweat, while our instructor Elgin, a fun, femmy, tall and lean, dreadlocked dude, pushes us to exhaustion as top 40 music—Lady Gaga, Kate Perry, Rihanna (music I fortunately hear at no other time)—blares in the background.  It’s the human equivalent of a hamster wheel.  Lots of exertion and movement in a completely artificial environment.

The class is broken up into several portions that include hills, sprints, breakaways and flats.  Last night I felt good.  I was able to exert myself harder than normal.  This hamster pushed the wheel really fast. Continue reading “We Are All Going to Die!”

How Meditation Messed Up My Life

Learn thyself.

“Between stimulus and response is our greatest power—the freedom to choose.”
Stephen Covey

Quotes like Covey’s are like spiritual Sweet-Tarts, sugary rushes of wisdom lacking real nourishment.  Who hasn’t gotten inspired by Goethe’s “whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”  My root chakra tingles just writing it.  I want to do all the things I’ve been too much of a puss to do.

But what happens after the axiomatic rush?  Doesn’t it always get subsumed by habit?  No matter how clever or true, few quotes can match the power of habit.  Habits are our neurological earthmovers.  We can hear and believe that love is the answer and that our bodies are temples, but if we are in the habit of being hostile to our parents and eating McDonald’s, those axioms mean nothing—they are spiritual marshmallow fluff.

I subscribe to Covey’s quote about choice in principle, but often find myself veering from it in practice.

Most of us exercise little or no choice to the various stimuli in our lives.  We are almost totally on automatic, reacting to situations without any awareness as to why. Continue reading “How Meditation Messed Up My Life”

Don't Look at the Dead Rat in the Living Room

My dead and rotting spiritual master.

I was hanging out at home the other afternoon when I noticed a distinctly rat-corpse-like form on my floor.  When I first noticed it, I was chatting with a friend.  I chose to table issue until he left.  As soon as he did, my fear was realized:  there was a dead rat with splayed guts on my floor.

I’m not particularly squeamish, but this freaked me out.  Rats are dangerous.  They carry disease.  They’re fast.

I was also confused.  While I’d had mice run through my place, a big rat, much less one with protruding and bloody innards, seemed anomalous.  It must have gotten in via the two floors above me, which have many entry points.  It’s guts must have burst open due to some disease, parasite or cannibalistic rat.

However it got there, I had to deal with it, which proved challenging as I could barely look at it, much less handle it.

I put on some full-fingered cycling gloves, got a large, stainless steel kitchen bowl, and neared the corpse.  With eyes averted, I slapped the bowl on top of the rat and scurried away, pulse high, breathing short.  At least I didn’t have to look at it anymore.

I worked up the courage to approach it again, getting a magazine and sliding it under the bowl to scoop the body up.  Fortunately, it wasn’t sticking to the floor, nor did it seem to be moving.  Part of my fear was that it was a zombie rat—half-alive, ravenous for human flesh.

It was now trapped between the bowl and the magazine, but I still had to deposit it in the garbage, which would require lifting the bowl and looking at it (I thought about doing the whole operation with eyes closed or blindfolded, but the prospect of missing the garbage and picking it up again was too much to deal with).

I also half-recognized that this might a great opportunity for growth.  It didn’t matter how the rat got there, it was there, and like all of my fears, it could either be addressed or ignored; either disposed of or left to rot under a bowl.  I wanted to be someone who went through life choosing the former route.

I took the trash bag near the bowl, breathed a few deep breaths, averted my eyes to view as little of the rat as possible, and lifted the bowl.  Before depositing it, I quickly noticed some strange details out of the corner of my eye.  First, the blood hadn’t smeared on the magazine.  The guts were still red, so it should have been running.  Next, there seemed like a distinct lack of detail to the rats entrails; it was more of a general mess than an exposed anatomy with intestines, kidneys and other organs.

The reason for these strange details was that the rat wasn’t real.  It was rubber.  A houseguest, my good friend Doug Campbell, had put it there as a joke that morning.  After a chuckle and a mock-angry text to Doug, I started to breathe again. Continue reading “Don't Look at the Dead Rat in the Living Room”

On Doing, Being and Picking Up Chicks

My onetime Bible

Five years ago I downloaded an ebook called “Double Your Dating,” by a guy named David DeAngelo, who explained his patented “cocky-funny” technique for picking up women.  He said a man should be simultaneously cocky and (you guessed it) funny when approaching women.  This state conveys to women carefree confidence.  A cocky funny man can make fun of himself, because he has nothing to prove.  He can make fun of a girl, because he doesn’t need to impress.  He does all of this with a shit-eating grin, and suddenly becomes very desirable.
I was working DeAngelo’s game to good effect for a few weeks when Neil Strauss’ book “The Game” came out.  Strauss, a longtime investigative journalist went on a mission to infiltrate the pickup artist subculture, only to find himself one its gurus a couple years later.  The book chronicled his journey.
Both books opened my eyes for different reasons.  DeAngelo’s book was helpful in giving general information about how to conduct oneself in specific situations.  Taking his advice took the seriousness out of going out.  I started having fun flirting with women for the first time in my life.  Strauss’ book included techniques and general information like DeAngelo, but also told the story of how an AFC like me (average frustrated chump. The pickup culture is filled with acronyms), with training and perseverance became a mPUA (master pickup artist).  What both books did was change my internal narrative from “whether” I could have more success with women to “how.”
Now before you judge me, please ask yourself, whether you are man, woman, straight, gay, bi, transgender, whatever, have you ever had problems meeting a romantic partner?  Have you ever had difficulties communicating to a potential partner?  Have you ever felt unlucky in love?  If you haven’t felt these ways, please, judge me at your pleasure.  If you have felt this way, you know why I turned to this questionable counsel. Continue reading “On Doing, Being and Picking Up Chicks”

Advanced Fonzametrics

Standard English Fonzometer. How cool are you?

Arthur “the Fonz” Fonzarelli, was the coolest person to never live.  Nothing affected him.  He was handy.  He knew how to fight.  He rode a motorcycle.  Men wanted to be him.  Women wanted to be with him.
Most of my life, on the other hand, has been decidedly un-Fonzie-like.  I have historically been hypersensitive, copping quick resentments and easily falling into depressive states.  I have been pretty inept with tools for most of my life.  I didn’t (and don’t) know how to fight.  I owned a motorcycle, but it was crashed in a very un-Fonziesque manner.  I have had trouble earning the admiration of men. I have had greater difficulty getting the attention of women.
This lack of inherent Fonzieness didn’t extinguish my ambition to be like the Fonz.  To be cool has been a principle aim for much of my life, often at the extreme detriment to my happiness.
The trouble with being cool is it has made me inflexible.  Cool is an ideology—i.e. a way of behaving driven by an idea.  In my case, the idea that Fonzie knew the answer.  And when you’re an ideologue, you have trouble stepping out of that idea.  Acting within the ideology of cool, I couldn’t be a dork or a whiner or whatever a situation might dictate, even when to do so would save my life. Continue reading “Advanced Fonzametrics”