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.

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.

 

Tired is a Story, Stories are Tired

From ages 8 to 23, I was an insomniac.  I would lay in bed for countless hours wishing for sleep.  My body would be exhausted, my eyes heavy and burning, but my mind would be alert and racing.  I usually passed out around daybreak, only to wake a few hours later.

I tried to treat body and mind.  I drank chamomile tea. I took melatonin. I had a white-noise generator.  I went to a therapist.  I played games like “stop thinking for a minute.”  I created elaborate fantasy worlds with serial plot-lines to pass the hours in bed and still my anxiety.  When I was 16, I started smoking weed.  Later, Jim Beam became Mr. Sandman.

When I sobered up at 23, my biggest fear was not how I was going to have fun or what people would think of me.  I feared not sleeping.

Fortunately, that fear was unfounded.  By no longer annihilating myself and addressing my underlying emotional problems, I ended up with pretty normal sleeping patterns.  I fall asleep easily and stay that way the whole night through most nights.

While my difficulties with sleeping are gone, my story about sleeping continues to be an issue.  This became apparent to me the other night.

I was helping some friends out and what we were doing was running longer than I had anticipated.  It was about 10PM and I decided I wanted to go home.  The thought “I’m so tired” entered my mind.  I started to yawn repeatedly.  My eyes started to close and burn.

I told the people around me that I was tired as well.  I wanted everyone to comprehend my situation. Continue reading “Tired is a Story, Stories are Tired”

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”

I Could Have Been the Next Zoolander

Gratuitous modeling contact sheet.

Shortly after moving to New York City, I decided to pursue a modeling career.  I was 25 years-old, tall, in good shape, directionless, and longing for affirmation.  The decision was a no-brainer.  I had some snapshots taken and used contacts from some gay men who’d taken a liking to me to get in with the top agencies—Ford, IMG, Boss, etc.  Most of the agents said the same thing:  “We like you, but you’re too commercial.”  This is agent-speak for you don’t have what it takes.

Despite narcissistic tendencies that say otherwise, I don’t think I was ever meant to be a model.  I could never warm up to the camera.  There was always a waft of fraudulence in my expressions—like I didn’t know why my picture was being taken.  The other problem was that most top models—male and female—have slim, photograph-friendly facial features.  I have a jawline as soft and narrow as an aircraft carrier.

Despite my physical deformities, one agency, Wilhelmina, did bite.  They asked me to test.  For those not in the know, a test is a professional shoot unrelated to a paid gig.  Some people test to have fresh shots in their portfolios.  I was testing so Wilhelmina could see how I’d look through a professional lens.

Interest by one of the world’s top agencies played into my fantasies.  I saw my life unfold—I would get the contract, I would travel around the world to exotic shoots, get a young, model girlfriend (probably French), wear awesome model clothes, swap workout tips with my model buddies.

And then Wilhelmina didn’t bite after seeing my test shots.  No exotic locales, no girlfriend, same clothes, same homely buddies.

A friend told me that many models cater-waiter between jobs as many catering clients like pretty boys to staff their parties.  Though I wasn’t pretty enough to model Diesel jeans, I was pretty enough to pass trays of champagne and caviar-topped blinis. Continue reading “I Could Have Been the Next Zoolander”

Are You a Bore?

If you have to try to be interesting, you are probably not. Image via memegenerator.net

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis, 1905

Last night I ran into an acquaintance at a holiday party.  I will call him Peter.  Peter is tall, muscular and handsome for his age (I’d clock him at 45).  He’s an artist.  He’s a mountaineer with several major expeditions to the world’s highest peaks under his belt.  He’s into MMA (mixed martial arts for you sissies).  He’s lived in New York City for most of his life, but has traveled throughout the globe.  Peter is also a complete bore.

I was already tired when I ran into him last night (see yesterday’s post about burst pipes), but the moment we started talking, my fatigue blossomed.

For a guy who has so many interests, he talks about nothing.  All of his monotonic ramblings were about the accessories of his lifestyles—the real estate deal for his new artist’s studio, his pickup truck, the gear for his expeditions.  He divulged almost no information about himself, about that which was being accessorized.

Peter also did something called “qualifying.”  This is basically when someone gives reasons why you should find him or her interesting.  The reason I know about his rarefied art, his heroic expeditions, his down-home pickup truck and his manly mixed martial artistry is because he talked about them.  But he didn’t talk about them in an organic way.  They didn’t just come up as if they were extensions who he was.  They came up as if each interest was a part needed to construct a specific impression. Continue reading “Are You a Bore?”