8.31.2013

Training The Ego

The sign pictured is at the door of my gym, Crossfit Signal20. It's our creedo. And today, I had to use it. Today was a new kind of challenge for me. I went to a crossfit event and cheered for my teammates. The challenge came when I decided to not compete.

The event today centered around all of the aspects of Crossfit where I genuinely excel. It was a very "lift-heavy" event. Tons of workouts that focused on ground to overhead lifting, stability, power and some endurance.

In other words, they might as well have called it the Joe Peacock Invitational.

Had today been the day I trained for all this time, I would have done very well. I am confident about that. But it wasn't. Last week was. And last week, I poured EVERYTHING I had into the event. So when I went to the gym Monday, I found out very quickly I should have rested. My arms were throbbing from tendinitis, my knees were "crunchy" and my body was just plain tired.

I decided to not do the event today due to the fact that I really did need to listen to my body and rest. A week of rest this week means I can hit it hard and healthy next week and beyond. However had I done the competition today I would very likely injure myself. And even if I didn't I would put myself into a serious deficit for a few weeks at a minimum.

I didn't want to bail. The encouragement from my gym family and the drive of my teammate for the event really pushed me to try to go ahead even though I knew I needed rest. But a conversation with one of the most insightful women I've ever met gave me a perspective that, just a few months ago, I wouldn't have accepted.

I wasn't putting me first. I was putting everyone's possible disappointment first. I was putting my need to prove how strong I can be first. I was putting my ego first.

I needed to actually put me first. Otherwise, I could end up in a slump, injured and very likely depressed. I've worked too hard for that.

So today, I went and watched as people competed in events where I excel. And the whole time, I heard from folks "why aren't you out there? This is your kind of event!" I simply explained, I competed last week and put everything into it and am not fully recovered.

Of corse they accepted it. It's true and there's no shame in it... Except in my head. And that's silly. So today, I trained my ego a bit. I showed it who is actually in control. I did an event on my own out of town and did very well, and passed on a local event I could probably get first in.

Because it doesn't serve my greater purpose. It doesn't make me better. So I had to let it go.

It sucked. But then again, so does running, when you first get into it. Everything new has its learning curve and its time for acclimation. But if there's one thing I've learned after all this time, it's that anything that's good for you takes time to get used to... But once you get used to it, you never go back. And I'd like very much to never go back to hurting myself because of what anyone else might think or feel.

So I am treating today like another small victory. And I keep on celebrating these small victories, because when you do that, the defeats and slip ups don't seem as big compared to a huge pile of small victories. And you know what? I feel ready to hit the gym hard on Monday and get ready for the next big competition. Who knows if the same would be true had I competed today... But the odds are much much lower. That much I know is true. So I'm going to be happy that the odds are in my favor this time, because I made my own luck.


8.30.2013

My Absolute Favorite Thing In The World To Do (Akira Talk)



Tonight at Dragon*Con, at 8:30PM in the Hyatt Ballroom (Hanover room), I am going to spend four hours showing an auditorium full of people the movie Akira. During this screening, I will be pausing the film to pull out original cels, backgrounds and artwork and dissect the art from the film, using the original art.

This is, without question, my favorite thing in the world to do.

I get to talk about my favorite movie in the world for hours. I get to dissect this movie piece by piece. I get to stare at the immaculate art from this movie. These are all fantastic things. But it's not what makes it my favorite thing.

What makes it my favorite thing is the reactions from the audience when they see something they never saw before. They may have seen Akira hundreds of times like I have, or this may be their first viewing. But it won't matter. There are aspects of the art in this film that you cannot possibly see without the original art right in front of you. And it's that -- the magic that occurs when someone gets to see something that mystifies them -- that makes this so special.

I made a video which explains, in three minutes, what makes Akira so important. It's also the only moment you need to see to get why I care so much about this film. It's literally the thing that made me decide to do the exhibit in the first place:




This exhibit and everything I do with it are more than a hobby, but they can never be a career. I charge no money for this experience. I can't, and I never will. This deserves to be seen by anyone and everyone with even a remote interest in art, film or animation. And I get to be the guy who brings it to people. I get to put twenty three years of collecting this art in front of people and say "Here! Enjoy!"

Even more than that, I get to pontificate about the importance of art. I get to tell adults "Hey, if you have kids, make sure they understand that there is a future in art. There is a reason to keep doing it. There is a magic in art that will literally change peoples' lives, as it did mine." My entire life was shaped by art. Comics and animation, and very specifically Akira, made me want to tell stories. It made me want to draw. It made me want to create. In a very real way, it's part of who I am.

I am who I am because of art. I am who I am because of love and passion and creativity -- not my own, someone else's. They loved the craft of illustration and animation so much, they made the most legendary animated film of all time. And that movie affected me to the point I do what I do today.

You can NEVER overestimate the importance of your passion in someone else's life. And for that reason, you should NEVER apologize for it, dismiss it, hide it or otherwise compromise it.

If you're free tonight, come see me get really animated (pun intended) about Akira. I've done this screening + show and tell twice, both to auditoriums of 300+ people, and the attendance was standing room only. And no one leaves at intermission. I take that as a compliment.

8.28.2013

On Grief, Grieving, Rebounds And The Like


I know a thing or two about loss.

When we lose something, we begin to grieve. Depending on how close it was to us, this process goes somewhere from "Well, that sucks..." to "I think I may literally die from the pain I am feeling right now." If you cared at all, you're going to feel it. It might be a light tugging at your heart. It might pull at you so hard it feels like it's going to tear you into irregular pieces.

What you are experiencing is the feeling of your soul being stretched as it stays in one place while the world keeps turning. And it hurts. The more you care, the tighter the grip your soul has on the place you were, the more it stretches and tears and hurts. But that world keeps on turning.

Everyone knows that when someone (or something) important leaves your life, it hurts. And everyone talks about how that leaves a void in your life. And if you've ever lost anyone or anything close to you, you know that one of the very first things you do is attempt to fill that void.

In relationships, it's the rebound relationship.
In death, it's mourning and activities and fulfillment of the person's dying wishes (stated or not).
In jobs, it's job seeking.
In athletics, it's rehab, or coaching.
In all cases, it is sometimes coupled with copious amounts of alcohol, food, weed, and whatever other vice takes your mind off the pain.

One of the things no one EVER talks about is that the void sucks both ways. It's not just the person's role in your life that is now void, it's your role in theirs. Your mission is over. Your job is now redundant. Your skills, unneeded. Your routine, disrupted.

My father loves telling the story about how he quit smoking. He used to smoke 3-4 packs a day. He says that the hardest part wasn't the actual smoking. He just decided he didn't want to do it anymore and voila, never had another cigarette. He says that part was actually easy. The hard part? Figuring out what to do with his left hand, because it always had a lit cigarette in it.

That's us. We don't know what to do with our emotional left hands. Everything you used to do, you don't do anymore. You're idle. So the rebound relationship, or the volunteering at the homeless shelter, or becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, or any other role fulfillment starts.

If you want to know the secret to dealing with loss, there it is. You won't be okay until you figure out what to do with YOU. No one else can fill that void. You have to fill it with you.

Sure, you can use other people to do it. I know a few people who had "rebound" relationships who have gone on to get married. I know people who started volunteering with the elderly after the loss of a parent. I know people who career hop from job to job and claim happiness.

That's all well and good. I don't hate on it and I don't disrespect it. I just believe that it's treating the symptom, not the illness. It wasn't until I started working on myself that any of this became clear to me. And now that I have, suddenly, all these things I wished had come my way months ago to "fix me" show up. And you know what? I don't need them. And that's a lovely feeling. I get to choose what I want to be a part of now. I'm not trying to stuff someone or something into a hole in my heart to patch it. I have a heart that is becoming whole that, should I choose, I can give to anything I want. And it's my total heart, not just the part that was leftover when I got hurt.

That's not just good news to me, it's good news to whomever or whatever I give it to. Because it's not compromised or partial. It's me. All of me. My writing, my friendships, my relationships, my workouts, my talks... All of them, better now than they were a short while ago, because there's more me in all of them. And there will continue to be, because I figured that one piece out.

8.27.2013

Ten Love Poems





They made you promises.

They promise to be there.
They promise never to hurt you.
They promise to be your sun, your moon, your stars.
They promise to stand tall.
They promise to be the people you can rely on most.
They promise not to cheat.
They promise not to lie.
They promise to treat you right.

I won't.

I am simply going to love you the way I know how to love you.
And I won't ever need a second chance.


*****

I would snatch lighting from the sky for you.
I will bottle it and place it on your shelf;
Tame it and teach it to respond on command
So that you can brighten your darkness at will.


*****


I am the guy who will watch a great film over and over again. I'll study it in depth and attempt to memorize it. I will fixate on every nuance, both intentional and accidental, which makes that film what it is.

I'll reread the same great books over and over. I want to visit with and know those characters and the world they both inhabit and shape. I want to remember them as they are right now, so as they grow and change, I know he full picture and can smile at the journey.

I'll stare at the same piece of beautiful art for hours, day after day, both to appreciate the subtle aspects the artist included and to contemplate just how lucky I am - both for living in an era where that piece of art exists and for having the capacity for understanding why that matters.

And that's why I keep looking into your eyes and why I can't stay away. And it's also how you know that you can go ahead and put away your fear that I will ever, EVER grow tired of you.

That's impossible. Because all the stories and film and music and art I appreciate, one thing is in common: they're beautiful. They're worth studying and appreciating and contemplating and pondering and fixating on.

Just like you are.


*****

Dawn through the window
The way your body catches light
The sun's only job


*****


It isn't the things you say.

…Although, as I've told you, every time you open your mouth, something else wonderful comes out of it and binds me to you.

It isn't the way you kiss me.

…Although, as you can feel, every single kiss between us is electric and charges me unlike I've ever been charged.

It's not the way you roll your eyes when you smile.

…Although, that does make me want to wrap you in my arms and never, ever let you go – and I don't, because if you're wrapped up in my arms, I can't clearly see you roll your eyes when you smile.

It's not even how you look at me.

…Although, when I do look into your eyes, I see you looking at me the same way I'm looking at you: as if somehow if I stare long enough and deep enough ingot them, I will see even the faintest swirls of a forecast telling our future together.

No.

It's the way you walk out of a room we're both in.

The last glance backward… You do it more often than you even realize you do. And when you do, you smile and then you roll your eyes. And we've covered that.

But it's not the fact you do that, even. It's the fact I'm looking up every single time you do it, because can't bear to know you're leaving the room and I'm not watching you up to the very last moment before you exit my view. Because if I'm not watching, I will miss something incredible.

And I know that fact for certain, because everything you do – up to and including the way your hips shimmy as you walk out of a room – is incredible.


*****

When I was a boy, I used to throw pennies into wells and wish for someone to love me.

Today, I don't think I could pay attention to birthday candles long enough to blow them all out and make a wish, because the light in your eyes is too distracting.


*****

I don't think I miss you too much.
I miss you the right amount for how I feel about you.
Meaning, I see you in the sunrise.
I see you beside me waking my dog in the morning.
I see you in the shower laughing at some dumb joke I didn't just make while we are getting ready for our day.
I see you in the passenger seat of my truck anywhere I drive.
I see you when I get home, napping in my bed.
I also hear you in every song, I smell you in my morning coffee, I feel you when I pull the blankets over me and I taste you when I bite my own lip.
So, no, not too much.
Just the right amount.


*****

I dreamt of you and Paris and that we kissed.
Although I know it wasn't real, I still woke up breathless.


*****


What if all the words stopped?
What if I couldn't say them or write them anymore?
Would you love me?
Would you still feel the electricity that sparks between us?
I would try so hard to show you
I would try
I would learn to dance
I would paint a painting a day for years
I would teach myself the piano
I would sculpt monuments in honor of my feelings for you
I would find a way to show you
I would find a way to let you know
The words, they are my dance
They are my paint, my music, my clay
I hope I never lose them
because it might take years to learn
how to do something new
In such a way
That honors
You


*****


Your chest rises and falls
You have never looked so calm
You are in my arms







8.26.2013

37 Days Later, My Life Is Measurably Better

This weekend bore the results of a decision to return to The Discipline in my life.

I won 2nd place in my division of my first ever CrossFit competition, the Rumble By The River in Columbus, GA. I did not expect that. In fact, when I signed up, I fully expected to finish near the bottom of the list. The event included swimming and running, which I am FAR slower than most other CrossFit athletes at. It also included work that required a lot more finesse and endurance than I've ever put into any other event, even when I wrestled and played Judo as a youngster.

After the first round, the two mile run with a swim at the 1.5 mile mark, I was 13th out of 20 places. That's a full 7 places ahead of where I honestly thought I would be. In the second event, the ground-to-overhead press + burpees (21 reps of each, then 15 reps of each, then 9 of each, with weight going up on the bar for the press by 20lbs each round), I was the only person to finish under the ten minute cap.

The only one. I did not expect that either. At the end of two events, I was in 2nd place.

I knew the third event, the Thruster Ladder, was something I'd do very well at. A Thruster is when you bring the bar from the ground to your chest, squat with it while holding it in front of you, then pressing it overhead and locking it out. It's NOT easy, but it's something I am pretty good at given my years of focusing on power lifting. In the Thruster Ladder, you have to start with 95lbs and every minute on the minute, you go up 10 lbs. So by the time I came in 2nd in that round, pushing 245lbs up, I'd done nearly 20 rounds. I was beat by only one other man who got 255lbs, and he was a MONSTER.

Then came the fourth round -- 20 Wall Ball shots (where you take a 20lb medicine ball, squat down, and then shoot up and throw the ball at a target 10ft overhead, which you must hit or they don't count it), then a 20 meter Farmer's Carry of a 53lb kettle bell, then 20 kettlebell swings with that kettlebell, then 20 meters farmer's carry back to the wall balls. You had to do as many rounds as possible in 8 minutes.

I won that round. Amidst all the skinny fast guys, I got the most rounds, 3 full rounds and only one rep short of a 4th.

I was shocked. I won second. I had some very fierce competition, and somehow, I outscored nearly everyone 3 out of 4 rounds. It was amazing. And it was very validating. Every single second spent training came out that day. Every single meal I ate clean helped fuel me. My mental acuity kept me focused for the entire duration and I refused to allow myself to collapse until the very end. I left everything I had out there. The guy who came in first was a superior athlete who had an incredible run time, and he outscored me. I did not lose to him, I kept up with him. I won that day.

That's not the only thing walking this path has done for me. I'm also down nearly 20lbs, two pants sizes and 4 belt holes. I also had 9 features on Huffington Post, two on the front page of AOL.com, a pickup by the Oprah Winfrey Network, and I've produced a new book (which will be announced shortly).  As a result of all that writing getting all that attention, I reconnected with one of the most amazing people I've ever met in my life after she found an article of mine that went to HuffPo. She even made me dehydrated fruits and beef jerky for my competition, which I credit putting me a whole place ahead, because them shits was good, yo.

Everything I've experienced this weekend feels like victory. And it can all be directly tied back to the decision I made 37 days ago.

This is what The Discipline has done for me, in just 37 days. My life is measurably better. I can point back to a day when 38 days ago, and 39 and 40 and months before that, I talked about change. I wished things were different, I lamented my bad luck, and I cursed the name of anyone I presumed was at fault. Then I made a decision to return to The Discipline:

Write a note to myself every morning.
Blog every day.
Workout every day, twice a day if I can.
Eat clean every day.
Repeat.

That's my name for it. I call it The Discipline. My friend Casey calls it "walking the path." My friend Mark calls it "following the plan." My friend Jeremy calls it "getting your shit together." Whatever you want to call it, the bottom line is that 37 days ago, I changed. And all of that change has been rewarded. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

And I thank ALL OF YOU for your support. It means everything. You have no idea. I wish that I was able to communicate in a way that wasn't simply words on a screen; I wish I could somehow directly connect my heart to your brain so you could feel just how much I mean this. But for now, this will have to suffice:

Thank you. 

8.24.2013

The Only Victory That Matters

It's 5:00 AM. In 3 hours, I will begin my first ever CrossFit competition, the Rumble on the River in Columbus, GA. I'm nervous.

There are going to be competitors there who are serious athletes. There are going to be men better at the things I'm not very good at and as good as me at the things I am. There's going to be a roaring crowd and a lot of noise and distraction. There's going to be swimming. Dammit, there's going to be swimming.

I probably won't be on the podium when it's all said and done. And that is of course where I say "that wasn't the point though was it" and launch into the real lesson about taking risks and overcoming the self doubt and taking the plunge. You know that bit is coming. 

But I do have to note first: I'm an adherent that participation is a fantastic goal, but I'm also a competitive person and I cannot help but admit, I want to win. I want it badly. I can't just go out and flop around and say it was fun. It's only fun if I look back and realize I left EVERYTHING out on the playing field. All my doubt, all my frustration, and all my pain. The sweat and the missteps and the  gut stitches and the blisters from the last few months of training aren't worth it if they didn't result in my giving it all.

So I'm going to go out there and give it my all. Every ounce of it. And I may not win. I probably won't. But that wasn't to point of entering (see? There it is).

This is the first thing I've done by myself, for myself, since I've been on my own. I've worked very hard. I've eaten strictly clean. I've trained every day for months, and twice a day for the past five weeks. I've put in the time. I've put in the effort. I've put in the heart and the commitment.

There's the victory. The commitment. I decided to do it. I signed up on a rainy night by myself in my room with no one there to convince me to do it. I mapped out my training. I planned my diet and my meals.

I made a decision to do it.

I won.

Go me.


8.22.2013

The Absolute Sexiest Things Any Person Can Wear...



... Are confidence and sweat.

Wear more of the second, and I guarantee you'll start wearing more of the first.






8.21.2013

Fat Acceptance?

My friend Michael sent me a link to this tumblr, "I Need Fat Acceptance." The idea is that people are posting their arguments that obesity is equivalent to homosexuality, race and gender, and should just be accepted as such.

No. It's just not.

Look, you're not born fat (except for the people with actual medical problems, whom I already covered in this post). Gay people are born gay. Everyone is born whatever race you are. You're born male or female. You're born with your eye color, hair color, height, and so on. But you're not born fat. You can HELP being fat.

Asking me to accept you for being fat is easy: I accept it. You're fat. There you go.

The problem is, you're not ok with it. You can't accept it. You want validation from me that being fat is okay, not acceptance that I'm okay with you being fat. And you feel fighting the "good fight" of forcing people to accept your poor eating habits, lack of exercise and general apathy are normal and good is going to change how you see yourself. If society accepts you, you can accept yourself.

That's just not going to happen. Because it's a choice. Much like smoking, drinking, tattoos and other things are choices. I chose to lose weight and be fit. I'm still fighting that fight, but I'm not morbidly obese anymore. I also chose to get tattoos. Yes, I get comments on them, both good and bad. And when I post on Facebook or Twitter or this blog the stories of how a lady was scared of me on a plane because she assumed I was in prison from having tats, I'm not asking the world to change their mind and accept me. I'm laughing at her. Because she doesn't get me and think she does.

I was once 390 pounds. I am now 269, and actively participate in a number of athletic events. This did not happen overnight. In fact, it didn't happen in a few months. It's been a systematic process of eating right and exercising.  It took a LOT of hard work and discipline.

Asking the world to accept my 390 pound self takes no work and no discipline. It puts the responsibility of my self-image in the hands of everyone else. It's lazy. Period.

If someone thinks you're stupid because you're overweight, laugh at them, flip them off and move on. If you didn't get a job because you're overweight, sue them, or find another job with less superficial people. If you're getting ridiculed for your size, change your size. You CAN help it. Take it from someone who said he couldn't help it for ten years, then one day did the necessary work.

Otherwise, learn to accept yourself for who you are. And who you are is fat. Being fat comes with certain societal consequences. Accepting those is part of acceptance. If you actually accept and love yourself, you won't care when people dismiss you for your size, because you love you, and that will be enough.

If you need the external validation, do what the external sources demand. Otherwise, quit telling me what to think.

*** Update *** 

My amazing friend Liz Stricklen made a great point on Facebook I agree with and want to share here, because it's the other half of the argument:

I think "fat acceptance" should really be translated to "Don't be a jackass to people because of how they look." And that applies to everyone. Basic politeness doesn't cost anything, and if someone just can't bear to be around humans who look differently than what they prefer, maybe don't leave the house. 
(It should be noted that I am not in favor of obesity, and I think almost everyone has the power to change it via hard work, consistent effort, and self respect. However, you don't know the road someone is on, and maybe that 300lb person used to be a 400lb person and they try as hard as they can every day. How would you know?)

8.20.2013

I Don't Actually Care What You Do For A Living



When I meet you and ask you "So, what do you do?" I don't actually want to know what your job is.

I want to know what makes you cry for joy. I want to know what inspires you to sing, even if you can't sing. I want to know what you dream about doing when you're doing ANYTHING else besides that thing. I want to know what you feel you're best at. I want to know what you blush about when someone compliments you on it. I want to know about the one thing you just can't stop talking about. I want to know what makes you tick. I want to hear your stories about how you got into it, and how you love doing it, and how you would do it all day every day if you could. Or even better, how you plan to. Or even better than that, how you actually do it all day, every day.

If you've found a way to make your job that one thing, then and only then do I care what you do for a living. But aside from that, I don't really want to hear about the thing you do 40-80 hours a week to afford the car and the house and the vacations you have that bring you just enough happiness to distract you from the fact you're not doing the one thing that scratches that itch inside you that nothing else can ever scratch.

If you're not on the verge of tears telling me just how much you love doing it, I don't care. Really, I just don't. Because I want to know you, not the facade you've built to convince yourself, me and everyone else you're happy.

Take down the screen, pull off the mask, abandon the role you play for a paycheck and let's talk about you for a minute.

8.19.2013

Let's Talk About Depression, Part 3



It's been a little while since I talked about depression (and the second part is here). Obviously, you've been reading quite a lot about my situation in life over the past month or so. It took me nearly 10 months to get to a point where I could write about the divorce, moving, losing my company, and other things. If it's a surprise to you that I was depressed, you're kind of an idiot.

I've talked about how depression feels like a glue-coated velvet cloak you cannot cast off. I've talked about hopelessness and the fact that "life is going to be okay" could probably be the worst thing to say to someone who is truly depressed. Depression is RIGHT NOW. Not tomorrow, not a week from now, not a month from now. Right. Now.

When you are depressed and someone tells you "but life is going to be AMAZING" you can't see it. It's not that you don't believe it. You do. You really, really do. But it doesn't matter. It's not right now. It's like telling someone with a broken arm "hey, one day it's going to not be broken."

You're not wrong. It will be ok. It's just not right now. And it won't be for a minute. So what now?

Everyone who suffers or has suffered from Depression has a go-to. Unfortunately for some, it's suicide. They threaten it, they attempt it, and every so often to our chagrin, they succeed. Something you should understand: no one wants to die. People who attempt suicide don't want to die. They want the pain to stop.

That's what those who get out from their depression have in common: they found a way to make the pain stop. They may not realize they have this emergency lever that they pull, but they have it. For me, it's The Discipline. In the past 31 days, I've been working. Hard. In the gym, writing, selling off crap, moving, and eating right. Everything in my life centers around discipline. That's my go-to. That's my "pull in case of emergency" cord. Discipline.

This works for me, because it's a moment of surrender. My immediate mind finally kneels to my larger self and says "I give up. You win. I'm done trying to con my way out of this sadness. Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it." My larger self already knows the answer: retreat to the basics. Work the steps. Stop the bullshit. No more retail therapy. No more alcohol. No more recreation and trips and running. Wake up every morning. Walk the dog. Hit the road and run. Eat a banana. Take vitamins. Write. Eat lunch. Write. Eat a banana. Hit the gym. Eat dinner. Write. Eat a banana. Go to sleep. Get up, do it again.

Every. Single. Day.

Discipline.

It may not be the same for someone else. In fact, it probably isn't. Everyone has their own way of handling Depression. I have a friend who is adversarial with her disease. She fights. She gets to a point where she says "Oh, you want me to stay in bed? FUCK YOU. I'm getting up to spite your dark dreary ass. Oh, what's that? I don't want to work out? Watch this shit." Some people visit a therapist (and oh my God, I cannot recommend this enough -- if you broke your arm, you'd visit a damn doctor, do the same when your brain and your heart break too). Some people allow themselves a day of indulgence and give themselves permission to break all the rules to release tension.

It's different for each person. But one thing is in common: there's a point where you reach the end, and some larger part of you says "This has got to stop." And you make a decision. If you want to live life and fight, you fight. If you want to give up, you give up. Regardless, you make your decision.

When you're on the outside looking in, all you want to do is give comfort. You like and love the people you care about. You want them to stop hurting. You're not depressed, so visions of future reward for current effort are easy to attain. That's how we are wired as a people. But if you're on the other side of it, it doesn't work that way. Not that you don't want it to, or you're trying to be an asshole... It's like a building blocking the view of the sun rising. It's out there, you know it's out there, it's beautiful... You just can't see it right now, because there's a fucking GloboBank in the way. You'll see it later, when the sun is up... For for now, no sunshine. Just a big immovable thing blocking your ability to see clearly.

That's where the "Pull in case of emergency" lever comes in. Instead of accepting something you cannot see, you start walking around it so you can actually see it. You walk past it. You get somewhere else emotionally. And then, there it is, that sunrise you knew was just around the corner.

Something about doing the work of getting over Depression is itself how you get over Depression. But actually getting started on doing the work... That's where we all fall down. And that's because Depression doesn't knock and announce when it's on the way over. It just shows up, sneaks in, turns the TV to the channel it likes and makes itself comfortable. You walk in the room and there it is, getting Cheetoh dust all over your Lay-Z-Boy. You haven't the first clue when it actually showed up, but there it is. It's here now.

If you want to help someone who is suffering from Depression, your job will be immensely easier (and effective) if, instead of telling them what life will be like when they kick that asshole out of their house, you lace up your boots and actually help them kick his ass out. Because he's here RIGHT NOW. And he needs to go. And he's not going to without a fight.

I can't tell you what it's going to be with your friend or loved one who suffers from Depression. I can't tell you that my system works for them. What I can tell you is that you've seen them depressed before, and you know them best. You've seen how they recovered. Not how they THINK they recovered, but how they actually recovered. And if you don't, or this is your first encounter with a new friend / loved one's Depression, you can ask them to tell you everything that happened last time. But whatever it is, and however you figure it out, action is key.

Get them out of the house. Do not accept no for an answer. Depression loves isolation. Don't let it happen. Push on them. Don't be abusive or dictatorial, but don't relent. You may not get them over it today or even this week, but the nudges help. Truly, they do. Feeling cared about, even if it annoys you, helps more than you can possibly imagine. And part of feeling cared about is not hearing how great you think I am, but knowing you know me well enough to push me where I need to be.

If you're suffering yourself, you need to let your larger self be your best friend. Somewhere deep inside, you know exactly what you need to do to start getting over. You're just not motivated to do it. So step one is TAKE STEP ONE. Only you know what that is, but we all know that you can't take step two without taking step one first. So step one: Take the first step.

And if it helps, you be sure to call Depression "motherfucker" anytime you want. And when you finally start beating it, call it your bitch. It hates that. It'll leave faster.





8.18.2013

I Still Believe In Magic


It's Sunday morning. Haggis and I went for a walk, much like we do every morning. It was gray and wet and the world felt like it was still in bed. There was no one walking around. There were no tv's on as we passed the houses. There were no cars driving by.

We reached the end of our road and turned on to Virginia Avenue. At that corner is a Schlotzky's. Usually in the morning there's a yard crew or a cleaning crew buzzing around. This morning, no one. Nothing. Just dead silence and gray cast light from the outside bouncing off the chairs stacked on tables. The Greek joint across the street was just as silent and still. The same went for the Pizza Hut and the laundromat and the coffee place. The gray sky held its clouds so low that I couldn't see the airplanes, despite being at the airport. All there was was the dull, constant roar.

Just the roar. With no one at all around, and nothing at all happening. Except me and haggis, walking. The pats of my feet hitting wet pavement and the light jingle of her collar and the dull roar of desolation.

I stood at the corner for a moment and looked down the mile of Virginia Avenue that ends with the hill. Traffic lights lit the misty air around them green and red, signaling to no one at all when it was their time to go. I felt my breath as it went in and out of my lungs. The damp air clung to my throat and my chest and didn't quite want to enter and didn't quite want to leave.

I looked down at Haggis. She was sniffing at an empty chicken container at the bus stop. I would normally stop her, because we would normally be jogging. But this morning, I saw no harm in letting her imagine what life would be like if she just happened upon a big box of chicken while on a routine walk. Everyone's gotta have a dream. I'm not about to take that away from her.

I know how that feels. All too well. People reaching into my life and into my heart and into my head and pulling my dreams from my tree before they're ripe. No's and Can'ts and Won'ts, wilting the fruit of my mind.

Yet, still they grow. I'm 36 years old, and I still believe in magic.

I could be jaded. I could be cynical. I could erect stone walls around my heart and put up blinds on the mind's side of my eyes. But I won't. I can't, in fact. They just won't stay up. It is my blessing and my curse. I have hope.

It's reinforced every time I see someone's eyes light up the first time they see the full background from a scene in Akira at one of my exhibits, never realizing just how much more there was to the scene. Every time someone reads something I write and tells me it's exactly what they needed or wanted to hear right that moment. Hell, even when someone laughs at a joke, or smiles at a compliment, or softens in any way.

Magic. Every single time.

And all that reinforcement tells my heart that it's not silly to believe in love, and meeting your future best friend for the first time randomly in the middle of an airport, and having something you've written be read by thousands of people who needed to read it when all you wanted was to share a moment in your life, and going after a job you know you can do despite having no experience and getting it, and winning the lottery, and even happening upon an entire box of chicken randomly left at a bus stop on an empty Sunday morning.

Sure, that box that morning was empty, and every other box she's run into has been too… But oh, the possibility that it might not be! There's another box! Better check it out!

There's a chance to work on something I've always wanted to, better check it out!

There's a $300 million jackpot tonight, better check that out!

There's a person I've never met with a smile I felt in my heart before I saw it with my eyes, better check that out!

There's something in my heart I need to say, better check that out!

I won't take that from my dog, much less anyone else. People deserve their dreams. They deserve hope. And they deserve the chance to check them out, over and over again amidst disappointment and defeat, to their hearts' content.

Haggis finally lost interest in the empty box. She must have been waiting for a few minutes while I continued staring down the road at all those empty corners and glowing traffic lights and empty buildings, listening to the dull roar of the airplanes I couldn't see.

All I could see was the smile of someone I haven't met yet. Because I still believe in magic.

And magic tells me that the odds say, I will likely be hurt again in love, and fail in a project I want to do, and not place at all in my first ever Crossfit competition, and take another beating and bruise my heart and you know what? It's worth it. Because fuck the odds.

I smiled. What a beautiful morning.

I looked down at my dog, who was looking up at me wondering just where her dad went for a while. I started walking, and the pats of my feet hitting wet concrete were complimented by the light jingle of her collar as we walked on home.


8.16.2013

You Can Learn A Lot From A Skinned Knee




You can learn a lot from a skinned knee.

  • You learn how not to fall.
  • You learn that falling is recoverable.
  • You learn that pain does not kill you.
  • You learn that you heal.
  • You learn that, despite being wounded, you aren't dead and can function.
  • You learn to cover the wound or your pants will stick to it.


You learn even more from a broken nose.

  • You learn how not to talk to a lady.
  • You learn how not to talk to a lady in front of her boyfriend.
  • You learn that getting hit hurts.
  • You learn to keep your hands up.
  • You learn how to move, sway and counter.
  • You learn what it's like to live ugly.
  • You learn that being ugly isn't the end of the world.
  • You learn that people are morbidly curious about carnage when it doesn't happen to them.
  • You learn that it doesn't matter how the other guy looks, you still have a broken nose.


Pain is an incredible teacher. The lessons are hard and intense. But they stick.




8.15.2013

Steal Your Fun

"Have fun!"

Everyone says this when you leave for a trip, or head off on a journey, or otherwise announce you are doing something. Sometimes it's earnest. It's easy to accept that directive when you're headed to Aruba or Six Flags or the video game store.

Sometimes, it's sarcastic, like "Have fun..." And we groan and roll our eyes and dread the meeting or the interview or the boring whatever the hell we're about to do. Why not actually do what we were just told to do? Why not have fun? Maybe the place you're going is boring, or the people you are going to be with are uptight. Who cares?

Steal that shit.

Don't leave it in the hands of other people to have fun. If you're going to a family reunion and you hate the family you're reuniting with, play a game of how many tattoos you could possibly submit to a bad tattoo blog. If you're going to a boring party, before anyone can talk to you, make them spell a difficult word. If you're going to get chastised by your boss or parents, count the number of "um's" they say. When they reach a milestone (like every 10), cough. If they get to 100, excuse yourself to the bathroom and have a hearty laugh. If they won't let you have fun, shoplift it.

Don't take life too seriously. Nobody gets out of it alive. You have a very limited amount of time here, then you're gone. Forever. Don't let people spend up your seconds all willy-nilly. If they're going to be boring, give yourself permission to excuse your mind from participating in that particular chain gang of time-smashing.

Besides, smiling when everyone else is frowning is by itself immense fun. Everyone will wonder just what the hell you know that they don't.




8.14.2013

Some More Of My Totally Not Poetry


It didn't totally suck last time, so here's more of the not-poetry I've been jotting on. Let me know what you think, but please Hammer, don't hurt me.

Also, I don't know why the fuck MC Hammer is in my head today. But he is. That's the only reason for the picture. He has nothing to do with any of this poetry crap. I am celebrating him anyway.






***********


Sure.
I could compliment how you look.
I could tell you that not even light can escape your raven hair.
I could tell you that the Earth itself is jealous of the color of your eyes.
I could tease that no apple ever grown could taste as sweet as your ruby lips.
But that's easy.
I'd rather explore than comment.
Give me a night,
Two mugs of coffee,
A jukebox playing standards and classics,
And hours upon hours of conversation.
Because nothing could ever look as sexy on you
As the smile that crawls across your lips
When we finally agree to disagree,
And nothing could come close to igniting my soul
As finally meeting my match.


***********


I can promise you eternal love and emotional satisfaction.
All you have to do is be miserable for the rest of your life.
You'll make everyone else happy.
They will LOVE you.
They will NEED you.
They will WANT you.
Until there's no more of you left.


***********


Tomorrow is a lovely word.
So full of possibility
Limitless potential
Potential
as you know
is unused power and promise
So for as long as you intend to do something
You'll always be just about to be great.

Today is a difficult word.
There's no wiggle room.
There's no potential.
There's no promise.
It's either happening or it isn't.

It's no wonder everything I do starts tomorrow.


**********


What if you said yes where you always said no?
What if you allowed yourself to be vulnerable to someone just to see what they would do with that power?
What if you told the truth where you always lie?
What if you looked in the mirror into your own eyes, said "I love you" and meant it?
What if you accept a gift instead of just turning it down?
What if you accept a compliment instead of dismissing it?
Whats the worst that can happen?
You might hurt.
You might hurt a lot.
But hurting means you're alive.
And being alive means you get to heal.
And healing means you understand yourself a whole new way.

What if you knew yourself better than anyone else... And liked who you saw?


**********


I could break you over my knee.
I could slam your face with my fist.
I could throw you through a wall.
I walk away, because you're not worth me losing myself.


**********

Gnarled hands fumble at the mailbox
He always gets frustrated
The arthritis makes it difficult to even open the door and walk out
Much less check the mail
He finally catches the hook of the lid with his crooked index finger
The door creaks like metal on metal as he opens it
There it is
Days of waiting
And there it is
The letter
He smiles so hard his dentures almost fall out
He can barely contain himself
Much less the mail he tries to collect between his permanently half-clenched fists
He rushes to the house
Which is to say
He hobbles as quickly as his fused hip lets him
He almost ignores the dog as she greets him
Always eager to see her dad
He remembers his best friend
Through the haze of the excitement of finally getting the letter
He bends down and pats her on the head
"It came, girl! It's here!"
He plops the mail on the end table next to his favorite chair
He gently sits down
He grabs the letter
He tears it open
Moments
And then tears
She finally wrote him back
After twenty two years
His daughter finally wrote him back
She forgives him
She's married now
Two kids
She forgives him
She understands now
She never knew just how hard it had to have been to leave
She'd always been told he abandoned her
But the courts kept him away
And because he loved her
He wrote her every single day
Not one letter
Not even one
Reached her
Until her mother passed
Under the bed
In a box
Laid twenty two years
Next Wednesday
He will put on his best suit
He will pick up a stuffed rabbit for Hillary
His granddaughter
He will pick up a toy truck for Samuel
His grandson
He will pick up a bouquet of roses for Samantha
His daughter
He will attempt to unclench his right hand to shake Robert's
His son in law
And he will
For the first time in twenty two years
Be whole

He smiles so hard, his dentures actually do fall out.


8.12.2013

Born Again



It's thundering outside. The rain pours down in sheets. Occasionally the windows blink and the room lights up from the lightning.

I lay in a bed I've become familiar with the past few months... Smaller, but that's okay. It only needs to hold me and my dog and a couple of orange cats (when they're not sleeping on my chest). We lay in the room together, listening to the rain, and watching the shadows bounce on the walls every time the lightning flashes.

The shadows look different here. I've never seen this configuration before. It's not scary or sad. It's new. It's different than watching the shadows during a storm in a hotel room or when visiting a friend. These are the shadows of the things which comprise my new home.

Home.

That word has been on my mind lately. Well, not really lately... The past year, almost. I've not really been homeless, but nowhere has felt like home. And at the same time, everywhere has felt like home. Every friend I visited invited me into their homes and allowed me a place to feel welcomed and warm and loved. And I love them. Each and every one of them, I love them. They are my family.

Now, I've got a place to be. A place for my stuff, as little as I have left. A place for my animals. A place to cuddle with them and sleep with them and be lazy with them. A place to fight with my cat Julius over the pieces of beef jerky I snack on periodically. A place to vaccum when Buzz sheds. A place to watch my dog Haggis dance when she sees me reach for her leash.

I was born here. Hapeville, GA, just by the airport. My mother tells me that she and my birth father lived here for a year when they had me, before they moved to Decatur. The apartments they lived in are just down Virginia Avenue. I pass them when I go for my morning runs. I don't remember them.

Funny that my life is restarting here, I suppose. Funny, and fortunate that I get to be born again. I get to live with my oldest friend. He understands me. He annoys me. He knows every button there is to push with me. He knows when I need my space. He knows when to give it and when not to. Despite the fact we haven't lived together for nearly 12 years, we have fallen right in step. New jokes, same attitude. New activities, same love.

This is a new book in my life. It took me longer than it should have to start it. Anytime you go to start a new book, you drag your feet a little. Books take a while to get started. There's all the preamble and introduction and character building and plot rising... It's work. And I spent a little too long reading the last chapters of the last book of my life over and over.

I sit here watching the lightning flash through the windows and listening to the same old rain fall on an all new roof and process all these new inputs. I'm not used to it yet. I probably won't be for a good long while. When I am, it won't hit me like "Hey, I'm finally used to this." It'll just happen. It won't even be a thought.

The storm will roll in and the rain will start and I'll watch the lighting flash, and I won't think how unfamiliar the shadows look or how different the rain sounds against the shutters. I'll be on to something else. And that thought -- the familiar feeling of not being aware things are familiar -- makes me smile.

In the end, It doesn't matter what happened to me. I've taken some insanely bad beats this year. It's hard to have perspective, but in my clearest moments, I realize I am the luckiest man alive. I have people in my life who love me and support me. I have my dog and my orange cats and a mission. I have you, reading this right now. I have hope.

I have hope.




8.11.2013

Why You Can't Lose Weight And Keep It Off

There are medical conditions that make us fat. Those cases count for maybe 0.0001% of instances of obesity. The rest is simple: being overweight isn't the problem, it's a symptom.

There's more than a ton of material out there that will tell you "health is a journey, not a destination." You've heard it, you know it, you've felt your eyes gloss over and brain shut down the second you hear it. It's a cliche.

Despite playing sports and working out, I've been on-again off-again fat my entire life. Here's the thing I've only recently discovered: that cliche is worded wrongly. That's why it doesn't stick. That's why you get bored with it. 

I was talking about weight loss and fitness with some friends this morning. We've all had our challenges with weight, and especially keeping it off when we lose it. The inevitable term "lifestyle change" came up and then that saying about journeys versus destinations, and it kinda clicked for me. 

The reason my most recent fitness regent and way of eating is finally sticking is because I didn't decide I wanted to GET healthy or GET fit. I didn't decide to acquire a body I've always wanted. I didn't decide to go to a place of fitness.

I decided to BE healthy. Every day. Because there's a little fire somewhere inside me that finally lit; a love for myself
I've never had previously. 

I love myself enough to live healthy. I'm not looking at my body and my health and thinking "once I lose x pounds or win x competition or run x miles I'll be so proud I will finally love myself." I figured it out. It's backwards. 

We go on diets or fitness plans to look better and feel better and think that will make us love ourselves. We don't get the results we want this week and we feel depleted and need a reward to fill that void. Yummy food and video games and long naps are instant gratification. They make us happy RIGHT NOW. We delay or eliminate these things because, much like the Christian doctrine of being promised if we are good on Earth we get to go to heaven and celebrate for eternity, we feel if we deprive ourselves of what we love now, we will get SO MUCH MORE later in the form of sexy abs.

No.

Deprivation builds resentment. The trick isn't looking forward to some bullshit rewardland of frivolity and happiness. The trick is to understand, life isn't a destination, it's a journey - and we enjoy that journey by treating ourselves well and taking care of ourselves. And it starts with love.

If I love myself, the process of eating right is second nature. The process of going to  the gym is maintainence. The process of weight loss is a byproduct, because I quit  filling the hole in my heart with food and alcohol and laziness.

And here's the big thing: it doesn't actually start with food or even the gym. It starts with words. 

If someone else talked about you the way you do in your own head, would you stand for it? Would you just let them abuse you? Hell no. So don't let yourself get away with it. Don't use words like "cheat day" when discussing the day you enjoy a rich meal - it's a reward. Cheats is ALWAYS negative. Rewards are always positive. Quit calling yourself stupid or weak or sad or pathetic. Start calling yourself human.

Quit with self-improvement. Start with self-awareness. 

8.09.2013

The Goal Of Rejection




A long time ago, I had a lofty goal. I wanted to collect fifty rejection letters for my first book, Mentally Incontinent.

It's a romantic thought, you know? I'll submit and submit and submit, and if I get a rejection letter, I won't take it as an insult, it goes into the collection. "I love my rejection slips," Sylvia Plath said. "They show me I try."


Then one day someone told me that goal is shit. "Your goal is shit," they said. Just like that. They then told me my goal should be to publish my work.  It was a total eye-opener. Suddenly, I didn't see "Get a publisher to publish my work" as the only avenue for success. I didn't see the only rules as being “submit and wait.” I remembered that heroes of mine like Henry Rollins and Dave Sim made entire careers out of publishing their own material themselves.


So I did a fuckton of research and work, self published my first book, had a major publisher buy and publish my second book, and the rest is history. Then I wrote an entire guide on doing it yourself.

Being rejected is an easy goal to attain, and it is ego satisfying because it turns this painful experience of rejection into something that feels like success. And it's a total lie, like telling yourself you like to be kicked right in the nuts. "The more I get kicked in the nuts, the closer I get to attaining my goal!"

It's also damaging and hurts like hell, and you teach yourself to smile through the pain and not embrace it.

Having a goal that instead says "I want to publish my work, regardless of the perception of success, because publishing the work IS the success" opens the door to so many more options. It aligns your focus to concentrate on what you really want, instead of lying to yourself to pretend you're actually running to your destination when all you're doing is counting minutes on a treadmill.

Just ask Jeremy Dale, who is now staring down the barrel of a HUGE success with his creator-owned and creator-controlled comic Skyward. It's brilliant, because Jeremy refused for YEARS to compromise his vision to shortcut his goal.

Anytime you put your victory in the hands of someone else deciding for you whether you're good enough or not, you've lost all power.

8.08.2013

Today I Finally Got To Pay It Forward

When I first moved out of my parents' house, I went grocery shopping. I grabbed all the stuff I thought I'd need (which mostly included frozen pizzas, sodas and chips) and headed to the register. When I went to pay, I realized I didn't bring any cash. I went to pay with my debit card, but it was declined. I was mortified.

Kindly, a gentleman behind me offered to pay for my groceries. "I've been there before, I know what it's like. Let me help you."

It took a LOT for me to finally say yes, but I did, and he saved my day. That night, I was able to eat a frozen pizza while drinking a soda and snacking on chips. That guy was my hero. He refused to take my number so I could contact him to pay him back, or give me his address to mail a check.

"Pay it forward," he told me.

...What the fuck does that mean? I thought. I had never heard that phrase before in my life. It would be a few years before a movie titled that came out and it became a huge part of our lexicon. He explained that I was not to "pay him back," I was to "pay the favor forward. Help someone else if they need it."

So I let the whole event swim in my head a bit and eventually forgot about it. Last night, it suddenly came back to me.

I had just finished buying my groceries and was packing the cart with my bags when a mother and her son rolled up. I didn't mean to size them up -- I just do that. It's a habit. The kid was wearing clothes a bit too tight for him; perhaps last year's school clothes. She was wearing a t-shirt from a running event a few years old. Both had older shoes which showed signs of at least a year's worth of wear.

"We have to put this stuff back," she told the clerk. "I don't have enough cash to cover it, and the stamps (food, I assumed) won't cover these items."

I was rolling my cart away from the register when I heard that bit. Inside me a struggle began -- not to decide if I wanted to help these folks out, but how best to do it. I didn't want to stride up and be some sort of grandiose hero, and I didn't want to seem snide. Then the memory of how the man helped me out 16 years ago popped in my head.

I rolled my cart around to the front of the lane and got behind them. As they were finalizing the purchase of the things they could afford, I offered to help them out. "I've been there before. I know how it feels. Let me help you out."

The looks on both the mom's and the son's faces was one of shock. They reluctantly agreed.

I bought the remainder of their groceries, about $35 dollars worth. They were extremely thankful. "Normally I couldn't possibly accept this," the mom said. "But we're out of everything..."

"I can totally relate," I replied. In fact, it didn't take a 16 year old memory to conjure that feeling. I was that way just three weeks ago. If not for a very timely eBay sale, I'd have been screwed.

It felt good. I didn't do it because it felt good; I did it because someone needed help and I was able to help them. But that doesn't change the fact that it felt good. With all that has happened to me in the past year, it was extremely valuable to have perspective that no matter what pain I was feeling or what hell I going through, other people are going through their own.

To be able, just for a moment, to be a buoy to someone's leaky raft reminded me of all the buoys that have kept me afloat. And for the record, it's not like I've been waiting 16 years to finally do something nice for someone. I do try to be kind and help folks when I can. I'm not ALWAYS a jerk.

As I was exiting, the kid came running up to me. He tried to hand me a few one dollar bills, and asked for my phone number so they could pay me back.

"What if you run out of gas on the way home?" I said. "You'll need that. Just remember this in 16 years, ok?"

He looked confused. That's okay. It's all confusing at the time. It's only when we look back that we get the luxury of making things make sense.


8.07.2013

That Stupid Kitty Cat Lunch Bag



I couldn't help but dread going to the house today. I was taking the light bulbs. The fucking light bulbs. Just so I don't have to buy new ones. Same with toilet paper, paper towels, cling wrap, and anything else remotely useful.

This is where I am in life now. I live in the living room of my friend Mike's one bedroom apartment. He's done everything he can to open the space to me and my dog Haggis. He has allowed me to make it a home. I have my desk, my bed, a tv and Playstation 3, an Ikea bookcase converted to a dresser, and some art supplies. We needed a light bulb in the bathroom to replace the one that burned out, and it dawned on me: I figured I'd scavenge everything from the old house for us to save a few bucks. No sense in buying new when I have plenty we can use.

So I swung by and set upon grabbing everything I could, and it was crushing. I thought it was bad when I still had stuff in there... That was nothing compared to how it feels to be back there now. It's so empty. It sounds hollow. It feels hollow. It is hollow. There's nothing left there to make that house a home. There hasn't been for a while; long before I moved the stuff I kept and sold the stuff I didn't.

Twelve of our fourteen years together were spent there. The day we moved in, we had nothing. No furniture, no dishes, no bed, nothing. We slept in the living room on the floor and let the gas fireplace flicker through the night.

We loved it. Because it was ours.

The house is empty once again. 12 years of working in various industries accumulating all of the stuff that makes the house a home, gone. It sounds a lot like it did then; loud and hollow. It looks like it did then, despite the remodeling. But it feels nothing like it did then.

The empty living room doesn't hold my imagination's pattern for a future with a sofa and love seat and big tv and floor-to-ceiling windows where there was once only wall, overlooking the forest. The empty kitchen contains none of the supplies or equipment that cooked our future Thanksgiving turkeys or future movie night pizzas or late night post workout meals. The dining room had none of my imagination's dream dinette set and decorations from every trip we'd ever taken.

It's just an empty house whose walls whisper incessantly, with nothing to block the sounds of the echoes. It's oppressive.

I ran in and took the light bulbs and the air filters from the attic. I took all the ziplock bags. I took all the cling wrap and aluminum foil and paper towels and toilet paper. And at some point, while looking in a cabinet, I saw a lunch bag I bought for my ex-wife.

It was a nylon fold-over bag shaped like the old "brown paper bag" lunch bags, but it was creme colored and featured a cute kitty cat face, complete with whiskers and a pink nose. I bought it for her a few years ago. I loved making and packing her lunch every day. I wrote a little note every day so she'd have a little smile on the hard days and a big one on the good days.

The bag had disappeared a while ago. I remember being a little sad it was gone, but we made up for it by buying a comparable doggie version. Mystery solved: it fell behind a bunch of crap. I picked it up and opened it. In it was a note I wrote her. It had been read - I could tell because when I wrote them, I folded them into thirds, and when she read them, she folded them into quarters. It was sort of a code between us so we would know the old from the new.

I don't remember hitting the floor. I just remember kneeling there with snot and tears pouring out of my face and landing all over this lunch bag that looked like a cat. I didn't even read the note. What was the point? No matter what I wrote or drew in there at the time, the message was simple: it said "I love you."

It's irrelevant now, as is the kitty bag and the lunches and the furniture and the life I once had. It was written. It was read. It's done and over with.

Nothing left to do but clean up the mess and move on.

And so I did. I pulled myself up to my feet, threw away the kitty bag, mopped up my lamentations, grabbed the box of stuff I came to get, and left.

As I was pulling out of the driveway, I began to question if what had happened, actually happened? Did I actually collapse? And before that, did I really just move in with my first ever roommate? And before that, did I really get divorced? Was this life I had even real? Did we really love each other? Were we really happy?

In the garbage was a kitty-shaped lunch bag with a re-folded note that, despite not having read it since I wrote it years ago, I knew proved everything I needed to know.

I left my old house feeling very much like it is now: empty; my head loud with the echoes of all the memories of everything that happened there.

8.06.2013

Strategizing Your Relationships

It's tempting to begin strategizing your relationships, especially if you've been hurt in the past.

Wait three days to call someone you've just met. Play hard to get. Don't kiss on the first date. All that shit. 

If you fancy yourself an actual human being, don't strategize your relationships. It's a waste of time at best, because you're just prolonging the inevitable. And it's just manipulation at worst; trying to get what you want from someone who isn't willing to give it. Feel how you feel and be honest. If you base love and/or friendship it on strategy, you will always be strategizing.

Get.
To.
The.
Point. 

And get there fast.

It is 100% valid to tell someone how you feel when you feel it. You can phrase it nicely or be blunt, but there's a respect to be gained by being up front and courageous enough to say what you feel. I think you draw the line at how you intend to act on those feelings. Don't kiss-rape people just because you feel an emotion. That part should probably be something you want to take time with. But how you feel? Let it out, man. Save everyone some time.

If you're honest and he / she takes off, you learn sooner rather than later that they aren't what you want. Big win for you: you get to move on. Prolonging pain just makes it worse. And maybe you won't hear no, you know? After all, you can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket.

Just don't go putting your savings in it. Cause that's dumb.

8.05.2013

Lost At Sea (A Free Verse Thing)

Of course, going through what I've been going through after the divorce, my thoughts have turned periodically to the process we all experience of people coming into and then exiting our lives. Alongside that (or, as a result), digging through old journals is a hobby one tends to cultivate anytime cataclysmic change takes place.

I wrote something sort of like what you're about to read years ago, about someone else close to me in my life that disappeared. I thought it was relevant and not terribly written, so I dusted it off and cleaned it up a bit. I hope it doesn't suck. This process of branching out and exploring the verse / poetry / prose part of ne has been really rewarding.

I think this is something we can all relate to. Watching someone you know become someone you knew isn't exactly a unique experience. Just ask Gotye.

**************

For so long, we sailed this river together. And then one day, she jumped overboard.

I nearly broke my ribs slamming against the side of the boat to grab her hand and save her. The look in her eyes when I grabbed her hand was alien; frightened and yet determined. She leapt. I wanted to believe it was an accident... But she leapt.

I am holding on, I won't let you go! I struggle so hard... The sweat pouring down our arms from the strain of effort makes it impossible to maintain our grip, and slowly clasped hands slip into interlaced fingers... I make a last ditch effort to hold on and I grab her index finger. There is but a slight pause where I have her, and then she's released. As strong as I am, I can't lift someone who doesn't want to be lifted.

I drift down the river, ever forward. I yell, "I see you! I won't let you go! I'll come back for you!" of course knowing the river only moves forward, and I'll never be able to paddle hard enough to fight the current taking me away.

Her colors begin to wash grey as the mist of the rapids kick up.

She's a stick figure waving goodbye in the distance.

She's a shape in the white water.

She's gone.

Sail on.



8.03.2013

The Discipline




I planned to sleep in this morning. I had nothing pressing on my schedule until 11:00AM, when the only class of the day meets at my gym, Crossfit Signal 20. I had a "2-a-day" yesterday, where I run in the morning and workout in the afternoon. That means no morning run today. So today was perfect for a nice, slow-paced morning.

I was wide awake at 5:30AM. And that's after staying up later than my planned bedtime by nearly 3 hours watching Korean gangster films. After all, I was going to sleep in, right? I could spurge on a little late night frivolity.

Only, my body wasn't in that mode. My body has taken to The Discipline. The training I've put it through has taken hold. And I don't mean the workouts or the running or the way of eating. I mean the schedule. In bed by 11. Asleep before midnight. Awake at 5:30. Out of bed before 6 (I gotta get some morning Haggis-doggie cuddle time). Every day, 6 days a week.

It's in me now. Part of my wiring. As are the other things I mentioned. I cannot eat confections or even put cream in my coffee now. It tastes weird and messes with my stomach. If I miss a morning run on a scheduled day, my body hates me. I will put off just about everything else in my life to ensure I get into the gym in the evening. I'll meet you before. I'll meet you after. you can join me there. But I'm going.

I write. All day long, every single day. I jot notes and phrases the way an artist sketches thumbnails in a sketchbook, or a musician hums bars. I join my friends at bars, breweries and happy hours and I have water. I don't even crave the taste of a beer. I don't miss it at this point.

This is my life, every single day. No exceptions. If you don't miss one day, you can't miss two. The Discipline has taken hold, just as I knew it would.

But it wasn't always this way.

Just 18 days ago, I was working out every day, and eating like shit every night, usually accompanied with several beers or drinks. I would miss a day at the gym, and think "I'll make it up tomorrow." Waking up in the morning to run with my sister was not just a chore, it was a Herculean task -- for HER. Texts and phone calls would go missed before I finally gave in and agreed to do it.

Of course, once I was there, I had fun. But getting there? Yeah, no.

Writing was still part of my daily routine, but nothing at all meant for public consumption. That muscle was atrophied after more than seven months of nothing. Of course, there's a very good reason for all of this. But reasons and excuses are just words you put around "I didn't do it."

Now, all of these things aren't bad. Eating what you want isn't bad, when you keep it in moderation and work out. Drinking isn't bad per se, with the same limitations. Taking a break from writing isn't bad. When things get bad is when you start making excuses in your head for all the reasons your life sucks, and they all pertain to a lack of doing what you know you should -- and you keep doing it.

That's where The Discipline comes in in my life. For the longest time, I kept WANTING to make a change. So I did just enough to show I was doing something. But the change I really wanted was taking control of my life. I dragged my feet on it, because I knew it required sacrifice, and I wasn't quite ready to get rid of all these security blankets and teddy bears yet. I was already wired to seek comfort from rich foods, alcohol, laziness, avoidance and distraction, because I TRAINED MYSELF TO.

So, I decided it was time for a reboot. I Cut the wires in my brain that connect "pleasure" to things like distraction and avoidance, and rewire them to things like self-confidence, self-image, fitness, creativity and feeling good.

It took about 15 days before it really clicked. Those 15 days weren't hell, and they weren't difficult, and they weren't even sad. I had headaches, and my back hurt in the morning when I got up to run, and it took me a while to warm up to the idea of all of this, but I'd made my mind up. I made a decision.

Making a decision is cutting the wires. And those 15 days were rewiring.

Now, the good news for me in this current iteration is that I already have a "fitness base" that allowed me to take on this regimen, and I already know enough about nutrition to change my diet in a healthy way, and I already have a reader base and platform to publish my writing again. But it's not about being any sort of upper echelon badass.

It's about the process. It's about taking control. It's about owning your life. It's about saying "This is for me. As much as it fucking sucks, it's MINE, and no one can take it from me." When I reach my goals, I will have done so through The Discipline and my victory will be ever so sweet, because I fought for it.

And there will be a LOT of fighting for it. But the hardest battle was won the day I made the decision and snipped those wires in my brain. I don't have to fight myself to fight the run, or fight the fatigue from the workout, or fight the writer's block, or fight the urge to eat pasta made from bacon or whatever.

I've got The Discipline. The wires have been connected. My mind is now encoded to love this shit. My body will operate accordingly. That's what The Discipline is all about.

8.02.2013

I Am Getting Happy

When you compare them side by side, actual happiness looks like total crap next to the things we do, say and buy to compensate for happiness.

You hear it all the time from zen transcendentalists: happiness comes from within. To achieve true Happiness, shed want and be fulfilled with what you have and what you are. Blah blah blah, all that shit.

A happy, stable life is boring compared to an unstable life filled with downs, where you buy your lifts and ups. "If only I had money, I wouldn't have to work this job" springs immediately to mind. What would you do with that money? Personally, I'd buy the exact same shit I buy now to compensate for being miserable all the time, just more of it and more often. And I know this, because I've done this my. Entire. Life.

Something I'm learning now: This does not work.

This year, I lost my wife, my company, my house and 2 of my pets. I've had to foster some other pets because I want them to have a happy life, and they would be miserable in my new location. It's been a huge reboot, and it's only August. So I have been traveling and soul searching, crashing on friends' couches and living out of a suitcase with my dog and my truck. And I've realized: I don't miss ANY of my stuff.

I don't miss my books, I have digital versions of the ones I'd re-read anyway. I don't miss my toys and figures, they just sit on a shelf. I don't miss my comics. I don't miss my furniture. I don't miss video games. I don't miss TV. I don't miss any of it at all whatsoever.


I have spent so much money on collectables and artifacts from a design firm, The Designer's Republic. I fell in love with them early on (you can read all about how stealing a Playstation led me to them and my career here). Every time I'd find anything from or by them, I'd buy it. I have a pretty extensive TDR collection. And every time I buy something by them, it reminded me of a time was hungry for a skill and a life I don't have anymore.

I collect it to feel that surge I felt when I found them, thinking it's going to energize this piece of me and suddenly I'll be hungry again. I'll go back to design and art and find my heart there and really learn the skills I've always wished I had. And it's just not like that. I haven't been a true designer in years. I haven't been a true software developer for years before that. I keep those skills handy cause they pay, and when I hit rough times, I go into those jobs and make money and lose sight of what actually made me happy all day long, because I could just buy things to be happy and feel relevant.

Same with Masterpiece Transformers, rare comic books, figurines, original art, steel Starbucks cards and stuff. All of it: trophies of a life I wish I'd led. Souvenirs of a trip I always meant to take. But there I go when I get down and frustrated about my career or life, buying trinkets that prove how great a designer or developer or producer or "real geek" or artist or whatever I am supposed to be. I have to be, right? After all, I know who The Designers Republic is. I have original art from Michael Golden. I own a Dali. I have shirts from my stint with Yahoo in the 90's. Look at all the treasures I've won.

A joke I made to a friend once hit me square in the face when I repeated it just the other day. I have a "Certificate of Excellence" issued to me, by me, hanging on my office wall. The joke is that the day I realized I could just buy one from Target, I quit trying so hard. It only now dawned on me that buying art supplies didn't make me as good an artist as I wish I was, and buying designer posters didn't make me any better a designer.


I've been buying my happiness all this time. I've lived a life where I was married to someone I loved, and my life revolved around the nest we built. I couldn't stray too far from it, because that was "home" -- so I made home as comfortable and modern and fun as possible. And it keeps falling apart, bit by bit.

The river keeps running. You can swim against the current all you want, but it's going to win. So instead of fighting the current on this river, I'm just going to ride it and see where it takes me. And ever since I made this decision, I've been rested, centered and at peace.

It feels right. Clear house and shed my old skin. Quit being who I think I should be, as a pro and as a person, and just settle into the life I'm actually liking. Lightweight. Simple. Direct.

While writing has been a part of my life for most of my days, I've never been a full-time writer. Articles and books make me a bit of nice side money, but I've never actually taken it seriously -- not the way authors do. I want to write for a living for the first time in my life. I want to tour on my writing. THAT makes me happy. That makes me feel whole. That, and talking about Akira. The only two things that have been with me my entire life that haven't shifted or changed.

I can tell you with all honesty, the last 17 days have been some of the clearest and functional of my recent life. I am busted all the way down to the very basics. I have 5 goals a day, and I achieve them without fail: I write a note to myself, I write on my blog, I eat clean (paleo), I workout at least once a day, and I am sober. And it's been really amazing.

It has hurt. I won't lie. I've had to face some very real pain that has been waiting on me to stop running from it. I have some (probably a lot) more waiting. And that's ok, because it's real. Hiding and distraction and faking and brave faces have gotten old. I am loving real right now.

Despite the pain, I'm getting happy. I'm writing every day. It's all I've ever wanted to do in life. And while living with a roommate again and owning exactly 3 pieces of furniture and selling off all my collectables and crap has been a stark contrast to the life I used to have, I feel so much lighter and freer. Living sparsely kinda sucks in comparison to the big house full of awesome stuff and all the comforts and trappings of successful American life... From the outside. From the inside, however, I know now that I vastly prefer being happy to looking happy.

I'm getting there.