9.27.2013

The Email That Made Me Cry For An Hour This Morning




I cried this morning. For almost an hour.

This email is why:

Hi there,
I don't even know where to begin other than thank you, thank you, thank you.
 
I came across your latest writing on the Huffington post when I googled "How do I talk to my family about my depression".  I have spent the last couple of hours pouring over your blog, and various things you have written.

YOU have singlehandedly given me the belief this morning that I am not alone, that's someone in this world has my back, even if it's not in traditional sense and I should work like hell to keep fighting.

I am tempted to tell you my whole story.  Let's just say I am a 35 year old, single (divorced for 10 months), mother of a 2 and 3 year old, runner, writer, thinker, corporate world professional (blah).  I was diagnosed with depression in my early teens and grew up in a family where my depression, any feelings really, weren't acknowledged, talked about etc... I was/am the black sheep and was really groomed to believe that there was things wrong with me that needed to be "fixed".  and I have tried like hell, I have told myself, you are bad, you are wrong, you need to fix yourself.  But see, the thing is, I have never been able to be fixed because I am ok just the way I am.  Depression is a part of who I am.  I am not broken. BUT I need to learn how to manage my way in the world and that is where I struggle.

I persevere, I triumph, I kick ass. I goal set. I reach goals.  I impress people.  I give the world tangible things to look at and say, Wow, [T.L.] is great.  But desperately, it's my way of deflecting from who I truly am.  It's my way of asking the world, am I enough, do you want me, do you love me?  And guess what, I have never gotten the answer that I want, because (here come's the cliché) the answer lives with me.  Inside of me.  It's not what the world thinks.  It's what I think.

So, my reality is that I am a single warrior in my battle to be me and to manage my depression.  I don't have familial support.  I don't have local friends - my ex and I moved to a new city together and really kept our circle, well, small.  In my reality, it's amazingly easy to isolate.  I have had a tough year, with a divorce, a move, the realities of single parenting, a demanding and shitty at times job (that isn't my passion).  I have had three suicide attempts (one in high school) and unfortunately the last 2 have been within the last year - this exact time last year, and this past March.  I have an amazing therapist (everyone should!) and the last few weeks, for reasons I can't really articulate, I began to spiral, into a dark, but recognizable place.  And when I spiral, I spiral fast.  I'm ok, then I am not ok.  I am kind of ok.  I am managing, and then I am throwing in the towel on life.  It's not that I want to die.  I have so many amazing things to live for.  I just want the pain to stop and when the pain starts to infiltrate every aspect of my life - physically, emotionally, I just get exhausted and want to check out.  So that is when I usually make an irrational choice that lands me in the hospital being judged by people that really don't give a shit about my mental health.

So this time, this week, I recognized where I was rapidly headed and I called my therapist for a emergency visit and we came up with a plan.  I was able to be honest, she knows me and all my realities well enough to know, that what she thought, and I agreed was best, was to take a brief leave of absence from work, and enter an IOP at a local hospital  - Intensive Outpatient program.  I was lucky enough to get a spot and I start Tuesday.  I will get properly medicated (I'm the classic "stops taking medication when feeling better" person) and participate in 6 hours of therapy every day for 7-10 days.  I am scared as hell and it has been nothing short of terrifying to step off the train and take action.  Give attention where it needs to be given.  I am freaking about this.  I am in a mess of paperwork for human resources, short term disability etc... all while feeling like a big pile of crap.  BUT deep down, I know that I am calling depression ( as you so eloquently put it) " my bitch".  I am owning it this time and saying on no, I am not letting you do this to me.  I am not thinking that this is the magic ticket, I know I have life long work to do, BUT I also know that I am doing something I have never done before that is positive.

So, here I sit, alone in my apartment.  The only people I have seen in the last few days have been my kiddos and their daycare providers.  My reality is that I don't have a support system locally - I know I desperately need to build that and it's on my to-do list when I get a big more strong.  I wish mental health, depression wasn't so stigmatized, because I tell you, part of me feels like there should be a ticker tape parade up my street right now in my honor saying, "Holy shit, you own this, you are brave and worthy, and amazing".  But no, instead, we are taught to feel shame and I am sure there are all sorts of interesting whispers about "[T.L.'s] medical leave" at the office right now.  Oh well, my life, saving my life, is far more important than that.  Right?

So THANK YOU for putting your amazing writing and thoughts out into the world.  I can't tell you how it makes me feel to know that I am not alone and that someone gets it.  I am so glad that I came upon your writing.  You've got a new reader and fan.

Thanks Joe.

Nice to "meet" you.

Warmly,

T. L. (Portland, ME)


I woke up this morning in a worse place than I was yesterday. And yesterday, I woke up in a worse place than the day before. It's been like that for a few weeks now. Despite keeping my head up and powering through, it seems life wants to test me a new way every day. If it's not having the back windows of my truck smashed out (on Sunday), it's having my Paypal account locked because someone falsely accused me of not shipping their item... and that's where all my book money is. It's been a bit of bad news every day for the past few weeks (hell, let's face it, all of 2013 has been a test for me). And this morning was just a new step on the staircase downward.

One of the [MANY] changes I've had to make in my life is the decision to write full-time.  I have made some very hard-to-handle discoveries about myself, and one of them was the fact that my entire professional career has been the cause of my misery. It's a struggle right now to do writing full-time. Income is meager, to say the least. But it's the right call. I'm convinced it's the right call. This email from T. L. confirms it.

I woke up this morning in a dark place, especially about my writing, wondering why the hell I'm doing this and why don't I just give up and go get a job, scared that this book and the next and the next and the next will just fall flat and no one will care, and then I read this email and it made me realize: I have a job. And this is my payday. T. L. gave me my paycheck today.

Today, I was told what I do matters. That means more than money. That means I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing with my life.

9.26.2013

The Difference Between Critique And Shitting On People



It's sad that I have to write this post.

Critique is feedback intended to educate. It may be pointing out flaws, highlighting errors, offering suggestions on approach, or even offering praise.

"This sucks" is not a critique. It's simply an opinion. Just like "I hate this" or "This is awful" or anything else. And to get smug about how "blunt" you are and how you're just being honest is bullshit. If you like being a dick, fine, you like being a dick. But admit you're a dick.

If you want to critique someone, critique them. If they get offended, they're operating from their ego and are sensitive, or unwilling to accept it, or ignorant. If they get shitty, they're the asshole, not you.

If, however, you intend to simply state how much something sucks, don't be a coward and hide behind "critique" -- at the very least, stand tall and admit you're simply being judgmental and dislike whatever you're discussing.

Hiding behind the facade of education when you decide to insult someone is bullying, plain and simple. You're trying to get your pot-shots in while remaining innocent and blameless. After all, you were just trying to help. No you weren't. You were being a dick, and now you're a liar.

If you've never made anything and you do this to people: Go fuck yourself.

If you make stuff and you do this to people: you should know better. Go fuck yourself twice.

If you want someone to get better: critique them.

You can have all the opinions in the world. You can hate stuff all you want. I don't care. What I DO care about is when you lie about your intentions, or try to have your cake and eat it too. Like I said, be as blunt as you want. Just admit you're being a dick when you do it.

(Also, when you receive a critique, "Not good enough for professional work" is valid and fair. If you want to get better, you'll try to get over hurt feelings and listen. If, however, you want to stay where you are while feeling bad, take it personally.)

9.24.2013

Need A Pep Talk? Here You Go!

Hey you! Did you know my newest book, Everyone Deserves To Know What I Think, is available for pre-order right the heck now? Check it out!

*******

You're feeling down. You need a pep talk. You know what? Fuck a fucking pep talk. You don't need a pep talk. You're a badass!

Get up. Seriously, right now, get up and read this while standing. Don't sit. You're not a sitter, you're a doer! You DO shit! That's you! And you know what you should do instead of feeling bad right now?

You should:

Drink two Red Bulls and go yell at an asshole who parked in a handicapped parking spot without a permit! Justice is awesome. Be the instrument of justice.

Go pick up a cigarette butt that a careless litterbug tossed aside and hand it back to them and said "You dropped this! I'm sure it was by accident, and I wanted to make sure you got it back so you could do something PROPER with it!"

Sprint. Any distance you choose. And scream "Fuck cheetahs! I'm the one to beat!" While you're doing it. It releases endorphins, which are drugs that make you feel awesome. And you're awesome. So start feeling it.

Wear pink EVERYTHING. If someone laughs, laugh back at them for being too cowardly to pull it off. Call them jealous. Because they are, because you're fucking epic and they're not. After all, they're not wearing pink everything, are they?

Go to a drive-through. Order only water, and hand the worker a ten dollar bill and say "SOLIDARITY, BROTHER AND/OR SISTER!" We've all worked the hard jobs. Show them you care. Compassion is power, man.

Go to Starbucks and buy everyone in line a coffee. Your cost: five to ten bucks. But you just made the day of a bunch of people who will spread that good vibe everywhere!

Fix something. There's broken shit everywhere. Maybe a picture is crooked, or you have a running toilet, or your oil light is on... Google that shit. Learn about that shit. FIX THAT SHIT. That's what badasses do. They fix broken shit. And you're a badass, so fix something that's broken right now!

Send someone who is down this pep talk. Because fuck a pep talk. Take action. It ALWAYS makes you feel better, 100% of the time, and you deserve to feel good. More importantly, you deserve to feel better than you do right now. And so do they. So make them feel better. It'll make YOU feel better.

Feel free to bookmark this and use it whenever you need. Share it on Facebook and Twitter and G+ and anywhere else you think people who need a pick-me-up will read it.



9.23.2013

Pre-Order Your Autographed Copy Of My New Book NOW!

You must pre-order your autographed copy of my new book right the hell now:



Autograph Options


That's a command. I'm totally not asking. Except I kinda am, because I can't make you do anything you don't want to do. But you should, and I'll tell you why:

Pre-ordering the book is how you get yourself an autographed copy! And what's more, I'm bringing back the old "Stick Figure" option -- that's right, for an extra buck, you get a custom stick figure drawn by yours truly! You also get a DRM-free PDF eBook copy of the book. Feel free to share it with your friends, upload it to The Pirate Bay, or print it out and shred it!

(NOTE: If you're coming to the pre-release event on Oct 4, you should buy your book at the store that night! Of course, you can pre-order too, I don't mind selling you two books :) )

But that's not all! If you want a sketch of something from the movie Akira (which I am an expert on, so it does make sense, I promise), I'll do it for a total price of $20.19 -- the year that Akira takes place! And if you want something from Ghost in The Shell (another film I'm an expert on), I'll do it for a total price of the year it takes place, $20.30! It's because I'm a nut, is why.

And if you're really feeling crazy and want a full-color drawing of whatever the hell you choose, I'll do those for $49.99. I'm limiting these to 10, however, because we all know I have an issue with time management.

Pre-orders are being accepted between Monday, September 23 and Sunday, October 6! So if you want your autographed copy with or without sketches and drawings, this is your window to order them.


On October 7, 2013, the book will be officially released through Amazon! The price will remain the same -- $14.95 for the paperback (and I'm sure Amazon will periodically discount it), and the Kindle version will be $5.99. However, If you buy a Paperback copy via Amazon, the price of the Kindle edition goes down to a whopping $1.99!

The offer of a DRM-free PDF will always be available.

There will be instructions in the paperback book on how to download the eBook. All you have to do is:

1) Find the code page in the book
2) Visit the address on the code page
3) Enter the code on the code page (which is "Pretty Please")
4) receive a DRM-free PDF of the book

And of course, if you don't buy the paperback and somehow stumble upon the page, you can just get a free copy without paying shit. Cause that's how I do things.

Lastly, there is an Early Release Party on Friday, Oct 4 2013, 7:00pm at A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA. Link goes to the event page, complete with map. If you're on Facebook and plan to attend, PLEASE RSVP HERE. Otherwise, please email me and let me know. I need to provide a headcount. Also, if you're coming to the event, you should buy your book there! Preorders will begin shipping on the 7th.

After the reading and signing, refreshments will be served at The Wrecking Bar, which is within walking distance.

To summarize:

Official Release Date: Monday, Oct 7, 2013 (Paperback and Ebook)

Early Release Party: Friday, Oct 4 2013, 7:00pm at A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA

Pre-order Paperback price: $14.95 -- All Pre-order copies come with DRM-free PDF eBook copy, emailed directly to you on the release date!

Pre-order with stick figure: $15.95
Pre-order with Akira drawing: $20.19
Pre-order with Ghost in The Shell drawing: $20.30
Pre-order with full-color drawing of whatever you want: $49.99

Kindle Price: $5.99

Kindle Price if you buy the paperback at Amazon.com: $1.99



Autograph Options
 




9.20.2013

"You Can't Save Everyone..."



I KNOW I can't save everyone.

If I could, I wouldn't have had to hear about a fourth person that I'm connected to committing suicide today.

If I could, a friend of mine who is making a terrible mistake by revisiting the same living situation that ruined her life wouldn't be doing that right now.

If I could, I wouldn't have had to get a divorce and cut off someone I was best friends with for fourteen years and married to for ten.

I can't save everyone. Shit, I can't save anyone.

But you know what else I heard today, after hearing about a fourth person I am connected to committing suicide? That I've permanently changed a guy's perspective on life and fitness with my posts and testimonials on fitness and CrossFit and my weight loss. His brother has started it too and it's changed his life. That was 25 minutes ago. Just a few minutes after hearing that I can't save everyone.

You know what else I've heard this week? That my article about reaching out to people who are depressed and on the brink of doing something drastic encouraged a woman to reach out to her best friend and that friend broke down crying, admitting she needs help. And that two people I know have lost nearly 20 pounds in a month by eating right and exercising based on my posts. And that a guy I worked with nearly 15 years ago found my writing on Huffington Post because he's going through a divorce and needed some help and there I was, a guy he's not seen in a decade and  a half. And my Open Letter To Pessimists article was used by an 11th grade class in Ontario, Canada as a study in the power of open journalism. They tweeted me their questions and I was blown away.

You know what I've heard almost every day since I started writing again in earnest?

That my postings about my experience with my divorce and my downfall with my career and my depression have made literally hundreds of people know they're not alone. That if I can make it, they know they can too.

That my publishing a new book on my own is encouraging two authors to do it themselves.

That a ninth couple who met via my old website's forums are getting married, and one of those couples is having their third child.

That in the five years since I wrote the "How To Actually Win A Fist Fight" Aricle there have been literally thousands of kids and parents who have written me and said yet another bully got taught a lesson, and yet another abused kid grew a spine - because they finally knew how.

That kids in suburban high schools across the nation got comfort from my telling a kid at my gym that he's gonna be just fine and the kids that pick on him will regret it one day (or worse, won't ever know they should).

That at least fifteen women have unfortunately had to use my self defense guide for women and it saved them.

That hundreds of mothers have sent my diatribe about natural beauty to their daughters and it helped.

That I make a fucking difference. That's what I heard.

And you know what? I wouldn't be here on this Earth to make that difference if not for the helping hands and direct involvement of some absolutely amazing people who gave a shit. Despite knowing they couldn't save me or anyone else, they gave me the power and support to save myself.

I know I can't save everyone. Shit, I can't save anyone. But I can sure as hell try to show them that if I can save myself, they can too. And I couldn't have if I didn't have the support of my friends. So I can try to give others strength and courage and let them know they're not alone.

And they won't be. Not on my watch.

9.19.2013

It's Natural To Be Afraid


Some days, it all just catches up with you.

My note to self today encapsulates my day. I am supposed to be announcing a pre-sale on my next book right now. But I've been frozen. All day, I've been frozen. I can't think straight. I can't navigate my day. I can't get from point A to point B on any one thought. As I said in the foreword to the book, I'm scared shitless.

It's not that my entire life is riding on this new book. That isn't true. I won't starve and I won't be out on the street if it doesn't sell well. I'm confident it'll sell enough copies to get me through to the next book, which will get me through to the next one and so on and so on. So while the finances certainly fuel some of the anxiety, that's definitely not the sole focus.

It's more than just releasing a book. It's more than just creative anxiety. It's more than the fact that, financially, I'm putting every egg I've got in this basket. It's more than all of that.

The last two times I released books, my life was drastically different. But it's not even about "the last time I released a book versus this time." The book release is just a catalyst. It's just the key that opened the lock I had on the trunk filled with the last year's worth of memories and events and trauma and consequences.

My last two books were all drawn from the stories I wrote on MentallyIncontinent.com -- and the vast majority of those stories involved my life with my friends and, at the time, my ex-wife. Even the stories that have nothing to do with her have her fingerprints on them, because of the man I was when I wrote them and her support during that time. That's why there'll never be another Mentally Incontinent book. That's why the two books that have been published from that site will simply remain as they are -- freely available on the website and Google Books, and available on Amazon when you find a used copy.

Otherwise, that entire chapter of my life is closed. I can't go back to it. And to be honest, I don't want to. EVER.

So I'm here now, in this new section of my life. And I'm plugging away at it the best I can, from the bottom of a whole new ladder I intend to climb. And it's scary.

What makes it scarier are the echoes. It's like being in a cavern filled with memories, all of them whispering to you about how much I've lost and how many mistakes I'm about to make and how I can't do it, because I'm done. I'm at the bottom. I have nothing.

The last time I published a book, I wrote it from a nice office filled with lovely art and cool collectables with a beautiful desk and a very comfortable chair and nice speakers playing great music.

Tonight, I sit in my bed, which is also my couch and my chair, on a laptop with headphones in the living room of my best friends' apartment, proofing the final print copy.

Last time I published a book, I was living a life based on what I thought everyone else needed and wanted from me. I was hardly whole. I spent every single day of my life making sure everyone else got what they needed and what they wanted. And I had a few people in my life who leeched every drop of blood they could get out of me.

Tonight, I have just read through the "Thanks" page in my book, which lists literally dozens of amazing people who in the past year have come to my aid and stood by my side and, in three specific cases, physically held me up when I needed them most.

Last time I published a book, I thought I knew who Joe Peacock was.

Tonight, I definitely do.

Life is different. Life is scary. My brain keeps screaming at me, saying I should just go get a job. And I might, if I can't make this work. But goddammit, I'm going to take my best shot at making my entire life about doing what I know I was put here to do.

So tomorrow, I'll announce the pre-sale and all that. But for today, I'm just concentrating on breathing.

9.17.2013

The Intro To My New Book, And Also, Hey, I Have A New Book


Tomorrow, I am announcing the pre-order and publication of my first new book in four years. It's called Everyone Deserves To Know What I Think: Collected Writings, 2003 - 2013 and will be available in paperback and digital editions October 1, 2013.

I guess this is the announcement announcing the upcoming announcement of the new book. Meta.

Today, I'm sharing with you the introduction to the book. In fact, I only just now decided it's the introduction. I wrote it as a blog post. Without intending to, I captured the entire reason this new book even exists. It's relevant, so I'm going to make it the introduction.

Thankfully in this day and age, with the advent of digital production and print on demand, I can do that. I can write the introduction to a book literally 3 weeks before its launch and still get it edited and included in time to make ship date.

So, here you go. The introduction to my new book, and pretty much the summary of my entire life right now. I hope you enjoy and support it.


*******


I. Introduction
______


I'm scared shitless.

The act of releasing a new book is indeed scary,  but that's not why I'm scared. I've released books before. Two, in fact. Both of them named the same thing (Mentally Incontinent), even though they were completely different books. I thought it was clever when Seal did it with his records in the 90's, so I figured I'd try it. It wasn't clever, it was just obnoxious. Oh well. Live and learn.

I'm scared because this book is the first book I've ever released while not working at some other job, or running a small company, or otherwise deriving income from another source somehow. This is my first book as a Full Time Writer™and it's Freaking. Me. OUT.

What if it doesn't sell? What if no one cares? What if, what if, what if... These questions, I've asked myself before. Each time I released the other two books, I had my fair share of ulcers and doubt. But this time, it's not so much "What if it doesn't sell?"

It's "What if I can't make it as a writer?"

Much, much scarier question. Because it's all I've ever wanted to be. And the truth is, it's all I'm really good at. And if I can't...

I mean, I've spent the last, oh, 18 years of my life climbing various ladders, corporate and not. And with every rung, I kept asking myself two things:
1) What will this raise in pay or status get me in terms of more freedom to write, and
2) How much can I write while I should be doing the thing I was hired to do?

It sounds immature. After all, "Buckle up your big boy pants and get your ass to work" is some of the best advice any father could give to any son, because in certain situations, it's the ONLY way you'll get anywhere. And sometimes, you've got to take a crap job somewhere and do whatever you can to rub two nickels together to make a dime.

That's not a problem for me. I can work just about anywhere and do just about anything when it comes down to it. And I will, should I have to. But right now, as I sit here in September of 2013, I've found myself in a position I've not only never been in, but I never actually conceived I'd ever be.

In the past 12 months, I've experienced more cataclysmic change than any one person I've ever met experiences in a lifetime. I've:


  • Divorced my wife of 10 years and 364 days, whom I dated for over 14 years,
  • Lost my house
  • Lost my company, a boutique animation and video game studio that was my only source of income,
  • Lost three of my pets,
  • Sold nearly everything I own (literally) to pay out debts and keep from going hungry,
  • Had my identity stolen,
  • Lost four people I know or am connected to to suicide


And yet...

And yet, I still have my health. I can still walk with both legs with no impediment. I can still see. I can still hear. I can still speak. I have a vast network of some of the most amazing friends anyone could EVER ask for. And most importantly, I can still write.

I have nothing. And yet, I have EVERYTHING.

So I'm starting over.

I'm at the bottom. The very, very bottom. And I stare up at the ladder I once climbed and I know, I could climb that very same ladder very similarly to the way I climbed it before. I could call my friends in the tech sector and score a job. I could work my way into any number of web or social media or video projects. I could be right back on top of the same mountains I've climbed before.

And in short order, I'd be back here, at the bottom. Because that's what got me here in the first place.

I've been chasing either dollars or prestige since I was 18 years old, when the dot com bubble started rising. I quit college after six months because it was possible back then to make an insane salary building websites. I didn't necessarily love the work, but man, the paycheck was fantastic, and I was pretty good at it.

But like anything you do just for the money, it got old. So I started diversifying. I got into design. I got into Information Architecture. I got into Social Media. I got into video production. I got into animation production. I got into all sorts of things that seemed very interesting, but only because they kept the pay scale where I felt it needed to be to keep the lifestyle I'd built floating merrily along.

And oh, what a shitty fucking lifestyle it was. I start a project with all sorts of grandeur and glee, and within months, I'm bored. So to compensate for the drudgery of the grind all week, I order presents for myself on Amazon or go shoe shopping or take trips or otherwise try my best to buy happiness with the money I earned being unhappy. I had a big TV that I used to play video games that I'd distract myself with to forget how miserable I was going to be when I went to work the next day.

And somewhere along the way, I started writing. And boy did I write.

My first book project, the first Mentally Incontinent, saw nearly 80 stories written to fill out 12 chapters of a book. My readers voted on their favorites, which went into the book, while the others just sat in the archives. Then, I did it all again, only there were another 120 stories for the 2nd book. And all the while, I wrote articles and posts on my blog. I freelanced for magazines. I wrote for CNN and Huffington Post (and before them, AOL News) and newspapers.

I was writing constantly. For the past 10 years, it's been the only thing I can say has consistently made me happy.

So here I am, at the bottom, starting up at the ladders before me. I didn't ask to be here. It wasn't planned. It's like every single strut holding up the platforms that built my life rotted out at once, and down I tumbled.

But now that I'm down here, I look around and realize... It wasn't the struts. It wasn't the platforms. It was the foundation that was faulty. I've built an entire life on the wrong premise that somehow, I'd make enough money being what I thought I should be, that one day I'd be able to be what I want to be.

It doesn't work that way. Period, end of story. The more money you make doing anything you're not happy doing, the more you'll spend trying to make yourself happy. It's a zero sum game.

So it's time to try something new. And by that, I mean fundamentally different. I'm changing not just what I'm doing, but who I am. And for that reason, I'm embarking on a new career. I want to be a full-time writer.

This book is the first book of my new writing career. It's being released in October of 2013, and covers the best material from my blog since I started writing it in 2003. I have another I'm working on currently that I plan to release in December of 2013 called The Book I Wish Someone Had Written When I Was Your Age, and another that I've started planning for March of 2014 that I've actually been working on for nearly three years.

After that, I want to release a new book every three months. Some of them will be shorter, some longer, but all of them will be on time. Because this is my new life, and this is all I want to do with it. And there's nothing else keeping me from doing the one thing I want to do:

Write. 

And that scares me shitless. We all dream of doing the thing we wish we could do, because in our dreams, the wish is safe. There's no way to prove that you can't, or that you're not good enough, or that no one will care. It's nestled safely in your brain and your heart, kept away from the harsh realities of actually trying it out.

But there are worse fates than figuring out the one thing you always wished you could do, isn't what you are meant to do... Like doing everything you thought you should do, and never once trying to make it at the one thing you wished you could do.

Hell isn't being a failure. Hell is dying with the knowledge you never tried.

9.16.2013

We CAN Save One Another.



Earlier tonight, I heard from the third friend of mine in two days about someone I'm connected to committing suicide.

I’m really taken aback by hearing the same sad news affect so many people I care about in such a short time. What I could really use right now is some understanding. 2013 has been such a crazy year for so many people I know, myself included. So much change, so much craziness, so much tragedy... This year has been, by every measure I can use, tragic. For a LOT of people I know.

We all need to rally around one another and push positivity. Turn off your fucking TVs and quit poisoning your emotions with tragedy and “reality” and start being a part of each others’ lives. Arrange coffee dates. Meet each other for library days. Go for a walk together. Re-establish contact. Get in touch with one another. Make each other a priority. Quit allowing isolation to swallow so many of us.

We don’t HAVE to be so damn alone all the time. We can do something about it. If someone is isolating themselves and doesn’t feel like going out, go to them. Show some compassion, and when it’s shown to you, receive it graciously. From the smallest aggravations to the biggest depressions, we can all save each other from sinking. All we have to do is reach out to one another.

And when someone reaches out to us, reach back.

Goddammit, we can save one another. This world doesn't need to be so jaded. We don't HAVE to kill ourselves. We just plain don't. We can love each other. We can help each other. There are people in your lives right now that can benefit from a phone call, an email, an instant message, a wall post on Facebook, a kind tweet... Don't wait for them. There's no point in playing bullshit games of who contact who last or emotional equity and who owes each other what.

Just stop whatever the hell you're doing right now, pick up your phone, and call someone you love. If you're hurting, tell them you're hurting. If they're hurting, ask them what's going on. Don't even consider it taking the first step, consider it participation in life.

You're alive. Do something about it.

9.15.2013

A Reply To A Suicide Note

(Update, 9.15.13: Heather Solos is a friend of a friend. I've not really read her stuff before today, but she's good people as near as I can tell, and she stands with good company, as I only have good friends.  And any friend of my friends' is a friend. 
Her sister committed suicide last month. This is tragic and sad.
There is a campaign to help the families of suicide victims, in her sister's name, and it ends today. I wanted to call some attention to it, because suicide is a topic that's very close to my heart. 
I'm reposting this response I gave to a suicide letter I was emailed last year. I've gotten a few of these in my career, and have even written one myself. I vastly prefer the perspective I now have which allows me to respond to these over the bleak one I had at a time in my life which made me write my own. I share this again in the hopes that those facing depression and considering this solution know where I, a guy who has been there and made it through, stand on the topic. I also hope those who don't understand depression and oblivion will read this and get some perspective, not only on the pain that someone considering suicide could be going through, but how to help them.
If you need help, call someone. Email someone. Talk to someone. ANYONE. Go to Starbucks and talk to a stranger. Don't sit there alone. Don't think you have no options. You do. 


******


I'll give away the ending of this letter:

You don't want to die. You just want the pain to stop.

Trust me on this. I've been exactly where you are. It hurts. My God, it hurts so bad. The entire world -- your entire world -- has come crashing down around you. You realized the constructs you put in place that serve as relationships were false. You realize that you never truly connected to anyone. You've had your heart smashed. You've felt pain your entire life, with brief reprieves that came when you felt you found someone (or someones) who understood you; who accepted you.

And that's gone. And now you're alone. You're isolated. You've been trapped in a vast expanse of nothing, because you were cut loose. You've made damn sure that everyone you know knows you don't need help. You're no pussy. You're strong. You're in control. And to do that, you've put everyone in their place. You've kept them at bay. You've never told them what's going on with you. You've never asked for help. And when they finally stopped trying to help you, you took that as a sign that they don't love you and never did.

And you want out. You want it all to go away. You want it to be over. And you think death is the way to achieve that, because nothing you've tried and no one you've met has ever cauterized the wound in your heart that's bled since birth.

So you're going to do something drastic... Something final. And that's your right (at least, I feel it's your right. It's your life, and you own it, and if you feel that you deserve the ability to go out of it on your own terms, in your own way, that's your choice and I can't stop you). But here's something you need to hear, because it's something you need to know: As you lay there bleeding; as your eyes begin getting too heavy to hold open from the pills; as consciousness begins to fade... You're going to have a moment that you don't realize is coming, and when it hits, it's going to be the most horrific moment you've ever experienced:

You're going to realize you've slipped over the edge of a cliff you never actually wanted to jump from, and now you can't stop. You don't want to die. You just wanted the pain to stop. You just wanted them all to realize what life would be like without you. You wanted to matter, if only for a moment. And all of that is about to happen, but in the worst way possible, and you feel for the first time that there are alternatives. Sure, you knew all along that there were, but now you actually feel it. It's in you. It's clear as a bell. And it's too late, because you're about to die with years left on your tab. Regret is going to set in. You're going to scream and you're going to cry and you're going to beg for someone to save you or for the pills to wear off or for your wounds to clot... And they won't. And your last moment alive will be spent in anguish and regret.

And then it's over. You're gone, forever. And we get to pick up the pieces. We get to clean up your blood and handle your remains and pack up your apartment and move your furniture and tell the world of your demise. We get to call everyone in your phone book and tell them what happened, and try to hold back the pain and the tears and the crying as we have to be the strong one in that conversation, over and over.

We get to hold your mother as she cries for days. We get to explain what your last weeks and months are like. We get to figure out, without any real answers, what happened; what we could have done differently. We get to live the rest of our lives knowing we couldn't save you. And now, we get to live the rest of our lives without you.

Thanks for that, you fucking asshole. That's right, I called you an asshole, because right now, you're being an asshole.  And what a waste, as you never wanted to die in the first place, you just wanted the pain to stop.

It can stop. Right now. Right here. All you have to do is talk to us. All you have to do is pick up the phone, no matter how many times you have in the past, and say "I need my friends right now." All you have to do is ask. We realize you're hurting. We realize you're weak right now. We realize you need help, and that you're not crazy, you just can't do this yourself. That's what we are here for.

But you see us as the enemy. You've spent the past few weeks or months or even years pushing us away, because you can't trust anyone. And that's because you can't trust yourself. You can't admit to yourself or anyone else that you are the reason you're alone right now, because you turned your back on those who love you and every time they chased you, you slapped them away.

Because you feel like you have to. Because you know no better. And it's just sad that you can't, because it's all so easy. All you have to do is put down the blade. Throw away the bottle. Toss the pills. Take the first step. Admit to yourself that you don't want to die, you just want to stop hurting. Ask for help.

My fear? That this might stop you temporarily, because it filled enough of the hole in you to make you realize you're not alone; that you're not unloved... Until it's not enough. And you convince yourself that I am just saying this to be nice, or because I feel like I have to.

Of course I have to. I love you. You're human, and you're here. You're alive. You have so much potential and so much access to so many wonderful things. You have a thinking mind that conceives of powerful concepts. It's just turned the wrong way right now. And I feel like I have to at least try to turn it the right way.

Please turn it the right way. Because when you are really honest with yourself in those moments where your fear can't hide behind bravado, you know you don't want to die. You just want to stop the pain.

So stop the pain. Call your friends. Get therapy. Stop being tough. Start being strong.

Or don't. I can't make you, and I can't stop you from doing what you are about to do. But I hope you won't. I really, really do. Because I want you around. It's entirely selfish. I don't want a life without you in it. I don't want a world that doesn't get to have what you bring to the table. But more than that, I don't want to live the rest of my life knowing that you lived the rest of your life in fear and panic and regret from making a decision you can't ever come back from, make right, or change your mind about.

But I'm not you. You're you. You're the only one who can stop you.

I eagerly await your reply. I can't wait to hear how you feel that suicide is your right. I want badly to hear your side of the discussion; to know why you've chosen this path. I want to discuss it with you over coffees had across multiple weeks.  I hope we argue about this for years to come, because you'll be here to argue with me about it.

And I think deep down, you do too. Because the truth is -- and this is harsh, but there's no getting around it -- you don't want to die, because if you did... You'd be dead right now.

You're not. Let's keep it that way.

9.13.2013

Home.

Home.

That word; that feeling. It's rang in my head a lot lately. It's hard to consider it right now, mostly because I don't really have a home.

I do have a place to rest my head. Several in fact. My oldest friend Mike has graciously let me move in with him, which gives me a place to put a bed and house my cats and my dog. And when I travel, I have several friends who have been more than amazing who have let me stay with them. They create little homes for me to feel comfortable and welcome when I'm on the road. And I am thankful.

That's not the point. It's not that I don't feel at home when I stay with them. It's that I don't actually have a home as I've always understood it. When I think of what my home was, I think of a warm sunny day on my back porch with the stream trickling in the background and the falcon calling out as it flies overhead and the deer walking through the backyard and my dog sleeping at my feet. I think of Miles Davis on the very high end stereo system in my living room, with my tv and my game system and my couches and the fireplace. I think of my office setup. I think of making grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch in my kitchen with my stainless steel cookware and my stainless steel spatula and cutting it with my exceptionally high end Ken Onion knife.

I don't have any of that stuff anymore. I don't have the cookware. I don't have the knife. I don't have the stereo system or the TV or the couches or the fireplace or the deck with the animals or the house any of that stuff was attached to. I don't have my studio downtown anymore, or my office that my company was once run from.

And I'm okay with that. I've accepted all of that. That home was a different life for a different me. And I can say with 100% honesty that I never want to be that me again. I like the me I am right now. I like the introspection and the development and the honest and the openness I've experienced. I do not in any way regret choosing to divorce my ex-wife. I do not regret that my company had to close, because it opened my eyes to a reality I wasn't ready to face (however, I do have regrets about what happened to the people who worked with and for me... That's a whole other topic).

I do not regret having to leave behind all of the constructs of that old life. But the fact remains, it's the only home I've ever known.

This week, I've been on the road. Being on the road leaves me without the constant reinforcement and reminders that I'm in a new phase in life. I don't have the apartment I'm living in to remind me, day in and day out, that I live a new life. I don't have my gym family, whom I spend upwards of four hours a day with. I don't have the routine that I've built the last few months. What I do have is a LOT of time to think. And given the time of year and the fact that I'm plunging into about six months worth of one year anniversaries of a LOT of reminders of the end of my old life, it's natural that it's all coming to mind.

But I'm not sad about any of it. In general, I'm a happier person than I was a year or two years or five years ago. I'm awake and much more aware of myself, my feelings, my personality, my work and my life in general. But I do feel rather nomadic. I've done a lot of traveling in my life, but I've always had that home to return to. I've always had that "home base" to keep me centered.

Now, my only center is myself. And it's both easy and hard to keep it balanced. That's why all the discussion lately about The Discipline and my feelings and thoughts on just about everything going on with me lately. When I write about these things, I'm able to have them out of my head and on a screen. They become tangible. They become manageable.

Fitness, this blog and my books are my center in a lot of ways. Writing is the counterweight on my pendulum. It keeps me from swinging too wildly in one direction or another. Rather than experiencing wild swings that alternate between diligence and indulgence, I am able to keep a manageable schedule and routine. My fitness and this blog are without question the closest things I have to a home right now. I retreat to them to keep myself centered and balanced.

That's what home is for me currently. It's inside me. It's the warm place in my heart where I go to write. It's the militant place in my head where I go to work out.

When you read my work and comment on my Facebook and Twitter about my fitness stuff, you're guests in my home. You're visiting my heart and my head. And I thank you for visiting. It means the world.

9.12.2013

Joe Vs. The Humaniac


Yesterday, while driving from the fine city of LaFayette, Indiana to the windy city of Chicago, Illinois, I got a bit hungry. So I stopped at a roadside diner for a bite. It wasn't a bad diner. It had a lunch buffet, and I'm a huge fan of getting all the fruit I can eat. And there was baked chicken. I get the protein, my dog Haggis gets the skin, everyone's happy.

It was a pretty day. Sunny, about 88 degrees, slight breeze... Your typical late summer day. And because it was warmer than I consider safe for my dog to stay in the car without ventilation, I wanted to bring her in. But the diner wouldn't let her come in. It was very Mos Eisley Cantina of them. They wouldn't serve her kind there.

So, I decided to leave her in the car, but enable the remote start. It runs the car for 15 minutes at at a time and allows the air conditioning to blow, keeping her cool and comfortable. The diner didn't have to suffer a dog, I got to eat, and my dog didn't have to languish in the heat. It worked fine for everyone involved.

Everyone, that is, except for the Humaniac.

In the field of animal welfare, the term Humaniac describes a person who is obsessed with the welfare of animals. Not in a healthy way, mind you -- there are people who have made it their life's mission to help animals, and they're a kind of obsessed that translates into dedication. These people, the Humaniacs... They're sick. They make the welfare of even a single animal a point of obsession, even to the detriment of other healthy animals and people and themselves. They refuse to believe that euthanasia can be a humane alternative for an animal whose quality of life is horrible. They demand that fortunes be spent for marginal increases in comfort or lifespan of an animal.

They threaten to take a hammer to your truck window and call the cops when you leave your dog inside it, even with the windows rolled down and the air conditioner running. You know, that kind of thing.

I heard an announcement over the diner speakers asking for the owner of a black Ram truck to come to the hostess stand. So I did, and there she was -- The Humaniac. There really is no other way to describe this woman besides "your typical overweight greying redneck old maid in a mumu with nothing better to do with her life than create issues to try to make her feel important."

Before I could even say a word, she laid into me. "You own that black truck?" she said, jowls shaking.

"Yah?" I responded.

She glared at me through her fat cheeks. "How DARE you leave that precious darling to suffer in the sun and the heat!"

It took me a minute to realize what she was going on about. "My dog?" I asked, knowing the answer by then but wanting to confirm.

"Yes, your dog!" she snapped. "Well... It SHOULDN'T be yours, the way you treat it..."

I sighed. "The engine's running," I answered. "The air conditioning is on, and the windows are down. Trust me, she's fine."

Her face turned red. "Like hell she's fine!" she barked. "She's locked in a hot car with the sun coming in! How... Torturous! How inhumane!"

"Lady..."

"I'm calling the police!" she yelled.

This whole time, the poor hostess didn't say a word. I think she knew better.

"Fine, please do," I said. "When you do, tell them there's an overheated bitch at a diner, going on about a dog locked in a car."

This didn't really make things any better. I wouldn't have been at all surprised if she suddenly exploded and showered the entire place with goo. But instead, she just stood there and stammered furiously. I walked away before she could get a word in edgewise. I dropped some cash on the table, grabbed my bag and walked back to the door.

"Come here," I said.

She followed me out to the truck, which was still running. I opened the door. "Here, stick your head in there."

She refused. "I don't need to see how hot it is in there! I know how hot it is out here!"

"Lady, stick your head in there."

She did.

"You see? Nice and frosty," I replied. "I treat my dog well."

She sneered. "I'd treat her better," she said.

I laughed. "I'm sure you would, if she didn't run away from sheer terror every time you tried to feed her."

"You're an asshole!" she yelled.

"You're adorable!" I replied.

She marched away. I got into the car and handed my dog some chicken skin I brought out in a napkin. Together, we drove on up to Chicago. Another day in the life and times of one Joe Peacock and his faithful dog, Haggis.

9.08.2013

(Almost) What I Always Wanted To Be




I was 10 years old when I got my first comic, The Punisher Vol. 2 #2, from a spinner rack at a Kroger grocery store. It was the summer my father adopted me. There was a badass dude with a big ass gun shooting shit.

From that moment forward, all I wanted to do was make comic books.

I drew all the time. I made my own comics from age 10 - 15, then I tagged up with a much better artist than myself and wrote them from age 15-18. Then we had a falling out, and I went back to drawing. Then, I made a tragic mistake and listened to the wrong people in my life and quit drawing altogether. Not that it's entirely their fault. It was around the time of the first dot com bubble, and I started working in that industry and got really busy. But the raw amounts of passion it took to maintain the hobby of drawing all night after working all day... Yeah, that went away.

The desire, though, always lingered. And every time I got the opportunity to pitch or conceptualize or coordinate with an artist, dreams of working on a comic would dance through my head. Conversations would take place. If they were interested, some preliminary work would start. Then life would catch up and I would get busy and the routine would start again.

Add to this the fact that I used the salaries and paychecks and reputations and client roster to bolster my ego in lieu of actually doing what made me happy, and you've got a pretty vicious cycle.

I moved from software development into design, then concept and pitching, then production, then marketing and promotion. Every gig I worked on, there'd be this moment where I'd work with an artist or a writer and think "Man... We should do a comic together." I joined Studio Revolver in 2011 with the hopes that I would trade teaching digital marketing and strategy for art lessons.

It's 2013. I'm 36 years old. I've been a member of an actual comic book studio for over two years and ran a studio full of artists for almost a year before the company folded. I've written two books (well, three, but I haven't announced the third just yet). I've written literally thousands of articles on my blog, CNN, Huffington Post, magazines and newspapers over the years.

Do you know how many comics I've created to date? Zero. None. Not a one.

I always had a passion for writing and storytelling. But in my brain there was always this little buzzing of a dream of making comics. My favorite medium from my most impressionable years was comics. So there's perpetually this 10 year old inside me that gets very wide eyes and drops his jaw every time he meets an artist or writer or editor he's a fan of.

So the running joke is that I'm not in the comics industry, I just live next door and visit a lot. I hang around artists. I teach them what I can when I can. I've done websites for them. Eventually I co-owned a studio full of them. I can't draw, so the next best thing was to be relied upon by artists and make their dreams come true.

I've been almost doing what I've always dreamed of doing for two thirds of my life. And that's the problem with being next door to the thing you love. You get to stare in the windows of the next door house all day long and see all the things you can't ever have.

Making the realization that I never actually wanted to make comics, I just used comics as my metric for success was life-changing. I realized that my dreams were not ill-founded, I just called them by the wrong name. And that's why they always eluded me. I couldn't get their attention, because they had no idea I had been calling to them in this crowded world. They didn't know to turn around and look for me.

Now, I've finally realized, I want to be a writer for the rest of my life. I want to make words for a living. I want to teach. I want to entertain. I want to educate. I want to question. I want to interrogate. I want to explore. And I want to do it with words. I've always wanted to do this, and I've been doing it for 12 years. But there was always this whisper in my mind that said "Well, if you can't do comics, at least you can do this..."

I've moved from the neighborhood where I lived right next door to comics all day every day. I'm now in my own place, living the life I know I am meant to live, and I'm happy. That's not to say that I won't someday write comics. I still love them and the industry and the people I've gotten to know. But it's not the end-all be-all monolithic dream it once was for me.

I don't want to be any of the surrogates I chose to be in lieu of being a comics artist and writer. I don't want to be a web developer anymore. I don't want to be a producer. I don't want to be a designer. I don't want to be a marketer. I want to tell stories and have them matter. I want to write, all day, every day, for the rest of my life.

It feels good to look in the mirror and actually see myself for once, instead of the image of who I think I'm supposed to be.

9.07.2013

An Open Letter To Pessimists



Dear Pessimists,

I know the drill. I was you, once. I remember what it was like. I was 390lbs, sitting in a cubicle at a software farm all day every day. I ate pizza pretty much three meals a day. I hated my job. But I was allowed to wear what I wanted, bring toys in, and decorate, so there was at least a semblance of controlling my own life and destiny.

When it came to fitness, I made the jokes about fit people. I laughed at Bill Hicks's routine about Jim Fixx, laughing about how this guy ran every day of his life and died of a heart attack relatively young while others drink and smoke and have tons of sex and snort coke and live to be 100. I laughed at the marathon stickers that say 0.0 - Running Sucks.

When it came to dreams outside of affording whatever prison I'd just locked myself into, I made snide comments about people who wrote on their books after work and on weekends. I poked fun at self publishing. I snickered at the guy who was training for competitive (prize) adventure racing whenever he could. I talked about "growing up" and "being an adult" and "reality checks" and all those code phrases we use to describe people we secretly resent.

I was a sad, sad person.

"Reality check!" I used to say when I thought of writing my book or finding time for the gym. There simply isn't enough time. The ramp up time took so long it wasn't worth it. And even if it was, I would never reach the peak I feel I should be capable of, so why bother.

I used to lament not being able to follow my dreams. But hey, I had to work. I had a house to pay for. I had two car notes. I had a wife to support. I had it all. Except happiness. I look back on it now, and I know that I had no idea how miserable a person I really was back then.

These days, I have less. Much less, in fact. No house. No wife. No collectables and toys coming to me via Amazon and ThinkGeek every day. But I smile every single morning when I wake up, and I smile every single night when I go to bed. Because I quit wishing and I started believing. I stopped tearing others down and started building myself up.

I don't want to live forever. Hell, I don't want to live one day longer than I get to. And that's the thing, I quit worrying about how long I'm going to live, because I quit worrying about "Someday." That's the thing -- you're obsessed with "someday" because that's the day you finally get to do whatever it is you dream of doing all day.

I already get to do that. Because I obsess over today. I am infatuated with the sunrise. I am in love with the sound of the birds as they sing when I go out running in the morning. I adore the taste of my morning banana.

I love life. More specifically, I love my life. Because it's mine, and I get to make it whatever the hell I want.

I hope you get to do that one day. I really do. Because I can tell you from first hand experience, the day you do is the day you will quit trying to level the cosmic playing field with your insults and witty observations and "reality checks." Something you really need to get through your head: your reality sucks. And deep down, you know it does. So you go around letting the air out of everyone else's balloons, because if you can't fly, no one else should, either.

It's jealousy and pettiness manifest in bitterness and a narcissistic need to bring the world to your level. You can't fly, so you shoot birds out of the sky. It's sad. Not "I'm going to insult you by calling you sad" sad, but genuinely, it makes my heart hurt for you. Because I was you. And I hated me.

I don't hate you. I pity you. And that's far, far worse. Pity is reserved for the helpless, and you're helpless. Because you've resigned yourself to a fate you pretend is inflicted on you by "reality" when it's actually your own prison.

I have three things to say to you, in this order:

First, you CAN change. You can literally be anything you want. Have kids? Have a job? Have a wife? Have a family? Have all that crap? So fucking what. You can still do it. You CAN find the time to do whatever you choose to do, and the rest of the entire world WILL fall in line. Trust me on this.

The second, if you don't change, it's not my fault. It's not your wife's fault. It's not your husband's fault. It's not your kids' fault. It's not your parents' fault. It's not your job's fault. It's YOUR fault, and you own it.

The third, if you can't handle that responsibility and decide to pawn it off on me by reminding me that despite my workouts, I'm going to die just like everyone else, or I can't make it as a writer, or it's not realistic to follow my dreams, well, fuck you. Watch me fly. Or don't. I don't care. I won't be standing around waiting to ask you if you saw me succeed, because I'm going to keep moving. And so is everyone else who has finally figured this out.

Keep trying to shoot birds out of the sky. You might hit a few. Go you. I hope it makes you feel less miserable; clipping peoples' wings and bringing them down to your level. But here's my own "reality check" for you -- you can't stop us all. No matter how many people you bring down, you're still going to die like the rest of us… Only we're going to die with a smile on our faces. Because we figured it out. And you'll spend the entirety of your time here unhealthy, either physically or emotionally or both.

It's not about living forever, or even living longer. It's about making the most of living, period. And because I finally took control of my own life and concentrated on lifting myself up instead of constantly bringing everyone else tomorrow, if I die tomorrow, I'm going to die happy. I sincerely hope that one day, you get to a place where you can say the same.

Very sincerely,

Joe Peacock


9.06.2013

Cheaters


There's a guy at my gym who cheats.

Now, when I say "cheats" what I mean is that he lies about the weight he lifts, the number of repetitions he completes in a given time, the time he took to complete a certain workout... Any metric that can be used to describe his success in the gym, he lies about.

Ordinarily, this would be completely innocuous. In regular workout terms, lying about what you can do is simply lying about what you can do. But in CrossFit, you're participating alongside other people in the same workout. Your metrics are on display alongside the other peoples' in your gym. It's not necessarily competition (although, friendly bragging rights are regularly exercised), it's motivation.

One of the most wonderful things to watch is someone who came into the gym as a newbie or overweight or generally green do a workout they did a few months ago and they completely blow away their old numbers. Another fun thing to watch is when a group of people who have been training with one another at the same time for a few months all show massive increases.

My favorite thing to see is when someone who came to the sport -- like myself -- had absolutely no aspirations of competing or doing anything besides getting in shape, and they begin to see a confidence shine through. They begin to see they're way more fit than they thought they were or ever could be. They become hopeful.

And then, there's this fucking asshole who comes in and goes through some motions and lies about how fast he did them. He shorts reps -- if there's a workout that calls for 30 reps in under a certain time, he'll do 24 and call it 30 to get a better time. He lies about the weight. Just yesterday, I watched him work out with 185lbs on a bar and when we recorded the workout on the board, he wrote 275lbs. There were nine other people in that room, all lifting near what he lifted, and he just had to look better.

He's a cheater. And he pisses me the hell off.

Other people in the gym talk about him. When I express my anger, they remind me that everyone's workout is for themselves, so he's only cheating himself.

Sure, fine. He's not getting the best workout he can get. If he ever competes, he will be exposed as being weaker than everyone else. That's justice, and I'm fine with that.

What I'm NOT fine with is the sense of entitlement he gets from being "better" than everyone on the board each day. He's not, in multiple categories, least of all being "morality."

I'm NOT fine with his thinking he can get away with it. We're not stupid, and he thinks we're dumber than he is. That's insulting.

I'm NOT fine with watching him put a number on the board I know he did not legitimately get when there's a guy in front of me who has been training for the past 6 months and has lost nearly 50lbs and beat him by a short amount. Here's a guy for whom confidence is extremely hard-won, who has years of talking down (both from himself and from others) to overcome, whose ego is just in the infant stages of learning not to accept those insults due to his new body and new attitude. And he's just under a guy who cheated to get his "win" for the day.

I'm NOT fine with any of it. And I'm not sorry. I am very at peace with the individual aspects of peoples' characters. As I've written in the past, I'm not responsible for the bad behavior of other people. I can only control myself. I am not the world's policeman. I can only control how I behave, not anyone else.

But I also cannot stand idly by while someone takes the wind out of someone else's sails. I consider what he's doing a form of bullying. He has to be better, so he puts himself above others dishonestly. In order to look better than others, he has to look at their numbers, then choose one that makes him look better. That's belittlement. That's bullying.

That's fucking bullshit.

I don't own the gym. I don't work for the gym. I do however consider that place a sacred place for me and everyone who goes in there. We have a family. It's exceptionally rare that someone could come into our gym and not be accepted for who they are, completely regardless of race, religion, gender, political standing, strength, endurance, physical shape or any other metric. I've never run into anything like it. And I feel it's my duty as a member of the family to protect it.


Yesterday, he wanted to work out with me. I very calmly told him that I count every rep, so keep up. He smirked and said "sure will." And then he goes and puts the wrong weight on the board. And I've seen him lie on the board enough to know, it wasn't simply a mathematical error. I have to be cautious, because I don't want to step on the owners' toes. I don't want to introduce drama where there doesn't need to be any. And I don't want to be that overzealous guy who, when everyone else says "eh, just let it go" can't stop chewing tinfoil over someone elses' quirk.

I feel that anyone who willingly disrespects the sanctity of other peoples' trust is without merit. So there's this. My vent on cheating.

We all screw up. We all make bad choices. I'll admit, when I first started CrossFit, I couldn't bear the thought that me, the gigantic gorilla power lifter type, couldn't move 95 lbs for 30 repetitions faster than someone half my size. I was embarrassed. And I was severely winded. There were a few workouts where I would short reps, just to get out of the workout faster and stop the suffering. But I wouldn't lie when asked, and I wouldn't put my name on the board and record a time or weight.

That's the thing. Honesty is a choice. We are predisposed to take the easy route. Humans are lazy. Look at every technological and engineering invention in the past 100 years. Every single one of them has been created or modified to make living easier. The same goes with the truth. We avoid pain. We don't like being discovered as weak, or wrong, or otherwise anything other than sterling. We all lie. We all fake it. We all take shortcuts. It's human. And we should always strive to do better, but a mistake is a mistake. But cheaters aren't making mistakes. They're cheating.

When challenged, the honest tell the truth. They admit what they did. They try to make it right. That's where the choice is made. The honest make a habit of being honest, because they choose to be. Cheaters make the decision to knowingly lie to another person for your own gain. And It's disgusting.

And don't even get me started on infidelity in relationships. If you think people who lie during simple workouts in the gym light me up, you'll go blind from the red hot glow of my face when you ask me about adultery. Mistakes are mistakes. Feelings are feelings. Stuff happens. But cheating is a choice, and choosing to betray to someone to get what you want is bullshit.

That's all.




9.04.2013

More Goddamn Artsy Poetry Crap


I've been slowing my breath
Learning to inhale slowly
Learning to exhale slowly
So that I might slow time down
And make the moments last longer
And make the seconds into hours
So that I can study it all
Every move they make
Every word they say
It's not working
It's too big for thought
It's too much to comprehend
All I'm left with is more time
To be enamored
To be confused
By everything


******



You are the first star of the night.
You are what all compasses and maps are calibrated to.
You are the guiding light.
Bring me home to you.


******



Here it is,
The only present I've ever wanted to unwrap.
Only it didn't come dressed in ribbons,
And it doesn't wear a bow.
There's no paper wrapped around it,
and even though there's no tag I know it's mine.
It's plain and it is simple,
And it's the greatest gift I've ever received.


******


That's the problem
Every second they spend on you has a price tag
If you can't pay the cost
They take their currency elsewhere
The solution isn't to afford the cost
It's to quit visiting emotional prostitutes
If you're miserable being alone
You're in poor company
And if you aren't happy being around you
It's shouldn't be any wonder why you're paying for attention


******


If there were any books about you
I would read them all in a single night
There aren't
And there should be
So I will write them


******



With the sunrise
Comes answers
Tonight
Let slumber overtake me
Let rest settle in
Be at peace
When the day begins tomorrow
I will know where I stand.
For tonight
The sun is at rest.
And so shall I be




9.03.2013

Once Upon Another Time (Last Year vs. This Year)


This past weekend was Dragon*Con in Atlanta. I've been going to Dragon*Con since I was 15 years old, which makes this my 21st year of attending. This year was my first year cosplaying (I went has one half of the 80's wrestling tag team Demolition. If you want to see more pictures, you should follow me on Facebook and Twitter, cause at this point, they're EVERYWHERE). I also gave a five hour talk/screening of Akira, and the capacity crowd didn't leave even after the 2nd intermission. I made fun of bad Hollywood adaptations of Anime films with 140 other people and we laughed harder than I've laughed in a long time. I randomly gave Edward James Olmos a ride to a panel and shook his hand. I literally had the most fun I've had in 21 years.


So, this happened. 


Dragon*Con has become sort of a family reunion for me. Every year, I get to see friends and professionals that I like and care about very much. Some live in the city, and we get to see each other every so often. Others are out of town and only make it here once a year. But no matter how often we get to see each other, there's an element to Dragon*Con that makes seeing all these folks, all at once, very celebratory.

And it was that way this year, for the most part. I run with a few distinct crowds that attend Dragon*Con. I have cosplay friends, artist friends, anime friends, wrestling friends, gamer friends and science friends. That's how I've been since even high school. Associated with many circles, while not really adhering to one particular group. I like it that way. I get to know tons of different types of people, and learn tons of different and new things. The crowds I run with are absolutely families. These folks are intimately familiar with one another. They appreciate each others work. They fight. They love each other. They hate each other. But it's all passion and it's all in the family. And when shit goes down in someone's life, they hear about it and they care and they want to help.

That's what I experienced this weekend. Walking around the convention this year, I ran into friends I haven't seen in over a year, and some others who have only heard about what happened in my life with the divorce and my company failing because of my writings the past month and a half.

To a lot of people, this story that I've been living though is brand new. For me though, it literally started one year ago this past weekend.

Literally one year ago this weekend, during Dragon*Con 2012, I had a contract restructured with a vendor that ultimately led to disaster for my company this past April, I had someone I considered a good friend get really drunk at a party and say some horribly negative things about me, I had the followup piece to the infamous "Geek Girl" article killed by my editor at CNN which effectively negated my ability to prove I'm actually looking out for the interests of the community and wasn't just some asshole who fancies himself "The Rush Limbaugh of Geekdom" (as one misguided blogger called me in a response article), and I had the first ever irreconcilable fight with my soon to be ex-wife because of some stuff that ultimately led to my divorcing her. And the entire day started with a phone call from the building management at my office at four in the morning stating there was an emergency that had to be dealt with.

At the time, it was a bad day. Looking back on it a few months ago, I called it the worst day of my life. Literally everything I've lost this year has some sort of roots that started growing a year ago this weekend. Or, so I imagine... But the truth is, those roots go WAY further back, to my childhood in some cases. I want to think that it all started a year ago, but the truth is, a year ago is when the foundation I built my life on started to deteriorate in a way that couldn't be fixed. It was the day the faults in the core were exposed.

Today? I consider it the best weekend of my life. Because it showed me the whole picture. It was the day the infection began to show. The chipping of the dead tooth. The day the paint began to peel and the rust holes began to show.

Ultimately, every single thing that happened a year ago this weekend led to an awakening and an understanding of who I actually am, and more than that, who I'm not. It sucked. But so does marathon training. And nothing feels better than the second you cross that finish line, because all the hard work and all the pain and the missing toenails and chaffed nipples finally pay off.

Make no mistake: I do not wish that kind of thing on anyone. It's fucking awful. But one thing you learn as you grow older and try new things and explore life is that pain is an incredible teacher. And once you're through the hardest parts and you gain perspective, you can go to a place in your heart and your mind where you realize, much like cleansing and irrigating a wound, that the pain of scraping away all that dead and damaged and infected material is the only way to heal properly, recover, and get better.

Yep. This happened too.


That's the perspective I've had lately. So it was a little difficult to walk around Artists Alley and the Anime rooms and the Wrestling forums and the Science talks and see the smiles of longtime friends, normally wide and cheerful, bent slightly at the corners and accented with sad eyes.

"How are you?" They asked. They weren't asking how I am. They were asking "Are you okay?" and at the same time, saying "I really, really hope you are, because I am so sorry you had to go through that hell, and you're aces in my book and no one deserves that and you're probably miles away from okay and I can't really get into all that right now so I'm just going to ask that one question and hope for the best."

"Actually, I'm really good," I replied each time. And I meant it. And unlike the last convention I went to in June, I didn't waste much time trying to convince them I was actually okay.

"Good!" They say with the corners of their smiles still turned down and their eyes doe-like with  sympathy.

I felt like I was being pitied. But that's not true. What I was really seeing was compassion. These are my friends. They care about me. They don't want me to be in pain, they want me to be okay. And that's what they were trying to say with three little words and a painful smile. And it meant a lot.

Periodically, I had to surface for air and take a break. But not because I was exhausted. It's because I felt like my responses were becoming robotic and practiced. And I don't want to give that to people, ever. I wanted to see my friends, and I wanted to share with them the joy and the exuberance of our mutual passions for art and film and expression. And it's really hard to do that when one part of the party involved has gone through hell, and the other part cares about them.

It's like nothing else matters. What matters is, are you okay?

The answer is, yes. I am okay. More okay than I've been in literally years. Because despite everything that happened, I'm in firm control of myself and fully understand myself for the first time. Instead of distracting myself with what color furniture to put on the sun porch at the house I was redecorating to keep my ex happy, I focus on the next blog post. Instead of posting pictures of my newest art acquisition, I focus on doing my absolute best day in and day out at the gym and in competition. Instead of dinners out with everyone I know and distractions to keep myself from feeling lonely, I've been spending time writing the new book and enjoying making my own meals.

I am okay. Good, even. And I really, really thank you for asking. This is not a "Jesus, shut up!" post. This is a genuine heartfelt thank you. And not just to the artist family that for some reason lets me hang around, but to everyone. You've all been so very supportive, and you're all my family. Readers of this blog, readers of my Twitter and Facebook and Instagram feeds, readers of my books and articles -- all of you, family. Anime fans, attendees of my Akira talks, visitors to my exhibit: family. Folks who show up to my open mic poetry readings, supporters of my videos, people who send me emails and letters and texts of support, artists, film folks, writers -- family.

I am overwhelmed with how much support you have all given me. And sometimes, I need to process it all and absorb it and take a breath. So when I do, don't ever confuse that with being upset or angry or hurt. It's a lot. You have no idea how much effect you've had on peoples' lives until you need them, and they show up in droves. And when that happens, it can be so overwhelming, it spills over the sides of your heart and you need a minute to process.

So I took a minute to process all of it on Sunday, between visiting Artist's Alley for the first time in a year and giving a talk to the Anime folks on bad Hollywood remakes of classic anime films. And during that time, I realized that my life is literally the polar opposite of this time last year, in the best way possible.

I've been through a lot, and am still going through some more. But I'm happy. And getting happier by the day. There are definitely hard days, and there are definitely moments of sadness and anger and frustration. But my life is genuinely better. I don't have ANY of what I had last year in terms of money, possessions or the trappings of modern life. But I do have a sense of self that started showing up about two years ago, was put to the test, and won.

I went through hell. And I kept on going. I proved to myself that I will make it. I may slip up. I may completely fall down. But I'll make it, because I've not only got myself to rely on, I'm surrounded by amazing people who will lend a hand. And more than that, I've got genuine, real life no kidding love in my life from some of the most amazing people on the planet. I hope you NEVER have to find out just how much you're loved through tragedy and loss... But if you do, my next hope for you is that you're paying attention. Because it matters.

Once upon another time, I was a financially stable married homeowner who had every toy and comic and art book and collectable I ever wanted. And I was sad.

Today, I'm literally the opposite of all those things. And I'm happy. Satisfied? Not even close. But happy? Yes. Because I've found out where all the things I ever thought I was and wished I was end, and who I am and who I want to be begins.