Love & The Selection Process

I often wonder how I got with my wife.

We’re super compatible in so many ways.

And yet, I must admit, I originally noticed her at that barbecue

because she was hot.

Well, maybe there was more to it.

She wore blue jeans not a skirt.

Boots not heels.

She was working the room (or the yard as it were), painting smiles on passersby.

No name brands.

A cool long, suede jacket a cowboy could wear.

Her hair wasn’t done, wasn’t crunchy or full. It was just there.

She laughed wonderfully. Naturally.

And when we talked for the first time, it was like a waterslide.

No friction,

going everywhere together effortlessly.

Yeah, I was lost in her eyes

but I would have noticed if the flow wasn’t there.

So maybe love isn’t just an impulsive arrow going through.

Maybe it’s a bunch of little pieces,

coming together.

Flecks of stone and wood and glass swirling up off the ground

to create something

beautiful

complex

and able to hold things.

Fate, love, joy, peace, magic…

Maybe there’s more going on,

a blueprint designed in the blink of an eye

an algorithm being written

dutifully evaluating the physics of the scaffolds that will become our towers,

a massive amount of computation

going on

in the background

all at once

while I contemplate her lips.

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The Underground Prison We Put Ourselves In…

Monochrome Prison Cell

Humans are strange. Our way of dealing with stress is to summon more of it.

When we’re caught in a tough situation or we get a cold or our luck is different than usual, we tend to say something like:

“This kind of stuff doesn’t happen to me…”
“I’m not the kind of person who…”
“I’m not like this…”

Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but YES YOU ARE.

Right now, you are.

The stress you’re under is bad enough; don’t add another layer to it by bringing in denial and self-loathing. That’s like adding more bars to your underground prison cell, more shadow to your cave.

Because, eventually, you’re going to want to break free, right? And then you’re going to have to saw through those bars. You’re going to have to dig through that dirt. So why create more barriers?

When stress comes at you next time and surrounds you, suffocates you, do something unexpected: say hello.

Reach out and touch the wall of the cave.

It is there, you are experiencing it, that’s the first step to your jail break – recognizing you’re in jail, both the good news and the bad.

But here’s more good news for you:

That stress you feel, those walls that create the darkness, they are separate from you.

Knowing this is the key to your escape.

One final piece of advice: Instead of digging in the dirt and sawing through the bars to go back the way you came, just extend your arms in the darkness, trail your fingertips along the walls, and find the door.

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Tired Not Tired

Shallow focus photo of woman leaning on doorway

It’s okay that you’re tired at the end of the day.

You’ve worked hard. It takes a lot. Mentally. Physically.

You’re human!

Up and down is our way forward.

Just because you’re tired, doesn’t mean you have to rethink your life.

Instead, when you recognize you’re tired, just do something that will make you untired.

Focus on gaining your energy back, not on wishing it was always there.

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Truth Seekers & Truth Killers

Balance macro ocean pebbles

We walk the earth carrying our thoughts, a heavy load for a single person. These thoughts become laws. They become a rock-hard truths, stories of stone.

And we may use these stones to step on, to enable us to reach higher – this is a good thing – it’s why we carry them. But the more familiar they feel our hands, the less likely we are to let go of them, thus, the more dangerous they become.

We get weighed down. We walk in circles.

Have you ever had this happen?

You hold a dear memory. You’ve always told the story the same way; it’s one of your favorites. It’s as real as the air you breathe. And then, one day, you share it with a friend who was there and they say, “That’s not what happened.”

The time of day was wrong. The punchline was different.

Oh dear.

You’re a bit angry, you can’t help it. How could they do that?!

That’s the problem with stones and memories. As much as we don’t want to believe it, they erode with touch, with the friction of use.

We kill our truths with our own hands, by the need to fit them in our pockets.

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Lying Down & Getting Up

Home

The problem with Self Help is that it presupposes there is something wrong with the way you are now.

But fully embracing your current state, whatever that may be, can prevent meaningful growth and change.

Take the simple example of lying on the couch. When you resent yourself for lying on the couch and not doing __________, that only makes you heavier. You surround the couch with guilt. However, if you embrace the couch too much, you fear never getting up again.

We’re constantly battling this tension — getting up and lying down. We work (getting up) so we can watch Netflix and chill (lying down). We mow the lawn (getting up) so we can picnic in the yard (lying down).

Some people try to avoid lying down completely (I’ll sleep when I’m dead). Others leave out the getting up part altogether (I need my rest). Neither strategy works. Eventually, both the sleeper and the non-sleeper fall into the same hole.

Money doesn’t solve this predicament. Neither does time. Success doesn’t help either. No matter how grand the accomplishments, the glow will fade and you’ll be back on the couch, wondering, in a far corner of your mind, what’s next.

So what do you do with something that’s both inevitable and unsolvable? A riddle on your fridge greeting you every morning.

You laugh at it.

You put it in your pocket.

You crumple it up and throw it in the air.

You lie down and you get up.

And you fucking love both.

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The Wasp and the Spider, A Sequel

Macro photography of spider web

Exactly a year ago, I wrote a post about a Moth at my Window.

The moth, in being attracted to the light of my computer screen, flew into a spider web and nearly died — would have been eaten by the spider— had I not turned off my screen. I cast myself as the hero in that drama.

Well, there’s a sequel.

Yesterday, a wasp showed up hovering in that same corner as the moth, bouncing around in the cobwebs, now thicker and wispier. As the wasp hit the web, out came the spider, predictably so. It reared up and lashed out at the wasp with one of its spindly legs.

At first, I was rooting for the wasp, just as I had for the moth a year ago. But then I realized it was the wasp that was making the attack this time.

The wasp wasn’t caught in the web. The spider was. It’s fight was a defensive one, to protect the homeland and the bounty – a last stand.

I leaned in, safe behind the glass, like humans do.

I could see the textures of the wasp, it’s legs wrapping around the spider, it’s stinger swooping down and in, repeatedly like a jack hammer.

The spider didn’t have a chance.

The wasp flew away, leaving the spider a balled-up mess, and I wondered if the wasp was just in it for the kill.

I silently hoped the spider was playing dead, but one of its legs had been pulled off and was dangling off the edge of the web. It was over.

I pulled away from the glass, went back to work, forgot about the massacre.

It wasn’t until the wasp returned that I thought about the spider again. The wasp, hovering , examining the web, the spider’s bounty now its own.

Wait. The spider.

The crumpled mess was gone.

Had the wasp eaten it already? (I would have noticed.)
Did the wind blow it away? (Nothing on the sill.)
Had the spider made a run for it?
(How am I to know?)

Hope is not an easy thing to let go of.

Even now as I type these lines, here on the other side of the glass, I stopped for a second to knock on the window. I’d love to give you a fairy tale ending.

But death is all around us. We just miss the drama because we’re wrapped up in our own.

I thought about my part in this particular death. I could have knocked on the glass earlier. I could have opened the window and swatted the —

Ha! It happens so quickly.

Like the spider to the moth and the wasp to the spider, my agenda on top of another’s, drawing a line through a life to finish my own story.

Depending on where you are in reference to the glass and the web, life goes on.

Or doesn’t.

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A Good Worshipper

A spiralling stained glass window inside a chapel at Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas.

I thought I didn’t have a religion, but then I realized I’m wrong about that.

I realized it when I was having a bad morning and pulled a chair out into the sun and picked up a book of short stories by a guy who’s long gone and then I started reading one of the stories and by page 2 I was feeling much better.

And then in the woods, walking with my daughter, I talked about divorce with a slow deliberate pace, which brought me to talk about marriage and into love, in which she will inevitably become entangled. She hung on my words as tight as her grip on my hand, realizing, as had I at that moment, that there was something different about the way I was speaking.

After a TV show, just like the book, I replay the scenes, I respeak the best parts, dangling them like a mobile, the pieces spinning on their own, catching the light as they come around.

It’s the same reason, I sit back in a conversation of more than 2 people. I’m doing something over there on the side of the table. I’m at communion, taking it all in, tasting it.

And, oh yes, and what deeper prayer could there be than getting up before the sun, sitting in the ritual chair and clicking out verses in the dark! Transcribing the notes playing on the inside to allow the Great Manifestation to take place, something from nothing, as miraculous as the cosmos.

Head bowed, hands working without the mind, I am in awe, like a child creating fire from sticks, a flame out of the air.

My awakening must have been in my late teens, no wait, maybe earlier, tracing curved dotted lines on a Xeroxed page of a book. According to my mother, it happened even earlier than that, on day 1 of life, when I opened a single eye to look up at her, and only her.

Yes, I have religion.

So when you catch me off to the side smiling, or sitting in the sun with a book clamped on my index finger, chin up to the sky, eyes closed, ears open, you don’t have to wonder.

You’ll know what I’m doing.

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The Death Advantage

Photo of person kissing a dog on grass field

Us older folks have the advantage in life:

We’re closer to death.

Nothing creates a desire to live fully like Fear of Death. You can ponder this idea in your younger years but until you circle the sun enough to feel it in your body, Fear of Death can’t go to work for you.

It’s a panic, a very real body-tremoring terror that you’re running out of time.

Because, to say it straight, you ARE running out of time. That’s just how it is. For all of us.

It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, how many great ideas you’ve stacked up, how in love you are. There’s no logic, no fairness. Eventually, you will go.

But it doesn’t have to be sad. If you can walk through that panic, or better yet, stare it down and live alongside it, you will find the best years of your life, bright and slow, minute by minute, like a halo of light around you, your favorite music always playing.

And, when it comes to winning this wicked game of breathing and hurting and loving, there is no greater advantage I can think of.

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The Quiet Coach

Man sitting on rock during golden hour

I’ve always felt that someone is watching me, particularly in times of great decisions, not necessarily life decisions, just those little moments of personal risk when the ego is worried about its edges.

Jumping off a cliff
Dancing at a wedding
Playing on a playground
Speaking at a funeral

He just shows up. I can only see him from the back.

His hair’s a little thinner. His shoulders a little more relaxed. He’s always sitting, as if he’s been there before and knows the right answer. He’s too cool to be from here. That I know.

There’s never any pressure. He’s not judgy. That’s not his style. It’s simply about being there, showing up when I’m exposed.

It’s usually rather obvious what he’s thinking.

The answer’s in my body. Maybe he puts it there: a plump care package from a knowing soul, silky ribbon untying itself, flimsy paper unfolding.

It’s a familiar feeling. If I were to close my eyes and concentrate really hard, I would recognize the deliberate folds in the paper, the curl of the ribbon made by the scissors. The signature is there.

But there’s no need to concentrate, no need to know. Our relationship is perfect.

I’m sure he’d agree.




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Best & Worst Moments

The headline in my news feed today read: “Best & Worst Moments of the 2020 Music Awards.”

I admit, I was tempted to click on it, but then I had a realization that this headline is what is destroying us.

Sadly, this is all we get now: the best and the worst of everything, from YouTube, from social media, from marketers, from news stations.

The people with the stories, they know what we’ll click: Epic Fails, The President’s Biggest Mistake, Heroic Effort of Neighbor, Largest Crab in the World, Most Devastating Earthquake, 5 Things You Must Do to be Happy…”

It’s either all bad or all good. That’s what’s killing us: the piled up weight all on one side. That’s what’s tearing us apart from our friends and family, what’s opening up the ground and putting us on separate sides.

Everything’s all good or all bad. Mountains on each side. And in the middle a giant abyss, nowhere to stand.

The stories we feed on are never in the middle.

And yet that’s where we live, walking our dogs, eating dinner, playing on the floor with our kids.

All is boring and balanced, a beautiful life, and then we pick up our phone and we’re yanked to the side by provocative storylines we can’t resist.

What might happen if we stop clicking?

What would the storytellers do without our hunger and thirst for the extraordinary?

What’s so bad about being ordinary, when that’s what most of us already are?

We are what we eat.

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