Chewbacca Farts

While meditating, I suppress my farts to keep the space quiet but the farts bubble back up into my stomach and growl out like a beast. It sounds like that noise Chewbacca makes when complaining to Han Solo. It ends up being distracting, which of course defeats the purpose of suppressing them in the first place.

But I’ve not changed my behavior. I still suppress my farts.

Can you blame me? I’ve figured out a way to summon Chewbacca into my morning meditation.

That can’t be a bad thing.

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Sick

I hate being sick because I love being in power. (…In power over my own self, that is.)

When I’m healthy, I can bop away bad emotions, I can summon energy when I need it, I can WILL myself to wherever I need to be.

Not true when I’m sick.

When I’m sick, I’m just sick. My body laughs at my need for power. My chemistry set is out of control. There’s no one in the room watching the test tubes. It’s painful to sit back and watch the room explode. I worked hard to put that thing together!

I realized the solution when my wife brought me chicken soup from Whole Foods.

The way home is ASKING FOR HELP.

But how would I know! I never asked. I was still stuck on stupid as my aunt used to say. The logic of chicken soup was out of my reach. I needed someone else’s ideas to lay over mine.

HELP comes once you acknowledge you need it, once you declare that you’re sick, any kind of sick: body-sick, heart-sick, mind-sick, dope-sick (they all have a way of merging together over time, anyway). But, shit, when you’re in it, you can’t see it, you can’t see anything, and so you forget to ask. Or don’t want to ask. Or you hate that you have to ask…

That’s why I’m calling on those of us who aren’t sick to look around, to make room for the white flags to wave, and to walk toward them when they do.

Thanks for the soup, babe.

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The Path of the Passionate

The most interesting clients I work with have such tangled, meandering work histories, they’re often misinterpreted as lost, noncommittal, or passion-less, when, indeed, it’s just the opposite.

It’s these folks who are so committed to their passions, to their industry, to leaving a mark and making real change that they pay little attention to their titles. They ignore the looping trail behind them, because, honestly, who gives a shit when you have such a beautiful, glowing dawn ahead.

Passion, curiosity, openness, ambition – these are the nonlinear guides that lead the bravest among us up and down mountains to the rarest of flowers, to the mystical spots on the map that flatlanders speak of, but never see.

And as these courageous deserters and adventurers descend from the mountain with their guides in tow, carousing and thirsty, they are always questioned about their path, and not of their discoveries.

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Boat Drinks

There is this thing I do during the day that I rarely tell anyone about, where I picture myself later that evening sitting in my favorite chair, drinking tea, and reading my book.

Seems harmless enough…

I got this idea from a movie: a bunch of mobsters when they’re about to do a job they shake hands and say “boat drinks” to each other signifying the victorious meetup after the score (on a boat presumably).

Boat Drinks.

Unfortunately for me, seeing as I’m not a mob boss in a movie, this exercise has a paradoxical effect. Instead of relief of what is to come, I usually just feel the burden of the present moment keeping me away from my elusive Boat Drinks. It doesn’t matter what the present moment is – whether I’m changing a diaper or driving home from Tahoe. There’s a longing that’s created the minute the Boat Drinks appear and, more often than not, those Boat Drinks (or tea, book, and chair in my case) never come anyway.

So I’ve turned Boat Drinks into something entirely different. When it comes, I enjoy the thought of my tea-book-chair power combo (oh what a beautiful image!), but then I allow it to live in its rightful place: the future, so I can get back to what I’m doing – diaper, drive, work, dinner, doodle. Because, as beautiful as sitting on a boat or in a blue-velour rocking swivel chair can be, it’s not sweet enough to rob me of more moments in my day.

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The Great Return

I’m generally a jolly guy so people will probably be surprised when they hear I think about being dead every once in a while. Not in a morbid way, if that’s possible, just as sort of an overreaction to difficult situations, sort of a quick way out of sudden pain or anxiety. Nothing intense like with a funeral and people crying. More like a quiet departure through an emergency exit, without the alarm.

And just as quickly as these thoughts come, they cycle out of me. The process looks something like this:

Aw man, this sucks. I’m never gonna get through this.
It would just be easier if I wasn’t here; then I wouldn’t have to deal with this shit (the death part)
Who really cares anyway?

(breath)

Well, if no one cares, I might as well do something.
Even a bad something is better than nothing.
I can surely do a bad something.
Maybe it won’t be so bad.

(some time later)

It’s good to be alive.

This little self-dialogue happens in a couple blinks of an eye. It’s not a daily thing, but it does come up every now and again. I’ve learned to laugh at it.

I’m pretty sure we all think about death, our own deaths that is. It doesn’t have to be grim. It doesn’t have to lead to depression or self-doubt. Like all experiences, it can be used for good, like when you go traveling somewhere foreign and it’s not as great a trip as you thought it would be, but then you get to have the experience of coming home for the first time in a while and that makes it worth it.

A few footsteps in the fountain. A walk in the dark to find the moon.

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A Contagious Glow

Ever run into someone who’s in love? When they talk about the one they love, they glow. It doesn’t matter what the subject is; you get a big smile and shining light, and it’s contagious that glow. You want to be around it.

You can use this experience in other situations, like first dates and business presentations. When you talk, tell stories about the people you like: speak of your friends, your colleagues, your favorite clients…

Without even trying, you’ll smile, you’ll relax, and you’ll light up. You’ll be great to be around.

And people will want to be part of that.

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Anxiety Has a Song

Moods are personified in babies. Babies don’t have filters. They don’t try to control their moods. We can learn something from this.

My youngest daughter freaked out after her mama hopped out of the car to go to a board meeting. She squealed as if someone had stabbed her with a pin. Oh, Dear Sadness! Anxiety! Mama! Mama! Mama!

My first thoughts were to console her to get her to stop so I could listen to my Jazz in the pouring rain. But then I realized, she is fine. She is safe. Let’s let the emotion play out.

I gave her a warm smile to throw some love at her and, perhaps, to cajole ANXIETY into showing up in all its fullness. C’mon out, ANXIETY, let’s see what you got!

My daughter’s squeals crescendoed instantly. My god, what a horrible sound! Tuning it out was impossible so I let the squeal ride over the Jazz like some atonal screeching lyricist sounding out her poetry. It worked. The squeal picked up and a cacophonous chorus showed itself: Waaaaahhhhh! Waaaaaahhhh! MA-ma! MA-ma!

Anxiety has a song! And it played for 5 full minutes — 5 ear-splitting, head-buzzing, headache-inducing, make-you-want-to-drive-off-the-side-of-the-road minutes.

And then it stopped.

Really?

In the rear-view, I could see my daughter’s head drooped down and bobbling with the bumps in the road. She’d crashed out.

The remaining 10 minutes in the car were a harmonious instrumental track, accompanied by the tap-tap of the perfect rain and the thump-scrape of the wipers. The gentle rhythm was back. The diva had left the building, seemingly satisfied to have had an audience and a space to sing her song.

It’s as if ANXIETY needed a witness, like a lost soul caught between worlds craving a sign that it’s time to move on.

Thump scrape, thump scrape.

She’ll be back.

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Me & Taylor Swift

I saw a Taylor Swift concert on TV the other night.

We didn’t mean to watch it; Amazon recommended it at the end of Mama Mia and then it just started playing. I’m not gonna lie. I loved it.

By the last song, my daughter was conked out, but I was wide awake, sitting in a bean bag chair 2 feet from the TV, clutching an oversized panda bear and singing the chorus to “All Too Well,” which I’d never heard before.

Ah, Taylor. Somehow, in a stadium of 10,000 screaming teenagers, you keep it real.

I went through a mix of emotions: nostalgic teenage loneliness, shameful parental concern, gushing love of life, tingly epiphanies popping up like goosebumps. It was wonderful.

As the credits rolled over footage of Taylor back stage drinking water bottles, I longed for the experience of all her sweaty, huggy fans — holding onto each other, discussing the best parts of the show with best friends, relishing the chill of the night air outside, and needing to touch someone the whole car ride home.

At 44, I had to settle for a bowl of pretzels, carbonated water, and staring at the streetlights. It was enough.

The exhilaration from a pop music concert was unexpected and undeniable, like a fortuitous message about the purpose of life delivered through a kid’s plastic 8-ball. I’m a fool not to follow it.

Inspiration, itself, is far more important than the source it comes from.

But in this case, the source was pretty damn cool, strutting down elevated runways over the people, flying across the arena in a giant cobra apparatus, speaking monosyllabic truths in between hits.

One by one the pretzels ran out and I had to put myself to bed, comforted by the promise of creating something honest the next day.

Thanks, Taylor.

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Escape Room

I went to an Escape Room the other day, which is essentially placing myself in a Heist Movie – a fantasy come true for me!

Upon going online to give this place 5 stars, I was disheartened by all the bad Yelp reviews: “Too easy, too hard, props need replacing, the layout is stupid, customer service is lacking, dumb storyline, bad location, lame special effects.

C’mon people. These are 2 guys who had a dream and who are pursuing their dream in earnest, with you and your delight in mind. Doesn’t that count for something?

These review sites and comment sections aren’t working. We’re collectively chipping away at our empathy, we’re underscoring the ‘us and them’ scenario, which isn’t good for us nor them. It doesn’t matter which side you think you’re on.

The fix is easy. Instead of delivering an impersonal critique to the masses, always give direct feedback to the maker. That way, the dreamers can improve upon their dreams, instead of having another sleepless night.

Oh, what great things we could create if people built each other up, instead of knocking each other down, if customers viewed themselves as co-architects and readers acted as sleuthing sidekicks committed to solving the same mystery as their oh-so-generous writer.

So many doors to discover, so many riddles to reveal, yet we choose to keep standing in the dark, back to back, taking turns criticizing the room we’re trapped in.

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People and Organizations

Comedian George Carlin said, “I love individuals. I hate groups of people.”

Hate is a strong word, George, but I get the sentiment.

The things individuals value most about each other – Compassion. Empathy, Accountability, Love, Vulnerability, Acceptance – ironically, tend to get lost in organized groups. Even if they’re written into the mission statement or posted on the wall in the break room, it’s hard to maintain these values once a group grows and commits.

Why?

The collective goal becomes more important than the individual ones. We begin to get rewarded for moving the organization forward – whatever we agree that means. As an organization expands, our responsibilities get greater, so we have to prioritize and we begin to internalize the notion that we don’t get as many points for making our colleagues feel loved as we do for making the group experience progress.

This is when the ‘difficult conversations’ begin to happen, how alliances form, and where politics bloom.

Love and all its derivatives take a back seat, even though the organization was originally planted in its soil.

It’s an inevitable paradox of nature, like the wind and the waves breaking down rocks to make a beach. Although no new matter is created and no one is to blame, something is lost and something is gained.

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