Suffering


This is not how one hopes to meet the neighbor.

But there he is, glaring at me under the porch light, pistol in hand, erasing all the “howdy neighbor” dialogue I’d planned out for our first meeting.

I’d also wanted to tell him I loved the version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” he and his wife’s theatre troupe recently put on in a nearby park. I love Shakespeare but that didn’t rise up as the most relevant statement to make when you have a gun pointed your way.

Rather, our conversation when:

“Was that you?”, he asked.

“Yeah. I went to the backyard that way so I wouldn’t trigger the light over my roommates’ window.”

“Well, just remember that you could have died tonight.”

I was living with some friends during the early autumn of 2008, the third residence for me and Fortuna in as many months, during my turbulence and terrible post-divorce summer. That night, I got back around midnight from an evening with friends and decided to go into the backyard to watch the stars, drink a beer, and smoke a cigarette (amazing what habits return when your life appears to fall apart).

Seemed like a pleasant, non-life-threating idea. (more…)

Onward and upward

I wrote a quote on the inside cover of a journal spanning April 26, 2002 to January 12th, 2004. The quote, captured before I started journaling, accurately sums up the content that eventually followed:

To become acquainted with yourself is a terrible shock (Carl Jung)

This journal covers the summer leading up to my marriage. It covers the death of my father a month after tying the knot. It covers a time of doubt: for myself, my marriage, my life. It covers my birthday in 2003-2004 during a trip to Mexico when I rediscovered the ability to relax… after almost 18 months of trying.

Basically, it covers my dropkick into adulthood.

I reread this journal yesterday and reacquainted myself with myself, clearly seeing the incompleteness of my search for self during those years. The profundity of the Jung quote also struck me as doubly true. Here is a record of my search from almost ten years ago when that search was very present and active, now viewed through the lens of those intervening years, a perspective full of insight and sympathy for that past, incomplete me. (more…)

When we numb ourself to worry, vulnerability, and stress we also numb ourselves to positive emotions like joy, self-reliance, and optimism.

Puppies: cute, joyful, playful, and totally vulnerable

You know when you’re paying attention to something and you keep thinking to yourself, “That’s exactly what I think… thanks for giving me a new way to express it”?

That happened to me several times last night at the TEDxKC at the world-class Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in balmy KC. The talk featured (in order): Francis ScholleDr. Michael Wesch, Mike McCamon, and Dr. Brené Brown. They all had great insights to share on:

  • The intuitive intelligence movement (I’ll deal with this on my workforce site),
  • Moving from knowledgeable to knowledge-able (a MUST for anyone interested in education),
  • The global problem of human waste (the volume of the BP oil spill is matched in untreated human waste every two day… visit the great nonprofit Water.org for more),
  • and Vulnerability,

respectively.

Francis’s talk resonated with my career-development/21st Century Worklife mind, Dr. Wesch with my ‘role of technology’ mind, and Dr. Brown’s with my spiritual side; thus, it is with Dr. Brown’s thoughts that I am going to interact here. (more…)

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I’m not a conflict-oriented person; I’m more of a defuser. I’m the one that mediates. I don’t escalate. I navigate and create, if not peace, then at least a working truce.

I’ve made a fist and punched someone once in my life (my friend Chris back in 3rd grade when we argued over comics and I gave him what might be the wussiest punch/slap in human history). I had a best friend in high school turned enemy by a girl (‘mine’ then ‘his’) that resulted in one shouting matches (with him behind a closed door), and one night where he show up with friends at a fast food restaurant. I was driving away before they could all get out of the car.

Yet there is one relationship in my life that got to the point of ‘in your face’ shouting, threatening of legal action, months of cohabitation misery, and, for several years after, the desire to inflict bodily harm. By the time it all ended, my then-wife and I vowed to never speak his name; he was to be “He who shall not be named” or, the shorter version, ‘Fuckface’. My nickname for this friend (before Fuckface) was K-Swiss and that is how I will refer to him. I am not opposed to using his name but I want to respect the last vestiges of privacy left in this cyber-world.

This is the story of that relationship and how I came to forgive him, forgive myself, and to move on. (more…)

The Mexico Crew

This is the first in a series of musings I’m writing about Spirituality. For more on the project (i.e. caveats, reminders, excuses, admonitions, provisos, etc.) click here. Or jump to the second entry “Waking up”.

The ‘Ditch’ Story

I grew up an interdenominational christian because my father believed “it’s the same damn book” (and I do love the fact that he used ‘damn’ in reference to the bible). We went to all sorts of churches through the years and I feel my mother’s faith carried the light for the family.

I never bought into any of it on a deep level until I went to Mexico with my Presbyterian youth group in the summer of 1991. I was ‘forced’ to go to youth group because my mom correctly saw that I was hanging out with a bunch of losers and no matter how good your upbringing may be, peer pressure can still wreck havoc. She ‘saved’ me and for that I am eternally grateful.

See, it was on this trip that I found god. While the story is referred to as ‘The Ditch Story’, I actually found god in a hole meant for a septic tank. Fortunately we were digging the hole so it was not in use at the time I ‘found’ her. Finding god in the bottom of a ten-foot deep shitter has an irreverent ring to it and my truth involves a god with a sense of humor. I wish it was a trait cultivated in more of her followers. (more…)

Learn to be content

I Want, I Want, I Want!

There is no mystery in this name; it is what it implies. We think in deficiency and we talk to each other, to ourselves, and to the universe using language like:

“I don’t have…”

“All I need is…”

“If only I could…”

“That’s good but not good enough.”

“I’d be happier if…”

“Why can’t you just…”

Sounding familiar anyone? Listen to what you say to people. Listen to that voice in your head. Listen for how often you’re “wanting” verses how often you’re “content”. Does that seem right to you? Me neither.

Deficiency Thinking By Any Other Name…

For a while I was calling it “fear-based decision making”. I made reference to this in my “Why KC?” musings a little while back when I said:

I made the resolve in the summer of 2009 to stop making decisions based on fear. How much of our lives to we spend making choices based on worry, doubt, insecurity, and a lack of desire to change the status quo… even if the status quo is not enough to feed our souls? Even in insidious ways, I think the powers of fear and uncertainty makes us unwilling to reach out and chose to leave our comfort zone, to grow, to evolve, and to become who we want and are meant to be.

Even more recently, I started thinking about how fear is the realm of the survival brain and the source of our inability to live authentically by deliberately “losing control“:

Giving in to ambiguity, uncertainty, and the direction of universal guidance is pretty scary stuff. Letting the world see your authentic self is downright terrifying. Being in the flow, connecting to an emotional/creative state, and not knowing what the second step after the first will look like is not a natural state of mind for humans. Nor is the ability to be genuinely you in your daily life. Let me amend that: discomfort and authenticity are not natural states of the un-evolved human being; they are, however, the preferred states of the evolving, creative human being.

I Learn to Be Content

Content. I LOVE this word and I’ve sparred with some friends over its value. They said it “wasn’t enough”, which is ironic to me because, by definition, content means to be satisfied, to not wish for more. That is, in my opinion (which seems to interest you since you’re still reading), a great state of mind in which to be. (more…)

What you cannot control will set you free.

The survival brain says that we need to be in control. Control means safety. Control means calling the shots. Control means that we can relax… but only just a bit. Don’t relax too much or you might lose control.

I had control issues. I still have control issues. But my control issues today are opposite from my control issues in the past.

Personal and Environmental Control

My old control issues were all about self-control and environmental control. I wanted to present a face to the world that was calm, collected, together, and otherwise stable. My goal was to compose the face I showed the world before stepping out and then not to let that face change. Call it my “game face” or maybe my “life face”. I know I was successful because friends said I was the “stable one”, “the calming influence”, “Steve the infinitely patient”. Ultimately, however, I was projecting a false self, not my authentic self.

I wanted to be in environments that I could control; this is why I naturally gravitated toward teaching, why I always preferred a party at my house to going out clubbing, and why I didn’t enjoy huge crowds. I never sought to control those around me (in fact, I loved the originality in my friends, loved ones, and students) but I wanted the space I inhabited to play by the rules… my rules. What a frightening way to live! (more…)

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