Men are F***ing Gross!

gross-guyI hate to have to say this, but in general guys are f***ing gross!  I don’t hate that I am a guy, but for the most part the axiom in the title is true and I am embarrassed by it.  Oh, not only gross, but stupid!  There are so many directions I could go with this topic, and I will attempt to stay on point.  Let me cite a few examples.

Let’s start with an easy one regarding the grossness of guys.  The toilet seat.  Why, why, why is it so hard to put down the toilet seat and leave it in a clean and dry state?  Why?  Look, I am not a wimp, wuss, or girlie man.  Yes, I cry, but we already established in an earlier post (Is It Manly to Cry?) that I am really not a wimpy guy, and I am not a –whipped guy.  I hate it myself when the toilet seat is up!  It makes zero sense to leave it up! Let’s do the math.  Let’s say half of the population always sits down. OK?  The other half (without going into specifics) sits down let’s say 30% of the time.  That means the probability of the average user, regardless of gender, needing to sit down is about 65%.   And everyone has sat on a seat that wasn’t there in the darkness of the middle of the night and fallen in, guys and girls alike.  But guys… that doesn’t mean leave it down and shoot for accuracy either.  Good grief!  I have to mention this too – it doesn’t really matter social or economic status.  Guy-grossness spans all socioeconomic strata.  I have been to 5 star hotels where a lobby restroom stall has been left in an absolute bio-hazardous state.  There is a reason they have full time attendants in there, but even then it can and does happen.  I won’t even go there regarding gas stations that have an outside entrance…

Next, flatulence has never been, is not now, and never will be an aphrodisiac.  So just stop!  It’s not endearing.  It’s disgusting.  Don’t you remember your willingness to endure every kind of lower GI pain imaginable when dating?  You felt it was important during those early times to refrain in order to attract a mate, but then what?  Rings are not fart tokens, yet somehow men assume they are.  What a stupid notion.   If there is any truth to the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt,” then we should never become too familiar with certain private matters.  If she thought you were Mr. Perfect before you unveiled all of your bodily function mysteries, and things were at their most awesome, then why would you ever even consider crossing that line?  Hmmm?  You want to know a great way to turn a woman on?  Don’t turn her off!

Onto the clueless and misguided come-ons.  Cat calling? Whistling? Staring at, waving at, smiling at, or otherwise trying to get a woman’s attention in a vehicle?  And, oh my GOD! revving your crotch-rocket motorcycle, or your twin straight pipes 4×4 pickup?  Seriously?  Why on earth would any of those ever be considered attractive? Ever?  Who was the first guy that modelled this behavior?  How did we men as a whole not yet evolve from primitive chest beating?  Sadly most males are mentored by men that were mentored by men that thought this was how you do it.  On this point though, I wonder if women are just a little culpable?  It seems as though women truly possess the power to stop this nonsense.  If all women enacted a zero tolerance policy in solidarity, one of 2 things would happen inside of one generation.  Either A, the population of the planet would drop dramatically, or B, men would get their act together and ascend to a level of classiness befitting a leading man from classic films or epic literature.

Now for bad bar/nightclub behavior.  The other night I was with my friend, who happens to be a woman, and we were at a nightclub watching a friend of ours play in a classic rock band.  In walks her ex-boyfriend of 10 or so years ago.  The boyfriend that never got over her.  He took a seat next to her, and started at obnoxious, and slowly worked his way up to, with the help of multiple beverages, complete asshole.  He continued to move his chair closer to her, and she seemed annoyed, but being classy herself, she wasn’t going to publicly embarrass him (dammit).  This guy was on a date!  She wasn’t, but he was.  I was uncomfortable for her, and frankly, I was uncomfortable for everyone at the table.  In what universe did this guy think that his stupid, loud, erratic behavior was going to make her rethink her decision for leaving him?  Guys generally have a bad read on women.  They take silence as an invitation to proceed.  I think it is obvious why it is called “women’s intuition.” Men don’t have any.  Guys, just because a woman is at a bar or nightclub does not mean that she is there for you!

Last one for now. Pickup lines.  Okay, so in the history of the world, has there ever been a woman with an IQ north of plant life that has actually fallen for a pickup line?  And guys, if she does, are you sure you want to go home with that?  Here is one that was used on my woman friend not too terribly long ago.  “Hey baby, you’re my next ex-wife!”  As if this was going to make her want to instantly shed her clothes and make babies with this Neanderthal.   I think someone should make a Cyrano De Bergerac app that men could use when speaking to women they would like to meet.   Just a little Bluetooth headset and the guy could choose from some basic topics, and the app would speak a poetic, romantic or thoughtful phrase into his ear, and he could repeat it to the woman in question.  My guess is, the app would give men a much higher success rate with women than anything emanating from within their own pea-brain.  Also, maybe the app should be written by women?

In closing, I am speaking in the general and not the specific.  There are men, a few, that aren’t gross or stupid.  Interestingly, a lot of them are very sensitive guys and have many feminine qualities, and as such all too often end up in the “friend-zone.”  If men could learn to adopt certain female sensibilities, while still retaining their innate masculinity, then it seems like we might be able to fix this.  In the meantime, I wonder if women will eventually stop compromising and settling for gross and stupid?


Déjà Vu, Synchronicity and Twin Flames

Twin FLame

Here are some concepts that have been really stretching me lately:  déjà vu, synchronicity and twin-flames.

I have done a number of extremely diverse things in my life, and have re-invented myself on a few occasions.  One of the things I have done professionally is to be involved in the hard sciences.  Chemistry, physics, materials science and computer science are areas I have worked in professionally.  I worked for many years at a highly regarded laboratory as a principal scientist in the area of exotic materials.  In my years of working in the scientific fields, I developed a rather cynical view of intangible concepts.  I became very terse and disengaged from any and all things spiritual or supernatural.  I was thrilled with discovery, and pushing the envelope of human understanding, but I was very limited in my view of what was possible beyond what could be measured or theorized.  If we could theorize it as being possible, then even if we hadn’t achieved it, I was driven to push physics and chemistry to reach the calculable limits.  That drive allowed me to receive scientific patents for things that had never been done before, but things that COULD be done without conflicting with the laws of nature.  The ironic thing is, that in constricting my thought sphere to only what we could theorize as possible, I had actually limited myself to a very small realm of possibilities.

Enter déjà vu.  All of my life I have had extraordinary experiences with déjà vu.  Even during the period of my life where I limited my world view to the natural.  Sometimes these moments were so vivid that I knew exactly what was about to unfold before me, and those moments would last from a few seconds up to a minute or two. I knew what was going to happen in extraordinary detail.   I never knew very far into the future, but I still knew.  I am aware that some describe the feeling of déjà vu as having experienced an exact sequence of events at some earlier time in their life, or that they had previously dreamed about a thing that just happened.  For me the sense of having had a pre-dream has also occurred, but my experience, more often than not, is that I have short-lived moments of the ability to observe the future for seconds before it happens.  I am not sure this is that useful of an ability, because I am always so stunned when it does happen that by the time I could ever explain that it was happening, the moment has already passed.  I know that there are hard scientific explanations for the timing between the left and right hemispheres of the brain getting slightly out of sync, fooling the experiencer into feeling like this is a real thing.  However, the experience itself is so powerful it defies even plausible scientific explanation.

According to Wikipedia, synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally unrelated. In order to be synchronous, the events must be related to one another conceptually, and the chance that they would occur together by random chance must be very small. Carl Jung coined the word “synchronicity” to describe what he called “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.”

Regarding synchronicity, I have had an unbelievable dance with this phenomenon for most of my life.  This one is a little different for me than déjà vu though.  It comes in waves.  There are periods of time, sometimes very long ones, where an uncanny number of synchronistic events occur.  For example, I’ll hear a song I haven’t heard in 20 years play 5 times over a 2 day period.  Or I’ll hear an odd word or saying, and then read it in the paper, and then see it on the news.  Or, I will randomly think of an ugly car from the 70’s, the AMC Pacer, and then I will see two of them that very day in completely unrelated contexts.  This will go on for months.  Then, inexplicably, they cease for very long periods of time.  I have made a very interesting personal observation with respect to synchronistic happenings.  The waves of them usually correspond to big life changes.  They often precede the life change, persist during, and continue for a reasonable time after.  Until recently I have never had the presence of mind to pay attention to what the synchronistic event was about,  I just noticed that they were happening.  I am now beginning to realize that there may be some important information in exactly what the subject matter is for the synchronistic event.  I will begin documenting them from now on to see if there isn’t some extra-natural encoding occurring.

Having dealt heavily with statistics, probabilities, confidence intervals, and correlation coefficients in my scientific career, understanding the probability of an occurrence being real and significant is a lynchpin of experimental science.  When I have pondered the odds of synchronistic events occurring randomly, they are usually very large against, if not astronomical.  But even if I were to allow for occasional random coincidence, I cannot account for the sheer volume of these types of events, much less their periodic behavior (at least in my personal experience).  Carl Jung was a scientist and the founder of analytical psychology.  He was a medical doctor and psychiatrist, among other things, and he surely had a grasp of probability theory.  He understood that the notion of synchronicity did not conform to the stringent confines of the natural laws.  I am no Carl Jung, but I must agree that these things occur in contradiction to the scope of understanding within the modern hard sciences.

Now for the fun part! Twin flames.  The philosopher Plato espoused that man is a half of one soul that is split apart from an original ovoid.  Each half that is split apart is a twin or “twin flame” of the other half, sharing many of the same personality traits, characteristics, and preferences.  Each half is a duplicate of the other, and as they take form, one assumes the masculine and the other the feminine.   Every person has a unique pattern and no other soul in the universe can merge perfectly with that pattern except for one’s twin flame.  Many people spend a whole lifetime searching for their other half, and when twin flames unite there is a magnification of the soul’s potential and power of creativity that cannot be achieved with any other person.  Plato also warned of the difficulties the reunion can bring. Often the magnetism and similarities are so overwhelming that the souls cannot emotionally handle the union.

Ok, this all sounds very unicorns and rainbows at first glance.  Most of my life I would have dismissed this as a lot of nonsense.  There are a lot of extra-natural notions at play here.  All of which have no foundation in repeatable and rigorous science.  So why then do I bring it up?   Because I now believe it.   I believe I have met mine.  The feeling associated with it is so difficult to describe, and there is absolutely zero scientific method available that could be used to prove it, and yet I believe it to be the case.  I am sure that there are many people, far too many to attribute to random occurrence, that can describe exactly the same feeling I have experienced.  I would venture to say that many people who read this will agree, even if they haven’t met theirs.  There is an innate sense of it. Something our subconscious knows much better than our waking one.

It would be tempting to say in all of these things it is simply a matter of faith.  According to the christian bible, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.”  But what I am talking about is not faith at all, it is experiential.  As a hard scientist for a good portion of my professional life, I did not make much room for faith.  Even now, it isn’t faith that propels me in accepting these ideas.  It is experience.  I have experienced synchronicity, I have experienced déjà vu, and I have experienced meeting my twin flame.  I am not discounting faith, so please don’t get angry with me.  I am just not referring to faith in this context.  I don’t have to see air to experience that is fills my lungs and delivers to me life giving oxygen.  Some will use the air argument as an argument for faith… “You can’t see it, but you know it is there!” But it isn’t faith.  It is experience.

The experiences that I am having now, and have had throughout my life, are real and can’t be disproven to me.  They can’t be disproven simply for the reason that I actually experienced them.  It isn’t a matter of repeatable experimentation either.  I can’t make myself have déjà vu or synchronicity so that I can measure and formulate algorithms that describe their properties and behavior.  They are not on demand, at least not for me.  Yet I continue to experience them, and I expect I will for my time remaining here.  So in all of this, I am being stretched to accept that it is impossible for hard science to encapsulate all of what actually is.  For me to only allow what hard science would allow would force me to be in direct conflict with my experiences.  This would actually cause a psychosis, of sorts, because these experiences would have to all then be categorized as delusional and unreal.  So, either I, and many or most others, are NOT sane and the boundaries of hard science ARE the absolute limits of reality, or, they AREN’T and we are all fine.  With those as the only  logical choices, I prefer to accept the latter.

Sink or Swim!

Sink or Swim

While my father did have my mental and intellectual well being at heart, he was certainly careless with other aspects of my formative development.  It was the quinquennial of my childhood life and we were on a family vacation in Lake Tahoe, California.  I loved the water.  It had a seductive power over me at a very early age.  It was a mysterious place where countless indescribably frightful creatures lurked, and also a mystical entity by whom fun was magically conjured for all who dared to embrace her surly grip.  Also, a place where death could appear more quickly than those who succumbed clearly ever imagined.

I am not sure what it was that intensified my focus on mortality at such a young age, but perhaps it was largely due to my father’s lack of paternal wisdom in so many areas.  For his part, I believe he meant well.  Either that or he just didn’t care.  It is so hard to tell which, and even asking him about it now reveals no epiphanic truth I can rest on for a deeper understanding.  Maybe it was the ghost of his own father reverberating through familial DNA to reach out in a vile attempt destroy his son’s progeny, as if the damage he caused my father wasn’t enough.  Maybe it was the culture of redneckism my father was cultivated in, that he tried so desperately to disidentify with.  Whatever it was, it all culminated in this phrase “Sink or swim son, the choice is yours!”  Those words hit my ears a mere second prior to the frigid water of Lake Tahoe stabbing a thousand knives into my 5 year old skin.

Without having very much life experience to flash before my eyes, that cliché was quickly out of the way and I wasn’t distracted from the task at hand.  I could see the dock that was my ultimate and only salvation given the facts surrounding my current predicament.  The very same dock where only moments earlier I was pondering how long it would be before I could frolic independently in this beautiful expanse of foreboding liquid joy.  With that question now answered unsatisfactorily, it was time to get on with continuing to live.  That was all that mattered.  I had no desire to sink into the blackness that I could only relate to what happens nightly in the non-dreaming stages of sleep.  In those times I simply ceased to exist.  Perhaps I was an early developing narcissist that could not imagine a world without me in it, or my id had provided me with an overwhelmingly healthy instinct for self preservation.  Either way, this was NOT how I saw myself ceasing to be myself!

I began to flail in a futile attempt to mimic what I presumed swimming was.  It was in this moment that I learned something critical about me that I would carry throughout life.  Evaluate, measure, modify, improve.  I had an uncanny ability to EMMI very quickly, and from a very early age.  Discerning that I must not have previously comprehended something correctly about arm motions in swimming, I rapidly realized that my hands could push against the water.  Oh, and so could my feet!  In a flash I remembered Bud and Sandy from Flipper, and how on occasion they would use… well… flippers on their feet.  My feet were the key.  I donned imaginary flippers and kicked my way to the safety of the previously unreachable dock.  From that day until this, I have been almost as comfortable in the water as out!

From the Buoy to the Shore
Today I was talking with my friend, and we were discussing my progress in personal growth.  This person told me that they observed some major changes in key areas of my life and I was sharing with them an analogy of what I saw happening to me in this process.

In my past, I have had so many repeats of the exact behavior and even configuration when it comes to relationships.   I end one marriage, and almost before I’ve changed the sheets, I am into the next one.  I know… it’s obvious to me too now.  But here is the analogy.  I am like a person that doesn’t swim very well that is 50 yards off shore, and I am clinging to a buoy.  The buoy is chained to the bottom of the lake or ocean and it isn’t going anywhere.  It is keeping me from drowning, but that is all.  I can’t move.  I can’t change my scenery.  I can’t make any form of progress.  But I can see the shore.  It is only 50 yards away, and if I could just let go of the buoy, and swim my very best, I would most likely make it safely to shore.  But I am very comfortable with the safe feeling this buoy gives me.

The thing that has paralyzed me into not swimming to shore (or making a critical change), was the comfort and familiarity with my particular buoy (dysfunction).  It was clearly the Devil I know.  The shore wasn’t the Devil I don’t know, but from where I was on the buoy, it might as well have been.  So I would become frozen into inaction.  Nothing changed.  Recently though, I decided it was time to let go of the buoy and swim for my life.  It threw me headlong into the memory of my “sink or swim” moment from childhood.  Now, just as then, I made it to shore.  From the shore I can see so much freedom.  I can go places I have never been.  I can explore!  I can take on new challenges and finally join and accomplish my purpose here.  Standing here on the shore, it saddens me that it took me this long to be willing to let go.  I know that it was fear that kept me from making meaningful and persistent changes.  But it is the willingness to swim despite the fear that gives me the true power to change.  So, when given the choice to “sink or swim?” I choose to swim!

I Composed This Instrumental Today in Honor of St. Patricks Day


I wanted to do something special in honor of today and for my Irish friends, so I spent this afternoon composing this instrumental that has a slight Irish feel.  I hope you enjoy it!  It was definitely fun to do… Music = Healing!  Oh, it doesn’t have a name yet, so if there are any suggestions I will edit this post with the suggested song title and the name of the person that suggested it!

Fond Memories of My Time in Prison…

San Quentin State Prison

The huge gnarled hand of this particular giant was a very welcomed sight.  I suppose I should have been frightened given that the hand was that of a hardened criminal, possibly a lifer, probably a murderer, and we were in prison together.  San Quentin to be precise.  He was wearing a white server’s tunic as he leaned over to put the frisbee sized chocolate chip cookie on my plate.  I accepted it with grateful anticipation.  This is how it was every Sunday afternoon for me throughout most of the early childhood (2 to 5 years old).  Eating a free meal served by the trustee convicts to the families of the prison guards.  I suppose in the vernacular of the day it was the “cons” serving the “screws” and their families their Sunday meal, courtesy of the State of California.  My years in prison are among my earliest waking memories, and they resonate with fondness in my thoughts still.

Isn’t it funny how we often fill in the details with the worst possible thoughts when we don’t have all of the information?  I didn’t write the caption as click-bait, I assure you.  But it is an interesting observation in human nature.  We are so drawn to trainwrecks and other people’s tragic circumstances.  It seems like the whole “moth to a flame” phenomenon is pervasive in us when it comes to horrible news and stories not directly involving us.   It also speaks to our propensity for forming preconceived notions.  I have been so guilty throughout my life at formulating narratives about others that were not based in fact, but rather perception.  I feel that I have tossed out a great number of relationships that could have benefited me had I not allowed myself to lean on my judgemental nature.  You want to hear a really really hypocritical one?  I have always judged divorced people!  Yes, mister 4-time divorcé!  I was raised in such a stringent fundamentalist environment in my earliest years that I came to believe divorce was tantamount to the unpardonable sin.  Yet I am a repeat offender of that very same sin!

Here is my epiphany for the day.  Being judgemental has robbed me of experiencing the beauty of broken souls.  I am a broken soul, and I long to be connected to others.  Now, more than ever.  I would like to think that I have something to offer, but I also see that my outer and visible narrative associated with so much relational failure can be off-putting to many, and a trainwreck to even more.  I also think it is worthy to note how all judgement eventually dissolves in those that find themselves in the very situation they judged so harshly.  It certainly did in me.  I now have a deep empathy and compassion for people of divorce and fractured relationships.  A very real tragedy for me is that it took 4 divorces to fully arrive here.

I am a Manic Deflective!

Well, not exactly manic in the strictest sense, but definitely deflective (not depressive)! I happen to be one of the fortunate people in the world whose parents are both clinically diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, yet I don’t actually suffer from the illness myself.  Sadly, it did skip over me and land squarely on the shoulders of my oldest son.  He has been hospitalized twice and has been under routine mental health care from our local county for years. Even though I am not a clinical professional of any ilk, I have had a lifetime of close personal observation of serious mental illness.

My highly educated, philosophical, and otherwise sane father (when medicated), once declared that a US space station (Skylab) was going to fall out of orbit and land on Moscow, and that the Soviet Union (Russia now) was going to nuke Hawaii in retaliation.  He then proceeded to drive around the island of Oahu (where he lived at the time) throwing pieces of clothing out of the car at a specific interval so that they would not all be in the same place in case he needed them when the bomb fell.

My mother once declared that her birth occurred to signify the second coming of Jesus Christ, and that she was chosen to usher in the 1000 year reign of Christ on Earth.  Oh, and there was a mothership orbiting the planet ready to pick her up at any moment.  She also went into a jewelry store and put $50,000.00 (that’s what I was told, but I am not sure how accurate that number is) worth of jewels on her corporate credit card.  At the time she snapped, she was a high powered executive in corporate America, but her mental break put an end to that forever.

My son walked off of his job as a night time gas station/convenience store clerk because he feared that there was an invisible presence there that intended to rob and kill him.  He abandoned the store and went to call the police at a pay phone, leaving the place completely empty, and the cash register unguarded.  This psychotic break with reality got him admitted against his wishes as an in-patient for the second time in his adult life.

In all of these occurrences, I have felt completely helpless.  I could do nothing to help these very important people to me, other take them to professional care (in the case of my mother and son), or watch as a helpless spectator (in the case of my father).

Why Am I Telling You This?
The backstory in this case is to give a sense of what has formed me to a large degree when it comes to certain aspects of my emotional intelligence.  In an earlier post I asked the question “Is It Manly to Cry?” I told a story about how a childhood event caused me to disconnect from an innate part of my personality.  Specifically, my natural inclination to be sensitive and cry. Watching mental illness thrive all around me frightened me so much.  I was afraid that at any moment I would succumb to the demons that plagued my family members and go crazy.  As a result, I have been careful to be on guard when it has come to anything I perceived as mentally unstable in myself.

As an inventor and serial entrepreneur, I have always had to have a very positive and upbeat attitude.  I have even watched myself on multiple occasions go over the top with exuberance and passion when it comes to pitching an idea, or  designing a new product.  As a business owner, one thing you always have to be is a positive and upbeat salesperson.   One thing you can never be is down!  When you think of well known successful people, depressed is not usually an adjective that pops into your head.

If I had to count, I would say that there have been maybe 5 occasions lasting 2 days tops, other than the death of my best friend when I was 16, where I would say that I was depressed.  In clinical terms, I am not sure any of those actually count as depression.  I have never been lethargic. I was withdrawn, but approachable and would put on a decent face the best I could for those around me.  I continued to eat.  I only slept my normal amount.  So, I have to say that even those 5 moments are questionable as to official depression.  10 days of “depression?” … not depression.

Here is where the Manic-Deflection comes in.  Though many many people would tell you otherwise, I have always had an unseen governor on my emotions.  The biggest governor was powered by fear.  I always feared I would go crazy.  I have never been truly and fully unbridled in my emotions.  That may be perceived as high EQ (Emotional Quotient) to some, but in reality it might actually be low EQ.  Deflection or substitution (often humor) has been my goto response when things get too tough for me emotionally.  In relationships, I vacated emotionally when it got too tough.  Oh I remained congenial, friendly, and funny, but disconnected emotionally.   I was pretty good at appearing connected while being very withdrawn.  I did this from 2008 until 2016 with Ex-4 until we divorced.  If, in a relationship, I couldn’t remain congenial, then I didn’t remain at all.  This was the case with Ex-1, Ex-2, and Ex-3.  Ex-4 ended up leaving me on paper, but in reality, I had left her 8 years earlier.   I just left her while still in-place.

So then what exactly is this Manic-Deflection thing?  Well, manic in this case, is forcing an excessively upbeat attitude onto situations that call for a different emotion.  You know “Keep your chin up!”, “Look on the bright side!”, or “Never say die!”, when what might be called for was grief, feeling of loss, sorrow, disappointment, or any other emotion I would have previously categorized as negative and not worth my time and energy.  Deflection is the mechanism by which the forced coping attitude would manifest.  In reality, this is just another way of running away that I invented to not have to deal with my brokenness.  It was the ultimate game of cosmic kick-the-can.  One I was willing to play to my grave.  But all that being a Manic-Deflective ever really did for me was to delay the inevitable and accumulate all of these emotions into a big garbage dump soaked with fuel that was waiting to ignite.

Recently, my friend encouraged me to go visit the dump and put it in order.  This is one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life.  Scary for a couple of reasons.  One, I don’t want to do this because it hurts!  But like a little child that doesn’t want a vaccination, I need it.  And two, I am afraid it might be the tipping point into total craziness like my mother, father and son.  I know I am genetically predisposed to mental illness, and I have fought my entire life to keep a lid on it.  What I have realized is, I would actually be crazy not to go straighten this stuff out.  I can’t allow myself to avoid what the universe has been screaming for me to do my whole life in order that I can begin to fulfill my true calling.  Part of that calling I had never even imagined before, like this blog, for example.

So, I am not sure exactly what to label what I am becoming in place of a Manic-Deflective.  If you have any thoughts on that, please let me know!  I know this though, I am meant to feel every emotion I was designed to feel.  They were built into me for a reason.  Avoiding them and deflecting them, even to the grave, might suffice in getting me to the grave without my own stay at the mental hospital, but it will disconnect me from my purpose.  I need to be willing to risk crazy in order to be whole and authentic.

P.S. The crying streak continues, and it is beautiful…

Is Hindsight Really 20/20?

I have heard the adage that hindsight is 20/20 my whole life.  It seems like a thing that should be true.  If you could look back and say, “I should’ve done ____, instead of that thing that I did do,” it makes sense.  I guess the assumption is that in doing ____, we would have made the right decision and things would have been different, and presumably better.  Of course, it works the other way too.  “It’s a good thing I _____, instead of what I almost did!”  But whether it would have been avoiding a bad decision, or memorializing good ones, the notion is that if we could have somehow popped forward in time, looked backward at the outcome of our decisions, and then returned to our timeline, we would always make the right ones.

Here is where I am stuck.  When I look back at many events in my life, I can neither make much sense of them, nor figure out what the different thing is that would have truly made them better.  Since time moves ever onward, you would think that the easiest lesson in life would be the one where we continually look back so that we can observe our mistakes and then immediately turn around, look forward,  and then never repeat them.   It should be so simple.  Why then doesn’t that work?

Lately, I have been wrestling with this conundrum, and here is where I am with it at the moment.  I think I have determined that the problem lies within our optics.  Actually put another way, our optics lie.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter which direction you look, forward or back, if your optics are bad.  I have found recently that I have preferred to look at my past with distorted and heavily filtered optics.  Ones that always tend to favor my appearance and actions in the past, and disfavor the appearance and actions of any other player in those historical scenes.

As I am dedicated to trying to get a better view on who I really am, and how I got to be where I am, I have discovered that I need a new prescription.  I have actually needed one for a long time.  I love the videos that float around on social media where they show a baby getting glasses and seeing their parents’ faces clearly for the first time.  The expression of surprise is infectious!  We get that.  It is obvious to us that there was a distinctive change in the child’s ability to perceive, and they are overtaken with joy.

I  think that many of us wear heavily filtered optics when review our past, and I know I have.  Some people have the “Victim” filter, some the “Can Do No Wrong” filter , some the “It’s All My Fault” filter, and the list goes on.  Some of us even carry around a set of interchangeable lenses, and can look at the same event and, depending on the filter, recall it completely differently than we had previously.  Since our memories are never accurate, and we have the ability to mold them into the memories we want, as opposed to maybe the ones we need, it is very difficult at best to ever see them with clarity.

Let’s assume for a moment, that we can never see our memories accurately.  What are we left with?  Well, we are actually the sum of our memories.  Where we are in life is an accurate reflection of what happened, because we are exactly where we are.  Let me explain.  Some people conjure a false narrative about their past that is in total conflict with where they are.  I knew a man that believed he was one of the child actors in the “Our Gang” films.  He would go on and on about being on the set and working with all of the other child stars, and what it was like growing up as a famous child.  His today identity was rooted in this false narrative of his past.  In my heart I knew that none of what he said was true, but it really wasn’t until Google came onto the scene that I could put any doubts I may have had to rest.  He was not a child star ever.  But the poor man was completely misaligned with the truth of his past.  His present life bore no evidence of his imaginary past life.  When challenged for proof, he would be very uncomfortable and make a lot of excuses.  He was not a settled and happy man.  He was incongruent with his true past, and it emanated from him.  His life was literally a lie.

We did not end up where we are through an imaginary and inflated past.  I married and divorced 4 times.  I have a narrative about that, exonerating me of all wrongdoing. But here’s the problem, I am the common denominator.  I cannot avoid it.  Where I am now is an accurate reflection of the past.  I am sitting here a 4 time divorcé, and if I continue to look through filtered optics, I am doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  Now to be fair, this is not a time for me to use the opposite filter and take responsibility for things I didn’t do.  That would just be substituting one set of bad optics for another.  But I have to be willing to look at the results of my life and work meticulously backwards to reconstruct the accurate truth.  I must be willing to absorb any and all blame due me if I am to fix me.  I want more than anything in this life to grow and be thoroughly authentic at all times.  And, I want to be an accurate observer of my past, good and bad.

Is hindsight 20/20? In my opinion, not usually, and maybe not ever.  It takes enormous work, investigative skill, dedication, and a great set of unfiltered optics to unravel the mystery that is us. Even if, and especially if, we are the ones doing the unravelling.

Is It Manly to Cry?

In the 5th grade, I was beaten up by the skinniest and scrawniest kid in school.  Having attended a different school every year of my life up to that point (except for a couple of years when I attended two in the same year), I learned how to size up new social situations and adapt pretty quickly in order to survive.  I had never been in any kind of physical fight except for maybe my older brother, and that was usually never much of one because we were pretty good friends.  We had to be friends in light of our ever shifting surroundings.  I learned very quickly that humor could be a pretty effective deterrent in the whole alpha dog schoolyard thing, and so I was funny, not tough.

I was also a rule follower, and a very sensitive kid.  If I got my feelings hurt or thought I was going to get in trouble, a legion of dutch boys wouldn’t be able to plug the dam that would gush forth from my eyes.  And that is exactly what happened one afternoon as we were lining up to come in from recess.  Skinny kid (SK) cut in front of me in line, and I called him on it.  He shoved me hard and wouldn’t go to the end of the line.  Here I was, being set up with a twofold problem that would likely end up in tears.  One, a great injustice was being done to me by SK, and two, the teacher came up and asked “What is going on?”  That was it, 5 alarm fire requiring a full pumper truck and there they came.  I couldn’t have stopped the ensuing deluge after that question, not from a teacher.  That moment set into motion an entire series of events fit for an ABC Afterschool Special, or in today’s world, a LifeTime movie, or maybe one of those YouTube videos where a bullied kid flips the handwritten 3×5 cards to tell their story.

As I began to cry, every other child within eyeshot, which was most of the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade began to laugh.  I was caught up in a surreal experience and the world started to stretch and warp, like in an old B horror film.  When I thought it couldn’t get any worse, SK leaned in and whispered, “After school, I am going to kick your ass!”  It is amazing.  In that era we were still 15 years before the first PC’s and 30 or so before texting, and there certainly was no social media, but the news of this fight spread like a massive group text to every single kid in school within seconds.  It was like the hive mind!  They all knew simultaneously.

Since I am, and shall remain, anonymous I am going to have to use initials in place of names to tell the rest of this story. SK = Skinny Kid, K = my best friend at that school, J = K’s brother, M = the toughest and biggest kid in school.

My father, a highly educated man (3 degrees) and philosopher, never taught me or my brothers anything about the pugilistic art of fisticufs.   The only thing he ever told us about fighting was that we were supposed to choose the field of battle.  To this day I am not sure why that is the only piece of martial instruction he ever gave us, but there it is.  And so before school let out, I had decided that we should fight at K’s house.  I chose K’s house very strategically because I knew that K’s brother J knew judo.  I figured that we could leave as soon as the bell rang, run to K’s house, and J could teach me how to flip a guy.  If I could flip SK, then this whole mess would go away!

I know this is cliché, and you don’t have to believe me, but the fight was scheduled for 3:00 high.  We got out at 2:30 and surely we had enough time to get to K’s house for me to learn how to flip SK.  Problem, J wasn’t home.  He should have been, but he wasn’t.  We stood in K’s entry way waiting as the clocked ticked mercilessly toward the moment of execution,  and it appeared that no reprieve was coming.  Finally at 2:55, J walks in and I frantically try to explain that he has to teach me how to flip a guy RIGHT NOW!  So, J calmly shows me that he can easily flip me, and I am feeling pretty good, but when I try it on him it isn’t working.  Then again J was in the ninth grade and he was huge.   SK was nothing by comparison.  J said to just give it a try.

When we opened the door I could not believe what I was witnessing.  The entire school was in K’s yard and spilling onto the street.  They had already formed a semicircle (the octagon Pauldid not exist yet) around K’s front door with about a fifteen foot radius.  There in the middle stood SK.  The only way I can adequately describe SK is as a skinnier and younger version of Paul from the Wonder Years.  Only no glasses.  Yep, that was my nemesis.  SK stood there with a smug look of certainty at the eventual outcome, completely unaware of his impending humiliation due to the newly minted flip in my martial arts arsenal (consisting of exactly one skill, and maybe not even that many).

This was it.  Like a first time gladiator stepping into the Coliseum, I walked into the center of the semicircle.  I had no idea how to get this thing going.  I just thought I would let him throw a punch and seal his fate.  We stood there for what seemed like hours, and then he finally said “Okay, let’s fight.”  I thought we were fighting.   I was so confused.  SK begins to dance around like Muhammad Ali and air box in my direction.  He begins to inch closer and I am thinking to myself that one of those air punches will be my opportunity.  Here it comes!  I caught SK’s hand in mid flight and turned around to try O Soto Gari on him, and… nothing.  This jodu stuff does not work!  I yanked and pulled and gave it everything I had.  SK just stood there wondering what on earth I was doing!  After a minute or so, I knew that no flip was happening today.

I repositioned myself in front of SK, and he recommenced with the air boxing, and began inching in again until wham!  Right on my left cheek!  I thought it should have hurt, but I was so pumped with adrenaline, that I wasn’t going to feel that shot for at least an hour or so.  Then another hit, and another.  They just kept coming.  I guess I should mention that I had a serious aversion to the idea of striking someone in the face.  It literally made me want to throw up.  Flip a guy? No problem.  But punch?  In the face? Nope, not gonna happen.  So I did not throw a single punch back.  I then developed a new strategy.  Backup, declare SK the winner, and ask if we could just be friends.  If I only had the ability to look forward in time in that moment to obtain the future line “Can’t we all just get along?”  But either line would have failed.  Mine certainly did.  When I said that, the roar of laughter was deafening.  I was utterly and totally defeated, and worse, thoroughly humiliated.

About that time a man stopped his car in front of K’s house and broke the whole thing up.  By then I really didn’t care, SK could have killed me and it would have been more merciful than what happened upon my return to school.

Since force = mass times acceleration (f=ma), and SK had almost no m in his equation, I really didn’t look the worse for wear.  I did feel a little sore, but no classic black eye or anything close to it.  Nevertheless, the pain from that fight was deep.  When I returned to school the next day I felt like Joseph Merrick  (the elephant man).  Everyone was looking at me and laughing.  It’s one thing to get beat up, but it is a whole other level when that someone is (was) the wimpiest kid in school.

Two weeks.  That was it.  That was all I could stand.  The thought had been germinating in me for a few days, but on this day I had decided I could take it no more.  At recess every day the most sought after activity in that school was full court basketball.  Everyday M would be one of the captains and that was never to be disputed.  M was the biggest and toughest kid in school.  M was not a bully, but everyone knew that you don’t mess with him.  He was a legend, because every single time a kid tried to take him on, he destroyed them.  He didn’t start the fights, but he finished them.

Recess had just started and all of the boys that hoped they would be picked to play were milling around in the middle of the court and M was at courtside.  I was a torpedo.  I was laser guided.  He was in my sights.  I walked up to him swiftly, and with every ounce of m coupled with every bit of a I could muster, I hit M in the stomach.  That’s the best I could do.  The face was still not an option for me.  You could feel a noticeable drop in atmospheric pressure from all of the sucking occurring due to the simultaneous gasps that took place on the playground.  R (that’s me), has lost his f’ing mind!

M didn’t budge.  He was not doubled over as I had planned.  But in that moment, he saved me.  He looked down at me and said, “R, that took a lot of guts.  But, if you ever do it again, I’ll kill you.”  He then picked me for his team, and I was restored.  For the rest of the year, no one laughed at me or bothered me, and I resumed normal kidhood.  As would be expected, we moved away that summer to a brand new set of social dynamics, and I never had to worry about SK again.

Why did I tell that story?  Well, today I thought I would have the first day of no tears in several weeks.  It was sort of a goal.  It didn’t happen.  I know it would be very very easy and tempting at this point to just relegate me to the category of wuss.  Ok, you can do that if you wish.  But that might be a snap judgement.  You might also consider me to not be very masculine.  And, with all of the information you have so far, that is one possible, if not plausible, conclusion.  However, If I didn’t tell you that story, and told you instead that I was a champion martial artist with a 4th degree black belt, and that I had previously competed in the World Karate Championships, and had earned a room full of trophies, you might say something else.  You might consider me “a man’s man!”

Somewhere along the line, somebody decided that boys don’t cry.  After SK beat me up, I swore to never cry in public again, and really had determined never to cry again.  When I did that particular day in the 5th grade, it was like sharks smelling blood in the water, and I became an immediate and easy target.  I showed weakness.  Weakness can be fuel to those that thrive on consuming it, like SK.  My guess is that SK had been beaten up plenty of times before, and was sick and tired of being low man on the totem pole.  When he saw my weakness, he saw his salvation.  With the exception of one devastating event, losing my best friend to brain cancer when I was 16, I pretty much honored the pledge I made to myself to not cry anymore.  When he died I cried for many days, and when I was done that was it for decades.

When I began my professional career, I was focused, determined and very insensitive.  I never wanted to be seen as weak.  In that world I excelled, I was seen as strong and together, and my career flourished.  Determined to be strong physically as well as (what I thought was) emotionally strong, I started practicing martial arts in my early 20’s obsessively.  I trained relentlessly, and competed in every possible tournament in my area, and would even travel out of state to compete.  I still carried around with me the vision of the 5th grade fight with SK, and it fueled me.  I eventually won grand champion of a major west coast regional tournament, and qualified for the World Championships.  I ended up with 10th place in kobudo (weapons) that year, and felt very manly indeed.  I knew in my heart that I could demolish SK if we ever met in a fight again!

But after the financial crash of 2008, something began to dissolve in me.  I had been so impervious to heart pain for so long.  I had erected a facade of toughness that was not the true sensitive me.  Don’t get me wrong, I had natural empathy and a good measure of caring for others, and I certainly had a strong sense of protectiveness, but I wasn’t feeling anything.  I couldn’t feel the pain of loss or tragedy anymore.  There were some moments of breakup tears in some relationships along the way, but those were the extreme exception.  Romance and relationship loss always trumped that toughness facade if anything could.  But I couldn’t cry at tragic stories, or even when a relative died.  I felt guilty about it, but I couldn’t produce the tears.

If you read my last post entitled “Does Physical Beauty = Attractive,” then you know that in 2008 my 4th wife (now ex-4) and I completely disconnected from one another emotionally.  Ironically, that is about the same time my true sensitive self began to re-emerge.  It began without an invitation too.

If I am anything at all, then I am a lot of things.  I don’t believe I am that easy to categorize on first glance.  I have many aspects of me that seem incongruent, yet they are all the true me.  For example, I love historical romantic films like “Sense and Sensibility.”  I love romantic comedies like “The Proposal.”  I love quirky offbeat and deep thought movies like “The Lobster.”  These are not a “man’s man” type of films.  Yet I have always loved them.  I have even preferred them over any slapstick, sci fi, or sports movies.  But if you are a guy and you meet me, you would never think of me as effeminate, or wussy.  And, I would probably never ask you what you thought of the “Sex and the City” motion picture.  But I wish I could!

In 2008 I began to really cry again.  At first I thought it was because I was losing more money that year than many people make in a lifetime.  I thought the pressure was getting to me. But I noticed something.  I always felt better the day after.  Always.  My first inclination was to resist it.  Then I began to embrace it.  My 14 year old son would even tell you that I am a crybaby, even though he thinks of me as invincible.  In 2009, I was in a theater, and a trailer for the movie “The Soloist” came on, and I cried at the trailer!  Anne of Green Gables? Cry.  Return of the King? Cry.  Tragic news stories? Cry.  Tragic real life stories of people around me? Cry.  Funerals? Cry.  Bury the kid’s dead rabbit? Big cry (they did too).

For the past few weeks, I have been crying because I am lonely and I am forced to be with and examine the person that is me.  I cry because of the horrific wake of damage I have left in the lives of the people who have depended on me the most, my children.  I cry because I always wanted to be a man of character, and instead I am a broken man that has placed his own needs before those of others his entire life.  But with these beautiful tears comes understanding and healing.  I thought today that I might get through without crying, and frankly there was no way that was going to happen.  I have shed many tears while writing this silly blog post.  But tomorrow I will be a little better.  I will have understood a little more about how I got broken.

If you want to think of me as a wuss, fine.  I don’t care anymore about pretending to be unattached from the deep stream of emotions that flows in me.  If SK saw me now, he might even be tempted to try again.  And I could flip him or worse if I wanted to, but I wouldn’t.

Does Physical Beauty = Attractive?

If you believe Madison Avenue and Hollywood, then I guess the answer is yes.  If you are of that mindset and are happy with it, then just stop reading here because I am going to attempt to dismantle that notion.

A quick point of order… The only qualifications I have for arguing any point that I make in my blog posts are personal experience and opinion.  I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, counselor, clergy, or any other profession that may be qualified for professional advice on matters of mental health, marriage or relationships.  However, when it comes to marriage experience I have decades of marriage with 4 divorces under my belt.  And while I clearly haven’t figured out how to stay married, I can certainly tell you why and how I failed to.

Now, back to the subject of beauty and attraction.  By all outward reckoning my most recent ex-wife (ex-4) was considered beautiful.  She was also 16 years my junior, and I can’t believe how many times we were asked if that will be separate checks when I took her out.  Perhaps the world viewed her as “out of my league.”  I don’t know if they thought I was her father, or there was no way a guy that looked like me could be with a girl that looked like her.  Either way, it was annoying.  When I saw her for the first time, I also thought she was beautiful.  Apparently, on that point she and I agreed.  Though she would feign false humility about it, she was clearly enamored of her own physical beauty.

When we were in the limerence phase of our relationship and early marriage, which lasted for 5 or 6 years (married 14), her beauty did contribute an attractive force.  But something began to happen during the relationship resulting in her physical beauty losing all of its pull on me.  How can that be?  I know that most people believe men are wired in such a way that a woman’s physical beauty is a, if not the, primary force in attraction.  That is not the case for me.

When ex-4 and I got together, I was the founder and CEO of a very successful company that I had been running for several years.  To put it bluntly, I was nestled well within the 1%.  I was wealthy.  She was young, and a single mother when we married.  She had a 4 year college degree from a major university, but the best she could do for herself was receptionist at an accounting firm.  She also had a young child to support along with herself.  Now I don’t think I am a bad looking guy, and I was in reasonable shape when we met, and I truly believed that the person that I was inside could attract a woman like her.  Never once did it cross my mind that there was more to me in her eyes than the person I was inside.  In her view there was also the person associated with my achievements, wealth and status.  Perhaps that is the only person she saw.  Please know this, I never regarded those things as important.  They were side effects of who I am.  I didn’t grow up rich, I didn’t really care about getting rich, and I couldn’t care less about wealth and money now.  But the notion of security for some women is a powerful one indeed.

I had seen the cliché pairings of a beautiful woman with a wealthy man, where many times the man was quite physically unattractive.  I had often cast my judgement in their direction as being obviously a trophy wife/arm candy configuration.  Never ever once did I consider that I might be in that situation.  Why?  Because I am a hopeless romantic with a high-definition projector.  I wanted to believe so many things about ex-4.  But I never would examine what must have been obvious to so many around us.  It wasn’t the inside me at all that attracted her, it was the outside me.

When ex-4 and I got together, I honestly believed I would never have to worry about money for as long as I lived.  I would buy her a house, and when she tired of it, I would buy her a new one and either sell or keep the previous one.  I was in no hurry to sell them because I didn’t have to.  When she wanted a new car, done.  Trips, done.  I did not matter what she wanted, she could have it without question because we had it to spend and there did not seem to be an end in sight for our resources.  She developed a pretty healthy shopping habit and would rack up about $10,000.00 every month in credit card spending, and I would pay it off every month.  I was a little irritated that she would buy things and never even take them out of the bag/box, much less use them.  But I never said anything because it was a minor nuisance to me more than anything.  That, and she got enjoyment out of it.  This very day, when I was cleaning a room in my house, I came across clothes that have the original tags on them from 5-10 years ago.

In 2008, the housing bubble burst.  This was bad.  Bad because I had so much of my money tied up into a decent number of high end properties.  We couldn’t move many of them, and when we did, it was at a fraction of their initial value.  Needless to say, I lost almost everything.  Not everything, but almost.  Fortunately, the original company that I founded was still healthy, and bringing in enough to cover the enormous (> $200K per month, >$100K of that from me) payments we had on the outstanding properties.

It was when the financial glue lost its stickiness in my relationship that I began to see a different person emerge in ex-4.  The first thing that happened was I informed her that she had to cut back on her monthly spending.  Oh my! I did not see her reaction coming.  I remember vividly being read the riot act about being selfish and not caring about her at all.  Her argument was that I spend money all of the time on whatever I want, while she only spends money every month she needs to spend.  She accused that there is no way I loved her, and that I was a selfish bastard.  I remember telling myself “Ok, deep breath, she’ll calm down and eventually see what needs to happen.”  She didn’t.  Despite the financial upheaval we were in, she spent as rigorously as ever.  This was the tipping point in our relationship.  It is also precisely where her beauty began to mean absolutely nothing to me.

Two very distinct things happened in the crash of ’08 in my relationship with ex-4.  One is that she lost respect for me, and the other is she lost her attractiveness.  She lost respect for me for a couple of reasons, and one I know is my fault.  The other reason is entirely her fault and we’ll start with that one.  She respected me conditionally.  She respected that while I had the Midas touch, I was a strong and powerful, and (I assume) sexy man.  When circumstances changed, I lost my power, position, sexiness and overall value to her.  The other reason she lost respect for me is that when she lost respect for me for the first set of reasons, I panicked.  I transferred all power to her in that moment.  I did not want to lose her, and that became my primary goal.  Wow, talk about an unlevel playing field!  This one slanted now more than 45 degrees, and I was on the low end for sure.  This is the exact moment the castration began.

It wasn’t even that gradual really.  It was a reversal of relationship fortune that happened nearly as quickly as my financial one.   When I lost respect in her eyes, something else happened.  I began to see a more complete picture of who I was married to.  It was also the moment I began to realize that she was not in love with me, and in all likelihood, never had been.  If she had loved me, then she would have been by my side through the financial hardships and we would have gotten through it together.  Frankly, that would have been so amazingly attractive to me, but exactly the opposite occurred.

I became not only unattracted to her, but in fact, somewhat repulsed.  This was a problem and a huge internal conflict because I didn’t want to lose her.  I was completely split on the inside.  She was unattractive, and I didn’t want to lose her.  Those ideas are diametrically opposed and yet they both coexisted in me.  From the moment of the crash until we divorced (8 years), we were probably only intimate a total of 10 times.  Ironically, each of those times came from me feeling obliged, much like many wives do, to make her feel wanted/attractive.  One of her biggest fears was ever being perceived as not beautiful and unattractive, and that is precisely how I felt about her.  Beauty to me is the beauty of the soul.  I really don’t care (anymore) about the external.  External beauty says not one thing about the person it envelopes.  I learned this.

Now, please understand, I do not think all physically beautiful women are automatically ugly on the inside, and therefore ugly altogether.  I know a woman that is so beautiful that it thoroughly overwhelms me.  She is deep, sensitive, caring, thoughtful, empathic and list goes on.  She happens to also be physically beautiful, but that is a mere coincidence.  She could be burned unrecognizable in a fire, and I would find her as beautiful as the day I met her.  That is what attraction is to me now.  I will never again be fooled by my eyes.

In conclusion.  Does physical beauty = attractive? It can for a time.  It will, however, ultimately fade. And it can definitely lose its pull long before it does.


How Far Would You Go for Love?


Apparently Both Vanessa Carlton and the Proclaimers would walk exactly 1000 miles for love, although the Proclaimers would do it in two sets of 500.  I wonder if any of them use a Fitbit, Apple watch or GPS to track their distance?  And, what do they do when they reach 1000 miles and one step?  Frankly I like Sara Barielles’ approach better “The earth that is the space between, I’d banish it from under me… to get to you.”  Maybe not as easy as walking, but possibly quicker?  Whether it is banishing the earth or walking 1000 miles the idea is that we would go to great lengths and expend much effort for love.  Or will we?  I want to examine what we do for love in our modern short attention span society compared to previous generations and eras.

If you’ve followed the earlier blogs to this point, you know that I have struggled with restlessness on the heels of breakups and divorce.  I had always sought comfort for my hurting from a previous broken relationship in a subsequent new one.  As a result, it was difficult for me to adequately assess the depths of my feelings for the new relationship because I hadn’t even completed emotionally unpacking the previous one.  It’s like going on a trip with full bags, coming home with bags full of dirty clothes and then leaving on a new trip with those same bags full of dirty clothes.  So, I had never even taken the opportunity in my past to truly measure what I would do and how far I would go for love.

Ok I need to stipulate a couple of things.  First of all, I want to make it clear that the lengths I am talking about do not include deception of any kind.  If a relationship is to have any value, and certainly be worthy of a quest, then authenticity is a requirement.  In Something About Mary, every guy in the movie tried to pretend to be what they thought Mary wanted (see Relationship Chameleon Blog Post).  They went to unbelievable lengths to try to get her, but they were all based on deception.  Second, it is one thing to give up smoking, but an entirely different thing to give up something that defines you.  For example, you are a musician, but your future potential love interest thinks music is a waste of time.  Giving that kind of passion up is self deceptive and will end up in resentment.  Trust me, I know this one well.

So with those stipulations out of the way.  What are we willing to do?  Go to hell and back?  Slay a dragon? Die for someone? Or, if it just doesn’t feel like it is going to work out, move on?  With everything in modern life hyperfocused on convenience and instant gratification, we have lost something essential for true contentment and satisfaction.  That is our ability to wait.  We are an impatient society with a lot of access and a lot of choices.  So much so that even the process of dating has become passé  among our youth, and they now “hang” or “hookup,” and physical intimacy is usually easily offered and received.   The process of romance and discovery is now relegated to arcane ideals of generations past.  But I don’t only think that is sad, I think it is dangerous.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard growing up, anything worth having is worth waiting for.  That usually came as an admonition from one of my parents when I wanted them to buy me something I wanted immediately so that I could have it now rather than wait.  I would have to work for it by saving up my meager allowance until, after an ungodly amount of time, I could eventually have it.  Without question, every time I worked hard for a thing, I assigned value to it.  The harder I worked and the longer I waited, the more value.  So the converse must be that instant gratification devalues a thing.  Here is the scary danger.  If relationships are so quick to be had and lost, then what will we bind our future society with?  If love loses its stickiness, how can we possibly hope to keep it all together?

Across 5 Aprils between 1861 and 1865 (or May or June depending), the Civil War took young men from both the North and South to march toward a good chance of death.  Many of those young men would take with them a tintype photograph of their sweetheart, and for them, that picture would be the one thing that would keep them trudging on despite the horrors of war.  The Civil War was brutal beyond all previous wars to that point due to advancements in modern weapons, and the carnage was incomprehensible.  But the boys marched on.  The power of just the idea of returning home to their cherished love would be fuel that gave them grit that few young people of today would understand.  But the binding force was love, or the hope of it.  You might say that many of those boys did go to hell and back for love.

In the epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings, we read or watch the movie and are drawn to the difficulty of this seemingly impossible quest.  I know that many have wondered why the eagles just didn’t get the ring, fly it over to mount Doom, drop it in, and be done with it. But we certainly wouldn’t be captivated or even moved much by that story.  It is the pain and danger of the journey that draws us in.  It is the difficulty which gives the story and the characters their value.  In this quest, we see love in action.  It is the fuel that kept Sam with Frodo to the very end of it all.  Interestingly, besides his deep love and commitment to Frodo, it is also Rosie back in the Shire that keeps Sam fueled.  I imagined that he never stopped thinking of her.

So what am I willing to do?  Admittedly, with so much access to people in a connected (disconnected in many ways) society, it would be easy to find a companion that would accept me and my bags of smelly clothes.  And I would have to do precisely the same thing with her and her smelly clothes.  We could go through the excitement of the newness of it all, and then rapidly experience the decline of that excitement much like we all did as children with toys on Christmas morning.  Then we would be very disappointed because neither of us was on a true quest for love.  We may not have even taken the time to try and learn about and romance one another and make the investment of time that would give it value and worth.

So here is not only what I am willing to do, but what I am going to do.  First, I am going to take the time to get to know myself better than I ever have.  I have always been so busy in the past trying to attract someone new or keep someone I’ve been with from leaving, that I never took the time to ask myself if I should, or really even wanted to.  Next, there is one person for me in the universe that I truly belong with. Whether that person is figurative or actual isn’t relevant to my actions, because they will be the same.  It will take a true quest of waiting with patience and self discovery to earn my place with them.  Every day of my life that I spend not settling for an expedient love, and waiting for the ideal love imprinted on the tintype of my heart, is a day spent increasing the value of the love that I will eventually share with them.  How long will I wait?  Forever, if I have to.