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.


Is Why Important, and Why?

whyTwo people can perform an act of kindness, the exact same one in fact, and  for one of them the act is selfless and the other it is selfish.  How can that be true?  Well, it seems to me that it all comes down to motive.  It is the why behind our actions; the true reason we do something, anything, especially for someone else.

As I have been on my journey of self discovery that the universe has so kindly ushered me into (thank you universe!), one of the things I have uncovered in my own life is the realization that I have not always done things with the purest of motives in mind.  Ugh, I hate admitting this to you or to myself!  That isn’t to say that everything I have done has been a scheme either, but I can see where I have rationalized decisions and actions with a superficial nod to the greater good, when I was aware at some level that I would benefit from doing so.  And while I am certain every human does this to some degree, it is nevertheless something I must put to self examination.  Why do I do what I do?  Is it ultimately to serve me, even if it is wrapped nicely in an act of kindness or generosity?  Or do I genuinely have others at heart regardless of the benefit to me?

This is a scary question to address.  If you ask my most recent ex-wife, she would tell you that I am the most self absorbed narcissistic human to ever come into existence.  In fact, she told me that quite often in the years leading to our eventual demise.  Ultimately I came to believe her.  It was a brainwashing of sorts.  It was actually a very effective control mechanism.  She new that I was sensitive about appearing arrogant, conceited or selfish, because I never wanted to be.  But in accusing me of that very thing she played into my fears and insecurities.  As such, I was always checking my motives.  “Am I doing the dishes because I really want to be helpful? Or, am I doing them to curry favor with the wife?” Or even more insidious… “Am I doing them to appear like I want to be helpful?”  A sociopath would use every action to affect an outcome that would benefit them.  “Shit! Am I a sociopath?”  Well, as I am working through my me discovery, I am beginning to unwind the truth about all of that.

Needless to say, I was always on an eggshell carpet around her.  I tried triply hard to please her, and all the while making sure I was doing it for the right reasons.  But the thing is, the way it was setup, it was impossible to be altruistic in my motives because I was always trying to protect my ass!  It was all looping in on itself.  I would want to do something to please her, but I also HAD to do things to please her in order to keep her from playing the selfish narcissist card.  As you can see, this was not a healthy relationship, and I am thankful beyond words that I am out of it.

If you are a woman I wonder how many times you have heard the phrase “You don’t appreciate a single thing I do!”?  As a man, I wonder, how many times have you said that phrase and meant it to your core?  Well, I think appreciation, motive, giving and taking are all tied together tightly in a Gordian knot, and the only way to untie it is to slice through it.  So let’s.

The truth is very few people are utterly selfless.  We all expect something in return for what we give.  In fact, our economy would collapse if we didn’t participate in trade.  In reality, that is what we do in life.  We trade.  I will love you, and if I do, you will love me in return.  If there is no reciprocation in a relationship, then we will all eventually lose energy and give up.  Even in many religious systems the notion of doing something good for others results in “treasures in heaven” for you.  Hmm, maybe Mother Theresa was a selfish sociopathic narcissist?  Okay, so maybe you get my point.  We are all aware that we might benefit from acts of kindness that we perform.  Frankly, if there was never the hope of that benefit, there would be many less acts of kindness in the world, and that would be scary indeed.

But is it possible to have good intentions along side the awareness that we also might benefit?  Here is our salvation in this mess.  Not just yes, but HELL YES!  This is what I have recently figured out.  Yes, I did things to keep peace, and to keep her happy, and to curry favor, but I wanted to. You see?  I wanted to.  In my heart, I knew that giving fuels others regardless of the benefit to me.  Yes I would likely benefit, but that’s okay!  Let me explain.  I know a woman that is from the WWII generation.  She honestly believes that if you love your job, it isn’t honest work.  So in her mind work and enjoyment are mutually exclusive.  One cannot co-exist with the other.  That’s insane!  But that is what I was up against.  As it turns out, that was my ex-mother in law.  That type of thinking was passed on to her daughter.

Now I get it.  My ex-wife believed unless I was feeling tortured in doing selfless things, and if there was even a shred of a chance that I might benefit from the act I was performing, my efforts were purely selfish!  In her economy of thinking, nothing I ever did that could potentially benefit me counted.  So guess what? Nothing ever counted. Ever.

In reality I love to give.  I love it.  I love to do things for others and see them enriched for my efforts.  The truth is, the thing I receive the most from doing things for others is the look on their face.  That smile of gratitude.  You don’t need to reciprocate with me.  That smile is enough, and that was what I wanted in return all along…


Sex and the City Should be Required Watching for All Men!


Ok, I know this one is going to get me in trouble with somebody, or maybe many bodies… who knows?.  Most men will disagree right off the bat, but I hope they will at least hear me out.  Most progressive women will likely agree, but the rigid fundamentalists, yeah… not so much.

A while back, a friend of mine, which happens to be a woman, asked me if I had ever watched Sex and the City (SATC).  That caught me a little off guard.  Why on earth would I have ever watched that show?  It is for and about women, and I have never even had the slightest urge for a cosmopolitan.  Let me stop for the men that might have actually gotten this far, I mean the drink, not the magazine.  When you watch, and you will, you’ll get it.

I know that there are men that have watched the show in a pornographic way to see Samantha (Kim Cattrall) bear it all, which she does many times throughout the series, as do they all except for Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker).  But, that is not at all my reason for encouraging men to watch it.

So here is the deal.  As I began to watch, I was floored at the way they dealt with women’s topics.  Everything from the heartache of breakups and the struggle for women in their 30’s to juggle careers, dating, relationships, friendships, babies, living alone or cohabitating, to the first time they fart in front of their lover.  When I began watching, I could not stop.  I have binged watched more episodes of that show in a row than I ever have of Lost, Stranger Things, or even Battle Star Galactica! (watch Portlandia Sketch on BSG binging).

The show is indeed hilarious, but its humor is leveraged off of its brutal honesty about women’s issues.  Men, here is the power of that show for us.  If this show is as honest as it appears to be, then we don’t have a freaking clue in general about what and how women think.  I have never had gender identity issues, but I have always wondered what it would be like to think like a woman.  Well, bonus! SATC does that for me!  It gives me a window into how women perceive men, and how men unwittingly can become King Asshole of the Universe!  It will scare you guys, it will, but it will also offer you many lightbulb moments.

I have to say that admittedly I do like men  in general a lot less after watching this show.  We are so… stereotypical.  I mean that statistically more than specifically.  The show illustrates how guys can be just gross, clueless, self absorbed jerks.  I don’t mean to suggest that women are incapable of being Queen Bitch of the Universe, but that isn’t the point of my recommendation.  Please, guys, if we will just take a second to see ourselves as women do, we might really be able to discover what we can easily change that will make life better for the women we are with or hope to be with, and subsequently ourselves.

Watch the show and please get back with me to tell me how right I was!

Does Alone = Unlovable?



Does Alone = Unlovable?
I guess it can mean that, but I’m not sure it’s axiomatic.  Upon his first encounter with Donkey, Shrek was annoyed, cranky, angry, and generally unpleasant.  He did not want visitors or friends, and he simply did not want to be bothered.  He was in fact alone by his own choice, and by all outward appearances was quite unlovable.   As we see the story unfold, Donkey was unrelenting and ultimately forced a lasting friendship onto Shrek.  In the end that friendship proved to be a very strong one indeed despite all of Shrek’s protests along the way.  Was Shrek unlovable?  Well, I guess the answer is yes and no.  Most people and mythical creatures didn’t want to have anything to do with him.  They were afraid of his size and his mean spirit.   But Donkey chose to see past that and into who and what Shrek truly was.  And as we ultimately discover, he was really a very lovable creature. (Donkey Meets Shrek)

Some people are in fact actually legitimately unlovable, and wind up alone as a result of this.  They can be emotional black holes for anyone that is around them, and have nothing at all to offer to those they interact with.  This will make them eventually unlovable to anyone that spends any appreciable time around them.  I am not exactly sure of this, but it seems that being unlovable is a choice.  So I suppose being alone can be a symptom of pure self absorption and lack of compassion and empathy, which appear to be preferred and chosen attributes of those people.

In contrast, being lovable has nothing to do with looks, finances, social status or a host of other things that give the appearance of being lovable, but in reality can be as repulsive to the heart as anything.  Some of the most soul attractive people I have ever met personally have been the least physically attractive.  After a very short time, that physical unattractiveness becomes background noise at best.  Why? Because one becomes dominated by the attractiveness of their soul.  That attractiveness is also a choice.  They may not be able to control all of the other factors mentioned previously, but they can choose to be caring, sweet, gracious, gregarious, etc..

What Does This Mean for Me?
My mother and father divorced when I was 17.  She never remarried.  She dated a couple of men over the past 39 years, but never even considered remarrying.  My mother is not unlovable, and yet she is alone.  She chose to be alone not because people (men) didn’t want to be with her, but because she preferred being with herself.  She does exactly what she wants when she wants, and she has a social life with friends and family that live near her.  She is content.   All on her terms.  I don’t know how she does it, but she is happy and does not suffer from the disease of loneliness.

I, on the other hand, am a chronic sufferer of loneliness.  I freaking hate it!   The question I have been wrestling with violently since my last divorce is: why do I hate being alone so much?  In every instance of my life that a relationship ended, whether I was the ender or the endee, I had to replace that previous one with a new one post-haste.   And here is what I have determined to be my truth about this.  I fear that if I am alone, I must not deserve to be loved.  That I am, in fact, unlovable.  Epiphany! But there is more…  I also detest being alone because I really can’t stand the person I’m living with →me.  How can I possibly enter a healthy relationship the next time around, If I have never learned to live with myself in peace and contentment?  The sucky answer is, I can’t.

About six weeks ago I ordered a leather wristband with a message on it.  Originally I wanted this to be a band with a message for a good friend of mine, but decided to keep it for myself.  I had the word “Restless” engraved on it.  When it came in the mail, I put it on and said to myself “Yes, this is my truth. I am restless!”  As I have been struggling with the demons of loneliness, every so often I would catch a glimpse of that word “Restless” and it would be reaffirmed in my mind.  A few days ago I was in despair.  I know I am a guy, but I will admit that had a good long and exhaustive cry.  Near the tail end of that cry I glanced at the wristband and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  “Well there’s your problem!”  I heard my inner voice boom.

In that moment, I reached down and took the wristband off and vowed to never wear it again.  I know that doesn’t make me automatically settled, but I must intentionally choose to not be restless.  I must endeavor to learn to be settled and at peace with who I am.  If I can’t do that, then there are likely things I am stuck on that must be dealt with.  I am not 100% sure what to label this process, but for now I will call personal growth.  I must learn to really like the person I am, and if I can’t, then I need to work to change who I am and adopt traits of the people I admire and am attracted to.  I don’t mean to be a relationship chameleon,  as I mentioned in an earlier post.  I mean to actually change and grow and become something else.  Something better.

Relationship Chameleon


Today I had at least one vivid realization. I have been a relationship chameleon.  And, I don’t think that works. What is a relationship chameleon?  Well, as far as I know I just made that up. So, since I made it up I guess I get to be the person that defines it. What I mean by relationship chameleon is that I have looked at what I believed another person wanted to see in me and attempted to become that thing. The way that I did this was by looking at the likes and preferences of the other person, and assuming them for myself as if I had had those as my own personal preferences all along.  It has always seemed to me that since many people are attracted to a reflection of themselves and they like to have a common bond on as many common threads as possible, being a relationship chameleon is one way to attract someone very effectively but, sadly, inauthentically.

 I haven’t always done this but when I have, I have done it very convincingly.  I guess some would consider this manipulative and maybe even a little sociopathic.  But I genuinely wanted to give the other person a reflection they could and would be attracted to for their own benefit.  I wanted them to be comfortable and happy in knowing that they had shared common interests with the person they wanted to be with. The problem is, if those truly weren’t my interests, then I was setting myself up for running out of energy trying to maintain a facade at best. But at worst (and in actuality) I would be living a lie. In either case an unsustainable situation.

For any chances that I have at a long term relationship, I will have to be the non-chameleon and authentic person that I truly want to be.  I am pretty sure I can sustain being the authentic me.  But I also know from experience that I cannot sustain the inauthentic me, and trying to do so has always been a recipe for ultimate relational failure.

Baseball Been Berry Berry Bad to Me!


(This is not about baseball!)
Four at bats, and four strikeouts. I don’t know much about baseball.  Honestly, I don’t know much about sports in general. I am not that guy. But I do know this about baseball, if every time you come to the plate you strike out, most people would consider you pretty bad at it. I was actually pretty bad at it when I did try as a little kid.  But unlike in my relationships, I KNEW I was bad at it. I do recall receiving a trophy when I was a little kid called the “Sportsmanship Award.”  This pretty much meant you were the worst player on the team. I hated that trophy because it reminded me of how bad I was at baseball even though I didn’t care much about the sport myself.

On the other hand, I do care that I’m bad at relationships. Unlike baseball, where I would stand in right field looking at the clouds and the dandelions in the grass, and a ball would go whizzing past me because I wasn’t paying attention, I did try, and I did think I was paying attention in my relationships.

I am 0 for 4 in marriage. But I was 2 for 4 in leaving, and 2 for  4 in being left.  I really say this more for me than for you, and perhaps only to make me feel like it is possible that I am not a total loser in relationships.  Then again, I am still 0 for 4, and like it or not that makes me pretty bad at it.  I suppose I deserve the “Sportsmanship Award” for relationships as well.

Do years of experience really matter?
Until I divorced the last time, I had been married most of my adult life. In fact I had been married most of my entire life.  If I wasn’t married, I was on my way to becoming so in fairly short order during the in between times.  I know that I am a somewhat right brain dominant guy, but I am logical enough to presume that years of experience should count towards getting better at a thing.  I’m pretty sure it’s Benjamin Franklin that said “Experience is an expensive school, but a fool can learn in no other.”  Well the problem is, even though I am a fool by many people’s reckoning, all of the experience I’ve had has still not taught me enough to keep it all together when it comes to relationships.  So what are you when you are worse than a fool?

While my IQ is actually very high (I won’t say the number because it really doesn’t matter),  my EQ (Emotional Quotient) by self admission just can’t be very high.  If it were, surely I could have held my relationships together better than I ever did.  So I suppose that I can conclude that years of marital experience do not necessarily equate to learning enough to keep it together.  In fact, I would have to say that I never had the kind of perception required to allow a long term relationship to grow because I didn’t choose to learn and grow myself along the way.  On the contrary, it seems to me that time on its own does nothing other than to bake into a relationship the flavor of the ingredients that make it up.  No matter how appetizing it appears, if the ingredients are bad, the cake is going to taste bad.   If you are not inclined for baseball, then years of playing won’t make you better.  It will just solidify your badness.  Unless… you get help from someone or something outside yourself that actually knows the game well and is qualified to teach you.  In baseball a coach would be a good idea.  I know there are even coaches for life in general now, and there are certainly coaches for marriage.  Perhaps if I had stopped trying to coach myself in areas where I was clearly not skilled, I may have actually improved even though I wasn’t naturally inclined for it.  In intimate relationships I already have the “Sportsmanship Award,” but it sure would be nice to get “Most Improved Player!”