The Last Day Of This Life

Tomorrow I get braces. I need and want them. I need them because my top front teeth are very worn down because of where they are and because I grind my teeth very badly when I sleep. I will wear then through or break them in the next couple of years. I want them because the smile I see in the mirror doesn’t match how my smile feels.

It is supposed to take 18 months for the teeth to move and set so today I am having a few apples and chewing a bunch of gum. People have told me that it can be a little uncomfortable and there will be adjustments that leave my mouth feeling a little punched. I’m not looking forward to that, but I’m welcoming it. I have felt ugly for a long time and other than getting braces, there wasn’t anything I could to about the way my smile looked. I hide it some of the time and then just gave-up trying. But thoughts about what other people thought about my teeth would pop into my head when I was talking to someone new.

It’s a first world problem and frankly I’m lucky to have it, but living in Canada, I have an expectation of dying with most of my original teeth so I’m going to buy that future. I’ll trade my time now for my teeth later. It’s a good investment.

Tomorrow at lunch, when I leave the office my smile will be something different than it is today. It will be a vision of a brighter future because I am taking action about something that has bothered me for a long time.

Loving Someone Who Can’t Say No

Some people are addicted to the service of other people. Whenever someone asks them for something, they agree to do it because the thought of saying “no” creates a lot of anxiety about the possible negative outcome. It’s a tough place to be as they don’t want to do the task that is being asked of them. They likely have no compelling reason to do it and have a their own list of things they need to do, but once the request is made the pattern repeats itself. Off to work they go, putting their own life on hold to serve first the need or request of another.

Being kind and helpful isn’t a character flaw in most cases. It really is a better way to live as it will improve the happiness of more people, but only if the service is of value to both parties. If the interaction is anything but win:win, it shouldn’t exist. When someone feels powerless to say no, the interaction isn’t going to be mutually beneficial and should be avoided. It can be argued that in the above situation, there are no losers as the person taking on the new responsibility is doing so to avoid some sort of pain. Okay, sure, that’s kind of true.

It is challenging to exist as a part of this type of relationship. It takes a particularly self-aware and grounded individual to be an actual partner because you need to always remain aware that each of your requests or expectations will stimulate the same anxiety within them that other peoples requests do. This is not necessarily because these things are unreasonable or even outside of what the they want to do, it’s because anxiety is the conditioned response to EVERY request, real or perceived. If you forget this and misread their anxiety as something else, or you misread any of their automatic responses to requests, you will end up clouding a relatively straightforward situation.

Running, Eccentric, Exploring

I went for a 20 minute run yesterday, it was the first run of the year. Although my heart rate never went about 70% my breathing was fast and my legs got tired. It’s hard work!

With cycling having been my primary training activity for the last number of years my body isn’t used to the impact of running. With cycling, there isn’t much of an eccentric muscle contraction involved. If done correctly your leg muscles will perform nothing but concentric movements. The goal is to shorten under load and that is possible while riding a bike. With running you add in lengthening under load as each step sees you catch, slow down and propel the weight of the body. I must have done 3000 single leg eccentric movements, which is why my quads felt a lot like coal when I finished and for most of the day. Today they feel like I did a bunch of squats.

The person I was running with commented about the lack of efficiency in the way I run and also commented about the path I take. I bounce. I bounce normally when I walk and even when I’m standing in one spot. My center of gravity is always moving up and down or side to side. When I was running it was obvious that this is happening. Not sure how much energy this burns, but it’s at least 25% more effort than it needs to be.

The path I run is ADD. I couldn’t focus on running because I wanted to run everywhere. Off the rocks, over fences, up the retaining wall, over benches, whatever wasn’t in the way I was putting in the way. When I hike I try to do the same thing. Find things to jump off or onto making a game out of whatever there is to play with. It feels good to move creatively and athletically about the earth and it makes as much sense to do this as it does to run for 20 minutes. Running everywhere at once did blunt some of the physical nagging that I find with running – I find it tough to forget that I’m running and it has never been a zen or flow inducing activity. Maybe that might change.

After 20 minutes I was done, they continued to run. As I watched them leave it was clear that there is purpose in their running style. It’s flat and shuffling. From the back, the head and hips don’t bounce much, from the side you see legs moving beneath a stable torso and mildly swinging arms. It’s efficient and very clear why people don’t bounce marathons.

Structured Synergy

What do I want from a partner? “To exist with them in a way that allows us to continue to cause each others greatness.” I want to help them become more of what they are. This matches my life purpose – to create beauty – as actualizing potential serves in the beautification of an individual. This can be rendered in support, guidance, coaching, or time alone together just to get things done. I’m aware that I am not complete and need help in the journey to where that takes me. That’s important. Realizing that there’s work to be done and that I will need the help of others does a lot of help me keep my mind open.

It also strikes me that what I say I want now I did have a number of times in the past. Each relationship has started off with someone who found me interesting, inspiring and funny. It ends-up in a different place but the beginning is always good. The words they say and the actions they take do indicate something positive which happens to match how I feel and believe I act. This is very significant – we make great starts in the formation of a partnership but something breaks down that transforms the help we offer each other from synergy to something perceived as destructive by the other person. As best I can tell, although I haven’t asked any of my old girlfriends, contempt enters the relationship dynamic and this paints everything bad.

It is amazing that a partnership can sour so completely and so quickly; although a number of my friends have commented that this is how relationships go. The glow leaves after the first few months and the two people begin to find comfort in the relationship and start to express their intentions. My thought was that we’d likely never fall in love if people were completely real from the very beginning although I’m not sure. The few times I’ve simply not cared about being what I thought the other person wanted I was happy and more peaceful. To date though, there have been 2 unsuccessful relationships of this nature – one didn’t work out because I checked out and the other didn’t get started because the school year ended. Regardless of the outcome of these experiences, we never ended up hating each other or developing contempt for who the other was. It was fun and then it was over.

What I’m now considering is that the synergy that I once had with my old girlfriends did not go away, it just changed into something else that was interpreted as an effort to control behavior; which it was but not from a place of intentional malice. What begins as welcome observations about ones actions and nature eventually becomes unwelcome. If the observations continue, even after their unwelcomeness has been been made clear, the intentions of the observer have changed from alchemist to parent REGARDLESS of the rightness or accuracy of the observation. Synergy comes from creating more from what is there. If the mind or a willingness to change is not there YOU CANNOT MAKE GOLD with it because there is nothing to work with.

In these cases, synergy can be restored when both parties accept and work with the reality of the situation; ones contentment with a world view dissonant from yours is something that YOU can accept. Provided it works for you, embracing a differing world view (or their unwillingness to change) is the one thing that you can do to restore the synergy into a relationship. It does require of their partner an accurate reporting of what is going on in their head – the thing that you disagree on needs to be the actual thing you disagree on. Steroid use is an example of this. Some people use steroids in order to build more muscle or strength so they have more muscle or strength. Other people use steroid to build muscle and strength so they don’t feel insecure around other people. It’s a lot easier to accept and deal with your partners desire to be muscular and strong than it is to deal with one who is insecure or narcissistic.

I need to be blunt with myself and with anyone who may consider getting involved with me in a relationship. The opportunities for synergy must be built into the structure of the relationship because my track record is one of allowing these moments to fade away. My career/education/recreation goals need to remain and I need to continue to build towards them. If you can’t work in the same space, you need to work away from each other, if you don’t like the same exercises or fitness activities you need to keep doing the ones you like on your own, if you are taking something advanced in school you need to accept that your partners knowledge is limited and their efforts to help are based on good intentions vs. wisdom. If you can work in the same space, fantastic! If you enjoy the same fitness or exercise activities, enjoy them together and push each other to greatness. If your partner is encouraging and supportive of your journey towards higher eduction, be grateful and pass along as much of this information as you can. Doing anything other than getting on board with them 100% or 100% out of their way is going to stop the synergy and begin to suffocate the relationship.

Maintaining a climate conducive to synergy within a relation can be challenging and it does in someways go against the best interests of the individual – following a dream requires focus that won’t be spent on me. There is an abstract gain in that the relationship gets stronger because one of the members gets stronger, but the immediate experience may be one of perceived loss. In a strong relationship their is rarely a long term cost and usually a long term gain by having one of the members go back to school, love to cycle or train for marathons, work hard to build a sustainable business. Some of the relationship roles will be adjusted temporarily, others changed permanently, but the self-actualizing experience of working toward goals tends to inject a sense of possibility and hope into a relationship, but only if the relationship is structured for synergy.

“Relationships Ruin You”

Sometimes people say something and their comment pisses you off. A few years later they say the same thing and you just nod and agree with their wisdom. My dad is a lot like that. He’s said some crappy things over the years only to have them reveal themselves as lessons a few years later.

My favorite has been the evolution of his view on how I interact and behave in relationships.

You shouldn’t take things too seriously” was what he used to say. It bothered me. I wanted to be in love with a beautiful girl and I wanted to be in a relationship with her. My view was that these things were the best way to find happiness and fulfillment. He didn’t say that I was wrong, he just said that I shouldn’t take things too seriously. I didn’t agree and did what I wanted.

The most recent iteration of this thought, “relationships ruin you” was greeted with my nod and agreement, and a lot of laughing. It’s me, I’m just not very good at them. They’ve all ended. 4 of them lasting a few years longer than they should have  – 8 to 10 years spend with people I don’t talk to anymore, in relationships that were challenging experiences for everyone. A decade of my life spend, well, living and experiencing whatever it was that my father was trying to help me avoid.

He was right all along. I take things too seriously and being in a relationship has been WAY too important to me for all of my adult life since I started my first serious relationship 20 years ago this September. I would give-up my identify, my dreams and goals to focus on the other person and “us”. I think it bothered him to see me waste my time and my potential because he appreciates the shortness of life in a way someone my age didn’t want to.

He never said it, but I can imagine it being rather disappointing to watch one of your two children squander their opportunity to make a life they are proud to live and share with others. Dad doesn’t really interfere with my affairs and he’s been a big supporter of anything that I’ve done on my own. He never suggested that I give-up on a relationship and work on myself, he doesn’t tell me what to do, but he’s been there each time to pick me up when things end.

I completely understand and realize what he was saying. And I agree with him, Relationships ruin me. It is no one elses fault but my own. I’ve been doing this all of my adult life and it’s time I stopped it.

Relationships, per-say, are not the problem. It has been my desire to be in a relationship at all costs vs. being happy, build a career or business, being charitable, whatever, that has been the problem. I’ve been making the decision to table everything. A shift in my primary focus is what I need now that I realize what my dad was saying.

Thankfully it didn’t take 20 years to sink in.

Because We Need To Know You Don’t Know

“I don’t know” is not an apology. There’s no shame. It’s a simple statement of fact, is the key line in Penn Jillette’s special comment to as a follow-up to his interview on Piers Morgan. He then compares his answers during the interview to Piers’ answers to the same questions. They are saying exactly the same thing it’s just that Penn admits it. Neither one of them knows how to look after all of the people in the US but Piers’ answer “the government” does shifts the responsibility of answering onto something that isn’t part of the discussion. It’s distracting and it can be a very effective tool when trying to convince someone of non-existent expertise. Piers HAS answers to the questions he just doesn’t know the actual answers.

That’s the thing with bullshit. No matter how you shine it, gloss it up, and air the room, it’s still bullshit. The only way someone is not going to see it as bullshit is if they don’t want to see it as such, they CANNOT see it for what it is or they do see it as bullshit and they don’t tell you that they know you are full of shit.

Penn’s comment comes at a time when I have grown particularly open to the fact that I don’t know a lot of that things that I thought I did. I’m starting to know what I don’t know and that makes me wiser, if only slightly. Long term it means that I may end up actually knowing these things because I’ve emptied the knowledge hole of the bullshit so it’s ready and waiting for the facts to fill it.

I’ve always sort of admired people who say “I don’t know” because I find their honesty refreshing. It’s time saving because you don’t have to think about the quality of their answer. The process of internalizing a lesson someone gives you is resource heavy because you have to vet the quality of the information they are giving you, ask qualifying questions, collect more information about the topic to allow you to store it in a way that is easy to retrieve, then unconsciously the brain does whatever it does to assimilate the information into a world view that is consistent with the real world.

Now imagine someone makes something up instead of saying “I don’t know.” You move forward on the belief that it is true – you fill the knowledge hole with bullshit – and fully believe that you are right about the topic. Confident and passionate because you got it from a good source. When you spread the lie later to someone who respects your opinion, you burn a little piece of your credibility.

Overtime two things happen that take a major toll on the quality of your life. First, people stop trusting you because a lot of what you say is incorrect yet you fail to see it or even consider that it could be wrong. Second, your “knowledge” starts to become a liability to you because it cannot be counted on to represent the way the world actually is but you have full confidence that it does represent the world – worse than not knowing or not knowing that you don’t know, you believe you know yet don’t. It may not be your fault that some of the people you considered to be mentors or sources of wisdom misrepresented themselves, but it sure is your problem.

Over the last 6 months and more and more recently I say “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure”, “what do you mean by that”, “what impact does that have on you”, “what impact should it have on me” and “what do you need/want me to do”. I say these things because I’m growing more and more confident that I don’t speak the same language as everyone else, and that maybe most of the people speak a different language from each other.

I’ve known my dad for almost 40 years and we’re now asking each other more questions to get an understanding about what the other is talking about. For a very long time I believed that I understood him, but as we chat now, it’s evident that we have a very different understanding of many words, concepts and things. My mom, dad and brother are the people who I have spend the most time with in my life and after almost 4 decades of interaction the only thing that they can say to me that I know I fully understand is “I don’t know”.

This is liberating. It shifts me from participant in life to scientist-participant in life. I need to seek high quality information from reliable sources. The new challenge becomes the vetting of the sources, and here I’m really lucky. The people who know me the best and who I respect the most answer questions with “I don’t know” often enough from me to realize that facts are the critical currency when it comes to talking / mentoring / educating me. Ones ability to say “I don’t know,” to be comfortable without knowing and to be curious to find out the answer is the first thing I’m using to vet the quality of my sources. So:

  • If you always know the answer, you don’t.
  • If having an answer is more important than having the correct answer, your answer isn’t important.
  • If you KNOW you know and don’t need to check current research, you may not know anymore.
  • If you are emotional when you are learning something, you don’t know it yet. Be cautious when dealing with facts with overly emotional reactive people as emotional states tend to impair the brains ability to store memories accurately.

What does my world look like after I’ve vetted my sources and realized where the wisdom lays? It’s very interesting. I’m learning more, that is true. But I’m also having some really great conversations with people. By cutting out the chaff you free up a lot of time to engage other people, or the ones you like more frequently. I realize that I know at least 50% less than I thought I did, but that knowledge build my confidence that most people know a lot less than they think they do so my expertise in certain areas are actually a lot higher relative to my peers. I know a heck of a lot about 10 things and bits and pieces about other stuff. If you can admit when you don’t know something, talk to me about the other stuff if you know and listen to me when I talk about the 10 things. Otherwise, we can just talk sh!t and have a good time.

They Change When They Are Gone

A word of warning to anyone who reads this blog and can identify with me more than just a little bit, they will try to screw you out of what they promise when they are gone. You need to get it in writing, get a lawyer and take it to them as hard as they are taking it to you.

What am I talking about? Ex girl / boy friends, ex wives and ex husbands. If you have a tendency to be manipulated you need to guard yourself by removing yourself from the equation and let the professionals handle it. Lawyers are not susceptible to the manipulation techniques you and I fall for. They’re hard nosed, aggressive and ruthless. They’ll take food out of a child’s mouth because they apply logic and rules to the world and leave the emotional stuff to their clients. “It isn’t the child’s food, it’s my clients food so I’m taking it”. What is sad about it is that the parents of the child didn’t care enough about their future to take care of their affairs; but ultimately the blame falls on the lawyer who simply doesn’t care about what you think because you won’t pay your bills or honor your word.

When there are children involved, mousey people need to get out of the way and hand off the thinking, negotiation and litigation to someone who is qualified to see your ex for what they are, someone who’ll withdraw money and support as soon as they can. They will try to screw you and your children out of your futures when they decide that it’s time to move on. The trophy wife will appear and your children will matter less and less to them as the new family comes into being.

But if you’ve represented yourself, your on your own. You will get nothing and you and your children will likely be moving down the SES ladder while he buys new clothing, cars and stuff. Ask your lawyer and they’ll tell you what to do. Listen to them and let them do their job. You don’t have the experience they have so shut your mouth and watch how they work, methodical, precise and with a single minded determination to look after YOUR future.

  • Get full support, spousal and child, for as long as you can – till the last child is 21 OR completes university which ever comes latest.
  • A trust fund or some form of child support needs to be written into the agreement to cover death to prevent someone from channeling your child’s money into someone else bank account.
  • Agreement must be made about a 50:50 split in the cost for the children’s stuff; this MUST be written into the agreement because he’ll / she’ll buy the Armani suits or Jimmy Choos’ while you buy things at Walmart.
  • You must write into the agreement a way to compensate for deviations in the child sharing agreements – if he’s constantly late picking up the children or needs to shift around the times, keep a record of all of these deviations and send them the bill at the end of the month. It costs money and time to look after children so when one parent hands the children back to the other they are saving money while it cost the other. This will happen and there needs to be a condition in the agreement to cover for this.
  • Most importantly, you need to accept that you will act the same way towards them as you always did so you need to disengage and pay the professional to look after your future. You will be grateful if you do and you’ll regret it if you don’t.

The thing about getting as much as you can now is that you can always give some of it back if it turns out to be too much. The inverse is not true, they won’t give you anything if it turns out to be too little.

Don’t believe me? They told you they’d love you forever and now they are gone. Don’t believe a word of what they said in the past, believe only that which is written down, agreed to, signed and enforceable. They will try to ditch their responsibilities, it’s just what people do when they check out. Guard yourself by getting lawyer and letting them do their job. They ask for more than you want because that’s how negotiations go. Stay out of their way and let them look after your future.

Making It Real So Logic Can Crush it!

And we pick this one up mid way through:

…so here’s the thing about the challenging conversations – they are what extract the lessons from our pasts. We need to mine our minds for the wisdom. And that requires cracking a sometimes stable state of mind by blasting into it with anxiety, insecurity, and most important, a voice with volume.

Life can be a shit ride when we bathe in our own life filth. Sometimes we gotta wash it away by giving it to someone else. But others tend not to embody it when we give it to them. Instead, it rinses off a similar film that they have been carrying.

At least with those who see that they have work to do.

When you give voice to those feelings, you build a shield to them. When you silence them like they have no right to exist you embolden the mind to stay with them and make them a reality.

You spoke last night with some encouragement and we still danced, ate and had fun together. Imagine the evening if those thoughts had sat on the tip of your tongue and never moved…

From One Release To The Next

One of the cool things about teaching LMI’s RPM is that there are four releases each year at the start of each season. We get the music, learn it and then teach it for 3 weeks before mixing older tracks back in. Getting the music every 3 months changes the instructing work flow enough to have each release feel like a distinct period of time, unique and memorable. I like this because it causes me to stop and consider what I was doing during when I was learning a previous release.
I take particular pause at the revelations that I’ve had between release 50 and 51.

  1. It takes time to recover and heal from big changes in life. Certain parts of the recovery will be quick, others will seem like they have occurred only to pop-up again.
  2. The way I have been living my life is unsustainable because it no longer represents the manifestation of who I am – I’ve changed a lot since I dreamed my dream so I need to dream another one that reflects my present wishes and entitlements.
  3. I do not take action quickly and actions make me feel better. Almost any action makes me feel better. It really doesn’t matter what it is so long as it stops me from sitting there thinking about stuff that I can’t control, can’t know and can’t possibly care about.
  4. You don’t have to enjoy what you are doing in order to be doing something purposeful. You just have to be doing what you set out to do.
  5. Do the small things quickly, buy the convenience items, find out what is stopping you from letting go and take care of it. Letting go from time to time is important.
  6. There can be a lot of changes in three months, but if I look closely, the signs of change were there for a while. There are few surprises when I’m willing to take a long honest look at myself.

Bring on 52!

Tough Question To Not Have An Answer For

About a month ago Sharon asked me what I liked doing. Simple enough question but I could only reply with “riding my bike” which isn’t the best answer to give someone who has a rich social life, an infectious personality that brings people up and a sense of humor that is broadcasting and wildly funny!

My answer was not what was expected, or maybe wanted, but it was the truth and as soon as it left my month I had a suspicion that something very significant had happened. I think my answer obliterated the understanding Sharon had of me because what she’s known of me has been fun, activity based stuff and a genuine passion for doing whatever. When I replied with biking all of that other stuff got whitewashed and we were left with one very interesting and dynamic person and one introverted self-isolationist, looking at each other with two bewildered and slightly silly looks on our faces. From here there were two directions to go and so we each took a separate path away from each other. Mine was a path away from the present me who didn’t know what they liked doing towards the person I used to be before I let me drift away.

My answer was as embarrassing as it was revealing. Who had I become, and why? And why don’t I know what I like doing? Why is riding my bike the only thing that I was able to muster when asked about it? Who was I being when I answered her question? How had I become this person?

Well, I caught a break sort of. I got a concussion a couple of days later and the doctor suggested that I take a couple of weeks off of thinking too hard about anything. The truth was, I didn’t have a choice, I wasn’t able to function normally. The concussion drove me down to the pits of despair, as they can do. I was lost. In my diminished state of function I wasn’t able to see anything in my future and, worse, I didn’t see anything in my past. And my present had me sitting on there, head in hands, pit in my stomach, confused, scared and in serious need of something of purpose.

I was beginning to see that I was still in recovery from a number of relationships and hadn’t actually let any of it go and I didn’t know what I liked doing because I have either been in a relationship or in the end of a relationship for years the last 5 years. I hadn’t let it go so I was still acting the same way as I used to. I was still thinking the same way too which meant that I hadn’t started to re-expand my interests to find my own passions again. When Sharon asked I wasn’t going to say that because I didn’t realize it, but as I sat there I knew I had missed the moment to live in the present. I had on some level made the decision to substitute thinking about the past for actually doing something. Given that the brain rewards itself each time it makes a correct guess, and given that I wasn’t engaging the physical world, I had no difficulty manufacturing the information I needed to not more forward in life.

I was living in the past and as each day passed, I was living further and further in past. Each moment saw me becoming more and more detached from the present reality. I was fully committed to whatever it was I was creating and I was really good at it! This manufactured suffering became a habit and I needed to get away from it so I rode.

The purpose of the bike riding was escape, then aesthetics, then training. This leads to me riding too much and getting less than optimal training effect. I’m also prone to burn-out and fatigue. But it’s the opportunity cost of riding so much that made the answer to Sharon’s question so lame – I don’t do very much else for fun because I have been using cycling as a way to escape something. I had stopped doing almost all of the things that I used to enjoy and spend this time pushing my body to the limit first to forget, then to look lean and finally to ride faster. So this means, in one way, that I haven’t even been riding my bike for fun either.

On that day when she asked, the completely honest answer is that I don’t like doing anything. I do one thing a lot but not for fun. I do it to escape which I’ve labeled fun.

Hmmm… I’ve set out to find what I like doing so that I can, by the end of the summer, write a better blog about it.