Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful For All of the Things!

I ran 20 miles this morning. The holidays to me means more time to exercise! Any time I'm off work I run more. The weekends are.... fine. But that's only 2 days in which to squeeze in runs, swims, and bike rides. And I'm invariably trashed at work Monday. But I get two days off for Thanksgiving, so I can smash myself today and tomorrow and take it easy (well, easier) this weekend.

I'm lucky. You can even say I'm.... thankful (yes yes, it's a Thanksgiving day post, grooooooan). Some people have to work today, or can't spend time with their families for some other reason. Some folks aren't close with their families. That never makes sense to me and always fills me with sadness. My friends can always consider me family though. And I'm strong enough to take advantage of the time to run for 3+ hours.

Thanksgiving is a time of joy, but it can also be a time of stress. There's shopping, driving, cooking, catching up on a year of family gossip, and so on. It can feel like you have to force yourself to sit and eat... before you rush to do the dishes and make sure the kids are settled with their ice cream. I don't do any of that, because I'm still 5 years old. I'm the one who kicks his feet until treats are dumped into my face. But nevertheless I'm conscientious of the challenges that real adults have to deal with.

Amidst that running-around, taking the time to feel thankful feels like just that: Taking time. Most of you reading this are probably taking whatever few minutes you have to squeeze in your workout, probably in the morning while everyone is still blissfully asleep.

"Don't you dare make us get up."

I remember when I used to sleep in on holidays. I set my alarm for 6am this morning. I guess I got 45 more minutes of sleep than I usually do. But I got up and ran 9 miles. Then I ran a 5k at a sub 7 minute pace. Then I ran 8 more miles. I'm not sure if I won anything at the Turkey Trot; I didn't wait around to find out. There were a bunch of younguns running who smoked me, but maybe I placed in my division? It's not like I could carry (or eat) a frozen turkey anyway.

It was a cold morning, something like 25F when I started. And sweating and then stopping in between segments made that sweat freeze. But it was a lovely run. I didn't care much about my pace. My 5k was slower than previous years, but I didn't care. It felt good. I used to tie my ego to my athletic performance. That just left me miserable. Now I run for the adventure of it. It's awesome.

And I run to burn some calories...

There's a feeling of strength from being able to step out of the house and just go. There's a feeling of freedom, because in that time you're doing what YOU want to do. It's your time, and you're choosing how to spend it. There's no distraction to stop you from contemplating the depths of the universe. There's nobody demanding your attention while you reflect on your self-identity. You can think of any one of 404 things. You can even just listen to music; when else can you blast your favorite tunes without pi$$ing everyone off? It's perfect.

So I'm blessed. I'm thankful. And I'm aware of that now. If I work out, I don't focus on whether or not I fell short of expectations. I focus on the fact that I have the health and opportunity to be doing it! I swam yesterday at lunch. My arms were tired and I swam slow, but it felt really good to be in the water. So good that I even threw in 200m of breaststroke afterwards. I haven't done breaststroke in... a year I think. It used to be all I knew, and I still love it. It makes me feel like a frog.

Frogs are cool.

"I wish I was as cool as a frog :'("

I have all sorts of adventures lined up in the next few months. I have other big things going on that I'm not quite ready to talk about. All of them are making me very excited. They're daunting. They're scary. But I love fear. It makes me feel alive. I don't succumb to fear. If I'm scared of something, it just makes me want to face it head on that much more. I'm thankful that I have things that scare me. That's how I grow and succeed.

I'm thankful for love. My life feels awash with it lately. Can you drown in snuggles? It sounds like a good way to go, like a Monty Python sketch. But it feels like the more I appreciate my life, the happier I get. The happier I get, the more of that joy I get to share with my friends. And the more I do that, the more joy they return to me in kind. Last year I had a tough time and realized how easy it is to get in a downward spiral. Now I'm learning the same thing happens with upward spirals. Like that one Simpsons episode.

"My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball;
but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward;
and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!"

Happy Thanksgiving you lovely and amazing people! I'm thankful for all of you! Even those of you who suck a little!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sometimes it Sucks a Little

Right now is a perfect storm of dropping temperatures, short daylight, tired body, and a trash diet. I used to hate myself around this time. I'd push myself to do useless workouts when my body was fried. I'd look at every extra pound of weight with anguish and disgust. I'd beat myself up for not wanting to freeze in the dark.

I realize now that this happens every year around this time. I gain a little weight, but it doesn't mean I'm going to keep gaining weight forever until I don't fit in my house anymore. My training may be spotty, but it doesn't mean it'll trickle away to nothing. I'll get used to training when it's cold and dark. I'm familiar with the pattern now.

It's hard to avoid obsessing over the day-to-day, to instead focus on the big picture. If I have a lousy swim, my first thought is, "oh no, I'll never have a good swim again!" If I don't have enough time to do a long run, my first thought is, "I'll never get the mileage I need!" But that kind of thinking does nothing. Even if it was true (which it's not), it still would accomplish nothing.

"Oh no, it's going to be winter forever!"

There's the daily goals: Do X miles or go for X time. The weekly goals: Do all these workouts and don't die. The longer term goals: Train and crush this race. But the ultimate goal is to be happier and healthier, to feel strong and accomplished. Exercising on broken legs is not healthy. Feeling guilty for eating too much does not make me happy. And I can't feel accomplished if I'm always feeling disappointed in myself.

You have to remember the big picture, the point of it all. What I'm doing now is what works for me. I chose fitness because it checked off a ton of boxes. If crocheting checked off all the same boxes, I'd do that instead. Unfortunately there's no medal for making a mean sweater. No rush of endorphins as all your best friends scream at you. Well OK, I don't know that much about crocheting. Are there medals?!

It's easy to get caught up though. My training is a big part of my identity now. Missing a workout can feel like losing a piece of yourself. It's especially hard if you came into fitness from a place of anger, or unhappiness, or lack of self-worth. During a slump, your mind starts racing, thinking, "oh no, I'm going to slide right back into that cesspool of misery!"

And once I become miserable is when
the questionable dating choices begin..

Relax. No road is smooth and perfect. Every climb has dips and setbacks. I can vomit up a cheesy cliche about keeping your eyes on the peak, but I think that's dumb. I'm not going to climb if I don't enjoy climbing. I will say though that resting is nice. I like to work hard, and I like to relax. Yes, I'd like to reach the top of the mountain, but I'm not in a rush. I feel satisfaction in watching it grow closer. And I'm in no hurry to have to find a bigger gnarlier mountain!

I've been counting calories for 4 years this month. After the initial precipitous drop, it's been pretty stable, fluctuating by about 5 pounds here and there. Last fall it jumped up by 10 because I ate an absurd amount of ice cream. But I quit ice cream and quickly lost that extra weight. Halo Top doesn't hammer my gut quite as badly. At the time, I was horrified by my quickly increasing waistline. But now I know that I can easily reset.

I've been training regularly for almost that whole time. At first it was just running and lifting. Now it includes swimming and biking. That too rises and dips based on a bunch of different things. But motivation isn't one of those things. It's in my blood now; there's no taking it out. If I flake on exercise, it's because I have to. Because I'm so broken that even my penchant for bad decisions can't get me up. I'm scheduled for Ironman Lake Placid next July. That means I have to - and will - train a LOT leading up to that.

One thing I'll say though is that I feel stronger now in general than I did last year. I almost ruined myself by running too much after Ironman Mont Tremblant, but I luckily wised up. This time last year I was suffering from overtraining syndrome, and that was a dark sh*tty time. I remind myself of that, so that I don't make the same mistake again. It taught me that exercise isn't enough for its own sake, it has to fit your goal.

That goal is happiness. That goal is health. That goal is to feel proud of myself.

And running in the winter isn't ALL bad.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Bond of Pain

The title sounds like I'm going to talk about something kinky. I haven't quite breached that threshold yet in this blog. Probably for the better. I don't think anybody wants to know me quite that intimately.

I had lots of friends when I was in my 20's, or at least people I could party and drink with. Few, if any of them, were people I felt I could really count on. But in all fairness, it's unlikely they could count on me either. We mostly lived frivolous, lighthearted lives. We just wanted to have fun and not deal with anything serious.

The friends I have now are people I can count on. How do I know? Because it's not uncommon for us to try to murder one another in endurance events spanning many hours. If you're willing to say, "hey, let's do this brutally hard and painful thing together!", then fixing a handrail or helping with other real life things suddenly becomes trivial in comparison.

"Brutally hard and painful" is my middle name!

Even more than that, it speaks to their character. The friends I have work their a$$es off to make something better of themselves, and they appreciate others who do the same. We want to support one another in our ever more challenging endeavors. Sometimes that means smashing a tree in their backyard, and sometimes it means pacing them for 10 or 20 miles in the middle of the night.

I used to be selfish, really selfish. I never wanted to feel "obligated" to anyone. Guess what, I was alone. Even when I was surrounded by people I was alone. I didn't care about them - not really - and they didn't care about me in return. Oh sure, on the surface we'd be like, "you rock bro!" But if they asked me to help them move, I'd be scrambling for excuses.

I think the thing is that none of us really cared about anything, or at least we didn't know yet what was important to us. I certainly didn't know. I spun my wheels and squandered a lot of time and energy. People didn't know me because there wasn't much there to know. And it was hard for them to relate, and therefore to give a sh*t.

I have zero sh*ts to give!

I know now what matters. And I have people in my life who also know what matters to them. And many of those things overlap. It creates a very powerful bond. When I help a friend, they help me in return. Though we don't think of it like that. There's no "points" to earn or redeem. It's just an ever lifting spiral where we all bring one another up to greater levels of happiness and success.

Training is hard. And doing it in isolation is very hard. Even when I was feeling depressed and alone, I was still posting stuff online for the validation. But now I'm not really training for the ego boost (well, ok, that's a lie, but not entirely for my ego!). Now I'm doing it for the community. I feel like the strength I'm building is strength that I can share with the ones I love. Many, if not most, of the races I sign up for, I do so because of the other folks doing them.

When I first started exercising regularly, I wasn't trying to join a community. In my mind, I didn't expect that entering on this lifelong path would result in meeting some of the most incredible folks on the planet. I didn't expect that I would find individuals that I cared for to such a great degree, who cared for me in return. I didn't even know that was possible for me.

I've written about my past before, that I came from a place of solitude. I thought I had missed my opportunity to become a human. When I was engaging in wild shenanigans in my youth, it was a distraction from that isolation. It didn't actually fill that hole in my soul; it just covered it up for a while. Now I realize I had just been afraid.

I ain't scurred of you.

Why was I afraid? I was afraid of losing my freedom. But that freedom means nothing if I can't share that time with others. I was afraid of letting people down. Failure happens, but in the long run I contribute more than I take away. I was afraid of being vulnerable. But if we never open ourselves to others, we risk poisoning ourselves with compressed anguish.

Training is pain. When you are in pain, your are vulnerable. But it is also when you discover your own greatest strength. When I do brutal races with my friends, I see that combination of strength and vulnerability. Their strength amazes and inspires me. Their vulnerability bonds me to them. When our spirits are open to one another, that is when they can entangle and rejoice.

It is in that moment of vulnerability that you realize that you're not alone. When you open the closet of your soul and reveal the demons within, your true friends won't flee. They will pick up their sword and do battle on those demons, even as you help battle their demons. In the end you may be weary and stained, but with a newfound radiance and joy.

I don't have any demons! Just fluff!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Does Finishing a Marathon Make You a Marathoner?

I saw this article posted a while ago: Steve Jones Raw: Starting And Finishing A Marathon Doesn't Make You A Marathoner. The first time I read it, I agreed and disagreed with it. Actually, I don't really know how I felt about it. I didn't want my head to hurt any more so I forgot about it. But then I saw it pop up again this morning. And a bunch of my friends are arguing about it. So I want to think about it, and the best way I can do that is by writing about it.

I'll start by saying what the most important part of running and marathons is to me: People. All of my best marathons where the best because of the people who ran with me or those who cheered me on. I felt pretty good when I ran Wineglass 2015 in under 3 and a quarter hours. I hung out mostly with Geoffrey that weekend and it was hilarious.

Wineglass 2016 was a much better experience, and not because I ran faster. In fact it took almost 6 hours to finish that race, but every minute of that time was worth it. That's because I paced a friend with stage 4 lung disease. And that whole weekend I hung out with a bunch of awesome LUNARs. Overall it was way more fun - but also more valuable - than 2015. And if someone came up to me and told me that me and my friend weren't really marathoners, I would've punched them in their stupid face.

Wineglass 2017 was just over-the-top amazing, because I spent even more time with even more incredible people. And the race itself was by far the best marathon I've ever run. It was just intoxicatingly fun . It felt like it lasted 2 seconds, even though it took me and Carrie just shy of 4 hours to finish. And if anyone had told her she wasn't really a marathoner, I would quite likely have murdered them.

It's pretty clear to me that my priority when it comes to running is the community and the people I have come to love. However, it's also clear that this is not the priority for Steve Jones when he runs. And that's totally OK. I just wanted to lay context. It's important to understand the perspective from which people say what they say.

All about people.... crazy people!

But I'm not done yet.

A lot of people tell me I'm fast. I'm not. I could be. But I squander my potential. My training is improving at a snail's pace. I run for all the wrong reasons - or at least I used to. The reasons have changed, but they skipped right over wanting to become a super duper athlete. I want to do well, but I don't want to be the best. I don't want to get into that head space. I'll explain later.

I know I'm not as fast as I could be. That's not to say I don't push hard at marathons. I have finished every marathon I've ever started, including ones that I really should have quit. The 26.2 on the end of Ironman Mont Tremblant was one of the most brutal experiences of my life. Some races I have pushed super hard, and some I stopped trying when I realized I had zero hope of accomplishing anything.

Does that mean I'm not really a marathoner? Out of the 10 official marathons I've run, the solo marathon I ran on New Years, and the 26.2 at the end of IMMT, should I only count those where I ran fast? Or pushed hard? Guess what, I've played that game. It had one result: I hated myself. Because I knew I wasn't fast and I knew it was entirely my fault and all that because it wasn't a priority. It's pretty clear that being not just fast, but the fastest, is a priority for Steve Jones. So, again, I've written a bunch of stuff that barely has anything to do with his words.

But I'm not done yet.

My problem with what he said isn't what he said. It's that he said it. Publicly. That makes him an a$$hole. I've thought all sorts of stupid things in my life. Many many stupid things in fact. I've written some of those stupid things in this blog, and got severely chewed out by my friends. Thankfully most of my idiotic thoughts I keep to myself. They are safe there in the dark recesses of the sad angry corner of my mind.

This is hiding in that same dark corner...

The truth is that I've judged people. A lot. I've judged people that I love dearly. I've had the exact thoughts that Steve Jones vocalized. The exact same. And those thoughts always - ALWAYS - came from the same root.


Every single time - Every. Single. Time. - I've ever judged someone else, it's because I'm actually judging myself. If I say Bob is slow, it's because I believe I'm slow. If I say Bob isn't really a runner and is just wasting his time, it's because I feel I'm not really a runner and I'm wasting my time. If I say Bob shouldn't bother running a marathon because he'll just humiliate himself, it's because I believe I shouldn't bother running a marathon because I will just humiliate myself. Bob isn't the problem. Bob has done nothing wrong. My problem is me.

My problem is guilt.

My problem is anger.

My problem is depression.

It's not about, and has never been about, the person I judged. It's always been about me.

It's also the reason I pushed myself so hard. The reason I caused myself injury. The reason I trained stupidly. The reason I pushed myself far beyond pain and exhaustion. Because of my insecurity, my unhappiness, my guilt, my anger at myself.

"Wooooo... I hate myself! Wooooo...."

I'm not saying Steve Jones pushes himself hard for this reason. I don't know him at all. Maybe he's a super cheerful guy who loves life and just likes to run fast. Although I will point out that a happy guy wouldn't go and say something that would upset so many people on purpose. But look at other athletes.

Michael Phelps is an obscenely good swimmer. He's won many many gold medals. He has also dealt with depression and low self-worth all his life. Lance Armstrong inspired many many people for many years with his amazing achievements at Tour de France. He definitely blew me away. And then it was discovered that he doped like crazy and destroyed lives to hide his secret. Mike Tyson suffered from self-loathing his entire life. Google famous athletes who've suffered from depression and prepare to cry a lot.

And many successful non-athletes have similar stories. Many actors, musicians, comedians and others have suffered. Many have committed suicide. Robin Williams and Curt Cobain immediately jump to mind. Carrie Fisher didn't kill herself, but she lived a very hard life that resulted in her death. Many have died because they pushed themselves passed the limits of their bodies. That's a form of slow suicide as far as I'm concerned. I've had dark thoughts of a similar nature myself as well.

Pushing yourself that hard is not natural. It's not. We did not evolve that way. Our minds and bodies don't want to do that. I believe that anybody who trains to a brutal degree and pursues success at any expense does so because he or she has personal demons to exorcise. I certainly did, 100%. I hated myself so I started counting calories. I hated myself so I started exercising and kept increasing the volume at a drastic rate.

Seriously, look at this chubby weirdo.

I'm a lot happier now, and my body is getting stronger. And I feel myself on a continued upward trajectory. Will I continue to train as hard? I honestly don't know. Will my opinion of why people push themselves hard change? Maybe. I certainly will always push myself for the sake of people I love. I would defend them with my body. Most of the people I've mentioned above though pursued success for themselves.

It's not a bad thing to train to deal with the negativity in your soul. In fact exercise is a positive and healthy way to deal with that junk. And you can do it in such a way that doesn't result in a shortened life span. And your training can bring joy to you and those around you. And, if it does bring you joy, and you learn to love yourself and others.... Then you will not be inclined to say or write something that hurts or insults those people you love.

Does that make sense?

So my summary. Success isn't bad. It's great. Training for success is great. Sharing your success with others in a positive way is great. Having an opinion about success and what it takes to get there? Fine. Totally fine.

Sharing an opinion that accomplishes nothing except to piss a bunch of people off?

Now you're a jerk.

"I'm not a jerk, I'm just way better than you."

Monday, October 30, 2017

Training is Strength

I exercise a lot. I train a lot. For a long time it was an escape. I wrote as much several times. It was an escape from loneliness, anger at myself, and other generally unhappy thoughts. But I've got a pretty good grasp now on the things that were effecting me negatively and I'm choosing not to let those things drag me down any more.

Even though I'm feeling much happier and healthier in body and spirit, I'm still training a lot. It's not just routine, which I've also written a lot about. I'll actually look to squeeze in extra workouts if I have the time and opportunity. And it's not about extra energy. I'm still tired and sore quite often. It's something else.

So what is it? What keeps me going?

Seriously? What is it?
Photo Cr. Steven Gallow Photography

I love to feel strong. Maybe sometimes I didn't realize that. But it's been the common factor throughout my life. It's the reason I started training karate as a teen. It's the reason I started lifting in college. It's the reason I started running, and later got into triathlons. It's the reasons I sign up for ever more challenging races and events. It's probably even the reason I like tabletop roleplaying games; I can act out individuals who are talented in ways I could never be.

Exercise is empowering. For a lot of people though, it's not. For them, it's a chore. You should go to work, you should eat healthy, you should exercise. For those folks, exercise is an unpleasant thing, like taking the car to the mechanic or doing the taxes. It's not empowering, it's just exhausting.

Just exhausting

And I get it. They have a comfortable life. Introducing a big change that's painful and exhausting like exercise is hard. It doesn't feel empowering. It just feels like voluntary work. It's one of those things you can't experience until you've actually done it for a while. It takes time to see results. Time during which they think it's not really worth it. Many quit before they get those results, that euphoric feeling of power and success. It only reinforces that feeling that working out is a chore.

I'm pretty blessed that I stuck with it long enough to experience that sense of strength and self-pride. I lost it for many years. I struggled, as many do. I got sidetracked by frivolous pursuits and lied to myself that life was just about "having fun". That meant drinking, and partying, and making shallow connections with many different people. I forgot that it wasn't enough to just be entertained. I need to love who I am.

I included eating healthy as another thing that's often a chore. But as with exercise, I don't see it that way either. It's not enough for me to feel strong. I want to look strong. It's my identity, and I want it to be apparent to someone who meets me. I've often called it vanity in a self-deprecating way. Maybe it is somewhat. But I want my loved ones to feel safe when I'm around. I want people to perceive me as someone who works hard and appreciates life.

Sometimes folks might look at me and say, "I could never be like that." I can appear larger than life. I seem to run a race every other weekend. On Saturday I ran a total of 16 miles with some really amazing people. There were hills and trails and enlightening conversations and beautiful panoramic views of valleys nestled between orange/yellow/green hills. And of course my social media is filled with a slideshow of these never-ending adventures.

A thousand feet of climbing is worth an epic view!

That's a choice though. I know, not everyone has the same opportunities I do. Not everyone has as much time. But a lot of the awesome folks I train with are full-time parents. They work full time. And they still look for the opportunities to explore the world where there's no cell service. It's harder but it's not impossible. And these busy people are some of the most amazing I've met. They seem to have a strength and energy that even if I don't feel I could reach! And truly, they're the ones who inspire me the most.

Meghan and Geoffrey are both full-time single parents with full-time jobs. The three of us did an Ironman together. They trained even more than I did! Early mornings, late nights, exhausting weekends... whatever it took. But when they accomplish their goals, they gleam with joy and a sense of owning themselves and owning their lives. That's what it is. People often feel powerless these days. The world is becoming an increasingly scary place. And training allows you to own something, to have something that is wholly yours. A definition of yourself that's beyond the definition that society would slap on you.

Crazy Ironpeople!

I can be surrounded by a hurricane of fear and confusion. But I'm in the center of that, grounded by my sense of self and my own strength. That is a feeling I wouldn't give up for anything.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Little Humans and the Future

I'm not a fan of babies.... which is a strange way to start a post. If I was in a grocery store and I had a choice between a banana and a baby, I would go for the banana. No no, still not right. Babies are cute, but I wouldn't trust a baby to help me if my car gets stuck.

I know what I want to write, but it's not coming out at all.

I didn't used to like them. Ah, I know. I'm using the wrong word. I used to not get babies. Get as in understand or appreciate. Like, some friends would have a baby, and they would smile because they didn't want the world to know how terrified they are. But the problem was I was looking at them logically, the way I used to look at everything.

My dearest friends Marc and D just had a baby, Max. I got to meet Max when he wasn't even 24 hours old. I was actually out in the hallway while he was making his way into the world, but I was way too early so I left and came back the next day. But when I saw the joy on their faces, I got it. What they feel is unconditional and utterly limitless love.

I've been writing about love a lot lately, to the point that maybe some of my readers are getting queasy. But the reason us lunatic athletes push ourselves so hard every day is because we want to be noticed, appreciated, and ultimately loved. Love is hard. It's hard to find. Exercising for hours every day is easier than putting myself out there in front of strangers to be judged and dismissed. And it's worked. At the cost of constant pain and exhaustion, I've gotten to meet many incredible people.

But when I met Max, it all became clear. I realized that ultimately what I was struggling for was this. To love and be loved, unconditionally. If I drove my friend's car into a tree, he would maybe love me less. If I did it several times, maybe he would stop hanging out with me. But if Max fell over on the transmission and broke dad's car, the love wouldn't diminish. If he was really clumsy and kept breaking cars, they would still love him 100%.

We all want that: Love without expectation. But that's lazy, and self-entitled. Max isn't giving nothing in return. He's giving everything in return. Hope. Growth. Atonement. A legacy. A bottomless well into which they can always pour their love. But not in a way that diminishes them. Rather they watch that love blossom and flourish into something amazing.

When I saw that, I didn't think, man what I wouldn't give for someone to love me "just because". I already have that, from my incredibly amazing family. Rather I thought, the more I put out into the world, the more I will get back. Because I got to be there. I was invited into their little family, their tribe. I was trusted and cherished enough to be invited to share in the arrival of a beautiful new human in the world. And if I'm blessed enough, I'll get to be around to watch him grow into an amazing person. And knowing how awesome his parents are, I have no doubt he'll be epic.

So for those of you who are struggling here, who are thinking, "wait, isn't this a running blog? What the F are you talking about?" Let's bring it around. None of us like to run. We don't like to exercise. Oh sure we pretend and post the smiling selfies. And sometimes we have a nice bike ride on a beautiful day, or a swim that just feels ON. But generally we prefer to sit and eat. I certainly do. We exercise because of the life it provides to us.

One of health, certainly. But you can be healthy without training 15 hours a week. Arguably you'd be healthier if you only trained for 3 or 4. At least that's what doctors and scientists say, but what do they know. Exercise is a lifestyle for me; it's my identity. And it has allowed me to meet many people with a similar identity. And my family has grown exponentially because of it.

Marc and D actually aren't crazed pain-loving athletes. I've known them for a very long time. They know me beneath my vain exterior and over-the-top persona. So ours is a special connection, one that's hard to duplicate. When Max was born, it was like having a nephew come into the world. And when I gazed upon his perfect little face I just felt unparalleled.... love. He makes me excited for the future. Even if my life blew up, I'd still get to watch him grow and prosper. There's nothing else like it.

So I get it now. I was looking at babies entirely the wrong way. Don't get me wrong, I'm still too irresponsible to ever have one of my own. But now I can appreciate what a blessing they are. The future is looking very bright indeed.

 I don't know what to put here so here's a picture of puppies.

Cover image: A beautiful piece by my friends at Naomigallery.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My Take on "Me Too"

I know what some of the ladies are thinking. Here's another guy writing about his opinion on a woman's issue. They roll their eyes thinking, "he's probably going to make this about himself."

I am.

Specifically, about how I used to be exactly the kind of guy that contributed to the problem. I used to buy into the whole machismo thing. That a man's worth was based on the number of notches on his bed post. That taking ANY amount of sh*t from a woman was too much. That I was just going to do what felt good, and if women didn't like it, tough. I was selfish and I was an asshole.

I had all sorts of excuses and justifications for my behavior. That I wasn't making any promises, so if they got hurt, it was their own fault. That women enjoy sex just as much as men, so it's the only thing I needed to offer. That if a woman reacted negatively to me, it was just a knee-jerk reaction and I just needed to persevere. There was a particular "seduction guru" whose method boiled down to "make the ho say no." Big surprise that guy ended up in jail. And yet at the time I found him compelling.

All of that crap I believed and my actions came from insecurity. And whereas insecurity usually only hurts the person who's insecure, in this case I was hurting other people. It doesn't matter that I did not grope women in bars, or whistle at them on the street, or make unwanted advances over social media. I wasn't doing anything to prevent that sort of behavior either, so I was part of the problem. I didn't acknowledge how difficult it is for a woman in today's world to go through even a single day in peace.  I didn't appreciate how special it was for a woman to trust me enough to be intimate. I took it for granted.

I'm not that guy anymore. I haven't even dated in over a year and a half because I really needed the time to make sure I purged every last ounce of the idiocy and misogyny I embraced in my youth. And to process the not insignificant amount of guilt I experienced due to the women I let down. But guilt accomplishes nothing. It fixes nothing. I can feel guilty all day long and all it does is poison me and those around me. I'd rather do something proactive.

How did it happen anyway? I was an introvert. I was one of the nice guys who was afraid of women and didn't know how to talk to them. So I turned myself into the polar opposite. I became hyper-extroverted. I approached women fearlessly and said whatever I felt like no matter the reaction. And somewhere in there I lost sight of the magic that was the feminine spirit. I just saw them as conquests. I tied my sense of self with my success with the fairer gender. Instead of rejoicing in every connection with a new and amazing human being, I instead focused on the failures, and on having an unending series of empty validation.

"I can't survive on empty validation! I need real sustenance!"

And now?

I love women. I really love them. I love their incredible passion. I love their strength. The strength! I've met so many women recently who just blow my mind with their grit and tenacity. I even love their roller-coaster emotions. It's as if they can encompass all of the richness of life in a single moment. I need that. Because life is joy and pain and giggles and anger and success and loss and everything in between. Guys are fine; with a guy I can just be.... chill. But women... women activate my soul. They engage me at the deepest level. They make me feel and think and experience. And to think that I once only saw them as a collection pretty bits... it's shameful.

I'm blessed that some of those women I met long ago are still friends with me today: Beautiful and loving creatures all. They've forgiven me because there's no limit to the depths of their hearts. If they read this they may say that I was never that bad, that I was always fun and caring. There are others though who I hurt who will never forgive me. I 100% accept that. The best I can do is to strive to be a better person every day. And I don't expect one of them to read this and think, "oh, ok, you're cool now." I'm not looking for amnesty. I didn't write this to pat myself on the back or to show off my growth. I write this because it is an important conversation to have. Women have as much a right to appreciation and respect as men do.

Incidentally I'm writing this on my birthday. It used to be that on my birthday I would think, "I'm one more year from those I hurt." It was a selfish thing, to escape guilt via time. I don't think that way anymore. Today I'm looking back and thinking, wow, I have so many incredible people in my life. Not all of them are women, but many are. And I met them through our shared passions. We connected because of something meaningful, something that empowered us. From that first moment, I was looking within them. I was appreciating them for the depth of their courage and the expansiveness of their dreams. And though I may have squandered many opportunities in my 20's, I'm deeply blessed that I have learned to embrace these women not only as equals, but as humans who inspire me.