The Rest of the Story

Yesterday, I posted a spontaneous update to Facebook and Instagram. I realized that this week was the one year anniversary of when my partner and I decided to stop our 2-year bike adventure and I wanted to share/celebrate some of my accomplishments. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I consider the last year of my life to be the best one I’ve ever had. I don’t think there is anything wrong with publicly sharing our successes… people do it all the time in large ways and small, we share graduating college or mastering a new skill or writing a book or how our kids are doing.

One of the beautiful things about the world we currently live in is technology allows us to celebrate with each other and be inspired by each other. Those magic moments allow us to live and experience a taste of thousands of lives, but lives aren’t always happy and successful and it is important to be realistic about our struggles.

So, this blog post is complete the story of my last year a bit by sharing some of my struggles and failures.

  • I expected to have converted my book into an Audiobook and consider myself a professional writer. Neither of those things has happened. The audio recording has stalled out because I keep procrastinating and letting the perfect defeat the good. Instead of making the time to create I look at that microphone and come up with excuses. I don’t view myself as an author and there is an internal dialogue that tells me my book isn’t good, that it doesn’t count because it is a memoir, that all my ideas are unoriginal, that self-publishing is cheating. I often blog to put off my creative writing.
  • While I’m happy with my current fitness level I have had a lot of struggles staying motivated and consistent. This is particularly true for a four-month period when I basically didn’t exercise, ate too much, and drank too much. Looking back, I think this was a period of mild depression for me.
  • Financially, I haven’t been as wise as I should have been. I’ve blown money on stupid video games, I have purchased books that I didn’t need and probably will never read, I bought pizza and beer in moments of weakness, etc. I wanted to be approaching debt free at this point but each month I still seem to rely on my credit card for that final week or so and have only been making minimum student loan payments. Part of this is that I’m torn, it seems wiser to invest in Bitcoin and Ethereum than pay off my student loans because the growth is larger than the interest rates but that sword is still dangling over my head. On a positive note, I seem to have replaced frivolous spending with more spending on investments, which is probably a good thing.
  • I have been unable to get a yoga, meditation, or new language practice going. On a good week I meditate and practice a language 7 days and go to yoga once, but I rarely have a good week. Most weeks are 2-3 times for the meditation or language and no yoga. I see the value in these practices, I read the articles and understand the logic, but when the time comes for me to do them I make excuses or distract myself with stupid stuff.
  • I still spend WAY too much time on Facebook. I haven’t found a great way to deal with that yet. My life is so short and valuable and it hurts my soul to know that I waste it scrolling and liking and sharing articles unnecessarily. I could get so much more accomplished if I could trim this deadtime.
  • My self-control fails when I’m offered free, non-vegan pizza. I’ve identified as a vegan for several years now but recently I have had a very difficult time saying no to temptation (forgive me father, for I have sinned). I am working on coming up with a strategy to address this, but I’m disappointed in myself. I don’t have a lot of ethical standards but “minimize harm” is one of them and consuming animal products increases the market for harm.

So… those are my big failures in the last year. I know that no year will be perfect. I’m excited to see where I am in June 2018, I know it’ll be a hell of an adventure. I don’t have any real particular goals but maybe I can get this debt down, climb Mount Adams, have saved enough for eye surgery, and finish another book or three. Blargh. I keep thinking about actually writing down some actual goals. I just finished reading “The ONE Thing” and I’m currently reading “The 10X Rule” and one of the threads that runs through both books is setting awesome, specific goals and shooting for the stars or else you will be wandering without direction or fall below your potential. Maybe I will do that… I think Tim Ferris recommends it too in his book (but I might be mistaken).

Anway, I’m still in search of the system that really works well for me long-term. I’ve found one for my body, but not yet for my productivity. I feel like I’m on the verge of one though that melds the valuable insight from The 10X Rule, The ONE Thing, The 4-Hour Workweek, On Writing, and The War of Art. The journey continues…

Want to hear my thoughts on something? Wanna help me out by providing me inspiration for a post or story? Think I’m wrong and want to yell at me about it anonymously? Send me a message!  www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH 

“How can you tell if someone….”

There is a pretty common joke out there that has always kind of bothered me, but I never really sat down to think about why. Usually, the joke goes something like:

  • How can you tell if someone at a party is a vegan?
  • Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

Vegan can be, and is often, replaced with cross-fitter, paleo, Christian, atheist, libertarian, conservative, rescued a dog, volunteers, LGBT, parent, Dallas Cowboys fan, etc. Really, any group can be the butt of this joke. The point of the joke seems to be two-fold (neither of which is particularly funny).

First, it is (apparently) some sort of social faux pas to discuss things that are important to you with others. Whether it is how you achieve health, your ethical beliefs, or your lifestyle, these are things that shouldn’t be discussed with people who might disagree with them. How dare someone want to talk about things that are important to them? How dare they want to have a conversation with people who might disagree? These people are clearly fools and should be mocked behind their back (or to their face) for having a life that differs from the norm.

Which brings us to the second post, this type of joke seems to be meant as a tribal way to keep people on the outside, which is particularly harmful when that group is a minority in the culture. It dehumanizes them and ridicules them for trying to be part of society, it creates an unnecessary barrier to entry into social gatherings because it tells them that they aren’t welcome (or they must hide who they are and what is important to them). It also reduces people to a single-issue, it puts a label on them in a way that discourages us from seeing them as multi-faceted, intelligent, complex people.

Now, I don’t think that the joke itself is really oppressing anyone, but nothing lives in a vacuum. These types of jokes when repeated amongst an “in-group” build up in our subconscious to the point where we start to internalize the lessons: that people shouldn’t talk about things that are important and that people with views/lives that differ from the majority should be mocked. I think it is important to reflect on why we think certain things are funny (just like we should reflect on why we find certain things frightening or sexy or exciting) and to possibly make conscious corrections when we discover that the source of our emotions and response isn’t a good one.

These jokes are also a reflection of our culture that encourages tribalism unnecessarily. The fact that someone can tell the joke and nobody speaks up and says, “I don’t get it. Why is it funny that someone with a different point of view would talk about something they are passionate about?” Instead we all chuckles and think, “Yep! Those damn parents can’t stop talking about their kids.” When we should be thinking, “Wow, that’s cool that they have something they are passionate about, I wonder what made them decide to live their life that way. What life experiences have they had, what books have they read, what internal debates have they hosted in their mind that led them to shape part of their life around that activity or role? I wonder what else they are interested in, maybe we share some commonalities as well as these areas of disagreement where we can grow together.”

Was this post dumb? Do you want to tell me why anonymously? Or maybe you have a question about sex, drugs, or rock & roll (or really anything) you’d like me to answer. Shoot me a message at the following link and I’ll blog about it! www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH     I’ve had a great time writing about a variety of subjects in the past.

Feedback (6/24)

This post is a response to anonymous questions and comments I receive via SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) or from private messages. I love responding to these, so if there is something on your mind, good or bad, please send me a message. No subject is off limits and here is a link to previous questions or comments I’ve received and responded to.

Okay, I meant to respond to this request last week but I ended up running out of hours in the day. I had a couple of work deadlines, a dentist appointment, and I went out a couple of nights with some friends. I hope the author isn’t too annoyed with me.

Hey, Peter, I have been following you on Facebook for a few months. I accidentally stumbled on your page and am really glad I did. My question for you is about the legal age of sexual consent and what your thoughts are on them. In NJ the age is 16 but for other states, it is as high as 18. I tried to find out the reasoning behind the decision on the age but wasn’t able to come up with much. I did look up what the ages were in other countries and for the most part, it was 16 or younger. A surprising amount of countries had their consent age set to 13 (Spain being one of them). Personally, I don’t understand why it would be anything older than 15. Punishing someone who is of sound mind for wanting to have sex with someone older just because of their age seems unnatural to me. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks in advance.

Hi, Facebook friend! I’m glad we stumbled together (probably… this was submitted anonymously so maybe I don’t like you, but that’s unlikely). One of my favorite things about social media is that it can bring people together who may have never crossed paths a decade ago. Facebook sucks sometimes, but overall it is a net gain for the world. Though, I could certainly have a healthier relationship with it than I do. But that’s true for a lot of things in my life, including alcohol, sex, and other awesome life experiences.

Anyway… I’m rambling. On to your questions.

Oh man, this is actually kind of a complex issue. My short answer, the age of consent laws in the US are often (though not always) well-intentioned but, like the infamous road to hell, the results aren’t good. There are ways our society can address teenage sex that would be an improvement.

Now for my long answer, I think there are a lot of factors in play but the four major issues that come to mind first to me are how our justice/legal system operates, the rights and cognitive abilities of children, and sex negativity. I’ll tackle each issue individually but they all overlap.

Justice/Legal System – In many cases our justice and legal system are set up in a way that is convenient for lawyers and politicians but reduces the rights and freedoms of citizens. This happens whenever a law is based on an action instead of a result. I understand the need for objectivity in the law and on the surface things like “If an 18-year old has sex with a 15-year old then a crime is committed” seems to be objective and fair, but it fails to address the purpose of a legal system: to address harm. A better way to treat teenage sex would be to only punish sex that causes harm, but treating this issue based on result instead of action would certainly be difficult. It is easy to prove an act happened but more difficult to prove that act resulted in certain harm (at least in the case of sex).

Not all laws are written this way. In fact, some criminal acts are based almost entirely on result instead of action. Take, for example, the difference between assault and attempted murder. If I decide I want to murder someone, plan to do it, and then walk out on the street and shoot someone in the chest the crime I am charged with depends on the whether the person survives or not. My intention and action (pulling the trigger hoping to kill) are not relevant to whether I am charged with murder or attempted murder. In fact, the specifics for why one person would die and one person would live is irrelevant to the charge. If I shoot someone with a clotting disorder and they die because their body can’t clot blood I will be charged with murder, even though I had no idea they had this disorder and I didn’t give them that disorder. But, if I shoot someone who is healthy (or larger or something like that) in the exact same spot but they survive then I am charged with a lesser crime. In this case, the degree of harm decides the charge, not the action.

I would like to see sex treated the same way. Harm should exist in order for an action to be criminal. Basically, who is the victim? If there is no victim then there is no crime (and no, I don’t think parents can claim their child is a victim in a way that overrules how the child feels about the act). But, that brings us to the next topic…

Rights and cognitive abilities of teenagers – Teenagers do not have the same cognitive abilities as adults, but where we draw that line (16, 18, and 21 depending on the act they wish to engage in) isn’t based on science or individual evidence. Instead, we base it on political expediency, convenience, and tradition. We seem to recognize that teenagers can make major life decisions at 16 like operate a 3,000 machine that is the third leading cause of accidental death in the US. Or, at 18, teenagers are allowed to buy cigarettes (probably the most dangerous habit in the world) or join the military. But, we don’t think teenagers should be allowed to buy alcohol (which is probably a post for another time). But, when it comes to sex things are all over the place.

I think the real question we should ask ourselves is “is this teenager capable of making healthy decisions with regards to sex?” Basically, can they recognize unhealthy power dynamics? Are they capable of voicing their desires and saying no when necessary? Do they understand how to use birth control and ask for help and the risks associated with sexual activity? But, instead of asking those questions and implementing institutional changes to address them we have decided to take the convenient way out and just slap an age on the act.

I think things would be greatly improved if we treated age of consent in a similar way that we treat driving. With driving, we recognize that there is a general age where most teenagers are capable of making responsible decisions but then we also provide an education on the subject and test fluency. Perhaps, we could have some sort of “sex license” where having sex with a teenager without one of those licenses is a crime (this is clearly imperfect and kind of sounds silly but I think it would be an improvement).

For example, maybe the “age of consent” issue turns into a licensing issue. When a teenager turns 15 they are eligible to get a sex license that would allow them to have sex with people over the age of 18 without it being illegal (of course rape, assault, etc. would still be illegal but just the act of sex wouldn’t be). In order to get this license, the teenager would go prove fluency in STI and pregnancy convention, communicating desire, saying no, etc. I think the biggest thing preventing any system like this is that a teenager would likely need parental consent for this license because we don’t recognize them as having full rights (hmm… this would probably be a good post in the future too) and, in general, parents are sex-negative.

Sex Negativity – A lot of adults in the US are terrified of sex, particularly of the idea that their children are having sex (spoiler: they are). Instead of providing a thorough education many parents do what my parents did, they ignore the issue and hope for the best. Or maybe they do passive aggressive things like leaving a copy of “Choosing to Wait: A Guide to Inspiring Abstinence” on the bookshelf and they suddenly decide to start cleaning their teenager’s rooms in order to throw out any porn they find. Teenagers look to their parents for guidance and in order for teenagers to make healthy, responsible decisions regarding sex it needs to be discussed in a realistic way. For most of human history, teenagers were having sex, getting married, and raising children, but some sort of puritanism runs through the US that denies this reality.

I think a lot of the laws in place are really about sex-negativity. Adults either want to legislate away the problem (which is impossible) or they don’t want to have a rational discussion about it and change the laws. I understand that this would be political suicide for someone. Any politician that wanted to reform age of consent laws would be accused of wanting to have sex with teenagers. So, unfortunately, I don’t think things are going to change much. I’d rather us have a better system but I don’t have any hope for change.

The Brain is a Body Part

The following post is about mental health. These are my experiences and are in no way meant to be prescriptive for other people. I realize that the issues we each deal with are complex and varied, and that my experiences are likely very different than others. This is not a post about how to solve mental health problems, it is simply a post about things that seem to have worked for me and how my body seems to function.

We tend to separate the brain from the body. At best, we see the two as having a symbiotic relationship but we also treat them as independent and operating in a vacuum. When I first realized that I had some mental health issues that needed professional help I saw a therapist and started my own research. There was a lot of information about medication and therapeutic techniques to help both the foundation of my problems and some of the ways it has manifested itself (trichotillomania, suicidal thoughts, depression, etc) but I can’t recall ever having a discussion about overall health practices.

Eating right, drinking water, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly was never mentioned by my therapist as something that I should be doing. Looking back, I feel like that is a huge gap. My brain is a body part and the practices that keep my heart and lungs healthy, strengthen my muscles, maintain a healthy level of body fat, and provide vital nutrients to my organs are also beneficial to my brain health (which is the physical location of mental health).

Looking back, there appears to be a clear correlation between my mental health improving and adopting healthier habits (even though I adopted those healthier habits for other reasons… mostly to get laid). While I think I have a fairly healthy lifestyle now (see below for details), it started very incrementally. Adopting little practices like going for a morning walk for 15 minutes outside before breakfast or replacing soda with carbonated water or turning off computer screens an hour before bed started a snowball effect towards better body health (which includes the brain). I’d guess that it has taken five years or so for me to get to the point I am now, and that journey has had many struggles, but the difference between my mental health now and in 2012 is night and day.

I guess I just think it is a shame that I’ve never had a therapist sit down with me and go over my diet or exercise routine. I know that therapists aren’t dietitians or nutritionists or personal trainers, but having a base knowledge in these subjects (or partnering with professionals in those fields) could be incredibly beneficial to the parents. Medication helps, therapy helps, meditation helps… but other things help as well. Cutting out bad food helps, drinking water helps, getting outside helps, running helps. At least that is my experience.

So, what are my health practices like now? Every day is imperfect, but here is what an ideal day would look like. Looking at the list of daily practices it seems like I do a ton of stuff, but when I cut out Facebook and shitty TV I actually end up with downtime at the end of the day for more reading or an evening walk.

Daily Practices
Outside exercise in the morning (anything from a 10-minute walk to a 7-mile run)
Stoic reading – a short, daily exercise
Write (journaling, blogging, fiction writing, anything at all)
Meditation
Work on a new skill (foreign language, musical instrument, coding, etc)
Sleep from 10pm-6am (8 solid hours, though I’ve been waking up early recently and I’m not sure why)
Weight lifting or yoga
Read daily
Cold shower or bath – sometimes 60 seconds, sometimes 15-minutes
1-2 additional daily walks, usually during lunch and after work

Diet – ~1,800 calories (No, I’m not hungry all day. Yes, I get plenty of protein for health and muscle growth) – Carb/Fat/Protein = 55%/25%/20% (~Grams 260/55/95)
8 cups of water
2-3 cups of coffee
5 cups of green tea
3 servings of nuts/seeds
3 servings of fruit
3 servings of non-leafy vegetables
3 servings of leafy vegetables
2 servings of legumes
2 servings of whole grains
1 serving of nut milk
1 serving of plant-based protein powder
1 serving of nutritional yeast*
B-12 supplement*
Choline supplement*
8/16 intermittent fast (I have an 8-hour window to eat, usually 10am-6pm

So, that’s where I am right now and I feel like my body (including my brain) is the healthiest it has ever been. If you have any practices that you have worked for you I’d love to hear about them, I’m always looking to improve and experiment. Leave me a message on SurveyMonkey.

*These are due to my vegan diet and may not be necessary for others. Though, I highly recommend running your daily diet through a program like www.cronometer.com to discover any nutrients that may be lacking. I was shocked at some of my deficiencies and some of the nutrients I was getting too much of. For me, focusing on calories or the fat/carb/protein distribution was not the best way to find a healthy diet. Instead, I started with the needed vitamins and minerals and build a diet that met all my needs, the rest just fell into place and I ended up with around ~1,800 calories that was 55% carb, 25% fat, and 20% protein (260 grams, 55 grams, 95 grams)

Richard and Lucy (Rewrite)

Alright, as part of my concerted effort to improve my writing and make this into a career of sorts I rewrote the writing prompt from “On Writing” that I talked about in the previous post. I think this is much better, it feels truer. I am also going to submit it to Stephen King as he requests (Edit: Stephen King no longer accepts submissions… womp womp). I’m not sure if I’m going to significantly revisit this writing prompt again anytime soon but I do need to come up with more things to write about for my 1,000 words a day habit. Tomorrow, I plan on addressing some questions sent to me via SurveyMonkey (so get them in soon and I’ll probably respond tomorrow).

Content Warning: Violence, mental health issues, psychological thriller/horror style writing


Richard and Lucy

Richard felt relief as he opened the door to his newly sold house. Today would be the last day that he we would cross the threshold into this house that used to be a home. Instead of furniture and pictures and toys littering the rooms there was nothing but brown boxes stacked with simple labels written on them to make organizing the new home easier. Each word representing a room and a dream. Silverware and plates in a box marked “Kitchen” where Thanksgiving dinner would be made. Towels in a box marked “Bathroom” where he and his wife would bathe their newborn child. Picture frames and mementos in a box marked “Living Room” where they would curl up and watch tv, surrounded by testaments to their joyous life of adventures. Bedsheets in a box marked “Master Bedroom” where he and his wife would eventually, after much practice, give their daughter a new sibling. But those dreams were shattered and Richard knew that he had to finish packing up reality and get on the road.

His new life in a new, safe town was hundreds of miles away and there was a lot of packing to be done. His closest friends offered to help him with the final day of the move, but he decided to do it alone. Their optimistic visions of music, pizza, and beer as a final farewell felt too fake to him. This wasn’t a joyous occasion and it wasn’t a communal one. No, he knew he needed to do this alone. Even his daughter, the only person he knew loved him, was absent. At six years old, she was too young to really help and he didn’t want her to see him cry over these boxes of broken dreams. She needed to know that he could protect her, that he was strong, that things would be okay. Besides, he knew she would have more fun at her grandparents’ house and they wanted to spend just one more day with their granddaughter before Richard and her drove off into the sunset.

Without conscious thought, Richard aimed his phone at the wireless speakers that sat on shelves throughout the house and pressed play. The house erupted.

*symbols and drums*

*guitar screech*

Jealous cowards try to control
Rise above! We’re gonna rise above!

The living room, dining room, and kitchen went smoothly as his body got into a routine. Lift box. Move box to the truck. Put the box in the truck. Repeat. Each brown square sitting on top of each other, a simple game of Tetris with the same shape in varying sizes. His mind was completely turned off, lost in the task of moving and the angry voices that echoed throughout the house. The hours passed quickly.

Then, he entered the bedroom and his mind came to life. This room, a place where he and his wife cuddled, made love, stayed in bed all day, fought about finances, and acted silly was where their love began and, eventually, died. His eyes glazed over and he felt an impending panic attack. Usually these attacks were triggered by sites that reminded him of his time in the military, but there was no such trigger around. This room was a trigger. Suddenly, smells flooded back to him. Her favorite perfume, her hair, her scent. He sat down, put his head between his hands and tried to focus on the music, but the music suddenly stopped and the speakers beeped.

**Incoming call from… Mom**

A flash of light.

Darkness.

The world started to come into focus and all Richard could think of was rabbits. Rabbits running in circles. No, they weren’t rabbits he realized. It was a merry-go-round, the one near the beach. His daughter was on one of the rabbits and waving. He was happy.

Then, the rabbits started to disappear as reality returned. He tried to beg them to return but all that came out of his mouth was a groan and spit and blood. He blinked his eyes and tried to focus on something, anything, but it seemed too difficult. Movement appeared to his right. A being in white. An angel, she was humming. He was in heaven. He smiled and relaxed

Darkness.

Richard awoke again and this time things came into focus more quickly. The rust started to come off his soldier’s mind and he consciously realized for the first time that he was in danger. This wasn’t a panic attack and he wasn’t in heaven. There were no rabbits.

He began to scan his body from top to bottom.

Head: hurting from the rear, warm liquid flowing down his neck, he was conscious so no major blood loss, possible concussion.

Senses: No impairment.

Torso: Sitting position on floor facing corner, left side sore with possibly bruised ribs, arms secured behind back, felt like rope, no apparent injuries

Legs: Untied, no apparent injuries. Phone still in his pant pocket.

Conclusion: Culprit is either very sloppy or wants to talk and doesn’t fear him running

Options: Scream for help – unlikely to work due to the distance to nearest neighbor and daytime traffic. Try and move – possible but with unknown assailant(s) and their position, better to preserve energy. Wait and observe – best option, feign weakness.

Richard groaned and coughed slowly, pretending to just wake up.

“Well, well sugarplum! I’m glad to see you awake. I’ve missed you!”

Footsteps approached from his right and out of the corner of his eye he saw a flowing white wedding dress. His ex-wife, Lucy, beaming as brightly as she did on their wedding day. His first fleeting thought was how beautiful and sexy she still looked, fitting into the tight dress seven years after she first wore it. Even the veil brought about a sense of secrecy that he found erotic. His second thought was how strangely appropriate it was that instead of a bouquet of white flowers she gently held the small handgun that he had bought her and taught her how to use. The macabre image was highlighted by her perfect white dress sullied with blood splatters.

“Aren’t you excited for our second wedding?” she asked. “This time our bond really will be for eternity. But first, you need to get dressed!” Her body vibrated with excitement, her face almost childlike as it beamed joy.

He turned to see her and noticed that his tuxedo was draped across one of the boxes. This was a bad situation, but Richard started to become confident. He was larger than her, well-trained, and if he had his arms free he knew he could overpower her when given the right opportunity. She was armed, but that didn’t concern him too much. The handgun was a small caliber and one gunshot from that weapon wouldn’t be fatal unless it was in the head, an unlikely situation if he acted wisely. He knew that one-shot kills and hitting targets while tangled in a fight can make for good cinema but reality was messier and more confusing.

She began to untie him while slowly humming “Here Comes the Bride”. He knew that this could be his best chance to overpower her. If he could stand quickly while she was off balance he could grab the gun, overpower her, and get control of the situation. He started his internal countdown, his senses heightened.

*Five*

“Now, I hope you don’t get cold feet,” she said.

*Four*

“I would hate for something bad to happen…”

*Three*

“…to that bitch that you love more than me.”

*Two*

“If you try anything you may find her corpse…”

*One*
“Wait. Are you going robot on me again?!? You emotionless drone!”

*Pause*

“You always do this! You can’t love meeee anymore can you?! Only that stupid bitch!”

*Abort*

With those words, all thought of escape or fighting stopped. He had to know what she meant before trying anything. If Lucy had put their daughter in danger he knew he had to get information out of her first. He walked over to the tuxedo and slowly, nervously put it on. He had stripped in front of this women many times in his life, but this felt different. He was stripping in front of an enemy, and that vulnerability was difficult to overcome. Senses his reluctance she smiled and said, “Aww, do you want that to be a surprise for our consummation? That’s so adorable!” and she turned around. He dressed quickly, sliding his phone into his tuxedo pocket.

“Okay, I’m ready,” he said after getting dressed.

“EEEEE, you look so handsome!” she said as she walked over. She adjusted his tie a bit and then smiled. “Perfect. Time to get married again!” she said, pointing the gun at him, her face suddenly serious, “go into the study.”

He was painfully aware of how tight this hallway was as they moved to the study. It was barely big enough for two people to pass each other if they turned sideways, and even then, bodies inevitably rubbed together (a happy quirk of the house that has lead to a spontaneous quickie between two lovers on more than one occasion).

At the end of the hallway he slowly opened the door. The light flooding in the windows prevented his eyes from adjusting for a moment, but when they did he witnessed a scene of horror. At the center of the room was a makeshift altar built out of boxes and decorated with flowers and weeds from the garden. Toilet paper was hung from the ceiling and walls, the white broken up by splatters and streaks of red blood. Behind the alter was a dead postal worker in uniform, a clear gunshot wound through his left eye. His right eye was open, staring blankly at the floor and his swollen tongue pressed out between his lips. Blood snaked across the floor, filling in the imperfections of the hardwood floor. The smell of death and shit and piss filled the room.

Richard instinctively recoiled back into the gun that was pressed into the back of his neck. “Don’t worry, my love. I know he isn’t a priest, but as a government employee I am sure he can marry us.” He could hear her smiling through the words. There was true joy in her voice, once again she was that young woman excited for her wedding day. She sounded happy and healthy and joyous about the future, a future that none of them could predict.

His mind continued to race through every possible scenario. Did she really have their daughter somewhere? Or was that a lie? How did she get her? Where could she be keeping her? He wanted to fight back but couldn’t take the risk, he had to play along until he knew the truth.

“Lucy, darling, don’t you think we should have a flower girl for this special occasion?” he said.

“That would be wonderful! But unfortunately, we don’t have time. The ceremony is starting. I love you so much, Richard!”

Lucy walked over to a laptop that was sitting on a box in the corner and pressed a button. The familiar “duh duh da duh” of “Here Comes the Bride” pounded out of the small speakers. Something felt off about the recording to Richard, the music seemed muted and imperfect. It wasn’t until Richard heard a man say, “Dearly beloved…” that he realized that this wasn’t a song, this was a live recording of their actual wedding from years ago.

Lucy took Richard’s hand and looked up at him. “Soon this will be over and we will be able to consummate, don’t tell my parents but I’m looking forward to that as much as this ceremony,” she said. “And then one quick errand and then we are on to our honeymoon! Just the two of us!”

Their short ceremony went by in a blur as Richard’s mind raced trying to find a solution. He pretended to recite his vows as the recording played and Lucy pressed closer to him humming and swaying. Once recording announced that they were married and she let out a cheer, put the gun down, grabbed his face, and kissed him deeply. She quickly headed for the door, dragging Richard into the mostly empty bedroom.

“Hmm, well this isn’t very romantic. We can’t make love on the floor, that isn’t going to work.” She looked around and seemed lost in thought. “I know! We won’t make love, we will fuck instead. We can definitely fuck on top of boxes.”

She stripped quickly out of her dress and stared at Richard. “Take off your clothes my love, we can’t fuck if you aren’t naked.”

He slowly complied.

She looked down at his naked body and scoffed. “What’s wrong? Can’t get it up for me anymore? Or were you always faking? I knew you military boys were just closeted gays. All that time bunked up together fried your brain. Oh well, close your eyes and use your imagination if you have to. Because if you don’t fuck me then that bitch of yours is going to spend the last hours of her short life gasping for air and wondering why her daddy didn’t save her.”

She moved closer to him and started grinding against him, his body responding at as always had to her. Soon his body was ready and she smiled. He felt such shame in the pleasure, his mind was fractured between what he knew he should do and what his body wanted to do. It didn’t take much effort to reconcile the two. If he needed to have sex with her to keep his daughter alive he would.

So, he bent her over the boxes and fucked her.

Their bodies found the well-developed routine and rhythm that comes from a decade of practice and soon they both lay panting on the ground with their clothing as a makeshift blanket. For a moment, Richard forgot his daughter and what brought about this whole situation. For a moment, as he looked into Lucy’s eyes, he remembered falling in love with her in the first place.

“I’ll be back in a second and then we can head to Mexico for our honeymoon,” she said as she stood up and walked towards the guest bathroom. Over the next few minutes heard the toilet flush, the sink run, and the sound of Lucy rummaging through boxes. He knew time was running out. They would never make it to Mexico. Lucy was acting too neurotic to get on a plane and driving for three days was impossible. Besides, there was likely a warrant out for Lucy’s arrest. He didn’t know how she got out of the facility but it was likely violent and people would be looking for her. He had to overpower her now and force her to tell her where their daughter was. If that didn’t work all he could do was hope the police would be able to help.

When she returned she was fully dressed and holding the gun in her hand again. “Time to go! Put your clothes on, we have a long trip ahead of us.”

He got dressed and, as they started walking down the hallway. He knew that exiting the hall into the front room would be his best chance. The room opened in a way that would allow him to quickly move to the side of the entryway and get control. He began to steady his breathing and get his mind back into “robot mode”. He became a machine, violence was his job, his training took over and he pushed his humanity deep into his subconscious. She wasn’t his ex-wife or lover, she was the enemy. She was going to kill his daughter. This was self-defense. He wasn’t doing anything wrong.

As he walked ahead of her he could feel the gun pressed into the lower right part of the back. Good. Even if she got a shot off he knew it wouldn’t be immediately fatal and if he spun to the left the gun would shift right away from his body. He had walked this hallway thousands of times and knew how many steps it was to the end. He put his hand into his pocket and felt his phone.

He began counting down steps.

*Five*

Visualize the attack

*Four*

Be ready to improvise

*Three*

Overpower

*Two*

Don’t kill

*One*

Get the weapon

*Now*

Richard pressed the play button on his phone and the house speakers erupted.

The position being taken

She froze in surprise at the music.

is not to be mistaken

Richard spun to the left and raised his left arm. The momentum of his body drove his elbow into her face, making an audible crunch. She had been looking slightly left and took the force of his blow straight on the nose. Blood exploded onto the walls and her vision went blurry. The gun fell to the ground as she instinctually reached up to her face, but her arms never got to her wound. Richard was too quick. He restrained her arms and pushed her to the ground. He straddled her body, pinning her arms against her torso.

As calmly as he could muster he asked, “Where is my daughter?”

“YOU FUCKER! I’M GOING TO CALL THE COPS! YOU BEAT ME JUST LIKE MY DAD BEAT MOM! YOU ASSHOLE!”

“Where is my daughter?”

She started giggling. “You mean ‘our daughter’?” The laughing grew stronger. “She’s fine. She’s in the back seat of the car waiting for us to drop her off at grandmas before our honeymoon.” Her body started to convulse in laughter and she doubled over as Richard jumped off her and sprinted towards the front door. In the back of his mind, he knew that what she said didn’t make sense, but his body was in control.

He lunged out the front door and saw Lucy’s car in the driveway. Inside a familiar strawberry-blonde ponytail pressed into the backseat window. He ran, joy flooding his mind at the sight of his daughter. He tugged on the back door. It was locked. He started banging on the window. “Honey! Honey! Open the door for me, sweetie. Please, Molly! Open the door!”

His daughter didn’t respond.

Then, slowly, his screaming mind overpowered his instincts and he fully realized that something was wrong. His daughter wasn’t moving. Her head was limp against the door. Her pajamas were stained red.

He heard laughter behind him.

He turned to see Lucy, gun in hand.

“You thought I’d let you leave me for that bitch!?”

She raised the gun and took a perfect stance. He could see her eye lined up with the front sight post, exactly as he taught her.

“She always was a good student,” he thought.

A flash of light.

Darkness.

Richard and Lucy

Hey, everyone, I’m sorry that I haven’t blogged over the last few days. There are two reasons for this.

First, I took this last weekend off of basically everything. On Thursday I felt myself hitting a mental breaking point and realized I had been pushing myself a bit too much. A close friend of mine recommended that I schedule a break from exercise, healthy eating, writing, etc. and just spend two days doing whatever the hell I wanted. So, I did that. I ate pizza, rolled, drank beer, took naps, watched terrible TV, etc for two days and it worked like a charm. I am not more motivated than ever to write and work and be healthy. I may start scheduling in break weekends every 3-4 weeks.

Second, I’ve been trying to spend more time on my fiction writing. I have found that blogging can sometimes (though not always) actually hinder my writing. It makes me feel like I accomplished something while I procrastinate doing the work I actually need to do. It is like when I spend an hour researching and planning a workout routine to start tomorrow when it would have been better to just spend that time exercising (even if the exercising wasn’t perfectly efficient). So, my blogging may be a bit sporadic for a while as I force myself to write fiction first and only blog when there is a specific idea I’m passionate about or if I get a question. That being said, II have a couple of posts (including an “Ask Me Anything Question”) that I need to get to and hopefully, will later this week.

So, with all that in mind, this post is a rough draft of a writing exercise from Stephen King’s “On Writing” (my favorite author and a fantastic book overall for artists). The basic premise of the exercise is that King gives a prompt and then the author’s job is to excavate the story, much like an archaeologist excavates a historic site. Authors do not “create” as much as they “unearth”. This is my short story based on King’s prompt. I have not proofread or edited this at all, this is just a stream-of-consciousness style story that is in desperate need of editing (particularly the beginning… I don’t feel like I hit my stride until the second half), but I wanted to share it with you anyway.


“Richard and Lucy”

Despite the boxes stacked throughout the house, the building felt empty to Richard. Nothing had gone according to plan. His life was supposed to be complete by now… a beautiful wife, a perfect child, a stable and lucrative career. But, except for the perfect child, none of that came to be. The boxes in the empty house were proof. He couldn’t figure out exactly where things went wrong but somewhere they did, and now he stood alone in the doorway to his recently sold house and mentally prepared himself for the exhausting task of the boxes into the truck.

His friends asked him if he wanted help. They had all been so supportive, even when he didn’t want the support. Maybe it was his foolish masculine pride, or maybe it was years of military service that hardened his heart, but whatever the reason he wanted to empty the house alone. Even his daughter was absent, but that was for the best. She would have more fun at her grandparent’s house than watching her old man haul boxes as blood, sweat, and tears dripped onto the floor of this home of shattered dreams.

After a long look around the entryway, Richard took his phone out to pick some music. Nothing modern fit his mood. No, for this moment he returned to his youth, his punk days of dyed hair and hatred of authority. Drugs, sex, rock and roll, that’s what he needed. Music that matched his mood, a mood that matched his mind, a mind that knew everything was just fucked up. With music blasting through his headphones he began to move boxes, his body working harder than it had in years.

The living room and dining room went smoothly as his body got into a routine. Lift box. Move box to the truck. Put the box in the truck. Repeat. Each brown square sitting on top of each other, a simple game of Tetris with the same shape in varying sizes. Richard’s mind was completely turned off, lost in the task of moving and the angry voice of Henry Rollins damaged his eardrums. He was so lost in the moment that he didn’t notice anything strange about the breeze coming from the back of the house, the slightly opened box in the kitchen, the smell of perfume that wafted through the air, the tickle in the back of his mind that his military buddies fondly called “Spidey sense”. Any sense that something was wrong was pushed down into the deep caverns of his mind where he stored trauma, despair, and visions of his war crimes that he wouldn’t even tell his therapist.

His mind didn’t escape the music until it was rudely interrupted by a text message. The screeching guitar of “Padded Cell” in his headphones interrupted by a harmonic beeping. He set down the box and pulled the phone out of his pocket. The screen flashed, New Message: Mom – “Call me ASAP 911!!!”

A light flashed in Richard’s head and then he was falling, the taste of liquid metal filled his mouth. Everything went black.

The world started to come into focus and all Richard could think of was rabbits. Rabbits running in circles. The rabbits started to disappear as reality returned. He blinked his eyes and tried to focus on something, anything, but it seemed too difficult. A sweet smell filled his nostrils, an impossible smell, one that reminded him of hate and love. He couldn’t quite place it. The world went dark again.

Richard awoke again, this time things came into focus more quickly and the habits of his prior career started to kick into gear. The rust started to come off the mind of a soldier and he realized for the first time that he was in danger. He started a conscious scan of his body. His head hurt, possibly struck in the back of the head. He was alive so no major blood loss, though his mouth or nose was bleeding. Shoulders and arms felt fine, but he was in a sitting position and restrained. It hurt to breathe and he felt pain on his left side, probably a bruised rib. His legs felt fine but they have spread apart and restrained. He wasn’t blindfolded but he was sitting facing a corner of his house and had limited visibility.

He thought about his options.

Scream for help? He wasn’t gagged but there was no way a neighbor would hear him scream for help, and whoever did this clearly wanted to talk.

Try and move? He could probably shift his body around but he would risk tipping over and further injuring himself. No, he needed to preserve energy.

He knew he needed information and needed to catch his enemy by surprise. He subtly coughed, hoping to appear weak but get the attention of whoever attacked him.

It worked. After the second cough, a familiar voice came from behind him.

“Well, well sugarplum! I’m glad to see you awake.”

Footsteps approached from his right and out of the corner of his eye he saw a flowing white wedding dress. His ex-wife, Lucy, beaming as brightly as she did on their wedding day. His first thought was how beautiful and sexy she still looked, fitting into the tight dress six years after she first wore it. His second thought was how appropriate it was that in place of a bouquet she gently held the small handgun that he had bought her and taught her how to use.

“Aren’t you excited for our second wedding?” she asked. “This time our bond really will be for eternity, but you need to get dressed first.”

She spun the chair around and he saw his tuxedo draped across a stack of boxes. She began to untie him while slowly humming “Here Comes the Bride”. He began to run through scenarios for escape. He was bigger, stronger, and faster, but she was armed. But, one gunshot from a weapon that size was unlikely to be fatal, particularly if he were to grab her quickly. One-shot kills and hitting moving targets makes for good cinema but reality is messier and more confusing. If he could stand slowly and then spin quickly and grab her he could easily overpower her and get control of the situation.

“Now, I hope you don’t get cold feet. I would hate for something bad to happen to that bitch that you love more than me. If you try anything you may find her corpse some day but you’ll never see her alive”

With those words, all thought of escape or fighting stopped. He had to know what she meant before trying anything. If Lucy had put their daughter in danger he had to get information out of her first. He slowly walked over to the tuxedo and slowly, nervously put it on. He was surprised to feel a bit embarrassed as he stripped out of his clothing and put on the formal wear in front of Lucy. She had seen him naked thousands of times, but she had never seen him vulnerable like this.

“Time to get married again!” she said, pointing the gun at him, “go into the study.”

He moved slowly down the hallway into his study and upon opening the door found a makeshift altar built out of boxes and decorated with flowers and weeds from the garden. At the center of the room, the fresh body of a postal worker slumped in a chair, blood from a gunshot wound pooling on the floor. As he recoiled from the room he felt the gun pressed against his head.

“Don’t worry, my love. I know he isn’t a priest, but as a government employee I am sure he can marry us.” She said with a smile on her face. For the first time, Richard got a good look at Lucy and could her blond hair and wedding dress be dotted with blood. His mind raced with every possible scenario. Did she really have their daughter somewhere? Or was that a lie? He couldn’t take the risk, he had to play along until he knew the truth.

Lucy pressed a button on the laptop in the office and the familiar “duh duh da duh” of “Here Comes the Bride” pounded out of the small speakers. Something felt off about the recording, the music seemed muted and imperfect. It wasn’t until Richard heard a man say, “Dearly beloved…” that he realized that this wasn’t a song, this was a recording of their actual wedding from many years ago.

“Soon this will be over and we will be able to consummate, and then on to our honeymoon! Just the two of us!”

The short ceremony went by in a blur. Richard’s mind raced trying to find a solution while Lucy recited vows and joyously hummed next to him, except for the pistol in his ribs he almost thought she didn’t even know he was there.

The recording announced that they were married and she let out a cheer, dropped the gun, and drug him out of the office to the bedroom. She opened the door to find a nearly empty room filled mostly with boxes, the bed packed up the day before into the back of the moving truck.

“Hmm, well this isn’t very romantic. We can’t make love on the floor, that isn’t romantic. I guess we will need to just fuck instead,” Lucy said. She started to strip out of her dress and, upon seeing Richard standing still started screaming, “TAKE OFF YOUR SUIT! WE CAN’T FUCK CLOTHED!”

He slowly complied.

She looked down at his naked body and scoffed. “What’s wrong? Can’t get it up for me anymore? Or were you always faking? I knew you military boys were just closeted gays. All that time bunked up together fried your brain. Oh well, close your eyes and imagine if you have to because if you don’t fuck me then that bitch of yours is going to spend the last hours of her short life gasping for air and wondering why her daddy didn’t save her.”

She moved closer to him and started grinding against him, her hand stroking him until he was ready. He felt such shame because it felt so good, his mind was fractured between what he knew he should do and what his body wanted to do. It didn’t take much effort to reconcile the two. If he needed to have sex with her to keep his daughter alive he would. So, he bent her over the boxes and fucked her.

Their bodies found their well-developed routine and rhythm that comes from a decade of monogamy and soon they both lay panting on the ground where they used their clothing as a makeshift blanket. For a moment, Richard forgot his daughter and what brought about this whole situation. For a moment, as he considered Lucy’s eyes, he remembered falling in love with her in the first place.

“I’ll be back in a second and then we can head to Mexico for our honeymoon,” she said as she stood up and walked towards the guest bathroom. Over the next few minutes heard the toilet flush, the sink run, and the sound of Lucy rummaging through boxes. When she returned she was fully dressed and holding the gun in her hand again. “Time to go! Put your clothes on, we have a long drive ahead of us.”

Richard knew that they would never make it across the Mexican border. Lucy was acting too neurotic and there was likely a warrant out for her arrest right now. He knew he had to stop this right now. If he could overpower her maybe he could convince her to tell him where their daughter was.

He got dressed and decided to make his move when they left the hallway into the front room. The room opened in a way that would allow him to quickly move to the side of the door and get control. He began to steady his breathing and get his mind back into “soldier mode”. He became a machine, violence was his job, his training took over and he pushed his humanity deep into his subconscious. She wasn’t his ex-wife or lover, she was the enemy. She was going to kill his daughter. This was self-defense. He wasn’t doing anything wrong.

As he walked ahead of her he could feel the gun pressed into the lower right part of the back. Good. Even if she got a shot off he knew it wouldn’t be immediately fatal and if he spun to the left the gun would shift right away from his body. He had walked this hallway thousands of times and knew how many steps it was to the end. He began counting down.

*5 more steps*

Each step took less than a second but it felt like an hour.

*4 more steps*

Visualize the attack but don’t get hung up on the details.

*3 more steps*

Be ready to improvise, run through scenarios.

*2 more steps*

Overpower her, don’t kill her

*1 more step*

Don’t forget about the gun.

*Now*

Richard spun to the left and raised his left arm. The momentum of his body drove his elbow into her face, making an audible crunch. She had been looking slightly left and took the force of his blow straight on the nose. Blood exploded onto the walls and her vision went blurry. The gun fell to the ground as she instinctually reached up to her face, but her arms never got to her wound. Richard was too quick and restrained her arms. He pushed her to the ground and straddled her body, pinning her arms against her torso.

As calmly as he could muster he asked, “Where is my daughter?”

“YOU FUCKER! I’M GOING TO CALL THE COPS! YOU BEAT ME JUST LIKE MY DAD BEAT MOM! YOU ASSHOLE!”

“Where is my daughter?”

She started giggling. “You mean ‘our daughter’?” The laughing grew stronger. “She’s fine. She’s in the back seat of the car waiting for our honeymoon.” Her body started to convulse in laughter and she doubled over as Richard jumped off her and sprinted towards the front door.

As he left the house he saw Lucy’s car in the driveway and a familiar blonde ponytail in the backseat. He ran, joy flooding his mind at the sight of his daughter. He tugged on the back door to find it locked and he started banging on the window. “Honey! Honey! Open the door for me, sweetie”.

His daughter didn’t respond.

Then, slowly, he started to realize that something wasn’t right. His daughter wasn’t moving. Her head was limp against her chest. Blood flowed down her neck onto her dress.

He heard a cackling behind him.

He turned to see Lucy, gun in hand, laughing.

“You thought I’d let you leave me for that bitch!?”

She raised the gun and took a perfect stance. He could see her eye lined up with the front sight post, exactly as he taught her. “She always was a good student,” he thought.

A flash of light.

Darkness.

 


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Pride

Language fails us. It is an imperfect way to express what is going on in our minds, but it is the best tool we have right now. I don’t know if English tends to be clearer and more nuanced than other languages (but maybe I will someday), but in English, the same word means many different things to different people. The meanings might overlap a bit, but they are inevitably influenced by both the sender and the receiver of the word.

The clarity (or lack thereof) of language comes to mind clearly when I think of the word “Pride”. When is it appropriate to be proud? Pride seems to fall roughly into one of two categories: individual and collective. Individual pride is overcoming adversity, doing what is right, working hard and accomplishing something. It is writing a book, volunteering to serve in the military, climbing a mountain, or raising a child. It is being a driving force in changing the world.

Collective pride seems to be based simply on being born and is not influenced at all by individual actions. It is luck of birth and who you were raised by, it is a privilege of sorts that is unearned. Collective pride can be a tool, a weapon against a stronger force. It is a way to stand up and say that you exist when those in power would like to pretend that you don’t or would like to criminalize your existence.

This is a valuable and necessary weapon for the oppressed and can bring about greater freedom and equality, but it is also a dual-edged blade. Warmongers and preachers will use collective pride to motivate people who are not oppressed to support of violent and immoral acts. These leaders will use race or nationality as a way to unite people by spreading propaganda that they are (or will be soon) oppressed based on race or nationality, even when there is no evidence. Certainly, some groups (white, men, Christian, American) are losing power, but not all power loss is a bad thing. Slaveowners lost power, and it was good. British Imperialists lost power, and it was good. And White, Christian, American, men have disproportionate power in the world today and a reduction of that power will be a good thing.

Certainly, some groups (white, men, Christian, American) are losing power, but not all power loss is a bad thing. Slaveowners lost power, and it was good. British Imperialists lost power, and it was good. And White, Christian, American, men have disproportionate power in the world today and a reduction of that power will be a good thing. And to me, that is where the difference between Black Pride and White Pride, Gay Pride and Straight Pride, etc comes in. One group is fighting for power and publicly proclaiming who you are and that you don’t fear the group in power is a radically individual act, a source of the first form of pride discussed. The other group may feel like they are losing power, but they are not oppressed. There is no real concern that being a Christian in public will get you killed in the United States. Straight people aren’t being bashed for being straight. Men aren’t being raped or murdered for denying sexual advances from women. White people aren’t worried about being shot by cops simply because police are “in fear for their life” simply because of their skin color. Many power hungry “leaders” may say otherwise, but it simply isn’t true.

There is no real concern that being a Christian in public will get you killed in the United States. Straight people aren’t being bashed for being straight. Men aren’t being raped or murdered for denying sexual advances from women. White people aren’t worried about being shot by cops simply because police are “in fear for their life” simply because of their skin color. Many power hungry “leaders” may say otherwise, but it simply isn’t true.

Again, language fails. As I think about it, what we call “Black Pride” (or pride in any group that faces oppression) isn’t really about pride in being Black, it is about pride in being unashamed or unafraid of being Black. It is an individual act based on a collective attribute.

At least that’s how it seems to me. Admittedly, I’m just a random cis white guy sitting at a computer drinking coffee. I’ve never faced real oppression for who I am, and as such, I have no pride in my race, nationality, or gender. I’m not proud to be American, and I don’t think anyone should be. I’m not proud to be white, and I don’t think anyone should be. I’m not proud to be a man, and I don’t think anyone should be. There is no pride in playing life on easy mode. I have pride in things, but those are individual accomplishments. I am proud of writing a book, cycling around the country for two years, and volunteering to serve in Afghanistan. I am proud of earning my degree and working to improve housing policies across the country. Pride is a weapon (like all weapons) should only be used against those in power, and someday I hope that pride (like all weapons) will no longer be necessary.

Each Morning

I used to turn off my alarm on “days off” and sleep in, but at some point, I stopped doing that. Now, my alarm goes off at 6:15 am Sunday-Saturday. Sometimes I hit the snooze button a couple of times, particularly if the night before was a long one, but generally I pull myself away from my partner’s warm body and get the day started early.

In the last couple years, there has been a slow shift in how I view the world and my time. This shift was almost certainly started by (or at least accelerated by) the two-year bicycle ride I was on but it has continued into my more traditional life here in Wilmington. When I was on the bike ride there were no days off because my job was to live life to the fullest. My schedule was not determined by a paid job, it was determined by the sun and weather and geography. It would have been easy to slip back into the

After we stopped in Wilmington tt would have been easy to slip back into the compartmentalized world that I left in Los Angeles. My schedule could have been defined by my job, but I think that would have been a mistake. As a human, I get no days off because my true job is to live a good life to the fullest. How I make money is certainly part of that, but it isn’t the most important part, it is simply something that must be accomplished like gardening, writing, socializing with friends, travel, and pleasure.

We each get 24 hours during the day to live life and it seems a waste to spend it sleeping. Sleeping is enjoyable, but its primary function is to restore our bodies so that we can accomplish other things. It is much like food in that way, a necessity that can become unhealthy when overused. I don’t remember what night last week was the most enjoyable, but I remember a great cup of coffee watching the sun rise over the woods in my backyard or having time to play with my dog or sitting on the porch reading a book or writing a blog post.

Life is rarely lived between the sheets (with a couple of notable and highly enjoyable exceptions). I am not a morning person, it takes effort to rise each day, but I am always grateful for it. When I look at the clock and it is 8am and I have already accomplished things it feels good, and it feels even better to know that I have an entire day ahead of me to take advantage of. Our lives are more than how we measure the day or week or month. Each day is a holiday if we let it be, an opportunity for celebration and joy, and an opportunity to get going with our most important work: living life to the fullest. And that means waking up.

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Habit Building

According to the research cited in “The One Thing”, it takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit. I realize that there is some variance (the complete range was 18 to 254 days depending on the person and difficulty of the new habit), but that 66 days seems like a good goal to shoot for. Using that benchmark I decided to try and form new habits by doing them every day for 66 days. So far, I’m pleasantly surprised.

I’ve gone for a run every morning for the last 34 days and it is starting to feel like a habit. Most days I don’t even register that I put on my running shoes. There are certainly tough days, particularly the two days I was hungover and the couple of days it was raining, but I’ve found Instagram and Snapchat help with that. I little bit of bragging on social media helps get me moving. The runs weren’t always record setting, sometimes it was only 1-2 miles, but most days I was in the 3-4 mile range and even hit six miles a couple times. So far, this is my biggest success with habit forming.

My morning run leads naturally into my next habit, taking cold baths or showers. For the last 20 days, I have had either a bath or a shower with only the cold water turned on. It is still kind of miserable in the beginning, but my body is getting acclimated to it and I find myself getting bored before getting too uncomfortable.

I have also blogged every day for the last 19 days. This certainly doesn’t feel like a habit yet, but my mornings have a feeling of incompleteness when I don’t write. Writing is also getting easier as well, the floodgates of my mind are opening up and I’m coming up with ideas as I consume more.

Which brings me to the next habit I’m working on: reading. I’ve read every morning for the last two weeks or so. I shoot for a simple 10-20 pages while enjoying my morning coffee, but sometimes I get a lot more than that in and sometimes it is less. The important thing seems to be that I sit down and open a book.

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but there are two planning issues that help me complete my habits. The first is preparation ahead of time. Before going to bed I set my running shoes and books next to my reading chair, make the coffee and put it in the refrigerator, put a fresh towel in the bathroom with my work clothes, set out my running clothes next to the bed, and prep my desk area by closing all documents on my computer except for WordPress and clearing my desk completely off to eliminate distractions or busywork. Taking care of the prep ahead of time allows me to mindlessly go about my routine in the morning.

The second planning issue is to have all my habits fit together like puzzle pieces that form the routine. I wake in the morning and pour a cup of coffee. I sit in my reading chair where my books are waiting for me and drink the coffee. After I finish drinking coffee I put on my running shoes (which are conveniently next to my chair) and go for a run. After the, run I am in desparate need of a shower so I take my cold bath or shower. Then I get dressed in my work clothes and sit down at my desk to write.

There are a couple of other things I’m working on as well, including my meditation practice and learning Spanish, but I am not holding those to the “66 Day Standard” yet. I don’t want to overload myself and it is nice to have a few things that I can miss over a rough weekend or a busy day and not feel too guilty about it. I also have a shit-ton of other things that I want to build into habits but haven’t really started yet, but those will come later when these habits are securely in place or need to be replaced.

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Pride 2017

This weekend many members of the LGBT+ community are celebrating Pride. Despite struggles and some setbacks, the LGBT+ community has made incredible strides in pursuit of equality in the last few years. The current White House occupant has inspired and motivated many hateful people in the United States (though, I actually don’t think Trump has a problem with the LGBT+ community… or even really cares about social issues at all), but the tide is turning. Freedom and radical individuality where we each get to peacefully pursue happiness, have relationships, and identify as who wish is growing. Overall, things are looking up.

To be honest, I am torn about how to celebrate or participate in Pride. One one hand, I want to change my profile picture because my sexuality does have a little kink in it. My sexual fluidity, polyamory, and BDSM interest is part of who I am and something I am not ashamed of it (I do recognize that the latter too are not as applicable for Pride). I also want to show solidarity with those in the LGBT+ community that may not be in a privileged position where they can vocalize who they are. I want to continue to show support and raise my freak flag for those that can’t. I’m in a position where I won’t lose my residence, my job, or face violence by being who I am (part of that is because I can “pass” – see below).

But, I also don’t want Pride to be about me. Having a bunch of white, cis, male, straight-passing people running around with some self-congratulatory signaling feels strange to me. It also feels inappropriate to celebrate the progress that I haven’t worked towards. I think we should be primarily proud of things we do and I haven’t done anything to really help the cause. I have a similar issue with people who are “proud” to be American… pride in a geographic location that you’re born in that has not created any problems for you makes me roll my eyes pretty hard. I haven’t really faced struggles based on my sexuality so taking pride in it feels strange.

So I’m torn. Do I publicly celebrate Pride as an individual or do I spend my time sharing the stories and experiences of others? Do I change my profile picture as a show of support and to show I’m not ashamed of who I am, or do I stay in the background to prevent taking attention away from others? I don’t know… I really don’t know.