Saturday, June 11, 2016

Single after 30

Society has a weird stigma about people doing things by themselves. I think the perception is that the solo person doesn't have any friends, but the fact is I just don't have any single friends that can pack up and do road trips.

So, my choice is pretty simple. Keep doing whatever I want by myself, ask a random girl to join, or wait around for other people to join me. Frankly I'm tired of waiting and I'm tired of lame dates. Time for life on my own terms. I'll get over the quizzical looks and subtle judgements.




Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, March 05, 2016

The puritans are dead. They've been replaced by televangelists and yogis. Our political system reflects this. Austere, calculated discipline has been replaced by frothy mouths and boundless emotion. Some of this is good, some bad.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dating after 30

Part of being mature is understanding what you want and having enough self-control to seek it out and ignore things that don't match up with your goals. I have dated a lot of good people, but I have also dated a bunch of people I probably shouldn't have. Several relationships were a complete waste of time. Deep in my core I know exactly what I want and I have probably been a little afraid to seek it out because I know I may not be mature enough for the woman that I wanted -- but I am a lot closer than I have ever been.

As a result, I have decided I need to do seriously date and seek it out. I am going to take a more rapid fire approach and see what sticks. One of my friends went on over 100 dates before he found his fiancĂ©e, and I have read some more stories of others doing the same. This is the approach I think I'm going to take rather than letting fate and destiny throw me what they will. What is your quantity of people that you can encounter on online dating apps it's silly not to see what's out there. 

The dating pool here is pretty slim, but as long as I'm here I should still look. If I run out of potential dates and then it's probably time to move on, but I am a long way from that. With that said, I have gone on a few boring dates over the past week, and most of that is my fault. I have been a boring date and haven't really uncovered the people I have been with.

There are two things that are important when it comes to starting a relationship (after some basic level of attraction). Compatibility and common long-term goals. I spend most of my time on first dates on the latter, which prevents me from getting to know people on a deeper level - they can become very
impersonal encounters. Realistically, I should spend more time getting to know people and less on "interviewing." They probably put off potential people I could date. Essentially they have the potential to preclude a second date. I have probably taken this approach because I am afraid of falling for someone who doesn't have similar goals which would lead to a potential "heartbreak," but this potential pain is probably less of a problem than going on a bunch of lame first dates. I need to just be a lot more relaxed and open on my first dates and not worry about the future. My list of questions is relatively short anyway so I could literally just ask them in rapid fire succession after hanging out a few times. 

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Finding my place

For something so precious, time is very easy to squander -- particularly when one is comfortable. It is easy to float through life as if it's a lazy river -- sipping on cocktails and enjoying cocktails and warm water. I am becoming lazy. I am drifting.

What I just wrote feels too harsh though I half believe it. I was about to pen my resolve to forge goals for the coming years, but at my innermost core I know what I do will be ultimately meaningless. Nothing I ever do will if viewed with a broad and long term perspective will ever be of any significance. If I think so, I always remind myself to name the last 5 Nobel peace prize winners or the last super bowl QB or the 5th richest man in the world. No one remembers.... and who can blame them.   

I struggle with the tension between enjoying what I have, being content, and the desire to push myself to do more. To make the most of the time I have while on earth. The tension between knowing that my life and what I have done will fall away like leaves in the fall and knowing that progress does make life better. I can't deny that we are better for cures to diseases, medicine that relieves plan, tools to help us communicate, warm, safe homes. 

I suppose what I am denying is the significance of the individual in the modern world. Humanity is too large and expansive for any one man to be credited with pushing the entire species forward.

I guess it's similar to something that happened to me late yesterday evening after work...

I saw a man pushing a pickup into a gas station uphill. He could move it but he couldn't get it over the small curb so that it would be able to roll to the pump. Given I was only a few yards away, I tried to back up so that I could avoid having his truck roll back into my car since we were on a hill. As I moved in reverse, the car behind me wouldn't back up even as I tapped my brake lights in his face and repeatedly inched closer towards the front bumper of car. He wouldn't budge and looked at me in a somewhat annoyed manner. I was very irritated at his apparent incompetence but there was little I could do. I was stuck between a car that could potentially roll into mine and a car that wouldn't move. Since there was little else I could do to avoid an accident, I hopped out of my car. We pushed and were still unable to get it over the hump. The guy behind me just sat there and watched.  Anyway, as the two of us continued to push without any success, two passengers from the car behind me eventually hopped out and helped us push it into the fuel station. 

Humanity is often like that -- people you don't know and sometimes don't like push it forward... sometimes just because they have to in order to get where they are going. We are all better for it.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Acceptance

My mood has gotten a lot better since I changed my outlook from preparing for a big journey to actually making sure I enjoy the time between now and then. Work has gotten a lot better too and I actually enjoy what I am doing there (searching for other jobs also offered some perspective and generated a lot gratitude - I realized how boring my job really could be). However, for whatever reason, I keep ignoring (or at least failing to put effort into) the things that make life worth living: meaningful relationships and some sort of activity that betters the world or is a source of deep passion. I am just drifting along in some sort of moderately pleasurable, well-insulated, bourgeois lifestyle.

Usually I write because I am at a breaking point, but now I am writing because I know I can do more. Days are slipping by. I guess it's just a function of where I am at in my life. People my age have routines, and the opportunities that used to trickle into my life (and helped to keep it interesting)  on a regular basis in college and when I was just wandering around are going to require more work at this stage of life. I also have less free time which means the time I used to spend wandering and discovering and having things fall into my lap needs to be substituted with hard working seeking out interesting things. It's also a function of the fact that I have thoroughly explored and experienced the area where I live. There are only so many things a person can do until they must either move or be content with the annual cycle of festivals, events, parties and seasonal changes. As much as I like novelty and new experiences, I need to accept the reality that there is a certain repetitiveness to stationary life and that if I want the stability and benefits that come from this. This also goes for friends. Rather than lamenting that my friends are growing up, moving and other things, I just need to accept that social networks are always in transition and that this is another area I need to work to maintain. I also need to accept that I am different than most people I meet in this city and that I am at a bit of a statistical disadvantage if I want to meet people like myself. I have friends that commute to cities a few hours away just to see their childhood friends on the weekend. I could consider doing the same in Charleston or in Charlotte if I really wanted the variety. I could also consider moving in the next year or two if I find that I simply have a shortage of people I want to hang out with.

Conclusion: work harder to create the life you want while accepting the life that has emerged from the decisions you have made.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Self worth

"The inherent worth and dignity of every person"

This is the first of the seven Unitarian Universalist principles. I don't even know if I hold this to be true for myself. Worth must be earned. I am always critical of what I do and what I am failing at

What do I hang mine on? My appearance, my income, MY INTELLIGENCE, being entertaining/sense of humor, my athletic ability to some degree, my tastes/preferences, the quality of my ambitions.

There is a very good chance I end up as a sad, wrinkled, mentally dull old man.

I don't have inherent self worth outside of what I have done. I need to think about this for a while.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Productivty Apps

"How do you $pend your time"

I've had that post it on my monitor at work for a while. I realized around that time I was pissing it away like a nouveau riche millionaire. Though none of us really have time to piss away. Around that time I also had a conversation with a friend about something called the passion planner which is a detailed day planner, with to do checklists and built in goal setting. Two areas where I needed a lot of work. Today I discovered that there have been quite a few apps coming out to help with this as well and probably are a better way for me to stay organized. 

Areas where I need help
  • Personal relationship management
  • Time tracking
  • Goal setting
I have actually found technology to help with all of these areas:

Keeping in touch
There are plenty of robust services to help with this, but I just needed a  simple app to do the basic. Keep good records, set reminders and keep it all in one place. Contacts Journal does just that. 

Time Tracking
I realized I have been drifting aimlessly since I set my next big goal a few years away (bike trip through Europe, Middle East and Asia - something like this). I have just been pissing away my time in the interim as I save/plan for this big trip. That's been a terrible mistake. I need to make a vow to myself to never live for anything in the future. Anyway, I found an app/website/desktop service Toggl, that works exactly like a stopwatch lap function. You just type in the activity and hit start. Anytime you switch what you're doing it records it. I have also tried building a little one page thing in excel that I have been using at work where I allot my time in 30 minute increments and then also have space for other things I want to keep an account of (Gratitude, personal and work to do's, what I learned today and a space for meeting notes). In this process I realized that how I hoped to spend my time is quite different than how I actually spend it. I also found another time tracking app that lets you estimate how long you thought a task would take and how long it actually took. I have realized I do a terrible job estimating how long some things will actually take to do.      

Goal Setting
I found a wonderful blog post that reviews several nice apps for setting goals. I settled on Habit Calendar, which is a very simple and straight forward app that asks you to list your habits. In the short run I am more interested in creating habits that reflect my goals/values. Right now they are writing more, reading more and connecting with friends. The underlying goals are to stimulate my mind (the book selections dive into my values/goals and are designed to help me lay out a vision for myself - my book for January is a good example), connect with people that I love and care about who stimulate my mind, and being less critical, which is probably my biggest flaw. Two of these are carry over resolutions from 2014 that I wasn't able to carry out without more of a system in place. I am hoping that these system can help me to get more focused on what I want to do.   



Friday, January 02, 2015

Communication

I just realize it's not my job to maintain contact with my parents grandparents and other family members. If they sit around waiting for me to call, that's their own problem. I'd like to receive calls too sometimes or have them visit. There's no need to stress myself out about not calling enough or having any guilt about it. I just need to call when I feel like I need  to talk. That's it 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Looking backward, Looking forward

'For last year's words belong to last year's language And next year's words await another voice.'
-T.S. Eliot

For the past two years I have led the annual fire communion at my church. It's an annual ritual we created to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. In the first part we write out our regrets/losses/failures for the past year on little slips of paper and burn them. In the second part, we light a candle for what we hope to do in the upcoming year. I do my best to draw out these emotions and lay out some ways of setting goals and achieving them.

Below is an outline of the homily for that service that I wanted to share.

It begins with a brief history lesson....

A Two Faced God
January was made for New Year's reflections and goals. Originally the calendar was based on lunar cycles and the first month was actually March, to coincide logically with spring. However, as subsequent Romans sought to improve both the accuracy and consistency of our calendar, they increased the number of months from 10 to 12 and changed the order. January eventually became the first month. January was named for the god Janus, the two faced man with one face looking to the past and the other to the future. This is the perfect metaphor for why we are here today: to look at the last year and decide what we could do differently in the new year.

Detroit Real Estate
I looked at the ashes from all the papers to throw them in the trash where they belong and couldn't help but be frozen on three little words that remained: "Detroit Real Estate"

I don't know the story tied to this tightly held memory, but intuition tells me it was either a family home or an investment gone awry. Someone had struggled long and hard to preserve this far away box, but there is no amount of wishing, hoping or worrying that is going to make it any better. What will be will be. There is a very real chance that home may end up like that little piece of charred paper, but hopefully that unnamed soul will sleep a little easier tonight as they loosened their grip on preservation and accepted a bitter reality.   


Regrets, I've had a few

    In the same way, it is our time for our somber reflection. It is time to clear the temple of the mind. It is time for emotional reconciliation. In our busy lives we often fail to take time needed to process these events and today we do it together. 

    Here are some common sources of discontent. Which have you been most affected by?

    • Conflicts: with our children, siblings, parents, friends and business partners. Or
    • Or perhaps not the emotional loss, but the actual loss of these people in our lives. Perhaps it was a job, or a bad investment or a pet. 
    • Have you had to battle a difficult illness?
    • Maybe you have had to deal with abuse from another person or substance abuse. 

    So we ask ourselves what have we done or what has happened that we wish hadn't happened? What part of reality are we still clinging to that is far from what we want? What are our hidden scars? Our ''Detroit Real Estate?"



    Friendly Fire 



    Or, perhaps it's just a self defeating, repetitive thinking. Hugh Prather in Notes to Myself has a wonderful quote on this topic:   Often my surroundings and situations can feel boring, but it is not the world that I have grown tired of, it  is my tired, stale, repetitive thinking that I loathe. 

      
    We all have our own unique, and sadly predictable cycle of negative thoughts that we play on repeat until something snaps us out of it. Sometimes these thoughts just suck the life out of our situations, sometimes it is self sabotage, emotional friendly-fire.  

    We have to identify them and actively stop the repetition. It could be through mindfulness, meditation, prayer, pinching yourself or removing yourself from people, places and things that initiate these negative thoughts. It may require us to find new friends, exploring new ideas whether they be film, art music or places, to get more sleep, more exercise, or a better diet.

    It addition to cycles of negative thoughts it is also easy to wallow in self-pity and miss the world around us. I am reminded of a poem by Rumi about a lover who can't see the beautiful world around him because he is caught up in longing desire. 

    Come to the garden in Spring

    There's wine and sweethearts
    In the pomegranate blossoms
    If you come, these will not matter.
    If you do not come, these will not matter

    The real question: What thoughts or habits fail to serve a purpose?



    In many ways this is process is like a crucible. In the same way that metal is heated to burn away impurities, we too bring our troubles and lay them down and burn them away.  We will be making space in our minds and lives for other things


    Looking Forward
    As a part of the fire communion we will all have the opportunity to light a candle for the things we hope to accomplish later this year. – a simple light guiding our path. I hope to lay out several ways of illuminating the path of success. I want to offer several techniques I have used and some I have researched to help with actually implementing the resolutions we make for ourselves. 

    But first I want to share a few quotes about new year's resolutions. Think about how you view the annual tradition: 
    • Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits.  ~Author Unknown

    • A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.  ~Author Unknown
    I also want to share a few common goals. Here is a list from USA.gov

    • Lose Weight
    • Volunteer to Help Others
    • Quit Smoking
    • Get a Better Education
    • Get a Better Job
    • Save Money
    • Get Fit
    • Eat Healthy Food
    • Manage Stress
    • Manage Debt
    • Take a Trip
    • Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

    This is mostly a list of Puritanical, self-imposed restrictions. They aren't fun. They are also self serving for the most trivial reasons. 

    Perhaps we can do more. Here is another author's humorous take on "30 resolutions for those who can't think for themselves" I have taken a few.

    • Put your phone away at dinner
    • Take a vow of silence. Join CrossFit. Do P90X. Detox in January. Become a vegan. Sell your TV.  Train for a marathon. Start the Paleo diet. Go for any or all of these, but please love of God shut up about it.
    • Avoid extreme and unrealistic health pledges. Eat right, exercise sensibly, and drink mostly in moderation; it’s not rocket science.
    •  Laugh more. That means: socialize more often, drink more, have long lazy brunches, throw parties, host wine infused game nights. Be spontaneous… Upgrade your friends if necessary.
    • Don’t just rely on the gym. Remember that feeling of playing a competitive sport as a kid, when you’re on the field, and not thinking about anything else. Most of us have forgotten what that feels like. So join a team or find someone to play tennis with. “A guy came up to me at the gym and asked me what event I was training so hard for. Life, buddy.”
    While this were a little more entertaining, I don't doubt that many of you view them as pointless. Laughable? a waste of time? If so, I would like to challenge you to think about them differently. To view them (on Jan 1 and throughout the year) as a reflection of your own values and as an integral part of your own growth. It's a chance to work towards what we want. It's just a reminder, and a good time for it since we are usually not working and stuck indoors.
    My goal today is to get you excited about life and its possibilities. This isn't a season to impose puritanical self restraint, it's a season to open yourself to what you can be and imagine how much you can grow over the next 12 months. It's a time to dream. I simply want to pollinate your mind with ideas and hopefully spark a few small changes.

    First, there is nothing wrong with seeking your own happiness. In fact, I don't think we'd want to be in a world where those around us aren't happy. It's essential. Which brings me to a very important question,

    "WHAT IS ALIVE IN YOU?" What brings you joy, what makes you feel. Focus on that for a moment

    If losing weight isn't something you want to do, don't impose it on yourself.

    Here, a quote from Tolstoy is useful:

    "Changes in life must come from a conscience that cannot bear it any other way, not mental resolution to try a new form of life" 

    This is why we are here today.


    FINDING A GOAL

    Again focus on the phrase, "What is alive in you?" The goal is to uncover things that you believe in and that excite you. 

    Obvious choices: focus on your long term dreams. Pick something on your bucket list. What have you wanted to do since you were a child?  Note that there is nothing wrong with doing something for yourself. Life was meant to be savored and appreciated. I don't think any of us would want to be in a world where we didn't 

    More generally, I think things can be broken up into several main categories. Each is outlined below. Try to find something in the area you would benefit the most from. 
    • Physiology - improve diet sensibly (eliminate soda for instance), get more sleep, exercise at least three times a week, get a comprehensive physical. Pick a physical challenge (run a marathon, hike a mountain, do something big) and stretch yourself. Make it fun: bike around a new city, join a sports team, try something new like yoga
    • Seek peace and spiritual engagement: Come to church more. Perhaps you need to be less materialistic. Get rid of junk you don't need, stop buying more of it, and donate everything to goodwill or friends who might appreciate it. Get rid of people in your life that just suck up time and energy to make room for something else. Keep a gratitude journal and build appreciation for what you have 
    • Meaningful relationships: Build human connections. Life is a centrifuge. Marriage, babies, new jobs, and divorce all seem to be acting against close friendships. Our world is not stationary. We have to work much more than prior generations to keep our relationships intact and to keep people in our lives. Join a circle supper, start a dinner party with your friends, start a poker night, or a pickup sports  team. You'll meet similarly minded people in the process. start a regular dinner party. Try to make 2-3 new close friends and make an effort to connect with them on a regular basis. Write more letters to your friends. Put your phone away at dinner. Come to church more. 
    • Stimulate your mind: Try to take a religious education class, join the UU book club, join a local club: there are clubs in Columbia for film, photography, gardening, poetry,  political discussion, biking, vegan eating. Pick 10 interesting books you want to read, sign up for a free online course with one of the world's best universities on EdX, try to watch one TED talk per week, sign up for a twitter account and be the curator of your own information from anyone you want in the world. 
    • Break the monotony: Create some intentional changes in your life. Grab a copy of the Free Times every Wednesday and check out the 8 days a week section, go to one of our many concert venues (NBT, Music Farm, Conundrum, UU coffeehouse). Take a roadtrip once a month.  
    • Care for others: Identify an organization you would like to be a part of, call them, and figure out how you can help at least once a month. Epworth, harvest hope, meals on wheels, a suicide hotline, a bicycle co-operative. 

    Executing on the Goal

    Once you have found something you believe in, here are some helpful tips to help you achieve them:

    • Be OK with baby steps
    • Don't try to stop doing things. Make new habits
    • Break it into pieces (30 day challenges)
    • Use the power of writing
    • Make it measurable:
    • Have a general plan 

    More detailed advice:
    • Plan – lay out the steps you need and put in the necessary infrastructure to make this happen, for him it was a website. It also caused him to look at the concrete . To focus on the physical limitations that were keeping his ideas from becoming a reality.
    • Create rules, guidelines and measure progress – This gives you a way to objectively measure the benefits of the change. Set out a list of what you will and will not do during the experiment. Also, most importantly, set an end date. Open ended projects seem impossible because they likely are.
    • Jump  In – just do it (stop the paralysis by analysis). Make a decision and follow through. I remember when I wanted to run a marathon. I realized the training program was actually more difficult than actually running the marathon and that was what was keeping me from doing it. In March of last year I saw a flyer for the Columbia marathon. I walked over to the hotel where registration was and paid my registration fee. I was in. I didn't set any speed records, but I finished. Sometimes one just has to:

    Just Do It
    The most effective for me was to break up the new years resolutions and tackle them individually. One was to watch a TED Talk everyday  (I would highly recommend this idea) and in the process of doing that I encountered a talk that really reinforced and clarified this idea. One talk suggested that people should assign goals for 30 days at time. The speaker suggested that this was just about the right amount of time to break an old habit or form a new one. He had some quite creative and difficult ones such as writing a novel in 30 days or biking to work every day for a month. 
    Some of the biggest benefits are:
    • Life is more memorable. These challenges mark time very well.
    • Increased self-confidence. You begin to believe in your own abilities
    • More open to new experiences/challenges.  
    The biggest realization was that small changes can add up to big differences. Giving up meat was a good example of this. While calling myself a vegetarian was a big leap and not something I was sure I was ready for, it was quite easy to not eat meat for one month. Ultimately these short term acts of will help to create a larger impact as they are much more likely to alter behavior for years instead of days. It's also a good way to convince myself to do something. I think I often feel the pressure to either give up things forever or not bother at all. This "test drive" tends to be much easier to accomplish. 

    I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend last week about fasting. He said he actually went 10 days without food and probably could have gone longer had he promised himself beforehand. HOWEVER had he promised to go much longer, he likely would not have been able to convince himself to start at all. A short term goal helped to initiate action.  

    Write it Out
    A final, and crucially important aspect to this was to write down my goals. Sometimes I feel like writing is like a magic wand. It's easy to throw and bounce around ideas in my head, but writing does several things. It forces one to refine his thinking. 

    It's also very easy to lie to delude ourselves. Writing has a way of forcing us to be slightly more honest and reflective about who we are. It's easy to have conflicting or half baked ideas bouncing around in our brains but that will become painfully obvious as we put pencil to paper.  

    Writing also frees up our working memory to pursue novel or complex solutions. Our working memory only has space for about 7 numbers and this simply isn't enough to solve many of the problems we face on a daily basis. Writing also has a way of drawing out what is sometimes difficult to express. This is often the most essential part of working through problems. Writing also preserves our thought so we can easily add to them later without having to resolve the problem. It also allows for us to measure growth over time and see if we have lived up to our own expectations. 

    Self Actualization
    We all like to dream. Dreaming is easy. It's easy to have a vision of ourselves that is at odds with reality. The difficult part is identifying what makes us excited about life and then setting the things in place to make that happen. I hope each of you can take a few small steps towards making that happen. 

    Wednesday, December 24, 2014

    Appreciating what I have

    "Changes in life must come from a conscience that cannot bear it any other way, not mental resolution to try a new form of life"
    -Leo Tolstoy

    "I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community... I'm in this really lucky position, where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people. And I feel like I'm not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life," 
    -Mark Zuckerberg on why he wears the same outfit every day

    I have been focused on decluttering my life for the past month or two. The obvious manifestation of this has been getting more organized and getting rid of unnecessary possessions which have led to piles of things I've sent to Salvation Army, but it's also played out in how I use my time and focus my energy. I like being around people and as a result I'd invited in a lot of people who weren't helping me grow and were leading to frustration and anxiety. I deleted numbers and unfollowed people on social networks and I breathe a lot easier. In the same way that it's now easier to find something to wear, my relationships are also better.  

    I appreciate what I have more.  I actually iron my clothes. I EVEN USE STARCH! They are placed neatly in drawers. My friends now receive letters and I try to call/visit more. 

    I made the comment to my friend at work that I was trying to be a minimalist and favor quality over quantity and he said 'Oh, like the opposite of your dating life" with a wry grin. It was true. That's cleaned up too. 

    It's been kind of strange for me though. I walk in to my house and it's all just open and clean and clutter free. I change into some comfortable sweat pants and just enjoy the space. I think having lots of unorganized crap in a room promotes lots of disorganized thoughts. Every drawer I opened was a reminded I needed to do or read. Now everything is neatly laid out and I know where it is.  I also don't have an overwhelming desire to always be doing something. I enjoy what I have and that's at least temporarily satisfying. 

    The oddest thing happened the other night as a result of this. I was going to go make myself work out and run some errands and instead I just let myself rest, and I had the most amazing sleep and the happiest dreams. I have been riding myself too hard and searching to hard and only after creating a nice quiet simple place have I been able to see that I have been mentally/emotionally/physically running around like a squirrel in traffic. 

    Perhaps it's also because I just turned 30. I feel like this is the year I transition to manhood (whatever that means). I am setting aside so many things from my youth lately. I don't know what this means, but my thoughts do feel like they are solidifying and that also means I am getting mentally closer to a stable longer relationship. I have always been so reluctant to date (but always wanting to) because I didn't know where I was going to be or what I was going to be like in 5 years. I still don't know but I don't suspect it will be terribly different from what I am now. In the past I have also just been willing to take whatever I can get and now I feel like I am more discriminating about what I want. I am tired of pointless relationships. 

    I think this goes back to one sentence I saw in an article on decluttering/minimalism. One of the authors said do not buy anything that does not "spark joy." I think it's a good universal rule for things beyond household possessions. I think the lesson is slowing permeating.   

    Saturday, November 29, 2014

    Demarcation

    I am far too discriminating to be this easy-going when it comes to dating. I have a very clear picture of what I want, I know the type of person I can attract, and yet I continually waste energy on fruitless relationships. This is a poor use of my time, my mental and emotional energy, and my money. I would be better served by staying at home and reading or writing than going on meaningless dates. Alternately, I could invest his time in the friends and quality relationships that I too often neglect. Tonight was a good lesson in what not to do, and I should learn from my mistakes.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014

    Reality just rang the doorbell and came with a delivery

    The slow march of Death has a way of quietly advancing under the surface and then popping up after it  has made huge advances. My dad has been slowly getting worse over the past few months and between the chemo, radiation and tumors he is a wilted version of the man he was earlier this year. He’s lost all of his hair, his face is swollen, and his legs are thin. This week he had unexplained swelling in his face which has turned the bags under his eyes into fluid filled sacs like some sort of bubble eyed goldfish. He’s feeling ill all over, and the fact that he’s been confined indoors for the past few months (from a lack of balance and doctor’s orders to avoid the sun) is taking its toll on his spirit. He’s starting to suffer.

    Until a week or two ago I have been able to find comfort in the fact that in spite of his appearance he was in good spirits and not in a lot of pain. While I knew things were advancing internally, I have carried around the feeling that things might have been stable and we might have a plateau for a few months. I didn’t feel too bad about the situation because it hadn’t gotten ugly. I could live in the moment and not worry what was around the corner. Well that moment is here.

    I want to blame the medicine for his recent problems but the oncologist thinks it is probably related to his tumor. I don’t really know what’s going on, but at this point everything seems pointless and I just want my father to have dignity as he slips away and experience as little pain as possible. This process doesn’t seem helpful and whatever time they may be giving him, they are taking back from him with all of the doctor’s visits.

    I don’t really know what I am feeling right now.  Looking back on my life I am a little resentful for the lack of relationship I have had with my father and how I haven’t had the chance to do the types of things that other guys do to connect with each other – hunting, fishing, hiking, and all of the things fathers and sons should do with each other. I feel like I haven’t been able to bond with as many guys because of it. He’s also been harsh and critical and now those traits live in me. But there is nothing that can be done about that, much like his smoking. What is done is done. It must be accepted. There is no point or benefit from dwelling on that. However, I am annoyed he hasn’t been more open while he still has the chance. I guess I have expected him to crack open, bear his soul and say all sorts of things he’s never said to me. I have wanted him to acknowledge what’s happened, and maybe his regrets if he has any. Just to hear he wanted things to be differently than they were would be nice. I don’t mind we are broken, flawed people but I do what to be able to know the soul of my father. He’s been too guarded. I don’t know how to crack the stone shell he has around his feelings.

    I also feel like I am too young to lose a parent. I feel like I am slowly becoming some sort of orphan. It’s a strange feeling of being exposed to the world. I’ve always viewed my parents as sort of a front line defense for whatever problems the world throws at me. The image of a strong, protective father is now just a memory from my childhood. While we haven’t had the rosiest relationship, I knew they were there if I needed them. That counts for a lot. I know mom is still here, but I do feel like I am facing some sort of nakedness or vulnerability. The kid in me still feels like I should have a daddy, and I probably won’t next year barring a miracle.  

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    Failure to Launch

    “A good friend is cheaper than therapy”
    -Author Unknown

    When I reviewed my list of principles and New Year's Resolutions, the one line that made my heart happy was "build a network of solid friends." So far, I have utterly failed at this goal for the year. I haven’t been consistent at all. I need to stop hanging out with girls as much and invest that time in to building deep relationships with people I connect with on an emotional and spiritual level. I need to work more on building deep connections with friends & family and less seeking romance. Ironically as a result of investing all of my time looking for companionship that I have actually sacrificed (or at least ignored) the most obvious source for company: good friends.

    I also haven't done a lot of planning around this goal and as a result, my progress here has suffered. Below are the easy things I should be doing that I have dropped the ball on:
    • Get out of the house. I spend a lot of time online after work, especially now that I have let my gym membership lapse. In the past two months I have done an ok job of getting out of the house more, but during my last relationship I didn’t do a lot. I let myself fall into a small little world.
    • Attending interesting lectures/events/groups (USC lectures/presentations, visiting new churches, scheduling visits with friends, going to new fitness clubs, keeping my discussion group going). If I am going to something I find interesting, chances are other people there will also have similar interests. These events are also generally good places to go to break the monotony of life and learn something new.
    • Be a better friend:
      •  Scheduling lunch/dinner/drinks with people I already know and find interesting. The hard part (making a connection) is already done. Just build on what’s there
      • Sending notes/cards/gifts to friends to check in on them and to see how their lives are going. I don’t do a good job of letting people know I care and some might even think I don’t.
      • Encourage existing friends. Am I helping them to live up to their potential or just using them as a way to entertain myself or fend off lonliness.
      • Don’t hog the conversation. I have a tendency to talk too much and not listen. I am depriving myself of learning anything new and being the type of company I wouldn’t want around.
      • Care about people more than ideas. Sometimes I will place “being right” over the people in my life. Usually this is over a personal disagreement, but sometimes I allow it to happen over dumb things like political views.
    • Be more open to the people I meet each day. Smile & strike up a conversation. In these instances I also need to be less confrontational. Just nod my head and smile.  





    Sunday, September 07, 2014

    Hostility steals clairity

    "Judgmentalism is almost always controlled by outside factors. When we become judgmental, we are often controlled by the very groups we fight. Outside enemies control our agenda. We can't leave them alone. They determine our thinking in that we must rail against them. We become far more able to tell others what we are against, rather than what we are for. We may feel pushed around and our paranoid defensiveness my snarl with yet another rebuke of something. We must condemn. Thus, we are not free to initiate, share or offer our perspective. We are compulsively driven to conquer anything that does not look like us."

    -Terry Cooper, Making Judgments Without Being Judgmental


    Tuesday, September 02, 2014

    I am too disagreeable. I need to be less argumentative/confrontational especially when:

    1) meeting new people
    2) it's a small issues
    3) dealing with authority figures and other people who have the capacity to make life difficult

    People open up more, like you more and feel like they are being heard when you agree with them, or at a minimum express how someone could hold a similar opinion. I read something today that basically said that no one thinks they are wrong. While sort of obvious, I always expect people to change their minds when confronted with better ideas. Most people aren't like that -- they have egos they like to defend. Challenging ideas means challenging them personally. This is unfortunate, but I think it's generally true. I need to wise up to the realities of personality.

    Monday, September 01, 2014

    The trouble with wandering (intellectually and physically) is that few people will be able to understand/relate to the journey and the unique combination of ideas that shape ones mind and views on reality. I have friends but they won't fully grasp my situation on my problems that they aren't struggling with the same concepts (religious, psychological, existential). I guess what I am saying is that independence in someways breeds a peculiar form of loneliness - that's what I can't ever seem to shake. My searching brings me joy, but in many ways separates me from the people that I want to be close to. I often feel like my interests are viewed as strange or unnecessary, which only makes me feel like a loner despite my steady supply of company.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    I have been running with sharp objects
    in my mind
    unintentional injury;

    set them down
    and go run and play

    Not as simple as dry erase markers
    but the same as forgiveness

    Friday, August 22, 2014

    Words to chew on

    "You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
    -Buckminister Fuller

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

    I am very good about managing large purchases and cutting out repetitive expenses and thinking of their impact in years or decades. I need to start being as frugal with my time as I am with my money.

    I don't think about time the same way that I do money. Perhaps I do not currently value it is much, but that is a topic for another day.

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

    My father is slowly dying
    Cancers grow within him
    Medicine, buying time at best
    I've gone home almost every week for the past three months
    I just sit there on the couch
    Words chained inside me
    A stone rolled in front of my lips and another weighs on my heart
    I sit there, just listening to ESPN and Fox News
    So much to say, but I hear the TV announcers, not my own voice
    we've never gone there
    We don't talk about feelings
    and I don't know how to now, with him

    I'll be back again next week, to sit
    To wait
    Hoping I can speak what I feel

    Sunday, July 20, 2014

    Conflict & Peace

    "There are men who are belligerent by nature, men who are always embroiled in some kind of fight. On the other hand, there are men who are peaceable by nature, and who quietly avoid all controversy of any kind. Then there are also those peaceable men who yet love principle more than peace. Such men are sometimes involved in a fray in spite of themselves. They fling themselves into the midst of a struggle they would have been glad to avoid, because an issue is at stake which is more important than peace."

    http://www.uuma.org/Page/BSE1950

    Sunday, July 06, 2014

    My Principles


    • Love yourself and others
    • Believe in yourself, but know your strengths & accept your weaknesses 
    • Attend to your body, avoid intentional injury to it 
    • Think deeply. Be skeptical. Accept doubt.
    • Be reliable
    • Be frank
    • Be polite, share a smile
    • Be thankful, and express it
    • When confused: write, ask for help, and seek solitude 
    • Always have goals and plans
    • Don't worry over things you can't control

    Saturday, July 05, 2014

    Principles for Myself

    Make sure I meet my basic biological needs. While solipsism does make sense and is probably the most logical philosophical framework, it feels untrue. Of course of I could have woken up this morning, or my existence could have began moments ago with  a fabricated past, but my intuition pushes against this with all of its might. I believe my family, friends and experiences are real. I believe the people I meet live lives similar to mine.

    We life in a concrete, biological world. We live, we die. There may be something greater than humanity that we cannot perceive (most people call this G-d) but I do not think this presence intervenes to change the laws which govern our reality. Gravity persists, electromagnetism persists, people do not teleport.

    However, "miracles" do happen. Though I consider these statistical anomalies. Even quantum mechanics actually forces a probabilistic and not a deterministic reality. It is within this space there is actually the possibility for intervention in a way that seems otherwise improbable, and in this reconition of the improbable I allow for outcomes that might not make intuitive sense - things that people might call coincidence or miracles. Occasionally a hail mary pass or a full court shot will work out. Most of the time it doesn't. This doesn't mean G-d intervened. It means chance exists in our universe. In essence this simply means that I don't have a tightly defined parameter for what reality HAS to be (I stay open minded), but I do have a view of what it should look like and that I am generally skeptical of things that fall outside the bounds of what I perceive as probable.

    Ultimately we must all act in faith given our limited faculties and ability to perceive reality. One must make a decision about how they think the world works and the parameters which govern cause and effect. This isn't always as easy as it should be. Because of my upbringing and the fantasy thinking that is fed to children (Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, miracle man Jesus, fanciful tales like Lord of the Rings) what should be obvious took a long time to understand.

    I am open to personal revelation, but I won't take someone else's experiences and use them as the basis for my own belief system if this other person's experiences contract what I perceive to be how reality operates.

    To be clear, this isn't really all that different than how most people operate. To use an extreme example, take alien abductions. People don't believe this because it seems to defy their own experiences and because it is a very minority position. Oddly however, many people are willing to believe equally peculiar views if they are widely perceived to be true. Religion is replete with these examples. Greek mythology and its tales of Cyclops, native american shaman, African sun gods, the Jewish crossing of the Red Sea, or Jesus walking on water or turning water into wine. I always find it interesting when the very devout criticize other religions but make exceptions for their own claims of the supernatural. I think these views are much more readily accepted when they are presented at a young age by those we trust.

    Peer pressure is not a new concept but I am trying to suggest something broader. We are by default less critical of views that come with mass acceptance or are from those that are close to us and we trust (ex. parents, teachers, mentors). We assume they have our best interest at heart, and as a result, tend to be less critical and examining.

    It could also be because of a lack of courage. We are all generally afraid to stray too far from mainline views for fear of the consequences of doing so. This is because lots of people form emotional attachment to ideas and view dissenters as attacking them personally and not simply stating a different viewpoint. If someone says they like a certain thing (movie, band, food, team, ect) and another person says they don't, the person who says they liked it usually will take the comment personally. This leads to unnecessary friction, and as a consequence people generally stray away from conflict. People like to be sheep because it is comfortable. It maintains friendships and keeps one insulated from the ire of others. It's easy to be a agreeable. This is why most people do it.

    The consequences for deviation can be high -- social exclusion can cost one job opportunities from a smaller network. It also reduces potential mates. Look at the disparate opportunities available to the loner nerdy kid and the cool kid. There is a delicate balance between disagreeing and still maintaining a connection to those who have the capacity to make our lives better. In short, because thinking for yourself can lead to negative outcomes people tend to avoid it. It's just easier to go with the flow.

    Unfortunately, I am not currently financially independent and find myself (even while exercising frugality) in a position where I need to please others to maintain my income. Essentially, I must sacrifice some of my autonomy in order to make "the man" happy. I am ok with this but I need to be careful about the things I am willing to sacrifice and be very concious of what I am not willing to sacifice. I should make a list of things I care deeply about and things I do not care all that much about.

    For instance, wearing different clothes isn't all that big of a deal, while being asked to be dishonest to make a deal happen would be. I will sacrifice my appearance but not my integrity. I should take an inventory of where I feel am living outside of what I would ideally want to do and make sure I am still preserving some sense of my own identity and core principles.

    More broadly,  I need to be more deliberate in my thinking and actions. It is too easy to drift aimlessly through life. This requires observation of my own life, and planning. Pay attention to the thigs that I enjoy and make sure I provide them to myself on a regular basis. Joy is infectious and without being happy with one's own life it is difficult to bring joy to others.

    Things that bring me happiness
    - Meeting new people who have fresh, thoughtful ways of seeing and pushing the world forward. Meeting people who have a deep capacity to love.
    - Seeing new places and new ways of life: morning rituals, religious habits, diet, family structure, ect..
    - Hobbies where I can be creative and apply a detailed knowledge of a subject area- photography, gardening

    In addition, I also need to be aware of the things that bring negative emotions. To the extent that I can control my thoughts, I should do so; psychology and Buddhism offer very useful advice on  how to do this.  However, invariably certain situations will have a very high likelihood of causing anxiety/anger/fear/sadness and it is simply best to avoid the triggering places/people/situations. Take note of the highs and joys and set aside time to reflect on them. To be deliberate I also need to actively make sure I am not unintentionally adopting the thinking of others.

    Another part of being deliberate is achieving goals that I set. There is a burst of happiness as I check the mark of completion, but there is a nice sense of satisfaction and self confidence that comes from a job well done. I feel like I have done something and I feel a sense of purpose in a world of chaos.

    In the midst of my purposeful life, remember that whatever I do won't ultimately make that much of a difference. We will all still die and the earth will cease to exist in the distant future. It sounds pessimistic, but life is mostly an exercise in futility. All I can do is enjoy my time here and seek to reduce the suffering of others. This is the only purpose.

    This is a strange tension. To live with purpose but to know it doesn't matter. I suppose the antidote to all of this is to simply not take myself very seriously and not get too caught up in the outcome of a given event. Do my best and let that be good enough. I also shouldn't overstate my own importance. While what I do matters a great deal to me, it doesn't matter very much to most of the planet. At best a few thousand people care, more realistically this number is only a couple dozen.

    The big questions: What does it mean to enjoy life? What does it mean to not enjoy life (suffering)?

    Enjoying life means finding love. Love has many forms. If I was forced to label G-d, I would say it is love. Love takes many forms: gratitude (or loving something and being thankful that it is here), beauty (loving and fully appreciating form), love (caring enough to sacrifice yourself for its preservation), compassion (love in action).

    Depression is not loving life. It is being stuck in a state of mind where everything seems pointless. Fear, boredom, anxiety, hopelessness, isolation and ingratitude accompany this feeling. Mindlessness is a different version of a similar sickness. Life is full of amazing, beautiful things. We just have to be in a state of mind to appreciate them. I need to be acutely aware of when I fall into these states of mind.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2014

    Core beliefs

    Principles originate in beliefs so I shohave experiencedseit would be insufficientmyenuld do my best to outline those:
    • The universe is infinite and my mind is finite. Therefore any attempt on my part to grasp reality/truth will be incomplete as I cannot fully comprehend the totality of existence. The same would apply to my belief in G-d
    • My ability to perceive reality is limited. Even if I could understand all that I have experienced, it would be insufficient to grasp reality as it truly is, because I can only perceive through my limited five senses (and what I can test indirectly). While I might be able to create generalizations (theories) about how things work, they won’t reflect what is actually happening. Again, even if I could take in all that I encounter perfectly, I am constrained by both my ability to remember it, and more importantly, recall it later. I'd then have to merge it all simultaneously.
    • Empiricism (science) has its limits -  we can only measure what we can manipulate. As we gain control of smaller and smaller particles we can get more and more granularity about the essence of matter and how particles interact, but eventually we will hit limits. The same goes at the opposite end of measurement, there are many things too large or too far away to experience/experiment with. I have no opinion on whether matter exists in continuous waves or particles, I just know that within my lifetime there is too much to grasp, and so much we won't figure out, that I know it is pointless to set such a lofty  as a goal.
    • Time is limited, but I do have at least the present moment. I will die, but I am still living now. The main takeaway here is that I have a brief amount of time to experience things. I also I don’t have a way to not act/believe/participate. While I may frame my decisions as what I am not doing, I am still doing something.
    • Others experience a similar reality as my own. While solipsism is the most logical course of action, my 6th sense, my intuition tells me this is wrong. It simply doesn’t feel right. I have no logical basis for this. However, In the same way I cannot perfectly understand reality, I also do have faith that I perceive parts of it and I act with the faith that this is what works. I believe it with the same cautious reflective and skeptical understanding that I apply to reality. More generally, I feel that others also have hopes & dreams, experience sadness, want to be loved, get angry when they feel they have been wronged, display compassion to those in need, have a sense of awe and wonder when they see something beautiful and have anxiety about the future. All of these things can change in magnitude, but a large majority of people do share a basic humanity.   
    These three facts lead me to several conclusions:
    • Doubt is necessary. If I cannot understand, if I cannot perceive, and I cannot remember correctly, all I can do is hope.  
    • Highly probable” is a best case scenario. Both because reality involves randomness and because I cannot grasp it fully. 
    • I shouldn’t trouble myself too much with my own inability to understand things. I am human and this is the human condition.
    These three views influence how I take information from others. I can happily listen, evaluate, process and take in whatever observations, feelings, and views they wish to share. However in the face of our limited powers of perception and competing claims of understanding, I exercise thoughtful consideration. I sift through this collection of human thought and belief and weigh the claims against my own reality. What has worked, what feels true, what makes me feel tied to the world. To the extent that I value and affirm the consciousness and experience of others I should also seek to make their lives as easy as possible. I should seek to end unnecessary suffering (both theirs and mine). 

    To be continued...