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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Crossing Bridges - Over DOMA

Crossing Bridges

Here in New York City, the Five Boroughs are connected by bridges.  The Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges connect Brooklyn with Manhattan.  The Whitestone Bridge connects Queens with the Bronx.  The Verrazano Narrows Bridge connects Brooklyn with Staten Island.  And of course, the 59th Street Queensborough Bridge connects Queens with Manhattan.

The bridges are suspended over wide and deep rivers.  Likewise, the destinations we need to reach are also separated by large obstacles, and connections are needed.

(1).  A river of resentment and unresolved anger may lie between us and emotional maturity.  Build a bridge of self-forgiveness.
(2).  A deep pit of fear, guilt, and doubt may lie between us and self-confidence.  Build a bridge of courage and bravery.
(3).  A chasm of distractions and burdens may lie between us and our goals.  Build a bridge of focus and discipline.
(4).  A bottomless pit of self-defeating habits and patterns may lie between us and good judgment.  Build a bridge of knowledge and experience.
(5).  An ocean of self-hatred and hopelessness may lie between us and self-actualization.  Build a strong, unbreakable, and indestructible bridge of self-love.

Never think that any of the above obstacles, which are often self-imposed to begin with, are permanent.  They aren't unless you choose not to traverse over them.

Thanks All.  Tonight's post was inspired by someone I know who has constructed and traversed many bridges over seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  Everyone should follow the example.

It is also inspired by the pedestrian walkways found on most of the above bridges.  If you've never taken the, before, make sure you don't stop until you're clear on the other side.  Stopping prematurely would be . . . "terrible."

Night All!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Unexpected

Hey All --

Big shout out to my new friends on Twitter, you're hopefully gonna be reading a little more of me.

This week, my routine was unexpectedly disrupted.  While running in Forest Park, as I like to do on a Tuesday morning, I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk (I'll explain the whole geography later), and went sprawling.  Walked away with standard "little kid" injuries, meaning scraped knees and scraped up palms of my hands, but not before asking, "Really?  REALLY?"  Saw my right knee turn black and blue, thought the better of trying again the next day.

Now these injuries were not exactly disabling, but obviously I needed to not run for a few days to a week, just to make sure my knee was OK.  And that's no fun for me -- running is my automatic stress-reliever/fat burner/meditation session, and without it, your friendly neighborhood blogger isn't as cool and casual as he usually is.

Although this was certainly not the end of the world, many of us are just lost when our routines are disrupted.  What now?  How do I deal?  Am I supposed to just eat this?

Well, as much as we like to take control over our lives, there is a large portion of our lives that is well beyond our control.  And as natural as it does feel to piss and moan about how illogical, ridiculous, arbitrary, capricious, and yes, painful it all us, that does nothing to fix it.

So what can we do when we're stuck that way?

(1) Be patient.  Once we've determined that the simple act of getting angry and demanding our way doesn't get us the desired results, we can stop doing it, and just accept where we are.
(2) Temporarily embrace our status until we're able to act.
(3) When we ARE able to do something, do it.

Now that it's been nearly a week, my knee is just about better.  Maybe I'll try an easy run Tuesday morning, just to make sure that it's nothing more than a bruise.  Shame on me for telling people how lucky I was to be injury-free.  Hmmmmm.

Oh well -- time to hit the sack, another exciting week awaits.  Night all!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Video!

Another Reposting for Father's Day!

Hey All --

In the spirit of Father's Day, here's a re-post from the recent past . . . edited to be up to date.

Two and and a half years ago I heard some distressing news from my Mom. I had already known that Dad had to be taken to the hospital for some sort of stress test, but this took an unexpected turn.
During the test, an angiogram was taken, and it revealed that the main artery to Dad's heart was 99% blocked. According to those facts alone, he should not even have been able to walk around, miracle of miracles. So they administered emergency triple bypass surgery to remove the blockage. This took the better part of the day, and I kept calling Mom almost hourly to check in Dad's progress. Between that and the text messages I sent to everyone else I knew about Dad, the battery did not last by the time I finally got home.
It really made me step back and think about my father, too. In my family, my Mom had the more outgoing personality, so he tended to disappear in the shadows.  When he did, however, he truly was  the Power Behind The Throne. :)

I also remembered one episode from childhood that forever defined the type of man he was. I was about 8, maybe 9, and he wanted to show me some work he was doing on the car. He wanted me to be mechanically inclined, so I'd know what I was doing once I had a car of my own. I tried to look interested, but it didn't work.

As unforgivable as I'd later realize this to be, growing up in a blue-collar town, I was anything but mechanically inclined.  I would have given anything at that time to go back inside the house, watch cartoons, and do anything that would allow me to put my mind in neutral, after the previous 5 school days of having various adult authority figures demand, in tones of righteous indignation, that I "Pay Attention!!!!!"

I would learn acting skills in later life, but that day, my performance was a failure. Finally, my Dad gave up out of frustration and told me to go back inside. I said "No, Dad, really, I'm interested," hoping to avoid another lecture, but he wasn't buying it.

So I did watch my cartoons, but I did so with a heavy sense of guilt.  Once again, I had disappointed someone without doing anything at all.  But later, he came into my room, and we had a talk.

He said, "David, I can't play the saxophone, but you can.  I also can't draw cartoons, do funny voices, or sing those Michael Jackson songs on the radio, but you can.  I'd like you to one day learn how cars work, because it can save you a lot of money and give you a good hobby.  But if this is not something you want to learn about now, that's OK.  You really don't have to do everything that I do, because you're your own person."

The reason why this moment remains so important to me is because it was the first time in my young life that an adult authority figure did not yell at me when I was being myself. In fact, this was the first time in my life any authority figure told me that I was OK, and that I should feel OK about it! In that moment, my father, with his quiet, gentle, and thoughtful ways, became Bill Cosby, Ward Cleaver, and Mike Brady all rolled up in one!

From that day to this one, my father has remained a man of patience and dignity. The thought of him undergoing the bypass made a lot of things clearer to me -- that he deserves a lot more accolades and praise than he's received.  For all things he's done, for his family and his country, he deserves a ton of recognition.

In later life, my father would enlighten me with his simple, almost Daoist wisdom.  As a teenager, sitting at the dinner table, I would sometimes go on my oft-repeated rants over who made me angry and how wrong they were.  In response, Dad would patiently say, without the slightest trace of annoyance in his voice, "David.  Eat your dinner."  

At the time, I'd get belligerent when he said this, because I thought he was trying to shut me up.   He certainly was, but he was trying to do it in a way that would teach me that the anger and rage I was feeling was not going to do me any good when a plate of my mother's cooking was sitting in front of me undigested.   Right at that moment, at dinner time, I couldn't travel back in time and suckerpunch the miscreant who'd aroused my ire, but I certainly could enjoy the meal instead.  Now I look back and laugh how he was always the one who could hold it together, no matter what -- without ever studying Zen Buddhism, he was just almost as advanced as the Dalai Lama.

Yes, the past happened, and we were all stuck with it. But through my father's gentle repositioning, I learned projecting it on others around me, all of whom were actively engaged in the present moment, did precious little to help things.  In his own way, he knew I was upset and he wanted me to be happier, but he also knew that dwelling in the anger and enabling feelings of permanent victimhood would not be effective solutions.

So, I dedicate this reposted and re-edited post to my father.  I'd also like to wish a Happy Father's Day to all the men out there who accepted this most challenging role, and to thank them for the examples they have always set for their children.  I'd also like to thank my father for the support and encouragement he gave me earlier this year when it was most needed.

Yes, my Dad really was, and still is, the Zennest master of all Zen masters!  I still know of nobody else who keeps composure like he does.  I hope he had a nice day to just relaaaaaax today.  :)

Good night, All!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I Know Ya See Me On The Video . . . .

A or B -- Why Even Choose?

Hey All -- had a sweet time out east at a few North Fork wineries with some good friends -- and now back to the message and the mission.

With a little downtime this weekend, I read through a few self-help blogs and gender-role sites, and studies up on the issue of alpha males and beta males.  We are led to believe that there are two, and only two, types of men in our society, and their traits are as follows:


(1).  Get very aggressive.
(2).  Take what they want and reject what they don't.
(3).  Attract females because they're confident.
(4).  Have followers and wingmen.
(5).  Are not constrained by rules, fear, doubt, or guilt.
(6).  Fail to take others' interests into account.
(7).  Are rude, abrasive, and abusive.
(8).  Have no problem disrespecting anyone else, because they usually don't face consequences.
(9).  Don't learn from their mistakes, because they're never wrong.
(10).  Get so many free passes, that when consequences actually do hit, they're destroyed.


(1).  Nicest guys in the world.
(2).  Care for others more than they do for their own needs.
(3).  They listen, are attentive, and never forget anything.
(4).  Give to others without even being asked, "just because."
(5).  Respectful and courteous to everyone.
(6).  Allow others to take advantage of them.
(7).  Never set boundaries.
(8).  Never take risks.
(9).  Never confront those who wrong them.
(10).  Never try to improve their situation because they get too comfortable.

As you may have noticed, both groups of men have favorable qualities, as well as undesirable ones.  There seems to be a great debate over which type of man is more acceptable in jobs or families, or even groups of friends and associates.  There are many self-help books and sites devoted to helping betas convert themselves into alphas, but there are also many sources that indicate that betas are somewhat better (no doubt based on ulterior motives).

Since this was originally a blog devoted to assist men and boys with low self-esteem, it would be doing a disservice to abandon the original mission and leave the target audience behind.   My solution?


Your Alpha qualities?  I'm not saying you should all bulk up, get tattoos, drink Jack Daniels and get into a bar fight every week.  Nobody dreams about being the toughest man in jail.  That being said, do like the alphas in (a) putting your fear, doubt, and guilt to the side, (b) being confident at every endeavor, even if odds are you'll lose; and (c) demanding what is good for you and rejecting everything that is not.

Your Beta qualities?  Don't be so quick to jettison those, but that doesn't mean you should be a weak, passive, Caspar Milquetoast either.  Without becoming sycophantic and gutless, just start making the needs of a chosen few a priority.  Tune in a little bit more, and try to retain some of what others ask of you - to you, it might be insignificant, but to someone else it could mean everything.  And when you can, smile.  Say hello.  Ask about other people's latest events, and care about them.

Now that I'm looking at this, a lot of these qualities are already contained in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, which many of us memorized.  Lately, the Boy Scouts of America has gotten a bad rap over a single issue that has been drawn out of proportion by individuals who have no clue what Scouting is all about.  But Scouting was right about this message 100 years ago, and it's still right today.  There's no shame in continuing this standard well into adulthood.

The so-called experts out there may say that beta males are the bane of our existence, and must be converted quickly and forcefully lest they be pulverized.  They may also say that alpha males should be partially castrated in some way, in order to become more domesticated and pliable.  I am no expert, but I say they're both wrong.

If you're going to stick with the Four Pillars, you need to be both.  Your alpha qualities will convince yourself that you exist, matter, belong, and deserve.  Your beta qualities will convince everyone else.  At least everyone else worthy enough to receive them, anyway.

Say it with me, troops!


Night, all.  Enjoy Game Of Thrones!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

You're Right To Be Angry . . . But Do You Have To Be?

Hi All, Happy June!  Finally we get some GOOD weather, only to have it washed away next week -- go figure.

I'm gonna reach back into my tried and true repertoire of dealings with people/things/or both that get under our skin.  Not too long ago, I came clean to a few close, personal friends about how much I could not stand someone that they all knew.  I won't reveal who this individual is (I'll use the name "Alex Dumbass" for now), but suffice it to say, after I had come clean, I was no longer expected to pretend to be this Dumbass' friend.  I had made it more than clear that, given the opportunity, I would choose not to be in this individual's presence.

Because certain of my close, personal friends did not understand my reasoning, although I thought it would be obvious, I had to do like Ricky Ricardo and 'splain them.  I told them how Dumbass had shown me nothing but disrespect, offered me nothing to respect, and that I had been almost forced to be nice to Dumbass for reasons that I felt were insufficient.  It took some time for the 'splaining process to reach its desired result, and some of the 'splainees still did not agree with me, but eventually they told me that they would respect my opinion, and not expect me to pretend to be this Dumbass' friend.

One of my friends told me that he had felt almost the same way.  He disliked the same qualities about this Dumbass than I did.  And since he'd known Dumbass longer than I had, he admitted that he probably hated them more.  He was not going to preach to me the tired old song of "just ignore them," "don't stoop to their level," or anything else that left generations of children exposed to bullying and low self-esteem.  But he did question why I'd actually wasted the time I did to cultivate this active dislike that I'd grown.  

I won't lie to you, on the rare occasions that I express my dislike for someone, or an objection to their acrimonious or obnoxious behavior, I don't appreciate being "shushed."  I think it's way too arrogant and judgmental for anyone to minimize or disregard the reasons for my opinion of someone who's crossed my boundaries, simply because it "doesn't bother them."  If it does bother me, then I'm not wrong to be angry.

The question remains, assuming I'm 100% right to be angry, is it necessary to still be angry?  If I'm stuck with that person and they're about to cross another line, it obviously is necessary to be angry.  That way I'm prepared to take the appropriate action once they try to manipulate the situation.  That does not mean I blow my top or cause a scene -- that makes Alex Dumbass look like a martyr or an innocent bystander.  That means I block, bob, weave, or when I need to, hit back.  Just enough to shut them up.

But what if they're nowhere in sight, and none of their little helpers or enablers are listening in to my conversation to find something to twist or manipulate?  What if I'm around the right people, who aren't causing trouble, and I'm still somehow reminded of that individual?  

That's when it's gotta be managed a little bit better.  If I'm busy doing other things, then the Dumbass Factor never comes into play, but what about a slow moment?  Obviously, I can't get stuck thinking about Dumbass.  Instead, I'd have to (a) be mindful of my Dumbass-free time; (b) be thankful for it; and (c) cultivate as many non-Dumbass thoughts as I can.  Not because the "it doesn't bother me" crowd is feeling a little too superior, but because I have decided to do that.

Really a simply step, as you can see.  It's a shame that the Dumbasses of our world (a) get cart blanche to be that way without consequences; and (b) they're surrounded by apologists and enablers that help them stay that way.  But it's an even greater shame when we increase their undeserved power through resentment and grudges.  Better to act on them at the moment action is required, but dismiss them and delete them at all other times.  Trust me, "dress rehearsals" don't work on Dumbasses.

That's my deal, all.  Night, and enjoy an exciting, full, non-holiday week ahead!