Category: Personal

All Goals Go To Heaven (A Tale Of Necromancy)

(Listen to the audio instead)

Once upon a time there lived a boy with a dream. In those early days, the dream burned brightly. It was all consuming. It was everything the boy could think about, and so he spent every waking moment making plans and setting goals, making sure that the dream would become a reality. Days passed. Weeks. Months. He was seeing results. He was on his way to achieving his goals and becoming the man he wanted to be.

And then Life showed up to smack him around. That bully called Circumstance threw obstacles in the boy’s way. Distraction (capital D) seduced him into taking a break from his schedule. Just a small break to catch his breath. Just a minute or two to see how this all fits together. Just a day or three to make a new plan. Just a week or four to have time to prepare. Just this month and maybe next, and then he’ll be ready to attack that dream once more. He’ll be the man he wants to be next year.

One day, when the boy’s older, when he’s trudging through the hours of a job he never thought he’d be doing, he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror and realizes that he’s not a boy anymore. He’s a man. He’s not even a young man. He’s in his late thirties. He’s forty. He’s fifty. He sees himself through the eyes of that boy who had a dream. He wonders whatever happened to those aspirations. He wonders who he could have been if he’d just stuck to the plan. But there’s work to be done. Time marches inexorably. He turns away from the mirror.

But that glimpse haunts him. He doesn’t know it yet, but that little flashback reignited something deep within him. It’s just a spark at first, but sparks begin to smolder. The man starts to get a little antsy. He’s a little restless. Maybe somebody notices. Maybe somebody asks him, “What’s up with you today?” Only, he doesn’t have an answer. Not yet. He knows that if he just keeps his head down and goes about his business, this feeling will go away. He’ll lose himself in the never ending series of moments. He’ll shake it off like he has so many times before.

He turns on the radio to distract himself. He listens to a podcast hoping that someone’s saying something interesting. He downloads a few books by people he’s never heard of, but they made him laugh during the interview. They made him think outside his box for just a moment.

With those books, that moment becomes minutes becomes hours and days. He’s inspired. He’s motivated. He looks into the mirror and maybe he’s not so old after all. Maybe he’s still a boy with a dream. Maybe it’s not too late for some things. If he takes the advice in the books. If he does the shit he said he was going to do and never did. And the fire’s raging now, and he’s bouncing on the balls of his feet, his eyes wide with racing thoughts as a plan begins to congeal into a goal.

Before he knows it, he’s a boy with a dream once more.

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I hate David Goggins

I’m listening to Can’t Hurt Me by, you guessed it, David Goggins, and it’s making me feel like a worthless piece of shit. This dude lost 106 pounds in 3 months so he could try to be a Navy SEAL, went through hell week 3 times, and only made it the last time through by running on broken – BROKEN – legs, then decided that he wasn’t badass enough, so he decided to become an ultra marathoner (that’s 100+ mile races, btw)… And I’m only about halfway through the book.

Damn it, man.

I’m reading this because my brother is reading it. He calls me today and asks me if I’m ready for the marathon tonight. He’s running a fucking marathon tonight because Goggins convinced him to chase the path of most resistance.

Seriously. Damn it, man.

He asks me, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how crazy is this?”

My older brother. He’s 42. He’s married with three kids. He and his wife work full time. The kids have all the usual extra curricular activities. They have 7 dogs. A couple of cats. A yard to mow and friends to pal around with, and he still finds time to work out on a regular basis. When I say work out, I mean the dude’s jacked. He’s like a bald, enthusiastic gorilla.

Me? I’m doing good if I manage to get my dishes from my desk to the sink a few feet away.

This isn’t even taking into account all the fucking books he reads, the languages he studies, his involvement with the church. I’ve lived my life looking up to this dude who accomplishes damn near everything anyone could possibly ask a man to do.

And then he discovers mother fuckin’ David goddamn Goggins, and suddenly he’s only operating at 40% of his potential, so he’s gotta run a freaking marathon on a whim.

Damn it, man.

I guess I’m getting on my stationary bike. This is not what I wanted to do today.

Guiding Principles

My dad keeps asking if I’m done with my book yet. I tell him I’m just trying to make sure I write every day. 1,000 words a day for a year is 365,000 words to choose from. He tells me that if I write them in chronological order with a plot, I’d have a novel.

Right…

I’ve been thinking about rules. Do I have rules that I follow in my life? Besides eat when hungry, work when scheduled, brush these ugly teeth, try to quit smoking, feed the dog, put gas in the car, sleep for around 7 hours a day, talk to strangers when I enter a room – oh wait, is that last one a rule?

Taking to strangers… I do that. Sometimes. When I have to. When I’m forcing myself to stifle the anxiety welling up in the pit if my stomach and there isn’t a drink or snack handy. When I’m not in the smoking section. Look cool… That’s a rule. Look like I don’t have a care in the world while also looking like I have very important decisions to make. Oscillate between scowling and laughing at the absurdity of existence, finding serenity in the fact that meaning only exists because people exist, and damn aren’t I deep?

No. These aren’t rules. They’re compulsions, just as is my compulsion to define the rules of this game. You wouldn’t know it to look at me – well, maybe you would now that I stopped cutting my hair and don’t dress like I’m trying to sell you something – but I studied philosophy. I searched far and wide for answers to the big questions, and I came away disillusioned. There are no answers. Rather, the answer depends upon the seeker. We piece things together. We convince ourselves. We become righteous. We take our stances against those we know in our hearts to be just plain wrong. We filter the world, believing that our filters are the best filters. If they weren’t, we obviously would have chosen different filters because we’re all so goddamn smart.

This isn’t what I meant to write. What was I saying?

Rules.

Okay. Rules. And tattoos.

Well, no. Tattoos, yes. Rules, though… I can’t get to making rules until I have some guiding principles.

You’ll know that I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I don’t have to wander down any more blind alleys to get the rest of this on paper (on screen?). The ink I want, these first two that I’ll leave here, they’re attempts at lassoing in and keeping a tighter rein on my capricious nature.

1. Neither Above Nor Below

This is a reminder to be humble, yet confident. I have trouble with both. I have a tendency to simultaneously believe that I’m too good for things and not good enough. I want to believe that I’m too good to do menial labor. I latch onto the myth that I can do or be anyone and anything that I want to be, but I’m too good for all that hard work it takes to get there. I also secretly believe that I’m not good enough. That I deserve to work shit jobs as punishment for my laziness. I’m overweight, so I don’t deserve love. I’m in my 30s and haven’t yet published anything of note, so I don’t deserve the opportunity to have anything I say taken seriously.

All of that is bullshit. Absolute and utter bullshit, and it’s easy to see how ridiculous it is when it’s all written out – and it isn’t a complete list, by the way. These are just the things that come to mind as I sit here puffing on nicotine because I’m both too good to need to quit smoking and too undeserving of a life free of it. It’s easy to see it. Even as I live it, I see it, but in the moment, I don’t feel the craziness in it. I feel like I always feel. Hungry or horny or bored or content or excited or restless or or or… I need a reminder. I need something staring me in the face day in and day out. Something telling me, “Be cool, dummy.”

2. Breathe

My favorite thing about naming this principle is that the people just skimming through this rant are going to miss the meaning completely, and that is the whole point. Sort of.

Sure, it’s a reminder to breathe. It’s a reminder to think slowly, as per Daniel Kahneman‘s research. Take a breath before I make my decisions. Think things through.

But it’s also an exercise in picturing the universe as a single entity.

Do it with me now. Inhale. Hold it. And exhale. You just changed the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, changed the way our planet interacts with space, how much radiation the planet absorbs, how much heat we take out of the vacuum, affecting every other particle in the universe in one big ripple into infinity. This is a like chaos theory, if you’re familiar. The butterfly effect. A butterfly flaps its wings in Florida, and Siberia explodes. Something like that.

Every action has a consequence. Every. Single. One. As involuntary as they may be, you’re changing the world just by existing. Now, imagine what you can change consciously. Every moment is a decision to continue existing. Every second I sit here smoking this cigarette is a decision to give up precious minutes of my life, to risk cancer, heart disease, ostracization from the pack. To smell like smoke when I speak to the next person I see. To make me curse every flight of stairs because I can’t fucking breathe.

It’s a lot to think about. It’s every interaction with another human being. How you’re changed and how you change them. Just by witnessing one another’s existence. Are you smiling when you face them? Do you grimace? Are you angry or sad or happy or excited? Every one of those creates a reaction in the other, affecting how you both greet the next person, and then the next and the next and the next. You want to pretend that you know who you are, but who you are is changing constantly, and you don’t even know how. You can’t fathom it. You’re at the mercy of the whims of fate, as they say, and you’ll never get away from it. But you can maybe choose how to deal with it. If you remember to Breathe.

And so on

These principles are nothing new. Nothing unfamiliar. Nothing that should take any time at all to consider, accept, and say, “Duh, dude. Where the hell you been?” But… When I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, my dad told me that I’m slow on the uptake. Once I get it, though, I got it. I just gotta get it.

I think I’m getting it.

I’ll let you know when I got it.