If I Had A Magic Wand….2014 Edition

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It’s December and in  a few short weeks we’ll be exposed to the yearly custom; The New Year’s Resolution. While most people find the exercise abhorrent and cheesy, we still think, ponder and hope and want to make lists between the highs and lows of holiday parties and the guilt and happiness that comes with them.

New Year’s resolutions are of course a reflection of us all wanting to do better. Humans have that unique quality unlike most mammals that we get up in the morning and can make a conscious decision to be a better person; to rise above eating, surviving and reproducing.

Rather than ask our friends and acquaintances what their New Year’s Resolutions are we should be working on a blueprint for Our Ideal Life and what we are going to do next to get there.

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We all would like more money and the freedom that financial security brings. To be able to have the time and energy to have high quality experiences with our friends and loved ones. We all want to have meaningful work that not only makes the world a bit better because of us, but gives us the recognition of being part of a successful community. We all hope to find and keep that special person in our lives that brings us emotional and physical satisfaction.

But all of the above are larger than life generalizations. Just wanting them is not enough. Margaret Cho once said that she dreamed of being surrounded by muscular men. She didn’ realized they’d all be gay. “I should have been more specific!” she exclaimed. And so we have to do that too. How much money would it take? How long would it take to get there? How would you do that? What do you need to do next?

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What type of work would make you happy and fulfilled? Who do you know who is doing that type of work? How did they get there? What have you done in the past that has made you feel successful? appreciated? What do you need to do next?

What does your ideal day look like with a partner? What do you do in the morning? What does he/she look like?  What are your deal-breakers? What can you  accept as a financial burden with a partner? (no, two cannot live as cheaply as one).  here are you looking for a partner? online? church? gym? How has this worked out so far? What do you need to do next?

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Things I Totally Suck At

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If you have ever typed in “self-help” into Amazon, you would know that there are over 35,000 active entries of books you can buy that will ultimately change your life, if only in your wallet, and/or hard drive. We love to buy books, I’m not sure anyone really reads them, but that’s not what this blog is about.

Things I Totally Suck At

Like many Jewish Gay Men growing up in the suburbs I was not encouraged to play sports. God I tried, but with “don’t get hurt, don’t get sunburned, don’t get dehydrated, etc.” constantly being drummed by my mother, aunts, and grandmother it was pretty hard for me to get out there and get sweaty and dirty. I played violin. Yes, in elementary school, high school and into college – violin! And people were surprised when I came out??? really??

In my late 30s and early 40s I hit the gay body bug and began working out…America’s Gay Religion.
My body responded nicely as I researched, planned, and executed my workouts the same way I achieved my 3 college degrees (I got a 4th later but who’s counting?) But I was still a klutz, totally unco-ordinated. I could do my curls, my squats, my kick-backs. I could count carbs and shave my back all by myself.

I still can’t jump rope.
At all.

But when I started to think about what I really sucked at….not the physical, I realized that I have trouble remembering to say good-bye to people. Many times in a conversation I’ll just end my last sentence and get up and leave. That’s it! I have no idea why or where I picked up this habit, but a few friends have caught me and said, “Hey Nate… you’re leaving me hanging here!… you done? Tell me!” At first thought I thought it was because I was gay growing up. (Isn’t that the reason for all our negative behavior?) Obviously my low self-esteem was to blame for my abrupt departures. I never brought this up in my many therapy sessions or late night talks with close friends or lovers. There were bigger fish to fry. There was finding love, keeping love, marriage equality, HIV discrimination, where to vacation, who to invite for brunch; how could my pattern of not wanting to say goodbye be of any interest to anyone…including me?

20130825-102251.jpg One of my many attempts to be a physically co-ordinated man. That is me on the right fighting in a tournament.

Maybe someday I’ll figure it out. Maybe I won’t if anyone else has noticed this problem and has found a good way to tackle it, let me know. I’ll try anything except a rubber band on my wrist to snap when I’m misbehaving

What Do We Really Have Control Of?

What do we really have control of in our day to day lives? Some of us believe that for the most part we are the masters of our own destinies. Others are convinced that your life outcomes are based on the zip code you are born in. A child born into a discreet poverty neighborhood with poor schools, a limited family support system and few relatives that are fully employed will have fewer lifetime options than children born elsewhere. Likewise the roll of the dice of genetics can give us height (30% higher wages over a lifetime for men) square jawbones and a pleasing face (teachers call on attractive children and give them higher grades than those deemed unattractive.) No matter how many times your mother and society say “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” we do anyways.

So given that we are born with a few marks for and against us, I feel it all comes down to how we relate to events. You have all seen versions of “Candid Camera” where unsuspecting victims are put in unusual situations and we laugh at how different their reactions are. But really this is a great learning tool. Imagine a coffee shop. Every day at 1PM you walk in, step up to a certain table and seat, and kiss the person on the forehead. You do that every day for a year, 365 days. Sometimes you will be smacked, sometimes you will be rebuffed, other times you’ll get a smile, a laugh, or get thrown out on your ass. Same event, different results. Why? Everyone at a certain time and place has a framework of how we see and react to the world. You might chance upon a person who has recently lost a spouse or relative and your peck on the forehead is just what they needed that day to come back and trust humanity again. You might be very unlucky and kiss a person who was sexually abused and the kiss on the forehead was part of the nightmare they lived.

What all this means is that you really don’t know how people will react to what you say or do at any given time. You make assumptions. Your brain is an excellent tool at filling in the blanks. By the way a person is dressed, their body language, their conversation, etc. gives us cues to make a ‘whole person’ out of the few facts we pick up. so what does this have to do with control?

We have the ability as humans to change our beliefs, either temporarily or permanently depending on our ability to figure out what the best reaction is to a particular event. Of course a hot stove means pull your hand back. Not a lot of control involved there. What about a stranger coming up to you and telling you that you are the handsomest man he’s ever seen? Do you rebuff him because your dating history is such that all men who act this way are pigs? What if he’s the ONE and this is his way of being honest and open?

You have a moment when an event comes at you that you can either get angry, get real, or get out. That very moment you and only you ARE IN CONTROL.

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Why Do We Write?

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Why do we write?

 

What human need does writing fulfill? From the caveman drawings in France to the Dead Sea Scrolls to Thomas Jefferson’s Federalist Papers why does this species feel the need to write? To express ourselves not by human auditory voice, but by symbols carefully crafted to imitate and represent our human emotion.

 

Like all writers I have moments of clarity when I sit down at my computer or writing pad and the words just flow. It’s as if I’m not the real author, but some mystical being has taken over my hands and I am channeling his/her song.

 

Recently I have been working on a book, part memoir – part self help book that began from a repeated phrase from friends, “You should write a book.” I’m not sure where they got the idea that my life or my thoughts would be any more interesting than theirs or any other Gay-Male-FormerlyMarried-Grandfather-Husband-Jewish-TallSkinnyGuy on the Planet.

 

So the title of the book is “Muscles Money and Mayhem: How I Found the Good Life, a great Husband, and Peace.” Observations and musings of living as a gay man in South Florida probably won’t make the NY Times best seller list, but it does fill some sort of need, probably the same one that caveman in France felt when he scratched his musings on the wall.

 

So to continue with the thread of Why do We Write; I’ll throw in some basic human needs and let the gentle reader see where they fit in.

 

6 Human Needs

 

CERTAINTY

VARIETY

SIGNIFICANCE

CONNECTION/LOVE

GROWTH

CONTRIBUTION

 

When I look at this list, I immediately think of where you are in your life right now makes all the difference in your needs. To younger people, Love and Growth take center stage and you burst out into the world as a unique individual. You find a partner, establish a career and all the while take so many of your needs for granted. Towards the end of your life both Certainty and Significance come out of the shadows and the joy of accomplishment or the pain of regret fuels our last days.

 

Moving away from the morbid. I showed a friend these six needs and he said, “Damn, that’s why Facebook is so popular. It fulfills all the needs in about 5 minutes. I laughed. But then I realized he was right.

 

I wonder if that caveman is pissed right now.