A Late July Update

So no, in regards to my last post, we haven’t found a suitable place of worship just yet. I’m still not ready to give up, but with all the violence and BS happening around the World, I can feel my heart getting hard. I don’t want to be a bitter person. I talked to my dad last week about letting go of grudges and regrets, something I’ve been able to (mostly) do through meditative practices. He relayed he has always had trouble with it. For me, I saw it as intentionally defeating my ego and eliminating wasteful, unproductive habits and beliefs. We all program our brains differently, whether with intent or by accident. I decided I didn’t want to be mad at people who were jerks to me or constantly relive experiences where I failed to rise to the occasion. It surely won’t help me live in the present or be happy, and I think I’ve learned all there was from those experiences, so I discarded that junk like a holey old pair o’ drawers.

My first chapbook, Dravet Syndrome Blues, is written. I’m letting the poems air out and settle for a few days, then I’ll scrutinize them with red pen in hand, and revise. They won’t be too reworked- I want them to be not only GOOD, but an encapsulation of my current influences, experiences, and ability as a writer. I’ve solicited a little feedback, which has been helpful, but I have to just go or I will talk myself out of it. I’m working on layout and design at the moment. Design is not my strong suit, but that’s okay. I haven’t produced a physical product in forever (16 years or so), and I’m excited.

Speaking of books, I finally got around to reading Cormac McCarthy’s “All the pretty horses.” What a fantastic story, and McCarthy is able to write stark, laconic cowboy prose interspersed with flourished, descriptive passages in a way which is totally natural, without an air of contrivance.He’s not trying too hard-he’s just really that good. He is a living master.

Albuquerque is still magical.

I start work next week. I’m looking forward to it, but also not. I have enjoyed having little stress and no routine, but I am a person who very much needs a rigid routine. It will be a good addition to my life.

In addition to routine, I discovered that I also like taking risks and having adventures.  I’m writing this from a hotel room outside Denver. We drove 6.5 hours here so Lindsay and the oldest kid could go see Sufjan Stevens. It wasn’t a bad drive, but prior to realizing that our lives were finite and we were in charge of the character of our lives, I don’t know we would have done this. I want awesome experiences. I don’t hate road trips like I once did, and don’t get tired driving for more than 45 minutes, as growing up on an island is prone to induce.

So things aren’t perfect. I still hold on to old crap sometimes, and sometimes I’m grumpy and snap at the kids. Sometimes I don’t sleep well, and have learned there’s no wisdom in saying “I’ve never gotten sunburn on the tops of my feet”. Still, I think I’m in a good place, literally and figuratively. Seizures, and the threat thereof, are constantly lurking, and I never thought I could feel so dried up by someone else’s condition, but this in my normal. We have abundant moments, and are making stuff happen. I’ll take it.

 

ABQ

We pulled in to Albuquerque late Sunday morning. That night, we had a brief storm after an amazing lightning show. Our furniture was delivered and internet connected on Monday. We’ve been unpacking and arranging and cleaning, and it’s starting to look like people live here.

It’s fantastic to sleep in my own bed again, after sharing an air mattress for a few weeks.

Here’s  the thing- we came here with a plan dream. I declared a do-over. We left steady employment in an okay place with AWESOME people for a place where I know only 1 person , without a job solidly lined up, and not a lot of options, but a great deal of hustle topped with a patina of wishes. We knew the way we were living our lives in Utah was unsustainable.

Tonight we sat on the deck, looking at the pastel Southwestern sunset. We listened to the wind gently rattle leaves, to doves cooing sonnets to each other, to crickets. We watched the crescent moon rise. Magic was all around us.

People often respond “living the dream” when asked “How are you?”

I am really living my dreams. In real life. For real.

I got offered the exact dollar amount I had in mind for what seems like The World’s Best Job.

My house/neighborhood is awesome.

There are bad things, to be sure, like grievances with the moving company, and the  oppressive heat which is making my hair do WEIRD things, and I think my truck is going to die soon, but I am content. I do not recall the last time things felt “right”.

I’m looking forward to meeting people, and carving out a routine, but I am grateful. I’m still not used to this- I am not used to nice things happening to me. I am used to being the purveyor of nice, or feeling stuck in the security line between circles of Hell.

We’ll continue to feather our nest and explore this strange city. I am truly astonished this is all coming together, after years of scheming and talking hypothetically through insomnia. We are building the rad lives we’ve wanted to live for a long time, and I’m stoked to the max.

Hotel Toilet Mirror

I’ve been preoccupied lately, and haven’t been exercising. At first this was from a back injury, then, to be honest, I just straight up didn’t feel like it. I have a lot of changes in progress and to come. I have been neglecting my health, and I’ve put on weight. I have not been watching what I eat.

 

I’ve put on weight.

Lindsay has remarked on it, and it felt like nagging at the time.

Last week I was traveling for business, and ate out for every meal. There was an oddly-placed mirror in my hotel room, and I caught a frontal view of myself on the toilet, bad fluorescent light and all.

It would be an understatement to say I did not like what I saw. I’m glad I was level-headed enough at that moment to not descend into self-loathing. I take responsibility, and it’s my responsibility to fix it. I’ve always had body image issues a complicated relationship with my body, but this was different-there was a legitimate problem. In addition to being fatter (why dance around it?), I looked tired, my face was red and splotchy, and I seemed a few years older than I am. My face was bloated. It all came rushing back- the skipped workouts, the unplanned lunches, the excuses.

The day after I came back, I started a diet. Nothing crazy, a little portion control, mild carb control, more whole foods-mostly vegetables. I start the day juicing (3 carrots, 3 stalks celery, ginger, 1/2 cucumber, apple/pear, yields about 16oz juice) and scrambled eggs. I have a HUGE salad for lunch (except Sunday-we eat  lunch at church). If I get hungry between lunch and late afternoon, I’ll do a grassfed whey protein shake. Dinner is veggie heavy. We don’t really do desert, and I drank 1 beer on Sunday night, my first since Wednesday. I’m also drinking a gallon of water a day, which is getting easier.

 

I know from experience that if I am not crazy strict about my diet, it will be easier to follow. I won’t get the same results as, say, a raw vegan plan, but that’s not my goal. I want to eat better so I can live better.

 

I haven’t started exercising again yet (tomorrow), but holy crap- I feel great! I’m peeing a lot (A LOT!), but it’s a minor annoyance. I haven’t gotten sluggish in the afternoon. I think I’m getting enough calories, and my brain isn’t foggy. I know it has only been 3 days, but I feel like my body is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Also, I can drink coffee because I love it, and not gulp a ton of it down without tasting it because I need it to not fall asleep while driving to work. This is good all around.

 

I’m excited about taking my body back. I’m not perfect, and I’m trying hard to not curate a false online presence. I struggle and screw up. I forget things, and sometimes I’m shitty to people, but not as consistently as I am to myself. I deserve better. I know what I am capable of. I can do this.

 

 

 

Comedy

 

My oldest daughter, Selah, came to me last month and said she wanted to be a stand-up comedian. I suggested some comics who I thought she’d like, and told her about a youth open mic event downtown.  She had about a month to write her routine. Her first few drafts were AWFUL, but she kept at it. She practiced in front of a mirror and recorded herself. I refused to help with her writing, but I did help with her timing.

When the event came, she was a little nervous, but just a little. I asked the organizer, a friend of mine, to give her some advice, and he gave her some quick pointers. When she was called, she decided to do it without her notes.

She killed! She was comfortable, and though she’ll  be more polished with more time, she seemed in her element.

I’m very proud of her. She was able to turn her personal experiences into something relatable and funny.

So now it’s my turn. I’ve been a fan of comedy going back to when I first watched Eddie Murphy’s Raw way too young. I love Eddie Izzard, Hannibal Burress, Robin Williams, Zach Galifianakis, John Mulaney, Maria Bamford, Hari Kondabolu, Jim Gaffigan, Mitch Hedberg, LaVell Crawford, Margaret Cho, and Chris Rock, just to name a few. I’ve been listening to comedy podcasts, reading comedy blogs, dissecting routines, and writing for years. i’ve also been following the career of Jonah Ray. It hasn’t been an all-consuming compassion, but it’s been on my mind a lot. I accepted long ago I was going to try my hand at comedy.  I’m researching open mic nights in Albuquerque, and doing what Selah did. I’m going to try, and it’s likely I will suck. That’s okay. We’re not supposed to be masters of something the first time we try it. I’m going to do it, and I’m going to have fun, and I’m going to tell you guys all about it.

Go

 

I’ve wanted to start playing Go/Baduk for about 10 years. Since I’m in a season of actually doing things I want to do (how novel!), I decided to start learning the fundamentals of the game.

I did some google-fu, and found this guide from the British Go Association aimed at teaching the game to kids. I got lost on page seven, and didn’t realize it until page 8. I started over, and I think it makes a little more sense.

This seems to be how I learn (or mis-learn) things. A detail eludes me early on, and I form a misunderstanding of it, which leads to later relearning, after discovering I’m in over my head.

I know what you’re thinking- *eyeroll*, this post is about jiu jitsu, blah blah blah….not this time. I still love jiu jitsu very much, but not this time.

For too long I’ve had all my eggs in the wrong basket- the Air Force. I’ve sought meaning and significance from external sources, and it hasn’t been working out for me. If I think something is worthwhile, no matter what it is, and pursue it doggedly, then I will find meaning in it.

I am also committed to lifelong learning and making sure I integrate play into my life. I think something like Go can help.

Life is finite and precious, and I’d rather take bold risks, or even silly little ones, than talk myself out of doing anything. Failure is better than not trying, so I’m going to play an obscure, ancient Asian board game. In playing Go, I am going to go.

I used to play videogames. Not a lot- I’m impatient with them. If I turn a game on, and I’m not playing within 10 seconds, I’m done. If there are scenes where I can’t control the character because they’re talking, I’m done. I don’t have the time for that. I can read a good book for a better story, or go have a real adventure.

But that doesn’t mean others don’t see videogames as worthwhile or even beneficial, and they’re not wrong. It’s just not for me.

What about you? What’s something you’ve been meaning to do, but life got in the way? Maybe going back to school, learning languages, an epic bike trip you had planned?

What are you waiting for?

If you’re reading this, this is your sign. Now. Do it.

 

 

 

Five Years

I’ve had a lot of anniversaries lately- 14 years married, 10 years since my mother passed, and now I commemorate another.

April 15th marked 5 years since I started my Brazilian jiu jitsu journey.

I miss my old team at the Jiu Jitsu Institute in VA. I haven’t spent as much time on the mat as I’d have liked, and many of my old training partners have surpassed me in rank and skill. However, I’ve surpassed everyone who didn’t start. I know I’m progressing, and I’ve had classes lately where I was able to effectively impose my will and execute the techniques I had planned. If I keep training, I will learn more and have more hours of mat time. This will be a good thing. Westside Jiu Jitsu, where I’m currently training, is a great school, too. Everyone has been welcoming and supportive. My 6-year old, Stella, started training again, and she’s enjoying it.

My life has been enriched by jiu jitsu, as I’ve written before. I am confident this will continue to be a part of my life, and I will one day be a black belt.

So, cheers to five years. Sure, I wish it were ten, but I’m glad it’s not one year, or worse still, eventually.

 

A Temporary Denouement

After the hustle leading up to Easter, it’s nice to have a bit of a slowing-down forecasted. The kids will be on spring break, I’ll have a week between semesters, and I’m taking a few days off from work. I’m anticipating sleeping closer to 8 hours a night, at least for a little while. Perhaps I’ll even be able to read a few books.

Things are winding down at work as well, as I hand off responsibilities. I want to leave the Air Force well, and have closure. The tradition is to have a luncheon. Since my departure is almost like a retirement, after almost fifteen years of service, I know my co-workers want to do something big. I’ve never been one for parties in my honor, but I am willing to go through with it for them. I do get to ask the machinists to make something for me, which is cool. When I left my previous base they made me a pair of brass knuckles which doubles as a bottle opener.

I know my next job will be challenging, that the grass isn’t always greener,and perhaps I’m projecting too much-but I’m really looking forward to this change. My stress levels are lower. I feel hopeful. I make a practice of gratitude, but it typically starts out as being a bit forced, whereas now it’s spontaneous and flowing. My mood has been stable. I don’t feel like eating junk food all the time.

I know they won’t connect to it now, but I hope in the future my kids will understand why I left the military, that it wasn’t easy, that it scared the shit out of me, but I did it anyway, because Who Dares Wins. I hope they internalize how I set goals, worked toward them, and achieved them. I hope they soak it up and learn from it for their own lives, which I’m pretty hopeful won’t turn out terrible.

Hope. Hope is something I haven’t consistently felt in about 2 years. It’s nice. When I was at my lowest, the most stunning aspect was the absence of hope. Perhaps I will also leave behind this tough season I’ve been weathering as I take off my uniform for the last time.