At the end of February, I convinced myself to get out of the house and go for a walk. The sun was shining and the weather was at normal temperatures.
It was a healthy choice. So, I lead myself to believe. I’m not sure how healthy it was.
My choice was to walk on the sidewalk next to a busy road. The main thoroughfare of my town. So, first off, car fumes were plentiful. Next, I almost got mowed down by a Cadillac while in a crosswalk. The white light man had indicated I had the right of way. Then, on my return route, a number of horns beeped due to drivers frustrations with each other. That interrupting my thought flow, triggering the nature human fear response within me.
I hate car horns. I rarely use mine. The horn isn’t supposed to be used to let others know your level of anger with them. The longer the horn sound the higher the level of anger. And what is accomplished? Nothing.
Beep your horn to let others know you are present if they are merging or stepping out in front of you when you are in their blind spot or not paying attention. Or a gentle “toot” to someone sitting too long at a stop light because they were on their phone and didn’t notice it changed to green. We all have lapses in judgement. No need to take it personally.
I did have a short stint through a wooded area and that was the better part of the walk. However, due to the snow melt the trail was flooded layered with large mud puddles. I don’t have the shoes to trudge through mud soaked trails, so that was a bit nerve racking negotiating my way long the path.
I did feel better physically for having taken the walk, but mentally I was reeling from almost being mowed down, fear triggered by two horn blowers and the soggy toes from water logged trails.
I haven’t taken a walk since.
Perhaps, my next walk should be along the quiet back roads of my neighborhood. Or the quiet Wissahickon Trails that are a five minute drive from my place.
I think I can tag on picture taking along that walk to make it an artist’s date.
How busy is busy?
Busy is a word we use when we don’t know what else to use. So is it the word we mean to use?
Busy can mean doing things around the house, running errands, parental duties, or other domesticated life chores.
Busy can mean your job/career has you doing things all day; phone calls, managing people, spreadsheets, customer care, driving all around, or other job related tasks.
We tend to think of busy as things we do. And sometimes we do a lot of things during our days. These things can physically exhaust us.
“How have you been?” A friend will ask.
“Busy,” we’ll respond, not listing the five things we had to multitask in the last hour and the million and a half things we still have to do.
Besides that, busy isn’t a feeling. “How have you been” and “What have you been doing” receive the same response, “Busy.” And don’t even get me started on “Fine” as an answer.
The truth for me is that I do a lot at work and home. Tasks are not happening all the time, yet, I feel like I’m so busy. And I am. In my head. I am thinking all the time about what I’ve accomplished but mostly about what I still have to accomplish.
I’m busy most of my days thinking, not necessarily doing. During my down time my mind is going over things past, present and future. Rarely is my mind not pouring over something I did or didn’t do. Or should do.
I think I am busy not doing things most days, but I think so much about doing things that I’ve tricked my brain into believing I’m am continuously on the move. Our brains don’t know the difference between what is actually happening and what is only happening in our head.
This isn’t always a negative thing. Some of the best athetes will practice visualization for running plays, golf and tennis swings or throwing a ball. Writers visualize whole stories before even writing a single word. Musicians will visualize playing their instrument while sitting in traffic or standing in the grocery line. Fingers moving along an imaginary fret or keyboard.
Those are meditative practices that have been studied and proven to enhance a person’s performance. Watch the movie The Pianist to see what I’m talking about.
Our minds are always working, either for us or against us. We can choose to feed it with all kinds of things. Otherwise, it will feed on itself and the result is usually bad. Negative thinking will creep in and set up a home and then slowly eat away at everything until you are racked with despair, crippling anxiety and no self-worth.
I’ve been there. Many times.
Our minds are busy every second of every day. That’s why we will tell people we’re busy but not be able to give those internal examples about why we are exhausted from doing so much. We have convinced our brains and our brains in return have convinced us that we have been doing so many things.
I haven’t written a post in over a month. The past two weeks I’ve been busy thinking about how I haven’t posted in a long time. I didn’t realize just how long it had been until I looked it up this morning.
I’ve had doing tasks and thinking tasks over this past month. I’ve also had down time where I could have written something.
I was busy not writing. I was busy telling my brain reasons why I couldn’t write. I told my brain I was doing so much and had some much more to do. So my brain believed it and in return convinced me to believe it. What a lovely team of procrastinating liars we are, my brain and I. The perfect pair to never get anything done.
So, here is a post. When is the next post?
That will depend on what my brain and I decide to convince each other.
My mom came up to visit this weekend, since this is my weekend with the kids. My kids love their mom mom. I have been fortunate that my mom has such a great relationship with my kids. Due to my two younger brothers living in Florida and our mom living in New Jersey, she doesn’t get to have a close relationship with her other grandchildren.
I live the closest in Pennsylvania. My kids have been able to benefit from living so close to their mom mom. I am truly thankful for this.
I’m, also, thankful for her visit today because we all got to get out of my cramped two-bedroom apartment and go to an indoor trampoline park called Get Air. It was her treat.
The last time I went to one of those parks (Sky Zone), I stressed a muscle in my lower back and ended up sit out for the majority of our stay. So, I was apprehensive to engage this time. But my son and daughter wanted me to join in so I said yes.
I have a dodgy lower back. Damaged it in high school lifting weights back in the 90’s, many years of chiropractic adjustments and finally had back surgery in 2016. Jumping on trampolines seemed like a distant, never to do again memory.
I changed up my approach to this issue over the past four to five months and did one of the best things for my lower back: I started to engage the core.
Sitting, standing, bending over and squating down, I engage my core. I put the focus on my stomach muscles and the prolonged lower back pain has become short-lived.
My back still aches at times but not for days or weeks like it used to. It has been amazing. Better than any pain med has ever helped.
So, I said yes to my kids and we jumped. Whenever my back started to feel like I was over doing it, I would sit down to take a break. I didn’t stretch my back when I felt the pain. I learned that would just aggravate my back muscles and make thinks worse.
So, why the title, “What’s My Age Again?” That is a phrase that gets thrown around too readily. Age doesn’t matter as much as fitness.
There was a grandfather there with his granddaughter dunkin’ balls through one of the basketball hoops. He was much older than me and was a damn inspiration. I want to be that grandparent to my grandkids.
Of course, given the ages of my kids, 11 and 7, by the time I’m a grandfather there will be jetpack parks called Screw Gravity. I hope I can keep up as a 70 year old grandparent.
I’m grateful for being able to keep up now.
Age doesn’t matter when I look at my kids’ faces and they are totally excited that I am out there on the trampolines with them.
I have made it an expectation that I will be on the trampoline, on the floor with the LEGOs or creating some art project from the recyclables bin.
There is no age limit for doing those things.
Though, sometimes I just want to sit and do nothing, but today was not one of those times.
Your attention and time are the most precious things you have. You have given some of that to me and I appreciate it.
I believe that when time is given to me the best way to show my appreciation is to give my time to you.
I have visited some of the blogs of those who have visited mine. I dove into more than one posting by some of you. I really like a lot of what I have read; especially, those posts where you have shared about yourself and your struggles. The most impressive writings to me have been where you have shared what you have done to be good to you.
Choosing yourself in order to be available to others is an inspiration to me. One of my reasons for writing this blog is to be more honest with myself through my writing. I’m still working on this.
Life is tough and rough and we have to treat ourselves well.
If I don’t stop telling myself “I’m not worthy of things”, then why should I expect anybody else to think me worthy. I say some pretty horrible things to myself. If I were to say those things to my friends, I would not have any friends. If I were to say those things to my kids, I would be a horrible father and my kids’ self-esteem and self-image would crumble. Thinking about that happening to my kids breaks my heart. I would want to punch myself in the face if I said those things to my kids. So, why doesn’t it break my heart when I say those things to me? It does break my spirit. I should probably punch myself in the face for having such negativity towards me.
But physical violence only begets physical violence. We see it happening every day. Negativity begets negativity. It happens in my head all the time. That negativity has kept me from striving to do more. I have backed away from many challenges in my life because I didn’t fully believe I was worth it.
Personal examples in my creative life:
I’ve written two novels and a script for a graphic novel. I’ve attempted to get agents for one of my novels. I even knew someone who worked for a literary agency and she submitted my manuscript. It never went anywhere.
I reached out to a few artists to collaborate on my graphic novel. One artist just stopped communicating with me and another did not get back to me. It never went anywhere.
So, I’ve been knocked down and was left rejected. However, there are two points about the above.
One, I could have done a better job of following up by asking more questions. I wasn’t told my work sucked. I just wasn’t told anything. What else could I think?
Two, my passion level was not high for what I had created and promoted. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my creations to go to the next step. I just didn’t believe in myself enough to advocate more strongly for them. I didn’t give myself enough worth. I didn’t give my work enough worth.
This is something that I recently began to understand about myself. I’m a low-key guy most of the time. I can get heated and excited but mostly I try to keep my “cool”. This is not a good thing when I am trying to promote myself and my creations. How can I get others excited about what I created if I’m not getting excited about it?
I would smack my forehead, if violence didn’t beget violence. And you know what, passion and excitement begets passion and excitement. It’s those mirror neurons everybody is talking about. (You know, everybody.) If I’m acting excited then it is almost (almost) impossible for someone in my presence to not feel a little bit of that and not get a little excited themselves.
Time for low-key Nate to get out of my way to make room for passionate Nate. Excited Nate. Enthusiastic Nate. The Nate who believes his work has worth. My work does have worth.
Your work has worth. Why create it in the first place if it didn’t?
Let’s be good to us. Keep writing. Keep creating. It is worth it.
I seem to be drawn to reading things on how I can change my perspective about my life in order to improve myself. I want to think myself healthier, think myself happier, and, in some cases, to stop thinking so much and just start doing.
In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements he presents a simple formula to follow that seems to offer a way for me to combine thinking and doing.
Perhaps, using the term formula is not correct. But I don’t know what else to call it. Maybe a process. A reprogramming. He does use computer terminology, such as, our old agreements being a virus in our programming as humans.
Miguel states that we have agreements within our minds that allow us to accept the ways things are, the negative things we believe, and the way people treat us. And no matter how detrimental those beliefs may be to or for us, we will continue to agree with them.
Miguel says there are four agreements that we can use to combat the negative agreements within ourselves. The Four Agreements are:
Be impeccable to your word
Don’t take things personally
Don’t make assumptions
Always do your best
They seem pretty straight forward and can leave you saying to yourself, “Well, of course that’s all you gotta do. Easy, so easy.”
But you have to explore them deeper, which Miguel does in his book. He explores the depths of what those agreements mean and what you must do in order to adopt them into your programming.
I am aware much more now than I ever was in my past about the negative agreements I hold onto about myself and other people. I know I am folly when it comes to talking to and about myself. My thoughts are not nice.
Over the past few months I have been able to recognize my negative self-talk about me. The power of my rationalization to not do things out of fear. I know better how to recognize my fear. How the fear plays its hand in my decision making.
Fear has played a part in most of the decisions I have made in my life. Fear has powered my rationalization to not speak, not change, and not do.
And I know so much better now that even though I know this, I am not free from the power of fear. I still watch it and let it control me.
I let fear use rationalization most recently to not play my guitar with my friend in his band. He had offered and I had gladly accepted. I’ve played with him several times live in the past. But for some reason I let fear tell me “no” this time. It told me that I wasn’t good enough. That I should go to support him and his band, but I was not good enough to play.
I ended up spending much of that day with my kids at my ex’s house, knowing that I was supposed to play that evening with my friend, but fear told me to stay longer and longer because “I’m not going to play. I’m tired. I can’t solo as well as my friend. My guitar never sounds good. My guitar is a bit dusty from sitting out and my friend my see it and make fun. The other band members will wonder why I’m there and why would my friend invite me to sit in. Just stay here with my kids for as long as I can. I’m not going to play. I just tell my friend I didn’t have time to stop off at home to get my guitar. I’ll sit on my ass and watch him play because I know I am not good enough.”
And that’s what I did.
I let the fear rationalize and put me down and talk me out of playing. And lie to my friend.
The lying makes me feel badly about me. It also makes me upset with myself for letting my fear make me miss out on another experience.
I may not be the best guitar player but I cannot let that be fuel for my fear to stop me from doing something that I really do enjoy doing.
I was not impeccable to my word. I made an assumption about what others would think of me and I didn’t do my best.
Miguel points out in his book is that we can expect to slip up and not follow those new agreements at times, maybe a lot of times, but to not get discouraged because we can always start again. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to get it right every time.
Miguel also let’s me know to be aware of the Judge, Victim and belief system within me. It is like a Bizarro World Holy Trinity. Not that Miguel describes it that way.
The Judge bestows guilt and shame. The Victim agrees to the verdict of guilty and accepts the shame. The belief system is the agreements that are in place that allows the Judge and the Victim to play their roles.
In the coming weeks and months I will continue to explore and write about how my Fear and the Bizarro World Holy Trinity (BWHT) attempt to keep me from Action.
Some of my thoughts on the Four Agreements.
Be impeccable to your word – I am doing that each morning. I write my three morning pages. I treat my inner artist to creative dates.
Don’t take things personally – This is difficult. As much as I may say to myself, “this isn’t about me” I still think things that happen to me are about me.
Don’t make assumptions – This is part of what I do as a therapist. I make assumptions based on people’s behaviors and what they tell me. If we know what motivates us, or other people, we can make an assumption as to how we will react or respond to situations and people in our lives. This can be very helpful. But it does not mean our assumptions will be true.
Always do your best – I like this one just as much as the first agreement. Miguel says that our best will be different for every situation due to many factors about ourselves including emotions and health at the time we are to deliver our best. Some days our best is not going to be good enough to achieve something that we want.
If we can agree that we did the best we were capable of doing at that time, then we should be satisfied. There should be no looking back. No placing blame or guilt on ourselves because we gave all we had at that time. It is okay that our best isn’t going to be good enough every time. We don’t always have to succeed, get “it” right or be perfect.
We should accept ourselves warts and all.
The awesome book by Julie Cameron The Artist’s Way was a gift to me by my wife, with whom I am separated. We still love and care for each other and continue to offer support in many ways. This kind of relationship with an ex is crucial, especially since we have two young children together.
She knows my desire to be a writer who can make a living wage from my creative endeavors, so she was kind to give me this book by Julia Cameron.
I had been searching for a means to get myself back into writing daily. Writing creatively and with purpose.
I am more fresh in the mornings to do my writing and I know that is the best time to do it, but I have lacked the discipline to get up and do it. I was unable to focus my mind on purpose. I kept putting it off for years.
I would still write. I had written a few new short stories for a writing class I took back in the fall of 2016. That was over a year ago. I haven’t finished a story since.
My mind flows with ideas of stories, a podcast with my kids, and a podcast for myself. I thought of editing a young adult novel I had written many years ago that has been in the editing stage for just as long.
I just could not focus or find a way to get my mind to stop wandering the trail of “I’ll get to it if these particular things are in order.”
Then I got Julia’s book. I read the first chapter on the basic tools. The two most important tools being the Morning Pages and the Artist’s Date. They are crucial, according to Julia, if I was to truly let my creativity flow.
That was one of the most powerful chapters I have read in any book in a very long time. Years ago, I had read a book about writing and it had suggested that I write three pages a day double spaced and soon I would have a completed novel within a of couple months. But I went one step further with that and I wrote three pages a day single spaced. I had completed my first adult novel in a month and a half.
It felt great to have accomplished that feat that I had been wanting to do for so long. I spent another month or so editing and revising. I gave it to two friends and an aquantance to read. They gave good feedback. I attempted to get an agent and even knew someone who worked for an agent but I was met with rejection.
That is besides the point. The point is that I had disciplined myself to write everyday in the morning and I finished a novel.
The young adult novel came a few years later, but I wrote that whenever I had a moment to write. I also finished a script for a graphic novel around that same time. For both of those, I had an outline that helped to guide my writing and so wrote whenever I got a moment to type something up.
It also helped that I worked at a job where I had a lot of down time and access to a computer.
So, all this rambling. Sorry.
My point is that over the past few years I didn’t have the discipline to get up in the morning to write. I didn’t have the outlines for a story. I had nothing.
Then I read one chapter in The Artist’s Way and it changed the way I thought about the process of writing.
Two things: writing three morning pages in a note book, front page only, and take two hours out of my week to treat the artist within me to something artsy.
Starting December 27th, I got up at 6:30am and wrote my first three pages. The best part of this is that it is stream of conscious writing. All I have to do is just start writing. No expectations. No direction. Just write. Like going for a run to get back in shape. No direction. Just run to build up the cardio.
So I started running. I’ve written everyday since.
I took myself on my first Artist’s Date to the Philly Art Museum the day after New Year’s.
I’ve started to edit my young adult novel two chapters in the evenings that I don’t have the kids. I don’t have them this weekend so I will be editing more chapters at B&N on Saturday. It will be my artist’s date this week.
I’ve only read the first two chapters of The Artist’s Way. The next chapter is Week 2. I’m not sure when I will get to that chapter. And it doesn’t matter to me right now if or when I get to that next chapter. All I know is that I am being good to my artists right now by doing these two simple things. Those two simple things have made a huge impact on how I think about myself as a writer and have freed him.
There is another book I have read over these past few weeks that has presented me with a new way to think about myself and the world with which I interact. It is Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. I’ll post about that another time.
My next post will be another of my music posts, but this one will be different. It will be a song I composed this evening as a way to let my inter musician out to play a little.
Stay tuned for that.
I have concluded that we as human beings love numbers and lists. They are everywhere.
The internet is full of those lists. Click bait lists promising you that if you follow their simple, easy-to-do steps you will reach a personal nirvana. You will be more social, you will have a fine looking body and you will be in a financal situation where your only problem will be which Tiffany’s diamond bracelet to purchase. You know, because all your other bills will have been taken care of.
So when we want to improve ourselves we turn to lists. The best lists are numbered lists.
The 5 best ways to save money. 4 easy steps to a healthy looking body. 10 things you are doing now that keep you from achieving a more relaxed and happier you.
We as humans like lists. Give us a list of things to do, buy, or talk about and you’ve given us a purpose.
What we like more that lists is checking things off the list. There is nothing like the sense of accomplishment when we look at a list with lines drawn through the words on it. That is a good feeling.
Some of us can become obsessed by lists. Obsessed with the feeling of “getting things done.” I put that last part in quotes because are we really getting things done? We feel like we are and that matters a lot if we are to continue that behavior.
Sometimes we can make lists too long and so we never complete them and never feel that sense of accomplishment. We end up feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and dejected with ourselves.
Those thoughts and feelings lead to never getting things done.
A complete, manageable, numbered list is like a promise of accomplishment. It is the key to putting us in a healthier, personal and financial place. Make a list like that and you’ll have people flocking to you.
The possibilities are endless if you have the right list.
The one thing that is not endless is time.
We only have so much time alive on this planet. That may seem a little morbid but it is the truth. We don’t truly know what will happen after we die. All we know is what is happening now in this waking world.
Our time is numbered.
We are limited to the number of hours we watch TV and movies. Or spend reading books, magazines and internet content. Or the number of times we will see friends or family and interact with them.
Thinking that way could get us to enjoy the moments with them and to stop the rush of thoughts in our heads of what we have planned for after those encounters.
My kids snuggled in bed with me the other night. My daughter, 7, wasn’t feeling well so she wanted to be close to me. My son, 11, didn’t want to sleep by himself. They have to share a room when they stay with me. I’m limited to the amount of dollars I get each paycheck to pay for an apartment as a single dad.
I slept between them so my daughter could be close to the edge of the bed in case her “not feeling well” turned into a need to rush to the bathroom.
We laid down, both of them to either side of me. My daughter reached across my chest holding her hand out to her brother who took it to comfort his little sister. A real precious moment. One of a finite that will happen and that I will be witness to.
Then they turned it into a game. They squeezed each others’ hand to some musical beat in their heads while the other would have to guess what the song was. An impossible task that neither one had a chance at guessing correctly. Soon they gave up and parted hands.
That may be the only time that happens, but I was there to witness. To be present in that moment. I had to pull myself out of my own thoughts to be present. I could have ignored the whole thing and kept worrying about work the next day, would I get enough sleep, could I finish my work before I had to leave.
I was leaving work early that next day to go watch my kids sing in their school Holiday show. Another finite event.
Perhaps it was that I was already thinking about finite school show moments that made it possible for me to recognize that moment in bed as a finite experience.
I had been primed to recognize the importance of recognizing those moments.
Practicing that skill of being in the moment when it happens could be the only thing to scratch off one of my lists. Maybe it is the only list I need with only that one item on it.
Be present to recognize the importance of the moment.
Because the moment is all we really have.