I meant to do that

I’ve mentioned a few times that I had an ulterior motive when I started this blog but I’ve been pretty coy about stating exactly what that motive was. By keeping my intentions secret I have preserved the ability to reframe my goals at anytime and turn what could have been seen as a failure into a success. Like Pee-wee Herman I could announce at anytime that, “I meant to do that!”

When I started I had no idea how things would turn out. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know whether I was documenting my success or my failure. At this point I can unequivocally state that I have failed at meeting my goals, BUT there have been many unintended successes for which I am more than happy to take credit. It’s time to take credit for the failure as well.

It began with a dream… a dream of shedding most of my worldly possessions, including my house, and living a nomadic life.  I wanted and needed a simpler life which focused on what is really important to me and that is connecting with people. After taking inventory of my skills and assets I devised a plan to travel around the country, by bicycle, sharing my gifts and avoiding the harsh Minnesota winters. It seemed like a crazy plan but I’ve managed to pull off some pretty crazy things in my life and as I started talking to more people about it, people who knew me, the less crazy it seemed. I just knew I couldn’t do it alone. I was going to need more people along for the ride. A blog, if successful, would allow me to connect with people all over the country and provide a vehicle to share my adventure for survival giving it meaning and purpose.

In fact, creating a blog had been on my to-do list for years but now it no longer felt like an option. Now it was a priority. Now it was a means to an end. Now I had a plan, a vision; but I still had no idea how to achieve it or even if I could. I just knew that I had to start regardless. All I could do was take the next step and see what happened. That process is pretty well documented in this blog.

What I discovered was that writing a successful blog takes a lot of work. I guess that wasn’t really a discovery. I knew it would be a lot of work. I actually had a pretty clear idea of what it would take but I had plenty of time on my hands and figured I would muddle through it until I got it right. I figured a year was enough time to make something happen.

It probably would have been if I was focused and dedicated. I have achieved a lot in my life but it has come either through some level of deep obsession or a great deal of time. The older I get the harder it is for me to get that obsessed about anything but it has also given me more perspective when it comes to the concept of time. There are just too many things in the world which I find meaningful and purposeful that it may take a lifetime to achieve even my top five. I just can’t do everything; at least not right now, but to be honest, the distractions I’ve had over the past year or so have been well worth it.

Well… most of them.

As much as I hate to admit it, dealing with multiple chronic illnesses on a daily basis has also been a factor in my failure to meet my goals. This is not the life I had envisioned for myself but it is my reality. Denial doesn’t change anything. I refuse to use my so-called disabilities as an excuse for not achieving greatness but I may need to re-examine my definition of greatness. We’ve all been inspired by the achievements of successful people with disabilities. There is no reason why I can’t be my own inspiration.

So my blog didn’t turn out as planned. I have gotten rid of nearly nothing. I still own my home and I’m not leaving this state until my daughter graduates from high school.  For some reason none of that really feels like a failure. I still have a blog. I still have more stuff than I need. I have a home and I have a daughter that loves and needs me. Maybe failure isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s only failure if it feels like failure.

The only thing that has happened in the past year that makes me feel like a failure is the loss of my best friend. She was my one true obsession and in the end it was that obsession which killed the friendship.

But through death there comes rebirth.

In my effort to come to terms with how I could lose a friend who I honestly believed was forever I discovered this blog post by Kenneth Justice, The Culture Monk. I began reading his blog every day and quickly discovered that we had started our blogs at the same time and were writing about the same issues albeit in from different perspectives and in very different styles. In my opinion, he’s a much better writer than I am. There is a structure and flow to his writing that I may never achieve; even if I wanted to. We probably started with the same level of effort and dedication but with different skills. That, and he is far more consistent than I am. Consistency has never been my strong suit.

What I found really ironic was when he started writing about fame and celebrity. He was taking issue with our cultural obsession with fame and celebrity which I totally understand. I just found it ironic because he had achieved the level of notoriety that I was seeking in order to make my dreams come true. Let’s face it, celebrity and popularity are necessary evils in the entertainment business. Seeking celebrity seems a bit crazy to me but so is the entertainment business.

What didn’t surprise me was that after a year of writing his blog, Kenneth Justice decided to set out on a worldwide tour to connect with his readers. Basically, he was achieving my goal albeit in from a different perspective and in a very different style. He is living my dream. When he came to Minneapolis last month I was able to meet him, drive him around, show him my city and give him a place to stay. I was able to see my dream come true, even if it was being carried out by another person. I could be bitter but instead I have a new friend. I hope that you will read his blog and I hope that you will take the opportunity to meet him if he comes to your town.

I began last year with a plan; I failed but I found success. As I look back now I realize that I’m still here, I’m still me and I’m not alone. Ultimately, that is all I have ever wanted to achieve.

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When the best isn’t good enough

It was my goal when I started this blog to write everyday. I wanted to document all the ups and downs of my life and I have them everyday. I wanted to develop the habit of writing. My hope was that by developing this habit that I would become a better writer and that it would become easier.

To some extent, that has been the case. To some extent it has not. Like much of my life, it is a mixed bag. Blogging has helped me. It has facilitated a better life than the one I was leading before I started but still hasn’t met my expectations.

So is that failure or is that success?

If I had no expectations I would never feel disappointment. Keeping my expectations to a minimum has been key to my happiness. Still, without the expectation that writing a blog was something worth doing, I never would have done it at all. This is hard, it’s scary and it’s really fucking time consuming!

It’s like a trap. The expectations are essential to me even being willing to try and create positive change. Yet, because of these expectations, nothing will ever be good enough. Is there any question why people are frustrated, angry and unsatisfied?

Buddhism actually has an answer to this. Perhaps other religions do as well but it is what I have learned from Buddhism that resonates with me the best. Buddhism teaches us to let go of expectations. In essence to let go of our attachment to any particular outcome. We are asked to live in the moment, a moment where everything is exactly as it is meant to be and it is good enough.

Well… with all due respect, in this moment all I can think of to say is, “Fuck that!”

Maybe I’m just not satisfied with good enough. Maybe good enough is not good enough for me. Maybe I want my passion and my drive to make things better. Maybe I want to be the best me I can be. I’ve heard is said and I know what it means that, “The best is the enemy of the good”, but I don’t care. I can accept that things may never be good enough, but I cannot accept not trying my best.

So every day I try my best. Perhaps that is just what I do. Perhaps that is my habit. It’s just that my physical and mental state can vary greatly from day to day. Some days my best is amazing. Some days my best is downright shitty. Some days my best can’t even manage to write a blog post. Some days writing a blog post is the best I can do. Some days I am capable of so much more and writing a blog post just seems like a waste of my time.

So I don’t know if it is trying my best which has led to these inconsistencies or that my life is inconsistent and that has led me to always try my best. I truly believe that is possible to have a consistently “good enough” life but I guess I’ve decided that my way is better… at least for me.

Marilyn Monroe Quotes - My best

You are only as good as everything you are

An old friend of mine, someone I haven’t hung out with in far too long, someone that has been on my mind a lot lately, was fond of saying, “You’re only as good as your last record.” It’s an expression used in the music business but their are similar ones for athletes, actors, writers and I guess, just about anybody.

I’ve been aware of this sentiment for a long time. The line was used in the Bachman – Turner Overdrive song, “Rock Is My Life, and This Is My Song” off the first album I ever bought with my own money, Not Fragile.

bachmanturneroverdrive-notfragile-cover

This was not their last record but it was by far their best. To me, Bachman – Turner Overdrive will always be as good as this. Unfortunately, Randy Bachman and crew did not see it this way and by the time I actually saved up enough money to buy, Not Fragile, the band was all but done. I don’t know if it was the industry’s belief that you are only as good as your last record or that the band had bought into that bullshit.

And yes, I do consider it bullshit! When we judge people based on their last action, their most recent failure; we are not seeing the whole person as a whole person and we are fucking up.

We all fuck up so don’t freak out. But if we can’t recognize when we fuck up we can’t get better. And you know what? Getting better doesn’t happen without fucking up. I know that there are people who aren’t interested in getting better. That’s fine, I don’t always feel like getting better either. Change is scary, but change is inevitable. Getting better means admitting that we aren’t the best, and for some of us, that sucks.

Well, let me go on record as saying that you are the best YOU (at this moment, in this time) that you can be. You are a product of your successes and your failures and you are worth every one of them. You were born, you are alive, and you have the same right to be here as everyone else. YOU ARE WORTH IT.

But you are more than that; you have the capacity for change. You are also the victim of change. If you aren’t pushing for getting better, you will get worse. But even if you try to get better you might fail. If you try to get worse you actually have a better chance at success.

But, that is your choice.

There is no staying the same.

I hope that you will try to be better even if it means failure. I still have the words of Yoda ringing in my head, “Do or do not. There is no try!” I’ve been busy just doing what I do but maybe that is bullshit as well. Maybe it’s time for me to do something new. Maybe it’s time for me to boldly go where I have never gone before.

Experience the unexpected

Expect the unexpected because things rarely go as planned. That was the case last night. It was my plan to be done driving pedicab for the season after Halloween but there I was, working the Vikings game. This guy, Chris, had called up a week ago to see if I would be working. I had given him and his family a ride over the summer and they had so much fun that they wanted to do it again when they were in town for the game. How could I say “no”?

Well that didn’t go as planned either. I tried, I tried, I really did try, but in the end we never did meet up. It still wound up being a good night for me. I hope Chris and his family still had a good night. I’m pretty sure they did. They got to see what will probably be the only game the Vikings win in the United States this season. I wish that I could have been part of their night but that is not the way it played out.

On the way home I stopped in at Club Jager for last call. I had no idea what to expect but as it turned out it was Buttrock night – hard rock and hair metal on vinyl! As I walked in, this song was playing:

Man, I remember when that album came out. I was blown away! I usually don’t pay attention to new music, especially from bands I’ve never heard of but this one caught me off guard. Most of the time I don’t discover new music or new artists until they have been around for a year or more, sometimes decades.

So I got to thinking. What other debut albums did I experience in the moment they were new that blew me away?

Poison - Look What the Cat Dragged In (front)I remember buying this album based on the cover alone! I knew nothing about the band or their music. I just thought they were so pretty! That probably explains a few things about me.

Pretty fucking great album though!

But I think my biggest thrill in discovering new music was when Van Halen released their debut album. I was eleven years old and it only took thirty-two seconds of this song to realize that my life had been changed forever.

There have been numerous seminal debut albums to come out over the years but for most of them, I was either too young or just not paying attention to experience that joy of hearing something brand new. To experience the unexpected is one of the greatest joys in life. It hasn’t all come at the hands of ’80’s hair metal however. It continue to this day but as I’m experiencing nostalgia, here is some of the new music that blew me in the years that followed my buttrock days.

From the debut album, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars

From the debut album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More?

And from the man who finally got me over my crush on Eddie Van Halen:

From the debut album, Let Love Rule

It just dawned on me that what happened between Guns ‘n’ Roses and Edie Brickell had nothing to do with changes in the music industry. What happened during that time was a very major change in my life. That was the year I suffered a near fatal car accident and the loss of my right eye. It was a very unexpected time to say the least.

I hope you have enjoyed my trip down memory lane. I would love to hear about your experiences with the unexpected. Tell me about a brand new discover that you had which almost made you pee your pants.

When one door opens, god closes a window

One of the best lessons that I have learned from living with chronic illnesses is that I can’t do everything… at least not all at once. We all have limits. We all have to contend with the limits of the human body. Some bodies may be more capable than other but they all have limits. We can work on increasing those limits but that takes time and effort and takes away from doing other things. All earthlings are restricted to 24 hours in a day. Everyday, each one of us needs to eat, sleep and shit. Some people need more, some need less. Some can accomplish more, some less, but we all have a limit to what we can accomplish. We all have good days and bad days but none of them go one forever and even good days have to come to an end.

I feel like I’ve been having a lot of good days lately. I’m really excited about writing this blog. I’m excited about starting a new job. I really like doing the pedicab thing.  I like having money again. My relationship with my daughter is going very well. I’m so grateful to be spending regular time with her again. I’m relieved that my bff and I were able to work through our conflict from last Friday. Through that experience I learned some important lessons and I believe it made our relationship even stronger. My body is getting stronger too. I’ve been smoking less and drinking less and all those things are good. I’ve been a very busy boy, life is on the upswing and much has been accomplished in the pursuit of my goals and dreams.

But… for all of my accomplishments there are areas where I fall short of my expectations. For every success comes failure. I totally spaced my therapy appointment on Tuesday. I’m not doing yoga which is also something that really helps me. I’m not spending as much time with my friends as I would like. I’m not reading as much as I would like. I haven’t been writing or playing music. I’m way behind on laundry and cleaning. My van needs repairs, as do things around the house, but I haven’t been able to get to them yet. My to-do list keeps getting longer. I don’t know how I’m ever going to get everything done. The reality may be that I can’t. The reality is that I need help. They reality is that I can’t do it alone.

I’ve often heard that I don’t have my priorities right. I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating what that means. To be honest, it has me at quite a loss. Beyond making sure that I am available for my kids when they need me or respond in a crisis, I have no idea how to prioritize.

My only priority is to the present moment. The most important thing in my life is what I am doing right now for it is the only thing I can do. Whatever I can manage to accomplish with this moment that is meaningful, productive, loving or real is the best that I can hope to achieve. If I can make each and every waking moment significant in one way or another I would consider that a pretty amazing life. I can’t say that every moment has gone that way but most of them have. For all the things I may never get to, my tribute is doing all that I do.

Pull back the curtian

This writing shit is really hard, a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be. So is maintaining a habit but I knew that would be a struggle, especially knowing how inconsistant my health is from day to day. I knew I might fail but I felt if I stuck with it, it would get easier.

Actually, it’s been a fucking roller-coaster and at the moment I’m at one at one of those low points. The first two weeks were pretty exciting but it didn’t take long for the newness to wear off. Then it just became tedious. I wanted to quit and chalk it up as another thing I couldn’t fit in my life. That was never really an option though. In fact failure was part of the plan; to push myself to the point where I wanted to quit and push through.

Unlike the physical challenges I create for myself, writing is easy. Coming up with things to write about is easy for me. The challange is reducing the thoughts in my head or the experiences I’ve had into coherent sentances that anyone whould care to read. The challange is keeping going when all I can think about is how much my writing sucks. It winds up taking a lot of time. I wind up taking a lot of breaks. I wind up drinking a lot of wine.

Then I write something that actually makes me proud. Maybe I can do this. Maybe purservierance does pay off. Maybe it does, but that’s not how it played out for me. Writing something that I felt good about only raised the bar and put more pressure on me. I’m stuggling even harder now.

Then I took two days off. I guess that was bound to happen. Structure is not my friend. My life is simply too inconsistant. When it works, I run with it. When it doesn’t, I accept it and keep hobbling along the best I can leaving my failures in the past. That is the only way I can hope to get to a place where life works again.

I’m probably the last person who should be publishing everything he writes. I’m probably the last person who should be publishing everything that goes on in his life or  every thought in his head. I’ll be the first to admit that I need an editor.

Believe me, I know this is a bad idea but that’s why I’m doing it. I know that for every good idea there are dozens if not thousands of bad ideas that came before it. We just rarely get to see all the failures that happen before one finds success. I want to pull back the curtian and expose the truth. The truth is, there is a long and winding road before you reach the Emerald City.

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