Don’t tell a soul

I have a secret. I’m really not into having secrets. I think that they cause nothing but problems. I know that most people have secrets. I actually hold a lot of other people’s secrets and I’m good at keeping secrets. But this is my secret. No one else knows what I know. I didn’t plan for it to be a secret. I expected to get caught. But I didn’t. So now I have this secret. What do I do?

Like anything else in my life I’m going to treat it as a gift. I’m going to see what I can learn from it. If I’m called out on this secret I’m going to come clean. I really don’t  believe that it is possible to keep a secret. Chances are someone already knows my secret and is keeping it for me even without my knowing about it. Everybody knows something that no one else knows and someone knows everything that is out there to be known and anything you think is a secret is probably known to someone whether you know it or not.

When I think about the current debate over public surveillance this is what comes to mind. I don’t give a shit about surveillance or what anybody knows about me. The fact is most people don’t really care what I’m doing. What does concerns me is that a harmless, loving person like myself still probably breaks the law 6 times a day whether by accident, through ignorance or with benign intent. If someone really wanted to label me a criminal, they could. Fuck, anyone could be labeled a criminal.

I think that we have created far too many laws and in doing so have made it nearly impossible for anyone to be a law-abiding citizen.  But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe laws are the only thing keeping us from plummeting into complete chaos and we really just need more of them. I don’t know but I’m up for a debate.

By the way, the thing I did which I am keeping secret is just embarrassing, not illegal.

*The title of this post is a reference to the 1989 Replacements album, the first to feature Slim Dunlap on guitar.  The Replacements released a new record this year titled, “Songs for Slim”, to raise money for the guitarist who is recovering from a stroke.

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An honest mistake – part two

Before heading to the concert to celebrate the signing of the Freedom to Marry Act, my son and I stopped by my parents for a quick chat. This was the first time my son had seen his grandparents since he was home for spring break.

My mother asked me what I was going to do now that the fight for marriage equality appears to be over. As I mentioned before, I plan to focus on ending marijuana prohibition. My mother was surprised with this response but I have actually been thinking about it for quite some time. She thought that I would focus my efforts on economic and labor issues.

I’m actually very concerned about economic issues. I think our current system is fucked and certainly economic and labor issues will not be ignored by me. I’m not going to ignore environmental issues, agricultural issues, infrastructure issues or immigration issues either. They are just really complicated and are going to move pretty slowly. Also, they don’t sound as much fun as legalizing pot. If you want me to join your revolution, you gotta throw a pretty good party. Granted, no one does a better job than the gays but I’m willing to give the pot heads a shot.

I’m also not taking for granted that the fight for civil rights is over. The rights of women continue to be under attack. That really bothers me. Fucked up voter suppression shit is going on these days which try to disenfranchise minority groups. I’m sure that a segment of the population will continue to try and erode the gains made by the gay rights movement. I also care greatly about ending violence and promoting the rights and dignity of people who deal with mental illness and disability. I’m not abandoning any of these causes.

The prohibition of pot just needs to end and I think it can happen. I think that society is ready. The supporters of legalization just needs to learn from the gay rights movement and COME OUT!

I think even my dad realizes that there is no good argument for marijuana prohibition because his attempt to argue with me went straight to a red herring.

“What about cocaine?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m not talking about cocaine, dad. I’m talking about pot. I don’t think that society is ready to take on legalizing cocaine.”

But I would probably support the legalization and regulation of all drugs. I think we have way too many laws in this country as it is. We are all responsible to obey all the laws but it is impossible for us to even know all of the laws. That is not a recipe for a functional society.

In my house, I made one rule for my kids… always tell the truth. I don’t even  think that they knew it was a rule. It was just the expectation that they were raised with. They didn’t have to memorize it, they just knew it. Actually, it wasn’t until I made it clear that it was my one rule that it even got violated.

Now would this work for a society? Could we have one law; always tell the truth? I don’t know. It’s not like people follow the laws as they are but lack of interest in honesty is probably the number one cause of crime. People are dishonest and think they can get away with doing shit they shouldn’t do through deception. Sure, some people break the law through of ignorance, accident or necessity, but dishonesty is the key component.

People who do drugs lie because doing drugs is illegal but drugs are illegal because people who do them lie. Take a lesson from the gay rights movement. When people stopped lying about being gay and came out of the closet, people were forced to face reality. Soon marriage equality will be the law of the land.

We all fuck up, we all make mistakes – as individuals and as a society. The first step to improvement is honesty.

Nice guys finish last

We are still back on last Saturday. My bff and I were waiting for her sister to arrive at the apartment before heading to the show. With a few minutes to spare I offered to run up to the liquor store and pick up some beer. She handed me a twenty and a five and I walked the two blocks to the store. I grabbed a couple six-packs and headed to the cashier. It should have cost $22 or so but when I handed the cashier the twenty he started making change. I was momentarily confused until I realized he only rang up one of the six-packs. I let him know and we figured I owed him double what I had been charged.  He apologized for his mistake and thanked me for being honest.

“It’s a curse” I replied.

Fuck! I could have walked away with a free six-pack. Granted, it wasn’t my money in the first place.

Would I have been so honest if it was?

Absolutely, but it’s not a curse; it’s conditioning. I have made a very conscious decision to live life as honestly as possible. Despite what I know some people think, I’m not naturally a nice guy. In fact, I’m perfectly capable of doing some really horrible things. I can be an asshole, and at times, when I’m not on my game, that part of me still comes out.

So why not embrace it?

I’ve seen how people can benefit greatly from lying, cheating and stealing. People get away with doing fucked up shit all the time and even if they do get caught the consequences rarely seem to eliminate the gains. Nice guys get screwed over all the time.

Why would anyone choose to be a nice guy?

Well I do, because at the end of the day, I have to be able to live with myself – not because I need to believe that I am a nice guy, I know who the fuck I am. It is quite literally about my very survival. I’ve seen the harm that abuse, corruption and dishonesty can cause and I don’t want to live with someone who is causing that kind of pain. Life sucks enough as it is. I can’t bare the thought of making it anymore difficult for anyone else. Perhaps, if I were a stronger person I could stomach being an asshole, but I can’t. I’ve got a brain that routinely tries to kill me. I don’t need to give it any more ammunition.

The good news is that there is an upside to treating people with respect, kindness, honesty and generosity. There are benefits to being a decent person, but not without humility. Humility is probably the hardest part, and while it may seem a bit counter-intuitive, it is the key to making the “nice guy” way of life self serving. I may be nice guy for purely selfish reasons but there would be nothing nice about it if I thought it made me any better than anyone else. You can’t fake it. You have to be it, but I believe it is within all of us. Hell, if it’s within me, I’m damn sure it’s within you!

So what are the benefits to being a nice guy?

For starters, you can do away with shame and guilt. I’m not saying nice guys never fucks up, but if you are respectful, kind, honest, generous and humble you can own your fuck-ups and not let them get the better of you. You can apologize, learn from your mistakes, and know that your transgressions don’t define you. You don’t need to keep secrets and you don’t need to hide from who you are.

It also makes you less susceptible to manipulation and coercion. The adage that, “you can’t con an honest man”, I will go on record saying is complete bullshit.  But, if you are truly a nice guy, you won’t need the external validation that will make you susceptible to this kind of manipulation. If you capitulate it will be by choice, because it’s your nature or who you have chosen to be, not because someone pulled one over on you. Coercion involves force, which you would think a nice guy would have a harder time defending against, but most force is primarily psychological, not physical. What is usually being threatened is your sense of power or prestige but a nice guy knows these things come from within and cannot be taken through intimidation.

The best thing you gain by being a nice guy is the relationships you create. People will like you. Obviously, not everyone. Some people will have a really hard time with someone who is shameless and can’t be manipulated – that’s okay. You don’t need everyone to like you. Even an elected official only needs 50% + 1 of their constituents to like them to get elected. Okay, I don’t know if that is a good example. I don’t think I would conciser most elected officials to be nice guys but I think that most nice guys have higher approval ratings than elected officials. The people who will like you will like you for who you are – not for what you can give them.

I don’t have money or leverage but I still have people who like me. I have a phone with over 1,000 phone numbers of people I consider friends. These people mean more to me than all the wealth in the world. Because I have built this network of people, by getting out there and meeting people, by being genuine and honest, by being a nice guy, I know that I can make it through anything.

And this is what this entire post has been leading up to…

At two o’clock on Sunday afternoon I found myself in need of a date for a seven o’clock play. It’s an amazing play by the way, it was written by Jon Robin Baitz probably best known as the creator of the ABC drama Bothers and Sisters, dealt with the issue of writing a memoir and the damage it could cause to family members, something I can relate to oh so well, but that’s not my point. My point is that I had three hours to find a date on a Sunday afternoon. I can remember when this would have seemed like an impossible task, but now I totally felt confident that I could do it.

I started going through my contacts. I didn’t call everyone but it still took me up to letter J before I got anyone to answer their phone. Are J named people really better? I like to think so but no… it was just coincidence, just luck, just fate, actually, it was just the way it worked out. But I couldn’t have been happier. I wound up with the best date I could have hoped for.

I didn’t get laid. This is an area where not being a nice guy may have gotten me further but using my not-so-nice-guy skills is not the way I want to have sex. I am grateful that I no longer feel like I need to have sex at any cost. I still get laid but I do it with respect, kindness, honesty and humility.

Yeah, nice guys may finish last but life is not a race, it’s an adventure you want to last as long as possible.

I will leave you with a quote from a man who by all accounts was a nice guy. He came from extremely modest beginnings but became extremely successful and spent 88 years experiencing this thing called life.

“You need power, only when you want to do something harmful, otherwise love is enough to get everything done”  – Charlie Chaplin

 

Fear and loathing in Minneapolis

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” – John Lennon

For most of my life I have subscribed to the philosophy put forth here by John Lennon; and for the most part I still do. There is a lot of wisdom in those words. I just can no longer treat love and fear as two sides of the same coin; two competing forces vying for our response. I can no longer view love simply as something that is good and fear as something that is bad. It’s not that black and white. Nothing is black and white. There are no absolutes, there is no certainty, there is no escape from fear. Am I absolutely certain of that? Well no, and hence I stand convinced of my doubt.

Writing this blog has been a life goal of mine for at past two years. For two years I have failed at taking that first step. For two years I have procrastinated.  For two years I have made excuses: I don’t know what I want it to be about, I don’t know what to call it, I don’t know how to set up a blog, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the money, I need a better computer and countless other arguments in my head that kept me stuck in my thoughts. For two years I have felt paralyzed, unable to take the next step in my life, because of the weight of a dream.

But that’s bullshit. I haven’t just been sitting around doing nothing. I’ve been living my life. I’ve been growing, changing, struggling and preparing myself for this day. The truth is that this blog came into existence on the absolutely first day it possible could. The truth is that getting to this day has not been a two year process. The truth is that it has been a 46 year process. Everything that has occurred in my life has been leading up to this very moment. That’s a pretty overwhelming though,t but it’s true, not just for this moment, but every moment. The present moment always arrives right on time. You can never be late for now.

So what possessed me to write a blog at all? What is the motivating factor behind this endeavour? Am I being driven by either love or fear? I would love to tell you that this is a labor of love. I would love to tell you that being a writer has been my life passion. I would love to tell you that I possess some great wisdom that needs to be shared with the world. I would love to tell you that I am so fabulous of a person everyone needs to know who I am. I would love to tell you that everything I do is motivated by love. I would love to tell you all that… but none of it would be true.

The fact is, this blog is a product of fear. To be precise, my fear of death. Well, not of literally of dying, I’ve already experienced that and I’m not really afraid of death. What I am afraid of is not living. If I’m not growing, expanding, taking risks and moving forward… well, that feels like death to me. I’ve been reading a number of blogs lately and it seems like a lot of them are born out of a period of tremendous life change: divorce, loss of a job, loss of a child, major medical diagnosis, physical injury, spiritual awakening or coming out process.

For me, it’s because I don’t know what the fuck else to do. I’ve been through my share of hell and along the way I have developed a lot of tools. I have a tremendous skill set and support system to cope with what life has thrown at me.  Still, it has only gotten me this far. I have worked through all of the issues I am aware of, I have made all the changes to my life I can and accepted those things about me which I cannot change, yet still, my life sucks. It’s time to shit or get off the pot. It’s time to forge into unknown territory or just give up. It’s time to face my fear… or die. I know, sounds pretty dramatic, but that’s how it feels to me.

I don’t think that it is an irrational fear, however. I think what I am setting out to do is pretty fucking scary.  I intend to share every aspect of myself with the entire world. I intend to share every thought, every hope, every dream, every fear, every strength, every weakness, every doubt, every secret, every opinion and every activity whether successful or utter failure with anyone who chooses to read it. Granted, I know that is impossible and there is no way I could actually share every aspect of myself so I guess in that respect the fear is irrational. But fear is fear, it doesn’t really give a shit about rationality or logic. It just is.

Regardless, I’m exposing myself, making myself vulnerable to the world; a world which can be cruel,  a world which has judged me… a world that includes my mother. So you may ask, why I would want to do this, and the answer is because it is all I have to give. For reasons I am still trying to figure out I have always wanted to be the best at something. I guess I figured if there was someone better at a particular task than I am then they should do it and I would find something else to do. Well the only thing that I have found that I do better than anyone else is BEING ME. So that is what I am going to do. That is my gift to the world. Don’t worry, I won’t be offended is you exchange it for a different size. I’ve never claimed to be one-size-fits-all.

I’m not fearless and I have not overcome my fear. What I have done is learn to love it. I embrace it. It has purpose and it deserves respect. As I have been writing my daily entries for the past two weeks I have realized that I am still experiencing fear. I am practicing cation as I am writing; not cation for my own safety so much as cation for those with whom I interact. I accept that this is part of the process and I trust that in time I will find a way to find peace with it.

It seems fitting, at this point,  that I should share my number one fear with you. My number one fear is hurting someone I love, and I love everyone. My second biggest fear is not living with honesty and integrity.  I imagine that balancing these two fears will define my life struggle.

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