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.

Do wot you do

It’s been over a month since I’ve published anything on this page. I want to apologize for that. Of course I don’t know if my failure to post has caused any harm but I would like to believe that I have been missed. I always knew that I would be back but it was an unintended hiatus. To make a long story short, my life just blew up all at once in many different directions and as a result somethings got left in the dust. Another key factor which necessitated the hiatus was the direction I was trying to take this blog. I started down the path of asking some of the bigger “why” questions and discovered a rabbit hole that was too deep to put into words. Maybe, I’m not ready to take that on quite yet.

Still, I have been thinking about why people do what they do. In an attempt to simplify this question I’ve tried to categorize motivation into three all encompassing categories. We do what we do because:

  • We NEED to
  • We WANT to
  • We CAN do

The last one certainly accounts for all behavior but I felt it needed to be included as a separate motivation because so much of what we do has nothing to do with wants or needs, we just do. We are creatures of habit. We spend most of our day not thinking about why we do what we do; we just do it. Even our reactions to unexpected situations are not clearly thought out. We simply react. I would like to believe that we react by doing the best we can do but often we just do whatever we can do. I think it’s human nature to always be doing something.

I think that my chronic illnesses gives me a unique perspective on why people do what they do. I don’t spend a lot of time specifically talking about my so called disabilities. It’s not because I don’t think it’s an important subject or that I think people can’t relate. It’s because they are so omnipresent in my life that I don’t even think about them most of the time. They are not a separate part of my life. This is just my life. I’m sure that if I felt judged or marginalized for my life I would be more proactive and assertive about discussing my disabilities but considering that most people think I’m pretty functional I don’t see the need to make an issue of it.

What makes my life unique is that everyday I wake up with different abilities. It’s as if I wake up everyday with a new body and a new mind. Like everyone else, I get up everyday and do what I do but what I can do will very greatly from day to day.  I might not even know what that is until I’ve had a cup of coffee. Drinking coffee every morning is about as far as I can get with being a creature of habit. Let’s hear it for the power of addiction; it’s stronger that chronic illness.

So back to why I haven’t been doing this blog for the past month… it might be good to start with my motivation for doing it in the first place. As an artist, I consider this blog part of my art. Artists often feel an unyielding need to produce, to create, to make art. This blog certainly fulfills that need but it’s not the only means by which I have to do it. I actually started this blog as a means to an end. It came into existence because of something else that I wanted to do. For the time being, what I wanted to do is not an option making this blog no longer a means to that end. In the end, writing this blog is not a need nor a want, it is simply something I can do… sometimes.

That may be as good as it gets. For the past month I have barely been able to do the things that I felt I needed to do.  All of a sudden my daughter required more of my time, my job as a pedicab driver started up again, the band that I’m in kicked into gear again and I wound up with a couple of solo gigs that required me to focus on my own music. These are all good things so I have no regrets. I can’t exactly call having to file my taxes a good thing but I made that into more of a distraction than it needed to be. Plus, I’m getting money back so it’s hard to put that in the bad column.

The only truly bad thing thing that has happened over the past month which has contributed to this writing hiatus is having to let go of a friend, although hopefully that will be temporary as well.  There is nothing that I hate more than letting go of people. Sometimes it’s just a necessity. I would love to blame her for this action. I would love to say that she is just a bad person and that I am better off without her in my life. I’m sure that reveling in vitriol would feel better than this, it’s just not something I can do. As a person with chronic illnesses I have to take personal responsibility for my own health. I don’t have the luxury of blaming other people, making them responsible for my life; I can’t afford to give up my power.

Besides, blaming my friend for doing what she does would be like blaming the scorpion for stinging the frog. For those not familiar with what I’m talking about, there is a fable about a frog and a scorpion. The scorpion asks the frog for a ride across the river and the frog refuses stating that the scorpion would sting him. The scorpion makes the case that if he did that he would die too so the frog had nothing to worry about. The frog agrees and give the scorpion a ride on his back. Half way across the river the scorpion stings the frog.

The frog in shock asks the scorpion, “Why did you do that? Now we will both die!”

To which the scorpion replies, “It’s in my nature.”

The moral, at least as I see it, is that people are who they are. They do what they do. Some of it’s nature, some of it’s nurture but you can’t expect people to miraculously change overnight. My friend is a beautiful, wonderful, caring person but she will sting me if I give her the opportunity. I love and trust my friend implicitly because I know that she will always be herself. That is rare and it means a lot to me. You can say that the scorpion is stupid or even evil but I respect him for sticking to his nature even though it will mean his death. I just don’t want to be the frog.

 

 

 

 

Dirty dishes

I fancy myself to be an artist and a philosopher. I don’t have a degree in either art or philosophy. I’ve never made any money to speak of for my art or my philosophical thoughts but for some reason that doesn’t seem to bother me. I keep doing it because it is what I do. I guess that’s really all the justification I need. It would be nice to be taken seriously and perhaps even financially rewarded for my efforts but I find that when I place external validation as my goal, the creativity suffers. Still, I find it hard to believe that I would put myself through such hell if I wasn’t receiving some sort of validation. I pride myself on being a lazy person who only does what is absolutely necessary for survival yet I find myself doing all sorts of thing that are really very difficult for me. I must be getting something out of it.

Validation is one of the things that I get out of what I do but I’m starting to question if my motivation is actually external validation. I’m starting to think that it really comes from within me and I project it onto the world around me so as to feel less selfish.

So let me tell you a story…

I was at my friends house the other day. She informed me that she had some things to do and left me alone in her house. I have a key so there was not problem with locking up after she left. I didn’t have anywhere else to be so I looked around for something to do. My friend had recently had a party so the dishes had kind of piled up. I figured I could at least do some dishes while I was there. I like doing dishes. It’s an easy way to help and pretty hard to fuck up.

As I was washing the dishes I found myself thinking about how much I would be appreciated for doing this. I thought, what a pleasant surprise in would be for my friend to come home to find a nice clean kitchen. Certainly there would be some future reward in it for me providing such a valuable service.

Then I realized how ridiculous I was sounding. All I did was a few dishes. Even if it made things better for one day it would be completely forgotten by the next when a new pile of dirty dishes arrived. But it didn’t matter. In that moment I felt good. I didn’t even care if there was any acknowledgement of my actions. I had already given myself more validation than I probably deserved. I didn’t even do all of the dishes after all.

When my friends returned home she was pleased although by this time I had completely forgotten what I had done. When she sent me a text message which stated, “You little fairy” I thought she was referring to my sexuality. I still found it endearing but when I realized what she was really referring to I got to feel that sense of pride all over again.

And I’m pretty sure it was pride that I was feeling. I even took a pictures of my accomplishment.

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I could show you a picture of what it looked like before but I didn’t take a one of that nor would I post it because I wouldn’t want to embarrass my friend but I will show you a picture of my dirty dishes. 

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I like a clean kitchen but not enough to actually clean it. I clean when I have to. I clean when I run out of dishes or counter space. I cleaned my living room yesterday because a friend was coming over to give me a massage. There was no way she would have had room to work if I didn’t do some cleaning. My motivations are very practical; they are utilitarian. I’m sure that gives comfort to those who see me as a selfish prick and not the struggling soul on a path of enlightenment which is how I see myself.

I have no conflict with people who see me as a selfish prick. I also don’t consider enlightenment to be a higher form of being. I still think that we are all equal and we all kind of suck. The only thing that I think enlightenment offers is the understanding of how shitty we are and hopefully the insight to do better. But what do I know? I’m not there yet. 

The winter of my content

For two days I have done next to nothing. I have fed my cat, fed myself and tended to my other bodily needs but that is about it. I haven’t created a damn thing and I have nothing to show for my time on this planet.

I’m not depressed or anxious or fatigued. I’m not lonely or horny or bored. I’m not angry or frustrated or disappointed about anything. I have no desire to get drunk. I’m not bothered by desire at all. Everything is fine. I’m just content.

In a way, that seems like the worst thing of all. It certainly doesn’t make for a very interesting story.

Still, I’m not saying that I want it to change. I am after all content. Furthermore, I’m sure it will change in time. As they say, “all things in moderation”.

For now I am content, so what?!?

Pay it forward

Since I started driving pedicab back in March I’ve been trying to figure out an economic model that works for me. I do the job because I love it, it’s good for my body and good for my soul. I need to make money doing it but if money was my sole motivation I would never do it.

My favorite rides are the ones I give for free, or at least not expecting any money. My second favorite are the ones where people totally over tip. That makes me feel good too. I usually I get a good balance of the two but one day a couple weeks ago I had a day where no one over tipped, but no one got a free ride or under paid either. Everyone paid their fair share and I made as much as I usually do. For some, that would be the perfect system and something to replicate but it didn’t sit right with me. It didn’t seem real. I want greater diversity. I want people to get rides even if they can’t afford it and I want people to feel good about paying more if they can.

What I really want is to be able to do my job without thinking about the money. What I really want is to be able to make a living by just being me and doing what I do naturally. I don’t feel comfortable accepting payment for services rendered because I consider the service to be priceless. The idea that you can get someone to haul you around on a bicycle if you give them enough money feels like bribery to me.

So I decided that no one would get to pay for their ride. I’ve saved enough money that I can do this, at least for a little while. In essence, that ride has already been paid for through the generosity of riders before them. My hope was that even though nobody had to pay me anything they would still want to. Since they couldn’t pay for their own ride I would let them pay for somebody elses. The belief being that we are all in this together and everyone does their part to support the community. It’s like I could never charge one of my friends for a ride but at the same time they have been some of the best tippers. I would just treat everyone like my friend. I thought it was a brilliant and original idea, but would it work?

Actually it’s not that original and it has worked. It’s basically the principle of “pay it forward”. Karma Kitchen and Seva Cafe work that way. There are numerous other examples of people paying it forward in real life.

Since I’ve been doing this for the past week and a half I’ve found it to be a pretty sound business model – at least for me. I’m getting the diversity of riders that I want and my income has stayed pretty much the same. Everyone who wants a ride can get a ride and everyone feels good paying what they can pay, even if that is nothing. Those that can’t pay it forward with money I ask to pay it forward with an act of kindness. Everyone has something to give and if we all do our part we can make the world a better place.

Tally-ho

I slept for another six hours last night from 4am until just after 10am but still awoke feeling exhausted with very little fight in me. I tried to get ahold of my daughter to make plans for the day with no luck. I continued with anything in which I could find inspiration. On this day it involved bleaching and dying my hair and painting my nails. I tried working on a graphic design project but couldn’t stay focused.

Then at one this afternoon my daughter appeared on my doorstep without warning. It was a pleasant surprise but one which I wish I was given time to prepare. Perhaps anticipation of her arrival would have fulled my spirit. Instead I was left struggling to even make conversation and feeling disappointed that I was letting her down. Eventually I was left with no option but to bring her home.

With the thought that perhaps my diet has affected my energy level I prepared a healthy salad. Soon I will be on my bike heading downtown. I’m looking forward to driving pedicab although my body is scoffing me. It is with faith that I carry on in the face of doubt and ridicule.

What I got

I feel like I may have taken some artistic license with yesterday’s post. The truth is I knew what was missing from my life. I also knew where I was going to find my motivation.

What I’m missing is time with my closest friends, my peeps, my compatriots. Even though I strongly believe that everyone has value, we all matter and we should all be treated equally, there are some people who simply matter more to me. I miss spending quality time with them.  The changes that I have made in my life this year have made me less available and as a result my friends have been reaching out to me less. In a way that is a good thing. It shows that my friends are respecting and supporting my choices but I still need them. There has been this assumption that I am always too busy. That assumption is not completely accurate. Yes, I’m a creative person and I always have multiple projects that I’m working on. Yes, I deal with multiple illnesses that take up a lot of my time. Still, it’s not like I have set deadlines or really much of a schedule to speak of and no matter how sick I am I can usually muster the energy for something or someone important to me.

However, what motivated me yesterday was not missing my friends so much as it was the weather. These good weather days seem to be even more rare than time with my peeps.

After writing my blog and getting some laundry done I hopped on my bike and headed out for the day. First I swung by City Pages to pick up my check. Then I ran to Litin Everything Party-n-Paper to find decorations for my pedicab in preparation for Pride Weekend. I also got a purple sequin hat that I will probably wear tonight or tomorrow. The pride stuff included a rainbow mohawk wig, rainbow fingerless fishnet gloves, a rainbow banner and rainbow star sunglasses. I can’t wait to get pictures of it all.

Having too much stuff to fit in my backpack I headed back home to drop off my purchases. Then I headed to the 331 club for a beer and food. I used to hang out there all the time but I haven’t for quite a while. I met some other musicians there and we had a good conversation about making money with music and time management – the usual stuff.

At this point it was about 5 in the afternoon and I was itching to hit the streets on a pedicab. I wasn’t on the schedule but I thought it was worth seeing if a cab was available. I did manage to work for three hours which turned out to be the perfect amount of time. I gave five rides (two for free), made enough money and had enough time to still go out afterwards.

A friend of mine runs a game show at Grumpy’s Downtown called the $50 Pyramid. It’s a poor mans rip-off of the Pyramid game show from the 70’s and 80’s. I saw some good friends there then headed to the Nomad for Deceitful Lapwings Thursday showcase. Also on the bill were Nightinghales. I highly recommend checking out both these bands.

After all that I was hungry again so I stopped by the Hard Times Cafe for a late night breakfast and Latte. There are always interesting people there at two in the morning. I wound up being there til 4am chatting it up with lovely strangers.

All in all I would say that’s a pretty good day. It had just the right amount of everything: good weather, good friends, random strangers, good food, good conversation, good beer (and some bad), plenty of exercise and a fun job. Nothing is ever perfect but as for yesterday, I’m pretty happy with what I got.

 

 

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