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.


Things to come

As my life is becoming more structured I want to get back to trying to write everyday. There are so many thoughts and ideas floating around in my head that I really want to get out. I have an opinion about just about everything; I just haven’t felt that I have the  moral authority to speak about them. The more I read other people’s opinions the more I realize that I shouldn’t let that stop me.  It helps me to see that the crazy thoughts in my head are shared by great thinkers who have actually garnered respect for their ideas. When I find myself still disagreeing with people whose ideas I highly respect I come out thinking that I may have something original to offer. This doesn’t mean that I am right and they are wrong, only that I have a perspective which is uniquely mine. Some people will probably like what I have to say and some people might not. I hope you will let me know either way. I think the conversation is a good thing in and of itself. My thoughts and my beliefs are constantly evolving.

I want to try and tackle some of the big issues even if I can only do it in a small way. I want to share my musings on subjects like, god, meaning of life, good and evil, human evolution, fame and success, morality, inspiration, creativity, society, government, punishment and love. I also want to write my thoughts on the more mundane topics of the day like marijuana legalization, global warming, income inequality, gay marriage, the Arab-Israeli conflict, religious freedom and politics.

I’m sure that I will continue to intersperse some stories about my life but I don’t want that to be the focus. I’ve been using this in-the-moment memoir approach because my memory sucks and I wanted to have a way to remember what I’ve been through. I also figured that if anyone was going to be telling my story, it should be me. What I’ve found is that I don’t find my story all that interesting. I remember what I want to remember and the rest I am more than happy to forget. If someone else finds my story interesting, they are welcome to write about it. I need to write about what interests me.

My hope is that I will be able to develop a structure and framework that will make it easier for me to write. I also want to get to the point where I can write comfortably without the use of alcohol. I simply am not going to have the time to drink like I have been and there are some consequences to drinking that I would like to avoid. I know this will be a challenge for me. I’m much more self critical when I’m sober. I also have a hard time focusing on a single thought. I find my brain racing three pages ahead when I’m still struggling to find words to complete the sentence at hand. It’s really frustrating and time consuming but I need to find some other tools to help me focus.

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.

What would you do if you had nothing to do?

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”

– John Lennon (and many others before him)

We are all so busy but how much of that busy is really living? How much is just a distraction from what is really going on? How much of what we do is really necessary? We have all of these things that we feel like we have to do but what if it wasn’t true?

I’ve become fond of saying that there are only three things we have to do everyday: eat, sleep and shit. I realize that there is plenty wrong with that statement. It’s more of a mantra than a biological fact. I use this somewhat vulgar expression to shock me back into the present moment. Basically, as long as I’m not so tired I can’t stand up, as long as I’m not so hungry I can’t move, as long as my bowels aren’t ready to explode… everything else can wait.

People are so fond of schedules and making plans but is it really because we have so much to do that we would never get it done if we didn’t have a schedule or a plan? Or is it because we are so afraid of what we would do if we had nothing to do?

Don’t get me wrong, I love being busy. I miss how busy I was this past summer. I loved always having something to do. Living was easier even though the things I was doing were hard. Even though I had no time for friends, family, music or home I felt like what I was doing was life affirming. I was living.

But that’s over now. Yesterday I had no plans. There was nothing I had to do. There were still lots and lots of things I could do, but beyond eat, sleep and shit; nothing I had to do.

I spent a lot of time in quiet contemplation waiting for inspiration to strike. I had very little contact with the outside world. It was just me and my feelings. I did cry a little, I laughed a little but nothing that really moved me to action. I wasn’t bored exactly. I wasn’t lonely. I wasn’t anxious or eager or frustrated or angry or in love. I was just content.

I’m sure for many that sounds wonderful. To me it sounds like Death.

So I shook hands with Death.  I said, “Pleased to meet you.” We shared a beer and watched a movie until I was too tired to stay awake. When I woke this morning I could still smell the scent of his cologne but he was gone.

The first day of the rest of my life

Yesterday was the start of something new. There was no fanfare or ribbon-cutting ceremony but it did mark the day that I turned my focus to the future. Even so, it turned out to be not much different than any other day. Thomas Dolby being in town was not the distraction I feared it would be. I just kept doing the next thing and going to a concert never became one of them. I did still find plenty of things to distraction me.

I spent a good deal of time poking around facebook and reading various blogs. I’ve really been enjoying Kenneth Justice’s blog The Culture Monk and Lauren Cropper’s Between Fear and Love. I spent a little too much time watching TV shows on Netflix. I’ve started watching the BBC series, Sherlock. It’s a great stand-in while waiting for Doctor Who to return. Sometimes it’s hard for me to sit down and watch an hour and a half long drama so I’ve also been watching the sitcom, Don’t Trust the B—– in Apt. 23. Funny, but for some reason I can watch four episodes in a row of that show. I think it reminds me of some of my friends.

I did do some things that were a little more productive. I did some dishes, laundry and took care of some accounting work. I spent an hour playing guitar which was inspiring. I also managed to vote, the only thing I absolutely had to do yesterday.

So far my activities have been of the maintenance variety. These are the things that just allow me to keep treading water but don’t actually move me forward. That may just be the way things go for a while but eventually that won’t be enough to keep me busy. I will be forced to make progress because I won’t have anywhere else to go.

For me, this is where self-motivation comes from. Deadlines are good but boredom and passion are better. I’m a great procrastinator but eventually I run out of distractions and nothing left to do but everything I have to do. It’s in that moment that shit starts happening. The only time I ever get anything done is “right now”.

I have my goals and dreams but there is no clear path as to how to get there. I will keep documenting progress on my goals but I’m reluctant to specifically identify what they are. Maybe I will, but for now I will hesitate. I know that my goals will change over time. I know that I will change over time and I know that when I finally achieve my goals that it won’t look anything like I currently imagine.

Most people wait until after they have accomplished something great to write about it. Then they can look back and say, “that’s how it’s done”. But that’s not how its done. Goals are achieved in the moment. That’s why I’m writing about this as I go. To me, the process is more important than the goal.

It’s already not going as planned or as expected. I expected that I would be spending these first two weeks of November unable to do anything. I expected that I would find the road ahead so overwhelming that I would slip into a deep depression.  I figured that might take up to two weeks but eventually I would either give up and quit or I would decide that killing myself was not an option and that I had no choice but to move forward.

Instead I had my break-down / break-through / spiritual awakening two weeks ago. While it was nothing like I imagined it would be, it might be fair to say that I am two weeks ahead of schedule. In truth, I am still now and always will be right on time.

What happens next

The future has arrived. I am now sitting in that point in time which I have long anticipated; long feared. I woke to frost on the ground and snow is anticipated this evening. Winter is here.

For the next four months I will be focusing on divesting of almost everything I own. I will be preparing to sell my house in the spring and I will be recording my music and preparing a live solo show. I have many loose ends to tie up and much to create in preparation for my new life.

I have no time for distractions.

So why did I just learn that Thomas Dolby is in town tonight? I feel like I have been so out of touch. Whether that has been intentional or coincidental it has served to my benefit. Granted, no matter what I do, I am going to be far more unaware than aware so the key to success must be in paying attention to the right things. That sounds like a formidable challenge to say the least. While I may never know the true cost of my ignorance, I continually find myself aware of things that only seem to cause me harm.

But can I actually control my awareness to make things better, or should I be grateful for any awareness I possess considering how rare it is? Ignorance may be bliss but so is death. If I’m going to commit to life any aspiration for ignorance seems antithetical to life.

Awe, but awareness does not necessitate action. I can still make a choice or I can choose to not decide and allow time to take it’s toll. But isn’t that an action? Perhaps action is unavoidable. Perhaps it’s only intention that matters. I intend to live so I guess I’m going to do whatever happens next.

Listen to me

Well that was freaking weird!

We had a lovely drive back from the Twin Ports (Duluth/Superior), talking the whole way and enjoying fall colors. The sun was shining and the air temperature was pleasant. I was eager to get home so I could get on my bike and enjoy what may be one of the last nice days of the season. I even had a great excuse. My cat needs food and litter so at the very least I thought I would bike to the pet store.

But that’s not what happened.

Once home, my energy level dropped. I had a bowl of cereal and cracked a beer but I had no motivation to do anything else. Well, almost nothing else. I did have an erection that needed tending to but I knew if I did that I would just fall asleep; which is what I did.

That’s where it got weird.

Over the next five hours I would have some of the most vivid and terrifying dreams of my life. At times I was aware that I was dreaming but I never tried to control them. As scared as I was I felt that there was a deeper message within. The dreams were a warning and even as the details fade, the message is clear.

I can’t do it all and if I try it will kill me. As I am preparing to embark on the greatest challenge of my life I have to stay focused. I can’t let anything or anyone distract me. But at the same time I can’t do it alone. Those distractions are my guide posts and my life-lines. I need to pay attention to them.

That is my conflict. In a way it has always been my conflict. I have always struggled with how to balance my future plans with the present moment. I have always struggled to balanced my inner desires with external influences.

I realize that dreams are just a way for my subconcious to talk to my conscious. I realize that it is all me. I am every character in my dreams. I realize that it is me scaring the shit out of me. But I think I have a point. I need to listen to myself and I’m telling myself to listen to you.

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