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.







It’s Friday night and there are many things that I would rather be doing than sitting at home writing a blog post. I was going to use the excuse that it was too bitterly cold out to do anything else and that may still be true but I’ve also looked at the weather forecast and it looks like this might be as good as it gets until Tuesday or Wednesday.  If that’s the case, I might just want to get this done so that I can go have some fun before life gets any worse. In any case, yesterday deserves a blog post.

I woke yesterday to what may have been the coldest morning of the season. Maybe it wasn’t but I wouldn’t know. I usually don’t wake up before noon so all I know is that it was the coldest morning I had experienced. It was really cold and it was really early but I needed to take my daughter to her therapy appointment and I was determined to get her there. I’m usually willing to acquiesce to the weather but given how little time my daughter and I spend together, I wasn’t going to give in without a fight.

My biggest concern was whether my van would start. It’s been doing pretty well all winter but I know it doesn’t like starting when it is really cold. It did bitch and complain a little but eventually I got it started. I had given myself plenty of time just incase I had to make other plans so I let the van warm up while I went back inside. I have a feeling that was illegal but that’s the kind of criminal mastermind I am.

I picked up my daughter at eight o’clock which gave us plenty of time to get to Bloomington by nine. We did hit rush-hour that was heading into downtown so it was slow going for a few miles. I noticed at one point traffic had come to a complete stop. I hit the brakes but I was on glare ice. I started pumping and steering towards the shoulder but nothing was happening. I had given myself plenty of room between me and the big white cargo van in front of me. I kept hoping that I would catch pavement and able to stop but that hope quickly faded. I knew I was going to hit the van. I laid on the horn. I don’t know what I thought that would do but I felt like I owned the person in front of me some warning.

I was traveling at maybe ten miles per-hour at the point of impact but it was still a real crash. I’m just glad that the car behind me was either better able to handle the road conditions or driven by a more experienced driver. It could easily have been much worse. The driver of the white van and I pulled over to the side of the road and got out to assess the damage. I wasn’t even concerned about my van although I did later discover that the cover to my headlight was completely smashed. My main concern was that my daughter and the other driver were not injured. Luckily no one was hurt and the only damage to his van was that I cracked his bumper.

As far as car crashes go, this was pretty minor but it was the most serious accident that I have had with another vehicle. I’ve never been in the position of having to exchange insurance information and this situation didn’t go down that way either. The other driver was in a hurry to get to work so we just exchanged phone numbers. That’s a lot of trust that he put  in me and I hope I can live up to it. There is no doubt that this will be an expensive experience but in the long run it will probably be cheaper than going through insurance.

I hate cars. I hate driving and I really hate accidents. The worst accidents can ruin your life. A bad accident can ruin your week, month or year but even a minor accident can ruin your day. I still had a lot to do that day so I was determined not to let it get me down. Even with all that I still got my daughter to her appointment with plenty of time to spare. After that I dropped her off at school and headed to my friend’s house so I could watch her son while she went to work.

I had completely forgot about the accident when my left arm started hurting. I just blamed it on playing Nintendo Wii with the boy but I know now that it was a result of the crash. Nothing is broken and I’m sure that it will heal eventually but it is going to take some time. That is one of the downsides to aging. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the only downside. It just takes longer to heal.

The babysitter arrived at five and I left to pick up my daughter. She and two of her friends had gotten a ride to one of the girl’s houses after school. The three of them had decided to start taking belly dance lesson so I drove them all to the class. I hadn’t really planned on driving them all home afterwards but that’s the way it turned out. This is what being a parent of a teenager means. I’m grateful that I still have kids in my life who need their butt wiped but at my daughter’s age, my job is to facilitate their independence and their interaction with their peers. They don’t really need me.

Still, my daughter thanked me.

Her mother thanked me.

I thanked the fact that I still have a twenty year-old mini-van that got me through the day!

I’m probably wrong but so what?!?

Yesterday could have been another boring day. It was really too cold to go anywhere. I had no reason to even get dressed let alone take a shower. I managed to write about two-hundred words for my blog. It was nothing that great but it inspired me to see if I could hammer out this song idea that had been floating around in my head for the past four months. I pulled out my guitar and started writing the words. I combined ideas expressed in yesterday’s post with one I made back in October, along with something from a meme I saw recently, added a melody and chord progression and I soon had the framework for a song. I had hoped that writing this blog would have inspired me to be a better songwriter but the reality is that I hadn’t written any music in over a year.

Half way through the song the words stopped. It was time to put it down and let it settle. Just then the phone rang offering me reprieve from the need to figure out what to do next. The following hour and a half were spent listening to my friend share the struggles and successes in her life while I barely uttered a word.  My head was spinning, running every situation through my own lexicon of problem solving strategies and world perspectives searching for tidbits of advice although never having a chance to share them. It wasn’t advice that she needed anyway. She was living her life and dealing with her problems her way. She just needed someone to share them with. When I finally had a chance to speak I chose instead to just share a couple of the situations in my life. There were many commonalities between our stories yet our perceptions of them couldn’t have been more different. I began wondering if my way of seeing the world was completely wrong. I have no problem understanding another person’s perspective but try as I might, I can’t seem to shake my own.

While on the phone I managed to polish off the half glass of wine that had been sitting dormant for the past week in the bottom of a box of Shiraz. After that I cracked the lone remaining tall boy of Grain Belt Nordeast sitting in my fridge. This was not nearly enough to alter my state of mind. I contemplated placing an order with the liquor store but instead chose to battle sobriety a little bit longer.

Nighttime fell and I began to pondered whether I could muster the energy to go see a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a while and was missing terribly when I recieved a text message from her. Hoping for inspiration in her words what I found instead was more despair.  She too was frustrated with the cold outside and while she wanted to go have some fun felt prevented from doing so. My initial thought was to offer sex as a good cold weather activity but for some reason thought that might be inappropriate.  Instead I suggested whiskey. Alcohol lowers the body temperature reducing the perception of cold and drinking can be fun.

I don’t think that she took my advice but I did. I mixed myself a strong gin and tonic and in no time sobriety had completely left my body. I picked up the phone and called her seeking the encouragement I needed to get out of the house. During our conversation I continued to poison myself with alcohol and she grew increasingly frustrated with my intoxication. I would not find what I was looking for and I would not be seeing my friend that night. I returned to my songwriting and quickly wrote the final verse.

Now bored and alone I decided to make a random post to facebook; a common strategy for me when I’m looking to stir up trouble. This led me into a chat with a friend who was going through a difficult time. Once again I found myself in a situation where my worldview seemed completely counter to that of someone else.  Still, we managed to find comfort and encouragement in our shared differences. After spending the day in bed moping he decided that he would get out of the house and surround himself with people. I decided that this would be a good idea for myself as well and set forth to try and meet up with him.

I hopped in the shower and got dressed. I decided that I could make it if I did a combination of biking and busing so I checked the bus schedule. The universe however, did not seem to be on my side with this plan. I managed to miss two busses; the first because I had forgotten my phone and needed to return home, the second because the bus arrived a minute early and in my struggle to get out the door I cut my timing too close. I was ready to throw in the towel but the thought of letting fate win seemed unbearable. Armed with liquid courage and the mantra, “never give up” stuck in my head, I persevered.

My friend arrived at the 19 bar shortly after me. It had been ages since I had been to what used to be my favorite bar but it still felt like home. My friend and I discussed many things but we couldn’t completely avoid the dilemma of day. His struggle, which from what I can tell seems all too common, is how to discern good people from bad people; how to avoid trusting the wrong ones. I wasn’t able to offer much insight into that but I was able to share my thoughts about how we all come off as assholes sometimes and also gave him some insight into how the process of adoption and that sense of abandonment can affect a person. Apparently he found this helpful.

Knowing that I would not survive the bike ride home I wandered down Nicollet Avenue is search of a taxi. With thoughts still burning in my brain I decided to pose a question to three young men that were standing outside Asian Taste. To my relief they also believe that there are no good people or evil people; only people. While this is still a fairly uncommon sentiment it does seem to be more prevalent among the Millennial Generation and that gives me hope.

As I approached the cab stand in front of the Millenium Hotel I became worried as there were no taxis waiting for me. Just then I noticed a cab driving towards me. I managed to get the drivers attention by slipping and falling into the street. I thought for sure that I had lost my chance as taxis don’t typically like picking up drunk people laying in the middle of the road.

But I was wrong. He did pick me up. He was actually very nice. Maybe there are good people.

On the ride home we discussed our kids. The cab driver like many cab drivers in Minneapolis was from Somalia. He has been separated from his kids for five years but now had saved up enough money to fly them to the United States. I’m always curious what it would take to get a man to leave his children and move to another country. In his case, it was for money. Even though Somalia has a wealth of natural resources, most of the money derived from it is not staying in Somalia. Much of it comes to the United States so here is where this man decided he needed to go.  He was pretty angry about this situation. He blamed George Bush Sr, the jews and white people in general for the problems in his country. I could understand why he was upset. Maybe there are evil people in the world. Maybe I am one of them.

Maybe my desire to believe that there are no evil people is because it’s a convenient belief for me to hold. I don’t want to be evil but would I know it if I was? Maybe I’m just too stupid to figure it out. I mean if I was stupid, would I know it? I make a lot of assumption. I hold a lot of beliefs. Do I believe these things because they are right… or only because they are right for me?

To the limit

I receive a lot of commentary about the way I live my life. Perhaps everybody does. It seems to be in our nature to give advice to others and share our insight about how they could be living their life better. Without a doubt, my life is a struggle and it is my daily goal to find ways to make it work better so I welcome their input even if sometimes I wish that they would focus on their own life; even if there is hardly an issue I haven’t already addressed, I do have blind spots and they can sometimes offer a fresh perspective.

One critique that I seem to get fairly often is that I don’t have healthy boundaries.  Sometimes this comes up when actions I take make another person uncomfortable because I am pushing their boundaries. Hey, that’s what boundaries are for, to indicate when you are reaching the limits of your comfort zone so that you can react BEFORE going into a panic. Boundaries are going to be pushed. But they are are not universal and everyone’s comfort zone is different. Sometimes the critique comes from the belief that I am too open, too free, too trusting and that may be true but open, free and trusting is something that I aspire to be.

The truth is that I do have boundaries, I just have as few as I can get away with. The truth is that I do respect other people’s boundaries but I am probably going to push them from time to time, especially if they have not communicated clearly. Boundaries are products of fear. Respecting them may be an act of love but establishing them comes from fear. I’m not saying that is necessarily a bad thing. Boundaries are like a demilitarized zone that keeps two formerly warring states safe from each other.  Establishing a boundary is like putting up a fence on the approach to a cliff that keeps people from falling to their death. These are good ideas.

My point is that boundaries are different than limits. Limits are real. Limits are not arbitrary and exist whether you establish them or not. Limits are like military conflict or falling off a cliff. To be clear, speed limits, by my definition, are boundaries not limits.

I have always been one to push my life to the limit. I want to see just how far I can take things. I find that the most interesting discoveries are made between the fence and the cliff.  I believe that my life gets better not by creating stronger boundaries but by extending my limits, by pushing myself beyond what is safe and forcing myself to become stronger. How can I feel like I am living life to the fullest if I know that I can do more?

This method of living is not without consequences. This past week has really seen me test my limits. As I am sitting here writing this I am frustrated, irritable, and in a lot of physical pain.  It would be one thing if all this pushing myself to the limit was of my own volition but that is rarely the case. There are always factors beyond my control which contribute to me pushing myself to the breaking point.

A big source of unnecessary stress this week has been dealing with the University of Morris over my son’s financial aid and work study eligibility. My son absolutely qualifies and we did everything that we were suppose to do in applying for the program but his application got “flagged” for further verification.  The verification that they need is information from the IRS about my tax return. I filed my tax return in March but it also got “flagged” for further verification. This has delayed the processing of my return to this date. We can’t get the verification needed from the IRS because they have not processed my return yet. Nothing is going to change regarding my son’s eligibility by this bullshit, unnecessary added verification. The school knows this and believes me but are unable to take me at my word and will only accept the word of the IRS. Personally, I think that I am a lot more trustworthy than the IRS but apparently that doesn’t count for anything these days.

So I’m going to search through my bag of papers to be shredded (good thing I’m not on top of shredding papers) and try to find something from the IRS stating that my return was being delayed. Then I’m going to go rent a lawn mower so that I can mow my lawn because the grass is now too long to do with my push mower. Hopefully I won’t throw my back out. It has been killing me since delivering the big Summer edition of City Pages on Wednesday… well actually since delivering the Best Of edition over a month ago.

Perhaps if I had better boundaries I wouldn’t find myself in this position so ofter. If I created more of a buffer I would be able to better handle these unexpected circumstances. The problem with that is that it would mean cutting out some of the things that I love doing; the things that give my life meaning and purpose. Also, when you have come back from a place where just getting off the couch to go to the bathroom is a struggle, setting artificial limits seems like a step backwards. At least when I hit my limit, I KNOW that I am doing the best I can.

Cruel to be kind

She said, “Just leave the keys on the table and leave! That way if we ever talk again it won’t be some codependent sort of thing.”

That struck a nerve with me. I had been trying to resolve the issue the best I could and I’m pretty good at working through conflict. I didn’t want it to come to this. We had been in this place before, many times before, and it always ends the same. We love each other. We need each other. Not in a co-dependent sort of way, but in a family, love each other no matter what, meant for each other, don’t want to live without each other sort of way.

That’s how I felt. I didn’t want to just give up only to go through hell only to wind up right back in the most amazing friendship I have ever known. I actually didn’t think I could go through it again. I kind of felt like we had been through this enough to the point where we would never have to go through it again. I finally felt safe. I thought these kinds of fights were over. Can I do this again? I have limits. I have needs. I have to know when enough is enough.

So when she said the word, codependent, I thought, “Yeah, I don’t want to be that person.”

I put the keys on the table and left.

I do want to take a side note here and express my annoyance with the term codependent. It might be important for assessing my state of mind.

Codependent is a term that comes straight out of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not bashing on AA. It works for some people and I’m very grateful for that. It worked for me at one point in my life and I am very grateful for all it has tough me. My point is that codependent has a very specific meaning and it has been co-oped to refer to a number of other forms of unhealthy relationships that have nothing to do with addiction or alcohol dependence. It has also been been co-oped to refer to relationships that are not codependent at all but are actually loving interdependent healthy relationships, usually between one or more unhealthy people. By the way, I’ve never met a completely healthy person, only people who pretend to be healthy, which in my mind is pretty fucking sick. Just saying…

I am probably the epitome of what it means to NOT be codependent. If anything I am way too independent but I am trying to change that. I’m a guy who feels totally alone in the world but I think that is stupid. There are far to many lonely people for anyone to need to feel alone. When I find someone that I can connect with in a very real way I embrace that. I don’t want to lose that. I don’t think that is codependency. I think that is healthy. I think that is love.

Love takes trust. I understand that trust is not easy for everyone. I know that people doubt me sometimes. I doubt me a lot. But I never doubt my intentions. Loving me means knowing me well enough to know that I would never mean you harm. When people pull away from me because of something that I did that hurt them I can’t help but consider that there has been a loss of trust.

Before I left my friends apartment she said that she would now know that her privacy wouldn’t be violated. This concerned me. I actually don’t have much concern for privacy myself… obviously. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I did, but I do have concern for her privacy. I asked her if she ever felt like I violated her privacy. She said that she hadn’t and I felt relieved.

I left her apartment and had a smoke on the steps before getting on my bike. Luckily, I was awake enough, sober enough, had enough energy and the weather was nice enough that that 7-8 mile bike ride home was not of life threatening concern – sometimes it is. This was not one of those nights where I was spending the night on her couch because I might die if I didn’t. This was a night where I was planning on spending the night because we really enjoy each other’s company.

So what went wrong?

I can really only speak from my perspective. I do have insight into how my friend was feeling but I don’t think that it is appropriate to speak for anyone but myself. She can comment here or with me directly if she wants. This is my space and I use it to speak my point of view.

We were leaving our final of our four venues for the evening. As we were unlocking our bikes she mentioned that she was made to feel uncomfortable by the looks she got when she was leaving. I asked if it might be her fear that was causing her to feel this way and perhaps not the actions of any individual. I told her that I was actually feeling very safe. This seemed to piss her off as she assured me that she was not afraid. I tried to clarify that I wasn’t saying she was afraid, only that her fear, which we all have, may have been coloring her perception.

Yeah, that didn’t go over very well. I wasn’t being accusatory, I was simply curious. I guess sometimes people don’t want you to ask questions, they just want you to shut the fuck up and listen. I sometimes forget that; sometimes my inquisitive mind gets the best of me.

This time it got me being called a dick. I didn’t think that was appropriate. I don’t like being called names. I told her that I didn’t think that was necessary. I’m really trying to do a better job of standing up for myself when I feel like I am being mistreated. I let a lot of things just roll off my back but I’m not sure that is always helpful.

She said, “Then stop being a dick.”

“Okay”, I though, “if that is the way you want to play…”. And I told her, “Then stop being a bitch!”

I didn’t know how I thought that would help but at this point I didn’t know what would so I figured I would play along. This was met with, “Fine, just go home and leave me alone.”

That may have been a perfectly reasonable solution. I totally could have made it home. I was pretty sure she would have made it home as well. I was more like 10 miles from home but my main concern was about her. In any case, I just felt like we were safer together so I shut the fuck up and we rode the rest of the way back to her place in silence.

Well, except for when I hit a pot hole that knocked my bike lock loose and I had to stop. She stopped too. She waited for me to get myself going again. I though that might have been a good sign that she actually cared about me. I fucking hate that I have any doubts that she actually cares about me. The fact that those thoughts even pass through my head make me feel kind of crazy.

But then I have to wrap my head around this: once we got back to her apartment I told her that what she said hurt me.

She responded, “Good, you should be hurt!”

I simply don’t understand that. I do a lot of fucked up things but I never want to be hurt anyone. I get that I do things that hurt other people but when they let me know I feel sadness, not glee. For anyone who claims to love me to want me to be hurt just confuses the fuck out of me.

As much as I love this song I have never quite understood it’s point.

Having this space to write is very helpful to me. I actually don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t just write about this. Actually, I do. I’ve been through it before and it’s not pretty.

So, I could really use your help. If you have any insight or commiseration I would love to know what other people think. I really want to know what my friend is thinking but in the meantime I want to use this time to connect with you. I think this is a very human experience and I would like it to enhance me rather than defeat me. My hope is that through my pain we can make the world a better place, together.

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