Awareness

A little perspective after a long time

*Note: There are some elements of this entry that some may find disturbing, or possibly even trigger-worthy.  Read (or don’t) with caution if you are the sensitive type.

I know, I know… I’ve been gone a long time.  Life is like that;  It ebbs and flows.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t write professionally (at least not on a creative level) or I would be accused of following after a certain author of thrones.  Anyway, It took a couple years for this cycle to settle, and now that it has… everything is fine.  And that’s it.  Nothing is wrong, and new stuff happens from time to time, but for the most part, I’m just doing my thing; day in and day out. My companions from my previous cycle (and even the “adjustment” period) have almost all fallen away.  Some will come back eventually, and some will not.  But for the time being I have my new cave by the lake, my work in the contrasting enormous palace nearby, my cats, some friends I see every so often (whom, I’m growing a greater appreciation for as others move on) and… me.
It’s not about time any more.  I have time.  I finally caught up on The Walking Dead (holy shit…) and I’ve been addicted to certain mobile games involving hunting small creatures in the real world and fantasies that are final at home.  So time is there… money is still in recovery but improving daily. What I realized is missing (much like in my personal relationships) is passion.  I don’t feel inspired by anything.  The world is beautiful, and I am privy to exceptional sunsets on a daily basis.  These bring me peace, but they do not light a fire.  There is no fire.  I’m not depressed, things are generally good, I’m just… here.  It’s kept me from writing because I need to have something I feel strongly enough to write about.  It’s kept me from photography because I’m still backlogged almost a year (sorry Jess.. I put some more up yesterday but I realize my pace is horrible…) and while I love the photos I put up when I do work on them, it’s honestly a struggle to get myself to sit down and focus on them.

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At least sometimes I look alright doing it…

I know, this is a lot of whining and problems that are really not problems.  A year ago at this time I was trying to figure out if I was going to have a place to live next month, so I understand that I’m not really having real problems.  Ironically, it might be the intense focus that work requires of me that keeps the inspiration from showing up at the end of the day.  Chicken or the egg?  Be that as it may, I am virtually alone and uninspired at the moment, and while I’m making an effort to branch out a bit, it may be some time before life picks back up again.

With that said I want to share a story with you.  This story makes all of the above whining seem even more ridiculous.  The point is not to shock you or make you feel bad, the point is to help people like me, who are really doing pretty okay, keep perspective and be grateful for the blessings they have, even if inspiration feels a little short.  Having time to worry about inspiration or passion IS a blessing in itself.

As mentioned above, I work in a literal mansion.  My boss is such that he parks his seaplane (yes, seaplane) in the back yard, on the very nice lake that is shared among the local (rich) community.  Though it is not the point of this article, I want to make a point of assuring you that my boss is 1. Generally a good man.  2. Gives a GREAT deal of charity and pays a great deal of taxes without complaint.  -and- 3. Does not come from a wealthy family.  He’s built and earned what he has, more than once.

Anyway, as his Executive Assistant (you can call me Alfred) I assist in running his business, finances, calendar, estate, grounds, etc.  So as mentioned I spend the majority of my time in this huge, immaculate home.  Another staff member of ours – let’s call her Jan – comes once a week with an associate of hers to do a full cleaning of the house, laundry, etc. She is originally from Jamaica, in her late-40s, and her and I have a friendly, joking, semi-abusive relationship.  My boss has known her for over a decade (before he even moved into this mansion) and has treated/paid her well consistently.  He is even looking into the best way to provide for her retirement in the future, as she has never had her own means of obtaining one.   Not that she’ll need it anytime soon, because while she’s easygoing and friendly, she’s also tough, I mean really tough.

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Our cleaning lady would kill you son.

I’ve visited Jamaica before via cruise ship.  I know, I know, that’s not the “real” Jamaica. But all you need to do is book an excursion that takes you out of the tourist area and if you’re paying attention you very quickly get an impression of the reality many native Jamaicans face.  While there are most certainly well-developed, colorful, historical towns, hotels, and restaurants, just outside the walls of the tourist area in Falmouth, things get progressively bleaker until the reality of literal poverty is staring you in the face.  They make the best of it; You could see people smiling, laughing, and living, but they have adjusted, or have never know the extent of the comforts and security we have here in the US (despite us needing to be made great… again…)

Jan, and her family are from that kind of life.  She’s happy to be here with her longtime friend, making a life for herself and her daughter here in the US that would be near impossible for the rest of her family back in Jamaica.  She sends them money and support, and shows me pictures of the gatherings she attends when she goes to visit them.  She is especially proud of their Sunday clothes, when they get dressed up for church.

The other day she pulled out her phone and was showing me pictures of her son and some of their extended family still living in Jamaica.  She has never married, and when I asked her if her children were intentional she just smiled at me as if I were Jon Snow and knew nothing.  In this particular photo set though, I commented on her son’s sense of style.  Even by US standards, he was decked out in a dark suit with a light purple tie, matching vest and sunglasses to complete the look.

Purple Style

That style.

That was when she casually showed me the next picture.  It was of a young boy (I think she said he was thirteen) hanging from a tree by a rope tied around his neck.  Her nephew had decided that his life there wasn’t worth continuing, and… before they took him down, they took photos.  She continued that her son was wearing his best to that boy’s funeral because he had been like a brother, and it was the best way to honor his life.  The whole time she spoke casually and easy about this, as if this were just another part of life like a thunder storm or the flu.  But then, for a lot of people in the world, possibly even the majority, it is.

Many of us in the US live blessed lives.  Absolutely we have poverty, I’ve shared with you before that I was homeless at times growing up and have memories of getting food from the food bank to eat.  But much harder than I ever had it is the racism that is still coming to light, when growing up as a minority here (especially if you’re poor) can be, literally, deadly.  And while a lot of us see it on the news here, and it is wrong anytime, anywhere, in some places it’s so common that it’s not even a headline.

My point is not to say that we don’t need to get better as a culture in the United States (or wherever I end up should Emporer Trump come to power,) because we do.  We have to be better because we have infinitely more opportunity than so many more places in the world.  If there’s anything the human race is good at, it’s squandering its available advantages by focusing on trivial things (like… not feeling inspired…)  But that photo of the boy hanging from a tree, because life was actually very hard there and he couldn’t make it, is something that reminds me of this responsibility.  It gives a lot of perspective to how blessed the majority of us are here and reminds me that, at the very least, first and foremost, I (we) need to do our best to not be a part of the problems in our own culture.

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This.. should be appreciated.

People like Jan can come here, and work hard, and probably never have a life as decadent as my boss (or possibly even me.)  But because she has an inherently different perspective, and the appreciation for the many things we take for granted (including our way of life itself,) there’s a good chance that she may often be happier than those of us that lose our perspective from time to time.  Happiness is relative.  That’s why people with far more money than a windbag like Trump are secretly (or not so secretly) miserable.  Meanwhile those who give away what little they have beyond their own survival enjoy happiness that eludes the majority of the world.

There’s no recipe for it either. It’s individual… relative. Giving away everything or becoming a monk won’t make everyone happy.  Nor will winning the lottery (as people have demonstrated over and over) or becoming famous.  I believe the secret (even if I’m having trouble with it currently) exists in curbing your expectations and being as grateful as possible for the blessings you have. We deserve the good things that happen to us, on whatever level (so long as you do not intentionally harm somebody for those things.) There is no need for guilt, just gratitude for whatever good things come (as opposed to the trap of being sad about what does not.)

It is an unavoidable truth of this world that some people live through horrible circumstances, and maybe the silver lining (no, I’m not saying it’s ever worth it…  it never is) for those who can overcome those things is the ease with which they appreciate simple things that others might well take for granted.  Everyone has a story, and sometimes by learning about others, it helps you put your own in perspective.

A Story Of Sluts

A friend of mine recently messaged me for my opinion on a subject she’s (ironically) contributing to a blog about.  She asked me for a male’s opinion on “the difference between a woman who is labeled a slut and a woman who’s comfortable with her sexuality.”  She said I she thought I would be a good person to ask, naturally I’m inclined to agree.  However, I would be lying if I said that I believe I represent the general male population’s opinion on this matter… which is most typically unfortunate.

With that said, I really don’t like the word “slut”.  I don’t use it, and it only ranks a bit lower than the “C-word” used toward women, or the “N-word” used toward African Americans… both of which make me extremely uncomfortable.  I have no business using either of those words, and I don’t think males in general have any business calling anyone a “slut” (though, admittedly, I can type that word, whereas the others I really don’t want to.)  Men who label women as such are usually HUGE hypocrites (for example my post back in August back about the “Downtown Alpha Male”) and are using the term to belittle women for the very thing they celebrate for themselves.  It’s ridiculous and just another example of men historically treating women as possessions.  Basically, “Shame on you if you let too many guys get a ‘piece’ of that which is obviously yours.”

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About that many I think.

When it comes to sexuality, people get all freaked out about numbers.  Specifically: “How many people have you been with?”   I literally scared off a girl I was actually interested in dating once because of my sexual history, and my “number” isn’t nearly as high as my reputation might suggest.  (Truth be told, I did stop paying attention at some point… so I would have to sit and think about where I’m at now… but I digress…) Regardless there are huge flaws in judgement based on said numbers.  First of all, you’re over-generalizing multiple, specific situations with details that are important.  Second, you’re making broad assumptions based on very little evidence/fact (even if you ask questions.)  And Third, you’ve got no pre-established parameters or reasoning by which to quantify measuring the statistics on which you are basing your judgement.

For instance, what if a specific girl decided she didn’t enjoy vaginal sex?  Technically she may have only been with one or two people in the ten or more years she’s been sexually active.  But, maybe she’s one of the few women that really enjoys anal sex.  Does that count?  Depends on who you ask.  Further, what if instead of anal sex she really, really enjoys giving blowjobs?  She’s had intercourse with two guys, but probably given a hundred times that many blowjobs.  Does that count?  What if she didn’t swallow? Then does it count?  If she gave YOU that blow job, should it add to that number?  Or does it not count because you know you’re better/cleaner than anyone else?

What about women?  If a girl’s sexuality includes women, and she has been with over a hundred women in all sorts of awesomely kinky ways, but has only been with one guy, is she a “slut”?  Or are you just envious of her far supirior ability to woo females?  What about group sex?  Does that count as one encounter?  Or should we count each penetration?  If so, which penetrations?  If we count all of them a girl could rack up double digits in just a few experiences compared to another girl who has had sex hundreds of times but with only nine guys since she became sexually active.  The point is, any “criteria” is flawed to say the least, and depends on the individual and their (very often flawed) beliefs.  There is no correct way to quantify who is or isn’t a “slut” because it’s a highly subjective term (which really shouldn’t even exist.)

However, for the sake of answering theSlutwalk Aims To Raise Awareness Of Sexual Assaults question, I suppose I’ll come up with the most obvious differentiation I can based not on the general actions of said women, but whether or not they are using their brains.  It’s time for a story of sluts.

Subject A is a junior at the University of Washington.  She did her first two years at community college, and is eager to mingle on the university level, but also focused on her future.  She’s always been intelligent, level-headed, good in her studies, has a great attitude, and is a finance major.  Let’s call her “Monroe” (please note that these examples are based on my personal experiences, but NOT any specific people.  I chose that name because I literally don’t know anyone who has it.)

Subject B is a high-dollar, celebrity level escort of roughly the same age as Monroe.  She’s always been blessed with good looks, and she comes from an (unfortunately) typical broken family.  She did the best she could to get through high school, but was forced to go to work to support herself and her younger siblings whom her parents otherwise neglect.  She went to work at a strip club because it was the best money she could find in a tough job market and with no vocational education or schooling.  Through her looks and street smarts, a chance meeting  introduced and groomed her into high dollar escort work through which she was able to become financially independent while providing for her family.  Let’s call her “Chastity“.  

So, I ask you, which of these ladies is more likely to be called a slut?  Seems obvious that would be Chastity.  But let’s continue with our hypotheticals.

girl-silhouette-vector3Monroe is pretty and has had little trouble making friends in class, but her studies keep her from going out too often.  However, she is being courted by various sororities and and is invited to an event known as a “mixer” with an associated frat house.  Though she was never really the party type, she’s excited to “live her life” and decides to go with her new friends.  At the party, she has a great time, and accepts drinks from a succession of very attractive and charming men in the fraternity.  They don’t seem anything like the obnoxious stereotypes she’s heard; these men are intelligent, charming and very nice to her, all while bringing her drinks so she doesn’t even have to leave the dance floor.  One thing leads to another, and she finds herself alone in the room of one of these charming young men… David.. she thinks..  Though she’s not been drugged, she’s already drank more than she should have and makes the poor decision to go along with this young man’s advances (he’s very pretty.)  But when they finish up (or rather when he does… he put a condom on.. she thinks…right?) he makes a remark about how the night is young, and they should rejoin the party.  Thinking they will follow-up later, Monroe agrees as she is hurried out his door.

Chastity:

Meanwhile Chastity is having a good night, there’s a convention in town with a lot of very rich executives looking for company.  She’s decked out in a Gucchi silk chiffon gown and her power heels – Christian Louboutin.  It’s only midnight and she’s looking for her fourth (and probably final) client of the night.  She prefers her regulars – much more comfortable and fun – but scoring four big pays in a night is well worth any initial awkwardness.  The last guy was aggressive and she liked that until he tried to shove himself inside of her bareback.  Fortunately she knows her business and was able slide out of position while giving a coy purr that said “you’re forgetting something big boy…”  he complained but all she had to do was give the serious look and hold it up for him to get the message: “No condom, no more playtime.”  That’s one of the first things you learn as a sex professional; not matter how clean and intelligent they seem, every guy is one shitty decision away from fucking up your life permanently.  The profession is risky as it is, and Chastity is proud of her many negative testings.  She plans to keep it that way.  Finally she spots her next potential… time for him to buy her a drink.

So at this point Chastity is up on numbers for the night (we can pretty much assume she’s up on numbers forever…)  So that would label her the “slut” of the two, right?  I mean, sure Monroe has made an obviously stupid decision, but Chastity has been with three guys and is not done yet.  Let’s see how the night plays out.

Monroe:WK-0612-teenagers0_3127905b

The world is blurring a bit for Monroe.  Drinks keep happening (though it seems like they are
spaced just enough apart to keep her from being sick…) and she’s feeling good.  She lost track of that first guy.. Daniel.. (he was so nice!) but now Michael has been dancing with her and has the prettiest eyes.  She’s afraid she’s going to hit attention overload… never in her life have this many hot guys been this into her.  Michael says he has to tell her something and leads her back to the rooms.  He tells her that his little brother in the frat, James (oh! he was cute!) has had his eye on her all night, but is not very confident.  He says his plan was to bring her back to the room and introduce them so he would talk to her.  But James isn’t here, and Michael tells Monroe that he feels a connection with her… she thinks she feels it too… but that could be the vodka.  There’s been a lot of vodka…  Now Michael is kissing her.. his hands are warm as they make their way down her back.. they feel good but she’s still blurry… “maybe this isn’t a good idea..” she thinks.. but fuck it, it’s not like this is normal for her, let’s have some fun.  Maybe there’s a connection
there…

Chastity:

This guy was tough.  The prostitute stigma was strong with him and he’d really liked her.  Sorry champ, no freebies for being cute.  He kept her for a while, she accepted more than one drink (one is her typical rule before business), but she knew she was still totally in control.  She started to walk away and he’d stopped her, disgruntled, and asked what her time would cost.  He said he wasn’t concerned about the sex, but that’s only because he didn’t know what he was in for.  He agreed to compensate for time – the same price – and dinner was excellent.  He asked if he could call her another night (sorry champ, I said no freebies) and that maybe he could support her in exchange for her allowing him to court her legitimately.  She told him maybe, but she knew it was a no.  He wasn’t the first rich guy to offer this, they all think they are different… better than the other guys.  The truth was she actually preferred the guys who were straight up for the sex… much neater and less work to get around their emotional hangups.  Her magic charmed them for whatever they were looking for, it was her job to steer them to what she was willing to give.  Nobody was going to own her.  If someday she decided she wanted something more, she would bring it up on her terms. But she doubted it would be a client, most of them already had somebody waiting at home anyway.  Chastity was a fantasy, and she was a damn good one, but when business was done she would ae8e1ff54665d9f8ad11f7e16e17275a1lways say goodbye.  By the end of the night he had champagne delivered to his hotel room.  “Nothing is going to happen” he said.  Bullshit.  She could see he was already trying to hide a raging boner.  She unzipped his pants… it took her fourty-five seconds to finish him the first time.

So now the score is two to four in favor of Chastity.  But who is the slut?  The naive college girl making multiple poor decisions?  Or the call girl who is totally in control?  They are both having sex, so how do we judge them?  Let’s wrap this up.          

Monroe:

Naked.  They are just laying there, but at least he didn’t push her back out to the party again. Granted the party is dying down.  It’s… what?  3 AM now?  Where did her friends go anyway?  It’s okay though, despite a whirlwind of a night, Monroe isn’t upset or afraid.  Nobody has been mean to her and sure, they’ve been forward, but she wasn’t forced at all.  They are really hot guys and she enjoyed herself both times.  Both times.. wow.. that wasn’t something she was expecting.  She turned and felt the wet spot on the bed near her groin.. there’s no way that was all her.  “You used a condom… right?” she asked.  “Yeah.. yeah I did.”  he paused “But you know, sometimes they break or something.. so maybe you should get the morning after pill just in case.”  The first twinge of frustration hit Monroe.  She wasn’t stupid, this dude lied to her.  But before she could say anything, he sat up and let out a deep sigh. “Shit… I’ve been stupid…”  At least he admitted it… but he continued “This wasn’t supposed to happen.  I was going to hook you up with my little bro and I got greedy.”  He seemed genuinely remorseful and for a moment Monroe actually started to feel bad.  “I’ll talk to him.” she said before she realized what she was saying.  “Maybe he and I can hang out, bring him out of his shell a little.”  Sure.  What’s the harm in that?  “We can keep this between you and I.” she assured him.  Thier connection was faded now, and she didn’t think she was going to see Michael like this again.  “Alright cool.  You know, you’re a pretty cool girl.  I mean, you’re hot, but you’re also cool.”  He handed her the drink she’d carried in with her “Finish that up and I’ll go grab us some more.”  It was three-quarters full.  “No no, no more for me.” she said.  It was still hitting her and any more would make the world spin out of control.  “Alright.” he said “Just finish that and I’ll get you some water.”  Well fuck it, it’s the last one anyway.  She emptied the cup and laid back down while Michael life for more drinks.  For a little while the world went black.

“Holy shit she’s naked…” a voice whispered.  Shocked to consciousness Monroe scrambled to cover herself.  She looked up to see the shy (but cute!) one… what was his name.. James peering down at her with Michael behind him.  “Wait.. did you?  Did you already fuck her??” James asked.  “No no bro, we were just talking and got into it a little… I just warmed her up man!  Look at her!  She’s in your bed, ready.” Michael said.  His bed.  Shit.  His room?  Thier room.  It was harder to think straight after her nap.  “Look, I’m sorry…” she started to say… she had no intention of hooking up with James tonight, no matter how cute he was.  She started grabbing her clothes and then she heard James say “I can’t do this… she’s not here for me.  She doesn’t even like me!  Why did you bring me up here?  She doesn’t want me, she wants you.  I’ll go find somewhere else to crash.”  Shit.. she’d let herself go with Michael on this poor guy’s bed and now she was going to ruin his confidence.  Michael was looking at her now.  He was pleading with his eyes and motioning at her.  Fuck.  “Hey.. uh.. James!” she said.  She wished she wasn’t so fuzzy… damn you vodka.  She sat up on his bed and motioned next to her.  “Come here, let’s just talk for a little while.”  “Are you going to put your clothes on?” he asked.  What a gentleman! “Do you want me to?” she asked playfully (she was already naked on his bed after all…) “N-No.” he replied. “You look hot like that.”  Well fuck it.  She was already here, might as well be naked.  But she was absolutely not sleeping with James tonight.  No way.  Michael left with a smile on his face and James sat and talked to Monroe for a while.  She got sleepy and they agreed to lay down and “cuddle”.  She was still naked, and before he laid down he was too.  It wasn’t long before she felt him hard behind her.  He started kissing her neck and in her sleepy haze it tingled a bit.  He had been sweet to her and they had talked for nearly half an hour before they laid down… she couldn’t bring herself to reject him now and hurt his feelings.  So when his hand made it’s way between her legs, she allowed it… she was still very wet, though somemaxresdefault of that might not be from her.  Hormones took over and she tried to say something about a condom before he could push his way inside her.  He reached over and grabbed at the nightstand drawer.  Then he was behind her again, and she felt him.  Did he put it on?  It seemed too quick but everything was a blur.  She told him to be gentle, he was and she enjoyed herself despite a bit of soreness.

Morning came with a headache and more soreness.  James was gone.  The room was empty.  Monroe couldn’t believe she’d had such a night.  It was a little exhilarating, but also way out of control.  That wasn’t happening again.  As she made her way down the hallway she passed by some of the brother’s rooms.  She vaguely remembered the faces, but all she got was a few amused smiles.  She looked like hell and had to get back to clean up before class.   After class she went to get the morning after pill.  She felt gross about it, but she knew it was the smart thing to do.  Days passed and nobody called, she didn’t see any of those guys again for a while.  She thought she saw Michael once, but when she went after him he had vanished.  Probably better, what was she going to say?  “So, I fucked one of your frat brothers the other night, then I fucked your little after I fucked you.  Good times right?”  It was tremendously embarrassing and part of her hoped she never saw them again.

Unfortunately, they haunted her anyway.  First in the burning sensation when she peed three days later, and then with discharge and something worse than cramps.  Her doctor told her she a combination of a UTI and Gonorrhea.  She was lucky it wasn’t herpes or HIV.  Those assholes!!  But it didn’t stop there, she finally ran into her new friends from the sorority that had been courting her.  They hadn’t contacted her since, but she approached them and was met with awkward looks.  They knew.  In fact, they told her “everybody” knew.  She was the slut that banged three frat boys in one night.  Those guys were 361298283-sad-alone-crying-girl-on-bedhigh-fiving and telling everyone that came to their house how they passed her from brother to brother.  The girls told her they couldn’t have her in their sorority, it wouldn’t look good to have such an openly slutty girl associated with them.  Monroe was understandably livid at the boys, but she
was more upset with herself.  She was depressed for a while and kept to herself and her studies.  Eventually though, she started to feel normal again.  Fuck what those people thought.  She didn’t want anything to do with greek life anyway.

I would like to say that was the end with a lesson learned, for some people it is… but months later she was invited to another party at a different house.  A friend of hers in statistics that was very smart and very handsome invited her along.  Some more alcohol, and some very pretty boys happened.  They had heard about her from some friends of theirs in another frat house.  But that’s another story.   

Chastity:

He had asked her to stay the night.  She usually didn’t but he offered extra.  Money talks.  He wouldn’t try to fuck her again, she’d worn him out and she knew it.  Sometimes it was nice to not rush off, and the sheets at this hotel were to die for.  She woke up to an empty bed and an elaborate gourmet breakfast.  He’d left his number on a card on the tray.  Very cute.  But she knew the game.  He wanted her because he couldn’t have her.  Prostitutes are looked down at because the perception is that anyone can have them.  But a high-class escort knows how to turn that around.  They got what she was willing to give, on her terms, and nothing more.  No matter how they tried.  She sometimes had referrals or friends of previous clients who would tell her that somebody had fallen in love with her or that they would treat her like a queen forever.  But Chastity was her own queen, and she liked it that way.  She gazed out the marble atrium with it’s floor to ceiling windows on the 72nd floor as she ate breakfast and smiled.  Not a bad life.

When she had more than enough money to do so, Chastity enrolled in college.  She required no loans and saw some of her regulars as time allowed for spending money.  She avoided frat parties and that sort of life because she had zero patience for the ridiculous attempts those young boys made to get in her pants.  She tried it once, and all they did was attempt to feed her alcohol and get her alone.  One guy even tried to guilt-trip her into sleeping with his “little bro” who was shy with women.  Please.  One look at the shy boy and she knew that he knew exactly what he was after.  He was no stranger.  Howsport many stupid girls had fallen for that?  After that she kept to her studies and went downtown when she wanted to have fun.  Her company was classy and on her terms, just as she liked it.  

Chastity graduated with a Masters in Business Management and a minor in Accounting.  She went on to become a highly sought after business consultant and developed a reputation for being a no-nonsense problem solver for many fortune five-hundred companies.  She eventually hired an assistant, a cute college dropout who desperately needed a job and had a background in finance to help her manage her accounts.  She was very bright, and had a pretty good attitude, but you could tell she’d been through some things… she was a little rough around the edges.  Chastity hoped she could help her rise above it as she had not so long ago.  But that’s another story.

So what’s the point of these long, drawn out stories?  Well, for one thing, apparently I like to write semi-fiction.  But  the other thing is that either of these girls fit classic examples of “sluts”.  They are both rather extreme cases, but it brings us back to the question my friend asked me: What is “the difference between a woman who is labeled a slut and a woman who’s comfortable with her sexuality.”  The actual answer is: not a damn thing. (Because it depends on the subjective veiwpoint of the person labeling them.)  But again, since we’re making an attempt to differentiate anyway, the difference is based on the choices that are made, the process, and the results.

A woman like Chastity can sleep with literally hundreds of men, in control and smart about every encounter.  Meanwhile a woman like Monroe can sleep with three in one night, out of control and making bad choices.  If somebody put a gun to my head and said “label one a slut or you die”, I would have to go with Monroe.  She made poor decisions, and allowed people who’s sole purpose was to have their with her do so without asserting herself.   That said I would not fault her, or anyone, personally as I know that some frat houses are a well oiled machines (as I tried to illustrate) designed to take advantage of naive women. But the fact remains that I have personally watched a situation like this happen in a far less understandable way than Monroe’s, with a girl who was not nearly as naive, and that sort of blatant bad decision making and irresponsibility qualifies somebody as “sluttier” in my mind than a woman who has intelligently and cleanly slept with many men.

In closing I want to reiterate what I said in the first place though.  The word “slut” is a ridiculous double-standard. The question put to me was specifically in regards to women, so I focused on that angle, but the majority of the time, that word is simply a tool used by men (like those frat guys) to shame women that they previously had no qualms about trying to get with.  It’s just another representation of the still-present archaic societal misogyny that would be better off killed with fire and forgotten forever.

 

Let’s Talk Politics…and Trump… Fuck.

I’m going to swear a bit this post.  I don’t want to talk about politics.  In fact, I really, really don’t like politics.  There’s only one good reason I pay attention to any of it: I’m going to do my duty to vote, and I want to make an informed decision.  But I really hate talking about it.  You know why?  Because politics, along with sports (I’m looking at you Cowboys fans,) online PvP video games, money, sex, and love, have the ability to cause normally rational, intelligent human beings to completely lose their fucking minds.  Granted, in the case of love (and let’s admit… to a lesser degree great sex…) the insanity might be worth it.

But politics… no.  Especially with the oh-so-supportive social media aspect if full-force, politics brings out a shit-ton of negativity that will, for the most part, accomplish absolutely nothing good.  I’m not talking about the people using it to fuel Bernie Sander’s “grassroots” campaign.  That’s “good” social media, and I applaud the proper use of the medium to send a positive message.  Instead I’m referring to the vast majority of armchair patriots that talk endless amounts of shit and spam Facebook with all the baseless, bias, and very likely completely unresearched articles they can find.  The more you argue with them, the more rabid and less reasonable they become.  People who are normally friends say unspeakable things to each other, families are divided, and even the workplace can become tense when you boss’s politics do not align with your own (I’ve had personal experience with this… fortunately not currently.)

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Okay… you got me there…

But this election season, shit is getting real, and it’s damn scary.  I’m not going to be able to progress much further without talking about my stance, so I should tell you that historically I’ve been moderate (you know.. the “grey area” after all..) but I lean toward the democratic side pretty much because I love women and want them to be able to do what they want as equals to men (which… they always have been… why it is taking so long for the world to figure that out is beyond me…)

This season choosing a side between the right and the left is easy.  Because this season the republican side is all kinds of fucked up.  Not since Sarah Palin have we seen a group of candidates so utterly disgraceful and representative of the republican party’s need to dismantle itself and remember what it’s supposed to stand for.  Say what you want about G. W. Bush’s handling of 9/11, the fact is he brutalized the economy and led us into a severe depression.  But that pales in comparison to the potential damage that the current republican candidates could do…  Especially Donald fucking Trump.  All of these guys, especially him.. make Mitt Romney look like a shining, angel-winged beacon of hope if only based on the fact he came across intelligent, articulate and capable of being reasonable.

In fairness, some of the candidates we started with could have proven themselves.  John Kasich hasn’t appeared utterly insane, just too quiet.  And at one point before he dropped out, I was appalled to find myself thinking that Jeb Bush was the most reasonable and feasible of the lot… another fucking Bush…  But none of that matters, because of Trump.

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He actually looked a little less douchy…

A little over  a decade ago (ugh) I liked Trump.  The Apprentice had just gained popularity and my girlfriend (at the time) and I would travel to our friend’s house to watch his tough-guy image and signature hand gesture as he fired that week’s failure.  It was television, but it had some valuable lessons about doing what it takes to survive in the real business world and managing your resources.  At the time you could almost see Trump as a guru-style, hardcore businessman that you could learn from.  Over time, however, the shiny innovation wore off and the gimmicks they attempted to freshen up the show only served to make them look more desperate.  Perhaps that should’ve been an early warning.

Four years ago, Trump talked about possibly running, and people thought it was funny.  He had gained some political notoriety by questioning President Obama’s birth records, but neither he nor anyone else thought it was a serious gesture.  To his credit, he tested the water and perhaps that time he knew it was too cold for his taste.  So he took a back-seat in the political arena for a little while.  Later he said he regretted not running and that he could’ve beaten Obama “easily”.  Sure Donald.  Regardless, it was all a funny “what if”.  Nobody seriously thought he would run, and even if he did there’s no way he’d be successful in the political arena.

Oops.  We completely underestimated the number of racist, xenophobic, hate-filled, ignorant, scared, easily manipulated, complete fucking idiots that populate the supposed “greatest country in the world.” (Yes, I also loved the speech from the opening of the Newsroom… for the 501st time when it was posted on Facebook “new”… again… Aaron Sorkin is a genius… moving on.)  I’ll give Trump credit for this: he knows his audience.  He is preying on all those that are alienated when we try to move ahead as a society.  Equality for people of color?  Fuck you, I’m voting for Trump.  Women are equal to men!?  Fuck you! I’m voting for Trump!  Accept those terrified, starving, fleeing, refugee TERRORISTS into MY country!?  Fuck you!  I’m voting for Trump!  Basically anytime we’ve given a stupid white (often) redneck male a reason to feel like he’s not the king of the world, Trump is stepping in to be their savior.

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When not talking about the size of his peni..err.. hands.

And I only wish that were his only demographic… but there’s a number of other people, who I can only assume are either evil businessmen in league with him or sheep-like people that feel scared and/or weak that are drawn to his strong bravado.  But it’s false bravado, and anyone with a brain can see that.  He talks “YUUUGE”, but anytime he’s asked a question requiring substance… a political plan, or international relations, or even his stance on white supremacy (seriously…) he balks.  If he doesn’t have something offensive and strong to say that will support and fuel his masses, he tries to talk around the question with pure nonsense.

But it doesn’t matter.  Trump has tapped into something primal: hate.  Initially, the republican party got behind it and rode the wave of his popularity.  They assumed he’d ride out his fame and settle into their ranks.  But as is the case with many a horror story, they created a monster, and the monster outgrew them.  Now they are faced with a very difficult choice; Let the monster have his way, or revoke their support and draw the ire of his legion of followers (the majority of whom were originally republican voters.)  They know Trump will turn his followers on them, he has grown very, very good at inspiring and feeding hate… to the point now it has begun to become violent.  So now those that fed him are at his mercy, watching in horror as he strikes down each of their other champions until the only one remaining is as comparably frightening as Trump himself: Ted Cruz.  I wish I could say this is bad as it gets, but it’s still in it’s early stages.

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Or.. you know.. launch nuclear missiles…

If Trump wins the republican nomination, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I will be legitimately afraid of the outcome of the presidential race.  Sure, in the past I haven’t agreed with certain candidates, but this is the first time I’ve ever felt like a candidate represented everything that was wrong with humanity.  If he becomes the leader of the “free world”, then I honestly believe the free world could be doomed.  He will almost certainly destroy our ties with long time allies such as Mexico (you know… the giant wall and all…) and the majority of Europe (who already hate him.)  Further, it’s not unrealistic to see him forging ties with China and Russia, not for the sake of peace or creating a better world, but for the sake of money.  Assuming that doesn’t create conflict through infighting and power struggle,  it could very quickly turn into intimidation, invasion, and oppression of countries that posed any sort of threat to the new “Axis of Evil..err.. Greatness”, and a very ugly, very nuclear third world war that could change life as we know it… forever.

Now I realize that escalated quickly, and it sounds very far fetched, but look at what has been incited by this man so far.  We’ve got him offering to pay the legal fees of his people who attack anti-Trump protesters at his rallies.  The situation I described above is just a massively amplified version of that.  What happens when Canada says “Hey there… you’re being a dick to your people and we are cutting off trade with you.”?  He’ll retaliate, and he’ll encourage his people, his country, to violence.  Here’s the thing folks, as soon as we give him those codes, as soon as we put him in that house, it only takes one moment of defensiveness and false bravado for him to make a decision that will literally change the face of this planet.  That shit is real, and it is scary.

Maybe I’m overstating the situation.  I really hope I am.  Some people say that Trump is just saying all of this to win the popularity contest and as soon as he’s elected he’ll change his tune.  But I don’t think so.  I’ve seen him in the board room when the people are watching him.  As President, he would know the people, most importantly his people, will be watching him, so he’ll act “strong” even if somewhere deep down the last of his moral compass is telling him it’s a bad idea.

q49d7dtThat’s the long and the short of it: Trump is already in over his head.  He doesn’t know how government works, he doesn’t know political leadership, and he sure as hell doesn’t know constitutional law.  All he knows is that the USA is one big business and if he’s the leader he has to keep lying and acting tough.  So he’ll try to dismantle the parts he doesn’t understand and shape it into something that lets him make all the decisions like he has in his (arguably) unsuccessful corporations.

I saw a movie once where another leader came to power and did the same thing.  That leader’s name was Palpatine.  Unfortunately, the real-life version we’re faced with now is just as evil and greedy, but not nearly as powerful or intelligent.

So for the love of god people, vote for anyone other than Trump.  If he wins the republican nomination, and you’re a republican, then I ask that for the sake of your party and your country, you vote for the democratic candidate (either is better… and maybe we’ll get into that in a future post.)  The republican party has already all but denounced Trump unofficially, so if you vote for the opposing candidate, at least you know your party has time to regroup, develop a new strategy, and maybe unify into something that better represents the conservative people of this country.  This round was a disaster, we all know it, but if you vote for Trump on principle (or don’t vote at all…) the country as we know it may very well cease to exist, and the republican party might not get another chance.  How’s that for the lesser of the two evils?

The Value Of Time

When I begin this it was 11:47 PM Friday night and a hot cup of coffee sat in front of me.  I made the mistake of leaning back and dozed away close to ninety minutes.  Later, despite my best efforts, about halfway through writing this (I’ve update this intro,) I closed my eyes again and woke up to four AM.  It is now Tuesday…  As you can see the juggling act of my recent routine has been challenging.  My social life is picking up, many exciting plans have been made, and a number of friends from the past are resurfacing in my life.  On top of that, when I *do* get time at home to work on my (recently resurfaced) photography, play some video games, clean, or write… a log overdue blog post, my body immediately decides to instead use that time to shut down the moment I relax (as it did once again the last few nights…)

Generally speaking this is not a complaint.  The things that are occupying my time are all blessings, and very few professional situations in my recent past have been as respectful of my time as the one I have now.  However, this instantly falling asleep business is troublesome.  I have to watch my willpower, especially on days I run or work out (I’ve returned to consistency there as well) or reclining for a moment will lead to waking up several hours later with nothing to be done beyond returning to bed.  This and my extremely heavy calendar have had me thinking a lot about time.

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That took me three paragraphs to explain….

You’re fortunate, actually, that I ended up passing out, because what I had originally written here was a bunch of sleepy, semi-scientific and philosophical muttering about how time doesn’t actually exist and blah blah blah…  Instead I’m going to focus on the point:  No matter who you are, or where you come from, time is one of the most important concepts in your life.  Young or old, rich or poor, there is nothing we take for granted more than the ever-fleeting instrument we use to measure change, and we often forget that sometimes change doesn’t follow the routine, and your time might be up at any… time.

With that in mind, and as an Executive / Personal Assistant, the importance of prioritizing and managing my professional and personal time is absolutely key.  Professionally, I can compartmentalize and prioritize the large chunk of that time over my personal time. That’s the easy part.  But it’s not that simple either, because if I do that consistently as I have in the past, I will lose the balance that is kept in check by my social life and pursuing my own interests.  If said balance is lost, discontentment and eventual misery follow.  Fortunately in my my current position, my Executive is pretty respectful of my time and the stress level is relatively low.  This allows me the freedom to maintain that balance and pursue my interests… even if it’s a little slow and I have to fight to stay awake.  Admittedly my current (grown-up) priority of sleep probably isn’t helping, but I like to think I’m healthier and happier overall as a result.

Enough about my slow-progressing interests though, that’s only one important aspect of where my important time is spent and for the majority of my readers it probably doesn’t apply.  What should, and does apply for all of us though is in regards to our social time.  As I fight to maintain the balance I’ve elaborated above, I find that literally minutes of my time can be the difference between accomplishing something I wanted today, or not.  The easiest way to be most efficient with that would be to lock myself up in my cave of an apartment and just spend days or weeks (when not working) getting shit done.  Writing, processing photos, cleaning house, gym / running, and taking breaks to get into my sorely neglected MMO would all fall directly into place.  I have done that, and I like doing that, but no man is an island (as they say) and I admit that I get a greater sense of personal satisfaction from my interactions with friends, new and old.

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The Philosopher

Friendship and social life are complicated though.  For one, they can (certainly not always) get financially expensive.  But more importantly different levels of friendship require different levels of time investment.  Key here is that we all have to remember that this is a two-way street.  You know how invaluable your time is to you, so you have to assume it is just as invaluable to whomever is with you.  And they are choosing to spend that time with you.  That’s the core of what that phrase means; to spend time, because that time cannot be repaid.  Ideally, time spent should be an investment from which both parties receive something greater than the time invested. But sometimes (often) we suck at that because we don’t think about the value of everyone’s time.  It takes a level of awareness to think “Hey, this super busy person who could be doing any number of things right now is choosing to engage me instead.”

With all that said, it’s exhausting to even think about being aware of every waking moment of your life.  It is also not reasonable or even healthy to do so.  Relaxation is also time well spent, and if your brain is completely engaged at all times, you are not going to be able to relax.  As with all things there has to be a balance and I think with a few guidelines you can find that balance:

1. Recognize and appreciate time spent on/with you.  Don’t question whether or not you are “worth it” to them, that is their decision.  As long as you want it, accept it and appreciate it.  I think people can subconsciously tell when they are appreciated and you’ll find that your interactions are generally more positive as a result.

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In that moment, she realized the time had been wasted…

2. Only spend personal time on people when you want to.  Ideally the people you spend time with should help, relax, or somehow enrich your life while you do the same for them.  This isn’t just about romantic situations either, I’ve had a couple cups of coffee with old friends recently that were extremely worthwhile.  If you walk away from the interaction with a good memory, a revelation, feeling rejuvenated, or wearing a smile, I say that’s time well spent.

The flip-side of that is spending time with people because they tried to make you feel guilty, or you feel some level of obligation to them… and that should be avoided.  Perhaps if they have done you important favors in the past, you owe it to them to show up and repay the favor, but consolidate that to whatever is needed to appropriately repay them and then get out.  Beyond repayment of a personal debt, don’t let the issues of others cause you to spend time you don’t have or don’t want to give on them.  Doing so will only make you resent them and damage your existing relationship.  Just as people can sense when they are appreciated, often they can sense when they are not wanted.  Do yourself and them a favor, and be strong enough to say no when you don’t want to spend your valuable time.    

3. Minimize your professional time spent on someplace that tears you down or makes you feel “stuck”.  I realize (and have first-hand experience) that sometimes we have to do whatever we can to get by.  But that needs to be as temporary as possible.  My recent stint as an Uber driver was actually really fun at times, but on a deeper level it was having a profound effect on my general state of mind, my confidence, and my attitude.  The only thing that kept me hopeful was the search and development of new opportunities.  So, if you’re doing what you have to do, don’t quit the search for something better, even if takes months or years.

As far as the people go, work is obviously a little different, you’re investing time for money and sometimes people come with it, but you can minimize the time spent with them to whatever is absolutely necessary.

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Some of my “Me Time”

4. When planning your time, be certain to allow “me time”.  I said above that no person is an island.  Well the opposite is true too.  Even the most extroverted person needs time to themselves.  Hopefully you have people with whom you can pursue your mutual interests, but even if that’s the case, you will want time to yourself to think about how it benefits you in the long-term.  Your plan, your goals, your dreams.  Take time to put everything you are doing and want to do in perspective and make them happen.  Even those who are married or in a serious long-term relationship need time to themselves to process and figure everything out as individuals.  Once that’s in perspective, it’s much easier to share those things with our friends and family.

The point of all this is, nothing in this world is more valuable than the moments we are given.  It is up to us to make the most of those moments… actually it’s up to us to simply make those moments.  But it doesn’t need to be a constant labor, it’s more a matter of reminding yourself periodically to appreciate the time that others spend on you, and in turn make sure the people you’re spending your time on are worth it (including, of course, yourself!)  By doing this you can moderate/filter your busy life and make the most your moments.

 

You don’t know who you are

You will never completely know or understand who you are. There’s a whole unknown you floating in your subconscious that only shows itself through dreams and surreal moments when you act in ways you thought you never would or could.  In some ways it represents your potential and depending on how you develop yourself that potential could be amazing, but it could also be disastrous.  Sigmund Freud would probably say that trying to get to know yourself on this level is trying to get more in touch with your Id and Super-Ego at the same time.

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“There are no mistakes.”

It’s a bit ironic actually, because the Ego (the moderator between those two) can be such a robust and confident thing when it really has no right to be.  The truth is we spend the majority of our lives trying to figure ourselves out (and that’s okay!)  I should actually say that the smart folks spend their days trying to better figure themselves out.  Unfortunately far too many people are busy looking outward than inward.  So they define things (especially the shitty stuff) by what their environment and those that inhabit it have shown them, instead of trying to figure out what they’re doing in that environment to begin with.

Don’t misunderstand me, I realize that people are often born into very unfortunate environments and circumstances.  As I’ve illustrated in previous posts, my own circumstances weren’t exactly roses and rainbows.  Some people don’t get to learn about themselves. It’s Maslow’s pyramid and they don’t make it past the first level.

An old friend of mine and I were discussing Maslow’s pyramid the other day and it both complimented and derailed what I intended to write about.  For those of you uninitiated, the essential idea is that human needs and progression happen on five levels.  The base of this pyramid are basic needs: food, water, sleep, sex (though.. I believe this transcends a bit… let’s call it “reproduction”,) oxygen, etc.

Once you’ve got your basic needs covered,the next level involved safety on every level.  Protection from the elements, security in your job/income/lifestyle, and basic personal safety.  All the things that lay the foundation for some level of confidence in your life.  But once you get all that figured out, you get to start on the advanced stuff.

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“Shit.. was that level 1 or level 3?”

Level three of Maslow’s pyramid consists of social developmental needs. This fuels the desire for popularity in high school and then evolves into being accepted and respected by your peers at work while simultaneously developing friendship, intimacy (there’s that sex again!), affection and, of course, love in your personal life.  Each step of this pyramid can be a life-long endeavor for many individuals, but I would wager that a very large percentage get stuck here (including, it seems, me.)

The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to achieve any of these levels in any sort of traditional manner to begin work on the next level.  Hell, I’m relatively sure you don’t even have to make it halfway.  As long as you have a basic understanding of achievement on any given level, you can probably grasp the next level as well.  But that’s dangerous, because the point of the pyramid is to illustrated how to form a solid foundation for each level and building on an unfinished foundation can (obviously) end up in disaster.

But let’s say you jump to the next level and go for the really advanced stuff. Level four of Maslow’s pyramid is all about going from being accepted, to leading and transcending the pack.  Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, and respect from others are the needs this level presents.  By this time, you’ve figured out how to play the game of life, and now you need to do better than just play well, you need to excel at it.

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Maslow’s pyramid for the modern age.

Should you manage to develop yourself to the point of excelling at life in terms of what you want to achieve and what you want your peers to recognize about you, you’re ready for the supposed pinnacle of the pyramid: Total self-actualization. Now we’re getting into super-human territory that involves setting world records, becoming billionaires, scaling Mt. Everest, or becoming the President. Fortunately for a fair percentage of the people who are trying to fulfill this need also realize this potential by helping others find their way up the pyramid.  On the flip-side though, this is where the world’s absolute worst humans do the worst damage.

The point of that quick overview though was to illustrate a point: you’ll never reach total self-actualization because you will never completely know and understand yourself.  Even if you somehow thought you did, you can’t, because it’s fluid.  That’s actually one of the great joys of life.  One of the greatest strengths of humanity is it’s fluidity and adaptability.  Some very smart, very enlightened people close to me struggle with this a lot and admittedly I do as well because it’s frankly exhausting if you don’t step back to recognize it for what it really is: growth.  Not only is it growth, but it’s advanced growth that only a certain percentage of people in the world have the luxury of knowing.

It’s a given that people reach the fifth level of Maslow’s pyramid all the time, but as I

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Oh…

mentioned earlier, a lot of those people left an essential level undeveloped… some skipped it entirely and paid for it.  They are easy to see, the people who seem to have everything, experienced so much, but are still miserable.  They act out, break down, and sometimes die far too early and sometimes by their own hand.

The point in all this psycho-babble is that I’ve realized that the biggest mistake we can make is attempting to rush through or force our personal development.  We seek to master our environment and to balance that out we must seek to master ourselves.  But both are fluid and can never really be mastered, so we have to realize that it’s enough to continue learning, continue developing and build our foundations strong on each level so we have a solid base when we someday reach the top of our own personal pyramid.

You don’t know who you are, and you never will, but the point is continuing to get to know yourself.  When you do, you get to the fun part: Being pleasantly surprised and amazed at what you can do… and then being able to live happily with it.

 

You Don’t Have To “Follow Your Dreams”

“What do you want to do?”  “What do you want to be?”  “What’s your passion?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What do you dream of being?”

Rich.  And Happy.  With Kids.

Oh, you want to know how?  Well fuck off, I don’t know.  Except I do, and that is: whatever I can do that will get me there while keeping me happy, letting me live my life, and allowing me to keep my dignity intact/stay true to myself.

I suppose that’s awfully specific for somebody that doesn’t know, but as a thirty-six year old single male that achieved “full yuppie”, and then spent months unemployed until just recently, I’ve had a lot of experience and a fair amount of time to mull this over.  What I figured out is that all those questions above seem encouraging and productive, but they can, in fact, be exactly the opposite.  They can demotivate and even create insecurity where there doesn’t need to be any.

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Obviously they had different priorities…

The thing is, some people have dreams when they are little, but as we grow, we change and (hopefully) so do our priorities.  When we’re kids, a lot of us really hate taking naps.  Sleep is so boring!  But years later, as an adult, nap time is a close second (and let’s face it, depending on the person, it’s possibly not second) to the horizontal mambo.  We grow, we learn, priorities change, and so does what we dream of.

When I was a young boy, I wanted to be a fighter pilot so badly that I studied different aircraft, their capabilities, their combat roles, and even the engines that powered them and who made them.  I thought the SR-71 Blackbird was the coolest thing in the world.  I grew up, took the ASVAB, aced it, and made the Marines love me (yes, I know I should’ve talked to the Air Force first, but that Staff Sergeant talked a good game.)  They told me I could take my pick of assignments between the AV-8B Harrier II (the jet that can take off vertically and hover) or the F-18 Hornet (The fastest and most maneuverable mainstream fighter the US produced at the time.) I was sold on the F-18 and made a soft commitment to enlist   I trained with Staff Sergeant Johnson to prepare for boot camp while learning more and more about the program.  It would entail military “basic” school, the Naval Academy, and then Flight School specializing (in my case) in fixed-wing aviation.  The long and the short of this was a minimum of a fourteen year commitment once I signed on the dotted line.  And when that day came, my eighteen-year-old self thought about my friends, my girlfriend, and the person I thought I would become, and I walked away (Sorry Staff Sergeant Johnson.)  Once I got realistic about my childhood dream, I didn’t want it any more, and that as okay.

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Most dreams seem to involve mountains and sunsets…

But especially in recent years, society has moved to this obsession with goals/dreams.  People who don’t have a specific one are in danger of being labeled as unfocused, distracted, lacking direction, drifters, or any number of relatively negative terms.  This, in turn, can make people who don’t really have a specific dream feel insecure about the lack of that dream.  They can begin to think there might be something wrong with them and feel like they need to invent a “passion” to define themselves.  This can have the opposite effect, and lead to an abundance of wasted time pretending to care about something that is ultimately unfulfilling.  Such a situation is much more common that we might think and can easily lead to a number of psychological issues.  Ironically, inventing your passion is a very effective way of stifling a real passion you may not know you have yet.

For instance, I remember looking at characters in movies that weren’t the good or bad guy, but were the “right-hand man” and thinking “That would be neat… I could totally be THAT guy rather than the main good/bad guy.”  It wasn’t a dream, it was just a respect for that sort of person that I identified with passively. A couple of decades later that’s the majority of my recent professional experience.  Even better is that I (generally) like it and have made as much, or more than most of the people I know who are “following their passions”.  I never thought to myself  “Someday I’m going to be this awesome Executive Assistant!” but by being open to it and accepting the natural evolution of my career in that direction, I realized that I was, in fact, actualizing something I had passively envisioned more than a few times.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on people who have and follow their dreams.  I have a ton of respect for them.  Many of my very close friends have pursued their dreams and passions and are reaping the rewards of their dedication over the years.  They worked hard, put in their time, (most) suffered to some degree, and are rewarded by the option of doing what they always wanted to do.  But that’s not everyone, and more importantly it doesn’t have to be everyone.  We have to dispel the idea that dreams = life success.  They can most certainly create motivation to succeed, but they are not a requirement.  There are a number of other ways to motivate yourself.

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And that’s OKAY!

Achievement and/or success often breeds motivation, and sometimes it takes a whole lot of trying things and failing to find it.  Further, you may very well find that what you succeed at is something you never even considered before.  That’s where business roles that I call “tool” types come from.  They aren’t what you typically think of when you dream of what you want to become.  Therefore they often aren’t “visionaries” or well-known business leaders.  But instead of having their own dream, they enable/assist the dreamers in order to grow and take their visions to whole new levels.

Maybe you never dreamed of being an accountant, but you find you’re naturally good at it, and it rewards you well leading to job satisfaction and general financial success.  That process can make people pretty happy.  The same can be said for what I do as an Executive Assistant.  I get to live vicariously through extremely successful CEOs, Inventors, Celebrities and other notable dreamers.  I am compensated well and often enjoy a number of (expensive) fringe benefits without the drawbacks of being imbalanced as said visionaries often are (out of necessity really.) I stay balanced and I help to balance them, leading to a great deal of personal and job satisfaction.

There are countless roles that can lead to professional success as an “enabler” or “tool”.  So I’m not saying don’t dream, I’m just saying that if you don’t have a specific dream, don’t stress it.  Provide for yourself (and those you need to provide for) and take pride in that accomplishment.  Just keep trying to improve yourself.  Try things, fail (more than) a few times if you need to, and focus on what you want for yourself.  You don’t have to have a direction  as long as you keep yourself moving forward in some way.  Keep making your own path, cutting through the jungle of life and you might just find that you look up and discover something that you or nobody else had thought of yet. Accidents like that have made a lot of people both rich and happy.

 

Always Be Honest With Yourself (And Others.)

“To thine own self be true…” – Shakespeare

“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” -Freud

“If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule – Never lie to yourself.” – Coelho

This reoccurring theme throughout the ages is simple, but they don’t tell you have fucking difficult it actually is.  I say this with no bitterness as I’ve been focused on keeping myself honest for almost a decade now. Though I feel like I’ve shared a bit of that backstory with you already… for those of you just joining us, long story short, I was a lying, manipulative asshole from my teenage years all the way up past the quarter-century mark of my life.  I paid for it, learned from it and the one shining lesson above all else that I embraced was as stated above: Be honest with yourself first.

At first it was easy.  My lies exposed, my life had shattered and come crumbling down around me.  So many lies over so many years meant I didn’t even actually know who I was.  Through all the attempts to be whatever I thought people wanted me to be, I actually began to buy into my own bullshit.  And so, when said bullshit was cleared away, there was simply nothing.  A husk, an empty shell stripped bare, an empty barrel with any trace of identity laying somewhere in the bottom of it.  The easy part of this phase was that I had nothing to lose.

When you don’t care about anything, there is no reason to lie.

You always know where he's coming from.

You always know where he’s coming from.

So I went on for a while as a non-filtered, brutally honest asshole.  Abrasive, uncaring, broken.  I severed ties with people whom had similar habits in lying that I had.  In fairness I did try to educate them in the futility of that lifestyle, but like any drug it’s an ugly and destructive habit that is not so easily escaped.  But I absolutely could not stand to be around it any more, so I left.  After a while on my own I found those that respected and had the resilience for my abrasive honesty, but only some of them could actually handle it.  The others felt they needed to change me, to fix me.  The truth is I did need fixing, but not the way they thought.  In the end it backfired on them because everything I represented came straight from the source, and when you’re in touch with your core like that – a direct link – nothing gets skewed.

But although that sounds ideal, it was miserable.  Brutal, abrasive honesty with nothing to lose is lonely and broken and mostly incapable of operating in our society.  Eventually I began to value things and people in various ways.  Not (to this day) on an ideal level of love, but they became important nonetheless, and I was able to at least partially convey that to them (admittedly, some attempts went better than others.)  I began to develop a filter.  I still would not lie, and to this day I keep that tenant.  But I began to withhold things for the sake of others, and maybe (without realizing it) for the sake of myself.

Many say that withholding is the same as lying, but I can’t quite get behind that.  It’s situational, it depends on what you withhold from who, and why.  It’s a grey area.  Obviously if you are withholding relevant information from somebody that trusts you, then it is probably as destructive and deceptive as lying.  So yes, in that case it’s along the same lines.  This also includes “protecting” somebody from being hurt when they have every right to the information you have.

On the other hand, withholding information that falls into the lines of gossip about another, or exposes the secrets of somebody that trusts you is a virtuous thing.  You have the information perhaps because you were involved or because they confided in you, but their secret is not yours to tell, even if that means that you must also withhold something about yourself that you might not normally.

But like all grey areas, all of those rationalizations are a delicate balance… sometimes only a step away from falling back into the habits of lying and deceit for the sake of self.  This balance must be carefully maintained, and in every case it must start with you.

Situational... but clever.

Situational… but clever.

It is easy to say “I’m honest with myself, and I’ve proven it so I can relax.”  But that’s a trap, and one I believe I may be falling into.  Don’t get me wrong, I still abhor lying outwardly and choose to be (at times) uncomfortably forthcoming.  But inwardly I think it’s easy to become careless and I might very well be experiencing the results of that.

You see, the key to remember when endeavoring to be honest with yourself is to remember who you are.  But the complicated aspect of that, is that who you are changes. Often. Sometimes gradually, sometimes near-instantly (and with an abundance of cosmic energy if you’re especially cool.)  Being honest with yourself is a constant exercise in checking yourself against who you are, and in order to do that, you have to be ready to consistently accept some really unpleasant truths about yourself.  Then, once you’ve pinpointed where you’re weak and ugly, you have to be willing to accept and then be outwardly honest about those faults through both words and action.  This is the process of improving those things and therefore making yourself a more balanced, ultimately happier person.

On the same turn, you need to be really honest about what you like about yourself and what your strengths are.  You would think this would be easy, but insecurity has a way of diminishing these attributes to you.  It’s a defense mechanism that your mind puts in place when society starts teaching you that it’s bad to be different, or to like certain things depending on who you are, or any of the five billion other idiotic standards society tries to program into you from a young age.

So what’s the point?  Why put so much effort into checking yourself when you could just act naturally and let that be who you are?  Well, as I’ve been finding out through a number of difficult situations lately, if you don’t pay attention to who you are and what you’re about right now. You fall into the trap of personal rationalization.  Instead of rationalizing your thoughts or actions outwardly, you do it inwardly and in regards to who you actually are.  So you create this ideal image of who you are in your mind without the gut check.  Instead of paying attention to how you feel about a particular situation or action you take, you create a persona and begin to check yourself against that as if it’s who you are.  This is the lie, and one that many people intentionally fall into.

fine,honest,hurt,life,quotes,sad-cda72d0c8b592856321a43478cf8d32f_hBut the problem with believing your own persona, is that who you really are deep down doesn’t go away.  If you’re really, really lucky it might adapt itself to your persona, but the vast majority of the time, it will instead sabotage it. If you don’t face it, the person you really are will sabotage you.  Have you seen when seemingly powerful people have massive breakdowns?  What about celebrities that have it all and then abruptly crack or even die?  This list of causes is endless: Drugs, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, or general crazed, reckless behavior but it all comes down to the fact that those suffering in those cases were lying to themselves.  About who they were, where they were weak, how they felt or what they needed help with.  Celebrities are extreme cases because they live in extreme circumstances, but none of us (not even me) are immune.

So, for your sake, take some time to get to know you.  Explore how you feel about things, people and the world completely separate of what anyone else thinks is best for you.  Once you’ve done that, make sure you keep doing that as you change and grow and feel differently about things.  Don’t lose touch with who you are and absolutely do not fall into the trap of rationalizing who you are – to yourself first – and then to anyone else.  There is no rationalizing who and what you are at your core, you simply are. Though it takes some balance to know what to allow to the surface for others to see, you must accept yourself within raw and unfiltered.  When you have a foundation of honesty such as that, it is both liberating and empowering.  You know who you are, and nobody can take that from you.

What Exactly Is It About #911 You Plan To #NeverForget?

This is not a happy, fluffy post. This is not a thoughtful and peaceful post. This post will piss some of you off. In fact, I might even lose a couple friends over this, but that’s okay because if I do, fundamentally we wouldn’t have worked out anyway. But if you do plan to run off at some point, I ask that in the name of whatever our relationship up to this point has meant, you finish reading because I can’t promise all of this will come out coherently and in the order I intend, and maybe something, at some point will resonate with you a little. Maybe.

So today is the anniversary of a tragic natural disaster. Yep. Natural. I say this because you, and all those around you, are the single worst disaster that nature has ever come up with. Worse than earthquakes, category five hurricanes and the black plague put together. Your kind has murdered more life on this planet than any other force. Period.

lets-stop-destroying-our-mother-earthWhat’s worse is that your general level of accountability (as a species) for being said disaster is proportionately microscopic compared to the damage you’ve done and continue to do. Now I say “you” because I’m talking to you. But I’m not excluding myself. I do plenty of things on a daily basis that cause harm to my environment and the living things around me. Some of it is necessary for my own continued survival (such as cooking food and destroying living bacteria) and some of it is not (such as producing waste from my consumption that ultimately damages the environment.) So I’m no innocent, at all, in fact I’m the first to tell many people close to me that I’m a relatively evil creature. But at least I know it.

What prompted me to write this… what grates at me like an itch I just had to scratch is the sheer amount of pompous mindlessness and ridiculous American elitism that stems from the anniversary of this disaster. The divide that is celebrated by people that weren’t even born or able to comprehend what was happening when this happened by using trendy hashtags.

Never forget? Never forget what!? That your brother’s, uncle’s dog was friends with somebody who knew somebody that died that day? And because of that you feel cool wearing your patriotic colors, openly hating on billions of people, and tossing up hashtags on social media so people can see how like Captain America you are? This shit is the problem. If that’s you, you’re part of the problem, and you will play a part in CREATING more of these disasters. And it’s not even your fault if you’re that young, because you’ve been taught that by those around you who validate themselves and whatever they feel (fear, hate, pride, whatever…) about this disaster by spouting off bullshit regarding the evil people in whatever flavor of the week it is.

On this day fourteen years ago, some ignorant, extremist humans that falsely represented a particular religion gave a huge amount of other ignorant humans what they falsely feel is justification to hate an entire culture. That is what happened, and that is only what happened. Everything else was done by those who had nothing to do with the original actions.   Countless more terror and harm was caused by those claiming to be the good guys… to help, by bringing forth divine retribution for these horrible actions no matter the cost. They all succeeded. Those evil men on that plane succeeded and continue to because you people want an excuse to hate, and by god it’s your right as an American to take it. Further, your own people have used that same rationale against you to repress you and further their own agendas. How easily you are manipulated by hate and fear.

The faces of duty.

The faces of duty.

Now that I’m sure you’re suitably pissed off at how ignorant I am, or how narrow-minded I am being, let me clarify a few things. This is not about the soldiers. Soldiers sign up to do a job, a necessary job, and they follow orders. Without them, legions of evil and murderous people from all over the world, both within and outside our country would indeed invade and subjugate, murder or otherwise destroy us. Soldiers have to exist because hateful, animalistic humans exist and societies need to protect themselves from them. It’s a dirty job and they have to do it, end of story. I understand that, I support that, and I support them regardless of the many ridiculous and evil decisions their associates and superiors may make at times. And I know that many of them suffered themselves as a result of this tragedy and the decisions made as a result of it.

I am also most certainly not speaking of the actual victims of this tragedy. Not just those that lost somebody dear to them in the attack, or the live witnesses, or the brave responders, but those whose families suffered as a result of the circumstances that have followed. There are very few things more dangerous than a scared, cornered animal, and that’s how 9/11 made a lot of people, possibly most of our country, feel. Thus prompting them to do some very stupid, hateful things to very innocent people.

Most importantly, I am absolutely not speaking to the little girl who is probably not even Muslim, but looks like she could be and has her head covered in a similar manner. Today perhaps more likely than any other day this year, she might be struck in the head by a rock, brick or bottle thrown by somebody who thinks it’s okay to #NeverForget that he hates people, even though he lives thousands of miles away from what happened. In truth, both of those people are victims, one who has been taught to hate by the rallying call of “Merica’!” and the other, an innocent who is afraid that people will think that she is like the evil men on those planes when nothing could be farther from the truth.

Pass it down to the next generation...

Pass it down to the next generation…

The people I’m speaking to are those who perpetuate this hate and teach it to those who know no different. I’m speaking to those who make this tragedy so much more important than so many other tragedies because, let’s face it, it’s popular and of course “oh my god how dare this happen here! In the promised land of America instead of some other part of the world where it’s much more common… and still happening.” The irony, of course being that the men on those planes were also taught to hate, that’s what got them on those planes to begin with, the rallying cry was (falsely) for “Allah” instead of “Merica’ ” but in truth the difference ends there and the people here who are filled with that hate for them are far closer to the men on those planes than the little girl who looks like she could be, and isn’t.

That’s right, some of you that are far removed from this disaster but still use #911 to #NeverForget and promote mindless patriotism are dangerously close to the thinking of the men who caused this tragedy. It doesn’t end there, because that same hate is rampant towards everything that you believe is against you, your people, or your god. And when it comes down to that, there is very little difference. Because I’ve seen beneath your cool, civilized exterior, and I know what you would do to some of the people you are afraid of if you thought you could get away with it. Maybe you’ve risen above generalizing a primarily peaceful religion as full of terrorists. Maybe your flavor of hate is against black people, white people, gay people, straight people, female people, male people, little people or big people. But no matter your flavor, the moment you hate any particular group of people for simply being what they are, especially if it’s because you believe your god says you should, you are resonating with the men who caused and participated in the tragedy fourteen years ago.
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Speaking of your god… Like many ideal concepts, religion can be a wonderful and amazing thing full of light. But let’s face it, humans suck at ideal concepts. For every one person who understands and does it right, there will be two more manipulative or just plain ignorant fucks who will twist it to their own flawed vision. Because of this, they fail. They fail the people who rely on them, and they fail the people outside of them. Instead of light, they breed hate. Instead of enlightenment, they breed ignorance. Instead of truth, they breed deceit and manipulation. This is not the fault of any god, this is the fault of ignorant people who are given free will and fail at it. It leaves the people who do it right outnumbered and powerless. Those people, who instinctively understand the true purpose of religion is to lift people, all people, up and try to bring them together are left struggling to not drown in the sea of those vying for power and pushing their (in)human agendas.   That, my friends is exactly what caused this natural, human disaster fourteen years ago. And by the way, this wasn’t even close to the first time slaughter and senseless death has occurred in the name of religion… but of course you already know that. Where are those hashtags? I guess it’s not trendy or American enough.

So you won’t find me posting pictures of the twin towers, or firefighters that may or may not have even been there (but it’s a cool dramatic photo anyway.) And you won’t find me using #911 (seriously how confusing is that?!) or #NeverForget past this case because I wasn’t anywhere near the disaster and it’s had very little effect on my day-to-day life outside of giving some of the asshats that used to run my country the liberty to make bad decisions. I’m not going to tell you to #NeverForget what happened fourteen years ago today, because if you care that much you should be paying attention to this shit every day. And it’s not about reminding others to not forget, it’s about reminding yourself.
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As I said above, I’m not trying to play holier than thou. I’ll be the first to admit there is an evil thing inside of me. It hates, it wants to hurt/kill people it thinks are wrong and it is lazy, apathetic and unmotivated when it comes to helping the community as a whole. But my saving grace is that I know better, and I try to do the three things I would ask any of you to do: Be aware, control it, and try to be a better person.

You want something to #NeverForget?

#NeverForget that to some people you are only a couple of steps away from being the men on that plane.
#NeverForget that hate and ignorance caused this and it continues to cause countless deaths and tragedies every day. #NeverForget that just because we live in a country that spends more on defense then the next sixteen countries on the list combined, we are not any more special than the people who do not, and who suffer tragedies like this yearly, monthly, weekly or daily.
#NeverForget that instead of posting empty, inspiring images and hashtagging them all over social media, you could be looking within yourself and tending to that part of you that is afraid of something different.
#NeverForget that when your fear produces hate as a reflex, you can fight that, and think, and do the one thing that humans are capable of that sets them apart from the animals they also recklessly destroy.
#NeverForget that you can reason past your emotions and knee-jerk reactions in order to try to be a better person. #NeverForget that you can support victims of tragedies and disasters quietly and consistently in your own way without needing an event to spur you to action. And…
#NeverForget that the first and most important step to solving any problem is being aware that you might be a part of it, and if so doing your best to minimize that.

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An Elaboration On Love

Almost nine years now I’ve been single. This has not been due to lack of interest by outside parties, just not the proper alignment. As I’ve said previously I am fortunate to know some absolutely amazing and incredible people. Just not the right person for what it must be. You see, for all my lack of emotion and self-centeredness, I still believe in some level of magic.   I’ve elaborated in the past about “it” and the magic that was, but I want to share about the magic that can be, that will be. Because if it doesn’t, it may not happen at all (which would… complicate things considering my eventual desire for children.)

It is said that when you are dying your whole life flashes before your eyes. You become distant and the world around you happens in slow motion as your brain processes (possibly for the last time) the events that led you to this point and made up your life. Depending on who you ask or what you believe, this is simply your brain going into emergency mode and firing on every channel it can in a panic before it shuts down forever. Others will say it’s a much more pleasant experience, that you’re recapping your life and experiences to this point before moving on to the next inevitable and unstoppable phase of your existence. To me, love is a little bit like the latter.

That moment...

That moment…

I believe that when you find the right person, the one who aligns with you in the right ways in both perfection and imperfection and is as drawn to you as you are to them, a moment will happen (perhaps many, but at least the first, pivotal one.) This moment will feel a lot like the second explanation of the moments before death above: Everything that was your life up to that point will converge into a singular moment and purpose, and from that singularity something new will be born, like a Phoenix burning to ashes and arising new… reborn.

It could be a small gesture, even a shared look, or it could be a dramatic and well orchestrated event, but that moment will come when you know that it’s time, and that you’ve found what you have both been looking for. You’ll know that everything leading up to this moment has passed, and something new is beginning, something that is powerful, hopeful and made up of the best of two individuals. Something that includes all that led them to this point: friends, family and experiences and uses that foundation to become something even greater, something that shatters limits and boundaries, something infinite. I believe that is power of love and that is the feeling that comes from it and fills the two souls that partake of it. Most importantly, I believe it exists.

This is, perhaps, the least pragmatic and realistic of my beliefs, but I know it exists simply because I can comprehend it… I can actually feel it as I imagine the possible scenarios in the future with the one whom I will share such things. To be sure, this person does not yet have a face, and the circumstances would vary greatly depending on their life and experiences that led them to this point, but all those details will simply feed into the next step.

35 years later, still taking adorable selfies.

35 years later, still taking adorable selfies.

It is this love, this power, that I believe fuels those who pull off the true long-term relationships. I speak of the adorable people that have grown old together over fifty years and celebrate their anniversaries as if no time has passed at all. I speak of the families that are tested, encountering great hardships and pulling together to come out stronger in the end. I speak of the undying, unyielding light that outshines the great darkness this world and it’s people can bring to bear. I speak of perfection and light born from not from desperation, compromise, impatience or mistakes… I speak of something right, that is the product of two imperfect beings that have found something perfect for them both through their bond. It is never the absence of doubt, fear or despair, but the strength to conquer them. All of those things and more are love and it’s power.

Additionally, I know and believe that “love” comes in many forms among many people. I would wager to say that just as there are many shades of any color, love also occurs in a spectrum that is infinitely larger than that. It is not for me (or anyone) to say what you love or that your love is true or not. It is not for me (or anyone) to say that any love is right or wrong, real or not. I speak of a specific love, one that I am familiar with and believe in. But I will never tell somebody that they are not in love with their life, their pets, their religion or even their money. Perhaps I could argue that love of some things has much more obvious drawbacks than others, but that is a discussion for another post, another time, and to be honest I’m not certain that at it’s core I could effectively argue with any real love, no matter how I perceived it.

0610087d21f25e9b18b7b784f8b59a97More realistically speaking, I also know that such love can exist and then, over time perhaps, diminish. I don’t think it is destroyed, but I would say it is possible for it to become buried under the many things in this life that can get in the way of it. When this happens it does not mean that it never existed, or even that it ceased to exist now, but whether or not it can be dug up and saved is solely at the discretion of those experiencing it. It’s easy to take the stance of “It wasn’t real if it doesn’t last.” But I don’t think that’s true, it’s more likely that it’s simply locked away, or that it has changed into something else. I suppose my point is, though I spoke ideally above in an enduring and everlasting love, I am also hesitant to discount love (including my own) that has reached those heights and, for better or worse, changed into something else. Perhaps due to timing, circumstances or one or both of those involved not being ready, just because it would ideally last forever, doesn’t mean it has to. It also doesn’t mean it was any less real.

But in the meantime, as with most things in this life, I think we need to shoot for the ideal, to believe in it. I don’t think there is any less ideal or less powerful concept than the belief in love and all that comes with it. I know it exists, I know it is out there somewhere and even if it takes another decade or more to find it, when that moment comes, I know it will be worth it.

Ramadan Retrospective 2015

I know some of you are just waiting for one of my edgier or “NSFW” posts, and I’ve been keeping ideas that come to me written down, but timing and proximity are important so you’ll have to stay tuned a bit longer.

Ramadan this year was a whole different animal… specifically a nocturnal one.  It’s a bit ironic that during the longest days of the year possible (we crossed the summer solstice) my schedule took place primarily at night.   Prior to Ramadan beginning this year I was discussing it with a friend of mine and she suggested I swap day and night (Fast at night instead.)  Though I gave it consideration, I decided that it undermined the definition of Ramadan if I wasn’t doing it in unison with the billions of participants worldwide – meaning if I took it upon myself to swap the time-frames, I was no longer practicing anything that resembled “Ramadan” fasting and was instead simply observing a personal fast with similar rules.  It did occur to me that my original purpose – to support one of my best friends in her fast – might be better served if I swapped my fast because we’re in opposite time zones, but in the end I decided I should stick to the structure that everyone else followed regardless of advantageous personal circumstances.

Oh sweet face-stuffing...

Oh sweet face-stuffing…

Though it was almost definitely much easier than those with a day job, this year provided some unique challenges and taught me a few things.  The days were right about sixteen hours long, meaning I was only really sleeping through between one-third and half of the fast.  The first part (just after a hyper hydrating and face-stuffing breakfast) was the easy part, but I noticed that as time went on I would get hungrier, faster.  It got to the point that ninety minutes after stuffing myself I would be hungry again and over fourteen hours would remain before I had the chance to address that.  For whatever reason that hadn’t happened as much for me in previous years, so I can only theorize that my body schedule had something to do with it.

The one downside to sleeping the latter third of the fast, is how you feel when you wake up at hour sixteen.  If you think getting out of bed in the morning is rough now, try doing that when your body is in emergency conservation mode due to lack of food or water.  The first issue is that actually regaining consciousness is harder… I slept past my “end fast” alarm on several occasions, causing me to continue fasting even longer, which then continues to amply the effects of the fast (as specified in my previous post when I went nearly twenty hours.  It did not go well.)  The second issue is that even when you wake up, you pretty much feel like you’ve been run over by a truck.  It’s actually pretty similar to moderate hangover as both of these states are caused by your brain being dehydrated.  Waking up is hard, staying awake is harder.  Fighting that desire to fall back over and not feel like crap any more is tough, especially when even sitting up takes a monumental amount of effort.  You’re weak, you have no energy and you’re trying to tell your body to wake up when all it wants to do is shut down to conserve your energy.  But eventually the promise of cool, refreshing water will give you the strength to fight the amplified gravity and draw you out to the kitchen where you can chug your bodyweight in the clear, clean nectar of the clouds.  Except you can’t, because if you do you’ll be sick.  You have to go slow, very slow, and work your way up to food, coffee or whatever else you need.  But once you get past that barrier, you’re newly-nourished body will feel great, right?  Well…

This is not a motivated face.

This is not a motivated face.

This is another part that was new to me this year.  You see, normally you go to work just after beginning your fast.  This means you start strong and deteriorate throughout the day.  Then you break your fast at night, and usually go to bed pretty early to recover and wake up early to eat before you resume your fast.  But this year my opposite schedule meant I went to work after breaking my fast.  In theory this would work well since I can eat/drink while I’m at work (the fact I’m driving actually kinda made it essential.)  But in reality I encountered a new issue: post-fast lethargy.  You see, after sixteen or more hours without food or water, your body doesn’t simply wake up and return to peak condition because you finally gave in to it’s demands.  It needs time to recover and rebuild with the resources you provided.  Normally you break your fast and head to bed so it can make you ready for the next day, but now I broke my fast and tried to work while my body was trying to rebuild.  The result was a constant battle to escape weariness, sluggishness and a mental fog.  Only a considerable amount of coffee allowed me to eventually pull free of it, but my prep time before work increased dramatically and sometimes included additional short naps (voluntary or otherwise.)

This is by no means harder than dealing with your slowly-deteriorating condition throughout a normal workday, but it is an interesting byproduct that I’d never encountered before (bedtimes had to be pretty structured to wake up in time for the brutally early breakfast.)

Finally, this year moreso than any previous years I was alone in my fasting.  Though it’s nobody’s fault, I did not make it to my Muslim friend’s house for Iftar (he invited me several times, just didn’t work out.)  My best friend is on another continent and there were no curious supporters trying it out this round.  This year I even lacked a workplace full of curious people to relate my experience to.  However, with all that said, where last year I questioned the process, positivity and relevance of my fasting, this year there were no questions.  I did it and when it was done, I was a little sad to let the routine go.  If anything, perhaps because of the ease of my schedule, it didn’t seem like quite enough.  I even found it easier than normal to find some local homeless folk to feed in order to make up my time at MAU.  This year, everything happened in stride on my terms, so it was much simpler to work around it.  The result was that it seemed it was over as quickly as it started.  All the normal symptoms were there, but because it was all on my terms, the invasiveness was minimal.

Eid is the holiday after Ramadan that marks the end of fasting.

Eid is the holiday after Ramadan that marks the end of fasting.

Perhaps on some level my convenient situation was “cheating”, and perhaps my experience wasn’t as profound as a result.  But I am reminded of what Leslie would tell me about how in the middle-east, shops change hours, employers grant earlier shifts and mid-day time off and the entire culture shifts to accommodate Ramadan… or rather the shift is built-in to their predominantly Muslim culture.  So from a certain point of view, you could say that my experience this year was closer to that sort of experience (situational support as opposed to community support but similar result.)  On the other hand, I’ve also heard of Muslim folk who place little importance on Ramadan and simply go through the motions because they feel they have to.  They cheat the fast and take the situation very lightly.  I don’t participate because I have to, but I still want to be mindful of the experience as opposed to simply fasting because I have for the past few years.  But then again, if that were the case I probably wouldn’t be writing about it.

It is safe to say that this year was highly unique.  I don’t believe next year will be anything like this one was.  There will be new situations, new challenges and I might even look back and wish the subsequent years were as simple as this one has been.  If nothing else I’m glad I did it and glad I understand as much as I do about it.

Eid Mubarak.