Blogpost, self-reliance

Baking Soda Doesn’t Taste Like Pepsi!

Baking soda isn’t even a liquid! For those who don’t bake, it’s a white powder that gets put into a large number of recipes. Those who do bake might be thinking that I’m an idiot for the title. Cool your jets for a moment. I’ve never tried to drink baking soda nor have I substituted it with a tablespoon of Pepsi in my cakes. The foolishness of both is obvious to most. It does bring an interesting juxtaposition though. One thing is an item that many people use for its pleasurable effects. The other is a necessary ingredient to make a finished product. It puts a want in direct contrast to a need.

Most of us run into this issue on a daily basis. Our wants and our needs are put at odds with one another as we combine the ingredients of our days. It is not usually a case of knowing. We tend to know the things that we need in our life: exercise, healthy food choices, sleep, a meditative practice, etc. Unfortunately those things are often in conflict with things that we want: free time, stimulating food, exciting nights out, an ample amount of social media, etc. This is not a call for all things in moderation nor is it a finger waging sermon about how you must choose only from the “need” column. I’m not your mom or your dad for that matter. Your choices are your own. All I am here to point out is that the cake that you’re producing is based on the ingredients.

Your life is a sum total of the choices that you’ve made up until this point. Some of it has been DNA and parenting but it’s more than likely that you could counteract those forces on some level. Most of it is the daily ingredients that you are adding, subtracting or maintaining. There are few hard and fast rules about what a person should be putting into their life. I know people who need a lot more baking soda and others who need more Pepsi. It’s not an exact science much like baking there is a bit of artistry to it. Yes there are measurements and instructions but the people who do it best tend to “eyeball” it. Following someone else’s recipe will get you similar results but that may not be the right thing for you.

The main thing is that you want to be conscious of the ingredients that you are putting in. Too often people want a particular result but it requires need and they are busy choosing their wants. No doubt substitutions can be made but they have to make sense. Pepsi and baking soda are not the same thing! Don’t allow yourself to believe that they are. Instead, decide what it is that you truly want and stick to the recipe! It’s usually not a matter of not knowing. It’s a matter of being willing to do what you know!

Enjoy!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

I Was a Bad Homecoming Date

In my junior year of high school, I got asked to the homecoming dance by a senior in my trigonometry class. She was a really nice person that I got along with but I didn’t navigate the concept of going as her date well. Everything from showing up separately to only spending the very beginning of the dance with her, I was a pretty crappy date. As a foolish high schooler, it was easy enough to justify in my head and also distract myself with other people. At this point, it is barely even a memory other than the fact that I was not a good date. The Crosby, Stills and Nash song “Love the One You’re With” tends to remind me of this situation. Not because a teenage version of me should have “loved” the one I was with. At bare minimum, I should have either had the courage to say no or live up to my side of the bargain. This discussion of high school regret is not all about self-flagellation.

Not actually from the dance in question. This was a Christmas dance freshman year. I think I was an ok date for this one.

Our lives are filled with options. We have an almost infinite number of choices that we make through our lifetimes. In the time that we live, it is easier than ever to look at other people’s situations with envy. Social media is filled with lives that seem to be photoshopped to look perfect and they mainly are. The downtimes and troubles are rarely on display. So it can be easy to wish that you had a different “date” at the dance of life. Fortunately (in my opinion) you don’t get to trade and you need to “love the one you’re with.”

The beauty of this date that you have is that they are not stagnant. They can get better with time. However it is up to you to make your “date” better. The only way to improve your “date” is to be a better version of yourself. If you’re not happy with how it’s going, you’re the one who has to change. You don’t get to “trade up”! This is the one that you’ve got. So love the one that you’ve got while always trying to get better at dancing, conversing, relating and loving. No one else is going to steal you away! You’re all you’ve got and that’s a great thing!

Be a good date!

Pete

Blogpost

Your Call Cannot Be Completed As Dialed

For those younger readers, the image below is the remnants of a pay phone. Prior to the widespread use of cellphones, these things were all over the place. You could pay a certain amount to make a call. Most of the phone part of this one is gone. My guess would be that it is hanging in someone’s apartment as a decoration. Regardless of what happened to it, there is no chance that any calls are being made from or coming to this unit. Even if the wires still exist inside, the connection just isn’t going to be made.

There used to be a pay phone here.

Despite all of our different formats for connection, people seem to be more disconnected than ever. It is not a question of means for communication. We have more than we know what to do with: text, instant message, Facebook post, Tweet, etc. The issue is not the means. It is the quality and interpretation of the signals that are coming through. Wearing masks seems to have made this even worse. People are generally not sending the signals that they want to put out into the world. It is usually a watered down version of their truest feelings. It has become just a bit too dangerous to put your authentic self out there. It can be misinterpreted. You could be labeled a thousand different things. Or worst of all, you could be heard clearly and no one responds. That might be the scariest of all. Putting yourself completely out there and no one cares enough to hear you.

We’re losing something in these overly cautious half messages. That piece of ourselves that makes us truly human. Other animals travel in packs but the human animal can relate on a level that they cannot. Pack animals travel together for the protection of the individual and the whole. Our society has grown to a point where we no longer need the protection but we still need the connection. We still need the pack, not because of physical danger but emotional connection. The pack could be as few as two people. The blanket of emotional safety that it creates is not so much a want but a need. We need to feel safe emotionally in this crazy world. Our ability to say anything to anyone anywhere has not freed us. It has stifled us because that phone call used to be with one person. Now all that we say and do can be turned from a gift into a weapon regardless of our intent. Unfortunately, the voices of the masses are not truly hateful voices. They are insecure voices. That insecurity is based in a fear that they also won’t be loved, appreciated, praised or even just heard. So it’s easier to send out a half truth that keeps us protected than the whole truth that leaves us exposed. The trivial, trite and mundane becomes the message on everyone’s masked lips. Those masks are not due to COVID. They’re invisible protection from putting one’s self “too far” out there. Because if the real me shows up and no one answer my call, then what does that say about me.

The truth is that it probably says nothing more than most people are disconnected like that phone above. They have all of the wiring to make a true connection but choose to stay separate and protected. Don’t become a rusted out shell of your former self. People were meant for more than the snarky and filtered. We were meant to be raw and imperfect. This is not a call for you to post your “emotionally naked” self online. More than anything, it’s an invitation to be real with one person at a time. Like a pay phone, it’s small investments that over time with make a big difference in the value that you are returned.

Hello! Is there anybody out there?

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Define Yourself

If you look up any word in the dictionary, you will read a variety of other words that are used to represent that item, idea or whatever. So understanding that definition is dependent upon knowing the other words. It’s an odd kind of shell game. There are also other words that we feel like we know what they mean. But without a dictionary in hand, if we were asked for a definition, it would be a struggle to come up with one. We just know. Much like a dumbbell, there is a balance to be struck with the things that are dependent upon others in order to have meaning and things that just are.

High School Soccer from Senior Year
It may look foolish now but at the time, we LOVED these jerseys!

As human beings, we are often trying to make sense of things. We are looking for meaning in a largely random set of circumstances and characters. Sometimes we use the dictionary approach. Our meaning is dependent upon others. Things that could be easily represented to people. At times, the more intuitive route “feels” right. We do not know how to explain it but our decisions seem to have a cosmic GPS that we couldn’t really explain to someone else.

I’ve had both experiences and cannot say wholeheartedly that either is 100% correct. They each have their advantages and disadvantages. At a certain point though, you need to be you. Defining that completely externally is dangerous because it can end with losing yourself. The completely intuitive route can ignore vital information in favor of feelings that may be misguided. It would be a lot easier if we had a map but then we would lose the joy of “figuring it out.” Our lives are largely lived in duality. Too much certainty is boring and too much uncertainty is chaos, not fun.

At the moment, we’re going through a tough time. A lot of the paths that we believed were important are becoming less so. A deluge of readily available “information” has made us doubt ourselves on a variety of fronts from how we look to our health and well-being. Within all of this turmoil, each of us must try to define who we are. This is a constant process that requires a bit of thought and some trust that you’re going to get it right eventually. The definition of who you are is not showing up in a dictionary and thank god! You get to figure out who you want to be over and over again. Take the time to get to know you, so maybe you can define you.

None of this will be on the quiz!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Un-Pete

As the third in a line of Petes, there are several clever lines that have been used with my name. One of my dad’s favorites was “My name is Pete and this is my son, Repete.” Obviously a dad joke of major proportions. I used to think there was more to my name. There seemed to be a certain amount of pressure put on me to follow in my father’s footsteps. It was largely internal but I still felt it. That’s why I decided not to name my son after me.

At this point in time, I feel almost none of that pressure to be like my dad. However I do put the pressure on myself to remain consistent with who I have been. It’s a mental tug of war at times. The forces of habit and consistency pitted against change and new horizons. There is not a crowned champion in this battle. It waivers.

There are things that will never win out. Those actions are un-Pete. They are things that no one will ever see from me. Lines that cannot be crossed. It’s comforting to know that there are things that we just won’t do. It’s often said that “character is what you do when no one is watching.” It is also the things that never cross your mind to do.

I might have said something like this before. Sorry! I tend to “repete” myself! Hahaha

Blogpost, self-reliance

If You’re Going Through Hell…

I cannot take credit for this quote. The origin may not be from Sylvester Stallone but that’s where I heard it. “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Like so many of the quotes that stick with me, it reframes an idea in such a way that makes me want to take action. The idea of going through hell is overwhelming. It is the place of true suffering and the landlord leaves a lot to be desired. So the quote brings the full picture into focus. If you are in the worst place, keep moving until you get out. Even hell must have some form of boundary and just like New Jersey, you probably have to pay a toll to leave. Regardless, the idea of staying is unthinkable (in hell, not NJ, love the Garden State). So it’s in your best interest to put feet to pavement (or hot coals) and get the hell out of there!

Portion of the album cover to “Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden. Original painting by Derek Riggs.

“That’s easy for you to say! You don’t know what I’m going through!” You’re absolutely right! Words are cheap but let’s forget that for a moment because that will always be true. Is that what you need? Someone who understands what you’re going through? There are support groups for just about everything under the sun at this point. Chances are that someone out there could understand your situation but would it really help? Or is it just easier to feel badly about the situation? These are legitimate questions that might be worth answering. If you need the understanding, search it out.

Just like so many other situations, an unwanted vacation in hell can be remedied by three words: vision, chunking and reasons. You need to have a vision for where you want to be, not a focus on where you are. The road is most likely going to be long and painful but if you can chunk it down or break it into pieces, progress can be seen more easily. Finally, you need reasons. In Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he talks about his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. People needed to develop reasons to carry on in those inhuman circumstances.

Perhaps the situation that you are in is not exactly hell, the three words still work. Regardless of who you are or what your circumstances, we all run up on hard times. Often, our reaction to them is how we end up defining ourselves.

Safe travels!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Someone Is Coming After You!

It sounds almost sinister if you put the wrong inflection in your voice when you say it. Horror movies find a way to make this idea last for almost two hours. A series of jump scares and near misses that bring the hairs on our arms to stand up straight. The panic that comes with the idea of some shrouded figure who is following our footsteps is almost palpable. But what if they meant you no harm? What if they didn’t even know that you existed? They were just someone who is coming after you. When you are gone, they will show up and they mean you no ill will. If they are not coming in order to hurt you, would you be willing to do the little things that will keep you from hurting them?

This thought experiment was brought on because I tripped on a dumbbell in our gym yesterday. I was the first person to enter in the morning. The lights were off and the weight was right in front of the door. It ended up ok. I didn’t end up on the ground or impaling myself on any of the nearby metal. The person, who left that weight there, just forgot that “someone is coming after you.” They gave no thought to the fact that I would be there in the early morning and could have gotten truly hurt. No malice, just indifference.

At this point in history, we seem to have forgotten that this moment that we are living in was created by a lot of people who knew someone was coming after them. No doubt mistakes were made and there was carelessness on their part at times. The recognition of the future was key. The future seems to be coming so fast that it has pressed itself directly onto the present. We seem to have trouble remembering the next people who will be here. Are we leaving something behind that they will actually want or be able to use? Or have we decided that our moment is so important that leaving a mess is our right?

More than likely, it is in our best interest to remember the people that are coming after us. We should be leaving them gifts to find rather than messes to clean up. It’s a force multiplier if everyone does it. The good will moving forward allows for others to be “infected” by it. If each of us is able to see the gifts from those before and remember that someone is coming after us, then the world becomes a better place to live on a regular basis. It’s not our moment that is most important. It is just most important to us. Giving a portion of it to the people coming after shows respect to the people who built our present.

They are coming! But it doesn’t need to be scary for either of us.

Pete

Blogpost, posh

POSH: The Man Who Is Bigger Than The Role

Darren Ferguson signed a new contract as manager of Peterborough United. It is a role that he has held for over 500 matches and on three different occasions. A contract is a necessary part of the business of football. People need to be paid for their performance. Often success is rewarded with contract extensions and bonuses. These are all part of the “nuts and bolts” of being a professional. Managers get hired and fired by a club regularly because they are either getting results or not. At a certain point, some managers transcend their role and become one inextricably linked with the club. By saying that manager’s name, the club comes with it and vice versa. Even if the manager does move on to another club, their mark lingers on after they are gone. All too often, their departure leaves a gaping hole that others struggle to fill it. Or their thumb print can be seen on every aspect of the club moving forward. Sometimes it is both!

Wenger, Guardiola, Clough, Mourinho and of course Ferguson are all managers who have had this type of effect. In the modern age of football, it is difficult or often undesirable to have a tenure at a club that lasts a decade. So Pep and Jose’s mention is not completely out of place here. Although you could make arguments on which club they left the greatest imprint, there is no denying their transformational impact.

It is not a huge surprise that Darren Ferguson has had that type of effect at Peterborough. Having a father whose shoes are still waiting to be filled at Manchester United, there were more than likely lessons learned through that direct contact. While his lineage is important, he has also carved his name into the crest of the POSH because of the seeds that he has continually planted with Darragh MacAnthony during his three stints at the club. Finally neither man is walking away from the project because they both seem to realize that Darren Ferguson and POSH are one in the same. His presence is bigger than the role as manager.

As a POSH fan, this is an exciting time! Although there was a younger version of me that enjoyed the drama (and promised hope) of manager changes, I’ve seen enough at this point to know that the grass is not greener. The club are in the right place at the moment. Largely during my time as a PUFC fan, when things have gone right, it’s because Ferguson was at the helm. Now we have him on another contract and he can continue to be the talisman of the club. The man is bigger than the role! The only question is “how high can we go together?”

Congratulations Darren!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

TGIF (Do The Math!)

Thank God It’s Friday! is a phrase that has been uttered far to many times in the modern work world. It’s close cousins of “two weeks to vacation, ______# of days until school is out, ” etc. While I understand the sentiment and I am very in favor of having things to look forward to in the future, the idea of lamenting the present is troublesome. If we truly are only “working for the weekend” as Loverboy put it, then we’re giving away five sevenths of our lives. Work, school and other obligations may seem like necessary evils to be endured but what if they could be something more?

The week can be daunting if the only thing that you pay attention to is the “have to’s”. Our focus determines our reality. Even though the obligations of our lives may take up a majority of hours, they do not need to take up the majority of our emotional bandwidth or possibly even focus. The other possibility is that they do not need to be characterized as negative experiences. Since we live so much of our lives in these spaces, perhaps we could see them in a positive or at least neutral light. Most of us don’t work in a coal mine or an asbestos factory. We are plugging away in places that probably have the possibility for joy but we go into the day seeing the grind. It might be your coworkers who bring the positive flavor or the environment. There is a good possibility that the perspective may not change to “sunshine and roses.” It may just be a transition to a feeling of neutrality. Regardless, the slog of the day should not overtake the fact that it is still a day in your life. If all you’ve done is “made it through the day”, then the day was not as valuable as it could have been.

By all means! Have a crap day when one comes along. That is a far cry from trying to bypass every day until some desirable situation finally comes along. We were not meant to live only 28-36% of the time (2/7 or 2.5/7 depending on whether half of Friday counts). Our lives being put on fast forward is not a great plan for fulfillment. Even when our lives are filled, it does not mean that they are fulfilling. Find ways to make today worth living regardless of the “to do’s” on your list.

Have a great day people!

Pete

Blogpost

The Art of Loving Something

The definition of “art” that I am going to use from the dictionary is “human works of beauty”.  Obviously beauty is a slightly amorphous term that depends completely on one’s perception.  I’m fine with this limitation because art is not quantifiable.  That is the point.  Art is simply meant to move the soul in some way.  Love is another one of those unquantifiable things that we as human spend a great deal of time on.  By putting these two unquantifiable terms together, it might seem that I am talking about a whole lot of nothing.  Quite the opposite, I’m talking about something that can define a life.

Although the world has shown many of its uglier sides over the past few years, the truth of the matter is that the human race has a knack, propensity or even a yearning to love deeply.  The problem is that we are methodical creatures who want to have a formula to create that desired thing.  Since love is something that we only seem to be able to identify when we feel it, the processes often leave us empty.  On those same lines, art is something that we know when see/experience it.  We can put work out into the world that does not qualify as art.  Both phenomena seem to be linked in some way to a leap.  A forgetting of the self.  A release of the process or control.  Recognizing on some level that we are standing in our own way of that thing that we desire.  The problem is that we fear that it won’t happen without us or even worse, it will happen without us.  

The art of loving something requires that you let yourself be given up to chance.  It is probably the hardest thing to do because sometimes, you’re going to lose.  The cosmic forces that seem to control the world do not let anyone bat 1.000!  We need to remember that all creative endeavors are messy.  Love and art both fall into that category of creative.  Much like birth, they take a certain amount of labor that seems to yield no results to bring the new into the world.  Eventually it all ends up worth it but you’re not going to get there without the labor, the leap and the willingness to chance the loss.

Love is on the horizon but you need to believe it before you see it.

Pete