Blogpost, self-reliance

My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend

If you’ve never experienced it, the comedy special by Mike Birbiglia “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” is on Netflix. It’s one of my favorite things to watch when I’m bored and want something on in the background. It recounts several instances within Mike’s romantic past and weaves them together in an artful way. It’s idiotic and sentimental and truthful and funny! Just like relationships themselves.

I’ve never been confronted directly with my girlfriend’s boyfriend like Mike but anyone who has ever been in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) knows that they run the gambit. Almost nothing is a surprise anymore and no one is ever 100% right. Instead we have craziness that cannot be predicted, even with people that we’d consider rational. So what do we do in the face of that uncertainty? Be certain about who we’re going to be.

The seas can be rough and toss us about but the compass still points north. It’s our choice whether or not we adjust our sails to head in the direction we set originally or let the winds dictate. We’re never helpless! Sometimes we’re overwhelmed, unsure, anxious and doubtful but never helpless. If confronted with your girlfriend’s boyfriend, there’s many ways to shed that problem. It doesn’t require that you “abandon the ship” of you. It’s a change of course, nothing more!

“So I’m scrambling…”

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Partially Blind Date

My grandparents met on a blind date. I’m not even sure if that is possible anymore since we are so interconnected. The idea that a person would be willing to walk into a date with no frame of reference in today’s world seems almost laughable. Despite what they may say, people usually don’t like surprises. They like surprises that they want. The true unknown is a completely different story. In our next day delivery, free returns, 5 star customer review culture, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would accept the “fully blind date.” However, it also seems that people like to believe that they know more than they do. No matter how well you know someone. It’s still a partially blind or vision impaired date.

All of our perceptions of people and situations are filtered through our own experience. So no matter how “objective” we think that we are being, we cannot fully let go of our biases and predispositions. Being judgmental and superficial is not new but those muscles have been put on steroids through major media and social media. We are not blinded by a lack of visible content. We are partially blinded by too much of a variety of cues, shortcuts and presuppositions. It’s so much easier than getting to know someone, over time. Assuming that we know a person based on their political beliefs, clothing preferences or social groups is a comfortable shorthand that we employ with new people. Our old friends and loved ones got the benefit of the doubt years ago. Now, we just don’t have time!

Perhaps we’re actually missing out on something. Maybe my grandparents were more fortunate than we realize. If I can avoid it, I’d like to find out who you are without mixing it up too much with who I think you are. By seeing people with “blind eyes”, maybe we would be able to let go of some of the frustration, anxiety and judgment that is so pervasive at the moment. We bring it to the table with us. Perhaps we could leave it behind. We’ve all got blindspots about our relationships with people. Even the person that you know best (you), you don’t know 100%. Recognizing that we’re at least partially blind might be a good step toward seeing the world a little better.

I’d like for you to meet someone!

Pete

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We’re All Roller Skating

My grandmother worked at a roller rink for my entire childhood. Despite that fact, I didn’t get “good” at roller skating until there was a rink in my hometown. For a few months, at most a year, it was the place for every teenager to hang out on a Friday night. I definitely got slapped across the face for skating “too close” to a girl by my then girlfriend but I digress! Putting wheels on our feet is a recipe for disaster in so many ways but it’s similar to the way we travel through the world.

Most of us are off balance and uncomfortable but trying our best to look cool and not fall flat on our faces. Some people really have it all figured out but they often get ridiculed for trying too hard or being odd. There’s probably a portion of each of us that’s jealous of those roller maestros but getting really good would probably require a ton of experimentation and painful falls. In the end, it’s easier to stay safe and average rather than get really good at something that could prove to be a fad or get us ridiculed. Why chance it, right?

The truth is that most of the people that you’re worried about judging you for falling on your face are just as scared and will be gone in a moment. The people who came with you will help you get up if they can. If they’re off balance too maybe it’s best that they focus on themselves. You’re more than capable of getting back in your feet by yourself! All you have is an unpredictable number of songs to get in your number of laps around the floor. The disco ball is spinning and this is your chance to shine. It will surely hurt when you fall but it will probably hurt worse at the end of the night if you just played it safe!

Lace ‘Em Up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Call Me “Mike”

When I played soccer in college during my freshman year, there was a player on the team from the Gambia named Ousman (pronounced “ooze mahn”). He was relatively quiet but an absolutely amazing player who had a rocket of a shot. Being in a new country for the first time, he did not always socialize with the team outside of practices and games. The one time that I do remember him hanging around someone asked about whether we were getting the pronunciation of his name right. The question “What do you say when people ask what your name is?” His response “I usually say ‘Call me Mike'”. His rationale to us was that it was easier for people to say. Even now, I’m not sure if he was joking or not because he only played that one year. However that incident came back to me this morning.

The strategy that Ousman used, is one that we all use from time to time. Change who you are in order to make others feel more comfortable. I’ll admit fully that I am guilty of it regularly. Now some of this cannot be escaped in the civilized world. We should not be our 100% authentic selves. Many of us would be walking around with wet pants etc. if we just reacted to our every impulse in the moment. More of what I’m talking about here is the tendency to be a “watered down” version of ourselves. Those little things that we do in order to fit in but that undermine who we are. The comfort that is gained usually doesn’t serve either person. Again, there’s a balance to be struck in all things but I am reminded of the passage by Marianne Williamson “Our greatest fear” (below). We do not serve others by playing small.

There is nothing wrong with being “Mike” if that’s who you truly are. However, if you’re Ousman, Fred, Ignacious, Isabel, Fahruz or anyone else, then don’t pretend to be Mike for the sake of others. Your individuality carries with it the power to inspire others and unhinge the doors that separate us. Perhaps the true incarnation of yourself will be too much for some people and that’s ok also. Our job in this life is not to fit in as well as possible. All of the people that you admire are held in that esteem because they do not fit in. They stand out! Embrace who you are because until you do, no one else has the opportunity to do so.

My name is Pete!

Our Greatest Fear —Marianne Williamson

it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

Blogpost, self-reliance

Keep Rollin’!

It is one of the most ridiculous but still extremely cool (in my own head) memories from my twenties. I had just bought my first new car! Later that week, I had an appointment to put a six disk CD changer into the trunk. However at that very moment, all I had was the car’s cassette player to blast music. Another problem was that I hadn’t planned ahead with the perfect “New Car Mixtape”. With limited options, I went into Walmart in Newton, NJ and picked up the Limp Bizkit album with the song “Rollin'” on it. So there I was in my green FOUR DOOR Honda Civic with the censored version of Rollin’ playing at full blast. I was boppin’ my head like I was the coolest person on the planet. My guess is that at least one or two people heard me coming, took a look and thought “what a f’ing idiot?” That scene is probably less ridiculous than me bopping my head to the same song walking down a nature path with joggers and mom’s with strollers walking by. My twenty something self had the excuse of youth. What’s my forty-six year old excuse? I don’t need one!

Yep! I was a guy in my 20’s with a 4 door car because I was planning ahead! SMH 🙂

Those “new car smell” moments don’t come along often. There’s often a long time between the standout memories of our lives. Some of them we don’t see coming and others are so scripted and planned out, they might even lose their luster. The imperfections of that day actually make it that much better in my mind. If I had done it all perfectly, then it might not have stuck in the same way. All of the ridiculousness of my actions made it mine and I didn’t really care what onlookers thought. Isn’t that what the best moments are like? When you don’t give f%$# what anyone else thinks because this one is important to you.

Thousands of filtered pictures, perfect poses and choreographed photos are nothing compared to that moment when you actually feel alive. Where you know exactly who you are and what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. From the outside it may look like a dumpster fire next to a manure pile but who cares? If you are being yourself in the moment and people don’t fully get it, that’s fine! Keep rollin’! More than likely, the people who are looking at you with shock and horror aren’t your people anyway. The way you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself is extremely important. I know for my own part, I’m going to keep going after those authentic moments. Even if I do sometimes “look like a fool.”

Alright partner! Keep on rollin’ baby!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Bow and the Archer Must Bend

Archery is largely a lost art form. At one point, it was a staple of combat and a desired practical skill. Now it is largely relegated to a summer camp activity or something hunters do to “challenge” themselves. Although anyone could pick up a bow and arrow, very few people do. The skill is not as useful as it was and it’s not easy! The bow does not do all of the work. It is a force multiplier for sure but the archer needs to put everything in motion first. They must pull back against the tension and aim precisely at a target before allowing the arrow to fly! All of the power comes from the tension of the bow but the archer must bend as well.

Occasional interaction with a child is one of the best ways to see the changes in people. They morph into different versions of themselves over time. If you see them infrequently, the metamorphosis is obvious but they do not notice. We are in a constant state of flux. You are not the person that you were yesterday or even five minutes ago. How much of a difference there is between each version is up to you. No doubt the change that can happen in five minutes is minuscule regardless of the tension. However multiplied over time, any consistent action “bends” us. Like a tree in an area with constant wind, we begin to lean in a particular direction. There are all kinds of leanings that we can take but the person who bends often doesn’t notice the changes.

Life changes almost never come as fast as we may want. Rarely are we shot like an arrow toward our “targets”. Over time, the tension that we create brings slow results followed by bigger ones. The concentrated effort for an extended time period becomes a force multiplier. We are all bending in every moment. The question becomes whether or not we’re bending toward something with reason or if we are simply bending to the circumstances of our lives. Use the tension between where you are and where you want to be in order to fire yourself forward. Nothing and no one can do it for you. It’s on you to bend!

We are arrows to the action!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

What Are You Waiting For?!?!

“Just Do It” is the slogan from Nike shoes that most people know. The origin of the slogan is less well known. It was the final words of a death row convict before he was executed. Although the phrase has been on billboards and advertisements for decades, it’s not that simple! Is it? Doing anything takes a bit of will. That will can falter depending on what’s at stake. Everyday activities or actions of low consequence are easy! But what about the things that really matter? JUST do it! has two different perspectives depending on where the phrase is coming from. If it comes from outside, it seems to imply simplicity as if doing it is no big deal. Unfortunately when that voice comes inside of our own head, it tends to carry a different tone. One of pressure, possibly even anxiety because we know we’re capable and the only thing that’s stopping us is us!

The actions necessary to garner the prizes that we want in this life are usually not a surprise. We know exactly what we need to do or at least have a good idea. It’s also more than likely that we can estimate our possibility of success. So why do we hedge, delay, or even doubt? Because our present comfort is easier to accept than the consequences of leaping into the void! Unfortunately, humans can get comfortable with all manner of things. Certainty is the drug of choice for many people. It’s why watching the same movie over and over is a thing. The predictable outcome is intoxicating! It’s also less than fulfilling. It leaves us asking the question “what if?” That question is not an easy one to swallow because it conjures images of what might have been. At that point, the comfort of the known become less desirable. It’s an ache that is not easily soothed.

So what is there to do? Just do it! You know all of the reasons and the possibilities. What are you waiting for? At no point are the things that really matter going to show up without a price tag! There will always be something at stake. Possibly a bit of comfort, some effort or yes! Even a bit of your old picture of yourself. You cannot expect to get better things into your life while remaining the same. It just isn’t realistic. So let’s you and I agree right now that tomorrow we’re all in! Just do it! Because I can’t see any of the reasons not to but I can absolutely see why it’s necessary!

I’ve been afraid of changing!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

A House Money Life

Not sure that I’ve ever mentioned this on the blog before but I almost died when I was two and a half. I had meningitis and it was less than certain whether or not I’d make it. The only recollection that I have of the entire ordeal was the action figures that I got in the hospital. However it is not lost on me that I received much more than cheap toys through that ordeal. And quick shout out to Dr. Chi who was my physician. Almost anyone who grew up in the Hackettstown area went to Dr. Chi. Regardless, I got a second chance at life. I’m playing with house money and I know it!

There are several different ways to view playing with house money. It could be a time to be frivolous because it’s “on someone else’s dime.” Bet on long odds and throw caution to the wind! While this could be a way to approach the situation, exhausting house money ASAP doesn’t prove anything. The other extreme is to become extremely conservative and fear chancing anything. “Almost went bust in the past” could be a reason to never risk again. While I can understand the sentiment, the past does not equal the future. So hiding from possibility because of a near miss is just foolish.

My preference is to look at the entire equation differently. We’re all playing with house money and the house gave it to us! Therefore it’s ours! We can go optimistic or pessimistic with our bets but the wins and losses end up on our account. The house is not going to bankroll us forever. Regardless of how much or how little we were given at the beginning, we need to play it for all that it’s worth. We’re lucky just to be here, no doubt! Whether Dr. Chi saved your life or you’ve never had a sniffle, cough or fever; today is about all that you can expect. So do something with it! Build a huge pot if you like, or always play on the edge because that’s where the joy of life is for you. Just play! Ante up in the morning and see what you’re dealt. It’s not about luck! It’s a skill game!

“I’m just going to outplay the guy this hand!”

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

A Simple Souvenir

Whether it is an “I love NYC” t-shirt or a particular shell picked up off the beach during a family getaway, humans seem to be almost preprogrammed for the collection of souvenirs. Our memories are weak and without some tangible link to the physical world, they tend to fade. Unfortunately the mass production of souvenirs doesn’t particular make our memories stronger, it actually dilutes the keepsakes like a form mental inflation. When we take a photo of every moment and everyone has the same souvenir that you do, it takes away the reason behind picking up those artifacts in the first place. Our minds may not know what’s truly special when we have so many pictures and trinkets.

My box of memories. It was originally an 8 track cassette holder. Yep! I’m THAT cool!

It’s not an easy thing to decipher what moments are going to be really important. A baseball cap doesn’t appear out of thin air when you meet your best friend for the first time, although I’m sure someone somewhere is working on it. We sometimes have no indication whatsoever that a moment is going to change us forever. So we have nothing to carry with us. The reverse is also true that utterly meaningless events have gotten reinforced either intentionally or unintentionally. It’s not a perfect system and if we just go with the flow, McDonalds and Instagram are going to own the lion’s share of who we think we are.

I used to be so much more deliberate about collecting memories. For decades, I’ve had a box with pictures, cards and keepsakes. Some of it is trash at this point because the memories represented by the items weren’t worth keeping. However, some of them are simple and priceless. The shell that reminds me of a friend who has stood the test of time despite distance and turmoil. Ribbons from events that proved my friend’s theory that being “aggressively mediocre” can get you to the cusp of being great! Others that I won’t mention because it’s just too much.

The question that we may want to ask ourselves is two-fold. Do I have any simple souvenirs that can instantly bring me to the verge of tears? The second question is: If not, did I truly live? The items are far less important than the memories. So if you’ve got a storage unit full of items and your heart is empty, then I’d say you’re out of balance. However, if you have recollections of people, places and events that leave you in awe of the past, then maybe you don’t need the t-shirt!

A simple souvenir

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The “Do Over”

Considering the reduced amount of free play with kids today, I’m not sure if it exist but in our playground games there was sometimes reasons for a “do over”. Some of them were legitimate but more often it was a way for someone to cover up their own error. It’s exactly the type of thing that you would expect kids to invent. Kicking, hitting, throwing a ball or doing some other activity is often difficult for young kids. Having to worry about other added variables creates less chance for success. So they give the kids (especially younger and less experienced ones) another chance. Other than policing abuse, having the do over built into a game can make for a better experience.

The do over rarely exists in adult life because we know that even a repeated attempt is a new experience. Our world is also not built upon “being fair” or people’s feelings. Life’s not fair, GET USED TO IT! It may not feel good but it’s usually true. We need to take opportunities when they are given to us and live with the results. That’s the place where an adult do over might be helpful.

Generally when results don’t go our way in the adult world, we tend to beat ourselves up about all of the places that we went wrong. This tends to be a downward spiral that is neither productive nor good for the self-esteem/self-confidence. What if we took the time to give ourselves a “do over”? A mental repeat but changing actions until a more favorable outcome came our way. “Where did it go wrong?” and “How could I have gotten it right?” are much more valuable questions than repeating “I’m such a f%$#ing idiot” 43,265 times. Perhaps in the ashes of that colossal dumpster fire, you’ll find some diamonds that are worth picking up and carrying forward!

No one’s going to give you a do over. You need to create it!

Pete