Thursday, February 05, 2015

Fighting Inertia



I hate this.

I've gained a few pounds. I've lost some of my lung strength. I haven't been doing real cardio work in four or five months. I fell off the wagon.

I don't eat well. I don't pay as much attention to portion size as I should. I eat too much dessert when I eat it, and I nibble on mindless crap like tortilla chips.

The worst thing about falling off the wagon is that you suddenly forget you were on a wagon. Living healthy is challenging, but living sloppy is not. It's easy. You stop caring, and it's easy to keep not caring.

But I'm tired all the time, and I hate that.

I get winded too easily, and I hate that.

I could just sleep more. But I don't want to do that. I want to get myself back together.

I'm going to start chipping away on my health. A little bit at a time.

I have the equipment, I just don't use it. A situp bench. An elliptical machine. Dumbbells.

Every night, I can do a little something.

Thirty sit-ups.

Thirty push-ups.

Ten minutes on the elliptical.

Every night, I can do something.

And it's going to get easier. Thirty sit-ups will become forty-five, and then sixty, and them maybe a hundred.

Ten minutes on the elliptical will become thirty.

I'm going to get myself back together. I hate looking like this right now. I'm going to change it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Masquerade



The words slip out easily, formed from years of practice. "This is great."

"I'm really enjoying spending time with my team."

"These retreats are always so useful."

"Your ideas are always great."

I work in a place that does good work and employs terrible people. The people in charge are shameless, petty, cruel to their staff. They pit people against each other for no reason other than the sport of it.

And so we have no esprit de corps, no team spirit. No team exists. We are a group of individuals, struggling to stay on the island and fighting to get the other one voted off.

This is a terrible way to run a business.

We get together once a year. We take a weekend to "recharge our batteries." We bond with each other with stupid games and "team-building" activities that just make everyone feel awkward and uncomfortable. We make plans for the next year, write on whiteboards and take notes on our great visions of the future.

And the directors look on, proud of their work, feeling like this year maybe it's really going to work. This is the best retreat, they think. This is the one that really succeeded.

I hate it. They put us up in a fancy hotel and buy fine food and wine for us. We are spoiled at this company. We are. I'm paid well and compensated with absurd fringe benefits. But the trade-off is that I work with people who no longer care about what they do.

The trade-off is that where I work makes my soul hurt.

I used to want to change the world. This firm has a mission of changing the world, making it a better place, helping the little people. They're all words. The cosmetic emptiness of this place is starting to drive me crazy.

I can tolerate about two straight days of this masquerade. Two days, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner with this crew. Pretending to enjoy it. Pretending to value their ideas. Pretending, all pretending. Lying to their faces.

And then I go home and purge it all out. Scotch helps. TV helps. Spending time with the people I care about, that's what helps the most.

I can take my mask off and be myself again. I no longer have to pretend around the people I love, because they see me and respect me for who I am.

But at my job, all I do is pretend. I pretend their ideas are worthwhile. I pretend their feedback makes my work better. And I pretend I'm making the world a better place, when I know I'm really just here for the benefits and the pay and the security of a steady job.

This masquerade cannot last. I can't live like this, wearing masks forty hours a week.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Self-Righteous Jerks

Note: I'm only using this picture since Tuohy has already posted it publicly on Facebook and Instagram
and it's been reposted in a thousand different places. 
If you're going to be kind, be kind. Don't film yourself, post the results everywhere, and pretend that you're only doing it to prove a point.

Scenario #1: Leigh Anne Tuohy is not anyone who has ever been on my radar. I knew she was the subject of a book and of that Sandra Bullock movie, but that's all. I knew there was some talk about how that movie was basically "heroic white woman saves troubled black youth," but I'd never seen it so I couldn't say.

But then she did this.

In case you haven't been following the story, here's the gist. She owns a restaurant. Two black teenagers came into her restaurant and apparently, were acting in a way that some would find suspicious. Here's the way she describes the scene on her own Facebook page:

We see what we want! It’s the gospel truth! These two were literally huddled over in a corner table nose to nose and the person with me said “I bet they are up to no good” well you know me… I walked over, told them to scoot over. After 10 seconds of dead silence I said so whats happening at this table? I get nothing.. I then explained it was my store and they should spill it… They showed me their phones and they were texting friends trying to scrape up $3.00 each for the high school basketball game! Well they left with smiles, money for popcorn and bus fare. We gave to STOP judging people and assuming and pigeon holing people! Don’t judge a book by its cover or however you’d like to express the sentiment! Accept others and stoping seeing what you want to see!!! #LeighAnnesSundaySermon #BelieveInOthers

Jerk.

To sum up: two black kids were sitting together. Her friend says "they're up to no good." She says, oh no, you're wrong. And then she goes over, sits next to them, and demands to see their phones to prove they're not doing anything wrong!!!

Then, after they prove their innocence, she hands them some cash and then takes a picture with them!! The caption might as well be "look at these poor little black children whose lives I just turned around!" Gross exploitation.

Scenario #2: This video has been going around the social networks lately. Another "heroic" person who decided to give $100 to a homeless person.


No strings attached? Ah ha, not quite. He proceeds to record the guy's actions secretly to find out how he spends the money!!

Watch the video. It's clear that they're filming this man without his permission, at the beginning. At one point, he even tells his cameraman "just don't let him see you." At the end, once they prove to themselves that he's using the money in the right way, he admits to the poor man that he's being secretly recorded.

Would he have admitted it otherwise? This guy, Josh Paler Lin, is a guy who makes ugly prank videos on YouTube - the Bad Dad prank, the Vegas Mafia prank, the Chloroform Kidnapping prank. He thrives on exploiting people's reactions and then making money on them (via YouTube ads.) It's easy to imagine he could have filmed this man's behavior and secretly uploaded it, and never told hm at all. That's what he does.

But instead, he posts it as a feel-good story. Who's feeling good? Paler Lin has gotten 22 million hits on this video. He's making money from ads and his name gets spread all over the internet. Oh, but he's launched an IndieGogo account to raise some money for the homeless man, too.

Think about that. He found a homeless man, decided he was one of the "good" homeless people, and now he's raising money to help him out. But his message is "never judge a book by its cover."

He originally expected to film the man doing something bad - buying alcohol or drugs, maybe. In the description of the video itself, he even says "I wasn't expecting to get this kind of footage... to be honest, I thought this video would be more an exposing homeless people video at first."

Exposing homeless people? These are people on the bottom rung of society, and he's out to expose them??? This man is a bottom feeder. Shame on him for exploiting another human being for his profits. Shame on Leigh Anne Tuohy for exploiting two strangers for her own glorification.



Monday, December 01, 2014

Death and 'Serial'



I'm not listening to Serial.

I'm a voracious podcast listener. This American Life, Snap Judgment, Too Beautiful to Live, Nightvale Radio, loads of NPR podcasts. I'm the key demographic for this show.

Except I won't listen to it.

It's about a murder, as I understand it. Someone murdered someone - or maybe he did, maybe he didn't. The show digs through the evidence, interviews witnesses, and considers whether the person actually committed the crime. It's supposed to be riveting. It's supposed to be great radio. It's supposed to be a revolutionary way of using the medium.

I can't listen to it.

I've been there, you see. I've sat in a courtroom while the prosecution presented the autopsy pictures of my brother; described the wounds that were inflicted on his body; described how he died.

I've been there in the courtroom when the defense tried to challenge evidence, cast doubt as to the real killer, declared the fine character of the man accused of killing my brother.

That's just me. I don't read murder mysteries. I don't watch movies like Pulp Fiction that glorify killing and treat dead bodies like punch lines.

Interestingly, This American Life did an episode about this tendency, about how the families of murder victims end up hyper-sensitive to popular culture with references to murder. I never forgot that episode, because it nails it perfectly. Not all survivors of murder feel this way. But many of us do.

I wish nothing but the best for Serial and I hope it has a long and successful future. But I hope the next story is about robbing a bank. Or kidnapping a pig. Or stealing a piece of art. I don't want to hear about murders presented for entertainment, no matter how seriously the subject is taken. I can't be entertained by it, and I'm not the only one.

Monday, November 24, 2014

No Justice.

Darren Wilson finds himself a free man tonight.

Michael Brown is still dead. Whatever happened tonight, that never would have changed. But justice could have taken a step forward tonight.

 It didn't.

We knew that was going to happen. When they took three months to make a decision, we knew it was going to be a free pass for Wilson.

When the governor called a press conference three hours before the grand jury announcement to plead for calm, we all knew what was coming. He swore he didn't know what the decision was, but come on now, we're not stupid. Why plead for calm unless you think there might be a reason for people not to remain calm?

Ferguson has serious problems with fairness and equity. As does St. Louis. As does this country. Darren Wilson's indictment wouldn't have changed that. But it would have helped, dammit.

Indicting Wilson would have suggested that he didn't get the automatic benefit of the doubt that so many police officers receive. It would have shown America that this community wanted to see justice done.

But no. All of our suspicions were exactly right. Darren Wilson is free for killing Mike Brown. Not even a trial.

I'm tired of being disappointed by this country. But we need to channel this energy into changing the world. I'm pushing against despair. We need to fix this world, not be crushed by resignation.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Stripped


My church is rebuilding the sanctuary. The walls are bare. Studs and pipes are showing, and the floor is bare concrete until the new floor tiles are laid.

The last months have felt much like that. I've been rebuilding my own surface, stripping away unnecessary layers, putting down new walls and fortifying them. To build a new home, sometimes you have to tear away walls that you thought would always be standing.

I'll write more, but let me say this. I am at peace. I am sleeping in a new home, and the woman I married is elsewhere.

Nobody was thrown out. It was not a violent ugly separation. It was a mutual decision. We were done.

I am at peace. My son is in good shape, and we're both taking good care of him in our ways.

Half of all marriages fail. You know this. With a child with special needs, the odds are worse. Nobody knows how much worse.

Any marriage is challenging. Marriage is the deepest act of faith. It's reaching out and saying this one. This is the person I will trust. Through thick and thin. Though bankruptcy, cancer, car accidents, unpaid bills, job terminations, sicknesses, anxiety attacks, all of it. All of it.

Human life has so many twists and turns, and the act of marriage is saying to the universe, this is the person who will walk by my side through all of it. For the rest of my life, this is the person who will have my back.

And you need that person to make the same commitment.

When that commitment fails, it's devastating. When you've been running hand-in-hand for years, and suddenly you realize that the hand is no longer there, it's a shock.

I won't go into detail about what happened, when it happened, who did what. It's not necessary. But we stopped being at each other's side, somehow. Our hands slipped away from each other, and once we realized we had fallen out of pace with each other, we were too far gone to connect again.

A friend of mine asked me how it made any sense. We seemed to be a solid healthy couple, while she says that she and her husband don't even belong together.

I don't know if Mrs. B and I belonged together, but we came together. And we were at each other's sides for a long time. That's how marriage works. It's not about whether you read the same books or eat the same foods, whether you stay up late or go to sleep early together. It's about whether you stand by each other when times get difficult. That's the only prerequisite. Everything else is just detail.

More than anything, a spouse is a partner. And for me, what I realized is that if I was running by myself already, it made no sense to pretend I still had a partner by my side.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"You can ask me anything."

I don't ever want to forget the simple joys of fatherhood. Like talking to my kiddo. I love talking to him. Love hearing how his brain works and how his sense of the world has changed.

This morning, my son rolled into bed with me and started talking. He told me about a dream he had where he was fishing, and then there was something about gummy worms.

And then we talked about summer camp. And about the names for the different groups of kids - all named after different animals. Apparently, all of the animal names changed over the last year, and we mused about why that might have happened.

And we just talked about, I don't know, stuff. We just talked.

It matters to me that he's comfortable talking to me. I want to remind myself that I need to pay attention to him. Too often, I'll be talking to him while browsing on my phone. Everyone does it these days, it's what we do. It's part of our overwired, overstimulated world. But I'm trying to force myself to put the phone down more so I can listen to him.

He's nine now. He won't be nine forever. He's already two months past his ninth birthday. Ten months to go, and then he's ten. Then eleven. Then he's older and older and he's a different person completely.

I want to cherish this time I have with him right now, with this kid as he is right now. I love seeing his brain develop and his words become more refined and enriched.

When he goes to bed at night, he asks me questions. It happens every night. Right as I'm about to turn his light out, he starts with the questions. Simple silly ones. "Which fishie in that picture is your favorite? Do you like meerkats or ferrets more?"

Or he'll walk that fine line between profound and ridiculous. "Dad? What if there were monkeys all over the roof and they were just waiting for us to go to sleep, and then they ran all around our backyard?"

"Dad? What if there was a giant robot from space, and he picked up this whole entire house in his hand and took us away to space?"

Or sometimes he talks about things that happen during his day. Sometimes, he just needs to process the events of the day, and he uses me as a sounding board. I love playing that part. I always want to be his sounding board. I know that's going to change, but I always want him to know he can ask me the questions that he can't get out of his head. I'm always there for him.

"Dad? Can I ask you something?" That's how he starts the conversation.

I always answer the same way. "You can ask me anything, son."