Sunday, December 09, 2007

Life: A View from Omaha

There have been numerous topics which I've wanted to write about in the last couple of weeks, but unfortunately, my schedule has not lent itself to doing so. There is a season for everything under the sun, as they say, and apparently I am in the summer of my insanity. And by insanity I mean general craziness, and not mental illness. Although perhaps there are some who would say that the line between the two is sketchy, at best.

At any rate, this last week has brought some things to my attention, and I thought I would write a little down before the ideas escaped, uncaptured, in to the past.

As I'm sure many of you heard, there was an awful tragedy in Omaha, NE this week when a disturbed young man opened fire in a busy shopping mall, killing eight people. He then took his own life. I suppose it was natural for those who knew that I was from Omaha to ask me if everyone (meaning friends, family, etc) was OK. On one hand the question seems a little silly. I mean, Omaha is a very large city, and the odds of one of my friends or family members being among those who were shot seem almost astronomical. And yet, all of those people were the friends and/or family of SOMEONE, so that got me thinking....

When I was in my early 20's, working in the corporate world, trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life, the question that finally got me to leave the comfort of that well-paying but unsatisfying career was this: If I died tomorrow, would I be able to feel good about how I was living today? I mention this now because there was a reason that I asked myself that question in the first place. It occured to me that we all carry around this idea that we're going to live to be 80 years old. And the fact is, we aren't guaranteed to even wake up tomorrow morning.

Of course, the psychological stress that we would be under if we were constantly aware of our own fragility and mortality would be unbearable, which is probably why we live with the delusion in the first place. It helps us function. It keeps us from 'freaking out.'

And yet I think it's important to be vigilant in challenging ourselves with that question, because it's only when we are operating from that brutal sense of Reality that we can start making the decisions that matter.

You might think it merely a philosophical issue, but I can tell you this...those eight people who died that day in the Westroads Mall had no idea that that was how their day was going to play out.

A number of years ago, when I worked in the ER at Harborview Medical Center, it occured to me that all of those people who came in to the ER were, just prior to their death or injury or medical emergency, all just living their normal lives, doing what they do, just like you and I do every day...until something went very wrong. Our ideas of being in an accident, or getting shot, or whatever else, are misconceptualized because the "experience" we have of them is more often than not mediated via the television or the movies. And what we aren't realizing is that the way we see it on TV ( or at the movies) is from a third person perspective...and quite often from an omniscient third person perspective. We see both the potential victim AND the intruder with the gun, the camera flashes at both the car of unsuspecting people AND the out of control semi-truck racing down the highway. We hear the music change, we know the plot. We anticipate it. We know it's coming. In so many ways our experience of these things has no resemblance to reality whatsoever.

If we use the Washington D.C. sniper as an example...from a first person perspective, those people who were killed were just filling their cars with gas one minute, and the next minute...well, there was no next minute. There was no mental processing of the event. There was no anticipation. There was no thinking about loved ones, or things they wanted to do before they died. It was just over. Just like that.

I know that some people will think that writing about this is a little depressing. But I choose to think that more than anything, it has the potential to be liberating. Lift off the veil. Embrace reality. Define your life, and decide what is important to you. Live with as much integrity as you can. Express your love to those close to you. And perhaps most especially, appreciate the time that you have here.

So as you go about your hectic life, be mindful of the larger picture. And live not necessarily like there is no tomorrow, but rather in a way that if there was indeed no tomorrow, you could be ok with how you were living today. Everyone's version will look different from everyone else's. The key is to find what that way is for YOU. And in this way, we honor both life and death.

Finally, my condolences to all of the friends and families of those who walked in but not out of the mall that day in Omaha.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Quarter Note on Music

Music is amazing. It's transcendent. At least for me.

In her comment to my last post Kim mentioned that "Music can recreate a feeling in the here and now when words fail."

I find that an eloquent description. And I will add to that by saying that I can use music to CREATE a feeling within me...allowing me to evoke certain moods and states of being within myself just as one might cultivate different soils to produce different fruits.

I wrote something back in December of 2003 on music. It was an attempt at trying to convey its importance...

"what place inside does a series of notes touch that moves us to a feeling so strong that the life in front of us seems but a shadow, less than real?

a dream in which you know you are an actor, and in that knowing remain somehow protected from the full spectrum of what the heart is heir to..

if on the other side of the world there is a berry of which we have never tasted, how can we know that taste by another's description? or its smell?

therefore, what langauge does music speak that our heart finds fluency? from where in our lives have we felt that music with our hearts and not our ears?

and what doors have we shut on our own lives that the heart must remember its fullness by the tune outside the window?"

This is where I would normally blather on and on about what music means to me. And I would use colorful language and rich metaphors to describe something which has no good verbal explanation. But rather than go in to all of that, I invite audience participation. I would rather you all comment on music's influence on you.

The floor is open....

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Horror...the horror...

In Wind, Sand and Stars, Antoine de Saint Exupery writes about the idea of describing a traumatic event after the event itself has taken place. He says,

“The cyclone of which I am about to speak was, physically, much the most brutal and overwhelming experience I ever underwent; and yet beyond a certain point I do not know how to convey its violence except by piling one adjective upon another, so that in the end I should convey no impression at all – unless perhaps that of an embarrassing taste for exaggeration.

It took me some time to grasp the fundamental reason for this powerlessness, which is simply that I should be trying to describe a catastrophe that never took place. The reason why writers fail when they attempt to evoke horror is that horror is something invented after the fact, when one is re-creating the experience over again in the memory. Horror does not manifest itself in the world of reality. And so, in beginning my story of a revolt of the elements which I myself lived through I have no feeling that I shall write something which you will find dramatic.”

I take his point to be mostly true. It’s difficult for me not to, as I adore Saint-Exupery. If you haven’t had a chance to read him before, or if you’ve only read The Little Prince, then I highly recommend that you check him out.

For me, another angle of his position is of equal importance….it is only when you are mired in the situation itself that you are able to describe what is really happening, in a form and intensity that closely approximates how you are experiencing it at the time. Every story told after the event, while perhaps enriched with the meaning and context that time provides (due to reflection, contemplation, imagination, etc) is also tinted by that same mental processing. That is, in retrospect, you might be able to provide a better story for the experience, but the actual details of the experience, as you experienced them, can only be told from a time within (or just adjacent to) the event itself.

I mention this because in the last few days I’ve been meaning to capture the insanity of my life by writing about it from the inside; scribbles on the asylum cell wall. I could have written about my 15 hour days (including the day I had 12 clients in those 15 hours), the fact that I haven’t had heat at home, or that I have constant construction going on, or that I basically live in a 5 foot by 5 foot section of my living room (which is otherwise full of kitchen appliances, an 8 foot tall stack of kitchen cabinets, as well as all of the normal living room items). I could have written about the stream of checks I’ve been writing out to workers, or that I’ve been sleeping on my loveseat (which is not as long as I am tall), or how my downstairs tenant now has a nice little skylight…with a complimentary view of the bottom of my kitchen floor.

But something happened. Two things, in fact. First of all, as things slowed down slightly, all of that energy that had been pulsing through me, fueled by the craziness, ran out and precipitated in to fatigue, dissipating my original desire to write. And secondly, all of the words I had been trying to capture along the way to relate the experiences got crushed under the time of more experiences, until finally there were no longer any words left to convey. It’s like running in to an old friend, who asks you “So what’s new in your life?” If only a few weeks have passed since you’ve last seen them you can probably recall many of the details of those past weeks. But if a year or more has passed, especially if the time has been particularly eventful, you no longer know what to say, and you are reduced to replying with something vague. There is too much. And there are no longer words to describe what you could have easily described at the time of the experience without any difficulty.

That’s what this moment feels like to me. It’s less a fear of “piling one adjective upon another” (and thereby watering down the experience), and more a lack of being able to summon forth the words to begin with. Or the energy to do so.

Lucky for you. :)

Some people believe that the things that happen to us in our lives are often preparing us for other things later on. It’s an interesting belief. And there is some sense to it, I suppose, if one believes that there is some guiding principle in the Universe. Although knowing the human tendency to find meaning in everything makes me suspicious of thoughts like this, even though I do, in some manner, believe in such a guiding principle.

Still, if such a thing exists, I have to think that many of the stressful and unsettled experiences of my past are what now enable me to function in the craziness of my current life.

CRA-ZY. Whew!

In some demented way, it’s almost humorous. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

And I Used to be Such an Interesting Person...

Ok, perhaps I'm thinking a bit too highly of myself....but humor me for the purpose of this post...

"Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things."--Robert Louis Stevenson

We have a tendency, I think, to really appreciate the man or woman who puts everything else aside and with pure heart and single-pointed attention and constant devotion seeks out to do or create or sustain. And certainly one cannot deny that such a quality has some merit and is commendable in its own way. There are plenty of examples of what extraordinary things can be accomplished by one so focused.

And yet, like everything, it has its cost.

For me...with so much attention put on the rigors of self-employment (and the subsequent financial implications thereof) I find myself being less interesting. I don't have the time or energy to keep up on the things that interest me...the reading, the listening, the studying, the doing. And failing to do those things makes me feel monotonous. And if you know me, I don't do well with monotony....especially as it pertains to my life.

Of course, in spirit, the creative, dynamic quality still flows and circulates within me. I am moved by it every time I allow myself to shut the "machine" off. It rushes in and fills the space.

So like everything, it comes down to balance. The ability to give time to everything that feeds you. Of course, it's a dynamic balance...oscillating back and forth across the center line and never quite resting right in the middle. And that can be the tricky part...recognizing the moment when you've drifted too far away for the natural gravity of the middle to pull you back. Once you get beyond that point, it takes act of move you back towards the center.

And even when you've cultivated that will, you have to find the actions to support the new course.

That's where I am right now....slowly rotating my thrusters in to the proper position but still slowly drifting further out.

Perhaps just recognizing this, and taking the time write about it, is in its own way a small deceleration.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What Dreams May Come When Darkness Falls

There seems to be an inverse relationship between craziness levels and creativity levels. Meaning, my life has been completely and utterly crazy...and my creativity has plummeted. It's not that I don't have those creative moments, however, because I do. I just don't have the time or energy to massage them in to something, say, writing. So it's been awhile since I've written. And even though I now have the time, the residual of that anxiety keeps the stillness (in which the creativity blossoms) from really taking root.

Oh well..... it is what it is...

I need to go back a couple of weeks and reflect for a moment on dreams. Two weeks in a row I had very vivid dreams about death. Not my death, but deaths of others (although I was present to both).

Dreams are familiar territory for me. First of all, I remember them (for the most part, at least). I also have experience with them...their form...their content...their quality. And it's the quality that I want to focus on, because more than anything, it's that "quality" that moves me to either find meaning in them or to write them off as psychological babbling.

And like many people, I think we can probably write-off most of our dreams. It's the scientific explanation, right? Just our minds way of taking care of random pieces of information, etc... But there are some dreams, and you know when you have them, that are something more. It's like they come from a different place. And therefore, deserve a different type of attention. These death dreams were like that. It wasn't just the content that stood out, but the quality.

I don't really know yet what the meaning of them could have been. I don't necessarily see them as "predictive". I don't think my dreams have ever had that "foretelling" sense. It's more about the "why?". What in the dream has a message? And what IS the message? It could be that it's just my reactions to what happen that are the important thing...reflecting back to me something about myself that's difficult to see in real life because the "trauma" of the experiences are less. In that way dreams can be a great boon....teaching us something about ourselves without having to experience the tragedy in real life.

Thinking about things in that way can be tremendously helpful. And certainly you can learn a lot using that kind of reflection...whether what you are reflecting on is "real" or "dream".

But is there something more? I tend to think that there is. Not because I believe that all dreams are messages, but because I recognize when a certain type of dream stands out as unique from the others. I also probably believe this because of all of the other experiences I've had (ghosts, OBEs, lucid dreams, etc...). It's not so difficult for me to believe that "Life" is so much more than we perceive it to be, because I've already witnessed things that lie behind the normal veil of perception. Once you've seen behind the curtain, suddenly everything seems possible.


Can you believe the darkness? A number of my friends have mentioned to me what I had already been thinking... it seems darker this year. Of course, it probably isn't...but why does it seem so? Perhaps it's also a reflection of what's going on inside of us. Or even a reflection of the overall universal consciousness. There IS a lot of darkness. And it compounds the absence of the sun. Which in Seattle right now seems non-existant between the hours of 5p and 7a.

See how I just keep moving from one subject to another...without a creative segue??

Well, in keeping with that, I injured myself last Monday night (this is an addition to the lingering injuries, of course), and it never ceases to amaze me how much that affects my mental state. There are so many issues wrapped up in my "athletic-ness"... It's not just that I'm physically active...although that alone would be enough to drive people crazy. It's also that it reflects upon my career... and my stress-reducing methods...and in many ways, to my self-esteem. It's funny how we package ourselves up in our own minds. The image that we carry around about ourselves. In many ways we live so small. So confined. And in some cases, totally delusional.

I'm pretty sure that this is the point where I would talk about all of the other meaningful things that I've thought about....but alas....none are coming to mind. It's only 9pm, and already the weight of the darkness has me leaning towards sleep. Well, that and the end of an exhausting week. And the fact that I woke up at 4am this morning. Ok, so maybe I'm not doing the math correctly. Still, it seems early to feel this way...

Oh! Wait! One last thing... and I guess it's back on the death issue. It's interesting how you can work yourself in to an INTELLECTUAL place of peace regarding "death"...whether it be your eventual death or the death of someone that you love. But it's quite a different experience when the potential moment of death arrives. It can cast so much unrest on your conceptual ideas of "ok-ness" with the whole thing. I have walked on that boundary before....and observed both my delusions and my insecurities. As for me...and this has been shown in both my real-life experiences and my deep deep discomfort comes not from the death itself but the horror or agony or pain or suffering that are present in that moment. And I'm especially referring to the cases of other people dying. It's the thought of their pain or suffering in that moment that shakes my core and causes the emotional reaction. I can barely sit with it because of how strongly it affects me. I, of course, don't enjoy pain and suffering, but the thought of the people that I love experiencing it is the thing that induces horror in me.

Ok, so...ick. That's probably not a good subject to end this post on, huh?

Let's think of something lighter....just for a moment...

Hmmmm...I want to end with something that Gene Ching (I think?) wrote on Kung-fu On-line back in 2003...mostly because visualizing it always makes me smile. He was describing his stay at a Buddhist monestary...and the rigors of trying to meditate all day long...

"Tea is the meditator's friend and I sure wished I had some then. I was losing this battle, and like losing any fight, I feared the embarrassing thud of my head hitting the floor. You never want to hear that sound from the inside."


And with that, I bid thee adieu...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cogito Ergo Sum

Oh snap! I forgot to mention another fun fact in the course of reframing... my Dell laptop. You know, the one whose battery gets so hot that sometimes I think it's going to burst in to a fiery ball of computer magma? Well, with it being so cold in here, now it's the perfect temperature to keep me warm.

Along the lines of reframing....I had an amazing insight this morning, and it involves beliefs versus thoughts. There are many good things that come from having positive thoughts, obviously, but if our underlying beliefs about something run counter to those thoughts, then the "power" that we normally associate with "thinking positive" is largely neutralized. Because at a deeper level, if we are really carrying around a message that is negative, or is driven by fear or anxiety or whatever, then that is the message that is going to be broadcast, both out loud and to our subconscious. Beliefs trump thoughts every time.

That part, in and of itself, wasn't terribly new to me. What was new to me was how it applied to my life. With my super long work days and the house remodel and having little personal/private time it was easy to start feeling worn down and burnt out. Recognizing the mental space that I was in, I decided to keep thinking positive about everything. But this morning I realized that while I was doing my best to think and be positive, underneath it all there was still a feeling, or a belief, that was based on negativity.

This isn't my journal. I don't need to air all of my dirty laundry to the I won't go in to all of the details. But I will say that once I recognized what had been happening, and I started thinking about the base belief system and how it could be changed to be positive, within about 10 minutes I noticed a difference in how I felt. And I mean how I REALLY felt.

In lots of ways it's about "tension", right? Those negative belief systems that stick deep in to our subconscious create psychic both our bodies and our minds. What happens when we view the world framed through these tensions? What happens to our vision and outlook? How do we see our lives, and our purpose? How do we see others?

How do we purge ourselves of the tension that we have? Is it enough to learn to be totally present in the moment (because afterall, this inner tension is for the most part based on the past or the future)? Or do we need to be more cognitive about it? Find the larger context in which to intepret what we've found?

Another day, when I have more time, perhaps I can develop these thoughts more fully. I guess I already have ideas on it (of course) but haven't totally worked through to the final answers (if they are there to begin with).

I can't help but think about the Buddhist idea of suffering coming from wanting things to be other than they are. It seems so applicable here.

Another, unrelated, know when people say "I am up to my ass in (blank)"? And the "blank" can be anything that they are overwhelmed by? Well, it occured to me that people also say "I am up to my eyeballs in (blank)". Now, you would THINK that the "ass" version would mean that someone is in a worse off space than the "eyeball" version because profanity is usually used to express more extreme situations. But the offending thing in question here is "up to"...implying a rising level...implying from the ground up. And since your eyeballs are clearly much higher than your ass, technically being "up to your eyeballs" is a much worse off place to be!

I know, weird, right?

I don't even want to think about the phrase "ass over teacup/teakettle"....

Sleepy...sleepy... it's beginning to seriously settle in, and I need to catch the yin train because the yang train is coming by at 11p....which is only 20min away...

Before ski conditioning class started tonight I was in the gym shooting around. There was a time when basketball was my life, but frankly, in the last 15 years I have barely played at all. I can still shoot well. My accuracy from the NBA 3-point line is just as keen...I'm just not quite as consistent, as I haven't been shooting on a regular basis. Anyway, I decided that I was going to shoot free throws until I missed. Eighteen makes later I finally had one rim out. And I had to laugh, because it's been 20 years or more since I've stood at the free throw line and practiced knocking down free throws.

I am just amazed that having something like a free throw shot drilled in to your muscle memory so much when you are in high school...over and over and over...can be called up like an internal program and be replicated more than 20 years later. Thank you, Mr McGill, for all of that practice!

I'd like to write more...or go back and edit and re-write what I've written here...but I just don't have time. Oh well, it's just a function of where things are right now. In the meantime, Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cognitive Reframing of a Remodel

So, it occured to me that I could go on and on about all of the crappy things about living amongst a remodel.... but it's time I put this whole cognitive reframing thing in to action. So, on that note...

Plaster dust, after it has been inside of you for some time, and begins to work its way in to your mouth, actually has a nice little sweet aftertaste to it.

Having the heater in the kitchen, which is the area of the house that is contained in the "boy in the bubble" plastic walls, means it doesn't get turned on...which saves on energy and reduces my carbon footprint.

The coldness in the house due to the aforementioned heater issue means I can leave the bottle of white wine I purchased tonight sitting out instead of having to put it in the refrigerator.

The same goes for any perishable items that I also might have purchased.

Getting accustomed to living in an area of about 15 feet by 15 feet is going to make my house seem HUGE when the kitchen is completed.

I am getting my money's worth out of the bivy sack that I bought from Nic a year and a half ago (at a yard sale he was having...and he convinced me to buy it while he was inside of it...lying on a couch...which was also in his front yard).

I don't have to worry about cleaning, or even "picking up", as the whole house is a disaster.

It gives me the opportunity to spend a lot of money.

Gosh, I'm sure there are many many more that are just not coming to mind right now. I'll keep working on it..

Bivy time!

Monday, October 29, 2007


2007 has been one of the more difficult years of my life. There is the usual work/business stuff, of course, but I also bought a house. Buying a house in Seattle can be a traumatic experience in and of itself, but I've also been remodeling. Not just "Let's change the color of the bathroom" remodeling but full-on interior landscape remodeling.

One of the most difficult parts to this kind of remodeling, besides the work/financial aspect, is the unsettledness. Still living amongst unpacked boxes....not knowing where things are (like business records for taxes)...not having a kitchen... Oh, did I mention that I haven't had a kitchen? Yeah, so, that's been kind of difficult....

Anyway, the process has started. The remaining demo has been completed. Well, mostly. Things will be underway soon to finally put back all of the pieces.

I bring this up because this is primarily why I haven't written lately...and why I might not get around to writing anytime soon. Topics and issues seem to swirl around in my head but I usually don't have the time or energy to digest, contemplate and write about them in a way that's palatable. So for now things are back burnered, and soon, hopefully, I will be able to write again.

With that said...I'm going to leave you with part of a poem. It came across my path recently, and I'm choosing to share it here because I really want to talk about the ideas in it down the road. Hope you enjoy!!

"....But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us to know
Whence our lives come and where they go....."

The Buried Life
Matthew Arnold

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Roger and Me

So in the last six months or so I have found myself using the term "roger", or "roger that", quite a bit. Especially in the context of text messages (as my clients can attest to). So the other day I was thinking "Where does that come from? Why do people say "roger" when they mean"Ok, I heard what you said and I'm cool with it."?

So I did a little digging...

Apparently, if you didn't know already , "roger" means "heard you" in the context of military and civilian aviation. It comes from the letter "R" of "received", which in the old phonetic alphabet was called "roger". It was commonly followed by the word "that" to form the aviation phrase "roger that". The letter "R" in the new phonetic alphabet is Romeo instead of Roger.

As a sidenote, "Wilco", besides being a pretty cool band, is the contraction of the phrase "will comply". So "Roger Wilco" meant "I received your message that you have received my message and am signing off." It was a reply to Roger from the original transmitter of the radio message.

I don't really expect you to care about any of that, of course, I'm just sayin'.....

I know I had other, immensely entertaining, things to say, but I seem to have forgotten them at the moment. Dang.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Hump of Arousal, cognitive reframing and Red Dawn (Wolverines!)

There was a section on sports psychology during the seminar last weekend. One subject that was talked about was the optimal level of arousal needed for optimal performance. If we look at the relationship between the two we get what’s called the Inverted U Curve Theory; or the Inverted U Curve Principle. Apparently, which name you use depends upon how strongly you agree with it. Anyway, I bring this up because our instructor said that if HE would have invented this idea he would have called it the “Hump Theory”. He was just being funny, but it seems as if Joe wanted me to mention this.

As a side note, our instructor also told us stories about his own experiences regarding anxiety/arousal levels during certain activities. He said that he went out with some friends once to go rappelling and that the thing that scared him the most was the beer.

I think Joe and I were the only ones who laughed. Does the altitude in Colorado Springs damage the part of the brain that controls one’s sense of humor? Perhaps it is near that place in the lobe that also causes spitting? I would probably need to see some research to be sure.

So let’s talk about how cool the phrase ‘cognitive reframing’ is!! Or better yet, let’s talk about how cool the idea is!! Thanks to Sierra I hope to use this phrase every chance I get. And I encourage you all to use this “rose colored glasses” technique as well in the coming weeks. And remember, it’s not delusional. It’s just choosing to see the bright side. Of everything. (Is anyone else hearing the Monty Python whistling right now, or it is just me?)

Somehow we need to work “paradoxical directives” in there too, but I haven’t figured out how yet. Still, if you want to sound intelligent, feel free to throw it in to your conversations with friends.

As far as Red Dawn (Wolverines!)…one thing that is really cool about having a sky full of clouds in the early morning is that sometimes, just above the mountains, the sky is clear. So when the sun rises, there is a minute or two where it is above the mountains but still below the clouds. And in that moment, the red that is painted on the underbelly of the clouds is unbelievable. It’s not just the color, either, it’s the texture. What appeared as a smooth grey sheet one minute becomes a textured canvas of red and blue the next. It’s a Red Dawn (Wolverines!) that is hard to forget. And sometimes, it is the only sunlight we get for the rest of the day (ie today).

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I put “Wolverines!” after I write Red Dawn…well…let’s just say that if you have to ask, you probably won’t understand. Google might help you out, however.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rocky Mountain Mucus, and other observations

I just returned from Colorado Springs where I was attending a conference on endurance athletic events at the National Strength and Conditioning Association headquarters. A good couple of days, and the weather was amazing (65-70 degrees and sunny). While I was gone, Seattle apparently did not have such stellar weather. Wind, rain, snow or hail...depending on who you talk to. From the comfort of my climate-controlled hotel room I watched the footage of my neighborhood (Ballard) on The Weather Channel. It's funny to me that they labeled it "Ballard, WA", as to my knowledge Ballard is still just a neighborhood in Seattle.

I have often fantasized, however, about designating Ballard with some rightful title. I mean, we have the Republic of Fremont (aka Center of the Universe) just to the southeast. I've lived in the People's Republic of Boulder (CO) before. From what I can tell, Ballard is easily as worthy. It wouldn't be Ballard-like to use the word "republic", however, so what? Commonwealth? Territory? Sovereign state? Kingdom? There must be something....

Anyway, back to The Weather Channel...apparently the weather was pretty severe all over the country, especially in the midwest and east, where there were strings of severe thunderstorms and tornados. Clearly, Colorado was immune from this extreme weather outbreak. Oh, and I use the phrase "weather outbreak" because it's something Jim Cantore said while talking about all of the extreme weather that was breaking out all over the country....we had a "weather outbreak".

Jim Cantore didn't say "extreme weather outbreak", or even "bad weather outbreak"...he said "weather outbreak" if there had been no weather at all leading up to the current calamity. It made me laugh. Still does. I'm sure I will continue to use the phrase. I wonder what "no weather" would look like.

The other thing that Jim Cantore said was " wad of storms". He was pointing to a storm system in Cuba, and referred to them as a "wad"...seriously...I sh** you not. A very liberal use of the word...or at least a very creative one. Language can be so interesting. Assuming he was referring to an English word in the first place.

So, you know how sometimes you subconsciously...or perhaps "slightly consciously"...notice things, but it's not until something casts a light on it that it really starts to stand out? Well, part of me must have been noticing that people in Colorado Springs spit. A lot. And not being around a lot of spitting back in the BT (Ballard was that? Did it sound natural?), I must have registered it somewhere in my consciousness, but not quite strong enough to protrude in to my current stream of thoughts. It wasn't until Joe, who went with me on the trip, mentioned "boogers" that I realized that yes, I too had been experiencing a lot of nasal mucus. In fact, one could say that I had been experiencing "wads" of mucus. And as that impression began to sink in, I heard it again....


Spitting. So is that what happens in Colorado Springs? Everyone is plagued by Rocky Mountain Mucus, and so they're spitting all of the time? Is that the explanation? Or is it something else? I can't say for sure. But I can't help but wonder.

Another thing about Colorado they put tequila in their margaritas? Any at all? Because the number that Joe and I drank on Friday night should have made it difficult for us to describe to the Yellow Cab dispatcher where to come get us...but in fact, we probably could have scored well on a MENSA exam if we had taken it just then. (As an aside, the person who would NOT have scored well on the MENSA exam at that moment would have been the Yellow Cab dispatcher...but I won't go in to that story.)

So anyway, just some thoughts about Colorado Springs...

Back in Seattle now and the familiar is settling in...not just in terms of weather, but in terms of life. You can run, but you can't they say. I was neither running nor hiding, but it doesn't change the fact that all of the things that I was trying juggle before I left are still up in the air, waiting for me to slide back under them and continue the tossing. The difference, hopefully, is that with a little break away from it all I can slightly modify the direction of the tossing. Creating a different arc to each thing, working for a more sustainable pathway.

And sustainablity is going to be the key. At least for right now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Behold my powers; and what's up with the hatin'?

So my friend recently sent me two definitions of "actuary". I feel as if it's only fair that you know what they are, seeing as how I was educated as one:

1) A professional statistician working for an insurance company. They evaluate your application and medical records to project how long you will live.

2) Actuaries are intensively educated and their knowledge is used in many different fields in order to predict future events based upon past occurrences.

Now I don't know about you, but I think these are pretty cool talents. I mean, sure, they aren't the Jedi mind trick or anything like that, but still...they fall just short of the gift of prophecy.

Although it actually IS the gift of prophecy...just based on historical trends. Hmmm... so that begs the question, if a prophecy is based on a liklihood, is it prophecy? Or does prophecy have to be a contrarian statement, which goes against the expected outcome (a virgin birth, the Cubs winning the World Series, etc)? Or, is prophecy only prophecy if it turns out to be correct? OR, is prophecy just the uttering of a "prophet"? And if so, what does it take to attain that status? To be correct about a few things? And if so to that, HOW MANY things do they have to be correct about to be considered a prophet? Because if you tell me one only needs to get a certain PERCENTAGE of things correct to be considered a "prophet"...then I'm going to show you how an actuary qualifies!!!

How cool is that? I was educated, intensively, as a prophet. This truly is a Yahoo! News day for me.

Oh, and as far as me projecting how long you will live...I'd recommend that you just don't fill in the questionnaire that I will be distributing over the next few weeks.

Speaking of how long you will live...why do people have so much negative energy about Into the Wild? I guess I don't get why some people have such a strong reaction towards Chris. Do I think the story "glorifies" that lifestyle? Or celebrates him as a Thoreau or Whitman-like character? Well, in the sense that there IS some beauty in pursuing a passion...sure. And the fact that when you are cut away from the many stressors that are a part of our society, that lack of psychic tension sometimes leads to a a kind of "grace". It's like allowing the Universe to fill in the space. And what you experience and learn in that space can be very beautiful and meaningful.

However, I don't think the story glorifies his life in any sense beyond that. Clearly he was woefully unprepared. And clearly he made some serious mistakes. So did he, in some way, bring about his own death? Absolutely. I don't think we need to view Chris as a martyr to be able to cherish the passion of his search. Or to recognize that there is a potential search to be had in the first place. It is the classic story, the epic adventure...written all over the annals of human history.

I guess what I find most crazy is why people CARE so much in the first place. Live and let live, I say. I know that for me, I have so much going on in my own life that I wouldn't know where to begin in the judging of his life. ..or in the telling of it.

By the way, if you happen to be one of my friends, and you have this particular take on Into the Wild, I can assure you this is not an attack on you per se. It just seems like I have met a number of people with the same strong emotion about the whole thing.

I need to stop writing so late at night. Sometimes I will pause in my typing and next thing I know I catch myself with my eyes closed and my head nodding. Ooops!

In closing...sometimes (ok, lots of times) songs really grab my attention. Today it was the Cure. Enjoy:

i hear her voice
calling my name
the sound is deep
in the dark
i hear her voice
and start to run
into the trees
into the trees

suddenly i stop
but i know it's too late
i'm lost in a forest
all alone
the girl was never there
it's always the same
i'm running towards nothing
again and again and again
and again and again and again

Congratulations to Me!

Thank you! It's nice of you to notice...

What? don't know? Ohhh...sorry... I guess you haven't heard.

Well, I had my birthday last weekend, and I am now the oldest former actuary turned personal trainer who also writes a blog! I know, I know... no, really, thank YOU. It just means a lot to me that you noticed.

Other things you might not know about me (cuz I'm not really one to brag)...

I once got hit by a car while crossing a street (it was going about 30mph) and even after flying up in to the air, on to the hood, and then, as you'd expect, back off the hood and on to the street again (where I started the whole journey in the first place, albeit upright), I still had both my suit coat and my briefcase in my hands. [I'd like to thank all of my former football coaches who drilled "HOLD ON TO THE BALL!" in to my head..and hands.]

I once went 18 years without ever vomitting. Seriously. And I never did that "do everything you can to hold it in" kind of thing either. I just didn't vomit. Guess I never needed to.

I broke that afrementioned vomitting streak by vomitting about four times in six months. Yeah, but, so what's the big deal....sometimes people just need to vomit, ok?

I once was accused (in high school) of having someone else write an English paper for me. And the teacher was basing it on the fact that my name was signed differently.'s called high school, when you're trying to figure sh** out like all the cool ways to sign your name. Oh, and Mister English Teacher , I AM THE VALEDICTORIAN of my class!! Who in the h**l am I going to trust to write my paper for me!!! (Sometimes people just need to think things through.)

I have had out of body experiences, numerous encounters with ghosts, and lots of other paranormal freaky-deaky stuff. And franky, while that kind of sounds cool on one hand, at times it freaked the sh** out of me.

I have never seen a UFO or, to my knowledge, been abducted by aliens. Which you might find surprising.

Anyway, there are lots more, but the point is on Yahoo! News I saw a headline about the birthday of the oldest person with a blog. They turned 108 years old. Congratulations! But are you kidding me? I mean, I commend that individual...on both their longevity, and on their blogging (Oct 10th: can't poop today, had sugar and butter on bread for lunch). But is it really Yahoo! News headline worthy???? And if so, I invite ALL of YOU to celebrate your lives in the same manner. In the history of the world you are all special and unique. At least as unique as that individual. So celebrate like you're a Yahoo! News story today...and if you are so inclined, tell people why you are so special.

On to other issues...I sometimes mention my schedule, and how busy I am, right?

Ok, so, you know those things you get in your email from friends, and it's the whole "questionnaire of things that define you" thing? Dog person or cat person? Bacon bits or croutons? Favorite drink? Etc etc.. And you're suppose to fill it out and send it on to everyone else? (Sidenote: you ARE a Yahoo! News story today, so if you've received one of those recently today would be a good day to fill it out and send it on to everyone you know!) Well, you know that question that says "Who is the person least likely to send this back"? I've received about four of those questionnaires in the last week, all from different, unrelated people, and in ALL cases they put "Tim".

How sad that I've gone from an email junkie to the person least likely to respond. Humph.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I was tempted to title this post "Madness"...but that would just be accentuating the negative. So instead, I went with a recent event of intellectual interest...

What is it with the whole "when it rains it pours" thing? And I'm not talking about table salt here (Why was that girl carrying the salt under her arm like that, anyway? What was she thinking?). I'm talking about the phenomenon of "similar things happening in bunches".

I can probably say with a fair amount of confidence that every one has had this kind of experience at least once. Most of us probably experience it on a fairly regular basis. But what is it, exactly?

I don't buy the simple statistics answer, and I'm even an actuary by trade. I don't buy it because there is something organic about it...something "living"...something that transcends the "coldness" of objective chance. To write it off as a statistical event is just a convenient way for the logical part of our minds to be done with it so as not to damage our deep sense of needing to understand things.

So if we can accept that it might be something other than that, how strange the possibilities become! Does it happen TO us, specifically? Or does it just HAPPEN, in the Universe, and sometimes we just happen to be the ones that it happens to? Or do we somehow bring a little bit of it on ourselves by our state of mind? It does seem possible that if you had some things come up in your life, good or bad, your reaction to those things could put you in an psychological/energetic space more likely to attract even more things just like it.

At any rate, without going deeper in to it, it's odd. And yet seemingly so universal.

The madness is the schedule. Mine. Seriously.

In fact, I am so tired right now that all of the fun little thoughts I had planned on writing about have either slipped thru the cracks of my consciousness or I've lost the ability to creatively express the ones that I still remember.

Am I even making sense right now? Ugh. That's a problem, huh? I guess I will have to continue this some other time.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


This morning at 6:37am, the exact time of my birth (adjusted for the fact that it was 8:37am Central time, where I was born) I was urinating.

I don't mention that to show how "mundane" life has become...that at a particularly significant time on a particularly significant day I was reduced to pissing. Not at all. Nor do I mention it to demonstrate a weird coincidence (seeing as how my mother had called just five minutes earlier to leave me a birthday voicemail...thereby waking me and allowing the "urge" to rise up in to my consciousness, it can hardly be a "coincidence" in the way that we normally define the word). I mention it because I knew it. That is, I was aware of it. The whole thing. I was conscious of the fact that it was the day and time of my birth and that I was urinating.

Awareness will be a theme. Please remain awake.

This morning Seattle is covered in a deep, deep fog. With visibility of only a couple of hundred of feet it's easy to turn inward. The volume on all of the outside stimulants that our senses are normally tuned in to is turned down, making it easier to hear what's going on inside. That blanket of introspection has always been something I've treasured. That turning inside. Fog is nature's forward bend...the asana of self-reflection.

So it seems appropriate that today be the day that the new path is tread. That the footsteps I take in the next fews days, the next few hours, lead in the direction that I want to go, and not just continue in the direction from which I've come
. How consistent I am at documenting all of this, of course, remains to be seen. But be assured that the intention is there. And if you find me suddenly wandering away from that place of awareness, please be so kind as to nudge me gently.

That's not to say that awareness is only about sublime Zen-like moments. In fact, here is my un-Zen-like, ego-based thought for the morning.... it's frustrating that I can go out and run a 5:44 mile without any training (like I did yesterday) and yet I can't go out for a jog around the lake. For me, and my own particular situation and constitution, injuries seem to be the great spiritual mirror...reflecting my own inner state back to me...sometimes not always in a very attractive fashion. But I guess it's all a part of what life is...grist for the mill. Or as Rilke said, "living the answers" to the questions of Life.

And so my life flows....