On Race

The nation seems to be obsessed with three things these days. Race, gender, and sexuality. Three things that, in the grand scheme of things, shouldn’t even be a blip on the radar compared to everything else that’s going on. My personal belief is that a few very rich people have a lot to gain by diving this country and ensuring that no cohesive action will come as a response to a tyrannical police state, or an outside threat.

Today, I will be covering the subject of race.

I have been told countless times that as a white man, I have no place talking about race because I have not experienced that favorite buzzword of the racist left: Institutionalized racism.

I am white. I spent the first twenty-two years of my life living in black neighborhoods. Yes, those kind. The kind that have their own english-ish patois, the kind where people sit on the stoop all day and deal drugs. Basketball games might end in a shooting. I remember knocking on my friend Kareem’s door and his dad answering, looking at me with disgust, and saying, “Kareem. Your white friend is here.”

I remember, despite my desire for peace, love, and friendship, having to become a very scary guy over the years as a survival mechanism. I remember hearing them say nigger far more than I ever heard any white person say it. And no, the word nigga is not different. Don’t fool yourself. I remember, before my intimidating transformation, being called every white racist term that exists, and it being okay because there were a hundred of them and one of me. I also remember that after my transformation, only ever being called Big Mike.

Most of you reading will say I never really experienced racism because I am white. I’d say different. I’d go as far as to say that I experienced that consuming and disempowering form that is “institutionalized” racism. My best friend’s aunt got evicted from her building despite never being late on rent, and being told that it was specifically because she was white, and they didn’t want any whites in their building. I dunno what you think, but I think that looks like racism.

I remember seeing what happened to black kids who liked rock or country, or for that matter, anything besides gangsta rap. The black girls who, in a rare occurrence, were born with straight hair. White girl hair.

I, however, also remember being partially raised by a Jamaican woman named Etty. My (single) mom would go to work, and Etty would watch me all day among her own kids. I wasn’t treated like a white kid. I was just treated like a kid. There were positive experiences growing up as the whitest of the black kids.

These days, I see the group Black Lives Matter all over the place, wedging themselves awkwardly into every special interest group they can. Interrupting Pride parades. Taking over entire college campuses. Segregating some college campuses. You know what I see? The KKK, minus the lynching. The KKK wanted segregation. The KKK tried to hijack every platform they could.

The difference? The KKK wasn’t given a voice. They have their little rallies, but you know who goes to them? Other white supremacists. They don’t get to hijack other people’s rallies to try to get a new audience, because they’d get driven out. And rightly so. No racist group deserves a platform. So why, then, does BLM get a platform? Why have they been allowed to continue for this long, despite how overtly racist they are and now trite and outdated the concept of race even is?

If you are teaching your children things about race that are based on experience and your own slanted thoughts, you’re already perpetuating the cycle.

I was in Wal-Mart with my son once, and he’d never really registered seeing a black person before. He asked me why the man over there had brown skin. I told him that the man’s ancestors, like grandmas and grandpas, came from a place where more melanin in the skin was necessary, and explained that melanin makes a person’s skin dark. He was happy with that answer. I didn’t tell him some stupid story about how god cursed them. I didn’t tell him that black people were any different from anyone else. I didn’t want to create a preconceived notion.

In recent years, however, he’s learning to distrust black people. A number of black families live in our neighborhood, thousands of miles from where I grew up, and their parents apparently decided to go the other route when teaching race to their kids. As a result, my white son is treated differently by the black kids than he is by the white kids. That’s not the way it should be.

Racism goes both ways. It’s institutionalized both ways, too, depending on where you come from. It’s wrong, no matter which side you’re on.

On Beards

Beards.

Apparently, something we can do in our sleep and without effort, contributes to our manliness. It’s become a meme unto itself. Just google beards, and you’ll see endless graphics on why only real men have beards, and how if your man has a beard but doesn’t know what this car part is, then he’s not a man.

I tend to disagree. These days, when I encounter a stranger with a big, bushy lumberjack-esque beard, he’s starting off in the negatives with me. Now, I realize that right away, half of you out there are getting in a huff, and likely untucking your flannel shirt from your skintight jeans to cool off, but hear me out. There were, are, and always will be, men who are not really men. Just as there are women who are not really women.

The term Beta Male gets thrown around a lot. It’s meant to denote a man who is deeply submissive, particularly to women, and gets offended over things that have no effect on him whatsoever. I still believe in the term, despite its growing unpopularity in today’s society. It describes many postmodern third-wave feminist males perfectly.

Feminized beta males have latched on to beards like third-wave feminists have latched on to armpit hair, as a way to passively gain man points. They still act the same, still carry signs that say HER BODY HER CHOICE at an anti-Trump protest, still tell their gross female friends that their period blood omelet is a-okay, and that they’d love to try some but too bad they’re vegan. They wear flannel shirts because lumberjacks are manly. They do Crossfit because kipping looks like real exercise to them.

They hide behind big, fluffy, unkempt beards in the hopes of fooling the people that see them. In the hopes of fooling young “woke” girls into sleeping with them. A guy used to have to learn to play the guitar and break it out at parties and play Wonderwall to get a girl. Now he just grows a beard.

I used to be a massive beta male. I know what one looks like. I know what it feels like in their skin. I know they think they’re legit. I did, back then. I thought my brother was a sexist pig because he sexualized Chantal Kreviazuk instead of embracing her music. I used to put women on a pedestal.

Side note: You can be a good singer, have a true message, and have a nice ass. Not you, though, J-lo. You just have the nice ass.

I grew up. I realized that my childish thoughts weren’t really in line with living a happy productive life. I’ve found that since then, a lot more people find me easy to get along with as well.

I also still have a beard, but it’s well-groomed and defined. It looks better on me than a bare face, and it shows I can take care of myself beyond the basics.

I’m looking forward to the day when beards are once again not just a fashion statement. When I can look at another man and know he grew one because he genuinely likes it rather than what he thinks it says about him.

In closing, I have a daughter who could fix most basic problems on a car like changing tires, brakes, and lights, when she was three. She also ran my jigsaw when I renovated one of our bathrooms. She doesn’t have a beard. She’s six now, and more manly than half the bearded dudes out there.

Maybe the man makes the man, and nothing more.

You can McFeast in Valhalla

This might be a long one. I’m also trying a new format, where I link to the things I’m referencing.

There’s an ever-growing and obnoxious subgroup of people. They walk around looking tired or stressed, and will tell anyone around them that they only slept two hours last night, or that they didn’t even sleep at all. In a group, they compete over who has worked the most hours on the least sleep. I’ve done it before. I once stayed up for six days straight(working a night shift at a prison). By night four, I was pouring an entire 80 Hour Energy(citrus-y heaven in a bottle) into a Mountain Dew twice a night. The flavor alone could wake the dead. I called my Sergeant at 3 AM on night seven, because I had begun hallucinating. I was seeing cat people wandering the pods. I had been the first book in the Tide Lords series, by Jennifer Fallon, and apparently the slave race in that book had embedded itself in my mind.

I digress. I was running on caffeine, yes, but I was also sustained by the knowledge that others knew the sacrifice I was making of my relationship with sleep. Look what I’m doing for my professional life, at the expense of my health. It’s fairly childish, along the lines of twice-as-much-in-the-same-place, uphill-both-ways. It’s kind of jumped the shark, too. More and more, people are complaining about that person. Not only do they not want to be compared to that person by the company, but they don’t want to deal with that person either.

This Wakeful Warrior tends to survive on caffeine and junk food. They run to McDonald’s or the local gas station, or, if they can’t leave the premises, the vending machines will have to suffice. Rarely do you see this person bring a lunch from home. They’re too busy hustling. While their health declines, though, their profits don’t often go up in a commensurate manner. That’s okay. Sleep is for the weak. They’ll McFeast in Valhalla.

Thing is, balance is what’s necessary. Many millionaires will tell you that they did work harder or longer than the average person, but not by much. Their work/life balance was still in order. Listen to the Dave Ramsey Show long enough, and you’ll find that he talks to a lot of millionaires who made it theirs through consistency, rather than destroying their body or mind for it. People making 60K a year as a couple. Ordinary people.

In Bronnie Ware’s Regrets of the Dying, in which she has spent years speaking to those on their deathbed, it is notable that Working Too Much is second only to Living to the Expectations of Others. Oddly enough, the two go hand in hand.

That guy at the office, talking about how little sleep he’s working on, or how many doubles he’s done this week, seems to be fishing for compliments. Or sympathy. He’s trying to outshine everyone else’s expectations of themselves. He’s trying to outrun the company’s expectations of him. If he were only doing it for himself, he wouldn’t talk about it every day. He’ll be lucky if he gives himself time to regret it.

I’m currently experiencing my own state of cognitive dissonance in the wake of my recent job loss. My wife decided to go out and find herself a job that exactly replaces the wages lost from mine, and it’s a cushy one, too. She decided it was high time that I stayed home and got a few books written while I keep the house up. I want to do that, and plan on taking advantage of it, but the role I’ve played for so long and the expectations of those around me are causing me to be irrational about the situation. I need to stay focused on what’s best in the long run, as my writing will likely yield far more than any job I could get.

In the long run.

Here’s hoping I can find some balance.

For now, I’m signing off.

Depression.

Depression can sure be a bitch, can’t it? You think you’re out, and it pulls you right back in. This past week was supposed to be the start of something wonderful, a new page in the book of life. Instead, it has been a battle against myself for no prize. See, life isn’t necessarily treating this family well.

As patriarch of this family, I feel like it’s my duty to ensure that my family is protected from as much of the detritus of life as possible. Sadly, people who hide behind corporate phone numbers and computer screens don’t really have a duty to see to my ability to do that.

I had a job a while back. An injury put me on worker’s comp. The day I was released, medically, to return to work, they sent a letter in the mail that said my services were no longer required. I tried to keep my head up. I was certain that I would manage to make good of this situation. I began to blog. I began writing, and doing it earnestly. I continued to go on morning runs, and listen to thought-provoking podcasts.

Meanwhile, inside a part of my head I have no access to, something else also thought it would make good of this situation. Slowly, my motivation to do anything disappeared. My body felt like how you feel when you first step back out of a swimming pool. My tolerance for my wife and kids almost completely vanished. My tolerance for myself did completely vanish.

I tried going through the motions. Humans are creatures of habit, and no dumb depression is gonna keep me from creating a positive foundation, right?

Wrong.

So wrong.

I haven’t written in almost a week. I have done basic menial tasks when I’m feeling less heavy. Today I helped my wife shelf books at her new job. Her first job in six years. She’s excited, but it wasn’t even remotely the plan.

She’s excited about almost everything. She’s an amazing support, and I know I wouldn’t have made it without her.

She supports, and she knows me. She knows my depression well. She knows what it looks like and sounds like. Some days she can see it before I’m willing to admit it’s there.

She doesn’t understand it, though,

Those without depression have no idea what it’s like. They don’t know what the lead weight inside my head feels like. They don’t know what a constant bubbling anger under the surface feels like. The fear of anything that might set me off. The fear of saying or doing something I’ll regret before I can get it all back under control. There’s a desire to sequester myself, to lie in bed and hide under the covers until the storm passes.

I can’t though. Guilt eats me just as readily as depression. I disappear from my family for a day, or two, or three? I feel like I’m shirking responsibilities. So instead, I go through my day, half-assing some things, doing others properly, depending on the ebb and flow of chemicals in my brain. I keep my eyes on the job at hand. I stay quiet. Of course the kids notice. They’re very forgiving of a depressed daddy.

What kind of home is that to raise kids in, though? Daddy is supposed to be the protector, the walking party, and the law, all in one. He’s not supposed to cry in front of his wife and kids because he knows he’s failed at life because the chemicals tell him so.

I haven’t cried in front of them in a long time. I’ve learned to logic my way past all of that. I know the failure isn’t real, despite how well-made the simulation of it is. I know it’s all chemicals, and that it will stop in a few days. I just want it to stop now.

I get happy in the evenings, because I know the day is ending. I know that I might wake up in the morning feeling like myself again. I like myself. I sure as hell don’t like this guy that I am now.

I want me back.

 

 

Boy, this was kind of all over the place.

In the spirit of the feeling, how about this. I’m going to share one of my depression wallowing activities with you.

Have you heard of Jann Arden? Beautiful music. Her “Time For Mercy” album, and her “Happy?” album are deep, dark, warm pools to wallow in when I’m depressed. Give her a try, you’ll be sorry you did.

 

And, I’m done for now.

On Motivation

Most people think they know their motivation. Do you?

What motivates you?

Motivation is not just a buzzword. Your motivation is a deeply personal thing that only you truly know. You might not even know what it is, and this lack of knowledge could be what keeps you from reaching your true potential.

These days, in the United States, it seems like most people are motivated by bills, and keeping up with the joneses. There is such a desire to look successful even when you’re not, that people will work miserable jobs, long hours, and have an overall unfulfilling life.

When these people were in elementary school, and the teacher asked what they want to do, how likely is it that one of them said, ” I want to watch my hours burn away in a mailroom, and then working in front of a fryer, while my friendships erode around me”

More likely they said they want to be a firefighter or a police officer or a doctor. More likely their answers were rooted in the desire to do a job they’d enjoy rather than the desire to pay the bills using the job as a vehicle.

Are you doing what you like right now? If not, are you pointed in that direction?

You ought to be. If you hate your job, your free time ought to be spent finding a new one. A more fulfilling one. Maybe even a career. Your free time could be used to make yourself better for the life you want. School, or online coding classes, anything that will help you become the person you want to be.

I’ve found my motivation. My motivation is joy. Over the next few years, you’ll learn more about me, and you’ll see why it took three decades to figure this out, and why it’s such a revelation to me.

Until then, go seek out your motivation.

Taking Control

Happiness comes to those who control their lives rather than letting their lives control them.

The happiest people I’ve known or seen have been those who took control of their life. They were either born into a family that valued that way of doing things, or they got tired of how life was treating them and decided to take control for themselves. However it happened, it has always ended positively.

One thing that makes these people happy is the paradigm shift from ‘things you have to do’ to ‘things you choose to do’. Joe Rogan, a famous comedian and TV show host, doesn’t have to make a podcast every day. He could easily stop, or drop his production down to once a week, and his fandom would not disappear. His life would not change much at all if he completely stopped doing what he is doing and changed paths. He chooses to do a podcast each and every day though. He’s almost got a thousand up.

There was a time, however, when he had to do things. He had to take a TV or promotional contract, or he’d lose his house.

Most of us are at that point right now. We’re in debt up to our eyeballs, and working just to stay afloat. It’s funny, though, to see that there are people making minimum wage to support their family in the same exact boat as doctors who can’t stop spending money. It’s a distinct lack of control.

Believe it or not, there are people out there making minimum wage who have their lives in order. They choose a simple, no-hassle job and a simple life. They are happy, and in control. I’ve known quite a few. Those who are unhappy and out of control have bought an Escalade when they make less than 2000 a month. The bank who owns the truck is in control.

My wife and I have two vehicles. One is this beat up old Pontiac that is practically falling apart. It has great A/C and comfortable seats, but looks like it got chewed up and spit out. The other is a pretty Volvo with leather seats and a sunroof with okay A/C that was given to us. My wife will drive the Pontiac instead of the Volvo. To her, the Pontiac represents our ability to control our lives. It is something we bought and have paid off. The Pontiac, warts and all, gives her pride. The Volvo, no matter how pretty it is, feels like dead weight to her.

Controlling our lives is not always pretty. It always starts with working harder than those who are not in control. It always starts with risk, fear, hardship and the unknown. Eventually, though, the path we create straightens out. It aligns with us, and points where we want it to.

Are you in control? Are you honing your life to the fine point it needs to be for you?