Staying up Wednesday night is definitely catching up with me
this morning. I feel physically and mentally tired, but where I can really feel
the effects is in my thoughts, my attitude and my emotions. The physical part
will sort itself out as the day goes by, but I have to be conscious about the
First, my thoughts. I have wasted so much of my life being
caught up in and believing what I think. It’s like watching a movie, only
forgetting you are watching a movie. Right now, my thoughts are circling this
drain of anger and resentment. I don’t even really have a specific target for
this anger and resentment, but I will find one if I let myself, and that is
sure to turn out well. The worst part is that in these situations, those
closest to us are the easiest and most available targets if we are not mindful
of what we are thinking. It is interesting to watch just how far into the past
our thoughts will go to find justification for what we are feeling.
My attitude. The central antagonist of my life story. I am
among the most fortunate people I know. I have always had people who love and
support me and tolerate my bullshit, but for the first 30 years of my life my
attitude managed to remain staunchly unaffected by this. I think I have a
pretty good attitude these days, but my bad attitude tries to take advantage of
these days when I am exhausted or sick or both to reassert itself into prominence
and run the show straight into the ground.
And my emotions – this is where it’s really at. Years back,
before I was aware I have emotions and lived with about the same level of
consciousness as a not-very-smart dog (I may be a smart dog by this point), I
was driven to all sorts of behaviors to deal with these things I wasn’t even
consciously aware of having. This is where much of the previously mentioned
(with more to still be mentioned) poor behavior and life choices emerged from.
So let’s pull this all together and see what that is.
This week has brought me a pretty consistent lack of sleep.
Max kept me up on Saturday, and a few minor work crises kept me up late on
Monday and Tuesday, and then Wednesday was waking up at 2 AM and never going
back to sleep. This lack of sleep is generating difficult emotions. Primarily
anxiety, which leads to a vague, simmering anger and despair. My thoughts seek
to explain these feelings, and they land on blaming others for them, and these
things together seek to inform my attitude.
But this is where I can step in.
I cannot help that I am exhausted, and I cannot change the anxiety or anger or despair. I can choose not to feed the negative thoughts, but I cannot force them to leave. However, by being mindful of what I am experiencing, I can accept that these things are present and choose my attitude toward the day and toward those I love and toward everyone who comes to me for something, and this makes all the difference in the world.
I have wasted vast tracts of time and energy being caught up
in thoughts and emotions and the consequences of being driven by these things.
I won’t do it anymore. The world is still a bright, beautiful place full of
possibility – the windows I am looking out of have just gotten a little dirty.
“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!”
It is 3:10 AM as I start this blog.
I go through phases where I wake up in the middle of the
night and know immediately that I won’t be going back to sleep. I used to get
frustrated with this, but I really don’t anymore. I kind of appreciate the
extra hours I can get out of the day, and the middle of the night is its own
little world of possibility and solitude.
My general rule is that if I lay awake for 20 minutes I go
ahead and get up.
I do different things. I read, I clean up the house. One
time I built a bunch of IKEA furniture we had gotten and surprised B in the
morning. My friend Matthew works nights so there have been a few times I’ve
walked over to his house to watch a movie. Now, apparently, I blog.
This all started when I was a kid.
I used to put my dog (a horrible little beast named Zap) in
my backpack and ride my bike to the library. My liking books made the librarian
like me, so she would get me whatever I wanted. I loved these books called The
Snarkout Boys by Daniel Pinkwater. The premise was about these kids who would
sneak out and go see movies in the middle of the night and wind up on adventures.
I re-read them a few years back and found out they were very subversive and
cool, and probably informed a lot of how I see the world.
So, I started using a tow rope attached to my bunk bed to
sneak out at night and just roam around. I would go down to this one hotel in
town that had a TV in the lobby and watch it, or I would just explore as many
places as I could – everything was different at night. It was also fun to hide
from the police and adults. Once, I was trying to sneak back in and saw my dad
out back. He shot me a few times with a pellet gun because he thought I was the
skunk that had been coming up to our lodge and spraying people. I had to lay
there in the grass and not move until he gave up and went back inside. Fun
This all eventually led to much less wholesome activities
after dark, but for a very cool time it was this magical world that was just
I think this was one of the primary draws of acid and
mushrooms to me – I loved taking them by myself wandering around my
neighborhood. It felt like that world of endless possibility again.
I am not endorsing drug use here, I think quite a few of us
were lucky to make it out of the 90’s alive. You know who you are.
I still think that the middle of the night is pretty cool,
but only if I can find a way around the resistance to being awake when I feel
like I am supposed to be sleeping.
It is funny how my mind tries to turn it into a catastrophic
thing, telling me how tired I am going to be later today and how I just might
die from exhaustion. But, it will all be alright, and for now I have a few
hours to do whatever I want.
It is a lot less fun now that I can just walk out the front
“What can I do if I do till it’s gone?”
Yep, starting off a blog with a quote from Yelawolf.
Insight can come from strange places.
I don’t listen to a lot of rap, and I don’t remember why I
watched this video, but it had a tremendous impact on me. It’s essentially a
guy talking about how much people expect from him now that he’s wealthy, but
that if he uses everything he has he will not have anything left to help
anyone, and how just because he is dependable people should not take him for
granted. He also hints at shooting people, but that is neither here nor there.
I had people caution me about doing too much and running
myself out, but I did not start listening to them for quite a while.
I even had someone call me out about a Superman poster I had
on the wall of my office, directly above my head. If it had any meaning, it was
subconscious – I don’t even really like Superman, Dr. Doom is where it’s at –
but I got their point. I did, for a very long time, have this idea that I was
not allowed to take time for myself or step back from the things I was doing if
they were helping others. I felt like slowing down was a sign of weakness or
laziness or just plain selfishness. This led me to times of being completely
useless to anyone because I was so burned out that even looking at another
human made me angry.
This isn’t even addressing the arrogance/delusion of
thinking it was my job to help everyone, but that’s another story.
Here’s another example, in case 1980’s arcade game
references are easier for you than not-quite-famous white rappers. I used to
hang out at this arcade that had Excitebike, just a simple little motorcycle
racing game that ruled. You had this turbo button you could use for a burst of
speed that would recharge slowly after you let your finger off the button. The
problem was, if you ran the turbo all the way out your bike would sputter and
stall and you were parked on the side of the track until the turbo refilled,
which it did very slowly. The race was pretty much over for you once this
happened. I’ve learned I can take care of myself and let off the turbo button,
or I can crash for a few days, holing up and playing video games and binge
watching The Office for the 7th time and hating the world.
This life is short, and we do need to take care of ourselves
and to experience the world around us.
We aren’t much good at our jobs, being in a family, or just
being alive when we are exhausted and burned out and slightly homicidal.
Working to help other people doesn’t exclude you from this either, even though
those same people will tell you it does. No matter what you do for a living,
whether you are feeding orphans so they can pay attention in school or
kidnapping them so they can build iPhones, you have to take a break sometimes
and it is easier to do this intentionally rather than waiting for the bottom to
drop out on you. Kidnapping orphans is tough work, take a day or two for
It is odd that we have an opinion on the weather.
There is this force that has existed on the planet since
long before us, and which will exist long after us, barring some kind of
catastrophe. It is made up of all these different factors that interact on
global scale and affects every single person on Earth. It creates snowstorms
and droughts and tornadoes and hurricanes and floods. It determines how much
food we have to eat and how many bugs there are and how population is
distributed. It is constant and ever present and it always has been.
But, for some reason, we feel like having an opinion on it
is valid. If it is agreeable and lets us play golf or ride our bike or take our
kids to the park it gets a thumbs up. If it is not agreeable and we have to
stay home or warm our car up a few minutes early or it rains when we wanted to
shoot our bow and arrow in our backyard we are not happy and it does not get
our seal of approval.
And the weather doesn’t care. Not even a little bit.
We do this a lot in our lives. We spend a lot of this very
limited time we have to be alive shaking our heads or our fists at things that
we have no control over like traffic jams and the news pre-empting our show and
other humans who have their own agenda and desires and wants. We wish our kids
would learn to listen and that Costco would just open at 8am like a normal
freaking store and that our next door neighbor would clean up their backyard
because it looks like those terrorist training camps they used to show on Al Qaeda
And all of this wishing and wanting and complaining has no
effect on the world around us at all, and it just makes us unhappy and puts us
at odds with what is. Even worse, we miss out on a lot of cool stuff because we
are too busy having an opinion on how it “should” be.
I find that the fewer opinions I have, especially about
things I have no say in, the happier I am. I am not sure where I got the idea
that my opinion is valid or useful or legitimate, but I did and it seems to
only cause me difficulty. I am not sure why I am attached to my opinion or why
having things my way is important even, because almost all of the good things I
have in life have come from circumstances that I had no control over, and would
probably have changed if I had.
Any time I find myself unhappy or discontent or just being a
jerk I try to ask myself what I am not accepting or what I am at odds with. If
it is something I can change then I consider doing that, but if it is not I
have to wonder what the purpose of having an opinion about it is.
What would you regret if you died today?
What can you do about this right now?
When I look back over my life, there are a lot of things I
have mild regret about. I sometimes wish I had been smarter when I was younger
so that I didn’t feel like I have to sprint every day now to catch up. This
would involve not dropping out of high school, not wasting the first three
attempts in college, not accumulating debt. Stuff like that. I wouldn’t really
go back and change any of it because I love my life now, but there is this
vague sense that I could have done it all a little better.
A lot better actually.
There are things that have accumulated that I sometimes wish
I would have done differently. I would probably treat my body better, and
especially have avoided the things that have made such a mess out of my neck.
This is something that is going to get progressively worse as I age and affects
the things I can and cannot do, so I might take better care of myself. I would
avoid the car wrecks and the stupid choices that led to them maybe. I would at
least wear a seat beat for the last one.
There are the cringe-inducing parts of growing up, though
mine seem to have followed me into my late twenties. I was never comfortable in
my own skin, I made up stories and told straight up lies. I tried really hard
to be like others, to fit in with people who simply did not like me and where I
did not belong. I spent a lot of time being someone who was contrary to who I
was, and to my detriment. I acted worse than I was.
There are the funnier embarrassments. Peroxide hair, bright
red goatees, beer shirts every day of the week, a sparkly silver shirt I bought
at the mall when I started at Texas Tech because I thought it looked nice but
still hip. Anyone who has known me for very long could name a dozen more.
Out of everything I have done though, the only things I
would actually change involve how I have treated people. Whether it was
intentional or due to selfishness, negligence, or simple stupidity on my part,
I do regret times that I hurt others and the friendships I have lost along the
I don’t fixate on this, and I don’t let it pull me down or
into the past. I don’t even reach out to some of the people because they have
made it clear they don’t want to hear from me, or because I trigger unhealthy
things in them, or because regardless of what I may have done to them they are
not people I want in my life.
I do the only thing I can do. I try to be very intentional
in how I treat people now, and to minimize regrets in this arena. When I
realize I am treating someone less than kindly, I try to apologize immediately
and change the behavior.
This is what I can do here and now. Nothing else.