Good People with Bad Ideologies

I have been asked why I don’t take political stands on this blog.

I have also been asked why my blog is so liberal, and when I started skewing so conservative in my thinking.

The nearest I can guess is that by talking about compassion and how everyone is doing the best they can with what they have, I was seen as liberal, and that by talking about integrity and duty and telling people to own their problems, I was seen as conservative.

And this is all actually a pretty good summary of what I dislike about ideologies: they give us the answer before the question, and allow us to judge something based on how well it matches up to our thinking rather than if it is worthwhile.

Ideologies give us a way to avoid engaging things in any real way, because we already know where we stand going in.

The thing I hate the most about them is that they give us an excuse to treat people who disagree with our ideology poorly, and not feel bad about it. It seems like this is especially prevalent in our country right now.

Let’s make a list.

If your ideology makes you happy about:

People being assaulted because of who they voted for

Police Officers being ambushed and killed

Black people being shot by the police 

Soldiers dying

Muslims being bombed, whether by a military or other Muslims

Christians being murdered

Gay people being discriminated against or assaulted or murdered

Heterosexual people being called CIS Shitlords

Immigrants being treated as less than human

A woman being raped, no matter how she was dressed

All men being called rapists

Any race having a blanket description applied to it

Children dying for any reason


Your ideology is part of what is wrong with the world.

This isn’t about one ideology being superior to another, or to say that any ideology has no redeeming aspects. This isn’t about at all ideology really, it’s about how we treat the people we share this planet with. 

This is about remembering that people matter more than our ideas. 

I rarely meet a truly evil or hateful person. When I do, it is almost always possible to understand why they are the way they are.

The sad thing to me is how many really awesome people I meet who are assholes because of the ideas they buy into. 

No matter what your ideology tells you, every human is nuanced and intricate and has beliefs and conflicts about those beliefs. Allowing our ideologies to reduce anyone to less than what they are is dangerous and terrifying and stupid all at the same time.

But that’s just my ideology talking.

Mindfully Impulsive

Well, this post is the halfway point in my one-blog-per-day-for-a-year thing.

Or, halfway through this post is at least.  

I thought there would be fireworks or something.

Let’s talk about impulses.

Impulses drive us all day, every day.

It takes an impulse to get out of bed, to raise your arm, to go to work, to skip work, to kiss your partner, everything.

These aren’t really much an issue though, so I won’t write about them.

There are other impulses, and they can cause us a great deal of trouble. 

I talk to people about them all week.

Drugs, alcohol, pornography, poor eating, too much television or videogames or caffeine. Being rude to someone or snapping at someone who loves you. Giving someone the finger in traffic, signing up for Tinder, meeting someone on Tinder, slapping your kid, not sticking to your budget. I could honestly go on and on with these.

They are so simple, yet they bring so much suffering and pain and self-hatred. We make global assessments of ourselves based on our inability to resist them, or we become prideful over how well we can resist them.

It all begins with an impulse.

So why do we follow some impulses and resist others?

It’s complicated.

We could talk about will power and how it functions more like a muscle and gets stronger with use, but also tires out and has to be used intentionality. We could talk about addiction and how it rewires the brain.

Instead, let’s look at the impulse itself, and see how mindful acceptance can allow us to simply sit with impulses.

Not acting, not reacting, simply observing.

Think of something you would like that’s not necessarily good for you. 

Notice how something has shifted inside of you, your brain is off on another path now, and it’s focused on getting this thing you want. The present has suddenly become less ok by comparison. We have fabricated a need.

But where is this need? Where does it exist in your body?

You may be able to trace it to somewhere inside of you, but what is really there?

What would it feel like if you didn’t buy into it as a need or something that had to be fixed?

What would happen if we were able to simply let this “need” exist exactly as it is?

Without moving to change or fix it, without even thinking it needs to be fixed?

Look, I know this sounds weird and abstract, but it is literally how I quit smoking after a really long time. I had tried and tried and failed and failed and I thought I was never going to break the habit. Then, one day, instead of running to the store to buy cigarettes, I sat down and I explored what was going on inside of me without judgment and with full acceptance.

I discovered that nothing was wrong, and I quit smoking.

For real.

Give it a try. Pick an easy impulse.

Notice an itch and the impulse to scratch it, but let it be. Just let it itch. Notice how much of the trouble comes from the desire to scratch it, rather than the actual sensation of the itch itself, Notice what happens when you accept everything exactly as it is.

We can’t control an impulse arising, but we can control our response to it, and this is all we need. 

Thank you for reading.

Insomnia, Introversion, and the Internet

My brain is doing its weird insomnia thing again, so I’ve been having trouble sleeping at all, and then waking up at 3am every morning. I don’t really mind being up earlier than usual, but it starts to wear on me mentally after a few days. We traveled a bit for Spring Break and this didn’t help.I never really sleep well away from home.

The last week has been an exercise in trying to be mindful of my emotions and thoughts, but it gets harder with every day without sleep.

This has been paired with being around people and noise and activity every single day, which also wears on me. It’s interesting to watch how this all builds up and feeds in on itself and starts to create a dark story about the world around me. I try to be aware of the fact that nothing has changed, but our thoughts and emotions create so much of our experience of the present that it’s like trying to bite my own teeth at a point.

All the mindfulness in the world will eventually lose out to a lack of sleep.

Changing topics.

I’ve been thinking about what things were like before the internet. I know that our minds love to idealize things, but I am pretty sure there are aspects of that world I do actually miss. I kind of miss not knowing every little thing that was going on in the world, not being able to have any movie or song available on demand, not knowing what everyone I know had for breakfast or where they stand politically.

I wonder if any of us have been helped by the ability to speak our mind whenever and wherever we want, to be able to broadcast our thoughts to everyone who hasn’t unfollowed us. I do not think we are better off for allowing the dumbest and meanest and ugliest members of our species a place to say whatever they want without repercussions or consequences. I know mocking and sarcasm have always been part of being human, but we have put them on steroids in the last few years.

Looking ahead at the week: tomorrow we will talk about mindfulness and all the urges that drive us to do things. I think we’ll also look at the way we talk to each other as a culture, how we let our ideologies/religious beliefs dismiss the suffering of others and ourselves, and how we treat the innocent people in the world.

If you got a Spring Break, I hope you enjoyed it. If you didn’t I hope your normal week was a good one.

When Time Sneaks Up On You

This one might be corny.

My son, Tyler, turns 16 today. He’ll take his driver’s test later and then drive over to our house.

It hit me the other day that I’ve probably taken him to school for the last time, and just how close he is to graduating and going off to college. It makes the passage of time a very real thing, and helps me see just how much of my time with him is behind me. 

Here’s the thing with Tyler.

I don’t just like him or love him because he’s my son, I like him and love him for the human being he is. He makes mistakes and he can have that teenage attitude, but he is a cool person. He is smart and curious and suitably rebellious. He loves Max a lot, and he is a great brother. He is torn about going off to college because he hates to leave his family.

I was not likable or lovable when I was his age. I was nothing but mistakes and that teenage attitude. I was not a cool person. I was dumb and uncurious and rebellious for all the wrong reasons. I was a terrible brother and my family had to be a little thrilled when I went off anywhere. I was ugly and selfish and no one was the better for having me around. 

He is all the good things I wasn’t at his age, and that’s cool. 

I don’t really make any bones about the fact that he’s the reason I got my life together. I distinctly remember deciding to try and do better because I realized this little baby in front of me really got screwed in the dad lottery. 

My dad and wife will be thrilled I uploaded this one.

I don’t really make any bones about the fact that Tyler and I grew up together in a lot of ways.

We skateboarded and watched anime and went to the park all the time. We played video games and rode our bikes all over town. We built forts and slept in them and drove around listening to Rancid and Social Distortion on a boombox that ran on batteries seatbelted into the passenger side.

I worry that he might have had more of an older brother than a dad for much of his younger life.

It’s a good thing he had a mom who was on her game.

Here are the things I’ve learned from raising a kid:

We don’t know near as much as we think we do. There is no science to raising kids and we cannot control how they turn out. Sometimes great parents wind up with real douchebag kids. Sometimes moron parents wind up with great kids. It’s weird.

Your kids cannot be the center of your world. They cannot be your world. It’s not fair to them, that’s a weight they shouldn’t have to carry.

You will regret every selfish choice you make in regard to them.

You don’t own your kids, they are not “yours” in any real sense. They are actual people with their own hopes and dreams and wants and needs. We are here to guide them and help them live on this planet effectively and usefully.

No matter how much time you spend with your kids, the day will come when they are growing up and you will wish you’d spent more.

I’ve got a cool kid, who isn’t really a kid anymore. He’s a better teenager and son than I was by a very long stretch, and someday he will be a better man than I am. And that makes me happy.

Habits Part 4: Keystone Habits

I don’t really try to hide the fact that my life used to be a shitshow.

It was a mess, I was a mess and I made everything messy everywhere I went.

This isn’t self-deprecating, it’s true, and anyone who knew me will acknowledge this if they are being honest.

My life is cool now.

I love it. I have very little mess, and when I do I clean it up quickly and change whatever allowed it in.

When I look at the things that made the difference for me, some are pretty obvious.

Having a baby.

Discovering mindfulness and meditation.

Going to school.

Having parents who stuck with me.

A brother who let me live with him.

Within all of this though, there is one thing that allowed everything else to start shifting so that these things could have an impact, and it was unexpected.

I started getting up early every single morning.

That’s it.

I know it sounds odd, but this is very much a real thing, and it applies to so many things in life.

Changing one habit can lead to global changes in our lives.

This is actually born out by multiple studies. People who workout everyday are, predictably, more diligent with diet and smoke less, but they also exhibit more financial responsibility. People who track every single purchase not only spend less, they smoke less and have better diets.

In working with clients I tell them that discipline is an all-or-nothing thing. The client who cannot control their eating or video game playing will struggle with being on time on work and will no show on me. I see it all the time.

For me, getting up early everyday was a Keystone Habit, and it changed my perspective on everything.

The first thing it did was make me conscious of time as a thing at all. It gave me more time to do things.  It forced me into a place of intentionality with my time and how I spent it. Getting up early gave my time value, and encouraged me to go to bed at a certain time. It infiltrated every part of my life and slowly shifted everything. 

More than anything else though, it changed my perspective on myself. Instead of seeing myself as a loser with too much time on his hands, I began to matter to myself. Once I mattered to myself, I began to take care of myself and do things that were good for me.

I stopped thinking I was worthless, so I stopped behaving like a worthless person.

I am not saying that getting up early is the key for everyone. Keystone habits take all sorts of forms, and they don’t have to be related to the things they change. The key is introducing intentionality into one’s worldview.

Pick something big. It can be diet, exercise, sleep, video games, phone time, television time, whatever. My current task is related to swearing less. Change something big and see how it impacts the rest of your life. 

Thanks for reading.