I Believe in You

I’m a big fan…of everyone else.

For some reason, I can see limitless potential and promise in the work and dreams of others. It’s easy to be a support system, offering encouragement and positive feedback, without an ounce of back-scratching reciprocity in mind. I love to celebrate people’s successes and revel in their triumphs—giant wins or tiny victories.

Even though I have generally found myself in fairly competitive fields and dog-eat-dog cities, there was never jealousy, envy, or any desire to trade positions with those who seemed to be riding a golden chariot to bigger and brighter futures. I simply saluted them as they passed through the clouds.

It’s exciting to witness a friend or loved one harnessing some hidden potential or exploring a particular passion. A sense of admiration and pride fill the space where bitterness or resentment could easily reside. I’ve always thought it was just lucky wiring to be free of that kind of burden—comparing my station or level of self-actualization to my peers. But I think it’s a bit more complex.

First, an interesting dichotomy is at play since I’m wildly competitive in so many areas of my life (tennis, board games, etc.), but feel absolutely no need to find rivals or adversaries in the work world. I hold fervent beliefs and opinions about almost everything, and I have zero reservations engaging in heated debates about endless topics. I will go to ridiculous lengths to defend a stance or point of view, but when it comes to status, career, or social standing, I gladly and regularly relinquish my spot in line. Why?

By maintaining an “army of one” existence and basic life philosophy, there is plenty of satisfaction found from the simple act of meeting minimal core needs. A solid sense of security and a healthy inner circle are almost all that’s on my list. I’m sure a depleted self-esteem reserve and a backlog of darts that stuck just left of the bullseye haven’t helped my cause. But the core code was written long before the swings and misses, and I’m grateful for the ability to be a cheerleader for those around me.

Some shoot for the stars, and some look for the best soil to bury the stake. Comfortably in the camp of the latter, I prefer a foundation that remains right where I left it.

Adolescence Interrupted

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Just Stop

Enough.

Enough whispered comments about her body.

Enough unwelcome invasions of physical space.

Enough condescension.

Enough leering between the blouse buttons.

Enough backhanded compliments.

Enough creepy shoulder massages.

Enough talk about sex.

Enough uninvited visits.

Enough intimidation.

Enough posturing.

Enough disrespect.

Enough taking advantage of a compromising position.

Enough lies.

Enough power plays.

Enough misinterpretations.

Enough boasting.

Enough heartache.

Enough trauma.

Enough fear.

Enough tears.

Enough abuse.

Enough bad decisions.

Enough excuses.

Enough threats.

Enough regrets.

Enough coercion.

Enough slander.

Enough character assassinations.

Enough bullying.

Enough mistreatment.

Enough assault.

Enough toxicity.

Enough is enough.

Wake up. Grow up. Just stop.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Past Is Writing Letters to the Present

Lately, I have had a growing interest in the exploration of my roots, my past, and the road that has been walked by those whose faces I’ve never seen. It started as simple genetic curiosity, wondering where my family had been…and where it was most likely going. But it evolved into a headfirst obituary deep dive. Who were these people? How did they live? What pieces of the past were they passing down through the generations?

Based on a Yahtzee cup shake and toss, I was given a randomized mix of cells on a blank sheet of source code. A hand with tightly crossed fingers let the dice fly, and with that action, a tiny carbon being with multiple lifetimes’ worth of history behind him was let loose on the planet.

But how much of our journey is dictated by these former lives, specific hardwiring, and our core composition? Will the decisions we make and the path we think we have the power to choose ever be able to supersede a wet-inked blueprint just waiting for us to finish our scripted sentences while monitoring that straight-line slide from point A to point B?

I can’t remember my father’s face.

I keep trying to visualize what he looked like, especially at my age, but there’s a dark spot in my mind and I can’t complete the picture. I think that’s probably what pushed me onto this tangent. Then, as always, that small spark ignited an obsessive interest in exceptionally complex scientific information that led me down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Ultimately, all I learned was that I probably need someone on standby with a mental lasso to save me from myself and pull me back into focus.

Still, the notion that we are all just pieces of the present delivering messages from the past is a fascinating and baffling concept. It goes beyond simply having your “grandpa’s eyes.” When you frame your entire existence in the context of human beings as living, breathing time capsules, it brings a greater sense of purpose and responsibility into focus.

So honor the past by making the most of the present…especially if you’re the last of your line.

Adolescence Interrupted

A Beautiful, Baffling Brain


Because of a shoulder I recklessly and relentlessly abused for the last 30 years, I’ve been forced to add another doctor to my Santa’s-length scroll. I tried to be affable, give it plenty of ice, practically cut the mph out of the heart of my serve, and even took additional rest days between matches.

Yet, there it stood, defiantly sulking in the corner like a toddler told he couldn’t have dessert. It wasn’t interested in what I wanted or how much I required constant, intense exercise to keep me sane. The decision was made to remain a dysfunctional nest of tears and impingements that screamed at me whenever I pushed it beyond its threshold. It was obvious I was going to need reinforcements.

I found a physical therapist who specialized in athletes and was fresh off a stint working with the Chinese Olympic team. He took a holistic approach and followed the theory that the interconnectedness of our anatomy makes isolating a specific injury area nothing more than a fool’s errand.

Fascia, which is the connective tissue throughout our bodies, functions as a kind of supportive wrapping for nerves and blood vessels as they pass through and between muscles. If the fascia is disrupted by surgery or injury (or loses its stiffness), a variety of issues can develop.

Since this shoulder has been a nagging problem I’ve had for years, I was more than willing to hear his suggestions, however unorthodox they seemed.

So we got to work, trying to reestablish broken or compromised connections in unanticipated places. For example, even though the right shoulder is sore, the problem could be originating in the left knee or hip.

But early on, some very basic exercises started to paint a wholly unexpected picture. There were certain movements that were effortless to perform on one side of my body and absolutely impossible on the other. He remarked that he primarily used these activities to help retrain stroke victims. The more we dug, the more we discovered.

Because I stroll around this life with a brain that has been poked, prodded, sliced, beaten, and traumatized more than most, there are fundamental connections and channels that have been severed.

I play tennis like a maniac, I routinely go on marathon walks and hikes, I practice daily yoga, and I generally feel like a highly functional intellect. I assumed I emerged from the wildfire of my neurological nightmare more or less intact. But apparently, the smoke at my back was more of a smoke screen.

It looks like my habitual athletic movements established a type of overcompensation for some very fundamental disconnections. Because I’ve hit millions of forehands, the brain has learned to ignore the fact that there isn’t a normal relationship between my left leg and right arm, and the repetition of the activity allows that mask to remain.

I unearthed even more about a body and brain that I’ve been exhaustingly studying and researching for decades—but lying on a yoga mat with zero ability to move my arm and knee in the exact same way I’d done just a minute earlier was a frightening wake-up call that there’s still so much left to learn.

We possess some incredibly complex and mysterious cranial mainframes. Sometimes even the slightest disruption can rattle that cage in ways we may not ever realize.

So take care of that body, protect that brain, and nurture that mind. You won’t know what you’re missing until it’s gone.

Adolescence Interrupted 

Scales Without Balance

“If we think of life as a kind of Olympic games, some of life’s crises are sprints. They require maximum emotional concentration for a short time. Then they are over, and life returns to normal. But other crises are distance events. They ask us to maintain our concentration over a much longer period of time, and that can be a lot harder.”                                                                                                    —Harold S. Kushner

I am deeply troubled these days. I’m blinded by unjust suffering on a global scale and I watch the escalating pain of family and friends from a very personal perspective.

How did our calibration fall so far out of balance? Why must genuinely sweet souls be forced to endure sustained agony while those with evil, black hearts are permitted to swim free in a sea of avarice and insensitivity?

I will never understand the fundamental human hardwiring that values greed and excess over common decency and the general welfare of others. It is a pandemic virus without a cure, and it’s systematically infecting our brains with frightening speed and alarming accuracy.

So…why do bad things happen to good people? Is there really no karmic system in place to level the playing field? Is everything simply randomized chaos without even the hint of some justified cause or effect?

This nightmarish scenario certainly frames society in a context that would cause the vast majority to squirm in their seats, and that’s not even taking into account the titanic religious implications in the lives of those who truly believe there is a grand master plan at play.

As hard as it might be to wrap your head around the fact that we’ll probably not get to the roots of the “meaning of life” debate during this short post, it’s worth considering that our own backyards are the only ones we can clean, and acts of kindness and generosity can easily be distributed one day (and to one person) at a time.

Your pain is never as severe as someone else’s. Your financial situation is never as dire. But your success is never as impressive, and your status is merely an illusion devised by your artificially-inflated ego.

Take a step back and take a step down. We are forgoing a sense of community and compassion at a disturbingly breakneck pace. It might be wise to take stock of what’s truly important…before it’s all lost.

Adolescence Interrupted

Chasing a Moving Marker

When I’m left with my own thoughts in the quieter moments of the night, I can’t help but look at the miles I’ve logged on this marathon and wonder where it ends. Is there some perfectly painted finish line that will welcome me with open arms? Or is every step its own achievement?

Some would posit that if you wake up in the morning and take a deep breath, it is a reminder that you are here for a reason. Every day is a gift, each moment another opportunity, etc. I suppose there’s some merit to that sentiment, but a proponent of the macrocosmic perspective would argue that the mundanity and daily minutiae are worthless without some greater result. It doesn’t much matter how many hours you spend in the woodshop if you never make a chair.

I suppose I’m fairly split. While finding satisfaction in daily victories is critically important to properly nurture the soul, looking back at a life that didn’t create some substantial impact would feel like a monumental waste of roughly eight decades. Perhaps, like most things, there’s some balance to be struck.

Also, the actions we take and decisions we make may not permanently transform the planet, but they can deeply affect someone else’s life—for better or worse. I’m reminded of the Dr. Seuss quote:

“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.”

Sometimes our choices have a ripple effect that we’ll never know or even understand.

So maybe it’s best to stop looking back at those starting blocks or too far ahead at some figurative finish line. Even if the present moment is wrapped in doubt, pain, or regret, it’s worth acknowledging…before it’s gone.

Adolescence Interrupted 

A Cinematic Pause

Nothing is more valuable for the sanctity of your sanity like a thorough reset. Although we have been conditioned to believe that only those who blindly and defiantly sprint toward the finish line should be lauded, more health and happiness is bundled with balance than whatever rewards are gained from ceaseless target practice. The psychological and physical punishment from maniacal ambition is a detrimental recipe for reduced days and a diminished quality of life.

It’s vital we find the opportunity and willingness to hit that pause button when society’s waves start to throw a little too much water into the boat—and drowning is a metaphor easily rescued by the right kind of flotation device.

Meditation can wear countless masks. Sometimes people have no idea they are involved in a meditative practice because it’s simply something they enjoy doing. But wherever you can find opportunities to live in the present moment and release the worries of yesterday or tomorrow, you are involved in a kind of meditation.

There are only two diversions that allow me near-total absorption: tennis and film.

I’ve discussed my passion for tennis, so there’s no need to revisit my obsession in further detail. But I’ve never described the transformative benefits of sitting in a theater or on a couch and letting myself become thoroughly engrossed in a movie.

Although this has probably always been a part of my life—I can remember paragraphs of dialogue from a film I saw 20 years ago, but I can’t remember a conversation I had with someone last week—only in the past few years have I appreciated this cinematic pause from my endlessly spinning wheels and cripplingly compulsive thoughts.

I give myself the permission to unplug from the anxiety and stress of my daily existence. I’m not exactly sure why these are the only two activities that tell the engineer running my obsessive brain to take a coffee break, but I am beyond grateful to have discovered them.

If a respite from the pandemonium that lives between these ears can be found on a silver screen, I’m happy to take my seat and escape the static.

Adolescence Interrupted

Helping Hands

It’s been said in various ways by brilliant minds with giant hearts. There is generally a slight bending of the words, depending on the originator of the quote, but the message remains unambiguous.

A society’s worth is measured by the treatment of its weakest members.

If this is the yardstick by which our modern nation is measured, then I think it’s pretty safe to say this country is worthless.

It’s easy to jump on the gun debate bandwagon because our policies are horrific and asinine, but there’s a much bigger picture to paint.

We don’t care about people. We care about money. Greed has raped decency, and the elite’s blatant refusal to turn around to look at the bloody and bruised feet that are being trampled on the road to ascension is abhorrent.

I’m too young to be the oldest and grumpiest man on the street, but watching half the nation swing a sickle at crops that took generations to grow while the other half cowers in a collective fetal position, is sickening.

We are on a roller coaster careening toward a graphene wall, and it feels like we’re only going faster.

A society should be caring for and protecting those who are most vulnerable. But when people reach out for a helping hand, we consistently find a way to sever it at the wrist.

I’ve discussed my disgust with the chasm between rich and poor a number of times in past postings so I won’t continue to abuse a lifeless equine. But there are dangerous roads being paved with precedents that will be too dangerous to excavate, once we’ve located our missing minds.

This goes way back…before Trump and before Obama. There is a systematic unraveling of our foundational ideals that has been spinning for decades. Human compassion, environmental sympathy, economic responsibility, and global empathy have taken a distant backseat to excess, waste, disrespect, and avarice.

It is a seemingly impossible course to correct, but I have to maintain faith that we will somehow find the courage to grab that handbrake, and in a screeching sea of sparks and flashes, bring that cart to a lifesaving stop.

Adolescence Interrupted

Nurture Thy Soul

Every once in a while, the static seems to settle and we’re able to lock into moments of perfectly positioned peace. Granted, this is not a regular visitor. But when we can turn down the volume of that incessant buzzing in the backs of our brains to experience a few drops of weightless, unadulterated alignment with our surroundings, those fleeting flashes are worth their weight in gold.

This fulfillment-making formula doesn’t require complicated planning or lavish accommodations. It’s simply a matter of exposing the root of what makes us smile, and then letting it get the sunlight it needs to grow. This varies wildly from person to person, and sometimes the simplest set of variables generates the most significant results.

Personally, I know a perfect balance of music, film, safety, isolation, and an empty to-do list can rocket me to a sweet spot of contentment faster than a rowdy party or noisy get-together, but everyone is different. I also savor the depletion following exercise-induced highs. The more introverted energy that can be generated from easy, unrestricted breathing and the simple gift of letting my body buckle from exertion, the more it resembles a reward from work well done.

Perhaps I wanted to write about this particular recent event because it is such a rare phenomenon. It’s hard to remember the last time I felt like I could lower the defensive shields and clear my mind. It takes a very specific set of circumstances. So when that wave of pure tranquility unexpectedly washed over me a few days ago, its presence was noted.

Unfortunately, like all waves, it receded as quickly as it arrived. But the cognizance of its normally yeti-like existence helped reorganize the possibility in my mind for its return. Life can’t be all candy, but we should try to take the taffy when it’s offered.

Adolescence Interrupted