Razor Sharp

RAZORIn the absence of empirical evidence, the most logical explanation is most often correct.

This principle seems like common sense, but it is rarely used in a modern world built on assumptions. We have a tendency to arrive at wild conclusions based on complicated speculation, as opposed to shaving away unnecessary levels of conjecture to uncover the truth. It’s easier to presuppose something because of our own biases and prejudices than it is to take a rational, more simplified slant.

Gut reactions, intuition, blink responses. These are tools given to us to better navigate the jungle of ambiguity we wrestle with on a daily basis. We are trained to rely on instinct. We channel our most animal impulses, avoiding potential dangers by listening to that little voice inside. Screaming at us to run or suggesting we buckle down for the fight, this angel in our stomach is the best gauge of good and evil, truth and deceit.

Removing the greatest number of variables illuminates a path toward the most rational bottom line. This can be incredibly helpful for predicting the future actions of people based on past behavior, but it can also cut through the fog of flawed hypotheses and exaggerated forecasting. It’s a way of twisting the rabbit ear antennas to clear away the static.

Assumptions are dangerous things, but studied prognostication may just be the sharpest dart we can throw at a carnival panel of question mark-shaped balloons. When we learn to see the world behind the wall and the souls beneath the surface, we’ll find a paradise of peace and transparency that’s severely lacking in today’s dogmatic society.

Take aim, but remember your target.

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Midnight Flashes

midnightThe power of music to transport me back in time, across distances, or just out of my quicksand brain is something that has always been fascinating. But, with those carefully-crafted melodies come the inescapable memories.

With certain songs, the faint plucking of a chord progression in the first few seconds of a track is enough to rocket me out of my present pondering and into the skin of a younger—and often more wide-eyed—version of myself. I can take a break from being an almost-adult and find some peace of mind in the fascination of youth. It’s a welcome respite from the modern grind and it feels like a familiar visitor from a less complicated life.

Music and lyrics course through these veins with such potency, it’s impossible to listen superficially. When memories accompany striking harmonies, I’m defenseless. It’s like an elevator with a snapped cable dropping through a bottomless shaft. It’s futile to fight, so I acquiesce and enjoy the ride.

Maybe there’s an extra serving of nostalgia on my plate this week because I learned my high school girlfriend—and first love—is pregnant.

There are few musical memories more vividly distinct than the soundtrack to that all-encompassing, heart-exploding period of adolescence. I can still picture myself programming repetitive playlists of specific songs we listened to so incessantly, it’s a wonder the stereo didn’t reject our choices in a moment of sentient defiance.

We spent more nights than I could count, pulling the blankets over our heads, blocking out the burden of time, and living in a world of our own creation. To be a teenager in love is to feel the Earth spin on your finger like some colossal Harlem Globetrotter. Everything is waiting for you, and anything is possible.

I’m grateful for every second I was able to learn about hope and heartbreak, and I’ll never forget the artists and albums that held my hand through all the hills and valleys. I take comfort knowing I can travel back there whenever I choose—and whenever I need to be reminded of where I’ve been and where I’m going.

It only takes the push of a button. So…I guess I’ll hear you soon.

Coincidentally Cool

coolCoincidence is “the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident, but seem to have some connection.” But, how much of what we believe is accidental is simply an energetic or universal pull toward a specific outcome? Can we manifest results through the catalyst of our subconscious and its ability to focus so throughly on some predetermined consequence that we are fooled into believing we are the orchestrators of our own fate?

There are strong arguments on both sides of the debate because what we deem to be coincidental can be so unfathomably absurd that we’re left searching for explanations to justify the illogicality of anything that appears to dance in the space between hard-nosed facts and dreamlike fantasy.

Mystics will look to the Earth’s more magical properties, just as religious zealots  will point to their blind devotion and faith-driven divinity as justifications for anything that sits outside of conventional knowledge.

But, what if we all harnessed the ability to construct our destinies? What if, somewhere in the untapped territories of our brain, existed the tools necessary to write our own blueprints, and build individualized templates? Could we avoid a life of pitfalls, blunders, and misunderstandings?

Irony is a powerful concept and the bevy of impossibilities that consistently defy probability is part of what makes life worth exploring. If walking in the sand was only about following footprints, we’d likely feel the void of uncertainties and a desperate lack of adventure.

Until we resolve the dispute of whether or not we are merely mice on a maze, running tirelessly toward preordained cheese, let’s marvel in the coincidental nature of the human playground. Maybe we are assembled with safeguards to protect ourselves from excessive rates of evolution. Maybe we’re not meant to know anything more than how many monkey bar swings we have left in our limbs…at least for now.

Giving Doubt and Taking Back the Benefit

phoneThe regular ridicule I’ve gotten in my life for keeping records, taking notes, and tracking telephone interactions is all just extra paint on the big colorful canvas I call an organized existence. Jab me about my checklists and poke fun about my calendars, but the self-satisfaction I’ve gotten the last few months from flawless follow-ups to customer service representatives makes all that fun-making fade into the distance.

It’s easy to call it compulsive. Marking down the dates a letter is received or when an initial phone call is placed might seem excessive or unnecessary. But, it’s pretty effortless and it saves a mountain of frustration in the end.

My “key theory” falls into the same category. How often do people run around the house at the last minute, searching for their elusive keys, with each tick of the clock exacerbating their tardiness? If they were kept in a designated key area, there would be no reason to alert the bloodhounds to join you in the hunt or create false scenarios about bad traffic and road closures when you walk past disapproving scowls, stumbling into the morning meeting 20 minutes after donut distribution.

Preparation and order rewards those who allow them in their lives. To be reliable and informed—as opposed to a scatterbrained flake—is something to be praised, not punished.

So, back to my telephone tag/faulty case number/taciturn supervisor juggling routine. The universe happened to unload multiple situations requiring boundless patience for bottomless hold times and the kind of diligent record-keeping rarely seen outside of IRS offices. If I were Johnny Casual, I would take those people at their word, thank them for all their helpful information, and wait for those guaranteed returned phone calls and speedy case resolutions.

But, we live in a world where almost no one does what they’re supposed to do—or even makes an attempt at punctuality. These are simply the realities of our modern society, as we make the sluggish transition from humans to computers. We are wrought with growing pains and this spreading plague of unrestrained apathy isn’t making things any easier. I can’t even begin to talk about the post office. I don’t have the strength.

The best we can do is take a stand. We can strive to be as efficient and organized as a machine, thus elevating ourselves above the sluggish drones and into a space where the air is fresh and the flickering fluorescent lights aren’t melting our brains.

But, I have to admit, rattling off the names of each supervisor, the dates I called, each digit of my assigned case numbers, and the particulars of the discussions not only ironed the wrinkles of what should have been unbearable transactions, it felt damn good.

You can retain your unintelligible reminders, unwieldy paper trails, and shoebox receipt shenanigans. I’ll be here with my alphabetized file folders and a bold, almost laughable level of record-keeping confidence.

The Beauty of Authenticity

MASKMost of us walk through the world craving truth and validity, wearing masks to hide our intentions and insecurities. We post pictures capturing flashes of how we’d like to be perceived, and delete anything that might prove contradictory. We manufacture images built from aspirational notions, and hope no one notices the holes in our Swiss cheese.

It’s a high-wire routine, and many times we’re left swaying on a safety net—feeling anything but safe—and wondering how we fell. But, what if we removed the mirage and abandoned the ruse? What if we stopped filtering our words and screening our thoughts?

The consequences would be disastrous, right? How would we manipulate one another, gaining what we want by leaving a trail of unsuspecting victims in our path? How else could we construct perfect alibis and hide honest opinions inside of false compliments?

I’m not claiming this transition would succeed without bruises, and I don’t know if it’s even feasible in a technologically translucent society. But, beating the bedrock to expose a fallacious foundation may not be the worst use of our united efforts.

Games are fun, and they serve their purpose at birthday parties, baby showers, and wine-guzzling get-togethers. But, an existence safeguarding every word and action is a life spent toiling against the grain. Leave the fantasy on stage, and say what’s in your heart. It’s a dose of fresh air in a crammed elevator, and it feels fantastic.

Old habits die hard, but allowing even a modicum of legitimacy to creep into your vocalized notions will give the those tiny roots permission to sprout. Before long, we’ll all be standing atop a tree of transparency…or not.

The Human Life of Progress

EvolutionA large part of my day is spent observing and asking questions. This isn’t necessarily the most carefree way to spend my time, but I shuffle the cards I’ve been dealt.

Lately, there has been one particular concept rattling around in this crowded cranium that I find interesting and, most likely, impossible to resolve. Is our species inherently made to feel like we are constantly evolving? Do we possess some programming imprint to make us believe we have learned from our past mistakes, and are now rigidly embracing the present?

I bring up this question because it seems like we are inundated with messages about the latest “thing” being the only important commodity to consider.

Musicians talk about their new sound and its grand departure from their previous efforts. Writers wax philosophical about inspiration crafting their work in a more powerful direction. Filmmakers preach about their past catalog helping to usher in a new landscape and motivation for their art. Painters eschew earlier efforts, claiming they can finally see the canvas with honest eyes.

But, the creatives aren’t the only guilty ones. How many times do you hear someone in his 30’s reminiscing about his wild 20’s? Just as often as someone in her 40’s lamenting the wistful wandering of her 30’s. The retired look back at youth with a detached disbelief, and the elderly study the middle-aged with a perplexing mix of envy and pity.

We always think we are precisely where we’re intended. Obviously, on a microcosm, this notion is brought into question on a daily basis. But, when we step outside the narrow focus of our lives, we rarely yearn for  experiences had or roads traveled. Moments exist in specific times, for specific reasons.

On a quest of self-evolution, there is a part of us that is content with the progress we’ve achieved and open for the possibilities of what lies in waiting.

We trust that the decisions we make today come from the learned lessons of yesterday’s stumbles. We try to smile at the past and not pine for it. We see the present as a culmination of errors and triumphs and dreams of what once was, sprinkled with aspirations of the future. We allow hope and resolve to fill our mornings and the pledge for a better purpose to usher in our nights.

We ask a lot of ourselves, and demand movement and growth. Believing we’re evolving is the easy part. The real challenge is floating in space at 1,000 miles an hour, trying to stay grounded.

Emerson Was Wise

road4

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

A life in limbo isn’t a productivity death sentence…as long as that limbo stick keeps moving.

Having multiple irons in the fire is a good way to generate heat. But, when momentum is only the promise of future rewards, the waiting game can become water torture.

Lately, I’ve been in the odd position where a number of factors and individuals have universally conspired to make me wait. I suppose it’s a good test of my patience but, because I love to routinely take inventory of my neatly arranged ducks, allowing the ball to rest in any court other than my own is an experiment I have been less than thrilled to undergo.

Writing prospects, job opportunities, investments, publishing possibilities, acting upswings, and the self-starting loop of my freelance existence have made living in Skytown an interesting—and often frustrating—experience. To know there is gold at the end of the rainbow, without the ability to personally capture the coins, has painted my landscape a color I’ve rarely had the opportunity to see.

I’ve spent a lifetime focused on finish lines, so stopping to smell the roses has never factored into my schedule. However, it has taken this metaphorical traffic jam to shift my attention away from the results and back to the process.

We have so little control over the future, and this includes the various pitfalls that may or may not sneak beneath our feet. The best we can do is stay centered in the present moment and allow the plan to organically take shape. As long as we direct our efforts toward a general goal or intention, the stubborn details have a way of falling in line.

Regardless of my typical grind against the grain, I’m grateful for the opportunity to take stock of my environment. I have had patience forced upon me but, if those efforts result in a more lucid outlook, then this temporary interlude will have been more than justified.

Until then, it’s back to watching sunsets and waiting for checkered flags.

Sharpened Perspective

Thank you for being a wonderful mother

It’s often too easy to get lost in the mundanity of daily life. The interval between turning a white noise sleep machine off and turning it on again can feel like a timeless loop of repetitive habits, vibrating on skipping needles, powered by hamster wheels.

My Groundhog Days are normally of little concern. I accept that baby steps lead to Olympian leaps, so I tackle my routine tasks and always sweat the small stuff. As a writer and proofreader, details are kind of a big deal. These are my cards, and I’m happy to play them.

But, sometimes—even when the marathon tennis sessions have beaten my body and emptied my energy reserves—I find myself squirming inside my skin for a change of pedestrian pace.

Normally, I ignore these impulses and continue punching computer keyboards in my never-ending attempt to accumulate tension headaches. But, two weeks ago, I was delivered a surprise fuel injector in the form of a fellow tennis aficionado from NY with the desert on her mind and a pro tournament in her sights.

Mom knows just when to rescue her overthinking, word wrestler of a son from his stationary bike, and exactly how to throw some excitement and a change of scenery into the mix.

It was just what the proverbial doctor ordered, and I was able to unplug and detach from the busy, serpentine track of LA life.

My chiropractor believes that the mountains in Palm Springs have a way of inexplicably extracting the stress from our bodies and, although I don’t normally subscribe to  teachings of the mystic variety, I’d have to agree with him.

So, now it’s back to work and back to that hamster wheel. But, like mainlining lemon-lime Gatorade, I feel refreshed and ready for the race ahead.

Thanks, Mom…for always knowing what I need, even when I don’t.

Searching for Sugar Mama

money-origami-dress-greenOn the eve of Hollywood’s most spectacularly star-studded night, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on a trend that is now so routine, it’s becoming boring. I’m referring to the sea of doe-eyed twenty-somethings securely fixed to the arms of men who are old enough to be their fathers.

With pretty hair and perfect teeth, they amble along red carpets and media lines, pandering to the city’s power players, and desperately trying to stay afloat in an ocean of ennui. They nod affably while listening to recycled stories about pranks on set, the triumph of the cast and crew, the challenges of the role, and how this particular film is going to alter the way people experience cinema. The mechanical Barbies are never acknowledged or introduced. They straighten their too-small dresses and take the hand of Mr. Hollywood as they’re ushered to the next press pit.

Beauty has been a valuable commodity for as long as humans have had eyes. That beauty is often rewarded with gifts and opportunities. This is nowhere more prevalent than Los Angeles. We are a city of young, meritless actresses tagging along with rich, old men. It’s modern prostitution with a Hollywood sheen, and my feminist sensibilities find it nauseating.

There is nothing more impressive or attractive than a strong, intelligent, and capable female. There are plenty of women who understand references without having them explained, who are in on the joke while it’s being constructed, and who can fight to support their stance on any topic. They appreciate music and art. They read books and remember specific lines. They laugh at themselves and knock you down to size when you deserve it. They think and they question and they seek information. They are interesting and thoughtful and open and honest. They can carry the weight of the world and never let you see the strain. They are intuitive and emotionally connected. There are levels of virtue and resilience in a woman that can easily trump those of a man.

Why anyone would choose a plastic robot in heels is beyond me. It shows how little that person is valued. She is simply a trophy, a prize to be flaunted in front of those who crave a similar emptiness. She has a very limited shelf life and will soon be exchanged for a later model. But, she blindly swallows the promises of auditions, meetings, and connections guaranteed to propel her career. The result is compounded rejection. She finds herself more alone than when she started, with an extra layer of judgment to shed at the therapist’s office.

But, maybe this is how the game is played. Perhaps I need to find a sugar mama who falsely encourages my talents and abilities, filling my head with assurances of book deals, media tours, New York Times Best Seller lists, and a life of security, lavish luxury, and endless happiness.

If you feel you fit the bill, please don’t hesitate to offer your pitch. I will be accepting applications immediately.

Beneath the Heft of Hourglass Sand

mother_and_child_by_wakeupfantasy-d5au6fy

“The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.”

A few days ago, I woke up with the unfortunate impulse to reach for my phone for some helpful advice. Still half-asleep, I found myself dropping into a familiar Google search sinkhole of facts and opinions, unsubstantiated claims, and broad generalizations. But, between the lines, I found pieces of heart-wrenching truth.

See, I live with an incessant worry about the future. Now, I’m not speaking about the glorious, hyper-technological, world-revolutionizing future. All notions of our impending singularity do nothing but paint a Jack Nicholson-sized joker smile across my mug.

What I’m referring to is a future of dwindling time, limited resources, and the daunting prospect of uncontrollable aging. I don’t sit, wrapped in a panic poncho, because of concerns about my own mortality. I never much feared or questioned death. I see it as a necessary component of the cycle of life and I will face it with as much bravery as my age and mental capacity can muster.

My fear and—more specifically—my sadness live under the weight of losing my partner.

It’s always been just Mom and me. I don’t have any siblings and I reside in a city 3,000 miles from any member of my family. I only get major holidays and my annual summer trip to connect through a means other than Skype, and her 30-year head start is beginning to feel like a lead I can’t catch.

So, I thought I would research the notion of caring for an aging parent as an only child. It took less than three results for me to realize I had bitten off a much bigger quandary cookie than I wanted to swallow. It was fear wrapped inside of speculative projection. This was no way to start a day and, contrary to popular belief, streaming tears don’t help lubricate a sun salutation.

The role-swapping will be one of the more difficult transitions. As I’ve mentioned before, I often feel like a young kid walking around playing pretend in a grownup world. To not only own the idea that I am an adult, but to take full responsibility for the physical and emotional well-being of the one person who wore those gloves so perfectly seems like some Copperfield-level form of deception. I’ve been awarded the job and I’m utterly unqualified.

But, I can’t say all the literature was discouraging. One story emphasized the sense of relief the author felt being able to control the care and health trajectory of his mother. He wasn’t lost in sibling bickering and he didn’t harbor the resentment that can arise from feeling like no one else is pitching in to help. He was able to direct every aspect of her treatment and could ensure her best interests were protected. Obviously, bearing the full brunt of responsibility isn’t easy, but knowing that each detail is carefully coordinated can help avoid a messy meal made from too many cooks in the kitchen.

Reading this information wasn’t a relief. I still walk toward the future like an ice skater checking the depth of a frozen lake. But to know that there are people out there grappling with the same doubts and fears made me feel less alone and momentarily quelled my trepidation.

This isn’t painless. It’s not supposed to be. When you care about someone else’s life more than your own, there is an inherent price tag on that love. If something is worth preserving, it has value. If that value is greater than the premium you place on yourself, all your cards are on the table. It is the very meaning of vulnerability, and it’s terrifying. But, attempting to control the uncontrollable is an exercise in futility.

Enjoy each and every shared moment, and savor the small stuff. The rest is just an illusion.

Now, it’s time to take my own advice.