Tag Archives: Blair Patrick Schuyler

The Benefits of Resetting

Pots boiling over. Tea kettles screaming to be heard. Every line racing to red. Pressure valves begging for release.

We have all felt the strain of inescapable compression. Bands tighten around temples as blood vessels constrict. Faces flush and jaws clench. Shoulders tense as teeth shave enamel.

These desperate attempts to hide our particular brand of bats in our carefully decorated belfries are rarely successful and often dangerous.

When the gasket is finally blown, picking up the pieces is more complicated than reaching for the nearest dustbin. Damages are felt more than seen, and the gritty residue left behind has an odd habit of clinging to the cavities.

So what’s the plan of attack? How can we combat the feeling of impending doom before we’re pulled underwater by a false sense of limited oxygen?

Like every unresponsive phone or frozen computer screen…just reset.

Even though we’re made of cells and blood instead of slots and bytes, the fix takes a similar form.

Stop. Close your eyes. Inhale. Exhale.

It’s incredible to feel the cure. So many of us are walking through the world, unaware that we’ve forgotten to breathe. We unconsciously shorten our intake when we’re worried, working, and stressed. Sometimes even intense focus can produce the same effect. It’s not our fault. It’s our formula.

So the next time your nerves are knocked into overdrive or you feel a seed of rage starting to sprout. Take a beat, and take a breath.

Adolescence Interrupted

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Lost Ones

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“Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end. That’s the given. How you respond to those losses, what you make of what’s left, that’s the part you have to make up as you go.”  -Katharine Weber

The impossible unpredictability of our daily existence is enough to rattle the most grounded of souls. Add to that the utter lack of control we wield over the trajectory of our loved ones, and we become nothing more than walking/talking test tubes trapped in a centrifuge, forced to endure a dizzying dance of expectations, invocations, and crossed fingers.

Yet we are told that hardship and grief define character, that we must embrace the dark days to appreciate the sunrises. Nothing worth its salt is easily procured. A silver lining sits on the back of every storm cloud.

But I don’t think I’m capable of swallowing the force-fed doses of wishful thinking.

There is a chasm left when people leave and a heaping helping of affirmative visualization or positive manifestation can’t change the fact that we are all sprinting on hamster wheels built with a finite number of rotations.

My mother and I both lost a parent when we were 25. We recently talked about this odd shared life experience, and I realized that the finality of some moments never fully vacate the consciousness. Her loss was far more devastating than mine, but seeing how emotionally affected someone could be more than forty years after an incident was proof that no amount of elaborate window dressing can hide the fact that your store is sometimes empty.

The moments missed and the absent days are tough pills to swallow. We all have clocks that are counting backward, and perhaps death and loss are the brightest beacons of that reality.

So until Kurzweil cracks the code to give us a little breathing room, we’re stuck in this particular place and time. I suppose we should try to make the most of it.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Last Gladiators

tennis1As another French Open peeks its head around a shadowy Parisian corner and into the sun, illuminating Roland Garros’ mythic red clay, I can’t help but reflect on the role this incredible sport has played in my evolution.

From the moment my uncle (“Just Steve”) gave me a junior Henri Leconte Head tennis racquet to gauge whether or not I had any inclination to explore this odd game of chase and retrieve, it was obvious I was hooked. There was something undeniably invigorating about sprinting and striking. Tennis was tailor-made for me, and I could feel its grip deep within my bones.

Now, with the love affair nearly 30 years old, I can appreciate much more than clean backhand winners and the satisfaction of straight-sets victories. This sport has taught me about perseverance, focus, concentration, and the simple beauty of a meditative activity to block out the daily chaos. The tennis court is the only place where I can center my full attention on one thing, and the deafening static from a world filled with toxins, distractions, and neuro-interrupters fades away.

This is the last non-violent vestige we have of the excitement and energy generated from two opponents put to the ultimate test of strength, stamina, and mental muscularity. For all the aficionados of that bouncing yellow ball, I don’t need to explain what superhuman abilities were necessary to complete that 6-hour Australian Open final in 2012. These are athletes at the apex of their incredibly fine-tuned abilities, and watching them work is nothing short of spectacular.

I am grateful every day for my exposure to this phenomenal outlet, for the consistent cardio thrashing, and that my knees, ankles, and shoulders are still willing to stand by me in the trenches. I have watched the evolution of equipment and technique, and I appreciate the skills of past champions as much as the potential of tomorrow’s trophy lifters. For me, this is not only a sport, but a lifestyle…and I couldn’t be happier to live it.

The Insecurity of Security

worried1There is no such thing as an unfettered path. When the cards are all placed neatly in stacks, ready for their integration on the tower, a gale blows in to splash them across the ground. We can’t rewind the clock or reset the decks. It was fate that they found the floor.

Acceptance of these uncontrollable universal slaps in the face is never easy. Regardless of conscientious strategies or meticulous safeguards, we remain at the whim of unknown, and unforeseen, variables. Life is a spinning roulette wheel, and we’re left playing a number and hoping for the best.

It is the reluctance of this acceptance that speaks to the core of our collective weakness. We want to fix the game. We want guarantees and assurances that the moves we make are the most prudent, considerate, and cautiously plotted. No one should be left holding an empty bucket and wondering where it all went wrong. But someone must…and someone will.

Those winds will continue to blow, and we’ll find ourselves on our knees, sweeping up the broken pieces of our plans. We’ll lament the fact that we’re tested and we’ll gnash our teeth and clench our fists. But a deep breath and the acknowledgment that road spikes aren’t laid to stop the race but merely puncture the tire, can help us bandage the bruises and find that finish line.

So, it’s imperative that we soak up every second of the good stuff before life decides we’ve had our fill. Best days are easily followed by bad, and vice versa. Allow the variables to exist without fighting their inevitability and all that extra energy can be spent on the people and moments that really matter.

Forcing the Hand

hand1We are all ships at the mercy of the sea.

Although our paths feel self-directed, typically we are left waiting for a signal generated from someone else’s control tower. It is the patience to allow a process to properly unfold that separates those with longevity from life’s one-hit wonders, brilliantly burning out after a temporary blaze.

So much of this has to do with restraint, and the acceptance that we cannot govern the motivations or inclinations of others. There is a level of cooperation that is absolutely essential to building a product, creating a concept, or arriving at a finished result. We are a collaborative species, and the checks and balances that exist are as crucial a part of the system as the lightning-in-a-bottle moments of inspiration.

When we grind against the grain, the friction causes a fire.

It’s one thing to understand this philosophy, and quite another to put it into practice. But the mounting stress and strain of pulling teeth offers little in the way of a reward, no matter how ardently we believe we can convince, persuade, and influence someone else’s thinking. The act becomes nothing more than heads knocking firmly into walls.

Life is learning, and those lessons sometimes come at a price, but the benefit of seeing the unnecessary roadblocks built by our own hands is worth more than the satisfaction of watching someone else crash into them.

Behind a Mother’s Eyes

mother_and_son

The following is a guest post I wrote for the incredibly talented, honest, and unfiltered Clementine Ford-Wilcox. I highly recommend reading and following her blog, and I was honored to be asked to contribute a piece that speaks to the core of what motherhood means to me.

Behind a mother’s eyes waits a world of wonder, worry, astonishment, confusion, hope, heartbreak, and love. From the instant she welcomes her baby into the world until the day she waves goodbye, her lenses have recorded and stored volumes of memories. Each second of life weighted more pivotal than the next, she tiptoes over the shattered pieces of disappointment, champions the triumphs, and stands as a shield to deflect harm.

Often thankless and regularly ridiculed, the job of a mother is the world’s most vital undertaking. Like a sculptor chiseling a figure from stone, a beautiful, breathing work of art stands as a symbol of the effort applied to the process. She does this without the expectation of praise or applause, but because the task of nurturing a human being is not a burden or an albatross. It is her purpose.

No one thinks about the nights spent hovering over calculators wondering where to find the bottom line, or the furrowed brows carved from releasing a child into the harsh realities of an environment specifically designed to pressure, threaten, and challenge. Listening to the minutiae of a school day’s proceedings, driving to early morning soccer games, enduring cacophonic choral recitals, and patching broken hearts after fumbling attempts at navigating puppy love all serve as the ingredients for a cake made by a baker still deciphering the recipe. But this endeavor is exponentially more love than labor.

Stumbles and missteps are expected, but being a mother means learning more from the losses than the victories, and imparting those lessons to that innocent face watching your actions with studied attention. Mimicry is inevitable when you are someone else’s entire world. The challenge is crafting a life that is worthy of emulation.

It is precisely this ability to direct focus on what is truly important that will invariably separate a mother from the masses. Perhaps there are men who walk a similar line. I’m not a father, and I never had one. But I know my jet-propulsion fuel has come from one very capable and concentrated source, and my rocket would have plummeted into the sea long ago had it not been for the strength, foresight, and intuition that live behind a mother’s eyes.

A Ghost at the Gate

gate1“We should not fret for what is past, nor should we be anxious about the future; men of discernment deal only with the present moment.”-Chanakya

I look at this quote and I’m shocked by how thoroughly misaligned my life is with this concept. It’s a popular notion, and philosophers and spiritual advisers have preached the benefits of “living in the now” for almost as long as we’ve been questioning the purpose of existence.

Fear is a funny thing. It’s hardwired into our survival brain, enabling us to avoid potentially life-threatening situations. But left unchecked, it can significantly hinder our growth, fulfillment, and sense of adventure. Factor in a dash of trauma, and we’re reduced to rats spinning circles in the corner of a cheeseless maze.

My car was hit two weeks ago by another vacuous LA burnout. There weren’t any injuries, but I was subjected to the thrilling roller coaster ride of insurance company phone calls, repair shop appointments, and rental car confirmations. There was also a hovering tension that the other driver would devise a nice piece of fiction to wiggle his way out of responsibility, and at the conclusion of the proceedings…there was the fear.

It’s typical to be jittery behind the wheel after a smash, but I’ve realized that this gun-shy, knee-jerk reaction never sits too deeply beneath the surface, regardless of my station, environment, or circumstances. I walk through the world with a wary eye, untrusting and cautious, nervous and neurotic. I want controllable variables in an uncontrollable game, and the desire to maintain that power puts me in uncomfortable positions. This recent situation falls under a much larger umbrella, and lands in line with a trend that appears to be growing only more potent with each passing year.

As an introvert, I gain energy from my own fuel cells, as opposed to needing someone else’s power pack. I’m self-reliant and feel most at peace when I know that nothing will disrupt my carefully-calculated balance. I’m more productive and relaxed when I’m not watching for curveballs in the batter’s box.

But how far will I go to maintain these systems?

Will fear and trauma always hold the pen, charting my course from point A to point B, or will I regain the sense of freedom I found as a younger man, chasing a future of hope and potential? Is it possible to uncover a layer of my psyche that’s willing to bend and morph to accommodate surprises and the hidden gems waiting in the wings?

These are questions not easily answered, and there’s no definitive proof that one lifestyle is necessarily more optimum than another. But fear is a sturdy beast, and it will take some strategy to murder a monster that retains residency in the mind.

Cupid’s Broken Bow

bow10_3C474CCA-DD84-22E1-F8B879731EDC7353Another Valentine’s Day arrives to reflect on the intentional decision to avoid that most primal human urge to seek comfort and connection in the arms of a mate. As this calendar holiday disappears, I find myself as happily content in my choreographed singledom as ever. My life is of my own orchestration and the fewer cooks in the kitchen, the better the stew.

Understandably, there are those who are more than satisfied sharing this 80-something-year journey with a fellow traveler. They like to discuss the details of their respective workdays, synchronize their meals, think about what particular shade of green would look best in the den, vacillate about vacation rental properties, and fall asleep in a tangle beneath the muffled sounds of The Tonight Show’s opening monologue.

That may very well be the blueprint to build a rewarding and fulfilling life. But I’m not calling the contractor just yet.

My wiring screams at me to follow that heavy bass rumble of a distant drummer. I’m not going against my instincts or intentionally banishing myself to a fortress of solitude. Removing even the notion of chasing after some unattainable eligible single, trying to prove my merit, and ultimately spending any effort or time rebounding from the imaginary rejection, miscommunication, or misaligned timing seems like a much more rational and logical approach to living.

I haven’t been on a date in 18 months, and I’ll be just as satisfied and untroubled if that number hits 118. I have always found strength, motivation, and productivity from within. If anything, my numerous relationships and dalliances have hindered my growth, stunted my evolution, and routinely stood as roadblocks or speed bumps on the freeway to awakening and self-actualization.

But there’s always a chance I’ll strike up a random conversation with someone who is intelligent, insightful, opinionated, and rips the socks out of my Reefs. Then this diatribe will simply stand as a bullshit rant on a blog about independence, empowerment, and autonomy. Anything’s possible.

Stress Reprieve-r

rocks1I’m probably not alone at the start of a new year in feeling like there is a disturbing lack of daily equilibrium, and my colossal list of hopes and aspirations sometimes gets buried beneath the chaos.

We love to hit the ground running, chasing our resolutions with the speed of Hermes, determined to check each box before our energy fades or resolve wanes. We sprint after the better versions of ourselves, committed to fresh perspectives, remodeled work ethics, and the blind attainment of concocted goals.

But, there is a beauty in the balance.

Unless we are faced with tangible deadlines, our stress is our own creation. We berate ourselves for not accomplishing imaginary undertakings and then we let that disappointment fester until obstacles grow to slow our progress. We intentionally watered those seeds to ensure that our momentum would be stalled. Why?

Perhaps there is something innately human about the act of shooting ourselves squarely in the feet. I don’t often see other species carry on like this, so I have to assume the Homo sapien brain is hardwired to erect mountains from molehills and turn cracks into chasms. We need to feel like Rocky clobbering Creed or the monotony of our daily pedestrian activities doesn’t measure up to the daydream fantasy.

I am currently in the middle of some significantly stressful challenges, elevated by my own compulsive need for control in an uncontrollable arena. So I am fighting the battles worth winning and relinquishing the rest. It feels counterintuitive, but I trust there is a bigger picture still waiting to be painted.

I will continue breathing and finding that balance. When that’s less than successful, hurling myself around a tennis court for hours seems to be an adequate alternative.

Start the Presses

press2After the initial words were put on the page more than five years ago, I’m happy to report that my first book is finally in the publisher’s hands. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and the fact that something only alive in a cavernous bedroom’s computer will be shared with the world is surreal.

Because this is a work of nonfiction, I am figuratively walking into the literary cocktail party without clothes. My exposure and vulnerability will be put on full display, and I need to be okay with that. I signed up to be the monkey in the cage, so there’s no sense trying to give refunds now.

Taking the steps necessary to complete a survival story required more emotional investment and mental time traveling than I could have imagined, but the result is a piece that speaks to the center of my soul. That felt like something worth sharing.

My hope is that the pothole-covered path of my adolescence can serve as a road map for anyone faced with the prospect of insurmountable obstacles. Sometimes the only way to traverse 10 feet of solid granite is to put your head down and start to dig.

We can all find inspiration in the lines of someone else’s script. The human condition allows us to examine our own fortunes when we’re forced to see the hardships of others.

I am proud of my life. I am proud of the hurt and I am proud of the fight. Psychological sludge be damned. The residue is the reason I remember.

Perhaps this was the grand purpose behind the pain, and using personal trauma to help lighten someone else’s burden is the greatest gift I could hope to deliver.