Better Humaning

What’s at the root of (un)happiness? How can you start and maintain a daily meditation practice? Where might minimalism fit in? And what about politics? Better Humaning is where I write about all that and more.


Better Humaning

How I Rationalize Being So Hard on Myself, & How I’m Going to Stop

The difference between knowing something and embodying it.

I’m my own worst critic. A lot of us are. I don’t like this about myself. A lot of us don’t. But I finally have a strategy to make it stop happening.

Of course we’re our own worst critics: we know better than anyone else our abilities, capacities, our “should”s — we know our potential, so we know when we fall short. We know our dreams, our honest-to-goodness, non-filtered-for-“reality” dreams. We know the lessons we should have learned, the mistakes we keep making.

We have all the data to give ourselves the most accurate grade possible, and the way we were taught to grade as kids is to start at 100 and work our way backwards. I’m not as happy as I should be despite my privileges. Minus 1. Why did I engage in that harmful relationship that was so much like the other harmful relationships I was in? Minus 5, one for each. Minus 2 more for not learning the lesson. Minus 10 for pointing out a “flaw” in someone else you know you embody. And so on.

From “I would never treat anybody this way.”

This is something I have heard myself say dozens of times. I know that I have an unhealthy standard I set for myself, and that with other people I lead with compassion and understanding, while I never give myself the benefit of the doubt. This understanding is as far as I’ve gotten, or at least it wasAnd for good reason: I can’t give myself the benefit of the doubt, because there is no doubt.

I know. I know better. I know what I should be doing. How I should be feeling. I know.

It’s easy for me to treat other people with compassion when they experience a shortcoming I would berate myself for, because I don’t know if they know what I know. I don’t know if they know we create our own obstacles to happiness. But I do. I know that. So I should be better.

What’s worse: I know I shouldn’t should. Oops. There I go again. But I know better. That’s why. I know what I know, and I know better. That’s at the crux of all of this.

To “I would never treat any body this way.”

I’ve been working with a business coach, her name is Paula, at the suggestion of a friend. I am doing a lot of stuff, but I have been doing it in an emotionally, physically, financially (and plenty of other-ially) unsustainable way. Paula is just plain delightful, but also sharp as a tack.

We were chatting about the issue of how I struggle with the hate campaigns that get pointed in my direction. It just feels wrong, and makes me physically ill, which makes it hard for me to do anything. Then I get frustrated with myself for feeling that way, because intellectually I know that I shouldn’t allow others’ misconceptions of me and my work to affect my well-being. It’s silly. So then I’m frustrated two-fold. Inception of frustration. Not ideal.

I wasn’t sure what, if anything, would come from it. I’ve thought about this a lot. Then she pointed out something I already knew.

“Your intellect has matured to this point, but your limbic system hasn’t.”

Right. That’s true. That’s the annoying part. It’s that I know I shouldn’t be experiencing this body discomfort, this genuine ill. It makes me sick. It hurts in my chest. That’s what annoys me. That’s the double-whammy.

Then she said basically the same thing, again, but this time I heard it differently.

These are separate. My intellect — my mind, the higher logic, my me — is not my body — my limbic brain, my reflexes, my physical response system. The first one is the one that writes on this site, that gives advice to others, and that sometimes (oftentimes) berates the second one.

Applying Sanford’s Theory of Challenge & Support to Myself

In grad school, one of the most important things I learned was that we need to meet someone where they are, and help them grow incrementally toward who they want to be.

The theory being that if you challenge someone too much, they’ll become overwhelmed; and if you support them too much, they’ll stagnate; the appropriate combination for growth is challenge mitigated by support.

The idea being that you don’t go from 1 to 100. You go from 1 to 2. 2 to 3. 3 to 4. And so forth.

Previously, I had been treating my limbic self (my body’s reflexive responses to these external stimuli) as being on the same level as my intellectual self (the higher reasoning self that has spent way too much time thinking about these things).

I was holding myself to a high standard, which would be fine if I just had one self and it was at a high level. But that’s not what’s happening. There are two selfs here: one part of me needs challenge to thrive (the intellectual part), as well as a second part of me that needs support (the limbic part).

Moving Forward: Supporting instead of Challenging

It’s time that I stop holding my body to a standard that I would never hold anybody else to. It’s time I start realizing that knowing something intellectually isn’t the same as experiencing it, and that’s okay. To know that the way for my body to catch up with my mind is by meeting it where it’s at, the same way I’d meet anybody where they’re at.

Right now, my body isn’t okay with a lot of things my mind understands and can rationalize with ease. My body craves things my mind doesn’t (like cheese and sunburn). It reacts to things in immature ways (like how I sometimes almost vomit with sadness when I read the horrible things people say about me on the internet — people who don’t, and likely never will, know me).

Pretending it doesn’t, or yelling that it shouldn’t, won’t change that. Maybe someday — hopefully someday — it’ll catch up, but that’s not going to happen if I keep trying to make it go from a 1 to 100. I need to focus on getting it to 2 first, or I’m not going to get anywhere. And to do that, I need to treat it how I would treat any other body: with compassion, understanding, and support.

And that’s something my mind can totally (finally) get behind.

Better Humaning

Be Bored

"Boredom is the fear of self." - Marie Josephine de Suin

Be bored.

Stop. Whatever else you’re doing. Stop.

Turn off your music. Turn off the TV, Netflix Instant Streaming, Hulu+, Amazon Prime, all the things you use to fill your time. Not forever, not for long, but for right now, this moment, stop. Continue reading → “Be Bored”

Better Humaning

This Flowchart Will Change Your Life

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." - Maya Angelou

Hahaha — oh headlines. But seriously. You need no flowchart beyond this flowchart. View. Share. Love. Life.

Maya-Angelou---Change-It-Flowchart

Better Humaning

Treating Old Friends Like New Friends

“[O]ur honeymoon will shine our life long: its beams will only fade over your grave or mine.” - Charlotte Brontë

I made a new friend (not bragging) who is so awesome (totally bragging) she makes me seem boring (humble bragging). I love making new friends. I love the adventure, the mystery, toeing and pushing the line, oversharing with whimsy — I love every step of the way.

A few days ago I got tricked into rage-reading an article on some ratchet link-bait site written by someone who is probably named Yolo Swaggington — I digress. Let me try again. I read an article about a married couple that still “dates” one another. It was a couple thousand words, but that’s all it said: married people should date each other. I’m onboard. Totally. Sounds great. But I don’t think that going to the movies more is going to fix your marriage, Mr. (Dr.?) Swaggington, PhD. But the idea of treating your partner and thinking about your relationship with the same excitement and privilege you felt at the beginning, now that’s something I can really get behind.

But it’s also not that novel of an idea. We all know about the “honeymoon” phase of romantic relationships. I sitcoms with fat dads and skinny, model-attractive moms taught me anything, it’s that marriage is boring. And laugh tracks are annoying. There’s always that episode where their marriage gets strained and one of them cooks up the crazy idea to appreciate the other person, generally with some variation of the line, “I’m going to start loving you again as much as I loved you the first time I told you I loved you.” The studio audience lets out a big “D’awwwww” there’s a hug, a kiss, and that’s how boring television is made.

What we don’t see, or really talk about, is the same phenomenon happening in platonic relationships. Truthfully, we don’t talk much about platonic relationships at all. You see plenty of “24 Tips For Putting the Spice Back In Your Relationship” but rarely “18 Ways To Platonically Spice Up Your Platonic Relationship” (spoiler: #3 in both lists is “Don’t wear underwear tomorrow, but shhh… our little secret.”). All relationships go through phases, and all relationships that are meaningful to you deserve attention, intention, and care.

I’m going to start trying to treat my old friends in a similar way that I treat new friends. Here are a few things I’m thinking of that I can keep in my mind to help me do so:

  • Be genuinely curious about everything in their life. I generally try to be attentive and present, but I realize that with many old friends I’m not the information vacuum that I am with new friends. This is partly because I know so many of those things about them already, but that’s a weaksauce excuse. Even with the people I know the best, it’s likely a lot more tip of the icebergy than I realize.
  • Ask and learn how they want to be treated, and how I can be a better friend. I tend to do a good job Platinum Ruling new people, and a rubbish job Platinum Ruling the people who I’ve known the longest. Enough of that.
  • Tell them things about myself directly, instead of assuming they’ll know (“they should know this by now”) or expecting them to read about it on Facebook, Twitter, Interwhatever.
  • Be excited when I get to see them. And be excited that I get to be their friend. It’s a pretty sweet deal, y’all. I feel pretty strongly that I’m getting away with great train robbery more often than not.

There are many, many more ways to try to bring the honeymoon back into my friendships (and I’m all ears to suggestions!), but I’m happy with these four being what I focus on now. When building a habit, it’s best to start small.

 

Better Humaning

“What is the meaning of life?”

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life." - Albert Camus

“What’s the meaning of life?” he asked earnestly, as if he actually wanted the answer.

“To live true, to be honest, to experience spiritual connection, to give, to be…” he replied, rambling on platitudes. The same niceties he found himself saying on a regular basis — a daily basis. The niceties that only ever cross his mind when he’s asked to recite them. When he wasn’t reciting what life was, he was living it. And, for him, more times than not, life was a person.

It was a person who pulled him out of himself. A person who made him need, in a way that need was embodied by want. It was a person who lured then faded, who teased then parried, who pulled then pushed. It was a person who meant more to him than he felt comfortable acknowledging, because there was no sense in it. But his life had never made sense.

***

I think a lot about life. If you’ve read much of what I’ve published on this site, this likely comes as no surprise to you. If you know me as a person, in the real-life, touchy-feely world, it’s definitely not a surprise. I don’t sleep much. I never have. But I daydream a lot. I always have.

When I was younger, I had a hard time relating to people who were my age. My mom explained this to me by pointing out that I was younger than everyone in my grade. But I suspected it was something else. While other people were sleeping, I was laying in bed, wondering, thinking, considering, debating — all with myself, of course, because I was the only one awake. I’d lay there for hours awake, my mind spinning. If we spend a third of our lives asleep, then we only spend two-thirds of our lives aging. If you only sleep an hour or two a night, well, you might end up like me.

All this time I spent in my head, for the longest time, remained in my head. When I started letting it out, it started to make more sense to me, and I learned it helped other people make sense to them. It was good. It was cathartic. It became necessary.

***

“Yeah, I know, I know. All that stuff. Those are good things. But none of those really mean anything. When you boil it down, you can say all those things, and try to be all those things, and just end up exactly where you started: clueless and floundering through life. So, maybe I asked it wrong. What’s the meaning of your life?” he asked.

“What do you want me to say? Live life to the fullest? Be more than yourself? Sex, drugs, rock and roll?”

“I want you to be sincere.”

Damnit, he thought. ‘Sincere’ he says. Not honest. Sincere. He knows me. He’s heard me. So how can I possibly tell him the truth? He’ll hate me if he knows.

Because he’s never lied. Not to anyone. But he’s also never been sincere. His world is centered around people. He has too much love, his mom always told him this. And he’s managed to create a life that is honest, where he can find Meaning that is true to himself. But the idea that a person has so much sway over him, a person who barely knows him can pull on his mind the way the moon pulls the tides out of the sea, scares him. It makes him feel weak. Vulnerable. Incredibly, irrevocably human. And that, to him, is life. It’s perfect. But it’s not the way things should be. He knows this.

***

When I started writing, I finally started to calm my mind and channel the chaos into a discernible message. I wrote a lot of fiction for years, many years ago. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words. I would never share it with anyone, write it and delete it. It was catharsis with no other purpose. It was perfect.

I started writing with other purpose. I wrote cover letters for jobs I was applying to. I wrote emails to the memberships of organizations I was responsible for. I wrote training manuals and educational pamphlets. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. And I really loved it. It was natural for me. I had all these thoughts built up in my mind from dozens of years of not sleeping — all this age I hadn’t aged — and I finally found a relief for it.

I was told by someone I respected a great deal that my writing was the “best student writing” she’d ever read. I didn’t know at the time how meaningful that would be, and I doubt she does to this day, but a few years later it would be the nudge I needed to become me.

***

“It’s hard to be sincere,” he replied. “Because I’m worried you won’t understand.”

How could he believe that the meaning of life was a person? But how could I not, he thought, not even entertaining the idea. His life had changed a lot in the years he’d been alive, and he’d said a lot of things “absolutely” that changed just as quickly. Maybe this would change. But he didn’t think so. There isn’t much he’s sure of — he’s a person who celebrates and relaxes into the greys between the blacks and whites — other than this. This was right. This was yes. This was clear. Absolutely.

“I’ll understand,” his friend reassured.

***

When I wrote my first “article” I had no idea what I was getting into. In fact, at the time, I wouldn’t’ve even called it an “article.” I just thought of it as “this thing I’ll write because I was told I should write it.” It got 20 views, three of which were probably my mom. When a little over a month later my site broke 100,000 readers, I was more surprised than anyone.

I became a writer. I’ve since written a few books, one of which is published, and the others will be published soon. I’ve made a wage as a writer, hammering keys and expunging overburdened thoughts to the shared consciousness of everyone who deems me worthwhile.

I can’t imagine life now without writing. But I also couldn’t’ve imagined that writing would be such an important part of my life. And for a person whose life relies on his imagination, this is disconcerting.

***

“The meaning of my life is a person,” he said through his teeth, realizing that saying it out loud wasn’t just admitting it to his friend, it was affirming it to himself. “A person who inspires in me need embodied by want. Who lures then fades. Who pulls and pushes. A person who will likely never understand the importance they have in my life, but will hold that meaning regardless.”

And then his heart quickened, and he felt sweat upon his brow. He knew that he’d gone too far, said too much, been too sincere. He’d always been honest, but he’d never been terrifying. And to say that the meaning of life is a person, well, that’s terrifying. He never wanted to terrify.

“Sounds like a person I would love to meet.”

He smiled. Because it made him feel weak. Vulnerable. Because life was perfect.

Better Humaning

Many Lenses Construct Reality

"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin

We don’t live in the same world, you and I. But I’d love for you to try to show me yours, if I try to show you mine.

If you’re an artist, you see line and shape wherever you look. You take note of the cues that create perspective, and imagine mixing the colors you see. You wonder how the reality you’re looking at might appear in pastels, oil, and acrylic, and how you might recreate that reality later, and how you might alter it.

If you’re a comedian, you see humor between every line. Every word you hear, every thing you see, is passed through an algorithm in your head. [q:] Would that make people laugh on stage? [if no:] What do I need to change/tweak? [if yes:] Write it down.

If you’re a photographer, you see light and the absence of light in everything. You know that everything you’re looking at, and everything you can’t see, is being translated to your eyes through myriad reflections and refractions. Continue reading → “Many Lenses Construct Reality”

Better Humaning

Choosing to Love Instead of Allowing Ourselves to Hate

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” - Kurt Vonnegut

It’s gotten far easier to allow ourselves to hate than it is to choose to love.

We’re getting it from all sides. Controversy sells better than sex, and when you combine the two you have pretty much every magazine you see in the grocery store check-out line. We’re told to be terrified by our news people, that message is reaffirmed by our Facebook friends, and then we bring those messages into our social circle echo chambers and bounce them around. Don’t rinse. Repeat.

If you’re “conservative” you’re reminded on an hourly basis how the “liberals” are evil and actively working to undermine civilization. If you’re “liberal,” ditto the opposite. The actual ingredients of the message change daily, weekly, monthly, but the recipe has been the same for over a dozen years: exploit ignorance using fear, reintroduce fear byproduct to perpetuate ignorance. Create distrust, and through that distrust breed dependence on You as the Sole Trustable Message. Create a small “Us” and emphasize how big and nefarious of a “Them” we’re up against.

We need need to make a bigger Us, and a smaller Them.

We need to stop exploiting and demonizing ignorance, and start celebrating it as an opportunity for learning, expanding one’s perspective, and increasing one’s connection to others. Ignorance isn’t a bad thing. We’re all ignorant about a lot of things, and all started out entirely ignorant to whatever we think we know so much about now. Willful ignorance, something we’re encouraging with our demonizing of ignorance, is dangerous. If you beat someone back into a hole enough, they’ll stop trying to come out and start realizing how nice it is in their hole.

You Have a Choice

It’s comforting, sometimes, to think of the world as black and white, easily understood, where there is one “right” and one “wrong.” If someone does/is/believes X, then they are Right, they are on my side, we’re buds, I love them, let’s hug. If someone does/is/believes Y, they are Wrong and I hate them and wish they were dead dead dead. This is a nice, dualistic, simple way of thinking about things. Unfortunately (and fortunately!), the world allows for a mangled, cognitively complex, complicated way of thinking about things. And, among the myriad choices in life you have, one of them is whether you’ll embrace the comforting, misleadingly simple white/black of dualism, or the uncomfortably accurate grey of cognitive complexity.

You obviously have more choices than that. In fact, the choices at your disposal are limited only by your imagination and caffeine intake. But in the spirit of embracing the comfort of dualistic thinking while nudging toward cognitive complexity, here are two BIG choices we all have in how we act toward others:

We Can Keep Allowing Ourselves to Hate

The people we don’t understand; the people we think we disagree with; the people we know we disagree with; people whose belief systems are different from ours, or harmful, or wrong, or weird; people who have done bad things; people who aren’t nice to us, or don’t love us, or hate us; people who are part of Them, not one of Us.

Or We Can Start Choosing to Love

The people in the last paragraph, as well as everyone else. We can recognize our power of choice, understand that understanding can be more fruitful than willful ignorance, and start to believe that it’s possible that if we allow and encourage people to come out of their holes they might like it more out here (even though it will be scary at first, but that’s why we’re here to help).

Everyone doesn’t need to have the same beliefs, we just need to start believing in everyone.

Choose to Love

If this is sounding like something you want to get onboard with, here are the sometimes-daily steps I run through in my effort to choose to love more, and allow myself to hate less:

  1. Remind myself, first and foremost, that I do have a choice. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters” or however that Epictetus quote goes. No matter how horrible, nefarious, or Disney-villain-evil someone seems (or is), I choose how I will make sense of that an act.
  2. Try to find the good. And I mean actually find it. Don’t trick myself into believing something about the person is good “Well, they said they hate gay people but that’s only because they love families — families are cool.” There’s likely genuinely something about this person you’ll deem good, if so, great! If not…
  3. Try to understand the bad. This requires asking the person questions and actually listening to the answers, not just listening for your cue to jump in and destroy them. Sometimes just asking those questions (a lot of “why?” questions — that they may’ve never been asked with genuine curiosity) will be enough, and the person will realize how dualistic they were viewing things. But even when it doesn’t, it’ll help you realize how dualistically you’re viewing them.
  4. Now, forget about all of that and remember what your goal is. Your goal is to choose to love this person, and the goal of that is to create mutual understanding of one another, your differing perspectives, and hopefully replace fear with respect (or at least unfear). To do that it doesn’t matter if you can’t find any Good and you can’t understand any of their Bad.
  5. Replace the Courtroom in your head with an Elementary School Art Teacher. We are so often the prosecuting attorney, defense, judge, and jury in these elaborate cases we play out in our heads when determining someone as Good or Bad. Instead, be more like your art teacher from elementary school and give the kid who painted a beautiful, almost photorealistic sunset the same grade as the kid who ate glue and created a color abomination that only makes sense to a kid who is super high on glue.
  6. Choose to love. It’s usually harder to choose to love than to allow yourself to hate, but like with other hard choices (“Should I get up after my first alarm or stay in bed for the rest of my life forever until I die?”) it’ll do you more good. And it gets easier if you work to make it a habit.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

***

Incidentally, my friend slash wonderful person I look up to a great deal, Kevin Wanzer, named his LLC “Choose to Love” after a poem he wrote (that he published as an illustrated book). Please don’t consider this article to be affiliated with or an endorsement of Kevin and his work — it’s just coincidence in phrasing and a shared philosophy we have. But please consider this is an endorsement of Kevin and his work: buy his book, bring him to your campus/org to speak, and tell everyone you know about both.

Better Humaning

My List of 100 Dreams

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” - John Lennon

Have y’all heard of Laura Vanderkam’s “List of 100 Dreams” idea? I hadn’t, but I have now, and I love it.

To me, it feels like a bucket list, but better: the items don’t have to feel realistic, or things you can only do if you put the time aside. They can be big and scary and feel impossible.

I don’t usually do things like this, but one of my goals for this year was to put myself in unknown situations more. And now that I’ve done it, I can’t recommend it enough. Let’s get uncomfy together.

Here’s my list of 100 dreams:

Note: 1 – 42 are professional-ish, 42 – 69 are personal-ish, and the last 31 are all experiential. I’m occasionally updating with a  when a dream has become a reality (last update November 2018).

  1. Write this entire list with 100 legitimate dreams ✅
  2. Create a line of social justice-y greeting cards ✅
  3. Write and illustrate a children’s book
  4. Publish 3 books, then keep writing more ✅
  5. Keynote a conservative conference/event
  6. Record and release my EP
  7. Translate A Guide to Gender into 5 languages
  8. Perform/speak on every continent (yes, especially Antarctica)
  9. Perform/speak in every U.S. state (I’m at 49/50, and looking at you, Alaska — I’ll do a free show if anyone at UofA is reading this!)
  10. Give Ellen DeGeneres a hug
  11. Give away 100,000 copies of A Guide to Gender
  12. Host SNL
  13. Open a vegan restaurant/food truck
  14. Create a fun audio book version of A Guide to Gender
  15. Do my show or give a talk at all the schools I personally attended
  16. Have a book on the NYT Best Sellers List (organically, not by buying my way in)
  17. Collaborate with three different activists on three different projects in a year ✅
  18. Earn enough money to pay all my bills doing Good (and no freelancing) ✅
  19. Appear on a Late Night show talking about something positive
  20. Create and curate an activist/artist retreat collaborative camp thing
  21. Hire someone to read [and respond to most of] my email
  22. Write a column for The New Yorker
  23. Speak at Creating Change
  24. Launch the Uncopyright Movement  ✅
  25. Serve on the Board of some cool national organization I love ✅
  26. Publish a piece in a print magazine  ✅
  27. Translate the Genderbread Person into at least 7 more languages
  28. Shift my income to be primarily from writing (not speaking/performing) ✅
  29. Work less than an average 14 hours a day in a year
  30. Make a documentary inspired by and following the development and reaction one of my projects
  31. Publish a book of poetry and prose
  32. Tell jokes on Comedy Central
  33. Get a studio space that I can share with collaborators
  34. Teach at a university ✅
  35. Finish writing a novel
  36. Go one week without receiving any hate mail or hate campaign related garbage
  37. Write and produce an off-broadway show (or produce one of the ones I’ve already written)
  38. Create a social justice conference
  39. Give a talk/performance in a language other than English (German, Russian, Portuguese, or French)
  40. Write a screenplay
  41. Create and sustain jobs for at least two wonderful, passionate people for a year
  42. Convince people “social justice comedian” is a thing, and that it makes perfect sense ✅
  43. Build a house for myself
  44. Learn French and Portuguese
  45. Yoga with regularity and consistency
  46. Paint a mural in Austin
  47. Become 100% debt-free
  48. Cook for friends on a regular basis
  49. Halve my possessions once more, for the last time (probably)
  50. Pay someone to do my taxes
  51. Get my PhD
  52. Find a secret place in the world where I can escape and sabbatical (and tell no one)
  53. Attend a culinary school academy type thing
  54. Brew my own beer ✅
  55. Get a puppy and love it to death (after he’s lived a long, happy life, of course) ✅(Chewbacca!)
  56. Drink more wine, more tea, and less coffee ✅
  57. Learn to be less afraid of money
  58. Fund a scholarship for students “who otherwise would not consider higher education an option”
  59. Get surgery on my eyeballs so I can see better
  60. Actually live in Hawaii near my fam for at least a little bit, if nothing else but to confirm my theory that I’d get island fever despite all the wonderfulness
  61. Get braces or whatever is necessary to straighten my teeth so I can chew better
  62. Grow a garden
  63. Build a motorcycle
  64. Develop a family of friends in Austin, or wherever I live next ✅
  65. Live abroad for at least six months
  66. Continue finding healthy ways to mitigate the stress of this life I’ve chosen and go a year without asking for permission to smile.
  67. Spend a month with no contact with any other human beings
  68. Spend a month touring/performing/speaking every day ✅
  69. Spend a month following the 253 vows of the Vinaya
  70. Swim in the Sea of Stars in the Maldives
  71. Fly in a helicopter
  72. NYE in NYC
  73. St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin
  74. Scuba dive the Great Blue Hole
  75. Road trip around the great lakes (including seeing a movie at the Cherry Bowl drive-in) ✅
  76. Surf the cliffs of Moher
  77. Go on a safari and shoot a rhino (with my camera)
  78. Read Anna Karenina ✅
  79. Ride a train from Austin to Mexico City
  80. Visit Flores Island, Indonesia when the Lake of Old People is blue, the Lake of Young Men is green, and Maiden’s Lake is red
  81. Do a backflip out of an airplane (ideally with a parachute attached to me) ✅
  82. Ride in a hot air balloon (ideally in Anatolia in Turkey)
  83. Go to the Sasquatch Music Festival
  84. Visit the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx
  85. See Zhangye Danxia in China
  86. Buy a van/bus/station wagon and live/work out of it on the road for a while
  87. See Flight of the Conchords live
  88. Climb Mount Roraima
  89. Literally walk 500 miles to see someone I love
  90. Go to Burning Man
  91. Swing on the “End of the World” Swing in Baños, Ecuador
  92. Ride an elephant, ideally one named “Bubbles” (but I’m not picky) ✅(Not Bubbles, Meena)
  93. Spelunk the caves of Hang Ken in Vietnam
  94. Walk from the Shire to Mordor (or, rather, the real-life places in NZ those locations were shot in)
  95. Oktoberfest in München
  96. Walk the Tunnel of Love with a коханець in Klevan, Ukraine
  97. Experience zero gravity, ideally in space
  98. See Mike Birbiglia live ✅
  99. Attend the World Cup
  100. Visit the Himalayas and a Zen Buddhist monastery in the region

That’s it. That’s a lot. If you want to make any of these dreams a reality with me, or have a tip/inside track for one, I’m all ears.

(Un)Happiness

My Guitar is My Pacifier. What’s yours?

“This machine [the guitar] kills fascists.” - Woodie Guthrie

Some days, I wake up spooning my guitar. This comforts me, then I realize I could have destroyed it so it terrifies me, then I realize I didn’t destroy it so I’m comforted again. It’s a roller coaster. Other days, my guitar is the first thing I reach for in the morning. I’m still rubbing sleepies out of my eyes while I fingerpick a few notes and think about what I’m going to do with my day.

If I’m having a tumultuous day, or I’m feeling particularly down, or I feel like the world is broken, or if I run out of hummus ingredients, I’ll pick it up, pick some strings, and it will immediately pick me up. Sometimes I only need a few minutes, sometimes I need a couple of hours, but it always works. Every. Single. Time.

My guitar is my pacifier. Continue reading → “My Guitar is My Pacifier. What’s yours?”

Better Humaning

I’m Insulted When You Call Me Ambitious

“At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.” - Salvador Dalí

I was reading a blog post someone wrote about me (I know. Let’s move on.) and they described me as “incredibly ambitious.” This was meant to be a compliment. Cool. Nice of you. But I don’t see it that way. I get upset when people describe me or think of me as ambitious. In general, I discourage ambition.

In many ways, ambition is the opposite of who I am, want to be, and what I want for others. Continue reading → “I’m Insulted When You Call Me Ambitious”

(Un)Happiness

You Should Watch the Movie “About Time”

And live the way he learns to live. I did and I will.

I hadn’t really heard much about About Time, the newest Love-Actually-Notting-Hill-Brit-Rom-Com-warm-fuzzy delight. And, to be honest, while I love watching feel-good movies (because they, you know, make me feel good), I don’t generally have high expectations for them. They tend to be rather empty.

This one is not. Continue reading → “You Should Watch the Movie “About Time””

Better Humaning

Being Sick is a Good Time For Catching Up

You take the red pill, you don't cough as much and your body hurts a tiny bit less, and I show you how deep this rabbit hole goes.

I don’t often get sick, but when I do, I get sick. While I was in New Orleans I came down with a wicked case of Swamp Flu. Or maybe it’s the Bayou Bug. I just hope it’s not Crawfish Sickness. I also hope I’m not offending my Nawlins friends with my silly imaginary NOLA illnesses. And the overall body sadness I’m experiencing right now is anything but imaginary.

There’s not much good that comes from chills and fevers and bears (oh my!), but it can be a nice time to play catch up on things in life that otherwise don’t get much attention. For me, that’s reading fiction and watching new television shows. Two things I’ve done a lot of today, and will likely (but hopefully not) do a bit more of tomorrow.

Now please excuse me while I simultaneously sweat and shiver. Oh, Body, how you amaze me so.