Bouncing Back and Forth

lust vs love

Her self description is: I’m Paula. I love sparkly things and hate cauliflowers. I believe in individuality and self-expression. Music geek. Love life in its simplest ways. Spend way too much time thinking and wandering. My brain is chaotic. I’ve never been pregnant. Nice to meet you. On her page she wrote:

A battle between the comfort of familiarity and the rush of meeting someone new.

Sometimes it does feel like a battle between that.

On one side, there’s the peaceful kind of love; the one that offers stability, comfort, and security. There are fights included, of course, but minor and infrequent ones. It’s mostly a soothing, tender love that dominates the relationship. And you think that’s all you want and need, until…

You discover a different side. It’s almost foreign to you and completely unlike the usual, stable type of feelings you get with that other person…but that’s precisely what makes it appealing. A rush.  An unknown adventure, inviting you in to discover it.

Then it becomes a problem.

The tranquility of spotting your lucky bracelet vs. the excitement of unfolding a new gift.

The hospitality in knowing that tomorrow’s Monday vs. the realization that with him, it’s always Fridays.

The boring vs. the new,

Truth vs. passion. Which in the end translates to love vs. lust.

And what sets them apart, is that love is always worth it.

That fairly well describes the fight within me that I let rage for years. The toll of bouncing back and forth between love and lust cost me dearly. So glad that confusion is long behind me. I am grateful to fully know now it’s love that matters. The other is just an itch that wants to be scratched and nothing more. The hardest learned lessons have become my most vivid wisdom.

Love is the rose.
Lust is the thorn.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Similar to a Blind Man


I’ve lived. I’ve learned.

I’ve failed. I’ve succeeded.

I’ve found myself. I’ve lost myself in others.

I’ve been kind. I’ve been heartless.

I’ve been loved. I’ve lost the love I had.

I’ve been loyal. I’ve been unfaithful.

I’ve been hurt. I’ve been hurtful.

… that and more is the human experience.

After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul and you learn that love doesn’t mean possession and company doesn’t mean security. And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead with the grace of an adult not the grief of a child. And you learn to build your roads today because tomorrows ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have ways of falling down in mid-flight. After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much, so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure… that you really are strong and you really do have worth and you learn and you learn… Veronica A. Shoffstall.

I’m just a man who learned about life similar to a blind person feeling his way; the way we all do. Too rarely have I taken the advice of the experienced, and instead depended on knowledge gained first-hand. Because of my habit of not listening, you’d think I’d stop giving unsolicited advice. Probably humming a song to them would have more meaning. I didn’t listen to most advice given. Most never listened to how I might have counseled them. “I told you so’s” have little meaning.

No matter how many people come into my life or how many become a fixture in it, 95% of my knowledge about living well comes from what I have done and didn’t do. Realizing every moment is a lesson, whether big or minute, has been one of my great revelations. I am truly grateful for the experiences I learned that from.

Experience is a hard teacher
because she gives the test first,
the lesson afterwards.
Albert Einstein

Darkness of My Soul

magic_mushrooms edit thanks to image maker

I’m coming up on an anniversary. In 2007 I spent five life-altering weeks at “The Meadows” where I went to finally come face to face with my childhood abandonment and trauma issues. Reflecting back I can see the experience with clarity as only a retrospective perception can give. Those days were absolutely the most meaningful but difficult of my life. It was the journey out of the darkness of my soul.

Six years ago on the evening of October 6th I stood at the admissions counter at the nurse’s station in Wickenburg, Arizona feeling fearful, cautious and in severe emotional pain. I had lost my second wife due to my inappropriate actions (I cheated on her). It was that loss that motivated me, or better stated, it was the almost unbearable pain of that loss that moved me to finally do something about my compulsions.

Some people drink. Others do drugs. Gambling is the choice for many. My compulsion was to seek a woman for sex to temporarily mask the pain. The craziness of frequently having at least two and sometimes more relationships at a time had been a burden I had carried since I has eighteen years old.

The majority of my ‘affairs’ were not causal. Factual or not, I largely believed that love was the motivator. Always searching and looking to find in someone else a way to fill in what was lacking in me. I did not realize fully that I was already well-loved. I lacked the ability to receive love as a ‘normal person’ would. I did not love myself. I blamed two wives and many lovers for an emptiness that was not their fault. I hurt a lot of people. What most probably have never grasped is my compulsions hurt me as deeply or worse than it did them.

While at “The Meadows” ( I purchased a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat, Pray, Love”. Reading it I underlined in pencil the passages I found particularly meaningful as is my habit. One particular passage has stuck with me. It’s describes well how I have always wanted to be love and be loved.

I’m here.
I love you.
I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long,
I will stay with you.
There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love.
I will protect you until you die,
and after your death I will still protect you.
I am stronger than Depression
and I am braver than Loneliness
and nothing will ever exhaust me.

That passage moves me to the point of emotional overflow even today. The desire for it is stronger than ever, but there is no definitive knowing if I could yet let it in from someone else. Sitting here telling the world is another small step in my healing.

In hindsight I was loved as Elizabeth Gilbert describes but could not appreciate it. It’s too late now to do anything but learn the necessary lessons from those relationships. At least then the pain was not for naught. To those women who loved me who I could not love enough in return I will always be grateful and deeply regretful for the pain I caused. Without those experiences I would not be the mostly happy and optimistic person I have become.

Forget past mistakes.
Forget failures.
Forget about everything
except what you’re going to do now
– and do it.
William Durant

Better With Age


Walking across a college campus for a business meeting with the athletic director of a Midwest college an epiphany hit me. In my late thirties college aged people hardly noticed me. I suppose I just looked like someone’s Dad. It occurred to me that I had become “invisible to college girls”. And that makes sense considering I was on average close to twenty years older. However, the male ego is a fragile thing.

I’m absolutely certain the twenties are not an age I would want to endure again. Too much change; too many mistakes; too much uncertainty and a general lack of respect from those older. The thirties were a time of arriving, but not yet getting there. I swear I did not deserve to be called an adult until at least my 40s!

The quality of my life has continued to improve as I have aged. An article published in the U.K. sheds light on aging.

Researchers have found that people’s’ mental abilities peak at 22 before beginning to deteriorate just five years later.

Professor Timothy Salthouse, “Results converge on a conclusion that some aspects of age-related cognitive decline begins in healthy, educated adults when they are in their 20s and 30s,” he said.

The study of 2,000 men and women lasted over seven years. The respondents, aged between 18-60, were asked to solve visual puzzles, recall words and story details and spot patterns in letters and symbols. The research by the University of Virginia found that in nine out of 12 tests the average age at which the top performance was achieved was 22.

The first age at which performance was significantly lower than the peak scores was 27 – for three tests of reasoning, speed of thought and spatial visualization. Memory was shown to decline from the average age of 37. In the other tests, poorer results were shown by the age of 42.

However, the report published in the academic journal Neurobiology Of Aging, found that abilities based on accumulated knowledge, such as performance on tests of vocabulary or general information, increased until at the age of 60.

Another article about a related study in the same U.K. newspaper said, “While university-age participants were quicker to make choices which led to immediate rewards, another group aged 60 to 80 were much more adept at taking strategic decisions which took future stages into account”. Two experiments designed to mirror realistic decision-making scenarios showed that older people were far better at making choices that led to long-term gain.

So to the college kids who I am invisible to, enjoy your twenties because it’s downhill after that. I just can’t help smirking a little when I write that. The next time some 30-something hotshot who thinks they have the world by the ass lays a ‘tude on me I will silently think he or she is actually quite comical. They’re already past prime in some ways and don’t even know it.

I am happily grateful to be a bit less admiring of younger ages after reading the British articles. I’ve gotten better with age. All in all, I am the best I have ever been.

It’s not how old you are,
it’s how you are old.
Jules Renard

Promises, Promises

promises ave and realiry way

A promise kept is a healthy, living thing. A broken promise lives in the land of the dead.

Wikipedia explains a “promise” to be: commitment by someone to do or not do something. As a noun promise means a declaration assuring that one will or will not do something. As a verb it means to commit oneself by a promise to do or give.

Unfortunately I learned about promises as a child from parents and adults who made them easily and broke them with even less thought. The flimsy guarantees behind what the grownups pledged taught me it was ‘normal’ to make and break my word in romantic relationships.

Is this what sadness is all about? Is it what comes over us when beautiful memories shatter in hindsight because the remembered happiness fed not just on actual circumstances but on a promise that was not kept? Bernhard Schlink

After I point I can’t blame childhood caregivers at all. It’s my belief we can only hold our parents responsible into our 20’s at the latest for bad habits and behaviors they taught us by example. After that age being an ‘adult trainee’ should be over and the fiber of one’s character should become choice rather than conditioning. I was a slow learner.

Some of my usual behavior looks to be anything but admirable in hindsight. It took time, but the difference between habit and what is honorable slowly came into focus. My childhood conditioning fostered many of my typical practices that were in fact dysfunctional. Just because I do something with regularity does not make it good. A habit is just a habit.

As a fully grown man, cultivating healthy habits and behaviors was not an easy process. It was a bit like preparing overgrown land for growing crops. First what is already growing had to be cut back or removed. The rocks and roots had to be cleared from the soil before successful planting. Likewise, my first task was recognizing the unwanted and unhealthy tendencies that had grown with in me. Afterwards the clearing out of “rocks and roots” could begin. Only when those two steps were practiced could I successfully plant and nurture new ways of behaving.

Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures, when ninety-nine percent of the time the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast. The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them. Karen Marie Moning

On my left upper arm is a tribal tattoo that means “honor”. At the time it was created I did not yet fully deserve it. It was something for me to grow into. While imperfect, today I endeavor every day to deserve the symbol permanently etched on my arm. I’m grateful for each bump in the road that taught me, every peer in recovery who listened without judgment and to my Higher Power who has made possible that which I could not do alone.

I  know it is a bad thing to break a promise,
but I think now that it is a worse thing
to let a promise break you.
Jennifer Donnelly

“Soft Hearted”

melted heart

Maybe you don’t see,
Little things get to me,
A silly comment, words unmeant,
Things merely insignificant
Spend hours in my head,
They tear at my heart,
And don’t cease
Till its apart.

There was never a time I don’t remember being soft-hearted, even as a little boy. Clearly I recall before first grade giving my uncle something for my first cousin. She was younger and had cerebral palsy. Giving her a prized rubber cowboy I kept safe in a drawer was my way to show I cared.

At nineteen I quit my job and moved a thousand miles with my roommate because he was relocating and needed help. I took off ill-prepared with no job and little money but it all worked out.

Close to ten years ago I relocated out of the country for the woman in my heart. Living on a tiny island where she wanted to be is not something a poor swimmer like me would ordinarily choose otherwise.

Professionally, I have stayed at jobs much longer than I wanted in order not ‘let down’ the people who worked for me.

More times than I can remember have been denials of my hopes and wishes in order to give to someone else.

Today I don’t really regret any of it, but do acknowledge the pain my actions caused me. For long years there was a struggle with thoughts like, “I do all this for them and they don’t appreciate it” or “I give and give and give. Why can’t they see what I need?” or “After all I have done for you, you do this to me!” I admit there is selfishness in those notions. To give with unspoken strings attached is not true giving. In every instance there was a lesson to be learned, but I had to wait until the ember of each emotion died down.

What remains behind of those things given in the past are stories I tell myself. Over time the tales have improved to where I can see my willing participation in each episode. Once the emotions settled and my part was exposed there came teaching that allowed me to see beyond the aches of a soft heart. Ultimately I realize now everything given eventually looped back to benefit me in one way or another.

“..It occurs to me that the peculiarity of most things we think of as fragile is how tough they truly are. There were tricks we did with eggs, as children, to show how they were, in reality, tiny load-bearing marble halls… Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles, able to pump for a lifetime, seventy times a minute, and scarcely falter along the way. Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkably difficult to kill.” Neil Gaiman

I am grateful for each time I have been hurt, misunderstood, left-out, given more than I got or was left behind. Such are what made my soft heart strong.

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching,
and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be.
I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.
Charles Dickens

Closing the Chapter

growingup01You’re missing something. You’re watching everything pass you by and it’s making you anxious but you’re not quite sure how to catch up. A small part of you doesn’t even want to catch up. You’ve become comfortable in your complacency, comfortable in your own mistakes. Your slip ups have become some kind of solace. They’re yours to keep. Flaws have become some sick substitute for a relationship and you take them to bed with you.

You’re too young to be completely happy. You’re currently living your lost years and even though it’s taking you down, you’re not ready for the alternative. Something that no one likes to admit is that it sort of feels good to screw up. You don’t think you know exactly what you’re doing? You can pretend to be naive to spare everyone else’s feelings but let’s not get confused: you’re in control here. Every step of the way.

That is, until you’re not. The thing about being a mess is that you eventually do lose control. The self-destructive spiral you’ve been orchestrating gets ripped away from you and put in the hands of something much bigger. Then you’re screwed. Then you’re going to be saying “…Take me back to the land of stability and normalcy! I’m done living my lost years. Now I just would like to be found!”

Your life is precarious. When you were in high school and college, you treated your mortality like it was a crappy purse. You stomped on it, broke a strap, let a vodka bottle spill out and ruin the leather. You did all of this believing it would all be repaired while you were sleeping, and it usually was. You reach a point, however, when the leather stays torn, when the piece of crap bag becomes beaten beyond repair. Simply put, you have to take a more proactive role in maintaining your happiness and well-being. You’re not just someone watching their own life from afar. You’re in it now. And if you don’t take care of it, it will fall to pieces.

This is how someone becomes the person they want to be. They make changes. They stop taking those pills, clutching those drinks, and start deleting those numbers in their phone that might as well be daggers. They take responsibility for themselves. This might sound so minor but something you all must know by now is that we’re often our own worst enemy. We can’t blame something on a lack of self-awareness. We’re all aware, which makes it that much harder when we see ourselves making the same mistakes. We often wonder why we do the things we do. But we already know why. Knowing and doing are two different things though. I know that x, y, and z make me unhappy but I guess, in the end, I just don’t care enough to make changes. You can’t force yourself to care. You need to reach a point where you DO care which can take a long time.

But once you do reach it, there’s no going back. Being a broken mess is a blast at 19 but once you’re old enough to know better and start to make those necessary changes, returning to that state will feel awful. That’s something to actually mourn. There’s a certain kind of beauty with being reckless with your body and mind. Closing the chapter on that and actively becoming the person you’re going to be feels great but it’s also a tad bittersweet. Sometimes you want to go back to being the person you were before all the bad stuff happened, but you know that’s impossible. So you just bid adieu to that time and look towards your future. (FYI, it looks super bright.) By Ryan O’Connell

At an age older than many (yet younger than most) I have found myself, or at least enough of me to make out an image I am pleased to recognize. In a few ways acting like I was in my early 20’s for decades had some advantages, but none to hang on to for as long as I did. Most of it was being reckless and irresponsible with women’s hearts where I clearly see a past lack of maturity. For a long time I thought being a ‘player’ was cool… NOT! That is an insatiable and empty quest. Today men who are more respectful and loving than me are uncommon. Pain, heartache and loneliness are educational guardians who repeated their teachings until the lesson was learned. I may have been a slow learner, but one I got it, I am grateful I REALLY got it.

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically.
We grow sometimes in one dimension,
and not in another; unevenly.
We grow partially. We are relative.
We are mature in one realm, childish in another.
The past, present, and future mingle and pull us
backward, forward, or fix us in the present.
Anaïs Nin