Make up your mind, sky.

Woke up to snow covering the world today. It wasn’t much but it was a stark reminder that another year of this nonsense has come to pass and I didn’t have the common sense to get the hell out of here.

It was also a reminder that I must address the practical concerns to come, dealing with being in a vehicle that will routinely have to traverse the impossibly large sheet of ice that will be the entire state of Indiana.

Gotta get the hell out of here and get some sun on my skin again sometime in the coming month(s). The desert calls for many reasons. Need to visit my patch of dirt in Arizona.

On matters of life and death.

There’s an old standby that the pessimists (realists?) of the world reiterate in times of challenging news: When it rains, it pours. It is purported to be axiomatic; with one comes the other. I’ve stood in rain smiling and laughed when it poured. It has been cathartic. Recently, however, the referenced pouring has been decidedly less pleasant. This leads me to ponder the phrase for application in different contexts.

The widely accepted form of pouring referred to has come to the forefront of daily life in my family. An unimaginable disturbance has arisen in the form of cancer. Cancer carries the weight of generations by its mere pronouncement. Now our family is forced to speak evil into the world once more. We are to give voice to death and allow it a place at the table again. I am of the opinion and always will be that we are wise to wish death well, that it is always welcome. An unfortunate but necessary guest. Hushing the word away is akin to an outright denial of reality.

We must celebrate our place in relation to death, still able to draw breath and be grateful. Life is a stop along the way.

Death is but a single, perfect black moment. The fall from the edge can seem to stretch time and make it meaningless, but the fear is not in the black, it is in the fall. We are prone to fear falling from our birth. If you can lay this fear to rest, as you should, death can at long last become an ally.

Fear not the fall; few things in life are so inexorable. It is in the fall that you realize the heights you have actually reached.

Love this day and every day as though it were your last, because eventually it will be. Death is not an adversary, it is a welcome reminder to cherish life.

My daily bread.

All at once the gray has set in, though the orange and fading green are amongst the cloud blanket. A cold sets upon us and the heralds of winter in white suit shortly after. Before it sets upon us in totality, an afternoon of fading light. Night comes soon and for what will feel like months.

But in the brightest days, blinded by striking blue against a white sea, the silence comes to usher away the dead. All so the spring can lift them along with the spirits of the rest of us left doing something resembling living. This too, shall pass.

Here’s to you all.

I was going to make this post a diatribe on my disagreements with spurious nationalism and the multitudes of people who fall into that category but I’m going to let that sleeping dog lie.

Instead let this serve as a humble thank you to the veterans who have served something larger than themselves. You all did the work humbly that so many braggarts tout when they raise the flag. Your service was appreciated even if I don’t completely understand the full reasoning for it. It isn’t my lot to understand why a person would commit to this endeavor, but it is within my reach to respect any effort done with conviction.

In short: Thank you.

From someone who hates the world which causes young men to die far away from home at the whims of old men.

What is modern masculinity?

Lately I have been contemplating my standing in the world, specifically with regard to where I land in terms of my masculinity. That has raised the higher order topic of defining what masculinity looks like in a modern context.

It occurs to me that men are given the broad strokes as we mature, and that the picture which comes into focus is more of what might be deemed to be machismo. This is a stereotypical, almost caricature of masculinity, watered down to the even looser term of manly. The picture is devoid of context and contains zero of the nuances that make up today’s deeply complex modern man. There are obviously caveats to my branding: Not all of us are what might be considered deep. Not all of us wish to analyze ourselves in the context of the time we live in and would prefer a time in the past, where men were almost comically manly. But this removes all subtlety. All of the shades are blasted out in favor of conformation to a standard that is at best outdated, and at worst, blatantly sexist. This classic, stereotypical image of a man has never made sense to me, no matter how far I have tried to stretch that image over my character. All I’ve ever gotten was an ill-fitting skin and mirrors that lied.

So maybe the classic image isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of masculinity. Maybe there isn’t a solution at all. Nevertheless, I find it within the confines of my curiosity to try and define what I have come to see as my unique brand of masculinity. And maybe that’s the rub: it is unique to the individual and thus impossible to define so broadly.


In my experience:

Masculinity can take on less than ideal characteristics.

Whether it is the stereotypical stubbornness or emotional distance, masculinity can make the wearer appear shortsighted, childish even. As a person who has worn both of these unattractive qualities on occasion I can confirm that they did the opposite of bolstering my feelings of being masculine. This can feel more animal than human, as though acting purely on an instinctual channel. Animals have little need for emotions and can seem autonomous in their motivations, and there are times it feels the same to be masculine. I understand this may be an oversimplification and that this can just as easily take place on the feminine side of things, but my experiential database has all been while embodying the mind and body of a man.

Problematic word choices and comparisons to the animal kingdom.

It seems a common theme among modern men to bring up the concept of the Alpha male, and typically shortly after that, any number of titles lower in the Greek alphabet. At some point, someone with a marketing degree figured out that there was a dollar to be made by telling men how to become an Alpha (read dominant) male. Only shortly after did the same set of geniuses decide there was more money to be made by foiling these Alphas against their inferior, weaker counterparts, Betas. If you want to be a manly man, the surest path forward is an aggressive, domineering appearance, if not nature. In my experience (as is the case with this entire editorializing), strength more often shows up as steadfast consistency to any given cause. Of all the times I’ve been lead by anyone and took note of their overriding strength, it resembled a calm, focused attention on the goals of the group. There is very little boasting, chest thumping, or loud proclamations of superiority. There are simply demonstrable examples of how the person leads to consistent positive results. It requires zero explanation. These kinds of people are undeniably magnetic. You WANT to be lead by them. It is rare and it is powerful. It’s the type of man I aspire to be, but must take leave of my ego every time I consider I may be one. There is always more to learn, there are always ways to improve. To assume I have become anything approaching this is admitting that my search is over and that feels like a surrender more than an epiphany.

Loud versus quiet.

Treading the line between obnoxious and unassuming has been my modus operandi for much of my life. There are times when I find myself among the type who always has a better story than everyone and it becomes necessary to blend into the room and observe. Yet at other times I will find myself in a room full of wallflowers and feel personally responsible for getting to know them. The part of me that bulldozes through doubt in both rooms is a factor of my masculinity. But what drives that is an insatiable curiosity about any human experience unlike my own. Having a reserved person open up to me one on one makes me feel as though I have a superpower. On the contrary, when I am within a group of outgoing people, I challenge them openly with conversation. The goal is the same: a greater understanding of who they are. But maybe this is just being a human, free of the trappings of concepts like femininity or masculinity.

Masculinity is only a piece of the puzzle.

…but it is a corner piece. As I’ve attempted to deconstruct masculinity it has become clear to me that it is a cornerstone of what it means to be a modern man. Though the definition itself is set in stone, as are so many words, the proper usage and context is amorphous. Nothing about who we are as men fundamentally requires the adoption of classically masculine traits, but societal and internal pressures can become insurmountable. Challenges are issued almost daily; between men and within men, and who doesn’t love a good challenge? But when is the best time to press pause on these challenges, observe who we are and where we are in time, and alter course? That is all this treatise is; an attempt to press pause in my own time and build upon my current level of understanding.

One day my understanding will be closer to whole. In the interim, I’ll do my level best to be a good human first and foremost, picking up clues as I go.

Use them or lose them.

Words are powerful, but if they stay stored in the mind they are useless. This place is my opportunity to uncover some of the words buried in me, a little bit at a time. In an effort to build something, I have consistently posted, even if it is a musing or meandering.

This gives me an outlet and keeps the fires stoked. Every day can’t be profound, but in sum total, the days shift to the remarkable.

Between motivation and laziness.

The weekend brings a feeling that I should be doing something with the time. That any amount of sitting around engaged in pointless leisure should somehow carry a guilt. This is a feeling that I can’t seem to be free of.

I’ve always read and observed that people who “get places” basically never stop working and there is a part of me that has internalized that idea and told me not to stop moving. In the mean time I will spend hours considering what I should be doing, sitting in the thoughts and never acting on them. This is equally useless. Maybe I’m overthinking?

Maybe I have too high of a standard for my own conduct. So high that I can’t hope to achieve it. I believe it is valuable to take stock of where you are and wish to be, but perhaps the latter notion is detrimental if you don’t have a precise target. A lack of a specific and measurable level of success can make the searching seem daunting.

There is also a part of me that wants to continue down the road of being a Jack of All Trades. My knowledge will be wide and varied in scope, but mastery may elude me for a lifetime. This carries a weight of its own. To know that mastery is something I may only observe in others. But I cannot be outside myself looking toward this person to see if there is already some form of mastery that I am blind to. Maybe my particular brand of creativity is not one particular thing, but in all things I attempt with conviction. Does that make me a living? Not really. In fact it poses more questions than answers.

But I am a seeker: of ideas, of skills, of wisdom, of experience. There is always more to learn.

Malaise.

Though it has faded, the start of this week brought a familiar malaise over me. My guts felt as though they had been set on fire. I am sure this is a combination of less than ideal nutrition and general stresses of the day, but it was a stark reminder of how far I can be from normal.

Now that the soreness has faded I feel grateful. Ready to take on the rest of the week. Slow and steady wins the race.

Let’s go.

Gray days.

My mind has settled in to a standard routine over the past few months. During this establishing, the season has fully switched out here in the middle of the country. The days have grown shorter and grayer, much like the man in the mirror. This means that the winter woes will set upon us all within a month or so. Next week is the time change and the days will be cut off even more.

Much like the other facets of life, this requires a reframing. It has been an active exercise over the past few years to try and do this, and although I am not quite there yet, progress has been made. Diversions are helpful but I’ve found it best to try and limit these. There is some part of me that knows what is and isn’t a waste of my time, and any activity that is gets quickly eliminated. This can appear as rigidity to an outside observer but it is a search for value on my part. Time is precious and a finite resource that I take deadly serious.

The weekend has arrived and heralded time of value with friends. Today we make our own sunshine.

Gotta go.

Tomorrow is a day on the road, and a possible escape from the grind for a few days. We are going to North Carolina to visit with friends and enjoy a nice long weekend away. As always, though, I operate on the assumption that I will be needed to handle something for the business. Since that’s the case, I’ll be taking my laptop with us and hope to not need it.

It may be wise to use some of the change in scenery to try and divest myself of some of the trappings of home in the form of writing. There are plenty of hours between now and Sunday that could qualify for this kind of activity.

Like every other trip I can remember recently, I’ll be doing my very best to leave work at work. Time will soon tell how feasible that is.