Friday, June 29, 2007

Which downfield receiver to hit?

In football, the quarterback has two types of receivers, a primary and a secondary. He wants to hit the primary first, and if the play breaks down, he can throw to the secondary. Now, I'm taking a nutritional program, and one of the things she talks about is primary and secondary foods. Secondaries are what you stuff in your mouth. I'm becoming smarter about that. The primaries are a different kind of nourishment. Those are your friends, exercise, writing, hobbies, music--activities that feed your other insides. Of course, you have to rely on the secondaries, but the key is (I think) to rely less on them when you're not feeling your best. Like tonight for instance. I was feeling a little down. So I took a drive to clear my head. (good) But I stopped on the way back for a couple of cheeseburgers and fries. (not good). Now I'm still a little down and guilty about the food. (but that's ok--I'm conscious of what's going on). I'm home, eating, and thinking I gotta climb out of this. I fire up iTunes, and click in TSF jazz in Paris. Here's a good primary food--great music from a fantastic city. A couple of songs later, I'm feeling better (hearing "Politely" by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers helps.) Then I start to think about the primaries and secondaries. And here I am writing. The primaries, to me, seem to be about action. Doing something constructive and moving forward, instead of dwelling on negatives and stuffing your gullet. Tonight was a good lesson in how to recover from feeling down and blue.

It's not a small world after all

Growing up in a small town, you tend not to realize the greater world around you. Bu as you get older, you start to figure out there's more to life than just the six square miles you call home. Riding the bike around town, you know innately there's more there. Then you move away to the big city. There it is--the melange, the hurly-burly, the bustle of different people from different places. It's like a pool. And you want to dive in and swim. And keep swimming and meeting new people, experience new things. You have to keep swimming.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Is it ok to be selfish? Not in the raging, I-gotta-get-mine-screw-everybody-else vein, but knowing what you want and your willingness to achieve it? I don't think so. I think we need to be more attuned to what we truly want, and not be afraid to take steps in that direction. For whatever reason--mostly connected to ego or fear--we don't. But if you have a clear picture of your dreams, why not move boldly toward them? Because others may not understand? Or may try to dissuade you? If your sights are clear, they should understand. And give you an assist.

Ready for takeoff

I went out on my walk this morning. Usually I'm up and on my way within 20 minutes, but for some reason, I took my sweet time getting going. The walks are good for my body and my soul. One question that popped in my head was--am I ready to go? Go where? Go to the places I want to go. Not the physical places, but the spiritual places. Am I ready to be happy? Am I ready to do the things I want to do to achieve it? Yes, and yes.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Still pursuing...

There's nothing like a shower to trigger the old theta waves...

If everybody's in pursuit of happiness, shouldn't I be too? I am, but I need to be more aware of the pursuit. What is it that I'm chasing and how am I achieving it. That simple...right?

The pursuit of happyness

One of the hardest classes I took in college was philosophy. It was such an almighty struggle to pull a C there. The first day, the professor asked what people wanted most from life. Houses, cars, money, relationships all came up. He said we were on the right path, but not quite there. We're all looking for happiness. We just want to be happy. And all the things we do are in pursuit of that. We chase the material goods thinking they will give us the happiness we seek. The material comes and goes. The happiness we seek, and have, within ourselves, stays. That should be the quest. Not the hot new iPhone.

Digging in the dirt

A friend passed along a newsletter from here yesterday. It contained a great story called "The Aquifer". There was a settlement by a creek, and every year, the creek ran more and more dry, leading to much fighting among the people. Eventually, the settlement was abandoned, only to be found later by explorers. They wondered why there was no one left, especially since the settlement sat over an aquifer. All the people had to do was dig a well, tap the aquifer, and their water problems would have been solved.

The reservoirs of talent, passion, desire, happiness all reside inside of us. We need to know that it exists. It's there. There's no fear in abundance. But how do you tap into that reservoir? The newsletter suggests prayer, meditation. A quiet place, a quiet moment. And you'll sink into yourself, down the well, and into the aquifer. Then you can have, or begin to have, what you truly desire.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The strangest thing....

This happened nearly 24 hours ago...

On my commute this morning, as I was coming out of the subway station, the song "It's a wonderful world" played in my iPod. I marveled at the irony of it while i dived into the river of humanity heading to their cubicles in the sky. Then I felt this wave of tears starting to come over me. i don't know where it came from. If I had been alone, I surely would have cried my eyes out.

I still have no idea where that came from or what it means.
The signal of the start of something good, profound? What?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Less is more

Lately, I'm doing less and less of the thing that I've been doing for decades. It feels different, I feel a little lighter. I don't know where this aspect of things is going. Psychically, it's a load off my mind. I think I can keep this up.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sound retreat?

Whenever I have something big to do, I have this habit of retreating, crawling back into my cave. Maybe I'm trying to save my strength for the battle ahead. But it's a really nice day out. I've been out and about already, but it looks awfully tempting out there. I'll go out later today. I'm trying to fight the urge for a nap.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The things you love...

Is it possible for something you love to hurt you? I'm not talking about the love between people (another topic for another time). A job, a hobby, a car, whatever. Something more inanimate. You sink everything you have into it, make sacrifices for it, to the point it becomes part of you. But somewhere down the line, you realize there's something amiss. You're having trouble pinpointing it, but there's something that's wearing on you, and you can't seem to find it. Then you step away from what you love for awhile. And your weariness lifts away. You wonder, was the thing I love making me weary? How can it be? How can what I enjoyed be causing me grief? Something has been, and maybe you've found it. Now what? can you really, seriously step completely away from the thing you love? Or is there a way to come to terms with it, so you can move forward?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sweet torture

I had to go to bed early last night--another early day in the city. I'm lying in bed about 9.30, and I smell something. Not sinister, but still familiar. What is that? It smells like...somebody grilling cheeseburgers outside on the gazebo. And not sharing. That's so cruel.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Head games

The news I referred to earlier has returned. My response? The song "I Should Care," sung by Jane Monheit, pops in my head. Hilarious. I love the way my brain works. Should I care? I should take solace in the fact that my head automatically kicked over to that song. It's trying to tell me something. But what?

I'm fighting the urge to be nervous. That's natural--nerves come. You have to let them come, do their thing, and watch them move on. They always do.

I've kicked over to 'Maiden Voyage' now. See, my brain is working a different, funky (!) way. My synapses are looking for the eye of the storm, a safe harbor in the middle of the storm.

So maybe today was a perfect day after all.

A reprise of a perfect day?

Perfection doesn't have to be this grand, huge concept. It can be small and significant. Moments in time, where everything seems to align, can be perfection. When it gets no better.

About a year ago, I had what I consider the perfect day. There were no fireworks, no cymbals crashing, no parades. Just two things, two bookends--that's all that was required.

I woke up earlier than normal that morning. The sun was pouring through my window, and it was already getting hot. I had the radio on, set to a great jazz station. They usually play some good, soft songs before switching over to classical. Groggy, I rolled over, and heard this beautiful, lilting song. I laid in bed, just dreamily listening to Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage. It's quiet, soft--just the way to start a day.

Work was, well, work. Nothing remarkable.

But a friend was gathering some friends for a drink at a rooftop bar in New York. Sometimes, I head to the city after work, and figured that night would be good to catch up with some folks. Caught the train, made my way to the bar. When I got to the deck, 25 stories up--wow. Right there, looking north, was the Empire State Building. So close, you could touch it. The sun was beginning to set, a warm breeze blew in. It was still warm--the kind of warm that comes at the end of the day that feels like a nice blanket around you in the winter. You just want to stay, drink, talk, laugh, let the view sink in. The conviviality of the night was the perfect compliment to hearing Maiden Voyage in the morning. I left the bar, feeling like I was walking on air. Again, New York has that effect on me.

I thought about that day this morning because I woke up, turned on the radio, and heard--Maiden Voyage. Now, it's raining, and I have my early commute to the city tomorrow. But will today be perfect? In its own way, yes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A moment so close

Last night, before I went to bed, I went to close the patio door, and noticed how quiet it was. It was so still, barely a breeze blowing. I stared out, and just envelope me. It was a strange, good feeling, one of comfort. I feel like, slowly, slowly, I'm changing. In what direction, is still to be determined.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Peace in the oddest places

I did my deed today. Waking up much too early, but it was good to have the highway pretty much to myself. I got to my parking space early, so I took a little walk to a pier overlooking the city. A few men were out with their fishing poles looking for a bite. A radio was blaring Latino music. And even with the music going, there was still peace to be had. Bright sun, a light haze over the city. The wind was still, the water calm. I felt safe, at peace. In a place, a region that defines hurly-burly, it is possible to find a place, a moment where everything can be, and is, still. Even in a hurricane, there is a calm eye to find. And keep inside.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Livin' free, that's my callin'

There's a cloud hanging over my head. Not a dark cloud, per se. But one that's more annoying than anything. I have to work early tomorrow in the city--meaning I have to go to bed early. Meaning that my Saturday night is quite constricted. Not that I had anything hot planned. But it puts a damper on my mood. I like my freedom. Of thought, of movement, of being. Knowing that I have to do something that will be a chore tends to be a weight on me. It's gotta be done, but it'll be hard to do cheerfully. There's a feeling of constriction that dampens my mood, making it more of a chore. So, how can I be cheerful when I have to perform this chore? Hmmm.....

Playing catch up

I've been saddled for the past few days with computer problems, so I haven't blogged much. I'm still figuring out how to recover after getting knocked off my moorings. I can know and anticipate the storm (no matter how small) but once the storm passes, then what? How do I return to normal? It must be the good habits that you build that you can fall back on. The eating, the writing, the music, the meditation. All of those things are a good foundation. I just need to be aware that they are present.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I can't get you out of my head

For whatever reason, I can't get the song 'China Grove' by the Doobie Brothers out of my head. Usually the soundtrack that flows all day in my head changes tracks. Today, no changes, only that song, and that group. Weird...

Woke up this morning

You can't always get what you want...

People are still up in arms about the ending of the Sopranos on HBO, one of the best series on TV. I didn't see it (!), but from what I've heard, it was pitch-perfect. The creator of the series trafficked in the morally ambiguous, the unconventional, the murky. That's what made the show great; that's why fans loved it. And now they're angry because they didn't get what they want? The creator, David Chase, never gave into convention. Why start now with something derivative? And, life is messy. Nothing's rarely settled. It's a cycle, continuous, flowing. And hardly comes with a nice bow with which to neatly wrap things up.

Waking up again

I don't want to go through life asleep. I feel like I've done that for the past couple of years. From this blog, to the notes I write myself, to the notepad I carry, I feel awake, knowing, conscious. I feel bursts of creative energy coming forth. I haven't felt this energized in awhile. I don't want to fall asleep again.

Pushing reset

Things go crazy. You get out of whack. You get off your game. Life intrudes, and you run off the track that you've been running on. Hit reset. Stop. Remember the good habits you've been building up. Then go someplace quiet, and write down what you want to do today. Then jot down a couple of things you want to do tomorrow. Then look closely at your goals. Soak them in. Soak in the habits you've got inside. Breath deeply. Relax. Then perform the goals. Always keep moving forward.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Breaking down a quote

Clark Terry is one of this country's great jazz trumpeters. And a quote he once said speaks to me...

Imitate, assimilate, innovate. What does it mean?

Imitate: first you have to find the best practices to find the key to success. Find what works best for you then find those working on the practice. Follow their lead in everything they do. As you watch and imitate you have to draw the lessons into yourself, assimilate them into the marrow of yourself so they become part of you. They should become habit, natural extensions of yourself. The innovation comes in making the practices work for you. Everything's malleable, nothing's static. Make tweaks and changes to fit your needs. But keep the basic foundation of the practice. Strong foundations are essential--you make the design.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Softly as a morning sunrise

I'm not a morning person. Used to be, back in elementary school and high school. I got up early, picked up the paper and read it while eating breakfast. I remained that way even in college. Then came work. I usually started work about 2.30 in the afternoon, meaning I could sleep in for the first time guilt free. In Brussels, it got worse. I wouldn't get home from work some nights till one in the morning. If I were awake at five in the morning, that meant either a) I was just getting in; or b) I was catching a flight home. Now, since I keep my radio off and my Mac on the desk, waking in the morning isn't such a chore. The birds usually give me a nice, peaceful wake-up call, as I lay in bed, half-awake, drifting into the morning.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Solitary splendor

I went to a baseball game last night, a double-A game. Got my chicken fingers, beer, sat down and watched some decent ball. The game is good for being able to sit and chill and letting life slow a bit. There were times last night, in the stands, where I felt empty. Not in a bad way, but no thoughts, no feelings, just there. While I was at work, I felt myself floating into that state. A light bulb goes off in my mind. Ah, this is the way...

Reading list

There is a truckload of personal-development books in the marketplace. New tomes hit the shelves every week. To mimic the lists I look askance at, here are three to consider, two of which have little to with personal development, per se.

At some point (soon, I hope), I want to talk about why these are good, and why I go back to them often.

We're talking about...practice...

Allen Iverson is one of the best basketball players in the NBA. His heart and determination on the floor are to be envied and admired. But a few years ago he got raked over the coals for his practice habits, which he famously retorted. He's such a naturally gifted athlete (he had NBA three-point range in high school), that the idea of having to practice the game he loved and knew was jarring to him. For the rest of us, practice is the norm, or at least should be. And practicing every day. It seems like the best way to absorb the lessons we need to succeed and thrive in life. We need to make a pact with ourselves to do the sometimes unexciting, but necessary, work to make it happen. The gifts and abilities we want to possess are inside of us. We can all get to them. But unlike Allen Iverson, most of us need...practice.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

What I do

In my other life, I strip away things, distill them, to their essence. Whittling away the fat, the detritus, the unneeded. What results is (or should be) lean, purposeful, springing with life and purpose. If I can do this in my other life, I can do this in this life.

Coming to terms

I remember in my teens when my Sunday school teacher was driving me to some function, and he said to me, "You're going to do great things." I've had teachers be very supportive of me, and see greatness in me that, for some reason, I didn't see then and still have trouble seeing it now. It takes a while to make peace with yourself, to fully understand who you are. You have to strip away the things that people have told you through the years to find the true you. I'm still stripping away, and finding that I'm fine as I am. Just like that.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A bright light for the masses

There's a post on Pick the Brain that speaks to something I riffed on earlier. And what I'm trying to become more grounded in. The lists and tips that proliferate on the web make it easy to do things without understanding the why of it. You really should be grounded in the why, which can make it easier to grasp and, more importantly, retain the lessons the tips and lists show. Again, the compendiums represent magic arrows, and that's all we want. But there is a whole process for taking the arrow from the quiver, finding the target, notching the arrow, and firing the arrow to the target.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A (short) random walk through my cortex

  • Am I a weenie for wanting to leave my profession? No, I want a different life that's not a grind.
  • I want to open my eyes and see things that are in front of me.
  • It's ok to break away and rediscover who I am.
  • I'm not just my job. I am my thoughts, feelings, hobbies, ideas. What are there and what can I do with them?

Monday, June 4, 2007


My car has a cruise control function. Set it to the speed you want, and always you go. You don't have to think a lot about it. Yet, I've never used it. I've always liked the act of driving. Being behind the steering wheel, paying full attention to what's in front and around me, knowing that I can react well to any situation. I'm in the moment, conscious and aware of my surroundings. That's why I like to go on long drives: It's one of the few moments when I know I'm fully present.

So why is it that I can do this in the car, but I'm on autopilot everywhere else? At work, in life, why do I turn on the switch and just drone through the day? How can I slow down, and pay attention to myself, listen to myself, and be there, anywhere, and not be a mindless robot? Maybe that's all I need to do: slow down, pay attention to myself and the signals I'm sending and receiving. Being in that moment, right there, and nowhere else.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The brand of me

How does a quiet, shy guy who looks very skeptically at marketing and its tenets establish the brand called me? What do I and can I bring to the table? How can I build my strengths and keep my weaknesses at bay?

Going to extremes

There was a fascinating article in today's Washington Post about extreme commuting, and the challenges couples face when one or both has a job 60 to 90 minutes away. One couple contemplated a divorce because the man was working in Tysons Corner, but lived in Charlottesville, two hours away--if he was lucky. He wised up, found a job in C'ville, and hopefully his family life will improve.

But why do we endure such hellish commutes? Probably for the Holy Grail of having a nice house far from the maddening (and blindingly expensive) city. But is the trek to and from home five days a week, and untold miles and hours worth it? The toll it takes on your health, your marriage, your family, your life? Wouldn't it be more advantageous to change your lifestyle, downshift? Or is that too hard to do? Or contemplate? Have we gotten so enamored of the work we do, the dream of the big house, and the swagger of saying we have a long commute that we've forgotten to take the time for ourselves and our families?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

We're on our way home

When I was little, my mom you to drive to the mall east of Richmond. I loved that trip. It got me out of the house, out of the small town I lived in and on the road. I spent most of the trips looking out the window, noting the highways signs and the cars passing (and the ones we passed.) The part of the trip I hated was going home. Going to the mall or the restaurant was an adventure for me. I certainly didn't the trip to end. That's carried over through adulthood. There's a certainly melancholy I feel when I return from a trip, be it by plane, car or train. I still don't want the trip to end. Maybe I just don't want to come home. But a funny thing happened on the way home from New York tonight: I didn't feel it. The sadness, the clouds of loneliness that usually bubble up, the silent dread of coming home to an empty apartment. It wasn't there tonight. The party I went to was good, and the dinner nice and convivial. That probably contributed to it. But maybe all the things I've been reading and absorbing are slowly beginning to take hold. Gotta keep moving along...

Friday, June 1, 2007

After the storm

I was driving home in the early evening, and right into a thunderstorm. It was like heading into the maw of a gigantic monster--dark, boiling, spectacular flashes of lightening. The rain wasn't bad; the storm's bark was worse than its bite. Coming home, water vapor was rising from the road--hot asphalt plus cold rain. It's a cool, mysterious effect. Now, it's quiet, still. No wind, and fog is starting to roll in. A train passes off in the distance. That familiar hum marling civilization seems a little quieter.

(Well, it's almost quiet. I'm listening to TSF Jazz from Paris. Fabulous stuff. Going to see jazz there is always a special experience. TSF is the closest I can get to that right now. I usually listen about now, wondering what it would be like to be there, listening with someone special. One can hope...)

I'm finding

That as I get older, the things I hated or was scared of when I was a kid aren't really as bad as I imagined. Why and how have the fears washed away?

Variations on a theme

I had go to the doctor, and I'm ok. I could shed a few pounds, blood pressure a tad high, but otherwise ok. What struck me was the doctor saying that much, if not all, of keeping healthy is common sense. Eat smart, exercise, don't drink or smoke. If that's the case, then why do we chase diets, pills and other gimmicks? We're looking for the magic bullet, I guess. All the other stuff is dull, routine, boring. We hate dull, routine boring. We look for excitement in whatever we do, whether or not it's good for us. That's why it's important to building slowly with good habits. The habits then become routine, second-nature. But we're fallible. We're going to stumble. We have to know now how to pick ourselves up and keep moving.