It starts with me

I used to be angry all the time. Ask my ex. But it was all self inflicted and completely within my control, I just couldn’t see it at the time. I blamed everyone else, blamed the world. But it was me.

I used to argue politics and religion. I was pretty darn good at righteous indignation. Up there with the best of them. I would wring my hands and blame the government or society or the current target of my anger. But it was me.

With all of the hate and anger in the world, I have changed my ways. I have pulled my efforts back to me and my immediate sphere of influence. The problems in the world can not be fixed from the top down. You can’t legislate compassion and love. What you can do is learn compassion every day and be the example. That is what I strive to do. To eliminate my ego.

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How do we stop bigotry? Violence? Michael Jackson had it right and I am starting with the man in the mirror.

It starts with me. Be compassion. Be love. Be the change.

476 & 365

It is hard to believe it that this coming Sunday, August 30th will be 1 year since mom died. It will also be 476 days since dad died.

There are few days when I don’t think of them. But they are rare. There are moments of panic when I think, “Crap, I haven’t talked to mom in a long time. I should call her” Then it hits me. It is getting easier, but very slowly. There was/is a numbness about both my parents being gone. That is starting to fade and at times it is harder now then when they first passed.

Sure, I make jokes about my parents being dead all the time. That is how I deal with bad things. I’m still not Batman. WTF!?

I have the most remarkable friends and family that have helped me through this past 476 days. Thank you!!

Love you all.

Doug

How I fell madly in Love with a complete stranger or Amanda Palmer and The Art of Asking

Let me give you a little background first.

Before I bought the audio book for the Art of Asking, I knew very little about Amanda Palmer (AFP). I knew she was a musician and did some performance art. I had seen some of the things AFP did with people drawing and writing on her. I had also heard of the trouble she and her publisher were having with Amazon. I knew she had some tie to Neil Gaiman and that my step-son got her autograph on her kindle cover.

I saw the news that her war with Amazon was over and decided to support that cause and bought the audio book on 11/20/14 as a birthday present to myself.

The morning of 11/24 I was on the road for work (sales) and started listening to AFP read me her story. I might have been an hour into it when I knew I loved her.

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I laughed and cried within the first 15 minutes. There is such an honesty about her and that coupled with her reading it…   I called my fiancee and told her about AFP and the book, about how I felt changed in the first few hours of listening to the book. I cried while talking about the book.

I can’t explain who AFP is, but she is different from most of us. Sees the world with different eyes.  Below are two of my favorite quotes from the book.

“Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.”

“You can’t ask authentically and gracefully without truly being able to accept “No” for an answer. Because if you’re not truly willing to accept “No” for an answer, you’re not really asking, you’re demanding — you’re begging. At least, that’s how I’ve come to understand asking.”

As I listened to the rest of the book and felt myself changing, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and love. Not just for AFP, but everyone and everything.

I sent this tweet on 11/26/14

 

I get home from my trip and order two copies of the book from Amazon. One for my daughter and one for my step son. A few days later, AFP mention Mass Mosaic and a book store called Porter Square books. I get an idea. I buy 2 signed copies of The Art of Asking and 10 more regular copies. 14 books spread to the world.

The farthest book went to Sweden. Tomorrow I will mail the last of the 14 books. They were all gifts. Most went to complete strangers.

I am so grateful to have been able to do this. So full of love.

Asking for help is like giving a gift.

If you need help ask.

Doug

Plan B

For me, December 12th will now be known as Plan B Day. Let me tell you why.

Here was Plan A: The night of December 11th, 2010 the kids and I watched Despicable Me (the not yet ex wife was out for the evening) I put the kids to bed, drank about a liter of Maker’s Mark, took about 100 extra strength Tylenol and all of my anti-depressants. I put on my favorite pajamas, took my pillow and iPod to my room in the basement. Put the iPod on shuffle and then lay down on the floor to go to sleep.

People talk about suicide as a rash spur of the moment decision, it was not it my case. I had my plan in place for about 3 weeks. I was calm and rational about it. But along with Plan A, i also had to consider what happens if I wake up. Hence, Plan B was developed.

Plan B contained a few major bullet points.

Promise that I would never make this attempt again and those close to me know I do not use that word lightly. I have not made many promises in my life as I will only promise things I know I can do. I made this promise to many family and friends. I have not thought about it since.

Figure out who I was. I spent the last decade or so hiding on the couch, withdrawn from the world watching TV and movies. I barely made myself available for my ex and kids. I knew this needed to change, that I needed to know who I was before I could go any where.

Figure out what Love means to me. For much of our marriage, my ex told me I did not love her. I needed to understand what she meant and if she was right.

From the moment I woke up at 3:30 am and stumbled upstairs to bed, I was on Plan B. When my ex got home I made it downstairs and told her what I did and the road to Plan B started in earnest. I got to the hospital around 2pm on Sunday the 12th and was discharged on Friday the 17th around noon. Lots of time to think and think in the hospital and it was very helpful.

So from this point forward December 12th will be a day of reflection for me. Am I still me? Am I on my right path? Am I happy? What do I want or need to change to make all of those answers yes?

What about you? How can you answer those questions? Way deep down in the parts of yourself you don’t show to others and often not even yourself, how do you really feel?

Make a change and get started, please don’t sit on the couch. Read the rest of my blog, it covers a lot of what I did to make changes.

There is help out there.

As always, ask questions. I am here to help.

Doug

 

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A Modest Proposal.

I would like to tell you a little story about how strange and magical the world is. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

26 or so years ago, I rubbed a girl’s feet at a party. She doesn’t remember this happening. It was that small, the start of this whole thing. It was my flapping of the butterflies wings. Flash forward to June of  2011. I was searching online for the girl who’s feet I rubbed at my friend’s party. Let’s call her Tanya Uniquelastname. What are the odds of two people having that last name? Who I found was the sister of the girl with the feet. Let’s call her Jasminda. We became fast friends, Jasminda and I. I did not think you could “click” with someone on Facebook, but you can. We became instant friends. Now she is family by choice.

While enjoying Facebook, I started to notice posts on Jasminda’s wall by someone named Red. She seemed funny, clever & intelligent. She liked my posts! You know what they say about that… Jasminda told Red she would like me. She told Red to “friend” me, she did. August 14, 2011 We also hit it off right away. Lots of private messaging and chatting.

Red asked me to dinner a mere 4 days after we “friended” on Facebook. We met there at 7, they kicked us out, at closing, at 11. We were all casual at first. All cool and reserved. Whatever….  But as time passed my thoughts kept returning to her. Who was this woman? How can she like me when I am being me?

Our iPods were eerily similar. We could often not tell who’s was playing. We liked live music, theater, dancing, steak, whiskey, beer…. It was really a birds of a feather thing as opposed to an opposites attract vibe. There was a peace, a tranquility with her. I found a stillness within myself I had never known. A great comfort in the fact I did not need her. There was no need, no hunger that was absolutely needing to be satisfied. There was a pull to be close, to share, to explore, to experience and most of all, the understanding it was mutual.

Fast forward to my birthday 2011. Red came home early from out of town because she missed me and did not want to miss my birthday. What a crazy and amazing evening. I was a wreck. That was when we became steadies? What do you call it? Exclusive? Sounds like a record company. Registered Companions?

What followed (and continues) was music, love, food, beer, dancing, love, so much laughter and joy.

Here we are, 2 years from when we “friended” We both talked about never getting married, but as time passed we both talked about what ifs and you knows. We have also talked about the meaning of marriage and the place it has in society. Just last night she gave me an anti proposal. We have proposed to each other multiple times, we have always said yes. I am just looking to make it more official.

So, right here, right now, I am asking, will you marry me Red?

And like every question I ask; no is a perfectly acceptable answer.

This is more a declaration of my intent to hold your hand whenever possible; to make you smile more than is reasonable and love you truly, madly deeply.

And if you say yes, when, is so very unimportant.

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Love

I recently was looking for something to blog about. I asked my friends for topics. One stuck out as something I would like to talk about. Why do I love my girlfriend? Simple question on the surface, but it can cover a lot of ground.

What is love?

I used to have a different opinion of what love is. I thought it was subjugation, giving up myself to make someone else happy. Putting someone else’s needs before my own. Sacrifice and surrender. I thought it was all the fairy tale stuff we have been taught. The happy endings in the movies. I tried to live this way in my marriage, but it did not work, it wasn’t real. I thought if I kept acting the part, eventually it would be real. Wrong.

Here is what I have learned. I had to accept myself, as I am, before I could even think about loving someone else. I had to develop a sense of self worth and value. I had to find it in myself, so someone else could see it. This took some work. I had been beaten down, from outside and inside for a long time. I had to let go of this, learn to be myself again. When I got to this point, let me tell you, the world opened up. I opened up. There was a peace to being genuine I did not expect. An ease, to not looking outside for validation. Granted, it took some encouragement from the outside to get me there, but it is self sustaining.

So here I was, getting my self confidence back, feeling pretty good. Now I had to overcome some of societies bad lessons. I had always thought that I could only tell one woman I loved her at a time, because if I said I loved her, I must want to marry her. Like most men, (IMHO) love is equal to sex. This is so far from my reality now. I have learned that the more I love, the move I share it with others, the more I have to give.

The first time I said I love you to a woman, that was not my soon to be ex wife, was amazing. It changed me a little. Here was a woman, who was a dear friend, and now my adopted sister, and I told her I loved her. It did not matter how she felt or if she said it back. It was just important for her to know what she meant to me. The importance I placed on our relationship. It had nothing to do with any sort of male/female relationship. It was so liberating, like I had loosed some shackles. Then there were more, male and female, that I said I love you too. The relationships were all different, but all important. This seemed to go against everything I was taught, everything the world showed to me as an example. I was bursting with love and at peace with myself.

So, why do I love my girlfriend? I could list the usual things: pretty, funny, intelligent, similar interests. Those are all very true. But the main reason is, she feels like home. There is a peace when I am with her. There is no effort to be what I think she wants me to be. I can be 100% myself and not worry about what she might think. There is also no need. I hear so many people talk about needing to be with their partner. There is plenty of want, of desire to be with her, but no need.

I love her because she is exactly who she is and I am me when I am with her.

Doug

P.S. Ask questions.

 

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Divorce and the ugliness inside

Now that my divorce is final, I wanted to say a few things about the process and the some of the things I have witnessed others going through.

My marriage ended after almost 20 years. It needed to, it had run it course. We were very good friends, but terrible spouses. It was time to move on and for both of us to try to find ourselves and learn to be happy again.

Because we were friends, we were able to do the divorce Pro Se. No lawyers, no fighting, just discussing what was most fair for both of us. We made spread sheets and looked at debt and income, we talked about contingencies, we talked about what was best for our kids. In the end, we came to an agreement, signed the paperwork and gave it to the court after an 18 month separation. On February 28th, the judge signed the papers and it was done. It cost us maybe $200 total and we are still friends.

What I hear about from my friends in my divorce group is startling. The fighting, hatred, anger all of the ugliness inside people coming out to hurt the person they promised to love and honor forever. So much selfishness…  You once loved this person so very much you made them the promise of a life time. Sometimes that doesn’t work out and you have to go your separate ways, but to treat each other with such cruelty completely baffles me.

My ex found a boyfriend before the marriage was over. Of course I was angry. But then I realized she was not doing to hurt me, but to try to find some happiness, the happiness she could not find within our marriage. Once I understood she was doing what she need to do to make herself happy, I was able to let go of the anger.

The best thing for us, and much more importantly our kids, was to be friendly and civil during this process. Anything else would lead down an ugly path.

I am sorry if you are going through through a divorce, it sucks. Try not to feel guilty for doing what it takes to take care of yourself. Self preservation is vital.

Enter and go through the process with compassion and understanding. Nobody expects to get divorced, no one wants to hurt the person they once held so dear, no matter how things look on the surface.

Doug

 

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Vengeance and retaliation. A question

A friend of mine recently asked me the following question: If someone is damaging your soul, is it OK to retaliate?

I said I think this is a three part question. What is a soul? Can it be damaged? Is it OK to retaliate?

First. Here is my opinion on the soul. I do believe that the energy that comprises a person’s essence or consciousnesses could very well live on past death. Energy can not be destroyed. So yes, I think people have “souls” This also fits in well my my view on life in general and how amazingly interconnected we all are.

Second. Can it be damaged? Let’s come back to this.

Third. I answered this one with no hesitation. No, it is not OK to retaliate or seek vengeance. I am not an eye for an eye guy. Whole world blind thing. I am trying to make this an absolute, but I do have some exceptions. (Pedophiles and rapists, people that perpetrate genocide…) I digress.

Back to the second question. I do not think anyone can damage your soul unless you allow them. Or there is systematic abuse. This is not easy. The ego is greedy and seems to like or want to feel pain.

Some simple answers to a big question.

Here was her follow up question. If someone is trying to stab you with a knife, what do you do? What do you think The Buddha would do?

My first response was run and find a safe place. Striking back rarely helps these types of situations. But self defense and self preservation are key to long term survival. As for the Buddha… I said I think he would do everything possible to deflect the attack for as long as necessary. If the attack continued I think the Buddha would take the knife. No fear, no anger, no judgement. I talked about the story of the angry man that tried to give the Buddha his anger and the Buddha never accepted it, leaving the giver with the anger. In order to retaliate or seek vengeance, you would have to take possession of the anger yourself first in order to give it back.

I have learned a great deal about myself in the past two years and how I deal with people and anger. I was always angry. On a scale of 1 to 10, I was usually at a 2 or 3. It took little for me to make the jump to a 8 or higher. There are two main things that have helped me deal with the anger and learn how to function better. One was Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits. He talks about the moment between stimulus and response and that people rarely use it. I have learned how to harness that moment and learn to respond in a constructive way without (or with little) anger. The second is that responding with anger or lashing out does no good 99% of the time. Instead it usually escalates things and starts a downward spiral of negative emotions between the parties involved.

Bottom line. Learn compassion and acceptance, learn that vengeance and retaliation never end well. I have heard the phrase “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” That you do not have to take possession of anyone’s anger and give it back. Let it go, let them keep it and you stay centered in peace.

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I am a River

When I was young, I was a stream. I wondered and meandered, lost my way. Those I met created turbulence and often muddied the waters.

There were times when I stopped moving when something got in my way. Eventually, I found a way past and started moving again.

Now I am a River. Steady and strong. Moving with purpose. I am clear and deep.

Everyone I meet adds to my strength. Engorges me along my way. Joins me on my journey.

The things that would stop me in my path are now just ripples on the surface.

There is a still peace within me. There is solace in my journey. There is a comfort in knowing I can only move forward.

I finally understand the meaning of my name.

Anglicized form of the Scottish surname Dubhghlas, meaning “dark river” from Gaelic dubh “dark” and glais “water, river”.

 

Security

A very good friend of mine sent me an e-mail recently with the following questions:

“I’ve been wondering about a few of these things for a long time. I have some questions if that’s ok.
Do you think it’s possible to experience real security?
Does it have to come only from inside of you?
Is it possible to have security in any kinds relationships?
Do you think it can be more than a fleeting thing?  We feel secure until someone hurts us, then it’s gone?”
I asked to think about it for a couple of days and here is what I came up with.

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First, what is security? To me it is a feeling of peace in the idea that the relationship is growing and both parties are involved. A lack of fear about whether the other party will stay or go. A feeling of acceptance by the other party in who you are. Understanding who the other party is and not trying to change them.

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I never felt truly secure in my marriage. In the beginning, sure, but as time passed it lessened greatly. I did not feel secure in my friendships. Overall, I was a very insecure person that acted as the class clown to hide this fact.

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I learned to feel secure once I understood my place and role in these relationships. I had to teach myself and learn that I am OK. I am a good person and am worthy of friendship and love. This was tricky after my ex told me she never loved me, was mostly ignored by my parents as a child and spent the previous 10 or so years sitting on the couch by myself.

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Once I started to venture back out and started to make friends, I was caught off guard by the person others saw in me. I learned to trust the reflections they showed me instead of listening to my self doubt and insecurities. Not to say my sense of self worth comes from outside, just that I was in need of a little outside validation at this point in my life. This wasn’t easy. I put everything I had ion the line and really opened myself up. Put it all on the line as they say. But the rewards, wow.

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Now, I feel very secure in my relationships. From casual to very close. I have lost the sense of needing the other person. That needing, that compulsion to be with someone, no matter the type of relationship is gone. It has been replaced by a great sense of security in who I am and a strong desire to share myself  and help others.

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The more I put myself out there, the more open I am, the more secure I feel.
I think the key is, you can’t feel secure with someone else, until you feel secure within yourself. Find it, it is in you!

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Thanks,
Doug
P.S. Ask questions!! Post comments!!!