Blank Spaces

When you divorce yourself from the fickle opinions of critics and passive observers, you free yourself from a form of psychic tyranny.

When you dismiss the cynics and only recognize the opinions of people who have earned that privilege, you find yourself with a significantly larger amount of mental bandwidth.

When you stop worrying about what other people think and about impressing them, what does that leave you with?

That blank space is yours to fill.  What will you bring to it?

Realities

There’s a realization that I’ve had to spend time getting eye-to-eye with.  An inescapable fact.  It’s ugly and painful, but I think it’s about as close to a truism as I think I can really get.

95% of the time, people won’t show up for you.

4.9% of the time they might because either you’ve coerced them or their interests and yours align.

The remaining 0.1% of the time is complete happenstance or someone actually being a Decent Fucking Human Being.

“The work”, then, is to find as many people that fit into that 0.1% as you can.  Disregard the rest.

Because spending your time on the 95% of “no’s” and 4.9% of “maybe’s” is a waste of time, and there’s enough time wasted in our lives as it is.

Meaningful Life

Going to try an experiment. Going to ask a series of three questions relating to living a meaningful life. Anyone can feel free to steal them and answer them on their own if they like. Just going to be brutally-honest and just put it all out there. Because hiding isn’t doing anything for anyone at this point.
First question: “What is meaningful to me?”
I’m not sure if I can answer this question fully. A lot of my behavior is still driven by a need to be validated by other people. A lot of people-pleasing, avoiding boat-rocking. Being silently angry and sullen while presenting a stoic outer appearance. What has made me happy lately? Solving problems, even if they’re small ones. Granted, I get worked-up about big problems and then get down on myself when I can’t figure out how to solve smaller problems. When I can teach someone something new or keep motivation high with them on a physical activity or a project, then I am happy and satisfied. I feel as though I often can’t do a lot of things because I don’t know enough, so I content myself with nudging a tiny piece of something along. I need to break that cycle, but I’m afraid of spending effort on things that might not pan-out or might actively blow-up in my face. So, I guess to put it in succinct terms: I haven’t figured this out yet. There’s a lot that I know makes me feel a little better about myself, but there isn’t anything that I’ve found thus far that I would literally stop being me if I wasn’t able to do it anymore.
Second question: “What constitutes a meaningful life?”
Another tough one. For me, it’s less applicable to social good or social justice, though for people that can derive meaning and merit from their actions in these efforts I’m happy for them. I suppose in my case it’s way more cerebral than physical, but the physical can be a gateway or path toward it. I’ve felt pretty fucking incredible getting to the top of some pretty interesting rope climbs, and I’ve found a kind of peace being out in nature. I suppose that’s what informs a lot of my life experience, seeing as how a large part of my life has been spent in some kind of anxiety, depression, or trauma. Finding those “moments of power”, of time-outside-of-time when life is larger than itself… that’s meaningful to me. When reality just seems to become stock-still and I can feel the edges of reality kind of curving inward on itself; those are the moments I live for. At the top of a long hike, a hard climb, a powerful move on a boulder problem, or even sitting with someone after pouring our hearts out on the floor for the other to see. These are the moments I keep my eyes peeled for.
Final question: “What would I be doing if money and education were no obstruction?”
Honestly? Climbing and coaching. I’d want to learn as much as possible about physical training, conditioning, nutrition, and injury management/rehabilitation as possible and help people to push just that little bit further. Just the tiniest iota beyond what they thought they were capable of. Seeing somebody literally glow because they achieved a new personal record or achieved a goal makes me happy.
A close second would be writing and photography. I’d like to be able to take pictures of places I find interesting, get their history, talk to the people who know, and be able to bring that back to the rest of the world. Because knowing more about the world around me is more important than ever.

Just because

Just because your hands are trembling doesn’t mean you’re weak.

Often it means that you’ve exerted yourself in pursuit of something greater.

Just because you’ve failed or fallen doesn’t mean you’ll always fail or fall.

Past may be prologue, but it does not determine the epilogue of your journey.

Just because someone doesn’t understand or support you doesn’t mean you’re wrong or bad.

Sometimes it’s just an indicator that you’re on a different path.  Respect the differences and celebrate them.

Sometimes

Sometimes you have to…

  • Make the space in your heart to be able to say “no”.
  • Make yourself understand that the things people do or did to you are wrong.
  • Let yourself get angry at all the pain inflicted.
  • Tell the truth and be brutally-honest.
  • Cry and release the pain.

Sometimes, even the best of us crack under the pressure. It’s not the fall that defines us, it’s what we do afterward. What do we do when we fall?

We pick ourselves back up.

We too feel alone

Just because I am male doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the sting of exclusion.  Just because I am male doesn’t mean that I am unable to express myself.

I do not aim to perpetuate what Henry Rollins called “the violent promise of inequality”.

I feel the agonizing burn of implied sexual violence and domination.  I, too, feel the cold poison of patriarchy seeping through my veins.  I feel the weight on my shoulders; the baggage of thousands of years of expectation and unattainable notions of total control.

I desperately want to shed that weight, to bleed out the poison, to heal those wounds that still burn red sirens.  I want to be seen, to be acknowledged, to know that the pain is not just mine but collectively ours.

I want others to know and take strength from the fact that I too feel the pain of male privilege.  That just because I was born with a Y chromosome doesn’t automatically make me an enemy to equality.  I see the pain that male privilege inflicts on everyone, including men themselves.  Those who have yet to enter the arena and experience the full-frontal assault that is the psychic war–attaining something nebulous like “manhood”.

Boys are subjected to the same tired tropes as full-grown men before they’re even old enough to know what a trope really is.

  • Feelings are to be suppressed.
  • Anything but masculinity is heresy.
  • Violence is required and encouraged.
  • Dissent is discouraged.
  • “Otherness”/“Gayness”/“Femininity” are weaknesses (and therefore not masculine).

These tropes stunt the growth of many boys that it’s no wonder that as a culture most men are seen as grown-children.  Men’s rights activists and feminists are both on opposite extremes of the argument, which doesn’t help boys or men that are caught in the middle.  Men are told to be “real men”, while at the same time they are sold the tropes of a violent, male-centric Westernized culture.

Males who do not identify with either extreme or are already categorized in the outlier categories (gay, un-masculine, non-type-A personality) are caught in the middle and have no role models to look up to.  Celebrities push their own kinds of tropes and expectations (some without even realizing it), and promote various brands of toxic masculinity.  Political and social power-structures create crucibles of hyper-masculinity where brutal hazing and cut-throat behavior are the de-facto standard.

And all the while, men are being bombarded by the entire world with messages that reinforce their perceptions of inadequacy and fear:

  • You’re not man enough.
  • Your muscles (or your genitals) aren’t big enough.
  • You don’t earn enough
  • You don’t know enough.
  • You don’t play hard enough.
  • You’re not ranked high enough.
  • Repeating endlessly: “you are not enough”.

What if instead of tearing men down, people spent time building them up?  What if instead of ordering them to suppress their emotions and build themselves like an impregnable fortress, we instead taught men how to be strong, stable, and empathic?  What if we taught them that fear isn’t a weakness, but merely the brain’s warning mechanism and a challenge to be overcome (for the right reasons of course).

There are men who feel.  Men who keep their mouths shut and their hearts clenched tight behind chains and razor-wire.  Men who feel too much.  Men who also feel the burn of inadequacy and loneliness.

We too feel alone.