Who are you?

Who are you sounds like a simple question upon first consideration. Actually, it’s anything but. You may think you are one thing but you may be entirely another. Many spend their entire lives as a walking, breathing dichotomy; never really knowing who they are. Or worse, they refuse or don’t have the courage to embrace it. To me, there is nothing more pathetic than the one that is many things to many people.

I am a walking testament to this. For decades I tried to be something I wasn’t. I cut myself a small break for this in hindsight because I truly didn’t know who I was. Then I discovered a bit about myself but came to realize that I wasn’t going to be allowed, by the confines of my job and life in general, to show who I was. Then came the day, finally, that I realized my true self and just embraced it. I’ve never been happier.

It took me actual decades to come to grips with the fact that I am a gentle, friendly, and nice guy. I was raised by a tough man. A man that showed his kind side sparingly and felt obligated, perhaps from the influence of his father, that manhood is a construct that requires a mask. This was not atypical of his generation. Thus I grew up with such outdated notions as “don’t ever let someone see weakness”, “nice guys finish last”, and “toughen up or I’ll give you something to cry about.” The list sadly goes on. My older cousins and uncles gave me dating advice of “women want jerks”, that dating is a “numbers game”, and that women were “notches on the ol’ belt”.
At 18 I was 6 foot, weighed 195 pounds, had a fair amount of muscle, a confident walk, a high tolerance for alcohol, an outwardly tough demeanor, and a decent record of getting consistent sex. It only made sense that I forge an identity consistent with my appearance. So I tried to act like a tough, hard-partying ladies man. So that’s what I put out.
But it wasn’t me. But I thought that’s what people wanted and I was too immature to recognize it. The only true part of that identity was the hard-drinking part. That remained true for some time. Otherwise, I was a ludicrous and senseless combination of confident and insecure.
Eventually, I had to embrace that I hate fighting and I’ve only had a few. But my posture and strong chin ensure that no one ever starts with me. So I’m not a tough guy.
I’ve tried to be a womanizer but I actually hate casual sex and am a fairly romantic, loving and loyal guy (If I ever let anyone have my heart again). So I’m not a player.
I tried to be a party animal for many years but the truth is I’m much more comfortable with a small circle at a house than with hordes of strangers at a club. I don’t think I’m shy, if there’s a thing called an extroverted introvert then that’s me. I can talk to a room of 1000 people but at a party, I often find myself standing by myself people-watching. So I’m not a party animal.
So who the fuck am I?
I’m me. I finally, after all these years know that I’m awkward but competent. I know that I love the ladies but I only want one to love. I know that I can handle myself but I have no interest in violence. I can be serious and I can be woefully silly. I have a huge heart and I don’t care who knows it. I’m me, take me or leave me.
That’s who I am.


Here’s an intense topic for Tuesday.
What will people say about me when I’m gone is something I think about often. Now, before I continue, it needs to be said that I don’t care how many people show up and how many “likes” the inevitable FB post about my passing may get. I just want to be a fly on the wall and see if five words are used in conversation:
“He was a good guy.”
That’s it, that’s all that I want. It seems that after all of those years of keeping up with the Jones’s, trying to climb the corporate ladder and make obscene amounts of money, and being a high-profile member of the many fraternities and groups that I belong to, it seems that my only goal now is to be a good person.
OK, so where is this going you ask? It is an extension of my earlier conversation on identity. I have come to realize that your identity is not a singular entity. It has many components:
Who are you?
What is your purpose?
What are you doing to achieve that purpose?
What do you stand for?
How did you make people feel?

If you can be consistent with all of these concepts, you will have achieved a legacy to be proud of. You will be remembered well.
Be someone that is remembered for the right reasons.
Be someone that is known for accomplishment, and serving a purpose.
Be remembered as a person that risked something to serve that purpose.
Stand for something so meaningful that you may have died for it.
Be someone who is not only remembered, but someone who will be missed.

As a fly on the wall of my own funeral, if I don’t hear the words, “he was a good guy”, then at least I hope I don’t hear, “he was a useless asshole”. There, I have opened up what may end up being a very big can of worms.
Brace yourselves.

Good enough

I have struggled with the notion of “good enough” for most of my life. I cannot tell you how many of my nearly 60 trips around the sun have been spent in a state of self-imposed feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Now, I acknowledge the hyperbole in the previous statement, it’s not as if it consumed me. But it was always there. I’ve never felt good enough.

Then, one day I asked myself a question that changed my entire outlook.
“Who told me that I wasn’t good enough?”

Nobody. That’s who. Except for me of course. And I have absolutely no damn idea why. Maybe by my peers? I will admit that, despite boldly and loudly stating the contrary, I care what people think of me.
Not my co-workers. I have always been very focused in my work, regardless of the vocation. I always worked hard and, while I have been not so good at some things and received mixed reviews I have also received accolades for things that I am really good at. The accolades were fine. I liked them as much as anyone I suppose. I was raised to not only be a good worker but to also be the top guy, the irreplaceable one. So anytime my boat would sail anywhere close to that point, I enjoyed the moment. But it was fleeting for me at best. In my heart, I am really about accomplishment. So to me, an accolade is worth a tablespoon of dog shit if said deed or situation doesn’t end up with a meaningful outcome. I am an old-fashioned guy, I like to see results. Therefore, at work, I was always, at the very goddamn least, good enough.
My father certainly didn’t tell me that I wasn’t good enough. Dad, with whom I had a complicated relationship, would never, in a million years have said something as toxic to me. The worst thing he ever said to me was,
“I’m disappointed in you.”
That stung like a bitch in and of itself. But that made me want to do better. Because I have always, even after his death, sought his approval.

Looking at that last sentence, reading it again and again, I realize that I may have just answered my own question. I do seek approval, maybe validation is a better word, and I hate it. I really didn’t make the (perhaps apparent to everyone else) connection between that and the omnipresent feelings of inadequacy I have been plagued with for so long until now. It may be as small as wanting to be liked, or as deep as a fear of dying in obscurity.
I don’t want to be famous. I don’t care about money. I want to leave every place I go and everything I touch a little better than I found it. That’s it.

Am I comparing myself to the person I want to be?

I hope that’s it. Definitely something to explore further.

The unlikeliest of sources

I have always rejected therapy (this from a Psych major lol) because I believe that there is no one more self-aware than I. To my credit, my Social Worker at the Transplant Clinic supports that notion as well. Why do I need therapy? I am blessed with a circle of friends that I can always talk to and I can count on them to tell me the truth. Yet, with all of the resources available to me, and despite my manifest blessings, I was continuously spinning down a Rabbithole of negative thought. It is my understanding that I have a fairly significant case of General Anxiety, this revelation can be neatly filed in the “No Shit Sherlock” column. One of the symptoms impacting me is called Rumination, in which I constantly dwell on negative associations. Even the happiness of memories, camping, for example, would immediately trigger the most negative experience I ever had while camping. Such a thought will send me down the drain of feelings of inadequacy and doubting my self-worth. This had become a constant behavior and I can’t believe that it took as long as it did to recognize how bad it was holding me back.

One event that I had been ruminating about is my recent breakup. Months after the end of an intense, yet brief relationship I had been unable to move on. I was hurt, I felt rejected, and I had so many questions because to this day, I really don’t know what happened as it went from great to nothing quickly and in a way that I can’t make sense of. It should be mentioned that I very characteristically assumed that it was my own fault. Because when you are insecure everything is your fault.
Talking to friends wasn’t working. I continued to dwell in despair despite so many good things happening in other areas of my life. So I tried something I had yet to venture into, Podcasts. I searched out Ted talks on grieving, moving on, sadness, rejection, you name it. What I stumbled upon was Mr. Big feet and hands himself…Tony Robbins. He did a series of podcasts dedicated to changing your thinking. I listened to hours of it. I know, to any reader I may have left out there this may be comical because a lot of people think that he is pop fluff. I did as well but the man makes sense.

The takeaways are many but the overall theme is so simple and I can’t believe that I couldn’t do this before. When you experience an emotion, find out where it is coming from and put it into a category in which you can work on it. Find a solution, a new approach, look at it in a different way. Consequently, I took the break-up and asked myself what was really bothering me.
Do I miss her? Not really.
Do I miss the feelings I had when I was with her? Definitely.
Would I take her back if she called tomorrow (unlikely)? Absolutely not, I’m better off without her.
So what is it? I want to know what happened! what did I do?

I realized that I hate not knowing and the harsh reality is that I probably never will. The category to shift that whole series of events to is the category of CONTROL. I am frustrated that I have no control over this. But in a new context, I am able to do just that. I accepted that I cannot control it and told myself to move on.
Because it doesn’t matter. It’s done and can’t be changed.

I then took this mindset and applied it to many other areas of my life in which I have been struggling and it’s always the same thing. By changing my thinking, by diagnosing from where it was coming, and by asking what can actually be done about it I had a further and significantly more powerful revelation; that I am spending way too much energy, at the risk of my own emotional health, on things that I can’t control. Isolating those things that are within my control became easier and I now have sufficient energy to do so.

This happened about 30 years too late but I am excited to see where this takes me.