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Another Young Man Taken By His Own Hand: TIME FOR A CHANGE

I live in a small town. No traffic lights. Hard to find a store open past 11:00 pm. Only about 10,000 people, total, and it’s on a fingernail of one of Virginia’s few fingers sticking out into the Chesapeake Bay, so it’s not a place you’ll find through-travelers. It is at the end of a journey. When you get here, you either stay or go back the same way you came in, unless you brought a boat or aircraft.

And in this small town, like the rest, everybody knows everybody’s business.

The big news last week was of a young man, barely out of high school, who killed himself. I didn’t know him personally which will allow me to keep this relatively objective, although many of my friends did. I haven’t heard why he took his life. From most accounts, he was a funny guy. A country boy. He wasn’t the type of guy people disliked. He was on a promising career path.

I heard about this and I was immediately taken back to 1997. I was on the back-end of my freshman year in college (back when I had the fire in my belly and cared about nothing more than keeping up the 4.0 GPA which I eventually squandered). It was PSYCH 102; the 2nd half of a fat textbook we worked through, although my professor used the book rarely. He drew on his experience more than anything as a clinical psychiatrist, combined with some more rustic elements of his personality… he was an ex-Marine. If you wanted to compare him to a recognizable figure at least in personality and behavior even if only slightly in appearance, he was like Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis in the original Halloween.

Despite his somewhat rogue approach… despite his air of being a rebel, serving not the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders… the psych. field’s bible), he did most of his work for free in counseling and gave at least 10% of his salary to charities every year.

Those two things alone–the charity combined with the rebellious, killer Marine with his rough edges–introduced a dichotomy in his personality, really. And that wasn’t a problem; he once held up the DSM-IV and said, “I promise you that everybody in this room falls under at least a couple of the labels in this book,” and for him, maybe that was a duplicity in thinking. He did seem to stay away from centrist views.

There was one thing he said, though, that I know I’ll never forget. He was in the middle of lecture one evening, my pen burning up the paper on my notebook, when he brought up suicide. He might have said a couple of things about it first but he finally said, “Some people just need to go that way.”

And that was the end of his very short suicide discussion.

He had led into the conversation talking about a lab assistant from his younger days who was always depressed. This man that he worked with would always slouch and appear miserable and complain about everything. It bothered Dr. Dooley. He let us know that it wasn’t normal. You can’t live in misery. What he was implying, far as I could tell, was if you don’t have happiness, go get it. If you can’t find it, oh well. “Some people just need to go that way.”

I think most people can agree that they have at least imagined the early ending of their own lives. Maybe not the act; maybe just what the world would be like without them. Maybe just how nobody would have to hear their problems anymore… nobody would have to help or support them or sacrifice for them. Even perfectly healthy minds are capable of contemplation of the worst, even if the contemplation is only in its most abstract form or hypothetical form.

“Some people just need to go that way.”

It sounded brash. I couldn’t picture this charitable professor who had the tenacity of a Marine just giving up on somebody. He had built his life around understanding the human mind to best fix it when it was broken, and he had uttered those callous words. I think it stunned the whole class, but we paused not…

This kid named Chris hadn’t apparently suffered a job loss or love life issue or loss of a loved one (those things they call “stressors” in the field… they even rank them) and had even spent time with friends not long before he ended his life. Because I do make some effort to keep my nose out of the details, I don’t know what else was going on, but I do know that people that end their lives can be described by one or more of the following:

1. They are in intense physical and/or emotional pain (injuries, guilt, anger).
2. They believe that of all of the ways “out,” death is the only viable one.
3. They rarely let anybody know what’s coming; they just do it.
4. Occasionally, you’ll see signs such as loss of interest in things they used to care about (sex, eating, social life, hygiene) or they’ll give away their possessions or they’ll say things with finality. But all too often, you’ll have no indicators, and possibly even some deliberate misdirection by somebody so as not to raise suspicions (they may act very carefully to appear normal and happy).

So, let’s have a look at this. Pain. If it’s physical pain, maybe he needed meds and didn’t know where or how to get them. If it’s emotional pain (owing somebody, feeling guilty for having hurt somebody) maybe he needed forgiveness and didn’t know where or how to get it. Whatever it is, a person hurting bad enough to want to END their LIFE needs something, and that something is relief.


“Some people just need to go that way…”

Take a quick side-trip with me: the human mind is hardly understood. What we know is we have grey matter… we have billions of neurons which, through small electrical charges caused by calcium and potassium sliding along their sheaths, store and share charges (if my memory serves… ironically). Neurotransmitter chemicals are released and re-absorbed in a synaptic event… like a bunch of fish food thrown off of one dock, picked up by another dock once it floats over there. Add in some hormones and environmental influences as well as foods/liquids/meds that combine in unique ways. It is the chemicals, their level and speed/accuracy of transmission/movement, that combine with unique memories, knowledge, behavioral patterns (learned and inherent) and other things/chemicals/reactions we have not yet discovered that make for our thoughts and actions. That soup, if you will, is never served the same two days in a row, and its contents (regardless of how many people are trying to get their names into textbooks, credited for figuring it all out) are largely a mystery.

The short version; we don’t know a lot about how a human mind works. We really don’t.

That kid, Chris, needed relief from something. Maybe he needed counseling, but we have not yet removed the labels placed upon those that seek such help, have we? “He’s in psychological counseling,” even in modern thought equates to, “He’s effed up. Unstable. Can’t be trusted. Genetically weak or broken. He’s not normal.”

We killed Chris.

Chris is gone because if he had asked for money for something he needed, the shame that WE, as a society, connect to asking for money was too much for him to imagine taking on. He is gone because WE have not recognized and made clear to our young ones that getting counseling is NOT something reserved for weak and damaged people anymore than going to the doctor when you’re bleeding profusely is a sign that you aren’t normal. We killed him, because whatever it was that he needed–whatever relief it was that he was looking for–had such a social price connected to it that when he put that price on a scale and he placed his life on the other side of that scale, the burden sunk lower.

Sure, it’s true that people kill themselves in episodes of drinking or using drugs who would normally not consider such things, and I can’t rule out that something of that nature happened. What I do know is what I’ve read and heard, and I’ve read and heard a lot.

People kill themselves because of extreme need for relief and I know that most of the time, that relief COULD have been obtained from other people by the affected person and would have if the price weren’t so high. If I can’t ask for money to help me buy a prescription to treat physical pain, that pain may push me over the edge, all as a result of my avoidance of the emotional pain of having to ask–the shame connected to it… the inference that I am not a man if I can’t pay my own bills. If I need counseling because I’m having suicidal thoughts in my otherwise normal life, I may just jump off of a cliff because as soon as anybody finds out I’m in counseling, the labels fly and I don’t want to pay that price. If a woman breaks my heart and I believe she was the one, and I can’t go to my sister to vent and get re-assurance because I don’t want to be labeled needy, or I can’t get counseling because my friends think it would be weak (“Hey, just get over it…”) then I might find some rope and a tall tree.

So it’s time, my friends. Please don’t read this and think a few of my friends in the city might read it, like it, and pass on the philosophy. I need everybody who reads this (and agrees, to any degree) to help by sharing your views that shame must be removed from the game. Shame must die so others do not.

I’m asking you to talk to anybody and everybody in your life that you even remotely think might be having thoughts of taking their own lives. Ask them if they are having financial problems if you think you can help. Ask them if they are in pain of any kind, and make some type of real effort to connect them with relief. Most importantly, convince them, no matter how long it takes, that there is no shame in needing help. Chris is gone. He’s not coming back. What if he would have been the man that saved your child or grandchild from a burning building? What if he had a second chance and started a movement toward feeding the homeless in America or found a cure for cancer or prevented a nuclear war? From all accounts, he was certainly capable of such things and had a good heart, but he’s gone. He’s gone because we made it too hard for him to get relief from his situation.

This is not going to be a fast change. It’s going to take years, but it shouldn’t take decades. Start sharing with your friends and family that there is always a way to find relief without ending your own life. I don’t want to bring philosophy or religion into this but I do need to say this; some people don’t believe in an after-life and that makes them believe, to some degree, that life is pointless.

It is now up to us, with this movement away from religion, to define reasons to live for them. If they can’t see the value in a life fully lived, we need to show them. Find out what their passion is and help them envision scenarios. You have the capacity, as long as you are alive, to help other people and living creatures. You have the capacity to help your environment and to add to the richness of human history. Don’t cut that short. Be determined to last as long as you can, and to give when you can, and especially, be that relief that those teetering on the edge may need. Offer them what you have if you have anything. Don’t assume that because they worked the day before and smiled when you saw them that they are ok; your effort must be pro-active in making sure that those close to you not only know that you are available for help, but exactly what type of help you are available for.

If you have forgiven somebody for something, don’t assume that’s enough; reach out and tell them in clear terms that they are forgiven, or you might just find out the hard way that they didn’t know you forgave them. If you are younger and don’t have financial or other big help to offer (place to live, car to use), make sure you friends know that no matter what their darkest, ugliest secrets or fears are that they can share them with you and do so with confidentiality.

If we can combine that with working, daily, to spread the word that it is not shameful to ask for help–that a person asking for help will most certainly have an opportunity to pay it back or “pay it forward,”–that getting counseling from a professional is actually a responsible thing to do–if we can accomplish those two things together, I can promise that tragedies like Chris’s will decrease. Because the truth is that nobody needs to go that way.

Rest in peace, Chris. We will try not to let your passing be in vain.


Sleep, I got something for you.

What is it that’s in this saltwater air? This moist, summer linen that sweeps through my town.

It does something to me, for my whole life so far, to get my mind going berzerk and not let it lie down.

What will I have to do to please sleep, to get it to visit for a few hours per day?

If I ponder a ponder at what sleep might be, might she come over to me for a stay?

It’s the two of us, sleep, right here and right now, bright, clear and with light on the the who, why, and how.

What if you’re a spell? A daily sorcerer’s recipe that repeatedly, incessantly avoids and gets the best of me?

What if that spell comes from a place that controls us? That works us like puppets? Like Muppets? Toy soldiers?

What if you, sleep, are a cloud of invisible instruction sent by some force to save SOME from miserable destruction?

Without you, it’s clear that things just can’t go on. Your justice made my brain stop again and my eyes are propped open. Like when cops drop a rock on a propped perp they’re groping.

It’s like you know, and you reward those who earn your company. Your billboard is blank when you collect your blood money.

Isn’t it?

Because you don’t advertise.

What if you are a sickness that man takes upon him, between dusk and dawn then again with a yawn if he doesn’t drink coffee or snort something strong?

What if that sickness has no cure, neither pure nor unpure, because a man like me can’t lure you for sure. My demur for your style makes my best vision blur, expected from a man who isn’t sure you’re a visitor.

I didn’t ask to be born, and shant ask to die, and I live like a water-bug, swimming in your eye.

Sleep, are you a drug dealer that stays way back from the road, flushing minions down your toilet to mend what you sold, to give gold to the lives that you righteously stole? Are you just an asshole who gets off on the role?

Whatever you are, I’m tired of your shit. I’m tired of your game of exclusivity. Be elusive. It’s conclusive. This panel has met and decided that the groupies you’ve excited will be failures, impaled on the drug you provided.

I might not make it long without you, a bastard I’ve never really known, but I’ll die knowing that your blasted cover is blown.

Weiner, Palin, and Uncommon Sense

Maybe because it’s easier, or maybe because I’ve had some positive responses to it as a style, I’m going in rapid-fire fashion tonight, to try to help give some visible structure to what we are seeing and not seeing lately, what we’re loving and hating, what we want to say but can’t, or won’t (or, maybe, shouldn’t), my two cents tonight have deflated to the following suggestions…

To Weiner:

1. Get out

To Palin:

1. Stay out

2. Study

To Chris Matthews, Anderson Cooper, Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart, (gulp) Glenn Beck and most other media figures of today:

1. Stop interrupting guests. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. STOP. STOP. STOP. STOP. We don’t expect you to let them use your show as a platform, but for God’s sake, let them finish a FREAKIN’ sentence! You guys mentioned above are older and ought to know better than to follow this trendy interrupt-because-I-think-I’m-smarter-and-wish-to-show-less-respect phase that the younger ones have latched onto. STOP. Let people finish a sentence or two. For viewers and guests, MAKE THEM STOP!!! Say something (guests) on the spot or write e-mails, call or set up peaceful protests. 🙂

To guests of above hosts (or any hosts) including field/associate reporters:

1. Answer the gd question! Do not answer, “That’s an interesting question…” as it is offensive; a host tends to PRIDE themselves (hello? their, umm, JOB?) on asking interesting questions. They go get degrees and stay up late at night and rehearse and re-rehearse and get professional feedback on questions before posing them to you; they do NOT need to hear your opinion of the value of their question. Not only do they not need it, but it sounds condescending, like something a professional father/mother might say on bring-a-parent-to-school-day when a second-grader asks a “good” question. Keep your opinion of the value of the question to yourself; WE, the viewers get to decide that and if we don’t like it, we’ll tune out… The host does NOT need to hear that YOU think they have just asked a $64 mil.-dollar question: they DO need to hear the effin’ answer!

Mika from Morning Joe (and other designated giggle/nod dudes/chicks)

1. Stop nodding and smiling like a parrot on Joe’s shoulder when you have no idea what he or others are talking about. Joe, shame on you. Shame on you for bringing on somebody like her to make you look smarter. I consider that professional assault and abuse. Other designated prop. people: don’t like being professional ass-kissers and foot-rugs? Stop acting like it, then.

American voters who give a damn where this country actually goes:

1. Don’t vote for somebody because of their sex, religion or race.

2. Don’t vote against somebody because of their sex, religion or race.

3. You’re free to vote for anybody for any reason in America. But you’re also free to try to belly-flop on top of a hot-air balloon from a moving 747, while drunk (after all necessary permissions are granted, ahem).

4. Stop pretending. If you want Obama out because you dislike blacks, say it. Have courage. If you voted for Obama just because he was black and you don’t give a damn where America goes, say it. Have courage. If you insist on constantly defending Sarah Palin because she’s a woman (when you know, deep down, that she’s a functional vegetable), say it. Have courage. Why? It’ll tell us where we really stand as a nation. When we stop the posturing, we start the understanding.

5. If you vote for people regardless of “party lines,” because, in your heart, you honestly believe that those leaders would propel this country closer to a more perfect union… more toward freedom and security, both economically and otherwise… more toward a nation that has people in better health, in better circumstances… more toward a nation that leads not by bullying and back-alley politics but by examples through individual and group achievement… if you are not a slave to form, but to the best commonly-understood-and-agreed-upon meaning of the U.S. Constitution, based on what you honestly believe the forefathers and the many who have died in our defense wanted for this country, you have intense, sincere and ever-lasting respect from me and anybody else that I can manage to tell your story to.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. (Forgive typos; very late, very tired…)

A Tangible Reminder of D-Day: Man and Child Bleed on Beach

June 6th, 1944, is the greatest day in American military history, ever, as far as I’m concerned. Thousands of brave American, Canadian, and British men rushed the shores at Normandy… many never even making it to the actual shoreline because of the shelling, MG44 machine-gun crossfire, or drowning from abandoning their landing craft and sinking with all of their gear on. The men had been giving a huge breakfast that day, too, and had a seasickness rate of about 65%. Bad, bad seasickness.

The ones that did make it to the shoreline lost even more.

The shelling continued (big artillery shells/little bombs exploding on the beach, sending shrapnel out like a thousand bullets in every direction… some of those bullets as big as baseball gloves… some as small as grains of sand–some were grains of sand). Then, if the shrapnel didn’t get them, they had the concussion from the blast to worry about, which essentially shakes you to death.

If they survived those obstacles while watching their friends and fellow soldiers getting shredded and blown to pieces, they still had 800-1000 yards of beach to cross before getting to the bottom of the cliffs/hills where they could begin their assault on the bunkers that housed the enemies that were killing them by a factor of about 100 per minute.

That 800-1000 yards of beach is not only still being shot to Hell by the machine guns and artillery, but now there are land mines to step on, not to mention the machine guns are getting more accurate as you get closer. Moreover, those Hedgehogs you were able to hide behind initially (German chunks of tripodic metal meant to stop tanks and landing craft; one of four levels of barriers they had against landing craft) disappeared along that last 800 yards. Just bare, open beach, and running, charging men.

Estimates vary, but we lost about 6,000 men that morning of the Allied Forces (2,500 Americans), and that doesn’t include the pilots and paratroopers that were killed the night before on botched bombing runs and drop zones, due to cloud cover.

I have two tattoos, and almost got a third. I probably would have if I could have afforded it. The thing I asked myself and answered before I got my tattoos was, “What can I put on my body that I will not ever be ashamed of?,” and my answers were my daughter and my country, so I got tattoos honoring both. The third tattoo I almost got was going to be of the beaches on D-Day. I was thinking about adding an artistic element of making D-Day happen at night (maybe 4 hours before the actual landings). I still may get that tattoo.

Today is June 5th, 2011. I was at the local public beach with my girlfriend, her daughter Mallory, and her niece, Whitley. Whitley got cut. They were out on some rocks about twenty yards from the shoreline. I could see the blood coming from her foot. I rushed out to pick her up and bring her to shore, and the moment I picked her up and turned to walk back to shore, I stepped on a sharp rock and cut my own foot open.

We were both bleeding like broken dams. I kept telling Whitley that the water makes little drops of blood look like lots of blood. I kept my cool (matter of fact, I didn’t even notice my own cut until one of them pointed it out, although I sure felt it when it happened… adrenaline does strange things to the mind).

We rinsed hers off in the water, and mine, wrapped our cuts in towels, and applied pressure until the bleeding stopped. Whitley said, “I feel funny.” I asked what she meant and if she was dizzy. She said she was dizzy and a little sick. I told her to sit down but keep the pressure on the cut. What I didn’t tell her is I was getting dizzy and sick, too. Sweat was pouring out of my pores. The nausea was staggering.

For just a moment, there, on that free, American public beach, I felt a sample of what those men at Normandy felt. In an effort to save something or someone that mattered to me, I was injured, and bled the sand red just as Whitley did. But even with all that drama, I can swear on all things precious that this statement is true: I didn’t need to go through that to appreciate what those men did on D-Day. I really think about that day regularly and in high regard. But the panic, nausea, bleeding, cuts… it put me in the D-Day frame of mind, on a microscopic scale, for a few moments, and except for Whitley being cut, I actually am glad it happened, because it makes me feel closer to D-Day than I already was.

There is a reason they called them, “The Greatest Generation.”

Please take two minutes to think about those brave souls that died that day, and what they lost to give us what we won.

When the planets fall, I think I may have other obligations.

I keep thinkin’ there’s a fire in the fireplace that I didn’t light.

It’s always one of the cats, licking her shoulder, flickering.

I don’t ask why the one gets confused with the other in the front and back of my mind.

Cats are not like fire, nor fire like cats.

The absence of bondage to normal Earthly fears that I’ve killed are giving me nightmares.

I usually don’t remember them. I just wake up fearless, still, and exhausted.

When a bird flies into a window, now, I look at it, and in my mind, I only shrug.
I shrug in my mind.

The reason for that is that nagging question: why should I go through the physical act of shrugging?

I used to feel fear and shock and concern for the bird.

Now, I know he’s just another living creature on the assembly line toward death.
And, if he wants to spend some of that time unconscious in my front yard, who am I to intervene?

What if there is a really advanced civilization nearby, or God? Either shows up, and there’s only one thing you can know, and that is that you are stupid. That God, or that something greater, is what we follow, because we are so easily programmed by nature to follow leaders.

And some leaders are not leaders at all; they are simply entities or non-entities that we ascribe depth of meaning and power upon or into.

I have lead a few times and believe I do it well, yet my own hate for authority pushes me naturally out of leadership positions.

I’m anti-authority, and no authority cares until they try to exercise authority over me.

Egos. Testosterone. Estrogen. Spicy food.

Ron is anti-establishment. He knows that the whole thing is rigged, and he’s not letting anybody get away with a fucking thing, ever.

Love is sweet-tasting, pink lemonade, as long as it is served in a glass, with ice, on a warm day with perfect weather, when you’re thirsty.

My head aches, roughly. Everything below it is in a state of accelerated dying.

I wish when I died, I could keep my brain alive in a jar for a while until I was actually tired of thinking.

Have you noticed that all the fears you have, or almost all of them, never materialize? How many have killed you?

A baby will love you, then like and love you, then love and hate you, then hate you, then love you, then love you for the rest of your life.

We have five senses that we know of. Do you realize that, biologically, the number of potential senses is endless? What if an adjacent society has 22 or 545 senses? You cannot imagine that, can you? I could, because I’ll just start guessing and never stop. Until my brain is in the jar, and I’ve imagined them all.

Pork is not the other white meat.

How can somebody praise God emphatically for letting them live as they survive a tornado, while claiming that they are a christian who is promised a castle in the sky, where there is no pain or traffic jams or sprained ankles.

We’re so limited. So, so limited.

Little bits of knowledge that oughta be beaten into people, if necessary

1. Lose and loose are different words with different meanings.

2. Barack Obama is not black, and is not our first African-American president. He’s bi-racial, being 50% white and 50% black.

3. The thing in the middle of the road is not a medium. It’s a median.

4. Using cliches when speaking to people and expecting them to act surprised at your originality or intelligence should be punishable by law.

5. Negative people suck (keep in mind, the rules listed here aim toward making a more positive world by lifting the moods of all of us).

6. Don’t bring your drama to work. Ever.

7. Stop trying to “teach” your kid by their early 20’s, and accept them for who they are. If it doesn’t pain you, too much, give them encouragement and praise. (Sarcasm was necessary).

8. When people ask how you’re doing, spill your guts sometime. They’ll probably never ask again.

9. Racists and sexists suck.

10. Just because Obama won doesn’t mean black people are “beating whitey.”

11. If Obama loses, it will not mean white people are “beating blackey.” Get past race, people; nobody gets to choose which color they will be, and none are “better” than another. If you must judge, judge people as individuals.

12. You can’t prove your religion is right and that another is wrong, so stop shoving it down other people’s throats and accept that all you really have is faith and hope that you are right.

13. Don’t preach about any religion that you can’t even follow the rules of.

14. Cheating on your other half is the most painful thing you can do. For most, that “act” is one of trust and intimacy, and if you break it, you have broken everything. Plus, if you have to cheat, are you with the right person?

15. The Washington Capitals will eventually win a Stanley Cup.

16. Just because somebody is family doesn’t mean they should necessarily own your acceptance and respect without earning it. Family or not, if they are negative, condescending, or judgmental, cast them out of your life (unless they are your child; that’s the only exception). If someone’s life is half wrecked already, they sure shouldn’t be criticizing the life choices of another family member.

17. Pot is not harmless.

18. Alcohol is as dangerous and deadly as any poison out there; stop down-playing it.

19. Men are biologically, by design, prone to “dominating the gene pool.” It is only the most civilized among us that can say “no” to this natural tug in order to respect our partner. Women also cheat way more often than the statistics will show.

20. Women are biologically, by design (or eventual biological progression) better able to multi-task (I’m a huge follower of evolutionary psychology even though I believe evolution itself is a farce): imagine the cavewoman for thousands of years that had to hear the baby, listen/smell for local food, and deal with the horny caveman on her rump all at the same time. It stuck.

21. Just because men aren’t as likely to be able to multi-task doesn’t make them “dumb.” Men can focus laser-sharp in areas where women typically cannot (the multi-tasking strength can become a curse, just as the focus can for men).

22. If you just FOLLOW the natural, legal order of traffic on the road, things will move more quickly than if you decide to stop and wave on another person. Those with solid green lights do not yield. Those turning right have priority over those turning left, all other things being equal. SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT. Turn signals are as much a courtesy as a law. Take it easy on the brakes, gas, and turns.

23. Don’t close your mind on any subject, or you have killed any chance to gain further education on that subject. Leave a “working truth” in your mind, subject to change based on convincing evidence.

24. No invisible guy is better than any other invisible guy, and if your religion promotes killing or harming others, then your religion can kiss my hairy, white caboose. If your belief in your religion has no reasoning other than you were “brought up” that way, you should be ashamed. Know why you believe what you believe, and if you can’t disprove another religion, don’t dismiss it. You have a right to believe in your faith and practice it to perfection, but you do not have a right to punish others for not believing what you believe.

25. There are 7 billion people in the world; you are not THAT important, but you do matter, as does everybody else.

26. You are no better than any other human.

27. Legacies are created by deeds, not beliefs (making a note).

28. The world is not out to get you. Nor does the world revolve around you or exist to serve you. You are a part of it, and that’s that. You make do with what you have and what you can get, or you don’t make do at all.

29. Global warming is real. And if you say, “It was 10 degrees on a late spring day, and they say there’s global warming!” you really, really, really need to educate yourself on the issue before speaking again.

30. You can’t do it alone.

Your comments are welcome! Please add to my list; it will be a book, sooner rather than later.


Patience, for writers and everybody else

Fast forward through my first twenty years.

I was 21. I was in the Air Force, in a little town called North Pole, Alaska (the base was Eielson AFB and was not in North Pole; I lived in North Pole). I was not only doing the Air Force thing, but I was also writing for the local paper, the North Pole Independent. Somehow, I even got an exclusive interview with Olympic gold and silver-medalist, Tommy Moe.

But those weren’t incredibly important to me. Sure, getting my first check ever for writing, for $85 which wasn’t shameful in 1993, was cause for celebration. Especially sweet was that I took over feature writing, and the paper let go of their 4-year college-grad. lead journalist. I didn’t need any patience; those things were almost a gift. An instant career with the Air Force. An instant, fulfilling hobby/side-job with writing for the paper.

What took the patience was the third thing I was doing. For the first and only time, I coached a little league football team. It was a first-year team, and I was a first-year coach.

Imagine having 30 kids buzzing about for 2 hours per day, from 8-11 years old. Now, organize them into defense, offense, special teams… separate line players from backfield players. Practice blocking, passing, dodging, hitting, tackling, handoffs, and other tactical processes while teaching them the discipline and focus needed to win, all the while making it FUN. Now, halfway through the season, take a cheerleader for the team and incorporate her into your offensive line as an offensive tackle, because, by golly, she wanted to play football. She hung up the pom-poms and bought some cleats.

Now, there’s patience.

And with patience, you get good things. We won that year; even though we lost twice (our only two losses of the season) to a team known as the Fairbanks Bulldogs, a good friend of mine and assistant coach Mike Dubowski who played college football helped me coach the North Pole Lions in how to stop the Bulldogs, so that when the season was at an end and it was time for the “Arctic Bowl,” our Superbowl, we won 26-0. The League president walked over, through the snow that had fallen and handed me a 5-foot tall trophy. I handed it to the kids and said, “I didn’t do it. They did.” (The man then said, “Ok but don’t let them break it…”).

Point of all this is that I’m living proof that although you may get some instant successes in your life, you can’t get rejected a couple of times and then give up on a thing. You can’t assume or believe that if something has beaten you before, it will again. You can’t snap when the stressors in your life pile up and just “go off” or quit. If your ultimate goal is success, all you need are three things and I’d bet my very life that you get your success, and those are: patience, confidence, and determination.

Go get ’em. Be a Lion.