Is truth overrated?

many_fingers

 

 

Need more fingers. Can’t count anymore how many times I wished I recorded a disagreement with my wife. It’s always the same: Whatever the argument, the subject quickly changes to WHO started it, who’s the bad guy. We’re talking minutes here. After twenty sentences Wife and I have opposing memories and we’re both convinced we have the monopoly on THE truth and THE facts. If I were as mature as the advice I blog about, I’d re-read my own posts where I expound:

We all carry our own truths and indubitably believe them.

Rarely do people agree about anything, unless they agree to agree. And when they do that they stick together as best friends forever, marriage mates, golf buddies, political parties or whatever else there is that makes a consensus of two or more before the group breaks up again….over heated disagreements.

People disagree even with themselves. Politicians, business leaders and serial killers quite often deny earlier deeds and words, even when videos or sound recordings prove they’re lying now. And then of course they make up stuff that didn’t happen at all and swear it’s true as well.

I understand why people lie and even why so many people choose to believe those lies. It happens with counties, clubs and couples. Everybody’s got a different story and everybody’s stickin’ to it because it feels more secure that way, lying makes life easier or there’s an advantage involved. And so the world muddles along repeating the same mistakes as it denies its own past. In spite of that, civilizations grow creating new and exciting things. Somewhere, someone is thinking, “Maybe I can make a positive change.” And somewhere else someone’s saying, “Fuck Change. I want it the way it was.”

As a global village, we can’t even agree on progress.

Same with truth. When it comes to accepting fact as fact, which changes as people and events change, some of us use truth to build trust while some lie to fake trust. Lying gets people into trouble but lots of times it doesn’t. There’s no right and wrong about sincerely believing something is true when it isn’t, but too many times people lie about truth for deception and manipulation. I think that’s wrong. Yet I can also argue that under certain circumstances, telling the truth would be damaging or ineffective. Any lie can be rationalized and is.

So who are we kidding? Does anyone really trust anyone to tell the truth all the time? Of course not. And when “truth” actually IS honestly conveyed, it’s not necessarily OUR truth.

There are six categories of TRUTH.truth_in_dictionary

  1. TRUTH that is always true.
  2. TRUTH that is true but not all the time.
  3. TRUTH that cannot be disputed.
  4. TRUTH that cannot be disputed but is disputed.
  5. TRUTH that is true for ME but not true for YOU.
  6. TRUTH that is true for YOU but not true for ME.

Truth is a moving target and it’s hard to figure out what TRUTH to trust, and when.

*****

When I told my wife the subject of this post, she rhetorically asked, “When does agreeing on truth really matter?”

She nailed it. How much truth, how many established facts, how much agreement about those facts do we need to improve our lives, keep well and get along?

Improvement, staying improved and staying improved together is a big order, because agreeing on any TRUTH, whether it’s real or not, will not necessarily make the world nicer and better. Wars are always fought for “Right and Just” reasons with all groups believing their True Beliefs are the only true beliefs. Know of any winners with this?

I slept through college Philosophy 101 but I’m sure these questions came up. Is there any ULTIMATE TRUTH? And if there is, will we all agree it’s a good TRUTH and keep it that way?

gavel_lawI now know the answers and they’re NO. When it comes to nations, states, cities, big business and even courts of law with juries, we can’t stop prevailing Truth from wandering out of agreements. Real facts are argued, debated and closed with reluctant but final acceptance. Then those verdicts, treaties, contracts, handshakes and promises are broken, or at the very least corrupted around the edges. Happens all the time and we’re all putting up with those social breakdowns. Sure, we still want “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” but we don’t expect it. Guilty-until-proven-innocent is really the way we think.

Thank Heaven for you few Optimists. You still believe human nature has a chance to survive. You still have hope we can all get along. You still envision lasting agreements. Let me know when that happens.

*****

So we’re back to the set-up: When does agreeing on truth really matter? More importantly: Does the “truth” have to be true, or just a premise from which to work?

Science wants true truths and it has oodles of facts and models that keep Truth in place, until great thinkers investigate the super big and really small. Then the very existence of the teeniest of particles, the biggest stars, and all that stuff hidden in black holes gets pretty iffy. Generally though, in our human oriented world, laws of physics apply all the time and we use those constants to do everything. We accept Newton’s Laws of Motion because we’ve learned how long it takes to brake our car to avoid a crash. Inertia isn’t disputed. We all believe it, like we accept gravity.

However, we do NOT need to believe that our planet is 4.5 billion years old to drive and brake for racing dogs. When considering the age of our universe, creationists have their own ideas as they still steer clear knights_crusadesof accidents. Their version of truth, which is agreed upon within their own crowd, does not inhibit their personal survival. For most of you reading this blog, the majority of your TRUTHS; religious, political, historical, whatever, don’t affect your capacity to get through the day, or mine. So unless you’re willing to kill infidels to spread your TRUTHS, what you personally believe isn’t harmful. And consequently, your private Truth doesn’t really matter to anyone else but you.

I’m sorry dear religious and political missionaries, maybe I insulted you. But disinterested ears will not hear your message. Besides that…

There is no one-size-fits-all grand truth.

*****

That said, here’s the wrap-up.

There’s no Grand Truth but there are two BELIEFS all of us share. The one that you choose shapes all your thinking, everything you do and everything that happens to you. If that weren’t important enough, these two beliefs swim unpredictably within those six conflicting categories of truth I listed earlier.

This is what you believe, all the time or some of the time:

  1. There are substantial reasons to be afraid.
  2. There are substantial reasons to feel safe.

Since you believe #1 and/or #2 (whether it’s true or not), you’re going to find someone else who agrees with you. That matters a lot, especially within marriage and friendships. If you’re a couple, a group or a nation, it also matters that there’s disagreement about these two presumptions. It’s really, really important to know, for a fact, when and if #1 or #2 are correct. Your life depends on your search.

Are unwarranted fears or a false sense of security determining your decisions?

Okay, you say you know about uncertainty and life’s variables. But are you still overly relying on reflexive old brain instincts and assume you’ve got it figured out? When it comes to more of those indubitable “Fundamental Truths” do you agree that…

truth_on_girl_handsThey’re out to get me.

They want what’s mine and will take it if I let them.

There’s always more than enough to go around.

People are basically good, with exceptions.

People are basically bad, with exceptions.

Things will generally work out.

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

It will never happen any time soon.

They’re much different than us.

Everyone should believe in God…our God.

Certain races are more intelligent that others.

Poor people are poor because they’re lazy.

All rich people are greedy.

All politicians are corrupt.

All government employees work less for more money – my tax money.

You can never trust a lawyer, even if you’re one yourself.

The rich have more privileges. (Okay, this one IS a Grand Truth.)

Everyone can make it an America. (This one isn’t.)

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Where Ever You Are, I Hope You’re Happy

(Continued from: “Whatever Happened to Nina Pearlstein?”)

 

teensCaughtNina tipped-toed to my bedside, still in her gown. I was already awake, dreading to ask one troubled question. “How bad is it?”

“Mom wants you to leave.”

“Wonderful…” I mumbled. “Did you get yelled at?”

“She’s not talking. I told her I couldn’t sleep and that I moved to the front couch. I let her find me there and that’s when she told me to call you a cab.”

The taxi arrived ten minutes later. Nina walked me to the edge of their porch. No kisses, no I’ll call you’s, just a humiliating creep-away to my relatives on Long Island. I spent a week with my cousins pretending nothing happened, then spent a few more years growing up remembering every fierce moment of my last days with Nina Pearlstein.

*****

I had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, hoping to kick start my never-happened Hollywood career in the place where film was supposed to move and thrive. I was twenty years too early and barely survived by doing all kinds of crazy jobs just to get by. One late night, as I sat in my tiny kitchen eating eggs and scanning newspaper ads for waiter’s gigs, the phone rang. My jaw dropped. I was hearing Nina on the other end, and she was weeping. Between sobs and whimpers, she explained how she got my number from Mom and then cried out the horrible news.

Michael Lichtenberger from Camp Podolsky’s Group A had snuffed himself with a sharp blade to his wrists. I didn’t know at the time that Nina and Michael had seriously reconnected, long distance wise, but were planning coming together with a forever “I do.” Then, without warning he ended everything. I listened to that sad story and others about Nina’s years of therapy, why she left college and the on-again, off-again boyfriends that all fell away.

Our talk was a total bummer and I ended it the only way I could, with a promise to keep in touch, AGAIN. I wasn’t unhappy about that though. In so many ways I admired Nina Pearlstein and her undefended honesty. She loved sex. So did I. She said what she meant. Me too. She exposed her heart. Well, I tried. I just wish I loved her. Even a little. Still, I always looked forward to getting another letter from Nina. They were rarely cheery but they were deep. Nina questioned everything. She was always asking, Why?

*****Manhattan

By 1975 I had decided Atlanta wasn’t happening for film and that I needed another start. So I quickly began dismantling my life in Atlanta and prepared for another life shift seven weeks in the future. I called Nina. “Guess what? I’m moving to New York.”

“You are!” she yelped. “Really? Like permanent? Or just for a job?”

“No job. I’m hopin’ to find one.”

“When?”

“April. Wanna get together?”

“Oh my God, yes! Absolutely!”

And so we made plans.

Young couple in bedWe talked about meeting in Manhattan, finding some cozy place for lunch, and later taking the train to New Jersey where her car would be waiting. She would then drive me to her place for a stay-over and we both knew what that meant. Finally, as two young adults, we could share a bed for hours, maybe days, but not weeks or months. I didn’t want involvement like that. I acutely needed a film career and New York would be my third try. Nothing, definitely nothing could get in the way. I was that resolved. And yet, although eight years had passed since Camp Podolsky, the Nina-Irv sex tension was still as tight as a cello string, even over the phone. So yeah, I was really looking forward to my big move starting with a BANG.

Five days later everything changed. I met a German girl, Marianne Falesitch. We went to see the same band because we both knew Lattie, the singer. She introduced us and within 3.5 weeks we were engaged. My family was stunned. Six days later the phone rang and I had more explaining to do.

“Irv! Had to call! I dreamt about us all last night.”

“Oh…Nina…” I swallowed. “Ya did?” Every muscle tightened.

“Yeah! I’m counting the days! You eat beef, right?”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I wasn’t sure. Michael had turned vegan.”

“You planning on cooking for me?” I asked, concerned about the answer.

“I love to cook! I just never have anyone to do it for.”

I swallowed again. It had to be said. “Nina, a lot’s happened in the past few weeks. I got engaged.”

Silence…then, “What?”

“I wasn’t planning on anything and it all happened very fast. I know this sorta puts a turn in our plans.”

Again, no words. Finally the question, “Can we still be friends?”

“Absolutely,” I said, trying to be supportive.

“Are we still gonna get together?”

“Why not?” I just couldn’t say no. “But I’m engaged now. You understand what that means?”

“I understand. I’m happy for you.” I wanted to believe that. “I want to meet your fiancé.” That, I didn’t believe.

“Well,” I continued, “she’s not coming up for a few months. I have to get set up first, find an apartment… After I get the job she’ll make the move.”

“So you’re coming up alone first?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, then not that much changed.”

“Not really. We’ll catch up, have fun.” The conversation went on aimlessly for another few minutes with little being said. I was glad it ended.

Not much had changed, she said. Everything had changed. I was no longer excited about Nina Pearlstein.

*****

According to plan, Nina and I met in Manhattan and found a neighborhood bar called, We Haven’t Got a Name Yet. The place fit my mood. I couldn’t have been more conflicted. Although Nina looked smart and sexy as always, with her tight little body inviting me closer with every curve, I struggled to keep focused. She knew I was drifting ‘cause she filled the space with words, all of which were important. So for an hour in a nameless pub, while Nina talked and I listened, my thoughts kept asking: Am I looking interested enough? Am I nodding at the right moments? Am I adding enough to the conversation so she believes I’m involved?

You see I didn’t want to hurt her. I knew what she needed and I wished I could be all of that but I wasn’t anymore. I was in love with Marianne and already I missed her.

holding-handsSo Nina and I left the bar and walked uptown towards a subway to Penn Station for the train to New Jersey. On the way, Nina grasped my hand. To any passerby, our entwined fingers looked harmlessly friendly. To me, they meant betrayal to the woman I left in Atlanta and a hint of resentment squeezed into my mind.

How could she do this? Lovers hold hands. How am I going to shake her off without taking her down?

So I let Nina hold me for a block more and when we reached the subway I let go to grab the staircase railing. And as I descended into the tunnels of New York, I contemplated what Miss Pearlstein had in mind when we reached her apartment. Forty-five minutes later we entered three cozy rooms in a big house on a neighborhood street somewhere in New Jersey.

Keep-it-light, that was my strategy. Keep-it-charged was Nina’s, augmented with persuasive pot, single malt scotch and medium rare filet mignon. It was all great and all too much. So much in fact, that I collapsed on the couch hoping for sleep to hit me soon.

“Oh boy. Let’s get you to bed,” she said, unbuttoning my shirt.

“It’s okay. I’ll stay here.” And I took charge of my own buttons.

“You’re not going to sleep with me?” she said, looking so forlorn.

“I’m engaged, Nina.”

“It’s just being close.” The last time she said that, we both fell into deep shit.

“I know,” I said. “But being close with you is more than just being close. I don’t trust myself.”

“But you can trust me.” She lifted my arm to pull me up. “Come…”

“No, Nina. I can’t.”

“You’re refusing a woman’s bed?” (She actually said that.)

“Please. Don’t do this.” I stayed put with Nina standing over me.

“You’re going to make me sleep alone?”

“We can’t be lovers anymore, Nina. You knew that.”

“I’m not asking for anything more than you being next to me.”

“I can’t. I’m sorry.”

With a sigh, I stretched out, pushing a throw pillow under my head. Nina didn’t move.

“You’re sleeping in your pants? That’s crazy.”

She disappeared into the bathroom and returned with sheets, a blanket and an extra bed pillow. She gestured for me to stand and she quickly made the couch into a bed. It was really endearing, watching her take care of me like a mom. I dropped back onto the cushions and tried getting comfortable, still in my briefs.

“Are you sure?” she asked once more.

“I’m sure.” I kissed her wrist.

She shuffled to the bed on the opposite wall, threw off her dress and crawled into the blankets. I think I heard her cry. A minute passed, then she murmured, “You know what Michael said to me the last time we talked?”

I didn’t want to hear it but I knew I should ask. “What?”

“He said, Nobody really knows me….or wants to.”

*****kissing_teens

The next morning that sad girl drove me to the train. We gently kissed goodbye and separated forever. I don’t know what happened to Nina Pearlstein but I’ll confess now what I should have said thirty-nine years ago.

Nina, I wanted to know you. I really did. But I was afraid if I reached out again, you’d ask for more than I could provide. So I never called you again. I’m sorry.

Where ever you are, I hope you’re happy.

 

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Whatever Happened to Nina Pearlstein?

True story but names have been changed.

girl-walking-awayI first met Nina Pearlstein in Camp Podolsky, a Jewish teen retreat. I don’t know what Christian summer camps are like, or Muslim teenager get-away’s or Zen kid camps. I don’t even know how Jewish summer camps are run today. I only know about the two I attended last century in the sixties. The second one, when I turned sixteen, was all about Nina Pearlstein.

Going to Camp Podolsky was not supposed to be about Nina Pearlstein. It was supposed to be about learning more about Judaic culture, speaking some basic Hebrew, exploring tradition and values as well as artistic expression. The only thing I remember about my Jewish camp days were the girls, and I didn’t care if they were Jewish, or not. Jew Camp for me was Kindergarten College. I got to be away from my parents, sleep in a dorm, eat in a communal cafeteria, take classes and have free time. Free time was the best part, and the only part where I learned anything about anything. It wasn’t about being Jewish. It was about making out.

Culture camp was like those Jewish teen club conventions. Mom enrolled me in SEFTY (South Eastern Federation of Temple Youth) and once a year a five-state gathering commenced in some Southern city. Those weekend conclaves were basically social events – mega-pressured social events, because if you didn’t have a date by the Saturday night dance, you knew you were nobody. So, when we all came together at the first mixer, Friday night after religious services in a temple or “schul”, we teens started pairing off for the rest of the weekend. If two-hundred kids were bussed or driven to a thirty hour convention, two-hundred dating decisions had to go down in the first ninety minutes.JewishCampEating

Same for Jewish camp. By day two, we young people had already coupled off. And of course, the cutest girls and boys picked each other first. By predetermination, like birth, I was relegated to Boy’s Group B, choosing gals from their own B Group. Nina was seductively slinky but face-wise, a B grouper too. Still, Miss Pearlstein was “picked” by handsome Michael Lichtenberger from A Group. That was fine with me ‘cause I thought Lydia Jacobs was more interesting – sorta shy, sans a curvy body but brainy. By the end of camp, Lydia liked me enough for kisses. But as I got to know Nina, her raw heat warmed me and I wanted her more. Nina signaled the same back. Still, we didn’t cheat on Michael and Lydia and so the four of us remained faithful couples and friends until the last day of camp when our parents came to pick us up.

My parents were always late, everywhere, including that day. And as it happened, Nina’s parents were also no-shows for three hours. So Nina and I were left in a deserted campus full of empty dorm beds and the time to use them.

Nina and I were meant to be One, like peanut butter and jelly. Within ten feet our thighs throbbed. Anything closer made fluids flow. So forget about chemistry. Our after-camp nooky went nuclear and five minutes into it I lost control, exploding surges of sticky sauce that quickly seeped through my jeans.

Whoa! Embarrassing! I was so exposed, and Nina felt it happen. I’m sure she sensed a super empowerment after that, like being more of a woman. Her expression said so.

As for me, I was just stunned. I had never, ever felt a rush like that before. Would I ever get that intense again? Would it take another hop with Nina?

Seconds later we heard a car horn. It had to be her parents or mine. Thank god it was hers! She left me with a last kiss and a promise to write. When I heard the car pull out, I dashed back to my suitcase outside, snatched more clothes, flew back into the dorm, changed and threw the crime evidence into the dumpster. I never wanted that to ever happen again. Not that way. Nina made me detonate fully dressed. She had that power.

*****

Years rolled by. Nina wrote. I wrote back. We entered college. Hers was located in New Jersey close to her parents and mine at the University of Georgia. In the first days of summer vacation, Nina invited me up to her home for a few days. Since I had aunts, uncles and cousins on Long Island not that far away, Dad paid for my flight with the condition that I visit relatives after the Nina weekend.

1967ToronadoMiss Pearlstein and her dad picked me up at the airport in the family’s shiny new Oldsmobile front-wheel-drive Toronado. It was THE hottest and coolest car at the time, like a Telsa Model S today, and Nina’s father, a surgeon, had just bought it.

There’s nothing like the smell of a new car while sitting near a hot chick sniffing YOU. Nina and I were close in the back seat, sizzling again which was not practical driving home or later when we gathered around the dinner table that Friday night. Nina’s parents were checking me out. Was I a suitable boyfriend for their only daughter? Maybe I was, because Nina’s dad offered us his new car so I could take Nina to a local movie Saturday night.

Now you have to understand, that for a nineteen year-old guy in 1967, getting to drive a maroon Toronado with its 425 cubic inch, 385 horsepower Rocket V8 engine was like…well…better than sex. Nina decided I should reset my priorities. That night, about ten, while her parents watched Johnny Carson, Nina and I laid on her brother’s bedroom rug scanning the newspaper movie section. The brother was out of town for the weekend so his bed had been given to me. Anyway, as I read aloud the movies titles, Nina grabbed my hand and put it between her legs.

“Jesus, Nina! What are you? Crazy! Your parents are two rooms away!”

That’s what I thought. What I said was…nothing. I was already kissing her with my heart thumping like a four-stroke Harley, and just as loud. But I had to stop. I was afraid of getting caught feeling up a doctor’s daughter. Nina however, thrived on risk. I could see that. I guess being bad made everything more exciting.

*****

It was Saturday night. With me behind the wheel of a grown-up’s car, I drove us to the movies and back very, very carefully. And yes there was kissing in the dark followed by stealth crotch-caressing in the back of the theater. I don’t remember the film but I remember pretending to watch it. And I also remember a wet right ear. Nina like licking everything. Nina was naughty. I like “Naughty.” But not stupid naughty.

“Suppose, after my parents fall asleep, I come into your bed for snuggles?” she suggested, standing behind me in her brother’s bathroom while I brushed my teeth.

I gagged. “No! No! Absolutely not!”

“Okay, okay, she said, rubbing my neck. “Just a thought.” And then she kissed me ‘goodnight’ and I assumed it would be a good night. It wasn’t.

*****TeensInBedClutching

I was sleeping when I got nudged awake. Nina was visiting me, standing next to the bed as she slipped out of her gown in the dark. The glowing clock face said it was after two, and before I could say, “Wait…” Nina lifted my blankets and slid under them next to me…naked and warm. Oh god, no! That’s all I could think, ‘cause my body was already revving. “We can’t do this. Nina. Not here.”

“Shhsss… Let’s just be close,” she whispered. “Don’t move.” And she nuzzled her breasts into my chest, offering a breathy, moist smooch. I kissed back, but I didn’t move… much. One body part had a mind of his own and Nina could feel it, like that last day at camp Podolsky years before. (kiss-kiss) And like what happened on the dorm bed, she again began to sway from the waist down. (kiss-smack, lick-lick) In those high school years we were alone. Not now. Her parent’s room was three doors away and I knew this was oh-so-wrong. (rub-rub, lick-kiss)

What was that? What did I hear? Footsteps on carpet down the hall? Oh God!!!

We froze, eye’s shut, and listened…and listened…and listened. No breathing. No moving, just ears in tracking mode.

(And yes, this is all true, as it happened.)

Step-step-step-stop. Then more steps, this time louder, and closer to our open door. Step-step-step stop. Step-step-step-step stop. Eyes still closed, I calculated that those last sounds ended at our open door, or worse, at the foot of our bed. And then, nothing – not even a quiet gasp or subtle sigh – just cold, accusing parental silence.

If there was ever a time to die, this was it. I wanted to melt into the sheets, forgotten forever. And Miss Risk-is-Exciting? Nina had stiffened too, waiting like me for the light to switch on, throwing us into trauma.

But no light whitened the room. All was still shadows and darkness. And as we waited for what seemed like hours, we finally heard step-step-step-step-step-step-step-step-step…ka-chunk.

Was that a bedroom door closing? Hard to tell. So we laid together absolutely still for twenty minutes. Nina then quietly moved out of my bed, wiggled into her gown, left my room and headed towards the kitchen and living room. As for me, I still wanted to die and sleep finally softened the guilt, but only for four hours. The next morning was not pretty.

 

To be continued.

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Ask Your Doctor If You’re Healthy Enough For Sex

Cialis and Viagra are selling youth-sex to old people. Well, actually not old people, just older people, or any male for that matter who wants harder and longer.

doc with guyWhat surprises me the most about TV ads showing mommy and daddy couples a minute from getting laid, is that those beautifully matured love birds look no older than forty! Okay, maybe forty-five, but why do dudes under fifty need help getting ready? I know. It’s about being MORE ready. Are we men so sexually intimidated by women (who sexually PEEK at fifty, so we’ve been told) that we all have to thump like we’re thirty? Or is it about older men DATING thirty-year-olds…or trying to…after the divorce.

Look, some bitter truth here: Everybody wants to stay young. Actually, everyone wants to LOOK young with a young body. Nobody older really wants to BE young…except for young sex, which is all about discovery.

And here’s more truth about sexual discovery: for those of you who feel free enough to enjoy it like play period in the sandbox, no matter how great it is out of the gate, super sex gets lazy pretty soon. And when it slows down so much it’s boring, we want a new race horse to bounce us around the track.

Yes, we all want racy sex again and again. (Well not ALL, but all my friends and maybe you too.) So some of us jump into new saddles regularly and some of us don’t. I can’t tell how many committed It’s-only-you couples decide to expand the only-you part, but I suspect most people don’t keep their exclusivity promise when the thrill is gone. Let’s admit it, people cheat because “exploratory” sex with all its discovery is way more interesting than, “So do ya feel like it or not?”

Exploring in sex is about novelty and the risk of total exposure with newbies we have to trust. If we’re brave enough to ask for those special strokes, we drop our daily identity and get really vulnerable, holding the assumption that our new partner (or partners) won’t physically hurt us. They rarely do in those first bed romps, if nothing is forced. I’m not talking about rape here, only consenting adults.couple in tub

Still, first-time sex can hurt, like meeting someone who’s super fun, great in bed and then getting no call backs. Feelings do get bruised but that’s part of the risk of being vulnerable and real. Shedding defenses is exciting. It’s exciting because unknown risk demands heightened awareness, the more-alive stuff, as opposed to: been-there, done-that. Instead there’s happy investigations like, “How does this feel? How does that feel? Oh yeah… More.”

And as long as it all guilt-free and you’re both into it, the endorphins kick in, the day’s worries fade away and you become naked kids again playing “Show-Me” and “Do-Me”. It’s all about being human in a nice way and letting your bodies love the touching for as long as it lasts.

Reality check: It doesn’t last. New is only new when it’s new. Once you’ve used up all your “Show-Me’s” and “Do-Me’s”, once you know where all the secret feel-good places live, once trust isn’t a gamble anymore and you both know the drill, sex becomes like a book you’ve both read thirty times. You know the plot and how it ends. The discovery is exhausted, at least physically. So sex becomes more about just getting off and you don’t need another mouth or tongue for that.

Depressed yet? Not to worry. There’s a happy ending. But first, more stuff we need to remember.

couple in bedThe Basic Truth

The most exciting thing about sex is not physical sensations. It’s the discovery of the person you’re with, who is much more than a pulsing torso.

Without a mind, flesh and bones are just molecules, a substance without mental zest. But sometimes that’s all we want – your basic body bang, which is good. Still, I think most of us desire more. We want a deeper connection so we’re not so lonely. We want to touch another soul and learn more about ourselves as we do that. I may be a romantic but I firmly believe sex is just one pleasing way of reaching another mind. And it’s not the only way.

Okay, much of this you know. But you’re probably older. You’re past the sexual learning phase. You may even be past your first marriage, or second. You know that it’s hard to keep the sex exciting for more than a year. Some of you knew killer coitus cools soon and had a Plan B as you strolled down the aisle with spouse #2. Or some of you thought, “This time I’ll to make it work. I’ll keep the promises. She/he will too.”

It helps to keep the promises. Loyalty holds trust in place and trust allows freedom. Freedom allows change and change sparks interest.

More on this later.

couple ON bedThere’s this story going around that if people could have sex all the time with anyone they wanted, everyone would be happier. Swing clubs and open marriages aim for that. I’m not convinced multiple sex partners deliver happiness. I had that. I wanted more.

In the seventies, right after college, I lived in Free-Love Land. I had many one-nighter’s, and plenty of three and four weeker’s. I even had two three-monther’s. Lots of sex all the time. And after all those soft arms, legs and breasts close to me in bed, I still felt alone in the mornings. Those hook ups were experiments with no devotion. Living in the moment, day by day had it advantages, but even at twenty-four I wanted to build a future. I wanted certainty. I wanted an anchor of trust. But what I wanted most, was a mind-meld beyond body treats because sport sex got old fast. So I shifted priorities where finding mental and spiritual beauty became top priority. How did that turn out? You probably know.

*****

When it comes to people with people, we all fly towards New & Exciting. Knowing everything about your partner can be comforting but too many times it’s just plain boring. Accurately predicting how someone will answer is like talking to yourself. So if you know your spouse or partner or roommate or best friend really, really well, there aren’t too many surprises left…unless he or she keeps changing.

He or she keeps changing… THAT’S what you want! That’s what you need. And that’s what YOU should be doing too to keep any partnership stimulating. In my 39 years of husbandhood I’ve been married to five different women, all in the same shell. Every few years my wife reinvents herself with changing interests and new pursuits. I thought I married an operating room nurse. Turned out she’s an artist too. And like most artists, they don’t get hung up on any one thing. They do this-and-that, and then they try this-and-that, and they get really good at this-and-that, but they drop it all to start another this-and-that.

Me too. I’m into this-and-that. Writing is part of this but my music is part of that, and so is photography and my community work. But here’s the key: if my wife and I insisted that we do everything together, we wouldn’t be doing any of the stuff that keeps us alive and evolving. We need time to ourselves. We need the space to change.

And now you know where I’m headed. People need the freedom to grow and try new things. When they do that, when they expand into something more than they were before, we can rediscover them as a new friend or a new beloved.

black huggingThe Final Bitter Truth

If you clutch, stifle and control the one you love, you will douse the fire that attracts you. If you leash your lover, you will strangle New & Exciting in a matter of months. If you force behavior and obedience, you kill the spirit you’re trying to train. I know. I’ve tried to force change. And so has my wife.

And now the happy ending: We stopped and let go. Well almost. There’s still growing up to do, but we’d rather do it together…as long as life keeps growing.

 

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How to Become Something You’re NOT

Young man meditating on rock by seaThere are tons of advice books out there telling us how to better ourselves, how to systematically and psychologically change and progress. I’ve written posts about this, but they’re about dealing with crap BEFORE we change. I think that’s a lot more practical. I think most people are locked into what they are by twenty. Most people do not make a radical shift at any one point, even if they want to. Most people aiming for improvements take years to achieve the perfection they want. Growing, evolving, maturing, whatever you call it, takes lots of time, which gives us something to do between birth and death. (I think that’s the meaning of life.)

But of course the world changes all the time, and fast. Anything can suddenly happen and does. woman@CarAccidentDealing with those instant shifts, and how we learn to adapt to them, can boost us to a new and improved you and me. If we don’t learn from past miss-takes, if we don’t rectify the issues that created those mistakes, we keep the pattern in place. Most people do not want to keep bad patterns in place. Most people want to be happy, stress-free and in control. If they’re not, they want to change…something! Either they change how they FEEL about the shit raining down so they’re happy anyway, or they find a way to sneak past the shit or get rid of it entirely. For a ticket to Happyland something has to change, inside or outside.

*****

If you’re anything like me, you’d love to be better in every way and orchestrate a soothing symphony of life. You don’t want to be bothered by disappointments, obstructions or mean people. You want peace-of-mind, intuitively knowing it will all work out.

But…if you’re anything like me, you don’t think that way at all. You KNOW bad stuff is waiting to pounce and you think about it a lot. Your sought-after life changes are really about AVOIDING the hits, and many times you do. So you still worry but you worry less because there’s finally less to worry about. Instead of buying self-realization books you read success tomes about growing richer and more influential. And then you find, after reading ten of those things, that the reason you are NOT really rich, is because deep down inside you really don’t CARE about being rich.

bags&moneySure, you’d like more dollars, Euros or pounds and everything they buy. But you’re not particularly enthralled with making money just to make money. You’re not fascinated with watching profits grow. You don’t score yourself that way. So you let the natural-born contenders who thrive on building wealth, the ones who don’t need to be changed to get rich, you let those power brokers play the game. And then you wish you were more like them, but not so much that you’d have to change.

*****

Are rich folk happier than you? Some are, some aren’t. “Studies” report that happiness has little do with great wealth. Knowing that rich people are just as unhappy as we are does not make us feel any better when we’re broke. We already know that happiness, or the lack of it, has everything to do with being poor. So if you’re like me, you want to make forward moving changes in the money department. You don’t want to have to worry about it. You don’t want to deal with Not-Enough.

Again, if you’re anything like me you’re dealing with Not-Enough. If it’s not enough money, it’s something else like not enough love or respect or recognition or validation or free time to do something fun just for you.

Yep, like 99% of the world’s population, you live with Not-Enough and you certainly can’t afford that famous Life Coach and his transformational but expensive, fast-track ways to get more. So you’re back to reading philosophical paperbacks about being content with what IS enough – that “free stuff in abundance” like love and caring and internet porn. And as you re-read those chapters about living in-the-moment and out-of-your-brain, you glance down at your carefree cat licking loose fur off her back and you realize you are not your pet and you cannot simply cough up a giant fur ball of irritations and leave them on the rug. You cannot pretend Not-Enough is enough and be happy with that. You cannot pretend anymore that love heals all, even God’s love. GuruOnRock1You are not a guru leisurely reflecting deep thoughts in the Himalayas. You have bills to pay, doctors visits and maybe kids to put though college. Your boss is an asshole and you don’t trust your dentist. Life is hard and what’s worse, you are who you are, with worries that will not go away. And if you’re lucky enough to be born confident and secure, and consequently build a fabulous life, you cannot teach inner strength, even to your kids. You can give them a secure life with examples of success, but if they’re not intrinsically happy in their own skin without having to be winners every second, they too will keep competing just to feel good about themselves. They will not have peace-of-mind without constant validations.

Yep, rich or poor, struggling or coasting, we’re all pursuing the same Secrets of Life – how to grow and still be happy when we misstep, how to be contented with what we have now, and how to forgive ourselves so we can be nice to others. We all need improvement with those things.I'mYourCoach

So here’s my Life Coach advice since you’re still reading.

Peace-of-mind, the real thing, is worth the struggle to keep alive, with total commitment. So don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t come quickly, or not at all…at least yet. Just trying, really trying to be a better, happier person is super admirable and eventually pays off. I’ve been working at it all my life and there are days I can honestly say I’ve achieved inner bliss…for a minute and a half. I’ve been the best husband a husband can be, for three hours. I’ve been worry-free for two days. I’ve felt good about myself for an entire month. Miracles do happen!

So forget about changing yourself. There is no way to become something you’re not. Still, there’s plenty of room to become a better, kinder version of who you are. Don’t give up, be flexible, listen to others and you’ll acquire the tools to make gentle changes around you.

(I know that last sentenced sounded like a five dollar fortune cookie, but I hope these words are encouraging. As usual, I’m writing a post as a reminder for myself.)

Good luck!

Irv

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Trouble No More

Broken_HeartThis post is for super sensitive people like me who’s feelings get hurt. It’s another story about rejection and it may be yours too.

*****

I’m a drummer. I joined a blues/country band eight months ago with Aaron, Rich and Robby the bass guitarist. By rehearsing once a week we’ve slowly built three sets and perfected our sound, which is astounding for reasons I’ll soon explain. At this point, we’re way beyond average, also surprising. So two months ago we started talking about recording a five-song YouTube demo. It didn’t have to be great, just adequate.

I didn’t agree with that just adequate plan, but since we’re not yet a play-for-pay band and we don’t have recording studio cash, our project would be self-produced. This was doable. We already had the means to lay down eight tracks at a time. Before I retired, I worked for the Hollywood studios, directing voice re-recording and then editing dialogue and sound effects for feature films. As part of the job, I had acquired the computers, interface hardware and Protools software to work at home. All this could be applied to recording and mixing music. And Aaron had the rest of the gear.Digi 002

We set up our sound space in Aaron’s house. It was my idea to separate the three amplifiers into the office, bedroom and bathroom to eliminate what we call “bleed-through” and then later re-record the vocal tracks while listening to the rough instrumental mixes through headphones. Professional sessions are laid down this way and our home project approached that grade. With a bunch of bad starts and takes we eventually recorded the five tunes with enough clarity and low background noise to proceed to step two – the mix down into a stereo two-track master at my house.

*****

Now to be frank, I do not fit in with this band. (I rarely fit in with any band I join. Or any club for that matter.) As is usually the case with my bands, I tend to be the only college-degree, management-type musician in the group. There are lots of garage bands where all the players are business pros but I’ve never been dealt that hand. So with this latest music incarnation, once again I’m consorting with men who would never be my friends had it not been for the music connection. It’s not about income or values. It’s about interests. They never ask me anything about my life, my opinions, my history, nada. We don’t talk about family, politics, world events, personal stuff or feelings. We (or they) talk about music, past, present and future. Nothing else. I’ve tried opening up some worldly topics. A comment or two comes back and then it’s over. And this is okay I guess. We’re a blues band, not a therapy session.

So I’m not complaining. Really. But as usual I feel like I’m in an intellectual and emotional vacuum, which is odd because the blues and county is all about feelings and getting hurt, which I am…or was. I wonder if you would feel the same way.

In my last post I talked about a plumber with the attitude: It’s good enough. I explained that’s not ME. I don’t have too much wiggle room when it comes to my disposition. Between my parent’s past demands for all A’s and perfect-son behavior, plus my natural nature, I got locked into It’s-never-good-enough by the forth grade.

It’s-good-enough and It’s-NEVER-good-enough people don’t mingle easily. I’m playing in a It’s-Good-Enough band.

play_Bass_CUIf I had that attitude in my job, I would have lasted exactly one month. When it comes to movie directors, NOTHING is ever good enough. Twenty takes is not uncommon. With my band, recording anything more than three re-do’s was a heavy lift. When it came to re-recording the vocals, nothing went past two takes. With Robby, our bass player, one pass was it. I think he was so insecure about getting his only singing song laid down right, he didn’t want to take another change that may have turned out wrong. He didn’t want to make more mistakes even thought I explained that in record recording, there are no miss-takes, only variations, some better than others.

Nope, Robby’s first voice take for Trouble No More was good enough. I had no choice but to work with within narrow limits, as I had hundreds of times when I digitally fixed actor’s dialogue in films.

*****

Glen is a close friend, and like me, he came of age in the sixties and seventies. Glen is also an A-List movie re-recording mixer with a ton of hit movie credits. Before he segued into the film business he had mixed records for The Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Hall & Oats, Bruce Springsteen, Little Stephen, The Disciples of Soul and Bob Dylan – lots of Bob Dylan. THIS is the guy who recently taught me how to mix my band’s songs! This is the man who arranged the final sweetening session in a professional studio. This is the maestro who, when listening to my mix of Trouble No More, laughed and said, “Brave choices!” And then he turned to me and said again, “Really good work. I’m hardly making any changes to your songs,” which I knew because I was watching this expert focus his attention on the tiniest of audio details.CU_Faders

Nothing is ever quite Good Enough for Glen but he always tries to get incredibly close. He said I did too. He made four minor tweaks to Trouble No More, a song I spent eight hour mixing for Robby because I knew how much it meant to him. I knew how insecure he felt about his playing and especially his singing. I knew he had yet to own a fully realized recording featuring his voice and Trouble No More was going to be IT. My goal was to take a simple, standard tune and turn it into an inventive, stylized, ethereal experience. I was proud of that approach and I knew Robby would be too.

*****

At our rehearsal last night, in front of the band and an invited sit-in second guitarist, Robby said to me, “I know this is kinda sensitive, but can I have your mix session? I need to have Trouble done professionally.”

I cringed. What could he have possibly disliked so much that it wasn’t even good enough? I had sent him my two beta mixes, he made three suggestions about the reverb and delays on the choruses and I made those vocal changes in the final. Aaron and Rich told me they loved the mix, which was miles past the band’s expectations. How could Robby so coldly reject my gift?

And so we started playing. For the first three songs I drummed on remote, keeping the beats simple while I considered the face-to-face words I would say to Robby as we walked outside to our cars. He already knew I would only give him the unmixed start session without my work, which meant that whoever remixed the song would have to start from scratch. He had to realize I was offended. But did he understand WHY?

I don’t think so. He said it was a sensitive issue. Still, his social skills sucked. His timing sucked. His choice of words sucked. And as far as I’m concerned, his taste sucked. I can’t imagine why he didn’t like the dreamy quality I injected into Trouble No More…unless he felt the song drew more attention to itself than to his singing.

But that’s conjecture. It really didn’t matter why he rejected my mix. What mattered to me was how he told me that…and when…and where. And that’s what I was thinking about while playing the back beats to Guru Man, Folsom Prison and Stormy Monday. I was wondering if lecturing Robby about sensitive social demeanor would be a positive change in his life. And I came to the conclusion that Robby is a grown man and that I couldn’t reshape his character, nor should I try. In those time holes between two and four, two and four, two and four, I realized the change had to be in ME and my feelings about my disappointment. I was not going to let it make me unhappy.

CharmsWhat DOES make me happy? Playing music in a band. And Robby is part of that. So in the big picture, this was nothing. Sure, his dismissal was another nick at the heart, another let-down, another reminder that you can’t predict anything with any certainty. But more importantly, it brought me back to the bottom line:

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Writing this post got me back to Small Stuff appreciation. It helped me to reset my priorities and mature a little more. I hope reading it helped you too. As always, thanks for visiting.

Irv

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If the Trust in Broken, Can You Ever Get it Back?

My wife said, “Give him another chance, Irv. Everyone deserves a second chance to get it right.”

“Okay,” I said. “He’ll get a second chance. But he shouldn’t need one.”

under sink plumberNate came to us recommended. He should have known it was bad and his It’s-good-enough attitude bothers me. It bothers me because I like him. I hoped he would work out. I hoped my wife and I had found another plumber. But Nate installed our replacement dishwasher leaving an inch gap under our counter top and he took another two hours to swap out a hot water dispenser with the heating tank and filter already in place. So how do I know Nate can properly stop a gas or water leak? I wish I could trust him. I don’t.

Sure, it’s only a plumbing job. Why am I blogging about it? I’m writing because this minor event mirrors bigger ones about trust and the breakdown of friendships. Our kitchen project was Nate’s first job for us – our first “date”. He called ahead, showed up on time, was polite, courteous, friendly and he seemed like the right guy, except he didn’t do his job very well. He’s coming back within the hour to correct the problem. I hope it works out.

*****

Dating and jobs…we all know the news. It’s your first meeting, the guy, gal or boss seems really nice and open. Then day by day, date by date, the person you thought you could trust turns into someone you can’t. He’s lying. You know he’s lying. He knows you know he’s lying. It’s business as usual.

If we can break away early from the BS, little harm is done. But many times we really need that job, even with its abusive boss. Or the bad stuff is outweighed by more of the good stuff, so we keep the romance going. Or we just strolled down the aisle and promised love and devotion forever, sealed with a kiss. We trusted the decision. We trusted ourselves to keep it. We trusted him or her to be nice, kind and supportive.

Or maybe we didn’t.B&W wedding

Maybe before that whispered, “I do,” we already felt something wasn’t quite right. We knew things had to be tweaked into place and we assumed they would. Or we hoped they would. We hoped our partner would change just enough to calm our qualms and make the marriage play out.

Did it happen? No, it didn’t. How could it? The union was on trial from the get-go.

*****

But not all relationships begin with second thoughts. Most start with trust because we know what we’d get without it, the world where we live, and it’s NOT a happy place. So when we find someone or something we can trust, we must cherish and protect that connection. To build a sacred sanctuary where armor is dropped and hearts open to love, we must tell the truth and honor promises. That’s what a working marriage is all about, and best-friends-forever, and devotion from parents and family. That’s what living in a caring world is all about.

We do not live in a caring world.

Rules are broken everyday. Sometimes, even the people we love break the rules, and with that goes the trust. Sometimes WE break the trust, begging the question:

Once the trust is broken, can we ever get it back?

Most of the time, no. Sometimes yes. But we’ve got just one more time to get it right, and ONLY when that lie or broken promise or misjudgment isn’t that bid a deal. And then we really, really have to be honest about our apologies and remorse. And then we have to promise to never, EVER do it again. And then, if we’re humble and grateful, we get forgiven and that second chance.

In a perfect world, the trust is never broken again and everyone lives happily ever after. We do not live in a perfect world.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, once the trust is broken, we never get it back, or we never give it back. We live in a world devoid of trust. We live in marriages and families without trust. We work in jobs with no trust. Suspicion and doubt is the norm.

POSSIBLE_divorceWithout trust, there is no rest. Without trust, there is no peace. So why do WE, a race of intelligent beings, constantly break the trust?

 

We break the trust because we don’t TRUST trust. We don’t believe it’s obtainable and sustainable. We don’t believe trust lasts because we see so few examples of it enduring.

 

We break the trust because we feel we can’t compete with people who break the rules. So we join the crowd where no one trusts anyone and promises mean nothing. Trust is not part of the game.

 

Then there’s the occasional cheating: They won’t find out. I can break the rules just this one time. I’ll get what I want and no one gets hurt. Then I won’t do it again. Just this one time…

And maybe we do get away with it. So the next time, breaking the rules is easier. We have more confidence that the short-cut will work – all gain and no loss. The third time is even easier. But the forth time we get caught and everyone gets scorched. Then there’s no going back, no rebuilding the trust.

For those of you who break the rules and consequently, trust, you have put yourself on probation. The people you wronged will either throw you out of their world or deal with you in a constant state of defense while pretending it’s all okay. When trust gets blown away, so does truth. With trust and truth gone, LOVE is next. You cannot have love without trust and truth. Ask any divorce lawyer.

You would think Love = Truth would be a basic human understanding. It’s not, even with religious guidance. Most people don’t believe any of it is real for the reasons I’ve listed here.

But if you’re one of those idealistic, ex-hippy outsiders like me, you haven’t given up. You’re still hoping trust and truth and playing-by-the-rules mean something and if we can just keep the faith, we’ll find others like us and grow a garden of goodwill. We can make the world a caring place. Okay, the entire world is a bit much. How about friends, family and plumbers?

*****dishwasher

Nate showed up on time to correct the height of our new dishwasher. I didn’t want to be a mean, scolding type boss/client so I told him how happy I was with everything else he had done and then I showed him the gap and pictures of what the installation should look like. “Mr. Podolsky,” he said, “all I want to do is make you happy and I won’t leave until I do.”

I puddled into a blob of love-putty. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Would he do it, though? Would he get the unit into alignment with the cabinets and counter? I left him to do his work. He called me back in five minutes. He had it pretty close. I asked for further adjustments. He made them. He also made me happy. I was ready to write a check for whatever he said, like four hundred or four-fifty. Nate worked half a day with a helper, plus extra parts, plus this call back. Time means money.

“So what’s it gonna be?” I asked.

“What I quoted you,” he said.

“I can’t remember exactly. Somewhere around one-fifty, one sixty.”

Nate corrected me. He said, “It was one forty-five.”

“But that was only for the dishwasher. You replaced the water dispenser and changed out all the copper for flex tubing.”

“Okay,” he said. “Make it another forty-five.”

“One hundred and ninety for four hours?”

“You win some, you lose some,” he said. “That’s what I quoted you.”

I paid him $225. He deserved it. I trusted him again.

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Seeking Older Man with Powerful Connections

Business_mentorI don’t know about you, but like millions of other Americans (and the rest of the world) I chased the American Dream for many years. I wanted to have enough cash and enough control or security so I wouldn’t have to worry about running out of anything. And of course, being the super nice-guy progressive saint that I am, I always assumed I’d share most of my wealth with deserving others once I had so much stuff, advanced math couldn’t count it all.

That didn’t happen, even though I had read seven How-To-Be-Successful best sellers. Do you know what all seven books said about getting rich and powerful? They all said, that to swiftly move up the ranks, you need someone already on top to pull you up. You need a MENTOR!

There are very few self-made anybody’s in business that made it without mentors. There are lots of self-made drunks and homeless souls everywhere. You don’t need help to fail, although you can certainly be encouraged.

I was prodded to succeed. “Son,” Dad said, “someday you’ll make it big and take care of your pop.” Pop didn’t know any mentors and he wasn’t one either. But I was open for help, any help, anywhere. I looked and looked. I even considered an ad in the Wall Street Journal: “Seeking older man with powerful connections”. But I chickened out. Consequently no career portals opened without me knocking first. And when they did, I had to convince the gate-keepers I was worthy enough to stay in the room and get paychecks.

I was not an entrepreneur or a self-made anything. I needed a mentor. Maybe you do too.

*****

Now that I’m retired with no grand ambitions of buying a casino, NOW I have a mentor! But he’s passive. He’s a guide-by-example guru. (It could have been a woman. My wife has been insisting she’s my mentor for 39 years.) Anyway, my passive mentor shows me how to be happy and successful when I hang out with him. Or rather when he hangs out with my wife. He loves her. And she loves him. (More on that later.)

So what important things does Mr. Mentor show by example? Everything about being relaxed and brave. How can I get that way? By being just like him, which I am not. I’ve tried. I read seven books and I know for sure, as my wife points out when frustration raises my voice three octaves, that my makeup doesn’t have near enough ingredients for a perfect personality.

Maybe yours does. Here’s the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1          Old Soul (preferably 200 life-times or more)

1          Young, lean and strong body – not intimidating or too tall

1          Attractive face, but not too handsome or beautiful

1          Warm, happy smile (must be authentic)

2          Ears for serious listening to others

1          Mouth for soft, encouraging words

1          Brain that sees the future before directions are given (must be self-motivating)

1          Skin packaging (any color)

MIX ALL INGREDIENTS, adding liberal amounts of generosity, gratitude, humor, humility, curiosity, confidence, compassion, fearlessness, affection, politeness, responsibility and faith. Pre-heat human life to 98.6, insert mixture into skin packaging and maintain constant temperature until fully matured for eventual termination.

There you have it, your enlightened personal prototype. Maybe this is you.nanak-devji

*****

But you’re thinking: There IS no perfect persona like that. Maybe not, but I know this guy who’s close to it. The man who works for my wife. And yeah, he loves me too. After knowing him twelve years he’s family, along with his wife and two kids. If I ever wanted a son or another father, he’d be it, Spanish-speaking, dark-skinned and all.

Armando is thirty-two and he came to Los Angeles from Mexico. And yeah, where I live, they call him “undocumented”. But that’s the way this system set it up. Armando wants to fit in just like you and me. And he does fit it. He’s working hard for it, which wasn’t the case for me.

It was for my wife. In another post I mentioned she’s European. Yep. I married an Alien with an German accent from outside our boarders. She came here for the craziest reason. She actually liked Americans. She thought living here for a year or two would be interesting. Imagine that?

So forty-one years ago my wife applied for a Green Card and got one four weeks later. She’s a nurse. The USA needs nurses. Limited skilled labor gets fast-tracked into our country.

Armando, from Mexico, got slow-tracked, if he’s moving towards citizenship at all anymore. And he’s limited skilled labor too. So skilled, he built a thriving business. Money is no issue and he doesn’t think about it much. You see, he’s not ambitious. He’s just happy with life, and with people, and with each day as it comes. Armando is not a worrier, which is why he’s my mentor.

I honestly can’t believe he is who is he is. The dude doesn’t fret about anything. He’s not obsessed with having to know all the Why’s and How’s like me. He probably figured it all out fifty life-times ago. He just knows (whereas I’m trying to believe) that everything IS, what it is, and if we just let it do what it does naturally, without forcing stuff, things will eventually work out.

Anyway, they do for him. He has faith that they will. I do not have faith. I am not in love with each day as it comes. That’s why I need more of Armando.

I once asked him, “When you were working in that Coca Cola bottle plant in Cuernavaca, did you dream about coming to America and making a life here?”

He shook his head. “Uh uh…”

“No? You didn’t want to escape poverty and oppression?”

“It wasn’t like that,” he said.

“But you risked your life to cross the boarder! You told me you almost drown in the Rio Grande. You nearly froze to death in the dessert waiting for the coyote to drive you to Arizona. What made you put everything on the line to come here?”

“My sister wanted to be with our cousins in San Francisco,” he said. “My parents asked me to go with her.”

That’s what mentors do – they help people. He risked jail, deportation, robbery, even death for a family favor. And now he’s been here for thirteen years still waiting for official residency. After 9/ll, when the towers fell, all regular immigration processing shut down, including his.

Is he pissed off? Nope. He’s too busy helping out his friends, family, clients, me and my wife. Many times we’ve called him for a quick fix-it before shipping, a drive here or there, his truck for a delivery. In five minutes he’s ringing our doorbell, no questions asked. So it goes both ways. My wife pays him more than his other clients do (she’s an antique dealer, he restores and rebuilds anything), she gives him flexible hours, we give his kids birthday presents and we invite his family over for parties. (And no, he’s not serving drinks behind the bar.)

Another impressive thing about Armando, besides his humility, is that he never considers failure. I mean he’s not a big guy but he’ll lift anything no matter how big or heavy. I have no idea how he does it, except maybe the power of positive thinking.

Hand_RubbingWhen I’m expecting an answer like, “Probably not,” I’ll still ask him, “Can you match this grain and stain?”

He’ll look at it for two seconds and nod.

Or I’ll scan a trashed table my wife brought home and write it off as a costly mistake. Then I’ll ask him, “That water damage is really bad. You can’t get it out, can you?”

“Sure, Irv.” And he does.

The guy’s a genius. He repaints wood grain with artist’s oil paints and brushes. And he’s self-taught. He last job was a line operator in a Mexican bottling plant. Now he’s an artist. How did he get that way? Well, his first employer, another antique dealer, was looking for cheap labor and asked him to glue a chair leg. A thousand chairs later he owns two homes, both in Cuernavaca. He built a house for his parents and another for himself, if he ever returns. In the meantime, he’s gave it to his younger brothers.

That’s what mentors do – they help others get ahead.

I know I’m gushing but think about what more he could do if the United States Immigration Services allowed him to grow his business in the open and pay taxes. He’d gladly do it. And so would his sister in San Francisco who now manages a two-hundred unit apartment complex.

Me? I’m just trying to manage tolerance and staying nice.

 

 

 

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Are You Prejudice? No? You Sure?

Teenager&FatherI’m hurt and disappointed. I’m not disappointed about me. I’m disappointed about them. Four important people in my life are blowing me off. Apparently I have little value for them and they’re not thinking about what that means. Yet two of the four tell me they love me and I get hugs and kisses when we meet. The other two have no interest in me whatsoever and exchange the minimal words needed to keep up the pretense of a family relationship.

These four young adults range in age from 16 to 25. The older two are my sister’s kids, my one niece and one nephew. When Mom dies, my immediate family will be my sister and her two children. We’re not talking. That’s sad.

The other two young people are the children of my oldest nephew in Berlin. My wife is German so I have a European family and I’m much closer to them than I am to my own. So getting forgotten again is an unwelcomed occurrence. I had hoped these two young people would be different than their American generation. I have an assumption about that age group. I’m probably prejudice. It’s probably natural for me to feel that way too. And it’s probably natural for young people to disregard the Old Ones.

Did I feel the same way about age differences when I was twenty? For the most part, yes. But mainly because I can’t remember any adult my parent’s age (except for a few teachers and one special aunt) really caring about my ideas. I’m still friends with that aunt. She’s 83 and we have lots to talk about over shots of Putinka Russian vodka.

Maybe I’m deluding myself. Maybe being friends with certain young family members has little to do with the difference in years. Maybe I’m not tight with them because we wouldn’t be friends even if our age matched. Still, a casual connection doesn’t call for downgrading each other’s significance. We should still reach out. In four cases, I am, they’re not. And yes, this matters to me.

*****

Are we pulling apart because they KNOW me and don’t like what they know? Or are we distant because they DON’T know me and they think they do?

My dictionary gives a definition of prejudice as: “a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience”

Humm… What exactly is reason? The same dictionary says: (reason is) “the power of the mind to think, understand and form judgments by a process of logic”

Okay, a reasonable personal is a logical person. So a non-prejudiced person comes to logical conclusions about people based on ENOUGH personal experiences to actually UNDERSTAND that person (or group). Only then can one make accurate assumptions.

*****

Does anyone really know anyone else? We think we do, like our spouse, until we find out he/she has been cheating on us or that early alcohol non-issue before marriage was really a serious problem going way back. And our kids, we think they’re predictable until we find the pot, condoms and birth-control pills hidden in the back of their drawers. And our parents? How much did they really tell us? Were those snatches of history reshaped? What did they do when we weren’t around?

As for cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, aunts, uncles, work buddies, teachers, grandparents, ministers, our doctors…what we know about these people comes from what they tell us and the observational time we spend with them. We don’t know everything so we fill in the blanks. Then we make assumptions based on filtered and limited information. We hope all those assumptions are positive but when they’re not, we hold back final judgment until we’re disappointed and hurt for the last time. Then it’s time to resolve it. If we don’t, we pretend to get along with excuses like: she’s just sixteen, or he’s going through some lousy shit at work, or that’s how wives are, or that’s what men do.

Everyday we subconsciously rationalize cuts of betrayal and disappointments by telling ourselves nobody is perfect, we’re not perfect or that we never know what’s going on inside the private lives of our friends, family and associates. We don’t want to be prejudice. We don’t want to have preconceived opinions based on a smidgen of reason or direct experience. But we carry those resentments anyway, especially when people we love don’t return it the way we need it. Silence hurts. Getting ignored takes us down. Still, we don’t want to be demanding and judgmental, so we just deal with the bruises until we can’t anymore. Then explosions go wild and people get burned.

*****SmilingGhandi

I don’t want anyone I care about to get emotionally scorched by my retaliations. I want information about Uncle Irv and Aunt Janni sinking into my young German family so they’ll stop assuming people our age don’t care about call backs and returned emails. I want them to realize that someday they’ll be older and hoping their grand kids care about them too. I want my young family to expand out of their All-About-Me universe and get past the rush of immediate sparkling discoveries.

I know life is rich when you’re young. So is introspection. I’d like to see more of that. I’d like to help with that, but it’s unrealistic.

If you’re moving on in years like me, you already know that the generations behind us don’t believe our world is especially awesome, nor do they want to take our advice or share our experiences. If they listen at all, it’s because they work for us, they’re students in our classrooms, it’s a family directive or they need something from us. Otherwise, like I do, they hold a Generation Prejudice. They figure the older bunch just doesn’t “get it” and we Oldies feel the same about them.

Sure, there are exceptions. Younger people do find older mentors. And up to the age of twelve, Grandpa and Grandma can be really fun and both young and old look forward to each other’s company. But once teenagers discover sex and cigarettes, the young/old party is over. Then it’s Us and Them.

I wish that weren’t so. There is so much to learn from the co-mingled perspectives of naive but fearless enthusiasm contrasted with seasoned and cautious wisdom. I wrote a past blog about this.

Mohawk*****

Frankly, I didn’t care about the generation gap until a few years ago when I hit sixty and started writing novels and this blog. I just tootled along, comfortably nestled in my own age group and now and then spent summer weeks with my wife’s sibling’s kids as they grew up to become adults and have kids of their own. Back in the day, before the internet and instant photo sharing, letters took ten days to cross the Atlantic and by then, any news was history. So family communication was far less than it can be today. And consequently less important. What we didn’t have, we didn’t miss.

Today, reaching out IS important because we can do it effortlessly, in seconds, with one finger on a touch screen. Eleven days ago I texted my German grand niece (20) and her brother (16). The young man had just spent three weeks with my wife and me and he brought his best friend too. We entertained the boys like nobody’s business. As they left we got Thank-you’s and I-love-you’s. Once back home, nothing. I wrote this text to Alex and his sister, who has also stayed with us many times.

Did you get this text? Checking connection. Please reply. Irv.

No response. Zip. I called the boy’s father, my nephew. An hour later I got this text from his son:

Hey Irv, Sorry for my late reply, i had a awful busy week. i miss you both so much. Thanks again for everything. Love You. Alex.

When Alex and his friend were camped out in our family room for three weeks I watched them both text their friends back in Germany every ten minutes. Busy is no longer an excuse. His sister didn’t even try using one. My wife sent her a present. No texted or emailed acknowledgement. We feel taken for granted.

Should I let them get away with this? Or should I just carry a lingering resentment that chips away the respect I once had for them.

How would you deal with this? If you’re thirty and you texted your favorite aunt or uncle and got nothing back, would you care? Would you follow up? Or would you decide you couldn’t trust that old lady anymore and let her drift out of your life?

*****

Three years ago I got a first-time email from my sister’s son. It simply said: Hi Uncle Irv. What’s happening?

I wrote back: What’s happening? So much is happening and I’d like to share it with you. But this is a conversation, not a five sentence letter. I want to get to know you and I want you to know me. You may learn some things you won’t want to hear but you’ll also discover new and surprising thoughts. How about a call when you get some time.

I never got a call.70'sAlanWatts

 

When I was twenty-two in 1970, I had a one-time deep conversation Aunt Alice. We talked about Eastern philosophy and a week later I mailed her a book by Alan Watts, The Way of Zen. (Here’s what Alan looked like then) Aunt Alice didn’t read his book but she never stopped talking about my gift. Through the years I never understood why that paperback meant so much to her. Now I do.

Her nephew cared about her and showed it beyond just saying it. It seems I mattered to Aunt Alice.

I never knew it.

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I’m not that nice. How about you?

On the one-to-ten Scale of NICENESS, where do you live? Are you nice to some people and not nice to others? Are you nice to yourself? What IS being nice?

 

B&W_arguing_coupleI’ll admit it. I’m not that nice of a guy. A lot of people think I’m nice and many times I am. But too many times I fall short. It’s bad when my wife’s in the room while I’m angry at everything, having fallen again into a mood swing. I try to hide them. I’m not good at it. They creep up and snatch me down. Then I bark. And worse, I even wake up feeling down, like dirty, damp, stinky laundry. Even when it’s sunny and my adoring wife is smiling at me, I’ll feel like stinky laundry.

Crazy, isn’t it! I’m not happy when there’s nothing to worry about. I’m retired for God’s sake! I plan my days. NO pressure! And I still find things to get upset about, which turns Nice into NOT nice – to myself and to others. Why?

Could it be I’m frustrated? Sure, lots of times. But why is that? Why am I rarely happy with myself? Do you ask yourself that same question?

I’m not sure what starts what. Do spontaneous feelings about failing bring me down? Or do real and tangible missteps happen first, which dumps me into downer feelings? To complicate it further, it doesn’t take much for me to re-label a GAIN into a LOSS. Whatever I do, I’m always left feeling I coulda done it better! I’m glad I’m not always thinking this way. It’s exhausting.

Are you like me? Do you get those not-good-enough thoughts too?Disapproval

I’m glad when they pass. I then work really hard to be nice again. I do nice things, like become the morning waiter for my wife’s coffee-in-bed service. But even when I’m volunteering to do nice things, I’m still intolerant and impatient inside, about everything, targeting myself first.

My inability to accept anything less than excellence, all the time – THAT is what sucks the NICE out of me. And sure, I do settle for less, but I’m not happy about it.

*****

With more free time I’ve been wondering lately, am I a depression case? Am I bi-polar? I don’t think so. But I AM hungry for those occasional moments when happiness drifts into my heart. It mostly happens when I’m close to reaching my goals, all ultimately unobtainable. I set the bar really high. And once I reach it, I raise it again.

As I said, I want to excel. I want to be the smartest guy in the room. I want to be the dude who solves the problems first and makes it better for everyone else. And I suppose that’s okay. Over-achievers, or potential over-achievers like me, push ourselves to improve and hopefully contribute a little more “good” to the world.

But my frustrations get in the way of that. I loose hope too soon if things don’t happen fast enough. I’m not an optimist. I wish I were. But I am persistent. I keep pushing ahead. Have to. Every disappointment needs a win to balance my self-esteem.

If I’m painting a picture of Really Messed Up, I don’t come off that way. People think I’m confident ‘cause I try really hard to be. My quirks are subtle to all but my wife. And for her sake, I’ve managed to stay nice enough and kind enough to make her happy. And that makes me happy.

*****

Controlling_TeacherSo why and how did I turn out to be a perfectionist? I probably came into the world that way. Actually I DID, and now I have to manage it. It’s difficult for me to deal with disorganized minds. I want to barrel past the bullshit and get to core truths. I want to be efficient and clear about my ideas and intentions. And I want everyone else to be that way too. Why? Because I’ve had this lingering notion that the world would be a better place if we all communicated better and TOLD THE TRUTH! How naive.

I’m sixty-six and it took me all these years to figure out that telling-the-truth doesn’t help that much. Actually, debating “truth” is a sizzling spark for a fiery argument. MY truth is not YOUR truth…or my wife’s truth…especially my wife’s truth. And trying to convince her that MY truth is better than HER truth does not bring me hugs and kisses.

What gets my wife and me hugging again is finally letting go of trying to reshape each other. Damn! Why do I always have to relearn that? Why can’t I relax and be nicer? Why am I still trying to retrain my wife as she struggles to retrain me? Sometimes we both succeed. Little changes happen. Most of the time we hold our ground, staying exactly who we are. I’m glad those fights for “improvement” aren’t necessary for our love and marriage. I’m glad I’m still nice enough to keep her close to me. And I’m glad I haven’t given up trying to grow. I don’t want to make my best friend feel sad and alone.

 *****

I want to stop judging too, but I don’t think that’s possible. Actually it isn’t. I’m constantly tracking my actions against everyone else’s. That’s who I am – a processor of what’s fair according to the rules which I feel everyone should follow. And yes, I know that rules are relative and that everything is shades-of-gray and constantly changing. Maybe I should stop taking score moment to moment while using myself as a benchmark to judge others.

Do you do that too? Of course you do. We all compare ourselves to everyone else.

And here’s why, at least my why. If there’s something I don’t like in myself, it’s hard to accept that same negative quality in someone I care about. It’s really about avoiding conceited double standards. If I’m trying to be fair and compromise, shouldn’t you too? If you’re reaching for excellence and we’re working together, shouldn’t I try just as hard? Shouldn’t we all strive to be better?

The big flaw in that argument is this: my BETTER is not necessarily your BETTER. We’re all different, as we should be. Evolution grows out of diversification. If everything were the same, if we all were alike, if there was no mixing and matching, nothing would improve. A given, right? No. There’s a large population that wants everyone to be just like them and kept that way.

But that is not how this Universe works. Nothing IS the same and nothing STAYS the same. Ever.

But I’m digressing. Let’s get back to feelings. Here’s the upside: When I’m feeling good about myself, I’m also feeling good about everyone else. And I bet that’s the way it is for you too.

Aren’t you more patient and tolerant when you’re feeling in charge, when you’re winning? Isn’t it easier to be nice to others when you’re not punishing yourself first? Ya know, it’s true what they say: “To love another, you must love yourself.”

*****

WomanInFGI don’t know how one learns to love and accept oneself but we have to give it a shot. I think we should start by realizing we all make mistakes and it’s okay to fall down. If we don’t begin there, life will get really lonely fast. Mean frustrations will repel what’s left of our friends.

So if you’ve got a BFF or spouse who loves you in spite of yourself, don’t ever, EVER, take that loving soul for granted. And don’t stop trying to be nice to yourself, either. If you can make that happen, you’ll spread a lot of NICENESS around everywhere!

Now…if I’ll just take my own advice!

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