Day #33 – “Something from Nothing…”

I LOVE the creative process.  I just do.  There’s something almost otherworldly about taking a blank piece of paper (or a blank canvas or blank screen or empty air) and, layer by layer, adding elements, lines, notes, paint-strokes, whatever… until something-from-nothing has been created.

Everyone in my immediate family is creative.  My wife can create the most amazing dishes from just a few simple ingredients.  She can conceptualize and verbalize new outfits, wedding designs, and flower arrangements – all in her head.  My daughter is an amazing writer, paper-craft-maker, and musician.  My son is an unbelievable artist, a musician, and a martial artist.

I feel overwhelmingly blessed that all of the important people around me ‘get’ this part of my life, they ‘get’ the importance of it in my everyday existence, and they ‘get’ the same level of pleasure and satisfaction and meaning from it that I do.

I honestly, wholeheartedly believe that everyone (yes, EVERYONE) has the same innate ability to create something from nothing.  I truly do.

Imagine a world of artists; a world of creators.  Wouldn’t that be Utopian?

Day #32 – “Wait till they getta loada me!”

Remember the Michael Keaton “Batman” movie?  Remember the scene where the Joker smiles his exaggerated, permanently fixed smile and says, “What till they getta loada me!”

Well, that’s how I feel sometimes.

I long ago learned that it’s more productive, as well as being conducive to a peaceful environment, if I simply smile and listen while ‘people’ ramble on and on and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.  Does that make me a dishonest person?

Does “honesty” require that I say what’s in my head or heart when people are tossing (what I feel is) silly or inaccurate or inane word-salad?  Is it my responsibility to correct them, even politely?  Or is it okay to simply recognize the potential volatility of the moment, remain silent, nod politely, and smile as genuinely as possible?

Was that a rhetorical statement?

Is THAT a rhetorical statement?

Day #31 – “So Many Nargles…So Little Time.”

My favorite part of the creative process is – The Beginning.

I love receiving the seed-idea, wherever that comes from.  I love nurturing it – or obsessing on it – or methodically building it up – or simply examining it from all angles.

It is that initial spark, followed by the flow of creative juices, that really inspires me to be a song writer, a novelist, a poet, an artist, a program developer, and a boatload of other creative pursuits.

BUT… It’s what comes next that deflates my sails.

I’m old enough and experienced enough now to know that every (EVERY!!!) creative endeavor must include a period of grinding-it-out.  The writer must actually sit down and write.  The artist must put pencil or paint to paper.  The developer must sit at the keyboard and build code.

It’s a must!  If you’re going to actually complete ANY creative project, you have to do the grunt work.

I am constantly inspired by watching my daughter spend hours-upon-hours creating her projects from scratch.  Those gorgeous and rather ingenious books contain page after page of individual artwork, hand-crafted envelops, letters, and other flourishes.  Awesome!

I am equally inspired by watching my son spend days, weeks, or even months crafting a skill (i.e.: turntable-ism).  Each hour spent tweaking his abilities adds new layers of beauty to the music he creates.

So, of course, being the dad, I feel compelled (obligated, actually) to lead by example and… Write!

So… Here’s to the success of cranking out 31 straight days of these Letters to my Kids (blog).

I hope my Kids are as proud of me as I am of them.

Day #30 – “No More Pooh & Tigg’r”

Two of THE MOST painful periods of my life were when my Kids, in their own time, each lost some of their innocence because they had finally seen the reality of the world.

It’s inevitable, of course, but still – it hurts.  I so loved and enjoyed seeing the world with boundless wonder through their eyes, unclouded by the darkness of life.  It still saddens me to this day when I compare the before and after.

While raising them, I did my best to fill their minds & hearts with wonder and excitement and fascination, constantly telling them that anything is possible as long as they believe and work hard.  I didn’t lie to them; I still believe in those tenets of life.  But they know now that the Real World is far more complicated than that.

There came a day in each of their lives when they realized: their parents weren’t perfect, not all people are nice, there are those who don’t play by the same rules that you do, people can be vicious and cruel, the word “fair” means different things to different people, and there are some injustices in this World that are ALMOST impossible to make right.

But I also try very hard, each and every day, to show them that there is still a great deal of joy to be found in this world.

To that end, by choice, I am often a 55 year old Kid.  I play.  I laugh hard (sometimes snorting when I laugh).  I tell stupid jokes.  I enjoy simple pleasures.  Old movies and music and art and stories still mean a LOT to me.  And I do my best to maintain the mindset that anything – yes, anything! – is possible if I believe and work hard.

And it is now the other lessons I taught them early on in life that, I hope, have kicked-in and gained more importance since they saw the world as it really is.  Lessons like:

— You make your own reality; for example: if you think your day is going to be bad, it will be.

— You are responsible for your own actions at all times, not for the actions of others.

— You can instill and propagate integrity and honesty by displaying it to others daily.

— Surround yourself with positive influences (people, books, music, art, and so on).

— Life is still a playground, but it has rules.  Learn the rules and you can still enjoy the game of life.  I didn’t say “follow” their rules; I said “learn” them – and then decide for yourself when it’s right to deviate from them.

— Please…marry someone who infuses positivism into your lives, and bring that to their lives too.

Most important, please grow to be elderly children-at-heart.  If you can successfully do that, then I did my job as a dad.

Day #29 – “Still GQ?”

When is it okay to let yourself go?

Is it EVER okay to let yourself go?

To clarify — “…let yourself go” refers to no longer stressing the absence of 6-pack abs.

They say that husbands pack on the pounds when they become dads.  Although I’ve seen this trend with most of my family and friends, this was true for me until just before my second child showed up.

I had 6-pack abs until I was about 38 or 39.  Then the abs started to soften.  I was able to quickly get ’em back with minimal effort for the next couple years.  But they’ve been ‘gone’ ever since I hit 41.

Since then, I’ve tried uncounted diets and insane workout regimens, but nothing has made my abs visible again.  They’re in there; I feel them.  Underneath the burgers and rice and other great food, I can feel them: tight and gorgeous and just waiting to appear.  But no matter what I do, the belly – the BIG belly – remains.

So back to my original question >> Should I give it up?  As long as I’m eating healthy, keeping my metrics (BP, cholesterol, etc.) within ‘normal’ ranges, and working out regularly to help avoid “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”, should I be satisfied?

Am I working toward being the healthiest corpse in Nebraska?  Am I giving up actually enjoying life in favor of the unattainable ‘bod’?

I keep hoping – praying! – that, one day, I’ll magically discover the perfect diet; one that won’t make me feel like I’m totally deprived all the time.  I feel 99.374% confident it isn’t my workout routine.  I can still out-run and out-work people half my age, and I feel strong as a bull.  But the ‘diet’ thing — THAT is hard!

Oh well.  Who am I kidding?  OF COURSE I’m gonna keep trying to lose the gut.  OF COURSE I’m gonna keep weighing myself every morning…counting every plus and minus pound.  And OF COURSE I’m gonna keep looking in the mirror with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, even a 2-pack will begin to appear.

“Hello.  My name is Lee Jackson, and yes…I am a typical middle-aged American guy.”

Day #26 – “Paper… ‘nom – nom – nom’…”

I am SO addicted to collecting, holding, touching, and looking at paper.  All kinds of paper; especially journals filled with clean, white, lined pages inside.

Why?

Is it because of my near-poor upbringing?

Is it an “Artist Thing”?

Is it the aesthetic appeal?

Add to that the absolutely mind-boggling blessing that I married a woman who is blessed/cursed with the same over-the-top obsession.  Yes, additional proof that we are undeniably made for each other.

Not to mention (BTW – Such a weird term, especially considering it ALWAYS is followed by a specific mention of…whatever it is that we weren’t going to mention) the fact that we sired two children who also possess this Mass-Clean-Paper-Consumption-Gene.

I’m in the process of reorganizing and re-categorizing my library, and was confronted with an obscenely large stack of empty journals of all types, sizes, and varying quality that I’ve collected over the decades… and never used.  I have more paper, more journals than I’ll realistically use in my lifetime, but I still have this urge every time I walk into Barnes & Noble or go to Amazon.com to look at the new journals.  And yes, each and every time I ‘look’, I am definitely tempted to buy.

Why?

If anyone has any insights, I’d love to talk through it with you.

Side-Thought:  Is there an “-ism” for this type of thing?  Hmm.

Day #25 – “Bullies…”

When I was a kid, I was 100% afraid of bullies.  I hated conflict.  I hated confrontation.  I hated arguments.  So, when a bully pushed me (either verbally or physically), I normally backed-down, even if that bully was smaller or younger than me.  It wasn’t so much a fear-of-getting-beat-up thing as it was a total distaste for the inevitable escalation process.  If I stood up to them, I reasoned, then they would be ‘forced’ to make good on whatever threat (verbalized or implied) that they were expressing.

I got bullied quite a lot in Jr High and High School, primarily because I was a baby-faced boy with long, (very long) straight hair; in hindsight, I definitely looked more like a girl than a boy (but hey, it was the 70’s.  I was wearing a ‘look’ that was common for that era…one that I could NOT properly pull off).

But in my senior year of High School, something in me snapped.  I had just been rejected by a girl that I really cared about, and then a few minutes later, two guys decided it was the perfect time to yell something snide at me across the parking lot.  Before I knew what I was doing, I yelled back at them (something similar to), “You have something to say to me?  How about coming over here and saying it!!!”  They both immediately backed down.

This was a revelation to me.  There WAS at least one other way of dealing with bullies other than ‘chickening-out’.

Happy ending, right?

Ummm….not exactly.  Or, at least not right away.

I tried that same “Come tell me to my face!” technique a few other times after that momentous day, with mixed results.  Some people backed down, some people did not.  When they didn’t back down, I was then forced to decide if I was capable of taking it to ‘the next level’…whatever that level may be.  And, of course, I wasn’t ready – yet – to do that.

Even after 5 years of martial arts training, I was not yet capable of completely standing up to bullies.  Although I may have had the technical skill necessary to defend myself, I hadn’t yet found the ‘fighter’ inside of me; the part of me that could willingly inflict damage on another person, if required.

It was sometime in my mid-20’s when my ‘fighter’ finally showed himself.  At that point in my life, I had taken enough damage in training and tournaments and real fights to finally feel confident that I could take a beating, if necessary, and likely not die.  More important, though, was the fact that I had also inflicted enough damage on others during those encounters to prove to myself that I wasn’t going to accidentally kill or permanently damage someone else if I had to defend myself.  That knowledge, that realization, truly freed me.

From then on, my ‘fighter’ was within easy access to me at all times.  If someone tried to bully me at work, they wouldn’t get very far without my ‘fighter’ coming to the surface and introducing himself to the bully — who, in most cases, quickly backed-down.  In the few instances that they did not back down, my ‘fighter’ did not hesitate to take matters to the next appropriate level and, hopefully, end the encounter as quickly and as damage-free as possible.  In one particular instance, my ‘fighter’ had to deal with several people at one time, one with a knife, and he did so with efficiency and calm resolve.  It was during THAT encounter when I realized that I could kill — if I had to — in order to preserve my own life or the life of someone I care about.  That is a VERY sobering realization.

Fast forward to today — a day, like any other day, when bullies still exists.  Now, when confronted by bullies, I have the ability to reign back the ‘fighter’ and employ patience and observation.  I have learned over time that taking a significant pause can be as powerful against bullies as a kick to the knee.  Patience and selective silence against a bully forces them to decide whether THEY are willing and capable of escalating things to the next level.  You are not giving them what they often expect: fear.  You are not being controlled by their attack, nor are you controlled by your knee-jerk reactions.  Additionally, the pregnant-pause provides me with the time needed to properly consider the many, MANY other options at my disposal, other than fighting.  That was another lesson learned over time: the power of taking a moment to consider all the available non-violent tools and resources at my disposal.

One final lesson about dealing with bullies >> Every time (yes, EVERY time) a bully pushes you, they likely don’t realize it (cause most bullies are THAT stupid), but they are taking a big chance of having to give up ‘something’.  It may be their pride or their integrity or their teeth…or their life.  Most often, though, they simply dissipate whatever fear that they’ve worked so hard to build in others (onlookers) – also known as (aka) the ‘previously bullied’.

“So, tell me Mr Bully… what are you willing to give up?”

Day #24 – “KFP, JKD, and other acronyms…”

One great thing about grower older (not old, just older) is that you develop a greater sense of confidence in some things because, quite frankly, you’ve lived long enough to be able to ‘feel’ the “trueness” (my word) of them.

When I was a kid, I was taught right from wrong through corporal punishment.  Do something wrong, get smacked or otherwise punished.

When I began reading comic books, Captain America taught me, by example, specific differences and examples of right and wrong, and how to confront them.

Then came my military career – where the Core Values (Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All Things) put language to categorized ways of proactively doing the right thing.

Add to that decades of both traditional and non-traditional martial arts training (KaFePhil = KFP, Jeet Kune Do = JKD, Tae Kwon Do = TKD, and MANY other arts that didn’t have acronyms).  Nearly all contained specific guidelines on when you can use the skills you were accumulating, and when you should not.

Then came my study of the Stoics (Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and so on).  This viewpoint on life and how to ‘properly’ live it was (and remains) very attractive to me, primarily because of its simplicity, but also because of the lack of any religious tendrils that are normally found in ancient philosophy and traditional martial studies.

After 55 years, you know what I’ve found?  It’s all pretty simple.  And, at times, it can also be the hardest thing in the entire world.

Simple – Because the rules are very basic and easy to remember.  Do what you know is right at all times.  Thing of others before yourself.  And do your best to do every task that you take on in the best possible way.

Hardest – Because, when you live in a world where people regularly do the easiest thing and call it “right”; where those around you change their core values as easily as they change underwear; and where words like “Integrity” are considered to be either catch-phrases with no real meaning or, to some, just an old-fashioned notion that no longer applies in today’s world… people who try to live a life of “Integrity” are treated with distrust and resentment because we serve as a reminder of what others are choosing to ignore.

Kids – This is a long-winded explanation of something that you’ve been exposed to, in background, your entire lives.  Now you are both adults and I see human beings who truly embody, quite effortlessly, what Integrity is supposed to be.

Yes, I am a very proud dad.

Day #23 – “When Did Life Get Simpler?”

After all the years (decades) of gathering and collecting and hoarding, my wife and I have finally (FINALLY!) shifted to “Simplification Mode”.  Meaning: We want to shed ourselves of as much of our material “stuff” as possible.

So now, all of the possessions that we used to cling to SO fiercely, we are now able to (almost magically) let go.  No rationalization – no drama – no regret.  Just >> Jettison!

As I look back, I cannot (for the life of me) remember exactly when this mental shift occurred…or what precisely facilitated it.  At first, I thought it was Nanay’s death.  But then I remember that we had actually started shedding ourselves of “stuff”, albeit, much more slowly, before her hospitalization.  Her passing may have accelerated our mental-conversation, but it didn’t spark its existence.

No matter.

Oddly, though, one thing we have to be careful of is…How far do we go?  Yes, there is a TON of stuff that we want and will get rid of, but we’re even talking about giving away things that, perhaps, we shouldn’t.  Things like: Donday’s old car.  We are a car short.  So, should be fix hers up? Get rid of it?  Marlene has a lot of clothes that she can still fit into.  How many of them should she give away?  The initial rationale was: If I haven’t worn it in two years, why do I still need it?  But then logic steps in and says, “Well, you didn’t wear them for two years because they were buried in the back of the closet.  They are in perfect condition, some still with tags, so maybe you just need to reorganize the closet so that you have easier access to all of your clothes.   The same internal argument occurs involving purses, books, shoes, etc.

In any case, I think it’s a great problem to have.  At this stage of my life, I’m ecstatic that we will, hopefully soon, be shed of most of the trappings of life, along with all of the reorganization, storage and maintenance that they bring with them, and will begin living a (shall I say it?) more spartan existence.  I find the thought of it SO appealing.

I think the reason a “simple” life is so attractive to us both is because, in our heads, it means that we would then have the ability to just pick up and go whenever we want, sans all of the weight of our “stuff”.  We picture travelling.  We picture open spaces.  We picture more breathing room.

Enticing, right?

Day #22 – “The Value of Heroes…”

I grew up without a “present father”.  Meaning, my dad was a great provider (for a wife, 9 kids and a dog), but he wasn’t the best “dad” in the world.

What does that mean?  How should fatherly success be measured?

The answer >> It depends.

Each of us has different needs, so we will all have different parameters for what makes a good father.

I am extremely grateful that my dad shouldered the entire burden of providing for the family because that allowed mom to be home all the time (whether that’s what she really wanted or not).  I’m grateful that I had food in my belly and clothes on my back.  I’m grateful that, once a year (on Christmas), dad was always present, manning the 8mm movie camera, and putting himself in debt annually to make sure that his kids always had something to open on Christmas morning.

But is ‘grateful’ enough?

I never really knew my dad.  I barely know him now.  When he wasn’t out “providing” for the family, he was either sleeping, or he wanted the house to be quiet so he could eat in peace or watch TV in peace.  He wasn’t the hands-on kinda dad.  He wasn’t the communicative or inquisitive type of dad.   He sired us, made it possible for mom to raise us, he fed us, and he clothed us. In his era, those were the signs, the qualities of a ‘good dad’.

But I was the kinda kid, like many kids, who needed a hero.  I wanted dad to be someone that I wanted to emulate.  And, while I was waiting for that person to materialize, I looked elsewhere.  Captain America was the closest thing to a surrogate dad that I could find.  He communicated.  He explained – through his actions and through monologue – what courage and integrity and patriotism really meant.  He showed me that strength was more than physical, and that there was never any bargaining room when it came to right and wrong.  I hungered for his instruction because it was always consistent, it was easy to understand, and it was always there whenever I needed it.

And, whether fair or not, the more I turned to Cap and others like him for guidance on being a ‘man’, the less I expected that sort of instruction from my real father.

By the time I turned 18, I was done with home.  I was tired of waiting for my dad to be my vision of a dad.  I wasn’t mad at him, truly.  I still respected what he did and why he did it.  The burden must have felt, at times, overwhelming…and he bore it.  But in the end, when I was half-a-dozen states away, busy building my own life, a new life, I realized that I never really knew my dad – and he never really got to know me.  No blame.  No anger.  Just the way it turned out.  I hear he’s different now, and my siblings say that he’s a great dad now.  I’m happy for them.  But I’m too far away to feel it, and my dad’s still not the best communicator in the world; definitely not good enough to reach me so far away.

Again, I’m not mad at him.  Truly!  But the cold truth is > He was never that type of dad for me, and I no longer need him to be.  And during the first 18 years of my life he never took the time to get to know me, and he never let me get to really know him; so now, all these years later, I no longer need that either.

But he did give me one extremely valuable gift: Crystal Clear Purpose.

Like touching a hot stove and learning, “I will never touch that hot stove again!”, my dad (albeit inadvertently) taught me how to be a good dad.  Or, like Sherlock Holmes is fond of saying, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”  My dad taught me the many ways a father should NOT be.  So, in a way, he taught me loud-n-clear what a good father should be.

Long before my first child was born, I resolved to do my best daily to make sure my kids could always come to me, talk with me, be honest with me (about anything), and, hopefully, learn from my example what patience and integrity and honesty (and so on) are…and what they mean.  I would do my best to be consistent.  And when I failed – and I knew I would fail – I would own those failures, be honest about them, and do my best to learn from them…so that they would understand that we all make mistakes, but those can be valuable.  Mistakes, they would learn, are teaching tools, and nothing to be afraid of.

Sure, my kids may still turn to other heroes for guidance — and I hope they do.  But it will be because they WANT to… not because they feel they HAVE to.

Day #20 – “Pull the Trigger…”

After all these years, I still have to remind myself that there is a very simple remedy to the ill that is procrastination – Pull the Trigger. 

All I need to do is: take the first step; write the first word, lift the first box, mow the first foot. From then on, the rest of the task flows freely and the desire to avoid or delay it completely disappears.  

Why do I keep forgetting this?  You’d think, by now, I would be immune to the seduction of “later”, “tomorrow ” and “In a minute”.  

How best to cure myself?  Hmm.  I definitely need to get ready to create a plan to address the problem surrounding this matter.  

I should have some free time on Monday. 

Day #19 – “Always Wear Protection…”

During my life, I incrementally went from what was, in hindsight, a sheltered, protected environment, to one that is, well…protected.

Before joining the military at 18, I lived with my parents (just before their divorce). In that environment, I was protected by my parent’s rules, my mother’s regular advice, and my own ignorance.  Yes, ignorance can serve as protection.  Within that world, I felt empowered to try almost anything.  For some things, the sense of freedom came from the fact that I always had a home to go to, a mother to turn to (who knew how to listen), and a bed to crawl into at night.  I was also completely ignorant of the possible repercussions of doing things like: jumping my bike over an oil barrel, not considering for even a second that the same thing that just happened to one of my friends (his handlebars broke and he slammed him mouth into the front rail of his bike, losing all of his front teeth); or trying a back-flip off of a stack of wrestling mats cause I saw my best friend do it, never once realizing that, since this was my first back-flip EVER, that I might miscalculate and break my neck; or climbing on top of mountain of sand, completely oblivious to the possibility that there may be an air-pocket in the sand that would cause me to be buried alive…or that there may be a landslide of sand, accomplish the same buried-alive-thing.

Immediately after I left home to join the military, I was quickly forced to choose >> Play it safe, now that much of my previous protection was now gone (except most of the ignorance, of course), or dive in, take a chance, and figure it out as I go.

How different would my life be if I had chosen the first option?  How many other people in this world have taken that road?

Yes, of course, there is a cost to the second road. I had broken bones.  I had my heart shattered repeatedly.  I have been embarrassed beyond what I thought (then) I could withstand.  But after each mistake, each failure, I was able to identify ways of protecting myself that may serve to lessen the damage the next time around.  I also learned something quite surprising: In some instances, utilizing protection actually diminishes the experience.  Here’s a great example:

In my very-late 40’s, my son introduced me to long-boarding.  It was something I never considered doing – until that moment.  But long-boarding is, to put it mildly, not a safe endeavor.  Learning to balance on a board-that-moves literally involves a lot of falling.  And, since the primary surface you are learning on is concrete, this experience includes bodily damage.  It is what it is.  I can wear gloves and knee pads and elbow pads and a helmet, but guess what — landing awkwardly on concrete, even going only 10 miles-per-hour, causes pain and damage that all the padding in the world won’t prevent.  And, there is definitely a point where a certain amount of ‘protection’ begins to diminish from this experience.  When I got enough guts to actually go downhill on my board (starting-off at a place that my son calls “Sanctuary Hill”, where there are numerous sharp turns and some very steep grades), bailing off my board and skidding on my butt became a common occurrence…until it wasn’t.

Look at any longboarder.  You’ll notice their pants are torn in a LOT of spots, their shoes are worn almost completely away (because they use their shoes as a form of break), and their protective gear, what they DO decide to wear, is heavily scarred and pitted.  These are the ones who are actually great at it.  Imagine those who are still in their first year of learning.

I strongly feel that life offers us endless ways to protect ourselves.  The trick will always be – knowing which form(s) of protection to employ, how much of it to use, and deciding when to forgo protection in favor of ‘the experience’.

Final Note: Long-boarding is addictive.  You’ll buy at least three boards, a LOT of wheels and bearings and trucks and tools, and you’ll be constantly tweaking your setup.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Day #18 – “Pain in the…”

I’ve had a toothache for about a week now; the kind of ache you feel when you get a popcorn husk (hull?) caught in your gum.  Finally saw the dentist this morning, naively hoping that he’ll pluck out the hull (husk?), a wave of relief would wash over me, and I’d do the Happy Dance out the door. 

Nope. 

Now I’m taking an antibiotic in the hopes that it fixes the issue – praying it fixes the issue! – cause the alternative is a root canal, the cost of which will, I’m certain, hurt much more than the procedure. 

On the UP side >> Lord of the Rings (Fellowship – the best one!) is on TV. 

All is good. 

Day #17 – “Opinions are like…”

Opinions – we all have them.

Back in “the day”, people expressed their opinions: when asked, when drunk, or (if they were complete idiots or egoists) when breathing.  It was the face-to-face response to that expression that normally kept people’s opinions behind their teeth.

However, in today’s social-media-rich society, where anonymity is the name of the game, that restraint no longer exists.  Anyone with an opinion can express it with little-to-no threat of effective retaliation.  If I don’t like something or someone, all I have to do is: create a Twitter account, spill my guts (in 140 characters or less), and then (if I receive negative responses), I can simply delete the account.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Social media platforms like Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook, and others, have allowed those who were normally quiet cowards to be (in their own minds) heroes.  They can express their half-considered musings with aggression and zeal, use the foulest language, be as insulting as they’ve always wanted to be, and then disappear back into the ether.  No accountability.  No responsibility.  No need to actually complete a thought or have a point.  Just brain-to-keyboard, then gone.

The most recent example I’ve seen of this is how people blame the President for every bad thing currently happening in our country and around the world.  He is expected to fix the unfixable, know the unknowable, and force dishonest politicians to suddenly be forthright.

Consider this for just a moment…

You’re a completely honest and well-intended person.  Suddenly, you are thrust into a room full of people who lie, steal, have agendas that do NOT put the interests of others before themselves, and you are tasked to get them all going in one direction that is inclusive and positive.  Go!

We need a system of government that places more importance on what is right instead of what is legal.  When a politician is caught lying to us, he should be out!  Period. End of story.  If you can’t be trusted to tell the truth, you no longer deserve to represent Americans.  Integrity should be THE most important trait of our politicians.  The minute a leader starts debating about the true meaning of the word “the” in order to justify their poor behavior, the conversation should end and they should be ejected out on their butts.  We know you are smart.  We know you are clever.  We know you can lie better than most of your peers.  That behavior shouldn’t be ignored or justified or excused – it should be addressed swiftly and definitely.  You are gone.  Next!

Nixon was surprised that people called him on his lies.  He felt (sincerely) that his role as president made everything he did “right” – exclusively, solely because he was the president.  How deluded is that?

Now…how many other politicians and public leaders (governors, senators, judges, etc.) do the exact same thing?  Why do they continue to do it?  Because they know the system >> If you can find a loophole, an excuse, a shadow of a doubt, then you can dismiss the lie, dismiss the stealing, dismiss the cheating, and continue doing what you’re doing.

But if we have a system that is simple — Integrity First — where none of those tricks work, where you can’t vote yourself a raise while cutting jobs, where you can’t refuse to answer questions because the answer might incriminate you, then – maybe – we might get leaders worth our respect. 

Too simple?  Exactly!

Day #16 – “I can’t drive…55!”

Being 55 is very strange, at times.

Is it still considered ‘middle-age’?  Am I a ‘senior citizen’ now?

I have numerous friends and acquaintances that are 55 (or thereabouts) and when I look at them, more often than not, I see people who have…well… aged.  They act “Older” >> They are tired all the time; they seem more negative about life and occurrences and people and the future than they’ve ever been; they complain repeatedly about this ache or that pain; they wear a scowl that is, quite frankly, almost disheartening.  Being around them is almost like a cold-virus > after “X” amount of time, you sense yourself feeling more tired, more negative, more… ‘Old’.

That is one of the many reasons that, about 2 years ago, whenever anyone asked me, “How are you?”, my answer would ALWAYS be something extremely positive.  Yesterday, for example: I went to pick up some Chinese food for lunch, and when the girl at the counter asked me, “How are you doing today?”, my immediate and enthusiastic response was “Outstanding!”  This answer had a very profound affect on her, and she spent the next several minutes thanking me and expressing how that simple response had lifted her day.  To that point, she said, she’d been faced with grumpy, self-absorbed, and scrunchy-faced customers, all seemingly having horrible days.  So, she said, to see me smiling and answering “Outstanding!” SO convincingly had served to life the tone of her day.

I had been doing this for so long now that it had become automatic.  I long-ago realized that I control my own reality.  If I tell myself (and others) that I am having a great, a marvelous, an Outstanding! day…than that is now the truth.  And, clearly, I converted one more person yesterday.

So yes, I am 55.  But, I refuse to be the seemingly stereotypical grumbling, grumpy, grrrrrr 55-year old.

As Sammy Hagar defiantly exclaims… “I can’t drive 55!”

Day #15 – “Me vs Me”

Perception is a funny thing – and sometimes, not so funny.

I used to work for a lady who was a firm believer that (in her words) “Perception is Reality”.

I understood ‘what’ she meant – perception is reality for those who perceive it – but I, unlike her, refused to cater to their perception if that perception was inappropriate or just plain wrong.  She felt that we needed to change our behavior and, if necessary, our views, in order to mold people’s perceptions of us and whether we were successful as leaders.

Nope!  Uh-uh!  Not gonna do it.

People’s perceptions are SO fickle.  Chasing that phantom of pleasing-a-perception is almost always automatic failure.

Another example…

For a VERY long time, I had to deal with people’s perceptions of me.  Around other people, I stay relatively quiet and calm and standoffish.  The myriad ways that people will perceive this behavior is fascinating.  At the same time, I have been viewed as: brooding, thoughtful, angry, shy, tired, creative, mysterious, timid, aggressive, rude, unsure of myself, over-confident, and SO many others.  So if my goal was to cater to people’s perceptions, what do I change to make them all happy?

I’ve learned to leave people to their perceptions; only caring when that person is someone of importance to me – I mean someone of extreme importance.  The way I look it at (and have for quite some time now) is… If you really know me (which means you had to take the time to really get to know me), then you know that, for me, ‘quiet’ will normally, simply means ‘quiet’.  It’s rarely more complicated than that.

What makes this very easy for me to do is – I learned that people’s perceptions, mostly, are reflections of their own issues and insecurities.  If they all see the same behavior in me in so many different ways, it CAN’T be me that is causing it.  Rather, it must be that they are echoing their individual fear, insecurity, suspicion, etc, off of me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I care a great deal what a select group of people think about me.  But that list is extremely short and the only ones on that list are those that have the emotional maturity to see me for me and not as some mirror to their soul.

“Know Thyself”.

That’s a very powerful statement.  Once you’re able to release yourself from the bond of the perceptions of (most) others, you then are forced to deal directly with who you really are.  When you can do that – and ONLY after you have done that – you then can tackle the task of trying to figure out others.  You can look at others and have a better chance of seeing THEIR true Self.

So, the next time I’m sitting off to the side, quiet, seemingly introspective, I may be judging you!  Or….I may be simply thinking about ice cream.  (Hint — There’s a much better chance it’s the latter)

Day #13 – “Food Fight!”

There are two distinct persons in me. One – let’s call him Paul – dispassionately sees the nutritional need and benefits of food and can easily moderate and restrict his intake for the betterment of The Body. 

The other ‘me’ – let’s call him Vladimir- does his best to consume every tasty morsel within reach, as often as possible, and derives great (albeit, temporary) joy from the constant buffet. 

They are both me.  They both have their unerring logic, they both carry razor-sharp blades, and they both have melodic voices. 

I’ve long searched my Self for a third ‘me’. 

The search continues…

Day #12 – “PTSD…”

Excerpt from Steven Pressfield’s excellent book “The Warrior Ethos”

“The civilian sometimes misconstrues the warrior code; he takes it to be one of simple brutality.  Overpower the enemy, show no mercy, win at all costs.

“But the warrior ethos commands that brute aggression be tempered by self-restraint and guided by moral principal.”

=========================================================================================

I agree with Mr Pressfield, but I’d like to expand/add a little onto his premise.

In today’s world, especially in today’s work environment, warriors (military men and women who have finished their tour of duty with whatever branch of the armed forces – however long that was – and are trying to find their way in the civilian world) are viewed with a strange mixture of respect, fear, awe, and contempt.  We are viewed as mindless followers, rigid robots, unable to think or reason for ourselves, quick to anger, aggressive, and many more stereotypical labels that are easy to adopt when you are too ignorant or lazy to find out the truth.

I personally experienced years of culture-discrimination from peers, supervisors, managers, and even VPs; all who felt that their role as a leader gave them the right to label me with their prejudices and treat me as less-than-worthy.  I was even accused of being unfair and aggressive when I brought up their biases and inappropriate behavior.

For some, a simple exercise was enough to get their attention and make them stop and think.  I simply parroted back to them phrases that they had said to me (in some cases, repeatedly), but I asked them to replace the word “military” with “black person” or “woman” or “elderly” and then I asked them how their phrases sounded to them then.  For these few, that was enough to make them begin to see that their military-culture-prejudice was a problem that needed addressing.

Others, though (usually those at the highest level of leadership), refused to even consider that their actions and words and ideas were inappropriate for today’s American culture – or even today’s world – and insisted that the problem was mine, not theirs.   In the end, of course, they are right – to a degree.  The problem was and is mine;  mine to deal with, mine to live with, mine to address – if necessary, or mine to shrug off, when possible.

Someone coming from at least 4 years of military service will have a level of difficulty assimilating back into civilian living.  The earlier a person joined the military (I joined in my late teens), and the longer a person was in the military (I retired with 25 years of combined service), the harder it is to transition — and the more severe the feelings of displacement, fear, helplessness, and (at times) utter despair.  I strongly believe that these people all develop varying levels of PTSD and require an amount of time to allow them to completely transition their mind and body to the new environment.

Let me put it this way >> How do YOU think a person would feel if they came from one environment where: they were comfortable in the manner of speaking and acting, knew the rules that governed everyday life, knew how to protect themselves from unfair treatment, knew how to sufficiently provide for their family and themselves, and felt a level of satisfaction with not only the quality of work they did each day to make a living, but also felt pride in how their efforts contributed to the well-being of their entire ‘community’…..    What if you pulled this person from this environment, quite suddenly (literally overnight) and thrust them into a new, alien environment where:  they didn’t know the rules, they didn’t know how to protect themselves from unfair treatment at work, simple phrases and even ways of standing were labeled as “military” or “rigid” or “closed-off”, they had no idea how their acquired skills could be used to earn a sufficient living for themselves and their family, they felt the overwhelming pressure to provide for their spouse and (if necessary) children – but didn’t know how, they no longer could find (during that first year, at least) personal satisfaction and pride in the work that they were doing, and they didn’t know how their effort contributed (in ANY way) to the betterment of their ‘community’.   THEN….add to this an atmosphere where you are constantly judged by other people’s prejudices, NOT by who you really are or what you really can do; where you are rarely given a chance to prove yourself because those in charge have already prejudged you as unfit or unable.  Then, finally, overlay a common structure where standing up for yourself is considered inappropriate and aggressive.

Now you know a little of how most military people feel when they leave the military and start a new life in the civilian ‘community’.

EXTRA:  Add to this cultural soup the strange ingredient of momentary adulation from these same double-faced leaders and associates that automatically occurs during select holidays (Veteran’s Day, 4th of July, and several others).  These same people who are serving as roadblocks to your assimilation and success are, at times, the first in line to celebrate your association with the military and praising you for your years of service.  Tell me THAT wouldn’t mess with your mind.

Day #11 – “Entitled…”

Been hooked on Steven Pressfield lately, and while listening to a podcast interview this morning, he was quoted as having said (in one of his books) during a discussion about productivity, “You are entitled to your labor, but not the fruits of your labor.”

I found that very profound!

In America, it is a common practice to focus on the end-result, the goal-line, the prize, the money, the fame, and all of the other “fruits” that we hope come from our efforts (whether it be: dieting, training, writing, etc.).  But in that short statement, Steven Pressfield clarifies that this type of focus serves more as “resistance” than motivation.

Bottom Line = To be successful, you must concentrate on The Work.  Constantly be aware of any obstacles that slow you down or redirect you or stop you from getting The Work done and remove them.  And, all too often, “the fruits” – just the awareness of them – are usually a major obstacle.

If you concentrate on The Work, the fruits will take care of themselves.

Maybe I should tattoo the above phrase on my body so I never forget.

Day #10 – Reality Check…

Got a call from Lhene yesterday evening that she and Donday were at David’s Bridal – looking at dresses.   It didn’t hit me right away…and I went back to the house-chores I was trying to knock-out before they got home.

Later that evening (when they walked through the door), they both had this – for lack of a better phrase – shared-air of satisfaction.  Then Lhene came over to the couch where I was sitting and started showing me the pics (on her phone) of Donday trying on wedding dresses.

BAM!

Yup!  Right upside the head!

I got the bone-deep realization that this whole thing is real, actually gonna happen, and my little, baby-girl is gonna get married (perceptively) in a blink and will be moving out of my everyday life.

Although she looked absolutely, painfully, overwhelmingly gorgeous in every pic, in every dress, there was this background vibration in my brain reminding me “She’s leaving soon.”

I had to go through that same process with Josh soooo many years ago.  My #1 Son – my little buddy (note: no matter how old  he gets, how big he gets, how into-his-own-life-and-wife-and-kids-and-etc he gets, he’s still my little buddy).  Now I’m going through it again with Donday.

There’s this paradox of “Time” where it passes in two distinct manners >> All too fast (she’ll be gone soon) and far too slowly (constant reminders in various ways that she’ll be leaving soon).

I was listening to a podcast this morning and this guy who has extremely strong views (and studies to prove them) that childless couples live happier and more-fulfilled lives than those couples who have kids.  However, ironically (used correctly?), he has a daughter.  So, he was asked (during a Q&A) why – if he believed this SO strongly – did he have a child.  He said something to the affect of, “For two reasons:  First, I felt that we would be different – that my wife and I had the ability to not fall into the confirmed pitfalls that all other parents have obviously fallen into.  However, after she was born and we realized that this wasn’t true, we then realized that – despite (albeit) having a life that may be less fulfilled in some ways as those without kids, and yes, we sacrificed (and continue to sacrifice) so much of our selves and our potential in favor of putting our child first – these sacrifices and the resulting successes and joys are rewards that childless couples will never know.”  (okay – he may not have said all of that, but that’s what I got out of his answer).

My kids are my success (as is my marriage).  Every time I think of you two, see you, hear your voices, I am reminded of how successful I have been.

Thank you.

Day #9 – “Self-Imposed Terror”

Y’know, one of these days I’m gonna learn that pushing stuff off is not the best plan in the entire world.

Specifically, with work “stuff”.

I KNOW I have the capacity to better organize than I am currently doing, so…why aren’t I?

Yes, there’s the element of “Need to stack pressure on myself to get the best product out of me”, but I don’t think that’s the major issue lately.

I have this “thing” where I get caught up in Analysis Paralysis.

I run into a snag with something (in this case, technical issues related to system updates that REALLY screw up the tools I’m using) and I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for ways around the problem.  All communication goes out the window.  All sense of time and space completely disappear.  And, before I know it, while still deeply mired in the muck of trouble-shooting, it is now days later and I’m no closer to solving my issues than I was last week.

The logical approach?  Keep my customer’s informed of my problem, get IT and/or team mates involved, ask team mates to help take some of the load while I continue to concentrate on primary projects, and – when all technical issues have been addressed – get back into the “normal mode”.

My approach?  Fix it myself.  Rely on no one.  “I’ve got this”.

Hmm.  Not working this time.

Day # 8 – Endless Beginnings…

Today is Day One of Thirty (1/30) of a new Get Leaner Plan.

Every other time I’ve dieted or did a similar type of plan with the ultimate goal of losing weight, I’ve always ensured that I had Cheat Days built in so that I could make the Plan sustainable.  The closest I ever got to a 30-day Straight Strict Plan was when I Juiced for 20 straight days.

The other MAJOR commonality between all of those previous plans/attempts was — They were not successful.

I always lost weight.  I always got in marginally better physical shape.  But I ALWAYS HIT A WALL (normally after losing about 20 lbs) where, at this point, nothing I did (and I do mean nothing!!) could get me past that wall.  I would increase my training session count or duration or intensity – or all of them – and it wouldn’t work.  I would tweak my diet in a myriad of ways (increase protein, reduce fat, reduce calories, starve myself, etc.) but that wouldn’t work either.  I’d mix all of my diet variations with all of my training variations (that’s a LOT of variations, trust me), but could still not get past that 20-something wall.

So, the only thing I haven’t tried is TOTAL strict adherence to a basic “Eat Clean”, “Work Out Daily” Plan for a longer period of time.  In this case, I’ve chosen 30-days as the magic number.  Why?   Well, cause I normally experience the bulk of my weight loss within the first 2 weeks.  Again, this is WITH cheat days built in.  Then — after that — Nothing.   So maybe going longer – without cheat days – is the key.

To be honest, one of the things I’ve heard a lot lately from male movie stars who have had to get in crazy-good shape for a role was similar to, “I had nothing enjoyable for 6 straight months”….or, “My life was grey for 4 months because I couldn’t eat anything I loved and it sucked all of the color out of my life.”  I heard this to mean, They were extremely strict with themselves – no cheat days – for long periods of time, sacrificing the food they love, all to meet a specific goal >>> Weight Loss.

I figured that 30-days would be long enough for me to find out if this is a viable method.  By all accounts, one of three things will happen:

1) Sometime during the first 2 weeks of the 30-day period, I’ll cheat – and totally dismantle any progress I may have gained.

2)  Say I complete the 30-days while remaining strict, I will either: Hit my wall at around the 2-week point, as always, and spend the last 2 weeks of the 30-day trial seeing NO movement on the scale at all.  Or…

3)  …This will actually work and, by the end of the 30-day trial, I will have blasted through my normal 20-lb loss and moved into a new zone of weight loss.

IF #3 occurs, then it would make sense to keep going for another 30, praying that I will continue losing weight.

More to come…   Wish me luck!

Day #7 – …or is it?

Yes, it’s the 7th straight day of blogging (hate that term – gotta come up with something better), but it’s (-1) Day (that’s minus-1 day) of my next dieting cycle. 

Tomorrow will be Day One of Thirty (1/30) , and this is The Plan:

— No garbage for 30 straight days

— No days off or Cheat days

— During this 30 days, I will do some sort of workout every day, I will meditate every day, and I will VLOG every day. 

NOT gonna be easy.  But that’s the whole point, right? >> Try something new in order to hopefully – finally – find the right method of weight loss for me. 

A little scared and a LOT excited. 

Perfect!

Day #6 – The Key…

There are two primary aspects to the martial arts, and if you don’t have both, then you’re not a true martial artist. 

The first and most apparent is the technical skill.  This involves thousands of hours of training until you’ve made technique a seamless part of your Self. 

The second and barely talked about aspect is the willingness to hurt someone when necessary.  It’s not sparring, it’s not simple self defense, it is the conscious intent to do damage to another human being, perhaps permanent damage or even death, when all other non-violent options are no longer viable.  When you can’t walk away or ignore or talk your way out of a confrontation, a martial artist has to be able to calmly and efficiently attack the threat until the threat no longer exists.  

Unfortunately, too many American martial schools don’t teach this – most do not even speak of it because it’s not fiscally popular. They sell physical ability, martial mystery and glamour.  True martial arts isn’t glamorous.  It is fire and steel and a stark, crystal clear sense of responsibility of what you can do – when you must. 

No Skipping,..

There are two popular theories related to skill-based goal achievement: First – It takes 30 days to change or build a habit.  Second – It takes 10,000 to master a skill.  This blog is about the first point. 

I have tried a wide variety of methods to lose weight – with the same eventual result >> failure.  But one thing I haven’t tried is 30 straight days of effort, no breaks, no Off Days.  

So, this Monday is Day #1 of 30. 

Plus, related to this blog, I had planned to do 30 straight days of blogging, so tomorrow I will begin numbering these blogs, counting the number of uninterrupted days I blog.  

Excited to have a Plan. 

“Tomorrow…”

Okay…quick survey >>  “Of those reading this, who among you is a procrastinator?”

<I’ll answer tomorrow>  😛

Me?  I call myself a Creative Procrastinator.

“What is that?” you are likely asking.  Well…

I intentionally procrastinate on projects – normally those on a deadline – because I believe that I do my best work when I’m under the gun.  Here’s a general example:

I have two weeks to work on a project that, under normal circumstances, would only take me about 4-5 days.  Intellectually, the best approach would be to knock it out quickly, giving me plenty of time to revise, tweak, refine, and generally make it the best product possible and (here’s the kicker!) perhaps even turn the product in early.  (What???)

Do I do this?

Of course not!

I work on ANY other project for the first 12 days, and then spend the final 2 days burning the candle at both ends, in (what I consider to be) a creative stew pot.  There’s something about the pressure, the intensity, and the possibility of failure that makes those two days SO enjoyable for me.  And, 98% of the time, I DO manage to finish the product within the deadline.

Now here’s the money question >> Am I actually more creative, turning-out better products, when I put myself into that creative stew pot?  Or would I actually churn out better products if I did the “intellectual” thing and better managed my time?

Truth?  I’m not sure.

I’ve tried both ways (and still do bounce back and forth, from time-to-time), and my inner Self tells still insists that there is something about the self-imposed pressure that helps to spark my creative side more directly and, in the end, makes me a better producer.

Does this matter?

No — to me, not really.

No matter which approach I use, I still produce on-time.  I’ve received no complaints no matter which method I use. So, in the end, I’m probably going to continue to dive into the creative stew pot on a regular basis because — I like it!

Come swim with me.

“Needle and the Damage Done…”

All of my life, I’ve been an expert at damaging myself – often in creative, unique ways.

But the first significant Damage Marker that comes to mind is when, at 16, I was riding my bicycle down a steep, paved hill (leading to the Coast Guard Ship Dock) when, quite suddenly, my brake-shoe broke.  Before I knew it, my bike and I were doing (what had to have looked like) wonderful somersaults down the concrete ramp.  When I woke up, I was looking up at a guy in a Coast Guard uniform, asking me if I’m okay.

Ever since then, I’ve lived in pain.

Related specifically to that incident, the resulting pain has been in my hips and especially my knees.

Changes in temp, humidity, etc, would cause the pain to intensify and ebb…but never disappear.

Then, not long after joining the Air Force, I was doing onsite maneuvers (in a forest) for Military Police training.  As part of this, one of the exercises we would do would be to start (as a squad) in a tight group, rifles in hand, and then (on command) we would spread out as quickly as possible. We would keep running until we heard the Training Instructor yell “Hit it!”  When we heard this bellow, we were all supposed to hit the ground and get into a defensive position as quickly as possible.  However, I was one of the unlucky ones.  The area I was running through was riddled with rocks.  So, when I heard “Hit it!”, I dropped to the ground and both my knees slammed into those insidious stones, causing me to curl up like a little baby when the pain shot through both my legs. The military being what it was, my Training Instructor (TI) screams, “Since Jackson can’t seem to get it right, we’re going to do it again!”  So, my squad (now VERY pissed at me) bunched back up and waited for the signal to start running in our designated directions…again.  And, like before, MY designated direction was through the minefield of rocks; and, like before, when the TI screamed “Hit it!”, each of my knees dropped perfectly onto the sharpest, most cruel rocks in all of South Texas.  (Yes!  Rocks can be cruel!).  This time, though, I did my best to avoid the whole ‘curling into a ball and crying’ thing.  I did my best to swallow the pain and assumed my ready position as quickly as I could.  Then I held my breath and waited — fearing that the TI would curse my name again and make our squad do it all over…again.  Thankfully, however, I heard nothing for several minutes.  We all held our positions until the TI called for us to regroup, and then the next squad took their turn.

Needless to say, my experience on the military training field that day did nothing positive for my already embattled knees.  And so, the pain I’d already been feeling daily for the last 3 years had nearly doubled in intensity – and has (for the most part) remained that way ever since.

Then, when you add 40 years of martial arts training on top of that, as well as a collection of random goofs on my part, well…it’s safe to say that there has not been a waking hour in the last 4 decades where pain was absent from my life.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I don’t say all of this to whine or to make you feel sorry for me.  I’m trying to lay the groundwork for my next point.

I HATE taking prescribed medication.  I saw what it did to my mother, and watching her slowly degrade and eventually pass away FAR too early in her life – due to an evil doctor who over-medicated her – has served to make me distrust any prescribed medication.

That said…

In my early 20’s, managing the pain seemed almost hopeless.  So, I began taking over-the-counter pain killers – because, well, they’re over-the-counter, so they MUST be okay for you, right?  I tried every pain med available: Doan’s Pills (remember those?), Aspirin, Tylenol, and so on.  Eventually, I found Bayer Migraine Tablets (heretofore known as BMTs).  Something about the mixture of caffeine, aspirin and acetaminophen served to dull the constant pain, turning it (instead) into an ever-present, intense ache.  Although there were still days that curled me into a ball, the BMTs served to make most days tolerable.

About a year ago (after decades of taking BMTs)… I had just fixed my record player and was trying it out by playing some of my old albums.  One of my favorites is Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young singing Live.  In it, Neil Young sings “Needle and the Damage Done”.  I’ve heard the song countless times, but (for whatever reason) that time I actually heard the lyrics — and (for whatever reason) I suddenly saw the correlation between the drug use in that song and my pain killer consumption.

Wow!  Talk about Wake-Up-Moment!!

How was my “legal” usage of pain killers any different than the drug usage in the song?  The impact was exactly the same.

That scared me.  That scared me a LOT!

So, about 10 months ago, I reduced my consumption of BMTs from about 10 a day to (usually) only 2 a week.  The goal is “No More BMTs!!”  I’m almost there.  I’m replacing them with exercise, a MUCH better eye on my diet, and regular stretching.  Is the pain gone?  No.  Is it tolerable?  Yes.  And – without BMTs.

Sadly, the research I’ve done in the last 10 months leads me to believe that my long-term usage of BMTs has likely done irreversible damage to my body (probably my liver and kidneys).  I can’t do anything about that now.

I just pray that my realization will serve as a strong example to you of what NOT do to.  Just cause a med is over-the-counter does NOT mean it is safe.  Especially when relied upon to feel “normal” (or, in my case, as near-normal as possible).

Don’t do it!

Find a holistic method of dealing with physical pain; one that address the actual cause(s) of the pain – NOT the pain itself.