Archive for January 2014

Coins

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As I read through what is becoming a considerable backlog of blog posts, I noticed something. I noticed that I felt more than a little derisive towards what Dan, Clark, and I had written over the months. After all, it could easily be said (as I found even myself saying it) that we are overly optimistic Pollyannas, far too determined to make a moral out of everything.

Then again, that’s just one side of the coin.

I’m learning through both my work and my own personal growth that there is power in interpretation. The way we define our experiences determines our reality, and, in turn, how we go about events in the first place.

Cynicism is an easy trap to fall into. It surrounds us from the TV we watch to the conversations we have when we hang out with our friends. But the more we let cynicism determine how we view the world, the easier it becomes to view things through that lens.

Let me give an example. I often see people who come in to services at the end of their rope. People who struggle with chronic illness, or with homelessness, or with the sheer despair that comes from being rudderless in an unforgiving world. In short, people who have every reason to be pessimistic. That pessimism, I find, is infectious, and if I’m not careful, that nagging sense of “why bother” bleeds out of my office and into my personal life.

It is easy to lose hope when things seem hopeless, and to let that hopelessness become not only a barrier, but a lifestyle.

So, the optimism shall continue. Because optimism is valid, just as valid as the pessimism that has become the default. Because optimism is so important, and so overlooked. Maybe you will think we are Pollyannas because of it, and maybe you’ll be right. But if you want to dismiss what we are saying because of this, challenge that thought. Every coin has two sides, and every challenge a chance to define your own reality.

Patience

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Patience, as they say,  is a virtue. And after thirteen e-mails, seven phone calls, and many text messages, my quest to find an apartment in Queens has taught me that it is a virtue I do not possess.

I have been in New York for one week. I have no job, no apartment and I have not exercised once. In my search for an apartment, I have been blown off and lied to, but mostly just ignored. My calls and e-mails are not returned. I find myself going stir crazy in a temporary housing situation.

But what I lock in patience, I make up for with clarity. And it is clarity that has given me the chance to see the silver lining.

I have no apartment and no job, and that is awesome! Not because it is ideal for me to stay in this position of unemployed squatting, but because I could not be in this situation if I had not made the right choices to get out of debt and out of Montana.

I spent six months out of last year working sixty hours a week AND performing full time. I saved money and took a job at a dry cleaners in between gigs. This allowed me to get out of debt, add a role to my resume, pay for my girlfriend’s engagement ring and start writing this blog. Now, I get to stay with my fiancé while I look for new opportunities.

I am healthy and happy and with the woman I love. I am able to write and cook and, yes, get blown off by people on Craig’s list. But, I would never have even got on the flight out here if I hadn’t worked my ass off over the last year and a half.

Things are going to start lining up in a way beyond what I can dream. Am I going to patient while it all works out? Not at all. But, will it be worth this stint in purgatory? Absolutely.

Starving the Beast

Let Them Eat Cake

Last week, one of my favorite podcasts revealed a struggle that I’ve been knocking my head against for years. In this episode, the two hosts discuss what it is to be anxious, and how procrastination can be a result of this anxiety.

This struck a nerve with me because I have a habit of overcomplicating everything. Many people are able to make a decision before working through the details, but I find myself preparing for every possible outcome before I commit to a decision.

Say, for example, I wanted to go to the gym. While many people are able to say “I’m going to the gym”, and then prepare their things, I have to spend half an hour mentally preparing before I’m confident enough to put on my gym shorts. In that half hour, I’m calculating what I should eat after the gym, whether or not I should bring a jacket, what kind of music I should listen to at the gym, what I could be doing instead of working out, whether or not I should be spending money on a gym, and hundreds of other tiny details.

This over-complication accounts for hundreds of hours of my life, and it’s slowly become a monster that devours any decision I leave on the table. Over time, this has led to a feeling of hopelessness.

So now it’s time to starve the beast. Not with a complicated plan, but with times of stillness and peace.

By spending time in silence every morning, I’ll see my thoughts for what they truly are instead of letting them hide in the shadows of distraction. Instead of focusing on the details of going to the gym, I want to focus on how good I’ll feel in a couple hours because I went to the gym. By focusing on an optimistic future, I’m able to find peace with the present details.

I know these steps aren’t going to solve everything, but I’m learning to find peace in progress, no matter how small it may seem.

Theory and Practice

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I’ve never really believed in fate. Things happen when they happen, and I’ve never really put much stock in a celestial pattern behind it all.

But sometimes, like the Rolling Stones said, you get what you need.

I was driving home to see my friends and family for Christmas. Then my alignment failed and I slid off the road and into the median, scraping up the side of my car and leaving me with two front wheels that pointed in two different directions. On its own it wasn’t that bad, except this was the second Christmas in a row that something like this had happened. I was more than a little upset. I doubt many of my clients would’ve recognized me from the colorful language coming out of my mouth that night as I hobbled into the nearest mechanic.

I used a number of coping skills that night to keep my head on my shoulders. Though, in the moment all I felt was brimstone and hell-fire, I finally got a chance to practice what I preach.

I often tell my clients that it is important to practice in the real world what they learn in session. As I am quick to point out, it is easy to talk about using a coping skill. It is another thing entirely to put it into practice. I needed a taste of my own medicine, and the universe obliged, as it tends to do.

It’s easy to tell other people what to do. I often wonder if I have any right to assume the things I know could possibly apply to someone else’s problems. Having gone through this recent ordeal, however, I feel vindicated. I survived using the same tools I teach my clients. An “I told you so” moment if ever I’ve had one.

That, I think is the difference between theory and practice. Anyone can tell you what to do. There’s a special power in doing it yourself first. Maybe that’s the trick.

A Resolution Revolution

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For the last eight years, I have accomplished all of my New Year’s resolutions. The resolutions tended to fall into three categories: something to do with my weight, a project to build, and a list of books to read. I have built trunks out of pine, drawn pictures in charcoal, put on weight or lost a few pounds. I always take pride in crossing twenty to thirty books off my annual reading list, but I take even more pride in crossing off my resolutions.

However, this year is going to be a little different — I don’t have any New Years Resolutions.

I am not going to concern myself with a few items on a list. I could write down “get published” or “be in a film”, but why bother? I am working towards big goals and I don’t think writing them down will make them happen any faster.

Instead, I am going to focus on my heart and my mindset.

I am going to get mentally disciplined and build the focus I need to chase goals that are bigger than any list.  Goals like “loving people fiercely” and “breaking  down mental barriers”, which require concentration and mental clarity. I have to open my heart up to my friends and my collaborators  if I am going to share my passion. And keeping an open heart will help me love people fiercely and without reservation, which seems like a nice way to live.

My attitude and my passion are far more important than reading twenty novels or building a coffee table out of an old barrel. So this year I say goodbye to the list of goals and embrace the kind of change that will make me a better friend, creator and person not just this year for for years to come.

I’m ditching resolutions and I am becoming resolute.

Welcome to the New Year

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To ring in the New Year, we’d like to thank our readers for a great year of  dialogue and support. All three of us have had great conversations in “real life” based on our posts, and we couldn’t be happier with the passion and energy of our audience.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We look forward to the next  year of sharing our stories.

– Austin, Clark, and Dan