Just Married!

I just got married recently.

It’s not the most conventional marriage. And you’re about to be pretty surprised when I tell you I married myself.

A couple months ago I realized that I had been struggling with depression (see Moustaches and Mental Illness).

Tracy McMillan has a TEDx talk worth listening to where she describes her personal relationship with marriage and her evolving relationship with herself.

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Tracy and I don’t quite have the same story, but she shared an idea about how important it is to build a relationship with yourself so that you’re whole that I really connected with.

It makes perfect sense, right? Totally intuitive, yah?

Well, there was a period of time where I lost myself. I struggled with my identity – who I was and what exactly was I doing. And I was operating with much less than my whole self.

Tracy has a line in this talk that really speaks to the reason why I’m talking about this difficult stuff in such a public way, “The places where you have your biggest challenges in you life are the places where you have the most to give, if you do your inner work.”

Regular, focused, writing was such an important tool to help me do my inner work and it made such a difference in helping me to find the road back to myself. I was reminded what a powerful compass writing can be.

And that’s why I share as I have most recently on Finding My Voice Here. Maybe this helps you think about the relationship you’re having with another or the relationship you’re having with yourself?

Tracy touches on several vows in her talk. And I’ll let you watch the video to hear what she has to say on that, but the big takeaway for me about marrying yourself is that you become able to love in this whole new way. Loving people right where they are, for who they are, just the same way you are loving yourself.

And that’s how I feel today. It’s an incredible feeling to love myself in this way, again. And to be able to share this same love with others. These days, I am sharing the love, as much as I can, wherever and with whomever I am.

I’d like to think that I was married before, but went through a tough spot. For better or for worse, in sickness or in health, I was given another chance. And I came back, a better lover than ever before, eager and excited to share more love with you.

The person you really need to marry | Tracy McMillan | TEDxOlympicBlvdWomen

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I Have Enough Love in My Life, Thanks

“I have enough love in my life.”

Have you ever said that to someone?

Has anyone ever said that to you?

Have you ever heard anyone say that to someone else?

My Dad and I were chatting about this the other day and I’m still thinking about it today.

Many of us seek out, are interested in, get hurt by, have a hard time expressing, perhaps find ourselves regularly thinking about… love.

So why do we so often dismiss it when people genuinely show us that love?

Do we even realize this about ourselves?

Sometimes it’s even done in the smallest of ways in our daily interactions.

Here’s a small example. I know he’s reading and hope he won’t mind since this already started with him anyway. (Update: I checked, he doesn’t.)

My Dad made this comment on my post, All-Timers with Alzheimer’s.

Initial reaction – Dad! Why do you have to write stuff like that on my blog?! There’s no content. No discussion. Nothing useful, interesting, insightful, or productive about your comment.

But what if he was just showing his love?

Now, I’m not saying this is an open-invitation for him to write stuff like that all the time. Because I personally think it’s distracting and could detract from any point I’d like to make in a public forum.

Yes, I’d much rather he share the love in an email to me, or text, or phone call, or next time we see each other in person.

But instead of responding to love with anything but, why not choose to match love with love?

Sure, I could just as easily argue that he should understand me, he should know this is how I feel, and I definitely think we’ve had this conversation before so he should remember!

But the intention was a love-ly one. He’s just trying to share the love and all I have is to share negative energy back?

Maybe he just needs a reminder about why this might not be the ideal way you receive love. Why not a gentle reminder instead of a harsh one?

Wouldn’t you like someone to be gentle with you, especially if you were trying to share your love with them and unknowingly coming up a bit short?

When is your next chance to love on someone else? No need to wait to show reactive love, why not a little proactive love?

Say hello to a stranger. Hug an acquaintance.  Compliment someone on a meaningful exchange – be it someone at work or another regular interaction or exchange.

What’s the worst that could happen?

“Oh, I’m sorry, I have enough love in my life, thanks.”

My bet? That probably won’t happen.

Love,

MCK

—–

P.S. In sharing this post with my Dad before posting, what we realized through our conversation was that he wasn’t trying to comment on the blog at all! He’s not exactly the king of technology, so what he meant to be an email response to me, ended up being an email response that went straight to the comments section of the blog. Whooops! Just another reminder for me that conversations like these beat jumping to conclusions any day.

No image today.

So, about those crates. Also, Socrates

notebook_2014_writing

2014 has been the most uncertain, hardest, intense, and illuminating year of my life. And with a few hours to go, we’re not even done with it yet 😉

I have grown in ways I could not otherwise have imagined or anticipated.

And it’s been the best year of my life.

Some people live their entire lives, never having the opportunity to know themselves.

I felt like I’ve had a pretty good understanding of myself, for awhile.

But the past 19 months, and particularly these last 12 have enabled me to see much more of myself.

I was looking at a lot of surface stuff for far too long. Taking stock in what I thought I saw, rather than what was behind all of that. And asking and answering questions that didn’t matter.

It wasn’t until I started to give myself time and space to think, that I started making progress. And it wasn’t until I started to focus my writing, daily, that the speed at which I progressed increased multi-fold.

When I was in high school, this thing called the internet was all the rage. Thanks to email and AOL IM, my sister and I inadvertently produced more than our fair share of busy signals for people calling our house.

At the time I also started to write on a BBS/message board (hosted by the Section 2 Harrier site, created and moderated by a nice guy named Jon Broderick) that kept (and continues to keep – go Jon!) all cross country / track and field fans in our corner of New York State apprised of important news. It was also a very cool forum where some decided to talk trash. I took it as an opportunity to share ideas and reflect on things I was seeing, and I was exposed to a new way of developing meaningful relationships.

I have given credit for awhile now to email, instant messaging, and the section 2 harrier message board for helping me to develop my writing voice at that time.

The hours I poured into emails and online conversations enabled me to develop my identity and to engage in meaningful conversation with others.

Writing was my outlet to the world.

I finished out high school with a healthy understanding of myself, ready to move forward.

And I continued writing in the early days of college.

Until I slowly turned my priorities elsewhere.

Though a move back to America last year (May 2013) was a natural segue* into a return to regular writing dates. From the beginning, I came down with a serious case of “writer’s block” or was giving into my perfectionist tendencies in those early days back in America.

Maybe I should have accounted for that after a decade away of sharing writing like this with others?

It was then I realized I needed a new space to find my voice. Here, a new blog, seemed a worthy spot to do so.

Not long after my irregular blogging began, during my time at the East-West Center‘s Asia Pacific Leadership Program (APLP) in Honolulu to close out 2013, we all had to put together a portfolio, a collection of mostly written reflections – thoughts about the past, present, and future. It was time to make something with a real timeline, deadline, and commitment. 4 months and 100 pages later, I was working off a bit of momentum.

But 2013 ended and 2014 began in the midst of uncertainty. Uncertainty doesn’t need to be a negative thing, and hindsight is 20/20, but much of my problem was my choosing fear over love.

Sure, it was masked by “uncertainty.” But I was still a bit uneasy about my identity. I was trying to please someone I loved, but how could I please her without communicating, without pleasing myself, and by not even being me – that guy she loved. I was going about it in all the wrong ways.

I knew there was a problem. Actually, I was drowning, but it looked like I was a pretty good swimmer.

I was doing my best to figure “it” out. And I was failing, miserably.

Ultimately it just looked like I was a problem that needed fixing, not there was a problem that we needed to fix.

It takes two to tango, but I’m not sure either of us really knew how, we didn’t really practice, and we had no teacher. I felt very alone. Maybe she did too?

I tried to reach out. But my message must not have gotten through to her. And her messages? Well, I wasn’t getting them either.

Missed messages like ships passing in the night?

I knew I couldn’t solve old problems in the same ways  and I thought I was doing everything that I could. But it wasn’t working so I had to keep trying.

I was lost, but I found trust in my notebook and bic pen. It went far beyond my regular note-taking, by taking notes of deeper thoughts and feelings and fleshing them out until I could better understand whatever was on my mind.

Writing was no longer an outlet to the world, but an inroad into my soul.

Have you visited lately? It’s a pretty deep place.

Terrible one-lines aside, these deep conversations that extended into the depths of my soul, mediated through writing, have been a significant reason why I’ve had an incredible year.

I’m sure it’s not for everyone. And it won’t necessarily help you in the same way it helped me. But at a time when I needed greater clarity, it was the writing that was there for me.

No person, no matter how close they were to me – my parents, my sister, my closest friends – could help me. This one I had to start on my own before I could get back to a place of confidence, a place of greater understanding, a place where I had regained my identity.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to hold yourself back. It harder to realize that you are usually the one doing the holding.

Whether it’s beliefs, behaviors, or certain actions that are self-limiting, we can do a number on ourselves often thinking that if external circumstances would change, things would be better.

How might you make a difference in the lives of those that matter to you by starting with yourself?

When will you set aside some time for a constructive and thoughtful conversation with yourself? Find that time and space to work out your thoughts? To rediscover – perhaps even discover – things about yourself you haven’t seen in awhile (or have never seen)?

What questions are important to think through? What questions should you be asking of yourself? What suggestions might be made?

Be the sounding board that you need the most. But remember, it will only work if you choose to be honest, to lay it all out there, and to lead with love, not fear.

When it comes to the things (or thing) that matters most right now to me, I’m certainly not out of the woods.

But these days I know myself more than ever before.

And, as a result, I’m much better prepared to deal with the uncertainty.

So, goodbye 2014. Thank you for being so good to me.

And 2015, I’m eager to see where we go together.

—–

*So, when segway came up as a misspelled word, I did a little investigating on how to write the word that I know to indicate something related to a transition. Apparently this word is an Italian derivative and thought pronounced “segway” is written “segue.” You can take a look here to see what some have to say about this.

Today’s photo comes from my personal collection – the notebook and the pen that started it all this year.

This notebook actually dates back to my first year at college. I gave up notebooks in favor of recycling wasted computer paper from the libraries to make homemade “notebooks.”

I thought it was about time to make sure this one went to good use. It served me well in the early writing days this year – from ideas to The Oliver Chronicles and beyond.

Ripe for Resolution

you're_a_real_south_carolina_peach

This is not a new year’s resolution. This is just the right time.

As I’ve just gotten my “new endeavor” underway (i.e. my 60-day writing challenge), today I got to thinking about how many new endeavors are actually new.

It’s a little bit embarrassing to say this out loud, but I’ve been “working” on becoming a daily writer for the better part of two years.

I write every day. Many of us write every day.

But it wasn’t until my 21-day writing challenge last month that I made the day-in-day-out commitment to focus my practice.

I wrote every day, twice a day, to someone about something that mattered.

None of it was new, in fact much of it was old stuff. I just chose to look at and approach it in a new way.

It was incredible how it opened me up to parts of myself that I had not reached through regular verbal communication.

And it enabled me to find clarity within myself through the articulation of thoughts and feelings that I have not been able to articulate in a long time, if ever.

So while I don’t think new year’s resolutions work for me, I’m all for resolutions in general.

I do think they work provided the time is right – or ripe – to be resolute about something.

Speaking of peaches – did you know most varieties are only ripe for about 2 weeks?

Could that be just the right amount of time to make some progress on something ripe that matters to you?

2014 has been a hard year. It has also been the best year of my life.

Those 21 November days of writing brought me great clarity in heart and mind.

While I didn’t know exactly where I was going when I started, I was ripe for resolution in that moment.

And, as a result, I started and ended 2014 in radically different mindset.

After a month of digesting those thoughts, I’m eager to see where this 60 day cycle will take me.

But this isn’t only about me. What about you?

What have you been waiting for that’s ripe for resolution?

What have you been hoping will happen next?

And how do you move that mindset from hope to make it happen?

What is that one thing – that one step – you can do or take today to move forward that hope?

Think of where you’ll be in a few days when you take a step each day.

The time is right, so why not start today?

Then continue tomorrow. And we’ll see where we’re at the day after, okay?

Need a hand? Take mine. We can take a walk forward together.

—–

Today’s image is more delicious than usual because when I think of ripe, I think about my favorite fruit.

And I don’t think of apples from New York or oranges from Florida, I think of peaches from South Carolina.

The photo linked me to an interesting episode of All Things Considered on NPR, Sweet Lessons from a South Carolina Peach Professor.

There were too many good quotes from this interview, but I love when Clemson University peach specialist, Desmond Layne advised us, “To pick a perfect peach, obviously you need to pick it off the tree yourself.”

And aside from giving credit for the picture above (courtesy of iStockphoto.com), do listen to those sweet lessons from Desmond Layne. I could practically see him fall down, blown away by the flavor of the Winblo he bit into.

But maybe you’d prefer a visual aid. If so, see below.

Have you had a piece of fruit that dripped off your elbows lately?

60

60

60 is a significant number in time.

For one there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour. These are the basic building blocks for the cycles by which we live our lives.

Moving beyond the basics, 60 years is a significant milestone in China.

Some might say once you’ve hit 60, you’ve done it all. You’ve spun around the zodiac wheel five full times, matching your zodiac animal with each of the terrestrial elements – earth, wood, fire, metal, and water.

In other words, it is both the end to a full cycle and the beginning to the next.

Cycles are about rhythm. Writing too.

It takes discipline and patience to write everyday.

Since I started writing in this Finding My Voice Here (FMVH) format, I haven’t been disciplined or patient.

And today is the day to make a change.

I’d like to say I will write everyday for the whole year. But I haven’t had great success with goals like this in the past.

“You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”

This line attributed to everyone’s old friend Albert Einstein is one of those quotes that gets regularly tossed around. Perhaps for good reason.

It’s time to adopt a new mindset and new strategy on a project I’ve struggled with since coming back to America in May 2013.

But today is a new day.

And the future is not yesterday, last week, last month, or last year.

I have a choice and will have that choice to write, everyday. I can’t wait to see where I get to after my 60 day cycle.

For me, it will be a significant milestone.

Over the last year I experimented a couple times with 21-day exercises.

The first time in the Spring I failed. The second one in November I succeeded.

Discipline is what that took. A clear ranking of priorities. And more time than I expected.

But isn’t that true of anything worth doing?

Seth Godin sings this tune of daily habits and discipline – showing up day after day, working on something that matters, and shipping it! – almost to the point of being a broken record.

But the thing is, no matter how (or how often) he brings it up in conversation, it is never any less true.

Besides, have all of us followed through on making that concentrated day-in-day-out effort on our work we say matters?

Perhaps it’s worth playing on repeat then, just like the song you may be obsessed with in this moment.

What have you been waiting to do that you could start on today?

Here’s to the start of a new cycle – for you, for me, for us.

See you tomorrow.

—–

Today’s photo came attached to a blog post about what it means to be 60.

I’m always amazed to find out where the images I like take me.

Lessons about life, love, and loss from the lips of an angel is not what I was expecting with a sign that looks like it could belong on the side of a road.

But, the result – a few life learnings that might just be worth a gander.

Recommitting to Why I’m Here

Finding My Voice Here started when I chose love over location. After nine years of China – living among hutongs and highrises in Beijing and a countryside community in rural Yunnan – I’m currently spending a bulk of my time in the US and I’ve challenged myself to publish a post a day from now until the end of 2014.

While I’ve stumbled a few times since the first now, I’m lucky that “now” has a flexible definition based on the day you read this. I’m happy to announce that the new now begins today (March 6th). I’m curious where this much concentrated writing might take me. And I hope you’ll join me in the journey.

Before we both go, I wonder what question you might offer today – be it to me or to another – to move a discussion forward on this blog or elsewhere?

Meaning through Movement

Image

Two months to the day of starting this blog, I came to the realization that I had a great run of three posts for the first three days of July with nothing since. Why?

After pushing myself onto the road of daily writing, I quickly derailed. Why?

While I don’t put myself in the category of people who need to be sure of their destination before they begin, I would put myself in the perfectionist category. So, as long as I’m committing myself to do something, it might as well be perfect, no?

Falling back into the desire to produce perfection, I told myself things like, “No one will read if it is not a masterpiece.”

But let’s be honest, aside from a few family and friends I’ve shared the link with, nobody is reading anyways. So what is my problem?

One the one hand, I don’t know exactly where I’m going, and I’m okay with that. On the other hand, I’m somehow trying to control this unknown outcome.

What I need to do is just let the process unfold.

Many of us do this quite a lot. We ask questions of ourselves and the others around us, “Where is this going? What does it mean?”

But how can we find the end goal or the answer when we’re not moving at all? Standing still, pondering the meaning of life, won’t help us get anywhere. And the thing is, we don’t know, we won’t know, and we can’t know, unless we get over ourselves and take action.

At the end of the day, things have meaning because we give them meaning. Questions and their answers are a means to move, to get to a better place, rather than a means to merely acquire knowledge. Because once you have that knowledge, what do you do with it? What meaning will you attach to it? The answer – for better or worse – is up to ourselves.

Today I’ve decided to get over myself, get back on the horse, and start writing again. I will commit to writing each day because finding my voice is about exploration and the continued search for meaning, not perfection before I even start.

—–

Credit for the image above goes to Dan Cassaro, a Young Jerk (http://youngjerks.com/). I originally found this through a google images search “movement” that took me to some work of his featured on FormFiftyFive. Shortly after I found my way to his Tumblr.