Graduating Not Graduation

The word graduation seems so final. I prefer the term…graduating. Last weekend we spent two hours crowded 100 bleachers high in a high school gym watching Alex’s brother graduate from high school. I carefully held my Starbucks Venti 6 shot Americano in my quivering hands in fear that it would find a resting place on the head of the gentleman in front of me. If that happened, ssurely, he would become unnerved, as would his wife and mother, stirring parents and friends of graduates alike until all of us went tumbling down the bleachers ending the “perfect” graduation ceremony. Needless to say, I was quite delighted when my coffee cup was empty and I could set it quietly down on the metal step in front of me.

As I sat there, high above all of the action, I realized I actually kind of like high school graduations. The smell of eagerness and passion filled the air as well as the excitement of the last summer before adulthood. But my mind has a strange way of wavering back and forth between romantic remembrance and somber depression. Quickly, I found myself becoming quite sad realizing it had been 22 years since I myself graduated from high school. What had I achieved? Was I the person I thought I would become? Had I sold out my dreams? All of these questions went through my head as I watched this frail, young girl walk up to the podium. She seemed filled with awe and innocence, until she stated that if essays and all night studying were the best years of her life, she was hoping for better days. I laughed, almost too heartily, and realized she was right.

We spend so much time reiterating the fact that high school is the “best years of our lives”. Bull-shit! Sure I had some fun times and I wouldn’t trade them in for anything, but high school was dreadful too. If that’s the best it gets, sign me up for the grave. As I listened to her promote a life of passionate living and a hope for better days and fulfilling their dreams I realized I was pretty damn lucky. Today, I live my life in the exact manner she suggested. Not too shabby for 39 years and three hundred and fifty some days old.

But its the truth. I run a successful private practice and am blessed to say I only work with clients I adore. I own my own house. I never want for any food or practical desire. I’m married and in a seemingly happy relationship, although he could snore a little less during the night. But he still gives me butterflies when he walks in the room and laughs at my jokes even though they’re probably not funny. We run a successful website interviewing our favorite celebrities, a dream I never would have thought would have become real if I hadn’t just put pen to paper. I’m even in the process of finalizing one book of fiction and beginning a self-finding, not self-help, book. I have friends that care deeply about me…not 20, but a few and those are the ones that really matter. I eat ice cream once a week. I sit in the grass and watch the puppies play. I still get excited by lightening bugs. And I know that life will only get better from here, because I’ve dealt with worse and the worst isn’t even really that bad. Nope, the fact is I’m pretty damn blessed.

Which brings me back to my original thought. I don’t like the word graduation. Its too final. And the reality is we never reach a point of graduation because we’re always graduating to the next best thing. Once we stop and think we’ve had the best we’re ever going to have then the game is over. I’m not ready for the game to be over. I want to keep on swinging late into the night, while the concessions stands close down and the dogs run home for dinner and we’re all talking about having a sleepover and taking a night swim. I think, maybe, we never really grow up. Maybe, age is just a number. Maybe…we never graduate.

I turn 40 in almost exactly two weeks. A year ago I didn’t really think it would bother me, but the closer I get, it bothers me a lot. Maybe not for the reasons you would think, like wrinkles or the cost of living. I don’t worry about those things because there isn’t a whole hell of a lot I can do about them with the exception of Botox and loans. The reason I don’t like getting older, and turning 40 is a significant sign of this, is that I’m not ready for it to be over yet. I’m not ready to grow up. I like being a kid. In fact…I always will be.

That being said, I’ve made a few decisions this week. This blog is changing dear readers. No longer will this be a work related blog. Starting on my 40th birthday, I’ll be writing a bit of childish wisdom I learn every day for the entire year I am 40. This will coincide with my YouTube project I am starting which will be my uploading a video every day for the entire year I am 40(if you’re interested in my YouTube channel the button is on the right top). I will publish a book this year and I will accomplish everything on my wish list, which will be part of this project. So, consider this my senior year. Join me, follow me and enjoy…because we’re on borrowed time as it is…

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I Lost 10 Pounds in 1 Day…Weight Loss Challenge Day 2

In this picture above I am almost 10 pounds heavier than my goal weight…but I think I still look good. Therefore, I’ve realized that it isn’t so much about what I weigh as much as it is about how I feel. I think I’ve decided to call my journey, Passport to Beautiful, in reference to my passport picture from several years ago that I showed in my video yesterday. If you didn’t watch my video yesterday, please watch it here so you can hear about my self challenge So Fat Weight Loss Challenge: Day 1.

Yesterday was hard. Really hard. Although I’ve known it for several years I didn’t realize fully until yesterday how strong my food addiction has become. Being a recovering alcoholic and addict for 17+ years I realized I’m going to attack this the same way I attacked my other addictions in the early days.

Your comments and messages have been so encouraging and inspiring so please keep them coming! And please join me on my journey. Watch today’s video: Lost 10 Pounds in 1 Day and keep the video comments coming as well. In fact…leave me some video responses and join in my journey.

As I said earlier, yesterday was tough as hell for me and I craved food all day long. But today…I feel great. So please watch the video, share it with people and hear about the struggles I went through on Day 1.

I love assignments, especially creative assignments. So…tonight I’m going to make a Passport to Beautiful, a traveling vision board of what I want to look like and what I encompass as beautiful. To me, beauty isn’t just about how you look in a bathing suit or if people envy your body at the gym. To me, beauty is in the laughter you share with others, the dreams you press yourself to achieve, the kind attitude you have in everything you do, having gratitude for everything in your life and the ability to love yourself. Once I’ve overcome my initial weight loss struggles, I will get just as honest about those things I need to change in my life so that I can eventually live the most beautiful life possible. (I don’t have much to complain about…my life is pretty damn good already!) Because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

And thanks for all of the suggestions for the movie Forks Over Knives…I plan to watch it tonight!

So Fat Weight Loss Challenge! Day 1

I am so tired of being fat. Fat, fat, fat. I will be 40 this summer and I want to look the best I’ve ever looked! I help people every day achieve their dreams and get over their problems but I can’t seem to beat the one thing that brings me down the most. So, I’ve decided, after having seen the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead(which you can watch on Netflix or visit there website to learn more), to begin a juicing reboot for 10 days and then work into a vegetarian diet. Every day I will be writing on here and making videos to update my progress. I’m asking for help in my journey as well as hoping some people might join me. I don’t care if you have the same plan as me as long as your plan is for the well being of your health, not just a diet because lets be honest…diets don’t work! I plan to be ruthlessly honest about my journey, including my struggles, my weight and what things I hate about making these changes. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping and praying…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Please leave me comments…offer me suggestions, or whatever and maybe together we can make a change!

The New Rules…Rules #1, #2 and #3

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Several years ago, there was a book titled, “If Life Were a Game, These are the Rules”, by Cherie Carter-Scott. I have used this book with my clients in therapy ever since I laid my hands on it. While I believe in the small rules she has applied, I think Dr. Carter-Scott, self proclaimed “original coach-trainer”, needs to update these rules just a bit.

Lately, I have been swamped with clients who feel stuck and are feeling completely unable to move forward in their lives. Since I’m a therapist who uses a lot of my own life experience, I have shared many of my stories, but they continue to feel stuck. Tonight, one of my clients contacted me and stated that she believed that no amount of therapy will allow her to change and she feels as if she will be stuck forever. At first this made me a little sad, but quickly I realized, she doesn’t know the rules. And then I began thinking about Dr. Carter-Scott’s rules and realized, they just wouldn’t work with this client. In fact, they wouldn’t work with a lot of my clients. And what I realized was that I must go back to where I started in my own self discovery and identify the rules, as they were, and explain them in my own words.

First things first, let’s use the word rules to define our…hmmmm…how about Voyage! Yes, yes…rules to a successful Voyage!

Part one of any journey is Preparation. So Rules 1, 2 and 3 center around preparation.
Rule #1…Identify your destination. Most people wouldn’t pack a bag, save money and get ready for a trip without having a destination in mind. Sure, the idea of just getting into our cars and taking off is appealing, but isn’t that really just running away? And I don’t think the solution to our life problems is running away. So first, we must come up with a destination. What do we want our lives to look like? Be creative. Be original. Dream big! You only have one life, this is it! Write it down, use descriptive words. Draw pictures, diagrams. And maybe, just maybe, you need to be a little bit realistic. Sometimes, that is where therapy is helpful. In the movie, “The Miss Firecracker Contest”, it is a sad moment when Alfre Woodard realizes that the Elysian Fields where people can eat all of the ambrosia they want does not really exist, but is fictional. So, she decides she must go elsewhere. But in reality, what is she REALLY after? A place of peace, harmony and love. Maybe your dream is to be a movie star, to be rid of your addictions or to have a boyfriend. No matter what your destination, be specific. Who do you want to be? Define your life vision!

Rule #2…Start packing. For this voyage you are about to embark upon, what will you need? If you were going to Siberia, would you need warm sweaters or shorts and sandals. Will you need a passport to get you into certain ports. Will you need cash, credit cards, what things will help you with your journey? Just the same as any other trip, you must be prepared to open yourself to anything that will come along the way. That means opening yourself up to the voyage that is about to begin. By identifying the points in your past that might be pertinent to your future goals, but also, keeping your eye on your destination. Make a list of all of the things that might be obstacles along the way, and also those supportive devices that might help you be successful on your voyage. Who could you call in times when you need assistance? Any emergency numbers in case you get a flat tire? Make sure you are truly prepared to leave.

And then…it is time.

Rule #3…Open the Door to your Future…Take off on your VOYAGE! It’s time to go, but like on any trip, once you walk out of the door and board that plane, boat or car for a road trip, you don’t turn around and change your mind, you just…keep…going! You must trust the process of your voyage! I have worked with so many clients who come two or three times to therapy, not trusting the process, constantly questioning their journey. How much more they would have received had they been open to the process instead of constantly questioning the voyage. How many people truly enjoy a trip to Mexico if the entire time they are sitting on the beach they are questioning if they can really afford it or what they should be doing at home. If that is the case, pack your bags, return home and live that life. You only have one life to live and if that’s what you want then you should be focused on daily rituals instead of making changes. Which is where I will talk about two subtle rules to the rules…

Crown Rules!!!! IN ALL THINGS THERE MUST BE GRATITUDE AND SIMPLICITY!!!! Without these two crown rules, the Voyage will be pointless and you will lose sight of your destination.

Your destination IS reachable! You must believe this. Above everyone else, YOU must believe this. It doesn’t matter who else believes you or what they say or don’t say, YOU must believe you can have everything you deserve! If you don’t believe this…the voyage is pointless. Sit at home, watch family videos of other people’s travels and wish you could pack that bag. And maybe someday, you will.

This summer I was at the State Fair with Alex and our two friends. We witnessed a mother cow being extremely protective of her five-hour old calf. Even though she stood in front of him the entire time, he continued to fight to get around her to look at us and see what the world had to offer him. We all start off that innocent and wide-eyed, but somewhere along the way, we lose sight of what we can achieve and we allow our dreams to fade into the mist. I used to tell my adolescent clients that the only difference between me and Tom Cruise, besides the obvious, was that he showed up for the audition! We must have this attitude to move forward. My life was once clogged full of alcohol, drugs, chaos and desperation. I chose to move on. I picked a different destination and prepared for a successful voyage.

Tonight, my friend Lis celebrated six years of sobriety. For a 23 year old young lady, that is an amazing feat! We lost our mother’s
within two years of each other. Constantly when one of us gets down, the other one reminds us that our mother’s do not have the luxury anymore to bitch and complain about their lives and that, as my mother used to say, you can sleep when you’re dead. The time is now! Pick your destination! Be as wide-eyed as that young calf and see the world as full of possibilities as a field of clover!

Because, we’re on borrowed time as it is!

The Forgotten Soldier…

On the seashore
People ask me all the time about my dad. I think because I write so much about my mother, most people just assume I don’t have much a relationship with my dad, but that’s just not the case. In fact, I think I have a more normal relationship with my dad than I ever had with my mother. Well, as normal as a relationship one can have when you’re a gay, recovering alcoholic/addict, only child. But he’s done his best, and really, what more can you ask for.

Several years ago, my dad and I went through a period of misunderstanding. He was an awesome dad when I was a little kid up through high school. My dad was my chief enabler. Buying me cars, getting me out of jail, paying for attorneys, college, apartments, vacations and treatments. During our time of misunderstanding, I worked with my sponsor on wanting a relationship with my dad where he would just call me up to talk, or invite me out to lunch. My sponsor at the time asked me to explain my dad’s relationship with his own father. “Did he have one? I mean…did he really have one? Because we can’t assume your dad has a road map for what that relationship you’re wanting looks like.” And he was right. But I think I allowed myself to become angry with my father for not doing all of the work, to which my sponsor asked, “what does your dad say when you ask him for that kind of relationship?” And that was the joke, because I had never asked for any kind of relationship. I had never set boundaries or told him what I wanted. And as most of us know, resentments are unfulfilled expectations.

So he and I worked on things, and they’re better. And I consider my dad and I very close. Especially when I need him to help me with anything medical, anything pertaining to my car or how to set up an IRA. My father is my forgotten soldier, always out at war, walking the fields for me, while I’m back at home, resting comfortably on my couch. I always feel a little safer just knowing he’s out there. And I think we all have forgotten soldiers out there, who make us feel safer, just knowing there around.

And so really, I don’t write much about him, because my dad is kind of a private person, unlike myself, and he is also a constant in my life. I also think it is much easier to write about people once they’re gone. If I knew my mother was reading over my shoulder half of the things I wrote, they would never make it to the page. She just wouldn’t have liked being exposed, no matter how much she was helping someone with her story. She never quite understood that in all her wisdom.

But maybe it’s time for me to give that soldier a badge of honor. Thanks dad; for everything. For cars and trips and treatment. For memories of skiing and laughter driving fast in your car. For a few drinks too many, and understanding now that I can’t have any. For my other mother, Debbie, more mother than step than anyone could ask for in a woman. For acceptance and tolerance, not in my being gay or being an addict, but in being crazy, demanding and overbearing. Thanks for all of it. A long, long time ago, driving back to your house one day, you apologized to me for leaving me alone with my mother. Well, thank you. For all of those times I was allowed to have with her. You have been released. Thank you for integrity and honesty, both qualities I learned from you because they were not inherent. But most of all, above all else…thank you for your humor. It has been God’s quiet reprieve from all that is dangerous and terrifying in this world to me. It is what most notice first about me, except from your wonderfully, azure eyes which women and men alike stare into daily. Your humor, although sometimes painful growing up, has been your greatest gift. Thank you for all of it…I love you!

When I was a little kid, my dad would drive his old Porsche up towards our sailboat in Michigan, 90 miles an hour in a fifty, fleeing the cops, cranking the music loud. I will always remember one of his favorites because he always warned it would us one day. And maybe, although I hate to admit the truth, he was right as he’s been so many times before…now, as I watch Harry Chapin sing “Cat’s in the Cradle” live, I’m reminded, like my mother has become famous for saying, we’re on borrowed time as it is…

Home…

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When my mom was alive, she constantly invited me and my friends over to her house, wanting us to watch scary movies, play games and eat a home cooked meal. Rarely, if ever, did we take her up on her offer. Weekly I would go over and visit, sitting for long hours in her living room, having “dangling conversation”, over strong coffee to the backdrop of Bob Dylan or Neil Young. Typically our conversations would range from the art of tea in oriental literature to the importance of a woman in the Supreme Court or our differences and similarities in our opinions about addiction and recovery. Usually only two times a year would my friends and I go over and hang out, eating food and listening to music; her “Come As You Aren’t” party on Halloween and the night of The Academy Awards, where she would wear a silver, sweater set and black jeans with a name tag that said “Sharon Stone”. But we never played games. And we never watched scary movies. And during the almost 15 years that she lived there, I never stayed over night and had a slumber party. Not once. And while I’m not someone who believes much in regrets, because I prefer to look at missed opportunities as learning experiences, I still wish I had indulged her wishes…at least once.

Alex and I recently started a new tradition. We live a pretty social life, both having busy careers as well as running a social blog, but Sundays are Free Dinner night at our house. Every week we cook a different meal, complete with breads and deserts for our friends who show up, and the night is never complete without hours of playing the Wii as well as all of us sitting around on the floor, candles and fireplace burning, watching our television shows. Last week we made a huge pot of chili, garlic bread, corn muffins and cookies. This week we made home made pizzas, breadsticks and apple and blueberry muffins. Alex and his friends drank beer and I made a pot of coffee and had apple cider, because it’s fall. Earlier, when Alex and I were at the grocery store, planning the dinner, he placed the groceries in paper instead of plastic bags. “Paper bags always remind me of the fall.” He said smiling at me. Awwww…October love!

And while I was cleaning the house today, the same house my mom lived in for almost 15 years, mulled spices roasting on the stove, candles lighting every corner, fire blazing, windows open wide whistling autumn wisdom into our hearts, the puppies chasing each other across the floor, falling over their new found paws, I was reminded of those calls I used to receive. “Hey Pete. Do you want to have some of your friends over tonight and we could watch a movie and play a game and maybe I’ll make chili and raw apple muffins.” But I always had better things to do, because of course…there was always so much time left. On my mom’s last birthday, she was upset because she didn’t get a birthday cake. I remember acting irritated and explaining that it was just a cake and that she would have many more birthdays. She didn’t. And we don’t really have all that much time, do we?

It’s in the hours…the minutes…the seconds. And even as I write this, as Alex and our friends Demi and Nneka are rolling in laughter while playing Mario Party on Wii, I’m again reminded of those calls and that these Free Dinner Sundays have somehow turned into a tribute for my mother. Or at least, a reminder to build a home, a nest, where our bed of white, crisp sheets is tightly made, three pillows deep, and candles always burn, and food is bountiful, and pups chase and love laughs on the scent, on the sound on the sighs, of our friends, our family and Alex and I. Together. Home.

And memories are powerful business. They are the foundation for what we want in our life, whether we realize it or not. Tonight, I was mixing the batter for the blueberry muffins and Demi, whose mother recently died of breast cancer, our stories being almost eerily similar, told me that it reminded him of being little when his mother would make him blueberry muffins. So maybe in the batter there is more than just eggs, milk and flour…but also a few Saturday morning a long time ago when Demi was under three feet and his mom was still alive. And I get it. Because I lost the recipe for my mom’s raw apple muffins. But I haven’t forgotten. And I’ll try my new recipe. Because life is about blending the old and the new, and remembering that for every lost opportunity, there is a new memory waiting to happen. And it’s time…

Because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Ghosts of the Patio…

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I sat outside, drinking some Pumpkin Spice coffee, talking to my friend Kathy on the phone, as a thunderstorm blew already burnt-orange leaves across my driveway. It’s hard to believe that somewhere in the last few weeks, summer has danced away into the night and “The Something Wicked This Way Comes” way of autumn has brought mums to the front porches of my neighbors and thoughts of Halloween into the eyes of the children waiting for their school buses. And in a way, I’m ready for fall. But with each passing day, I feel more and more that I’m really and truly, as my mother was fond of saying, on borrowed time.

Tonight, as I was editing a chapter of my book, I put “To Kill a Mockingbird” on in the background, a comforting ritual which plays like a scrapbook soundtrack to my childhood. As the movie begins, Scout announces that during that summer, the days were 24 hours long…but seemed longer. And that is exactly how I feel today. And yet…I still can’t fit everything I want to do into my long day. Between seeing clients, running a social blog with Alex, running this blog, writing my book, taking naps, reading a few books a week, spending time with friends and catering to our two new puppies…there just never seems like enough time and I always have more things I want to do. Like getting a new library card at the Nora Library branch where I used to go as a child. Or make a list of all of the things I want to do before I die. Or go see about five movies. Or write a letter to my kind 80, year old neighbor lady who rocks away her days on her back porch, watching the days slowly turn.

On the phone with my friend Kathy, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy, she told me that she feels like she needs to slow down. “So why don’t you?” I asked her. “I don’t want to.” She said, matter of factly. And in some sense, she probably feels that she is on borrowed time as well. But aren’t we all? Every day I read two meditation books and my “Words of Wisdom” book while drinking my morning coffee to keep me centered. I also throw in some pulp fiction of Dan Brown or John Grisham just to even it out! This morning in my wisdom book, one of the phrases shot waves across my skin; “Time is not for sale”. Ahhhh…how true. And just like Kathy, I don’t want to slow down either.

But last night, Alex and I made a chili dinner, complete with garlic bread and corn muffins gone completely gone. Two of our closest friends came over and we watched tv and played video games late into the night. One of our friends, Stacy, sat at the computer while we were waiting on the corn bread and read this blog. Afterwards, she and I went out on the front porch to smoke a cigarette and she asked me how my mom died. For several minutes, I retold the story, crying as I always do when I explain how the last few minutes before my mother passed away were a tribute to years of strong spiritual faith. I looked up and saw tears in Stacy’s eyes. And knowing that she is truly one of the most genuine people I have met in a long time, I looked at her and said, “It would have made my mom so happy to have us all over here, making dinner, playing games and watching tv. She would have loved to have been part of that.”

But life moves fast, faster than I really like to admit these days. It seemed like one day I was wading in the creek behind our house long into the summer evenings, the next I was driving around with my friends in high school, thinking of new ways to sculpt our hair while listening to punk rock, then I was drunk, and then I was sober, and then I was motherless, and then I was in love…and now I’m 37. And I’m still here, dammit! But we all need a place to slow life down a little bit…

And that place for me is on my best friend Tonya’s patio. For years, she and I and several other friends would find ourselves sitting on her patio, rocking and laughing, drinking large fountain sodas, yelling after her redneck dogs, laughing, gossiping, crying, long into the night. And for me, no matter where I am, or who I’m with, there is a solace and a piece of mind I find on that patio. It is where I have made almost all of my most recent life decisions. It is my home and it is my sanctuary. On that patio, my feet up on the fire pit, a cigarette in my hand, chatting a mile a minute to my dearest friend, life…slows…down…

Earlier this summer, Tonya told me she was going to write a short story about all of the people who had visited the patio in the past few years, all of the times we had and all of the stories we had told. Essentially, I think she was saying, “where the hell did everyone go?” And I hadn’t been being a very good friend. I had been whisked away into social night life and as she always says, being “a man about town”. And I needed to slow down. So I found my way back to that patio. And really, it’s not the patio. It’s Tonya. She’s my heartstone. She’s my Emma in “Terms of Endearment”. And as long as she is still here, I’ll always have a patio.

So Kathy was right, it sucks to slow down, because you miss out on a lot, but Tonya was right too, you have to appreciate that which is most important to you. And I think there is a happy medium. I believe there is a patio for all of us, where time stops, laughter and tears fall like juice from a ripe peach and the stars are as bright as summer nights in the country. There must be and I hope I find it soon…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!