Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hitting the Reset Button

I've never been a particularly observant Jew. When asked, I generally say that I'm not really a practicing Jew--I'm much more of an out-of-practice Jew. I haven't been to synagogue in....well...I don't know how long. Never had a Bar Mitzvah...never learned Hebrew...there's a huge list of the things I don't do. But I remain a part of the Jewish community through other organizations, and I think it's still a very important part of who I am. And when the High Holidays roll around, that's when I feel a little bit closer to my faith.

For those who aren't aware, the High Holidays in Judaism consist of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year, the anniversary of the creation of the world as described in the Torah. It's traditionally a day of sweet foods (apples and honey are the ones that are traditionally eaten), celebration, and family. The following ten days are known as the "Days of Awe", leading into Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During those ten days Jews are instructed to think on their sins of the past year, repent and atone for them. G-d is said to pass judgment on Rosh Hashanah, but the books are kept open until Yom Kippur and we have that opportunity to get our names inscribed in the Book of Life. When the shofar blows at the end of Yom Kippur, our fates are sealed for the coming year. I think of it as the opportunity for Jews to hit the reset button if they need--to take a deep breath and start fresh. Yom Kippur is also a fasting holiday--no food or drink may be consumed from sunset to sunset (Jewish days are considered to begin at sunset and end at sunset--as is written in Genesis 1, "And there was evening, and there was morning, one day.").

All that background to say that Yom Kippur tends to be the holiday that I feel most strongly about. I've fasted on the holiday for a number of years now. I can't say that I know exactly why I do it when I don't follow numerous other traditions, but it holds importance for me.

Lack of food and drink for a day is interesting on multiple levels. It's a test in self-control, which I can proudly pass. I'm generally cranky, tired, and often have a headache by the end of the fast, but I've also accomplished a few other things in that time period. Distractions are important when the main thing you're thinking about is how many hours until you can eat again!

The fast is consistently a reminder of how good I have it. Every year, I make a donation to a food shelf shortly after the fast. I know that I'm lucky to be able to have all the food I have. Going hungry for a day isn't much, but it is a brief glimpse into what other people have to deal with on a regular basis. Buying a little extra food and making a donation is a small thing to me, but I know it can be big to someone else.

I also try and take that time to follow tradition and do a little "reset" on my life. It's a time to measure my strengths and weaknesses, look at the promises I've made versus the promises I've kept, and figure out what I can do to be a better man in the future. I'm very critical and realize that I have a long way to go. But I think that it's good to do. "The unevaluated life is not worth living" has always been a phrase that strikes home with me. The over-evaluated life is trouble, I try to limit my evaluation to High Holiday time (it doesn't always work--but I try!).

I also take it as a time to see whether I'm enjoying my life and what I can do to make it more enjoyable. I find that I get distracted by small problems easily, and I can lose track of those things that I can do to keep myself healthy and happy. I hit the reset button on my life again for the year 5771, I hope (among other things) to be in better communication with friends, do more writing, get more exercise, and have more opportunities to improve myself as a person and to help those around me improve their lives.

L'shana tova (a good year) to all of you.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


"Spark" is a term that I hear often in relation to dating. In my experience, it's been used many times in relation to why I'm not getting a second date. As in: "You're a nice guy, but I just didn't feel a spark. We can be friends, but I don't think we should go out again."

I've certainly felt many sparks on dates--in relationships that have worked (well, as much as they can for a guy who's in his 30s and single) and just as often in relationships that I can look back and see were doomed from the outset. The younger romantic in me saw them as sparks of love. The older, more experienced (and perhaps more cynical) dater in me tends to attribute the spark to lust, something that can fade very quickly.

A single female friend explained to me that a woman knows within the first fifteen minutes whether their date has the potential to go beyond friendship. If that spark isn't there immediately, it's not going to be there, she said. If it's there, then it's all systems go and you give it a shot.

Sparks, fireworks, stomach fluttering when she walks into the room--all of them are wonderful sensations. But they don't hold up a relationship. In my limited experience with long-term dating, you just don't maintain those sensations constantly. In a good relationship, I think they still happen, but it's certainly not something that you can depend upon to keep a relationship functional. There are cases where I fully understand knowing immediately if it's not going to work out with someone. But I've had dates that started poorly spark somewhere along the way. I've had cases where I liked someone and asked them for a second date despite the lack of spark, and the spark came later. If it's borderline--someone you like and get along with but aren't sure if there's anything more there, eliminating them as a possibility for the rest of your life based on 15 minutes seems like an odd choice.

Getting a single guy's opinion on dating may not be worth the bandwidth that the opinion is using. But that's the wonderful thing about blogs--the bandwidth is free (for me). :-) Don't get me wrong. I like sparks--I want sparks! But I don't think I can base a relationship's future solely on their existence or lack thereof. I don't think that sparks always develop immediately. Not to mention that it takes far more than a spark.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Adventures Postponed

I'm good at making lists. I've got a lot of them. A "To Do" list, a wish list, a bucket list, a "bad habits to break" list...and more. They're not all written down, but they're at least in my head somewhere. Making them is easy. Executing them is more difficult.

One of the lists I've been thinking about recently includes the places I want to travel for some "grand adventures". Among the places within the U.S. that I want to travel are Boston (great historical sites), the coast of Maine, Alaska, Washington State and Oregon. Internationally, I don't think I could go wrong, but I want to get to Great Britain (especially if I can tour the castles), some of the Aztec areas of Mexico, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil....and on...and on...

It's a fair-sized list, but there's nothing out of reach. I've started to wonder what's stopping me, though. Some of it is monetary. I think that's a fair excuse, especially with a new house ( to me). There are still plenty of expenses. But there always will be. I'm comfortable with my life, but there's so much more to see. I think some of the reluctance is due to that complacency and the fear of stepping outside of "the norm" on my own.

There's something to be said for having a travel companion. It's a second set of eyes to check the map, it's someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to split costs with, someone to confirm that you're seeing what you think you're seeing, someone to prove that you were actually there. It's a great comfort to have a familiar person with you in unfamiliar locations.

But at this point, I don't have that travel companion. It's not something I say to elicit pity or seek out volunteers, it's just a statement of fact at this point. And it's an easy excuse to keep myself at home. Even though I dream of a grand adventure, I just haven't gotten the nerve up to just make that decision and go with it. Lots of "if only...", "soon...", and "I'll do it when....", but no firm dates yet. Most of the big trips that I've been on have been with a school or initiated by the family. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't qualify as the grand adventure.

Really...I want to have fewer lists. Shorter lists. I need to do something about it. I need to make a step toward taking that grand adventure.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Out With the New, In With the Old

Habits are a funny thing. You spend tons of time building and developing the good ones, but all that work can be eliminated in no time at all.

Take exercise. I think I've learned that for me, exercise is the key to all my other good habits. When I exercise, I eat a healthier diet. I drink more water. I have more energy and more creativity. It's very straightforward. I know it, I accept it...and yet I find it very difficult to maintain it.

So I bought a 90-day boot camp workout DVD program as a starting point. It's a tough workout, but it's good--it forces me to push myself. I was determined to complete the program, so I focused everything on making sure I got that workout done. About 75 days into the program I tweaked my knee, so I figured I'd take a couple days off and make sure it was 100% before I got going again. Two+ weeks later, I still haven't gotten back to it even though my knee felt better within a week. And of course, the further away from it I get, the tougher it will be to get back to it. So why the heck is it so difficult to get back into it?

A few years ago, I got into running. I pushed myself hard. I ran some serious distances (no marathons, but I did get into double-digit mileage). I lost a much-needed 30 pounds. And things were good. Until I burned myself out, gave up on running, and gained all the weight back.

I know myself pretty well. I need to give myself goals that are going to force me to push myself into doing things I'm not capable of, otherwise I'll get bored and lazy. But if I do the same thing, I seem to get bored and lazy. And if I have to think too hard about tracking which exercises need to be done on which day, I get lazy. And if I overdo any particular exercise, I burn myself out. Which, surprisingly enough, leads to me getting lazy again. Hmmm....I think I sense a pattern developing here....

So. Deep breath. Pop in the DVD. Start over again, but maybe mix it up since it's spring and I live in a beautiful neighborhood. Push myself, but not to the point of burnout (provided I can find that point). Because I know it's the key to getting many other things to fall into place. Provided I can just keep the habit.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

As someone who spends most of his waking hours thinking (and overthinking...then thinking about the fact that he's overthinking), sleep can be a welcome respite once I finally get my brain to wind down for the night. One of the nice things is that generally, while I know I dream regularly, I tend not to remember those dreams once I wake up. Remembering dreams just gives my brain more things work out, and that's the last thing I need. Recently, however, I've been having a greater concentration of dreams that I remember fairly clearly. I think my subconscious is trying to send messages. And then I wake up either trying to rationalize or question what I did in my dream as well as attempt to interpret the messages, which tends to be an exercise in futility at best.

A lot of these dreams are about some of the things I want most in my life, but I have to say: If my subconscious is directing them, it certainly has an odd sense of humor about itself. It seems that it's writing "The Worst-Case Scenario Handbook to Josh's Life".

A dream about jobs:
I had the Monday through Friday job that I've continue to hope for. I was the boss with the office, big desk, the works. It was a proud feeling. My boss called with a big project for myself and my staff, and it needed to be done by the end of the workday. I wrote down the details and prepared to get to it. Life was good. Then I got to know my staff. Utterly incompetent, clueless about what their jobs entailed, and no motivation to work whatsoever. I spent a great deal of the dream madly running around doing their jobs and mine because I knew if I didn't get the project done, I'd be packing up that big desk and leaving the office. And apparently, my staff knew that I'd do the job for them, because they were sitting around watching and making snide comments while I was running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off. At the end of the workday, I sprinted the finished project up to my supervisor's office, where there was a stone door slowly dropping toward the floor. I knew I had to get that project in, so with a burst of speed I dove across the polished floor, slid under the door just moments before it would have crushed me. I jumped to my feet and tossed the packet onto the desk in front of me.

I woke up from this one with my heart racing. Then the questioning of my actions began. Why the heck would I keep this staff? Why the heck wouldn't I at least ask my boss for an extension on the project? Why did I never ask for help? Why am I worrying this much about a dream?

A dream about dating:
I was out on a date with a woman that I could feel a strong attraction for, even though I don't think I ever clearly saw her face. Nothing was ever good enough for her on this date, but I adjusted because I knew that I cared about her. I changed restaurants, changed tables at the restaurant, changed seats at the theater, and sent back the dessert twice because she asked me to. And I did it without a complaint.

Boy, was I mad at myself when I woke up! I scolded myself for a few minutes for not standing up for myself before I reminded myself that it was just a dream.

A dream about family:
I had two beautiful children. I could tell they were mine by physical resemblance. I could feel the incredible love I had for them. I was making them breakfast (which they proceeded to throw around the kitchen), cleaning up after them, taking them to school, coming home, cleaning up after them some more, going shopping for the video games they wanted, setting up special play areas for them, picking them up from school, showing them everything that I'd done for them...and they hated it. Despised it. Trashed the play area, smashed the video games, then went about breaking random things around the house. I couldn't stop them, no matter what I did.

The first thing I demanded to know when I woke up was what kind of woman would abandon me with two children. Getting no answer from my subconscious on that, I moved on to the sadness of having children that just didn't respect their father.

This particular grouping of dreams has me thinking. Is there a particular reason I'm having them now? Is there something I need to address immediately? Is my subconscious just torturing me? They certainly touch on the dark side of the things that I wish for in my life. The dreams may be a good reminder to just be aware and careful with the choices that I make or to be careful what I wish for, which is nice in a (sick, twisted) sense. But I think I'll be ok going back to a stretch of nights where I don't remember what I dreamed once I wake up in the morning.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm Mean...

Sarcasm is something that I think may just be ingrained in my DNA, but it doesn't mean that I don't want to back off a little bit. One of these days, it's going to get me in trouble at work...

The older I get, the less patience I have for brainlessness. If we lose power at the tv station and are broadcasting black, it's certainly an issue. It's my job to monitor what's on air, so at this point I'll be scrambling to fix the problem and someone from the newsroom will inevitably will call up to ask if I know that we're off the air and whether they can get an explanation as to what the problem is. Despite all the things that I want to say, the nastiest I've ever gotten is, "Yes I know we're off the air, and I could work on getting it fixed much more efficiently if I didn't have to answer the phone." That one was enough to get me a slap on the wrist (there was an admission that I was correct conceptually, just a warning to watch what I say). Ah, but to dream of what I could say if there was no threat of repercussion...


Someone that I work with got her hair cut recently. It was a dramatic change, and noticeable to anyone. But she came down with a project that we'd needed a half-hour earlier, saying "Sorry...I was just getting so many compliments on my hair that I couldn't get away." I was a bit annoyed with the vanity, so I decided to bite my lip, take the project from her, and get to work. Later, she came back with another bit of work that needed to be done and spent all her time flipping her hair back and forth, obviously looking for a reaction. I continued to bite my lip (although I think I was starting to taste blood, as hard as I was biting it). She came back a third time, this time bringing down a picture of some celeb with a similar hairstyle, asking how favorably her style compared with the celebrity. I looked up at her with as blank a look as I could find and said, "You look different. Did you change something?" She stormed out, muttering something under her breath and hasn't mentioned it to me since.


I'm going to need to grow facial hair for the summer community theater show that I'm doing, so I'm working on a goatee at the moment in hopes that the costumer will like it and let me go with a facial hair style that I like. It's been going for a little over a week, so it's definitely not filled in but it's quite obviously there, especially since the sides of my face are shaved. Someone in all earnestness asked me, "Are you trying to grow a goatee?" I responded, "No, my 5:00 shadow starts in the middle of my face and spreads toward the sides." That got a laugh and sheepish, "Yeah, that was a stupid question."

I should be a bit more political at work. I should cut the sarcasm back a bit. But sometimes the words are out of my mouth before I can stop them. Fortunately, I've known my far. But I need to make sure, whether or not the sarcasm is part of my DNA, that it tones itself down a bit at times.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tough Word to Say

There are certain words that I have a really tough time saying. For some reason, reaching for the 'c's in "arctic" trips me up at times. "Susceptible" just has too many 's' sounds too close together. But the word "no" seems to give me more trouble than any other.

Most two-year olds that I've met have the word down pat. A lot of teenagers have perfected it when it comes to their parents' wishes. Many politicians have perfected it to the point where they can say it without ever saying the word (provided that you're listening closely). And yet so many times the word reaches my lips, I'm ready to say it, and it just won't come out. It's a two-letter word--how difficult can it be? For me...exceptionally difficult.

There's a fine line between wanting to be there for people and wanting to be liked by people. I toe that line regularly, if not jump over and back (and over and back...and over and back...). I'm a people pleaser. It's a distinction that has its pluses (at least that's what I keep telling myself), but a greater number of minuses. If I'm involved in a group, I want everyone else involved to be having a good time. Which tends to make me try to be extremely active. Which makes event organizers ask me if I'd be interested in helping to organize. Which I have trouble saying no to. Which leaves me with way too many things to do. Which leaves me cranky and wanting to withdraw from everything ( can't be asked to do anything when you don't go anywhere, right?). Which leaves people unhappy with me. Which works against everything I was shooting for initially.

So the goal is to stick with the things where I really have a passion. Right now, that's focused around being a board member for a local community theater. It's a group that I was introduced to six years ago, and I can't see spending my summers any other way, whether I'm on stage or not. I was extremely flattered to be asked to be on the board, and I feel a great sense of reward in the work. And that's so important to me. There are a few other organizations to whom I've given some level of verbal commitment where I don't feel the same level of passion. But since I couldn't say that two-letter word beginning with "n" and ending with "o", I still feel obligated (darn overdeveloped sense of responsibility!). And here's the tricky part: I don't want to disassociate myself from those organizations. All of them are good organizations with good people. And some are organizations where I'd still be willing to take on an occasional role as a leader. But I don't feel strongly enough to take on that mantle on a regular basis.

So it's probably not a matter of a flat-out "no" in many cases. Perhaps more of a "not right now", "perhaps on a limited basis", or "not in a leadership role".

But practicing saying it might not hurt, either. Just in case.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Simply Irrational

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. He asked me for the irrational fear that I'd most like to conquer. I like to think that I have a pretty good mix of the rational and irrational when it comes to fears and would love to conquer all of them, but the answer was easy: my fear of heights. I've walked along the edge of the bluffs overlooking Lake Superior, a long way up, and looked down with no feeling other than awe for the beauty of the landscape. Put me on top of a six-foot ladder, however, and my knees are knocking at a pretty good clip. I think that combining those two scenarios would qualify the fear as irrational.

The next question that he asked was the one that got me thinking, though: What would I do differently if I managed to conquer the fear? The easy answer is that I'd have a much easier time with certain aspects of housework. I wouldn't need a wall nearby to nearly claw my fingernails into every time I tried to change certain light bulbs. I'd change out certain light fixtures myself rather than hiring someone else. But really, would my life change if I eliminated that fear? Frankly, I really had to think hard about the answer because I have no concept of what my life would be like without getting a sense of vertigo when I climb a fire tower or feeling very off-balance working over my head on a ladder.

I wondered about roller coasters. I love the feeling of speed, but I hate the painfully slow climb of the car as it climbs that initial hill before the speed portion begins. It terrifies me to watch the ground slowly creep further and further away. Without the fear, it's possible that I'd enjoy those more.

Skydiving. I might be willing to try that, too. But with a fear of heights, the idea of jumping out of a perfectly functional plane seems wildly ridiculous. No bungee jumping, though. I just don't trust that piece of rubber...

I might take a greater interest in lighting for television and the theater. I've always been very curious about how certain effects are created, but with the inability/extreme unwillingness to go into the light grid, the opportunity to be educated in such things is very limited.

I don't know that I'm motivated to conquer the fear at this point, but I want to keep thinking about my friend's question. I'd like to think that conquering the fear would open a multitude of opportunities. But when I don't necessarily know what I'm missing, I don't necessarily know what I'd want.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Torturing Myself

Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through what I put myself through. Theater auditions, for example. I've been involved with one particular community theater group for the last five summers. They do only one show per year, outdoors, and it's a fun group of people. I worked behind the scenes for a few years, then when my work schedule allowed it, I began auditioning for the shows. This weekend will be my third time auditioning. But no matter how many times I go through it, I find the process to be torturous.

Auditions are obviously a necessity for a community theater director. There isn't an elegant, fair, simple way to narrow a few hundred people down to the necessary cast size but to have them get up, sing, dance, and read. For me, it's an unusual form of torture. I consider myself a decent singer, a decent actor, and (at best) a dancer that needs work. But to get up in front of a panel of people and be judged within a matter of a few mere minutes without my knowing specifically what they're looking's intimidating, frustrating, nerve wracking and, I suppose (in some sick, twisted way) a little bit of fun. It certainly gets the adrenaline going!

In the days leading up to the process, I'm usually a mess. I've thought about the roles I want, I've practiced my music, I've read the synopsis of the show to try and get the right characterization in my mind...which just leads me to waiting. Waiting for audition day. Waiting to get called in for the audition. Waiting for my turn in the audition group. Waiting to see if I get called back. Waiting to see if I get cast. And all that waiting leads to me thinking. And overthinking. Prior to the audition, it gives me all sorts of time to go over and over in my head what I need to do. Afterward, there's time to think about what I could have done better. Picking apart that short audition moment by moment. With my weird work schedule it's my one shot a year at doing a show, so I probably put too much pressure on myself.

The nature of auditions is that I turn all control of my fate over to other people. I'm not good at that. I'm a control freak. So doing this is good for me, right? If I want to be in shows, if I want to get that elusive supporting role that I've been pursuing for years (I don't seek the leading man role for the most part), the only thing to do is put myself out there and see what happens.

The times that I've gotten the call saying that I got cast, it's all worth it. I've yet to get the specific role that I want (it's been chorus roles all the way so far), but I'm getting to be in the show, spending my summers building something with a group of people all aiming for the same goal. If I get cast, I'll have forgotten all about the nerves, anguish, and frustrations leading up to the audition by the time performances roll around.

But all the initial waiting? Definitely torture.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'll deal with the title later...

I consider myself to be a jack of many trades, master of none. But among the talents where I approach mastery, I think my strongest may be procrastination. It's become more than a trade, rather something of a lifestyle for me. I've committed to its practice on an almost daily basis. That practice has helped me get to the point where it's second nature--I can perform it effortlessly at an incredibly high level. My brain is trained to accept the excuses as to why I can't get a particular "to-do" list item done at that moment without question or thought. I've been thinking about seeking a great procrastinator to emulate and talk technique with them, but I keep putting it off.

There are many who claim to have a proficiency in procrastination, but I feel that my breakdown of the two classes of procrastination may give me an edge. This is just an outline of the philosophy. A further breakdown will come at a later date. Maybe.

Simple procrastination or Procrastination 101
This is the most basic of procrastination techniques. A person will replace the undesireable activity that should be accomplished with a leisure activity. TV, internet, video games and reading are among my favorites, but there are hundreds of other activities that could be acceptable within this category. Pure and simple, it's avoidance.

Advanced procrastination or Procrastination 201
To an advanced procrastinator, it isn't necessarily as simple as doing a project or putting it off. At times, there's the need to put off a project, but still feel productive. This is where my "slacking scale" (the name is still under development) comes into play. At the top of the scale is the project that needs to be accomplished. At the bottom of the scale are the elements covered in the simple procrastination section. In between are other projects that need to be done, but are of a smaller scale or a smaller annoyance. But when they're finished, they'll make a person feel as though they've been productive. Each person's scale will vary based on life interests and "to-do" list. But in my life right now, the scale would look something like this:

Josh's Slacking Scale
-Organize the office
-Fix or replace the ceiling fan in the entryway
-Clean out the remaining packed boxes in the mudroom
-Organize the kitchen
-Clean the bathrooms
-Weed the garden
-Move a houseplant into a bigger pot
-Research washers, dryers, furnaces, air conditioners
-Work on theatre board projects
-Write a blog entry
-Read a book
-Play video games
-Watch TV
-Surf the internet

So, I need to organize the office. But I really don't have that much energy. So, I go down the list until I find something above the line that matches my energy level and tackle that project, thereby feeling somewhat productive. Then I can go below the line, and back to basic procrastination technique.

I think it works well, and I know that I've only scratched the surface. In time, I only hope that I can sufficiently procrastinate other things in order to make this system what it deserves to be.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Holding On

I tend to hold onto more things than necessary. There are times I think I take the term "pack rat" to new heights, even after throwing out at least seven large bags of garbage in my move from the apartment to the townhouse. I have over a hundred read e-mails in my mailbox, just in case I may need the information later (I don't know that I've looked at any of them again). I have programs from plays that I attended years ago (one from 1986). Dice from a high school production of "Guys and Dolls". Wooden nickels that I got when I was a camper. Grandpa's old cigar boxes. Book collections from Grandma. Cheap plastic footballs and basketballs from college games. T-shirts from events as far back as college, some of them tattered beyond recognition. Piles of stuff that have sentimental value, but do little but take up space on shelves. And I still have multiple boxes that I haven't unpacked. I can assure you that once I get around to them, the list of items being kept solely for sentimental value will only grow. Someday, I'll need to go through those things and thin them out. Maybe.

There's one item that's been around for a long time that I don't intend to let go. It's just a board with some note cards stuck on it, but it represents a lot to me. As a writer wanna-be, I consider myself a relatively creative individual. I have a fairly decent collection of short stories that I've written, as well as the first draft of a novel that I wrote with the help of a good friend about a dozen years ago. I'm proud of having finished that novel, but I decided not to pursue it any further, as it just wasn't a story that I felt was worthy of publication.

Not too long after finishing, I had the glimmer of an idea for another story. I felt like it had serious potential, but it was incredibly vague. I tried to work on it but couldn't get anywhere, so I set it aside for a while. A few months later, it was still in my head so I came back and wrote a scene or two. Unfortunately, I still couldn't get it to come together as a full-fledged story. So before I banged my head against the desk any more, I decided to set it aside again. Some time later, I began putting together a storyboard in hopes of sparking a more cohesive storyline. I began writing scene ideas on note cards and taping them onto a board that sat next to my desk. There have come to be around 20 scene ideas there, some of which led to fully-written scenes which are safely tucked away somewhere in my hard drive (I hope). It didn't lead me to finishing the story, but I still believe in the idea. I have a new house with a new desk, but the board is still sitting right there in the office.

There were definitely points where I was ready to chuck the whole thing and eliminate all evidence of the concept from my life. Something has always stopped me from doing that, though. I recently came across an interview with one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. He had just put out "The Graveyard Book" at the time, and was talking about the process of writing it. He said that the idea for the story came to him 23 years before the publication of the book. He said that at the time, he realized that he wasn't ready to write it and it's a better book now for setting it aside and waiting for the right time.

I'm not in exactly the same situation, but it was enough to give me that glimmer of hope that I need to continue to let the board sit next to the desk. I turned it around, note cards facing the wall, so I don't obsess about it every time I walk past. But I know it's there, and I know that it will wait until the right time. I hope.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Growing up

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a popular question throughout childhood, through high school, and into college when you have to pick that major that determines the initial direction that your professional life will take. If you'd have asked me that question as a child, the answer would have ranged from professional baseball player to paleontologist to astronomer to ophthalmologist. In high school, I took a turn toward the dramatic. The response would have been an actor or a writer, and perhaps a teacher. In college, my intention was to be a television reporter--at least until I took an internship as a reporter. And now as I pass through my 30s, I've been none of those things (at least not professionally). And I still ask myself what I want to be when I grow up.

Fortunately, I still feel like I have time before I reach that status. It's not that I don't want to grow up, I just don't feel like I've fulfilled the requirements. Somewhere in my mind I've always thought that "real" adults are married, have families and own homes. I guess there's a certain comfort to all of that. My recent townhouse purchase takes care of one piece of the puzzle--I think that only a grownup would be willing (or crazy enough?) to take on a 30-year mortgage. But the dating scene has say the least, so I don't necessarily see the other pieces of the puzzle coming together in the immediate future (but I never completely eliminate the possibility).

Don't get me wrong--my life is good. I don't want to see the kid in me go away, and I don't intend to let it, even if I reach my "real" adult status. I'm pretty content with where I am right now. But I don't think I'm a grownup quite yet.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Facebook Ex Factor

My name is Josh, and I'm a Facebook addict. There. I said it. I feel better. I don't know that it's going to change, but it's nice getting it into the open. I think that Facebook is a wonderful invention. For the most part. Unfortunately, I catch myself checking back way too often if I feel that I've said something witty in my status, just to see if I get reactions. Or to see if my response to someone got a response. It's a little sad, I think...

The major benefit is that it's allowed me the opportunity to re-connect with people from my past that I wouldn't have had the chance to "see" again or don't see very often due to distance (not to mention the people closer geographically that I just don't have time to see). Hometown friends from as far back as kindergarten, extended family, college friends, even pen pals who I've never met in person. Re-connecting with some old friends has been a short back-and-forth conversation, a realization that we've changed and really have nothing in common any more, and no further discussion. Some, however, have been much more lasting. There's something nice about reminiscing with someone, but I can only do it for so long. It's nice to find the people with whom you have a history, but can talk about things other than the past.

Looking at the "suggestions" list on Facebook recently, I came across a name that gave me pause. It was a girlfriend from a number of years ago. Definitely my most serious relationship, and probably the first woman that I dated where I could legitimately use the word "love". The relationship did not end well. I was devastated when it was all over, and it took quite a while to get over her. Looking back at it now, her ending it was best in the long run because I don't think the relationship could have survived based on a number of factors. She's moved on, gotten married (six months after we broke up...not that I hold onto that fact at all), has a child, and I'm mostly happy for her.

Seeing her name again, though, my stomach clenched and I had a feeling of....well...I'm still not sure. Anger? Lingering loving feelings? Flashes of the emotions I had when things ended? Annoyance that she dared come to my territory (hey--I was here first!!)? The feeling passed very quickly, but I do wonder a bit about my initial reaction. I chalk it up to the fact that I'm unfortunately very human, and those types of feelings for someone don't die completely, even at the passing of the years. And fortunately, I have the option to choose not to be her Facebook friend. But there's still the part of me that's curious about her life. I hope deep down it's to re-connect with someone that I obviously cared about and to find out how she's doing--not to check into her life and see if I can find and pick at the flaws since she hurt me. I know which option I want to believe, but I'm honestly not sure. I don't like holding grudges, but I know I allow myself to do it far too often. For the time being, I think avoiding the "add as friend" button is my best option.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What's in a Name?

Willy Shakespeare (I've performed his work--I figure I can call him Willy) made it sound so simple. A rose by any other name would smell as what's the big deal?

For a perfectionist putting himself out on the internet, the process of naming the blog turned far, far, far more complicated than expected. Going in, all I wanted was a name that: had a sense of humor about itself, was not overly pretentious, sounded like something I'd say, wasn't terribly long, was completely original, described my vision for the blog (read: didn't paint me into a corner in terms of content), had a little double meaning, fed the starving children of the world, ended the political sniping in Congress, and could be the title of the inevitable book deal that would come out of the blog. Is that really so much to ask?

The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Even excluding the last three elements of that list. I'd had a title in mind for this blog for quite some time, but when I did an online search, it turned out that it was taken. Not only by a blog, but by a book (not related to one another), so it didn't fit my need for an original title.

I proceeded to hit the thesaurus, trying to piece together synonyms to come up with a title that would express the same meaning with different words. But I was reminded of something that I learned in high school: if I depend on the thesaurus to speak for me, it winds up sounding nothing like me. So it was back to square one.

At that point, I got a solid piece of advice: step away from the title. Don't think about it, don't worry about it for a few days. Instead, I started working on the initial blog entry (what a concept--working on the actual content of the blog?) and let my brain wander for a few days.

I came back to the title search a couple days later, refreshed and ready to get the blog up and running. I came up with a quick four or five names...all of which were already in use in one form or another. I tossed some names around with another friend, but didn't come up with anything that stuck a chord.

And just when I was ready to walk away again, this title just popped into my head. In my mind, it works nicely to describe me. I'm admittedly guilty of focusing on one thing (sometimes to the detriment of all other things in my life), then moving the focus to something completely different...and on and on. Singular in focus, seemingly random in interests at times. And another friend found the double meaning for me: it can describe my dating life and the women I go after. I think I'm mildly insulted. I'm not saying they're wrong, but I'm still deciding if I'm mildly insulted.

Does this title hit every element on my list? Nah. But it feels right. And while not perfect, I can move my singular focus on to the next thing. Thank goodness.

Friday, April 2, 2010

And Away We Go!

This blog has been a long time coming. Seriously.

I’ve always loved writing, but a year or two ago I started getting sidetracked by other things going on in life. So I decided that I was going to start a blog in order to get back to writing. But I got sidetracked. Sometimes it was for healthy aspects of life, sometimes not so much (Nothing illegal, mind you. But sometimes I think that gaming and TV can be just as addictive as any drug). I made excuses, I got lazy, I got involved doing other things, and the blog didn’t happen. I got sidetracked.

I turned 35 last summer. It’s one of those birthdays that has significance solely for the fact that it’s a year that’s a multiple of five. But regardless of the significance, it got me thinking. When I was in college and pictured myself at age 35…well…let’s just say that I live a very different life than what I pictured. Not necessarily bad…just different. But as a result of noticing that disconnect, I started cataloging the things that I want to do to improve my life and accomplish within my life. It’s a significant list. Initially, I didn’t handle it well. It was absolutely overwhelming. And instead of inspiring me to action, it froze me. And when life handed me a few more obstacles early this year, it left me utterly lost.

Within the past couple months, I’ve come to the conclusion that I needed to divide that significant list into two columns: things completely within my control, and things not completely within my control. I found that I could attack column A. And once I realized that it’s impossible to get everything done immediately, I stopped thinking and started doing. Nothing huge, but the small steps are nice. I’m becoming more organized. I’m exercising. I’m involved in groups that I care about. I’m working on some projects I’ve been procrastinating for months or years. And look—I have a blog (naming it was a story in itself, but I’ll save that for another post)!

I can’t say for certain what you’ll see coming up on this page. I can’t say for certain how often you’ll see it. But for me, it’s a small step toward crossing more things off the list. And hopefully, there will be less of me getting sidetracked.