The Value of Time Alone

For the past five years I have spent time writing everyday. A lot of that writing happens here on this blog and a lot of it happens in a personal journal I keep on a bookshelf at home. My journal is a small black leather bound notebook I bought for myself a few years back. I’ve since filled two or three of these little notebooks and always purchased the same one.

About a year ago I wrote in my journal that I was concerned that my wife and I were not communicating enough. I wrote down the reasons I thought we didn’t communicate and the places in life we were missing the opportunity to have an intimate conversation.

I remember writing in my journal:

“We sit in front of the TV at dinner and we play on our phones before bed. We don’t try to ignore each other, but after a few shows it’s suddenly time for bed. We check our emails then go to sleep. I wonder what she’s thinking…maybe nothing…I’m pretty much brain dead the whole time. We should talk more.”

After that my wife and I decided to have “No tech” dinners and evenings. Instead we sit around and talk, clean the house together, cook, and eat dinner. Just opening up a couple of hours to communicate with each other made a positive difference in our relationship.

It is interesting how small changes in your daily habits can change your life. All because of little time alone with myself.

The Right Side of History on Torture

I’ve said a lot of things on this blog. Some of which I was dead wrong about and some of which I was right on the money.

I was right about torture and “enhanced interrogation” when I wrote about it three years ago: Every Intellectually Honest American Should Agree: Stop Torture and I think it is worth another read.

Here is a great thread about the latest declassified CIA documents on torture (including the fact that it doesn’t work) on reddit.

The State of the Media

There is a lot going on right now. ISIS, Ebola, Russia, Ferguson, Roits (or protests depending on your view), the militarization of the policy, racism, the list goes on.

Had this been a year or two ago, when I was fired up about politics, I would have a lot to say on the matter. But these days I find myself more and more disinterested in the things that they try to sell us on the television.

I feel like these incidents live and die with each news cycle, with a few twitter hastags, a viral video or two, then they’re gone. Sometimes they come back if the news cycle is slow – other times we never hear another thing about it.

Propaganda, Divide and Conquer

The news is disheartening to me these days. Not because there aren’t interesting things to dissect, but rather because there are too few people actually trying to dissect it. Pretty much everyone takes what they see on TV at face value and regurgitates the standard talking points – dependent upon their perspective political, racial, of social leanings. The truth, more often than not, goes unseen.

I just feel like someone is always pushing an agenda rather than reporting the news. To me, there shouldn’t be such a disparity between MSNBC and Fox News. When did it become acceptable to blatantly support a political party, and moreover, report the news that way? When the media starts pushing an agenda news immediately becomes propaganda – and propaganda is dangerous.

I guess I just want people to at least watch news in that light. With an understanding that everything we see is about an ideological agenda. There is no reporting. All we have now is organizations who are paid to entertain the masses, increase ad revenue, manufacture drama to the highest magnitude possible, and ensure that their listeners have to pick a side.

None of this can be healthy for the country.

I don’t believe in God. Should I attend Church for the benefits?

I am not a religious person. I don’t see any evidence that leads me to believe in God as described in the Bible. There are just too many things that don’t add up, too many things that I would have to consciously ignore, and I can’t do that.

My wife on the other hand enjoys the comforts of religion. I think part of her sees me as arrogant and foolish for ignoring that God exists. She’s no fool. She see’s the holes in the Bible as well as I do, but for her she feels it. My wife is an emotional creature driven by what feels right. She’s sensitive, artistic, and loving – all of this is why I married her. And part of me knows that church, the community, and the comfort would be good for her (and our relationship).

I don’t consider myself an Atheist though. I think to be an Atheist you have to be confident enough to say there is no God. I am not that confident. I admit the possibility of some higher being, a creative force, perhaps intelligent, perhaps (and more likely) something beyond our understanding – beyond out ability as humans to sense or perceive it. If there is a higher power I doubt (s)he has anything to do with our lives and unlike my wife – I don’t find much comfort in the idea (or going to church).

For the last 10 years I have been stubborn about attending church and sometimes about religion itself. When I attend church I see a bunch of hypocrites. I see a bunch of people who “believe” in a God, who has established these strict rules, but doesn’t follow any of them. I hate the idea of cherry-picking the parts of the Bible that are convenient. These are some of the things that bother me.

At Church there is an expectation that I believe and celebrate the God as described in the Bible. I see people around me praising God, raising their arms in the air as if praising the God of Thunder, and I feel like a hypocrite – like an idiot participating in it. I feel like a hypocrite for being in church and to myself for spending time (wasting time?) in a place when I could be doing something more productive.

I also know that focusing too much on your “feelings” is no way to make decisions. The reasonable part of myself knows there are two sides of this Church-equation so I break it down into pros and cons: Should I attend Church?

Pros:

1. This is a good community and support group for my Wife (and me).
2. There are a lot of good people in Church (great networking opportunity).
3. Churches provide many good resources (child care, athletic facilities, community).
4. Being known and liked by a large group could be beneficial politically and financially.

Cons:

1. My wife and child may rely on something that is not real. How will this affect their decision making? Is it healthy?
2. I will have to compromise my beliefs.
3. Church would mean a large time commitment each week.
4. The implications of exposing my family to a largely fictional belief system.

When I examine the costs and benefits of going to Church I find that it would probably be a net benefit to attend. I would gain connections, my wife would have a sense of emotional comfort and moral compass that she craves, there would be numerous social and economic gains, and my family would be surrounded by a group of positive and well connected individuals.

The down side is that I would have to accept that I am going to church for non-religious reasons. I also worry about what I am doing to my family. Is it evil to expose my family to a lie even if that lie is a net positive in their lives? Do the positive result justify the philosophical negatives?

What if I am honest with my daughter and wife? I explain that church is a positive social organization, but they should be critical of the teachings? Can you enjoy the benefits of church and ignore the teachings? Can you separate the fiction from the good lessons? I suppose you can – everyone has read Harry Potter, right?

If I made positive relationships, did good for the community, and used this new resource as an overall benefit to society would I still be an impostor? Would I be a hypocrite? Would I be wrong for doing so?

I guess the problem with being an ideological purist is that it doesn’t leave a lot of room for pragmatism. I’m not an ideological purist (I wouldn’t know which ideology to be pure about), but I’m also not a manipulator or liar. So what should I do?

Cornerstone

As a youngster I remember my great uncle. I still see his face now. Clean shaved with a shadow of beard that he can never fully rid himself. He has deep wrinkles from a calm smile that never totally leaves his face. I remember the sincerity in his voice that always struck me.

“Papa” on my wife’s side of the family was the same type of man. Though he died years before my wife and I became a couple not a holiday goes by that I do not hear fond stories about Papa’s role in their lives.

On Thanksgiving day 2014 -at age 27 and my house full of family – after my mother-in-law and aunt-in-law hugged me and thanked me for “taking care of the family”, my nephews asked how to be successful, and my father-in-law asked for advice – I realized I had become a Cornerstone too.

For me, there are more questions than answers about this journey. About the type of man I want to be. How to do what’s right. What is right anyway? And how to lead.

I think conscious effort is a good first step. Here I am.

Live That Way

At least three times a week I run 5 miles. I live in a historic area of Atlanta, GA so the scenery is quite charming. The path is full of historic homes from the early 1900s and the occasional plantation home – now surrounded by urban development instead of farmland.

My run happens in stages.

For the first mile my brain is disconnected. This is the most congested part of my run. I focus on avoiding traffic, crossing intersections, a train track, and clearing my mind.

Miles 2-5 are where the magic happens. I’m in the zone. My mind drills deep into itself. My thoughts follow through no particular path, create hypothetical situations, and eventually lands in some place I find enjoyable or helpful.

Sometime I relive college wresting matches in painstaking detail. I shoot – take the opponents leg – circle, circle, circle – head in leg, finish the takedown!

Other times I walk through scenarios at work or home. How to treat my family better. How to be successful at work. Always in great detail. I visualize body movements, voice inflection, outcomes, and various alternatives. I see myself sitting behind a desk at work. Moving my arms confidently as I discuss a project. Remember to smile. Listen, head nod, courtesy.

Sometimes I think about my death bed too, but not because I’m afraid of dying. Because I want to be at peace with death when I get there. By thinking about my death bed I’m really contemplating life.

I see myself lying back with oxygen running to my nose. There is always natural sunlight hitting my face because my bed is near a window. In my vision I know my family is there, but I always focus on my face as if I am a camera man staring from the foot of the bed. Maybe the view a small grandchild would have.

In my final moments I close my eyes and smile. I smile.

Two phrases have become quite important to me over the years:

1. On my death bed I want to close my eyes and smile knowing that I have given life everything I have.

2. We are given one life, one chance, we should live that way.

Neither of these ideas are unique or original, but I take them seriously as part of my vision of life and death. Instead of being a cliche’ quote I’ve consciously tried to put these ideas into action. I can’t tell you how many trips I’ve booked immediately following a long run. Or how many times I’ve come home and been a better father or husband.

For me, very little happens by accident. Most things I have been truly successful with have come from hours of deep thought and mental preparation. Long runs or laying in bed at night – just thinking. Then taking those thoughts and putting them to action.

You are given one life, so you should live that way.

The Secret to Happiness

The secret to happiness is simple really. I’ve spent most of… no, all of my life surrounded by perpetually unhappy people. Moist everyone around me in my family seems unhappy. Unhappy to the point that I’ve disassociated myself with most all of them.

In fact, my family is so generally unpleasant and unhappy that I have opted to adopt outsiders as family, like my co-author Atty who I’ve been fishing for a Thanksgiving dinner invite from for a few days now.

I am not an unhappy person. In fact, I’m the opposite- I’m Mega Happy!

It isn’t because I’m rich, it isn’t because I’m super gifted or exceptionally handsome, and it isn’t because I get to party with rock stars or have sex with super-hot chicks all the time (though I do think my wife is pretty foxy, but you catch my drift).

I’m happy because I choose to be. Because I made my mind up that I was going to be so and I am. I am happy because I take action to make myself happy.

The Bullet Points of Happiness!

I’m going to bust out the secrets to happiness in classic blog style- hell I may even give this blog post a lame bloggy name like “The 6 Ancient Secrets to Happiness”.

  • Health- Happiness for me starts with my health. I don’t doubt that I could find happiness if I were to become disabled or ill, but I have my health and I protect it dearly because to me, it is the cornerstone. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF and you will find enhanced happiness. Work out, eat well, be active, have fun and thankful you can be active.
  • Friends- I don’t have many friends. I have only two very close ones. But I cherish them. They are my brothers. I’d rather gouge my eyes out than betray my friends. Form your wolf pack and keep them close. Don’t let your friends down- EVER.
  • No hay nada que preguntar! –Last year I spent about six months working with a team in the Washington DC area. A Peruvian teammate gave me this phrase which has become my personal motto. It roughly translates to “NO QUESTIONS ASKED” in English. I am a man of integrity, honesty and character- NO QUESTIONS ASKED.   My happiness hinges on my being someone I personally respect- no questions asked.
  • No excuses. All the most miserable people in my life have one thing in common. They all live a life full of excuses. “I’m unhappy because I can’t _____”. “I can’t” is for wimps. How about a little “I CAN and I WILL”. My happiness is dependent on being action oriented and active, not wishing I was somewhere I could be if I would just get off my ass and get to work.
  • Self-Control- I struggle here. I struggle with diet, controlling my emotions, controlling my anger especially, and other things. Finding the power to have control over myself, especially over my mouth is a great challenge to me, but also a source of happiness.
  • Contentment- Contentment is being happy with what you have, but not afraid to go get more if you decide you want it. Contentment is not complacent. I still want more, I still want to go further, but every day I look back on what I’ve done this far and I am content. The grass isn’t always greener. My lawn is plenty green enough.

What makes you happy? Go get it. No hay nada que preguntar!

-Holden

The Upside of Getting Divorced

Yes! There is an upside, at least in my circumstance!

Just a little over a week ago, I caught my wife seeing another man, and over the last week, she’s gone to see him two more times. The last time she went to see him, she strangely didn’t even try to hide it. She outright said she had been to see him for a lunch date and was telling him she probably wouldn’t be talking to him anymore.

The probably part is unsettling, but I have hope. We’ve spent the last two nights together in the same home and this morning, she didn’t scream at me. Baby steps I guess. I’m trying to have an upbeat perspective on this.

This morning, I came to work on a bit of a runners high. Yes, it will probably be short lived and soon I’ll be gasping for air again, but for now I’m happy looking out the window of a skyscraper in Midtown Atlanta and watching the sun rise over Stone Mountain off in the distance and it is fucking magnificent.

Sunrise in Midtown Atlanta
Sunrise in Midtown Atlanta

While I’m watching the sun rise, I’d like to share some positive notes on this whole divorce/separation process I’ve been enduring:

Reconnecting with Family: Last night my sister called me for the first time in a long time, and the day before that I talked to my aunt who I hadn’t spoken to in quite a while.

I’ve reconnected with my mother and father on a much deeper level than ever before and also formed a deeper relationship with my in-laws who have been surprisingly supportive and loving. All these connections resurfaced because I was in trouble and I needed help.

Deepening Friendships: My friendship with my best friends Atty and Josh has deepened more than I ever thought possible. Josh and Atty are complete opposites in many ways, but seemingly parrot each other when getting to the point.

These men are two of the wisest, kindest and most generous souls I have ever known, and this divorce has only proven to demonstrate that further. They have built my confidence in myself, gave me logical and sound advice and told me thing things I do not want to hear but needed to.

They force me to face reality and stay sharp while also providing an outlet to vent and let my emotions out.

A Rediscovery of Spirituality: I still do not completely understand my feelings on God, religion or anything else but I’ve accepted that I have a need for it regardless. I’d like to think my perception of religion is one part cultural and one part humility.

Many people approach spirituality from different angles. I think the important thing is to have a cornerstone in your own life- a cornerstone bigger than yourself.

Relying on people for your cornerstone is only going to let you down. A person will always let you down at some point no matter what. I need a God bigger and better than myself as my cornerstone. I don’t intend to preach or force it on others. I don’t intent to evangelize or Bible thump it into people’s heads. I just intend to hold it within myself, quietly, personally, and wholeheartedly.

Yes, I will fuck up again and yes, I will still say words like fuck from time to time. That is because I am not a religious man, I am just a man, a tiny little man floating around on a rock buzzing around in space 460 meters per second!  I’m not big or strong enough to go it alone.

A Discovery of Self Confidence: The man my wife is/was seeing is handsome, muscular and covered in tattoos. He has a six pack and no back hair. He is naturally tanned and from what I hear, endlessly charming.

For the first few days after I Facebook stalked the asshole, I spent a lot of time looking in the mirror at myself with my shirt off. Yes, I have a little definition in my chest. My arms are kind of muscular… sorta. But I don’t have guns like this guy. I don’t have an arm full of bad boy tattoos. And I also have a tendency to grow quite a bit of hair on my back if I let it go.

But then I had to shake it off and realize a few things.

I have TWO college degrees. I am 30 years old and have already started over in three careers, each one paying better than the last. Each one a new challenge building on the last. I am diverse and well read, cultured and well-traveled and I am fucking HILARIOUS!

Oh, and I’m also a bombshell in the sack. I’d go into details but this isn’t’ that kind of blog.

My point being is. Fuck that guy. I looked into him. He’s a 38 year old under achiever. I don’t say that to make myself feel better either.

Muscles are a few reps in the gym away. Anyone can get muscles. You can’t go fetch brains in the gym, and accomplishment in the workplace and classroom is a little bit harder to come by.

So there you are, the upsides of divorce! If you’re still hanging with me at this point. THANKS! I appreciate you for reading. Have an awesome day.

-Holden

The Most Romantic Gesture of all- Resume Writing

My first night of my separation from my wife was spent at my parent’s house. It was nice to come home, vent and have a laugh. I forgot just how demented our sense of humor is as a family. Still, I couldn’t sleep all night, I tossed and turned, my stomach cramped and I was going on day five of not really eating or sleeping more than a few hours.

I woke up about 4am and decided to get ready for work. My parents live about 50 miles northwest of my office in Midtown Atlanta and I figured at the least, I’d beat the traffic and focus on something other than life.

Then about 10am, I called my wife to see if she’d called to find a counselor for us to see yet. She was flustered. My youngest daughter was giving her hell, my older daughter wouldn’t go to school due to being distraught over not understanding why daddy lived with Grandma.

My wife said she’d been trying to update her resume and write a cover letter to apply for a few jobs all morning and couldn’t think strait or deal with the kids well enough to get anything done.

Instantly, I kicked into daddy/husband mode. I said, “Look sweetie, I’m coming home at lunchtime today. We’re going to create a list of objectives and we’re going to tackle this.” She said okay, sobbing and hung up the phone.

I went home at lunch, unpacked my computer and went to writing my wife’s resume.

Writing her resume was no easy feat. My wife has spent the last four years as a stay at home mom. Before that she worked a few years as a medical assistant then was a server while ‘exploring her possibilities’ for some time in tech school before that. But somehow, I wrote the cutest, snazziest little resume and cover letter that fit my wife just perfectly.

As she read it she grinned. She looked at me, her giant brown eyes glowing, then thanked me, hugged me, kissed my cheek and told me she appreciated me so much.

Then I told her we were going to train her to use Microsoft Word and Office. I said I would find self-paced courses for her and when I moved back home, she could practice it while I studied for my certifications.

I’m going to share that resume with the personal details generalized just so any other stay at home moms out there can have a great example of how to sell yourself when/if you decide to get back into the workforce someday.

 -Holden

BlogTruth Mom Resume
BlogTruth Mom Resume

Divorce, and Blind Faith in Something I cannot see

This weekend was one of the worse in my entire life.

Last Thursday, I caught my wife lying to me, out with another man.  She came home that night at 1am, drunk, angry and telling me she hated me. She despised me.

I tried to patch it, then Saturday there was a relapse. She went out with him again. Lied again about where she would be. Left me at home with our two daughters worried and wondering where she was.

I felt buried. I like I was down to my last hope. I did something I hadn’t done for a long time. I went to church and gave it to God.

I don’t care to go into details. I don’t care to argue the merits or God. The ridiculousness of Jesus, religion, or anything. I just had to give it away. Give it away or to be quite frank- either kill myself or find a doctor who would heavily medicate me until this all passed.

I realized this weekend that I am not a strong man. I appear strong, I act strong, and on paper I am strong. But inside I am a weak, fragile little boy afraid of change and to let go. Afraid to face myself many times.

I don’t believe God is talking to me. I have prayed long and hard, I have wept, I have hyper ventilated. I grieved in ways I have never before. But I don’t know that I feel any sort of super natural power at work over me.

But I do feel a deeper sadness now than I ever thought possible. I can only image a few scenarios where I would feel deeper grief. So I had to go back to my roots, I had to go back to a country church, with a passionate preacher and a crowd full of endless “Amens!” I had to go to the altar, and I had to let a bunch of strangers place their hands on me and pray for me.

I don’t know if anything super natural happened or not, but I know something happened to me. I forgave myself for all my past transgressions. I admitted to myself that I am the root reason my marriage is falling apart. I forgave my wife for going to another man, lying to me, lying to her children and disappointing them, but I have no doubts in my mind, I am the one that has to change, and I’ve decided to give it to God.

Maybe it is a psychological crutch, a mind trick. I don’t care. I need it right now, and if I pull through this and come out on the other end- where ever that other end is, in the back of my mind, in the pit of my stomach, I will remember that I relied on God in my time of need and I pulled through.

Tonight I’m moving back in with my parents.

Part of me feels happy to see them more often. Part of me feels like this is my chance to reconnect with my mother and build a stronger relationship with my father. My wife and I have decided to start fresh as a couple, who is dating. I hope to also start marriage counseling this week.

In the back of my mind I see this as another checkbox off on the list for the divorce filing. Part of me fears that my wife is strategically removing me from her life and I, the hopeless little puppy who won’t go away despite having rocks thrown at me, it being lured into the trap.

  • Ceased intimate relationships.  CHECK
  • Formally separated.  CHECK
  • Attempted marriage Counselling.  CHECK

But… I gave it away to God. So fuck it.

After agreeing to the separation, my wife instantly warmed up to me a bit more. Last night I tucked the girls in bed and sang them their lullabies.  I gave my wife a backrub and I asked her if she wanted to know the secret that I have to get the girls to settle down at night.

I sang the lullaby in her ear, “Go to sleep… go to sleep…. Go to sleep my sweet Sara…..”

I felt so relieved that she at least agreed to sleep in the bed with me on that last night in my own house. As I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, I feared it would be our last together.

-Holden