Getting over the Humps

I give a lot of thought to self-evaluation. I think a lot about becoming better in every aspect of my life. But I’ve learned that when you become pre-occupied with self-improvement, it leads you into some vicious cycles.

The easiest example to point out, which most of us can relate to is dieting. You start a diet one night before bed, telling yourself that tomorrow, things will be different. You wake up the next morning and eat something really healthy, like a moderate sized bowl of oatmeal with no sugar or butter.

Lunch rolls around, you visit a local diner with co-workers and stare at the menu. They’re all ordering burgers and fries… you have the leafy green, grilled chicken salad with vinaigrette… on the side of course.

Finally comes dinner. By now you’re starving, deprived, your kids are being little jerks, your wife is grumpy, and your day at work was pretty rough too.

Screw it, I’m eating an entire pizza for dinner and a fistful of M&Ms for dessert.

Yup, that’s pretty much how my diets usually play out.

Unfortunately, this is also how my mini- self-improvement projects usually go as well. I decide I’m not going to get outwardly angry at my kids anymore, I’m not going to complain as much or talk bad about anyone behind their backs, I’m not going to cut up as much at work and be a better role model… then I do it and I do it well. Maybe I stick to it for a week or two, but then I always backslide.

I’m really tired of the backslide.

How to avoid the Backslide

So, how do you avoid the inevitable backslide? The easy answer is to make the changes habit, or permanent. The problem is, how to get to the point that the changes are permanent.

How do you change yourself? Why can’t I seem to nail this down? I’ve overcome a moderate amount of challenges in my life. I’m no rag to riches story, but I have at least outpaced my early peers and family in most all ways.

So why can’t I get past a few of these small humps that keep tripping me up over and over. These humps I can see coming a mile down the road! I know they are there, I know I’m about to drive over them, and time and time again I hit the humps going 90 mph and CRASH!

As of right now, I have no idea how to fix this, but if I figure it out I’ll let you know.

-Holden

50 Shades of Grey Pisses Me Off!

a11179cEverywhere I look, women are flocking to go see 50 Shades of Grey.

I will admit, I live under a rock and had no idea what the hype was all about. I have heard of the romance novels, but didn’t realize the amazing power this story had to make woman squirm with orgasmic joy until the film hit theaters and the frenzy began. I decided to do a little research on the film to see what the big deal was (i.e., I asked my wife and looked it up on Wikipedia.).

I’m not impressed.

50 Shades of Grey is a fantasy film for women about as much so as Ironman is to us boys. Only, I’d argue this film is harmful to society and frankly it pisses me off!

Why does it piss me off?

Because honestly, it hits just a little too close to home. I just got burned by my wife looking for the kind of lust and excitement found in 50 Shades of Grey, and here society is lactating over it! Praising it! Go completely freaking mad over it!

And what about the guys like me? The fool who spent over half a decade in college busting his ass in college to give his family a better life?

The jackass who spent the last two days working from home so that he could take care of his kids during an ice storm so that his wife could still go to work and pursue her career?

The chump who gets up at 4:45am every day, gets his kids dressed, irons his and his wife’s work clothes and sometimes might even prep dinner for the evening or fold a quick load of laundry!

I’m THAT CHUMP!

Yet, woman aren’t salivating at the chomps for guys like me are they? I don’t have a six pack or amazing pecs and arms. I also don’t have a fancy downtown condo or even a really cool car… instead, I’m sporting a Roth IRA, modest 1800 sq. ft. home in the suburbs and a hatchback with a few car seats in the back.

And why is it I don’t have all these things women seem to desire so much…

BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE TIME TO GO GET IT! I’m folding laundry, cooking, putting in hours at the office and enduring long commutes between Atlanta and East Cobb!

So excuse me Mr. Christian Grey, and all the women out there longing for this fantasy life, but you can kiss my ass!

-Holden

Thoughts on Ambition, Contentment & American Drive

A few weekends back we had a team BBQ. My boss has a teenage daughter and I asked if she’d babysit my daughters while we all went.

That afternoon, my boss and his wife drove over, dropped his daughter off and away we went to the BBQ, which was being held at one of the Directors of my group’s home. His house was bright, extravagant and luxurious. The next day, I took some cash over to my boss’ house for his daughter’s babysitting services and noticed how equally bright, extravagant and luxurious his home was as well.

My wife talked about it quite a bit. She talked about loving all the nice décor, how great their homes were, and even said she was going to save up to buy me an awesome BBQ grill like the Director we’d visited had. Then a few days later, that same Director called me and chewed me out. I wrote about it on this blog as a matter of fact.

It got me really thinking about how stressful these guys lives really were at times, how much they work, how much is on the line for them and how much responsibility lies on their shoulders all the time.

I started wondering if it is really for me. I started wondering if it was really worth it. Sure, these guys have a lot of “stuff” but their lives are not markedly better than mine. In fact, I have a lot of “stuff” too, just not as much of or as expensive as them.

Does it really matter?

The truth of the matter is, I don’t care to have all that much more stuff than I already have, and honestly I am pretty content in my home. So why bother with getting more?

Still, I find myself always desiring more… if just for the sake of accomplishment. Where did this programming come from?

I’ve been listening to an epic (as in really long- about 60 hours worth) series of college lectures that cover American history all the way from pre-America up until very recent times. This is how American’s have been geared from day one.

These American ideals to always be striving for more seems to be in our DNA, including my own.

I don’t know how I feel about this. Sometimes it feels very foolish. In the twilight of our lives, what will we wish we’d done more of? Travel and be with friends and family or look back on all our professional and business achievements? I think for some, they may very well look back most fondly on those professional achievements, but not me. I really just don’t care all that much.

Just some food for thought, no conclusions today…

-Holden

The Big Unemployment Lie

Recently Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO at Gallup, wrote a pretty impressive and telling opinion piece directly criticizing the Department of Labor’s declaration that unemployment is down to 5.6%.

He makes a few interesting points about the unemployment numbers as report by our government, which get propagated by our President and the media as fact that I think the vast majority of us don’t realize and is worth synopsizing.

  • Once out of work four weeks, you stop being counted as unemployed by the Department of Labor.
  • If you perform a minimum of one hour of work a week and are paid at least $20, you are not counted as unemployed.
  • If you are a well trained professional working 10 hours a week part time, you are not counted as unemployed.

The Chairman goes on to make some very serious observations that also kind of saddened me. He correctly (in my eyes) pointed out that to the vast majority of us Americans, it is the “American Dream” to have a good job. We spend our entire lives planning and training for it! In fact, last week my little kindergartener even brought home a “Junior Achievement Work Readiness” certificate. I was flabbergasted!

Instead of coloring, playing tag, or an instrument, my child is attending work readiness workshops in kindergarten No, this isn’t a sick joke or exaggeration! This seems to have become the ultimate goal of our school systems. Make everyone come out of high school groomed to go into a job, and it is drilled in early and often.

While I don’t disagree that a large part of the educational system is preparing us for work, it saddens me that this is what the primary focus of our culture appears to have shifted to. We tie our identity, dignity and self-worth to our jobs. Shit, it’s the only thing any of my friends and I even talk about anymore.

Life has become all about work in America and frankly, the days are starting to look more an more, dare I say, Soviet as time passes by. Meanwhile our government is doing everything it can from keeping the house of cards from toppling down.

Read the Gallup article HERE. It’s a great read.

-Holden

An angry manager.

Today, I was on my way home from work when I got a call from one of the senior managers on my team. I picked up the phone and my manager proceeded to chew my ass out. He was angry because I’d copied his boss… the boss of all of us in our service line, on an email I’d sent to him regarding a high profile project.

As he laid into me, I was sort of taken aback. I didn’t quite know how to feel. So I sat and listened, basically refusing to respond and making him uncomfortably end the call.

When I got home, I found myself starting to get slightly annoyed. The nerve of this guy! I’d worked over the weekend to help him on this project! I’d even taken time away from my hectic day today to work on this, and here he was telling me that as of now, he didn’t need a damn thing from me.

So, I decided to go to the grocery store and blow off some steam. I walked the aisles looking at cookies, pastries, hot dogs… everything bad for me. I settled on a box of mini-moo coffee creamers since they only have the terrible powdered creamer at the office of my current client.

For the rest of my drive home, I stewed. I considered calling him back, shooting him an eat shit and die text message, or just writing him off and deciding to never give him an ounce of my talents again unless forced to.

I settled on sending him a nice text message. An apology.

I started thinking about all the times I’ve acted unfairly to people out of anger. I thought about how stressed out he might be, about all the projects he’s working on, I considered that maybe he feels like he is in over his head or maybe his job is starting to hurt his family life and take time away from his wife and kids.

I realized that he probably wasn’t really angry with me at all. I was just his punching bag. And you know what, I’m cool with that. I can take a few blows from time to time.

I’m just glad I was smart enough to take myself out of the equation and not respond in anger.

-Holden

 

Aftermath of an Affair

This will be the final post I write about the affair my wife had on me late last year. Honestly, I’m pretty tired of thinking about it, but figure I’ve already divulged so much thus far, I might as well round the story out in case someone else in my shoes stumbles across it someday.

Personally, I found a lot of comfort hearing  from others who had been in my shoes when I was dealing with my marriage tearing apart and my wife leaving me for another man.

So, here goes nothing.

The 50/50 Blame Theory

When I first visited a counselor, she told me it was her opinion that affairs always start with a 50/50 blame. Typically, a spouse won’t cheat unless the other isn’t meeting some sort of need. From there, she starts assessing the couple as individuals and the 50/50 split starts to shift.

I liked this approach and took on the challenge myself of honestly assessing my situation. I started by immediately placing all the blame on myself. I thought of the years of working too much, harboring too much anger, throwing childish tantrums at times. The years of impatience. My blame immediately shot up in my mind to 80%.

But then the details of the affair started to unfold, most of which you can dig up on this blog if you really care to. In short, I realized that my wife was really using me more as an excuse and justification to cheat than anything. Not to say all the things I did wrong were not true. They absolutely were.

What made me shift the blame away from myself was the depths of perception and selfishness my wife exhibited. She persuaded me to move out under the guise of “taking a break” when really it was a ploy just to remove me, but have me still pay the bills while having her guy around. She talked me into taking our children for entire days and nights also under the guise of “I need alone time!” when in reality she was about as far from being alone as is possible.

My point is, it really wasn’t me, it was her. Yes I neglected her and justified the affair in her mind, but she made the decision to take it to the level it went. This wasn’t getting laid, this wasn’t getting drunk and fucking an old college flame, this was a full blown second relationship. This was not all my fault.

Today, I lay the blame at about 25/75 split. 25% my fault, 75% hers.

Thoughts on Telling Your Business to Everyone

One of the biggest mistakes I made during the affair was letting my emotions get the best of me. I told WAY too many people my business. I caution others about this. The reason I caution is twofold. First, when everyone knows your business, you suddenly start to feel foolish. You initially share your woes looking for release and comfort but soon you feel like a laughing stock. You feel weak and inadequate. I am certain that most of the people who know about my affair don’t think that about me… but then again maybe they do.

Since my wife and I worked things out, now I feel like a lot of people think less of me as a man. I feel like they maybe think I’m a pushover or a chump. This is probably my own feelings of myself being projected, but the thoughts still persist with me.

Second, when you spread your business to everyone, you humiliate and damage the reputation of your spouse. I’ve destroyed my wife’s reputation, which is partially my reputation by extension. And now, many people know what she did, while she doesn’t even realize they know. I can’t let her know that they all know because she’d never leave the house again!

It was a mistake. I should have just kept the news to my inner circle.

Thoughts on Making up and Reconciling

On almost a whim, my wife decided she didn’t want to leave me anymore. I talked extensively to Atticus and my counselor, and thought about it endlessly. This sums up why I honestly believe she changed her mind:

  • Jealousy- Once I thought the split was imminent, I started chatting with other women and to my surprise (and probably hers), they chatted back. My wife went crazy.
  • Financial Stability- My wife’s boyfriend is 8 years older than me, makes half the money and can’t even support his own children (he has three between two other women…). Once the infatuation wore off a bit, he became less appealing.
  • Mental Stimulation- My wife alluded to the fact that the other guy wasn’t quite as sharp as she’d like several times. In fact, it is the one negative trait about him she has mentioned most.

Why Did I Take Her Back?

I took my wife back because I have two little girls and I couldn’t stand the idea of another man entering their lives. I also couldn’t stand to see them suffer the hardship of a broken home. I also do love my wife very much, but I admit that was secondary to me.

How can I forgive her?

I don’t know. It’s hard. It is damn hard. I have good days and bad days. Being intimate is also challenging for me sometimes. I also think my wife has some serious issues that go beyond me and I feel it is my duty as her husband and best friend to help her through them

Conclusion

I under estimated the amount of guilt my wife would feel after the affair. I think deep down inside my wife hates herself for what she did to me and our children. I can see it in her eyes sometimes.

I also think that she is now in self-preservation mode. She knows she has nothing left. Between her and I, we burned every bridge she’s got during the affair. I think she’s also looking for redemption.

I was at Freedom Church a few weeks ago. The preacher, J.R. Lee, is one of the most amazing public speakers I have ever seen in my life. At one point in the sermon he picked up a huge bundle of chains and said something to the effect of:

“Forgiveness isn’t about the other person, it is about you! It is about taking the weight off YOUR BACK! It is not about letting the offender off the hook.”

The he followed up with:

“No one could EVER offend you as much as YOU have OFFENDED GOD. No one if beyond forgiveness”.

Those words moved me.  Forgiveness = Freedom.  Forgiveness = Liberation.

Regardless of faith, philosophy or walk of life, these things are truth.

-Holden

Thoughts on Anger VS Pacifism

Sometimes, I daydream about walking into the office of the man who my wife had an affair with late last year. In this fantasy, I turn his desk over. I puff my chest out like a baboon, scream, and glare at him with bulging eyes then beg him to come at me.

He foolishly does come at me and I overpower him, bringing him to the ground. He struggles and slowly I tighten my grip until I have my legs wrapped firmly around his waist and my arms firmly around his neck in an unbreakable chokehold… then slowly I begin to apply pressure.

As he struggled for air, he smacks the ground violently, he gasps, his face turns red, he kicks and squirms but I hold him down tight, now completely calm and collected, until he passes out.

Then I simply walk away. He wakes up a few moments later disoriented but unharmed apart from his ego and pride.

Next, I image that he has nightmares about me. He regrets the day he ever fucked a married woman, especially MY woman, a mother of two little girls, who he insisted he cared deeply for yet had never met them and didn’t care that he was on a mission to assist in tearing their little worlds apart. He vows to never mess with a married woman again, out of fear of the angry man on the other side of the equation.

The deep truth of the matter is that I train for this asshole. Yet, ironically, I train at the same time to find the courage to never act out my fantasy. I so badly want to act on this fantasy. I crave it. I crave not to destroy him physically, but mentally and emotionally.

For the past few months I’ve been fighting with/alongside with Atticus instead in some capacity or another. Either fighting myself, running up and down the streets of Historic Atlanta, GA with him, boxing with him in his garage, or more recently, venturing into Brazilian Jui Jitsu.

Ironically, martial arts are more an exercise in inner peace and a great source of release. Sometimes I find myself craving that physical contact. Sometimes, I feel the need for that full body exhaustion and release.

I’m a fucking angry man pretending not to be angry. I’m “faking it ‘til I make it” as we like to say in the consulting business.

Today, on Martin Luther King Jr day, I was thinking about pacifism. I believe pacifism might be the greatest weapon of all, but the problem with pacifism is that it is such a long ball game. There are no immediate wins by being a pacifist, and sometimes the victory presents itself in ways that maybe you never suspected.

For example, say I decide to forgive and forget what my wife and this other man did. This other man continues to live the life he lives- that of a coward, of a shit head, of weak integrity. I do believe he will ultimately reap what he sows. Not because of some cosmic justice at work, but because he simply is his own worst enemy.

And that will be my victory. I will win by living a life of honesty and integrity while he ultimately undoes himself and lives a life of un-fulfillment.

The real question is, do I have the strength to take the higher ground and tap into that higher game?

-Holden

Empathy Versus Excuse Making

I want to share an email exchange between Holden and myself that I believe is valuable:

Holden’s Message:

Dear Atticus,

Is it weak to empathize with my wife and the man she cheated with?

The anger books and in fact, practice of medication itself from a Buddhist tradition at least, focus a lot on gaining empathy for other people and learning to understand other’s suffering. The Bible teaches the same thing. Jesus’ philosophy was to pray for your enemy and turn the other cheek.

I keep being brought back to the same shitty thoughts. Because of the insane detail I was able to get off my Wife’s phone, I know exactly when she was with him. I can literally go back and remember my entire days, all the things I did those days, the things she and I talked about.

I keep getting hung up on it. I take a few steps forward, then another back. To deal with the anger, pain, suffering, sadness, etc, I have used a combo of Buddhist and Christian ideas. From the Buddhist perspective, I work on meditating on the pain points until I gain comfort then I work to put myself in my Wife’s and John’s (they man she cheated with) shoes. I work to ease not only my suffering but my Wife’s and work to not cause John any additional suffering in his life by interfering with him (basically just letting it drop and leaving him be).

I work to understand what they must have felt, how my Wife must have felt, why she did what she did. From the Christian standpoint, I work to forgive and let it go. I work to empathize. But then I seriously question if I’m just making excuses for both of them. Wrong is wrong.

Is empathizing in this particular scenario the correct path?

Anyway, just a thought. Not meaning to whine or rip off scabs on wounds that have begun to heal. It was more just a question I keep returning to that I wanted to share. I figured you might actually find it intriguing.

-Holden

My Response to Holden:

My Friend Holden,

I believe the portions of Christianity and Buddhism that you are referencing are the appropriate ones and perhaps the strongest assets both philosophies have to offer.

Forgiveness and meditation are tools that help you mentally adjust, not for your Wife’s and John’s benefit, but for your own healing. Ultimately you cannot heal and move forward without letting go of the past. You cannot let go of the past until you have forgiven. You cannot forgive until you utilize logic an reason to empathize and understand their situation.

This is the process – to gain understanding of all facets of the situation and become a master of it. Once you have mastered the situation, you can control it, let go of it, and move on. These are the reasons that forgiveness, meditation, and empathy are cornerstones of a healthy mind and spirit.

You shouldn’t make excuses for you Wife, but it is okay to empathize with her plight (for the reasons mentioned above). Excuses imply that you apply blame to yourself or on others and do not hold your Wife accountable while empathy implies that you hold her accountable for her actions, but apply higher game to truly understand the situation – thus have the capacity to move on.

Excuse making implies that you set yourself up to become a victim. Empathy implies a mindset of forgiveness, compassion, and maturity. Distinguish the two inside yourself during meditation.

– Atticus

Recuperation, Mindfulness and Humility

Yesterday morning I took my youngest daughter to her first day at daycare. Up until now she’s stayed at home with my wife and never had to deal with the stress of being left all day with strangers.

She sat in a little chair with her lip quivering, angry and welling up with tears. She refused to take her jacket off, gripped her little kitty cat stuffed animal tightly and hugged her blanket. Heart broken, I consoled her and kissed her then said goodbye and headed to work.

She made me think about how just a few months earlier I felt the same way when my wife had decided she was leaving me for another man- scared to death of being alone, afraid of the unfamiliar, new experience that I was being forced to undertake against my will.

Since then, my wife and I have reconciled. She started a new job yesterday and seemed truly up beat for the first time in years to be honest. I am happy that she feels like she is accomplishing something and even more pleased that even though my daughter was left sitting crying in a little chair this morning, at least tonight she’d be coming home to both mommy and daddy, and at least I would be the one tucking her into bed at night and waking her up in the morning.

A lot of people seem shocked that I’ve decided to reconcile with my wife after what we had been through. Over the course of three months my wife had cultivated a relationship with another man out in the open, unabashedly. She defended it as “just friends”, then she proceeded to have a full blown sexual and emotional affair with him in the background.

Like most people who bear a guilty conscience, she firmly placed all the blames for our failing marriage solely on me. I took on all that blame whole heartedly, in a very personal way.

A full gamut of emotions.

A few months back when my marriage woes were at their worse, Atty (my co-author on this blog) made a point that I probably wanted my wife more than I ever had before, just at the time she was most distant to me. He was right. At the point in time, I’d have given almost anything just to fix the problem. The emotions were unnerving and they entangled me like a wad of bubblegum in a little girl’s head of hair.

Last night my wife and I laid in bed and she insisted that I lay my head on her chest. She rubbed my back and neck, caressed my head. I thought about how mixed my feelings for her had become. Her affection for me seems so genuine at this time. I want to reciprocate but after the extreme betrayal, I have a hard time going back 100%.

Other times, I find myself being strangely indifferent. I think it is a defense mechanism. I love my wife, I want to trust her, I want to be a better husband and have an amazing relationship, but my heart simply refuses to let down the drawbridge and open the gates back up.

Instead I find myself more caught up in moments now. Emotions are now fleeting.

In the past, I might make love to my wife and the affection and love I feel afterword stick with me all day and into the next morning. Now, it seems I have been jarred more so into living moment by moment, taking an experience in for what it is but mostly leaving it behind as it passes. I think this is because I have come to realize that all experiences in life truly are transitory and temporary. All things will pass and eventually fade, including my happy little family and marriage.

I realized recently that maybe there is a name for this. It is “Mindfulness”.

Ironically, Atticus has stumbled across this idea as well as he faces great fears of his own very soon. This idea of Mindfulness has become a topic of conversation as of late.

It will be interesting to see where we go next. It’ll be interesting to see a couple guys coping with the universe knocking us down a few pegs and forcing some humility on us.

-Holden

Pillars of Self Improvement

As I alluded to in the previous post I am undergoing a personal transformation. Moving forward I have identified three pillars in which I want to focus my efforts. The Physical, the Mental, and the Emotional & Spiritual.

In my personal journal I broke it down like this:

Pillars of Consciousness

I know that each of these elements are tied together – meaning that you cannot be successful, say mentally and emotionally, if you are not also making an effort physically. For example, one thing I am trying to do is bring mindfulness to my diet. Not just by eating healthy, but by taking a methodical approach to choosing and preparing my food.

For example:

This evening I prepared Salmon with my wife.

We searched for the perfect fillet. We settled on one with a great silver skin and beautiful deep red flesh. We chose peppers and spices for our sauce. Smelling each ingredient and holding it directly to my nose. I could almost see what the sauce was going to look like. Red and creamy with small flakes of chili’s – delicious. (I normally run through this process without thought.)

Then while preparing the meal I took time to appreciate each component. We spent over an hour dressing the meat, preparing the vegetables, and cooking. Coating every inch of the salmon in an even coating of sauce before carefully separating the collard from their stem. Each time I took time to appreciate the direction and speed I separated the vegetables – in clean symmetrical lines running perpendicular to the leaf’s veins. The stems in one pile and the leaves in another.

The Result:

Taking time to be mindful of meal preparation meant I spent more time with the family, enjoyed the food a lot more (it was the best salmon I’ve ever prepared), and ate something very nutritious. In this way I combined physical (diet), mental (researching meal preparation), and spiritual/emotional (zen – enjoying the moment).

I hope to share these efforts a little more often going forward.