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.

A Journey of Consciousness

I have been thinking a lot about happiness and longevity lately. Probably because of my knee and facing surgery and downtime.

I have an internal struggle with myself that pulls in two different directions. On the one side I have an unwavering desire for greatness (what greatness is I have not defined). On the other side I have the knowledge that happiness doesn’t necessarily come from being the “best”, but rather from ones own “higher game” as we’ve come to call it.

All of this causes internal conflict. Naturally, I want to be the best. I want to push myself. I want to do things better and beyond what others do. This has its pros and cons. On the one hand I am rewarded by the hard work with money, success, pride, and all that comes with it. On the other hand “burning hot” results in sacrifices to my body, health, family, and who knows what else.

The trick, it seems, is to find a healthy balance between longevity and personal challenge. Letting go of those things that hurt more than help.

For Example

For example, today I went to dinner with my neighbor who does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He invited the gym guys over to watch the UFC fights. During conversation I learned that he has had two knee surgeries (the same knee surgery I will have) and currently has one knee that needs to be re-operated.

Frankly, he is in top physical shape. He is a 6′ 2″ and 200 lbs with hardly an ounce of fat. On the other hand – do I really want to be a 40 year old man with two knee surgeries under my belt and with aches and pains? What will that be like at 60?

All of the guys there seemed like good dudes with great attitudes and in great shape. Which is common in the BJJ community. As I move through this journey I want to take the best parts of this philosophy and keep it – while losing the bad parts.

Alternatives

I think I am approaching a time in my life where I need to consider a shift in my way of thinking and approach to overall health, happiness, and longevity – all without becoming luke warm or losing passion.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about is changing my workout routine and diet (which are both already pretty strict). Right now I’m too rough on my body and I could have better discipline with my diet. Going forward I want to switch to lower impact high result workouts. Focus on flexibility, strength and conditioning, eating fresh foods, and making sure I enjoy it. (All of this I’d like to discuss in more detail in later posts.

Similarly, I want to boost my efforts on learning, culture, and relationships.

Pride, Ego, Spirituality, and Learning

I want to expand my mind and lose pride and ego. I think my pride and ego sometimes get in the way of doing what I really want. By that I mean that I want to do less of what is expected by society and more of what I truly want to do. Typically, I have been pretty good at doing that, but I want to double down on my efforts here.

I want to stop caring so much about “things” and find what really makes me happy and dedicate my life to it. I want to focus on being content while also striving to expand my personal philosophy.

And I don’t mean by just being a minimalist, but I mean by truly being content. I want to focus on little things more and derive pleasure from them without rushing through or skipping. For example, when I made coffee today I focused on each step (grounding the coffee beans, spooning the grinds into the coffee maker, the smells, the appearance) and enjoyed it as much as the beverage itself. I want to expand this methodology into all aspects of life.

I’ve already started this journey mentally. Reading books about great men and various philosophies. I hope to stumble upon a few people and philosophies that I truly admire and relate to then at that point take a deeper dive into those schools of thought.

I wan to be conscious. And my journey beings now.

Thoughts on Brotherhood and Friendship

For about a month now I’ve been consciously meditating. I don’t really meditate the way you might imagine though. Sometimes meditation happens on a spin bike in my garage. A few songs go by, I get warm and I set into deep quad work. Heavy, repetitive music thumps in my ears, I clamp my eyes shut tight and my mind wonders as my legs begin to resemble two large pieces of oak a blaze over a camp fire…

Other times meditation in fact happens around a fire. I recently bought a fire pit for my back patio, and I find myself lighting fires almost nightly over the last couple weeks, sitting for extended periods of time staring deep into the coals, long after my wife and kids have grown tired of roasting marshmallows and the cold became too much for them.

And finally, meditation happens early in the mornings, over coffee. I open the bay windows in my kitchen and stare into the dark, watching streaks of sunlight and they gradually bathe over the tops of the trees. That was my experience this morning… coffee and sunlight.

My meditation this morning took me to brotherhood…

Atty’s post about our jogs, coffee time together and the “iphone” generation a few days ago made a huge impression on me. I’ve thought deeply on it and its implications quite extensively now. I have rolled this idea over in my mind like a stone made smooth by water rapids in a river bed, this important idea of the “long game” and putting in the time to really form something great in your life. It does take time and effort to create anything great- be that a nice piece of furniture, an awe inspiring oil painting, or a friendship.

There are basic tenants that are most important to forming the type of friendship that becomes more a work of art than a relationship over time. It requires deep trust and honesty, but also quite a bit of courage.

Atty and I cross the lines with each other sometimes. Sometimes we say and do things that we probably don’t realize might hurt or offend the other. Where we excel is having the trust, honesty and most of all, courage to speak up. Wounds are not allowed to form and fester between us.

Further, this friendship takes courage as you are forced to defend it time and time again. I don’t know whether or not Atty has had to defend his friendship with me, but mine has been under attack more than a few times. My own wife, my mother, and other past friends I have since let go have all outright attacked my friendship with Atticus.

I get the impression that it offends them. I suspect that they feel jealous of this bond I have formed with Atty that I have not formed with them.

Further, I think it bothers them that I will defend it so quietly yet vehemently. In the case of my wife, I see that it troubles her. I think she hurts that she has destroyed these bonds not only with me, but with most of the people around her, yet my bonds grow stronger than ever.

I think both my wife and my mother are troubled because they suspect that perhaps deep inside, I love this man more than either of them.

Maybe I do. I certainly trust him more than either of them.

Atticus and my friendship are not perfect and neither of us are. No person is perfect and expecting that anyone will never let you down is a serious miscalculation. People will always let you down sometime or other. The key is having the courage to face and admit it when you do.

There are other important elements, such as learning to not covet the possessions, talents and other things your best friend has. Learning to accept each other’s negatives while celebrating their strengths, and so forth. But I do think at the core, courage and trust are the two most important elements.

Cheers.

-Holden

A Christmas Testimony

I’ve wrote pretty extensively about my marital problems of late. Unfortunately, what I share on this blog is only the tip of a larger iceberg, but somehow I’ve seemingly changed the course of what I thought was the Titanic on an irreversible path with the iceberg called divorce.

Over the course of the last month I’ve gone through some outright peculiar emotional trials and tribulations. In the midst of perhaps some of the greatest pain I have ever felt in my life, I have walked away not unscathed, not without harm, not without emotional scarring, but definitely a stronger, mature man.

As I’ve confided in some of my closest friends and allies, I’ve been filled with encouragement and love. I owe my friends everything I could ever possibly offer. I am one of the wealthiest men in the universe because I am so rich in love and friendship from so many.

Still, all the love and encouragement in the world would mean nothing without meaningful change. Only, I didn’t change because I wanted to. I changed because I had to, or I quite possibly might have lost my mind, freedom, or worse, my life.

My wife, the person who was supposed to be the closest person to me in my entire life, but who I had admittedly neglected for so long through anger, mismanagement of emotions, and simple immaturity had waged nuclear warfare on not only me, but my entire family.

This person, who I still love more deeply than perhaps anything else on Earth, and in fact more than ever now that we have walked through these trials together, drove me to extreme desires and plans that I don’t care to share or admit out of deep shame.

To be frank. I nearly lost my shit and I didn’t care how many people’s lives I was to destroy in the process of losing it. My goal was to become a kamikaze hell bent on not only destroying my life, her life and the life of her lover, but also the life of my children and her lover’s children by extension.

Then something happened.

One day I woke up and I wasn’t mad anymore. I’d love to say that I was brought back from the brink by friends, family, counseling, medication, meditation, exercise… whatever! But that wouldn’t be true. Yes, those are all tools I have utilized, and they continue to help me on my journey, but I promise you, they are not what stopped me from doing things I would not ever be able to take back.

I’m not going to lecture you today, on Christmas of all days, about the power of God, or tell you to go to church or tell you to pray. I’m just going to say, I said a prayer out of extreme desperation and I woke up the next day calm and collected and ready to own my problems.

I listen to a lot of “religious” people who frankly, I think are delusional and perhaps even mentally ill. Others I see as great manipulators and control freaks. And others, I may even simply view as small minded, uneducated and ignorant.

For me, my personal experience with God is just that. It is personal. Sometimes as I mediate or workout, my mind drifts and I wonder if I didn’t create these ideas as a crutch to deal with my problems. I wonder if a lot of the things that have seemingly happened to me aren’t coincidence or maybe I am simply connecting the dots in such a way that makes it convenient for me to attribute it to God or Jesus or whatever.

In fact, I can’t even believe I write or feel this today. Me, a well educated, worldly man who has experienced and seen so much, met so many people of different faiths, studied history and is so well aware of the dangers of religion- writing about God.

But I do attribute my happiness and well being today to God and especially the people he has put in my path. I am but a single man floating around on a rock which circles a star at a thousand miles per hour, in a galaxy that is yet just a small satellite itself in a sea of other galaxies, in a universe too enigmatic and expansive for me to ever dream of comprehending…  I’ve decided writing off God is arrogant.

So, take that as you will. That is my testimony. I am not ashamed and I feel no need to defend it or prove anything to anyone.

Merry Christmas.

-Holden

iPhone Generation and The Long Game

Run 4.2 miles. Immediately following Holden and I get coffee at the local coffee house that is a half mile walk from my house. We don’t buy anything fancy, just a strong cup of coffee. It cost $2.00 even.

The coffee shop is  trendy (call it hipster-esque) with local art hanging on the walls, a starry night themed study room, and a barrister with a handle-bar mustache. One painting always makes me shake my head because it looks like a beautiful painting of a young girl that someone scribbled over top with purple crayon. Art.

My community is a pretty interesting mix. There are lesbian couples, a mysterious guy in great shape that curls rocks in his front yard, a few veterans, accountants, religious, atheists, old people, and young. There are antebellum homes, American flags, and an art/farmers market every weekend.

Holden and I sit in the trendy little coffee shop – mostly empty on a rainy morning. We still have our workout clothes on and talk a little too loudly for a near-empty coffee house. We feel free to speak our mind and pay no attention to the patrons at the next table. They pay no attention to us either.

These are my favorite kind of mornings. Holden and I chat and boost each other’s ego then laugh about it. Casually praising the other, but in a natural and healthy sort of way. We talk about personal growth, family, travel, and life. Our talks are, in many ways, an extension of this blog.

Even as we finish our coffee I enjoy the thought of the half mile walk back to my house.

Holden and I have been friends for nearly a decade. We have traveled to the third world, helped each other through relationship problems, and personal growth. In fact, this is the longest friendship I’ve had to date (I’m 27). It has taken a lot of work for both of us, but like any craftsman, the result (and journey) has been worth the effort.

Which brings me to my point:

I want to teach my daughter (and anyone else who will listen) the value of time well spent. I feel like most people want instant gratification. Holden and I call it the “iPhone generation” (a term we coined over coffee). The value of the “long game” (also coined over coffee) has been lost.

Everything I value in life was developed over years and decades. None of it was given to me. And everything I worked for and continue to work for I appreciate on a different level than those things that were handed to me. It is a unique type of appreciation that is only privy to those who have the experience of having done it. (Which is also why I’m beginning to realize the value of experience and age.)

It’s like reading a good book rather than watching the movie. It took a few days or weeks to get through the book. You spent time with it, developed a relationship with it. You can watch 6 movies in a day on Netflix and forget which before you go to bed. The “long game” is a good book.

These are the differences between sitting in a coffee shop talking about life with your best friend and liking a photo on Facebook.

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.