Toxic People Suck!!

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We all have people in our lives that like to give us their opinion whether we ask for it or not.  Sometimes we have the courage to say “thanks but no thanks.”  Other times we grit our teeth and let them steamroll us with their tirade.

Whether these people are well-meaning or whether they are evil, sadistic, destructive, and hostile; you have the right to set a healthy boundary with them.  There is no law (that I’m aware of at least) that says you must continue to get shit on over and over and never put an end to it.  You may assume because they’re family or a life-long best friend you feel obligated to “take it,” but that thinking must be given careful reconsideration.

In The Art of Being, Erich Fromm says, “There is no contact between human beings that does not affect both of them.  (Bold added for effect) No meeting between two people, no conversation between them, except perhaps the most casual one, leaves either one of them unchanged–even though the change may be so minimal as to be unrecognizable except by its cumulative effect when such meetings are frequent.”

So I dare ask the question; have you ever gauged how healthy the interactions are that you have with people?

How many times have you been with a person and felt more alive, or in a better mood, or discovered new energy you didn’t realize you had?  You could have the worst headache in the world or cramps from hell (this applies a little more to my female readers in case you’re confused guys) and then an exchange with another human you admire will lift the headache like the sun lifts the early morning fog.  While talking to them you completely forget about your cramps and instantly life is good.

On the other hand, who hasn’t experienced the opposite effect?  You look at your ringing phone and your stomach turns when you see who’s calling.  Or that coworker who literally drains all your energy sits by you at lunch.  An exchange with someone that depletes your energy, causes you being depressed, makes you feel hopeless, or is an emotional vampire–they suck the life right out of you–these are the people you must establish a healthy boundary for.

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But if setting a safe distance or healthy boundary is not an option at the moment; Fromm gives some great advice: “Inasmuch as one cannot avoid bad company, one should not be deceived: One should see the insecurity behind the mask of friendliness, the destructiveness behind the mask of eternal complaints about unhappiness, the narcissism behind the charm.  One should also not act as if he or she were taken in by the other’s deceptive appearance–in order to avoid being forced into a certain dishonesty oneself.  One need not speak to them about what one sees, but one should not attempt to convince them that one is blind.”  So basically, in a nutshell, Fromm is saying to pay attention!  Don’t be sucked into their game and don’t fall for their fake niceness.

I can relate to being “forced into a certain dishonesty” like Fromm suggests.  I have been with people who have taken me in with their deceptive niceness and/or appearance only to realize after the fact that I was sucked into dishonesty–at the very least dishonesty with myself.

If you don’t feel the freedom to be your true self with someone, set a boundary.

If they cross the line over and over with their unwanted opinion, set a boundary.

If someone is an emotional vampire and is sucking the life from you, set a boundary.

If in your interactions with someone you notice you always give and they always take, set a boundary.

If you find you don’t like yourself very much after spending time with a certain person, set a boundary.

If someone always guilts you into seeing them, set a boundary.

Fromm goes on to give you the permission you may need to help yourself create healthy boundaries.  Remember, there is no contact between human beings that does not affect both of them.  With that thought in mind, he says; “If other people do not understand our behavior–so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us.  If this is being ‘asocial’ or ‘irrational’ in their eyes, so be it.  Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves.  We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them.  How many lives have been ruined by this need to ‘explain,’ which usually implies that the explanation be ‘understood,’ i.e., approved.  Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself–to his reason and conscience–and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.”

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There’s a healthy process we all go through while growing from a little boy or little girl into a healthy adult.  That process may be slowed–or halted altogether–if we lack the ability to set boundaries.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings–anyone who stakes a claim on your well-being–may be too attached to your life and your activities.  There’s a fine line in families between love and support and then the opposite which is manipulation and control.

Assuming you’re an adult and can make your own choices, what is stopping you from setting healthy boundaries from the controlling, manipulating, or opinionated figure in your life?  There’s a way you can tell who these people are without even being in their presence; you find yourself having conversations with them in your head when they aren’t even there.  You may be trying to justify an action or explain yourself to them before they even ask you about it.  That’s when you know you may have an issue.

Let’s be clear about something: A healthy boundary doesn’t mean you stop loving the person or you never talk to them again.  You can still love someone even if from a safe distance.  Like Fromm implied, Pay Attention!  If you feel like you can’t be yourself with a certain person, set a boundary.  It should go without saying, but the those that love you unconditionally will love you inside and out, top to bottom, whether they agree with everything about you or not.

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The bottom line is this: Spend as much time as possible with the people that give you energy and life.  Limit your time with people that suck the life out of you or try to manipulate and control you.

Toxic people suck! Avoid them at all cost!

I have more to say, but enough for now.

Peace my friends!

~Travis

My Trusting Place . . . . and Joanne

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“We give most to others when we are fully ourselves. ‘Don’t ask what the world needs,’ philosopher Howard Thurman once said, ‘Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.'”

Theo Pauline Nestor in Writing is My Drink

I spoke for over two hours on the phone yesterday with my dearest friend from Boston–Joanne Susi.  I first got to know Joanne in a life coaching class I was taking several years ago.  Thankfully for me, Joanne was the instructor that facilitated our learning every week.  I’ve often said, watching Joanne lead our life coaching training was similar to watching Michael Jordan sink a last second shot for an NBA title, or like watching Wayne Gretzky slice through the entire opposing team to make a miraculous wrist shot through the goalie’s legs. Basically, watching Joanne use her gifts and talents gave one the feeling they were witnessing greatness.  I told her all this in one of our classes and in front of all her students, the ever-so-talkative confident Italian lady was stopped dead in her tracks.  She was speechless.  There was an eerie silence amongst the class so I took that as my cue to continue.  I asked her–no I basically begged her–to please continue to share her gifts and talents with the world because if she’s off doing some menial task then she’s not doing what she does best.  This planet needs the Joanne Susi’s of the world to spread their gifts and talents as far and wide as possible.  I told her if there’s a task she doesn’t particularly like to do that’s draining, pay someone else to do it for her.  I also told her we needed her to do as much of what she does best as often as possible.

After a couple sniffles and a short pause, Joanne said, “Thank you, Travis” and we’ve been fast friends ever since.

Being great friends with a phenomenal life coach has many advantages.  The first and most obvious advantage is the wisdom and clarity she brings to our conversations.  She flawlessly switches hats from friend to coach and back to friend without ever blinking an eye.  The next thing I admire about our friendship is her unwavering love and support for me.  There is nothing in the world I could say to her that would cause her to love me any less.  When you receive that kind of love–without any conditions or strings attached–you really feel like you can make it through anything.

Another thing I love about our friendship is we have a continual ebb and flow of helping one another.  She helps me and I help her.  We are both here to serve the other any way possible.  For instance, Joanne had a vision of writing a book but she felt lost trying to gain any traction on it.  I asked her to please send me what she wrote so far to which she agreed to do.  She emailed me about eight to ten different documents that each had a good deal of writing on them.  My first thought was to compile all these documents into one so we would be working on what appeared to be a whole book.  I then started the process of proofreading and editing the entire book for her.  There were days when I called her and told her she needed to expand on what she wrote.  I pleaded with her to dig deeper and share more of who she was with the reader in certain places.  She agreed and I’m happy to say her book is now on the market!

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After her book–BRAINSTORM: From STROKE To My TRUSTING Place–was published, Joanne told me she was done writing.  I said, “Really? I believe you have a lot of books still in you just waiting to be written.”  She replied with a thank you but graciously said she had no desire to write any more.  I didn’t push but I simply left the possibility open with a gentle, “Okay, we’ll see.”

I say all this about Joanne because she said something to me yesterday that is very important.  We talked about my blog, about me writing a book, and about my own trusting place.  She mentioned how writing truly is my trusting place where I recharge my batteries and where I have communion with God.  Whenever there is anything going on in my life, I can turn to writing–my trusting place–in order to find comfort and solace.  No matter what I may be facing, as long as I have my fountain pen and journal in tow, I’m certain to find relief.

Something else I have learned along the way is what happens when I neglect my trusting place for too long.  If I let a week or God-forbid two weeks go by without wrestling with some idea through my pen or the keyboard, then I turn into a complete ass.  I get grumpy, impatient, bitter, and fatalistic.  I lose sight of who I am and why I’m here.  I forget about my intention for writing in the first place.  My intention (in every aspect of my writing) is to help people be more comfortable with their humanness.  If I’m having a difficult day or being a touch on the insensitive side, my wife has a wonderful way of asking me if I’ve written anything lately.  I then begrudgingly tell her no and then sheepishly sneak off to my trusting place the first chance I get.

I say all this because I never really understood the concept of my trusting place until Joanne and I talked about it.  And there’s no doubt in the world that writing is my trusting place.  Writing is where I meet with Divine.  Writing is where I come face to face with life and what it means to be human.  Writing is where I make sense of our existence and why we are here.  Writing gives me energy, it creates a spark and changes my outlook on life in ways I can barely begin to describe.

I created MysteriousFlow.com back in 2012 as a place to share some of my trusting place with others.  I only post a small percent of my writing here.  If I posted all my thoughts that gets wrestled with in my journals and on the computer you might consider me a lunatic or schizoid (not that you don’t already).

I’m wondering, what or where is your trusting place?  Have you considered the idea that you have a trusting place where you go to recharge and breathe new life into yourself?  Where do you go to speak to Divine, to find your Muse, or to discover your Authentic Self?

My dearest friend, Joanne, had a stroke before she was able to find her trusting place.  Now she lives in her trusting place every day.  Her biggest desire is to help people find their trusting place without having to experience a stroke like she did.

Give it some thought and consider where or what your trusting place may be.  Is it painting? Drawing? Running? Cutting wood? Riding your motorcycle or other piece of equipment? Working out? Time spent in a busy coffee shop? A long walk around the block? A sunset in a pristine location? Traveling someplace new? A night with friends and wine? A moving church service? Yoga? Mowing the lawn? Sailing? Writing? Riding a horse? Golfing? Meditation? Fishing or hunting? Music?

Your trusting place could be one or several things that rejuvenates your soul and invigorates your spirit.  Even when life gets stressful and your job is taking you through the ringer, your trusting place is always right there to lift you up anytime you need it. My trusting place is a concept that has taken me years to fully grasp but now that I understand it, I hope you can see its importance as well.

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Family issues, relationship drama, disrespectful teenagers, stressful jobs, or annoying bullies all melt away when you’re in your trusting place.  Opposite the old slogan, “Calgon, take me away,” your trusting place is not an escape from your life, but rather a call to life.  Your trusting place is where you make sense of it all and find meaning and create purpose.  If you’re looking for an escape there’s always computer solitaire, television, booze, or tabloids.

So what’s your trusting place?  Do you have one?  If not, pay attention over the next few weeks and I’m certain it will reveal itself.  Oh, and if you don’t have someone amazing like Joanne in your life, I would highly recommend that too!!

Peace my friends!

~Travis

The Little Boy, Authentic Self, and a touch of TMI

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Do you ever wish you could soak in all of the world’s wisdom in one day? In one week? One year? In a lifetime?

As I sit in my office and I look at my bookshelf behind me, I’m moved by the wisdom that resides in my house.  Men and women who took the time to put their ideas out into the world.  Human beings who decided to make a difference.  They sat at their desk or their kitchen table and they purposefully wrote down their ideas to share with all of humanity.

Some authors state that what they wrote about wasn’t really what they had in mind; but instead the ideas simply flowed through them as though they were basically the vessel for the idea to be born through.  They talk as though all they did was take dictation for the idea to share itself through them.  It makes me wonder what ideas want to be born through me or through you?

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When I think back on my life, I rarely find much to regret.  I have lived a joy-filled forty-plus years on this planet and have many fond memories.  Sometimes I turn the clock of my memory way back to my childhood and watch an insecure young boy trying his darnedest to figure life out.  I wish I could report to that little boy to not give up on himself or on seeking wisdom and eventually he would figure life out.

That little boy was resilient!  He was handed a rule book for how he was supposed to conduct himself but unfortunately that rule book was blank.  So that little boy decided he would pay attention and try as hard as he could to fill the rule book himself.  Certain things he did were met with a harsh scolding so he wrote down his behavior in order not to do that foolish act again.  Other times his behavior resulted in spankings so he tried real hard to not forget those rules.  The little boy eventually filled the rule book up pretty full and learned when to talk and when not to talk, when to be funny and when to be serious, and the final most important lesson he learned was to make sure he was everything everyone else wanted him to be.

With that lesson firmly in place, he lost all contact with his authentic self.  For a long time, that young boy did nothing but try to survive by being whoever he needed to be just to get by.  He had genuine glimpses of his true authentic self and even attempted to share that part of himself with his family and teachers.  But more times than not, being authentic was strongly discouraged; and usually with a belt.

That little boy didn’t give up though.  He kept playing the parts he was expected to play.  He said what he was supposed to say, did what he was supposed to do.  But in the back of his mind he still held out hope that one day he would throw away the rule book he so carefully filled.

Eventually when the little boy became a teenager, he realized that some things were worth breaking the rules for–mainly girls.  The seductive and sensual taste and smell of the opposite sex caused the young boy to rethink his position on keeping ALL the rules.  Surely he could relax on some of the rules for his own enjoyment as long as he skillfully continued to APPEAR he was on the straight and narrow.

When that young, robotic, rule-keeping boy discovered the female body, something in his heart woke up (Okay, thanks Captain Obvious, yes I know something else woke up too).  But instead of feeling guilty like before when he broke the rules, now he felt more alive than ever.  His experiences catapulted him to a whole new level of personal satisfaction that could never be attained by just sticking to the rules.

Life has a funny way of calling out to your heart and inviting you to stop faking it.  Even tho you think you’re living authentically, your heart never lies.  Opportunities along the way call out to you–sometimes scream at you–and mysteriously pull on your heartstrings.

I recently read The Five Levels of Attachment by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. and he discussed this authenticity.  “There is a moment when the Authentic Self becomes no longer an abstract term, but an experience.  I believe we all experience such a moment.  It could be during meditation, while painting or dancing, working or working out, lecturing or talking, making love, eating, or playing.  It’s the moment when judgment stops and pure harmony takes over.”

You could say when that young man first experienced the long and slow touch from his high school sweetheart he also discovered his Authentic Self.  The sensual act unleashed something in him that was more than just sensual or sexual.  For the first time in forever, he felt alive!  He felt like he could conquer the world–or at least die trying.  Sure, he was experiencing new and exciting things, but more importantly, his Authentic Self was coming to life.

Fast forward five years and he was still playing the roles and living by rules that he did not write for himself.  In his early twenties, he made the assumption that he was supposed to get married. . .

. . . So he did.

After he was married for a while, they thought they were supposed to have children. . .

. . . So they did.

A couple years after that he grew sick of playing by everyone’s rules and wanted to do his own thing. . .

. . . So he did.

His actions were less than exemplary for a loving husband and father so his wife warned him she would leave. . .

. . . So she did.

He heard once a man regains his freedom he could party like a rock star and sleep around all he wanted. . .

. . . So he did.

Then he heard from a dear friend that told him he was a great guy and if he wanted a great girl he would need to start being a man a great girl would want. . .

. . . So he did.

At that point he realized he needed to start reading books and changing his life. . .

. . . So he did.

He learned all about the ego, his Authentic Self, breathing techniques, people who were revolutionary characters, how people shape their beliefs based off their accumulated knowledge, how people are human beings not human doings, how real joy and happiness can be found in life only in the present moment, and how our society and environment shape our opinions and outlooks which cause our unintentional shift away from our authentic selves.

He also learned that his relationships with women were unhealthy–He was either trying to manipulate them to sleep with him or he was . . . well, he was basically trying to manipulate them to sleep with him.  Furthermore, when it came to women, he had a tendency to pick the ones who never liked him for exactly who he was.  He always seemed to pick the reflection of who he was on the inside.  If he wasn’t happy with himself, he picked girls that weren’t happy with him either.  He attempted to heal his wounds relying on women who were incapable to offer him healing.

I’m not bagging on all the females that crossed his path or trying to blame them for his shortcomings.  He dated many phenomenal women who were wonderful people, but his mistake was taking his ultimate question to them for an answer.  He didn’t ask them directly and most of the time he rarely comprehended he was even asking them anything at all by his actions; but, nonetheless, he took his question to them anyway.

Am I Good Enough?!?!?

It wasn’t until he answered the question for himself (with a resounding YES, by the way) that he was able to steer clear from the nagging external approval he so desperately sought.

I think it’s safe to say that little boy who desperately longed to know all the rules and lived his life for everyone else’s approval has finally grown up.  Through the help of years of counseling and a decade of deprogramming, I feel more authentic now than ever.  I still have a ton to learn and a lifetime of authors yet to read, but my Authentic Self is finally in the driver’s seat for the rest of this journey.  I’ve taken that young boy by the hand, thrown away the rule book, and gave him just one rule to remember–first for himself and then for others–LOVE!!

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Peace,

~Travis

Why is choosing to LOVE so difficult???

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Maybe it’s my recent head injury, maybe it’s my growing impatience for ignorance, or maybe it’s just time I said something.  Who knows, but I’m curious about something:  Why is choosing to LOVE so difficult???

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I watched the movie Selma recently and it struck a chord with me.  I cannot fathom being a part of that movement and what it must have felt like.

I believe I have rooted out any prejudice that may have lingered from my ignorant immaturity.  Yes it’s true that racism is not born into someone but rather taught.  Children who are young enough not to see in color love unconditionally until the day they are taught to love sparingly.

Besides racism, we all have an Us vs Them mentality.  We compartmentalize and label ourselves and everyone around us.  We are emphatically tribal.  We love those who are in our group, who think like we do and then we hate those who are different than us.  Sure, hate may be a strong word, how about this: We withhold love from those who are different, those who are outside of our tribe.

Why???

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The Golden Rule can be found in every single religious book.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  But somehow we forget that along the way.  Many people that read Matthew 7:12 and consider themselves Christian still feel justified in treating people poorly.  There is no asterisk below that verse.  There is no Black, White, Gay, Straight, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim, American, Japanese.  The Golden Rule is plain and simple: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

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Whatever excuse you have for not choosing to love is a poor one.  It may cause you some discomfort at first.  You may be going against your parents.  You may have to question long-held beliefs you have grasped far too long.

The answer is inside yourself.  LOVE!

Start with those in your family.  LOVE!

Move to those outside your family.  LOVE!

Look at those in your community.  LOVE!

How about those across the country?  LOVE!

Different political views?  LOVE!

Different ethnicity? LOVE!

Different sexual orientation?  LOVE!

Consider those overseas.  LOVE!

In what ways can you open your heart?  It really truly does come down to choosing.  Do you disagree?

I choose LOVE!

Guilt Sucks!!

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OK, so here’s what is going on with me: I’m wandering around the house feeling guilty for not doing several things at once. I feel as though I need to exercise, I feel as though I need to be writing, I feel as though I need to go buy some clothes for Hawaii, I feel as though I should go get a haircut, I feel as though I need to call my friend from Boston, and I feel as though I need to be cleaning the house. This overwhelming feeling leaves me paralyzed. While I struggle to decide which important thing I should be doing, I end up doing nothing. In order to work through this guilty feeling, I have decided to at least write about it so I’m doing one of the things I said I feel guilty about not doing.

It’s crazy; I sit and watch the clock tick away and I’m guiltier by the minute. I read for a little bit this morning, then made breakfast and sat down for a half-hour show and all of a sudden it’s after 10:00. Next thing I know, I’ll be off to get my son from school at 4:30 and I haven’t completed anything I planned on doing all day. That is not how the day has to go though. I can do things differently. I can write for a while, and then take the puppy for a walk, then clean for a while, then get my son from school. It all can be done with the time I have. As long as I stay out of my head long enough to not get sucked into some vortex of self-pity, I can do what I need to do today with my time.

Interestingly, I find myself yearning constantly about being a successful author who writes life-changing material for people to read. I dream about having long blocks of time to be able to pour my heart out on blank page after blank page. If only I didn’t have my day job I could become rich and famous for putting all these funny and quirky ideas that have been clanking around in my head like marbles in a pump into a readable format for the masses. Instead, I’m a poor helpless victim because I can’t spend the time writing that I wish I could. If only life were fair, I would be able to write every day in my boxers while sipping on coffee in the morning and red wine in the evening. While I’m at it; if life were fair I would be able to eat anything my poor little heart desired without having to deal with the emotional baggage that is making me overindulge in the first place. I should just be able to crinkle my nose like I Dream of Genie and all my issues would be solved. Right?

Unfortunately, life isn’t always fair and life does require something of me. I have to actually show up. I’m not going to randomly get a call from John Grisham’s agent one day and hear: “Yes, hi Travis, this is Agent Jim Doe, I understand you want to be a writer? I can’t wait to read everything you have been writing. You have been writing haven’t you?” That phone call is never going to happen unless I actually have been writing and writing enough to have something to offer the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been writing. But if my goal is to be a world-renowned author will I ever get to that point by only writing a paragraph or two every day? Sure, over the course of thirty years I might actually have enough to piece together a decent book, but if I want to enjoy the rewards of a fruitful writing career I have to go at it a little fiercer than a couple of paragraphs per day.

Given the struggle I have with my guilty feelings I mentioned earlier, I won’t become a successful author if I won’t sit down to write on the days I have extra time to sit down to write. Those are the days I can fill page after page until my ears are going to pop since the ideas are flowing fast. But truth be told, if I am dedicated to becoming an author, I need to write every spare moment I can get. I need to give writing so much focus that I can’t think about anything else when I’m awake except writing. If I’m not writing, when will I be able to write next? When I’m falling asleep, what do I plan on writing about when I wake up? Every spare moment I can steal away for the process of writing needs to be utilized in order to become the next great American author.

I may never become the next great American author for many reasons that will never be fully understood. Some authors don’t have the privilege of seeing their ideas supported during their lifetime while other authors experience waves of success that may seem undeserving in comparison. Nonetheless, whether success comes during my lifetime, after I’m dead, or not at all I must sit down and put my ideas on paper.

One of my favorite authors is Eric Hoffer because he worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco by day but wrote nearly a dozen small books throughout his lifetime. He wrote a book that became a bestseller called The True Believer: thoughts on the nature of mass movements. His book was written in 1951 and attempted to answer how people could willingly give themselves to mass movements whether they were meant for good or evil. After Hitler and the Holocaust several people in the world started asking themselves questions about how we could treat one another so despicably. Hoffer did his best to describe individuals who gave themselves completely to mass movements. He says, “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves. The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”

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I picked Eric Hoffer as an example because he worked full-time while he wrote his ideas. His sole income didn’t come from his writing and truth be told he probably didn’t make very much money from the books he did publish. Interestingly, though, this full-time longshoreman, part-time author, died in 1983 but his ideas live on many decades beyond him. When I think about being an author who may or may not sustain a respectable income from my ideas, I succumb to the fact that the income I receive is not my main concern. Sure, being rewarded for slapping the keyboard day after day seems like a fair and novel idea but the reward is in the life that was changed that I may never even know about. Decades, even centuries, could pass and the idea that I was brave enough to put down on paper could make a difference in someone’s life and could change the world for the better one person at a time. I may or I may not change the world, but if I don’t at least try I will never know.

Now that I have settled the writing part of my day and one of my reasons for guilt, I can move on to taking the puppy for a walk. Life is good.

WHY I WRITE

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WHY I WRITE

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There are a lot of reasons why people write.  I can’t speak for anyone except myself so I won’t even begin to speculate on the many reasons why other people write.  Obviously, the very good writers write for a profit and they are handsomely rewarded for it. 

I write for two reasons: to connect with myself and to connect with others. 

Writing to connect with myself usually means I’m writing in my journal and I’m getting as many of my thoughts on paper as possible.  I gather my thoughts so I can use them as clay.  Once they’re on paper, I can rearrange them, mold them, or shape them to better define what I was trying to say.  Rarely (ok, NEVER) do I lay down a sentence and consider it brilliant the first time around.  That is why Anne Lamott so knowingly called these “shitty first drafts” in her book on writing, Bird by Bird.  She suggested that all great writing begins with shitty first drafts. 

I write most of my shitty first drafts in my journal for a few reasons.  First, I love the natural flow I get into when my fountain pen lays the ink across the paper.  There is something very organic and original that resonates with me when I use a fountain pen.  I also write in my journal because I don’t want my mind to edit everything I say before I can get all my thoughts down.  I’m too tempted to edit myself when I write on a computer; when I read my previous sentences I find myself editing before I can move on to the next thought, which is a major flow killer.  With the journal, whatever I lay out there is there, until I type it into the computer later and start the process of editing afterwards. 

The other reason I write is to connect with others.  There is no greater feeling in the world than to truly connect with another human being.  The joy and honor I feel when I hear my writing has touched someone is astounding.  Knowing I’ve made a difference, if only for a brief moment, makes all the difference in the world.  Let’s be honest, there’s enough negativity swirling around our globe so when I can brighten someone’s day or put a smile on someone’s face it makes my early morning alarms worth it. 

Chicken-Shit, Bull-Shit, & Elephant-Shit

Fritz Perls (1893-1970) was a flamboyant psychologist who perfected a popular form of therapy called Gestalt Therapy.  His honesty about the present moment and his matter-of-fact attitude earned him quite a reputation among his peers and clients.  When people talk about present moment and share their experience honestly, Perls considered this genuine communication.  This style of communication is very rare, however, and even trained professionals struggle to stay in the present moment all the time.  In contrast, he came up with three types of shit that people use when they talk to people: chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit. 

The easiest way people avoid any kind of emotional contact is by talking about chicken-shit.  Chicken-shit is the small talk about the weather, sports, or any other cliched conversation.  Talking about chicken-shit serves a rather important purpose for me since it keeps me safe.  I don’t have to risk being vulnerable when talking about chicken-shit. 

Another way to avoid emotional contact is by talking about bull-shit.  Bull-shit is the intentional lies I tell for three reasons: I lie to hide the truth and wrong-doing, I lie to protect myself or someone else, and I lie to gain something (like prestige, power, money, sex, etc).  Talking about bull-shit also keeps me safe since I don’t have to be vulnerable while talking about bull-shit. 

I’ve heard two explanations for elephant-shit and I like them both.  First, elephant-shit is when I talk about everyone else’s chicken-shit and bull-shit.  Elephant-shit is when I get together with my friends or family and talk about other people’s drama.  Or, more popularly known as gossip.  As long as you and I have our neighbor’s chicken-shit and bull-shit to talk about, we never have to be real with one another and talk about what is truly happening between us.  The second explanation I heard for elephant-shit refers to the grandiose plans I come up with so I never have to face reality or take responsibility.  In other words, I talk about what I’ll do once I win the lottery but I won’t even buy a ticket.  Either explanation works for me since they both give another example of how we avoid true connection. 

Since I heard this explanation of chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit, I can’t help but say this internally when I’m talking to someone and listening to their words.  I really do long to make genuine connections with those around me but our society seems programmed to avoid these connections.  I totally understand life cannot be lived bluntly telling everyone exactly what we think of them in every moment.  That’s probably not the easiest way to win friends and influence people.  However, I do believe that life presents plenty of opportunities for genuine connection but it takes hard work to steer clear from the chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit. 

Why I Write

Back to why I write: I write to avoid the everyday, unimportant chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit.  I write to promote genuine connections among myself and others I come in contact with.  I write with the hope of starting a conversation between people who have talked with chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit their entire lives.  I write with honesty and integrity longing for just one person to say I made them think differently.  I write from a loving disposition because we are all learning as we go and none of us have all the answers.  I write the way I try to live my life; sometimes I put an explanation point where it doesn’t belong but I’m never ashamed to use a question mark. 

Many years ago I decided I would expand my mind by reading books.  I made up my mind to become a life-long learner and I’m thrilled I made that decision.  A large percentage of the books I read have to do with human relationships, memoirs, and different philosophical perspectives.  You could say I write now because after years of learning and living what I have learned, it’s time to share some of it with the world.  I write as a gift.  If I can make you smirk, smile, laugh, or cry, then I will consider my job successful.  My gift to you today is a smile.    🙂 

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Peace and Love!

~Travis