👇 What’s Below 👇
On Men and Crying 😭
Why I write ✍🏻
Back Crackin’ 👨⚕️
So here’s a thing I sometimes hate about myself: I cry. Like, easily. And often. Or at least it’s “often” in comparison to how often men normally cry. At least, I think it’s often in comparison to the frequency men normally cry. I dunno. We as a gender are not generally very up-front about our softer sides.
How many times in my life as a storyteller have I heard “I saw my dad cry only once in his life, and it was…”? A lot of times. That’s how many. Hell, I can say that about my own dad. I’ve seen actual tears falling from his eyes maybe twice.
I’ve cried two times today.
He cried because his dad died. I cried because I felt the music from Dear Evan Hansen, not once but twice, and it’s not even noon as I’m writing this.
There’s this part of me that I’m struggling to deal with, and I’ve been struggling with it for 47 years. This is problematic in its longevity and in the fact that the timeframe encompasses my entire life as a breathing human. Things always have moved me deeply. I remember as a small child going to bed with a wind-up tiger stuffed animal that played some sort of lullaby that I can’t place right now and crying myself to sleep because the song made me feel sad. Not for myself, but for other kids out there. I know. It sounds crazy. It probably is.
Music and movies still move me more than the average person. I don’t listen to music. I don’t watch movies. I feel them. And if you play the right (wrong) song or put on the right (wrong) movie at the right (wrong) time, I’m going to at the very least tear up and the very most ugly-cry.
And inside of me, as this is happening, there’s this voice that screams, “THIS! IS! NOT! MANLY! What are you, a girl?” and that brings us into this conversation about men and emotions and gender stereotypes and even, in some, evokes questions about my sexuality, which puts me in the awkward position of saying, “No, dude. I like chicks. Like, really like chicks,” which is exactly what someone would say if he were hiding a secret love of dudes, so you’re just going to have to trust me that, as Seinfeld would say, “Not that there’s anything wrong with it,” but I’m not into dudes in any sort of sexual way.
Now that we have that settled …
I just seem to feel … what’s the word? … bigger? Yes, that’s it. When it comes to feelings, I feel bigger than the average guy — than the average person. So things like Dear Evan Hansen’s plot of existential questioning and heartbreak and mental illness and longing and of screwing everything up despite having great intentions, well, I feel that. I feel that a lot.
And that’s the thing: I feel a lot of things a lot. A lot and loud. And sometimes, I can’t shut it off. I can’t close my eyes. I can’t cover my ears. I just… can’t… stop… feeling.
It frustrates me.
It frustrates me because there aren’t many (any) people who are on my level of feeling, nor even in my ZIP code when it comes to feeling the feelings of others — even fictional freaking characters. I spent more than 40 years wondering why people do the horrible things they do to each other only to fall back on “Well I didn’t mean to…” I always thought, “How could you not see what was going to happen?! How could do that when you knew how much it was going to hurt him (or her)?”
But they didn’t see. They didn’t know.
I see, I know.
And that’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I can easily relate to others’ deepest heartaches, and in me, people tend to find the lone voice who understands their worst moments. It’s a curse because I can’t shut it off and I can’t keep seriously damaged, really fucked-up people away. Like the zombies in The Walking Dead, they just keep coming.
One might think that, with this hypersensitive awareness of how actions and inactions create deep and lasting hurt I would be an expert at not hurting the people closest to me.
Oh, were that only the case.
Worn down by the cares of others and the deep pain in my own heart, I sometimes can having stunning blind spots for how my own actions are going to hurt those I love the most. So I hurt them. And then I see that I’ve hurt them. And I feel it. Not just my regret but their pain and not just their pain but my regret.
Long after they might have forgiven me, those feelings of hurt remain in me.
Yes, I know it’s a weakness. Yes, I know I’m supposed to forgive myself. I wish it were easy. It’s not.
And so I find myself in front of a computer monitor wondering why the hell it is that I cry so damn much and feel so damn big. But if given the opportunity to change, would I?
It’s an interesting question. I think maybe I would. I’d turn down the nob to, like, seven from its traditional home at 14. But I wouldn’t want to swing wildly the other direction. Because if I didn’t feel like I felt, who would I be, really?
Why I Write
It’s hard for even me to believe, but there was a good three-year stretch in the last decade where I didn’t write. I didn’t write any blogs, didn’t write any stories, didn’t attempt to write any books, didn’t journal and really didn’t even like writing anything more than the most perfunctory emails.
Now, I write a lot. I’ve got this little daily journal thingy and I have my own personal journal that I hand-write because I’m old-school like that.
Now, it’s as if I will die if I don’t write.
But why the hell do I do it?
Every writer has a bit of an ego in him. Each of us gets a nice little hit of dopamine when someone says they liked something we wrote. I’m no different. But that’s not exactly why I write.
I write because I think stories have power. Our brains don’t work well if the situations in our lives don’t have story structure. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. Think of those situations in your life that have made you the most uncomfortable. It’s likely because they came out of nowhere (no beginning), didn’t follow a predictable path (no middle) and/or went on forever and ever without a finish line in sight (no end).
I would even put forward that our brains are so hardwired for this story structure that we create them where they don’t necessarily exist just so we can continue to function. I look back at the most trying period in my own life — the time from when Wifey Poo and I found out there was something wrong with our first son, Jacob, when she was 20 weeks pregnant with him to the years following his death after six short hours of breathing — and I have tangible evidence of my brain’s attempt to put that which does not make any sense — the death of a child — into some sort of story structure.
It’s called Jacob’s Story: A Journey of Faith, and it’s the book I wrote in the aftermath of Jacob’s death. I looked back at it recently with the benefit of more than two decades between the events of the time and now. In Jacob’s life, I found a beginning. I wrote a ton about the middle. And I thought I had found the end — that the purpose of suffering is because we all are going to suffer at some point, so we suffer so that we can be of greater assistance to those who follow us. I called each of us sufferers a “link in the chain.”
To a large extent, I still believe that. I lived it. My suffering through Jacob’s life and death enabled me to be of assistance to others who came after me who lost a child.
So why do I write? Because I hold onto this hope that these twenty-six symbols I arrange in a particular order to form larger symbols that represent things and how I arrange these larger symbols into strings of larger symbols is going to help people make sense of this puzzle known as life, that they’re going to matter.
Honestly, I don’t know if they do. I have ready plenty of books and articles that I thought were going to create revolutionary change in my life but that now I fail to recall the name or the author. Maybe it all happens on a subconscious level, this mattering of which I’m writing.
But even if I knew no one ever read these words, would I still write? Yes. These days, I feel like I have to write, almost like I have to keep breathing if I don’t want to seriously inconvenience the few people who genuinely love me. And in the end, on some level, I keep writing because I have this hope that one day the people whom I most want to read these words and be touched by how revealing they are of the man who writes them will see their significance and cherish them as a window into his soul.
So I write…
The ‘What Did You Say?’ of the Day
Snap, Crackle and Pop
Today started off with a trip to the chiropractor. I hadn’t been to one with any sort of advanced training in quite a while. I jacked up my back way back in 2008, when Boy The Elder’s life was devoid of a younger brother and he was, thus, just Boy. Before leaving for work one morning, I picked him up under the armpits and swung him around like dads do.
Three minutes later I collapsed to the ground in excruciating pain that led to an ER visit and some dang awesome muscle relaxers that kept me loopy for three days until I could haul my carcass back to work.
The condition of my neck and back right now are not that bad. But they’re not that good, either. It’s been very much like slowly turning up the heat, just slow enough that I didn’t realize how damn hot it was in here until I paused to take stock of the temperature.
The long-and-short of my initial visit was that I have some sort of bulging neck disc that is pinching some sort of nerve and causing some sort of pain. So after a variety of noisy adjustments and a few exercises, I now have a follow-up appointment next week — and some homework. I have to sit upright in a chair every two hours and do these push-back-on-your-chin exercises that, if you’re not aware that they were prescribed by an actual doctor, make me look like I’m having some sort of mental episode.
The good thing is that the adjustments provided some immediate relief and made that “kinda-sorta-like-it-fell-asleep” feeling in my hands go away. I hadn’t even associated that with the neck stuff. Thanks, Longhaul COVID.
In Other Writing …
⬇️ What’s Below ⬇️Marketing: Science or Art? 🔬🎨The nature of feelings 🤗😭😡How to measure success in marketing 📊 Here’s one thing that doesn’t impress me much as a marketing guy: The popular vote. This might seem crazy, considering the goal of marketing is, at its core, to inspire the most people to buy your product…Keep reading
Today’s Reasons to Keep Living
- I’m going on a behind-the-scenes tour of Busch Stadium tomorrow.
- Boy The Elder is home from college for the weekend.
- I gotta believe I’m feeling all these feelings for a reason, and I’d like to be around long enough to figure it out.
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Welcome to Issue No. 9 of Listicles, the feature that presents the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, Top 100 or Top 1,000,000 of whatever it is you want to know about. Email your Listicle suggestions to email@example.com. No. 5: I pledged to finish something I am a writer. If I’m going to be a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Monkey Crap 🐒BTY Day 👨👦Incomplete Stories 🖊️ If you’re of the belief that human beings evolved from apes, I’m not here to try to dissuade you. What I am here to say is that, if evolution is true, we sure have come a long way. I say this after a trip…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Personal Growth 🌱Mad Mom 😠Oh, Jeffrey 🧠 About a year ago, Arti The Wonder Therapist waited patiently for me to finish yet another of my amazing monologues detailing just how I felt about the various situations I was attempting to address in my life at the time and then calmly asked…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cue the Outrage 🔫Animal Extinction 🐆Eye Update 👀 Even back in the day when I considered myself a Republican (before the dark times … before the Trumpire), I never quite understood the death penalty. Perhaps it was because I looked around at the other nations that still killed people as punishment…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hello Darkness, My Old Friend 👀COVID Costs 🦠Jackass Jones Verdict👩⚖️ I’ve spent much of this week so far in forced darkness. After I wrote on Monday morning, my right eye started to get blurry. Then it got real blurry. Then it became utterly useless. In this, I have reprised my role…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Awkward Shopping 🛏️Disingenuous Holiday 🗓️Help the Homeless 😔 If there’s a more awkward retail excursion than mattress shopping, I have yet to find it in my 48 years. Wifey Poo and I went to a high school gym to do exactly that on Sunday afternoon. The bed we’ve been sleeping in…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Playoff Disappointment ⚾Oh, Britney 📲Friendship Failure 😔 In the span of just more than 24 hours, I went from the excited expectation of being in Busch Stadium to watch the hometown St. Louis Cardinals eliminate the Philadelphia Phillies and advance to the next round of the playoffs to watching those Phillies…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Baseball Gear-Grinders ⚾Sunrise Woes 🌄Heavy Pumpkins 🎃 There are a few baseball-related indignities in my home that, as the saying goes, grind my gears. The first is that there is a state championship trophy on the mantel above the fireplace in our Humble Country Home with a gold-plated baseball player, bat…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Wound Treatment 🧂Phillies Bring Doom ⚾Meetings Suck 👎🏽 Apparently, I’ll take medical advice from waitresses and allow myself to receive medical treatment from busboys. This, I learned last night. I have a tendency to get hurt in really interesting ways. When I tell you that I once got a concussion…Keep reading
Welcome to Issue No. 8 of Listicles, the feature that presents the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, Top 100 or Top 1,000,000 of whatever it is you want to know about. Email your Listicle suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. No. 5: I held an epic car concert If you were anywhere in the vicinity of my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Football Picking God 🏈Fish Story 🐟Free Floating ☁️ A few months before Boy The Elder was born, I had about $100 set aside to buy Wifey Poo a gift that I intended to give her after she ushered our child into the world. It was the least I could do for,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩New Route Home 🏎️Confirmed Weirdness 🤪Here’s Your Sign 🤦 I took a new route home from the western part of Missourah yesterday after doing the whole open-house thing for work in St. Joseph. Rather than shoot down to I-70 and traverse the state on that familiar road, I went across Hwy.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Woo-Woo vs. The Beast 🛻Dart Throwers 🎯My Job 📋 I am not used to driving a tank. My normal vehicle is Woo-Woo, AKA The Shitty Little Car, AKA a Nissan Versa. It’s practical. It gets great gas mileage. I hate it. Woo-Woo normally accelerates as quickly as a child asked to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Unwitting Guinea Pigs 🐹False Bragging 🦹♂️Put Me In, Coach 🚀 My regular readers (hey, you three!) know that I have a hatred for social media’s influence on society with an intensity rivaled only by the heat of a thousand suns. The latest bit of “Are you fucking kidding me?” comes from…Keep reading
Welcome to Issue No. 7 of Listicles, the feature that presents the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, Top 100 or Top 1,000,000 of whatever it is you want to know about. Email your Listicle suggestions to email@example.com. No. 5: I reached out to a friend I have not been shy about sharing that I’ve…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩More Stupid Human Stuff 📱KC Trip ⚾Miserable Missourah 😠 Quick: Take a look around you. If you’re in a room with five other people, one of them thinks you’re financially struggling if you don’t have the latest iPhone. That’s according to a new survey following the release of the iPhone 14.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Loser Species 👶Email Win 📧Dad Pride 👨👦👦 I’m pretty sure I’m not normal. Normal people respond to that statement with, “Oh, John, nobody’s normal,” which is just a sign for us non-normies that the person we’re talking to is normal. Yesterday, I was waiting for Wifey Poo to pick me up…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Concert Thoughts 🧠Marriage 💍Drunk Idiots 🧉 There’s this scene in the 2004 movie Garden State in which Sam (Natalie Portman) looks at Andrew (Zach Braff) and notices … … And yeah, that resonated with me then and resonates with me now. Ever since then, being “in it” has become a thing…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sadness 😥Beautiful Skies ⛅Two Terms For 2022 ✌️ Back in our early days at Pound Ridge Elementary School, Sarah was the fastest girl runner in the class, which bought her some serious playground cred. There were only a few of us boys who could hang with Sarah in the 50-meter dash…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ear Flushing👂Grunge God🎶Tech Guy📺 If you have to have a doctor tell you a body part or yours is small, I suppose one of the least offensive would be the ear canal. That’s what a doctor told me this morning, after I finally broke down and actually went to said doctor’s…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Toys in the Hall🪅Idiot Governors🗳️Flopping FedEx✈️ Last night in my hotel in Springfield, Missourah, I set out a glass of milk and a plate of cookies before going to bed. It’s not that I don’t know how to read a calendar or have any particular belief in a fat man in…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Which One?🗺️Leave Introverts Alone🤫Oxford Commas🤪 I’m on the road for work this week, in Springfield. Ahhh, but Springfield what? There currently are 35 populated places in the United States named Springfield, spread out over 25 states, including five in Wisconsin. In addition, there are 35 Springfield Townships, and Ohio owns 11…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Surrounded 😷Wood Splitter 🌲Morons 🤪 I’ve had COVID. Twice. The first time fucked up my life for a year. I’m still not back to the me I was before it came into my home, and I’m pretty sure that now, nearly two years later, that’s not going to change. The second…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sunday audible🤒Fantasy Failure 🏈Anal Chess♟️ Sunday was supposed to be a romantic day spent in a canoe with Wifey Poo, the two of us paddling leisurely down the Meramec River. Mother Nature was not in the mood to play wingman and decided to pick the one day in the midst of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Finish Line Scene 🏃♂️Baseball’s Better ⚾M-I-Z! Z-O-UC-H! 🏈 I have never understood the modern-day purpose of running for the sake of running. Sure, I understand it’s a great form of cardiovascular exercise and it’s a convenient way to get from Point A to Point B, yet the desire to strap on…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Book Guy 📚Queen Stuff 👑Bernard Shaw 📺 I’ve decided I want to own a copy of every Stephen King book ever written. That’s about 75 books at the moment. I have a built-in bookcase in my mancave/home office. I don’t think it would hold all 75 in hardcover, but perhaps it…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Beginnings 📚School Start 🚌Real Baseball ⚾ I was thinking this morning on my drive to work how we rarely know when the significant times in our lives begin. So frequently, the most important things that happen to us start with nothing noteworthy. Of course, there are exceptions, the “love-at-first-sight” moments or…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Fallin’ Thoughts 🤕Shinedown 🎸Sleepy 😴 The brain can be surprisingly efficient when the meatsack it’s attached to is in the middle of falling off a ladder while holding a revved-up chainsaw. This, I learned yesterday morning while attempting to saw a limb off a tree that was getting way too close…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Overview📅Fantasy Football🏈Elite Bonding🤼♂️ Days that start with chainsaws and lighter fluid and end with four hours of really good professional wrestling are bound to be added to the “good” column for review when the scales are weighed at the end of a life. Yesterday was such a day for me. In…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Funeral 😢Glimmers ☁️Meat 🥩 If you’re lucky, you’ve had a second mother. Whether your first mother was or is an amazing person who nurtured you and raised you among calm consistency or if she was lacking in certain maternal fundamentals, having a second mother is a blessing. Today, we were there…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩We’re Dumber 👎OnlyFans Thrives 🍑Shinedown 🎵 Official statistics put the COVID death toll in the United States at 1.04 million, with another 713 deaths yesterday. More than 4,000 people are in the ICU right now suffering from what the former Moron-in-Chief called that one person coming from China and a situation…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Dethroned Queen 👑Gravy Wrestling 🤼♂️Dog Talk 🐕 Don’t fuck with the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival board. That’s a message Abigail Brocwell is learning the hard way. Brocwell was expected to be inaugurated as the queen of the festival in the northern Ohio town earlier this month, but she was stripped of the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩3, Unassisted ⚾A Sad Day 📅Tracking Your Vagina 🌸 The last time Boy The Younger was on a baseball field, the “coach” of his team removed him from a game in the middle of an inning because I had privately messaged him to not attempt to steal home with my kid…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hydrogen Issue 🚀Karting 🏎️Lake Life 😌 I was all excited to watch the launch of the moon-bound Artemis 1 rocket this morning, only to see the clock stopped at T-minus 40 minutes because of a “hydrogen issue.” Don’t know about you, but I’m thinking having an issue with hydrogen is a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Karen in Control ⌚Karting 🏎️What podcast? 🎧 In the winter of 1993, I went to a comedy club with a friend and, in the spur of the moment, decided to be one of those who came forward to join the fun and be hypnotized. This was decidedly out of character for…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Little League Flap ⚾Grandpa Joe 🤦Psychedelics 🍄 Boys are interesting creatures who aren’t easily understood. One of the many, many weird things boys do is mercilessly make fun of their best friends. My closest friends in middle school and early in high school were affectionately nicknamed Goon, Tree Frog, Butt and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩 Death Cometh Sooner 💀Twitter Security 🔓Game Over 🌑 Average life expectancy in the United States dropped in 2020 by almost two years in 2020, the biggest decline since World War II. Every state and the District of Columbia saw a drop. Guess it was a little bit more than that…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Worm brain 🧠Chicken Big Mac 🐔Eye Twitch 👁️ Caenorhabditis elegans is probably too elegant of a name for something that is really just a disgusting little worm about a millimeter long and most easily found in rotting fruit. It is more commonly known as a lab roundworm and was the first…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩The Agliata Homeschool Academy 🚌Hypnosis 😳Sunburn 🌞🔥 When you tell people you homeschool your children, you typically receive one of three responses: An enthusiastic: “Oh, that’s so cool!”An I’d-rather-be-dipped-in-acid: “Oh wow! I could never do that!” A you’re-one-of-those-weirdos: “Oh… really… homeschooling, huh?” The percentage for each has changed in the wake…Keep reading