👇 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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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Travelling Companion🚓Free Beans 🌯Unfollowed 👋 Brandy Bottone is either stupid or brilliant. Whichever it is, she’s also right. The Texas woman was traveling in the HOV lane — which, for the country folk out there, stands for High Occupancy Vehicle and is reserved for cars with two or more people to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Slots 🎰Dude Perfect ⚽Bye Bye Facebook? 👋 My mother-in-law (AKA The Judester) is nearly 81 years old and has knee problems that keep her from getting around too well these days. Watching her stand up from a chair is to feel pain yourself. Yet when I walked into the Ameristar casino…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Reflections on Grandma 👵Kids & Death 👨👦👦Don’t Say It 🤫 My grandma died yesterday, four days shy of her 96th birthday. As it goes with people at that age, it wasn’t a surprise. She had been fading for more than a year and, though she still was breathing, that version of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sleepwalking 🧨DnD Gang 🎲Gas Idiots 🛢️ If there were a day-by-day measure of the collective output of workers in these here United States of Amuricah (and for all I know, there is), I would venture to guess that July 5 ain’t our most productive day. I base this on my observations…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Stupid Parade 🧨Math Matters ➗What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Not being a hugely patriotic person at this point in my life, I made no plans to go to any Fourth of July parade this year. It seems mighty foolish to be celebrating freedoms that are eroding right before our eyes, though I…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Alone Time, Girl Time 👩👧Picture Hanger🔨What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Wifey Poo and I found ourselves in an interesting position at home today for a little bit: Alone. Boy The Elder took off for Six Flags with his buds, and Boy The Younger left with a friend and his family (Chicken Owner,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Oil Change 👨🔧Goose Lover🛦Church & State⛪ Based on my history, the last place anyone should ever look for me is underneath a car. Yet that’s where I found myself late this morning, side-by-side with Boy The Elder as he showed me exactly how stupid I’ve been all my life. I’m not…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Media Bias 📰Rudy’s Sandals 🩴Lack of Faith ⚖️ I’ve watched with interest the blowback against newspaper tyrant Gannett following its reminder to its journalists in the wake of the Supreme Court’s undoing of Roe v. Wade that they are not to take sides on social media. “You cannot use social media…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Censorship 🍈🍈Newspaper Talk 📰Toothbrush 🦷 I did my first actual “work” thing at my new job yesterday. The first two-plus days have been filled with meeting new people and learning about the kazillion awesome products we sell so I can talk somewhat intelligently about what we do. But then Nu Bossman…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hitler Talk ⚖️Chicken Postscript 🐣Green Seats ⚾ I wonder when the average German in the 1930s/1940s said something akin to “Oh shit.” There has to be a point when the rational, sane sauerkraut-lover realized that perhaps his or her vote for a certain mustachioed politician was a really bad idea. For…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Take Me Away🛀Period Tracker🩸Choose Wisely💒 Arriving for the first day at a new job is kind of like showing up in a new town after throwing away your old identity. It’s a blank slate, and you can be anyone you’d like to be. Want to go by a different name? Go…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Racist Billboard🐲Roe Silence😶Guest Bulldog🐶 Driving out of rural northern Arkansas today to return home after several days in a cabin in the boonies, I passed a billboard that was startling, to say the least. It starts off innocently enough with a very true statement: “It’s not racist to 💗 people.” I…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Uranus Sleeper🔭Cabin Rules🩲Taco Seasoning🌮 What does Cuba, Uranus, Sleeper, Doolittle and a billboard saying “If we don’t return to 2 Chronicles, than were finished” have in common? They all were on the route from my Humble Rural Missourah Home to the cabin in the boonies of Arkansas that is my home…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Check Engine 🚗Declined 🥡Murder Suspect 🔪 Every once in awhile, life throws you a pleasant surprise that seems to even the score a bit. Wifey Poo’s car is up for an emissions inspection this year. Her “check engine” light has been going on and off for a year or so, and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩River Thoughts 🛶Little Annoyances 😠Birthday Boy 🎂 I didn’t know what a float trip was until I met Wifey Poo. I’m not even sure today that the term “float trip” is used outside Missourah. But if you’re a Missourahn, when someone says, “Wanna go on a float trip?” you know a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩My Boys 👨👦👦Work Drinking🥃Feeling Good 😎 I’ve understood since seventh-grade science class how a child is a somewhat random and yet somewhat traceable mish-mash of his parents and their parents and their parents ad infinitum. It’s so cool to see that play out with my own boys. Boy The Elder is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩The Stinger 🦂Inflation 🎈Housing Costs 🏘️ There’s something quite amazing about witnessing a human dinosaur be thrown through a stack of four tables. That was just one of the scenes from last night as Boys The Elder & Younger and I attended AEW Dynamite and Rampage. The biggest news from the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Shitty Goodbye 💩Bald Is Beautiful 👨🦲Housing Market 🏘️ It’s official: My duty ensuring the continued breathing of roughly 20 chickens for Wifey Poo’s and Boy The Younger’s vacationing friends is over. Success! All birds were present and accounted for this morning, as I said goodbye to my new friends — Gertrude,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩CrytpoStupidity ₿Coffee Seltzer ☕Chicken Update🐓 I like to make fun of Matt Damon. I know this comes from a place of deep-seated insecurity because Matt Damon is, well, Matt Damon and I am not. Yet it’s fun to make fun of Matt Damon, precisely because he is Matt Damon — all…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Meatloaf🦎Ugly Fish🐟Chicken Update🐓 You can buy insurance for many things. Your car. Your home. Your boat. Your health. Your eyes, teeth or brain (which, for some reason, is separate from your health). And now, according to a Missourah court, you can buy insurance that pays you if you contract a sexually…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Kentucky Fried Idiot 🍗Johnny Boy Marketing✏️Airplanes!🛦🛦🛦🛦🛦 There’s a scene in the 1979 film Rocky II in which the titular character (sorry, I’ve always wanted to write that …) is tasked by his trainer Mickey with chasing a chicken. Rocky was pummeled into oblivion — though somehow managed to eek out a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Rogue Golfers 🐝Nay Voters🐟Chicken Day🥤 Golfers are known as being a genial sort. Whereas a basketball player could maul an opponent driving the lane, leaving him bloody and unconscious, and still complain about the foul called on him, golfers actually call fouls on themselves! Yet the world of professional golf is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bees Suck 🐝Bees As Fish🐟Cup O’ Pee🥤 I hate bees. Yes, I know they’re somehow the lynchpin on which our species’ survival will turn, but seriously, if we’re so fragile that we’re depending on a stinging invertebrate to keep us going, well, perhaps we’re not really so special after all. My…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Poultry Responsibilities 🐔Fine Dining🥩Crappy Year For Music🎵 I am many things. I am a husband, a father, a marketing guy, a storyteller, a jokester, a damn good parallel parker and a guy who played on a basketball team that lost 135-3. What I am not is a farmer. I left my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩NASCAR President ₿Creepy Coffee☕Chef BTE 🍖 We all know that just about every politician at any level is, in some way, bought and paid for, right? I mean, perhaps your local school board representative isn’t (though she might be owned by her kid), but when you reach the state and national…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Dessert, Not Desert 🍨Happy Belated Birthday, McLovin 🎁Men Kissing 🏳️🌈 I started out my career in the news business and quickly learned that people suck. I mean, back in the mid-1990s, the internet was just becoming a thing — we even capitalized it … Internet … and wrote “e-mail” instead of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩New Job🧑💼Happy Times🤗Small World ⚾ Buckle up. It’s story time. Today I made a reservation for Ruth’s Chris steakhouse on Sunday for me, Wifey Poo and Boys The Elder and Younger. The Core Four is getting dressed up. Keep in mind, we are not Ruth’s Chris people. It’s not that we…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Pants on the Ground👖Pimp Slap✋Pissin’ in the Wind🌬️ I had occasion to wear a suit yesterday. This was notable because I evidently hadn’t worn said suit in about a year. Over those 365 days, I’ve lost roughly 30 pounds. Thus, I showed up to the engagement necessitating a suit looking like…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Chainsaws Suck🪓Early Arrival✈️Shrimp on the Barbie🦐 I awoke bright and early this morning, kissed Wifey Poo on the forehead and went outside ready to put chainsaw to felled tree. I live far enough out in the country that crankin’ up a chainsaw at 6:30 a.m. on a holiday morning isn’t a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Racin’🏎️Heat☀️Gorilla Guy🦍 When I was a small boy, the Indianapolis 500 was must-see TV. I’m not sure exactly how it started, but it must have been around 1978 — when I was a 4-year-old boy who loved Matchbox cars and big wrecks. It was around that time that Pops brought home…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩My Fullback 🚑Sicky Poo 🤒Helium Shortage 🎈 I don’t get paid anywhere close to enough to deal with St. Louis traffic when it rains. Not that St. Louis drivers are uniquely bad. I would imagine large swaths of drivers in other cities react just as poorly to the presence of moisture…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Taking Toys Away 🔫Checked Out ✈️Windsurfing Kid 🌬️ Many moons ago, I had a toy rubber snake. That my parents would have allowed such a purchase is shocking, given that Mother Dearest was terrified of anything remotely reptilian and Sister wasn’t that far behind. Yet there, in the depths of my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Shut Up🤫Waffle House 🧇Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes🤗 So here’s something I don’t quite understand: Why is anyone, especially our political leaders, expressing “shock” over what happened in Texas yesterday. Dude … the sun rose yesterday. The sun has risen every single freaking day for the course of humanity. The sun will rise tomorrow. That’s…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Subway Obsession😞Guard Dog 🐶Chainsaw John🪓 Every child is peculiar in his or her own way. It’s an early indication we all should recognize that none of us is normal. We’re all weird. And that’s OK. Boy The Younger has always had his peculiarities. As a small child, he was fascinated with…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Musical History🎹Why Write? 🖊️Loser Level😔 We finally have only one piano in our house! Now, don’t get to thinking we’re this uber-musical family. We’re not. Wifey Poo, from what I hear, was a helluva clarinetist back in her day and did, indeed, take piano lessons. Boy The Elder is really good…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Beyond Tired😫Busting Ass 🐝Covid Sadness😔 Everything is knowable. When I look back at the pace of change in my life, I think that’s the biggest difference between my life as a child and my life as an adult. Back then, if you wondered something, you just … wondered it. I mean,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sad Anniversary😞My Back! 😳Dachau😭 Thirty-five years ago today, my first grandparent died. Grandpa was my favorite grandparent, and in looking back, I think it was because of his willingness to join my world. Grandpa played games with me endlessly. He taught me how to play rummy. He would spend hours on…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bye-Bye BTE✈️Rival Riot Rumble 🤼♂️Old Man John🤕 In a few hours, Boy The Elder will board a plane headed for Germany. He just completed his sophomore year at Mizzou, and now he’s going overseas for a two-week study-abroad session in which he’ll allegedly learn more about food science and fermentation and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Double-U🧸Big Sis 🦸♀️Preggo Healer 🤰 Anyone remember Speak & Spell? If you’ve seen E.T., you’ve seen it before. Don’t know why, but I was thinking about this toy the other day. For some reason, spelling wasn’t school if you had one of these things to play with. I can still hear…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Heat Wave🥵Lawn Mowing🚜Last Podcast 🎙️ It’s hotter than balls outside in my section of Missourah, and I’m not happy about it. I am not a hot-weather person. I hate heat. I sweat easily. I turn red even easier. Having a bald head does not match well with sun exposure. And has…Keep reading