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THE ART OF LETTING IT SLIDE

Norman Rockwell (Robert Young-type) father reading to his daughter

A portrait of my father? Not exactly, but I loved him despite not being the father depicted in this drawing by Norman Rockwell.

 

 Awhile back I wrote a piece about my best friend Steve Sanchez. Steve died in 2009 and in doing so left behind two sons. I was thinking about Steve’s relationship with his boys and what a good father he was and how he had left a gaping hole in their lives when he passed. This in turn got me thinking about my own father. While my dad was never going to be a candidate for “Father of the Year” and we bumped heads on more than one occasion, I did love the guy and miss him quite a lot. My dad was a tortured soul and was broken badly in more than one way but he was still my father (my grandfather was my father figure growing up so in actuality he was my “dad” but you know what I mean). So if you have a moment I would like to tell you about him and about the circumstances that made him into what he was.

 Pops was born Edward Clark Hanson Ainsworth II (I used to tease him and call him Junior…he hated that) to Edward Clark Hanson Ainsworth Senior and Marilyn Lenore Ainsworth in January of 1943 in Rawlins Wyoming. I don’t know much about his early days. I know he had a sister a few years his senior named Joanne who at sixteen would go missing (a strange tale in itself) and a younger brother named Brendon Berrigan who was fathered by another man. By the sounds of it, Ed Senior was in and out of the picture so dad never really had much guidance. Other than that he never really spoke about his childhood, at least the first years of it.

 His mother was sorely lacking when it came to raising children (she was an awesome grandma though). Marilyn was a drunk and a junky who would in time be married 7 times (twice to Ed Senior). Promiscuous was a term used lightly when referring to my grandmother. Dad used to say of his mother that she was a “Roy Rogers girl” in that she never met a man she didn’t like. Grandma would routinely get so tore up on pills and alcohol that she would leave the children in a position where they would have to remove her from public places as she had passed out and/or pissed herself, a heavy burden for any child to shoulder. As a child I witnessed my grandmother’s addictions first hand so I have no doubt as to the validity of these stories.

 Dad was shuttled all over Wyoming never really having a stable environment as his mother jumped from relationship to relationship. When dad was about six or seven his mother hooked up with a character named Frank Berrigan. Frank was an abusive alcoholic that would beat my father regularly. Dad would hold a disdain for this man the rest of his life. Dad told stories of how Frank would beat him like a man, even going so far as to kick my father down a flight of steps when he was about 12 or 13. It was around this time Dad began to pilfer his mother’s stash of pills. By the time he was 15 my father was a devout hoodlum and had a full blown addiction to prescription drugs as well as a drinking problem.

 When my dad was about 14, a man they called “Shorty” showed up at their house and shot Frank Berrigan in the head, leaving him dead on the kitchen floor. Dad’s mother had been having an affair with Shorty and he had killed Berrigan in a fit of jealous rage. In response, Marilyn (Dad’s mother) had gotten loaded on pills and called my father home from school to clean the mess in the kitchen. Dad told me how he had to scrape blood and brain matter from the floor and cabinets as his mother lay in a stupor on the living room sofa. Heavy shit. It was shortly after this incident that Dad’s sister Joanne disappeared.

 When my dad was 16, in an attempt to escape his home life, he lied about his age and joined the Army. He never even made it through boot camp as he had got himself in a fight about 8-9 weeks in and was beaten with a piece of pipe. Somehow in the drama that followed they figured out dad was not of age and sent him packing. From there he then decided to try his luck in California and moved to L.A.. After a short stay my dad was arrested for an assault he had been involved in and did a few months in L.A. county jail. After being released he returned to Wyoming and drifted aimlessly for a couple years.

 When Ed was 18 and after a hard night of drinking, he ran his Mercury coupe at high speed into a bridge outside Casper Wyoming. The car, after hitting the bridge, careened over the edge and rolled down the hill leaving dad trapped in the vehicle with severe injuries. After a couple hours he managed to get himself out of the car and with a severely broken leg crawled up the hill to the highway. But being covered in blood and with the wreckage out of sight, nobody would assist him. He told us passerbys would just slow down, look, then drive away. After four hours of lying on the side of the road help finally arrived. Ed’s leg would require many surgeries and even at that doctors fought to save it. Surgeons would have to take bone from his hip to rebuild the shattered limb. Ed would spend the next two years on crutches and painkillers, deepening his addiction. He would walk with a severe limp the rest of his life.

 

Ed was about 21 when he picked up an apprenticeship with the pipefitters union and began steps toward learning a trade. With addictions of his magnitude, my father found it difficult to focus on his apprenticeship and eventually dropped out. He then decided a career in auto body repair might suit him so he attended school but never pursued it any further. He drifted from one dead end job to another before meeting my mother in 1966.

 In 1967 with a child on the way (yours truly), my father reupped with the pipefitters and again began serving a five year apprenticeship. It was a rocky road, Ed’s drinking and drugging landed him in jail and the hospital regularly (at one point he racked up 3 DWIs and wrecked two cars within a two week period) and he again dropped out of the apprenticeship. Now married with a child in tow he pursued a career in meat cutting. A job that my grandmother’s latest husband, Ken Schroeder, landed for him. For about a year Ed worked at the packing plant in Rapid City SD. But it was not long before he picked up an infection at the plant. The infection spread to his stomach and nearly killed him. He ended up on a colostomy bag for a several years. I still remember the sickly sweet lilac smell of the disposable bags; the thought of it turns my stomach to this day. It was also during this time when his beloved brother Brendon was killed in Vietnam in an incident of “friendly fire”. My father was a mess and he was using heavily during this time. Eventually Dad was able to return to work and once again resumed his apprenticeship with the pipefitters union. In 1971 we moved to Rock Springs WY and during this time he pursued his addictions to drugs and alcohol with fervor.

 Ed would hold a job and try the straight and narrow for months at a time only to fall back into old habits again and again. Sometimes he would throw parties at the house that would last for days and other times he would just disappear for days. We never knew from one day to the next which Ed we would be dealing with when he got home…if he came home at all.  Looking back I can see a deep self-loathing in my father. He hated himself and he hated the world. He was violent and erratic…he was bat-shit crazy. He never got physical with us kids, we simply weren’t there in his eyes, but he would throw horrible beatings on my mother for us to witness on a regular basis. My very earliest memories are of the violence in our home and I remember finding my father passed out, drunk, on the living room floor on more than a few occasions. Our home life was unstable to say the least.

 Ultimately my mother would have her fill and finally left my father for good; they divorced when I was about 9. After the separation my father disappeared for about a year. He had gone on the road traveling from job site to jobs site as a pipefitter. He made good money but pissed it all away, never sending a dime of support to my mother. He was “on a run” as he would later put it.

 When I was about 10 or 11 my dad again reappeared and started trying to spend time with us kids. He had remarried to a hard drinking native woman named Faye and the two of them were rarely sober. On one occasion dad picked us up for one of his weekend visits. We drove out to his friend Sonny’s house just outside Rapid City where my brother and I watched my father and his friend drink themselves sloppy as we sat quietly. Hours later, we left Sonny’s and headed for town using the back roads as to avoid a DWI. We weren’t more than a few miles from Sonny’s when dad swerved into the oncoming lane and hit another vehicle head on. The small car we had collided with was no match for my father’s Chevy Suburban, so after taking out a string of mailboxes in an attempt regain control, my father simply drove away. Less than 200 yards from the crash site my father spotted a bar and pulled into the parking lot. He grabbed us kids, went in and started drinking. We had only been there perhaps 15 minutes when the police arrived. Dad must have had warrants for other offences because no less than five cop cars were waiting outside for my father. With guns drawn, they arrested my father and took him away. We didn’t see dad until nearly two years later.

 The next time I saw Dad was when he returned to my grandmother’s house to recuperate from a wound he had received in a gunfight. Dad and Faye had been living in Wisconsin and had attended a party. During the party my father apparently stumbled upon Faye in a compromising position with her cousin (I know right?). Dad threw a beating on both of the adulterers and left the party for another down the road. Several hours had passed and my father, having been drinking the entire time, was in a piss-poor state of affairs. At some point someone entered the house and told my dad that Faye’s cousin was waiting outside for him. Itching for a fight, dad went outside. The cousin had perched himself on a nearby overpass and began shooting at my dad with a deer rifle. According to a friend that witnessed the incident, Dad casually strolled to his truck retrieving a gun from the glove compartment. He then stepped out from behind the door of the vehicle and doing his best “John Wayne”, exchanged gunfire with his wife’s cousin. My father emptied his revolver and went back to reload where he was shot thru the front window of his truck. The bullet struck him in the chest and fragmented, missing his heart by only millimeters. He said the impact was like being hit with a baseball bat square in the chest. The bullet tore thru his lung and left my father fighting for his life. Friends that witnessed the shooting quickly threw my dad in the truck and rushed him to the hospital where was resuscitated and had what remained of his lung removed. The shooting had rattled him for sure but my father wasn’t done with this lifestyle and after a year of recuperation reunited with Faye to continue in their vice. Once again they were “on a run”. They kept at it until, under very suspect circumstances Faye vanished in an Arizona desert.

 Dad again disappeared after that and we heard little from him for a few of years. During this time we would see him around once in awhile but never spoke to him. At one point he was even having an affair with our next-door neighbor but never stopped to so much as say “hi”, but all that began to change when I was about 15.

 Dad had stopped into the pizza joint I was working at to introduce me to his new bride (I didn’t even know he was in town at that time). Dad had moved back to Rapid City and remarried, this time to a schoolteacher named Paula. Paula had two kids and they all lived in the Weston Heights area of Rapid City. Dad invited me out to his house to meet his “new” family. I remember having mixed emotions about the whole affair; I went to meet his wife and kids in an attempt to rekindle some kind of relationship with my father. From then on he became a constant in my life. Our new connection even blossomed into a quasi father/son relationship. He no longer was the violent, erratic monster I remembered from my childhood. He was now much calmer and seemed for the first time in my memory to have his shit together…at least a little bit.

 I visited him fairly regularly until he moved to Arizona a couple years later. When I was about 19 or 20 Dad invited me down to Phoenix to live with him. He knew I was “on a run” myself and thought the change of scenery would do me good. I moved to Phoenix but found my “clean” father was again using. He didn’t drink (much) or display the wild behaviors he did when I was younger but he was fucking up now and again. I lived with him for several months but we eventually ended up in squabble over something trivial and I moved in with my aunt in Chandler. Things were spotty between my father and I for a while but we kept in contact and ended up burying the axe at some point.

 After several years in Arizona, Dad and Paula moved to Sterling Colorado. Paula had grown up there and was excited to be around her mother once again but Dad hated it. The cold weather crippled him in the winter as it attacked his past injuries and once again the use of pain pills became a staple in his life. This continued for a few years and slowly my father began to morph back into the guy I knew as a child. He began drinking, wrecking cars and popping pills like shit was on sale, until it came to a head. My father and I had nearly went to blows over his drug abuse (which at that time was the pot calling the kettle black) and he had to come to terms with his behavior, so he checked himself into a treatment center. We patched things up and he stayed clean for over a year but it was not to last.

 On the night of December 16, 2000 it all came to a tragic end. I had been in Denver working security at the Fillmore theatre and landed in a scrape with a guy I was trying escort out of the building. During the fight, in my drunkenness, I also assaulted several police officers that had come to break the fight up. After being hogtied, beaten, carted off to jail and beaten some more, I received my one phone call. I called Dad. I knew Dad was not home; Paula and he had went to Oregon to address the affairs of Paula’s father who had just passed a few days before.  I called his house anyway; I was compelled. I wasn’t calling to have him come bail me out, he lived two hours away, I just had this overwhelming urge to talk to my dad. I made my call, the phone rang a few times and then he answered. I was shocked. He told me he had come home early and left Paula in Oregon. I told him I was in jail but wasn’t calling for bail; I had just wanted to talk to him. We spoke for a while then got off the phone. I told him I loved him and he said he loved me too and would talk to me later. I thought no more of it. I was released the next day and spent the day nursing my wounds and visiting a friend. Shortly after returning home that evening I received a call from a friend of mine that lived in Sterling. She was crying and asked me to come to Sterling immediately. I wasn’t about to drive to Sterling without a reason so I pressed her as to why. She eventually told me that my father had passed away…I was speechless; I had just spoke with him the night before. He had died just hours after talking with me. I learned later that some men doing work for him during his home remodel had found him that morning. They said they had found him sitting in his underwear, on the edge of his bed…dead. We eventually learned he had died from a drug overdose. His system after a year of sobriety couldn’t handle the amount of pills that he was accustomed to taking. His tolerance for drugs was huge, bigger than huge, when he had been using on a regular basis, but a year of clean living had once again returned him to the status of mere mortal and as a result he had died from an overdose of painkillers and Xanax, as tragic in death as he had been in life

 I tell his story not in woe or as a cautionary tale and certainly not to speak ill of my father but to illustrate a point. We all have that person that brings great sorrow to our life. We all have that person that pisses us off or fucks us over. We all have that someone in our lives that at one time or another just doesn’t measure up, leaving us feeling disappointed or betrayed. But we should pity these people. We must realize these people are only doing what they are capable of. Had any of us lived my father’s life we would have been in the same boat. It wasn’t really his fault he was so fucked up and broken. He was a result of a shitty upbringing and distorted thinking…and of mental illness. Yeah he could have made efforts to change, but in reality he wasn’t strong enough to do what was required. He was stuck in a rut and was incapable of changing it. I know he wanted to. He told me, on more than one occasion how proud he was of me for making attempts to better my life and change the behaviors that were holding me back, but as for him he just didn’t have it in him.

 I could have closed the door on my father when I was younger but in doing so I would have missed out on a pretty cool guy. I chose long ago to forgive him… to “let it slide” if you will. See, Dad was a fuck up of the highest order but he was also a very supportive guy (he loved my art), he was a very intelligent guy, he was a funny guy and he was a great artist in his own right; but foremost, he was a guy that at least tried to get his shit together, he just didn’t have the tools. Underneath it all, he wasn’t really that bad, he was just broken. It was never his intention to become a drug addled lunatic, he was just a victim of circumstance.

 He asked me once why I had not held a grudge against him for his behaviors when I was a child. I told him that we all fuck up and I sure as hell wouldn’t want someone passing judgment on me for something I had done twenty years earlier. I know for a fact that twenty years ago I was a fucking idiot and made messes of almost anything I came in contact with. But we get older and hopefully wiser, learning from our mistakes. That’s all we can ask of anyone.

 So with that I would advise not carrying malice toward the people who have wronged you in the past. If they are willing to again treat you with respect then let them give it a shot. We all blow it once in awhile and need to be met with forgiveness, rather than resentment. Grudges take too much energy to maintain. Let it slide and enjoy the people you love while you still can.

 

“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.”

Shannon L. Alder

 

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APPRECIATION

keith jacobshagen

Appreciation of the things most familiar to us…that’s what it’s all about. Perfectly illustrated in this painting by Keith Jacobshagen

About six months ago my mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. To say we were devastated would be to make light of the subject. In all honesty, I fell apart. I fell into a depression and probably didn’t handle things the way I should have, but I reacted the way I reacted; whaddyado? So with the news that my mother was facing a rather grim future, I began to make efforts to really let her know just how much she meant to me. She of course already knew I loved her very much but I didn’t always show it. For many years, I am ashamed to admit, I had held some kind of resentment toward my mother. It was completely unwarranted and I really don’t know why I behaved this way toward her; it was just an unexamined behavior that I had not addressed until a couple of years ago…fucking autopilot.

So cut to a couple months later. Mom had surgery to remove the cancer in her stomach, in fact they removed the stomach completely. But there were complications. A leak developed and began to fill her chest cavity with bile and she contracted pneumonia. A second even more invasive surgery was performed to repair the leaking. Things did not look good. Mom was fighting for her life. She was on a ventilator and heavily sedated. I really thought I was watching my mother die and the guilt of having treated her poorly at times compounded an already difficult situation. I love her so much and the thought of being without her crushed me. Mom seemed to be getting worse so it was decided she would be flown to Denver for a higher level of care. Once in Denver surgeons repaired the leaks and soon Mom was doing much better. I was there when they began to lift her sedation and for her to open her eyes, look at me and squeeze my hand was one of the most beautiful feelings I had ever felt.

As it often goes with people, I failed to appreciate my mother until she was nearly taken from me. I had failed to recognize what an amazing person she was and I had failed to see how I had taken her for granted. Like I said, I am very close to my mother and love her dearly but I rarely took the time to give thanks for being blessed enough to have her.

I had always looked at my mother as weak. Her kindness and empathy had always appeared to me as people pleasing and it frustrated me. I had viewed my mother as lacking in so many ways but in hind sight nothing and I mean nothing could be further from the truth. As a young man I had looked to my grandfather for inspirational strength and indeed he was an abundant source, but my own mother was overlooked for whatever reason and I now see the error in my thinking.

My mother is one of the most durable people I’ve ever encountered, yet she is also the absolute kindest person I’ve ever encountered. She has sacrificed so much for us over the years often working several jobs to keep us afloat and make sure we had what boys need. She has faced the ravages of several forms of arthritis and rarely muttered a complaint. She has looked after my grandmother tirelessly (which can be a feat in itself) and always put others before herself. But it took her nearly dying for me to see this and I feel a deep regret for not giving her the credit she so rightfully deserves.

Several months later and Mom is now on the mend. She has now regained her ability to speak but still has a tough road in front of her with therapy to help her walk and take care of herself again… but she’s alive and knowing what I now know about my mom, she will exceed expectations. She has the fortitude and courage that I could only hope for. Despite failing to see her strength until recently, she has become one of my heroes.

I recently saw a study conducted by Harvard University that has taken place over the past 75 years. The study followed over 700 men from the time they were teens into old age in an attempt to grasp an understanding of just what makes a “good life” and the one thing that it came down to was personal relationships. Career success and wealth did little to help these men construct healthy, meaningful lives, but loving, caring relationships did. To the sixty some odd men that are still alive (many now in their nineties) making the effort to grow and maintain relationships was not always easy but in the long run that’s all that really mattered. So who in your life have you overlooked? Who is that person that you have failed to appreciate? What regrets would you harbor if that person was suddenly taken from you? These are all questions we should be asking ourselves on a daily basis. It’s easy to get caught up in day to day bullshit and fail to give thanks for the people who make life worth living. Those that inspire you, cry with you and make you laugh are what life is  about, not the new car, not the job promotion or any of the other insignificance that we hang meaning on.

Life is about relationships which, as a confirmed misanthrope, is a monstrous pill for me to choke down. But it’s the truth. Yeah, its a pain in the ass sometimes and other people can really take the piss out of you, but we need to look at it as an investment. If you invest financially there is always the possibility you could lose your ass in a down market but if you ride it out and don’t waiver then the payoff will eventually be worth the investment. Personal relationships are the same way, they will at times disappoint, anger and leave us questioning our judgement, but we need to see them out and appreciate who we have and what they bring to our lives before they are taken (and as with everything, they will be taken). This appreciation will itself be the return on our investment. As the 13th century philosopher and theologian, Meister Eckhart once said, “If the only prayer you said in your life was ‘Thank you’, that would suffice”.

I love you Mom.


LIVING BY A PERSONAL CODE OF CONDUCT – Part Three

(c) National Trust, Nostell Priory; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A code of conduct ensures your integrity, something of which Socrates had a firm grasp. “Socrates Drinking the Hemlock” Antonio Zucchi. Circa 1767

The older I get, the more I recognize the importance of living by a set of standards… a code of conduct. Living by a code of conduct or ethics is one of the most important things a person can do to ensure a happy and productive life. It weeds out the vagaries of how we should behave in given situations. It tells the rest of the world, as well as ourselves, ‘I am this kind of person and this is how I conduct myself’. It sets the stage as to what kind of character we will present to others and streamlines our behaviors in order to avoid unwarranted drama. If a question arises as to how we are to address a situation, then there should be little energy wasted…we already know what we expect of ourselves.

A code of conduct is going to be different for everyone but everyone should have code of conduct. This writing lays down a few parameters by which I try to live. I screw up and violate my own decree from time to time but at least I know what I am aiming for, I know what kind of person I intend to be. This is by no means a complete list and should not necessarily be your code of conduct (although some I consider universal) but hopefully it will give you an idea of the kind of problems we hope to avoid by holding ourselves to a certain standard. This writing ended up a bit lengthier than I initially intended so it will be divided into three parts. Read it and decide for yourself if maybe a set of given precepts might not benefit you and help establish a vision of the kind of person you strive to be. So without any further ado here is part three…

Practice Good Hygiene

This is another one of those I shouldn’t have to mention but it is something I see neglected frequently. Scrubbing that dirty ass, brushing those nasty chops and changing those fucking socks will go a long way toward improving the quality of your life in the areas of health, self esteem and social interactions. More times than not when I see people who neglect hygiene I immediately think “lazy”;  why else would someone avoid being clean? I can’t think of any medical conditions to which a health care professional might suggest being filthy as a remedy. If you’re depressed or sick and don’t feel like bathing remember, disease, skin conditions and a general stench aren’t going to aid in your recovery. When life is handing us the shit end of the stick and we find ourselves in a rut, simple things like self care can go along way toward getting our legs back under us. Take care of yourself, show respect for yourself and bathe daily and see if you don’t feel more human as a result.

Avoid Most Popular Forms of Entertainment

Many years ago I met a very prolific artist, this woman churned out painting after painting and as a result was honing her craft to a fine edge. Curious, I asked how she managed to find the time to make so much art and work a day job. When I asked, she paused for a second and said “Do you really want to know how I do it? It’s easy, just get rid of your T.V..” That was it. But it made so much sense. Donald Trump, the Kardashians and Lindsay Lohan give zero fucks about us; so why do we spend our time absorbed with their lives? Television has some good programming in the way of documentaries and such, but 99.9% of the drivel we watch is nothing more than a distraction from real life (and yes that includes the news). It’s escapism the same way drama, drugs and social media are all escapism. The same can be said for time spent at the bar and hours spent on the computer. It’s all diverting our attention from our lives and life’s too short to spend on celebrity gossip and sports stats. Avoid the whole mess. Turn off the T.V., read a book or spend time doing something that will enrich your life.

Practice Self Reliance

Whenever possible do it yourself. If you don’t know how to do it, then learn. We rely far too much on others to do that which could be done for ourselves and as such we become as dependent on others as a puppet is dependent on the strings that manipulate it. Many people fail to recognize the freedom that is lost when we rely on others. Of course, we all need assistance from time to time but do we really need someone to mow our lawn, wash our car or clean our house when we are perfectly capable of doing it ourselves? Sounds like a petty thing to be concerned with but that’s just how it starts; before we know it we won’t even have the capacity to wipe our own asses. How many young people can really cook without a microwave? How many can thoroughly clean a house? How many can change the oil in their own vehicle? Parents tend to be doing more and more for their children much to those children’s detriment. Don’t allow yourself to be disempowered. Cook your own food, clean your own house and fix your own shit. That is one of the first steps in running your own life.

Confront Fears and Addictions Every Day

This one is tough. It requires honesty as well as a brutal self-inventory. We all have a pretty good idea where our soft-spots lie, the places where we are most vulnerable, and those are our fears and addictions. Every single day we must confront those weaknesses if we are to move forward. We must be mindful of our actions and examine our motives at all times. Don’t get caught slippin’ because if you give these demons any breathing room they will grow and consume you. We must hammer away at our shortcomings daily like we are dealing with a cockroach infestations, never giving them a chance to breed and multiply. When an urge arises, acknowledge it but never act on it. The act of following through on an urge only cements it in the pathways of our neurology and makes it harder and harder to control. Ever constant diligence is the key to an addiction free life.

Learn to Say NO

Maybe it’s just my combative nature but I have no problems saying NO… at least these days. I suppose there was a time when I, like so many others, would have been concerned about hurting someone’s feelings by telling them no. But why should we feel guilty about setting boundaries? Why should we feel guilty about telling someone Yes, ‘I will do this’ or ‘No, I won’t do that? Establishing boundaries is very important for a healthy relationship and for healthy self esteem. We don’t need to play the asshole to do this; we can politely decline and let it still be known where we stand. Demand respect from others as well as yourself and learn to say no.

Make Your Own Well Being Your Top Priority

If you’re not here, none of it really matters, so make yourself and well being your top priority. We must take care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Taking care of ourselves is the most important gift we can offer others. Too many people never take time for themselves and make their needs as important as those of others. And little by little they suffer. How many times have we seen people let children or work consume every minute of their day? And the result? Out of shape bodies and out of shape minds. It is akin to driving your car into the ground and never doing maintenance, shit is going to break. Take care of others by taking care of yourself.

Avoid Medications Whenever Possible

This one is kinda slippery but needs to be said. Carefully consider when you are presented with taking prescription drugs. If it is a matter of life and death then yes, of course take your medication. But how many times do we let doctors prescribe us shit we really don’t need whether it be antibiotics or antidepressants? When I was young I was often sick with different lung ailments, bronchitis, pneumonia and the likes. As a result I was on antibiotics much more than was healthy. This continued for years and my immune system suffered, I caught everything that came along. So a few years ago I stopped going to the doctor for such things and started getting more fresh air and improved my diet, as a result my lung health has greatly improved. I still occasionally get sick like everyone else, but I rarely even catch a cold anymore. Take into account the negative effects these medicines could have, there are no free lunches and that applies to prescription drugs as well. Just remember your doctor is more than likely a tool for the pharmaceutical companies so they throw a pill at just about any ailment you come to them with. Whenever possible let nature run its course, you will build a stronger immune system and avoid the toxicity of medication.

Observe Yourself

Most of us are pretty good at looking at everything around us and seeing how it affects our lives. But how many look at their own behaviors and attitudes? More than anything, our outlooks and self introspections shape our existence. It’s all about examining our beliefs and attitudes and  being willing to challenges them in order to conform to reality. Things are rarely the way we perceive them and taking a look at our perceptions and adjusting accordingly will make the difference between being happy and accepting and being miserable and fighting against what is. It’s often an uncomfortable proposition, but self examination is key to forward progress. So whether you’re pissed with a situation or finding yourself disappointed in someone, don’t forget to acknowledge your part in it all.

Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away From a Cluster Fuck

We all make shitty decisions from time to time. Recognizing this and having the ability to admit that we fucked up can save a lot of headache. Life is too short to waste on stupid ideas, so if you are in the midst of one of these foibles then have the good sense to wash you hands of it and walk away. Sometimes it’s a  shitty project, sometimes it’s a shitty person, but a lack of judgement doesn’t make you a bad person it just makes you human. Put away your pride, learn from your mistakes and get on with it before anymore damage accrues.

Regardless of Your Position Remain Humble

We have all known that person who after acquiring a promotion or position of power turns into a complete asshole (I think they call them politicians). Don’t let that happen to you. Just because you have this title or that amount of income doesn’t mean you are suddenly a better person. Respect isn’t a function of title, it is a function of character and many in a position of authority tend to forget that. Looking down on those who are not in your position is one of the quickest ways to ensure a lose of that position. Be gracious and treat the little guy like you would like to be treated.

So there you have it, a few standards I have set for myself. You may consider them brilliant (after all, they are) or you may consider them complete and utter bullshit. The importance lies not in my personal code but rather in the message of constructing a code of your own. Eliminate some of the chaos and uncertainty in life and decide now what kind of person you want to be, then live by it. This one decision alone can put you heads above the masses.

“A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.”

Albert Camus


LIVING BY A PERSONAL CODE OF CONDUCT – Part Two

(c) National Trust, Nostell Priory; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A code of conduct ensures your integrity, something of which Socrates had a firm grasp. “Socrates Drinking the Hemlock” Antonio Zucchi. Circa 1767

The older I get, the more I recognize the importance of living by a set of standards… a code of conduct. Living by a code of conduct or ethics is one of the most important things a person can do to ensure a happy and productive life. It weeds out the vagaries of how we should behave in given situations. It tells the rest of the world, as well as ourselves, ‘I am this kind of person and this is how I conduct myself’. It sets the stage as to what kind of character we will present to others and streamlines our behaviors in order to avoid unwarranted drama. If a question arises as to how we are to address a situation, then there should be little energy wasted…we already know what we expect of ourselves.

A code of conduct is going to be different for everyone but everyone should have code of conduct. This writing lays down a few parameters by which I try to live. I screw up and violate my own decree from time to time but at least I know what I am aiming for, I know what kind of person I intend to be. This is by no means a complete list and should not necessarily be your code of conduct (although some I consider universal) but hopefully it will give you an idea of the kind of problems we hope to avoid by holding ourselves to a certain standard. This writing ended up a bit lengthier than I initially intended so it will be divided into three parts. Read it and decide for yourself if maybe a set of given precepts might not benefit you and help establish a vision of the kind of person you strive to be. So without any further ado here is part two of three. If you missed part one give it a read, and let me know what you think.

Don’t Be a Puppet to Anything

Drugs, porn, drama, food or any other behaviors and substances that people engage in mindlessly, do so because they are not pulling the strings at that moment, the behavior or substance is running the show. Start to pay attention to what steals your attention during the day, what is causing you to indulge in that elicit behavior and where you run when you need comfort, these are your masters. These need to be dealt with or they will be calling the shots. If you have more than one addiction or rogue behavior then start small and gain momentum as you start to face each of them. If you’re a puppet to anything, then you’re not in control. Practice independence, not dependence.

Get at Least An Hour of Activity Everyday

I really can’t believe this is a big secret, everyone should know this but I just think people gravitate toward least resistance, so exercise get left out of the mix. Every single day we should get an hour (minimum) of activity. If you want to set a code of conduct for yourself then exercise should be at the foundation. Much of what is needed to maintain such a code of conduct lies in self discipline and without exercise there simply is no discipline. Face it, if you can’t get yourself up to move for an hour everyday then what do you hope to achieve in other areas of your life? In addition to this, exercise helps keep our energy centers clean and unblocked (yeah, it’s a real thing). Our body needs certain things to thrive and perform at its best and along with plenty of water and quality food, exercise is at the top of the list. Yes, you can live without exercise and you can also live on cigarettes and bar food, but not very well. Make exercise a priority.

Meditate Every Day

Meditation, it has been said, is like mental hygiene. So in keeping with that analogy, you scrub your dirty ass everyday, right? Then why wouldn’t you scrub that dirty mind as well? The benefits of daily meditation have been documented at nauseum so it’s no longer “hippy” nonsense. Sitting quietly for 20 minutes a day can have great effects on stress relief. Call it whatever you want, meditation, zoning out, prayer or communing with nature but sitting down and shutting up for at least 15-20 minutes a day works, so do it.

Keep a Schedule

One of our most precious resources is time but how many hours are frittered away everyday by poor planning or worse yet, no planning at all? One of the top complaints people offer when not getting to do the things they want in life is “lack of time”, but there is plenty of time if managed correctly. The best way to manage time is to keep a schedule. Assigning a given time to that workout, making time to spend with your kids or carving out some extra time to learn guitar isn’t going to happen (at least not on a consistent basis) if you are not keeping a schedule. If you don’t schedule your own time someone else will, and you probably won’t like the results. As a side note, when scheduling, make sure to pad the time allotted for an activity, give it an extra 10-15 minutes. This will allow for any “unforeseen” and will ensure that one activity does not interfere with the next. Smart planning is key to getting the most out of life.

Don’t Gossip

This one drives me nuts. Don’t gossip. How much time and energy do people piss away talking and speculating about others? How much more could get done if we weren’t spreading rumors and being mean spirited by talking about other people’s lives. The lives of others is none of your business and gossip is just bad juju. Gossip is nothing more than shit-talking for the cowardly; it’s like a game of “Telephone” and by the time you heard the latest, juiciest morsels that the gossip circle has to offer it bares little semblance to what actually happened (providing it held any truth to begin with). It’s a complete fabrication and its being spread around like the gospel truth. Hold yourself to a higher standard, show respect for yourself and others, don’t engage in such childish nonsense. Remember, those that will talk to you about others will talk to others about you.

Don’t Steal

This one should go without saying, but… When I was a kid I did a fair amount of thieving and it bothers me to this day. I feel like shit for having victimized people in such an underhanded manner. At the same time, I, myself have been ripped off more than a few times and it infuriated me. The thought that I did the same to others hangs with me and even though I would no longer participate in such behavior I feel a great deal of shame. Karma’s a bitch. Nobody else may even know it was you, but you will and you’re the one who has to live with it. Don’t put yourself in a situation which will result in regret, don’t steal…not even office supplies.

Practice Gratitude

Most of us blow it on this one, I know I do. We don’t intend to be, but we are a society of entitled, little pricks. We bitch if our food isn’t prepared to our standards, we bitch if there isn’t a good parking spot, we even bitch about the weather. We bitch, bitch, bitch but we rarely stop to give gratitude. We should be thankful we even have food, we should be thankful we even have a car to park (let alone the legs to walk from that shitty parking place) and we should be thankful we aren’t living in a fucking ice age. Things can always be a lot tougher than they are and we need to remember that when the internet is down, when your kids are acting like dip-shits or when the grocery store is out of your favorite yum-yums. Show gratitude for all that you have and all you are capable of before you don’t have and aren’t capable.  It’s all temporary and can be taken at any moment, remember that. Most of all be grateful you are even here and breathing.

Keep Your Business Your Business

Facebook whiners read this one twice. People are constantly airing their unmentionables to the world, then complain when rumors are spread and everyone is in their business. Unless there is a reason to share your life with the world (such as a request for help) there is little reason to drag others into our drama. When we unload our shitty feelings and thoughts, we do it at the peril of everyone around us. We are essentially treating others as a dumpster to unload our toxicity into, passing along the negativity. Everyone gets beat up in life, none of us are special in that regard, so display some valiancy and deal with it in private. Even our plans should be kept to ourself as to avoid any unsolicited advice or opinions from haters. This will ensure our enthusiasm isn’t tainted with negative comments and remarks.

Eat Healthy

People today have a very twisted view of what healthy food actually means. No, bagels are not health food. No, pasta is not health food. And no, a salad with 3 cups of ranch on it is not health food. Stop listening to so called “experts”, they are selling you a line of shit. Eating healthy isn’t rocket science, it’s rather simple. Eat 3-4 times a day, eat some meat, fish or eggs and eat some vegetables (not deep-fried). If you get hungry between meals have some fruit or nuts. Avoid fast food, bread, processed food and just about anything white and you will be on the road to health. Do this 80% of the time and you will have it dicked.

Drink Lots of Water

For at least the last twenty years I have drank little more than water everyday and it hasn’t caused me the least bit of harm. I drink roughly a gallon a day and the benefits are amazing, if you consider not feeling like shit amazing. Your body is about 75% water so it would stand to reason that water should be your go to; but how many of us attempt to hydrate with soda, coffee and energy drinks rather than reach for water? We never consider that these drinks usually contain caffeine which will draw water out and leave us worse off than when we started. A poor immune system, cloudy thinking and joint pain are just a few symptoms of dehydration so simply drinking enough water each day can drastically improve the quality of our lives. Yeah it doesn’t taste as good as a super-white-chocolate mocha latte, at least not at first, but as your over worked taste buds return to baseline you will be able to enjoy the taste of water once again and come to prefer it.

….To be continued

“Ethics are more important than laws.”

Wynton Marsalis


LIVING BY A PERSONAL CODE OF CONDUCT – Part One

(c) National Trust, Nostell Priory; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A code of conduct ensures your integrity, something of which Socrates had a firm grasp. “Socrates Drinking the Hemlock” Antonio Zucchi. Circa 1767

The older I get the more I recognize the importance of living by a set of standards… a code of conduct. Living by a code of conduct or ethics is one of the most important things a person can do to ensure a happy and productive life. It weeds out the vagaries of how we should behave in given situations. It tells the rest of the world, as well as ourselves, ‘I am this kind of person and this is how I conduct myself’. It sets the stage as to what kind of character we will present to others and streamlines our behaviors in order to avoid unwarranted drama. If a question arises as to how we are to address a situation, then there should be little energy wasted…we already know what we expect of ourselves.

A code of conduct is going to be different for everyone but everyone should have code of conduct. This writing lays down a few parameters by which I try to live. I screw up and violate my own decree from time to time but at least I know what I am aiming for, I know what kind of person I intend to be. This is by no means a complete list and should not necessarily be your code of conduct (although some I consider universal) but hopefully it will give you an idea of the kind of problems we hope to avoid by holding ourselves to a certain standard. This writing ended up a bit lengthier than I initially intended so it will be divided into three parts. Read it and decide for yourself if maybe a set of given precepts might not benefit you and help establish a vision of the kind of person you strive to be. So without any further ado here is part one….

Don’t Borrow Money…Ever

In this age of credit and debt most of us are probably aware of the perils of borrowed money; but for some reason beyond the bounds of common sense, we keep on doing it. We want what we want and we want it now, even if that means selling our souls to the Devil. When we borrow money we are spending money we have yet to earn for something we don’t have the maturity to save for. Not only are we in effect selling today for tomorrow, we are putting ourselves in the pocket of those who wish to profit off our impatience and poor discipline; now your time and money are no longer your possessions, they belong to the lender. Building a life on borrowed money is a house of cards and with one unforeseen event the whole thing can come crashing down. Save money for those things you wish to purchase, you will develop a better appreciation for it.

Don’t Do Business Deals with Family or Friends

There are examples of this working but they are few and far between. Most of the time it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of all parties involved. One will float the bill for the other or bring to the table more resources and suddenly there is a tension between the two. Business and money issues are a great way to destroy an otherwise good relationship. Don’t do it, it’s not worth losing a friendship or straining a relationship with a family member. I have done it and regret the decision. There is nothing like money that can sour a great relationship in record time. Cherish the relationship, you will be glad you did.

If You Don’t Have It To Give Then You Don’t Have It To Loan

This is one I adopted many years ago. When you loan someone something there is always the chance you may not see it again, at least in a timely manner. If you can’t afford to just give that someone the hundred dollars they want to borrow, then maybe you should think twice about lending it. If you loan it and you get paid back then GREAT but how many times do people just flake out and you end up chasing them down for repayment? If you really value the relationship don’t put yourself in that position.

Honesty Is Always the Best Policy

Most of man’s problems are directly attributable to lying. Don’t lie then you don’t have to remember what you said. Enough said.

Don’t Become Attached To Anything…Even Relationships

It is the one absolute truth, every person, place and thing now in your existence eventually won’t be around. All your friends and loved ones will leave your life for one reason or another, everything you cherish or take for granted will, in time, go away and every place you’ve ever loved will change or disappear; that’s just the nature of reality. We need to really examine this one because attachment keeps us from appreciating the very thing we claim to love. We think this person or that place or that heirloom will always be and we neglect to examine just how blessed we are to have them…if even for a short time. Attachment is not appreciation, recognize the difference.

Always conduct Yourself as Though You are Being Watched

These days, you probably are being watched so it’s even more important to conduct yourself with integrity. The behavior you display when your grandmother’s in the room, should be the same behavior you display around your friends or by yourself. How many “good church-going Christians” put on the mask of a kind, genuine person only to swap it for one of a gossipy, mean-spirited troll as soon as the final prayers are concluded on Sunday? How many bitch about thieving politicians but keep themselves stalked in office supplies from work without a second thought? Don’t be that person. Always take the high road and defend your integrity…it’s all you really have.

Own No More Than a Large Tote of Belongings, Preferably Less

Apparently somewhere along the line society got the idea that the more stuff you own the more successful you are; and to that I say ‘Horseshit!’. How many of us are stuck because the things we once owned now own us? If you keep your belongings to a minimum, your world gets a whole lot bigger and your life more flexible. Kinda hard to pick up and take that “opportunity of a lifetime or any opportunity for that matter, when you are buried under a mortgage, two car payments and more frivolity than you can ever  hope to entertain. Keeping it light and mobile has a positive effect on your psyche as well. I used to keep all belongings down to whatever fit in my 95’ Ford Aspire (the “Skittle” I affectionately called it), no more, no less. Clutter in life leads to clutter in the mind (or maybe it’s the other way around). I know so many people who have fallen for this “American Dream” garbage and now live for “the Man”. Don’t shackle yourself with personal possessions, it’s the way of the slave.

Pay Cash Only

This harkens back to the whole don’t borrow money thing. Too many people use credit cards and checkbooks for all their purchases. This is dangerous as a purchase made in this way doesn’t have that same sting, that same feeling of sacrifice that you feel when you hand over your hard earned cash; credit cards make it all too impersonal…too sterile. I know you want it now, but save and pay cash, then you’re under no one’s thumb and you just took back a little freedom.

Live Life as Simply as Possible

If there is one rule here that embodies the whole, it is this one…keep things simple. Too many people, too many responsibilities, too many commitments and too much drama will suck the very life from your veins with a quickness. Keep things simple, keep things quality and discard the unnecessary. If it’s causing clutter and drama in your life, then get it the fuck out; If its going to bring more headache than it’s worth then, reconsider; and if that person makes you shudder every time they even call then they probably need to get steppin’. Most of us get caught in this trap just so we can avoid the pain and conflict that change brings, but what does it get you?; more pain and conflict. Streamline your life to only the necessities. Bruce Lee said “It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”…then I said “Goddamn right”.

Be Gracious and Don’t Expect a ‘Thank You’

These are just some of the rules I try to live by and some I do better than others…this is not one of them. It pisses me off to no end when people don’t give a simple thank you when I hold a door for them, let them cut inline or offer my service in any way. ‘Do these fuckers think I’m the help or are they just so self absorbed that…’. But when we examine more closely we see the bad is on me, I should do these things as a service to others, regardless of the pay-off. The feeling you get from helping should be the reward itself and if its not, then the ego is involved. Check yourself and your motives for doing things…then readjust. It’s all from your perspective.

…To be Continued

“Ethics is the activity of man directed to secure the inner perfection of his own personality.”

Albert Schweitzer