7.27.2017

A Fabulous Day

Today rocked. I could have used more sleep last night, but once I got up, had coffee, and started moving, I was pretty much unstoppable. A workman showed up butt-crack-of-dawn early to install a new shower in Deborah's bathroom, and that's part of the reason why my sleep was truncated.

Deborah and I meditated mid-morning, and I might have dozed off during that, but I'm not sure. After lunch, I biked over to Midvale and Tokay where I met my buddy Tyler and together we biked due south on the Badger State Trail for a while. It was scenic and splendid.

There was a loose plan for Deborah and I to meet some extended family members downtown in the early evening and my plan was to bike there after I got done riding with Tyler, but when I called Deborah, she told me the workman installing the shower had encountered some issues that had prolonged his stay, precluding the planned socializing. So I biked home instead and made a delicious dinner of whole wheat pasta topped with sauteed summer squash in marinara sauce.

Fabulous.

7.26.2017

Meditation and Self Doubt

You may not know this about me, but I sometimes have a lot of self doubt. Not nearly as much as I did in my younger days, because somehow in almost 50 years of life I have managed to pull off a pretty happy and fulfilling existence, but still some. For example, I am entering a new field of study and (eventually) work, marriage and family therapy. I applied to a prestigious graduate program and successfully made it through the rigorous selection process. I start classes in about a month. All my past successes in school and work notwithstanding, I still sometimes doubt my ability to succeed in future endeavors such as this. I know it's irrational. If I am passionate about something and work hard at it, I always succeed. If I am not passionate about something, success is kind of a moot point. I don't want to do something I don't feel HELL YEAH about. Sure, I've worked a few crappy jobs solely for the money, but I've also walked away from them when they became intolerable. I've never been fired from a job. I have always chosen my destiny and fared well in whatever I set my mind and body to. I even found my soul mate, Deborah, and married her. Life is great!

All things considered, in my first 50 years on Earth, I have rocked a pretty solid and successful life. Thanks to discovering how to slow and reverse the aging process, I fully plan to rock the next 50 as well. So I am not sure why I sometimes still have episodes of anxious self doubt. I guess it is a form of learned hopelessness from my less successful early formative years that gets triggered by certain things, even though it has no real connection with reality anymore.

That being said, I have found that daily meditation is a very useful practice for eliminating anxiety and self doubt when I experience it. The essential mechanics of meditation are designed to help alleviate negative emotions like sadness or anxiety.

In meditation, the goal is to center yourself in the moment (the present) and sequester yourself from extraneous thoughts about the past or future, often by focusing on your breathing (I also sometimes use music, a very temporally present medium). Of course, extraneous thoughts creep in during meditation and the "practice" of meditation is recognizing when this happens and recentering your thoughts on the present moment.

I have found meditation very useful in combatting my self doubt when it arises. Self doubt is essentially irrational anxiety about one's ability (or lack thereof) to succeed in the future, especially regarding life's bigger challenges. In the present moment, these worries are just abstract thoughts without merit. Since the future hasn't happened yet, we can't know if we will succeed or fail at something in the future. All we are really doing is extrapolating from past experiences in which we might have succeeded or failed, but that's an inaccurate way to generate expectations about future outcomes for a couple of reasons. First, no two situations are ever exactly the same, so outcomes can vary based on many different variables, both intrinsic (inside us) and extrinsic (in the world around us). For example, in college I might have failed a hard math test because I didn't have a calculator. If I had to take a math test tomorrow, I'd feel dread. But it might be a really easy test that doesn't even need a calculator. My worry was based on a prior experience that was different from this one. Second, we learn from past successes and failures, so even though we may have failed at some task in the past, we learned from it, and when a similar task arises in the future, we can approach it differently based on what we learned from the prior experience (I remember to bring a calculator). We may fail again, but that is just more learning experience to log in the brain banks. The tragedy is avoiding future situations and tasks because of a fear of failure (anxiety). Then you don't get anywhere in life and don't progress toward self actualizing as a human being. Sometimes when I have self doubt about my ability to succeed in graduate school, I briefly consider quitting rather than facing the challenge. That's equally irrational and I immediately push those thoughts away to focus on what I can do RIGHT NOW to lay the groundwork for future success (such as getting ahead on the huge volume of reading I will have during the first year of school).

When I have self doubt, as most people do, I use the same recentering process I use for meditation to eliminate it, pushing out the extraneous negative thoughts and focusing on the present moment. It works. Meditation has also helped me to more quickly become aware of when extraneous thoughts creep in and then I can expediently recenter my mind on the present and when applied to self doubt about the future, I consciously make myself have positive thoughts instead ("I will succeed!").

7.25.2017

Labor Day Weekend Is a Turning Point of the Year

Every Labor Day weekend, for the past 18 years (I think), I cruise up to my parents' cabin in northern Wisconsin for a long weekend of recreation and bicycling. Sometimes I am joined by a small group of friends, but not always. It's a fun way to round out the summer.

I feel like Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer and the beginning of the slow death spiral into the bleakness of Wisconsin winter and the crushing commercialism of the holiday season. If all goes to plan though, Deborah and I will escape both of these depressing annual terminae by way of a fortnight of vacationing in Hawaii from late December 2017 through early January 2018, a preamble to the completion of 50 years of life for me (and 4 billion years of evolution by natural selection for my genes) on January 9, 2018. I will still have to come back and face the brutality of Wisconsin's coldest month, February, but I feel like that's the rock bottom of winter around here that marks the beginning of the slow climb back to summer fun, usually with an impressively entertaining spring (I love storms!). In actual calendar terms, I usually associate the St. Patrick's Day holiday with the kickoff of the new year, not January 1st as most people do. By mid-March, there have usually been a few mild hints of spring already in Wisconsin and a warm hopefulness has begun to spread through my soul, the sprouting seed of potential that will grow and blossom into a lush and fulfilling summer. I usually try to book my band GUPPY EFFECT a show around March 17th, as a kind of Grand Opening to the funnest part of my year...the warm part. Some people are winter people, but not me. I'd live in the tropics all year round if I could, like my brother- and sister-in-law do. I love heat. I don't fault those who love cold and claim to enjoy all four seasons, but I am totally fine with two seasons per year, spring and summer.

The summer of 2018 will be a little bittersweet for me. I will be entering a challenging internship year of graduate school that may limit the full expression of my usual summer indulgence, though it will still be fulfilling in its own way. I'll also need to be especially frugal with money next year, thanks to the bank account hemorrhaging effects of private school tuition (notwithstanding nominal federal government support via student loans). The Labor Day trip to the cabin will still happen, as that has become something of a family ritual. And truth be told, I am excited to start interning in my new chosen field of marriage and family therapy. If all goes well, once I am a licensed therapist, my degree should be fairly portable and I'd like to move somewhere a bit warmer year round, if I can convince Deborah of the merits of this.

In any case, in a little over one month from now, the Labor Day trip north takes place. I am looking forward to it.

7.23.2017

Third Wind

I'm on my third wind of the day. It all kicked off this morning with considerable potency when I got up bright and early so my band GUPPY EFFECT could rock a pre-noon show at the infamous Monona Farmers Market. It was well received and afterward I did a bit of shopping for some local produce and, of course, squeaky cheese curds, before the rains briefly rolled in off the western prairie. At that time, the band and several of our entourage booked it on over the Crema Cafe for a late brunch and social.

My second wind blew in when Deborah and I spent most of the afternoon at a family shindig and blew out near the end of it. Now that we're back home and I am reflecting on the awesomeness of the day, my flagging sails are billowing with a third and final wind that will carry me through the Sunday night "Netflix and chill" ritual (I only today learned what this means in the vernacular).

6 Word Novel

Vague scents. Stale beer. Cigarettes. Lust.

7.20.2017

I Think I Could Do Just About Anything With a Solid Cup of Coffee

I have nothing more to add to the title of this post.

Good day.

7.19.2017

Amanda Rickers Band Thursday Happy Hour

At 6 PM this Thursday 7/20/17, I will take the stage at Funks Pub (Fitchburg WI) with the Amanda Rickers Band. We'll rock a few tunes then stop.

The only additional info I have on this is that it's part of a charity thing to raise money for another charity thing to raise money to find a cure for MS, but that sounds way too complicated. So just come have some happy hour beers, listen to tunes, and throw $5 at the fundraiser if it makes you feel good.

There might be some other bands after us. Not sure. Bye now.

7.18.2017

Happiness is a Big Cup o' Joe and 20 Minutes of Zen Meditation

I can't add much to the title of this post, because that pretty much covers it.

I'll just say it's an absolutely fabulous way to start each day and on the rare days I can't combine these two brain enhancing things, I am a little bit bummed out.

7.12.2017

"Live Your Life Like There's No Tomorrow" Sounds Less Cliche Nowadays

I sometimes tell my punk rock lifestyle coaching clients who are struggling to find meaning in life and pursue their dreams, "Live your life the way you would if today was your last day on Earth."

It sounds a little (or a lot) cliche. The chances are very good that today is not even close to their last day on Earth, and they know this. That's why they don't immediately go and tell their boss to kiss their arse before buying a plane ticket to Tahiti. But the idea behind my saying this is to help my clients visualize making positive changes in their lives that will lead them in the direction of having the good life they want.

Here's a fun fact: There will come a day some time in the future that is your last day on Earth. No one knows when that is going to be, and there is a slim chance it actually could be today!

The point is, when your last day comes, do you want to be happily living your life to the fullest? Or do you want to be hating your life, work, and/or relationships? If you answered the latter, stop reading. This post is not for you.

I suspect most of you are still reading. Hi there! Many of you may be living your dream life already, like I am. Superb. You can keep reading if you want, but it's optional.

This morning, I wrote a post on another blog, the more ranty and politically-biased 2 Minute Reader, about how the fate of the whole world is a little bit more questionable nowadays, if the corporate mainstream media is to be believed. I am not going to get into the details, because I like to keep this blog drama free at all times. You can go read it HERE if you really want to (I hope you don't...). The basic jist of it was that the probability of today being EVERYONE's last day on Earth is slightly higher than it used to be, statistically speaking, so there is more incentive now to start living the life you really want.

If you feel like you aren't living life to the fullest or you are spinning your wheels and going nowhere, drop me a line. I'd love to help you get your life going in the right direction. I have a fantastic life and I'd love to share my tips, tricks, and advice with you so you can have one too. I offer first time clients one hour of punk rock lifestyle coaching* pro bono (Latin for FREE!) and there's no obligation to continue on as my client if you don't get anything useful out of it. That's how sure I am that you will.

*Punk Rock Lifestyle Coaching is my own personal brand. I'm a punk rocker and I live my life unconventionally to the fullest, as you can see if you regularly read this blog. But you don't need to be an actual punk rocker to benefit from my coaching and get your life moving in a better direction (though many of my clients are musicians). I'm not affiliated with any commercial coaching organization, though I took many online coaching courses and was employed by a vitamin company as a Wellness Program Coordinator for several years before going freelance.

I was influenced to get into this line of work after reading "Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality" by Brad Warner. It's a great little overview of how to find meaning in life no matter what your background or your goals. It's based on Zen Buddhist principles, but it doesn't matter what your guiding beliefs are to get something out of it. Check it out and if it resonates with you, you might find my lifestyle maximizing philosophy jibes with yours, and we can work together to build your dream life.

Another guiding text for me is "The 4 Agreements," a short book of Toltec wisdom that I discovered whilst getting some work/life balance therapy of my own a few years ago. It's a great read if your goal is to eliminate negativity and drama from your life, an essential step in removing the barriers to improving your life. If nothing else, check it out at the library and give it a quick read (it's very short). Although lifestyle coaching requires no certificate or degree, I am a graduate student in Marriage and Family Therapy and I love helping people have better lives. If your life is great already, great! I'm also an ordained Dudeist (Abide!). It's very satisfying to see people make positive changes in their lives. I'd love to hear from you.

7.09.2017

Oasis

The weather was fantastic today. Earlier in the week, the Weatherbug app was forecasting a slight 30% risk of showers today, but that threat had disappeared by Saturday and it was all sun today, with temps in the low 80s. This was fortuitous, because we had planned a social bike ride for today and it all went to plan.

Deborah and I loaded our bikes on the rack on the back of our car about noon and cruised on over to Monona to pick up our friend Sherry and her bike, before arriving at the Cottage Grove trailhead of the Glacial Drumlin state nature trail about 1.

We rode our bikes about 11 miles one way to the Kroghville Oasis roadhouse, just off the trail, where my buddy Phil's band, YOUR MOM, was playing an afternoon show. I had my bike boom box on my bike, so we had tunes the whole way. We had lunch and a couple drinks while watching the band before riding back to the car and going home. Fun and sun. It was abfab.

7.06.2017

Geeked to Bike This Weekend

My friend Phil's band, YOUR MOM, is performing a matinee show this Sunday afternoon at the Kroghville Oasis in Kroghville WI. I organized a social bike ride around this show. Some friends and I will ride our bikes 11 miles along the Glacial Drumlin State Trail from Cottage Grove to Kroghville to party at the venue for a spell before biking back to the trailhead. I hope the weather cooperates. It looks promising right now, though there is a low chance of stormy weather. I am optimistic Mother Nature will smile on our outdoorsiness, because She often does and I am very geeked for some #biking this weekend.

Bopping to Brunch by Bike

My wife Deborah's son Devon has the day off today and we haven't hung out with him in a while. So today we are spending some quality time with him.

Deborah and I met him for lunch at Babe's Pub, and rather than driving there and suffering through ridiculous summer construction car traffic, we biked the 12 or so miles there and back. We still had to deal with incredibly poor drivers whilst we were biking on the road, particularly crossing busy intersections, but we mainly stayed on back roads with minimal traffic.

The weather was great. We sat in the outdoor patio at Babe's, once we'd parked and locked our bikes. Devon had opted to drive his car to the establishment and was a little bit delayed due to the aforementioned heinous traffic. I ordered a veggie melt sandwich, sans bun. The chef just put all the sandwich innards, a nice blend of sauteed veggies, including zucchini and yellow squash, on a plate. I think you actually end up getting a little bit more food when you request a "naked" sandwich option like this, and because it was veggies, it was probably more nutritious too, without the empty carbs of the bun. Deborah had her usual, a salad with grilled chicken on top. Devon had a burger and fries.

On the bike ride home, an oblivious BMW driver paid no heed to Deborah as he drove recklessly all over the place, totally fitting the stereotype of Beamer drivers (apologies to any good Beamer drivers out there, I know you are a rare and elusive species). Deborah threw him a baldy (middle finger), which he well deserved. Chances are he was too oblivious to see it though.

It was a pleasant outing mostly though, besides that.

Summer Freedom From Fakery

My band GUPPY EFFECT played at my Father in Law Howard's 80th birthday party on July 4th. In the middle of our set, Howie gave a great speech about, among other things, growing up before modern technology and social media, reminding everyone that when he was a kid, kids entertained themselves by playing outside in the "real" world and how different that is from today's socializing in the fake virtual reality Internet world. At least, that was one of the take home messages I took home.

I have been thinking about this speech a lot the past couple of days. At the start of the new year, I resolved to fast from social media a lot and focus my brain power on more meaningful things. I did well for a couple of months, rarely going on any social media sites except on Sundays (social media "free days"), and being more productive as a result. But gradually I got sucked back into the social media "sinkhole," as I call it. Howie's speech inspired me to redouble my social media avoidance efforts.

Social media does have some usefulness to me, but most of that utility is on the sending end, not the receiving end. Since I play in a band, for example, posting show dates on Facebook helps keep our fans (and even my bandmates) informed of performances they might like to attend (FYI, the next show is at the Monona Farmers Market - Mad Music Foundry Stage at 10 AM on Sunday July 23rd, totes free admish with squeaky cheese curds as an added bonus). I sometimes organize social bike rides and create events for them on "The Face." But that's about it. Twitter and Instagram are 99% useless to me. I have "unfollowed" many of my so-called "friends" on social media, so they are effectively muted, and I suspect and hope they have done the same for me. Nothing I post on social media, ignored or not, will impact anyone's life in any way, positively or negatively, notwithstanding that my band GUPPY EFFECT's music is clinically proven to increase happiness and well-being.* This is a fact.

Based on the low response rate I get to most of my music event postings on social media, I theorize that very few people use social media as an information gathering source (receiving), but rather as more of a mouthpiece for their own inner thoughts (many of which should probably remain INNER thoughts only...trolls). That's useful to know because it prevents me from putting too much time or effort into my outgoing social media posts. Everyone ignores everyone, but assumes everyone is not ignoring them (News Flash: Everyone is ignoring you on social media!).

Speaking of biking and outdoorsy activities, it is the height of the summer right now. As a result, I am getting out to enjoy the nice weather as much as humanly possible. Along the lines of what Howie was talking about, I am happiest when I am engaged in fun outdoor activities, like going biking with m'wife Deborah. A side effect (or maybe even a cause) of being outside in the open air is that it keeps me away from the negative effects of media, social or otherwise. My brain literally works better the less influenced it is by corporate mainstream and social media. I don't want or need to know what idiocy our mentally deficient President tweeted. It's obvious that no atrocity or felony committed by the Trump crime family, even when explicitly reported by the media, will be punished. So why the hell should I waste energy caring about it? If the USA is doomed, there is clearly no stopping the American juggernaut from plummeting over the cliff edge to smash on the rocks below, so I am going to have as much fun as I can before the end.

Thanks for the insight, Howie. And happy birthday too!

*Note: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. GUPPY EFFECT's music is not intended as a substitute for the administration of food and/or drugs.

7.05.2017

Sometimes a Daily Meditation Devolves into a Power Nap...It Happens!

I started to meditate early this afternoon and succumbed to an a brief attack of power napping. It happens. Don't feel shame. It usually indicates you need more rest than you are getting.

In my case, it was probably because my band played at a 4th of July birthday house party last night and I ate a lot of tasty but rich food and slept poorly.

House Party

GUPPY EFFECT rocked a sweet house party tonight. I am too tired to even begin to tell you how fun it was. Party on!