2017 isn’t close to being over yet…

… but so far it’s been a wild ride, the last couple of months especially.  And not all in a good way.  I’m at this point right now where things have kind of dropped into a lull and I can actually catch my breath and reflect.  I’ve had a lot of fun and adventures so far, but I also got caught up in some bad situations.  I don’t regret them, they were some amazing, wonderful, cherished experiences, but I regret the way they happened and the damage they caused.  And I’m not completely unscathed.  Some of that damage hit me, which I don’t regret, because I was allowing myself to be vulnerable and in the moment.  I was just a little TOO in the moment at times, and wasn’t thinking about 2nd and 3rd order of effects.  Am I completely responsible for everything that went down?  No.  But I was involved and people were hurt and that sucks and I’ll carry some guilt around for that for awhile.  In hindsight, there was probably a better way things could’ve played out.

Works been crazy.  Weird politics to the point where I’m consulting with a lawyer this week to make sure I’m doing everything I can to protect myself.  A longer relationship ended.  Family drama.  Friend Drama.  Normal life stuff, just seems like a lot of it compressed into a smaller period of time than normal.

But there’s been a lot of good, and that’s what I’m focusing on.  Motorcycle trips.  Mountain escapes.  New friends, old friends.  Romance and sexcapades.  Good food, beer and wine.  Great whiskeys.  New towns and the sights that go with them.  Lots and lots of photography.  Growth of skills.  New exposure.  The photography exhibit.  This book project.  Time with the Boy.  Live music, good plays.  Dad’s recovery from his bout with prostate cancer.

Interesting to be in this spot.  A couple weeks out of the break-up, wounds aren’t just scabbed over, the scar tissue is forming.  In a slight lull in the battles at work.  In between hormonal teen outbursts at home from the kid.  Not on the road, just in my space at home with the dog and the Boy when he’s around.

Life is Funny

I’ve mentioned this before, I think, but it’s funny how undramatic break-ups can get as we get older.  That’s not true in all cases, I’ve definitely seen some heads spin completely around and eyes glow red, but for the most part we just get more aware of what works and what doesn’t and call it quits earlier.

I started dating someone earlier this year.  On paper, they checked all the boxes that I claim I don’t have.  Done lots of therapy, seems to be drama free, good career, got along well with my son and my friends loved her, etc…  But it felt like something was missing.

The relationship had a long distance aspect to it, which I wasn’t originally thrilled about, but I decided to give it a chance.  Because of that, it took a little longer for things to surface.  We’d see one another on the weekends, text and call during the week.  But there still wasn’t a feel for the size and shape of each other’s daily lives.

I’ve been in and out of relationships over the last couple of years, and have started to question my decision making paradigm a little.  Am I just in love with the chase and do I sabotage things once that thrill has worn off?  Am I scared of something and purposely pushing great people away?  So when I started thinking it was time to get at least one foot out the door, I started slowing myself down.

I’m a huge fan of traveling with a partner, and doing it early on.  I think the stresses that pop up in the bubble of a relationship during a vacation are a great way to find out about someone quickly.  I had an excuse to do a 3 day road trip with her that consisted of 22hrs in the car and decided to wait until after the trip to make my decision.  There were other, external factors in play, but because this person was so perfect on paper, I really wanted to feel like I wasn’t rushing/being rushed into a decision, I wanted to know that I’d made the decision based solely on the merits of the relationship itself.

Funnily enough, she kind of made the decision for me.  2 hours from home she brought up something that was bugging her and we spent a week trying to work through it.  She’s an incredible person, but our communication, conflict resolution and belief systems are so mismatched that it’s just not there.  And while she was willing to try to work through it, it just solidified the nagging feeling I’d had for the several weeks before that maybe we just weren’t quite right.  But it’s funny.  There was no knock down, drag out fighting.  No tears were shed.  No name calling or 9-11 calls.  Just the quiet acknowledgement that while things had been great, there was an incompatibility there for the future, and it didn’t make sense to waste time.

Really makes for craptastic story telling.

Notebook

This is totally boring.  Skip it.  It’s a post about notebooks.  Seriously.  An entire brain dump about buying a notebook.  Spare yourself.

A couple of years ago I started bullet journaling.  If you’re not familiar, you can learn about it here.  It was seriously life-changing for me for a bit.  After the explosion, I started to have a lot of issues with memory and some mild anxiety about various things, and writing everything down just helped so much.  But writing wasn’t enough, I needed the “system” for it all to fit within.  Once I learned about bullet journaling, it all “clicked”.

When I first learned about it, life was really chaotic.  Multiple huge changes both personally and professionally, so it really got me on track and got me through it.  The problem was, once things settled down, I became a lot less diligent about journaling.  And that’s the way it’s been over the years.  When I need to buckle down, I do it religiously, when things are fairly stress free, I have issues updating it.

Part of the problem was that I was only keeping work entries in the journal for the most part.  Or stuff that needed to happen during the work day.  I might put a task in to mail something, or call someone.  But I wouldn’t put after-work type notes/tasks/reminders in the journal because I wouldn’t generally take my notebook out of my bag when I got home.  Actually, I used to just leave it at the office and was worried someone would read my personal stuff.  That work environment was incredibly toxic and a) I had no confidence that people wouldn’t snoop and b) if they did, and read something juicy, they would DEFINITELY use it against me.

Over the last couple of years I’ve also tried to embrace my creative side a lot more and nurture it.  The main engine for this has been photography, but I’ve been doing little art projects here and there.  The last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to sketch daily, and it’s been helping center me.  So last week I decided I wanted to try to combine sketching with bullet journaling and went on the hunt for the “perfect” notebook.

I’m weird.  One of my quirks is how obsessive I can be about things.  I will spend hours on the internet feeding this addiction, a friend likened it to stalking my prey.  And when I get something in my mind, I need it RIGHT NOW.  There is no internet ordering and waiting for 2 days of Amazon Prime shipping.  So I went online and found what I thought was going to be the perfect notebook.  I needed a Moleskine extra-large, hard back with dotted pages.  Couldn’t be lined pages, or grids because while those would be great for writing, they’d interfere with sketching.  Couldn’t be a blank sketchpad, because I wouldn’t have any guide lines to keep my handwriting straight.  Couldn’t be the smaller 5×8″-ish sized notepads because those would be too small for both journaling and sketching.  See what I mean?  Way overthought.

So the day after I narrowed it down, I found a legit reason to leave the office and go to an art store that I know carries the brand.  I couldn’t go to the flagship store downtown, I went to a shop closer to my office in a little college town.  They didn’t have it.  That night I went to a bookstore near me.  No luck.  Office supply stores.  Nada.  By this stage, if I would’ve just ordered it, I would’ve already had the notebook.  I went to a larger Barnes and Noble by the office on the way home from work one night and they had an actual Bullet Journal Leuchtturm notebook.  That I would’ve been orgasmic to find a year ago.  But now wasn’t JUST want I wanted.  But after several days of looking high and low, I bought it and started using it the next day at work.

We normally work from home on Fridays.  This past Friday my co-workers were being particularly annoying so I decided to actually leave the house for lunch.  I went down to the flagship branch of the local art-store and just got lost looking at stationary and art supplies and fountain pens and, and, and…  I did my big search for the perfect notebook but my heart wasn’t completely in it because I’d just bought the Bullet Journal two days before and thought I’d already figured out that this chain didn’t carry what I wanted.  So I was checking out, and the cashier a) was bored and talkative and b) gave me a discount because of whatever special even was going on.  So I told her why I was there and she made it her mission to find me my notebooks.  Sent someone into the basement to look and about 15 minutes later they came back, with the prize in hand.

So now, here I sit.  Ready to go.  I’ll shift everything out of the little Bullet Journal, but keep it close at hand in case this experiment fails.  But hopefully I’ll be able to use this to track both my personal and my professional tasks and events and start to incorporate doodling more into my everyday life.

IMG_20170619_102426~2

My photos have been delivered

Just got the UPS notification that my prints of my photos have been delivered to the Springfield Art Museum.  Eep!  It’s getting real.  Planning my trip to Missouri next month to be there for the opening.  This blog’s relatively anonymous so I post about it here.  I haven’t said to much in public about it other than to family and a few select friends because I keep thinking it’s going to not be real.

Little things

I appreciate authentic gestures, no matter how small they are.

We’ve got a couple of people at work who are remote.  They fly in once or twice a month, hang out for a day or three and fly home.  I think both of them are intimidated by driving here, so they have taken ubers for awhile now.  That does a couple of things:  a) they tend to schedule flights so that arrive close to one another and spend a lot of time at the airport waiting for one another so they can share a ride b) they tend to give other employees puppy-dog eyes to sucker us into picking them up in the morning, dropping them off, and spending time with them because after doing this for years, they’re bored silly in the hotel.

There’s a woman at work that I used to hang out with a lot.  We’d go walk for lotto tickets together, which was really an excuse to get out of the office and vent.  She moved here so that her and her BF could be closer to his family.  Then he went and started a business that’s had him in Minneapolis for the last six months with no end in site.  She didn’t hate it here, but she didn’t love it either.  So she wanted to move back to Louisiana so that she’d at least be by friends and family if they weren’t going to be together.  Their lease is up in September so she was starting to plan around that.

After talking about it, they really decided that what they wanted was just to be together, and they didn’t want to wait, so she broke the lease and moved to Minneapolis recently.  She’s been a rock-star employee, so the company offered her the opportunity to work remotely.  She’s back in town for the first time this week but unlike the others rented a car and then promptly got stuck being a chauffeur for them.

We were supposed to hang out tonight, but she got roped into carting them all around.  I’m not really dating anyone right now and the Boy is with his mom this week.  There’s been a lot of weird stuff going on at work that has my spidey-sense tingling.  It was raining here this afternoon and I had to be at work earlier than normal, so I came home, took a nap, then was doing a bunch of unappealing chores while waiting to see if she was going to call.  After a certain point I went and grabbed dinner.

There’s nothing going wrong, life is fairly good.  But sometimes, when the house is too quiet and I have too much time on my hands, I can get a case of the mopes.  I never quite know what leads me down that route, it just happens sometimes.  Tonight had the potential to go that way, all the ingredients were there.

The girl from work texted me tonight.  Apologized for not being able to hang tonight and asked if we could “Plan for tomorrow?  Like a real date and time?”  I said sure, but I also said if it doesn’t happen, it’s ok, I get that the other people could drag her into things again.  She was just really insistent that we’d hang tomorrow and I don’t know why, but that was like a salve on a burn I wasn’t aware I had.

Music

I was driving down to Ft. Carson this morning for a Spartan race.  It’s about an hour and 45 minutes so I put on Slacker.  Normally I have a “favorites” channel, but with all the time on the motorcycle and roadtrips lately I wanted a break so I listened to Front Line Radio.  I wrote about that hear and highly recommend you give it a listen.  You can follow this link to listen to it.

Two songs struck me this morning.  One was “Drive On” by Johnny Cash.  I honestly don’t know if I’d ever heard it before, which is surprising considering how many Cash CDs are floating around this place.

Not much more needs to be said about that song.

The other one?  I’ve said frequently that I normally hear music but not the words.  There’s a quote that I like that goes “When you’re happy you hear the music, when you’re sad you listen to the words”.  That’s been true for me usually.  And when a song resonates with me when I’m sad, I can’t turn that off.  I can’t NOT hear the words when I’m happy again.

“Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters has been a favorite of mine for years, probably since the album came out in 2002.  Maybe not.  I was deployed for some of that year and it took some catching up.  So maybe 2003.  But it’s been in regular rotation on my road-trips for over a decade.  I’ve sung it (as best as I’ve understood the lyrics) at the top of my lungs while driving.  And never really thought about any of it.

This morning, they told some backstory behind the request.  The service member who requested it said that they left the military almost immediately after their last of several deployments and when they did, this song was on almost constant replay for them for awhile, strictly because of the lyrics “It’s times like these you learn to live again” and “It’s times like these you learn to love again”.  Then they played the song.

I teared up a little and choked them back.  Instantly I was transported back to my 3rd deployment.  Before the deployment, being almost certain I wasn’t coming home and then when I realized I was, trying to figure out what that mean.  I hadn’t made any “after” plans.

Character

Tonight was an interesting study in human character.  A couple years ago I worked with this guy who’s about my age.  He was never military, but has had a wide range of experiences.  We have similar interests and kind of hit it off, even though we were in different departments and at different levels of hierarchy.  A couple of years ago he decided he wanted to get into motorcycling and asked me to help him shop for a new motorcycle.  We’ve gone on photowalks together, I’ve sent customers to buy hand made leather products from him, etc.

He likes this particular brand of motorcycle gloves.  I’ve always thought they looked like gardening gloves.  I tried some on in person and they were just awkward and uncomfortable.  I left that experience believing they were just a hipster badge, like drinking PBR and wearing flannel and beards.  If you want to spend your money on that, no problem.  But they aren’t for me.

When I did this last ride, I realized that my gloves suck.  I like wool, so I started searching online for wool lined gloves and the only ones I could find were made by this company.  So I ordered them, at $95/pair.  They showed up last week and were terrible.  I soaked them in water and wore them for an hour, that helped them fit better.  The next day I wore them to work.  On their website they advertise them as “winter” gloves.  When I rode to work it was 50 degrees and my hands were still cold in them.  So they officially got a “hell no” from me.

I’ve been upfront about them.  I don’t know what my end goal is, but I’m trying to grow my “brand” on social media.  I’m never going to stop being an IT guy and start being a full time photographer (at least until I retire) but I’d rather have options than not.  So I’ve been posting stuff online and building a base.  When I got the gloves I started taking photos of them, tagging the manufacturer online, etc.  And I’ve been honest.  When I didn’t like something, I said it, in public, in a public forum and I tagged the company so they could respond.  They chose not to.  And my comments haven’t been “they suck!”, they’ve been thought out and solid.  Not always as verbose as possible, given the medium, but the channel was there for the company to contact me for more in-depth feedback.

I met up with 3 Army guys after work tonight.  People I’ve entrusted with my life over the years.  I’m not going to say they’ve been perfect.  They’ve failed.  But they’ve picked themselves up and tried again.  And while we were drinking tonight we were honest again.  Told one guy how much we all hated him when we first met him.  One guy told me I needed to stop talking because my opinion wasn’t valid anymore because I’d been out of the Army too long and my info was dated.  That stung, he knew it did, but I got over it.  The mutual respect and admiration was palpable.  And because of that respect we could have different opinions and still be friends.

After I left the bar I saw I had a text.  I’d thought my former coworker had posted a photo and tagged the company that makes the gloves.  Actually the glove manufacturer had re-posted my friend’s photo.  I’d said “I’m sorry, but I can’t support you on this one, I think they’re glorified gardening gloves”.  His text was frantic.  Did I realize it wasn’t his account that I’d posted it to?  No, but I didn’t care, I’d say it to their face.  That was fine, but I shouldn’t drag him into my displeasure with their product.  How was I drawing him in?  I said I just didn’t agree with his opinion?

Well, turns out they were upset and contacted him.  They didn’t have the nerve to contact me, even though they’d admitted to him that they knew I wasn’t pleased with their product.  They weren’t willing to discuss the merit of my opinions.  But they’d helped him get some exposure as a photographer and were threatening to black-ball him in the community.  And even though he agreed that they were way over-hyped, he was scared to admit it.

I’m trying not to judge him.  I don’t know his personal situation and I don’t know what he’s going through.  I don’t know him well enough to know what motivates him.  But I do know that the timing of our conversation definitely makes me appreciate my real friends, my tribe, more.