Monthly Archives: August 2014

the further I get, the better I see

I’ve been celibate since 2011, and the further I get, the better I see.

It was a choice I made when I got off drugs and a choice I make still today.

Not much is written about celibacy.  In today’s sexually-slathered world, it’s not a popular subject.  It alienates, labels and renders one less than desirable to many who still regard sex as a plaything and an inalienable right to exercise freely, openly and without much regard for its significance or consequence beyond it being a driven, primal, self-indulgent pleasure.

To be honest, I’ve had more sexual partners in my lifetime than I care to remember. Many I choose not to, most I can’t, and all in hindsight I regret except for the union of love that produced my three wonderful children.  And that was many, many years ago.

There is a huge difference between mere resistance to sexual temptation and a conscious choice of celibacy.

The first one spends too many hours fending off attacks while the other refuses to wage the war.  One is a choice to be in a constant driven turmoil while the other is a constant choice of dignity and self preservation.  No engagement. No bloodshed. No preoccupation with momentary pleasures.

Most men find it an incomprehensible option to be celibate.  Culture has made great strides over the years not only to make open sexuality the “normal” way of life but also to banish or render odd those who believe or choose differently.

Imagine, if you can, the amount of sitcom time spent on the subject of sex.  Imagine the number of stories and exposes about the sexual foibles of otherwise good men and women.  Imagine the volume of time, the countless pages, the vastness of entire industries spent on sexual pursuits and libido-lifting messages, telling us it’s just as healthy a way to stay in shape as aerobic exercise.  No, it’s not your imagination.

Truth is, sex has become the replacement of an important need by an urgent one.

I don’t watch much TV, largely because of its stupidifying effect on the masses.  I do watch movies though. Lots of movies.  And even there, I see how unentertaining most plot lines would be without the sex factor.  The general malaise about, and the lack of creativity within media is largely due to the potency of the sex factor to arouse and stimulate single-minded misled people into applause for an on screen violation of what might otherwise be a potentially creative story.  But with sex shoved down the throats of the masses (pun partially intended) as if we were all malnourished hookers, we’ve learned to hunger for it like the rush of a smoking bowl of meth.

As a social consolation, those who promote free sexuality have successfully fended off attacks by seasoning their appeals with “love, romance and intimacy”  as if to give added value to what they are really selling.  Eroticism is now much wider in its appeal, equating being sexual with someone or anyone for that matter, quite the “special” thing.  Special with this one, special with that one, and each special encounter so meaningful in its own way.

Sex is not the highest form of love. Not by a long shot.

Humanity’s lie has been to suggest that sexual union with another is the most intimate expression of love in the world.  As a celibate man, I believe nothing could be further from the truth.

To obey the greatest commandment to love one another is a far cry from having a passionate roll in the hay with them.  Loving acts have staying power while sex quickly goes…well…flaccid.

Celibacy creates a vacuum for important things.

The years I have spent without losing small pieces of my soul to random sexual partners has opened my eyes to greater forms of love than I might have otherwise never known existed.  When I stopped seeking pleasure, a vacuum was created inside of me and I began seeking to fill it with true love.  Not a person. Not another. Love.

Big difference.

Storge, philia, agape.  Go ahead. Look them up.  Affection, friendship, unconditional love. These alternate kinds of love always get the shaft from sex promoters, yet they are the kinds of love expressions that make you cry at commercials, weep at songs and experience the kind of joy of the spirit of a sports team with an incredibly moving back story.  They are the kinds of loves you remember over and over again, long after your meaningful casual fling left your bed for home.

Perhaps one day I will rediscover that eros kind of love again and my celibate days will be over.  But I have found that my freed mind is now capable of deep thought that births deeper movements of love and compassion and a preoccupation with things that last much longer than an orgasmic minute.  And when I do find it, I’ll have learned to respect it with much more dignity than I ever did before.

And if I never do, I will nonetheless have learned to love as a celibate man, and by then I should be a pretty good at it, because the further I get from sex, the better I understand love.

 

 

In the land of the blind, the cross-eyed is king

misfittoys

After 58 years, they’re still my best friends and holiday heroes who first taught me that I belong.

Since I first learned to read I scoured the TV Guide each December in search of the day and time the superheroes of my holiday would again invite me into their world. I’d no idea that annual hour I spent with these misfits would come to define my entire life.

The Island of Misfit Toys was first visited by Rudolph, the original outcast, in 1964 when at four years old I already knew I was different. Very different. I was not like other kids, other boys. I was irregular and unlike anyone. I was the Charlie-in-the-box, the disowned Dolly and the discarded Spotted Elephant. King Moonracer, the unlikely winged-lion ruler of their small, cold island that was my everywhere, was a flawed mockery of an empty promise that a rescue was ever possible for my friends and I who were just a little too different for normal mainstream children to play with.

The middle child of three, I’d neither the rights of the eldest nor the admiration of the youngest. As birth-order theory would later reveal I was the “survivor.” And I’ve made that true for myself many times over since.

As caveat, my parents and siblings never were perpetrators of the feelings and beliefs I’ve held all these years. I grew up in a great family with great parents and as normal a childhood as I could surmise was normal. But some of us are just born a bit unusual for some reason and I found myself a misfit on an island in the middle of a loving family who knew no different.

Older now and armed with a therapist’s education and more messed up life experiences than I care to enumerate here, things are finally beginning to gel. “Different” and “misfit” have given way to “unique” and “defining” as I come to accept and love myself for my peculiarities. Early identification with these animated friends scripted my life with a passion for the underdog, the discarded, the lonely and the horses of many colors. What I once considered liabilities of my young life are now proud assets in an old one. Championing the causes of the bullied, broken and the more-than-a-little bent are what wakes me up every morning.

But mind wanders and ponders what might be my sum of these experiences. What’s the end game of my weirdness? How will all my quirky differences make differences in this world for other misfits? Will I solve any world problems, rescue others, or even be afforded time to write my final chapter? My worry is I’ll be plucked from this island with more than a mouthful of words still left to speak on behalf of all the other imperfect playthings in the world. I suppose I may find that this island is no island at all, I was never alone, and I was never discarded or misfitted, but actually a lot more normal than I realized.

Too many questions course through my thinker. But the more questions you ask, the more likely you are to arrive at answers and here’s an important one:

There are more of us than there are of them.

I might find that having branded myself a misfit for so long I’m able to see more misfittings in others from what otherwise appeared to be the same human assembly line from which we’re all cut. “Regular” people get noticed plenty and frankly, I find it mundane. I enjoy irregular people. Indeed it’s what makes them most attractive.

Being normal isn’t very original. But those who leap tall buildings or spend their lives trying, those with an edge, an X factor or that certain je ne sais quoi supply the color to an otherwise bland world palette. They are pioneers of thought, masters of creativity and possessors of the deepest of souls. Early on, us outcasts quickly learn from not belonging. Instinctively, we know how to appreciate other misfits and the inherent power that lies in being just strange enough to stand out. And if we get past society’s segregations, live beyond our insecurities and fears, and find our reframing in a few defining moments, we may discover, as I have, that our novelties are what makes us leaders and influencers and that others may follow precisely because of them.

We all eventually find our place on this island and notice we’re not really alone. Everyone has a novelty, a strangeness we can’t and shouldn’t discard just for being different. That oddity is our Ace. Play it proudly and one day you may be stunned to find everyone else at the table was once blind to the value of their own weirdness in some way. And that in the land of the blind, the cross-eyed can still be king.
Spots and all.

Mike Miller’s back seat driver

mikeandbarbframed

She was a poor high school girl who just needed a ride.  And if she’d never had the courage to speak up, I wouldn’t be here today.

Each morning, handsome young Mike Miller drove past her house on his way to North Hollywood High. He usually picked up a friend on the way.  Barbara, friends with his morning passenger,  asked her one day,  “Do you think Mike might pick me up also? I’m right on his way.” Her friend offered to ask on her behalf and returned the next day with his reply:

“He said if you want a ride that bad, you have to ask him yourself.

What a jerk.  What a cocky, arrogant ass.

Swallowing her pride for a ride, Barbara caved.

She sat in the back seat, but not for long.

The chemistry between them became too much and she soon moved to the front where their molecules mingled and began the Miller Family in 1958…and by some counts, even sooner.

At the end of his long, successful life, the greatest story never told about my dad, Mike Miller, is the one that belongs to my mother.  She’d have no interest in telling it herself, but someone should speak of the woman who first just came along for the ride and ended up successfully navigating an entire generation.

Don’t mind if I do.

Barbara Ann or “Babs” as they sometimes called her, was the oldest of four in a not so great childhood where she was often the only present “parent. ” She learned at an early age how to care for people, to put them first, enjoy their achievements and take a backseat to their successes.   If  I’ve spoken of my dad’s remarkable humility in previous stories, Mom’s humility is truly incalculable.

Like Dad, Mom is also an artist, but of the family genre.  The co-author, co-illustrator and presence in every sky of every painting he ever did, she is as much in every canvas of Dad’s art as the paint put upon it.  And if you ask anyone, together, they created a family masterpiece. The full story of my dad’s life is immeasurably void and incomplete without her.  During Dad’s final year, I watched them in their side by side recliners holding hands as he slowly drifted off until the day he finally drifted off forever.  She wasn’t watching the television. She was watching the man who invited her to join him for this long ride that ended all too soon.

She’s the first to admit she had no formal education, but graduated from what she very proudly calls the School of Hard Knocks.  She was the bobbing buoy in the family storms–unless of course they were real storms, in which case she was crouched under the stairs with her fingers in her ears. But despite the joking, she learned to make peace with a relentlessly stubborn man and lead the family from the back seat while still letting him believe he was always behind the wheel.  We all knew better.

On many occasions, she could have given up, but always regarded the potential of the investment greater than its episodic highs and lows.  She appreciated dreams and always listened intently to mine as if they were her own.  I’ve always been a dreamer with a story to tell and many a pre-dawn morning, we sat together as I recited the most elaborate soliloquies of my night’s slumber and she always made me believe she starred in every one.  And for a little boy turned author, she was my first captive audience.

She has always been fastidious about things.  The kids, the house, holidays, Dad.  For all his life,  he was her project.  Few know that.  She could plant an idea and make him believe it was his seed. She could draw a picture of the future and he would paint it as an original. Set a course and he would route it as if he’d created the map.  Together, they have at times been the Laurel and Hardy, George and Gracie and Ricky and Lucy of their many friendship circles, and were always the admired ones.

Their youth was the last to speak fondly of the woman behind the man.  It was a post-depression era when young men and women enjoyed their mutually supportive roles with pride, producing what many now consider the last of the best families of the century. Their homeostatic coupling had no room for notions of pride and independence.  Marriage had a purpose that far outweighed anything they might achieve on their own.  Each acknowledged the other as a necessary complement, a symbiotic relationship which stayed the course and often defied societal odds and birthed a well-mannered generation of survivors.

Mom has given her three kids more stories of personal sacrifice, selflessness and principled living than we’ll ever live to tell.  During our early years, she was always the mark of the family.  Without her, we would have very few of our funniest stories.

Even now, 56 years later, she still drives us all crazy.  But crazy is as crazy does and now nearing the end of her days, just like Dad, neither would change a thing.

Mom has since taken the wheel, driving the last leg of their journey alone.  But they will end up at the same destination.  For she will join him in the skies he will continue to paint for her from afar with light and color and placid memories.

They will forever be those two young kids, still enjoying that first ride that lasted a lifetime. And we will all watch from below and gather from time to time to laugh and cry and be thankful that they were that couple who once shared a front seat and drove each other, and the rest of us, crazy.

Until her own time comes, she misses him each time she gazes into the painted skies he leaves on her lonely walls.

But I’m pretty sure as she continues to talk to him over coffee from her early morning patio, he may finally reveal to her who it was who changed the setting on the dryer.

And the Valentine lovers will have yet another good laugh.

 

 

 

coincidences

Coincidences happen every day for those who believe in them.
You pull over with a flat tire and seconds later there’s a massive pileup at the next intersection. You find a $50 rebate check and an unexpected $50 invoice on the same trip to the mailbox. The difference lies in your perspective. Is it just chance or might some other force be at work on your behalf?

The simple minded view them as mere chance with no room for divine explanation. The former offers no chance to change the outlook on your day ahead while the latter gifts you hope and optimism that perhaps you’re not so alone in this world, and a better than even chance to begin your day with a distinct possibility there’s more to this life than meets the eye.

What might be pure chance, might also be providential. We may never know, but one perspective sends you on your way having gained nothing yet with the other, you gain everything and an optimism for the next coincidence to cross your path.
Ascribe your next coincidence to providence and you’ll have nothing to lose, and just maybe, everything to gain.