Excuse my reasoning

A point of view is a dastardly thing. It can be useful in some situations, but in a case where your point of view allows you to turn an excuse into a reason it can be devastating.

Excuses, in and of themselves, are nasty little buggers. They are purposed reasonings that one establishes to allow latitude and leniency to pervade their own inability to satisfy a need or a condition in which another person, organization or establishment is dependent upon the satisfaction of that need. In essence, they are a rationalized way out of a responsibility that should not be shirked.

Worse, excuses that are believed to be reasons are all the more dangerous because they are no longer just a way out of responsibility, they are now the driving force behind it. And along with that they become a convenient means to allow oneself to really never do the responsible thing.

The reason I bring this up is because it is so easy to do. Excuses, or in most cases, reasons, are so easy to come up with and even easier for others to believe. Children seem to know this inherently. So do spouses (yes, men and women). In fact, I tend to think it is human nature to be able to drum up an excuse, er, reason, at the drop of a hat in most cases.

I am just as guilty of this as the next guy. Which is why I chose to write about it. I find myself doing this more and more and, the truth is, it needs to stop. A wife, children, a boss… they all need reliability out of a man. And reliability is impossible if there is a way out of responsibility through excuses.

So the next time you feel yourself in a place to excuse your way out of something, think twice and see if you can reason with yourself to the point of not allowing the excuse. People are counting on you.

Bite your tongue

Sometimes you just need to not say whatever it is you are planning (or even not planning) to say. For most folks this goes without saying. For many, however, the words that come flying out of your mouth are words that should not have even been thought, let alone released.

I say this as a man that has yet to learn his lesson with controlling his tongue. Too often I will allow myself into a place where my perspective, my own opinion clouds the moment I am in. I allow myself to stop listening intently to the other person and begin to develop my response before the other person is even done talking. What’s more, the words that I formulate in my head are often not appropriate for the conversation or for the edification of the person with whom I am speaking. Have you ever experienced that?

I don’t have any concrete examples that I am willing to share, but there have been occasions recently in which I was talking with someone and as I spoke it became clear to me that what I was saying was really not at all empathetic to the other person. Really what I was doing was trying to make myself heard over the conversation without listening to what was being spoken to me. How awful that must feel for those that I communicate with. Imagine speaking from your heart and laying it all out there just to have the person with whom you are speaking respond with something completely out of context because he/she felt it was necessary to pour their own feelings, their own opinions into the conversation without a need, really, to do so.

There is a lesson in this for married men. If you are ever talking with your wife and you feel the need to reply in haste or if you have already begun to develop a response to something she has said before she is finished talking, it is a sure sign that what you are about to say would be better off left in your brain. Specifically, as it relates to marriage, it would seem to me that as men, we should want to be able to communicate with our wives on their level of communication. What that means, essentially, is actually listening to her words, and her heart, as she speaks and really trying to empathize with her as she pours herself out to you.

I think sometimes that we as men are so quick to defend ourselves or provide our own spin on things that we lose sight of what is really important at that moment: understanding the person that you are conversing with. Truly, how can we ever really understand someone if we cannot unplug our own opinions and ideas for just a brief moment to really try to see it their way?

Just throwing this out there, for those that are not scared off by a challenge: the next time you have already prepared your response to someone that you are talking with before they are done talking, or before you respond out of your own perspective or opinion, bite your tongue, stop and think for just a second about what they just said, then try to feel it for yourself as they have described it. You might be amazed at what you can learn from someone when doing that.

Boobs: What’s the big deal?

NOTICE: This post has been removed. This page is here only as a place holder to prevent old inbound links from breaking.

The content in the original post was posted without my exercising good judgment and sensitivity and as a result needed to be taken down. I have chosen to leave some of the better portions of that post up, however. At least better in a way that I would think are better.

Man tip: It should go without saying that any time you are faced with the issue of a wife telling you she is feeling insecure about herself in any way that you reassure her that she is more than adequate in every way.

Man tip: If your wife does something that in any way speaks to any part of who you are as a man, tell her. She needs to hear it.

Man tip: Your wife is the most beautiful woman in the world to you. Always. This is never a question as much as it is an affirmation.

Useful things I cannot do

I had a terrifying and horrifying realization this morning on my way to work: there are a lot of things a man should be able to do that I have never done. Scarier still, I have never even thought to do some of those things. This scared the hell out of me. The next thought that came to mind was that I had better set out to straightening this out before I never get around to doing it.

So I began to put together a list. And the list got bigger and bigger and bigger. And as of this writing it is now looking like:

Useful things I have never done

  • I have never shot a gun
  • I have never shot a bow
  • I have never lit a fire without an accelerant
  • I have never killed or skinned a hunted animal
  • I have never stayed out in the wilderness overnight
  • I have never tied something down that absolutely had to stay tied down
  • I have never caught a fish
  • I have never jumped a chasm
  • I have never dove into open water (lake, sea, whatever)
  • I have never built a house
  • I have never fixed a broken car, motorcycle or bicycle

As I began to think of all the things that I have never done but should have done by the time I was 16 I realized that my entire life as a man has been spent on other things outside of the necessities of a man’s necessary knowledge. Men need to know how to do those things on my list of things not yet done.

That’s right. As I looked on that list I began to assert my desires and intents as a man. I fully intend to do each and every one of those things on that list. Within the next two years.

And hopefully at the same time I will be able to test some other boundaries of mine as well. That was another thought that crept in as I was coming to these conclusions earlier this morning. I have almost completely lost the sense of boundary testing that all males seem to have. When was the last time I did something that scared the crap out of me and gave me the willies like never before? How about you, when was the last time you scared almost to the point of skinning out?

I long for that. I think. But I didn’t realize it until today. I need an adventure. I need to test myself. And I sure as hell need to put myself in a position of handling those things on my list. I say I start with hunting and move from there.

Being a man starts with being a man of your word

As I have described in recent posts I am on a bit of a quest to find out who I am as a man. I discovered recently that I have abandoned my masculinity in favor of peace and harmony over the last few years and that has led to much angst and issue in my home and family.

Today I discovered something else about me that I hope to improve upon as I develop my masculinity: I all too easily will put a promise that I make aside for my own benefit. That is cowardly and shows no sign of fortitude at all.

Case in point: last night I told my wife I was going to go to Target at lunch and pick up the movie Chicago so we could watch it tonight. You know what I did at lunch? I went to lunch.

I know it doesn’t seem like much but to my wife it was huge. And I suppose it should have been. I said I was going to do something and I didn’t do it. I took my manhood and staked it on a promise that I blew off. All that does for me as a man is show that my words means nothing. Any of you men out there ever done something like this?

I am at a point right now where doing what I say I am going to do is vital. I have to be able to build that trust back up that was lost over all these years of complacent maleness. Not coming through is not going to do that. In fact, it will do the exact opposite. There are few things as important as a man as being accountable. When you stake your reputation on a word you have got to come through on that word. Period.

I hope there is a lesson to learn here. I am still learning and I full on expect to learn the hard way a few more times before I get it right. But it is important to take things like this seriously. Your identity as a man, and mine too, depend on that.

A man that a man can look up to

Today I had the blessing of getting a call from my friend Greg. Greg is a friend of mine through marriage. His wife Yolanda has been very good friends with my wife since they were in grade school so naturally when Sandi and I got married I inherited some of her friends. Namely, Greg and Yolanda.

Greg is, to put it in terms a guy might understand, a man among men. He has always been the image of what a man should be like to me. I probably should have tried to mimic him at some point in my life because I always get the impressions that Greg is constantly looking forward and always succeeding. He just knows how to be a man and he lives it everyday.

A few weeks ago I was able to spend some time with Greg and we had a wonderful talk. We talked about our marriages, our money, our work.. all the things guys talk about when they get together and talk over food. I was amazed to find out that Greg has had some struggles with stuff that have had a severe impact on him, his marriage and his family. He was actually a real person, not just a real man, for the first time since I have known him.

Truth be told I developed a whole new respect for him that day. He already had made changes within himself that have started to improve his situation. He is stepping out and helping friends of his. He is making decisions and taking care of business. I love how he is handling this situation. But, back to the point I was making when I started this post…

I got a call from Greg today and was very happy at how our conversation went. Greg knows about my realization that I have am in search of my manhood. He is aware that I am going through some stuff right now just he is and that he can reach out to me. That means more to me than I can put into words here. And as we wrapped up our phone call Greg something to me that I think every man needs to hear at least once in his life, if not once a day:

Set the bar so damn high that you cannot even see it. If you set it too low you are going to trip over it. If you set it to where you know you can reach it you are going to end up hitting your head on it and knocking yourself out. Set the bar to a point where you have no choice but to go after it then get to getting after it. If you don’t set it outside of your reach how will you ever know how far you can reach?

Greg Dixon

Man to man Greg, I love you. I so needed to hear this today. Thanks for being my bud and thanks for being an example of a man that I can follow.

Feeling the effects of cowardice and the economy

I have been going through a major transformation in my life the past few weeks. Most of this transformation has stemmed from the fact that a few weeks ago I came to a life shattering conclusion that I have been a coward for a very long time. Somewhere in my life I decided that it was more important to make people feel good than to do the right thing. And because of this decision I made, Lord knows when, my life has been a series of bad decisions based on someone’s tears, fears, angst or discontent.

The effects of a cowardly man are far reaching. Everything that requires the strength of a man are shot to hell when a man refuses to be strong. And I believe things are designed to be that way. Men are made strong so we can use our strength. We are made aggressive so we can be aggressors. We are made to withstand because we need to withstand. It is in our makeup. Strength is not supposed to be something that looks good on a model or handles itself well under circumstance, strength is a meant to a be a lifestyle, a characteristic that is exuded daily by all men.

I have not lived that lifestyle. I have indeed allowed myself to be swayed by many different circumstances. And in so doing I have surrendered my position as a man, a leader and head of household to my wife. I have not only stripped myself of the authority and dominion inherent to me as a man but I have also placed my wife in a position where her identity as a woman is cloudy because of the things she has to do because I have chosen not to do them.

One area of long standing contention in my marriage has been finances. I am the sole provider of the house and have been for about five years or so. In the 13 years that Sandi and I have been married she has worked outside of the home for about five years with the remaining eight years being spread out over several periods in our marriage when we had new children or some other life event allowed/necessitated her be home with the kids.

Up until a few years ago I had managed the money in our home. I was diligent, relentless and incredibly passionate about making sure our bills were paid and our obligations met. I had the bank account balanced against my register every morning. I knew, to the penny, how much money I had available to my at any given point of any given day. I was on it.

Unfortunately at that time we did not make a whole lot of money so even though I had things firmly under control we did not really have a lifestyle. We had kids, a place to live, cars to drive and a little bit of food in the fridge. But that was about it. And Sandi felt like she was being locked out of the finances.

So in response to her feelings I decided to offer control of the finances to her. I am not one for two people handle the same task at the same time so I told her that she could have it if she was willing to take it all. She agreed and a few years back I gave her everything I had in relation to our finances. And you know what? For a couple of years she did a kick ass job of making sure everything was handled appropriately just as I had done. She also saw to it that there was money for other lifestyle type things so we were not always so stuffed on what we could do or when.

She even made sure our credit improved. From very early on in my adult life I seemed to do everything under the sun to make sure that my credit was craptastic. She actually improved our credit standing and in late 2005 we began taking on credit again. It was nice to be able to qualify for things that required good credit because had, for so long, been such a huge credit risk that we were either completely unable to do things based on credit or we paid a huge premium for doing things on credit. So I felt great about her handling the money and the success we were having.

In September of 2006 I changed jobs. I began to earn about 50% more than I was earning at my old job. We had lots more money and what appeared to be a growing lifestyle. And then things began to take a turn for the worse in our finances. We had amassed an enormous amount of debt. Things were not getting paid. We began to get calls from creditors. We began to not have money. This was about summer 2007.

Being faced with some troubling circumstances ahead I made a few decisions and didn’t make a few others that led to an increased lack in my household. The long and short of it is that I ended up costing my family my retirement to get us out of hock in June 2007. The biggest bills were paid, some smaller ones were paid off completely. We put some money (about $6,000) into savings and put a little more (about $2,500) into savings for our children ($500 each for five kids). It felt good, but in a bad way. While the bills were paid and we had some savings immediately I knew that withdrawing $60,000 worth of my retirement would have a negative effect on our lives.

Spring forth to December 2007. Even though we had paid off almost all of our debt just six months earlier we were maxed out again. I had about $200 cash to spend on Christmas for my entire family, my wife and my kids. My credit cards were shut off or at their limits. Times were tough. Bills were not getting paid again. Calls were coming in again. The kids began to understand that Privacy Manager, or 1-800 Services on the phone meant that neither mom nor dad wanted to take that call. In January of this year I was faced with another decision to make.

I chose to borrow against my paid off car so I could pay down our American Express bill. Again. We paid a few others too but the AmEx bill has always been the one that has gotten us into trouble. And mind you we had burned through the $6,000 grand in savings (I was saving that for the tax bill on the retirement withdrawal that I knew was coming) and the kids savings had been wiped out too. We had nothing at our disposal except my car. So I had to do something. I hocked my car.

Now in the midst of all this I had made a firm decision in my head to take back control of the finances of our home. And each time I was completely swayed by my wife’s tears and heartfelt sentiment that she could get things back under control if she just had a little more time. Plus she said that she didn’t want to be kept out of the finances again and that when I was doing the money before I would just push her down and not listen to her. So again, I caved. Each time we hit rock bottom I would try to get us back up to a point and still let the situation run. I was scared of my wife’s reaction and feelings.

Let’s come back to here and now shall we? We are just about to move into August. The last time we paid anything to American Express, I come to find out, was April. Our truck payment is behind. Most of my cards are behind a month or more. Some have even gone all the way to collection agencies. I am getting multiple calls daily from various collectors that want to be paid. And, even though I was just told a few weeks ago that our car payments were up to date and that we are good, I also find out this past Saturday that we are overdrawn in our back account by $800.

“What? How could we be negative?” she says. “I was watching that.”

This morning we are up to $1,000 negative in our account. If it gets any worse we will not be able to pay our rent. We are already not going to be able to buy groceries. Our utility bills are mounting because they are months behind and I have a truck payment that is about to get to 60 days late. How much longer should I wait to see if this thing gets better?

Granted things have gotten out of hand in terms of cost all over the place. The economy is crap right now thanks to fuel prices. The cost of gas is driving the cost of everything else up so things that we rely on daily are getting harder and harder to afford. But when it comes right down to it, how would that explain the condition of our expenses?

I blame myself. Sandi should never had been put into a position to handle this. It is my role as the leader of our household to take care of things like this. I have failed her, my family and myself. I have let this get out of control. That gets fixed now.

A man with no balls allows all sorts of mischief to take place right under his nose because he is too damned scared to make a change. Today, I take my balls back. This will be fixed.