For I Am Costanza…Lord of the Idiots

My best friend Terry and I shared a love for the television show Seinfeld. We spent many years quoting lines from this hilarious sitcom and even would call or text each other on every occasion we were able to live out a moment from the show. (Finding a Kenny Roger’s Roasters in Manila was a highlight for both of us.)

One of the more memorable and funny episodes is called The Apartment, and in it George Constanza is wearing a wedding ring in a social experiment to try and get dates with more women. Towards the end after having his plan backfire, he makes the statement, “For I am Constanza, lord of the idiots.” It makes me laugh even as I’m writing it now. I have picked up this line and use it whenever I’ve had an idiotic moment in my own life; something which happens more often than I actually care to admit.

In my fifty-three years of life on this planet, I have had plenty of opportunities to play the idiot, as I’m sure we all have. There are times however when I feel I’m actually setting the bar for idiots everywhere to be judged by. But during the times of my lunacy I don’t think this way, it’s usually after the fact. And once this realization hits me, I really feel dumb. Those are the times where I want to crawl under a rock and hide, it can be so embarrassing.

This past week at work I had a couple of extremely difficult days and a Constanza moment raised its ugly head. It was so bad one day I actually thought about fleeing; just going to my truck and leaving without saying a word to anyone. In my entire adult life I’ve never wanted to run away from anything and this shocked me. Thank God it did, because it was this shock which woke me up from my lunacy and got me to asking what was really going on my life.

These Constanza moments come to me whenever I perceive things are not going my way. It’s like my default button is to act like a fool whenever things are not going the way I want them to. Yes I realize this sounds horrible, but truth is truth, and as they say, the first step in fixing a problem is realizing you actually have one. The man who is not self-aware is the man who really has a problem. I realized the issues I’ve been having and have begun to rectify them, making the necessary changes towards becoming a better man, which will be another blog altogether.

What I want you to realize today is you’re not alone, there are millions of us out there. And just like in the Seinfeld episode as George is confessing his idiocy to Jerry, a lady in the background starts yelling out the window to the runners, “You’re all winners!” to which George says, “But suddenly a new contender has emerged.”

 

 

 

 

How Highway Driving Changed My Life

I wrote this a few years ago, thought I’d share it this morning.

Driving my bride and daughter to school this morning, I was struck with an interesting thought, at least interesting to me. As I merged our Dodge Caravan onto Interstate 44, the early morning commuter traffic seemed heavier than normal.

Accelerating my little four cylinder school bus towards the 75 mph speed limit as quickly as possible, I realized that I had become a part of a pack of vehicles in the passing lane trying to pass several semi trailers.

Wolves usually run in packs; they do so because there is safety in numbers. It is unusual to find a wolf running alone, or “lone wolf” as it is called. Also, normally being described as a lone wolf is more of a derogatory term, rather than a good one.

However driving down the busy thoroughfare with semis on my right and six cars in front of me and three more behind. It was at this time I decided while driving on a busy highway, I would prefer to be alone without anyone around me. This also revealed something in my heart; I have this tendency to want to be on my own, rather than running in a group.

Even though I can easily justify my desire on the highway; seeing the safety factor of not being dependent on the abilities of those around me and the possibilities of them making a mistake which could cause harm to my family not to mention damage to my property. In view of my own personal life however, this lone wolf attitude is not something good for me. When trying to apply the same reasoning to my personal life, it comes across as selfish and short sighted.

What this surfaces in my heart is the need to delegate more; to try not to do everything, but allow those who are running with me the opportunity to use their gifts and talents. Thank You Jesus for revealing things in my heart to help me to grow, and to help those around me have the opportunity to grow as well. Who could have known that me driving my van on a crowded highway could have brought change to my life? It’s the little things in life isn’t it?

Be Polite Jerk!

“Good morning Terry.” I said passing a co-worker one morning. “Yeah.” was his reply.  Seriously? I  wasn’t looking for a deep conversation, and his response to me I felt was just a little rude.  It made me stop and think about my own reactions when greeted by people.  Am I fully present in the moment, or am I just in a hurry to get on with what I was doing at the time, disregarding the heart of the person?

Basic pleasantries and good manners seem to be a thing of the past.  And while I try not to live in the past; the things I learned there should be carried forward into the future.  I remember once walking past a teenage boy at my church, greeting him cordially and sticking out my hand to shake his.  He ignored me, and walked right past me as if I weren’t even there.

I turned around, said his name and called him out about his behavior.  As you can imagine from reading my posts, I can be loud and boisterous at times when I need to be; this was one of those times.  He stopped and as I walked towards him, you could see the fear in his eyes.  I said, “Johan (named changed to protect the innocent) when a man says hello to you and sticks out his hand in greeting, a man should return it and speak back, looking him in the eye.  He nodded meekly, shook my hand and went his way.

It burns my biscuits when people refuse to use the most basic common courtesy.  A simple, “I’m fine, thanks for asking.” would suffice.  Our world would be a better place if everyone would just use a little kindness when addressing others.  I myself have not always been the best at this, but it’s not rocket science and I’m working on it.

What I think it really boils down to is people are self-absorbed.  When they care about themselves more than others, they’re less likely to be polite and nice to people.  I don’t think everyone has to be a “people person”, but everyone can learn the basics so they aren’t social misfits.  Really, how hard is it to say something nice to people?

Years ago I worked in a little shoe store.  There was a beauty shop close by where this sweet little lady worked.  Each day she would walk past my store to get a soda from a vending machine and then stop in and check out the shoes.

One day I had decided I would find something nice to say about everyone I met.  When she stopped in to visit, I complimented her on how nice her hair always looked.  You would have thought I’d given her a million dollars.  She asked, “Do you really think so?” And I replied, “Absolutely.  It’s always so eye catching.”  And it really was; she had really nice hair.  This one little kindness made her day.

Let’s make people’s day – be polite, and say something nice today. Now you know what I think, what do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Wandering Alone

The ground is moist and has started seeping into my boots as I make my way through the dense under brush looking for some semblance of a path.  I’m hot and sweating profusely as I duck under another low hanging oak tree branch which has probably been here since long before my great-grandfather was born.

There is an eerie stillness in the air, and my thoughts turn to a favorite book of mine, “The Hobbit”, specifically the part where Bilbo Baggins and thirteen dwarves are trapped in Mirkwood Forest.  “I hope I don’t run into any giant spiders,” I think to myself, pushing aside yet another branch hindering my progress.

I’m not sure what possessed me to go into the woods around my home and take this day hike, but now I’m beginning to regret my decision.  The hours pass by and I become painfully aware of my lack of provisions.  A penknife, small bottle of water in my back pocket and a cell phone getting no signal is all I carry with me.  I realize if I don’t find my way soon, I’ll end up like the guys on those survivor television shows, the only difference being they’re equipped with the skills needed to survive in the wild, and I’m not.

Since I was in my teens, I’ve often wondered if I have what it takes to be a “real” man.  I’m fifty-two now and the crazy thing is this thought still hounds me like a jackal chasing its prey.  Put me in a social setting where I’m expected to have conversations with other men, and I feel as lost as I do now in these woods.

Why do I have this feeling of inadequacy in the presence of other men?  Why is it I feel I don’t have what it takes to be a real man?  Where does this come from?  The answer is simple enough; I was never invited or initiated into manhood as a boy.

I read an interesting article a few years ago about a tribe in Africa.  At around the age of twelve, the men of the village come to the boy’s home and in an elaborate ceremony, literally pul him from the arms of his mother; taking him out into the wild.  There they instruct the boy about what it means to be a man and leave him to prove himself.  The boy must build a house, plant a garden and become a productive member of the tribe before he can ever return home to visit his mother.

This was not my experience.  I was pretty much left to myself to figure out what it meant to be a man.  And since most of my instruction came from the world of movies and television, the knowledge I gained is, shall we say in short supply.  It wasn’t until I realized I was going to have to teach my own boys what it meant to be men and show my daughter how her future husband should act that I really began to search for answers.

I found them in another one of my favorite books, “Wild at Heart” written by John Eldredge.  In it I found the knowledge I needed and like a compass it put me on the correct heading, bringing me to a point in my life where I could actually believe I do have what it takes to be a real and authentic man.

As dusk gathered around me, I pushed aside the last limb and stepped out of the woods.  There in the distance I could see my truck.  Relieved, I promised myself I would never again wander in the woods without a little more preparation.  Yet in my heart something stirred; it was faint, almost non-existent, but I knew it for what it was, the knowledge I do have what it takes and I am a man after all.

Now you know what I think, what do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Guilt-free Sex

I remember one day back when I was an eleven year old boy; I was home and bored and went looking for an adventure.  This ended with me going through my dad’s dresser drawers.  The thoughts of getting caught only heightened the excitement with each drawer I opened, ending with the fourth drawer on top and something inside which changed my life forever; a picture of a naked lady.

My adventure had paid off and as I thought, “Wow!” in my nether regions there was an exclamation point of another kind.  A desire was awaked there which I had never experienced before and one which has not abated to this day.  This was the day I was introduced to the desire of a woman.

One night not too long ago, I was perusing Netflix and came across a movie entitled “Hot Bot”.  I could tell it was going to be about sex from the half naked girl on the title screen, and I wish I could tell you I skipped right over it in one of my holier moments, but I didn’t.  I started the movie; wondering what exactly I was going to see, but just a few minutes into it there was a topless girl,  so I stopped the show and turned off my television feeling a little bit guilty for having watched even those few minutes.

The one thing about this movie which did get me to thinking was this notion of having a robot around just for sex.  Truthfully I don’t know what the exact story of this movie was, but it definitely seemed to revolve around having sex without any type of entanglements; like being married or in a committed relationship.  It did get me to thinking about the idea of guilt-free sex though and is there really such a thing?

Men are hard wired for sex, and we are aroused by what we see more than any other form of stimulus.  It is part of how we as men were created and if it weren’t for this attraction to the opposite sex we probably wouldn’t be very interested in girls in the first place.

Now before my female audience says all men are pigs; I’m not saying women are here just for men’s pleasure and to be objectified.  It’s true the female form is beautiful, alluring and a work of art, but this does not give men the right to leer, stare and see her only as an object to be conquered.

A committed relationship should be the first requirement for all sexual encounters between a man and a woman.  Yeah, this is probably not a popular thought in the minds of men who think multiple sexual encounters is where it’s at, but it is the truth.  To be brutally honest, if you are only using women to “get your rocks off”, then you’ve missed the whole point of sex.

What is the point of sex then?  Sex isn’t the focal point of a relationship; it is the end result of a man and a woman sharing their lives together.  As a man and a woman do life together; sharing in both the successes and failures it brings, sex helps to cement the fact they are in it together and not alone.

Extramarital affairs, viewing porn and sowing your wild oats may sound like a great life, but the end results usually produce guilt.  Not to bore you with the science behind what goes on in a man’s brain when sex is involved, but there is this chemical called dopamine which is released into the pleasure center of the brain.  When you have a sexual experience, this chemical gets dumped into your brain, resulting in the euphoric feeling you have.

The problem with sex outside of a committed marriage relationship is it takes more and more stimuli to get the same amount of dopamine into your system.  If you watch porn, then after a while you will need to watch more provocative things to get the same reaction.  And once the new wears off of the affair you’re in, you will need more; a new partner, or doing stranger things than at first to get that same fulfillment.

What you will find with all of this however is guilt shows up every time.  You may not recognize it at first, because of the excitement of what you are doing, but eventually guilt will worm its way into your brain.  Even the most desensitized person will recognize it after a while.  Whether or not you admit it to yourself is another thing altogether, but as you lay in bed in the dark of night alone with your thoughts, you’ll begin to see how unfulfilling all of these things are.

Is there guilt-free sex then?  The answer is yes, and it is found in the committed marriage relationship of a man and a woman.  Two people on the journey of life with all of its ups and downs, committed to staying with each other no matter what comes against them. Giving their bodies to each other through sexual fulfillment and no other, keeping the marriage bed undefiled.

Can you do this?  The answer is yes most definitely.  Men, you have what it takes to be the lover your woman needs; stop objectifying her, and look to her needs first.  If you are viewing porn, then commit to stopping; it’s not helping you and in fact actually hurting you.  If you have had, or are in an extramarital affair, get out of it.  Get into counseling with your wife, work out the problems and make your marriage work.  It’ll be worth it, I promise!

If you need help in any of these areas shoot me an email and let’s talk.  No condemnation, because listen you do have what it takes, and there is way more to you than meets the eye.  You are destined for greatness, let’s see you get there.

Now you know what I think, tell me what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Crap, I’m Frank Shirley!

I love the movie “Christmas Vacation” with all its goofiness and one-liners.  I was thinking about people this morning, and what value I place on them when I had an image of Frank Shirley; Clark Griswold’s boss pop into my head.

At the end of the movie, Cousin Eddy has kidnapped Frank and brings him to Clark as a Christmas present.  After Clark tells him what a lousy thing he’s done by suspending all the Christmas bonuses, Frank reconsiders the decision he made and says, “Sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn’t mean much if to get it, you have to hurt the ones you depend on. It’s people that make the difference. Little people like you. So, Carl… whatever you got last year, add… 20%.”

It is a feel good moment in the movie, but I know I wasn’t thinking about this scene today just so I could have a chuckle.  No, it is because if I was to be totally honest with you, the truth is; I am Frank Shirley when it comes to people and the relationships in my life.

I have to remind myself daily people are important and have not been placed in my way just to cause me problems. Okay, so this is not the best revelation about me I’ve ever shared, but it’s true none the less.

I’m a driven person who likes to get things done.  For me, if I’ve got something on my to-do list, then I’ve got to check it off the list before taking time to do anything else, including spending any time talking, or developing my relationship with others.  I guess this makes me look like a jerk even though I’m not; I just have this need deep down inside to finish what I’ve started before doing anything else.

I’ve heard it said the most important thing in life are the relationships we make.  I have to ask myself, how well have I done this?  At the end of my life what will be said about me?  Will there be hundreds of people at my funeral saying I was a good man who loved his family and friends well, or will the consensus be I was a good man, but one who placed a higher priority on getting stuff done instead of people?

This kind of makes me think maybe I am a jerk.  I don’t want to be thought of this way, so it looks like a change is in order.  Where do I go from here?  How do I learn to place a higher value on people than I do right now?  Will it take being kidnapped by someone’s crazy family member to get me to the place where I’ll make the necessary changes?  I hope not.

Help me out here, what things do you do to build and develop the relationships in your life?  How do you juggle the need to get things done, and not pushing people aside while you’re doing them?  Post in the comments please, because I don’t want to be Frank Shirley anymore.

Now you know what I think, tell me what you think.

 

Father of the Bride…Are You Ready?

April Walking down the aisleI stood there in my borrowed hospital scrubs; little paper covers on my tennis shoes, while fidgeting with the blue hair cover trying to keep it out of my eyes.  The time had come for my baby girl to make her entrance into the world, and I was there to be a spectator of the birth.

My wife was about to go under the knife for the second time, and this time the doctor had told her I could watch.  This wasn’t my choice, I would have preferred the old fashion way of childbirth where the fathers wait in the waiting room, then see their child after they’ve been cleaned up.  But my wife wanted me there, so there I was.

They ushered me into the room, showed me where to stand and then began the procedure.  Thankfully I was far enough away to not see them slicing through my bride’s skin, and when the doctor raised her stomach and told me what she was doing, the room did spin for a moment.  There are just some parts of your wife you never really want to see.

But I made it; watching them as they removed my baby girl, hearing her first cry and starting the journey of having my heart melt time and again because of her.

There is a special bond between a dad and his daughter.  I love my other kids too, but there is just something about little girls and what they can do to their daddy’s heart.  Through the years of Sponge Bob, friends, sleepovers, tea parties and a host of other things I would have never thought I would have been a part of; my baby girl grew into a beautiful young woman.

Like most girls, she met and fell in love with a young man, and the two of them decided to get married.  As we were looking at the venue she wanted to use for her ceremony, it dawned on me how I had completely missed out on something as a dad, and I want to share with those of you who have daughters so you don’t miss out on this too.

As the planning took on shape, it dawned on me I was going to have to come up with a lot of money to make her dream wedding come true.  I’ve not always been real good with my money, and I realized as the bills began to come in how I should have started saving for this when she was a little girl.

It would’ve been so easy too.  If I would have set aside just $5 a week when she was born, at the end of 18 years I would have had $4,680.  For $10 a week the sum grows to $9,360, $15 a week becomes $14,040, $20 a week would’ve given me $18,720 and if I had put aside $25 a week it would have netted me $23,400 in the bank.

The main thing is, if I’d had set aside a little bit each week, my wife and I wouldn’t have had to work the extra hours for the months prior to the wedding to provide this for her.  I’m glad we were able to give her the wedding she’d dreamed about, and we never had to tell her she couldn’t have something because of money, but a little preplanning on my part would have been great.

Dads, I know you don’t want to think about your baby girl getting married and moving away, but you do need to start setting aside a little bit each week for when this does happen.  When the day comes, it will make her wedding dreams come true when you tell her she can have whatever she wants because you have the money set aside for it.

Now you know what I think, what do you think?