The Ball Reminder

If your partner tells you something vulnerable, your job is to imagine they threw you a ball.

Reach out and catch it.

Talk about the ball.

Not your reaction to it.

This is a valuable skill, one that goes against most people’s ability to squash their defensive reaction.

It takes practice.

It is a skill worth cultivating in a loving relationship.


Xmas Redux

Erika’s brother drew the original. I spent an inordinate amount of time meticulously creating and editing a png version of his artwork. I started with a picture I snapped of the artwork. There’s something intangible about this Santa, rendered with hundreds of deliberately layered scribbles. It seemed like I owed it to Chris, even though he’s gone and I never met him.

This Santa captures the unkempt fatigue of attempting to reward everyone with the Xmas gifts they deserve. (Much less the horror of knowing who has been naughty or nice.) I joke that Santa could make a fortune selling the naughty list to certain people!

As I do every year, especially now that it’s Black Friday… Don’t let the season distract you from enjoying it the way you want. For some, it is a religious celebration. For others, it is a social season, one punctuated by gatherings, bacchanalian feasts with friends, family, and events. Some sit quietly and simmer in melancholy of bittersweet remembrances of the people who’ve left them.

Xmas is what YOU want it to be. Not the traditions you don’t cherish, not the obligatory exchanging of gifts. You are housed in a body that is a gift in itself. Being yourself and radiating your wit, humor, and affection is more than enough for the people who appreciate you.

Of all gifts I enjoy, I like the goofy, surprising ones. And most of those are moments, not things.

Don’t get me wrong, I love someone surprising me with an ornate toilet seat, a collection of foul-tasting novelty candies, or even a ream of colored paper. It means that person likes me enough to have taken the time to surprise me. It also means that they are happy enough to want to share a sliver of that with me.

Giving people are rarely joyous. Have you noticed that?

Many people loathe that Xmas starts early, especially the music that often accompanies it. They complain about trees showing up in houses “too early.” The stores loaded with commercial offerings. I don’t understand that. To each his own.

The Xmas season is when people can surprise others without the pretext of a reason. Even a hug and a “Merry Xmas,” or whatever salutation you prefer.

I’ll put a picture below, one I made a long time ago – and one that surfaces on the internet with frequency.

Love, X

The Vacuum Salesperson Admonition

No one can be with your partner unless they express interest. Your partner shared their number, their social media, or their presence. They agreed to it and then willingly followed the path. It might be a mistake – but it is not an accident.

It’s easy and common for the offended partner to lash out at the third person involved. The bitter truth is that the problem lies in the partner, not the third person. They created a triangle out of two connected dots in a relationship. The third person chooses to inappropriately communicate or be with your partner for their own reasons: loneliness, sexuality, and sometimes, just because they want to and can. The world is full of third people who want to interfere in your relationship.

Infidelity and adultery is a huge problem, one of most people’s biggest fears.

We fear it for complicated reasons.

We’ve all experienced the thrill of sexual fire, chemistry, or attraction.

It’s like heroin. Our bodies are maniacally designed to make us feel it. That’s hard to argue with!

You can look at all the major studies of sexuality and relationship dynamics. It won’t help your fears.

Remember, people are unfaithful for all sorts of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with their partners. It’s likely that the other partner feels love and loyalty. They don’t see it coming because there is a lack of honest communication in the relationship. Or, if there is, familiarity, apathy, or routine lessens its ability to get through to the partner who is unhappy. Sometimes, it’s because someone has put up a wall of defense and deaf ears; they know there’s a problem but can’t see a way to get past it.

But, the commonality is poor judgment.

It’s not an accident. It’s a decision, one which can be sidestepped at any moment.

It almost always starts small.

Afterward, it results from a series of poor decisions and escalating behavior. The person engaging in it can easily listen to the stirrings as they blossom. If they can. Or want to.

Rarely does infidelity or adultery just happen in the moment. There are exceptions! But even those exceptions usually involve a partner putting themselves into an inappropriate situation, intimately communicating with someone who catches their eye (or is desired by the other person), being under the influence, being around people without their partner nearby, etc.

Those are poor decisions, too, rather than accidents.

Be on the watch for third people, both from your own point of view and your partner.

The truth is that it’s easier to notice than we’d like to admit. We want to love and respect our partners. Even so, we know that somewhere out there, there is someone looking at them or us with hungry eyes.

Don’t let a triangle begin to form. Rupture its lines before they become solid.

People tend to be attracted to what interests them. The people they are around, the people they see. Including online. 90% of all affairs are between coworkers or people they interact with on social media. Physical presence is not a requirement for the spark to turn to fire. The internet has escalated the exposure.

Stop blaming the third person. A house filled with love doesn’t welcome intruders inside. Someone must get up and open the door for it to happen. Whoever opens the door is the one responsible, not the person knocking. They are trying to sell vacuum cleaners, so to speak. Everyone inside knows that’s what they are up to. If you already have a vacuum cleaner that works and makes you satisfied, why in the world would you want to invite someone inside with those intentions? Vacuum salespeople, like people who want what you have, know that getting the door to open is going to be successful most of the time. It’s pure psychology. If you are not interested in buying, why would you open the door to them?

Keep it simple.

Keep it honest.

Be the loving partner that YOU want in your life in every aspect that you can manage. That alone will set the foundation for a life of intimacy, all you’d probably ever want or need.

Love, X

TikTok University

I love that TikTok is a mix of ridiculous, perverse, and legitimate entertainment and information.

People are surprised that I’m a fan. TikTok is the wild west of the internet. You have to take the time to find the things you like and curate what fills your eyes and ears.

As with so many other things, it can be a timesuck, too. Find the comedy, music, and genres you enjoy and focus on them. TikTok is like 100,000 channels of content in short increments. If a 55-year-old man like me can find value in it, anyone can.

One of the surprising finds on TikTok: the counselors who have decades of experience working with couples and individuals. If you listen carefully to those who share their insights, you can open up a world of understanding in your heart and head. All of us want to be happy and satisfied. Sometimes we need to hear it from an external source to validate it. Sometimes we need to be challenged to at least consider that we could be doing things wrong.

One of them is Dave Worthen. He’s not a typical TikToker; he’s older and uses simple language to communicate his messages. He’s been seeing people for over four decades. He’s seen and heard it all.

While I don’t agree with some of Dave’s content, I had to concede that I lack his education and training, much less decades of working with couples about these issues. His expertise gives me pause to wonder what I might not like about some of his content.

Discomfort usually signals cognitive dissonance.

Knowledge is never a mistake. Nor is self-reflection and considering that we all share so much in common.

If you’re interested, search for @daveworthen.

You can find him on YouTube, Instagram, and other places.

Love, X

X’s Expanded Rule(s) Of Inevitability

One I previously posted (and gets shared a lot): “On a long enough timeline, you’re gonna be an asshole.”

Yes, even you, even if you don’t believe it and no matter what you intended.

Corollary: “On a long enough timeline, you’re gonna completely contradict yourself and everything you said you believe in.”

Corollary Observation: “The more judgmental you are about someone else doing it, the more likely your contradiction will eclipse their apparent misstep by a country mile.”

When you get older, you witness these coming to fruition both in your life and in the lives of the people most critical of you.

You’d think we would learn to stifle the urge to condemn, judge, or criticize.

We usually don’t.

The smugness of our humanity is that we often believe that WE will never say, do, or think some things that we judge others for.

The truth? We haven’t had a long enough timeline for it to slap us in the face.

Life is eventual and cyclical and preys on all of us.

Instead of asking, “WTF were they thinking?” perhaps we should inquire, “WTF was I thinking?”

Because it is still true that we judge others for their actions and ourselves for our intentions. It’s why I grappled with living with the consequences of my intentions. Though they were initially benign, it was like opening a mysterious big box of spiders out of curiosity. Before long, you find yourself covered in spiders. You react uncontrollably, in slow motion to yourself and in hyperdrive to observers, and you cannot extricate yourself.

There is no do-over button, no mulligan for salvation, and no life eraser.

It’s hard enough when you flub something; it’s that much harder when other people haven’t learned that it will be their turn in the barrel one day.

I will sit and watch the next person pick up the box of spiders. And because they are human, observe them mimic my missteps.

I’ll remind myself that they are on their own timeline and bite my tongue in recognition of my urge to forget that we are all sometimes covered in spiders.

Love, X

Nowhere Road

This is not a sad post. Far from it.

On so many levels, I’m in better shape than I’ve been in 40 years. And I understand myself in a way that renders me at unease. I’m barraged and flooded with realizations and truths. Though some of them are sublime and labyrinth, most of them seem so obvious that they can only fall on deaf ears or hard hearts. One of the hallmarks for most people as they age is that they become cemented, too certain, and find themselves in a narrowing field of pleasures, tastes, and choices.

I’m an optimist. Or at least that’s my self-identifying delusion. It’s a good thing that our brains operate on an as-if protocol. It’s also sometimes undesirable because we filter out facts and reality and create stress and unhappiness in ourselves. Most of it stems from the fact that we believe things should be another way. The rest of it is because our bags are packed for today with all the things we’ve said and done throughout our life. It’s a rare person who can jettison that nonsense and start truly fresh.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I value wit and creativity. But I think I might willingly trade all of it for mindless present-moment joy. Maybe that makes sense to you, and maybe it doesn’t. It’s a delicate balance to practice carpe diem but also to be practical. Most of us swing too far in one direction or the other, which robs us of a fuller life. There are so many details to attend to, a mountain of meaningless activity. It is so incredibly easy to spend our time and energy trying to self-delegate those things instead of ignoring them entirely.

Because I said a lot of the things that I know to be true will fall on deaf ears or hard hearts… I’m pretty sure we all need to collectively stop doing all those stupid things that don’t add anything to our happiness. I don’t need to make a list. I’m quite certain you have an idea of exactly what I’m talking about in your head already. For some people, it’s dusting or vacuuming. Or ironing their clothes. Or flossing every day. For others, it’s sharing time with people who don’t make them enthusiastic or seem to appreciate them. Or doing things that they once loved but no longer do. The list is endless, and you can fill in your own. The world won’t stop spinning if you just stop.

That’s really the lesson of it all, anyway. This globe will continue spinning whether you’re on it or not. Everyone says they appreciate how fast time flies and how short life is. But if you’re like me, I know damn well you can count on one hand how many people live enthusiastic, fulfilling, and joyful lives.

You probably have a lot of people around you who spend too much time being negative or complaining. This is weird, given that few of us really have horrendously significant problems that merit losing focus on the opportunity to thrive and be satisfied, if not joyous, that we’re still here at all. It’s a joy to witness someone with legitimate and terrifying obstacles who somehow still manages even a smile, much less a positive attitude.

It’s Sunday. So maybe you can pick one thing, activity, or belief that no longer serves you. And hurl it out the window, even if it hits your neighbor on the head.

I guess we could call it life decluttering.

Sometimes I catch myself standing somewhere with the overwhelming realization that I’ve been too busy majoring in minors. Knowing it’s true doesn’t translate to making it true. All the overthinkers out there understand this.

Most of us, by 40 years of age, had a pretty good idea of what makes us happy. Or distracted enough to be a suitable alternative for that.

And then we continue doing the things that didn’t get us there or keep us there.

And so, we dive into a routine that propels us ever faster away from who we’re supposed to be.

And then that one day comes, and we realize that we didn’t choose at all.

We followed.


PS The picture is from somewhere around 1996. I like the picture because I look stupid. In other words, it’s perfectly accurate!

Be Yourself & Surrender

After seeing how many people read my posts about relationships, it confirms that everyone is interested in having a full life that includes a relationship.

People are uncomfortable. Most of us want to be happy and to be loved in a way that we minimize to other people. We want to feel normal, whatever that is. We want to let our guard down, forget our history, and forgive ourselves for the misfirings of our previous attempts at being lovable and loved.

The basic premise of the things I write is that you have to drop your guard and be the person you want to be your partner. Whatever behavior, words, and attention you seek, you must telegraph that in everything you do. If you don’t, it’s not reasonable to expect your potential partner to live up to that standard. Most of us don’t take the time to honestly just DECIDE what it is that will light us up and make us happy.

The dissonance of not allowing yourself to feel and hope with abandon based on the past is a struggle for everyone. What if I get hurt? What if I hurt someone, and that someone could have been my ideal partner?

It works in reverse! You must be that person first, the one with an open heart and a loving soul. Yes, you could get your heart shattered. Of course, that is a possibility.

The alternative is to keep being guarded, distrustful, or fearful.

If you do, which might be understandable, the outcome will be a lonelier and less fulfilling love life.

If you surrender to the possibility of hurt, you at least open yourself up to the chance of being loved the way you’d like. If you don’t, you greatly reduce your odds of getting there.

You can’t control the world, much less other people.

But you can BE the image of lovingkindness to your partner.

Anyone who doesn’t appreciate that openness and effort is foolish. They will look back one day and know they missed their chance. Probably while they were chasing an imaginary and unattainable relationship without changing themselves.

There is hope for you, if you’re not living a life with someone who lights you up. If there weren’t, what would be the point?

Surrender a bit of yourself and open up to the chance, the hurt, and also the love.

It’s the only way.