Why I just can’t do Religion…

Very early on in life we are taught about right and wrong.  Various means to this end all seem to have one underlying theme – we all have within us the ability to discern between the two.  For everyone, this is influenced by unique factors but for all the voice is still there – the one that weighs everything we know against a situation and allows us to make decisions.  Sometimes this is the right decision, sometimes it’s not-so-right.  Fox News knows all about the second one.

We are taught that Situation A + Action B = Result C.  We are taught, through consequences, that we have the ability to evaluate this system.  Break the rules, you’ll be punished.  Help an old lady across the street in Russia and someone with a dash cam will make you feel good about yourself.  Make top grades in your class and you’ll get a gold star…whatever.  I believe in this system of cause and effect.  It’s how I live my life and I know that, at the end of every day, my actions will be evaluated by my most scrupulous critic:  Me.

The problem I have with Religion (I have capitalized the letter R, as Religion is an entity which holds so much power over the human race that it deserves a proper name) is faith.  I know of no Religion which doesn’t require one to have faith.  Webster says faith is “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”.  No proof?  In other words, with faith, what you see and feel and touch is trumped by what someone else tells you – whether it be from a book, a pulpit, or a bible verse written on a bathroom stall at Speedway.

I see it constantly.  Under the veil of religion, people look Situation A, Action B and Result C in the eye and tell them to go shove off – that they’ve got a uniquely true version of reality supported by nothing definitive and screw anyone who says otherwise.  Obviously this issue is as infinitely complex as the flaws in our understanding which allow it to continue but the simple truth is this:  We all have, built into our bodies and minds, the capacity to evaluate the world around us objectively.  It is, absolutely, how we stay alive.

Forget the countless conflict that has arisen.  Forget the families that have been torn apart.  Forget that some of the most heinous acts in human history have been committed in the name of Religion.  This is the reason that I just can’t do Religion, and it has to do with that essential capacity which makes us human:  Religion allows us to ignore it.

 

Are cigarettes good for you?

Of course not. They’ll do less for your health, in fact, than most hideous car crashes.   But that’s not the point, is it?  We already know that they’re unhealthy.  This has been drilled into our minds for what may as well be eons and yet 19% of the US smokes.

But whatever.  These are boring statistics that really aren’t what you’d call “unpublished”.  What I’m more interested in are the aspects of the “tobacco entity” that allow this habit to continue.  Why?

Because I smoke.  It’s expensive, has turned what used to be swimmer’s lungs into the biological equivalent of a tired old leaf blower, and in my circles smoking is more deadly to your social status than it is to your mortality.  But I do it anyway, because (here’s the good part)…

Hot or not?

Hot or not?

I enjoy it.  Genuine enjoyment and pleasure happens when I spark one up.  Turkish Royals, pink BIC, hell yeah.  I love it while driving, while eating, after sex, while at work, while hiking, or after I leave the gym (yes, you read that right).  Pretty much any activity I do, besides sleeping, is made better with a cigarette.

I’m addicted, hopelessly.  I say this with a tiny dash of shame, or much less salt than Emeril uses.  I’ve been smoking my entire adult life, for 12 years.  I’m 24 (hello?!).  Before you count years on your fingers I’ll go ahead and tell you that I was 12 the first time I took a puff – a beautiful, blue, billowing…never mind.  Anyway, this despite being brought up in a good family, in an excellent school (where I did well), and in an affluent area of town.

My next point, and this is the big one, is that I don’t know what life is like without cigarettes.  I have never actually lived adult life without them and the thought of not having tobacco at arm’s reach is downright scary.  How could it not be?

I don’t do drugs, I exercise, and I’m very conscious of what I eat.  The juxtapose of cigarettes in my life is nearly laughable.  I know I can’t smoke forever, but for now I shall.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have something to take care of…outside.

Dating and Mozzarella Cheese Sticks – One In the Same?

 

No.  One is delicious but short-lived and bad for you, while the other is just a snack.

Standing next to the stove, I stared at a cookie sheet with what appeared to be the remnants of a small explosion on it.  You see, they’d started life as mozzarella sticks and ended life, mostly, on the insides of the oven.  Alas, another potential meal had fallen victim to my culinary shortcomings.  Staring at them though, I had a revelation…

I’m not patient.  I just hate waiting.  I want my various tasks, projects, and aspirations to be perfect, right from the start.  This is the truth for my (apparently futile) culinary endeavors, as well as my relationships.  The sad truth is that they won’t be.  I realize this now.

This is probably why I like foods that can be prepared in the microwave.  Nearly instant, more-or-less done well, and guilt-free are how I like things.  This posed a question – As I jumped from one hopeless romance to another, was I searching for something that didn’t exist…a microwavable boyfriend?

It was then that I realized a crucial piece of a successful relationship that I was lacking – patience.  Not with a potential romantic partner, but with myself.  As always with my (perhaps silly) revelations, it came from something seemingly mundane – a terrible-for-you snack food that should probably be avoided (they’re brilliant at White Castle, by the way).

So I’ve made a decision to turn down the heat, be patient, and leave it in the oven.  As for feeding myself, there’s always Qdoba.

“What-ifs” – Good or Bad?

Sitting on Zach’s bed, I stared at the TV and pondered a timeless question, “How did this happen?” Throughout the day I had been helping him move into a new apartment, and seeing all of his things; the little knick-knacks around his room, brought back memories.

I knew I still had feelings for Zach. I knew I still loved him. I knew that he was the only boy I ever really felt comfortable with. But just as he had expressed regret that we hadn’t taken things farther, he had made plainly clear that “those days are over.”.

But something in me still thought that there might be something between us that was more than friendship. Part of me thought there still may be a possibility for romance. But laying there, a body’s width away from him, I couldn’t muster the courage to take his hand, to look him in the eye, and tell him how I felt.

We all imagine situations and examine them through the filter of an almighty variable “What if…”. My better judgement told me (well, shouted really) to let things go; to forget it; that the spark between us was gone. But my own internal “what if” kept holding me back. As we moved furniture and unpacked boxes in his new apartment, I couldn’t help but imagine how it would feel if this were our apartment; if we were together.

I looked at Zach and suddenly the cold reality of the situation seemed to slap me. We weren’t together. There was someone else for him. Most horribly, I blew it. A year ago when he moved to into the city I completely ignored the emotions between us. As he would later tell me, “I would have dated you in a heartbeat.”

But then I started to think of my soon-to-come move to Chicago, and the new start that I would have there. My “what ifs” began again. Only this time, they were what-ifs for the future. These are the good kind; the kind that give us hope and stir ambition. Maybe I’ll be happy there. Maybe I’ll make great friends, and maybe, just maybe, with a little luck, I’ll finally find someone that I can be happy with.

So as I begin my journey to a new city and a new chapter of my life, will my ambitions lead me to great things, or will they leave me wondering, “What if?”.

Crossing the line between sex and romance (whether you like it or not).

To start on a personal note, I like to be held.  Hugged, squeezed, or cradled… I love it all.  Some refer to this desire as “bottom”, but I firmly subscribe to the idea that labels belong on a can, not a man (although that’s another post entirely).

To get back on topic, I think I come off as a bit puzzling because at first glance I am, as Samantha Jones puts it, in a relationship with myself and can have sex with someone I don’t respect or like… or even remember.  Although nothing could be farther from the truth.

I rather desire affection and companionship – to be held.  That’s where “J” comes in.  We started as, to be completely honest, a grindr hookup.  This developed into several hookups, which in turn blossomed into a friends-with-benefits relationship.  But I wasn’t necessarily interested in a friends with benefits relationship.  That’s when something odd happened.

He picked up on it.  I didn’t tell him or even hint at it.  Yet, he asked me to dinner and made a point to tell me it would only be dinner because that’s what he thought I wanted.  I would include a screenshot of the text, but he did this over the phone. (I know, right?!)

As it turns out, he likes to hold me.  After dinner we went on a lovely stroll on the city’s new “walking bridge”.  It was completely frigid, so we went back to his place and laid in bed.  [Read: Laid, not “got laid”].  I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m a little scared by this.

My favorite way to walk.

It scares me because I feel like he’s holding me, even when we aren’t touching.  We walk down the sidewalk or sit together at a restaurant and I feel comforted by him.  Maybe I’m getting attached….and perhaps I’m afraid to get hurt.  So as this develops, will I be basking in mutual affection, or will I be spitting venom?  Either way, the results will be interesting (to say the least).  

A Mercedes tells its story…

Yesterday I pulled on the door handle on my car (pretty mundane stuff).  But instead of opening the door, the handle came off in my hand.  So today I went to a junkyard to get a new one.  While the scrapyard gentleman removed one from a carbon copy of my car, I wandered about.   A Porsche Cayenne caught my attention.  It had apparently caught fire and burnt to a German crisp.

IMG_4536

…to a crisp.

Weaving through the rows of cars, I came across a white Mercedes E-Class.  The view from the rear suggested that the car was only a few years old, and in great condition…or at least it was at some point.  The front, however, was a devastated hunk of contorted metal.

From inside shone the crisp, white, and nearly luminescent color of crumpled airbags.  They seemed to have come out of every nook and cranny.  In the passenger footwell was a can of Axe body spray and a pair of green and yellow Adidas gym shorts.

Behind the passenger’s seat were two cans of RedBull, one empty and one unopened.  I guessed that the driver couldn’t have been much older than me.  Coming around to the driver’s side, there were a few more items that held more of the driver’s (and the Benz’s) story.

The leather inside was a dark tan color.  Looking around the driver’s seat, I noticed many deep-red blotches.  They were the unmistakable color of blood.  In the driver’s footwell, thrown in almost as an afterthought, sat two items which revealed the story’s climax.

A CPR mask, tossed on the floor, hinted at something devastating.  The second item was barely visible, so I opened the driver’s door to get a closer look.  White with more red stains, it was a sheet.

I noticed that the seatbelt was completely reeled in, as it is when no one is wearing it.  Between the mask, the blanket, and the position of the seatbelt, it became evident that someone had taken their last drive in the car that I was peering into.

Suddenly I became dramatically aware of the brevity of a two-ton vehicle plowing down the road, and what can happen if things go wrong.  I was staggered.

Then I began to wonder.  Who was the driver?  Where were they going?  Was it something mundane?  The grocery perhaps?  Or maybe this person was on the way to the gym, ready for an ordinary workout.  While standing there, staring into that Mercedes, another question came to mind which was completely overwhelming.

What were this person’s last moments like?  Images of what may have happened seemed to rush though my mind.  Did they see it coming?  Were they scared?  Did they have any idea how serious the crash was going to be?  Did they even know what hit them?  No matter what, they certainly couldn’t have been prepared for what was about to happen to them.

Walking away from that white Mercedes, I realized a universal truth of life:  We are all, no matter how different in life, going to someday be humbled in the face of death.

To leave things on a positive note, I am pleased to report that my habit of not wearing my seatbelt has been completely kicked.

My favorite book has blank pages.

There’s a certain excitement inherent when I see a blank page. All of the stories or chronicles that it could hold leave me with a sense of anticipation. So you can imagine how an entire blank diary must make me feel.

Last month I went through the things in my grandmother’s condo. She died two weeks prior and while she hadn’t lived there in over 5 years, it was still filled with her belongings. Five years ago she moved in with her boyfriend of 25 years, so all of the day-to-day items were gone. Left behind were decorations and personal items she had gathered throughout her life.

She traveled the world, and everything in that house told the story of where she’d gone. I found an ashtray from a hotel in Amsterdam. There were hand-painted porcelain dishes from Japan. Inside a cigarette tin from the UK laid a folded five pound note. A piece of stationary note from The Ritz in Paris had a bit of wine spilled on it and what appeared to be a last name and a phone number.

As I gathered a few of these things and put them in a small box I came across one more item that made me gasp with excitement  It was a journal. The cover was a colorful weave of fabric and it had a frayed string tied around it. I untied the string, hoping to find some record of where she was when she got it. To my disappointment, each and every page was blank. But no matter. I put it in the box with everything else and left her condo for what would be the last time.

It sits on the dresser...waiting.

It sits on the dresser…waiting.

The journal now sits on my dresser, waiting for words to fill it. It’s beautiful. From the weave and color of the fabric it looks to be from the Middle East (in my very non-expert opinion). There’s a smell of spice or incense coming from it. I want to write in it. At first, though, I couldn’t seem to think of any subject which would be worthy of a book with such personality.

A few things came to mind. I thought that perhaps someday I’d meet someone who is so special to me that he would be worthy of the journal. That seemed a bit risky though. I wouldn’t want to have to burn it, after all.

Then, it occurred to me something with which I could fill the diary that would fit its personality perfectly. I don’t know where it came from and I probably never will. But I want to see the world, as she did. I want to explore to the four corners. As I do, and I will, I’ll record that journey in this book.

Who knows where it will someday end up. Perhaps someday someone will find it in my condo and, while sitting on my couch, take a trip around the world.