Stop Talking. Just Do It

My daughter talks a lot. A lot.

We tend to tiptoe past her room in the mornings because from the moment she wakes up until she is finally, with great effort, in the bed, the child is talking. I read a study that men and women speak essentially the same amount of words—this chick must be training for a gold medal in the Gum-Flapping Olympics. She can TALK.

And anybody who has that much to say generally is a decent storyteller (hey, look at me!) The Honey Badger had a recent spate of stories she had to write for school. They were doing this story mountain exercise and she had go through the major components of a story (Beginning, Build-Up, Climax, Resolution, Ending). One of those was a story about being a turkey on Thanksgiving and how you would escape. Because I am the writer in the family (unless you look at my wife’s blog), I get to tackle this assignment. YAY!

The Honey Badger has a million ideas: shoot the turkey out a cannon, ice skate away, get a bunch of other turkeys and do a Michael Jackson Thriller-style dance escape. But she can’t pick. She won’t decide. This becomes the argument, “I don’t know what to write!”

Unfortunately, I know exactly where she’s coming from.

I have a degree in Sociology (I know, I don’t look like the type). One of the main questions sociology tries to answer is nature vs. nurture. I didn’t physically make either one of my kids—we are a Hamburger Helper, just-add-water type of family. But I did mold them and the Honey Badger’s been my little project since she was 2. She’s 9.

I think I gave her my own habits as it relates to writing and procrastinating. I know exactly how she feels and apparently so do many of my writing friends. I read a post by Deanna Knippling (10 Signs You’re Not Getting Published) and the number 1 reason sign was “You can comfortably say, ‘So I have an idea for this book…’ or ‘I have lots of ideas for books.’”

Damn. I fell into that category. I have a thousand ideas for books but only one of them is complete. Damn. And for you non-writers out there, it’s not just about writing. It’s easy to think about the things we want to do to really own our lives: work out, read more, take a trip, take our kids to school, bungee jump, whatever. We choose a date on the calendar or at the start of the week or in an hour when we’re actually going to start. But there is a point where thinking about what you should do doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t do anything. It’s just procrastubration—it just makes you feel better about doing something later that you haven’t actually committed to doing at all.

Truth is, it’s time to shit or get off the pot. Or, if that’s too abrasive, fish or cut bait (I don’t even know what that means). Even Nike’s in on it: Just Do It. Do something. Right now. Right NOW. Stop talking and thinking and planning about that thing you know you should do or that person you know you should be and start doing it. NOW. So what if you fall? So what if you fail? So what? “It is better to fail at doing something than achieve in doing nothing.” Do something RIGHT NOW.

The Honey Badger wrote her story when we had a similar conversation. I told her she couldn’t pick wrong; it’s her story. She can’t be wrong. But she had to pick. She did. And after 4 days of hemming and hawing, of bullshitting and procrasturbating and losing TVs and play time, she finally wrote her story. And it was good.

As for me, I’m going to sh…well, that’s probably TMI, huh? You know the deal.If you want it, the Honey Badger’s story is below:

The Great Escape of Kayla the Turkey

Once upon a time there was a turkey named Kayla. She was really sad because no one would buy her. Then one day something strange happened. Kayla got picked up and put in a shopping cart. Was it true? Was Kayla actually getting bought? Then Kayla got put on a conveyor belt so she could go to the person’s house. Kayla finally arrive at the person’s house. She was so excited but then Kayla saw a stove that was opened so Kayla thought that they were going to cook her! So Kayla had to escape! Kayla ran and jumped off the table. Kayla was really scared like a bunny when it is being chased. Then Kayla ran to the living room. Kayla got really scared because the dog barked at her. She climbed up on the couch! The dog jumped on the couch and tried to eat Kayla. Kayla jumped off the couch and ran upstairs to the parents’ room and the dog followed her. Then Kayla jumped out the window! The dog did too! Luckily it was a two story house. The owners dashed like lightning out the door. After that Kayla ran to the grocery store. Next she jumped into the Turkey bin and blended in with the other Turkeys. Very last the owners came to find the turkey. Then the dog comes in and barks. The cashiers came and so did the cops! The cashiers took the dog away! After they took the dog away the cops took the owners and kicked them out of the store. The turkey Kayla squeezed to the bottom of the turkey bin and no one bought her. Kayla lived happily ever after.

the end

Toot Your Own Horn

The Day Job Dragon has a new weapon in its arsenal of doom: Performance Review FIYA!

That’s right, boys and girls, it’s Review time at the ol’ corral and your boy did not do well. I want to have a do-over like the Prince of Persia (no no no, that’s not what happened…) But I’m over it.

It’s not that it doesn’t matter, and it’s not because they might be reading this (they might), but because there’s always more to the story. Someone once said to me, “There are three sides to every story: his side, her side, and the truth.” And they’re right. And at the end of the day, it comes down to perception: what someone else thinks I did versus what I know I did and, when it comes to the Day Job, the Dragon wins.

But I’m alright with that. You know why? ‘Cause I’m awesome.

Have you ever done that? Looked in the mirror after you killed it at your job, made the impossible happen (again), done backflips and cartwheels for a $.50 shift differential (that was awfully specific, huh?), and told yourself “that’s because I’m raw—what?”

No? Not often? Maybe you should.

As human beings, we are social creatures. We thrive on the company of others, get energy from other people, operate in cohesive units. It’s why solitary confinement is a punishment. We need each other. But I’m beginning to wonder if the need for human companionship is outweighed by the need to have validation from other people. Are we ever enough on our own? Can our own willpower and self-image ever be enough? Isn’t what I think about me enough?

You should know by now, I get a lot of my inspiration and life lessons from comic books and movies. I’ve learned plenty: “With great power comes great responsibility” (Spiderman), “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” (Jurassic Park), “It is forbidden to interfere with the course of human history” (Superman). You get it. I’ve been watching the Batman movies lately (eagerly anticipating the Dark Knight Rises) and one of the things that I love about Batsy is his desire, his need, for those he hunts, hurts, and imprisons to take his name abroad. “Tell all your friends about me: I’m Batman.”

Batman took his name viral.

But what was disseminated? How raw he actually was. He got that word of mouth advertising and a hazy sign and terrorized the criminals of Gotham. Even when he wasn’t out. And Batman isn’t alone: every superhero touts their capabilities:

• Wolverine – “I’m the best at what I do. But what I do best isn’t very nice.”
• Hulk – “Smash!”
• Mighty Mouse – “Here I come to save the day!”
• Shit, even Underdog: “There is no need to fear. Underdog is here!”

Superman had a whole entrance: “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”

There’s a point to this: you know what you can do, what you bring to the table. You might have the cape and the powers but without the catchphrase—without speaking those words into existence—no one else knows what you can do. No one believes it. And until you say it, until you prove it, neither will you.

So tell all your friends about YOU: you’re awesome.

By the way, that “every other day” thing? Yeah, that doesn’t include weekends…

No Moonwalking Allowed

I think I was 9 or 10 the first time I saw someone moonwalk. I remember the event: it was the Motown 25 concert and Michael Jackson was on stage performing Billie Jean in his sparkling ass outfit and high-water pants. He came out, threw the hat, did his song and eased across the stage. Walking forward; moving backward.

Now as cool as it was I never got the hang of it. I wanted to: my friends could moonwalk, I saw Breakin’. Just never happened for me. And eventually it became old news, old hat and I moved on. And we all know how things ended up for Mike. Maybe it was a good thing I was never able to do it.

When I was 12 I made a mistake and it cost me my relationship with my grandmother. It was the 80s and my father had gotten laid off from his job in Minnesota (I remember both recessions and booms under the Reagan administration. Shit wasn’t perfect!). My dad ended up moving to Washington DC, in with his mother—my grandmother—to start his life over. It was a messy divorce between my parents and my brother, sister and I were often caught in the middle. I was mad about the whole thing, didn’t understand tough economic times (not like I do now!), and certainly didn’t handle it well. I got into an argument with my grandmother about my dad, said some choice words and hung up. And I never spoke to her again. By the time I was old enough to understand the gravity of my actions or even realize the quality of the relationship I was missing, she was gone. She passed away before I made it right.

Now It’s easy to chalk it up to being 12, to being young and stupid: when you’re that young, you can’t really comprehend mortality or understand that people don’t last forever. Nothing lasts forever but I didn’t know that then. I know it now. And I’ve carried that burden with me, and the responsibility of it, for a long time. I was 12 when it happened; I’ll be 39 this year. I was only able to forgive myself in the last couple years and even then I had help. To this day, I can’t listen to Christina Aguilera’s song Hurt without tears in my eyes.

But I can’t go backwards either.

I sincerely believe that everything that happens to us happens for a reason. I believe that we are the collection of our experiences and choices and they all work together to move us forward, to move us toward that person we are meant to be. There can be no wallowing in the past, no moonwalking—walking forward but moving backward—if we are to be who we’re supposed to be. And there’s no dancing around the difficult obstacles in your path. Those decisions, those regrets and poor choices and hurts handed out and pain received—they’re part of you. Part of the person you were. Part of the person you are today. Part of the person you will be. They simply are what they are.

Own them. Embrace them. Whine and cry and scream at the top of your lungs about them. But stop dancing. Stop moonwalking. Just walk. Step by agonizing step. Just walk. You’ll get there faster.

I never ever wanna press rewind, never wanna go back in time
Not much glory in that story but it’s mine
So I’m loving who I am today, past has passed away
Finally I have forgiven me

–Forgiven Me, Mary Mary (2008)

Screw It: Do What You Have To Do To Get It Done

I need to lose about 60 pounds. Seriously. I haven’t talked about my personal goals because I didn’t think they had any place in my blog but I guess I can let you in. A little. OK, close enough. And weight loss is such a cliché New Year’s Resolution–I didn’t want to buy into it. But the truth is, I could stand to run around the block. A few times.

I also have this husky, Rocky the WonderDog. Rocky’s 9—that’s damn near 70 years old in human years—so he’s slowing down a bit. He started having these tremors and shakes and we were praying he wasn’t going to just drop dead one day. So we took him to the vet and they scared us to death talking about diabetes and ketoacidosis, Cushing’s disease, muscle atrophy—all this stuff that sounded horrible AND horribly expensive. I’m cursing to myself and looking at my wife and we’re trying to figure out how could we look our kids in the eye if something happened to the dog. So the vet runs some tests, takes some blood, charges us $350 and the prognosis is the dog is just old and bored. So while I’m looking for retirement communities for my active senior, the vet suggests more exercise and new scenery and experiences.

So both me and the dog need to move around a little.

I take it to heart: it’s a brand new year, I gotta lose some pounds, my dog needs to get out more. Great! I get up early, find my cross-trainers, got the Rocky theme cued up my playlist and…where…the hell…are…my…headphones?

Goddammit.

I’m funky about a few things, and most of them have apples on them: iPhone, iPad, my Macbook (don’t judge me: they’re just so pretty!) And one of the things I genuinely hate is when people take my headphones. Namely little people. You know who I’m talking about: the ones who eat for free, hike up my electric bill and balk at chores. Those people. I once heard a mother say about her kids, “I can’t have nothing! If I was eating a shit sandwich, they’d want a bite.” I know how she feels: the honey badger takes what she wants and, in this case she took my headphones. Grrr…

But I can’t stop. I really do need to get out. And now the dog is jumping up and down because he wants the walk and I haven’t been able to give him one since I hurt my ankle. I look down and the only headphones I see are pink. Like hot pink. With Hello Kitty on them.

Seriously?

So I’m out with my new leather jacket, 3 days worth of stubble on my face, walking Rocky the WonderDog, bobbing my head to The Roots—looking HARD—with Hello Kitty on my ears. I felt like a damn fool.

But it didn’t matter.

If the goal is important, how you get there doesn’t matter. Things like pride or fear are the things that hold us back. For writers, it’s that inner censor telling us to make it perfect instead of getting it out of our heads and onto the page. For others, it might be the whispers of doubt, the disapproving look of a spouse, or the sly smirk of a friend. Screw them; do what YOU have to do to get it done. A close friend of mine is a single mother of four AND a teacher AND a student AND she gets up at 4:30am to do the Insanity workout. Because the goal is more important to her than hitting the snooze button. Because she wants to be able to do 100 pushups by March. Because there is someone she wants to be and she’s not there yet. So she does what she has to do to get it done.

The theme for January is Be True To You. That’s really what this resolution-making, goal-setting exercise is about: finding our truest selves. Those things you resolve to do reflect the person you truly want to be. It’s not about doing something; it’s about being someone. Someone willing to do whatever it takes to get where you are trying to go. One facet of the person I want to be is about 60 pounds lighter. And if it means you see me outside with those damn Hello Kitty headphones, so be it. You can laugh. I would. But I’m getting it done, aren’t I?

This one’s for you, Leslie. When I grow up, I wanna be just like you!