Reverse Engineering Your Life

Three cheers for utter devastation!

They say that the top five stressors in life are:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Moving
  • Major illness or injury
  • Job loss

Thanks to this freakin’ pandemic, along with life in general, many of us are experiencing several of these stressors at once. It can be devastating. It’s a fragile time, and an all-time low. Under the circumstances, you can’t be blamed for feeling like a starfish that has been washed up onto dry land.

If the hits just keep on coming for you, it’s important for you to understand that you’re quite likely in a state of mourning. You are grieving the life you once had that has been ripped out of your hands. It’s perfectly natural to be upset, depressed, overwhelmed, angry, and afraid, by turns, or all at once.

Be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself as though you’ve just come out of major surgery. Give yourself time to heal and breathe. Let yourself feel all the different emotions. There’s no shame in that. It will take time to regain your bearings.

But once your feet are back up under you and you have a renewed sense of the compass points of your life, dare I say it? You have a unique opportunity. Yeah, I know. Hard to believe. But hear me out.

Your life has been stripped down in such a way that you are practically reborn, and yet you’re no baby. You are a capable, imaginative, creative creature who has just been stripped of its shell and perhaps everything that you’ve held dear up to this point. You are naked and vulnerable in the world, but you still have your brain and your character and your life experience. No one can take that away from you.

That vulnerable state also means you have more options than you ever have had in your life. And options equal opportunity! Even though you might be feeling like you’re at the bottom of a blast crater, you can now rebuild your life any way you want. You are at the foundation. You can build something amazing out of that crater. The land has already been cleared for you.

Believe me, I speak from experience. In 2014, I had hit rock bottom. Someone I loved more than life itself died quite unexpectedly. I also had just gotten my third college degree and was realizing that, like the other two, it was completely worthless in terms of starting me on a career path. I had a job that I knew would not be able to sustain me financially moving forward, and I had been kicked out of my apartment and had no idea where to go. The few days I experienced homelessness was enough to make me understand how I didn’t want my life to be. I had nothing left but the ringing in my ears after the explosion that was my life.

But that’s when I had an epiphany. (Don’t you just love a good epiphany?)

If ever I was to have the life I wanted, I needed to start now. Rather than scrambling through life, desperately clutching at whatever handholds came my way to get me out of this pit, I needed to reverse engineer everything, and I mean everything, about the way I chose to live.

I needed to think deeply about what it is that I truly wanted out of life, and then position myself to achieve those goals. I thought about where I wanted to live. (A liberal place, definitely not Florida). I thought about what I wanted to do. (Be in a stable, healthy relationship and build a solid home base from which to travel. I thought about what that would look like in detail.)

Your goals might be very different from mine, but one of my major realizations was that my job should not be my life. My job should be what allows me to live my life. I didn’t want a job that made me so miserable that that feeling bled into my off hours. If I was miserable, how would I be attractive to a healthy and positive life partner? I wanted a job that sustained me financially, but I also wanted one that I didn’t have to bring home with me. I wanted time to explore and have adventures and read books and focus on the people I love. I wanted time to write. I wanted to be able to turn off my phone whenever desired, without consequences.

I needed to do several things. First of all, I had to stop settling for the crap jobs that continued to put me in the waiting room of life. Waiting for change and not being the change was getting me nowhere.

I also needed to break free of toxic people. If I wanted to have a good life, I needed to be surrounded by good people, and those people would never present themselves if they had to swim through a sea of poisonous drama to get to me. I needed to put myself in places where I was most likely to meet the kind of good people I want in my life. That process was an emotional spring cleaning of sorts, and it wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.

But most of all, I had to take chances. I needed to have a clear vision of what I wanted, and I needed to say no to negative things and break old destructive habits, and say yes to opportunities. I needed to move. And now was my chance, because I basically had nothing and no one. While traveling through life without baggage can be scary, it can also be liberating.

If you’re at ground zero, down there amongst the smoke and rubble, there’s nowhere to go but up. This may seem counterintuitive, but I’m telling you to stay in that crater for a bit. Take some time to carefully plot out your course so that when you reach the rim of that crater, what you’re looking out at is exactly what you want to see.

I’m not saying that my path from 2014 was easy, but it was carefully plotted out. I now live in liberal Seattle, have a job I love that I don’t have to think about after the shift is over, I’m happily married, and life is good. For the first time in my life I feel as though I’m exactly where I need to be, and it took total effing devastation to get me there.

I never thought I’d say this, but three cheers for devastation, and a hearty thank you.

It can be done. Don’t just let life happen to you. Make it happen. There will be better days. But take some time to figure out what a better day would look like for you, and only then go there, step by step.

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“I Don’t Consider Myself a Feminist”

I always cringe when a female says that. A friend of mine said it recently, and it nearly broke my heart. She referred me to Judge Judy, who, according to this article, says, “I never felt I didn’t have equal opportunity as a woman.” But in that same article Judge Judy admits that there were only 6 women in her law school, and the professors didn’t treat them well. She also concedes that she did all the housework and child rearing even though she and her husband both worked. I’m not sure how she characterizes opportunities for women, but this seems kind of contradictory to me. Yes, she may have overcome those hurdles, but the point is, an attitude of “suck it up and deal with it” does nothing to remove those hurdles.

Here’s why I think everyone should be a feminist: It means you believe that women should be treated equally. It means equal pay for equal work. It means not being harassed. It means an equal level of human rights. It doesn’t mean we’re out to get all men or expect special treatment as is often claimed by those who speak out against feminism. If your primary focus are those who occupy the radical fringes of this movement, then at least acknowledge that every movement will have its fringe elements.

When I have this debate with friends, they often state that they are not feminists because that equality of which I speak should be the way it is anyway. As if the unfortunate need to ask for equality or demand it somehow delegitimizes the right to have it. You may not want to be identified as part of this group, but like it or not, by virtue of being a woman you are being treated like it by outside forces.

Should equal rights be a given? Abso-freakin’-lutely. But here’s the thing: It isn’t the case. Judge Judy is the exception, not the rule. It’s awfully easy to not support the minority that you’re a part of when you’re at the top of the heap, but there are a heck of a lot of us below you, your honor.

And Judge Judy couldn’t have reached her successful pinnacle were it not for the work of feminists. For example, according to this article, here are things American women could not do less than 100 years ago:

  • Have their own name printed on a passport.

  • Wear whatever they wanted.

  • Work in “dangerous” jobs, such as in bowling alleys.

  • Maintain US citizenship if married to a non-citizen.

  • Work the night shift.

  • Hold a job while pregnant.

  • Enlist in the military.

  • Serve on a Jury.

In theory, we finally got the right to vote in 1919, but it actually took decades for that to be universally practiced in this country. Some Trump supporters, even in 2018, want to repeal the 19th amendment. Women fought and were tortured and jailed and force fed and died for that privilege, and yet only 63 percent of eligible female voters turned out for the 2016 election, and 42 percent of them voted for a man who admits to grabbing women’s private parts. I’ll never understand that as long as I live. Do we hate ourselves?

And if the Me Too movement isn’t giving you a sense of how shabbily women are treated in the workplace, your head is buried in the sand. I’ve written a couple posts about my personal experiences with harassment, and I’m pretty typical. Eighty-three percent of American women believe they have experienced discrimination in the workplace. That’s a statistic that ought to be hard to ignore.

According to this article:

  • The more education a woman gets, the higher the wage disparity becomes. The average woman will earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

  • Only 30-40 percent of all small businesses are owned by women, and they generate 61% less revenue.

In my workplace alone (the Seattle Department of Transportation), in one of the most liberal enclaves in the United States, of the 99 field positions, only a handful are held by women. And when I suggested that they make more connections with Woman in Trades organizations, to attract more female electricians, mechanics, welders and engineers, it went in one ear and out the other. That’s probably because the administration of SDOT is overwhelmingly white and male. I still work with people who use the term “cat fight” and don’t believe women should be bridgetenders.

Women’s rights are under threat all the time. We have to constantly fight to have birth control covered by insurance. No one has to fight to get Viagra covered. And there’s little or no support for affordable child care in this country. There’s constant political pushback against us making our own decisions about our health. Keep us barefoot and pregnant and out of every man’s way. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

And if we are in such an enlightened country, how is it possible that sex trafficking, child marriage, and domestic slavery still exists here?

So when a woman says, “I don’t consider myself a feminist,” what I hear is that they are comfortable enough in their situations to not have to stick their necks out. They have no desire to address the many outrages that they’re in denial about. They have theirs, and to hell with everybody else.

It would be nice if feminism were not necessary. If only wishing could make it so. But now, more than ever, we need to show a united front. Even if you don’t feel like it. If we don’t step up, why should we expect anyone else to?


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A Great Net Neutrality Business Op

Well, here we go again. The People are being ignored. Despite the huge public outcry, the FCC decided to rescind Net Neutrality. (It sure was nice knowing you guys.)

Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, is thrilled. He even put out this condescending video to try to convince the rest of us that this is going to be a good thing. Never mind that pretty much all of us are calling bullshit. To hear him tell it, all most of us use the internet for is to post cute pictures of puppies and watch Game of Thrones. Again, I promised to watch my mouth on my blog, but I can’t help it. I have to say that Ajit Pai is a self-important, dickheaded Trump toady.

The attorney general for the state of Washington is already filing suit against this absurd decision. (I just love my adopted state!) And there’s talk that state laws will be passed here to uphold net neutrality regardless. I hope more states hop on that bandwagon!

But if worse comes to worst, I hope that savvy internet providers are seeing what I’m seeing. Here’s the perfect opportunity to look like one of the good guys and say, “Our competitors may want to do away with net neutrality, but we hear you. Our company will remain net neutral.”

As pissed off as all of us are about this whole thing, any company who is smart enough to say that first, and actually follow through, is going to scoop up all the customers. Yes, they might lose money from advertisers, but that won’t matter if they don’t have anyone to advertise to.

If I had the money to become an internet provider tomorrow, you bet your life I’d be doing this. To hell with Big Brother. I want what I want. No one should get to choose for me. Who’s with me?

net neutrality

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Letter to a Future Love (In Hopes That He Exists)

I’ve been looking for you for years. I often wondered if you were right under my nose and I just wasn’t seeing you, or if I wasn’t looking in the right place.  More than once I thought I saw you, and you just couldn’t or wouldn’t see me. I always wondered if you were reading my blog, which was the only way I knew how to show myself to the world.

Did we pass each other on the street without recognizing each other? I’d look into the faces of strangers, hoping they’d see me, really see me, and consider me worth the effort. I’m sure I looked like every other face in the crowd, but inside my head I was screaming, “Where are you?”

It’s been a long, lonely, painful slog. I know you’ve been looking for me, too. If you’re reading this, I’m just glad you’re finally here. All during the search, precious time was passing; this was time I could have been spending with you. It felt like such a missed opportunity.

Every time I saw something new, I wanted to share it with you. Every time I got good news, I wanted to tell you. Every time I hit a rough patch, I wished you were there to comfort me. And there were a lot of amazing experiences I passed up, simply because I didn’t want to go it alone. I hope we still have time to do those things. I hope you’ll want to.

All I’ve ever wanted, really, was someone to travel with, and take naps with, and be playful with and have intelligent conversations with. I’ve wanted someone brave enough to win over and love my psycho dog as much as I do (that alone will weed out the vast majority). I’ve wanted someone who looks forward to seeing me as much as I look forward to seeing him.

I wasn’t looking for glamor or perfection, just mutual acceptance. I want us both to be able to be ourselves. I want someone who gets me. I want us to be able to count on each other. I had that once, and it was abruptly taken away. (I just hate mortality, sometimes.) I miss it.

I want to create a safe and peaceful harbor, together. So if you’re reading this, thank you for showing up. I’m sorry for almost having given up on you. I should have had more faith. But having said that, what took you so long?


By reading my book, you’ll know me.

Changing My Trajectory

As many of you know, I’ve been house hunting lately. I’m dreading the whole packing and moving thing, but it’s nice to think that my next move might just be my last. But who knows what the future holds?

That’s the exciting part. By moving, I’ll be changing my trajectory in life. I’ll be shopping at different stores, visiting different doctors and vets, going to different libraries and post offices. That means I’ll be meeting people I would not have met otherwise.

I’ll make some new friends, no doubt. Maybe one of them will consider me her best friend, which is a luxury I haven’t experienced since high school. Maybe I’ll finally meet another man who sees my value.

Either way, I will be taking a different route in life, and that’s always an adventure. It’s an opportunity to have new experiences and broaden my horizons and learn new things. I will create memories.

The future I’m creating today will become part of my history. It will shape me. I look forward to seeing what color my butterfly wings will be once I burst forth from my current chrysalis!


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A Life of Almosts and Could Haves

Here lately I’ve been binge watching the show This is Us on Hulu. On a recent episode, one character, on the eve of his death, talked about having lived “a life of almosts and could haves”. I can think of no sadder epitaph.

Regrets. Avoid them whenever you can. There’s nothing that will plague you in life more than the road not taken. Since that road can never truly be known, it will always seem like it would have been better. Don’t obsess over it.

But at the same time, don’t let opportunities pass you by. The older you get, the more you realize that the next opportunity isn’t guaranteed. The best way to avoid what ifs is to go for it. Belly up to the bar of life and order everything that you can on the menu. You will only pass this way but once, as the saying goes, so feast on life. Devour it!


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As a child, one of the hardest things for me was the experience of outgrowing things that I loved. Favorite sweaters. Child-sized furniture. Extremely sugary foods. Certain rides at the state fair. The kid’s menu at Howard Johnson’s.

No one likes change. And if I loved something, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t love it forever. It fit me before. Why doesn’t it fit me now?

I actually still have one sweatshirt from elementary school. It’s hard for me to believe I was ever that small. I kept it sort of as a frame of reference. But if I had kept all my clothing and toys from childhood, my life would be full of wasted space. That would be tragic indeed.

Time marches on. And it seems that outgrowing things doesn’t stop even when you are fully grown. It’s just that the things you outgrow become more complex. Friendships. Philosophies. Political systems. Jobs. Vices. Groups.

There’s a certain rise and decay that formulates the circle of life. Just ask the Greeks and the Romans. Things and people and beliefs are solid for a time, but eventually they crumble to dust and are replaced by something else.

Recently I was kicked out of a group and for a hot second, there, it felt like the end of the world to me. A friend of mine suggested I keep attending anyway. They meet in a public place, after all. But I don’t want to do that. There are still many people I love there, and I don’t want to create tension and awkwardness for them. The wonderful feeling I got from being a part of that group is gone. There’s no resuscitating that. There’s a cancer at the core of the experience for which there is no cure.

And lo and behold, I am already discovering that the absence of that group is providing me with other intriguing opportunities. I’m already filling that time with other experiences, and meeting other people. Decay makes way for growth. The shit of life fertilizes the fruit.

I feel as though the country as a whole is experiencing this. Our government and our attitudes toward it are in a state of flux. It’s rather unsettling, trying to maintain one’s balance on these shifting sands. We resist the change and we mourn, but we will also be motivated to work toward bigger and better change, and from that, new and exciting things will surely flow.

The next time you sense that you are outgrowing something, remind yourself that you are just a tiny part of a much larger plane of existence. As Max Ehrmann once said, “No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”


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Follow Your Dreams?

I was thinking about this on the drive to work today. In America, we tend to encourage people to pursue their dreams, but what if everybody did that? This country would be full of rock stars and football heroes and presidents. I suppose that wouldn’t be a bad thing entirely, but the competition would get rather heated, especially in the political arena.

Here’s the real question: If we all went gallivanting off to grasp that brass ring, who would be around to scrub the toilets? Seriously, there are tons of jobs out there that are no one’s idea of a dream. Would you want to work in a slaughter house? Has it occurred to you that some poor schmuck has to inspect and maintain our sewerage systems? Somebody has to clean the blood off of crime scenes. Our garbage doesn’t handle itself.

All of these nasty, ugly jobs that keep society going are not filled by people who are listing job satisfaction as one of their principal joys in life. We’d be lost without every single one of these people. We owe our health, safety and stability to them. They are the ones that make rock stars and football heroes possible. It would be hard to entertain an arena full of screaming fans if you had to shovel your own shit.

Yes, it’s quite romantic to think of the US as the land of opportunity where, with a little hard work and determination, you can be anything you want in life. But the fact is we all need to be pretty darned grateful that the majority of us don’t quite get around to fulfilling our wildest desires. We really need to alter our cultural  mindset to allow people in these jobs to take pride in what they do instead of feeling like they’ve somehow failed in life. Because when all is said and done, somebody has to make the sausage.


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My Jacksonville to Seattle Odyssey—Part 6

I left Billings, Montana in the pouring rain. But I had already had a bad opinion of it. The hotel was creepy, and the neighborhood was worse. For all I know Billings is a lovely place. I just didn’t get a chance to see it.

I was so anxious to get out of there that I almost ran out of gas. I looked down and saw to my horror that the gas gauge was on empty, and I was miles away from the next exit. I made it to the station in Reed Point on mere fumes.


What a trip that gas station was. Each pump only offered up one type of gas, so you had to get out, check, and then move your car to the appropriate pump. There was no shelter, and the rain was ice cold. And it was the slowest pump in the history of mankind. I left there wet and shivering. But I got kick out of this sign. I don’t know what is more delightful, that the gas station is advertising a sheep drive or that they have to remind people what day it is.

I discovered that the van has no functioning defogger, so every time it rained I had to wipe the inside of the windshield with a t-shirt every few minutes. Every time it rains. Lest we forget, I’m on my way to Seattle.

While wiping the windshield, I was listening to oldies and doo wop on the radio. It seemed to fit in farming country, where the lifestyle hasn’t changed appreciably. I felt transported in time. Telephone poles still have glass insulators on them here. I never expected to see that again.

I passed cool places like Prairie Dog Town State Park and Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, and I longed to stop. I drove through the Crazy Mountains and I could barely see them through the fog. I skirted Yellowstone Park, one of the most gorgeous places on earth, and couldn’t see a thing except rain. I crossed the continental divide.

I was reflecting upon the fact that all my emotions, both good and bad, seem to be on the surface of my skin these days. Which makes joy more joyful. I think it’s because I’m so grateful that I’m getting the opportunity to experience all of this.

More random stuff:

Everyone warned me that there are no speed limits in Montana, but that isn’t the case on this particular route at least.

A pet peeve of mine. Dammit, it’s OVERSIZED load, all you truck drivers!

I want to know the story behind Opportunity, Montana.

I bet the stars in big sky country, when there are no clouds, are breathtaking.


I always thought Idaho was a state of flat potato farms, so when I took I-90 though its panhandle, I wasn’t prepared. That is, without a doubt, the steepest, scariest road I’ve ever driven on. I longed to close my eyes, but decided that wouldn’t be the best idea under the circumstances.


Lake Coeur d’Alene is stunning. I am dying to rent a cabin there next time I have any substantial time off.

Tonight me and the pups are staying with a member of my church. She’s being very gracious by taking me in when she’s never even met me. Her house is beautiful and she’s a lovely person. I’m going to sleep well.

Next stop: Seattle!

Check out part 7 here!

Give Me a Break. Please.

Recently I met a new artist in the virtual world of Second Life. He is amazingly talented but lacks confidence. He’s desperate to break into the art scene, but doesn’t know how to promote himself. I remember what that’s like. When I first started making fractals, I was so inexperienced I was afraid to show them to anyone. (And frankly I should have been. Looking at my early work makes me cringe.) Then I met my friend Bau, who took a chance on me.

Before I knew it I had a display in a gallery. I was so excited. I was so nervous. I was so proud of myself. Bau had to teach me how to display my work and set it up for sale. I was that green.

Since then my confidence has gown and I’ve shown my work in dozens of virtual galleries. I also have a (woefully out of date) website, and I sell my work in the real world in the form of posters, mugs, greeting cards, ornaments, ties and puzzles on

None of that would have happened without Bau giving me my first break, and I’ve never forgotten that. Since then, I’ve done the best I could to pay it forward by helping a few artists get their start, and as soon as I met this guy and discovered how talented he was, I knew I’d like to help him.

To make a long story short, I got the most amazing and influential artist in all of Second Life to check out his work. This was no mean feat. It took me years to get a display in her gallery. I didn’t really feel like a successful artist in Second Life until I got a display there.

Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, as the saying goes. This guy was so rude to my friend that I was mortified. So here I handed him an opportunity on a silver platter, and he handed me back the platter with poo poo all over it. I have to admit it. I went off on him. I mean, I really lost it.

I don’t take these types of things lightly. If my trust with that gallery is broken, the next time I want to help an artist, she might hesitate. And that’s SO unfair for the next person.

The next day I get an e-mail from this guy saying, among other things, that I needed to apologize to him, that I’m a harsh and angry person, I’m crazy, and I need to check my ego.


I hate being misunderstood. I hate doing an over-the-top amazingly wonderful thing and then getting hostility in return. I stewed on it for a day, and realized that OF COURSE he’d think I’m a harsh and angry person, because I was, indeed, harsh and angry with him, and since the world apparently revolves around him, he naturally must think that this incident was a demonstration of my overall demeanor despite all my previous kindness.

But you know what I hate the most? Seeing such an amazing opportunity go to waste. I’m on the ragged edge, financially and emotionally and spiritually, so I would LOVE to get a break like this, especially if it were related to employment, housing or romance. It could be the difference between my keeping a roof over my head or sleeping in my car, the difference between a life filled with love or a lifetime of loneliness. So if anyone were to give me a chance right now, even one tiny little break, I’d grab it with both hands and run with it, and I’d be grateful for life.

So that guy will be waiting an awfully long time for an apology from this harsh, angry person. And it turns out he’s decided to not display in any gallery, proving that if things don’t go your way, you should take your marbles and run home like a little girl.

Come on. Give me a break.


Even this cat knows the guy screwed up.

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