pandas, books and skinny jeans.

in my ideal world, everything would be beautifully organized… maybe even color coordinated… and stacked from shortest to tallest. nothing would be out of order. life would be so simplistic this way. 

i used to have my bookshelf assembled in what i thought was a perfectly organized system. textbooks went together on the bottom shelf safely as far away from fiction books as i could get them. my fiction books, namely The Great Gatsby, always take me on an imaginative tour far different from anything i could have learned in college.  that is not to say that i never daydreamed while reading Interpreting NAFTA or Human Resources Management, but i think you understand. 

i was just searching for a book on my shelf by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. the way she depicts an event in her life is unparalleled, with her use of vocabulary that leaves readers laughing and crying at the same time. anyway, while reaching for Bird by Bird, i noticed that all of my books are mixed together now. Marley and Me is next to Contemporary Cases in U.S. Foreign Policy. it goes on and on like this throughout all of the shelves. i would have had a small freakout moment about this a few years ago, but not now.

i guess what i’ve come to realize in life is, we are not color-coordinated. we aren’t always stacked shortest to tallest and sometimes even the intellectuals who only buy local need to to interact with the wal-mart shoppers of the world.

we like to live in this universe where we are separated by our interests, intellect and our incomes. we stereotype those different from us so that we can justify not having to “deal” with them. we organize our group hangouts with people who are very much the same as us.

i went to two new year’s eve parties this year. and at these parties were vastly different types of people. at one, i think if you did not have at least three inches of beard and a pbr in your hand you had to pay an extra cover charge. oh and it was even more if you had showered that week. no.. i’m just kidding. i love my hipster friends. they don’t smell that bad and they do shower (there i go with the stereotyping). at the other, since i did not grow up in hudsonville, i was an outsider. well there were two other people not from hudsonville so maybe i shouldn’t be complaining. (if you know anything about hudsonville or stereotypes, they both go hand in hand. if you want to live in a conservative suburbia town, hudsonville is for you. if not, you will not enjoy it at all).     

the one thing that stood out to me the most was how different my friends were and how much i love that. i definitely do not agree with all of their opinions or their grooming habits. i can’t pretend that we like the same music or even worship the same God. i know for a fact that none of them love panda bears as much as i do (yea that’s right) and i also know i will never wear red skinny jeans like some of them do (yes they do make red skinny jeans, i was appalled as you are).

but isn’t that what life is about?

instead of searching for similarities in others that gives us a faulty sense of security,we need to find the diversity in people and celebrate the differences that make us so unique.

the world is full of people who are trying only to find others who are just like themselves. instead, i wonder what life would look like if everyone surrounded ourselves with people with different stories, different skin shades, different backgrounds and different voting records. yikes. 

being man.

i haven’t seen this very often. when a man can just be a man and not be judged by it. sometimes it seems that just being a man is bad enough, but then he has to live it too. he has to breathe and be everything that a man is supposed to be (love sports, know how to switch out an alternator, be able to install a dishwasher, not be afraid of anything, especially spiders).

and we aren’t supposed to ask for help either, (or directions, but we are never lost so we don’t need them). and we can’t admit weaknesses or defeat. dreaming is something you do as a boy not as a man, and when you show that softer side, you must be vulnerable, which makes a man feel somehow less manly. it is scary to be a man, even though so many women think it’s easy.

it’s because of this that i have a lot of admiration for women.

see, women have this uncanny ability to facilitate restraint and reason and a keen fashion sense. but us men, we aren’t born with that restraint, and even if we are, it isn’t manly to show that side of us. so we saddle up, and we ride through life, just assuming we have just enough man-ness in us to get by. men are supposed to be wild, and for the most part, we are. if you see a mild-mannered man, he probably has been tamed. maybe by his mother, or his aunt or by his mild-mannered father who understands that if he speaks up, he will be told to behave. which men don’t like doing. we don’t want to behave. if a man is out-spoken, then he is a bad boy, which a man loves to be called by the way. it is not as easy to be a man as it seems.

women always say that men are so complicated, which to me is a complicated statement. whenever i ask a woman to explain the context behind that claim, she usually shrugs and says, “i don’t know, you just are”. it seems to me that most men are anything but complicated. the only complications for men are women. mainly because men and women don’t understand each other. and then there are the rules to live by, but men don’t make the rules. women do. but women don’t usually tell men what the rules are. so we have to figure it out, which is easier said then done because men cannot read a woman’s mind. no matter how much we are expected, even needed to.

the thing is, being a man should be fun. it should be adventurous and as men, we should be proud to be a man. it’s not a, “men are better than women” type of thing. in fact, we aren’t who we are unless we have a great woman supporting us. that much is clear. we just have to be able to enjoy being man.

puzzle pieces.

emotion is somewhat of a dirty word if you are a male. cry during a chick-flick or a sappy drama on television and you are deemed a sissy. get mad while watching your favorite sports team under-perform with friends and you become the dreaded “that guy”. you know, the one with the obligatory invite, the one who no one really wants to invite anymore but they do anyway because “i mean, he’s not that bad and besides, is it really worth the drama?” no one wants to be “that guy”. you never want anyone to be saying about you… “you invited HIM??”

there’s the emotion of stress… which if utilized correctly can be a great motivator to achieve a lot more than we otherwise would. but usually stress just builds on our shoulders, necks and backs.  heart ailments, stomach ailments and much more are the result of poor handling of the emotion of stress.

then there is:

love. (still debating how much of love is actually an emotion)

anger.

sadness.

fear.

mourning.

it’s the last one that strikes me the most.

writing a blog kind of lends a person to being personal and diving into ones own life. yeah, i’m not good at that. i’m a fairly private guy. if you ask, i’ll tell you what i think or feel. briefly. so i’m going to work on that through this blog.

so about mourning.

it’s such a strange thing for me. i don’t really understand it. that emotion of sadness. dictionary.com refers to mourning as, among other things the period or interval during which a person grieves or formally expresses grief.  as some of you know, i was adopted when i was eight months old. after many years, i have come into contact and developed a fairly strong bond with some of my biological family members, essentially making my already large family even larger. upon coming into contact with them, i was informed that my biological father had passed away in 1999. that hit me like a ton of bricks. i found this out in 2004, so eight years ago. i’m still trying to understand this emotion. it’s confounding. i have deep sadness for my father. i have a deep love for him also. yet, for me this is extremely confusing because i never met the man. when i look at  his picture, i see that i have his cheeks.

i have his smile too i think.

when i visit his hometown, i am told that i look just like him. i’ve had an aunt start crying immediately after meeting me because of how much i reminded her of him. that’s the craziness of emotion, it releases things from you that you didn’t know were there. i suspect that my aunt was still in mourning years later. my step-mother, when we talked on the phone for the very first time, told me that “i love you, because that’s how much i loved your father”. that’s strong emotion. she too is still in mourning over the loss of the love of her life.

yesterday i found out that a biological cousin of mine who i had yet to meet in person passed away. he was thirty years old and left behind so many friends who loved him and family who adored him. the emotions that flooded out of me the last twenty-four hours has been nearly overwhelming. yet it is again strange for me, mainly because once again, i never actually met him. despite that, i still have a deep sadness for my cousin and the family. i’m left wondering why, just like everyone else. emotion runs rampant in these sort of affairs.

anger. pain. sadness.

what do we do with these emotions? i would say that how we handle these types of events is what defines us. how we manage anger, sadness, happiness or being in love is what makes us who we are. you can’t be you without your emotions. they are puzzle pieces that put us together.

if you mis-use one of those, you are never really whole.