A heavy day for me yesterday.  Issues with mom notwithstanding, midafternoon I found myself in a barbershop spending $23 (ATM fee and tip included), getting a haircut which removed little hair, but a good portion of my soul, though only for a while.

The barber, a man in his 70s and seemingly not in the best of health, struggled making small talk with me, a new customer.  After several awkward minutes negotiating some fractured clichés of light familiarization, he began spewing campaign hatred at an alarming rate.  He either mistakenly sized me up as one of his own, or just didn’t care about offending me.

Within a few minutes of his rant I had learned that Hillary has killed more people than Saddam, that Trump was going to rid the country of all the lesser brown people, and if for any reason Trump’s victory failed, an all-out civil war would occur within weeks.

When he stopped to take a breath, a female barber seated near us and eating a snack, probably in her 60s, chimed in to reinforce what the man who was too busy hating to properly cut my hair was espousing…

“The nation will go straight to hell” she said, “The woman is pure evil.”

That’s when I was reminded that ignorance is not an individual effort; that it takes a village to raise an idiot.

This is not a political stance for or against either candidate.  Just a reminder that ignorance, like fire, requires three elements:

  • Receiving misinformation
  • Believing misinformation without verification
  • Sharing misinformation

Sky above Barker Reservoir.  August 2014

When my haircut was complete, I stood up, thanked the man, shook his hand as I paid him, and wished the two of them a good Saturday.  It made me feel good to do so – to offer friendship rather than retort.  May you all have a good Sunday.  Be well…  rc


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Not A Healthy Addiction…

When people when speak to me about their fitness regimen the phrase, it’s a healthy addiction, is often used to support their rationalization of how dedicated they are.

Of course, there is no such thing as a healthy addiction. The very nature of addiction is that one sacrifice more in the pursuit of the result, than the result will actually yield on their behalf.

On a personal level, I am compelled by the fulfillment of challenging exercise. The drug of intensity in movement clears my head, offers me confidence, and provides moments to me during which I can hide from the stress of daily living, if only for a while.


Whether my requirement for challenging exercise is an addiction, a compulsion, or a mere personality defect, I may never be sure. What I have come to accept though, is that for now, exercise for the sake of fulfillment is a necessary component of the clock that is me.

On a professional level, I am more cautious about the ideal of intensity in exercise. This caution though, is relative to the moment, and to the client. Some moments in my studio are all about fulfillment in exercise. I am paid well by some clients to establish the limits of their physicality, and incrementally raise those limits, rendering them more capable at gin tasks, aesthetically improved, or both.

With other clients it’s about utility. They entrust me to help increase their physicality by inserting functional exercise into their lives. This may be due to age, disease, or simply because they have lived a previously deconditioned lifestyle. Regardless, for these clients mindfulness comes first, and intensity isn’t even a consideration.

There is a blurry line between pursuing what we want, and what makes sense. When I have difficulty distinguishing that line, or when I see it more clearly but can’t decide which side I should stand on, I draw from the only scripture which has mattered to me in my adult life:

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


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Beneath Perceived Normal…

I’m not sure why this is, but the most normal I ever feel is when I’m dining out.  Perhaps that’s why I eat out so often – it’s just feels so good to feel so normal.  There’s something about sitting in a restaurant, where time slows down for me and I feel a kind of comfortable which doesn’t show up in my own dining room.  I look at all the tables, observe the people, I listen to the proximate conversations, and take inventory of all that normalcy.

There’s an exercise though, that I take myself through whenever I dine out.  It skews that perception of normalcy a bit, but not for very long.  It’s an exercise in judgment I suppose, or more specifically, a way to better manage my judgment.  As I gaze about a restaurant, and as I take it all in, I ask myself who am I really sharing that moment with…

There are usually couples seated around me, married or otherwise.  Maybe some business associates are discussing a strategy of change, or a plan to increase sales.  There might be a couple of old friends getting together for the first time in a while.  Two construction workers getting out of the heat for a bit.  Perhaps a blind date is taking place just behind me.  Those two, over there…?  An aging father is catching up with his adult daughter.  So many combinations and possibilities.

As I take it in though – all this normalcy, and as twisted as this may seem, I always ask myself, who among them is the spousal abuser…?  Which one cheated heavily on their or her taxes last year…?  Who spent the grocery money on cocaine earlier that day…?  Which one lives in profound depression yet covers it up with a relentless smile…?  Which one stole from the petty cash drawer at work yesterday, without thinking twice about it…?

Of course the answers to those questions never appear on the surface, and I’m grateful they don’t or I’d never dine out again.  All that normalcy just continues.  I guess that’s my point.  In a sea of perceived normalcy, the answers to those questions I ask myself are there, but they are hidden so deep beneath the surface that mining for them would be required, and that type of mining can’t be done by a curious man from a distant table. Okay, normalcy, carry on…


Who among them…?

This may seem very judgmental of me – that I go through this exercise, and that I always do this when I dine out.  Statistically though, in a room full of 30 or so people eating lamb chops, southwest chicken salads, drinking iced tea, laughing between the small talk, and arguing over who will pay the check, at least some of those people might fall into some of those judgments.  And there is a reasonable chance, that a few of them will fall into even darker places.  It’s just never apparent though, who among the crowd smacked their child that morning, and subsequently sent him off to school with a little makeup on his cheek.


What looks normal to everyone else…

Each morning in contemplative prayer, I remind myself is that my place is not to judge.  Behind every pair of eyes, I say to myself, is a heart, a soul, and a life’s worth of circumstances I know nothing about.  By 11:00am most days, I have judged my world up one side and down the other.  Then I’ll go to lunch, and I will remind myself once again that behind every pair of eyes is a heart, a soul, and a life’s worth of circumstances – my own included, reflecting back at me from the teaspoon to my right.  Yes, restaurants are a place of perceived normalcy for me, but I know better, my own self included.  Be well…  rc


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Turn And Face The Strain…

Aye, Captain…

When I see him coming, I cringe a little.  A tall man with gray hair topped by a ball cap which usually sits a bit too high.  He’s in jeans, and always wears a blue windbreaker.  In his hand is a leash, and at arm’s length a Dalmatian with a muzzle lead.  The dog’s name is, Captain.  Honestly, I don’t like Captain.  I don’t care much for the man walking him either, though he and I have never really met.  We just pass each other early in the morning, several times per week, walking our dogs.

Some time ago this man confronted me about not having my own dog on a leash.  I explained that my dog walks off leash because he’s prone to panic attacks on a leash, probably because he was abused as a puppy.  He suggested that his dog might hurt my dog and was just giving me a warning.  Well, I thought to myself, is your dog that much of jerk or is it just you…?  I thought it, but I didn’t speak it.  I wished him a good day and moved on.

Since that encounter, we have passed each other dozens of times, always with an obvious tension between us, but we always smile and exchange good mornings.  When I see him coming I begin to feel a bad day coming on.  As we pass we each other though, and as I say good morning to him, I always feel better.  Bad day averted by simply reaching out.

When this happens, I often flash back the character, Lloyd Dobler, from the movie, Say Anything.  In one scene, Dobler, played by John Cusack, questions his grumpy sister, asking her again and again, “how hard is it to be in a good mood, and then just be in a good mood…?”


I’ve never been able to let that go – that very often having a good day, or turning a bad one around is simply a decision, like saying good morning to the man with the Dalmatian, despite that I don’t care for him.

Tricks Of The Trading…

Bad moods happen, and almost always when I least expect them.  Hard as it might be, the best way I have found yet to combat a bad mood is by simply asking myself that Cusack question; how hard is it to be in a good mood, and then just be in a good mood…? By just stopping and asking that of myself, it gets me thinking about how easy it really is to get back on track to a better day.

Most often the answers to that question lay in several possible actions, the first being to go for a walk.  Walking in nature diffuses a bad mood quickly – especially if I set my phone to airplane mode.  With nothing but the rhythm of my feet, the thoughts in my head, and the sounds of nature, a bad mood doesn’t have much of a chance.  Problems, however mighty, soon get small when I’m walking in nature.


To create good mood just add water…

Music is another tool I use to pry a bad mood from my head.  I dare you to listen to Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers To Cross and walk away sulking.  Not likely.  It tends to bring my inner resolve to the surface.  There is a dozen or so songs I know that carry this weight, any one of them can lead me into a better mood.  George Harrison’s Hear Comes The Sun being another, and Matthew Sweet’s Divine Intervention.  I call these my mood altering songs…

I might grab my dog and just hold him.  I’ll say something like, “This may be selfish, but I really need you right now…”  We’ll sit on the porch.  Feeling his heartbeat in my hand, and knowing that he’s absolutely dependent on me is both grounding and humbling.  It’s also a bridge to a more peaceful moment.


Perhaps I’ll reflect on a real tragedy; the illness of a friend or the death of a loved one.  Considering this, my bad moods don’t usually seem so bad.  Dropping my coffee on my laptop isn’t a nightmare, thinking about a young widow is, but even so, that’s not my nightmare, it’s somebody else’s – which reinforces my point precisely.  When I stop and think of the things which might be the cause my bad moods, few of them are ever worthy of that kind of power.

I’ll Come Full Circle Now…

One of the best tools I regularly use to turn a bad mood around is to simply reach out and offer a sincere hello to someone – anyone who’s path I might cross, regardless of how I might feel about them.  This could be in the bank, on my street, at the grocery, or back out on the trail.  Saying hello to a stranger, a friend, or even an adversary, and actually feeling it from deep within, always makes me feel better inside.

I can think of few better mood altering drugs than the drug of a human connection.  The next time you’re having a bad day, try saying hello to a stranger or perhaps even someone you don’t care for.  Reach out.  It might be just enough to help turn the corner on a bad mood, and it might become an addiction worth keeping.  Be well…  rc


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