The Good Life Re-envisioned

When I first began this grand thought experiment, I was intently interested in exploring all the finest things that life had to offer.  During my regular writing sabbatical since 2013, I’ve attempted to enjoy exactly that, as well as trying varying degrees of media deprivation–hence my long absence from posting.

Without going into an extended diatribe on every little thing I did (and, thereby, removing your reason, dear fellow journeyer, for continuing to visit me here), I did want to reveal the greatest lesson about living the good life I learned.

Living the good life is not about how fine the things are with which you fill your time and space.  Sure, you can save up money and buy the finest watch you can think of…for me, it’s been my Omega Seamaster chronograph, a watch I’ve been obsessed with since learning it was the watch that James Bond wore, and I highly recommend it.  I really, really, really like that watch, and I’ve been through a plethora of watches until finally getting my hands on one.  But, all it really does is the exact same thing that all the other watches I ever owned did…it lets me know what time it is.  And what’s wild about that is that time is really nothing more than a human construct; so, it really doesn’t do much of anything except keep me tethered to an universally agreed upon social contract that keeps us all in line.  Crazy, right?  But, it does  look good on my wrist…and, I enjoy wearing it…it satisfies me.  And, so, it is good.  But, it is not, inherently, any “better” than any other watch I’ve ever owned.

So, it has been, and is, with every other “fine thing” I have either explored or owned or rented or borrowed or tried during this little experiment. Whatever it was, it might have been more or less expensive; but, the amount of money put into it had nothing to do with the inherent functionality of whatever it was.  Leather jackets?  I’ve owned hundreds; and, they all did exactly the same thing…kept me warm and dry.  Cars?  I’ve had them from Honda to Lexus; and, they all did exactly the same thing…got me from point A to point B. Beer, wine, or booze?  Yep…you guessed it…while, invariably, the more expensive the better the consumption experience, they all did exactly the same thing.  And so on…you get the point.

Were the more expensive things made better?  Again, almost invariably, yes.  So, in that sense, they were, in fact, “better.”  A Gibson is a better guitar than a Yamaha.  But, it does the same thing; which means that it is not the money in the things with which one fills their life which makes it “good.”

So, what, then, constitutes the “real” good life?

In looking back over the last few years, the one constant that has made me feel the best, that has made me feel the most satisfied, and that has made up the memories which I cherish as moments during which I was truly living “the good life” has beenthe people with whom I was enjoying those “fine things.”

Whether I was with my wife and daughters on a camping trip, sleeping on the ground, or on a trip to the finest beach on the Gulf coast, it wasn’t what we were doing that made me happiest–it was being with them.

Whether I was sitting in a parking lot outside the old laundromat on Baxter Street tailgating for a UGA game,  or cruising the lake on a beautiful ski boat made little difference because I was with the same people, having the same conversations, and enjoying the same fun either way.

My point is that living “the good life” has little to nothing to do with how much money you spend on what you’re doing; living “the good life” is about having good people with whom to spend it.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all my closest friends who have come along with me over the years on this little experiment of mine.  Now, don’t go thinking this means I’m giving up my good beer, good wine, good food, and good times…I’m looking forward like you wouldn’t believe to the next ride on Bill’s awesome boat, and sharing a new scotch we haven’t tried.  That’s NOT what I mean.  What I mean is that those things do not equal “the good life;” because, I’m just as equally looking forward to the next fish fry at my parents’ house, with my brother and his wife, our other family around, just sitting around, watching videos from when we were kids, and being with one another.

The point is…the good life is a life filled with those things for which you would not accept any amount of money.

And I’ve got a LOT of those!

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Getting back in the saddle

After a long hiatus from active writing on the site, and publishing…I think it’s high time I got back in the saddle…

Be on the lookout!

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A Public Service Announcement

I’d like to announce that I will be spending a week on a REAL internet fast-I’ll be checking in ONLY when/IF I have to. No news-NOTHING news-related. Email only twice a day.  Only reading that pertains to future work projects, writing, and pleasure reading…I think I’ll get back to “Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion and/or Cormac McCarthy’s Outer Dark. Oh…and I can listen to as much music as I want. See you all in a week with a review ofthe results. In the meantime, if you want to know why I’m up to this…check out one of, or all of the following: Nicholas Carr’s article in The Atlantic magazine entitled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” his book-length study on the matter called “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” and/or Tim Ferriss’ The Four-Hour Work Week…specifically his chapter on “The Low-Information Diet.” Peace…..OUT!

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Something’s Got to Give

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”-Albert Einstein

I’ve talked before about how, even though I am grateful for the “real” job I have, the home in which I live, and my health…all of which afford me the means with which to provide a comfortable life for my family…I constantly wrestle with this spectre of a life more….consequential than the one currently playing out around me.

For a full 9 months out of the year, I’m on this hamster wheel….5AM, up, exercise, grab a quick bite to eat, out the door, work in a cement box all day, after-work responsibilities (coaching, theatre, etc), home, evening meal, help the kids with homework, maybe a little Netflix with my lovely wife, get the kids in bed, maybe a little reading, maybe bed…either way, the waking hours are consumed living a life of…service…to others…others who, quite often, are increasingly unappreciative and operate with a sense of entitlement…repeat…until you’re old enough to retire because that’s what we’re all told is the right thing to do, and it sure is…safe! Except, in today’s topsy-turvy economy and job market, even government jobs aren’t safe. Then 8 weeks during the summer to try to remember who I am as a person, what I really believe about life, and rejuvenate….and about the time I’m starting to feel human again….it’s back to the wheel. Nose to the grindstone. I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go….and every year, I ask myself, “Does it HAVE to play out this way?”. With almost all of society playing by the same rules, it sure seems so.

But, I’ve gotten a glimpse of what might be another door…another option…one that, if I can screw up the courage to walk through it, I believe will not lead to greener pastures; it will lead to a life without pastures at ALL! Unless, it’s pastures you’re really after…

I’ve started a book called

. And usually, in fact ALWAYS, I am highly suspicious of these kinds of “self-help,” books trotted out each year, usually on Oprah’s book club or some other such drivel, designed to keep the masses seduced with the idea that there’s hope for life after retirement, or even…(gasp!) the possibility of finding our dream jobs (there’s no such thing). But, for some reason, when I found myself walking around Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago, killing time while my wife was still on a spending spree in Belk’s, I ran across the book and was immediately drawn to the underlying concepts behind the book. I know it SOUNDS like hooey; but, just a few chapters in and Mr. Ferriss has already given voice to some of the same unresolved maladies that plague my existential being.

One of the first things that captured my attention is the fact that he’s not really talking about gutting your job…unless you really want to. He’s also not talking about how to become rich so you can afford to do whatever you want-in fact, and I agree, it isn’t the money he argues people want anyway…it’s just the freedom to DO what it SEEMS that only unlimited income can buy you. He begins with a very simple, and accurate premise, then…that people really just want more time, and freedom. He also points out that what keeps us from truly living…living the lives we truly want, isn’t that we don’t have enough money to do it….we are just, stuck. And what “screws us to the sticking point?” Our materialistic, slavish devotion to our “stuff,” and our willingness to accept another person’s, or system’s, rules by which we play the game of life. Who says we can’t just change the rules? We need a job to buy more stuff, to keep us “happy” while we go to our jobs to make more money to buy more stuff because we’re tired of the other stuff that didn’t really make us happy in the first place, because NONE of that will EVER make ANYONE happy. What’s holding us down? Our marriage to the idea that we ARE our possessions. Freedom is just an eBay listing away…or, in MY case, a whole SLEW of listings.

Sure, the idea is scary. But, it isn’t a new philosophy. Thoreau said it over 200 years ago…”Simplify…simplify.”

And maybe that’s what resonates with me so strongly so far about Mr. Ferriss…he’s a modern-day Transcendentalist, living the life he’s dreamed, because he’s been able to strip away all those things which are inconsequential to living that life. I look in my closet and study..how many leather jackets do I need? How many pairs of shoes, how many shirts? How many movies, and books (ok, I’d have to keep the books…move them to my permanent library at my parents’ or something), etc….how many REALLY NICE of these things could I have if I just had what I needed? If, instead of 10 watches, I had two…or even one…could I not have that Omega Seamaster I’ve always wanted? Sure. I look around and KNOW I’m burdened by my possessions…we ALL are. Might be time for me to let it go. How many times am I gonna dress up as Indiana Jones for Halloween, anyway?!

I had a friend, with whom I’m discussing the book, ask when the last time was that I was REALLY out of my comfort zone. I try to push myself to do something I’m afraid to do every year. Last year, it was going off the rope swing at the lake…from the HIGHEST jump off. A few years before that, it was adventure racing…my brakes gave out on my mountain bike about 1/3 of the way into the bike section of the race…ten more miles of rocky, hilly, tree-lined single track to go…with only front brakes…then the front ones went out with three miles left. That was uncomfortable. And back in college, I went rock climbing…freestyle…no ropes…out on a cliff hanging over the ocean in Bar Harbor, Maine…didn’t fall, but if I had, it still would’ve been uncomfortable. Heck, part of what I do for money involves speaking and performing in front of large groups of people on a daily basis…and it ALWAYS makes me nervous for the first minute or so. So, I’ve certainly tried, and continue to try, to make myself uncomfortable on a semi-regular basis. But, nothing makes me more uncomfortable than the idea of letting go of all that I think I am…and, at the same time, there isn’t an idea more invigorating than seeing just what would happen if I did.

Is it time for lifestyle redefinition?

As I make my way through the book, and the first week or so back in the hamster wheel, I’ll be letting you, dear reader, follow along on my journey of self-discovery.

Maybe I’ll finally build that sweat lodge I’ve threatened to build for years.

Next post…the low-information diet…or, as I like to call it, an Internet fast.

In the meantime….just try to remember…”There IS no tomorrow!”-Apollo Creed, from Rocky 3.

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AthFest, Day 2 began with brunch with the girls, and Amy and Thomas Evans, at The Grill  to get the kids (and the adults) ready for an afternoon of KidsFest!

Afterwards, we headed down to the KidsFest tent where you could hear the awesome music from both the Pulaski and Hull Street stages while the kids played around with woodworking, painting, learning about the water system (thank you, Laurie Loftin, for taking up time with the girls to show them the importance of water protection), the wildlife around Athens-Clarke County, and all sorts of cool activities!

It wasn’t long before another friend of the kids came and joined us….SO awesome to have CQ hang with us for the afternoon!!!!  It got hot, so they sought out the mister-hoses.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, we had to seek shelter back at the house and get ready for the evening’s festivities.  We got the kids situated again at home, and headed back downtown for another FABULOUS meal experience at Trappeze, then, though we missed a band we REALLY wanted to see (Easter Island), we did make it down to see a good friend’s band, Five-Eight, at the Hull Street Stage…Patrick Ferguson, (who also plays drums with Easter Island)…dude, you kill the drums, my man!!!!  As I walked down, Sean Arington (a tremendous musician in his own right) and his lovely wife, Michelle, called me over and, after a few minutes of talking, Sean drags me right down next to the stage (he and Patrick are the best of friends, and have been for years), and I get an absolute front-row seat to one of the two BEST shows of AthFest!!!!

After that, we wandered over to The Globe to check out The Hobohemians and hang out with our dear friends Jeff and Holly Berejikian and Laurie Loftin.  But, we were wearing out fast…Five-Eight took a lot out of us, and we decided to just head back to the house to chill on the deck, make a few home-made cocktails, play with the kids, and be ready to spring in to action for AthFest, Day 3….it was going to be a laid-back, but an awesome day!

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AthFest 2012, Day 1

AthFest 2012 Lineup

Pulling in to Downtown Athens late Friday afternoon was like….well, it was coming home.

After a quick stop off at our always wonderful friends’ house (Amy and Aaron Evans) to drop off our dog, Elizabeth, Caroline, Sarah-Catherine and I had made a beeline for our favourite kid-friendly haunt, Mellow Mushroom…the kids love the laid-back atmosphere, the colorful, cartoony decor, and the crayons everywhere….and the parmesan cheese; mommy and daddy like the, um….beverages (Sweetwater IPA….mmmmm)!

Nutritionally fortified with sustenance, we made our way to the Georgia Theatrerooftop to meet up with one of my best friends in the world, and hands-down THE Athens music scene hookup, Micheal J. VanHassel. Mike and I waited tables together in college, and this evening would mark the first time we’d been out together since I graduated over ten years ago….and I was ready for it! He introduced me to his other friends, artist Katie Stover, Punk Rocker turned super-star barber, Keith Edward Tate(Sawbuck Bill’s Barber Shop 1077 Baxter St, Athens, 706-612-5544), Mike’s roommate, Eric L. Friarand Katie’s boyfriend, Kristoff-awesome people, all! But, it was getting late, the girls were ready to get set for the evening, and Liz and I needed to get back to Amy and Aaron’s to drop them off so we could head back Downtown to hook back up with Mike and Co. Mike hooked us up with our Club Crawl music bracelets that would get us in to all the late night music venues (have I mentioned how awesome this dude is-love him!), and we hopped off the roof to deposit the kids at a more….permanent location.

Fast-forward….Aaron makes a killer Cape Cod…kids get situated….we hang with Amy and Aaron a bit, he meditates over incense and charcoal grilling….and we hop, skip, and jump back Downtown to hook back up with Mike at Max (used to be The Engine Room) for patio proximity to the outdoor stages, great conversation, great beer, and great music. We checked out Reptar…thumpingly rhythmic punctuation of the human need to move….then to Caledonia(hole in the wall awesomeness is the name of the game in this place) to see Lazer/Wulf….METAL..and good at it….food (Pub burger and more great beer at Trappeze-as if you didn’t know THAT was on the itinerary-then back down the street for Lera Lynn at the 40 Watt Club…a hauntingly angelic voice, in a venue that lent a rock sharp edge to her usually more folksy, acoustic sound…just…wow! Seriously, I could feel my intestines vibrating.

1AM rolled up on us far faster than we wanted, but with day 2 still to go, we bid our friends farewell for the evening and got back home in the bed at a respectable hour to rest up a little…we knew we’d need it.

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Will You Fail to Have the BEST Career Possible?

Economist, Larry Smith, on why, almost invariably, you will fail….

UNLESS!

Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career

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