Speak to strangers

On Wednesday night I’m standing at baggage claim in Bradley International Airport, waiting for the luggage carousel to begin turning,. It’s 10:00 PM. We left our friend’s home on the west coast at 5:30 AM, so it’s been a long day. I’m mentally urging my bags to appear when Clara sees a girl about her age off to the right and asks if she can go over and chat.

My first thought:

That’s weird. While waiting for luggage at an airport, you’re going to strike up a conversation with a stranger?

But we allow it, of course. Clara walks over to the girl and says, “Hi, my name is Clara. What’s your name?”

I cringe. I also worry that my daughter will be rejected. Embarrassed. Saddened.

Oddly, the two girls begin a legitimate conversation,. talking about where they began their day, their hometown, the upcoming school year, and more. I still think it’s weird, but it seemed to work out. I breathe a sigh of relief.

After finally extracting our luggage from the carousel, we begin heading to the airport shuttle when a man appears in front of me and says, “I just wanted to commend you on the parenting job that you’re doing.”

“Thanks,” I say. I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I willingly accept all praise of every kind.

“The confidence that your daughter has,” the man says. “The way she introduced herself to my daughter. Her conversation skills. That’s not something that happens in the world today. It’s special.”

By now Elysha has pulled alongside me.

“Oh,” I say, realizing this is not a compliment for me. “Most of the credit goes to my wife,”

The man turns to Elysha, introduces himself, and repeats the compliment.

And it’s true. Most of the credit belongs to Elysha. Yes, I’m sure that I’ve helped to instill some of that confidence in my daughter, but that’s probably a 50/50 proposition at best. Just a few nights before, Clara and Charlie sat backstage, listening quietly, while I performed onstage to a sellout crowd in Seattle.

But in the middle of my performance, Elysha took the stage and played her ukulele and sang a song for just the second time ever in public.

Watching her parents do these things has probably helped Clara to become a more confident girl, but the ability to approach a stranger, extend a hand, and carry on a thoughtful conversation… that’s all Elysha. That is the result of Clara spending enormous amounts of time with Elysha in this world, watching her mother interact with all kinds of people in every possible scenario.

It’s not only confidence that Clara possesses. It’s social grace. It’s the difference between seeing an opportunity to engage in a conversation as potentially positive as opposed to thinking it weird.

And yes, the fact that Elysha was able to stay home with the kids for almost a decade probably helped this process, and for that, I can take a little credit. My endless procession of jobs helped to make that happen.

But more important, Clara needed a role model of social grace, and she had that in Elysha. All the jobs in the world can’t create a child who is confident enough to approach strangers and engage in conversation. As I told that man, most of the credit belongs to Elysha. Clara has watched Elysha engage with the world, and now she’s able to do the same..

The man said a few more kind things to both of us, shook our hands one more time, and returned to his family.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect vacation. It was one of those moments that I will never forget.

It was also a reminder of the power of the kindness of strangers. Clara wasn’t the only person engaging in conversation with strangers that night. That man, whose name I will never forget, took the time to chase us down and say something that caused our hearts to soar.

I know we teach our kids not to talk to strangers, and most of the time, that advice is sound. But when the moment is right and the space is safe, talking to strangers can be a beautiful thing.

I’m learning that from Elysha, too.

And Clara. I’m learning it from her, too.

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Since returning from the Pacific Northwest, I've noticed this.

Elysha, the kids, and I had the absolute pleasure of spending a week on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington with our friend, Plato. A perfect way to spend a week.

We miss it already.

Since returning from the Pacific Northwest a couple of days ago, a few things are immediately apparent to me:

  1. It’s really humid here. The air has a physical presence that I hadn’t really noticed before. I’ve been out west many times, but never to the Pacific Northwest. Even places in the midwest like Michigan, Kansas, Illinois, and Ohio are incredibly humid in the summer. But not Washington. I’d forgotten how oppressive the humidity can be here on a daily basis. It sucks.

  2. The crickets and peepers are incredibly loud when the sun goes down. Whidbey Island is surprisingly absent of both, making it so wondrously quiet at night.

  3. People drive aggressively here in the northeast, and particularly in Massachusetts. It’s dog-eat-dog on the roadways, and blessedly so. Pacific Northwest drivers are the worst. So polite and deferential and observant of speed limits.

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I am not experiencing enough stress (at least according to others)

Important (and astounding) information on aging from NumLock:

Telomeres are protective caps that prevent damage to DNA. They also shorten each time a cell replicates, and when they get too short cells know it’s time to wrap it up and self-destruct. This plays a role in the aging process, and every year telomeres shrink by about 25 base pairs per year. Turns out that stress can seriously accelerate this process: first-year medical residents saw a decline of 140 base pairs, on average. Those who worked over 75 hours per week lost 700 base pairs.

Less stress equates to a reduction in aging.

This is very good news for me, as I tend to experience very little stress in my life. Why I experience very little stress is a matter of conjecture.

I’m sure that my daily meditation and exercise regimes help.

Perhaps I’m also genetically predisposed to less stress.

Maybe my aggressively optimistic nature protects me from the stress I might otherwise feel.

I suspect that perspective plays a role, too. Once you’ve been arrested for a crime you didn’t commit and subsequently become homeless while awaiting your trial, the problems of everyday life often pale in comparison. Add a couple near-death experiences and a violent robbery that led to decades of PTSD, and it’s hard to fluster me.

Here’s one other thing that I know:

There are people in my life who are often annoyed and even angry at my lack of stress. These are actual human beings who have told me (and others behind my back) that my lack of stress is inappropriate, frustrating, and ridiculous.

People have actually complained to me and others that I’m not experiencing enough stress.

I suspect that those people are aging rapidly.

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My little girl is a storyteller

My family and I have been in Seattle for five days now, and it’s been quite the whirlwind.

In addition to playing golf, walking beaches, eating delicious food, and visiting with friends and family, I have also been doing a bit of work.

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of visiting with a book club of about 17 ladies who had read a variety of my novels and nonfiction. The conversation was great, the questions were insightful, and I was once again renewed by the joy of spending time with serous readers.

On Friday night my friend, Plato, his daughter and my former student, and I attended a Moth StorySLAM in Seattle. It was just as fun and exciting as any StorySLAM in New York or Boston. Plato and I had the good luck to take the stage and tell a story - back to back - and I won the slam and Plato placed a close second.

Not the first time we have taken the top two spots at a StorySLAM.

On Saturday, I taught a storytelling workshop at the Taproot Theater in Seattle. Three dozen present and future storytellers gathered to learn some of the strategies and techniques that I have used for finding, crafting, and telling stories. It was thrilling to find such a vibrant and close knit storytelling community here in Seattle.

On Saturday night, I performed my solo show for a sold out audience in the same theater. I told five stories - all but one brand new and including a story that I had begun crafting during the workshop earlier that day. After each story, I offered some insight about the finding and crafting of the story in hopes that the audience would walk away with some strategies that they could use when telling stories.

It was a blast.

Just before intermission, Elysha also played her ukulele and sang in public for just the second time ever, and for the second time, she upstaged anything I did that night. She was sweet and charming, and she sounded beautiful.

And the kids sat backstage in the green room throughout the show, listening to the stories while pecking away on devices to keep them occupied. Just before Elysha played, they joined the audience to watch their mother do something hard and beautiful.

On Sunday morning, we traveled to Tacoma to attend a storytelling brunch called Homegrown Stories. Hosted by a storyteller named John and my agent, Taryn, folks enjoyed delicious food as names were drawn from a bowl and stories were told. I met a number of storytellers who I’ve only had the pleasure of knowing via our podcast and email, and I met some new folks, too. Clara and Charlie joined us, sitting at our feet and listening attentively. We heard stories about the challenges of running for office, hiring a professional cuddler, transitioning from female to male, and finding your husband back in middle school while writing a story together about monkey guts.

One storyteller had even told a story that used something I had done the day before in my workshop as the jumping off point.

But the moment I will never forget was when Clara took the stage before 30 or so adults and told her very first public story. She poke about being excluded from a game at summer camp, and though I am admittedly biased, her story was incredible. It was vulnerable and raw. It contained humor and suspense. She handled dialogue brilliantly. I had the good fortune of standing in the back of the room while she was telling, and I listened as the audience laughed, held their breath, sighed, and groaned at all the right moments.

Best of all, she stuck the landing. Her final sentences were perfection.

I hadn’t even known that she wanted to tell a story. I wasn’t sure how she would do. I worried that she might collapse in a bundle of anxiety and nerves.

Instead, she told a four minute story that was artfully crafted and expertly told.

I’ll never forget it.

This has been a glorious week, thanks in large part to our friends who have been kind enough to host us in their beautiful home and show us the town. But it’s also been a week filled with talk of books and stories, which has also been lovely.

But that moment when Clara stood before that audience and shared a story… that is what I will remember most.

I don't return stuff

I can count the number of things that I have purchased and then later returned in my entire life on two hands.

Maybe one hand.

I know that this makes me different from most people, but especially the Germans, who like to order stuff online and then return it at a rate unmatched by other Europeans. In 2018, a whopping 53 percent of German online shoppers returned an item.

This beat out the Dutch (52 percent), French (45 percent), Spanish and Italians (43 percent) and the British (40 percent).

Even those numbers seem enormous to me.

Here in my country, about 40 percent of Americans returned an online purchase last year. More than 8 percent of all purchases made online in America were returned. That is a lot of returned merchandise, and it doesn’t even begin to include the purchases made at brick and mortar stores.

28% of all Christmas gifts in America are returned.

I can’t say that these numbers surprise me because I’ve personally witnessed the plague of the returned item. I’ve seen and known people who seem to return half of everything they ever purchase.

I find all of this a little crazy.

I can count the number of items that I have returned in my life on one or two hands for a few reasons:

  1. I’m not terribly discerning. I have no attention for detail, so I often overlook flaws that others will see.

  2. When it comes to clothing, there is very little variance in my wardrobe or size. I wear the same things, so when it comes time to replace clothing items, I simply purchase the same things again. My waistline may be 34 or 36 inches depending on the number of cheeseburgers I’ve eaten in a given month and I might need the extra large version of certain tee shirts because of my large neck, but that’s about all the variance I need to worry about.

  3. I don’t concern myself with aesthetic imperfection. We purchased an outdoor grill, for example, which has a dent in it. We’re not returning the grill because it’s large and unwieldy but also because I don’t care if it has a dent. Years ago, when my brand new car was dented on day three by a child’s bike, I didn’t care because I knew the car would be dented eventually and a crease in the fender didn’t matter to me.

  4. I always factor in the element of time when deciding if something should be returned. If I purchase a $10 item online and am dissatisfied, how long will it take me to return that item? Will I need to package it? Label it? Drive to the post office? Wait in line? It might be better in terms of time and material costs to simply trow the item away or give it away rather than return it.

Money is valuable, and $10 is not nothing, but time is our most precious commodity. That fact is always in the forefront of my mind.

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"They call me Matt" is apparently no good

At the very end of the song, “Light My Candle” from the Broadway musical Rent, Mimi and Roger exchange names.

Roger sings, “I’m Roger.”

Mimi responds, “They call me Mimi.”

Driving in the car, listening to the song the other day, I turn to Elysha and say, “I’ve always wanted to introduce myself to people like that. You know… ‘They call me Matt.’ What do you think?”

“No,” she said, flatly, immediately, and without an ounce of uncertainty.

I really like the idea, but I’ve learned that when Elysha is absolute in her opinion, she’s usually right.

Also, I had apparently brought up this idea in the past and received a similar response. More than once. Apparently I’m hoping for a change of heart that isn’t coming.

She’s probably right.

Still…

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I am not a monster

Over the weekend, friends and I were discussing a recent revelation on social media:

There are couples in this world who do sleep on the same side of the bed every night.

When someone on Twitter revealed this last week - obviously a monster - Twitter went crazy. People couldn’t imagine choosing random sides of the bed each night.

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Some of their responses included:

“I know what all these words mean but can’t make sense out of how you put them together.”

“I just want to add my voice here by saying yes, this is weird, but I’m happy you weirdos found each other.”

“So you have to keep moving your pillows back and forth? Exhausting.”

“I plan on marching on London to end this nonsense.”

“I thought I was a tolerant and progressive sort. But you have found my limit. A stone throwing mob needs to run you and Amy far beyond the city walls before you spread this contagion.”

But for every thousand or so people who declared their allegiance to their side of the bed, there was the occasional person saying, “Yes, my husband and I also don’t have predetermined sides of the bed.”

The world is apparently filled with monsters.

While discussing this insanity, one of my friends said, “What about all the stuff you keep on your side of the bed? Doesn’t that alone force you to choose sides.”

“I don’t have anything on my side of the bed,” I said.

“Nothing?” she said.

“Nope.”

“You don’t have a single thing on your side of the bed?” another friend said. “A book? A glass of water? A phone charger?”

“Nothing,” I repeated.

“Not one single thing? C’mon.”

“It’s true,” Elysha confirmed. “He has nothing on his side of the bed. It’s weird.”

My friend concurred. They concurred far too vehemently for me.

Suddenly I understood how Steve O’Rourke must’ve felt.

For the record, it’s not weird. What the hell do I need on my side of the bed? I climb into bed every night - on my predetermined side - and fall asleep almost immediately. Then sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 AM, I awaken, often without an alarm, and I immediately climb out of bed.

What could I possibly need while I’m in bed?

I know. I probably sound like Steve O’Rourke now, except I bet that lots of people don’t keep anything on the side of their bed.

Right?

Bizarre coincidences are not so bizarre when it comes to storytelling

This past weekend, one of my stories was rerun on The Moth Radio Hour.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have eight stories appear on their show, and after every one, I am flooded by emails, tweets, and Facebook messages from listeners expressing words of appreciation.

Storytelling audiences are the best.

The story featured this week was about my father, my stepfather, and my time spent growing up in Blackstone, Massachusetts.

Yesterday, I exchanged emails with a listener who had an odd connection to me.

Like me, the listener grew up in Blackstone, MA, and was a friend of my late Uncle Harold. The two graduated together from the “old high school” on Main Street in 1967. That high school eventually became my middle school, and today it’s the site of the public library, where my high school friend now works.

Back in 1967, Blackstone was a tiny town where everyone was seemingly related, and she knew “everyone who lived on Federal Street,” which is where I grew up, too.

Later in life, the listener became the assistant manager of a group home in North Smithfield, Rhode Island. Her manager was my former step father, whom she and most of the staff reportedly (and rightfully) despised.

In addition to working for my former step father, she also went to elementary school with him at St. Charles Elementary School in the neighboring town of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

My step father’s father was actually her family doctor when she was a small child.

Did you follow all that?

I told a story about growing up in Blackstone, Massachusetts with my father and then my step father.

Then a woman living on the other side of the country heard that story on the radio and just happened to know my step father (as both a child and adult), his father, my uncle, and everyone else living on the street where my father and I grew up, including, presumably, my father.

“Small world,” she wrote to me.

“No kidding!” I thought.

But this is not uncommon. When you tell stories to hundreds and sometimes thousands of people at a time, remarkable connections and ridiculous coincidences are uncovered.

I once told a story to a group of healthcare administrators about nearly dying in a snowstorm while driving my mother’s Datsun B210 on December 23, 1989. When I returned to my seat, one of the administrators sitting at my table (the organization’s President) told me (in stunned disbelief) that he was also in a serious car accident during that very same storm while also driving a Datsun.

I once told a story at a Moth GrandSLAM in Brooklyn about an encounter with my elementary school principal when I was in third grade. Someone in the audience knew my former principal (who I had assumed was dead) and reconnected us. We’ve since exchanged many emails. It turns out that a new middle school was built on Federal Street, about half a mile from my childhood home, and it was named after him. Miraculously, he remembered me, my siblings, and also my father and his siblings.

These are just two of many bizarre coincidences and connections that I have experienced after telling a story. Happily,. the world is far more connected than we could ever have imagined. We just don’t see those connections unless we happen to be a storyteller with large audiences of generous listeners who are willing to reach out and make that connection clear.

As I said, storytelling audiences are the best.

I have no idea where my children get these ideas

During our visit to Massachusetts earlier this week, we stopped by John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Blackstone, which I attended in grades K-3. Our kids played on the same playground that I played as a kindergartener. We peaked into my old kindergarten classroom, played on some playground equipment that I played on as a little boy, and stretched our legs after a lot of driving.

At one point, the kids asked me to play “Police Officers.”

I agreed.

It was quickly determined that I was to be the police chief, doomed to a life spent sitting in his office at the top of the slide. Charlie would be my one and only police officer, to whom I would bark commands and await his return. Clara would be a variety of private citizens, bringing problems to me that Charlie would ultimately solve.

Bank robberies? Speeding cars? Cats caught in trees? I wondered what kind of problems Clara would bring to me. I wondered how Charlie might solve them.

I wonder if this was the kind of thing I played on this playground so long ago.

Clara soon arrived with her first complaint:

The school closest to her home was not allowing certain students to attend because of their disabilities. “I need you to integrate the school so all children can learn,” she said. “Okay?”

School integration. This was the problem that Clara brought to me.

Charlie immediately offered a solution:

“I think I need to replace that principal,” he said. “It sounds like he’s too mean. And he’s definitely the problem because he’s in charge. I’ll go find a better principal and fire the other one.”

Did you catch that?

Charlie’s solution to the problem amounted to a visit with Human Resources. No gun battle. No arrests. No suggestion of handcuffs or jail cells. Just a simple removal and replacement of the person responsible for the problem.

I couldn’t decide if my children were exceedingly brilliant or astoundingly boring.

Either way, I’m fairly certain that as a boy, I did none of these things while playing on this playground.

It's gone, and I couldn't be happier.

Elysha, the kids, and I went on a nostalgic road trip to Massachusetts yesterday to visit many of the places where I grew up. This was partly to show my family the places that they have only heard about in stories, but it was also to help inform a memoir that I have been writing about the years between 1989 and 1993, which contain some of the hardest, best, most eventful moments of my life.

One of our planned stops was the city of Brockton, where I once managed two separate McDonald’s restaurants in 1990 and 1992. Both were extremely important to my life. I met (and hired) the people who would ultimately rescue me from the streets when I was homeless in one of those restaurants, and the other was the location of an armed robbery in 1992 that left me with a lifetime case of post traumatic stress disorder.

I told the story of that robbery at a Moth Mainstage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music back in 2016.

Though excellent therapy has mitigated and even eliminated many of the symptoms of my PTSD, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I think about that robbery multiple times per day, every day of my life. The experience of having a gun pressed against my head and the trigger pulled has changed me in many ways - some good and some bad - but the moment has always loomed over my life.

Oddly, this made the visit to my old restaurant stressful for me. Even a little frightening, though I know that makes no sense. Nearly three decades stand between that moment in 1992 and today, and yet, as I exited off the highway and drove into Brockton, I could feel my muscles tense.

At one point, I looked down to check the seat heater, assuming it had been accidentally turned on. I was sweating despite the AC running in the car.

Then something unexpected happened:

I couldn’t find the restaurant. I drove to the location that I have visited so many times in my dreams, and it wasn’t there. None of it. No restaurant. No gas station behind the restaurant. No triangular parking lot on the corner. Nothing.

We drove a little further - just a few hundred feet - and then I spotted a McDonald’s. A McDonald’s that looked nothing like the one where I had once worked. In the wrong place.

“Maybe I’m confused,” I thought. “Maybe I’m misremembering its location. Maybe they remodeled.”

We went inside, and I asked the manager about my old store.

“They demolished that store more than ten years ago,” he said. “It was down the road a bit, I think. Before my time. This store is pretty new. They wanted to move it closer to the high school. Get the kids as they leave school each day.”

I couldn’t believe it. The restaurant that had occupied so much of my mind for 27 years was gone. The front windows that the men broke with rocks to come inside. The counter that they leapt over. The walk-in cooler where the Haitian brothers hid during the robbery. The safe that I could not open. The greasy, red tile floor where I lay with a gun to my head.

All gone.

I know this is crazy, but my first, instantaneous thought was of a moment in the 1994 film Forrest Gump when Jenny stands before her abandoned childhood home - the home where her father had once abused her as a little girl - throwing rocks at it until she can’t throw anymore.

Forrest watches this happen and says, “Sometimes I guess there are just not enough rocks.”

When Jenny dies, Forrest has the home bulldozed to the ground.

All of that filled my mind. The house. The rocks. The bulldozer. In an instant.

Crazy. Right? I haven’t seen that movie in 15 years. Maybe more. I asked Elysha if she remembered the scene, which takes place over the course of less than 30 seconds of a 2 hour and 22 minute film. She did not.

I hadn’t thought about the scene in more than a decade. Probably two. Yet it came to me with perfect clarity.

It took me a moment to be sure that I was happy that the McDonald’s was gone. A piece of my personal history had been destroyed. Reduced to rubble and carted away. A place that I can see so clearly in my mind’s eye is no more, and I wondered if that might upset me. If it was somehow wrong.

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But it didn’t upset me one bit. In fact, I was happy. I got back into the car and told Elysha that it was good that the store is gone. It was good that those greasy, red tiles have been broken and pulverized and taken away.

I only wish that I could’ve seen it happen.

I’m certainly not cured of my PTSD just because that place is gone forever. I still expect to have nightmares from time to time, and I suspect that I will think about the robbery every day until the day I die. But knowing it’s gone is a good thing. The world seems a little less dark today. Like some shadowy corner of the universe has been wiped away.

It’s crazy. It’s just a place. A stupid restaurant that sells hamburgers. Yet there was a reason why I had not returned to Brockton for more than 25 years. Why I did not return alone. It was like that town was haunted for me. Now a little less so. Maybe a lot so.

We had a great day visiting the places where I grew up. Blackstone. Milford. Attleboro. Brockton. I had some other interesting experiences that I’m sure I will share. I remembered a bunch of stories that I will someday tell.

But driving to Brockton to find a McDonald’s where I once worked and then discovering that it is no more… that made the entire day more than worth it.

It made it a day I will never forget.

Toni Morrison helped me feel like I belonged.

As you probably know, Toni Morrison died this week. The world lost a literary giant.

I read every one of Morrison’s novels - mostly in college - and they frightened the hell out of me. I remember finishing The Bluest Eye and thinking, “Damn I’m never going to be able to write a novel if this is what novels need to be!”

Happily, it turns out that you don’t need to be as talented as Toni Morrison to have a publishing career.

Toni Morrison was also at the center of one of my most memorable academic achievements in college, including a question I have wanted to ask her for 25 years.

Now I won’t get the chance.

It was my second year at Trinity College, taking a class centering on literature by Toni Morrison and Nadine Gordimer. Over the course of the semester, I read every book that Morrison had published. Though it made for an intense reading list, I was enjoying the work a great deal.

We had just finished reading Morrison’s Beloved and were discussing it in class. As the hour was drawing to a close, questions about the ending of the book eventually arose. Specifically, the professor wanted to address the way in which the ghost of Beloved inexplicably explodes near the end of the novel.  She explained that she had never understood Morrison's decision in this regard and hoped to one day meet the author and ask her about that ending scene.

The exploding ghost had seemed a little odd to me as well, and my classmates agreed. We ended class on that note, leaving the issue unresolved.

Fifteen minutes after class, with the idea still rolling around in my head, I had an epiphany.  I was eating a cheeseburger in the cafeteria when an idea struck.  In an instant, I thought that I understood Morrison’s decision completely.

The next day I came to class and raised my hand.

“I think I know why Beloved explodes at the end of the book,” I said.

Okay,” the professor said, sounding dubious.  Why?”

“Think about Langston Hughes’ poem A Dream Deferred,” I said and then recited the poem:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore-- And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over-- like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

“Beloved represents a dream deferred.  A murdered baby who never became the child that her mother wanted. Morrison is eluding to what might happen when a a dream like this is deferred.  Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?  No, says Morrison.  It explodes.”

There was a silence in the class for a moment, and then the professor’s eyes widened. She smiled and said, “I think you got it. My God, I think you got it.”

Sadly, I’ll never know.

Whether or not I am actually correct is this assumption, it was a wonderful moment for me. I was six years older than any of my classmates and managing a McDonald’s restaurant full time while also attending Trinity College full time.

Even in year two of my Trinity career, I still didn’t feel like I belonged. It was ridiculous, of course. I graduated in the top 10 of my class in terms of GPA and was doing just fine in every one of my classes, but when you’re in the midst of people who are so unlike you, it’s easy to feel like an imposter.

A moment like this made me think that maybe I could do this work after all. Maybe I really did belong.

And it made up for all those moments in Feminist Literary Criticism when my four other classmates, all female, were talking about Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse in lofty, literary terms and I was still unable to understand a single word of the damn book.

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You don't know people

We live in bubbles, Sometimes we create them ourselves. Sometimes they are dictated by geography, profession, and other mitigating factors.

Sometimes you’re not quite sure how your bubble even formed. For example, I don’t have any friends (or spouses of friends) who smoke, yet 14 percent of Americans smoke. This means that I have unknowingly excluded myself from 14 percent of America.

Granted I can’t stand cigarette smoke, so I’m content to occupy this bubble, but it’s not as if I purposely jettisoned anyone out of my life for smoking. Perhaps because of my profession and my geography, I have somehow managed to exclude smokers from my bubble.

But I think it’s important to remember that we live in these bubbles, and in doing so, we oftentimes fail to understand people occupying different bubbles.

When I was a student at Trinity College and St. Joseph’s University, for example, I was attending the most expensive and sixth most expensive schools in Connecticut at the time.

But I was also on a full academic scholarship, so I wasn’t paying any tuition. While most of the students around me come from affluent families, I did not.

St. Joseph’s University was also an all-women’s school at the time, and I was (and continue to be) a man, so my presence at St. Joseph’s was also unusual.

Also, prior to attending these schools, I had been homeless and awaiting trial for a crime I did not commit.

So although I didn’t really belong in any of these bubbles, I found myself existing within them nonetheless. One was almost exclusively white and wealthy, and the other was almost exclusively white and female.

But at the same time, I was managing a McDonald’s restaurant in Hartford. This created quite a contrast for me.

While working at McDonald’s, I was almost always the only white person working in the restaurant at any given time. Most of my employees were immigrants - primarily Mexican, Chinese, Peruvian, and Dominican. Many were poor and struggling to make ends meet. Most did not own a car, so I would drive throughout the neighborhood at 4:30 AM, picking up my morning crew and bringing them to and from work. I helped many of them with tasks like filing their taxes, reviewing school forms, making doctor’s appointments, and helping them find second and third jobs.

It was a period of my life when on any given day, I could be sitting alongside wealthy, white English majors in the morning, affluent young women in the afternoon, and then I might spend my evening flipping burgers with non-English speaking immigrant mothers from South America and the Caribbean.

It reminded me - so very clearly - that people living in relative proximity to each other can exist within vastly different bubbles. It also reminded me that when it comes to bubbles, the people occupying the most privileged bubbles are most likely to not understand the bubbles that other people occupy or not realize that they even exist.

But they do.

For example, here are a few statistics that might surprise you depending on the bubbles in which you live:

  • 11% of American adults do not use the internet.

  • 65% of high school graduates attend college following graduation and only a third of Americans hold a four year college degree.

  • Less than half of all American children attend preschool.

  • 37% of adult Americans don’t drink alcohol.

  • 27% of Americans work between 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM at least once a week.

  • 3% of Americans are adopted.

  • 36% of Americans don’t drink coffee.

Some of these statistics probably surprised you. Some surprised me. But they served as excellent reminder that as commonplace as certain things may seem to me, they are likely to be far less common than I think.

And maybe you think.

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That’s a lot of TV

In 2018, the average American spent 15 minutes per day reading for pleasure.

As an author, I’m appalled. I think.

If you read 15 minutes per day, that means you read 5,475 minutes per year. If you’re spending this time reading books, and it takes you about 10 hours to read your average book, that means the average American is reading about 9 books per year.

This isn’t great, but it’s also not terrible. It’s actually more than I would’ve guessed. Not high enough, to be sure, but it’s something.

I’ve published five books so far (with a sixth on the way in November), so it’s especially not terrible if five of those nine books are mine.

Meanwhile, the amount of time spent watching television was 2 hours and 50 minutes per day.

This number is horrific. This means that 45 days - 12% of the year - are being spent watching television by the average American. If you consider just the average number of waking hours per day, the number rises to almost 20% of the time. If you consider the average number of leisure hours per day, that number rises to an astonishing 56%.

More than half of leisure time in America is spent in front of the television.

But even that number seems relatively small compared to men over age 65. That particular group spends just over 5 hours of television per day in 2018.

Admittedly many of these men are retired and have more leisure time, but damn… retirement sucks.

Here’s the only positive spin I can find on these unfortunate numbers:

It doesn’t take much effort to use your time more wisely than the average American. When the average American is spending enormous amounts of time sitting on their couch, watching a screen, you can just get off the couch, go for a walk, and already be living a better life.

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I picked up a hitchhiker. Not everyone is happy.

I picked up a hitchhiker on the way to Boston yesterday.

While pulling out of the Charlton Plaza rest area on the Mass Pike, I saw a woman standing in the grass just before the rest area’s onramp to the highway with her thumb extended. She looked like she was in her early thirties. Smiling. A small backpack affixed to her back. Dreadlocks.

She looked a lot like she might be hitching her way to a Grateful Dead concert.

I’ve picked up hitchhikers before, but not in at least 20 years, partly because hitchhikers are far less common on the roads today and also because I tend to also be on a schedule. In a rush. Trying to get somewhere on time.

I’ve picked up a bunch of people in more recent years who were caught walking in a rainstorm or snowstorm, but these were people surprised by weather. Not actively trying to get somewhere with their thumb.

But my gut said that there was nothing to fear from this woman. It was broad daylight on a busy interstate, and she was young, smiling, and seemed to have someplace to go. Like me, she had a destination somewhere to the east.

So I pulled over and offered her a ride. She accepted. Her name was Sophie. She was from Utica, New York, making her way to Portsmouth, NH to surprise her mom with an unplanned visit. She was a perfectly lovely person, and for the 50 miles that we shared the road together before I dropped her off at the rest area in Natick, MA, we talked about our lives, our families, our careers, and our hometowns.

At one point, early on in our ride, I asked her if she worried about getting picked up by a crazy person. “There are buses,” I told her. “You could probably just take a bus to Portsmouth.”

She told me that she liked hitchhiking. It was full of adventure and surprise. She liked meeting new people. She also told me that she almost never accepts rides from men and that far more women offer her rides.

“Three out of four people who offer me rides are women,” she told me.

“Then why’d you say yes to me?” I asked.

“You looked nervous,” she said. “Like you were more afraid of me than I was of you. And you have a car seat and books in the backseat, so I knew you have kids. People with kids aren’t axe murderers.”

I learned a lot about Sophie, and while the 50 mile trip wasn’t exactly an adventure for me, it was something different. I met another human being, spent about an hour with her, and then I said goodbye.

I called Elysha to tell her about my decision to pick up a hitchhiker, thinking she would find this cool.

She did not.

On Facebook, she posted:

“Matthew Dicks just informed me that on his way to Boston this evening he picked up a hitchhiker. She didn’t murder him, which is fortunate for me, because when he gets home I am going to.”

I understand. I really do. I’m not sure if I would want her picking up a hitchhiker, but I still didn’t think what I had done was wrong.

The vast majority of comments on Facebook sided with Elysha, though a few agreed with my decision. One commenter wrote:

“The last time I picked up a hitchhiker was when I was in college. Cute guy hitched at the same entrance ramp from UConn Storrs every Thursday and I picked him up a few times. Never amounted to more than a few rides to Manchester. I have given rides to people I didn’t know when it looked like they needed one. Live without fear. Tell the kids too. There are many more trustworthy people than not.”

I liked this comment a lot. And there is statistical evidence to support this claim.

This Vox piece entitled The forgotten art of hitchhiking — and why it disappeared explains that our fear of hitchhiking was not formed from the murders of young women at the hands of hitchhikers but from a few specific sources:

  1. As cars became easier and cheaper to own, the perception of hitchhikers shifted from perfectly normal people in need of a ride to people who were probably problematic because they didn’t own cars.

  2. Starting in the 1960s and '70s, some of the first laws against hitching were passed, and local and federal law enforcement agencies began using scare tactics to get both drivers and hitchhikers to stop doing it, including campaigns describing hitchhikers as murderers and rapists even though crime statistics do not support this claim. Hitchhikers aren’t any more dangerous than anyone else in this world when it comes to criminal behavior. In fact, you are far more likely to be raped or murdered by a friend, family member, or coworker than a stranger.

  3. Movies featuring murderous hitchhikers lodged themselves in the American psyche in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

  4. The fear of strangers has dramatically increased in the last 20 years even though crime has continued to plummet for those same 20 years.

I also think that mass media plays a huge role. When I was growing up, the Blackstone Valley sniper (which turned out to be two men) fired rifles into the homes of unsuspecting victims for a period of almost two months. Four people were injured, two seriously, in the series of at least 11 nighttime sniper incidents around the 1986 Christmas holidays in Cumberland and North Smithfield, RI and Bellingham, MA.

All towns surrounding my hometown of Blackstone. The shootings stopped after Gov. Edward DiPrete called out the National Guard to patrol the North Smithfield-Cumberland area.

Think about that:

The National Guard was patrolling the streets of American towns because an unknown assailant was shooting at people as they passed in from of their windows at night, but I’ll bet you never heard of it.

Why?

News was local. The crimes were plastered across the front page of every newspaper in the area where the shootings were taking place. My mother had us crawling through the living room at night lest we get shot. People were genuinely terrorized. The judge who sentenced the two men to 95 and 115 years in prison respectively said the crimes were “nothing short of a reign of terror perpetrated by two men for some perverse sense of release.”

But it never received a mention on the national news.

Conversely, when two men were firing a rife at motorists in the Washington, DC area a few years ago, the entire country knew about the crimes. We heard about each and every incident.

Even though the world gets safer every day, we think it’s getting more and more dangerous.

I like to think that my decision to pick up Sophie was a rejection of that belief. It was an acknowledgement that the vast majority of people are good. It was an affirmation that when the time and conditions are right - a young woman hitchhiking on the side of a busy interstate in broad daylight - we can lend a hand to a stranger.

People are generally good and kind and safe.

Yes, a considerable minority of Americans may inexplicably be supporting a racist, ignorant, corrupt President who brags about serial sexual assault and is running a short-sighted, chaotic administration designed for personal profiteering, but that doesn’t make them dangerous people.

Just bad decision makers. Partisan voters. Tribal. Self-serving.

If Elysha doesn’t want me picking up hitchhikers in the future, I will probably honor her request. She’s my wife, and she has that right.

But if she ever tells me that she picked up a young woman named Sophie while heading east on the Mass Pike and spent an hour getting to know her, I don’t think I’d mind one bit.

The world is safer than we think. Strangers are better than we think.

In the world of one Facebook commenter, “Live without fear.”

Within reason, of course.

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Someone doesn't like how happy I am.

I learned this week that someone doesn’t like how happy I am. This person actually complains about my general level of joy, my persistent optimism, and my tendency to believe that all will turn out well.

All of these things are true, of course. I’m a happy, optimistic person who tends to believe that there is more good than bad in this world. More right than wrong.

I love my life. It’s not without problems, of course, and I’ve most definitely had my share of struggle, but when I think about where I once was and where I am now, how could I not be thrilled with my existence?

But now that I know that someone is actually unhappy - even angry - with my level of happiness…

I’m even happier.

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Disney World Shouts and Murmurs

According to our phones, we walked a total of 61 miles in 7 days, though I almost never had my phone on my person for the half-day we spent at Blizzard Beach. This is astounding given the fact that our children walked every one of these miles, too, almost without complained.

The Disney World fireworks show stands alongside Hamilton and the original cast of Rent as one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Elysha and I were brought to tears while watching it.

Less than five minutes after arriving in the Magic Kingdom on the first day, a parade appeared in the middle of Main Street, complete with floats, dancers, and all the Disney characters. It was a joyous celebration and a perfect start to our Disney vacation. Later, as we approached Cinderella’s castle for the first time, a live show hosted by Mickey and Minnie erupted at the front gates, almost on cue. The Magic Kingdom’s timing - at least for us - was magical.

On the first night, Elysha decided to sleep on my side of the bed. As a result, she spent much of the night violently shoving me and elbowing me in her sleep, which made me feel less-than-wanted. We switched back the next night.

Two women were sitting together in the hotel pool, clearly a couple. At one point, they kissed - not gratuitously - but still earned the visible scorn of several people nearby. Damn I hate bigots.

Thanks to Laura, our remarkable trip planner, we waited in almost no lines during our entire stay at Disney. Well-planned FastPasses, secured weeks before the trip, combined with some clever managing of the FastPasses during the day, kept every wait except one under 15 minutes. I saw people waiting in line for three hours in the Florida heat to ride a very good roller coaster, but also just a damn roller coaster. People simply don’t understand the value and finite nature of time.

One of my favorite parts of our Disney vacation was walking though the FastPass lanes, passing hundred of sad souls who were waiting hours for a ride that I would be enjoying in moments. This makes me sound a little terrible, I know, but it has more to do with my extreme fondness of efficiency than the happiness I admittedly felt in knowing that forethought and planning had made my Disney experience better than theirs.

Elysha spent 20 minutes talking to a guy at the Moroccan pavilion oin Epcot about the meaning of a single word. I can’t believe the kids ands I didn’t kill her.

During Charlie’s battle with Kylo Ren as a part of his Jedi training, the Jedi Master said, “You must concentrate as a Jedi. It is critical to your success.” Clara leaned over and deadpanned, “I can’t be a Jedi. I have a hard time concentrating.”

Disney sound designers are astounding. Music shifts from location to location seamlessly. They have inexplicable ways of fading away music in one area using architectural features and brilliant soundscapes and bringing in new music by making you think it was always there.

We skipped the Hall of Presidents after hearing our friend, Mike Pesca, on The Gist talk about the round of applause that Trump received when his animatronic robot spoke. Elysha and I agreed that we simply couldn’t risk witnessing that during our otherwise delightful vacation.

Elysha was bitten on her belly by an angry, evil Floridian insect. When she went to the hotel management to ask if they recognized the bites, the hotel staff went into emergency bug mode. Paramedics were called to examine the bites, a hospital trip was offered, and an expert on insect identification came to our room at 11:30 PM to disassembled our beds down to the frame to ensure that the bites weren’t caused by bed bugs. The bites were awful, but to Elysha’s everlasting credit, she did not allow them to slow her down or ruin her trip.

I sent Charlie through airport security with a backpack containing a full bottle of Powerade and a carton of milk. He was not pleased with me when security stopped and questioned him.

Charlie made a friend from Tallahassee named Bobby who he played with for three straight evenings at the pool. On the last night, a thunderstorm cut our pool time short. As we walked back to our rooms with Bobby in tow, Charlie said, “I don’t think I’ll ever see you again, Bobby.” Bobby tried to imply that maybe they could reconnect if we visit again in a couple years since his family visits Disney regularly, but Charlie repeated, several times, “No, I don’t think I’ll ever see you again, Bobby.” I felt so sad for my little boy who had made such a good friend, but I felt worse for Bobby, who soul was crushed again and again by Charlie’s tragic repetition.

We met several great couples while visiting Disney, oftentimes on bus rides to and from the parks, and including two couples from Connecticut and one from Milford, MA, which is a town I spent a lot of time as a teenager. I got the sense that these were adults craving adult interaction after days of inescapable contact with their kids. I enjoyed talking to these folks, but I also couldn’t stop wondering if any of them - especially those from particularly red states - were Trump supporters. In the past, political differences would’ve meant little to me, but if you’re a Trump supporter today, you support a racist, sexist, bigot who brags about serial sexual assault, stole millions of dollars from the American people via a fake university, lies with impunity, defends Nazis, and attacks our intelligence agencies and longtime allies while simultaneously befriending mass murdering dictators who offer him nothing in return for his validation on the world stage. It’s different today. It’s not about politics. It’s basic human decency. I hated that this bit of curiosity lingered in the back of my mind so often during the trip.

Happily, those negative jackasses who warned me about the struggles and pain of spending a week at Disney with your kids were wrong. Not surprising, of course. If you’re the kind of person who would tell a parent on the cusp of his first Disney vacation with his kids that it won’t be fun, you’re the kind of person who probably doesn’t have a lot of fun in general. We had a fabulous time with nary a complaint from adult or child. It was a vacation to remember forever, and any negativity projected upon me before leaving only confirmed in my mind that I am a better human being than those people, thus making my trip even more enjoyable.

When Harry Met Sally, and When Matt Met Elysha

Yesterday, July 14, was the ten year anniversary of my publishing career, but today, July 15, is an even more important anniversary.

Today Elysha and I celebrate our thirteenth year of marriage.

I was recently listening to The Rewatchables, a podcast about films that people love to watch again and again. They were discussing When Harry Met Sally and debating how realistic it would be for Harry and Sally to end up together at the conclusion of the film. Both women on the podcast argued that although it’s the happier, more satisfying ending. these things don’t happen in real life.

Friends like Harry and Sally never marry. Improbable relationships never end up happily ever after.

I was debating the truth behind these jaded statements when it occurred to me that Elysha and my marriage was just as improbable as Harry and Sally’s marriage.

When I met Elysha in the waning days of summer of 2002, I was married to another woman and Elysha was engaged and just a few months away from being married to another man. Yes, my marriage wasn’t ideal, and yes, Elysha was beginning to have doubts about her engagement, but still, we were both committed to other people in long term, serious relationships.

Elysha and I first laid eyes on each other on a late August day during the first faculty meeting of the school year.

I remember thinking that Elysha was beautiful, young, and impossibly cool. The kind of girl who would never even look in my direction.

She remembers thinking of me as one of the cool kids, laughing and joking my way through that first meeting with my faculty friends.

We started out as colleagues, a single classroom separating our two classrooms. Our first real conversation took place during a hike with students around the lake at Camp Jewell in Colebrook, CT. Elysha was telling me about her upcoming wedding, and as a wedding DJ about five years at the time, I offered her advice on her upcoming wedding and told her about my own wedding.

An improbable movie moment if ever there was.

Eventually Elysha and I began friendly. She asked me to do her taxes. I dropped her off at the garage to pick up her car. She and I took students to lunch at The Rainforest Cafe at the end of the school year as part of a school fair raffle prize.

We were friendly, but after that meal, we said goodbye for the summer, never speaking until the beginning of the next school year.

We were friendly, but we certainly weren’t friends.

Elysha called off her engagement about two months before the wedding, and around that same time, I separated from my wife. Even then, we didn’t get together. After picking ourselves off the ground, we eventually began dating other people. Elysha was set up by a colleague and started an almost year-long relationship with another man. I dated a few people, including our school psychologist.

Our friendship, like Harry and Sally’s, deepened during that time, but still, there was no romance. We were simply good friends dating other people.

About a year later, as our relationships with those other people began to wane, we turned toward each other. In truth, I had noticed Elysha right from the start but had always assumed tat she was too beautiful and - more importantly - too cool to ever be interested in me. The fact that she was my friend was thrilling enough.

But as out late night phone calls grew longer and longer and we shared more and more of our lives with each other, I started to wonder if it was possible that Elysha Green could actually like me.

Like like me.

Elysha made the first move during a hike on Mount Carmel in Sleeping Giant State Forest. On the way down the mountain, she reached out and held my hand.

I couldn’t believe it.

Later that night, in the parking lot of our school, she told me that she liked me, and my response - chronicled recently on this blog - was, “I’m flattered.”

Don’t ask me why. I’m stupid sometimes.

Five minutes after she drove off, I replayed the conversation in my head and realized how stupid I had been.

“I’m flattered?” What was I thinking? She likes me!

I panicked.

I called and called to apologize and tell her that I liked her, too, but Elysha was famous back then (and now) for not listening to voicemail messages, so I went to bed worried that I had blown my chance with the coolest woman I had ever known.

Classic romantic comedy misconnection.

I corrected things the next morning, chasing her down and rejecting a note she had written to me asking if we could still be friends. That night, we kissed for the first time in the parking lot outside my apartment.

Two months later, we moved in together. Six months after that, I asked Elysha to marry me on the steps of Grand Central Terminal in New York City while two dozen friends and family secretly watched amongst the throng of holiday travelers.

On July 15, 2006, we were married.

Friends like Harry and Sally never get married? Improbable romances never work out?

Nonsense!

I could write a movie about our relationship - a great romantic comedy - and those two jaded women on the podcast would probably say the same thing:

A boy and girl meet at work. One is married. The other is engaged and about to be married. Their first conversation is about the girl’s pending nuptials. Over time, they become friendly.

Then the boy’s marriage ends in divorce. The girl calls off her engagement just a couple months before the wedding. They engage in new relationships with new people, all the while becoming better and better friends.

Those relationships with other people begin to fail, and then one day, while hiking together on a mountain, the girl reaches out and takes the boy’s hand.

His heart bursts with joy.

Later, she confesses her love to him. He fails to reciprocate because boy’s are stupid. Eventually he chases her down and corrects his mistake. Confesses his love.

They kiss. Marry.

Today they celebrate 13 years of marriage. They have two kids. A home. Two cats. A brilliant, beautiful life together.

“Yeah, right,” those women on the podcast would say. “Never happens.”

Improbable? Maybe.

Impossible? Nonsense.

Happy anniversary, honey.

Three amusing Disney moments

When riding alongside with me on his very first ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Charlie took one look at Disney’s remarkable animatronic characters and shouted, “Robots!”

Later that day, when riding alongside me in The Haunted House, he pointed at a group of ghosts dancing together in a ballroom and shouted “Projections!”

The boy is ruled by logic.

Yet when we watched Tinker Bell streak across the sky at the end of the Magic Kingdom fireworks show, he declared that as proof that fairies were real, as he’s always argued.

He’s ruled by logic, but he can still be fooled.
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After walking by a group of rowdy teenagers, Charlie asked Elysha what it was like when she was a teenager. Then he told us that teenage boys are crazy. “So I’m just warning you”.

He’s seven years-old and is already trying to prepare us for his teenage rebellion.

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I overheard three very stupid people in the course of 30 minutes while walking through Animal Kingdom:

  1. A man in the tiger exhibit asked a staff member where he could ride a tiger. When the staff member said he didn’t know of any place where that was possible. the man insisted that it was true because his grandmother had once told him that she had seen people ride tigers before, and he had been looking for those tigers ever since.

  2. A few minutes later, we walked by large monkeys walking and swinging on cables overhead. A man began arguing with his wife, claiming that the monkeys were just humans dressed in monkey suits.

  3. About a minute after that, I overheard a young man explaining to a young lady that Disney Paris and Disney Tokyo and Disney Shanghai are so much better than Disney World, but Disneyland is the best. “You can judge these parks by their pirates,” he explained. “Good pirates mean a good park. Disneyland’s pirates are the most committed to the roles.”

It was ten minutes of astonishment on my part. Not quite as astonishing as tigers and monkeys and little boys preparing to become rebellious teenagers, but still pretty surprising.

Best and worst of our Disney adventure

For the last seven days, my family and I have been vacationing at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I have purposely not written about the trip until now - as we fly home - because telling the world that your cats are being fed by neighbors and visited by your friends but your house is otherwise empty isn’t a great idea.

But now that I'm just a few hours from home, I have much to share.

I’ll start with this:

My least favorite part of the trip were the moments when I witnessed parents losing their patience with a child and saying something - both in tone and words - that broke my heart. Thankfully, I didn’t see this too often, but I remember those unfortunate moments all too well.

My favorite parts of the trip were the many, many times when Clara and Charlie thanked us for bringing them to Disney World. The multitude of moments when they told us how happy and excited they felt and how grateful they were. Their unprompted remarks of appreciation meant the world to me.

Yes, there were amazing rides and joyous parades and a fireworks show that left both Elysha and me in tears, but not surprising, it was the words and smiles of our children that I loved most.

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Perhaps we don't disagree on sleep as much as you think. Perhaps.

Yesterday I bestowed favored animal status to the giraffe, based primarily on its ability to sleep less than 30 minutes per day. People were surprised - as they often are - by how much I hate to sleep, and particularly how irritated I am every night when I need to fall asleep.

In response, many readers and friends declared their everlasting love for sleep.

Here’s a question I’d like to pose:

Do people really like to sleep, or do they like to fall asleep and possibly wake from sleep?

Since human beings are functionally unconscious while they sleep, the ability to take pleasure in the act of sleeping seems almost impossible. You can certainly love the subsequent feeling of renewal and vigor that sleep has on your body and mind, but when sleep is actually taking place, it’s impossible to experience pleasure in the act of sleeping because you’re not aware of your surroundings or even of your own body.

Is your arm under the pillow? Resting on your chest? Draped over a loved one? You don’t know, so how is it possible to experience any kind of pleasure given that level of unconsciousness?

Do people really love to sleep, or alternatively, do people enjoy occupying a horizontal position in a space of comfort and relaxation, unburdened from the expectations of the world?

This is what they really love when they profess their love for sleep. Right? They actually adore that period of time prior to sleep and immediately following sleep. The feeling of coziness. The removal of most of the physical demands on the body. The ability to push aside responsibilities and worries for a period of time.

Isn’t this - and not the unconscious state of sleep that follows - what people love?

Shouldn’t people be saying:

“I love assuming a horizontal position on a soft surface, my head slightly elevated by similarly soft surfaces, while simultaneously covered by soft linens. And while in that position, I enjoy closing my eyes and pushing the worries and cares of the world aside for a time.”

Isn’t this - and not the unconscious state that follows - the thing that people love?

I’m just asking.

Though I hate to sleep and am genuinely irritated almost every night with the need to stop my life for a period of time to recharge my brain, I admittedly enjoy lying down in my soft bed (particularly if my wife is present) and assuming a position of comfort.

That part of sleep is great. No complaints whatsoever. If that part could last about 15-30 minutes, and if I could remain conscious for the entire time, I would also profess my love for sleep. The problem is that I remain conscious for less than a minute before I drift off into stupid, unproductive, unconscious sleep for a ridiculous 4-6 hours.

Yes, it’s true. I despise sleep. But lying down in a soft place beside my wife for a little while? That sounds great, just as long as I can remain conscious and therefore aware of the enjoyment that I’m experiencing.

Isn’t this how you feel, too?

Again, just asking.

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