Find My Friends [Part 4/4]: Get Your đŸ’© Together

I was once asked what type of work shop I would create (of the self-improvement variety) to which I promptly replied, “Get your đŸ’© together!” People laughed. I was serious. Before you continue reading, know that much of what I’ll write will sound judgmental.

It’s worth mentioning… We’re all judgmental. All human beings are judgmental as a means of self-preservation. Does that situation look dangerous? Let me judge it and walk away. The next time you call someone judgmental, know that we all are… to varying degrees.

Well, is that situation over there dangerous? Here’s a better question. Is that person’s personal life a potential detriment to my life in any way? If the answer is yes, RUN the other way. In part 4, the conclusion, of how I find/keep friends in my life I’d like to point out how other people’s drama makes it easy to keep distance.

We’ve all met that person that always has something going on. You’ve gotten to the point where you’re afraid to ask, “how ya doin?” for fear of getting an earful. Someone is always out to get them at their job. Someone is always hatin on them. They’re always short on rent yet they have enough money to buy/smoke a pack a day. (Cigarettes cost anywhere from $5-$14 a pack depending on your state of residence, that’s $2,190-$5,110 a year!) You know that person that hasn’t cleaned their apartment since the Devil was a baby*, yet they’re constantly surprised that they keeping losing/misplacing things? You know that person that’s always late to every goddamned thing ever? You know that person that’s always busy, but chooses to lament in lieu of delegate? You know that person that won’t admit that they have a problem? You know that Dougie or Debbie Downer that just drags the entire room into the fucking pits? Sometimes all of these jokers are wrapped up into one person. Sometimes, they are separate people.

*”Since the Devil was a baby” is a phrase that I got from my Mama that was born in Fairfield, AL. I don’t believe in the Devil, but the legend is an old one and the saying is hilarious to me.

It’s worth mentioning… The majority of all personal drama can be traced back to one of the four agreements being broken.

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Let’s clear some things up about the people that I mentioned above. The fearful, insecure, money mismanaging, second-hand smoke delivering, messy, disorganized, tardy, workaholic, addicted, and/or pessimistic humans need compassion and patience. They probably need it more than the rest of us. (Let’s be real, I fit into a few of the aforementioned categories at times. Sometimes, my đŸ’© is not together.) This post is not suggesting that you turn your back on these people. Help people that need and request your help. Make a difference with the love you share. Just beware of a subtle savior complex. Don’t think that you’ve been put here to fix people or to get theirÂ đŸ’© together for them. Help those that request it and give them all of the compassion and patience you have to give. In doing so, be sure to delineate between helping a fellow human being and taking someone on as a project because you “refuse to turn your back on a friend.” There is a semi-permeable membrane that separates two friends. Their drama becomes your drama by way of osmosis. How many times have you had to help a specific friend out of a jam? How much stress do you have in your life because of the stress they have in their life? No thank you.

One of my first steps, when I began anger management was to make myself acutely aware of the people in my life. Was I surrounding myself with angry, dramatic people that always had something going on? Were my friends always bitching about this or that? They were! Those fuckers had to go! I was handing out friendship divorce papers on the regular! (This was 20 years ago, there was no unfriend button to click. You had to look someone in the eye and explain why you wanted to end the friendship. It was a spectacular time! Those conversations were hard but necessary.)

The obvious next step was to carefully select the new friends in my life. Much like dating, it makes more sense to know a little something about a friend before the first time you hang out. I found that a moderate level of ambition, accountability, and self-awareness was a requirement for any of my friends. I’m going to challenge you all to require the same. The cocktail of ambition/accountability/self-awareness creates a person that takes ownership for how their life choices have lead them to their current life situation while expressing desire (and action) to make the necessary changes that will break destructive patterns. Some of the people I love the most (you know who you are) were once addicts. They had the desire (and compassion of people in their life) to help them make a change. Those drama-free people are my friends. Some of the people I love the most have been challenging themselves to make minor changes in the way they communicate, the way they love, and the way they exist on this planet. Those people are my friends. The highest compliment I’ve ever received came from a friend in Georgia. She pointed out, “what I like about you [Jet] is that if you don’t like something about yourself, you make the effort to change.” That’s true. I was raised to consider, there’s got to be a better way.

Having one’sÂ đŸ’© together isn’t a matter of being a perfect/normal human being. I mean, WTF does that mean anyway? To have one’sÂ đŸ’© together means that you’re aware/daring enough to attempt change in your life and strong enough to ask for help. Strength is a choice and it’s a smart choice to balance hubris with humility.

I don’t claim to have a lot of friends, that’s never been a goal of mine. I do have quality friends and I appreciate all of them. None of my friends are homophobic, one-dimensional Brosephs, against interracial dating (even on a subconscious level), racially unaware, without the togetherness of theirÂ đŸ’©, or general assholes. How do you choose your friends? Have you ever written out a manifesto (not to show potential friends-instead to keep in your thoughts)? In short, friendships should add quality to our lives, not stress. If there’s a lot of drama or combativeness in your life, look to your friends. If it’s not coming from them… Get YOURÂ đŸ’© together!

Keep your eyes bright for a special Thursday edition that will warn you against the fitness mistake that I see people make every damned year. Enjoy your days.

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Patience And Compassion (A Revelation)

Last week’s post has been on my mind every day since the ink began to set in my skin.

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I’ve found myself in a quagmire of anxiety with every asshole I’ve encountered. I keep asking the same question. Why does this person deserve compassion? Why does James Eagan Holmes* deserve my compassion? Does Andreas Lubitz* deserve my compassion? The answer isn’t important, I’ve been asking the wrong question. To question who is deserving (of anything-not to mention the compassion from some dude in Oakland) is arrogant folly. I learned this lesson when I almost lost my temper behind the wheel. Oakland/San Francisco must be in a two-way tie for jay walking capital of the U.S., if anyone were keeping track of that sort of thing. I’ve ranted about the subject before. One of the regular habits of these jackasses is to run out in the middle of the street and slow to a walk while still in front of your car. Good times, so fun! Well, a couple did this to me on Friday morning. While the young lady kept running, the dude behind her strolled the entire width of the busy street. Even as several cars screeched to a halt, he never picked up the pace even after I slammed on my brakes and lost a bit of rubber to keep from ending his life. As I called him all sorts of muthafuckas from behind the wheel, he just looked at me. He didn’t flip me off (that’s common for jaywalkers in the Bay Area), he didn’t say a word, and he didn’t raise an eyebrow. He just looked in my eyes as he kept his stroll going and it was clear that he gave not a fuck. That left me with two choices. 1.) Shift to 1st, cook some rubber, and mow him down in the middle of the street at 10:30 in the morning. (“All the years if I pull this trigger!”) 2. ) Breathe deeply, stay cool, recognize he wasn’t worth my anger, and just keep it moving. I chose door number 2. I kept thinking about that look on his face. He was truly indifferent about the fact that he was endangering his life and the lives of drivers that could have ended up colliding because of him. I took a lesson from that experience. While I’m sitting round wondering how to have patience and compassion for all, many people are not expecting nor craving my patience or compassion. The jaywalking, Mr. DGAF‘s look implied that he was unconcerned with my level of patience or compassion for him. He didn’t desire/need either from me. That’s the lesson I took from that experience.

It’s worth mentioning… I hate it when people tell a story about a look someone gave them that involves projection of their personal issues when the person could have just had a booger rubbing against their nostril. This isn’t that. I’m not leaping to an assumption of what Mr. DGAF thought based on his look. Based on his actions (did I mention that the actual crosswalk was about 100 feet away) and a look that said nothing, he didn’t give a fuck. That can be verified by anyone that saw the incident. I’m not just telling you how his look made me feel.

What does that mean for my pledge to have patience and compassion for all? The most memorable lesson that I learned from Sesame Street was to tackle one task at a time. My last few weekends have been good ones because I’ve been able to balance productivity (chores) with creativity (dance) and social networking (you know the real kind, in people’s faces). There was an episode wherein some furry creature (Elmo?) was frustrated by the enormous stack of homework in front of him. Some human (Gordon?) came along and pushed all of the books off screen and placed one of the books in front of the furry dude. The lesson was to focus on one element of a huge undertaking before allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the weight of the total endeavor. Well, with the help of Mr. DGAF’s lesson I’ve decided to focus on one element of my pledge before doing it all. It’s impossible to hug the entire world at once. I’ve decided to start with the people within arm’s length. There are plenty of people that have and will come to me in need of my patience and compassion. I will do my best to give it to them. Over time, I’ll be able to give patience and compassion to those that haven’t requested it, to the DGAFs of the world. But, that’s further on up the road on a very long journey.

*Feel free to perform your own searches on the people mentioned above. I won’t add to their notoriety by adding a link to this post.

The Pledge + I Am A Burlesque Performer

“I pledge allegiance to this journey that leads to a higher state of consciousness and to this life, for which it stands, with patience and compassion for all.”

Those were the words that I wrote/agreed to during a journal entry at the Naked Camp in March. They resonated with me so strongly that I asked Micah Riot to tattoo them on my chest, shoulder, and back. [Sorry, WordPress is giving me an error when I try to upload pictures this week.] I’ve always believed in challenging myself to be a better person and I don’t take words tattooed on my body flippantly. This has been my most challenging tattoo to date. When I read it aloud to a colleague, she immediately repeated the last two words to me, “for all“? She asked. Aware of her drift, I immediately conceded that some people are easier than others when it comes to having patience and compassion. It’s not headline news that some people are unkind (read: assholes). This pledge challenges me to answer the questions how and why, daily. How can I be patient for the person that walks down (not across) the middle of the street and flips me off when I choose not to change my speed? Why does the person that beats a child deserve patience or compassion? That muthafucka deserves a boot to the face, right? That would be the easy answer and it would certainly make me feel good. But, there’s an important rule that must be highlighted in our daily dealings with assholes.

The Asshole Rule The anus has one job. Because of that job, the anus smells like shit all day. Even if you spend 15 minutes detailing it in the shower, soon after it will go back to smelling like an anus. The unfortunate truth about an asshole personality is that they have one job. Because of that job, the asshole human does shitty things all day. Even if you spend 15 minutes beating the shit out of the asshole human, soon after they will go back to being an asshole. Think about that for a minute. I’m sure you’ve noticed that our society tends to overlook provocation. Someone can spit in your face and kick your dog. When you beat them and put them into the hospital, you’re the one facing charges. Weird! No wonder we always shouted, “THEY STARTED IT!”, when we were kids. No one considers the provocation. Assholes provoke in hopes of getting high off of their drug which is our response/reaction. I won’t feed their ego. I won’t be their pusher. Instead, I choose patience.

It’s worth mentioning… I’m not suggesting that anyone turn the other cheek. I don’t believe in that. I’m suggesting that the right balance of patience and compassion won’t place me in a situation for the first cheek to get slapped. You dig?

Anger is so much easier. It’s so easy to just flip out, be impatient, and start cussing people out. But, then I become the asshole. No one considers the provocation. Everyone just sees me cussing people out. No thanks, I’d like to be invited back to this house party. I’m not going to amp on that dude committing party fouls. I’m going to stay cool. The tattoo is still a work in progress. Micah will be adding some custom artwork over two more sessions and some of that work will cover my first tattoo. When I was 18, I walked into a shop in Atlanta, chose a Chinese symbol that translated into “cool”, and had the dude put it on my left shoulder. It was my first tattoo challenge. I was going through Anger Management at the time and I would reach up and touch the tattoo whenever I need to cool down. Over the years, I’ve reached for it less and less. People often compliment me on how calmly I handle certain situations. I hold those compliments in high regard. I no longer need the cool tattoo challenge and also, I don’t speak/read Chinese. A Chinese woman once confirmed (while laughing at me) that the translation was correct. “Ha ha ha, you think you’re cool! Ha ha ha!”

Why challenge myself in this way? If my pledge didn’t challenge me, what would be the point? As a young dude, I stared at the flag and said the pledge of allegiance but, I was never challenged to conduct myself as a patient and compassionate human being because of it. The pledge of allegiance was a rote morning routine in grade school that involved more lip moving than recitation. I don’t want to turn this into a political post, but out of curiosity… Does anyone else find it interesting that this indivisible one nation still has states in the South that celebrate the Civil War (e.g., confederate flags, confederate soldier monuments, and confederate parks) and their former desire to secede from the union? Anyone calling America one nation hasn’t lived in many parts of it.

It’s worth mentioning… Before any overly patriotic mouth breather begins typing a rebel yell of a reply, understand that everyone has had a very different experience in this country. If our demographics don’t match, keep your opinion in your back pocket.

Do I regret getting these words tattooed on my body? Not at all. I may never accomplish the goal/pledge of having compassion for all. But, as long as I’m challenging myself to be patient and compassionate as a first response, I see this as a righteous path. Will I ever write a new challenge and use that tattoo to cover this ink in 18 years? W(ho)TF knows? Ask me in 18 years.

Please note: I did not write this blog to suggest that any reader do anything remotely similar. Write your own pledges and create your own challenges. I am asking you to be a better person. But, how you define better and how you manage your societal interactions is entirely up to you. Enjoy your journey and honor the gift of life by living it.

I Am A Burlesque Performer

A Bay Area news group recently, did a piece on burlesque in the bay. Here’s the link to that story! You may recognize the picture of me from my Black Dynamite act. Sometimes I get the question, why, in regards to performing burlesque. Why have I chosen burlesque as a creative outlet? Much like any creative outlet, burlesque found me it wasn’t the other way round. While burlesque by definition is not a gender-specific word, some people make up words like “boylesque” or even worse “brolesque”. I am a burlesque performer. I concede that this is and always has been a female-dominant environment, so I understand the desire some may have to distinguish between crotches. But, I am a burlesque performer. I try my best to bring drama, absurdity, and tease to every strip I choreograph. My costumes have included handcuffs, suspenders, multiple bowties, monocles, wigs, nunchucks, and straight jackets. I’ve dressed up as Gumby, Venom, Black Dynamite, Steve Urkel, the American Flag, and a shadow of pain. I’ve danced to Chemical Brothers, Marilyn Manson, Goapele, Van Hunt, Prince, Deftones, Portishead, and many others. I’m sure that people classify me as neo-burlesque or some other such label. I am a burlesque performer. I’ve never identified with the label of “classic”. In the golden age of burlesque, there were no black male performers. If there were, I doubt they wore a mohawk or covered there body in pledge/reminder tattoos a la Memento. Why do I wear pasties when I perform? As I mentioned, burlesque is a female-dominant environment. In many venues (at least in California) it’s illegal for a woman to expose her nipples in an environment that serves alcohol. I believe it to be a stupid, sexist, and archaic law. So, as long as women have to legally wear pasties, I’ll wear them in solidarity. I’m a burlesque performer and I hope to continue bringing memorable performances to the stage until the day it feels like work.

Come see me perform a new number in our Post-Apocalyptic themed show!
Friday, August 14 – Hubba Hubba Revue @ DNA Lounge in San Francisco

Compassion Is Never Convenient

My brother once said that the world is made up of two kinds of people, the protectors and the protected. He was referring to everyday, ordinary people, not superheroes with alien powers. It is my hope that I always have the courage/ability to protect others when they need it. I also hope to have the humility to protect myself or to be protected by others when the situation calls for it.

I once witnessed a dog get hit by a car on the other side of the road. I turned my car around and blocked traffic to keep him from getting hit a second time. As I was blocking traffic, one passer by told me that I should flee the scene because the cops may think that I did it. A second passer by told me that I should just leave him because it was “just a dog”. (Fucking assholes!) While the call wasn’t worth a 911 effort, I called animal control and stayed with the dog until it’s last breath (it wasn’t long). I chose to be the protector. I covered him with a towel from my car and carried him off to the side of the road to a red zone where his body would be safe from desecration until animal control could retrieve him.

On a recent run, I was approaching a bus stop. I noticed a couple that was looking down at a man as they stepped over him and shook their heads in what seemed to be disapproval. Annoyed at their lack of compassion and concern for the afflicted, I stopped. I chose to be the protector. I leaned over him and asked the standard questions. Are you okay? What is your name? Do you need help? Do you need me to call 911? He responded to the last question with a drooling, glassy-eyed nod. As I was placing the call and explaining the situation, more people passed the scene. A few of them shook their heads and kept walking. Some of them commented, “he’s just drunk”. There was a smell of alcohol and an open container near him and I was sure to explain that to the 911 operator. One woman in particular passed by and kept repeating, “he’s drunk”, louder each time as if she were trying to speak loud enough for the operator to hear her voice over mine. She even stopped long enough to look over her shoulder and annunciate the word “in-ee-bree-eyt-ed” annoyingly loud. I was two seconds from telling her to shut the fuck up, when I reigned in my anger for her “passer by diagnosis”. Based on everything that I saw and smelled, was he drunk? Probably. Did that mean that he wasn’t worthy of compassion? Did that mean that he should only receive judgment from passers by and be left unconscious? Absolutly not. Does the smell and sight of alcohol mean that everything else in his body worked perfectly fine? I don’t like to make assumptions and that’s why I stopped to help. For all I know, he mixed that alcohol with prescription medication. I wonder if any of his judges considered that before shaking their heads and stepping over his barely conscious body. One other gentleman stopped to help. He leaned over and checked the victim’s pulse as he shook his shoulders and tried to get his attention. We had different approaches, but I’m grateful that two humans stopped to help another in need. Drunk or not, I don’t care if he did it to himself. When I asked, he said that he needed help. That was all I needed. Kudos to the Oakland first responders that were at the scene in two minutes! (I checked my watch.) Once I flagged them down and explained the situation, I finished my run.

About 18 months ago, there was a similar story with tragic consequences. A homeless man in San Francisco was passed out on a bustling street corner in a pool of his own blood and people stopped to take pictures and video with their “smart” phones. But, the man died because no one used those phones to call for help. No one stopped to call 911. (Fucking assholes!) I wonder how many people judged or feared him as they passed. I wonder if they diagnosed from afar. Stories like that make me understand why comic book super villains want to end the world.

If you see someone in need, please don’t assume and don’t diagnose. This isn’t a movie, so you don’t have to put your mouth on (read: CPR) the first unconscious person that you see. However, I do strongly suggest that EVERYONE complete CPR and first-aid training. If you use the training once in your life, it will make a big difference in someone else’s. Help your fellow human and check yourself if personal judgment gets in the way of compassion. Compassion is never convenient and you’re never in too much of a rush to be courteous. Don’t be a fucking asshole. 😉