Getting In Tune

Pablo Casals’ cello is playing a Bach solo in my living room right now. He’s considered the greatest cellist of all time. I first discovered him from a college class I took called Classical Music Appreciation.

Class met three days a week. Each class period our instructor would espouse her passion for these dead men who mastered classical music. Then we’d listen, write our emotions, and later read aloud small sections with a brief explanation about how it evoked such a response.

The final exam was a 20 minute one on one “walk and talk” around campus discussing our favorite composer with the instructor. I chose Pablo. Not only was this the most enjoyable 4.0 I have ever received, it was also profound in that I acquired a taste for classical music, and deepened my understanding of practice as a mechanism for staying “in tune” with my writer-side self.

Pablo was quoted as saying,

“If I don’t practice for even one day, I can tell the difference when I next cradle the cello in my arms. If I fail to practice for two days, my close friends can tell the difference. If I don’t practice three days, the whole world knows.”

I understand completely. I haven’t been writing for a couple weeks. The few times that I have sat with journal open – the pen didn’t glide, the hand didn’t swim, the thoughts arrived out of tune. Nothing dreamed out loud, nothing powered out from the chaos that swirls in my mind.

I’ve lived with guitars throughout the last 25 years or so since leaving home. This I know to be true: that guitar will die if not played daily. Same goes for djembe drums. In the years when I was playing, or the people I lived with were playing, that guitar was picked up already resonant. Somehow quietly boisterous when first lifted down, ready to sing at first strike of the strings. Yet if not played, the wood of that guitar seemed to lay inert, as if the microscopic ripples of the wood simply flattened.

I know this to be true with our physical bodies too. I once went four years without a single workout. The blood stops moving, fat collects in places caught by gravity.

So I write you today out of tune. My pen isn’t shouting, my hand isn’t poised and my creativity is rusty. I am out of practice. This week, I will write and I will click send. A small piece of my best work will be ready for you each morning at 7 a.m. for seven days. I’m putting myself on the hook – without excuses.

Good-Night-Love Routine

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I say, I love you.

He says, I love you more.

I say, I love you most.

He says, I love you more than most.

I say, I love you more than most of all.

He says, I love you more than most of all happily ever after.

I say, I love you more than most of all happily ever after since before you were born and into our next generation.

He runs out of what to say next. He sighs because I always have the last word at this good-night-love routine.

Then he hugs me and says sweetly, That’s a lot of love Dad.

Feeling Flat? Here’s How To Create Oxtocin

I’m not going to point to all the research. You can Google it. Basically, there’s various ways you can trick the body into releasing Oxytocin. The benefits are simple: feel better, reduce stress, be happier and those things help us live healthy – longer.

It’s hard to know what to do when things seem to have flat-lined. I don’t like feeling too comfortable. Maybe another term for it would be plateauing.

Am I Flat-Lining?

On one side … comfort poses a threat to improvement, but that might be my perception and not true. I perceive healthy discomfort as an opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable. The world happens to the ready.

On the other side… “comfortable” – where I am present and things are sufficient with the “comfortable” is a great place to be.

It’s discerning between the two.

I Just Made A New Rule For Myself

I’m making this up now:

If things are flat-lining for 90 days and, to my best efforts, I can’t get things to improve or at least have hope for improvement, then I will shut it down and start from scratch.

Then again, I don’t know. It kind of sounds like an old behavior where I feel the need to put a Saber Toothed Tiger on my shoulder to make life difficult

I will live that question for awhile. If I’m going to live a question, I need something to do. That’s when I decided to get high on my own supply of Oxytocin.

Feeling Flat? Here’s How I Get High On My Oxytocin

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Dancing!

Dancing is a state changer. It’s a big YES in my book. Dancing with kids, dancing with lovers and dancing with friends – all Oxytocin inducing, all remedies for feeling flat.

Hugging

My most fondly remembered moments this past week were giving/receiving hugs from people. Almost as good was imagining myself being hugged by someone I love.

Connection

Even something as small as browsing my Instagram feed I “Liked” a photograph that a random friend from 25 years ago posted. I don’t consider calling this person to say, “that was a real cute photo of your kid that you posted.” But liking the photo is one small way (of many) of connecting with someone that I have felt close to at some point in my life, even if it was just because in middle school me and him played ball together, went “ding-dong ditching” and swam in his pool. It’s not insignificant if you’re present to the human being that is behind those digital pixels.

Do Something Rarely Done Anymore

I called people to chat for a few minutes.

Like we used to do when we were kids. “Hey, how are you doing? What’s up?” This feels good. It’s like a vocal hug with someone I like. I’m good at vocally hugging people. I want to do it more. Warning: it will throw people for a loop. They will be like WTF are you calling me for?

Trust

Being trusted feels good. It gives me more confidence to trust others too.

I find people that I trust to be charismatic, and I live with a permanent crush on those people. Same goes for endearing people. All it takes for me to think you are trustworthy, charismatic and endearing is a good sit down talk.

How to be more trusted? Simple … Integrity. In all of my past relationships if I lost trust, I broke integrity first. Integrity is the only ingredient for prolonged happiness.

Play

I ask my kids all the time, What do you want to do? Always the same answer: I want to play. That’s the gist, anyway. Us adults spend a lot of time, effort, and money being serious. But play?

I played with my kids all day yesterday, and let me tell you, I hope you choose to get out and play. We kicked rocks, jumped from swings and drew pictures with our imagination, among other things. No screens. They didn’t even ask.

If you want your small angers to disappear in a flash of laughter, then let go of serious and play with your kids.

Other Things I Did To Create My Own Oxytocin

Outtake from this morning which is what set our #epicday into motion.

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Humor – That video above made me and the kids laugh SO HARD! We couldn’t get enough of it. Kids laugh like 300 times per day. Us adults… maybe three if we’re lucky.

Jumping rope – My best physical habit at the moment is four flawless minutes of jump rope a couple times per day.

Being creative – I started an Instagram profile. The first and primary reason is to ignite my creativity using photos as idea starters and practice pairing my pictures with the brevity that our “tl;dr society” is asking for.

Helping people, being helped – I had to ask for help in the form of childcare. I helped members of our staff at the greenhouse by teaching them instead of being an impatient asshole.

None of This is Science

Who cares! Maybe it’s not Oxytocin that I created. Maybe it’s a Jedi mind trick I played on myself. But if it helps me to be more efficient with, and reduce my “carbon footprint” with shitting out my mental and emotional waste, then sign me up.

Oxytocin is the flower. The flower grows toward the light. My goal is to be the light.

Dead Weight Poems Wave Two


Man Pounding

Pounding heart when she enters the room and

pounding hard-on because her kiss is replaying his fantasies and

pounding emotional effort rebuilding her trust because he lost it.

Pounding feet chasing after the children he’s promised to raise and

pounding life from the exhaustion of full work days and baby up at night.

Pounding down dreams he won’t ever give up and

pounding gravity to escape velocity and

pounding against what he almost knows but can’t quite say.


Hard Way Harder Way

Fetal position. Crying on the floor. Rock bottom.

Then I’m open to an honest conversation with myself.

Then my intuition is sharp.

God give me a message! I am listening now.

I pick myself up from the floor, guide myself
into an improved relationship with myself, and walk

into my next chapter. Months, years or a decade later,
I either remember or don’t. I have either learned the hard way

or the harder way.

 

wave one | wave two

Me and Ada


Ada’s mom was pregnant with her when we broke up. It was a painful time period. I was angry. Nothing was certain. Even the rights I had taken for granted as a father with her siblings, Ella and Lucan, were put into question. I wasn’t at her birth, and it took about a year and a half before we gradually made it to almost 50/50 parenting time. Every visit was precious in those early days. I summoned all of my “be present, be patient” mojo hoping to accelerate our bond. At bottle time, I’d caress her forehead, sing her the “Daddy Loves You” song and pull her close into my warmth. That became our thing. She’s two and a half now. Our relationship has caught up on par with the other two. Today she brought me her empty bottle, “Num nums Daddy.” I filled it and she led me to the rocker. I caressed her head and sang her the song – our familiar love ritual now. I’m proud and grateful for how things turned out for us. I’m also grateful that her mom and I have grown to share our joy for the children together. It makes the difference for all of us.

Sunday Night

She has Dora the Explorer. I have the poetry of Raymond Carver. The other two are playing make believe with the rings Ella received from Grandma Barb yesterday for corn beef and cabbage dinner, which to my suprise, they loved. They dart by so fast i feel their wind, their shadows are on the wall. The sun is bright but dying down through the picture window. Everything is settling and carmelizing toward dusk. I’m glad for myself because I’ve already washed the dinner dishes. It’s cozy in this chair with Ada. She looks up at me and smiles, points to the “bow wow” with excitement and pride. Later, we will lay together. Her with “num nums” and me with spider fingers dancing across her back. We call it shimmers. That’s how this evening feels… shimmery, like hazy reality mixed with the average of 1,000 chill Sundays passed.

Yesterday Was My Birthday

From my journal earlier this morning.

The highlight of my year was meeting up with my son Ben in June.

He’s 11, will be 12 in May. He lives in Florida. We became separated from one another when he was six months old. The last I saw him before June was when he was two years old back in 2008. This separation has been the single biggest hurt spot on my heart. It has impacted my life in so many profound ways. The real work has been guiding this significant life event into a meaningful, fulfilling and happy ending. Our meet up in June felt like a big win for us. Yesterday, Ben texted me to say Happy Birthday and let me know what he was up to (fundraising for his travel basketball team). Then just 10 minutes later, my other son Lucan called me from his mom’s house to wish me happy birthday. That was a symbolic and tremendous good feeling in my heart.

Here’s a picture of my first born son Ben and me last June.

My daughter Ella and son Lucan had artwork on display at Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA).

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is a nonprofit art museum and school. They offer art classes, exhibitions, lectures, events, activities and a permanent collection. It’s an appreciated institute in our community. Ella and Lucan’s art teacher selected their work to be featured for this special exhibition.

I picked up the kids fr0m my ex Kaitlin’s house. She had to walk her dog and followed behind us by about 25 minutes. At the KIA, my mom and step Dad were there. We found the kids’ artwork, took pictures and enjoyed the free refreshments. Then we did it all over again once Kaitlin arrived. I so appreciate where my relationship with Kaitlin has arrived. Just two birthdays ago, I remember dealing with court about custody for our youngest daughter Ada whom Kaitlin was pregnant with when we broke up.

Kaitlin helped the kids get me a toaster. It was wrapped and Lucan was so excited for me. For as long as I can remember, I haven’t had a toaster. I always make eggs, toast (or bagel) and bacon for breakfast, and SO OFTEN I burn the toast. I make toast in the oven. I turn the knobs to broil and toss in the toast. The kids are always hollering at me that I need a toaster. Kaitlin helped them make that happen. That felt good for all of us.

Afterward, Lucan and I went to Food Dance for a brownie bus stop dessert. We played tic tac toe and had good laughs together.

Here is a picture of Ella, Lucan and me at KIA.

Here is Lucan and me at Food Dance having a good time

I wish I would have taken a picture of my coworkers bringing in homemade tamales and cake for my birthday at work yesterday.

It’s greenhouse season so we definitely work on Saturdays. But yesterday I said we could all go home at noon. Gloria made tamales for everyone. Gloria is from Mexico. She is the one who most helps me with my Spanish. Chilla brought in the cake. They all signed a birthday card for me. Mark got me a six pack. A couple of others slipped me stinky green nuggets of marijuana. Tayshawn was like, “Damn Eric I can’t believe you’re 41. You’re old enough to be my Dad.” I said, “I might be.” Everyone laughed.

I sincerely had every intention of going to Salsa Night at Papa Pete’s bar.

I have had this playful fantasy with a couple of my friends about meeting a latina. So I’ve been telling them that on my birthday I was going to a “latino bar” to meet someone. The glamorized premise comes from an unrealistic desire to meet a woman who doesn’t have first world concerns yet is present to the gratitude of the first world.

Anyway, I found out that Papa Pete’s offered Salsa Night. My thinking was to go and dance the Salsa and discover the experience. But alas, I found myself 40 pages into Hemingway’s memoir, A Movable Feast, and three beers down the gullet and it was only 7:45 p.m. I know enough that the peak times at Salsa Night aren’t until 11 or 12. I didn’t go. Another time.

I slept well. Woke up for push ups and sit ups then went to the corner Coop for a breakfast burrito and coffee. I texted with a few people including a thank you for the toaster to Kaitlin. Then I opened up this journal and began the day.


In one year, my relationships with all of the most important people in my life has blossomed.

Tony Robbins says where the focus goes the energy flows.

Nobody in my life is more important than my children. #1, 2, 3, and 4. Which means Sheila (Ben) and Kaitlin (Ella, Lucan and Ada) are #5 and 6 in my life no matter what. I spoke with both of my ex’s yesterday. It might be too much to say we’re friends, but there is love, appreciation, respect, meaning and depth. My focus has been on these relationships. That is where my energy has flowed. Consequently, that’s where I feel a considerable amount of gratitude. These relationships are going well.

It has taken time to arrive at this place of peace?!

At the greenhouse we grow potted flower combinations and hanging baskets. I know very little about growing flowers. They don’t let me touch the hoses too often. They also know that I grow people. That’s my thing. Yesterday, I saw that reflect back at me. My focus has been on transforming the culture of day to day operations at the greenhouse. That’s where my energy has flowed.

Same concept for my relationship with myself. I was perfectly content with Hemingway and cold bottles of beer in my recliner. I no longer feel compelled to turn over every stone on the path. Thank goodness. I have to recognize a mindful meditation practice for the increased peace and contentment I feel today.

Some days really offer a glimpse about where your focus and energy flow. Yesterday, my birthday, offered a glimpse. I am happy with what I saw reflect back at me.

I’m still on a partial writing sabbatical catch me on Facebook.

Facebook is like a blog of my “B-sides”


My Sunday newsletter is still the best place to hang out if you want insights into life that will move the needle forward.

fresh perspective after faltering

I mustn’t react emotionally. I must respond thoughtfully.

I mustn’t react emotionally even when my most important relationships are reacting emotionally toward me. I will wait to speak.

I mustn’t seek to be right. It’s an act of making someone or something wrong. Not necessary or useful.

I mustn’t judge what “equal” portray. Being equal isn’t equal all the time. Don’t keep a running tally.

I am responsible for modeling and practicing what I seek to receive.

I won’t necessarily treat others how I want to be treated, but how I think they want to be treated.

When I do all of the above, I change the world. Especially the world of my children. To a limited extent, same with the mothers of my children.

With all of the above, my world grows in Love.

So much depends on a thoughtful response. Each time I react, I remember later how my ego wasn’t small, and my Love wasn’t bigger than my imagination.

Progress requires a good bit of faltering, and a lot of honesty about what I don’t know (yet). I am patient with myself.

There is no recognition, no card or gift that honors these lessons I keep learning.

Failure is an open door for me, a fresh perspective from zero, and a wonderful invitation to begin again. It doesn’t even have to hurt.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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The Deck

Keith returned home from Peace Corps looking like he should be modeling underwear for Calvin Klein. I told him he looked absolutely fit. Playfully, he credited chewing coca leaves every day. Then he told me about The Deck.

I rather make the best of my surroundings than go to the gym. I choose to do general exercises that require no equipment or weights.

My fitness routine is often changing. I’ve never forgotten Keith’s Deck workout, and lately, it found it’s way back into my life. I love it and today I’m sharing it with you. You might want to use The Deck to mix up your workout.

Here’s How To Create Your Own Deck

Dig into that junk drawer and pull out a deck of playing cards. It doesn’t have to be a complete deck. For example, this current set of mine only has 30 cards. O’well, good enough.

First, I write down on a note card the cards: ace, two, three, etc.

Next, I write an exercise next to each card: abs, push-ups, lunges, etc.

Then I shuffle the cards and complete the workout in random order.

I don’t always (actually rarely) make it through the entire deck in one sitting, but if I can make it through a deck a day, I know I’m doing great.

I try to make fun games for myself. For example, if I can complete a deck of cards before 7 p.m. I give myself a gold medal. At the end of the week I try to achieve five gold medals.

Want the perfect Deck just for your fitness level? That’s my thing. I can help you with that.

From Morning Moves

Sunday Newsletter: Beginning Again

This week I heard myself use the word starting over to refer to myself. I don’t exactly remember the context.

Such as: I’m starting over with dating and romantic relationships.

Or, I sometimes look at my financial responsibilities and say, I’m starting over financially during these heavy single parenting years.

I’m not going to say, starting over anymore. The more appropriate word is beginning again. It feels more positive to me.

I make this distinction because it’s impossible to start over. I have never lost all of my previous work. It’s in me forever.

This applies to love, relationships, business, employment, parenting, and all aspects of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical fitness. The wisdom, experience and lessons I have learned along my inevitable path of life find it’s way into whatever I choose to do next (whether I like it or not). With this perspective, it’s more accurate to say I’m beginning again.

Here I am beginning again. Interestingly, it feels like a strange intersection at what I’ve both figured out and can’t figure out – unless I keep tearing it all down some more, and begin again, again.

To begin again is to become an amateur. I write that sentiment lightly, but that’s how I feel – like an amateur. I’m engaging in this authentic pursuit of myself without pay and without bias and full of passion.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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