Snippets of a conversation I picked up between two college aged women overheard at the coffee shop as I purposefully tried to avoid today’s hearings that was just as heartbreaking and as reflective of the world we live in because it laid bare the fact that we can no longer escape the truths our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, coworkers, and fellow citizens have been trying to tell us because these stories have always been here but we have not been listening, as I happened to be trying not to today, but could not help it because these conversations are happening all around us and have been for a very long time…

“There’s just, like, no one else to talk to and, like, the school can’t really do anything because, well, it’s not like anything, like, happened.”

“Well, I think there are, like, support groups or something I’ve heard about. You know, like, so you can talk to other people, like, besides me of course.”

“I know, I’ve heard of those too… I just feel so alone.” The young lady begins to cry and, her friend, moves her chair over to embrace her and is now beginning to cry too.

“You know it’s not your fault…”, one says to the other as they are now sitting side by side crying and hugging each other.

“We were just having a conversation and then, suddenly, he just reaches over and starts feeling me up. I was like, ‘Wait, what?!?’”

“That’s just totally not cool. You have a right to feel safe, comfortable… I’m so sorry… OK, enough of this. Tell me something good.”

“Yesterday was, like, really good.”

“Tell me why?”

“I don’t know, it was just, like, I didn’t feel sad. I don’t know why. I just didn’t think about it.”

You are going to die.

We all are. As I stated in my guide Mindfulness for Mere Mortals:

Right now, you are both living and dying. Everything that is living is, with each passing moment, also progressing towards death. As such, every moment more you live you also move closer to death. Each moment you are both living and dying. Both are active states within you and all living things.

With this being the case, perhaps the only universal truth, why do we suck at planning for it.

It’s coming. For each and every one of us. We don’t know when or how or where we will be. Yet, it is certain.

Forget about “getting hit by a bus” or any other proverbial sudden fatality. What about that routine doctor’s visit that leads to a biopsy which leads to someone telling you you have not months but weeks or days? Happens more often than you think. Not just to the old. I know of someone who passed at age 27 feeling in perfect health less than a month before.

I’ve stated before, Dying is about you. Death is about those you leave behind. When it comes and you have not prepared, those you love are left to clean up the mess. No will? Well, your spouse/partner/children/next-of-kin are in for a lesson in probate law and a fair amount of legal expenses. Have a bunch of debt? Well, those you leave may be on the hook for it if your estate has not been properly planned. All of this burden on top of the grief and pain they must work through. Do you really want that?

Listen, I know it’s a pain and you have no idea where to start. It’s easy. We live in an age with search engines. Most of the information out there is good enough. For instance, Nolo.com has a good primer on writing a will and Lifehacker, of all places, has a good guide on preparing for death.

Seriously, make this a priority. Properly planning for death will make the life of everyone you love that much easier.

Note: Roger Bennett wrote to me after reading this to add: Recently retired from the practice of law, focusing on Elder Law. Over age 60 or disabled (assuming U.S.), one should consider consulting a member of NAELA, (get a CELA for extra assurance), for estate planning.

The I of The Storm

A couple of days before we left for vacation, Bethany’s Father went in to the doctor. He’d been experiencing some severe and often debilitating back pain for several months and he finally decided (or, more specifically, was goaded by his daughter, friends, and I) to go to the doctor to get it checked out. Once there, they detected some worrisome vital signs so they sent him to the ER. A scan there detected a mass in his lungs. They suspected cancer. So, they checked him into the hospital overnight to do a biopsy and get his vitals level. A couple of days later, he was released and immediately started radiation treatment.

We left, as scheduled months before, for Iceland.

A few days later, while still in Iceland, the results came back. Stage 4 lung cancer which had spread to the lymph nodes and bones. Not good.

It’s been a whirlwind since we returned. My wife and I getting him to his radiation treatments for a couple of weeks was followed by his breaking his arm and being in too much pain to move (he lives alone) even to get to the bathroom or his bed. We got him to the hospital a week ago and he’s been there since. Daily visits there for my wife and/or I. My wife has been deep in the administrivia of trying to navigate what the next few final months for him hold. I’ve been slowly cleaning his house (which, due to his condition he’s not been able to do for months).

It’s also what we call “Summer Show Season” at Circus Juventas where I’m the Lead Volunteer Rigger. That means, I’ve also been spending several hours (usually 6 to 8) at Circus for rehearsals since we got back and will be spending 20-30 hours a week for the next few weeks while the show is running. Yes, this is in addition to the above.

Of course, life goes on. Beatrix has day camps and music classes and other things to get to. Bethany remains over scheduled with a full work load. And, in true rains/pours serendipity, my client workload has also ticked up.

Then, a childhood friend of my wife’s took his own life a couple of days back. Fuck The Piggyback Guy.

And, yesterday, I came down with a nasty cold/virus/crud. Stuffed up, sneezing, mild fever, sore throat, and general blah. Not unusual this time of year when I’m over worked, under rested, and spending close proximity high-touch time around several dozen circus performers, riggers, and coaches. But, I feel like crap.

More than a few folks have compassionately checked in on me. They’ve asked how I’m doing. How I’m handling all of this.

There’s a phrase folks that know me will often here me say, “It is what it is”. As I wrote in my guide, Mindfulness for Mere Mortals:

“Things are what they are. Life goes the way it goes. People are the way they are. No amount of complaining about it, worrying about it, or being upset about it is going to change it. Even if we can change it in the next moment we must first identify and recognize it right now. All we can do is accept what it is — whatever it is.”

I really do believe this even if, as I preach it, I sometimes fail to practice it. Even when life seems to be an overwhelming torrent and hurricane of hurt, peace is always found by returning my focus to the center — to the “I”. Let me try to explain. Warning: This may break your brain a little (but in a good way).

Let’s start with the declarative phrase, “I am”. I am happy. I am sad. I am angry.

Who (or what) is? Who (or what) is “I”?

You see, “I” is separate from the action. I is not the action. I is not happy or sad or angry in and of itself. It exists before and apart from those emotions or actions. In order to be happy or angry or sad “I” must first exist.

I is pure awareness. Pure consciousness. And, that being the case, it means that I is none of those things. I is simply aware of those things. Therefore, when one says I am happy or I am sad or I am angry one is checking in with that awareness and making an assessment of and giving a label to the emotions they feel arising at that time. But, “I” is not those emotions. I is simply aware of them. And, if I is separate from them, then I is not them. I does not have to be them. I can be aware of other emotions that could also arise, I can choose a different path.

So, how am I in the midst of all that is going on in my world (not to mention the World) right now?

It is what it is.

I am OK.

Traveling Thoughts: Clothing

More loosely gathered thoughts I want to share that arose during my recent travels. This time, on clothing. Many longtime readers may know I’m a big practitioner of traveling light. Years back, I even made a video of how I pack in a single backpack for short trips. Here’s some thoughts I had and short reviews of things I tried during my trip to Iceland:

  • Iceland, being an island not far from the Arctic Circle, can be cool in the summer with unpredictable weather. This was especially true at the time we visited. The Icelanders we met said that the weather was even more cold, rainy, windy, and downright nasty than usual and stayed that way the whole time we were there, said it had been that way all summer, and blamed climate change. I mention it here because Iceland is the first place I’ve traveled where my general rule against packing things “just-in-case” failed me at many points during the trip. I should have packed my heavier rain jacket “just in case”. I should have packed an extra layer or two “just in case”. And, a pair of heavier waterproof hiking boots should have been packed “just in case”. I encountered daily use cases for them there and suffered slightly without them. And, in Iceland, things are expensive. Normally, if you failed to pack for an unforeseen need, many things can be purchased at your destination. In Iceland, if you think you’ll just make up for it by buying and extra layer or 3-in1 rain jacket there, be prepared to pay three to five times as much as you would have buying any such thing at home. A basic sweatshirt will set you back the equivalent of $60.00 USD and that 3-in-1 jacket will run you close to $200.00.
  • This was the first trip in years that I brought different underwear than my go-to Ex-Officio Give-n-go boxer briefs. This time, I brought a few pairs of Uniqlo Airism Boxer Briefs. These things are fantastic. Amazingly light yet strong and sturdy. Good odor-fighting capabilities. They pack down to practically nothing. They wash up quickly and dry completely in a couple of hours. I have found my new favorite travel underwear for sure.
  • Along with my (sadly, no longer made) Patagonia Nomad travel pants, I brought along a pair of Patagonia Causey Pike Pants. These are made for hiking and they are perfect for that. They are also great for travel even if just a tad bit on heavy side than what I normally prefer. Once again, these wash up easily in a sink at night and will be ready to wear the next day.
  • Merino t-shirts are a must for travel. They are an investment for sure but one which will last for years and that you can wear for multiple days (or, for a week trip, bring two and swap them day-to-day) without washing. You can go a whole week with just the two t-shirts (pro-tip: pack one, wear the other on the plane). I brought two on this trip that I already owned but they are both over ten years old now and, I realized on this trip, showing signs of age. These new ones by Proof from Huckberry look fantastic and I’ll likely pick a couple of these up to replace the old ones I have (both from REI and models no longer made).
  • The REI Flash 18 continues to be my favorite stuff-a-few-daily-items-and-still-have-some-room bag. It rolls up to about the size of a small water bottle for packing into your luggage to be used for daily carry at your destination. It’s not a true “stuffs in it’s own pocket” travel backpack but, if you have a small stuff sack to stash it in it might as well be. In Iceland, I had a couple of packable jackets, some pack towels for the daily visit to a hot spring, some water and snacks for all three of us in it and I could have stuffed a bit more in. It’s like a Tardis.
  • The Merrell Trail Glove 4 continue to be my favorite shoes for traveling and light hiking. They were mostly great in Iceland but, as stated above, failed in the exceptional rainy, muddy, nasty conditions I often encountered on this trip. The shoes I should have brought are the Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX which I own and would have been much better for the conditions. I guess the lesson learned is to carefully think through such things and, against my nature, not be so concerned about packing light if the conditions dictate otherwise.

Your Friend, Your Fan

Yesterday, I had a little bit of extra time between appointments so I wandered into a small independent bookstore I’ve not frequented in a while. I was just killing some time with no goal in mind. I perused the new releases, staff favorites, etc. All the while, making chit-chat with the proprietor.

Among the new and interesting, I spot The World of Lore: Wicked Mortals by my friend Aaron Mahnke. I ask her if she’s read it herself. She hasn’t. I tell her the history of the Lore empire. Mention that Aaron is a friend. That he’s done quite well for himself and how proud of him I am. I tell him about the things he did before Lore became his thing. I tell her about the books he published before Lore and that they were OK but showed he had a genuine passion about myths and legends and history and how even those were actually a part of the Lore journey before he even realized where that was going and how creativity is funny that way.

We then started talking about ghost stories and that led to a conversation about Broken River by my friend J. Robert Lennon which she had read and enjoyed. I told her about another book of his, Familiar, which she had not read but I very much enjoyed. She searched to see if she had it in stock, did not, but promptly ordered a copy to read and see if it was something she should have on the shelves.

This led me to ask her if she had any of my friend Kelly McCullough’s books in stock. Once again, she did not. I told her about really enjoying reading his latest, Magic, Madness, and Mischief aloud with my wife and daughter, each of us taking a chapter each. I told her my daughter chose it for her book club. That it is a mid-grade book that deals compassionately with issues of metal illness. She ordered that one up too.

It only occurred to me as I left the shop how cool it is that I am to be able to walk into a bookstore and see the work of so many friends there. I revel in being an advocate for their work (though, it helps that it is all work worth promoting). That, maybe, one more person will be turned on to their work and my effort will be rewarded…

Then, I kicked myself for forgetting to tell her about Shawn Mihalik. Gah! Next time, perhaps.

Traveling Thoughts: Flying

Here are some loosely gathered thoughts about flying that occurred to me during my recent trip to Iceland:

  • Our flight out was delayed by 4 hours. The flight was scheduled to leave at 10pm. We were loaded onto the plane at 9:30pm when a mechanical issue, what turned out to be the startup controller for one of the engines, was discovered. The mechanics replaced one part, and then another, and, about 1.5 hours later, after attempting to get going, the replacement part failed. At that point, we were taxied back to the jetway and deplaned. They brought in pizza. It’s never a good sign when they buy pizza. You know if pizza is coming you’re going to be in for a long night. But, eventually, the issue was fixed, we were loaded back on, and the plane finally left the ground at 2am.
  • Now, flight delays can be a very frustrating experience for any number of reasons. Even I, Mr. Buddhazenmindfulnessitiswhatitis, can feel my ire arise in such situations. But, this time, I need to give credit where it is due. The entire team assisting our flight, the gate agents, the flight attendants, the pilots, and the ground crew were friendly, communicative, graceful under tremendous pressure, understanding, and reassuring while at the same time forthcoming. Despite the delay, it was by far measure the best customer service experience I’ve received on a flight in years. It made the entire incident bearable. So, to the entire crew of Delta DL260 to KEF… Kudos!
  • Delta must have had some company wide customer service training recently because the return crew was equally great.
  • I don’t think I will ever understand the far too many people who leap up and crowd the gate as soon as boarding commences. It seems the moment the gate agent starts the “We are set to begin boarding flight…” 75% of the plane jumps up and starts herding to the jetway. It’s ridiculous. Especially, because it generally causes nothing but issues and delay for everyone including those seeking to get ahead for that all too precious overhead bin space. Are you a PriorityDiamondMedalionSuperSpecialSecretClub member with FirstBusinessSmallChildServiceMember seating? No? Then sit the heck down! Me? Well, I sit and enjoy not being packed together like cows waiting for the chute for the slaughterhouse to open. I wait until my zone/row/seat is called. I sometimes wait even longer and let others go ahead of me. If there is no room for a carryon they will gladly gate check it for no charge, so why rush? Enjoy some extra peace and let the rubes fight for their to-little-for-too-much space in the tube. Your seat isn’t going anywhere. It will be there, unoccupied, waiting for you when you get there.
  • Related: The older I get the more I realize what a mistake it is to rush, hurry, and jockey for position one’s way through life.
  • If you fly Internationally only once, Global Entry is worth it. We (My wife, daughter, and I) were through the TSA Precheck going out and through US Customs on the return in under five minutes. Imagine arriving at Customs with your other herd-like 300 plus other passengers. Now, imagine that other International flights have arrived before you have. People have completed Masters degrees in shorter times than the wait in some Customs lines. With Global Entry you skip all of that. Go to a kiosk, scan your passport and your fingerprints, take the receipt and hand it to a friendly Customs agent and walk out. Done. I now can’t imagine flying any other way.
  • Many of Craig Mod’s suggestions are helpful.
  • It seems all European airports are actually duty free malls with jetways attached.

Traveling Thoughts: Driving

One of my favorite things about traveling, especially outside of the United States, is that the everyday things I take for granted and barely think about are suddenly exposed for consideration and examination. On my recent trip to Iceland, one of those things was driving. Here are some of the thoughts that popped up for me while spending a week driving around southern Iceland.

  • Our rental car was a Renault Clio. A four door sport wagon. When renting in Europe, I often end up with a Renault. Maybe it is the French surname and rental agents with a keen eye for pairing. Renault is a brand I wish was more available in the United States as I’ve always had a good experience with their cars. This time was no different. Thoughtfully placed controls, roomy interior — even in the back seats, a nice driving feel, good pickup, and a French je ne sais qua.
  • The “key” was actually a thick plastic card you slide into a slot in the center console. Ignition was a push button.
  • It was diesel and it seems many cars in Iceland are. Diesel seems to be the Unleaded of Iceland. Which I found surprising (even a bit jarring) given the unspoiled natural landscape.
  • The car automatically, shuts off the engine when idle. As in, every single stop light and sign. It just turns off. It starts up again, automatically, when the driver removes their foot from the brake. I was told this is the new standard for cars sold in European countries now. It was at once, admirable (for the fuel and ecological savings), annoying (kind of hard to be quick into a roundabout when you have to wait that half-second for the engine to start), and curiosity fueling (I wonder if that makes the ignition system or other engine components fail more quickly? Is it worth the trade off?)
  • There are many reasons why small cars are far more popular in European countries, but one of those is fairly narrow roads. This is not a place for the driver who is thrown by passing double-trailer semi trucks on the highway at 90kph with only a couple of feet of clearance and no shoulders.
  • Equally interesting were the several bridges we crossed that were one lane for both directions. I was unsure of the rule regarding right-of-way on those but only had to encounter another car wishing to come the opposite direction once. That time, I let them have right-of-way despite my arriving first.
  • Driving remains one of my favorite activities. I’m one of those people who can be behind the wheel and never tire of it. Iceland is a very fun country to drive in. Beautiful mountain sprung waterfalls and fields of steam vents. Lupine in full bloom along almost every highway,. Sheep who seem to understand the right-of-way rules as it applies to them better than you do (i.e They have it). The horses, proud and iconic, everywhere.
  • I’m very much looking forward to returning. A wonderful country to explore further.

We Need You.

We need you to be proud.

We need you to replace the word “sufferer” with the word “survivor”. We need you to avoid speaking of yourself as a mental illness sufferer. We need to tell people that you are a mental illness survivor.

We need you to tell the world “I’m a survivor”.

We need you to say to the world, “You’ve heard of cancer survivors? You’ve heard of heart attack survivors? Well, I’m a Mental Illness Survivor and I’m proud of that.”

We need you to remind others that this is an illness, not dissimilar from other illnesses and that, like those, this too can and does kill. We need you to inform those who don’t know that. We need you to be a proud example of someone who has survived. We need you to get a bit puffed-up about the fact that you fight the Piggyback Guy every damn day and that you win. That each next breath is proof of what a badass you are. We need you to do this for those that can’t. Those that are not quite there yet. We need you to give them hope.

We need you to own it.

We need you to speak about your experience openly, honestly, and without shame. When people ask questions, no matter how stupid, we need you to reply with the best answers you can give. We need you to help others who don’t understand what it means to live with a mental illness. To live each day with your brain often, actively, trying to get you to die. We need you to let them know that not everyone is the same and it’s different for everyone but that one thing is the same and that is, if it is left unchecked, it can and does kill.

We need you to get help when you need it.

We need you to tell people it’s OK to need to talk to someone about this. That it’s OK to need to take medication. That sometimes you may need to pick up the phone and call a hotline, or phone a friend who gets it. That, maybe, you might need to spend some time at a hospital or in a care facility. That this is what people who have an illness sometimes have to do. That this is how they get better.

We need you to take care of yourself.

We need you to be kind to yourself. We need you to follow the “life mask rule” (put yours on before assisting others). We need you to take it easy on the hard days and to be a symbol of hope for others on the good ones. We need you to be OK with not being OK and OK with being OK when you are OK. Because being OK takes a bit of extra work for many of us. Be happy that you are.

We need you to be there for the others that aren’t.

We need you to show others they can beat this. That it does not have to kill you. Because, here’s the deal. When folks like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain die because of this illness, many of us who are deep in it ourselves say, “Damn. If they can’t beat it then how can I?”. We need you to be a living shining example of one who has survived. Who continues to survive. Who continues to thrive.

We need you to be an ambassador.

We need you to tell the world that mental health is everyone’s issue. That if they have a brain then mental health matters to them personally. That this is why it is important to support mental health research and mental health organizations and mental health causes. Not just for the survivors they know, but for themselves too. Let people know that everyone — everyone — has some mental health crisis at some point in their lives. Let them know that they may not have an illness but may need a bit of extra support during such times. Let them know that this is OK to and that there is no shame in it and that this is why supporting mental health as a cause benefits everyone.

We need you to know that you matter.

That every single Mental Illness Survivor is proof that we can beat this. That it can and does get better. That there is hope. That there is dignity. That they are deserving of our respect.

I’m a mental illness survivor. And, no matter who or where or how you are, I need you with me on this.

The Piggyback Guy

There’s a three hundred pound guy I know and, no offense to other three hundred pound guys but, the guy is an asshole. He wants a piggyback ride. He won’t leave me alone about it. He’s been following me around for forty years demanding a piggyback ride. He’s angry and brooding and relentless about it. He just wont quit and likely never will.

Most days, these days, he stands a couple of hundred feet away looking pissed off and grumbling under his breath about not getting his ride. It’s OK, I hardly know he’s there. I can ignore him.

But, some days, he’s 20 feet away yelling at me. He’s like, “Hey! Where’s my ride! Give me my ride!” I have to spend a significant amount of my mental and emotional energy to ignore him and get stuff done. But, then, I get afraid that if I ignore him he’ll get closer and so then I run. I try to get some distance between me and him. Sometimes that works. Most of the time, it doesn’t. I just have to remind myself that I have the power and courage and strength to keep him at bay.

Then I wake up the next morning and he’s sitting on my chest. I can’t get up out of bed. He’s literally on top of me and, well, I’m just not strong enough to push him off. He sticks his face an inch from mine and I, helplessly trapped, have to sit there and listen to all of the abuse he throws at me. How I’m a fucked up and worthless human being. That all he wanted was a piggyback ride and I’m a piece of shit for not letting him have one. That now, now, he’s going to sit on top of me and relax more and more and crush me with his full weight and that he’s never getting off and that my friends can’t save me and my loved ones can’t help and the only way out is to figure out how to get through the day with him on my back because I’m going to have to give him a piggyback ride for the rest of my life and that even if I manage to get him off somehow he’s always going to be there so maybe I should just die.

This. This blessed life I have. Seriously, it’s amazing. Words can’t describe how incredibly humbled by it I feel most days. I have a beautiful wife, smart and incredible kids, I want for nothing… Except to have all of that without the three hundred pound asshole hanging around. And still, even though most days are just fine, I have to live each one with him around out there in the distance and I know the only way he’ll ever leave is after I’m dead.

That is the best way I have found to describe depression to someone who doesn’t live with it — who is not surviving with it. Every. Damn. Day.

So now, perhaps, if you don’t know what that feels like and the reality of it you might, maybe, be able to understand why a Anthony Bourdain, someone who lived with such curiosity and passion for life, might choose death. A guy with a groudbreaking TV show and kids and friends and travel and money and and and… His three hundred pound guy got the best of him.

My wife, upon hearing the news this morning, asked, “Why does it seem so many of our artists, creatives, and brilliant people are committing suicide lately?”

I said, “Lately, the world itself feels like a three hundred pound guy demanding piggyback rides.”

Now, I just want to be clear, especially to those who have a three hundred pound guy like mine, or to whom the whole world feels like one — THERE IS HELP. There are doctors and organizations and medications and much much more. You can push that guy so far away you’ll be OK. You can learn to live with his sour sad sack ass looking all lonely and sad and hopeful out in the distance. And, objects at a distance seem so small in perspective.

As for me, after years of doctors, hospitalization, medication, treatment, and the rest, it was this book and zen practices in general (mindfulness, meditation, presence, etc.) that helped me. It’s how I keep my three hundred pound guy far away most days and have for years.

But, those of us who suffer must find our own path. There is no one way, one cure, one answer to fix it. We know more about the planet Neptune than we do about the human brain. For some it takes a single pill for others a lifetime of minute-by-minute work. But, there are many — SO MANY — places to contact and ask for help.

There’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support (1-800-273-8255).

I’m on the board of Mental Health Association of Minnesota which offers something called a Warmline for folks who may not be in immediate crisis but just need someone to talk to who have been there and get it (651-288-0400)

Unsure if you are just a little down or have your own three hundred pound piggyback guy? Take an online assessment and get a good idea.

The point is, you are not alone. You don’t have to put up with that guy. There is a way to get him off your back. Please, do it for us. All of us who love you. All of us who need someone, who’s like us, to give us hope. Today.

On Accepting Defaults

My Dad is moving into a house I rehabbed a few years back. He’s doing so after leaving a several year relationship. The house is unfurnished and has blank walls — a clean slate.

My Dad’s belongings mainly consist of the standard personal items and clothing as one would expect, but the remainder is heavily weighted by books, vinyl records, and audio equipment (he’s a freelance audio/radio engineer). As for furniture, he’s got some old library tables and bookshelves. He bought a bed right away so he’d have something to sleep on but otherwise, that’s about it. He says he’s not going to rush out and get more furniture right away. Instead, he’s going to set up what he has and fill in any missing things intentionally, as he discovers a need.

In walking though the house now scattered with unpacked boxes while listening to his plans, he also talked about how he was going to arrange the the house and the functions of the various rooms. He’s doesn’t plan to entertain guests regularly, if at all, so there’s likely no need for couches. Instead, what some would turn into the living room, and the space that has always been used as such by previous inhabitants, he’s going to turn into his library. Bookcases covering almost every wall, and a large table in the middle. Because it is just him, he does not see the need for a dining room. The room some naturally would use for that function would, for him, be an office. There’s a room off the living room that I have come to call the sunroom. For him, that is to be a project/craft workspace. He said, “I’m going to design the space for how I live my life, not other people’s.”

It got me thinking about defaults. How most homes are build and laid out with a standard concept in mind. If I were to ask ten people to draw the floorplan of a home, I’d likely get the same general picture from each. The front door would lead to a living room then to a dining room then to a kitchen. That would be the central flow with rooms hanging off of that. That’s the default.

Most of us move into a new house and move the couches into where we assume the couches should go and the dining table into what we assume is the place that such activities are supposed to happen. We accept the defaults. But why?

Furthermore, despite the likely fact that 99% of the homes in Western society are designed this way, why do we simply accept this without considering how we personally live and if that designs fits us? Why do we instead fit into the design we’re given? Why would someone who loves to cook and entertain not have the dining room right inside the front door and a large kitchen after that? Would they choose to have a “living room” at all? Writer Umberto Eco has largely converted his entire home into a library, which makes sense for a writer and scholar. Why not others who consider themselves such?

The truth is, this is not just about our living spaces but the many, many, areas of life where we simply accept the defaults we’re given. There are many things we do just because that’s the way they’re done or that’s what others expect or that’s what they called this. We never stop to question and decide if this fits us and how we live.

All of this is just to get myself (and hopefully you, dear reader) thinking about all of these defaults and consider if that is what works for us and how we live and, if we’re able, to consider rejecting those defaults and forging our own path.