Why Subscribe to One More Thing?

A reader of my newsletter (Hi Minnow!) recently asked me the following question:

This is off topic, but i have this immense inertia to start a newsletter. Yours is inspiring in the sense that you’ve taken away the agenda and just made it a place where you can share your heart. What’s been the benefit of this for you both personally and professionally?

I thought about this a long time (over a month) before I sent my answer but I feel like what I said sums up why anyone might want to subscribe to it…

The benefit is that I feel this best honors the reason why people might subscribe to my newsletter versus simply and solely reading my other work (books, blogs, etc.) I started by asking myself what makes “one more thing” from me worth the time and attention? How can I give people any more than what I already give elsewhere?

The answer to this question was to go deeper and more personal. A person’s inbox is a private space where relationships are formed. Therefore, people only invite in people they trust, respect, and wish a deeper level of engagement. People they’d like to get to know better. This is what I try to deliver with my newsletter.

Because of that, I reciprocate by giving those who read it the same level of respect, trust, and engaged relationship readers give to me. I respond to every reply I receive (even if it sometimes takes me a while) and consider those that read my newsletter friends.

So, I guess that’s the best answer I have. It helps me form, maintain, and cultivate friendship with all that subscribe. And, in that way, it helps me both personally and professionally because in my line of work there is little hard distinction between the two.

So, if that’s something that resonates with you, I invite you to read the archives to get a further sense of what I offer there or to go ahead and subscribe.

Lowepro GearUp Camera Box — A Brief Review

I’ve been looking for a nice small case for my Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera kit. One that I could easily drop into my GORUCK GR1 or Echo and give me just enough space for the camera, a couple of lenses, my Peak Design Capture Clip, and a small accessory or two. I’d been using a GORUCK GR1 Field Pocket for a while but, not being designed for a camera specifically, it was never quite right and felt awkward. After looking at many options that were either too big or not quite right in other ways, I recently ordered up the Lowepro GearUp Camera Box. I dare say. it’s perfect.

It’s about the size, shape, and look of a soft sided lunchbox. It has an outside zip pocket on one face, a two-way double zipper to open the main compartment, four removable and reconfigurable padded dividers on the inside, as well as a large pocket with a mini one for memory cards.

It is just large enough to hold exactly what I needed it to hold and nothing more. The design seems sturdy and just enough padding to keep everything safe. The bright orange handle on top will allow it to be easily found inside of a dark bag. I could not have designed a more perfect case for my needs.

I’ve got a fair amount of travel coming up over the next few months and I’m glad to finally have a good solution for my camera.

 

Another Case for Minimalism

My wife’s father passed away at the end of August. It came quickly. He was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at the end of June. Two months later he was gone.

I originally wrote a long, yet only partial, list of some of the items we’ve had to dispose, recycle, give away, etc. and the time we’ve had to spend doing so here. The truth is, the amount of items and dissertations on the needs/wants/don’t needs of each doesn’t matter. Stuff is stuff. Someone will have to deal with it regardless.

All of this stuff we own and save and think is so very important to have… It’s also what we will leave behind when we die. And those we purport to love and care about will be the ones left to clean up our mess. In what will in all likelihood be a time of grief, they’ll be cleaning. In their loss, they’ll be organizing. In a time of darkness, they’ll be digging out of our mountain of stuff trying to find the light.

The thing is, if he knew he had six months, 12 months, 18 months left, maybe he would have done something about all of the stuff. maybe he would have thought to whittle it down and spare us of some of this burden. Or not. Who knows? But, the truth is that, most of us don’t have that. Death comes quickly, suddenly, without warning. Therefore, it behooves us to prepare for it to happen anytime. To treat everything we buy and every choice we make as something that may have a permanence that will outlast us.

This is yet another case for being intentional about our possessions and doing our best to practice living with only as much as we need. The truth is that when we go, all the things that may be of benefit to you will become a burden for those we leave behind. The things you keep around to be used someday become the things that have to go today. Even the things one generally needs like the food in the refrigerator, cups in the cupboard, and clothes in the closet will have to be dealt with by someone — likely someone you love. Most of it will have to go somewhere, likely not with them. Especially if they are trying to save such a burden for the ones they love.

So, this is another reason to live as lightly as we can. To put some serious thought into what we need, what we don’t, what is our “enough”. Because, whether it matters or not, we will leave it all behind one day.

Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown — A Review

Do you remember the movie Purple Rain? Yes? Well, let’s be honest — on paper, it’s not a very good movie. The direction is too earnest, it’s narrative is more a collection of vignettes loosely strung together by a soundtrack, and it is mostly populated with musicians, not actors, trying way too hard to act. But, somehow, despite all of that, it works. It’s electric. The musical performances thrilling. And the whole time one has the feeling they are on the cusp of something big. Because they are. A defining moment in the career of an artist and, some may argue, music itself. It’s an experience more than it is a movie. But, that’s what makes it great.

On paper, Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown shouldn’t be a great book. It’s a collection of morning pages, loosely-joined notes, poetry, quotes, interviews, ideas not fully formed, and fan-non-fict of sci-fi author and visionary Octavia Butler. The author tells you up front that she doesn’t have any of this figured out and invites you along to help her do so, so don’t expect any answers at the end. In fact, the hidden secret is that the idea of Emergent Strategy itself has no hard boundaries (“answers” are boundaries) and depends on mass participation driven both e intentionally and organically by individual action. The book, is the author’s action and she’s suggesting ways that others may take theirs.

But, the whole time I was reading it, it was thrilling. Every few sentences I’d run into an idea that was electric. And the whole time I had the feeling the author is on the cusp of something big. That the idea of Emergent Strategy, once we collectively figure it out, could be the answer to so many things. That it could reshape lives and movements in fundamental ways. And, even if that’s not the case it was such fun to be a part of that energy that it’s easily the best book I’ve read this year (and, perhaps, in many years). One that I’ve marked up furiously (and that my wife marked up as she read it before me) and that we will be talking about, referencing, revisiting, and using as a guide for years to come.

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.