Falling Down

I fell through the ceiling in my hallway tonight. I was carrying a stupidly heavy box of books from my packed up office (a box that was so I heavy I actually thought to myself: I should probably just leave these downstairs), and since my attic doesn’t have decking (but does have a high number of obstacles to easy walking) I missed one of the joists and my left foot came crashing through the ceiling below.

It’s a good thing my butt already has a crack in it – as it is, I almost gave myself a second one. Luckily, nothing sensitive got injured, and all I ended up with was a three foot square hole in my ceiling and a baseball sized contusion on the right side of my butt (which was helpfully treated by my sitting on an ice pack for 20 of the most awkward and least attractive minutes of my life).

For someone who just quit his job and has a limited income right now, this was not a welcome experience. Doubly so since I also have the handy man skills of a six month old.

So now I’m sitting here, staring at the massive hole in my ceiling, and all I can think of is Michael Caine. Specifically, this clip:

I love that clip for a thousand different reasons, not the least of which is Michael Caine’s accent. The man just sounds cool. But I also love it for the truth it contains: we fall down so we can learn to rise. Life has its way of asking us to go backward in order to go forward; we’re not fond of that fact, but it’s true all the same.

I had coffee with a friend tonight (well, now that I think about it, I had coffee; he never drank a thing) and we talked about life and the changes that it holds. For me, the changes with my job and career track; for him, the adjustments to fatherhood and how his writing/creative life has been put on hold for the moment. As we often do, we reminisced about life in high school and college, and we each were able to identify a specific point, or a specific thing, that – if we could do it all again – was the one thing we’d do differently. We talked about that for a second, and then my friend said something like this:

“But you know, by not taking that path, we’ve become the men we are today. So in some ways, not making those choices taught us to make them when they counted.”

We fall down, so we can learn to pick ourselves back up.

I know plenty of people who’ve fallen down lately (and for some, it’s more accurate to say they’ve been shoved down cruelly or kicked to the ground). There are people who are simply looking for enough hope to make it through the end of the week, or the day, or their particular shift at work. They wonder if things will ever be in their favor; if they’ll ever reach that point where life feels like it’s moving forward more often than it feels like it’s going back. The dream is still out there, but they’re tired of it being beyond reach.

All I can say is that falling down isn’t the worst thing in the world. Going backward isn’t always bad. It’s staying there that’s the issue.

If we fall down, we must get up.

That’s the path of reward – that’s the life worth living. Even gaping ceiling holes can be patched and made good as new. But sometimes, we have to live through those moments to believe that.


ImageIf you have a senior in high school or college, you know darn well what time of year it is.


That magical time when young people turn the page on a specific portion of their lives and look eagerly toward whatever the next chapter may be. For high schoolers, it might be college. For collegians, it might be a job. For parents, it might be a nervous breakdown.

Huge life moments have that effect, you know.

Because I’ve lived through my fair share of such transitional moments (high school, college, first job change, marriage, moving, birth, more job changes, most recent job change – just off the top of my head) I thought I would offer some prosaic words of not-quite-wisdom but not-quite-humor. Let’s just call them musings.

* There will be more times in your life when you feel exactly as you do now: a mixture of nerves and satisfaction. This is the normal way a healthy, growing person should feel. Learn to be okay with it, instead of fearing it the way so many before you did.

* If you don’t know this by now, then remember: if you don’t decide who and what you want to be, someone else will come a long and assign you a role. Don’t let them.

* The first big lie of American adulthood is that more money makes you happy. The second big lie is that money doesn’t matter. Strive for the middle ground, where money is a tool you learn to use with wisdom and discretion.

* There will always be someone around to tell you that you can’t do something. Take some time to hear the voices who tell you that you can. (Unless what you’re wanting to do is patently stupid; in that case, listen to the can’t chorus.)

* A job is a job. A career is what you do with the jobs you have to make the world a better place.

* All things in moderation, including risk, caution and cologne.

* If the phone rings, answer it. If you don’t, respond to the voice mail. If you don’t, pretend you were in the hospital for an extended period of time.

* Every organization, no matter what its purpose, is an institution. And institutions are where they put crazy people. Including you. 

* Surprisingly, there are very few well-paid poets. Same is true of nuclear engineers.

* When it comes to getting a job, it’s not the degree, it’s the person who wields it. And whom the person who wields it knows.

* Those who can, do. Those who can do and explain how, teach. Those who can do neither, blog. And there are 10,690,000,000 Google search results for the word “blog”.

* At some point in your life, you might fall in love. Depending on whom you fall in love with, rest assured your family will have a lot of opinions on the matter. And so might the rest of the world. You decide which ones to listen to.

* It’s been said you can either be happy or right. That’s a false dichotomy. You can be both, if you’ll shut up when you need to, speak when you should, and say things with grace in the moment.

* And finally, this is a truth that few people heed: life is a series of endings, followed by beginnings. Don’t be afraid when an ending comes around. It means a beginning is just around the corner.

To the class of 2013 – all the best. Godspeed, good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

The Lonely Life (or The Post of 1,000 Tags)

It’s a lonely life in my head. I spend a lot of time thinking, mostly about things, but often enough about stuff that one might affectionately call nothing. Effluvia. Flotsam. Jetsam. Trash. Junk. For example:

Why does the hotel in which I’m currently staying not have a third or thirteenth floor?

Why do people preen in front a mirror, regardless of where they encounter it?

On a scale from 1 t0 10, how embarrassing is it to pass gas on an elevator one floor before another person gets on?

Why can you only hear freight train whistles in the dead of night?

Is America really the land of opportunity, or is that just one heck of a marketing slogan designed to trap desperate people?

What the heck is fair trade coffee, and why are we more worried about that than about lowering the homeless population in the U.S.?

Come to think of it, why will so many people gladly pay $6.00 for a fricking latte, but won’t sponsor a needy child overseas?

How do some people stay motivated in the face of failure?

How do some people live with the knowledge that their biggest dream is likely to never come true?

Can someone satisfactorily explain the following in three words or less: Snooki, Lady Gaga, Channing Tatum, Will Arnett?

If you don’t believe in God, Dr. Dawkins, then why are you so pissed off at Him?

There are good people who live their entire lives without getting a single nice thing written about them somewhere that someone else is likely to read it.

If the hotel is so nice, why do the pillows smell like someone spent a solid hour farting into them?

Insomnia: discuss.

What’s funny?

I think suede is leather that dropped out of school.

Are Apple computers really that much better than PCs, or am I just a schmuck for thinking that?

If so many people think what I write is funny and/or good, why doesn’t someone offer to publish me? Or any of the writers that I know who are really good?

The P.E.T.A. founder is certifiably insane. If you don’t believe me, read some of the provisions in her will.

Why is it that whenever I watch my favorite sports team play they inevitably lose, and when I don’t watch them they inevitably win? Are they trying to tell me something?

George Carlin would have made an outstanding college English professor.

What is luck and why do some people seem to hoard it?

Why do some bottled waters have nutritional information printed on the label? It’s water.

Sometimes the most heroic act in life involves little more than just waking up, taking a deep breath, and getting out of bed.

Single parents, regardless of how they came to be that way, deserve one heck of a lot of respect.

I’ll be completely against gay marriage when Christians who protest against it quit accepting divorce so casually. If marriage is a sacred bond between man and woman, then that bond should last longer than a rerun of Star Trek. Right now, marriage is about as sacred to most Christians as jury duty.

At 12:00 in the morning, I wonder if the only reason alcohol is legal and pot is not is because no one has figured out a successful business model that won’t hack off the drug cartels. I’m completely against legalized pot, but I guarantee you the minute they figure out a way to make hella-profit off of it, Uncle Sam will pass that law.

I’m 35 pages into Infinite Jest (out of 1,079 – and that includes the footnotes), I have no idea what the heck is going on, and yet I’m still loving every minute.

When did we stop caring about other human beings and start caring only for the bottom line? Not just financially, but in everything?

Joan Rivers isn’t funny.

Neither is Adam Sandler.

And yet both continue to make good money being not funny.

Are newspapers dead or are they merely acting like it?

When’s the last time you heard someone say “hornswoggled” in casual conversation? How about “bumfuzzled”? Or “dadblameit”?

Raise your hand if you know what the Southernism “flitter” is a synonym for.

Why will a cat lick itself but then turn away food from a can? It can’t be a matter of taste, can it?

Speaking of matters of taste, why do some people love cheese that, if it were any other food product, should be thrown away for spoiling?

What person in charge of fashion decided that small girls under the age of 15 have to wear clothes that look like Jodie Foster’s old costumes from Taxi Driver? And if we discover who this person is, can we shoot them?

If you pray and pray and pray and pray, but God doesn’t answer, does that mean yes or no or maybe or wait or all of the above?

It’s time for bed. There’s more thinking to be done tomorrow.