Sunday, July 24, 2016

if you can't take the heat

I’ve spent the last few years struggling to find satisfaction in my career. I can’t say I ever loved working as an accountant, but trappings of it felt safe to me. I liked working in a comfortable office. I liked the good pay, paid time off, and benefits. In short, I liked that it provided a very comfortable lifestyle. While I’ve had great opportunities with some great companies, that didn’t always translate to overall job satisfaction.

A couple years ago I was working for philosophy, a skin care company. I enjoyed some aspects of the work I did, but felt apathetic at best about the rest. Overall, though, I loved the company, its culture, and its values. Looking back, I don’t know if I could have found another company in corporate America that was better suited to my personality. (And it didn’t hurt that it was down the street from Little Miss BBQ.) After I had been there for just over a year, our parent company announced that they’d be packing up philosophy and moving it to North Carolina. It was likely that I could have transferred but moving across the country didn’t make sense at the time. So I started a job search and almost immediately I was offered a position in external financial reporting at a real estate investment firm in Phoenix. The job prospect didn’t excite me, but with my marriage on its last leg, I felt like I had something to prove in taking this job that seemed like a stretch for me. And honestly, it just felt good to be wanted. I accepted the job.

I settled in well at first. But after a while, my marriage deteriorated and ended, and my desire to be successful with this company seemed to crumble with it. The harder I tried to convince myself to stick it out, the more I grew to resent the work I was doing and the company I worked for. I felt like I was living a lie — like I wasn’t being honest with myself or the company about what I wanted. I wanted to quit but I didn’t know where to go. I worried that if I moved to another accounting position at a different company that I would be just as unhappy. I knew I wanted to change my career and I knew I wanted to work in the restaurant industry. But I was so afraid to make that leap because I knew of no restaurant job that would pay as well as the job I had, nor were there any guarantees that I would like it or be successful.

Instead, I spent the last three or four months of my time with that company worrying almost every day that I would be fired. I’ve never had anything resembling a panic attack, but on the day of a major deadline at the end of March, my anxiety about getting fired felt near panic-attack levels. So I told my manager I wasn’t feeling well, left, and joined some friends for a movie.

The next day I was fired. Having imagined the scenario in my head a million times, it was a little surreal. I arrived at work and sat down at my desk. I was there for a couple minutes when I got a call from an HR manager. She asked me to meet her in a conference room on the first floor. I was prepared for this: I stuffed my personal belongings — a phone charger and some earbuds — into my pockets and made my way downstairs to the conference room. I was greeted by the HR manager and the head of my department. I sat down. The HR manager told me they had decided to terminate my employment. I stared back blankly as she and my department director rushed over some paperwork. She asked if I needed to go back to my desk to collect any belongings. “Nope. I’ve got everything here,” I said. I handed my badge over to the security guard who had slinked into the room at some point. He walked me out of the building to my car and badged me out of the parking garage.

During my drive home I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, but what I heard in my ears didn’t register my brain. I turned it off and drove in silence. At some point during the day I realized that I never had to return to that building, to that job again in my life and there was a wash of relief.

== == == == ==

Unemployment is awesome, but it also sucks. Suddenly, I had all the time in the world, but nothing to do with my time. I would’ve loved to take a trip but I needed to save what money I had. I would’ve loved to spend time with friends but they were all at work.

There was a lot of Netflix. I burned through eight seasons of The Office in a flash. Some days I felt empty inside. After a while I realized that I needed to spend part of my day exercising and part of it with friends or family. When I did I felt a lot better about life. I looked for work, albeit passively. I had interviews for accounting positions with two companies that seemed compelling, but I could only muster lukewarm enthusiasm for either.

After about a month my money started running out. During that time I had been spending my Friday nights baking with my friend Jared to prepare for the Gilbert Farmers Market on Saturday morning. In addition to baking, he also managed the restaurant attached to his bakery. One day I asked if they needed any kitchen help at the restaurant. They did. He hired me.

On my first or second day on the job, I remember thinking to myself, Wow. It feels like I’m doing real work. It was something that had been absent from so many of the other jobs I had throughout my accounting career: the ability to see, touch, smell, hear, and taste the output of my labor.

Some days are really hard. By the time we close, the kitchen looks like a disaster site and dishes are piled a mile high. But most days — after learning a new cooking technique or knife skill; after completing order after order after order and nailing each one; after having customers tell me how much they loved their meal, how they’ve found a perfect sandwich — I feel like a badass.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Thoughts For Now

When I was a little kid, my older brother told me that I was fat, and that is something I've always believed about myself. Throughout my life I have almost always been embarrassed by my weight and my body. I have rarely liked how I looked. A few weeks ago I was perusing photos from around six or seven years ago when I was attending BYU—Idaho. I was almost shocked to look at some of them because I remember being so self-conscious of my body at the time. I remember believing that I was overweight. I remember disliking myself, and not only because I thought I was overweight. I just didn't consider myself very likeable.

When I look at these pictures of myself from that era, I think to myself, Hey, I like that guy. He's alright. He's got some really good friends. He's really likeable. He's not a bad looking dude, and he is not fat.

When I look in the mirror today, the following thoughts are not rare: This guy is overweight. And he keeps gaining weight. He really needs to exercise and change his eating habits. His hair is getting too long and it's balding in the back. He's really let himself go. He needs to get his crap together or he'll never be worthy of having a deep, authentic connections with other people.

The hard thing about these statements isn't the truth or untruth thereof; that's pretty easy to discern on a surface level. The hard part is the judgment — what it means to me to be overweight, to be gaining weight. It's the shame I've attached to those statements that buries me.

What's funny about this (or maybe sad) is that in six or seven years from now when I look back at pictures of myself from this time, I suspect it will be through a lens of compassion, love, and gratitude. I'll think to myself, Man, look at that guy — he's trudging through some dead serious shit. I'm so grateful for the hard work he did during that time. He was worthy of what he was up to and he was worthy of the people he surrounded himself with. And look at those people. He chose wisely when it came to those he shared his life with. Man, I'm really grateful for the hard work he did. I like that guy.

When I imagine how I will feel about myself in the future, it makes it a little easier to feel good about myself now. It makes it easier to appreciate what I have now, and I begin to wake up to the fact that right now — like it has always been — my life is pretty rich.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I don't need this

When I was a little boy my brothers and I called it biggin juice. I'm assuming this name came from my dad telling us it was for big people only.

As a teenager I called it pop. In fact, a heated debate on the proper label of that sweetened, carbonated, often caffeinated beverage ended in pop and soda factions that still exist today.

A few years ago I began switching between pop and soda interchangeably. This came about when Jeremy and I topped off a trip to Stinkweeds with a visit to their former neighbor Smeeks, a bygone candy shop that boasted a decent selection of bottled beverages. While my high school self and fellow pop factioneers would be upset by my toe-dipping into soda territory, I can't lie to myself by saying that "bottled pop" sounds better than "bottled soda."

Whatever you choose to call it — because — and this was my argument in high school — whether you call it pop or soda is simply a matter of opinion — pop and I have had a pretty unhealthy relationship over the past couple years. As my trips to Stinkweeds with Jeremy became a regular occurrence, so did my soda purchases at Smeeks. From there I sought out restaurants that served my new lesser-known soda favorites: Boylan's Ginger Ale at Joe's Real BBQ. Lime Jarrito's at Filiberto's. During my first trip to Kansas City when we were merely boyfriend and girlfriend, I was particularly excited when Sarah took me to Blanc Burgers and Bottles, whose bottled soda selection is the best of any restaurant I've seen (try the bacon Gouda fries)*. And I soon discovered that most Mexican restaurants in the Phoenix valley and, really, any self-respecting restaurant, served Coca-Cola in a bottle, sweetened not with corn syrup, but with far superior cane sugar**.

*We ate so well that weekend.
**There are few things that have the singular, iconic taste of Coca-Cola sweetened with sugar.

I began looking for specialty sodas wherever I could find them: BevMo has an excellent selection and World Market carries a few favorites, like Bundaberg's Ginger Beer. I found a decent selection of Mexican sodas at Food City. I didn't hoard these beverages, but it wasn't rare to find two or three bottles waiting in my fridge.

Around this time, I noticed something about myself. I was gaining weight.

I have since attempted to quit drinking pop several times, and fewer times did I see any sort of success with that. One such success came a year ago, when I swore off pop for a couple months. I decided to indulge one evening while sitting with Sarah (who was then 24 hours away from becoming my fiancée) at Port Fonda in Kansas City. As I sipped a Mexican Coke I thought to myself, This is great. But I don't need this. And I felt great knowing that I didn't need pop in my life.

In my last blog post I talked about how I began drinking Mt Dew every morning as a way of dealing with a constant buzz of anxiety that crept in almost every morning. The sugar helped kill the anxiety. Well, initially anyway. After a few minutes, I seemed to lose control over most of my thoughts. This didn't help the anxiety, of course, because it allowed anxious thoughts to creep in and multiply unfettered. So in the end, that concentrated daily dose of sugar and caffeine made me feel worse.

I don't remember the circumstances, but I remember a period over several days where I didn't have any Mt Dew. Headaches ensued. I decided it was time to stop. No more soda or caffeine for me.

I kept that up for a couple weeks. Then I switched to Coke. Now most days I have a can of Coke in the morning and in minutes I notice the same effect: diminished control over my thoughts. I've noticed the same thing when I stop at QT for a donut on the way to work or if I grab something from the vending machine after lunch.

So here I am, typing this blog post, swearing off soda once again (and while I'm at it, swearing off morning QT stops and vending machine trips). I'm not giving it up for my entire life, but for a season. I don't know how long this season will last. Perhaps until the time when I can take a sip of Coke and say to myself and actually mean it —

I don't need this.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Depression, Medication, and Vitality

Earlier this year I came across one of the best best definitions of depression: "The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality." That's from Andrew Solomon in a TED Talk, "Depression, the secret we share." Given the pervasive nature of depression — whose family has not been affected by it? — why not give it a watch:

I try not to be shy about the fact that I sometimes struggle with depression and anxiety and that I have done so throughout a great deal of my life. It's strange how unpredictable depression can be, how it can strike even when life seems to be going well. A bout of depression hit me pretty hard last year just before Christmas. While wading through it all I told Sarah how awful I felt and we had a short talk about trying medication, which I had never done before. I had been working with a therapist, and through all that work, I had been able to make some progress with my mental and emotional well being. But here it was again — depression — and I had no idea how to deal with it. Given the amount of therapy work I had done up to that point, medication seemed like a logical step. A couple weeks later, in mid-January, I walked out of my doctor's office with a prescription for Lexapro.

Still, I was afraid to take the meds. I was afraid I would lose part of myself. Sure, I had just lost part of myself to depression, but I was worried that I would lose myself in some unrecoverable new way, and I worried that I would lose the complementary strengths that accompany depression. In the TED Talk mentioned above, Andrew Solomon posed the questions I was then asking myself: "If I have to take medication, is that medication making me more fully myself or is it making me someone else? And how do I feel about it if it is making me someone else?"

Having never tried meds, I knew I'd never know how to answer those questions if I didn't try, and I didn't know which aspects of my life I would lose out on in remaining depressed. So I gave it a go. The first few weeks were pretty rough, which is normal. The first few days I was trippin' balls pretty hard and those feelings were exacerbated by my existential fears of losing myself.

And then — I felt OK.

I didn't feel depressed and I didn't feel like I had lost myself. In some ways I felt better, in some ways I felt the same, in a few ways I felt a little worse. Overall, it was a net gain. The medication was working. There were side effects. There always are. I was more tired than usual and my right eye twitched if I didn't get enough sleep or if I ate sugar (read: it twitched often). But again, the medication was working.

A couple months in — I think it was in March — I noticed a slight buzz of anxiety that seemed to come and go arbitrarily throughout the day. (My doctor had told me that anxiety could be a side effect of Lexapro, which, yes, is a strange side effect for a medication often used to treat general anxiety disorder.) Maybe it was from the meds, maybe it was from the stress of adjusting to marriage (which happened in March), maybe it was something completely unknown. Whatever it was, I found myself using sugar and caffeine — a Coke or Mt Dew when I got to work in the morning and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the afternoon — to try to dull the buzz. I knew this was a bad idea — sugar and caffeine only make my anxiety worse — but in the moment of consumption, the sugar helped me cope.

It wasn't long before I found myself wanting to go off the meds. But I didn't want to try another one and I worried that quitting the meds would plunge me into a deep depression. So I kept taking them, figuring that one day I would know when the time was right to try something else, whether that was quitting the meds or trying a new prescription.

Then one Friday afternoon a couple weeks ago I found myself at Walgreen's during my lunch break to refill my prescription. The pharmacy wouldn't refill it. The pharmacist supposed that the doctor wanted to see me before giving me another refill. So I called my doctor's office only to find out that they close at noon on Friday. I was without medication until Monday at the earliest.

I had missed taking my meds before — although for no longer than a day — and I could always notice a difference in my moods and feelings. Part of me was worried that I would become angry, despondent, or hopeless, but mostly I was just curious to see what those few days without medication would be like.

Saturday was interesting. I had DVR'ed a Bruce Springsteen concert that had aired at 3:00 am that morning so I spent my day watching Bruce while wandering in and out of the kitchen to bake a few loaves of ciabatta. For the most part I felt good — way better than I had expected — although I was a bit surprised when I found myself crying when Bruce and the band played "Bandlands." I guess the lines "We'll keep pushin' till it's understood / and these badlands start treating us good" seemed apropos given what I was going through.

I felt even better on Sunday, although by late afternoon I was feeling pretty dizzy and weak. Monday was about the same. Tuesday morning I told my doctor about my weekend (I left out the part about crying during "Badlands") and told him that I wanted to go off the meds. He was cool with it so he gave me a plan to taper off.

After reducing my dosage for about a week, on October first, right before bed, I took Lexapro for the last time.

As the days passed, my mood didn't dip or soar, but I found myself increasingly dizzy. Saturday the fourth was the worst of it.

Overall, I feel more in touch with myself and more capable of sorting out my feelings and being honest with myself. I've also been crying at the drop of the hat. Despite that increased honesty, it's difficult to tell if this is a well of sad energy leaving my body, if there are lots of hats dropping, if it's something else entirely, or all of the above (the likely scenario).

Here is what I believe about depression: I don't know if it will ever totally disappear from my life. It will most likely be something that continues to resurface here and there. While I am not currently at my most vital, I have the motivation, desire, and ability to care for myself in ways that will, I hope, help me increase my vitality. I can communicate with God, connect with family and friends, look for ways to love and serve others, make pizza, bread, and cookies, cook meats on the grill, read books, write, and do my best to love myself and remember that I'm a good guy who wants good things. Or maybe I can try another medication. There are a lot out there and I've only tried one.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


It's sometimes quite hard for me to stay true to myself. I've developed many theories as to why that is (some accurate, some absurd, like much of my deep thinking). What it boils down to is this: I just haven't had much practice at it. It's not something I'm used to doing. So, in effort for me to be more true to myself — which is essential if I want to be true to others — I've drafted the following creed as a reminder of who I am, something I can refer to and modify throughout the year and hopefully throughout my life. The old Myke would hope that you like it; the more true Myke hopes that you like it but doesn't take it too personally if you don't.

"One of the laws of paleontology is that an animal which must protect itself with thick armor is degenerate. It is usually a sign that the species is on the road to extinction." — John Steinbeck

I allow myself to be vulnerable because to live otherwise is to suffer. Vulnerability is an antidote to apathy. Vulnerability opens me to joy and pain. I graciously and gratefully accept joy. I don’t place myself in harm’s way, but I accept pain as a natural part of living life fully and allow my Savior to heal my pain.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." — Marianne Williamson

While I am sensitive to the insecurities of others, I don't allow those insecurities to keep me from speaking, acting, or being true to myself. Being true to myself allows me to be true to others. My fears and insecurities belong to me and the fears and insecurities of others belong to them.

"There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." — Nelson Mandela

"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized." — Daniel Burnham

I live my life with love, passion, and integrity. I dream big and I act in proportion to the size of my dreams. I’m more inclined to follow to an I want to and less apt to heed a you're supposed to, you need to, or you should.

"Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." — Yoda

I am not a victim. I am not an object to be acted upon. I am friend, brother, son, husband*, and father*. I recognize, acknowledge, and honor the great power and strength I possess, and I recognize, acknowledge, and honor the power and strength in others. I have the potential to become like God but I am not Him. I take responsibility where I can and where appropriate. I allow others the privilege of responsibility. It is a privilege and pleasure to lend help and support, but I leave the duties of rescuing and saving to God and to the Savior. I do not control or manipulate the choices of others, nor does God.

*Coming soon.

"In the world ruled by tigers with ulcers, rutted by strictured bulls, scavenged by blind jackals, Mack and the boys dine delicately with the tigers, fondle the frantic heifers, and wrap up the crumbs to feed the sea gulls of Cannery Row. What can it profit a man to gain the whole world and to come to his property with a gastric ulcer, a blown prostate, and bifocals? Mack and the boys avoid the trap, walk around the poison, step over the noose while a generation of trapped, poisoned, and trussed up men scream at them and call them no-goods, come-to-bad-ends, thieves, rascals, bums. Our Father who are in nature, who has given the gift of survival to the coyote, the common brown rat, the English sparrow, the house fly and the moth, must have a great and overwhelming love for no-goods and blots-on-the-town and bums, and Mack and the boys." — John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

My wants, needs, and desires are not unreasonable nor are they out of my reach and I am open to receiving what I want, need, and desire from others. My heart is good and I want want, need, and desire good things. To want, need, and desire makes me part of the human community. I am proud to belong to several communities: a community of family, a community of friends, a community of worshipers, a community of co-workers, a community of humans, and a community of God’s children. God has given me purpose within each community and I am happy to give to and receive from each. I trust God, that He knows me intimately and perfectly, and that He sees that my needs are met, by Him, myself, or someone else.

I am good, not perfect. I reserve the right to modify this document as I discover more Truth. In my quest to recover from the unhealthy habits and ways of being that I have adopted by birth, inheritance, circumstance, and choice, I know that slips, breakdowns, and mistakes are inevitable, OK, and even healthy; failure is a judgement and nothing more. I feel what I feel — happiness or sadness, joy or pain, love or hate, excitement or depression, calmness or anxiety — knowing that my feelings aren't always a true reflection of who I am, what I want, or what I am committed to.

P.S. I really did try to work in some Creed lyrics into my creed but they just didn't fit.

P.P.S. And yes, I'm aware of the irony of referring to so many quotes by other people in a document about being true to me. Like I said, I'm somewhat new to this.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Please consider the environment before printing this email

At work, every now and then I receive an email with words "Please consider the environment before printing this email" written just below the signature line.

And so my thoughts are drawn toward the complexities of our natural world.

I reflect on the majesty of the towering redwoods, the lofty grandeur of the Rockies, the arid beauty and harshness of Arizona's Sonoran desert.

My mind reels as I acknowledge the mysteries of the deep and the sheer variety of creatures that inhabit our mighty oceans — from the tiniest plankton to the giants of the ocean: whales, sharks, and whale sharks.

I reflect on the giants of the past, the terrible lizards that occupy our imaginations and Mother Earth's fossil record: the tyrannosaur, the brontosaur, and megalodon.

I consider our Earth's myriad weather phenomena, from the raging hurricane to the benevolent rain shower.

The eyes of my mind envision sunrise and sunset and my thoughts are called to the heavens, to our extraterrestrial environment: meteors, moons, asteroids, trans-Neptunian objects, galaxies, quasars, and nebulae.

I take a moment to marvel at the regality of our natural universe —

— and then I print the email.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mack and the Boys

"A Praise Chorus," the live-in-the-now anthem from 2001's Bleed American, has always been one of my favorite Jimmy Eat World songs. If the economic law of diminishing marginal utility states that a good or service — or in this case, a song — will decrease in utility or usefulness as a result of additional consumption, then "A Praise Chorus" seems to defy that law; I still sing along to "A Praise Chorus" with as much gusto as I did when I first fell in love with the song about 12 years ago.

This song is, among other things, a road trip staple so it was natural choice for a road trip mix I made for a recent trip to Utah, a mix that I played during my recent trip to Monterey. As I drove I considered the lines I had heard dozens of times before:

Are you gonna live your life wondering
Standing in the back looking around
Are you gonna waste your time
Gotta make a move or you'll miss out

These lyrics hit me hard because I have rarely considered myself as someone that has any semblance of control over his life. In what seems like a constant struggle to create the life that I want, the idea of these few lines — taking a stand for my life and finally following my dreams — has been a source of inspiration for me throughout recent years.

I remember one summer afternoon in Rexburg, Idaho, running through town with this song blasting in my ears. Approaching my 25th birthday, the line "Even at 25 you gotta start sometime" was particularly stirring. I remember vowing to myself during that run, that it was time to start living my life, time to start chasing down and living my dreams.

Easier said than done. I knew how to dream, but rarely did I know how to do.

A somewhat relevant photo (because it was taken in Monterey) that I'm only including to make this post more attractive visually. (And because it's a photo I'm proud of.)

During that same drive to Monterey, I encountered a voice that seemed to be in direct conflict with the familiar refrains of "A Praise Chorus." During our drive, my friend Angie read out loud from Steinbeck's Cannery Row. As we would be at Cannery Row later that day, it seemed appropriate. A passage from the first chapter introducing the characters caught my attention:

Mack was the elder, leader, mentor, and to a small extent the exploiter of a little group of men who had in common no families, no money, and no ambitions beyond food, drink, and contentment. But whereas most men in their search for contentment destroy themselves and fall wearily short of of their targets, Mack and the boys approached contentment casually, quietly, and absorbed it gently.

Those words stuck out to me, and over the past couple weeks the following Sméagol-Gollum-esque conversation has played out in my head:

Sméagol-Myke: "...approached contentment casually, quietly, and absorbed it gently." Wow. That sounds like a much easier way of living.

Gollum-Myke: But wait! What about "Gotta make a move or you'll miss out"? You don't want to miss out, Myke. You've already missed out on enough.

Sméagol-Myke: Yeah, but —

Gollum-Myke: Don't you "Yeah, but" me! I invented "Yeah, but" —

Sméagol-Myke: — but "Gotta make a move" doesn't work. I've tried it, it doesn't work.

Gollum-Myke: Sure it does. You just gotta be consistent and follow through. You never follow through on anything.

Sméagol-Myke: I'm tired of living my life in such a frantic manner. In trying to "make a move" I've smothered too many people, I've expected too much from others.

Gollum-Myke: It's not your fault other people can't handle your intensity.

Sméagol-Myke: I know, but —

Gollum-Myke: Besides, casually, quietly, gently — you don't know how to live like that. You just don't.

Sméagol-Myke: ...

I knew there was some kind of message for me in that phrase — "...approached contentment casually, quietly, and absorbed it gently" — but I didn't know how that fit, if at all, into my previous ideal of living — "Gotta make a move or you'll miss out." And like Gollum-Myke said, I don't know how to live like Mack and the boys. I've lived my life so deliberately and strictly, how could I learn to approach something casually, with a certain degree nonchalance?

Because life is short. Life is urgent. Life presents you with opportunities that if you don't seize them, they will pass you by —

— and that's when it clicked. That yes, life is urgent and short, but life being short and urgent does not mean that it's frantic and hurried and overbearing. Rather than making my life a frenetic quest for contentment, why not take step back and let life come to me? This seems like a much more passive approach, but it's not. Because when a $100 bill flutters at your feet during a casual stroll down the street, you don't let it pass. You "make a move" — but not a frantic one. The move is simple: you stop, pick up the bill, and put it in your pocket.

(For the sake of honesty, let's assume that $100 bill fell out of Bruce Wayne's wallet when he was buying a hot dog from a street vendor. When you try to return it to him he perceives your need and says, "Thanks for your honesty. Keep it." This scenario also assumes that you live in Gotham City and that Batman is real, which is pretty awesome.)

While I'm sure such people exist, I personally don't know anyone who makes a living by running around town looking for $100 bills that have fallen out of the wallets of billionaire playboy vigilantes. If I have absolutely no control over $100 bills falling out of wallets, why does it make sense for me to live the rest of my life that way?

The key to living life like Mack and the boys lies in the understanding and replacement of the word "seize." Seize the day, some have said. The word "seize" has such a violent tone — grab a hold of it tightly and don't let go. And so seize the day becomes strangle the life out of the day and hold onto it even after the sun has risen on a new day.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of seizing the day. I'm tired of hanging on till my knuckles turn white and my grip shakes, and when I let go because I've exhausted all my strength, my fingers ache with weariness from having held on so tight. I want to accept the day. I want receive the day.

Too often I've seen acceptance as some sort of settling. Settling for less than what is good enough for me. In being unwilling to accept life as it is, I've pushed away the good in almost everything. As I've failed to accept myself, I've failed to recognize and appreciate what is good about me and what I am good at — that I am unfailingly nice and that I can make a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies without even glancing at a recipe.

Living like Mack and the boys — approaching contentment gently — means accepting and receiving and loving people and miracles and opportunities for what they are. To accept and receive the adventure that life throws at us requires a great deal of gratitude, faith, love, openness, and grace. Seen from this point of view, much easier said than done, life transforms into something greater than a quest for contentment. It becomes a quest to acquire and radiate those attributes necessary to accepting and receiving.

== == == == ==

In the world ruled by tigers with ulcers, rutted by strictured bulls, scavenged by blind jackals, Mack and the boys dine delicately with the tigers, fondle the frantic heifers, and wrap up the crumbs to feed the sea gulls of Cannery Row. What can it profit a man to gain the whole world and to come to his property with a gastric ulcer, a blown prostate, and bifocals? Mack and the boys avoid the trap, walk around the poison, step over the noose while a generation of trapped, poisoned, and trussed up men scream at them and call them no-goods, come-to-bad-ends, thieves, rascals, bums. Our Father who are in nature, who has given the gift of survival to the coyote, the common brown rat, the English sparrow, the house fly and the moth, must have a great and overwhelming love for no-goods and blots-on-the-town and bums, and Mack and the boys.