Birthday Thoughts (44)

This has been one heck of a year.

Last year at this time I was trying to figure out what life after marriage was going to look like. This year I know.

Stoic Reflections

More than once in my life I have been called “stoic”. Not often in a kind way, but in the “you don’t have any emotions, why are you such an asshole?” kind of way. But recently a friend introduced me to the philosophy of stoicism and I began to understand things I hadn’t before.

I WAS stoic. But I also wasn’t stoic ENOUGH. Stoicism at it heart is an effort to control your thoughts and actions intentionally and not to let emotions drive those things. That’s exactly what I have always wanted! Not always what I have done, but it’s a concept that I strove for never knowing the name of my target.

If you allow a problem to make you angry, now you have two problems.

Marcul Arelius (I think…)

In this past year I have delved pretty deeply into the teachings of the great Stoics (especially Marcus Aurelius) and some modern thinkers. Considering the large amount of turmoil that my life has brought recently, actively practicing and thinking about stoic ideals has been helpful for me to not just get through these situations but to actually become a better person because of them.

The Obstacle is the Way.

Strong in Mind and Body

I’ve always been a pretty active person. Moving my body feels good; While I’m doing it, after it’s done and every day because I have a body that moves well.

It’s been years since I quit drinking and smoking and since then I’ve seen a STEADY return of my physical prowess. I’ve never been a strong lad, but I’ve enjoyed good health and right now I don’t think I’ve ever felt this healthy. Certainly not since my 20s, but even then I don’t believe that I could walk as many miles as I can now, carry the loads that I can now.

My heart feels strong. My back is (usually) pain free. I eat well and carefully. I still fast (about) once a month, though I’m considering changing how I do that. I see great benefit from fasting but I’m not sure I’m doing it in a way that BEST optimizes that effort. And my weight is within a few pounds of my OPTIMAL weight. I’ve NEVER weighed that. I’ve never tried to (I’m not trying to now). But to be, at 44, the lightest and most healthy I’ve been in decades feels amazing.

I’ve heard that you’re never as healthy again as you are at 40. That being healthy at THIS point in my life is a requirement for maintaining good health later on. If I can maintain this feeling for a while longer I’ll be very pleased with the quality of adventures this body is going to take me on!

A Structured Life of My Choosing

I like my routine. I like waking up early in the morning. I like going to bed early in the night. I like the TV usually being off. I like lots of books around and in my life. I like fresh food planned and cooked and cared for. I like the kitchen being clean. These things were hard to maintain in my life when I was partnered with a person who didn’t have the same priorities.

Since living as the only adult in my home I have been more and better able to structure my life exactly how I want it to be. There’s no other adult to convince, cajole or be frustrated with because they don’t want to live life the way I want to live it (with behaviors that actively make that way of life more difficult).

Years ago I suggested to my (now) ex-wife that perhaps we should explore living separately; that the change might be something that could keep us together. It might have, I don’t know. But it never happened and now we don’t live together, we aren’t together, and my life resembles something a lot closer to my own choosing.

Maybe it’s me? Maybe I’m not wired in a way where my optimal happiness can be achieved living with another adult peer. Maybe it’s who I was living with. Maybe a lot of things. But I’m much happier now with my life arrangement.

I’m not Responsible for Other’s Happiness

This was a hard lesson for me to learn. This year it’s something I’ve tried to remind myself of more often.

I Am Not Responsible For Other’s Happiness.

For my kids I can only show an example of Happiness and setup an environment where they can hopefully achieve it. I can’t give them things that make them happy. I can’t make that decision for them. It’s my role to teach and illustrate. But I can’t do it for them. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. “Giving up” on that has been very helpful and has provided more growth in them than “trying to make them happy” ever has.

I tried for years to be responsible for my ex-wife’s happiness. I suspect they might say something different, but many of the decisions and life choices that I made were in an effort to make them happy, or keep them happy. But they were never happy and I felt like I failed because that’s what I was trying to do.

I’ve had some (very) unhealthy boundaries that I invited people across. It wasn’t good for them and it wasn’t good for me. This was a year in which I really started putting in place and enforcing boundaries like I never have before. I didn’t do it without help, but the changes have been very positive.

And finally, spending quality time and partnering with somebody over this past year who HAS TAKEN that responsibility to be happy unto themselves has been amazing. I get to spend time with somebody who HAS ALREADY DECIDED to be happy and will be no matter what I do. It’s amazingly freeing and creates a kind of synergy that I wouldn’t have understood were I not experiencing it.

Understanding the Financial Ramifications of Choices

It’s been a hard year financially speaking. I make more at my current job than my last, though not by much. And being unable to work a side hustle (a required agreement to work where I do) means that my overall income is down a fair margin from my peak.

I was sitting on a pretty decent emergency fund which I split down the middle and is completely gone now. I’m about to lose half of the retirement I had stashed away for the past 15 years and need to hit the same asset goals in the same timeline I had before it was cut in half. For a full year I was managing on HALF of my income, and still there’s a chunk missing from it supporting someone else. I’m more in debt in this moment than I have been in a long time and it feels icky. I’m definitely not at my peak financially speaking and I feel a little bit like a poser. I thought I would have been better able to weather a financial storm, even one as turbulent as this divorce. I liked to have thought of myself as “having my shit together” but some days it really doesn’t feel like I do. I’m not embarrassed about it exactly, I’m paying attention and trying to make good choices and I see a real plan to rebuild once my old house sells. I’m definitely setup for success thanks to the generosity and financial intelligence of someone close to me. But it’s a bit demoralizing when I had to cash out my few remaining assets just to pay a few grand to have some improvements done to the house to make it ready to sell.

I recently read a book called “Die with Zero”. There’s no danger in me having more money than I can spend before I die. But it certainly did make me think about a lot of things. One of them was my bucket list and how for the next 10 years I really need to focus on those kinds of adventures that I can only do while my body is as close to its peak as it is going to be. But one of the other things that settled into my thoughts were the decisions I’ve made years ago that have effected my financial position today. Things like staying at the same job for over a decade (there’s a CLEAR collation between changing jobs every few years and maximizing wage potential). Or NOT going all-in on being self-employed when the potential was higher and the risk lower. Or of not taking the invited path to management when it was offered and instead trying to keep one foot in engineering at the same time (and in the process kind of losing my mind and being scared of returning to management). I’m not saying I REGRET those decisions. I’m still very pleased with how I’m turning out and I still see huge potential in my life I have every expectation of capitalizing on. I’m just fully realizing some of the ramifications of how decisions effect so much more than the present and using that understanding in the decisions I made TODAY.


I’ve been to more NEW places in this past year than in the previous five. I’ve ALWAYS loved traveling adventures, but due to opportunities in different areas of my life I got to experience my first trip across the Atlantic, a trip duet with just one other amazing person, and lots of other wonderful adventures.

There are already many other traveling adventures planned and I have no intention of slowing down any time soon. I realize that while I’ve certainly been on many amazing adventures on my life that ADVENTURING IS WHY I’M HERE! There are so many interesting way to spend time in this life and I’m going to continue to focus on finding ways to maximize the variety of those in my life.

Joy is not Meant to be a Crumb

That is one of my most favorite collections of words ever.

Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Mary Olliver

Happiness is an emotion, like rain is the weather.

Joy is a state of being that a person chooses, like moving to where the climate is warm.

A person pursues happiness but chooses joy.

I dunno who said it

This idea, that to be joyful is a CHOICE has been hugely important to me this year. THINGS can happen, and I can be frustrated by them. And I can be overwhelmed by the list of things to do. And I can be happy for a moment and sad the next and angry after that. Those are emotions, to be observed and not controlled.

But Joy…

Joy is a choice. A decision that I have to make. A choice not to let the things that happen effect that state of being. And knowing that I can be joyful in ALL THESE AREAS of my life is empowering. I can be joyful doing dishes, or cooking. I can be joyful on long drives. And even better still I can actively find activities that I REALLY enjoy and put as many of those in my life as possible and really maximize the amount of joy that’s in my life. There’s no set amount of joy that I’m allotted. I don’t have to just be joyful on vacation, or the weekends.

I can choose it every day. And I can structure my life in a way that maximizes the things that help that joy flow.

A Partner that Fits

So this one is kinda really big. If you know me (and uh… if you’re reading this then you do) then you know that I’m seeing someone. “Seeing someone” doesn’t really do the relationship justice. We call ourselves “apartners”.

We live apart. I achingly miss them a LOT. I want to see them and be with them all the time. Some of that would be solved if we lived together. But we won’t. I don’t think that’s how either of us work. I have my space, my problems and my way of doing things. I have kids and a responsibility to them. She’s been AMAZINGLY helpful in my life, and at the end of the day she has the opportunity to be in HER space, think about HER problems and focus on HER ways of doing things without me always being around to muck that up. Or without young humans in her house when she actively chose not to be in that situation with her life.

When we’re together we REALLY work well. We cook well, and clean up together. We match pace hiking. We want the same things out of our down time and have the same cavings for adventure. We sleep well together (both kinds) and wake well together early in the morning.

Our interests align, our musical taste overlaps. The fact that she reads for pleasure, and that we sometimes get to read the same book together is so great. She like puzzles and we do them together. She has amazing taste in food and eating food that we made together is one of my favorite things in the world. We’re competitive with one another and she has a most wonderful head for games. I’ve never enjoyed playing anything with anyone more than I enjoy playing anything with her.

But even more than the things we LIKE or the things we DO is the way we THINK. We’ve taken different paths in life but it seems like our brains align in very important ways. “Opposites attract” when we’re young; those people seem interesting and exotic because they are different. But that interest becomes something else over time. The mental and emotional alignment that I’m experiencing now is so much better than the exotic “opposite”.

She has helped me to continue to grow in many ways, in the same way that a gardener can help a plant grow. The growth was my own, but with careful suggestions and discussions of life events and goals I have become more clear and resolute in myself as a person and what I hope to achieve in my life. I hope that I have influenced her in at least some small ways to enrich her life too.

Much like Joy being a choice I believe that being with her is a choice that I get to make every day. We have both been married before and that type of arrangement doesn’t hold any attraction to us. The type of bond that we have isn’t legal. It isn’t religious and it isn’t even enforced by any kind of societal norms. We’re just two people who are living their lives together, but apart. Externally she probably looks like “my girlfriend” but it’s been so much more to me than that. I’ve got a person to work through life problems with. A partner where before I had only had a dependent. I’ve got a person to experience joy with where before I had only a person to entertain.

And with no bonds, either legal or societal, to keep us together we HAVE to rely on truth and real emotions to stay together. There’s no “convenience” or “comfort” factor in staying together and living the same day over and over. So long as we are together it will ACTIVELY be a CHOICE and that makes this relationship feel more powerful than any other relationship I’ve ever been in. It feels very intentional and deliberate and I’m here for it.

Parenting All The Time

Damn this one is hard.

I was happiest when I was living away from my ex-wife and sharing the parental responsibilities.  I had time with my kids and time to myself and I was stronger and happier and healthier.

There were a lot of reasons why they aren’t spending time with their mom right now; it was quite a journey that took us here. I don’t know how long this situation will last either. There are so many “unknowns” in that part of life right now. And kids don’t to incredibly well with “unknowns”.

It’s been… months since I feel like I had a “take it easy” break from responsibilities.  My mom watches my kids occasionally, but when she does I feel like I really need to “maximize” that time and it’s go go go and adventure.

I haven’t just… made dinner and sat on the couch with my apartner uninterrupted since… very early spring.  There was an afternoon here or there together and relaxing while the kids were in school but even that is gone now.

There was a cost to my kids when I shared responsibility with their mother.  They are happier and healthier now.  Not the most healthy kids in the world but they continue to improve.  And it’s great to see.  But there’s a cost to me now.  I feel tapped out a lot more often. It’s harder to be excited to see them or be involved in their lives. I’m less intentional in the activities we do and sometimes in how I interact with them.

I feel like overall I spend LESS quality time with my kids now than when their mom and I were sharing time with them.  A strange thing to realize, that when I had them for HALF of the time I probably spent more quality time with them as I do now.  It makes me sad to think about even though overall right now I see mostly positive change in their life.

I’ve tried to “work backwards” from the life I WANT to live to try to get there from here.  But I just don’t see how it’s in my power to make that happen however hard I work for it; it involves other people stepping up and I can’t control other people.  Only myself.

An Eye Toward the End

So I’m going to die.

Not like… soon. I hope. But I’ve definitely thought about my own mortality a lot this year and specifically what I want to achieve before than and what I want the end to look like. The details of those thoughts aren’t going here, but thinking them has been important to me.

Thinking about your own mortality is a stoic principal. It helps you understand your role in life better and to make better choices today. I can’t live like I’m going to die tomorrow; Neither can I live like I’m going to be eternal. I’m realizing the ACTUAL timeline of my life, how much time I have with my health, with my children, with my parents, with people that matter to me.

Living this life INTENTIONALLY and DELIBERATELY becomes so much more important when looking at it with a wide lens.

Each day is a diamond. Spend it wisely.