Cold Shower Therapy Challenge

Dare: Take a cold shower for 30 days straight.

My buddy, Stephen, was over the other night, and we were talking about motivation (or lack thereof) for running the Richmond Half Marathon in November. He was online searching for motivation, but instead, found someone who told him that’s NOT what he needed.

What he needed was: DISCIPLINE.

Stephen found Joel Runyon’s site, ImpossibleHQ, and read about his Cold Shower Therapy technique. It wasn’t a lack of motivation that was worrying Stephen. It was a lack of discipline. And 30 days of cold showers would help him find the discipline he was missing.

So, naturally, I joined him for the challenge. I’ll be tracking my progress each day, and publishing my thoughts below.

I’d love for you to join us. We’re a few days in, but it’s never too late. Get a buddy to do it with you, and check-in with each other every day to hold yourselves accountable. When you do it, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Day 1 – 8/6/13

I actually showered twice today. Double whammy.

  • I hesitated before I even turned the shower on. Just knowing what I had to do was playing tricks on my mind.
  • When I first got in, I only let my lower legs get wet. I felt the need to ease into it.
  • I washed my hair first (as I always do), but still only let my head get wet. Thinking this would mean less time for my full body to be in cold water.
  • When I finally got everything wet… yeah, it was uncomfortably cold.
  • I moved much faster than normal, and washed quickly. I actually stayed under the water the whole time, washing & rinsing all at the same time… to save time.
  • When I went to turn the water off, I definitely tried turning the hot water dial. Nope.

Overall, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I (sort of) got used to it after the first minute. It was still uncomfortable, but not as bad as that first shock when you jump in.

Day 2 – 8/7/13

Water seemed colder today. I did do a 7-mile run this morning, before my shower, so maybe my body temperature was elevated, making the water seem colder?

I was curious how much faster I was moving, so I timed myself today. Started the clock when I turned the water on, and stopped it when I turned it off.

3:50

I’ve never timed myself taking a normal shower, so I don’t have that to compare. But I’m pretty sure 3:50 is considerably faster than normal.

Just long enough to listen to Sara Bareilles’ hit single, Brave. Which, aside from being AWESOME, I also find it quite ironic.

Day 3 – 8/8/13

I had to take two showers this morning because off my workout and massage schedule.

The first one, I jumped right in. Full body completely wet, from the get-go. It was rough. I made quite a few strange noises that could have been mistaken for two horses having sex. Nope… just Dave taking a cold shower.

The second one, I acted like a little baby. Only got my feet wet at first. And instead of putting my body under the water before I soaped up, I stood at the back, splashing water on me with my hands. Embarrassing.

I didn’t submerge my body until it was time to rinse. Great morning of workouts and massage. Rough morning of showers.

Day 4 – 8/9/2013

Quickest. Shower. Ever. And it didn’t even feel cold.

The secret: Have something important that you have to do in 5 minutes. Don’t even think about what you’re doing. The only you think about is that you need to be done in 2 minutes so that you can be ready for the important thing in 5 minutes.

Day 5 – 8/10/2013

A few friends have brought into question the health benefits of cold showers… or lack thereof. I did a little research—and of course, by that, I mean googling—and I found an easy to read & comprehensive article outlining the health benefits of taking cold showers.

Turns out… there’s quite a few 🙂

Day 6 – 8/11/2013

A good friend of mine made an interesting, but seemingly obvious, comment to me about my cold shower challenge. He said, “Do the same thing in January.”

It hadn’t dawned on me, but right now, the water is only as cold as the pipes & ground that it’s sitting in. Which, in the summer time in Virginia… isn’t all that cold. But in January it would be freezing.

Touché, my friend. Touché.

Not sure if I’ll be doing this again in January, but perhaps I’ll try one shower just to feel the difference.

Days 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 – through 8/18/2013

Haven’t been keeping track every day, but nothing eventful has happened. I took 2 cold showers in a hotel in VA Beach, but they were the same as at home.

They’re certainly not getting any warmer. And they’re still uncomfortable, even after being in it for 5 minutes.

Days 14, 15, 16, 17 – through 8/22/2013

Nope. Still not getting warmer. And I’m still thinking about them before I get in. I know they are more comfortable if I just jump right in, but I’m still getting the feet wet first.

Then taking a deep breath.

Then reciting some jibberish out loud to psych myself up.

And thennnn getting completely wet.

Is this really what discipline feels like?

Day 18 – 8/23/2013

I cheated for the first time in over 20 showers. I took a warm one.

I spent the day in Charleston, SC, and we were on the beach for a few hours. I got burnt. So that night when I jumped in the shower, I had a decision to make. Stick with the challenge, show some discipline & get another cold shower… or do the comfortable thing and turn a little warm water on. I opted for comfort. And to be honest, it didn’t take me long at all to come to the decision. Not did I feel that bad about it.

Does this make me any less disciplined than the guy who took nothing but cold ones for 30 days? Many would say yes. A few might say no. I say… let’s see how I handle the remaining days of the challenge.

Day 20 – 8/25/2013

I cheated again. After a long weekend in Charleston, lots of drama, 5 hours of intoxicated sleep, and a six hour car ride home… I really wanted a comfortable shower on Sunday night when I returned to Richmond. So I took one.

Did I have some rough circumstances? Sure. Does that justify me cheating again? Absolutely not. They are excuses. And with millions of people in this world that don’t even have clean water, let alone a hot water heater, they are poor excuses.

Looks like I didn’t bounce back as strong as I had hoped from my slip up a few days ago.

Days 21, 22, 23 – through 8/28/2013

They were all cold ones, but I acted like a baby for all of ’em. I’m still thinking about it too much, and inching my way into it, one limb at a time.

Day 24 – 8/29/2013

Cheated again. I had a massage this morning for the first time in 3 weeks. I’m used to getting one every week, but had missed the last two because I was out of town. Again, not that that’s a legit excuse, but I just really wanted to take my time & have a comfortable shower. I also had a meeting at 10:30 this morning.

All those things played into my decision. But at the end of the day… I’m still a cheater.

Days 25, 26 – through 8/31/2013

Nailed it.

Bounced back strong from my third cheat yesterday. I was pretty hard on myself for cheating again, so I wanted to ‘man up’ and finish this challenge the way it started… with COLD SHOWERS.

Jumped right in. Mind over matter. Let’s finish this thing out strong.

Days 27, 28, 29 – through 9/3/2013

Nothing special, here. Jumped in. Cleaned up. Jumped out.

Day 30 – 9/4/2013

The final day. Honestly, I had so much on my mind as I jumped in, I almost forgot I was taking a cold shower. This was one of the few times — if not, the ONLY time — that the water really NEVER felt cold.

So, if I had to use a sports analogy…

I ended up with a record of 27-3 (27 cold showers, 3 warm ones). That’s good enough to get you into the playoffs, but if you turn the ball over 3 times in the Championship Game, you’re probably not walking away with the title.

A good performance, solid display of discipline, but I could’ve done better, for sure.

Perfect Dave

Let’s clear the air right from the get-go. I’m not perfect. I don’t think I’m perfect. I would never consider myself as such.

Others, however… sometimes, I feel like that’s a different story.

Where’d this all come from?

Some background

Some friends of an ex-girlfriend of mine actually created an initialism. WWDD -or- What would Dave do? Whenever they needed help making a decision, they’d ask themselves, “What would Dave do?”… as if I made all the right decisions, and picked the greatest, nicest, most awesome way to handle every situation.

While I have my moments of greatness; I am a pretty nice guy; and I think I have a good bit of awesome in me… by no means should you always do what I do.

More recently, I’ve had a couple friends (2 women) label me as Perfect Dave. “You’re the perfect guy to date, on paper. You’re good at everything. You’re super-nice. You wouldn’t hurt a soul. You get along with everyone…”

What a great compliment, right? Well, in many respects, yes, that’s a compliment. But it’s one I could definitely go without. See if you can follow this logic:

2017 Update: The following paragraph makes absolutely no sense. 4 years later, I have no idea what I was trying to say.

I’m starting to think perfection doesn’t exist. And if I’m perfect, than I can’t exist. I must not be real. And if there’s only one quality I could use to describe myself to someone, it would be real/genuine/authentic. So clearly, “Perfect Dave” causes a dilemma.

Eliminating perfect from our vocabulary

In college, I remember attending a speaker who was discussing terrorism, it’s impact on society, and how it’s perceived by different groups. I remember few details about the talk, but the one thing I took away was a challenge he presented us with:

Eliminate the word “hate” from our vocabulary.

I took him up on it, and have stopped using that word, in both written & verbal communication (with a few slip-ups, of course).

Now I’m considering giving up on the word “perfect.” Or at least in the context of human beings. It seems appropriate, as none of us are, or ever will be, perfect, so long as we’re human. And even those who choose to use the word as a descriptor, it’s so incredibly subjective that it describes something different for each person who hears it.

I can’t build a perfect website. Picasso can’t paint a perfect picture. Beethoven can’t arrange a perfect symphony.

I wrote a poem in high school English class called “Flawless.” It was about a fictional girl, whom existed only in my young, ignorant mind. It also happened to be one of the most embarrassing pieces of work I’ve ever performed in front of a group (A flawed version of “Flawless”?).

But everyone has flaws. Every painting, every symphony, every work of art, website, poem, design, presentation. All of these things, just like people, can be good. And some of them, great. But none are perfect.

Dating Perfect Dave

Is it possible? Is it… well… perfect?

I’ve had a few people tell me I can be intimidating. I didn’t spend too much time analyzing why, but I assumed it was mostly due to my confidence (which I didn’t always have, by the way. Got picked on and bullied in elementary & middle school.)

Very recently, I’m concerned that someone else is intimidated by me. At least that’s what she told me. She also told me she feels really comfortable around me, and has proven that through her actions, and how she has opened up to me. So if someone’s really comfortable with you, can she be really intimidated by you, too?

When you feel intimidated around someone, you often don’t act like yourself. You’re afraid to be who you are, say what you feel, and do what you really want to do. You second guess yourself. You hide. You take the easier way out.

And that’s EXACTLY the OPPOSITE way I want to see anyone live their life. Every interaction I have with someone, I hope that they can be themselves, and I encourage them to do so. I want them to feel comfortable around me, not intimidated by me. But how can you be comfortable when you’re talking to perfection?

Let’s talk about my mistakes. Let’s talk about the things that I’m NOT good at. Believe me, there are plenty. For starters, I’m an awful singer, and I just posted a karaoke video to prove it. And I found a karaoke track because another thing I can’t do (and I tried) is play an instrument. Any instrument.

Anyone can be decent at anything. There are things that some of us will never be an EXPERT at. But we can all learn new things. And with the right level of interest, practice & focus, you can become good at it.

I think people don’t give themselves enough credit. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of confidence. A lack of positive reinforcement from their peers. Or maybe a more strict stance on humility (or fear of being labeled arrogant or pretentious).

Please Stop

I’m hypothesizing here, but I had a friend (one of those 2 women who coined me “Perfect Dave”) tell me what she thinks is going on. She explained it really well because she felt the same way about someone else who wanted to date her. And her explanation resonated with me.

People (and in my situation right now… women) think that because I’m a really nice guy, good at a lot of things, etc., that I have such high expectations that they won’t be able to meet. And heaven forbid something should ever happen where it doesn’t work out between us, they’ll feel guilty because “Perfect Dave” would never hurt a soul, so it must be something they did.

I really hope that’s not it because it couldn’t be farther from the truth. And I have no idea whether any woman I’ve tried to date has thought that, or whether it has anything to do with my current situation.

But regardless…

  • Please stop calling me “Perfect Dave.”
  • Please stop assuming I’m some exceptional human being that lives according to an unattainable set of standards.
  • Please stop thinking that I hold others to unachievable expectations.

I never want to be perfect.

With all that being said, I shouldn’t even need to point this out, but it seems like a good way to wrap up. I never want to be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist in the real world that we live in. Maybe in movies, videos games & virtual reality, but not in this life.

And if I’ve gotten a small glimpse of what it’s like to be perfect, trust me, no one wants to be that. It’s lonely. The conversation is superfluous. The interactions are a façade. Everything happens on the surface. And you’ll never experience anything real.

Dare: Sing a song (karaoke), by yourself, and publish it to the world

A good friend of mine recently published a book called One White Face. As part of her promotion for the book, she publishes a weekly dare to her subscribers, challenging them to step outside of their comfort zone.

A few weeks ago, I accepted her dare to stand on a street corner for 1 hour holding a cardboard sign. My sign said, “Just saying hi. Create a great day! :-)”

This time, another dare surfaced at a local coffee shop with friends. It was open mic night at the Carytown Bistro, and we were talking about how we love to sing (even though we aren’t that good).

It started as a friendly, “Yeah, you should try it…”, and then of course, I ended up doing it 3 days later.

Me singing Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather”

Warning: It’s awful, and the sound doesn’t line up with the video (not sure what happened). But neither of those things really matter. It was about the experience.

Read on below the video for what I learned, and what I would do differently. And then go create your own, and please share in the comments.

What I Learned

  • I picked a song with VERY LITTLE music to it. This, in my opinion, makes it MUCH HARDER to sing.
  • The karaoke version I chose (the only one I could find), didn’t sing the song the way Zac sings it. And thus, some of the harmonies were difficult because of differences in style. Try to find a good karaoke version.
  • I tried to play around with my voice too much. I also tried to keep my voice low because my roommate was home, and I didn’t want him to hear me. He also happens to be a great singer… and musician… and music teacher… and a cappella singer. It’s amazing how intimidated we get when others are around.

Next Time…

  • I will choose a more upbeat song. I think this will play to my strength (whatever little strength I have in the area of music).
  • I will choose a song with more music to it.
  • I will belt it out at the tops of my lungs, and not hold anything back.
  • If I could figure out how to play it in my car (perhaps, just not driving, but sitting in a parking lot), I might try that. I’m soooo much more comfortable in my car than upstairs in my room.

So, what are you waiting for? I know you have a jam that you rock out to ALL the time. Get to it, and please share in the comments.

Pole Dancing Lesson

If you didn’t know by now, I like to do things that many might consider, uh, a little “out of the ordinary.” But then again, the title of my blog is “An Alternate Route,” because I like to take a different path through life. So this should come as no surprise.

I had a private pole dancing lesson with my friend, Nia. She’s an instructor at Studio X, a Richmond pole dancing studio. Currently, they only offer classes for women, but when you’re fortunate enough to know the instructor, you get the hookup.

I’m not going into much detail, because let’s be honest, I know you just want to see the pictures & video. But I will say this…

  • I expected it to be fun. But I had even more fun than I initially thought.
  • I expected it to be hard. And it was. But, based on feedback from Nia & the other instructors that saw me, I was doing moves that I shouldn’t have been doing my first time out.
  • I had no idea it would hurt that much. I had serious bruises for several days.
  • I learned that my flexibility is not nearly as good as I thought it was. Working on it…
  • I loved the challenge of trying to do new moves, and to do them with more grace, smoother, etc.
  • We didn’t even get to any spinning tricks or dance moves/choreography… and I still find myself wondering, “When can I get on the pole again?”

If I had a pole in my house, I’d use it several times per week. And I’d love to continue practicing. My dilemma is the same as it always is when I learn something new. When/where can I fit this into my life? There’s just not enough time to regularly practice all the things that I want to. And that’s because I think almost EVERYTHING is interesting. But I can’t do it all, so I’m still not sure where this may or may not fit in.

But, like I promised, here’s some proof that it actually happened.

Bachelorette Poem for Season Finale (Desiree)

I was hoping to publish this on the day of the finale, but I wanted to turn it into spoken word, and just got around to it today.

The transcript is below the video if you’re interested. Enjoy…

So we all know by now, Chris loves to rhyme.
I mean, what can be hotter?
Well, maybe if he put that message in a bottle.

But step aside Chris, because now it’s my turn.
Yeah, I watch The Bachelorette and I’m not afraid to admit it.
So for the next minute, just sit back & relax, while I kick it.

We set sail & travel to this exotic place.
And there’s no trace of human life.
We might as well be in outer space.

3 weeks in and you got to meet my real girlfriend.
Oops, looks like I committed treason.
Come on, girl. You saw the previous seasons.
Hah. And you still thought I was here for the right reasons?!

None of these other guys know what Des & I have.
I swear, this girl, she’s my better half.

Man, I don’t care what I have to do to get that rose.
Even if I have to punch this dude in the nose.
Come on, man, you know how this goes.
This ain’t a show about love. It’s about my ego.

The tension is building at the rose ceremony.
Des, standing there thinking, “I don’t know who to choose!”
Meanwhile, every guy’s up there going,
“Yo, I don’t wanna lose.”

Des… guys… this is the final rose tonight.
Des… when you’re ready.

And then we all place our bets.
We start talking to the TV. We think we know what’s comin’ next.
“Will you accept this rose?”
Of course he’s gonna say yes.

“Can I walk you out?” she says,
As the camera zooms in to watch you pout.
Tears dripping down your face like a busted water spout.

Come on, dude. You’re nuts.
And she’s not your squirrel.
You keep acting like this,
and you’ll never find a girl.

Then Des says, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
She’s so apologetic.
And he says, “I don’t understand. Why am I so pathetic?”

“Des, you’re making a big mistake.”
Yeah, like you know what’s best for her after, what, 3 dates?!

“Ah, I think I’m falling…”
Girl, the only thing falling is the sky.
And you better open up your eyes.
Because these guys aren’t in love with you.
And you’re not fallin’ for them.
And neither was Brad or Sean or John or Ben.
There’s no love on this show.
Not now. Not then.

It’s just a bunch of hot bodies & beautiful faces.
Traveling the world in this beautiful oasis.

“Oh Desiree, I love you.”
And then you watch my nose grow like Pinocchio.
Because I realize this is just a TV show.

The only rose is the color in your glasses,
that you’re seeing this thing through.
These guys aren’t really here for you.

So now that we’re on TV, for the whole world to see. Desiree, will you marry me?

It’s cool. You can say no. Because this is just another “reality” TV show.

Boone, NC Mountain Trip

A beautiful week in the mountains with some of the most awesome people on the planet. This one is more personal, for me, because I know I’ll want to reminisce on it again soon. But if you like the mountains and/or interesting headlines that suck you in… you might enjoy it, too.

My friend Janice, the videographer in Durham who organized the trip, put together a short video recap of the week. It’s also perfectly titled, “Mountain Love,” which both together & separately, are really powerful words.

Suzy Goes Bananas

Janice runs into the store real quick to pick up some notebooks. She’s a teacher, OK, so don’t judge. Well… unless they were wide-ruled. Then you can definitely judge.

While waiting, Dave decides to take a little stroll through the parking lot. You know, just to stretch his legs for the lonnnnng, 10-minute drive.

Little did he know, Suzy needed to “stretch her legs”, too. And evil Suzy had a little something up her sleeve.

After an old-fashioned, western-movie staredown—and some shaky camera work by sister Karen—Suzy took aim.

And I’ll let the video tell you the rest…

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Sign - Group Shot

Just for the record, we’re all incredible karaoke singers. And we’re even better when Janice has her volume set to “I can’t really hear much else around me.”

And Suzy graduated from bananas and moved on to mix tapes. Girl makes a mean compact disc for a road trip.

Surfing & Searching

We stopped at a scenic overlook on the Parkway. However, seeing as there was no scenery to look over (stupid clouds), Suzy & I decided to make it an action-shot overlook. Suzy did the surfing. I did the searching. And we both did it on top picnic tables.

Hey Karen, can we get those pictures off your phone, please?

Grandfather Mountain Hike

Boone NC Grandfather Mountain Hike

4 friends, 2 dogs & one common Grandfather. We love ya, pops.

OK, so he’s not really our “pops.” But he was the perfect going away present to culminate an awesome trip.

Grandfather Mountain profile trailWe hiked Grandfather Mountain on our last day in Boone. Toby (that innocent-looking, golden-brown chow pictured above) tackled his first true mountain hike… like a champ. Murph dog & I got some quality bonding time in. I even let him sprint his way down the trail for a minute or two. The little guy was itching to let loose the whole hike, so I had to run with him for at least a 1/4 mile or so.

Nothing too out-of-the-ordinary. Just peaceful flowing water, mud beneath our feet, fresh mountain air, beautiful views, lush greenery & light conversation. The simple things in life…

The Grandview Restaurant

The Grandview was the morning breakfast spot. A 5-minute walk from the house, and a “grand view” of Grandfather Mountain. And they accommodated our request for a “plate of hash browns topped with whatever vegetables you have.” Hey, it’s a diner & there were 2 vegans in the house. Sometimes you gotta get creative.

Mountain Grounds Coffee Shop

Mountain Grounds coffee shop in Banner Elk was homebase for getting work done. Peaceful little place with great service. A good energy for being productive. Ha… too bad I played way more Candy Crush than I did work.

The Vegan Threesome

One night we went out to dinner in Boone. Forget the name of the place, but it was a build-your-own-burrito kind of joint. And build one, I did. A mighty tasty one.

All your typical stuff to start with… rice, beans, lettuce, onion, etc. And then I added in the real flavor. Pineapple, corn & guacamole… seriously, it’s an orgy in your mouth.

They should name this thing after me. And I’d like to call it the: Vegan Threesome

I would show you pictures, but the things I did to this burrito are illegal in all 50 states… and Mexico.

Seven Devils

I’m not sure why they call them devils, or why there are seven of them, but this was the town I did my first run through. Did I say town? I’m sorry, I meant mountain. This is the mountain I did my run up, not through.

I was on the hunt for some mountain trails, but had trouble finding some near the house. I was running along the main road when I saw a giant yellow sign. It said “Warning” in huge letters at the top.

“OK, sign, you have my attention. What’s that all about?” I asked.

“Steep grade & sharp curves ahead.”

Done. Sold. Say no more. This wasn’t a sign, but an invitation. “Welcome to Seven Devils, Dave. Please come in, and come up. You won’t regret it.”

The next 2.5 miles consisted of the most elevation I’ve ever climbed in a 2 mile stretch. Up, up & up, as the road kept winding back-and-forth in each direction. And although I know I would be gassed if I ran the whole thing… I kept running. I was determined to meet the devils… all seven of ’em.

Seven Devils, NC Mountain Run

1,100 ft. of climbing & 2 miles later, I reached the [Rocky] Top. I had a brief spiritual moment when I looked down into the valley on the other side of the mountain. There’s something so powerful, yet so humble, about ascending mountains on your own two feet.

The run back down wasn’t quite as fun, but I was more than happy to pay that price for my experience at the top.

Price Lake

While driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stop at Price Lake. The girls walked the dogs & took pictures. We bumped into a family walking the other direction on the trail, and asked them how long the trail was. 2.3 miles. I asked the girls if they would mind if I ran around it real quick, and met them back at the car. They were fine with it, as long as I made it back in 20 minutes.

What a FUN twenty minutes!

Slippin’ & slidin’ on mud, ducking under tree branches, splashing in mud puddles, leaping over water barriers, flashing across wooden bridges… halfway point I stopped for a beautiful view and some O2… continued through a campground, past an amphitheater, back onto the Parkway for a brief stretch, and let the trail take me back home. 21 minutes of muddy, awesome, trail running. Ahhh 🙂

Dave at Price Lake Sign, Blue Ridge Parkway

Soooo… when are we going back?

The 2 Most Important Things in a Relationship

I just felt this one needed to be spoken, and not just written. You can chose to watch the video, or read the written version below. They’re very similar, but some things just need a voice.

A little over a year ago, I took on the difficult task of explaining the entire world with 2 words. Today, after an amazing 3-hour conversation with a good friend, I present to you the 2 most important things in a relationship.

They presented themselves to me this morning, over a cup of coffee, and just to clarify, the context was around romantic relationships, or you could say marriage (if that’s your thing). I also happened to have recently experienced these two things with someone, and that’s still pretty fresh on my mind.

When you’re finished reading, please share your thoughts in the comments. What are your 2 most important things in a relationship, or marriage?

Comfort & Communication

The alliteration is just a bonus, but it’s nice when those things work out 🙂

Having the afternoon to think a little more about this, I think 2 things is just the right amount. One is too limiting. It doesn’t give the respect that a lifelong relationship truly deserves. Finding your lifelong partner is kind of a big deal, and therefore, deserves more than just one really important thing.

But 3 things is too many. Three is kind of like a gateway number. If you stop at two, it makes perfect sense, and it gives you enough flexibility that you don’t have to commit to only one. But three quickly turns into 4, 5 & 6, and it just gets more complicated from there.

[tangent] Three is a number we commonly use for many things in our culture, I suspect because some scientist proved that our hippocampus can only remember 3 things at a time. That’s great and all, but if love was just about science, there’d be a whole lot more happily married nerds out there, myself included. There’s a bit more to it than that. [/end tangent]

Comfort

Seems pretty obvious on the surface, right? Sure. And I’m not going to redefine it. It still means what you’ve always known it to mean. But let’s frame it around the context of a relationship.

Straight ladies & gay gentlemen, just substitute he/him for she/her.

You’re comfortable around her. And you’re comfortable when she’s not around (but of course, you miss her). You’re comfortable with her at parties, work functions, around dogs, at home on the couch, out to a nice dinner, or sitting beside her saying nothing.

You’re comfortable watching her do something amazing… and watching her fail miserably. When she’s at her best… and at her worst.

You’re comfortable when she comes up to you and says, “We need to talk.” You’re comfortable during the talk… after the talk… and the next morning when you wake up beside her.

You’re comfortable when she goes out of town… alone. You’re comfortable when she invites you out of town with her… to a cabin in the woods… just the two of you… for a weekend of romance. OK, maybe now we’re getting a little too comfortable 😉

You’re comfortable around her friends, and when they start grilling you to see if you’re a standup guy. You’re comfortable around her parents… and her crazy Aunt Rita… and wild Uncle Willy… and not-all-there Grandma Betty. And you’re comfortable around her when she starts taking after Grandma Betty… and she’s not all there anymore either.

You’re comfortable when she says, “Hey… I just have to do this.” When she comes home and says, “I quit.” When she loses it and says, “I just can’t take this anymore.”

You’re comfortable when she asks you really difficult questions… even when you don’t have any answers.

You’re comfortable when she’s happy, sad, excited, exhausted, silly, serious & sexy. You’re comfortable with her being all of these things… or none of them.

You’re comfortable with every discussion that no one likes to have. With every situation that no one likes to be in. Every. Uncomfortable. Moment. … still, somehow, feels comfortable.

Can Comfort Be Created?

Sometimes you meet someone for the first time, and everything clicks. You instantly feel comfortable around them. By date 2 or 3, you open up to them, telling them very personal details about your life.

In a case like that, you might think comfort doesn’t need to be created. It’s already there. Well, not so fast. If you read the last section of this piece, you’ll realize there are plenty more scenarios that have yet to be tested.

But how can you create comfort if it’s not there? I’m glad you asked. Now let me share #2…

Communication

You can’t be comfortable with someone if you don’t tell ’em stuff. And you sure aren’t going to be comfortable with them if you don’t let them tell you stuff. I believe this is called talking listening. Which, by the way, happen to be a phenomenal way to—you guessed it—COMMUNICATE!

I’d like to use a common analogy, but of course, I’m going to expand upon it.

Put all your cards out on the table…

Cliché, I know, but hey, even clichés have their place in communication.

So, put ’em out there. All of ’em. Not all at once, but don’t wait too long either. As soon as you’re comfortable (see what I’m doing here?), play the card. (leave your poker face at the door)

This isn’t War. You’re not starting with half the deck.

Maybe you’re playing Texas Hold’em, and you start with 2 cards. Your two favorite ice cream flavors (when she’s having a bad day, or pregnant cravings, you really might need that card).

Jump on over to 5 cards. Tell her the five most important people in your life, and why.

Then swim your way over to a romantic game of Go Fish. Each player gets 7 cards, which you both opt to trade in for 7 minutes in heaven. Hey, those cards are just as important. But maybe spend that last minute telling her why you just wanted to spend seven minutes in a closet with her 🙂

Remember the Uncomfortable?

Now that you’ve laid out all your cards…

You should be comfortable picking up her “empty” box of cards, turning it upside down, and shaking it, just to make sure there are no cards left in that box. And before she reaches to grab your box, you rip it wide open, exposing every last inch of your life.

As with most card games, there are many cards in the deck that have little value. You won’t miss them if they aren’t dealt to you. You discard them without a second thought.

But that one card can be a game-changer. And you better make sure you don’t let her find that card left in your box. Because that might be the one thing that she’ll never again be comfortable with.

Immediate Communication

In my experience, the sooner you communicate something—just about anything, really—the better it is for everyone involved. She appreciates it. You feel better about it. And it actually makes the relationship stronger because it builds trust.

And you know what? When you’re really comfortable with someone, you’ll know exactly when to play your cards.

 

So, what are the 2 most important things in your relationship?

Not Homeless… Just Saying Hi – Follow Up

UPDATE: 2/26/2016: I’ve kept the original article in tact below, in its entirety, so everyone who reads this can learn from it. I have since drastically changed my thoughts on privilege, and openly & adamantly declare that I am incredibly privileged.

I highly encourage everyone to read the comments by two of my good friends, NB & Janice. Both are exceptional human beings, and I can’t thank them enough for their friendship, as well as the huge knowledge & experience bombs they dropped on me. I agree with both of their comments 100%, and you should absolutely read through them in their entirety.

I also thank John, the guy on Twitter who started this whole thing by calling me out for my ignorance. I write on this blog for a few reasons:

  1. For me, to reflect back on previous life experience
  2. To help others who might have similar thoughts, or just enjoy my perspective
  3. For everyone, to learn something new, or perhaps even change their behavior for the better.

My blog is called “An Alternate Route” because I do a lot of things out of the ordinary. Some are well thought-out; others, like this one, aren’t. But it’s that unique journey by which I learn and grow. And I thank you all for being a part of that journey.


Now that 2 days have past, I’ve had time to let it sink in, and hear some reactions from friends & strangers alike, I’d like to share this with you.

Interesting Twitter Response

John (on Twitter) writes:

john-sico-twitter-homeless-experiment

I think John follows Hilary. I don’t follow him, nor do I know who he is. Nonetheless, he had something interesting to say about my experience. I’d like to add my thoughts (in more than 140 characters).

Fun?

The goal of this was never to have fun. That wasn’t my intention, nor do I think it was Hilary’s intention when she first stood on the corner. We weren’t looking for fun, nor did either of us anticipate it would be a whole lot of fun. And now that it’s over, I still can’t say I had much “fun.”

So what was the goal? I’ll be honest, I didn’t think too much about it before I did it. I knew it would be uncomfortable, and most things that challenge us out of our comfort zone, end up building character. Aside from stepping outside of my comfort zone, I just wanted to raise my sense of awareness, and take in what happened around me.

I’d also like to mention that I specifically left off the words “Not Homeless” from my sign. Some really good friends of mine thought that might be offensive, and had the potential to really hurt someone’s feelings. Extremely valid point, and thus, I decided to leave it off my sign.

I recognized what I was doing was questionable. But if we all shied away from doing questionable things, our world would remain stagnant, and life would have no purpose.

Now that it’s over, my goal (or, really, my hope) is that it:

  • made people smile
  • will make people think differently about those standing on the corner, regardless of what they look like, why they’re there, or what they may or may not be asking for
  • gives people hope that there is tons of goodness in this world, regardless of what the media throws at us day after day
  • inspires others to step outside their comfort zone & put themselves in an uncomfortable situation, on the corner or otherwise

Privileged?

I looked up the definition. Variations include:

  • belonging to a class that enjoys special privileges; favored
  • having special rights, advantages or immunities
  • not subject to the usual rules or penalties because of some special circumstance
  • having the rare opportunity to do something that brings particular pleasure (as in, “I felt privileged to be able to _____.”)

I’m not sure what John meant when he called me a “privileged white dude”—especially since we know nothing about each other, have never met, etc.—but by definition, I would certainly not consider myself to be privileged.

I was raised by two loving parents, who taught me many important life lessons, supplied food & shelter, and paid for countless extra-curricular activities growing up, not to mention helping big time with college. And I realize that, to no fault of their own, many people don’t have access to these things growing up. So, perhaps in that sense, I am privileged.

However, those same parents also taught me to work hard for things. That I had to do work in order to earn allowance. I had to eat my vegetables before I could eat ice cream. Likewise, my coaches made me earn a spot on the team, with hustle & countless hours of practice. My employers put me through stringent interview processes with many other candidates before awarding me the job.

I’m not immune from anything. I play by the same rules, and face the same consequences, as every other citizen of this country. And I challenge anyone to bring to my attention a special right or advantage that I’ve been granted because of some special circumstance that I didn’t have to work for.

In terms of the last definition, “having the rare opportunity to do something that brings particular pleasure”… there is nothing rare about the opportunity to stand out on a corner, with a cardboard sign, smile & wave. Every person who has at least one arm could do exactly what I did (heck, even if you have no arms, get someone else to write it & lean it up against your chest from your wheelchair).

That’s the beauty of this challenge. The barriers to entry are about as low as they get.

White Dude?

I found it interesting that John used the words “white dude” to describe me. He may have meant nothing by it, but I interpreted it as an assumption that a majority of homeless people are some race other than white.

While there are sources out there that show african americans are more likely to end up homeless than whites, I found the historical stats & somewhat current stats to be interesting:

  • In the 1950s & 1960s, the typical person experiencing homelessness was white, male, and in his 50s
  • As of 2000… 44% single men, 13% single women, 36% families with children, 7% unaccompanied minors
  • As of 2000… 50% African-American, 35% white, 12% Hispanic, 2% Native American, 1% Asian
  • As of 2006, families with children comprise 41% of the homeless population
  • According to a 1996 survey…
    • 44% did paid work during the past month
    • 66% have problems with alcohol, drugs or mental illness
    • 38% say someone stole money or things directly from them
    • 30% have been homeless for more than 2 years

It appears, at least from the stats I could find, that a majority of homeless people in this country are non-white. However, 35% is still a decent chunk. And it does vary greatly based on geography (big city vs. urban vs. rural).

The two things that stand out most to me are: the number of homeless families with children and the percentage whom have had things stolen from them. And to think, the homeless guy who walked past me the other day actually tried to give me money.

Take what you want from these stats, but please think twice before assuming why, what or who is standing on the corner with a sign.

They might not be who you think, and it’s possible they’ve dealt with more than you can possibly imagine.

Thanks, John Sico, for the continued discussion. And Hilary, for having my back 🙂