40 Things You May Not Know About Me

Recently I turned 40 and I was thinking a lot about my life and everything I experienced.

And while I share a lot about myself online there are still many things people don’t know about me. So to commemorate my birthday I’m going to share 40 things you may not know about me. I hope that as you see me, you’ll be more willing to see and share yourself.

  1. I once ran a fair game where I convinced people to put on a chicken suit, get inside an inflatable ring, and fight each other with oversized boxing gloves. The game was called sumo chicken boxing and people had to pay for the privilege.

  2. I once sang Christmas carols for Vice President Al Gore while his election fight against George Bush hung in the balance (he looked very tired)

  3. I volunteered for several summers as a counselor at a Buddhist summer camp. My counselor name was counselor Tofu.

  4. I have performed at the famous Blue Bird Cafe in Nashville and the best response I got was for a set of parody songs I wrote about balding. (Secret balding guy being my favorite)

  5. When I had hair I’d get self-conscious about the bald spot in the back of my head even though most people didn’t notice it. Which is why I usually wore a hat.

  6. The main reason I keep my head shaved is that I like the simplicity of it and I think I look better without hair.

  7. The only reason I didn’t have a beard for three years is because my ex-partner didn’t like how it look and felt, but I generally prefer having a beard and usually grow one every year.

  8. I left college with only 6 credit hours to finish. It took me an additional 6 years to finish those credit hours and finally graduate college (I had some stupid righteous story about it for a long time which I had to eventually admit was dumb)

  9. I almost had a minor in both dance and communications but didn’t get enough credit hours to finish either. My favorite dance classes were improv classes.

  10. In high school I was an award winning debater and speaker. But I really shined in mock congress where I introduced bills to annex Canada (I mean it’s basically the US anyway) and to turn Tennessee into a perfect parallelogram (It’s so close!)

  11. I once performed Mozarts Requiem in Carnegie Hall and it’s still one of my favorite pieces to this day to hear and sing along with.

  12. Until college I identified as a libertarian and voted for George Bush in the first election. It wasn’t until I got exposed to more ways of thinking that I slowly became more progressive. I now support universal health care and raising the minimum wage among other things.

  13. I was a soloist and select group singer in my church choir growing up and link many of my early spiritual experiences to performing music in church.

  14. My first ‘drug’ experiences were smoking cigarettes I had bought when I had gone to Germany to visit my sister (who was studying abroad). About once a month I would sneak out late at night and smoke behind the house where I grew up.

  15. For ten years I was a pack-a-day smoker. My preferred brand was Camel lights, though I would sometimes smoke camel reds and parliaments. Sometimes I still miss smoking, but not that often.

  16. My first ‘business’ was selling glass pipes that I bought from a friend of a cousin in Florida and resold to my friends at college. I made a pretty good profit, but I wasn’t great at the business side of things.

  17. In college my freshman roommates and I were so messy, tour guides would bring tours by our room to gawk at the spectacle and we had to write letters of apology to the housing services at the end of the year.

  18. While many people know I lived as a Zen monk for two years, few people know that for a year I serve as the Jisha or attendant to one of the Zen masters. It’s a position of great honor and I had to learn to anticipate his needs and prepare meals for him during retreats. I often made specialized grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese plates with ornate decorations.

  19. One retreat we did every year at the monastery involved going out to sit at dusk and then making our way back after dark. I learned that you can see a path with your feet if you walk slowly enough.

  20. Though I loved my time at the monastery a year after I left two senior students accused the teachers of abusing power and being narcissistic. I talked to several ex-students and tried to understand why they had left. The stories they told me changed my view of the community and it’s why I no longer practice with those teachers or endorse other people going to the monastery where I spent two important years of my life. I’m still very grateful for their guidance.

  21. When I was in my late twenties I did an epic trip across the US and hiked more than 180 miles in national parks. I finished my trip by going to India for a month which was the first place I encountered Buddhism and meditation. That trip had a HUGE impact on my life.

  22. I ran for multiple student body offices in high school and didn’t win a single one. I thought being smart mattered, but really I wasn’t very good at being popular.

  23. For a long time my favorite color was green but it slowly turned to red over the past 5-10 years.

  24. I didn’t have a cell phone until a couple of years after college and I resisted getting an iPhone for years because I thought they were excessive. I still feel this way about new technology until I have it.

  25. Part of the reason I originally moved to Portland was because I wanted to live somewhere I could go skiing. I trained and worked as a ski instructor my first winter but stopped after my car broke down and I decided not to get it fixed. Then I didn’t ski for 8 years.

  26. I lived without a car for almost a decade and really resisted buying one because I loved the simplicity of life without a car. And although I’m glad I have a car now I still miss the time in my life where I didn’t use one.

  27. In high school I put highlights in my hair several times. In college I dyed my hair fire truck red and at one point had my hair in dreadlocks. I’m lucky that not many pictures of these choices exist.

  28. I was pretty involved in boy scouts until I broke my left arm at camp while riding on a rope swing. After I broke my arm I immediately asked for a stick to bite on when they set my arm. Then I rode in the back of a pick-up in the rain to the hospital but the break was so bad that the rural doctor refused to fix it so I had to ride inside the pickup for two more hours to go to a different hospital before having it set.

  29. Almost ALL of my romantic relationships have either started out as long distance relationships or have ended up being long distance for a significant portion of our time together.

  30. For over 10 years I used marijuana almost daily and was a proud ‘pothead’ for most of it. Though I wasn’t aware I was numbing myself to life. At the time it felt like a good way to cope with all of my feelings and the out of control racing of my mind.

  31. I was born in Germany and lived in Greece until I was 3 years old. On the night I was born, my grandmother got confused and fell down the basement stairs. We ended up going to the hospital together.

  32. Apparently I was anxious to get into the world because my mother wasn’t in labor long and when I was born dislocated a shoulder when I was born. Apparently, I was in a rush to get here being born at 4:18 in the morning.

  33. Though I love camping as an adult, I only went camping once with my family growing up. When I asked my parents why they told me that I whined the entire trip and was so annoying they decided never to take me again. (I of course remember having a great time #kid-memory)

  34. I am incredibly romantic and have been my entire life. I have written a series of letters for a partner I wasn’t going to see for 3 weeks so she could open one from me each day. I have bought overnight tickets to surprise a partner with flowers. I have written countless romantic poems and songs. I’ve even saved old receipts and trinkets in relationships and love creating complex and beautiful romantic experiences for partners.

  35. I was a successful middle and high school wrestler all because I didn’t make the soccer team in middle school. I was a three-time regional champ and placed 5th in the state my senior year. The hardest part was making weight and I tried things like eating a liquid diet, running in a plastic suit, and sitting in a sauna all in order to lose weight.

  36. I didn’t lose my ‘virginity’ until I was a sophomore in college.

  37. I’ve been a writer my entire life and even attended a writing camp when I was in middle school. Though I didn’t get serious about writing until the last few years. If you search well enough you can even find some of my angsty college writing on the internet. https://ergosumsam.livejournal.com/

  38. I have few food preferences, but I hate cheesecake, cheez-its, and goldfish crackers.

  39. I remember most of the important songs I learned growing up. For example, my claim to fame in elementary school was getting the lead in the school musical in which I played Christopher Columbus and I can still sing much of my big solo number (which was of course not about the murder of indigenous people)

  40. While I’m incredibly loving I have a hard time letting love in. But when I do I apparently make a face that lets you know you got it in there.

Ok, that’s it, there are 40 things about me. My hope is that as you read this you’ll see yourself in this and also realize that each of us is rich, deep, and different even as we are boring, ordinary, and the same.

Which is something we can only see when we let others see who we really are.



Vows, Goals, and Intentions

When we seek to transform our lives, whether it is quitting smoking, eating healthier, being kinder to others, or bringing our physical being into balance, it is important to understand how this kind of change happens. We’d like to think that it’s just a matter of will power, that we just need to say we’ll do it and then stick to the plan. Of course we know what they say about men, plans, and mice.

  In reality making a vow or setting a goal is a very organic process. When a tree or other plant seeks to take it’s natural form it has to adapt to the environment or it will die. A river doesn’t just take a straight line to the sea. It negotiates the path with the landmarks around it. All too often when I have set goals I think of them as a straight line to the sea, but in reality I have several landmarks to work with. If I’m willing to negotiate my goals to match the landscape of my life I am more likely to reach the sea.

I recently read an article at my Dharma Punks sitting group by Thanissaro Bhikkhu about the practice of vow as an aspect of determination. This article identified 4 aspects of good determination: discernment, truth, relinquishment, and peace. The articles describes each of these aspects in a nice clear way.

First, it says of discernment: “Discernment here means two things. To begin with, it means setting wise goals: learning how to recognize a useful vow, one that aims at something really worthwhile, one in which you’re pushing yourself not too little, not too much — something that’s outside your ordinary expectations but not so far that you come crashing down. Second, it means clearly understanding what you have to do to achieve your goals — what causes will lead to the results you want.”

This aspect of setting goals is important to understand and practice. I’ve learned from years of working that it’s always better to under promise and then over deliver, but I all to often forget to do this with myself.

Let’s say you have a new friend would you lend them your car/bike? Lets say you’ve only seen them drive/ride twice. Once they were safe, the other time there were reckless. Would that effect your decision? 50% of your experience of them is negative. Compare that to how you would feel lending it to an old friend. One who you’ve seen break a few traffic laws but overall is a trustworthy person. The difference is clear, but often we treat ourselves like the old friend when our transforming self is mor like new acquaintance.

It takes time to build confidence in ourselves and see even if we make mistakes that we will stick to the path in the long run. As you start any new process to transform your life make sure to remember to take things slowly and work to build trust over time. Making and keeping small promises or goals with yourself will give you the confidence to keep bigger promises.

The second aspect of discernment that the article identifies is “clearly understanding what you have to do to achieve your goals.” Setting goals and making vows are wonderful, but many times I have been unrealistic about what it would take meet those goals. It meant giving up things I liked and making hard choices sometimes. Don’t have any illusions that you will find some shortcut to changing your life. It all about slow and steady progress and appreciating small victories.

If we fixate too much on the goals in the distance we lose sight of the steps it takes to get there. If you’ve ever run, biked, or even driven on the plains you know what this is like. If you watch some far off object it feels like it would take years to get there. But if you focus on each step, each breath, before you know it you’ve passed what seemed so far away.

After I decided that I was going to start doing triathlons I didn’t look at all the weeks of training it would take. I just worked on the week that I was on. At first swimming 1000 meters seemed impossible, but week after week I went to the pool and swam 100 meters 10 times with a little rest in between. Then one day I tried to swim 1000 meters in the Willamette river. It was HARD! I just wasn’t ready yet. So I doubled my efforts I went to the pool 2 more days a week and started pushing myself even harder. If I had said oh well this isn’t working I just give up that would’ve mean no triathlons. Instead I found that within a few weeks I was able to swim 1000 meters comfortably. I just needed a little extra push.

I focused on the steps to where I wanted to go not that my goal, despite my hard work, still seemed so far away. My initial assessment of what I needed to do wasn’t quite right, but that’s ok because I was willing to adjust to find the right path. When making goals we have to use our discernment to decide what we can trust ourselves to do and then focus on the steps to getting there. That way when we run into a road block we can see it as a small side step, rather than thinking we are completely derailed.

This week take the time to write down your goals at least 3 times. Then write down one concrete step you can take this week to get where you want to go. Lastly reflect on how achieving your goal will be of benefit to others. Your actions could inspire others, give you more confidence, or lengthen your life and thus the time you spend with loved ones. It’s important to remember that everything we do is not just for ourselves. When we are healthier happier people the merit just spreads out.

Thanks for reading and next post I’ll write about the second aspect of determination, Truth.

Be well.