Oh man, what I used to be…

Been a while. A lot has happened.

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They want Shady. I’m chopped liver.

One of the things I have learned about “life lessons” is that they come when they come. You cannot prepare for them, or even know when to expect them. They happen, you respond. No way around it.

Well, I just got tossed a life lesson. One I wasn’t totally prepared for, and one I am not sure whether I handled well or not. All I know is I am shaken. I feel physically ill and my body is freezing even though my surroundings are warm. In other words; this is new.

To start; I was disappointed tonight. Something I was really looking forward to fell through and there was nothing I could do about it. I immediately tried to focus on the Dalai Lama, and do what he would do. Shrug his shoulders and move on. But, my past beat me to the punch. The selfish brat that resided within, who is hurt by rejection. Struggling with myself I typed and deleted. typed and deleted. Made decision after decision, and all based on my disappointment and my want to lash out against not getting what I wanted. I was so angry with myself. I thought I had grown. Changed. Learned.

Then, I realized, I hadn’t sent any of the messages. I hadn’t posted any of the things I wanted to. I HADN’T reacted the way I used to. I stopped myself and took stock in my emotions and my motivations and made decisions based on what I believed to be right – not what I wanted out of reaction.

I still get scared. I wish that was not true, but it is. I still worry and stress and fear. Always fear. Despite the knowledge that it’s all pointless arguing between my brain and my heart, it’s not always clear who to listen to. So, I have decided to stop listening to either – and to start listening to my gut. Because I can look back and honestly say; for all the times I have gotten into trouble from either my head or my heart, my gut has never failed me once when I have listened to it. Not once.

So, here’s to you wise gut. Thank you for being the sage I need exactly when I need one.

I’m going to go read.

\m/

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You reach up, touch my mouth and tell me, “Shhhh.”

A few months back, I gave a note to a friend of mine. Hid it in her house (it was a challenge, proposed by her) for her to find. The note was titled; A list of things you need to know about me. The list consisted of 70 things. Not because that’s all there is to know about me, but because leaving it at 69 seemed tacky. Here are a few selections from my list.

I must add: The list began with this disclaimer –

These are not in any particular order. I wrote them as I thought of them. The numbers are merely there to differentiate; except for number 1.

1. My son always comes first.

2. I am a total geek. 100% dork. Nerd. I love Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. I quote them and have serious discussions about them. I also read sci-fi, comics and watch Doctor Who with equal admiration and love. I am a geek.

a)      Yes, I own a light-saber.

b)      It is red.

c)       The dark side rules.

7. I love pizza.

10. I hate the song Total Eclipse of the Heart more than I could ever explain.

18. I once stood in front of the fast ball in a batting cage just to see what it felt like to be hit by one.

19. I am one of those people who are not content to simply talk about something; I need to know it for myself. (see #18)

24. I have been known to slap my knee or clap when I laugh.

33. I love kissing.

53. I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies.

67. I have to be honest, even if it scares the shit out of me, because I refuse to live my life other than truthfully – even if it means I end up alone.

As I have never written anything like this list before, I will leave the rest to mystery. Primarily to honor the bond of love and respect I have with this particular friend. (You’re my boy, Bloo)

It is ultimately number 67 that brings me here today. Anyone who has read these posts knows how much I have struggled with honesty. Finding my way to living truthfully without jeopardizing my relationships in the process. I honestly cannot remember if I have made this metaphorical comparison before – but, it is still appropriate….

After what all I lost due to being false and selfish, I set out to be the exact opposite. Like someone discovering they have a new super power, I often misjudged and used the gift of honesty with poor choice. I alienated myself because I told people things they didn’t want to hear, and then felt rejected when they got angry at me for it. It was a tricky and difficult time, but the important lessons are never easy to learn – are they?

I feel I have found a place of warmth and beauty. I no longer see myself solely in the mirrors reflection, but also in the beautiful individuals I have come to know, respect and love… with all my heart. I notice smiles more often than I used to. I laugh with my entire body. (See #24) When someone hugs me it feels genuine and warm – the exact communication a hug is supposed to give. I walk with the badassitude of a badass walking in slow motion. It’s remarkable. Although, often people stare.

I am grateful. Truly. So much good has come to me that I feel humbled and rich beyond measure. Kindness is prevalent. Respect and honor. Heartfelt smiles and welcoming embraces. It’s. All. Good.

And, all because I found the truth…

67. I have to be honest, even if it scares the shit out of me, because I refuse to live my life other than truthfully – even if it means I end up alone.

All people want is for you to be real. The rest is freedom.

I’m gonna go eat some tacos.

\m/

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‘Cause I’ve got a golden ticket – Part II

Now that the show is over, I feel I can share this with all of you who missed it. The following is the piece I wrote and was honored with performing in The MENding Monologues this year.

My mother, and Jakob, were in the audience.

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Note: Each time you see (My sons face) typed out, during the show those lines were read by different cast members – except the last one. That was me.

Six Words or Less by James M McCullock

Let me ask you a question, and don’t answer out loud. Just think it. What does it mean to be a man? Now, I am sure you immediately thought of something.  Perhaps some of you have the good fortune of being able to think in terms of one word answers. Strong. Reliable. Trustworthy. Sexy. Muscular. Lunch. I am not so lucky. I think in long sweeping sentences. More often than not, verbose metaphors.  Usually using some random but relatable situation, I am able to describe something in a way that almost 99.9% of the population can understand, and all by using the wonderful power of metaphor.

However; here I am being asked to describe what it means to be a man in six words or less. Six words or less. What the …? When I read that, my mind went to immediate implode. And it just kept imploding and rebuilding, imploding and rebuilding.

Okay, let me step back a second and explain. When we were first contacted about being in the cast for the MENding Monologues, our director asked the men to answer this question: What does it mean to be a man? The catch was; our answer had to be six words or less.  I received this at 6:45 in the morning as I was getting ready to go to my math class. All could think was, “Six words or less?” “Six words or less?”

Now, our director is one of the most remarkable people you could ever meet. Powerful would be an excellent description. So, I was immediately intimidated. My initial reaction was, “What answer can I give that is going to impress her?” She loves all these well spoken and fiery Slam Poets. She reads articles written by some of the brightest minds in the world. She has one of the brightest minds I have ever met. And the kicker, and worst hurdle of all, she listens to good music. How in the hell am I supposed to compete with that?

(My sons face)

So I drive to school and the entire time I am thinking of all the possibly clever things I can say. If I could use cinematic tools to help me illustrate; you would see an old green chalkboard being written on and erased over and over and over again, eventually ending with the classic shot of the chalk breaking against the board and the clenched fist going , “Ungh!”

I feel it is important to add – I warned you, I love metaphor – I was stuck in pretty bad morning traffic.

So, I put on music…

(My sons face)

…hoping it would inspire me. Maybe some lyrics will give me an idea, or a particular melody. First problem I encountered, what do I listen too? Dylan? The Beatles? The Shins? Radiohead? Elton John?Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters!“Until you see, this trashcan dream come true. Stand at the edge while people run you through, and I thank the lord there’s people out there like you. I thank the lord there’s people out there like you.”Dammit!

Maybe when I get home I will Google the phrase, “What does it mean to be a man?” Yes, I considered cheating. This was serious shit, people.

(My sons face)

Math class was a pointless venture. I did not focus on a single thing, and we were working with exponents and square roots. I am not saying that to make the story clever, I swear to you that is what we were going over that day and math and I have never really gotten along – so it was kind of important I pay attention.

(My sons face)

Walking to my car after class; head down, earphones in, iPod playing Orchard by The Honey Trees. I am ashamed of myself. I can’t answer the question. I am a forty year old single father and I can’t answer the question, “What makes a man?” in six words or less. So much for being clever, huh?

(My sons face)

I get home and I Google, “What does it mean to be a man?”  First site at the top is a blog. This is word for word what I read on the blog, I did not write it. It was written by a man by the name of Jason Morgan.

Just to cover my ass further, I am going to go ahead and use the phrase,

And, I quote:

“Much like a chimera, being a man can be defined in so many different ways. Simplistically, being a man has to do with genetics. Merely having XY chromosomes will not yield what most people would externally recognize as a man…”

Moving on.

The next site was a page titled Steve Pavlina dot com. The tag line for the site is: Personal Development for smart people.

Moving on.

(My sons face)

I stopped. I realized that the reason I was unable to answer the question was because I wasn’t trying to answer the question. I was focused on all the wrong things.

The second night in as we all sat in a room together, men and women, sharing our reasons for wanting to be part of this project – I stood up with tears in my eyes and said I was doing it primarily to be an example to my son. (He turned twelve this March, thanks for asking) I do want, with all of my heart, to stop violence against women. Against everyone, really. In my little corner of the world, and considering the things I have a direct effect on every single day – the most profound and beautiful example of progress in that arena is my amazing little boy. If I can educate him, and imbue him with a strong self- respect and love then the rest is easy. If he can truly appreciate who he is as a wonderful soul on this Earth then he will never have cause to harm anyone, ever. With that kind of power, he will then go on to inspire and educate those young men who will become his friends. And the web begins to spread. An entire generation of men who from the earliest stages of their sexual development are implanted with the idea that rape and violence is wrong. Not bad, right?

I realize this is romantic of me. To think is terms of whole generations. But, why not? We’re here. Let’s enjoy that possibility, because it is a possibility.

(My sons face)

So, to come full circle. “What does it mean to be a man?” in six words or less.

Leading by example, with love. (pizza)

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“No, no, no, no-no-no-no”

Best advice I’ve been given in a long while:

“You just gotta do right by yourself. The worst that will happen is a no, so you keep trucking. Be glad we’re not insects, then she’d just bite your head off if it didn’t work out.”

It’s good to have friends when you need them. 🙂

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You can tell everybody this is your song

In May, I will officially begin a project I have been working on for the past few months. A companion piece to both the Vagina and MENding Monologues I have called Gentle(MEN) Reminders: Continuing the MENding Process – or The Gentle(MEN) Project.

After last nights Vagina Monologues, I have not been okay. I found out something that broke my heart completely, and I have been tears streaming upset about it all day long. I go through wanting to hold them all, to wanting to lash out at the bastards who hurt them. No quarter.

I began to write, as I do in those moments. First a letter, than an email, then an entry. I landed on intro. I have begun work on the intro to the very first Gentle(MEN) show on May 27th.

I would like to share what I have with you now.

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Intro – by James M McCullock

We all stood – All of us – two-hundred plus people showing love and admiration and support and gratitude and heart heart heart in the form of two hands being brought together. Love thunder. Shouts of “whoo” eminating from individual cells who joined together with me to form a single entity. It was powerful. My heart was fire and joy.

The applause began to lighten and the ladies began to sit, and my friend stood up.  “No.” As the room settled, people seated, my friend continued walking forward. “No. No, no, no.” She stood tall and strong, the quiver in her voice proof of her warrior heart. She said the words. It was real. “When I was sixteen, I was raped.” My mind screamed “NOOOOO!” Guttural animal noises I did not know I was capable of. “Not another one. God dammit!”

My body had become so full of love and grief and anger and so many emotions, that my insides ran out of room and I began to leak from my eyes. That happens on occasion. In fact, the emotions had taken up so much room; I found that even the space occupied by my lungs had been filled, because I was unable to speak. Even if I had been able to, what could I possibly say? At one point, as I hugged one of the many women I love who has been affected by this ugliness, I managed two very small words. Just two. “I’m sorry.”

You are grace. You are strength and power, beauty and light. You have managed to take something ugly that never should have happened, and you stayed the course. Remained true. And became a beacon in the darkness for others to find their way. I don’t just love and admire you. I am in awe of you. Because, I am not those things. I am samurai sword anger slash fuck you asshole. I am brutal fist pounding ‘til the bones of my hand are exposed. I am go ahead and shoot you worthless selfish piece of shit. I am “Hulk SMASH!” I am AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

However, I know that will not help you. That would be for me. Selfish anger because I couldn’t save you. Because I was somewhere else in this world, completely unaware of the pain you were in. I was somewhere oblivious, probably feeling sorry for myself over something pointless while you were having your eyes changed. Turned from My Little Pony stickers on a folder, jelly bracelets, pigtails and giggles into always looking, always wondering, and never really trusting.

The most difficult thing about all of this is the feeling of not knowing what to do. I am clever. I can create. I can fix inanimate objects, and burn you CD’s. I can play guitar and sing. I can build you a tree house, tire swing and slide. But, I cannot change what has happened. I cannot jump in and put a stop to a great and powerful wrong. This is impotence, not the lack of an erection. This feeling of “what can I do?”

I do not have much, my friends. But I have my words, and I have my heart and they both belong to you as often as you need them. I will scream ‘til the sun almost blows out from the wind in my lungs. I will do everything I can to aide you in your struggle. You own real estate in my very soul.

You are why we stand beside you. Because you are worth it. All of you.

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I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain…

Recently the men of The MENding Monologues were asked a series of questions, anonymously,  by the ladies from The Vagina Monologues. Strike that; they asked A LOT of questions. They ranged from everything involving communication, to what we think about when “going down” on a woman. It was powerful stuff.

I answered each question honestly and from my heart. But, as I read through each question something beyond just answers stirred in me. So, I wrote the ladies a letter. I’d like to share it with you because I think, based on the reactions I have received to the letter, it might be something more than just the cast of The Vagina Monologues needs to read.

Without further ado…

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Dearest friends,

Thank you for your complex and honest questions. Some were inspiring, others broke my heart. All were intriguing in a unique way – just like all of you.

As I began to go through each question, answering them one by one, I realized a theme. Many of you were asking the same thing, just in a different way. I also noticed that the answer, while right in front of you, was going completely unnoticed. At first I found this mildly irritating, to be perfectly honest.  I thought to myself, “You’re asking for something you yourself are not giving? What do you expect to have happen?” Then, I took a moment and meditated on the entire reason we are here. I focused on the role of women, and the “identity” women wear. I realized you weren’t “not seeing” the answer out of some sort of hypocrisy. You weren’t seeing it because of the way you see yourself. This realization, along with the question “Why do you love me” broke my heart entirely.

I want to disclaimer: What I am about to say is mine. I am not answering for, nor will I ever answer for all men. I cannot answer for all men.  Just like every woman, every man is his own unique universe. We all have our own gravity and space dust. Our opinions on each of your questions will be different from man to man, even if our answers are hovering around being exactly the same. So, what I say here is purely mine, and mine alone. I do not speak for all the MENding guys, nor do I speak for men at large. Also, you need to know that I don’t actually know anything. Everything I am about to say is purely what I think based on the short time I have been at this life of mine, and based on what my experience has been. It is, in no way, an “answer” – just my take. Dig?

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

The one thing I am hearing, more than anything else, is an overwhelming desire to be loved. You wish to be cherished, and kissed, and treated like someone’s one and only. This desire is so strong, you are willing to put up with not getting what you want just to have someone – anyone – there. For example, the question: “What is the one thing a woman can do to open the door to a deeper conversation with you?” Simple; start a conversation. You have to have faith in yourself and believe that what you want and think is important, and is in fact valid. If you start a conversation with a man you are with and he doesn’t respond to it in the way you want him to, then the real question is, “Why are you with him?” Is having the “deeper conversation” something you believe to be of absolute importance? Or is it something you can live without in your relationship, but find elsewhere? If you want to be loved for exactly who you are, then you have to do the same in return. So, if your man is not a “deep talker”, you have to either decide if he – as a man – is enough just the way he is. Or, you have to own your choice and leave him. There is a general tendency to put all of the responsibility on the man for a lack of communication, yet it also sounds like you are not necessarily being the pioneers of opening the pathway for it. Own your power, ladies. Own your beauty and your strength and realize – really embrace the fact – that you, as you are, are enough. It’s lovely to be held and kissed and thought of. Wonderful to have a best friend that you can also make out with, or have show up out of the blue to surprise you with something sweet and thoughtful. Someone you can sit next to, or cuddled up under a blanket with, watching a movie or TV shows on Netflix. All of that rocks, I know. But, none of it matters if you are unhappy with who you are.

Do not settle just because you are lonely. Each of you is an amazing individual who is entitled to exactly what each and every one of you wants for yourself. That goes for life, not just relationships. The trick is, you have to decide just how much you want it – then commit yourself to that. For example; if you want to lose weight, stop making excuses and do it. Don’t like your job, or living situation – change it. The choice originates with you.

You don’t need a man, you deserve a best friend. You deserve someone who will love you enough to say what needs to be said, then will still stand right beside you anyway. Someone who will hear what you have to say, and will not be afraid to be “wrong”. Someone who never makes you feel afraid of whatever it is you are feeling, for whatever reason you might be feeling it. You also need someone who won’t just put up with your shit. I need that. We all need that. Those people rule.

I have answered each question individually on a separate sheet. I am uncertain if that, or even this, will be shared with you – but I feel inspired to write it none-the-less. Thank you for that. You are all, collectively, my muse for this one.

I will say this to you; I am also lonely. I feel fear and regret. I feel self-hatred and, at times, the all encompassing belief that I am totally unworthy of love. I hate my face. Hate the weight I have gained over the past year. Hate how hairy I am. Hate my status in life. I fear that I will fail my son, and that he – like everyone else I have loved – will leave me because I wasn’t good enough to make them want to stay. All of this is very real for me. However, I also KNOW I am fucking amazing. I am thoughtful and kind. I am passionate and endearing. I am clever, talented, one hell of a song writer and pretty damn funny – if I do say so myself,… and I do. I am one of the best friends you could ever have, and I can take a punch (or many) and still be a smart-ass. I am honest. I fear rejection, yet I stand tall. I have learned, especially over the past year, I have a just as much right to be who I am as anyone anywhere at any time. Yes, I have flaws – I am fucking human. So, why am I so desperate to carry around the burden of past mistakes and regrets and heartbreaks and blah, blah, blah? I finally put down the baggage and began walking forward, and I never stopped. All the negative thoughts? That’s old voices crying out in despair of being left behind. As much as I would love to be loved, I have to recognize that I already am; by many. Maybe I don’t have someone for “date night”. But, so what? Good people are good people, no matter what role they play in your life. Cherish that, always.

Above all; be kind to yourself.

I would encourage you to set a goal for yourself to say three honest things this week, especially if they are “scary” or “difficult” to say. Challenge yourself to tell someone something you have wanted to say for a long time. Tell the person you’re with you want to talk about things, and you won’t take no for an answer.  If he/she agrees; be sure to listen.

I love you all, and my heart breaks that you feel so confused and hurt. Hopefully, between myself and the MENding guys, we will be able to shed a little light on some things. Feel free, and I believe I DO speak for all the men on this, to ask us anything you want at any time. We are all ready and willing to have the “door opened to deeper conversation”. We’re just too afraid of appearing “too intense”. Reach out, my friends. I – we – will catch you if you need to fall.

There is one question I will answer right now in this letter.

Why do I love you? Because you’re you.

With absolute love and admiration,

m

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