Damn…

Damn…

I spent my prom night with Lee McGrevin.

Drunk…

On a wall.

Lee lived in one of the first housing developments in Southlake, Texas I remember having a wall around it. I am not ashamed to admit that I knew the champagne Lee shared that night was stolen from a stranger’s garage. (Not the $100+ bottle he snagged on the New Years Eve before, but it was clear by the alcohol consumed from Southlake garages that it was a town destined for bigger tastes than its country roots.)

I was one of the geeks who didn’t attend prom that night; instead, I tromped around the woods with my best friend drinking stolen champagne. We didn’t camp out in our little lean to back in those woods that night. We decided to sleep on the big stone wall at the entrance to Lee’s neighborhood, watching limousines take so many people I knew to a party at the end of the block.

Lee

I can’t even remember how I met Lee. I only knew that when I met him, he was a self-professed redneck who loved Hank Williams Jr. more than the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and all the other bands he’d come to love inside a couple years. That transformation was quick. Where I liked punk music, Lee loved the lifestyle.

One night, he arrived at my window…the tone of that knock was all Lee. He told me he had a couple racist skinheads following him around in their car, and he wanted to know if I wanted to lure them into the woods where we camped to beat the shit out of them…or kill them.

“Self defense,” he said. “Who are the cops gonna believe? The racist skins encroaching on Southlake, or the good little rich kid and his well-enough-to-do friend who ran into the woods to escape an attack and had no option but to defend themselves with force?”

But really, that’s doing Lee injustice. He really was a good person.

Another Night at the Window

Another night at the window, there was Lee’s knock. I slid my window open to see Lee crying. He had a pair of scissors against his wrist.

“Give me ONE good reason why I shouldn’t kill myself.”

“You’re my brother, and I love you,” I said. “Now…give me the fuckin’ scissors.”

Lee did, and I went outside to talk him down. I talked him down a couple times, all the while thinking, “I’m right there on the edge, too.” No idea why two kids who had it pretty good wanted to die so much.

I was older, though, and I never let Lee know I struggled, too. It seemed like — if I did — it would have all come apart…

Odds and Ends

Lee ran away on somewhat regular occasion. One of his longest runs, I knew he was still around because after a few days of Lee being gone, I got in my car (that mighty 1980 Datsun 810), and it smelled like an animal had been sleeping in there.

I knew Lee was sleeping in my car because it was the warmest (and coziest) place he could find. (It really did smell like someone had field-dressed a boar in my back seat. For months! I can still smell that stench…) He eventually made his way to Irving, where he lived a couple days in the drainage tunnels under Highway 183 by Irving Mall. He called my mom to come and get him when he had enough.

My mom didn’t think twice about getting him. Lee may have been a mess at times, but you had no choice but to love and care for him.

The Firetruck

Lee loved my mom. He loved his mom, too…while adopted, he always talked about how much he loved his mom. He said he was lucky to have two of the best moms in the world (his mom and my mom).

I knew the feeling; Lee’s mom (and dad) were the parents I wanted in so many ways in the 80s. Don’t get me wrong…to this day, my mom is one of my favorite people, but I had a step father I was not fond of. I wanted parents like Lee had.

One day, Lee mentioned to my mom and me that the one thing he didn’t have as a kid growing up in foster homes was a little red firetruck. My mom went out and bought Lee a great firetruck, which stayed on his dresser, a remnant of a youth he never had among all his punk posters. In all the battles we had throwing shit at each other, the firetruck was off limits.

In that one gift, my mom gave Lee at least a piece of the childhood he never had.

Lee’s Family

I loved Lee’s parents (and always will). I have no idea why he rebelled against them as much as he did. He had the life I dreamed of having, and for whatever reasons…he was not pleased with that life. I will never fault him for that, but I was always a bit perplexed what Lee was fighting.

But then…many punks begin a life in suburbia; any fight Lee had was really not with his parents…

The Last Night I Saw Lee

A bit of backstory, first. Lee’s parents sometimes traveled. When they did, we took his father’s Jaguar out for drives. (If I ever have a nice garage, I WILL have a mid-80s model Jag…I loved that friggin’ car!)

Once, we made up a story…that we were brothers and our parents were dead. They left us everything — including that Jaguar. We went to open houses in Southlake as it was growing into its big-town pants. The sob story was simple: I was 18, and Lee was my younger brother. I just got legal guardianship, and we were looking for a house. The Jaguar was convincing in the charade.

One time, we went out with the guy who watched Lee when his folks were away. We went to a big open house and…arrived late. But the sign was still out front. We got to the door and all fought to get inside first.

I will never forget the look of confusion (and terror) on that family’s face as they ate dinner and…a punk, a geek, and a clean-cut redhead (Lee’s keeper) all burst into their home unannounced.

Yea, Fireworks!!!

As Lee slipped more into the punk he’d become, we were out one night with a friend. We had a pile of fireworks. I’d stop, and Lee would light fireworks in the street. I’d tear away while we were all laughing.

There really wasn’t much for a car full of outcasts to do on a Friday night/Saturday morning in Southlake, Texas at the time.

I stopped another time and Lee jumped out of the car. He ran up to a random front door and lit a string of Black Cats.

POP-POP-POP-POP-POP!!!

I thought, “What the fuck, Lee! NOT cool!”

Then I saw the headlights.

Lee jumped back into the car and then, as I sped away, the lights on top of the car came on.

“Shit, a cop!”

My other friend: “I can’t get busted. Not right now! My record is about to come clean. PLEASE get around this corner and let me bail!”

But the cop was on us.

I pulled over.

The cop was cool. His general feeling was, “You’re stupid geeks…go home and never do this shit again.” But…he had to call the pull over in.

So…in no time, the head honcho cop showed up. He had an attitude. He looked at my friend in the front seat.

“Well, well, well…”

Then he saw Lee in the backseat. “Oh, wait…YOU!!!” (With shaved heads, my two friends kind of looked alike…and let’s just say Lee had a reputation with the police in several cities…)

We were escorted to the Southlake Police Department where my other friend and I were given tickets because we’d reached an age where our parents could no longer be called.

Lee, being a minor, was taken away with the dicky cop. We heard, “Put that fucking cigarette out!” and other things Lee was doing to antagonize the cop from the other room. My friend and I were released…I wanted to stay for Lee, but was told only his parents could take him.

I was an adult at this point, so…I was going to pay my ticket. Not tell my mom or step dad…they would never know.

But Lee had a bigass heart.

He showed up at my front door while I was away the next day; told my mom, “It wasn’t Chris’s fault — it was all mine!”

My mom invited him in, and he realized, “Oh, shit…I’m giving up a friend.”

He could never apologize enough, even though he was forgiven by me right away.

That’s the kind of person Lee was…

The Tunnels

There are storm drainage tunnels near Grapevine Lake. I know this because Lee told me. Underneath Dove Road, an opening in the wall supporting a bridge that most people will never know is a bridge.

We had to see what was in there. Lee had read a book about Vietnam called The Tunnels of C? Chi. So we spray painted “Tunnel Rats” over the hole in the wall that went into the drainage system and crawled in.

Each time, we went deeper and deeper — rats be damned!

Snakes and black widow spiders eventually stopped us, but it took several encounters with venomous beasties to finally stop trespassing below the streets of Grapevine.

We decided it was safer to just steal booze from garages and sit in Lee’s room listening to Balck Flag, The Dead Kennedys, The Meatmen, and other bands…

Philly Daze

One day, Lee was gone. He said he went to Philadelphia. I have no idea if that was true, but one night while we walked along late in Grapevine, Texas, cops pulled us over.

Lee was exceptionally calm. Me, on the other hand…I ranted about how I didn’t know it was a mother fucking police state! How I didn’t know it was fucking illegal for two sober friends to walk along the street minding their own business, only to be pulled over by fucking cops.

Lee: “Dude, be cool…”

The last words I expected to hear from him.

Turned out, while away, he’d been in a brawl behind a club. A cop came in heavy, just busting heads. Lee got the cop in the chest with a broken bottle.

I was pulled aside by the head cop and told to chill the fuck out…and that — with a spotless record — I’d do well to not hang out with trouble like Lee.

Fuck that noise!

The Last Night I Saw Lee…

When my mom divorced my step father, we moved from Southlake to Grapevine. Not a long haul, but when your only mode of transportation is foot, it was a distance.

I still drove over to visit Lee. We still did things together, but he was in and out of a school in Colorado. He was away more than around. But one night…

TAK TAK TAK!

Someone was throwing pebbles at my second story window. I looked out to see Lee.

“Hey…can you come down?”

“Of course…”

I went down.

“I have my dad’s car…”

That fucking Jag!

We went for a ride. For hours. Nice and slow. We were no longer interested in pushing the Jaguar to its limits. We weren’t young punks anymore (even though we really were). We would obey all traffic laws (a good thing since Lee wasn’t licensed to drive), and we just drove.

We ended up driving all over Fort Worth with the windows down and the sunroof open. Just talking. Like…we were adults.

“There’s Trinity Park,” Lee said. “Remember that day?”

Trinity Park

For all our faults and awkwardness, there was a day Lee and I went to Fort Worth. We knocked around…went to lunch at an actual restaurant that I paid for. Just this great afternoon — one of my all-time best — hanging out and being calm with my best bud.

We stopped by TCU to visit Lee’s mom, who was a professor there. We hung out in her office, and she seemed surprised and happy to see us. Then…we went to Trinity Park and juggled until it got dark.

I think we both felt what it was to be teetering on adulthood that day, and we both liked it. Not having much, but enough to have a great meal with a good friend and do whatever came to mind. (None of those things being stupid and destructive.)

It’s a day that will live like a celluloid haze in my mind until I’m done…

Lee juggling three clubs

It really was one of the best afternoons of my life…

That Last Drive

“Of course I remember that day…” I said when Lee asked me. I started crying, but I didn’t let him see. Not because he’d judge me, but because I knew he’d feel bad and do all he could to make things better.

I just somehow knew it would be the last time I ever saw him.

We chatted for hours, just driving along in that Jag. Then we rode home in silence.

The next morning, when I went out to my car — leaning against a tree — was a stick. When Lee and I were younger and claiming a small patch of woods as our own, we beat the shit out of each other. (It was a hobby.) I had a stick I loved. The rules were simple: “No head shots!” All else was legal.

We left those woods with bruises we hid from our parents. If people had seen them at school, I thought our parents would be locked away for abuse.

Those bruises belonged to us. They belonged to youth — to figuring out who we were.

And there, laying again that tree, was the stick I used to beat the ever-living fuck out of Lee McGrevin…because if I didn’t, he’d have beaten the ever-living fuck out of me!

I still have that stick…it’s buried in my closet, the only remaining piece of a small patch of woods that is long gone and now a housing development.

A piece of Southlake most people never knew existed; a piece of all we were when we were younger.

The Call

After Lee vanished, I got a call from his mom. Lee had called her in a state of confusion, totally lost. He hung up and that was that. She assumed that was that and told me he was gone.

I was gutted. Not surprised, but totally lost.

Atlanta, 2005

In 2005, I got a job at an aviation consulting firm that told me there would be no travel.

Three weeks into the job, they asked me to go to Atlanta for two months.

I did.

Lee’s parents lived in Atlanta.

One Saturday afternoon, I called them from a laundromat not too far from the airport where I was staying (and where one of the guys I worked with was held at gunpoint by a nervous 15-year-old who took his car).

I met up with Lee’s parents at the Sunflower Cafe in Bucktown. It was great catching up, but the best part: Lee’s mom showing me photos of Lee and his daughter.

Lee was alive!

I found comfort in that, even though his parents told me he still struggled with so much. But…I had this hope that we would one day catch up.

Last Weekend

Last weekend, I saw someone post on Lee’s Facebook wall. It made me wonder what was up. When I saw that Lee was dead…it hit me even harder than the first time I thought Lee was dead.

All I could think of is this line from a John Irving novel that is a better way to end this entry and anything I could say.

Because I’ve said more than enough already…

We don’t always have a choice how we get to know one another. Sometimes, people fall into our lives cleanly–as if out of the sky, or as if there were a direct flight from Heaven to Earth–the same sudden way we lose people who once seemed they would always be part of our lives.
– John Irving – Last Night in Twisted River

Lee

The last photo I took of Lee. It was around Christmas of the year he left (1988). A couple months later, he was gone from Texas. I’m happy to see that he touched many other lives with everything he was!

Some Thoughts about Superstition and Panic

Some Thoughts about Superstition and Panic

Every time I fly — as I step aboard the plane — I say to myself, “This is the plane I’m going to die on.”

Not because I believe that; rather, because I don’t.

I’ve mentioned that I do this to some people and they were absolutely appalled that I’d do such a thing…that I was somehow tempting fate. Worse, that with a mere thought…I am putting hundreds of lives in danger each time I fly.

And yet, each time I fly, I land safely.

But What If…

Now that I’ve shared this information, if I’m ever on a plane that does not land safely, people can say, “It’s all his fault. Had he simply not tempted fate, all those people would be alive…”

What gets me about superstition is that it’s a one-way street. By saying to myself, “This is the plane I’m going to die on,” each time I fly, people who believe ridiculous things (it is ridiculous to think that my mere thought can bring down a plane) are allowed to say, “See?!” should the incredibly remote possibility that I die in a plane crash occur. But yet, if I live to be 100 and say to the same people, “So…gonna admit you’re wrong and have let fear dictate your life?” there’s always an excuse.

You didn’t fly enough…

Somebody prayed harder than your thoughts…

It will catch up with you in some other way…

Planes Do Not Crash Because of Thoughts

A good friend took a flight in a small plane as a teenager because he thought flying would be cool. The plane crashed, and he was the only survivor.

Many would say, “That’s a warning to never fly again!”

Others might say, “Well, he got his crash out of the way…he’s safe to fly.” (As though we all get a plane crash or two in our lives.)

Those of the latter mindset might even go as far as saying that in all the flights this friend has taken that the reason he’s survived is because he crashed and lived on his very first flight.

All these thoughts would be rather insulting. This friend was recently certified to fly the 787 Dreamliner. To attribute an experience that happened on his very first flight to his success as a pilot is silly. Worse: to think for a moment that me thinking, “This is the plane I’m going to die on,” can negate all the years of training pilots go through is insulting to the profession.

Even worse than that, I’m sure there are people out there, who — if they read this blog entry — would hope I die on a plane just to prove their point.

Superstition is a powerful thing, and it doesn’t surprise me that many people I know who are very superstition are also prone to panic.

OMG, It’s The Ebola! Run Away!!!

I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. If you’ve watched the news, recently, you know that Ebola is running out of control in the area and this will be the last thing I ever write! (At least if you stay glued to the news or some social media feeds, you might think like that.)

In early September, I logged out of Facebook to take a break until I’m done with the novel I’m currently writing. (And also to make sure I was away during election season, when all that I dislike about Facebook seems even more amplified.)

I woke up early this morning and wandered to the living room. I don’t watch the news, but I turned it on. The general message seemed to be: “OH MY GOD, THIS IS AN EPIDEMIC!!!” followed by, “don’t panic!!!”

I’ve seen very little mention of Ebola on my Google Plus, Tumblr, and Twitter feeds. A confession: I logged into Facebook this morning.

DOOM!!! DOOM, I SAY!!!

The number of posts about Ebola was staggering. Worse: looking at the posts of some of the more superstitious people I know…it would almost be funny if it weren’t so sad. One person telling a friend in the area: “MOVE NOW! GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN!” Not as a joke — this was said in all seriousness, and it was followed by, “Of course, that may not matter — it will be everywhere soon.”

I saw somebody saying it’s the government…that they want to reduce the population by 95%. Again, said in all seriousness by a normally superstitious person.

The best: links to places saying, “Take these vitamins to be safe, and stock up on all this gear for when it gets bad!” Conveniently, the sites people were getting their “real facts about Ebola” from just-so-happen to also sell the specials vitamins and gear that will make you one of the lone survivors of the Ebolapocalypse.

Comment after comment like that; people feeding into fear.

(I didn’t even have the courage to gaze at the feeds of people I’ve hidden.)

A Prediction

I do not believe in psychics, but I’ll make a prediction based on reason: I will not die in a plane crash.

I’ll make another prediction: the United States will not crumble under Ebola’s grip.

Let’s go for three: President Obama will not impose martial law followed by Sharia law before the 2016 elections to stay in power, no matter what your favorite conspiracy “news” website says.

And that’s what gets me about superstition and panic: none of these things will happen. The people who fear these things, however, will not say, “Huh? None of those things I truly believed would happen actually happened. Maybe I shouldn’t be so superstitious and afraid.”

Instead, they will go on to the next scary thing and continue to be angry when people point out just how ridiculous it all is.

On Being Prepared

On Being Prepared

I like the Twitter account for Everyday Carry. My daily carry is very basic: clothing on body, glasses on face, wedding ring on finger. I suppose those are everyday wearings. What I actually carry is simple: my smart phone in my left front pocket. In my front right pocket, a keyring with my car key, apartment key, and mailbox key. In my back left pocket, my wallet (which is not filled with much).

One could say I prefer to travel travel light.

The Things We Carry

Looking at Everyday Carry, I see knives and lighters and string and other tools carried in pockets. When I was younger, I used to carry a knife, string, lighter…everything I could — as if I believed I would find myself suddenly lost in the wild and in need of these things. I carried every key I owned. If someone needed a metric screwdriver, I could summon one from a pocket!

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I rarely used the things I carried. It was more like this: why would I need to start a bonfire or tie up bad guys with twine when I was simply walking up the street to the bus stop?

Just in Case

Someone once asked me why I don’t own a gun. They assumed it was some deep political statement. My answer was simple: “I don’t feel a need to own a gun.”

Guns are fun to shoot, but I prefer archery to shooting guns. If I lived in a bad neighborhood, I very well might own a gun. But I live on the upper floor in a quiet apartment complex in a town with very little crime. I fear the weather more than I fear waking up to a criminal in the apartment — and I don’t fear the weather, even during spring in Texas.

When I explained this way of thinking about gun ownership, the person I talked to said, “Yeah, but just in case, wouldn’t you want that security?”

I look at it like this: I feel more secure without a gun in the apartment than this person feels with a gun in their home. This person, every night — on some level — thinks about a home invasion as they set their gun on their night stand. Me? I just go to sleep.

The Unseen Carry

I realized something about the need I once had to carry so many things, “Just in case.” With those physical objects, I carried a head full of strange what-ifs. I wasted energy thinking about unlikely situations in which I saved the day with a magnifying glass, bottle opener, and a plastic toothpick.

Once I stopped carrying so much, my head cleared. I realized there is a lot to be said for trusting my abilities to think differently if I needed to solve a problem that string, a knife, or wire clippers could solve. (That, and I stopped breaking fingernails by trying to open obscure tools on my Swiss Army Knife that were in there so tight!)

Be Prepared

Many people see the motto “Be prepared,” and feel that their preparation should come in the form of carrying things for those “Just in case” moments that will — most likely — never come. “Be prepared,” to me, means having confidence to trust yourself to find solutions to things as situations arise — not fretting and running every doomsday scenario through your head that — if they ever happened — would still not work out as planned. Being prepared means looking back on all the things I wasn’t sure I could do and remembering that I can’t think of a time things didn’t work out because I can adapt.

These days, I don’t carry much at all and, because of that, even unseen baggage falls to the side.

(The Day After) the Longest Day

(The Day After) the Longest Day

There are places in America where the sun scours the landscape, leaving nothing but the heartiest things on Earth behind to survive. These are the places that make Texas summers seem tame (with the exception of Houston, which can feel like a sunburned armpit in any given month). Texas still has a reputation for hot summers — and as I approach 30 years in the state (August 8), I can say with confidence there is truth to that.

So far, though, we’re off to the best summer I can remember…

Summer Solstice

The summer solstice was obscured by clouds yesterday. The only hint of the sun all day was a burning cataract hanging low in the sky before falling below the horizon and consumed by darkness. Sure, it was warm and humid (and I was in a long-sleeved shirt and jacket because I spoke at the DFW WordPress Meetup), but without direct sun, heat isn’t so bad.

Today I slept a bit longer than usual because the sound of rain I didn’t know was coming tapped a steady rhythm made for dozing against the bedroom windows. A jaunt into the world in search of breakfast found my wife and me wet with rain and enjoying 70-degree weather. Mourning doves formed avian flash mobs, gathering on fence railings and curbs to shower and welcome the last rain we may see for months.

This Will Change

I know the weather will change. Our drought will continue and some lakes will dry up completely this year. The sun will be big and bright and offer no quarter as it sears all it touches. But for now, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the first Sunday of summer than by enjoying the rain, a mug of Earl Grey tea, and the sound of the dishwasher in the kitchen.

For at least this morning, I can pretend it’s spring or fall — not summer in Texas.

Halfway There

Halfway There

There exists the possibility that I am more than halfway done with my life…or that I’m not even halfway there. But let’s assume I make it to 90: today is the halfway point of my life.

I had a much longer post in honor of turning 45, one in which I looked back at my life in 5-year intervals and offered advice to my past self, but as I’ve gotten older — even if something interests me — there comes a point where I think:

“I could be hanging out with my wife right now…”
“I could be working on a novel right now…”
“I could be out for a walk right now…”

How I Spend My Time

There are so many other things I choose to focus on if I’m going to spend an hour or two making something. It’s not that the longer entry I had originally written didn’t hold my interest or that it wasn’t good…I just found it taking effort that I would rather spend on other things.

I feel that way more and more as I get older. It’s no revelation — I’ve known the day would come when I didn’t care to consume as much and share my thoughts about what I take in.

Advice to My Future Self

So instead of looking back at the first 45 years of my life, I look ahead with a focus on what works for me:

Take time to do a handful of things that mean the most to you as well as you can…and then push yourself even more. Let the rest fall away. (You do not have to do all the things.)

More than ever, strive for quality over quantity.

Unless your day job is your passion, a job is a job. It doesn’t hurt if it’s a good job, but at the end of your life, no one is going to be at your deathbed saying, “Thank you for giving up so much of your life to 60-hour weeks working on something that we no longer even do!”

To that point, it would be really sad to look back at the end of your life and think, “Man, those years spent arguing online about politics, pop culture, or the rage du jour sure were my best days…”

Find the silence in the moment, and never be afraid to be alone with just your thoughts for hours; in fact, use your brain before using your smartphone (or whatever distraction comes along next) to satisfy the urge to be “doing something.”

Even if you are right, yelling at walls is a poor way to spend your time when it can be spent doing much more productive things.

Be okay with being alone. And when you’re with other people, let their company remind you that in friendship and love, you have the most important thing there is.

 

What Does Your Internet Diet Taste Like?

What Does Your Internet Diet Taste Like?

I’m not going to be so bold to claim that what you experience upon rising in the morning dictates the kind of day you will have (because we can often make decisions to improve things if the day begins poorly), but I don’t understand people who wake up and do this:

Ah…it’s such a gorgeous morning — the sun is coming up and the world is still quiet. I’m alone with my thoughts as I ease into the day. So much potential before me; I can think of no better way to begin the day than by jumping online and riling myself up!

Stress and Coffee

Instead of a quiet beginning to the day, a Web browser opens and suddenly the peace of the morning is shattered by this:

Oh, this story about the family that killed their baby and ate their dog ruined my morning — I’m sharing it on Facebook!

So-and-so [politician/government/group] did this [thing] and it’s made me mad. Grrrrrrrr!!! Grrrrrrrrrrrrr, I say!!!

Not naming names, but some people need to check their attitudes at the door…you know who you are! (The cryptic social media post.)

Did you see that pop star I claim doesn’t matter shaking her butt again? I’m so angry, I’m trembling!

You Are What You Eat

We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” It’s become an almost tired phrase, but…there’s truth to it: fill your body with unhealthy food and you’re much more likely to feel like crap than if you eat well.

Jumping online and seeking negative information all day long is like eating lard with a spoon three times a day and then wondering why you feel terrible.

There’s so much good food out there; why eat from a garbage heap?

How to Develop a Better Internet Diet

Everybody has to find what’s right for them, but if you believe it’s impossible to be online and not be swamped by negativity, you’re doing it wrong. Some suggestions:

Stay Away — Don’t go online for information the first hour or so of your day. Do something productive so that if the day goes south, you’ll at least have done something that makes you happy — even proud. Write in a journal, start a blog, or get a jump on the day’s tasks so that when your workday is done, you can relax.

RSS is Your Friend — Once a day, I check blogs. I go to Feedly after writing in the morning and everything there fuels my day. I see art and photography; writing news and positive essays (usually about making things). It’s easy to set up a feed that nourishes you — not drags you down.

Filters and Groups are Your Friends — The angry people on Facebook? You don’t have to see them anymore. Most social networks allow ways to hide angry and negative people. If things break through when a big news story hits or an election is in full swing, step away from it all for a month or two…or go directly to the pages of people you know are more positive.

Avoid News Sites — When’s the last time a news story directly affected your life? Maybe the weather report, but the sensational case about a parent maybe/maybe not murdering their kid? It’s fabricated misery, and it has no actual bearing on your life. So drop it. In an age of always-on news, it’s easy to watch and think the world is doomed. It isn’t.

Listen to a Podcast or Read — There are plenty of short podcasts out there, and we could all spend a lifetime reading full time and still have many good books left at the end. Why not learn something in minutes, or get lost in a good book?

Enjoy Silence — I spent the first 15 minutes of the day sitting in a chair while doing nothing. Not dozing back to sleep or even really thinking about anything: just sitting and enjoying the quiet. With so much rushing about, there’s something empowering about claiming time to just sit and do nothing.