Posts Tagged ‘self help’


Man of Steel

I have to admit that I am as excited as anybody to get out and see the newest Superman movie. Although DC comics pale in comparison to its counterpart, Marvel, Superman has been a longstanding part of every man-child’s upbringing. We, the masculine form of our species, have long been enamored with the idea of this spectacle Superman. A dude from another planet with values and morals beyond reproach, with only one weakness, if you don’t count Lois Lane, which I never do, because having a woman / love interest also be a weakness is so cliche it isn’t even funny. I could never stand that Lois would rather see Superman weak and get beat up in a diner rather than just be an awesome lover who could fly her around Metropolis on Date Night Fridays. That is not why I write today, although I would like to expound upon Lois and Superman’s relationship at some point in my life. I write because today is Father’s Day. I want to talk about the old man who brought me up and instilled in me the tenants of being a man.

There exists a thousand stories that I can tell that would prove the assertion that my pops, Lane started me early in training. If you have ever read anything about Teddy Rooselvelt, you would understand that, as a kid, this mountain of a man was weak and fragile. Afflicted with asthma and possessing a generally frail body, Teddy wasn’t the guy who one could see later leading the Rough Riders or hunts for wild animals in far off countries. One day Teddy’s father came to him and said, “Teddy, you weren’t given the strongest body, so you have to make it yourself.” From sick and weak to the Presidency–no big deal. The rest is history. I don’t really tell that story to glorify Teddy. He was a good dude, but I wanted to to point out his father, because in his father, I realize what it is my father did for me.

Lane Phillips, quite possibly the meanest man to have walked the earth, a man who is destined to be the subject of many an outlaw country song, the man who when cut bleeds like a wounded knight from a Monty Python sketch. Lane Phillips, the man who spawned me from his loins and then surrounded me with sisterfolk, the man whose mustache is rumored to be more full and thick than that of God himself. Lane Phillips, my father, and now my friend.

This is my dad in a nutshell.

I got in a bike accident as a sixth grader. I hydroplaned for one thousand feet (read ten or so feet) and came up with road rash all over my arms and legs. I was out of myself in pain. I was running around in circles, and according to my father, I was shedding my clothes like some moron, like I had entered into a state of shock and lost control of myself. People were gathering and watching the entire show. I was a star! My dad grabbed my bike. Walking right onto the stage during the drama, he grabbed me and looked at all of the wounds, probably making sure there were no bones broken. He put my hand on the bike and said, “you need to get yourself together and limp out of here pushing this bike home. Nothing you’re doing right now is going to make any of this better.” His voice was riddled with a tone that said, “wrecking is one thing, embarrassing yourself is another thing entirely, push through this and move on.”

A few years later, I watched my dad catch a fish. The fishing lure he was using had a treble hook and and was barbed to ensure the fish, once caught, stayed caught. While removing the fish from the hook, the fish jerked as fish do, one of the hooks went into my dad’s finger. My dad said one word and it was profane. With the hook through his finger, he still removed the fish and put it on the stringer to be cleaned later. The barb was through the skin so he had to push the entire hook through in order to get it out. He bled like his index finger was actually designed incorrectly and attached to an artery, but never said another word. I saw what a calm and cool reaction did for him and was amazed..He just pushed through and everything was better.

A few years later, I was attending Officer Candidates School for the United States Marine Corps. After jumping into a huge hole full of water, I felt an extremely painful and audible pop in my right ankle. Another Marine had to lift me up and we both kept running. I stayed calm, cool, and collected and finished three more weeks of training on a foot that was missing all anterior ligaments. When I told the doctor that I kinda was just brought up not to act like an idiot when you hurt yourself. The doctor responded, “How admirable, but its the stupidest thing you could have done.” What does he know, right Dad?

My Dad has raised me to be courageous in adversity. Something Superman never has to do. My Dad has built in me a longing to be responsible for my actions–a trait far too lacking in society today. My Dad has raised me with the values that your wife is the someone to be taken care of and cherished. My dad has raised me with a longing to be tough when things get difficult. My dad instilled in me a longing to give my child every single opportunity, but not to give them every “thing.”

My dad said to me recently that he sometimes forgets that his father is gone on to a better place and that there are moments when he will be thinking and he will have a question for his dad. He relayed to me how sad it was to realize again that his dad is gone. He told me stories about his old man, and how amazing and brilliant my grandfather was. I heard emotion in his voice and longing to have just one more discussion with the man. In that moment, me a mid-thirty year, became a boy again. And sitting there, in an honest voice my dad taught me another lesson. My Dad has taught me to slow down and not be as tough–to take the time to be a dad–to look at him as an example of all things good and bad–to take the things about him that I love and apply them, but to build upon other areas. He has taught me that he is not perfect and that the best parts of men are found in how they respond to their own failures and shortcomings. My dad has taught me to be a better dad than even he was.

My beautiful wife has given me a daughter. Today I thank my dad, because he has given me the foundation to be a Man of Steel for her.

I just want you to know, because I have been holding it in for years.


We have become hikers. We haven’t become the hikers who have the shoes, knitted socks, and professional style walking sticks. We haven’t become the hikers who forage off of the land as we hike through it. As hikers, we are somewhat novice, but the cool thing about hiking is that you kind of practice for it every time you walk, because hiking is just a walk. Except, hikes are a walk where you constantly worry about snakes, your hydration, dying from the elements, an accidental wrong turn and subsequent three day search for your hypothermic and near lifeless body, and in my case, you have to worry about your wife trying to murder you.

If one was to get overly technical, the murder was probably warranted, but nonetheless, it added a new and somewhat unsuspected dimension to hiking. Like I said, we have become hikers. It wasn’t the result of a process of thought and in-depth research, it was a spur of the moment decision that hiking is what all the cool kids do, the realization, that we are also cool, and therefore should be hikers. So last weekend, we hiked, and what I want to relay to you in this edition of LifeasIKnowit is what hiking is all about. Maybe after reading this, you will all feel so inclined as to start off on a more active lifestyle. This entry would go down in the category of self-help, and it will be well worth your time to continue, trust me, I wrote it, I know how it ends. Plus, I went hiking with Whitney, the reoccurring character who plays my wife in previous blogs.

Hiking starts off with a bunch of happy hippies on a trail eating granola to carboload for the impending trek into nature’s bowels. Hiking probably actually starts off a day or two previous to the hike in question. I picture people preparing by packing their little hiking packs with water, snacks, compasses, random survivally things. Hiking probably starts with the hikers drinking water to prepare for said hike. All of these things are important for those interested in hiking, and as is to be expected, none of these were things we decided to do. I am being less than truthful, we drank a lot of beer and wine in preparation for the hike, which may have covered the carboloading portion of preparation, but defeated the hydration portion of prepping. (Although, Whitney believes that drinking is a great hydrator as it leaves your pee clear).

Everybody is happy at the beginning of a hike. There is much to be excited about. The trail is pretty, and you feel so productive that you can’t stand it! You walk about three hundred feet and you happen upon your first group of hikers who are finishing up the same hike. You try not to notice that they look like undead versions of the same group of hippies starting at the time you did. They walk, dragging their left legs along beside them. They do not talk; instead, they mumble and grunt loud guttural booms of sound from their respective diaphragms. You try not to notice the dog that probably started out walking with them, but whose lifeless body is now being dragged just behind their left legs. You are blind to this, and you quest on.

You are given one more seemingly innocent, yet foreboding warning of things to come when Whitney, who is walking like a professional walker–hands up and dangling, while breathing in a perfect rhythm who-who-hee-hee, says, “Do you think we should have brought sandwiches?” All you can do at this point is continue to fall in love with your own plan, or lack thereof. “We will be fine with what we have brought (which consists of a Nalgene bottle and, well that’s pretty much it.)”

You walk another half mile and the trail starts something alarming. The trail begins to go from a nice, flat and enjoyable walk, to an alarming incline and group of switchbacks. To give you a point of reference, the incline is the same incline Sisyphus was forced to push the boulder up in mythology, or more simply stated, the incline is the same walk you would have to walk, perpetually in hell (you can keep going, but it generally sucks). There was no gradual increase in incline, nature just reached out and smacked you in the face with itself. Softly and sweetly, in the back of your head you can still hear Whitney’s question echoing, “Do you think we should have brought sandwiches?”

You are now halfway up the mountain. You have stopped to rest and the pleasant blush resulting from the increase blood flow has turned into relentless panting and random words in between. Where once there was loving conversation between two happily married people, there is pretty much only the sound of contempt ridden scowls. People walk by you and for just a split second, you make it look like nothing is breaking you, like this is easy.

Another hiker on her way down passes and does it. She plants the time bomb. “Be careful,” she says. “I just about stepped on a snake. They disguise themselves so well.” So now, what was a quick moving pace has slowed to the exact same pace that those poor soldiers who search for land mines must walk. Our eyes never leaving the ground, dismally marking every square centimeter of the trail–this would be a part of my hell. “Do you think we should have brought sandwiches?” Still echoing.

What seems like four hours later you reach the top. Some experienced hikers are looking out at the view–it is beautiful. You smell marijuana. Some kids are smoking it while philosophizing over life’s meaning. You pan around the area and realize the problem with a hike. When you hike, once you get to the top, you still have to go back. You look to your left and see a group of jerks doing something just to rub their planning in your face. They are eating sandwiches. You turn Whitney around quickly and we start back down. You think you can hear something about sandwiches coming from Whitney, but you just press onward. If you ever thought down can’t be as hard as up, you are dead wrong. Down becomes a torturous near free fall that shoves your entire foot into the front one third of your shoes. You are like a Chinese woman with bound feet. Down sucks.

You find that you are about thirty feet ahead of Whitney. You stop and wait for her to catch up. She nears, and you notice that she is wearing kind of an empty look, like no one is home. You start to talk and before you can get out three words she says, “Unless you have a sandwich, I don’t think you should say a god damned word to me!”

As you near the end of the trail, you are both dragging our left foot behind us and grunting nightmarish sounds from our diaphragms. The group just starting, shoving sandwiches into their packs, still joyful and excited asks, “How was it?” You grunt at them and continue your zombie walk. There, just ahead of you is your truck. You have accomplished what you set out to do. Your marriage is stronger because of your lack of planning, right? Whitney looks at you and says, “I am godawful miserable right now.” Yes, you answer yourself. Not planning for the hike was a great decision for your marriage. But we are hikers now. Tested in the flames of hell.


I remember watching a show on TV when I was kid called, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”  Bill Cosby was the host and his job was to illustrate one great truth; when kids are asked questions, they will be brutally honest because it is what kids do.  They haven’t been trained through years of socialization that sometimes lying is the lesser of two evils.  Children don’t understand that what they are saying could be misconstrued as inappropriate or hurtful.  And when kids do this, they usually make for some very funny moments, thusly; Bill Cosby would host a show documenting this. 

In my house, I have something similar.  I have a wife with an inability to hold back.  She does not lie, at least to me, and she is really a breath of fresh air.  I have multiple examples that make her look really and sometimes brutally honest.  I am writing this and airing it out not so that people can make broad sweeping assumptions that she is in any way a difficult or an overbearing woman, because she is not.  I actually believe that because Whitney is certified “gifted” that some of the odd things she does are actually because she is operating at a level that I don’t understand.  She is like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.  Everything she does makes perfect sense to her, but can appear funny to others…..

Here are some examples of my wife’s ability to speak candidly….even when most would just omit or lie.

  1. 1.        Today I called home and was chatting with Whitmaster 5000, aka Whitney.  She was initially very involved in the conversation, but over time she was drifting away.  I thought I might have offended her or something was going wrong at home.  Here is a terrific example of her being overly honest simply for the sake of being honest.

Heath:  Whitney are you okay?  Is something wrong?

Whitney:  Oh, no, I am fine…..I just had a booger in my nose……

                  You can agree that this is a common problem for all of mankind.  I often have things in my nose that I wish weren’t there.  And yes, the object is distracting and inconvenient—especially if the object in your nose is a crayon, which coincidentally is scarier than you think, and I would advise against putting a crayon in your nose.  I am speaking from experience.  Moreover, I have to believe that masses reading this have also dealt with the difficulties involved with boogers.  Yet, in my three decades of existence, never has, in the exact same type of situation, somebody responded to me with, “Oh, no, I am fine…..I just had a booger in my nose…..”  People, I have asked thousands of men and women if they are okay, and if something was wrong—today, June 29, 2012 is the first time someone responded with the truth.  Very refreshing.

  1. 2.        Recently, before going to the mall where I like to spend all of my time, I got dressed into my favorite pair of shorts.  The shorts are “walking awesomeness.”  I have the calves of a four year old girl, but somehow these shorts make up for it.  I walked into the living room, very confident with myself, and Whitney knew it because when I am confident, I swagger, and then I start spontaneously flexing.  I shot the question out, “How does this outfit look?”  Then, I started flexing like I was in the pre-judging for the Mr. Olympia contest.  Here is a terrific example of Whitney being overly honest simply for the sake of being honest.

Heath:   How does this outfit look?

Whitney:  Good, except the shorts and the shirt. 

                Seems harmless, except that all I was wearing was the shorts and the shirt…..Very  refreshing

  1. 3.        Situation:  At the movies preparing to buy some popcorn from the emo dressed teenager working the cash register.  Emo Cash Register Girl has a name tape on that says “manager.”  Emo Manager Cash Register Girl, sounding as if we were the biggest inconvenience ever, says “What do you need?”  Here is a terrific example of Whitney being overly honest simply for the sake of being honest.

Emo Manager Cash Register Girl:  What do you need?

Heath:  (silently thinks to himself, “does this girl have any idea who she just sounded annoyed to?  Firstly, Whitmaster 6k doesn’t take this from anyone at the movies; she used to manage a place like this.  Secondly, Whitmaster 6k is pregnant and honest”).

Whitney:  Have you lost your damn mind, child.  Am I an inconvenience to you?  I don’t even want to know how you earned your way to manager, where is your boss?

Heath:  (at this moment, in an effort to reassert control, I said the following statement)  hmmmh hmmmmh.

                I thought I was going to formulate actual words, but instead I made two long horn sounds…..Emo Manager had no skills dealing with customers and deserved Whitmaster 7k’s honesty.  I have seen Whitney choke down horrible food because she loved the wait staff so much, so this Emo girl had it coming.  Very refreshing.

  1. 4.        A few years ago, my wife The Whitness, met my commanding officer.  He was a pretty high ranking gentleman and I respected him quite a bit.  Whitness had seen him working out before, and I guess she was impressed with what she saw—I’m talking Magic Mike impressed.  Well, as the party progressed, I had the opportunity to introduce Whit to the CO.   Here is a terrific example of her being overly honest simply for the sake of being honest.

Heath:  Sir, this is my wife Whitney; Whitney, this is my Commanding Officer (said in a manner as to indicate that this man can ruin my career).

Commanding Officer:  Whitney, it is a pleasure to meet you.  Wow, Heath must have a good personality because he sure isn’t handsome enough to keep a pretty girl like you around.

Whitney:  It is so nice to meet you too.  I have to tell you, I have seen you running and you have unbelievable calves……

Commanding Officer:  (lifting the bottoms of his pant legs up and flexing).  Phillips, this is a really good woman you have here….

I didn’t know how to take this.  I initially was worried my boss would be weirded out, but I quickly realized that had I not been married, Whitney would have chosen his calves over me—and worse still, I am certain that the calf remark had placed Whitney on his list of all time favorite women.  If there is one thing I do not bring to the table in my marriage, it is a surplus of calf muscle.  Naturally, this moment has left a scar on my soul, but I drudge forward, walking on my tip-toes in hopes that I am just a late bloomer when it comes to calves.  On many occasions since, Whitnasty has tried to get me to wear her high heels around the house in an attempt to help me with my self-concept issues.  It is the cross I bear.  I just wanted you to know, because I have been holding it in for years.   


In a voice just above a whisper, but in a tone that you can tell is still yelling, my wife muttered these nine words, “When I elbow you in public, it is private.” Except now re-read it like this and stress the capital letters. “When.  I. Elbow.  You.  In.  PubliC.  iT.  iS.  PrivaTe.”  You know how this sounds; it is the same way you yell at your kids in public for things you don’t want to draw attention to yourself for.  Like, “Johnny, take your hands out of your pants now!  And, you do not put them in your mouth!”  It’s the exact same thing, except when my wife said “private,” she said it like Tony the Tiger says, “they’re greeeeaaattt,” but in this case, he is not the nice, caring Tony the Tiger we all know and love—the Tony the Tiger that hits us ground balls and plays goalie for us just before treating us to a delicious bowl of frosted flakes.  No, it is not this Tony, it is his sexy and evil twin sister who wants to mate with you, but may also want to kill you.  Even her kisses are evil.  She wears these acid plumping agents on her lips that make her kiss look sultry, soft, and delicious like this:

 (Again, probably stole this illegally)

 

Except maybe a bit more menacingly sexy version, like this:

 (also illegally acquired)

 

The only problem is that she leaves your lips on fire after one kiss.  When you bring up your aversion to kissing her when the acid is on her lips, she replies, “There are many men that would love to kiss these lips.”  (Note: you replying later in a similar, but reversed scenario, with the same statement will not affect her.)

 

Anyways, “When I elbow you in public, it is private.”  I tell you this to explain to you what would solicit a response like this from my wife.  I want you to know so that you can understand what goes on in a man’s brain as he is walking on thin ice, hears it cracking, but cannot stop treading heavily.  I am telling you this because in earlier posts I may have implied that my wife’s actions are unwarranted, and now, in a cathartic moment of solemnity, I offer up another confession to you.  Take my honesty not only as a shimmering hope that I am a changed man, but also as an example of what to avoid if you are a man as thick skulled as I. 

 

It is really simple.  There are times when we men, like buffoons, will start talking about things that need not be discussed for one reason or another.  There are also times when there is zero forethought to our words and phrases.  We just talk, and whatever word lines up in the shoot next comes out of our mouths.  There is no stopping it.  And then, there is something called the perfect storm.  During the perfect storm, the previously mentioned moments happen at the same time.  When the wife realizes that the perfect storm is hitting, there is a look that will appear on her face, and generally, all men recognize this look and take the next conversation off ramp we come to and avoid any more foolishness.  And then there is me.  I tend to get a bit animated and not pay attention for the warning; instead, I ramble.  I ramble off everything that comes into my brain irregardless (see blog entitled impotence of using good English when talking two me) of how caustic I am being.  My wife’s only option at this point is an “under the table elbow,” which is completely acceptable.  Yesterday, I mentioned my thick skull, and now I will provide you with an example. 

 

On this specific occasion, I was in mid-ramble and received the elbow.  My internal monologue has already warned me.  “Hey Heath, this is a good time to shut up.”  This is where I make my mistake; I make it into a joke.  I respond with, “ooohhh (all huffy and puffy), now we hit each other….very mature.”  As these words were leaving my mouth, I was already regretting them.  I wanted to reach into the air and shove them back into my face putting my whole arm down my throat.  What in the hell was I thinking?  I am a runaway train at this point, out of control, I can’t stop running my suck.  So, like the brilliant man I am, I further the damage.  The people we were with asked what happened and instead of saying something generic to calm the situation, I proceed to explain to the group exactly what went down.  What in the hell was I thinking?  I pick this moment to make an honest man out of myself?  I am like a snowball of crap rolling down the steepest hill gathering up more and more crap (I guess this would be a crapball vice snowball).  So, you are now thinking, he can’t get any lower than this.  Wrongo!  I have personality, I am a people person, and I win over my audiences with liveliness and fervor.  I do something next that every man should avoid.  I get my audience to turn on my sweet and unsuspecting wife….and while they thought it was all a joke, I knew better.  I knew I was going to die that night.  I knew that the 5th grade teacher was coming out of her, because I was acting like a 5th grade student.  I met Jesus later and deserved the introduction. 

 

When your wife says to you, “when I elbow you in public, it is private” listen to her, because she just wants to help you help yourself….Trust me.  I just wanted you to know this, because I have been holding it in for years.