Category: Uncategorized

I am Not a Drummer

I am not a drummer
I am one who happens to play the drums
The drums are a tool for me to express my creativity
I am one who happens to be (relatively) good at expressing creativity through drumming

However, Drumming is not a part of me
Were it to disappear from my life, it would not change who I am
If I stopped playing drums, I would still be me
I could still live a meaningful life

If I make mistakes playing the drums, it is MY fault
But it is also a reflection of my humanity
I am not a drum machine or a sequencer
As much as I’d like to be, I am not a robot

To be insulted over criticism of my execution of my hobby is absurd
When the feedback is relevant, as from one of my band mates, it is an opportunity for growth
When someone shits all over me in an nonconstructive manner, it means nothing
In neither case, though, does it have anything to do with ME

Likewise, to become angry and be belligerent toward people who insult my craft is worthless
To beat myself up over constructive feedback is abuse
To be angry with my band mates when they are trying to help me is unkind
And not at all in line with the life I want to live

On the other side of that coin, the adulation of admirers is also equally worthless
If I am to detach, the good must be thrown out with the bad
But really, there is no good or bad
Only what the music needs

I think of a few lines from Rush’s “The Garden”
The measure of my life is not how well I performed
Not the accolades I received
But rather, how I treat people without expecting anything in return

I must, in all areas of life, realize what I do is not who I am
The two are separate, having little to do with each other
I have inflicted enough self abuse due to my perceived inadequacies
Abuse of any kind is morally reprehensible

In the same way computers and air control are not baked into my identity, neither is music
Though it seems, at times, it runs through my veins, it actually doesn’t
Only blood runs through my veins
And not anything else

A Need to Detach

Over the past couple of months, I have gotten really good at letting go. In terms of my material possessions, everything is potential fodder for the chopping block. I’ve gotten a real sense of what it truly means to live with only what I need, or what adds value to my life. I have become detached from my material possessions. If my house burned down, I would not lament the loss of anything (as long as my family and pets got out okay). I have built the muscle for letting go of my stuff. However, there are a couple of areas of my life in which that muscle still needs to be built.

Last night, at a show with my band, I was asked by a gentleman, presumably the one in charge of the place, if I could turn down my drums. I was insulted. I looked at him like he was crazy and said, “ummm.. okay,” as I motioned as if I was turning a fake volume knob on my acoustic drum kit. Any of you who are drummers knows that it’s fucking impossible to turn down drums. Nonetheless, I gave it a real effort.

I relaxed my playing, and made a conscious effort to play softer. At first, it crushed my soul to do so, the words of Neil Peart echoing in my mind as he explained to an interviewer in one of his films that he hits the drums as hard as he can – a statement to which I can relate. Everything I do in life is heavy-handed, and in some ways lacking in finesse. Be it drumming, drawing, or computing, I bear down and go hard. Nonetheless, I soldiered on trying to quiet my ego while I attempted to turn the situation into a learning experience. Surprisingly, my playing improved. I wasn’t as worn out after each song, and I didn’t lose dexterity in my wrists and fingers. Lesson learned. Problem solved. Right?

Nope.

At the end of the show, while I was taking down my drums, a man, presumably drunk, came up and asked what our band’s name was. Almost in unison, we all three replied, “Axiom of Maria!” The guy said, “That’s too damn long,” and before he walked away, he said to me, “turn down the drums.” As he meandered off, I flipped him the bird. Fortunately, no one saw. A few drinks in me, and the reply could possibly have been a hearty, “go fuck yourself.” This is never how I treat people. I was pissed. I was so notably agitated (I was tossing things around and dropping cymbals on purpose) that our bass player, Nick, implored me to not take it personally.

Now, I have earned an art degree, been through Air Force Basic Military Training, and Air Force Officer Training School. I have three professional grade educations in taking shit off of people. Why, then, am I standing here, a 41 year old drummer of 30 years, pitching a fit like a scolded five-year-old?

I’ve come to learn to detach myself from my stuff because it is meaningless – tools to be used and nothing more. Drumming, on the other hand, is something I’ve been doing so long it has become a part of my identity. I am passionate about it. I am, in every conceivable way, attached to it. I’m so attached that regardless of the fact that five other people told me how awesome they thought my drumming was (including the bar proprietor who told me to tone it down the first time), all it takes is one seagull, a euphemism I picked up from The Minimalists, to come by and shit on me to ruin my night. Playing a show is supposed to be a happy time, and I let that stupid motherfucker ruin my night. I need to learn how to detach.

I wrote this, not as a how-to on detaching from ones passions, because I honestly don’t know how. I’m hoping that spilling my guts on the page here will help me reveal some nugget of truth that will guide me in this endeavor. I’m self-aware enough to know I have an issue with this, but perhaps not enough to affect any change in that area just yet. If anyone is reading this, I could really use some practical advice. In the mean time, I think I need to meditate on it.

My Minimal Workouts

As part of my journey toward a more intentional life, one of the things I try to be more intentional about is my health. I wrote recently about my approach to healthy eating by way of eating what I consider “real food.” However, maintaining my health and weight is going to take more than just healthy eating. Healthy movement is essential.

In the past, when I enjoyed any measure of success in losing weight or getting fit, it involved an insane amount of exercise. This was because I mistakenly believed crazy workouts are what is required to get in shape. My latest success in weight loss came from a program that discouraged exercise in the beginning, at least until I got to my ideal weight. This really illuminated something I hadn’t really paid attention to in my past attempts – losing weight has always been accompanied in some kind of change i the way I was eating.

Now that I am at what I consider a healthy weight, in order to maintain it and become even more healthy, I know that I must find the right balance between diet and exercise. I also know that realistically, I don’t have time for insane workouts or half-marathon training or anything like that. Since I reached my ideal weight a couple of months ago, I have been working out regularly. The only reason I’ve been able to keep it up is because I’m approaching it in the same way I’m trying to approach my life right now – simply. I’m doing just enough and no more. I’m doing the appropriate amount of exercise for me to find it invigorating and enjoyable, while burning some of the fuel I’m putting in my body.

Additionally, some of my exercise includes things I’m passionate about – Drumming, Cycling, and Taekwondo, as well as things I need to stay fit for my PT test. Here is a typical week for me:

Monday – 1 mile run, then 1 mile walk, then Pull-ups
Tuesday – Taekwondo: Warm-ups include 4 rounds of Jumping jacks, pushups, sit ups, squats, and varied fighting techniques. The rest of class is learning techniques and forms, and practice.
Wednesday – 1 mile Run, then 1 mile walk. Maybe two mile run if I’m feeling it. Pull-ups
Thursday – Taekwondo: same sort of warm-up, but sparring afterwards.
Friday – Same as Monday and Wednesday, or just a two mile walk
Saturday – Either a walk with my wife, cycling, or drumming if my band has a gig.
Sunday – Cycling and/or 2-3 hours of drumming at band practice.

As you can see, I do some form of physical activity for my health every day. The activities are varied and enjoyable, and the best part is, I don’t hate doing them. Coupled with eating real food, I have, so far, stayed at my ideal weight.

The Shit Sandwich

My home and the contents therein are a shit sandwich.
What does that mean?
Well, it means that my family’s belongings are burdensome.
The process of minimizing those belongings is arduous.
I have gotten rid of most of my own personal things,
however I can’t force my family to do it.
Still, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to tidy up our living spaces.
The process of doing so has been overwhelming.

I have rid us of superfluous items where I have had permission,
or where it made sense.
Yet the task of tidying our spaces is overwhelming in some cases.
I’ve done it to the kitchen and dining room.
I’ve done it to the living room.
My next target is our bedroom.

It makes me ill every time I walk through our bedroom.
It is unbelievably messy.
I cannot describe it with words.
I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,
though I have made a little headway.
I think back to the bookcase in the dining room.

Why am I writing this like a poem? I digress.

That bookcase (which contains no books now) took several days to de-clutter.
Every time I’d walk through, I’d remove a few items.
I’d re-locate the items to their new homes,
or the donation bin,
or the trash.
The point is, I didn’t de-clutter that bookcase all at once.

I did it a few items at a time.

So as I work toward getting our bedroom straight,
I must remember one thing:
The bedroom, as with anything in my minimalism journey, is a shit sandwich,
and there’s only one way to eat a shit sandwich:
One bite at a time.

Watch Experiment

For a couple of years now, I have worn an Apple Watch. Through my current journey of letting go, I have started to wonder if I need it. I have heard it asked by others, “why do I need a watch when I carry a phone around with a clock on it?” I believe this question is especially true for a minimalist.

I can rationalize anything. In the case of the Apple Watch, I can list the all the things I use it for on a daily basis as a means to avoid having to think about letting go of it (which I will do in a moment while attempting to refute them). As a person who came from an unhealthy obsession with men’s style, my tendency is to view a watch as a necessary accessory. As a person with an art degree, I view a watch as a visual pushing agent. For someone who dresses very plainly, the watch, in its shape, size and texture unifies the rest of the outfit by way of contrast, and offers an interesting hit on an otherwise unremarkable outfit.

Plus, digging my phone out to check the time can sometimes be a pain in the ass.

For now, I’ll list what I use my Apple watch for, and why those might not be compelling reasons to hold on to it. Then, I’ll explore my alternatives.

Tracking movement/exercise

In no other area of my life am I a “numbers guy.” I could care less about metrics and statistics. Why, then, do I give a shit how many calories I burned, steps I’ve taken, or distance I’ve run all week? I’ve journeyed toward health enough to know what an appropriate amount of exercise looks like for me.

Listening to music on my runs

There have been times in my life where I have been almost prideful about not listening to music when I run. Why, all of a sudden have I manufactured the need to have some sort of noise in the background? I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable being alone and quiet. What better time than during a run to get lost in my own thoughts!

Telling the time

What an expensive way to do such a utilitarian thing. Really, as a minimalist, if I was going to wear a watch, I feel like the watch should just be a watch. Plus, as stated before, my phone can do that. Hell, at home I have smart speakers that I can ask if I really need to know what time it is.

Reading messages

As I simplify my life, I have taken deliberate steps to remove distractions. I deleted my Facebook account, I removed the ability to easily read news on my phone. I removed iFunny. I’ve even turned off email notifications. Besides texts, which I can still look at on my phone, what on earth is so important that I need to read it on my wrist? Are texts really even that important? Plus, constantly twitching to look at my watch makes people think I’m being overly time-conscious, like I’m looking for a reason to end our conversation.

So maybe I don’t need my Apple Watch. What should I do instead?

I still want to have a watch. Even with a drastically simpler wardrobe, I still like clothes. I still want that visual push a watch provides. Also, my part time job is VERY time-centric, and I’m not allowed to bring any sort of smart device into where we do business. Having a watch is important to me, and definitely adds value. The question now is, what watch should I wear?

Three years ago, as a gift from my company for 10 years of service, I received a stainless steel Seiko watch emblazoned with our company’s logo. Two days after I got it, it stopped working – turns out, the battery died. Yesterday, I got the battery replaced, and had a couple of links removed from the bracelet since I weigh 70 pounds less than I did when I got it. It seems to be an accurate timepiece. I don’t think it is a very expensive watch, and it doesn’t have any bells and whistles. It is simple and elegant. The perfect minimalist watch (what an oxymoron).

If I am holding on to any sentimental items at all these days, it’s ones that really mean something. This timepiece commemorates my time spent at a place I where love working. My employers are kind and generous, my work is enjoyable, and I’ve never once have dreaded coming to work. Our company is responsible for the critical infrastructure for seven counties in our state, and I get play a big part in that by ensuring we have the technology that best enables us to fulfill that role. That’s a hell of a lot more meaning than my smart watch which will eventually fade into obsolescence as the next new-fangled gadget eclipses it.

For the next 30 days, I will live without my Apple watch, and instead wear my 10 year watch from work. I bet I won’t miss it, and if I don’t, does anyone want to buy an Apple Watch?

The Shop

Nearly a year ago, we left our small home in the woods in Kokomo, MS for a much larger house a few miles away at the edge of the city limits of Columbia. To me, this place has it all – 5 acres of land, water, sewer (we had a well and sceptic tank before), way better internet, and very close proximity to stores and restaurants. I can even ride my bike to the grocery store since it is less than 1.5 miles away. It may seem ironic that a striving minimalist would buy such a place, but I am not the only one who lives in my home. However, I am the only one striving for minimalism. My new home makes me feel more civilized and at-home than my old place did. No longer do I feel out of place. To me, this place really does have it all.

One of the initial things that attracted me to my new home was the presence of a well built, decent-sized shop, complete with electric and lights positioned just to the left of the house near the driveway. This was to be my space. My plan was to finish it out on the inside to create a proper interior space. This was going to be where I put my drums, all my Star Trek knick-kncaks, books, games, computers, and other things. A year later, and I still haven’t done anything to the space. It is full of junk.

The overwhelming majority of the space is currently occupied by boxes no one has opened in a year. While I was playing the 30 day minimalism game, I frequently visited the boxes containing my stuff looking for things to let go of. I’d venture to say if everything in that shop evaporated, no once would notice. As I have journeyed down the perpetual road toward minimalism, I have been simultaneously annoyed by the fact we have all this junk that’s just taking up space, the fact that I haven’t been able to create my own space there as I had planned. However, something has changed recently. I have learned to let go.

I don’t personally own a lot of items anymore. I am trying to give away my old drums, my new, nice drums reside at my band mate’s house, and my electric drums fit neatly in the corner of our massive bedroom. I’m selling my antique Macintosh computers, and have tossed most of my old computer parts. I’m letting go of anything that could be considered a tchotchke. As it happens, I don’t need my own space anymore. Plus, if I’m being honest, it would end up being a place to escape from my family, which is the opposite of what I hope to accomplish through minimalism.

Our new home also came with a greenhouse in which my wife was planning to convert half of the space into a workshop for her home projects. Just this past weekend, she was about to have me measure again to see what materials she would need for the conversion. Before I began measuring, I told Theresa that I really didn’t need the shop anymore, and that if we can minimize the items in there, she can have it for a workshop, a use for which it is already perfectly suited. She then told me there was now no need to measure the greenhouse.

Because I have decided to live more intentionally with less, we both win. We both get what we want or need. I wonder what things would be like in our home if we all owned less. Even better, what would our lives be like if we wanted less?

Apparently, I’m an Atheist

I don’t know where to begin.

This has been a few years coming. Back in 2014, or whenever it was, I was selected to be a deacon in my church. At that time, I walked the walk. I believed. The people of my church placed a great deal of trust in me, and rightly so, I guess. I was following God in all that I did. However, some time shortly thereafter, something changed.

As I prayed, a thought that was perhaps always present, but pushed to the side began asserting itself. “You don’t really believe all this do you?” That thought persisted, and only grew more amplified, especially the last few years as I witnessed how truly ugly and inconsiderate others in my faith could be. But I was no different. My life as it relates to faith started to become disingenuous, incongruent.

I even told our previous pastor during an altar call that I sometimes had to force myself to believe. I would push these thoughts to the back of my mind as I soldiered on, serving in whatever capacity I felt “called” to. I can’t keep it up anymore. Having to live  a double life is killing me.

I am a hypocrite.

There exists a pattern in my life. Any time I’m about to leave or make a big change in my life, without realizing it, I detach. I did this to my friends before I joined the guard. I did this to my family before OTS and deployment. It’s only when someone points it out that I even notice it. As I look back at the last couple of years, I have been doing that at church. I quit being the brotherhood director. I quit teaching in any capacity. During the pandemic, we stopped having Sunday evening and Wednesday night church. I haven’t returned to either of those since they started back up. I only show up Sunday morning to play drums. Sometimes I do IT work for the pastor. When church is over, I leave as quickly as I can, hoping not to have to talk to anyone. I have been detaching because I subconsciously saw this coming.

I even started thinking of how I could make a clean break. Was there anything of mine at church I would lament losing? Hahaha, I’m a minimalist now, of course there isn’t!  I kid. I really did grab my electric bass drum and bring it home, just in case I decided not to return.

Last night, after D&D, I had a conversation with a very dear, atheist friend of mine. I told him my feelings of being trapped in a religion I don’t really feel like I belong to. I spoke of how I’d been repressing my disbelief for a while now. I lamented having disappoint people who trust me. He came to the conclusion that I am an agnostic atheist. My initial, internal reaction to this was visceral. What an ugly thing to call me! Then I wondered, why is it ugly? By definition, I suppose that’s what I am. After all, if I’m being honest with myself, I must admit – I don’t believe in God. I have felt silly for such a long time trying to make myself believe. I’d never said it out loud before, nor heard myself referred to as such. What a relief.

I woke this morning with a fair amount of anxiety. I have a show with AoM tonight, an oh yeah, I just kind of half-ass admitted to having a completely different identity than I though I had.

I decided to meditate. I put in my air pods on noise cancellation and listened to water sounds in hopes of drowning out John’s cartoon watching. Some lyrics from Rush’s song “Mission” floated through my mind: “In the grip of a nameless possession, slave to the drive of obsession…. if their lives were exotic and strange, they would likely have gladly exchanged them for something a little more plain, maybe something a little more sane…” Though those words had little to do with my current crisis of faith, they resonated well with my journey toward a more simple life, a life from which I am removing everything that isn’t necessary. The meditative process temporarily alleviated the anxiety, and made me face, head-on, this decision I’d come to. If I don’t believe, then my faith is also not necessary.

But the anxiety came rushing back.

How am I to abandon the only community I’ve known since I came to this place? How do I break this to people who will be severely disappointed with me? How do I make people who trusted me not feel like they’d been had? There’s no easy way, so I’ll do what any 21st century middle aged man does. I’ll blog about it! Nobody I know is going to read it anyway, and if they do, then good.

If you know me from my life of faith, know this: I don’t want to talk about it. You’re likely not helping, just as these folks weren’t helping:

The deacon who told me a racist joke while we were cooking breakfast: You’re not helping

The deacon who jumped all over me for trying to take up for President Obama: You’re not helping

The church member (a deacon I think) who told our pastor we should vet people to make sure they’re not Democrats: You’re not helping.

The lady who I looked up to, who had a poster on her car for trunk or treat describing the presidential choices during the 2012 election as a choice between a “Mormon” and a “Moron”: You’re not helping.

The member of my Gideon camp who brags about telling pastors off who won’t give us a church service: You’re not helping.

I could go on for a while like this. I was already forcing myself to believe, and this shit wasn’t helping. I’m done. Who am I kidding, I’ll probably go to church tomorrow.

Tchotchkes

Tchotchkes

In the south we call them knick-nacks or what-nots. Regardless of the name, they are items that serve no functional purpose, and my shelves at work were laden with them. I’ve been on a roll getting rid of items from my life that don’t add value or serve a real purpose. Everything has been potential fodder for the chopping block lately. However, these particular tchotchkes proved somewhat problematic. I had an almost visceral response when contemplating removing these items from my life. Why? Well, because most of them had to do with Rush or Star Trek, two of my most favorite things in the whole world. The rest of the items were pictures of me and my family, items collected from events or special occasions, or art of some sort.

As an experiment, I decided first to box up all the Star Trek tchotchkes. I’ve been without them for two days, and do you know what? I don’t miss them. I’m probably going to sell them on ebay. This experiment paved the way for me to ditch a few more items from my credenza at work.

I scanned the covers of the magazines with Rush on them, I scanned the picture of Theresa and me at the Air Force Ball. I took photos of other sentimental items. After scanning or photographing the items, I got rid of them. Now the framed photos of my family are at the forefront. I have room to open my Rush and Depeche Mode tour books to pages with interesting photos on them. My old friend, Byron’s, sculpture is now in a position where it can be viewed and enjoyed.

Previously, I did the same thing to many of the items adorning the walls of my office. I decided to take it a bit further. I removed most of the framed certificates lauding my many accolades, leaving only the ones that are important to me – my bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, my Associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force, and my commissioning certificate from the Air Force. I scanned and discarded the rest.

While removing all these items, I came to a few realizations:

1. I’m still a huge Star Trek fan without the action figures and model ships.
2. Theresa and I still went to the Air Force ball in 2016, even if I got rid of the photo and commemorative glass.
3. The magazines with Rush and Neil Peart on them contained articles I can probably read online, and will like never read again anyway.
4. I still love Rush even without all the Rush stuff.
5. I’m still certified by CompTIA without the physical certificates. In fact, my company couldn’t give less of a crap that I am – they value my experience and contribution to their company.
6. I still ran the half marathon without the medal.
7. I still got ordained as a deacon without the certificate.
8. I still went to boot camp and tech school without the certificates – I’m no less a member of the Air National Guard without them.

In other words, those objects in no way, shape, or form define who I am, but rather, it is the experiences themselves that matter.

The Minimal Aesthetic

As I have stated before, the initial draw to minimalism for me was the aesthetic. Even long before that, as an art student, I enjoyed minimalist artists like Ad Reinhardt. In my current home, I have been able to minimize a few spaces – my kitchen, my dining room, my desk and my nightstand. These spaces are now beautiful/ Pretty much everywhere else in my home is a cluttery pigstye.

I’ve noticed I enjoy hanging out in those places more than ever now. Even though I hate laptops, I’d almost much rather hang out in the dining room on my laptop than the messy bedroom where my desktop is (its okay as long as I don’t look to the other side of the room). There is a certain serenity in a clutter-free space, a space that mirrors and serves almost as a metaphor for living a life with only what is essential.

I do catch myself hovering over these spaces, and being protective over them, catching any stray dishes before one of my family members carelessly leaves it lying about. I know I can’t hold a gun to their heads and force them to live more deliberately (well, I suppose I could… I do have a gun.. but that would be illegal). However, I do hope I can influence them with the way I am attempting to live. I hope they can see the beauty in a space that contains only what is needed.

Real Food

Since I’ve gained my new-found good health, I’ve been scared to death of losing it, coddling it like a helpless infant. I really do not want to end up where I was last year. If one were to search the internet for health advice, one would find no shortage of advice both diverse and sometimes contradictory. There has been one saying that sticks out in mind that seems to go along with everything I’ve learned the last few months while I was getting healthy. I had to look up who said it before I cited it here. It was a guy named Michael Pollan who said, “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” That seems to be the most sound advice I’ve seen on nutrition.

As I transition off of Optavia’s pre-packaged “fuelings” (nutritionally well-balanced snacks that you eat throughout the day along with a “lean and green” meal of your own making), I try to keep this sound byte on eating at the forefront of my mind. So far, it seems to be working.

So what is “real” food?

To my mind, real food is food that, when you look at it, is immediately recognizable. If it does come in a package, the ingredient list is short, and only contains natural things you’ve heard of – and sugar likely isn’t on the list. What do I mean by recognizable? This is broccoli, that is steak, these are beans, etc. I believe if I eat like that, applying the habits I learned on the program (eating 6 times a day every 2.5-3 hours, eating shortly after waking, sleeping enough), combined with exercise, I should be fine.

Here is an example of a typical day since I have begun my transition to real food:

Breakfast – 1 serving of oatmeal with blueberries, raisins, cinnamon, and raw nuts mixed in, sweetened with monkfruit sweetener.

Fueling 1 – Nonfat plain Greek yogurt with blueberries or strawberries cut up and mixed in

Lunch – Chili made with lean beef, tomatoes, beans

Fueling 2 – Peppers and hummus with small pieces of cheese on a triscuit. Celery and natural peanut butter.

Fueling 3 – Tomatoes with basil pesto and raw almonds.

Dinner – Lean steak with broccoli, zucchini, and asparagus.

The “Fuelings” in my list, are small snacks.

As it turns out, eating real food is satisfying and enjoyable. As long as I can keep in mind that food is fuel, not entertainment (a quote I got from The Minimalists), I should be able to maintain my new-found health indefinitely. My life depends on it!