I Have no Time for Busy

Too busy concept.

By Mark E. Smith

Let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as busy. I mean, it’s a cop-out word that really means insensitive, unorganized, self-absorbed and, sometimes, lazy. It’s the epitome of an overwhelmed, often self-centered person that says nothing about productivity.

See, I’m a very productive person, but I never consider myself busy, especially when it comes to people. Melissa sits outside my office in her cubicle, and I suppose that if you asked her if I’m busy, she’d tell you yes because I’m usually a flurry of activity, with my keyboard keys clanking, phone chattering, door opening and closing. Yet, I’m never busy. Rather, I’m productive To me, busy is an end-all, a shut-down. It’s when you walk into someone’s office and he or she says, I can’t talk now, I’m busy. Or, it’s when your romantic partner says, I don’t have time for this discussion, I’m busy. It’s a complete dismissal of who you are and your importance – and it hurts and erodes trust. And, I avoid such insensitive behavior like the plague because I want to be productive, emotionally available and successful – and busy doesn’t allow any of that.

Now, this isn’t to say we shouldn’t set healthy boundaries. None of us can do all tasks and meet all needs at once. However, prioritizing instead of shutting down is the key. If I’m given a task at work and I already have a full plate, I simply state, Thank you, I’ll get to it once I’m finished with X, Y, and Z. I never turn down work based on being busy – again, self-absorbed, lazy people do that. Similarly, I prioritize people, where I try to offer immediate availability, but if I can’t, I’ll acknowledge their sincere importance by saying such a validating reply as, Can I call you back in an hour, as I’m in the middle of this urgent task, and I really want to focus on you when we talk. And, I strive to keep others abreast to my day’s schedule, so they know why I may be unavailable at certain times.

Of course also in the area of boundaries, we don’t want to become dumping stations for others’ work or have emotionally unhealthy, needy people consume our time. However, even then, busy is a cop-out. Rather, address the root causes and define boundaries instead of simply proclaiming, I’m busy.

In this way, if you want to be productive, successful and emotionally available, being busy doesn’t work. Ultimately, I have all the time in the world for work and those I care about. But, I have no time for people who tell me they’re busy.

Real Men Use Electric Razors

photo (9)

By Mark E. Smith

I know a lot about strength. No, it’s not because I’ve long worked out with weights, toned and trim for a man my age. Rather, I know a lot about strength because I know that’s what it takes to expose my every vulnerability to those around me.

It’s natural that all of us feel a need to “present” ourselves in the best light, not wanting others to see our vulnerabilities, possibly perceived as weaknesses, at least in our own minds. After all, our biggest fear as social creatures is rejection. And, while there are certain environments where putting only our best face forward is appropriate, such as a job interview, there are other circumstances where if we’re going to demonstrate our ultimate strength, it means exposing our ultimate vulnerabilities.

I was recently at an event where I was fortunate to be a known figure, fitting the cultural norm of “strength.” I was a bit of a celebrity or politician, you might say. I was well-dressed, poised, blessed with the graciousness of many recognizing me. And, I had the privilege of having my partner with me, where she witnessed me move through the event as a “man of strength.” And, isn’t that how we want our romantic partners to see us: successful, poised and recognized as someone of merit?

Yet, for me, there was ultimately nothing proud or strong about any of that. Sure, I was authentic in truly caring about the people around us, and humbled by the recognition. But, breezing through a crowd with my hair combed just right and people recognizing me didn’t make me strong. What made me strong was what happened hours earlier, that only one other person knew about – my partner.

See, having cerebral palsy often makes me the opposite of poised, far outside the cultural framework of masculinity, the archetypical male model we see shaving shirtless in the mirror of Gillette commercials. Rather, I have vulnerabilities. But, that in itself gets to my definition of the epitome of masculine strength – that is, having the courage to share with others your deepest vulnerabilities, where you don’t hide any part of you, allowing others to see all of you. That takes the truest form of strength.

And, although I’d strolled through the event poised, of strength, hours earlier my partner and I shared a much different reality: my vulnerabilities. I wasn’t a recognized figure in a tie and jacket, but a man with severe cerebral palsy struggling to go through my morning routine in a hotel room not set-up for my needs. And, my partner both witnessed and assisted with my struggles. And, with the truest of strength, I shared with her my utmost vulnerabilities. Yes, it was emotionally scary. And, yes, it was embarrassing at moments. However, most of all, it was ultimately liberating. Just being you, in your most vulnerable ways, and letting another see and accept you as-is, supporting you as-is, is a life-changing experience.

What I’ve learned is that the minute that we have the strength to drop all pretenses, and share our utmost vulnerabilities with someone we trust, it removes all between us, and our relationships become deeper and totally authentic. Masks create barriers to intimacy, whereas having the courage, the strength to remove them allows us to be us, and others to love us for us.

In this way, if you want to live with ultimate strength, there’s only one way to do it: have the courage to share your ultimate vulnerabilities. And, I don’t worry about being the guy in the Gillette commercial – I have an electric razor.

Where Divorce Leads

Divorce

By Mark E. Smith

I’m at that age, in my 40s, where many I know are either divorced or in the midst of divorce. And, it’s hard for me to watch because I understand the tragedy of divorce, but not for the reasons you might presume. And, I know the ultimate goal of divorce, but, again, it’s likely not what you presume. Divorce is different for each couple – and, even more unfortunate for each “family” – yet there’s a common thread of humanity that too many overlook. It’s by understanding that common thread that takes divorce from the court room and places it back into the heart, which is really where it resides.

Interestingly, while I am a generational divorce statistic – my parents divorced, and I subsequently divorced as an adult – I’ve never been through a “typical” divorce in the legal sense. My father simply left when I was very young, then my mother and stepfather had a very simple divorce. Then, in my divorce, it likewise was a very simple legal process, no custody issues, gracefully splitting of assets amongst ourselves, never even a foot in court. My marriage was deeply dysfunctional, but we still treated each other with dignity and respect in the divorce process – there was no excuse not to. None of these divorces in my life were by any fathom ideals – divorce never is – and emotions ran deep; but, they weren’t legal battles and drawn-out War of the Roses, either.

However, I’ve helped friends emotionally get through some tough divorces. And, it’s struck me that so many divorces are a seemingly surreal process. Think about how divorce transpires. Two people have gone from loving each other, vowing to spend a lifetime together, and even having children, to needing a court to decide who gets the kids on Sundays, utterly despising each other, paying attorneys thousands of dollars to literally fight over items like who gets the $50 DVD player. And, the process takes on a life of its own, where individuals abandon all rationale and systematically their lives are devastated by one or both of their actions – home lost, bank account drained, kids made a pawn, and everything so lovingly built is destroyed, including those once-priceless wedding photos. When two people’s lives – and worse, their kids – are sanctioned entirely by court order, life has jumped the tracks in among the most tragic of ways.

Yet, as horrible as the legalities of divorce can be, it’s the impact on our humanity that’s the real toll – and this is what few realize or wish to admit. Alcoholics and addicts aside (a leading cause for divorce, where such individuals by nature of altered brain chemistry cannot process rational thoughts or feelings), it’s the emotional impact of divorce that’s more life-shaking than any other aspect. The monetary can be rebuilt, and the court appearances eventually come to an end. However, the realization that the person and union that you so believed in turned out to be completely unfulfilled in the end, rattles you to your core. What you thought was, wasn’t. What you trusted in as a forever, came to a soul-numbing hault. The person who you married isn’t recognizable anymore. And, whether you do it consciously or subconsciously, you’re bound to feel the scariest, most helpless emotion of your life: After witnessing the implosion of my beliefs, hopes and dreams, how do I believe in anything ever again? See, that’s what divorce truly is for most. While couples duke it out in court over meaningless materialism, fueled by spite and bitterness, thinking that’s the nature of divorce, they’re overlooking the real consequence and battle: How do I restore my faith in humanity, to trust again? It’s not just a dissolution of a marriage, but the dissolution of all that one believed – and that’s soul-shattering for many.

In this way, the ultimate goal of surviving divorce can’t be preservation of capital or righteousness or bitterness. Rather, the ultimate goal in surviving divorce is a preservation of faith, the ability to trust and love again. While you may lose a lot in divorce, as long as you don’t lose faith in humanity, you not only have the opportunity to recover, but to go on and live the life of your dreams.

And, to me, that’s the ultimate goal of divorce. It’s not about distribution of property, who’s right or wrong, or being bitter with your ex. Rather, the ultimate goal of divorce is among the most consequential processes of your life: Preserving your faith in trusting and loving again toward ultimate happiness wherever it awaits you – and sincerely wishing your ex the same.

What The Real Question Is

By Mark E. Smith

My friend was recently interviewed on a television show. And, based on my friend being a triple amputee, the subject of sex came up, and the interviewer was bold enough to ask, “Can you?”

My friend answered, “Yes, I do well,” and both he and the interviewer chuckled.

However, I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the real question to be asked relating to the subject: “What about true trust and emotional intimacy – are you capable of having that?”

But, the question was never asked, keeping on par with how skewed both our personal and cultural perspectives on sexuality are.

I mean, many question whether those with disabilities can have sex, and it’s an assumed that those who are able-bodied can have sex. Yet, few ever ask anyone or ourselves, Are you truly capable of exceptional trust and emotional intimacy? – which is a far bigger part of sexuality than the physicality of jumping in bed (which is absurdly easy). In fact, the physicality of sex is often a mask or mechanism to avoid true intimacy. For many, physically engaging in sex is far easier than engaging in emotional intimacy – there’s less vulnerability involved. Physically acting is easy; opening ourselves up to be emotionally vulnerable is a much tougher, scary process. I read a wonderful quote that said, “Truly making love means allowing ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable and finding security and pleasure in it.”

I see many of my peers – regardless of disability – who use sex as a way to avoid real feelings, or confuse it for feelings. If we have esteem issues, body image issues, vulnerability issues, having sex is a quick, validating fix. I must be a real man because she’s having sex with me – see I am worthy! But, such superficial validation is never lasting (and often merely has negative results on our emotional issues in the long run – the validation leaves with the sex). Sure, feeling desired in the moment can chase away all kinds of insecurities. But, once the moment passes, all of our emotional struggles are still there, only magnified for the worse. Put simply, physical sex for the wrong motives can often drive us farther apart from real intimacy with others, and emotionally isolate us further.

In this way, we often have the process backward: Sex doesn’t lead to true trust and intimacy; rather, true trust and intimacy leads to great, healthy relationships – and all of that leads to truly healthy sexual experiences that then encompass the mind, body, and soul (it’s the difference between staring at the ceiling versus making the Earth stop in its rotation, time standing still).

Therefore, forget the question of, Can you have sex? It’s an absurd, moot point. And, start asking the question of, Are you capable of true trust and emotional intimacy? It’s only then that we’re on our way to deep, loving, lasting relationships.