Archive | July 2013

Are you buying or selling?

It seemed like it was time for another song on the blog this week. I wrote this one a couple years ago with a full band. This is the newly stripped down solo version. Enjoy!

The Whitest of the Black Sheep

 

Here,

Here I am.

Here I am at the crossroads.

I,

I have nothing.

I have nothing to fear.

Long ago I said goodbye

to the only thing I could sell here.

 

See the long line of wishers,

and I hatch myself a plan.

I think I’ll grow my horns out

and make a purchase while I can.

Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh,

the whitest of the black sheep

still got himself a soul.

 

The coven

in the convent

measured my knuckles everyday.

And the more they tried to push me to my knees,

the more they pushed me away.

 

So I burned all the bridges

that cross the great divide,

but all the maps that showed me the way

got left on the other side.

 

The hunter

in the basement

swung his ax into my head.

And the hangman,

with his sharp tongue,

showed me all blue blood runs red.

 

Then they gave me a compass

with a long glass stem.

They picked me up 

and showed me the way

to where they had already been.

 

So, now, here,

Here I am.

Here I am at the crossroads.

I have nothing.

I have nothing to fear.

Long ago I said goodbye

to the only thing I could sell here.

 

See the long line of wishers,

and I stick to the plan.

It’s time to let my horns out

and make a purchase while I can.

Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh,

the whitest of the black sheep

still got himself a soul.

 

Thanks for listening and reading. Remember to “like” and share.

Thanks again.

John D.

Are You Sure You’re a Hero? – Spilled Blood and Spilled Beer

Shattered Bottle

A lonely man will do some strange things, especially when he’s unemployed and has no responsibilities. He’ll stay up all night playing the same video game for 24 hours straight. He’ll re-watch all of his old high-school football games on VHS over and over again just to remember what it was like to feel important. He’ll even go to parties held by complete strangers. Of course, the man I’m describing is myself. He’s the me from six or seven years ago. He was a very unhappy guy. If you want to know more about him go read, Is That a Good Time? For the purposes of this story, it suffices to say that the former me was lonely, bored, and a little reckless. There were several nights during that time that I did strange and often very stupid things. This is the story of one such night.

This was the night I looked evil in the eye and came away bloodied and bothered.

At the time of this story, I was trying to put together a band and was therefore emailing back and forth with several musicians that I had found through classified sites like craigslist. While trying to arrange a jam session with a potential drummer, he mentioned that he wasn’t available on Thursday night because he was going to a party. A party sounded like fun, so feeling like I had nothing to lose, I asked him where it was.

“Oh, yeah? You want to come? You should. It should be pretty fun. There’s supposed to be a lot of people there,” he replied.

He gave me the address and directions to the apartment complex where the party was to be held. I figured it would be a big community party out in the parking lot with nearly everyone from the complex participating. That was the kind of thing we used to do when I was going to college in Cedar City. The fact that I hadn’t really seen any parties like that outside of a college environment didn’t even occur to me.

It was ridiculous how excited I was to go to this party. After not being very social for what seemed like ages, this was going to be awesome. I actually woke up early on Thursday morning because I was too excited to sleep. The more I take these mental trips into my past the more I realize just how strange I was then.

It was a hot day and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to wear a tee shirt under my button-up. I would be very fortunate later, that I decided to wear the tee shirt.

Finally, the time arrived. I was shaking as I drove to the party. I was nervous with anticipation, plus I had drunk an entire pot of coffee earlier that day, plus my Jeep had a problem that made it shake like crazy. These combined to give me a shake trifecta that would have made Hakeem Olajuwan jealous.

I stopped at the gas station and picked up a 12-pack of Coors Light. I arrived at the apartment complex where I was expecting to find a big party. I was not seeing anything that looked like any kind of social gathering of any kind. It was dark, so I took another lap around the parking lot thinking that maybe I missed it somewhere. I finished the loop and still saw nothing. Thinking that maybe the party just turned out to be smaller than anticipated, I decided to knock on the door to the apartment listed on the address.

I grabbed my beer, walked up to the door, and knocked moderately five times.

A young woman answered the door.

“Hey,” She said.

I replied, “Hey, I’m looking for a party that’s supposed to be here.”

“Sure, come on in” she said as she stepped aside and motioned toward the couch.

As I walked toward the couch, I got my first glimpse at this “party.” There were two other girls there in addition to the one that answered the door. There was also one other guy there. The guy that told me about the party was nowhere to be found. Apparently, it was one of the girls’ birthday. I walked to the couch, sat down, and opened a beer. I introduced myself and told them how I heard about the party. They didn’t seem surprised, they said they had invited a lot of people. To this day, I don’t know if the drummer that told me about the party was playing a joke on me or not.

The people at the party introduced themselves to me, but I honestly can’t remember any of their names. I offered them beers, but they all had their own mixed drinks. It was slightly uncomfortable, but they were actually quite friendly.

I asked them if they were expecting any more people to show up and they said they had been inviting everybody, so, some of them would probably show up. I decided to stick around while I had a beer or two and see if the party started picking up.

Through some friendly conversation, I learned that the guy and one of the girls there were a couple. The guy and I actually had a lot in common. We were mostly talking about nerdy stuff like old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It  wasn’t the party I was expecting, but it was actually turning out to be pretty fun. The birthday girl was even flirting with me pretty heavily, so we exchanged numbers.

The time went by pretty quickly and soon it was after midnight. Then there was a knock at the door.

The same girl that had let me in a couple hours earlier answered the door.

“You guys partying?” I heard a voice say.

“Yeah, come on in,” the girl said.

Two men came into the apartment.

The entire feeling in the room changed as soon as they came in.

It was like there suddenly wasn’t enough oxygen in the air. The first man was both small and short, but you could see from his tight shirt that he was in good shape. The second was tall and skinny and wore an old denim jacket. He was carrying a 12-pack of Budweiser in bottles. The first man sat in the chair just to my right, which was facing toward my left so that whoever sat there would be included in the semicircle around the coffee table. The second man sat in a chair by the door, behind the first man.

We all chatted for a while, I’m not really sure how long, then I got up to use the bathroom. While I was washing my hands, I heard voices starting to get louder out in the living room. Soon it was full on shouting. I opened the door and saw that everybody was standing up. The smaller man was pushing on the chest of the guy that was at the party when I got there.

“Come on, man! You said you’re big! Let’s go then!” The small man was yelling.

His taller friend was now standing right behind him with the box of beer still tucked under his arm.

The girls we’re yelling for the small man to stop and pleading with him to leave.

I walked out and got between the small man and my new acquaintance.

“Whoa, whoa,” I said, “What’s going on? What happened?”

There was a lot of shouting all at once, but from what I could make out, the smaller man was trying to look impressive to the girls and was telling them how he could take the other guy in a fight. The other guy jokingly said something along the lines of, “I don’t know, I’m pretty big.” The small man took this as a challenge and started calling-on the other guy. His friend joined him and that’s when I came in.

I was trying to calm the situation and explain to the small man that the other guy was just joking and that he didn’t want to fight.

“Well, I do!” yelled the small man.

We were looking each other right in the eyes and that’s when time seemed to start moving in slow motion.

If this were a Hollywood story, this would be the moment that I beat-up the two men, threw them out of the apartment, saved my new friends, and gave that young woman a happy birthday. I wish I could say that’s what happened, but this wasn’t the movies and I sure as hell wasn’t a hero.

As I stared into the small man’s eyes, I saw and felt pure evil. He was determined to create violence that night. There was absolutely no way that this was going to end peacefully.

You have a lot of thoughts when you’re locking eyes with the devil.

My brain spoke several sentences to me in the span of about half a second.

This fight is about to happen. You haven’t been in a real fight since Junior High, what are you going to do?

If you get hurt, you’re going to have to explain to everyone how it happened which means you’ll have to explain how you ended up at this party in the first place. Is that something you’re going to want to admit?

You’re in an apartment complex and people are yelling in the middle of the night. Surely one of the neighbors has called the cops by now. Are you going to get assault charges? Speaking of cops, you don’t know any of these people. Are you sure that none of these girls are underage? Do you really want to explain contributing charges?

Something hard just hit you in the shoulder, you should probably snap out of it and pay attention to what’s going on.

I came out of my trance of inner dialogue just in time to see the tall skinny man throwing the second full beer bottle at me. I was able to turn and deflect it with my left arm.

Listening to my inner thoughts and lost in fear, I yelled, “What the hell am I doing? I don’t even know any of you!”

I pushed my way past the two men and to the door. As I was leaving, I felt something very hard hit me in the back of the head. Just before the door closed, I heard another full bottle of beer crash and splatter against the wall.

I reached up to feel where I was hit. It felt wet. I looked at my fingers and even in the dim light, I could see the blood. I made my way to my car, took off my button-up and the tee shirt underneath. When I got in the car, I wadded-up my tee shirt and pressed it against the back of my head. The shame started to set in even as I turned the key.

Not knowing how badly I was injured, nor what would happen to the people I was leaving behind, I drove away from the apartment.

I needed some help. I needed someone I could trust. Using the headrest on the seat to momentary hold the tee shirt in place, I pulled out my phone and called my brother.

“Hello?”

It had obviously been a beer bottle that had hit me. The curvature of the cut matches perfectly. The next day I called the birthday girl to apologize. It turns out that the police did show up right after I left and there was no real harm done. The birthday girl’s friend and the other guy were with the birthday girl when I called her. They didn’t seem to think that what I did was so bad, but it still haunts me. I have never felt so cowardly.

We all like to think that when we’re tested, we’ll rise to the occasion and come through. That night, I chickened out. I haven’t been tested like that since. I can only hope that if I ever am, I will learn from my failure. Next time, it will be different. Next time, I will be different. Next time, I’ll be auditioning for the role of hero.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

I hope you’re enjoying this blog. I put a lot of time and emotion into it and try to keep it both entertaining and meaningful. If you like what you read, please click the “follow” button at the top of the page, if you haven’t already. Also, if you could, please share, forward, or email this blog on to your friends and family. Thanks again for reading. I’ll keep writing as long as you do.

 

PS           You can also follow me on twitter @john_dilley.

Who do you trust?

The following story is based on actual events, although some of the details might be inaccurate due to memory failure, the emotions are true.

“Hello”

“Hey, are you awake?”

“I am now.”

“Did I wake you?”

“Yeah. What’s up?”

“I’m sorry man, I was hoping you’d still be up. You have tomorrow off, don’t you?”

“No. I work tomorrow, but don’t worry about it. What’s up?”

“I’m really sorry to bother you so late, but I don’t know what else to do. Are you home?”

“Yes. Why?”

“I’m heading to your place. My head is bleeding pretty bad and I don’t have insurance so I don’t want to go to the emergency room.”

“Holy shit! What? Where are you now? Are you okay?”

“I think I’m alright, but I want to make sure. I’m driving to your place right now. I’ll be there in about 5.”

“Are you driving okay?”

“I’m almost there.”

“Call me when you get here.”

What the hell am I doing? How did I end up on like this?

My long neglected Jeep shakes down the road at two AM on a Friday, but for me, it’s still Thursday night. My right hand holds my wadded-up tee shirt against the back of my head. I can feel the wet blood on my fingertips. My left hand wrestles with the steering wheel as I try to keep this paint mixer on the road.

Why haven’t I gotten this jalopy fixed by now? Procrastination is just one item on a long list of bad habits that I’m in the process of addressing. Several of the items on that list have combined to bring me here – needing help from my younger brother in the middle of the night on a weekday. I’m such a great role model for him.

I pull into my brother’s apartment complex. As I park, I call him to let him know I’m there. With concern on his face, he meets me at his open front door. He guides me in and escorts me to a chair that he carefully placed in the center of the kitchen in order to get the most light. The chair is surrounded by towels that are laid out on the kitchen floor, just in case.

I take my seat, bow my head forward, and remove the bloody shirt from the wound on my head.

“You can tell it’s been bleeding a lot, but it’s really not that bad,” my brother says.

With some warm water and a washcloth, my brother cleans the back of my head. He dries it with a towel as well as he can without rubbing it. He puts some disinfectant on the cut and does his best to attach a bandage.

My injury turned out to be minor, but I didn’t know that when I decided to call my brother. For all I knew, it could have been life threatening.

My brother is not a doctor. He’s not a nurse, an EMT, or firefighter. Why would I would I go to him? Because he’s my brother. He doesn’t have any kind of special medical training, but he has my trust. I know that anytime, day or night, I can count on him –even if he has to work the next day. I know that if it’s serious enough he’ll take me to the hospital anyway.

As I’ve grown older, that kind of dependability seems to be becoming harder and harder to find. Fortunately for me, no matter how rare dependability becomes, I’ll never forget what it feels like. I have a one-inch long curved scar on the back of my head that will always remind me. It reminds me of family. It reminds me of how good it feels to have someone on whom you can rely. It reminds me of how much I love my brother. It reminds me that I can trust him with my life, and for all I knew at the time, that night, I did.

A little while after cleaning and bandaging my head that night, my brother looked at it and said, “Okay, it’s stopped bleeding for now. What happened?”

I proceeded to tell him the story.

Check back next week to find out how I got my head cut in the first place.

What is motivation?

I have been told by my boss that I am being re-assigned. The details about when and what exactly I will be doing in my new position were not shared. I also found out that my current boss is leaving the company. This has taken the air out of my sails entirely.

It’s hard to focus on anything. It leaves me with more questions than answers. It brings out one of my biggest weaknesses. I talked about it during, Is That A Good Time?, and it is still clear today. Approval from others greatly effects my motivation.

I haven’t been able to get going this week at all. Not just at my job, but at home too. When I got hired a few short months ago, I was more excited than any other job I’ve ever had. I was gung-ho. I got as much done as possible every day. Lately it’s gotten very hard to keep up that pace. My work doesn’t seem to matter.

This has lead me to a series of questions about motivation.

I have a feeling many people out there have similar questions.

What is it about ambiguity that makes it so hard to focus?

Where does motivation come from?

If it comes from within, why can it not be called upon at will?

Why is it that some days I am determined not to fail and others I barely care if I exist?

Why is it so fleeting?

Is it something that’s developed?

Do I seek distraction because I am not motivated, or am I motivated to distraction out of some sort of sick subconscious need to sabotage myself?

Can you get it from a speaker?

Can you get from a poster?

Can you get it from a quote?

You might be wondering how I found the motivation to write this post. Well it was easy, all I had to do was stop trying to find something to write about and write about what was already on my mind.

While searching for some answers to the questions above,

I ran across this video and I found it fascinating.

Here is a quote from Dan Pink, the speaker in the video.

“Our business operating system … it’s built entirely around these extrinsic motivators, around carrots and sticks. That’s actually fine for many kinds of 20th century tasks. But for 21st century tasks, that mechanistic, reward-and-punishment approach, often doesn’t work, and often does harm.”

This was extremely enlightening for me.

It would appear that I, and I’m sure many of you, are trying to work in a 21st century world with a 20th century education.

It reminds me that in many situations, you can’t just keep your head down and keep chugging away. Sometimes you need to stop and look around. There might just be a better way to accomplish your task. It’s really no surprise. In fact, it really doesn’t change anything material. However, it does help me understand my own feelings and it is much easier to find motivation when I’m not consumed with guilt.

So, rest assured that exploring your interests is not the same as being lazy. Smelling the roses can lead to a perfume business. The modern business world requires creativity and thinking on your feet. Sometimes the best way to find the answer is to stop looking for it.

This is not to be used as an excuse, or a crutch. It is still important to apply effort. And while this new perspective gained from the video above didn’t answer all of my questions, it did help me find some focus. It reminded me that thinking outside the box and occasionally letting your mind wander has value. Sometimes it’s even more valuable than grinding out word after word with no passion behind it.

I still don’t know what plans my company has for me. I can’t see where my current path will lead even as soon as tomorrow. Looking around for a handle during this free fall left me overwhelmed and frantic. The only way to pull value from the situation is to sit back and enjoy the ride.It can be hard to remember sometimes, but activity and productivity are two different things. Don’t be afraid to sit and ponder from time to time. Sometimes the solution to a problem, even a problem of motivation, is right next to you. You just have to allow yourself to look around and see it.

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