30 Days to a Better Man – Day 2: Shine Your Shoes

Oh goodness… the ole’ shoe shine. I was actually looking forward to this. In the military I used to love shining my shoes (as well as cleaning my weapon), something about the repetitive simple action calmed me and I did some great internal reflection during that time. So, here I am with the only two pairs of dress shoes I own, fresh Kiwi, and a cold Guinness, just like old times… I even have a wedding coming up so maybe I’ll bust out these shiners.

Hmm… these “skill” based ones are going to take a whole lot less blogging probably. I’ll try to be more entertaining in the future. To be honest, the most difficult part of this was actually acquiring the materials. Kiwi and stuff is easy to come by but motivation can be lacking, particularly after a long day at work and 25 miles total biking too and from work. I had to really convince myself to detour to a store for a task that I didn’t think would be a challenge at all, but I knew that if I slacked on a small challenge I would make excuses for myself on the bigger issues.

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30 Days to a Better Man – Day 1: Define Your Core Values

When I read on Facebook last week that a friend of mine decided to do the Art of Manliness 30 Days to a Better Man I was intrigued, as I often am by all things.I was so intrigued in fact that I decided to do it as well. My friend encouraged this and asked if I would like to share my thoughts with him as things progress and to offer support for each other, that seemed awesome so I decided to also put it into a blog. I’m not sure if this will be a daily thing or not due to my busy schedule but I am certainly going to try.

I guess I should mention why I found this interesting. As a feminist I seem to have a knee-jerk reaction against all things masculine, but this seems like an incomplete way to live life. There should be balance in all things, yin and yang, night and day, feminine and masculine. In order to understand and experience all things that humankind has to offer I feel the need to dive into new scenarios and viewpoints. I refused to take the government, religion, and societies views on life as gospel, I shouldn’t also take how I perceive feminist views on masculinity as gospel either, instead I will dive into the art of manliness and see if I can learn something.

This particular friend of mine makes the perfect companion for this adventure. In many ways he and I seem to be very different people. He is clean shaven, clean cut, classically attractive, wears fine suits, has dated an international model, professional, and articulate… he is the reincarnation of Frank Sinatra, including the voice (maybe) and the blue eyes (maybe). I, on the other hand, am bearded, cut my own hair, look like a lumberjack, have not put on a tie since 2012, have a partner who was lovingly described as a woodland princess, am a hippie burner, and am kind of a wreck when talking to anyone. I’m not trying to say that my life is better than his or anything, just highlighting that he and I are different (though we both love good booze and motherfucking liberty). In a way I feel like my venture into “manliness” is an exploration of his world.

Day 1: Define Your Core Values —-

When I saw this was the first day I was not really surprised but I didn’t think it would be much of a challenge. I’m 31 years old, I grew up on the west coast, went to college in the south, worked in the mid-Atlantic, had a threesome in the northeast, and rode my bicycle across the country. I have also served as an infantryman in the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, work in corporate America, and had a job since I was 12. Basically, I figured I was pretty in touch with my core values. Before I started I decided my core values were “individuality”, “love”, and “freedom”. I wasn’t sure if these are the things that the exercise would point out but I was shocked when I printed this days work and saw it was six full pages. How in the world could it take me six pages to figure out what I value?

As I read through the instructions I found a passage (below) that really stuck out to me. It really reminded me of some of the stuff I am reading in “Steering By Starlight”, this day seemed to really be trying to help me find my North Star and find the path to the my own happiness and potential. It also reminded me of the often conflicting Army Core Values (Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage – LeaDeRSHIP) and how different it was to search for my own values instead of having them drilled into my head during Basic Training.

Defining our values gives us purpose. When you don’t know or you haven’t clearly defined your values, you end up drifting along in life. Instead of basing your decisions on an internal compass, you make choices based on circumstances and social pressures. You end up trying to fulfill other people’s expectations instead of your own. And before you know it, life has passed you by and you haven’t even started to live. Trying to be someone else and living without core values is down right exhausting and leaves you feeling empty and shiftless. Conversely, living a life in line with your core values brings purpose, direction, happiness, and wholeness.

So, per the instructions I spent some peaceful time thinking about my values. I ran through different scenarios and tried to focus on how I felt when exercising those values. I whittled it down to the following five. I wasn’t instructed to share them here but since I share pretty much everything with y’all I feel no need to censor myself now. So, my five values are:

  • Peace: The silence of internal and external conflict. The former may be impossible to achieve as a human but the latter is possible in most cases.
  • Intimacy: Human contact, love, touch, and affection. This includes friendship, sex, love, partnerships, cuddle puddles, and all combinations of expression love for one another.
  • Exploration: The freedom to see how far and wide I can go in this world. This is internal and external exploration… reading, writing, travelling, learning
  • Accomplishment: The sense that I have pursued something and truly did all I could. This may not mean I hit the goals I mentally focused on but I can rest comfortably knowing I did my best.
  • Variety: New experiences that challenge my mind, body, spirit, and expectations. This is my seemingly endless thirst to try everything myself to see if I like it or not.