Hit the Brakes

f8d7460f36309949349c9ea9e8b22ff8When you get to be my age, firsts are few and far between. I have been fortunate enough to experience many firsts over the past few months. Included in this list is publishing my first book. This one first has been the catalyst for a steady stream of additional firsts. There is nothing more exciting than realizing people are buying something that you created. Today I received the first sales report for the month of November from my publisher about sales, even though it was only for a nine day period, I could not help but feel giddy.

Despite my giddy moments, I am struggling to find the time to allow myself to stop and enjoy the journey as the author of Switching Teams: What Coming Out Later in Life Taught Me about Love, Conquering Fear, and Accepting Change. Life seems to be imitating art for me lately. There is always something that needs to be done, not only regarding the book, and I often forget to stop and take it all in. The art of remaining in the present moment is something that I constantly need to practice. I get busy doing and planning and wind up missing the joy in the chaos. The pace of life can often hijack the peace of the present moment.

If you can relate to this, you know the struggle is real. Despite my best intentions, too often I plow through my list of things to do without any paying any attention to the sun that is shining above the field I am tilling. Thankfully, my extremely patient wife, and my therapist, have been there to pull the emergency brake when I shift the tractor in to fifth gear. Is there even such a thing as a fifth gear on a tractor? You get the idea. Knowing that their hand is at the ready to stop the vehicle is enough to help remind me to enjoy the journey and resist being focused only on the destination.

I had to stop and think about why moving through things with my head down has always been my default mode. I did not like the answer very much at all. Fear. In my life, excitement and anxiety feel the same to me. My brain and body has a difficult time differentiating between the two emotions. When I am nervous, I feel anxious, and moving quickly has been a coping tool I frequently use to get me through things. I am skilled in the art of doing it afraid.

Case in point. This past week I gave my very first interview for Watermark Magazine in Orlando, which is the biggest LGBT publication in the area. I had two days to make sure I looked presentable for photos and decide what I should wear. It was a very long two days. I was forced completely outside of my comfort zone. The request was a surprise and looking back, I was glad I did not have time to stop and think about it, or I may have bailed. I did manage to question my decision to do the interview in the first place at least once when my hair was not cooperating. The book was not going to promote itself so I pushed through it. I was hung up on the fact that I would not have any say in what was written. I am usually the one in the writer’s seat. My wife is my official photographer and the idea of someone else taking pictures, which she would not be able to edit, nudged her out of her comfort zone as well.

On the day of the photo shoot and interview, I was determined to enjoy the experience and check off another exciting first in my life. I felt relaxed during the interview and noticed that instead of being relieved it was over, I felt peace. When I read the finished article in Watermark, I felt a range of emotions, but no fear. I want to thank Billy Manes for being such a good sport and for his kind review of my book. I also want to thank Jake Stevens for making me look fabulous for the article. I appreciate them both more than I could ever say. My dad summed it up best in a Facebook post.

“The questions and answers were both on-topic and insightful. I could picture you sitting there being interviewed, a little nervous, but not enough to stop you from all those great responses. Great publicity for both you and your book. Remember, you can’t know the players without a scorecard…This is YOUR scorecard. Signed, your proud Dad.”

Is there any greater validation than that? I learned a lot about myself that day. I learned I ramble when I am enjoying the present moment, and I could stand to use less colorful language when being interviewed. I also learned the end product was a perfect representation of me, which I am proud of. I also learned when I choose to slow down that it is much easier to take in and appreciate the scenery around me, especially if I have no input about the final destination.

There is power in simply in surrendering to the present moment. There is even greater power when you recognize the potential reward from choosing peace in the present moment over fear and anxiety. I am especially grateful for the timing of these lessons considering the growing guest list and pile of party paraphernalia for my first book launch party that is currently rendering my dining room table unusable. Two days and counting. Stay tuned as my adventures in embracing the present moment and racking up firsts continues.