Latest entries

Lost in the Mail: My new podcast
is scheduled to debut January 1

by David McElroy

At the first of the year, I’m launching a limited-run podcast called Lost in the Mail. The title will make more sense after you listen to the first episode.

For a long time, I’ve struggled with what sort of podcast I wanted to make, mostly because I was concerned about what would attract an audience. I finally decided to make something that might attract no audience at all. I’m making what I’d like to listen to — and what I’d like to say.

The 30-second theme below will appear early in each episode.

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The best romantic relationships
end up becoming mutual rescue

by David McElroy

The most lost people are those who don’t know they need to be rescued.

Needing others is discouraged in our culture. We get the message that we need to be tough — that we need to hide our wounds and fears and doubts. We’re told to put on a brave face. We’re told not to cry. We learn not to show our feelings. We learn to hide our vulnerability.

Mostly, we’re taught not to need anyone, because that’s a sign of weakness. In extreme versions, we even have labels such as “co-dependency.” It’s a psychological dysfunction. And that helps us justify our practice of numbing ourselves to our feelings in order to shut others out.

But what if we are designed to need each other? What if our nature means that every single one of us has deep needs and scars and vulnerabilities? What if we all need mutual rescue — a relationship where we can rescue each other?

I’m thinking about that today because of what a friend posted about his wife. She died today — and he’s grieving for the woman who rescued him.

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If you allow anything to be priority over love and beauty, you’re a fool

by David McElroy

“What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about life so far?”

The question was deceptively simple, but I wanted to give a useful answer. A high school student told me his teacher had assigned him to ask this question to 10 random adults — outside his family — and then write about what they said.

There’s so much I could say to that question, because I’ve learned so much. I constantly feel as though I have to throw out at least half of what I’ve learned and start over, because I keep finding flaws in beliefs I used to accept as obvious. Much of what I write here is an attempt to chronicle what I’m learning and discarding as I change. What could I possibly say now to this teen?

“Love and beauty,” I finally said after I thought about it for a long minute.

As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew this was going to be hard to explain. The teen looked confused. So I tried again.

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I still have trouble accepting that
my idealized world doesn’t exist

by David McElroy

I feel most alone when I’m in groups of people. I’ve always known that — and I’ve talked to others who feel the same — but I might have figured out tonight why I feel this way.

I grew up expecting an idealized version of humanity. Maybe it was the futuristic utopias that I saw in much of the science fiction I read and watched. Maybe it was the idealistic spirit of the age in which I grew up — a time when there seemed to be a widespread belief that an amazing future was right around the corner.

Or maybe it was just something about my own personality. I wanted the world to be amazing — and I wanted to be the one to make it amazing. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to lead the world. I wanted to be at the forefront of creating an amazing, loving and humane world.

Everything I imagined seemed so right and good — and so achievable.

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I hate the intense pain, but I don’t know how to live without longing

by David McElroy

Imagine living in a world where everybody sees black and white and shades of gray — and you realize that you’re different from everyone else, because you see the world in vivid colors instead.

The experience of color is amazing, but how frustrating would it be if you couldn’t explain to others what you saw? What if others didn’t understand, because they had no frame of reference? How painful would it be to want to share that experience of color — but you couldn’t share it with anyone? How lonely would that be?

For much of my early life, I assumed everyone experienced emotions in the same intense ways that I do. When I discovered otherwise, I was confused and struggled to explain how my interior experience of painful emotion works. I’ve almost given up, because so few are even interested.

I was reminded of this again tonight because of what I felt during a movie. It was just a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, so it’s not something most people would have seen as intensely emotional, but interaction between two characters struck me in that oddly intense way. Two characters each experienced painful longing for the other, even though they couldn’t be together.

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We’re all masters of denial when facing painful truths in our lives

by David McElroy

I’m a master of denial. For one reason or another, I’ve become accustomed to disappointments over the last decade or so. Maybe longer. Denial has become my way of dealing with things I didn’t think I could control.

I was reminded of that again Friday evening when I unintentionally recorded some video of myself from the side. My MacBook was recording and Lucy wanted to jump into my lap for attention. I turned to let her jump up while she happily licked my face. I thought the video of her might be cute. But then I looked at it.

I know I need to shed some weight right now, but I walk around in denial about it most of the time. I’m about 25 pounds less than the worst I’d let myself get — maybe 35 pounds now that I think about it — but I still need to get rid of about 80 pounds of excess fat.

When I looked at that video of Lucy and me, every one of those 80 pounds seemed to be visible — and every one of them seemed to be taunting me.

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Maybe it’s easier to do hard things when nobody says they’re difficult

by David McElroy

Andrew was enthusiastic when he heard I’d made my first video using footage from a drone, so he wanted to watch it. After seeing the three-and-a-half-minute video, he was gushing about how cool it was. But he wanted to know how to make such a video himself.

“How do you do it?” he asked. “Do they just have a button and it flies around and decides what to shoot for itself? Is that music just added automatically?”

The questions were shockingly ignorant. I was offended. Just a little. He thought I just pushed a button? He thought the drone did the work? He didn’t think I struggled to make this? He thought it was easy?

Let me back up.

About six months ago, the real estate company where I work bought a drone for me to learn to use. It seemed as though it would be fun and we could use it for high-end property listings. I fooled around with it for a few weeks, but then I got busy doing other things. I hadn’t touched it for four months.

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Money can’t buy happiness, but poverty can make you miserable

by David McElroy

Nothing about this couple suggests affluence. His arms are covered with tattoos. They both appear shabbily dressed. Their speech doesn’t suggest much education. The car in which they arrived isn’t very new or impressive.

But as I watch them interact with each other and their son — who’s about 2 years old — I’m struck by how happy they seem to be as they eat together in this restaurant.

They both interact tenderly and lovingly with their son. When the man gets up to get a drink refill, he pauses to kiss the woman on the forehead — and she smiles in love.

I can’t know how much money they make, of course, but everything in my experience with such people suggests it wouldn’t be much. I’d be surprised if they made more than $40,000 combined. Maybe $50,000. I’m just guessing, of course.

But I’m thinking about this because of an article that NPR published today lamenting how difficult it can be to have enough money if you make $100,000 or more a year. It details the horrors of four individuals or families struggling with incomes of $100,000 or more.

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If there’s something you must do, income and vocation might clash

by David McElroy

It was an odd feeling Friday to meet a couple at a house that’s for sale — and to be the “expert” to help guide them through their process of evaluating whether to make an offer on it.

Even though I’ve worked for a real estate company — in one capacity or another — for a couple of years now, it was my first time to be the licensed agent showing the house and hoping to write an offer. Everything went well and I’m showing them another house Saturday. I hope I can help them find what they’re looking for.

To be honest, I know I can do this job well. I’ve worked extensively with the ins and outs of contracts and negotiation and managing the closing process for more than a year now. Nothing about it is intimidating to me.

I also know I can make a lot of money doing this job. If I average closing just two houses a month, I should be able to bring in more than $100,000 in 2018. I haven’t made anything close to that kind of money since I got out of politics. I’ve gone through such a dark period that the money sounds really good. This is a business in which I can become wealthy after a few years if I choose to.

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Why do we allow fear to make us hold onto things we should let go?

by David McElroy

I don’t know what I expected to find by coming here tonight.

For days now, I’ve been haunted by an unexpected image from the past — a moment, a night, an argument, a year — and I’ve come looking for it. I really don’t know why.

This was the place, but it was a time long ago. I’m on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham. We sat in my old red Volkswagen in this parking lot and talked about our relationship — our past and whether we had a future.

She was my first serious girlfriend. We dated for three years while we were in college, mostly in Tuscaloosa when we were both students at the University of Alabama. The first year and a half were very happy. We got engaged and happily planned a future together, but something happened.

I realized she wasn’t the right woman for me and this made her very confused. I don’t blame her, because I didn’t make much sense. As I pulled away from her, she tried harder and harder to pull me closer.

By the time we sat in my car that night, we were both miserable.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

Watch this short film

What kind of "educational film" would the U.S. government release today to teach Americans how to be good citizens?
We're the Government — and You're Not
Official selection of 20 film festivals
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Plus a boatload of views on YouTube
(Yeah, I was surprised, too)
Drop David a note if you want to write a check to make more of these amazing masterpieces.
Yes, seriously.

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