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Coming Out of the Transrational Closet

You will survive letting go of who you think you are.

What you have been told about how the Universe works is a half-truth.

You are not who you think you are.

When you were a small child, you knew something in your bones. That knowing is still there. It’s closer than you think.

Your life matters to the Universe. Not what you do in the world, not what you accomplish, not how many lives you change. You matter. Your life matters. To all of us.

We are going through a profound transformation on this planet. You sensed this years ago, and you’ve been working hard to help us make it through.

It’s been very lonely, confusing and terrifying.

I want you to know, you are not alone.

There are legions of us, waking up, growing up and showing up. For each other and for the world.

But I have to tell you, if this is going to work — if we are going to make it — you cannot play the lone wolf any longer.

Part I

Love & Magic

“You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won’t believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!”

— Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize Recipient

“I can see there’s something between you two, please invite me to the wedding!”

Sitting on the park bench in the stultifying heat and smog of Santiago, Chile, I was immediately regretting spending a precious week of my time here instead of playing more volleyball and chasing Brazilian girls on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

Just as I broke out my Let’s Go South America to help navigate me out of my doldrums, a young woman sits next to me and begins reading her book. “I was definitely trolling for friends” she admitted to me a year or so later. At the time I assumed it was my Brazilian beach mojo still working it’s magic.

“What part of America are you from?” I asked in English, playing it cool.

I was conversant in Spanish and normally would have played that card in this circumstance but instead chose a different gambit.

“Chicago. Wait, how do you know I’m American?”

“You’re reading a book in English about JFK Junior. If you were reading about his father, you could be from anywhere.” I left the logical conclusion unspoken as my ego basked in its own cleverness.

Before she could respond, a Chilean grad student approached us and butted in.

“I’m a Chilean grad student and I just finished my PhD dissertation and I heard you two speaking English and I want to practice my English, blah, blah, blah.”

He looked to me more like Groucho Marx than a typical Chilean, and I was suspicious of his motivations, but I couldn’t tell him to buzz off without coming off as a jerk. Things were finally getting interesting though, and I decided to slow-play my hand, figuring he’d get caught bluffing at some point and I’d get back to impressing the young American woman hitting on me.

Groucho held court for twenty minutes but I couldn’t quite figure out what his scam was. He kept trying to buy us popsicles (which we both refused) and that seemed to be the tell I was looking for. Now I’m looking around for his accomplices, ready to heroically bust the guy in mid-scam, and win the trust and lust of the girl. This was playing perfectly into my hand. Or so I thought.

After his twenty minute windup he pulled out a sketch book and pen.

“I’m going draw a caricature of you two sitting on that park bench, okay here it is and I can see there’s something between you two, please invite me to the wedding!”

As my eyes are darting wildly back and forth, scanning for hands going for our pockets, Groucho hands over a very well done caricature of us. Instead of the expected “that will be $20 please,” he packed up his book bag, tossed his used popsicle sticks into the nearby trash can and walked away, whistling a cheerful melody. Laura and I looked at each other awkwardly and confused.

Meeting the love of my life on that park bench was the farthest thing from my mind, but getting cockblocked by a Chilean Groucho Marx was even farther.

It was 11/02/2002, two months before my best friend, Phil, and I were to embark on the year-long Ultimate Sports Adventure:Two Guys in a Monster RV on the Greatest Road Trip in Sports History(TM).

Adding a third wheel — a girlfriend — would have introduced serious risk into our travel adventure. So Phil devised a “mutually assured fun” scheme in which the party pooper would pay the pooped-upon a serious financial penalty: $5,000 cash on the barrelhead. Phil, being clever linguistically as well as numerically, called it our “Wingman Insurance Policy.” As in don’t become WIP’ed.

Since neither of us were working at the time, and since Phil was busy planning our itinerary and lining up sponsors, I needed a strategy to keep me out of relationship trouble. So I bought a one-way ticket to South America and told Phil I’d be back just before we hit the road. Now I was regretting my strategy and realizing I should have convinced Phil to join me. Keep your friends close, enemies closer, and your wingmen glued to your hip.

Laura and I only overlapped by a week in Chile, me being on the tail end of my trip and she on the front end. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, it was something more profound. It felt like we’d know each other for our whole lives. I didn’t believe in past lives at the time, but the truth is it felt like we were members of a long lost tribe we didn’t know existed until we’d met. Cupid, that eternal trickster, had clearly hit the target.

Two years earlier, I was closed off to the possibilities of magic and miracles. At least ones that required faith and non-logical explanations.

I had just cashed out of my first Silicon Valley startup and decided to do some world travel and follow the professional poker circuit. One thing startups have in common with poker is they are both high-stakes games requiring cool-headed, intelligent decision making under conditions of inherent uncertainty. There are whole fields of academic study devoted to helping people navigate such landscapes rationally, including game theory, statistics and decision analysis.

In that rationalist, reductionist paradigm, miracles and magic don’t exist. Instead, quantified measures of luck, variance and volatility are factored into equations and simulations that spit out correct moves. The fundamental assumption is that the observer cannot influence these measures (a little fact which quantum physics contradict and statisticians ignore).

While I was not allergic to magical explanations, I hadn’t yet experienced life as personally magical. There was always a way to explain the miraculous in statistical terms and I had gotten good at playing that game. It suited my aversion to feeling crushed when I lost a big pot by getting unlucky to tell myself that sometime in the future I will win a big pot by getting lucky. “Luck evens out in the long run.” If religion is the opiate of the masses, rationalism is the opiate of the elite in Western society.

Once I cashed out of startupville and went traveling, I made myself two promises. The first is that I would not go back to “productive life” until I was good and ready. The second is I would start looking for coincidences and magical occurrences, rather than ignore or rationalize them away.

Not yet ready to accept a truly transrational reality, I played a game with myself called “As If”. When I hit a particularly lucky streak of green lights while driving in rush hour traffic, I acted “as if” I was the cause. When I ran into a friend in Rio I had last seen nine months earlier in Capetown, I said, “Hey Mireya, there you are, I’ve been hoping to run into you so we can continue our game of beach volleyball. Are you ready?”

What I discovered by playing “As If” with myself is that I began to notice ever more coincidences showing up in my life. At first I likened this to how when I was in the market to buy a particular car, I would then notice that model everywhere on the road. Neurologically, there’s nothing magical about this phenomenon, as we continually prime our brains with what to notice in our environment based on our state of mind and emotions. Experientially though, it felt so fun and carefree to let go of the need to explain the coincidences and minor miracles I was now a part of.

Thus, when I met Laura on the park bench under the most unlikely of circumstances, I was primed to feel the destiny of it. Being a rationalist and scientist by training though, I couldn’t leave the rest to chance.

On the plane back home, I began to feel an ache in my heart. Were Laura and I ships in the night? The more I thought about it, we were worse than ships, we seemed star-crossed. Not only was I about to start a year-long sports roadtrip with Wingman Insurance, but Laura had a boyfriend back home in Chicago. She was fresh out of college and headed to grad school in New York, and I was 34 years old and was already on my third career (as a dilettante) after a 4-year stint in AI research and a 4-year odyssey through Silicon Valley. It just didn’t seem logical that we had the makings of a lasting relationship. For the first time in my life, my libido was being trumped by longings of something more. I wrote a long email to Laura expressing my feelings (very uncharacteristic of me at the time) and asking her if she could see us together in the future.

The first five months back stateside, it was easy to ignore her crushing reply. She was still in South America, and this was the first leg of my USA road trip. Her reply haunted me, not because she revealed that there was someone else in New York (which was true), and not because she didn’t have feelings for me (she did). It was her logical reasoning:

“By the time I get out of grad school and begin my career, I just can’t see myself dating someone who is 40 and retired. We’re at different points in our lives.”

Her words seeped into my body, and by midway through the roadtrip, I was feeling depressed. This was a new kind of emotion for me to grapple with. Part of it, of course, was I hated being told No. I was in the mode of winning in life, and this was definitely a big loss. I had never been in love before, so I didn’t know that this is what it felt like in the beginning stages.

Luckily, my powers of denial and magical thinking were really strong by this point in my life; it’s how I was able to defy the odds in the startup game and create a dreamlike Peter Pan roadtrip adventure with my BFF and Wingman Insurance.

The denial and magical thinking of my psyche at work.

I needed some kind of magic to make Laura see the light, and see through the cold, hard darkness of the current facts and circumstances between us. It turns out the specter of losing $5,000 on the Wingman Insurance Policy was the perfect cauldron. It gave us a full year to see if the ember in Chile would burn into something real. And for her other boyfriends to flame out.

As fate would have it, Chicago is the only major city in America where the nearest RV park was 50 miles away. Meaning that when Phil and I were in town for events like the U.S. Open Golf Championship, or the Cubs’ historic and ill-fated run at winning the World Series (and breaking the Billy Goat Curse), we would need to find a place where we could park and sleep for up to a week or two at a time without getting towed or run out of town by the local cops. As fate would also have it, there was a shopping mall that just happened to be moments away from Laura’s parents in Chicago where she was living during the summer before grad school. As fate would finally have it, that shopping mall was happy to let us stay rent free, maybe, possibly because I put a sign on our RV that said, “We are doing a LOT of shopping in your mall, call us if you have any issues with us staying here.”

My first move was a double-date. Laura was my date, and Phil’s date was a woman named “M” who had sent him a fan letter and a picture of herself from the waist up. The twist being that she was upside down doing the splits naked, so M looked like Y in the photo. The night was going great for both Phil and I, each of us able to spend ample time with our respective dates, me catching up with Laura after 8 months of not seeing each other, and Phil reveling in his good luck and talking with M about whatever you talk about when it’s clear how the evening is going to end.

Except fate is a fickle mistress, and Phil didn’t realize the divine intervention in motion as he left for the restroom. As soon as he was out of earshot, M turned to Laura and said,

“Why have you been a bitch to me all night?”

This was such an unexpected and shocking turn of events that Laura and I were stunned speechless for several seconds. Laura and M hadn’t interacted at all since we were paired off in our own little date bubbles. I was angry and nervous that M was making me look bad in front of Laura, and so I took swift action. Phil, returning to our booth from taking a leak, encountered to his horror my wrath upon his date:

“M! That is totally uncalled for! You apologize to Laura right now, or I’m having you thrown out of the nightclub!!”

To Phil’s infinite credit as my best friend and ultimate wingman, he looked at M without missing a beat and said in a calm voice,

“I don’t know what happened in the last 70 seconds, but if Rafe is this upset at you, you can take a hike. We’re through, you and I.”

Thus set the stage for several “coincidental” and blissful courtship adventures between me and Laura during the Ultimate Sports Adventure, including taking her to the Kentucky Derby, the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, and a Yankees World Series game in New York. In each case, Phil proved himself my ultimate wingman and an incredible friend.

You may be wondering how I avoided paying Phil $5,000 under the Wingman Insurance Policy, and the answer is either totally magical or entirely pedestrian, depending on your bias.

You see, a year before I met Laura on a park bench, Phil met the love of his life staring him down from across the volleyball net in the finals of the Club Med Turks & Caicos weekly tournament. When she stuff-blocked his hardest spike of the match and looked over her shoulder with a taunting smirk, he was smitten. As we regrouped for the next play, he put his hand over his mouth and beckoned me to lean in for a strategy talk, wherein he said nothing except, “Rafe, I’m going to marry that woman.” He did, and 22 years later, Phil and Barb are still going strong.

So it turns out that Phil and I were bluffing each other with the Wingman Insurance Policy, and it worked to both of our advantages. The roadtrip really was the ultimate, there were no third wheels, and we each got the girl at the end.

You could look at all the coincidences and improbabilities that led to Laura and I being together 21 years after the park bench incident as an ordinary set of lucky breaks, requiring no divine intervention or magical powers.

But here’s something to consider: had I not suspended my disbelief and had I not leaned into the “1 in a million” that we’d end up together as a personal challenge to overcome, our love story would have died on the vine as soon as I got her reply to my love letter.

In very rational terms, I am claiming that I believe magic and love are quantum entanglements of the same reality.

P.S. about the Chilean Cupid: here’s the email I wrote to my friends, hoping for the six degrees of Kevin Bacon to come to our aid:

In early November of 2002, Laura and I met on a park bench in the Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile. A few minutes later a Chilean man with thick black-rimmed eyeglasses befriended us. He was jubilant because he had just finished his PhD dissertation, and he was happy to practice his English. It was a hot day and he was treating us Americans to popsicles -- he must have eaten three himself during our 20 minute conversation! As suddenly as he appeared, the man drew a sketch, handed it to Laura and left with this parting shot: "Invite me to the wedding." Having know each other for less than 5 minutes prior to our cupid's arrival, Laura and I just looked at each other and chuckled (slightly embarrassed) and thanked the man for the drawing. We never saw him again, and although it has taken nearly six years for our cupid's arrow to work its magic, we are finally ready to invite him to the wedding :-)

Unfortunately, we lost the sketch and know nothing about him other than what you've read above. We're relying on you, along with the power of the internet and "six degrees of separation" to find him! Here is a picture of the two of us that week that we met, in case it helps our cupid remember the conversation:

Please forward this email to anyone who could possibly meet the description of the man we are looking for, and to anyone who you think can help us with our quest. If you are in the chain of people who connect us to him, we will send you a personalized photo with the three of us from the wedding along with a heartfelt "thank you".

Yours Truly,

—Rafe & Laura

ps, if you are the man we are looking for, email us a photo of yourself, preferably from around November 2002!

We haven’t heard from him yet, but we honored his request to invite him to the wedding. OK, Cupid?

Part II

Psychopomp & Circumstance: Snakes on a Plane

I’m about to tell you a death-defying love story. In which Laura, now my wife, experiences the most horrifying thing she could never imagine: she and her husband on a plane from Mexico to the US; he in a full blown psychotic state, having sexual fantasies and the matching physiological reaction; she trying desperately (and unsuccessfully) to keep him from disrobing, and hoping against hope that they wouldn’t be forced to land early and put her husband in a Mexican jail.

If you’ve read any of my other stories you are aware now that I love risk and adventure. When I met Laura I realized I loved her more. The events below are how I found out how much she loves me back.

In a previous post I mentioned that I was hospitalized with a psychotic break. There’s another explanation for what I experienced: spiritual awakening. So this article is also about that shit too.

It was 2011, the week between Christmas and New Year. After eight months of trying to help save Full Tilt Poker — and to save my reputation and my worldly fortune — I was depleted and defeated.

I was running on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual fumes. I needed Provigil, the drug developed by the military to keep fighter pilots from nodding off and crashing planes, to keep my system from crashing. Also known as modafinil, this was the drug which supposedly inspired the movie Limitless (great movie BTW) and it creates an artificial mania and sleep debt, which eventually has to be paid back.

Laura insisted we keep our plans to get out of the madness and relax on a beach in Mexico at the resort where we got married three years earlier. I was feeling extremely hesitant about flying to Mexico since I was recently held up at LAX after Customs.

“Mr. Furst, can I have a word with you privately,” said the man in the trench coat as he flashed his LAPD badge and pointed to the small antechamber with brutal fluorescent lights.

Heart in my throat, I didn’t answer his question (which was not a question) and simply followed him into the room.

“Sir, I have a bench warrant for your arrest in the Southern District of New York.”

The fact that I’d half been expecting this didn’t temper the sick feeling in my stomach and my concern for Laura, who was asked to remain by baggage claim.

While the original “Black Friday” legal action against Full Tilt Poker did not name me personally, the amended one did. Even though this was a civil case (wherein the main penalty for losing was monetary), my lawyer had recently explained to me that if the Department of Justice didn’t feel like I was extracting their pound of flesh for them, they would likely tack on a criminal charge for leverage. Jail time was now on the table.

In an incredible stroke of luck, my lawyer was able to call the prosecutor in New York just before 5pm on a Friday and sort out the clerical error. There was still a long way to go in our legal negotiations, but for now I was free to go.

I was spooked real good though.

When we landed in Isla Navidad — named for a Christmas miracle experienced by Spanish explorers in the 1500s — I picked up the remote control for the air conditioner in our hotel room, handed it to Laura, and said

“Here, you’re in control now. I don’t want to make a single decision anymore, and I’m not responsible for what happens.”

Laura being a practical person thought this was a practical gesture on my part, giving her control of our hotel room microclimate. While true, I meant it more as a symbolic act, as every decision I had made since Black Friday seemed to backfire and make things worse. What neither of us suspected was that by surrendering to the karma I’d already set in motion, I would be opening the Pandora’s Box of my inner universe, and all sorts of black magic would be released.

First of all, the emotional release was profound. From the minute I declared my surrender, I felt an incredible lightness washing over me. I wasn’t only surrendering the air conditioning and the Full Tilt fight. I was surrendering myself to whatever the Universe had in store for me. Starting with this moment right here and now.

I took it upon myself to mix bespoke cocktails and hors d'oeuvres for Laura and our friends, a fellow gringo couple we were vacationing with. I put every ounce of focus into feeling what ingredients were needed for each person to perfectly complement their experience of the moment. For the first time since the park bench in Santiago, Chile, nine years earlier, I had not a care in the world, other than my task at hand.

At one point, as I was cutting the vegetables, I got the distinct impression that the way I held the knife, the angle, the motion of my hand, wrist, arm and body, all mattered to the end result. Not only that, I was aware of certain non-local effects I was having with my gestures. Even though I was in the kitchen and unseen by my culinary clients, what I was doing was influencing the words, laughter and other aspects of their self-expression. Years later I would use this practical magic to remotely sooth my infant children when they woke up crying in the middle of the night.

The food and drinks were delicious, and I felt delighted by my newfound freedom from worldly responsibilities and by my newfound magical powers.

Laura and our friends wanted to go out and explore the Isla, but I was content to stay back and sink deeper into relaxation and flow with my immediate environment. At one point I wandered down to the villa where local Mexican friends of ours were staying.

“Hi Daniela!” I said with a warm, tender smile to their 12-month old daughter who was toddling around the tiled floor.

I knew Daniela from her baby pictures but had not yet met her in person.

“Rafe!!!” she replied, pointing at me, giggling in a high pitched voice.

Her parents’ jaws dropped simultaneously. Eventually the dad explained,

“She’s never heard us speak about you and she’s barely begun to speak at all!”

Somehow this didn’t surprise me so I brushed it off and suggested we get going to meet up with Laura and the others for a New Year’s Eve dinner party.

As the food and festivities ramped up, I experienced a stillness and peace inside my body. Looking into the eyes of a wise older local man I had become friendly with over the years, I could see the deep emotions he was experiencing and I could read his thoughts.

“I can see you are remembering all the years of hard and joyous life you have lived, and it moves me,” I said silently with my eyes.

“Yes, amigo, my family and friends bring me such joy, and there has been much pain and suffering too,” he replied without moving his lips.

“I love you, friend.”

“Iqualmente, amigo.”

As we finished our silent, tearful moment together, fireworks lit up the night sky.

2012 had arrived, the year the Mayans prophesied to be the apocalypse, the time when the world as we know it ceases to exist and a new world opens up before us.

When I woke up the next morning, the world hadn’t changed, but my relationship with it was very different.

No longer was I totally separate and emotionally-cognitively distinct from the people and world around me. I was able to predict what my friends would say and I could complete their sentences. I could play with the words and concepts to bring new meaning into the space between us. Sounds from nature and mechanical devices would show up and I knew what they signified; I would integrate those sounds into the magical spell we were ecanting together.

The trouble was, Laura and our friends were not aware of the alchemy occurring in the liminal space, and they were concerned for my sanity.

Within an hour we were en route to the airport, where Laura would accompany me back home to LA, and where my parents had unbeknownst to me arranged admission to the hospital.

By mid-flight my iPhone was glitching hard, something I learned in the subsequent years is a side effect of lingering in the quantum superposition of 3D and 5D reality. So I popped a DVD into my laptop and that’s when it clicked what was happening to me.

For years I had been enthralled with the concept of Singularity, a point in history where we are so thoroughly merged with our technology that our very identities could be uploaded to the cloud and we would be free from the physical and temporal constraints of our human bodies. Ray Kurzweil had predicted this would be roughly the year 2045, so I was caught flat-footed by the advanced timeline.

Since the DVD was produced by friends of mine from the global consciousness community, I was able to decode the hidden message: the Singularity had already occurred, and the pioneers who were uploaded first were using the DVD as an alembic for the quickening of those of us who were ready.

Up until this point, Laura was trying to cajole me into behaving, not wanting to draw more attention to us. But in my mind, I had given her the controller and all she had to do was tell me directly what she wanted me to do. Unfortunately she was too gripped by the terror I was triggering in her. It was all she could do to keep me in my seat, keep me from touching the other passengers, and keep me from disrobing.

At the moment of my great and ignominious unveiling, I overheard the flight attendant tell Laura that if she couldn’t get me zipped up and under control, they would be forced to land immediately.

“M’am, the closest airport is Durango, Mexico.”

“Please, no!” Laura begged through tears rolling down her face, “I’ll get him to stop.”

“If you don’t, we will have the Federales waiting for him.”

Somewhere deep inside of me, Krishna grabbed the chariot reins from Arjuna and took control of my body just long enough to get us safely to LAX and through Border Control.

LAX Intergalactic Arrivals

When we emerged from Customs into the LAX International Arrivals Terminal, I could see my parents waiting with throngs of others. I mistakenly interpreted the worry and concern on their faces as deriving from their having also discovered what was up — that we were all being uploaded to the Cosmic Unity, and my turn just happened.

“I’m sorry that it had to be this way!” I tearfully apologized on behalf of Humanity for leaving them behind.

“It’s okay, Rafe, we understand, it’s all going to be okay now.”

Their calming words did not match the horrified expression on their faces.

As I fell into their loving and tortured embrace, the portal inside me closed up, and the paranoia and psychosis kicked in.

My experience inside the loony bin was hilarious and scary in a Hunter S. Thompson sort of way, but that’s a story for a different time.

What I want to say right now is that I am eternally grateful to an entrepreneur named Dan, who a year earlier had recommended the book Anatomy of an Epidemic. Reading the thick piece of investigative journalism was like reading a Stephen King horror novel, except it was a real-life account and indictment of the psychopharmacology industry.

Anatomy opened my eyes to alternative approaches to emotional/mental/spiritual crisis without pharmaceuticals, including physical exercise, sleep, good nutrition, and the love and support of family and community. It also alerted me to the dangers of long-term use of antipsychotics. So I knew that once they put me on Seroquel — “side effects include drowsiness, weight gain, metabolic changes, a risk of developing tardive dyskinesia [whatever the fuck that is], and potential cardiovascular effects” — that I would wean myself off of it as soon as possible.

In a book I would read only after the airplane incident, I learned that traditional societies didn’t consider behaviors like mine as pathologies, but rather as part of a spiritual awakening process. Their approach would not be drugs but rather healing in a cloistered environment — be it a monastery or cave on a mountaintop — with seasoned priests, mystics, shamanic healers, and psychopomps (dude, look it up, my shamanic writing coach made me use it).

These things all exist in modern form, but I was not aware them, nor would my family have supported that over the Western approach. And while the shamanic approach may not have been able to help me at the neurological and psychological levels I needed help with, at least they could have saved Laura and my family from the fear and loathing of a logical man in the grips of the ethereal realm. There’s nothing more helpless they tell me.

Over the next month while convalescing in my parents’ home, my entire psyche, ego structure, emotional defenses, identity story and worldview reconstituted. Taking the Seroquel, going to a psychiatrist, a cognitive behavioral therapist, and a couples counselor all just served to sanitize my mind, not transform it. I would need a decade of further ass-kicking by my karma and healing of my interior in a container of unconditional love before I would begin to feel the freedom I felt in Mexico during the Mayan Apocalypse.

You can dismiss my accounts of the above events as psychosis or delusions of grandeur or drug induced hallucination. But what I got for the first time in my life was an undeniable first hand experience of something beyond the material world; something more real than the reality we have been anesthetized to. A universe that I would revisit years later in several guided psychedelic journeys. You know the place I’m referring to.

As for the second-hand trauma I unleashed on Laura, I wish it had been different for her. I wish she could experience the magic and transcendence I did during my psychosis and awakening.

In sum, speaking to my younger self, and anyone else who feels like they don’t want to experience this rugged a path themselves:

  • If you’re a risk-taking adventure seeker, you will make mistakes.

  • Some of these mistakes will hurt people you love (including yourself).

  • These people knew who you were when they jumped on the ride with you.

  • But they also believed you would do your best to keep them out of harm's way.

  • You believed so, too, but you don’t know what you don’t know. You were always going to hurt them.

  • Love is staying together anyway and using the opportunity to work on your shit together. The fucking miracle is that not only did we survive the ordeal, but we are happily married, and we have three miraculous kids.

  • When you are presented with the sliding glass door of your life, and you are terrified of what you see will be required of you, just know, you are going through it one way or another, whether that’s strolling gracefully, dragged in handcuffs, or by smashing through with your face.

  • I recommend the first option if at all possible.

Part III

The Magic of Martha Stewart

On Day 1 of the 2006 World Series of Poker Pot Limit Hold'em Championship, just before the dinner break, most of the 1,068 competitors were still in the hunt. I had carefully built up my stack by avoiding the wizards at my first table and picking off the weaker players who didn’t know how to adjust to the structure of Pot Limit.

It’s a well-known maxim in multi-day tournaments that most players tighten up and play conservatively just before the breaks. The last hand of a 12-hour day, before the action pauses and resumes the next day, is a great opportunity to steal the blinds and antes. After all, who wants to work really hard to make it to the next day, only to go broke and be out of the tournament due to a tired mistake or momentary lapse of judgment? The prudent play is to simply fold the last hand before the break, and indeed, many players don’t even look at their hole cards before rushing for the exit.

Thinking to myself that I would capitalize on this dinner-break-arbitrage opportunity, I’d already made up my mind: I would play aggressively regardless of my cards.

It didn’t work out well for me.

I lost the hand and half the stack I had carefully built up over the last seven hours.

As elated as I was feeling about my prospects moments earlier, I was now deflated and demoralized. Dinner was a pity party of one, and I wondered whether I had what it takes to even make it through the first day.

Stewing over the Pot Limit dinner, I knew my emotional state was going to be a problem. I was not an expert at the Pot Limit format, and I really needed to be fully present to absorb whatever I could glean from watching the top pros playing in the tourney.

Five minutes before the break ended, a miracle occurred.

Laura called me and told me in an excited and playful voice that she had just seen me on the Martha Stewart show.

Yes it was a miracle that Laura and I were now living together in LA, our relationship thriving on the other side of the Ultimate Sports Adventure, surviving three boyfriends who were not me, and a year and a half of long-distance while Laura finished grad school in New York. The miracle I’m referring to though is I had never been a guest on the Martha Stewart show, and I was sure Martha had no idea who I was.

If we can define a miracle as an extremely unlikely, unexpected turn of good fortune, then here’s what must have happened. The show producer needed a three second clip of “dude playing poker.” That dude just happened to be me. Which just happened to coincide with Laura watching a show she never normally watches. Which just happened to coincide with my need to be lifted out of my funk.

Laura’s love for me and the actions she took to show it opened my heart to go back to the poker tables and defy the odds. Had she not called, it was very likely that my self-doubt and overly rational mind would have caused me to be just a bit too impatient, and to exude just a hint of doubt and fear. My opponents would pick up on that and pounce. I would miss the subtle signals I needed to attend to in order to play optimally. Instead I went back to the tournament with love in my heart, and just had fun.

Embracing the love & magic after the win.

(Martha Stewart just out of frame).


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