Starting with a laugh… as I walked West Miller Street close to my apartment, I watched a greyish blue Chevy Traverse round the deceptively sharp curve to approach me. It was speeding of course. I walked along the right-hand side of the street on the grass. As the vehicle approached, I observed the older woman driving and notice the approaching speed bump. It’s not high profile. Had she simply driven over it, there would have been no laugh. Instead, she braked hard to avoid going over it at 35+ mph. The younger woman in the passenger seat didn’t appear to be wearing a seatbelt. She was turned sideways in the seat, drinking a presumptive soda through her straw. As the driver braked, the passenger went forward unexpectedly. I couldn’t quite see it when it happened, but she squeezed her styrofoam cup as she was jerked forward. The passenger bounced off the dashboard. Weirdly, both the driver and the passenger looked at me simultaneously as I walked and laughed. The passenger started pantomiming her displeasure toward the driver. She wildly pointed down and across her lap. I assume she was baptized in soda. I shrugged my shoulders when the driver looked at me again, having come to a full stop a couple of feet past the speed bump. When I looked back at the vehicle a few seconds later to note the make and model, I laughed again at the fact that it was wrongly named the “Traverse.” It certainly didn’t this afternoon.
Now I want to add another speed bump on top of the authorized one and watch as speeders coming from Woodland school hit it without warning. I could give it the name “Speed Wall” instead of a speed bump.
When I exited the convenience store a few minutes later, I drank my diet soda and crushed ice with enthusiasm. A nun dressed in all white entered as I held the door open for her. One of the regulars who is also quite the scam storyteller asked me if I wanted to buy some weed. With a very serious face, I said, “Yes. I need five pounds of it if you have it.” The look on his face was priceless. “Five pounds? How long will that last you?” Not missing a beat, I replied, “Oh, I’d say about nine or ten days. Can you hook me up?” He shook his head, still not realizing I was joking. “No, I can’t get anywhere near that amount!” I told him I was very disappointed in his inventory problem. I walked away, shaking my head, pretending to be concerned. I didn’t look back. I didn’t dare. There is no way I would have been able to avoid laughing.
At the intersection with Onyx Coffee, I watched as drivers carelessly drove across the crosswalk and ignored the road markings. Because I was feeling clever, I crouched down and pointed my fingers on the concrete, pretending I was a sprinter about to take off across the crosswalk. My eyes were focused on the red indicator across the street. As I did so, a white Chevy pickup pulled all the way across the crosswalk in front of me and stopped. His intention was to make a right turn, even if he had to block pedestrians to do so. I walked in front of his vehicle. Instead of pointing at the crosswalk or the sign across the street, I instead pointed at the grill of his truck. “Oh my god!” I said. And kept pointing. “You need to see this,” I told him, continuing to point. He put his truck in park and exited his truck to see what I was gesticulating toward on the front of his truck. As he did, I walked across the street and kept going. I didn’t look back that time, either. I wondered if he might get angry and return to curse at me. He’d have to make at least TWO more turns to head back in my direction, though.
When I walked two streets past my apartment, I watched a man climb inside the dumpster on the corner. He was having trouble, so I told him to use the truck fork holes as steps. He must have been a newbie to the dumpster scene. I didn’t talk to him long, but it turns out he has a decent job in the evening. He’s been scavenging and reworking furniture and different items. His truck was parked several feet away in the apartment parking lot. He also told me something interesting: that he often found construction workers’ beer in there. They often use it to hide their alcohol while they’re on the job site. He told me that last week he found a bicycle that required only a few dollars of parts – and that he sold it for $100. I wished him luck and told him that he should take a look in the dumpster at my apartment on Sunday afternoon. He thanked me.
I didn’t see another Traverse as I crossed the speed bump again.
“Someone” started an art project on the north fence. 🙂 I fixed as much of the fence as I could, using 200+ hex fence screws, by hand, without power tools. Those are painted floor tiles, backed with buffering felt pads to allow for slight movement and expansion. I’m not done yet. Is anything really ever done? It’s been amusing to watch the passersby and neighbors take a double-take as they walk past or drive up. I have 100+ feet to use if I want. Is it art? I don’t know. But it is colorful and a much-needed dose of it for this pale place. Now that it’s spring, I’m adding color everywhere. Including a super-secret project I’ve been doing incrementally. The super-secret project requires a little bit of stealth, as it’s not an authorized art display. But it sticks out like a blazing pair of pants if you look in the right direction.
Last week, I made an effort to wear my FitBit more consistently. I fell short of 160,000 steps Monday-Friday. It’s somewhere around 72 miles. I might have overshot my competition a bit. 🙂 My previous closest rival wouldn’t join my workweek hustles this week. The whole point for me is to challenge myself. But it does work much better if someone is nipping at my heels through the week.
My heart of glass beat both brittle and warm this morning. Almost beyond my control, I found myself putting on my wireless headphones and walking to work. Despite the cold at 4 a.m. As I passed Pack Rat and the reflective pond, I looked up to see a shooting star falling and heading Northeast.
“If I had only known the last time would be the last time, I would have put off all the things I had to do…” It was pure synchronicity that the song Lynette had recommended to me was playing. Some songs resonate differently, and especially so when I’m the sole occupant of the entire trail.
I thought of Willie, Nelly, Barb and Barbara, Mike, Jimmy, Buck, Bobby Dean, and Carolyn. What they would do to be able to feel cold and their fingers tingle, looking up at the streak of illumination as it fell.
I could not hear the mockingbird but I knew it was out there, waiting for first light. My pace quickened. As the steps accumulated into the thousands, I no longer noticed the cold. I sang and whispered to the mockingbird.
My brittle heart unaccompanied on the cement path. Feeling happy. And thinking of all the people who no longer have the chance to feel the cold.
I hit 10,000 steps by 6:00 a.m. One of my Fitbit competitors had to walk about 25 miles to catch up late last night.
Someone accused me of feeling superior for having lost a hundred pounds. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t be or become who they’re supposed to be. I admit I was very evangelical about my approach to weight loss. In part, because I did every bit of it only by changing my diet. Almost anything can be accomplished if you commit to increments and keep the promise to yourself that you’re going to do better. Part of the conundrum of life is that when you excel in one area, you tend to let other areas deteriorate. Each of us has limited time and focus and it is so easy to let the grind of the day distract us.
If I can ever figure out a way to channel my obsessive commitment to anything I set my mind to, I imagine that I will drive people crazy.
On second thought, I probably do that already. It is so easy to let criticism from people that don’t have you or your best interests in mind get in your head. Mine is too crowded to do more than give such criticism a passing inspection.
My “Ask” project both failed and succeeded. The truth of it is that you can’t control another person’s response – only your own. I wrote that it’s never wrong to ask; the bigger sin is to have an ‘ask’ and remain silent.
“Silence is the gravedigger for enthusiasm, love, humor, and happiness.” – X
Ask Ask for what you want or desire. If you don’t, it is a certainty you’ll never get it. Ask of life and ask of people. The answer, though bitter or not what you sought… It’s at least the truth. Everything starts from there
PS I do mourn the failure. . .
I woke up at 11:30, safe and happy. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I think multiple things kept me awake, one of which was the unusual trip I took to LR to see my sister Carolyn. Her house was built in 1939 and updated before she bought it. It’s a beautiful house, one she’s made comfortable and homey. Like many people, I think she doesn’t see it for what it is. It’s truly something to be proud of, like her life. Although I don’t have a clue how she juggles knowing so many people. She could run for state senate based on the number of friends and acquaintances she keeps up with. Though she will kill me for saying so, she’s fiercely single. But she needs a lot of hugs, preferably from someone really cute and financially capable. Don’t tell her I said so, though. . .
The Target Rule For Women: If you love Target, you can never be truly happy with a man who hates it. . . I got out of bed instead of laying there. My cat Güino did his part, nuzzling me and demanding more treats. So I made him a concoction of juice from cat food paste. He doesn’t eat the actual meaty part. He likes to just lap up the mess I make by compressing extra water into the paste. I’d mock him but I eat some weird things too. We all do. Last week, I made the mistake of making sardine juice. Güino loved it. One afternoon as I sat in the office chair, I turned to watch him hurl a stream of sardine juice across my newly-washed comforter. I could see a look of satisfied amusement on his face as he finished. I’m sure of it. The smell reminded me of a late-night bowling alley after hot-dog and free beer hour. Bed Bath & Beyond does NOT make any candles scented this way. . . The Reg Flag Maintenance Rule For Women: if your man spends more than five minutes on his hair, he’s going to be ridiculously high maintenance about all the things that matter to you or annoy you, too. . .
I still do a few hundred pushups a day, without going crazy like I once did. My cousin was right; doing them made my life more manageable and better. Over the last few months, a couple of people have been energized by my advice to start doing them, too, especially when they realize that they can spend a couple of minutes a few times a day exercising and avoid the hassle of driving or being at the gym – if they choose. When I got my hair cut the last time, a younger barber was fascinated and I sold him on trying them for six weeks. One of the things I explained to him was that he could start with “female” pushups if he needed to. (I also convinced him that he could do ten pushups at a time, multiple times a day. Before long, he’d be doing sets of 25-50, if he wished to, and even between clients.) Male pushups do work more of the lower body, but if upper body fatigue is reached by doing the allegedly easier “female” pushups, they are extremely effective to build upper body strength. It’s a myth that they aren’t great for your physical well-being, much like the mistaken belief that walking isn’t an amazing way to stay in shape. So many people think we have to run, do a lot of cardio, or stress our bodies needlessly to be in shape. “Female” pushups and walking aren’t as flashy as their counterparts but they do result in transformational physical effects if you make them a habit. Any small applied change to behavior becomes a habit. The Law of Increments prevails. . . “To a dog, all food is dog food.” To which I’d add, in the same way, if a person won’t remove their personal filter from what they see in life, circumstances will never change. “All is yellow to a jaundiced eye,” though not my quote, is apt. . . Profile Picture Rule: if the person doesn’t have a visible and updated profile picture, swipe away if you’re looking for a reliable partner to date. It is the minimum level of honesty and telegraphs their ability to be open. Argue all you want; those people have infinite time and access to both phone and their accounts. . . One of the pitfalls of social media is that people don’t use it to expound on the spectrum of their experiences. You see a thirsty photo or one of a big moment and conclude it’s an honest representation of their life. You know from experience it’s probably not. I continue to learn it’s definitely not. It’s both a comfort and a curse, as perverse as that might sound reading it. . .
I went out on the landing around 1 a.m. Güino accompanied me, of course. My solar lanterns had charged well yesterday for the first day of spring but only one still held a dim charge. I heard a strident voice clearly. The person was upset and ranting. I made a cup of strong coffee and knocked on the apartment door. The voice went silent. To my surprise, the door opened. “Here’s a good cup of coffee. Do you need to talk and have someone listen?” The person was astonished and said, “Thanks for the coffee. I’m sorry you could hear me. I didn’t know.” I waited a couple of seconds before saying, “I’m sorry y’all are struggling. It can be better if you want it to.” The person nodded. “Reset it if you can,” I said. “I hope your night goes better.” There’s no moral here. But I do hope they read the inscription on the cup I designed and had made: “Choose your hard.” It’s hard to change but it’s equally hard to continue navigating waters that always capsize your boat. I hope I get the coffee cup back. It’s one of my favorites. . . Yesterday, I was delighted to discover that my internet provider had decided to put the previous tenant’s $500 delinquent bill on MY account. You can imagine the creative phone call(s) and comments I made. It seemed to be a disservice to not respond with humor and sarcasm. The person who lived in my apartment before me not only trashed the apartment but succeeded in ruining her credit. The mistake to my bill was supposedly fixed but I do wonder at the imperfect process that allowed it to happen in the first place. To say something positive along with my negative, I was shocked and delighted to see that I somehow qualified for a $30 monthly credit on my internet bill. I had zero expectations I would be able to. . . During my trip to central Arkansas, I got a ding to my windshield as I exited Conway. When I got in my car yesterday afternoon, the ding had spread to a 4″ crack. I was going to epoxy it today; now I’ll have to hope a window service can drill it out enough to repair without needing a new windshield. I guess that’s what I get for making cracks all the time; it was inevitable that one appear in my window. I get dings all the time driving through central Arkansas. I should probably refrain from driving through so many ditches. That’s where all the interesting stuff is, though. . . The two and a half hours of sleep I managed before midnight will have to suffice for this day. I shouldn’t complain. So many people suffer worse. I’ve been lucky and I can’t forget it. That is the worst kind of entitlement, that of failing to see blessings. . . “If it is important enough to you, you will find a way. If it is not, you will find an excuse.” Not my quote but resoundingly true. . . It’s going to rain hard later today, which is great. I cleaned more of the parking lot and landings yesterday – by hand, no less, wrenching up detritus and trash that the landlords failed to clean from last fall. A couple of weeks ago, I cleaned up 23 bags of leaves and trash. The rain will do its magic and cleanse the remaining residue. If it isn’t chilly, I’m going to stand out in the rain like a lunatic this afternoon and get drenched. My hope is that it will do its metaphorical work on me, too, taking away the residue of self-doubt and discomfort in my life. . . . .
Words of unexpected encouragement from a while back:
“You’re not too much. You’ve just dealt with others who don’t have the capacity for you. Somewhere, that ‘extra’ that you give is exactly what will fill someone with happiness. Really, you’re going to reduce yourself? How’s that for a slap in the face, X?”
I decided to post it because recently, I explained the 10% Rule to someone who was unfamiliar with it.
We focus our attention on perceived defects about ourselves. But what if instead of trying to change those things, we embraced them and actively sought out people who think those alleged defects are enhancements?
Instead of fighting our nature, find someone who looks at us with a little bit of fire and awe? No hair? Big nose? Odd hands? Love handles? Weird feet? So what. The world is an awfully big place filled with a variety of people.
All of us would be so much happier if we could swing for the fences for someone who appreciates us with our defects.
“Defects become invisible where enthusiasm resides.” – X Its counterpart is this: “Faults are thick where love is thin.”
A sense of humor is the number one key for me. Followed by wit and a quick smile. That wit and quick smile telegraph so much about a person to the world. Things are going to happen – but such an outlook glides past the obstacles without getting stuck. Because I’m a comforter, I want comfort when I’m stressed – and I want to freely give the same. It’s impossible to be myself when someone else isn’t reciprocal during the tough times.
The other thing? Enthusiasm for my presence and the ability to express it with their hands and heart.
I know, the lightning of hypocrisy may very well strike me. That’s okay. I’m mortal in the worst way. I fought a losing battle with wanting attention until I realized I didn’t want to fight for it anymore. It was the worst kind of agony trying to put it into practice.
When I was 20, gray hair set in. About that time, I adopted a short, almost military-style haircut. For convenience. My hair is one of the least important things about me. Now that some of my hair is permanently gone, I don’t chase getting it back or hiding the salt and pepper. Far from it. It’s like me new scar running up my abdomen. I own it and as perverse as it sounds, I’m glad in some ways that it happened.
Now that I lost weight, my sternum is odd. It was one of the first things that emerged from beneath my fat. I used to lie in bed and touch it, both surprised and tickled. As the rest of my body caught up, it tickles me that my sternum has that ‘jut’ in it. Below it, I have a weird connection from the surgery that obscures my stomach muscles. I’ll never get rid of it without surgery. But I would never want to. I don’t care if the whole world sees it.
For some, I am too much, too needy, too something.
The 10% rule continues to tell me that I need only one person to find me to not be “too much.” . .
“There is no finish line. Which makes me wish I’d brought toilet paper.” – The Internet
I haven’t been running much. Not even when chased. When I have, I’ve limited myself to one mile, usually at a ridiculous pace, or sprinting up stairs until I couldn’t feel my face. Weeks ago, I gave it everything I had in an attempt to run a sub-6 minute mile and missed by a few seconds. Today, because I’m stupid, I gave it one more shot: I thought for certain I had failed again. To my surprise, I finished in five minutes and forty-nine seconds. I’m glad – because it allows me to cross this nonsense off my list! I’m going back to running-walking. The good news is that new research reinforces what we already suspected: there is a ‘sweet spot’ for exercise. Beyond that point, it turns out that you actually reduce your life expectancy instead of increasing it. I’m pretty sure my life flashed in front of my eyes at about five minutes. Everything in moderation – even chocolate chip cookies or peanut cluster bites. But at least I can say I did it once as a 54-year old.
“Running your mouth doesn’t count as cardio.” But it should. I’d be a marathoner for sure. .
Disclaimer: This post doesn’t touch on eating disorders, serious mental health concerns, or medical conditions with which people struggle.
There will always be sickness, death, job loss, or other surprises. Prolonged periods of stress or anxiety. There will never be a perfect time to start your journey. You might as well open the door now and step outside into your goal. Just five minutes a day to start, or one small habit. By way of personal example? Stop assuming that just because you open it, it’s a single serving. Yes, I’m talking to you, giant bag of family-size Doritos or large pizza.
Hard truth up front: dieting doesn’t work. Keto, low-carb, supplements. Why: anything you do that isn’t permanent isn’t going to work. You will lose weight doing them. Statistically, though, you’re going to go back to a normal diet. And when you do? Bam! Thighs and stomach again, and probably larger than before. You will feel helpless and as if it’s impossible. Until you accept the fact that the first part is the hardest, you probably won’t succeed.
If you’re a heroin addict, you can do a little bit of coke instead. You’ll get over heroin. You’re also stuck with a cocaine habit. You’re replaced one negative for another. You are in theory a little better off. Food is the same way. You can’t avoid it and it’s ridiculously delicious. If you want to be the weight you want to be, you have to experiment and figure out a different way to eat. It’s that simple. Any other method will not work long-term.
You do not need gyms or weird, complicated eating methods. You can get to the weight you want by learning to eat differently. Choose your hard. It’s going to be hard to adapt. But if you can learn new eating habits, it’s sustainable.
If you need to do something extra for a while to get a taste of success, do that. It doesn’t matter what ‘that’ is if it’s temporary. Just be prepared to shift to another gear when it’s time to try to eat differently whenever you stop doing whatever program or supplement you’ve been using. Metaphorically speaking, if you have to do a little coke to replace the heroin, so be it. You’re moving toward progress. Stop worrying about doing it all at once or if you experience setbacks. One day or one week isn’t your life.
Many people wrote to me on my blog, telling me that my approach to weight loss was the wrong way to do it. Some of my posts were read an incredible number of times. To their surprise, I told them, “Yes, I know.” There was always a ‘but’ from me. I know my way wasn’t the right way. It worked for me, though. And it didn’t require expensive supplements, detailed metrics or counting, or any equipment at all. All in all, that’s about the most basic approach anyone could possibly take. Did I mention it worked for me? 🙂
When I started, I wasn’t trying to lose weight anymore. I was DOING it no matter what. For me, that required a 180 compared to everything I’d tried before. Different results demanded different efforts. I’ll never forget that early October day when I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “I’m over this!”
I KNEW I would succeed. So much of my ability to eat healthily was simply a reflection of almost external willpower. I started experimenting with food and quickly dropped all pretense of counting calories, protein, or anything else. I just ate “healthy” food almost all the time. I used certain foods to offset the need to feel full, even when I was eating things that allegedly weren’t good for weight loss. The idea of bad or good food is mostly stupid to me now. It all is dependent on how much and how often you consume it. It’s possible to eat entirely normal food if you’re diligent. I ate half a container of coffee gelato yesterday. That’s where I knew I wouldn’t succeed if I started eating a lot of smaller portions of what was my previous diet. So, I skipped past that part and stayed firm on my eating. For me, I knew that portion control of the foods I love would not ‘get me there.’ It was a certainty, much in the way a cocaine addict doesn’t just use less cocaine to break his or her habit. I had to punch my diet right in the throat. So I did. I know it’s not the optimal method to lose weight or to keep it off long-term.
Note: I do take fiber supplements and drink a strong protein drink in the morning. They worked wonders for me. I resisted the science of them both but discovered they are essential. At least for me.
I don’t mean to sound boastful about knowing I’d lose the weight. I knew I’d get down as low as I’d been in decades; 150 wasn’t on my radar. The battle once the weight is off only really begins once you’ve reached your goal. Entropy and laziness tend to creep into everyone’s intentions. Food is good 365 days a year, no matter the hour. Pizza? Forget about it.
As for the rapidity and calorie restriction of my chosen diet, in the back of my mind, I compared it to bariatric surgery without the surgery. A friend of mine found success out of necessity going that route. All of those procedures demand severe restrictions. Even so, a large percentage of those using it gain the weight back long-term. That’s pretty much the case across the board with substantial weight loss. I gave myself a year benchmark; I surpassed that in October. No matter what comes at me, I know that my weight loss issue was 100% mental for decades. My success proves it.
If you’ve lost the weight before and gained it back – don’t worry. You’re still alive and can do it again. The only thing stopping you is your own mind. It doesn’t matter how many times you fail if you ultimately succeed. Your mistakes don’t matter as much as your destination.
Having such a huge success on my part would be foolish indeed if I let myself choose the wrong hard and fall back. I knew that if I didn’t get the weight off ferociously, I might lose my nerve before I ever had a chance to succeed at it for the first time in my adult life.
I didn’t add ANY exercise to my routine. It was all based on calorie reduction. After several weeks of eating differently, I had to confront the truth: I’d been eating way more horrible food (and more often) than I believed I had. And that my weight was much more intensely a psychological problem than a physical one.
In short, I was the problem.
In June, I got addicted to pushups, a habit I loved until my emergency surgery. After surgery, I started with dumbbells. I’ve increased the weight twice since I started. Although I do them very carefully, I do a couple of hundred pushups a day now to complement the weights. Looking back, I can’t tell you how important the routine of pushups had become to control my anxiety. When I could no longer do them because of the huge surgical wound on my abdomen, I recognized that I’d lost one of my most successful stress management tools. Not being able to do them had a direct impact on my weird anxiety levels. Walking and more running have helped.
I appreciate everyone who told me to be careful. I really do. Equally true is that being careful won’t guarantee that I’ll be healthy or safe. That’s another part of my anxiety; even though I’ve always known it due to some nasty life surprises (which we’ve all experienced), the emergency surgery happening at the highest point of my physical success knocked the wind out of me emotionally. The message that I’m mortal no matter what shape I’m in was received loud and clear. I don’t need another such lesson. I get it. It’s just a variation of the quote, “You can do everything right and still fail.” So if perfection can still yield failure, perhaps it is okay to accept the challenge to mix it up and try it your own way?
If you do nothing, you’ll be stuck where you don’t want to be. But if you try? Maybe you will succeed. If you get motivated or pissed off enough, I know you will. The crazy secret of discipline and motivation? You do it anyway, even though you are not motivated. And you repeat that bs until it is a habit.
Recently, walking out of work, someone who hadn’t seen me in a couple of months said, “Wow, you’ve kept the weight off!” He was enthusiastic and encouraging when he said it. He’s seen so many people revert to their old habits because of his job. I told him that I was never going past my setpoint again, no matter what. It popped out of my mouth with confidence, probably too much confidence.
But that is where all of y’all come in. You all have eyes – you can see what I’m eating and if I start to forget the lesson of maintaining this success. We don’t have an acceptable way to lovingly and effectively tell someone that their weight is a problem. That in itself is a problem.
I’m giving you permission to call me out if I start sliding. I can’t imagine that I will – but I couldn’t have seen my current life even a year ago. So anything is possible.
If I can turn a switch on in my head and do this, anyone else who is committed to doing so can do it, too. You can’t do it without changing the amount of food you eat. You can do it without driving to the gym or keeping detailed food logs or buying supplements that won’t work long-term. You do it by deciding. You can still eat a LOT of food. We’re all smart people yet make this food-weight relationship so complicated. It’s why there are so many books and experts arguing about how best to do it. Most of them are selling you something.
Exercise has its own rewards and benefits. I highly recommend it. But science proves you don’t have to exercise to lose weight. You just have to choose less and better fuel for your body.
I’m not selling anything.
You can do it if you really want to.
Take it from a random internet weirdo. There’s nothing special or secret in my approach. Nike already stole the “Just do it” quote.
My favorite belt is older than a forgotten box of toenails. I’ve added 16″ of extra holes to it and cut it off twice. I have had a new one hanging in my closet for the day when I would be ready. Much to my shock, I had to drill eight extra inches of holes in it for it to fit properly. For any of you who are waiting for the new year to start your New Year’s resolutions, I hope you will take this tired old failure’s words of advice: you can do it without the gym, without upending your life, or feeling like a failure on your bad days. All it takes is a clear vision of what you want in life. You can pay the price and you can do it incrementally. With the right mindset, you’ll get little victories that add up. You will also have days where you feel like nothing is going right. If you start the journey and feel yourself waning, reach out to me. One of my superpowers is that I am a motivator. Love yourself and find a way to give yourself the opportunities to be who you want to be. If you’re already happy with who you are: be weird and let the fire breathe from your mouth so that people will know who you are.
One of my favorite things was my Die Hard ventilation shaft Xmas ornament, one I made. It even had a hole in the back of the fake ‘shaft’ to illuminate John McClane’s outstretched lighter as he crawled through. Because one of my neighbors is a Die Hard fan, I walked over and gave it to him. His face lit up. Even more in the Christmas spirit, as much as he was surprised and happy, he said, “Oh man, my mom LOVES Bruce Willis.” Without hesitation, I said, “Give it to her then and pay it forward. We can’t stand between Bruce Willis and your mom’s infatuation.” My neighbor’s son celebrated his first birthday yesterday. I’d already given him the decorated and painted ornamental box I made, for when his son is old enough to put his special things inside. I love imagining some future day when someone sees something I made and thinks about the randomness of strangers. And I think all the time about much I misjudged those neighbors when I was first around them. I like to be surprised and reminded that appearances can be so deceiving.
In my personal life, I am struggling so hard with another variant of “Choose your hard.” I’m stuck at the nexus of a decision that it is intolerably emotional. My therapist told me once to imagine that if I had died instead of surviving my emergency surgery. And from that vantage point, how hard would such a decision seem from there? She’s right. Have you heard this saying: “If you’re okay with something you shouldn’t be okay with, you’re not okay.” Experience tells me that it’s true but wisdom tells me that I’m weak. Such self-knowledge is not something that warms me.
Yesterday, I gave everything I had to try to run a mile in under six minutes. I didn’t quite make it; I missed by six seconds. Though I failed and for the last half of the mile I was sure I was going to make it, I look at six seconds and know it’s a stupidly small amount. P.S. My heart was trip hammering so hard I could s-e-e it beating through my shirt like a drum.
One of the advantages of living upstairs is well… the stairs. Between sets of exercises, I can go out and do ten floors at a time. It doesn’t take any time at all to accumulate a LOT of floors and stairs. I like to watch the law of increments add up. My goal is to do at least 50 flights of stairs by 9 a.m.
One of my favorite people recently compared me to another person and described us both as obsessive-compulsive about goals. She’s not wrong at all. This Fitbit accentuates it because I can see it in real-time.
Do y’all know what “you by default” means? It’s used by some interviewers now and it helps you figure out where not only you are in your journey, but also to measure other people in your life.
You By Default
A lot of people haven’t heard this line of thinking regarding behavior, usually involving exercise and sometimes healthier eating. It was powerful the first time it was explained to me by someone who walks the walk.
If exercise takes a lot of effort – or adds procrastination or stress to your routine – it’s not you by default. It’s something you’re doing rather than what you simply do. If you miss a day or several, it isn’t important in the scheme of things. You’ll go back naturally to it and without stressing that you might not ever return. All of us have weird and surprising enthusiasm and commitment cycles in every aspect of our life. Exercise. Diet. Love. Irritability. Dark chocolate.
If you need willpower and constant self-talk to avoid eating chips at 10 p.m. or fast food twice a day, it’s not you by default.
“You by default” becomes your natural process, one that doesn’t require a lot of cognition or secondary support to maintain. You’re active because you are an active person. You eat healthier because you are a healthier eater. You behave kindly, well, because you ARE kind. You’ve internalized natural or learned behaviors. It is possible.
You show love and lovingkindness because it’s “you by default.”
Find a way to become whatever goal or attribute you want in your life. It’s now a part of you, never to be stripped away or requiring intangible willpower. It is a type of discipline turned to automatic.
Whatever it is that you want to do or become, practice. Even if you don’t know the vocabulary to describe it. If you can overcome the natural reluctance slope that allows new behavior to become permanent, you will find that you can do this in other areas of your life, too. You will have shifted your default.
It’s also interesting from an interpersonal point of view. If people haven’t shifted their internal values, their behavior isn’t their default. They’ll revert almost every time and abandon their attempts to change. It’s not impossible, but it is a rarity.
I’m a terrible runner with a lot of enthusiasm. Before my surgery, I ran 5 miles non-stop just to see if I could do it. I did survive. At least I think I did. A 6-minute mile is considered a benchmark for fast recreational runners. There’s no way I am going to succeed. BUT… this morning I am going to give it literally everything I’ve got and see how to close to six minutes I can get. It’s not the smartest goal.
This is one of a dozen or so parts of my “reset” from a few weeks ago.
I’m not a fan of Kohls at all. But twice this year, I’ve found deals that were amazing. Yesterday, I found my first pair of performance shoes. After all the byzantine discounts, they cost $25. I kept using the excuse of quality shoes as a reason to put off my first 6-minute attempt.
As yesterday, lightning and rain aside, everything is an easy excuse.
If my friend can run a marathon at 62 and run 18 miles on his first day of training, maybe my self-challenge doesn’t seem so impossible. It’s the attempt that is important to me. Time is short and I can’t count on tomorrow to be there for me if I procrastinate further. Even if I fail, I’ll probably always remember the cold December morning before Xmas that I gave it my all.
So, today is the day. My Fitbit probably needs a defibrillator function as my heart rate climbs. If you see me lying on the trail, just walk past. Think of it as performance art!
I will survive.
Either way, this is going to be interesting.
Every race in life is really against oneself.
P.S. My Jesus/Zach Galifianakis picture pretty much says it all. .