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. .
I don’t know if this tip will help any of you, but surprisingly, it’s worked exceptionally well for me. When I was learning how to deescalate a fight and/or end it violently and quickly, the trainer told me of a trick he recommends to some clients if they work out at home and need to “crunch” their time and focus. Everyone gets distracted. Food. Pets. Kids. As Seen on TV commercials.
I laughed when the trainer told me because it echoes what I tend to do before sleep. Most nights, I put the song “Save Your Tears” by The Weeknd on a one-hour repeat on my Alexa. Not that anyone asked, but I discovered that I’ve also developed the habit of putting my teddy bear laterally across my stomach and surgery scar. It took me several nights of falling asleep that way to REALIZE I was doing it. I’ve done it so many times now that my subconscious is etched by the groove of the song. It’s rare that it doesn’t push me over the edge into dreamland. I fully expect to hear the song in the car one day and then find myself upside down in a holler somewhere, after an impromptu nap on the highway.
The trick he told me is to find a motivational song and put it on repeat whenever I want to crunch my time and do my sets with shorter rest intervals – without getting distracted by the million things to do. Since I’m a Rocky fan, I chose a remix of “Rocky Going The FN Distance Construct Remix.” If the song is still playing, it prompts and reminds me to stay moving and focused on the intervals instead of lolly-gagging and letting time stretch and get away from me. I used Audacity on my computer to truncate the ending unnaturally; the sudden ending always triggers me to recognize that I’m supposed to be focused. And then the song starts again.
It works for me. Years ago, when I was in 9th grade and started running, “Rocky” ran in my head a lot. It’s silly, of course. Now, if I feel myself fading as I run, I put the same remix on and find myself sailing.
I wish life had that same sort of soundtrack to kick us in the ass and keep us on point for our goals and betterment.
I stayed up last night walking the town instead of sleeping. I did manage almost two hours of rest. The cold was a perverse distraction and relief as I walked without music, phone, or Fitbit. For whatever reason, my energy level was high despite the lack of sleep. I went running this afternoon, thinking of my brother Mike. I couldn’t help but be nostalgic about his absence. It motivated me to run like the wind, thinking of us when we were younger and when I started running out of the blue in 9th grade when we lived in Tontitown.
Wearing my lucky red ripshirt, I ran for him and for all the life he is missing out on. Though I love all manner of dreary weather, the sun was high today and I ran through the streets lined with countless apartments. Every time I thought I couldn’t run more, I reminded myself that Mike would love to be alive and out there with me if only he could have conquered his addiction.
There were a lot of people out and about today. I waved to most of them and wished anyone who could hear me a “Merry Xmas.” A guy near the E-Z Mart a few blocks away responded unexpectedly with an “Eff Xmas!” as if he meant it. I quipped back, “I’d like to, but the dinner I’d have to buy would be expensive.” He looked at me quizzically and just shook his head. A couple of days ago, a woman told me, “I don’t celebrate Xmas.” I said, “That’s okay. You might not be married, but you can wish your friend a happy anniversary, can’t you?” She was unamused by my quick wit.
Today, in addition to hitting my highest recorded number of steps, I’m going to break my “floors” record, too just to be arrogant. I try to get 50+ a day. I’m only 30,000 steps ahead of my nearest Workweek Hustle challenger, not counting the unrecorded 9 miles from last night. 🙂
Apart from all that, I was grateful that I woke up able to run, walk, and climb stairs. It’s not something I take for granted and especially with all the energy I unexpectedly woke up with for the day. Anxiety did grip me for a bit – which is always a surprise when I feel like I’m energetic. The workday beat that out of me.
I sit at my desk, watching my backward clock tick away the seconds, minutes, hours – all of which can’t be taken for granted. Mike would be nodding in agreement.
Well, since I’m burning 3500-4000 calories a day 5 days a week, I might have to have pizza and a banana for breakfast, ice cream and salad for lunch, and pie and broccoli for supper. I haven’t decided what to eat for second breakfast, brunch, or second supper. The fascinating thing is that I FEEL like my energy level is beyond human at times. P.S. No, I’m not pregnant. .
The screenshot is of this week’s sleep for me. Months ago, part of my therapy was to learn to sleep again. My benchmark is 6 hours, which probably seems low to most of you. It’s not. I CAN sleep more, but my natural rhythm at this weight is six hours. At some point, I’m going to take a week and see if I can sleep for eight hours and see if it lowers my motivation again. It did before. I’m not sure I actually fell asleep as early as I did on some of those nights; the Fitbit interprets low heart rate and breaths as light sleep, even if I’m awake and listening to music or a podcast, or wrestling with my cat Güino.
In February, I wrote a post titled “Shirtless in February.” I never felt too weird about people seeing my body. We all know what people look like, more or less, whether they’re layered in two shirts, a tunic, and a bathrobe. It’s anatomy, not magic. (Although there is magic and chemistry in the process of seeing someone, that’s for another post.) 🙂 We fool ourselves by thinking we’re being clever. In my case, I wish someone had been creative enough to tell me to stop eating and lose weight twenty years ago, and in such a way that I would have HEARD the concern. We don’t have a way to lovingly talk to someone about this sort of thing without setting off a firestorm of defense or anger. That’s a problem.
As a side note, the world would also be much better off if you accept the compliment if someone thinks you are pretty, beautiful, handsome, or attractive. There is no universal standard for such things. Can we stop insisting there is? One of the most beautiful things is a quick smile and a sense of humor, even if the teeth behind it are crooked. I’m being serious. There’s no single formula for beauty or even attraction.
Yesterday, I had tons of energy. I ate an abnormally large lunch and then had a therapy session. We laughed a lot, which is always a good sign. As I often say, she can laugh easily because she’s billing me. I already knew I was feeling better due to the volume of pranks and creative things I’d been doing. After, around 4, I felt anxious. Having a Fitbit pays off in these circumstances. Because I have the premium option, I could see the metrics in real-time and progress. Seeing the physiological effects helps me deal with it.
Today, I woke up feeling like I was walking on air, which is becoming very common -and when I don’t feel that energy, I wonder what causes it. I realized that I expect that I will always wake up ready to ring the bell and step into the day. I wanted to go running all morning. Unfortunately, work intervened. Work “let” me walk 15-20K steps, though. It wasn’t until after work that I realized that not running yesterday affected my level of anxiety in the afternoon. It should have been evident to me. I’ve only missed a couple of days of running in the last couple of weeks. If I find myself incapable of constant running, I switch to running in intervals and burn through the miles or minutes that way. Anything incremental is better than not doing anything. I’m not sure I will continue running. I’d do it if someone agreed to chase me each day. Add a little danger and/or mystery to the equation.
I hit the streets this afternoon. I enjoyed the incredible 75-degree afternoon. Weirdly, I could sense this might be the last such incredibly temperate afternoon to enjoy – maybe for weeks. The Upper 70s in December? Yes, please! And so, I ran. After a few minutes, I took my shirt off. The slight breeze gave me wings. Even though I didn’t want to, I stopped. I felt like I could run ten miles, which would be a discomfort payment I wouldn’t want to make tomorrow. I did run up and down the apartment stairs a few dozen times when I got back, though.
An actual test of whether someone cares what they look like is if they can run without a shirt on. Forget swimming without one; the litmus test is running, where there’s no water to hide your body. For 54, I look normal. My scar left what looks like a second belly-button indentation a few inches above my real one. The surgery left a “pooch” between the two indentations. When I think back to how I looked and felt before, it is still hard to believe I fooled myself for so long. I’m not a fan of people being ashamed of their bodies, no matter what shape they are in. I understand it, but when you compare the vast variety of body types and shapes, everyone has something they hate about themselves. Except for me. I accept it all because it’s me. I did the work needed to remove the excuses I kept whispering in my head. Looking normal is something I hadn’t anticipated.
Don’t worry; I’m still not going to ACT normal, so you can cross that expectation off of your list.
I’m going to put a picture below. Not so that people could say something nice – or mean. Anyone who wants to snark is welcome to as long as it’s creative. I love creative snark, and I need to practice not caring that other people think I look like Danny DeVito grown up and thinner. I’m not sucking my gut in. I don’t have one. I have a weird pooch that can’t be fixed without surgery, which will not happen. I already lost a knife fight with a surgeon. He got the last laugh with the catheter.
People keep telling me to stop losing weight. I haven’t lost any weight since before my surgery. I’m just working to change my body mass. I ate a donut and seven Ghiradelli chocolate squares this morning.
I’m still experimenting with the ‘how’ of it. There are days when I’m glad I’ve done it all for no other reason than to know I did it. The future could hit me with any number of calamities or illnesses. It’s a question of when not if.
I’ve encouraged anyone interested in doing something to change themselves. No matter what else I’ve done, I can’t imagine how I would feel if I still weighed 230, 240, or 250+ lbs. The voice in my head answers: “Dead.” You don’t have to go to the gym, buy supplements, or do a lot of cardio to lose weight. You don’t even have to invest a lot of time. All it takes is a change of mind about how you want to look and feel. Small changes, constantly reinforced. Because I’ve learned to say so, I’ll include the caveat that there are exceptions. But I’m not writing about the exceptions. As the year winds down, the barrage of New Year’s Resolutions and commitments ramp up. And I reply, “Why wait? You can do one thing today to start. And you can do it right here and right now.”
If you’re happy with your body, stop struggling to worry about your weight. And don’t worry about how people perceive you. You can’t change that.
I moved my bedroom from the living room into a bedroom this morning. If that sounds byzantine, it was. I’ve lived in my living room for almost four months. I also exercised and then went running. Whether it was toward something or away, I’m not certain. But I ran. And it felt glorious. It was the fifth time this week and the first in a long time where I felt like I might become airborne as I did so. I bought a set of athletic pants that fit me properly. They are 28-30 small adult/child size. Someone nicknamed me “Babypants.” I don’t take offense. I earned the size. And if you see me running and think I’m doing it strangely, that’s more than okay, too. Doing the work and looking stupid is okay by me. I’m going to look (and sound) stupid quite often. I look forward to it. It puzzles me that people are afraid of looking stupid, saying the wrong thing, or believing that other people have the magic formula for style, method, or appearance. We owe it to ourselves to be as strange as we naturally are.
When I got back from running, the husband of a caretaker for one of the tenants here spent his time waiting by blowing the leaves off the walkway. He watched as I ran up and down the staircase a few dozen times. “Getting your cardio in again? I saw you run up from the road.” I laughed. “Well, I have 30 years worth to catch up on.”
Earlier this week, I did a reset and asked the universe for a couple of favors. Not because I’m deserving of them – but because I’m not. It’s the first time I’ve dared to do so in a long time. The biggest ask is that I avoid calamity or demise for at least another year. A year is long enough to transform anything.
In the same way, I’ve diligently said, “I don’t know” with much greater frequency this year, I’ve also started asking. It’s a tangent to my propensity to state my truth without trying to wrangle someone into a specific reaction. It’s been a wild ride! Those who respond with incredulity that I ask are forgetting the fundamental truth: it’s never wrong to ask; it’s only wrong to respond irrationally on either side of the asking. It’s the cousin to honesty, a thing everyone claims to desire yet few embrace without grimace or discontent.
As I write this, someone texted me in response to another ask. Life can be so precious and quixotic at times, can’t it?
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 Ask
My apartment simplex can’t be described as pretty. It doesn’t need to be. I wish it were a wash of color and eccentricity. It has its pockets of interest and intrigue. With a bit of effort, I could transform the entire look and perception of this place. No matter how wild my tastes, there’s no way the result could be lesser than the status quo.
At the street where the parking lot meets Gregg, Poplar Street ends at the railroad tracks. I listened to the excursion train passing this morning as I lay in bed, not wanting to exit its warmth, even as I felt the urge to jump up and find the cool air outside to greet me – and wave at the passersby on the train. At the terminus of Poplar, there’s a crosswalk that leads to a trail pass-through to the neighborhood behind me, serpentinely connecting Gregg and Poplar to Yates, which branches to several other areas and College Avenue.
I love this pass-through. It opens another world to me without much walking to enter it. When I lived on Vanleer in Springdale, it was land-locked in a huge loopy and closed set of streets. There were a couple of places where such pass-through sidewalks or trails would have made using the neighborhood safer and more convenient. The pass-through here at Gregg is relaxing, efficient, and a welcome feature of this area. It’s genius. It’s Fayetteville.
This morning, as I let my feet lead me through the back neighborhoods, it was beautiful and much warmer than you’d expect for mid-November. I could smell the mountains of untended leaves, as well as hear the voices and sounds of hundreds of people moving about on their Saturday mornings.
Every person I waved to waved back. One person offered me a cup of coffee to go. “Next time, I promise!” That’s customer service on a neighborhood level.
I took a picture in front of one of my favorite nearby houses. It’s on Miller Street. It makes me think of the quote, “If yellow is such a happy color, why don’t more people use it?” This house, with its screened-in porch and simple old-style lines, strikes a chord in me. It’s the perfect house to imagine Thanksgiving dinner, full of raucous people and mountains of untouched food on every counter.
Thanks for the trail connection through the neighborhood. It’s made a world of difference for me and my link to those around me.