Category Archives: Health

Things A Man Can’t Say

Things A Man Can’t Say

After six weeks+ of not biting my nails, I can say that my fingers feel alien to me in a way that a normal person would not find credible. I’ve not gone a week without biting my nails. For my entire life.

Several weeks ago, when I turned the switch off mentally about food, I just decided that I no longer bite my nails. Despite nothing else ever having worked for my nail-biting, not even public shaming or a global pandemic, I just knew I could do it. While my cuticles look odd, I don’t recognize my fingers. I’ve had to adjust a lot in my life for something so simple as suddenly having fingernails. From not using my hands to stir mud and potting soil to avoiding scratching ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. At night, I find myself touching my fingernails with my front teeth. Until you bite your fingernails for fifty years, I don’t think you’d believe me if I accurately describe how odd it is – as if someone put thimbles on each of my fingers and asked me to play the piano.

It occurred to me that if I were sufficiently crazy enough to do so, I could get a manicure. It’s important to note that I don’t know what proper nail care looks like, having gnawed on my talons like The Bachelorette bites the neck on her first date of the season. (Note: I’ve never watched the show. I put that bit in to trick the manicure-crowd into believing I might have.) I have promised my fans I’m going to learn to paint nails properly, though. I’ll let y’all know when I have my first nail-painting party.

I’m not looking for an attaboy. I should not be complimented for no longer doing something that is honestly pretty stupid to begin with, especially after 50 years of it. Much in the same way, it would be imprudent to congratulate me on no longer shooting black tar heroin into my eyeballs. It’s just a bad sign I started to begin with.

That’s my cat in the background. He’s nervous I might start scratching him.

P.S. There’s a link to a post in below, one I made several years ago. It’s stupid – and that’s why I think about it more than I should.

https://xteri.me/2016/04/24/fingerprints-and-finger-prince/

Tuna Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Note: no one in their right mind should take nutrition advice from me. However, I do know what really works well for some people. Sometimes.

If you’re going to eat tuna, I recommend that you ditch the mayo entirely. Lite sour cream, if such a thing is needed, works admirably in place of mayo. Two tablespoons of lite sour cream equal 40 calories, whereas light mayo is about twice that. Regular mayo is 100 calories per tablespoon. If you are craving the lovely sheen of fat when you eat, this won’t help you. You might as well take a bite of Crisco and get it over with. Growing up, several of my family members did just that.

Ditching the creamy additives saves you time, calories, money, and fridge space. It also lessens the amount of dairy you consume.

While I don’t count calories, I’m unavoidably aware of the benchmarks for many foods. When you’re trying to eat healthy, unless you are treating yourself, it is weird for me to justify eating something that is so much higher in calories. For that reason, I stopped using anything creamy in my tuna. Unlike most people, I much prefer to eat my tuna as dry as I can get it. If I add anything, it might be the miracle of lemon juice.

As for tuna, one of the best fillers you can use is dill relish. It’s one of the few things that is inexpensive yet adds bulk and texture. Dill relish is zero calories, too. Combined with shredded lettuce and the spice(s) of your choice, tuna can be made to be filling and savory. It’s hard to beat lemon pepper on tuna – although I enjoy at least a dozen different seasonings and spices on mine in varying degrees.

For the record, green olives are, in fact, delicious in tuna. They are only about eight calories each. My problem is that I need at least forty to be satisfied, especially compared to dill relish or something similar. A lot of people think the idea of green olives with tuna isn’t appealing. Most of those people have never tried it.

Another sore spot for me is the delicious taste of a well-made olive tapenade! If you want to fight, I’ll argue that green olives are indescribably delicious as a pizza topping – and more so than the dreaded counterpart of black olives.

If you are in tune with your body at all, it is easy to hold yourself to 1,000 calories a day if you need to. I know that isn’t sustainable, so don’t preach at me.

But if you eat two cans of tuna, add half a jar of dill pickle relish, a mound of shredded lettuce (mixed with lemon pepper), and two flavored bags of Pop Chips instead of crackers or bread, you’ve only eaten around 400-500 calories. It’s hard to complain about being hungry by that quantity of food.

P.S. If you are a Sriracha fan, you’re going to think I’m crazy. But. Sugar-free whipped cream drizzled with Sriracha is a surprising treat for the taste buds, much in the way jellied jalapeños are on vanilla ice cream. I’m not a huge fan of overly hot foods. But Sriracha came out of the left field for me a couple of years ago and took a place in my heart for flavor.

Find Your Aim

At the end of my 9th-grade year, I started running. I’ve written about it before. Despite all the obstacles and ridiculousness of it, I stepped out on the road and just did it. No one believed it or saw it coming. I lost a lot of weight and transformed myself. During the first few months, I started brushing my teeth a couple of times a day more than usual. Though we were poor, I had Aim Cinnamon toothpaste. At the time, that was like candy to me.

In the movie “No Country For Old Men,” Deputy Wendell said,
“This is turnin’ into a hell of a mess, ain’t it, Sheriff?” Sheriff Ed Tom Bell:
“If it isn’t, it’ll do until the mess gets here.”

Though the modern version of Aim is a pale imitation, it’ll do.

If I were at my cousin Jimmy’s, I did the same thing. Brushing my teeth, especially with that flavor, killed my appetite. I can’t explain why. The why of it used to perplex me.

A few weeks ago, without conscious thought, I found myself searching for Aim Cinnamon toothpaste. I bought a tube at Dollar General. A week later, while buying groceries at Walmart, I picked another. Over the next few weeks, I brushed my teeth when I came home from work or after supper. It didn’t occur to me that I was brushing my teeth more often. Truthfully, because of my horrid mask breath at work, I probably associated it with that.

The day I dropped below 200 lbs, I realized that I had recreated another groove in my life, one that began when I was finishing junior high and losing all the weight the first time.

Somehow, Aim cinnamon toothpaste echoed hard enough in my memories to give me another means to achieve my goal.

I wanted to write this post to try to explain that brushing my teeth works as a trick into suppressing my appetite. I don’t know why it works.

But I also wanted to tell the backstory as another means to explain it is also why I know that I’m going to beat the weight thing this time around. Not because I’ve done well so far. But because something primordial in me reached back almost 40 years to draw a behavior that helped save me then.

All those years ago, had I not started running, I fear I might not have made it through. I’ve said that before. That achievement is also what allowed me to trick myself into making All-State band in my first year of high school.

Then, as now, I’m excited to know what things I might unlock in myself. It’s a selfish crusade – such things must be.

It’s All Lemons

I went outside to walk. The rain battered me, and I went back inside.

Today would be the day, then. I had promised myself I would benchmark myself on the treadmill – no matter the consequences, no matter my foot, my shoulder, my back. No matter. Enough with the excuses.

A couple of days ago, I hit 200 lbs. I tell everyone it took six weeks, but that’s not true. Whatever control mechanism rules me broke open several weeks ago. It wasn’t a choice. I lost 25 lbs by the sheer force of the certainty I was able to glimpse. Doing this sort of thing requires a selfish focus. In my case, the overlap of my ambition lies within the hearts and minds of others.

Foolish as I am for being optimistic, I’m looking to the horizon without worrying about who I’ll be. I can’t take credit for something that was handed to me. If I squander this opportunity to be who I should have been all along, I won’t recover.

For the first time in my adult life, I went a month without biting my nails. I’ve never made it a week until now. I didn’t think about the fact that I hadn’t really eaten sugar in weeks.

I walked on the treadmill for 10 minutes and then put the incline to the maximum. I felt my heart rate escalate. I ignored it. At minute 39, I broke through the clouds and felt weightless. My heart still beat like a hummingbird’s. I walked 10 more minutes until I felt the weight return, which is a warning sign for me. When I was a runner, I was lucky enough to experience runner’s high.

Today, I saw that 175 lbs is not only an option for me but an unavoidable consequence of the change in my heart. It’s selfish – I know. It’s not that I’m reaching a goal but reaching the life I should have had.

There’s hope for me yet. Not because I took a risk on the treadmill, but because the foolishness that led me to it reeks of optimism. After these decades on Earth, there is hope for me. In me. I don’t need a day of thanks to feel like I’ve been seen and given a gift.

Lemon Moments

This post isn’t a thread post. Please forgive me for just writing. Though I rarely do so, I compared this using the plagiarism tool. I was astonished at the variety of disparate sources that appeared.

One of the phrases I once employed often at work was, “Ma’am, are you a Christian?” I only used it when someone simply wouldn’t listen to reason – AND also lashed out in a way that made the person being spoken to feel lesser. Often, it made the person angrier, mostly if they recognized their brutality. This phrase was one of the quickest ways to penetrate someone’s attention. I’ve started saying it again. We endured a horrible election and still struggle against the worst modern pandemic. We have no business treating people as lesser. Those who found someone they call Savior should always take nine steps back before using their job as a reason to demean someone else. We are all going to fail at this – and that’s okay. But we have to shut up and realize we’re doing it if someone calls us out. If we can’t fail and still do that, none of us are worthy.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus has roared back to unavoidable significance. Working around it, I see the people’s faces as it impacts them without regard to how they’ve lived their lives. Good? Bad? The virus deflects and arbitrarily inflicts its harm. All of them had hopes, dreams, plans and found themselves confronted with a dagger that didn’t exist a year ago. I will not forgive the world if the virus that has surrounded me all this year kills me. I’ve got plans.

I’ve decided to start referring to many of my moments as “Lemon Moments.” I find myself able to help someone who didn’t request it or push someone back into their human form by triggering something sublime in them. Without peering too closely at my selfish reasons for doing random and not-so-random acts of kindness, I’ve found that these moments do more to reflect who I would like to be than much of the bulk of my life. So much of our lives is spent moving the bits of our lives from point A to B. In reality, they pass unnoticed. The Lemon Moments? They echo and create a pull to do more of them. The more I do them, the more I want to share them.

I love diet tonic water. I also love sugar-free sweet ‘n sour mix. Duh. I just figured out I love the lemony backwater taste of the two of them combined. Genius, right? If I were the type to frequent bars, I think I’d laugh if I walked up to the bartender and said, “Give me a diet tonic water and sugar-free sweet ‘n sour shot.” I imagine him or her responding, “I could just pee in your mouth, sir. Get out of here!”

This morning, I had a hell of a time reconciling myself to something. But my physical reaction to a realization told me that dissonance had infected me. I’m not sure my body would have sent a perceptible signal of this a few weeks ago. Painful though it was, I learned from it. I have written before how I don’t think I knew my own mind well until my late 40s. Today was another such surprise for me. Did I mention how uncomfortable the realization was? It is a sharp toe to the face to know that my certainty isn’t that of another person, no matter how furiously I rub the magic lamp and work to make it so. I don’t know ultimately what the takeaway lesson of it was, but I do know it shook me. As we do, I will be thinking about this for a long time to come. I hope grace finds me as I search for it.

I also created the hashtag #hunkcloset to force myself to accept that there will always be more interesting, attractive, and available people in the world. It’s best to just jump into the bitter truth of it and wallow in it for as long as necessary. And when you get up, do the dishes – because this sort of thinking is self-destructive. It’s impossible to guess what people will find worth cherishing. Some people hide their scars. Some love them on others. Others? No matter how you insist that you find something endearing or beautiful? They won’t believe you, and sometimes that is because they can’t see it.

When I started trying to eat healthily, I threw out all the expectations of counting calories. Instead, I opted for a letter grade. I had As, Bs, and Cs until October 17th. October 17th was “Ham Day,” as I’ll always remember it. My two favorite people in the world came through Springdale to visit. Every day since, I’ve earned an A – and not by fudging. I stopped even recording the grade manually. Instead, I decided to note only the rare days I might do worse than expected. Over 30 days later, it hasn’t happened. I can’t say I’ve managed that in 15 years.

Also, I’ve hit the level where I am starting to feel significantly lighter. It’s only about the equivalent of 3 gallons of milk (8lbs each, more or less), but when I’m laying down, I feel bones that I haven’t for a long time. The bones at the base of my sternum feel alien. I catch myself running my fingers there as if I expected there to be no bones underneath the weight. I did it about 15 times while driving home today from work. When I stand and look down toward my feet, I still can’t understand where my belly went. I still have a stomach, to be sure, but it is fleeing the scene of the crime with speed I dared hoped it would. I sit down and don’t feel cramped. I am appalled I didn’t heed my body as it warned me over the years. I can’t fix my past stupidity. I can only use it to remind me. Being able to move toward a normal body is a gift that I don’t see myself squander.

It’s amusing. My foot is substantially less painful, too, even on workdays when I walk a lot of miles. I can only hope that continues.

I picture myself at 185 and can’t imagine how I lost the love of being lighter. 185 is still heavy. I probably should weigh 160-165 to be in the normal range. That is 60 lbs lighter than when I started this. I’ve made it past the 1/3rd mark. Even if I stop at 185, I’m more than halfway there. While I don’t weigh myself that often, the number 200 has been on my horizon and on my mind. It’s an artificial milestone, but I already know it will give me a boost. Maybe it wasn’t healthy to lose 25 lbs in 6 weeks, but it certainly hasn’t hurt me any. It might be the only thing that has allowed me to work as I have.

Yo-yo weight also causes a bit of a problem with clothes. Because I wear black slacks as work pants, I’ve had to cyclically buy a range of sizes to match my runaway appetite. Over the last few days, I sorted through my needlessly non-minimalist array of pants. The pile to go away kept increasing. “You could put them away until you’re sure.” No. I’m sure. I am never going to be that weight again. It’s not a boastful claim. I’m not going back. I am as sure of this as anything I’ve ever known in my life. That part of me broke a few weeks ago. I give you permission to mock me mercilessly if I fail. Last weekend, I bought a pair of benchmark pants. The waist is a size that seems impossible to me a month ago. My permanent maximum size will still be 2-4″ inches smaller than that. Because my inseam is 29″ or 30″, it will be hard to find pants that ‘just fit’ at that size. But that is a first-world problem that I welcome – laughingly so. All the work shirts that are now too big were returned to my supervisor. “Oh, bragging, are you?” he teased me. “No. I’m not going back.” I smiled. He’s a believer this time around.

I don’t want congratulations for doing this. I remind you that I’m only benchmarking myself against where I should have been all along for any praise I might get.

Meanwhile, I am dedicated to paying forward as many Lemon Moments as I can squeeze into my life for the pounds that evaporate. It’s the only appropriate way to repay the spirit of lightness of being I’ve been given.

You’ll be seeing less of me. Also, more me in the reflection of the invisible part of me that I find more pride in.

It is astonishing how opening a dormant or neglected part of yourself makes you seethe and hunger for a buffet of it.

And if you see me rubbing the bottom of my sternum with a look of wonder on my face, mind your business. That s#$t is crazy!

Love, X

Gift Horse Bet

I recently went for my annual wellness exam. Despite buckling down fanatically in the last few weeks, I was concerned. A decent bit of the doctor’s visit was a discussion about my upcoming lab work. Because of my previous cholesterol levels, it was a foregone conclusion that I’d most certainly be placed on statins this time. Although I’m not focusing on weight, I’ve reduced the volume I eat substantially, as well as doing my best to eat healthily. For once and for all, I’m also going to find out if a ridiculous amount of weight loss will eliminate the need for blood pressure medication.

Though I knew my lab results were in, I waited for the dreaded call from the doctor’s nurse, wherein she’d give me the bad news about needing an additional drug.

Spoiler alert: the nurse laughed and said, “Whatever it is you are doing X, the doctor wants you to keep doing it – except for the shenanigans.” She went on to say that my lab results were excellent. I didn’t know what to say except to laugh and tell her I’d be back soon enough to tell the doctor I’d lost 20% of my body weight. It did not feel like a humblebrag to say it out loud. While I don’t know what medical surprises will drop like an anvil on me, I do know that I think I finally can give up the yo-yo that’s plagued me.

Thanks, Lemons, Tammy, Mike, and the person who gave me “choose your hard” as a non-optional observation on life.

In 2020, you have to take whatever you can get.

A Quiet Thanks

(Because that’s all you can really do, until whatever you’re working toward succeeds or you run out of road.)

In another life when I worked at Cargill, I lost my first weight-loss bet to Chris. It was a bit of a kick in the nether regions to give him a check for $100. He earned it though. His weight loss was substantial. As a previous football player, he figured out a way to overcome his athletic metabolism and avoid eating all the things, so to speak. I underestimated him.

One benefit to come out of my loss was to realize that the first stage of any life change is easy: motivation burns bright. The impossible trick is to keep walking one foot in front of the other until it’s a habit. “Choose your hard” my sage cousin reminded me, because living with bad choices is very hard indeed, a lesson I’m plucking from the tree of the obvious many days in regards to my life.

It’s only fitting (no pun intended) that his wife Tammy of 23 years is partially responsible for the recent gong to my head about my weight. For reasons of her own, she dropped a stunning amount of weight. The ‘how’ isn’t relevant; her choice became her reality and that’s the lesson anyone with a heart should embrace. Anyone seeing the pictures initially has difficulty believing that the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures are of the same person. The difference in her smile is beyond redemptive.

I’ve struggled forever with the yo-yo of weight; each successive inability to manage new habits that persist long-term takes a bigger bite of my ability to try it again. I wrote Tammy to simply tell her it was amazing what she’d done. She looks amazing and I expect that the life satisfaction she attained is paying rewards in every area of her life.

I realized that it is ridiculous that Tammy can do something that’s impossible for me. Tammy would probably think I’m crazy. Rocky had a picture of Clubber Lane on his mirror to remind him of his unexpected defeat. He didn’t wallow in it, though. Likewise, maybe Tammy would be amused to know that she is my touchstone in this. It’s nice to picture Chris behind her, too, laughing, and wondering if I can figuratively earn back that $100 he won from me all those years ago.

At our age, I think most of us realize that everyone wins when even a single person figures out a way to be who they are supposed to.

This world is connected in ways that amuse and delight.

Whatever motivation plagued Tammy, I’m claiming a piece of it in her name. Thanks, Tammy.

P.S. Another line from a Rocky movie comes to mind in regards to this current version of my struggle: “Ain’t gonna be no rematch!”

Jackie

“Just call me a cartographer – because this post will be all over the map.” – X

Everyone is going to have their ‘last funeral’ story. Perhaps not the last of each person’s life, but the last one not impacted by covid. While my last precovid funeral wasn’t traditional, it happened in January before the country felt the virus’s hammer.

Jackie wanted a gathering of friends as a commemoration. It happened at her home in Springdale. I knew a few of the people at the gathering but most shared nothing in common with me. It was a fact that Jackie would have laughed about. One of the most complicated puzzles I had ever made with pictures was prominently displayed on the coffee table in the intimacy of their living room. The puzzle contained innumerable pictures detailing their lives. I made it with care and attention. It was an affirmation to know that it touched them enough to find a place at Jackie’s last gathering. The video and music I crafted played on loop on the large monitor nearby. Having learned the hard lesson of no backup plan, I had the video on dvd and flash drive and an executable folder of music and pictures if the other two methods failed.

Though I unexpectedly liked a couple of Post Malone’s songs before, I included a piano version of two of his songs. When I have my guard down, I sometimes hear the melodies and remember the absurdity of including it in Jackie’s memory video. I can’t imagine Jackie liking Post Malone; I know that this piano version would have struck her heartstrings with unerring certainty. In part, that expresses how I got to know her – often indirectly and through a constant barrage of banter and conversation. I also included three songs I wrote, one of which I know Jackie loved.

I said my goodbyes in the same way I got to know her: through pictures. The family asked me to do the montage of photos and choose the music. It’s a rare thing for people to trust me so intimately. I’ve known some people all my life who skipped past me for weddings (even one who I originally became ordained for) or overlooked the few things I can do well. In a way that is not immediately easy for me to write, Jackie and her husband seemed at ease with me, even despite our marked differences. I’m sure that some of my pranks were a bit too much for them – but that my intent always found favor with them.

I was volunteered into their circle by my mother-in-law, who worked with Jackie and her husband at the hospital, as did my wife and sister-in-law. What started as a simple project ultimately gave me access to their entire lives of private pictures and images. While I began by scanning hundreds of hospital pictures, I was soon compiling decades of family history.

I frequently see the thousands of pictures I carefully scanned and indexed in my photo archives, and my heart both swells and painfully beats. It was a project that I hoped would never find its end.

Even though this sort of thing is both a love and hobby of mine, it still strikes me to know that people close to me failed to take advantage of my willingness to ensure that everyone’s memories could be reproduced, protected, and shared; such endeavors leave no one without access. It’s true that on a long enough timeline, we all fade – along with everything we can touch, where we stand, and even the planet itself. Pictures have their most value while someone is alive who remembers the people in the picture.

I still see people in agony over lost videos and pictures. It’s work to keep track of our lives. It’s more work to organize it for everyone coming after us. They’ll want to see our memories. The truth is that most people, even ones who seem to appreciate the frailty of such memories, don’t take the care necessary to share them openly and widely. It’s the only way to ensure the survival of the pictures we find to be cherished.

Jackie and her husband were undoubtedly part of the backbone of the community. Both were well-known and respected. Apart from teasing back and forth about me doing something ridiculous with their treasure chest of pictures and albums, they never doubted my love for the project or that I might somehow misuse their photographs.

Because I maintained an archive of all the thousands of pictures Jackie shared with me, it was no stretch to know that I could manage a retrospective of her life when she died. That I hadn’t shared much of her life was immaterial. Anyone could see that I had an affection for her that defied our vast age difference. I continue to regret that I didn’t know her for longer. It is possible that we would not have aligned so well earlier in my life. Having thought about it in the last few months, I’m convinced it’s true.

Part of my regret of not knowing her longer is that many of her stories passed with her. I discovered quickly that both Jackie and her husband were living repositories of fascinating stories. I intended to ask her to share several hours with me with the hopes of getting her story written in a way that would bear her signature wit and charm. She became ill before that come could to fruition.

But I still have this hoard of pictures, often waiting for me to open them and peer inside. I know that I honored Jackie by taking a piece of my life and preserving hers. I made sure that everyone had copies and access; no one was left in the rain. We don’t own pictures, though we foolishly think otherwise. We are custodians, with transitory possession of these lives and this world.

The day of her death races away from me, sliding into the past, as all deaths do.

Life marches forward with callous step and indifferent regard.

As Jackie’s life fades from human memory, I watch the world and wonder about the depth of visual memory and story being lost. But it is not because of me. I’ve tipped the balance in my favor and find myself unable to stop asking people to drop their pretenses and share who and what they are with the world.

In continued memory of Jackie Lou and with a renewed dedication to the joy of pictures, X.

To Go, Again

A few months ago, as most people experienced weight gain purportedly due to the pandemic, the same circumstances made it initially easy for me to eat healthier. For no reason, I started eating healthier on Feb. 1st. I made it through April without too much difficulty. More surprisingly, I was optimistic about continuing the process for months to come. I have my list of excuses, not the least of which was doing more work in less time at work, making my back, shoulder, and ultimately my foot hurt more. Also, the stress of the pandemic impacted me more than I realized. More importantly, another kind of stress crept into my life out of left field. It’s the kind of stress resulting from peeking into corners you don’t dust or illuminate; it bears a resemblance to hope, no matter how contradictory that sounds. Knowing I haven’t paid the price to be who I should be affects me. The chasm between knowing it and taking action to get there is positively scary. I see others trapped in a holding pattern similar to mine. We’re all going to climb out of these holes. Some of us have a greater distance to get there, but the vitality of the commitment to do differently and experience different lives will get us there.

Not that it’s a negative, but when the pandemic started, my in-laws thankfully moved to town after years of living in BFE. We created an informal tradition of meeting on Saturday evening for communal supper. Those occasions are not filled with healthy choices. Having an unhealthy meal ahead of me mentally derailed me and gave me the excuse to eat with abandon since I would jump into the fat puddle on Saturday evening anyway. It’s a poor excuse, but one I know affects me.

Sitting on the fringe is also the knowledge that I’m less a fan of meat still. I eat it because of convenience or because others do. It’s hard to get back to eating very little meat when the world around me spins a different way. Meat consumption triggers me to eat other unhealthy things. I’m oversimplifying – but it is a certainty that I’ve long recognized: eating very little meat always coincides with much healthier eating, and my weight drops alongside the change. I’d go so far as to say that it becomes easy to drop weight without meat. Finding a way to overcome the demands of those around me to consume it is a challenge. I do most of the cooking, so taking a different route requires more time and energy and tends to come across as selfish behavior.

When my brother died, I recognized that I had the chance to use it as a marker and reminder. I would recall it frequently for a while; that recollection could be a mental rubber band for me. Likely, other people’s brains don’t work quite that way.

In a way, the comments about eating meat align with those about my brother. “I don’t really eat meat,” running through my head reminds me that I don’t feel happy doing the other things either. Because of my brother’s long decline, I relearned many lessons that should serve me going forward. All of them involve recognizing risk and choosing people and lives that make satisfaction in life an attainable goal.

Because I didn’t want to get on the scale and weigh myself, I did so immediately instead of dreading it. It was worse than I expected: 225. Ouch.

I’ve written about the fact before that our tendency to conceal our weight is a bit of folly. A good eye can accurately guess our weight anyway, especially if we’ve added a spare tire or our shirts look like they were dried on extremely high heat for an hour.

Rather than focus on weight, I started giving myself a grade each day. Yes, it is subjective. Though, I “know” how my healthy eating for the day went. If someone buys a bag of pretzel sticks and I participate in their consumption in the evening, it’s a worse grade. Or, if there’s pizza with a thick crust and real cheese.

It’s amusing to me that I love vegetables. It’s hard to get this overweight eating vegetables.

It’s folly to commit to healthier eating with the long slog of the holiday months approaching. I guess I’m wired for folly. The yo-yo of my stupidity is supremely stupid.

Meanwhile, another friend I once knew well chose surgery to help her weight loss. She dropped an incredible amount of weight. She’s almost unrecognizable. The smile on her face is one of radiant satisfaction. Whether she needed surgical help or not, she committed to the choice of making it happen.

I can’t see over the horizon. But I know that I have a lot of upheaval coming – and not just because that’s the way life is. I suspect that every pound I keep needlessly will throw a right hook if I don’t drop it. I’m looking more and more to a different future and see the path to get there. In none of those futures of hope do I weigh more than 180. I think of how I felt when I was last that weight, and though it is still ‘heavy’ by actuarial measures, I felt genuinely light.

Every pound is a result of my choices, no matter what preceded them. It’s analogous to the choices or laziness that’s lead me to this point.

Writing this sort of thing down is a motivator for me. Not because someone can use my bravado against me. I can pivot back to these days and remember when I looked ahead to a different way and a ‘me’ living the life the way I should.

Nevertheless, I make this promise.

Dry Counties In Arkansas

wil-stewart-UErWoQEoMrc-unsplash

*This is a truncated version of a social media post I wrote for someone in a dry county a few years ago. It tickled me that after commenting on a post of one of the pages working for a vote in the county in question, the person organizing it asked me to write a post about the basic arguments against dry counties. I removed the arcane historical information that, while interesting, was too cumbersome for many people.

Before launching into my point, I’d like to mention that DUI/DWI and alcohol-related violence has affected my life. I had a family member killed in a DWI incident. Many in my family were affected by violence and many were also affected by alcoholism. It’s a subject that has touched the core of my life. We as humans are immensely gifted at perverting pleasures into afflictions. It is wrong on a moral level to dictate the otherwise free choices of citizens living in a free society. For those who abuse, we should focus on lending a hand without exception.

It’s easy to look at a United States map of wet vs. dry and draw an immediate conclusion: dry counties still exist predominantly in areas in which have a less-developed infrastructure – and residual religious influences at work. Most of us with a rudimentary grasp of history know that the United States attempted to stop all alcohol consumption in the past. It was a failure. Afterward, the federal government left alcohol laws in the hands of states. The South is home to most dry counties.

In Arkansas, many of the counties are dry. The counties with the highest level of economic development and education, interestingly enough, are wet. Studies continue to demonstrate that dry counties are punishing their own economic growth. If you’re interested, the U of A did a study for Independence County in 2016. The conclusions and observations it makes are exactly what one would expect: being dry is a terrible economic indicator. (If you’re not interested in contextual facts – or reading anything contrary to your established opinion, please stop reading now. Reading my opinion will likely cause spontaneous shouts of anger.

To those who say, “But we will gladly lose economic vitality if it means we can restrict alcohol sales in our county,” I’d reply that they are making the decision for everyone else. This attitude tends to come from those who believe that they have the duty to impose a quasi-religious restriction on their fellow citizens. The geographic areas prone to agree with limiting alcohol sales tend to be cloistered and resistant to the idea that other viewpoints have validity. It’s a generalization; as such, it’s generally true in the spirit in which it is cited. Believing that it’s better (or easier) to outlaw alcohol sales instead of addressing any potential problems strikes to the core of an authoritarian mindset.

Some religions ban pork, others caffeine. In a secular society, it is both immoral and ambiguous to allow a specific religious minority to dictate these choices.

I use the term ‘quasi-religious,’ not out of contempt, but rather as an acknowledgment that it would be disingenuous to classify the argument as exclusively religious. To claim it as a religious reason would be in denial of the fact that most people who self-identify as religious have no issue whatsoever with adult consumption of alcohol. That a vocal segment of religion continues to attempt an illogical co-opting of the singular voice for all religious people speaks to the problem inherent in such an ideology. In short, if it were strictly a religious issue, those identifying as religious would overwhelming agree. They don’t.

To further clarify, I have many religious friends who loathe the fact that some religious groups attempt to limit or sanction the choices people of other religions or denominations make. Most people are cautious about using their religious beliefs to justify an imposition of their will on another member of society. This type of circular reasoning leads to some groups dictating behavior to others. When the tables are turned, they shout in protest, alleging persecution or a lack of freedom. It’s troubling to me, as we all walk out our respective doors into a society which we expect to generally leave us in peace unless we are harming other people.

I’m not asking anyone who wishes to not drink to do so. Quite the contrary; I’m asking for those who choose not to, for whatever reason, to respect the adult decisions of those around them. You lead by example, not by pointing angry fingers at those who live their lives differently. For Christians, it’s difficult to reconcile a defiant attitude about alcohol when Jesus himself imbibed.

I am of course not making the argument that alcohol consumption doesn’t come with some serious caveats. Like all human activity, there are undesirable consequences. It’s our job as a society to balance the consequences with our ability to stop encroaching on the lives of our fellow citizens. I’ve learned to distrust anyone who feels competent to judge the acceptability of certain behaviors in others. Once the line is crossed, it becomes all too easy to begin judging many other personal decisions.

“More crime!” some will object. Even if such a scenario is true, the economic gain from alcohol sales c-o-u-l-d overcome the negative impact, especially if we use the motivation and collective intelligence of the people around us to divert money toward enforcement and assistance for problems which may arise. More importantly, though, is that in a nation of laws, it is hypocritical to argue that each of us is responsible for our own actions, yet demand that fellow citizens desist from legal activities because they might misbehave. Abolition of all potential negative behaviors is no way to run a democracy.

We already spend an inordinate amount of our budgets on police and incarceration. I tend to have less interest in the abolitionist mentality of the police for a variety of reasons. Among them is the fact that law enforcement tends to suffer from a greater degree of alcoholism than the general population. Another is that it’s generally unwise to prioritize the complaints of those tasked with enforcing the laws we decide.

“More DWIs,” others will say. It’s as if those saying this believe that adults interested in drinking aren’t already doing so, many after being forced to drive to imbibe in their own homes. Interestingly enough, the argument of a greater frequency of possible DWI incidents echoes that of those who resist any gun control laws, stating that the responsibility for misuse falls on the person misusing them. The same logic, therefore, falls to driving while impaired.

Each of us has the ability to choose to engage in behavior we find rewarding or pleasurable. To participate in a system which gives greater voice to another person’s personal choice, even if based on quasi-religious reasoning, is wrong. If you disagree, I’ll remind you that many people have quasi-religious issues with pork. Imagine if we were to collectively vote to outlaw pork. Bacon is the unofficial salvation of many an Arkansan. Or imagine if we outlawed hunting, citing dangers to hunters and bystanders, or an appeal to ethics toward animals.

Additionally, citizens of today are not obligated to honor the decisions made by their predecessors; laws, like society, change over time. Some proponents of dry counties point to the past as a mistaken indicator of how best to proceed in the future. For anyone interested, take a look at the time frame during which many dry counties measures were passed. Even a casual look back into history immediately reminds us that we’ve made some monstrous decisions, some which we defended despite serious moral foundations. Each generation has the opportunity to examine its laws and to determine their relevancy. To those thwarting the necessary reexamination of past laws, you should remind yourself that no positive social change ever occurs in which people aren’t given a choice.

Even in supposed dry counties, many allow private clubs. This fact provides an anecdote for the contention that many dry counties cater to those with economic clout. The cliché of wealth demanding access to alcohol exists in recognition of the fact that people with political influence will drink regardless of local prohibition laws. Although it is needless to point it out, those who are members of private clubs are generally going to drive away from their private clubs after drinking. Dry counties with private clubs are one of the most perplexing things I’ve encountered.

Dry county laws more adversely impact a person if he or she is on the lower end of the economic spectrum. If you’re about to make an argument in the spirit of “looking after your fellow man,” I’d like you to start by doing so in all aspects of life, not just in those areas in which you feel you have a moral voice to do so.

As for the argument, “I don’t want to pay for other people’s decisions,” I default to my observation that this is exactly what we all do in regards to everyone else. We all pay for issues, programs, or consequences we disagree with. People with no children fund schools their entire lives, those who don’t drive pay for roads, pacifists fund countless wars, and so on.

The reality is that being a dry county simply obscures the fact that a great number of its citizens are still consuming alcohol, whether in private clubs therein or by spending their tax dollars in surrounding communities. Prohibition relies on an illusion, one which most adults recognize as false. Perhaps it helps some people to know that they’ve made another person’s choices much more difficult or that the ‘other’ is the real problem.

I’d like to point out that regardless of whether you’re in agreement or not, it serves no one to needlessly insult the opposition. Most people simply wish to be able to live their lives without needless restrictions. It’s important to be able to passionately engage yet simultaneously avoid the pitfall of shouting in anger or vilifying those who disagree. At a certain point, though, those who feel the boot on their neck are going to stop being so polite or careful in their choice of words. Although it may sound like it, I am not categorizing all those who oppose their counties becoming wet under the same label. There are many reasons people use to justify staying dry; some are reasonable and more logical than others. For me, all of them fall short. To be clear, it’s important that we define who objects to alcohol sales and why. Not all opposition is created equal and not all arguments are worthy of usage in a free society.

If you live in a dry county and wish it were wet, please accept my apology. That feeling of frustration you experience when you consider the idea that other adults feel capable of limiting your personal choices and enjoyment of life can only be avoided by demanding that it be changed.

Further, if you reside in a county in which there is a concerted effort to thwart such an issue reaching the ballot box, you can be certain that those doing so do not have your best interests as a free citizen in their hearts. Such efforts are an obvious nod to the fact that abolitionist views are in the minority. That’s no way to run government and no way to treat citizens.