For anyone who wants to read an intimate and personal explanation about their experience with God and the divine, this is for you. A friend shared it with me. It touched me beyond words. * *
Recently you posted about how you seemed to wish you were certain of God’s love for you.
I feel the need to share a painful personal story with you.
Let me preface it by saying that faith is a gift I was given as a young child. I don’t know why or how; I only know that I have always had faith. Not just faith in God, but also faith in other people. It is hard to describe the certainty.
Fast forward to my early 30’s. My daughter was 2 years old. She reached childhood milestones early and was speaking, singing, and whistling. In 1996, she had her first seizure, and it was as if the computer in her brain was wiped clean. Rebooted, blank slate. All forward progress was gone. We started over with teaching her to speak and do the things other children did. Each and every seizure took some progress. It was awful. The seizures were poorly controlled, and we were desperate for answers. Which led me to the public library for information. I found several books covering seizures. The one that provided the most information was by John Hopkins University. From that book, I figured out that based upon her seizures, she had one of two conditions. I read that book midday, and it upset me. That was the day before Easter. I went to work that evening, but I was unable to concentrate to transcribe because I was too upset. So I left early. I cried all of the way home and had a VERY angry one-sided conversation with GOD. When I arrived home, I dried my tears because I still had Easter Baskets to make. I made the baskets and went to bed. That night I had the most amazing dream.
It was raining, and we were walking into an unfamiliar building. As we approached the building, the clouds parted, and a face poked through the clouds and said, “You will be ok. It will be difficult, but you will be ok.” Then the face disappeared. That is all that I have ever remembered of the dream. I awoke with the most complete sense of peace. A few weeks later, we took my daughter for an appointment at ACH in Little Rock. We pulled up and discovered the building from my dream. I burst into tears. We were at the right place for her treatment. I also knew that everything would be ok. It has been. She was placed on the correct treatment during that visit, and her seizures became better controlled.
It may sound like sentimental blabber, but I am certain that it is real. I am also certain of GOD’s love because he made certain I had what I needed when I needed it most.
Throughout my life, when times became difficult, there has always been someone new to bring a positive perspective and to show me the way through the pain.
I don’t expect you to grab onto this and suddenly feel GOD’s presence in your life. It is there; you identify it every day in the stories you write. So many of your stories include some form of Divine grace. Open yourself to the possibility that you are worthy of his love because, my friend, you are worthy.
Sometimes we need to forgive ourselves before we allow the best stuff to enrich our lives. * *
P.S. Imagine someone sharing this kind of story with you? This is the stuff of a life well-lived and appreciated.
When people move away from a relationship or marriage, they become revisionists. It’s a natural human reaction. Because I don’t want hypocrisy lightning to strike me, I will be the first to admit I’ve done it too. When things go sour, we overwrite the good moments, and the sense of wrong and failure fill our heads. Most of us don’t go into relationships will ill intentions. There are exceptions; some people don’t see behind the masks of those they are with until later. It’s not their fault. Love drives us. We all pretty much want the same things. How we traverse the minefields of our own vanities and life determines how successful our relationships might be. When it ends, we’re left with a raw fringe that often transposes into a filter that overwrites all the positive things we experienced.
I haven’t written a tremendous amount about my marriage. In part, it is because I saw no need to inflame emotions or trespass across the boundary of where my right of expression would infringe upon her life.
As time passes, she’s told me more than once that she thought I was there for so long because it was an easy life. Such a comment is an indictment of what we actually shared. There was a lot of love there for most of the marriage. The end was a bitter pie, that’s true. Since I’m the one who added a lot of the bitter, it is my pie to eat.
When we first got together, I was trying to recover from the sudden and unexpected death of my wife. She was ten years younger than me. Her death was a stop sign in my life. The brutal truth is that had she not died, my life would have continued along that trajectory, probably forever. That’s not how life works though. It’s a series of blows, each of which we either confront or bury.
I made the decision to live life. The risk of me not doing so might have been my demise. “Get busy living or get busy dying” was certainly in my head. It wasn’t going to be easy no matter what choices I made.
One of the reasons the accusation of staying in the marriage because it was “easy” bothers me is that anyone who knows me knows that I am not money-driven. That’s both a defect and an advantage. I feel rich in a lot of ways no matter what roof is over my head or what car I drive. Growing up, I lost a lot. Houses burned, tornadoes came, and violent parents made physical comfort an impossibility. Security is never in the things that envelop me. There is no doubt that my conscious decision to ignore ambition has cost me in some ways. That same lack of ambition also provided insurance, flexibility, and more free time to fill in life’s spaces with ordinary moments. We live most of our lives in those spaces rather than in the grand ones that most people prominently use to illustrate their lives.
Before the divorce, I signed over the house to my ex-wife. I did it for a lot of reasons. I could have insisted that we divest everything and sell it. Had I done so, I would have had 40-50K in my pocket when I left. As it was, I left with $5000. Someone motivated by money would have never walked away from that money. She would have needed to move and start over exactly as I did. It didn’t matter who was at fault; that’s just the way it works. I don’t know many people who’ve willingly given up such a big chunk in order to let their ex have peace and security.
It bothers me that the love I had and the gift I gave her by letting her keep the house are now being characterized as untrue. But I understand.
I sit as the villain in her head. If that helps her have a good life again, I can accept it. During the last few months, I stayed as a roommate. Luckily, I was going to counseling. I learned to sleep and I learned that I didn’t need nearly as much sleep as I had been getting before something in my head snapped. Over time, the anxiety I wasn’t addressing built to a point where I had to either succumb or deal with it. I waited too long to get a handle on it. That was arrogance on my part. There’s no other word for it.
I learned some lessons, some of them unflattering about myself. But one of the lessons I learned is that no matter what your intentions, if you don’t express the hard things in your mind when they come up, they fester and burn you from the inside out. It is so easy to walk through each day, letting the details and routine gloss over the things that need to be said. And done. It’s obvious that I didn’t really learn some of the lessons deeply because I repeated the same pattern by swallowing my truths a few times, ignored the little voice inside my head saying “No,” or stopped striving for the demand of a normal kind of affection.
When I had my emergency surgery, it was my ex-wife who came to the emergency room and stayed with me until my surgery started. She got to witness me violently throwing up and yelling in surprise pain each time a spasm of internal tearing got the better of me. She got her karma that night! But despite that, she was there. And that’s not nothing.
I don’t want to ever come across as someone who doesn’t appreciate that or the good years we had.
I also don’t want to be the kind of person who feels like I’m ‘too much.’ I’ve learned that my ‘too much’ is exactly what some people want. And that is true for all of you, too. I was surprised to find that the things that give me connection are these: writing, a buttload of laughter, and the ability to sit in a chair, intertwined, with nothing but the comfort of someone who sees me as me. I’ll get there, in part because of the long past that lies behind me, including all the stupid things I’ve done and the times I let my arrogance or inattention to what matters lead me astray. I don’t want to be right. I want to be happy.
If you have a happy marriage or relationship, please whisper its truth in gratitude or prayer. Don’t let the valleys overshadow the inevitable peaks. And if your relationship ends, try to avoid the pitfall of painting everything as sinister or dark. We’re all complicated people and so often we find ourselves at the end of a road without a clear idea of how we got so far astray. We started in love.
As the noted philosophers of VanHalen said: “If love’s got you down, love can lift you right back up. Get up and make it work.”
Love, X .
P.S. Wherever I end up, there is going to be a swing. Without playfulness, the seriousness of what we experience would drown us.
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.
When I glimpsed her through the window, I first thought she was a dumpster diver. She looked into the dumpster with a quizzical look on her face. Her right arm poked into the container, unable to reach whatever she saw there. She moved to the opposite side and used the disposal lift weld-on to boost herself shakily up. Her upper body leaned into the container. For a second, I was confident she’d tumble inside. I’ve seen it happen before.
She emerged upright, her right hand holding a strange lamp. It had no lampshade, and I could see that the black cord was cut and frayed. She looked down and wondered how she would hop down from her perch. She grabbed the frayed cord and let the lamp gently go inside the dumpster. She held the edge of the cold dumpster and stepped down, her grip firmly on the cord. She then pulled the lamp out of the container and held it, looking at it.
She turned it in her hands, scrutinizing the metal birds that adorned the column of the lamp. I think she was considering tossing it back inside.
I walked out on the landing, for some inexplicable reason hoping she’d keep the lamp.
She walked back toward the apartment building.
“Hey,” I hollered.
She looked up at me as I gestured to her.
She turned to walk toward me and walked over to the bottom of the stairs.
“That’s a nice lamp!”
“I thought so too. The birds are interesting,” she said, turning it and holding it up for me to see.
“If you’d like, I will re-wire it and paint it any color you’d like. It won’t cost much. Just a little bit of time.”
She smiled, surprised.
“That’s kind of you to offer. Hmmm. Blue. I’d like it to be blue.”
“Blue it is in, then,” I told her. “I can get a wiring set for a few dollars and fix it to look brand new. But, if you’re interested, I can do one better. I can show you how easy it is if you want me to. That way, you can make all the lamps you want to.”
“Oh! Really? That would be awesome!” I could see her imagining that she could do it.
“I’ll get the paint and the wiring assembly. Let me know when you want to give new life to your lamp.”
She smiled. “Deal. Thank you.”
Sometime soon, I will give someone the gift of making her found lamp come to life.
If you love someone, you value their peace of mind, happiness, and ability to live their lives freely.
And, in a normal relationship, no matter what the reason, each person maintains the right of silence and distance or any range of contact between the opposites of communication and disengagement. Each gets to set their boundaries.
In a toxic relationship, the other person needs distance to feel safe.
Unfortunately, there are times when we have to resort to our agreed-upon set of laws to insist that a person honor another person’s boundaries. Unfortunately, it’s required in some situations where someone has the mental inability to respect another person’s right to autonomy.
That time has passed.
No means no.
No amount of cleverness will protect you from the inevitable claxon call of justice.
I don’t need to understand the complexities of the legal system where you might be.
I’m reminding you that Southern Justice has its standards.
The subject of my post has no idea whatsoever that I’m writing this.
You are accountable.
I don’t ask twice.
No means no.
Give the person you allege to love the ability to live a full life, absent your presence, words, or influence.
I’ve asked nicely. If you want to know what Bobby Dean has instilled in me, keep playing stupid.
I’m stealing a moment. Sitting by the creek and the trail. Though I love all types of weather, with the breeze on me and the sun on my head, it’s hard to imagine a better moment. I’ve had a few surprises, each of them making me wonder why I ever doubted my optimism. The beautiful vista doesn’t negate any of the valleys I have walked through ~ each of them temporarily giving me pangs of self-doubt. Were y’all sitting here with me, I would tell a stupid joke, one which would hopefully make y’all snort. We might look up at the arborcast sky and know that the moment will pass. The shadows under the trees are just that: the sun will soon turn and glancingly illuminate the previous shadows, each in their own time. Like I always do, I pause for a little bit of gratitude. Meanwhile, the breeze passes over me, a whisper of things to come.
He walked along the slippery path, the warm sun hitting his back. Around him, the blanket of snow melted lazily, and the tree limbs grew lighter as the burden of snow melted and clumped away. The air was cold and crisp, but no wind caressed him. He would have welcomed a cold wind to challenge the torrents eddying around in his head.
He learned a new lesson recently, but it was an intangible and elusive one, its tentacles tingling around the fringes of his thoughts. He couldn’t help but to indict and convict himself repeatedly.
Early in the morning, he noted her absence from his notifications. He watched as the 14,000 messages disappeared. He thought he was deleting just one because of his unfamiliarity with the app. He had saved several of the great stories written in tandem, and for that, he was thankful. It felt a little like he was emptying as he watched the unexpected progress bar work its way across his phone.
She opened up to him the shared experience of writing stories like an artful duet; it was one he hadn’t expected but also recognized immediately as innate. Even if their connection had remained at writing stories, it would have filled him. He was outmatched from the beginning. Of course, there was more than just writing, as sublime and fulfilling as that was. The ‘more’ was a welcome shock to him, full of firsts and laughter.
He wasn’t quite sure what he had done wrong, but he knew with certainty that she hadn’t been guilty of any misdeed. Which only left him accused and guilty.
Anyone who says that you can’t forge a connection over the expanse of geography is wrong. Without the obstacle of space between, they would not have misstepped as they danced. Proximity parts the clouds. In so many ways, interacting with ideas, laughter, and clarity is a much better way to get inside someone’s head. But nearness would have erased the divide that ultimately undid their overlap.
He learned that people who make such connections with warmth and laughter are rare. He had let one down. He found himself paying the price with empty moments. Instinctively, he looked at his phone again to see it blank.
He walked faster and faster, knowing he could not outpace the absence.
He continued to walk, his eyes watching his shadow lengthen. After thirty minutes, he stopped and waved, wondering whether his affirmation would travel through time and geography.
He whispered to himself as he started walking again, the sun on his back. Only the scattered pine cones beneath his feet heard him.