As many successes as I’ve had in the last year, I’ve also had a few defeats. I’m absolutely not the person to conceal any of that from anyone who knows me. Being proud of my successes in no way conceals or denies the failures. At my age, I’ve peeked behind the curtains of so many lives that I understand better than ever that most of us aren’t following the playbook we imagined. More importantly, the shiny lives that you witness all have a stained glass window in their bathroom. If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, it describes the way that mundane life intersects violently with the things we hold essential in our hearts – and the problems that living present. If you’re human, you’re going to experience the same problems that other humans share, even if we don’t see them. It’s easy to observe the world and people around us and deceive ourselves into not believing that what binds us shares more in common than what separates us. .
PS: Only in East Springdale can you have a crazy neighbor shooting bb pellets at your house (and arrows) while drinking. At 9 a.m. on a Sunday, which is bonus-level typical East Springdale.
Thanks to the Blue Dress Project, I’ve been doing pushups since the beginning of the month. Not continuously, though. The world record for most pushups in a day is 46,001, while the record for non-stop is over 10,000. Keeping that in mind, don’t admonish me too angrily for doing this at my age. The record holder for most in a year was 45 when he completed over 1.5 million in one year. I’ll let you know if I decide to break his record. You can start holding your breath now.
I do them in increments or sets, whether I’m on the way to the bathroom, waiting by an elevator, walking, or going to the kitchen to get a bag of PopChips. I’ve had a few surprises while doing them in unusual places. While I might not drop and do twenty next to the open casket, for example, I don’t see what’s so weird about doing pushups while listening to someone complain about how much they are being overworked. What amuses me most is the idea of having someone in great shape do them continuously near the vending machine area to determine if their subtle presence decreases junk food sales.
I have to be cautious with my shoulder, of course. Technically speaking, the medical term for what I have is “Old & Busted.” I’ve noted that a couple of surgeons seem to be following me around at work while holding scalpels. It could be my imagination. I’ve been told mine is overactive.
There are days when I reach a surprisingly high number of repetitions.
I’m not promising I’ll do them long-term, but I will do them for six weeks, until they become a new habit that I can keep if I wish to. I made a deal with myself that pushups are an exercise I like, cost nothing, and require only time, of which I have an abundance. It’s stupid NOT to experiment. That’s pretty much my take on a lot of things anymore. Including mushrooms. The la-la land variety, not the kind one finds on pizzas. I’ll report back when I’ve tried mushrooms, assuming I’ll still be able to write English or speak in complete sentences at that point.
I don’t have a goal. Other than continuing to not drop dead, of course. It is a great goal, despite all the mortuary owners secretly hoping that a lot of people might have particularly bad days. It’s nothing personal. The odds are in their favor, though. Keep that in mind as you continue to not make changes you’d like to see in your health and life. No matter what you choose, keep it in mind – and not in a superficial way. Every important thing you put off, challenges included, could forever elude you based on today’s choices. It’s nuts, isn’t it? We trick ourselves into thinking we’re making small decisions or foregoing things of no consequence only to discover that we’ve sacrificed an opportunity that is gone forever.
Many days I just stop counting as I do the pushups. If I need to practice counting, I can count the years of my life remaining. For small numbers, I can count the remaining hair on my head.
A friend at work quotes one of his many ridiculous sports heroes by saying, “It doesn’t matter how many you do. You don’t start counting until it hurts.”
My response to him is this: “You’re only as old as the woman you feel.”
I can feel a difference already. Not in my friend. He’s a musclehead.
If I had a sedentary job, I’d do 500 every day. Pushups, I mean. I’m not Wilt Chamberlain if that joke doesn’t fly over.
It’s true that a couple of people have mocked me for doing pushups. That kind of asshole is going to always find something to complain about. It doesn’t matter how I manage my life or what I do – there will be people who roll their eyes or want me to fail. Luckily, most people are great, and even if they don’t understand what the hell my point is, they play along, if only so that we can reciprocally overlook each other’s craziness.
This brings me back to the idea of incrementalism. You might not be able to do a pushup. But if you start slow and with a hint of enthusiasm, you can reach just about any goal you want to. You can learn a language by learning one word a day, walk a mile by focusing on reaching a little farther as your energy permits, or read a book a month by translating your interest into doing so into a plan that’s broken into bite-size increments. (No pun on the bite-size, by the way.)
Likewise, and just as important, if you’re happy with yourself, your life, or things about yourself, don’t get tricked into adapting because you think you should. You should be happy, and anyone who finds satisfaction in themselves has magical power.
PS: I’m rooting for Blue Dress Project to make the weight. I’ve found a renewed enthusiasm for people doing things that they’ve put off, or for finding success, no matter how large or small. If I can do it, anyone can.
I left the bright sun behind me as I entered Mr. Taco Loco on Emma. A wall of scents and smells assaulted me. Because I can easily go without eating all day, I forget hunger sometimes. I risk admitting that because people have their filters and triggers that make such a statement sound like psychosis. It’s not. It’s just a fact. And it is an extraordinarily good thing for me and my life. I still love food, but I’m not food-centric anymore. Mr. Taco Loco is one of the places that let me healthily eat delicious food. Eating less grants me peace in moments that would have otherwise been consumed by wanting to eat, or worse, being too full.
I walked through the dark table and bar area. Ahead of me were two younger men, both avidly looking at the menu and comparing comments. After a minute, one of them turned and said, “Go ahead.” I hesitated. “Are you having trouble deciding?” They both grinned and nodded. “What do you recommend?” I laughed. “Well…” I started and then mapped out two alternate ways to decide. The cashiers stood and listened to my sales pitch. When I was done, I said, “If you are not eating with cost being your primary factor, pick something with the type of meat you’d most likely be satisfied with.” Though it’s bragging to say so, they were impressed.
I went ahead of them and ordered—five chicken tacos for me, with lots of added pico de gallo. I’m not a barbarian, after all. The gentleman who started last week stood there, confident and smiling after just a week of training. “Are you still here?” I asked him, laughing. The other worker, a younger female, asked me if the order was for here or to go. I angrily pretended to ask, “It’s like that, is it? Am I not allowed to eat here.” It took a few seconds to realize I was joking. The new guy’s smile probably gave it away. I also confused them by not wanting a drink, which is now a common habit of mine when eating. When I returned to the counter to order a bowl of salsa, he told me that his female co-worker pointedly asked him if something was up, given my unexpected comment.
I threw out my tortillas and spread out the chicken and pico de gallo across the platter, adding onions, cilantro, lime juice, and Tajin. Since I brought three bags of PopChips with me, I opened those and used them as scoops. After a few minutes, I returned to get a bowl of salsa. It threw them off that I didn’t want any chips to go with it. I tipped them for the second time, which distracted them from further questions.
I sat a table away from the first-time visitors. They’d decided on my second course of ordering, choosing riskier and fuller selections. They were delighted. Once they had their food, I walked over and held up my large bottle of Tajin. “Since y’all are young, I’m going to save you some trouble. You can have a lot more flavor and eat a lot more variety if you find a seasoning you like.” I explained what Tajin was, then poured a condiment cup of it out. They thanked me as I went back to my table. After a moment, the younger man closest to me turned and said, “Hell, the difference with the Tajin-stuff is amazing!” His eyes lit up. “You can buy it at Walmart, too,” I told him, to ensure he would become addicted. Because I forgot to mention it, I also said, “Taco Tuesday, all the tacos are a dollar. You’ll love it!” I also made a mental note for myself to write Tajin Corporation and ask about commissions.
I ate my platter of minimalist craziness and considered eating the soggy paper left there too. As I left, the new customers said, “Hey, thanks!” again and gave me the thumbs up.
Though it’s hard for this to be true most of the time, it was true today: everyone was happy for even a brief moment.
PS I wore one of my rip shirts to work today. It turned out to be a wise choice.
The day started perfectly, even though an observer might mistake its onset for just another day. That’s the magic of life; all of it is in the heart and eye of the beholder. Mine was full.
One of my favorite things in this life is my hand-written copy of Ecclesiastes. It was on my mind today as I traversed the day. It wasn’t the religious undertones that sparked the connection; it was the multiple themes of mortality, existence, suffering, wisdom, and time. Today was a wild mix of activities. I walked through it as if touched by the lightest of magic. I added more creativity, affection, and humor to the day than I took from it, and I felt buoyant for having done so. As often happens, life then snuck an unseen hammer into my periphery and hit me on the head with it. It’s an ongoing and hard lesson to be reminded that one’s intentions, though colored with optimism, can give birth to their opposite.
A few people wrote to me and admonished me for jumping picnic tables this week or walking in the 3 p.m. sun—both of which I did again today. But I also did my best to brighten a few people’s day, which often turns out to be riskier than risking life and limb against the breadth of a picnic table.
It could have been worse: I could have shouted the F-bomb loudly while standing next to my manager. Someone else is guilty of that one. It was an accidental moment of fun. I took a risk and sponsored a frivolous game for a meeting at work. Note: my coworker didn’t shout the F-bomb in response to my game, at least not directly. The takeaway lesson from the meeting is that everyone looks like George Clooney.
I sat and read Ecclesiastes before I took my afternoon walk in the scorching sun. It’s an austere lesson, one that directs me every time to be glad for the moments I had.
On so many levels, that’s all we have.
It’s so odd that on some days, it’s more than enough.
And others? I weep for my expectations. ..
PS The double rainbow is from a recent Sunday morning. I stole a walk among the rainy outbursts that chased me across Fayetteville. What a beautiful morning that was.
Today, when I walked in to see the counselor, I handed her this card. She’s accustomed to my sense of humor and laughs authentically when I catch her off-guard. I was incredibly lucky to randomly find her.
There’s a punchline to this. I told her that I came up with the perfect tagline for her as-of-yet written proposal for workgroup mental health discounts: Crazier By The Dozen.
“I’m not sure prospective clients would understand the humor.”
You have to start small. But sometimes, you have to stop thinking and trust yourself. In my case, I know I’m an idiot. So worrying about s-t-a-r-t-i-n-g to think is a bit excessive.
Because I lost so much weight, I now get these ideas that seemed ridiculous to me before. Losing weight erased much of the sense I could fake and replaced it with a noted capacity for more what-could-go-wrong thinking.
One of my favorite places here has a couple of picnic tables. It’s not that they’re tall, but rather that they’re wide. (A problem I used to have personally, too.) So if you’re going to take a run and jump, you better be prepared to lunge with a wild enthusiasm that will clear you. Otherwise, you’re going to figure out what a somersault feels like, one with splinters and a broken head. (If you’re a masochist and reading this, it still isn’t advisable, so take note.)
This tendency to fail to jump with all your enthusiasm and effort is one of the biggest reasons so much goes wrong in life.
Yesterday, without any preparation, I cleared my head of reason and restraint and ran ten steps… and jumped. To my horror, I cleared the table. Today, I walked around to gauge the logistics of the other table. Instead, I took off running and hurdled it like an ice cream buffet on weigh-in day. I landed a foot further than I needed. I applauded myself like I had brain damage and took a bow.
As I sat on the bench of the picnic table, rubbing my victory in, so to speak, a woman came around the side of the building. She had watched my jump from the vantage of one of the many windows along the back, unbeknownst to me.
“But can you jump the table lengthwise?” she asked.
Although I wasn’t sure I would be able to, I knew that I could, if conditions were perfect. And if they weren’t, at least the witness would have a great story to tell, the one about the middle-aged nutcase jumping a picnic table lengthwise.
The table in question wasn’t much longer than its length. In any case, I’ve lived a good life. I jumped up and turned. Just as I was about to run and jump (or try to), the woman said, “NO! I didn’t mean for you to try it!”
I laughed. I didn’t attempt the jump. Not today, anyway. I’ll call Blue Cross and ask a couple of questions. And reconsider my options tomorrow.
A year ago, I wouldn’t have tried to jump a picnic table. Now, I see metaphorical picnic tables everywhere.
It was 90+ outside, so it seemed reasonable to take a walk on the hot sidewalks and streets at 3 in the afternoon, especially since I was still dressed in black. Since I’ve been experimenting with various incarnations of chalk, today I carried a stick of very light lime green on this walk. In the event of heat stroke, I could at least scrawl out a last message as I melted on the sidewalk: “I’m a dumbass” would probably cover it. It’s not poetry, but it’s accurate, much in the same way that Luke Bryan is singing, but it wouldn’t necessarily fall into the category of ‘music.’
I went inside to get an unsweetened tea to drink on my way back. I knelt with my back against the sun and wrote “TODAY” on the sidewalk in front of the store. The very light lime green brilliantly contrasted with the shadow created by my profile against the blistering sun. I noted that the pale green seemed to morph into blue against the shadow.
“Hey, what’cha doing?” a voice asked as I stood up. A 20-something man was the source of the voice. He was, of course, smoking. But definitely not smoking hot or smoldering with a hidden intelligence. Walgreens is the Walmart of the pharmacy world.
“Making art,” I said, keeping my face impassive and stoic.
“It looks like you’re writing with chalk to me,” he said.
“Art is the convergence of the mundane with the sublime, dude.” I laughed. I waited for him to retort in reply, as I’m nothing if not courteous.
I walked away as I put my chalk back into my front pocket, possibly in an attempt to entice people to coyishly inquire if I was happy to see them or if I had a stick of chalk in my pocket. Being curious-minded, I did ponder how many adults in Springdale had chalk in their pocket at that exact moment.
Because of the success of the color of chalk, I wrote a poem, one and two words at a time, stretching for over a mile. Above me, the sun did its best to erase my enthusiasm for the task. It amused me to know that it would be challenging to read the poem back in the order I wrote it.
And though the thing I described as art is transitory and fleeting, I suspect I’ll remember the moment. I hope the smoking young man remembers it too, trying to figure out if he had witnessed something ridiculous or sublime. It’s all in the eye of the beholder; art, love, stolen moments in the hot sun.
54 years old, 161.5 lbs, zero prescription medications.
I didn’t have a say in the first and the last two seem impossible compared to a year ago.
(On the other hand, I didn’t expect to get derailed in ways that I hadn’t anticipated, either; this is probably a common human circumstance. We’re so busy watching the sidewalk for hazards that the falling anvil goes unnoticed. I failed on a personal level more than once in the last year, ridiculously so. And without therapy, I might have not only derailed my life but done so in the widest possible ravine.)
I still don’t take credit for the second, the weight loss, either. I knew on that day in October that I wasn’t going to be fat anymore. I think that idea of it has taken on a life of its own though, one not entirely anchored to reality. When I think back to it, I didn’t feel the ‘snap,’ but it echoed in me. And still does. The more I explain it to people now, the more they squint at me a bit – unless they’ve experienced something similar.
Although I wasn’t trying to lose more weight, I got on the scale after noticing my belt was wonky again. I weighed in at 161.5. In January, I wrote about the idea of reaching 160 lbs just once. It’s not sustainable, especially as I start doing pushups or anything that builds mass.
One of my favorite people asked if 160, or 155 would be ‘enough.’ I answered easily: “Yes.” 160 isn’t sustainable for me, not really. She was worried I might succumb to the idea that no amount of weight loss would be enough. Addressing that, I do admit that I got on the scale again this afternoon to weigh. And it just didn’t seem right – or even possible that I weigh 161.5. That’s about 90 lbs lighter than my heaviest. What balances my head out about all this is that I also know that I will never be fat again. That kind of confidence can be dangerous.
…which leads me to my next stupid fear. The more on track I stay in regard to eating better and staying the right weight, the more likely it feels like the other shoe might drop. Any of us at any moment can have a seemingly random event derail us. It’s one of the bitterest parts of life. All of us know people who’ve done everything right and still find themselves dealing with crazy health events, ones often impossible to see approaching.
Note: I am not saying I did everything right, not by a long shot.
Thanks to Blue Dress Project, I’ve also been doing push-ups. Although I have to be very careful due to my back and shoulder, it’s been interesting trying to incorporate them into my daily routine, whether in groups at the end of my work shift, or each time I go to the bathroom. (Which sounds misleading, I will admit.) It will be interesting to see whether such additional strength training will add weight. Or kill me. Haha.
Yes, I do know that muscle mass burns more calories. I’m just not sure I want to do pushups for the rest of my life. On the other hand, it seems a great percentage of adulthood is having to do things that we’d rather not. Or we’re doing it wrong, the adulthood thing, I mean.