I’ll start this post by commenting on the picture. This woman is beautiful, no matter what age she might be. She reminds me of one of my aunts, had she had the chance to live an entire life. “Everything’s eventual,” old age included. If we are lucky. A bit of advice? If someone timelessly admires you, take a minute to nod in their direction.
One of the sublime emotions that is hard to pin down is the let-down one feels when others fail to take advantage of the knowledge of someone right there who has been there and done that. At 54, after many failures, I bite my tongue quite often. If someone asks me, I tell them my story and do whatever I can to motivate them. I’ve learned that preaching entrenches people.
My healthier eating journey seemed like a miracle to some; to me, it was inevitable. I’m not saying I have all the answers and certainly not that I’m doing things correctly. But if that’s the case, very few are. No matter what else I’ve mismanaged, I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, as well incorporated a staggering amount of better choices into my diet. I did all this without feeling hungry. That’s a success.
And because I did it, I know other people can do it too.
And a certain percentage can do it as easily as I did, without upending their life or putting themselves on a literal treadmill to do it.
I see people struggling and unhappy with their weight and some of the consequences it brings.
It’s needless for most of them. Not all, because some people have circumstances or medical issues that prevent them from accepting their body how it is and learning to be happy about it – OR, taking steps now, from where they are. If a non-diet or intuitive eating approach is what they would rather do, then get with it!
People aren’t going to change their habits unless they want to or are forced to by external forces. Wouldn’t it be simpler to listen to a dork like me now instead of waiting for a harsher force to intercede?
We don’t need complicated formulas, expensive supplements, a gym membership, or much of anything, not really, to lose a lot of weight. BUT if you do need those things to get you there, I’m not pointing a finger. If it gets you to your goal, for heaven’s sake, do whatever you need to, even country music. If you do it to prove me wrong, I’ll be happy for you. Success is a beautiful thing. People who’ve achieved a goal radiate in a way that others don’t. We all gravitate toward them.
If you don’t want to, that’s great. Stop paying homage to the diet rat race and stop focusing on external programs you honestly aren’t interested in. I’m here to tell you that you can do it in incremental steps OR with sweeping, immersive life changes. Something will work for you. Please keep trying! My penultimate post was titled, “You Fail Until you Don’t.” Whether it’s weight, work, or any other change you would like, staying where you are is the bigger problem.
But if you are interested, take a moment and pretend that I might know what I’m talking about. I can undoubtedly uncomplicate it in your head, which is ALL the battle, anyway. Once you commit yourself, the road becomes more apparent.
Here’s the first step: tell yourself that you’re going to make changes. Stop focusing on the things you perceive as failures. If you’re smart enough to love yourself for who you are, one of these days, tomorrow or 2026, you will succeed. If you have a fan in your corner, give that flame of admiration some encouragement.
On June 1st, I started doing pushups due to my cousin. She’s been going to the gym and building muscles. While I wasn’t willing to start going to the gym for several reasons, I decided that pushups would be the ideal experimental exercise for me to incorporate into my daily routine. They are free, don’t require equipment, and can be done anywhere. I’ve proven that the “anywhere” part can be interesting too. It’s led to many anecdotes, most positive, a few awkward, and all of them interesting. Being able to do pushups in all manner of places is also excellent training to reinforce the idea that I shouldn’t be worried about what people think. People do all sorts of weird things that we accept as normal – even though many of these things are harmful or idiotic when taken logically.
Initially, I promised myself I’d do them for six weeks, allegedly the habit-forming mark. After reaching that point, I decided to do six more weeks. So far, I’ve made it seven weeks. Likewise, in early October, when I had my epiphany, I promised to stay on guard for an entire year. It’s incredible that I’m in my tenth month and have maintained all my goals. Whether true or not, I feel like if I can stay the course for a year, my chances at keeping my oath never to get fat again might become my permanent reality.
Friday, despite being tired from work, I decided to go all-in and do more in a day than I’d ever done previously. Oof! And I succeeded. So I then broke Friday’s record on Saturday. I’m not going to say how many, other than it was a lot for a fifty-four-year-old man. Truthfully, it is a lot for anyone who isn’t in boot camp. Ha! Today, I’ve done 1/3 of my record yesterday. I’m not committing to beating yesterday’s mark.
Even though it’s vanity for me to have been pleased by someone’s comment the other day, a coworker who was enthusiastic about my weight drop since October stopped me; he hadn’t seen me in a few weeks. He asked if I had started boxing. I looked at him quizzically, expecting a joke or jab. He told me that he could tell I was doing something physical, as my shoulders and arms had changed shape. Since he is a decent boxer, I took it as high praise. While I didn’t tell him what I had been doing, he told me to keep it up, and whatever it was, it was working. A couple of days later and another coworker, someone who works out often, told me that I had somehow avoided the curse of looking ill when I lost so much weight. Someone we both knew had lost a lot, but she looked gaunt and frail. In the last few months, I did have a couple of people tell me that they thought I looked ill. I remind myself that two out of five hundred is a great track record.
A few weeks ago, when I saw my favorite cousin for the first time in a while, it was notable how much her arms and shoulders had progressed. The gym is working for her. Seeing people succeed is such a blessing and seeing her do something for herself is a blessing twice over.
Whatever your goals are, I hope you are figuring out a way to fail until you succeed. That’s all any of this is. You fail. Until you don’t. At that point, it seems inevitable. Eating better can be incremental. Exercise can be cumulative. Take small steps, literally, until you see progress. Any progress you make, celebrate and appreciate it. When you find that people aren’t celebrating with you, you’ve at least identified people that probably shouldn’t be squandering your time or attention.
PS The picture is from a couple of Sundays ago, on a hot afternoon. People do tease me about my preference for old school headphones. And that’s okay. I walked that afternoon to time how quickly I could walk to work from my starting point. That kind of consideration is going to be more common as I transition to another kind of life.
I stood under the canopy watching the lightning streaks. I held a cup of delicious dark bitter coffee in my hand, my first cup of the day. I was already drenched, so it didn’t matter whether I was protected from the rain or not. There aren’t a lot of instances when you have the premonition that you might easily recall the moment later. The place was mundane – but they all are, really. I took a little bit of delight and traced it in my memory. A few seconds after the next big streak of lightning, a huge boom echoed and somewhere in the distance someone gave a little shout and said, “Let’s go in!” Apparently, not everyone takes delight in drinking their coffee during a torrential downpour. There is no accounting for taste, is there?
Nearby, the traffic light seemed more vibrant in the dense rain and early morning light. The rain and thunder had attempted to veto my walk. I ignored the imposition and set out anyway. Who knows how many more times I’ll have the opportunity to watch the world duck and run simply because it’s raining. For that matter, or watching people pay $8 for a dessert disguised as coffee.
Despite the intense dark of the sky, I stole a long walk from this morning. During the first part of my walk, I stayed urban; for the second part I abandoned all concern about the weather and rain. Being somewhere new affords a different pleasure and I don’t need to be somewhere exotic to feel alive. (A truth I should learned more distinctly when I was younger.) I could share several pictures, ones I grabbed each time I took my phone out of the ziplock bag I had tucked into my pocket. But these would not be shared memories, and often that makes all the difference. It is why we feel a little empty looking at other people’s vacation photos, especially when the people we love are not in them.It is our presence and our memories that add value to a place or a vista.
So I’ll use my words to futilely attempt a description: I walk alone on this wide expanse of trail.To one side, the angry creek roars. The sky intermittently opens up and drenches me but fails to touch my enthusiasm. The birds carry on their business, and I watch a hawk on the edge of the farm and rows of test corn, probably searching for mice. It feels like I could walk forever, and possibly without encountering other people. The thunder is my applause. Somewhere out here with me there must be a touch of the ordinary. But I don’t see it.
Red is for stop green is for go Add this small thing To the list of things I do not need to know . . PS Lest you think everything is rainbows and butterflies… toward the presumptive end of my walk, I watched a bitter domestic fight in one of the single story apartments dotting my return. The woman stood outside screaming obscenities and threats as someone inside through her belongings out onto the wet sidewalk. Though she doesn’t know it, her life is both ending and beginning. Worse still, because of my life experience I can mentally chart out the rest of her life. As several of the neighbors stood outside in the light rain to watch the drama, I couldn’t help but think about how needless it all was. Needless and probably inescapable.
How strange to consider how enjoyable of a morning I had just walking, one of the simplest things in the world – while the woman in question probably was having the worst morning she’s had in years.
I’m going to go back to my regular morning, and if I’m lucky, like all of us, I might experience another touch of the divine. And another cup of coffee, one without the kiss of rain.
I coined the term “velvet avalanche” to describe the sensation of lying down on cool sheets, knowing that the world is about to slip away. You’ll dream, you’ll vanish into the ether of your own mind, and if you’re lucky, for about 1/4 or 1/3 of your life, you’ll swim in imaginary creations of your own making. Not long ago, I had lost touch with my velvet avalanche. It took me to the brink of a nervous breakdown.
May your night be a velvet avalanche cold sheets to encircle you both sides of the pillow cool to your cheek one leg in, the other carelessly jutting out a box fan or ceiling fan buzzing nearby or above cycling away your concerns and thoughts you’ll return for another trip tomorrow let it go, let it swim, let it begin and if you’re lucky, someone to steal the blanket from sleep is free, and freeing let the velvet avalanche win
I sat next to the large glass window, my food, chips, and Tajin in front of me. I’d describe my mood as grateful and happy.
Outside, a woman with her mom and two children were eating lunch. They’ve joined the two small tables on the sidewalk to make a megatable. Before I’d entered, I could hear the younger mother chastise her son in a way that made me attentively continue listening. He was prancing around the perimeter, his feet tracing a path around a sidewalk pot of beautiful yellow flowers. The breeze was brisk, and the day was a treat. Fair or not, I decided that the younger mother might be an asshole.
As I sat at my inside table, I couldn’t help but watch the four people as they interacted. The two children, especially the boy, seemed to overflow with energy and interest. Grandma didn’t fuss at the children; she appeared to be a little dismayed by the frequency and ferocity of her daughter’s ire at the children, though. While I couldn’t hear the mother as she fired staccato bursts of irritation, her expression and body language were a red flag. Whatever was going on in her life, it was apparent that her kids were the outlet of her anger, which probably was true most of the time. I’d say the girl was three and the boy was five.
I turned away from the otherwise beautiful view of the street and goings-on outside. A few minutes later, the door in front of me opened, inviting in the mom’s grating and irritated voice. “I said stay the eff out here!” I looked to see that she was yelling at her son, who attempted to follow her inside. He flinched and stepped back away from her reach. I recognized the body language from my own childhood. It took me a minute to convince myself to do what I don’t do best: shut the hell up.
What should have been a delicious meal in a beautiful setting instead became a refresher course in the insidious curse of having too much anger in one’s life. I hate it when I notice it like today. I know what the kid’s lives are going to be like. Every ounce of free happiness they have will be squeezed out of them by someone who might not know how angry she really is. Maybe they’ll get lucky. Perhaps the mom will get help.
Here’s why if you look at the picture on this post, you will notice my eyes are a little misty. As the four left the tables and walked to my right, I waved at both the boy and the girl who trailed behind the two older women. They waved back. I finished my incredible lunch, thinking about all the needless anger and unhappiness around us. A few minutes later, mother and grandmother passed within two feet of where I sat, both holding drink cups. Moments later, the two children pranced by. To my surprise, they both waved at me AGAIN as they passed. I laughed and waved back. Mom turned to chastise the children to hurry and catch up and noted that I was waving. She snarled and said something I couldn’t hear. I’m guessing it was something along the lines of, “Don’t talk to my children!” And then she scolded the children, who both stood motionless staring at the ground. Grandma stared up at the canopy or nothing. I’m guessing the mom told them, “Don’t talk to strangers.”
I wanted to duck outside and tell her, “I think they’d be better off with strangers.” But of course, I didn’t. I bit my tongue. The universe will take whatever course of action it is supposed to. That’s the lie I tell myself, anyway. Having earned my merit badge in parental anger, I know too well that it is nothing more than a lottery.
When I left, I took a picture of the corners nearby and then one of myself. I almost always do. It reinforces the idea of the new me, the melted one I still don’t always recognize. I’ve been accused of being vain. That’s not true. I’m trying to convince myself that it really is me. Looking at the picture, I realized I should have wiped my eyes a little. They betray the slight jolt of listening to that mom fail to get control of herself.
I’m not sure I have a takeaway for this little story. Likely, I’ll never cross paths with those people again. I hope the children cross paths with people who find a way to show them that life is not as their mother sees it. Were I one to pray, that might be the one I’d write on my little piece of paper and tuck away into my heart.
Before leaving, I retrieved a piece of chalk from my car and wrote a few words on the sidewalk about anger being infectious.
My favorite cousin posted this to social media today. I made it at least a couple of decades ago. I once made a LOT of this sort of thing. She has a hoard/treasure trove of such memories that’s she sorting through. It warmed my heart and is still making me think back.
Despite giving away a large number of my “Get-out-of-jail-free cards,” I still have some left. It always surprises me when people who know me say they won’t need it. Duh! A disproportionate number of people who’ve been in my proximity have, in fact, needed one. Or two. I try to keep one under the floor mat at all times. Because if I’m going to get arrested, I’m definitely going to want to see the look on the policeman’s face when I hand it to him. Yes, I know that the cards on top are “Go to Jail” cards instead of “Get out of jail free” cards.
Epictetus: “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”I have: Life. Choice. Opportunity. Whether I squander them is entirely my choice or fault. This has been true for my entire life, whether I believe it or not. At 54, I believe it. Love, X
Knowledge you won’t find in a textbook: “Never complain about not having a shoulder to cry on if you’re around cannibals.”
When I met the new Latino coworker, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I didn’t like him, although something about his name, Adversario, gave me pause..
I ain’t saying his hair is a mess… but, you know how people talk about tearing their hair out? He looks EXACTLY like he both failed and succeeded at doing just that.
Some people worry about getting pulled over for speeding or drinking. My biggest concern is getting pulled over after someone discovers my latest artwork. I could post a picture of it, but I’m not going to. I like to think that someone out there will see something creative or beautiful and accuse me of having done it.No matter where it is.
For those who need a good groan…Today’s tear-off flyer..
The yellow conical sign in the middle of the hallway indicated “Wet Floor.” So I did.
Compatibility Comparison: If during the night there is a strange and inexplicable noise from anywhere inside or outside the house…. if one person says “whatever,” and the other person always jumps out of bed as if WWIII is starting, it’s over. Both people think the other is crazy.
Lovesakes, both new and old, juxtaposed, filled with light and nuance. The bird’s silhouette transposes a heart; whether it’s wounded or promise-filled depends on the beholder..
I made a tear-off sheet of compliments, for anyone needing one… I’m uncertain which is my favorite: “you smell like cheese” “even IRS agents smile around you” “you’re totally kidnappable” .
When I heard someone say, “She has an infectious laugh,” all I could think of was penicillin.
At 54, I went to my first rave last Saturday. I walked in and punched the first person I saw. Hard. Middle-aged people should not be unleashed to new experiences absent a brief explanation that the words naming activities often have ZERO overlap with how they sound. Technically, though, the guy I sucker-punched did indeed ‘rave’ quite a bit afterward.
Sometimes you can tell when somebody has had an unimaginably bad day. I left a 102% tip.Whatever preoccupation previously existed, it irrevocably vanished, leaving a huge smile behind.
Caveat emptor! I spent $199 on a WWF Wrestling Starter Kit….
Life accelerates away at a pace I can’t fathom. It boggles my mind that I’m at the same weight I was in 1985.I wish I could travel back and tell myself that the only thing that matters is that love seldom looks like we expect it to.Love, X
Some clichès have critical hidden flaws.”When you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” For all of y’all who have never dug a grave, that’s some pretty good cardio and intense exercise. If you can dig one, chances are you can dig forty seven.
This morning, I drove across town, heading back. I felt like I had been on another planet for a day. In a way, I guess I had. Whenever you find yourself in a transition in life, try to take a moment to snapshot how you’re feeling. That feeling later morphs into comfort or consolation, no matter what the ‘after’ you find yourself in looks like. Life is going to sneak up on you anyway. And no matter what you’re planning, some of the things that you dread reveal hidden treasures – while other certainties end up fizzling or filling you with disappointment.
Yesterday, to my horror, I realized that pink fuzzy dice are prominently featured in the amazing book, “The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste.” It’s a good thing my set of pink fuzzy dice can’t read English, or their feelings would be hurt. To my delight, many things I like had their respective pages. “Everything is in bad taste to someone,” I like to remind myself.
I also became a fun memory for someone yesterday. He’d never had someone come in and say, “I want however much pico de gallo $20 will buy. I ain’t here to negotiate. Whatever it is, it is.” To my surprise, it was a LOT. And they threw in two bags of unrequested chips and salsa for free. After I paid for my order, a shorter Latino man came around the corner. The cashier pointed at me. (He didn’t know I was looking at him askance.) The Latino man looked in my direction. I waved like I was recently injured in the head. It was apparent to me that he had poked his head out to see ‘who’ ordered so damn much pico de gallo. He hastily retreated as I waved to him. I told the cashier in Spanish, “Does spying cost extra?” He laughed.
I’m also 100% sure that the two workers in the liquor store I entered thought I was trying to steal. Naturally, I made at least five needless and random tours around the smaller store. I thought about ducking below the top to REALLY draw their interest but don’t want to be banned from another liquor store.
On my walk yesterday, I discovered so many hidden gems, hideaways, and unexpected pleasures. On one dead-end side street, I discovered new and fabulous houses. The style was so odd that I realized I loved it. It’s not something I would ever choose, but now that I’ve seen it, I’m impressed. At the outlet of that street, I stopped and did pushups. The smell of the towering mimosa tree was unbelievable. I stood under it as the purposeful wind swirled the scent around me.
I also got reminded this weekend of how much turmoil some people have to endure. Some suffer so much invisibly that they don’t come out of it alive. Having done the one wise thing I’ve done in a year and going to counseling gives me an entirely different appreciation for those who don’t go when they need it. Right now, I am sure that someone will read this and be one of those people who secretly have a private feedback loop running in their head, the one telling them that there’s no point or that maybe they shouldn’t be here. Counseling isn’t what you fear it might be. But it can be the starting point. And so many people would benefit from getting a handle on their issues now. We don’t realize we’re at the beginning of an avalanche until we’re half-buried in snow. The best gift you can give someone is the confidence you need in yourself to be able to tell them that they would benefit from getting help. And if you’re the person needing help, give yourself the gift by confiding in someone that you need help.
I stopped this morning and bought two containers of chalk, one of which I almost entirely used, making a ‘small’ homage somewhere in Springdale. A couple of people witnessed me in action but said nothing to discourage me. It’s too bad I wasn’t wearing pants. (Just kidding about the no-pants portion. Although that much chalk residue is a real problem at times.) It’s not like chalk is graffiti; it’s as impermanent as we are, though we cavalierly pretend otherwise as we move around on the face of this planet.
Leaving the grocery store, I saw an older Latino man ahead. Both arms were weighed down with liquor store bags. I slowed, checked behind me, and tossed the myriad mess from my passenger seat into the back. Pulling up alongside the man, I rolled my window down. (Yes, my Spark has roll windows, which is something that I love the idea of.) “Hop in,” I told him in Spanish. He politely declined. I insisted and repeated my first line with a bit of salty language. He laughed and put the bags on the floorboard as he climbed inside. I saw that he had Harps bags tucked inside each liquor store bag. (For those few people who don’t drink, black liquor store bags are much stouter than their grocery store counterparts.) About halfway inside, he realized how small the car was. “Where are you headed? I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.” It turned out he was staying a couple of miles up the road. I asked him he needed anything: money, food, a ride somewhere else… “No, but thanks,” he said. He told me he was working twelve hours a day and sleeping in the garage of one of his friends. I didn’t pry, but he volunteered that the last year was the worst year of his life. Without thinking, I said, “You’re paying the price now to have your life back.” He looked at me, and I realized that I probably touched a nerve. “Verdad.” He got out, picked up his bags. He nodded his head as a farewell as he walked up to the house.
I opened the garage door and fired up the grill to make grilled chicken breasts and portabello mushrooms. Almost immediately, a dog wandered up. For a brief second, I thought he was going to attack. Unexpectedly, he ducked his head and began to wag it back and forth, his eyes downcast. I kneeled and petted him like he was my dog, oblivious to the initial idea he might bite. After I finished petting him for a couple of minutes, he laid on the garage floor, content. I found some old smoked turkey breast and put it on the ground. He ate it, his tongue working across his snout long after he finished it. When I finished grilling, Guajolotero, as I named him, still was sprawled out on the garage floor. I cut up one of the huge chicken breasts, along with a portabello mushroom, and fed them to him. He ate slowly but thoroughly. Even though he still licked his chops, I petted him again. Afterward, he casually plopped down to rest again. Apparently, he adopted me. If that’s the case, I will hope he doesn’t expect freshly grilled chicken and mushrooms on the daily.
Two hours later, he’s still in the garage, chilling.
. . .
“It doesn’t matter who you’ve been with, it matters who you end up with.” Anonymous wisdom .
“It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, if you’ve made amends as much as you can, it only matters who you end up to be. None of us are ever finished – and those who think they are, well, they are ‘finished’ in quite another way.” – X . . .
Something I learned in counseling.
Do you feel like you failed today, or worse, that you were a failure?
If you’re alive, you succeeded in doing something, even if it is the minimum necessary.
Tomorrow, survive again.
Stop expecting a dramatic crescendo of satisfaction from each of your days and eventually, gratitude for JUST the minimum will take root. . . .
I hope to get my hands on this door, to help in transition into something else.
“You show up for work every single day regardless of whether you’re motivated or not. You do that because you’re a responsible adult, but when it comes to your training or nutrition, you allow your consistency to rely on your motivation. You have to get to the point where you realize your health and confidence are just as much your responsibility as something like your finances would be as well. When you finally make that mental switch, your actions will no longer be dictated by your emotions, and you’ll start making real progress.” – Chaz Spackman . I’m 38 days into my pushup challenge. (And NINE months into my year-long eating commitment!) When I started, my right shoulder was hurting like a rejected suitor on prom night. Because I’m not too fond of the idea of ritual workouts (and gyms), I opted for pushups, even though my job robs me of most of my physicality. I do them in increments, no matter where I am and no matter who might be watching. (It’s more natural than standing there with a cellphone.) Some days, I stop counting. My friend Joe says none of them count until it hurts, anyway. I promised myself I’d do at least six weeks of this craziness. My shoulder feels much better, and I know something positive is coming from doing this, even if it’s to lose more self-consciousness. Whenever you make significant changes, you’re always going to draw scrutiny.
It’s transformational to make a goal, any goal, and just do it. I wish I’d had my epiphany twenty years ago; that time is gone. No matter who you are, surely there is some change you’d like to see in your life.
I’ve been accused by a couple of people of being suddenly vain. That’s not it at all. I’m a 54-year-old man who has acquired a renewed sense of confidence thanks to luck and a commitment to consistency. I want everyone to experience what it feels like not to recognize themselves and realize that so much of what stops us is between our ears.
Pick a goal. Walk. Run. Bike. Learn Spanish. Be kinder. Eat better. Write your story. Read more. Stop voting like an idiot (no matter which camp you vote for).
Acquire consistency in whatever it is you aspire to.
Almost all consistency is a decision.
PS No matter how successful you are or you become, remember that life is going to hit you with a hammer anyway. You can’t avoid the hammer but you can avoid wasting all the opportunities you have in front of you.
As a person never short of words, I love shorthand such as “Karl,” or “Sorry about the rash.” It adds punch and mystery to language, gives rise to surprising laughter, and softens our hard edges to others.
“Wow” is a verb, without question.
Even in situations that aren’t romantic, we fall short when we can’t express admiration, encouragement, or even a bit of recognition for another person. So often, we’re afraid that it makes us vulnerable. So what? We’re already exposed and vulnerable.
In a typical day, there aren’t always moments that give rise to “You wow me.” But take a moment and imagine that someone took the time to get your attention and say these words to you.
If that isn’t a gift, not much is.
I hope that you were wowed by someone today. Or that you wowed another. As for tomorrow, look closer. You’ll see someone that might want to hear these words. Clear your throat, take a breath, and let these fluid words flow: “You wow me.”