Time – an ever changing… constant?

With the notable exception of theoretical physics experts and those who have been experimenting with quantum entanglements and the study of anomalous events in the universe, such as black holes, most people believe that time is a constant. It is a fixed measurement that progresses as predictable rate and to which we must all heed and adhere.

The perception of time is a completely different matter. Despite the very impersonal sense of time as a variable, we think of it differently than perhaps mass or volume. We talk about time like a living, breathing thing that can ravage or crawl. It can change course and speed. Perhaps it is due to this almost sentient and entity-like aspect, time becomes more malleable and something of science fiction. Because with human perception you add the of the human experience with hopes, expectations, and apprehensions, time can speed or slow sometimes even within the span of one day. Most of us can remember adults and elders in our youth talking about how time seems to fly by while we weary travelers as children had to clock the seconds and hours slowly awaiting holiday, recess, or any other anxiously awaited event. It is that variability and fluidity that might even lead one to suspect that time might be manipulated.

Even as adults, most of us still experience that lack of consistency when the clock seems to race out of control when a project deadline approaches or might slow to a crawl when we’re stuck in a meeting. For each of us who have scheduled time off or vacation, we’ve felt how the hours might drag until that 5 o’clock whistle after a very long and exhausting week, but the hours of the weekend or planned time away race by, and we find ourselves all too quickly back at the beginning of that first day of the work week with a long stretch of days and hours before us. For parents, you have probably experienced both the over zealous passage of time when you blink and the children you love appear before you as adults, but perhaps you also remember when you wondered if the time would ever come that you weren’t cleaning up apocalyptic messes and strange scientific experiments found under beds or were able to downsize to a shoulder bag that wasn’t roughly the equivalent of a suitcase because it was impossible to go out unprepared for every eventuality of parenting woe.

One of the most difficult time anomalies is grief. For those who have suffered loss, the time seems to stand still. It can feel as if the world stopped turning just for you and will never regain a normal rate, but the passage of time for everyone else continued a pace without notice. However, you find eventually that years have passed. You wonder how you missed the time going by and moving forward. You ask, how did that happen? Or can it really have been a decade? And, yet, sometimes the grief stabs with surprising intensity at unexpected moments, still fresh and clear and painful, almost as if no time has passed at all. While time does pass, and the pain eventually dulls, it can sometimes bridge the gaps to present images and emotions as clear as the day they originally formed with no fading. That is, again, the difference between the constant and the human perception. We call it memory, and even when painful, it can often be precious.

One of my favorite depictions of that strange difference between the constant of time and the human perception was penned by Shakespeare. And so… I will let the Bard take the stage to describe:

ROSALIND:  By no means, sir. Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons. I’ll tell you who time ambles withal, who time trots withal, who time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal.

ORLANDO:  I prithee, who doth he trot withal?

ROSALIND:  Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnized. If the interim be but a se’nnight, time’s pace is so hard that it seems the length of seven year.

ORLANDO:  Who ambles time withal?

ROSALIND:  With a priest that lacks Latin and a rich man that hath not the gout, for the one sleeps easily because he cannot study and the other lives merrily because he feels no pain—the one lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning, the other knowing no burden of heavy tedious penury. These time ambles withal.

ORLANDO:  Who doth he gallop withal?

ROSALIND:  With a thief to the gallows, for though he go as softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.

ORLANDO:  Who stays it still withal?

ROSALIND:  For lawyers on vacation, because they sleep their holidays away, with no sense of how time moves.

Thus, until the next… may time treat you well.

Boundaries… I haz them

…as should we all. Boundaries are healthy. Boundaries keep us balanced. Boundaries let us be individuals. I’m not sure when it actually happened. It seems that little by little as time has passed, people have given up their privacy in the name of freedom… and waltzed way past boundaries in the name of false entitlement… ok, maybe a little license there, but this is a bit of a rant.

I’m not knocking freedom or liberation. I firmly believe in the right of free speech and thought. However, privacy and boundaries are something that has become more and more fluid with the popularity of social media and the revelations about technology and the ability of agencies and individuals to not only observe the intimate details of life but possibly even steal a few of them. Even in the midst of outcries for breaches of privacy and accusations of even the government overstepping some boundaries of what they should and should not have access to for private citizens, people still willingly share private information via social media with friends, acquaintances, colleagues, followers… the world (for those who like to go public on their profiles). Boundaries between what is personal or private versus what is suitable for others to know and consume have blurred to the point of near invisibility for some. I do not necessarily say it is a bad thing to be open and trusting, but I personally have reservations with airing all the aspects of ones life with the public at large. I also believe that while you are free to express yourself, you are also free to experience consequences that accompany that expression, positive or negative. Just keep that bit in mind.

In truth, people do not need (and should not have) access to your intimate life constantly. Everyone should have some sort of sanctum sanctorum, fortress of solitude… batcave? Ok, so overly dramatic, but still there should be some place, even non-physical to which an individual can retreat and be private. Even family and partners need some way to have their own space, sometimes if it is merely in the privacy of their own thoughts. It is exhausting and can be somewhat unhealthy to be constantly exposed, even if to a limited audience. What has become disturbing about the open-book philosophy and current trends of oversharing is that certain entities gain a false sense of entitlement to lives that are not their own. What do I mean by that? Well, it has become almost common place for friends, family, employers, coworkers, and employees to feel they are entitled to know the details of the lives of anyone and everyone no matter their relationship to the individual in question. They want to know about your interests, your family, your stresses, your struggles, and of course your failures. They want all the minute, intimate details, and those who choose not to display personal items or pictures of loved ones or don’t feel as free sharing private scenarios or feelings are sometimes perceived and labeled as negative, stand-offish, cold, angry, or not participating in the culture of the group. In the workplace, individuals who keep to themselves and choose not to share details of their time away from the office or office hours engender suspicion and occasionally criticism.

In the non-work relationships, the phenomenon can be observed in slightly different ways. Terms like “vague-booking” have arisen to describe social media posts that are cryptic, dramatic, and lack the excessive detail to explain the personal matters that have become expected. Friends and family sometimes become offended or feel injured if they find that events have transpired without their knowledge. Nothing, it seems, is sacred.

But some things should be. Boundaries are good. They need not be seen as divisive, because separations of individuality can be a remarkably positive thing. It prevents emmeshment. Division does not have to mean antagonism. Difference doesn’t necessarily presuppose disagreement. I read recently that empathic people (no, I do not mean Counselor Troy from STNG) have a difficult time with boundaries. They feel what other people feel, and they have an uncanny ability to draw complete strangers into telling their life stories. It is a gift, but it can also be amazingly taxing emotionally and psychologically. It can also be invasive, intrusive, and unpleasant for others who may not feel comfortable with that level of interaction. Yet another reason boundaries can be a very good thing. Just because you can pick up on the emotional tenor of others doesn’t mean they want you to share it or even ask them about it.

So, sometimes the message to the world at large needs to be, “No, you do not get to rent space in my head.” The space and time of my life to which you have access is of my choosing. None of us need permission to step away and recover. We have a right to be able to do just that. Additionally, the details of your private life and mine (and they harm none) are the property of no one else.

I can set my boundaries. It may have taken me an undisclosed number of years to learn the trick of it, and I’m still working on my skills in this area. We all need to realize that we don’t have to give anyone or everyone access to our inner most thoughts and feelings, and it should always be our choice. Choose your boundaries and set them knowingly, recognize those of others, and perhaps we can all be a bit healthier in our interpersonal interactions.

Physical Fit: The negative about body positive

What I am about to say is by no means original or earth shattering. It just isn’t. I’m not the first to notice some of the less healthy bits that have come about due to what has been dubbed the “body-positive” movement.

Now, before anyone starts in on their defense rebuttal and argument strategies (which everyone in this day and age is wont to do, because we don’t actually listen anymore… but that is a different post for another day) hear me out… or read me? Or whatever…

The movement has been called Body Positive because it was intended to promote appreciation for the natural form without being forced to the ideals of a society that appears to be entirely divorced from the reality of the human body. It was a movement to combat the push to get people to make unhealthy choices about their eating or behavior merely because their own physical appearance was outside the perceived ideals of society. It’s a great philosophy… on paper… in an ideal world. For the most part, I agree with the premise of being positive and feeling good about who you are without having to harm yourself physically trying to fit into unrealistic silhouette. I do not think that everyone should look the same or even be forced into the unnatural confines of a body that is unhealthily restricted or genetically impossible. Women (and men) have had society’s physical expectations thrust upon them since, probably, the dawn of time. The sense of what is or isn’t attractive (if we believe all those science types) should be defined by that which makes for healthiest reproduction and genetic superiority. Yes, I said that. Where it all seems to have gone a bit tits-up was when the definition of “success” was less about the superiority of physical genetics and more about Who’s Who (back when you couldn’t purchase your way into the register).

So, as a species we went from strongest, healthiest, most likely to survive to reproductive maturity… to whatever was the most popular and most in the public eye, regardless of physical health. Technically, this is probably still about what was at one point going to survive or at least make the most attempts at reproduction (popularity and financial success/stability can work their wiles on many). This resulted in some fairly ridiculous fashion trends that included emaciated appearances or even the complexion and frailty of tuberculosis. And don’t let’s get started on corsets for women and men. The human race has pursued some seriously peculiar trends. Still, times change, attractiveness and fashion changing right along with them. Eventually, the time came that people got fed up with the unrealistic and unhealthy expectations.

All of a sudden, people were encouraging young women… and men… to focus on being healthy and appreciating their body rather than adopting unhealthy practices in attempts to replicate body proportions that are frankly impossible to achieve with merely a good diet and exercise program. Many people started appreciating their own bodies and sharing that with others (thanks, social media). The Body Positive movement encouraged people of all types and shapes and sizes to appreciate what is good and healthy about their own bodies rather than being self-critical and self-loathing based on societal expectations. The movement created an upwelling of acceptance and a cheer heard from normal, average, non-supermodel bodies around the world said “Go us!”

What could possibly go wrong with that?!? Well… like any good, positive, and supportive trend, there is always the “over-do-it” principal and, of course, the backlash. Anything that humans create that is healthy will generally be taken to an inappropriate extreme and used improperly by some. And that, my friends, is pretty much what happened. For all the great job that being positive about our bodies did to combat eating disorders, body shaming, and dispelling the myths of only “thin can get in,” there were those who used those good intentions in supporting, validating, and maintain frankly unhealthy habits. Healthcare professionals were lambasted for certain recommendations for patients who could benefit from healthier lifestyles as being demeaning and “fat-shaming.” While I do not claim that all healthcare professionals are without flaw, I also believe that they try to work towards the best health outcomes of the patients in their care. Most (though definitely not all) health providers base their diagnostics and recommendations on more than general appearance or the visible expectations of society. So, when they suggest certain actions, it isn’t just because they think you look unpleasant in your clothing (or out of them). Usually, it also has something to do with lab results. Additionally, the attempts to be more positive about all body types, sizes, and shapes had the back-lash effect of what some called “skinny-shaming.” Folks who might be more in line with thinner ideals or even more on the underweight side started catching some of the negative comments and frankly critical feedback. From the days where the “chubby kid” got bullied, the shift has come to making insulting comments about people who have difficulty putting on the extra pounds. For those who might say, “Hell, I’d love to have that problem…” it can be a very serious issue that results in bone deterioration and other health concerns.

Additionally, the word “diet” became a focus for anger and people said that you cannot follow a diet and be body positive. I get where they are coming from, I think. After years of crazy crash diets and ridiculously extreme weight-loss programs that took people to levels of starvation and encouraged eating disorders, the word diet became a word that meant cutting OUT or cutting caloric content significantly. Let me say this: “Diet” refers to any program or menu of suggested eating. Diets can be constructed to gain weight. Diets can be developed to address particular health conditions. Telling someone who actually does embrace their own healthy body (whatever that body looks like) that they are not body positive because they are following a diet is as bad as those who the body positive movement originally arose to combat… and now… I need to stop that rant.

What is my point? I guess what I am trying to say is that good ideas with the best of intentions can always be taken to an unhealthy extreme or abused. That doesn’t mean we should just toss them. However, it does mean that perhaps we should take them back to the purity of the original intent. Healthy is where it is at, folks. The measure of health is not always immediately visible to the eye, and we need to remember that. We do not need to ascribe to what society says we have to look like to be accepted or feel good and confident about who we are. That doesn’t mean we have a blank check to make poor decisions about our health and ignore everything that our primary care provider (or specialist) says that might be uncomfortable to hear. Feel good about doing the things that you enjoy. Let go of the self-conscious crap that says you have to look a certain way to be happy or healthy. What works for one doesn’t work for all. Learn to love what is realistically healthy for your physical and emotional make up and work towards that goal. That is the best way to be positive.


Physical Fit: Of inertia, momentum, set backs, and comebacks?

Break it down for me…

Warning: This post gets serious. Just letting you know. It isn’t my usual level of humor or even snark. I am letting you know up front, but I’m keeping it real with you all and hopefully it will help someone.

I file this post under the physical fit I pitched a while back, but to be completely honest, it actually applies to everything I do. I have described myself on occasion as the all-time-champion-queen-of-the-list-makers. This pertains primarily to my habit of breaking down my days, weeks, tasks, and projects into lists of smaller pieces that I quite literally cross out or check off as I go. Why? Well, for one, my memory isn’t quite what it used to be (it happens to most of us eventually). While I can remember in the most minute detail conversations and embarrassments and general unpleasant occurrences from days gone by, if I don’t write it down, I will sometimes forgets pants… ok, slight exaggeration, but I do find that writing things down keeps me from forgetting various important tasks that I need to get done. Secondly, sometimes the impact of the things we face each day can be so overwhelming, it just seems easier to turn away and give up. If that overwhelming mountain is broken up into steps… well, more on that later.

So, why under physical fit again? Well, because a very recent conversation with a person very dear to me made me remember that we all need to feel a sense of accomplishment, and sometimes those accomplishments can be relatively modest. Additionally, we all need support, and it helps to know we aren’t alone.

Last month I hit a wall. It was a big one. Construction on said wall started early in 2017 and continued throughout the year in fits and starts. A series of unfortunate events comprised of personal injuries, financial traumas, betrayals by family and friends, injustices, general cruelty and meanness by various in society, and grief seemed to participate in a competition for what could leave the biggest dent. Mostly we just keep rolling with punches and remember that there are so many people in the world fighting bigger battles and facing worse hardships. But starting in about August the construction plan on that wall of mine must have gone into overdrive. In a horrific cascade, I found myself facing the loss of seven close friends or relatives from August through the end of the year. Some were after long struggles with illness, but others were completely unexpected and devastating in their impact.

Around about mid-December, I gave up. Seriously, that is about the only way I can describe it. I woke up and just didn’t have it in me to try any more. I picked up the bloody white towel (totally metaphorical) and hurled it into the center of the ring. I was done. I didn’t care about progress or gains or losses or getting better or worse or living or dying anymore. I quit working out. I quit minding my diet (not just the caloric intake but actual allergens… more on that later). I just couldn’t see the point.

Just to be clear, if I had not had patients, clients, etc. to see, I would not have left my house and probably would not have bathed or changed clothing… Sound familiar? If you or anyone you know has depression, it should. In speaking with the person I mentioned earlier in this post (and I hope he’s ok with me sharing even if I don’t include his name), I found just as I had heard from patients and colleagues and other friends around that same time that so many of us were hit particularly hard in 2017 and particularly in the latter half of the of the year (and continued during the first of 2018). He mentioned suicidal thoughts at certain points and feeling so low that death seemed a better option. Several other people have shared the same… including me. What we were all experiencing was pain, individualized and excruciating. Depression can be debilitating, and it can be worsened by seasonal impact of light (or lack thereof). The stigma attached often prevents those suffering from trying to get help or even support.

For the most part, all of those who shared with me their dark times and dark thoughts have made it through to this point. While not all are out of the woods, they are still fighting back, and now knowing they aren’t necessarily alone.

I still didn’t get to that physical fit part, did I? So, one of the things that exacerbated my own plummet into the pit was that I gave up one of the things that actually helped… my workouts and exercise in general. Not to mention, those allergens… told you I would come back to it. In that headlong rush into self-destruction I ate all the things. Mostly all the things that my body has already indicated it doesn’t really get along with so much. I ended up with a mouth full of sores and blisters and… you all don’t want to know the rest. So, on top of the existential pain, I had the rather debilitating physical pain that at one point did not allow me to consume much more than water. Some choices carry their own punishments, and my body decidedly wanted me to remember why I don’t eat all the things.

After a month away, I dragged myself back to the gym. It wasn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t pleasant, and I definitely had to make myself step through the door. It was almost like starting over that very first day I had the fit. It felt as if I had lost every inch of ground I had covered in that time. I felt like a failure… and I nearly ran back to my car and retreated back to my dark pit.

But I didn’t. It was embarrassing to have to start over, but I recognized that I probably needed to take it slow. So, I did. I broke it into pieces. It wasn’t about an hour or even 40 minutes. I broke it down to quite literally 5 minute increments. I can put up with anything for 5 minutes, right? And that is how I got through it. That is how I got through that first day back at the gym, and the second. We can all face the difficult for 5 minutes, can’t we? For any insurmountable, horrible obstacle that life throws… break it down. And talk to someone. Reach out to the people around you. They may be struggling, too. We can get through this, even if it is a piece at a time.

Calendar of Meh…

And now… Just in time for the flipping of the yearly dial… the moment we’ve all been waiting for with so much anticipation…

Ok, so, not so much. While this is something I’ve been threatening to do for many, many years now, the rest of the world is probably not really given it much though. But wait, perhaps you merely do not know what you have been missing! It is the Calendar of Meh! What, you may ask, is the Calendar of Meh? Well, I’ll tell ya. Quite a number of years ago (the number is immaterial and too large for my vanity) as a colleague and I sat sleep deprived and unmotivated, we discussed the names given to the days of the week. Yes, we knew the etiology of the modern nomenclature (which alone is somewhat confusing and pantheist, but again a topic for another day perhaps), but somehow, the old days on the calendar do not properly reflect the true modern approach to our work week. Thus, we came up with a modern day cubical-denizen/slave’s version of the weekly diary… I’m sure the calendar companies will soon come banging on the door:

  • Sunday – Dread Day or Day of Dread or Please don’t make me go to (school, work, etc.) day… oh yeah.
  • Monday – there is really nothing worse than the original here.
  • Tuesday – Bastard child of Monday, because you know it’s true (#onlyTuesday).
  • Wednesday – Hump Day… Congrats, you made it halfway! You know it’s all downhill from here.
  • Thursday – Friday Eve, because you know most people just treat it like part of the weekend anyway.
  • Friday – because honestly there is nothing to improve here, unless we just say Wahoo!
  • Saturday – Recovery Day, because that is what you are all doing, admit it.

Seriously, doesn’t this much more accurately describe how we all approach the days of the week? However, once I started thinking about how the week is described in a more descriptive approach, do the months need an overhaul? It’s not like we’ve had a good calendar revamp since 1752 when the Gregorian version was adopted by many (though not all) of the societies of the planet, generally giving us the rhyme about 30 and 31 days with that strange 28-day outlier that has to catch up with an extra day every 4 years (Leap Year… why is it leaping? I certainly do not feel very energetic during February, but I digress). Anyhow, I thought I’d try my hand those old monthly labels as well (keep in mind some of these might be a tad fluid instead of the set 28-31 day deal)… Here goes:

  • Checkuary – the period of time, regardless of how many days it takes, where we all participate in the crossing out, erasing, and re-writing of the year number as we get used to it changing from the previous cycle…
  • Brass-Brassiereary – which is easily easier to spell than the original and takes its name from northern hemispheric inhospitable temperatures…
  • Irish Month – Everything is green. Everyone is inebriated. No one cares about your DNA.
  • Taxuary – that time of year where we sit down and balance the accounts to see how much the government has picked our pockets and whether or not they have to give any back…
  • Is-it-summer-yet? – Students can’t focus. Office workers take longer lunches.
  • Midsommerish – More accuracy than snark, but there it is.
  • Onfire – Mostly because of the cookouts and fireworks. The whole month seems to be about setting things on fire.
  • Meltuary – Humidity and dog days, time to embrace air conditioning and icy beverages.
  • ParentalGleeuary – Conversely this is also TeacherGloomuary… take that as you will.
  • DressUpMonth – On a personal note, this is my personal favorite…
  • @#$%-I’ve-not-started-shopping – Because, let’s be honest, we all kept telling ourselves “I’ve got plenty of time yet… “
  • BuyersRemorse or TURNOFFTHATDANGMUSIC – dealer’s choice…

Some of the names are still a work in progress. I’ve considered other contenders such as “RunfortheBeachuary” and “STUPIDTURKEYANDCOOKIES MONTH” (or possibly “ALL.THE.PIE.”). However, there may be others that you yourself might consider more fitting for your own household. That is the beauty of Meh. It works for who you are. And that concludes my contributions to the calendar business. I’m sure I’ll start getting offers any minute…

For your use, there is a PDF template (below link) you can print and use as your personal Calendar of Meh and one for 2018 should you wish to use it… Happy New Year.



The time change brought all the boys to my yard…

And the girls… and maybe not so much my yard. Rather more like MY GYM. A week or two ago, I walked into my local repository of all things fitness, and I honestly thought I had hit a strange time vortex that transported me straight into gym-tending season. Arriving at my usual uncaffeinated and pre-dawn hour, I saw… people. Lots of them. Normally, I go to the gym at this particularly uncivil time of day not only to just have a chance of shoehorning a workout into my schedule, but also because it is the least populated time for the gym… or possibly the least populated hour during which I am vaguely conscious.

But yes… all the people were there. Not only were they there, they were milling about and generally congregating in ways that made me quite uncomfortable. Normally in the wee hours of a weekday, I’ve got the place practically to myself with perhaps one or two other regulars. We all go about our programmed routines studiously avoiding eye contact and personal interaction. On the rare occasions that we accidently make eye contact or reach for the same dumb bell, there is a curt bro-nod and polite shift while we accommodate the other and move on. Instead of my usual tribe, I beheld a gaggle of strangers. They were impeding routes and interrupting sets and sitting on the benches… Yes, sitting.

Every Smith machine and bench press was occupied by tank top clad, confused-looking individuals who were… not actually moving barbell or dumb bell… no. They were staring at their phones. The four or possibly five of us that normally wander freely among the free weights stood in paralyzed perplexity as we tried to squeeze our way into at least completing our training without unintentionally touching the crowding masses around us.

Had I gotten lost? Had I lost time… like months of it? What happened to my normally zen-like peaceful place of fitness?

Oh wait… then it dawned on me. The anachronistic practice of altering time-keeping pieces to somehow fool people into thinking that the days aren’t getting shorter had occurred. Yes, my friends, Daylight Savings, or rather the return to Standard Time, had struck again.

The practice of this clockwork tango was originally proposed back in the late 1800’s and first implemented (believe it or not) in the German Empire and Austria-Hungary back around the first World War. The United States followed along not long after, and the whole time marching on… and back… and on again has been confusing us ever since. Some countries don’t even do the whole springing forward and falling back routine anymore. Thank goodness for that little mnemonic, am I right?

Anyhow, aside from totally messing with the circadian rhythm of the demonic feline who lives with me, the putting forward or back of the clock numbers doesn’t really impact my life all that much (unless I forget to do it). However, this year it did have the added “entertainment” value of increased population at the gym that I finally realized was very likely due to a few people perhaps forgetting to set their clocks back. Well… good for them. I hope they enjoyed their day of being ahead of the game at least for that one time. Now that we’ve eased back into that Standard time… I have my bench press to myself again. Thank goodness!

And now You’re back…

Well… I’m back. Not so much from outer space, but more like from a chasm of complete disarray that has held me prisoner for most of this year. While I think a good many of us started out 2017 with some trepidation, I actually felt on pretty good footing in a personal sense. I saw some light in the financial tunnel that did not appear to be an oncoming train for once. My professional life was doing not badly. I had physical fitness and health well in hand… and… I should have known better.

Along about mid-year, the universe decided to test the aggregate limits of my mental fortitude by throwing every aspect of my life into a wood chipper. I can’t decide if it was strength test or more of an agility thing as I kept bobbing and weaving to dodge those “slings and arrows” that I’ve talked about before (my apologies to the Bard).

Every time I thought that I could quit paddling so hard and relax for a minute, something else would hit and off we’d go spinning towards the rocks. Grief is a helluva thing, y’all. So, I paddled faster and harder just to keep myself and those I love above water as best I could.

The upshot? Well, every time I thought I was inspired to come back to my faithful and loyal audience, all I could think is “What a load of depressing crap this is…?” and I didn’t feel like putting that off on any of you. But now that the year is starting to spin down, I’ve seen several of my friends and colleagues participating in NaNoWriMo. No, I’m not going to be enthralling any of you with fictional prose, because the truth is that I have no gift for that. There are way too many others of my acquaintance who are better suited. So, I will let them entertain all of us with their offerings… they are quite good, I’m telling you.

I will celebrate the month by trying to open up a bit more to you, my few readers. See if I can dust the rust off and come up with something that doesn’t read like a typed version of Droopy Dog or Eeyore on a Quaalude. Who knows? This might be just the treatment the doctor (and by doctor, I do mean me. Ha!) ordered. I didn’t lay down and die (no matter how much I might have felt like it at times). So… for now, I will survive.


Rant: “Don’t tell me I’m pretty…” Huh?!?

And just like that, a multitude of responses just popped into the mind of anyone reading that simple statement.

She’s fishing for compliments.

That’s some really low self-esteem.

You are beautiful. Everyone has beauty inside them.

Why should you wish to conform to the unrealistic expectations of society…?

Why not smart or strong…?

I’m probably going to get my feminist card revoked and someone will kick me out of the club, but I have a serious beef with some of the prevailing attitudes of media, bloggers, and spewers of what I might call the social-justice-warrior-theme.

Recently, I read an article that said (and I paraphrase) even the positive messages given to women are actually negative. This incredibly oxymoronic (with emphasis on the moron) and confusing diatribe proclaimed that our new body positive mantras proclaimed far and wide were detrimental to women because while appearing to be empowering statements are undermined by subtle phrasing that “privileges male pleasure above all else.” What?!? So… no matter what you say to compliment, empower, or just give someone a compliment (well, a female someone, that is) is merely supporting the patriarchal overlords and stamping upon the spirits of the sisters… oh, my stars, really?!? While I’m thinking about it, just because you want to be perceived as attractive, why assume that it is the opposite gender that someone is trying to impress. Does a preference for same gender somehow make one immune to the desire to be attractive to them? I don’t think so. But I digress. Most of us enjoy hearing “You look awesome” or “That is especially ravishing” or even “Dang, you look hot!” We like it. We get a little zing in our swing. And apparently… that’s not ok?

From this particular perspective comes the inability to appreciate appreciation… Yes, I said that. I’ve never quite understood why some people bristle when given compliments (or having doors held or chairs for that matter). I mean, I completely understand how it might get a little tiring and frustrating to never be appreciated for your intellect or talent as a female (which begs the question, do men get tired of being praised for the masculine non-physical traits instead of physical attributes?). However, just because someone tells you that you look amazing in your outfit doesn’t mean they think your appearance is all you have to offer. Well… I mean, some people are just objectifying jerks, but they are likely to treat everyone that way. They very likely see everyone on the planet as objects with which they interact. It’s called narcissism. That doesn’t mean that all compliments from all people are bad, demeaning, or undermining the empowerment of your individuality and self-confidence.

And what, pray tell, is so wrong with wanting to be found attractive?!? The overall tone of the piece I read (mentioned above) was that somehow, in some way, I was flawed for wanting to be perceived as attractive or sexy. Um… hate to tell the author, but this is one of those evolutionary drives that is programmed into our DNA. Being desirable from the perspective of Og and Uma (those two get a ton of mileage in my blogs these days) meant that they had resources… they possibly got to replicate their genetics via procreation. Og didn’t get bent and say to Uma “but you don’t appreciate the way I knap the flint…” and Uma didn’t get upset because Og wasn’t appreciative of her ability to count the days in a moon cycle. So, we evolved to get the warm fuzzies and tinglies when someone thinks we are pretty or sexy. That is part of our genetic make up. It’s ok, really it is. It is nice to be told that someone finds us attractive. Or at least I thought it was until the media and various opinionated social bloggers and whoever else told me that it wasn’t ok for me to like that.

I think I get where they are coming from, and I believe it has good intentions. The desire to feel attractive is very different from the overwhelming pressure to adhere to a particular image. Being objectified by appearance rather than appreciated as an individual; that, my friends can get super unhealthy… But boy howdy does the message miss the mark somewhere. Where did it go so very wrong? I dislike these hopped up pseudo-psychologists who think it is somehow very wrong to like being perceived as pretty, sexy, or attractive.

So, where was it supposed to go? I’m just guessing, but I believe that the idea is that we can be self-empowering and feel good without any external judgment. That’s pretty awesome. What isn’t so awesome is that people got the idea that in order to have this internal sense of positive well-being we can’t appreciate the appreciation of others. And that just sucks and is a horrible way to live in a social interactive environment. If you are trapped in isolation having no other humans with which to interact, groovy. Telling yourself that you are good enough and smart enough is what you need, but there is still the “gosh darn it people like me” part that speaks to a social component. As humans we are programmed to get good vibes from being liked and appreciated by others.

Now, the pervading and sometimes overwhelming sense that I get from media and various and very vocal groups is that women are more susceptible than men to this whole objectification and self-image issues. That… is a crock. I have many male friends who are as much or much more body conscious than I am. The idea that societal expectations of physical beauty are only a detriment to those of us with lady parts is a fallacy.

My friend to whom I vented a large blast of frustration and ire on this topic this morning took it to an equality place. He remarked that many of the “third wave” feminists label compliments as objectifying in attempt achieving equality by oppressing the oppressors… or something along those lines. In other words, at some point, being equal was not so much about actual equality but in being superior. And that brings up another problem I have. I am not equal. Chances are, I never will be equal… to anyone. I am unique. I do not have the same talents or abilities of my friends. I lack the knowledge and experience of my elders. It has nothing to do with my gender but my self. I am different but no less valuable, and that is awesome. I am neither superior or inferior due to my genetics and biology. I strive every day to be the best I can for myself and for those I love.

So, does that mean that I’m undermining myself because part of my desire to accomplish is for others? If I buy into the claptrap of the article that set me off on this rant, the answer would be “yes.” By their standard, I should only work towards betterment for myself and my own satisfaction. Maybe that is true, but in doing for those I love, I am also serving myself. So, because I feel good about making people I care about feel good, does that make it bad? Ok… off on the spiral I go, bringing up the concept of altruism and the selfish gene theory and all that jazz. Trust me, we don’t have time for that here.

Back to the original issue. I’m tired of people telling me and everyone else that wanting to feel attractive or working towards a goal to please someone else is wrong and unhealthy. It’s not. It’s natural. Being owned or dominated by the perception of others is a different matter. We should all be free to be who we are and feel good about those things that make us feel confident, healthy… and yes, sexy. So, if someone tells you that you look good… it’s actually pretty awesome to say “Thanks” and believe it.

Physical Fit: New programs, pain, and horror monkeys

The first conversation of a morning not so long ago went something like this…

Co-worker: I feel like six shades of horror monkey turds.
Me: Oooookay… How many shades does it actually come in?
Co-worker: Eight.
Me: Ah. In that case, you aren’t completely dead yet. Carry on… (pauses before continuing) So…out of curiosity… what are the particular characteristics that make a simian “horror” instead of the usual run-of-the-mill variety…?
Co-worker: Severity of head pressure and the color of discharge from my nose.
Me: I see. So, sinus discharge is somehow related to differentiation of primate species occurring in horror vs naturally occurring ones… fascinating.

Why am I beginning this post with the above conversation? Well, I will tell you… I think I almost grasp horror monkey “turdness”. While no discharge has made evident the particular shade, I believe that today I might have fallen somewhere upon the color wheel of that excremental descriptive. Again… why? Oh, yeah, I’m a masochist.

My friend (Yes, Tess) will often remark that life is a series of experiments. We try various things, whether socially, physically, mentally, or emotionally and evaluate the outcomes for quality. Well, I’m paraphrasing… I think… hopefully not fouling up the actual premise, but you get the general idea. We do a lot of the experimenting when we are adolescents and trying to figure out who we are as independent persons. However, the experimental nature of humanity doesn’t end with adulthood. If so, we’d never have any new ideas from anyone outside their teens. And thus, it is good we continue to explore, create, and ponder the ponderings of new ideas. Where was I going with this… oh yeah: Horror monkeys.

As my experiments documented and shared with readers (all two or three of you, my undying gratitude for your loyalty) will attest, my explorations in the realm of fitness and diet have definitely had their ups and downs. Recently, I have embarked upon a new training program. I decided it was time to up my game. I needed to face my fears and make my first forays into the dreaded free weights area of the gym where the wildlife is more competitive (and spends a good deal of time looking in mirrors… yes, I know, form… but then there are the “swelfies.” That is apparently a thing, but I digress).

For those of you who possibly engage in weight lifting and fitness yourself this may seem like a ridiculous thing to fear. Am I right? You are thinking “Really? They’re just weights.” But y’all don’t understand the level of courage it takes for me to leave the safety of the cardio and mechanical advantage machines to make a complete ass of myself trying to replicate the movements with the weenie little dumbbells that were the only ones I seemed to be able to budge. It’s humiliating to have some cute little fitness model in her designer workout garb curling 50 pound weights with ease while I look like a busted can of biscuits in my free t-shirt from the local pizza place and nearly bursting a vessel trying to curl my 15 pounds. And so… I hide in the corner where I hope I will go unnoticed and not disturb the “professionals.” It also helps that I go super early most days which avoids much of the crowd. And off I went again… It’s Friday, what can I say, I’m a bit distracted.

So, the new plan is a 9-week thing. I’m on week … 2. Yes, 2. I’ve been at it for a sum total of 9 days. Last week was mostly me very awkwardly learning the various exercises from the videos on my tablet (very helpful, by the way). I still ended up aching from the new movements and different ways that the body uses free weights as opposed to the machines. I also found out that I can’t do chin ups. I used to… I did. I remember in school doing those phys-ed assessments. I could do chin ups all day. Now? Nope. My arms just said, “Aw… that’s cute.” So, again, humiliation. I have to use that assist thing that allows you to set it for counter weight so that you are only lifting a portion of your full body mass. Regardless, I was sore… everywhere. I thought for a while that I would either have to wear the same nasty clothing for a week while I recovered or I would require assistance with my activities of daily living. I’m not going to go into details, but aching leg muscles and trying to ease down for sitting upon ANY surface… think about it. It wasn’t pretty.

However, much as my more physically proficient friends predicted, my body started recovering and the soreness faded to a dull presence that was manageable. And yet… Week 2. It all starts over again. Shocking, right? One week of working out on the new plan is not going to make a miracle of my body. It is a 9-week program. If I want any results, I’ve got to give it the full trial. This is where those monkeys come in…

Leg day… makes me want to puke. I am not joking Quite literally today, in fact, the up-chucking occurred. I have some more than rudimentary knowledge of physical ailments and how the body’s chemistry works. I expect that several factors contributed. By the time I finished my workout, I could not have appeared more drenched if someone had stuck me fully clothed into a shower. So, electrolytes and temperature. No bueno. This is why people drink those nasty tasting beverages trying to replace the salts. Lifting and cardio can also draw blood flow away from the stomach adding to that not so lovely feeling. Additionally, lifting weights and training actually does create tiny tears in the muscle tissue which then heals and grows, and that’s totally oversimplifying, but the process does dump some chemicals into the system that might contribute to the world-spinning, full-blown, ralph attack. Now, why leg day gets the full brunt more so than arm, chest, back, or abs? Possibly due to the size of the muscle groups. In fact Dr. Joel Seedman confirms this:

“Basically, your gastrointestinal system isn’t getting adequate support when your body is moving blood to where it’s needed most. Some workouts are worse than others when it comes to commanding tons of blood flow—for example, leg day can leave you more prone to nausea. ‘This is due to the size of the muscles as well as the overall volume of work that the legs are capable of handling.'” (from Alexa Tucker in Self)

So… maybe three or four shades of horror monkey excrement today… At least not the full eight. I am careful enough to keep an eye on things like heart rate and such to be sure the nausea is not a symptom of something more dangerous. So far, just a symptom of me being a leg day weenie on this new program.

All of which is to say, I’ve started this new experiment. We’ll see how it goes. If the results are positive, I’ll be sure to share it. So, stay tuned. It will also help keep me honest and sticking with it even when arm day makes my pen soooooo heavy and typing somewhat difficult. Cheers!

Sticks and stones may break my bones…

But words will never hurt me…

What a load of utter crap! Honestly, this is possibly the biggest lie that children are taught as rhyming wisdom to carry with them through their life.

Most of us learned this in early primary or elementary school (depending upon your location). I get it. I truly do understand what the familiar, childish mantra is supposed to teach and convey. It is meant to remind us that who we are is what counts, that what people say about us doesn’t matter. It is supposed to remind the fragile egos within those developing young psyches that someone saying horrible things about you doesn’t make them true and cannot truly harm the person you are.

However, it is now in an era of horrible bullying and freedom of expression where people seem to have forgotten what it is to be kind or to even be polite that we realize that the words can do as much or more lasting damage than those imaginary sticks and stones ever could. In truth, physical injuries (except for those so traumatic that they permanently maim or remove body parts) heal. Even when there are the physical reminders of scars or the twinge when it rains that recalls the old wounds, it doesn’t generally plague the individual in the same way that psychological and emotional damage does. Physical injuries also seem to carry with them at least the garnered sympathy of others. Psychological and emotional wounds are invisible injuries and scars that even when known by others are often viewed as a personal weakness instead of the respect given to those who bear up under a physical ailment.

Why is it that we hold onto the negative so strongly? Why is it that our past mistakes, hurts, and humiliations haunt us? Is it that we are all psychological masochists reveling in self-torture (often in the wee, dark hours of the night or early morning)?

I have a couple of personal theories on this. First, I believe that it is an evolutionary feature of humanity to more easily recall negative events, stimuli, and experiences than their more positive counterparts. Oh my lord, why? Why would this be a strength design? Well, I’ll tell you. Most of our collective ancestors survived long enough to reproduce through avoiding death or impotence-causing injury. They managed to do so through learning that what hurts or makes for the unpleasant experiences generally didn’t bode well for continued health and well-being. How we’ve lost this avoidance-survival instinct is anyone’s guess, but that is meat for another discussion.

So, caveman Og finds an interesting creature and pokes it with a stick. Creature objects and shares with Og the error of his ways in the form of a nasty, and very painful bite. Og says, “Hmmmm, Og not poke at this type of creature again. That caused the ouch.” Creature lives. Og learns not to annoy things that cause potentially nasty infectious wounds. Uva, watching from the sidelines also learns this from the loud bellowing and evident discomfort she observes in Og, and thus, the learning. Same might be said for the pretty red berries that cause the nasty stomach pains and rather disgusting gastrointestinal responses… or from an observer if they realize that eating pretty berries resulted in death and death like symptoms. The point being that avoidance and remembering the unpleasant meant that Og and Uva’s children, grandchildren, and descendants lasted and reproduced far longer than the unfortunate others who saw the same snake again and forgot that poking it caused the painful response or eating the pretty berries meant that you breathe no more.

Ok… and because I write these posts in between life and other things that occur when we aren’t looking, I have to admit that I had an alternate theory that totally escaped out the window while I was watching the shiny squirrels raving away in my office. 

So, alternate and #2 theory not available at the moment. So, I’ll just say that from an evolutionary and learning perspective, we hold onto the negative because that is how we managed to survive. However, the upshot is that physical injury… by sticks, stones, and more damaging options… can still result in recovery and healing, and sympathy. People can see those things, and they see why we hurt.

But those words… Yeah, those words stick. Whether we want them to or not, we keep them. We record them, and we reflect on them years later. I can still recall words and names called on playgrounds decades ago. They plague us when we attempt new experiences, or merely try a new approach. We replay the harshest criticisms and every ugly jeer exclaimed. Sadly, the closer our relationship to the person who said the words, the longer they will remain in our memories; the deeper the scars. (Yes, scars are not merely a physical phenomenon.) Even so, a close personal relationship isn’t necessary. The random critical comment from a stranger can embed itself for years, cropping up at inopportune times to ignite insecurity and doubt.

Because we have an even broader arena these days with social media, I find that words have even more power than in days gone by. The pen might be mightier than a sword, but the keyboard and mobile app can go nuclear. Many have said that younger generations are fragile or lack strength of character to stand against the “just words” their elders faced bravely and without any perceived injury, but under a barrage of negative, hurtful words, any of us might falter. People underestimate the power of words, even in the light of what can be accomplished with just a mere 140 characters at a time.

And with that…

Words have power. We need to remember that and use them wisely. We need to remember that what we say (or type) can be put down for posterity… and not just because the internet remembers all. The human mind keeps a record. How do you wish to be remembered? Words can harm… or they can build. They can help and they can hurt. Words an inflict injury and malicious intent; but the words we share have the potential to also impart knowledge or wisdom or joy or mirth. Choose your words.

And with that said:

Sticks and stones can break my bones; but words can mark forever…

Use your words. Use them wisely. They may be more powerful that you know.

A blog about a few thing I picked up along the way… Hey driver, where are we going?!?