Long Journey, Part 2: A Long Road That Has No Turn

​https://youtu.be/sGs9V7iDuZU

Yesterday, I talked about how the changes I want to make in my life all promise a lot of effort, even pain, with no guarantee of arrival. 

I’ve been thinking about that since I wrote it,  and it occurs to me just how  fortunate I am.  

The goals I have to struggle toward are self-actualization goals. The first four levels of Maslow’s needs hierarchy are pretty much taken care of. 

I have a good job (one I enjoy most of the time)  with benefits and truly good co-workers. 

There is plenty of food in our panty,  fridge,  and deep freeze,  and money to eat out of we don’t feel like cooking

Our house is safe, dry,  un-infested, and everything works. 

I live in  a safe neighborhood.

I only drive about 2 miles to work.

As a white (cis, het) man, the world is an infinitely safer place for me than it is for most other Americans. 

I have a loving wife and daughter. 

I have an extended family, and we love each other (even my in-laws, which I understand makes me really lucky).

Truthfully, my stakes are low. If I fail at these personal goals, I will be upset with myself, and my life will not improve. 

But my kid won’t starve, I won’t lose my house, I won’t be raped and then watch my rapist get 6 months in prison, and I won’t be gunned down while buying a bb gun at Wal-Mart.  

We all want to improve ourselves and our lives, but it’s easy to lose track and think that if we can, anyone can. For people like me, that kind of thinking is part of the problem. 

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Pressure, Stress, and Mindsets


Kelly McGonigal spent many years telling people that stress was dangerous,  but it turns out that research shows that stress is only dangerous to people who think it is bad, dangerous, or harmful. 

It turns out that people really can thrive on pressure. 

Dr. McGonigal made this video to help correct some of the old perceptions. 

Now,  why am I writing about this?  Because I’ve never been great at handling pressure and stress. I thought that was hard-wired, unchangeable,  but apparently changing your attitude toward stress can help change its effects on you. 

So what now?

Dr. McGonigal showed us one immediate,  easy to use stress intervention.  Whenever you feel stressed,  tell yourself “My body is preparing me to meet this challenge.  My heat is beating harder and my lungs are pumping faster to get more oxygen to my body and brain.

Tell yourself that until your believe it and you can eliminate the cardiovascular dangers of stress (mainly blood vessel constriction) and make yourself less flustered and more energized. 

Additionally, connecting with others,  especially caring for others, makes us more resilient to stress. Community and compassion can actually nullify the health damages of major life events. 

Also, “chasing meaning is better than trying to avoid discomfort.”

I’m going to try to our these into action. I’ll report back later and let you know how it goes. 

August Life Goals

Yesterday, I shared my progress on my July writing goals and announced my August writing goals.  Today,  I’m setting out my August life goals.

  • Get at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night.
  • Get to bed early enough to write,  read, pray, exercise, or otherwise greet the day
  • Exercise 3 days a week, rain or shine
  • Continue eating a plant-based diet
  • Try to do something actively helpful for someone (family can be included,  but ideally this should reach beyond them)  each day
  • Listen to music, go outside,  and do other things to rejuvenate myself

Well,  that’s more than enough to do for one month. I will  let you know how I did at the end of the month. 

Shoveling “Stuff” (Getting My Life in Order)



 

If this is the year when I get my “stuff” together, well, I still have a lot of “stuff” to shovel and only 5 1/2 months to shovel it.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve done a lot this year so far specifically regarding myself:

  • Earned my Ph.D.
  • Gone Vegan, lost 20 pounds, and fixed some recurring digestive issues
  • Restarted this blog and posted to it faithfully five days a week

But there is still a lot to do.

There is SO MUCH wrong with the world. I can’t go on Facebook right now because I’m just overwhelmed. I find myself ruminating about so many things that need help, and then I end up not taking care of things in my own life.

Being fully present in each moment is a “big” thing and one that probably takes a lot of time and mental practice to do. However, I can start by

  • Not having a bunch of windows open at once on my computer
  • Turning my laptop off when I’m not using it, so I’m not tempted to pick back up at whatever I left off, especially social media and web pages
  • Dictating text as much as possible, using my wireless rig, not seated at or facing the computer.
  • Getting away from my computer unless I’m doing something that specifically requires it
  • Reading more print books and fewer articles
  • (Do you get the idea that technology is a problem for me?)

I’ll also try to more fully devote my time and attention to my daughter, and try to remove things that distract her attention (like cartoons). I work full-time, and I want to really have time to have a real relationship with my daughter, one that isn’t mediated through the TV. I also want to reserve enough time to talk to my wife and give my full attention to the aforementioned conversations.

Even if I don’t get to do some of the things I want to do, I think I need to prioritize giving full attention to both my wife and my daughter.

Swimming, dancing, running more (especially with my daughter)
She is only 3 once, and I won’t waste my limited time with her preschool self being subdivided and not really “there.”

Doing more things that require my hands, not just my fingers on a keyboard.
Like cooking. I like trying out new things, and new recipes.
That would be a calming creative outlet for me, and would help take some of the load off Katherine, too.

Finally, I need to turn my attention to more spiritual pursuits. I’ve always been a churchgoing, active, professing Christian, but I’ve recently learned about some spiritual practices that have ancient roots that most American protestants (myself included) have forgotten.

Three of these that I know I want to try are praying the hours (praying specific prayers at certain times of the day, though perhaps less specifically that the Catholic Church does it), following the church calendar and observing its seasons, and reading through the Bible following the Common Lectionary. The lectionary is used by millions, if not hundreds of millions, of Christians across the globe. In following it, I would be aligning my study with a host of fellow believers worldwide.

I need more sleep, more time outside, and more exercise.

I’ll get there. I’ve still got 5 1/2 months to go.

Meat-Free Monday: The Best Reason

There’s another reason that I’m going vegan, and it’s both a moral and a health reason: I want to be there for my daughter for as long as I can.

She’s 3. I’m 41. She should not have to bury her father anytime soon. Assuming she has kids, they deserve to get to know their grandfather.

Now, I’m not ticking off the time. Most of my recent male ancestors made it to 80 and beyond. One great-grandfather died young, at 59, from a heart attack.

But none of them (not even the one who died young) was fat. And, in case my profile picture and last Monday’s weigh-in haven’t tipped you off, I am.

Now, I’m all about body positivity, so when I say “fat,” I mean it descriptively, not pejoratively. I’m definitely a big deal.

And while the actual evidence about BMI and morbidity is a lot more complex than the diet pill pushers want you to believe: BMI is a terrible measure of health, to the point of “lying by scientific authority,” and the topic of weight and weight loss are so emotionally and financially fraught that they’ve developed their own mythology.

Read Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata and Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon to see how some of that mythology developed, and to see through some of it.
BMI balderdash aside, even at 6’7″ tall, it can’t be healthy to weigh 375 pounds.

And while diets have been repeatedly proven to not work in the long term, I promise I’m not dieting (I lost another 2-3 pounds this week, depending on how I stand on the scale, but I promise I’ve been sucking down food like a vegan vacuum cleaner), so I hope I can escape the almost certain re-gaining plus interest that comes after five years.

In all the health and weight talk, people often forget to mention one thing:mobility. I was slowing down. I was getting hurt more easily. It was getting harder and harder to keep up with my little girl.

And while I’m still not ready for the Olympics, I’m doing a lot better. It’s easier to get down to the floor and back up again, I move more quickly, I feel better, and I’m even healing a little faster. Swimming has helped, to be sure, and so has the lost weight, but I feel like my eating has really “fueled” the improvements.
Eat better, feel better. There you go!