Wednesday, April 07, 2010
I learn a lot from my granddaughter every time I am with her. Kids are amazingly honest and they don’t have a lot of inhibitions. They have to grow up and become and wise, sorta like me and you, before they learn the art of being secretive and defensive. Little kids thrive on praise. Give it to them and they do a few cart wheels, a hand stand and throw ya a smile that could block the sun and utter at least three or four dozen” thank you’s.” All of that is usually followed be a hug or if you are lucky a kiss. They smile a lot, laugh a lot and are very honest about how they feel. When they are hungry they want to eat. When they are tired they want to sleep. It’s not rocket science to them. If you hurt their feelings they tell you about it and then very calmly, while looking you square in the eye, they tell you how you are supposed to behave.
Then they grow up and because they go through some experiences in their lives that shake their confidence instead of taking a deep breath and asking what they learned here, they decide, very much like I decided at one point in my life that its best to keep everyone, not just the jerks, but everyone at arm’s length. It’s really safer that way, right? No chance of exposing your vulnerabilities, right?
Some of us use humor; some of us develop a quick mind followed by a quick tongue to banish anyone who comes close to finding out where we might be weak or fragile.
“We shall never be hurt again.” This time we really mean it. But if you are reading this you are a Spark friend. Just because you do not show up in my cute little roster of friends doesn’t mean you aren’t my Spark friend. We just aint done the formal invite thing, followed by the effusive thanks and all that neat stuff. I digress.
If you are here and reading this you and I share a common bond, we use food as our defense mechanism. Oh, we might describe it more high brow terms or couch it in a bit of sorrow and pity, but as one of my uncles used to say “You can’t BS a BS’er.
Somewhere, someplace, sometime we had a really bad experience in our lives and unlike a young child who cries about it for a period of time and then deals with it, me and you stuffed all those things deep inside of us and dealt with them every time we rolled by the local buffet table. We got bigger and more out of shape and then one day we hung a sign around our neck that said “Have pity on me.”
There are so many people who tried to help. If we close our eyes we see them parade by and we see how we sabotaged those relationships by making them all but impossible for the other person.
“But,” you say. “They don’t understand us.”
No they understand us all too well. They understand that when they get too close we cut and run or throw road blocks in their paths that make it impossible to deal with us or sometimes even love us. That’s so we can go back to our misery.
Don’t misunderstand me. I know people with genuine issues in their lives, some of them have become dear Spark friends. They are struggling with issues that are threatening their very existence. Here I sit worried about who likes me and who don’t and what sorta trophy I am going to win next month for waddling around a track.
We write a kind note, send a Spark Gift and offer “prayers.” Then we toddle on into our own lives and deal with issues mostly of my creating.
“Whoaaa, John. Dude, why so, so, negative?”
I woke up this morning and as I began my day it dawned on me that the best example I can be to someone, to anyone in my life is to be honest, to be healthy and to be loving. It means I will go through some discomfort and I will stumble and I will fail but ultimately I will succeed. I will let you see me and even though I am very scared that you will no longer care for me I will do it anyways because in the end I believe that we need something to hold on to when the waves get a bit too rough.
This journey, if I do it right, does not get easier it gets harder. I need you. I cant do this alone and I am scared.
This journey, if performed correctly, shows me with all my warts so they can be removed, one by one, not to make me perfect, but to make me real. That means I drop the defenses and open myself to REAL health
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
………. Is me. Yes, you read that correctly. The largest, (no pun intended.) obstacle to me finding and fulfilling my dreams is me, myself and I and any other cute comparison I might include about myself. I am not afraid of failure. Shoot, I know what that looks like. It’s a “been there, done that,” sort of thing. I am afraid of being successful.
At first it caused me to eat. A challenge would come my way and I would get nervous and anxious and lay in bed at night worrying whether what I was about to do was going to work or not. My knees would knock and I’d shake a bit and the next morning I’d stop at a fast food emporium and ingest my drug of choice. My blood pressure would slowly descend and I’d stop hyper ventilating and I’d feel better. I mean, ya know, it was not like I pulled the car over and took a drink, or shoved a needle in my arm!!! At least what I was doing wasn’t physically destructive!! No, John, heart disease and diabetes and any other illness exacerbated by poor eating habits aren’t dangerous.
“Look John, I think you are growing hair.”
Next came excuses in all shapes and sizes.” You know I’m getting older and I don’t move as quick as I once did and I do have everything I really need. I should be grateful. I should be satisfied.”
I’d watch television and just like a lot of you I would hiss and spit at the lithe and limber people on my screen. They were lucky, probably on drugs or anorexic. “Thank God I wasn’t like that,” I would say as the couch came close to collapsing.
It wasn’t entirely my fault. We have been given a peculiar notion of being successful today that is mostly media supported. Success isn’t always a middle aged man with a mop of hair screaming “You’re fired,” with a superior look on his face. It’s not a group of people running around a desert island half naked with a torch in the hope of winning a million dollars. It’s not trying to win a contest about who can have the most multiple relationships at one time. I could go on.
This notion of success was created because it is largely unattainable. Like all of television it is fiction. There is a really easy answer to that dilemma: Turn It Off and take a walk work on a puzzle or plant a garden. Maybe even read a book.
Dieting deals with depravation. We tell ourselves that if we are going to be healthy and if we are going to be successful then we have to suffer, because deep down inside we know we do not deserve to be whole. I get really scared sometimes when the scale tells me I am getting healthier. It means I have an obligation or expectation to live up to. I can distort reality and say YOU gave me that expectation. You and society. Truth be known I created it myself.
I know what failure is. I can readily identify with it and honestly I am comfortable with it. It’s an old friend. It’s like playing a game of high stakes poker. The longer I play and the more I win, the higher the stakes become. Its better I go back to being fat, old John and sit in the corner and whimper.
Being part of this experience, this Spark People phenomenon, causes me to fight that feeling. In close to four months I have made too many close friends who in many ways are just like me!! Darn them!!! Instead of berating, yelling and belittling, they send me Easter Baskets and Bulls Eyes and other goodies. They explode my inbox with email with congratulations when I reach a miles stone and they offer support when I stumble a bit. They show me true courage. Some of them struggle with debilitating health issues, are unemployed or simply very lonely people. But there they are, fighting through and over the obstacles that have been presented to them offering me encouragement. Me, whose biggest issue right now is that I am between sizes!! Gee, maybe we need to convene the UN Security council for that one.
I choose success, it does not choose me. I choose to overcome my excuses and my fears, it just doesn’t happen. When I am able to do that my dreams become much clearer and real.
I do it because I choose to hang around with inspirational people like you.
Monday, April 05, 2010
By all accounts Saturday should have been picture perfect. Joan and I went to the mall with our granddaughter where she got her very own personalized Chicago Cubs baseball hat and as a bonus Grandma Joan took her on the carousel. The carousel is conveniently located right in the middle of the food court, (Funny how that worked out, huh?) so that no matter which way you choose to turn you are faced with a lot of things that, well, they are just not good for you. Cookies, pizza, steak on a stick with greasy, cheesy potatoes……
I sat at a table while they rode the carousel. I waved every time they passed by. All of a sudden out of now where, as I sat in that there with temptation taunting me at each turn, I was overwhelmed with frustration.
“Is this what it’s supposed to be like forever?” I wondered. “I’m gonna sit here and just be so overwhelmed because my lunch choice is starvation or a slow death by watching my arteries close centimeter by centimeter?”
It had been a hectic morning. I had a really quick breakfast. It was healthy but it was quick. The ride to the Mall normally takes forty minutes but because of road construction and a very odd detour it took us ninety. The parking lot was full. It just went on and on and on. By the time this wave of frustration hit me I had originally planned on lunch right around then.
Spending time with a very energetic four year old can make you forget whatever else you are preoccupied with. There is no classification in the Spark Exercise section for “Chasing a grandchild all over hells half acre.” I forgot about being overwhelmed until I woke up around five Sunday morning.
I lie in bed trying to orient myself when this voice inside of me said very quietly but emphatically, “Don’t forget about your dreams.”As far as I knew, I didn’t have any dreams last night.
“Oh, THOSE dreams.”
Sometimes I get so caught up in the calorie counting, the search for better food, the different sort of exercises, the weigh in’s, the challenges and all that really positive and tangible stuff that I forget about my dreams. My dreams are what make this march towards health worthwhile. My dreams are the real reason I do all this. My dreams become the pay off foe all the hard work and the frustration I feel at times.
Before I met all you wonderful folks and began Sparking; my dreams consisted mostly of really bitter thoughts about how I had been cheated out of a lot of things in life because I was fat, and lazy. Never mind I was the person shoving all that food in his mouth and never mind that I was the clown laying on the couch, belching and wanting to take three naps on a Saturday afternoon because the sugar he just ingested would supply a small country for about a week. It weren’t my fault, it was God’s fault, fates fault and whatever president was currently in offices fault. It was never mine. Dream were something you had at night, and most of them scared the snot out of me.
When I started the journey to locate John and remember who he was under that molten mountain of chocolate and fried foods I started to dream, dreams again. It’s the stuff that keeps my engines revving. It gets me excited. All of this reminded me that along with the nutrition and the exercise equally important is locating the authentic me.
My dreams are achievable and all of them depend on me being John again and that is my biggest John does a lot of cool things that are all part of his dreams!! Those dreams are what sustain me when that wave of frustration over whelms me and makes me feel like I am stuck in quick sand.
One of the things we are asked to do when we begin the Spark journey is to make a collage. That collage represents our dreams. Successful people know that this journey isn’t about simple endurance; it is about that “spark,” that deep down motivation that is our dreams.
What about your dreams? How often do you think about them? Do you dust them off every now and then and recall how they get your juices flowing? I am guilty of forgetting and when I do, I begin to lose focus.
The biggest lesson I learned from all of this? Invite my dreams out for a cup of coffee once a week and get to know them better. They are as important to me as the air I breathe.
I’ll share one:
I hope you see your dreams come true too!!!!
Saturday, April 03, 2010
My very first video blog. I have never done this before so I am not sure how the quality will show up on your computer.
Friday, April 02, 2010
My granddaughter is coming for Easter. This is wonderful on so many levels. First, the energy level ramps up tenfold in the house when she is around. Don’t make any plans for “me” time” unless it directly relates to her. The term whirlwind is an understatement. When you are four and a half there in an unlimited supply of energy and the dirtiest word in your vocabulary is “nap.” (As I get older it’s becoming my favorite word!!!)
She brings something really unique to the table. It revolves around the glow in her eyes and the fact that she really believes in magic. Not the kind of magic you see on infomercials, the kind of magic a four year old believes in. She knows there is an Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. No, she has never seen them or talked to them. (She has known since age three that the voice on the other end of the phone is not Santa but me) She knows what the rules are and she is happy to abide by them. She will walk into my office count the pictures she drew that hang on my wall, produce one more from behind her back and walk away with the smug satisfaction there will never be room for a Picasso or Monet as long as her art work is hanging there.
She calls just to say hello and there are always lots of giggles and “I love you's.”
She believes in the magic of life. She believes in having fun. There are no deadlines, no bills no worries about economies, healthcare and military involvement in a strange land. She goes to the park and immediately creates relationships with the hundred other kids vying for the slide, swing and monkey bars and they spend about fifteen seconds working everything out and viola the fun begins and doesn’t end until some adult who is tired of sitting on a wooden park bench comes to end it.
She simply believes in magic and it oozes out of her pours every time you talk to her. There is a “what can we do next” look on her face all the time along with high anticipation of fun. Too bad we can’t hold onto that for eternity. The day will come when the mantle of maturity will be thrust upon her and she will be miserable like all the rest of us. She’ll watch CNN and FOX and all those other purveyors of doom and she will grow sad.
Not if I can help it. Next to my wife, my granddaughter has taught me more about life in her short tenure here on this planet than anyone else I know.
I know longer watch the news. If I am going to be upset with someone or a group of someone’s I am going to arrive at that conclusion all on my own. A few weeks ago she sat down with me and gave me one of those “we have to talk.” looks. I had been pulling her braid when she turned her back to me.
“Pappy,” she began. “If you don’t quit doing that, then I am not going to play with you anymore.” She smiled, gave me a hug and turned around again. Case closed. Do what you are supposed to do or I don’t roll with you. I won’t lose any sleep over it and please be quiet I am watching a cartoon and oh yeah I love you.
I watch the weather and the sports scores. I read things that lift me up not weigh me down. I make a conscious effort every single day to find something mystical and magical about my life and the people in it. I am “growing down.”
My granddaughter has taught me to believe in the true power of the beauty of this world and most of the people in it. She causes me to look for magic and fun as I look for health and happiness. She shows me it’s not found in the pages of Fortune, Forbes or The Wall Street Journal, but in a quiet afternoon, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk.
So I take you my dear Sparkies with me today and challenge you to look only for the magic today because it’s been waiting for you to acknowledge it in your life
Big Hug, big grin.
Wanna go play on the swings?
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