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Build a Bonfire

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I'm a voracious consumer of information. I've found myself confiding in friends at times that I know a little about a lot of things, but not a lot about any one thing. That statement, of course, is my self-deprecating nature intervening.

In truth, when I take something on, I learn all that I can about it and SparkPeople has been no exception. The beauty of SparkPeople, though, is that all that I can know and all that there is to know are two ends of the same, very long stick; SparkPeople has been a continually evolving entity since the day I joined in mid-2012. Candidly, I hope I never catch up enough to know everything that there is to know on SparkPeople.

Still, I can say with confidence that there are principals I learned early on that are as valid today as they were the day I signed on to a healthier lifestyle. These lessons have as much to do with my psychological health as they do my physical health. Chief amongst them has been the necessity for stress management, since my unhealthy lifestyle emerged and evolved over a lifetime of not managing stress. I discovered in the process that, for me, there were five distinct areas that needed - and continue to warrant - the most attention:


I needed faith in myself to make one real attempt at finding
members of my birth family (I was adopted when I was only months
old, and tried once or twice before to find my birth family. When I
finally got some leads, though, I got cold feet and discontinued the
search for decades). This time, I gave it the effort it
deserved - and I was successful. I now have met both my biological
mother and my biological sister in person. I also have a beautiful
relationship with both.


I've been a list-maker for years, but lists are only as good as my
ability and willingness to complete them are. Now, instead of long,
unachievable lists that go unfulfilled and lead to self-shaming, I make
both a short-term list that I know I can and will complete, as well as a
long-term list that I concentrate on only when I need to. Anything
in-between gets put on the wall calendar and dealt with
when it comes up. Period.

Recently, I cleaned out my kitchen cupboards in frustration over the
apparent lack of space (I cook most things from scratch, so I have
many more items to help in this endeavor than many kitchens were
designed for). In the process, I found 15 lids to containers that are
long gone, and more importantly, that the digital scale I've been
looking for had been hidden beneath my tortilla press for the past few
months - woops.

Time Management

Keeping up with housework in the first place is easier than the
"slash-and-burn" approach I've been guilty of for years now, but that
wasn't enough to talk myself into changing my approach until I
started working out. Now, I do take some time daily to wash the
dishes, drag a dust cloth across a few pieces of furniture and sweep
up the daily dog hair deposits from my Fox Terrier.


For some, this is the difference between hating their job and finding
peace with it. For me, this is - well, should be - so much easier, yet it
evaded me for years. Smile. And Laugh. I now make it a point to smile
at as many people as possible everyday, be they strangers or long time
friends. I also go out of my way to make others - and myself - laugh
every single day, even if I'm "laid up" in the hospital.

These all amount to individual sparks for me. The resulting lack of stress - and addition of satisfaction in it's place - has, in the process, provided the kindling for these sparks. And at the end of the day, as I look back, these little sparks have joined together and ignited the biggest, brightest bonfire I've ever seen!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

INDORTY 11/26/2013 5:04PM

    spot on John. Kitchen cupboards can be so depressing at the best of time but I know I felt a lot better once I organized mine into an 'easy to find things' set-up

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RAPUNZEL53 11/23/2013 8:01PM


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Loose Change

Thursday, November 21, 2013

As a member of the Human Race, undeniably a social species, it's hard to live from the inside out. The daily noise of living seeps in and negative messaging, masquerading as positive reinforcement, often infects my mind:

It's all or nothing
Give it all you've got
100% isn't good enough

It is not a mystery that trying to live up to these ideals finds me not sleeping well, eating right, feeling at peace - in essence, not living well at all. Fortunately, I have volition. I have the option of creating my own noise, my own preferred messaging, based on that which I grew up with:

Slow and steady wins the race
Practice makes perfect
Some is better than none

This might horrify a corporate CEO, but I am learning that I have the luxury of being the CEO of my own very unique life. When I run my Balance Sheet, I see that my deficits are the degree to which I allow the tainted beliefs of others to influence my decisions, while my profits are based on how well I live my own life - and how I manage to enrich the lives of others in the process.

Because I have made mistakes along the journey toward my goals, I realize that the hardest, yet most valuable, lesson has been that strict compliance to any ideal is most certainly the road to failure. So, I prefer not to adhere to such strict change, rather, I value the path that loose change is providing. As I expand my horizons, I am rediscovering the point of re-evaluation and compromise. Today, I see just how valuable it is to count on life's balance sheet the daily tally of my loose change.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CATLADY52 11/21/2013 6:32PM

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said. Being yourself in the face on the onslaught of media is worthwhile if you have one moment of peace to reflect the true you.

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PICKIE98 11/21/2013 3:48PM

    Oh well, CEO's burn out too. they also do not succeed every time. eh most important word in life is balance. When one finds their limits, capabilities, he adjust life around them to live within balance.

Sifting through the crap that is fed to us in the media is enough tosend on off a cliff in frustration. Using our brain to balance what is happening in OUR life is how we make order... You have it right:take what you need and leave the rest.

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INDORTY 11/21/2013 3:01PM

    I love your message about lessons .......... "the hardest, yet most valuable, lesson has been that strict compliance to any ideal is most certainly the road to failure" .... it SO SO SO true.


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Act Out

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Most of the time, my conscious mind is in overdrive until the end of the day, when sleep mercifully takes over. Even then, my dreams are so intense that I occasionally awake feeling exhausted. Sometimes, I just wish for quiet. I have tried chanting, meditation, therapy, medications and focusing on any single thing. After 51 years, though, I have come to accept that I am wired this way. Period.

I have now been on morphine so long (6 years) that I don't experience the endorphin rush that I did when I was a young runner; my brain has learned to rely on morphine in place of those chemicals. Still, as I contemplate my daily exercise, I find that my busy mind's tedious occupation with what often feels like anything and everything, sometimes, is pleasantly replaced with euphoric feelings devoid of conscious thought.

It is a type of passion, I suppose, that is steadily creeping up on me as I commit to getting healthy again. Even the thought of action, as I prepare to go on a brisk walk or do a few sets of squats, seems to trigger it. Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, "We must act out passion before we can feel it", and I believe this is what is occurring, little by little, day by day. So once again, today, I choose to follow his advice. Today, I will act out.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FLASUN 11/20/2013 9:42AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon John!!!

So HAPPY to have you join our team! 50 Plus for All emoticon you!!!

Wishing you a Happy, Healthy & Successful day!!! Janice

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Keep Going

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It has been over a year since I regularly interacted on SparkPeople. It has been a period of trials, physical and emotional; a period of changes, regressive and growth oriented; a period of emotional complexity, shameful and satisfying. Most of all, it has been a journey with my old friend, humility.

I wanted so much to continue on the path I was on and knew I had the tools to do so. When my health went south, however, I clearly quit checking inside of my toolbox. I have had two herniated disks since last I was fully engaged here. Both required surgery and more narcotics than I care to recall. The net result was a medicated haze and a large serving of depression, induced by pain and medication. The last surgery came last month: October, 2013.

I continued to volunteer, regardless; isolation would have been worse. Too, I found the volunteer routine far less mind-numbing than doing only slightly more than nothing at all. I had learned from SparkPeople, routine is a very important part of my life.

The medications, one comprised of synthetic THC (Marinol), made diet control impossible, and my depression further complicated my desire to exercise. Ironically, exercise had been providing a formidable way of controlling my depression.

I slipped into old negative habits, wasting no time in attacking myself emotionally at every opportunity. Then, I took a break. I quit volunteering for 2 months and sat in front of my computer, rationalizing that I was learning new things. Eventually, I realized that not only was I isolating from people now, but from anything, tangible or otherwise, that didn't fit precisely into the box that I had carefully constructed for myself.

I have a way to go to get anywhere close to the emotional maturity I was beginning to experience before this debacle. So, I am back to do what I know works. Though my focus hasn't been on SparkPeople nor the goals I set here, I have come to realize that I continued to carry a spark with me that allowed me to keep going during this journey. Sir Winston Churchill perhaps said it best when he uttered, "If you are going through Hell, keep going".

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

INDORTY 11/20/2013 4:48PM

    good morning John,

I had never heard that quote of Churchills before but how true it is. I am so glad you have been able to surface thus far & I have no doubt you will continue to keep going upward. Your determined personality comes out strong.


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Finish Each Day And Be Done With It

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I have a tedious tendency to replay events in my head to the tune of, "woulda', coulda', shoulda". Rather than accept the day as it happened and take a moment to reflect on areas where I could improve, I continuously replay events in my head, not as they happened, but as I wish they had happened.

It seems that no event is too insignificant nor too grand to escape this siphon. When positive changes occur, I can't allow myself to enjoy even those. Instead, I turn my accomplishment into an admonishment such as, "Why did I have to wait 49 years to get this?".

I've been fortunate recently to have found the tools that not only have me taking the small steps to make significant change my life, but that force me to see my accomplishments as the important achievements that they are. I am no longer as apprehensive about the absence of noise and distractions in my life - the times when my negative thoughts would devastate me. I am now, however, just beyond the precipice of these self-deprecating lies. I am instead realizing, "This is not who I am" and "I know this is not the truth".

I am learning to evaluate even the most subtle untruths that keep me from enjoying the life in front of me. I turn inward now with perhaps the most important realization that, "Thank God I get it now - because all I have is now". And so as I say amen, after giving gratitude at the end of each day, I understand and embrace the depth of what Ralph Waldo Emerson meant when he said, "Finish each day and be done with it".

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VAILIEN1 7/7/2012 6:05PM


Haven't seen blog posts for a while; hope all is okay with you. I love the quote by Emerson. I too, tend to replay the days events in the way I wish they could have been. That coulda/woulda/shoulda stuff really hurts the psyche. Looking for ways around that and told myself last Thursday that I would start anew again on Monday. Then I thought about it and said why wait until then? So I officially started using my elliptical trainer again in addition to the Wii stuff on Friday. It's only been two days but I'm glad I didn't wait any longer to start being kind to myself.


Jeff emoticon

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JULESJ1OK 6/28/2012 1:59AM

    I just love Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes! Enjoyed your blog. And also a belated but warm welcome to SP!


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