Monday, November 19, 2012
Ah, my beautiful SparkFriends. I have *missed you all sooo so much.
For those of you who have been wondering why I fell off the face of the earth, I am going to share with you the (very ) short form. Short, simply because my time is just that at the moment. Hopefully, the near future will change that. But, for now, this is what has been happening with me.
In July of this year, I left both an unhealthy environment - and an unhealthy relationship - with someone who remains very near and dear to my heart. Sometimes doing the right thing hurts, and I did what was right for me and my kids; even though it hurt me terribly to do so.
I relocated from Michigan back to the West Coast; which is where I have spent the vast majority of my life. It is, and has always been, my home. I left behind family, treasured friends, and - quite frankly - a fairly cushy existence. A Gilded Cage is still a cage.
I had lined up two places for my children and I to stay, and two different jobs. I believe in always having a contingency plan. Unfortunately, all of my plans and contingency plans failed after I arrived back on the west coast. In spite of my best efforts, my children and I ended up staying homeless shelters for a couple of months while I worked my way into enough pay checks to get back on my feet.
We have our own apartment, now. It is quite lovely; having just been fully renovated right before we moved in. We are adding furniture as circumstances and paychecks permit. :) I make quite a good living, but have a lot of furniture to acquire. Life is comfortable, and we are settling in quite nicely. So, please, no one worry.
Sadly, while I was able to remain focused on solutions while we were going through these arduous times, my diet was not entirely under my control. I have gained back some weight, but I fully intend to re-divest myself of those added pounds as soon as possible. After all, I have a reputation to maintain. :)
I don't know what I weigh, and I have no scale at present; but I know it is a little over 200 lbs, just by the fit of my clothes. Having said that, I am back in control of my diet and my time away from work is - once again - my own. I have my trusty pair of free weights, and am re-assessing my workout so that I can begin building up a routine that starts where I am, and not where I was.
I appreciate all of you so much, and look forward to the time when I can keep regular contact with everyone again. Bear with me, my friends. I will return more frequently than I have over the last few months, but I do not yet have internet in my home, so daily updates and tracking are still on hold.
Until we can share our stories again, please just know that you all remain in my thoughts, and that I very much look forward to sharing this journey with each of you once more!
Best wishes to each of you on your journeys to good health and personal happiness!
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
It is sometimes difficult for us to see our own faults, when we are frequently inundated with the faults of others… or, when we refuse to look for our own faults. Regardless, they are still ever-present for each of us. Whether it is a tendency to talk over another person, a quick temper, a sullen disposition, or difficulty expressing our thoughts and/or feelings in a healthy way; we each have a special collection of faults which often mark the passage of time and relationships for us over and over again in our lives.
Similarly, we each have social, mental, and emotional characteristics which are beneficial to others, and which draw others closer to us and make them want to keep our company in spite of our faults. The duality of humanity lies in this sort of yin/yang-ness. The extremes of kindness and selfishness which crop up intermittently in each of our social interactions; and whichever extreme is dominant will determine the tenacity with which others attempt to maintain their relationships with us.
But, there is a third relationship for us to invest in. Not the relationship that drives away those we love. Not the relationship that draws in those who love us. No. This is the relationship we have with ourselves. That is where I want us to focus our attention here.
"I never made a mistake in my life; at least, never one that I couldn't explain away afterwards." - Rudyard Kipling
As a general rule, I believe people try to be fairly honest with themselves; regardless of their level of honesty with others. Certainly, we don’t wish to over-estimate our ability to jump across a crevasse, or underestimating our abilities when it comes to overcoming physical obstacles. But, it never ceases to amaze me how often our level of honesty with ourselves veers away when we make a catastrophic error in judgment.
Salvador Dali once said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” And, I think few if any of us would sincerely try to argue against his position. And, yet, the more painful an experience we are responsible for is, the more likely we are to turn away from looking at our responsibility for it; and the more ferociously we are likely to assign blame to others.
This only leads to heartache for ourselves and for those around us, as we struggle to avoid taking accountability for our past mistakes and misgivings. But, the real well-spring of liberty and freedom from the misery we cause ourselves and others under this trying perspective lies within our ability to own our mistakes.
I know from personal experience how difficult it can be. My reputation as someone who loves to be “right” is a long-standing matter of record, I assure you. But, I have discovered over the last couple of years that there is a certain freedom that only comes from admitting a mistake, making amends, and moving forward. No guilt. No recriminations. No violent outbursts. Just, “Oh, yeah… I do apologize for what I said earlier, and I would like to take this opportunity to make amends.”
There’s freedom in that, my friends. There is freedom in not having to constantly “turn off” that little voice in the back of our minds whispering that we’re taking our frustrations out on the wrong person. There is freedom in not hurting others for having committed no greater sin than loving us enough to stay and put up with our tantrums. And, there is freedom in being able to learn from our mistakes.
It takes a great deal of personal character to own our mistakes. It takes a higher quality of character to follow-through and to make amends for our poor decisions. After all, what good is a healthy body, if the mind and spirit within are still toxic?
So, I want to take this opportunity to encourage each of you to really look inside of yourselves and to think about the most difficult relationships in your lives. Then ask yourselves – very honestly – if you have been an active participant in the de-evolution of those once-healthy relationships. Ask yourself if you have contributed to the toxicity in your communications with personal attacks, or stubbornness born from a desire to avoid personal accountability. Ask yourself if you have it within you to de-toxify your relationships to any degree. And ask yourself if you are willing to do so, in order to re-establish a healthy dynamic between yourself and the other party.
If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then please, by all means, do so. But, if the answer is "no." to even one of these questions, consider the possibility of moving away from anger, malice, and toxic thoughts… and try to place yourself into a neutral mental and emotional place with respect to those people.
Carrying grudges gets heavy, my friends. It weighs our hearts and minds down. It prevents us from moving into the future with a light heart and an easy gait. But, it is up to us to determine how we move forward with the lives that lay before us. Do we want our backs bent, and our gullets weighted down with counter-productive and self-destructive thoughts and actions, or do we want to really break through into a future full of – and fueled by – the positivity of knowing that we have set down each burden as it was acquired, and taken personal responsibility to not perpetuate misery where we could have sown peace or joy?
The only way to heal an emotional wound, is by honestly examining it, cleaning out the infected material within, and cauterizing it so that it can't keep growing.
"Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment." - Rita Mae Brown
Everyone has an ego, and all egos resist guilt and blame, because it would mean we did something wrong. But, the worst mistake anyone can make, I believe, is not to learn from our mistakes. If you are ready to lay down your burdens, pick a grudge you’ve been carrying along, and really try to find a healthy way to set it down…even if it means the other person gets to walk away without the burden of that grudge, too.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
"Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack." - Brandon Sanderson
We all start off with a dream, an idealized image of who and what and how we expect our bodies to be once we reach the embodiment of our full potentials. Whether we are picturing ourselves as strapping men with ripped muscles and pecs firm enough to bounce ping pong balls on, or buxom women full of hourglass like perfection, it is important to recognize the difference between “Great Expectations” and great expectations.
"Expectations are dangerous when they are both too high and uninformed." - Lionel Shriver
If we are trying to lose 20 or 30 pounds, the inherent effects on our bodies from being a little overweight are nominal. Our skin likely retains a significant amount of elasticity, and our bodies already have whatever curves or angles are already going to be built into them. A great expectation would assume those same basic outlines will remain roughly intact. A “Great Expectation” would redefine our genetics and turn a pear-shaped body into an hourglass, or an apple-shaped body into a vee.
If we are trying to lose 50 to a 100 pounds, the physiological effects will not erase pre-existing tears in our flesh. If one has stretch marks now, a great expectation would be that those stretch marks will be less pronounced once we have lost the weight. A “Great Expectation” would be that the stretch marks would miraculously disappear or somehow be absorbed by our bodies as we shrink in size.
If we are trying to lose 100, 200, 300 or more pounds, the effects on our bodies are much more significant. We’ve wounded our flesh. We’ve stretched it out significantly from its otherwise normal proportions. A great expectation would be that we’ll have lost enough weight that we no longer have sleep apnea, that our blood pressure and cholesterol levels are healthy, that we no longer feel labored by walking on flat surfaces, and that we would not break into a sweat from sitting in a room without a fan pointed directly at us during normal weather conditions. “Great Expectations” would include not having excess skin, the idea that we will have suffered no ill physical effects from having abused our bodies for years – sometimes for decades – at a time, and skipping to “mah loo” in a bikini with no signs of wear and tear, stretch marks, or scars.
"That was the thing about the world: it wasn't that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn't expect." - Lev Grossman
I’m bringing this to the fore, because I have been aware for more than a year that many of those whom I once looked to for guidance on the road to good health and personal fitness were far ahead of me on their journeys, and then slipped and fell by the wayside. I do not think it is because they lacked the will or the “spark” to succeed. I do not think they lacked any sort of mental or physical capacity for success. It is my personal belief that they were confronted with the certainty that they had set so many “Great Expectations” of what the world for them would be – how their bodies would appear – that when it became evident the goals could not be reached, they turned away from their original objectives and returned the familiar comfort of larger forms.
I have not once heard anyone who succeeded in losing a significant amount of weight say that it was difficult: Take in fewer calories than you burn, and you will lose weight. That is the fundamental principle of weight loss. Know that. Apply that. You will lose weight. I have often heard those who have successfully say that they did not really understand how to navigate the world in their new bodies. Dating was complicated. They were concerned about revealing themselves physically – their stretch marks, surgical scars, etc – to potential romantic partners, and (all too familiar to me) they often did not recognize themselves in mirrors, and they did not feel emotionally prepared to confront the future which lay before them. When our dreams become a reality, what else do we have to look forward to?
"You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always elude you." - Lisa Kleypas
But, these are navigable issues. These are opportunities for growth. When man reached the moon, we did not forsake the stars. We created new dreams, and forged new realities for ourselves. We’ve touched planets and stretched forth our reach beyond Pluto. We can – and need to – remember that we are ever-evolving, and we need to continue to adapt to whatever our own personal Truths are.
For some, this will mean saving up for surgery to remove the looming spectre of loose skin. If you are somehow blessed as a genetic aberration who does not require that surgery after losing a significant amount of weight, you’ll have a lot of money to spend on a trip to Europe or Australia or Africa or …wherever you want to blow $10,000.00 celebrating the successful liberation of your own inner awesomeness.
For others, this will mean recognizing that while you did not turn into a beautiful super model, you are blessed with significant improvements to your overall health, and you are able to achieve many other dreams and live much longer and more meaningful lives – made all the more precious for the added time you’ve purchased for yourself with your loved ones.
“Great Expectations” have their places. In the Arts and Sciences, “Great Expectations” often lead to extraordinary wonders – the Parthenon, for example – and extraordinary accomplishments – such as the construction of the Hubble Telescope. But, when it comes to reclaiming our lives – and our bodies – “Great Expectations” need to be set aside. We need to set realistic and tangible goals. We need to plan for our successes, and sometimes rueful results that will be attached to having reached one of the most meaningful objectives any of us have ever set.
I believe that if we are pragmatic in our goal setting, we open the door for multiple forms of success. We can reach a healthy weight for our respective ages, heights, builds, and genders. And, we can plan for the most likely unpleasantries. That is power. If we know what will come that we do not desire, we can include that in our preparations. If loose skin is our concern, we can begin saving up to have it surgically removed. If deflation of breast tissue is a concern, we can plan to have that surgically corrected. If scars are an issue, they can be surgically minimized. If we do not recognize our faces, we can stare at our new visages in a mirror until it becomes more familiar to us. We can talk t our families and friends, and let them reassure us – in ways we often cannot reassure ourselves – that whatever our changes, we remain loved and appreciated.
Success is planned for. Failure rests on a wish. If you wish to fail, make no plan for success. If you plan for success, failure is no longer an option. Success becomes inevitable.
I will sometimes stumble, but, I know that I have set enough great expectations, to achieve every goal that I have set. I may have to change the action steps or the time table, but I can do anything I set my mind to. Each of you can set great expectations for yourselves, and overcome any obstacles you choose to face directly and persistently. You’ve generously shared my journey and expressed your conviction that I can succeed in these endeavors. Your successes are now on my list of great expectations for my future. I want to see you all at the finish line, Ladies and Gentlemen!
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Today my aunt related to me a childhood story she had heard from a co-worker. It went a little something like this:
“As a child, [he] was told by [his] Mother to share his Halloween candy with a child from the neighborhood who had been too sick to go trick-or-treating for the holiday. Struck by the prospect of losing [his] precious chocolates to some greedy kid who hadn’t earned them, [he] immediately set about devouring as much of the Halloween candy as possible. The next morning, [he] was terribly ill for having eaten so much candy in a short period of time.”
While the tale was imparted to me as an explanation of why people feel the desire to hoard their belongings, I took a very different message from the story.
To me, it represented a myriad of things. Not just selfishness. Not just an utter lack of empathy with a sick child. It showed that in acting strictly in one’s own interest, self-harm occurs. So focused was this child on maintaining ownership of all that he had – well in excess of anything he could have needed – he did himself direct harm, rather than share with another human being.
I think – at some point – each of us will experience a similar urge to gather to ourselves what we’ve earned and to say “to Hell” to anyone who wants any part of it. But, on those occasions, I believe that we are harming ourselves far more than we are harming others.
"Whatever we possess becomes of double value when we have the opportunity of sharing it with others." - Jean-Nicolas Bouilly
I bring this to the fore today, because I frequently see others who are on the journey to good health … and they begin engaging in toxic behaviors from the past, and close themselves off from everyone else on the same road.
Our experiences – our struggles – to achieve our goals are like the cobblestoned streets of Italy or Spain with their many subtle changes in texture and color. Each of the stones represents a different type of stone compiled by different minerals in different quantities. In a similar vein, each of us brings to our experiences new ideas and different lessons which can benefit others – and ourselves – if we but remain involved in and committed to sharing our (mis-)adventures.
Worse than not helping others who are struggling, when we hide our own misfortunes and pitfalls from prying eyes, we do not give others the opportunity to help us find our feet.
"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decerases by being shared." – Buddha
Is it embarrassing to admit that we went over our calories – a lot? Yes. Is it mortifying to confess to the world of Strangers that we gained instead of losing? Yes. Is it difficult to articulate that we want to strangle the next relation who politely offers to take us out “for some real food” at a fast food chain? Yes. Is it possible that anything we say can, and will, be used against us in the Court of Public Opinion? Obviously.
But, we need to reach out for help when we need help. We need to offer a helping hand to others when they need help. We need to realize that this journey affects more than one selfish person. It affects us as individuals. It affects our romantic partners. It affects our children. It affects our grandchildren. It affects our siblings, parents, grandparents, friends, frienemies, and strangers from across the globe. Our words can harbor that one tiny piece of information that we never dared to dream would bring another human being back from the precipice of disaster or failure. Our silence could doom someone who may only have needed one kind word on a disastrous day in order to rally and keep moving forward.
I leave myself open each time I write. I eviscerate my own ego, because I know that the greatest changes I have made within myself, have come from others who spoke, listened, and/or wrote a few short words which forever changed the course of my life. Words which resulted in me surviving what would otherwise have been a medical death sentence. I encourage each of you to do the same.
Part One: Life
"If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain."
- Emily Dickenson
Saturday, June 09, 2012
"We all need love, but we need it most when we deserve it least - when we have sinned against someone, when we have made poor choices, when we have failed. In these situations, ordinary love must become extra-ordinary love." - Barbara Rosberg
Sometimes, when we look back on the deepest cuts, the most salted wounds we have suffered we find our gaze turned away by the gnashing and gnawing teeth of Truth. Sometimes, it was our fault; in whole, or in part. Sometimes we are haunted by even the possibility that some or all of the pain inflicted on us was our own doing.
Sometimes we do not forgive others because we have not yet mustered the courage and understanding necessary to forgive ourselves.
"Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another's control... to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else's nightmare." - Lance Morrow
My last romantic relationship ended in what can only politely be referred to as a “catastrophic failure.” I spent so much time after it had ended filled with animosity and just … hurt. Not a dull ache. Not even the pain of needles on skin. I mean the kind of pain that steals one’s breath and brings one to tears for no apparent reason. I refer to the kind of sorrow that makes anyone around you at the time full of concern and a desire to see you safely to the nearest emergency room.
If any of you have ever been truly in love with another human being and lost them… you understand. And if you have not, no descriptors will ever truly capture the heights of peace and joy that love can bring, or the depths of misery and sorrow which might follow.
"A personal offense is like a scratch on a phonograph record. I couldn't move my thoughts beyond my pain. It kept repeating, as if I were stuck within its grooves. There was only one way to play beyond it. I had to forgive them, so my heart could take its form again." - Laurel Lee
I went through all of the stages of grief as I struggled to excise the anger and despair that permeated my thoughts, dreams, and memories. It took a very long time to remove my thoughts from my emotions. And, in the end, I realized that the single most difficult thing to accept was not the betrayals, the lies, or the broken promises. It was the knowledge that I knew months in advance where things were going, and did nothing to extricate myself from the situation when it would have benefited both parties.
Eventually, though, I was given news which was much more relevant to my existence than whether or not I was ever able to say things that hurt the other person the way that they had hurt me. I was placed in a circumstance so dire, that the loss of a romantic relationship – no matter how deeply meaningful – paled in comparison. I was faced with the sure and certain knowledge that I was dying, that my children would lose their only parent, and that the rest of my family would very likely become financially destitute trying to extend my life for as long as possible. Thank God my life had come to such a crumble!
"Our past is a story existing only in our minds. Look, analyze, understand, and forgive. Then, as quickly as possible, chuck it." Marianne Williamson
In the face of every single tragedy and horror I had ever dreaded in my life, I came to the realization that if I were going to fight for my life, I could no longer afford the luxury of holding on to any of the hurt in my past. I could no longer cling to the anger and hurt and resentment. I needed every ounce of strength and hope that I could muster to give myself a chance at life.
I started at the beginning. I worked my way through every single emotional wound one at a time. Every resentful, spiteful, toxic, festering wound inside of myself became a brick I laid to rest in order to lay the foundation of a future for myself and my family. There was no longer room in my life for those emotions.
In the beginning I didn’t have the energy to fight for my life and my ego. So, I fought for the one that benefited my children the most. I set my ego, my pride and my own wants aside. I accepted responsibility for my own contributions to my own destruction. I took stock of what I *could* have done differently to create a less painful outcome for myself, for my children, and for those who had cut me so deeply then. And I took ownership of these things.
"It's not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you." - Tyler Perry
It was strangely cathartic, taking ownership. I mean, I spent so much time and energy being full of anger and malice. I filled so many moments with toxic thoughts and adding puss to my emotionally festering wounds… and all I ever needed to do to begin healing them was take stock of what my options had been, and responsibility for what not exercising the healthier possibilities had meant for my life and the lives of those around me.
In the end, carrying the weight of resentment, blame, and loss created within me far greater a wound than any willing enemy could ever have imparted to me. In truth, I was the facilitator of my own agonies, and I perpetuated them for years, rather than accepting that I had had alternatives.
"It takes a lot of emotional and psychological energy to keep a wound open, to keep a grudge alive. The longer I allow a wound to fester, the more bitterness, anger and self-pity poison my blood and eat at my heart." - Albert Haase
In my anger and ignorance, I gave those who had wounded me for a short time – no matter how grievously – the ability to wound me long after I had become for them a faded memory.
And in the end, I healed myself by taking responsibility for my past mistakes, and determining what I would do to prevent that suffering from occurring in my future. I have taken back my future, by truly forgiving myself for the sins that I committed – through omission or commission – in my past.
A dear friend has asked me on a few occasions for a road map to positivity – but, I think what they really want is peace of mind. For them, I hope that my journey is able to provide a few “rest stops” as they make their way back from the dark places that their heart has traveled for far too long.
The past is in the past. I could have done less harm. I could have done more good. I could have counted my blessings then. I could have paid my dues with a more joyful heart. I cannot go back and change anything, and looking at how far my heart and soul have come, I would not if I were given that opportunity.
In the present, I will choose to not do harm. I will choose to do more good. I will count my blessings often and in great detail regularly. I will pay my dues, grateful for the strength and tenacity that I have been blessed with, so that I might accomplish much more in the future than I have in my past. I will no longer live in the past. I will move into the future with a spirit of friendship, positivity, and courage. I will be grateful for the trials and tribulations that I have endured, and which have strengthened my body, my mind, my heart, and my spirit.
I will stop robbing from the future to pay for the sins of my past. I will live, laugh, love, and truly appreciate each day I have, secure in the knowledge that my life is better than I have ever dared to hope it would become.
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