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Thursday, December 22, 2011

We're Just Leafs

This was the predominant thought in my head as I woke up this morning. It was windy, it was rainy, and it was fairly miserably outside (and still is) but for some reason this was the thought in my head. It took me all morning to figure out why and it's actually somewhat cool I think.

Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but in life there are times where one has to move on from what one has known for some time. For example, I'm a military brat; my dad was in the Air Force and we moved around a few times during my childhood. Making friends and having to leave those friends became kind of matter of fact for me; I knew that any friendships I made in one spot would inevitably end somewhere between two to four years down the road. That's military life; you move where they tell you, when they tell you, and you just have to get used to it.

Unfortunately, this has the tendency to make one focused on the short term rather than the long term. I'm a huge offender in that category. When I arrived here in Alabama over 11 years ago (it'll be 12 years in January) with my family, I was told that this was the last stop; my dad would retire here, we would live here-in one place-and that was that. Now, I was 12 at this time and I was a bit jaded at the whole "moving" thing. I was on the cusp of my teenage years and I pretty much just scoffed internally at that. I stuck with what worked.

Now, to anyone who knows me even decently, they know that I am a HUGE believer in sticking with what works and I will stick with that till something drastic happens. I am, as one dear friend (and many others over the years) put it, an insanely stubborn ass. I will plow on till I hit a wall, plow through said wall until I hit a minefield, and plow through said minefield until I finally, mercifully, admit that I was wrong.

So, with that in mind, I employed my standing policy when I arrived in Alabama; don't plan on making friends for the long term. Settle in with a nice group, enjoy their company for two to four years, and don't get too attached as it will only make things harder in the end.

You can imagine my surprise when four years came and went; I was still here, so was my family, and there was no way we were moving. We had become ingrained in our community for the first time in my life I dare say. We are still ingrained to this day and I love it.

That brings me to the thought of the day; we're all just leafs. Now, I know, it sounds a little weird, but here me out. Leafs spend a large portion of their existence with the same tree, on the same branch, surrounded by the same leafs. There comes a time in every leaf's life where they must leave (see what I did...oh, never mind) the tree, the branch, and their fellow leafs; there comes a time where the wind blows them off and they are carried somewhere new.

Now, this could be right at the base of their tree, nearby to some fellow leafs who have fallen too; or this could be somewhere completely new, a territory unexplored and unknown. One is a place where the leaf would feel comfortable while the other is a place where the leaf would feel rather anxious, if not a bit fearful.

That's us. Human beings are like leafs. We are born into a community and we settle down into one; the community becomes our tree. Our friends and family are the fellow leafs nearby us who share our particular branch on the tree. Then, there comes a time where the winds of change (in other words life) blows us away from our tree and our branch. Sometimes we land nearby and are able to stay with the same people. Sometimes we end up far away and we have to create a new tree, a new branch, for us.

This is something that everyone goes through, myself included. I have had the fortune to be able to call a place home for the last 11 (going 12) years but I think my leaf is about to be blown off the tree, finally. Like I said, I'm stubborn; I have stubbornly hung on for a long time. But even my insane level of stubbornness has its limits. Friends whom I've been close to for years now are moving on about their lives; some far away, some nearby. Friends whom I've just recently made I find myself missing and it seems as though a turning point is near. One way or another, something's got to give, right?

I'm a leaf and naturally, I will be blow off my tree and my branch. The question is, where will I land? Nearby? Far away?

It's a strange thing, nature. I remember in my younger years promising to myself, once I realized I would be here for the long term, that I wouldn't let my friends fade away. Friendships, like any kind of ship (relationships, starships) require nurturing. They require caring and maintenance. Now, in the past, humans didn't have the best tools to cultivate that friendship past those years where they in the same radius as their friends. When someone isn't nearby, it's hard to keep things the same; it's hard to keep the friendship from going into the dreaded "old friend" status. Being an old friend pretty much means you're not a current friend; you're part of the past, in the history books, and you've likely not even made it into the acknowledgments. 

"But that was the past, this is today!" You say. In part, you're right, we live in an age where, thanks to the internet, cell phones, and more, we're almost never out of contact with our friends. In fact, it's a bit overwhelming how often we are in contact with our friends. So to say "We'll be friends forever" is actually a possibility now whereas before it was quite hard to pull off, if not impossible, if you lived far away.

The constant connectivity is the issue though; friendships now achieve "burnout" faster than ever before. We're human beings, we get annoyed and frustrated at people we spend a lot of time with; it's just a fact of life. Sure, we may love them to death and enjoy their company, but there will be days when you explode on someone for a little thing that bugs you. In the past, this could lead to the end of the friendship, but more likely a cool down period would be taken by both parties. "You leave me alone, I'll leave you alone" and things would work themselves out now.

You can't do that today. You blow up on someone and within the day, at the latest, it's on Facebook, Twitter, and your friend's blog. You try to ignore it but you're flooded with texts and voicemails on your cell about what happened; you try to find solace in playing some video games but darn it all, your message box there is full-you're friends with your friends everywhere. You can't get away from it and thanks to your parents finally getting around to the 21st century, they know pretty much everything too.

You're frustrated, you're pissed, and you're annoyed. You can't take this lying down, can you? So you fire back. Fast forward a few days and you've unfriended your former friend everywhere. So what if you see each other almost every day? So what if you have class together and at the beginning of the year you specifically chose to sit next to them? You can ignore them. It's over.

Burnout has been achieved. Human beings were never designed for this constant bombardment of friendship. Like everything else, friendship is good in moderation. We're all just leaves and we're all going to move on; the constant connectivity is a blessing and a curse. We have to be aware of that. In some respects, past generations had it better than us. Sure, they didn't have Facebook, Twitter, or Blogs; but they also didn't have their treasured friendships from years passed tarnished by some insensitive comment, a blog that made a reference to you and you weight struggles, or the fact that you friend is now dating your ex from high school.

In some ways, the old leafs had it better. Us new leafs have to protect ourselves from overusing our constant connectivity. No one wants to lose a friend; no matter how annoying they can be sometimes, friendships are a bond that helps us humans live life to the fullest. A life without friends isn't a life at all.

Now, with all that being said, I'd like to wish all my friends a Merry Christmas. You guys and gals mean a lot, even if I stupidly forget to say it most of the time. You're the best folks. :)

I'd also like to send a special shout out to all our military; I know a lot of you folks can't be home for the holidays, but let it be known you are appreciated. Thank you for providing us another safe year and may you all be as safe as you can be.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. This will be the last post before Christmas here on the blog; I'll be posting again towards the middle of next week and I'm sure I'll have plenty of great tales to tell.

As always, any and all comments are welcome. Hope you enjoyed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's in a Compliment?

I've been getting a lot of compliments over the past few months and the main reason for that is the weight I've lost. I weigh 64 pounds less and that's great...but it seems when people compliment me they think what I am now is the finished product. Sure, weighing 203 as opposed to 266/267 is great, but is it really such a huge victory?

In my mind I don't think it is. I suppose it's because I'm fixated on the idea that anything over 200 is bad. I've been 200+ for so many years now that I just can't afford to relax and say to myself "You rock for being 203!" when frankly I don't rock. I should have never gotten to 267 in the first place.

So when people compliment me on how I look and how much weight I've lost, I appreciate it, I really do...but it seems kind of premature to me. I mean, 203 is not the end; 203 ain't close to the end. I want to be down to 180 and below sooner rather than later. So being complimented on 203 registers on my radar but doesn't really have any long term effect.

I mean, seriously, what's in a compliment anyway? I've been receiving plenty of them lately. Problem is, I've been getting them from people who've never complimented me on my looks EVER. Why bother complimenting me now when before it didn't matter? It never mattered to me before.

I guess it's guilt maybe? Or there attempts at being nice? Or maybe making up for old times? I don't know. I just know that as far as the looks department goes, I've pretty much been in the same spot for well over a decade. "Nice guy, but..."

I mean, seriously, when you give out compliments to someone whom you've never really taken in interest in complimenting before, do you really mean it? I'll be frank, I usually don't. Most of the time it's just saying something positive to move the conversation on. If this is my thought process, I imagine I'm not far off from anyone else.

Hence the reason why I take pretty much every compliment that comes from someone other than a friend rather lightly. Sure, it's nice, but it can't mean that much. The compliments from friends I even take lighter than I should, simply because I don't want to get too relaxed; if I get relaxed, I get sloppy and things start going badly.

Hence why I can't afford to take most of the compliments about my weight and looks that seriously; I could get relaxed, take things easy, and pay for it severely. I wish that the onslaught of compliments actually were all meaningful but I just can't see that being the case. Most of the people don't mean it and it's made me jaded. The fact that I've never received this many compliments about my looks and weight before has also made me jaded.

Is it right? Probably not. I've been wrong before and had to admit it; I likely am now. Maybe I should think better of people and take their compliments at face value. Then again, I know my own though processes...and they say "Most of them are just saying it to be nice. They don't count, so don't really put any stock in them."

At the end of the day, as a dear friend once told me, I shouldn't be losing weight and getting healthier for any other reason than that I want to. I shouldn't be doing it for anyone else but me. And that's true in a lot of other areas beside weight loss. So, with that said, I'll just keep on plugging away at getting below 200 (hopefully before Christmas but at the latest before New Years) and I'll keep accepting the compliments as they come.

Will I find any true meaning in most of them? Probably not.

As always, any and all comments are welcome. Hope you enjoyed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Grinch Didn't Steal Christmas

Everyone remembers the classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" right? It's a great book and the animated movie (not the live action Jim Carey one; I know it wasn't great but it was blindingly bad either) is a classic. Comes on every year and it never fails to hook me in despite the fact I've seen it pretty much every year of my existence. So, that's 23 years on this planet and 23 times-at least-that I've seen this movie. I know the plot, I know the songs, I know the movie better than the back of my hand (and my hand is very unhappy about that).

But upon thinking about all the numerous times I've seen the movie, the Grinch really didn't steal Christmas. Oh, sure, he took the gifts, the decorations, the sweets, ect, but the Christmas spirit was still alive and well even without all that. Heck, I'd say the Christmas spirit actually benefited from having all that removed because it took everyone in Whoville back to basics.

And you know what? That's a really great lesson. Said lesson has been around since the book came out in 1957, the animated movie in 1966, and the Jim Carey movie (despite it's poor reception by Seuss faithful) in 2000. So, that's 54 years of that lesson being brought to us on a yearly basis (if not more than that with how much of a pop culture icon the Grinch and Dr. Seuss has become).

I've been around for 23 years of that. You know what the sad part is? I haven't learned that lesson yet. You know what else? Neither has America. If Dr. Seuss were still around today I'm sure he'd be locked up in a funny farm; he'd be driven mad by how little American society has changed in regards to Christmas.

We've actually grown worse. Advertisements for stuff are everywhere and it's stuff we want but really don't need. But it gets worse because not only do we do ridiculous things to get these gifts (Black Friday, anyone?) but we buy in bulk. One person doesn't need an entire trunk full of gifts. It's over saturation in the worst way and guess what? We only have ourselves to blame.

You see folks, the Grinch didn't steal Christmas. He's not the one who's hijacked this holiday. We, collectively as a society, have stolen Christmas. "Now, wait a minute," you might say, "we're not the ones who put all the advertisements for things everywhere. We don't make our kids beg and plead for toys. We're innocent!"

In fact we're guilty in the worst way. Once upon a time Christmas had three things that it stood for: giving, goodwill towards men, and peace on earth. Sure, it's cliche now, but it meant a lot at one time to a lot of people. That's not the Christmas we've created though; we're created a Frankenstein Christmas. Our Christmas is a monster. It stands for money, stress, and wants. I want this, I want that, I want more, I want what you have, what he has, what she has, ect.

Sure, the advertisements are constantly bombarding us that we must have this or that, but we've been given freewill folks, and every other time of the year we use it. We use it do dumb things, we use it do to mean things, we use it to be cheap and selfish...but when Christmas comes we become mindless zombies called consumers. We must buy, says the advertisements.

No we don't. Little Jimmy doesn't need a new ipod, the one he has is fine; yeah, so what if it's full of stuff, tell him to clean it off like he needs to clean up his room!

As much as I hate to say it-in part because I like getting cool stuff as much as anyone during Christmas-I think we as a society need to get back to basics. Christmas has taken on a meaning it was never supposed to because, like all things touched by humans, it has become corrupt. People look forward to Christmas being over rather than being near, simply because as you spend more money on gifts the only thing you seem to be buying is more stress.

Now, I don't know about you, but I hate stress. Stress stresses me out. Stress is bad for me and bad for everyone really. The Christmas season is a huge stress creator and it never should have gotten this far. Dr. Seuss showed us back in 1957 what Christmas was all about, how Christmas should be treated. Instead of listening we have ignored him. It just gets worse every year.

We have stolen Christmas and replaced it with something that's just plain wrong; it's really the only way I can describe it. While gifts pile up under the tree, money get deducted from bank accounts, and stress continues to build, we're really doing nothing to help break this self inflicted vicious cycle we've created.

Now, I know this year is pretty much a wash for any real change to how we treat Christmas. The gifts have already been bought and we've set course. For this year I implore you to try and treat the day-and the season itself-as it was meant to be treated; with a good heart and mind, one that is giving and thankful. Too often on Christmas day it boils down to "what I did and didn't get." Don't think like that please; just be happy you got something.

But just because this year is a wash doesn't mean that next year has to be one. We can break the cycle if we try hard enough. So, for those of you who care to, I challenge you-as I challenge myself-to cut back on this Frankenstein Christmas we've created. Instead of buying Little Jimmy three or four gifts, get him one or two. Spend less time making and taking lists of gifts people want and instead ask them what they need. Worry less about how you need a new tree this year and instead opt to go without; it's not about the gifts, the decorations, and the sweets.

If we want to take Christmas back we're going to have to start slow. It's going to be like quitting smoking in some respects; we, as a society, are just going to have to take it one step at a time. It'll be a slow process and one that'll likely take years; nevertheless, it needs to be done.

If you think the advertisements, the stress, and the Christmas blues are bad now, wait about ten years and see how insane it will be then. We need to get back down to basics; if not for our sakes than for the sakes of future generations. The cycle can and should be broken.

So spread the word. This year is a wash but next year can be our first step as a society back to a Christmas that's closer to what it's really all about.

That's pretty much all I got for today. As always any and all comments are welcome. Hope you enjoyed. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not Enough Showers

I know the title may sound a bit confusing, but hear me out. I don't have enough showers; not in the literal sense but the figurative one. You see, while driving back home after a late night movie with some friends, I came to realization that my car is my shower; not the place I wash in, but a place where I feel comfortable in doing pretty much anything.

Now, I don't about the rest of you, but I don't sing in the shower. I don't do anything in the shower that isn't necessary in the shower. I get in, I get out, and I get done. That's been drilled into my head by my parents; it's a side effect of having three other siblings and a limited amount of hot water. Anyway, the point is that I don't find the shower a place where I'm comfortable enough to do anything.

My car is my shower, by default. I was driving back late last night singing along to some classic rock and I was having a blast. Hardly anyone was on the road, I had green lights all the way, and I was singing along like a fool. I didn't feel like one, but I have no doubt I looked like one.

It was great. The problem is, I need more places like my car. I need more showers. In my car, by myself, able to rock out and have fun, I feel is where I'm at my best. Too often during the course of a day I find myself thinking about doing one thing, but doing something completely different in the end. The reason I do something different is because of the fact I'm not comfortable doing what I want to in the first place.

This happens to me ALL the time. Notably, in social functions. Even more notably, around women during social functions. Last night-prior to the late night movie-I went to a church Christmas party. A lot of people were there of various ages, but mostly it was the teenagers/young adults of the church. Now I (and many of the guys in my church) are lucky enough to have a plethora of attractive young ladies in our church. I, however, turn into a mute at most social functions unless I'm in the zone.

I was very much NOT in the zone last night. I was tired from the weekend so far to that point and I wasn't exactly in my comfort zone. Sure, I was friends with a lot of these people but there's a difference between friends and friends. The former is a title casually thrown around for people you see often but don't exactly know really well. The latter is a word used to describe someone you know fairly well and can rely on. Most of the people at this party were the former and not the latter, thusly I was outside my comfort zone by a lot.

I'm not exactly the smoothest operator on my best days, so during this party I opted to just not try. I had a lot of things I wanted to do that I felt would be fun. I could have jumped into any number of conversations and added something interesting into the mix. Instead, I pretty much just shrunk, kept silent, sipped my water, and waited for...something.

Towards the end I did end up playing a game with a large group of the college aged folks there (Apples to Apples-I lost by a wide margin. In my defense, it was the first time I played the game in many years) and that was fun. Socially, I pretty much got an F as my party grade.

I wasn't in my shower. Admittedly, my car was right outside the house and I could have gotten into it, but that would have been awkward trying to party from outside in my car while everyone else was inside. Let's face it, not a viable strategy.

The party wasn't a total bust though. Though I socially failed, I did make a lot of great choices food and drink wise. As with any Christmas party it had all kinds of great junk food and sweets...I didn't eat a thing. They had sodas too...I didn't drink a single one. Just grabbed a bottle of water and stayed pat. I was pretty proud of myself for that.

But I don't eat in my shower (my car) normally anyway, so I don't think this is something applicable to that. In the end were I more comfortable with myself and who I am, I would have been great at the party. Historically, I've never really been all the way comfortable in my own skin. Which is my I need more showers.

If I can just expand the areas where I feel comfortable and stop over-thinking things, maybe I can find a voice during parties; especially around attractive young ladies. Unfortunately, I just don't really have a clue how to do that other than just plow ahead blindly and hope I strike gold during a party. The likelihood of that is small-more likely is that I plow ahead, hit an iceberg, and sink like the Titanic. I can't help but plan ahead for worst case scenarios coming true simply because I've had a lot of them come true in the past.

Is this a bad habit? Yes. A bad frame of mind? Sure. The only way to solve it is to be more confident in myself. That's easier said than done though.

I just wish I had more showers. That, or enough room in my car to throw a party.

It's another day of me just living...and learning.

As always, any and all comments are welcome. Hope you enjoyed.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hey, That's Life...

Everyone says it at least once in their life; more likely most of us say it often. Someone has a bad day and our response usually hovers around one of the most overused phrases of all time "Hey, that's life" we say as we shrug. We do this a lot in our life throughout various different points of our life. We get a bad grade "Hey, that's life." We get treated unfairly "Hey, that's life." We get sick and have to miss our favorite event "Hey, that's life."

I'm pretty tired of "Hey, that's life" and it frankly just pisses me off. Hence, why I'm here. I'm no stranger to blogs or facebook notes, or things of that nature. I've done if before, I'll likely do it again; it's just that throughout this past week (and throughout my life) "Hey, that's life" has appeared for too often for my liking.

I'll admit, I'm a screw up. I do it massively, on a daily basis, and often in one day. I think things, I say things, and I do things I just hate myself for later. It's a common occurrence for all of us, but for me, it feels like it's a constant 24/7 marathon of just unbelievably awesome screw up moments. I could literally spend hours, if not days, writing the long, long list of fantastic screw up moments in my life, but I'll spare you all that.

Let's just start with this past week. A small sample size that will allow a clear view of my amazing level of screw-upness. I'm a huge Star Trek fan, so at this point I must make an obligatory Star Trek comparison. As we all know, Captain Kirk is made of awesome. He reeks of it. I, like Captain Kirk, reek of awesome...awesome screw ups. Kirk made his fair share of mistakes (becoming an admiral and giving up command of the Enterprise *cough*) but I take the cake I think.

Obligatory reference over with, back to this week. It started out all right enough...for the first few hours anyway. The week starts on Sunday and for the first few hours I was awake Sunday, it was good stuff. Went to church, learned, had fun in Sunday School (Not Bridge Groups, Sunday School!), and generally felt the day was going well.

And then disaster struck; it's name...Sonics. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the restaurant chain, Sonics is a drive in restaurant that sells burgers, hot dogs, french fries, onion rings, smoothies, milkshakes, ect. It's a great place, it's prices are decent, and it allows a lot of flexibility with the menu. Normally, a great place to eat.

Here's the issue; I can't do it anymore. I shouldn't do it anymore. Yet I did do it. Simply because of the fact I've basically given up all fast food, all junk food, all unhealthy crap (yes, crap, seriously, read the labels, do the research, when you wake up from fainting clean out your pantry and thank me later) and drinks (included in that my former love, sweet I miss you). I gave it up on July 25th, 2011-the day I decided to change my eating habits, my exercising habits, and basically how I lived. I'll devote some posts to it soon enough to explain the ins and outs, but it was a necessary and good change. It's worked and continues to work.

But it didn't work this week. I ate Sonics. I shouldn't have. I felt bad. Things would go downhill from there. Now, I know, eating Sonics doesn't seem like a huge issue...but it is. You see, eating Sonics and other fast food-other unhealthy food such as that-is what landed me at the unbelievably, cringe worthy weight of 267. Now, that's bad as a number for someone who is 5'8/5'9. I was way, way, overweight. I had been for years. Took that long to realize it. Bottom line, I remember that weight-I remember all the gory little details that keeps one up at night.

By changing my eating habits, my exercise habits, and committing myself to being healthier, I shed that weight in four months to be at 212. I shed that weight down in roughly a month and half to be down to 203 at the beginning this week. But Sonics was the first mistake-it wouldn't be the last.

It's a vicious cycle, habits. Good habits are, generally, good-unless you overdo it. Which I have a tendency to do. And bad habits are, generally, bad-even worse when you overdo it. Which I have a tendency to do. So, with that all said and done, you can predict what happened next, right?

That Sonics thing started back a bad habit-a long dormant bad habit that I had thought was gone. Unfortunately, bad habits have a tendency to stick around far, far longer than good ones. It had been months, literally months, since I indulged in any kind of fast food. So Sonics set off a chain reaction.

The entire week I would screw up repeatedly, over and over. "Why eat vegetables when cookies are available? It's the holidays, you can indulge a little." It's so, so easy to make excuses and I'm so, so good at it. So, that's what I did. I ate poorly all week long. I paid for it, gained a pound, and now sit here at 204. Not. Good.

But that was only the first salvo in my week. As the week progressed, I found myself becoming increasingly stressed because of the poor food choices. I knew I was making them, I knew I was doing something stupid, and I did it anyway. I felt bad. I felt stupid. I still did it. The fact that I couldn't stop myself was frustrating, infuriating, and stressful. So I started staying up, way, way late. Not midnight, 1 AM late, no more like 2-3 AM late. I woke up late. My bad habit of sleeping in well past the time I needed to started back up.

The lack of sleep stressed me out further. The more stressed I was, the more bad food choices I made. The more bad food choices I made, the more frustrated, infuriated, and stressed I felt. You see where this is going.

So, my week was a bad one. A frustrating one. A really, really dumb one. I made some stupid choices and I made them repeatedly, over and over. It wasn't even a trick question type of choice, it was a "Hey, this is the same choice as before...what you gonna do?" And I did the same thing.

Today, I made a stop to it. I had had enough. I made good choices most of the day food wise. I went out, played some basketball, and did some jogging. While out there I felt so, so much better...just getting all that negative energy and stress out. I won't lie, I was angry throughout the workout time. I was mad at myself.

You ever wish you could have an out of body experience just so you could punch yourself? I did while I was out there. I literally wanted to just deck myself for this past week. At the end of the workout, sucking wind like I do, "Hey, that's life" came to my mind as how to justify this past week.

It shouldn't be that way. I shouldn't be that way. Yet, I am, and it's tough to keep the good habits rolling while the bad ones lay in wait, just patiently watching for the right time to pounce. It's equal parts frustrating and fascinating, but I wish I could keep the good habits going. I wish I didn't have to worry about the bad ones.

Unfortunately, I have a condition called "Humanity" and I suffer from the inability to get rid of the bad stuff in me. I'm not talking about nutritional bad stuff or bad stuff we introduce into our bodies like drugs. I'm talking about the bad stuff I willing cultivate through my stupid choices. I hate that.

So, what's the bottom line here? "Hey, that's life" is no longer something I can use to justify my own mistakes or even the mistakes of others. Why sit back and just accept that? I did for years and I'm done. From now on, it's not "Hey, that's life." It's "Hey, that's you. You can change it. So get to it."

It's another day of me just living...and learning.

As always, any and all comments are welcome. Hope you enjoyed.