Jun 25, 2011

Diabetic Socks

I've always been a masterful gift-giver, even when I was young.  My mother always insisted that cash was impersonal and a gift should be more personal than just a $20 bill.  Whenever a birthday approached I tried to think of different ways to give a unique gift, and if I had to give cash, how I could make it memorable.  One year for my friend Jay's birthday I gave him a piece of poster board with $10 in coins glued to it that spelled out a message in pennies, quarters, nickels and dimes.  He kept that heavy sheet of coins for years and it's probably still in his parents' basement somewhere.  Another time I rolled up hundreds of little sheets of paper with hand-drawn images and hand-written messages.  These little notes were filled with inside jokes and humor that took me hours.  A ten dollar bill was rolled up in one of the notes at the bottom.  Of course, he could have stopped when he found the money, but he didn't.  He opened them all.  He continued, not out of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but because he honestly wanted to see what they all said.  The money was forgettable, but the gift wasn't.

A recent Christmas, my sister and I decided we needed to disguise the easily recognizable CDs and DVDs that we bought our cousins.  Several times I have given them gifts that were wrapped boxes nestled within a larger box like Russian dolls.  This time, my sister and I developed the "epic" idea of transferring the ownership.  Usually, we open presents in order, from youngest to oldest, one at a time.  This time when our cousins opened their present from both of us, they found two smaller presents, one from each of us.  When they opened those, they found that they had switched, so the present was addressed to the other cousin.  This could be a mistake.  Upon opening another level, the present said it was for my sister or myself.  We took the presents and opened them at our next turn.  Then the presents went to my Aunt and Uncle for another round.  Finally, they returned to our respective cousins for their gift.  This whole process took several hours of planning and wrapping to complete on Christmas eve.

This last Christmas I had moved to California.  I wasn't home for Christmas.  I sent a package to my family with some gifts that I found over here.  It wasn't anything expensive or huge, but I wanted to get them something.  My mom has complained to me for years that she's never seen "The Color Purple" and how she misses it every time it's on TV.  So this year, I bought my mom a DVD of "The Color Purple" so she could watch it.  I was really proud of this gift and I knew it would be perfect.

My mom sent me a package.  I didn't want anything.  I had just moved across the country and sold most of my belongings that I couldn't move anyway.  Inside was a small book about Michigan written in the style of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas", a gingerbread man spatula, a tiny briefcase with a check and diabetic socks.

If you don't know what diabetic socks are, they are socks that are not restrictive or binding and allow blood to flow more easily to the feet.  I don't know why my mother sent me diabetic socks.  Someone who told me that cash is a meaningless gift, sent me a really meaningless gift:  diabetic socks.  Or perhaps the gift is not meaningless?  Maybe it's a warning about the dangers of diabetes.  Perhaps it was an omen of diabetes to come.

My mother said that I'm "the best gift-giver in the world" and according to my mother, my sister agrees as well.  It's not difficult.  It takes a little time, and creativity and getting to know somebody.  It's hard to receive diabetic socks from someone you planned an amazing gift for.  It makes you wonder if they even care.

Apr 7, 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True

"It's a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy." ~Lucille Ball

As this is the total wellness plan, I should address mental health as it is a vital part of that total plan. I'm constantly trying to improve myself. I want a better life. I want to be happy. I want something more. It evades me. Sometimes I grasp at this vapor of happiness that surrounds me. I run my finger through the fog. I grip it tight. I hold on with a clenched fist so my happiness cannot escape me. When I open my hand, my palm lined with taunts of love and life lays empty. I feel this.

My challenge for this week is to think about who I am. A daunting task, n'est-ce pas? Yes, I'm drawn inward to really ask myself, who am I? I don't know. I think therefore I am, yet I'm more than thoughts. I am more than the sum of my parts, but which parts do you add and which do you take away? I am more than what I do, what I say, what I feel. Trying to define myself leads to more questions than answers. Like happiness the closer I get the more it evades me.

Lately, I feel like a shell. In many ways I have no opinion about anything. I don't care what I eat. I don't care what I do. I don't care what happens. I'm in a perpetual state of blah, and it's scary. I don't want to live in blah forever. I am a pendulum balanced in the center until the slightest breeze pushes me one way or the next. I'm powerless to stop it and I move where the wind wants.

I do not want to whine. I'm not saying this to complain. I'm trying to explain how I feel though grace and dignity often escape me. I can change, I can change, I can change. I want to change. I need to change. I don't want to be me, yet the only solution is to become more of who I am. Paradoxically, the only way to change into someone else is to become a better, more real me.

So, who am I? I am so many things. I am too many things (or just too much) in my opinion. I wish I had a passion. I wish I had a singular focus to identify with. The truth is that I don't, and I probably never will. I have too many diverse interests. I like different things. I don't want to focus on one sport/art/science/task/hobby/etc. because then I would miss out on all the others. Why can't that be my thing? Why can't I be a renaissance man/jack-of-all-trades/dilletante/polymath/universal man? I think I do that really well. I think I'm well read. I'm versed in the arts. I have a basic understanding of all the sciences. I'm down with the law. I speak some languages. I work with computers. Actually, there are very few things I can't do. I'm not a very good singer, but I've still sung karaoke and no one died. I'm not very good at sports (stupid green wedge in Trivial Pursuit) but I'm not clueless. I can't think of much else.

In Europe, when applying for a job you're more likely to submit a curriculum vitae (CV) instead of just a resume. A CV contains more of your personal history than a simple resume. Well, here are my personal curriculum vitae:

Can I define myself in a list? I don’t think so. I can share myself though through some facts about me. It’s not me, but it’s a start. I watch the X-Files every night before I go to bed. I believe names are sacred. I wish I were invisible sometimes so I could just disappear and watch the world unfold. Other times I wish I were famous so I could know what it felt like to be popular. I like to write. I like the color gray and I’m afraid it means I’m mentally ill based on a pop-up video from VH1 back in 1997. I can’t bring myself to watch cartoons anymore and I don’t know why. I have no fear of hospitals or cemeteries; I find them peaceful. I have a good memory but I’m bad at arithmetic, which is basically memorization. It’s more likely I’ll know which way is east than which way is left. I wish I were a wizard. I’m an INTP.

So, this is me. I am who I am. I’m eclectic. I have diverse tastes and opinions and interests. I guess it’s time to celebrate who I am instead of mourning what I’m not. Easier said than done, but shouldn’t I accepted myself a long time ago? Oh, well, I’ve always done things in my time, and I’m cool with that.

Mar 31, 2011

Stay on target, stay on target.

Remember the iconic climax of Star Wars where that guy on the Gold team repeats "Stay on target, stay on target" like 12 times in a row? Sometimes I like to picture that he's saying it to me. My weight is like the Deathstar and I want to destroy it. The difference between the Deathstar and my weight is that it will not be destroyed/fall away simply by one well timed explosion. In fact it's the exact opposite. Instead of one grand event, what helps me lose is the little victories. The tiny little hits chipping away at the fat one calorie at a time.

I've learned over the past few months why weight loss is so hard. It's not because of willpower. If it was just will power, then it would be easy. I have a lot of will power. Weight loss is a long, complex series of events towards a goal that one must incorporate into your life.

Take high school graduation for example. It's not exactly easy to graduate high school. We take it for granted for the most part. It's not just will power that allows you to get the knowledge and graduate. It's a slow series of steps over the years that allows graduation. If it was all about knowledge, kids would graduate at different times instead of only after their senior year. I'm sure there are kids who have enough knowledge to graduate at 12 years old, while other only get what they need at 24. However, everyone graduates around 18, after 12 years of school. We focus more on the process and not just the individual achievements. We look at education, not as a goal, but as a process, an experience. Sure, we could graduate after 8th grade, but then you would miss prom, homecoming, high school sports, dances, academic teams, student council, and just having fun. All of these things are an integral part of the "high school experience". No one really wants to give that up just to graduate early.

In many way, weight loss is similar. With Weight Watchers it isn't and shouldn't be only about the goal. It should be a process, an experience. Yes, it would be amazing to wake up tomorrow at a perfect size. However, if that happened, it wouldn't be appreciated. None of the hard work, feelings of accomplishment and pride, increased esteem, etc. would be associated with it. I'd be skinny with the mind of a fat person. I'd be an seventh grader with the mind of an 18 year old. It wouldn't be right and it would be trading one set of problems for another.

I've learned so much about food, eating, myself and others. I've learned how weight loss is a series of small choices, not a big bang. Last week was a stressful week at work and my schedule was messed up so I didn't go to bed on time. Because I didn't go to bed I didn't wake up early to work out. I was too tired after work because I had to work late on a special project. I didn't go to the grocery store on Sunday, so I didn't bring my lunch on Monday. Then, I didn't have time to go to the grocery store during the week. I stayed within my points but I didn't eat as well as if I had brought my lunch. Consequently, I felt more blah, less likely to eat well and less likely to exercise. Fortunately, I'm back on track this week. Just the decisions to exercise and go to the store have had a domino effect on my mood and motivation.

So, weight loss is difficult not because of the strength it takes to overcome an obstacle. It's difficult because it requires the same strength to overcome a series of tiny obstacles, day after day after day. It can be done, but some days it's harder than others. I'm glad I have the Gold Team to remind me to stay on target. Actually, now that I'm looking back, I think he died. Ok, maybe that isn't the best metaphor.

Dec 31, 2010

Words of Wisdom

For attractive lips,
Speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes,
Seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure,
Share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair,
Let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day.
For poise,
Walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, even more than things,
Have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed,
And redeemed; never throw out anyone.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand,
You will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands;
One for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.
~Audrey Hepburn

Sep 15, 2010

Marriage in the 21st Century

I had a shocking revelation recently. I have some friends that I would consider being in an "open relationship". I don't know what exactly defines it, but I know there are sexual encounters with others outside of the couple and both parties are fine with it. Incidentally the couple consists of two men.

Well, these two men recently filled out some kind of paperwork towards a civil union or the best they can get in their state. Frankly, I was appalled. I was outraged at the fact that these two men who are not monogamous would have the nerve to go out and get married. It goes against everything I believe about marriage.

Whoa, there. Let's break it down. So, based on my statement I think the only people who should get married are those that conform to my belief about marriage. I am a monogamous person and that's what I would want out of marriage, so obviously everyone should want that, right? Right? RIGHT? Wrong. This thinking is no better than the preachings of those that believe marriage is only between a man and a woman. I assume these people would only engage in a relationship with the opposite sex, so this is what they want. Anything they don't want is therefore wrong, or immoral, or bad. I couldn't believe that I could be so selfish and so naive about marriage.

I don't really care what anyone does in a relationship. I may thing that certain actions will lead to less attractive results. But in the end, I only care about my relationship. One who is truly secure in his/her relationship won't define it by the relationships of others. I took marriage very personally, as many do. I understand now where conservatives and "marriage preservationists" are coming from. The difference is that I can see my view as narrow minded. I can appreciate that I am able to have the exact relationship I want and it isn't at the expense of my neighbors relationship.

How does marriage proceed in the 21st Century? First, I believe we have to destroy marriage. I believe people should still get married, but marriage is so different in the 21st century from ages ago that I believe we need to separate it from our preconceptions. Second, we need to create a replacement. Everyone should be allowed to be united with whomever he or she pleases. This is a government sanctioned civil union between two people. Any two people may enter the union regardless of gender. No judgement of the union may exist. The union is separate of religion or spirituality or any other office. A marriage may be reserved for a church, but not for any official government involvement. Third, since the union is created without judgment or preconception, the union should be dissolved cheaply and easily. Of course, the length of time of the union and other complexities may make the dissolution more difficult, but waiting periods and cause must be eliminated.

To enter this new century, this new era, a new vocabulary must be created. I will no longer refer to a marriage except for a specific sacred sacrament or status conveyed by a religion or spirituality. From now on two people who are legally bound are in a Union. The process of entering the Union is Unionization. Those who are in a Union are United. Those who are not in a Union are Non-United. There is no distinction between one who was formerly United and the Union has subsequently dissolved as between “divorced” and “married”. One who was in a Union that has been dissolved is now Non-United again.

Furthermore, we must create a process of legal unionization that is completely separate from churches, religion and spirituality. The legal process should only take place in the halls of court houses and offices of county clerks and similar places. The legal process should be completely separate and independent of the religious and spiritual processes. This may sound radical but it is the way marriages have operated for decades in Europe.

Only until we separate our religion and judgment from marriage and unions, then we have the freedom to create the exact relationship we want: a companion, romantic or not, to combine and preserve wealth, convey benefits upon and thus live a more healthy, happy existence. Isn't this what we all want?

Apr 15, 2010

Back in the Habit

Day 105 - April 15, 2010

Weight Lost: 13 lbs.

If you're reading this you probably haven't thought much about the Total Wellness Plan for a very long time. I apologize for a lack of postings. Even though I haven't been writing very much, I have been very busy.

Today, I started my 6th week at Weight Watchers. I decided to go back because I needed the accountability of the program to keep me on track. I didn't want to tell anyone because I didn't know if I could or wanted to stick with it. I thought about giving up several times. As soon as the weather got warm and I was able to walk outside, everything changed. My attitude improved, and all the items necessary for me to be successful fell into place. I knew it was now or never.

So far I have lost about 13 pounds. That's an average of almost 3 pounds a week, which is a good amount of weight to lose. It hasn't all been easy. There have been several ups and downs, including the trip to Nashville for Easter. However, I've kept going, which is what is important. I would like to maintain an average of 2 pounds a week which would put me in a great position in one year. I have to be realistic however and expect that it may take 2 years to achieve my goal weight. That's ok. I'm not in a rush. This is going to have to be a lifestyle that I keep up for the rest of my life. It really doesn't matter when I get there, as long as I constantly move forward.

I am excited to keep going and see all the progress I'll make in the months to come. I'm hoping to have lost around 50 pounds by my birthday in September. If I do then I can go shopping because I'll probably have to buy many new clothes.

Thanks for everyone's support. Stay tuned for more updates!

Apr 14, 2010

"I'm their savior, that's what they call me so Lauren Bacall me, anything goes, to make me fantastic, I have to be Rainbow High, in magical colors."
Today is Musical Day on my iPod. What's your favorite Musical? (If you say Music Man, consider yourself unfriended.)
Today has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about it already.