Dec 21, 2013

Silly Epiphanies: Leveling Up

The Epiphany

Leveling works both ways.


When I started writing this, I was in a really motivated place.  I had gotten to the point where running errands after work didn't feel like the end of the world, and I was managing to fit in some exercise and eating better.  And it felt like a game.  Each new positive, beneficial thing I did was another level I had reached.  However, life really isn't a game.  You don't just reach a level and then stay there until you achieve the next one.  Each achievement (if it involves a lifestyle change, anyway) needs to be continually worked on.

So I suppose I could still say I'm leveling up, buuut... it's also possible to level down.  And what I should really be proud of is not the achievements themselves, but the lack of backsliding and losing all my progress.  Because maintenance is a lot less fun than getting started.  Leveling up is good, but not leveling down is even better.

Dec 14, 2013

Tossing Pennies in a Fountain: An Exercise in Wishful Thinking

Wishing for things without taking action is often silly and pointless.  We've come a long way since the days where Disney taught our children that wishing on a star was all they needed to do to be successful.  But isn't it fun?  I still toss pennies in the fountain at the mall, and I still indulge myself in wishful things every now and again.  So here's my pennies for this year...

I would like to live in a world where:
  1. People actually treated each other the way they'd like to be treated
  2. Smokers didn't toss their cigarettes all over the place
  3. The legal system wasn't complicated to the point that the common man can't understand it without a lawyer
  4. Recycling bins and trash cans were treated as separate entities
  5. People weren't afraid to embrace new ideas
  6. Parents didn't pass their prejudices on to their children
  7. Holidays were more about family and celebration than commercialism
  8. Infomercials were abolished and all ads were funny like the ones on ESPN
  9. Everyone was as much a "people person" as they are when they're drunk
  10. More people read for fun
  11. Drivers used their turn signals
  12. I was already the person I want to be!

Nov 23, 2013

Silly Epiphanies: Blisters as a Metaphor

The Epiphany

If there's one thing Europe taught me, it's that blisters really are a minor problem.


In the past, I had always stopped whatever I was doing, exercise, walking too far in "nice" shoes, and used blisters as an excuse to sit out until they got better.  I think part of me was worried about what would happen if I continued to irritate that skin - Can a blister form on a blister?  Would it eventually get to the point where it permanently damages my skin?

Europe, and my sisters, accepted no such excuses.  We had spent thousands of dollars to travel overseas, and we were going to keep walking and looking at stuff!  And I observed a strange phenomenon.  If you continued to walk (in sensible shoes, mind you), eventually you stopped noticing the pain of the blisters.  And they healed, despite the continued use of my feet.  Of course, new blisters formed under the old ones, and my feet got about as ugly as they've ever been.  But no permanent damage.  They're certainly not crippled, or even permanently ugly.  Nothing an at-home pedicure couldn't fix.

In Europe, blisters were the least of our worries.  Catch a hacking cough?  Sorry, one-of-a-kind hiking trip in Cinque Terre tomorrow; deal with it.  Fall and skin your knee?  We still have to get to the tiny Swiss village at the bottom of this mountain.  Get threatened, attempted pick-pocketing, stolen phone, lost in the Italian countryside?  Well... nothing else to do but deal with it the best you can and continue the journey.

So now, with this in mind, I ignore the blisters.  Sure, my pinkie toe hurts.  But you know what?  I really need to run this week and not just wait for a time when it's convenient.  Because that may never happen.  Things don't necessarily fall into place, and there's not always going to be a time when the stars have aligned perfectly and the world is telling you to do whatever it is that you want to do.  So you have to make it happen instead, and work around the little inconveniences.

Nov 9, 2013

Sequels: Life Continues On After Happy Endings

Sequels are never as good as the first movie.  Everyone knows that.  Yet we continue to go see them, in the hopes that it will somehow be different for this or that sequel.  What is it that makes sequels so bad anyway?  Is it that the story line really isn't as good?  A mere shadow of the first movie without enough originality or spunk to stand on its own?  Or is it that the sequel must invariably prove that the happy ending in the first movie wasn't really an ending at all?

We like our happy endings because they're tidy.  And because we were raised on it.  A plethora of Disney princesses have taught us that the happy ending is the end goal.  You get there and everything else is golden.  Your battles won, the hard work over, and life is easy from there on out.  But the very nature of a sequel inherently disproves this.  If nothing else happens, if there's no future conflict, there's also no movie.

If you think about the nature of life, things never stop happening.  They can't.  We're never going to reach a certain point and say, "This is it.  This is my happy ending.  I'm going to stop doing things and just be happy all the time from now on."  And really, each snippet of our lives where a conflict gets resolved could be another movie, with another conveniently happy and "feel-good" type of ending. 

With that in mind, there are probably some sequels that are worth another viewing.  This time to be watched with a more open mind, accepting that life did not tidily quit after the first movie, and that just maybe some of the continued action is worth seeing.  Of course, some sequels are still terrible.

Sep 21, 2013

Pasta and Salad

This phenomenon is one I've avoided for years.  Pasta cold?  And mixed in with my veggies?  Ugh!  Finally I tried it, and it's amazing!  I've broken out the primary reasons:
  1. You get to eat a selection of tasty pasta, cheeses, and meats
  2. You get to be proud of yourself because there's at least one serving of veggies involved - nutritious if not entirely healthy

Sep 14, 2013

Time Unwasted, After All

As an adult, I've learned there are many things we're supposed to feel guilty about.  Social obligations, cultural expectations, and, most importantly, wasting time.  We learn that it's bad to spend too much time sleeping, or reading, or playing games, or simply sitting around and thinking.  We learn that our time needs to be structured and that free time to ourselves is somewhat akin to a crime, seeing as it has no productive value.

I've experienced this phenomenon several times.  The story is always the same.  I decide to be more organized and more productive.  Thus, I have less free time overall.  But in spite of the extra things I'm accomplishing, I become even more critical of my free time.  Each free hour is analyzed until I can't bear to "waste it" on a movie or a game, but attempt to knock yet another item off my growing to do list, and usually end up in a slump, browsing the internet and reading the most worthless sites and getting no enjoyment out of it in an attempt to make the next task seem less onerous.

At this point, I can't bear to continue being productive, because I'm stressed and tired and completely unmotivated, yet I can't allow myself to simply take the free hour for personal enjoyment.  This, to me, is truly wasted time, for reasons I'll explain further.

There are also contending definitions of "wasting time" that we need to deal with.  Having given up on the productive lifestyle once again, I had picked up a couple of hobbies, just for fun, one of which was an ongoing game with a couple of friends.  One friend dropped out after the first session, citing as her reason, "I don't want to waste time sitting around when there are other things I could be doing."  She further explained that it would be a more productive use of her time to be outside and active.

Having run across this "productive" word again, I launched into a multi-day, making-deep-realizations-about-myself thought process that my family would quickly tire of hearing about (yes, these are frequent).  I knew what this friend used her free time for.  She sat by the pool, or watched TV, or went out drinking with friends.  Why was this more productive than gaming?  The end result was the same - no tangible end product or completed tasks, just enjoyment.  And the light bulb came on with a big flash!

Yes, enjoyment could be a "productive" end result of an activity.  Because if you live your whole life productively, accomplishing major things, and always checking things off a to-do list, but aren't happy, then what is the point?  We all need to take breaks.  And we should all be happy.  If it takes 6 hours of gaming every day to make you happy, then do it!  You might have to sleep less, or take away from some other activity, but that's where prioritization comes in.

So for this friend, the level of enjoyment she received from games was less than she would get from other activities.  Thus, in her mind it was not a productive activity.  Obviously, the rest of us would beg to differ, because we have continued to get enjoyment from the game and have no plans of quitting to pursue "more productive" activities.  But the definition is different for everyone.  And everyone should do what makes them happy, rather than doing something simply because their friends want them to, as in this case.

The major change I've made in my lifestyle is to start scheduling time for fun.  I'm not going to just squeeze it in where I can.  So if you ask me last minute to go to the bar or run errands with you, it'll be too late.  Because gaming is on my calendar, it IS a priority, and I will no longer give up the activities I enjoy for perceived obligations and socially cultivated guilt.  And I'm certainly not going to spend any more time browsing the internet in a state of stressed and anxious procrastination, dreading but forcing myself to continue on to the next "productive" activity.
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Apr 5, 2013

Guest Artist: A Rotten Day

My youngest sister (we'll call her Sister3) emailed me about a bad day she had.  Rather than explaining the things that had made it so "rotten," she illustrated it cartoon-style.  After enjoying a good laugh, it struck me how evocative a simple stick figure could be.  I think the humor came across better than it could have if told as a story (though Sister3 does tell a good story).  In any case, I got such a kick out of it, that I'm sharing her work today as my guest artist.  Enjoy.

Why Sister3 had a Rotten Day

Reason #1

Reason #2

Reason #3