Of Ruins and Non-Confession Confessions

My brain is fucked this morning. Figured I’d share. I hope what follows is something like coherent.

First, a little background:

I did not have, what is now commonly referred to as, a stable childhood. I’m old enough that when my parents divorced, I still got strange, sideways glances from people in school – students and teachers. This is back when they still used the phrase “broken home.”

I was raised, mostly, by a parent from a highly dysfunctional family. And these things get passed down the generations. So, beyond being a child of divorce, the environment I was raised in was also highly dysfunctional. Add to that an undiagnosed thyroid condition that never let me sleep, and an adult dose of anxiety and depression, and the picture of my childhood and adolescent life becomes more like a late night horror show than a Lifetime movie.

To tell the truth, looking back on those times with the benefit of hindsight, medication, and therapy, I hove no clue how I managed to maintain. It was probably a combination of dumb luck, animal cunning, and sheer bloody-mindedness. There are certain drives wired into us that help the organism survive. And it’s impressive what you can get used to and see as normal – especially if you don’t know any other way of being.

I tell you this, not to solicit sympathy, but to set the scene.

This was the water I was swimming in – the underlying structures that existed when I was 15, and a sophomore in high school.

With that in mind, let me tell you a little about the worst year of my life.

A whole bunch of things happened, within the space of about two months, give or take:

I lost the girlfriend I consider my high school sweetheart. (My first real heartbreak. That’s like virginity; you don’t forget the first time.) She left me for one of the guys in my circle of friends. For whatever reason, (teenagers have lots of reasons, and they’re all teenage bullshit), that friend group ostracized me. I suppose this was before the idea of “Bros before Hoes,” but so be it. Around the same time, my mother announced to me that she was getting remarried and we would be moving out of state to live with her new husband, in New York – state not city. So, to sum up: My girl dumped me, my friends dumped me, and I had just found out, about 3 months into the school year, that this would be my last year at that school.

If you can hear the support structures crumbling like God-sized dominoes, it wouldn’t surprise me. Some days I still hear the echoes.

That year, and series of events, ruined my life. But, I’ll get back to that point a little later.

It’s now 23 years later. I’m happily married, reasonably successful, and marginally sane.

You think you make peace with a thing.

(You kind of do make peace with it, in that you stop allowing it to fuck up your day. You stop obsessing over the thing, and you rarely think about it, and not with the same energy you did in years past. But that thing still pisses you off. And it should. For a human life to have value, someone should be angry when it is damaged, even if that someone is a N of 1).

So, why is this thing rearing it’s hydra-headed presence to disturb my relative peace of mind at this moment in time?

This is why my brain is fucked, this morning.

The guy who stole my girl, (couldn’t resist the phrasing, sorry) those so many years ago. The same guy who worked to not only ostracize me from that friend group, but also to generally give my name a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. That guy, sent me a Facebook message the other day.

(My Facebook account is set to private. So, this message had to be accepted by me. Because of something weird with the notifications, I didn’t read it until a week after it was sent.)

Apparently, he’d been thinking a lot about the past, lately.

Oh joy!

And he wanted to, in his scattered and inarticulate way, apologize. At least that’s kind of the gist I gleaned from the message. I mean, the word apologize was used. I think it was even directed at me. But have you ever had someone apologize without really and sincerely accepting fault?

(If you’re wondering, “I was kind of a dick,” is not really accepting fault. It doesn’t admit hurting the other person and it doesn’t admit that it was wrong.)

I got this message yesterday. And a whole Jehovah-decides-to kill-off-the-nephilim flood of memories and emotions broke through and started scouring the countryside of my emotional landscape.

And that’s why my brain is fucked this morning.

I’m still processing.

(I’m definitely taking my wife’s advice – which strangely wasn’t, “set him on fire,” this time – and I’m not going to engage with him. What the hell could I say anyway? And why would it matter? Nothing will change. Well, he might feel a little better about his past mistakes, but I sure as hell won’t. And I’ll be damned if I’m making him feel better. )

Really, this post isn’t about him.

But his message brought back the memories of that year.

The memories of what was, of what I had worked and planned for – such as I could plan. And those old, razor-edged thoughts about what could have been.

Those thoughts kill you, in ways little and large.

I wish I could tell you how to deal with those thoughts, how to stop having them, or stop letting them hurt you. If I could, then I would know how to handle it myself. Maybe I’ll try denial next time?

It’s funny, people who have the capacity, or ability, or whatever, to “let things go” will tell you to just let things go. But when I question them, they never seem to be able to tell me how. I’m not stupid, but letting things go is way outside of my framework of understanding. If I’m going to attempt it, I’m going to need some instruction.

(I have been trying to teach myself, by the way. Through reason, and therapy, and meditation I’ve learned a lot about myself and how my brain works. I’ve learned a lot about how to cope. But letting go is a skill I still struggle with, sometimes daily.)

Oh, I told you I’d come back to the thing about my life being ruined. So, here’s that bit:

I had an argument with my older sister – she had much the same sort of upheaval at the same time – about that statement, that my life had been ruined. This was many years ago.

She was vehemently of the opinion that my life couldn’t have been ruined, because, you know, there I was. I was a living, breathing adult operating, if not within normative parameters close enough to avoid detection.

I’ve thought about that argument, and her point, a lot since then. I still disagree.

Because the life that I knew had been ruined. For all intents and purposes, (there were other circumstances I’ll not go into here), the life that I knew ceased to exist. More than that, it was taken from me, bit by bit.

That I have a life now, that I am happily married, reasonably successful, and marginally sane does not alter that fact.

But it does prove one thing:

You can rebuild over old ruins.

What you build may be better or worse, grander or meaner, but it will never be that thing that came before. Nothing can be.

This is, as near as I can tell, an incontrovertible fact of existence.  

Nothing, once destroyed, can ever be remade. You can make something with a remarkable semblance, a veritable copy, but the glass can never be unbroken. Even if all the pieces fit back together, you will still see the fracture lines. There will always be chips, missing.

So, that’s what I went to bed and woke up with: dealing with that.

And I’ll continue to deal with that. My brain will gnaw on it like a rawhide dog chew covered in peanut butter.

It might be a minute before I get it sorted.

I’d like to end this with some note of hope, some moral or heuristic or advice for the future.

But I don’t have anything like that.

All I can do is chew on it.

And, maybe, thank you for walking this leg of the journey with me.

I don’t know what it means, but it means something, and for that:

Thank you.

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Across the Atlantic Sea…

(Yes, it’s a lyric from the musical Hair. Also, I cribbed the idea for the title from my friend Ziggy. Ziggy, if you’re reading this, thanks for the inspiration.)

Ok, so, on Monday there was a suicide bombing attack following an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. The concert was attended, according to the various news reports, by a crowd that seemed to be majority young people, even some children.

That is some fucked up, repugnant shit.

There isn’t another way to describe it.

It is truly horrible.

In the days since the attack, I have seen a lot of posts and articles, and tweets, and whatnots offering thoughts and prayers.

I know why we say those things. We say them because we feel something, and because we wish we could do something.

Any one of us with a soul or a heart, or even basic human compassion feels that way.

But I am getting sick of the deluge of thought and prayers.

Another thing I firmly believe is that one should not carp too loudly about a problem unless one is also willing to offer a solution.

So here’s my solution, a solution that will let you take action.

Do something more than offer your thoughts and prayers.

In my experience, Thoughts and Prayers are a barrier to action. Either we’re too lazy or too ignorant to actually do something, to act on that upwelling of compassion we feel. So, I’m going to lower the barrier of both those obstacles. After reading this, you will no longer be ignorant. I can’t do much about the lazy part, but I’ll try to make it as easy as I possibly can for you to actually do something.

If I’m not too technologically inept, this post will include some links to charities for victims of the Manchester attack. If you have the means, please donate. The funds will go a lot farther than your well-wishes and supplications to some supernatural power.

(If you don’t have the means, I will also have actions you, too, can take.)

Charities:

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/westandtogethermanchester

https://www.gofundme.com/fmvwa-manchester-attack-victims-fund

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ManchesterTerror

http://www.redcross.org.uk/Donate-Now/Make-a-single-donation/manchester-emergency-fund

Those are just a few charities. It took me less than 10 minutes on Google, if you want to look for others. (I gathered there are a lot of personal crowdfunding sites as well.)

 

But, you say, I don’t have any spare cash.

That’s fine. Your time and energy are just as valuable. Maybe more so.

So, here’s my suggestion for how to spend it:

Call, write, email – or all three – your representatives in Congress, House and Senate.

Here, I’ll help out with links to find out those too:

https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

http://www.house.gov/representatives/

There you go.

What should you say to them? That’s up to you. But, if you guessed I was going to make some suggestions, you’d be the winner. (and don’t we all want to be winners?)

Here’s a list of topics:

* Encourage them to make every effort to stay in NATO.

* Encourage them to support refugees, from any country.

*Encourage them to do everything they can to stop the bombing, everywhere.

The last one is my favorite.

How would that help Manchester, you may be asking?

In the short term, not much, I’ll grant, but in the long term, it could make all the difference in the world.

There were a lot of children hurt and some killed during Monday night’s attack. There are a lot more killed whenever we drop bombs on urban areas, hospitals, schools, mosques. And that happens every day.

Every. Day.

Even when we don’t drop bombs on heavily populated areas, we still do immeasurable damage to civilians.

Here’s a for instance: our President got all Morning-Wood over dropping the MOAB. The MOAB, (aka the Mother Of All Bombs), being our largest non-nuclear ordinance, has a blast radius of approximately 1 mile. A mile. And they dropped it to kill one mother fucker. In a 2 mile circle of destruction, do you think we might have killed a few innocent people? Maybe even some Children?

Of course we did.

(And. as our government still ostensibly represents us, that blood and death are on us – our responsibility.)

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that if you’re not feeling and acting compassionately towards one group that you can’t be feeling and acting that way towards another. No.

I’m not that particular kind of asshole.

What I am saying is that children are children. Innocent civilians are innocent.

What I’m saying is: You have compassion enough to act on both their behalf’s.

There is enough in you, even the lowest of you, to act on the compassion for the suffering of all innocent people.

No matter where they are from or the color of their skin.

No matter what they believe about the supernatural, or not.

No. Matter.

You feel the need to act, because you’re human, and decent. And because it’s the right thing to do.

There are people you can help.

People whose lives you can strive to make better just by taking the time to engage with your government representatives and tell them:

No more killing in my name. 

You, yes you, can take ten minutes to make the world better.

It’s only ten minutes.

Might even be less.

Because Thoughts and Prayers mean Jack and Shit without the action to give them direction and shape.

Wishful thinking won’t make anything better.

But you might.

Little old you.

You might.

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Election 2016: Post-Mortem

So, there have been many explanations put forth as to why Hillary Clinton lost the election. I imagine there will be many more in the months and years to come. I have spent a goodly amount of time thinking about this subject, and doing some research, so I thought I’d share with you today.

NOTE: Keep in mind, while reading what follows, that I did, in fact, vote for Hillary. Not because I thought she spoke to my issues, or because I agreed with her policies, but simply because I considered her Republican opponent to be the single worst qualified person for the job, perhaps in the history of our republic. And that includes the president that was rumored to have trampled a lady to death while he was on a drunken carriage ride. In truth, I still believe our current dumpster-fire of a president is worse.

So, how did we get to here, with a certified sewage cyclone leading the free world?

Well, the first thing that you need to absorb is that it was more than one reason.

(Everybody you ask has their pet silver bullet: Comey’s October surprise, Russian collusion, misogyny, voter suppression, et cetera…)

I don’t doubt that all of those things played a part, but none of them were the holy grail of deciding factors.

(it wasn’t Jill Stein either. Lay off those voters conscientious enough to cast their ballots all the while knowing their candidate didn’t stand a chance. In a Democracy we’re supposed to vote for the person we think best represents us and our interests. And it takes a certain kind of courage to go a different way than the rest. I’m not saying buy them a beer, but lay off. They didn’t keep Hillary from being the first woman president.)

So, back to my point: I think those things listed above did have some effect on the outcome of the election. It would be foolish to disregard any variable in the equation. But it would be just as foolish to think that the things I have previously listed were, any of them, solely or even majorly responsible.

I think the main problems with Hillary’s campaign were that:

1) She really didn’t have a platform.

Seriously, she didn’t. Her platform consisted of – essentially – Trump is a bad man, and I’m not him.

(I know she had positions stated on her website. I read most of them. But positions aren’t a platform. A platform is what you intend to do for the people. And as far as Hillary campaigned, there wasn’t anything concrete in that arena.)

And the people really did need a politician to make things better for them. We still do. The economic recovery, under President Obama, made a lot of corporations and rich people even richer, but really didn’t do anything for the working folk of this nation, except kick a bunch of them out of their houses.

(As an aside, maybe you think that healthcare reform, the ACA, was a boon to the poor and working people of this country, and you would be wrong. It was a boon to the insurance companies. It should have been, at its very least, a first step towards something better – a transitional tool. But it wasn’t, and about as many people got screwed as got helped. My thoughts on healthcare reform are probably best saved for some other rant.)

The research shows that 95% of the income growth that occurred during the recovery went to the richest 1% of the American population. That means, if you’re anywhere near the same tax bracket as me, you got hosed and asked to pay for the water they used to do it. But that is also another rant for another time.

Suffice it to say, other than being more hawkish than Obama, Hillary essentially promised the American people more of the same.

And that leads me to…

2) She was a neo-liberal corporatist.

Feel free to look up neo-liberalism, (unless you’re well versed in economic theory, it isn’t what you’re thinking it is based on its name.)

She was in the pocket of corporations, big business, the banking sector, and the military-industrial complex. This is not speculation. Please look up her views. It’s all out there. Most of it is on tape, if you don’t want to bother with the books.

If you need more evidence, look at what she would, adamantly, not come out in favor of: single payer healthcare system, $15 per hour minimum wage, cutting up the too-big-to-fail banks, getting rid of Citizens Untied by working to get corporate money our of our politics, doing something about the growing student loan debt bubble.

And you know what? Most polls show the majority of Americans support all of those initiatives.

But Hillary didn’t. In fact, she tried to make Bernie Sanders out to be some loon for advocating for those very issues. You know, the ones that would help the vast majority of Americans.

And let me add another thing to the list:

3) The tactics of her campaign.

By that, I mean during the primaries and the general elections. I also mean the actions of the DNC.

More specifically, what I mean is the notion that was implied that somehow she deserved to be president.

A few brave souls in independent media referred to it as what it actually felt like: a veritable coronation, like the presidency was meant to be hers by some divine of right of succession. Also, there was this weird insistence that the force of history was telling us it was time for a woman president; the implication being that Hillary was the clear choice. I think it’s past time we had a woman as president. But I also don’t think Hillary was that woman.

Add to that sense of imperiousness the chicanery and machinations of the DNC, and you get a potent cocktail that usually turns the average American’s stomach.

You see, a great many of us still believe in the myths they used to teach us: fair play, let the best person win, the ends do not justify the means, truth, justice, you know, the American Way.

Between Hillary acting like the presidency was hers for the taking and the skullduggery of the DNC, well, it left a sour taste in the mouths of many people I’ve spoken with about the subject, including my own.

If you haven’t realized this fact by now, commit it to memory: Never underestimate the peevishness of Americans. Get stuck in our craw and we will go out of our way to keep you from getting what you want. Just on principle.

And that brings me to my final point:

4) Hillary had zero charisma.

Sorry. For any of you that don’t think charisma matters, go ask Al Gore how his presidency went. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Like it or not, as Americans, we like our leaders to have charisma. Want to win the highest elected office in this nation, and you got to have it, even if – in the case of Trump – it’s slimy as hell.

And Hillary didn’t have it. If you thought she did, you’re wrong, and I’d like the number of your drug dealer, because you are getting the good shit.

I watched a bunch of her speeches – because I don’t have a life – and all but one of her debate performances. She was in control of herself and in possession of the facts, and she made good arguments. So did Ralph Nader. Go ask him how his term as president went. Go Ahead, I’ll wait.

She was wooden and without emotion in every speech or debate performance I watched. She could not read a crowd’s energy, and she could not stir emotion in a listener. Now, you could blame that on her speech writers, but in the end, it’s the delivery system that makes the impact. Just ask any of your friends whether or not they could listen to – oh pick a celebrity – read the phone book. See what I mean?

Now, all of that being said, let me remind you that most likely, it wasn’t one thing or even two or three things that cost Hillary the election. It was a constellation of things. A night’s sky full of stars worth of things. Some of those were definitely the things I listed early on in this post.  But it certainly wasn’t the third party candidates. How much a percentage of the vote did Vermin Supreme get? Yeah, about that much. And it wasn’t her e-mails.

For fuck’s sake, if I hear any more shit about her e-mails I am going to puke blood.

(I think Bernie did the right thing when he said he was tired of hearing about her damn e-mails.)

The only people that nonsense had an effect on were the people who were already not going to vote for her. Same deal with Comey’s October clusterfuck. If you were going to vote for Hillary, those things didn’t matter. And, in truth, they didn’t matter regardless of how you were going to vote. But they made for good headlines and gave the 24 hour news whores something to dole out between commercial breaks.

(As another aside, if the truth about a candidate makes it so people wouldn’t vote for him or her, then as a voting populace, we should know that shit. But the odds of that happening are so long you can’t see one end while standing at the other.)

So, that’s what I’ve managed to come up with, since the election. Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. That’s okay. It’s also the beauty of a democracy wherein we have the right of free expression. (Well, mostly free.)

Obama ran on hope. Trump ran on fear. And Hillary ran on fumes.

And Americans will take anything, even something terrible, over nothing at all.

Something to remember for next time.

Unless you’d like to see history continue to repeat itself.

Again.

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Putting the Civil Back in Civilization, part N+1: Fabric Softener and Manners

So, an interesting thing happened to me today. And by interesting, I mean a moment or two of High Weirdness.

To set the scene: My wife and I live in an apartment complex. Our apartment does not have washer/ dryer hook-ups. So, never mind the fact that I did the responsible thing in my twenties, and saved up and bought a washer and dryer – which still work – the Wife and I have to use the complex’s laundry facilities. This is what we were spending part of our Monday night accomplishing when the event of our story took place.

Note: We have been living and doing laundry here for roughly 6 years. Nothing even remotely like this has ever happened before. 

We put our clothes in to wash. The cycle takes exactly 28 minutes. I always set a timer. And in 6 years, we have never been the people who leave their laundry in the machine for anymore time than it takes to wash them. The wife will not abide wrinkles.

So, the timer goes off and we truck the 40 yards to the laundry room. Takes maybe, minute, minute and a half to get there. When we get there, someone (a nice young lady who didn’t really know what she was doing, and was really emotionally freaked out by what follows) had transferred about two-thirds of my laundry into dryers.

Now, I’m thankful my stuff didn’t end up on the floor or in a trash can, but it is still unsettling to discover some stranger has been handling your things.

Ok, I get the rest of my stuff and put it in another dryer, but I can’t shake this feeling of violation, of general creepiness.

So, I do what it is my practice to do: try to diffuse the situation with a little bit of humor.

To wit, I introduce myself to the young lady, and get her name – which I will not share here. Then I make a joke roughly in these words, “I figure if someone’s handled my drawers, I should know their name.”

Now, that statement can go badly, so I make certain I’m smiling, and the smile makes it to my eyes. The young lady has become – before the statement – as uncomfortable with what has happened as I am. So, for both of us, I’m trying to laugh it off, and show I’m laughing it off.

And it almost worked.

You see, the young lady had moved my things, because an older lady in the room had told her it was okay, that “we did it all the time around here.”

I’ll take this time to point out that, in fact, no we do not do that kind of thing around here.

At this point in time, the older lady – oh, let’s just call her CrazyasFuck – begins to take offence at my attempts at diffusion. This is when I find out that it was her urging (CrazyasFuck), that led the young lady to act in a manner that she thought was appropriate.

(I could say something about the young lady, but she was so freaked out by what transpired that I can only conclude she has led a very sheltered life.)

So, CrazyasFuck has derailed my attempts to play this off with levity. And now she’s pissing me off because she’s acting like I have no right to feel put out, just because someone strange to me had handled my personal property, without my permission. 

Well, I really couldn’t laugh that off.

So, I asked CrazyasFuck if she could understand why I might feel just a bit unnerved, a bit violated. I wasn’t loud, I didn’t cuss. I was polite and even, which surprised the Wife. I just tried to speak. And that’s when CrazyasFuck lived up to her name.

She decided she didn’t want to hear me. And she said, “That’s it, I’m closing the door on this conversation.”

Like some weird, therapy roll-play. When I wouldn’t play along, she told me and my wife, that we could both leave. Dismissed us like she had any kind of authority to do so.

And I said, “Not now. You’ve already been into my things. I’m not leaving you alone with them.”

And that is how I ended up talking to the cops, in the laundry room of my apartment complex, on a Monday evening.

She actually called 911.

And the cops came. To the 911 dispatcher’s credit, the dispatcher believed that CrazyasFuck was reporting a man in the laundry room who wouldn’t put his clothes on.

The look of relief on the officer’s faces when they rounded the corner to find me fully attired was almost worth the weirdness that got us there.

We all talked to the cops, even CrazyasFuck. During the interview, which was thankfully easy, the officers came to realize just how bat-shit CrazyasFuck really was. Now, they didn’t write her a citation for calling the police unnecessarily, but the older partner gave her a stern talking to. By the time the police left, the expressions on their faces told me they knew exactly what we were going through.

So, it ended up getting straightened out.

Only took the cops, and a representative from the apartment complex to do it, but it got done.

Why, you may be asking, does this high weirdness qualify as a teachable moment for this series discussing civility in modern life?

Well, what occurred to me –when I finally got to fold my laundry – was that all of this happened because CrazyasFuck couldn’t just admit she was wrong.

Here’s how it maybe should have gone, in a better world:

CrazyasFuck did me wrong (well incited someone else to wrong me), and it was not a big wrong. I get to – within the bounds of decorum – express my displeasure at the wrong. CrazyasFuck apologizes. I accept the apology – it was a small wrong after all. And the incident is over before it begins.

Done. Polite, like adults. And we move on with our lives.

That seems like the way to go, to me at least.

No cops. No belligerence. No more drama than is minutely necessary to complete the action. And we’re done. It’s not a big thing if we don’t make it a big thing.

I suppose the second thing to take away from all this is, we are living in a time that encourages going straight for the nuclear option. Everything is extreme, or a red line, or a stand off. (Maybe that’s just the ratings-whore media.)

Maybe, if there’s a second moral to be sifted from this debris, it is that a proportional, calm, appropriate-to-the-severity-of-the-situation response is the better option.

Maybe there isn’t a moral at all, and I just need to move the fuck out of this neighborhood.

If you figure it out, let me know. 

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Fitness Update: The Long and Winding Road

(My apologies to the Beatles)

Been a while since I’ve done one of these, let’s have a bit of catch up, shall we?

So, back at the beginning of January, I started a diet to cut some of my fat. It both worked and didn’t work. I know, confused me too. Here’s how it went: I planned for a 12 week diet. For the first 9 weeks or so, I lost weight at a safe rate; average about 1 lb per week. Then at about week 10, I started to gain it all back with amazing rapidity. There are many confounding variables here, but I think the two most important were that my calories were way too low, (1700 is too way too little for me), and my thyroid levels were lower than they’ve been in the last 4-5 years.

(I have a long history of thyroid disregulation, both Hypo and Hyper. One of these days, I’ll write more about that, when I feel like I can do so without it turning into some kind of excuse for my insane behavior over the years. Oh, it definitely had something to do with it, but that’s another story.)

So, in the span of about 2-3 weeks I gained back all of the weight I had lost, plus about 2 pounds. All this while continuing to exercise regularly and maintaining strict adherence to my diet.

So, in light of my blood work results, I’m back on a low dose of thyroid hormone, to see if it helps.

I have also restructured my diet. That’s something I’m continuing to experiment with to find the combination of macro and micro-nutrients that makes me feel the best while still working on increasing my health.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to work on getting the extra fat off my ass – and every where else – but it’s just one of the things I’m trying to accomplish.

So, as for stats, (because I know posts like this are ruled by the numbers), here’s where I stand as of today:

Weight: 261 lbs

Body Fat percentage: 27.9% (too high, but no longer medically dangerous).

Squat: 340lbs for 3 sets of 5

Deadlift: 340 lbs for 1 set of 5

Bench: 260 lbs for 3 sets of 5

Overhead press: 172.5 lbs for 3 sets of 5

Since I last had my body composition tested, last September – I use the BodyPod – I have put on 14.2 lbs of lean body mass, and only 4 lbs of fat mass. Which astounded me, because I feel like a busted can of biscuits most days. But that’s why I track data, because my intuition for such things is terribly inaccurate. So, I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve gotten bigger, and my body composition percentage hasn’t changed in about 7 months.

I’m on a diet break right now. Dieting is a stress on the system and shouldn’t be kept up year round. sometimes you have to eat at your maintenance calories and let your body de-stress. This break is only going to be 7-8 weeks. In that time, while not losing fat, I’m not standing still. I’m continuing to pursue my strength goals. Which, right now, are:

Squat: 405 lbs for 3 sets of 5

Deadlift: 405 lbs for 1 set of 5

Bench and Overhead Press: as high as they’ll go – safely – in the interval.

After this diet break, I’m going to stop focusing on gaining strength and focus solely on losing fat. It is almost impossible, except for beginners in their first 1-2 years of training, to gain muscle or strength, while losing fat. After a while the numbers just win. I’ve been training for a while now, and it’s time to focus specifically on one or the other, in order to achieve more optimal results.

Also, I’m not a strength athlete, and I’m not going into competition – like ever – so, getting too much stronger than I am now just isn’t worth the loss of mobility and risk of injury. Plus, I’m tired of being so fat.

I’ll admit it, I’m at least that vain.

Losing the excess fat will also greatly improve my health, and that won’t suck.

But that’s where I am at the moment, about 8 weeks from my 39th birthday and stronger than I’ve ever been.

I suppose I should say something motivational here. Don’t know if I’ve had enough coffee for that but here goes:

I’m getting old, I’m fat, and I feel sloppy as a soup sandwich. But I’m achieving my goals. The path snakes a lot sometimes, but it continues forward.

If I can do this, You can do this.

That’s it.

(Also, you can thank whatever gods you pray to that I’m sticking to my pledge of not posting pictures. I have too much respect for you to subject you to that.)

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A Quick Guide to Changing the World:

“Things fall apart,” so the poem tells us. It sure feels like that most days now – here in America, at least. And sometime you might want to do something about it, if you have the energy. For those of you who have reached that point, here is how to make a lasting difference:

1) Change Yourself   (seriously, even if he didn’t actually say it, Gandhi had the right idea here. If you see something lacking in the world, make yourself into someone that fills that gap. At least that way you will live in a world where the problem has been addressed, even if only by you… at first.)

2) Be an Example   (Once you’ve made the change in yourself, don’t hide it. Show the world how it works, at least in your case.)

3) Teach others who Want to Learn  (Be like a guru; let them come to you. No proselytizing please.)

4) Wait   (Really, just be patient. It matters.)

That’s it gang. As Willy Wonka sang, “Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.”

[Civic engagement, engaging with your democracy, community organizing, voting, political campaigns, all political activism, well, you can find out how to do that just about anywhere. This is the most basic – so far as I have discovered – process required to actually change the world. Be better. Show ‘em a better way. Teach those that want to learn. Wait. ]

There’s your guide. Good luck.

(Disclaimer: The first step is often the most difficult and time consuming.)

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And You didn’t Think You were a Farmer…

For some unfathomable reason I woke up thinking about parables this morning. So, this post might be a little heavy on the parable and metaphor. Also, this will not constitute some kind of introductory class on what parables and metaphors are. If you need that, go get educated before you get into the weeds here. Barring an apocalypse of any severity, this post should still be here when you get back.

The parable I woke up thinking about – and why my brain decided to deconstruct it while half awake I’ll never know – was the parable of the seed. It’s probably got a proper name that I am too de-caffeinated to currently recall. But briefly, the parable goes like this: a farmer had some seed. Some he threw on the rocks, and the birds ate it. Some he threw on dry earth, and the seed withered. Some he threw on to rich soil and the seeds grew and prospered/ flowered, etc… 

If you’ve even heard of Sunday School, you’ve probably heard this parable.

We are told, maybe, eventually, what the parts of the parable are supposed to represent: the seed = God’s love, the various landscapes are the various hearts/ minds of people. So, we are meant to understand that only a certain type of disposition can be receptive to The Word, God’s Love, Divine Light, whatever. You get the drift.

I think, if you’ve read this blog at all, you probably know where I stand on the topic of God. No need to belabor that point here. But the parable stuck with me.

And we tend to scratch things that itch, don’t we?

So, let’s pull back to the bones of the parable.

If we strip it down to its essentials, we get the fairly basic notion that only a receptive mind can accept certain types of ideas. (I’ll bet, if you’re over the age of say 10, you already understand this fact of human existence.)

Now, let’s play with it a little.

If the rocks represent people who are too set in their ways to grasp new ideas – hardened against new influences, as it might be, and the rich soil represents the people who have the necessary elements in their characters – say, and openness to new influences – where does that leave the dry soil?

The parable presents us with a continuum of human experience: Set in Stone, Receptive, and that one in the middle. But the parable doesn’t describe it as it a coherent whole of experience. It sets each part of the scale as separate and wholly different things.

But if you look closely and honestly at yourself, you’ll see that you contain, within you, all three dispositions of mind. We are all set in some ways, receptive in others, and in between on still others.

This may be getting too broad in scope. So, let’s narrow it a bit.

Assume, as the parable does, that the seed/ idea being spread is a good idea, something that would contribute to human flourishing. (Doesn’t have to be the God idea. Just a good idea in general.) Suppose also that the idea is universally good – that it would benefit any and all who embrace it. And following from that supposition, if an idea were that good, we would want as many people to embrace it as possible.

So then, the question would be: how to enrich the dry soil?

Ok, so the rock, you can’t do anything about. Just let it alone and wait for the wind and the weather to wear it down, back into something useable again. The good earth, we don’t need to worry about. It’s got everything it needs, except the idea, already.

It’s the dry soil we, as metaphorical farmers, should be concerned about.

And here’s where these metaphors intertwine: as farmers, we don’t just cast seed. We tend to the soil. We fertilize, condition, aerate, and irrigate. We give the soil the nutrients – the support for growth – that it lacks. And that’s how you turn a field that withers into a field that flowers.

For the religious minded among you, this is not a terribly new idea. Religions have been fertilizing  and conditioning young minds to produce the kind of environment where some truly preposterous ideas can take root and thrive, for millennia.

But I’m not really talking to the religiously minded here.

It’s the rest of us that need to take a page from that playbook, and put it into action where it can do some real good.

For us, the fertilizer is education. The soil conditioning is kindness. The aerating and irrigation are critical thinking and debate.

To have and create minds that are not just receptive, but that can be generative of new and good ideas, we must, as farmers/ tenders/ stewards of the society-culture provide those minds with the nutrients and the structures that encourage growth.

And then we must – as a farmer does with crops – provide a framework and let them grow.

(A framework, in this metaphor is guidance. Guidance is very different from coercion. Insistence on uniformity and conformity is coercion. Guidance is example and encouragement.)

All that being said, even good farmers sometimes lose crops. You can’t bring all of them into harvest, and we won’t. But as religions throughout time have known, we may not get them all, but we’ll get enough. Enough is all we need. Enough might just keep us from destroying ourselves and the carrying capacity of our planet.

Enough might bring us peace and prosperity.

Enough might let us remember who we really are to one another.

(It’s a dream, maybe, but that’s my brain in the morning for you. Those days are the best that begin with dreams.)

There’s more to be said on this subject. Probably many more thousands of words. But this is enough to get us started.

Oh, before I’m done with this metaphor:

As long as you’re this deep in the weeds, why not pull a few. Might give room for something better to spring up in their place.

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