Invisible Meals

InvisibleMealI love food!  Almost too much.  This is at least one of the causes of my battle with weight loss.  Cravings for things that taste good at meal time are a daily occurrence.  Although I know all of the reasons for a healthy diet, the struggle still exists.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.  The other day I started to give some real thought to this dilemma.  At that time I realized that most meals are invisible.  It’s not that we can’t see them at all but rather that they only exist long enough to serve their purpose.  After they are gone, they are generally forgotten.

If you were asked, I’m sure you could probably remember what you had for dinner, lunch and breakfast yesterday.  However unless you eat the same thing each day or have a schedule, the memory of your meals probably only goes back a week or less.  Even take a special meal like Thanksgiving, you probably remember what you had but don’t remember whether the turkey was dry or how many helpings of mashed potatoes you had.  The power of a meal is the power of an instant.  Based on our national problem with obesity, it is easy to see that we have a problem with getting past those instances.

Choosing what we want most over what we want right now is the key to overcoming this issue.  It does not just relate to food and weight.  It is a failure to fully decide what we want before the instant of temptation comes up.  Being prepared to react to those temptations with a steadfast denial by saying with your actions, “I already chose differently.”  It is not easy!  Without a doubt, this is most likely a fight against years or even decades of habit and desire.  Depending on the habit, like me, you may be carrying around a large reminder of all of those momentary choices with almost no memory of the “joy” that they brought.

So if the memory is going to fade of these instances and you know they will, can you start to make a better choice?  Can you choose to not be overwhelmed by now in the service of later?  Whether it’s food, sex, anger, distraction, beer or any other vice that you may have, make your choice before the moment arrives.  Then carry that decision into tomorrow.  You are not a machine!  This will take time and practice but remember that your present desire will eventually fade in your memory.  Most meals end up being invisible.

Have a great week!

Pete

The Air Conditioning Farce

heatIn these hot summer days of New Jersey, an air conditioned house, store or office is a sanctuary.  Relief from the pounding heat and humidity seems as if it is a necessity.  I often think about our “pre-AC” ancestors and how they reacted to days like this.  Most likely, they had to be slightly more intelligent about breaks, shade and water.  The prospect of artificial cool was long off in the future.  Like so many of our modern conveniences, the advancement of technology seems to come attached to a double result: the desired effect and it’s opposite.

An air conditioner is thought of as a cooling mechanism, unless you visit the back end of the unit.  There you will realize that the AC unit is producing almost as much heat as cold.  So the cool factor is for a selected space and temporary.  When the heat and cool reunite, the entire equation is most likely a wash.   The effect for us as the recipients is not particularly a wash.  The perception of cool and hot becomes skewed.  While we have in theory “beaten the heat” by creating air conditioning, we’ve made ourselves less able to adapt to it when it is thrust upon us.  This inverse relationship is evident in many areas.  The internet has connected us all but we are losing our ability to communicate.  Everyone has a phone in their pocket but people are talking less.  We have more information than ever about the human body and how it works best but obesity and diabetes are rampant.  It is as if we have forgotten something that could bring us back to the center.  The thing that we have forgotten is that we are animals.  Specifically we are mammals who were intended to find an equilibrium with our surroundings in order to survive.

The technological advances that we have created have brought us off of our center where we feel like we need to adapt.  The world is supposed to adapt to us, right?  Not quite, when we forget our heritage, not too subtle reminders will be visited upon us.  So my message is pretty simple: Find out, without!  Find out who you are without all of the gadgets that you use to cause comfort.  Think, plan and execute some time in an outdoor environment that slightly tests who you are as a human animal.  An overnight hike, a day without air conditioning, a period of time with no cell phone or any other exercise that allows you to come back to a natural center.  (Yes!  I realize that I’m asking you to unplug while writing an article over the internet.  Hypocrisy?  Only if I did this without doing what I prescribe.)

So find out, without!  Find out whether or not you can have a face to face conversation with one of your Facebook friends.  Find out if you really would shrivel up in this heat or do you just need to have a plan for hydration and find shade.  The human animal has conquered this world and found now that his biggest adversary is himself.  Don’t get crushed by your comfort!

See you along the path!

Pete

 

Temporary Real Estate

RealEstateA plot of sand at the beach, deck chairs at the pool, a spot in line, a seat toward the back of the class and hundreds of other locations are the temporary spots that we mark out for ourselves.  They are important to us only as long as we need them.  Although we know that they are just for now, we defend them and sometimes ruthlessly.  The territoriality of humans and the individually made rules associated with it are complex and seemingly inherent.  We want to have a space to call our own and defend it with fervor.

This phenomena was on full display for me in the past few days when I visited three different amusement parks.  The defensiveness of the space is heightened as the density of people increases.  Also the perceived stakes of the space comes into play heavily.  The value that the individual puts on the space is largely influenced by the scarcity of the “prize” that the space provides.  People waiting in line for entrance into the park are much more defensive than the people in the wave pool waiting to get hit by a wave.  Although it is all temporary, the ownership feels very real.

Ultimately almost all of our space is temporary and will eventually belong to someone else.  Houses, apartments, cars and even our burial plots will eventually belong to another person, creature or to nature itself.  Despite our very temporary hold on these forms of real estate, we spend time protecting and preserving them as if they were indefinite.  There is one place only you will ever own.  Yet many people allow easy access to this space as if it were just a blanket on the beach.

Your mind is your own and will be as long as you defend it.  Like holding your place in line, you need to be aware of those who are trying to sneak in.  Much like the owner of a house who has teenage children, you must be aware of people that you trust having a party at your expense.  No one will care for this space as much as you.  So mark your territory!  Be aware of who is allowed in and who needs to be kept out.  This is your real estate, don’t put it up for auction.

Have a great day!

Pete

The Chewing Tobacco Solution

tobaccoMy cousin who is fifteen years older than me used to go on vacations with my family each summer.  At the time, I was a teenager and he was in his early thirties with a very successful career in retail.  Despite my seemingly inferior station in life, I was able to change his life for the positive with little more than a few words.  I’m hoping that the process can give some hints about making big changes in your life.

It was completely unintentional but it sticks out in my memory as if it were scripted out.  My cousin was and is pretty fanatical about health and fitness.  He would run everyday, do push-ups and sit-ups in order to maintain his chiseled physique.  Despite this relentless pursuit of fitness, he had a habit that seemed out of place to me.  He used chewing tobacco daily.  It wasn’t anything that particularly bothered me.  I had friends who used it.  The thing that felt out of place was that it seemed contrary to all that he valued.  So as we were driving home from North Carolina and he got his spit bottle ready for his next lip full of tobacco, I made the simple statement.  “It seems odd to me that you do that.  You are so healthy in all other parts of your life but you do something that you know is horrible for you.  I just don’t understand.”  That was all that it took.  He didn’t tell me until much later that he had quit using tobacco and that was the reason.

Many of our decisions break down to the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves.  It could be true or it could be bullshit.  The main thing is that the story is effective at moving life forward in a positive manner.  The reason why my simple statement was able to change my cousin so quickly was that it showed an inconsistency in his story about himself.  In that situation, I knew his story about himself and showed him how the tobacco didn’t fit.  People want to stay consistent with the image that they have of themselves.  That’s the entire reason why the term “midlife crisis” exists.  Men (usually) make poor decisions in order to maintain an image that they have of themselves as young, cool, etc.

The first step to changing a behavior in yourself or someone else is to know the person’s story.  What is an identity that they want to uphold at all costs?  Is their family the center of their world?  Do they think of themselves as an athlete?  Do they think of themselves as successful?  Once you know the story, take that thing that needs changing and flip it against their story about themselves.  I keep saying they but I really want you to do this to yourself.  So if your family is extremely important but you are obese, then you actually don’t care about them very much.  If you truly cared, you’d do your best to guarantee that you’ll be around for them.  The combinations of stories and behaviors is infinite.

The key is to find the one that works.  Results are what we are after, not an excuse to feel bad about one’s self.  Your mind can play tricks on you.  It is time for you to play tricks on it to help you get where you want to go.  The possibilities of your tomorrow need to be forged in the thoughts that you have today.

Have a great day!

Shipwrecked

OarsMy son and I have taken a few trips down the Musconetcong  River in an inflated two man boat.  The first two trips were successes.  On the third trip, I completely misjudged the river conditions.  We ended up popping the boat, walking much of the trip (in and out of the water) and my cellphone ended up getting waterlogged.  The trip was not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.  As usual we were dropped off at the river several miles from our house and then left to make our way home.  The low water levels did not become a true problem until we were about a half hour into the trip.  At that point, it is too late to turn back.  Luke and I had anticipated a few bumps along the way but we got a full on shipwreck and I’m so glad that we did.

Neither of us enjoyed the trek that we made down the river.  Half of the time we were in the boat, half we were out and eventually when it popped we had to walk the river without an exit to the road for a while.  Regardless of our poor circumstances, we kept chatting and dealing with small problems as they arose.  It was not the trip that we wanted but that didn’t mean that we had to hate it.  This was not taking lemons and making lemonade.  This was slogging and knowing it was slogging but moving forward anyway and not lamenting it.  It was something that had to be dealt with.

All too often life hands us poor circumstances.  In the natural world, lamenting your circumstances gets you nothing.  It is only in our overly cushy society that complaints do much to improve a situation.  Generally speaking, the world is not interested in your comfort, preferences or desires.  It gives you circumstances and you can choose to whine or choose to move forward.  A shipwreck is not particularly a death sentence or even a negative occurrence, unless you decide that it is.

 

 

 

Two Worlds

two worldsElon Musk and others are working on plans to eventually colonize Mars.  It is long term thinking that is necessary given the human race’s rapid destruction of our own planet.  The plans for this type of project will require some of the brightest minds using the best technology available.  Without a doubt it is one of the most ambitious endeavors that is being attempted at the moment.  Before reaching the “Red Planet”, all of the planning and preparation needs to be done here on Earth.  Survival on Mars is completely dependent upon the work from this planet.

The same is true for all of us.  We are also working on a two world project.  All of the preparation and planning  (or lack thereof) is done in our minds and put into action with our bodies.  Just like the Mars colonization, your life needs to be constructed with forethought or it will lead to some form of failure.  While your life may not be a grandiose mission to another planet in service to the human race, it is a mission in the service of at least one person (you).  Leaving a project of this much importance to chance seems ridiculous.  Your second world needs to be created with deliberate mindfulness.  This is by no means an easy task!  Most people struggle with aspects of the creation of their ideal life.  Just because it is not easy, does not mean that it isn’t important.

So take a long hard look at your world.  Is it presently the way that you want it?  Is the environment correct for sustaining the life that you want?  Who do you want in that world?  Are you doing things to poison and destroy your own world?  These are just some of the questions that you may want to ask yourself.  It can be a beautiful world but you need to make it!

Enjoy the day, it belongs to you!

Dollar Store Wrapping Paper

WrappingWhen I buy wrapping paper, I buy it at the dollar store or on sale.  The reason is that wrapping paper has almost no value in my eyes.  It must meet two criteria: functional and appropriate.  Other than that, it is just the mask that the gift wears before it is uncovered.  A great gift makes up for horrible wrapping, the reverse is never true.

The best gifts have value regardless of their wrapping.  The same goes for people.  Many people spend all of their time on the wrapping.  They’ve got the right clothes, watch, car, hair and cellphone but spend no time on their heart, empathy, love, respect or intelligence.  They are empty eggshells.

In the world that keeps showing up on the news, we need to double down on the gifts and forget about the wrapping.  People are dying over the wrapping because we have forgotten that there are gifts within all of us.  Just remember that there is no “they”.  They can’t fix this issue because “they” don’t exist.  There is only you, me and us.  Perhaps I live a world away from the problem but the way that I treat you will make each of us try to do better.  If enough of us acts in this way then maybe we have a shot.  Give people the best version of yourself, so that they can give you theirs back.

Have a great Monday!

Don’t Marry Your F#@% Buddy

FBuddyIt’s so obvious on one level.  A spouse is someone that you are supposed to spend most of your days and the rest of your life with.  So choosing a person that offers a one dimensional relationship is absolutely ludicrous.  It would make for a very long and difficult daily road because all of the other areas of your life would suffer.  The sex would be great but what do you do with the other 23 hours 59 minutes of the day?  Most likely that extra time would be spent trying to makeshift a life with someone who should have been a guilty pleasure but has become a daily burden.

This is a description of a very extreme situation that is probably not realistic to most people.  Almost no one marries their “f#@% buddy” because it makes no sense and few of us would make that foolish decision.  The reason is that it is such a big decision that it would usually get sorted out before the cutting of the cake.  Signs would be so obvious that either self-examination or friends would intervene.  But what happens with the small things?  Marriage is a big decision or at least is should be.  The small decisions might be the ones that sneak through almost undetected.

Each of us has them, the guilty pleasures that we love probably more than we should.  Ice cream, chocolate, Youtube,  beer, physical affection and so many more are pleasureful things in their correct amounts.  However when we “marry” them and make them a central part of our existence, they wield an unbalancing power.  Just like the fictitious marriage that seemed so obviously out of place, relationships with items and experiences can create a burden in the other areas of your life.  It’s easier to dismiss because it is not a person that you need to take home with you.  It’s a thing, a moment in time that you deserve and the consequences will be dealt with later.

So now it is up to you!  Are you married to one of your “f#@% buddies”?  Then choose!  You don’t need to break it off completely (unless you want to).  The key is to put this relationship into its proper context.  See it as it really is and not let it take over.  Then you are available to marry the things and experiences that you really want!

Have a great weekend!

Back on the Horse

HorseThe average person has probably never been on a horse.  It’s not as common as it once was.  For close to a century the horse has been replaced by machines that are more predictable, reliable and economical.  The one thing that these replacement vehicles are not, is natural.  Machines tend to act like machines.  However because of our close association with them over the past century, we have begun to think in mechanical terms.  The old relationship with the horse was one that can teach us so much about our own lives.

While horses can be domestic animals, it is not their natural state.  It takes work!  Daily work is required to take a massive animal and make it ride-able.  The later in life that this training starts, the more that the horse will resist because it is set in its ways.  Work with a horse for years but then leave it alone for a few months and the effects will be noticeable.  Its natural tendency is to buck, kick and fight being mounted.  The horse is not going to be ridden without a plan and consistent action to make it possible.  It is just like life.

We’ve automated and simplified so many things that a human life may not seem very natural anymore.  Despite all of our attempts to domesticate life, it is not going to go along without a plan and consistent action.  There is no single purchase that you can make which will make the rest of your life a breeze.  Life is supposed to buck, kick and fight you at times.  It will most likely come at the times where you’ve neglected something that needed your attention because natural things always do.

So for today, get back on the horse.  Start training it again.  Be prepared to be bucked.  It’s the way it’s  supposed to be.  So enjoy it!