The Point of It All

Another night. Another Internet vortex that sucked me in around 9:30 and three hours later I have no idea where the time went. It seems to be the refrain of my life, especially as I think about pushing the 30 milestone in a few months which I’m certain will feel like a few minutes by the time it rolls around. But here’s what I do know about the last three hours: I scrolled endlessly through other people’s lives, stalked a few current crushes on Facebook, and nursed a few struggling conversations on those lovely ‘ol gay apps. I will say, I simultaneously gave a listen to the new Elvis Perkins LP. Proud of that little side move at least.

I/we/the world spend so much time these days simply looking at life. I look at other people’s moments, I talk to dudes about having moments – be it a date, sex, a coffee, I reflect on my past moments. But did I stop actually living in moments? Did I stop having moments? I recently saw a show which featured several 2-minute plays, all reflecting different current themes. One simply consisted of one of the actors stating, “I’m going to make a sandwich.” She then sat at a table with two slices of bread, slathered on some peanut butter and jelly, cut it in half, and sat there and ate the sandwich. That was it. Gazed around the audience from time to time, made eye contact between bites, moved around in her seat for a bit. That was it. She was nothing but present. Nothing but focused on what she was doing in that very moment. In what played as a sort of hilarious “is she gonna break?” moment, I sat there surprisingly in awe and sadness as I realized, “I don’t remember the last time I ever lived life that fully.” All she was doing was making and eating a sandwich, and yet I couldn’t help but think of how content and at peace she must have felt. And how much that’s all I want for my own life. Living presently. (With peanut butter.)

Lately I’ve found myself getting so oddly depressed from the trivial, day-to-day shit we as humans are expected to engage in regularly. I walked the aisles of a grocery store the other day and just looked at everyone loading up for the week, preparing to go home, plan some dinners for the week, make some lunches to take to work, grab their to-go breakfast bars for the work commute…and then come back in a week to do it all again. It’s cliche, but UGHHHHH the rat race of it all. It’s like we’re all adding fuel to the millisecond that is our lifetime, to somehow make it even shorter if possible. Yes – I realize we all have to eat. But lately I find myself so overwhelmed by mortality, that any future-thinking move just sends me into a tailspin. See also: retirement planning. I want to live comfortably, but I hate the idea of planning for life to end. I’m sure there is some of my own baggage buried deep in the bowels of that tailspin, but I can’t help but see everything we do as actions to plan for moments, rather than ever living in them. Think, then, of that lunch you shopped and planned for days before you ate it. Chances are, as you now eat it, you’re sitting at a desk checking emails, scrolling the news of the day, or swiping every direction possible all over your iPhone. No present moments were actually used in the making of this moment.

I want to (re)learn to be present. I want to (re)create a space in my mind that is aware, receptive, open, curious…a space that connects with every step/bite/shit/lather/glance/yawn/convo/tear/move I make. I want to live in moments, and not just plan for them. I want to be at peace with myself, which I believe is the mind’s most effective way of connecting, trusting, and feeling each millisecond we have. I don’t want to observe; I want to be. Now pass me the jar of Jif.

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Awake my soul.

October 15th? 

Something crazy has happened. In some sci-fi act of time travel, my life jumped from July 28th to October 15th. I have no idea how this happened, but I blinked and here it was. Something tells me, though, this quantum leap won’t be stopping anytime soon, and before I know it, I’ll be ringing in 40. Then the next day, 50. And so on. And so on.

Existential crises aside, hi. I’ve returned from quite the break. Let me bring you up to speed: the leaves have turned brown, the air’s chilled out, I’ve gone through a boy or two, smoothed out some family relationships, began an internship at a mental health hospital, and am now coming to you by fall-scented candlelight while Mumford and Sons rips out my heart from my iPod dock.

Alas, I’m not as melancholy as my soundtrack suggests. I’m finding peace at coming to my laptop, logging in, and putting these words to the screen. I’ve gotten down lately about various experiences–money, eating bad, rejection from guys, basically every form of anxiety a 28-year old might be inflicted with at one point or another. I realized the other day, though, that the clients I’ve begun working with the last few weeks, many of whom are at absolute rock bottom, have taught me a thing or two. I’ve often heard teachers and parents say, “I learn something new from my kids everyday.” I’ve felt like this almost non-stop from the patients I interact with daily. Patients who are deeply, deeply hurting. Patients who have nowhere to go from losing battle after battle to addictions, depressed thoughts, substances, and a slew of other destructive behaviors. While it’s given me some perspective to my own problems, I find the messages I convey or hope that they arrive at themselves are often the same messages I need to hear myself. Respect yourself. Forgive yourself. Accept yourself. Love yourself. Endure. Seek out the positive changes to help you cope with the shitstorm of life. (clinical term.)

In essence, trust the good. Consider your thoughts. Where are they coming from? What are you telling yourself? What experiences have validated and confirmed these thoughts to be true? In the case of this guy, not too many. It is so much easier to assume the worst of ourselves and jump to self-destruction. “He rejected me because I’m not good enough, I feel unloveable. Guess I’ll just go act accordingly.” I’ve been pleasantly surprised at my progressive ability to catch myself in this kind of self-talk, and stop it dead in its tracks. I’ve seen patients apply this analysis to their own situations involving much higher stakes, but the universality of our flaws and our humanity has been a profound and beautiful experience which I have had the fortune to observe. 

Now that I’m back to this blog, I want to get back on track with what I set out to do in the first place. I want to find happiness within. I want to stop getting in my own way of finding it, but knowing peace with myself if I do. I want to trust that respecting my mind, my body, and my heart will make me the person I want to be. But perhaps most importantly, I know, right now, that that person is sitting right here.

So take all the time you need, and let yourself be.

Challenge #5

It’s been a few weeks since I posted a challenge, and I’ve clearly strayed pretty far from my original “one thing every day that scares me.” I don’t really have a good reason for it; laziness I suppose (although coming up with a challenge everyday was near impossible). But at the same time, I’ve been challenging myself every day since starting the Whole30 cleanse on July 7th. This hardcore version of a Paleo diet has given me some amazing changes. I’ve lost weight, have tons of energy and better sleep, but the counselor in me is most excited at how this cleanse has affected my mental health. My mood has improved, and my motivation and willpower increase exponentially each day.

I’m counting this all as Challenge #5 – starting something that I stuck with. The last few weeks have been very different for me as I’ve done a significant overhaul of my eating habits. The unusual and great thing about it, though, is that I’ve lasted to tell the tale. I’m not done yet, and actually won’t be doing a full 30 days (sorry Whole30 but eventually you’ll lose out to Lollapalooza), but I’ve finally proven to myself that I’m capable of affecting change.

It’s such a powerful and profound moment when you realize you can stick to something. I haven’t done it in so long and honestly can’t even remember the last self-improving habit I really stuck to. (Does brushing your teeth count?) But now, regardless of where I end up when I finish next week, I’ll always know that I am, in fact, capable of difficult yet positive change.

One of my fave Metric songs from their 2012 album is posted above. I love the lyric “So take all the time you need, and let yourself be.” I interpret this idea of not rushing your life or your goals, but taking the time to develop the strength you can use to accomplish them. It isn’t easy, but I’ve taken a good little chunk of time thus far to really see that anything great takes awhile. I’ve always been the kinda guy to cut corners or slap on a quick fix (just ask my friends and coworkers about my varying menu of crash diets over the last two years), but I’m finally seeing the value of investing your time and determination.

Good luck to all of you out there working on a long-term goal. It’s hard. But doable. And amazing.

As I began to l…

As I began to love myself, I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “love of oneself.”
– Charlie Chaplin

“If it doesn’t serve you anymore, stop repeating it.”

Last week, Mark’s Daily Apple posted an article that somehow encompassed everything I think and feel about my life right. now. In some sort of Total Recall intrusion into my mind, he seemed to sum up the last 28 years of my life perfectly in the post, “Why You Should Let Yourself Succeed and Get the Life You Want.” Wow. “Let.” I love that word. It implies control and diminishes my usual self-concept of a typical 20-something on auto-pilot. Oh, I don’t have to waste each weekend with booze and hangovers and fast-food? What. a novel. idea.

Of course Mark is pointing to a bigger picture of self-fulfillment. He asks, “How many of us get in our own way when it comes to leading the best life possible?”

*sheepishly raises hand*

I’ve made a thousand excuses and have created some demented reward system for myself, whereby I make positive, good choices for 3-4 weeks, and spent six months rewarding myself with an indulgence at every turn. Maybe this time, the good choices can be my indulgence.

I highly recommend giving this article a read. It’s incredibly motivating and a powerful perspective on how self-sabotage can be the driving force in our lives. Instead, it’s about saying “yes to what is possible but perhaps entirely obscured by your own assumptions about what is attainable and what you deserve. It’s about doing exactly what you probably don’t want to do – push the envelope.”

The more that I wait, the more time that I waste.

Challenge #4

I realized recently how important the music in my life is. I’m not sure if it’s like this for you, but often one of the key ingredients to change and motivation for me is a take-back-the-night tune like the one above. Another of my fave Madge songs, I played this today as I walked to the store to embark on my fourth challenge to myself, and it has an amazing lyric that I think will become my go-to mantra for this self-improvement endeavor: “The more that I wait, the more time that I waste.” Pretty self-explanatory, but super powerful. I’m done putting off change. I became so incredibly sick of my own cycle of bad habits, and as each day comes and goes, I only become more entrenched in them. And when I think about the fact that I’ve pretty much spent a third of my life already, the word “waste” resonates deeply.

Which brings me to my next challenge. One of my dearest friends became an avid Paleo-follower this year (check out her blog Adey’s 80 at http://www.adeys80.wordpress.com), and was actually a big inspiration for me to start blogging. She approached food in much the same way I did, ie eating fast, easy junk 90% of the time. She saw great success with the Whole30 challenge (the hardcore jumpstart to adopting the Paleo lifestyle), and as I’ve begun to read the science, psychology and emotions behind this diet, I realized recently that it just might be the perfect thing for me.

So, what am I waiting for? It’s time to trust the good of the experience that my friend had, as well as so many others that have seen success with this way of eating. The thing that has attracted me most to it is that, not only will I hopefully be able to achieve some much-needed weight loss (have put on a good 20 in the last two years alone), but it is part of a bigger picture of lifestyle changes that cut out excess in many different ways. I realized excess is a big part of my emotional, physical and mental pain–I spend too much, I eat too bad, I try too many times to convince my parents of things that are out of my control…and the list goes on. It is my hope that the next month will bring about some much needed health in my life as I rid myself, through this diet and my previous and future challenges, of a whole lot of excess.

Cleaning out my wallet

Cleaning out my wallet

 

Day 3

Okay, it may not be a consecutive day 3, but for my third positive challenge to myself, I did something pretty much all of my friends and family have been telling me to do for years. The picture above is a lovely little collage of the 8 (count em 8) credit cards that now lie in hundreds of pieces at the bottom of a dumpster.

This is huge for me. As someone who’s spending and consuming is so highly emotionally charged, this is a huge step in the toxicity exodus of my life. I would pay off a card, max it out, pay it off, max it out, and the cycle never seemed to cease. What do I have to show for it? Well, some great experiences, some fun clothes and shoes, countless bar tabs and restaurant bills, aaaaand….a lot else I’m sure. But something tells me the peace I might actually be moving toward will be a little more rewarding.

Get rid of something today. Mine was a pretty dramatic gesture (complete with my own procured “starting over” playlist. I’m a sucker for just the right soundtrack.) but it doesn’t have to be. I’m sure mine won’t always be as I go through this. The thing is, it took me so many years to cut up all these credit cards simply because I didn’t think they mattered and it wouldn’t do much for me. I thought, if I can just not use them it’ll be fine, but of course I did, and with each “small” purchase justified it as “just a little something to have some fun.” These little somethings catch up to us. My sad bank statements are living proof.

And tonight, cutting all these up was more fun than anything any of those tiny plastic shreds could buy.