I’ve been making a lot of changes lately, at least when you look at the aggregate. In reality I’ve been making these changes over a long period of time, using milestones to know when to try and change the next little thing. My whole goal is to change the things I don’t like about my life but to do it in a manner that’s sustainable. I don’t want any of these changes to be temporary. I think that realizing how I absorb change and how I form habits was an important piece of the puzzle for getting my life in shape.
Of course the underlying reason for these changes is that I wasn’t happy with my life. I’m not happy with it yet but at this point I can see how I’m going to get there. There’s still a lot wrong that’s not my health or fitness. I am holding together a house I shouldn’t have bought to begin with and every time something else falls apart it takes a little more to stay positive. Actually, if I’m honest, I’m not all that positive. I put up a good front because the things I’m not feeling upbeat about aren’t really things I can do much about right now, but at the same time there are things I am genuinely positive about. I let that come through and use it to fight the minor depression running just under the surface.
The house is the major cause of that depression. I shouldn’t have bought it, I’m underwater on it, and it’s falling apart. It’s not unlivable, it’s just not pretty. I have to get the majority of the house re-floored, there’s a decent amount of sheetrock that needs replacing due to various plumbing issues, painting that needs to be done, and various other bits and pieces. I can do some of it but some of it I’ve got to bring in help and that costs a decent amount, at least for competent help. I can’t see the end of that, yet, but it’s because I can’t see the beginning. We had started getting ahead of things but then I lost my job and things screeched to a halt.
This isn’t a complaint, I love my new job, but the fact is I make quite a bit less money than I did when I was at M.D. Anderson. Some of that is mitigated by getting my insurance, for the whole family, for nothing out of pocket and a little is made up by only driving 1/3 the distance to work but not all of it. So money is tighter than it was before and this time of year we’re laying out for school and so on. In the end, I can’t do anything about the house right now but I’m not willing to accept the state it’s in, not even until I can change it, because that leads to complacency. Now that’s only a little bit of negative side of things but the other stuff isn’t stuff I’m going to going to air in public.
What keeps me going is the other changes I’ve been able to make and maintain. I can look at those and realize that while things aren’t perfect, and likely never will be, that I’m making progress and I’ll get there eventually. For a couple of weeks before my birthday party that wasn’t enough and I was pretty depressed. I’m glad that changed and I know it’s chemical but I don’t why it did. I have no choice but to keep moving forward and maintaining the changes I’ve made so far. I’ll get there, I’ll make it happen, it won’t be easy, but I don’t think I have any other choice. The short term upshot is that I’ve got a show this weekend that’s not outside of the budget, at which I won’t be drinking, and that’ll give me a boost.
I don’t know who all, if anyone, actually reads these but it’s nice to have a place where I can write this stuff out, it really helps me think through it and sometimes someone offers decent advice because I wrote something here.
I had my birthday last weekend and it was totally amazing. I got to see a bunch of my friends and make my last night drinking for a while very memorable. The drinking thing isn’t an alcohol issue, it goes back to my post about excesses. I’m going to lay off and try to gain some discipline in that respect, in other areas, and then go back to have a cocktail or two when I go out, like a normal person, instead of a dozen like I do now. It’s all for the best really and I feel ready to make this change. But I digress…
The point of this missive is to talk about support. I’ve mentioned the personal changes I’ve been making and I don’t think I could have changed this much without the help and support of my friends and family. Every time someone likes the FB post about my morning walk, offers advice on working out, or mentions that they can see that I’m losing weight it add to my resolve to keep going. They are all little things but every one of them adds up. When I’m debating getting out of bed and strapping on the HRM, those are the things that are in my mind.
When old friends take the time to message me and give me really personal advice that’s predicated on years of friendship it really helps all the more. None of this has been easy and I’ve had to develop discipline at a level of which I’ve never known myself to be capable. I’ve kept at this longer than I’ve kept at trying to get healthy any other time and it’s working.
I have come to realize how much a support system is necessary. Doing it because I need to should be enough but some mornings, it just isn’t. One day it might be but since this is a marathon and not a sprint, the day to day is hard sometimes. To say I’ve done this without struggling would be a barefaced lie. I don’t know that anyone makes these sorts of changes on their own. The strength and dedication I have comes from the people I have surrounded myself with and that have chosen to associate themselves with my particular brand of sanity over the years. Every one of them is indispensable to me.
I’ve got work that needs doing so I’m going to wrap this up with an admonishment. Take a look at your support system, those people you love and who love you as well. Those folks are a large part of what make you who you are. They help shape you in small ways over time and hopefully it’s for the better. I hope you take the time to let them know what they mean to you.
I was going to write about Ferguson, MO this morning but to be honest I’m can’t be arsed to do so. Now it’s not even about the young man who got shot. It’s law enforcement against the Constitution. I usually could go and on about that topic but to be honest there’s a point at which things become saturated and trying to add more ire to the situation is just a waste of energy for me.
As this story progressed it’s become more apparent that the office in question might have been legally justified in using deadly force. For the record, even with the latest witness statements, I don’t think it was necessary but the situation has gone well beyond on that with law enforcement trying to control the narrative with what are blatant unconstitutional tactics. They have ceased wearing name tags and there is little to no accountability for them at this point. This could be the flash-point for something much bigger as the cops are attacking the press so the organization that usually backs up the cops is actually reporting on what’s happening without the usual pro-establishment narrative. This is the sort of thing that usually gets me going and it has. However the media saturation, the very thing that might make this lead to change, is the reason I am not adding much more than I’ve already said.
It’s not just political things or rights violations that can reach a saturation point. Take, for instance, religion; I have some friends who I have unfollowed on Facebook due their constant attacks on religion. These aren’t complaints about people pressuring them or anything, they are seemingly random attacks just for the sake of attacking religion. It does cut both ways. I’ve unfollowed people who claim to follow the same religion as me and spew hatred for anything remotely LBGT or Islamic and they do it constantly. Once it reaches a certain level of saturation or they folks involved aren’t willing to engage in reasonable discussion I simply hide their updates.
Now this is not to say I want to live in an echo chamber, nothing could be farther from the truth. It is reasonable discussion that changed my mind on a lot of the things I’ve mentioned since starting to write here again. It’s the folks who are so set in their ways that anything that challenges their worldview is met with with derision and mockery. Those people I can simply do without.
Somehow I think this ties in with the living to excess. I’ll go through cycles with some things and then stop doing them for a while. Video games are a good example of that. I’ll get involved in a MMORPG and read up on everything, learn my class really well, play to the level cap, and keep going. Until one day I just lose interest. I don’t mean I lose interest in that game, I mean I stop playing video games for a while. I find something else to fill my time.
The only thing that doesn’t really happen with is reading but it happens within reading. I’ll consume a huge amount of a single genre and then maybe not pick it back up for a year. I don’t ever really stop reading though. It’s an interesting data point and I think it ties in with the topic of this post and the previous one.
At some I think this particular issue ties in with my ADD, at least somehow. Although the things I’m talking about are not becoming bored with the topic or task at hand. I know it may sound like it but it’s really not. Saturation is the best word I can think of to describe it. I’m starting to get a little scattered on this issue so I think I’ll stop here. Writing has been helping me think through things and this is no exception. Although I did end up with more questions than answers this time.
Moderation is an area in which I do not excel. For instance I overexerted myself doing exercise and have spent the last week in a decent amount of pain. My friend Dermot said that sounds like something he would do: “If a little exercise is good then a lot is better”. I don’t think that’s the case for me. My mind doesn’t tend towards moderation in anything. I stress eat and I don’t mean a candy bar when I get stressed I mean five plates at the Chinese buffet. At the pub I can drink call whiskey (Read: Jameson) and run up a hundred dollar tab by myself. (No I don’t drive myself home from the pub). I have been thinking about this a lot today and I pretty much do everything to excess.
I don’t mean I just do bad things excessively either. For instance I read obsessively and if that was the only thing I did that was excessive then it wouldn’t be a problem but I think when taken with everything else it’s a symptom of a personality trait that I need to change. Of course I don’t want to stop reading or even read less but I do want to get a handle on my excesses. The problem is that I don’t know how to change this. I’ve always moderated myself by avoiding the situations in which I tend to overdo things. That’s not a long term solution but it’s the one I’ve used forever. The problem with that approach is that I do like to go to the pub and even if I got once a month, the money for a night out is in the budget, it’s still not healthy of good to drink hundred bucks worth of Jameson.
My birthday party is coming up next weekend and I am not sure how to change the dynamic of my excesses by then. My only thought is that I should set a limit before I go and try to stick to it. Although it might be the worst night ever to try that since people tend to buy you drinks on your birthday. I don’t know. I know I need to stop stress eating and I need to drink less during the rare occasion I go to the pub. I hate seeing a problem and no knowing how to solve it.
To be clear these excesses don’t affect me all that much. Since I don’t drive home from the pub and according to my last checkup my liver function is fine, the only thing affected is my wallet and I don’t go if I don’t have the money. I have managed to still lose weight even with the stress eating by managing my calories on the other days. Those are the two big ones. I am certain my friends could point out other excesses but I’ve probably already thought about them and just not listed them here. Sometimes I even think my obsessive self-evaluation is an excess. You see when you live life like I do, everything to excess, you end up not knowing what’s excess and what isn’t.
I don’t have the answers for the issues, hell I don’t even know where to start, but I know there are things I need to fix. And I guess knowing is half the battle…
So my last post was about political leanings and there’s a lot more to say on the issue but there have been a lot of personal changes as well that deserve chronicling. I’ll get back to the politics soon enough but for today you will just have to suffer through my boring personal life. Really there’s a lot of backstory here and I’m not sure the chronological order of it all since there are so many moving parts. I’ll start with the story that has had the most impact on me personally and what it’s led to in my life.
Late last year I called an old friend that I hadn’t spoken to in some time. It was obvious that something was wrong but he wouldn’t tell me. It took two more phone calls to get him to admit that he had fallen out of his chair and had been lying on the floor for hours. I grabbed another old friend and we went and helped him get up. It turns out that my friend had been diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t know because I hadn’t kept up with him as I should. The falling incident, as it turns out, was stroke related so he needed someone there.
Between two other friends and myself we began caring for him with Jason taking the brunt of the work and time. I gained a lot of respect for Jason as a person during Richard’s ordeal as he was there 5-7 days a week, 24 hours a day, taking care of Richard as he watched his best friend being eaten alive by cancer. David was there as often as he could be and I was there when I could as well. Honestly I was there quite a bit less than the others due to family and work obligations but I did what I could.
Richard had always wanted a family and never got one so what he wanted to talk about mine. I spent hours talking to him about my wife and kids, telling him stories about what the kids were up to. He hung on every word. He talked frequently about his childhood and not all of those memories were pleasant for him. He talked to each of us about different things that he needed to have out in the open over the course of those months. I guess when you know that you have an expiration date the people around you become your confessors. It was never easy being there and I can’t imagine how it was for Jason but we were all in it for the long haul.
That said I’d like to tell you how I met Richard. I was a punk kid and I mean that in every sense of the word. I was out for me and no-one else. I’d take whatever I could from whoever offered. I didn’t give a shit about anyone but me. I met him one night at the Rocky Horror Picture Show after I had, in my infinite seventeen year old wisdom, given my parents the finger and decided that couch surfing and MD 20/20 was the life for me. He took us to Denny’s after the show and I was planning to scam coffee off of someone. He asked what I wanted to eat and I told him I’d just have a coffee. He insisted on buying my dinner so I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. He didn’t blink. This was the dynamic for a lot longer than it should be. Honestly I had him pegged as a sucker. (That’s hard to admit but it’s the truth.)
Over time, over the years I noticed I wasn’t the only one he treated like that. He had faith that each and every one of us could more than what we were and sometimes he was right. The things he taught me are a large part of the reason I am who I am today. You see he never gave up on anyone and I may have been the biggest scumbag of the bunch. Life happened and we grew apart. I got married and had kids, a busy life, or so I thought. It turns out I should have made an effort because I regret not being around for the ten years or so before we reconnected. I regret that a lot.
I got the time to tell him what he meant to me, how he had affected my life and that’s something a lot of people never get when a friend passes and for that I am grateful. He made all us make promises before he passed. Here’s what I posted on Facebook about the promise he made me make:
I was listening to a song this morning and an old friend was brought to mind and I realized that most of you might now know why I am so adamant about getting healthy. This friend was someone who meant a lot to me and I, thankfully, got the chance to tell him before he lost the battle with cancer. While I was helping care for him I learned that his biggest regret was never having a family. He always wanted to hear about Michelle and the kids, was forever sending treats home for them, and apparently showed the Christmas cards they made for him to everyone that came over. He made me promise to get my shit together so I would be able to see my kids grow up and be able to meet my grandkids. That’s a promise I intend to keep.
So aside from the myriad other reasons, like actually feeling better and enjoying life more, there’s an underlying promise I made to someone very dear to me that I don’t intend to break. I post about it here because I have some very supportive friends and it helps me keep a record on which I can look back and see my progress. So I won’t apologize if those statuses annoy some people and I won’t stop posting them. This is only one aspect of my life that was changed by being there with him in his final days. I may post about the others but I wanted to get this out there. I miss Richard a lot still and even typing this up brought me to tears. I took me way too long to realize how much he helped shape me over the years and too long to tell him. I’m just glad I got the chance.
So that’s my inspiration for getting in shape and for changing the way I am with people. I have been a hermit too much and I am trying to fix that. I am losing weight and trying to get out of the house more often and see the people that matter to me. I have been guilty of neglecting my friendships and then being sure that they are still there. But that’s not me any more. I may still be failing but I will get better. I will tell people how I feel about them, I will see them and put my arms around them. I am not the center of the universe and I have to make the effort to see the people that matter to me and I have to take the lead and tell them how I feel about them.
I am also trying to make sure I do more stuff with my children. I haven’t skipped over that, I saved it for last because it’s the most important thing. I am trying to have more of a work/life balance. I am on-call every three weeks, for one week, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do things. It takes a little more planning to make sure I’m not more than an hour away from somewhere with wireless but I can even do things those weeks. I don’t work so much or have so long a commute that I can’t do things in the evenings. I sometimes feel like what I bring home for work takes so long to shake off that it’s hard to make time for the family and I need to change that and spend more time, one on one with them.
Finding a balance in life is never easy and I’ve had the wrong balance in mine. I intend to change that.