Here’s a conundrum for you. How does one be positive, yet delve deeply into the un-positive, in order to be naturally positive?
Confusing? Let me be more specific. If a truly healthy lifestyle requires one to stay focused on the positive aspects of life, wouldn’t making lists of toxic issues, and dwelling on their elimination, be considered something akin to living in the dark-side? What you focus on is what you see, and all that?
Here’s my dilemma. By living most of my adult life in a certain place and culture, my physical and mental health had declined to the point where I was seriously compromised. Daily life was miserable, most days. My best days only rose to neutral. Yet every time I changed locations and culture, within a week, that which had previously disabled me slowly left.
I’m again now “away”, and on a bad day my worst is just being tired. My best resembles an emotional orgasm.
Now what I don’t want to do with this story is compare and contrast. That’s why I’m not naming “places”. The point isn’t who wins the World Cup of Better Living. This tale also isn’t to be a self-help guide, because I honestly don’t know what ails you, dear reader. But what I can do is share my experiences. And of course, write them in a positive way. 🙂
Let’s start. I have this dude that hangs around me. His name is Anxiety McPTSD. He’s the type of guy who brings a lot of mental and emotional luggage when he visits. You know the sort, he just stands there beside you, and your heart starts pounding. Breathing strains. A feeling of flight or flight hits and he just leans in and smiles, turning the volume up on his iPain with that song that he endlessly plays over and over. Crazy bastard, he is.
He liked to visit me often. I couldn’t seem to find a safe place where he didn’t already have a key to the door. But I’ve been noticing lately that when I do see Anxiety (and he’s coming by less these days, by the way), he’s more often than not a good football field away, just watching me. His aura of nastiness just barely wafting over me, reminding me that he’s there, but not so noxious that he can do me real harm. Just the vague possibility.
Which, of course, leads to the question of why isn’t he sitting on the same bench as me, with that foul cologne seeping into my very being. (Dramatic, right? LOL)
Anxiety McPTSD also has a brother. I never really learned his name, but I call him “Python”. He has this ability to almost invisibly wrap himself around you, squeezing. It’s a physical experience. An unpleasant one. You feel incredibly heavy and it’s hard to move your joints … it’s like a second skin layer formed around you that is two sizes too small, and weighs the same as a small car.
Python always seems to be around. He apparently likes me. Sometimes he give me an extra squeeze, and that somehow seems to shout out to his brother to come visit. I really hate it when he does that. But usually Python just giggles when you try to do simple, physical things. He seems to find it funny when you struggle to tie your shoes, for instance. Or walk in normal gravity.
It’s funny-sad, but after time passes with these guys, it seems normal. You remember those old dogs that belonged to Pavlov? Same here. And even when the brothers are not around, they somehow are.
But, similar to his sibling, Python also seems to packing his bags. Leaving, perhaps? I dearly hope so. He seems unhappy about it too, giving me a super squeeze every now and again in his anger. But generally, his stuff is indeed getting packed up into his old suitcases. Hopefully soon the door will slam and he’ll find somewhere else to be.
OK, all of that was pretty lyrical, and was the only way I could “positively” describe General Anxiety Disorder and Obesity. My two demons. So let’s continue to call them Anx and Py, shall we? In the spirit of good vibes, and all that.
The parts about Anx’s distance from me and Py’s baggage packing are true, and I’m really curious as to why. They’ve both been around so long that the stench of them has become normal. But that smell is slowly diminishing, which is what triggered this story. For now the hunt is on to discover the “why”, and to use it to keep these fellas away for good.
My life now involves a lot of walking. Last week, I strolled almost 50 miles. (80.5 kilometers to those in places that use a rational measurement system). I do not really have access to fast food, nor do I eat like I used to. My meals now are much smaller. Sure, I seem to eat more often, and I drink a lot more beer, but generally my calorie intake is lower and it consists of far less non-natural components. I’m also very mentally active now. Most nights will find me wandering, meeting people, or just out and about. I haven’t turned on a TV in ten days. And my closeness to news sources that broadcast the ongoing nonsense of greed and lust, at volume eleven, seem very far away.
So, is that it? Anx and Py don’t like exercise? Or good eating habits? Or seeing me engage my brain? I wish it is that simple. I hope so. But me being me, I have to understand the “why” of why they don’t like it. Because I feel that without deeper understanding, it will be more difficult to keep those undesirables at bay.
So, in that continuing positive sense, let’s break down what’s apparently working. Starting with the walking.
I wish I could be completely positive about this part right now, but my legs are really made of rubber. It will pass, but going from zero to double marathon did not make for a happy pair of calves. Or hamstrings. Or knees. (Or, fill in the rest of the lower extremity parts). But it is getting easier, and I’m starting to feel stronger. Just by walking everywhere.
In places like where I’m typing this, walking is easy. Almost required. I absolutely do not need to “incorporate” it into my lifestyle. But, here is not everywhere. What about in locations that are more based on ‘car culture’? Or where start and finish points are very far apart? That is indeed a difficult thing, because now you do have to think about the act.
I’ve been brain-storming and have come to realize some things. Analogs may be the answer. Not in a pedestrian sort of town? Well, biking moves the legs. A lot. Everything that is needed for daily life is usually in distance of two wheels and pedals. Add a couple of baskets and viola. Have water around? Kayak! Wouldn’t an evening stroke be good movement?
And here’s a thought, what about trying something I claim to hate? Running. Do I abhor it because I don’t know how to do it? I’ve always just strapped on a pair of cheap shoes to my feet, got shin splints, and called it done. But what would happen if I got better equipment, trained, and approached it like any other complicated sport that had a learning curve? Think of the ease in bringing exercise gear on travels … just a pair of shoes and some skimpy shorts.
Let’s see, what was next? Ah yes, nourishment.
Where I sit now, food is very different. I’ve been here a week and have only once had a “dinner entree” in a restaurant. (And it was not good, nor good for me). What I do have access to is “fresh”. Really fresh, as in ingredients. Nikki peeled back the skin on a chicken breast the other day, and we both marveled at it. No fat to speak of. The color of the meat was this deepness that spoke of health, not mass production. We can only get vegetables that are coming out of the ground right now. And the seafood in the markets came out of the water less than 24 hours earlier. So cooking here involves fresh products, with no pre-processed additives.
“Going out” seems to be small-plate-based here. With the exception of that huge plate of bad pasta I mentioned earlier, I now order small portions of various things, and none of them involve a deep fat fryer, or a freezer.
So, in a world where quantity is prized over quality, and where additives reign supreme, what’s a guy to do?
This one is a little harder, because it’s not totally up to me. Restaurants are not going to change their offerings because I ask them. The supermarket isn’t going to go all “local” because I desire it. But it is possible to make healthy choices, eat out only as an event (and not as the norm), and to make food culture more of a thing about being social, rather than calories.
Oh, and I forgot to mention time! Where I sit now, we eat when we’re hungry. Not because it’s 6pm. Food is not really the thing, rather the eating of it is. Being with people is the main ingredient, not the plate in front of you. So more than anything else, having a big dinner at the song of six bells in the evening is my past big mistake. Whatever gets eaten at night needs to be smaller, healthier, and focused on togetherness rather than being a big food production.
Well, up until this point in the story, I sound just like a semi-humorous regurgitation of a WebMd article. Eat less and better. Move more. Duh. But that message needs reminding, I suppose. At least to me. And it really applies everywhere. It’s just easier in some places. I think the key is to incorporate it into myself so that wherever I am, I bring it along.
And now we skip to the hard topic. Or the easy, depends on how well food and exercise affect, I suppose. Let’s dip into the mental health well.
Where I am now, I’m surrounded with “New”. Sounds, smells, opportunity. When you’re in a different location from the same-ole-same-ole, the simple act of walking somewhere can invigorate your mind. So how does one do that when they’re not in that different location?
Some folks just work harder at their jobs. The old Protestant Work Ethic sort of thing. And I suppose if I was the sort of person whose life was defined by career, that would be a good outlet. But I’m not. Not even close. And when I’ve been in a place for a long time, the list of the unseen becomes more of a Where’s Waldo search than that huge Christmas package of possible greatness.
I’ve been giving this topic some serious thought, and it involves (for me at least) some very real changes into who I am and what I value. For I think I might be carrying around some misconceptions and defaults that are hindering me in my quest.
So … how to challenge my mind and experience new things. Wherever I am. That’s the goal. Well, I guess I need to instead think ‘people’. Where are they and what are they doing? Maybe the answer lies in seeking those with passions that would be wonderful inside me as well. Through associations or organizations. Go to where they are and join in. Involve myself deeper with the inner workings of where I am. It doesn’t have to be a new statue or neighborhood to explore, it can also be a concept, a volunteer mission, or a cause. Thought to ponder, yes?
But, and here’s the part about un-learning, I have some baggage to toss first. In my quest for a normal relationship, I seem to have become overly clingy. I have this thing where activities must involve two. Or at least be interesting to both. But, is that really healthy? Perhaps that isn’t what makes a solid relationship. Maybe a solid relationship instead allows individual passions to be possible.
Last thought … screen time needs to go away. Like a home-chef-meal, it should be a special event. Just turning on the TV and binge-watching because you’re full of calories and tired is an anathema to be avoided, shunned, and destroyed. One which I must constantly pound into myself. I cannot fall back into the slob-on-a-couch paradigm ever again. For if I do, I should just delete this entire post, and reconcile my life to living at the lowest levels until my early and sluggish death.
So, recap time! Recap time for Billy!
Just freaking live. Like every day is special. Nuff said.