Friday, December 6, 2013

There Is Never Enough Ice Cream.

Marc Maron made this statement in the opening of a recent episode his WTF podcast.  To be clear, this was not a comment on ice cream, per se.
We are, most of us anyway, are in possession of a broken heart, a fractured mind, a damaged soul, or some combination of the three.
Obviously, when a thing breaks, the natural urge is to seek repair.  To apply a bandage.  Unlike a broken bone, there are injuries that never heal and necessitate ongoing care.
How we medicate speaks volumes about our suffering.  Alcohol.  Marijuana.  Cocaine.  Heroine.  Crystal meth.  Pills.  Food.  Sugar.  Prolonged exercise.  Sex.  Excessive blogging (srsly).  We all have something.
Here is a test.  Does your treatment of choice continue to give off good feelings long after the treatment has concluded?  Or, are you already seeking the next fix before the current one has worn off?
The latter fits for most drug addicts and alcoholics.  Sex addicts and chronic masturbaters also experience a quick fall from the euphoria.
Maron is a addict, fourteen years sober.  No drugs.  No booze.  His only vices - too much coffee, nicotine lozenges, masturbation (who among us hasn’t?), and food.  The mind of an addict will always find a way to mediate, even when choosing to close off former avenues.
He discussed research about the mind and its receptors and how ice cream connects to us.  I love ice cream.  I hate the way my teeth feel after I eat it, enough to say never again.  There is always a next time.  It seems so minor, so trivial, yet I have not been able to turn off that want.
The research, stripped down for the purpose of this post, showed that ice cream is never as good as the first time.  Every time we consume it afterward is in pursuit of the rush from that first time.  And it is never as good.  That is because during that first time we are still pure to the experience, it is all new to us, to our receptors.
You don’t yet know that you need it.  You can really leave it if you’ve never taken it.
For some people the receptors don’t receive properly, and the experience is a one-off.  For others the pursuit lasts a lifetime.  Countless hours, years even, chasing the ghost of that first time.
What science showed, that the mind never really accepts, is that the next time will never be as good as the first time.  Because even if it is, we believe it can be better still.  What was once mind blowing is now meh.  This is why the addict od’s, the alcoholic drowns, and even why some marriages fail.  The next time is no longer good enough and the pursuit cannot end.
After that first bowl or cone, there never is enough ice cream.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

all i've got is time

some lessons need to be learned again and again to stick.  other lessons just stick.  put them into practice and they stay with you.

we talk about "making" time and managing time and losing time like we actually control time.  in reality we only control what we do with the time allotted to us.

most people rush through life.  work is to be endured and finished as soon as possible.  relationships are seldom given the time necessary to grow and flourish, or to wither and die naturally.  we try to reduce the alphabet to two letters, getting from A to Z without any of those other extraneous symbols in between.

it all reminds me of running a 5k.  the distance takes time to cover, from start to finish, but it is done soon.  most distance races are meant to be run as quickly as possible, and this one is no exception.  never does the 5k racer say "my, that was a beautiful course".  there is simply no time to take in the scenery.

on the other hand, an ultra marathon is another story.  to finish, for most entrants, the race is about management.  of time, nourishment, physicality, mentality.  you have a lot of time.  you have all sorts of time.  with all that time you have a lot of time to think.

there are pressing matters to be dealt with in the moment.  there are other matters that may be shelved for a bit, to be dealt with at a latter stage of the event.  some matters must be dealt with, whether in the moment or eventually.

other matters, though, simply fall away never to be considered again.  no worry, no bluster, no bluff.  they simply fall away.

that is one lesson that will stay with me, from my days as an ultramarathoner.  it is a lesson i employ every day.  if something is bothering me, a thought that takes hold of me like some rabid dog, i try to set it aside.  shelf it, so to speak.  if i stay present moment, focused on actual tasks, that rabid dog will succumb and die a nature, timely, death.  in most cases i am happy to let it slip away.

i do not face that dog everyday, but i am getting better at facing it down.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

enough is enough

there are times, like now as i sit before my computer, when i tell myself i should be doing more.

more what, you ask.

fuck if i know, but whatever it is, i should be doing more of it.

housework, maybe.

yard work, definitely.

running and general exercise?

the point is that there is always something to do.  there are tasks that need to be completed, or addressed in the least.  but time keeps slipping away.

i should not beat myself up of not doing enough.

since i started working at Costco in July 2012, i went from a nowhere real estate career and pulling twenty to twenty-five hours per week at the store, to full-time supervisory status within six months.  we finally moved into our own place, back in May, and are doing our best to pay our own way through life.

for forty hours each week i am doing the best i can to hold my mental, emotional, and physical shit together.  some days i walk out feeling pretty good, about myself and the job i did.  other days, well, i slink out barely a shell of the man that walked in.

when i need to hear it, i recite to myself the following affirmations:  i do enough, i have enough, i am enough, and i am good enough.

if any of those don't apply, then it will have to be.  because unlike in previous professions, i give all i have.  most days it is good.  some days it is great.  then other days come along and nothing works and whatever does happen materializes in a slow motion sort of way.  like a train wreck on one tenth speed.

admittedly, i do not run as much as i want.  the housework - which i do because A is up to her gills in school work - gets done.  not as fast as i'd like, but who can i blame but myself.

over the last few years much of my anxiety and self-loathing was born of the concept of "enough" - i did not do, have, provide, nor was "good enough".  i supposed that people projected these thoughts upon me.  it took a long while for me to admit that the only one projecting was me.  it was my voice saying such horrid things.  if anyone else had similar thoughts, they did a fine job of keeping them to themselves.  mostly...

here is the thing.  there are people that accomplish more than i could ever dream.  there are also people that do far less.  the point is that i do what i do and am okay with the results.

because sometimes enough is enough.

Monday, November 18, 2013

another piece in the puzzle of me

i decide what is toxic to me.  

i decide that what is toxic to me has no place in my life.

upon deciding that what is toxic to me has no place in my life, i move to carve what is toxic to me out of my life.

once what is toxic to me has been cut out of my life, a craving fills the void and i want nothing more than to regain what i carved out of my life.

while this may seem confusing, it is crystal clear.  the unfortunate aspect of being me is that my brain will not turn some things loose.  at least not easily.

i have to consciously not think about the toxic objects of my desire.

only time will tell if i will succeed.  as always, i have to think of other things.  i have to divert my attention.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

rethinking overthinking

The most frustrating thing about being me, aside from beating off all the admirers due to my ravishing good looks, is my tendency to overthink a situation.  Usually I am compelled by my subconscious to reconsider some past event, one that went horribly awry and was nowhere close to the resolution I would find to my liking.

I know these two points to be true:  1) I cannot change the past by thinking about past events, and 2) I cannot alter future events by thinking alone.  The past is done.  Continuing to reflect on those events will bring nothing new or useful to my life.  And the future, well, action trumps thought every time.

My problem is that overthinking is a compulsion for me.  A thought takes hold and rather than let it go, it tumbles over and over, like steel beams inside a cement mixer, clanging and banging, demanding my attention.  To quiet my mind I mistaken treat the invading thought like a puzzle to be solved.  Foolhardily I think that if I "solve for x" I will be able to move on from that thought.  Not so fast, my friend...

What I have to accept is that there are no solutions to many of these thoughts.  I realize that most of them simply circle around, waiting for a moment of weakness to strike.  Talking them out is no longer an option either, as I have broached these subjects in private therapy, support group settings, and one-on-one conversations.  There is nothing more to say.

However... rather than overthinking a subject, I ought to rethink the overthinking.

A few days ago I stumbled upon a new mantra, for when the self-hate or self-loathing or destructive negative self-talk kicks in:

This will not be resolved today.

This does not have to be resolved today.

Not today.

Not now.

Just for today I will put this thought aside and focus only on what I need to exist in the present moment.

This tactic is not me bottling up or suppressing my feelings.  More to the point, it feels like I am a ignoring the neighborhood bully that thrives on attention from his victims.

So whenever that bastard comes around again, I'll stare him in the eye and say simply "Not today, motherfucker.  You won't get at me today."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

vigilance has a price

I must be willing to give up what I am, in order to become what I will be. 

This quote is tattooed on my chest, over my heart.  Once I decided to get a tattoo, I searched for something that had particular meaning for me.  Whatever I chose had to be a guiding force me for years to come.  It had to mean something.  At least once per week, like a two-by-four to the face, this quote finds a new application in my life.

Give five miles more...

This quote is on my left forearm.  The words are a paraphrase of a plea made in the dark of a Texas night by a dear friend, in a moment that I needed to hear such words.  It was a moment that I wanted to quit, when I wanted to quit on myself.  Giving myself five miles more to mulling things over, over and over, allowed me to delay the decision to quit, till the task itself was done.  This quote stays with me, as a reminder in everyday life to not quit, when that is all I want to do at that moment.

Life is about decisions.   What to do.  How to act.  When to act.  What, when, or how NOT to act.  In the moment any decision may seem inconsequential.  Only with the passage of time does one gain the perspective necessary to see whether a decision was right, or oh so very wrong.

It could be a huge decision, a game changer.  Or it could be a series of baby steps.  Paper cuts instead of full amputation.  One leaves the sufferer in immediate shock, while the other is unnoticeable till moments or hours later.

Everyday I have to weigh options and consider the future impact of those decisions.  That is the nature of my job.  On a daily basis, what I do at 6am may have repercussions twelve hours later.  Literally, that is the nature of my job.  The past Me was often paralyzed by indecision, fearful of making a mistake or taking a misstep.  The current Me has to decide and act, without hesitation.  Later, in a quiet moment of reflection, I can look back and consider what I did right and what I did wrong.  Making mistakes is how one learns to avoid future mistakes.

The last few fears have witnessed me make many mistakes.  Regretful decisions reexamined and over-analyzed.  However, there is little denying that I am less who I once was.  I am becoming more so who I will be.

The worst part about making a decision - or even a promise - is sticking with that decision.  Turning words into reality is not one of my strengths.  I am full of want, less so of results.  My track record is abysmal.  I want that to change.  Fuck it, I need that to change.

I must be willing to give up what I am, in order to become what I will be.  Give it five miles more...

I want to make this change, but it will not be easy.  Not because of outside pressure, but from internal forces.  I have to repel compulsions, impulses, and basic want.

I want to drink, but I want more to not drink.  This is a simple statement, but it is anything but simple in practice.

Vigilance has a price, precisely because I have to give up what I am, to become what I will be.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

i won't call it a comeback, but...

because of work - two-thirty am wake ups and lifting things for hours - i have not maintained any sort of running program, well, since my last big race.  that was cactus rose in october of 2012.  time has truly flown by.

what i realized this last week, as i resume my running life, is that i desperately missed everything about running.  that moment when my breathing settling into a comfortable exchange after the initial ragged minutes.  the deep muscle ache after running, what at the time seems like a long distance.  the rush of blowing past another person on the trail or sidewalk, even if they are simply out for a walk.

i am considering a turkey trot when the season rolls around.  something small like a 5k seems appropriate given my schedule and tenuous grasp on any disposable energy.

something else i realized, with the early mornings and early evenings and forty hour work weeks and non-consecutive off-days, is that i am fortunate to have run the races i did.  traveling to three ultras was a luxury, something i cannot even dream of affording now with rent and utilities and, yes, private schooling.

twenty to thirty fast miles each week is doable. what's more, it sounds like fun once again.

i reckon the book was right, when it said Once a runner... 

-L

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Checking Myself

Overnight I received a note from a follower via another social media site i inhabit.  The note was written in response to a post I made regarding emotional triggers and physical responses.  If you live your life free of "triggers", consider yourself fortunate.  If you are triggered, there may be a way to minimalize the impact these triggers have over your life.

"When I first started zen meditation I told my teacher that when I kept losing concentration, I would get very very frustrated. So she told me in the middle of that situation on the cushion to ask myself 'who is frustrated.' Or if there was another emotion to ask 'who is (feeling that emotion)'. So I did. And what I found happening is that I would have an emotional reaction, there would be a corresponding change in the body, and then my mind would try to connect it to some memory in my past. So if I felt frustrated, my brain would scan back to a time when I was the most frustrated I have ever been. And I’d replay that memory so quickly that it was almost imperceptible. But then, in response to that memory, my body would have a physical reaction to that memory and I’d have new emotional response based on that physical reaction. All happening so quickly as to be almost unnoticeable. So in essence, if I had a reaction in my body that was similar to a reaction I had in the ultimate frustration, or ultimate disappointment moments of my life, my brain would relive those moments in like a tenth of a second. And so I’d be reacting not to whatever situation was actually happening, but to a memory of a time that was awful. But all subconsciously. So over time, I have almost unknowingly adopted a viewpoint which has me asking 'is this what’s happening? Or is this just what I think is happening?' And that stance born of repeated meditation prevents me from sticking too hard to my thoughts and opinions. Makes the world a little more mysterious. Allows for more possibilities."


Triggers take all forms.  A trigger could be a almost anything, from a word or phrase, to a place.  I even know a person triggered emotionally by thunderstorms.  Sometimes I am triggered by a name.   A simple name, with complicated emotional baggage.


What I realized last night, and confirmed by the above note, is that while never easy, sometimes you have to let go of what triggers you.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

through the valley

my, it has been a while.  i have not even looked at my reading list in months.  as i do it strikes me how the topics that used to consume me hold little interest for me today.  it is not so much that i have changed, but moved on.  i may not have changed, but my life certainly has.

i am down to weeks, if not days, left in my real estate career.  without shame i can say that i failed.  no worries though, it was never for me.  that admission took six years and a moment of desperation to finally rise to the surface.

i have a new career.  each day brings a new host of challenges and worries, but today i saw some growth.  sure, it was not perfect but i am okay with how the day went.  perfection is an illusion anyway.  there is always someone waiting to tell me how i fucked up.  the difference in me is that i prepare myself to take the hit, and welcome the hit, rather than try to dodge it.  some hits simply cannot be avoided.

out of desperation andria and i each have new careers.  hers due to writing on the wall.  her old job is destined to be phased out.  she had to make a move, but the move she made necessitated that i step up and finally make a meaningful contribution to our life together.  i no longer could afford the luxury of someday.  hence my move to retail and a time clock.  if you told me one year ago i would be in the position i am now, there is no way i would have believed you.  no chance in hell.

however, because of that desperation and willingness to leap without a net, and net wove itself beneath us.  my career is progressing at breakneck speed.  andria just received her employment contract for next year.  and we are finally, after nearly seven long years, moving out of her parents' home.  we are finally resuming our lives as adults.

occasionally i consider the old me.  i wonder if i am still a runner.  due to the pace of my life at present, and the commitments i maintain, i have not managed any sort of consistent training regimen.  then i run a 5k at a seemingly unreasonable pace and think perhaps i am a runner.  then i sneak myself into a ten miler when i have not run that distance in months and push a pace i have no business holding, and i think perhaps i am a runner still.

i do not think i shall ever return to my previous life as a runner.  2:45 am wake-up calls and eight o'clock bedtimes will ruin a runner, especially as summer approaches here in south carolina.  but this much i know:  i would not trade those four years for anything in the world.  i saw things and accomplished things i never even dreamed about.  i engaged people and considered ideas in ways that never occurred to me previously.

now, at the mid-point of my life, i finally know the kind of person i am.  i may not like everything i am, but i understand how it all came together and how it all works, and how i can make it all work for me.

lastly, i know what makes me happy.  she has been with me all along.

i saw a quote today, which i will attribute to a native tennessean now living in los angeles, nobody you would know.  he said that while it is nice to acknowledge those folks that happen into your life and shine a light to chase away the darkness, it is far better to embrace those individuals that chose to walk through the darkness with you, hoping to find your light together.

so i guess that is it.  until some other time perhaps.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

the meaning of life is perspective

i am no longer running from something, but rather am running to something.  some very big somethings.  perspective has everything to do with how that run feels.

life is, according to marc maron, a series of beatings.  some are light and mildly bruising.  others are brutal and bloody.  the purpose of life is to survive those beatings and come out stronger.

people certainly live without having the literal or figurative shit beaten out of them, but those people don't know how strong they can be when true strength is needed.

i've taken a fairly sound beating recently.  of course most of the blows were self-inflicted.  but i survived and am charging forward.

which way the wind blows

quite often in my life i have felt rudderless, with slack sails.  my charts are scattered.  both day and night the skies are clouded over.  i know not where i am, just that i am not where i want to be.  well, not entirely...
  
for years my life seemed lacking.  something was missing.  there was no purpose.

if i know anything about myself it is that if there is something i do not want to do, i will not do it.  no amount of threats or cajoling or promised rewards will propel me down that path.  whatever it may be, i have to truly want it in order that i have any desire to actually pursue it.

hence private counseling.  and group therapy.  and more honest communication with my wife.  and the new job, which brings me to the point of this post.

that new job...  when that all began last summer, Andria was concerned that part time work would not provide enough of what we needed.  and surely the schedule would make for difficult times.  my therapist, dr. simons, balked at the idea even more forcefully.  what you need is money.  part time will not provide you with the means to change you situation.  

i took in what each of them had to say, and set out anyway.  i did not know what the future would hold, but i finally saw promise in that future.

a new wind was blowing.  not harsh or bitter.  not fraught with unhealthy urges or codependent attachments. so i raised my sails and let the wind carry me wherever it would.

six months later that part time job has become full time.  rather than a member of the team, i have been granted supervisory status.  i am one of the leaders.  my superiors and coworkers recognize that i have drive and determination and the will to succeed in that environment.  i may not have the support of everyone in the building, but i have the support of the right people in the building.

i have the support of the right people in life.

as for the money - the part time hours and the part time dollars - that will change to.  suddenly i am propelled from earning a quarter dollar above the entry level to the top hourly wage in the building plus one dollar, per company policy.  with the increase in wage and hours, my annual pay will triple.

fucking triple...

if you have any knowledge of my personal circumstances the last seven years, you know that Andria and i are on the cusp of something huge.

and all i have to do is to continue working the sails, keeping them trim and full.