Black Flowers   March 17th, 2012

Last night, in a quiet place, I packed my bags through someone’s inner space… or, the lack thereof: I met someone who experienced amnesia. Twelve years of memories, lost. Every now and then he gets a snippet of recollection back, usually brought on by random conversation. I was honored to watch one such long-gone traveler return home while I listened.

Weighing heavily on my mind lately are thoughts of people who seem to have wished for such an escape. To have wiped away the pain of rejection, of mistakes, lost time, of vulnerability, of yearning… is that preferable to not having the emotional experience, to not risk of being ripped apart, leaving others to clean up the mess?

What of the choice (is it?) of whether to rip? What of the choice (is it?) of whether to put one’s name in the race in the first place? Should one avoid such inevitable conflicts by simply turning the other way, trying to save face?

I must remember, it is not all dark clouds and tempests. Sometimes no one falls into the pit of despair. And for some, the sun shines brighter after the storm. I was one of those people. But I stood alone.

They say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but inevitably the parts come undone. Why can’t the unwinding of the parts be greater than the previous whole? That’s what I want, for ALL parts. Does that ever happen?

I’m keeping a lot in lately, timidity veiled as kindness, fear of failure or success, frustration, elation, disappointed reassessment. Last time I felt this kind of deepened emotion I ended up lashing out in my confusion and introspective feelings of defeat. Thankfully someone heard my cry then. Thank you, again. I hope I can be more constructive, more creative, this time.

Black Flower

Is there such a thing as a “wrong turn”? Some believe there is no right or wrong. If everything happens according to fate, it would seem right and wrong don’t really apply. Free will? Well, I guess then the answer could depend on perspective. I personally feel there is at least some fate at play, in my mind at least I feel I have evidence supporting it, although I sometimes have been inclined to pretend it doesn’t exist. As for free will I’m undecided, but intrigued.

If there is such a thing as a wrong turn, I wonder if I made it when someone dangled a carrot in my face and I chose the stick instead. This was not long after I made a comment about wanting “more carrot, less stick”. I have noticed before that things seem to happen according to what has been said. Maybe I disobeyed this principle, making a wrong turn.

Can I right the wrong? I think I’ve been given enough signs in the last few weeks to suggest that I am going that way. Dreams, where a portion of it comes true within a few days later… three of those. Synchronicities that have meaning to me personally. I say trivial peculiar things and then see them manifest in metaphorical or symbolic ways. I speak of things I’ve realized about myself and then stumble upon them elsewhere. Feelings of intuition that are followed by observation.

Quite a few people have noticed the gray cloud hanging over my head since Thanksgiving and I’ve appreciated the support and advice they have given. I’ve taken some of it. Some of it just doesn’t fit me, and I’ve realized the importance of recognizing this. While I’m mostly out of my funke now, I’m still feeling rather shy and self-doubtful… in part because my shadow has caught up to me, bringing to the surface some aspects of my personality that have been dormant for the past year or so. How my shadow’s return is related to all of this I haven’t yet figured out.

In times like these I suppose some might suggest I look to my inner compass. But when the poles keep moving around, it is probably the worst advice to take to whether this storm. A weather vain is of more use here. Because also, I have consistently found that many of the best, most meaningful times of my life have happened when I’ve stopped trying to control things and just ride like the Wind.

Ashland

ashes to ashes

Silence is Golden   December 6th, 2011

I’ve been holding back lately.

The lack of blog posts is just one symptom. I started worrying about whether things I said might be offensive to someone. Not being able to grasp every possible reaction or viewpoint, a few times I’ve thought it prudent to just keep quiet. Don’t make waves. Then I realized I was also holding back things that weren’t offensive but just seemed trivial, or like I was repeating myself.

I’m seeing now that this behavior has bled into other aspects of my consciousness. I’ve been feeling a lack of confidence and am reconsidering whether everything I have been working on the past year has any worth. I’ve been making mistakes, which makes me feel like maybe I should be even more quiet. I’ve been considering returning to the practical form of existence that defined me for much of the past 15 or so years.

This all has me envisioning myself as silently clawing my way out of the rabbit hole and wondering if anyone will notice. Should I continue on up into the blinding sun? Or let myself fall back in? Is there a middle ground?

Somewhat aside from all this, I’ve been observing for months now what people I’m connected with say and comparing it with what I say or think or with what happens in my life. I frequently see correlations and synchronicities here and sometimes I point them out, directly or subtly. Many times the timing has been off in that things are said and later I realize they manifest. Since it happens quite often I’ve wondered whether we were somehow causing these things by saying them or whether the words are like a murky window on some preordained future.

But twice now in my time of personal censorship, other people still said what I was silently, seriously, thinking. This would seem to support the murky window hypothesis. I think…

Is this just an optical (or optimal) delusion? What is the point? Should I, can I, somehow harness this predictive power? Probably not if I crawl out of that rabbit hole.

But I’m still very sensitive about pissing people off. I don’t know if I can overcome that. Maybe I shouldn’t avoid it either.

If I’ve offended, confused or bored anyone, well, I call this blog my ‘public diary'; maybe you shouldn’t read other people’s diaries.

Schrödinger’s Cats   August 6th, 2011

Schrödinger’s cat is a provocative thought experiment used to analyze the various interpretations of quantum physics. Basically, there is a cat in a box with a vial of poison which randomly may or may not have been released, and the crux of the paradox is that the cat’s fate (alive or dead) is not decided until an observer looks in the box. Before the box is opened, the cat is BOTH alive AND dead; after, once someone observes it, it is either alive OR dead. You can read more about it and it’s role in physics here.

Is this what the title character in the movie Constantine is referring to when he muses that cats are “half-in, half-out anyway”? Who knows.

Spazzy in a box

I can think of 3 different personal situations in the past year have made me feel like I was considering a box with that fateful cat in it.

In the first situation, the only 2 plausible explanations I could think of are equally “impossible”. I came to realize that one of them is a bit more likely than the other, and I don’t really think about it much anymore, except when it comes up unexpectedly out of the blue.

At first blush, my second situation seemed like a rehash of the first in that I thought I was looking at another pair of impossible conclusions. However, I’ve come to realize that one of the things I thought was impossible is actually more likely just evidence of a gap in my knowledge. Similar to the principle of Occam’s Razor (given two possibilities, the simplest one is probably correct), I will concede that the least bizarre one is probably correct in this case.

(I still wonder how he did that, though… and in both these first 2 situations I’m only guessing what is in the box; I’m still resistant to actually opening it.)

Lastly, someone asked a burning question which I really wanted to know the answer to, so much so that I realized it was better if I did not know. So I have been careful not to seek the answer. A bit like Shrödinger’s cat in reverse, knowing the truth would affect my behavior, and such distraction is probably not useful to anyone. Furthermore, it’s probably really none of my business. Like the character Martin Blank says about his cat in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank, “I respect its privacy.”

A natural inclination is to want to know everything, but sometimes it’s better to accept the beauty of not knowing the fates of the cats purring away in their boxes.

Winning   June 26th, 2011

I started this post many months ago and was going to title it “Is Charlie Sheen really that delusional?” Thinking: high salary, fame, goddesses… it would be a bit delusional for him to think he is not at least somehow god-like.

But twice now I’ve revisited these earlier thoughts, both times just thinking about the ways he has impacted society.

From blog posts to stated personal philosophies to my neighbor’s description of his shirt, I still keep seeing and hearing things related to him. People might say it’s the wrong kind of publicity; I can’t really pass judgment on that. I keep coming back to that word “winning” tattooed on his wrist, not so that he can read it but so others can, and how that continues to show up in general commentary, conversation and Twitter hashtags on all sorts of subjects… Regardless of what it means for him, or even what other people think it means to them, I think that sort of thing (just seeing the word itself all over the place) gets into our psyches and has a positive effect.

There was and is more I would like to say, but maybe it’s best that I just end here with:

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mr. Sheen.

. . .

P.S. Ok, I’ll give a link that captures some of my other thoughts, here.

26 Pounds Lighter   April 8th, 2011

I lost a bunch of weight in 2010.

Why?

My #1 reason was that I just didn’t like how the extra pounds made me feel and made me look. But I was also bumping up against the overweight threshold on the BMI scale, and my doctor had even cautioned me about it.

I started out in March 2010 somewhere between 145-150 pounds. I rather un-optimistically wondered if I could get back to what I weighed just after high school (about 120), more realistically hoped I could reach 130, but in actuality felt skeptical I could accomplish much of anything.

26 Pounds Lighter

How?

My strategy was rather basic and traditional: reduce fat and sugar, be mindful of portions, exercise more.

At first it felt like the extra exercise was only in frustration: lots of sacrifice with not many pounds coming off. But at some point eating better just sort of became habit, and it helped that I realized many ‘bad’ foods actually made me feel lousy. Exercise was key as well – I got a road bike in late May of last year, and then proceeded to literally bike my ass off over the summer, culminating in a 110-mile ride in one day in October.

My rate of weight loss seemed to go in phases:
March – August 2010 (6 months): dragging along at 1.3 pounds / month
September – October: jumps to 5.5 pounds / month
November – December: moderates to 3.5 pounds / month
January – March 2011: GAINED 1.7 pounds / month

I blame most of my recent gain on winter cabin fever and a cold I got in early March. I think I will lose it somewhat naturally with the good weather boost that spring provides, getting me on my bike or out hiking more often.

I’ve heard it said that losing over about a pound per week is too rapid. I suppose it depends on your initial weight, but for me, I think it was good advice. But again, maybe the trick isn’t so much the speed as making it a habit so that you’re less likely to revert back to old patterns.

Some specific eating strategies I used or continued:

  • Reduce or eliminate chocolate. This was probably my biggest weakness – I used to indulge myself with it at least once a day. I found I could still have it once in a while but I would take a really small piece of super-dark chocolate and suck on it instead of chew it.
  • Avoid most dairy. It helped that I’m a bit lactose intolerant. (I’m a cheesehead who doesn’t eat much cheese.) Be sure to get your calcium some other way though.
  • Switch to no-fat where you can. Smoothies are a great breakfast: 1 banana, 1 orange, about half-dozen frozen strawberries and 1/2 cup non-fat yogurt and blend. (One of few exceptions on my no-dairy rule.)
  • Lighten sugar. After abstaining for a while, I realized sugar has an unpleasant aftertaste and I really didn’t want it so much anymore. I still have some in coffee but I don’t drink a lot of coffee.
  • Avoid soda*. Get used to water or tea (plain or fruity – with no sweetener). Juice in moderation.
  • Avoid chips and similar snacks*.
  • Make more food at home.
  • ¿Quieres Taco Bell? Go Fresco.
  • Hungry and know you shouldn’t eat more? Drink a bunch of water.

* I was already doing these things.

My take on a few debatable recommendations:

  • Don’t skip breakfast or you’ll eat more the rest of the day? After a smoothie I’m hungry in an hour or so. Cereal or bread makes me feel hypoglycemic a few hours later so I tend to avoid those. Protein is more filling but then you have to be careful not to have fat along with it. I end up making some sort of unpredictable choice here.
  • Drink or don’t drink alcohol? I didn’t cut it out, though I debated it for a while. I read about a study saying those who drink have an easier time losing weight, not harder.
  • Are diet drinks ok? On the one hand the sweetener could make you crave food, on the other my cousin Mark seems to live off the stuff and he’s pretty skinny. Unnatural sweet drinks make me feel a bit weird so I just tend to avoid them and can’t really provide too much first-hand experience on this one.

Results

Somehow I did it! A few things I found after losing the weight: I really did feel a lot better. I’m sure I must look a lot better too. I suddenly could jog for several miles at a time instead of feeling agony after a half mile. I got a clean bill of health from my doctor and she was pretty impressed that I weighed 26 pounds less than I did on my previous visit a year prior.

No regrets!

Crazy, Isn’t It?   March 21st, 2011

I remember flying out to Ohio once for some business meetings. This was when I worked for health insurance giant WellPoint, aka Anthem. We were meeting about data migrations or reorganizations or something else typical for really large companies. In a private moment, one woman I worked with – she was heading up the project and superior to me but not my boss – shook her head and muttered, “Crazy, isn’t it?” And I thought to myself, “well, but you’re the one directly responsible for making it crazy. Do you not see this?”

When I find myself thinking how absurd something is I try to ask (1) well, what was it really that caused me to get here, and (2) what is the most appropriate solution to pull myself out?

As the opening paragraph suggests, oftentimes when we’re struck by something that we think is someone else’s fault, it can be illuminating to take a look at our predicament from another’s perspective. We might discover that it is in fact caused more from our own making than our rose-tinted glasses were telling us.

If that doesn’t lead to enlightenment, what gets you out it? Sometimes it’s an arduous process of unraveling what got you there in the first place. Or maybe you can see the most prudent and efficient thing to do is to simply let it run its course and accept the minor inconveniences that will litter the way. Still other times, when you’re faced with one craziness, the best solution may be to combat it with another. Call it audacity if you like, but in an insane world, sometimes it’s the sanest choice.

Things for me often come in 3’s, so I’ll offer up a third consideration to ponder:

Aren’t crazy things what make life interesting, for they add spice to our everyday droll existence? Wasn’t it almost ‘nice’ to have Charlie Sheen’s perceived breakdown as backdrop to the horrors of the tri-saster in Japan and the problems in Libya? On a more personal plain, we might complain about “chaos, drama queens, head games, attention seekers, trouble makers, liars and 2-faced people”, but then why do we spend so much time talking about them? What would we talk about otherwise? I suppose we’d spend more time discussing political process or the steps to financial security. People would likely laugh less. We would probably live longer though.

Circling back to how I started this post – I wonder if this woman was clued in at all to her role in manufacturing mayhem. I actually had a lot of respect for her, both before and after the comment. Part of me likes to think she was in fact quite aware and just being sarcastic, or maybe it was even a statement of satisfaction rather than an expression of frustration. But it’s interesting how some trivial little moment with someone you didn’t spend a lot of time with can really stick with you. Crazy, isn’t it?

Photo by Cobalt123

P.S. I’m still at over 70 unfinished blog posts and apparently practicing the LIFO method.

Fate and Free Will   March 4th, 2011

A few times in the last few months I’ve resorted to telling myself: “you have no free will”, in order to get through a difficult situation. Mostly this helps me to relax a bit in the beginning, and then things just seem to take care of themselves from there.

I was somewhat comforted to find recently that it works the other way around too, when I caught myself thinking, “You’ll remember you don’t believe in any of this fate crap. You’re in control of your own life.”

I used to think people who said and/or believed in the idea that “everything happens for a reason” were just deluding themselves. And while I’m not saying by any means that I’ve now become a convert, I can’t ignore that I’ve been having experiences that are making me wonder. And these things are coming at me from all sorts of different directions.

I’ve also said a number of things which make a moderate degree of sense when I say them, but then not long thereafter something happens and they fit in even better with the future situation. I’ve been wondering if other people have done this also. It’s making me question our concept of time… “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.

Quite a while back I put “tempting fate to convince me” on my Facebook profile as my religious view. I didn’t really know what I meant by it, I mostly just thought it sounded neat and quirky. Sometimes now I will do this with a bit more intention, i.e. say something that I feel like saying but don’t entirely know why, expecting it will become more clear to me later why I said it. And frequently it does.

I don’t know where this fits in in this post but frankly, if I look back on these words in a few months and think that I was completely off my rocker, I’ll probably be happy about that. Maybe it’s all “chicken wings and beer”.

Practically speaking – and all kidding about winning lotto numbers aside – if we really had the ability to foretell the future, I think we would find ourselves wishing we weren’t so gifted. It is rather unnerving and also a bit sad to think that things are set, that we have no free will.

Most of us would agree that we don’t truly know if we have free will or not. I think it’s better that way, because it means the doors are open to so many possibilities. It means that, in a way, we can have both fate and free will, choose whichever, whenever we need it.