Lemmings in Line

If you’ve ever seen Lemmings jumping off a cliff, one after the other, then you have glimpsed my darker thoughts about life and death. How many of use just go through life as if we are just here to be the next to jump? And every time one of the older generation ‘falls off’, I think about how my generation will be the next to ‘jump’.

Everybody dies. It’s how we live that matters. I tell myself this as I plod to the kitchen, to pour that same cup of water into the same coffee maker like an automated…lemming. I plop the Kuerig pod into the machine, reminding  myself that I am adding to the landfill again. I have a delicious, steamy cup of coffee in hand in no time, but I don’t spend too much time to savor it slowly, because I have already plopped down in that same chair and automatically jumped onto Facebook. As usual, I get to see the latest political rants, dumb jokes, and some idiot lighting a firecracker under his friend’s ass, and then laughing when that friend nearly has a heart attack. I sigh. I click over to my 12,978 unread email list. “Online DealKing”, “Publisher’s Clearing House- respond NOW!”, “Indeed Job Alerts”, top the list. Again I sigh. Same shit, different day. It’s Friday. So what? I am at home. I don’t care and can barely keep track of which day of the week it is anyway.

I turn on the television. Three days from the presidential election between two of the biggest boobs in history. Both of them suck in different and yet profound ways. The fluffy kitty is snuggling next to me. At least she’s real. Genuine. I am grateful for her. I reflect on  gratitude, and my attitude starts to shift. The sunlight is soft and inviting outside my window,and the autumn leaves are lovely with their dappled hues, caressed by the breeze- falling, another lifetime ending. Leaf-lemmings…

And yet, we don’t really mourn the leaves, nor the grass that dies when it’s season ends. And in the large scheme of things, even though one leaf, one blade of grass, is a miracle unto itself, we don’t mourn, because we know that in the Spring, more leaves, more grass will come. That’s not enough for people, though. We cannot replace a loved-one with someone else. That one person is unique, priceless, treasured. We are left with memories, and we hope for a future of spiritual unity in Heaven. But there’s something else. Our mothers and fathers leave a part of themselves in us, our children, and their children. More than memories, more than the DNA that gave our kids that red hair, more than photographs. They leave a legacy. It might be good, it might be awful, but each new generation has its own chance, its own choices to  make.

Nature and nurture may have determined I will die as some sort of addict. Sure, I can choose to wallow in lemming mentality. I can follow the path of my father, a long-deceased alcoholic. I could follow the path of my mother, and could still be smoking cigarettes, never to quit until they make the last years of my life a living hell. I could go numbly through life, never allowing myself to appreciate the moment- the quiet time with a cup of joe, the cuddly soft cat on my lap giving and wanting affection, the golden sunshine casting beams and shadows through the house. I can also remember the beautiful people that my parents were, despite- and through- and beyond their addictions. Just like I am beautiful- and life is- despite, and through, and beyond our darkness.

It’s all about focus.

 

 

 

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Let’s Get Real

I started this low-carb blog with several purposes in mind. First, I wanted to flex my typing fingers and actually write. I never intended to post strictly about low-carb eating, despite my blog’s title. Next, it’s good to be in a like-minded group of other low-carbers, to offer up strategies, recipes, and most importantly, support.  Finally, it feels good to write again. I would love to tell you how I am such a great writer, that I’ve been discovered and asked to write for magazines. That hasn’t happened. It’s a sobering ego-check to realize that you’re probably not that great. Then again, I usually just sit down and bang these blog posts out with very little planning or editing. You get back what you put out, to a large degree. I have not wanted to post anything here that might be good enough to plagiarize. That’s my excuse, and I like it.

As to low-carb weight loss! I am now maintaining my weight at about 132. That’s up from my all time low, as you may recall, of 122. I am certainly not depressed over being 132. I was at 147, even an all time high of 155 at one point, and I have no plans to return there. However, I would like to examine why it is that my weight has crept up.

1) I’m not holding myself to a strict 20-25 grams per day. I could not realistically continue to maintain that low carb count for two straight years. Maybe I could have, I take that back, but I didn’t.

2) In addition to playing fast and loose with the numbers, I have allowed more cheat days to creep in. There’s a bad habit our bakery department has at work of leaving mistakenly made or not-picked-up items in the break room for the employees to devour. After about the third or fourth time of walking by it, sitting next to it, and smelling it- after seeing so many other employees of all weights and sizes partake, I am only human. I cave. Incidents like these have happened more frequently as summer has come to a close. Is it just me, or does it get harder to eat right at this time of year? Every brother and their mother is bringing baked goods to work, and I even bought some canned pumpkin, which I have not opened yet. Then, my birthday is coming up, and I am already planning my splurge day.

3) Running.” You’ll get smaller,” they said. “It’s all muscle weight”, they said. I don’t know about all of that, but it seems the more I run, the more I gain. “Run more”, they said. “I’ve had enough this week!”, I said. Truth be told, I feel quite accomplished to run at ALL. I don’t know that I want to up the ante and get to 15-20 miles a week. I’ve been good at my 2-3k, 2-3 times per week. Sorry if that’s not good enough, all you hard-core runners. In fact, sometimes it’s even less. My neck and shoulders have been aching due to some sort of bone/muscle issue I’ve had off and on for years, and I haven’t run since 10-14. I did four miles that day.

4) I make the mistake of eating sugar free treats because I miss sweetness. I  have always had a huge sweet tooth, and sometimes it’s actually a fang. I eat the stuff, and I have lots of gas and frequent trips to the bathroom for hours or a day when I do. Sorry to be so graphic, but that’s why I called this post, “Let’s Get Real”. It’s not like it’s all sunshine and roses over here. I struggle to stay on low-carb, and sometimes I really run off the path and get lost in the Black Forest (cake).

So, what am I doing right? Why haven’t I gained all the weight back? Why haven’t I just given up completely?

What I am doing right: I exercise for health and heart strength, strong bones and muscles above weight loss concerns. Though I need to be more consistent, I have not given up. I keep getting back on that treadmill and doing those crunches and planks.

I still eat the majority of time in low-carb mode, including snacks. String cheese, nuts, raw veggies and ranch were yesterday’s snacks. Dinner was kielbasa and green beans with a light alfredo sauce. I was satisfied. I buy no-carb bagels online that are mostly soy protein. I drink almond milk. I enjoy eggs, bacon, and plenty of salad regularly.

I don’t throw in the towel and give up just because I splurged one day, or even on two occasions in a week, for example. I start all over the next day, attempting to balance things out.

I resign myself to the knowledge that if I really want to lose about eight pounds fairly rapidly, I will go back to eating only 20 grams of carbs per day, until I reach that goal. Turns out I am not feeling like I have to right now.

Finally, I remember that cravings for certain foods are not just physical. They are psychological and even spiritual for me. My natural desires can either be directed toward healthy habits and hobbies, or destructive ones. For example, if I am off of work, sitting here on the couch, contemplating what to do with my day, I have choices. I can involve myself in housework, work on my blog, chat with friends on Facebook, or go outside and play with my play-deprived dog. That would be constructive behavior.  OR, I can dump some food in her bowl, get in the car and do some mindless shopping for things I don’t need and can’t afford. I might throw beer or wine into my cart, with plans to enjoy it later. I might buy more sugar free foods, or another makeup item i don’t need. This is destructive behavior. Even worse, I might just never get off the sofa, watching TV all day- a huge creativity and productivity killer, with plans to work out on this gorgeous, sunny fall day, that never actually materialize.

I don’t always make the right choices. Do you? Are you the super-motivator? Are you so regularly spectacular that you are a motivational speaker now and have a couple of books published? Does Tony Robbins consult YOU? If so, congratulations. Enjoy every  moment of the fame, success, and all that life has to offer.  Wow, am I bitter?

🙂 Anyway, there’s more to life that feeding our faces or our desires. My mom is probably sitting on her sofa, wishing she could even leave her home and do anything other than suck on that oxygen tube. There are a lot of people not too far from us who could use something we have to give. I have to give. TIme, love, friendship.

Take care!

All About the Want

Doesn’t it seem that we are trained from the very beginning that it is almost wrong to want? Why is that? I understand that there are people in China who are starving. I understand that children in Africa struggle to survive and are denied even the basics of health, education, and  human rights. It would seem that these things are taught to us when we are children to give us perspective; teach us to know gratitude. But the unbalanced interpretation of this teaching can make us feel that all of  our wants are petty and vain. We are taught that we should be grateful for what we have, and not worry about what we do not have. Children should not be spoiled, but we also need to instill a healthy belief that dreams are good, goals are vital, and that it is O.K. to have desire. Nothing is truly accomplished by those who have no passion, no ‘want to’ in life. Besides, who is going to help the people in Africa if nobody gets and education and dares to move?

Gratitude for what we have and who we are is very important. But I think we get it twisted when we deny ourselves the healthy side of want. But that is what we do. “I would love a new car, but …some people don’t have any transportation at all, I should just be happy with what I have”. It’s actually a combination of a self-imposed guilt trip mixed with a built-in excuse to not ever try. And, if we allow ourselves to want, and we fail to get, why- that might be painful. Worse, do we truly believe we ‘deserve’ to have anything?

Phrases like, “Who does she think she is?”, “What makes YOU so special?”, “Why should HE have that when I don’t?”, and on and on teach us that good things come haphazardly, randomly. It’s easy to have bitterness and resentment of others, because we refuse to do what we need to do to have the same thing! It is not true, despite urban legend, that life’s goodness just falls on certain people like lottery winnings. This kind of thinking also seems to set- up a belief system that life just isn’t fair, good fortune is all about luck, and that is why sometimes  the just are not rewarded, while the wicked flourish.

Turns out a lot of that is just a bunch of crap. The people who get what they want allow themselves to want it, know what they want very clearly, and let nothing stop them. The wicked people of the world aren’t usually the ones hung up on how their evil ways make them undeserving, and yet the generally decent but misguided self-flagellate and refuse to allow themselves to succeed. We stand in our own way, through lack of faith, lack of vision, lack of desire, and somehow feeling that to have what we want is wrong.

I am no fan of excess , luxury, greed, and wanton pursuit of pleasure. There is a difference between hedonism , however, and success.

Poverty mindsets get handed down through generations. It takes a lot of insight and sometimes a complete, deep reworking of our belief system to get beyond them. A poverty mindset is a self-limiting and destructive force that will run our lives for us, if we let it. It’s that ugly voice that guards the wall between where we are, and where we haven’t dared to even dream we could be.

Many never see that wall for what it is, much less question it. Some of us attempt to scale it, but it works with our fears, magnifies them, and we give up. We lie to ourselves and come up with convoluted plans on how to take that wall down…one day. Tomorrow. After we get more tools. Maybe after we take a class on Wall breaking. Next month, after this stress subsides….on and on. So,  we let it win. Some of us will see it for what it is, and just completely bulldoze it. If we can’t get ahold of a bullldozer, we can get a ladder and scale the wall. We will not use any excuses. It just comes down.  That’s when we can truly begin to live.

When the wall comes down, we finally see all the dreams and possibilities that were always there. We also see that while many people live lives in abject poverty, we were born with opportunities and freedom. Why would  we deny the sacrifices of our forefathers to allow us to have what we have, and dishonor our blessing by throwing it away? Does it help starving children in Africa if I drive a beat- up car, or refuse to work on my talents? Does it honor sick, uneducated people if I also don’t take advantage of educational opportunities, or other means to improve myself? No!

Do I deserve “it”?  What I deserve in this life is what I believe I deserve, first and foremost. My actions will bring me what I have given out – but it may be now or later. I don’t believe that I deserve sickness or illness, but rather health That extends to my emotional , and even financial health as well. As long as I let mistakes that I have made be my judge, and punish myself through denial, I will remain behind the wall.

What if, instead, we treated ourselves with the same grace and forgiveness we give our friends? WOW! I never judge my friend’s mistakes and decide what they ‘should ‘ deserve or ‘should not”! Why do I do that to myself? Can you just imagine this conversation?

Friend Joy calls me up on the phone. “Hey, Lee, this is Joy. I have been racking my brain for an answer to this problem I have been having, and I think I have a great idea. Here’s what I want to do, and it will allow my family to stop worrying about bills, go on vacation, pay off debt, save for retirement and get new hairstyles!” Joy is very excited and tells me she is writing a book, or recording a song. I know that Joy has tried this before, and did not reach the goals she had set previously. Also, I really love Joy and and she has always been a great friend. So, would I be a jerk and say to her, ” Well, Joy… I am not sure about this plan. I mean, you tried this before, and it didn’t work out. Maybe it’s because you just don’t deserve it. What you really deserve is to work your ass off for the rest of your life. I mean, C’mon, Joy. Dreams? Why should YOU have  that when I don’t, anyway? Why don’t you get your head out of the clouds, girlfriend?”

Can you imagine?! Most of us would never treat a friend like that, never say or feel things like that. Yet ,we do it to ourselves. Can we not even muster up enough appreciation and love to treat ourselves with love? Kindness? Encouragement? Can’t we see how vital these things are for the person we spend the most time with, the one we rely on most? Nobody can do this for us. Even for the fictitious example, “Joy”, anytime we speak our minds or hearts to our friends, whether we encourage or discourage, ultimately the choice to truly live or simply exist comes down to the individual. So, going to person after person to bolster our dreams and encourage us is wonderful to an extent. Finally, though, we have to decide to act.

Faith and belief in ourselves need NOT come from looking back on our previous experiences to gauge our likelihood of success. We can learn from our mistakes, but we should not use those mistakes as a reason to give up. If everyone did that, Thomas Edison would not have come up with the light bulb. He flopped on that one over, and over, and over again. Most people would have given up. Those who don’t- will succeed, one way, or another.

So, first- allow yourself to have a dream.

Determine what you really want, but allow for a surprise.

Weigh the cost. Understand the sacrifices. Anything worth going after will require hard work, time, and a focus of energy , possibly bordering obsession. Do you REALLY want it? Why? Have a clear why.

In addition to sacrifice, are you willing to continue when things get hard? Take it day by day.

Finally, Are you afraid to have what you want , based on an unhealthy poverty mindset? Remember, you share your wealth of experience and resources with others. If you are not being greedy and selfish, why feel guilty for having? You should not.

Again, remember to treat yourself with the same grace, kindness, and encouragement that you would a very good friend. Be honest and truthful with yourself. Ok, maybe the truth is that you are NOT good at singing despite much love and hard work, but you are a good songwriter, or promoter, or talent scout. That’s ok, too. It doesn’t mean you failed- look for another outlet for your love of singing and music, or just enjoy it in the car or shower. 🙂 A dream diverted does not mean a dream denied. Dreams should fit , to a possible degree, with who we are.

So, know yourself. Don’t get stuck on this step, though. Some people never find themselves…