Sunday Newsletter: What I Do When “Self Care” is to Much Work

I’m reclined, listening to John Mayer’s 2006 album “Continuum.” I’m drinking a Michelob Light.

Cheers! I almost headlined this post “3 Ways to Slow Down and Take Better Care of Yourself.”

It would have smacked of the value of a healthy living practice, and how it will reward you with good health, tons of clarity, energy, and the ability to experience all the good that life has to offer for years to come.

Instead I wrote this because I think there is value is letting off the “healthy living throttle” sometimes. Try to keep an open mind.

Last night I ate three platefuls of turkey and gravy, drank seven beers, smoked a couple cigarettes and didn’t pass when it was handed to me.

The dishes didn’t get done. Neither did the laundry. All my intentions to complete chores went undone.

And today, instead of working out, I’m watching an old Richard Gere and Winona Ryder movie called Autumn in New York.

Today, I don’t give a shit about enhancing my health, preventing disease, limiting illness, or restoring health. And I feel great!

I’m not in the least concerned about reclaiming time to focus on myself amidst balancing work, family, and personal life. Nope, I’m staring at Facebook on my phone. My feet are up. I’m watching people walk by on the side walk from my front window.

This is my self care today. I have a hot bath and dark chocolate coming up this evening. Then bed at 7:45. The kids are with mom this weekend. I have nothing to answer to. I’m not answering to myself either.

My point in telling you any of this?

I’m into healthy living, but am weary of the cruel optimistic relationship to self care in which self care is envisioned primarily as a means to rejuvenate us so that we’re able to work faster and harder, which is what causes our stress to begin with.

It’s okay to tune out of self care and drop into leisure.
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You like corny romance movies? (I do…)

Just to make this somewhat useful for you, I have 16 different movie recommendations. Google them and watch the trailer.

Most of these movies are corny. They are lazy, guilty pleasure movies that I like watching on late Sunday afternoons. Call me soft, but admittedly, each of these movies have brought me to tears.

16 corny romantic movies that made me cry.

1. The Song
2. The Words
3. The Choice
4. What Katy Did
5. Witness
6. A Year and Change
7. The Age of Adeline
8. The Reader
9. Autumn in New York
10. The Natural
11. Cider House Rules
12. Creed
13. Meet Joe Black
14. The Last Waltz
15. Complete Unknown
16. Pretty Woman

Reply with your romantic love story movies recommendations for me.

Don’t even think of recommending The Notebook 🙂

Politics and Friends

The problems of our time appear to be political, economical and environmental but that doesn’t mean that is where the solutions will be found. I have known enough problems in my time to understand that solutions are cultural and require remarkable listening to the many voices among us. Especially the ones we disagree with. If not, a pattern prevails in the world where our mutual similarities and differences become lost in the dark. I don’t want to dwell in that darkness. I have seen posts explaining that “if you support Trump, I am not your friend.” I might not agree with your politics, or you mine, but I am still your friend, your brother, your able bodied person. Us versus them is a slippery slope. For all of time, people have chosen to associate with a group identity. I want to be mindful and cautious if that identity starts to have a negative influence on how I view other people who I don’t identify with. I want to try to identify with everyone in some way. Even (especially) if it’s a stretch. I don’t expect the same, but that’s what my friends do.

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

– Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton

Parenting, Politics and Me

Every President in my era of life (1976 til now) has been bad!

Here’s my logic: They all wove dreams from their intelligence then left us lonelier than ever. Except Bush two. He wasn’t what I’d describe as intelligent. We were all glad to see him gone. But this may be true for Obama, unfortunately.

I have only ever voted because the intelligent people that I have relationships with make it seem so important. I followed along because that was the ticket for joining the discussion even if I was apathetic. But from my perspective, casting a political vote has been like making a choice between Cats and The Lion King. Both are great shows that leave me emotionally lathered up. Then I go home to bed.

Perhaps this is the privilege of being a white, educated man. I can float for 40 unharmed years and live a good life despite poor choices and indifference to democracy.

But the wake-up call has arrived with a new President that has arrogantly usurped God with the audacity of Satan. Things I took for granted I can no longer take for granted. I am forced to get clear about my part as a conscious citizen. I have asked myself, ‘If I am in full support of taking a stand against discrimination and restriction of rights for all people, and in support of freedom of health choice, freedom of religion and gender equity, what do I do?’ The headlines scream atrocity, and for the first time in my life I actually have to determine how I feel about it.

There was time in the car on the way to school one morning when both my oldest daughter Ella and son Lucan began talking trash about Trump. One of the things I want for my children is for them to develop their own values and beliefs without feeling they must match mine or their mom’s or anyone. Their mimicked behavior arrived from exposure to adults who chose to not speak in code. It bothered me.

My best reply was that ‘I wasn’t going to be voting for him, but a lot of other people will and they have their reason.’ My worst reply was ‘Don’t believe everything you hear adults say.’

Months later, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Now, I’m okay with telling my children, ‘Yep, Trump is a bad person.’ If pressed, I’d be honest in telling it straight. ‘He hurts women. He lies. He is a name caller. He lacks empathy.’ My daughter is 8 years old. She’ll understand.

In coming to this conclusion, I have realized that my vote is for my daughters. I have learned from my life that we either learn our lessons now, or we learn them later, or we pass it on. My biggest fear is passing it on. The time has come… “Later” is “Now.” If I sit through these next four years I’ll be passing it on. No can do.

Besides already having this conversation with the mother of my children, my first action will be to hold my daughter’s hand and begin an age appropriate dialog about what is happening about *some* of the current events.

This Saturday, Ella and I (and Virginia) will attend the Planned Parenthood rally. I want Ella to understand that Planned Parenthood is essential for health care.

I won’t talk of things like birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, woman’s exams and probably a lot more I don’t know about. But I will let her know that important health care provisions that have been in place for a long time would no longer be accessible to millions of (mostly low income) people who rely on it within their communities. I will try my best to explain that folks who already face barriers for getting care, especially people of color and people in rural areas, could face even more hurdles for healthy living.

Foremost, I’ll let her know that Planned Parenthood promotes basic reproductive health care. Fundamentally, I want her to understand that Planned Parenthood is on the side of women having the final choice about their body and Trump is trying to take that away.

This weekend, Ella is going to ask a lot of questions. I want to tell her that this is what freedom is… That this is what makes our country (theoretically) great… That we have the right to take responsibility for standing up to bad people when they make choices about what they think we can and cannot do with our bodies. It’s important to me that I, as her father, bring her here because she should always have the right to decide what choices she makes for her body. No one else. I want her to know I will always support her in that right and fight for it beside her.

It’s real to me now. Up until present day, I’ve barely given a shit. But I’ve just whispered ‘I love you’ into Ella’s ears as she closes her eyes for sleep. My promise as a parent has always been, “The buck stops with me.” This Saturday we both start a new chapter.

A Single Guy’s Quick Reflection on Valentine’s Day

I have heard people call Valentine’s Day a Hallmark Holiday because it’s perceived to exist for commercial purposes. Maybe I even said that once(?) …Was I on some alpha male high horse saying I shouldn’t have to subscribe to an arbitrary occasion in order to display love and passion? Lame!

I know that in my past, I have been that lame a time or two, but today, I write this urging you not be. If you haven’t noticed, the more love you can dish out for the world, and especially that special person who means so much to you, the better life will be.

I’m single now. I love the relationship I’m developing with myself. Last night, I watched Pretty Woman and I cried at the end because I love fairy tales. I cannot tell you how many wonderful opportunities I’ve had to write my own fairy tale. I’m so grateful. I appreciate romantic love.

That fairy tale can be real if you want it to be, if you’re right with yourself. Let me just say: You are so fortunate to share with another person that loves you, and you them. Exchanging a romantic moment of resonance with another person is the ultimate drug – whether it be for an evening, a season, 7 years, a life time.

Valentine’s day is an opportunity to celebrate exactly what love is in the present moment: an ultimate connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which is shared with another person. Embrace the heck out of it!

Be in that moment, celebrate that moment, prepare for that moment, succumb to that moment and do not take that moment for granted. It is truly divine. It doesn’t have to be lavish with presents, fancy dinners or flowers. Although that’s a great route to take.

Consider Valentine’s Day the Christmas of love, replete with your best dress-up version of Prince Charming. This is not hyperbole. I am not joking. Seize the moment. Not because you think it’s a societal construct that is pressuring you to do so, but because you honor what is sacred. Love is a gift to nurture.

And if you find yourself alone this year, love yourself. Or take an evening to get clear on who you’d like to meet. Write her a letter before you’ve met her. That way when you do, you already have remarkable communication to share.

Love to the 10th!

Love is the law, no limit.

Morning Moves – Breathe!

When the mother of my children and I broke up for the final time, she was pregnant with our daughter Ada.

Every time I picked up our other two (Ella and Lucan), my heart rate would soar from low 70s into the 100s. My nervous system would spike into overdrive. It was like I was being emotionally hijacked.

I am talking about giant waves of bad feelings that completely knocked me down. I’m talking about suddenly falling through a deep dark rabbit hole filled with rage, hurt, panic and fear. To deal with it, I discovered breath work. I’d put my hand on my pulse and breathe deep full breaths until I felt it fall back to somewhat normal.

That technique saved me!

Unfortunately, as I moved beyond that season and those feelings, it was like I forgot about the healing power of conscious breath. I abandoned the practice and never thought to apply breath work toward everything else in life, such as parenting, relationships, financial stress… to name a few.

This experience is called emotional flooding and it got the better of me more than a couple of times.

It’s “morning moves” Tuesday!

The day I share a movement for you to try first thing out of bed.

Normally, I video a movement, but it’s not necessary today. Today, just practice to find your breath.

Breathing is easy but often overlooked. You don’t even need to do this first thing out of bed, although I recommend you do. Do it again and again and again throughout your day. Do it every moment you can steal from the frenzy of being alive.

Five deep breaths. Find a moment or more every day for five deep, full breaths. No specific way to breathe. You find your own natural movement of your breath. Pay attention to it. Learn it.

By breathing full inhales and exhales for a minute or so you can slow down your nervous system and allow for clarity, or fall asleep, or calm your nerves, or lower your heart rate – anything, really. Breathing is a tool I recommend mastering. I am by no means a master, but in my recent dive into meditation and yoga, I am in awe of what I am capable of doing with my breath.

Give it a conscious effort this week.

Here and now in this season, I recognize behaviors and associations of mine that I want to change. For me, changing behavior begins with an end. I have learned that I have to first stop a behavior if I want to start a different behavior.

In the case of my emotional flooding, my was body even changing. Here’s how I figured it out. Here’s my four step approach to a lot of things these days.

I state my condition:

My heart is pounding. My breath is shallow. I feel rage, hurt, panic and fear.

I take responsibility for myself:

I am going to calm myself down.

I say how will I take responsibility:

I am going to breathe until my pulse lowers.

I do it like my life depends on it (because it feels like it does)

Sunday Newsletter: 8 Trump Headlines That Made Me Want To Puke In My Mouth

I had been ignoring the news. I’m busy being healthy, being creative and improving myself. The news, to me, is about as gross as porn. Even more gross, to me, is everyone so addicted to it.

That said, I feel strongly about keeping my eyes open for causes and ways in which I can participate in equal rights and equity for all people. It’s clear that Trump poses a threat in that department.

So where to start?

I started with all the headlines from Trump’s executive orders. Then compiled them into an ordered list of “I want to projectile vomit” down to “I might puke in my mouth a little.”

Anyway, it was a creative mental exercise that helped me get clear on causes near and nearer to my heart.

It got me to thinking about healthy living. I have talked a lot about physical exercise. I have written quite a bit about my own journey with emotional fitness.

I write and be creative every day but just thought that was me. Not something many others do. But maybe you should.

I haven’t talked much about the mental muscle. This post is about practicing and strengthening our mental muscle. 

Imagine not using your legs for a week. They would atrophy. You would lose muscle. How about for a month? You might not even remember how to walk!

Just like walking, the mental muscle atrophies within days if you don’t use it.

You need to exercise the mental muscle just like you’d exercise your body. It takes about 2-6 months to build up once it atrophies. Just like it would the body starting from an “out of shape” place.

That’s why I recommend daily mental labor. This occurs in the form of reading and writing. Writing ideas, thoughts, diaries, all kinds of stuff. Crossword puzzles are good too. Be creative. Write your stories and feelings.

For example,  yesterday I memorized all 16 flower programs, variety and combinations that the greenhouse I work is growing for Walmart.

Today, I came up with 13 ideas for you to exercise your mental muscle. Try one.

1. 10 things that Trump could do in the next 4 years that would change our mind and not think he is a complete douchebag

2. 7 things you can start doing immediately that do not require any money and that you know just out of your own common sense to improve your health

3. 41 different slogans or sayings that you would put on a t-shirt

4. 11 family trips you would like to take before your children graduate from high school

5. Every productive thing you did yesterday

6. 13 different at home businesses you could start with $500 or less

7. 30 different chapter titles for your autobiography

8. A complete listing of the best coffee shops in town and why you like their brew better or less than the others

9. Skip the to-do list, write a to-don’t list for the day

10. Empty all of your to-do items on a blank piece of paper and categorize them i.e. home, work, family, social

11. 19 hard situations from your past that blossomed a blessing over time

12. 29 of your all-time favorite books and big take away from each. Haven’t read 29 books? Start reading. That’s a great place to begin.

13. A comprehensive list of links of the best Tony Robbins videos that can be found for free on YouTube

It’s hard to exercise the mental muscle every day. Nobody is perfect. I don’t know if I’ll get to it today. But I know when I do, I know when I make it a priority to be creative, it works. I’m healthier. I’m better. I’m improving.

***BONUS***

Choose one of the above (or any of your own) and send it to me.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. More about that here

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Building a Highway to Happiness

I wanted to check my ex’s Instagram again. It doesn’t matter which ex. All of them at one time or another. Ugh, what a terrible feeling!

What a terrible thing to do to myself. Why was I doing this to myself?

Because I was sad. There’s nothing wrong with sad, but I recognized that by consistently connecting with that sadness, I was building a highway to hell for myself instead of happiness. There are dozens of other things to connect with. But what else could I connect with? I felt awful! Have you ever been in that state?

This post is about learning how to connect to something that’s going to make a highway to happiness.

This post (and the video too) is about how to change that state of being.

Here were three important pre-requisites I had to understand.

1. First step for me was to decide who I wanted to be, and why.

Once I got clear on that “being,” becoming anything else was more painful. I couldn’t go back to being how I used to be. I couldn’t just get into another relationship. I had to change. This gave me something to work toward. It didn’t matter to me if I was happy or not. What mattered to me was that I had a purpose. I had clarity. I have faith it will lead to a happy place.

2. Second step for me was to reach out to wise people.

I started meeting people for coffees, walks and email exchanges. I asked questions. They were kind enough to let me explore into their experience. I used their wisdom to help me navigate my way. Thank you Jeff, Jay, Virginia, Kim, Megan, Karina, Bill, Marin, James, Tony, David, Beth … (there’s definitely more people I could list).

3. Third step for me was to resolve inner conflicts.

At least understand them. I started getting to the bottom of inner conflicts by peeling back the layers, peeling back some more, peeling back more. I found a couple very good friends to help me unpack it all.

Here are 15 other things I do to either change my state, redirect my focus or proactively guide my state of being

1. Decide!  I decided to shift the focus. Every time I wanted to look at her Instagram, I picked up my phone and instead of looking at her profile, I looked at a memo I made for myself of the 11 characteristics my next partner will have. I did this so many times that I realized a more empowering meaning for the loss of that relationship.

Here’s that list, btw:

I will also offer these characteristics too. So I could just as easily say, I will be …

2. Start the day with the right intention. Give myself the first 10 minutes of my day.  Reality check. If you don’t have 10 minutes a day just for you, you don’t have a life. I call it priming the pumps and it’s the foundation of my day every day.

3. Exercise every day. Try this week’s morning move.

4. Jump rope. I crank Eminem and say my Ground of Being statement as loud as I can

5. Yoga. I stretch, breathe, lengthen and search for the “just right” placement for when I can rest in the pose. That “rest” is a letting go place.

6. Breathing. I breathe into my heart. I breathe into my stomach. I breathe into my back. I imagine my breath is traveling up and down my spine like an oscillating fan. I breathe in 4 and out 8. I observe my breath and ask why

7. Playing with and loving on my kids. I get so small. I get tiny. I let the world stop and I fill myself into their world with the presence of a giant.

8. Journal. I journal almost every morning. I jot down whatever comes to mind.

9. Meditation. It took me forever to “get” meditation, but now that I do get it, I enjoy watching my thoughts – like clouds – pass on by me. It’s a practice of not dwelling on anything.

10. Reading. This is how I find mentors. The best mentors are authors. Like from Steve Martin’s book Born Standing Up, I learned all the ways it’s far more important to gain insight than settle the score.

11. Hard gratitudes. This is great for us folks who can’t stop the monkey mind chatter because it requires us to solve a problem with a gratitude. The idea being that inside every difficult problem, there are tiny seeds of gratitude that can blossom into happiness in your life.

12. Cold temperature plunges. I dive into a cold shower. I step outside with bare feet in the cold snow. I learned this from another mentor, Tony Robbins. Here’s an article that explains the power of cold water.

13. Romantic movies. On Sundays, I watch love story movies. Maybe it’s just the time of life right now but it always brings happy tears to my eyes. Here’s a good romantic movie I recommend called The Age of Adeline 

14. Connect to something bigger than yourself. On alternating Sundays, I travel around Michigan to different churches.

15. Being creative at this blog and posting about healthy living.

All of these things, and probably more that I haven’t mentioned, are ways I change my state, redirect my focus and proactively guide my state of being to that highway toward happiness.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. More about that here

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Morning Moves – Table Makers

The way you move determines the way you feel.

Try this move called Table Makers first thing out of bed. Watch the video below.

Every week I offer you a new “morning move” to try first thing out of bed. The premise is that bad physiology reinforces negative feelings. I love Tony Robbins. I read his books. I listen to his videos. He says, “Motion creates emotion.”

So changing your physiology means changing your mental state and breaking negative patterns. Or breaking dull patterns. Like sleep walking into the kitchen to get the coffee going. Great physiology leads to great emotions, and that is one of the keys to having a great day and/or getting unstuck.

If you’re not committed to a different path, what’s ever going to change, shift or transform?

Here’s this week’s morning move.

This is from Morning Moves

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. More about that here

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May We Be Like the Poets

May we all be like the poets.
Like Thoreau watching ripples on still water.
Like Emily distilling her days into verse.
Like Basho learning pine from pine and bamboo from bamboo.
Like Whitman bearing poems like children.
Like Homer, a life’s work in two poems.
Me? … unknown, wide eyed, big hearted, listening, hungry and writing to stay tuned – perhaps a gift for a great great grandchild who will someday find something I wrote and put it on the refrigerator, nodding, “mmmm, truth!”

Sunday Newsletter – Don’t Say, “I Need To Lose Weight”

Instead, say “I need to burn fat.”

The point of this post is to be super clear about your physical fitness goals and to begin with an understanding of what you’re really trying to do for yourself.

Keep these three B’s in mind when it comes to finding your physical health. If you use these three B’s as a guide for finding the path of your physical health, you will be empowered for life. Here they are:

  • Burn fat
  • Build muscle
  • Boost metabolism

There’s nothing else.

How do you burn fat?

First, cut out sugar. Eat more protein and greens. Second, move more. Take the stairs not the elevator. etc. etc. Then begin walking. Every day. I suggest you not eat any food whatsoever after 6:30 pm. When you wake up first thing in the morning, walk for 40 minutes at 60% of your max heart rate. Wait to eat until you’re done walking before you eat. I’ve seen this work so many times for other people. This will burn fat.

How do you build muscle?

Most people don’t care about looking ripped. They don’t care about their max bench press. Build muscle with a simple home routine of basic calisthenics. Here’s my current at-home routine.

  • 100 push ups and sit ups
  • 100 squat hops
  • 25 pull ups or chin ups
  • 12 shoulder press against the wall

I do this in the comfort of my home four or five days a week. It’s a part of the routine. I get to it either within the first 20 minutes upon waking up in the morning, or at lunch at work, or after dinner/before bed time. It takes me no more than 15 minutes to do this little routine. It’s built lean muscle and toned everything on my body.

How do you boost metabolism?

All of the above will boost metabolism. In particular, metabolism boosting exercises are those that require a maximum amount of energy because multiple joints are involved like doing a squat with an overhead press. In a nutshell, you boost your metabolism by performing compound exercises with little rest in-between exercises in an effort to maximize calorie burn and increase metabolic rate during and after the workout. FYI, your metabolism (aka metabolic rate) is how many calories your body burns at rest. I do two metabolic workouts a week with a friend that last 25 to 30 minutes and they really kick my ass.

I want to help you be in the best physical condition possible. You don’t need diets or clubs. You need simplicity. This, to me, is simple. You only need to remember these 3 B’s described in this post. If you have questions, I can help. This is my thing.

This is from the Healthy Living series

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. More about that here

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