Challenging Status Quo

On Monday I decided I was going to do something different in my life.

It began when I wanted to add a cover image to my LinkedIn account. I know, nothing big, especially because I’m not sure what the value of my LinkedIn account is, and I’m pretty sure no one in my “network” cares about the cover image on my LinkedIn page, at least, not as much as my FB friends would care if I changed the cover photo on my FB page.

My niece learned of my true identity...  But is she right?
My niece learned of my true identity… But is she right?

It was the process of finding the image that mattered. Into my disorganized iPhoto library I went, to look for one of my favorite photos from a trip I took to Scotland in 2013. I scrolled through hundreds of photos. Some I wondered why I hadn’t deleted. Others, I wondered why I hadn’t printed and framed. Then came the photos of people, of me and my partner, in particular.

“We looked thinner back then.” he said,  while sitting on our sagging couch, a few feet in front of the HDTV, cable box, and Blu-ray player, remotes splayed across the scene, as he looked through the pictures on my laptop with me.

He was right. I saw it too. The milliseconds the images were up on the screen was enough time for our brains to pick up on the fewer inches of pudge that wrapped his mid-section or my back-section “only a year ago.”

The last year was fraught with so many – I need to work out more’s and I need to drink less beer’s – that it sounded like a broken record. Obviously, we were eating, sitting, drinking and wishing, more than we were sweating, walking, standing or doing.

So I went to the gym on Monday morning and sweat. I was sore on Tuesday, but I went to the gym again. I stayed away from those tantalizing carbs. I didn’t stop at Grateful Bread – whose current scone is the best in Seattle. I didn’t “celebrate” my second day at the gym. On Wednesday, I was feeling good, so when I went out to lunch I had a lovely cup of white bean and pesto soup with a think slice of homemade bread  and shared a little pizza with my partner at Element in the UVillage. Simple, small, healthy but loaded with carbs. The rest of the day I felt bloated . “Damn I think I do have gluten intolerance,” I thought after feeling massive in a pair of jeans I squeezed into the next day. Those jeans that were a little big “only a year ago.”

Was it all the traveling I did? My dad’s death? The “too hot” summer in Seattle? The amazing IPAs of the Pacific NW that I just can’t seem to stop drinking, especially during the “too hot” summer in Seattle?

Why did I gain weight?

I got lazy. My mind was not aware of my growing girth. My mind was too preoccupied with the stress of life. I failed at balancing recreation and work. I failed at balancing being active with being sedentary.

When my mind finally recognized that the girth of my ass had grown, I played a game with myself. Telling myself – “It’s not that bad.” or “I can work that off in no time.” Was I buying me some time? Or killing me softly, slowly?

My niece somehow knows of my challenges with the evil - Status Quo.
My niece somehow knows of my challenges with the evil – Status Quo.

I am going to the gym, I am starting to be conscious of what I am eating and drinking. I have a birthday coming up and I will not be “one year younger.” I’m challenging the status quo – I’m challenging the way things are or have been. I’m challenging the sloth within.

What are your challenges with status quo? What are your plans of action to defeat it? No plans? That’s okay, sometimes we just have to “do it,” to “act differently than usual,” to create the change we all so desperately want to achieve.

Challenging Status Quo – make it your mantra too.

Til Death…

Death.

What it means to each of us is very personal, but transcendent as well, meaning it is a part of our being human. What is your relationship with death? Is it filled with fear? Peace? or Indifference (which may lead back to fear)?

The author with her childhood friends Khal and Regina, Dec. 2010.
The author with her childhood friends Khal and Regina, Dec. 2010.

It was June 12, 2012, a month ago, when I went to an old friend’s funeral. Khal’s passing reminded me about my relationship with life and with death and how we who are left on this physical plane to deal with loss. Although Khal’s physical body left this planet way too soon and it filled me with sadness, I knew his spirit lives on in the people whom he influenced with his love and his stalwart personality. I am at peace with death.

What I am not in peace with is how some of us will meet our death. Through stupid accidents, preventable or treatable diseases, through another’s incompetence or malicious intent.  Khal’s death was due to preventable and treatable diseases, that many of us have, it’s called PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), it’s called pride, it’s called emotional abuse as a child, it’s called being overwhelmed with life. I saw so much of my own struggles when I last talked to him, we had just reconnected via Facebook in 2010 and were planning a small high school reunion. During this time I remember sharing with him my concern over his weight and health (he was an athlete in high school and a U.S. Marine), he shared that it was because he had a hard time making time for himself.  I suggested he think of his future, his kids, that he needed to find time for himself, for them and he promised me that he would start going to the gym. I said I would keep tabs on him, that I wanted to hear how he lost weight when I saw him at the reunion. I did keep tabs on him, once or twice and he had started going to the gym. I was even keeping tabs on him in my dream state: “Khal, I had a dream that you were smoking in your garage.” I messaged him one morning. He was dumbfounded, he said that no one, not even his wife, knew that he smoked. I asked him why he did that, and he responded “Stress.”

I lost contact with Khal soon after the reunion. He had reconnected with other friends and I had hoped through that he would find some reprieve from his stress and quench his need to talk to someone about it. I was also going through my own dark period (end of relationship, dealing with demons from my past, etc.) and had begun shutting people out of my life. During this time I even deleted my FB page, losing contact with many people I thought were superfluous in my life. I was performing my own type of death ritual. I needed to do that to reconnect with my true self and needed time and space to find me.

Me and tio
The author, with Uncle Danny, circa early 1971.

This wasn’t the first time I had done my own death ritual. Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. Transitioning from marriage to divorce. Death to me is a transition. I came to terms with death, both physical and psychological, when I was a junior in high school. It was during this time that I learned my uncle had AIDS (a preventable and now treatable disease). It was the mid-1980s, when the big AIDS scare began and all those awareness campaigns started. Uncle Danny wasn’t just any uncle, I had three others, he was my kindred spirit. He died during my senior year, an already difficult transition period (college looming, boyfriend being a butt head). Thanks to his suggestion, the summer before his death, I had begun writing in a journal. These journals, were pivotal in helping with transition; they provided me with a venue to vent my anger, talk about my sadness and eventually see that in death we do not part with those whom we have that special connection. My uncle was there with me then and is now and I’m still writing in a journal.

I am at peace with death. I am at peace with transitions. Trust me, it doesn’t make it any easier when a relationship ends or when someone you love dies. It doesn’t mean that I look forward for the next transition to happen. No, because I am still only human and I have these things called emotions to deal with, to work through, to come to terms with. But I am wiser. After each transition I learn something new about my self, about what it truly means to be human and what this life is all about. My spirituality grows with each transition. It is as if being at your most vulnerable, your most human, opens a window to see beyond this physical plane of being. To gain sight to see that my energy mingles with all the energies of the universe, that I am a part of something greater, that we are a part of something greater.

I am at peace with death and with life. Today I realized it has been a month since my friend was buried, and in recalling my relationship with death I realize that it has been 24 years since my uncle died. I am vulnerable, I am feeling emotional, but I am also feeling the love that connected us during their time on this planet and I can continue feeling it to this day and possibly forever.