Monday, May 28, 2012

Good work

"Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning."

Photo via Arlington National Cemetery

Most people will recognize that from the movie, "The Princess Bride" and for those who don't, PLEASE go check it out. It may not be a life changing film upon which your whole philosophy of life pivots, but you should watch it anyway, so you know what people are talking about when they quote from it for the entire rest of your natural life. 

There are one thousand and fourteen things swirling around in my personal ether these days and this particular line feels apropos. Today is Memorial Day, and we're thinking about and honoring those who've sacrificed everything for our freedoms and the freedoms of people all over the world. 

The men and women who've offered up the highest price for the human "Us" live their every day lives on a battle field where their call to action is to do good work, try to sleep well each night, and understand that on some level, there is a risk that they'll be killed in the morning. And they do it:  quietly, honorably, with dignity and integrity.  

People around me, and around you, live in situations that test their endurance and try their patience. Battlefields aren't across oceans. Some of them are located at our very addresses and we wake each morning hoping to do good work for ourselves and each other. At the same time, I think a very many of us live with the specter of possibly being killed each morning by what our lives present to us. Of course, I mean metaphorically (mostly). 

Being part of a human squadron is difficult. It takes guts, dedication and a commitment to honor and sincerity. It doesn't mean that we never fall down or fail; that our path is perfect or that we always maintain a level of righteousness above reproach. What it does mean is that we aim to stay true and fulfill our promises and obligations to those around us. 

It means we do good work, sleep well and know that even though we might be killed in the morning, we get up and try anyway. We ask it of our warriors every day in a million different ways; we should ask it of ourselves as well.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A quarter cup of anorexia

Back in November, something happened. I had a few days where I was really busy at work; so busy that I forgot to cram food down my gullet all day. I noticed when the three o'clock hour rolled around and I wasn't dying to go to bed for a thousand years, crying my make-up off with the fervor of my yawns. 

So I decided to consciously not eat all day and see if it worked even if I wasn't crazy busy, and it did. I was alert and awake all afternoon and into the evening! Ancillary benefit? I lost about twenty pounds over the course of 5 months. Now, everyone around me, who diets like mad and exercises, and eats the prescribed calories or the prescribed number of meals, or the diet foods etc., etc., etc.,.....lamented to me that what I was doing was completely unhealthy. I was told that starvation would never work, that I couldn't keep up the pace of this new diet etc., etc., etc. All these people LIVE in the fine mess that is the overweight-perma-dieting-woman syndrome that feeds the multi-billion industry of slimming us Americans down.

But seven months later, I'm still twenty pounds lighter and I'm still wide awake at 3pm. I have determined that for me to be my best person, I must be about one quarter cup anorexic. Just a quarter cup. I eat dinner without reservation or restraint. I don't snack much in the evening because I've eaten whatever I like at dinner. And I'm still drinking a few glasses of wine a few days a week. I'm not counting calories (that's a half cup anorexic) and I'm not limiting myself when I DO eat (that's three quarters cup....) And I still eat (which obviously disqualifies a full cup). 

My quarter cup of anorexia has shown me something pretty swell. Almost ANYTHING in moderation is okay for us. Now, obviously, let's use our brains. You can't moderately shoot someone. You can't do heroin in moderation, and I'm pretty sure that no amount of bleach in your eyeball is going to work out well. But some things, done with measure, with consciousness and intent, are perfectly healthy even though they might be positively morbid if done in excess.

See what I'm saying?

Religion is awesome. It's comforting, it's uplifting, it's a guidance counselor...unless you get kooky and start protesting people's funerals because you don't like something in society, or making mass quantities of Kool-Aid for people to drink because your God is coming in on a spaceship this week end. Moderation.

Love is builds you up, supports you, compliments you, and encourages you. It's really not cool once it consumes and smothers you. Moderate it for best results.

Being politically active is tremendous. But seriously...are you on Facebook? People need to get a life as well. Spending ALL your time searching for the internet meme that confirms your existing bias isn't really healthy or contributing to a positive national discourse. Being self-reliant and educated is one thing. Being obsessed means you're almost a full cup in and that's not okay.

Our work lives are important and we depend on them, but more than about three quarters cup and I'm betting you'll find it's too much. Something will suffer, whether it's your social life, family life or health. Moderation is the key.

A quarter cup of almost everything is fine. It's a good amount, it probably works in your life, allowing you to have room for other interests and pursuits. My quarter cup of anorexia leaves me alert, lighter, more active and no doubt healthier. I've moderated myself, perhaps in a way that wouldn't work for everyone, but which works for me. 

My Grandmother, who is celebrating her 94th birthday today and still lives independently, has always said that a little bit of everything is okay. I'm sure I can throw a rock and hit 10 people who can refute that ideologically, but you can't refute that 94 years in, her philosophy is working for her. And I think if it's good enough to sustain 94 years for her, it's good enough for me. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Free will isn't a free pass

free will, accountability, tanning mom,
When the scale tips, who's responsible?

I need to get something taken care of right away: thanks CML, for inspiring this idea!! 

Now, to business. Free will versus accountability for one's actions. That's our topic of discussion, by which I mean it's the topic about which I've chosen to write and which you will choose to read...or not. 

This week a woman was arrested for allegedly taking her small daughter with her to a tanning booth/room/area/coliseum type area. I have no clue. Specs weren't given on the floor plan of the salon. But the point is that the woman looks awful; not from a personal opinion standpoint (though from my personal opinion standpoint: she looks awful) but from a health and wellness standpoint. She has ruined her skin. 

We know, without doubt, that tanning beds CAUSE melanoma. And we know, without doubt, that melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. So this woman has chosen, of her free will as an adult, to tan her skin to the point of unhealthy, and stands a statistically high chance of developing an aggressive and fatal (if not caught early) form of cancer directly due to her actions. 

See this through. Is she taking active measures to carry extra cancer coverage with her insurance? Is she self-funding a medical savings account to cover the un-reimbursed portion of her treatments? Who will pick up the cost of her cancer treatment for the action she willingly and knowingly took, which was entirely elective and without any obligation as determined by any rational entity.

In short: she CHOOSES to be overly "tan" and we will most likely foot the bill down the line when she develops cancer because of it. Even if she has great insurance, her cancer will be another cog in the system, which causes rates across the board to go up. And my hard earned salary will go down just a little bit more next year as my health care coverage rates go up.

Here's another example. Let's say we know a man who is deeply conservative. He resents any intrusion into his personal life. His paychecks are a bi-weekly exercise in barely controlled rage against big government. He believes his money should remain under his own purveyorship and should be divided where he sees fit. WONDERFUL. Except we've got one teensy problem. This man is an alcoholic. That's no fault of his; alcoholism is a disease and I get that. 

What's at issue is that when this man gets pulled over for a DUI, protecting me and my children from being killed by him as he wields the biggest weapon we all routinely use (hint: our cars...), it will be tax dollars that have paid the highway patrol's salary. It will be tax dollars that fund the jail where he'll sober up. And it'll be tax dollars that fund the court system which will process him. I wonder if this hypothetical, conservative, alcoholic has put away enough money to cover his costs to exercise his right to buy alcohol any time he wants? Where is the accountability for his free will? 

Is the accountability portion attached to free will? I think it must be the other side of the same coin...but we tend to bastardize the concept of accountability into meaning that we owe nothing; that we owe nobody. We call poor people unaccountable because we perceive their government help as a hand out. We call them unaccountable because we feel they owe US for what they've received, but we rarely look at our own actions and wonder what we're doing for which WE are accountable. 

If I feed my sons sugar cereal and orange juice for breakfast, who is accountable for the speed freaks I send to school 20 minutes later? I assure you, their teachers would find ME accountable.  If I text and drive (even when the text is a very important one saying I'm going to be 5 minutes late) and swerve into a parked car, who is accountable for that? If I am an adult woman who attends a party and is offered meth, and I say "Okay! I'm on vacation this week, why not have a little fun?" and then I am a train wreck of addiction based on my free will to choose to try, who is accountable for making me well? Me? Society? Addiction counselors? A spouse? 

It seems we have all sorts of notions about who is owed what, and we never say that we, ourselves, owe anything. We do not tend to hold ourselves accountable for things which might be hurtful to our own interests or the interests of others, despite pursuing those same interests. Most people tend to believe that they are the ones owed something, and that it is OTHERS who are living in oblivion, ignorantly unaccountable. 

So-called liberals are characterized as being owed a free ride. So-called conservatives are characterized as being owed zero responsibility for anyone other than themselves. Both notions are complete falsehoods. We owe society our best effort all the time. We owe each other the best self-education we can find as adults. We owe our children and our peers a loving heart and compassionate empathy. We owe each other accountability for the energy we bring, for the lessons we impart and for the actions we take in every minute of every day.

It's part of being human and it might be might be more than you thought it would be. But that's what it is, and no matter how you've previously thought of your accountability, of what you owe, who you owe and why you owe it? Trust this, if nothing else: we owe plenty.