Last night I saw Red Hot Chili Pipers. It was the first time I saw them and it was easily the most clapping I have ever done in my life, the most attention I’ve paid, best timed to the cues of the band that said when to clap, when to get down low, when to dance, when to jump and when to wave back at them. OK so they have been around for 20 years, are from Scotland, and are an interesting treat. My mom had an extra ticket. It was cold outside so we bundled up and headed over to the show. 10/10 would recommend.
I often find myself making up reasons why anything exists. It is the most enjoyable pastime that requires nothing of me and helps me understand the master parade. Words and phrases, what they mean, and what they symbolize belong in a mall, at the kiosks – to pluck – or in an arcade – to game. People used to flock to malls. They’d stay all day, and they were supposed to be fun. And life is fun because it’s always a mystery and mazes are orders of secrecy. Why does sound exist? The feeling it makes in its utterance is a comfort. If I said it or said by someone else I think about this. The different ways to accomplish the same goal can make sense sometimes.
Words mean different things to different people. The term moonshot, for example, is a reference to the luck it took to make it to the moon on time, or is it when a woman either misses or gets her period, narrowly escaping a life with a different outcome? Things are happenstance or fate and maybe it just feels that way. It’s anyone’s choice or it’s an urban dictionary. I have a dream or a theory that there is a balloon tied to my hand. A nurse asks to take my temperature or a Covid test, and it tethers me to the demise of my own imaginary brush with death. I feel it empty my bladder, empty my thoughts until I suck in water like all i do is suck in water then quit because all life is emptying some vessel. Then I suck in air and that is all I suck in until the replacement is complete. Then I donate my organs to someone in need. That is a lead balloon.
Thoughts are an audience and meaning owes them nothing. People can walk out anytime, or switch the parable so that its pull isn’t as strong. There is high neuroplasticity to meaning, bending almost like water as it pours into different glasses. It has the fluidity of young brains. When I reached my forties, I figured there are finite ways to drive to work, and then, aren’t there different ways to react to sound or communicate what I would like to eat for dinner? When I write with my opposite hand, the process is the same, and modified. Dropping a smartphone is that way. The sensation of the back of my arm sliding a surface beyond the far side of my wrist makes the same noise if it happens in the right hand or the left. I anticipate a falling object and then something comes to stop it from reaching the ground.
I have recently learned about thought distortions as part of a paid subscription to Noom, a weight loss program that uses daily lessons and a support group. When I was participating, it was very easy to use the ideas as it was fresh in my mind and I found myself able to regularly reinforce best practices by sharing experiences with other people in the group. What I found so helpful was the learning and social structure that this program provides, and it has been my experience that under these circumstances, it is easy to lose weight, under those highly structured learning environments.
Keeping these habits longterm by myself without Noom’s structure is difficult, but I choose to see self-improvement as lifelong and I am worth it to invest in that difficult work to achieve. These are good reminders for me, as I struggle with thought distortions, and I believe everyone does to some extent. I may have forgotten some of these principles since having cancelled my membership a few months back, so I write this down now so that I do not forget them again.
Thought distortions are logical fallacies as a result of flawed thinking which may act as barriers throughout our lives in many different spaces. Sizing up thought distortions has been helpful for me in areas other than weight loss, but also in long-term goal setting. It helps to size up and identify those thought distortions instead of believing them.
Fortune telling is predicting the future. You cannot predict the future! Example: I will never get this right. I knew this would happen.
Overgeneralization is failure/success at accomplishing one task will predict an endless pattern of defeat/success in all tasks. Example: I didn’t know the answer to one question at trivia, so I am generally bad at trivia. I aced my first test. The rest of this year’s test will be a breeze because I’m so good at taking tests.
All or nothing thinking: if I eat this slice of cake, it will all go wrong. If I fail this test, my life is ruined. Alternately, I was able to eat salads all weekend, so I will always be able to eat salads for every meal.
What helps me is to be a blank slate, to not attach meaning to behavior. In the process this builds frustration tolerance.
Frustration tolerance is the work I do to be OK with frustration. So the more comfortable I am with frustration, the easier it is to stay on track. Planning how I respond to frustration and becoming used to frustration or setbacks can prevent sabotage or the feelings of guilt and shame that can lead to overeating or giving up on achieving goals.
What helps me is the oh well statement. This is a statement that I create to build tolerance to frustration. Oh well, the meal I just ate will not undo the months I have spent losing weight. Another oh well statement I like is: I can control only so much and thankfully never everything.
Reframing: after challenging a thought distortion, I can decide to redo my way of thinking by reframing. Reframing helps me to think positively in a way that helps me feel empowered and good about myself and makes it easier to achieve goals.
Reframe using the oh well statement: if I eat this slice of cake, it will not ruin the months I have spent and all the work I do each day to make good decisions. If I fail this test, it will not be the end of the world. I still have another opportunity to make it up, and I normally do very well when I study for tests.
Removing labels helps me. Especially with food, instead of saying oh, that’s so fattening, or that’s really healthy for you, I’ll say, this salad has low caloric density. This bag of chips has high caloric density.
Low caloric density foods tend to have more water and fewer calories and include:
spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, apples, most fruits and vegetables
High caloric density foods tend to have more calories per serving and include:
highly processed and fried foods, chips, cheeseburgers, fast food
Reframe: Instead of saying, this food is so bad for me, I will say, this bag of Cool Ranch Doritos is a true treat, or this ice cream is an indulgence
Why it matters: being able to feel and identify feelings fully and head on helps me feel more in control. It can also be a way to be mindful of how I feel so that I can take a step back and run through different strategies and approaches to help me become more successful and competent in navigating my decisions. I enjoy the following quote:
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote helps me to not take life so seriously, but rather encourages me to a very casual and enjoyable approach to living through life as a series of iterations or trial runs that a person may fail or succeed at, but the important takeaway from these tests are the data it renders, similar to how a scientist runs through trial testing, without even formulating a hypothesis on how it may end up, but rather moving through life nearly unattached to expectation of success or failure. This makes living more improvised and exciting, and I feel so thankful for this. The idea that we have free will makes me happy, that I am not bound by what other people expect me to do. I have the choice to make a choice, reflect on that decision, and do something different after that process of reflection renders new data that inspires a new way to operate. That capacity for transformation is real. If there is ever a time when someone is feeling sad, unsuccessful, or believing that they are not doing well in life, there is the opportunity to make a different choice, a new choice at any time.
This idea brings about the fixed vs. growth mindset. The fixed mindset says that people do not grow and change throughout their lives. The growth mindset is the idea that people grow and change many times throughout their lives and have the capacity for learning new skills and new habits by way of their own reflection and thought process. I believe strongly that people are able to grow and change and have many different careers or make a divergent set of decisions in their lives. This is something that gives me hope about the future and I believe in the ability for people to improve at any time in their lives.
This morning, I tried plant based bacon. It is called Smart Bacon, 40 calories a slice. It cooks like delicate bologna and gets super crispy, which is a fun texture and goes well with scrambled eggs. Not a lot of flavor, so do not expect that any semblance of actual bacon. It’s smart bacon, like a smart phone, which does certain things for you, but does not make you smart. Rather it is a simulation of what you would like it to be.
Getting through the winter is often difficult, and this year is no exception. New England weather, just when I thought I had gotten it down, I realize in these winter months that I am always beginning, always realizing something new, or something that is there and in my over-confidence I forget to treat winter like it is my friend. It had been so very bitterly cold over the past month that I barely moved from my couch. As a result, I was not exercising, which is how I mitigate the winter blues/SAD, seasonal affective disorder. It feels like getting hit by a rock. I had been running outside before the snow came.
I had been gaining weight and not eating right and not running, and the result is this brick wall of the blues that makes me feel so defeated, like I am always repeating myself or somehow I inevitably dwindle down to a kind of sadness. This is something that is a fallacy, that certain patterns are inevitable or inescapable. There must be a solution, as nothing is permanent. I so often forget this idea, as the seasons change, but nothing is permanent and it’s never just one thing forever.
I can challenge the fallacy or untruth by working through in my mind by asking myself: how have I achieved goals in the past? How have I prevented the winter blues/depression before? I answer it: I have found that exercising/running/walking every day makes me feel so good. If it’s raining, I jump on my trampoline, and something so wonderful happens. I feel invincible after a work out, like nothing can get me down. I feel tough, like that horizon is an infinite sight line into the sun that helps me feel happy inside. When I feel sad, I feel as though success is not attainable. When I do not challenge these thought distortions, the sad feelings creep in. I ask myself to pull up historical evidence of success in my life and hold them up in my mind as the most visually compelling inspiration that I can focus on.
I can give myself a future gift to make my life easier. It sometimes takes a long time for me to achieve a goal. I am willing to put in the difficult work it takes to achieve long-term goals of living better, which takes lifelong maintenance. I so often forget this idea. I feel hopeful in remembering my capacity of giving future gifts to mitigate risk, make myself happy, and live younger.
01 02 201
Food with family is probably half the reason to be alive right now. For Christmas, I got a Nerd pack and Absurd pack of Cards Against Humanity. The original packs were so inappropriate that my mom refused to play it with us. Although we reassured her that this time would be different, alas! this was not so. The search for a more family friendly card pack continues…
6 19 2021
There are a lot of things with life, so many feelings and reflections that I try and remind myself of. When I think of something that I’m processing, it’s never just one thing. It is so many of them, or at least the most that I can articulate and capture in my mind. There is more than just one thing. I have a very distinct memory of my father telling me this once when I was younger in the context of assigning one reason to something and how it is childish to do so. I often forget this one thing and then I have to remind myself of it. This past week my tooth broke, my uncle died, and if these two things were the only two things I landed on then the whammy would have gotten me. I struggle with family loss and how to best communicate sorrow and comfort. It’s something I have learned to improve by talking directly to the person affected about the loss. I admit it is aspirational, as processing can be difficult. It’s something I never do perfectly, but it is something I am working on. I think improvement in general is something I admire in people, like how when I see someone running, I say out loud or maybe to myself, keep going, girl!
The last time I talked to my uncle, he was in the hospital and I explained to him that I was having a difficult time talking before I started sobbing. The last thing he texted me was to keep my head up, and that it was going to be OK. Imagine someone dying saying that to a physically healthy person!
Last summer I was able to visit with him and we would text each other when it was too dangerous for him to visit during the pandemic. I told him we’d have future cheeseburgers to look forward to. We had shared a joke the last time we visited in person about how I wasn’t excited to see him just for food based reasons. Lots of family get togethers are surrounded by food. To future cheeseburgers, I have since cheered in BBQ get togethers with others, where I hold a burger next to theirs and cheers to future burgers. I’m thinking about the idea of toasting to this cheeseburger next time, as next time may not come, and “to this cheeseburger!” sounds more appropriately celebratory for the job this burger is doing for me at the time.
Dreams help prepare me for the worst situations sometimes. The amount of teeth I have lost in dreams pales in comparison to how many I have the ability to lose. So that when I bit into a new piece of gum, thinking I had bit into a rock, and then realized it was pieces of my tooth, it was actually a relief. It was not horrifying at all, and completely painless. Sometimes the fear of a thing is worse than something actually happening. This idea applies to losing a tooth.
Several weeks prior to my uncle’s death, I had a dream about my Mema. She passed away six years ago, and in the dream she still had her wits about her. She was shopping in a mall with my sister and mother, and as I saw Mema walking to the ladies’ room, she fell on the ground and started asking for my mom. I yelled for my sister and mom and we surrounded Mema. In my dream she was still able to talk and remember things, and in my dream it was like I was in her mind, and she kept saying over and over again, I can do this! I can do this! I wonder if she were talking to herself about transitioning to the other side, coaching herself through it, or if she were actually telling herself that she could get through to me in my dream. The meaning I assign to my dreams is something that sometimes helps with comforting myself, as I feel family lives in your heart, even though they are no longer on this earth.
I have been over and over in my mind the past months, the past years, when I was younger, how my dad would tell me the most horrifying feeling he had when he was young was realizing his own mortality. Someday, it’s going to be me. Sometimes it’s not just that one thing, it’s never just one thing, I must remind myself. Since his passing I sometimes have seen my uncle in other people, a lumbering, good-natured aging hippie Santa Claus with shoulder length white hair and a beard to match. Good-natured because he was and is still in my mind. As a personal reminder he’s got doppelgängers everywhere.
It’s funny the ways that music talks to people. A ton of my music has meaning embedded in it and sometimes the music on the radio or in my mind or in an ear worm acts as a sort of divining rod to the people whom I believe are thinking of me or maybe I’m thinking of. I think about the songs that exist for certain reasons, and I know that your feelings and emotions are held in your endocrine system for a lifetime. This is why I recall certain moments in my life when I listen to Pablo Honey by Radiohead or Pink Floyd’s The Wall and still feel very attached in the moment that was that time, even though I have lost touch with those people or have fallen from their contact completely. It’s often the many formative years I hold in my mind that those memories seem so strong, about the same time when my hormones are raging and likely imprinting the hand deeply in the wall with chemicals that remind me of other people I have known.
And people can think about something in such a way that it almost seems magic, but where does a thought come from? It is never just one thing as this mystery passes through me, and how over a lifetime a person processes events differently at certain times, processes grief in different ways, and I could not walk you through those stages and processes, I just simply know that processing grief and our connections to those around us is lifelong, its knowing nothing to me until after I have felt it, in a fleeting certainty that I register as my body would register a thought and have another thought about that first idea. So like the surface tension of water a person is constantly growing from its first reconciliation, negotiated through the sums, entirety, or improvisation of that thing that I could not press my thumb into and name, but rather illuminate on a wall that sticks your shadow on for a moment before you move away from its light.