Thursday, February 11, 2016

Positive in a Negative Environment

One of the great challenges of trying to be positive is the environment that surrounds you.

Yes, I know, be a thermostat, not a thermometer.  Intellectually I understand that but practically it becomes somewhat challenging.  Even if I can manage my own thoughts about myself (which requires an iron grip on my consciousness and the willingness to drag the least little excursis back from the brink) it is multiplied by an environment which does not encourage positive energy.

It came from two places: the first was the world in large (and that "I am going to have to avoid current events" is going to have to become a real thing.  The primaries on both sides are going to completely destroy my composure) and the second was the world in which I work.

The world in which I work was not so much a single thing that encouraged me to be negative but a series of small and annoying events which slowly settled my mood to the floor.  Mediocre systems that resulted in repetitive tasks to be completed.  The ever growing list of things that must be done, buried beneath the list of things that I should be doing.  And the frustration that while there are things I can do to impact my own direct world, there is little I can do to impact the way that world impacts on me (except leave, I suppose, of course).

My secret for getting through the day?  I wish I had a profound one - instead, I muscled my way through clinging to the thought "No negativity today.  No negativity today."  And was it successful?  I did not go completely negative when I left but there was a high level of anxiety when I got home, as if my frustrations were seeking a way to vent themselves as they could not do it in the usual fashion (I fought them of course - we took ourselves for a walk tonight).

So completely positive today?  No.  But did I manage to stave off the bottom?  Absolutely.  And that is a form of victory in itself.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

40 Days of Positive

Yesterday this came as part of a message from The Viking:

"I say this with love, you need to change your inner monologue to focus on positivity.  You're a smart, talented and kind hearted man.  I place a high value on you, we all do."

It came from completely out of nowhere.  It was something that was neither mentioned in conversation nor prompted by anything I am aware of.

But there it is "You need to change your inner monologue to focus on positivity."

I know that I have issues with, I guess, negativity?  Not quite depression, but never quite happiness either.

Tomorrow, as you might know, is the beginning of the season of Lent.  We are counseled to deny ourselves things as a outward sign of denial and mourning.  I will do the one or two things I typically do for denial, such as giving up sugar (a standby) or fasting from internet news (a necessity).  But this year I think I will add one more thing, an adding to rather than denial of:  for 40 days I will not allow (or will try to not allow) myself to fall into negativity.  If I find myself falling there, I will simply have to come up with to think about instead - a list of 10 things to be positive for, or simply a self pep talk.  But for 40 days, I will try to not allow anything negative into my thought life.

It will be hard - far more challenging than simply giving up chocolate.  But if The Viking says something like that, it is something I need to pay attention to.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Taking Myself For A Walk

Tonight was another journey around the block, this time with Syrah in hand.

As I wandered around the neighborhood - again as last night, sheathed in darkness although not nearly so many groups of cars and flickering ghostly lights - I laughed to myself as Syrah was sniffing yet another spot where obviously someone had stopped visit.  "Taking myself for a walk" I said and chuckled.

And then thought about the statement for a little while.

Taking myself for a walk.  Implies a few things, does it not?  Like I need to be taken for a walk - or rather, I need to allow that I should be taken for a walk.

And to be taken for a walk is not a one time thing.  It is a daily thing, something I have let slip to the side in the last few months as other things came up.  Justifiable things in my mind, but nothing so justifiable that it should prevent me from doing this.

The investment?  Time of course, that most precious of commodities.  But just like walking Syrah, the benefits of a walk - 30 minutes out of a day - far outweighs the simple use of the time.  It is not just the practice of exercising - indeed, it is the practice of getting away from all and being able to be alone with one's self with purpose and yet relaxing.

I certainly have not been taking myself for a walk as I should have been.  But there is no reason to believe that it carries no less criticality for myself than for Syrah.

Besides, only one of us has to wear a leash.

Monday, February 08, 2016

On A Super Bowl Night's Walk

Realizing that I have let my aerobic activity drop off during the winter months (I use the excuse of the cold when it is just a much lazy) I decided to take a walk tonight.
Tonight is an unusual night.  This night, or rather whatever night this falls on, is the night of the Super Bowl.  There is no other U.S. sporting event that has a single focal point (all the other big ones are the best of 7).  For one night, even I can make a predication about where millions of Americans will be:  at home, watching the Super Bowl.

So I went for a walk (we do not have cable and have not actually watched the Super Bowl since perhaps 2008, so there is no sense that I am missing anything).

The odd thing was how quiet the neighborhood was.

Our weather has lurched back towards unseasonably warm so I would not have been surprised even at 2000 to find people walking their dogs or even just enjoying the respite from winter.  Instead, nothing.  Literally just myself walking along (except for one group of rogue children with Nerf guns, either bored with the game or conveniently moved outside by the adults) amidst darkened houses with the ghostly flickering of lights denoting a TV set in so many of them, small clusters of cars around some indicating a party.

It actually saddened me as I walked between the pools of light formed by the streetlights.  I cannot fully tell you why, although the thought of millions of people being excited by a game had something to do with it, I suspect.  It is one of the sad parts of this society and (perhaps) this civilization, that we have raised passively watching games to a level of almost worship.

No, I think the thing that saddened me the most as I walked is that we have come to be this:  cocooned in our little homes, bands of light from entertainment devices bouncing off the walls as the silent world goes on around us.  Someday the end may come but most will scarcely be aware of it, unless it happens to enter the screen they happen to be watching.

We have become a civilization of the passive.  And passive civilizations are never the ones that endure.

Friday, February 05, 2016


Today my Otsuchi came in the mail.

An Otsuchi, in case you have not been keeping track of your traditional Japanese weapons, is a wooden maul or mallet used by Japanese warriors, primarily for bursting through doors or gates or even walls.

Mine is a 10 lb head mounted on a 3 foot shaft (apparently they could go up to 6' shaft, which would be handy for breaking into things.  Not so much as a weapon).  I have taken some practice swings with it and it is amazing how heavy 10 lbs can be when you are moving it through the air.

In a way, the Otsuchi describes my life:  an obscure weapon with no practical purpose to be trained with simply because it can be done and I want to do it.  Really true of so many of the interests and activities that I pursue.

Which is okay.  Because in the end, Thor does not really exist - but I and my Otsuchi do...

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Frustration in Weightlifting

Today was a back to back lifting day:  bench press and deadlifts.
My bench press has proven to be the most disappointing part of my weight routine.  I simply feel like I am making no progress in it - or if I am, it is very slow progress indeed.  It frustrates me because progress in my other lifts - deadlifts, squats, push press - has been steady and demonstrable.  But bench has been almost impreceptible - my best single was 1 x 160 lb in November; I just managed 2 x 160 lb last week.  That is close to my body weight but hardly the sort of the thing I was hoping.

My deadlift was frustrating today as well. Deadlifts have shown a much steadier improvement over time but today was not as good as I would have liked - max of 5 x 220 lb and a downgrade of 3 x 175 lb.  My form was terrible - my stance is (I think) too narrow and my knees are going askew in ways that are not all that grand for me.  I have gotten 5 x 240 lb in the past, but today was not the day - the  5 x 220 lb barely recognizable as a finished set.

This whole thing is something which I have not yet fully come to grips with yet in lifting:  the fact that it does not seem to be that linear of a process.

I want Personal Records.  Everyone, I think, does.  But as sometimes these get knocked down almost week by week, in other cases they linger for weeks at a time.  And other cases (like today) things take a backwards step in ways that I do not fully understand.  I would think that the ability to lift would increase in a linear fashion:  more weight over time would equal heavier lifts.

Apparently I think wrong.

I will be back in the gym on Friday for another back to back - Push Press and Squats - and will probably hit some of the same frustrations.  But it is at moments like these that I have to go back to my workout book (yes, I have become enough of a meathead to keep one of those now) that I can look and see that while I may not feel like I am making process, I have in fact made a great deal of progress since I started in July.

Eyes to the sunrise, keeping them on the prize.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The Review

So like it or not, today was review day.  How did it go?

Surprisingly well.  In fact, the best review I have ever had here.

A promotion (for the first time to a new level in 14 years).  And a pretty decent raise.  And 101% of the possible bonus.

Only negative in the review?  Not really a negative, but it is desired that I take more of a leadership role (which has already been added to my list of goals for myself anyway). Other than that, well done, good job, keep it up.

As I said, best review I have had in seven years.  Strangely gratifying after all these years.  14 years is a long drought, a very long drought indeed.

Sure, the bar is set high.  Sure, I will have to really push if I want to get close to this next year.  But for one moment, there was a brief sense that after a really long while, someone finally noticed.

And that is the best feeling in the world.