I Don’t Recognize It…

Like many, my life changed significantly on November 8, 2016.  Also like many, I went to bed that night with a sinking feeling in my stomach – the aftereffect of an election result I never saw coming.  That feeling had little to do with my political sensibilities, and much more to do with my human side.

I accepted long ago, and well appreciate, that roughly one-half of the people reading this hold beliefs in matters of economics, militarism, religion, and education that are contrary to mine.  That there is such a balance of opposing opinions in this land, and that it ebbs and flows the way it has for a couple hundred years, is testament to the integrity of the Greek foundation of our society.

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Still, on November 9, I woke feeling a little dazed, a bit sad and somewhat of a state of shock.  Through the next couple of days, I began asking questions of myself, and answering them honestly – and being honest with myself has ever been my strong suit.  With each question I asked myself, and with each subsequent answer, I could feel my values taking deeper root, and solidifying in a way they had not previously flexed.

The two primary questions I asked myself were these…

  • What is truly important to me today…?
  • What was important to me yesterday, that is no longer important today…?

It is truly illuminating, what can be learned from answering those questions.

I asked myself, and continue to ask myself other questions derivative of the two questions above, but those two are the heart of the thing.

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The answers to the first question were few – less than 10, and I wrote them down so I can look at them each morning as I drink coffee and build my day.  I have been resolute in constructing each day since November 9, around the answers to that question.

The answers to the second question were more numerous, and I’m still writing them down, as that list of answers still grows.  Identifying what was important yesterday, but no longer is, is easy.  Eliminating those behaviors from my day-to-day actions, well, that’s an ongoing challenge, but one I am also committed to.

As I watch the behaviors of the man we elected, and who is now the 45th President of The United States Of America, I have a steady reminder of how I wish not to conduct myself, how I wish not to be seen, and how I wish not to be heard.  I expected that from day 1.  Politics, positions, and platforms notwithstanding, it’s my opinion that a man representing 300-million people should conduct himself with a little more decorum – a little more professionally, as most of his predecessors have.

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What I didn’t expect, and what most reading this might find offensive or even insulting, is that so many of the behaviors from people on both sides of this election, have affected me more than I would have imagined just 6 months ago.  That is, the behaviors of my teammates, as well as the opposition are eating away at my good moods just as much as the behaviors of the man on Pennsylvania Avenue.  I have never been so disappointed in so many people all at once.

Before one suggests that I’m looking to live in a world of rainbows and unicorns when it comes to the murky waters of politics, I am not.  I’m in favor of argument, disagreement, satire, lampooning and even insults when the time is right, when it is deserved and when it is tactfully done.  However, I don’t recognize what I’ve seen unfolding in recent months – it’s as though somebody spiked the national water cooler, and we’ve left our sober brains back at our cubicles.

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I’ve found at least one bright spot in all of this is, thought it is small relative to the entirety of the problem, but it is a bright spot none the less.  I have never worked so hard, nor been so committed to improving my behaviors when it comes to discussion.  In that sense, I’ve never been less ashamed to be myself or to be 100% honest while discussing politics, and I have become a committed listener!   For a Jewish kid raised on demerit slips, with a lifetime social anxiety disorder, that’s saying something.

We may not all agree on military, economic or education policy, but we should be able to discuss it.  I hope at some point we’ll agree on how we should conduct ourselves as a people when we disagree, though I see few signs among my social contemporaries that this will happen anytime soon.  I look to my daughter’s generation though – I hear her speak, I see how she interacts with her friends, and I see hope for more intelligent discussion down the road.  Still, I hope folks my own age and older can settle down just a smidge – speak a little more intelligently, and listen a little more attentively.

I think of that old locker room adage, you know, grab ‘em by the decorum…  Jhciacb

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Conversations Over Crunches: The Continuation…

I get to do conversation for a living. Though primary to my business is the designing of, and the implementation of the workout, exercise sessions are laced with discussion.
 
The two topics which get discussed most in my studio are food, and cancer.
 
On Food…
 
Conversations aren’t always about healthy foods, though sometimes they are. Ideas, recipes, and concepts with food are exchanged freely between my clients and me, all day long, and with ZERO judgment from either side. Some ideas can be inspiring and useful, while others are just sinful.
 
Most often though, the healthy and the sinful are intermingled within the very same frame of moment. A discussion of how protein can be used as an efficient appetite suppressant, might seamlessly segue into which liqueurs are best to use as ice cream toppings.
 
My takeaway from this duality is that despite the best intentions behind talk of pious eating, thoughts of culinary sin are ever-present, both with the client and the trainer.
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On Cancer…
 
A half-dozen times per day the word cancer comes up in the studio. Probably 1/4th of my current clients have survived some kind of cancer, or had a spouse or child survive it. A smaller percentage have actually lost a spouse or child to cancer. This haunts me, ongoing…
 
Occasionally, a client might need a biopsy, as one client did yesterday. Details to follow, but hopefully no bad news there. Others might have coworkers, neighbors, or even the family pet receiving chemo or radiation.
 
Occasionally a client will miss a workout session to attend a memorial service for someone lost to cancer. This happened twice last month.
 
That these conversations are so matter of fact, is a reminder that cancer is not just a disease, but has become part of daily life for everyone.
 
People die of other causes, but cancer is the one we discuss the most.
 
Talking about cancer while helping someone exercise, gives more meaning to the cause, though there is little evidence to suggest exercise stifles cancer. At best, it might make one stronger for the fight.
 
And of these daily conversations over crunches – of the good, the bad, and the ugly, I simply wonder about it all — all day long… Jhciacb

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Value-Added Behavior…

In no scenario, in my opinion, does insulting a person or a group add value to a situation, conversation, or cause. The moment a name is called or a disparaging remark is made, any objective in dialogue slows down, ceases, and can even reverse course. If productivity is the objective of a conversation, it can no longer be maximized once unnecessary negativity enters the conversation.

I’m not saying it doesn’t feel good to insult somebody, or to reach high and spike their argument back over the net – it can feel great, but what has it accomplished…? In any scenario, negative discourse won’t add value to the cause, and may actually take away from it.

Still, we bathe in it daily. Go sixty minutes without being proximate to a caustic conversation and it’s likely you are alone, and with no electronic window to the rest of society.

In his very important book, Religion, The Missing Dimension of Statecraft, author Douglas Johnson offers multiple examples of why he attempts to keep all adversarial dialogue on a positive note. There are so many good examples of this in the book, it should be required reading at the State Department…

…and it was, for a very long time.

“Allowing negative discourse” suggests Johnson, “is to work against the evolution of culture itself.”

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I like that perspective; that each time we use an insult or barbed comment, we are taking a hack at forward moral progress. Imagine if, just for a moment, we all ceased to did this. We we would be engaged in value-added behavior. Think about that; value-added behavior. I like it. I’m down. And the men who hold high places… Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Baja Matimba Band.  Enjoy…