Successfulish…

 This is Part I of a 3-part intermittent series on education, success, and how I fell through one but still landed in the other. Part II will show up some time down the road.

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My Father’s Path…

For a majority of my life I have had a conflicted perception of the word success, and all that goes with it. Like his father before him, my father raised me to pursue excellence in life. He dedicated much of his life to providing my brother, and I opportunities to create successful lives. He did this with diligence, and a great deal of love if not with an overwhelming passion.

My father’s idea of success was linear, direct, and had a clear progression; college, business, suburbia – man in a gray suit kind of stuff. What he really wanted, I believe, was for my brother, and I to take his path, but to find better results than he was able to. I have often wondered if my father sacrificed his visceral idea of success to better enable the superficial idea of success that society, and his own father immersed him in.

What my father had really wanted in life, he confessed to me in his later years, was to have taught school in the winter, and run a camp for kids in the summer. At some point though, with a wife, a mortgage, and kids of his own, I believe he became driven by dollar signs rather than canoes, and campfires, and the gravity of the business world drew him in.

The man with the plan, and the pocket comb.  Each successful in our own ways...

The man with the plan, and the pocket comb. Each successful in our own ways…

Against The Grain…

My definition of success has always been murky, malleable, and has evolved through the years. By the time I was in my late teens though, my definition of success began to solidify, and was in obvious contrast to my father’s intentions for me, and to the flow of common American culture.

As I began to explore my idea of success, the distance between my path, and the path my father laid out for me grew further apart. Looking back today, I am better able to reconcile my father as a young man, with the man he would go on to become. When I was younger, I couldn’t comprehend this.

By my father’s standard, and by the standard of culture art large, the first step on anyone’s path to success is obtaining a college degree. My father had been down many career paths, but he began as an educator at the high school, and college level. He would often say to my brother, and I,

“Get your ticket punched boys, and you can go anywhere”.

Inferring that a college diploma was guaranteed a ticket to success. This was so heavily instilled in me that by the time I was in my early teens I came to believe that people without a college degree were a lesser form of life, and less worthy of life’s rich pageant.

In truth, I believe my father wanted me to feel this way. He would often take time to impress upon me the toil, and struggles of those went through life with a wrench in their back pocket, pushed a broom, or drove a municipal bus. Because he was my father, I believed him. I have only recently come to see that this isn’t true, that there’s no shame in hard work, and that success is simply a state of appreciation.

American Dream…

My American dream has always been more simple than most; I don’t want to be forced to do the goosestep down Main Street. That’s it. I would like to have access to water, shelter, and to have the opportunity to work hard for anything beyond.

One does not need a college degree to pursue shelter, food, and a few nice things. One simply needs to have ambition, a good work ethic, and reasonable expectations of life. Those too, are qualities my father instilled in me, and they have served me well.

I recognize that I’m a minority with this way of thinking, and I don’t wish offend anyone who has worked hard to reap, and enjoy the finer things in life. That has just never been my trip. I have always been content with just enough. I often suggest to friends that my dream house has four wheels, and gets good mileage. I am approaching that dream house, and hope to move in within the next 3-5 years.

My dream house.  I will never again by a car I'm not also able to live in...

My dream house. I will never again buy a car I’m not also able to live in…

School Is Out Early…

I struggled with school from an early age. In elementary school, reading could be so strenuous that it often lead me to nausea. My math skills were several years behind, and I barely survived middle school with Ds. Despite this, I was advanced into high school.   In high school it became clear to me within weeks that I would probably never graduate. The text books I used seemed to be written in a different language. I failed typing, Art, and even PE.

With an open campus, and a modular schedule, I could go to high school every day, never walk into a class room, and just sit and visit with friends in one of the three cafeterias which were available. This was my existence for a year and a half. I would register for school, never go to class, get Fs, and placate my parent’s attempts to get my head right by promising I would try harder. In a school of 4,500 students, I fell through the cracks.

At one point I was even put on the short bus to study with all the other challenged learners. Unfortunately, most of them were there out of laziness, and not need. I was surrounded by stoners, with teachers who weren’t dialed in, and nothing was being done to help me improve my lack of learning skills. One day at 16, I just released myself on my own recognizance, and never looked back.

I would spend the next couple of years working odd jobs, sleeping with the television on, lifting weights, and trying to figure out what success truly was, or if it would ever be within my grasp – largely disbelieving that it would be.

Though I would ultimately take my GED, and attend college, my father’s notion that success, a college degree, and a suburban mortgage were synonymous, became a poison in my veins that has worked against me more than it ever served me.

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Please check back in a few weeks for Part II of this series. Oh, and there’s this from Albert King.   Enjoy…

Space trap…

Houses of relativity…

I never really bought into the dream. From an early age I was immersed in something which made little sense to me; a house with too many rooms, and a yard requiring relentless effort from my father who already worked like a dog to support this house that made no sense. The result of our family living in this home leant itself to more stress and frustrations, I believe, than to happiness. By the 3rd grade the fingerprints of minimal living were already being laid on me.

During my 5th grade year I visited the home of a friend, Alex. I was awestruck when I entered his family’s mansion, and the luxuries it contained. Despite my awe, the vastness of the house made less sense to me than the house I lived in. I wondered why anyone would need an entire room dedicated to games, books, and casino gaming tables. A full kitchen on the 2nd floor – just in case, I guess. One of the bedrooms belonged to the cook, another to the groundskeeper, several more were not even spoken for. I was touched by the fingerprints of, too much.

Later on my mother invited Alex to visit our house. I was embarrassed. My house which once felt too big, now seemed like a corrugated tin shack in comparison to my friend’s house. I made every excuse to justify not having a par 3 golf hole out back, or a gallery of mounted bears in the study.   After his departure Alex seemed to distance himself from me. Perhaps this was a construct in my head, but we didn’t hang out too much after his visit to the slums of the middle class. These were the fingerprints of insecurity.

I would go on to live my life torn between two desires; the desire to have more – that I might better fit in, and the desire for less – that I might feel liberated. If it seems like pandering to both desires would keep me centered, and in a life of middleclass moderation, it did not. It kept me confused through much of my life about how much is enough, how much is too much, and whether we need any of it at all.

Family and flow…

I would grow up to marry, and start a family. We began living in apartments like many young couples, and furnishing them with cinderblock shelves, and futon sofas. I never wanted more than that. Apartment living, and cheap furniture agreed with me. Eventually parenthood called, salaries increased, and we transitioned from renting apartments to buying homes, and furnishing them with real sofas, and shelves made from substances heartier than particle board.

As we went through this process, I always lobbied to buy the smallest house, with the smallest yard. To her credit, my wife was accommodating about my need for less. We lived in modest homes with modest things, and our happiness came more from moments, than from possessions. I enjoyed decorating with old grape crates, spray paint, and dumpster diving for adornments as my wife rolled her eyes in partial amusement. Those were the fingerprints of making more from less.

Cohen house '98.  0.0 Front yard.  I liked my odds...

Cohen house ’98. 0.0 Front yard. I liked my odds…

Two cans of paint, some tile squares from Pic&Save, and kitchen was born for under $100...

Two cans of paint, some tile squares from Pic&Save, and kitchen was born for under $100…

Hands solo…

Eventually we would divorce, and I would move into a smaller home – a Ford Windstar minivan. It was a little tight, but I could sleep in the back, shower at the gym, and eat on the fly. After 6 months of parking lot camping I took a one-room guesthouse with no heat, and no air. It was the perfect home for my needs. However, there was no place for my daughter when she visited.

The single best place I ever lived...

The single best place I ever lived…

 

After 6 months in the guesthouse, I rented a 3 bedroom home so my daughter could stay over when she chose. However my daughter was rarely there, and the place seemed far too big. Through my 11 years there, I occupied only a single room. Once my daughter was in college, I would return to guest house living for a few more years.

 

Today I live in a 1,600 square foot house, though most of it is my fitness studio. Again I occupy only a single room in back of the studio, and spend a majority of my nonworking time in a small office in the entryway, or seated by the fire pit in my front yard. This suits me well. All the while, any happiness I experience has little to do with where I live, and more to do with who I’m with, or what I am doing.

My current shack...

My current shack…

Roll me away…

I seem to distance myself from the trappings of things, and space a little more each year. Long ago I gave away my car, later my furniture, and I’m continually downsizing my accommodations. Aside from my minimal wardrobe, and my computer, I own a bed, a chair, a couple of surfboards, and a bicycle. These days, I spend much of my evenings seeking out what the best next living option for me might be – probably a small motorhome.

I recognize that living wholly off the grid isn’t realistic, and it is certainly not the goal of most people. I’m just messed up that way. I also still have to earn a living. Being grid accessible, with nothing anchoring me to it is the real goal. Perhaps parked on a tributary which provides easy entrée in and out of the modern scene as needed.   The fingerprints of Dorian Paskowitz, and Christopher McCandless have left their mark.

 Handprint of a legacy…

We wear outwardly the finger prints of the moments, the places, and the people who have touched us throughout our lives. Inwardly we may feel the push or the pull of the hands from which those fingerprints were placed. Though we may not directly associate each of our actions with these finger prints, they are ever present in all of our actions.

It is our necessary interconnectivity which limits minimalists like me in what we perceive as the free will required in attempting to live off or adjacent to the grid. What we likely seek is not free will, but individual autonomy as part of a greater collective. Perhaps I’m just seeking a little more autonomy than most. The finger prints which have touched me most have lead me wanting less. It is my sincere hope that the fingerprints of my own life will lay gently on the lives of those who I have touched. Be well… rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from  Joe Ely.   Enjoy!

Dragons and dungeons…

Slaying Dragons…

Imagine you are a dragon slayer, and you know you’re among the very best at slaying dragons.  Every day you wake up, prepare yourself for the day, sharpen your sword, and step outside to fulfill your potential on behalf of the world.  Confidence abounds.

Soon you spot the first dragon of the day, and he is headed toward you in full glide.  You’re ready.  You have lived your whole life for this, and you know you are going to win.  The dragon approaches as if it’s his responsibility to be slayed.  You raise your sword just as high as your arm will reach.  You look him in the eye as he dives, take aim, and time it just right.  You lower your arm with all your might, and… you miss.  The dragon looks back with a sardonic smile as he flies away, and you stand there in failure.

Another dragon will arrive in just few minutes to experience the exact same result.  This has been your daily life for many years.  You spend most days wondering what your purpose really is.  You know you’re good at what you do, but the dragons never fly quite close enough.  Life feels empty.  You ask yourself why you aren’t successful anymore.  It wasn’t always this way…

How things were a decade ago...

How things were a decade ago…

The reason for the lack of outcome, of course, is that dragons fly, and you don’t.  You actually can fly, you choose not to anymore.  If you choose to fly, then the battle will be real, and there will be risk in confrontation.  You dislike confrontation so instead you wake each day hoping the dragon will fly into the sword, and accept his fate, though this has never happened.

Who’s at fault, really…?  There are two responsible parties in a dragon slaying; the dragon, and the slayer.  If they both show up, and do what they are expected to do, a successful slaying should be a non-issue.  The dragons in this case actually pay to be slayed.  It appears though, that some don’t necessarily want to be slayed.

Backing down is easy…

Of course I’m not talking about dragons.  Ask me what I do for a living, and I will give you a simple answer; I teach proper form in strength training.  That’s it.  That tenet is primary to anything else I attempt with my clients.  I teach strength training in a way that is so specific, so unique, that the only possible outcome when it is executed correctly is improvement.

I have discovered though, that most people I work with are not as dialed into the concept or the value of perfection in strength training as I am.  When push comes to shove in teaching this unique style of exercise, I often withdraw and allow the student to participate in a lesser fashion for my fear of confrontation, and the result is not maximized.  Too long I have created a habit in myself of accepting less than the student is capable of.  At that I have become internally frustrated, but the breakdown is 100% on me.

 A new approach to teaching…

I have become a good ear for many of contemporary my clients.  Male or female, I am a friend they can confide in during a workout with no fear of judgment.  I’m the parent that many of my teenage clients wish they really had.  I’m the good son that many of my seniors never had.  These friendships run deep.  In a sense, I am an accidental life coach.

good exercise form; it really is just a choice

Conversations over crunches are mutually beneficial, and I have gained much wisdom from my clients through the years.  As a friend to my clients though, I have not wanted to put boundaries on these conversations, always rationalizing that so long as some work is getting done, the workout is fruitful.  Inside though, I have hoped for more on the exercise side of things.

The productivity of a workout is a relative thing.  Even if the exercise isn’t primary to a particular session, the student always leaves feeling they have had a great workout because they are emotionally cleansed.  If there has been a breakdown on my part it’s that my focus on exercise beyond the conversations has been on volume of movements, and not quality.

Going forward, rather than focus on how many movements are completed during the course of the workout, I will place my primary emphasis back on quality of exercise.  There is more utility, in my opinion, in doing 4 movements in absolute form in the course of an hour, than doing 8 movements with a lesser emphasis on form.  At this point I can say the conversations are mutually important.  Managing this, this is my new dragon, and it’s time for me to fly once again.

Dead weight; it’s not an exercise…

Some dragons are nothing but gas...

Some dragons are nothing but gas…

Sadly though, there are some clients who won’t adapt.  I already know who they are.  I’m not even part of their workout equation.  Often times these people don’t even know I’m in the room.  They pay a great deal of money to go through the motions, toss weights around in a private gym where they can bitch, and moan about their fucked up lives, leave me to pick up the pieces as I walk through their toxic gasses, and as they storm out on completion.  It is me who has enabled this.  It is me that must now send them packing.  Wish me luck, because that too is another dragon.  Trainers take note: Dragon selection is everything.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Heartless Bastards.  Enjoy…

Near miss…

So today was the day I began to give notice to most to my clients – yet again.  More on that later…

Cyber-archeology…

I have 4 Facebook friends who are now dead, but still have active Facebook pages.  This haunts me, ongoing.  I check those pages periodically.  Not with the expectations that my friends will come back to life, but as a way of keeping their memories alive in my heart.  Maybe this is one of the more useful aspects of Facebook.

I read recently that with the increasing decline of new Facebook users, that by 2090 everyone on Facebook might actually be dead.  At that point, and when blogging has run its trendy course, all I have spat out through the years by way of social media will simply be a silicon fossil to be someday excavated by a cyber-archeologist.  This may or may not be my last essay. We’ll see.  If it is, it’s been a fun few years.

Through it all I have thought to share some ideals, and values as they relate to fitness and exercise, that they might be relevant to the lives of others.  Of course I have shared some non-fitness ideals as well. Perhaps years from now if the content I have written is excavated and studied, it may actually mean something to people who may be interested in what I have had to say.  I’m pretty sure the readers of today though, aren’t committing my shtick to memory.

 Leading, And Futility…

I’m basically I’m no longer comfortable with a leadership role in fitness and exercise.  Certainly not in the social media anyway.  This isn’t a joke.  I almost walked away from my business entirely today.  However, a friend and client convinced me to sleep on it for a year or two, and reminded me that social media is my fitness hobby, not my fitness livelihood.  We sat by my fire pit, and talked about the upsides and downsides of me walking away.  Once he got me to listen to my own words, I realized how fortunate I am to have the business, the lifestyle, and the clients I have.  The state of my industry though, has changed dramatically in the past decade, and has done very little to improve on itself.

Unrealistic expectations cultivated by social media, in my estimation, is a cancer attacking good fitness intentions everywhere.  What the general population wants from fitness leaders and resources is this; exercise that cures aging, prolongs youth, and fosters hotness.

News flash:  Youth is a synonym for history.  Aging is inevitable.  Hotness is little more than an interruption in getting more familiar with someone who we might love more deeply if we only choose to look more closely.  Clearly the majority of my social media audience and I are on different pages when it comes to these.  I’m just not willing to play the looking good game anymore.  Both in teaching and in writing, espousing exercise for the sake of hotness is something I’m no longer willing to participate in, even if I do practice it to a degree.

Almost...

Almost…

I have written and taught for years that we have a responsibility to age.  Though I believe we should attempt to do so with the best intentions, and under the best possible circumstances, we should proceed with caution, and respect the historic record of aging – for it is a requirement of living.

Gray hair. Wrinkles.  Sagging boobs.  Woodies gone south.  Skin that bruises ever easily.  Crackling bones.  Shifts in posture.  Loss of bone density.  Belly fat.  Memory lapses.  Hair loss.  Waning aesthetics.  Lethargy. Veins, and not the good ones.  All of these can be met, and addressed to a point with exercise, but none can be avoided.

Jhciacb; Part Ricky Williams, part Syd Barret…

I confided to my friend today that I have been approaching critical mass in my career path for a few years.  He, and I sat by my fire pit, and talked about whether or not I’m burned out or really willing to call it a career.  He asked me what I would do if I walked away from this.  I suggested a job at Home Depot, or an assembly line.  I have no debt so I don’t require much money.  When he was done chuckling, he just made sure I listened to my own words, and then made sure I listened to them again.  I did.  I walked away from our meeting realizing that I’m here, and in this for the long haul – but in a functional, and in person kind of way.

I will no longer attempt to use social media to steer the good ship, Fitness.  Fitness is in rough seas, and has a minimum of lifeboats. The passengers can’t make out the horizon, and the pilots can only describe a horizon that isn’t really there, and that is a horrible combination.

Yes, I am experiencing some degree of burnout, but I still love what I do.  I am now just going to increase the focus on my analog clients, and devote less time to promoting my values by way of social media.

As one client put it today when I called to tell him I was through,

“I depend on you.  Without you, Roy, there would be no exercise in my life, and I don’t trust any other trainer.”

I’ll take 28 of those, over a million Facebook likes who aren’t listening any time.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back at some point to see what happens when I hit the stop button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Stone Roses. Enjoy…

The Blender In My Head, Part I…

 This is Part I of my ongoing series; The Blender In My Head.  I will continue posting these intermittently for the rest of my life, occasional intermingling fitness articles as I feel the need.  God help us…

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The Blender In My Head Part I: My Lifelong Existential Meltdown

Far From Amazing…

A friend recently described me as “amazing”.  That was a wonderful sentiment, though it was probably used to describe the shell I present to the outward world; the dating behavior of life as it were.  On the inside I’m more damaged, and confused than I let on.  Sure I’m a good guy, but pretty fractured and pretty flawed, though I strive daily to overcome, if not hide it.  Most times though, the me on the inside is much more conflicted than the good guy who I allow the outside world to know.  The inside is where my values do constant battle with the temptations perpetually attempting to invade my head.

Temptation in this case doesn’t necessarily mean a pretty girl or a drug. The temptations in my life can seem quite little when I break them down individually, but as a collective they can add up to enough that I more often consider myself a lesser person when I cater to even a minority of them.  And cater I do.

Temptations manifest in the most subtle of ways.  Things like taking shortcuts in business, in relationships, and in finances can be temptations.  Ignoring responsibilities, and sacrificing priorities for immediate gratification can also be temptations.  Amusement, entertainment, and indulgence can also be temptations.  Putting myself first though, is the temptation I pander to most often.  There are more of course, some too personal to share, but it seems I rarely go an hour without confronting, and giving in to some kind of temptation.

In the way I conduct myself many times in the course of a day, I find I’m pretty far from amazing.

Am I Really Real…

Many days I question my own reality.  Every waking moment of my life I question my own reality!  This has been my lot in life, for most of my life.  I’m unsure that anyone or anything else I interact with each day exists independently of my thoughts.  Though we all may consider this at times, it has been forward in my psyche for over a decade.  I often wonder if the reason I give in so easily to the temptations of the lesser me is simply because I often disbelieve that there’s even a me at all.  Of course philosophers far brighter than I have been grappling with this for millennia.

In these times of increasing complexity, the world and everything in it can seem unreal, or at least unlikely.  I don’t know if the helicopters I see each day flying overhead training as instruments of death are more or less real than the tufts of hair which sprout from my aging ears.  They both seem to exist with purpose, yet seem largely unnecessary.

My head.  Warning:  Those who enter may never leave...

My head. Warning: Those who enter may never leave…

I ask myself often, in a staged world, why would the candy wrapper I tossed in the morning trash have a crinkle in the corner…?  Would dust really gather so quickly on my desk…?  By answering these questions of myself, I somehow justify that the world is real.  Why on earth would there be a scrape on the frame of my bike if the world were staged…?  Imperfections, I surmise, could not be part of a staged world.

The Miracles Of And Mercilessness Of Modernity

I can now use my phone to check the time, watch a movie, or video call a friend in Ireland.  I have instant access to the most of the music I enjoy.  I’m in great physical condition, I have many friends, and I want for nothing.  I have, arguably, the best life any man has ever lived.  I know love in my life and on multiple levels.  My computer spells for me, knows me well enough to suggest music and movies for me, cars will soon be driving for me, and social media has brought many wonderful people into my life that I would not otherwise have connected with.  It all seems too good to be true – so maybe it is.

Every week a shooting takes place in a school or in a workplace that didn’t need to.  Wars continue, borders change, politics, and religion seem to isolate more than ever, and people seem to have replaced fruitful discourse with relentless arguments that they be proven right rather than improved a situation.  The world’s chaos seems advancing at a fever pitch.  I look around at everything – anything, and most days nothing really makes sense.  My computer spells for me, suggests music and movies for me, cars will soon be driving for me, and social media has brought many assholes into my life that I would not otherwise have connected with.  It all seems too detrimental to be true – so maybe it is.

There are just those days when I pine to be whipped as I work 18 hours per day building a pyramid, believing that if my existence were reduced to that, at least I would be in a simpler state.  I long to be in a simpler state.

Ground Zero In My Head…

The only vantage point I will ever have to this life is the one from inside my own head.  I see, hear, think, and feel only as I can.  Still, there are seven billion people in this world not named, Roy Cohen.  Or are there…?  Unsure of what’s real, who’s real, and if anything really matters, these are the days when my veins course with insouciance.

It gets old sometimes, looking into a person’s eyes and wondering if they are showing me genuine emotion, or just gathering data to report back to the mother ship.  Is my dog looking in wonder at the fly orbiting my forehead, or is he observing me, taking notes, and planning the next occurrence he will facilitate on my behalf…?

Particle physics tells me nothing is as it seems, and everything I know is only probable.  String theory suggests that anything that can happen will happen.  Dimensions, universes, multiverses, space, time, space time, and of course, scripture.  Thoughts of these create doubt on every possible level, and conjure thoughts I don’t even understand, yet they are my very own thoughts.

Add in entertainment, media, social media, the influence of the peripheral relationships in my life, and it can all get very confusing.  It can’t be denied that the thinking of others has influenced the way that I think.  What I struggle to reconcile is if these influences have, and continue to change and influence the way I wish to think.

In those rare moments when I feel a momentary sense of relief, and come to believe that I actually do and should exist, and I no longer question whether or not I am, I soon turn to questioning whether or not I am the me I want to be, due to all the outside influences I allow to penetrate my thoughts.  I’m sure Dr. Suess or Shel Silverstein would have an answer for that, but I can’t seem to find one.  And so it goes…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh and there is this from Bobby Weir & Company.  Enjoy…

Thus, I continue…

Deep thoughts in grade 3…

I can trace the start of my life-long existential meltdown to a single moment in the 3rd grade.  A friend had told me that if the radio next to my bathtub fell in while I was bathing, I would be electrocuted, and die.  That thought frightened me.  It also opened my mind up to possibilities, and options.  That is the first memory I have of contemplating death, and all that may come after.

That was also the first moment I realized that my own death could be in my charge.  That is, if I chose to push that radio into the tub, I would have control over my own existence.  That idea remains the most powerful thought I would ever have.  I have thought about my death, self-inflicted or otherwise, nearly every day of my life since that day.

To consider self-inflicted death or to actually contemplate it, are not necessarily synonymous.  I think about ending my own life intermittently throughout the course of most days.  Mostly as an instant way out of the otherwise tedious moments which comprise my days.  I imagine it, but I don’t do it.  I only contemplate taking my life when the confluence of external and internal forces narrow the stream of my thoughts into a space so tight with borders so rigid that I feel they will burst from the pressure.

In stressful situations, or when the heavy blanket of my own depression lowers itself upon me, I have craved to be excused from this world in favor of another.  Therein lies the good problem; there is no guarantee of another life.  Even if there is another life waiting, what guarantee is there that it would be better than this one…?

Why I don’t…

If you’ve read this far then you have probably determined that you’re going to contact my mother, state authorities, or avoid me altogether.  Please don’t.  Throughout this ongoing negotiation in my head, there has been a kill switch on that kill switch.  I believe to my core that suicide is just a reset button which can only return me back to Go, without collecting the $200, and forcing me to start this game all over again.  Perhaps in a another time, and in another body, but a do-over just the same.

In my life have done many wonderful things, and shared amazing times with beautiful people.  I have loved, laughed, and stood at the edge of nature with wide wonder.  I have seen beauty which has moved me to tears, and felt love even greater.  I have been thrilled to the point of ecstasy, and fulfilled to the point of absolute guilt.  I am grateful to have won the lottery of life.

IMG_2652

I have also cowered down though, many times beaten by fear, paralyzed by apprehension, overcome with rage, and stifled by depression.  I have cried without explanation, experienced loss, deprivation, and sorrow.  I have expressed hatred, caused hurt, and come to regret it.  I have even thwarted murderous feelings on more than one occasion, the murder of my own self included. Despite these, I have found the strength to carry on.

I have not exercised my option to take my own life, and I believe I never will, for the simple fact that as good as my life has been, I don’t wish to relive the bad stuff.

On the selfishness of suicide…

The act of suicide is often referred to as ‘selfish’.  Those who are left behind are often resentful of, and bitter toward the departed.  I don’t subscribe to that belief, and if you are one who does, I ask you to reconsider.

We who remain behind in the wake of suicide, have no idea what thoughts may have been colliding, nor how hard or how long those collisions might have been taking place inside the head of someone that desperate to end their life. We often know little of the external influences, and even less of the internal conflicts which may have led a person to that moment.  Assigning selfishness to the act is a judgment no living person is qualified to make.

There can be no way to understand that moment – that chaotic moment when a life, a future, a legacy, and the all the relationships that go with it, no longer hold any value.  It must feel, in that moment, like the universe has not yet begun, or has already ended, and therefore there is nothing to lose since there is pure solitude.

I have even come to actively question whether suicide is the ultimate act of bravery, and we who are left behind are the dumb and the weak ones.  I don’t genuinely believe this to be the case.  However, if I am capable of such a thought, then others might also have felt this.  In my quietest moments I wonder if some who have taken their own lives, have done so in the name of bravery, not looking just a little deeper into the outcome.

At the end of the day, despite all that isn’t yet known of causality, and existence, my dog still needs to be fed, my daughter requires shoes, the lettuce in the crisper still turns blue if I fail to eat it, and my mother deserves to know each week that she is loved, if only by telephone or text.  Thus, I continue…  Be well.  rc

Please take a moment to scroll back to the top and rate this essay honestly.  Thank you.

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dog Trumpet.  Enjoy…

Into the mystic…

Into the mystic…

Yesterday I wrote on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page about how I believe an extended calorie deficit is required to promote fat loss.  By and large what I wrote was accepted, but there were a few comments, and a few more private emails which suggested (reminded me) that at some point a calorie deficit may not be enough for fat loss to continue.  This is true, and at some point there does exists a gray area.

The ideal of fat loss is based on manipulating a system.  Like all systems, the metabolic system has varying components and influences.  Components and external forces work with or against each other to determine the result of that system.  Examples of these variations included quantity of caloric intakes, insulin resistance, hormone production/fluctuation, sleep, activity level, and food intolerances to name just a few.  These all can influence metabolism, and subsequently fat loss.

I’ll suggest that most people attempting fat loss, be it for aesthetic reasons or for reason of improved health, don’t have a clue where they stand with regard to many of these factors, with the exceptions of caloric intake, and activity level.  Thus, people focus on primarily on caloric intake, and activity level because these are within an individual’s mental grasp, and immediate control.  Ghrelin production?  Food allergies…?  Not so much.  Many people reading this will have to use The Google to find out what ghrelin even is.  Few people know of their food allergies, intolerances, or hormone discrepancies.

 mystic

When I talk about these intangibles in metabolism, the analogy I like to use is that of cardio activities.  Many people who attempt fat lost engage in a cardio activity to help accelerate the fat loss process.  It’s clear that burning calories is good, and that cardio burns calories.  With this in mind, people take to their cardio theater somewhat intelligently, yet somewhat blindly, and go 30, 45 or 60 minutes at a time – whatever.

Rarely (never) have I seen anyone calculate the precise cardio duration required on a given day to meet their goal based on these variables; BMR, BMI, age, blood sugar at inception of exercise, KCals of the current 24 hour span, and caloric intake of the current 24 hour span.

If someone were to calculate their required cardio duration for a given day based on these variables, it would probably not be the cookie cutter 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minute of cardio commonly done.  I don’t know of anyone who uses that kind of math to accurately calculate their daily cardio activity to the precise minute needed in order to maximize fat loss on a given day.  I don’t even do that myself. I just choose 30 minutes, or 45 without knowing the details of what I truly require on that day.  In short, I eyeball it.

Back to calories in vs. calories out.  The broad brush stroke that I painted yesterday is just that; a broad brush stroke.  By and large if one lives in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, one will lose body fat – we just eyeball it as best we can, despite the many unknown intangibles involved.

Should someone live in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, and not lose body fat, I will suggest the following things:

1.      Know your BMR.

2.      Accurately track your ingested calories daily to ensure there is a continued deficit.

3.      Accurately track your kinetic calorie expenditure to ensure you are promoting a deficit.

4.      Track your sleep patterns.

5.      Spread your calories out as evenly as possible through the course of a day.

The science of metabolism is getting better, but like all sciences in this era, there are at least as many unknowns that there are knowns.   If you follow the steps above, ensure their accuracy, remain true to them for an extended period of time, and still do not lose body fat, see an experienced endocrinologist to explore potential hormone imbalances, and food intolerances.

Your general practitioner or primary care physician may be a good person, and may have even coached your kid’s ball team, but he or she probably knows slightly less about the many variables in fat loss than the monkey-see-monkey-do editors of Shape magazine, or the Fitness Blogasaurus you put such blind trust in.

It’s a science, but not a science wholly understood just yet.  I will always suggest that when questions arise, you yourself should dawn the lab coat, be the note taker, collect the data of you, study that data as it applies to you, be the scientist, and hopefully master your system before you place it in the hands of professional amateurs.  Just my opinion…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Spain.  Enjoy…

Toxicity, people, and how I cope: The nutshell version…

Every morning I wake up and allow myself to be punched right in my psyche, hit by the negativity of some people in my online community.  Not only do I allow this, I set myself up for it.  With each fresh morning I open my 17” LCD window to the world, and allow myself be soiled by people I call friend.

Soon after, I begin asking myself, why do I do this…?  Why do I grant access into my consciousness, to toxic personalities pushing such heavy loads…?  It can sadden me, depress me, influence the direction of my day, and can change my perspective of life – all by 6:00 a.m.  Still, I do it day after day.

Gasses spew, but I am prepared...

Gasses spew, but I am prepared…

I know who I am.  I know who I wish to be.  I try to be who I really am as often as I can, though many times throughout the day I ignore my compass and allow myself to drift.  I find myself led off course by my own fears, and by the influence I allow others to have over those fears.  I work hard though, to stay centered and on track, and I guess I do a fair job of it.

When I attempt to answer my own question, about why I allow the negativity of others into my life, and why I keep those people there, the answers are complicated.  I guess I see it this way:  That the universe has brought those people into my life to begin with, and there is no denying they exist within my life, so they must be there for a reason(s).

They become my external friend first, but in time can become my internal enemy – but that’s on me, not on them.  I do little to dissuade their toxicity and negative energy.  I simply ignore it, and store it.  I do very little online arguing since I have seen nothing good ever come of this.  I have my opinions, others have theirs.

I ask myself: Are these people in my life to test me, to teach me, to hurt me, or to offend me…?  Not sure.  Mostly I think they are in my life to ground me – to remind me of who I am, who I am not, and who I might turn out to be, relative of course, to who I hope to turn out to be.

I think people who exhibit single-mindedness, who spew hatred, who can argue without ever listening, and who use social media as their outlet are speaking from a place of fragility and fear so deep that they themselves may not even know it’s there.  In that sense I feel for them – that they are so damaged they may not even know they are damaged, or why.  At least I know where my damage comes from.

I try hard not to judge people for these behaviors, as I hope I am not judged by others for the simple act of being myself.

At the end of the day I believe in an absolute universal oneness.  I genuinely believe that we are all interconnected — that everyone else is me, and I am them.  Maybe not in this life, but in the life next door, in the life down the road, or in the life I will live three lives from now.

I take it all with a grain.  I meditate to keep myself centered.  I exercise to keep my head clear.  I write to honor my creative gift.  I also listen without judgment because the voice coming my way might be my own voice someday, or may have already been.  Wishing you peace this day…  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.
Oh, and there is this by Sweden’s Hellsingland Underground.    Enjoy…

Unintended Consequences…

This blog post has gone viral in recent days.  It has lit up the internet all week, gathering moss with a mob mentality that I’m not on board with.

I understand where the author is coming from, and why.  I’m in the fitness business too – I get it.  I have seen women cry in my studio far too often, and for all the wrong reasons.  In these times I have done my best to reassure them that nothing matters more than being a good mom, a good wife, and a good person in the community.

I say often that in the end none of us will be judged by the shape of our abs or whether we do sinister justice to a pair of skinny jeans.  The pressure women feel to be lean, sexy, ripped, etc., is severe, it’s increasing, it’s everywhere, and is completely unnecessary.

However there aren’t just two sides to every story or every idea as this blog suggests.  Like coastlines, ideas can be endlessly distilled with fractal geometry; the angles can be reduced to smaller angles, and smaller angles still, and are seemingly infinite.  As always, I suggest one be careful before choosing sides, or piling on a cause too soon.

Most of the memes, and sayings represented in this blog post seem to have been created, and shared in the spirit of raising one’s game.  I truly believe that, and I respect that.  I seriously doubt that any non-corporate individual would ever create or caption signs like these as a way to belittle women, influence them into behavior they don’t wish to participate in, or to shame them into state of emotional distress.

Memes like this are dangerous...

Memes like this can be dangerous…

This is not to suggest that it hasn’t happened, clearly it has.  These ideas can be dangerous.  But from the perspective of those who create, and share such memes, I’m sure there were no thoughts of the unintended consequences to be absorbed by women everywhere.

Does this mean they are “bullshit” as the author suggests…?  I don’t believe so.  For my part, I have tried hard to motivate, and inspire people without it use of such ideals.  Even my personal tag, Train Like An Athlete, Eat Like A Shark, Walk Like A God is found to be over the top by some, so I don’t use it anymore.  A little mindfulness and humility can go a long way.  However I can appreciate the kind of motivation, effort, and the positive changes memes like these can facilitate.

Conversely, spreading the idea that real women have curves might seem innocent, and even supportive, but that’s dangerous too.  I have seen many women through the years take unnecessary liberties with their own physicality, and abandon successful eating and exercise habits in favor of doing less for themselves because they have been told by others that it’s okay to do so.  Too often, the others influencing this behavior do so because obesity, like misery, loves company.

Just as dangerous...

And memes like this can be Just as dangerous…

The author refers to these ideals as, “irresponsible”.  I find that statement itself irresponsible inasmuch as he’s placing himself on a pedestal as a voice of reason.  Though he may be a voice of reason for some, he aims his passion and enthusiasm at many who are trying very hard to do good work, and for good reasons.

What further troubles me about this is that it also singles out, and belittles success – the success that many have experienced in finding or creating a new life.  Being championed by, or championing others is an honorable endeavor.  It’s unfair that many endeavors do have at least some unintended consequences.  But really, who is that on…?  I don’t believe what makes a woman real is six-pack abs or curves.  What makes a woman real is her priorities.

Where I am in agreement with the author, and where I do take exception is when corporations invest millions of dollars into sharing these memes because they ARE trying to guilt and shame women into spending lots of money on devices, supplements, and products that will offer little or no return for that investment.  These ad campaigns are aimed directly a woman’s self-esteem.  I find that sickening, if not completely ‘Merican.

This fever this blog post has created is just one more example of people choosing sides in this social media era, piling on, and muting the conversation before the conversation ever begins.  Ready.  Fire.   Aim.

The fitness industry is nearing the trillion dollar mark annually.  Every day of my life I think about walking away from it – yes, every single day.  On a very large scale, my industry is insincere, scheming, and false.  At best, it’s smug, and lacks decorum as a collective.

There are some mindful people though, out there every single day working hard to help others – without passing judgment one way or another.  Just knowing those people exist keeps me in the game – for now.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks.  Enjoy…

Minimal-list…

There but for the grace…

I was homeless by choice.  Divorce and separation from my family set me into a state of unclear thinking.  I walked away from my priorities, and from my family with almost no money.  My Ford Windstar became my home.  I parked it at the outskirts of town most nights, and parked it by the beach on nights when there were a few extra cents in my ash tray for gas.  My future was uncertain, my mind clouded, and I faced each day cloaked in regret.

I never doubted that I would have a home again; an apartment, a room to rent – something.  I sensed though, that I would never be a homeowner again.  This was in part due to the circumstance, and in part because I never bought into the dream.  From an early age, home ownership seemed more a ball and chain than an American right.

Home homeless on the range....

Home homeless on the range….

Living in a minivan though, that was not in the dream either.  For six months though, it was my reality.

My income came partly from work, partly from savings, and partly from what help my mother could give me from week to week during this difficult time.  In my homelessness, there was at least some security if not prosperity.  I had enough income for essentials, and a few dollars left most weeks to share.  Maybe it was because I was homeless myself that I felt this need to share.  I have always felt a connection to the have-nots, and especially to the have-nothings.

Pier pressure…

On Friday or Saturday evenings, I would drive to parking lot at the Ocean Beach pier where many homeless of varying ages, and backgrounds would congregate.  If I had just few extra dollars, I would buy a few loaves of bread, and a couple jars of peanut butter.  From the back of my minivan I would offer sandwiches to anyone who would accept one – no documentation of homelessness required.

Not quite as pretty when you see a homeless mother of 3 living out of Chevette at the business end of the pier...

Not quite as pretty when you see a homeless mother of 3 living out of Chevette at the business end of the pier…

If I had a little more money, I would buy a couple of large pizzas and put them on the hood of my van – a free slice for any takers.  Doing this always made me feel good.  In that sense, I guess it was a selfish act. I knew inside though, that there were stories behind the faces of those who gladly accepted my offerings.  I never felt like I needed to know those stories, but just knowing they existed was enough fuel my gestures.

I recall a disproportionately high number of homeless teens at the OB pier.  Fifteen and 16-year old runaways were not uncommon.  Those were the stories which guided me back each week.  I would hear tales of abusive stepfathers, overbearing mothers, and addictions.  I wasn’t so naïve as to believe all these stories were true.  Nor was I so hardened by life, that I discounted them.

At the end of the evenings, when all the food was gone, as the stories fizzled, and the kids filtered out to feed their addictions in abandoned buildings and dumpster bins, I would park my van in a safe place.  I would then lay down in back, count my blessings, and sip from a cup of rum to help me forget my non-blessings.

 Minimal-list…

Before long though, I was back to living a normal lifeI was living in an 1,800 square foot, 3-bedroom, home with a TV in every room – even the kitchen.  I was driving a Jeep, and collecting surfboards like they sports cards.  My days of homelessness were well behind me, yet I missed the simplicity of them more and more as my life expanded.

My Bonsall condo; a TV in every room, and 3 bedrooms for one man to choose from...

My Bonsall condo; a TV in every room, and 3 bedrooms for one man to choose from…

One morning, as I was transcending from one room into the others, in preparation for my impending day, and with ESPN going in all three rooms, I realized how ridiculous it all was – to me anyway.  Thirty minutes later I set all 4 of my televisions on the front sidewalk with a sign reading, “Please, take them away from me”.  An hour later they were gone.

Maybe a year later I gave away the Jeep in favor of a bike.  Not long after, I gave away my furniture and moved into a little guest house, furnished with just enough.  It was a far cry from living in a minivan, but the romance of minimal living was my increasing reality.  As my list of possessions grew smaller, my list of freedoms grew larger…

Actions speak louder than blogs…

As I have reflected more recently on the short-term homeless state of my middle life, I want to do one simple thing that can make a difference for the long-term homeless, and I want to do it regularly.  What kind of thing, what kind of action…?  I don’t know.  I will simply take it from week to week.

I’m a pedestrian living in a warm climate, and in a small town.  I cross the paths of homeless people multiple times every day of my life – even children.

I am Bill Gates by comparison to most...

I am Bill Gates by comparison to most…

This I commit to, with my social media audience as my overseers:

Through 2013, and hopefully far beyond, I commit to seek out and apply one simple action each week that will positively touch or impact the life a homeless person.   To keep me honest, I will document these actions every Friday on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page.  Please stay tuned and see if I walk the walk.  Be well.   rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater.   Enjoy…