perseverance

Whole30 Round 2.5

For the sake of honesty/true confessions/whatever, let’s just get it out there: The Whole30 derailed somewhere around Whole13.

Language is such a joy. I can say “I screwed up and ate pizza,” or I can say “The Whole30 derailed,” which makes it sound like the failure was entirely the Whole30’s. Just another reason to love the passive voice.

In my defense, Manny’s Whole30 derailed on Day 12 thanks to a chimichanga, so I made it further than he did.

We’ve been keeping the diet mostly Whole30-esque since then, and we’re starting Round 2.5 tomorrow.

It’s tempting to look at the whole failed effort as a waste, but I’m starting to learn that trashing a beginning–any beginning–undermines everything about the effort. Because everything, whether it’s running, writing a book, or figuring out the best way to eat to fuel your body, requires a beginning, every single step of the way.

At some point, you have to stop counting how many times you’ve started and restarted as if each beginning is a failure, and just collect every beginning as another victory instead.

We didn’t complete Round 2, but we cut 80% of the sugar from our diet, I made some serious strides towards drinking my coffee black, and we at least doubled our veggie intake since starting. I also learned how miserable pizza actually makes me feel. That lesson was a little heartbreaking.

For two weeks and then some, we fueled our bodies with… maybe not the very best, but definitely better. And tomorrow we’re redoubling our efforts to actually finish a Whole30, complete with a proper reintroduction phase. This time we’ll plan better for full days out of the house and for restaurants, because we know those situations are our downfall on this program.

Why I decided to beef up my bucket list (and stop hiding from failure)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…

–W.B. Yeats

Staring at the sea makes it surprisingly easy to think. A few weeks ago, while sitting on one of Guam’s beautiful beaches, I started thinking about all the stuff I’ve done in the past few years–incredibly improbable things that happened, blessings and weird things like marriage and finishing college and friends and Pacific islands. A lot of it is more or less documented on my own bucket list, which is full of the kind of feel-good things that lend a bit of inner satisfaction every time I cross something off.

Scuba diving.

Skydiving.

Traveling.

Road trip from West coast to East.

In my situation, the biggest challenge associated with all those things was financial, not personal. I’ve never been deathly afraid of heights, for example, so skydiving wasn’t a huge milestone for me in that sense. So many of my crossed-off items are more a collection of spectacular, unforgettable memories than real accomplishments.

For many bucket list items, all you need is the right location or the right amount of money or the right friend to go along for the adventure. The problem with my bucket list? Not many things on it actually require work or perseverance. The ones that do are also the easiest to put on hold.

A Google search for “bucket list” yields 155 million results. On BucketList.org, you can make your own life to-do list, sort each item, collaborate with friends, and find inspiration from the bucket lists of others from around the world. What’s trending on their front page today:

BucketList.org Screenshot

Have a mud fight. Try a fried Snickers. Travel. Fly a kite. These are the trending “goals.” They’re whimsical and fun. They sound like just the kind of thing we need more of–acting like a kid a bit more, getting out of our box a bit, doing something just for us

In case you don’t know what to do with your life, Yahoo Answers has tons  of suggestions for your bucket list, from “eat the hottest pepper in the world” to “party on a yacht,” “dye your hair green,” “try weed,” and “make mistakes.”

At some point, our culture’s life goals become reduced to a list of the whimsical or the exotic or the taboo things we find fascinating. It’s like we’re stewing a bouillabaisse of our own boredom and then daring one another to take a sip.

A relatively new (but powerful) movement thumbs its nose at generations past who worked toward specific goals and instead embraces the anti-goal: the theory that making goals at all only hurts us in the end and prevents us from enjoying life to its fullest. 

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 4.50.28 PMSuddenly, it’s much more popular–and much more zen–to be as anti-goal as possible (like the author of the article from which the above quote was taken). After all, if we’re persevering for something in the future, we could miss the chance to eat a deep-fried Snickers in the now. Heaven forbid.

We scoff at the few individuals who still make New Year’s Resolutions. We’re up-to-date enough to know that making resolutions never works anyway.

There are countless articles out there published in everything from Psychology Today to various scientific journals outlining all the reasons we should stay far, far away from the dangerous trap of goal-making. Why?

The inherent problem with goal setting is related to how the brain works. Recent neuroscience research shows the brain works in a protective way, resistant to change. Therefore, any goals that require substantial behavioral change or thinking-pattern change will automatically be resisted. The brain is wired to seek rewards and avoid pain or discomfort, including fear.

–Ray Williams, “Why Goal Setting Doesn’t Work

Williams says that because (a.) goals require life change and (b.) change makes us uncomfortable,  (c.) goals are inherently demotivating and should be avoided. Using this type of logic, it would follow that we should avoid change as much as possible because of the psychological distress it causes us.

And Williams isn’t the only psychologist to take this view:

The optimally striving individual ought to endeavor to achieve and approach goals that only slightly implicate the self; that are only moderately important, fairly easy, and moderately abstract.

–L.A. King and C.M. Burton

This last statement was published by the American Psychological Association in an article titled “The Hazards of Goal Pursuit.

We shouldn’t make goals, experts say, because we could fail. And that would be bad for our self-esteem. It seems that the “optimally striving individual” shouldn’t strive at all.

So we make goals like “fly a kite” and “get a tattoo on my butt,” because we’re still kind of driven to accomplish something, as long as it doesn’t implicate ourselves in anything important or difficult. Any more direct or specific an implication could lead to failure, which is a potentially devastating power against our psyche.

I’m all for living and spending each moment purposefully. But there’s got to be more to purposeful living than having mud fights, taking a vacation to India, or jumping out of airplanes–which seems to be where Culture at Large is telling us the meaning in life is to be found. In ourselves. When we do things that bring out the kid (or the rebel) in us.

There’s a lot to be said for that kind of living. Sometimes I go for long walks in the pouring rain just so I can jump in the mud puddles along the way. Sometimes those are the moments that make life beautiful. But by themselves, taken to an extreme, they’re the moments of a child’s life–a childlike happiness rooted in a single moment and nothing else.

Is sheltering ourselves in failure-proofed rooms full of fried Snickers worth it? I don’t know about you, but I like to think my psyche’s a little tougher than the American Psychological Association gives it credit for.

I work out.

Some of you might not believe it by looking at me, but I’ve been undergoing a strenuous exercise regimen for the last… oh, month or so.

The results? Incredible. No, seriously, I’m incredulous every time I step on the scale, having sweated more than I wanted to sweat during a few days of workouts, and see that I haven’t lost a pound.

Every time I step on the scale, it rewards me with the same number I saw last time. Incredible.

It’s just the motivation I need to keep plugging on. Sometimes I reward myself with an extra glass of water to celebrate.

I might have noticed improvements in muscle tone if I wasn’t preoccupied by sore hamstrings, which protest about halfway up the three flights of stairs on the way to my third-floor classrooms every weekday.

I have a secret Pinterest board of fitness motivation. It’s awesome. It makes me want to persevere even though nothing has changed. 

The amazing thing about this new venture? It’s incredibly humbling. The whole In shape? Psssh, I can hike fifteen miles without even beginning to feel it the next day brag doesn’t stand up so well when I’m dying at the digital hands of a Jillian Michaels workout video.

What gives?

So, humility. And a number on a scale that doesn’t change, accompanied by a new-found respect for all the things I’m learning my body will not do… 

Oh, yeah. I feel empowered.

*keeps plugging*

You’re gonna miss this.

8 a.m. is such an optimistic hour. I mean, regardless of your theory on mornings, it should be. It has potential.

If it’s April, “it’s spring / when the world is puddle-wonderful,” and on a good day, all the puddles from last evening’s temperamental rain shower have evaporated into something sparkly.

This morning I couldn’t quite see the sparkle inside my classroom. My well-tuned powers of observation did, however, immediately pick up on the painful wince on my professor’s face as she handed back my last test.

The red numbers on the front page spoke to me. They spoke in hyperbolese and said: “This is a failed fail of a test. This is the kind of fail that is still a fail if you reverse the two numbers of your percentage or if you add them together” –that from an old friend upon witnessing a test I failed worse than this one. Thanks, Jeremy.

Well, some memories are priceless. I’m sure I’ll miss this too. One day.

Indecorum

I was fifteen minutes late to my very first class of senior year. Got lost on the way to the Fine Arts building (how long have I been going to this school?). Locked the keys, along with all my textbooks, in the car. Tripped over my own feet on the way to the dining common.

But this morning, when I locked the keys  in my car, I neither laughed nor cried.

Funny how mature I thought I was at eighteen. I thought I knew how to handle anything that could happen.

Some four years and several unexpected life-lessons later, though, I’m rethinking my assumptions. Two weeks of senior year, and I’ve learned that I’m not only capable of dissolving into tears during a lecture on Kate Chopin, but also rather likely, apparently, to do so.

Strange, too, how my hands start shaking at odd times; choir rehearsal takes on a new flavor when you can’t hold the music still enough to tell an E flat from an A.  I’ve dealt with so much before now. Dealing with this should be easier.

I’m supposed to be confident. Capable. Secure.

But what good is confidence if you know you’re doing the right thing and it still feels like an emotional knife, twisting? Suddenly my capability doesn’t matter. It’s long gone.

What does strength even mean when you’re at the end of yourself, when trusting God goes from theory to application and you find it’s much harder than you ever thought?

Praise God, this is a lesson I really need to learn.

Life is like fitting pipes.

My reputation grows with every failure.
-George Bernard Shaw

Sometimes you (think you) do everything right, and it still fails.

Day 1: My boss (Mr. W) draws a diagram of exactly how we are to install an automated valve behind Boiler 3. I order the flanges, nipples, pipe dope, bolt kits, and gaskets required. A few days later I get a call that the parts are in, so I drive down to the pipe fitting store, Hajoca, to pick up the pieces.

It doesn’t take long to learn the basics of pipe fitting when I get back to campus:

  1. Have lots of very large wrenches on hand.
  2. Gasoila pipe dope is your friend.
  3. Keep extra people on hand to jump up and down on pipe handles, as necessary.
  4. Ignore blisters and hot pipes.
  5. Be as precise as you would be with a delicate twelve-piece quilt block, though you’ll use sledgehammers instead of thimbles.

At the end of the day, Mr. W inspects our work. We pass.

On Day 2, a couple of the joints leak. We do it all again, tightening every join.

On Day 9, Mr. W decides to show us how it should be done and tightens all the fittings himself. They leak.

Day 16: We give up on the pipe thread and weld most of the joins.

Today is more or less Day 19. We’ve disassembled and reassembled Cashco Valve BL-24 somewhere near five times, trying to repair the leaks. We repeat the process with a different ball valve. The joins leak.

By the time Mr. W announces it’s lunch time, it occurs to me that if Valve BL3-24 ever works correctly, I’ll probably hug the monster. And. . . . burn myself on a steam pipe in the process.

Such is life.