Commit (Daily Prompt)

Today’s Daily Prompt is: Commit.

My wife and I have committed to improving our physical and mental health. We’ve been walking every day for the last week or so, eating better, and meditating at night before bed.

Now, if I had a dime for every time I committed to losing weight, I’d be a wealthy man. But it feels different this time. My wife said it feels different to her too. We’re more serious. We’re looking for ways to challenge ourselves to walk longer each day. We’re making time at night to meditate. We’re avoiding fast food and junk food. But this time I think we’re doing things in a sustainable way. We’re not following some Draconian diet where we can’t ever eat anything we like, we’re eating normal meals that we like. And we’re able to walk inside our building when it’s too hot or raining outside, so there’s no reason we can’t walk every day.

We haven’t been quite as disciplined about meditation. The only time our cat will let us meditate is at night when we lay down to go to bed, and some nights we’ve been too tired to meditate. We are using a meditation CD of guided meditations from New Kadampa Traditions. It’s a great introductory CD. However, I have bigger plans for meditation in the future. I’m a Zen Buddhist at heart, and after I’ve lost some weight and can sit more comfortably, I’d like to find a local Zen community and begin to meditate in the Zen tradition. I’d like to do a meditation retreat sometime. I don’t know if I can ever reach what Zen masters call “kensho”, which is a form of enlightenment, but I’d like to give it a try. My mind seems so uncontrollable, but I know that this is what most people experience. My main goals for meditation are to be in better control of my mind, to be more mindful on a day-to-day basis, and to reduce my worrying and ruminating.

Meditation and mindfulness are also wonderful tools to help with bipolar disorder. Obviously they don’t take the place of meds or therapy, but many therapies for bipolar and other mental illnesses and traumas incorporate mindfulness. Mindfulness is a great way to stay connected to the present instead of getting yourself stuck in regrets about the past or worries about the future. I’m trying to stay more mindful, but it’s a constant struggle.

Well, my wife is awake, so I’ll end this for now. Thanks for reading. =)

Revelation (Daily Prompt)

Today’s Daily Prompt is: Revelation.

Now this, this is a prompt I can get behind. Revelation, I can dig it. You’ve got your whole Biblical thing if you choose to go that way, or personal revelations aplenty, or political stuff to choose from. I don’t believe in the Bible, obviously–rather, I should say I don’t believe it’s divinely inspired–but Revelation is an interesting book. I’ve always been fascinated by apocalyptic stuff. I don’t know why. I think the apocalypse is necessary so humanity can take the next big leap forward. Of course, whether humanity would survive at all depends on the kind of apocalypse we’re talking about. If we nuke ourselves to death, well, I guess that’s our final chapter. But if we have a pandemic or a big solar flare or something, then humanity’s future is very much an open question.

Right now, as it stands, there is very little natural selection going on with humanity. We’ve gotten so good at survival that we just don’t get eaten by tigers anymore. With our complex civilizations and their social safety nets, just about everybody survives until breeding age, and then most people breed. Now, I’m not a social Darwinist, but I have to admit we’re watering down our own gene pool. In an optimal society, you’d want the people with the best traits breeding the most, while people with less desirable traits breed the least. Now, we could argue about the traits for days, what’s desirable and what’s not, and again I’m not advocating anything specifically aimed at any particular group, but if there were an apocalypse of the survivable kind, then I believe that natural selection would start kicking in again. People who survive the apocalypse are going to be intelligent, socially adept creatures. They may also be violent and cruel. Many of them may be sociopaths. It all depends on what the apocalypse is and how the story of the survivors plays out. If it goes the right way, though, we could be looking at humanity’s next big leap forward, genetically speaking. Instead of an average IQ of 100, maybe after the apocalypse and the resulting rebuilding of society the average IQ is like 140. Maybe the people who survive are adept at consensus building and growing communities in a sustainable way. Then again, maybe they’re like Negan from The Walking Dead–violent sociopaths who kill to survive. I would expect to find a mix, depending on the manner of the apocalypse.

That’s what fascinates me about post-apocalyptic fiction. I want to see how things get rebuilt. I want to see what kind of society comes out on the other side. It could be brutal and terrible, but it could be great. It could be just what we need for humanity to start fulfilling its full potential. It won’t be great for me personally–I’m not positioned to survive any kind of apocalypse, really–but it could end up being a good thing for humanity.

I kind of expect some kind of apocalypse to happen in my lifetime. It seems like we’re pushing up against all sorts of Earth’s natural limits. I don’t know how much more overpopulated we can get before there has to be some kind of reckoning. Of course, the apocalypse may not happen all at once–it could be a gradual decay, as climate change and energy depletion and resource wars all take their toll. I personally would vote for a more sudden apocalypse, like a pandemic or an EMP, that would be more likely to bring about the downfall of the existing power structures. In a slow decay, the power structure will do everything it can to stay in power, likely at great cost to the survivors. Better to start fresh.

I am taking a few common sense steps to prepare for a calamity, although it’s more in preparation for a Cascadia earthquake or a big ice storm than it is for something worldwide. For my birthday I am getting a solar-powered, hand-cranked radio (you can check it out here) and a Lifestraw. We have a river less than 100 yards from our building, and with a Lifestraw my wife and I will be set for clean water for quite a while if something should happen to our running water, as it could in a big earthquake. I’m slowly building a little stockpile of food–I’d like enough to last us two weeks. I figure if things aren’t getting better in a couple of weeks then we’re really in trouble. We don’t have the money or the space to plunk down five years’ worth of MREs. So I’m preparing for a small-A apocalypse, but if the big-A Apocalypse comes, then we’re rolling the dice with everybody else.

Well, my wife’s awake, so I’m going to end it here. Thanks for reading. =)

Health, Buddhism and Death

The other night, we watched the documentary The Buddha. I’ve seen it probably a half-dozen times or more by now, and know it pretty much word-for-word, but it’s great to watch because it’s so relaxing. It makes me want to take up meditating again, but we have to figure out what to do with our cat while we meditate. She won’t sit still for us sitting still, lol.

I consider myself a Buddhist, although a very poor one. I also consider myself an atheist. In my mind the two are not mutually exclusive, as you can be a Buddhist without believing in an afterlife or a soul, or much of anything really. At least, you can be a Zen Buddhist that way, and that’s what I consider myself, is a very poor Zen Buddhist. I’m also a pretty poor atheist, since I still pray every night. I guess I’m really just a closet agnostic.

Whatever I am, I have no fear of death. I don’t welcome it, and I hope to be around for a long time to come, but I’m not afraid of dying. Dying to me just means eternal dreamless sleep.

Speaking of death, however, I went to my doctor this week. I’ve been having heart palpitations and he’s putting me on an EKG monitor for a couple days. A couple of my labs were abnormal also, including my white blood cell count. And now tonight I felt a bit short of breath while lying down. My back and my shoulders and my knees all hurt. Tonight it’s mostly the shoulder, but all my joints hurt at times.

I desperately need to lose weight. According to my doctor’s scale, I weigh 411 lbs. and I haven’t lost anything in the last three months. Haven’t gained, either, so there’s that at least. My wife and I have been better about walking lately, and our diet has improved somewhat, but it’s going to take a long and concerted effort for me to lose the weight I need to lose. My 45th birthday is coming up in less than a week, so I’m getting older and losing weight is just getting harder with every passing year. Everything hurts more, too.

I’m very embarrassed by my weight. I have trouble fitting into chairs sometimes, and I’m always worried about how the seating will be everywhere I go because my back isn’t comfortable if the chairs are hard. If I were to have to take an airline flight anywhere, I’d need to buy two seats because I simply wouldn’t fit into just one. All this stuff is very embarrassing to talk about, but if not here, where?

My main worry is that I will die young and leave my wife to face the world alone. I’m not a kid anymore and I don’t think anybody would be that surprised if I just up and had a widowmaker of a heart attack. But losing weight is tough. It’s so hard to be disciplined and eat right and exercise. Some people seem to have no trouble with it, diet and exercise come easily to them, but they don’t for me. I’m a carb addict and I hate to exercise even on my good days. I just don’t like the sensation of being short of breath, I don’t like getting sweaty, I find walking to be pretty boring and I just plain don’t like to exercise. I don’t like vegetables either, or fish that much, which makes the diet part kind of difficult too.

It’s hard for me to find meals that I like which aren’t bad for me. I’m a picky eater, something I should have grown out of years ago but never did. We can’t keep peanut butter in the house because I’ll eat too much of it. I love me some peanut butter. PB&J’s are my favorite food. Jesus, what a mess.

I almost wish I could be manic again–when I was manic, I lost 75 lbs. in 6 months. But the other effects of mania are so bad it’s not worth it. I don’t think I’ll ever really be manic again, I was only ever manic when I was on the Zoloft and not on anything else. Now that I’m on Zyprexa (a med that makes it VERY hard to lose weight) I don’t think mania is in the cards for me. My insurance won’t cover weight-loss surgery since I’m not diabetic (yet), so I have to lose weight the old-fashioned way, through diet and exercise. It’s very, very difficult for me.

I’ve been overweight my entire adult life–the least I’ve ever weighed was 219 lbs.–and I very much fear I will die that way. The number of age- and weight-related issues I’m having seem to be multiplying exponentially year after year. What I really fear is something like a stroke that leaves me unable to take care of myself. I fear that more than death, because I neither want to be a burden on my wife nor do I want to go to a nursing home. I’d rather just die.

Well, that’s enough for now. Thanks for reading. =)