Saturday, March 8, 2008

Can A Man Be Two and Be Happy?

I ask this question for a fairly simple reason. I have, to a limited degree, resolved to be two people for the foreseeable future.

What does this mean?

I ask myself, as my day goes on, "What would a perfect husband do?" If I am able to anwer that question, then I do that thing.

This is frequently NOT the response that comes first to mind for me. In fact, it is frequently NOT the response I would ever think of, much less choose to do.

What does this mean? It means that in my interactions with my wife I have, in large part, CHOSEN to be someone else. I make this choice because maintaining the peace in the household is of greater value to me than indulging my temporary need to "express myself."

Which leaves me with the question: can a man be two, and be happy?

Can a man be a perfect expression of what God has made him to be if he must deliberately set himself aside for a good portion of his life? Realizing that the story of Jesus Christ is a story of sacrifice and of self-denial, does that justify sublimatin that which made perfectly in God's own image?

But, IF you can get to the point where the answers to any of those questions is "yes," then you still have to deal with if it's even possible to maintain for any length of time. Many men lead dual lives--most notably in the event of an extramarital affair. But, given that the essence of the duality is AWAY from the home, I wonder if they ever have to deal with the schizophrenic nature of what I propose.

Regardless, this is the resolution, at least for the time being.

What does this have to do with wellness? Everything.

But, for now, let's just say that I'm talking about a Spiritual issue, and leave it at that.

Friday, February 8, 2008

What A Week

Yes, I'm aware that I've been . . . not very diligent . . about keeping up with this log. That can't be avoided, I'm afraid. The best intentions take second fiddle to the need for sleep.

Physically, it's been an excellent week. A full slate of workouts including an excellent sparring session with Jay on Wednesday. I still cannot quite get past my training--I am too married to the "point-sparring" model, and I know I am not anywhere near as aggressive as I would need to be for this to be of any use. The problem is that that same passiveness creeps over into other things, making me worry that it is habitual. For instance, I played basketball this morning, and it occurred to me that even my "hard fouls" are not really that hard--often completely inadequate. And so I have arrived at the conclusion that the one most important thing I have to do to be a more effective martial artist is mental--I have to get more used to actually hitting a person before I can be useful on the street. And that is indicative of a mindset that I have to get to.

Spiritually, I've started my Lenten preparations. That meant a fast on Wednesday and today. My idea of fasting is, well, pretty much my own thing. From midnight on the day of the fast until sundown, I eat no solid foods--just about all liquids are fair game. Sometimes, between Starbucks and Jamba Juice I get through my day with very little difficulty. The great part about my fast, I have experienced through a few years, is that I rarely have a difficult time getting through my day. I will, in what I think is very normal, get a little hungry in the afternoon, but I can usually get through it without much trouble. I only just a couple years ago told Sheryl about this practice of mine--I've been doing this for, I don't know, six years or so. I don't know why the delay . . sure I do. One, I don't want to answer her questions; two, very few of my things that I do for myself are met with any support or encouragement; in fact, as often as not, I'm confronted with the " you're making me look bad" thing; and three, I believe in the injunction to do such acts privately. But, now she knows about it; she even told her friend Sheryl about it, which caused Sheryl to ask me a few questions about Lent and where it comes from and how it started and etc. . . Good question, one I never gave much thought to. But I'm glad I do some sort of Lenten observance--surely I need the discipline.

Intellect got a good draw this week. I took Thursday off to write with Jay, and we cranked out a a great body of work. I guess, as much as I LIKE writing in the middle of the night, I actually do better in the morning when I'm fresh and there's not as much on my mind. At any rate, we ended up getting to the first edit, which is encouraging, and we're pretty close to being able to send out the survey so we can start compiling data to support our thinking or to alter it. Either way, it's a huge step in the right direction.

And the artist in me had a good week, as well. I finished my Agnus Dei and presented it to Mary, had a rehearsal for Sunday morning which went well and leads me to think I'll have something to offer that will help the congregation's worship on Sunday. That doesn't look like a big list, but getting that Agnus done is huge, and means when the time is right I can really turn my attention to the marching band music. Unless another bug strikes me before then.

The only downer part of the week has been, really, Sheryl. Last night she got focused on her job and wasted 45 minutes talking; tonight, she got focused on her brother and his . . quirks, and so we killed another 45 minutes talking about him. The thing that's bad about that is that it has a tendency to drag everybody's spirits down into the gutter. There's rarely upbeat from her on things like that, so it turns into a lengthy bitch session. Never been a big fan of those, particularly, so . . . That's working against me and really contributing to my tiredness.

But otherwise, a very positive week, with good efforts in all the major areas of my life. If I can string together several weeks in a row like this one, I can really feel good about leaving for Jamaica.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ten Minutes of Hell

Every Saturday night I begin my workout with a little sequence I affectionately refer to as Ten Minutes of Hell.

After a short jog and a decent stretch, I will put on my weight vest, my extra layer of clothing and begin ten, one-minute calisthenics.

:30 slow motion knuckle pushups (pushups with my hands in fists, knuckles on the ground
:one minute of regular situps (I typically get about 25 done in this time)
:one minute of frog jumps (jumps from a squat position, which involve pulling the feet up to my rear end at the height of the jump; I typically get in about 16 in one minute)
:30 wide-base, fingertip pushups (this actually doesn't take one minute, but I can't do hese slow and I can't do more than 30)
:one minute of crunches (actually, I fill the time not used by fingertip pushups PLUS one minute of crunches)
:one minute of two-foot leaps up to the second, third and fourth steps on my stairway
:30 narrow-base pushups (also doesn't take 60 seconds, so I fill with situps)
:one minute of trunk-rotation sit-ups
:one minute of running stairs (I usually get five flights done in this time, with alernating footwork patterns)
:one minute of alternating 10 pushups, ten situps, 5 frog jumps

The great part about these ten minutes is that I do them without pause. So, by the end, I've done some upper body strength, some core strength, and some great leg work, all while elevating my heart rate substantially and getting a good cardio and endurance work.

It's one of my favorite exercise sequences. I hate it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Central Question

What I have to deal with--regardless of how much effort I put in to finding balance in the classical areas of my life--is this simple question:

is it possible to EVER achieve happiness or contentment when the two biggest decisions of your life have proven to be poor choices? I am, of course, referring to marriage and career.

Much more another day.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sundays Are For Spiritual Strength

So the day begins and ends with worship, under ordinary circumstances. And today, even though the wife was out of town, was a basically ordinary day.

I am a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church, which traces its history to the Swedish Covenant, and then back to the Lutherans. I imagine it is what happened when Lutherans wandered north across the frozen fjords into Sweden once upon a time.

At any rate, this morning's service was a unique one. January is our church's month every year that we try to focus on mission work, so today a musical group from South Africa started the service with Afro-fusion pop music. And it was COOL! Very odd, though--we Covenanters don't dance.

At any rate, it was a high-energy, wonderful start of the service. And it reminded me about the amazing power of God--it strikes me that in the most despondent cultures of the world, among the most extreme poverty bordering on perpetual despair, the voice of joy rings out in their music and in every movement of dance that the perform. It's really a wonderful thing to see!!

To complete the cycle, Sunday nights always end with my low-energy, high-power workout: T'ai Ch'i. I studied the art briefly as part of Shao-lin Kung Fu, and I found that, not only can I get an amazing workout from it, but it really does have the ability to re-channel my energy in a way that makes me feel much better when I'm done. Literally, I've had days where my back was so stiff when I woke up that I could barely move, but after going through the central parts of the T'ai Ch'i workout that I do, my back loosens up and I'm fine for the rest of the day.

This particular workout, on Sunday nights, however, always ends with meditation. I'm not great at it--my mind wanders badly and I frequently doze off--but I at least try to spend fifteen or so minutes, once a week, quieting my mind down enough to be able to hear God. Sadly, I seem to not be tuned to the right frequency, but I'm trying. I have to believe that if I can at least attempt to start my week contemplating the grandeur of creation and my minisculity within it (yes, I make up words when necessary), then maybe the general disappointment that the week brings will be muted.

By the bye, we'll come back to that disappointment thing another day.

So Sundays are for the Spirit. I realize I really should spend more on this particular facet of my being, but there you have it. I am much better than I was, and I'm moving in the right way. Perhaps I can justify my failures with the idea that I'm also writing music in that vein. Perhaps.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tonight's Emphasis:Spritual/Artistic

Occassionally, one of my pursuits overlaps categories. I try.

Of late I've been working on a piece of music that accomplishes this very thing. Growing up Catholic, I've been well-schooled in the forms of religious music; now that I'm an Evangelical, I understand better how useful music is for worship. And, of course, being a musician, I appreciate the intersection of those several elements.

So I've been working on an Agnus Dei, "Lamb of God," lately. Somehow, in my addled brain, I imagine it will become one of the movements of my Mass--I've already completed a Gloria, though I have yet to find a venue for its performance. The Agnus Dei is the natural extension of that cycle.

I know, I know . . .why would an Evangelical write a Mass? Well, that's a pretty complex question which would delve pretty deep into issues of my upbringing and the relationship between my parents and my wife. Suffice, for now, to say that while I disagree with the Roman Church on some points theological, I have--since becoming an Evangelical--discovered a newfound, deep respect for the traditions and rituals of the Catholic Church.

And one of those is the Mass. Is it . . presumptuous . . .to take on the task of writing such a piece of music? Perhaps. But I began writing music as curriculum for my own students, I extended it as a mercenary means to provide extra for my family, and it occurred to me that I really should try to use that God-given talent to glorify God. So I've been working through some of the forms for the last few years.

So on writing nights I get to use that musical/artistic talent and craft, with a mind to doing something worshipful to fulfill my spiritual side. In the process, trying to come up with lyrics has caused me to do quite a lot of reading and researching in the Bible. So . . bonus.

ANyway . . kid's crying. gotta go.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tonight's Emphasis: Physical

Every night, I attempt to take care of every aspect of my being. Some nights get a little different emphasis than others.

Tonight, the longest period of time on my own got devoted to my physical health.

Just for background, I am a 2nd degree Black Belt in Taekwon-Do. I have been studying the martial arts for 17 years; the bulk of that time has been in Taekwon-Do, though I have also studied both Shao-Lin Kung Fu and T'ai Ch'i.

The thing that I like most about Taekwon-Do is the emphasis on kicking--this is both the least martially useful element, and the most impressive athletic element. I have ceased formally studying--three children leave precious little time for formal study. But I do make certain that my skills suffer only the normal deterioration of an aging athlete.

So, once a week, I do "kick night." During this routine, I execute 500 kicks--250 with each leg. In addition, I run 50 flights of stairs, and do three sets of 25 push-ups and sit-ups.

It is both skills maintenance and conditioning work. The 500 kicks are divided among just the four basic kicks of TKD: front kick, side kick, back kick, and turning kick, with simple variants and combinations of multiple kicks. That kind of repitition, done diligently, is remarkably effective at maintaining a degree of effectiveness. AND, all that activity is an excellent cardio workout.

Now, I go to end my night with a little reading.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Good Intentions

When I started this blog, it was my intent to begin on January 1 and post every night on my particular journey.

Well, it's early in the morning now of January 15th, and this is my third post.

So much for the Best Intentions.

And that, as much as anything, is exactly why I started this blog. You see, over the course of the last two weeks, I have found a reason, almost every night, NOT to post to this blog. In effect, NOT to take care of this one aspect of my mental health. Some of the reasons have been good--like a screaming infant--and some not quite so good--like spending too much time working on my political blog.

And that's why this blog is going to become so important to me: because I need to take the time to take care of my mental -ness. I need to find a good reason to post to this site every night.

And how many of us do just what I've done these two weeks? How many of us have the great intentions, but when the rubber meets the road, we just don't prioritize our mental health enough to take care of it? And, for that matter, not just our mental health . . .

Yeah, all you New Years' resolvers out there know I'm talking to you.

So I'll keep working to take care of this little blog. And you out there in the blogosphere--you take care of your business, too. Together, we'll all be a little better in a few months.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

How I Intend To Chronicle This Journey

"Wellness" is one of those touchy-feely pointless words that have gotten so overplayed in the current environment as to be completely meaningless.

So how can I chronicle the pursuit of a meaningless-ness?

Well, first of all, let me be clear on one, core belief--"wellness" is not a destination, it is a point of departure.

I believe that once I manage to attain some semblence of the balance between the four facets of my nature, as I spoke of before, then I might be in a position to observe the effect that balance. It is my hope that that balance will, like a well-designed building, take the weight of worry and concern and distribute it over my whole psyche in a way that lessens the effect of the burden.

So, in the days and nights ahead, I will write about one of the four paths and my efforts during the day to move down that path. There is not likely to be any great wit or wisdom in my journey--I'll be doing this without much of a roadmap.

All I can do is do what I can do, and write about it and what I have learned by it.

And once balance is achieved then Wellness will be a topic I hope to expound upon. That will take a lot of time, I imagine. It took me 38 years to get to this point in my life and I expect it will take quite of bit of time before I undo much of the damage I've done to myself.

And then I can share.

In the meantime, let the journey begin.

Monday, January 7, 2008

What The Heck Is This Blog?

The Hindu believe that there are four paths to transcending life--to achieve a higher state of being. These four paths are these: the Way of Knowledge, the Way of Love, the Way of Work, and the Way of Exercise.

Note: is this a GROSS simplification? Yes. Sorry--you'll see the point shortly.

The ancient Greeks believed that a person, to be ideal, must be equally accomplished in the athletic, the intellectual, and the artistic realms.

The "Renaissance Man" ideal was of a person equally skilled at many things of diverse origin, particularly being knowledgable in both the arts and the sciences.

What I am driving at with all of these is this: there is vastly more to each person than our hyper-specialized culture values, and that the potential each of us possess is of a far broader scope than we are usually called upon to demonstrate.

What this blog is is a journal of my efforts to find a state of wellness, of equilibrium--even of happiness--by making efforts in the various facets of my being.

For the purposes of this blog, I will identify those four facets as the physical, the intellecual, the artistic, and the spiritual. Again, that is probably a simplification, but I'm going to go with that, for now.

Do I expect anybody to read this? Not really, though, of course, it would be cool. Do I expect anybody to take any of it as advice? Gosh, no--I have absolutely NO expertise in this area. This is nothing more than a chronicle of my personal journey towards that equilibrium that I think, I expect (I hope), leads to happiness and wellness.

By the way, I would fully welcome any--ANY--contributions anyone would like to make along these lines. Feel free to comment (when I get that set up) and, if you have insights you'd like share, I'll bump them up into the regular sections.

Tomorrow night, an explanation of how I intend to chronicle this journey.